Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gary Franklin on TV

On YouTube I just found this clip of Gary Franklin from when he was working at KCOP-Channel 13 and reporting on the final performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Music Center. It's classic Gary including a wonderfully wry comment at the very end.

If anyone else out there has footage of Gary on video, upload them to YouTube or other online video sites, because that would be great. Especially clips of him reviewing movies using the Franklin Scale.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reprint: L.A. Times on Gary Franklin

Gary Franklin, 79; popular film critic on local TV created 1-to-10 rating scale
Gary Franklin

1991 File Photo

GARY FRANKLIN: The KABC veteran was known for his "1 to 10, 10 being best" scale of movie ratings.
By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 4, 2007

Gary Franklin, the Los Angeles television and radio entertainment critic and reporter who became a household name in the 1980s critiquing movies and TV shows on "the Franklin Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best," has died. He was 79.

Franklin died Tuesday at his home in Chatsworth, said his daughter, Daryle Esswein. Although the cause of death was unknown, he had suffered four strokes in recent years.

The German-born Franklin first came to the attention of Southern Californians in the 1970s as the roving nightside radio reporter for all-news radio station KFWB-AM, where he signed off in "Dragnet"-like style: "Gary Franklin, Car 98, out!"

While at KFWB, Franklin occasionally filled in as a movie reviewer, and in 1981 he replaced David Sheehan as the entertainment critic at KNXT-TV Channel 2 (now KCBS-TV).

Five years later, Franklin moved to KABC-TV Channel 7, where he remained until 1991.

With his memorable "Franklin Scale," his often acerbic comments and his regular attacks on exploitative violence and sex in movies, Franklin was considered a breakthrough local TV news personality.

"Bobbing his bald, conical head vigorously, he rates films with the arch, over-enunciated manner of a schoolmarm lecturing a sixth-grade science class," The Times' Patrick Goldstein wrote in 1983.

While noting that it may be hard for some people to take seriously a critic who "scores movies as if they were earthquakes," Goldstein wrote, Franklin was "the talk of the town."

Indeed, people had begun rating their food at restaurants on a 1-to-10 scale. Gary Franklin impressions turned up on answering machines. And a local newspaper used a Franklin sound-alike in its radio ads promoting the newspaper's TV section. Franklin, who relished the attention, tooled around L.A. in a car whose license plate read: "ONE 2 TEN."

"Prior to Gary, you had David Sheehan doing movie reviews at Channel 2, and even though he was a good reviewer, he didn't have a shtick. Gary had a gimmick," Jeff Wald, then-news director at KCOP-TV Channel 13, told The Times in 1991.

Wald, who hired Franklin as an entertainment reporter at KCOP in 1992, praised Franklin on Wednesday for being a critic who "understood the movie business and did his homework."

"He was a real character -- his style, his persona on the air -- and yet, it was genuinely him," Wald said. "If he was excited about a movie, you could feel the exuberance."

Given the size of his local television audience, Franklin's opinions carried a lot of weight.

"I'd sure rather have a 10 than a 7 or a 7 than a 4," veteran producer Lawrence Turman ("The Graduate," "Short Circuit") told the Orange County Register in 1987. "I look to him. In one's hometown, he's clearly powerful and influential."

According to a 1997 story in Variety, Franklin became persona non grata at Warner Bros. after director Oliver Stone received a zero on the Franklin Scale for "Natural Born Killers," which Franklin deemed a "cultural crime." And Madonna earned a "minus 5" from Franklin for "Truth or Dare."

Franklin told Variety that when he informed "studio flacks" who called after a press screening that he was going to give a film that he really liked a 9 they often lobbied for a 10.

"To my everlasting shame and disgrace, I'd make it a 10," he said.

Although Franklin had his share of critics who deplored the use of "scale ratings," there was no question Franklin had his fans.

"He has a personality that is blatantly offensive to all the pointy-headed people out there but well-received by all the real people," Van Gordon Sauter, former general manager of KNXT-TV Channel 2 and former president of CBS News, told The Times in 1991.

Don Tillman, executive director of USC Television, a division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, said Wednesday that Franklin was "like a consumer advocate" and that his Franklin Scale "was valuable from the point of view of the average [TV] viewer or person who buys a movie ticket."

"Gary could bring it into perspective very quickly whether I'm going to watch that television show or movie," Tillman said. "He had a credibility about him."

Franklin said in a 1991 interview with The Times that he hoped to be remembered for more than just ranking movies from 1 to 10.

"I have always let my social conscience influence my criticism," he said. "People should be speaking out about the effects of movie violence, brutality and sexuality in the world, and I'm glad I've had the chance to make a tiny impact. . . . "That's how I'd like to be remembered. And perhaps for having saved [my viewers] a few bucks here and there."

An only child, Franklin was born in Leipzig, Germany, on Sept. 22, 1928. Fleeing the Nazis in 1938, his Jewish family settled in New York City.

After graduating from City College of New York with a film degree, Franklin served in the Army as a combat and documentary cameraman in Korea before producing television documentaries in New York and Canada.

After launching his broadcasting career in Virginia in 1954, he worked in radio and television around the country before becoming a reporter for KFWB in 1972.

