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Franken, Rose (c. 1895–1988)

Franken, Rose (c. 1895–1988)

American playwright, producer, director, and screen-writer, who was best known for her popular "Clau dia" series. Name variations: (joint pseudonyms) Franken Meloney and Margaret Grant. Born Rose Dorothy Lewin on December 28, 1895 (some sources cite 1898), in Gainesville, Texas; died on June 22, 1988, in Tucson, Arizona; daughter of Michael and Hannah (Younker) Lewin; attended the Ethical Culture School, New York City; married Sigmund Walter Anthony Franken (an oral surgeon), in 1915 (died 1933); married William Brown Meloney (an author, playwright, and producer), in 1937; children: (first marriage) three sons, Paul, John, and Peter.

Selected works:

Pattern (1925); Another Language; a Comedy Drama in Three Acts (1932); (with J. Lewin) Mr. Dooley, Jr.; a Comedy for Children (1932); Twice Born (1935); (with W.B. Meloney) Call Back Love (1937); Of Great Riches (1937); Claudia (1939, dramatization, 1941, screenplay, 1943); Claudia and David (1939, screenplay, 1946); (with W.B. Meloney) Strange Victory (1939); (with W.B. Meloney) When Doctors Disagree (1940, dramatization by Franken, 1943); (with W.B. Meloney) American Bred (1941); The Book of Claudia (1941); Another Claudia (1943); Outrageous Fortune; a Drama in Three Acts (1943); (with W.B. Meloney) Beloved Stranger (1944); Soldier's Wife; a Comedy in Three Acts (1944); Young Claudia (1946); The Hallams; a Play in Three Acts (1947); The Marriage of Claudia (1948); From Claudia to David (1950); The Fragile Years (also published as Those Fragile Years: A Claudia Novel, 1952); Rendezvous (English title, The Quiet Heart, 1954); Intimate Story (1955); The Antic Years (1959); The Complete Book of Claudia (1958); Return to Claudia (1960); When All Is Said and Done: An Autobiography (1963); You're Well Out of a Hospital (1966).

Rose Franken was a prolific writer who turned out plays, short-stories, magazine serials, novels, and motion-picture scripts, frequently in collaboration with her second husband, author, playwright, and producer William Brown Meloney. Franken was the author of the enormously popular "Claudia" novels, which she also adapted into a hit play, two movies, and a radio serial. In addition to writing, she directed her own plays, some of which she also co-produced with Meloney.

Franken was born Rose Dorothy Lewin on December 28, 1895, in Gainesville, Texas. Her parents were separated when she was very young, and she grew up in New York's Harlem with her mother, grandparents, three siblings, and other members of the extended family. In 1915, she left high school to marry Sigmund

Franken, a prominent oral surgeon some ten years her senior. But Sigmund was diagnosed with tuberculosis just two weeks after the wedding and, after a year in a sanitarium, remained in ill health until his death in 1933. To ease her constant concern about her husband, Franken began writing, publishing her first novel Pattern in 1925. Her first dramatic effort, Fortnight, was not produced, but her second play, Hallam Wives, was staged in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the summer of 1929. The play, a comedy-drama focusing on a middle-class American family dominated by a possessive matriarch, was later revised and produced as Another Language (1932). Received favorably by critics and audiences alike, it ran for 453 performances on Broadway—a record for a first play—and was included in Burns Mantle's Best Plays of the Year. (Several of Franken's subsequent plays were also included in this annual review.)

After her husband's death, Franken, now the mother of three sons, moved her family to California, where she met William Meloney when they collaborated on a screenplay. They courted during subsequent writing assignments. Following their marriage in 1937, the couple moved to a Connecticut farm, where they continued to produce novels and magazine serials, using the joint pseudonyms Franken Meloney and Margaret Grant.

Franken began her "Claudia" novels in 1939, as a series for Redbook magazine. The series expanded into eight novels which sold well in the United States and in 20 countries abroad. The novels chronicle the youthful marriage of Claudia to David Naughton and take the reader through Claudia's maturation from child-wife to mature partner. Writes Felicia Londrè in American Women Writers: "Although the Claudia novels rely heavily upon illness, accidents, and death for the emotional upheavals that lead Claudia toward increasing self-awareness, they are essentially the saga of a blissful marriage." Franken, in her autobiography When All Is Said and Done (1963), admitted that Claudia eventually became burdensome, writing that "the sheer technical task of remaining within her consciousness became increasingly onerous and demanding."

The first two stories of the Claudia series formed the basis for Franken's hit play Claudia, which was produced in 1941. Purportedly, Franken, who directed the play, auditioned close to 200 actresses before choosing 23-year-old Dorothy McGuire for the title role. An un-known, McGuire was catapulted to fame by the play, which received a chorus of good reviews. "The best new American play of the season by all odds," proclaimed Richard Watts of the New York Herald Tribune. After a run of 477 performances on Broadway, the play toured under the auspices of three separate companies, while McGuire went on to recreate her role in the film version in 1943 and again in a film sequel, Claudia and David, in 1946.

Franken's next play, Outrageous Fortune (1943), was a serious drama dealing with homosexuality and anti-Semitism as well as a number of other social issues. Although it was criticized as theme-heavy, most reviewers felt that it was her best theatrical work. Audiences supported the production for ten weeks, making it a moderate success. Franken suffered her first solid failure with her next attempt, When Doctors Disagree, based on a "Franken Meloney" novel of the same name. She got back on track, however, with Soldier's Wife (1944), a drama which examined the problems caused when a husband returns from the war. Starring Martha Scott , Glenn Anders, and Myron McCormick, the play was praised by Willela Waldorf of the New York Post as "simple, unpretentious, intelligent, and full of a warm understanding of human and decent values, plus a consistently diverting sense of humor."

Franken resurrected the middle-class Hallam family from Another Language for her last professionally produced play, The Hallams (1947), after which she concentrated on fiction and her autobiography. Rose Franken did not publish after 1966; she died on June 22, 1988, in Tucson, Arizona.

sources:

Kunitz, Stanley J., ed. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Mainiero, Lina, ed. American Women Writers: From Colonial Times to the Present. NY: Frederick Ungar, 1980.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1988.

Rothe, Anne, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1947.

Wilmeth, Don B., and Tice L. Miller, eds. Cambridge Guide to American Theatre. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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