Anne Francis, Star of Forbidden Planet and TV's Honey West, Dies

Hollywood has lost another leading lady

By Josh Grossberg Jan 03, 2011 7:10 PMTags
Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, Forbidden PlanetMGM

Anne Francis, the curvaceous blond actress with the famous beauty spot whose noteworthy roles include the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, has passed away at the age of 80.

Her family told the Los Angeles Times that Francis died Sunday at a retirement home in Santa Barbara, Calif., due to complications from pancreatic cancer. She previously had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 and underwent surgery and a chemotherapy regimen.

After making her Broadway stage debut at the age of 11 and doing years of modeling and radio soaps, Francis was signed by Daryl F. Zanuck and Twentieth Century Fox, who cast her in various postwar B-movies. But it wasn't until she moved over to MGM in the early '50s that she was able to break out of the stereotypical starlet parts.

Of the most acclaimed of her 30-plus films, Francis starred in John Sturges' 1955 thriller Bad Day at Black Rock, opposite Robert Ryan and Spencer Tracy, followed by Richard Brooks' social drama Blackboard Jungle with Glenn Ford and Sydney Poitier. She also appeared opposite Paul Newman in the war flick The Rack.

The thesp earned a slew of new fans later that year with her memorable turn as the survivor of an ill-fated space expedition in MGM's groundbreaking sci-fi drama Forbidden Planet. The film, costarring Walter Pidgeon and the late Leslie Nielsen, also gave us Earthlings Robby the Robot, which became a staple of the genre, appearing in movies and TV shows throughout the '50s and '60s.

Around that time, Francis herself transitioned to the tube, headlining two seminal Twilight Zone episodes in 1959 before giving James Bond a run for his money as the titular private eye in the short-lived 1965 TV series Honey West, for which she earned an Emmy nomination.

In her later years, she made various guest appearances on such shows as Charlie's Angels, Dallas, The Golden Girls, Home Improvement and most recently in a 2004 episode of Without a Trace.

No word yet on funeral arrangements.