The Chicago Tribune
One of the very few of the major newspapers to have their archives available online for free public viewing!
1932, August 11. “DASH OF VIDOR NOW APPEARS AT ALL STUDIOS: A New Director of That Name Signs Up.” George Shaffer.
Kay Francis owes her start in pictures to the fact that Lilyan Tashman has been so busy for four years. Kay came west from New York; was used in one role that Lilyan had been compelled to reject because of working in a second, and pretty soon Miss Francis was working in several films that had been cast with Miss Tashman in mind.
[Article covers different studio news.]
1934, December 20. “Kay Francis, Dietrich Visit Chevalier Set” By George Shaffer.
HOLLYWOOD, CAL., Dec 19. The afternoons on the set where Maurice Chevalier, with a new and spiky little mustache, is humming and smiling his way through the hearts of various ladies in “Follies Bergeres de Paris” have been enlivened all week because two of the girl friends from other studios dropping in to watch how Maurice does it professionally.
On Monday afternoon it was Kay Francis who dropped in on the French light comedian and flashed the full force of the dazzling Francis smile on the Frenchman. On Tuesday it was Marlene Dietrich who drove from her studio to pay Maurice a visit. Loretta Young dropped onto the set another day.
[Article does on about Dietrich and Merle Oberon.]
1935, July 3. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS by Eleanor Nangle.
HOLLYWOOD, Cal.,–You can take it from Perc Westmore, who should know, seeing as how he’s make-up director of Warner Brothers, that picking up your usual lipstick, slathering it on both upper and lower lips, then tilting your bonnet and going about your business isn’t making the most of your makeup.
Mr. Westmore has a theory about lip adornment. For those beauteous creatures he makes up for the screen as well as for those of us who are concerned only with street makeup he advocates lip rouge one shade darker for the upper lip than for the lower one. This, he says, creates composition and does away with the unfortunate effect of a pointless blob of red. You’ll notice that the Warner Brothers stars are all made up in this fashion—and if you try the effect on yourself you’ll realize that there’s sense to it.
Mr. Westmore is all for the natural effect in makeup. When he declared that the one thing he hates more than his worst enemy is a plucked eyebrow we could have embraced him. He wishes all women would keep the brows they are born with. He asks us to keep them well groomed, to be sure, but not to get the notion that we’re smart little improvers on nature just because we know how to wield a tweezer.
He thinks Kay Francis is just about perfect, although to his sorrow she’s lately tinkered with the tweezers. She’s the makeup man’s pet because there is no need, with Kay, to do more than accentuate the good looks the Lord gave her. There is no necessity for tricky camouflage.
And Westmore has loads of sound theories about the inner spirit that invariably reflects itself in faces. What distresses him perhaps more than anything else is the sight of a face made vapid or coarse by an unintelligent makeup. This is the sort of mistake women make, he thinks, when they start out on the wrong foot of trying to look like someone else—perhaps the siren they like best in movies. Westmore belongs to the “Be Yourself” school of makeup thought.
1938, January 5. “LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD” by Ed Sullivan.
Hollywood, Cal. Jan. 4—The Jim Cagney-Warner reconciliation, which came true as predicted in this space weeks back, is interesting from a clinical view-point because the walkout, as differentiated from the sitdown, always has been considered a logical weapon on the part of a movie performer.
The rows are always about two things, money or roles. The later reason motivated Kay Francis’ lawsuit, Kay’s ire being aroused when the “Tovarich” role was given to Claudette Colbert. Miss Francis recently withdrew her suit, undoubtedly because of representations that fatter parts were in the immediate offering.
[Article covers further Hollywood news.]
1939, August 17. “LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD” by Ed Sullivan.
It’s a big year for the veterans, too. The town has been tremendously interested in the comeback campaign of Kay Francis. The Francis eyeful in an attempt to win her way back to the pinnacle she once occupied, deliberately accepted one of the heaviest parts of the year in “In Name Only.”
I saw her one night at the Trocadero with Louis Bromfield and she was telling him about the role. “The part of the wife who keeps Cary Grant and Carole Lombard apart is a mean assignment, but I’m risking everything on it clicking.”
Judging from the critical raves throughout the country, Kay’s gamble worked out. Marlene Dietrich, another glamour girl whose stock was on the downgrade, makes her try in “Destry Rides Again.”
[Article covers further Hollywood news.]
1939, September 17. KAY FRANCIS—THE GIRL WHO MADE A SCOLDING PAY by Ed Sullivan
JUDGING from the press comment of the nation, the comeback of Kay Francis has met with more than considerable success. Miss Francis, you will recall, closed out a long career at Warners’ in the dog-house of studio disapproval. In her last months at the studio she was reduced from “A” pictures to a diet of B’s.” The idea was that the haughty brunette star would become so piqued at this professional insult that she would tear up her contract and walk out of Burbank in high dudgeon. Instead Miss Francis, showing admirable self-control in the face of demotion, worked out her contract, collected all of the emoluments included in its fulfillment, and then started looking for another job.
