Soon after he discovered that his acting was terrible, John Frankenheimer decided to become a director as a twenty-year old undergraduate at Williams College. Twelve years later he had directed one hundred twenty-seven television shows and five motion pictures and was considered the most adventurous young American movie director; and the most flamboyant movie maker since De Mille, flogging the air with his long arms, snapping his fingers, ripping up his clothes, and peppering his instructions with obscenities.

---Karl Malden and director John Frankenheimer working out a scene of Birdman of Alcatraz---Read More:$&p2=1&p3=1&p4=1

Frankenheimer’s underlying theory was that “the very process of doing a show is a comment by the director,” so he made his comments with graphic force, using fast cuts, trick angles, closeups to the pore, camera peepes through grilles and keyholes, sometimes at the risk of upstaging the story. For example, looking at the television version of Daphne du Maurier’s The Little Photographer, he shot one scene as though through a camera’s aperture. For Sailor on Horseback, he used what he called a “subjective camera” : in the fight between Lloyd Nolan-as Jack London- and the villain, “each man fought a camera and I cut back and fortt.” Such startingly realized moments were to give him the pick of performers: Sir John Gielgud in The Browning Version, Ingrid Bergman for Turn of the Screw, and Geraldine Page in Faulkner’s Old Man.

---We already know, from the film’s very opening scene, moreover, that although he has been awarded the medal for saving his men from capture that his unit was captured in Korea in 1952, as the men, against army strategy, marched along a path in single file. And we gradually discover that the “loveable Raymond Shaw”—as one of his fellow men sarcastically describes him—is not even a hero, but was brainwashed along with his fellow men, forced to strangle fellow-soldier Ed Mavole, shoot their young “mascot,” Bobby Lembeck, and programmed to do the biddings of his handlers, foes of the American government. One of the most famed of the mirror images of the film is represented in Frankenheimer’s brilliant presentation of these American soldiers in enemy hands—recalled in a dream of intelligence officer Ben Marco—as they sit in what seems at first to be an elegantly decorated room among a gathering of a lady's garden club that, upon the camera’s second pan around the room, reveals a room closer to an observatory operating room, wherein sit numerous male Communist officials (both Chinese and Russian), discussing their success at reconditioning their captives.---Read More:

Frankenheimer was the youngest and among the first of the “live” television directors to pass into movies, where he took in his confident stride some curiously diverse scripts. These included Young Stranger with James MacArthur, done in three and a half weeks, Burt Lancaster actually behaving like an actor in both Birdman of Alcatraz and The French Savages, in which a fatal stabbing was reflected in the victim’s sunglasses.

After military service, Frankenheimer walked into CBS’s employment office in Manhattan and insouciantly demnded an assistant director’s post. The head man said he had lots of nerve, but as it happened nerve was enough. He began doing weather and news shows, and before long was working with Sidney Lumet on You Are There, and later with Martin Manulis on the programs Climax and Playhouse 90. The, together with Manulis, they followed television West.

Although he was sometimes charged with excessive showiness in his directing style, his cleverness with the camera was often put to clever and organic use such as in All Fall Down, one of his most impressive early films, and one of America’s three entries for the 1962 Cannes Festival. An early shot of a flophouse proprietor in the Florida Keys was taken through an electric fan to underscore the sweaty tedium of the setting. Eva Marie Saint was photographed through mirrors to dramatize her schizophrenia. And the three-ply, tantalizingly slow dissolves of the love scene evoked a lyrical, timeless moment of beauty, in which, in his words, he “wanted to convey everybody’s fantasy of what sex should be and never is.”


he Manchurian Candidate has been called the archetypal Cold War thriller. Based on the novel by Richard Condon, it details the manipulation of a Korean soldier by Communist brain washers, and by his parents: politicians who wish to use his Medal of Honor fame as a means of furthering their careers.

The home run performances by Angela Landsbury, Laurence Harvey and James Gregory are amazingly effective

ill, the book’s plot had to be pared down to get onto the screen; the major theme removed contains a the politician’s McCarthy-like rise to power and is still worth reading. The director’s stage-management skills are also present here: an entire section of the scenery during the brain washing sequence was actually on a railway car.

The 1962 film was pulled from circulation after the assassination of President John Kennedy the following year. Frankenheimer and one of the other starts of the film, were friends of the Kennedy family.

1964 saw the release of Seven Days in May. This film details a one week investigation into a plot by senior military officials to take over the US government.

If Sandbaggers fans think the late 70s were a bad time in the Cold War, they should be reminded that the late 50s and early 60s was when the Cold War was hot. At the time, the sacking of General Douglas Mac Arthur was still a fissure in US politics; moreover, figures like Air Force Colonel Curtis Le May were working hard behind the backs of elected officials to encourage a first strike against the Soviet Union. Read More:

…He directed the sometimes overlooked French Connection 2 in 1975. This gritty police story sees Gene Hackman pursue the man who got away. The unblinking camera follows Hackman’s capture and interrogation with heroin. He then recovers to punish his tormentors. Another thriller followed in 1977 starring Bruce Dern as the deranged airman in Black Sunday.

Frankenheimer’s output and quality started falling as he struggled with drink throughout the 70s, but finally in 1981, he pushed the bottle aside. ( ibid.)

Frankenheimer is considered one of the major contributors to the Golden Age of television. He directed 152 live television dramas between 1954 and 1960, including The Last Tycoon with Jack Palance, For Whom The Bell Tolls with Jason Robards and Maureen Stapleton, The Comedian with Mickey Rooney and Kim Hunter, the original Days of Wine and Roses with Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie, Old Man with Geraldine Page and Sterling Hayden, The Turn of the Screw with Ingrid Bergman, Face of a Hero” with Jack Lemmon and Sir John Guilgud’s first television appearance in The Browning Version. During this period, the director garnered six nominations for the Best Director Emmy, and twice won the television critics award as best director.Read More:

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