She was a different woman, perhaps too daring for those 40s where to be an actress it was enough to be beautiful and obedient. Frances Farmer dared to be stubborn and was called hysterical. She dared to have a voice and to ask for deeper roles and they called her naive. When she wanted to escape from that world it was too late, that’s when they called her “crazy.”
It is quite possible that few people today remember the name of Frances Farmer. It is one more female figure that is lost in the nebula of time, behind that dusty curtain where those interesting and always ruthless stories tend to be cornered that often reflect a specific time, but that still today remain a contained cry for help that deserves to be remembered. .
“The only good thing I have is that I’m getting used to suffering”
However, within the world of psychiatry, the name of this actress is well known for a number of reasons: the psychological treatments to which this woman was subjected over several years reflect a time as dark as it is terrible, where women curiously, they were often the most direct victims…
Frances Farmer, a woman raised to have a voice and fame
At present we have extensive documentation on the life of Frances Farmer. Her own sister published the book ” Look Back in Love”, where she recounted each of the harsh experiences that the young actress had to live throughout the years in which she was admitted to various psychiatric hospitals. In turn, through the investigation “Will There Really Be a Morning?” It also reflects on his personality, his family environment and if he really suffered, as was said, a paranoid schizophrenia.
Be that as it may, as is always the case in these complex cases, there is something that cannot be ignored: education and the historical context. If we said at the beginning that Frances was too daring a woman for her time, it is mainly due to a very specific reason: her mother started her early in the obligation to have a voice, to know how to give her opinion and to always assume a critical attitude before what surrounded her.
As a teenager, she was featured in local Seattle newspapers for giving vindictive speeches about women or non-belief in God based on Nietzsche’s legacy. Later, her mother enrolled her in theater classes with a very specific purpose, related to satisfying a personal yearning, a frustrated desire of her own youth: to achieve fame in the cinema. A goal that she achieved while Frances was in college and pursued one of her main hobbies: writing critical articles on the society of her time.
Don’t speak, don’t say, obey
In 1935, when she had already done some other role in the cinema, Frances Farmer fulfilled her main objective: to graduate in journalism. However, before she began to project her life into that field, her mother convinced her to temporarily postpone her professional goals and focus on the world of the scene. Frances agreed and her agent arranged an audition for her at Paramount Pictures.
The test couldn’t be easier: wear a nice dress, sit still and look at the camera. Frances Farmer had a classic beauty where at the moment the cheek and the most daring seduction appeared, being that more than enough for the film industry. They offered him a 7-year contract, all he had to do was obey, learn the scripts, and go to management parties from time to time and keep quiet about what might happen in those meetings.
Frances rebelled against that world. She hated the roles that were offered to her as a naive woman. He detested the press and especially having to follow another script in his life where everything should be wrapped in glamor and exquisite falsehood. However, he relented. He gave convinced by his mother and his agents, even to the point of getting married to another actor in order to settle their profile further pop star.
Craving for freedom and the straitjacket
The decline in Frances Farmer’s career started early. He refused to shoot certain scenes, rejected scripts and breached the contracts signed with his agents. At night she used to drive with the desire to escape everything, including herself. He hit the gas in an impossible getaway that often ended badly. She was well known to the Santa Monica police for racking up infinite fines for reckless driving and while intoxicated.
“Sometimes I think my heart is chiseled in stone”
However, everything was complicated when he punched one of the Hollywood executives. After that she fled again, although she did not go too far, the police went after her and amid screams, kicks and vain attempts to get rid of all those shadows of authority that fell on her person, an agreement was reached : to intern her in a psychiatric to appease his rebellion, his character, his reactionary personality.
Doctors diagnosed him with “paranoid schizophrenia.” She was treated with classical eletroshock therapy and also with insulin coma therapy or Sakel cure. After a few months of internment, she came out again, at which point she decided to completely break with her life as an actress, to get away forever from that oppressive and denigrating world.
However, Lillian Farmer, Frances’s mother, considered that her daughter was not cured, that she was not in her “right mind”, with which and with the help of Hollywood executives, they managed to determine her mental incapacity to reorder her income in a psychiatric hospital.
Five years in the abyss
Frances Farmer was admitted to Steilacoom Hospital in Washington. Here I spend 5 years that were later voiced by her sister sister through a book. To the harshest psychiatric treatments was added the most terrible of all: sexual abuse and repeated rape. Finally, as one of the nurses at the center demonstrated, Frances Farmer underwent a lobotomy without family permission. The objective? Appease his personality, his bad temper, his hysteria …
After that, after those 5 years of confinement, abuse and trauma, she was no longer the same. He appeared in an interview, in a specific play, in a television series where his mere presence generated curiosity and a large audience. However, her attitude was gone, her strength had been lost, her character vanished and her authentic beauty, the one that defined the true Frances Farmer, had been stolen, extirpated …