Monday, February 13, 2017

Announcing the Franchot Tone Blogathon!

I am so excited to announce that I'll be hosting the first ever Franchot Tone Blogathon! Since this blog began, I've enjoyed celebrating actors I admire through blogathons hosted by fantastic classic film blogs. Now, it's Franchot's turn! In honor of the second anniversary of the Finding Franchot blog, I will be hosting a Franchot Tone Blogathon from April 21 through April 23, 2017.

How to Join:

1. Choose a film, tv show, or radio show featuring Franchot Tone that you enjoy and write about it! My hope is that everyone will write about a piece of Franchot's work that you really love and that you feel is an important part of his legacy. For example, I'm writing about Three Loves Has Nancy because it's a film that shows off Franchot's comedic skills and the first film in which Franchot caught my eye. Without that fateful viewing of Three Loves Has Nancy years ago, this little Franchot Tone blog wouldn't exist. If you need to refresh your memory, here's a list of Franchot's filmography. If you don't want to limit it to just one performance, you are welcome to highlight your favorite moments found in multiple films or get creative with how you approach the topic.

2. To celebrate the second anniversary of Finding Franchot, I'm hosting the blogathon as a celebration on the weekend of April 21 through April 23. Just publish your post in that time frame and leave a link on the post I'll have up that weekend.

3. Comment here the Franchot work you are planning to cover and I'll add you to the roster.

3. Choose a banner below and display it on your blog with a link back to this post.

Also, thank you to Le over at Critica Retro for first encouraging me to host a Franchot blogathon with a comment left on this site!


Finding Franchot - Three Loves Has Nancy (1938)

Old Hollywood Films - Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies - Coming around to Franchot Tone

Critica Retro - Dancing Lady (1933)
Back to Golden Days - Three Comrades (1938)
Mike's Take on the Movies - Twilight Zone, Hitchcock, and Suspense

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Payton-Tone: Marriage, Muir, and Malfunction

Just two weeks after the violent altercation with Tom Neal, Franchot, still bruised and swollen, married Barbara Payton in her childhood home in Cloquet, Minnesota. Many of Barbara’s family, knowing just as well as the public that this marriage would not last, were absent from the ceremony. It seems that only Franchot and Barbara were hopeful about the union. The usually astute Franchot was so wrapped up in his obsession with Barbara that he failed to recognize that, to the press and his fans, he looked more than foolish. Town officials stated that they did not appreciate the negative publicity associated with Barbara and that Cloquet was unimpressed with her and this marriage.

Following the wedding, Franchot and Barbara were photographed together and then headed to The Flame Supper Club and Hotel Duluth. Two days later, the honeymooners traveled to Franchot’s Canadian lodge before returning to Hollywood.
Franchot and Barbara following the ceremony. Source:
A week later, on October 5th, Barbara was subpoenaed again to testify in the continuing murder trial of her friend Stanley Adams. That same month, Barbara and Franchot promoted Barbara’s film Drums in the Deep South on a publicity tour of southern cities. Completely opposite from their triumphant publicity tour just nine months before, the couple encountered “boos” from some audience members, disinterest from city officials, and mocking newspaper coverage in several of the tour’s locations. As author John O’Dowd wrote, "As a couple, the Tones had become little more than a tacky, industry joke, and sadly, everyone seemed to know it but them."
So far, Barbara had been in the definite lead for the public's disapproval, with Franchot being looked upon more with pity than anger. But on October 29th, Franchot made headlines all by himself when he spit on a gossip columnist. Dining with Barbara and his mother Gertrude at Ciro's, Franchot approached Florabel Muir. Muir had repeatedly written scathingly about Franchot and Barbara. Franchot, after quite a bit of alcohol, walked up to Florabel and her husband. After some rude remarks were made about Florabel's marriage, Florabel asked Franchot if he was mad at her. Franchot responded, "Yes, I am. So mad, in fact, that I could just spit in your face. In fact, that's just what I'm going to do."

Then, he spit right in her eye! I must admit here and now that Franchot's verbal response always gives me a chuckle. It's such a dignified, cultured way to threaten someone, before very crudely and disgustingly spitting on them.  It's hard to believe that Franchot would think that spitting in a lady's eye was a good idea, but this was his year of very bad decisions. I am not placing any blame on Florabel for the specific incident, but I bet she was actually quite pleased it happened because it made excellent fodder for the next day's column. Florabel reported in her next column that Franchot had once been an "upstanding fellow displaying at all times a brilliant mind and charming manners. What has happened to him in the last few months is as big a mystery to me as it is to all his friends and acquaintances."

