Kay Kendall (1926-1959). Withernsea, Yorkshire, England.
Glamorous British comedy actress Kay Kendall, was born “Justine Kay MacCarthy” at Stanley House on Hull Road in Withernsea, just a stone’s throw away from the lighthouse and was the daughter of Yorkshire vaudevillian star Terry Kendall.
She made her film debut aged 19 in a series of bit-parts before Rank promoted her to a support role in the infamous critical and commercial Technicolor flop London Town (1946). After this disastrous movie debut, Kendall returned to repertory theatre and was abruptly shunted back into minor roles in films such as Jules Dassin’s film noir Night and the City (1950) and Ealing’s Dance Hall (1950). Redemption arrived in the shape of Henry Cornelius’ Ealingesque car-rally classic Genevieve (1953), the gently comedy allowed Kendall to display her sexy and humorous persona to full effect.
Still a Rank contract star, she returned to the studios lacklustre 50s productions in cosy support roles including Doctor in the House (1954), Simon and Laura (1955) and The Constant Husband (1955). Loaned to MGM, her dizzy charm stole Les Girls (1957) from Gene Kelly and her two female co-stars. When diagnosed with leukaemia in 1957 she married her lover Rex Harrison, who reportedly agreed to care for her during the few remaining years. Harrison confided in Terence Rattigan and allowed him to make the story into a play, In Praise of Love, and starred in it. Kendall succumbed to her illness in 1959.
The Lighthouse museum maintains a permanant memorial to Withernsea’s most famous daughter.