Frances Farmer: The “Come and Get It” Story

An absolutely brilliant 2-part post about Frances Farmer, one of Hollywood’s sadder tales.

Part 1 is here. In this post the Siren addresses the myths about Frances Farmer – set in stone by the 1982 film Frances – while still applauding Jessica Lange’s genius (in my opinion – her only genius) performance. I’m in general not crazy about Jessica Lange, I think she’s rather self-conscious, self-pleased – and pretty much over-praised as an actress. But in Frances? She blows the lid off. Lange was channeling something in that part, rather than acting. Much of it never happened, however, and the Siren goes into all of that.

Then she takes on the assignment to take a look at Frances Farmer’s actual acting, which leads us to part 2.

Part 2 is a fantastic analysis of Come and Get It, really the only film that Frances Farmer is known for. The story behind the filming of this movie is quite well known to fans of Howard Hawks, William Wyler, or Samuel Goldwyn. I suppose Edna Ferber fans would know it, too). What is also REALLY interesting is the Siren’s analysis of the first part of the film (directed by Hawks before he was booted) as compared to the second half (directed by William Wyler). And also: her comments about the whole logging section are spot on. Fantastic footage and terrifying to this day, even in our era of CGI terrors. Perhaps even especially in this day and age. Those scenes are even more terrifying because there’s no trick to it. It is REAL.

I also love her analysis of Farmer’s acting, and her ease with the “Hawks woman” type part.

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8 Responses to Frances Farmer: The “Come and Get It” Story

  1. Campaspe says:

    Thanks so much for this review! Lange: tend to agree. I think she is quite charming in Tootsie and more than adequate in Postman and a couple of others, but in later years she got mannered, fast. But she is so good in Frances.

    I love your blog and to be honest, I have no freaking idea why I keep forgetting to blogroll it. Do forgive me! I am going to update my post for today.

  2. red says:

    Fake and forced? He must be out of his mind. Maybe it just made him feel uncomfortable – it certainly is not easy to watch. It’s brutal, you know?? You want to shoot this woman to put her out of her misery. It’s raw – ferocious – almost like a Greek tragedienne.

    And you know – I loved Lange in Tootsie, too. She was lovely, sweet – and she had an aura of depression which I find quite appealing. Like – she’s not a typical leading lady, if you know what I mean.

    Tempe – I LOVE your wishful re-casting of the senator in Silence of the Lambs – how fascinating. You seem to have a very good eye – what are some other examples of parts you would re-cast? I love talking about crap like that. :)

  3. Emily says:

    That’s fascinating, what you wrote about re-casting Walter. I never would have thought of it, but now that you mention it, it almost seems kind of obvious.

    I read somewhere that Gerard McSorley was originally cast to play the role of Captain Queenan in The Departed, but had to drop out for some reason. Not to sniff at Martin Sheen, but I cried for DAYS when I read that. I don’t even want to think of the different kinds awesome that would have been. That guy is *intense*. I can barely control myself when I talk about him.

  4. DBW says:

    Great post(s), and great discussion. I used to be quite taken with Jessica Lange’s acting–especially in Frances and Tootsie. In Tootsie, the scenes where they go to her father’s farm for the weekend are really nice, and Lange is very appealing in those shots. I have realized that Sidney Pollack is as responsible for the attractive nature of Lange in those scenes as Lange is herself, and I agree with other commenters that her work has become very self-conscious.

    I love Tempe’s comments about Jessica Walter being a better fit for the Senator in Silence of the Lambs. Those are fun things to ponder.

    I seem to remember reading that Eastwood knew Farmer personally, and that was the reason he didn’t like Lange’s performance, but when I tried to find any information about them, I came up empty. Maybe I am creating that memory in my head.

  5. red says:

    DBW – that would certainly explain it, if he knew her.

    Cary Grant worked with Farmer (in a not very good movie) – and felt that she lacked professionalism, which really bothered him. He didn’t respect her for letting her personal life get in the way of getting to the set on time, or whatever.

  6. red says:

    I turned off Lange pretty early – when I saw Crimes of the Heart. I thought her work was unbelievably lazy in that movie. It was especially obvious to me because Diane Keaton and Sissy Spacek and Tess Harper were so good. There was Lange, and she seemed adrift – and instead of having coping skills as an actress to ground herself in that character – she relief on tricks, and self-conscious “oooh, I’m sad and edgy” behavior (like cutting her bangs with a razor blade). I was like: wow, she really doesn’t know how to work. Not REALLY, not like other actresses do.

    And for me that impression of her as kind of lazy has continued. Lazy might be a mean way to say it. I think it may more be just a matter of not having the talent of, say, a Meryl Streep or a Susan Sarandon – women who never seem as adrift as she often does – because they have natural gifts that can protect them, even when they are in CRAP.

    I think Lange always has an eye on herself – she’s always watching to see what impression she puts off – with the huge glaring exception of Frances – where she was channeling some Medean source of rage. hahaha

    And Tootsie, too – where she was sweet and lovable.

  7. red says:

    Tempe – I loved Meryl Streep in Eastwoods’ Bridges of Madison County. That’s one of my favorite parts she’s played – but in my opinion, like you said, it is an exception. Women are kind of peripheral to his work, it seems. In general, folks, just in general. And I despised that Bridges of Madison County book so much that it actually makes me MAD to think about it. But she was awesome.

    And I remember seeing Prime of Miss Jean Brodie when I was a kid – and Maggie Smith’s performance was emblazoned on my memory. I love her!!

  8. red says:

    Yeah, and it’s definitely worth it to check out Lange in Frances. It’s a performance you won’t ever forget. Brilliant. Scary. Unhinged. And not actress-y at ALL. You truly wonder if Lange herself will be all right at the end of the movie – she’s that good.

    And of course the brilliant Kim Stanley plays the monster-mother. Hateful bitch.