Board Members

Fran Bascom

Longtime casting director Fran Bascom, who passed away June 2, 2013, was on the Board Of Directors of the California Performing Arts Centre at the Fremont Centre Theatre for many years as casting director, supporter and friend. "Holding On ~ Letting Go" was the last show that Fran cast at the theatre.

Although she was best known for her work in television, Fran's first love was theatre. Some of the shows that she cast at FCT were “Scaredycats,” “National Pastime,” “Murder Me Once” and “Earnest In Love.” “Holding On~Letting Go” amoung many others. On television, she cast “Designing Women,” “Lou Grant,” “Days Of Our Lives” and many other shows too numerous to mention. Fran received a total of 14 Casting Society of America nominations.

At Fran's memorial service her friend and colleague, writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, wrote and presented a eulogy about Fran that captured her spirit exactly! Linda was kind enough, at our request, to send us a copy so that we could share it with you. If you did not know Fran, you will enjoy getting acquainted with her through this beautiful tribute. - James & Lissa Reynolds

 

In Memory of Fran Bascom - Jan.18,1927-June 2,2013
by Linda Bloodworth Thomason

Frances Carbonari. That was her maiden name. No middle name. That would’ve been over the top. When I learned I would be giving this eulogy, I began calling her family and friends to collect anecdotes and stories about Fran. I soon discovered that there are no anecdotes and stories about Fran. Probably no one would be more pleased to hear this than Fran herself. Okay, maybe there are a few snippets here and there, like she was once Joan Crawford’s assistant. But trust me, these kinds of tidbits are as hard to come by as complimentary Broadway tickets.

I knew Fran for almost thirty years and she still remains a bit of a mystery. She was like some beautiful, alien creature who came to Earth and dazzled us all with her great humanity and her wisdom. She was an old soul with a young spirit. Very Zen. This was definitely not her first rodeo. She was ET, Buddha and Greta Garbo—all gathered into one fabulous woman. In an era where so many will do almost anything to be famous, Fran didn’t even care to be “known.” She was the original Twitterless, no face on Facebook, anti-Kardashian. She never wanted to step out of the line. If the sun began to shine on Fran, she raised an umbrella. When the conversation turned her way, she deflected it with all the skill of a martial arts instructor. In fact, Fran was so utterly devoid of any sort of braggadocio, so private, that my husband Harry Thomason and I had a running joke that she might actually be in the witness protection program.

Anyway, for all of you who’ve been longing to know more, here goes. According to the DMV, her eyes were brown. She was five foot three. In her youth, she was a secretary at Universal. (In her later years, Fran would become obsessed with “Mad Men,” even once uncharacteristically confiding that she was familiar with some of the scenarios involving the women on that show.)

But back then, Fran, who was bored with her job, would submit casting suggestions for various projects. Her suggestions would be cast, but she wouldn’t get any credit, a theme that would continue throughout her life. Undaunted, she decided she would be good at this casting thing and set out to learn the name of every actor in town by seeing every play, every film, every television show.

On the personal side, her husband Ray, sadly, died in his thirties. Her daughter, Cheryl, was the love of her life. Fran loved musicals and spoke fluent Italian, but never in front of anyone. She adored her cats and all animals and was always saying, “Horses have such sweet faces.” And that’s pretty much it. It took about a week to uncover these sparse facts. It seems, if we are to continue, we will have to rely on our own experiences/our own impressions of Fran.

She and I first met in 1984 at Columbia Pictures. Fran was hired to do the casting on a pilot I’d written. I remember we were all in a meeting and something came up about an actor who had to be recast and a network exec, (yes, I know it’s always a network exec) made a suggestion about how this might be achieved in a marginally unscrupulous, but still cost effective manner. And I remember Fran, who until then had been as quiet as a church mouse, suddenly speaking up and saying, “Well, I don’t think that would be right.” And it shocked me. First of all, because I learned that this woman, who appeared to never miss a golden opportunity to keep her mouth shut, did speak and speak eloquently when she had something important to say. But I was also shocked because her comment took me straight back to my childhood, when I heard my own father, a man of considerable clarity, say on many occasions, “That just wouldn’t be right.” Sadly, I had never heard anyone in Hollywood say such a thing. I had heard, “It won’t make money.” Or ,“We might get caught.” But I had never heard, “That just wouldn’t be right.” Until Fran Bascom said it. She soon became like family to both Harry and me, as well as Doug Jackson, Tommy Thompson, Allen Crowe, Carole Schwarz, Dara Monahan, Judy Margolin, Adrienne Crow, Pam Norris and everyone else in our little organization. Now I can no longer even remember when she wasn’t there. She was just a beautiful presence, inside and out, with her indomitable spirit, flawless face and gorgeous copper hair. She always reminded me of the actress Susan Hayward. She wore flowing silk scarves, wonderful perfume and had a lilt in her laugh that made me think she was Irish instead of Italian.

