Bruce Cabot ♦ James Cagney ♦ Carlotta ♦ Nancy Carroll ♦ Mrs. Leslie Carter ♦ Cathedral School of St. Mary ♦ Celebrity Time ♦ Charley’s Aunt ♦ Ruth Chatterton ♦ Maurice Chevalier ♦ Chevrolet Tele-Theatre ♦ Cleopatra ♦ Katherine Clinton ♦ The Cocoanuts ♦ Claudette Colbert ♦ Ronald Colman ♦ Comet Over Broadway ♦ Confession ♦ Gary Cooper ♦ Ricardo Cortez ♦ Cosmopolitan Productions ♦ Joan Crawford ♦ Crime ♦ John Cromwell ♦ George Cukor ♦ Michael Curtiz ♦ Cynara
Cabot, Bruce. Kay’s leading man in 1945’s Divorce, made for Monogram.
Cagney, James. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) Major star at Warner Bros. during Kay’s employment with the studio. Though the two never appeared on film together, he was one of Kay’s favorite movie stars to watch. The two socialized in the 1930s and Cagney was one of the people who stuck-up for Kay during her mistreatment by Warner Bros. in 1938 following her lawsuit with them the previous year.
Carlotta. The title of the project with eventually became known as Juarez (1939). Kay asked to be considered for the female lead in the project, but was replaced by Bette Davis instead.
Carroll, Nancy. One of the most popular stars at Paramount in the late 1920s and early 30s when Kay was a contract star in featured roles. Kay had a featured role in Illusion (1929), which starred Carroll and Buddy Rodgers in this now partially lost film.
Carter, Mrs. Leslie. Very famous stage actress who Kay knew in the 1920s. In the spring of 1938, when Warner Bros. was in the pre-production stages for a biopic about her life, Kay and Bette Davis were considered for the leads. Neither actress ended up with the part. The role was assigned to Miriam Hopkins, who starred as Carter in 1940’s The Lady with Red Hair.
Celebrity Time. Kay appeared on this TV series. See the TV Page for more info.
Charley’s Aunt. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1941. Directed by Archie Mayo. Based on the play of the same name by Brandon Thomas. Jack Benny starred in the film though Kay played the title role. Anne Baxter also had a small role in the film.
Becoming the 8th highest grossing film of the year (BF), Kay and Jack Benny recreated their roles on his radio show that same year to promote the film.
Chatterton, Ruth. (December 24, 1892 – November 24, 1961) One of the most inspirational women of the first half of the 20th Century, Chatterton began her remarkable career on the New York stage, eventually making her way to Broadway. She began her contract with Paramount in the late 1920s and stayed at the studio until 1932, when she moved to Warner Bros. with Kay and William Powell.
Though Paramount executives later stated that losing Powell and Kay wasn’t a major blow, losing Chatterton DID have an impact on the studio’s plans for her career (RC). Unfortunately, Chatterton’s association with Warner Bros. began to decline almost immediately upon her arrival. When she was paid 8,000 per week, the studio became immediately concerned when her films were not the big hits they expected to be.
Initially, Chatterton had the first pick of every script on the lot. Some of Kay’s earliest roles for Warner Bros. (1933’s The House on 56th Street and 1934’s Mandalay & Dr. Monica) were Chatterton rejects. When Kay starred in 1935’s The Goose and the Gander, she played opposite two of Chatterton’s ex-husbands: George Brent and Ralph Forbes.
When Samuel Goldwyn began casting for his production of Dodsworth, he wanted Kay to play opposite Walter Huston and Chatterton in a role which eventually went to Mary Astor. Later, when Kay was preparing her comeback to the stage in 1945’s Windy Hill, Chatterton directed the entire project.
Chevalier, Maurice. (September 12, 1888 – January 1, 1972) Legendary French performer who Kay had a long-term affair with throughout the first half of the 1930s, with their affair becoming most serious around 1934, following her divorce from husband Kenneth MacKenna. The two appeared in Paramount on Parade (1930), though they had no scenes together.
Their affair was an intense one, filled with passionate love making and explosive fights. On March 11, 1934 she indicated in her diary, “Had merciless afternoon with Maurice–four times in 2 hours.” On May 19, during one of their arguments, she told him he was selfish. Two days later they had made up. Their affair ended around the beginning of 1935 when she began seeing Delmer Daves.
See the Portraits page for the 1930 photographs of Kay in costume.
Clinton, Katherine. Kay’s mother. Clinton was a stage actress before Kay was born, and continued her career after Kay’s father, Joe Gibbs, disappeared from their lives. The relationship between the two was close, but definitely had its limitation.
