Remembering James Franciscus

I always enjoy watching Unsung on TV-One every week, and if there were an Unsung done for actors, James Franciscus would be at the top of the list. He starred in Naked City, was Mr. Novak, portrayed JFK twice, and was Jane Fonda’s first boyfriend. He was a graduate of Yale, intelligent, articulate, and beyond handsome. It is unfortunate so many people are not aware who he was. The 31st of January is his birthday. Were he still with us, he would be 78, so to commemorate his talent and his life, I decided to dedicate this entry to him. Some might call him the “poor man’s” Robert Redford, or Charlton Heston, although he was equally attractive and talented.
I wrote about the TV show “Mr Novak” not too long ago. However, in my search for more knowledge about that show, I discovered another Jim starred in- “Longstreet”. The show reminds of me of “Ironside” in a way, as the lead character has a disability. Mike Longstreet is blind. He lost both his vision and his wife in a bombing. An insurance investigator, he goes in search of the killers, despite not being able to see. He tracks them down and brings them to justice, while continuing to go on with his life, along with his loyal dog, Pax. His girl Friday, Nikki, and former boss and good friend, Duke, are often nearby, as well as housekeeper, Mrs. Kingston. Bruce Lee appeared in several episodes, too. To my surprise, “Longstreet” only lasted one season on ABC (1971-72). It was a good show, and he had a realistic way of portraying a person without sight. His expressions and body language were brilliant, the show itself ahead of its time.
In the ’60s, he switched gears to producing, then later screen writing. Where his acting career was concerned, after “Longstreet” a great deal of it consisted of a lot of type B movies, silly disaster flicks, and out of this world voyages. The material was beneath him. He tried TV one last time, in 1977’s “Hunter”, co-starring Linda Evans. The two worked uncover as secret agents. The show lasted less than a season. By the mid ’80s, he had become discouraged with the roles he was being offered. The ones he wanted, he could not get. He dropped out of the acting scene, once saying he assumed he “wasn’t important enough” to get the kind of roles Steve McQueen did. He died of emphysema in July of 1991. He was 57 years old.
Although he remains one of Hollywood’s Unsung, he is someone who’s talent I appreciate more than ever. Happy Birthday, “Goey”.
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~ by kmnnz on January 30, 2012.

2 Responses to “Remembering James Franciscus”

  1. I loved James Franciscus’s work and thought he should have had a better acting career than he did. He was simply a marvelous actor and, I think, a splendid man. I never knew until now that he and Kitty had divorced some years before his death and that he had remarried. Was there ever any information on this? James and Kitty were married for like 20 years. Mr. Franciscus left us far too soon. I still miss seeing him on the screen.

  2. Hi: The good news is that there is a fantastic new book coming out called “Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series.” This is to be published in October 2017. The website for the book is MrNovakBook.com. There’s some great photos of Franciscus and others who were in the show. The bad news is that the series has never been issued on DVD. There are occasionally episodes put up on youtube, I think one is up there now. I emailed with Mr. Chuck Harter, the author of the forthcoming book and he is trying to find out who owns the rights and put the episodes on DVD. You can reach the author at the website.

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