Warner Brothers

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Va-Va-Villainess: Kay Francis

Published January 4, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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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.

Kay Francis In Name OnlyCast 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. Kay Francis Allotment Wives

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.

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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.

www.kayfrancisfilms.com/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Cecil Cunningham

Published December 12, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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A product of the Broadway and vaudeville stages, the distinguished Cecil Cunningham was a character actress who, for decades, supported such cinema queens as Hedy LaMarr, Greta Garbo, Mary Astor, Carole Lombard (pictured below) and Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, smart cinema enthusiasts know that she was a presence in her own right, making a strong impression in smaller roles that often weren’t even credited onscreen.

thZJV2T4DG.jpgThankfully for horror fans, Cunningham was given one of her most prestigious undertakings in the fun Warner Brothers’ genre fest The Hidden Hand. Released in 1942, this gem found this regal celluloid queen in fine form as Lorinda Channing, the head of a family of greedy, mentally unbalanced socialites. Pretending to be near her death, Channing invites her nearest and dearest to her estate. Surmising that they all want her cold for her cash, this devious diva enlists the help of her brother, a deranged killer who has just escaped an asylum, to assist her in her plotting against her avaricious kinfolk.

Filled with weird humor and old dark house theatrics, this project also gave Cunningham plenty of room to utilize many of her acting tools. She brings a proud and strange presence to Channing, reveling in a role that would have normally been filled by a Boris Karloff or Laird Cregar type. Her work here is definitely the precursor to contemporary artists like Deanna Dunagan and Lin Shaye, fine actresses, who have embellished and empowered such films as The Visit and Insidious with their distinguished essences.

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Cunningham, who also appeared in 1934’s hard to find Return of The Terror and Ladies They Talk About, an early WIP effort, died at the age of 70 in 1959. Sixty years later, her filmography (and her genre credits, in particular) seems truly ripe for rediscovery.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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