Interviews

5 MINUTES WITH JOE FRANKLIN

By • Mar 14th, 2010 •

Share This:

In a cramped, what appears to be a storage room filled with memorabilia, large records, VHS tapes, movie posters, and an assortment of everything and anything is strewn on shelves in no discernable order. There is no possibility of making one’s way between the shelves. The aisles are completely jammed with the Hollywood of yesteryear. As I struggle towards the opposite end of the room I bypass a few TV sets, VCR’s and a multitude of film magazines and playbills. The trail leads me into a small clearing just large enough for a placed swivel chair. A mountain of “stuff” constructed itself into a sturdy structure that encircles the chair. A couple of telephones placed among the heap ring constantly. A few folding chairs face the swivel chair where the King of Talk, Joe Franklin, holds court. For fifty years, Joe Franklin’s guest list was quite impressive. Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin were regular guests on his television show. Today, various people drop by and several more call this most unique office. People from all walks of the entertainment world of yesterday and today keep in contact with Joe Franklin.

So I have five minutes with the “King of Nostalgia.”

Authoring 23 books, most covering the silent screen, what is it about that era that gets you?

What I like about the silent screen? Well, first of all, I’ll go along with Charlie Chaplin and agree with him that I didn’t think talking pictures would make the grade. I was a fanatic of the pictures when I was a kid., but the old movies, I just loved the pianist that played at the movies.

I was once invited to a banquet for the late D.W. Griffith, and there is the man who sort of created the whole nomenclature, the whole posture of the early movie era. There was a big banquet in his honor because he was going down hill. All of the big shots were there, Adolph Zucker and Carl Laemmle. Guess what? The night of the event, he never showed up. The reason he didn’t show up they found out was that he didn’t have a clean white shirt. Of all people in the world not to show up because he didn’t have a clean white shirt was the man that was being honored that night.

I was very close with Lillian Gish, with Raymond Navarro and with Janet Gaynor, she made a couple of them. Mickey Rooney, too. There aren’t many of them left.

I was a fanatic for Lon Chaney. I was pretty close for a while with Lon Chaney Jr.

You can’t really capture the reason, but I was and still am very enamored with silent films.

What was lost when sound was introduced?

I don’t know how much was lost but I don’t know how much was gained either.

You can’t stop progress, now comes 3D, now comes digital. It’s a whole different world.

I still say, maybe, 1/3 of everything spent today on leisure time activity still goes toward glamorizing, romanticizing the past. I mean the big movies are still BIRTH OF A NATION, INTOLERANCE, HEARTS OF HUMANITY, THE CROWD. The big movies are still CASABLANCA, CITIZEN KANE, THE WIZARD OF OZ. You can’t knock the fact that everything old is new again to a young generation.

What makes your list of top films?

Believe it or not, I always went for the tearjerkers.

I went for ONLY YESTERDAY, SEED, COMMON CLAY, BACK STREET, SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION, Ricardo Cortez, Margaret Sullavan, and John Boles. Ruth Chatterton in MADAME X. I like THE SACRIFICING MOTHER, she has children but never tells the father until he is old that he was the father. There is something about that that lives in my memory.

Are you a fan of Turner Classic Movies?

Oh, it’s about the only channel that I watch with Robert Osborne introducing the films and the interviews with people like Betty Hutton, who was a very dear friend of mine.

I was very close with Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, Buddy Rogers. Mary Pickford used to call me up on the phone and ask me if I could buy up the rights to all of her old films. She didn’t want to be remembered that way. I said, “Mary, in those days everyone would make copies, there are billions of copies, you can’t buy up those rights, they are public domain by now anyhow.”

I am enamored of those people. Claude Gillingwater, Bessie Barriscale, John Bunny.

In those days, people didn’t say let’s go to the movies, they said let’s go see Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin was the movies!

He spent many a day with me and in 1972 explained to me how people would write books analyzing his old movies. They sit there with microscopes analyzing frame by frame all the Freudian significances of all the different interpretations. Just to be simplistic, every time he kissed the fat man on the behind, he is supposed to be knocking the establishment. He swore to me when he made those movies he had none of those things in mind; all he had in mind was to make people laugh, so it was always amazing to him how they analyzed his movies and wrote big thick books analyzing every frame and all he had in mind was to amuse the public.

When Chaplin made Monsieur Verdoux, it wasn’t well regarded by the public or the critics until years later. Why?

Takes a while for something to catch on I guess. There is no real explanation. Whatever he did he was the master. He was widely emulated. He was the right man at the right time. I used to call Woody Allen the modern day Charlie Chaplin, I am in a couple of Woody Allen pictures myself.

Are you familiar with Films in Review?

I have every single issue until they stopped publishing.

Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

4 Responses »

  1. Long before I ever knew our editor Roy Frumkes I was a guest on Joe’s show representing FILMS AND FILMING magazine which was a UK zine almost as well known as this one. Joe is and was a total show biz character a little guy with a giant personality. I still have a DVD-R of that show from 1981. I wonder if he still has a closet full of movie memorablia?

  2. my mom appeared on the joe franklin show

  3. GREAT INTERVIEW!!!!!! 5 minutes???? imagine what could you do with ten? Joe Franklin is wonderful! The Q&A is very informative. If only we could download Mr. Franklins entire internal “memorabilia” we would all be the richer for it!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. loved the article, I wanted to read more and more. Thanks for the memories and the impressive writing. This guy should write a book.

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)