A career-defining performance by Jessica Lange elevates this harrowing biopic from its slow pace. Disregarded after her movie debut in King Kong (1976), six years later Lange became the first actress in forty years to be nominated for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscars in the same year. There would be no such happy ending for the actress she portrayed, Frances Farmer.
From the single-mindedness of a 16 year old through to her tenacious dignity almost 30 years later, Lange brilliantly captures the resolve of a woman determined not to be restrained by society’s strictures, the studio system or her mother’s bitterness. In the intervening years Frances pays a debilitating toll for attempting to assert her independence. Battling heartbreak and alcohol she is committed to an asylum, partly because her mother believes that anyone who turns their back on Hollywood must be crazy!
Jessica Lange lost out to Meryl Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice for the 1983 Best Actress Oscar, but did win the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Tootsie. Also nominated in that category was Kim Stanley, for her multi-faceted portrayal as Frances Farmer’s mother. This biopic seems to suggest that Frances's life may have been a whole lot different if such high calibre female roles were available to her.
The real-life inspiration for fictional character Dick Steele is actor Leif Erickson
Harry York is a fictional character.
False names are given to the directors of Flowing Gold and No Escape.
According to journalist and researcher Jeffrey Kauffman, the following are just some of Frances’ inaccuracies:
Frances’ mother was not in favour of her daughter resuming a movie career after her release from a psychiatric hospital.
Frances never received a lobotomy.
It is extremely unlikely that servicemen sexually attacked Frances and fellow inmates of psychiatric hospital.
The most memorable recreation in this biopic depicts Frances being directed to repeatedly fall in the mud for this scene from Flowing Gold.