Fran cast almost every show I wrote. I would’ve had an entirely different and no doubt more impoverished career without her incomparable contribution. It was Fran who gathered the comedic geniuses of “Designing Women,” Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts and Jean Smart into one perfectly oiled ensemble. And it was Fran’s unorthodox but brilliant idea to place an African American, the irrepressible Meshach Taylor, in the midst of this Southern hothouse. And it was again, Fran, who rounded up one of the most arguably prestigious casts every assembled for the television series, “Evening Shade”-- starring Burt Reynolds, Hal Holbrook, Ossie Davis, Michael Jeter, Elizabeth Ashley, Charles Durning, Marilu Henner, Jay Ferguson and Ann Wedgeworth. This was followed by “Hearts Afire” and the unforgettable John Ritter, Markie Post, Conchatta Farrell and Billy Bob Thornton. I still smile at the network executives who initially monitored Billy Bob’s highly original, un-TV-like performances. There was a lot of shaking of heads and grousing, “Who is this guy? He’s never gonna make it.” I always wondered what those expressions looked like the night he received the Academy Award. They failed to understand that discovering actors like Billy Bob was Fran Bascom’s particular genius. Seeing that indescribable “thing” that others in the beginning just don’t. Fran had this kind of crazy jeweler’s eye for mining raw, undiscovered talent and then supporting and nurturing that talent while remaining happily oblivious to all other opposing opinions. And she was almost always right. Over a career spanning fifty years, she saw something in hundreds of actors that others simply could not discern. And she gave them all a chance, when no one else would. I’m sure many of those people are here today. I feel certain, that in spite of Fran’s incurable, lifelong humility, she would be honored by your presence. I hesitate to name names for fear of leaving someone out. But just to make my point, I’m talking about people as diverse in age and background as a struggling young actor named Ed Harris and a pre-Oscar Hillary Swank, when she was still living in her car.

As Fran got older, she religiously continued attending every backyard play and theatrical production between here, Palm Springs and San Diego. And she exhilarated in all of it. The writing, the acting, the sets, the music. If you didn’t love it, that never changed her opinion. And if she didn’t love it, she was more than willing to salvage a promising actor from the carnage. Her friend, Robert Walden who Fran hired for “Lou Grant,” said this week, “Fran got it. She felt for us. She rooted for us. God bless this woman. Her talent, her guts and her heart.” Fran’s appetite for the theater was insatiable. Another friend remembers “She never said no to any play or going out to dinner or a late screening. She was the one who always got everyone else excited. She’d say ‘Come on, honey’ and off you’d go.”

In the days following Fran’s death, so many of you have taken to the Internet to pay tribute to her extraordinary career, as well as her legendary kindness. Lisa and Fran’s niece and nephew, Mark and Terisa, want you to know how much that has meant to them. But with that said, it would be wrong to characterize Fran as some kind of saint or Pollyanna. Make no mistake, she had a wicked, acerbic sense of humor which more often than not presented itself when someone else said something wicked and acerbic. Again, often followed by gales of laughter from Fran. Just because she didn’t say it, didn’t mean she didn’t revel in it. Fran, herself, had no vindictiveness, no dark side. Toward the end of her career, she was undeniably under-appreciated and discriminated against because of her age. I never heard her curse or complain. But I did take pleasure in the fact that at some point she changed her onscreen credit to Fran capital F. Bascom, claiming she simply liked the way it looked. However, I enjoyed imagining that the “F” stood for something else, entirely. (To priest) Sorry, Father.

Anyway I digress. Everything you have recently written online about Fran is true. She was so kind and in a business where too many people are not, it was almost shocking to behold. As in, “Wow, remember that? Looky there. Kindness.”

So thank you, Fran, on behalf of all of us here today who’ve been so deeply affected by you and your uncommon decency. Thank you for how you have stayed the course with so many of us through thick and thin, believed in us when no one else did. Thank you for inspiring us with your unshakeable character, your colossal heart, your blazing loyalty. Thank you for championing the overlooked and bravely defending whatever might be unpopular but nevertheless valuable. Thank you for your endless quest for excellence—for your undying appreciation of the arts—and for always knowing what is truly worth championing.

So thank you, Fran, on behalf of all of us here today who’ve been so deeply affected by you and your uncommon decency. Thank you for how you have stayed the course with so many of us through thick and thin, believed in us when no one else did. Thank you for inspiring us with your unshakeable character, your colossal heart, your blazing loyalty. Thank you for championing the overlooked and bravely defending whatever might be unpopular but nevertheless valuable. Thank you for your endless quest for excellence—for your undying appreciation of the arts—and for always knowing what is truly worth championing.

In an era where people announce their sexually transmitted diseases like merit badges, thank you for literally being the living embodiment of a dying phenomenon—the unexpressed thought. As televised cat fights and women throwing drinks in each other’s faces passes more and more for entertainment, thank you for your quiet dignity and unassuming regal bearing. (Yes, unassuming regal bearing. Don’t try this at home. It’s not easy.)

In a Hollywood culture that is now literally teeming with under-read, underfed, exhibitionistic, celebrity girls, who have no idea whose shoulders their standing on, girls whose only talent is ambition, whose only adverb is “ah-mazing” and who are famous just for being famous. Thank you, Fran, for discovering and mentoring some of the greatest women who have ever been on television—smart, scrappy, highly gifted and original, never interchangeable actresses who are dedicated to their craft—with their own distinctive voices, opinions and personalities already formed long before their writer has typed a single word. It was you, Fran, who over and over brought these unforgettable, larger than life women, to America and beyond.

On a personal note, thank you, Fran, for enriching and informing my own career beyond measure. Thank you for being the most loyal and loving friend anyone could ever have. When my mother was dying of AIDS, I would often leave the hospital late at night. The image of the beautiful, red-haired angel sitting quietly alone in the waiting room, ever patient, always there, will live in my heart forever. And finally, may I say on behalf of all of us who love you, you improbable, elegant, exquisite star finder, thank you for never knowing what the rest of us have always known—that you were the biggest star of all.

-Linda Bloodworth Thomason

 

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