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Encyclopedia > Frances Farmer
Frances Farmer

Actress Frances Farmer
Birth name Frances Elena Farmer
Born September 19, 1913(1913-09-19)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Died August 01, 1970 (aged 56)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Spouse(s) Leif Erickson (1936-1942)
Alfred Lobley (1951-1958)
Leland Mikesell (1958-1970)

Frances Elena Farmer (September 19, 1913August 1, 1970) was an American film, television and theater actress. She is perhaps better known for sensationalized and fictional accounts of her life, and especially her six-year involuntary commitment to a mental hospital. After her death, Farmer was the subject of three films, three books, numerous magazine articles, and even a song. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... is the 262nd day of the year (263rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1913 (MCMXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Tuesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... Seattle redirects here. ... For other uses of terms redirecting here, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation) Motto In God We Trust(since 1956) (From Many, One; Latin, traditional) Anthem The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington, D.C. Largest city New York City National language English (de facto)1 Demonym American... August 1 is the 213th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (214th in leap years), with 152 days remaining. ... Year 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link shows full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Indianapolis redirects here. ... For other uses of terms redirecting here, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation) Motto In God We Trust(since 1956) (From Many, One; Latin, traditional) Anthem The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington, D.C. Largest city New York City National language English (de facto)1 Demonym American... Leif Erickson (October 27, 1911 – January 29, 1986) was an American actor. ... is the 262nd day of the year (263rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1913 (MCMXIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Tuesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... is the 213th day of the year (214th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link shows full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see Actor (disambiguation). ... Involuntary commitment is the practice of using legal means or forms as part of a mental health law to commit a person to a mental hospital, insane asylum or psychiatric ward without their informed consent, against their will or over their protests. ... A psychiatric hospital (also called a mental hospital or asylum) is a hospital specializing in the treatment of persons with mental illness. ... Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle is a song by the influential American grunge band Nirvana. ...


Early life and career

Farmer was born in Seattle, Washington, to Ernest Melvin Farmer and Lillian Van Ornum Farmer. In 1931, while attending West Seattle High School, she entered and won $100 in a writing contest sponsored by Scholastic Magazine with her controversial essay God Dies. It was a precocious attempt to reconcile her wish for, in her words, a "superfather" God, with her observations of a chaotic, seemingly godless, world. In 1935, as a student at the University of Washington, Farmer won a subscription contest for the leftist newspaper The Voice of Action. First prize was a trip to the Soviet Union, which she took despite her mother's strong objections in order to see the pioneering Moscow Art Theater. These two incidents fostered accusations that Farmer was both an atheist and a Communist. Seattle redirects here. ... Year 1931 (MCMXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full 1931 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... West Seattle High School (known to students as Westside) is a comprehensive public high school in Seattles West Seattle neighborhood that serves grades nine through twelve as part of the Seattle School District. ... The University of Washington, founded in 1861, is a public research university in Seattle, Washington. ... In politics, left-wing, political left, leftism, or simply the left, are terms which refer (with no particular precision) to the segment of the political spectrum typically associated with any of several strains of socialism, social democracy, or liberalism (especially in the American sense of the word), or with opposition... “Atheist” redirects here. ... This article is about the form of society and political movement. ...

Farmer studied drama at the University of Washington. During the 1930s, its drama department productions were considered citywide cultural events and attended accordingly. While there she starred in plays including Helen of Troy, Everyman and Uncle Vanya. In late 1934, she starred in the school's production of Alien Corn, speaking foreign languages, playing the piano and receiving rave reviews in what was then the longest-running play in the department's history. The University of Washington, founded in 1861, is a public research university in Seattle, Washington. ... Helen was the wife of Menelaus and reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and her abduction by Paris brought about the Trojan War. ... Anton Chekhov (left) and Maxim Gorky in Yalta. ... Year 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display full 1934 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Early film career and first marriage