Florabel called the current Franchot a "guttersnipe" and charged him with being on narcotics and kicking her in the shin. Franchot was so angry at the false narcotics claim that he voluntarily submitted to drug testing and was cleared. In court on December 11, Franchot told the judge, "Your honor, I did not kick the complainant and I did not use any vile language. However, I do admit I may have lost my sense of proportion and my sense of good conduct."
Franchot arriving at court on December 11, 1951. Source: USC Digital Collection
Franchot was fined $400, but his 45-day jail sentence for battery was suspended by the judge. Before the Muir incident was even closed in court, Franchot had already begun divorce proceedings against Barbara. As most suspected, it didn't take long for the relationship to hit a sour note. Just 53 days to be exact. In late November, Franchot filed for divorce and not even a full month later, Barbara and Tom Neal were making headlines as they traveled together on a promotional tour for Bride of the Gorilla.

But the marriage proved to be exactly like the courtship. Barbara would break up with Tom and head back to Franchot and then back to Tom again. Franchot was embarrassed and hurt each time Barbara went back to Tom, but seemed to forgive her easily and welcome her back. On their tour, Barbara and Tom were typically drunk, rude, and caught in scandalous situations. Having dropped his divorce complaint in early December, Franchot reinstated it before the end of the year. In January 1952, Franchot and Barbara moved in together again and would remain together until March 15, when Franchot finally had enough and ended it.

The Franchot that Barbara encountered in the spring months of 1952 was not the beaten, pitiful man anymore. After two years, he was done with Barbara and ready for spiteful revenge. Unbeknownst to Barbara, Franchot had never actually dropped his earlier divorce action. Since Barbara wasn't aware it still existed, she failed to contest it in time. Barbara's attorney Milton Golden would claim that this was Franchot's duplicitous plan all along and that Franchot had tricked Barbara into moving back in with him as part of this ruse. Golden and his client Payton were surprised that, for once in the relationship, Franchot had the upper hand.

Franchot had finally shaken off the romantic spell he'd been under and fired back at Barbara even harder with his next move. Knowing that Tom Neal had moved back into the house with Barbara immediately after he vacated it, Franchot hired a private investigator. Photographs were taken of a compromising situation (there were also reports that there were other photos taken of Barbara with men who were not Tom.) Franchot would use these photos as evidence for his divorce, but he'd also use them as personal retaliation by anonymously distributing  the photos in sealed, blank envelopes across Hollywood. This malicious act was not typical of Franchot at all and researcher Lisa Burks would tell author John O'Dowd that Franchot had been pushed  to "his limits with her never-ending betrayals" and that this out-of-character revenge was motivated by "extreme emotional pain." Barbara's sister-in-law Jan agreed that "it was a very cruel thing to do...and not at all like Franchot."

Presented in court, the photos nullified Barbara's cross-complaint and on May 17, 1952, Franchot was granted a divorce.

Barbara would remain with Tom Neal for quite some time, but they never married. Due to the studio and public's response to their unpredictable and salacious behavior, Barbara and Tom's careers were soon destroyed. In 1953, the couple starred together in the film The Great Jesse James Raid and the play The Postman Always Rings Twice, but both attempts failed critically and commercially. They parted later that year.

Tom would later work as a landscaper. He married Patricia Fenton in 1956 and following their divorce, Tom married Gale Bennett in 1960. On April 2, 1965, Bennett was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Suspicion quickly turned to Tom, who surrendered himself the next day. Tom admitted that he and Gale were separated and arguing when he visited her on April 1. He claimed that Gale was killed when the gun accidentally fired during a physical struggle between the two. Found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, Tom served six years in prison. He died of heart failure at age 58 on August 7, 1972, just eight months after being released on parole.

