Francis, who was a sex siren in the 1950s also memorably starred in the science-fiction classic “Forbidden Planet,” but her star-turn as a private eye in television show “Honey West” made her an icon.
The stunning blonde died Sunday (Jan. 2) at a Santa Barbara nursing home, said Bill Guntle, a funeral director McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary in Santa Barbara.
Ironically Francis, survived a bought with lung cancer in 2007, although her pancreatic cancer likely was related and due to smoking.
During her heyday in Hollywood she starred opposite the era’s top leading men, including Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, Robert Taylor and Glenn Ford in some of the most popular films of the 1950s.
Her more than 30 movies included “Bad Day at Black Rock” with Tracy, “Blackboard Jungle” with Ford, “Rogue Cop” with Taylor and “Funny Girl” with Barbara Streisand.
She also played in “The Rack” with Newman, “A Lion Is in the Streets” with James Cagney, and did comedy as well, starring in “Hook, Line and Sinker” opposite Jerry Lewis.
But the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet” and “Honey West” elevated her to cult status.
“Forbidden Planet,” based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” starred Leslie Nielsen, who died just last year.
The movie is about space travelers who visit a planet in search of a lost expedition, where they find a lone scientist Walter Pidgeon, his daughter (Francis) and their helper, Robby the Robot.
The scientist discovers an ancient advanced civilization and learns the secret of their intelligence, enabling him to project powerful invisible forces that he ultimately can not control.
“Honey West” only aired for one season, but Francis’s character ignited the imaginations and embolden a generation of women who were coming of age and looking for something beyond motherhood and a suburban lifestyle.
“A lot of people speak to me about Honey West,” Francis recalled.
“The character made young women think there was more they could reach for. It encouraged a lot of people,” she added.
She was born Ann Marvak on Sept. 16, 1930, in Ossining, N.Y. She became a child actress in New York, on radio, television and Broadway, before heading to Hollywood in 1946 at 16.