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This book is not what you think it is.

(And I've written about Frances Farmer in more detail here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article... )

It isn't an autobiography of Frances Farmer so much as it's an autobio-biography. That is, it's a biography of Frances Farmer written by her best-friend, Jean Ratcliffe (to whom the book's dedicated -- !!) but based on FF's autobiographical manuscript. Here's the catch: you never know explicitly when it's FF speaking or when it's Jean Ratcliffe speaking as F This book is not what you think it is.

(And I've written about Frances Farmer in more detail here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article... )

It isn't an autobiography of Frances Farmer so much as it's an autobio-biography. That is, it's a biography of Frances Farmer written by her best-friend, Jean Ratcliffe (to whom the book's dedicated -- !!) but based on FF's autobiographical manuscript. Here's the catch: you never know explicitly when it's FF speaking or when it's Jean Ratcliffe speaking as Frances. In this sense, "Will There Really Be a Morning?" is a lot like V. Nabokov's "Pale Fire", in that the reader, boggled by the constantly shifting narrative, is forced to confront the very nature of identity -- i.e., identity as "identity" -- and reality -- i.e., reality as "reality".

Let me explain.

Frances Farmer was born on September 19, 1913, "always to be the last of a long and bitter series of encounters between [my mother and father]", and died on August 1, 1970, choked to death by a rather virulent throat cancer, but "...I have faced more of death than at this threshold on which I now stand. I have died by the hour, by rote almost. For years I died; every day, every hour, every movement of the clock was a death. And knowing it, I can face this strangulation with ease. I know the terror of pain, as it now is, but locked away those years, forgotten in a madhouse, I suffered even more. I have God here, but He was never there."

"There" is the Western State Mental Hospital in Steilacoom, Washington, where FF spent nearly 10 years of her life, at age 30, after having spent the nearly 10 years prior to that as a prominent Hollywood and Broadway actress. Once hailed as "the next Greta Garbo", lover to Clifford Odets, famous Broadway playwright, FF's downfall began with a DUI that then initiated a bizarre series of events that culminated with FF left to rot in the Steilacoom mental hospital. It's arguable, if not provable, that FF was there because of her father and mother's scheming; and FF left the mental hospital at their behest, so that she could take care of them in their dotage. That FF survived both the institutionalization and the subsequent parental servitude to stage a middle-aged renascence is nothing short of miraculous. But then, FF's is an improbable life.

I first came across her name while listening to Nirvana's "In Utero"; the track "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle," was intriguing enough to make me google the name on yahoo.

The fascinating thing about "Will There Really Be a Morning?" is that it is FF's putative autobiography, but dedicated to "Jean Ratcliffe". Who is Jean Ratcliffe, and why didn't Nirvana write a song about her? As it turns out, FF had collaborated on the autobiography with the writer Lois Kibbee in the year or so before FF's death; however, when FF died, both the publisher and Kibbee lost interest in the project; and with the manuscript not yet finished, the burden of postmortem publication fell to Jean Ratcliffe, FF's BFF and non-lesbian life-partner. The publisher balked at publication -- with the author dead and therefore unavailable to flog sales on a cross-country tour, the book didn't stand much of a sales chance -- and so Ms. Ratcliffe needed to devise other means of garnering interest.

What then happened is the opposite of bowdlerization: Ratcliffe spiced up the autobiography with scenes of rough lesbian sex (albeit, unintentionally comical) in the institution, changed the relational dynamic between FF and her mother -- which at best was a sort of cold politesse, and was at worst, well, imagine a relationship where your mother consciously or sub-consciously schemes to have you indefinitely incarcerated -- into something of a simpering "Mommy Dearest" dynamic, and changed too many other various bits and pieces for hope to exist of ever disentangling the original from the final.

Basically, the problem is this: FF was a gifted writer, and Jean was a (well-intentioned) hack. The biggest differences between the two writers is tonal. One example will have to suffice:

At the book's end, FF discovers that she has cancer. Here's how she discloses this to the reader. FF's paragraph on page 376 of the 1983 Dell paperback -- "Buds were just beginning to come on the trees, and through the window I could see the gentle rolling hill that ran up from behind the house. New calves, clinging to their mothers, dotted the fields, and it came to me that all the words I could possibly combine could be simply put into one brief sentence. And it was then, for he first time in my life, I spoke the words 'I'm happy.' " -- this paragraph (and it's not the best of FF's writing, but it's good, especially the image of cows and calves "dotting the fields"), this paragraph is immediately followed by this paragraph: "Cancer! Not real! Not true! Not at first!"

Aside from violating the first rule of exclamation point use -- viz, only one per manuscript, and that for comical or histrionic but never serious effect -- the writing doesn't say anything, nor does it evoke an image. What follows that paragraph is more FF writing: "Even after I was told that a malignant tumor had diseased the esophagus and lay against the great artery, making an operation impossible, I still could not accept it."

And so goes the entire book. which is really more a literary mystery than an autobiography: which part is FF and which part is Jean? It gets really tricky when you realize the true and hopeless scope of the problem, best evinced with this (truly) final example, where FF describes the dilemma facing her as a theatrical actress being tempted with a chance at making it in Hollywood:

Here's the paragraph in its published form: "Hollywood was a golden trinket dangling in front of me, and I wanted to reach out and take it, for no matter how disturbed I was in having to lay aside the legitimate theater, the movie contract did offer me the first real security I ever had. I kept telling myself that I could always come back to New York."

Here's the same paragraph as it appeared in FF's manuscript: "Hollywood was a golden trinket dangling in front of me. I wanted to reach out and take it, yet I wanted something else: to be a serious actress in the legitimate theater. On the other hand, the movie contract would save me from the jaws of poverty. All right, I thought, if I don't make a success in Hollywood, I can always come back to New York and try again."

