Franciscus’ first major role was in television. He played the role of Jim Halloran, a detective, in a half-hour episode of ‘The Naked City’, a television series that was produced by ABC.
Following his debut in television, he appeared in a few other television shows like the military sitcom, ‘Hennesey.’ In the show, produced by CBS, James Franciscus appeared alongside the American actor, Jackie Cooper.
Another important television drama in which Franciscus appeared was the NBC production called ‘The Americans.’ It was a family drama revolving around the American Civil War.
James Franciscus got a major break in television when CBS cast him for the lead role in their 13-episode series, ‘The Investigators.’ In the show, aired from October 5 to December 28, 1961, Franciscus played the character, Russ Andrews, an insurance investigator. James Philbrook was his co-star on the show.
Continuing his stint with CBS, Franciscus was also part of the cast in an episode in the anthology series, ‘The DuPont Show with June Allyson.’ The episode in which Franciscus appeared was titled ‘The Empty Heart’ and was aired in 1961.
Franciscus appeared in a string of feature films and television programs during the 1960s and 1970s. However, even before this serial appearance began, he had a minor role in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, titled ‘Judgment Night’, in 1959. Similarly, he had a major role in an episode of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Summer Shade’, that was aired in 1961.
Franciscus was also part of the cast in the film, ‘I Passed for White’, that released in 1960. One of his more interesting roles in the same decade was that of Mike Norris, in an episode of the NBC medical drama, ‘The Eleventh Hour.’ The episode, titled ‘Hang by One Hand’ was aired in 1963.
Another NBC show in which Franciscus appeared around the same time was ‘Combat!’, a television series that depicted the heroics of a group of American soldiers, fighting the Nazis in France during the Second World War.
In 1963, James Franciscus appeared in the Disney movie, ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’.
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However, Franciscus’ most memorable role came afterwards, when he appeared in the lead role in ‘Mr. Novak.’ The television series that was produced by NBC was aired from 1963 to 1965. In the series, Franciscus played the character, John Novak, a first-year High School teacher in New York, who frequently got involved in the lives of his fellow teachers and students..
Another role for which James Franciscus is widely remembered was in the ABC television show, ‘Longstreet’, which was aired from 1971 to 1972. In the show, Franciscus played a blind character who takes martial arts lessons from a character played by the legendary Bruce Lee.
On the big screen, Franciscus lent his voice to the lead character in the Oscar nominated, ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull.’ The movie released in 1973.
However, it was in television that Franciscus continued to shine. He became the host, alongside Lloyd Bridges, in the real-life adventure television series, ‘Waterworld.’ The series was aired from 1972 to 1975.
In 1977, Francisus starred in the fifth television series of his career, as a secret agent, in ‘Hunter.’
Some of the more popular movies during the 1960s and the 1970s, in which James Franciscus acted, include ‘Marooned,’ ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘City of Fire,’ ‘When Time Ran Out,’ and ‘The Greek Tycoon.’
Apart from Hollywood productions, Franciscus appeared in Italian films too. In 1971, he landed the lead role in the legendary Italian director, Dario Argento’s ‘The Cat o’ Nine Tails’.
In 1979, he starred in the film, ‘Killer Fish’, directed by Antonio Margheriti. In 1980, Franciscus appeared in yet another creature movie, ‘Great White’, which was inspired by ‘Jaws.’
He continued appearing on both the big screen and television. However, with time, he started getting offers for less significant roles. This made him switch to producing movies and television shows, and writing screenplays.