Frances Dee

Frances Marion Dee (November 26, 1909 – March 6, 2004) was an American actress. She starred opposite Maurice Chevalier in the early talkie musical, Playboy of Paris (1930). She starred in the film An American Tragedy (1931) in a role later recreated by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1951 retitled remake, A Place in the Sun. She also had a prominent role in the classic 1943 Val Lewton psychological horror film I Walked With a Zombie.

Frances Dee
Dee in the 1940s
Frances Marion Dee

(1909-11-26)November 26, 1909
DiedMarch 6, 2004(2004-03-06) (aged 94)
Years active1930–1953
Spouse(s)Joel McCrea (1933–1990) his death
ChildrenJody McCrea (1934–2009)
David McCrea (b. 1935)
Peter McCrea (b. 1955)

Early life

The younger daughter of Francis "Frank" Marion Dee and his wife, the former Henriette Putnam, Frances Marion Dee was born in Los Angeles, California, where her father was working as a civil-service examiner.[1][2]

When Dee was seven years old,[3] her family moved to Chicago, Illinois.[4] She attended Shakespeare Grammar School and Hyde Park High School, where she went by the nickname of Frankie Dee.

After graduating from Hyde Park High in 1927, of which she was vice president of her senior class, as well as voted Belle of the Year, she spent two years at the University of Chicago, where she participated in dramatic activities,[4] before returning to California.


Following her sophomore year in 1929, she went on summer vacation with her mother and older sister to visit family in the Los Angeles, California area. She began working as a movie extra as a lark. Her big break came when, still an extra, she was offered the lead opposite Maurice Chevalier in Playboy of Paris.

The audience appeal established in two films opposite Paramount stars Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen, led to the co-starring role as Sondra Finchley, opposite Phillips Holmes and Sylvia Sidney, in Paramount Pictures's prestigious, and controversial, production of An American Tragedy, directed by Josef von Sternberg.

Dee's additional screen credits included June Moon, Little Women, Of Human Bondage, Becky Sharp, and Payment on Demand. She co-starred with her husband Joel McCrea in the Western Four Faces West (1948).

Personal life

Dee met actor Joel McCrea on the set of the 1933 film The Silver Cord.[4] The couple married on October 20, 1933, after a whirlwind courtship, and remained married until McCrea's death in 1990. During their lifetime together, the McCreas lived, raised their children, and rode their horses on their ranch in what was then an unincorporated area of eastern Ventura County, California. They ultimately donated several hundred acres of their personal property to the newly formed Conejo Valley YMCA for the city of Thousand Oaks, California, both of which celebrated their 40th anniversaries in 2004. She, like Joel, was a Republican.[5]

Joel McCrea died on their 57th wedding anniversary. Their three sons, including the actor Jody McCrea, and many grandchildren, also survived McCrea. She was honored at the 1998 Memphis Film Festival in Mississippi.[6] In 2004, Frances Dee McCrea died in Norwalk, Connecticut, due to complications from a stroke at the age of 94.[7] Jody McCrea died in 2009.


Year Title Role Notes
1929 Words and Music Co-Ed Uncredited
1930 True to the Navy Girl at Table Uncredited
A Man from Wyoming Nurse Uncredited
Manslaughter Party Guest Uncredited
Monte Carlo Receptionist Uncredited
Follow Thru Woman in Ladies' Locker Room Uncredited
Playboy of Paris Yvonne Phillbert
Along Came Youth Elinor Farrington
1931 June Moon Edna Baker
An American Tragedy Sondra Flinchley
Caught Kate Winslow
Rich Man's Folly Ann Trumbull
Nice Women Jerry Girard
Working Girls Louise Adams
1932 This Reckless Age Lois Ingals
Sky Bride Ruth's Friend Uncredited
The Strange Case of Clara Deane Nancy Deane
Love Is a Racket Mary Wodehouse
The Night of June 13 Ginger Blake
If I Had a Million Mary Wallace Uncredited
1933 The Crime of the Century Doris Brandt
King of the Jungle Ann Rogers
The Silver Cord Hester
Headline Shooter Jane Mallory
One Man's Journey Joan Stockton
Little Women Margaret "Meg" March
Blood Money Elaine Talbart
1934 Keep 'Em Rolling Marjorie Deane
Coming Out Party Joyce 'Joy' Stanhope
Finishing School Virginia Radcliff
Of Human Bondage Sally Altheny
1935 Becky Sharp Amelia Sedley
The Gay Deception Mirabel Miller
1936 Half Angel Allison Lang
Come and Get It Restaurant Patron Uncredited
1937 Souls at Sea Margaret Tarryton
Wells Fargo Justine Pryor MacKay
1938 If I Were King Katherine de Vaucelles
1939 Coast Guard Nancy Bliss
1941 So Ends Our Night Marie Steiner
A Man Betrayed Sabra Cameron
1942 Meet the Stewarts Candace Goodwin
1943 I Walked With a Zombie Betsy Conell
Happy Land Agnes March
1945 Patrick the Great Lynn Andrews
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Marie de Verenne
1948 Four Faces West Fay Hollister
1951 Payment on Demand Eileen Banson
Reunion in Reno Mrs. Doris Linaker
1952 Because of You Susan Arnold
1953 Mister Scoutmaster Helen
1954 Gypsy Colt Em MacWade


  1. Her birth name is given as Frances Marion Dee in the California Birth Index, 1905-1995, accessed via on January 13, 2011
  2. Frank Dee's occupation is given in the 1910 U. S. Federal Census for Los Angeles, California, in which he is listed with his wife, Henriette, and daughters Margaret and Frances. In the 1920 U. S. Federal Census for Chicago, Illinois, Frank Dee is listed as an employment manager at a packing company. In the 1930 U. S. Federal Census for Indianapolis, Indiana, he was living as a lodger in a boarding house and working as a secretary at a public utility. All census records accessed on on January 13, 2011.
  3. Soanes, Wood (June 17, 1934). "Frances Dee and Joel McCrea See Future Felicity and Freedom Upon Ranch When Studios Begin to Pall". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. p. 39. Retrieved March 19, 2016 via
  4. Bowers, Emilie (March 3, 1935). "Charming Frances Dee". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. p. 59. Retrieved March 19, 2016 via
  5. Critchlow, Donald T. (October 21, 2013). "When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics". Cambridge University Press via Google Books.
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