Jeanette MacDonald ♦ Kenneth MacKenna ♦ Aline MacMohan ♦ Man Wanted ♦ The Man Who Lost Himself ♦ Mandalay ♦ David Manners ♦ Fredric March ♦ The Marriage Playground ♦ Herbert Marshall ♦ The Marx Brothers ♦ Mary Stevens M.D. ♦ W. Somerset Maugham ♦ Joe May ♦ Mitzi Mayfair ♦ Archie Mayo ♦ McCalls ♦ Joel McCrea ♦ Frank McHugh ♦ Memory of Love ♦ Lothar Mendes ♦ Una Merkel ♦ Gertrude Michael ♦ Patsy Ruth Miller ♦ Mirror, Mirror ♦ Mistress of Fashion ♦ Monogram Pictures ♦ Dickie Moore ♦ Jean Muir ♦ My Bill ♦ Odette Myrtil
MacDonald, Jeannette. (June 18, 1903 – January 14, 1965) Musical sensation best remembered for her onscreen romance with Nelson Eddy in their MGM films. Before this, she was a contract player at Paramount when Kay worked there as well. MacDonald appeared most notably opposite Kay’s future French boy-toy Maurice Chevalier. MacDonald also had an affair with him.
MacKenna, Ken. (August 19, 1899 – January 15, 1962) Kay’s third and last husband. (Rumors persist to this day that she married Erik Barnekow in 1939. This isn’t true.) The two were married from January 17, 1931 until February 21, 1934. The relationship began when they met on the set of 1930’s Virtuous Sin. MacKenna, who shared Kay’s passion for good sex, seemed to be her ideal mate at first. Both were considered to be one of the more famous Hollywood couples. Unfortunately, Kay’s career began to overshadow his, and drinking from both took its toll on the relationship. More than once their verbal disagreements became physical.
Unlike her divorce from William Gaston, whom she remained friends with for decades after their divorce, Kay kept no communication with MacKenna following their marriage failure.
MacMahon, Aline. Character actress who played “Barrel House Betty” in 1932’s One Way Passage.
Man Who Lost Himself, The. Universal, 1941. Directed by Edward Ludwig. Based on the novel by H. De Vere Stactpoole. Brian Aherne has a dual role while Kay plays his glamorous leading lady. The film also features S.Z. Sakall and Henry Stephenson.
Mandalay. Warner Bros., 1934. Directed by Michael Curtiz. A Ruth Chatterton reject that became one of Kay’s biggest successes. Kay plays a young woman sold to a Rangoon brothel by her sleazy lover, played by Ricardo Cortez. Shirley Temple claimed to have a bit part in the film, though her scenes don’t seem to have survived. “Mandalay was a steamy, sensual tropical yarn,” Temple remembered, “but my fleeting part was as a homey prop, held for an instant in someone’s arms” (CR).
March, Fredric. (August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) Perhaps one of the greatest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Before he became associated with character parts, he was a handsome leading man opposite glamour girls like Kay. The two worked together in 1929’s Marriage Playground and 1932’s Strangers in Love. In the latter he had a dual role.
March was slated to appear in Confession with Kay, but he became unavailable and the part went to Basil Rathbone. Kay socialized frequently with March and his wife, actress Florence Eldridge. Kay did NOT like Eldridge. At all.
Marriage Playground, The. Paramount, 1929. Directed by Lothar Mendes. Kay has a small role as a vamp in this film with Lilyan Tashman, Fredric March, and Mary Brian. Anita Louise has a small part in this film, too.
Marshall, Herbert. Kay’s leading man in 1932’s Trouble in Paradise.
Marx Brothers, The. Kay appeared in one movie with them, 1929’s The Cocoanuts.
May, Joe. Director of 1937’s Confession. May was so impressed by the 1935 version of the story, Mazurka (with Pola Negri), he drove the cast and crew mad by trying to get an exact remake of the film. He apparently used a stopwatch to time their scenes, screened the film on the set, and even went as far as to tell Kay, in front of cast and crew, she couldn’t act. He never worked again for Warner Bros. after the film’s production completed.
Mayfair, Mitzi. Professional dancer and actress of the stage and screen. Accompanied Kay, Carole Landis & Martha Raye on several USO tours which were later sort-of reproduced into 1944’s Four Jills in a Jeep. Mayfair also had a small role in Paramount on Parade.