Returning from the Soviet Union in the summer of 1935, Farmer stopped in New York City, hoping to launch a legitimate theater career. Instead, she was referred to a Paramount Studios talent scout, Oscar Serlin, who arranged for a screen test. Paramount offered her a 7-year contract. Farmer signed it in New York on her 22nd birthday and moved to Hollywood. She had top billing in two well-received 1936 B-movies. She wed actor Leif Erickson in February 1936 while shooting the first of the movies. Later that year, Farmer was cast opposite Bing Crosby in her first "A" feature, Rhythm on the Range. During the summer of 1936, she was loaned to Samuel Goldwyn to appear in Come and Get It, based on the novel by Edna Ferber. Both of these films were sizable hits, and her portrayals of both the mother and daughter in Come and Get It were praised by the public and critics, with several reviews greeting Farmer as a new-found star. 1935 (MCMXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar). ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ... The Paramount Pictures logo used from 1988 to 1989. ... ... The term B-movie originally referred to a film designed to be distributed as the lower half of a double feature, often a genre film featuring cowboys, gangsters or vampires. ... Leif Erickson (October 27, 1911 – January 29, 1986) was an American actor. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... 1936 (MCMXXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Harry Lillis Bing Crosby (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor whose career lasted from 1926 until his death in 1977. ... Samuel Goldwyn (July 1882 (some sources say 17 August 1882, others 1879 [1]) – 31 January 1974) was an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning producer, also a well-known Hollywood motion picture producer and founding contributor of several motion picture studios. ... Come and Get It is a 1936 film directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler. ... Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885 - April 16, 1968), was an American novelist, author and playwright. ...

A rebellious star

Farmer was not entirely satisfied with her career, however. She felt stifled by Paramount's tendency to cast her in films which depended on her looks more than her talent. Her outspoken style made her seem uncooperative and contemptuous. In an age when the studios dictated every facet of a star's life, Farmer rebelled against the studio's control and resisted every attempt they made to glamorize her private life. She refused to attend Hollywood parties or to date other stars for the gossip columns. However, Farmer was sympathetically described in a 1937 Colliers article as being indifferent about the clothing she wore and was said to drive an older-model "green roadster." Gossip column A gossip column is an article in a newspaper or magazine written by a gossip columnist. ...

Hoping to enhance her reputation as a serious actress, she left Hollywood in 1937 to do summer stock on the East Coast. There she attracted the attention of director Harold Clurman and playwright Clifford Odets. They invited her to appear in the Group Theatre production of Odets' play Golden Boy. Her performance at first received mixed reviews, including Time, which commented that she had been miscast. Due to Farmer's box office appeal, however, the play became the biggest hit in the Group's history. By 1938, when the production had embarked on a national tour, regional critics from Washington D.C. to Chicago gave her rave reviews.[1] Summer Stock is an MGM musical made in 1950. ... Harold Edgar Clurman (September 18, 1901 – September 9, 1980) was an Jewish-American theater director and drama critic, most famous for his work with New York Citys Group Theater. ... Clifford Odets photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1937 Clifford Odets (July 18, 1906 - August 18, 1963) was an American socialist playwright, screenwriter, and social protester. ... The Group Theatre was a left-wing theater collective, formed in New York in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg. ... Golden Boy is the title of a play by Clifford Odets, first staged in 1937 by the Group Theatre. ... “TIME” redirects here. ... Year 1938 (MCMXXXVIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Aerial photo (looking NW) of the Washington Monument and the White House in Washington, DC. Washington, D.C., officially the District of Columbia (also known as D.C.; Washington; the Nations Capital; the District; and, historically, the Federal City) is the capital city and administrative district of the United... Nickname: Motto: Urbs in Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location in the Chicago metro area and Illinois Coordinates: , Country State Counties Cook, DuPage Settled 1770s Incorporated March 4, 1837 Government  - Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Area  - City 234. ...

Farmer with Tyrone Power in Son of Fury (1942).
Farmer with Tyrone Power in Son of Fury (1942).

