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Frederic Franklin No. 07 [November 25, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0588
Run Time
0h 14m 56s
Date Produced
November 25 1985
Q: Apparently, after having done Frankie and Johnny and The Bells and Billy Sunday and Love Song, Tom, as the story goes, prevailed upon Ruth and said, "Don't do any more ballets for Denham." Do you know anything about that?
A: Ah, yes! An unfortunate thing happened. Now let me get this straight . . . and I think it's in her book. But you know, we were doing Frankie and Johnny, and there were so many performances contracted for, and Mr. Denham really did a very bad thing. It so happened that when I was not on, Leon Danielian would be on. And it was like the 14th or 15th performance or something rather like that. I was ill and couldn't go on and so was Danielian, and they canceled the performance. And Mr. Denham did not, I don't know why we couldn't have done it somewhere else, but Mr. Denham did not fulfill the contract, and Tom took the ballet away from us. We were left without it, and you know it had been scheduled, and it was in programs and things. Mr. Denham should have thought about it a bit more.
     But then Tom came and did take it. He said, "You did not fulfill the contract, therefore the ballet belongs [to us]," and it reverted right back to Ruth. You see what they did in those days, they charged something like $75 a performance for a guaranteed number of performances. They would set up -- Ruth and Tom -- would set up the ballet, we would then have the right to perform the ballet for more times. And that right was taken away. And that really was Tom, I suppose. Oh, it was a wonderful thing because the ballet went right back to Ruth. She could have lost it. It could have come to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. If she'd wanted, she could have rented it from Denham, I suppose. But it was a very strange situation, and it caused a lot of friction between the managements, between the management and Tom, which was very bad, because there were other things we could have done of Ruth's. But then the collaboration stopped.
Q: It really was too bad.
A: It was too bad because a lot of things she did later we could well have used . . .
Q: Yes, I would . . . .
A: . . . well have used. All the ballets she did from the operas, which were lovely, which are now coming back, as you are doing them, you know.
Q: Yes.
A: We could have used those ballets then. You know, she was on the road with them, and she had always these marvelous dancers doing the parts, and one big ballet after another was coming out of Ruth, and we could have used them. But I suppose it was Tom that said, "No, not with the Ballet Russe."
Q: According to what I've read, he just felt that the relationship was such a difficult one for her . . . and it was for that reason he wanted to end it . . . and that it really was a ploy when he said, "Okay, we're taking the ballet back." He sort of did that [to end the relationship].
A: Well, it could have been, you know. I tell you what it really was. It was nothing to do with us. It was strictly management. We never once complained or said anything. We loved Ruth coming. Everybody adored her. It was something different, and something exciting to do, regardless of what the outcome was. But she was an interesting woman, and we did it. We loved her. It was the management. And it was strictly Tom and Denham, the two of them . . . and they didn't get along, and of course, naturally, Tom didn't want Ruth to be hurt. But Ruth was right outside these things. She was not concerned. She was concerned with the way we danced her ballets, and how it went, and she loved us all doing it, and that was it. But she had her ballet going on the stage, which was what she wanted. But then Tom dragged it away, and that left us without anything.
Q: It's too bad really.
A: Well, it's a great shame because, as we said, she was still in a very creative period.
Q: Very. Are you familiar with the ballets that she did after . . . ?
A: I'm very familiar with a lot of them but not all of them. I'm very anxious to see Fledermaus because I had suggested it . . . .
Q: Did you see Merry Widow?
A: Merry Widow? Oh yes! And there's all sorts of things: Revanche and all these marvelous things . . . . I once asked if she'd do Guns and Castanets, which is Carmen. She doesn't remember a thing. Well you know, there's no reason why it couldn't be revived and redone if she wants to redo it. I don't know how she feels about that, but it's a . . . .
Q: It's difficult if you don't have a tape or film.
A: Oh it is, of course. Yes it is, and I don't suppose there's anybody that did it now that could be able to show it.
Q: There are films.
A: There are films. Then, you know, you see, this is where it's a shame that Ruth really needs a company. She really never should have left. That business we went through in Chicago with Ruth and me and Mrs. Freund -- oh dear!
Q: Do talk about Chicago Ballet.
A: Oh dear, dear, dear. That was wrong, and Ruth . . . as you know, had Tom Fisher been alive, this would never have happened. It was Ruth's honesty, and Ruth saying, "Oh, but she'll do it. She'll help us." You know I had rows with Mrs. Freund. I had such knockdowns. I was in tears one day with her, I was so upset. I said, "Ruth, look. You're getting all the money. You and I are the artistic directors. She's running us! She's running everything here down to the last toe shoe and," I said, "that's not right, now." And, no. She believed, you see, in Freund . . . and when we'd do these terrible performances in that funny place. Freund brought in a rock group, and we did a ballet, The Tempest. We did horrendous things. Then we appeared in the round. We appeared . . . I don't know where we appeared!
Q: But tell me about that whole thing from your point of view.
A: I was then sharing the artistic directorship with Pittsburgh, and there wasn't enough work for me to do there. Ruth came and Mrs. Freund and another lady [Jane O'Connor], and they split me up the middle. I'd be half there and half there, which was fine with me because there wasn't enough work, too much work, either place. But I soon found out what was going on with Ruth, and I found out immediately what was going on with Freund. Freund got rid of the other lady, and then she took over and she started . . . . She had very grandiose ideas, and I could see this was not going to work, and I could see Ruth's thinking and Ruth not standing up to her . . . and then Ruth not disagreeing with me, but saying, "Freddie, look. Don't worry about it. It will be perfectly all right. She knows what she's doing." She didn't. And it wasn't right, and it finally all blew up in our faces after having an awful lot of money gone the wrong way. And again something in Chicago that didn't work.
