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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress Anne Francis, who was the love interest in the 1950s science-fiction classic “Forbidden Planet” and later was a sexy private eye in “Honey West” on TV, has died at age 80.
Miss Francis died Sunday at a Santa Barbara nursing home, said Bill Guntle, a funeral director at McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary in Santa Barbara.
Miss Francis, who had surgery and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, died of complications of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Jane Uemura, told the Los Angeles Times.
Miss Francis, a stunningly beautiful blonde with a prominent beauty mark, appeared opposite such stars as Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, Robert Taylor and Glenn Ford in some of the most popular films of the 1950s. But “Forbidden Planet” and “Honey West” made her reputation.
“Forbidden Planet” was hailed in Leonard Maltin’s “2006 Movie Guide” as “one of the most ambitious and intelligent films of its genre.”
A science-fiction retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” the 1956 film had Leslie Nielsen and other space travelers visiting a planet where expatriate scientist Walter Pidgeon, his daughter (Miss Francis) and their helper, Robby the Robot, built a settlement.
Before filming began, the actors held a meeting and agreed “to be as serious about this film as we could be,” Miss Francis said in a 1999 interview.
“We could have hammed it up, but we wanted to be as sincere as we could,” she said.
In “Honey West,” which aired from 1965 to 1966, Miss Francis’ private detective character — who kept a pet ocelot, a wildcat — was a female James Bond: sexy, stylish and as good with martial arts as she was with a gun.
She was nominated for an Emmy for the role, which lasted 30 episodes.
“A lot of people speak to me about Honey West,” Miss Francis recalled. “The character made young women think there was more they could reach for. It encouraged a lot of people.”
After a childhood career in New York radio and television and on the Broadway stage, Miss Francis arrived in Hollywood when she landed a movie contract at MGM. She later went to 20th Century-Fox, then returned to MGM, and the two big studios afforded her the chance to act opposite the biggest male stars of the day.
In “Blackboard Jungle,” the landmark 1955 film about an idealistic teacher (Ford) in a violent city school, Miss Francis played his pregnant wife, who is targeted for harassment by one of his students.
Among her other films: “Bad Day at Black Rock” with Tracy and Robert Ryan, “Rogue Cop” with Taylor, “The Rack” with Newman, “A Lion Is in the Streets” with James Cagney and “Hook, Line and Sinker” opposite Jerry Lewis.
When her movie career declined, Miss Francis became active in television, appearing in dozens of series, including “Mission Impossible,” ”The Virginian,” ”My Three Sons,” ”Ironside,” ”Gunsmoke,” ”The Twilight Zone,” ”Charlie’s Angels,” ”The Golden Girls,” ”Home Improvement” and “Nash Bridges.”
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