Frances Dee and the
Lost Theatres of Somerville
She is seated onstage at Tufts University's Barnum Hall, marveling at the audience. She's "startled," she says, that "this many people" would turn out "on a frosty night!" to attend the screening of an old film. "But"—she turns to the evening's host, lifting her hand—palm upward, conceding some previous argument—"you told me they would!"
It is the evening of December 12, 2013. Frances Dee is making a rare public appearance /at Tufts,/ having traveled ... to take part ... organized by David Guss. "She immediately expressed interest in coming," said Guss. "She wanted [originally] to come to the opening, but we thought it better to organize a larger event just around her." ... [The reception—"Everyone and the mayor..."—and then tonight's screening: Zombie. And her reaction.] ...
Taking the stage ("Ask any questions you want. I'll do my best to answer them."), she is aided by Guss and her biographer Andrew Wentink, who are seated now on either side of her, fielding the questions, repeating the ones she can't hear. One audience member notes that Dee had appeared in several musicals during her career: Did she sing or dance in those films? "Good heavens, noo!" she says. "I was not a dancer"—adding then, laughingly: "I wasn't even an actress!"
... Asked about Jacques Tourneur, she touches only briefly on their professional association ("..."), and recalls instead how "he became a family friend," that "he and his wife would come out the ranch, spend the weekend. He loved when I would sit and read to the kids—about Huckleberry Finn! That was one of his favorite things to do: sit and hear about Huckleberry Finn."
More questions: Her favorite leading man? "Oh, please! Now you're putting me on!" Favorite film? "A real light one..." (it's The Gay Deception, filmed in 1935 with her "second favorite" leading man, Francis Lederer). She answers with ...
... "It is kind of an interesting little story." [END]