Again, the difference in the two examples is subtle and tonal, but FF's writing is much more engaging. It's as if FF and Jean Ratcliffe are engaged in a kind of operatic duet, where FF is the professional singer and JR a member of the audience, a tone-deaf hack, and the resulting duet is awful on the surface -- i.e, tonally uneven -- but at times there is an odd kind of beauty, too. That's the best metaphor I can come up with for WTRBAM?. If FF's life had played out differently, FF could have been a great writer, a Garbo of the literary world, so to speak. As it was, however, we have only these tantalizing bits and pieces.

All of this gets more interesting when you consider that "Shadowlands", the FF biography published by William Arnold in 1979 or so as a "correction" to "Will There Really Be a Morning?" (which by then had been exposed as a "Farmcliffe" enterprise), was even more error-riddled and infinitely less well-intentioned than the autobiography it was meant to correct. And plus this: it was exposed in the early 1980s as work of nearly complete fiction that was to have been used by the Scientologists (!) (for whom William Arnold was a shill) to discredit the entire medical field of psychology.

Worse, the "correction's" corrective, written and self-published by Frances's younger sister, Edith, entitled "Looking Back in Love", is nothing less than a vaguely written screed aimed at Jean Ratcliffe and the entire amorphous collective of world communists (!!); i.e., entirely "agenda"-driven.

So, the world still awaits the real story of FF. Will she finally have her revenge on Seattle? More like the opposite has been the case. The only real hope is for FF's original autobiographical manuscript to appear in published form. For that to happen, the manuscript will have to located. Lois Kibbee, who last possessed the manuscript, is dead. So is Jean Ratcliffe. That leaves the ghost of FF to direct a willing host to the right spot.

Help? ...more

Rama
The troubled life of Frances Farmer

This is one of the best autobiographies I have read in my life, and a fine piece of literary work by a Hollywood actress who endured so much; she had so much to offer and yet suffered throughout her life due to heavy alcohol abuse and the betrayal from her own parents. Her relationship with her mother was strained and torn by strife since childhood. Alcohol was the beast which controlled her life. Many of her close business associates also took advantage of her The troubled life of Frances Farmer

This is one of the best autobiographies I have read in my life, and a fine piece of literary work by a Hollywood actress who endured so much; she had so much to offer and yet suffered throughout her life due to heavy alcohol abuse and the betrayal from her own parents. Her relationship with her mother was strained and torn by strife since childhood. Alcohol was the beast which controlled her life. Many of her close business associates also took advantage of her situation. Her irrational behavior with law enforcement officials did not help either. Frances Farmer was a fighter in life and kept fighting much of her life. Her experience at the psychiatric wards in sanitarium is vividly described and the abuses that occur there is experienced by a few and long forgotten by others, but women like Frances Farmer survived and lived to tell her story.

The book describes pretty honestly the reasons for her rise and fall from grace. Some not so honorable things she did in her life have been taken out of this book. Author Kenneth Anger, in his book, "Hollywood Babylon" researched her life and discovered that she had tremendous outbursts at the police. For eight years she was an inmate of a state insane asylum; she was sexually and physically abused, gnawed on by rats and poisoned by tainted food, and living in the filthiest conditions ever possible. She was chained, strapped and half drowned in ice baths. She says that there is no victory in survival, only grief of having to live through such horrors.

She made 19 movies and three Broadway shows between the ages of 21 to 28, and her career was fast paced and she could not handle the pressures of Hollywood. She was highly disliked in the industry by her business associates. Her life reached a frightening climax when she was arrested for a minor charge of driving with car lights in a dim-out zone in Santa Monica, California, during war time. This scandal was printed nationwide, and later she failed to report to a parole officer. Arrested again at Knickerbocker hotel in Hollywood, and from then on everything turned violent. Some of the problems were caused by the law enforcing officers themselves for not informing her why she is being arrested, and giving her little time to get dressed in her own hotel room when they broke open the door when she was asleep naked. Even the judge was cruel in giving her maximum sentence. She went volcanic and started destroying the court property and in a fit of rage threw an ink bottle right smack into judge's face. She entered her occupation in police records as "ck-sucker." Her violent behavior did little to ease off things either.

When she was an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, Seattle campus, she won a contest to visit Moscow. In high school, she wrote an essay called "God dies" for a National Scholastic essay contest, a well-respected educational publication and won the contest and became a national winner. She enjoyed working on Broadway than doing movies in Hollywood; she claimed after doing her first movie "Too many parents," she sold her soul for the almighty dollar. But when she became famous she started reading literature voraciously and built herself a solid well-rounded personal library. She spent more on literature than on her wardrobe. For the movie, "Come and Get it," she devoted more time than any other movie of her career. Set in 1890s, she had to wear stiff corset and high laced shoes. She spent all her spare time living in them and practiced her voice to play both mother and daughter. She even went into red-light district in Los Angeles, disguised herself to study the ladies and their business practices. She completely immersed herself in the role of studying from every angle. As an actress she was reaching motion picture zenith and as a woman, she was plunging deeper and deeper pits of despair.