Her mother did not visit Kay on the set or attend the few parties Kay held, but she famously kept detailed scrapbooks with a large amount of clippings regarding Kay’s career which are now held at the Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
When Kay’s mother passed away, she left her daughter the following letter:
“My Precious Babe, I want you to know what a wonderful daughter you have been but really darling I never thought I’d live on so long to be a burden to a very smiling child. I have loved you always more than anyone in this world—but you know that. I wish I could have left more as you have given so much but a very great many things have unexpectedly had to be done and I have tried to keep the place in good condition for you to dispose of as you see fit. I have no debts and the only bills will be the monthly ones. I wish I could have been more of help to my one ewe lamb but just remember me a loving and devoted Mother.”
Considering Kay played so many single mothers in her movies, it can be assumed that she perfected how to play those parts by her experience with her own mom, a single mother herself.
Cocoanuts, The. Paramount, 1929. Kay appeared in this film with the Marx Brothers which also featured Margaret Dumont. Kay was paid $450/week and began the film immediately after completing Gentlemen of the Press. Filming was done at the Paramount Astoria Studio in Queens, and after Kay was brought out to their Hollywood location to begin featured roles in more important films.
Colbert, Claudette. Worked at Paramount when Kay was also employed with the studio. The two never appeared in a film together, and Colbert was one of the very few Paramount stars to not appear in Paramount on Parade (1930).
Colbert and Kay were two of the actresses who helped open makeup man Perc Westmore’s House of Westmore, and were also listed by Variety as two of the 10 most popular female movie stars in 1937. Colbert was also one of the women Kay named on her personal list of best dressed women in movies around the same time.
The two are most notoriously linked over the project Tovarich (1937), which starred Colbert and Charles Boyer. Upon conditions of Kay’s contract renewal with Warner Bros. in 1935, SHE was supposed to make the film. Apparently, Kay believed the film was the perfect project to bring her back to the sophisticated comedies she made in the early 1930s at Paramount (Trouble in Paradise). After the part was assigned to Colbert, Kay filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros., which began the end to her stardom in Hollywood.
Inevitable rumors of a feud between the actresses came up. Kay denied them. “The stories about Claudette and myself being enemies is silly,” Kay said. “We are the best of friends. As you know, she’s one of the nicest persons out here” (BF).
Of her work in Tovarich, Colbert told author Lawrence Quirk, “I’ve done better, and I have certainly done worse, a lot worse” (BF).
Colman, Ronald. (February 9, 1891 – May 19, 1958) English actor, Kay’s leading man in 1930’s Raffles & 1932’s Cynara. The first became one of the biggest hits of the year (BF). Both were produced by Samuel Goldwyn through United Artists.
Kay and Colman enjoyed a brief fling, and rumors circulated they would marry (PL). Colman did give Kay good advice for film acting that she used for the rest of her film career (PL).
Comet Over Broadway. Warner Bros., 1938. Directed by Busby Berkeley. Based on a story by Faith Baldwin. The property was originally conceived as a follow-up to Jezebel (1938) for Bette Davis (!). Davis, offended to even be considered for such a project, said of the whole thing: “This was the first nothing script I was given since my court battle in England. It was heartbreaking to me. After winning an Academy Award…I was asked again to appear in junk…nor could I afford, career wise, to make films such as Comet Over Broadway.”
Davis held out for four months before beginning work on The Sisters, a project which was originally purchased for Kay.
The film has become a favorite for many fans, falling into the “so bad, it’s good” category. The project did provide child actress Sybil Jason with her first assignment in four months. “That wasn’t a good sign,” Jason remembered (BF). Supposedly (according to Jason), Kay refused to make the movie if Jason didn’t play her daughter (BF).
Confession. Warner Bros., 1937. Directed by Joe May. Based on the screenplay Mazurka by Hans Rameau. Considered by most to be the final great film Kay Francis ever appeared in for Warner Bros. This was the last project that Kay received over Bette Davis, who was a considered actress for the starring part. After Confession, the only roles which would tie the two actresses together would be ones which Davis rejected or that were given to Davis over Kay.
The film was a take-for-take remake of a 1935 German film titled Mazurka, which starred Kay’s childhood movie favorite, Pola Negri. Negri was furious when Warner Bros. purchased up all of the American distribution rights to the film in order to prevent the public from seeing the Negri one, luring them to watch Kay’s (CR).
