From the film trailer for the 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty. Tone should have been credited as "Midshipman Byam"
|Born||Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone
February 27, 1905
Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 18, 1968
New York City, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Education||The Hill School|
|Alma mater||Cornell University|
|Spouse(s)||Joan Crawford (m. 1935; div. 1939)
Jean Wallace (m. 1941; div. 1948)
Barbara Payton (m. 1951; div. 1952)
Dolores Dorn (m. 1956; div. 1959)
Franchot Tone (February 27, 1905 – September 18, 1968) was an American stage, film, and television actor, star of many successful films and television series throughout his career, such as Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. He is perhaps best known for his role as Midshipman Roger Byam in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), starring alongside Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.
Family and early life
He was born as Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone in Niagara Falls, New York, the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, the wealthy president of the Carborundum Company, and his socially-prominent wife, Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. His maternal great-grandfather was congressman Richard Franchot. Tone was a distant relative of Wolfe Tone (the "father of Irish Republicanism"): his fourth great grandfather John Tone was a first cousin of Peter Tone, the father of Wolfe Tone. Tone was of French Canadian, Irish, and English ancestry. Through his ancestor, the nobleman Gilbert BasqueHomme (Bascom), he was of French Basque descent.
Tone attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and Cornell University, where he was President of the drama club and was elected to the Sphinx Head Society. He also joined Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. He gave up the family business to pursue an acting career in the theatre. After graduating, he moved to Greenwich Village, New York and got his first major Broadway role in the 1929 Katharine Cornell production of The Age of Innocence.
The following year, he joined the Theatre Guild and played Curly in their production of Green Grow the Lilacs (later to become the famous musical Oklahoma!). He later became a founding member of the famed Group Theatre, together with Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, and others, many of whom had worked with the Theatre Guild. Strasberg had been a castmate of Tone's in Green Grow the Lilacs. These were intense and productive years for him: among the productions of the Group he acted in were 1931 (1931) and Success Story (1932).
The same year, however, Tone was the first of the Group to turn his back on the theatre and go to Hollywood when MGM offered him a film contract. In his memoir on the Group Theatre, The Fervent Years, Harold Clurman recalls Tone as the most confrontational and egocentric of the group in the beginning. Nevertheless, he always considered cinema far inferior to the theatre and recalled his stage years with longing. He often sent financial support to the Group Theatre, which often needed it. He eventually returned to sporadic stage work after the 1940s.
Tone's screen debut was in the 1932 movie The Wiser Sex. He achieved fame in 1933, when he made seven movies that year, including Today We Live, written by William Faulkner, Bombshell, with Jean Harlow (with whom he co-starred in three other movies), and the smash hit Dancing Lady, again with then-wife Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. In 1935, 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 opposite Bette Davis.
Tone worked steadily through the 1940s, but he often played second leads or love interests in films that focused on a major female star. Frequently typecast as the wealthy cafe-society playboy, he notably played against type in films like Five Graves to Cairo, a World War II espionage story directed by Billy Wilder, and Phantom Lady, a film noir thriller. He played the heroic lead in the 1940 Western comedy Trail of the Vigilantes featuring Warren William, Broderick Crawford and Andy Devine.
In 1949 he produced and starred in The Man on the Eiffel Tower, a troubled production whose reputation has benefited from restorations in the 2000s that have coincided with theatrical showings and vastly improved DVD releases. Tone's tour de force role as a manic depressive sociopath included performing many of his own stunts on the Paris landmark.
In the 1950s, facing subtle blacklisting in Hollywood, he found parts in New York City-based live television, including the original production of Twelve Angry Men. He also returned to Broadway, notably appearing in A Moon for the Misbegotten with Wendy Hiller in 1957. Also that year he co-produced, co-directed, and starred in an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, which was filmed concurrently with an off-Broadway revival.
In the early 1960s, Tone returned to Hollywood and, appearing aged beyond his years, essayed many showcase character roles on popular TV dramas like Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also co-starred in the Ben Casey medical series from 1965 to 1966 as Casey's supervisor, Dr. Daniel Niles Freeland.
