atm711

Frederic Franklin

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Most members of Ballettalk in New York City are familiar with Frederic Franklin in his current appearances as the tutor in Swan Lake or the Friar in Romeo & Juliet with ABT. Few, I imagine, saw him dance in his prime. I had the good fortune to see him during his later years with the Ballet Russe. He had an easy going stage presence, i.e., he looked comfortable on the stage. His charm was irrepressible in roles such as Franz in 'Coppelia' or the Champion Roper in 'Rodeo'--two roles, in particular, I have always felt he "owned". Both of these characters fit him like a glove. There was a cool wit in his interpretations---he was a 'nice guy' who didn't take himself too seriously; he could have gentle fun with the roles. Perhaps his early training as a ballroom dancer contributed to his ease of movement. If ballet hadn't claimed him we might have had another Fred Astaire--such was his relaxation and charm.

His persona changed quickly when performing the Favorite Slave in 'Scheherazade'--a commendable performance--ending with the famous Nijinsky spin on-the-back-of-the-neck; and also as Johnny in the controversial 'Frankie and Johnny'. He was not a classical dancer but braved his share of Nutcrackers and Swan Lakes. I saw him once as Albrecht to Chauvire's 'Giselle'.

His most well known role is perhaps the Baron in 'Gaite Parisienne'. He was captured on film by Warner Bros. in the 1940's (The Gay Parisien). Before I saw my first live ballet performance I saw this film many times in the foreign movie houses on 42nd Street. There is also a candid version made up of actual performances of the Ballet Russe.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Franklin---and thanks to ABT for giving us the priviledge of seeing him once again on the ballet stage. :crying:

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And thanks for your wonderful memories, atm711 :crying:

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Yes, thanks so much for posting, atm711. I hope Franklin has a wonderful birthday. Long may he wave!

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I had the privilege to speak to Mr. Franklin when he recently came here to receive some sort of Life Achievement Prize. He was totally charming and a fast responder, and he spoke briefly with me during Intermezzo. I remember asking him about Danilova, to which he laughed and told me that at first he had been scared to dance with her because "I was very young and she was..SOMETHING!"-(meaning her personality), but that later on they paired really good and that she was a great human being. I also had his autograph. :crying:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOUNG BOY!!

(Edited to add: I've always been very fond of the Ballet Russes/early Ballet Theater era, so by getting to talk to Mr. Franklin, I felt very honored to have been able to connect with such an important member of this past. He is a living treasure, and I had the same feeling as when I spoke to Mme. Alonso at one point during a book signing in Havana. Both are SO clever and they definitely project this special charm and glamour from that ballet past that I so love...Sometimes I wonder if we are talking full advantage of them while they are still with us...same with other that are still around, Zoritch, etc...)

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I knew little about Franklin until I saw the Ballet Russes DVD. He won me over hook, line, and sinker doing nothing more than the way he "sheparded" all the aging dancers upon the stage for the group tribute documented on that DVD. He struck me as the rare personality who remains charming while having the courage to put himself "out there" as well as having the forcefulness to make things happen by taking charge. (And his being "out there" still at 93 shows he hasn't lost any of that!)

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Thank you, atm. That was a wonderful tribute. And happy birthday to Mr. Franklin!

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I had the honor of working with Mr. Franklin several years ago in Washington DC. He never used any notes when setting a ballet, it was all from his memory. He had hilarious stories about the Ballet Russes. His classes were very tough but gave you the strength needed to survive the one night stands. I asked him once what his most difficult ballet was to perform, he told me it was The Red Poppy. Compliments from him were not given freely. Once I was thrown on as the pigtail girl in Graduation Ball and thought that I had ruined the performance. While getting on the bus after the show, to go back to the hotel, Freddie was sitting there and said to me -very good! That was a moment I will always treasure.

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More memories, please! Franklin's has been an extraordinary career, with an amazingly consisstent ommitment to ballet. What a life! It's wonderful to see some of it remembered -- and preserved -- here. :wink:

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I asked him once what his most difficult ballet was to perform, he told me it was The Red Poppy.

He performed the famous Russian Sailors' Dance (to the Gliere music) and this Englishman was brilliant. He did the deep knee bends (there is a name for this step which I do not know) and then rose triumphantly on his heels with his arms overhead. He regularly brought the house down with this solo. The Ballet Russe did a one-act version (by Igor Schwezoff) of the three-act Soviet ballet. It also included a ribbon dance by a bare-chested Igor Youskevitch (probably on leave from the U.S. Coast Guard during wartime)---and, of course, Danilova as Tai-Hoa. There was grumbling in some newspapers about putting on a Soviet themed ballet---but who could resist such a cast.

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Here's Leigh Witchel's New York Post interview with Franklin, originally posted by dirac in the Links forum on Monday.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/07062009/enter...tage_177845.htm

Friar Laurence is a small but pivotal role but, as Franklin proves, there are no small parts.

"The entrance, one would die for!" he says. "I open that little door and I'm on this huge stage alone -- there's no one but me!"