RKO offered her a role in the Carole Lombard-Cary Grant flicked, “In Name Only.” They tendered it rather apologetically, because it called for a characterization so unsympathetic that few actresses wooing the public in favor would dare to play it. “I’ll play it,” said Kay. She played it, played it to the hilt, and it is as a result of her role and her handling of it that she has won a new lease on Hollywood stardom.
It has been offered in evidence that Kay Francis has always been an unusual personality in Hollywood, that she has retarded her on success by arbitrary attitudes and alienated the help of important people. There is a lot of truth in it. But I think she probably inherited it from her dad. He was a man of strong convictions and original ideas.
Her dad, a promoter with magnificent visions, had long regarded the growth of American polo with speculative eyes. He was fascinated by the thought that if anyone could secure a monopoly on the source and supply of polo ponies that man would be independently wealthy. Communing on this and related matters, Kay’s father learned that the chiefs of a certain tribe of Indians in Oklahoma were in a mood to dispose of all their ponies. Instantly he conceived the idea of buying all these Indian ponies and introducing that strain in polo.
You can imagine what the mother, in a delicate condition, thought of this zany scheme. But the father was resolute and an eloquent talker. The Indian chiefs, it developed upon arrival at Oklahoma City, did not want to sell their ponies. So Kay’s father, broke by the expenses of the trip west and compelled to make immediate arrangements for the arrival of Sir Stork, talked himself into the management of an Oklahoma hotel. It was there that Daughter Kay arrived.
With such a background of impracticability surrounding her arrival it is not strange that we find Kay, her first stab at the professional stage, glibly assuring Veteran Producer Al H. Wood that she had years of professional stage experience. She didn’t fool Wood, but she finally landed a job in a Walter Huston show.
Talkies had just arrived, and studios in New York were signing players who were photogenic. On the day that Huston secured Miss Francis a job at Paramount she had a heavy cold. A physician relaxed it so that she could talk, but the tones had the huskiness of Ethel Barrymore’s delivery. The sound engineers, when they heard the deep-throated, husky tones, were delighted, as that type of voice always records well. Two days later, however, the cold had disappeared and the sound engineers were pretty mad at her. They had to match the deep tones with the lighter ones.
From that point on Kay’s movie career was checkered. She played in the first Marx Bros. pictures.
“One Way Passage” established her as a romantic heroine, and from then on the tall brunette with the lisp was in the big money. She continued to be a big name right up to the last year, when bad pictures placed the kiss of death on her.
“In Name Only” returns her to the charmed circle. From now on producers will cast her in feminine “menace” roles, and it is entirely possible and probable that in type of characterization she will outlast the current femme stars.
1939, November 2. TRICKS WITH MAKEUP HELP SMALL EYES by Antoinette Donnelly.
Kay Francis manages a clever makeup for her lovely oval face. Because her forehead is not too high and her hairline tapers it toward a very becoming “widow’s peak,” Kay does not arch her brows. She lets them follow along the natural bone structure, so that they can make virtually a straight line across her forehead with a slight elongation with the pencil. Her eyes are large, which adds to the effect.
1940, May 19. KAY FRANCIS, COMEBACK QUEEN. Ed Sullivan.
THE MOVIES have had the unusual proportion of comebacks this year, but I guess the case of Kay Francis is the most pronounced example of a woman who refused to believe that the movies had nothing for her. That was the pretty general Hollywood opinion after Miss Francis, refusing to permit the Warner studio to breach her contract, was given a series of bad flickers by that studio for general annoyance value. It was believed that her pride would refuse to sanction her appearance in “B” flickers and that instead she’d tear up her contract and walk off the Burbank lot in high dudgeon.
To her everlasting credit, Kay did no such thing. She proved that she could “take it,” and in the final analysis she won a lot of friends for herself in Hollywood, and the Warners appeared quite picayune and cheap by contrast.
Not that the Warners’ patience hadn’t been tried severely by Miss Francis in the years of their association. She had never been particularly tactful, and her gusts of temper undoubtedly cost her a lot of friendships she could have cultivated very easily.
I doubt that her temperament is the fault of Miss Francis. Probably it traces back to a somewhat impractical and impulsive father and an actress mother. The father, Kay tells me, was as sudden in his decisions as and April shower. The reason she is listed in the record books as being from Oklahoma City, Okla., is that her dad, a polo enthusiast, conceived the bizarre idea of buying thousands of Indian ponies from the Sioux Indians in Oklahoma. So he trundled off the mother with him to Oklahoma Coty to promote the deal, and Kay was born there.
She arrived at a moment when the family finances were at their lowest. The deal for the Indian ponies, which were to be sold for polo, fizzled and the family was stranded and broke. They wouldn’t even have been able to eat had it not been for the father’s enterprise in talking himself into the management of an Oklahoma Coty beanery. So Kay’s whole life was lived against just a helter-skelter background. She had looks, breeding, and the air and mannerisms that go with these assets, but she never had the money to complete the picture.