Q: Now, how long were you associated with that, Freddie?
A: Oh Lord, two years. I was there right when Ben Stevenson left until it all closed.
Q: And did they ever do one of Ruth's ballets? You never did, did you?
A: No. That was written. I said, "Ruth, that was the first big mistake." "Oh," she said, "No. Mrs. Freund won't have any of my ballets." I said, "But Ruth, then what are we doing here? What is this ballet company all about? Can't we have one? Can't we have Frankie and Johnny?" I think we did Frankie. I'm not sure, you can look that up. But I think we did Frankie, but no more. She wouldn't have any more. So we did potted versions of this and potted versions of that. It wasn't right. It wasn't right at all.
Q: What was the idea behind this?
A: It was, I think, a stepping stone to what really Freund wanted, and she wanted to really be an impresario -- rather like a Hurok and bring in ballet companies from the outside, which is what she did. She had those two galas when she brought in everybody from everywhere. Now the second one that she did, a notice went up that Ruth Page and Frederic Franklin were not allowed backstage! I walked into the theatre, and I saw that on the board. I said, "Ruth, what's this?" She said, "No, she doesn't want us." I said, "Just a minute!" I tore it down . . . and they all knew me, of course. They knew us both. I said, "That's ridiculous." And Misha Baryshnikov is on the stage rehearsing. He said, "Freddie, thank God you're here. There's nobody here to tell us anything on what we're going to do." I didn't say a word about Freund. I said, "Well, look Misha, we're all here now. Ruth's here. We'll get everything straightened out." She had left them. She didn't know what to do. She was arriving for the performance -- the dress rehearsal, no. I was there with Ruth. It was unbelievable. I carried the whole thing through on my back. Ruth, you know, wasn't up to it. So that's how it was. This is how this lady did this time and again, and she's had other ballet companies. She's had the Danish ballet company there. She wants to be an impresario, and I suppose has enough money to guarantee these people that they will perform.
Q: What was the dream, Freddie, when you went? What did you see this as?
A: I finally saw this as a Chicago ballet company born really on the lines, shall we say, of a very updated Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with all the ballets in it, the Giselles and the Swan Lakes and her ballets and the other modern ballets . . . and let's do it and let's get it with lovely dancers. That is what I thought; what I had in mind . . . but it never worked that way. We didn't even get to first base with that idea. Not at all. But it was a shame. But we were badly managed. And it was Freund.
Q: Absolutely.
A: You know, it's a great shame, because Chicago is a difficult town. It's always been difficult, not for visiting ballet companies, but finding something of their own. And it's always been that way. Even with Ruth when she was called the Chicago Opera Ballet. She said, "I had to fight to get a performance of my own ballets in my own city at my own theatre." You know she had to fight an awful lot for that, and that's where she's been, I think, superb. She's never given up ever, never. Bless her heart.
Q: When the time comes, if you were writing, if we were all sitting here twenty years from now, reading a history of dance in America, what would you say about Ruth Page?
A: I think what we said before, one of those marvelous ladies that grew up here, was trained here, and then took her art all over the world, danced with all wonderful people, choreographed for big, big ballet companies. In other words, she left really an indelible mark on this whole business of ballet in America. That's what I would say.
Q: And what do you think the books will say about Frederic Franklin?
A: Well now, that's a big funny question. I don't know. I'd rather, maybe I won't be here when they do it, if ever they do. But I think, well, as the English say, I've "done my bit."
Q: Oh, more than that. Surely more than that. What would you like them to say? What do you think of your own accomplishments, of your own career? What do you want to tell most to the world?
A: Well. The thing, "To thine own self be true." And to have done . . . and I've been very fortunate to have accomplished what I have. People believed in me and told me I could, if I worked. I think I've fulfilled a lot of people's promises because I did work. The idea that it took place in this country couldn't be better . . . and I've been most grateful, and as I said the other day when I got the award, it's really the American public that did it, you know. They liked me, and I loved them.
Q: What award? Tell me about the award.
A: Well, I got the Dance Magazine Award this year and I got the Laurence Olivier up there for the best production in England, which was for the Dance Theatre of Harlem's Giselle. That was a great thing for me, being awarded something from England with Laurence Olivier on it, and then there it happened, two of them in the same year. It was my year. I got both awards. At the Dance Magazine which, you know, I gave to Ruth . . . and I've been giving it and giving hand giving it and finally they said, "Well -- Fred." And I just said, "Well, I've been handing these things out for a long time. It's lovely to be on the receiving end," which was, you know, very, very nice. But after all, you know, there's a lot of work to be done here, and there are a lot of lovely dancers out there, and they've all got to be trained and, if I may say, brought up in the right way. And I think the right way is our way, Ruth's way, and my way, and Danilova's way. And I think that's really what I'd like to go out being remembered for -- always helping, always being there.
Q: You're a hell of a guy. Is there anything I haven't asked you?
A: No, no, no, no, no. Noooooooo -- that's it!
Q: That's it.
A: Ah, lovely!
Q: Thank you.
A: Oh, it's lovely. Really.
Q: You're wonderful. Really, you are.
A: Bless you. Bless your heart.
Q: My goodness, what an extraordinary man you are!
A: No, no, no, no.
Q: Yes, yes, yes. That's good.
Related Place
New York (production location of)