Q&A with Arlene Francis biographer, Jennifer Bitman

Arlene Francis jennifer bitman q&a

Q&A with Arlene Francis biographer, Jennifer Bitman


  1. Why Arlene Francis?
  2. She was a trailblazer for women in television, and I’m not sure how many people know that. Besides her own 1978 memoir, there was no current biography available, so I wrote one.
  3. Wasn’t she on that classic game show “What’s My Line?”

A Yes, she was on the panel for 25 years, but she did so much more: radio, TV, film, and Broadway.

  1. Can you explain the title “All Three Channels”
  2. It was her grandson, Sam Gabel’s idea. Back in the 1950s, there were only three major TV networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. Arlene had shows on all three channels at the same time. And the book expounds on three significant elements of her life: actress, women’s trailblazer, and television pioneer.
  3. Does the book cover her personal life as well?
  4. Very much so. Her son, the late Peter Gabel, and I chronicled her family tree with the help of other relatives, and I tried to dig deep into who Arlene Francis was as a person. Her life, from beginning to end, the magnificent and the tragic, are all in these pages.
  5. Were you able to interview anyone who knew or worked with her?
  6. Yes, I did several interviews. Her son Peter Gabel, his partner Lisa Jaicks, and their son, Sam Gabel, all graciously granted me multiple interviews. I also spoke with producers who worked closely with Arlene and was able to interview those who were with her during her final years.
  7. Did you have access to any personal archives?
  8. Thanks to Arlene’s family, yes. Her son loaned me an entire lot of photographs, manuscripts, personal scrapbooks, transcripts, etc. I also did a lot of outside research.
  9. How long did the process take you?
  10. Well, I reached out to Peter in 2019 and asked for his blessing. I wouldn’t have written the book otherwise. He and I embarked on about a three-year journey, from start to finish.
  11. Arlene’s husband, Martin Gabel, was a Tony-winning actor. Does the book chronicle his life at all?
  12. Yes. And that was something I was passionate about from the beginning. Martin Gabel was an excellent actor, and he really deserves his own book! I covered as much of his life and career as I could alongside Arlene’s.
  13. What do you think will surprise readers most about Arlene Francis’s life?
  14. The fact that it wasn’t always a bed of roses. Most people probably think of Arlene and assume her life was one decades-long cocktail party. It definitely had its high points. But it also had devastating lows.
  15. Is this your first book?
  16. It’s actually my second one. I wrote the biography Joan Crawford: A Talent for Living in 2018. When I told Peter about my first book, he said to me: “You know my mom wasn’t anything like Mommie Dearest, right”?

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