Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


THE COMPLETE KAY FRANCIS CAREER RECORD. All Film, Stage, Radio and Television Appearances. Lynn Kear and John Rossman. McFarland; 2008.

This book is the companion volume to the authors' fine Francis biography Kay Francis: A Passionate Life and Career. This is an exhaustive, very well-researched look at the long and fascinating career of Kay Francis, who is now being rediscovered and reappraised by film buffs thanks to TCM and books like this one. This hardcover tome with lots and lots of photos is not just a dry reference book of lists, but has synopses and reactions to all of her movies, including background notes about each film, as well as a sampling of often contradictory reviews. [The strangest one is when a Mick LaSalle compares Allotment Wives to Mildred Pierce and is quoted thusly: "But Allotment Wives is tougher, harder, and stronger, and Francis' performance outshines anything Crawford ever did." Actually while I was watching Allotment Wives I kept thinking how much better and more appropriate Crawford would have been in the part! Different strokes ... ] These essays are written with humor and intelligence. The authors unearth some interesting and bizarre things about Confession, which was a shot-for-shot remake of Mazurka (much like Gus Van Sant did a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho). The reviews of both her movies and stage appearances [the latter section also has lengthy background notes] make clear that many critics did not dismiss her as an actress as some have wrongly believed. The authors clearly admire and enjoy Francis but if they think she's not at her best in a particular vehicle, they say so. The lengthy appendix listing many of the players who worked with Francis also has a lot of often surprising information in it. For more about the actress' personal life [although there's quite a bit on that in this book] see the authors' Francis bio. NOTE: Both books can be ordered at the McFarland web site or call 800-253-2187 to order.

Verdict: For every Francis fan's bookshelf. ***.

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