After her release from sanitarium, she worked as valet girl to pick up laundry from the guests of a hotel in Seattle for 75 cents per hour and briefly married a man after one date which ended up in disaster. Then she moved to Eureka, California with just and start working as a typist for commercial photographer. She started to visit liquor stores and bars daily to buy her alcohol supplies. Later she worked at Sheraton Hotel in San Francisco as a reservation clerk for a week that is when she gets a break after a call from Ed Sullivan Show to appear on his show. In one of her confessions in the church (after her conversion to catholic faith), she confesses to six abortions to which the priest reacts unpleasantly. She dies at relatively young age due to esophageal cancer. ...more

Flora

Supposedly written by Frances Farmer after her lobotomy, but I highly doubt it. I was disgusted by this book -- not only for its endless pornographic descriptions of mental-institution rapes and abuses, but the obvious contempt of the ghost-writer for his subject, whose long, depressing, and (post-Hollywood) fairly static life he treats as freakish; there's a tweaked Christianity thing going on here, too (and I'm not phobic about that kind of thing). I love trashy books. But the cynicism of this Supposedly written by Frances Farmer after her lobotomy, but I highly doubt it. I was disgusted by this book -- not only for its endless pornographic descriptions of mental-institution rapes and abuses, but the obvious contempt of the ghost-writer for his subject, whose long, depressing, and (post-Hollywood) fairly static life he treats as freakish; there's a tweaked Christianity thing going on here, too (and I'm not phobic about that kind of thing). I love trashy books. But the cynicism of this one really got to me. ...more

Rae
Actress Frances Farmer wrote (supposedly) this thought-provoking and harrowing account of her life in 1972, and included her childhood, rise to stardom, betrayal by lovers, her alcoholism and drug abuse brought on by the demands of the movie studio system and a combative personality, the time spent in a mental hospital in Washington, and her later years. Published posthumously, there is some question as to the accuracy of the record. Was it written by someone else sympathetic to her cause? There Actress Frances Farmer wrote (supposedly) this thought-provoking and harrowing account of her life in 1972, and included her childhood, rise to stardom, betrayal by lovers, her alcoholism and drug abuse brought on by the demands of the movie studio system and a combative personality, the time spent in a mental hospital in Washington, and her later years. Published posthumously, there is some question as to the accuracy of the record. Was it written by someone else sympathetic to her cause? There is no mention of her extended family or sister after her parents die and no mention of a lobotomy. The ending is dramatic and feels contrived. Are these evidences of a collaboration or alternate writer? The stark, disgusting details of the mental hospital are sensationally written but the attempt at plain truth seems consistent with Farmer's described personality.

Her sister later published (1988) a rebuttal book titled Look Back in Love. In this book she stated that "her furs, jewelfy, cherished piano and home had all gone to settle debts. For what remained, the writer produced a signed will of stationery-store-form leaving legal access to Frances' personal items and freedom to publish a rewriting of the manuscript from the tales and carbon copies she had held out on Frances. Two years later she finally "cashed" in on her exploitive friendship in an alleged autobiography of her own writing, full of salacious lies and libelous fiction." Will the truth ever really be known?

The dysfunctional family portrayal is fascinating...especially the domineering and shrewish personality of the mother. I was also struck by her mental hospital stay...sensational or not. The description of electroshock therapy made me weep as I thought of my own grandmother going through a similar procedure in a similar hospital in a similar time period. Farmer said years later, referring to the mental hospital, "I have God here, but he was never there." How sad. ...more

Julie Barrett
Oh.My.God. This is one of the kookiest books I've ever read. It is purportedly written by Frances Farmer but it's not.The story behind this "memoir" is almost as interesting as FF's actual life. (go google it if you have the time) This book was actually written by FF's friend Jean Rattcliffe- Friend! Not lover! as Jean points out over and over in the book. Uh, ok. It sure seems like they were a couple. But Jean makes a big point about how they were just BFF's who lived together with their dog an Oh.My.God. This is one of the kookiest books I've ever read. It is purportedly written by Frances Farmer but it's not.The story behind this "memoir" is almost as interesting as FF's actual life. (go google it if you have the time) This book was actually written by FF's friend Jean Rattcliffe- Friend! Not lover! as Jean points out over and over in the book. Uh, ok. It sure seems like they were a couple. But Jean makes a big point about how they were just BFF's who lived together with their dog and 13(!) cats.

Anyway, Frances received an advance to write her memoirs and the publisher assigned a ghostwriter named Lois Kibbee to help her. While they were working on the book, Frances got cancer and died. Kibbee then wrote a rough draft the publisher didn't like. Kibbee dropped out of the project and the publisher asked Jean for the advance back. Uh oh! Frances and Jean had already spent the money! What to do? So Jean wrote this lurid "memoir" instead of returning the money she had already spent.

The book itself is NUTS - nuts I tell you! The actual life of Frances is glossed over to an amazing extent. Major events were not discussed. Relationships with other people are not portrayed. I have read A LOT of Hollywood memoirs. I'm talking easily over 150. Many of them written by people who worked during Hollywood's golden era. Never ever EVER have I read a memoir by an actor that does not delve into acting itself, the roles portrayed and the people worked with. The book reads like the writer has never even been to LA, much less worked in the Hollywood studio system. In this book, there would be a paragraph listing "I worked on this movie and then this movie and then that movie." with absolutely no discussion. None! Like what you would see in a resume! Because Jean knew nothing about that period in Frances's life. My main desire for this book, to read what Frances thought about the people she worked with and the projects she worked on, never happened.

Instead, half the book takes place in the asylum FF was in. It reads like bad lesbian pulp fiction from the early 60's crossed with Penthouse Forum letters crossed with that rated X early 70's movie Caligula. OVER THE TOP S&M sex scenes! Animals being ripped apart while alive! Much playing with and eating of poop! Nipples chewed off! Multiple orgasms during lesbian rape scenes! I mean, there were a lot of legitimate problems with the mental health system in this country 60 years ago. But instead of portraying those real issues, the memoir gives the reader wild sex and torture scenes.

