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5.0 2
Director: Graeme Clifford, Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley, Sam Shepard

Cast: Graeme Clifford, Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley, Sam Shepard


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As played by Jessica Lange, Frances Farmer is a rebel from the word go, winning a high school essay award by writing a piece in defense of Communism. Determining to become an actress, Frances is equally determined not to play the Hollywood game: she refuses to acquiesce to idiotic publicity stunts, and insists upon appearing on screen sans makeup. Her defiance


As played by Jessica Lange, Frances Farmer is a rebel from the word go, winning a high school essay award by writing a piece in defense of Communism. Determining to become an actress, Frances is equally determined not to play the Hollywood game: she refuses to acquiesce to idiotic publicity stunts, and insists upon appearing on screen sans makeup. Her defiance attracts the attention of Broadway playwright Clifford Odets, who convinces Frances that her future rests with the Group Theatre. But once she leaves Hollywood for New York, Frances learns to her chagrin that the Group intends to exploit her movie fame in order to draw in customers. Her desperate attempts to restart her movie career, combined with her increasing dependence on alcohol and the pressures brought to bear by her monster mother (Kim Stanley), result in a complete mental breakdown. Even while institutionalized, Frances is abused by the powers-that-be; she is forced to undergo an injurious brain operation, is treated like a mad animal, and periodically raped by the inmates. Frances is released in the custody of her mother, who persists in browbeating her tortured daughter until Frances discovers the legal means to break away. The real-life Frances spent her last years as host of a local Indianapolis TV program, dying in 1970 at age 57; the film comes to a climax when Frances is feted on the smarmy network program This is Your Life. Other actual personages depicted herein include Clifford Odets (played by Jeffrey DeMunn), Harold Clurman (Jordan Charney) and Ralph Edwards (Donald Craig). Frances' first husband Leif Erickson is fictionalized as "Jeffrey York," and played by Lange's real-life inamorata Sam Shepard. And if you listen closely, you'll hear the voice of Kevin Costner, whose minor role was whittled down to one line when he, like Frances Farmer, had the temerity to argue with the director. The unhappy life of actress Frances Farmer was also covered in Farmer's autobiography, Will There Ever Be a Morning? While the film rights for that book were sold to a TV-movie concern, the producers of the theatrical feature Frances were able to ship their production out to the public first.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Graeme Clifford's exceedingly mediocre film on the tragic life of actress Frances Farmer provided the breakthrough role for Jessica Lange, who gives one of the finest performances of the decade. Whether one accepts the filmmakers' notion that Farmer was a great actress and the tragic victim of a retrograde Hollywood, incapable of handling a very smart, troubled, and willful woman, there's seems little doubt that her nightmarishly repressive mother and a brutal, benighted mental health system share the blame for destroying her once-vibrant personality. Unfortunately, Clifford adds insult to injury in turning the actress' life into a tedious, superficial soap opera, devoid of logic or perspective. Aside from Farmer, all of the characters, including her mother, are painfully underdeveloped, none more so than Harry York (Sam Shepard), a character invented by the writers to inject some romance into a tale of nearly unrelieved misery. Yet the film's existence can be justified on the basis of Lange's virtuoso performance, a miracle of intelligence, toughness, and sensitivity in a part whose emotional and physical demands left the actress drained for months afterwards.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Lions Gate
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; ; Audio Commentary with Director Graeme Clifford; "A Hollywood Life: Remembering Frances" Featurette; Theatrical Trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jessica Lange Frances Farmer
Kim Stanley Lillian Farmer
Sam Shepard Harry York
Bart Burns Ernest Farmer
Jeffrey DeMunn Clifford Odets
Robert Harris Actor
Jordan Charney Harold Clurman
Allan Rich Bebe
Christopher Pennock Dick Steele
Sarah Cunningham Alma Styles
J.J. Chaback Lady in Hotel
Rod Colbin Judge
Kevin Costner Actor
Richard L. Hawkins Bum
Anjelica Huston Actor
Lane Smith Dr. Symington
Larry Pines Man on Phone
Jonathan Banks Hitchhiker
Daniel Chodes Director
Donald Craig Ralph Edwards
Lee de Broux Director
Nancy Foy Autograph Girl
Anne Haney Hairdresser
James Karen Judge
Darrell Larson Spy
Jack Manning Photographer
Gerald O'Loughlin Doctor
Woodrow Parfrey Dr. Parfrey
Rod Pilloud Martoni
John Randolph Judge
Jack Riley Barnes
David Schroeder Lawyer
Sandra Seacat Drama Teacher
Vern Taylor Executive
Andrew Winner Firechief
Biff Yeager Cop
Keone Young Doctor
Alexander Zale Man in Screening Room
Bonnie Bartlett Stylist
James Brodhead Sergeant

