Monday, January 3, 2011

A Tribute to Anne Francis

Anne Francis died today at age 80. In her honor, we're republishing this profile that appeared originally in 2010.

Born in 1930, Anne Francis began modeling at the age of 5 and worked extensively in radio and television as a child. Her first credited film role was in Summer Holiday with Mickey Rooney (though, on her web site, she emphasizes that you need to look quickly to spot her as the girlfriend of Mickey's older brother). She attended MGM's "school" with Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell, Dean and Guy Stockwell, and Natalie Wood.

She attracted Daryl Zanuck's attention playing a young prostitute in the 1950 reform school drama So Young, So Bad, which starred Paul Henried as a psychiatrist. That led to a 20th Century-Fox contract, although she was back at MGM three years later. It was during her second stint at MGM that she made her most famous films: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Blackboard Jungle (1955), and Forbidden Planet (1956). Her best performance may have been as Glenn Ford's wife in Blackboard Jungle, a potent urban drama about education and juvenile delinquency.

Yet, despite starring alongside major stars like Paul Newman and Robert Taylor, juicy lead roles eluded Francis. She gravitated to television in the late 1950s and became a popular guest star in series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, and many others.

In 1965--following in the footsteps of Honor Blackman's high-kicking heroine Cathy Gale from The Avengers--Anne Francis was introduced as private eye Honey West in an episode of Burke's Law. The character of Honey West first appeared in the 1957 mystery novel This Girl for Hire, written by Gloria and Forest Fickling under the pseudonym G.G. Fickling.

The half-hour TV series Honey West made its debut in 1965 and lasted but one season. Still, it made a lasting impact by showing an independent woman who could best any man--whether it was solving a tough case or beating up a baddie with her judo. Francis's performance earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy nomination. John Ericson, who played Honey's partner Sam, had played Francis's brother ten years earlier in Bad Day at Black Rock.

After Honey West, Francis continued to be in demand as a TV series guest star. She also did occasional films, such as the underrated thriller The Satan Bug and allegedly clashed with Barbra Streisand on the set of Funny Girl.

Anne Francis was treated for lung cancer in 2007. You can read more about her on her web web site:  http://www.annefrancis.net/.

11 comments:

  1. Rick. I have to disagree, I think Forbidden Planet is Anne's' best performance,(Kiss what's a kiss)? but I like Blackboard too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rick, my favorite Anne Francis, performances are: Honey West and when she performed in, My Three Sons.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rick, thank you for your profile on the lovely Anne Francis. I always thought she had a beautiful smile.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great article & choice Rick. My mom has Honey West DVD set & Anne Francis is amazing! I liked her turn in the Columbo episode "A Stitch in Time" and as Dorothy's "dead" friend in na episdoe of The Golden Girls.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gilby, my wife and I have been enjoyingd 1960s TV shows on DVD...we may have to add HONEY WEST to our collection. Paul, Anne was a lot of fun as Altaira in the wonderful FORBIDDEN PLANET. Dawn, I saw where Anne was in MY THREE SONS, but don't remember her...was it later in the series? Toto, the smile is indeed a lovely one!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved Honey West, she was a role model to me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My favorites of Anne Francis: "Bad Day at Black Rock," "The Blackboard Jungle" and her "Honey West" series. I liked her in Funny Girl, too...no surprise she clashed with Barbra, I'd say. Lovely profile, Rick...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Makes me sad to see her go. Her Twilight Zone episode about the mannequins was one that I found very scary when I was a kid, and very unforgettable. I always loved the little mole by her mouth. When I was a kid, I tried to draw one on with eyebrow pencil to look like her. It didn't work -- you have to look like her to look like her, if that makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rick, In 1971, at the start of the final season of My Three Sons, Anne Francis played bowling alley waitress Terri Dowling, who married Laird Fergus McBain Douglas of Sithian Bridge, Scotland and returned to his homeland as royalty. Fred MacMurray played the dual character roles of Steve Douglas and Fergus McBain Douglas in this four part story. I could only find info on 3 episodes:

    Fergus for Sale (1971). Season 12, Episode 2.
    When Uncle Charley learns that Fergus is looking for a wife to take back to Scotland to provide him with heirs to carry on the family name, he takes out an ad in the local newspaper in an effort to rid the Douglas home of his nemesis.

    Lady Douglas (1971). Season 12, Episode 3.
    Steve's Scottish cousin Fergus, after only one date with Bowling Alley Cocktail Waitress Terri Dowling, proposes but gets turned down by her. She feels inadequate to return to Scotland as royalty, but is eventually persuaded by Steve.

    Goodbye Fergus (1971). Season 12, Episode 4.
    The wedding day for Steve's Scottish cousin and bowling alley waitress Terri Dowling finally arrives in the middle of the confusion. They leave for a three day honeymoon in Las Vegas but Uncle Charley is worried about the lack of thank yous.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for reprinting this tribute, Rick.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anne was rare gem.Her every performance was amazing & remarkable.

    ReplyDelete