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Victor French (1934)

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  Summary  

Victor Edwin French (December 4, 1934 - June 15, 1989) was an American actor and director.

  Biography  

 early career
Born in Santa Barbara, California,
to Ted French, an actor and stuntman who appeared in westerns in the 1940s, Victor later appeared with his father in one episode of Gunsmoke entitled "Prime Of Life" in 1966, as well as a war film in 1963 called The Quick And The Dead. Ted French died in 1978.

Following in his father's footsteps, French also began his television career as a stuntman in mostly westerns and anthology shows. During this period, he guest starred in some thirty-nine television series, including the episode "The Noose" of the syndicated series Two Faces West; his fellow guest star on the segment was veteran western star L.Q. Jones.

He appeared twenty-three times on the long-running Western drama Gunsmoke, often playing a crook, whether dangerous or bumbling. On October 25, 1971, he portrayed a cold-hearted gunman named "Trafton", who while robbing the communion vessels in a Roman Catholic church murders a priest. As the clergyman lies dying, he forgives his killer, a development which dogs Trafton, who holds human life in low regard, for the entire episode until he is shot to death by Marshal Matt Dillon. French guest starred in another episode, titled Matt's Love Story, in which Matt Dillon falls in love with a character played by Michael Learned. This episode would then lead to the story line in the 1990 made for TV movie, Gunsmoke: The Last Apache in which Matt rejoins with Learned's character "Mike" and he finds out he has a grown daughter.

The appearance also led to his re-teaming with Learned in a guest-actor role on The Waltons a year later. The episode, entitled The Fullfillment has French playing a blacksmith named Curtis Norton whose wife could not have children and subsequently adopts an eight-year-old orphan boy who has come to stay the week on Walton's Mountain.

This led to his being cast in his most well-known role as Mr. Edwards in the TV series based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder entitled Little House on the Prairie beginning in 1973.

In other work, French also starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1969 western, Charro! and played the recurring character "Agent 44" in the NBC series Get Smart in 1965-1966, where he portrayed an undercover spy who showed up in the worst, most unlikely of places and appeared in a few episodes of Bonanza, starring with Michael Landon at that time.

 death
French, a life-long heavy smoker, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in April 1989, from which he died on June 15, 1989 in Los Angeles, California. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Santa Barbara. According to one anecdote, he left a final, good-humored message for friends and family at his wake, having arranged for an airplane to fly overhead with it. Michael Landon died from pancreatic cancer a mere two years later. Coincidentally, both men were 54 years old when they died, and both were only diagnosed with their respective illnesses a few months before their deaths.

In 1998, French was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Victor French", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.