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Anthony Franciosa

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 21, 2006

I crossed paths with Anthony Franciosa only once. The actor, who has died, was on a 1984 press tour -- my first such excursion to Hollywood -- to promote ''Finder of Lost Loves,'' an attempt by producer Aaron Spelling to find another ''Fantasy Island'' or ''Love Boat.'' Although the memory can play tricks, I remember Franciosa as pleasant but not saying much, with more of the press session carried by his co-star Deborah Adair.

The series lasted only one season, in keeping with other Franciosa series like ''Valentine's Day'' and ''Matt Helm.'' ''The Name of the Game'' had a decent run, and I watched it devotedly as a teenager, but it was not Franciosa's show alone; he would star in some segments, Robert Stack in others, Gene Barry in still others. (Barry was a magazine publisher, Stack and Franciosa two of the people working for him.)

But Franciosa's passing  should be noted by students of television because of something he did on the big-screen. He was in ''A Face in the Crowd.''

''Face,'' from 1957, is one of the best movies ever made about television. It may even be better than the oft-lauded ''Network,'' although it's close between those two. ''Face'' starred Andy Griffith as a low-life country performer who becomes a sensation on radio and then on TV with a blend of patter, music and commentary. (The comparisons to Arthur Godfrey are considerable.) Lonesome Rhodes -- Griffith's character -- is so influential, he begins to see his power as extending beyond selling products to selling politicians. Fortunately, before he can get very far into that, his personal flaws and betrayals catch up to him. But don't kid yourself that the movie ends optimistically; there's always another Lonesome Rhodes waiting in the wings.

Franciosa plays an ambitious agent who connects with Rhodes on the rise, but whose main interest is himself. It's a good part, and Franciosa is fine in it, but it's the movie overall that still feels fresh and frightening about the ways TV, personality and politics can intersect.

You can find an obituary of Franciosa here.

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