Mad Style: Francine Hanson (Anne Dudek)

Posted on August 22, 2010

“Do you want a Miltown? It’s the only thing keeping me from chewing my nails off.”

It’s a credit to Anne Dudek, who plays Francine, that she’s such a memorable character. In putting together this post it struck us that while she appeared in a lot of scenes, many of them consisted of only one or two lines at most and she never had a significant storyline centered around her or in which she participated directly. Serving as both a counterpoint and counterpart to Betty Draper, Francine represented the more typical upper-middle class suburban housewife of the era; the type that didn’t look like Grace Kelly and didn’t model in Europe in her youth. Gossipy, judgmental, and forced into thinking she didn’t have a brain or didn’t need one, she is nonetheless among the more entertaining of the peripheral characters. And despite their differences, she was always a good friend to the erratic Betty. In fact, we’re dying for her to make a season 4 appearance because we’re dying to know what she thinks of Betty’s new status quo. Again, a tribute to the writing and the actress that we care at all what her character thinks.

Because she was the very definition of a background character and was neither the impetus nor the participant in any major storylines, this post isn’t going to be as heavy with analysis as those of the more active characters. Francine was there to add color and to draw contrasts.

Season 1 Episode 2 – “Ladies Room”

Betty regales Francine with tales of her trip into the city for dinner with the Sterlings. They shift to PTA talk, before settling on gossip about new addition to the neighborhood, Helen Bishop. They feign concern for the tragic (in their eyes) divorcee. “Can you imagine worrying about money at this point in our lives?” It should be noted that Betty isn’t even 30 and if Francine is, she’s not much past it. Francine also expresses a worry (parroted from her husband) that the mere presence of a divorcee in their community might be bad for real estate values.This is what we like to call a “That’s my mom!” scene. Watching glamorous Manhattanites going about their day is fun from a style perspective, but sometimes the scenes that resonate the most with audience members are ones that remind them of their own lives, especially their childhoods. Sometimes Betty, when she’s in housewife drag, fulfills the “That’s my mom!” function (as in “My mom wore/said/did that!”), but Francine almost always does, in every scene.

This is typical day wear for the suburban housewife. She had to leave the house to get to Betty’s so she’s a little more presentable than she is. For maternity wear of the period, this actually isn’t bad. Remember some of the monstrosities Betty wore in S3? Although this might not be maternity at all. She’s not that big and this looks more like a slightly oversized housedress than an actual maternity dress.

It’s great to have a career and be fulfilled and make a difference and all that, but don’t you just wish sometimes you could hang out with your friends all day, not caring how you’re dressed and talking smack about strangers?

Season 1 Episode 3 – “Marriage of Figaro”

While preparing the 1960-style hors d’oeuvres for Sally’s birthday party (“That’s my mom!”) Betty wonders aloud if she should add capers to the celery logs. “Do you want to pick them out of the rug?” Asks Francine, ever practical. The conversation shifts when Betty mentions she invited Helen Bishop to the party. Francine is aghast but Betty insists she had no choice. Francine obsesses over the fact that Helen goes for walks in the neighborhood, something that strikes her as very odd. “Where the hell is she walking to?”

 

If you want to make the point that these two ladies are behind the times, you can do a lot worse than dress one of them exactly like pregnant Lucy Ricardo circa 1953. Given that she’s got kids around the same age as the Draper kids, she was pregnant in the early ’50s, which means this whole outfit is probably from one of her earlier pregnancies.

 

At the party, the neighborhood ladies discuss upcoming vacation plans. One of them is going to Boca Raton and she’s warned about the mosquitoes. Francine adds, “And believe me, those aren’t the only giant noses you’ll have to deal with.” Betty gently admonishes her but Francine replies, “We were outnumbered. It was uncomfortable.” The conversation turns to Helen and Francine just can’t let go of the whole walking thing. She repeatedly asks Helen where she goes and in such a way that no one can doubt that she thinks it’s odd. Francine comes off very narrow-minded in this scene.There’s not much to say with this outfit. She fits in quite well with the other wives and like all of the, stands in opposition to the pants-wearing Helen. If we had to write a little costume story, we’d say this is a new maternity outfit, possibly bought for the occasion, or for a series of occasions, more likely. It’s just 1960 enough to make us think that; the color is of the moment, as is the vest with the button running down the front.


