Talent and Torment

Frances Farmer: The Troubled Star Who Shook Up 1940s Hollywood (allthatsinteresting.com)

I’ve always had a fascination with Francis Farmer knowing she was a hometown girl who had much talent and many hidden demons. I’ve seen the Jessica Lange version of the bio film. I’ve heard and watched the Nirvana song that goes deeper into her terrors. Today she would have had a better diagnosis. Bi-polar, manic-depressive wasn’t known as such nearly a century ago. Her greatest nemesis became alcohol. And those who swarmed in to take advantage of a broken soul, of which there were many. And then there’s her poem, above.

In 1931, while a senior at 
West Seattle High School, Farmer entered and won $100 from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a writing contest sponsored by Scholastic Magazine, with her controversial essay “God Dies”. It was a precocious attempt to reconcile her wish for, in her words, a “superfather” God, with her observations of a chaotic and godless world.

The Story Behind The Song: Nirvana | Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle (youtube.com)

Frances – Official Trailer | IMDb

I do hope you open the links and read more about her time spent in mental institutions. It’s a sad local history but unfortunately not uncommon and why most have been shuttered everywhere. She fought hard to get her life back after being denied a voice. The Nirvana link is good and totally work watching.

Upon her triumphant return to the stage:
“[T]here was a long silent pause as I stood there, followed by the most thunderous applause of my career. [The audience] swept the scandal under the rug with their ovation … my finest and final performance. I knew I would never need to act onstage again.”

And she largely never did. In 1970, Farmer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died in August of that year at the age of 57.

Her story, equal parts true despair and devastating myth, would endure. Indeed, Frances Farmer’s life would inspire the works of countless artists to come, whose own struggles in some ways resembled those of Hollywood’s fallen angel.

Frances Farmer –


FRANCIS FARMER, Talent and Torment
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