Franchot Tone

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Franchot Tone
Franchot Tone in Mutiny on the Bounty trailer.jpg
From the film trailer for the 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty
BornStanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone
(1905-02-27)February 27, 1905
Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 18, 1968(1968-09-18) (aged 63)
New York City
Cause of death
Lung cancer
EducationThe Hill School
Alma materCornell University
Years active1926–68
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)
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Franchot Tone
Franchot Tone in Mutiny on the Bounty trailer.jpg
From the film trailer for the 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty
BornStanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone
(1905-02-27)February 27, 1905
Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 18, 1968(1968-09-18) (aged 63)
New York City
Cause of death
Lung cancer
EducationThe Hill School
Alma materCornell University
Years active1926–68
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)
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.

Franchot Tone (February 27, 1905 – September 18, 1968) was an American stage, film, and television actor, star of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and many other 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 best known for his role as Roger Byam in Mutiny on the Bounty, starring alongside Clark Gable.

Family and early life[edit]

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 great-great-great-great-grandfather John was a first cousin of Peter Tone, whose eldest son was Wolfe Tone.[1] Tone was of French Canadian, Irish, English and Basque ancestry.[citation needed]

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.[2]


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.[3] 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 the stage from time to time after the 1940s.

Tone summered at Pine Brook Country Club, located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut, which became the Group Theatre summer rehearsal headquarters during the 1930s.[4][5]

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.[6][7] Tone's tour de force role as a manic depressive sociopath included performing many of his own stunts on the Paris landmark.[8]

Tone in Advise & Consent (1962)

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).

Personal life[edit]

In 1935, Tone married actress Joan Crawford. They were divorced in 1939.[9] 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."

In 1941, Tone married fashion model-turned-actress Jean Wallace, with whom he had two sons and who appeared with Tone in both Jigsaw and The Man on the Eiffel Tower. They were divorced in 1948.

In 1951, Tone's relationship with actress Barbara Payton made headlines when he suffered numerous facial injuries and fell into a coma 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, and Tone subsequently married Payton, divorcing her in 1952 after obtaining incriminating photographs proving she had continued her relationship with Neal.[10]

In 1956, Tone married Dolores Dorn with whom he appeared in Uncle Vanya. They were divorced in 1959.


Tone died of lung cancer in New York City on September 18, 1968.[11][12] His remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Franchot Tone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography[edit]

1932The Wiser SexPhil Long
1933Today We LiveRonnie
1933Gabriel Over the White HouseHartley "Beek" Beekman
1933Midnight MaryThomas "Tom" Mannering, Jr.
1933Dancing LadyTod Newton
1933Stage MotherWarren Foster
1934Moulin RougeDouglas Hall
1934Sadie McKeeMichael Alderson
1934The World Moves OnRichard Girard
1934The Girl from MissouriT.R. Paige, Jr.Alternative titles: 100 Per Cent Pure
Born to Be Kissed
1934Gentlemen Are BornBob Bailey
1935The Lives of a Bengal LancerLieutenant Forsythe
1935RecklessRobert "Bob" Harrison, Jr.
1935No More LadiesJim "Jimsy Boysie" Salston
1935Mutiny on the BountyMidshipman Roger ByamNominated: Academy Award for Best Actor
1935DangerousDon Bellows
1936The Unguarded HourSir Alan Dearden
1936The King Steps OutEmperor Franz Josef
1936The Gorgeous HussyJohn Eaton
1936Love on the RunBarnabus Pells
1937Quality StreetDr. Valentine Brown
1937The Bride Wore RedGiulio
1938The Girl DownstairsPaul / Mr. Wagner
1938Three ComradesOtto Koster
1938Three Loves Has NancyRobert "Bob" Hanson
1939Fast and FuriousJoel Sloane
1941Nice Girl?Richard Calvert
1943His Butler's SisterCharles Gerard
1943Five Graves to CairoCpl. John J. Bramble/Paul Davos
1943Pilot No. 5George Braynor Collins
1944Phantom LadyJack Marlow
1944Dark WatersDr. George Grover
1947Lost HoneymoonJohn Gray
1947Her Husband's AffairsWilliam "Bill" Weldon
1948I Love TroubleStuart Bailey
1948Every Girl Should Be MarriedRoger Sanford
1949JigsawHoward MalloyAlternative title: Gun Moll
1949Without HonorDennis WilliamsAlternative title: Woman Accused
1950The Man on the Eiffel TowerJohann RadekCo-producer
1951Here Comes the GroomWilbur Stanley
1955Four Star PlayhouseBen ChaneyEpisode: "Award"
1956General Electric TheaterCharles Proteus SteinmetzEpisode: "Steinmetz"
1957The Kaiser Aluminum HourArthur BaldwinEpisode: "Throw Me a Rope"
1957Uncle VanyaDr. AstroffCo-producer, co-director
1958Westinghouse Desilu PlayhouseCandy LombeEpisode: "The Crazy Hunter"
1959Alfred Hitchcock PresentsOliver MathewsEpisode: "The Impossible Dream"
1960BonanzaDenver McKeeEpisode: "Denver McKee"
1961The Twilight ZoneCol. Archie TaylorEpisode: "The Silence"
1962Advise & ConsentThe President
1962–1967Ben CaseyDr. Daniel Niles Freeland27 episodes
1964See How They RunBaron FroodTelevision movie
1964The Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Great RudolphEpisode: "The Final Performance"
1965In Harm's WayAdmiral Kimmel
1965Mickey OneRudy LappDirected by Arthur Penn
1965The VirginianMurdockEpisode: "Old Cowboy"
1967Run for Your LifeJudge Taliaferro WilsonEpisode: "Tell It Like It Is"
1968Nobody Runs ForeverAmbassador TownsendAlternative title: The High Commissioner

Theater appearances[edit]

October 19 – November 1927The BeltBunner
November 29 – 1928CenturiesYankel
January 12 – February 1928The InternationalDavid Fitch
November 27, 1928 – May 1929The Age of InnocenceNewland Archer, Jr.
May 24 – 1929Uncle VanyaMikhail lvovich Astrov
November 11 – December 1929Cross RoadsDuke
December 17, 1929 – February 1930Red RustFedor
April 14 – June 1930Hotel UniverseTom Ames
October 20, 1930 – March 1931Pagan LadyErnest Todd
January 26 – March 21, 1931Green Grow the LilacsCurly McClain
September 28 – December 1931The House of ConnellyWill Connelly
December 10, 1931 – December 19311931
March 9, 1932 – March 1932Night Over TaosFederico
May 24 – June 1932A Thousand SummersNeil Barton
September 26, 1932 – January 1933Success StoryRaymond Merritt
January 5 – May 1939The Gentle PeopleHarold Goff
March 6 – May 18, 1940The Fifth ColumnPhilip Rawlings
February 7 – May 19, 1945Hope for the BestMichael Jordan
December 17, 1953 – November 13, 1954Oh, Men! Oh, Women!Alan Coles
January 19–30, 1955The Time of Your LifeJoe
May 2 – June 29, 1957A Moon for the MisbegottenJames Tyrone, Jr.
May 22–27, 1961MandingoWarren Maxwell
March 11 – June 29, 1963Strange InterludeProfessor Henry Leeds
September 24, 1963Bicycle Ride to NevadaWinston Sawyer


  1. ^ The website
  2. ^ Chandler, Charlotte (2008). Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, A Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. p. 120. ISBN 1-4165-4751-7. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, Don Wilmeth, p. 21
  5. ^ Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997, p. 123
  6. ^ "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)". 
  7. ^ "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)". 
  8. ^ Higham, Charles (1986). Hollywood cameramen: sources of light. Garland. p. 110. ISBN 0-8240-5764-3. ISBN 9780824057640. 
  9. ^ "Milestones, Mar. 17, 1958". March 17, 1958. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  10. ^ Nash, Jay Robert (2004). Great Pictorial History of World Crime: Murder. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 888. ISBN 1-928831-22-2. 
  11. ^ Donnelley, Paul (October 5, 2005). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 922. ISBN 1-84449-430-6. 
  12. ^ "Milestones: Sep. 27, 1968". September 27, 1968. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 

External links[edit]