“With many actresses you spend time lowering their ego so it doesn’t get in the way of their performance. With Kay it’s just the opposite, you’ve got to build up her self-confidence as you go along.” – George Cukor on directing Kay Kendall.
The following excerpt was taken from Sheilah Graham’s “Hollywood in Person” column on July 14, 1959:
The rumors that Kay was suffering from leukemia are untrue, fortunately.
“I’m anemic and have a blood ailment, but I’ve gained weight and feel much better,” said the piquant comedienne…”
However, the rumors were true. At the time, Kendall was married to Rex Harrison, who later admitted in his autobiography that her cancer had been a secret kept from her by Kendall’s doctor and himself. Harrison painted himself as a noble hospice-type provider in her final years.
The problem is –if Sheilah Graham and others heard about the leukemia, Kendall’s diagnosis was a horribly kept secret. This breach of secrecy was probably due to Harrison telling his friends and acquaintances in private.
However, those that knew Kendall believed that she knew the truth. She had certainly heard the rumors, but it seems that no one was honest with her.
This photo was taken by Irving Penn. She’s looking ill, but still very beautiful. Kay Kendall died on September 6, 1959.