James Franciscus Biography


Birthday: January 31, 1934 (Aquarius)

Born In: Clayton, Missouri, United States

James Grover Franciscus was an American actor. He had appeared in many films, but he is better known for his roles in television series. These include roles in popular shows, such as ‘The Investigators,’ ‘Longstreet,’ ‘The Naked City,’ and ‘Mr. Novak.’ With a face that seemed chiseled to perfection, and a deep penetrating gaze, Franciscus exuded both boyish charm and maturity. This curious combination was reflected in many of his major roles on both the big and the small screens. In these roles, he was not just a character who moved along a plotline by matured decision-making, but also had his own vulnerabilities and naiveties. His career as an actor bloomed during the 1960s and the 1970s. As a testament to his mettle as an actor, James Franciscus landed roles, not just in American productions, but also in Italian films, under esteemed directors, such as Dario Argento. However, in the latter years, he was offered less substantial roles. Disheartened with this scenario, he shifted his focus to writing and producing films. Unfortunately, he died due to complications that arose from his smoking habits.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: James Grover Franciscus

Died At Age: 57


Spouse/Ex-: Carla Ankney (m. 1980–1991), Kathleen Wellman (m. 1960–1979)

father: John Allen Franciscus

mother: Lorraine (née Grover)

Actors American Men

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

Died on: July 8, 1991

U.S. State: Missouri

Childhood & Early Life
James Franciscus was born on January 31, 1934, at Clayton, Missouri in the United States, to Lorraine (nee Grover) and John Allen Franciscus. John, a soldier in the Second World War, was killed in action.
Having a creative bend of mind, Franciscus joined a Bachelors program in English and theatre arts at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated magna cum laude in 1957.
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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.
Personal Life & Legacy
James Franciscus married Kathleen Wellman on March 28, 1960. Kathleen was the daughter of William A. Wellman, a film director. The couple had four children.
After divorcing Kathleen, he married Carla Ankney in 1980.
Franciscus was a heavy smoker. In 1991, he died from emphysema.. He was still married to Carla Ankney at the time of death.
At the time of his death, Franciscus was working as the screenwriter and associate producer, on the movie, ‘29th Street.’ The film starred Danny Aiello and Anthony LaPaglia.

See the events in life of James Franciscus in Chronological Order

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