In the years between the First and Second World Wars, Franklyn was a well-known performer in musical comedies, appearing in both British and American shows. He spent ten years performing in Australia in musical comedies. From the 1940s he appeared regularly in pantomime as the Dame.
Life and career
Franklyn was born in London and educated by the Franciscan Brotherhood. He served in the army in the first years of the First World War, and made his stage debut in Sunderland in August 1916 in the chorus of The Belle of New York. When the production opened in London in December 1916, Franklyn made his West End debut. He toured for three years in Julian Wylie's musical comedy companies.
In the West End, Franklyn appeared with Lupino Lane in Turned Up. The Times commented, "Mr. Leo Franklyn … shows a pretty sense of humour. He can also dance." In 1923, Franklyn undertook a tour of the northern provinces, appearing in Scotland in the musical comedy Kissing Time in which he played Bibi St. Po. In the late 1920s he went to Australia for more than ten years, appearing in shows such as The Duchess of Dantzic, Gay Divorce,The Girl Friend, Music in the Air, Our Miss Gibbs and The Quaker Girl.
Returning to London, Franklyn had a lucky break when the comedian Laddie Cliff fell ill, and Franklyn was cast as the comic lead in a new musical comedy, Crazy Days, as James J. Hooker. The Times praised his performance: "a lively, unrepetitive comedian, quick off the mark, and secure of his audience." In 1938 he played in pantomime as Dame Crusoe in Robinson Crusoe at the Duke of York's Theatre. During the Second World War he performed for ENSA, entertaining the troops and appeared in A Waltz Dream (1942) alongside Nita Croft and Leslie Hatton.
In 1943 he played Nisch (Njegus in the original) in The Merry Widow at His Majesty's Theatre. The Manchester Guardian reported that he "flits through the whole affair as a somewhat disillusioned Puck of deft and considerable distinction." His last musical comedy was The Lilac Domino at the Adelphi Theatre in the role of Prosper in 1944. He appeared as pantomime dames in various English cities, and in 1956 he joined the Brian Rix company, in which he achieved his widest fame, in Whitehall farce.
For Rix, Franklyn succeeded John Slater as the crooked bookie Alf Tubbs in the farce Dry Rot. He remained with Rix for thirteen years in knowing, worldly roles contrasting with Rix's gauche innocents. Franklyn played George Chuffer in Simple Spymen, which ran for over three years; Jugg, the butler, in One for the Pot, which ran for 1,221 performances; and Hoskins the gardener in Chase Me, Comrade from June 1964 to May 1966. He appeared in films with Rix, including The Night We Dropped a Clanger (1959), And the Same to You (1960), Nothing Barred (1961) and The Night We Got the Bird (1961).
In 1967 Rix moved across Trafalgar Square from the Whitehall Theatre to the larger Garrick, presenting a repertory of three different farces in which he starred with Franklyn in Stand by your Bedouin, Uproar in the House, and Let Sleeping Wives Lie. They then appeared in She's Done It Again in 1969 in which Franklyn played Pop. His last Rix farce was Don't Just Lie There, Say Something! which ran from September 1971 to March 1973.
In 1975 Franklyn was playing in another farce, No Sex Please, We're British, when he suffered a heart attack, and died a week later at the age of 78. In its obituary notice The Times called him "the doyen of Whitehall farce". He was survived by his wife, the actress Mary Rigby, and their son, the actor William Franklyn.
- Gaye, p. 619
- "Turned Up", The Times, 29 January 1926, p. 10
- "Musical Comedy at Kings Theatre", Dundee Courier, 1 September 1923, p. 3
- "Her Majesty's – Duchess of Dantzig", The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 1931, p. 10; "Gay Divorce", The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July 1934, p. 9; "The Girl Friend", The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1927, p. 8; "Music in the Air", The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 1933, p. 8; "Her Majesty's – Our Miss Gibbs", The Sydney Morning Herald 4 February 1933, p. 10; and "Theatre Royal – The Quaker Girl", The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1933 p. 10
- "Shaftesbury Theatre", The Times, 15 September 1938, p. 10
- "Lend-Lease Plan in Entertainment", The Times, 11 April 1942, p. 8
- "Nightly; Wed, Thurs and Sat: Nita Croft, Leo Franklyn and Leslie Hatton in A Waltz Dream", Hull Daily Mail, 27 October 1942, p. 2
- "Opera House: The Merry Widow", The Manchester Guardian, 23 December 1942, p. 6
- "Obituary – Leo Franklyn", The Times, 18 September 1975, p. 16
- Gaye, pp. 619 and 1194
- "The Night We Dropped a Clanger" British Film Institute database, accessed 28 May 2012; "And the Same to You", International Movie Database, accessed 28 May 2012; "Nothing Barred", International Movie Database, accessed 28 May 2012; and "The Night We Got the Bird", International Movie Database, accessed 28 May 2012.
- The Garrick had a capacity of 800 to the Whitehall's 634: see Gaye, p. 1554
- "National Theatre's second Chekhov", The Times, 8 April 1967, p. 9
- Baker, Roger. "Don't Just Lie There, Say Something!", The Times, 16 September 1971, p. 13; and "Theatres", The Times, 3 March 1973, p. 9
- "Obituary of William Franklyn", The Daily Telegraph, 1 November 2006, p. 1
- Gaye, Freda (ed.) (1967). Who's Who in the Theatre (fourteenth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 5997224.