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Frances Farmer biography

Frances Farmer was an American actress known for her promising career in Hollywood during the 1930s and early 1940s, as well as for her tumultuous personal life. Here’s a biography of her life and career:

Early Life:

  • Frances Elena Farmer was born on September 19, 1913, in Seattle, Washington, USA.
  • She was the daughter of Lillian Van Ornum and Ernest Melvin Farmer and had one sibling, a brother named Wesley.

Rise to Stardom:

  • Frances Farmer’s acting career began to take off in the late 1930s. She made her debut in the Broadway play “Golden Boy” in 1935 and subsequently signed a contract with Paramount Pictures.
  • Farmer appeared in films such as “Rhythm on the Range” (1936) and “Come and Get It” (1936), which earned her critical acclaim.

Controversies and Personal Struggles:

  • Despite her early success, Frances Farmer was known for her rebellious and independent nature, which sometimes clashed with the studio system and led to conflicts with her employers.
  • She was briefly married to actor Leif Erickson but the marriage ended in divorce.
  • Farmer faced mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, which affected her personal life and career.

Legal Troubles:

  • In 1942, Frances Farmer was arrested for driving under the influence and subsequently became embroiled in a series of legal troubles, including charges related to a brawl at a women’s club.
  • She was sent to the Western State Hospital in Washington for psychiatric evaluation and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Return to Hollywood:

  • After several years of treatment, Farmer was released from the psychiatric hospital in 1950. She briefly returned to Hollywood but struggled to revive her acting career.

Later Life:

  • Frances Farmer later moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she worked as a clerk at a hotel.
  • She became reclusive and lived a quiet life, away from the spotlight.


  • Frances Farmer passed away on August 1, 1970, at the age of 56, from esophageal cancer.


  • Frances Farmer’s life and struggles have been the subject of numerous books, articles, and even a biographical film, “Frances” (1982), in which Jessica Lange portrayed her.
  • Her story has often been cited as an example of the pressures and difficulties faced by actors in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Frances Farmer’s career was marked by her early promise as an actress and her subsequent personal struggles. Her complex and often tragic life has made her a notable figure in the history of Hollywood.

Trivia of Frances Farmer

Certainly! Here are some trivia and lesser-known facts about Frances Farmer:

  1. Early Ambitions: Before pursuing acting, Frances Farmer aspired to become a writer and journalist. She was an avid reader and a talented writer.
  2. Early Theater Work: Frances Farmer’s acting career began in Seattle’s theater scene, where she gained recognition for her performances in local productions.
  3. Film Debut: She made her film debut in the 1936 movie “Too Many Parents,” which marked the start of her Hollywood career.
  4. Broadway Success: Farmer achieved success on Broadway with her role in the play “Golden Boy” (1937), opposite Luther Adler and Lee J. Cobb. Her performance garnered critical acclaim.
  5. Beauty and Talent: She was known not only for her acting talent but also for her striking beauty. Her captivating looks contributed to her popularity in Hollywood.
  6. Rebellious Reputation: Frances Farmer gained a reputation for being a non-conformist and independent thinker, which sometimes clashed with the studio system’s expectations for its stars.
  7. Marriages: She was married three times during her life. Her first marriage was to actor Leif Erickson, which ended in divorce. She later married Alfred Lobley and then Leland Mikesell.
  8. Psychiatric Hospitalization: Farmer’s psychiatric hospitalization and diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia became the subject of intense media scrutiny and controversy.
  9. Memoir: Frances Farmer wrote a memoir titled “Will There Really Be a Morning?” in 1972, posthumously published by her friend Jean Ratcliffe.
  10. Legal Battles: Her legal battles and struggles with the authorities were widely publicized, and her story was featured in newspapers, magazines, and books.
  11. Inspiration for Films: The biographical film “Frances” (1982), starring Jessica Lange, was based on her life and struggles. It provided a fictionalized account of her experiences.
  12. Legacy: Frances Farmer’s life has continued to be a subject of interest and fascination, with various books, documentaries, and articles exploring her career and personal challenges.

Frances Farmer’s life and career are remembered for their complexity, with her early success in Hollywood, her rebellion against the studio system, her struggles with mental health, and her enduring legacy as an iconic figure in the history of American cinema.


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