Frances Dee and the
Lost Theatres of Somerville

From the stage at Tufts University's Barnum Hall, she marvels at the audience. She says she's "startled" that "this many people" would turn out "on a frosty night!" to attend the screening of "some old" film. "But"—she turns to the evening's host, lifting her hand—palm upward, conceding some previous argument—"you told me they would!"

This is 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.] ...

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 them for her when 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]

Images courtesy of David Guss.