ARLENE FRANCIS Biography - Actors and Actresses


Biography » actors and actresses » arlene francis


Name: Arlene Francis                                                                           
Born: 20 October 1907                                                                         
Died: 31 May 2001                                                                             
Arlene Francis (born Arline Francis Kazanjian in Boston, Massachusetts October                 
20, 1907 - May 31, 2001) was an American actress, radio talk show host, and game               
show panelist. She is known for her long-standing role as a panelist on the                   
television game show What's My Line?, on which she regularly appeared for twenty-five         
years, from 1950 through the mid-1970s. Always dressed and coiffed meticulously,               
Arlene invariably wore her trademark simple gold necklace with heart pendant.                 
Her Armenian father was studying art in Paris at age 16 when he learned that                   
both his parents were dead in one of the Hamidian massacres perpetrated by the                 
Ottoman Empire in Anatolia between 1894 and 1896. (Genocide committed by the                   
Ottoman Empire was unknown to many Americans for nearly a century.) Aram                       
Kazanjian then immigrated to the United States and became a portrait                           
photographer, opening his own studio in Boston in the early 20th century. He was               
an early practitioner of body paint, often photographing young women after                     
painting on them. Later in life, when his daughter was at the height of her fame,             
Mr. Kazanjian painted canvasses of dogwoods, "rabbits in flight" and other                     
forces of nature, selling them at auction in New York.                                         
"I think I was about seven years old," Arlene, an only child, wrote in her 1978               
autobiography, "when Father decided that New York offered greater opportunities               
for success, and we moved from Boston into that flat [in Washington Heights,                   
Manhattan]. It was a good move professionally, and when he decided to specialize               
in children's photographs, he became very successful indeed, one of the best                   
known in his field." Except for sojourns in the Los Angeles area, Arlene                       
remained a New Yorker after she "was about seven years old" until her son moved               
her to a San Francisco nursing home in 1993.                                                   
Arlene Francis had a broad and varied career as an entertainer. She was an                     
accomplished actress with 25 Broadway plays to her credit, from La Gringa in                   
1928 to Don't Call Back in 1975. She also performed in many local theatre and                 
off-Broadway plays.                                                                           
Francis was a well known New York City radio personality, having hosted several               
radio programs, including a long-running midday chat show on WOR-AM. In the 1940s,             
she emceed a network radio game show, Blind Date, which she also hosted on                     
television from 1949 to 1952. She was one of the regular contributors to NBC                   
Radio's Monitor in the 1950s and 1960s.                                                       
Francis was a regular panelist on the game show What's My Line? throughout                     
almost its entire network run on CBS from 1950 to 1967, and she also appeared in               
the show's revival as a syndicated show the following year. She joined the                     
original show on its second episode in 1950 and remained a panelist until the                 
end of the syndicated version of the program in 1975. The original show, which                 
featured guests whose occupation, or "line," the panelists were to guess, became               
one of the classic television game shows, noted for the urbanity of its host and               
panelists. Francis also appeared on many other game shows, including Match Game,               
Password and other programs produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman.                         
Francis was a pioneer for women on television, one of the first women to host a               
program that was not musical or dramatic. From 1954 to 1957 she was host and                   
editor-in-chief of Home, NBC's ambitious hour-long daytime magazine program                   
oriented toward women, which was conceived by network president Pat Weaver as a               
complement to the network's Today and Tonight programs. Newsweek magazine put                 
her on its cover as "the first lady of television." She also hosted Talent                     
Patrol in the mid 1950s.                                                                       
She acted in several films, debuting in the role of a prostitute in Murders in                 
the Rue Morgue (1932). (She got that role after traveling to Los Angeles with                 
her mother, who had a friend who knew David Selznick very well. Francis' only                 
acting experience at that point was in a small Shakespearean production in the                 
convent school from which she had recently graduated. Her La Gringa on Broadway               
might have preceded that first trip to Hollywood, but she omitted this                         
theatrical "debut" from her autobiography entirely.)                                           
In the 1960s, Arlene Francis appeared in One, Two, Three (1961), directed by                   
Billy Wilder and filmed on location in Munich, The Thrill of It All (1963), and               
in the television version of the play Laura (1968), which she had played on                   
stage several times. Her final film performance was in the Billy Wilder film                   
Fedora (1978).                                                                                 
Francis wrote an autobiography in 1978 entitled Arlene Francis: A Memoir with                 
help from a longtime friend, Florence Rome. She also wrote That Certain                       
Something: The Magic of Charm in 1960 and a book/cookbook, No Time for Cooking,               
in 1961.                                                                                       
She died on May 31, 2001 in San Francisco at the age of 93 after a long bout                   
with Alzheimer's disease and cancer.