Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Favorite Classic Movie Stars - FRANCHOT TONE

Franchot Tone was born by the name of Stanislas Pascal Franchot Tone on February 27, 1905 in Niagara Falls, NY. He was the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, who was the president of the Carborundum Company and his wife Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. Franchot was born of French Canadian, Irish, English and Basque ancestry and was related to the Irish revolutionary "Theobald Wolfe Tone".

As a child of wealthy parents, he had the opportunity to and did travel all over the world. He attended Miss Otis's School, which was then a boys academy. And then Hill School, for which he was dismissed "for being a subtle influence for disorder throughout the fall term".

He attended Cornell University, and originally majored in French as he was planning on becoming a language teacher, but that was before he became interested in dramatics and acting and where he eventually became president of the dramatic club, and also was elected to "The Sphinx Society" which was the oldest senior honor society at Cornell. "The Sphinx Society recognized Cornell senior men and woman who have demonstrated respectable strength of character on top of a dedication to leadership and service at Cornell University". Election to the Sphinx head has been recognized by "The New York Times" and "The highest non-scholastic honor within reach of undergraduates".

After graduating from college in 1927, Franchot decided against going into the family business in order to pursue a career in acting. He first joined a Buffalo, New York, stock company at fifteen dollars a week, and than moved to Greenwich Village and auditioned for the "New Playwrights Theater".

He got his first Broadway roll in the 1929 Katherine Cornell production of "The Age of Innocence".

The next year, he joined up with "The Theater Guild" and played Curly in "Green Grow the Lilacs". Which was later to become the famous musical "Oklahoma!". He became one of the founding members of the famed "Group Theater" which was a New York City theater collective formed by (to name a few...) Harold Cluman, Cheryl Crawford, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets and Lee Strassberg. This was in 1931. The theater was intended as a base for the kind of theater they and their colleagues believed in - "a forceful, naturalistic and highly disciplined artistry". They were the pioneers of what would become know as "American Acting Technique".

These years were intense and productive years for Tone. Among the productions of the Group, he acted in were "1931 (1931), "Success Story (1932). He was universally regarded by critics as one of the most promising actors of his generation and Gary Cooper called Tone "The best actor he ever worked with".

The same year, however, Tone became the first of the group to turn his back on the theater and go to Hollywood, when MGM offered him a film contract. Nevertheless, he always considered cinema far inferior to the theater and recalled his stage years with longing. He often sent financial support to the Group Theater, which often needed it. He eventually returned to the stage from time to time after the 1940's.

Franchot's screen debut in Hollywood though was in 1932's "Wiser Sex". He achieved real fame though in 1933 when he made seven movies that year. Including "Today We Live" (written by William Faulkner), where he first met his future wife, Joan Crawford. "Bombshell" with Jean Harlow, with whom he co-starred in three other movies with. The smash hit "Dancing Lady", again with Crawford and Clark Gable. In 1935, probably his best year, he starred in "Mutiny on the Bounty" for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" and "Dangerous" with which he starred opposite Bette Davis with whom it was rumored he was having an affair with. Davis would later admit to falling in love with Tone, but his affections were with her rival, whom he married shortly later.

He worked steadily through the 1940's, but without breaking through as a major star. He was usually type cast as the wealthy, cafe-society playboy type, and very few films for this period are notable. One conspicuous exception was "Five Graves to Cairo" in 1943.

In the 1950's Franchot moved to television and also returned to Broadway. In 1957 he appeared on Broadway in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" with Wendy Hiller. He also co-starred in the Ben Casey television series from 1965-1966 as Casey's supervisor.

Franchot was married on October 11, 1935 in New Jersey to Joan Crawford, they divorced in 1939. They had made seven films together. "Today We Live" (1933), "Dancing Lady" (1933), "Sadie McKee" (1934), "No More Ladies" (1935), "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936), "Love on the Run" (1936), and "The Bride wore Red" (1937).

He married and divorced three more times; to fashion model turned actress Jean Wallace from 1941 to 1948, and with whom he had two sons. Actress Barbara Payton from 1951-1952, and finally to much younger actress Dolores Dom from 1956-1959.

A chain smoker, Franchot Tone died of lung cancer in New York City on September 18, 1968 at the age of sixty three. Joan Crawford was moved by Tones plight during his illness and it was reported that she was to have taken him into her home to care for him. His remains were cremated and ashes scattered.

No comments: