Francine York: Duchess and Doll

It’s the birthday of the recently departed beauty Francine York (Francine Yerich, 1936-2017). I either became aware of her through her recent passing, or by learning she had a lead in The Doll Squad (1973), an exploitation film in which Tura Satana claimed to have a walk-on, and which may have been one of the models for Charlie’s Angels. In any case, there’s an irony to it, for I’d seen her countless times prior to that without learning who she was.

York started out modelling and participating in beauty pageants in Minneapolis, then moved to San Francisco, becoming Miss San Francisco on a technicality while working as a showgirl at Bimbo’s Nightclub (that’s its real name). Then came the big move to Hollywood where she worked at Sunset Strip club called the Moulin Rouge (named after the real one), and took acting classes with Jeff Corey.

York began getting small roles in film and on television at the beginning of the 1960s. She got bit parts in no less than six Jerry Lewis comedies: It’s Only Money (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964), The Disorderly Orderly (1965), The Family Jewels (1967) and Cracking Up (1983). Most of her other films were low budget exploitation, sci-fi and related fare: The Sergeant was a Lady (1961), Secret File: Hollywood (1962), Wild Ones on Wheels (1962), Mutiny in Outer Space (1965), Space Probe Taurus (1965), Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966), The Doll Squad (1963), Centerfold Girls (1974), and Marilyn: Alive and Beyond Bars (1992 — she played Marilyn Monroe as she would be if she were still alive in 1992). And then there were some smaller roles in mainstream films like Bedtime Story (1964), Tickle Me (1965) with Elvis Presley, and the spaghetti western A Cannon for Cordoba (1970).

By far the bulk of her credits were in television — scores of credits. Among her dozens of TV credits, she played Lily Langtry in an episode of Death Valley Days (1965), Lydia Limpet in two episodes of Batman (1966), three appearances on It Takes a Thief (1968), two appearances on Ironside (1969), three on Love American Style (1969-72), two on Adam-12 (1971-72), three on The Streets of San Francisco (1974-77), and just dozens and dozens more. She worked up until the day she died; her last credit is the action film Ten Violent Men Part Two (1917).