Two roles on classic TV shows made Victor French synonymous with the late, great Michael Landon: as dirt farmer Isaiah Edwards on Little House on The Prairie and as former police officer Mark Gordon on Highway to Heaven.
American actor Victor Edwin French was born on Dec. 4, 1934 in Santa Barbara, California. His father, Ted French, was an actor and stuntman in Western films in the '40s. Ted and Victor appeared together in a 1966 episode of Gunsmoke and the 1963 war film The Quick and The Dead.
Like his father before him, Victor got his start doing stunt work and making uncredited appearances in such films as The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Spencer's Mountain (1963).
Other pre-Little House film roles include the Westerns Death of a Gunfighter (1969), Cutter's Trail (1970), There Was a Crooked Man (1970), Wild Rovers (1971), John Wayne's Rio Lobo (1970), Charles Bronson's Chato's Land (1972) and the Elvis Presley movie Charro! (1969).
He also stepped out of his Western comfort zone for The Other (1972), The Nickel Ride (1974) and The House on Skull Mountain (1974).
The most famous Hollywood film to cast Victor, An Officer and a Gentleman, followed in 1982.
Throughout the '60s, Victor appeared in an impressive list of TV series and classic sitcoms, including The Dakotas (as Larrimore), Two Faces West, The Hero, Bonanza, Batman, The Virginian, The Wild Wild West, Rawhide, Get Smart and Kung Fu. In the same year as Little House's debut, he also appeared on The Waltons.
Landon, a personal friend, landed Victor a role in Little House's two-hour pilot movie, which NBC aired on March 30, 1974. Mr. Edwards, whose arrival was often signaled by him singing the folk song "Old Dan Tucker," appeared regularly during the show's first three seasons. The character got written off after Victor took the starring role as Chief Roy Mobey in the ABC series Carter Country. Edwards returned to the Ingalls family multiverse for a season six guest appearance before returning full-time for seasons eight and nine and a trilogy of post-series movies.
Victor directed 18 Little House episodes as well as the TV films Little House: Look Back to Yesterday and Little House: Bless All the Dear Children. He later put his director skills to use by guiding the live-action segments of the animated Glen Campbell showcase Rock-a-Doodle (1991).
Victor became Landon's co-star again for the 1984-1989 series Highway to Heaven. He was the wayward man in an Oakland Athletics ball cap, in need of spiritual assistance by the angel Jonathan Smith (played by Landon).
Away from film and television, Victor helped Leonard Nemoy and others establish Los Angeles' non-profit theater company Company of Angels.
Victor died at age 54 on June 15, 1989, at Sherman Oaks Community Hospital in Los Angeles after a three-month battle with lung cancer.
He had three children (Victor French Jr. and twins Kelly and Tracy French) with his wife from 1959 to 1975, Judith Schenz. He wed Julie Cobb from 1976 to 1978.
Victor was inducted in 1998 into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.