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Anne Francis: The Life and Career
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2012
I have just finished reading this on my Kindle, having read the other reviews before I bought the book. I am familiar with Ms. Wagner's work in Classic Images so I must say this book surprised me a bit. She can be a very tough lady but this book is written by a raving fan. That is fine with me, I don't think too many are likely to read this book if they are not fans of Ms. Francis. So, to break down my review, I'll start with the things I like. The book is very comprehensive in Ms. Francis's career. It really should be called a "career biography" since information about Anne's private life if minimal. The information about her films and television is extensive. It is obvious that Wagner has seen all the films and as many of the tv shows as she could. Ms. Wagner does have an extensive list of source materials, which seem to be all print materials etc. so extensive work on line and in libraries has been done. There are also many photos included, many I have not seen before. Lastly, with the KINDLE edition, the price for this book has become reasonable. 2) Things I wish were better done: As stated, the book offers very little information about Anne's private life. I know from reading her internet newsletter that family and friends were very important to her. There is very little info about that included in the book. Her final years and death after a long battle with cancer are covered with little more depth than a newspaper obit would provide. As stated by others, there seems to have been no interviews with Anne's co-stars which is a real shame. The book offers no explanations for why that was not done which has led other reviews to assume Wagner didn't want to. I don't know if that is the explanation or not. 3.) Quibbles; as many of you know, Ms. Wagner is very hard on authors who get facts wrong or offer opinions without good reason. I have a few for her as well. 1) In discussing "Lydia Bailey" she suggests and actress named Michelle Prelle was up for the role. I think she means Micheline Presle, a French actress working in the U. S. at the time. 2.) She claims it is dubious that Anne lost out on a role in a Disney movie based on her just released "Girl of the Night". I am betting that role was the role Nancy Olson had in "Pollyanna" and I would suspect her "Girl" role did, in fact, hinder her casting. I know Disney used Anne for a tv project 5 years later but that was after many other roles and is different from having an actress from a controversial project playing in a theater just down the street from your a million dollar family oriented movie, at least in those more conservative times. 3:) Wagner claims Anne was a pioneer for her transition from movies to television. While I very much admire Anne's career and applaud the longevity of it, that just isn't quite as accurate as it seems on first glance; Vera Miles, Barbara Rush, Carolyn Jones, Julie Adams, and Ruth Roman, to name a few, had very much parallel careers at the same time, all having cult movies and very long successful careers in television as well. So, to sum it up, I would say, if you have interest in Anne Francis, you should buy this book; there are not likely to be too many others coming out in the near future. It is nice to have all this information in one location and it does offer some good information as well as nice photos. Again, the KINDLE edition is much more reasonable in price so I would recommend that.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
"The Life and Career of Anne Francis", by Laura Wagner is a good book. By that I mean, in this case, gives us scant information about Anne Francis, pre-career, and quite a bit during and post.

Ms Wagner gives us information culled from a variety of sources, including her own biography, yet does not really present much first person information. Various professionals, such as Gloria Fickling, co-creator of Honey West, was not interviewed extensively, yet could have provided some more good information for the HW section. There seems to be no direct evidence that suggests an interview with Anne, other than quotes from other sources. Being this was written during Anne's period of illness, she herself may not have been available.

I do like the comprehensive listing of every Anne appearance in film and on TV. Good as well are the exhaustive discussions of roles in her most famous films. There are a lot of good photos as well.

Could this have been better? Is this the definitive biography?
No, but it is a good tribute to an actress who managed to star in three classic films which continue to garner attention 50 years later.

Tim Lasiuta
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2011
I have been a fan of Ms. Francis since the days of HONEY WEST or, in my case, the Saturday afternoon reruns of HONEY WEST that popped up frequently on local TV stations in the late sixties and early seventies. Thus it was that I was already quite familiar with the actress when she started turning up with some frequency in TV movies and episodic television when I was a teenager. What I didn't know about Anne Francis, however, could fill a book: this one, for example.

Early on, Ms. Wagner laments that all the average person seems to think of when they think of the late actress is her somewhat iconic role in the classic 1956 sci-fi movie FORBIDDEN PLANET. I was surprised to read that but recent renewed interest in HONEY WEST due to TV showings, DVD's and a new comic book series have surely added that character back to Anne's memory.

Still...there was much more. Did you know, for instance, that Anne Francis started out as a child star? I didn't. Do you remember her when you think of such classics as BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK or THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE? I don't. In fact, Anne's career, which wisely takes precedence in the telling here, is in itself the story of a smart, beautiful, versatile and impressive actress that Hollywood just never seemed to figure out how to properly handle.

