Four Fun Films with Kay Kendall

Four Fun Films with Kay Kendall
Kay Kendall’s glamorous good looks didn’t play to her strength as a comedian. Often cast as an aloof sophisticate or as vacuous arm candy, she was frequently denied roles where she could flourish. She was type-cast as too beautiful for pratfalls or silly situations; those roles were reserved for character actresses.

She was an accomplished actress from a show biz family, but worked her way up from the chorus until she got the opportunity for meatier roles. But it was the comedies where she truly shined. Whether the scene called for a subtle double-take or full-on physical comedy, Kay Kendall not only delivered, but did so exquisitely.

Here are four films where she played characters who were light, fun, and a little wacky.

This film is thought to be Kendall’s breakout role. In it, two young antique car enthusiasts participate in an annual rally, driving from London to Brighton and back again. The antique cars are given to breakdowns, and many of the comedic mishaps come at the expense of the female companions of these two young men. Kendall plays one of the companions – a fashion model – who as it turns out can not only play the trumpet, but can also drink the boys under the table.

Les Girls
When Les Girls was released in 1957, there was one thing the press agreed on: it was a hit. With a cast that included some of the best triple threats of the day (Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor and Taina Elg), this was Kendall’s first American film.

You’ll remember Kendall as “the English girl,” Sybill who is oh-so-sophisticated – most of the time, but when she drowns her sorrows in some “drinky-winky” comedy ensues.

The Reluctant Debutante
Originally a drawing room comedy written for the stage, the story is enjoyably cute, but the premise of mistaken identity is predictable. Still, Kendall shines as an actress whose diverse comedic talent can make you laugh whether she is delivering a deadpan zinger or when she’s doing a pratfall through a doorway.

Kendall stars as a well-intentioned stepmother who tries to set up her stepdaughter with a proper young Englishman only to discover that the girl is in love with a reputed bad-boy drummer. Both of these fellows are named David which feeds the confusion, and unbeknownst to Kendall’s character the good boy isn’t so good and the bad boy isn’t so bad.

Once More With Feeling
Kendall plays the wife of a successful orchestra conductor played by Yul Brynner. He’s an unyielding perfectionist whose temperament consistently gets him into trouble. Play the wrong note, he rips the shirt off your back; play a violin that is out of tune, he smashes it over your head. Luckily for him, his wife always comes to his rescue, smoothing over the torn shirts and near concussions with charming finesse. When he starts to take her for granted, she leaves and he has to find a way to win her back without actually compromising.

The core of the story is reminiscent of The Front Page with the male lead finding ways to control the female lead by creative, if not unscrupulous, means. Their cat-and-mouse game is evenly matched and Kendall fills the screen with so much energy, it is difficult to believe that this would be her final film. Her grasp of comedic timing along with her talent for developing unpredictable reactions will make you smile, if not laugh out loud.

If you like a good, old fashioned, formula Rom-Com, then you won’t be disappointed.

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