Noted Movie Producer Mike Frankovich Dies


M. J. (Mike) Frankovich, Hollywood producer who first gained fame as a UCLA football star and radio sportscaster and went on to head the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, has died. He was 83.

Frankovich died New Year's Day in Los Angeles of pneumonia after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. His wife of 51 years, British actress Binnie Barnes, sons Mike Jr. and Peter and daughter, Michele de Mott, were with him at his death.

A Bisbee, Ariz., native who moved west to attend UCLA, Frankovich parked cars, planted geraniums and dug ditches to support himself. He began producing radio shows in 1934 during his years as a sports announcer. He got into the film business by writing screenplays for Universal and Republic Pictures in the late 1930s.

Frankovich served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, earning the rank of colonel. Multilingual, he resumed his work in films in Europe after the war, and soon became a director and executive for Columbia's British operation.

He rose to worldwide production chief for Columbia, moving back to Hollywood in 1963. There he oversaw development of such films as "Cat Ballou" with Lee Marvin, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn, "To Sir With Love" with Poitier and the fact-based "In Cold Blood" and "A Man for All Seasons."

Frankovich gave up his title as first vice president in charge of world production at Columbia in 1967 to become an independent producer.

"The main reason," he told the Los Angeles Times at that time, "was that I wanted to make only the kind of pictures I myself was interested in--this as opposed to the 30 or 32 pictures a year I had supervised for the good of the company."

Among his pictures for Columbia were "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "Marooned," "Cactus Flower," "There's a Girl in My Soup," "Butterflies Are Free," "Forty Carats" and John Wayne's "The Shootist."

Rarely criticized for risque scenes, Frankovich told The Times in 1965: "There'll never be smut in my pictures. . . . If you look back at the big grossers, they were made with taste."

As a state-appointed member and president of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission in the early 1980s, Frankovich helped to bring the Raiders football team to Los Angeles. He also helped negotiate use of the Coliseum as the main venue for the 1984 Olympics.

Known for his silver hair and extravagant taste in colorful clothes, Frankovich was recognized for helping others. In 1984, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of his "varied and extensive record of humanitarian activities."

Frankovich served on the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees, the UCLA Chancellor's Associates and the Board of Trustees of St. John's Hospital Health Center. He was active in the American Film Institute from the time of its inception and served on its board and executive committee.

He also served as president of the International Heart of Variety Children's Charity and as chairman of the International Charities Committee.

In addition to his wife and children, Frankovich is survived by seven grandchildren.

He was the adopted son of the late comedian Joe E. Brown.

The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the John Douglas Franch Alzheimer's Research Clinic in Los Alamitos.

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