Thursday, August 10, 2017

Good Morning, Gratuitous James Franciscus

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Last week I discovered, much to my shock and personal awe, that I had never seen Dario Argento's film Inferno. I told you about it, shame-faced. Then I went and bought the film on blu-ray, and the blu-ray came with two other films of Dario's... and I realized I had never seen another one. 1971's The Cat o' Nine Tails, a fairly straightforward (as far as Argento movies go) giallo - it was only Dario's second film, so he hadn't quite found himself yet. Anyway I'll have more to say on Cat later today (it's got a killer death scene we're gonna feature for our "Ways Not To Die" series) but for now let's ogle Cat's star, American actor James Franciscus.

You might know him as the lead in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the second in that original series of films - we've previously taken note of him here on the blog ourselves for that movie. But he was kind of terrific in The Cat o' Nine Tails - charming, and stuff. And there's a fabulous scene set in a gay bar (remember this was 1971!) where he gets hit on and he barely bats an eye.

That's not unique for an Argento movie - on the recently released big fancy edition of his first movie The Bird With the Crystal Plumage one of the docs talks about Argento's career-long interest and openness to queer themes in his work. I digress!

We're here to ogle James Franciscus. Some fun facts about him - he graduated magna cum laude from Yale, he started a celebrity tennis league in the 1970s, and he had four daughters with the daughter of director William A. Wellman. Blah blah that's plenty. Hit the jump for dozens more pictures...
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10 comments:

Pierce said...

I used to love his TV show Mr. Novak, and he played JFK in a TV movie about Jacqueline that starred Jacqueline Smith.

Anonymous said...

As a youngster I saw many more movies than the average kid. I thought James Franciscus was one of the most handsome men I had ever seen, but it seemed to me impossible in an age before the internet that he wouldn't take off even a shirt in a film. When Beneath Planet of the Apes came out, I saw it twice in the theatre, and many many times when it finally came to tv and video. Still one of the most attractive movie stars ever, and apes was like a rain storm after a long drought for me at the time.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of gratuitous

http://visuallyoverwhelming.tumblr.com/tagged/robert-pattinson

Robert Kirby said...

Always loved ol' James. So beauty-full, he was.

VoenixRising said...

One of my first pre-teen crushes. I remember locking myself in the bathroom with his pictures on many occasions...

Josito Montez said...

He's the lead of a fabulous, underrated Delmer Daves' melodrama called "Youngblood Hawke". Not to be missed.

joel65913 said...

I loved his series Longstreet where he played a blind investigator and Bruce Lee had a recurring role. It was shortlived but as was common in that time period it had a tremendous revolving door of guest stars.

He was so handsome and seemed to radiate health, so ironic that he died so young.

I second Josito's recommendation of Youngblood Hawke which has Suzanne Pleshette, Mary Astor AND Eva Gabor in the cast. Also a terrific TV movie he did with Elizabeth Ashley and Jack Klugman called One of My Wives is Missing. It use to be on YouTube not sure about now.

mangrove said...

About that gay club scene, I always wondered if Argento had told Franciscus what was happening in it.

The other actor being German and this being an Italian film, this very well could have been done during the dubbing of the scene. Franciscus being so cool with it could very well be a result of not knowing what was really happening.

It sure was surprising to see a 70's American beefcake being hit on so blatantly.

So the question remains: JA, have you seen '4 flies of grey velvet' and Argento's best death scene (and his best gay character)?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing Franciscus was well aware of what was going on in that scene. Horst Buchholz spoke excellent English - not sure of his Italian - and they probably recorded him in English as they did Franciscus and Malden. And it's not like the surroundings are subtle. Argento was cool about gays and the journalist is shown to be a guy pretty much at home in various demimondes. I think Franciscus was probably just a more sophisticated actor than people gave him credit for. He was pretty nuanced (for the time) in Longstreet. Of course, it would be easy to underestimate him based on his looks. Certainly one of the best looking men onscreen ever.

mangrove said...

Thanks for the comments about Buchholz, Anon! Argento loved to play 'games' with his actresses, so I wondered if it had not been the same with Franciscus as well.

All in all this makes me think that Argento was the 100% hetero director who was the coolest with gays in the history of cinema.