John Frankenheimer

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his six-hour Archive interview, John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) gives a vivid description of his early television work as an assistant director on You Are There, Danger and Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person. He speaks about his first directorial assignments on You Are There and Danger and recalls making a name for himself directing live anthology dramas ("The Comedian" and "Days of Wine and Roses") on Climax! and Playhouse 90. He discusses his feature film work and his return to television to direct the acclaimed programs Andersonville for TNT and George Wallace for HBO. Michael Rosen conducted the two-part interview on March 21 and April 13, 2000 in Century City, CA.

"I knew that I wanted to have something to do with the camera. I didn't know whether I wanted to be a cameraman, or whether I wanted to direct. Directing, in a sense, was some crazed thing you never thought about. I mean, yeah, it would be great, but it was like trying to be President of the United States."

Highlights
John Frankenheimer on knowing he was good with a camera
01:39
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
27:48
John Frankenheimer on his signature shot
00:30
John Frankenheimer on advice for aspiring directors
03:13
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on playing tennis and racing cars; on radio shows and movies he enjoyed; on the 1939 World's Fair; on attending Williams College
On entering the Air Force (Korean War) after college; on getting into acting and the Air Force motion picture squadron; on getting transferred to Burbank; on writing for Harvey Howard Ranch Roundup for Channel 13 Los Angeles
On making documentaries for the Air Force; on filming Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier; on getting a job with John Ford and getting into television

Chapter 2

On visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show; on moving back to New York an applying for associate director jobs
On his start as an associate director at CBS; on working on Lamp Unto My Feet; on getting promoted to assistant director; on observing The Garry Moore Show and working on Douglas Edwards and the News
On becoming associate director and the format of You Are There

Chapter 3

On working as associate director on You Are There and on Danger; on working on Person to Person and elections with Edward R. Murrow
On getting into directing while working on Danger

Chapter 4

On Hubbell Robinson asking him to direct at CBS; on the Hollywood Blacklist; on going to the theater
On staging, directing and casting You Are There
On directing Danger; on CBS' first color television broadcast

Chapter 5

On directing Danger
On moving to California to direct Cllimax!; on sponsor interference on Climax! and the directing style he developled; on his setup in the studio

Chapter 6

On directing Climax! and how he staged scenes; on a typical production day and week at Climax!; on the challenges of the color episodes of Climax!; on the stress of directing live television
On identifying other directors' styles and competing with each other to get better; on specific episodes of Climax!

Chapter 7

On directing the "First and Last" episode of Climax!
On directing the "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!; on the accomplishment he felt from directing

Chapter 8

On directing the very first episode of Playhouse 90
On the production schedule for Playhouse 90; on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick

Chapter 9

On techniques he used for directing Playhouse 90; on staging and blocking Playhouse 90
On run-throughs and notes from producers on Playhouse 90; on specific episodes of Playhouse 90

Chapter 10

On Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90; on casting; on directing "The Last Tycoon," and "Clash by Night" episodes of Playhouse 90
On the introduction of videotape; On directing "The Days of Wine and Roses" on Playhouse 90

Chapter 11

On directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"; on producers Fred Coe and Martin Manulis; on episodes "The Old Man" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
On leaving Playhouse 90; on directing The Dupont Show and the final episode of Playhouse 90
On signing on to direct Breakfast at Tiffany's; on directing films

Chapter 12

On meeting Ingrid Bergman; On directing The Manchurian Candidate
On meeting and filming Bobby Kennedy; on returning to television for HBO's The Rainmaker
On how directing Against the Wall for HBO turned his life around; on directing Andersonville and George Wallace

Chapter 13

On advice for aspiring directors; on how technology and director's commentary can add value to films; on how television has changed over the years
On how important it is for him to keep working; on his favorite projects
Shows

Against the Wall

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing HBO's Against the Wall
05:53

Andersonville

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Andersonville
02:07

Best of Broadway

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on turning down producer Martin Manulis to do camera work on an episode of Best of Broadway
02:16

Climax!

