Clement von Franckenstein, Actor in 'The American President,' Dies at 74

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Clement von Franckenstein

He also appeared in such films as 'Lionheart,' 'The Evening Star,' 'Hail, Caesar!' and, as himself, in 'Festival in Cannes.'

Clement von Franckenstein, the urbane British actor who portrayed the president of France opposite Michael Douglas and Annette Bening in The American President, has died. He was 74.

Von Franckenstein died of hypoxia on Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, filmmaker Gabriel Murray told The Hollywood Reporter. He had been in an induced coma for 10 days.

He also had roles in Lionheart (1990), starring Jean-Claude van Damme; in Death Becomes Her (1992), with Meryl Streep; in The Evening Star (1996), with Shirley MacLaine; and in Hail, Caesar! (2016), with George Clooney.

And he appeared as himself in Henry Jaglom's Festival in Cannes (2001). 

The son of an Austrian ambassador to England who lost his diplomatic position when the Nazis took over Austria, von Franckenstein was born on May 28, 1944, outside London. He was raised by friends of his parents after his folks were among 44 killed in a plane crash outside Frankfurt, Germany, in October 1953. 

Von Franckenstein was educated at Eton College and served for three years as a lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys in the Middle East and Germany. He studied opera before deciding to become an actor.

Author Mary Shelley is said to have adapted his family's name for her 1818 classic.

"If a woman comes at me with a Frankenstein joke right off, it’s a bad sign," he told People magazine in 2001, when he was identified as one of "America's Top 50 Bachelors."

Still, he appeared in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (1974) — in one of his first onscreen roles, he played a "Villager Screaming at the Monster From the Bars," according to IMDb — and worked in another Brooks spoof, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).

Von Franckenstein also had an uncredited role in Carl Reiner's Fatal Instinct (1993), then portrayed French leader Renee-Jean d'Astier for Reiner's son, Rob, in The American President (1995).

On television, he played butlers on the short-lived NBC primetime soap opera Titans and on MTV's The Assistant, starring Andy Dick, and did guest stints on many other shows, including Northern ExposureStar Trek: The Next Generation and Californication.

More recently, he portrayed Luis Weitzman, the original trainer of legendary high-wire daredevil Karl Wallenda, in a 2013 short film set in 1925 Germany and appeared in Take Me Home Tonight (2011), The Five-Year Engagement (2012) and Angels on Tap (2018).

He has no known survivors.