WHAT HOLLYWOOD HAS GIVEN ME—WHAT IT HAS TAKEN FROM ME
Kay Francis is happy, but she has no illusions about herself or the film colony. Here’s what she has gained—and has lost—as told to
“I have been married twice before. To whom? Never mind. That’s my private business.
“With health, love, and financial independence, I’m as happy and contended as anyone could be.
“Hollywood has given me greater respect for the stage. When I finish in pictures, whether it be in five years or ten years, I’m going back to it—if it will have me. What I’m fearful of is that when Hollywood is through with me, I’ll be unfitted for anything else.
“It has given me a deeper insight into people and life. Hollywood is like Pandora’s Box—with the evils and miseries of life, but with hope at the bottom. Here we live on hope.
“It has given me a tiny bungalow with Kenneth MacKenna. And love. But I knew Kenneth for seven years before coming to Hollywood, so it can’t be said that Hollywood gave him to me. We lived in a beautiful, spacious residence for a while after we were married, but found it too great a responsibility. Now we have the smallest place in down. We still look upon New York as home.
“I’ve grown hard, especially in business, but I’m not bitter. My contacts here have made me that way. Fundamentally, though, I do not believe Hollywood has changed me.
“Hollywood has no sophistication. But it may have gained some since the advent of talkies.
“As a child, I was excitable, spoiled, and had a terrible temper until I reached the age of eight. Then my mother took it out of me. Her discipline gave me balance. Hollywood has helped advance that balance.
“I lost my Santa Claus at the age of six. I never regained him. Hollywood has proven to me that there is no Santa Claus. It has shown me realities.
“I have no superstitions. I was born January 13th, on a Friday, the thirteenth month of my mother’s marriage. I have been lucky. Of course, if I forget something and have to go back in the house after it, I sit down and count ten before leaving. But that’s a woman’s privilege, not a superstition. I open an umbrella in the house without hesitation.
“My first marriage was when I was seventeen. I had been divorced twice at the age of twenty-two. I went on the stage right after my first divorce in 1925, following a trip to Europe. I lied to get my first job on the stage—said I was experienced when I was not. Hollywood has not upbraided me yet for telling that little white lie.
“I went on the stage because I wanted to eat regularly. I had to earn my own living. My mother, Katherine Clinton, was of the stage and made a name for herself. The stage and screen agreed to buy some of the talents I inherited from her.
“Hollywood has taught me the value of privacy. Here you have to change your telephone number every two months despite the fact that it’s a blind-number. How Hollywood saps your vitality. It demands your strength in a constant struggle. It is like an octopus, always reaching out, always absorbing. It knows no pity. It takes far more than it gives.
“Everything good coms to Hollywood, but nothing originates here. It’s a melting pot for talent developed in other parts of the world.
“You have no intimates here, no really close friends. When Kenneth and I were married, in January 1931, we sailed out of Los Angeles harbor in his yacht, destination unknown. We put in at Catalina Island where a justice of the peace performed the ceremony in the presence of two witnesses we didn’t even know—two strangers.
“I wouldn’t own real estate in Hollywood because I have never felt that it was my home.
“When I came here to work, newspaper headlines announced—‘America’s Best-Dressed Woman Arrives.’ I make no claim to any such distinction. When Ken and I go out on our boat, I usually wear a bathing suit or overalls. I do the cooking and he does the skippering. We sometimes spend a week at a time at sea.
“As a girl, I hated the idea of acting. Mother sent me to a New York secretarial school and I planned a business career. I didn’t make good my intention. The stage got me.
“I hate interviews. I recognize them as part of the game, but there’s a time and place for everything. A publicity man on my arrival wanted to photograph me beside a defeated prize fighter who had a black eye. ‘Put on dark glasses,’ I said to him. ‘I don’t want to draw attention to your misfortunes.’ He thanked me.
“I have a dog, a dachshund, one of those creatures which looks like it was born under a bureau. I have one maid, Ida, whom I brought with me from New York.
“I cherish no ideals and have no illusions. ‘Make the best of what you have and get,’ is my creed.
“I know a group of nice people whose companionship I enjoy. I have learned that if you can’t be exclusive in Hollywood you can be seclusive [Webmaster’s note: I think Kay was referring to “secluded.”]. That, it seems, is the ideal way to live.
“I like to watch prize fights, wrestling matches, and bicycle races. I like sailing.
“I do nothing in particular to keep physically fit. I eat anything I want without fear of getting fat. I drive my own car.
“I do not have photographs of myself scattered throughout the house. So far as I can remember, my husband and I never have had our picture taken together.
“I am in love with my husband. He is diplomatic. He never becomes angry. He prefers beer to champagne. His favorite dish is wild duck and oranges. He doesn’t snore. He doesn’t take himself seriously. Doesn’t like to have his home life publicized. He is neither temperamental nor moody. His favorite indoor sport is bridge. His screen favorites are Lionel Barrymore and Greta Garbo. When through the movies, he, too, expects to return to the stage.”
(Since this was written Miss Francis and Mr. Mackenna have agreed to an amicable separation.)
In the circle of writers who hover about the Hollywood studios, I know half a dozen who have tried to interview Kay Francis. I have seen some of them emerge muttering, “’Yes and no! It depends upon the individual. Yes and no! It depends upon the individual.’”
They had heard it repeated so frequently during their chat it had seared its way into their brains. Because Kay parries questions which call for conclusions or which touch upon her private life. To her an interview takes on the nature of a fence match.
This much can be said, however, quite truthfully: people get it, I don’t know. When I come in from an airplane trip, crowds follow me right into the station washroom to stand and stare.
“My husband and I own a fifty acre farm near Cape Cod with a house two hundred years old on it. When we went there for a visit with his parents, mobs of country folk came. They completely ruined our stay. In a few days we left. At Greenwich, Connecticut, I went to the country fair and literally was mobbed. I hate crowds.
“Some persons will tell you they can’t live in Hollywood and be a lady. That is absurd. You are here just what you are elsewhere. Effects of the ‘Hollywood influence’ depend on the receptive attitude of the individual. To accept certain things is to make them true.
“I believe in luck, particularly in Hollywood. Luck has boosted many stars to the positions which they hold today.
“I expect to devote five or ten years to pictures. I see previews of those films in which I work. I never go to premieres. When my picture days are ended, I’ll return to Broadway voicing no regrets. The gain will have been worth the game.
“My poorest picture was ‘The Keyhole.’ My best, ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and ‘One Way Passage.’ But I have no choice in my stories.
“I love to play sophisticated roles. In Clara Bow’s picture, ‘Dangerous Curves,’ they dressed me in tights! Imagine it! Oh, well, that’s Hollywood.”