Will There Really Be a Morning? (1983)

Based on Frances Farmer’s autobiography, Will There Really Be a Morning invited comparisons with the more fancied Frances when it debuted on the small screen while Jessica Lange’s vehicle was still playing in the cinemas. While it is surprising that this TV movie is the more informative of the two versions, the added depth does not correlate with the performance of its female star.

Unavoidably, the film covers much the same ground as its big screen counterpart. The young Frances Farmer causes a minor scandal with her school essay ‘God Dies’, wins a trip to Moscow and garners a studio contract with Paramount Pictures. A doomed love-affair with playwright Clifford Odets leads to a downward spiral that results in her being committed to an asylum. But whereas Jessica Lange’s Frances suggested the actress was eventually worn down by society’s needs for her to conform, the mental illness of Susan Blakely’s Frances is laughably more abrupt.

A strong supporting cast and good production values go some way to offsetting such missteps. Though Lee Grant attracts most of the attention for her turn as Frances’ maniacal mother, Royal Dano manages to register some shading in the thankless role of the actress’ father. John Heard also scores as Odets. In describing the lead character of his play ‘Golden Boy’ he, perhaps unwittingly, describes this biopic’s interpretation of the troubled star, wherein having sold out her soul for money, she proceeds to drive all the other characters crazy.

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The real-life inspiration for fictional character Bill Anderson is actor Leif Erickson.

Though author Jean Ratcliffe claimed she only contributed the final chapter of Frances Farmer’s autobiography ‘Will There Really Be A Morning?’, it is widely believed she sensationalised other aspects of the book to facilitate a movie sale.

Edith Farmer Elliot published her own account of her sister’s life, ‘Look Back in Love’, which repudiated many of the claims detailed in ‘Will There Really Be A Morning?’. In a 1974 letter to The Indianapolis News she denounced the book as “lesbian pornography fiction [full of] filthy lies.

Biopic suggests scene recreations from Farmer's movie debut Too Many Parents and Come and Get it. 

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