About Victor French

by Website Editors | Dec 3, 2017

Charles Ingalls: “If you want some advice from a friend, I’d say marry that woman.”
Isaiah Edwards: “That’s the trouble with friends. They’re always trying to give you advice!”

—Season 2, Episode 7 “Remember Me: Part 1”

About Victor French


Victor French (born December 4, 1934) was inducted into the Great Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 1998 for projecting “…the traditional Western ideals of honesty, integrity and self-sufficiency in career endeavors over a lifetime in film, television, radio or theatrical stage.”[1] You could say it was in his family’s blood. His father Ted French was a western actor and stuntman who helped Victor break into the business. They appeared together in the Gunsmoke episode “Prime of Life” [2] and in The Quick and the Dead, produced by the Valley College Theater Arts department where Victor had attended college. [3]

Victor French in Prime of Life.” Gunsmoke (Season 11, Episode 32)

Victor French in Prime of Life.” Gunsmoke (Season 11, Episode 32)

His extensive career included film, television, and theatre. When he was president and artistic director of the Company of Angels Theatre in Los Angeles [4], he directed their 1971 production of 12 Angry Americans which won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award.[5] Among his many stage appearances included The Time of Your Life at the Huntington Hartford Theater with Henry Fonda, Jane Alexander, and Richard Dreyfuss. [6]

Due to Victor’s size and gruff exterior, his early film and television roles were as thugs and heavies. One exception was Agent 44 on “Get Smart” where those qualities were used for comedic effect (Agent 44: “You know everything costs so much today. Guns and knives are expensive, poison is up, strangling wire is $6.80 a yard.”) [7]

Victor French in “Ship of Spies, Part 1.” Get Smart (Season 1, Episode 27)

Victor French in “Ship of Spies, Part 1.” Get Smart (Season 1, Episode 27)

The role of Isaiah Edwards on “Little House on the Prairie” broke the type-casting limitations.


The lifelong friendship between Victor French and Michael Landon began on the set of “Bonanza” during one of Victor’s many guest star appearances.

Victor French in “An Earthquake Called Callahan.” Bonanza (Season 12, Episode 28)

Victor French in “An Earthquake Called Callahan.” Bonanza (Season 12, Episode 28)

When he was offered the role of Isaiah Edwards, Victor said Michael saved him from “20 years of playing killers, rapists and every kind of villain and pervert known to man.”[8]

Both men loved jokes and, according to Dean Butler who played Almanzo Wilder on the series, Victor was one of the few people who could play a practical joke on Michael Landon and get away with it. [9]

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Cast Christmas Party -- Pictured: (l-r) Victor French as Isaiah Edwards, Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank .

Starting with the 1974 pilot, Victor appeared as Isaiah Edwards in over 50 episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” plus three of the TV movies (“Look Back To Yesterday,” “The Last Farewell,” and “Bless All the Dear Children“), two of which he directed in addition to directing 18 of the series episodes. [10]

Due to a contractual dispute with NBC in 1976, Victor left “Little House on the Prairie” to star in “Carter Country,” an ABC series which ran from 1977-1979. After it was canceled, Victor returned to “Little House on the Prairie” for the duration of the series, appearing in 59 episodes until the final episode “Hello and Goodbye” in March 1983. [11]

Victor wanted to continue the story line with its strong family values and asked for fans to write in to protest the cancellation [12], but Michael Landon felt the series had run its course now that the Ingalls girls were all grown up. The show was also slipping in the ratings so it was time to go. [13]


Within a year Victor French and Michael Landon were televising a new series, “Highway to Heaven,” in which Victor played ex-cop Mark Gordon as the sidekick to Landon’s angel. The series ran for five seasons and Victor appeared in all 111 episodes, twelve of which he directed. [14] In his opinion, “It’s a hit show because it’s in good taste. I think Michael has good taste. I think I have good taste. Every show is an effort to show there’s a way to solve problems other than violence.” [15] His daughter Tracy (twin sister of Kelly) appears in the final episode, “Merry Christmas from Grandpa” which aired August 4, 1989. [16]

Victor French and Michael Landon in “Merry Christmas from Grandpa” Highway to Heaven (Season 5, Episode 13)

“Merry Christmas from Grandpa” Highway to Heaven (Season 5, Episode 13)


Even as a kid Victor liked boxing and would shadow box while watching matches on the television at home. When his friend Al Goossen, a boxing promoter who ran the Ten Goossens Gym in North Hollywood, suddenly passed away, Victor stepped in to help the family-run organization. “I wanted to get involved. I don’t know anything about how good a fighter is, but I like the business. Some people go sailing to relax. I live a half mile from this gym and I spend all my free time here. All my troubles are gone when I walk in here.” [17] He liked it so much he went on to get licensed and was co-winner of the Promoter of the Year in 1985. [18]


About a month after his 24th birthday, Victor French married Judith Schenz on January 9, 1959. His son, Victor A. Jr., was born in 1960 with twin daughters, Kelly and Tracy, arriving in 1962. After sixteen years of marriage, Victor and Judith divorced on July 3, 1975. [19]

On March 14, 1976, Victor married Julie Cobb, daughter of actor Lee J. Cobb. Victor and Julie appeared opposite each other in the critically-acclaimed Company of Angels production of the Arthur Miller play After the Fall, which opened May 13, 1977. [20] The marriage did not last and they divorced childless on May 23, 1978. [21] Victor never remarried.


