I Found Stella Parish. Warner Bros., 1935. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Based on the story “The Judas Tree” by John Monk Saunders. The film stars Kay with Paul Lukas (who she worked with at Paramount), and was her first film with Ian Hunter & Sybil Jason. After three moderately successful films that year, Parish became a blockbuster success for Kay, and one of her most successful films (see the Box Office Page). Kay’s boss, Hal B. Wallis, admitted there was a story shortage on the Warners lot at the time, as one writer wrote after an interview with him, “He says they are acquiring plays, one by one, suitable for her, so that they will have a list to choose from. A few days ago I Found Stella Parish, the dramatic story of an actress, by John Monk Saunders, was purchased with Kay in mind” (PL).
When the film became one of Warner Bros.’ biggest hits of the year, Jack Warner offered Kay a new contract even though her old one hadn’t expired yet (BF). This was the contract that paid her $5,250 a week, and the one she would file a lawsuit to get out of two years later. (See the Salaries entry for further info.)
I Loved a Woman. Warner Bros., 1933. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Based on the book by Davis Karsner. The film is really a star vehicle for Edward G. Robinson. Kay’s unusual casting in this film (a small role) seems to verify the claims by Glenda Farrell about how Warner Bros. rotated their actors between leading and supporting parts. The film also stars Genevieve Tobin, who didn’t like Kay.
Of the film, Edward G. Robinson later wrote in his book, “I saw it the other night on channel 52 (webmaster’s note: um, before cable???), and I was astonished to find it pretty good. Let me give a small bow to Kay Francis. Despite her lisp, her background as a model, despite her inexperience in the theater, she had that indefinable presence that somehow enabled her to be convincing as well as beautiful” (CR).
Illusion. Paramount, 1929. Directed by Lothar Mendes. Based on the play by Arthur Cheyney Train. Starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Nancy Carroll, Kay had a minor role in this partially lost film. Only a brief segment survives at UCLA, though the soundtrack exists.
In Name Only. RKO, 1939. Directed by John Cromwell. Based on the novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. The film stars Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, and Kay. The film is memorable for showcasing Kay’s name (despite third billing) in equal size to Lombard’s and Grant’s this late in her career. Aside from this, In Name Only is one of her best performances in, arguably, her last great film. Kay later said of her work in it, “When I played the heavy in In Name Only, my friends told me I was crazy. I said I had to be seen in some other type of part than the mush I had been playing.”
It’s a Date. Universal, 1940. Directed by William A. Seiter. The film stars Deanna Durbin, Kay, and Walter Pidgeon. Columnist Ruth Waterbury wrote after the film’s release, “Give her a hand…Kay Francis beat Hollywood at its own game when she played to the hilt her role in It’s a Date…a year ago she was taking a terrible beating…she did that most difficult of all things when the breaks are going against you…she remained a lady” (BF).
Photoplay wrote of Kay’s appearance in It’s a Date & In Name Only, “Memo to Kay Francis: This is what is called a comeback deluxe…and we mean it.”