I learned today the sad news that actress Francine York passed away this morning Jan. 6, 2017 from Cancer. Seems she was secretly struggling with the disease for over a year. Based on her cheery Facebook posts and drive to keep working, you would never have guessed it. That is why it came as such a shock for most of her fans.
I wrote to Francine in the late nineties to do a career interview for my first book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. She called me and said, “I have been waiting for you for years. What took you so long! I have a whole lot to say!” And boy did she. A writer’s dream, Francine had stories from just about every movie and TV show she worked on. Outspoken, funny, and sometimes a bit boastful but in a sweet way, she regaled me with anecdotes about Jerry Lewis, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, George Peppard, and her iconic TV appearances on Batman, Lost in Space, Bewitched and so much more. Completely candid, if Francine liked you she praised you to the hilt, but if you wronged her she was not afraid to call you to task (hear that Tony Randall). She told me about her infamous wall of fame in her apartment that she so wanted me to see with photos from her career. When she auditioned for the 70s Saturday morning TV show Jason of Star Command, per Francine the casting director asked if she could play a queen, and she replied, “I am the Queen!” Naturally she got the part.
Francine and I stayed in touch ever since. I will miss receiving her wonderful photo Christmas cards each year. She hated to fly but could not pass up a big paycheck to do a commercial being shot in New York City. We met for dinner in Soho and had a lovely time. We took a photo together and it has remained one of my favorites.
Francine never stopped acting unlike most of her 60s contemporaries. Her most recent credit was just last year in the comedy web series Where the Bears Are playing a wealthy mother of one of the gay characters. She was a wonderful presence on Facebook up until the night before she passed away. I always was entertained with her life which she shared almost completely and was in the midst of writing her memoir. I hope it still gets released. She was active to the very end.
Goodbye noble Niolani! You will be missed!