Anne Francis, star of science fiction classic Forbidden Planet and hits including Funny Girl and Bad Day At Black Rock, died yesterday after several months of fighting pancreatic cancer. She was 80 years of age.
Beginning her career as a model at the tender age of five, Francis began performing on Broadway at 11 and broke into the movies with a bit part in Mickey Rooney caper Summer Holiday. She gained the attention of fans and producers alike with a bigger role in Ginger Rogers comedy Dreamboat, but it was as the naive young colonist's daughter Altaira in Forbidden Planet that she will be most fondly remembered. Deciding to play it as straight as possible, she and co-star Leslie Nielsen created memorable characters despite the strangeness of their surroundings in this unusual adaptation of The Tempest. "I don't think that any of us really were aware of the fact that it was going to turn into a longtime cult film, probably much, much stronger today than it was then," she would say later. "Forbidden Planet just had a life of its own, something that none of us was aware was going to happen."
Later, Francis enjoyed a successful small screen career, winning several awards for her work as the detective Honey West. She appeared in cult series including The Twilight Zone, The Virginian, The Fugitive and The Man From UNCLE. Her final film role was in 1996 Peter Shaner comedy Lovers' Knot, though she continued to work until 2004. Sadly, she was never to realise her ambition to direct, lamenting that she was perceived as a blonde starlet who could not be taken sufficiently seriously.
Francis died at the nursing home where she lived in southern California. She is survived by her daughters, Jane and Maggie, and by her grandson.