Birthday: December 4, 1934
Died At Age: 54
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Victor Edwin French
Born in: Santa Barbara, California
Famous as: Actor
Height: 6'1" (185 cm), 6'1" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Judith Schenz (m. 1959 – div. 1975), Julie Cobb (m. 1976 – div. 1978)
father: Ted French
children: Kelly French, Tracy French, Victor French Jr.
Died on: June 15, 1989
place of death: Los Angeles, California
U.S. State: California
Cause of Death: Cancer
Victor French was an American actor best known for his roles of Isaiah Edwards in the TV series ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and Mark Gordon in ‘Highway to Heaven’. He was famous as a leading television villain due to his heavy physique and gruff countenance which made him a perfect fit for a thug. He made his film debut as an uncredited front desk clerk in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960). He loved boxing as a child but instead of jumping into rings, he accepted the role in CBS television western series ‘Gunsmoke,’ in which he made 23 appearances, and also directed several episodes. His stereotypical image was broken in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ in which he played the role of a scruffy farmer Isaiah Edwards. The credit for his image makeover goes to his co-star and life-long friend Michael Landon with whom he also appeared in ‘Highway to Heaven’ (1984). A chain smoker for the most of his life, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died at the age of 54. He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 1998.
As a son of a stuntman, Victor French followed in his father’s footsteps and started his acting career as a stuntman primarily in westerns and anthology shows. He usually appeared as a ‘bad guy’ due to his gruff countenance. His film debut was an uncredited role of an office clerk in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960) and his first real western role was in the syndicated TV series ‘Two Faces West’ in the episode ‘The Noose’. In 1963, French also appeared in the ABC/Warner Brothers western series ‘The Dakotas’ as Larrimore in the episode ‘Fargo’. During 1965-66, he appeared as Agent 44 – an undercover spy in the NBC series ‘Get Smart’. French later appeared with his father in one episode of the CBS television western series ‘Gunsmoke’ in 1966. He made a total 23 appearances in the show and directed five episodes. In 1969, he made appearances in the western film ‘Charro’ and in a few episodes of the NBC television western drama ‘Bonanza’ with Michael Landon.
In partnership with Leonard Nimoy, he founded LA's ‘Company of Angels’, in an attempt to establish LA as a type of ‘Off-Broadway-West Coast’. In the mid-1970s, he left the company and started teaching acting privately for which he gained immense popularity.
His most prominent role was again with Michael Landon in the TV series ‘Little House on the Prairie’ as a scruffy farmer Isaiah Edwards. He left the show temporarily to start his own sitcom ‘Carter Country’ in 1977. When it ended, he re-joined ‘Little House on the Prairie’. In 1984, he appeared as an ex-cop, Mark Gordon, in the popular TV series ‘Highway to Heaven,’ again with Michael Landon. He directed several episodes of the series and even won the Critics Circle Award for his staging of ‘12 Angry Men’.
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Family & Personal Life
Victor French was born on December 4, 1934, in Santa Barbara, California, to Ted French. His father was a well-known actor and stuntman of westerns during the 1940s and died in 1978. His grandfather Charles A. French was also an actor. He loved boxing as a child and used to shadow box while watching matches on the TV.
At the age of 24, French married Judith Schenz on January 9, 1959. The couple had a son named Victor A. Jr., born in 1960, and twin daughters, Kelly and Tracy, who were born in 1962. They divorced on July 3, 1975. Victor married Julie Cobb, daughter of actor Lee J. Cobb on March 14, 1976, and divorced on May 23, 1978.
Being a chain smoker for the most of his life, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 1989 and died on June 16, 1989, at Sherman Oaks Community Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He left a humored message, ‘Eat Shit, Love Victor’, which was displayed overhead by an airplane at his funeral. In 1998, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Friendship with Michael Landon
The life-long friendship between Victor French and Michael Landon started in 1969 on the set of ‘Bonanza’, in which French made a guest appearance. Later, he was offered the role of Isaiah Edwards in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ with Landon. He said that Michael saved him from ‘20 years of playing killers, rapists and every kind of villain and pervert known to man’. They both appeared together again in ‘Highway to Heaven’. Both the actors were chain smokers and coincidentally died at the age of 54.