Farmer had an affair with Odets, but he was married to actress Luise Rainer and didn't offer Farmer a commitment. Farmer felt betrayed when Odets suddenly ended the relationship, and when the Group chose another actress, whose family monies funded the play, for its London run. She came to believe The Group had used her drawing power to further the success of the play. She returned to Hollywood, and arranged with Paramount to stay in Los Angeles for three months out of every year to make motion pictures. The rest of her time she intended to use for theater. Her next two appearances on Broadway had short runs. Farmer found herself back in Los Angeles, often loaned out by Paramount to other studios for starring roles. At her home studio, meanwhile, she was consigned to costarring appearances, which she often found unchallenging. Image File history File links FrancesFarmer_SonofFury. ... Image File history File links FrancesFarmer_SonofFury. ... Tyrone Edmund Power, Jr. ... Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) Luise Rainer (born January 12, 1910 in either Düsseldorf, Germany or Vienna, Austria) is a two-time Academy Award-winning film actress. ... For other uses of Broadway, see Broadway. ...

By 1939, her temperamental work habits and worsening alcoholism began to damage her reputation. In 1940, after abruptly quitting a Broadway production of a play by Ernest Hemingway, she starred in two major films, both loan-outs to other studios. A year later, however, she was again relegated to co-starring roles. Her performance in the 1941 film Son of Fury was critically praised. In 1942, Paramount canceled her contract, reportedly because of her alcoholism and increasingly erratic behaviour during pre-production of Take A Letter, Darling.[2] Meanwhile, her marriage to Erickson had disintegrated. Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Alcoholism is the consumption of, or preoccupation with, alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the drinkers normal personal, family, social, or work life, and may lead to physical or mental harm. ... Year 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full 1940 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. ... Year 1942 (MCMXLII) was a common year starting on Thursday (the link will display the full 1942 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

The spiral

On October 19, 1942, she was stopped by the police in Santa Monica for driving with her headlights on bright in the wartime blackout zone that affected most of the West Coast. Some reports say she was unable to produce a driver's license and was verbally abusive. The police suspected her of being drunk and she was jailed overnight. Farmer was fined $500 and given a 180-day suspended sentence. She immediately paid $250 and was put on probation. is the 292nd day of the year (293rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1942 (MCMXLII) was a common year starting on Thursday (the link will display the full 1942 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see Santa Monica (disambiguation). ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Regional definitions vary from source to source. ...

By January 1943, she failed to pay the rest of the fine and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. At almost the same time, a studio hairdresser filed an assault charge alleging that Farmer had dislocated her jaw on the set. The police traced Farmer to the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. Getting no answer, they entered her room with a pass key. They reportedly found her in bed (some stories include an episode involving the bathroom) and made her dress quickly. By all accounts, she did not surrender peacefully. The Knickerbocker Hotel, now senior home Hollywood Knickerbocker Apartments, (1714 Ivar Ave, Los Angeles, CA) is one of the old historic Los Angeles Hotels that has had its share of notoriety and was the scene for some of Hollywood’s most famous dramatic moments, including suicides, séances and death. ... ...

At her hearing the next morning, she behaved erratically. She claimed the police had violated her civil rights, demanded an attorney, and threw an inkwell at the judge. He immediately sentenced her to 180 days in jail. She knocked down a policeman and bruised another, along with a matron. She ran to a phone booth where she tried to call her attorney, but was subdued by the police. They physically carried her away as she shouted, “Have you ever had a broken heart?” Civil rights or positive rights are those legal rights retained by citizens and protected by the government. ...

Newspaper reports gave sensationalized accounts of her arrest. Through the efforts of her sister-in-law, a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County, Farmer was transferred to the psychiatric ward of L.A. General Hospital. [3]. There she was diagnosed with "manic depressive psychosis". Manic depression, with its two principal sub-types, bipolar disorder and major depression, was first clinically described near the end of the 19th century by psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, who published his account of the disease in his Textbook of Psychiatry. ... Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a loss of contact with reality. Stedmans Medical Dictionary defines psychosis as a severe mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality and causing deterioration...

