Obituary: Anne Francis, actress

Anne Francis, actress. Born: 16 September, 1930, in Ossining, New York. Died: 2 January, 2011, in Santa Barbara, California, aged 80.

Anne Francis, who was best known for her role in the 1950s science-fiction film Forbidden Planet, has died at the age of 80 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

She had surgery and chemotherapy after finding out that she had lung cancer in 2007.

Francis, with blonde hair and a prominent beauty mark near the right-hand corner of her mouth, appeared in some of the most popular films of the 1950s. But Forbidden Planet made her reputation internationally.

In the 1956 film, a science-fiction retelling of Shakespeare's Tempest, a group of space travelers including Leslie Nielsen visited a planet where an expatriate scientist played by Walter Pidgeon, his daughter (Francis) and a robot named Robby had built a settlement.

Before filming began, the actors held a meeting and agreed "to be as serious about this film as we could be", Francis said in a 1999 interview. "We could have hammed it up, but we wanted to be as sincere as we could."

Honey West was Francis's other high profile acting job, although it was not broadcast in the UK and only lasted only for one season -1965-66 - on ABC in the United States.

But the character she played, a private detective who was sexy, stylish and as good with martial arts as she was with a gun (and who had a pet ocelot), made an impression.

"A lot of people speak to me about Honey West," Francis once recalled. "The character made young women think there was more they could reach for. It encouraged a lot of people."

She was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for the role.

Anne Francis was born Ann Marvak in 1930, in Ossining, New York. She was working as a model by the time she was five years old and appearing on daytime radio serials by the age of 11. She also had some small roles on Broadway.

She began her movie career at MGM in 1947 and went on to act opposite some of the biggest male stars of the day. In Blackboard Jungle (1955), she played the pregnant wife of an idealistic teacher (Glenn Ford). Among her other films were Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan, A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) with James Cagney, and Hook, Line and Sinker (1969) with Jerry Lewis. When her movie career declined, Francis became active in television.

She appeared in dozens of series, including Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, Charlie's Angels and The Golden Girls.

Francis's marriages to the actor and director Bamlet L Price Jr and Dr Robert Abeloff ended in divorce.

She is survived by two daughers and a grandson.

Describing her treatment in Hollywood in the 1950s, Francis once said: "Most young blondes in those days were not taken too seriously."I had wanted to work on a project (directing] all my own from beginning to end for many years. I had managers who said, 'Look, you're an actress. You're not supposed to do that other business.'

"And now I look at all the women today who are doing it, and no one's batting an eyelash."

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