He was drafted into WWI and discharged with a purple heart. When he returned from the front, Vaudeville had beckoned him to join its circuit. He preformed his acrobatic “chair act” in top billing status all over the world. In the late 1930’s, when “talking pictures” diminished the popularity of Vaudeville, he decided to “settle down” and open the “Casa D’Amore”, a restaurant in Hollywood, California. It soon became a movie stars dining haven and he developed close friendships with many Hollywood stars such as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante and Dean Martin, just to name a few.
Being in the hub of the Hollywood scene, Franklyn dreamed of performing in and producing a movie. In 1944 he played a small role in Humphrey Bogart’s “Passage to Marseilles”. In 1957 he appeared in the television series “The Man called X”. He made a guest appearance as himself on the “Hollywood Palace” television show in 1968 and in the 70’s he portrayed the main character’s father in the detective series “Toma”.
In the midst of all this he had served shortly in the WWII military which bred his ideas for the birth of his movie “The Last Supper”. By 1950 he had the script written, gathered a cast (mostly British) and journeyed to his homeland to begin filming. His intention was to finance the project on his own which cost over $250,000 taken totally from his earnings in vaudeville and his restaurants. By today’s standard that would have been a million dollar project,
Little did he know, he had three major strikes against him.
- The movie was filmed in black and white. His intention was to film in color, as it was new to the industry and, at the time, only produced in the United States. Unfortunately, in the early days of color film, it was imperative that it be refrigerated to keep the colors alive. As he and the cast were sailing ship to Europe, the refrigeration went down during an electricity outage. The sea air and warmth destroyed the quality of the film, it was rendered unusable. When they arrived in Europe, the only film accessible was black and white, he had no choice.
- It was difficult, if not impossible, to market a foreign filmed movie with a Christian theme to the very Jewish driven industry of Hollywood.
- In the mid 50’s, movies with serious themes such as war, art and tragedy were passé. It was the golden days of Hollywood.
The story then takes us back to the time of DaVinci as he is choosing his models for the painting. He was meticulous in searching for models, sometimes taking years to find the right face. He notices a young nobleman and his lady fair speaking in a garden. The relationship is against the wishes of the young man’s family and they must part; she discusses joining a convent. The expressions these distraught emotions cause the man, convince Leonardo that this is the perfect face for that of Jesus on the night prior to his crucifixion. Neither of the star crossed lovers realized that they had been bestowed such an honor.
The nobleman was devastated by the events of unattainable love and decides to leave town. Through a series of misfortune, he is robbed of all his money, falsely accused of murder, jailed, disfigured in a series of brawls and ultimately falls into the world of convicts, thieves and alcoholics. Three years pass, and though Leonardo has almost completed his painting, he struggles to find the right model to depict Judas. It would be a family disgrace for someone to sit for such a lowly character. He decides to search for the face of ill lifestyle. When he finds the perfect model, he is unaware that the man he had originally chosen for the face of Jesus is ultimately the same face he chooses for Judas. Irony in the story continues. The mistress of the nobleman had became a nun at the Santa Maria Della Grazie and also does not realize that she gazes upon her true love each day in the faces of her master and of his betrayer.
Though Franklyn tried to promote the film from coast to coast, his movie never sold and was never seen in public. For years he stored it in a film vault until his death in 1982. His two daughters inherited the reels and they were returned to storage. But in 2009 when the son of his youngest daughter (she was born when Franklyn was 67 years old) made the movie industry his career, she began to dream about the possibilities of fulfilling her father’s dream, through him. In 2013 her son Paul agreed to take the film and bring it into the 21st century to carry on his grandfather’s legacy. That project is in the works at the time of this writing.