This dashing young fellow is British actor, David Frankham, as he appeared in the 1961 adventure film, Master of the World. It was the second of three films in which he co-starred alongside Vincent Price, the other two being Return of the Fly (1958) and Tales of Terror (1962). In fact, David credits Price with getting him cast in this role when the original actor had to bow out.
But today is a very special day, as today Mr. Frankham hits the age of 90 years old, and is still quite the spry fellow living down in warm and sunny New Mexico!
Science fiction TV fans may recall David Frankham from his guest roles in The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”) and Star Trek (“Is There in Truth No Beauty?”) However, to many longtime Disney fans like myself, David Frankham will always be beloved as the voice of Sgt. Tibbs, the heroic little tabby cat who helped rescue the puppies in Disney’s animated classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
I’ve written before of how the Disney artists would often try to incorporate some of the physical features and mannerisms from the actors who provided their voices. And I believe that they were able to translate some of Mr. Frankham’s facial features into the feline features of Tibbs. The little cat shares his big soulful eyes, small pointed nose that juts out sharply, and especially the pouting lower lip on a small mouth.
As it happens, Sgt. Tibbs is my favourite character from the film, as I love the irony of a skinny little cat risking his nine lives trying to protect 101 puppies, knowing full well that as grown-up dogs they’d likely give him a lot of grief! Tibbs moves in quick zigzag patterns, in contrast to the slow plodding movements of The Colonel, his sheepdog commander, and so that also makes him the natural choice to embark on a stealth mission, as he can easily dart through small confined spaces undetected by the two Cockney villains, Horace and Jasper. David Frankham created a quick, attentive vocal mannerism to match his physical movements, and the little cat is so respectful of his superiors, eager to carry out his mission to the best of his abilities. In short, Mr. Frankham and the Disney animators have combined their talents to create a heroic and memorable little personality that will live on in the hearts of all Disney fans forever!
So in closing, I want to wish David Frankham a very Happy 90th Birthday and sincere thanks for playing a part in my childhood movie memories!
Here he is in the trailer for Roger Corman's Master of the World (1961):