Victor French

Victor Edwin French (December 4, 1934 – June 15, 1989) was an American actor and director.[1] He is remembered for roles on the television programs Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven, and Carter Country.

Victor French
A black-and-white photographic portrait of a man smiling, staring at camera
French in 1977
Victor Edwin French

(1934-12-04)December 4, 1934
DiedJune 15, 1989(1989-06-15) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1954–1989
Spouse(s)Judith Schenz
(m. 1959; div. 1975)
(m. 1976; div. 1978)

Early careerEdit

French was born in Santa Barbara, California, to an Armenian mother, Nellie Louise Cowles, and Ted French, an actor and stuntman who appeared in Westerns in the 1940s.[citation needed] French later appeared with his father in one episode of Gunsmoke, "Prime of Life", and another episode, "The Wishbone", where he was credited as "Victor Frence", both in 1966.

French appeared in the war film The Quick and The Dead (1963), which was produced by the theatre arts department of Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, which Victor French attended.[2][3][4] Ted French died in 1978.[5]

Also in 1963, he appeared as one of the "Spencer brothers" in the movie that was a forerunner of the television series The Waltons titled Spencer's Mountain starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara. Both the movie and the series were based upon the same novel by Earl Hamner Jr.

Like his father, French began his television career as a stuntman in mostly Westerns and anthology shows. He guest-starred in 39 television series. Though he had an uncredited role as an office clerk in the film The Magnificent Seven, French's first real Western role was the 1961 episode "The Noose" of the syndicated series Two Faces West. French was cast as Larrimore in the episode "Fargo" on the ABC/Warner Bros. Western series The Dakotas.[citation needed]

French appeared 23 times on Gunsmoke, often playing a dangerous or bumbling crook. On October 25, 1971, he portrayed cold-hearted robber and murderer Trafton. French guest-starred in another episode, "Matt's Love Story".

French appeared on The Waltons a year later. In "The Fulfillment", French plays blacksmith Curtis Norton, whose wife could not have children and subsequently adopts an eight-year-old orphan boy who has come to spend the week on Walton's Mountain.

This led to his being cast in his most well-known role as Mr. Edwards in Little House on the Prairie, beginning in 1974.[citation needed]

In other work, French starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1969 Western, Charro!, and played the recurring character Agent 44 in the NBC series Get Smart in 1965–1966, where he portrayed an undercover spy who showed up in the worst, most unlikely of places (such as a mailbox or a porthole in a boat), and appeared in a few episodes of Bonanza, with Michael Landon. Shortly before being teamed up once again, French made a guest appearance on Kung Fu as a corrupt, bigoted sheriff in 1973. French also guest-starred in episode 24 ("Trial by Fury") of season two of Mission: Impossible, in which he played the informer in a prison.

In 1976, French appeared in an episode of the Western series Sara. In 1982, he appeared in the film An Officer and a Gentleman as the stepfather of protagonist Paula Pokrifki, played by Debra Winger.

Work with Michael LandonEdit

French is most widely known for costarring with Michael Landon on two television series. He appeared on Little House on the Prairie (1974–1977, 1981–1984) as Isaiah Edwards (French also directed some episodes of the show). He appeared on Highway to Heaven (1984–1989) as Mark Gordon.

From 1977–79, he left Little House on the Prairie to star as a small-town Georgia police chief in Carter Country. When the series ended, the actor was surprised that Landon was agreeable to his returning to the character of Mr. Edwards. French appeared in episode eight of season six and episode eight of season eight, then returned full-time, starting with episode 19 of season eight.

According to interviews with Cindy Landon, and Kent and Susan McCray on the A&E DVD release of Highway to Heaven, season three, French and Michael Landon were "crazy about each other", indicating that they always made each other laugh and enjoyed each other's company. Cindy Landon mentions that French was a quiet and reclusive kind of guy as opposed to Landon's outgoing personality.


French died at the age of 54 on June 15, 1989, at Sherman Oaks Community Hospital in Los Angeles, California, three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.[6]

In 1998, French was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[7]



Year Film Role Notes
1960 The Magnificent Seven Front Office Clerk Uncredited
1961 The Clown and the Kid Patrolman #1 Uncredited
1963 The Quick and the Dead Milo Riley
Spencer's Mountain Spencer Brother Uncredited
1968 Gavilan Villain
1969 Charro! Vince Hackett
Death of a Gunfighter Phil Miller
1970 Cutter's Trail Alex Bowen TV film
There Was a Crooked Man... Whiskey
Flap Sergeant Rafferty
Rio Lobo Ketcham
1971 Wild Rovers Sheriff
1972 The Other Angelini
Chato's Land Martin Hall
1974 The Nickel Ride Paddie
The House on Skull Mountain Dr. Andrew Cunningham
The Tribe Mathis TV film
1979 Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill Mac TV film
1980 The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story Anatoly Andreyev TV film
Riding for the Pony Express Irving G. Peacock TV film
The Ghosts of Buxley Hall Sergeant Major Chester B. Sweet TV film
1981 Choices Gary Carluccio
1982 An Officer and a Gentleman Joe Pokrifki
1983 Little House: Look Back to Yesterday Isaiah Edwards TV film
1984 Little House: The Last Farewell
Little House: Bless All the Dear Children


