Born in Long Beach, California, on December 7, 1919, beautiful Mary Frances Gifford was put under contract to RKO Studios while still a teenager. Her younger brother, Frank Gifford, also dabbled in acting but became famous while playing football for the New York Giants from 1952 to 1964. Prior to signing with RKO, Frances Gifford had been spotted by a talent agent who brought her to the attention of producer Samuel Goldwyn, who briefly had her under contract. After several roles at RKO, Gifford's career was going nowhere fast. In 1938, she married character actor James Dunn, and the couple costarred in the films Mercy Plane (1939; with William Pawley) and Hold that Woman! (1940; with Dave O'Brien). By the time their marriage fizzled out in 1942, Gifford's film career was in high gear while Dunn's was collapsing. The previous year Gifford had been cast in the Republic serial Jungle Girl, based on the novel by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. This popular serial gave her fortunes a much-needed boost. She left RKO for Paramount where she acted in several films including The Glass Key (1942; with Brian Donlevy). However, she quickly left Paramount for top studio MGM in 1943.

Frances GiffordFrances GiffordFrances Gifford

LEFT: Paramount promotional stills from 1942. CENTER: Arcade card from the mid 1940s. RIGHT: MGM portrait of Gifford from the mid 1940s

At MGM, Gifford was cast in supporting roles in such A pictures as Thrill of a Romance (1945; with Esther Williams) and Luxury Liner (1948; with Jane Powell). She starred in several MGM B-films including She Went to the Races (1945; with James Craig) and The Arnelo Affair (1947; with John Hodiak and Eve Arden). Gorgeous and talented, Gifford seemed destined for great things when a devastating auto accident in 1948 sidelined her career and health. She attempted a comeback in two early 1950s films, Riding High (1950; with Bing Crosby and Coleen Gray) and Sky Commando (1953; with Dan Duryea and Mike Connors). However, during the 1950s her mental health declined to the point where she was institutionalized for nearly two decades.

the films of frances gifford

Jungle Girl (1941) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Frances GiffordFrances GiffordFrances GiffordTom Neal and Frances Gifford

From Republic's 15-chapter serial Jungle Girl. LEFT, CENTER A and B: Gifford as Nyoka. RIGHT: With Tom Neal

West Point Widow (1941)

Frances Gifford

Paramount promotional still from West Point Widow

Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

Frances GiffordFrances GiffordFrances GiffordJohnny Weissmuller and Frances Gifford

From RKO's Tarzan Triumphs. LEFT, CENTER A and B: Gifford as Zandra. RIGHT: With Johnny Weissmuller

Thrill of a Romance (1945)

Esther Williams and Frances Gifford

With Esther Williams in the MGM musical Thrill of a Romance

She Went to the Races (1946)

Frances GiffordJames Craig and Frances Gifford

From the MGM comedy She Went to the Races. LEFT: Gifford is glamorous in this still from the film. RIGHT: With James Craig

Little Mister Jim (1946)

Frances Gifford and James Craig

With James Craig in the MGM tearjerker Little Mister Jim

The Arnelo Affair (1947)

John Hodiak and Frances Gifford

With John Hodiak in the MGM crime drama The Arnelo Affair

Luxury Liner (1948) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Jane Powell, George Brent, and Frances Gifford

With Jane Powell and George Brent in the MGM musical Luxury Liner

later years

Gifford attempted to make a comeback in the early 1950s, but roles in two films and a few television shows didn't help her condition. Committed to an mental institution in 1958, Gifford was released after twenty years, and spent her final days working for charitable causes. Sadly, Frances Gifford passed away from complications arising from emphysema on January 15, 1994, at the age of 74. She was survived by her brother, football player-turned-commentator Frank Gifford.