By far my favorite part of the book was when Jean appears in FF's life. OK, so throughout the entire book, the tone of the narrator has been flat and monotone. Like someone on the autism spectrum. No description or emotions about other people other than the ridiculously over the top fights between FF and her mother. (The fight scenes were so patently false. No one,when writing their memoir, portrays themselves in such a negative light. Oh, they might sort of, but they always give a lot of backstory and rationale for why they were "forced" to be an asshole in that particular instance. These fight scenes are written the way I believe the fights were between Jean & FF) Then - suddenly, BOOM - when Jean comes into FF's life, there are copious, gushing descriptions of Jean. And not just of Jean, but of Jean and her family and her family's black maid and of their beautiful, comfortable homes and of their witty, charming friends etc. I literally laughed out loud. It was so surreal to read the words of a person pretending to be another person describing that first person.

An example - "Jean is a free and infectiously cheerful woman, lacking all pretenses but blessed with that indescribable assurance that comes from a strong, established heritage. A Virginian by birth, steeped in the romantic traditions of the South, she bustles with curiousity and quixotic zeal. There is no aura of harrassment about her, no evidence of strain. Life has been gentle to her and she returns it as such. She is not only interested in, but concerned about, everything and everyone around her, and the result is a flexible, broad-ranging mind. She is the eternal student, always seeking new and exciting knowledge. But, strangly enough, this quest does not isolate her from the rest of the world. She is as comfortable with the cleaning woman as she is with the governor." BWAHAHAHAHAHA! And it goes on like this for PAGES! No one, and I mean no one else, in the book comes anywhere close to being described in such detail. The first two thirds of the book are incredibly vague (except for the tres sexy asylum scenes) and then when Jean shows up, suddenly the book is filled with details and specific incidents. It is, as I have to say again and again - CRAZY.

I need to now go read an actual biography of Frances Farmer to find out about her life in Hollywood and on Broadway. There are a lot of cool, interesting things that happened in her life. Sadly, none of them are portrayed in this book. ...more

Nanna

I've heard rumors about her not having written this book, but having read this book makes me convinced that no other person could have written it than herself. It's truly painful to read but it's worth it. Never read an autobiography like this before, and I know this will stay in my head for the rest of my life.

Velvetink

Pretty darn gut wrenching when you find out what her mother does to her. This is a more earlier and sinister tale not unlike "A Girl Interrupted".

brass

feel like listening? ask me about my obsession with frances farmer.

Greer

Greer rated it liked it

Well I think Frances Farmer was not crazy but she was a brat and a bit of a wuss puss when it came to her parents. Through out the book I just wanted to scream at her myself and tell her to grow some balls and a brain. She let her mother run over her constantly, I think what irked me the most is if you are trying to convey the message that you aren’t crazy when you get committed to the insane asylum stop acting crazy while the doctors are evaluating you. Good gosh don’t rip off your clothes and Well I think Frances Farmer was not crazy but she was a brat and a bit of a wuss puss when it came to her parents. Through out the book I just wanted to scream at her myself and tell her to grow some balls and a brain. She let her mother run over her constantly, I think what irked me the most is if you are trying to convey the message that you aren’t crazy when you get committed to the insane asylum stop acting crazy while the doctors are evaluating you. Good gosh don’t rip off your clothes and scream. I know you don’t want to be there but you might have a better chance of them sending you right back home if you don’t act insane from the start. ...more

Jacqui
As a mental health worker, I am so unbelievably sorry for everything that my profession did to you Frances Farmer.

Will There Really Be a Morning? is such a tragic but worthy read.

Memorable Quotes

"The three thousand and forty days I spent as an inmate inflicted wounds to my spirit that could never heal. They remain, raw-edged and festering, for I learned there is no victory in survival- only grief."

"We were enemies who had grown tired of pretending. We were strangers pathetically bound by the in

As a mental health worker, I am so unbelievably sorry for everything that my profession did to you Frances Farmer.

Will There Really Be a Morning? is such a tragic but worthy read.

Memorable Quotes

"The three thousand and forty days I spent as an inmate inflicted wounds to my spirit that could never heal. They remain, raw-edged and festering, for I learned there is no victory in survival- only grief."

"We were enemies who had grown tired of pretending. We were strangers pathetically bound by the invisible cord that lashes parent to child and child to parent."

"Liquor set free the fury."

"I was not a social drinker; neither was I an alcoholic. Rather, I should say that I was emotionally allergic, for everything about me changed with the first drink. I could feel it, and others could see it, for anger spewed out of me like an erupting volcano."

"My body had known the touch of a caress and the brutality of an assault. Life had carried me on a tidal wave, and I was exhausted... but I did not want to die."

"...I was surrounded by weird and insane creatures. Some were in violent wards, and some carried the keys to these wards, but they all were torn from the same cloth. The caged and the keepers of the caged were soul-mates."

"But whatever label is attached, the horrors still exist and still breed the same misunderstanding and destruction. The victimized still cringe under the weight of the oppression. Nothing is really done to diminish the disgrace. t still clings, like an eternal fungus."

"Compared to the live theatre, we felt movies were little more than unskilled abortions."

"Love died quickly inside the cages, for there was no object worthy of it, and since there was nothing to love, something to hate became the goal. Hate kept one afloat."

"It was, and still is, customary that if a tenure of confinement exceeded one year, the patient was considered incurable and no longer given any form of treatment or therapy."

"Women quietly struggling to retain their sanity removed themselves into safer areas and huddled together in this Neanderthal world, to watch other "ribs of Adam" drink of their own urine and savor their own dung as it fell, steaming, from their bodies."

"rape, in its most vicious form, scarred and claimed every inmate."

"In time, death killed all hope. It did not attack it mercifully but taunted the life out of it, slowly and with deliberate intent. And then, with hope dead, there was nothing left."

"The ward behind the wire fence was no fit place for a God to visit... and He never came.

"Once committed, almost forgotten, is the drastic burden an inmate must learn to carry."

"Is it selfish to want the truth known?"

