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Who the Hell is Franklyn Farnum?

June 2, 2011
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Which actor has appeared in more Best Pictures than any other actor?

Clark Gable? Nope.

Jack Nicholson. Sorry.

Meryl Streep. Good guess, but wrong again.

Answer: Franklyn Farnum.

Franklyn Farnum?

Who the hell is Franklyn Farnum?

Farnum was a minor character actor and film extra whose career in Hollywood spanned over four decades. Born William Smith in 1878, he began acting in vaudeville shows at age 12. He continued to work in the theater for a number of years, in both plays and musicals, before entering silent films at age 40. He made his film debut in 1916’s The Heart of a Showgirl. Over the course of his career, Farnum appeared in over 400 films.

Farnum, alas, never became a well-known film actor. He was typically cast in westerns, and the films in which he did have a leading role—Vanishing Trails (1920), The Clock (1917), The Firebrand (1922), The Drug Store Cowboy—have regrettably become tiny, mostly forgotten footnotes in movie history.

However, Farnum just might be the Forrest Gump of Academy Award history…for although he doesn’t play a prominent or memorable role in any of them, he appears in 6 films that have won Best Picture, more than any other actor.

Here’s a list of those films, and the part Farnum played in each of them:

  • The Life of Emile Zola (1937) – Extra (uncredited)
  • The Lost Weekend (1945) – Concert Attendee
  • Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) – Party Guest
  • All About Eve (1950) – Sarah Siddons Awards Guest
  • The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) – Spectator
  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) – Extra

And if that weren’t enough, Farnum also made brief appearances in Stagecoach (1939), Strangers on a Train (1951), Sunset Boulevard (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), A Star is Born (1954), White Christmas (1954), East of Eden (1955), Guys and Dolls (1955), and The Ten Commandments (1956), as well as many other films and TV shows. (And in case you’re wondering, no, he didn’t appear in Forrest Gump. Farnum passed away in 1961 at the age of 83.)

Sadly, the old cliché isn’t true: there are indeed small parts–in the movies, anyway. But if you appear in enough great films, even if your part is small, you just might leave a big mark after all. Need any proof, just look at Franklyn Farnum.

But don’t blink, or you might miss him.


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