Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Finding" Kay Francis


One afternoon in 2006 I was scanning the channels when I stopped upon Turner Classic Movies and saw an interesting-looking 1930s movie. It may have been this one. Anyway, I forgot about the movie, but I didn't forget what proved to be my introduction to Kay Francis. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see anything else with her in it because I didn't have TCM for eighteen long, bitter, hellacious months. In fact, I wept copious tears when September, 2008 saw TCM spotlighting Kay Francis as their "Star of the Month." Curse my barbed-wire soul for not having TCM! Now that I think about it, how in blazes did I not have internet access AND Turner Classic Movies for so long??? What am I, a Buddhist monk?

Insane, ascetic lifestyle aside, it was only last week when I made sure I tuned in to Turner Classic Movies--I've had it back for a few months now--and I jumped at the chance to see 1932's pre-Code delight, Trouble In Paradise. This also happened to be the first Ernst Lubitsch film I'd ever seen in its entirety. Simply put, Trouble In Paradise is one of the few perfect movie experiences I've ever had. Not a scene, not a word of witty, literate dialogue, not a moment is wasted in this wondrous film. Miriam Hopkins, despite her limited screen time, sparkled, Herbert Marshall gave the performance of his life and then there's Kay Francis...

I'll admit to thinking she wasn't much of an actress, based on what I had foolishly surmised to be the truth. I felt that while she was charismatic and lovely, in an awkward beauty sort of way, I didn't think she had the acting "chops" to interest me.
Yet in Paradise, whatever it was she did had me watching her and listening to her wonderful-sounding voice and gazing with adoration at her perfect profile, which was showcased a lot. The film went by like a whirlwind and I barely had time to cheer before it was over. I was left dazzled by the production and I found myself on the lookout for more of Kay Francis. Sorry for the lack of deep, meaningful, and thoughtful analysis of this film, but I'm too gah-gah for that academic stuff now. I'm enjoying the thrill of discovery...

Late to the Party, but there nevertheless.

6 comments:

  1. Late to the party, but we're happy to have you.

    The cable system where my mother lives put TCM on a higher tier not long ago, and so when I visit her I can't watch it. Pondering life without TCM -- my desert island non-news, non-sports channel -- would be unthinkable to me...a torture even Dick Cheney couldn't think up.

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  2. I've not had TCM ever. Never had cable.

    But, clicking over here and seeing Carol Lombard and reading about Ernst Lubitsch, I just watche To Be or Not To Be last night. Highly recommend it, I hope to be writing a review soon.

    Retrohound.com

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  3. I saw Trouble in Paradise for the first time in a revival theater. It just floored me how divine every detail was. That was my happy introduction to Kay Francis--though I now realize it was probably her best movie. I don't think you can be truly academic talking about this movie. It just needs to be watched and gushed over!

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  4. What a nice little post! I really enjoyed reading it.
    Well, I could probably say one or two things about your monk-time, but I don't want to hurt you ;) At least, you have done something about it now! We will forget the embarrassing memory of a C.K. Dexter Haven without internet access or TCM. It did not happen.

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  5. She looks slightly like Bette Davis in that first pic. I could not help but notice your username...are you a Grant or Hepburn fan?

    If it's KH, I have a poll about her over at my blog...kindly vote.

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  6. C.K., absolutely agree with you about "Trouble in Paradise," Lubitsch, and Kay Francis (with her big, soulful eyes). It's too bad she faded into second-rate movies and obscurity so quickly. Like KC, I don't know if you CAN be terribly academic about this kind of movie experience. How can you adequately analyze sheer delight? Also loved the ever-reliable Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton in this. When TCM did that tribute, I saw two other Kay Francis movies also released in 1932 that I highly recommend: the wacky "Jewel Robbery" and the archetypal tearjerker "One Way Passage," both with William Powell.

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