Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, January 06, 2011

R.I.P. Anne Francis

Television's Honey West, the amazing Anne Francis, passed away four days ago from pancreatic cancer at a retirement home in Hollywood. She was 80 years old.

I've adored Anne Francis since the night in the late 70s when I first saw Forbidden Planet on the CBS Late Movie. Her Altaira was gorgeous, no doubt, but Anne brought much more to the role than a pretty face and stunning physique. Altaira, as portrayed by the talented young ingenue, was innocent, but not naive, unworldly but not unwise. In short, I believe that Anne brought her own sharp intellect to the potentially shallow, cliche sexpot role, and made the character much more than your usual sci-fi eye candy.

There was something about Anne that was different from other beautiful starlets of the era; maybe it was the obvious intelligence in her eyes, or the voice that, no matter the role, possessed maturity and confidence. Anne was a blonde, but was never dumb.

As Honey West, she was American television's first ass-kicking action heroine, spinning off from a memorable episode of Gene Barry's Burke's Law into her own single-season series. In a long career as a TV guest star, the actress shined in such shows as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (where she portrayed - twice - the criminal mastermind Gervaise Ravel), Mission: Impossible, The Invaders, Kung Fu, Black Sheep Squadron, Dallas, Fantasy Island, Riptide and many more. In 1994, she even reprised the role of Honey on the revived Burke's Law, reunited with Barry.

Just a day before her passing, I watched the first season Twilight Zone episode, "The After Hours," and marveled again at how well she carried the story, spending nearly a third of the show alone on screen.

I feel a profound sense of loss with her passing, but am thankful that I have so many of her performances close at hand on my shelves, and I know that every time I revisit Forbidden Planet or Honey West, I'll fall in love with her all over again.

Rest peacefully, Anne.... and thanks.


Aaron Mason said...

Man, I just watched Forbidden Planet the other night too. Sad day. She was a beautiful lady.

- Aaron

Jason Snyder said...

One of my major geek crushes. She was really something.