Anne Francis, a sweet-voiced honey blonde who starred as a sexy Jane Bond-type detective on TV’s Honey West in the mid-’60s and was a CinemaScope eyeful in the ’50s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, died Sunday of complications of pancreatic cancer at a retirement home in Santa Barbara, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reports. She was 80.
With a distinctive beauty mark below her lower right lip, Francis, though never a top-ranking star, always had her devoted cult followers. Among her better-known movies were Bad Day at Black Rock, Blackboard Jungle, Don’t Go Near the Water and Funny Girl, though in that last picture she claimed her best scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor. She played a Ziegfeld Girl gal pal of headliner Fanny Brice, played by Barbra Streisand.
In Forbidden Planet Francis was Altaira, the daughter of the space scientist played by Walter Pidgeon.”I got that part because I was under contract to MGM and I had good legs,” Francis later said. Her love interest in the movie was a handsome young Leslie Nielsen, who died in November.
A native of Ossining, N.Y., the former child actress went to Hollywood and signed contracts with the studios in the ’40s, but her career finaly took hold in the next decade thanks to live-TV productions. She is survived by two daughters and a grandson.