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atm 711, thanks for putting this topic up, and for sharing your experiences. I sure wish I'd seen him then.

One of Kevin McKenzie's great strong points is knowing how not to waste talent.

I anything could make me forgive him for Swamp thing, it's his knowing that Franklin's presence in Romeo and Juliet will give real weight and stature to the performance. Friar Lawrence has a profound sympathy with youth -- 'Our Romeo has not been in bed tonight" or "Such a light step will ne-er wear out the everlasting flint" -- he loves these kids, and Franklin has exactly the temperament for the role. It's a great part, and often given to people who can't give it any weight. Franklin's got the capacity for awe and for study, without which you can't believe that Friar Lawrence would know how to brew these potions.

I'd also love to see him as the Charlatan.

Thanks, Dale, for posting those articles.

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Yes, thanks for those marvellous articles, Dale. Was there anyone important Franklin DIDN'T work with or at least know? What a resource. I started to jot down the names --even Josephine Baker !!! -- but ran out of steam. :wink::o

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If you love Freddie Franklin (and who doesn't?) you won't want to miss Alex Gallafent's visit with him on today's The World on Public Radio International.

Stick with it until the end (just a shade under 8 minutes) for a precious story I hadn't heard before.

http://www.theworld.org/2010/03/05/dancing...1/#comment-6939

The accompanying photo collection is small but well chosen.

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Thank you, carbro, for that heads up.

A very poignant moment when Franklin talked about performing:

"I can walk onto that huge Met stage... and there is always somebody out there that remembers... which is lovely...."

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This was indeed very sweet -- I'm so glad that they aired it!

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To those who were fortunate enough to have seen Frederic Franklin dance in his youth I can only envy. I only saw him dance once when I was very young. It was during the last days of Ballet Russe on one of their long tours with a stop over in Boston. The ballet was Night Shadow, later called La Sonambula. All I can remember of it was Alexandra Danilova picking him up in her arms and bourreeing off upstage left with him cradled in her arms. Could that really be right? I've never seen that done in later productions so I wonder if my young eyes then could have left me with a distorted memory.

I met Franklin many years later as an adult with the Harkness Ballet. He dropped by and sat with a few of us in the canteen at Harkness House. He seemed an English gentleman. A few years later, as I was staging Pakita for Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Framklin had just finished staging Raymonda for them and had left. I wondered why Ballet West did not also have him stage Pakita while he was there, instead of flying me in to do it. But it could have been the director (Bruce Marks) wanted the Kirov version that I knew rather than the Ballet Russe version. Still, that would have been interesting to see.

Unlike others, fortunate enough to be in NY to see him with ABT, I only saw the ABT Swan Lake on TV with him as the tutor, in his advanced years of course. I wonder why England has never Knighted him but probably because he spent most all of his long life dancing in the USA and not the U.K. I would have loved to have seen him in Rodeo. My sincere congratulations to him for all he has done for American ballet and to be still on the stage at the age of 95. A true inspiration!

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To those who were fortunate enough to have seen Frederic Franklin dance in his youth I can only envy. I only saw him dance once when I was very young. It was during the last days of Ballet Russe on one of their long tours with a stop over in Boston. The ballet was Night Shadow, later called La Sonambula. All I can remember of it was Alexandra Danilova picking him up in her arms and bourreeing off upstage left with him cradled in her arms. Could that really be right? I've never seen that done in later productions so I wonder if my young eyes then could have left me with a distorted memory.

I met Franklin many years later as an adult with the Harkness Ballet. He dropped by and sat with a few of us in the canteen at Harkness House. He seemed an English gentleman. A few years later, as I was staging Pakita for Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Framklin had just finished staging Raymonda for them and had left. I wondered why Ballet West did not also have him stage Pakita while he was there, instead of flying me in to do it. But it could have been the director (Bruce Marks) wanted the Kirov version that I knew rather than the Ballet Russe version. Still, that would have been interesting to see.

Unlike others, fortunate enough to be in NY to see him with ABT, I only saw the ABT Swan Lake on TV with him as the tutor, in his advanced years of course. I wonder why England has never Knighted him but probably because he spent most all of his long life dancing in the USA and not the U.K. I would have loved to have seen him in Rodeo. My sincere congratulations to him for all he has done for American ballet and to be still on the stage at the age of 95. A true inspiration!

Another comment concerning Frederic Franklin. George Zoritch, who died last November at age 92 and was a neighbor of mine, often told me stories about the Ballet Russe dancers and about his own years with that company. He certainly liked to relate stories of the past. According to George, he saw Frederic Franklin dance at Goldern's Green in London, probably back in the late 1930s. He was comparitively unnknown then. George was impressed and introduced him to Serge Denham who straight away took him into The Ballet Russe. Franklin quickly became a star and contiues so to this day. First through his dancing in so many different roles with Ballet Russe ( must have been quite a leap in style from Raymonda to Rodeo) and later on for his incrediblel memory of ballets in order to stage them without notes. May he continue on doing so.

