biographyBorn 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.
LEFT: Paramount promotional stills from 1942. CENTER: Arcade card from the mid 1940s. RIGHT: MGM portrait of Gifford from the mid 1940s
the films of frances gifford
Jungle Girl (1941)
From Republic's 15-chapter serial Jungle Girl. LEFT, CENTER A and B: Gifford as Nyoka. RIGHT: With Tom Neal
West Point Widow (1941)
Tarzan Triumphs (1943)
From RKO's Tarzan Triumphs. LEFT, CENTER A and B: Gifford as Zandra. RIGHT: With Johnny Weissmuller
Thrill of a Romance (1945)
She Went to the Races (1946)
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)
With James Craig in the MGM tearjerker Little Mister Jim
The Arnelo Affair (1947)
With John Hodiak in the MGM crime drama The Arnelo Affair
Luxury Liner (1948)
later yearsGifford 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
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.
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.
The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 [DVD] DVD
Jungle hero Johnny Weissmuller moved from MGM to RKO for his next six swinging action sagas. First, "Tarzan Triumphs" (1943) over Nazis who attempt to conquer a lost civilization; the search for a plant that will yield a malaria serum leads Tarzan and Boy (Johnny Sheffield) back into conflict with German agents, in "Tarzan's Desert Mystery" (1943); Tarzan and Jane (Brenda Joyce) help defend a female tribe from some nosy archeologists, in "Tarzan and the Amazons" (1945); a bizarre African cult must contend with an angry ape man when they attack Jane and Boy, in "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" (1946); the jungle king goes up against poachers out to repopulate a zoo, in "Tarzan and the Huntress" (1947); and Weissmuller plays Tarzan for the last time in "Tarzan and the Mermaids" (1948), rescuing a young girl from a pearl trader posing as a tribal god. 7 1/4 hrs. total on three discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
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.
TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 2 [DVD] DVD
First, "Thrill of a Romance" (1945) stars Esther Williams as a swimming newlywed who does a backstroke over Army Air Corps hero Van Johnson--complicating her new nuptials. With Henry Travers, Lauritz Melchior. Next, "Fiesta" (1947) has Williams posing as her matador brother in order to save her family's name. Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse co-star. "This Time for Keeps" (1947) features Esther as a bathing-suited performer who catches the eye of an opera singer's son. Melchior, Jimmy Durante, Johnnie Johnston co-star. In "Pagan Love Song" (1950), Howard Keel shines as a teacher in Tahiti who falls for Williams--mistakenly believing that she is an island native. Rita Moreno co-stars. Then, "Million Dollar Mermaid" (1952) is an enjoyable biopic of 1890s swimming great Annette Kellerman, with Williams, Victor Mature, Walter Pidgeon. AKA: "The One Piece Bathing Suit." Lastly, "Easy to Love" (1953) focuses on secretary Esther's attempts to make boss Van Johnson notice her. With Tony Martin, John Bromfield. 10 hrs. total on six discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English (SDH); bonus shorts; bonus cartoons; outtakes.
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.