×

James Frawley, Director of ‘The Monkees,’ ‘The Muppet Movie,’ Dies at 82

James Frawley, a prolific filmmaker who won an Emmy for directing the first episode of “The Monkees” and helmed “The Muppet Movie,” died Jan. 22 at his home in Indian Wells, Calif. He was 82.

His wife, Cynthia Frawley, told Variety that her husband died following a heart attack.

Born on Sept. 29, 1936, in Houston, Frawley was the youngest son of actor William Frawley. He broke into the entertainment business as a television actor with credits on “The Seasons of Youth,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Outer Limits” and “Perry Mason.”

Frawley was chosen selected by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider to direct the first episode of “The Monkees,” starring Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz. He won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series in 1967 for the episode “Royal Flush” and was nominated the following year for the segment “The Devil and Peter Tork.”

“I picked up a 16mm camera, and I shot two short films and edited them myself. They won a lot of awards and attracted the attention of Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, two young producers in Hollywood at that time. Because I had been an improvisational actor and done a lot of comedy, they thought I’d be a perfect combination to direct The Monkees,” Frawley said in a 2007 interview with SFGate.

Dolenz said Frawley deserved a large share of the credit for the show’s success: “He not only coached us in the art of improvisation but brought to the party a brilliant sense of humor, a dazzling intellect, and the patience of a saint when it came to dealing with the completely off the wall antics of the improvisational, spontaneous monster that they had created…  ‘They’ being, Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and, Jim Frawley.”

“I liken it to a fission reaction. If you keep the lid on too tight, the fire goes out. If you take the lid off, it burns a hole through the center of the earth. To the credit of the producers, the writers, and largely to Jim Frawley, they somehow managed to sustain the reaction, control it, contain it, and use it to create a show that I feel blessed to be a part of and through the hard work of many, lives on to this day,” Dolenz added.

Frawley was also hired by Jim Henson to direct 1979’s “The Muppet Movie,” in which where Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and friends traveled across America to find success in Hollywood. His trademark cry on set was “Cut, print, yes!”

He also directed episodes of “That Girl,” “Columbo,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Judging Amy,” “Chicago Hope,” “Law & Order,” “The Father Dowling Mysteries,” “Picket Fences,” “Magnum P.I” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” He directed the Emmy-nominated pilot for “Ally McBeal,” one of more than a dozen that he helmed, including two for David Letterman. He was also nominated for an Emmy for the 2000 pilot of “Ed.”

He moved in 2009 with his wife from Los Angeles to Indian Wells. Frawley is survived by his wife of 35 years. Donations may be made to the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

More Film

  • The Speech

    Charades Rolls Into EFM with Pre-Sales on 'The Rosemaker,' 'The Speech' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Charades, the sales firm launched three years ago by former execs at Wild Bunch, Gaumont and Studiocanal, will roll into the Berlinale’s European Film Market with a raft of pre-sales on anticipated French projects, including “The Rosemaker” with Catherine Frot and Laurent Tirard’s “The Speech.” Charades will unveil the promos of both films, as well [...]

  • Dexter Fletcher73rd British Academy Film Awards,

    'Rocketman' Filmmaker Dexter Fletcher to Direct 'The Saint' Reboot (EXCLUSIVE)

    After the success of its Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” Paramount has set filmmaker Dexter Fletcher to direct another high-profile project for the studio. Fletcher will helm “The Saint,” a reboot of its 1997 action thriller that starred Val Kilmer. The globe-trotting adventure is based on the 1920s novel series written by Leslie Charteris. Seth Grahame-Smith [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Jury Deliberations Begin in Harvey Weinstein Rape Trial

    Jury deliberations in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein began Tuesday. After a six-week trial, a 12-member panel of New Yorkers will now decide if the former movie mogul goes free or spends the rest of his life behind bars. The case is considered to be a landmark moment for the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, [...]

  • Rory KennedyDiscovery 'Above and Beyond: NASA'S

    Boeing 737 Max Disaster Series in Works From Rory Kennedy, Imagine Documentaries (EXCLUSIVE)

    Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy is teaming with Imagine Entertainment for a new series about the tragedy and subsequent scandal over the defunct Boeing 737-Max airplane, sources tell Variety. Kennedy and her husband and producing partner, Emmy-nominated writer Mark Bailey, are teaming up with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s unscripted division at Imagine, run by Justin [...]

  • Otto Rehhagel, second from left, the

    Piece of Magic Takes Rights to Soccer Documentary 'King Otto'

    Piece of Magic Entertainment, the distributor behind recent docs “Apollo 11” and “Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love,” has picked up international theatrical distribution rights for the underdog sports tale “King Otto.” The doc follows the improbable path of the 2004 Greek National Soccer team, which went from never winning a single tournament match to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content