Underground Film Journal

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Feature Film Online: 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can’t Be Wrong

By Mike Everleth ⋅ February 4, 2009

Embedded above is the entire documentary 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can’t Be Wrong directed by Joshua Brown. It runs about 47 minutes and is an incredible profile of an entertainment legend.

Consider me the 50,000,001st Joe Franklin fan after watching this. I grew up in southern New Jersey and received NYC TV station WWOR where Franklin made his biggest mark in the entertainment world with his long running late night talk show, but I can’t admit to being hip to his program. Personally, I was more of an Uncle Floyd fan back in the day. Yet, I can appreciate Franklin’s quirky appeal after watching Brown’s loving homage.

The documentary consists of a ton of footage culled from Franklin’s show from it’s over thirty year run. The main attraction of the show is the odd combination of guests, from rising stars like Julia Roberts to old Hollywood types like Tony Curtis and Fay Wray to Babe Ruth’s widow to a conglomeration of performers on the fringe of the entertainment world. Plus, Franklin has a bizarre, deadpan interview style, name-dropping Eddie Cantor into just about every one, and he always seems like the biggest fan of whoever it is he’s talking to, even if it’s someone he’s obviously unfamiliar with, like Joey and Marky Ramone.

Talk show host Joe Franklin sits behind his desk on air

Franklin also sits down with Brown for an extensive interview in his memorabilia-stuffed office that’s cut-up and interspersed with the show footage. Bizarre people pop in throughout the interview, including a clown from Coney Island and a seven-foot-tall belly dancer. Well, she seems that tall next to the diminutive Franklin. Although Franklin had been off the air for a few years at the time this film was made (1997) and he was resigned to just hosting a 3:00 A.M. radio show, he’s just as enthusiastic and at the top of his game as when he was on the TV, filled with a cornucopia of corny jokes that come randomly spilling out. Also, “enthusiastic” is also a tough word to use on Franklin given his low-key demeanor. He’s like a an old 78 rpm Charleston dance number slowed down to 45 rpm.

There’s also interviews with fans and TV critics, most of whom are unknowns. However, Brown also gets a good sit-down with the quirky alt rock band They Might Be Giants — they also get Franklin to open a gig for them — as well as a stand-up interview with a cigar-chomping “Grandpa” Al Lewis. One of the best moments of the film, though, is a book signing Franklin does for his autobiography Up Late at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble. The store is packed with his fans, a motley mix of oddballs that there ever was. But the devotion on their faces that Joe is one of them is wondrously affectionate and touching, like the film itself.

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