Sunday, February 12, 2006

Franklin Cover Moves On Up

Franklin Cover, best known for playing Tom Willis for ten years on The Jeffersons, passed on last Sunday of pneumonia. He was 77 yeas old.

Cover was born in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. Although he would become best known for his work on The Jeffersons, Cover's career began on the stage. He appeared in both Henry IV and Hamlet. He appeared many times on Broadway, in such plays as Sons of Giants (1962), Calculated Risk (1962), Applause (1970), and Born Yesterday (1989). He made his television debut on an episode of The Naked City in 1962. He would make guest appearances on TV shows in the Sixties, on The Jackie Gleason Show and NYPD. He also appeared in feature films, playing a role in the original version of The Stepford Wives.

It would be The Jeffersons that would bring Cover lasting fame. Cover played Tom Willis, George Jefferson's white neighbour whose wife, Helen, was black. Willis was constantly the target of George's jokes, who took every opportunity to point out Willis' whiteness. Eventually, George and Tom would become the best of friends. Tom and Helen Willis were historic as prime time television's first interracial couple.

Following The Jeffersons Cover made several guest appearances on shows such as Who's the Boss, In the Heat of the Night, Coach, and Will and Grace (his last appearance). He also appeared in the movie Wall Street.

The Jeffersons was always one of my favourite sitcoms from the Seventies, and it wouldn't have been the same without Franklin Cover as Tom Willis. Cover was perfect as Willis who could sometimes be a bit dense, ate too much, and an enduring love for peanuts. He was one of the great comic characters of the Seventies and I don't think anyone else could play him quite as well as Cover did.

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