Frances Dee, called "one of the most beautiful women ever to grace Hollywood" by Paramount producer A.C. Lyles, was a stunning brunet whose dramatic portrayals caught the eye of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.
So sensational was her beauty, it lost her work. Dee auditioned for the role of Melanie in "Gone With the Wind," but reportedly was rejected by producer David O. Selznick, who feared her striking beauty would upstage Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara.
Starting out as a contract player signed with Paramount in 1929, Dee became a star through a lucky accident. While having lunch in the Paramount commissary, Maurice Chevalier spotted Dee. Dazzled by her beauty, Chevalier demanded that Dee be cast as his leading lady in "Playboy of Paris" (1930). The film made her a star.
Dee appeared in more than 50 motion pictures in a career that lasted a quarter of a century. Among her best-known roles were as Meg, opposite Katharine Hepburn, Jean Parker and Joan Bennett in the 1933 version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," and as the nurse and narrator of the 1943 cult film "I Walked With a Zombie," based on Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." Dee's favorite role was as Mirabel in the 1935 comedy "The Gay Deception."
Dee's marriage to actor Joel McCrea, for 57 years, made her one of the longest-running leading lady wives in Hollywood. She met the love of her life by accident, when a studio photographer, who was shooting photos of Dee on the beach, asked a handsome volleyball player, McCrea, to pose with Dee. They starred together in "The Silver Cord" (1933), and married shortly thereafter. They also acted together in "Wells Fargo" (1937) and "Four Faces West" (1948).
In 1990, on the day of their 57th wedding anniversary, McCrea passed away. The couple had three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren at the time of Dee's passing.