Anne Francis, the attractive blonde star of 1960s series “Honey West” who appeared in numerous features including “Forbidden Planet,” died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 80.
Francis made her mark as the owner of a detective agency in “Honey West,” one of Aaron Spelling’s early skeins, winning a Golden Globe and an Emmy nom. In MGM’s 1956 cult sci-fi pic “Forbidden Planet,” she co-starred as the daughter Altaira with Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon.
“Honey West,” the first series to feature a femme detective character’s name in the title, was spun off from “Burke’s Law” and aired for one season from 1965-66 on ABC. The fashionable
female James Bond-style character drove a custom-built Cobra convertible and solved crimes with the help of a pet ocelot, teargas earrings and a lipstick radio transmitter. In its review, Variety said, “This sliver of a private-eye series has the cool and sexy Anne Francis as a possible saver. She very nicely underplays her role as a femme gumshoe, but the gimmick of her judo expertise — she bounces Muscle Beach type males off the walls with predictable regularity — shouldn’t be overdone.”
Francis started her showbiz career at age 5 as a model in Gotham. After working on kids radio shows, she made her Broadway debut in 1941’s “Lady in the Dark.”
In 1946, she was signed to MGM for a year but few of the roles were remarkable. Still, Darryl Zanuck saw her as a child prostitute in 1950’s “So Young, So Bad” and signed her for three years at 20th Century Fox. She followed that up with another three years at MGM and was featured in “Lydia Bailey” with Dale Robertson; “Elopement” and “Dreamboat” (both with Clifton Webb); “Bad Day at Black Rock” with Spencer Tracy; “Blackboard Jungle” with Glenn Ford; and “Rogue Cop” with Robert Taylor. Later features included Barbra Streisand starrer “Funny Girl.”
In later years Francis had recurring roles in such series as “My Three Sons,” “Dallas” and “Murder, She Wrote.” She also guested on such skeins as “Fantasy Island,” “Jake and the Fatman,” “Wings” and more recently in “Without a Trace.”
She wrote a book, “Voices From Home” about her spiritual journey.
Survivors include two daughters and a grandson.