Victor was a heavy smoker and in March 1989 he found out he had terminal cancer and by June was hospitalized. [22] His daughter Tracy remembered that Michael Landon would regularly come by the house and hospital to visit Victor while he was battling cancer. [23] It was a match he did not win and Victor French passed away June 16, 1989.


One thing that Victor French had was a vision. When he was campaigning to keep “Little House on the Prairie” on the air he said, “I can’t think of a time when we needed a show like this more – a show that teaches brotherhood, love, respect for the family, and regard for the law.” [24] Those sentiments ring just as true today as when he said them then.

Recommendations from the Website Editors

A number of the cast members from “Little House on the Prairie” have written about their experiences. Below are links to our website articles about them, as well as to their books, which make entertaining reading and inspired gifts for fans of the television series.

Melissa Anderson

Alison Arngrim

Melissa Francis

Melissa Gilbert

Karen Grassle

Wendi Lou Lee

Ketty Lester

Charlotte Stewart

For information about Laura Ingalls Wilder whose novels inspired the TV series, please visit our Recommended Reading lists for children and young adults and adults. You may also be interested in a documentary film about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We invite you to subscribe to the free Little House on the Prairie newsletter for all the exclusive interviews and events.

References and Resources:
[1] National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
[2] Wikipedia article: Victor French
[3] “Symposium on Movie Slated.” Los Angeles Times 5 January 1964: pg. T8
[4] Christon, Lawrence. “Stage News: No Death Today, Please Call Again.” Los Angeles Times 29 May 1977: pg. O49
[5] Harford, Margaret. “Stage News: L.A. Drama Critics Vote Awards.” Los Angeles Times 28 February 1971: pg. X34
[6] Sullivan, Dan. “Stage Review: ‘Time of Your Life’—33 Years Later.” Los Angeles Times 20 March 1972: pg. F1
[7] IMDB.com: Quotes for Agent 44 (Character), “Get Smart: Aboard the Orient Express (#1.13)” (1965)
[8] Folkart, Burt A., Times Staff Writer. “Victor French; Actor, Director on ‘Highway to Heaven,’ ‘Little House’.” Los Angeles Times 16 June 1989: pg. 28
[9] Biography.com: Dean Butler Interview
[10] IMDB.com: Victor French
[11] Thorp, Ellen. “Michael Landon, American Actor, Bonanza.” posted 30 January 2013
[12] Clark, Kenneth R. “’Little House’ Star Rips NBC Lineup.” Philadelphia Daily News 11 May 1983: pg. 46
[13] Farber, Stephen. “’Prairie’ Set is Dynamited for Finale.” New York Times 6 February 1984
[14] IMDB.com: Victor French
[15] Hill, Michael E. “The Road to Success: Western Trails Lead Victor French to Role on Highway to Heaven’.” Orlando Sentinel 23 June 1985
[16] IMDB.com: Tracy French
[17] Springer, Steve. “A Romance of the Ring: Victor French Gets in with the Goossens.” Los Angeles Times 22 May 1985
[18] “Briefly: Ten Goose Gym Honored.” Los Angeles Times 16 October 1985
[19] IMDB.com: Victor French biography
[20] “Stage Notes: Twain Loses Westwood Lease.” Drake, Sylvie. Los Angeles Times 2 February 1978
[21] IMDB.com: Victor French biography
[22] “Cancer kills Victor French.” Quad-City News 16 June 1989
[23] YouTube: Victor French Kids, Walnut Grove Family Festival, Walnut Grove, Minnesota: 26 July, 2014
[24] Margulies, Lee. “No New Beginning for ‘Little House’.” Los Angeles Times 10 May 1983

The editors of the Little House on the Prairie® website are pleased to bring you interesting articles, interviews, fan features, videos, and much more.


  1. I’d never watched LHOP in its heyday, being in my twenties and single. Too busy working and hanging out with friends. Earlier this year or late December 2020, I discovered LHOP on Peacock and have been binge watching it ever since. Midway through season 7 now. What a refreshing and entertaining gem of a show. Family values, no politics or Hollyweird themes. Perfectly cast. Loved Victor French and Merlin Olsen, especially their characters’ relationship with Michael Landon’s Charles Ingalls. You could see the chemistry and camaraderie, especially between French and Landon. All three gone too soon.

