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 Ma...
Final film, "Once More, With Feeling" (released posthumously)
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.
Married June 1957 until her death from leukemia Sept. 6, 1957
met while filming "The Constant Husband" (1954); married June 23, 1957 until her death
"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.