'Forbidden Planet, 'Honey West' star Anne Francis dies at age 80

FILE-This Nov.8,2006, file photo supplied by Warner Home Video shows actress Anne Francis posing with Robby the Robot at a screening to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film, "Forbidden Planet," in Los Angeles. Francis, who was the love interest in the 1950s science-fiction classic "Forbidden Planet" and later was sexy private eye Honey West" on TV, has died. She was 80. (AP Photo/Warner Home Video,Alan Berliner,File )

LOS ANGELES -- Actress Anne Francis, who was the love interest in the 1950s science-fiction classic "Forbidden Planet" and later was sexy private eye in "Honey West" on TV, has died at age 80.

Francis died Sunday at a Santa Barbara, Calif., nursing home, said Bill Guntle, an area funeral director.

Francis, who had surgery and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, died of complications of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Jane Uemura, told the Los Angeles Times.

Francis appeared opposite such stars as Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, Robert Taylor and Glenn Ford in some of the most popular films of the 1950s. But "Forbidden Planet" and "Honey West" made her reputation.

"Forbidden Planet," a science-fiction retelling of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," was hailed in Leonard Maltin's "2006 Movie Guide" as "one of the most ambitious and intelligent films of its genre."

In "Honey West," which aired from 1965 to 1966, Francis' private detective character -- who kept a pet ocelot -- was a female James Bond: sexy, stylish and as good with martial arts as she was with a gun. She was nominated for an Emmy for the role, which lasted 30 episodes.

"A lot of people speak to me about Honey West," Francis recalled. "The character made young women think there was more they could reach for. It encouraged a lot of people."

After a childhood career in New York radio and television and on the Broadway stage, Francis arrived in Hollywood when she landed a movie contract at MGM. She later went to 20th Century-Fox, then returned to MGM, and the two big studios afforded her the chance to act opposite the biggest male stars of the day.

In "Blackboard Jungle," the landmark 1955 film about an idealistic teacher (Ford) in a violent city school, Francis played his pregnant wife who is targeted for harassment by one of his students.

Among her other films: "Bad Day at Black Rock" with Tracy and Robert Ryan, "Rogue Cop" with Taylor, "The Rack" with Newman, "A Lion Is in the Streets" with James Cagney, and "Hook, Line and Sinker" opposite Jerry Lewis.

When her movie career declined, Francis became active in television, appearing in dozens of series, including "Mission Impossible," "The Virginian," "My Three Sons," "Ironside," "Gunsmoke," "The Twilight Zone," "Charlie's Angels," "The Golden Girls," "Home Improvement" and "Nash Bridges."

Her name was Ann Marvak when she was born Sept. 16, 1930, in Ossining, N.Y.

By age 5 she was working as a model, and by 11 she was appearing on daytime radio serials, winning the nickname the Little Queen of Soap Operas. She also had some small roles on Broadway.

After her first MGM contract, during which she attended studio school with Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell and Natalie Wood, she returned to New York. There, she took part in television's Golden Age, acting in such acclaimed dramatic series as "Studio One" and "U.S. Steel Hour" before returning to Hollywood.

Francis' early marriage to actor Bam Price ended in divorce.

In addition to Jane, Francis and her second husband, Robert Abeloff, had another daughter, Maggie, before divorcing. She also is survived by a grandson.


Associated Press writer Jeff Wilson contributed to this report.

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