Frances Rafferty

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Mini Biography from

written by Gary Brumburgh
Frances Rafferty at the Internet Movie Database
Date of Birth
16 June 1922, Sioux City, Iowa, USA
Date of Death
18 April 2004, Paso Robles, California, USA.

A pouty glamor girl in "B" films during the 1940s, actress Frances Rafferty did a role reversal and turned wholesome housewife on TV in the next decade. Born in Sioux City, Iowa, her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 9 during the Depression days in search of work. Frances won a scholarship to the Edith Jane Dancing School the next year and attended UCLA following her high school graduation. She dropped out after earning an understudy position for dancer Vera Zorina in the film I Was an Adventuress (1940), choreographed by the legendary George Balanchine. A severe leg injury suffered after falling during a performance of "The Firebird" at the Hollywood Bowl changed her focus to acting. Coached by such stalwart teachers as Maria Ouspenskaya, Frances was signed by MGM at the age of 19 and began with a dancing bit in Presenting Lily Mars (1943) starring Judy Garland. Other parts in The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942), Barbary Coast Gent (1944) and Mrs. Parkington (1944) added to her movie camera experience. Her almond eyes gave this beauty a slightly exotic look and she capitalized on it in her best movie performance in Dragon Seed (1944) as the ill-fated Oriental girl who is raped and subsequently murdered. Unable to secure major starring parts in "A" pictures, Frances remained a "B" level co-star with post-war film roles in Bad Bascomb (1946), Lost Honeymoon (1947), Curley (1947) and An Old-Fashioned Girl (1949) doing little to further her career. A marriage to John Harlan in 1944 lasted only three years. In 1948, she married Thomas R. Baker, an Air Force colonel who later became general manager for the Los Alamitos Racetrack, and had two children. Following a role in The Shanghai Story (1954), Frances set her sights on TV and in that same year won the role of "Ruth Henshaw", the daughter of Spring Byington, in the popular sitcom "December Bride" (1954) for which she is best known. Harry Morgan, who played "Pete Porter" on the show, spun off into his own series with "Pete and Gladys" (1960), and Frances was brought on board to play Nancy, a next-door-neighbor. The show lasted only one season. Frances quietly semi-retired after that with just a handful of TV performances coming her way, then disappeared altogether. She raised quarter horses with her husband in California for a time.

Family Info

Thomas R. Baker (1948 - 18 April 2004) (her death) 2 children John Harlan (1944 - 1947) (divorced)

Her two children are Briget and Kevin and she also has a grandson, Michael. She lived in Raso Robles in the 1960s and was instrumental in forming a local acting group "Pioneer Players" which she directed for many years. She later moved back to Los Angeles and then to Colorado before returning to Paso Robles. She received two Emmy nominations during her career.

  • Met actress Alexis Smith as a dance student at age 10 and they remained lifelong friends. It was Alexis Smith who suggested Frances try acting after a knee injury ended her promising dance career. Frances was at Alexis Smith's bedside when she died of cancer in 1993.
  • Had a daughter and son with second husband Thomas Baker, whom she was introduced to by actress/dancer Peggy Ryan.
  • Lucille Ball, who remembered Frances from their MGM days, was instrumental in casting Frances on the "December Bride" (1954) series, which was produced by Desilu.
Personal Quotes
  • "I've completely forgotten the craft of acting. It was all great fun, but retirement is even nicer. I never had any ambition other than to keep working as long as I had to."

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External links

Frances Rafferty at the Internet Movie Database


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