One Hell of a Debut
I was probably 9 or 10 when I first got the bejeezus scared out of me by The Innocents (1961) even though I didn't completely understand everything that was going on at the time. I do remember being completely mesmerized by radiant, spooky little Pamela Franklin as Flora, the possessed young charge of equally luminous Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens, the freaked out governess.
Not her next picture, but the next one I saw, was The Nanny *(1965), where she played the cool, confident, teen-aged neighbor friend of a disturbed boy accused of drowning his little sister. Very cute, plus she smokes. By the time Franklin turned up in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) with the best part after Maggie Smith's -- the semi-evil, precocious Sandy — I was completely in love with her: dark hair, big grey-blue eyes, British accent, school uniform; oh my god.
So what happened?! How did we get from there to Food of the Gods (1976)? Somehow, by the time she was in her mid-twenties, Pamela Franklin had become the go-to gal for '70s horror pictures. Don't get me wrong, Satan's School for Girls (1973) is a fabulous piece of work, but it does seem a little unfair. At this stage in her career, Franklin was living in Los Angeles with her actor husband, Harvey Jason, and was making a number of guest appearances on popular shows and making TV movies. Like many British performers, she moved easily between film, television, drama, and comedy, but we Americans are less able to cope with genre fluidity in our celebrities, so my guess is she just got slotted in as a TV-movie actress. The pictures she made during this time were pretty forgettable, so that didn't help.
Pamela Franklin worked on everything from Green Acres to Fantasy Island, until finally quitting the business altogether in 1981 at the ripe old age of 31. She never aspired to be a big star and was kept very grounded by her parents, who were very keen observers of how other parents prodded their child performers. Franklin lives in Hollywood with her husband of more than 40 years, where he and one of their two sons run Mystery Pier Books, Inc., a bookshop that specializes in collectibles and first-editions.
* Greer Garson was originally offered the role of the actual nanny, but turned it down on the grounds that it would not help her career any. Bette Davis, who had already done two Gothic thrillers by then, had no such concerns and grabbed it.