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2 Kay Francis Books


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I finally finished Kay Francis: I Can't Wait to Be Forgotten" by Scott O'Brien. It's a good book, with a couple of limitations.

 

O'Brien obviously adores his subject, so we get very little of Kay's dark side. It's not an objective book at all -- when he mentions the (admittedly few) people who didn't like Kay, he acts as an apologist. For example, Phil Silvers wrote some fairly nasty things about her, so O'Brien, with no real evidence, speculates that Kay shot him down when he proposed an affair. It may be true, but who knows. I have no problem with the Kay worship, but it is an issue in a biography.

 

As I mentioned before, the photo quality is really bad. There are lots of pictures, but the grainy reproduction (you can literally count the halftone dots) is just awful.

 

Those complaints aside, O'Brien did a great job documenting the life of Miss Fwancis. Lots of research, lots of anecdotes and interviews, and lots of excerpts from her diary. If I wasn't in love with Kay before (and I was), I'm totally mad about her now.

 

Highly recommended -- a must read. Scott, if you're reading this, thank you. Great job.

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(From the author of Kay Francis - I Can't Wait to be Forgotten) Re: The Photos: I too was VERY dissappointed in the quality of the photos when I received my first shipment of books (January). I spent so much time and money getting good quality photos -- many never before published. You can imagine the cuss words and the fit I threw! My publisher told me the printing company he uses has a wider distribution than most -- that's why he uses them. Quite frankly, I would rather see better quality prints! On the plus side, I just received a second shipment yesterday -- apparently the printer wasn't so stingy with the ink and the photos are darker and much more acceptable.

 

As far as being "objective" -- yes, I did write it from a fan's point-of-view. At the same time I didn't "censor" anything. What many might see as "negative" -- I saw as "human." So, while exploring Kay's "dark side" -- I took whatever information came my way and did my best to show it as her "human side". The recent and excellent film Crash fully illustrates our human propensity to flip-flop in and out of awareness, in and out of fear/anger/joy/compassion etc., Why should Kay be any different? -- I think Kay's diary entries fully illustrate her ability to flip-flop. I did not have the intention to write a "scandalous" book or "dish the dirt". Frankly, the more I learned about her the more I liked her. I have some "born-again" co-workers who would find Kay's life analagous to a train wreck -- believe me, I haven't encouraged them to read her biography. Not one person I contacted had anything negative to say about Kay -- they had admiration and respected her as an individual and professional. As far as her drinking and sex life -- I was every bit as prolific on both counts during my hippie days -- I was cheering her on all the way!

Re: the Phil Silver's remark. To me, his homophobic slur against Kay was indicative of some kind of rebuff/cold shoulder from Kay at some point. Why else would he mention it? I did not imply that he had propositioned her.

It's interesting reading the TCM comments on the new Kay bio's. I've enjoyed reading the Kear book (which I just received this week) -- she has some excellent information on Kay's parents that I hadn't come across -- also, some stage credits of Kay's from 1954 which I was very happy to learn about.

Keep up the dialogue on Kay! Let's get TCM to release a Kay Francis collection! O-Kay?

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Scott,

 

I certainly didn't see Kay's wild life as a negative either, although her constant need for abortions are a lesson for those who want women's rights to return to the dark ages. I too was a bit wild in the past (and still on occasion).

 

Regarding Phil Silvers: you are correct. I went back and reread that passage, and you did not state that he had rejected her advances. It is clearly stated as speculation. I apologize for getting that wrong. That will teach me to review books without having my copy handy.

 

I'm glad that the photos look better in later copies, although it's the halftone resolution that's the real problem. I realize that this is not under your control.

 

And honestly, my quibbles are minor, which I hope was made clear. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and treasure my copy. I was very pleased with it, and I'm sure Kay would be as well. You deserve a lot of credit for all your hard work in documenting the life of this fascinating woman.

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Jon

I'm glad you "treasure" the book and please know that all quibbles are most welcome. I still find things to quibble about in the book when I re-read it for the umpteenth time -- I guess that's human nature.

 

I don't believe Kay was the happiest camper on the set of The Four Jills. She indicated in a few interviews that she harbored misgivings about the film's fluffy treatment for a serious and courageous assignment into the combat zones of WWII. I think the Jill's venture is still waiting to be told on film. But, I'm drifting off from the subject matter of this forum .... sorry.

(By the way, my dad loved Phil Silvers!)

 

Scott

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To Scott: I enjoyed your book a lot (just finished it over the weekend). Like you, I thought the picture quality was cheesy. I am a huge Kay Francis fan too, and have been hungry to read her story for years.

 

Was there any birth control (other than abstinance) around "back then?" I'm sure condoms have been around for some time, and what about diaphrams? I was amazed at the frequency of Kay's pregancy/abortions. Was this common in the 20's and 30's?

 

Thank you for your book!

Alix

.

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I also just finished the Kear bio on Kay Francis--I read both books this weekend! Can you imagine a better way to spend your free time??

 

It is also an excellent book, and I recommend that one too.

 

Can we ever get enough of Kay?

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Alix

You bring up an important point in understanding Kay. She was caught between two generations. In the 19th century abortion was not uncommon (in the 1880's there were over 200 legal (if done early on in the pregnancy) abortionists in New York alone! It wasn't necessarily associated with "sin" to the extent it was in the 20th century. Until after WWII, Condoms were more associated with the prevention of venereal disease than preventing pegnancy. The selling or advertising of any form of "birth control" after 1873 was illegal until 1938. After 1938 women had access to the diaphragm. So, "Kay the lover" was perpetually in a difficult situation. But, you know what? I think her "dilemma" tells much more about our society than it does about her. Diaphragm's were popular in Europe after the turn of the century, but in the U.S., they could not be distributed! I have nothing but compassion for her situation. She enjoyed sex for pleasure and I see this as healthy -- it was an important part of her vibrancy as an individual and a woman.

Thanks for asking such a great question.

Scott

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Thanks for responding. I thought when I was reading both books that she certainly enjoyed a healthy sex life, and yet was continually getting "caught" with a pregnancy. I imagined that if she had had readily available, reliable birth control, she probably would have used it, as she seemed to not want children.

 

Alix

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