Frances-Farmer

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“For me, acting was always a way to explore emotions — to dip into the well and really try to reach rock bottom.”

On her birthday, here is Jessica Lange, turning in and out of Hollywood’s light as the tragic Frances Farmer in Frances (1982), one of the greatest film performances of all time.

“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.”
— Frances Farmer (Will There Really Be a Morning?)

Frances was a rebel when it wasn’t fashionable — a free-thinking woman of the ‘30s and '40s whose outspoken nature, shocking language and anti-social behavior landed her in jails and mental institutions.

-Rita Rose in The Indianapolis Star (23 January 1983)

The rose room at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel.

Also known as the haunted Hollywood hotel. This has been the inspiration for songs such as “hotel California” by the eagles, the twilight zone, the tower of terror and the shining.

It was built in 1925 by E.M Frasier in Spanish Colonial Revival style. It catered to Hollywood’s elite and was the site for some of the industry’s most dramatic moments. Rudolf Valentino frequented the bar before his death in 1926. On Halloween 1936, Harry Houdini’s widow held her tenth séance to contact the magician on the roof of the hotel.

In 1943, Frances Farmer was arrested in her room at the hotel after failing to visit her probation officer when scheduled. In 1948, filmmaker D. W. Griffith died of a cerebral hemorrhage on the way to a Hollywood hospital, after being discovered unconscious in its lobby.

The hotel retained its glamor through the 1950s. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio married in San Francisco and spent their honeymoon here. The Knickerbocker was a place to hide out for celebrities if they didn’t want a lot of press. Even Elvis Presley stayed at the hotel (Room 1016) during the shooting of his first film.

1962 began the decline of the golden age, and at this time Irene Lentz came for a final stay at the Knickerbocker. Irene was a celebrated Hollywood costume designer, a favorite of Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland. She was in love with Gary Cooper. After his death she was reported saying that without him “life wasn’t worth living anymore.” She checked into the hotel under an assumed name, rented a room on the 11th floor and slit her wrists. When she found that this method of suicide wasn’t immediate she jumped from the window. Her body landed in one of the awnings, and it took 8 days for her suicide to be discovered.

On March 3, 1966, veteran character actor William Frawley was strolling down Hollywood Boulevard after seeing a film when he suffered a major heart attack. His nurse dragged him to the hotel where he died in the lobby.

By the late 1960s, the neighborhood had deteriorated, and the hotel became a residence primarily for drug addicts and prostitutes. In 1970, a renovation project converted the hotel into housing for senior citizens; it continues in this capacity today.

People who work in the building have described strange occurrences there. The tv goes off and on, the stereo, doors openand close by themselves, lights go on and off, dishes on top of the coffee maker suddenly just fall off… Dishes rattling in the dink when there are no dishes there…

One of it’s last guests actress Alice Ghostly checked out early because the place “spooked” her. In an interview she described the experience of going there as feeling an unnatural heaviness in her shoulders. “Don’t you ever get that feeling when you walk into someplace? when suddenly you think: I’ve got to get out of here.”