b. Francis Anthony Donner, 17 November 1897, San Francisco, California, USA, d. 25 September 1961, Santa Monica, California, USA. An actor, comedian, singer, writer and producer, Fay appeared on the stage from a young age. Three Broadway musical shows in which he appeared early in his career are Girl O’ Mine (1918), Oh, What A Girl! (1919) and Jim Jam Jems (1920). In the 20s, he appeared in several revues, including his own Fables, for which he also wrote the book and lyrics, Raymond Hitchcock’s Pinwheel (both 1922), Artists And Models (1923) and Harry Delmar’s Revels (1927). In the 30s he was chiefly in films but did appear on Broadway in Tattle Tales (1933). For this, he not only performed but also wrote sketches and song lyrics and produced, but the show closed after just three weeks. In the 40s his Broadway appearances were in Laugh Time (1943) and Harvey (1944).
Fay’s first screen role was as the Master of Ceremonies in The Show Of Shows (1929), on which he also had writing credits. He played small roles in Under A Texas Moon, The Matrimonial Bed and Bright Lights (all 1930), God’s Gift To Women and The Slippery Pearls (in which he appeared as himself) (both 1931), A Fool’s Advice and Stout Hearts And Willing Hands (both 1932), Stars Over Broadway (1935, in which Jane Froman co-starred with James Melton), Nothing Sacred (1937), I Want A Divorce (1940), They Knew What They Wanted (1940, a highly regarded drama co-starring Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard), Spotlight Revue (1943), Screen Snapshots: The Great Showman (1950), appearing as himself in the latter two, and Love Nest (1951, which co-starred June Haver and William Lundigan and in which Marilyn Monroe had a supporting role). Between 1928 and 1936 Fay was married to screen actress Barbara Stanwyck. He made a few television appearances, among them Screen Directors Playhouse (1955) and an episode of Toast Of The Town (1957).