Barbara covered in bruises at the police station, 1962. Source: UCLA Digital Collections
The I Am Not Ashamed cover

By the late 1950's, it was hard for the public to remember Barbara as the glamorous, young actress of Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. She was, by this time, an alcoholic and drug addict with multiple arrests. One of those arrests was for prostitution, the career she turned to once her promising acting career ended. In the early 1960's, Barbara participated in the exploitative biography project I Am Not Ashamed in order to buy more alcohol. Sadly, the one-time beauty that wealthy big names fought over was now an overweight and drunk "lady of the night" who was regularly beaten by her clients. It's devastating, truly, that someone could fall so far in such a short time. It seems Barbara was intent on self-destruction. Friends who knew her tried to intervene multiple times, but Barbara was, just like the title, not ashamed. She rejected all chances for a better life and died at only 39 years old on May 8, 1967. I highly recommend John O'Dowd's biography Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story. It's a well-researched work on an interesting life. I learned a great deal from the book and couldn't have written these posts without it.

Following the circus that was 1950-1952, Franchot would quickly pick up the pieces of his own life and return his focus to his career, his sons, dates with glamorous, but more stable women, and a private life lived in New York and at his lodge in Canada. Like Barbara, Franchot would drink more heavily with each passing year, but didn't let it interfere with his work ethic or public behavior (however, it did cause the end of his final marriage to actress Dolores Dorn.) He would never again let himself be smeared and ridiculed in the press. Franchot would outlive Barbara by just one year, dying from lung cancer at the age of 63 in 1968.

In the early 60's, Franchot was stopped by a reporter and asked for his response to Barbara's prostitution charges. Franchot, no longer bitter, said he felt bad that Barbara was having a tough time and that he wished her well.

If you missed the first two parts of my Payton-Tone series, please read about the beginning of the relationship and the altercation, too. Researching Franchot and Barbara's relationship and Barbara's life afterwards has been a little emotionally draining for me. It was just such a rough time for Franchot and a rough life for Barbara. Even though Barbara was responsible for a lot of Franchot's heartache and completely responsible for the sad path of her own life, I still feel badly that her life was so tragic. I'm looking forward to celebrating happier times in Franchot's life this month, including Franchot's Oscar-nominated performances.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Payton-Tone: The Altercation

If you missed my first post on the Barbara Payton and Franchot Tone relationship, you may want to start here: The Beginning. This is a painful post to write and read if Franchot is dear to you. Although it reads like a soap opera, the whole thing is more like a scary movie to me. You want to scream,  "Franchot, don't go to the house!," "Franchot, don't do it! It's a trap!" Spoiler alert: He does go to the house and he does fall into a trap. Well, here we go...

Barbara and Tom in 1952. Source: UCLA Digital Collections.
When we left off, Barbara had met Tom Neal and thoughtlessly renounced Franchot while he was away on business. Throughout August 1951, Barbara would change her mind several times over which man she wanted and amazingly, the men seemed to comply. Finally, Barbara stated she would marry Tom and they spent nearly the first two weeks of September together. On September 13, Franchot came to town and Barbara spent the entire day with him at Beverly Hills Hotel and the evening at Ciro's. After 1 a.m., an inebriated Franchot and Barbara returned to her apartment to find an equally inebriated Tom and his friends.

Franchot and Tom confronted each other. In I Am Not Ashamed, Barbara relates that what set Franchot off was a pair of dumbbells on the patio—a painful reminder that Tom had been living with Barbara in the apartment Franchot paid for. According to author and Payton researcher John O'Dowd, as the argument became more heated, Barbara kissed Franchot and told him to "get rid of Tom." Throughout this entire affair, Franchot had seen the printed publicity in which Tom Neal had called him old and dull. Barbara would say that during this particular argument Tom would question Franchot's virility and ability to please Barbara. Now 46-years-old, Franchot's ego must have taken a hit at these comments. To prove himself to Barbara and regain control, Franchot (about 25 pounds thinner than his opponent) challenged Tom to a fight outside.

Tom threw the first punch and it was so powerful that it lifted Franchot up in the air and then forced him to the ground. Once Franchot was down, Tom jumped on top of him and beat him mercilessly. A next door neighbor would report that he saw Tom punch Franchot over 30 times in less than 10 minutes, but the uncouth Tom would later say that he only hit him a handful of times, else Franchot "wouldn't have any face or head left!"

