In Withernsea, September 6 is going to be Kay Day, a day that will be set aside to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Kay Kendall. Kay Kendall received global acclaim as a star on the big screen and was the third wife of Rex Harrison, the actor, before her death in 1959 from leukaemia. She was 32 years old at the time.
Kendall was born in a theatrical family under the name Justine Kay McCarthy. They lived in an unassuming house on Hull Road in Withernsea. The Withernsea Lighthouse which is now a museum has a special section that has been dedicated to her and her life will be celebrated 100 yards away 1950s themed garden party. There will also be other events held on that day.
Richard Stead who lives in the area and also serves as the East Riding Council member for South East Holderness said that the actress still had friends who lived in the town and he was hoping that they’d attend the event. He added that she was an icon and a wonderful actress and the most famous person from Withernsea. Had she been alive today, he said, she probably would have achieved legendary status.
Thanks to her good looks which were compared to those of the Hepburns, Kendall landed her first major role in London Town, the musical from 1946. Her start was as bad as it could have been with the musical gaining a reputation as one of the most expensive flops in the industry. For her, it was a chastening experience and pushed her to spend the next two years working on improving her acting skills. She appeared in a few small films before her persistence finally paid off. When the movie Genevieve was released in 1953, she was an instant star.
After that, Kendall later starred with some of the biggest actors in the movie industry at that time. The highlight of her career was playing Lady Sybil Wren Les Girls which told the story of three Paris showgirls. She won a golden globe for her performance in the film.
When Kendall’s doctor revealed that she had leukaemia, Harrison divorced his wife at the time, Lilli Palmer, so he could take care of her. Before she passed on, she starred alongside her husband in The Reluctant Debutante. The celebrations are being organised by her cousin Kath Jones.