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
Victor French as Roy Mobey in Carter Country
Victor Edwin French

(1934-12-04)December 4, 1934
DiedJune 15, 1989(1989-06-15) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Years active1954–1989
Spouse(s)Judith Schenz
(m. 1959; div. 197?)
Julie Cobb
(m. 1976; div. 1978)

Early career

Born in Santa Barbara, California, to an Armenian mother and Ted French, an actor and stuntman who appeared in westerns in the 1940s, French later appeared with his father in one episode of Gunsmoke, titled "Prime Of Life", in 1966, as well as a war film in 1963 called The Quick and The Dead 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]

Following in his father's footsteps, French also began his television career as a stuntman in mostly westerns and anthology shows. During this period, he guest starred in some thirty-nine 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; his fellow guest star on the segment was L.Q. Jones, another actor destined to become well known in western roles.[6] French was cast as Larrimore in the episode "Fargo" on the ABC/Warner Brothers western series The Dakotas.[7]

French appeared twenty-three times on Gunsmoke, often playing a crook, whether dangerous or bumbling. On October 25, 1971, he portrayed a cold-hearted gunman named "Trafton" who, while robbing the communion vessels in a Roman Catholic church, murders a priest. As the clergyman lies dying, he forgives his killer, a development which dogs Trafton, who holds human life in low regard, for the entire episode until he is shot to death by Marshal Matt Dillon. French guest starred in another episode, titled Matt's Love Story, in which Dillon falls in love with a character played by Michael Learned.

The appearance led to French's re-teaming with Learned in a guest-actor role on The Waltons a year later. In "The Fulfillment", French plays a blacksmith named 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 the series based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, titled Little House on the Prairie, beginning in 1974.

In other work, French also 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 (like a mailbox or a porthole in a boat) and appeared in a few episodes of Bonanza, with Michael Landon. The two young actors found considerable common ground and became each other's best friend as a result. 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 2 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, French appeared in the film An Officer and a Gentleman as the stepfather of protagonist Paula Pokrifki, played by Debra Winger.

Work with Michael Landon

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 Little House). He appeared on Highway to Heaven (1984–1989) as Mark Gordon.

From 197779, he left Little House 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 8 of Season 6, in Episode 8 of Season 8, then returned full-time, starting with Episode 19 of Season 8.

According to interviews with Cindy Landon, and Kent and Susan McCray on the A&E DVD release of Highway to Heaven Season 3, 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, after a three-month battle with lung cancer.[8]

In 1998, French was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[9]




Director (film and television)


  1. "Victor French, 54, Actor on TV". The New York Times. June 16, 1989. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
  2. Schellie, Don (16 May 1973). "The Real West". Tucson Daily Citizen.
  3. "Symposium on Movie Slated". Los Angeles Times. 5 January 1964.
  4. Sar, Ali (10 January 1964). "'The Quick and the Dead': Two Valley Alumni Show Successful $32,000 Film". The Van Nuys News.
  5. Harris, Harry (25 March 1979). "Who needs stardom? Not French". The Philadelphia Inquirer TV Week.
  6. ""The Noose", Two Faces West, May 15, 1961". IMDb. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  7. ""Fargo," The Dakotas, February 25, 2013". IMDb. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  8. Folkart, Burt A. (16 June 1989). "Victor French; Actor, Director on 'Highway to Heaven,' 'Little House'". Los Angeles Times.
  9. "Bronze statue of Reagan to be unveiled at awards Western Heritage ceremony packs star power". The Dallas Morning News. Associated Press. March 30, 1998.
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