Technical Credits
Graeme Clifford Director
John Barry Score Composer
Eric Bergren Screenwriter
Mel Brooks Producer
Christopher de Vore Screenwriter
Emad Helmey Set Decoration/Design
John Wright Editor
Nicholas Kazan Screenwriter
Laszlo Kovacs Cinematographer
Elisabeth Leustig Casting
Jana Sue Memel Producer
Ed Milkovich Asst. Director
Charles B. Mulvehill Art Director,Associate Producer
Pat Norris Costumes/Costume Designer
Ida Random Art Director
David Ronne Sound/Sound Designer
Jonathan Sanger Producer
William P. Scott Asst. Director
Ivan Strasburg Cinematographer
Richard Sylbert Production Designer
Marie Yates Co-producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Frances
1. Program Start/ Main Titles [2:58]
2. "Seattle Girl Denies God" [6:23]
3. Backseat Fashion [4:30]
4. The Full Hollywood Treatment [4:50]
5. Hometown Premiere [4:02]
6. "I Don't Have What They Want" [5:54]
7. Marital Discord [5:23]
8. Total Dedication [5:02]
9. Tarnished Angel [5:20]
10. "This Theatre Is Everything To Me" [3:56]
11. Cry For Help [4:21]
12. Out Of Control [4:41]
13. Advice From a Friend [3:46]
14. Breakdown [5:07]
15. Disorder In The Court [2:55]
16. Meadow Wood Convalescent Home [6:48]
17. Fan Mail [3:17]
18. Expert Diagnosis [4:04]
19. A Visit From Harry [5:40]
20. "Welcome Home, Little Sister" [6:10]
21. Broken Dreams [7:15]
22. Asylum [3:56]
23. Cries Of The Forgotten [5:09]
24. Bittersweet Homecoming [3:19]
25. Frances and Harry [3:15]
26. "You're Trying To Break My Spirit" [5:30]
27. Lobotomy [4:56]
28. This Is Your Life [3:19]
29. "You Always Look Like A Million Bucks" [3:37]
30. End Credits [3:56]


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Frances 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jessica Lange is without a doubt one of the most powerful female influences in American cinema. Alongside an ever increasing array of political public figures, she and countless others continue to egnite public awareness and encourage political activism. Lange sets the screen on fire as the equally headstrong Frances Farmer, a woman of considerable talent who was sadly ahead her time on multiple political and social platforms. In addition to the errie similarity in their appearance, Lange as Farmer gives a powerhouse performance which will leave you speechless. I was seventeen when I first saw this film and will never forget the way it left me feeling, uttely speech in my beanbag chair for nearly and hour. Her character's blistering attack on the early Hollywood cookie-cutter establishment leaves little doubt that Lange was made for this role. Luckily, the fates have been kinder to Lange than they were to Farmer. For this, we thank the powers that be.
Reviewmaster More than 1 year ago
Insightful and sad look at the life of one of our country's vastly underrated and most misunderstood actresses, who, unfortunately, was way ahead of her repressive time. From the opening scenes' "God Dies" essay as a high schooler to the fade-out slowness of her post-asylum life and her departure from the bright lights and glitz (not to mention milder weather, both summers and winters) of Hollywood to the drabbier dullness of Indianapolis and its local "Frances Farmer Presents" hostess position, Jessica Lange IS "Frances" through and through. The moving and soothing soundtrack by John Barry excels in itself, adding a great asset to a excellently acted period piece.