Frances  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Frances is a 1982 drama film starring Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley, and Sam Shepard. When it was released this film was advertised as a purportedly true account of actress Frances Farmer's life but the script was largely fictional and sensationalized. In particular, the film depicts Farmer as having been lobotomized; this is reputed to never have happened.

Directed by Graeme Clifford, the story was written for the screen by Eric Bergren, Christopher De Vore, and Nicholas Kazan (son of Elia Kazan, who worked with the real Frances Farmer in several plays), based upon William Arnold's Shadowland, a fictional biography of Farmer. In pre-production, the producers reneged on their option to use the book as source material. Arnold filed an unsuccessful copyright infringement lawsuit but many of his fictional elements were incorporated into the final film. On the commentary of the DVD release, director Clifford stated, "We didn't want to nickel and dime people to death with facts." Mel Brooks was executive producer of the film, but received no credit for his participation.

Frances was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Lange) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Stanley). The film was also entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival where Lange won the award for Best Actress. The original music score was composed by John Barry. According to Barry, his idea of carrying the main theme using a harmonica was initially disliked by producers until they heard it fully orchestrated. Sir Anthony Hopkins revealed his admiration for Lange in the film, stating that her performance in "Frances" was his favorite by an actress.

Plot

Born in Seattle, Washington, Frances Elena Farmer is a rebel from a young age, winning a high school award by writing an essay called "God Dies" in 1931. Later that decade, she becomes controversial again when she wins (and accepts) an all-expenses-paid trip to the USSR in 1935. Determined to become an actress, Frances is equally determined not to play the Hollywood game: she refuses to acquiesce to publicity stunts, and insists upon appearing on screen without makeup. Her defiance attracts the attention of Broadway playwright Clifford Odets, who convinces Frances that her future rests with the Group Theatre.

But once she leaves Hollywood for New York City, Frances learns to her chagrin that the Group Theatre intends to exploit her fame to draw in more customers. Her desperate attempts to restart her film career, combined with her increasing dependence on alcohol and the pressures brought to bear by her mother, result in a complete nervous breakdown. While institutionalized during the 1940s, Frances is abused by the powers-that-be: she is forced to undergo insulin and electroshock, is cruelly beaten, periodically raped by the male orderlies and visiting soldiers and eventually involuntarily lobotomized.

In 1950, Frances is released back in the custody of her mother, who persists in browbeating her until Frances discovers the legal means to break away. The film comes to a climax when Frances is feted by the network program This Is Your Life. When asked about alcoholism and mental illness, Farmer said she had never believed she had any of them. She commented, "if a person is treated like a patient, they are apt to act like one." The film ends with Frances Farmer walking down the street with Harry York. Ending lines state that Frances Farmer spent 1958 to 1964 as host of a local TV program in Indianapolis (Frances Farmer Presents), before dying of esophageal cancer on August 1, 1970 at age 56.

Cast

Mental patients




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Frances" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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