Mayo, Archie. Directed two of Kay’s best films: 1932’s Street of Women and 1936’s Give Me Your Heart. Later, after her Warner Bros. days, he directed her again in 1941’s Charley’s Aunt. Though he was one of her best directors, they did not get along. Mayo went as far as to tell Kay she couldn’t act.
McCrea, Joel. (November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990) One of the most natural actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood and husband of actress Frances Dee. McCrea appeared as Kay’s true love in 1931’s Girls About Town. Dr. Monica was actually initially conceived as a vehicle for McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck until Kay and Warren William were cast.
McHugh, Frank. Popular comedian in Warner Bros. films. Appeared as the humorously drunk criminal in 1932’s One Way Passage and revived his role in the 1940 remake ‘Till We Meet Again. He also worked with Kay in 1933’s The House on 56th Street and, that same year, appeared in the film version of Elmer the Great, a stage production Kay had appeared in in 1927 opposite Walter Huston.
Memory of Love. The novel by Bessie Breuer which was filmed in 1939 as In Name Only with Kay, Carole Lombard & Cary Grant.
Mendes, Lothar. One of Kay’s most frequent directors during her Paramount contract. Born in Germany, he seemed to have disappeared professionally after WWII. His films with Kay were 1929’s Dangerous Curves, Illusion & The Marriage Playground, 1930’s Paramount on Parade, 1931’s Ladies’ Man, and 1932’s Strangers in Love. Considering he filmed Kay opposite such names as Clara Bow, Fredric March, William Powell, and Carole Lombard, Mendes really deserves a lot of credit for helping evolve Kay’s technique for screen acting.
Michael, Gertrude. Supporting actress whose career was slightly damaged by her heavy drinking. She played envious, jealous, scheming women especially well. Good examples of this are opposite Mae West in I’m No Angel (1933) and Kay in Allotment Wives (1945). She also sings the song “Sweet Marijuana” in the Pre-Code cult favorite, Murder at the Vanities.
Miller, Patsy Ruth. Writer of Windy Hill, which was directed by Ruth Chatterton and Kay’s comeback to the stage after a 17-year absence. Miller said, “Kay preferred the sure thing of the road to uncertainty of a New York opening. We finally had to close due to Kay’s contract with Monogram Studios, who had a picture ready for her, and threatened a breach of contract suit if she didn’t return. That effectively closed our show, as the producer wouldn’t hear of putting anyone else in Kay’s part. To my regret, Windy Hill never did get to New York. By the time Kay was free again the producer had died, his estate was involved in a legal battle, and I got tired of the whole thing and went back to California, which was probably stupid of me. But it had been a great experience and I had come to love Kay” (PL).
Mirror, Mirror. Kay hoped that this play would take her back to Broadway. It didn’t. See the Stage Page for further info.
Mistress of Fashion. The original title of Stolen Holiday.
Monogram Pictures. One of the most notorious of the “Poverty Row Studios” in Hollywood. The pictures produced were usually cheap, vulgar entertainment simply made for a fast profit. Monogram didn’t have a “roster of stars” per say, but there were several actors who worked there early in their careers (John Wayne) or who ended up there after their careers hit the skids (Kay Francis).
Kay completed her final three movies for Monogram: Divorce, Allotment Wives, and Wife Wanted. It’s still unknown exactly why she chose to work for such a place, and still widely debated among critics. To those who really know Kay Francis, it’s most likely the producing aspect that made Kay accept the offer. The co-produced each of the films with a man named Jeffery Bernerd. (Rumors persist to this day that Kay, a notorious frugal, kept the budget so low she made sandwiches at home for the cast and crew.)
In regards to the quality of the films, they’re actually not all that bad. An argument can be made that the films are so bad, they’re actually pretty good. The same cannot be said of some of Kay’s other films made for the major studios.
Recommended reading: Ted Okuda’s The Monogram Checklist.
Muir, Jean. Warner Bros. supporting actress who played Kay’s best friend in Dr. Monica who becomes pregnant with her husband’s illegitimate baby.
My Bill. Warner Bros., 1938. Directed by John Farrow. Produced by Brian Foy. Based on the play Courage by Tom Barry. Kay’s first “B film” for Warner Bros. following her contract dispute. The story had been filmed by Belle Bennett under the play’s original title in 1930, and was directed by Archie Mayo, one of Kay’s best directors (though they hated each other). Everyone was shocked when Kay chose to make the film instead of walking out on her contract, and they were even more shocked when the film became a hit with audiences.