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Franchot Tone Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Spouse (4)  | Trivia (14)  | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (4)

Born in Niagara Falls, New York, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameStanislas Pascal Franchot Tone
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (2)

President of the Dramatic Club at Cornell University, Franchot Tone gave up the family business for acting, making his Broadway debut in "The Age of Innocence".

Tone then went into movies for MGM, making his film debut in The Wiser Sex (1932). With his theatrical background, Tone became one of the most talented movie actors in Hollywood.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: rocknrollunderdawg

Franchot Tone was born into a well-to-do upstate New York family. Tone traveled the world with his parents and attended various schools, including The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, from which he was dismissed "for being a subtle influence for disorder throughout the fall term." He entered Cornell University, studying romance languages with an initial goal of eventually teaching in such. But he also joined Cornell's drama club, becoming its president his senior year. The interest in theater would sow a seed soon to be germinated.

Tone had no interest in the family electro-chemical business. He decided to become a serious actor. He meant business by joining a theater stock company in the city of Buffalo, earning only $15 a week. He toiled with dedication, playing bit roles and educating himself in the theater business. He moved to Greenwich Village and auditioned for the New Playwrights' Theater, making his Broadway debut in 1929 with Katharine Cornell in "The Age of Innocence". Tone portrayed Curly in the flop Broadway production of "Green Grow the Lilacs" which would later be developed into the musical "Oklahoma!". He later discovered the Group Theatre in New York formed by Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman. This was the first functional school for "Method" acting in America, followed later by The Actors Studio, also under Strasberg. In late September of 1931 the theater presented its first production, "The House of Connelly", with Tone and Morris Carnovsky in the leading roles. Tone appeared in "Big Night" and later appeared in "Success Story", after which Strasberg proclaimed him as the best actor in the company. His performance in "Success Story" also prompted a contract offer from MGM. He moved to Hollywood in November 1932, although his aspirations as an actor did not include becoming a Hollywood star.

His first screen appearance was under the Paramount banner, not MGM, in The Wiser Sex (1932) starring Claudette Colbert. The Paramount brass did not see the potential, a telling sign of the chasm between Hollywood acting and that of the theater. Tone, however, was definitely on the "A" List ladder, His first MGM film, Today We Live (1933) co-starred the ambitious Joan Crawford. Here his woes with Hollywood actresses began in earnest. He and Crawford became a couple, and MGM could see the potential for better box office by pairing them in several movies. Tone worked through 1933 with other leading ladies, such as Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins and Jean Harlow, before he worked again with Crawford. However, he was already being saddled with "the other man" roles. In his next movie with Crawford, Dancing Lady (1933), he was competing with Clark Gable. By their next movie together, Sadie McKee (1934), Tone was the leading man but in forthcoming outings with Crawford he would have other film rivals and his characters tended to be less dynamic than hers.

He was loaned to Warner Bros. for Dangerous (1935) with 'Bette Davis'. Davis also became romantically interested in him, and her incipient rivalry with Crawford made her all the more incensed with Crawford on finding out that she was engaged to Tone. Davis was envious and ashamed of her advances toward Tone, and the incident is believed by many sources to be the start of the famous warfare between Crawford and Davis that lasted to their dying days. Tone and Crawford did marry in late 1935, but the chemistry did not gel. Tone was an Eastern blueblood who shunned the artificial Hollywood lifestyle, while the unsophisticated Crawford could not get enough of it, and publicity. Those differences and Crawford's bigger star power became glaringly obvious when the media labeled him "Mr. Joan Crawford". Tone's film career did not match Crawford's phenomenal rise, and he was still dedicated to substantial support of Group Theatre productions. The marriage goals and the money diverged sharply; they divorced in March of 1939.

Tone was most definitely becoming a matinée idol name. In 1935 he had two big hits, proving his wide range and depth as an actor. His whimsical demeanor lent well to comedic roles, which is why his wisecracking Lt. Forsythe in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) rang true. He also had considerable dramatic power, as seen in the second of these movies, the much anticipated Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) with his former co-star Gable. He, Gable and co-star Charles Laughton all received Oscar nominations for best actor. This was a first, and certainly an embarrassment which the Academy sought to remedy by introducing Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars the next year. Though Tone had other substantial roles through that decade, he seemed ready for a break with his film career. He suddenly returned to Broadway, and was able to thumb his nose at Hollywood due to the great success of his 1940 role as a newspaperman in Ernest Hemingway's "The Fifth Column". Unfortunately for him, MGM pointed out that he was still under contract to them, so he had to return.

