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The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Above - 1924 ad for the Rayart serial BATTLING BREWSTER which co-starred Helen Holmes.
Franklyn Farnum

Sometimes spelled: Franklin Farnum

Real name: William Franklin Smith

1878 - 1961

William Franklin Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1878.

He did some early stage work and arrived in Hollywood circa 1915. And he did a name change to "Franklyn Farnum" (perhaps to capitalize on the Farnum name as real life brothers William and Dustin Farnum were heroes/leading men at the time).

Franklyn became an established and respectable star during the silent era, predominantly in low budget features and serials with western/outdoorsy themes. His time as a leading man ended in the mid 1920s as he approached fifty years of age. He successfully handled the migration to talking pictures and found work doing character/support roles. In B westerns, he generally portrayed a lawman, gang leader, ranch owner ... and often wore a suit.

As the years passed, movie jobs got smaller - and he'd pick up a day or two of work in uncredited/unbilled background roles. He continued working in various movies and television though the late 1950s, and his Hollywood career spanned about forty five years.

The February, 1936 issue of Picture Play magazine had a brief mention of a personal appearance tour by "stars of other days":

"Among the unsung heroes of Hollywood are the stars of other days, who no longer finding themselves in great demand around the studios, keep smiling and trying as best they can to make ends meet ..." "Recently Clara Kimball Young, Mildred Harris Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Bryant Washburn, Rex Lease, Franklyn Farnum and Leo White organized a unit and went on a personal-appearance tour. A few years ago the salaries of this combination would have been so prohibitive ..." "Today, they were glad of bookings, and the salary for the act was divided among them."

In the July, 1936 issue of Motion Picture magazine, there's a tidbit about "old-timers" and "once-stars" hired for (THE AMAZING EXPLOITS OF) THE CLUTCHING HAND (Weiss/Stage & Screen, 1936):

"... Clutching Hand serial, a remake of the one which starred Pearl White 20 years ago, will bring a lot of old-timers back in your eye. On the sets I noticed such once-stars as Bryant Washburn, William Farnum, Rex Lease, Jack Mulhall, Franklyn Farnum, Mae Busch, Reed Howes and Gaston Glass!"

He was (briefly) married to actress Alma Rubens, and the short-lived pairing was covered in various tradepapers and fan magazines. From the December, 1918 issue of Photoplay magazine:

"THE romance of Alma Rubens and Franklyn Farnum has been shattered, only two months after the marriage took place. Under the real name of both parties, Alma Smith versus William Smith, it became known that the bride filed papers for divorce. Miss Rubens married Mr. Farnum June 14 (1918) at Pomona, Cal."

Les Adams has Farnum in 200+ sound era films, and that includes 70 westerns and 10 serials.

Farnum passed away from lung cancer on July 4, 1961 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Farnum:

The Internet Broadway Database has Farnum in four New York stage plays between 1913-1929:

The Family Search website, California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more on William Franklin Smith / Franklyn Farnum:

  • Massachusetts birth ledger - line 36 of the ledger has William Franklin Smith born June 5, 1878 in Boston, Massachusetts to John B. and Martha J. Smith:
  • June 14, 1918 Los Angeles marriage license of 35 year old William Franklyn Smith (born Massachusetts) and 21 year old Alma Rueben (born California):
  • World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918 - 40 year old Franklyn William Farnum was born June 5, 1878; he lives at the Los Angeles Atheletic Club; occupation and employer is "Motion Picture ???" for "Universal City, Hollywood, California":
  • 1940 census - living in Los Angeles are 62 year old Franklin Farnum (born Massachusetts), his 41 year old wife Edith (born Pennsylvania), and their 15 year old daughter Geraldine (born California):
    1940 census takers worksheet - the Farnums are renting at 342 Cochran, Los Angeles. It appears that the occupations for Franklyn and Edith have been reversed by the census taker. Edith is "Extra - Motion Pictures", and in 1939, she worked 52 weeks and earned $1800.00. Franklyn's occupation is listed as "Assist Mgr. - Cigar plant", and in 1939, he worked 20 weeks and earned $1500.00:
  • World War II draft registration - 63 year old Franklin W. Farnum was born June 5, 1878 in Boston, Massachusetts; he and wife Edith live at 201 South Poinsetta Place, Los Angeles. Employer is listed as "Central Casting Agency":
  • Death certificate: Franklyn Farnum, AKA William Franklyn Smith, was born June 5, 1878 in Massachusetts; parents are unknown; he was widowed; occupation was "Actor - Free Lance and TV"; and his residence was 10209 Quill Avenue, Los Angeles. He passed away on July 4, 1961 from lung cancer at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. Death certificate informant was his daughter, Geraldine Rose. Pierce Bros. Hollywood was the funeral director and cremation at Chapel of the Pines.
  • California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - Franklyn Farnum was born June 5, 1878 in Massachusetts and passed away on July 4, 1961 in the Los Angeles area::

Find A Grave website has Farnum interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood, California:

Above - two page tradepaper ad for Farnum's VANISHING TRAILS serial for Selig in 1920.

Above - 1923 tradepaper ad for Farnum's new western series for independent producer Jesse J. Goldburg. In addition to Farnum, Goldburg employed Bill Cody and Bob Custer in western series.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Franklyn and future A list actress Jean Arthur in a lobby card from Farnum's THE GALLOPING DUDE (1925) for producer Jesse J. Goldburg.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Lobby card from OKLAHOMA JIM (Monogram, 1931). From left to right are Earl Dwire (Sergeant stripes), Franklyn Farnum, Bill Cody, William Desmond, Iron Eyes Cody (white headdress with the orange/red tipped feathers), Chief White Eagle (blue jacket), Andy Shuford, John Elliott (green jacket) and Bill Hazlett / Chief Many Treaties with the headdress with feathers marked in blue. This mediocre Bill Cody western has Desmond as the main heavy. Crop/blowups below with closer view of the faces.

Earl Dwire, Franklyn Farnum, Bill Cody and William Desmond.

Iron Eyes Cody, Chief White Eagle, Andy Shuford, John Elliott and Bill Hazlett / Chief Many Treaties.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Franklyn Farnum, Bob Custer and George Chesebro mixing it up in a scene from Custer's MARK OF THE SPUR (Big 4, 1932).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Franklyn Farnum, Fred Parker, hero Wally Wales and Karla Cowan in a scene from the three reel short, ARIZONA CYCLONE (Imperial, 1934).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Franklyn Farnum, Lafe McKee, Bill Cody, Ada Ince and Bill Cody, Jr. in Cody's FRONTIER DAYS (Spectrum, 1934).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a photo of a title lobby card showing Franklyn Farnum and Bill Cody in BORDER GUNS (Aywon, 1934), one of a trio of (terrible) films that Cody did for grade Z film producer Robert J. Horner.

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