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Overview for John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer

John Frankenheimer


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The Iceman... One of the few still undiscovered treasures of American 70's cinema, John... more info $21.95was $29.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Alan Smithee Died: July 6, 2002
Born: February 19, 1930 Cause of Death: died from a stroke following spinal surgery
Birth Place: Malba, New York, USA Profession: Director ... director producer screenwriter actor


8 when his close relationship with Robert F. Kennedy ended in tragedy. At the time, he was serving as Kennedyâ¿¿s media advisor, as well as opening up his Malibu home to the popular senator. In a last minute change of plans, Frankenheimer drove Kennedy to the Ambassador Hotel in downtown L.A., where the presidential hopeful was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan. The tragic event plunged Frankenheimer into a deep depression which was exacerbated by an already growing problem with alcohol. Practically overnight, the seeds to the wunderkindâ¿¿s destruction were sown.

Frankenheimer and his third wife moved to Europe, where he continued making films like "The Fixer" (1968), "The Gypsy Moths" (1969) and "The Horsemen 1971), though none reached the quality of his previous work. He went on to direct a version of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" (1973), one of Frankenheimerâ¿¿s personal favorites which few saw despite good reviews. He showed signs of box-office life with the sequel "French Connection II" (1975), which told the continuing story of Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman), who leaves Manhattan for Marseilles hot on the trail of heroin kingpin Frog One (Fernando Rey). A mere shadow of the Oscar-winning 1971 original, the sequel proved successful enough for Frankenheimer to win his next job. His career rejuvenation continued with the commercial success of "Black Sunday" (1977), an action thriller about a deranged pilot (Bruce Dern) determined to detonate the Super Bowl with a bomb-laden blimp. Smart and terrifyingly realistic, "Black Sunday" was one of his last major hits; what followed was almost two decades of mediocrity that seemed unlikely to have come from the man who had directed "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May."

While quality scripts failed to come his way, Frankenheimer slipped into obscurity while also suffering from a debilitating addiction to alcohol that nearly caused cirrhosis of the liver. While he managed to quit alcohol in the early 1980s, the director was unable to pull himself out his career doldrums, helming such fare as the horror schlock-fest "Prophesy" (1979), the cheap martial arts actioner, "The Challenge" (1982), and the admirable, but ultimately failed political thriller ""The Holcroft Covenant" (1985). Frankenheimer directed another film he was proud of with an adaptation of Elmore Leonard⿿s "52 Pick-Up" (1986), but the blackmail crime thriller starring Roy Scheider and Kelly Preston failed to generate much business at the box office. Turning back to television, Frankenheimer adopted the pseudonym Alan Smithee to divorce himself from the action-adventure yarn, "Riviera" (ABC, 1987). He ran into problems on the action thriller, "Dead Bang" (1989), thanks to that film⿿s star, Don Johnson, personifying the temperamental star cliché. Amidst numerous critical reviews rebuking Frankenheimer⿿s decision to make such a trivial film, "Dead Bang" flopped at the box office, making any sort of feature film comeback nearly impossible. Though he found a renewed interest following a 1988 re-release of "The Manchurian Candidate," Frankenheimer struggled to regain his footing in the feature world.

Following the familiar Cold War-themed spy thriller "The Fourth Wall" (1989) and the rather forgettable "Year of the Gun" (1991), Frankenheimer went back to television in an effort to rekindle some of the magic of his early career. After directing an episode of "Tales from the Crypt" (HBO, 1992), he helmed the made-for-cable movie "Against the Wall" (HBO, 1994), which told the story about the 1971 Attica Prison uprisings from a hostage's point of view. The small screen movie finally provided Frankenheimer with the best material he had seen in decades. Although he had received five Emmy nominations for his directing live television early in his career, "Against the Wall" earned him his first statue for Outstanding Directing. With renewed career vigor, Frankenheimer found new life on the small screen, directing "The Burning Season" (HBO 1994), a biopic about South American activist Chico Mendes (Raul Julia), which earned him a second straight Emmy Award for directing. He found himself in the winnerâ¿¿s circle at the Emmys again for "Andersonville" (TNT, 1996), a two-part miniseries about the notorious Civil War prison camp. Going for the cycle, Frankenheimer won his fourth directing Emmy in five years with "George Wallace" (1997), a reflective and not-unflattering look at the famed Alabama governor and staunch segregationist (Gary Sinese) whose bid for the presidency abruptly ended when permanently disabled by an assassinâ¿¿s bullet.

Because of his resurgence on television, Frankenheimer was given opportunity to redeem himself on the big screen. He once again came to the rescue and replaced an original director, this time Richard Stanley, on "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1996), sorting out the chaos and enabling its release, while dealing with two of Hollywoodâ¿¿s most difficult actors, Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. Despite the critical and financial drubbing that movie received, Frankenheimer largely escaped criticism. He next directed "Ronin" (1998), a triumphant return to the big screen that ultimately proved to be his last truly great film. A sly spy thriller set in a post-Cold War world written by David Mamet, "Ronin" followed a band of international operatives (including Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgard) in a nonstop pursuit of an oddly-shaped aluminum suitcase, the contents of which remain unknown. Uncluttered by boring details, the film, showed off its extreme stylishness, including several high-action car chases and shootouts, which allowed Frankenheimer to put his bold visual style on display full-tilt. The man who had redefined the suspense film with "The Manchurian Candidate" and who had refused to give up his quest for the elusive big-budget picture, had finally weighed in with a movie that displayed his mastery of the medium.

Though he had found his form with "Ronin," Frankenheimer took a step back with his next feature, "Reindeer Games" (2000). Starring Ben Affleck as a recently released burglar who aims to spend his freedom with the woman of his dreams (Charlize Theron), the crime thriller ⿿ which featured that old cliché of one last heist ⿿ boasted some well-choreographed action sequences, but ultimately suffered from poor critical reviews and a lack of audience interest. But "Reindeer Games" proved to be a temporary misstep, as Frankenheimer returned to the small screen for "Path to War" (HBO, 2002), an intriguing look into the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (Michael Gambon), whose heralded domestic agenda suffers under the weight of the Vietnam War. Also starring Alec Baldwin as Robert McNamara, Tom Skerritt as General Westmoreland and Felicity Huffman as Lady Bird Johnson, "Path to War" earned vast critical praise and several award nominations, including one for another Emmy. But "Path to War" ultimately proved to be Frankenheimer⿿s swan song. Just two months after the movie aired on HBO, the director suffered a sudden and debilitating stroke following spinal surgery that ended his life. At the time, Frankenheimer was scheduled to direct the prequel to "The Exorcist" (1973). He was 72.e of the difficulty of its premise, the film initially flopped at the box office, though it later grew into something of a cult favorite over the years.

Now in demand as an action director, Frankenheimer went on to helm "Grand Prix" (1966), which combined the directorâ¿¿s love of auto racing with his love of film. Though thin on plot, the movie was full of high-octane action in its depiction of a cross-continent road race and featured an international cast headed by James Garner, Yves Montand and Toshiro Mifune. "Grand Prix" was also Frankenheimerâ¿¿s first film in color and earned a considerable sum at the box office, fixing a reputation damaged by his previous film. But things began to unravel for Frankenheimer in June 196

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