Tone had stimulating enough roles while with MGM until 1944, particularly the World War II adventure Five Graves to Cairo (1943) which Cary Grant turned down because he didn't want to spend the summer in the Arizona desert, where it was being shot. Thereafter Tone worked to beat Hollywood at its own game. He freelanced at other studios and concentrated on parts that would expand his talents. He started working towards that goal with Universal's critically successful Phantom Lady (1944), in which he played a psychotic killer. He also began producing films that he felt would be challenging and successful. One of his best efforts in this capacity was the psychological B noir The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1950) as star and producer, with his great friend Burgess Meredith as director. However, his success as an actor and producer didn't extend to his personal life, and he still couldn't get past his weakness for marrying Hollywood starlets. By 1948 he divorced his second wife, Crawford rebound Jean Wallace. Between 1950 and 1952 he was embroiled in the most foolish act of his career: his involvement with actress-turned-prostitute Barbara Payton. Just about everyone in Hollywood warned him against getting involved with Payton, including ex-wife Crawford. He failed to heed those warnings, however, and soon married her. The marriage only lasted a few weeks, and he paid a pretty heavy price: a hospital stay because of some fairly serious injuries (broken cheekbone and nose and a concussion) that required surgery after he was attacked and beaten by one of Payton's most possessive boyfriends, brutish actor Tom Neal. The uproar over this assault ended Neal's acting career.

Tone's distancing himself from Hollywood continued into the 1950s, proving that dedicated stage acting and Hollywood usually did not mix. However, his need to adapt and mold the acting profession continued unabated. He saw the great potential of TV to provide both a live and economically filmed (the new videotape format) spectrum of stage plays. For a decade he was heavily involved in the medium and contributed over 30 performances in a number of prestigious TV playhouse productions. He didn't forget Broadway, though. In 1957 he scored a triumph in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon For The Misbegotten", and even his personal life brightened considerably. His last wife was much more amenable to being a helpmate. Dolores Dorn helped with his ambitious production of "Uncle Vanya" both Off-Broadway and in a lukewarm film version in 1958. When the more formal playhouse programs were replaced by TV drama story hours, Tone was again an enthusiastic contributor. He also worked in episodic TV from the late 1950s, notably a turn in a fondly remembered episode of the classic The Twilight Zone (1959).

He did not give up on the silver screen in his last decade. He turned in a memorable performance as the president in Advise & Consent (1962), directed by Otto Preminger. Though he had planned on retiring from acting at the beginning of the '60s, he in fact was working into the year of his death. Along with co-buying Theater Four in New York to launch new plays, he planned another personal multi-tasking (starring in and directing) film effort of the life of artist Auguste Renoir, but that was not to be. In reality, the title of his last film before his passing was as prophetic for him is for all of humanity - Nobody Runs Forever (1968).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (4)

Dolores Dorn (14 May 1956 - 16 January 1959) ( divorced)
Barbara Payton (28 September 1951 - 19 May 1952) ( divorced)
Jean Wallace (18 October 1941 - 1 October 1949) ( divorced) ( 2 children)
Joan Crawford (11 October 1935 - 11 April 1939) ( divorced)

Trivia (14)

Ex-brother-in-law of Hal Le Sueur.
His two sons with Jean Wallace are Pascal Franchot Tone and Thomas Jefferson Tone.
He is responsible for the establishment of the Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories in the Academy Awards, owing to his supporting performance (and subsequent Best Actor nomination) in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935).
His father was Dr. Frank Jerome (J.) Tone, a pioneer in the electrochemistry field. He was once the president of the Carborundum Company of America. Franchot's brother, Frank Jerome "Jerry" Tone, Jr., also worked for Carborundum. His mother was Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot Tone, who was of Dutch American, Scottish and French ancestry.
He is related to Theobald Wolfe Tone, a famous Irish patriot.
He attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Cornell University (where he graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1927); and Rennes University in France.
Is portrayed by Robert Hawkins in Will There Really Be a Morning? (1983).
Following his Sept. 13, 1951, beating at the hands of Tom Neal over the affections of starlet Barbara Payton, Tone was hospitalized for almost a week and needed plastic surgery to repair his badly damaged face.
Franchot Tone was one of the original members of the Group Theater (1931-1940), the first acting company in America to bring Stanislavski's revolutionary acting techniques to America. He was also the first to leave the company for a Hollywood contract. A few years later another company member, Julie Garfinkle (John Garfield), followed Tone to Hollywood. Both movie stars considered their days at the Group the most satisfying years of their lives, and both continued to subsidize the theater's productions until the Group Theater's demise.
Spent most of his summer vacations at an old family home in Point Comfort, Quebec, where he would hunt and fish.
Personal favorite of the films he starred in was The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935).
In an interview congratulating Joan Crawford on having three of her four husbands simultaneously join her for lunch, Tone's name was pronounced with a silent T.
In his later years, he was plagued by illness, and his ex-wife, Joan Crawford, helped care for him. The pair had remained friends long after their divorce. When he died, and in accordance with his wishes, Crawford arranged to have his ashes scattered over Muskoka Lake in Canada, close to his beloved home.
Franchot Tone has the distinction of co-starring (with Ann Sothern) in the first American film to play in newly-liberated Copenhagen (May, 1945), following Denmark's five-year German occupation in World War II; the film is 1939's "Fast and furious".

Personal Quotes (3)

[on his ex-wife, Joan Crawford] "She's like that old joke about Philadelphia: First prize, 4 years with Joan. Second prize, 8 years with her."
[of Phantom Lady (1944)] I may have gotten the star billing but it was truly Ella's film.
Actors suffer from being half narcissistic and half self-critical.

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