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November 28, 2022

40 Gorgeous Photos of American Actress Frances Gifford in the 1940s

Born 1920 in Long Beach, California, American actress Frances Gifford landed her first leading role in the low-budget Mercy Plane in 1939. She played several more minor roles before she was, in 1941, lent to Republic Pictures and cast in the role which would arguably produce her most enduring fame: as the semiclad Nyoka in Jungle Girl, a 15-chapter movie serial, based very loosely on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The role was the first time since Pearl White in the silent era that an actress had played the lead in the movie serial genre.

Gifford left RKO for Paramount Pictures, where she acted in several films, including The Glass Key (1942). In 1943, she made another jungle movie, costarring with Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan Triumphs at RKO. That year, she also left Paramount and moved to the prestigious Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio with the sponsorship of an MGM executive.

At MGM, Gifford had more success, playing leading roles in such films as Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) and She Went to the Races (1945), receiving billing over Ava Gardner, followed by the more notable The Arnelo Affair (1947). She also played in supporting roles, including Thrill of a Romance (1945) with Esther Williams, and Luxury Liner (1948) with Jane Powell.

On December 31, 1947, Gifford was almost killed in a car accident at age 27 in which she received severe head injuries, resulting in a drastic change in her personality. During the 1950s, her mental and physical health declined to the point where she was placed into Camarillo State Mental Hospital in 1958. She spent almost the entire next 25 years in and out of various institutions.

Gifford spent her final years in quiet obscurity and died of emphysema in a convalescent center in Pasadena at the age of 73. Take a look at these gorgeous photos to see the beauty of young Frances Gifford in the 1940s.


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