Arthur Franz, a character actor whose credits from a steady career in films and television include the 1957 movie “Hellcats of the Navy,” which also featured Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy Davis, has died. He was 86.
Franz died Saturday at St. John’s Hospital in Oxnard of heart failure and emphysema, friends and family members said. Franz, who lived in New Zealand until the last month or so, had been in failing health for some time and wanted to spend his remaining days in California.
Characterized in most references as a reliable character actor in roles calling for a friendly and sympathetic character, Franz achieved something in the prime of his career that every actor wants: steady work.
He was in the 1949 John Wayne film “Sands of Iwo Jima,” supplied the narration to 1954’s “The Caine Mutiny” and played a naval officer in 1951’s “Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man.” One of his better-known B films from the 1950s was “Invaders From Mars.”
His one starring role was in the 1952 film “The Sniper,” in which he played against type as an ex-soldier who snaps after being rejected in romance and goes on a killing spree in San Francisco. Directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Stanley Kramer, the film earned Franz the best reviews of his career.
When television started gearing up in the early 1950s, Franz often was cast in anthology theater series, including “Studio One,” “The Ford Television Theater” and “Zane Grey Theater.”
For nearly 30 years, he was one of the more recognizable faces to show up in guest roles on such popular television series as “Perry Mason,” “The FBI,” “The Mod Squad,” “The Virginian” and “Rawhide.”
His last film credit came in a production of “That Championship Season” in 1982.
Born in Perth Amboy, N.J., Franz became interested in acting in high school.
During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces as a navigator. According to his daughter Gina, he and his crew were shot down over Romania and spent a short time in a POW camp before escaping.
After the war, he earned his first screen credit in the 1948 film “Jungle Patrol,” which started a steady stream of screen work. After his starring turn in “The Sniper,” he was featured on the Ralph Edward’s television program “This Is Your Life.”
Two of his four marriages ended in divorce. His third wife, actress Doreen Lang, died in 1999.
Survivors include his fourth wife, Sharon; daughters Gina Martenson and Melissa Franz, both of Taos, N.M.; and son, Michael, who lives in the Lake Tahoe area.