Tiny roles in big films like FUNNY GIRL, bigger roles in films comparatively no one saw. That was her career for years, with her most satisfying work being on television. It's interesting to note that the one time they got it right--with Anne as the iconic, independent, liberated, quirky and charismatic HONEY WEST--they canceled the role after but a single season, allegedly because they could import Mrs. Peel for less money. Sigh.

But Anne was rarely idle and became a constant TV presence in network series like BANACEK, WONDER WOMAN (the episode with Christa Helm), FANTASY ISLAND and HAWAII 5-0, all the way up to NASH BRIDGES, CONAN, HOME IMPROVEMENT and WITHOUT A TRACE.

The actress's personal life is presented throughout the book in a matter-of-fact way without rumors or gossip. Unlike some stars, Anne didn't define herself through her acting but through her family. There really just weren't any scandals. She seems to have had a fairly normal life. But then, in the main, ANNE FRANCIS goes on to do just the opposite, in fact helping the reader to define this fascinating actress by her career.

A large portion of the book deals with her film and TV appearances, each listing giving just enough info to make it interesting and enough behind-the-scenes glimpses to satisfy those who like that sort of thing...and I do.

A wealth of marvelous stills and photos fill out Laura Wagner's ANNE FRANCIS, in the end a most enjoyable read about a lovely woman I now feel I know a little better than I did before.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2013
Laura Wagner treats Anne Francis with the respect she deserves and after reading this well-researched and written book, you would wish to see all the Anne Francis performances you can scare up. At least I did. I began by watching my first ever episodes of HONEY WEST, and Miss Wagner gets it exactly right: Anne is a revelation! The author also handles the now infamous FUNNY GIRL debacle as a historian and not a gossip journalist. The result is quite different from what you may have heard and much more interesting than the usual Barbra Streisand hatchet job. The FUNNY GIRL chapter alone is well worth the time of any Anne Francis fan. And, really, aren't we all?
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2011
I've been a big fan of Anne Francis since watching "Honey West" during its original broadcast on ABC. I met her about 20 years ago at a movie memorabilia show and had her sign some Honey West memorabilia. She seemed like a very nice person. (I'm only sorry that I did not bring a camera.) Anyway I greatly looked forward to reading this book when I initially heard about it. After reading it I was not disappointed.
The first half of the book is a biography of the beautiful actress. The second half is a complete list of all of Anne's movies and tv appearances. My favorite part was the tv appearances. The author lists all of her appearances, the dates, the additional cast members, a small synopsis of the plot and some additional commentary of each episode. As someone who loved the tv of the '50s and '60s, I especially enjoyed reading about Anne's appearances on some of my favorite series (U.N.C.L.E., The Fugitive, Burkes Law, The Invaders, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, etc., etc.) After this section, there is a complete episode guide to Honey West including the synopsis of each episode and author's commentary. I enjoyed the Honey West section in this book and episode guide more than another book I read on Honey West recently that was focused entirely on the classic series.
The book also includes many very nice black and white photos of Anne from childhood until the 1990s.
In conclusion, the price might be a little steep, however if you are a fan of this wonderful actress you should grab a copy of this book. You are sure to enjoy it.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
Anne Francis was a severely underrated actress who came to prominence in films during the Fifties and later in the Sixties most often on television. Appearing opposite such leading men as Spencer Tracy, Glenn Ford, James Cagney, and Robert Taylor, she gave stellar performances in classics like "Bad Day At Black Rock," "Forbidden Planet," "The Blackboard Jungle," and "A Lion Is In The Streets." The likes of John Sturges, William Wyler, Raul Walsh, and Richard Brooks directed her. In the mid sixties she sent many adolescent boys to the cold showers as the beautiful and sexy Honey West in the short lived television series of the same name. If ever an actress deserved a full examination of her life and career, Ms. Francis did. Unfortunately, Laura Wagner's book ANNE FRANCIS THE LIFE AND CAREER is a terrible insult to Ms. Francis, who passed away January 2, 2011.

