Justine Kay Kendall-McCarthy
|Also Known As:||"Kay Kendall"|
|Birthplace:||Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom|
|Cause of death:||myeloid leukemia|
|Managed by:||Michael Lawrence Rhodes|
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About Kay Kendall
Kay Kendall (21 May 1927 – 6 September 1959) was an English actress.
Kendall began her film career in the musical film London Town (1946). Though the film was a financial failure, Kendall continued to work regularly until her appearance in the comedy film Genevieve (1953) brought her widespread recognition. Most prolific in British films, Kendall also achieved some popularity with American audiences, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her role in the musical comedy film Les Girls (1957).
She began a romantic relationship with actor Rex Harrison after they appeared together in the comedy film The Constant Husband (1955), and they were married in 1957. Harrison learned from Kendall's doctor that she had been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, a fact that was kept from Kendall, who believed she was suffering from an iron deficiency. Harrison cared for Kendall until her death at age 32.
She was born Justine Kay Kendall-McCarthy at Stanley House, Hull Road, in Withernsea, a coastal resort in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. Her maternal grandmother was Marie Kendall, a musical-comedy star known for her vivacious personality and diction while singing. Her father was Terry McCarthy, a vaudevillian. Her brother, Cavan Kendall (born Cavan McCarthy), who died on 30 October 1999, was also an actor.
She was commonly known to family and friends as Kate, according to the memoirs of the actor Sir Dirk Bogarde.
Kendall's distinctive nose, an aristocratic swoop, was the result of plastic surgery after a car crash. As she told Bogarde, the surgeon had only two noses in his repertoire, "this one and the other one." The one she chose, Kendall explained, made it difficult to photograph her in profile.
Her first major screen role was in the Sid Field-Petula Clark London Town, notable for being one of the costliest flops in British-film history. She co-starred with Clark again in the drama film Dance Hall (1950), and was featured in a quick succession of minor films before gaining fame in Genevieve.
Kendall appeared in the first film in the Doctor series, the comedy film Doctor in the House (1954) with Dirk Bogarde; the drama film Simon and Laura (1955) with Peter Finch; the comedy film Abdulla the Great (1955) with Sydney Chaplin and Gregory Ratoff; and the epic historical film The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955), with Robert Taylor and Robert Morley. In October and November 1957, she appeared in two episodes of the short-lived American television series The Polly Bergen Show, a comedy-variety show on NBC.
In 1958, Kendall won a Golden Globe Award for her performance as Lady Sybil Wren in Les Girls – probably one of the best-known films of her career – the story of three showgirls in postwar Paris (the other actresses were Mitzi Gaynor and Taina Elg). The following year, she starred opposite Harrison in the comedy film The Reluctant Debutante. Kendall died in 1959 soon after completing her last film, the comedy Once More, with Feeling! (1960), starring opposite Yul Brynner.
Early in her career, Kendall had a romantic relationship with actor Sydney Chaplin, the second son of actor Charlie Chaplin by his second wife, actress Lita Grey. In 1955, she starred opposite Harrison in the The Constant Husband, and an affair soon followed. Harrison was married to actress Lilli Palmer at the time. However, when he learned from Kendall's doctor that Kendall had been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, he and Palmer agreed to divorce so he could marry Kendall and provide for her care. Kendall was never told of her illness and ended up believing she merely had an iron deficiency. As for the divorce, Palmer said she was not upset because she had a lover, too. Palmer and Harrison planned to remarry after Kendall's death, but Palmer ended up falling in love with her companion, actor Carlos Thompson, and married him instead.
Following her death, she was buried in the churchyard of St John-at-Hampstead Church, Hampstead, London.
Her life is explored in the biographical book The Brief, Madcap Life Of Kay Kendall (2002) by Eve Golden and Kim Elizabeth Kendall.
The Withernsea Lighthouse is situated a stone's throw from where Kendall once lived. No longer in use as a lighthouse, it has been turned into a museum and has many items associated with her life and times.
Kay Kendall's Timeline
Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
<The Times, September 9, 1959>
KAY KENDALL: SOPHISTICATED COMEDY
Miss Kay Kendall, who died in London yesterday at the age of 32, was
She was born in Yorkshire on May 21, 1927, of a theatrical family;
From 1946 to 1949 she was back on the stage, appearing in plays and
After a splendidly energetic comic performance in the film version of