Franklin left KABC Channel 7 in 1991 to take a job as a development executive at a commercial television network in Germany.

By then, he had tired of "going to movies night after night, sometimes two or three movies a day," he told The Times. "It was turning my brains to Jell-O. Unless it was a really gripping film, I was tending to fall asleep, as some [newspaper writers] have commented. And I'm not ashamed of that. It's as good a barometer on the quality of a film as any."

After only a couple of months in Germany, Franklin returned to Los Angeles, where -- after failing to regain his job at KABC-TV -- he was entertainment critic at KCOP-TV Channel 13 for three years.

Franklin, who had a lifelong passion for photography, gave numerous exhibitions of his work. In recent years, he wrote movie reviews for his blog, franklinscale.blogspot.com.

In addition to his daughter Daryle, Franklin is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sylvia; daughter Michelle Truesdell; and four grandchildren.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Korea: Coldest Winter

Readers of this site familiar with Gary Franklin, no doubt recall that Gary served in the Korean War as a combat cameraman and photographer. Many of Gary's most amazing photographs come from the war, including an excellent photograph of President-Elect Eisenhower visiting the troops in December of 1952.

The last email exchange I had with Gary just days before his passing, was about David Halberstam's last book, "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War". Gary said he was going to check it out.

I know I'm going to read it. Gary always wanted people to pay attention to the lessons of history. And the history of the Korean war was very important to him. The sacrifice and service of veterans like him is certainly something we should pay attention to and honor.

Great Movie

I saw Fast Food Nation on cable the other night. The film has a great cast, and was expertly written and directed by Richard Linklater, based on the non-fiction best seller by Eric Schlosser. It's a film with a social conscience and takes on some of the main issues of our day: illegal immigration, wages, fast food jobs, health care and the food we eat. I dare say if Gary were here, he'd give Fast Food Nation a 10, maybe a 10+.

Rent it. NetFlix it. Buy it. Just see it, as soon as you can.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Remembering Gary

This email came in the other day:
My brothers who still live in southern California sent me Gary Franklin’s obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

I would appreciate it if you would pass along my deepest sympathies to his family. I would also like them to know how he changed my life.

It was more than 20 years ago and I was in high school. My English class had gone to see Peter Pan at the Pantages Theatre. Gary was there, I guess, to review it, and he also, if I remember correctly, had a crew and live truck with him so he could report on the show that night.

My mom, classmates and I were all standing outside the theatre when I spotted him. I was already a news junkie back then and was a big fan of his. I was a little nervous about approaching him, but finally decided to.

He couldn’t have been nicer or more generous with his time. Here he was before the show, spending at least the next 20 minutes talking with me, sharing stories of how he got into news and offering advice and encouragement.

Several years later, when I was in college in Los Angeles, I got an internship first at KHJ-TV (now KCAL Ch. 9) and then at KCBS-TV. At both stations, I spent time working with their entertainment reporters, in large part based on my conversation and experience with him. That internship at Channel 9 turned into a job, in fact, where I worked as the entertainment producer while still in college.

I ended up deciding not to stick with entertainment reporting. But, my experience in those newsrooms exposed me to news reporting and the news business and I was hooked. When I graduated from college, I made the switch to general assignment reporting.

I am now an investigative reporter and weekend morning anchor with 20 years in the business. I have won awards for my work and my stories have helped changed lives. But, all of this might never have happened had Gary not taken the time and been so kind to an adoring fan in high school so long ago.

I had, at times, thought about writing and thanking him. I’m sure he would not have remembered our meeting. But, I wanted him to know he’d made a difference.

I’m now sorry that I never did that. But, I, at least, wanted you to know.

Thank you.

Jennifer Kraus

Investigative Reporter/Weekend Morning Anchor

NewsChannel 5

The future of this site

It is my intention to keep the Franklin Scale up and running. If nothing else it's a place where people will be able to find some of Gary's last pieces of writing about films, history, politics, and society.

Sharing his opinions and ideas was very important to him. He always had some idea or thought he wanted to communicate.

Also, shortly before his passing Gary finished up a draft of his memoirs, "The Jew from Christian Street". In recent months Gary was seeking interested buyers or publishers, even for a limited edition. He envisioned the book as an illustrated autobiography as it would include hundreds of his best photographs.

The manuscript still needs some editing and organizational work, but my idea was that it would make an excellent large format coffee table book showcasing his achievements in photography.

Perhaps I will post up excerpts from his book, so everyone can get a look at what he was working on. The telling of his life story, especially the story of his childhood escape from Nazi Germany with his parents is a harrowing tale.

I may also scan some of his photographs as well.

Those of you who remember garyfraklin.com from some years ago, will remember that Gary updated that site almost everyday with a new commentary usually enhanced with some of his favorite photos.

When Gary quit updating garyfranklin.com I coaxed him into blogging. Since he didn't want to deal with the technical details, he would email me his commentaries and then I'd post them here. He had a wide ranging intellect. He was concerned about the future of humanity. He called himself a "law and order Democrat". He had ideas about how the all news radio stations could fix up their programming. He felt local TV news and network news also needed a great deal of reforming and new ideas. And so he shared his ideas here on this site, and the L.A. Radio website.