Instead of a thoroughly researched, carefully written biography, Wagner commits the lazy writer's sin of cobbling together second hand information out of newspaper articles and books, as well as quoting from Ms. Francis's own autobiography and website. She does not appear to have interviewed anyone who worked with Ms. Francis - like Ernest Borgnine, Jerry Lewis, Earl Holliman or so many others who are still alive. Heck, even Maureen McCormick, in her pre Brady Bunch days, had a role in a Honey West episode and she's certainly still around. Then there's John Ericson, who played Francis's brother in "Bad Day at Black Rock" and later co-starred with her for an entire season in "Honey West." It's outrageous that Wagner did not interview him. And I'm sure many of the behind the scenes people from her films and television shows would gladly have shared their recollections had Ms. Wagner bothered to track them down. What about Ms. Francis's agent? And why didn't she interview Francis's two daughters? In her preface Wagner does not say she even attempted to interview any of these people firsthand.

Second hand quotes from other sources, of the kind which fill Wagner's book, can be notoriously unreliable. Many articles are actually written by press agents and therefore slanted a certain way. Or such pieces omit certain information or contain misquotes. Therefore we can't be sure what is true, what is error, or what is mere puffery.

If a biographer troubles herself to actually interview people, she gets her material firsthand. She can probe, discover contradictions, ask follow up questions, dig down and generally come up with hitherto undisclosed nuggets of information that can shed far greater light on her subject than the mere repetition of quotes out of other people's work. However, because Wagner couldn't be bothered, we get only a superficial look at Anne Francis, instead of an depth portrait. Ms. Francis comes off as one dimensional, while Wagner reveals herself as just a gushing fan rather than a skilled biographer. This is an unforgivable sin when so many people who knew this fine lady are still alive and available for interviews.

Moreover, Wagner sets herself up as the last word on artistic matters. For instance, she concludes that cutting a couple of scenes out of "Funny Girl" were mistakes. Excuse me? "Funny Girl" was directed by William Wyler, who, Wagner admits, had the final cut on the film --- the same William Wyler whose record of winning 3 Best Director Academy Awards is second only to John Ford (who won 4).This is the same William Wyler who directed such classics as "Jezebel," "Mrs. Miniver," "Wuthering Heights"(1939), "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Ben Hur" (1959), and "Roman Holiday." Yet Wagner, who evidently has never even directed a student film, knows better than Wyler what to cut and what to keep in. And since she makes no claim that she has ever seen this footage (which, for all anyone knows, may be lost), how can she possibily judge that cutting these scenes were mistakes? Astonishing chutzpah!

Wagner also chides an unnamed "film historian" as "uninformed" because he dared to give Francis less than an adoring review for her work in "Forbidden Planet." In other words, Wagner is the final judge and jury of all that is great and anyone who disagrees is "uninformed." What an ego! (Wagner reviews books in Classic Images in this way, too: if an author dares to express an opinion in his own book with which she does not agree, Wagner slams the author and the book for his "ignorance.")

Wagner devotes approximately half of the book to a filmography, which is fair enough, except that most of it is easily available for free on the Internet Movie Database (which Wagner cites as one of her sources in her bibliography). In other words, there's very little here that's new and worth the hefty retail price of $38.00.

This book is an awful abomination which is a real discredit to McFarland, which has a lot of otherwise fine film and television books in its catalog. One hopes that someday someone else who truly cares about the "life and career" of Anne Francis will give the lady the in depth treatment she certainly deserves. But this book falls way short of even minimal biographical standards.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2012
I ENJOYED THIS BOOK VERY MUCH,I,THOUGHT MISS FRANCIS WAS UNDERRATED AS AN ACTRESS.
LAURA WAGNER IS A TERRIFIC AUTHOR,IHAVE LIKED ALL THE BOOKS SHE HAS WRITTEN AND HAVE NEVER BEEN DISAPPOINTED READING THE BOOKS SHE RECOMMENDS IN HER COLUMN IN CLASSIC IMAGES.
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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2011
How many books on Anne Francis are likely to be published? Unfortunately, it'll be ONE, but why did it have to be this one?! Laura Wagner professes to be the be-all and end-all when it comes to film history. Her little column in Classic Images is a platform to hate every book published and point out the mistakes the authors have made throughout their work. Her ego and arrogance is off the radar. This book, or any book written by her, exudes her personality, and believe me, that's not a good thing! Anne Francis deserved better. As usual, Wagner gives HER opinion about everything. She sticks her nose in with opinions that are unwarranted in an attempt to rewrite Hollywood history the way she thinks it should be.

Where are the first hand sources? Many peers and family are still alive. There's no excuse to not track them down for an interview. None! Then again, maybe they just didn't want to speak with her. The book is a Frankenstein-job of cut and pasted information from second hand sources, which are notoriously unreliable. There is nothing new here. Save your money and look up Anne Francis online to find out more info about her life and career...that's what Laura Wagner did!
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