Frank Fay

Frank Fay

San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA
Death 25 Sep 1961 (aged 69)
Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Section F, Lot 1583, Grave 12
Memorial ID 5241 · View Source
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Entertainer. One of the first modern stand-up comedians. Born Francis Anthony Conner in San Francisco, he began appearing in Vaudeville during World War I and debuted on Broadway in 1918. Fay's sophisticated irony and relaxed, conversational style influenced a generation of comics, including Jack Benny. Typically dressed in top hat and tails, he shot down hecklers without raising his voice and defeated all rivals in duels of wits. (His response to a challenge from Milton Berle: "I never fight with an unarmed man"). During the 1920s Fay was Vaudeville's highest-paid headliner, earning $17,500 a week. In 1928 he married actress and former chorus girl Barbara Stanwyck and brought her with him to Hollywood at the dawn of talkies. But while Stanwyck's movie career took off, Fay's floundered. He lacked onscreen charisma, especially when playing debonair lovers in such films as "The Matrimonial Bed" (1930) and "God's Gift To Women" (1931), and after a string of Warner Bros. flops he was labeled "box-office poison". He also alienated many in show business with his abusive and irrational behavior. Following his 1935 divorce from Stanwyck he went into a tailspin of alcoholism, public brawling and near-bankruptcy. The 1937 classic "A Star Is Born" is said to have been based on the stormy marriage of Fay and Stanwyck and their divergent fortunes; amazingly, the comedian had a small role in that film. Unlike the fictional Norman Maine, however, Fay got sober and made a stunning Broadway comeback as the star of Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Harvey" (1944). He created the role of Elwood P. Dowd, the boozy confidant of an invisible six-foot rabbit, and played it throughout the show's record-breaking 1775 performances. (The 1950 film version provided James Stewart with one of his best roles). Fay's later activities were limited to occasional nightclub and television appearances.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 28 Apr 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 5241
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Frank Fay (17 Nov 1891–25 Sep 1961), Find a Grave Memorial no. 5241, citing Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .