Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 at a Glance

Dancing Lady, 1933.
With 2018 quickly approaching, I compiled all of my 2017 exploration of Franchot in this link-filled post. I like to see what I've posted each year and revisit articles, quotes, and summaries that I've forgotten. Unfortunately, I didn't post as frequently in 2017 as I did in previous years, but I feel that I truly learned a great deal about Franchot this year—especially in regard to his theater career, his last decade, and his relationship with Barbara Payton.

I also added quite a bit of items to my Franchot memorabilia collection this year. I'm incredibly proud of my collection, but I do feel I got a tad obsessed with owning all the Franchot I could. It was a stressful year for me at times and I comforted myself with Franchot photograph purchases. In the last several months, I've realized that as comforting as a beautiful, original Franchot photograph is to me, I've been neglecting the pure joy that comes from watching his filmed work and having my nose stuck in obscure books searching for references to him. I think I've regained that balance of collecting and researching these past 2 months and plan to maintain it 2018.

I wish you all the best in 2018 and hope you'll continue on this journey of Finding Franchot with me!

Plays
Hope for the Best-1945
The Time of Your Life-1955 and 1958
Mandingo-1961
Beyond Desire-1967

Television
Witchcraft: Doll in Brambles-1950's
Ticket to Tahiti-1958
Bitter Heritage-1958
Alfred Hitchcock Hour-Final Performance-1965

Movies
One New York Night-1935
Three Loves Has Nancy-1938
Star Spangled Rhythm-1942
I Love Trouble-1948

Missed Opportunities
Gone with the Wind-1939
The Country Girl (play)

Personal Life
Reflections from Friendships/Coworkers: Janet Blair, Jean Dalrymple, Arthur Penn
Love Affairs: Barbara Payton: The Beginning, The Altercation, Marriage-Muir-and Malfunction, Franchot on Joan's Beauty and more, Franchot on Joan's Humor and more
Gatineau Treasure
Irving Thalberg's Support
A Theater of His Own
Pamp and the Yearbook

Magazine Articles and Interviews
Franchot Talks to TV Guide
Franchot Talks about Uncle Vanya
A Wealthy, but Sensitive Comrade
Franchot Thaws
Franchot Tells on Himself
The Winning Mr. Tone

Blogathons
I held the first ever Franchot Tone Blogathon in April 2017!
I also participated in the following blogathons:
The John Garfield Blogathon
The Bette Davis Blogathon
The Judy Garland Blogathon

Photos
I did photo posts here here and here.

My Take
Playing Against Type: Discovering Franchot's Characters
"He's No Gable!": Musings on Frequent Internet Mumblings
Reflecting on Franchot this September

Social Media
Don't forget you can also follow along with my Franchot fanaticism on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Fansite
My Finding Franchot fansite, a companion to this blog, is at www.findingfranchot.com.

Thanks for everything and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Studio One: Ticket to Tahiti (1958)

Franchot and Kim Hunter in Ticket to Tahiti.
Waiting for the elevator in his office building, Bill Gibson (Franchot Tone) decides to break routine and check out the travel agency on the ground floor. Miss Devereaux (Sheila Bromley) is a peppy, impassioned travel agent who convinces Bill that a trip to Tahiti is just the reward he needs. Bill, a widower, agrees. He's been working his entire life, raising a son who doesn't reciprocate his appreciation, and is ready to get away and have some fun. Bill has almost enough money saved up and, with a smile and excitement in his eyes, assures Miss Devereaux he will return to finalize travel plans soon.

Bill returns to his office and dreams of this chance to escape everyday life and begins recording a message to his boss saying that he will be taking a leave of absence on his dictation machine.  Bill's son Jim appears requesting money from his father. Jim's a young, new father who changes jobs frequently and is behind on all of his bills. Bill is clearly thrilled to see his son, but it's obvious to viewers that Jim is immature and taking advantage of his father on a regular basis. His heart set on an exotic getaway, Bill promises he will consider giving him a loan and let him know the following day.

We also discover that although Bill's message to his boss says that he has no ties to anyone or anything, Bill actually has a girlfriend Maggie (Kim Hunter) who desires to be more committed. Maggie can see that Jim and his new wife Shirley (Olive Sturgess) are using Bill for monetary support while denying him the right to spend time with his new grandchild.


Screenshots from Ticket to Tahiti.
When he makes a surprise visit to Jim and Shirley's home, Bill sees firsthand how irresponsible, disorganized, and childish his son and daughter-in-law are. After Jim disrespects him in a restaurant, Bill has had enough (and calls him a "little punk." I like hearing Franchot call people little punks. Also, I love when Franchot tells someone they are "outta brains" on Bonanza!) Bill devises a special arrangement which will end with payment to his son should his son agree to some pretty strict terms. If Jim doesn't take the deal, Bill will continue on his trip to Tahiti.

Ticket to Tahiti was a Studio One production that originally aired on June 2, 1958. It's a rare episode that occasionally airs on the Decades channel. Kim Hunter is absolutely wonderful as the loving, wise partner to Franchot's character, who hasn't fully committed to her yet. Franchot's character begins the episode exhausted with the daily grind, feeling unappreciated, and not demanding much of anyone. As the show progresses, Franchot's character Bill gains the upperhand and skillfully manages to secure a future of contentment and purpose for himself. I hope you're able to catch this rarity on television at some point, because it is completely worth the watch!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Franchot Talks to TV Guide, 1966

Franchot Tone as Daniel Freeland in Ben Casey, 1965-66.
Source: my collection.
In late 1965, Franchot granted an interview about joining the cast of Ben Casey and it appeared in the January 1, 1966 edition of TV Guide. It is my favorite of his print interviews, because it really shows that wit he possessed that all of his friends talked about in their recollections of him. I've collected some of Franchot's quotes from the interview as well as some of the interviewer's observations about him in this post. After buying a copy on eBay, I read the article and couldn't help but smile at Franchot's responses and feel emotional about his "best to come" response. Everything he says here is just so quotable! I love his reference to theater as the "feed bag" and his jokingly calling himself a "reasonable prima donna." When I read interviews of Franchot's, I always come away thinking "I really like this guy." And I think you will, too. That's why you're here, right?

On joining a television series in his 60's:
Tone flashes a smile familiar to two generations of moviegoers. "What's the use of having all this talent and not using it?" Tone says, and a network of laugh lines crinkle at the corners of his eyes. "Seriously, no plays came along and few pictures for a man my age except the odd cameo bits. I simply wanted to work."

Franchot's personality:

He has the aura of substance, the tenor of actorish dignity. A variety of books and recordings are stacked neatly in the living room, with the emphasis on Shakespeare and Mozart. "A man is happiest when his tastes are eclectic," Tone says. Only one magazine is in view, a copy of Playboy on the coffee table.

When Tone offers suggestions, [costar Vince] Edwards nods agreeably. "Fine, Franchot," Edwards says. "Whatever makes you comfortable." "I'm a very reasonable prima donna," Tone says. Edwards grins.

Both Vince and Franchot have a mutual love of horse racing. Sitting in his dressing room, Tone is usually immersed in a scratch sheet, pencil in hand. When the thoroughbreds are running, Tone and Edwards are at the track, although not together—Tone, the rich man's son, patronizes the $5 window, Edwards the $100 window.

"I'm unlucky in love. I should be lucky at gambling." But he isn't.

Gig Young, who starred with Franchot in "Oh Men! Oh Women!" told TV Guide:
Without being a fool about it, Franchot shared the limelight. He's an unselfish man, and when you say that an actor is unselfish—well, who's ever heard of an unselfish actor?

Another actor who chose to remain anonymous commented:
Tone has so much charm he makes people forget he's as self-centered as anyone in this business. Tone does what is best for Tone.

Franchot's Thoughts on Awards:
They are good for the people who give them and the people who get them and that's what awards are good for. (The interviewer noted Franchot was "properly sardonic" on the subject.)

Franchot's Thoughts on Marriage:
Marriage is very good for the children.

Franchot's Thoughts on Acting:
Everything I know about acting I learned from Lee Strasberg. At the Group, I learned Strasberg's variant on the Stanislavsky System—that's S-y-s-t-e-m, not Method. Method actors lack discipline. System actors are disciplined. I'm a pretty good actor today only because I've always renewed myself at the feedbag—the theater.

His Pride:
I'm proud that I've still got the best to come. I'm proud of "Strange Interlude" and "Uncle Vanya" and "Bicycle Ride to Nevada," which the critics roasted. I'm proud of some of the movies I was in. I'm proud of a half-hour GE Theater on Charles Steinmetz. I'm proud of my Mark Twain on a Playhouse 90. I'm proud of "The Old Cowboy" on The Virginian. And I'm going to be proud of Ben Casey.

Source:
"Who Has Ever Had a Better Time?" TV Guide. January 1, 1966. 12-14.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bitter Heritage (1958)

Franchot starred as Frank James, the brother of outlaw Jesse James in Bitter Heritage, a 1958 television production featuring a young Elizabeth Montgomery. Airing on August 7, 1958, Bitter Heritage was a 90 minute western drama focused on Jesse James, Jr. coming to terms with his family's notorious legacy. Warning: there are plot spoilers in this summary.

Jesse Jr. (James Drury) has nightmares about his father's death. He has been raised by his uncle Frank James (Franchot Tone), a man who has desperately tried to escape his former life of crime by living far away from the James homestead. Frank hasn't been home in 15 years, but there's good land there and a brood mare sale that lands him back in Kearney. (There's a funny scene in which Jr. asks his uncle if he remembered to bring money. Franchot, as Frank, grabs his belly—he's hidden the money under his shirt—shakes it, and smirks, "That's not belly fat, boy!")

As they ride closer and the town comes into view, Jesse Jr. asks his uncle what he sees. Frank replies:
Ghosts!...Some things you can't forget. People don't letcha...things don't change if people stay the same.
Jesse Jr. thinks that his uncle and grandmother (Eva Le Gallienne) are living in the past and making too big a deal of the events that transpired here before. He's optimistic and naïve and fails to face who his father really was. As Frank says over breakfast with his mother:
We lived those times. We understand them. He don't.




Although fifteen years have passed, Frank's instantly recognized in town. Colonel Brecker sees Frank checking in at the hotel and refuses to shake his hand. The colonel's young and fearless daughter Mary (Elizabeth Montgomery) invites Frank and Jesse Jr. to a party at their house while the colonel complains to the town sheriff about their presence.

Frank is already doubting his decision to come back to Kearney under any circumstances when old gangmates spot him. Luke (Robert Middleton) has been waiting to kill Frank James ever since Frank ran out and Luke narrowly escaped death at a hanging. Now, Luke assumes that Frank is back to step on Luke's toes and start trouble. Luke and his pals bombard Frank's hotel room, punch and threaten him.

Frank wants to leave immediately. He says that he's been tried and acquitted twice cause no witnesses ever came forward, and he doesn't plan on causing a stir now. Jesse Jr. thinks Frank's a coward. Frank responds:
There's a difference between running and stepping outta something you've got no control over.
We learn that when Jesse Jr. was a boy, Frank saved him from being a sideshow attraction. Frank rescued him and gave him a normal life. He doesn't want it ruined now.


Jesse Jr. refuses to leave. He's smitten with Mary and plans to attend her party. Frank becomes drunk at the bar and is telling lively stories. Luke's posse comes in, bully Frank, introduce a mentally ill homeless man who claims he is the real Jesse James, and taunt Frank by singing a song about his brother.

Frank is beaten by the men outside of the bar and his gun is stolen from him on the first night he's carried it in 15 years.



Frank recovers at the James homestead and Grandma criticizes Jesse Jr. for attending the Brecker party and says that Jesse Jr. is denying his birthright.

While Frank and Jesse are at home, masked men calling themselves Frank and Jesse rob the local bank. They kill the banker and leave behind a gun marked with the initials FJ. Mary is in the bank when it happens and swears that it wasn't Frank and Jesse. But the townspeople are eager to persecute the James family and a posse rides out to impose their own justice.


Grandma walks out front with a gun while Frank abandons the house from the backdoor. Jesse Jr. (and some viewers) assume Frank, desperate to escape the past, is running out. In truth, Frank gets on a horse and purposely leads the posse away to protect Grandma and Jesse Jr. As the men chase Frank, Jesse Jr. rides to the sheriff and asserts himself. With a loaded gun, Jesse Jr. threatens to shoot if he is not heard. The mentally ill man who believes he is the original Jesse James tells Jesse Jr. that the bank robbers are in a cave. The posse (with Frank) and Jesse Jr. ride to the cave to discover Luke and his gang hiding inside with the stolen money. Finally, Frank and Jesse Jr. are vindicated and welcomed back to their home.

 
Bitter Heritage is an engrossing tale of embracing the future while never forgetting the past. The telefilm is full of accomplished actors providing meaningful performances. Franchot is touching as the ex-outlaw eager to live a regular life away from scandal. Franchot starred in a handful of western roles in television and he seems right at home in that genre. It's a wonder that Franchot never starred in a western film after the 1940 western-comedy Trail of the Vigilantes. He was able to easily embody the good guy, bad guy, and especially, the man in-between in his western characters.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The 3rd Annual Franchot Tone Holiday Gift Guide is Here!

Each year I choose a selection of Franchot-related items that will make great gifts for you or that special Franchot fan in your life. This year I have six suggestions, but please make sure to check out other great Franchot goodies that made it onto my previous holiday gift guides: 2015 and 2016.

Stage Mother DVD
This 1933 drama was just recently released on DVD by Warner Archive and is on my own wishlist this year. Although his character arrives late in the film and his part is not large, Franchot gives a great performance and is pivotal to the plot. Stage Mother is a gripping precode about a young woman (Maureen O'Sullivan) who wants to live an ordinary life  and escape the ill effects of her domineering mother (Alice Brady).

Find it at WBShop

Wall Art of Joan and Franchot in Dancing Lady
Art.com offers this shot of Franchot and Joan in a steamy moment in Dancing Lady. It comes in multiple sizes, frames, and mounts. I like this shot a lot, because they both look gorgeous and it's my favorite scene of theirs in that film.

Find it at Art.com

Wall Art of Franchot
Art.com also offers this square portrait of Franchot in multiple sizes and styles. When I buy FT photos, I usually stick to original 8x10s. But this particular shot from a favorite series of mine never pops up in original form and the thought of sizing it to my liking is very appealing.

Find it at Art.com

Nice Girl? DVD
I've been watching an old recorded copy of Nice Girl? forever. I noticed that Amazon now has Nice Girl? released on DVD through the Universal Vault Series.  I'm not sure how long it's been available, but I know it wasn't there a year or so ago. It's a fun comedy starring Deanna Durbin, Robert Stack, and Franchot Tone. I'm hoping Universal will release my favorite Durbin-Tone collaboration His Butler's Sister now!

Find it at Amazon

Franchot Tone-related Sheet Music
I've featured "Did I Remember" from Suzy on the Gift Guide image, but there are many pieces of sheet music available that are tie-ins to Franchot's work. Play them on the piano or, since they usually have nice photographic covers, frame them! Here are some that are on eBay right now:
"Learn How to Lose" from The King Steps Out
"Love at Last" from Nice Girl?
"When You're in Love" from The Girl Downstairs
"Stars In My Eyes" from The King Steps Out
"When You're Away" from His Butler's Sister
"Madly in Love" from The King Steps Out
"A Love Song of Long Ago" from They Gave Him a Gun

Find it on eBay

Five Graves to Cairo DVD
Franchot Tone starring in a Billy Wilder spy drama along with Anne Baxter and Erich von Stroheim? Yes, please! This 1943 film is a great addition to any DVD collection, whether the owner is a Franchot fan or not.

Find it at TCMShop

I wish you all a very happy holiday season!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned above (or anyone for that matter.) I also do not own the prints featured from art.com so I cannot attest to their quality first-hand.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Photos Galore

I have not been able to maintain this blog these last few months in the way that I desire. I apologize to any faithful readers for that. It has been a season of illness for me and so I haven't been able to dedicate myself to new Tone research in the way that I typically do. I have posts on some television episodes (like Bitter Heritage and Ticket to Tahiti) planned as well as more fun stuff from Theatre Arts Monthly. I'd also like to write about more of Franchot's early film work, as I've dedicated a lot of time to his post-1950's career lately. Anyway, I'll shake off these germs and get back to regular posting, hopefully next week. In the meantime, here are some wonderful Franchot photos either currently available or recently sold on eBay.

Three Comrades, 1938
They Gave Him a Gun, 1937


Midnight Mary, 1933

Moulin Rouge, 1934


Franchot, Joan, and Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.


The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935


The Gorgeous Hussy, 1936
True to Life, 1943

Straight is the Way, 1934
 
Every Girl Should Be Married, 1948
See you soon!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Witchcraft: The Doll in Brambles

Happy Halloween! Or, if you don't celebrate, happy Tuesday! I have something I hope you will consider a special treat today. I added Franchot's opening and closing segments of Witchcraft to Youtube.

Witchcraft was intended to be a weekly anthology show, much like Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, with a horror and witchcraft theme. Franchot was to host this series, but the pilot episode "The Doll in Brambles" never aired and so this unique television opportunity never came to pass. I've seen the dates 1958 and 1961 attached to this pilot, but, to me, Franchot looks much younger here than he did in those years. I feel like there is no way this was shot in 1961, because this is a 1950-1955ish looking Franchot here. It's possible it was 1958, but even that seems a little too late, compared to photos of Franchot in that year.

Franchot is a perfect fit as host of this series and it's too bad this did not become a regular hosting gig for him. He has the elegance, intelligence, and perfect, shall we say, tone to be a trusted host that you return to each week for another night of entertainment. The actual story (which Franchot does not act in) is about a grandmother witch who tortures her granddaughter and has threatened to curse the granddaughter's fiancée should they proceed with a wedding. Although the main story is not quite on par with a Twilight Zone story, it is still entertaining and matches a lot of the anthology shows of the time.

Without further hesitation, here's a clip of Franchot hosting Witchcraft. Enjoy! If anyone has more concrete details about this anthology, the actual date, why it didn't air, or any information at all, I'd love to know more.