|Height:||168 cm (5' 7'')|
|Birth Day:||September 19, 1913|
|Death Date:||Aug 1, 1970 (age 56)|
|Birth Place:||Seattle, United States|
She played Doris Halliday in Rhythm on the Range alongside Bing Crosby. Her plays include Helen of Troy and Everyman.
As per our current Database, Frances Farmer died on Aug 1, 1970 (age 56).
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
|168 cm (5' 7'')||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
She attended the University of Washington where she wrote for the school newspaper, The Voice of Action.
Frances Elena Farmer was born on September 19, 1913, in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Lillian (née Van Ornum; 1873–1955), a boardinghouse operator and dietician and Ernest Melvin Farmer (1874–1956), a lawyer. Her father was originally from Spring Valley, Minnesota, while her mother was from Oregon and a descendant of pioneers. Lillian's maternal grandparents were John and Jemima (Skews) Rowe, who came to Waldwick, Wisconsin, from Truro, England, in 1849. Farmer had an older sister, Edith; an older brother, Wesley; and an older half-sister, Rita, conceived during her mother's first marriage. Before the birth of Wesley and Edith, Lillian had given birth to a daughter who died of pneumonia in infancy. When she was four years old, Farmer's parents separated, and her mother moved with the children to Los Angeles, where her sister Zella lived. In early 1925, the family moved north to Chico, California, where Lillian pursued a career in nutrition research. Shortly after arriving in Chico, Lillian concluded that caring for the children was interfering with her ability to work. The children's Aunt Zella then drove them to Albany, Oregon, where they boarded a train back to Seattle to live with their father.
In 1931, while a senior at West Seattle High School, Farmer entered and won $100 from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a writing contest sponsored by Scholastic Magazine, with her controversial essay "God Dies." It was a precocious attempt to reconcile her wish for, in her words, a "superfather" God, with her observations of a chaotic and godless world. In her autobiography, she wrote that the essay was influenced by her reading of Friedrich Nietzsche: "He expressed the same doubts, only he said it in German: Gott ist tot. God is dead. This I could understand. I was not to assume that there was no God, but I could find no evidence in my life that He existed or that He had ever shown any particular interest in me. I was not an atheist, but I was surely an agnostic, and by the time I was sixteen I was well indoctrinated into this theory."
After graduating from high school, Farmer enrolled at the University of Washington, initially majoring in journalism. She worked various jobs to pay her tuition, including as an usherette in a cinema, a waitress, a tutor, a laborer in a soap factory, and a singing waitress at Mount Rainier National Park. During her sophomore year, Farmer became involved with the university's drama department productions, which were considered citywide cultural events. She starred in numerous UW plays, including Helen of Troy, Everyman, and Uncle Vanya. In late 1934, she starred in UW's production of Alien Corn, which earned her favorable reviews in local press.
During her final year of college in 1935, Farmer won a subscription contest for the leftist newspaper The Voice of Action. The first prize was a trip to the Soviet Union. Farmer accepted the prize, despite her mother's strong objections, so that she could see the pioneering Moscow Art Theatre. Her interest in such topics fostered speculations that she was not only an atheist but a Communist. The same year, she graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama.
Returning from the Soviet Union in the summer of 1935, Farmer stopped in New York City, hoping to launch a theater career. There she met talent agent Shepard Traube, who referred her to Paramount Pictures talent scout Oscar Serlin, who arranged for a screen test. Paramount offered her a seven-year contract, which Farmer signed in New York City on her 22nd birthday. After completing screen tests on Long Island, Farmer moved to Los Angeles to begin working for Paramount. Upon arrival, she underwent dental surgery to fix a gap in her front teeth, and spent long hours screen-testing and training on the Paramount studio lot. In November 1935, she was cast in the B-movie Too Many Parents (1936), a comedy about young men in military school. The film was a box-office success. After completing it in February 1936, Farmer wed fellow Paramount contract player Leif Erickson, whom she met on the studio lot. She was then cast in a lead role in the drama Border Flight.
