Tone, Franchot (1905-1968)

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Tone, Franchot (1905-1968)

In the succinct words of David Thomson, "Tone was perhaps all that Franchot had—that and Joan Crawford," the first of his four wives. Born the son of a wealthy industrialist in Niagara, New York, and educated at Cornell, Franchot Tone had a distinguished stage career, working with the Group Theater among others. His film career, however, although long and prolific (1933 to 1965), consigned him to roles as wealthy café-society sophisticates, weak cads, or the losing end of love triangles in archetypal romances of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1935 he was Oscar-nominated for a supporting role in Mutiny on the Bounty, and married Crawford "after one of the most denied, affirmed, and re-denied romances Hollywood had ever witnessed," as one columnist commented. Unhappy with his film roles, he returned to Broadway, starring in Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column in 1940, but was soon back in Hollywood. Although he lacked the necessary screen charisma for leading-man stardom, he worked with many of the top directors, including John Ford, Von Sternberg, and Billy Wilder. He made several films with Crawford, and was with Jean Harlow in Bombshell (1933) and Bette Davis in Dangerous (1935), but gave his most memorable performances towards the end of his career and his life: the dying president in Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent (1962) and the grim Ruby Lapp in Arthur Penn's Mickey One (1965).

—Benjamin Griffith

Further Reading:

Jarvis, Everett G. Final Curtain: Deaths of Noted Movie and TV Personalities. New York, Carol Publishing Co., 1995.

Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. New York, Crown, 1970.