The story of Frances Farmer's meteoric rise to fame in Hollywood and the tragic turn her life took when she was blacklisted.The story of Frances Farmer's meteoric rise to fame in Hollywood and the tragic turn her life took when she was blacklisted.The story of Frances Farmer's meteoric rise to fame in Hollywood and the tragic turn her life took when she was blacklisted.
Today Frances Farmer's activities for various causes wouldn't raise a sleepy eyebrow in Hollywood. Never mind being committed to an insane asylum. She'd more at home now in the film industry than in the studio system of the day. The system is personified here by Paramount Pictures executive Allan Rich who is a cross between studio presidents Barney Balaban and Emmanuel Cohen in the day.
But Jessica Lange truly becomes Frances Farmer the girl with a social conscience, truly who did not like the cheesecake image that Paramount wanted her to fill.
She also learned from her experience in the Group Theater that even liberal activists could be snakes. Clifford Odets with whom she had one torrid affair with and Harold Clurman manager of the Group Theater let her down. Odets's wife never seen emerges as a villain of sorts who gets her man back. Not is she mentioned by name, but it was Luise Rainer who was still very much alive and lived to the ripe old age of 104.
So in fact is Farmer's first husband Leif Ericksen never mentioned by name. He's given the fictional name of Dick Steele and he's a minor character and played by Christopher Pennock.
Sam Shepard is not real, he's an amalgam of several left wing activists from the Seattle area where Frances Farmer was from. But he functions as sort of an emotional balance, someone who Farmer could turn to when she was unable to cope with all the lies and promises of show business.
If there is an award for bit parts ever developed for the year 1982 it would go to Darrell Larson. He's a real bottom feeder stringer for gossip columnist Louella Parsons. He has two scenes with Lange and in the second she puts him down severely.
Lange and Kim Stanley got Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Stanley who could have done Frances back in her salad days plays her mother, a rather straitlaced woman who thinks her daughter must be crazy after all she and dad Bart Burns are the Ward and June Cleaver of the 30s, how could they raise a left wing radical. Ergo, she must be crazy. And Frances was going to stay in those asylums until she learned the error of her ways.
Jessica Lange fits Frances Farmer so well you forget this is a film biography and think you are peaking in on the life of Frances Farmer. As good as the film is I can't recommend too strongly that you read her autobiography Will There Ever Be A Morning? One of the most honest Hollywood stories ever written.
- Mar 22, 2017