Frances Gifford

Active - 1937 - 1953  |   Born - Dec 7, 1920   |   Died - Jan 22, 1994   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Comedy Drama, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Fresh out of high school, statuesque brunette actress Frances Gifford played bits and extra roles until landing the lead in the low-budget Mercy Plane (1939), in which she was cast opposite her first husband James Dunn. Two years later she was seen as Robert Benchley's guide through the Disney animation studios in The Reluctant Dragon (1941), and, more importantly, as the fetchingly unclad, endlessly resourceful Nyoka in the Republic serial Jungle Girl (1941). The popularity of the serial might have typecast her forever in such roles, but Gifford's ambition was to star in features. Through the sponsorship of an MGM executive, she landed a contract at that most prestigious of studios, playing leading roles in such films as Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) and She Went to the Races (1945). Her best showing at MGM was as the tormented heroine of Arch Oboler's The Arnelo Affair (1947). On the verge of bigger things, Gifford suffered a series of profound personal setbacks in the late '40s, not least of which was an automobile accident that nearly killed her. She made a few comeback attempts in the 1950s, but spent most of the decade in and out of mental institutions. After nearly 25 years of treatment, Frances Gifford was finally able to start her life over in 1983, devoting the rest of her days to charitable work.

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