The revue, “Paris qui remue,” was an onstage globetrot through Africa and the West Indies. Mr. Franklin and the other ensemble dancers, known as the Jackson Boys, performed behind Baker and, in at least one section, her pet leopard.
It was during this gig that he acquired the tap-dance skills that would later be incorporated into a showstopping solo in de Mille’s “Rodeo.”
By the mid-1930s, Mr. Franklin returned to his native country, where he worked in the Markova-Dolin Ballet run by Markova and Anton Dolin. He performed with Markova in the production “Carnivale.”
Leonide Massine, who led the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, spotted Mr. Franklin with the Markova-Dolin company and brought him into his own organization in 1938.
Mr. Franklin starred in “Gaite Parisienne,” a light-hearted 1938 ballet by Massine that became one of Ballet Russe’s signature works. He played a gallant baron who falls for a humble glove peddler, played by Danilova.
The dance troupe came to the United States during the war and detoured to Hollywood in the early 1940s. Mr. Franklin said he befriended many in the English colony there, including Charlie Chaplin (with whom he played tennis) and actress Greer Garson. With the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Mr. Franklin appeared in the short films “The Gay Parisian” (1941) and “Spanish Fiesta” (1942).
After Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo briefly disbanded in the early 1950s because of financial problems, Mr. Franklin formed his own company with ballerina Mia Slavenska. They adapted Tennessee Williams’s melodrama “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1952, with Mr. Franklin as the brutish Stanley Kowalski and Slavenska as the troubled Blanche Du Bois.
New York Times dance critic John Martin wrote that Mr. Franklin conveyed “tremendous force” in a role that had originated on stage and later was translated to film by Marlon Brando.
From 1957 to 1961, Mr. Franklin co-directed the Washington Ballet with Mary Day. He then helped launch the National Ballet in Washington, a group that achieved critical success before folding in 1974 because of poor fundraising and audience development.
Later, as a freelance artist, Mr. Franklin created a new rendition of “Giselle” for Dance Theatre of Harlem. That 1984 work became known as “Creole Giselle” because of its New Orleans setting. He also staged a traditional version of that classic ballet for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet in 2007.
Though his focus shifted from performing to coaching and directing in his later years, Mr. Franklin didn’t completely retire from the stage. In his ninth decade, he danced character and pantomime roles in American Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake,” “La Sylphide” and “Romeo and Juliet,” among others.
Survivors include his partner of 48 years, William Ausman of New York, and a brother.
Mr. Franklin remained a formidable presence on stage, even in advanced age. Anna Kisselgoff, the New York Times dance critic, once wrote that the director of the Kirov Ballet approached her after seeing the then-88-year-old Mr. Franklin’s performance with the American Ballet Theatre.
He asked, “Who is the man who was the tutor in ‘Swan Lake’? He has the presence of a star.”
In 2011, Mr. Franklin received a Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement, one of the dance world’s most prestigious prizes.
Not long before receiving the prize, he told an interviewer for Time Out London, “There have been moments when I’ve thought: What am I doing? And then I talk to myself and say: ‘Come on FF, get up there and get going.’ That’s the true spirit of showbusiness talking. ‘As long as my legs keep going, I’ll be all right.’ ”