View Full Version : Kay Stammers-Glamour Gal of the 1930s

Dec 14th, 2010, 10:55 PM
Kay Stammers Menzies was best know in the 1930s for her glamorous looks, but she was also a dangerous left who had the rare distinction of beating Helen Wills Moody. World War Two left her little time to develop her tennis game, but Kay was still the British #1 for 1946 and 1947 after the war.

Below is her obituary from the New York Times


The Times

December 27, 2005

Kay Stammers

Dashing Wimbledon who was feted for her film-star looks and style

April 3, 1914 - December 23, 2005

KAY STAMMERS was a glamourous tennis champion of the 1930s, who enjoyed some media attention and international popularity aftershe won the Wimbledon women’s doubles matches with Freda James in 1935 and 1936. Although defeated in the Wimbledon singles final by Alice Marble in 1939 it was considered that, but for the outbreak of the Second World War, she would have subsequently won the tournament.

Katharine Esther Stammers was born in St Albans, where she learnt to play tennis with her family on the grass court at home. When she was 17 she beat Helen Wills and was one of the youngest to play at Wimbledon. By 1934 Stammers was third in the LTA rankings.

In 1935 she beat the reigning champion Dorothy Round in the Bournemouth championships, won the French Open title and the Riviera doubles championships, partnering King Gustav of Sweden, who was then 77 years old.

With film-star good looks and style — she learnt to fly at the London Aeroplane club — she became a press icon. In 1934, the Daily Herald called her “charming as well as brilliant” and Californian newspapers, when she won the Pacific Coast championship in the same year, termed her “an attractive little southpaw invader”. She also reached the quarter-finals of the US Open.
Left-handed with a good forehand, Stammers provided exciting and attacking tennis, her clothes were also much detailed in the newspapers. She designed her own shorts in uncrushable linen cut full to 4in above the knee, and wore them with an open-necked shirt, turned down Byron-style. While playing on the West Coast of the US, she visited the Hollywood studios and had a screen test. She dated John F. Kennedy and was photographed with him at the Kennedy family Hyannis Port compound. She said that JFK was “spoilt by women. I think he could snap his fingers and they’d come running. And of course he was terribly attractive and rich and unmarried — a terrific catch really . . . I thought he was divine.”

In 1939 Stammers married Michael Menzies, then in the Welsh Guards. After the war, she continued playing tennis and captained the Wightman Cup team. She moved with her husband to New York, where he had been appointed head of Hill Samuel.

After her divorce from Menzies in 1975, she married Thomas Bullitt, whom she had met on the American tennis circuit. Bullitt, who had been educated in England, came from one of Kentucky’s oldest families and had been an aide to Montgomery during the war.

The couple lived at Oxmoor Farm, near Louisville, Kentucky, which had been in the Bullitt family for ten generations. Stammers laid out and developed an English garden and indulged a passion for racehorses, helping to run the annual steeplechases on the estate course in aid of children’s charity and, under the Oxmoor Charities Corporation, helped to plan schooling for event riders and summer concerts.

Bullitt predeceased her in 1991. A daughter and two sons survive her from her first marriage.

Kay Stammers, tennis player, was born on April 3, 1914. She died on December 23, 2005, aged 91.

Dec 14th, 2010, 11:06 PM
Kay also a good entry in wikipedia, which notes her Grand Slam results. Note the Times article makes an error in suggesting she won the French singles in 1935-she actually won the doubles with Peggy Scriven. Another error is her wedding date-it was actually 1940, not 1939. Stammers attacking playing style worked best on grass.

Kay's Grand Slam singles highlight was making the final of the 1939 Wimbledon, where she was soundly beaten by Alice Marble.


Grand Slam singles highlights:

Aussie: Stammers never entered this slam

French: QF in 1934. (She lost in the 1R in 1933 and 1935)

Wimbledon: QF 5 times, in 1934,36,38,46 and 47. finalist in 1939

(Her 11 Wimbledon appearences span 1931-1947. This more or less equals her career span).

US Nationals: She made the last 8 for 6 years running, falling short only in 1946.

1934: QF
1935: SF
1936: SF
1937: QF
1938: QF
1939: SF
1946: 3R

This in 21 singles slam attempts she made the last 8 or better 13 times, with 9 QF, 3 SF, and 1 final. For most of the 1930s she was rated in the top ten.

Dec 14th, 2010, 11:12 PM
A picture from Life Magazine in the 1940s, when Kay was well past her peak. Getty images and Corbis have loads of pictures of Kay in action.

http://cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/50502041.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=E41C9FE5C4AA0A14B02448D4D92C06D757707B6FB8C55809 B498200C0E5C5717B01E70F2B3269972

Dec 14th, 2010, 11:15 PM
In her 80s or early 90s. Kay lived out her last days in the United States on a Kentucky horse farm.