Within days, having been sent to the San Fernando Valley and the Kimball Sanitarium in La Crescenta, Farmer was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was given insulin shock therapy, a treatment then accepted as standard psychiatric procedure but later discredited. The side effects included intense nausea. Schizophrenia is a psychiatric diagnosis denoting a persistent, often chronic, mental illness variously affecting behavior, thinking, and emotion. ... Insulin shock therapy is a treatment for schizophrenia, psychosis and drug addiction which involves injecting a patient with massive amounts of insulin, which causes convulsions and coma. ... For other uses, see Nausea (disambiguation). ...

Her family later claimed they did not give their consent to the treatment, as documented in her sister's self-published book Look Back in Love and in court records. The sanitarium was a minimum-security facility. After about nine months, Farmer walked away one afternoon and went to her half-sister Rita's house over 20 miles away. The pair called their mother in Seattle to complain about the insulin treatment.

Lillian Farmer traveled to California and began a lengthy legal battle to have guardianship of her daughter transferred from the state of California to her. Although several psychiatrists testified that Farmer needed further treatment, her mother prevailed. The two of them left Los Angeles by train on September 13, 1943. [4]. . is the 256th day of the year (257th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1943 (MCMXLIII) was a common year starting on Friday (the link will display full 1943 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Western State Hospital and later life

Farmer moved back in with her parents in West Seattle, but she and her mother fought bitterly. Within six months, Farmer physically attacked her mother. Her mother then had Frances Farmer committed to Western State Hospital at Steilacoom, Washington. There, Farmer sometimes received electro-convulsive shock treatment (ECT). Three months later, during the summer of 1944, she was pronounced "completely cured" and released. Western State Hospital is a mental hospital on the former Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood, Washington. ... Steilacoom is a town located in Pierce County, Washington. ... Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as electroshock or ECT, is a controversial type of psychiatric shock therapy involving the induction of an artificial seizure in a patient by passing electricity through the brain. ...

While traveling with her father to visit at an aunt's ranch in Reno, Nevada, Farmer ran away. She spent time with a family who had picked her up hitchhiking, but she was eventually arrested for vagrancy in Antioch, California. Her arrest received wide publicity. Offers for help came in from across the country, but Farmer ignored them all. After a long stay with her aunt in Nevada, Farmer went back to her parents. At her mother's request, at age 32 Farmer was recommitted to Western State Hospital in May 1945 and remained there five years, with the exception of a brief parole in 1946. [5] Reno redirects here. ... John Everett Millais The Blind Girl: vagrant musicians See also vagrancy (biology) for an alternative use of the term. ... Antioch is a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland located in Contra Costa County, California, USA, in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area along the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. ... This article is about the U.S. State of Nevada. ...

Second career and death

On March 23, 1950, at her parents' request, Farmer was paroled back into her mother's care. She took a job sorting laundry at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle. This was the same hotel where Farmer had been feted in 1936 at the world premiere of Come and Get It. Farmer believed her mother could have her institutionalized again. In 1953, at her own request, 10 years after the arrest at the Knickerbocker Hotel, a judge legally restored Farmer's competency and full civil rights. is the 82nd day of the year (83rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

After a brief second marriage to utility worker Alfred H. Lobley, in 1954 Farmer moved to Eureka, California, where she worked anonymously as a secretary/bookkeeper for almost three years in a photo studio. Year 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Motto: Eureka - (I have found it!) Map of California showing the location of Eureka Coordinates: Country United States State California County Humboldt Founded 1850 Incorporated April 18, 1856 (town) Re-incorporated February 19, 1874 (city) Government type Mayor-council  - Mayor Virginia Bass  - City manager David Tyson Area    - City  14. ...

Comeback attempt

In 1957, Farmer met Leland C. Mikesell, an independent broadcast promoter from Indianapolis who helped her move to San Francisco. He got her work as a receptionist in a hotel and arranged for a reporter to recognize her and write an article. This led to renewed interest from the entertainment world. Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ... The Indianapolis skyline Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana. ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ...

