Eugene Pallette ♦ Paramount Pictures ♦ Paramount on Parade ♦ James Robert Parish ♦ Louella Parsons ♦ Passion Flower ♦ Anthony Perkins ♦ Walter Pidgeon ♦ Zasu Pitts ♦ Play Girl ♦ Dick Powell ♦ William Powell ♦ Otto Preminger ♦ The Production Code ♦ The Prudential Family Playhouse
Paramount Pictures. The first studio which employed Kay from 1929 through January 1932. When Kay first signed with the studio, she was working at the Paramount Astoria Studios in Queens, New York. After completing her first two movies there, they brought her out to Hollywood. At first, surprisingly, Kay didn’t want to go. When she did arrive the publicity department declared, “Her striking brunette beauty, her ability to wear clothes as well as her mellow voice won her a contract with a ticket to Hollywood” (PL).
A big blow occurred in January 1931 when Kay, William Powell, and Ruth Chatterton jumped ship by signing with Warner Bros. “They were stolen from under my nose,” producer Jesse L. Lasky recalled (RC). Columnist Hubbard Keavy wrote, “The loss of Powell and Miss Francis didn’t bother Paramount officials much, but the expected loss of Chatterton, the money maker, caused them some dismay.”
Paramount filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros., but a mutual decision was reached upon when Kay would be loaned out to Paramount for one more movie, Trouble in Paradise (1932).
In retrospect, it’s clear to see Paramount had no real plans to develop Kay into a sensational star. She later echoed this when she switched to Warner Bros., “I feel I owe [Warner Bros.] a great deal. After all, they made a star out of me. When I was with Paramount I was only playing featured roles. That feeling of gratitude is one reason I haven’t complained more over some of the roles given to me.”
Parish, James Robert. Long-time Hollywood author. Co-wrote the first retrospect article on Kay Francis in a February 1964 Films in Review issue. He later wrote further about Kay in Hollywood Beauties and The Great Hollywood Love Teams. In the latter, he detailed the Kay Francis-George Brent film made for Warner Bros.
In a foreword for Lynn Kear and John Rossman’s The Complete Kay Francis Career Record in 2008, Parish wrote, “In recent years, 1930s Hollywood movie queen Kay Francis has enjoyed a terrific renaissance—thanks to repeated showcasings of her feature films on cable’s Turner Classic Movies, to the release of DVDs of several of her pictures, and to new books such as this excellent volume covering in great detail the life and career of this glamorous, enigmatic cinema star.”
Some additional information RE Parish and his work on KF from him directly (lifted from a personal email from Parish to me, dated February 3, 2015):
“In The Great Movie Series (A. S. Barnes, 1971)- my first solo book as an author–I dedicated the book to Kay and there is a large photo of her on the dedication page
“In my book Hollywood Divas (Contemporary Books, 2003–the company was taken over by McGraw-Hill) one of the 70 female stars given a mini-chapter in the volume is Kay Francis.”
Parsons, Louella. Hollywood columnist who had a very good relationship with Kay Francis. Kay, who was always leery of the press because of her desire for privacy, spoke openly to Parsons and Dick Mook. Hedda Hopper, not so much.
Passion Flower. MGM, 1930. Directed by William C. de Mille. Based on the novel by Kathleen Norris. Kay, in her first top-billed film, plays the sexy cousin of Kay Johnson, and is out to steal Johnson’s onscreen husband played by Charles Bickford.
Powell, Dick. Major film star at Warner Bros. during Kay’s years there. He appeared in 1934’s Wonder Bar.
Powell, William. (July 29, 1892 – March 5, 1984) Before his legendary partnership with Myrna Loy, Powell was actually most noted for his onscreen romances with Kay Francis. Their films included Behind the Make-Up, Street of Chance, For the Defense, Ladies’ Man, Jewel Robbery, and One-Way Passage. They also both are in Paramount on Parade, though they have no scenes together.
On February 1, 1950 Kay helped Powell celebrate his 60th birthday at the 21 Club. But according to Bette Davis, Powell was a bit gossipy over Kay’s sexuality. According to Bette, Powell “went around telling anyone who would listen that she must be a good actress, because she played convincing love scenes with men. What I heard, elsewhere, was that Miss Francis had girlfriends, but only in between husbands” (PL). [My personal note: I don’t really believe it was Powell who was the gossip, I attribute that to Davis. No other source mentions Powell’s opinions of Kay in that way.]
In 1933 Powell was originally slated to play opposite Kay in The Keyhole, while she was slated to play opposite him in The Key. Unfortunately, the two never worked together after One Way Passage, which many point to as their finest film together, and one of the best either actor ever made.
Preminger, Otto. Austrian filmmaker who Kay had a passionate affair with in the mid-1940s. The two met in September, 1942 at a pool party Kay was throwing. When the affair first began, Kay noted of his poor love-making skills. Within two weeks, she was raving about him in her personal diary. (Perhaps he was intimidated by KF.) The affair when on through the end of 1944, when Kay began sleeping with Don King, a handsome pilot she met on a USO Tour.
Production Code, The. Enforced in July 1934 as a way of controlling the content being placed into films. It has been written by many this led to the demise of the careers of many film stars, some of which have included Kay’s name on the list of actors and actresses effected by it. In truth, Kay’s popularity was indeed continuing to rise, and it’s likely the poor stories and relationship with Warner Bros. led to her career decline.
Prudential Family Playhouse. Broadcast on CBS, Kay had a live appearance on this show in November 7, 1950 in “Call It a Day,” which was based on a Warner Bros. film released in 1937. See the Television Page for further information.