LOS ANGELES (AP) -Frances Dee, a dark-haired beauty who co-starred in the 1930s and ’40s with Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Ronald Colman and her husband, Joel McCrea, has died at 94.

Dee died Saturday at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn., her son Peter McCrea said Monday. The actress had suffered a stroke three weeks ago after spending the winter with her son at his home in Connecticut.

Dee achieved stardom in 1930 opposite Chevalier in one of the first talkie musicals, “The Playboy of Paris.” Her beauty earned her leading roles in comedies and dramas, notably in the 1931 “An American Tragedy” as Sondra Finchley, the role played by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1951 remake “A Place in the Sun.”

Her credits also included “Souls at Sea” with Cooper and George Raft, “Little Women,” starring Katharine Hepburn, “If I Were King” with Colman, and “Of Human Bondage,” in which she played Leslie Howard’s sweetheart.

In 1933, Dee appeared with McCrea in “The Silver Cord.” They married that year and co-starred again in “Wells Fargo” (1937) and “Four Faces West” (1948). She appeared in occasional movies in the 1940s and ’50s and retired after “Gypsy Colt” in 1954.

The McCreas bought a large ranch northwest of Los Angeles, and as the metropolitan area expanded, they became among the richest landowners in California.

They had three sons: Peter, Joel Dee (who became an actor as Jody McCrea) and David.

McCrea died in 1990. Dee rarely appeared in public in recent years, but in her 90s she was honored with retrospectives of her career at film festivals. “It’s very flattering,” she said. “I withdrew so long ago, and it’s like being revived after all these years.”

Frances Marion Dee was born Nov. 26, 1909, in Los Angeles, where her Army officer father was stationed. He was transferred to Chicago, where she grew up.

She studied at the University of Chicago, and as a lark while visiting relatives in Hollywood, worked as an extra in movies. That led to a contract with Paramount.

For part of the past two years, Dee had lived in New Mexico near her sons Joel and David.

Her survivors also include six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A private memorial is planned.

AP-ES-03-08-04 1730EST

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