Picturegoer (Jul-Dec 1937)

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Oaotxi 2 1937 f / it's K.O. FRANCIS NOW T/"ay, once the most peaceable of stars, has recently become the Brunette Bomber. Here are the facts behind her recent contract revolt against the Warner Studio. FOR a benevolent studio that has always nailed the good acting from contented actors and actresses " slogan to the front door, the Burbank celluloid cannery has been singularly unfortunate in its relations with its stars who have included James Cagney and Bette Davis. Now that Kay Francis, once one of Hollywood's most even-tempered actresses and a pillar of the studio for something like five years, has declared a one-woman war, the hapless Warners must be feeling something like Caesar when he saw Brutus on that celebrated knifing job. She has filed a suit asking for the annulment of her recently renewed contract. As readers of Picturegoer may have discerned, the trouble has been brewing for some time. The Francis revolt is, in fact, the culmination of a long series of events in the screen career and private life of the star. Curiously enough, the Warner association began in an atmosphere of strife and sensation. Kay and her friends, Ruth Chatterton and William Powell, were the storm centre of the biggest inter-studio upheaval in Hollywood history when they moved en masse to the Burbank lot from Paramount. Powell, subsequently left on the grounds of salary trouble. Miss Chatterton reigned as queen of the studio through several years and a marriage to George Brent, and then in a number of indifferent vehicles gradually slipped from her high estate as The First Lady of the Talkies. But Kay Francis stayed on uncomplainingly, taking what was given to her in the way of story material, which was very frequently what was left after the others had skimmed off the cream. The new affiliation started off auspiciously enough with films like Man Wanted, Jewel Robbery, Street of Women and One Way Passage. iCTUP£GOER Weekly \ Kay Francis beconiet a blonde for the first time in her latest picture ' ' Confession . ' ' ( >n the left is Director Joe May. About this tune, iiowever, the powers that be at the studio made the discovery that when Kay flooded the screen with tears, the fans flooded the box-offices with gold. It was a discovery eminently satisfactory to the Warner shareholders, but as a result of it Miss Francis has practically ever since wept her way through a series of suffering mother roles and themes of manufactured emotionalism that has continued right through to her newest picture. Confession. Moreover, they found the star unusually tolerant toward their plan to feature her almost exclusively in "handkerchief drama." Kay had never been "difficult" and she was not so now. There was The House on 56th Street, for instance. The picture was originally bought for Ruth Chatterton, who had taken one look at the script and rejected it. Called upon as second choice, Kay went to work and did a first-class job. The same situation rose in the case of Mandalay, another Chatterton cast-off. In / Loved a Woman she took what she knew very well would be a completely secondary role, largely to oblige Edward G. Robinson. Hal Wallis, production chief of the studio, declared : " It is the producer's business to gauge his public ; it is the star's business to trust the producer's j udgment. Kay Francis is possibly the only star in the entire history of Warners who has realised this fact and who has been ready to meet us more than half-way." Ihave mentioned all these facts because to those who know them the recent reputation Kay has acquired for artistic temperament is inexplicable except by some extremely drastic circumstances. Those who know the star best advance the theory that the strain of playing this too-long succession of troubled women may have began to tell on the usually cheerful and docile Kay, while it would not be unnatural for her to be suffering from a sense of frustration brought about by the lack of opportunity to run a wider gamut of emotion than these tear-strained heroines afford. Certainly there has lately been a nervousness in her work on the floor that was never there before and which, if it has not transmitted itself to her screen characterisations, has involved her in more studio "scenes" than good for the reputation of any star. It is known that she " blew up " on more than one occasion during the making of The White Sister. The film of one such outburst was shown at a Hollywood party for the amusement of a number of big shots. And the best dialogue in Confession will not be heard on the screen. It was between Kay and Joe May. The picture resolved itself into one long fight between star and director. Hollywood gleefully retitled the picture the Battle of the Century. It even got to the stage where May, protesting over her insistence in saying " I won't" instead of " I can't" in a line of dialogue, told her that the difference between the two phrases was " the difference between you and a good actress. " It is particularly unfortunate that, amid her other troubles, Kay is not on the best of terms with the Hollywood writers and is not getting a sympathetic press at a time that she needs it She has never liked being interviewed, but until recently managed, to maintain particularly friendly relations with the reporters. The trouble all started when Kay gave a party some time ago. She lives in an extremely modest little house, and when she entertains on any scale she does so in one of the larger Hollywood restaurants. On this occasion a reporter gate-crashed. No one likes to have her party gate-crashed, but Kay might have handled the situation more tactfully. She had the intruder ejected. Her press vendetta has moreover been intensified by her friendship with Delmar Daves, a screen writer she met during the making of The White Sister, and with whom her name has been linked in the romance rumours. Kay has always felt that her marriage to Kenneth McKenna might have stood a better chance if it had not been for all the publicity that surrounded it from the outset, and she has openly resented press interest in her new romance. The gathering storm clouds finally burst when Claudette Colbert was imported from Paramount for the leading role in the screen version of Tovarich, now titled To-Night' s Our Night. Kay had set her heart on having the part, which, indeed, many excellent judges believe she could have done extremely well. She claims in her lawsuit that her assignment to the role was one of the conditions under which she recently signed her new contract. M. D. P. 13