Frances Bay thought being from a small town In Canada has made all the difference by giving her perspective on a career that has spanned eight decades.
Born in Manville, Alberta, Frances and her brother, Erving, grew up in tiny Dauphin, Manitoba, where their parents, immigrants from czarist Russia, ran a clothing store. Frances' grade school teacher encouraged her to pursue an acting career, and her first appearances were in school plays, often playing a princess.
Bitten by the acting bug, Bay pursued her acting studies at college in Winnipeg, appearing in radio and stage plays, and was honoured with a Best Actress award in the Dominion Drama Festival. World War II brought a new challenge when she became known as "The Girlfriend to the Canadian Forces" on the CBC Radio show Everybody's Program. Troops credit Bay as the voice that kept their spirits up.
After the war, Bay took a long career hiatus to raise a family with her childhood sweetheart, Chuck Bay, whose job with Cartier took them to New York, Boston and finally, Los Angeles. In New York in the 40's, Frances continued her love affair with acting by studying with stage legend Uta Hagen, although she would not being her film career until 1983 with she was 60.
After her small role in Foul Play, she played the first of her grandmother roles in "Little Red Riding Hood," an episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. She next appeared as the aunt of Kyle MacLachlan's character in David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986). Lynch continued to cast her in important roles, including as the madam in Wild at Heart (1990) and the creepy Mrs. Tremond on the television mystery series Twin Peaks.
Her role as the grandmother of Adam Sandler's title character in Happy Gilmore (1996) may have made Bay one of the most recognized grandmothers in film history. Bay also appeared in off-Brodway stage productions and regional theatre, including Finnegan's Wake, Grease, Genius, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and The Pleasure of His Company. She won two Frama-Logue Awards (for Others and Right of Way) and was nominated for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for her performance in The Man Who Came to Dinner.