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Ossining's Anne Francis Paved Way For Actors As Women Detectives

Ossining native Anne Francis was a television pioneer as the woman detective "Honey West."
Ossining native Anne Francis was a television pioneer as the woman detective "Honey West." Photo Credit: Flickr user Hooray For Hollywood

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining has the unique distinction of being the hometown of two pioneering television crime fighters.

The late Peter Falk won four of his five Emmy Awards for his portrayal of "Columbo," the disheveled Los Angeles police lieutenant who wore a dirty and wrinkled trench coat while puffing on the cheapest cigars he could find.

Anne Francis was detective "Honey West." According to Wikipedia , the character was initially introduced on the ABC series, "Burke's Law," and then spun-off as a series. Francis won a Golden Globe Award for her pioneering role.

Alas, the show was short-lived, but it paved the way for other women detectives who came after her.

Remarkably, Peter Falk and Anne Francis shared the same birth date, Sept. 16.  Falk was born in 1927, while Francis was born in 1930.

An only child, Francis started modeling at the age of five.  Her income proved to be a much needed boost for her parents, as they and the rest of the country struggled through the years of the Great Depression.

By age 11, Anne was appearing on Broadway.  At age 17, she made her film debut in the movie "This Time for Keeps."

A decade before 'Honey West' Francis earned cinema immortality in the MGM classic sci-fi film 'Forbidden Planet.'  Her first leading role came in 1955 when she appeared opposite Glenn Ford in the gritty, urban high school drama 'Blackboard Jungle' (1955).

Francis appeared with Falk in two episodes of "Columbo"  in the 1970s.

The rest of her career was spent in guest starring roles in a host of prime time series, including a stint on "Dallas."

In 2005, the editors of TV Guide magazine ranked Francis as  No. 18 on its "50 Sexiest Stars of all Time" poll.

Francis was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007.  Despite her diagnosis, she continued to appear in TV nostalgia fan events and kept her fans abreast of her activities on her website.

I was fortunate enough to make contact with Francis, in the hopes of doing an e-mail interview, but sadly, she died on Jan. 2, 2011.  She was 80 years old.

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