Year Title Role Notes
1955 TV Reader's Digest Bill's Henchman Episode: "Human Nature Through a Rear View Mirror"
1961 Two Faces West Episode: "The Noose"
Hazel Bailiff Episode: "A Matter of Principle"
1962 The Donna Reed Show Mike Episode: "The New Office"
G.E. True Episode: "Circle of Death"
The Virginian Roy Episode: "The Accomplice"
Bonanza Conn Episode: "Gallagher's Sons"
1963 Hawaiian Eye Floyd Dillon Episode: "The Long Way Home"
The Dakotas Larrimore Episode: "Fargo"
77 Sunset Strip Deputy Collins Episode: "Stranger from the Sea"
Temple Houston Willie Harrod Episode: "Letter of the Law"
Kraft Suspense Theatre Murderer Episode: "A Hero for Our Times"
Grindl Deputy #1 Episode: "The Great Schultz"
1964 The Virginian Michael Episode: "The Secret of Brynmar Hall"
No Time for Sergeants Leonard Episode: "The $100,000 Canteen"
Rawhide Corporal Episode: "Incident at Hourglass"
1965 Wagon Train Beal Episode: "The Silver Lady"
Hogan's Heroes Commando Episode: "Kommandant of the Year"
Mister Ed Murphy Episode: "Anybody Got a Zebra?"
The Wild Wild West Arnold Episode: "The Night of a Thousand Eyes"
Rawhide Bartender Episode: "The Vasquez Woman", uncredited
Slattery's People Peter Lindler Episode: "The Hero"
Dr. Kildare Jack Episode: "Welcome Home, Dear Anna"
Ben Casey Dr. Wood Episode: "The Man from Quasilia"
My Favorite Martian Mugs Carson Episode: "Lorelei Brown vs. Everybody"
Lassie Joe Episode: "Charlie Banana"
Get Smart Insurance Man Episode: "Too Many Chiefs"
1966 Batman Hood No. I Episode: "A Death Worse Than Fate"
Get Smart Agent 44 7 episodes
Lassie Surveyor Episode: "The Untamed Land"
Branded Sheriff Episode: "Kellie"
The Hero Fred Gilman 10 episodes
Death Valley Days Louis Baptiste Episode: "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear"
1966-1975 Gunsmoke Various roles 18 episodes
1967 Tarzan Cotonasos Episode: "A Pride of Assassins"
F Troop Corporal Matt Delaney Episode: "The Day They Shot Agarn"
Iron Horse Harry Cleary Episode: "Decision at Sundown"
Captain Nice Anthony Episode: "The Week They Stole Payday"
The Beverly Hillbillies Tony Episode: "Robin Hood and the Sheriff"
Death Valley Days Charbonneau Episode: "The Girl Who Walked the West"
Cimarron Strip Rafe Coleman Episode: "Till the End of Night"
The Danny Thomas Hour Detective Episode: "The Zero Man"
Daniel Boone Blue Belly Sangster Episode: "The Ballad of Sidewinder and Cherokee"
The F.B.I. Lloyd Smith Episode: "False Witness"
1968 Gentle Ben Turner Episode: "Ben the Champ"
Bonanza Aaron Gore Episode: "The Burning Sky"
Mission: Impossible Leduc Episode: "Trial by Fury"
1969 Lancer Travis Caudle Episode: "The Measure of a Man"
Bonanza Jesse Potter Episode: "Meena"
The F.B.I. Vincent Roger Tobias Episode: "Moment of Truth"
1970 Daniel Boone Ess Recurring role
Dan August Art Bowman Episode: "When the Shouting Dies"
Mannix Karl Hastings Episode: "Figures in a Landscape"
1971 Bonanza Tom Callahan Episode: "An Earthquake Called Callahan"
Longstreet Hank Cottle Episode: "One in the Reality Column"
Mission: Impossible Vic Hatcher Episode: "The Tram"
O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Paris Kohler Episode: "Operation: Deadhead"
1973 The Streets of San Francisco Reggie Norris Episode: "Deathwatch"
Kung Fu Sheriff Aldon Pool Episode: "The Ancient Warrior"
The Rookies Crazy Marvin Episode: "Deadly Cage"
The F.B.I. Vince Riles Episode: "Tower of Terror"
1974 Mannix Matt Brandon Episode: "The Dark Hours"
The Waltons Curtis Norton Episode: "The Fulfillment"
1974-1983 Little House on the Prairie Isaiah Edwards 57 episodes
1976 Sara Achille Episode: "Mountain Man"
Petrocelli Roy Caldwell Episode: "The Pay Off"
1977-1979 Carter Country Chief Roy Mobey 44 episodes
1979 CHiPs Victor French Episode: "Roller Disco"
1980 Disneyland Sergeant Major Chester B. Sweet Episode: "The Ghosts of Buxley Hall"
1984-1989 Highway to Heaven Mark Gordon 111 episodes

Director (film and television)Edit


  1. ^ "Victor French, 54, Actor on TV". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 16, 1989. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Schellie, Don (May 16, 1973). "The Real West". Tucson Daily Citizen.
  3. ^ "Symposium on Movie Slated". Los Angeles Times. January 5, 1964.
  4. ^ Sar, Ali (January 10, 1964). "'The Quick and the Dead': Two Valley Alumni Show Successful $32,000 Film". The Van Nuys News.
  5. ^ Harris, Harry (March 25, 1979). "Who needs stardom? Not French". The Philadelphia Inquirer TV Week.
  6. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (June 16, 1989). "Victor French; Actor, Director on 'Highway to Heaven,' 'Little House'". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Bronze statue of Reagan to be unveiled at awards Western Heritage ceremony packs star power". The Dallas Morning News. Associated Press. March 30, 1998.

External linksEdit