Close Encounters of the Treasured Kind #10: Anne Francis
Anne Francis (September 16, 1930 - January 2, 2011) the gorgeous and talented actress, exuded confidence and a genuine concern for others, on screen and off. She made important contributions to critically praised, popular and cult films alike such as Lydia Bailey (1952), A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), Rogue Cop (1954), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Battle Cry (1955), Blackboard Jungle (1955), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Rack (1956), The Hired Gun (1957), The Satan Bug (1965), Brainstorm (1965) and Funny Girl (1968). Anne was widely known for her endearing TV appearances in, among others, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960 - 1961), The Twilight Zone (1960 - 1963) and especially Honey West (1965 - 1966, starring as television’s first leading female detective).
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the lovely and gracious Anne Francis when I helped arrange a little screening (on Laser Disc, remember those?) of a film she personally selected as one of her favourites: Bad Day at Black Rock. Anne’s part may be small but her character is integral to the story’s development and her performance hits all the right notes. Although the motion picture’s presentation was the rather intimate setting of The Earthling Bookstore in Santa Barbara, Anne’s lively reminiscences and generous spirit made those fortunate enough to attend feel as though we were in far more palatial surroundings and had arrived by special invitation. She spoke of how stars Spencer Tracy and Walter Brennan clashed over their wildly opposing political views (Tracy being liberal, Brennan being conservative) and how Brennan often concluded an argument by holding up three fingers, referring to his three Oscar wins as compared to Tracy having “only” won two. Anne also said how fortunate she felt working with such a distinguished group of actors and despite being the only female cast member, how welcomed they made her feel.
After the screening (hey, at least the laser disc I presented was in its proper widescreen aspect ratio with respectable picture and sound), I told Anne how deeply impressed and moved I was by her performance in the Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours” (Season 1, Episode 34, and a Cinema Cafe Pinterest Board entry in “Amazing Television”) to which she responded most favourably. I was very saddened to learn of her death in 2011 but will always cherish that most memorable interaction with such an exceptional star and film.