Season 1 Episode 5 – “5G”

“Betty and Francine commiserate over their increasingly distant husbands as Betty tells her Don forgot the appointment for their family portrait. She wonders if she’s not important to him. “We’re very important to them, stop it,” Francine scolds her. “How would you like to be in Helen Bishop’s family portrait? There’s a big hole there, believe me.” “I really expect the royal treatment when I go to Don’s office, and I seldom get it,” huffs Betty, shifting the blame elsewhere. “In Carlton’s they make me feel stupid,” confides Francine. “All that Manhattan talk.””Our husbands,” wonders Betty. “They are better out here, aren’t they?” “Definitely.”A nice counterpoint to the earlier kitchen counter scene, making the point that housewives didn’t spend ALL day in housedresses. We can imagine they’re catching a quick gab between errands, because they’re both dressed to go out. Not dressed up, just presentable. This is another new-looking maternity outfit for Francine.

Season 1 Episode 9 – “Shoot”

After telling Francine about a rival ad man’s offer to consider her for a Coca Cola campaign, Betty opens up about her modeling days. Francine is impressed. “A model in Manhattan?” “Italy? Oooh!” They go upstairs so Betty can try on some of her old modeling outfits.This is a classic “Frumpy Francine vs. Beautiful Betty” scene. Never has the divide been so wide. Note that this looks like an older maternity outfit.


Season 1 Episode 11 – “Indian Summer”

Betty visits Francine, post-delivery, and tells her about the good-looking air conditioner salesman that came into the house yesterday and how Don went ballistic when he found out. “Why did you tell him?” asks Francine. “It just came up.” Just like it “just came up” now. In other words, Betty can’t stop talking about her sexual fantasies, even if she doesn’t realize that’s what she’s doing. Francine for once doesn’t care much. “Soon the milk stains are gonna meet the sweat stains,” she says, indicating her doubly stained housedress.Okay, the divide between Betty and Francine is getting wider here and there’s a story reason for that.

Season 1 Episode 13 – “The Wheel”

Betty gets ambushed by a crazed Francine, who’s been waiting for hours for her to come home. Betty sits her down on the couch and she tells a long rambling tale (punctuated with repeated “I’m so stupid.” “I’m so damn stupid.”) about having to pay her phone bill (something she’s never had to do) before Carlton finds out she lost it and her shock at finding out the charges were so high. “It was close to 18 dollars.” She sees that he’s been making several calls to Manhattan and impulsively dials the number. A woman answered. “What women would he be calling in Manhattan, who answers her own phone?” she asks. Faced with the evidence that he’s cheating on her, she turns to Betty. “I thought you’d know what to do.” “Me?” asks the defensive Betty. “Why?” “I don’t know,” she replies.And here we see the divide get even wider. Francine’s life has been slowly falling apart even if she didn’t know it and her clothes reflected that as she got increasingly frumpy to the point of looking a little crazy here. Contrast this with Betty’s life, which is no more satisfying than Francine’s, although Betty always looks perfectly put together. The point in making this contrast is to show that Betty’s not handling her dissatisfaction and suspicion any better than Francine is. She just looks like she is. “I thought you’d know what to do.” “Me? Why?” “I don’t know.”

