As part of its “Summer Under the Stars” film series, Turner Classic Movies is showing 12 Anne Francis movies today, including three TCM premieres. Those are actor-director William Conrad's Brainstorm (1965), veteran Raoul Walsh's A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), and actor-director Richard Benedict's Impasse (1969). [Anne Francis Movie Schedule.]
Brainstorm is about a scientist intent on killing the husband of the woman he loves. The B thriller stars performers who had seen better big-screen days in the '40s and/or '50s: Jeffrey Hunter, Dana Andrews, Viveca Lindfors, and Francis. At the time, however, Francis was doing well for herself on television in the series Honey West, in which she played a sexy gumshoe whose partner was an ocelot.
Based on a novel by Adria Locke Langley, A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) is a political drama that got made probably thanks to Robert Rossen's 1949 Oscar winner All the King's Men. James Cagney stars as a Southern peddler-turned-political demagogue; Barbara Hale plays the peddler's wife, a teacher named Verity Wade; and Francis is a bayou sexpot named Flamingo McManamee. Making sure this is clear: A Lion Is in the Streets is a political drama, not a political satire. But then again, in movies as in life, it's a fine line between the two.
In the B adventure drama Impasse, Francis gets enmeshed with Burt Reynolds and a group of World War II veterans looking for buried gold in the Philippines. Impasse co-stars Lyle Bettger, probably best remembered as the guy who goes flying after his car gets hit by a train in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth.
William Wyler's Funny Girl (1968) would surely have seemed less long had Anne Francis' role not been pared down. Francis could enliven a movie just by being there along with her prominent beauty mark – and whether or not she was in a mini skirt. Barbra Streisand does her best as Fannie Brice, but if you're not a major Streisand fan I'm not sure I'd recommend Funny Girl. In fact, this blockbuster that earned Streisand a shared Best Actress Oscar (with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter) is one of Wyler's most by-the-book efforts. Omar Sharif, veteran Walter Pidgeon, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Kay Medford co-star.
Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle (1955) is notable for its rock-and-roll music and for Glenn Ford's performance as a teacher at odds with a bunch of hoodlum-students, among them Vic Morrow, future filmmaker Paul Mazursky, and Sidney Poitier. Good intentions, however, don't necessarily a good movie make. As for Fred M. Wilcox's Forbidden Planet (1956), its cult classic reputation is well-deserved for a variety of reasons. Among those are: Robby the Robot, the still very much relevant theme of the dangers of technology in the hands of stupid humans, and Anne Francis' futuristic mini skirt. Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen co-star.