Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kathy Frye (Crossed Trails)

Five-year-old Kathryn Frey was a member of Hollywood's legendary children troupe the Meglin Kiddies (Shirley Temple was, famously, one of the graduates of the group) when she was picked to play the Indian Prince in Max Reinhardt's lavish A Midsummer Night's Dream (Warner Bros., 1935). She became Kathy Frye and performed a Spanish dance in Gene Autry's Mexicali Rose (Republic, 1939), one of Gene's very best New Deal Westerns. She was one of the children in Luana Walters' orphanage, a nearly bankrupt institution threatened by William Royle and his nasty oil company. During the ensuing melee, little Kathy and her friend Hardie Albright get themselves both kidnapped and teargassed in a fiery finale. Fast forward a decade and a nearly grown Kathy turns up at Monogram in Johnny Mack Brown's Crossed Trail (1948), perhaps no match for Gene Autry in his heyday but pleasant nonetheless. The distaff side is very well represented in Crossed Trails (1948),which has former MGM contract starlet Lynne Carver decked out as a spirited prairie version of Lillian Russell and utilizing every trick in the book to persuade Johnny to use his influence over teenage landowner Kathy, whose land Lynne's boss (Douglas Evans) desires. Despite the period trappings, Frye plays her part like a typical 1940s movie brat, much in the style of Paramount's teenyboppers Diana Lynn or Mona Freeman, or David Selznick's equally adolescent Shirley Temple. A bit tomboy, a bit coquette, and quite a bit irritating. It was, of course, a stock character on its way out in a post war era of teenagers beginning to find the voice that would eventually lead to the Blackboard Jungles and the Rebels Without a Cause of the mid-1950s. Frye also did the low-budget wartime drama Women in the Night (Film Classics, 1948), as Virginia Christine's doomed daughter (the film is in public domain and available everywhere), and then retired.

NOTE: Playing a small part as William Royle's secretary in Mexicali Rose is Kaaren Verne, a glamorous supporting player and sometimes leading lady who, late in life, became a huge thorn in the side of Donald Trump.

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