April 8th, 2019

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A Francis tentet? Oh, Kay!

Carole Lombard is shown with Kay Francis in one of the two films they made together, "Ladies' Man" (Paramount, 1931). Tomorrow, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is showing 10 of Kay's films, although neither "Ladies' Man" nor her other collaboration with Carole ("In Name Only," RKO, 1939) is among them.

Truth be told, I'm not sure why TCM is running 10 Francis movies Tuesday; it's neither the anniversary of her birth (Jan. 13, 1905) nor her passing (Aug. 26, 1968). Not that I'm complaining -- the stately Kay, at 5-foot-9 among the tallest actresses of her time, and thus a favorite of fashion designers -- is always welcome on screen.

Six of the ten are from the pre-Code era, where her intensity and intelligence made Francis a favorite with audiences. The schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6 a.m. -- "I Loved A Woman" (1933). Edward G. Robinson's a Chicago meat-packer, Kay his wife with high-society aspirations in this drama.

* 8 a.m. -- "I Found Stella Parish" (1935). Kay's the titular actress, who works to protect her young daughter (Sybil Jason) from her past. With Paul Lukas and Ian Hunter.

* 9:30 a.m. -- "Secrets Of An Actress" (1938). Broadway melodrama, again with Hunter, though Kay's a leading lady who's fallen for an unhappily married architect (George Brent).

* 11 a.m. -- "Divorce" (1945). Among Francis' final films, which she co-produced for low-budget Monogram; her oft-divorced character eyes happily-married Bruce Cabot.

* 12:15 p.m. -- "Guilty Hands" (1931). Well-written MGM whodunit co-starring Lionel Barrymore, Madge Evans and C. Aubrey Smith. Barrymore and W.S. Van Dyke co-directed.

* 1:30 p.m. -- "Mandalay" (1934). Kay is sold into white slavery in this late pre-Code, with '30s stalwarts Ricardo Cortez as the oily baddie who gets his at the end, Lyle Talbot and Ruth Donnelly.

* 2:45 p.m. -- "The House On 56th Street" (1933). Offbeat programmer with Cortez, Gene Raymond and Frank McHugh, as Kay is falsely convicted of a crime with devastating consequences.

* 4 p.m. -- "Confession" (1937). A well-acted soap opera, typical Francis fare late in her Warners tenure, co-starring Hunter and Basil Rathbone. There's murder afoot as Kay protects her daughter's virtue.

* 5:30 p.m. -- "Jewel Robbery" (1932). Essentially "Trouble In Paradise" minus Lubitsch elegance and with Warners outrageousness. One of my favorite pre-Codes, as Kay shows plenty of skin and William Powell renders his foes silly with marijuana-laced cigarettes. (You read that correctly.)

* 6:45 p.m. -- "One Way Passage" (1932). Powell and Francis made this in '32, a 180-degree turn and pure romance. Two doomed people resigned to their fate meet on a ship and fall in love. Robert Lord won an Oscar for original story...a paradise cocktail to all.

(Oh, and at 8 p.m., there's a third in a row for Powell -- his best Philo Vance vehicle, 1933's "The Kennel Murder Case.")

Enjoy! The schedule is at http://www.tcm.com/schedule/index.html?tz=est&sdate=2019-04-09.
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