ANNE FRANCIS DIES
Actor ANNE FRANCIS, who was the love interest in the 1950s sci fi classic FORBIDDEN PLANET and later played a sexy private eye on television’s HONEY WEST, has died at age 80.
Ms. Francis passed away Sunday at a Santa Barbara nursing home. She had surgery and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 and died of complications of pancreatic cancer, her daughter JANE UEMURA told THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.
ANNE FRANCIS, a stunningly beautiful blonde with a prominent beauty mark, appeared opposite such stars as PAUL NEWMAN and ROBERT TAYLOR in some of the most popular films of the 1950s. But FORBIDDEN PLANET and HONEY WEST made her reputation.
FORBIDDEN PLANET was hailed in LEONARD MALTIN’S 2006 MOVIE GUIDE as “one of the most ambitious and intelligent films of its genre.”
A science fiction retelling of SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST, the 1956 film had LESLIE NIELSEN and other space travellers visiting a planet where expatriate scientist WALTER PIDGEON, his daughter ALTAIRA (ANNE FRANCIS) and their helper, Robby the Robot, built a settlement.
Before filming began, the actors held a meeting and agreed “to be as serious about this film as we could be,” Ms. Francis said in a 1999 interview. “We could have hammed it up, but we wanted to be as sincere as we could.”
“I got that part because I was under contract to MGM and I had good legs,” she joked some time later.
In HONEY WEST, which aired from 1965 to 1966, ANNE FRANCIS’ private detective character — who had a pet ocelot — was a female JAMES BOND: sexy, stylish and as good with martial arts as she was with a gun.
She was nominated for an EMMY for the role, which lasted 30 episodes.
“A lot of people speak to me about Honey West,” Ms. Francis recalled.
“The character made young women think there was more they could reach for. It encouraged a lot of people.”
After a childhood career in New York radio and television and on the Broadway stage, ANNE FRANCIS arrived in Hollywood where she landed a movie contract at MGM. She later went to 20TH CENTURY FOX, then returned to MGM and the two big studios afforded her the chance to act opposite the biggest male stars of the day.
During this particular period, she also appeared in FUNNY GIRL, though she claimed that her best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. She played a Ziegfeld Girl who was a friend of headliner FANNY BRICE, who was portrayed by BARBRA STREISAND.
When her movie career declined, she became active in television, appearing in dozens of series – including COLUMBO, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and DALLAS.
Her name was ANN MARVAK when she was born SEPTEMBER 16, 1930 in Ossining, N.Y.
At age 5 she was working as a model and by 11 she was appearing on daytime radio serials. She also had some small roles on Broadway.
After her first MGM contract, during which she attended studio school with ELIZABETH TAYLOR and NATALIE WOOD, she returned to New York. There, she took part in television’s Golden Age, acting in a number of acclaimed dramatic series before returning to Hollywood.
Her early marriage to actor BAM PRICE ended in divorce.
In addition to JANE, ANNE FRANCIS and her second husband ROBERT ABELOFF had another daughter MAGGIE before divorcing.
She is also survived by a grandson.