The Most Intense Actor Since John Wilkes Booth

15 Mar


It is with heavy heart I look down on the hulking  frame of Franklin McLeay.

His huge heart beats no more.  His manly face now just a mask of death.  Out, out brief candle. Looking at him now floods me with thoughts of all those marvelous dying scenes he once essayed.  He truly brought death to life every time.

I was blessed to share the stage with him rarely, but memorably. I was just a lad and this Lion of the Limelight was in his roaring prime.  I remember our first night sharing the climactic scene.  His hot breath was a strong as a horse’s tail when he barked his lines at me.  He fiercely squeezed me in his fatherly embrace.  He hugged me so hard that he forced all of the air from my sixty-seven pound body.  I had no choice but to black-out.
As I had the next line, the play could not proceed without my regaining consciousness.  A less brave or professional actor might have rung the curtain down or called for a physician. But Franklin was not the sort to throw in the towel easily.  So for the time I was incapacitated, Franklin bellowed an improvisatory monologue. I was to later find out that it was a grand mix of the Scottish Play and a radio spot that he had recently recorded for Butterick’s Liver Comfits.

I whispered my thanks to him even before the curtain fell on our encore. Mr. McLeay just glared at me with that icy demeanor he had perfected in his dealings with stage managers over the years.  Then to try and teach me a lesson about professionalism (and not because he owned a piece of the show) he insisted that I be docked for the time I was unconscious.

Dear, dear Franklin, we shall all miss him.


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