Franchot lost consciousness several times and was unable to remember a lot of details of the fight. He would later tell District Attorney Roll:
Neal's first blow rendered me unconscious. I regained consciousness two or three seconds subsequently, to find Mr. Neal sitting on top of me, beating me about the head and face. I raised my hand to protect my face, but lost consciousness again immediately.
After one of Neal's friends tore Tom off Franchot, Franchot, in grave condition, was rushed to the nearby California Lutheran Hospital. Reporters who caught wind of the beating and hurried to the hospital waiting room were told that there was concern about blood clots and strokes and that this was essentially a “death watch.”

The beating left Franchot with a shattered cheekbone, fractured upper jaw, broken nose, and concussion. His face was so damaged that the doctors performed emergency plastic surgery and warned that his face might never look exactly the same as the public remembered. Immediately following the fight, Barbara stated to the press that she planned to marry Franchot and called Tom a “vicious man.” Although she snuck in martinis to a bandage-wrapped and pained Franchot, Barbara’s main focus seemed to be embracing the publicity that the ordeal had produced. She didn’t appear to understand why she was getting such negative press and offered no explanations. And she didn’t alter her behavior, either.

Barbara visiting Franchot in the hospital. Source: UCLA Digital Collections.
While Franchot was recuperating in the hospital, Barbara was photographed dancing with Tom in nightclubs. Reporters witnessed Tom enter Barbara’s apartment in the evenings and exit with her each morning before Barbara, alone, went to visit her badly beaten, on-again fiancée in the hospital. The fact that Barbara continued to go behind an ailing Franchot’s back to be with the man that beat him senselessly is something that I, personally, have a hard time understanding. It’s just such a cold, selfish way to behave and a horrible way to treat any person. Payton’s son John Lee thinks that Barbara behaved this way because she didn’t understand how to give or receive love. Barbara’s friend Tina Ballard commented that Barbara was one of those people who is so deeply self-destructive that they unintentionally wreck the lives of all in their path. In O’Dowd’s biography, Tina also described Barbara’s feelings for both men:
I think Barbara wished she could combine Franchot's qualities of wealth, intelligence and class with Tom's down-and-dirty, somewhat raw sexuality, and make a whole other person out of them! She loved and admired both men...the pull to Tom, though, was way stronger...
The fight placed negative publicity on all three principal players. Barbara walked away with a pretty horrible reputation in the public's opinion and was dropped from a leading role in Lady in the Iron Mask (I’ll get into her dreary post-Franchot years in a later blog post.) Franchot was able to redeem his reputation and career after some time, but it would take years of dedication to his craft and re-embracing the privately-lived life he’d known before Barbara.

In the year after the fight, however, Franchot was ridiculed by the press for his behavior with Barbara and publicly humiliated (even by some colleagues) for engaging in and losing a fight with a physically stronger man. But the embarrassment of the situation and stain against his character were nothing compared to the physical damages Franchot suffered. I think the plastic surgeons were extremely skilled, because they were able to maintain his recognizable facial features. Still, to me, he never looked quite the same after the fight. How could he after a shattered cheekbone, fractured upper jaw, and broken nose? Franchot looked like himself, just a slightly different version.

I do not have source info for this photo, but I think it's a good example of the
work done on Franchot's face. His nose looks differently here. Smoother, not with
the natural, imperfect slope of his nose prior to the incident.

Here's a good side-by-side comparison that shows
how Franchot's nose bump and nostrils looked in 1937 and
then after required plastic surgery in 1951.
His voice was affected, too. Don’t get me wrong. I realize that a lot of his vocal change in later years was due to cigarettes and scotch. Barbara herself said that Franchot never quite talked the same way and a few years later, in 1953, Franchot would unsuccessfully sue Lloyds of London for damages inflicted by Tom. Franchot stated that he had suffered “facial disfigurement and impairment of his voice.” (Resisting the suit, Lloyds argued that Franchot “was intoxicated, provoked a fight and exposed himself deliberately to danger.”)

Tom’s post-Franchot life will require a future post as well, but immediately following the assault, Tom was facing felony charges and possible prison time. Franchot was planning on pressing charges on Tom and following his hospital release, gave his version of the event to District Attorney S. Ernest Roll. During the meeting, a still-in-recovery Franchot, who was described as being very swollen, bloodshot, and pale, made it clear that Tom was the aggressor, but his fiancée backpedaled on it. Despite her earlier statements that Tom was a violent brute who nearly killed Franchot, Barbara was now obviously lessening those charges in order to protect Tom.