In 1937, she was loaned to RKO to star opposite Cary Grant in The Toast of New York, the story of a Wall Street tycoon. The film's production was turbulent as Farmer was unhappy with the rebranding of her character from a hard-edged vixen to "an ingénue fresh from Sunnybrook." On set, she argued with director Rowland V. Lee and gave belittling interviews to the press. Unsatisfied with her career direction after The Toast of New York, Farmer resisted the studio's control and every attempt it made to glamorize her private life. But a 1937 Collier's article sympathetically described her as indifferent to the clothing she wore and said she drove an older-model "green roadster." Also in 1937, she appeared in the crime drama Exclusive opposite Fred MacMurray and the Technicolor adventure film Ebb Tide opposite Ray Milland.
Unsatisfied with the expectations of the studio system and wanting to enhance her reputation as a serious actress, Farmer left Hollywood in mid-1937 to do summer stock on the East Coast, performing in Westchester, New York and Westport, Connecticut. There, she attracted the attention of director Harold Clurman and playwright Clifford Odets, who invited her to appear in a three-month production of Odets' play Golden Boy, produced by the Group Theatre. The play opened in November 1937 and ran for a total of 248 performances. Her performance at first received mixed reviews, with Time magazine commenting that she had been miscast. Due to Farmer's box office appeal, however, the play became the biggest hit in the Group's history. By 1938, when the production had embarked on a national tour, regional critics from Washington D.C. to Chicago gave her rave reviews.
During the run of Golden Boy, Farmer began a romantic affair with Odets, but he was married to actress Luise Rainer and did not offer Farmer a commitment. Farmer felt betrayed when Odets suddenly ended the relationship; and when the Group chose another actress for its London run–an actress whose family helped secure funds for the play–she came to believe that the Group had used her drawing power selfishly to further the success of the play. Disheartened, Farmer returned to Los Angeles to star opposite husband Erickson in Ride a Crooked Mile (1938). In April 1939, she performed in a short-run Broadway production of Quiet City, an experimental play directed by Elia Kazan. In November that year, she returned to Broadway portraying Melanie in Thunder Rock, also directed by Kazan, and produced by the Group Theater. The play was not well-received, and Farmer was profoundly unhappy after its closing in December 1939. She subsequently accepted a role in a Broadway adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column, which she was scheduled to begin rehearsing in early 1940. During rehearsals, Farmer began binge drinking in an effort to alleviate her depression. She ultimately chose to withdraw from the production, resulting in a $1,500 fine from the Theater Guild, for "unprofessionalism."
During this time, Farmer was "seeking in work a respite from her personal struggles." Clurman temporarily moved into her Santa Monica home to keep her company while she completed filming of Badlands of Dakota, a Western in which she starred as Calamity Jane opposite Robert Stack. Farmer again fought with the studio over the role, which she felt was over-glamorized, further damaging her reputation with studio executives. She next appeared opposite Tyrone Power and Roddy McDowall in the film Son of Fury (1942) (on loan-out to 20th Century Fox), portraying the scheming daughter of a British aristocrat. Later that year, Paramount suspended her after she refused to accept a part in the film Take a Letter, Darling and voided her contract. Meanwhile, her marriage to Erickson had disintegrated, and he began dating actress Margaret Hayes. Their divorce was finalized on June 12, 1942, and Erickson married Hayes the same day.
On October 19, 1942, Farmer was stopped by Santa Monica Police for driving with her headlights on high beam in the wartime blackout zone that affected most of the West Coast. Some reports stated she was unable to produce a driver's license and was verbally abusive to the officers. The police suspected her of being drunk and she was jailed overnight. Farmer was fined $500 and given a 180-day suspended sentence. She immediately paid $250 and was put on probation. With her vehicle impounded and her driver's license suspended, Farmer holed up in her Santa Monica home and denied the press interviews.
In November 1942, her agent secured her a role in an independent film adaptation of John Steinbeck's Murder at Laudice, which was set to film in Mexico City. Upon arriving in Mexico, she discovered that the shooting script was unfinished, and the production never reached fruition. While in Mexico City, Farmer was allegedly charged with drunk and disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, and was forced by authorities to return to the United States. Upon returning to California, she found her Santa Monica home had been cleared of her possessions and inhabited by a strange family. Farmer would later contend that her mother and sister-in-law had stripped the house and stored her belongings while she was gone. Her mother rented her a room at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood, where she temporarily took residence.