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Climax!
16:35
John Frankenheimer on directing live television for Climax!
16:57
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!
00:46
John Frankenheimer on directing specific episodes of Climax!
20:56
John Frankenheimer on directing "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!
01:51
John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!
15:22
John Frankenheimer on getting a phone call from David O. Selznick and going over to critique episodes of Climax! with him 
03:49
John Frankenheimer on how actress Mary Sinclair stayed so composed on live television
01:43

Climax!: "Deal a Blow"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!
01:51

Climax!: "First and Last"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!
15:22

Climax!: "Portrait in Celluloid"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
00:29
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!
00:46

Danger

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Danger
01:45
John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger
12:11
John Frankenheimer on directing Danger
04:43
John Frankenheimer on the risks he took directing the live show Danger
09:27

Danger: "Knife in the Dark"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor named Paul Newman
04:43

Danger: "No Passport for Death"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on the "No Passport for Death" episode of Danger
07:20

Dennis Day Show. The

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show
02:30

Douglas Edwards with the News

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Douglas Edwards and the News
01:22

DuPont Show of the Week, The

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing The Dupont Show
01:42

Ford Startime

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Ford Startime
00:11

Garry Moore Show, The

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on observing The Gary Moore Show
00:30

George Wallace

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace
02:59

Lamp Unto My Feet

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on being associate director for Lamp Unto My Feet
00:44
John Frankenheimer on Lamp Unto My Feet
00:22

Person to Person

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person
10:12

Playhouse 90

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
27:48
John Frankenheimer on not getting to direct the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" episode of Playhouse 90
00:31
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
05:46
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
06:47
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
09:47
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
06:44
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90
03:45
John Frankenheimer on casting Playhouse 90 with Ethel Winant 
00:46
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15
John Frankenheimer on Playhouse 90 directors and how videotape affected shooting
09:29
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
05:50
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"
02:01
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and videotaping the whole show
03:12
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
05:38
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"
03:01
John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television
01:24

Playhouse 90: "Clash by Night"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15

Playhouse 90: "Days of Wine and Roses"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
05:50
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"
02:01

Playhouse 90: "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
05:38

Playhouse 90: "Journey to the Day"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"
03:01

Playhouse 90: "Requiem for a Heavyweight"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on not getting to direct the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" episode of Playhouse 90
00:31

Playhouse 90: "The Comedian"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian" 
06:44
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90
03:45

Playhouse 90: "The Last Tycoon"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

Playhouse 90: "The Old Man"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and videotaping the whole show
03:12

Rainmaker, The

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on returning to television for HBO's The Rainmaker
01:37

See It Now

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
03:38

See It Now: "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy"

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
03:38

You Are There

View Show Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sidney Lumet's associate director
09:11
John Frankenheimer on working as associate director on You Are There
05:09
John Frankenheimer on his first directing gig on You Are There
11:51
Topics

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick
03:49
John Frankenheimer on the influence of movie directors on him
01:08

Emmy Awards

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
00:29
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian"
06:44

Hollywood Blacklist

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist
00:40
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
03:38
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and the blacklisted writers of You Are There
00:49
John Frankenheimer on sponsor interference on Climax!  
01:58

Runaway Production

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger
12:11

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television
01:24

Technological Innovation

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on the challenges of color television
03:33
John Frankenheimer on every 3rd episode of Climax! being in color
03:32
John Frankenheimer on videotape
01:42

We Considered

View Topic
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
03:38
Professions

Directors

View Profession
John Frankenheimer on knowing he was good with a camera
01:39
John Frankenheimer on the differences between associate director and assistant director
00:57
John Frankenheimer on his directing style on Climax!
00:40
John Frankenheimer on losing weight on show day while directing live television
02:54
John Frankenheimer on being able to identify directors by camera work
00:54
John Frankenheimer on the sense of accomplishment he felt from directing
00:54
John Frankenheimer on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick
03:49
John Frankenheimer on techniques he used for directing Playhouse 90
05:46
John Frankenheimer on directing big movie stars - Ingrid Bergman
00:53
John Frankenheimer on directing movies
03:48
John Frankenheimer on advice for aspiring directors
03:13
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
John Frankenheimer on directing Climax!
16:35
John Frankenheimer on directing live television for Climax!
28:28
John Frankenheimer on directing specific episodes of Climax!
20:56
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
27:48
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
28:12
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
28:00
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
12:32

News and Documentary

View Genre
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sydney Lumet's associate director
09:11
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
03:38

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace
02:59
People

James T. Aubrey

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television
01:24

Lauren Bacall

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

Tallulah Bankhead

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person
02:02

Ingrid Bergman

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing big movie stars - Ingrid Bergman
00:53
John Frankenheimer on meeting Ingrid Bergman 
05:01

