Sidney Franklin (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 07, 2022

A sun tan was the reason for Sidney Franklin becoming a director. His earliest ambition was to be an actor, and so he cast his lot with the then struggling motion picture industry. After his first picture for D. W. Griffith, “The Sheriff,” he won a role in “Intolerance.”

For a scene in that film he was called upon to appear clad only in shorts. Franklin took advantage of this to get a sun tan. He fell asleep and, upon awakening, found himself so dangerously burned that he was carried to a hospital. With that incident he ended his career as an actor and became camera assistant to the late George Hill, who also became famous as a director.

Sold Film to Griffith

Then Sidney directed and photographed his own production, entitled “The Baby,” which D. W. Griffith bought on sight in the projection room. Next, with his brother, Chester Franklin, who later directed “Sequoia,” Sidney directed a series of features and serials, including “Let Katie Do It,” “Going Straight,” “Jack and the Bean Stalk,” and “Aladdin and His Lamp.”

Standing alone, he directed “The Safety Curtain,” “The Forbidden City,” “Her Only Way,” “Smilin’ Through,” “Courage,” “East is West,” “Her Night of Romance,” “Brass,” “Dulcie,” “Beverly of Graustark,” “Duchess of Buffalo.”

Directed “Good Earth”

He was placed under long-term contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, for which company his first picture was The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, starring Norma Shearer. Since then he has directed “Private Lives,” “Smilin’ Through,” The Barretts of Wimpole Street, “The Guardsman,” Reunion in Vienna, “Quality Street,” “The Dark Angel” and the smash hit The Good Earth.

Recently Franklin was signed to the longest-term contract ever committing a director to one studio, a total of seven consecutive years.

Franklin was born in San Francisco on March 21, the son of an army colonel. He was raised in San Francisco, attending public schools there, and he still considers the Bay City his home. He is one of the quietest luminaries in Hollywood. A scholarly man, he is seldom seen in public places. He has one son, Sidney Franklin, Jr.

He is five feet six inches in height, weighs 130 pounds and has brown hair and eyes.

Shortly after completion of “The Good Earth” Franklin married Mrs. Ruth Nagel. Their home is in Brentwood.

The director has several hobbies. One is sleight-of-hand tricks, a hobby shared by his brother, Chester Franklin. The two sometimes do an “act” together for the amusement of their friends.

Has “Human Touch”

His outstanding quality in direction is described as “the human touch” by picture people, but this term does not fully explain the subtle methods he uses. He never instructs players, but suggests ideas in general conversation. He is a great believer in photography to carry across a point. In “The Good Earth,” for instance, he kept Luise Rainer in drab lighting until her moment with Paul Muni in the garden, during the planting of the peach tree, where love is born to the couple. Then he used lighting and photography that made her absolutely beautiful for the first time in the picture; beautiful as she looked in the eyes of the bridegroom. Words could not have expressed this.

With a keen and whimsical sense of humor, Franklin keeps his companies in laughter much of the working day, a device that aids morale. And despite the interludes of laughter, he obtains dramatic effects that often plumb the very depths of human emotion.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937