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Anne Francis, 1930 - 2011

David Hudson

"Anne Francis, who costarred in the 1950s science-fiction classic Forbidden Planet and later played the title role in Honey West, the mid-1960s TV series about a sexy female private detective with a pet ocelot, died Sunday. She was 80." Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times: "A shapely blond with a signature beauty mark next to her lower lip, Francis was a former child model and radio actress when she first came to notice on the big screen in the early 1950s. She had leading or supporting roles in more than 30 movies, including Bad Day at Black Rock, Battle Cry, Blackboard Jungle, The Hired Gun, Don't Go Near the Water, Brainstorm, Funny Girl and Hook, Line and Sinker."

She "was active until just a few years ago, still doing TV guest shots into her 70s," notes the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore.

The Guardian's Ronald Bergan calls her performance in Blackboard Jungle "strong," but finds that Francis "was even more impressive as Paul Newman's war-widow sister-in-law in The Rack (1956), and in The Hired Gun (1957), she is sentenced to hang — unusually, for a woman in a western — for the murder of her husband. It was not long, however, before she 'disappeared' for many years into television, only to emerge spasmodically on to the big screen to remind audiences that she was still around. 'I had reached the end of my rope as a contract player at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They were always looking for a new face, so I thought, forget it, I want to go back and do television. In those days, that was the death knell for an actor. You worked television, you didn't do film. Of course, they cross over all the time today.'"

Sean O'Neal collects and comments on a batch of clips at the AV Club.

Update, 1/9: "There's no doubting Francis's worthiness as a pinup," writes Richard Corliss in a fine remembrance for Time. "Yet what came across, in her two-decade movie and TV prime, was not sultry ostentation but a preternatural poise and a questioning intelligence. Her beauty cloaked her brains without obscuring them. In one sense, she was a blend of Hollywood's two most popular female types in the 50s: the bombshell blonds Monroe and Mansfield — an adolescent's notion of squeaky-voiced sexuality — and smart, slim vixens like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly."

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