Blue Blood, Blue Ending
Or so it seemed. Last week Franciscus, a heavy smoker and a hard drinker, died of emphysema at 57, and friends linked his personal deterioration to his career decline. According to his longtime publicist, Phil Paladino, the actor had last year begun to complain, "The scripts I get I don't like, and I won't lower myself to do them. The ones I want, I don't get." The actor's onetime drinking buddy, George Peppard, says Franciscus was "talented, very competitive and driven. He was a perfectionist. He'd rewrite scripts and make the best of any job he was doing. But Jim without work was like a man without a country. When he couldn't work anymore, I knew he was in deep trouble."
Franciscus' marriage to Kitty Wellman broke up a decade ago. He married his second wife, Carla, in the mid-'80s and continued to live on his two-acre North Hollywood estate, turning out scripts that never saw the light of film. Pals such as Peppard quit drinking, but Franciscus didn't. "He refused to work," says Peppard, "and he cut himself off from his friends. He became reclusive. All I know is that he was successful, wealthy and unhappy."