Thursday, December 4, 2014

Remembering Victor French

Victor Edwin French was born on December 4, 1934 in Santa Barbara, California. French started his career as a television villain. Michael Landon saved French from “20 years of playing killers, rapists and every kind of villain and pervert known to man,” French told TV Guide in a 1985 interview, joking that “it had gotten to the point where crowds parted when they saw me coming.” French grew up outside of Hollywood, where his father  Ted French [1903-1978] worked as an actor and stuntman in Westerns. The genre shaped French, who told The Washington Post in 1985 that he spent every Saturday at the theater watching Western matinees. “I had parents with terrific values too. But that (the old Westerns) was what I was raised on,” he said. “The thing they taught us was respect for other people and their property. ... You don't lie, cheat or steal. I'm far from a saint, but those are my values.” French, who also loved boxing, grew to become a large, burly man. Instead of climbing into a ring, however, French got an acting job that his father found him on Gunsmoke, where casting directors seeking mean-jowled villains looked at him and wrung their hands in glee. French appeared more than 20 times on Gunsmoke. French also directed five episodes. The program did not shy away from gunfights and was later criticized for its violence. French then went on to became a regular on Bonanza, a more family-oriented Western that aired from 1959 to 1973. That's where he met Landon, who starred as youngest son "Little Joe" Cartwright. Landon apparently noticed something special in French. “When he went off to do Little House on the Prairie, he wanted me for the show,” French said. During that show, and later during Highway to Heaven, French said of his relationship with Landon, “We spent more time together than a married couple.” French also shared directing duties on the show, helming every third episode. (Landon directed most of the other two-thirds.) Highway went off the air in 1989, and French died of lung cancer a short time later on June 15, 1989 in Los Angeles, California.
 
Victor appeared in only one Euro-western 1971’s “Chato’s Land” as Martin Hall.
 
Today we remember Victor French on what would have been his 80th birthday.

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