frances gifford films available from movies unlimited

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Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (75th Anniversary) [Blu-ray](1939)
Frank Capra's classic comedy-drama about government and the American spirit stars Jimmy Stewart as Jefferson Smith, a small-town man selected to replace a deceased U.S. senator. Picked because it was believed he'd be easy to manipulate, Smith dedicates himself to doing some good but finds his honest and idealistic approach at odds with the corrupt political machine. Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee also star. 130 min. Standard; Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital stereo, Dolby Digital mono, Spanish Dolby Digital mono, French Dolby Digital mono, Italian Dolby Digital mono, Germany Dolby Digital mono, Portuguese Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Chinese, Japanese.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington [DVD](1939) DVD
Frank Capra's classic comedy-drama about government and the American spirit. Jimmy Stewart is an idealistic senator who tries to stem the tide of graft he finds around him. Claude Rains is a corrupt colleague, Jean Arthur a jaded secretary who joins Stewart's crusade. 129 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby mono, Portuguese, Spanish; Subtitles: English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai; audio commentary; featurette; publicity materials; biographies; trailers.
Mercy Plane [DVD](1939) DVD
High-flying adventure starring James Dunn as Speed Leslie, an airplane ace who is grounded after the incredible high-tech Mercy Plane is stolen. With help from the pretty sister of a pilot, Speed gets a job at an aircraft factory and learns his employer is behind the Mercy Plane's theft. Frances Gifford, Matty Fain co-star. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
Hold That Woman [DVD](1940) DVD
A process server goes up against gangsters, the police and his boss when he finds a stolen cache of jewels hidden inside a radio he repossesses, forcing him to get to the bottom of the crime in order to keep his job and stay out of prison. James Dunn, Frances Gifford, Martin Spellman star. 64 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
Walt Disney Animation Collection, Vol. 6: The Reluctant Dragon [DVD] DVD
The beloved tale of the loomingly large but lovable lizard who's too tame to terrify...and the two buddies who give him a crash course in being fierce is told in "The Reluctant Dragon" (1941). Also includes "Ferdinand the Bull" (1938), "Johnny Appleseed" (1948), and "Goliath II" (1960). 62 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital Surround; Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish, French.
Louisiana Purchase (1941)/Never Say Die [DVD](1939) DVD
Zesty comedy with music features Bob Hope getting involved with corrupt politics, shady ladies and righteous senators in Louisiana. Vera Zorina, Victor Moore and Irene Bordoni also star in this engaging political satire with such Irving Berlin tunes as "It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow." Then, loony millionaire Bob Hope, under the mistaken belief that he only has one month to live, marries tycoon's daughter Martha Raye so that she will inherit his money and be able to wed her true love. What will happen when Hope's diagnosis is corrected? With Andy Devine and Gale Sondergaard. 181 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: French, Spanish; production notes; biographies; theatrical trailer.
Hopalong Cassidy, Vol. 7 [DVD] DVD
"Texas Masquerade" (1943) is not a frontier Halloween party, but Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) and California (Andy Clyde) give some two-fisted "treats" to a gang of masked riders out to "trick" local ranchers out of their land. Then, "The Marauders" (1947) finds the black-hatted hero settling a score with a band of murderous owlhoots who've driven a whole frontier town out so they can dig for oil. "The Border Vigilantes" (1941) are hired to help a mining town save its silver from being hijacked by some blackhats, but it's up to Hoppy to uncover the connection between the two groups. Clyde, Frances Gifford, Russell Hayden, Victor Jory also star. Boyd made his final screen appearance as Hopalong Cassidy in "Strange Gamble" (1948), which finds him hot on the trail of a counterfeiting ring in Silver City. With Clyde, Rand Brooks. "Twilight on the Trail" (1941) is more like "Tea Time on the Trail," when Cassidy poses as an English detective to find out who's been rustling cattle from his rancher pals. 5 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1.
Jungle Girl [DVD](1941) DVD
Frances Gifford stars in the title role as Nyoka, a young woman living in the African jungle with her physician father. When the doctor's evil twin murders him and assumes his identity in order to search for a fortune in diamonds hidden nearby, Nyoka and two pilots must escape the plans of the sinister sibling and his henchmen. With Tom Neal, Trevor Bardette. 15 episodes; 267 min. on two discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono; scene access; photo gallery; biographies; interview.
