Thursday February 18, 2021
Frances Farmer by Howard Hawks
How did you find Frances Farmer? She was extraordinary in the movie. [Come and Get It (1936)]
She came in to play the part of a little Swedish girl. She was getting seventy-five bucks a week over at Paramount and I said, “My God, you ought to be playing the lead in this.” She said, “I can play it.” So I had her read a little bit and I began to get enthusiastic about it, and then I said I'd make a test. We started to disagree because she came in all made up and was going to “act,” but I let her go to it and then showed her the test and said, “What do you think?” She said, “I'm horrible.” I said, “OK, where do you live?” and that night I picked her up and we went around to little cafés until we found somebody who acted the way I wanted her to play it: We saw a waitress in this beer joint and I said, “Now, you come in here every night for 10 days. Get picked up. The worst that'll happen to you is you'll get your legs felt.” She was a big husky girl who could take care of herself, you know. “Then we'll make another test.” And at the end of 10 days she came in and made a test—without makeup or anything—with just a change in attitude. Oh, she was marvelous, probably the best actress—outside of Lombard and Rosalind Russell—I've ever worked with.
-- Howard Hawks in Peter Bogdanovich's “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors.”