Wendell James Franklin, 78; Pioneering Hollywood Executive


Wendell James Franklin, a pioneering Hollywood executive who in 1960 became the first African American member of the Directors Guild of America, has died. He was 78.

Franklin died of cancer in Los Angeles on July 22, Joe Bleeden, a friend for 40 years, said this week.

Franklin began his entertainment career as a parking attendant at NBC. Within a dozen years, he had become the second African American stage director in network television.

Franklin was stage manager for several live shows including “The Jerry Lewis Show,” “The Nat King Cole Show,” “Queen for a Day” and “This Is Your Life.”


Among the popular television shows he helped direct were “McMillan and Wife,” “Green Hornet” and the 1969-71 “Bill Cosby Show.”

Franklin worked for all the major film studios, and was assistant director of such hits as “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Funny Girl” and “McHale’s Navy.”

After “Greatest Story,” about the life of Christ, in 1965, Franklin received a plaque from the Los Angeles City Council and the People’s Independent Church of Christ recognizing his efforts to promote harmonious race relations within the movie industry.

Franklin was also honored over the years by the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, San Francisco International Film Festival and Black Filmmaker Hall of Fame.


He served on the Los Angeles County Housing Commission and was president of the Beverly Hills NAACP. During World War II, he served in the Army.

Survivors include a son, Wendell Valentine Franklin.