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Kay Kendall

Kay Kendall

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Also Known As: Kay Justine Kendall Mccarthy Died: September 6, 1959
Born: May 21, 1926 Cause of Death: leukemia
Birth Place: Yorkshire, England, GB Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Effervescent British leading lady of the 1950s who epitomized screwball elegance in a handful of films, most unworthy of her talents. Kendall was born into a theatrical environment, her grandmother Marie had been a music hall great and other members of her family were also performers. She and her sister Kim formed an act during WWII, and Kendall began appearing in film and television productions in the late 1940s. After one disaster ("London Town", 1946), she worked her way up in supporting parts, including "Lady Godiva Rides Again" (1951), "It Started in Paradise" (1952), and her first big break, "Genevieve" (1953), in which her character tussled with a huge dog named Suzy and displayed unexpected talent as a trumpeter.Few of her British-made films were memorable, but Kendall shone in all of them: "Doctor in the House" and "The Constant Husband" (both 1954), "Abdullah the Great" (1955) and "The Adventures of Quentin Durward" and "Simon and Laura" (both 1956). She was whisked off to MGM to add her sparkle to the Gene Kelly musical "Les Girls" (1957).By this time, Kendall was diagnosed with myloid leukemia and given two years to live. Her fiance Rex Harrison never told her the prognosis, obtained a...

Effervescent British leading lady of the 1950s who epitomized screwball elegance in a handful of films, most unworthy of her talents. Kendall was born into a theatrical environment, her grandmother Marie had been a music hall great and other members of her family were also performers. She and her sister Kim formed an act during WWII, and Kendall began appearing in film and television productions in the late 1940s. After one disaster ("London Town", 1946), she worked her way up in supporting parts, including "Lady Godiva Rides Again" (1951), "It Started in Paradise" (1952), and her first big break, "Genevieve" (1953), in which her character tussled with a huge dog named Suzy and displayed unexpected talent as a trumpeter.

Few of her British-made films were memorable, but Kendall shone in all of them: "Doctor in the House" and "The Constant Husband" (both 1954), "Abdullah the Great" (1955) and "The Adventures of Quentin Durward" and "Simon and Laura" (both 1956). She was whisked off to MGM to add her sparkle to the Gene Kelly musical "Les Girls" (1957).

By this time, Kendall was diagnosed with myloid leukemia and given two years to live. Her fiance Rex Harrison never told her the prognosis, obtained a divorce from wife Lili Palmer and married Kendall in 1957. She cut back on her film work to accompany Harrison on his "My Fair Lady" and "Bell, Book and Candle" tours, appearing in only two more films, the arch society comedy "The Reluctant Debutante" (1958) and "Once More with Feeling" (1960). Harrison also directed her in a play, "The Bright One", in 1958. Kendall died at the London Clinic in 1959, while making plans to shoot a television show. She was 32 years old.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Once More, With Feeling! (1960) Dolly Fabian
2.
 The Reluctant Debutante (1958) Lady Sheila Broadbent by Courtesy of the Rank Organisation; Columbine Productions, Ltd.
3.
 Les Girls (1957) Lady Sybil Wren by courtesy of the Rank Organization
4.
 Simon and Laura (1956) Laura Foster
5.
6.
 Doctor in the House (1955) Isobel
7.
 Quentin Durward (1955) Isabelle, Countess of Marcroy
8.
 Constant Husband, The (1955) Monica
9.
 Square Ring, The (1955)
10.
 Fast and Loose (1954)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1939:
Moved to Scotland with sister when war broke out
:
Worked in the chorus at the London Palladium
1944:
Film debut as extra, "Caesar and Cleopatra"
1946:
First starring role, "London Town"
1953:
Breakthrough role, "Genevieve"
1957:
First Hollywood film, "Les Girls"
1957:
Diagnosed with myloid leukemia
1958:
Final stage show, "The Bright One"
1960:
Final film, "Once More, With Feeling" (released posthumously)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I look like a female impersonator with these long skinny legs of mine. I'm 5'9", I eat like a horse, and I couldn't become a ballet dancer because I got too big. When I rose up on my toes I was 10'6" and my feet collapsed. Imagine how I'd look, prancing about in a fluffy tutu."--Kay Kendall, quoted in newspaper interview, 1957

On Rex Harrison: "She knew how to handle him; she could really cut him down to size. She would say, 'come along, you stuffy bugger,' or something like that--which he was."--sister Kim Kendall, quoted in undated newspaper article

"Well, in the movies, let's face it, you're making faces at a camera. You feel foolish. People say I'm glamorous but really, I'm not. Why do you suppose producers make me get under those huge hats--to show my face? Don't believe it!"--Kay Kendall, quoted in undated CUE MAGAZINE.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Rex Harrison. Actor. Met while filming "The Constant Husband" (1954); married June 23, 1957 until her death.

Family close complete family listing

grandmother:
Marie Kendall. Actor.
father:
Terry McCarthy. Actor.
aunt:
Pat Kendall. Actor.
sister:
Kim McCarthy. Actor. Older.
brother:
Terry McCarthy Jr.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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