John Frankenheimer In Close-Up

By Ron Simon

John Frankenheimer (1930 to 2002) was a very good friend of The Paley Center for Media. He not only donated his collection of rare kinescopes to us for transfer and preservation, but also participated in numerous seminars to discuss how these programs were so artfully produced. I had the privilege of working with John in 1997 to present a retrospective of his television work, which we organized in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where his theatrical films were screened. It was a rare opportunity to experience firsthand Frankenheimer’s unique artistic journey between television and cinema.

Update 4/6/14: The Paley Center mourns the passing of Mickey Rooney with this clip from 1957's Playhouse 90: The Comedian

See the wide range of his work on television in the Paley Center Collection.



John Frankenheimer In Close-Up Continues...

With a daring directorial style and vision, Frankenheimer invigorated two different eras of television drama. As the wunderkind of fifties television, with critics favorably comparing him to Orson Welles, Frankenheimer honed his craft by working on more than one hundred technically ambitious live programs from 1954 to 1960. After leaving the medium to direct more than twenty-five feature films, he returned triumphantly in the nineties, receiving consecutive Emmy Awards for his direction of three historical dramas for cable television.

In both eras of television, Frankenheimer was able to capture in close-up the interior lives of his main characters, the intimate moments when they struggle for some self-definition in a hostile world. His technical mastery of the medium combined with his passion for vivid scripts gave his work a look and feel unlike no other director.

I also invite you to visit our libraries in New York and Los Angeles and choose from the Paley Center’s large holdings of John Frankenheimer’s television work, from The Turn of the Screw with Ingrid Bergman to Andersonville and George Wallace. Then you will see how Frankenheimer surmounted all directorial challenges to create his provocative electronic universe.