The Tragic Life of Frances Farmer

Frances grew up in West Seattle. Her address was 2636 47th St. SW. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. Her mild-mannered attorney father proved no match for her bossy, social  activist mother.
Frances in 1938
Frances first became known as “The bad girl of West Seattle” when her atheistic essay won a contest from Scholastic Magazine. 

Farmer Home in West Seattle
Her piece, “God Dies” made headlines (“Seattle Girl Denies God And Wins Prize”) and the 18-year old Frances learned fast that she would have to plan an escape from her provincial surroundings. She got this chance as a UW drama student when she won a 1935 trip to Russia. When her ship returned to New York, she cashed in the return bus ticket to Seattle and sought lodging and stage work in Manhattan. (I've always admired people who follow their dreams no matter what) Within weeks she was discovered by a talent scout and offered a 7-year contract with Paramount Studios. She was 22 years old. California was a nice change from rainy Seattle and she tried her best to follow studio orders.
Leif Erickson
She posed for publicity stills, controlled her weight via prescription amphetamines, and even married a handsome fellow contract player named Leif Erickson. The pretty couple settled into their home in Laurel Canyon and posed for magazine stories. Frances soon found herself co-starring with Hollywood’s biggest star Bing Crosby in Rhythm on the Range and loaned out for the Howard Hawks film Come and Get It in 1936, where she was given the challenging dual roles of mother and daughter. Hawks called her “the greatest actress I have ever worked with.” With two box-office hits under her belt and some newfound leverage, Frances started showing her true nature by defiantly refusing to attend Hollywood parties and play the glamour girl. In 1937, Frances wanted to prove herself as a dedicated stage actress. This led to a role in Broadway’s Golden Boy and a love affair with its lauded playwright-the equally married Clifford Odets.
Clifford Odets
Things didn’t pan out as she'd hoped, and Frances found herself back in Hollywood with a broken heart and an unbroken studio contract. By 1942, Frances was struggling with tepid film roles, impending divorce, and an addiction to Benzedrine's and booze. She was reportedly growing more paranoid and short-tempered. On October 19, 1942, it came to a head when she was pulled over by a motorcycle cop for driving with her headlights on bright in a wartime dim zone. Frances got mouthy and they had a scuffle. She was arrested, fined and given a suspended sentence. She paid half the $500 fine. Three months later, Frances was in no mood for a certain studio hairdresser and slugged her. With an unpaid fine and new assault charge – the police found her at the Knickerbocker Hotel and hauled her to jail kicking and screaming. At the police station, she stated her occupation as “cocksucker”. (A legitimate job for some) 
At Police Station
A judge ordered her to the screen actors Kimball Sanitarium in La Crescenta. Her mother traveled by train to California and was granted guardianship of her daughter. Back in Seattle, she and her mother battled at home and an overwhelmed Lillian had Frances committed to Western State Hospital. (Nice) Western State was the largest psychiatric hospital west of the Mississippi.
The remains of Western State today.
This was Frances Farmer's home for three months in 1944 and much of 1945 thru 1950. In the years that Frances was a patient at the hospital, it was reportedly very understaffed and in disrepair. For nearly 50 years, hydrotherapy was the early treatment of choice. Wet packs, hot tubs and showers were used to calm patients. Harsher treatments included a surgical procedure called the frontal lobotomy. It was used for a period of time in the 1940's.
Doctors performing a lobotomy
Hospital records state that Frances was not one of the 300 patients who received a lobotomy. Her attorney father Ernest also threatened legal action if the facility dare try any “guinea pig” experiments on his daughter. Frances was paroled on March 23, 1950 and returned to her mother’s care. She took a job as a laundress at The Fairmont Hotel in downtown Seattle. The same hotel that had once hosted her world premiere party for Come and Get It. (Can you imagine?)  Her legal rights were restored in 1953 and she moved to a boarding house in Eureka, CA. She drowned herself in vodka and worked as a typist and assistant at a photo shop under the alias Phyllis Anderson. She had two short-lived marriages in the mid 1950s and the second guy tried to get her on the comeback trail. Neither of the marriages or a Hollywood comeback worked out. Frances appeared twice on The Ed Sullivan Show, and in a CBS Playhouse 90 teleplay. She also did the 1958 live episode of This Is Your Life, broadcast from the Pantages Theater. She was presented with a brand new Edsel car for all her televised mortification. On the show, she was harassed by host Ralph Edwards about her rumored “alcoholism” and “nervous breakdown.” (Asshole) From 1958 to 1964, Frances hosted an Indianapolis TV show on WFBM-TV called Frances Farmer Presents.
Hosting Frances Farmer Presents
She did extensive research on the films that she presented and discussed in her live segments. She proved to be an elegant, gracious host and insightful interviewer of visiting celebrities such as Dan Blocker, Vivian Vance, (LOVE Her) and her own ex-husband, Leif Erickson. The show aired 6 days a week and remained #1 in the time slot for its entire run. (Impressive) She was arrested for drunk driving in October 1965 not long after a stressful appearance on The Today Show where she was once again asked about her mental illness on national TV. (Decades later, Lindsay, Britney, and Gary Busey, would receive the same treatment on the same show) Frances spent her final years in Indianapolis. She lost her battle with throat cancer on August 1, 1970. She was only 56 years old, and still beautiful.
Frances in 1968

Contrary to popular belief, Frances Cobain was not named after Frances Farmer. She was named after Frances McKee of the Scottish Alternative band, The Vaselines. Just sayin'.