By January 1943, Farmer had failed to pay the remainder of her fine, and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. At almost the same time, a studio hairdresser filed an assault charge alleging that Farmer had hit her in the face and dislocated her jaw on set. Shortly after, Farmer was allegedly seen running down Sunset Boulevard topless after getting into a brawl at a bar. On January 14, 1943, police traced Farmer to the Knickerbocker and arrived at her room to arrest her. Getting no answer, they entered her room with a pass key. Farmer did not surrender peacefully, and was dragged out of the hotel nude to police headquarters.
Lillian traveled to California and began a lengthy legal battle to take formal guardianship of Frances from the state of California. Although several psychiatrists testified that Farmer needed further treatment, her mother prevailed. The two of them left Los Angeles by train on September 13, 1943. Farmer moved in with her parents in West Seattle, but she and her mother fought bitterly. Farmer wrote in her autobiography: "Mamma and I had fought, argued, threatened, and screamed until it had finally come down to a climax of two exhausted women sitting across from each other in a small, cluttered kitchen. We were enemies who had grown tired of pretending." After one violent physical attack, Lillian had Farmer committed to Western State Hospital at Steilacoom, Washington. In a 1958 television interview by Ralph Edwards on his "This is Your Life" program, Frances recalled her experience:
In January 1945, Farmer's father brought her to stay at her aunt's ranch in Yerington, Nevada. During her stay, Farmer ran away from the residence. She was discovered several days later at a movie theater in Reno, and returned by police to her aunt's home. Several months later, on May 18, 1945, Lillian filed for a sanity hearing for Farmer after she ran away from their home in Seattle. The hearing was held on May 21, during which it was ruled that Farmer was to be recommitted to Western State Hospital. She remained an inmate of the hospital for the next five years, with the exception of a brief parole in 1946. Throughout her internment, Farmer remained in the high-security ward for the hospital's "violent" patients. Her treatment at Western State was subject to significant public and critical discussion in the years after her death.
On March 23, 1950, at her parents' request, Farmer was paroled back into her mother's care. A year later, on March 25, 1951, Farmer was formally discharged from the jurisdiction of Western State, but was not made aware of it for two years; in the interim, she believed her recommitment to the hospital an imminent threat. In June 1953, upon discovering her discharge, Farmer requested that her mother's conservatorship be lifted, which the Superior Court did. With her freedom restored, Farmer took a job sorting laundry at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, the same hotel where she had been fêted in 1936 at Come and Get It's premiere. While working at the Olympic Hotel, a co-worker set Farmer up on a blind date with Alfred H. Lobley, a 45-year-old city utility worker. The two married in April 1954, and moved in with Lillian, who was growing senile and needed assistance at home. Within the year, Lillian was sent to a nursing home, after which Farmer's marriage to Lobley began to disintegrate.
Farmer remained estranged from her sister until Lillian's death of a stroke in March 1955. After their mother's death, Farmer's sister Edith moved to Portland, Oregon, to be nearer to their father, who died there on July 15, 1956, also of a stroke. During this time, Farmer and Edith occasionally corresponded. Edith claimed that on one occasion Farmer visited her in Portland, where the two spent an afternoon at The Grotto, a Catholic sanctuary they had once visited with their father.
In late 1957, Farmer separated from Lobley and relocated to Eureka, California, where she found work as a bookkeeper and secretary at a commercial photo studio. In Eureka, she met Leland C. Mikesell, an independent broadcast promoter from Indianapolis, who recognized her at a local bar. The two soon became romantically involved, and Mikesell envisioned a career comeback for her. They moved to San Francisco, where Farmer temporarily worked as a clerk at the Park Sheraton Hotel. In 1958, she and Mikesell married.
In August 1957, Farmer returned to the stage in New Hope, Pennsylvania, for a summer stock production of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden. Through the spring of 1958, Farmer appeared in several live television dramas, some of which are preserved on kinescope; the same year, she made her last film, The Party Crashers, a potboiler drama produced by Paramount and described by one writer as "a crappy B-movie about wild teenagers and stupid adults." Then, in July 1958, Farmer accepted the lead role in a production of Yes, My Darling Daughter, due to the reciprocal arrangements that existed between one of the summer stock East Coast theaters that she performed in and venues in the Midwest; this particular role was based at a theater in Indianapolis.
