Victor French was one of those artists whose success in the entertainment industry could hardly be tracked to spiral out of control. His long career has spanned acting, film and television, and directing. He was an excellent Western player, mostly playing the bad guy, probably because he was good-natured and had rugged moves. He is known for roles on television shows such as Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven and Carter Country Here you will find information about actors and directors.
Victor French biography
The western maestro was born on December 4, 1934 in Santa Barbara, California and was named Victor Edwin French. He is the son of Ted French, an actor and stuntman who rose to fame in the ’40s for appearing mostly in westerns. He attended Valley College.
Inspired by his father, Victor French followed his steps and soon began to land roles in western and anthology shows, as well as films. He began his acting career on television, where he mainly acted as a stuntman in the 60’s to 80’s. He previously had an uncredited role as an office clerk in the film The Magnificent Seven in 1960.
In 1961, he appeared in his first true Western role in an episode of the syndicated series Two Faces West He has also made guest appearances on about thirty-nine TV series, including Hazel, The Virginian, Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, Mister Ed, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, Tarzan, Branded, and Batman
He was further cast in a recurring role as Agent 44’s Get Smart (1965-1966) and in The Hero (1966). Also in 1966, he appeared alongside his father in the prime of life episode of the western drama Gunsmoke before appearing in 22 episodes through 1975, often playing a crook. He previously shared the screen with his father three years earlier in a 1963 war film entitled The Swift and the Dead
Victor French starred alongside Elvis Presley in the 1969 Western Charro! and guest appeared in a few episodes of NBC’s longest-running western series, Gold Mine alongside Michael Landon. The series brought the duo into a lifelong relationship, and they also bonded over a number of other projects, including Little House on the Prairie (1974) and Highway to Heaven (1984).
French guest starring on The Waltons in 1972 as a blacksmith named Curtis Norton was a stark contrast to his villain roles, breaking his typewriting limitations. It led to his casting as Mr. Isaiah Edwards in Little House on the Prairie and in three of his television films. However, he left the series in 1977 to star in the lead role in Carter Country (1977), but returned two years later and stayed until the final episode of Little House in 1983.
He was in the 1982 romantic drama film, A Cop and a Gentleman as Joe Pokrifiki, the stepfather of Debra Winger, Paula Pokrifki. On stage, French has appeared in many productions including The Time of Your Life at the Huntington Hartford Theater with Henry Fonda, Jane Alexander and Richard Dreyfuss.
Behind the scenes, Victor French directed episodes on Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983), Gunsmoke (1974-1975), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1981), Dallas (1982), the TV movies Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983) and Little House: Bless All Dear Children (1984), Highway to Heaven (1984-1986) and co-directed Rock-a-Doodle in 1991. He also directed in LA theaters and won the Critics Circle Award for the 1971 production of 12 Angry Men
He co-founded Company of Angels Theater with Leonard Nimoy in LA and served as President and Artistic Director. He later became a tutor after leaving the company in the mid 1970’s. French was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame in 1998 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Family: wife, children
The French family obviously had something in their blood. Victor’s father, Ted French, was also a western actor and stuntman who helped him get into the business. He died in 1978.
Victor French married his first wife, JudithSchenz, on January 9, 1959. The duo had three children: a son, Victor A. Jr., who was born in 1960, and two twin daughters, Kelly and Tracy, who arrived two years later. Unfortunately, their marriage fell apart 16 years after their marriage, eventually ending in divorce on July 3, 1975. Tracy appeared in the final episode, Grandpa’s Merry Christmas of Highway to Heaven on August 4, 1989.
With his first marriage firmly behind him, he married actor Lee J. Cobb’s daughter, Julie Cobb on March 14, 1976, but their marriage did not last as it ended two years later on May 23, 1978.
cause of death
Shortly after the conclusion of the final episode of Highway to Heaven, news of Victor French’s death greeted his fans on June 15, 1989 at the age of 54. He was a heavy smoker for most of his life and was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 1989. French died at Sherman Oaks Community Hospital in Los Angeles. California.