Frances (1982)

R | 139 mins | Biography, Drama | 3 December 1982

Director:

Graeme Clifford

Producer:

Jonathan Sanger

Cinematographer:

Laszlo Kovacs

Editor:

John Wright

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Companies:

Brooksfilms, EMI Films
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HISTORY

Frances opens with the statement: “This film is based on the life story of Frances Farmer.” The first scene features a montage of teenage “Frances Farmer” partaking in various leisure activities around her Seattle, WA, home, and includes voice-over narration by Jessica Lange reading Frances’ essay. Later scenes include intermittent voice-over narration by Sam Shepard’s character, “Harry York.”
       The song, “I Found a Million Dollar Baby” is listed on screen as “Million Dollar Baby.”
       An epilogue notes that, following the events depicted in the film, “Frances made one final movie, then moved to Indianapolis where she hosted a daytime television show. She died on August 1, 1970, at the age of 56. Harry was not with her. She died as she had lived...alone.” End credits conclude by stating: “In exchange for the use of certain facilities and per agreement with the California Department of Mental Health, the producers have agreed to the following disclaimer: ‘Since the 1940’s there have been major advances in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The reprehensible conditions experienced by Frances Farmer are not typical of mental health treatment today.’”
       The Apr 1981 edition of Hollywood Studio magazine announced that Frances Farmer’s life story would be adapted into two television films for CBS and ABC, as well as a theatrical feature produced by Brooksfilms. Although the latter was originally scheduled to begin principal photography in Farmer’s real-life hometown of Seattle, WA, in spring 1981, the 7 Apr 1981 HR stated that filming was to take place over two to three weeks in Jul 1981, depending on the repercussions of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike expected to ... More Less

