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Friday, October 13, 2017
Francine York (born Francine Yerich; August 26, 1936 – January 6, 2017) was an American film and television actress.
Francine Yerich was born to Frank and Sophie Yerich in the small mining town Aurora, Minnesota; the elder of two sisters. Her younger sister was named Deanne. In 1941, her family moved to Cleveland, where she began to write short stories and take an interest in acting. At the age of nine, she appeared in her elementary school the Hodge School's production of Cinderella as the stepsister Griselda, at which point she wished to become an actress. At the age of twelve, her family moved back to Aurora, where she continued performing in class plays. She wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a three-act play Keen Teens or Campus Quarantine, charging five cents admission; the whole town attended. While studying journalism and drama at Aurora High School, she worked as the feature editor of her school newspaper, and she won all of the school's declamation contests with her dramatic readings. She was a baton twirling majorette for the school marching band and active in the 4-H club, where she won several blue ribbons for cooking in both county and state fairs.
At age 17, she won the local Miss Eveleth beauty contest and became a runner-up in the Miss Minnesota contest, which was hosted by former Miss America BeBe Shopp. Moving to Minneapolis, she landed a job modeling sweaters for New York-based Jane Richards Sportswear and began traveling throughout the U.S. She relocated to San Francisco and took a modeling course at the House of Charm agency, which helped her begin a modeling career for major department stores, including Macy's. Her modeling got the attention of the producers of the Miss San Francisco beauty pageant. She entered the contest and was voted runner-up, but ended up taking over the title after the winner became too ill to participate.
Francine soon got a job as a showgirl at Bimbo’s nightclub in San Francisco. Bimbo’s headliner, Mary Meade French, brought Francine to Hollywood and helped get her signed with an agent. Francine worked as a showgirl at Frank Sennes' Moulin Rouge, a popular Hollywood nightclub on Sunset Blvd., where she performed in three shows a night, seven nights a week, for six months. Tired of sharing a stage with elephants, pigeons, and horses, she began taking acting classes with actor/teacher Jeff Corey. A theatrical producer cast her in a play called Whisper In God's Ear at the Circle Theatre, and she was also cast in her first movie, Secret File: Hollywood, a film about the day-to-day operations of a sleazy Hollywood tabloid.
York's first screen role was in Robert Clarke's Hollywood exploitation film Secret File Hollywood shot in 1960 but not distributed until 1962. Her big break came when Jerry Lewis cast her in It's Only Money, in which she played a tantalizing sexpot, a role which brought her much publicity. This led to Lewis hiring her for five more of his films, including The Nutty Professor, The Patsy, The Disorderly Orderly, The Family Jewels, and Cracking Up, in which she portrayed a fifteenth-century marquise. Other film appearances include Bedtime Story, Tickle Me, Cannon for Cordoba, and such science fiction cult films as Curse of the Swamp Creature, Mutiny in Outer Space, and Space Probe Taurus. In The Doll Squad (1973) she played CIA agent Sabrina Kincaid, leader of an elite team of gorgeous female assassins who attempt to stop a diabolical madman from destroying the world with a deadly plague virus. She portrayed Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn: Alive and Behind Bars, and in 2000 she played Nicolas Cage's mother-in-law in The Family Man.
York played the English actress Lillie Langtry (with Peter Whitney as Judge Roy Bean) in the 1965 episode "A Picture of a Lady" of the syndicated series Death Valley Days. York was featured in five episodes of Burke's Law between 1964 and 1965, and made two guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of co-defendant Bobbi Dane in the 1966 episode "The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise." On Batman she appeared as Lydia Limpet in episodes 29 and 30 "The Bookworm Turns/While Gotham City Burns" (1966). She continued to act in films and on television, with TV appearances including Hot In Cleveland (as British matriarch Lady Natalie), Bucket and Skinner's Epic Adventures (as Aunt Bitsy), and The Mindy Project. She also appeared as Queen Madusa during the second season of Jason Of Star Command in 1979; in episode 3 "Web Of The Star Witch," in episode 10 "Little Girl Lost," and in episode 11 "Mimi's Secret."
In March 1991, York made guest appearances on three soap operas, All My Children, One Life to Live, and Santa Barbara.
York also worked as a fitness/nutrition expert and a gourmet cook, making many appearances on television demonstrating her culinary skills. Many of her recipes and exercise programs were published in national health magazines.
York never married. She once said, "Like Cinderella, I always wanted to marry the handsome prince...but they don't make glass slippers in size ten!" She died on January 6, 2017, in Van Nuys, California from cancer, aged 80. She had been working on her autobiography.
I am thought to be exiled gentry, a vagabond, a scandalous rogue, a troubadour, armchair tactician, amateur grifter, self taught mechanic, would be author, adventurer, rogue scholar, traveler of strange lands, and an all round near do well.