‘Forbidden Planet’ Star Anne Francis Dies At 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress Anne Francis, who was the love interest in the 1950s science-fiction classic “Forbidden Planet” and later was sexy private eye in “Honey West” on TV, has died at age 80.

Francis died Sunday at a Santa Barbara nursing home, said Bill Guntle, a funeral director McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary in Santa Barbara.

Francis, who had surgery and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, died of complications of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Jane Uemura, told the Los Angeles Times.

Francis, a stunningly beautiful blonde with a prominent beauty mark, appeared opposite such stars as Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, Robert Taylor and Glenn Ford 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 travelers visiting a planet where expatriate scientist Walter Pidgeon, his daughter (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,” Francis said in a 1999 interview.

“We could have hammed it up, but we wanted to be as sincere as we could,” she said.

In “Honey West,” which aired from 1965 to 1966, Francis’ private detective 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,” 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, Francis arrived in Hollywood when 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.

In “Blackboard Jungle,” the landmark 1955 film about an idealistic teacher (Ford) in a violent city school, Francis played his pregnant wife who is targeted for harassment by one of his students.

Among her other films: “Bad Day at Black Rock” with Tracy and Robert Ryan, “Rogue Cop” with Taylor, “The Rack” with Newman, “A Lion Is in the Streets” with James Cagney, and “Hook, Line and Sinker” opposite Jerry Lewis.

When her movie career declined, Francis became active in television, appearing in dozens of series, including “Mission Impossible,” “The Virginian,” “My Three Sons,” “Ironside,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Golden Girls,” “Home Improvement” and “Nash Bridges.”

Her name was Ann Marvak when she was born Sept. 16, 1930, in Ossining, N.Y.

By age 5 she was working as a model, and by 11 she was appearing on daytime radio serials, winning the nickname the Little Queen of Soap Operas. She also had some small roles on Broadway.

After her first MGM contract, during which she attended studio school with Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell and Natalie Wood, she returned to New York. There, she took part in television’s Golden Age, acting in such acclaimed dramatic series as “Studio One” and “U.S. Steel Hour” before returning to Hollywood.

Francis’ early marriage to actor Bam Price ended in divorce.

In addition to Jane, Francis and her second husband, Robert Abeloff, had another daughter, Maggie, before divorcing. She also is survived by a grandson.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Peggy Stafford

    I met her one day while she was shopping in Palm Desert she had such a glow about her. What a special lady. God Bless

  • Neo2627

    I enjoyed watching ‘Honey West’ when I was a kid. I thought (and still do),think that Ms. Francis was one of the most ‘beautiful’ women in Hollywood! Sorry to hear of her passing. GOD bless her and her family.

  • vaoiceofreason

    I remember her being on General Hospital in the 80s.

  • Judy D.

    Such a beautiful lady. I was a devoted watcher of “Honey West”. God Bless you.

  • Kristi K.

    She was also in “Funny Girl” as Barbara Streisand’s cast member friend in the Ziegfield Follies. She was perfect! What a great beauty and talent!

  • Henry

    Her face in close up on the Twilight Zone, showed her to be one of the most lovely women alive. I can well believe that she Glowed in person.

  • GC1008

    She was great. I remember Honey West, too. She made girls think they could grow up to be more than just sweet young housewives. (Though I’m not knocking housewives.) It’s just that she opened doors and minds to more.

  • Michael

    A beautiful woman and deilightful person. Now here smile will light up the heavens. Knowing her was a pleasure. Michael. Santa Barbara.

  • Calgal

    A beautiful woman, and a class act all the way. Rest in peace!

  • luann marchillo

    i couldnt agree more with the commenters above. i am so saddened by her passing. honey west was one of my favorite shows. when we were kids my cousin and i used to pretend we were detectives and even took an eyebrown pencil and drew on a mole so we could look like her. im a 60’s gal and too many of my 60’s people have been passing lately.

  • Carolyn L

    Enjoyed the “after hours” episode on the twilight zone and she was also on the golden giirls, she played Dorothy’s friend trudy her smile is lighting up the heavens up above. my condolences goes out to her family and friends.

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