John Frankenheimer

“A former TV director whose early film career in the 1960s made him one of Hollywood’s new shining lights, Frankenheimer’s searing studies of alienation marked him as a visually acute director of somber, often depressing movies. He most successfully directed thrillers; his other films were generally plodding affairs that were attacked by critics and ignored by audiences.” - The Encyclopedia of Hollywood, 2004

John Frankenheimer

Director
(1930-2002) Born February 19, New York City, New York, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Psychological Drama, Action, Thriller, Crime, Paranoid Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Political Thriller, Action Thriller, Prison Film, Biopic
Key Collaborators: Burt Lancaster (Leading Actor), Edward Lewis (Producer), Ferris Webster (Editor), Henry Berman (Editor), Edmond O'Brien (Leading Character Actor), Gene Hackman (Leading Actor), Fredric March (Leading Actor), Robert Dillon (Screenwriter), Lionel Lindon (Cinematographer), Ralph Woolsey (Cinematographer), Harold F. Kress (Editor), Bradford Dillman (Leading Character Actor)

“Having easily made the transition from live TV drama to feature films during the early 60s, John Frankenheimer was, for a short period (1962-64), one of the most highly regarded of the new young talents of the American cinema… Frankenheimer estimates that he directed about one hundred-and-twenty-five live TV dramas, most notably for Playhouse 90.” - Joel W. Finler (The Movie Directors Story, 1985)
“John Frankenheimer was one of the few TV pioneers who strived to compose innovative and striking visuals. Soon he was applying these techniques to features, making his big-screen debut with The Young Stranger (1957)… In retrospect it seems a shame that John Frankenheimer was not afforded more opportunities to demonstrate his considerable talents. It is interesting to remember that, besides his persistent ability to excite and entertain audiences, the action in Birdman of Alcatraz was mostly restricted to a prison cell, as was the much-admired detoxification scene in French Connection II. Only a great talent could create compelling cinema in such simple settings.” - Darryl Wiggers (501 Movie Directors)
“His body of work is notable for both its immensity (having directed thirty feature films, four films for cable, and over fifty plays for television) and its influence. What is most remarkable about this director, however, is his pioneering of the modern-day political thriller; Frankenheimer began his career at the peak of Cold War politics in the 1950s and subsequently carved a niche in Hollywood… Frankenheimer’s emergence as a film-maker in the 1960s coincided with a crisis in the Hollywood studio structure. Faced with staggering competition related to the proliferation of television as well as other leisure activities during the 1950s, Hollywood began to lose its rigorous hierarchical character as the old studio oligarchs jumped ship. This opened up the industry for experimentation and made way for directors like Frankenheimer, whose critical eye had been shaped by television and the rumblings of European art cinema.” - Stephen Charbonneau (Contemporary North American Film Directors, 2002)
“In the 1960s, John Frankenheimer was touted as one of the most exciting new filmmakers of those tumultuous times, an American auteur in the making. Yet over the next two decades he looked more like a journeyman, an anonymous professional with a pragmatic approach to indifferent material. Both these versions hold some truth. It’s also the case that much of Frankenheimer’s best work was for television - where he cut his teeth directing live drama in the 1950s, and to which he returned to make his last worthwhile films in the 1990s.” - Tom Charity (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
“After Seven Days in May (1964), he seemed firmly entrenched at the top echelon of Hollywood’s directors, a concerned observer of the American social and political scene who seemed capable of drawing a rewarding balance between form and content in his films. But then came a period of European residence and a long dry spell during which Frankenheimer seemed to be losing his edge by brandishing style for its own sake.” - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
“When this director sticks to plot and forgets about heavy theme, as in French Connection II (75), he can be close to brilliant. But when trying to express a complicated statement cloaked in a slow-moving narrative, as in The Manchurian Candidate (62) and The Fixer (68), Frankenheimer often fails.” - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) ✖︎, Seven Days in May (1964)
Recommended
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Train (1965), Seconds (1966)
Worth a Look
The Young Savages (1961), The Fixer (1968), I Walk the Line (1970), The Iceman Cometh (1973), French Connection II (1975), 52 Pick-Up (1986), Path to War [TV] (2002)
Approach with Caution
The Gypsy Moths (1969), 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974)
Not Recommended
Ronin (1998)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Birdman of Alcatraz
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