Season 2 Episode 1 – “For Those Who Think Young”

Another kitchen scene of Betty telling Francine about some glamorous event in Manhattan she attended with Don. This time, Valentines day at the Savoy hotel. Francine describes her night with Carlton: “I would describe it as delightfully disappointing. There was a time when he overdid it but I’ll take dull and know where I stand.” Apparently, their marriage survived his phone calls.Betty leaves out the part about Don not being able to get it up and instead relishes in telling her about the old friend she ran into who’s apparently a call girl now. Francine is titilated. “Really? Butterfield 8! I wonder what that’s like.” Betty talks about living with this girl when she was a struggling model and how Don bought her a fur coat when they were dating. “If prostitution is Don showing up with a fur coat, sign me up,” says Francine.

The divide has narrowed. If anything, Francine is more stylish and of the moment here than Betty is. This bright green ensemble (money-colored, for a conversation about prostitution) also speaks of a little more money being spent, especially the large gold chain and gold bangle. Carlton has been buying his penance.

 

Season 2 Episode 2 – “Flight 1″

The Hansons visit the Drapers for bridge night, which is nothing but mind-numbing small talk. The scene after this has the Drapers discussing the state of the Hansons’ marriage. Apparently, she confronted him about it and got him to stop. Hence, the added weight on Carlton and the more stylish outfits for Francine.

Season 2 Episode 13 – “Meditations in an Emergency”

Betty runs into Francine at the local (FABULOUS) beauty parlor at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the height of her angst about her marriage. “Betty you’re wan. Do you want a Milltown? It’s the only thing keeping me from chewing my nails off,” she offers. Betty wants to leave Don but she just found out she’s pregnant. She tells Francine about the latter. “Congratulations?” says Francine, uncertain how to react to Betty’s sad demeanor. “It’s not a good time,” Betty says pointedly. “Is it ever?” asks Francine. Betty reiterates, punctuating each word, “It’s not a good time.” Francine finally picks up on Betty’s point and leans in to whisper “There’s a doctor in Albany…” Ultimately, she settles on the patented Francine Hanson version of advice: “Sometimes the best thing is just to do nothing and wait.”Francine’s taken a HUGE leap forward in the months since we last saw her. Either Carlton got a promotion or she is milking the hell out of his adultery. Probably a combination of both. We’ve said this about Betty but it applies to Francine as well: upper-middle class wives of the period settled into an early matronhood as their husbands made more and more money. It should be noted that the actress was about 33 when this scene was shot. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad outfit. It’s a very nice outfit, in fact. Very stylish for her milieu. It’s just that these styles aged women so much in comparison to today.


Season 3 Episode 7 – “Seven Twenty Three”

A meeting of the Junior League in Betty’s newly redecorated living room. Betty is replacing Francine as secretary. First item on the agenda is the opposition to a proposed water tower. They discuss the effect on local real estate. “Real estate,” says Francine with awe. “That’s scary.” It is decided that Betty will use her feminine wiles to contact Henry Francis in the governor’s office and appeal for help. Betty wrinkles her nose at the suggestion. “It’s not adorable to pretend like you’re not adorable,” teases Francine.They’ve both moved into 1963. Their outfits are pretty, but far less complicated than just a few years before. Francine’s somewhat wild print in discordant colors offers yet another counterpoint to Betty’s simple black and white dress. Also, note the dressed-to-impress jewelry on Francine.

Season 3 Episode 9 – “Wee Small Hours”

Betty hosts a re-election fundraiser for the governor, only because she’s expecting Henry to show up. All the local ladies put on their finest for the event.We never did get to mention this dress of Betty’s. Edits have to be made somewhere when doing Mad Styles for the main characters and this dress didn’t make the cut. It’s a gorgeous dress, but what we think is notable here is how Francine’s outfit goes so well with it. Again, there’s a sense of increasing affluence on display with Francine. She’s toe-to-toe with Betty in the housewife sweepstakes. Her husband must be moving up the ladder as much as Don is. This is also probably the most of-the-moment fashionable outfit she’s ever worn.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com - Photo Credit: amctv.com/originals/madmen]
    • Anonymous

      don’t you just wish sometimes you could hang out with your friends all day, not caring how you’re dressed and talking smack about strangers?

      That’s exactly what I do when I’m reading this blog.