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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 26 November 1909Los Angeles, California, USA
Date of Death 6 March 2004Norwalk, Connecticut, USA  (complications from a stroke)
Birth NameFrances Marion Dee
Height 5' 4½" (1.64 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Brunette Frances Dee was born in Los Angeles, where her Army officer father was stationed, and grew up in Chicago after her father was transferred there. In 1929, he was re-assigned to L.A., and, as a lark, Dee began working in motion pictures as an extra. Her debut was in Words and Music (1929) with Lois Moran. After her breakthrough role in Playboy of Paris (1930) opposite Maurice Chevalier, she met Joel McCrea on the set of the 1933 film The Silver Cord (1933). Following a whirlwind courtship, the two were married later that year in Rye, New York. Their 57-year marriage ended in 1990, when McCrea died. In the 70s, she and McCrea were rumored to be worth between fifty and one hundred million dollars. Dee hasn't acted since the mid-50s, and said she didn't miss it. The nonagenarian actress a huge hit at the 1998 Memphis Film Festival in Tunica, Mississippi. She died in 2004.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tom Weaver < TomWeavr@aol.com>

Actress Frances Dee, hailed as one of the most beautiful women in motion pictures, was born Jane Dee in Los Angeles, on November 26, 1909. An "Army brat", her officer father was transferred to Chicago shortly thereafter. Her movie career was the result of her father's being re-assigned to L.A. in 1929.

Near Tinsel Town, Dee began appearing in movies as an extra, making her uncredited debut in Words and Music (1929). Her good looks brought her attention, and she soon established herself in Playboy of Paris (1930) opposite Maurice Chevalier. By the next year, she would claim one of the female leads in Josef von Sternberg's prestigious adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1931), as the débutante whose desired lifestyle seduces a young man to commit murder to obtain it through her.

Dee established herself as a movie actress by skillfully underplaying her roles in comedies, dramas and Westerns. In the early part of her career, she was typically cast as sensible, good-hearted women in support of larger-than-life female stars, including Katharine Hepburn in Little Women (1933), Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934) and Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp (1935). Occasionally, she would assay a lead role in A-pictures, such as Frank Lloyd's If I Were King (1938), opposite Ronald Colman.

One of the more memorable roles of her early career, a pre-Production Code film, was Blood Money (1933). The movie was re-discovered by a new generation of film-goers in the 1990s, with the burgeoning interest in pre-Code films, and helped acquaint Dee with a new, younger audience. Her biographer, Andrew Wentnik, said that, "When a friend recently admonished her for playing a prostitute in Blood Money (1933), she denied it saying, 'I played a masochistic nymphomaniacal kleptomaniac, not a prostitute.'"

She met the love of her life, Joel McCrea, on the set of the 1933 film The Silver Cord (1933). They would also appear together in Wells Fargo (1937) and Four Faces West (1948). The couple married in 1933 and were together for 57 years, until his death in 1990.

Legendary film critic James Agee said that Dee was "one of the very few women in movies who really had a face...and always used this translucent face with delicate and exciting talent". Pauline Kael, believed a close-up of Dee in So Ends Our Night (1941) was comparable to Greta Garbo's famous close-up in Queen Christina (1933).

Dee was in several films produced by or associated with David O. Selznick, but ironically, she lost her chance to be in Selznick's greatest picture, Gone with the Wind (1939), due to her beauty. Selznick considered casting Dee as Melanie Wilkes, but backed off when he thought that her beauty might overshadow newcomer Vivien Leigh. Olivia de Havilland got the role instead, won an Oscar nomination and went on to a highly successful career. Dee's career, in contrast, never reached its potential, though she remained a working actress in Hollywood for as long as she wanted.

Perhaps her most memorable film is I Walked with a Zombie (1943). Dee said she accepted the role in Jacques Tourneur's low-budget thriller because of the fee - she wanted to buy her mother a new automobile.

She retired in 1953 to devote herself to her husband and to raising their sons after making Gypsy Colt (1954) and Mister Scoutmaster (1953). Dee and McCrea, who retired from films in 1962 while still a star, devoted their time to cultivating their ranch in Thousand Oaks, California. They donated 75 acres of the ranch for use as park land in 1981, and Dee donated 220 of the remaining 300 acres to the park in 1995.

One of the last of the Golden Age of Hollywood stars, Frances Dee died on March 6, 2004 at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn., near the home of one of her sons, due to complications of a stroke. Her family listed her age as 94, though many biographical sources listed her as 96. She was survived by her three sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Joel McCrea (20 October 1933 - 20 October 1990) (his death) (3 sons)

Trivia (12)

She accepted the role in I Walked with a Zombie (1943) so that she could use her salary to purchase a new automobile for her mother.
In 1995 she donated 220 acres of her Thousand Oaks, California ranch to the Conejo Recreation and Park District to be preserved as parkland. Earlier, in 1981, she and Joel had given 75 acres to the District.
The nonagenarian actress was a huge hit at the 1998 Memphis Film Festival in Tunica, Mississippi. Dee's biographer Andrew Wentink said she gained new fame in the 1990s for her role in films that forced the adoption of a Hollywood code on morality in the 1930s.
In 1935, she and her husband Joel McCrea separated, but soon reconciled. In 1966, McCrea filed for divorce, charging Frances with cruelty, however, the couple stayed married until McCrea's death.
Initially had a screen test for the role of "Scarlett O'Hara" and was actually George Cukor's first choice for the role of "Melanie" in Gone with the Wind (1939), but was deemed by David O. Selznick as being too similar in beauty to Vivien Leigh to play the role. Olivia de Havilland was then given the part.
Met future husband Joel McCrea on the set of The Silver Cord (1933). He had been smitten after seeing her in the movie An American Tragedy (1931) and requested that she be cast in his movie. During the filming, however, she was seeing off-screen co-star Eric Linden. Joel and Frances began dating after the movie was completed, after her romance with Linden was over. It was her relationship with McCrea that compelled her to sign with RKO.
Had three sons by Joel McCrea: Jody McCrea (born 1934), David McCrea (born 1935) and Peter McCrea (born 1955). Son Peter married Jack Lemmon's daughter Courtney Lemmon on March 24, 2001. Both Jody, David and their families live in New Mexico. Frances passed away in Connecticut where she was staying with son Peter.
Born in Los Angeles, she and older sister Margaret (born in 1908) moved when she was quite young to Cincinnati, then to Washington D.C., before finally settling in the Hyde Park area of Chicago where the sisters attended Shakespeare Grammar School.
First grew interested in acting when she was cast as the lead in a senior play at Hyde Park High School.
She and her husband were staunch Republicans and personal friends of Ronald Reagan.
Was considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Sister of Margaret Dee, who appeared with her in Becky Sharp (1935).

Personal Quotes (1)

I wanted to give up my career when I married Joel, but he wouldn't let me. I thought marriage, a home, husband and family were all I wanted. Joel knew I was sincere in my belief but he was wise enough to realize that sooner or later I might miss my work and blame him.

Salary (1)

Words and Music (1929) $7 .50/day

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