Film historian Allan Ellenberger said of the film, “Despite being a major actress of the 1930s, Kay Francis is mostly forgotten today, except for film buffs. This is regrettable, considering the immeasurable talent this striking beauty communicated on the screen. Who could forget Francis as Vera in Confession, arguably one of her greatest screen performances, who as a woman of means is seduced and ruined by Basil Rathbone. After losing her husband and daughter, she becomes a fallen woman and is forced to entertain in sleazy cafes to earn a meager living. The poignancy and naturalness of her performance shows the range in emotion she was capable of, confirming her place in film history with such greats as Stanwyck, Hepburn, and Davis” (PL).
The set was supposedly a very tense one. Kay walked off the set at least once following an argument with May. Producers at the studio complained that May wanted Confession to be a take-for-take remake of Mazurka, aggravating cast and crew by running the film frequently on the set and even using a stopwatch to time the actor’s scenes.
Jane Bryan, who played Kay’s daughter in the film, remembered it as “ridiculous” (CR).
May never worked again for Warner Bros.
Cooper, Gary. (May 7, 1901 – May 13, 1961) American film icon who Kay enjoyed a brief affair with during her contract years at Paramount. After that the two remained close social pals. Kay was announced as a costar in City Streets (1931), a film which starred Cooper and Sylvia Sidney. Unfortunately she lost the part to Wynne Gibson.
Cortez, Ricardo. (September 19, 1900 – April 28, 1977) Austrian actor given a Spanish name to capitalize on the “Latin Lover” phase in the 1920s when he started making Hollywood pictures. Cortez worked with Kay in several films: Transgression (1931), The House on 56th Street (1933), Wonder Bar and Mandalay (both 1934). Often cast as the sleaze, he was killed off in his films by many of his leading ladies.
After the introduction of the Production Code in July 1934, he worked only in films for a brief while before venturing successfully into financing.
Cosmopolitan Productions. Producing corporation set up by William Randolph Hearst to finance his lover Marion Davies’ often unsuccessful films. 1936’s Give Me Your Heart was produced through the company (though the film was released by Warner Bros.).
Crawford, Joan. One of Kay’s social pals in the early 1930s. Crawford’s then-husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., later spoke very highly of Kay in his later years.
In her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid, Esther Williams recalled a rather bizarre situation featuring a past-her-prime Crawford RE the latter’s work at MGM in Torch Song (1953):
That was Joan Crawford at her best—when she wanted something.
Once she’d made her grand departure, I got myself together to go home, but as I was leaving I heard some noises coming from Stage 4. It sounded like yelling, so I walked over to take a look. Stage 4 was where they did all the show business pictures, because it was set up like a theater. The house was dark; no one was in the audience. There was nothing on but the work light in the center of the stage; in the far corner a janitor was sweeping up. Downstage under the middle of the proscenium arch was Joan, still in her bird outfit, talking to empty seats.
I stood there and listened in the darkness as she cried out, “Why have you left me? Why don’t you come to my movies? What did I do? What did I say? Don’t turn your back on me!” Joan had been a star since the 1920s, with an Oscar and a fine body of work behind her, but here she was, almost fifty, reduced to begging an imaginary audience not to forget her. Tears were streaming down her face; streaking her copper makeup. Suddenly she looked old and pathetic. I slipped away without her noticing.
What a sad, sad lady, I thought as I got into my car…Seeing Joan like that was a shot across the bow for me. “Get out when you’re still on top,” I told myself. “There’s life after Hollywood.”
Crime. One of Kay’s major stage appearances in the 1920s. See the page for her Stage Career for further info.
Cromwell, John. Married to Kay’s friend (and sometime lover) Kay Johnson. Cromwell was one of Kay’s (Francis, not Johnson) best directors. His worked with Kay included 1930’s Street of Chance & For the Defense, 1931’s Scandal Sheet & Vice Squad, and 1939’s In Name Only, which was a major comeback for Kay Francis after leaving Warner Bros. on terrible terms.
Cromwell’s son with Johnson is James Cromwell, famous actor and activist.
Cukor, George. Directed Kay in 1930’s Virtuous Sin and the much better 1931’s Girls About Town. Cukor later told an interviewer that he found the first one dated, and hoped it would disappear (CR). Regarding the latter, Cukor joked that, because of the characters Francis & costar Lilyan Tashman play, it should have been titled The Virtuous Sinners.
Curtiz, Michael. One of the most important directors at Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 40s, and one of Kay’s most important directors, working on several of her most important films: 1933’s The Keyhole, 1934’s Mandalay & British Agent, and 1937’s Stolen Holiday. The latter was the beginning of a long partnership between director Curtiz and actor Claude Rains.
Cynara. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn through United Artists, 1932. Directed by King Vidor. Kay’s last film with Ronald Colman. Along with Trouble in Paradise & One Way Passage, Cynara was on the critics’ “must see” list for 1932 (BF).