Happy 112th Birthday, Kay Francis!
Fashion plate and Queen of the Women’s Pictures Kay Francis was born Katherine Edwina Gibbs 112 years ago today in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Here are 10 KF Did-You-Knows:
- Though Francis was born in Oklahoma City, she didn’t live there long. Much of her childhood was spent on the road with her mother, Katherine Clinton, who was an actress. At age 17, Francis, who was then attending Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City, married the first of her five husbands—one James Dwight Francis, member of a prominent (and well-to-do) Pittsfield, Massachusetts, family. That marriage, like the four other matrimonial knots Francis would eventually tie, unraveled in relatively short order.
- Shortly after her 1925 divorce, Francis decided to follow her mother’s example and pursue a life on the stage. In November of that year, she made her Broadway debut as the Player Queen in a modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- After a handful more Broadway roles, Walter Huston, her costar in the 1928 production of Elmer the Great, encouraged her to take a screen test for Paramount Pictures. She did, and was given roles in Gentlemen of the Press (1929) and the Marx Brothers‘ first picture, The Cocoanuts (1929), both of which were filmed at Paramount’s Astoria Studios in Queens, NY.
- Soon thereafter, Francis moved to Hollywood where her striking looks and model’s figure (she stood 5’9″, very tall for an actress at the time) helped her career to ascend. From 1929 to 1931, she appeared in more than twenty films.
- Warner Brothers wooed Francis away from Paramount in 1932, and it was there that she experienced her greatest success. By the mid-’30s, Francis was the queen of the Warner Brothers lot and one of the highest-paid people in the United States. From 1930-37, Francis appeared on the cover of more than 38 movie magazines, second only to Shirley Temple (who racked an astonishing 138 covers over that span).
- At Warner Brothers, Kay became known as a clotheshorse. Her ability to wear stylish clothes well was highly valued by the studio and admired by fans; in fact, she eventually came to feel that Warner Brothers put more more of a focus on her on-screen wardrobe than her film’s scripts, as she came to be unalterably associated with the sort of weepy melodramas that were then known as “women’s pictures.” We fully understand the frustration she felt at the time, but we’ll admit that we love those pictures and adore Francis’ performances in them.
- Francis’ great success came in spite of a noticable speech impediment: She pronounced R’s as W’s (ala Elmer Fudd). As such, our favorite line of Kay Francis dialogue appears in Mandalay (1934), which was directed by Michael Curtiz and in which Kay starred with Ricardo Cortez, Lyle Talbot, and Warner Oland. It’s great fun to hear her intone, “Gwegowy, we awwive at Mandalay tomowwow.”
- Francis’ personal life was something of a mess. An exceedingly liberated person, sexually, she slept with both men and with women—and plenty of them, and none of her five marriages lasted very long.
- Francis’s career fell as quickly as it had risen. She was through with the movies (or perhaps vice versa) by 1946, when she appeared in her final picture, Wife Wanted, a budget quickie made for the infamous Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures. Aside from some stage work in the late ’40s and a couple of TV appearences in the early ’50s, she avoided the spotlight thereafter and was largely forgotten by the public (until Turner Classic Movies began to feature her pictures prominently in its programming and her star again rose among old-movie buffs).
- When she died in 1968 of breast cancer, Kay Francis left more than one million dollars to The Seeing Eye, Inc., an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind.
Happy birthday, Kay Francis, wherever you may be!
Happy 133rd Birthday, Texas Guinan!
Actress and Queen of the Nightclubs Texas Guinan was born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan 133 years ago today in Waco, Texas. Here are 10 TG Did-You-Knows:
- Guinan was one of seven children. Her parents were Irish-Canadian immigrants. She attended parochial school at a Waco convent.
- When Guinan was 16, her parents moved the family to Denver, Colorado. There she began to appear in amateur stage productions before marrying newspaper cartoonist John Moynahan at age 20. The pair moved to Chicago, where she studied music. She eventually divorced Moynahan and began to perform in vaudeville as a singer.
- Guinan’s singing was reportedly no great shakes, but she had lots of pep and she soon found that she improved her prospects as a performer by regaling the audience with (perhaps exaggerated) tales of her “Old West” upbringing.
- In 1906, Guinan moved to New York City, where she worked as a chorus girl before finding additional work in vaudeville and on the New York stage.
- In 1917, Guinan made her movie debut and soon was a regular in western pictures. She is said to have been the first movie cowgirl (her nickname was The Queen of the West). Guinan would go on to appear in more than 50 features and shorts before she died in 1933.
- With the passage of the 18th Amendment, Guinan became active in the speakeasy industry, serving as hostess and emcee for a long string of illicit (but very popular) nightspots. Her outsized, sassy personality and her skill at evading justice, despite her many arrests for operating a speakeasy, made her a legendary figure in Prohibition-era NYC.
- Guinan’s speakeasies featured an abundance of scantily clad fan dancers and showgirls, but her penchant for pulling the legs of the rich and famous served her just as well. “Hello, suckers!” became her standard exclamation for greeting customers. Her well-to-do patrons she referred to as her “butter-and-egg men” and she coined the familiar phrase “Give the little ladies a big hand” while serving as emcee.
- Texas Guinan’s nightclubs were often backed by gangster Larry Fay and such legendary bad guys as Arnold Rothstein, Owney Madden and Dutch Schultz frequented her establishments—alongside relatively “good guys” such as George Gershwin, Walter Chrysler, Pola Negri, Mae West, Al Jolson, Gloria Swanson, John Gilbert, Clara Bow, Irving Berlin, John Barrymore and Rudolph Valentino.
