Sexy Rexy’s Wretches Part Three: Kay Kendall

Kay Kendall and Rex HarrisonIf you may recall from parts One and (sorta) Two, Rex Harrison was quite the ladies man. And like a lot of ladies men, he was also quite the dick. Carole Landis and Rachel Roberts both killed themselves over him—but Kay Kendall just died.

Poor Kay Kendall. A sparkling British comedienne, she was, by all accounts, a very sweet and lovely woman. After co-starring in The Constant Husband with Rexy, the two began an affair while, I presume, the extremely long-suffering Lilli Palmer calmly filed her nails. However, this time around things went a bit differently. It being the 1950s and all, when Kendall was diagnosed with leukemia, her doctors didn’t tell her. They told Harrison. Deeply moved by her imminent death, Harrison went to Palmer with a proposition: They would divorce so that he could marry Kendall and care for her until her death, at which point they’d remarry. It’s not like the wait would be long, right, Lilli baby? So… that’s exactly what happened. Kendall just thought she had an iron deficiency right up until the end in 1959.

The end is when things get interesting. After Kendall died, Harrison looked over at Palmer, who calmly refused to remarry. She’d fallen in love herself this time, and married her lover instead. (They remained a couple until her death in 1986; Thompson killed himself four years after.) In 1973, Terrence Rattigan wrote a whole play about the Harrison-Kendall marriage titled In Praise of Love. And starring as the Rex Harrison character was… Rex Harrison.

Rattigan was reportedly extremely unhappy with Harrison’s portrayal.

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One thought on “Sexy Rexy’s Wretches Part Three: Kay Kendall

  1. Phil Silverman says:

    Harrison..I dunno. Henry Higgins! Henry Higgins! they shoulda used Ustinov,.

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