But, he also continued to write about film, and rate them on his famous Franklin Scale. He also had a deep love for classical music, and swing era jazz.

If you read through this site you will find recent films he enjoyed such as Sicko, An Inconvenient Truth, The Lives of Others, and so many more.

If you want to see Gary in a film, check out his short scene playing a radio reporter at the end of the 1977 film Rollercoaster. Gary shows up right at the end to interview George Segal who's just saved the roller coaster.

Thinking back of films Gary talked about often, he really admired John Frankenheimer's The Train from 1964, staring Burt Lancaster. But, I think his favorite film was On The Beach, staring Gregory Peck, Eva Gardner, Anthony Perkins, and Fred Astaire in his most dramatic role.

Gary Franklin had good taste. And if you are able to think about films, theatre, television, music and culture through the prism of his higher standards, you'll find yourself developing a more refined sense of good taste in art and culture yourself.

Friday, October 05, 2007

More Thoughts

There's been more coverage of Gary's passing, and Gary's life.

The O.C. Register:


Gary Franklin was a vocal and passionate man. You could see it in his photography, his movie reviews, and when he was the "Car 98" roving reporter on KFWB/980 AM in the 1970s.

Franklin, 79, died Oct. 2. While we remember him for his radio days, he is best known for creating "The Franklin Scale," one of the first 1-to-10 ratings for movies when he was on Channel 2 and later Channel 7 and Channel 13.

Gary's former employer, KABC channel 7.

L.A. Daily News.

San Jose Mercury News.

TV Squad.

Also, Daily Variety.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

L.A. Times Obituary

Here's Gary Franklin's obituary in The Los Angeles Times written by Dennis McLellan.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Memorial Site for Gary Franklin

Dear Los Angeles and Beyond,

Mr. L. E. McClintock, my dad's blog guru, has suggested that this might be an excellent place to remember my dad. I agree.

Although my father has not been publicly active these past years, his legacy lives on. It never occurred to me the extent of his popularity, until I noticed that the people on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand seemed to constantly stare at them. We joked that his bald head perhaps reminded the locals of their beloved Buddha. However, the real reason is that he made such an impact on Los Angeles households in the 1970's and 1980's.

His fierce independent streak probably started when his parents insisted that he roam Leipzig, Germany BY HIMSELF, in the 1930's. His parents were worried by the doom of their future and wanted him to be able to survive on his own. Finally, immediately after Kristallnacht, a German police office approached my grandfather and told him that he was in danger, and to get out immediately. My doctor grandfather treated Germans for VD and had friends in strange places. After the SS destroyed their apartment and threw my dad and grandmother down the stairs, my dad had to go crawl back into the apartment with toppled furniture and get the last of the money stashed away.

Fast forward to the Korean War, my father had the time of his life stationed in Tokyo as a cameramen. Much of the real footage recorded during this time was from the work of my father, friend Bob Hummel, and Bert Stern (of Marilyn Monroe picture fame). Photography later became his passion.

After many stints in the radio and television business, including, Norfolk, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland (PBS), at ABC news (a writer) in New York, WIND (all news as a reporter), and KYW (a much despised job as a News Director), he moved on to "Car 98" at KFWB. I can't tell you how many times my mom got mad as we dashed home smelling like a forest fire. He loved Los Angeles. The schools were outstanding and competent. The LAPD was world reknown. Stephen Speilberg once told him that he was the "Forest Gump of Journalism".

Finally, he ended up as the local LA film critic. I still see his quotes on movie rentals.

To steal Councilman Zine's words this morning. "Car 98 Out!"

Thank you to the mayors office for assisting us with the death of my father. I have never experienced something so traumatic before, but thanks to the support from the people of Los Angeles, I am at peace..and so hope the same for my father.

No memorial service is scheduled.



I'm sorry to report that Gary S Franklin has passed.

His daughter sent word via email to those on Gary's email list:
My name is Daryle Esswein. I am the daughter of Gary Franklin.

I figure that the recipients on this list might want to know that my father passed away today. I'm guessing that most of you are friends.

I'm sorry to notify you by e-mail.



Responding to the the email list came this comment from L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine:
Gary Franklin, KFWB Car 98 was a legend in Los Angeles radio. I met Gary when I was a Sgt. with the Los Angeles Police Department. Gary was a reporter who knew how to cover news stories and get to the point. I assisted Gary with many stories and always enjoyed listening to him on the radio.

I have kept in touch with Gary over the years and am so sorry to hear of his death. Like Gary would say.......Car 98 Out......May Gary Franklin Rest in Peace.

I will be adjourning the Los Angeles City Council meeting in memory of Gary Franklin....

Dennis P. Zine
Los Angeles City Councilman

Gary was a great friend to have and everything he did with his life, from his extraordinary photographs from the war in Korea, to Hollywood celebrities, his writing and reporting for news radio and television, to his work as L.A.'s most significant and intellectual film and cultural critic of all time, still doesn't fully convey what a great man he was.

Condolences to his friends and family....