Farmer's stage work proved beneficial, as she received the opportunity to host her own daytime movie program, Frances Farmer Presents. The show was created after a television executive from the local National Broadcasting Company (NBC) affiliate, WFBM-TV (now known as WRTV), saw her performance in The Chalk Garden in August 1958. The program made her popular as an amiable host, and she subsequently received an award as a local businesswoman of the year. But by March 1959 national wire service reports indicated that she had separated from Mikesell and that he was suing her for breach of contract. In 1959, Farmer moved in with Jeanira "Jean" Ratcliffe, a widow with whom she became good friends in Indianapolis.
In 1962, Farmer appeared in a Purdue University production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. The following year, her divorce from Mikesell was finalized in Indianapolis. Frances Farmer Presents ended in the summer of 1964; the station's general manager had fired her in April , hired her back two months later, but then dismissed Farmer permanently in late August/early September, aggravated by her alleged drinking binges. Farmer continued her stage work and accepted a role in a Purdue Summer Theatre production of Ketti Frings's Look Homeward, Angel. In 1965, she played Claire Zachanassian in Purdue's production of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit, which ran at the Loeb Playhouse on campus from October 22 to 30, 1965. The production has been described as follows:
During the early and mid-1960s, Farmer was actress-in-residence at Purdue University, and spent the majority of her free time painting and writing poetry. She and Ratcliffe attempted to start a small cosmetics company, but although their products were successfully field-tested, the project failed after the man who handled their investment portfolio embezzled their funds. In 1968, she formally converted to Roman Catholicism as she claimed to have felt God in her life and sensed that she "would have to find a disciplined avenue of faith and worship." She recounted her experience:
In the spring of 1970 Farmer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which was attributed to her lifelong habit of heavy smoking. She was hospitalized for three weeks before being sent home for a brief period. She died of the cancer at Indianapolis Community Hospital on August 1, 1970. She is interred at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Fishers, Indiana.
In 1978, Seattle film reviewer William Arnold published Shadowland, which for the first time alleged that Farmer had been the subject of a transorbital lobotomy. Scenes of Farmer being subjected to this lobotomy procedure were featured in the 1982 film Frances, which had initially been planned as an adaptation of Shadowland, though its producers ultimately reneged on their agreement with Arnold. During a court case against the film's producers, Brooksfilms, Arnold revealed that the lobotomy episode and much of his biography was "fictionalized". Years later, on a DVD commentary track of the movie, director Graeme Clifford said, "We didn't want to nickel-and-dime people to death with facts."
In 1982, Jessica Lange portrayed Farmer in the feature film Frances; the film depicts Farmer undergoing a lobotomy, the veracity of which has been disputed. The next year, a television adaptation of Will There Really Be a Morning? was released with Susan Blakely as Farmer. Another feature film based on her life, Committed, was produced in 1984.
Farmer's family, former lovers, and three ex-husbands all denied, or did not confirm, that the procedure took place. Farmer's sister, Edith, said the hospital asked her parents' permission to perform the lobotomy, but her father was "horrified" by the notion and threatened legal action "if they tried any of their guinea pig operations on her." Western State recorded all the lobotomies performed during Farmer's time there. Since a lobotomy was considered a ground-breaking medical procedure, the hospital did not attempt to conceal its work. Although nearly 300 patients received the procedure, there is no evidence that Farmer was among them. In 1983, Seattle newspapers interviewed former hospital staff members, including all the lobotomy ward nurses who were on duty during Farmer's years at Western State, and they all said she was never a patient on that ward. Dr. Walter Freeman's private records contained no mention of Farmer. Charles Jones, a psychiatric resident at Western State during Farmer's stays, also said that Farmer never had a lobotomy.
In the 2017 Netflix original series Mindhunter, the character version of Edmund Kemper erroneously says Farmer was lobotomized.
Currently, Frances Farmer is 108 years, 1 months and 7 days old. Frances Farmer will celebrate 109th birthday on a Monday 19th of September 2022.
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