Friday, December 30, 2005

Oh Kay

The Siren loves to discover a kindred spirit, especially in the person of an august critic who doesn't know she's alive.

"My familiarity with the film work of Kay Francis [is] intimate ...




...my appreciation for the screen choreography of Robert Alton unbounded..."




The gentleman's post mentions Francis & Alton only in passing, as he was settling a score with another site. All the same, bless James Wolcott's heart. Alton will be remembered as long as holidays bring scheduled screenings of White Christmas and Easter Parade (the still is from Ann Miller's dazzling "Shaking the Blues Away" number). But few recall Kay Francis, except for her role in the incomparable Trouble in Paradise. That's a shame.

Kay was gorgeous, looked amazing in evening gowns, gave some good performances on the rare occasions that she got a decent script, and had the most alluring lisp in film history, Bogart notwithstanding. She also seems to have been a laid-back, good-natured sort of star, as rare then as it is now. But how intimate is intimate? Did Mr. Wolcott make it all the way through The White Sister? No matter. If he ever blogs about the four-hanky chick flick supreme, One-Way Passage, the Siren swears she will send him a fan letter.

18 comments:

Morris said...

No one's beauty can hold a candle to yours!

Mr. Morris
Ask Morris

Campaspe said...

Dear Morris,
You are clearly a man of uncommon percipience. I have no idea who you are, but stop by anytime.

The Siren

girish said...

Here's how classy the Siren is:
even her drive-by commenters pick up on her classiness in the flash of an instant.

Oh and Kay was also great in Borzage's Living On Velvet, with the pomaded Warren William and Warner regular George Brent.

surlyh said...

I believe that it's in Living On Velvet where Francis and George Brent have a little fun acknowledging her lisp.

I must admit that Ms. Francis is not not my cup of tea, but she's pretty good in quite a few good or fun films. Those already mentioned, Wonder Bar and Jewel Robbery among them.

Earlier today I watched In Name Only, a melodrama in which she played an out an out villainess--a sort of she-wolf in sheep's clothing--and did it quite well. She goes to any length to keep her husband, Cary Grant, apart from his true love, Carole Lombard. Very cool and very nasty.

Campaspe said...

In Name Only was made when her career was in decline, and Francis was cast at the behest of Carole Lombard. They worked together very, very early in Lombard's career (name of the film I have completely forgotten) and were friends. Also, tying together this week's obsessions very nicely, is the fact that one of Kay's last roles was as Deanna Durbin's mother in It's a Date.

Living on Velvet I haven't seen; Borzage is another director frustratingly hard to find (why, WHY?). I did see Wonder Bar ages ago and liked it. I have vivid memories of seeing The House on 56th Street and crying my eyes out, too.

girish said...

Campaspe, I'm totally nutso about Borzage--I taped about fifteen or twenty off TCM over the years.
A few choice faves: Moonrise, History Is Made At Night, Three Comrades, Desire, A Farewell To Arms, The Mortal Storm.
If the Siren does not mind old clunky VHS technology, I will bring a handful up for her when I make my next northern trip.

Campaspe said...

Girish, you have Desire and History Is Made at Night? I'm so excited! yes, by all means! I taped Three Comrades a while back myself, for my pal at Bois de Jasmin. She is a capital-R Romantic and loves Erich Remarque's novels. Moonrise I don't know at all; I suspect I am confusing it with Moonfleet which is Fritz Lang if my memory isn't failing me.

surlyh said...

Moonrise is Borzage and Moonfleet is indeed late Lang with Stewart Granger and George Sanders. And Moonraker is something else altogether.

Living On Velvet and Stranded are both shown on TCM. Both are by Borzage and both star Francis and George Brent.

girish said...

Campaspe--Moonrise is one of Cinematheque Ontario curator James Quandt's favorite movies. Terrifying, and Romantic with a capital R. With Lloyd Bridges and Gail Russell.
And Moonfleet is Lang's only widescreen film ("only good for funerals and snakes" as he memorably blasted the format in Contempt). It's great too.

I notice the Cinematheque schedule for the new season is already out. And it looks loaded.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Have a great New Year, Campaspe!

Jeff said...

If you love Kay Francis, you have to see her in "Confession." One of her last great A-pictures. For some reason, it hasn't been seen on TCM for quite some time now, but it is in their library.

Also loved her in "The House on 56th Street."

Campaspe said...

Jeff, thanks for the tip!

Peter Nellhaus said...

On Friday the 13th (!), TCM is going to show TEN Kay Francis films in a row starting at 6 am. I also saw that there is a Kay Francis biography out. While checking out the list of her films, I had forgotten that I saw Always in my Heart a long time ago at an hour when when I should have been asleep.

Bluemaryp said...

Actually there are 2 Kay Francis biographies coming out - A Passionate Life and Career by Lynn Kear and I can't wait to be forgotten by Scott O'Brien. I will definitely be up at 6am Friday watching those old Kay films. She had such an undeniable beauty and rare sexuality that you don't see very often.

surlyh said...

Last night I saw a very good 35 millimeter print of GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (George Cukor, 31)with Francis and Joel McCrea. I've never seen Francis is more revealing lingerie, not to mention a wet swimsuit. Yowza. McCrea isn't too shabby, either.

Campaspe said...

Peter, BlueMaryP & SurlyH - alas, you intentionally rub rock salt into the Siren's wound. You see, there is no TCM in Canada. My research indicates that this is due to 1. Lack of motivation on the part of the godawful cable company in these parts and 2. rights issues, which can probably be overcome rather easily, considering that countries from Australia to Israel have their own version of TCM and ONLY FREAKING DUMBASS CANADA is lagging behind.

Oopsie, small temper tantrum there.

surlyh said...

UCLA has prints of GIRLS ABOUT TOWN and other Paramounts. I saw another beautiful print of Mamoulian's gorgeous CITY STREETS last week. STREETS and APPLAUSE, which I saw last year, have given me a new appreciation for Mamoulian. The sound is particulary lovely for '31. Prod your local Cinemateque to run a series on Paramount or Francis.

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