Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Seven Things to Know About James Franciscus

1. James Franciscus met Jane Fonda in 1956 when they were working at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts. In the biography Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, she said: "He was blond, blue-eyed, and movie star handsome...I was smitten. My previous inarticulate philanderings had not prepared me for true romance."

2. In a 1964 interview that appeared in Motion Picture Magazine, he explained the origin of his nickname: "Goey has been my nickname since I was a kid. My middle name is Grover, but 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."

3. James Franciscus graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theatre Arts. One of his classmates was Dick Cavett. He was offered two movie contracts his senior year, but turned them down. He was also the first choice to play Dr. Kildare, but that didn't work out and the role went to Richard Chamberlain.

A young detective in Naked City.
4. Soon after his graduation, he starred as Detective Jimmy Halloran opposite John McIntire in the half-hour version of The Naked City. When the show was cancelled after one season, Franciscus headed to Hollywood where he would become a familiar face in movies and on television.

5. Of his five television series, the two most successful ones were Mr. Novak (1963-65) and Longstreet (1971-72). The former cast him as a new idealistic English teacher at a Los Angeles high school. Although the series was cancelled after just two seasons, it earned numerous accolades--including a prestigious Peabody Award in 1963. According to the Peabody Awards website, the award was given "for restoring dignity and honor to the popular image of the American schoolteacher, for reminding our young people that there is no grander pursuit than the pursuit of knowledge, and for daring to insist—without preachment or piety—that the uneducated man is an incomplete man."

With Pax on Longstreet.
6. On Longstreet, Franciscus was cast as an insurance investigator that lost his wife and sight during an explosion intended to kill him. Determined to become self-sufficient, Longstreet convinces a young Asian man (Bruce Lee) to teach him martial arts. Lee only appeared in four episodes, but they were memorable--as was Longstreet's seeing-eye dog Pax, a white German Shepherd. In between TV series, James Franciscus also had starring roles in diverse motion pictures such as Youngblood Hawke, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, The Valley of Gwangi, and Cat O' Nine Tails.

7. James Franciscus married Kathleen "Kitty" Wellman, the daughter of director William A. Wellman, in 1960. They had four children, but divorced in 1979. The following year, he married Carla Ankney. They were married when he died in 1991, at age 57, from emphysema.


  1. Be-still-my-heart looks and an interesting actor to watch. At least, that's how I found him in Longstreet.

  2. I just saw a couple of Mr Novak clips on YouTube – thanks to you – and it looks like a thoughtful, interesting series. Plus, Dean Jagger! Wasn't expecting that.

  3. An incredible talent that was extinguished too soon....an amazing person, actor and contributor to the arts.