On film, he received acclaim as the charismatic, dying president in Otto Preminger's 1962 film version of Advise & Consent. His final movie appearances were cameos in Preminger's 1965 film In Harm's Way (in which he portrayed Admiral Husband E. Kimmel) and Nobody Runs Forever (1968).
In 1935, Tone married actress Joan Crawford. They were divorced in 1939. They 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). They also experienced seven miscarriages, a fact highlighted in Mommie Dearest. Tone took their split hard, and his recollections of her were cynical — "She's like that old joke about Philadelphia: first prize, four years with Joan; second prize, eight." Many years later, when Tone was suffering with Lung Cancer, Joan often took care of him, making sure he had food and medical treatments and paying for all of it herself. At one point during this period, Tone even suggested they remarry which Joan turned down.
In 1951, Tone's relationship with actress Barbara Payton made headlines when he suffered numerous facial injuries and became unconscious for 18 hours following a fistfight with actor Tom Neal, a rival for Payton's attention. Plastic surgery nearly restored his broken nose and cheek. Tone subsequently married Payton, divorcing her in 1952, after obtaining incriminating photographs proving she had continued her relationship with Neal.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Franchot Tone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.
|1932||The Wiser Sex||Phil Long|
|1933||Today We Live||Ronnie|
|1933||Gabriel Over the White House||Hartley "Beek" Beekman|
|1933||Midnight Mary||Thomas "Tom" Mannering, Jr.|
|1933||Dancing Lady||Tod Newton|
|1933||Stage Mother||Warren Foster|
|1934||Moulin Rouge||Douglas Hall|
|1934||Sadie McKee||Michael Alderson|
|1934||The World Moves On||Richard Girard|
|1934||The Girl from Missouri||T.R. Paige, Jr.||Alternative titles: 100 Per Cent Pure
Born to Be Kissed
|1934||Gentlemen Are Born||Bob Bailey|
|1935||The Lives of a Bengal Lancer||Lieutenant Forsythe|
|1935||Reckless||Robert "Bob" Harrison, Jr.|
|1935||No More Ladies||Jim "Jimsy Boysie" Salston|
|1935||Mutiny on the Bounty||Midshipman Roger Byam||Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1936||The Unguarded Hour||Sir Alan Dearden|
|1936||The King Steps Out||Emperor Franz Josef|
|1936||The Gorgeous Hussy||John Eaton|
|1936||Love on the Run||Barnabus W. "Barney" Pells|
|1937||Quality Street||Dr. Valentine Brown|
|1937||The Bride Wore Red||Giulio|
|1937||They Gave Him a Gun|
|1938||The Girl Downstairs||Paul / Mr. Wagner|
|1938||Three Comrades||Otto Koster|
|1938||Three Loves Has Nancy||Robert "Bob" Hanson|
|1939||Fast and Furious||Joel Sloane|
|1941||Nice Girl?||Richard Calvert|
|1943||His Butler's Sister||Charles Gerard|
|1943||Five Graves to Cairo||Cpl. John J. Bramble/Paul Davos|
|1943||Pilot No. 5||George Braynor Collins|
|1944||Phantom Lady||Jack Marlow|
|1944||Dark Waters||Dr. George Grover|
|1946||"Because Of Him"||Paul Taylor|
|1947||Lost Honeymoon||John Gray|
|1947||Her Husband's Affairs||William "Bill" Weldon|
|1948||I Love Trouble||Stuart Bailey|
|1948||Every Girl Should Be Married||Roger Sanford|
|1949||Jigsaw||Howard Malloy||Alternative title: Gun Moll|
|1949||Without Honor||Dennis Williams||Alternative title: Woman Accused|
|1950||The Man on the Eiffel Tower||Johann Radek||Co-producer|
|1951||Here Comes the Groom||Wilbur Stanley|
|1955||Four Star Playhouse||Ben Chaney||Episode: "Award"|
|1956||General Electric Theater||Charles Proteus Steinmetz||Episode: "Steinmetz"|
|1957||The Kaiser Aluminum Hour||Arthur Baldwin||Episode: "Throw Me a Rope"|
|1957||Uncle Vanya||Dr. Astroff||Co-producer, co-director|
|1958||Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Candy Lombe||Episode: "The Crazy Hunter"|
