In Memoriam: Arthur Franz
by Alan Rode
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Veteran character actor Arthur Franz succumbed to heart failure and emphysema in Oxnard, California on June 17th. Franz had recently returned to the United States after living abroad in New Zealand for several years
Arthur Franz was an effective character player and secondary leading man in over 130 film and television appearances beginning in 1948. The actor made an indelible impression on Broadway with his turn in Command Decision, and was brought out to the coast by M.G.M. to appear in the film version of the play.
In typical Hollywood fashion, Franz ended up not reprising his stage role, but instead made his screen debut in a “B” Fox war drama “Jungle Patrol” (1948).
Franz immediately caught on and was cast in thirteen subsequent films through 1951 ranging from the film noir, “Red Light” (1949), the John Wayne war epic, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”(1949) “Three Secrets” (1950) an “A” drama directed by Robert Wise and “Abbott and Costello and the Invisible Man” (1951) a madcap A&C entry that had Franz inject himself with invisibility serum to escape the police amid comedic mayhem.
In 1952, director Edward Dmytryk and producer Stanley Kramer agreed that Franz’ low key stolidity was perfect for the leading role in a controversial story written by Edward and Erna Arnholt about a serial killer.
“The Sniper” (1952) was a striking film noir that was expertly staged and shot on location in San Francisco by Dmytryk. As the tormented, helpless killer, ‘Eddie Miller’, Franz’ portrayal evoked pathos from audiences and earned him the best notices of his career.
The association with Edward Dmytryk would result in eight appearances in the director’s subsequent films including “Eight Iron Men” (1952), “The Caine Mutiny” (1954), “The Young Lions” (1958) and “The Carpetbaggers” (1964).
The relationship developed into a lifelong friendship according to the director’s widow, actress Jean Porter. “We were very, very, close friends and our kids were raised together”. “Arthur was absolutely wonderful to be with, knew about a lot of things and was really full of pizzazz.”
Franz’s career continued solidly, if unspectacularly in feature films including “Invaders from Mars” (1953), “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” (1956), “The Atomic Submarine” (1959) and guest appearances on seemingly every television series on the air from the mid fifties to the late 1970’s. His final acting appearance was in “That Championship Season” (1982).
Franz built his dream house in Malibu and traveled extensively in retirement before selling the property and moving to New Zealand with his fourth wife.
Arthur Franz leaves three children.
Alan Rode is a film historian, writer, and board member of the Film Noir Foundation.
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