"The word "REHABILITATION" means to restore a degraded person, and perhaps at birth I first tasted the despondent cup of degradation, for I came unwanted, and the weight of this burden is a bitter load for any child to bear."

"My body had been stripped of its needs, and it was nothing more than a coat if flesh that housed a damaged soul. My physical self was soent and beyond all hopes of restoration, but the part of me leashed to the Hound of Heaven, to the spirit of God that dwells in all living things, cried out for recognition, and that silent cry for help, the cry I was unaware of changed my life. Loving and being loved in return was the motivating strength that altered my life."

...more
Michael Brown

Michael Brown rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Despite a lifelong love of movies and the engines that power them, I've never seen a Frances Farmer film. Not one. I know of Jessica Lange's portrayal in Frances, Susan Blakely's in the TV adaptation of this book. I even know of Culture Club's "The Medal Song", the video for which referenced Frances Farmer. As an actress then, she had the same impact as wasabi peas, of which I am curiously aware without ever having sampled them directly.

However, this is not the first time the story of an actress Despite a lifelong love of movies and the engines that power them, I've never seen a Frances Farmer film. Not one. I know of Jessica Lange's portrayal in Frances, Susan Blakely's in the TV adaptation of this book. I even know of Culture Club's "The Medal Song", the video for which referenced Frances Farmer. As an actress then, she had the same impact as wasabi peas, of which I am curiously aware without ever having sampled them directly.

However, this is not the first time the story of an actress in spectacular freefall has grabbed my attention. Back in 1986, I was more than impressed with Alexander Walker's No Bells On Sunday, an excellent biography of Rachel Roberts conjured from her journals. I did have the advantage of knowing Rachel Roberts from the sublime Picnic At Hanging Rock and a couple of other films, but that was the extent of it. The lack of foreknowledge was no hindrance - that book was fascinating, compelling and very sad.

Of Will There Really Be a Morning? I can't quite claim the same level of investment. It is a harrowing tale, no doubt about that. Maltreatment, gruelling incarceration, legal tangles, alcoholism, an unloved childhood - taken at face value, this is an anthology of horrifying scenes. We should feel sorry for Frances, we ought to feel hobbled by sharp pangs of sympathy and outrage. The only problem is that Frances does not come across as being particularly likeable. Early on in the memoir, of a trip in 1935 to the supposedly experience-enhancing Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Paris and England (no specific places mentioned) she observes:

In reality my world remained narrow and populated by one: Frances Farmer. My compassion was sharpened, but my interest dulled if it did not benefit my growth as an actress. This, I suppose, is ambition. Selfish. Brutal. Determined. Lonely. Creative. p.68

Long past the point where growth as an actress was of any relevance, though, these selfish and uncompromising qualities remained. Even if they were forged from her troubled childhood or a level of psychological imbalance, they still have an air of self-indulgence about them, especially in later years when she acquired an extraordinarily tolerant second family whom she severely tasked at regular intervals. She was destructive towards her profession, her relationships, even towards her life. She was occasionally monstrous.

It makes for an interesting read. You are at times hard-pressed to find a place for your thoughts but it's possible that by the end the feeling is this: a compassion for her problems if not her behaviour. There was a time when she was an actress of some promise after all. It could all have been so different. Morning would have been a foregone conclusion. ...more

Susan
I absolutely adored this book when Iread it in high school. It is haunting and has stayed with me for years after constantly playing on my mind as one of the most tragic stories I have ever read.

This was one story when after I had finished it I literally couldn't just jump into another book for about a week, I walked around instead in a shock at how cruel one life could be to a person. Really not for the faint hearted but if you stick it out to the end then it is well worth while.

As for commen I absolutely adored this book when Iread it in high school. It is haunting and has stayed with me for years after constantly playing on my mind as one of the most tragic stories I have ever read.

This was one story when after I had finished it I literally couldn't just jump into another book for about a week, I walked around instead in a shock at how cruel one life could be to a person. Really not for the faint hearted but if you stick it out to the end then it is well worth while.

As for comments that have been placed about whether the "autobiography" really is an autobiography or more like a collaboration of sorts this story still stands as a tragic story and solid in it's own merits. Beatiful to read, but for me in New Zealand it was very difficult to find and I had to scour second hand stores.

Give it a try. Particularly if you love stories about hollywood and all that goes on there. She talks in the first instances about life as a budding actress and about method acting (if I remember correctly) and as a prior actress myself (through school etc.) How she describes the experiences of acting really ring true and the excitement of acting again ring true. The horror of the mental asylum and the relationship with her parents/ mum cause you to think "thank christ! if that's how bad things can get I'm glad I'm still ok."

I'm amazed that all through this story Frances Farmer can still manage to say "I'm happy". I loved this story and would never give it up from my bookshelf! Not for a million dollars. Well... maybe for a million. (after photocopying every page....) ...more

Gram Knapp

If I could ever settle on a top ten recommended reads, this would consistently make it.

Essential reading for anyone interested in Biomedical and Biopolitical theory, Feminism (if you can handle a white male telling you what he thinks is essential to that topic- understood totally if you do not), pop culture and contempo-history.

A Harrowing read at times, but really blows apart the Marxian character Mask of our society, even to this day. Explains the context for a lot of modern issues and how dom
If I could ever settle on a top ten recommended reads, this would consistently make it.

Essential reading for anyone interested in Biomedical and Biopolitical theory, Feminism (if you can handle a white male telling you what he thinks is essential to that topic- understood totally if you do not), pop culture and contempo-history.

A Harrowing read at times, but really blows apart the Marxian character Mask of our society, even to this day. Explains the context for a lot of modern issues and how dominant culture, any dominant culture via institutionally mediated forces should ALWAYS be questioned no matter what you are expected to morally understand as inherent to a society.

