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

Friday, January 30, 2009


KAY FRANCIS: I CAN'T WAIT TO BE FORGOTTEN. Her Life on Film and Stage. Scott O'Brien. Bear Manor Media. 2007.

At long last a full-scale, major biography of the almost forgotten major movie star, Kay Francis. Unlike other big female stars like Crawford, Davis, and Hepburn, Francis didn't make any big movies in middle-age (such as, say, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) that would have introduced her to a whole new generation. In addition, few of her films ever showed up on the late show. But now Turner Classic Movies is running many of her films and host Robert Osborne even wrote the excellent foreword to this book.

O'Brien's biography is very well-researched, incisive, and -- lo and behold!-- doesn't stint at analyzing and looking into the many movies that the lady made (the reason for her fame, after all). Quotes from many reviews sprinkled throughout the book also make it clear that Francis' acting abilities were held in higher regard by her peers and critics than was previously thought. O'Brien takes us behind the scenes of such diverse films as Jewel Robbery, Allotment Wives, Trouble in Paradise, Confession, and many, many others, good, bad and indifferent.

[Oddly, despite the fact that the author appears to be openly gay (he mentions his male partner in the prologue) he seems determined to paint Francis as a thoroughly heterosexual woman despite the fact that in her own diary she notes that she told one husband she had slept with three women (at least). This would indicate Francis was at least bisexual, but O’Brien claims this was only due to "experimentation." (Well, once, maybe.) It doesn’t occur to O’Brien that perhaps Francis’s several marriages and many relationships with men all failed because she might have essentially been into women and couldn’t quite come to grips with it. People can be open-minded on the subject of gay relationships when it comes to others, but still repressed and in denial when it comes to themselves and loved ones.]

Whatever the case with Francis' sexuality, it's a treat to finally read about her life and films and the reasons why she couldn't "wait to be forgotten" and nearly got her wish.

Verdict: Excellent bio. ***1/2.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your positive comments on Kay's biography. She was a fascinating study!

Although I never claimed Kay was "thoroughly heterosexual" -- I did emphasize that she was definitely bi-curious. Her experimentation with same sex relationships was minimal, according to her diary. She was certainly more ecstatic about her sexual adventures with men. That's all I had to go by. If she truly was a lesbian --- how many dozens of abortions would she have to got through before she saw the light? Although I am gay, I did attempt (twice) to experiment with heterosexuality. I found these women attractive, but it just wasn't me! I felt it to be dishonest.

Personally (and hopefully this came across in the book), I admire Kay's openness to the idea of bisexuality. More power to her! My theory is: let the reader decide.

Thanks again for your commentary and blog.

Scott O'Brien (author)

William said...

Nice to hear from you, Scott. Nice book! I understand what you mean about "how many abortions etc. " Of course, it was a different, much less enlightened era and she could have left some things out of her diary. [Personally I always think bi-curious essentially means at least bisexual.] In any case, she was a fascinating figure, and as long as she was having fun ...

In any case, thanks for your first-rate scholarly study -- and a good read, too!