Saturday, February 07, 2009

My Fantasy Girlfriend - Jan Francis

One of my first big flesh-and-blood crushes, Jan Francis was an extremely pretty actress who was a ubiquitous face on British TV during my childhood in the '70s and '80s. She had a wholesome, girl-next-door beauty, rather than being a head-turning glamourpuss; an English rose, something very close to my ideal paradigm of desirable womanhood. I later learned that in her teens, before turning to acting, she had trained and performed with the Royal Ballet. I suspect that contributed to her appeal for me as well. I've always had a bit of a weakness for dancers; and it's not just the long legs, nor even the grace and elegance of their movements; it's a rather less obvious or tangible quality they seem to exude, a poise or confidence, a suggestion of being completely comfortable with their bodies.

I think I first saw her on Jackanory, a long-running teatime series on BBC in which an actor would read a children's story in daily 15-minute segments over the course of a week. I was immediately smitten. And she was in such regular work over the next 15 or 20 years (at least on TV; she never made the break into films, strangely), that I was regularly re-smitten. She was a damsel in distress in a Sunday teatime serialisation of The Last Of The Mohicans, Mina Harker in a feature-length TV adaptation of Dracula, a French Resistance operative in the wartime drama series Secret Army (in a mac and beret - very sexy!), and much else besides. Her most famous role was probably as Penny Warrender in Just Good Friends, a romantic sitcom that was one of the BBC's biggest hits of the '80s.

Ah, Jan. So many happy memories. She's in her 60s now, but still looking rather fine. She has that kind of inner beauty that actually seems to intensify rather than fade with age.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Extraordinarily eloquent observations about an actress who has enchanted me too for nearly 25 years. Her sheer femininity shines through!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why Jan left secret army after season 1? She was the main reason to watch it, very dissapointing! Love from Mikael

Froog said...

Gentlemen, I suspect most Englishmen of a certain age (and perhaps many non-Englishmen too) share our soft spot for the lovely Jan.

Mikael, as far as I recall, she said she just wasn't happy with the character - not enough lines, no development. Although, when actors say that, you assume it usually means they've got, or are expecting soon to have, better offers. It was soon after this that she did Dracula (it was BBC co-production, I think; but it was a feature-length, and I believe it got some cinema distribution in other countries); maybe she was planning to try to shift her career focus to films. It never quite happened for her, somehow. The only other film I can remember her being in was Champions 4 or 5 years later.

Simon said...

There has been much speculation over the years about the reason(s) Jan Francis left "Secret Army" when she did, and Froog's theories have hitherto been the received wisdom on the matter. Now, I am advised, an extraordinarily well reviewed tome, "The Complete Secret Army" by Andy Priestner is available. Unofficial and unauthorised, but offering a superbly in-depth look at the entire programme, including the cast. Apparently (I am in the process of buying a copy as I write!) Jan is interviewed and reveals her reasons for departing. I shall gladly post again when I have read it!

Simon said...

I promise not to monopolise this space further, but since my last posting here I have established a fan site for Jan Francis. Readers of Froogville - even Froog himself (my word, we would be honoured!) are very welcome to join. At "Just...Jan Francis" we boast a huge photo gallery, files, links and message forum, We're to be found at:
http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/justjanfrancis'. When you arrive here, click on "Join This Group" and follow your nose thereafter. Look forward to all applicants via this blog!

Colin said...

Jan Francis, A beautiful woman. I was smitten with her in the 80s sit-com Just good friends. A wonderful actress and in my eyes an utter goddess. She is one of those women who has become more and more attractive with age. Colin Clarke.

Anonymous said...

I too have wondered why she left after episode 1 it was such a great series, a cult among viewers, I missed her. So pretty! She is some 3 months older than me.