Farmer told Modern Screen magazine, "I blame nobody for my fall... I think I have won the fight to control myself." She made two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and also appeared on . This Is Your Life. When asked about her alcoholism and mental illness, Farmer said she had never believed she was mentally ill. She commented, "if a person is treated like a patient, they are apt to act like one." The Ed Sullivan Show was an American television variety show that ran from June 20, 1948 to June 6, 1971, and was hosted by former entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan. ... This Is Your Life was a television documentary series hosted by its producer, Ralph Edwards. ... A mental illness or mental disorder refers to one of many mental health conditions characterized by distress, impaired cognitive functioning, atypical behavior, emotional dysregulation, and/or maladaptive behavior. ...

In August 1957, Farmer returned to the stage in New Hope, Pennsylvania, for a summer stock production of The Chalk Garden. New Hope, formerly Coryells Ferry, is a borough in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA. The population was 2,252 at the 2000 census. ...

Through the spring of 1958, Farmer appeared in several live television dramas, some of which are preserved on kinescope. The same year, she made her last film, The Party Crashers, produced by Paramount. During this period, she divorced Lobley and married Mikesell. That marriage was also brief. Her national comeback ended with a six-day performance of The Chalk Garden in Indianapolis, where she accepted an offer to host afternoon movies on a local TV station. The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold is: A 1955 Broadway play produced by Irene M. Selznick. ... The Indianapolis skyline Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana. ...


From 1958 to 1964, Farmer hosted a successful TV show called Frances Farmer Presents, which remained number 1 in its timeslot for the entire duration of its run. She was also in demand as a public speaker. During the early 1960s, Farmer was actress-in-residence at Purdue University and appeared in some campus productions. Frances Farmer Presents was a long-running and immensely popular afternoon television program on Indianapolis station WFBM-TV (an NBC affiliate). ... Purdue redirects here. ...

By 1964, however, her behavior had turned erratic again. Farmer was fired, re-hired and fired from her television program. Her station manager suggested in a 1983 interview that her turn for the worse was the result of an appearance on NBC's The Today Show, which the station manager himself had arranged. He had hoped to get her good publicity, but believed that being asked about her years of mental illness on national TV may have been too stressful for her. Today, commonly referred to as The Today Show to avoid ambiguity, is an American morning news and talk show airing weekday mornings on the NBC television network. ...

Farmer's last acting role was in The Visit at Loeb Playhouse on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, which ran from October 22 to October 30, 1965. During this engagement, she was arrested for drunk driving. The Visit is the title of various English translations of Friedrich Dürrenmatts play Der Besuch der alten Dame (literally, The Visit of the Old Lady). It is probably the most well-known of his work, at least in the English-speaking world. ... Chauncey Village area of West Lafayette West Lafayette (IPA: ) is a city in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, United States, 65 miles (105km) northwest of Indianapolis. ... is the 295th day of the year (296th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 303rd day of the year (304th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1965 (MCMLXV) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the 1965 Gregorian calendar. ...

Farmer attempted two small businesses with her friend Jean Ratcliffe, but both failed. She was arrested again for drunk driving and her license was suspended for a year.

In 1970 Farmer died from esophageal cancer (often associated with alcoholism) at the age of 56. She is interred at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Fishers, Indiana. Esophageal cancer is malignancy of the esophagus. ... Fishers, located in Hamilton County, Indiana, is a town of population 52,390, according to a special census conducted in 2004. ...


"It was pretty sad, because [after the publication of God Dies] for the first time I found how stupid people could be. It sort of made me feel alone in the world. The more people pointed at me in scorn the more stubborn I got and when they began calling me the Bad Girl of West Seattle High, I tried to live up to it."

"It's a nuthouse [Hollywood]. The other day a man phoned and wanted me to endorse a certain brand of cigarettes. I had nothing against them and in fact will smoke them or anything else that comes along, but I didn't know why he was bothering me. I thought maybe if I was nice they'd give me a carton as a thank offering, so I rather tentatively broached the matter of remuneration. What was the endorsement worth, I asked, and he said three thousand dollars. What are you going to do in an atmosphere like that?"

