Kay Francis (January 13 1905 – August 26 1968)
Kay Francis was one of the highest paid stars of her day, and the Queen of the Warner Brothers lot before Bette Davis came around. She was gorgeous and was frequently on the best-dressed lists of the day. At 5’9 she was one of the tallest actresses around, and made for a spectacular clothes horse (seriously, she can never look bad in anything she wears).
Largely forgotten until TCM came around, she is celebrated now as being one of the greats of her day. She was always natural and sincere in her performances, which is why she still translates well in the modern day (as opposed to some of the more stagey actresses of those times).
She donated her personal diaries to Wesleyan University before she had died. They contain some of the most personal musings I’ve seen an actress/actor of the time bear. Perhaps the most quoted one is this, from 1938 (emphasis mine):
“My life? Well, I get up at a quarter to six in the morning if I’m going to wear an evening dress on camera. That sentence sounds a little ga-ga, doesn’t it? But never mind, that’s my life…As long as they pay me my salary, they can give me a broom and I’ll sweep the stage. I don’t give a damn. I want the money…When I die, I want to be cremated so that no sign of my existence is left on this earth. I can’t wait to be forgotten.” —From Kay Francis’s private diaries, ca. 1938
Whereas Bette fought for the good roles, Kay just wanted the money. This may or may not be why she faded away and eventually retired (relatively early) in 1946 from film, I don’t know. I do know that she was extremely talented and whether just for the money or not, I really think she put her heart into it.
Thanks for reading and happy watching! 🙂