The Great American Western, Vol. 18 [DVD] DVD
Travelling to the Lone Star State with hopes of making a fortune as cattle ranchers, two lifelong friends find their relationship threatened when their post-Civil War dream of an "American Empire" (1942) comes true. Richard Dix, Leo Carrillo, Preston Foster, Frances Gifford star. Glenn Ford plays sheriff "Sam Cade" (1971), battling a man whose return to his hometown after a 20-year absence leads to murder, in an actioner taken from the hit TV series "Cade's County." Darren McGavin, Ed Asner, Loretta Swit also star. AKA: "Sam Cade: Marshal of Madrid." Ford returns as Cade, going up against a gang of ornery smugglers, in "Marshal of Madrid" (1972). Finally, an Old West gunslinger who survives being guest of honor at a necktie party uses his "second chance" to become a force for good, in "The Hanged Man" (1974). Steve Forrest, Cameron Mitchell star. 5 3/4 hrs. total.
Film Noir 10-Movie Spotlight Collection [DVD] DVD
Six-disc includes "The Glass Key," "This Gun for Hire," "Double Indemnity," "The Blue Dahlia," "Phantom Lady," "Black Angel," "The Killers" (1946), "The Big Clock," "Criss Cross," and "Touch of Evil." 15 2/3 hrs. total. Standard/Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish, French; audio commentary; featurettes; theatrical trailers.
The Glass Key [DVD](1942) DVD
Political operative Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd) thought it was a mistake when his ward-heeler boss Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) threw his weight behind a reform candidate for senate. When the candidate's wastrel son turns up murdered, and Madvig is fingered for the crime, Beaumont has his toughest mess of all to clean up. Crackling take on Dashiell Hammett's tale of corruption co-stars Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Joseph Calleia, Bonita Granville. 85 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
American Empire [DVD](1942) DVD
Deception, intrigue and violence combine in this fast-paced melodrama about the rise of a cattle empire in post-Civil War Texas. Travelling to the Lone Star State with hopes of making a fortune as ranchers, two lifelong friends find their relationship threatened when their American dream comes true. Richard Dix, Leo Carrillo, Preston Foster, Frances Gifford star. 81 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
My Favorite Blonde (1942)/Star Spangled Rhythm [DVD](1942) DVD
Rip-roaring comic yarn starring Bob Hope as a wise-cracking entertainer who becomes involved with beautiful British agent Madeleine Carroll, who is carrying secret military plans the Nazis are after, and joins her in dodging the bad guys in a cross-country chase. Gale Sondergaard and George Zucco co-star. Then, a parade of Hollywood's biggest names appear in a tuneful comedy starring Eddie Bracken as a sailor who brings his pals to the Paramount Studios lot. Hope, Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Alan Ladd, Mary Martin, and Dick Powell are all featured; songs include "Hit the Road to Dreamland." 178 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; biographies; theatrical trailer.
Cry "Havoc" [DVD](1943) DVD
As Japanese forces advance on the Philippines' Bataan Peninsula in 1942, a group of female Army nurses and several civilian volunteers struggle to care for wounded soldiers and brace for the coming invasion. Margaret Sullavan, Fay Bainter, Joan Blondell, and Ann Sothern head the mostly female cast in this distaff WWII drama; look for Robert Mitchum as one of the ladies' charges. 97 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Our Vines Have Tender Grapes [DVD](1945) DVD
A bittersweet look at life in a small Wisconsin community, with Edward G. Robinson as a widowed Norwegian-born farmer who is stern but loving with young daughter Margaret O'Brien. The film chronicles a year in the life of their town and its inhabitants, covering all of their uplifting triumphs and devastating tragedies. Agnes Moorehead, James Craig, Frances Gifford also star. 105 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Luxury Liner [DVD](1948) DVD
Spirited seafaring musical comedy starring Jane Powell as an aspiring singer and daughter of luxury liner captain George Brent. Powell stows away on one of Brent's cruises--which happens to feature a bevy of musical stars--in an effort to jump-start her career, playing matchmaker for dad and a beautiful passenger (Frances Gifford) in the process. With Xavier Cugat, Lauritz Melchior; tunes include "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Yes We Have No Bananas," "Spring came Back to Vienna. " 98 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Riding High [DVD](1950) DVD
Frank Capra's remake of his own "Broadway Bill" from 1934 adds songs by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke and tells the delightful tale of a former businessman (Bing Crosby) who's trying to drum up the entry fee to get his 100-to-1 horse in the big race. Coleen Gray, Charles Bickford, William Demarest, and Frances Gifford also star. Songs include "Someplace on Anywhere Road," "We've Got a Sure Thing," and "The Horse Told Me." 111 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.