Frances opens with the statement: “This film is based on the life story of Frances Farmer.” The first scene features a montage of teenage “Frances Farmer” partaking in various leisure activities around her Seattle, WA, home, and includes voice-over narration by Jessica Lange reading Frances’ essay. Later scenes include intermittent voice-over narration by Sam Shepard’s character, “Harry York.”
       The song, “I Found a Million Dollar Baby” is listed on screen as “Million Dollar Baby.”
       An epilogue notes that, following the events depicted in the film, “Frances made one final movie, then moved to Indianapolis where she hosted a daytime television show. She died on August 1, 1970, at the age of 56. Harry was not with her. She died as she had lived...alone.” End credits conclude by stating: “In exchange for the use of certain facilities and per agreement with the California Department of Mental Health, the producers have agreed to the following disclaimer: ‘Since the 1940’s there have been major advances in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The reprehensible conditions experienced by Frances Farmer are not typical of mental health treatment today.’”
       The Apr 1981 edition of Hollywood Studio magazine announced that Frances Farmer’s life story would be adapted into two television films for CBS and ABC, as well as a theatrical feature produced by Brooksfilms. Although the latter was originally scheduled to begin principal photography in Farmer’s real-life hometown of Seattle, WA, in spring 1981, the 7 Apr 1981 HR stated that filming was to take place over two to three weeks in Jul 1981, depending on the repercussions of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike expected to occur that same month. The news item also revealed the casting of Jessica Lange as "Frances Farmer," with Graeme Clifford to direct, and Christopher DeVore and Eric Bergren currently writing the script, which would cost roughly $9 million to produce. The 16 Nov 1981 LAHExam later reported the budget at $8 million, and claimed that Lange would complete principal photography at the end of Dec 1981.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files indicated that co-producer Marie Yates “developed an obsession” with Frances Farmer’s story in 1976, and spent the following six years creating a feature film with the support of producer Jonathan Sanger, who became involved in the project with Brooksfilms and EMI Films in 1980. Yates’ research included first-hand information from a “political radical” and acquaintance of Farmer named Stewart Jacobson, whom screenwriters DeVore and Bergren fictionalized as Harry York. The LAHExam stated that the script had undergone multiple rewrites throughout the two-year development process, and that Sanger had been summoned in court by William Arnold, author of the 1978 Frances Farmer biography Shadowland, who disputed the originality of the film’s screenplay. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       The 3 Dec 1982 NYT review announced that Frances opened that day at New York City’s Cinema 2 Theater, beginning a one-week limited engagement to qualify the film for 1982 awards consideration.
       Jessica Lange was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama, while Kim Stanley was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role—Motion Picture. Lange and Stanley were also nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1981
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 1982
p. 3, 10.
Hollywood Studio
Apr 1981.
---
LAHExam
16 Nov 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1982
p. 1.
New York Times
3 Dec 1982
p. 10.
Variety
1 Dec 1982
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Reporters, publicists, photographers:
Hospital sequence, Mental patients...
[and]
Hospital sequence, Doctors, nurses, and orderlies...
[and]
Hospital sequence, Soldiers...
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Brooksfilms Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Still photog
2d unit cam
2d unit cam asst
Elec best boy
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Set des
Const coord
Stand by painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Orig score comp and cond by
Mus ed
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
ADR asst ed
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & opticals des by
MAKEUP
Makeup des
Hair des
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod office coord
Loc mgr
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Unit pub
Res consultant
Casting
Casting
Seattle loc casting
Extra casting
Extra casting
Extra casting asst
Asst to Jonathan Sanger
Asst to Graeme Clifford
Asst to Graeme Clifford
Asst to Graeme Clifford
Prod asst
DGA trainee
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Craft service
Medical advisor
MB. MRCP.
Behavioral consultant
Scr consultant
Scr consultant
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col and prints by
Col timer
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Mozart Piano Sonata In A Major K331," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, played by Chet Swiatkowski
"Beethoven Symphony No. 7," written by Ludwig van Beethoven, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon
"'This Is Your Life' Theme Music," composed by Alexander Laszlo & L. Wolfe Gilbert, courtesy of Ralph Edwards Productions.
SONGS
"It Don't Mean A Thing," written by Edward Kennedy Ellington and Irving Mills, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
"Jeepers Creepers," written by John H. Mercer and Harry Warren, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
"Million Dollar Baby," written by Mort Dixon, Billy Rose, and Harry Warren, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
+
SONGS
"It Don't Mean A Thing," written by Edward Kennedy Ellington and Irving Mills, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
"Jeepers Creepers," written by John H. Mercer and Harry Warren, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
"Million Dollar Baby," written by Mort Dixon, Billy Rose, and Harry Warren, arranged and performed by Mood Indigo
"Love Is So Terrific," sung by Bing Crosby and The Rhythmaires, courtesy of Artistic Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 December 1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 3 December 1982
Production Date:
began July 1981
Copyright Claimant:
EMI FIlms, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 February 1983
Copyright Number:
PA167892
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Prints
Color and prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
139
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26830
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Seattle, Washington, sixteen-year-old Frances Farmer writes an essay about her loss of faith in God and dissatisfaction with religion. She reads the paper aloud to her mother, Lillian, as her father, Ernest, leaves for a trip. Later, she reads the essay at a national high school competition, but her heretical beliefs offend many members of the audience. At a movie theater, she watches a newsreel featuring a report about her essay, and on her way home, a man named Harry York approaches. Although she mistakes him for a police officer, he reveals that he works for Martoni Kaminski, a congressional candidate, and warns that the media representation of her beliefs might make Kaminski look bad in the election. Over the next few years, Harry follows Frances’ budding theatrical career, and after one of her plays, he gives her a pair of silk stockings. When Frances is offered a chance to travel to Moscow, Russia, and New York City to pursue acting, she goes, despite her mother’s objections. After the trip, Frances moves to Los Angeles, California, and lands a six-month contract at Paramount Pictures. While acting in a Bing Crosby film, a Paramount executive named Mr. Bebe extends her contract to seven years and warns Frances that it is not her place to worry about details such as the realism of her costume. On the way to the Seattle premiere of Frances’ film Come and Get It, Lillian and Ernest Farmer speak to reporters with Frances’ husband, “Dwayne” Dick Steele. While receiving an award inside the theater, Frances recognizes the presenter as a woman ... +


