Arlene Francis, the buoyant, likable actress who worked in the theatre, in movies and on television and radio, and was a staple of the popular TV game show “What’s My Line?” for a quarter century, died on May 31 at a hospital in San Francisco. She was 93.
Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, Ms. Francis cheerfully grilled contestants on “What’s My Line?” about their lines of work. Television audiences who delighted in her charm and poise and fancy dresses could hardly have imagined that the Boston native began her career as part of Orson Welles and John Houseman’s groundbreaking, if short-lived, Mercury Theatre in the late ‘30s. She acted in Welles’ 1936 production of Horse Eats Hat and even appeared in the short, eventually aborted film that was to have accompanied the 1938 staging of William Gillette’s Too Much Johnson. She also participated in “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” series.
Her other Broadway credits include All That Glitters, The Walking Gentleman, The Overtons, The Little Blue Light, The Women, Once More With Feeling (with fellow Mercury actor Joseph Cotten, and Mrs. Daily Has a Lover. Later in life, she had a daily radio interview program, "The Arlene Francis Show," on WOR in New York from 1960 to 1984.
Ms. Francis was born Arlene Francis Kazanjian on Oct. 20, 1907, in Boston, the daughter of an Armenian immigrant. She married the actor Martin Gabel, who died in 1986. She is survived by their son, Peter.