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Another comment concerning Frederic Franklin. George Zoritch, who died last November at age 92 and was a neighbor of mine, often told me stories about the Ballet Russe dancers and about his own years with that company. He certainly liked to relate stories of the past. According to George, he saw Frederic Franklin dance at Goldern's Green in London, probably back in the late 1930s. He was comparitively unnknown then. George was impressed and introduced him to Serge Denham who straight away took him into The Ballet Russe. Franklin quickly became a star and contiues so to this day. First through his dancing in so many different roles with Ballet Russe ( must have been quite a leap in style from Raymonda to Rodeo) and later on for his incrediblel memory of ballets in order to stage them without notes. May he continue on doing so.

Prior to joining the Ballet Russe, Frederick Franklin had worked with Josephine Baker at the Casino de Paris, appeared with Wendy Toye and Anton Dolin in cabaret and other dance activities in variety, concert ballet, vaudeville, and theatre. From there he progressed to the Vic-Wells ballet and then to the Markova Dolin Ballet.

Thanks for your post Richka, I am with you on praising and celebrating Frederick Franklin.

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All I can remember of it was Alexandra Danilova picking him up in her arms and bourreeing off upstage left with him cradled in her arms. Could that really be right? I've never seen that done in later productions so I wonder if my young eyes then could have left me with a distorted memory.
I have never not seen the Sleepwalker carry the poet off, but I have never seen her pick him up. To the best of my memory, she makes a great, circular swoon with her whole upper body before of the male entertainers place him in her arms, and she backs into the house, carrying him. I think have seen Sleepwalkers bouree back across the stage with the lifeless body, but lately I see more of them stand just before the doorway, so they can take one or two unsteady, flat-footed steps and Get The Job Done. Not a lot of magic in that. :D
I wonder why England has never Knighted him but probably because he spent most all of his long life dancing in the USA and not the U.K.
According to Franklin's Wikipedia page (badly in need of work), he is Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Knot a Knight, but still a Sir, albeit a less-sir.

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All I can remember of it was Alexandra Danilova picking him up in her arms and bourreeing off upstage left with him cradled in her arms. Could that really be right? I've never seen that done in later productions so I wonder if my young eyes then could have left me with a distorted memory.
I have never not seen the Sleepwalker carry the poet off, but I have never seen her pick him up. To the best of my memory, she makes a great, circular swoon with her whole upper body before of the male entertainers place him in her arms, and she backs into the house, carrying him. I think have seen Sleepwalkers bouree back across the stage with the lifeless body, but lately I see more of them stand just before the doorway, so they can take one or two unsteady, flat-footed steps and Get The Job Done. Not a lot of magic in that. :D
I wonder why England has never Knighted him but probably because he spent most all of his long life dancing in the USA and not the U.K.

According to Franklin's Wikipedia page (badly in need of work), he is Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Knot a Knight, but still a Sir, albeit a less-sir.

It's good that he has at least a C.E. I've never heard anyone call him Sir Frederic, may be confused with Sr. Frederic Ashton. When I worked with Robert Helpmann I always called him Sir Robert but don't think he would have minded if I didn't. I also worked with DAME Alicia Markova but always called her Dame Alicia.

But I lived and worked 7 years in the U.K. Thanx for the Sonambula info.

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I did see Franklin as Jean de Brienne in the Balanchine/Danilova Raymonda---I loved his comment about the armored costume he wore---he said it made him feel like Ingrid Bergman---and he surely did resemble her in Joan of Arc.... :D

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I did see Franklin as Jean de Brienne in the Balanchine/Danilova Raymonda---I loved his comment about the armored costume he wore---he said it made him feel like Ingrid Bergman---and he surely did resemble her in Joan of Arc.... :wink:

Where did you find this quote? Did he write his autobiography or in an interview? Was there actually a recent TV documentary with him because some are mentioning it. I didn't know about it so I must have missed it. There should be one on Marc Platt as well, as I guess he is probably one of the last of the Ballet Russe legends.There is a Ballet Russe gathering at University of Oklahoma next month but I can find very little about it.

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All I can remember of it was Alexandra Danilova picking him up in her arms and bourreeing off upstage left with him cradled in her arms. Could that really be right?
I've been thinking about this, because I so like your memory, but ...

The Sleepwalker never lets go of her candle, does she? I can't imagine that she -- even in the person of the great Danilova -- could lift a man from the ground while still holding onto the prop, even with a fake flame. How would she slide her hands beneath him? Not saying it didn't happen, just that I can't envision it.

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From Danilova's memoir, "Choura," (1986): "...the sleepwalker came to be one of my signature roles. Even now, there are people who tell me they cannot forget my performance in it. And now there is a legend about me -- they say that at the moment when I took the dead Poet in my arms and carried him off, I went up on the toes and carried him off the stage on pointe. It isn't true, but I'm flattered that I gave that impression."

Though it's clearly impossible to carry the Poet while on pointe, Danilova's account suggests that the Sleepwalker walked some distance with him in her arms. The way the scene goes today, the Poet is placed in the Sleepwalker's arms, she staggers a bit, and they disappear.

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