In Seattle, Washington, sixteen-year-old Frances Farmer writes an essay about her loss of faith in God and dissatisfaction with religion. She reads the paper aloud to her mother, Lillian, as her father, Ernest, leaves for a trip. Later, she reads the essay at a national high school competition, but her heretical beliefs offend many members of the audience. At a movie theater, she watches a newsreel featuring a report about her essay, and on her way home, a man named Harry York approaches. Although she mistakes him for a police officer, he reveals that he works for Martoni Kaminski, a congressional candidate, and warns that the media representation of her beliefs might make Kaminski look bad in the election. Over the next few years, Harry follows Frances’ budding theatrical career, and after one of her plays, he gives her a pair of silk stockings. When Frances is offered a chance to travel to Moscow, Russia, and New York City to pursue acting, she goes, despite her mother’s objections. After the trip, Frances moves to Los Angeles, California, and lands a six-month contract at Paramount Pictures. While acting in a Bing Crosby film, a Paramount executive named Mr. Bebe extends her contract to seven years and warns Frances that it is not her place to worry about details such as the realism of her costume. On the way to the Seattle premiere of Frances’ film Come and Get It, Lillian and Ernest Farmer speak to reporters with Frances’ husband, “Dwayne” Dick Steele. While receiving an award inside the theater, Frances recognizes the presenter as a woman who previously damned her to hell, in response to her athetistic essay. After the premiere, Harry finds Frances walking alone on the beach, and she admits that she does not feel good about acting in movies while others starve. At a dinner party, Frances tells her father that she is frustrated with her mother’s sensationalist behavior and obsession with Hollywood glamor. Later, when Frances says she wants to spend time away from Dwayne on the East Coast, he tears apart the room, accusing her of cheating on him the night of the premiere. In New York City, a Broadway writer and a producer convince her to take the lead in a play titled Golden Boy. The writer, Clifford Odets, pushes her to immerse herself in the role, and later, they make love. When Frances donates money to a Spanish War relief fund and expresses her wish to terminate her Paramount contract, Mr. Bebe becomes determined to destroy her career. He sends an undercover reporter to speak with Frances, getting her to admit that she disparages Hollywood. He publishes the story, which hurts her reputation among studios and her film fans. One day, the play’s producer tells her that she will be unable to continue her role when the show moves to London because a wealthy actress offered to back the production. Frances telephones Harry at his office, reporting that Clifford ended their affair. Back in Hollywood, Frances hires a publicist, Bob Barnes, who helps improve her image by giving her drugs and taking her to a party, where she runs into the reporter who ruined her career. She steals a car and leaves, but is pulled over and gets into an altercation with a police officer. Later, Frances tells Harry that she has to leave for Mexico until the scandal blows over. While she is gone, however, she drinks excessively, and returns to discover that Paramount sold her house, moved her belongings to a hotel, and stole her diaries. After arriving late to a film set, she lashes out at the crew, beats her makeup artist, and leaves. One night, police and reporters break into her apartment and arrest her for assault. A judge sentences her to 180 days in prison, and she is dragged screaming from the courtroom. After the incident, a sympathetic judge agrees to move Frances to Meadow Wood Convalescent Home, where she meets Dr. Symington. A nurse administers an injection which she claims is a vitamin supplement, but another nurse admits the shot was insulin, which forces Frances’ body into shock. After a tense visit from Frances’ mother, Dr. Symington tells Frances that she is not ready to be released. However, Harry later helps Frances escape. He asks her to marry him, but she turns him down, explaining that she feels compelled to return to her mother. Alma Styles, the Farmers’ lawyer, announces that Lillian is now Frances’ legal guardian. One afternoon, Frances visits her father, asking for advice, and returns home to announce her decision to end her Hollywood career due to the damage it has done to her health. Lillian informs her daughter her agent has recently offered her new scripts, and becomes angry that Frances wants to throw away her celebrity. As the two women fight, Frances threatens to kill her mother, forcing Lillian to commit Frances to a mental institution. There, Frances undergoes shock treatment and remembers happy memories with Harry and her family. One night, Harry sneaks inside with a doctor, who administers a sedative so that she will remain calm during the release hearing the following day. Despite her history of erratic behavior in the hospital, Frances convinces the board of doctors that she has found her treatments effective, and they send her home. Back at her mother’s house, Frances sits down for an interview with reporters before leaving that night to meet Harry. When she still refuses to stay with him, Harry leaves. Frances hitchhikes home, but two police officers escort her back to her mother. Frances accuses Lillian of trying to manipulate her into a younger version of herself, and announces that she does not love her mother. Two orderlies return Frances to the mental institution, cut off her hair, and put her in a cell, where soldiers pay money to rape her. A doctor performs a transorbital lobotomy on Frances as part of a demonstration. Sometime later, Frances appears on a television program and discusses the effectiveness of her treatment. Afterward, Harry finds her, and she tells him that her parents both passed away. Although she says she wants Harry to take her home, Frances holds his hand and says goodbye. He asks to accompany her, and the two walk together into the night. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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