Kay Francis is one of those actresses that you either get or you don't. It isn't that she's so complex, it's that Kay is in on the joke and those who enjoy her performances are in on it too. Yes, she's dressed to the nines while playing someone down on their luck -but you didn't come in off the Depression era streets to see someone in rags, now did you? She wasn't the best actress and she wasn't the worst, she was better than Norma Shearer (and I love Norma!) despite Mrs Thalberg's Oscar.
It always surprised me that no one had written a dishy biography about Kay Francis. She was such a huge star in the 1930s and she did have all those husbands. Unfortunately for potential biographers, but fortunately for her, Kay was discrete. And Kay had a lot to be discrete about. She told much of it to her diary and based on the extracts presented here, Kay is my new dead best friend. Anyone who can sum up a day with "Read my new script - dear God!" is girlfriend material.
The authors cover Kay's career in detail and with the loving assessments of devoted fans. I'm right there with them in enjoying Kay's performances in movies like Mandalay and I Found Stella Parish. As film historian Jeanine Basinger put it in A Women's View, Kay was presence, not talent. That's not as harsh as it sounds, it's a simple assertion that Kay wasn't trying to be the great tragedian. Kay was focused on entertaining, not winning awards.
Kay did have a little time left over for her personal life. You can either look at it as quite depressing - 3 divorces, multiple abortions and a drinking problem - or you can see it as a strong woman living her life on her terms in times when women had few options. I prefer the latter interpretation and with lines from her diary like "Did something and had good time but can't remember" you get the feeling Kay preferred the latter, too.
This is a book for Kay Francis fans and movie buffs who want to know more about an undeservedly forgotten star.