Humphrey Bogart

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

Yul Brynner

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on Yul Brynner's directing days on Danger
00:25

Ned Calmer

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  
00:24

John Carradine

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!
15:22

Fred Coe

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show
00:08
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis leaving and Fred Coe joining Playhouse 90
01:18
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
05:50
John Frankenheimer on producers Martin Manulis and Fred Coe
01:41
John Frankenheimer on Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
08:50
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"
03:01

Charles Collingwood

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  
00:24

Bob Cooper

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing HBO's Against the Wall
05:53

Walter Cronkite

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  
00:06

Bill Dozier

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on Bill Dozier wanting Martin Manulis and Frankenheimer to do "South of the Sun" for Climax!  
01:28

Dominick Dunne

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on talking to Dominick Dunne about getting a job in television
00:37

Douglas Edwards

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on Douglas Edwards
00:14

Horton Foote

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
02:42

John Ford

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on meeting and getting a job with John Ford
02:26

Don Hewitt

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Douglas Edwards and the News
01:08

George Roy Hill

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on fellow directors and renegotiating contracts
05:28

John F. Kennedy

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on meeting Robert F. Kennedy
01:48

Robert F. Kennedy

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on meeting Robert F. Kennedy
04:34

Burt Lancaster

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing movies with Burt Lancaster, and not getting along with him well
03:48

Piper Laurie

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
05:50

Peter Lorre

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

Sidney Lumet

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sydney Lumet's associate director
09:11
John Frankenheimer on working as Sidney Lumet's associate director on You Are There
05:09
John Frankenheimer on producer Martin Manulis wanting him to direct Climax! after not securing Sidney Lumet
01:32
John Frankenheimer on Sidney Lumet's preparation
00:52

James MacArthur

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing James MacArthur in "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!
01:51

Martin Manulis

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on turning down producer Martin Manulis to do camera work on an episode of Best of Broadway
02:16
John Frankenheimer on producer Martin Manulis wanting him to direct Climax!
12:21
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis' optimism and contriubtions to the "First and Last" episode of Climax!
00:28
John Frankenheimer on "Deal a Blow" and "The Gay Illiterate" episodes of Climax!
04:12
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis wanting him to direct the first Playhouse 90
01:24
John Frankenheimer on notes from producers on Playhouse 90  
00:37
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis leaving Playhouse 90
01:18
John Frankenheimer on producers Martin Manulis and Fred Coe
01:41

Lee Marvin

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working with a difficuil director when he was an associate director
04:09
John Frankenheimer on directing Lee Marvin in "The American"
01:15

JP Miller

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
02:42
John Frankenheimer on JP Miller's writing style
00:30

Paul Monash

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
02:42

Edward R. Murrow

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person
10:12

Ralph Nelson

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on competing with other directors to get better
04:14

Paul Newman

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor  named Paul Newman
04:43

Clifford Odets

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15

Jack Palance

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

William S. Paley

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on CBS' first color variety show
02:38

Arthur Penn

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15

Sydney Pollack

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
05:38

Lee Remick

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
02:54

Jason Robards, Jr.

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
05:38

Cliff Robertson

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
05:50
John Frankenheimer on Cliff Robertson's performance in rehearsal versus live television
01:31

Hubbell Robinson

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on Hubbell Robinson asking him to direct Danger
01:30

Mickey Rooney

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian"
06:44
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90
03:45

Robert Ryan

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Robert Ryan in "Snows of Kilimanjaro"
02:05

Mark Rydell

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger
12:11

David O. Selznick

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on getting a phone call from David O. Selznick and going over to critique episodes of Climax! with him 
03:49

Rod Serling

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor named Paul Newman
04:43
John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
00:29
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!
00:46
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
02:42
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian" 
06:44

Eric Sevareid

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  
00:24

David Shaw

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
02:42

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate
04:49

Mary Sinclair

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on how actress Mary Sinclair stayed so composed on live television
01:43

Gary Sinise

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace
02:59

Kim Stanley

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
04:15

Maureen Stapleton

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
05:38

Inger Stevens

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on directing actress Inger Stevens
00:30

Mike Wallace

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on CBS' first color variety show
02:38

Ethel Waters

View Person Page
John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person
00:45

Ethel Winant

View Interview Page
John Frankenheimer on casting Playhouse 90 with Ethel Winant 
01:47
John Frankenheimer on working with Ethel Winant again on Andersonville
02:07

All Interviews

Q
S