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Franklin Schaffner; Won Oscar as ‘Patton’ Director

Times Staff Writer

Academy and Emmy award-winning director Franklin J. Schaffner died early Sunday at his home in Santa Monica.

Schaffner, 69, died 10 days after being released from a hospital where he had been treated for lung cancer, a family spokesperson said. His wife, Jean, and daughters Jenny and Kate were at his bedside.

The movie maker won both the Academy Award and Directors Guild Award in 1970 for his direction of “Patton,” a film that reaped seven other Oscars for its depiction of the career of the famed World War II general. George C. Scott played the title role, but turned down his Oscar for best actor.

Other Film Works

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Other films directed by Schaffner included “Papillon,” the 1973 hit starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman; the 1968 science fiction film, “Planet of the Apes,” starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall; and “The Boys from Brazil,” starring Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck.

Schaffner was born in Tokyo of Protestant missionary parents. After the death of his father when Schaffner was 5, he came to the United States and was raised in Amish country in Lancaster, Pa. He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.

World War II intervened on his plans for law school and he joined the Navy.

A brief stint with a world peace organization after the war led to an assistant directorship with the documentary film series, “The March of Time.” That, in turn, led to a job in 1948 with CBS television. With the network, Schaffner helped pioneer the varied programming found on television today.

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Aired Dodger Games

He began directing baseball broadcasts from Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also directed the evening news, coverage of the political conventions of 1948 and 1952, dramatic programs and broadcasts of live theater--including productions of “Studio One,” “Ford Theatre” and “Playhouse 90.”

He won Emmy awards for television productions of “Twelve Angry Men” in 1954 and “Caine Mutiny Court Martial” in 1955, and for a series, “The Defenders,” in 1962.

After 15 years of learning his craft in documentary and television work, Schaffner came to Hollywood in 1963 to direct “The Stripper,” with Joanne Woodward, based on William Inge’s play, “A Loss of Roses.”

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Schaffner’s last production, “Welcome Home"--the story of the return of a Vietnam veteran, who had been missing in action and presumed dead for 17 years--was finished in April and is scheduled for release by Columbia Pictures in September, publicist Michael Roth said Sunday.

Concealed Illness

Not many people, even those close to Schaffner, knew of his illness, said Sidney Wise, director of the Franklin J. Schaffner Film Library, at Franklin and Marshall College.

“Franklin knew since February that he was ill, but he wanted as few people to know so that he could continue doing his work without being hampered as long as he could and as well as he could,” said director Daniel Petrie, a member of the Director’s Guild Council. “Franklin should be remembered not only for his great film works, but on the basis of his standing in the community and the many things he has done for the industry.”

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Schaffner also served as a member of the National Council for the Arts, a member of the Presidential Task Force on the Arts and Humanities, chairman of the executive committee of the American Film Institute and a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Petrie said.

“Franklin had his own unique wry sense of humor,” Petrie said. “Dry wit behind elegance is how one could describe him. He was tall and imposing, almost intimidating. But if you looked at him very closely you would see a most pronounced twinkle.”

Besides his wife and daughters, Schaffner is survived by two sisters, Isabelle R. Schaffner and Mrs. Willis C. Armstrong, both of Washington.

Funeral services will be private.

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A memorial service at the Directors Guild of America headquarters in Los Angeles is in the planning stages. Schaffner’s term as president of the guild expired recently.

The family suggests that contributions be made to the Franklin J. Schaffner Fund for Cancer Research at St. John’s Hospital, Santa Monica.


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