Friday, February 3, 2023

Anne Francis


   Anne Francis (also known as Anne Lloyd Francis; September 16, 1930 – January 2, 2011) was an American actress known for her ground-breaking roles in the science-fiction film Forbidden Planet (1956) and the television action-drama series Honey West (1965–1966). Forbidden Planet marked a first in color, big-budget, science-fiction-themed motion pictures. Nine years later, Francis challenged female stereotypes in Honey West, in which she played a perky blonde private investigator who was as quick with body slams as witty one-liners. She earned a Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award nomination for her performance.

   Francis was known largely for her physical assets, including a trademark mole near her lower lip. The beauty mark was even written into the script of one of her films. In 2005, TV Guide ranked Francis at number 18 on its "50 Sexiest Stars of All Time" list.

   Francis was born in Ossining, New York, on September 16, 1930. Contrary to some sources, which erroneously claim she was born Ann Marvak (rather than Francis), her parents' marriage registration and census records from 1925 and 1930 confirm that their names were Philip Ward Francis (1900–1974) and Edith (née Albertson) Francis (1901–1995). She was their only child.

   Francis entered show business as a child, working as a model at 5 years old to assist her family during the Great Depression. She made her Broadway debut at the age of 11.

   Francis made her first film appearance in This Time for Keeps (1947). She played supporting roles in the films So Young, So Bad (1950), Susan Slept Here (1954), and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955); her first leading role was in Blackboard Jungle (1955). Her best-known film role is that of Altaira in Forbidden Planet (1956), a science-fiction classic that was nominated for a best-effects Oscar.

   Her movie roles were then confined to low-budget efforts: a call girl in Girl of the Night (1960); a scheming trophy wife in Brainstorm (1965); the role of Georgia James in Funny Girl (1968); as Jerry Lewis's wife in Hook, Line & Sinker (1969) and as co-star to a young Burt Reynolds in the adventure movie Impasse (1969). An exception was her role as lead chorine in Funny Girl (1968).

   When motion picture opportunities became scarcer for Francis near the close of the 1950s she moved - successfully - to television. Beginning as a guest on The Untouchables and as the title character in The Doreen Maney Story, she appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone ("The After Hours" and "Jess-Belle"), two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("Hooked" and in "Keep Me Company"), and three episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ("What Really Happened", "Blood Bargain", and "The Trap"). In 1961, she appeared twice in Route 66, first in "Play it Glissando" and then "A Month of Sundays". Francis appeared in two episodes of the Western series The Virginian, two episodes of Columbo ("Short Fuse" and "A Stitch in Crime") and the episode "Incident of the Shambling Man" on the CBS Western Rawhide. She was cast in an episode of Gene Kelly's drama series, Going My Way, based on the 1944 film of the same name. During 1964, she guest-starred in "Hideout" and "Rachel's Mother" in The Reporter, as well as two successive appearances in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. She appeared Season 4, Episode 10 of Mission Impossible titled "The Double Circle".

   Honey West was an action drama: the character formally introduced in the April 21, 1965 episode of Burke's Law titled "Who Killed the Jackpot?", after which it was spun off as a series that lasted one season of 30 half-hour episodes. Honey was a shrewd, high-energy private investigator who collaborated with assistant Sam Bolt (John Ericson) in a company that was inherited from her father. At home, she cared for her pet ocelot named Bruce. The show was cancelled due to budgetary considerations and ABC executives importing from the UK the similarly themed hit show The Avengers.

   Francis made a guest appearance in a 1967 episode of The Fugitive and in The Invaders the same year. She guest-starred in a 1973 episode of Barnaby Jones, "Murder in the Doll's House".

   At the start of the final season of My Three Sons in 1971, Francis played bowling-alley waitress Terri Dowling, who married character 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 arc.) She appeared twice as a guest star on Columbo, once as the manipulated lover of the murderer ("Short Fuse", 1972) and once as the murder victim ("A Stitch in Crime", 1973).

   In 1974, Francis appeared as Ida, the madame of a bawdy house on the series Kung Fu in the episode "Night of the Owls, Day of the Doves". In 1975, she appeared as Abby in an episode of Movin' On titled "The Price of Loving". In 1976, she appeared as Lola Flynn in an episode of Wonder Woman, entitled "Beauty on Parade". In 1977, she appeared as Lieutenant Commander Gladys Hope, the head nurse in two episodes of the World War II series Baa Baa Black Sheep. She portrayed Melissa Osborne in the episode "How Do I Kill Thee?" of The Eddie Capra Mysteries in 1978.

   During the 1980–81 season of Dallas, Francis had a recurring role as Arliss Cooper, the mother of Mitch and Afton Cooper. In 1982, she played the armored car-robbing mother in "In the Best of Families" episode of CHiPs. She later played Mama Jo in the first few episodes of the 1984 TV-detective series Riptide. In that same year, she guest-starred in the premiere episode of Murder, She Wrote, credited as Anne Lloyd Francis; she went on to guest-star in two more episodes during the show's run. In December 1984 and again credited as Anne Lloyd Francis, she guest-starred in a Christmas-themed episode of The Love Boat playing the mother of Kim Lankford's character, Carol, in the storyline of "Noel's Christmas Carol". She appeared on episodes of Matlock and The Golden Girls.

   In 1996, Francis appeared in the Wings episode "The Lady Vanishes", as Vera, a 1940s gun moll-type character. In 1997, in the Home Improvement episode "A Funny Valentine", she appeared as Liddy, Tim Allen's high-school classmate's mother. She guest-starred in 1998 on The Drew Carey Show as the mother of Drew's girlfriend Nicki in the episodes "Nicki's Parents" and "Nicki's Wedding". Francis' final television acting role was in "Shadows", a 2004 episode of Without a Trace.

   Francis was married to United States Air Force pilot Bamlet Lawrence Price, Jr., from May 1952 through April 1955, and to Robert Abeloff from 1960 through 1964; she never remarried after divorcing Abeloff.

   Francis was a Democrat and supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.

Francis and Abeloff had one daughter, Jane Elizabeth Abeloff (born March 21, 1962). Francis later adopted Margaret "Maggie" West in 1970, one of the first adoptions granted to an unmarried person in California.

Francis studied flying toward the end of the 1960s, eventually earning her pilot's license.

In 1982, Francis published an autobiography, Voices from Home: An Inner Journey. On its cover, she wrote that the book "is my spiritual exposé. It is about our essence of being, the inner workings of mind and spirit which contribute to the growth of the invisible and most important part of us." A subsequent biography titled Anne Francis: The Life and Career was written by Laura Wagner and published by McFarland & Company in 2011.

   A smoker for much of her adult life, Francis said that she quit the habit in the mid-1980s but was diagnosed with nonsmall-cell lung cancer in 2006.

   Francis died from complications due to pancreatic cancer on January 2, 2011, at a retirement home in Santa Barbara, California. Her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, January 29, 2023