Sensationalized accounts

In the years following Farmer's death in 1970, her treatment at Western State was the subject of serious discussion and wild speculation. Kenneth Anger included a chapter relating her breakdown in Hollywood Babylon. Farmer's ghostwritten, posthumously published autobiography Will There Really Be A Morning described a brutal incarceration. It claimed Farmer had been brutalized and mistreated in numerous ways. Farmer's ghostwriter and friend Jean Ratcliffe later admitted she had written the version to be marketable and saleable. In 1978, Seattle film reviewer William Arnold published Shadowland, which for the first time alleged that Farmer had been the subject of a transorbital lobotomy. Scenes of Farmer being subjected to this lobotomy procedure were part of the 1982 film Frances, which had initially been planned as an adaptation of Shadowland, though its producers ultimately reneged on their agreement with Arnold. During a court case against Brooksfilms (the film's producers), Arnold revealed that the lobotomy episode and much of his biography about Farmer was "fictionalized". Years later, on a DVD commentary track of the film Frances, director Graeme Clifford stated, "We didn't want to nickel and dime people to death with facts."[6] Year 1982 (MCMLXXXII) was a common year starting on Friday (link displays the 1982 Gregorian calendar). ...

Medical archives

Western State Hospital recorded all the lobotomies performed during Farmer's period there. Since lobotomies were considered ground-breaking medical procedure, the hospital did not attempt to conceal its work. Although nearly 300 patients received the procedure, no evidence supports a claim that Farmer was among them.

Newspaper interviews In 1983 Seattle newspapers interviewed former hospital staff members, including all the lobotomy ward nurses who were on duty during Frances' years at Western State. They confirmed that Farmer did not receive a lobotomy. Nurse Beverly Tibbetts stated, “I worked on all the patients who had lobotomies, and Frances Farmer never came to that ward.” Freeman's private patient records contained no references to Farmer. Dr. Charles Jones, Psychiatric Resident at Western State during Frances' stays, also stated that Farmer was never given a lobotomy. [7]

In The Lobotomist, his biography of Walter Freeman, author Jack El-Hai, who had access to all of Freeman's patient records, found no mention of Farmer whatsoever. Farmer's sister, Edith, denied that the procedure was done. She said the hospital asked her parents permission to perform the lobotomy, but her father was “horrified” by the notion and threatened legal action "if they tried any of their guinea pig operations on her."[8]

Biographical films

  • Jessica Lange played Farmer in the 1982 film Frances, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. However, this film contained a fictional scene which depicted Farmer undergoing a transorbital lobotomy. This event was later discredited. In Hollywood style, the film also omitted numerous facts and added a fictional life-long, love-interest character named "Harry". In interviews Jessica Lange said she felt compassion and empathy for Farmer in interviews, and remained an ardent supporter.
  • Susan Blakely portrayed Farmer in a television production which used the title of the autobiography.

Jessica Phyllis Lange (born April 20, 1949) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actress. ... Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are the most prominent and most watched film awards ceremony in the world. ... Susan Blakely (born September 7, 1952) is an American movie actress who has mainly played supporting roles. ...


Throughout her career, Farmer was frequently announced for projects she did not get to perform. Among the many Paramount films for which she was announced were College Holiday, Hideaway Girl, Spawn of the North, Big Broadcast of 1938, Beau Geste, and Take A Letter, Darling. Preston Sturges apparently wanted Farmer for Sullivan's Travels, but the role ultimately went to Veronica Lake. Preston Sturges (August 29, 1898 – August 6, 1959), originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated screenwriter and director born in Chicago. ... Sullivans Travels is a 1941 American film written and directed by Preston Sturges. ... Veronica Lake (November 14, 1919[1] – July 7, 1973) was a popular American film actress and pin-up model who enjoyed both popular and critical acclaim, especially for her femme fatale roles in film noir with Alan Ladd during the 1940s. ...

From 1944-45, during her initial institutionalizations and releases from Western State Hospital, several news articles quoted producers as offering her the lead in the film The Enchanted Forest and the Broadway play The Incredible Woodhull.


