Frank Fay was an American film and stage actor, emcee, comedian, best-known as an actor for having played “Elwood P. Dowd” in the play Harvey by the American playwright Mary Coyle Chase on Broadway. James Stewart played the role in the film version.
Born as Francis Anthony Donner in San Francisco, California to Irish Catholic parents. He took the professional name of Frank Fay after concluding that his birth name was not suitable for the stage. He enjoyed considerable success as a variety artist starting around 1918, telling jokes and stories in a carefully planned “off the cuff” manner that was very original for the time. Jack Benny stated that he modeled his early stage character on Fay. During the 1920s Fay was vaudeville’s highest-paid headliner, earning $17,500 a week.
When talkies arrived, the Warner Bros. were eager to put him under contract along with a host of other famous stage personalities. Frank Fay was cast as master of ceremonies in Warner’s Brothers most expensive production of 1929, the all-star color all-talking revue The Show of Shows. Based on the success of that film, Fay was quickly signed up for an all-Technicolor musical comedy entitled Under A Texas Moon in which he also displayed his singing abilities. The movie was a box office success and produced a song hit of the theme song which was also titled “Under A Texas Moon”.
Fay sang the theme song several times throughout the picture. Another expensive picture, Bright Lights, an extravagant all-Technicolor musical, quickly followed. Frank Fay also starred in The Matrimonial Bed, a Pre-Code comedy in which he sang the theme song twice. Frank Fay quickly found himself associated with musical films and this led to a decline in his popularity when the public became sick of musicals late in 1930.