frances gifford dvds available from


Sky Commando (1953) with Dan Duryea, Mike Connors, and Morris Ankrum
Riding High (1950) with Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray, Marjorie Lord, Charles Bickford, William Demarest, Ward Bond, Percy Kilbride, and Margaret Hamilton
Luxury Liner (1948) with George Brent, Jane Powell, and Xavier Cugat
The Arnelo Affair (1947) with John Hodiak, George Murphy, Dean Stockwell, Eve Arden, and Joan Woodbury
Little Mister Jim (1946) with James Craig, Luana Patten, Spring Byington, Laura La Plante, and Morris Ankrum
She Went to the Races (1945) with James Craig, Ava Gardner, and Edmund Gwenn
Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) with Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O'Brien, James Craig, and Agnes Moorehead
Thrill of a Romance (1945) with Van Johnson, Esther Williams, and Spring Byington
Marriage Is a Private Affair (1944) with Lana Turner, James Craig, John Hodiak, Hugh Marlowe, Natalie Schafer, Keenan Wynn, and Morris Ankrum
Cry 'Havoc' (1943) with Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, and Ella Raines
Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (1943) with Jimmy Lydon, Charles Smith, John Litel, and Gail Russell
Tarzan Triumphs (1943) with Johnny Weissmuller and Johnny Sheffield
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, Franchot Tone, Ray Milland, Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake, and Alan Ladd
American Empire (1942) with Richard Dix, Leo Carrillo, Preston Foster, and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams
The Glass Key (1942) with Brian Donlevy, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Bonita Granville, Richard Denning, and William Bendix
Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942) with Dorothy Lamour, Richard Denning, Jack Haley, and Patricia Morison
Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die (1942) with Richard Dix, Edgar Buchanan, Rex Bell, Kent Taylor, and Victor Jory
My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1942) with Richard Carlson, Martha O'Driscoll, and Cecil Kellaway
The Remarkable Andrew (1942) with Brian Donlevy, William Holden, and Ellen Drew
The Reluctant Dragon (1941) with Robert Benchley, Nana Bryant, Gerald Mohr, and Alan Ladd
Jungle Girl (1941) with Tom Neal, Gerald Mohr, Eddie Acuff, Tommy Cook, and Jay Silverheels
West Point Widow (1941) with Anne Shirley, Richard Carlson, and Richard Denning
Border Vigilantes (1941) with William Boyd, Andy Clyde, Victor Jory, Morris Ankrum, and Tom Tyler
Hold That Woman! (1940) with James Dunn and Dave O'Brien
Mercy Plane (1939) with James Dunn
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Claude Rains, Guy Kibbee, and Eugene Pallette
Having a Wonderful Time (1938) with Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Red Skelton, Jack Carson, Allan 'Rocky' Lane, and Grady Sutton
Night Spot (1938) with Harry 'Parkyakarkus' Parke, Allan 'Rocky' Lane, Joan Woodbury, and Jack Carson
Living on Love (1937) with James Dunn, Joan Woodbury, and Franklin Pangborn
Stage Door (1937) with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, and Gail Patrick
New Faces of 1937 (1937) with Joe Penner, Milton Berle, Harry 'Parkyakarkus' Parke, Harriet Nelson, Jerome Cowan, Henry Hite, and Ann Miller
Woman Chases Man (1937) with Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea

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Watch Frances Gifford in the 1942 Paramount adventure American Empire

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This page premiered February 6, 2004.