Frances Farmer: Shadowland by William Arnold

Frances Farmer: Shadowland by William Arnold

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Frances Farmer died in 1970, after having lived a tumultuous life which saw her make national headlines in both high school (for her essay God Dies) and college (for her trip to Russia); become acclaimed by Cecil B. de Mille as the "screen's outstanding find of 1936" and by Howard Hawks as "the greatest actress I ever worked with"; join the Group Theatre, one of the most important, socially conscious and artistically groundbreaking troupes in U.S. history; and suffer a harrowing, ongoing struggle with mental illness, which kept her in various sanitariums and hospitals from 1943-1950. In 1972, her purported autobiography Will There Really Be a Morning? was published to great critical acclaim. The story might have ended there, but in 1978 Seattle film critic William Arnold published his account of Farmer's life, entitled Shadowland. Arnold claimed to have uncovered previously undisclosed information that Farmer had suffered a transorbital lobotomy at the hands of Dr. Walter Freeman, the man who, with James Watts, had introduced the prefrontal lobotomy to the United States, and who had later "refined" his technique to avoid drilling through the skull, instead resorting to inserting an icepick like device through the eye socket up into the brain to sever the frontal lobes. Arnold's disturbing account, the first time ever anyone had made the lobotomy assertion about Farmer, became the basis for the 1982 feature film Frances starring Jessica Lange.

The Frances Farmer: Shadowland by William Arnold is evocative, to say the least, but that's why you're drawn to it in the first place.

Inventory Last Updated: Sep 26, 2020

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