Frances Faye: From “Plan 9” to “Pretty Baby”

Who says science fiction movies aren’t educational? I first learned the name Frances Faye (Frances Cohen, 1912-1991) from Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959). There’s that scene: “Saucers over Hollywood! Saucers over Washington, D.C.!” and in a Hollywood shot, we see a theatre in the background with a blazing marquee announding an appearance by the singer. I natually grew curious.

Faye was a second cousin of a famous performer; amusingly it wasn’t Frank Fay, but Danny Kaye. Like her Kaye cousin, Frances was from Brookyn. She started out singing in theatres and nightclubs as a teenager. By the mid ’30s she had begun cutting records, appearing on radio, and landed a spot in the Bing Crosby film Double or Nothing (1937). The ’50s and ’60s were her peak, when she recorded a dozen record albums (one of them with Mel Torme) and appeared on the TV variety shows of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Morey Amsterdam, Steve Allen, Joey Bishop, and Jackie Gleason.

While she had been married in the ’40s, Faye was bisexual, a fact well known to most of her fans. Her last and longest-lasting romantic relationship was with her agent Teri Shepherd. Faye capped off her career at the end of the 1970s with two film appearances, in the TV movie Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn (1977) with Eve Plumb, and Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978).

To learn more about the variety arts, incuding TV variety, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,