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Hollywood's Elite - The Meteoric Rise and Fall of America's Sex Symbols 3

Updated on April 12, 2015

A Short Bio

Francis Elena Farmer, was born on September 19, 1913, in Seattle Washington. Ms. Farmer won an essay contest from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards earning $100 top prize. Unfortunately, her essay's subject matter and another prize won while attending the University of Washington, earned her the title of an atheist and Communist.

You see the title of her essay was "God Dies" her look at godless society and the trip was to Russia first prize in a subscription contest for a leftist newspaper called The Voice of Action . While in Russia Francis enjoyed watching the then pioneering Moscow Art Theater perform, unfortunately these two accusatory titles would follow her until death.

Farmer's Rebellious Career

In 1935 upon her return from Russia Francis sought a career in the theater instead she was directed to a talent scout representing Paramount Pictures. Farmer signed a seven year contract offered on her 21st birthday, and cast in several vehicles that were box office gold. Little did she know, at the time, that she would be cast in film after film that played up her appearance and ignored her talent as an actress.

Lack of meaty roles brought out the rebellious streak in the actress. Farmer became very outspoken which made her seem "difficult" to work with and this was not appreciated in an era where the studios dictated the lives of stars on and off the screen.

Francis would not allow the studio to play up or glamorize her private life, refusing to attend the it Hollywood parties, cooperate with set up dates with male stars to play in the gossip columns. Instead of dressing to the nines Farmer would dress down, and rode around in an aged green roadster.

The artist met playwright Clifford Odets, appeared in his play Golden Boy , and engaged in an affair with the married playwright. Reviews of her run in theater were lukewarm, but due to her popularity on screen the play did very well and went on tour nationally. Even though most critics felt the actress was miss-cast for the part. Odets never offered a commitment to their illicit affair, ended the relationship suddenly and cast another actress for Farmers part.

Francis Farmer returned to Paramount with the written understanding that she would only spend 3 months out of a year in Los Angeles and continue her stage work in New York. Her stage runs were short, the movie parts were lackluster and unchallenging. Farmer's work habits, and increasing alcohol abuse, became a continued frustration for Paramount and the studios she was lent to. Francis became temperamental and began displaying erratic behavior.

Farmer in 1968
Farmer in 1968

Legal, Mental and Arrest Woes

Ms. Farmer's downward spiral began in 1942 with a series of arrests form public drunkenness, bench warrants for unpaid fines, assault on a hairdresser, who suffered a dislocated jaw during the scuffle.  During an appearance in front of a judge for the assault, Ms. Farmer claimed that her civil rights had been violated and during the session threw an inkwell at the magistrate.  Of course she was sentenced immediately to 180 days in jail, as she was escorted out of the court room Farmer attacked two policemen and a matron knocking one of the officers down.  After being subdued Francis was heard screaming "Have you ever had a broken heart?"

The arrest was sensationalized in the media and her sister -in-law, who happened to be a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff had the actress transferred to the psychiatric ward of Los Angeles County General. 


After her stay at L.A. County General, Francis was later transferred to the Kimball Sanitarium in La Crescenta, in the San Fernando Valley, where she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.  Treated with insulin shock therapy Farmer suffered the intense side effects of nausea.  She later left the sanitarium after about nine months, walking away from the facility arriving at her half sister's house 20 miles away.  Her mother Lillian Farmer sought guardianship of Francis in California, and won taking Ms. Farmer home to Seattle in 1943. 

Within six months Francis physically attacked her mother, who inturn committed her to Western State Hospital in Washington.  Once there Farmer received electro-convulsive shock treatment, three months later she was given a clean bill of mental health and released.  In 1950 after several attempts to run away from her aunts residence in Nevada and another 5 year hospital stay, Francis was again in her mother's custody. 

Francis Farmer found work at the Olympic Hotel, the same hotel where in 1936 she walked the red carpet attending the premiere of her movie Come and Get It.  In 1954 the actress married a utility worker and moved back to California, leading a virtually quiet life in Eureka.  From 1957 to 1964 Farmer worked in stock stage productions, and for a screen magazine.  From 1958 to 1964 she hosted a successful TV show called Frances Farmer Presents.  Unfortunately, in 1964 Francis Farmer became unstable again, arrested for DUI in '64 and 1965. 

Francis Elena Farmer passed away in 1970 due to esophageal cancer. 

My Thoughts

The youth orientated, ego driven business that is Hollywood movie making is a venue that allows those of weak character to satiate a hunger that feeds off the adulation of others.

Most are in the business because of money, but a small portion, who crave attention, are thrown into a world that suckles a cash cow until there is nothing left but an empty pathetic shell of a person.

Once spent, the vehicle is discarded like so much rubbish, left to fend on its own, to self medicate wither and die. Its unfortunate that little has changed in the industry, except stronger drugs and easier access to self medicate, and a willingness to repeat the same mistakes.


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    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 7 years ago from India

      Very nicely written hub about her.. she is very gorgeous girl , though i can not say i have seen any of her work but i have seen her pics a lot.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 7 years ago from Utah

      Revlady and Mike Lickteig; Thank you both for taking the time to read my hub and leave your comments.

      Revlady: I feel Ms. Farmer could had been one of the great ones, but her ideology was far beyond her years, very independent person.

      Mike Lickteig: You are so right, everyone is not meant to be in the "biz" and I think the "cash cow" aspect becomes more important to those hangers on or custodial parents who live through their offspring successes.

      Many young entertainers are living lives of adults, attending parties with adults, imbibing in underage drinking (Barrymore)and in drugs. All with parents consent, then wonder why the Lohann's, Spears and Olsens are flipping out suffering from eating disorders and the like.

      Its sad, because no one seems to care.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Your summation of the Hollywood star-making machine is absolutely correct and quite sobering. It is frightening to consider what will happen to Britney Spears, the Olsen twins, Lindsey Lohann and all the other folks who became a star too soon and too fast. Where will they be in 40 years--or even in ten?

      Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking article.


    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      This was quite an interesting read. I was not at all familiar with Frances, even though I had heard of her. Thumbs up!!

      Thank you.

      Forever His,

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 7 years ago from Utah

      Rebecca E and Micky Dee: Thank you both for your very kind comments and thanks for reading my piece. I really like writing about these falling stars. I want to pay homage to their greatest and hopefully, a heads up to others about the fleeting prospect of fame. We as a people seem to be mesmerized by that elusive 15 minutes.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Great hub Pmccray. I love these flashbacks and days of black and white! Thanks Dear!

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      wow, another moving and powerful hub, really i didn't know half of this, totally fasinating. rated up and bookmarked of course.