Being called sick, and being manourved no matter what you do into the care of institutions or institutional 'services' is RARELY about what's best for you, and more about what's best for 'everyone'.

Based on ancient witch-hunting contexts, to this day.
...more

Thara

I'm giving this five stars because it's the first book I can remember reading as an angsty teen. For me, before Sylvia Plath, there was Frances Farmer. Of course, I read this book because of Kurt Cobain, but it still stuck with me (probably due to the shock [no pun intended]). When I paid over for this mass market paperback, I hit myself for not keeping the St. Albans Public Library copy that probably got purged after I read it.

Mohawkgrl

I read this book over 20 years ago in paperback
before the film came out starring Jessica Lange
and Sam Sheppard. It is a harrowing account of
mental illness. I'm not sure who wrote it;
Farmer herself or a ghost writer? Nevertheless,
does it really matter? This is disturbing,
morose and tragic.

Sharona

I have read this book a min of 8 times. And every time it breaks my heart. How misunderstood this woman was. How very born in the wrong era she was. I positively love the stark realities within the pages. It will forever be in my top 5 books ever read.

Joy

I saw the movie Frances (Jessica Lange was brilliant) and her life story was really heartbreaking. I'd like to know more about her...

Keili Rae

Keili Rae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Aaah it's so hard to give this any stars at all because I don't know what kind of person would /like/ a story about a woman who grew up neglected and fucked up by her parents, then spent a few more years being abused in mental institutions that can only be compared to hell. Additionally, the prose is really flabby and overwrought, and honestly, stories about addictions or problems like eating disorders can be monotonous at points when it's just a string of terrible incidents one right after the Aaah it's so hard to give this any stars at all because I don't know what kind of person would /like/ a story about a woman who grew up neglected and fucked up by her parents, then spent a few more years being abused in mental institutions that can only be compared to hell. Additionally, the prose is really flabby and overwrought, and honestly, stories about addictions or problems like eating disorders can be monotonous at points when it's just a string of terrible incidents one right after the other.
There are some concerns about whether this memoir was totally factual, and that leaves you wondering if maybe the most heinous abuses weren't embellished to make for more salacious reading. But I think you would miss a lot by dismissing this story like that. Full disclosure: I read this book only because Frances Farmer was mentioned so often in Kate Zambreno's Heroines, so that's where I am coming at this from, that Frances Farmer's talent was stifled and her life was destroyed by people who were supposed to love her, but were threatened by her, especially men. But it isn't in the terrible scenes in the mental institutions that you see how her family and society were working against her. For me, most heartbreaking because they were the most credible, the scenes that she describes without considering, like the number of times men in her life threw physical tantrums; the threats of assault by police; fighting against the casting couch culture; being used and manipulated for her good looks, her talent, or her network; being talked down to and derided by mental health professionals; those were the scenes that to me really illustrated the uphill battle she must have been fighting every single day of her life.
I have read elsewhere that maybe she was bipolar. Maybe she was, but I think anybody would be suffer and act out under so much pressure.
Published after her death in 1970, this book is also a good measure of how far SOME OF US have come in terms of thinking about feminism, sexuality, and mental health. ...more

John
An autobiography requires a level of credibility above all else. Objective truth may be an indiscernible thing in such a narrative, it may in some cases unabashedly eschew it, but nevertheless an intimacy is placed with the reader which demands a connection with the text based on a shared idea of trust.

And so from the first instance one should know the real genesis of this book. The initial ghost writer/editor, the actress Lois Kibbee, abandoned the project on the death of Farmer in 1970, and so An autobiography requires a level of credibility above all else. Objective truth may be an indiscernible thing in such a narrative, it may in some cases unabashedly eschew it, but nevertheless an intimacy is placed with the reader which demands a connection with the text based on a shared idea of trust.

And so from the first instance one should know the real genesis of this book. The initial ghost writer/editor, the actress Lois Kibbee, abandoned the project on the death of Farmer in 1970, and so the manuscript was left to Farmer's best friend and slandered "lover" Jean Ratcliffe. The result is a fissiparous read in which its true voice is difficult to discern; at times a searing insight into the dehumanisation of the Hollywood fame game, at times a needlessly lurid and voyeuristic depiction of sexual abuse, and at times a gushingly OTT character reference for Ms. Ratcliffe and family. The writing wavers between admirably lucid and weirdly abrupt.

One gets the feeling that the complete truths of Farmer's life and motivations are lost to us. Maybe it isn't ours to know. Her most palpable, most sincere self appeared on stage and on film and it should be here where she is most remembered. ...more

LInda L

LInda L rated it really liked it

Big controversy about who wrote the book -- Frances Farmer or her friend Jean Something. Does it really matter? Horrible disgusting things were done to her in a "hospital", from which few, if any, could ever recover. She was a brave person to even try to overcome the horrors of her "hospitalization". Sadly, there were still abuses after this was written, and who knows what it's like now?? The very few facilities which are still open may have their own issues.

The Literary Chick

Heartbreaking, harrowing account of a life broken and a tragedy that never should have been.