  • Too Many Parents (1936)
  • Border Flight (1936)
  • Rhythm on the Range (1936)
  • Come and Get It (1936)
  • Exclusive (1937)
  • The Toast of New York (1937)
  • Ebb Tide (1937)
  • Ride a Crooked Mile (1938)
  • South of Pago Pago (1940)
  • Flowing Gold (1941)
  • World Premiere (1941)
  • Badlands of Dakota (1941)
  • Among the Living (1941)
  • Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)
  • I Escaped from the Gestapo (1943)
  • The Party Crashers (1958)

Come and Get It is a 1936 film directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Among the Living is a 1941 horror suspense film with Albert Dekker, Susan Hayward, and Frances Farmer. ...


Playhouse 90 is the name of a 90-minute long dramatic television series that ran on CBS from 1956 to 1961. ... Matinee Theatre was an NBC anthology series during the Golden Age of Television, airing from 1955 to 1959. ... Frances Farmer Presents was a long-running and immensely popular afternoon television program on Indianapolis station WFBM-TV (an NBC affiliate). ... The Night America Trembled was Studio Ones September 9, 1957 top-rated television recreation of Orson Welles radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938. ...

References in popular culture

Mylène Farmer (French IPA: ) (September 12, 1961), born Mylène Jeanne Gautier,[1] is a Canadian-born French singer and songwriter. ... Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle is a song by the influential American grunge band Nirvana. ... Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – c. ... Courtney Love[1] (born Courtney Michelle Harrison on July 9, 1964) is an American rock musician. ... Culture Club is a popular English new romantic rock group, that achieved considerable global success in the 1980s. ... Waking Up with the House on Fire is an album by New Wave band Culture Club, released in 1984 (see 1984 in music). ... The Men They Couldnt Hang (TMTCH) are a British rock band whose mixture of folk and punk is not dissimilar to that of The Pogues (in fact founder member Shanne Bradley was an original female punk artist and founder of Shane MacGowans first band, The Nipple Erectors). ... Everything but the Girl Is a song composed and written by Tyler Buckkie of Ontario. ... Michael Chabon (born May 24, 1963) is an American author and one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. ... Wonder Boys is a 2000 motion picture starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, and Robert Downey Jr. ...


  1. ^ Shedding Light on Shadowland
  2. ^ IMDb: Biography for Frances Farmer
  3. ^ Shedding Light on Shadowland
  4. ^ Shedding Light on Shadowland
  5. ^ Shedding Light on Shadowland
  6. ^ Frances 2002 DVD release ASIN B00005OCK1
  7. ^ Northern State Hospital History
  8. ^ Elliot, Edith Farmer. Look Back in Love, 1979, ISBN 0960223215
  9. ^ NNDB.com: Frances Bean Cobain


  • Shedding Light on Shadowland - Essay debunking many commonly believed myths about Farmer, with a wealth of previously undisclosed information about her
  • Frances Farmer biography by HistoryLink, Washington State

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Frances Farmer - definition of Frances Farmer in Encyclopedia (1567 words)
Farmer stated that she did not believe that she had ever been mentally ill, and even at the time had not believed it, but that "if a person is treated like a patient, they are apt to act like one".
Farmer finally found security in Indianapolis where in 1958 she was given her own afternoon show Frances Farmer Presents but by 1964, her alcoholism had made her unreliable and she was fired.
Farmer was the subject of a song by the popular grunge band Nirvana entitled "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle".
Frances Farmer Presents - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (257 words)
Frances Farmer Presents (1958–1964) was an immensely popular afternoon television program on Indianapolis station WFBM-TV (then an NBC affiliate).
Film actress Frances Farmer had gone to Indianapolis to appear in the play The Chalk Garden, where a WFBM executive saw her performance and suggested she would be an ideal celebrity to host their new daily series showcasing vintage films.
Farmer not only introduced the daily feature, she also frequently interviewed visiting celebrities, people as diverse as Mitch Miller, Dan Blocker, Marsha Hunt, Marge Champion, and her own ex-husband Leif Erickson.
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