Straitened circumstances made Miss Francis an actress. She and Margaret Case had toured Europe, acquiring nothing but memories of wonderful times and, in Kay’s case, a stunning wardrobe. Coming back, again broke, on the S.S. Lapland, the two girls summed up the Francis situation, and Margaret Case came up with the brilliant idea: “You ought to be an actress.”
Her approach of the problem becoming an actress was typically juvenile and brash. She told Al Woods, one of the top Broadway producers, that she had played stock in Kansas City and in amateur Shakespearean productions. Woods was amazed and amused at the brass of the 19-year-old, but the one part which the tall eyeful might have filled in “The Shanghai Gesture” was denied to her by veteran Mrs. Leslie Carter on the grounds that Kay was too tall for the strangling scene. “The audience would start snickering if little me strangled you,” pointed out Mrs. Carter.
But the Francis girl finally got into a Broadway show, a production of “Hamlet” in modern dress. It was one of the outstanding flops of the season. But by that time she was learning her way around the Broadway casting offices, and she finally got a good part in “Elmer the Great,” an association with Walter Huston that was to get her into the movies. Huston was signed by Paramount Pictures during the running of the play, and he landed Kay a job at $300 a week for five weeks. “For $1,500 I would have walked up the side of the Woolworth building,” she said.
Her dark, interesting type registered beautifully in the movies, and despite a slight lisp she was for some years the top glamour girl of the Warner lot, a natural for sophisticated roles. Then she started to lose ground; her publicity stared sliding, her fan mail dropped, bringing about the crisis at Warners’ studio which ended in the unpleasant finish already described.
Everyone thought then that she was washed up, thru for keeps. In “It’s a Date” Miss Francis, playing the part of Deanna Durbin’s mother, staged a comeback that startles the wisecrackers. She looked lovelier than ever, and the role was tailored to order. She now is embarked on a career that is safer than the career of a star. As a character actress Kay will be well paid, without being held responsible for box office grosses. That is the most preferred position in Hollywood, and there is no limit to the number and variety of roles which will be open to her in this new characterization.
In passing it might be pointed out that Universal’s Joe Pasternack, who arranged Marlene Dietrich’s comeback, also has been responsible for the comeback of Kay Francis. Evidently Joe has a new method of bringing back life to orchids without using aspirin.
1943, July 4, 1943. SILVER THEATER RETURNS TODAY WITH KAY FRANCIS
Kay Francis, who has just returned from an extensive tour of service camps abroad, will be the first guest star as the Silver Theater returns to the air at 5 o’clock this afternoon over WBBM-CBS
1948, Saturday, January 24. [Front Page] KAY FRANCIS ILL; MYSTERY VEILS HOTEL DOINGS by staff writer.
COLOMBUS, O., Jan. 23 (Special)—Kay Francis, screen and stage star, was in serious condition from an overdose of sleeping tablets tonight after being rushed to a hospital in a furor of excitement during which her manager was arrested for “investigation of assault to kill.”
Mysterious circumstances were attached to the star’s illness by conflicting reports of police and the detention for several hours of the stage manager, Howard Graham, 37.
Two detectives said they found evidence of a “wild party” at Miss Francis’ hotel room, but the room was then padlocked by police and the detectives’ statement was overruled by Asst. Chief of Detectives Jay S. Teele, who declared the room was in order.
PUT IN OXYGEN TENT
Miss Francis lay unconscious in an oxygen tent for about four hours. Her physician, Dr. Maurice B. Rusoff, declined to comment on the circumstances that led to her illness, but announced:
“She is now groggy but conscious and able to talk. She is suffering from an upper respiratory infection. Her condition is serious but not critical. I believe she will live. She had not been assaulted.”
Graham, who was been Miss Francis’ escort as well as stage manager during their appearance here in the stage play, “State of the Union,” was held in jail after being booked by police.
He protested he had nothing to do with Miss Francis’ illness, and William Blair, company manager of the play, called his detention “a ridiculous mistake.” Graham was held, however, until the actress regained consciousness and confirmed his account of what had happened.
REPORTS SHE FAINTED
The stage manager said Miss Francis summoned him to her room in the hotel where both were staying and told him she was ill. While he was talking to her, she fainted, she said.
He telephoned the desk for a physician, and Dr. Rusoff was summoned, Graham said, adding: “The doctor told me she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills.”
Miss Francis’ legs were severely burned by a radiator in the room. According to one account given by police, she stumbled against the radiator while in a stupor, but Graham also was quoted as having said she was burned while he was holding her head out a window to enable her to get air.
1950, March 4. LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD by Hedda Hopper
Curious that Kay Francis would play in “Let Us Be Gay” at the Sombrero theatre in Phoenix. We made that into a picture starring Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler years ago [webmaster’s note: Hopper was in the 1930 film in which she is referring to with Shearer & Dressler].