Lisa Gallagher
Lisa Gallagher rated it liked it

Shelves: nonfiction, entertainment, history, own, memoirs, hollywood-hollyweird, dysfunctional-families, drugs-and-booze, film-adaptations, pacific-northwest

I initially LOVED this book when I first read it, back in my early twenties. Who wouldn't? Anti-establishment actress who yearns to be on stage gets saddled instead with a glossy Hollywood career and just when she attempts to break free of such reigns, her Mother From Hell has her committed, time and time again to a Mental Institute. Oh, but not just any loony bin - Frances' hospitals were clearly torture chambers for repressed Lezbo-Nazi's and poor Frances endures years of physical, psychologic I initially LOVED this book when I first read it, back in my early twenties. Who wouldn't? Anti-establishment actress who yearns to be on stage gets saddled instead with a glossy Hollywood career and just when she attempts to break free of such reigns, her Mother From Hell has her committed, time and time again to a Mental Institute. Oh, but not just any loony bin - Frances' hospitals were clearly torture chambers for repressed Lezbo-Nazi's and poor Frances endures years of physical, psychological, scientific and sexual torture before she finally breaks free of the loony bin, her mother, Hollyweird and everything else. She lands in the arms of the most gracious and gentle Southern Woman who takes her in to her home (but they're not gay) and makes her a part of her family (still, not gay) and the two live out Frances' final years on a beautiful ranch with like a dozen cats (I repeat: they are not gay!) before her untimely death from cancer.

If you're chuckling, there's good reason. Frances was a thoughtful, intelligent and immensely talented woman who found herself blackballed from her chosen profession for her contrariness and clearly was at odds with her family and spent many years institutionalized. But this, my friends, just isn't a fully true story in "Will There Really Be A Morning?" It's actually ghost-written by the very same loving (not-gay! really not-gay!) partner Jean referenced above, after Frances died suddenly and their advance on the book she was attempting to write had been spent.

You can tell Jean wrote it because there are no descriptions of being on stage, or on a soundstage, or of the many talented cast and crew that Frances worked with in her nearly twenty-year career in Hollywood (except for the makeup lady that Frances smacked in the face with a hairbrush). But the book is sure filled with lots of glowing praise for lovely Jean and her super-wonderful family.

Poor Frances. She really got a raw deal in life and in death. Her family shit on her, her agents couldn't really help her, she's locked up for years and then, to cap it all off, her not-gay lady friend writes the most salacious bio, EVER and she doesn't even get to reap the rewards. There was a real story here about conforming, about being a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind - but that's not what wound up on the page.

Frankly, though, it's the most entertaining thing you'll read about Hollywood even though it has nothing to do with it. Lurid, possibly true-ish and DEFINITELY NOT GAY. ...more

El_kiablo

El_kiablo rated it really liked it

This book is the craziest mixture of total honesty and "I don't think that's true!" that I can remember reading. Farmer is true to her own perspective at all times and she is not afraid to say unflattering things about herself, but at the same time she is obviously not completely mentally sound, so her perspective includes a lot of what I am sure are exaggerations, if not total fabrications. Of all the autobiographies I have read, she might be the most unreliable of all the unreliable narrators. This book is the craziest mixture of total honesty and "I don't think that's true!" that I can remember reading. Farmer is true to her own perspective at all times and she is not afraid to say unflattering things about herself, but at the same time she is obviously not completely mentally sound, so her perspective includes a lot of what I am sure are exaggerations, if not total fabrications. Of all the autobiographies I have read, she might be the most unreliable of all the unreliable narrators.

The sections with her mother are very interesting because she seems to exhibit all the flaws she blames her (also crazy) mother for, but she is not always aware of how similar they seem to be. There's a lot of tense psychodrama here which is both fascinating and at times exhausting; almost everyone in the first three hundred pages of this book is either boring or some sort of monster and the whole thing drips with unhappiness.

There's a certain lurid pulpiness to the material and the tone which makes it a compelling memoir. The book details years in Hollywood, a decades long drinking problem, a five year stint in a mental institution, rapes, abortions and even towards the end the birthing of kittens... It's salacious material, but it's delivered in a matter of fact way. There's something compelling and bizarre about how intimate the book often seems, even though it's describing such intense scenes with such icy remove.

In the end, I think this book is as complicated as Frances Farmer probably was, since it walks a line between being egotistic and self-pitying, between being calm and neurotic, between being truthful and inventive. This book is not one thing or the other, but it is a good portrait of a difficult person. ...more

Jamie

Jamie rated it really liked it

I only became interested in Frances Farmer because she was referenced in one of my favorite musicals "Next to Normal". I knew nothing about her when I picked up this book and this book I must say has changed a lot about myself that I didn't even think was possible. We all think we can never get through the rough patches, but Frances Farmer spent five years in a solitary room with no connection to anything or anyone and she survived. She survived and got out and learned what it was like to be lov I only became interested in Frances Farmer because she was referenced in one of my favorite musicals "Next to Normal". I knew nothing about her when I picked up this book and this book I must say has changed a lot about myself that I didn't even think was possible. We all think we can never get through the rough patches, but Frances Farmer spent five years in a solitary room with no connection to anything or anyone and she survived. She survived and got out and learned what it was like to be loved and to love. There is a lot of skepticism about whether or not Frances Farmer actually wrote this book. Maybe she did, maybe her best friend Jean Radcliffe did, or maybe they wrote it together, which ever, we shouldn't be stuck on that part, we should be stuck on the story of her life and how she got through the pain, it just took most of her life. We should be focusing on how strong-willed she was and how she only needed one person to care in order to change her life forever. I think anyone that is having a hard time in life she read this and be inspired. ...more

Jenn

Jenn rated it it was amazing

This was one of the most moving autobiographies that I have ever read. To know that society back then deemed women behaving out of the norm as having a mental illness is disheartening. And forced to be institutionalized by her own fame hungry mother, when fame was the last thing France Farmer cared about is truly a sad story. Held down by orderlies and raped, she suffered by the hands of those who sought to control her mind, body, and way of thinking. This book is brutally honest about and sheds This was one of the most moving autobiographies that I have ever read. To know that society back then deemed women behaving out of the norm as having a mental illness is disheartening. And forced to be institutionalized by her own fame hungry mother, when fame was the last thing France Farmer cared about is truly a sad story. Held down by orderlies and raped, she suffered by the hands of those who sought to control her mind, body, and way of thinking. This book is brutally honest about and sheds light on how things were being run in society in those times. Nowadays, you would never hear about free-thinkers being treated as though they have a mental illness but in those days things were different, and her own mother had the power to control her happiness and destiny and used it to destroy her for her own greed. A must read. ...more

Fuzz
FRANCES FARMER: 1913-1970

Frances Farmer was a successful screen and stage actress in Hollywood and Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s. There have been numerous storys about her life, many of which were false accounts. What a better way to learn more about her than by reading her own side of the story.

