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).
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 1940s and/or 1950s: 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.
Anne Francis movies
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
6:00 AM SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948) Musical remake of Ah, Wilderness!, about a small-town boy’s struggles with growing up. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Cast: Mickey Rooney, Gloria DeHaven, Walter Huston, Frank Morgan, Jackie Jenkins, Marilyn Maxwell, Agnes Moorehead. Anne Francis. Color. 93 min.
7:45 AM SO YOUNG SO BAD (1950) A crusading psychiatrist tries to help troubled reform school girls. Director: Bernard Vorhaus. Cast: Paul Henreid, Catherine McLeod, Cecil Clovelly, Anne Jackson, Rita Moreno. Black and white. 91 min.
9:30 AM BATTLE CRY (1955) A group of Marines eagerly await deployment during World War II. Director: Raoul Walsh. Cast: Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Mona Freeman, Dorothy Malone, Nancy Olson, Tab Hunter, James Whitmore, Raymond Massey, William Campbell. Color. 148 min. Letterbox Format.
12:00 PM BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955) A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero’s family. Director: John Sturges. Cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, John Ericson, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan. Color. 82 min. Letterbox Format.
1:30 PM SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) A Hollywood screenwriter takes in a runaway girl who’s more woman than he can handle. Director: Frank Tashlin. Cast: Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Anne Francis, Glenda Farrell. Color. 98 min.
3:15 PM THE GREAT AMERICAN PASTIME (1956) A mild-mannered lawyer gets more than he bargained for when he takes over a little league team. Director: Herman Hoffman. Cast: Tom Ewell, Anne Francis, Ann Miller, Dean Jones. Black and white. 90 min. Letterbox Format.
5:00 PM FUNNY GIRL (1968) Comedienne Fanny Brice fights to prove that she can be the greatest star and find romance even though she isn’t pretty. Director: William Wyler. Cast: Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif, Kay Medford. Anne Francis. Color. 157 min. Letterbox Format.
8:00 PM BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) An idealistic teacher confronts the realities of juvenile delinquency. Director: Richard Brooks. Cast: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Margaret Hayes, Rafael Campos, Paul Mazursky. Black and white. 101 min. Letterbox Format.
10:00 PM FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) A group of space troopers investigates the destruction of a colony on a remote planet. Director: Fred M. Wilcox. Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens. Color. 99 min. Letterbox Format.
12:00 AM BRAINSTORM (1965) A young scientist fakes insanity so he can kill the husband of the woman he loves. Director: William Conrad. Cast: Jeffrey Hunter, Anne Francis, Dana Andrews, Viveca Lindfors. Black and white. 105 min. Letterbox Format.
2:00 AM A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953) A peddler from the bayou becomes a major force in local politics. Director: Raoul Walsh. Cast: James Cagney, Barbara Hale, Anne Francis. Color. 88 min.
4:00 AM IMPASSE (1969) World War II veterans brave the Philippine jungle in search of buried gold. Director: Richard Benedict. Cast: Burt Reynolds, Anne Francis, Lyle Bettger, Rodolfo Acosta, Jeff Corey. Color. 100 min. Letterbox Format.
Turner Classic Movies website.