|1959||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Oliver Mathews||Episode: "The Impossible Dream"|
|1960||Bonanza||Denver McKee||Episode: "Denver McKee"|
|1961||The Twilight Zone||Col. Archie Taylor||Episode: "The Silence"|
|1962||Advise & Consent||The President|
|1962–1967||Ben Casey||Dr. Daniel Niles Freeland||27 episodes|
|1964||See How They Run||Baron Frood||Television movie|
|1964||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||The Great Rudolph||Episode: "The Final Performance"|
|1965||In Harm's Way||Admiral Kimmel|
|1965||Mickey One||Rudy Lapp||Directed by Arthur Penn|
|1965||The Virginian||Murdock||Episode: "Old Cowboy"|
|1967||Run for Your Life||Judge Taliaferro Wilson||Episode: "Tell It Like It Is"|
|1968||Nobody Runs Forever||Ambassador Townsend||Alternative title: The High Commissioner|
|October 19 – November 1927||The Belt||Bunner|
|November 29 – 1928||Centuries||Yankel|
|January 12 – February 1928||The International||David Fitch|
|November 27, 1928 – May 1929||The Age of Innocence||Newland Archer, Jr.|
|May 24 – 1929||Uncle Vanya||Mikhail lvovich Astrov|
|November 11 – December 1929||Cross Roads||Duke|
|December 17, 1929 – February 1930||Red Rust||Fedor|
|April 14 – June 1930||Hotel Universe||Tom Ames|
|October 20, 1930 – March 1931||Pagan Lady||Ernest Todd|
|January 26 – March 21, 1931||Green Grow the Lilacs||Curly McClain|
|September 28 – December 1931||The House of Connelly||Will Connelly|
|December 10, 1931 – December 1931||1931|
|March 9, 1932 – March 1932||Night Over Taos||Federico|
|May 24 – June 1932||A Thousand Summers||Neil Barton|
|September 26, 1932 – January 1933||Success Story||Raymond Merritt|
|January 5 – May 1939||The Gentle People||Harold Goff|
|March 6 – May 18, 1940||The Fifth Column||Philip Rawlings|
|February 7 – May 19, 1945||Hope for the Best||Michael Jordan|
|December 17, 1953 – November 13, 1954||Oh, Men! Oh, Women!||Alan Coles|
|January 19–30, 1955||The Time of Your Life||Joe|
|May 2 – June 29, 1957||A Moon for the Misbegotten||James Tyrone, Jr.|
|May 22–27, 1961||Mandingo||Warren Maxwell|
|March 11 – June 29, 1963||Strange Interlude||Professor Henry Leeds|
|September 24, 1963||Bicycle Ride to Nevada||Winston Sawyer|
|1952||Theatre Guild on the Air||The House of Mirth|
|1953||Broadway Playhouse||His Brother's Keeper|
- The Peerage.com website
- Chandler, Charlotte (2008). Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, A Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. p. 120. ISBN 1-4165-4751-7.
- Hardison Londré, Felicia; Berthold, Margot (1999). The History of World Theater: From the English Restoration to the Present. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 530. ISBN 0-8264-1167-3.
- The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, Don Wilmeth, p. 21
- Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997, p. 123
- "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)".
- "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)".
- Higham, Charles (1986). Hollywood cameramen: sources of light. Garland. p. 110. ISBN 0-8240-5764-3. ISBN 9780824057640.
- "Milestones, Mar. 17, 1958". time.com. March 17, 1958. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- Nash, Jay Robert (2004). Great Pictorial History of World Crime: Murder. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 888. ISBN 1-928831-22-2.
- Donnelley, Paul (October 5, 2005). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 922. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- "Milestones: Sep. 27, 1968". time.com. September 27, 1968. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
- Kirby, Walter (February 22, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
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