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Frances Farmer Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (1) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 19 September 1913Seattle, Washington, USA
Date of Death 1 August 1970Indianapolis, Indiana, USA  (esophageal cancer)
Birth NameFrances Elena Farmer
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Born in Seattle, Frances Farmer studied drama at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 1935, she went to Hollywood where she secured a seven-year contract with Paramount. In 1943, she was wrongfully declared mentally incompetent and committed by her parents to a series of asylums and public mental hospitals, leading to a false rumor that she received a lobotomy. After seven years she was released, and spent some of the remaining years of her life tending the parents who had committed her and taking odd jobs. She appeared on This Is Your Life (1952), and then her own TV show, Frances Farmer Presents (1958) for six years. She died of cancer in 1970.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Alexander Lum < aj_lum@postoffice.utas.edu.au>

Born in Seattle, Frances Farmer studied journalism and drama at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 1935, after winning a trip to Russia to see the Moscow Art Theater, she went to Hollywood where she secured a seven-year contract with Paramount. By the end of 1936, she was one of Paramount's most talked-about new stars, largely by virtue of her loan-out to Goldwyn for the dual role of mother and daughter in Come and Get It (1936).

Late 1937 saw her achieve her long-held theatrical aspirations when she starred in the Group Theatre Broadway production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy", a play in which she continued to tour for most of the second half of 1938 after its original Broadway run ended. However, starting in 1939, her erratic behavior and increased drinking started to make her less reliable and sought after. Though she starred in two big budget 1940 films after walking out of a Broadway-bound play by Ernest Hemingway, by 1941 her star had fallen considerably at Paramount and she was consigned mostly to co-starring appearances. Though her late 1941 performance in Fox's Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) was outstanding and critically praised, by 1942 her alcoholism and increasing mental instability led Paramount to cancel her contract.

In October 1942, she was arrested for driving with her headlights on bright in a wartime dim-out zone and was subsequently charged with DUI. When she failed to completely pay her bail, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest in early 1943, almost simultaneously with an assault charge against her being filed by a studio hairdresser. Her arrest on these charges ultimately led to her being placed in a private institution in southern California.

Her mother subsequently obtained guardianship and had Frances committed to Washington's Western State Hospital for the first time for a few months in 1944. Two other commitments followed, one for several months in 1945-46, and the longest from April 1946 to March 1950. Frances was released in 1950 and took a hotel laundry job in Seattle to help support her parents. In 1954, she married Seattle utility worker "Alfred Lobley", but quickly left him and moved secretly to Eureka, California, where she worked anonymously for several years in a photo studio. In 1957, she was discovered by a talent agent who promoted her and was able to revive her career, including appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) (The Ed Sullivan Show) and This Is Your Life (1952), as well as a Paramount film and several live television dramas. In 1958, Frances moved to Indianapolis where she was hired by NBC affiliate WFBM to host an afternoon movie/interview program, Frances Farmer Presents (1958), which was rated number 1 in its time slot for the six years of its run. By 1964, her alcoholism had become so acute that WFBM fired her. She spent her final years operating several small businesses, usually with her friend "Jean Ratcliffe", until she died from esophageal cancer in 1970.

Frances' story only became more infamous after her death with the publication of her ghost-written "autobiography" (actually written by Ratcliffe) "Will There Really Be A Morning?" in 1972, and even more-so with the "fictionalized" biography "Shadowland" released in 1978, which was the primary source for the feature film Frances (1982). Though "Shadowland"s author William Arnold admitted in a court case that many of the incidents depicted in his book were fabricated, including the infamous lobotomy, his version of her life went largely unquestioned despite vigorous opposition from many sources, including members of the Farmer family and physicians and nurses at Western State, where Frances was hospitalized. More incisive and critical analysis of his claims has been published within the last several years, debunking most of the more sensational allegations he put forth, most notably the lobotomy. Frances' sister, "Edith Farmer Elliot", self-published what is probably the most complete and authoritative biography of Frances currently available, "Look Back in Love".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: JMK56

Spouse (3)

Leland Mikesell (27 March 1958 - 1 August 1970) (her death)
Alfred Lobley (1951 - 1958) (divorced)
Leif Erickson (8 February 1936 - 12 June 1942) (divorced)

Trivia (14)

Farmer was the subject of a song Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle on the album In-Utero by Nirvana.
Frances Farmer My Hero - The Unauthorized Biography is a rock opera based on the life of the tragic screen star.
Stephen Cush, a member of the British group The Men They Couldn't Hang wrote a song called Lobotomy Gets 'Em Home in memory of Frances Farmer after he saw the biographical film Frances (1982). The song appears on the album Silvertown on Silvertone Records - now deleted.
Singer Patterson Hood included the song Frances Farmer in his 2004 album Killers and Stars which features Farmer's picture on the cover.
Culture Club and Everything But The Girl both wrote songs about her, The Medal Song and Ugly Little Dreams respectively.
French-Canadian singer Mylène Farmer chose her stage name in homage to Frances, and her first hit song, Maman a tort, in 1984 was about the actress.
Her rise and tragic fall were documented in the movie Frances (1982) with Jessica Lange in the lead role. She received an Oscar nomination for best actress for her performance.
Was portrayed by Susan Blakely in Will There Really Be a Morning? (1983).
She inspired several literature works: "God's Peculiar Care" (1991) by 'Patrick Roscoe (from the title of Farmer's lost biographical novel), the thriller "The Canvas Prison" (1982) by Gordon DeMarco and the collection of short stories "Las fotografías de Frances Farmer" (1992) by Peruvian author Iván Thays.
Her life is also profiled in the A&E documentary "Frances Farmer: Paradise Lost" (2001) directed by Lawrence Williams.
The actress was the subject of several theater plays: The Frances Farmer Story by Sebastian Stuart, Golden Girl by Peter Occhiogrosso and Saint Frances of Hollywood by Sally Clarke.
For her very special tribute appearance on This Is Your Life (1952), Frances was given an automobile - an Edsel.
Director Howard Hawks said he considered her the best actress he ever worked with.
Her third, and last, husband Leland C. Mikesell was born May 20, 1904 and died January 1971.

Personal Quotes (1)

[Regarding her experience as a mental patient] Never console yourself into believing that the terror has passed, for it looms as large and evil today as it did in the despicable era of Bedlam. But I must relate the horrors as I recall them, in the hope that some force for mankind might be moved to relieve forever the unfortunate creatures who are still imprisoned in the back wards of decaying institutions.

Salary (2)

Too Many Parents (1936) $100/week
Come and Get It (1936) $75/week

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