What could drive a person to feel this way?:
"I preferred, and still do, cold calculation to compassion."

This book grabs you in the first page and won't let go until you've finished. It can be a bit ha FRANCES FARMER: 1913-1970

Frances Farmer was a successful screen and stage actress in Hollywood and Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s. There have been numerous storys about her life, many of which were false accounts. What a better way to learn more about her than by reading her own side of the story.

What could drive a person to feel this way?:
"I preferred, and still do, cold calculation to compassion."

This book grabs you in the first page and won't let go until you've finished. It can be a bit hard to read sometimes if you stop to think about the abuse she suffered, but if you are at all familiar with the 'mental health' system from that era you won't be too surprised.

I really would recommend that you read this book, if for nothing more than to make you remember how good most people have things.

...more

Bill

I originally read this book around 20 years ago and after a long search my partner managed to find it and gave it to me for my birthday last month. I knew nothing about Frances Farmer until I read an interview with Boy George in the early 80's. Culture Clubs "The Medal Song" was written about Frances Farmer.
This is an incredible autobiography. Harrowing, moving and eventually hopeful too. The cruelty shown to Frances by the very people that were supposed to be caring for her, including her paren I originally read this book around 20 years ago and after a long search my partner managed to find it and gave it to me for my birthday last month. I knew nothing about Frances Farmer until I read an interview with Boy George in the early 80's. Culture Clubs "The Medal Song" was written about Frances Farmer.
This is an incredible autobiography. Harrowing, moving and eventually hopeful too. The cruelty shown to Frances by the very people that were supposed to be caring for her, including her parents, was incredible. I cried when I read the book the first time and I am not ashamed to say that I cried again this time.
If you read no other autobiographies you should try and read this one! ...more

Caterpillarliving Mel

Caterpillarliving Mel rated it it was amazing

I first read this book at the impressionable age of 14. It affected me greatly, and still, in some form, does. It's a well-written tale of the fickleness of Hollywood society, the atrocity of mid-20th century asylums, the strained relationship between a dominating mother and imprisoned daughter, and a bitter alcoholic's long journey to find happiness. It was my favorite book for years, and I've read it about seven times. Frances Farmer was an amazing woman, and here we get her perspective, poten I first read this book at the impressionable age of 14. It affected me greatly, and still, in some form, does. It's a well-written tale of the fickleness of Hollywood society, the atrocity of mid-20th century asylums, the strained relationship between a dominating mother and imprisoned daughter, and a bitter alcoholic's long journey to find happiness. It was my favorite book for years, and I've read it about seven times. Frances Farmer was an amazing woman, and here we get her perspective, potentially biased, yes, but more deserving of our time than the sensational biography and film made about her. ...more

JR Stone

JR Stone rated it it was amazing

I couldn't help but think as I read Ms. Farmer's memoir that this was the most gruesome yet hopeful autobiographies I had ever read. Her multiple stays at the state hospital revealed a psychiatric underbelly of existence that was truly horrifying and degrading to human life.

It seemed at times that perhaps details and situations might have been exaggerated, but then again, who is to say? It is truly amazing that Ms. Farmer was able to survive the horrors of her mental instability and I for one, I couldn't help but think as I read Ms. Farmer's memoir that this was the most gruesome yet hopeful autobiographies I had ever read. Her multiple stays at the state hospital revealed a psychiatric underbelly of existence that was truly horrifying and degrading to human life.

It seemed at times that perhaps details and situations might have been exaggerated, but then again, who is to say? It is truly amazing that Ms. Farmer was able to survive the horrors of her mental instability and I for one, could not put this book down. Her story will keep you thinking about her journey for days afterward. Excellent book. ...more

Diana

Diana rated it really liked it

Wow, what an eye-opening book about this woman's life. The writing is raw and hits a nerve for sure. You begin to wonder what your life would have been like living back then. There were parts where I wanted to cry for her and parts where I felt just as angry as she described herself (esp. when her mom wants her to talk with friends she just met on the bus while visiting her in the mental institution). Amazing, amazing story, although it's not for everyone--the writing is as I said, graphic and r Wow, what an eye-opening book about this woman's life. The writing is raw and hits a nerve for sure. You begin to wonder what your life would have been like living back then. There were parts where I wanted to cry for her and parts where I felt just as angry as she described herself (esp. when her mom wants her to talk with friends she just met on the bus while visiting her in the mental institution). Amazing, amazing story, although it's not for everyone--the writing is as I said, graphic and raw at times. ...more

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“To have a good friend is the purest of all God's gifts, for it is a love that has no exchange of payment. It is not inherited, as with a family. It is not compelling, as with a child. And it has no means of physical pleasure, as with a mate. It is, therefore, an indescribable bond that brings with it a far deeper devotion than all the others.”  —  13 likes
“For eight years I was an inmate in a state asylum for the insane. During those years I passed through such unbearable terror that I deteriorated into a wild, frightened creature intent only on survival. And I survived. I was raped by orderlies, gnawed on by rats and poisoned by tainted food. I was chained in padded cells, strapped into strait-jackets and half-drowned in ice baths. And I survived. The asylum itself was a steel trap, and I was not released from its jaws alive and victorious. I crawled out mutilated, whimpering and terribly alone. But I did survive.”  —  8 likes
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