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Frances Dee


11/26/1909 to 3/6/2004
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. Her movie career was the result of her army officer father being re-assigned to L.A. in 1929.

Near Tinsel Town, Frances began appearing in movies as an extra. Her good looks brought her attention, and she soon 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.

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 They Passed This Way (1948). The couple married in 1933 and were together for 57 years, until his death in 1990.

Frances was in several films produced by 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 her as Melanie Wilkes, but later decided 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. Frances Dee's career, in contrast, never reached its potential, though she remained a working actress in Hollywood for as long as she wanted.

She retired in 1953 to devote herself to her husband and to raising their three sons. She 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.
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