Her specialized take on honorable, suffering women made the distinguished Kay Francis one of the highest paid female stars of the ‘30s. Considered to be “as a responsive as a violin” (by none other than William Powell), Francis used this versatility to expand her career as that decade came to a close.
Cast as Cary Grant’s manipulative wife in 1939’s In Name Only, Francis’ Maida Walker was a woman who could – and did – drive men to suicide. Subtly maneuvering the family of Grant’s unhappy Alec into her corner, Francis’ character almost destroys his future with Carole Lombard’s loving and artistic Julie Eden. A final confrontation with Julie reveals Maida’s true motivations to all, though, and Francis slinks off with shocked elegance at the film’s close out. Subtly underplaying her character’s flint hard anger, Francis shines with sense of brittle control mixed with an acidic softness here, allowing the audience to feel a bit of sympathy for her while also delighting in her downfall.
Taking the vengefulness of Maida a step further, Francis’ dominating Sheila Seymour is a crime boss extraordinaire in 1945’s Allotment Wives. The head of a ring of women determined to milk soldiers of their savings, Francis is coldly charming once again here. Even when gunning down her opposition in cold blood, Francis shines with a hypnotic allure. As with In Name Only, Francis connects fully with the character’s emotional softness, manifested by this character’s beloved daughter, allowing the audience to feel a twinge of compassion for her actions even when they are homicidal in nature.
While not as well remembered as Bette Davis, her professional rival at Warner Brothers, Francis still has her devoted fans and a number of books and a website dedicated to her career and life.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan