James Franciscus

Follow

Biography

EDIT

Born

1/31/1934 , Clayton, Missouri

Died

7/8/1991

Birth Name

James Grover Franciscus

Gender

Male

Biography:

Excerpts of this Bio taken from 1964 Motion Picture Magazine in which he talks to Claire Harris about his life..

James Franciscus, second son to Lorraine and John, was born on January 31, 1934 in Clayton Missouri. Lorraine was the daughter of james Grover, a banker with the St. Louis Union TrustCompany, and John was involved in real estate. Jim, and his brother John Allen, lived a Tom Sawyer-ish boyhood, as they spent their days fishing, trapping muskrats and skunks and building rafts.

"When I was little, we had a house on Whitebridge Lane. It was real country living, with alfalfa fields all around us. The house had two stories and a big backyard. I have a brother named John Allen. He's two and a half years older. When I was small we fought like tigers, but by the time I was 7, we were good pals. Goey has been my nickname since I was a kid. My middle name is Grover, when I arrived on the scene, my brother couldn't pronounce it - it came out sounding like Goey. So, I've been Goey to my family and friends ever since."   

"I never had the everyday garden variety of childhood diseases. Usually I was getting hurt in odd ways. At three, I was parading across a wall when I fell down onto a
ightening rod, which had dropped down from somewhere. The rod almost went completely through my stomach. I still have a small scar from that little episode. I was a typical roguish kid, getting into mischief"

I've always been crazy about dogs. We must have had about 25 different kinds. My favorite was a Dalmatian named Randolph. He was fantastic. Everyday he's wait for me in front of school. Sometimes when class was noisy, we
were kept late. Randolph couldn't stand waiting - he'd jump through the classroom window and practically land in my lap - he became the class mascot."

"The first school I went to was a Catholic School, about 300 yards from our house. The nuns and brothers were very strict - once a nun tore a branch off the tree and
rapped my knuckles. It hurt like mad, but I must have done something to deserve it. Johnny and I used to go to a great summer camp in Minnesota, until the year the war broke out."

John Franciscus, the boy's father, became a pilot during WWII and later died when his plane crashed.

"In 1941 WWII broke out in Europe. My father joined up under the English command and we moved to Canada where he was stationed. He was a pilot with the rank of Captain. His main duty was ferrying planes across the sea to England. One day the field got a rush order for some heavy bombers. The commander had reported heavy fog and the pilots were briefed on the possible dangers. My father volunteered for the mission, he felt very strongly about the war. He took off and crashed on his way over to England."

  "The day it happened, my brother and I were called into my mother's room. The minute
   I walked in I sensed bad news. Mother didn't beat around the bush, she told us straight
   out. 'Your father's crashed.' I just stood there, looking into my mother's eyes. We cried
   and then moved back to St. Louis - we took my father's body back to be buried there.
   It was hard, especially on Mother, she was all broken up. --- And on me, too. Even at
   the age of eight, I understood I had lost something wonderful and unique, something I
   would never find again."

  "After my father died, I tried to calm down and not be such a rowdy. My mother had
   enough on her hands without me getting into mischief."

   Lorraine packed up her boys and went back to St. Louis. A couple years later, she
   met and married Francis La Farge.

  "I was 11 when Mother met my future stepfather, at a cocktail party. He was a
   stockbroker who had come to St. Louis on business. His name was Francis La Farge.
   Mother said the minute he walked into the room she felt he was the man for her. They
   talked for six hours after which he proposed to her right on the spot! She accepted
   and they were married three weeks later. That's when Mother, Johnny and I moved to
   New proposed to her right on the spot! She accepted and they were married three
   weeks later. That's when Mother, Johnny and I moved to New York to live with our
   new father." It was far different from Missouri!  When we moved up to the growing
   concrete of New York City, It was a jolt!"

   Along with adjusting to the concrete jungle of New York, the boys were projected into
   the cultural scene of the East Coast where they were immediately placed in separate
   boarding schools. At age 12, while attending The Fessenden School in West Newton
   Massachusetts, Jim appeared in his first play.

  "At Fenderson, I did my first play… I made my acting debut as a girl, no less. In an
   all boy prep school, someone had to be a good sport. I knew right then and there I
   wanted to be an actor!"

   At Taft Prep School, in Watertown CT, Jim was active in varsity sports, the glee club,
   and dramatics, as well as being elected class president. His sports activity was greatly
   curbed after he ripped a cartilage in his knee.

   He starred in "Billy Bud" and "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Peter Chandler (Snark)
   his drama teacher said, "Jim would love to play the Devil, but he would only get pretty
   boy roles.

  "I loved that part! It was the first time they let me play the bad guy! Always before,
   because of my light blonde hair, I'd been cast as the hero. I relished to chance to be
   evil!"

   In his senior year, he authored and directed the classplay - a musical satire called
  "Malice in Wonderland."  After graduating from Taft, Jim spent the summer, before
   entering Yale, as an apprentice at Richard Aldrich's Cape Playhouse in Dennis
   Massachusetts.

   It wasn't until College that Jim fully realized the importance and appreciation of the
   education he's been receiving, and he decided to buckle down. He finished four plays 
   at Yale - all of them produced - including one written entirely in blank verse called
  "Romulus." Another play call "Façade" was about boys in prep school. Every summer
   he went back to the Cape, working up from apprentice to stage manager. While in his
   junior year at Yale, a talent scout spotted him. He was tested for and cast in a film
   called "Four Boys and A Gun," which was shot in New York during school vacation.

  "When I was beginning my senior year at Yale I was offered two separate movie
   contracts. I turned them down in order to finish my education. It was a hard decision.
   Though I was determined to become an actor, I believed that since I started college,
   I should finish and get a degree."

   Jim graduated from Yale with a BA in English.

  "When I graduated from Yale, some people thought I was foolish trying the uncertain
   life of an actor when I could have easily gotten into business and made a lot of money.
   But I didn't want that-I wanted acting. My parents gave me their blessing. I'll always
   love and respect them for giving me the opportunity to be free. Even as a kid my folks
   always gave a choice and allowed me to make up my own mind. They guided me,    gave me advice, but the ultimate decisions were mine."

   The summer after graduating from Yale, Jim went to Europe with the Fondas. Jim and
   Jane had been going steady and plans for marriage surfaced. Soon after the summer,
   Jane and Jim ended their romantic relationship, but kept one as friends.

  "She's a fine girl. I had a wonderful time with them on the Riviera.
   The highlight for me was in Spain in the famous bullfighting town of Pamplona. During    the running of the bulls, I deceide to join in and ran down the street. The first time a
   bull ran past, I reached out and felt the muscles under his flanks. It was tremendous!
   I was so caught up in the spirit of the thing. I forgot to be scared. At the end of town,
   just before the bulls entered the arena, the street narrowed. There were bodies
   everywhere, piled up high-shielding each other from the bulls. I did what the others
   did - I jumped on top of the pile - well, it collapsed and I found myself on the ground,
   so close that I could feel the bulls' breath as they rushed past me. It was magnificent!"

   In 1958. Jim co-starred in the TV Series "Naked City." During a break from shooting,
   while visiting friends in California, Jim met Kathleen Wellman, daughter of film director
   William Wellman. He was fascinated by the pretty girl, who was a bit too shy for his
   tastes.

  "I have definite likes and dislikes. For a woman to appeal to me, she must be
   completely honest, not filled with phony sophistication. I like girls with a zest for living,
   girls who have a positive attitude towards life. Females who have thoughts to express
   and something to give. I've met too many girls who only know how to take. I'm inclined
   to go for the outdoor type, who plays tennis, and likes to hunt and fish. A girl who gets
   a thrill experiencing life in its many facets, rather than one who lives only to put on
   fancy clothes and go out places where she can be seen. I've thought a lot about what
   it means to love someone. I can assure you that any girl I love I must also like. The
   girl I marry I will love deeply and also have as a friend. A friend whom I can give and
   will give back in return."

   After the second year of "Naked City" ended, Jim decided to pack it up and move to
   Hollywood. That was the place to be if you wanted to really make it as an actor. And
   in 1958, he was featured in another movie called "The Mugger," playing the character
   Eddie Baxter. It was also at this time that he was re-introduced to Kathleen Wellman.
   This time he gave a more aggressive chase.

   One day, Jim tossed the pretty red-head into his pool - silk dress, high-heeled shoes
   and all, and when she emerged dripping, he popped the question. "Why did you wait
   so long to ask me?" she asked back.

   Marriage came after a whirlwind two-week romance that took a year to get started.
   On May 28, 1960 Jim and Kitty became man and wife at St. Albans Episcopal Church
   in Brentwood California.

   In 1960 Jim portrayed Rick Leyton in the movie "I Passed for White." A story about a
   light-skinned African American girl, who passes herself off as a Caucasian. 1961 was
   a busy and joyous year for Jim - he co-starred in the movie "The Outsider" opposite
   Tony Curtis. The movie was about Ira Hamilton (Curtis) who was one of the six marines
   who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Jim played Hamilton's best friend, Pvt Sorenson, who
   is later killed in action. Jim was then cast as Russ Andrews in the TV series "The
   Investigators". It was also in 1961 that the Franciscus family grew by one. Jamie Allen
   Franciscus was born on December 4, 1961, the first of Jim and Kitty's four daughters.

   1963 was another banner year for Jim. "Miracle of the White Stallions" took Jim to
   Austria. Jim's character played a "Major" role in helping to save the Lipizzaner horses
   from extinction during WWII. Jim was a devoted family man as well as actor and asked
   Disney if he could bring his family along, they agreed. Kitty said that trip was one of
   her happiest memories.  Jim was then considered seriously for the part of "Dr. Kildare."    E. Jack Newman, creator of the show, wanted Jim for the part. However, Jim was
   committed to another role and CBS would not break his contract. Jim, however, did
   appear in an episode entitled: "Jail Ward."  Once the deal was fulfilled, Neuman
   grabbed Jim to star in a television series of his own. And so was born "Mr. Novak."
   Jim was to play an English teacher at Jefferson HS. The series evolved around
   situations from the teacher's point of view. The NEA took part of the series creation
   which happen to cause some problems for the creative side of the show.
   Also in 1963, Jim's and Kitty's second daughter was born, Kellie Allen Franciscus
   was born on December 4, 1963. Jim often joked about his being "on vacation"
   regarding the coincidental dates of his daughter's birth.

   In 1964, Jim was one out of 200 actors who auditioned for the part of "Youngblood
   Hawke." Jim got the role. The story was a powerful epic about the trials and tribulations
   of a young, naïve writer from Kentucky who tries to make it big in the big city.
   In 1967, Jim made the movie "Snow Treasure" A true story about a Nazi Officer who
   discovers children are smuggling German gold out of the country.

   In 1968, He played Dr. Matthew Tregaski in the TV movie "Shadow over Elveron."
   1969 was a busy year for Jim as he was cast as Louis Coleman in "Trail Run" and as
   Clayton Stone in the movie "Marooned" and Tuck Kirby in "The Valley of Gwangi."

   Jim dabbled in the production side of the business and co-founded "Omnibus
   Productions" which produced such classics as "Heidi" (1968), "Jane Eyre" (1970),
   "David Copperfield" (1970), "Kidnapped" (1971), "The Red Pony" (1973) and "A Girl
   Named Sooner" (1975). Later he would have his own production company called
   "Corsican Productions" which helped to produce the "Longstreet" (1971) and
   "Doc Elliot" (1973) television series.

   In 1970, Jim was cast for the part of John Brent in "Beneath The Planet of The Apes."
   A part in which Jim re-wrote to make his character more interesting. He portrayed Clay
   Howard in the television movie Night Slaves, and Lt. Commander Jeffords in the movie
   "Hell Boats."

   Jim went to Italy in 1971 to film the movie Cat O'Nine Tails. In which he played Carlo
   Giordani, a reporter in hot pursuit of a mad slasher. Karl Malden co-stars as an ex-
   reporter who was blinded in an accident and aids Giordani.

   "While in Italy (filming Cat O'Nine Tails) he was seen chasing his wife down a hotel
   corridor throwing spaghetti at her. "I don't know how it all happened," stated Kitty
   "We were having this great spaghetti fight in the room. Finally I ran out into the hall
   and Jimmy came after me. We had a real mess to clean up afterward."

   Also in 1971 Jim got the most difficult role of his career. That role of Mike Longstreet.
   He made the pilot movie and later, the TV series. Mike was an insurance investigator
   whose wife was killed and his eyesight lost in a blast intended to kill him. Jim was
   excited about the role. He was looking for something different to do and "Longstreet"
   provided him with the challenge he was looking for. However, Jim was also a devoted
   family man. He knew that filming involved long hours Time away from his wife, and
   more importantly, his two daughter, who were at the age when they need both parents
   to guide them. He certainly didn't want to become a stranger to his girls. Several
   times, he'd already bargained with studio executive to arrange his family to travel with
   him to location shooting. Now his contract stipulated that he would only work a 10-1/2
   day, ending with Friday and no weekends. Basically unheard of in this business, the
   executives agreed. And Jim went about the task of learning how to become blind and
   for the two months that followed, he read books, visited schools for the blind, and
   guide dogs, followed blind people around, while they learned to use their guide dogs.

   "I wore a blindfold for 24 hours at a time. I often rehearsed with my eyes closed to see
   what I would do with no vision whatsoever. At first, it was like opening too many doors
   and not knowing which way to go, but I soon started to adjust. I had to learn more than
   just un-focusing my eyes, you have to have everything come into your ears. If that
   doesn't come across, you're lost."

   Jim once again showed his creative talent and Silphant Sterling (producer/writer) used
   many of his suggestions to develop the character. For instance, the variation on karate
   was just one of the long list of suggestions Jim made to make his character more real.
   The man did his homework, for even after only 23 episodes and nearly 30 years later,
   people remember him best for Mike Longstreet.
   On February 19, 1971, Korie Allen Franciscus, Jim and Kitty's third daughter was
   born.

   After "Longstreet," Jim was cast in another Television series called "Doc Elliot" (1973).
   Playing Benjamin Elliot, M.D., a New York City doctor who settles to the backwoods
   of Colorado, where he is the only doctor for 600 miles. Also that year he did the voice
   of Jonathan in "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." 

   Jim lead an active life and enjoyed woodworking, writing, reading (about 80 books a
   year) and watching and playing sports. He took up parachuting in 1959, to conquer
   his fear of heights and, as of a report in August 1959, had jumped nine times at an
   altitude of 4000 feet, free-falling 2000 feet. He also learned to pilot a small aircraft in
   order to spend time with his brother and family, who had moved to Puerto Rico in 1960
   to start a real estate business of his own. However, tennis is the one sport that Jim
   had excelled in, and in the early seventies, Jim hosted a celebrity tennis tournament
   to benefit victims of multiple sclerosis, a disease his mother had became afflicted with
   when Jim was only 11.

   Jim also devoted his time to other major charities like Myscular Dystrophy, and
   Cererbral Palsey.

   Due to a knee injury, Jim could not serve in the Vietnam War, however, he wanted
   to help, so for 12 days he went over to visit with our boys. To talk with them, listen to
   their stories, share in their horrors and maybe sign an autograph or two. John's book,
   "The History of the United States, according to Franciscus and other Realted Families"
   goes into detail about Jim's visit including how his chopper got shot down!

   On January 2, 1973 Jim and Kitty's fourth daughter, Jolie Allen Franciscus was
   born.

   In 1974, Jim made a TV movie, entitled "Aloha Means Goodbye," where he played
   Dr. Lawrence Maddox, who tries to kill a woman in order to give her heart to his dying
   son. In 1975 Jim played Sammy Stone in "The Dream Makers," and Chaplain Andrew    Jensen in The TV movie "The Trail of Chaplain Jensen."

   The next few years were extremely busy for Jim, in 1975 he made four movies. "One of    My Wives is Missing,"  "The Man Inside,"  " The Amazing Doberman's," and the pilot
   for another television series, - "Hunter" which used a lot of Jim's personal photos
   during the opening sequence.  And in 1976, Jim released six movies, "The Greek
   Tycoon,"   "Secrets of Three Hungry Wives,"  " The Pirate,"   "Puzzle,"  "Killer Fish,"
   and "Good Guys Wear Black."  In 1979, he played Jimbo in "City on Fire"  and Moses
   Brody in "Concorde Affaire '79."

   In 1980 made three movies: "Nightkill,"   "Great White Shark," and "When Time ran
   out."  Unfortunately, it was around this time that Jim and Kitty's 20-years of marriage 
   ended in divorced.

   Jim teamed up once again with Jacqueline Smith (of Nightkill) and was featured in
  "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy," where he played John F Kennedy and did a good job
   maintaining a Boston accent, which he revealed was a bit tricky to do.  Later that year
   he was Moke Blue in "Butterfly." And in 1983 he was in "Veliki Transport aka Heroes."

   In the middle eighties, Jim remarried (Carla) and made his last film, Secret Weapons
   (1985), in which his hair was dyed dark. He appeared as Colonel Victor Khudenko, a
   Russian KGB agent, whose job was to recruit Russian women who would be used to
   seduce American males in order to infiltrate America.

   Stricken with emphysema, Jim's health began to deteriorate, is active lifestyle began
   to wither. He would spend more and more of his time at the typewriter, instead of the 
   tennis courts, turning out scripts, he hoped someday would be produced. Before his
   death in 1991, he wrote and assisted in the production of "29th Street."

  James Grover Franciscus passed away on July 8, 1991.

  All his fans miss him and wish the best to those loved ones he left