Some quick facts about Kay Francis, star of the Ernst Lubitsch classic, Trouble In Paradise.
● Born in Oklahoma City to an actress mother and a father who left when Kay was four, Francis made her Broadway debut at the age of twenty in a modern-dress version of Hamlet. In 1928, she appeared in a play with future Oscar-winner Walter Huston who was so impressed with her that he arranged a screen test with Paramount Pictures. The test was a success, and Francis made her film debut the following year in the Marx Brothers' first film, The Cocoanuts, which was filmed at Paramount's Astoria Studio in New York.
● Francis had a lisp and was known around the backlots of Hollywood as "the Wavishing Kay Fwancis." Generally, dialogue was carefully tailored to conceal her speech impediment, but Ernst Lubitsch refused to rewrite key scenes of Trouble In Paradise for her and you can hear traces of her lisp if you listen closely.
● She left Paramount in 1930 for Warner Brothers. During the early sound era, she was the highest paid actress at Warners.
● At the time she was known for soap opera-style pictures about long-suffering women who wore great clothes, and much to her chagrin, these productions often focused on the clothes more than the dialogue. This eventually led to a protracted dispute with Warners she was destined to lose.
● She was married five times, divorced five times, and kept a diary that included details of numerous affairs with both men and women. George Cukor later said that all the great stars carry a secret which is revealed in their faces, and that Kay's face suggested her secret was particularly wicked.
● Along with Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Mae West, Francis was labeled "box office poison" in 1938 by a group of independent theater owners.
● She made her last movie in 1946. Among her best films were Jewel Robbery, One-Way Passage, Trouble In Paradise and In Name Only.
● She died of breast cancer in 1966. Her estate was valued at around $1 million, the bulk of which went to Seeing Eye, Inc., a company that trained seeing-eye dogs.
The Roundup: April 22
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