  2. Ich bin 1970 geboren und mit Bonanza und Unsere kleine Farm ohne selbst einen Vater zu haben aufgewachsen. Heuer werde ich 50ig und schaue mir diese Serien immer noch gerne an,weil sie mein Herz berührt haben und immer noch berühren. Mr. Edwards und auch Michael Landon sind viel,viel zu früh von dieser Welt gegangen!! Sie haben beide unendlich viel hinterlassen! Thank you! I was born in 1970 and grew up with Bonanza and our little farm without having a father myself. I’m turning 50 this year and I still enjoy watching these series because they touched my heart and still touch it. Mr. Edwards and Michael Landon left this world way, way too early !! You both left an infinite amount behind! Thank you!

  3. I had the opportunity to have known both Victor French and Michael Landon as a child. My father was best of friends with them due to my father being just about brothers with a man who had worked for the filming crew as a lighting man which my father named me after that man which is Alan . Alan had worked along side them since before LHOP I’m not sure of the times we would go up on the hill where it was filmed and I rember seeing them use explosives to blow up the set where it was filmed . I grew up in Simi Valley and had been to several big party’s that the guys would have occasionally out on the jack Lilly ranch in Aqua Dolce Canyon area and the. Heard of all of the kids would be having the time of our life’s when Victor would come find us and give us all a couple bucks to juice or selfs up on candy with. He was a great person and when he passed away I remeber seeing my dad cry for one of only two times in my life .
    The second was when Michael Landon passed away .
    After there death we would go up to the hill less and less I think my father was to sad to go up and camp there any more.
    I don’t rember how many times I have watched there old shows .from gun smoke to Bonanza to after highway to heaven when Landon did a few short mini series movies. Even these days I watch them when I get the chance. They remind me of my father and uncle Alan and the good times. Having lost my pops now. Seeing these old shows keep his and there’s spirit alive forever reminding us of how that times long gone are never forgoten. Thanks for reading these memories I have written and thanks for having put this site up for us to enjoy.

    • What wonderful memories you have of both these beloved men.

  4. Victor and I went to Valley College together .He went by Ed then. We did many shows together in our two years There. He was a funny guy in those days and I thought he would become a great comedian.Ed was a good friend in college, but since went in different direction. To this day, I miss his humor and friendship.

  5. I always knew him as a Goodie, only seen him as a Baddie a couple of years back on gunsmoke that was on UK TV, it did not matter because there is something in Victor’s eyes that make him kind, even as a baddie, you might say ” that’s because you seen him first as a Goodie” Well who knows, he will always be Mr Edwards to me!

  6. I remember as a child watching GUNSMOKE and BONANZA with the elders; then as a teenager watching LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. Little did I know that Victor French was my cousin; third cousin to be exact. When I recently discovered our relationship, I did not recognize the name, but my wife immediately recognized his face and I remember him from all that I have discovered. I particularly appreciate a recent picture of Victor and John Wayne. If it had not been for my continued research of the family history since 1979, this great discovery would not have been made. Rest easy cousin Victor.

    • I just have to say that Victor was a great actor and brought lots of entertainment to me and so many others. There were so many great parts he played that there are to many to mention. There was one Gunsoke episode where he carried this Buffalo gun and shot Matt the hero of all Hero’s and even then his acting was so good you still had to like him.
      Thank You Victor for all your hard work

      • I think it would be a super movie or documentary about the friendship of Michael Landon and Victor French.

  7. I watch gunsmoke everyday now and my favorite episodes are the ones with Victor French in them. We lost him to soon!!

  8. Happy birthday Mr Edwards❤️Victor French. A officer and a gentleman with Richard Gere must have been one of his last films. Fellow Sagittarius has a heart big as all outdoors with a since of humor to match❤️Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man washed his face in a frying pan combed his hair with a wagon wheel died with a toothache in his heel. Get out the way for old Dan Tucker it’s to late to get his supper. Suppers over and dinners cooking old Dan Tucker just stands there looking. Ohhhhhh

  9. I lost my father in 1986 when he had a massive stroke I watched Little House on the Prairie growing up and every time I saw mr. Edwards I remember my dad because he looked a lot like them and he had the full beard and the same character. He was an amazing actor

  10. My wife found little house on the prairie at the library and we with our 10 and 15 year old kid’s have really enjoyed watching and now we have started on high way to heaven, it is so good to see some thing with good Christian value’s I think Victor and Michael would be shocked at what is on TV now

  11. I loved LHOP. Watched all the way thru. Then HWTH loved that also. Anything they played in was a hit.

    We lost great talent when we lost them.


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