- Ruby Keeler and George Raft both got their starts in show business as dancers as Guinan’s clubs, and Walter Winchell acknowledged that the inside access Guinan gave him to Broadway’s cornucopia of colorful characters helped launch his career as a gossip columnist.
- Guinan died of amoebic dysentery in 1933, one month before Prohibition was repealed. She was just 49. Bandleader Paul Whiteman and writer Heywood Broun were among her pallbearers.
Happy birthday, Texas Guinan, wherever you may be!
Happy 112th Birthday, Sterling Holloway!
Character actor Sterling Holloway was born 112 years ago today in Cedartown, Georgia. Here are 10 SH Did-You-Knows:
- Holloway was the first of two sons born to grocer (and Cedartown mayor for one year when Sterling Jr. was seven years old) Sterling P. Holloway, Sr. and his wife, Rebecca.
- Holloway graduated from Georgia Military Academy in 1920 and though only 15, he immediately left the South for New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (Spencer Tracy was a classmate and friend).
- In his late teens, Holloway joined a touring company of The Shepherd of the Hills, performing in a series of one-nighters out west. Afterwards, he returned to NYC, where he performed small roles in Theatre Guild productions. He also was cast in the Rodgers and Hart review The Garrick Gaieties, in which he introduced the popular standard Manhattan.
- In 1926, Holloway moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in pictures, and he would go on to appear in 100 of them. His bushy red hair and prominent features made him a natural for comedies, and he got his start in silent pictures, appearing in three shorts and one feature (Casey at the Bat ).
- In 1932, after four years without a film role (a director had reportedly told him he was “too repulsive” for silent pictures), Holloway began to work in talkies, where his high-pitched, chalky voice served him well, and he kept very busy indeed. From 1932-35, he averaged 10 pictures (some of them short subjects) a year.
- Over the course of his 50-year, Holloway appeared in (or did voice work for) more than 100 features and shorts, and made nearly as many television appearances.
- In addition to his picture and television work, Holloway worked frequently on radio, a medium to which his unique and memorable voice was well-suited. Among the shows to which Holloway lent his talents were The Railroad Hour, The United States Steel Hour, Suspense, Lux Radio Theater and Fibber McGee and Molly.
- Holloway was one of the first actors to make the jump to television, appearing in 1949 on the anthology series Your Show Time, which featured half-hour adaptaions of literary short stories from the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson. It was the first American dramatic series to be shot on film and the first series to win an Emmy award.
- Holloway frequently did voice work for animated features, including Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Alice in Wonderland (1951), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970) and perhaps most famously, he provided the voice of Winnie the Pooh in Disney’s popular series of Pooh featurettes.
- College Street, where the Holloway family resided in Cedartown, is now called Sterling Holloway Place and there’s a plaque at the site of his boyhood home.
Happy birthday, Sterling Holloway, wherever you may be!
Happy 108th Birthday, Dana Andrews!
Actor Dana Andrews was born Carver Dana Andrews near Collins, Mississippi, 108 years ago today. Here are 10 DA Did-You-Knows:
- Andrews was the third of 13 children. His father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to Huntsville, Texas, when Andrews was five years old.
- In college, Andrews studied business administration but quit school to take as a bookkeeper with Gulf Oil. After a couple of years, he decided the business life wasn’t for him and he hitchhiked his way to southern California with his sights set on a career as a singer and actor.
- Andrews didn’t break in to the movies until nine years after he’d arrived in Los Angeles. In the meantime, he supported himself as a school bus driver, a stock boy, an orange picker, a ditch-digger and by pumping gas at a Van Nuys service station.
- Andrews joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, where he studied and appeared in many live productions, and it was because of his work there that he was signed by producer Samuel Goldwyn.
- Andrews’ movie debut came in 1940, a year in which he had small roles in four pictures, including The Westerner, which starred Gary Cooper. He would go on to appear in 75 feature films (and more than 25 television programs) in a career that spanned five decades.
- Andrews’ brother, Steve Forrest, also enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor.
- Andrews struggled with a drinking problem for much of his adult life. Though it is said he didn’t let his drinking impact his work, eventually producers became hesitant to hire him and his career began to decline.
- In the late 1960s, Andrews gave up drinking. “Finally, I said to myself, ‘You’re a miserable man,'” he said. “‘Whether or not you want to remain miserable is up to you.’ So I quit.” He went on to serve on the National Council on Alcoholism and even filmed a public service announcement in 1972 in which he was open about his own struggles with drinking.
- In the 1960s, after reading a how-to book on the subject, Andrews began to invest in real estate. He later claimed he made more money in real estate than he ever did as an actor.
- Despite appearing in a number of pictures that are now considered classics, among them Laura (1944) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Andrews was never nominated for an Academy Award.
Happy birthday, Dana Andrews, wherever you may be!
Season’s Greeting from All Your Pals at Cladrite Radio!
From all of us at Cladrite Radio to our loyal followers, readers and listeners, here’s wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017!
Come and cuddle by the fire in the evening.
We’ll forget about the snow and rain.
While the skies are stormy, your arms will warm me.
It’s winter again.
It’s so thrilling when it’s chilly in the winter,
And the frost is on the windowpane.
Hear the sleigh bells ringing; my heart is singing.
It’s winter again.
The wind may blow.
Who cares? Just let it blow.
I’ll write to you love letters in the snow.
And we’ll cuddle by the fire in the evening.
We’ll forget about the snow and rain.
While the skies are stormy, your arms will warm me.
It’s winter again.
Music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart, lyrics by Arthur Freed, 1932