Monday, July 14, 2014

Stella, without Dallas

A search of the blog archives suggests that I have not done a post on the 1935 film I Found Stella Parish before. It's on TCM tonight at 10:45 PM as part of a night of movies featuring Kay Francis. It's par for the course for Kay Francis movies, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Kay, naturally, plays Stella Parish. Stella, at the beginning of the movie, is an American actress working on the stage in London, where she's fairly successful. Her producer, Stephen Norman (Paul Lukas) would like to marry her, but she says no. She's got a good reason for saying no, too. She was previously married, and has a six-year-old daughter as a result of that marriage named Gloria (Sybil Jason). Gloria lives out in the country with a nanny (Jessie Ralph); Stella is keeping all of this a secret because she fears that if the secret comes out, it's going to ruin her career.

Stella has good reason to fear what will happen to her career, mostly because there's more to her secret than just having been previously married. That more comes to light when her former husband, Clifton Jeffords (Barton MacLane) comes on to the scene. He had committed a murder and gotten Stella sent up for it, and Gloria wsa actually born in prison! But the conviction was overturned and now Stells is in England making her way as an actress, with her American past not known to the folks in the UK. But now pesky little Clifton is here, and with the mother of his child being successful, he wants a piece of the action!

Stella makes a quick getaway back to the US, but her secret is about to be uncovered anyway. Stephen has a friend named Keith Lockridge (Ian Hunter), who is a journalist. Needless to say, you know in a movie like this that when a male journalist meets a lady with a secret, two things are going to happen: the journlist is going to fall in love with the woman, and the secret is going to get printed. Sure enough both of those things happen, and it causes all sorts of problems for Stella and the folks around her.

I Found Stella Parish is a melodramatic potboiler of the sort that Warner Bros. was making a lot of with its leading ladies -- and this was just before Kay Francis was about to be eclipsed by Bette Davis. That's both good and bad. Kay Francis always did her best in roles like this, but the plot is the sort of thing we've seen a dozen times before, and parts of it really srain credulity. It's moderately entertaining, but not quite as entertaining as pre-Code stuff.

I Found Stella Parish is as far as I know not on DVD. It would be a perfect candidate for a Kay Francis box set from the Warner Archive.

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