Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Hollywood Hidden Stories: Frances Farmer

by  |  May 15th, 2012  |  Blog

Art is an interesting monster…

What I mean by this is that rather it be playing music, or making movies, doing theater or painting, etc… There has always kind of been like three sides to being an Artist. There are those artists who have become rich and famous, in what ever respective art form they work under.

Then there is being a starving artist whom in what ever art form they work at, continues to try to make it to the upper echelon of their particular art form!

Now the last one that I thought that I would mention, is the artist who has made it in a major way, yet have for various reasons have ended up on the wrong side of the funny pages… Rather it be having committed suicide, like Peg Entwhistle (who made it big in the theatre in the 20s), or people who died from excessive drug use, like Michael Jackson (who while being big in music, also made his mark in movies as well), or people who just died well before there time, like Corey Haim (An 80s teen hearthrob), Or people who disappeared in to obscurity in the worst possible way. To name a few.

Now you might be wondering why I am being so morbid here… Well these artists who have left the world of Hollywood in the worst possible ways are still not bad people! Their contributions to the world of movies, and their contribution to art, as well as their contributions to the world as a whole during their time were pretty amazing and deserve to be remembered!

Such is the case with Frances Farmer!

Frances Farmer in her heyday.

Having been born in Seattle Washington in 1913, Frances Farmer started her career as an artist in the field of writing, when she wrote and got published a controversial essay called, ‘God Dies’, which won her a coveted award from, The Scholastic Art And Writing Awards.

Later on, while in college at the University Of Washington, Ms. Farmer, who was studying at there Drama department, would go on to do such well received productions as, ‘Helen Of Troy’, ‘Everyman’ and, ‘Uncle Vanya’.

Also during this time in which she was in College, she won a contest from a magazine called, ‘The Voice Of Action’, in which she was given a trip to

the then Soviet Union. Which she took despite objections, so that she could take a look at a young, ‘Moscow Art Theater’.

Frances Farmer with her mother, ‘Lillian’. Lillian heavily objected to her daughter visiting the Soviet Union.

After she returned from the U.S.S.R, she stopped in New York so that she could try and start up a legitimate theater career, but was referred to a talent scout for Paramount Pictures.

Now I should mention that as a side note, that at this time in Hollywood History that the studios would have their actors on contract for long periods of time!

With all of this in mind, after meeting the talent scout, started Ms. Farmer on the road to success, what with after having a screen test for Paramount Pictures, was offered a contract with Paramount (which Ms. Farmer signed in New York on her 22nd birthday).

This of course catapulted her to stardom, what with having worked with some of the greats of Hollywood, which included, Bing Crosby in Rhythm On The Range (1936), Howard Hawks in Come And Get It (1936), Fred MacMurray in Exclusive (1937), and Tyrone Power in Son Of Fury: The Story Of Benjamin Blake (1942), to name a few!

An intense Tyrone Power, with Frances Farmer in, ‘Son Of Fury: The Story Of Benjamin Blake’

Now in the new Hollywood way, that has been popularized by such memorable scandal making Hollywood Celebrities, such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Frances Farmer in 1942 began her descent from the top of the Hollywood World!

Now before I go in to this part of it, I should probably explain that the United States had been in World War 2 at this time.

With that in mind, Frances Farmer had been arrested, having been driving with her lights on at a black out zone in Santa Monica on October 19th 1942. To which due to being intoxicated was given a $500 dollar fine, a 180 day jail sentence (which was cut down to probation when she payed $250 dollars of the $500 dollar fine.)

This would not end her trouble with the law, you see by January of 43, she had not paid the rest of the fine that she had gotten a few months earlier, and along with a hair dresser having filed an assault charge against Ms. Farmer, a bench warrant was put out for her arrest.

Now at her hearing it was claimed that she was acting quite erratically. So the judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail (which her sister-in-law got that switched to some time in a Psychiatric Hospital.

Frances Farmer with her mother Lillian in Seattle, after she was released from the Psychiatric Facility.

Now unfortunately between her legal troubles and her time in the mental health system, for the most part Ms. Farmer would kind of disappear for over a decade from the Hollywood scene. But the good news is that she would make a brief comeback in the late 50s to the early 60s, having done such TV shows as, Matinee Theatre and Frances Farmer Presents.

Sadly though, Ms. Farmer would pass away in 1970, having disappeared from the Hollywood scene for many years, but her star power, grace and beauty will live on in Hollywood for ever!

Please enjoy these two interviews that Ms. Farmer did for This Is Your Life in 1958:


Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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