Born: October 22, 1912 New York City, New York, U.S
Died : January 18, 2000(2000-01-18) (aged 87) Irvine, California, U.S.
Frances Drake was born in New York City as Frances Morgan Dean and came from a wealthy family. She was educated in Canada at the Havergal College and was in London visiting her aunt and grandmother when the October 1929 stock market crash destroyed her family’s fortune . Now needing to make money for the first time in her life, she became a dancer and stage actress in London, where she made both her stage and screen debuts under her real name, Frances Dean. As with many others, she found that films paid better. She was offered a contract by Paramount, and needed to change her name to Frances Drake to avoid confusion with the then popular star Frances Dee.
She returned to America in 1934, where she was coached by opera singer and actress Marguerite Namara while continuing in film. You could say that her looks made her appear vulnerable , resulting in her often being typecast as the damsel in distress. Having said that she was known for her striking looks and huge hazel eyes and was at the height of her short career in what we now refer to as the golden age of Hollywood. She appeared in more than 20 movies with some of her generation’s biggest stars, including Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Cary Grant.
Her career started in 1933 with The Jewel and lasted through to 1942. Beginning with Bolero in 1934, she starred opposite George Raft and Carole Lombard. That was followed by Ladies Should Listen with Cary Grant and Les Miserables with Fredric March and Charles Laughton. She was again one of our prolific supporting actors that we loved to see and enjoy, but who never reached the dizzy heights of fame of those she supported.
She had a relatively short career, and is best known for two films, namely Mad Love with Peter Lorre and The Invisible Ray alongside Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Mad love is my favorite, but oddly, Drake backed into both roles. Virginia Bruce bowed out of Mad Love at the last second, while Gloria Stuart quit Universal just prior to her scheduled appearance in that studio’s The Invisible Ray. Again a case of being in the right place at the right time.
In 1939 she married Cecil John Arthur Howard, a son of the earl of Suffolk. He’d spotted her in the 1934’s Ladies Should Listen and disapproved of her career, persuading her to give up the pictures in 1942 when he finally came into his inheritance. She never made another movie after that year’s The Affairs of Martha, retiring to a Beverly Hills estate, high above L.A., with her husband, who died in 1985. Did she miss the movie business? She was quite critical of some of the people she came into contact with, both male and female co-stars and the heads of some of the studios. Best said they were not always as professional as you might expect bearing in mind their prominent positions in the industry. Some of their intentions went way beyond the script!
Again what of a career if things had been different. A very competitive business and who knows? Let’s just enjoy her talent, looks and make the best of her short career. Mad Love is a delight to watch for all the right reasons. Entertainment.
She started with The Jewel and Mad Love was the Jewel in the crown.
The Jewel (1933)
Meet My Sister (1933)
The Trumpet Blows (1934)
Ladies Should Listen (1934)
Forsaking All Others (1934)
Mad Love (1935)
Les Miserables (1935)
The Invisible Ray (1936)
And Sudden Death (1936)
I’d Give My Life (1936)
Florida Special (1936)
The Preview Murder Mystery (1936)
Midnight Taxi (1937)
She Married an Artist (1937)
Love Under Fire (1937)
There’s Always a Woman (1938)
It’s a Wonderful World (1939)
I Take This Woman (1940)
The Affairs of Martha (1942)