Friday, January 25, 2019

The Late Great James Frawley

James Frawley, who directed a lion's share of the episodes of the classic TV show The Monkees as well as episodes of many other shows and feature films, died on January 22 2019 at the age of 82. He began his career as an actor, appearing on Broadway and on several different TV shows.

James Frawley was born on September 29 1936 in Houston, Texas. He began his acting career in New York City. He made his debut on Broadway in a small role in Becket in 1961. He also appeared on Broadway in the productions Arturo Ui and Anyone Can Whistle. He made his television debut in the television special Seasons of Youth in 1961. He made several guest appearances on TV shows in the Sixties, including appearances on such shows as Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, The Bill Dana Show, Perry Mason, Burke's Law, Dr. Kildare, A Man Called Shenandoah, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hogan's Heroes, My Favourite Martian, McHale's Navy, The F.B.I., I Spy, and The Fugitive.  He appeared in the films Greenwich Village Story (1963), Ladybug Ladybug (1963), The Troublemaker (1964), and Wild Wild Winter (1966).

In the mid-Sixties Mr. Frawley got a 16 mm camera, with which he shot two short films that he edited himself. The two films found their way to producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson. Messrs. Schneider and Rafelson then hired James Frawley to direct their new TV series The Monkees, finding the fact that he had been an improvisational actor with experience in doing comedy desirable. Mr. Frawley then not only directed the TV show The Monkees, but trained The Monkees in the art of improvisation. In the end James Frawley would direct 28 episodes of the show. He won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for the episode "Royal Flush" and was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for "The Devil and Peter Tork" the following year. In the Sixties James Frawley also directed episodes of That Girl and The Ugliest Girl in Town, as well as the failed pilots Holly Golightly and A Guide for the Married Man.

In the Seventies James Frawley directed the films The Christian Licorice Store, Kid Blue, The Big Bus, and The Muppet Movie. He directed episodes of The Texas Wheelers, Paper Moon, All That Glitters, Columbo, and The Eddie Capra Mysteries. He also directed the TV movies Delancey Street: The Crisis Within and Gridlock. He guest starred on the TV show Columbo and appeared in the movie Tracks (1976). He had a cameo in The Muppet Movie.

In the Eighties Mr. Frawley directed episodes of Mr. Merlin, The Devlin Connection, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Wizards and Warriors, Faerie Tale Theatre, Magnum P.I., Mike Hammer, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Cagney and Lacey, Columbo and Father Dowling Mysteries. He directed the feature film Fraternity Vacation (1985). He guest starred on the TV show CBS Summer Playhouse.

In the Nineties he directed episodes of Jake and the Fatman, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Crime & Punishment, Key West, Law & Order, Melrose Place, Earth 2, Picket Fences, American Gothic, Chicago Hope, The Big Easy, Spy Game, Alley McBeal, Vengeance Unlimited, Jack & Jill, The Practice, That's Life, and The Fugitive. He guest starred on the TV show American Gothic.

In the Naughts James Frawley directed episodes of The Division, Kate Brasher, Smallville, Thieves, Ed, Judging Amy, Related, Reunion, In Justice, The Book of Daniel, Three Moons Over Milford, Ghost Whisperer, Notes from the Underbelly, Side Order of Life, Dirty Sexy Money, Shark, Spellbound, Private Practice, and Grey's Anatomy.

Even if the only thing James Frawley had directed were his many episodes of The Monkees, he would have left a mark on television history. Indeed, while Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson created The Monkees and Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker wrote the show's pilot, James Frawley was largely responsible for shaping the show as we know it. For six weeks Mr. Frawley trained The Monkees, two of who were not actors (Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork), in improvisation and acting. Once the show was in production he directed more episodes than anyone else, shaping The Monkees as the surreal comedy that combined elements of the French New Wave with Richard Lester's work on A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) and a good dose of Ernie Kovacs's visual humour. Mr. Frawley would go on to a very successful career as a television director, directing episodes of such TV shows as That Girl, Columbo, Mike Hammer, and Law & Order. Of course, James Frawley's directorial career included feature films, and The Muppet Movie remains enjoyable largely due to his direction. James Frawley was one of television's most remarkable directors and certainly one of its most innovative.

1 comment:

Caftan Woman said...

I hadn't heard the sad news. He left quite a legacy of entertainment.