Dec 14th, 2010, 11:21 PM
In her glam heyday. Look magazine in 1937


Also from the 1930s


Dec 14th, 2010, 11:26 PM
Another obituary by the Daily Telegraph. Apprently Dan Maskell, later famous as a Wimbledon radio announver, was her early coach.

Spencer Tracy was certainly a ladies man and a tennis lover-besides dating Kay he also had a romance with tennis star Pauline Betz.


Kay Stammers

12:01AM GMT 30 Dec 2005

Kay Stammers, who died on December 23 aged 91, was a popular and glamorous British tennis player of the 1930s, and won the ladies' doubles at Wimbledon in successive years.

An attacking left-hander who was trained by Dan Maskell, Kay Stammers's stunning looks ensured that she attracted more than usual press interest. In 1936, for example, an article in Time magazine described her (somewhat patronisingly) as "pretty Kay Stammers, whom English critics like to describe as the 'typical' British girl tennist, and who likes lacrosse, cricket, lump sugar and planters' punches".

At one stage she was given a screen test in Hollywood and attracted the interest of the young John F Kennedy and Spencer Tracy.

Kay Stammers was playing in an era when the ladies' game was dominated by Americans such as Helen Wills Moody, Helen Jacobs and Alice Marble; but she twice defeated Jacobs in the singles of the Wightman Cup (1935 and 1936), and in 1935 - in the Kent championships at Beckenham - she became the first British player to beat Helen Wills Moody in 11 years.

She also achieved success in the US Open, reaching the quarter or semi-finals of the singles every year between 1934 and 1939.

Her victories in the ladies' doubles at Wimbledon came in 1935 and 1936, on both occasions in partnership with Freda James. In 1939 she came closest to realising her principal ambition of winning the singles, but she lost 6-2, 6-0 to Alice Marble. (Marble had collapsed on court from tuberculosis in the French championships five years earlier, and doctors had given her little hope of playing again.)

Also in 1939, Kay Stammers married Michael Menzies, a banker who was then serving with the Welsh Guards; they were to have two sons and a daughter.

An only child, Katherine Esther Stammers was born on April 3 1914 in St Albans; her father worked in insurance. She was educated at St Albans High School for Girls and was taught to play tennis by her parents while a young girl.

Aged only 17, in 1931 she made her first appearance at Wimbledon - as a qualifier, and wearing pigtails - losing in the second round. In 1934 she was third in the LTA rankings, and the following year won the French women's doubles - as well as the Riviera doubles championship, in which she partnered King Gustav of Sweden, then aged 77.

During the war Kay Stammers played exhibition matches on behalf of the Red Cross, and served as an ambulance driver. When peace returned she captained Britain's Wightman Cup team for a couple of years before, in 1949, she and her husband went to live in South Africa, where Menzies set up Hill Samuel's South African operation. They remained there for nearly 20 years, until he was transferred to New York to head the office there.

In 1974 she and Menzies divorced, and the following year Kay Stammers married the American lawyer Thomas Walker Bullitt, going to live at Oxmoor Farm in Kentucky, home to the Bullitt family for 10 generations. Bullitt predeceased her, and she remained in Kentucky for the rest of her life.

Kay Stammers continued to take an interest in tennis, and would attend Wimbledon annually until late in her life when she was no longer able to travel.

Her children survive her, and two of her teenage grandsons play tennis in the junior national league in the United States.

Dec 14th, 2010, 11:30 PM
Here is a British Pathe clip of her wedding in 1940. The clip itslef and the crowds leave no doubts about her star status.


Losing to Alice Marble in the 1937 Wightman Cup at Forest Hills


Dec 14th, 2010, 11:35 PM
Kay on Jack (JFK) Kennedy's attitude towards women: "He really didn't give a damn. He liked to have them around, and he liked to enjoy himself, but he was quite unreliable. He did as he pleased."

Dec 14th, 2010, 11:41 PM
The 1935 Wightman Cup at Forest Hills-Kay beat Helen Jacobs


This is a pathe clip that really excited me-it features Kay vs a then 14 year old Suzy Kormoczy in 1939, when the young Hungarain made a splash in England. Kormozy went on to win the French in 1958!

June 1, 1939 at the Melbury Club on clay.


The US National Doubles final at Longwood in 1939


Dec 22nd, 2010, 01:41 PM
She did have some knockers. LOL.

Dec 23rd, 2010, 03:50 PM
Excellent videos. Note how the girls did not use much hip rotation when they took their shots. This explains why there wasn't quite so much power back then.

Jan 10th, 2011, 04:55 PM
Those were the days. I like that pic of 1937.

Jan 11th, 2011, 12:17 AM
Those were the days. I like that pic of 1937.

Me too. It's rare to get a look at women from those days "in color" -and I love the fact that she is holding balls in her hand. No body does that anyomore, but when I first started watching tennis serve and volleyers did it all the time.