08 September 2008

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge

Frances Farmer, by Edward Steichen, Sept. 21, 1937
From The George Eastman House Collection

REPOST I first read about Frances Farmer, in the late 80's when I read 2 books about her. of which there are now three. In addition, there are songs and also a movie, titled, Frances. In a nutshell, Frances Farmer was a young, beautiful, talented actress from Seattle, Wa, who coincidentally had a mental illness. Most folks with a untreated serious mental illness any time before 1970, (likely Manic-Depressive disorder),usually ended up incarcerated, or deceased. (I can think of two of these sort of people currently in the news, and several who have died accidentally, or have taken their own lives. (And this is not the 1940's, mind you.) Well, Frances assaulted her mother during an episode, and her mother did what most folks did then: She had her involuntarily committed to a State Hospital for six years, where she received Electroconvulsive Shock Treatments, was assaulted repeatedly by other patients and mistreated by staff. Horrible? Yes, but the norm in most institutions in America until the late 60's. I'm not going to give the rest away. Read one of the books, or rent the movie. As an interesting footnote, (Warning: BIRG). Frances Farmer ended up living in my birthplace, (Indianapolis, In), where she hosted a sad little television show, and also 40 minutes south, in Nashville, IN, (where I spent a lot of time on a family farm), where she allegedly drove her car into the county jail one night. Yeehaw! Happy reading/watching.

What got me going on this:
An interesting resource I found recently, a very scholarly data base called the Movies and Mental Illness Filmography. For some reason Frances didn't make the cut. Have a look, you might be surprised by some entries, but I caution you that it is not entirely accurate.
Note: Have a look at Kurt Cobain, another untreated Manic-Depressive, who was fascinated with the kinship he had with Frances Farmer, resulting in the song Frances Farmer will Have Her Revenge on Seattle. Okay, so the lives of Cobain, Woolf, Jarrell, Roethke, Berryman, Sexton, Van Gogh, Ochs, Hemingway, Arbus, Shelley, Plath and countless others ended in suicide. But what about not-as-gifted average people? Who remembers them?

I thank God often for the fact that my mother is nothing like Frances Farmer's.
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


maud said...

Steichen, YOU RAWK.

Hillbilly said...

Yes, T'was providence. I could not believe my eyes. It has that Steichen thing to it that no none can reproduce. I wish I could keep it at the top of the page.

Syd said...

Any movie database on mental illness that didn't include Farmer is a joke. She is one of the saddest and most important stories in the misuse of the mental health care system of them all.

Hillbilly said...

Yep. I'd have to say though, that Rosemary Kennedy would be at the very top.

Related Posts with Thumbnails