A signal goes up from Brooklyn to James Wolcott on the Upper West Side:
Looks like Turner Classic Movies' September Star of the Month is our own Kay Francis. The Siren has written before of her love for mellow-voiced, velvet-eyed Kay, her inimitable way with a chic frock and her ability to combine sophistication with a sense that life was wounding her. Francis had peaked by the mid-1930s and her films are not easy to come by. The Siren has been complaining privately to pals that TCM seemed to be slipping a bit in its commitment to programming the rarities. She takes it all back.
Here are the ones the Siren wants to catch. All times EDT:
Cynara (1932), directed by King Vidor. An early piece about adultery, discussed in David Shepard's book on Vidor. Kay plays the wronged wife, Ronald Colman the straying husband, Phyllis Barry the shopgirl who turns into an early form of bunny-boiler. (Sept. 11, 9:30PM)
Jewel Robbery (1932) (William Dieterle). The Siren likes Dieterle and this movie matches Kay with her One Way Passage costar, William Powell. (Sept. 4, 9:15 PM; Oct. 9, 6:15 AM)
The House on 56th Street (1933). (Robert Florey) The Siren's long-ago intro to Kay, discussed at length in Lawrence Quirk's The Great Romantic Films. She wears a terrible blonde wig for most of the film but the Siren has fond memories of this movie, which combines Doomed Romance with Sacrificial Mother Love. (Sept. 12, 11:15AM)
The Keyhole (1933) (Michael Curtiz). A blackmail melodrama with a plot highly typical of Kay's pictures of the period. (Sept. 19, 8:45AM)
Living on Velvet (Sept. 5, 6:45AM)
Stranded (both 1935) (Sept. 25, 3:15AM)
These are the two films Kay made for genius Frank Borzage, the great high-Romantic director whose films are about as easy to come by as reservations at the Waverly Inn. Consequently we cinephiles are starving for more and the prospect of two with Kay has me drooling. Although, to be honest, so scarce are this auteur's movies that TCM could drop me a line promising "Friday at 10 AM: PIECE OF KITSCH, directed by Frank Borzage" and the Siren would be dragging out the blank discs. Of everything on the schedule these are the two I will cry if I don't manage to record.
Stolen Holiday (1937) (Michael Curtiz). Aside from Curtiz, the Siren is intrigued by Kay opposite Claude Rains, who plays a crooked financier in over his head. (Sept. 11, 4:30AM)
Finally, just as a bonus, three that apparently aren't on the schedule, darn it:
Let's Go Native (1930) (Leo McCarey) Kay has a small part in this early musical farce directed by the great McCarey. Kay has a duet with Jack Oakie, "I Gotta Yen for You." This the Siren gotta see.
The Virtuous Sin (1930) Extremely early Cukor film co-directed with Louis J. Gasnier. Possibly (probably?) not very good but there aren't many Cukor movies the Siren hasn't seen so she's got a filmography to finish off.
Girls About Town (1931) See The Virtuous Sin, except this one is all Cukor and it's supposed to be good. Plus it has gold-diggers and the Siren loves gold-digging movies.
The Siren has already seen, and highly recommends, One Way Passage (1932), one of the most romantic movies ever made and, no matter what you've heard, bright and snappy, not mushy at all; Lubitsch's great Trouble in Paradise (1932), Kay's best film and Miriam Hopkins's best as well; and Mandalay, a fast-moving trek through some dens of iniquity and atmospheric rear-projection, directed by Michael Curtiz.