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John Frankau

West 1939-43

John Frankau sadly passed away on 12 March 2022.

My father was born on 4th September 1925, the second child of Ronald and Hilda Frankau. He was born in a pretty nursing home overlooking Jesus Green in Cambridge.

He would continue to have a close relationship with the city, first going to The Leys School and then to Emmanuel College where he studied engineering. However, his first love was the theatre. Quickly realising he was a better director than an actor, he rose through the ranks to become first a theatre director and then a television director. He had the ability to communicate both with the actors on an artistic level and the crew on a technical level.

He married my mother, Barry, probably the only female Barry in history, in 1948. My mother followed my father around repertory theatres, getting work in each theatre. Eventually I was conceived in late 1953 when they were in Nottingham. I was to be their only child.

By the time I was born they were living in a top floor flat in Notting Hill Gate and my father was working in television. He was in demand, often working on three projects at once. He had a curious ability to make people love him, however demanding he was.

In 1973 he directed a Yorkshire Television play, “Sarah” which was nominated for an Emmy award. The following year he directed another Yorkshire Television play, “Mr Axelford’s Angel” and this play actually made it. “Mr Axelford’s Angel” won the Emmy award. The award certificates live on the wall beside his desk.

He avoided employing me until 1991 when I was cast in a series called “The Mixer”. He was good fun to work for. However, employing me may have been a mistake. “The Mixer” did not make it to our screens. And it was to be his last job as a director of drama.

Surprisingly, he took to retirement quite well. My mother and he bought a house in Newmarket, and as was his wont, he spent three years doing the house up. I am writing this from the sitting room of that house.

After a six year fight with cancer, my mother died in 2010. Supporting her was his final project. He did it brilliantly.

Words by Nick Frankau, John’s son