Franchot on September 25, 1951. This was the first photo of Franchot following the assault
and his hospital stay. It was taken at the DA's office. Source:UCLA Digital Collections.
Between that meeting and September 27th, Barbara privately convinced her fiancée not to file charges on her lover (former lover, thought Franchot, but the world knew differently.) On September 26th, Barbara flew with her son for a visit of her hometown in Minnesota. The next day, Franchot angered the district attorney when he withdrew charges on Neal and caught a flight to Minnesota.

Franchot waiving assault charges against Tom Neal. Source: UCLA Digital Collections.

By September 28th, Franchot and Barbara were married.

Next week, I'll share the story of Franchot and Barbara's hasty marriage and, as most predicted, divorce less than 9 months later.

  • "Lloyd's Fights Tone's Suit." New York Times. May 10, 1953.
  • O'Dowd, John. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story. Bear Manor Media, 2006.
  • Payton, Barbara. I Am Not Ashamed. Holloway House, 1963.
  • UCLA Digital Collections.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Payton-Tone: The Beginning

I've avoided posting about the tempestuous relationship and ensuing scandal of Franchot and Barbara Payton for a good 21 months. Not because I was trying to deny its existence, but because I didn't want to fall into the noticeable trend of recognizing him for this brief moment in his life over the years of accomplishments. When I first became interested in Franchot and started searching for information on him, I was discouraged to find that nearly every site, article, even his obituaries shouted out things like "Tone beaten to a pulp by boxer!" There's so much more to Franchot than this incident, this relationship, this two-year period—but there's also much insight to be gained from Franchot's participation in and response to it. I want to take a full look into the Tone-Payton relationship so I'm breaking this topic up into a series of posts. Naturally, we'll start at the beginning of their relationship.

Barbara Payton was born Barbara Lee Redfield in Minnesota in 1927. By the time she began her acting career, Barbara had married twice—the first marriage annulled and the second to John Payton ending in a 1948 separation and 1950 divorce—and had a young son. In 1949, Payton gained notice in several films which resulted in starring roles with top actors James Cagney, Gary Cooper, and Gregory Peck in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, Dallas, and Only the Valiant, respectively. She would go onto to make a total of 15 films, but her popularity waned after a few short years of bad publicity. I've only watched one Payton film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, but found her to be a talented actress and an especially good fit for film noirs.

When Franchot met Barbara, he had just ended his marriage to actress and model Jean Wallace. Married in 1941, Franchot and Jean appeared to have a happy marriage during the first half of the forties. They proudly talked about their two sons and each other's best traits in fan magazines and look relaxed and in love in photographs. In keeping with Franchot's attraction to strong, unflinching, outgoing women, I've read claims that Jean (who was half Franchot's age) could be as spirited and high-maintenance as Joan Crawford and Barbara Payton. Sometime before their divorce in 1948, things fell apart—although Franchot and Jean were professional enough to co-star in two films, Man on the Eiffel Tower and Jigsaw, during this time.

John O'Dowd's biography Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story was written with the cooperation of Payton's son John Lee Payton and is an excellent, well-researched book. It celebrates Barbara's accomplishments and good traits—her son praises her as a mother and her friends note her endless generosity—but doesn't shy away from the bad decisions she made and the people she wronged. It presents all the facts and goes in-depth at discovering who Barbara was and what helped to form her as a person. Parts of it are hard to read (because of her story, not the writing itself), but at the same time, it's impossible to put down. As much as I value and recommend the book, I was left confused about the exact details of Franchot and Barbara's first meeting (this may be due to reader error, so feel free to let me know if I misunderstood a passage.) O'Dowd tells us that Barbara first met Franchot at Ciro's in the early months of 1950. Yet in another passage, O'Dowd states that Franchot was "instantly hooked" when he judged a Charleston dance contest at the Mocambo and saw Barbara (who won first prize) for the first time. Whichever came first, Franchot and Barbara met in a popular nightclub in 1950 and embarked on a very public, whirlwind romance.

Over ten years later, a destitute Payton participated with tabloid journalist Leo Guild in an exploitative autobiography project entitled I Am Not Ashamed and described her attraction to Franchot. If you've not read I Am Not Ashamed yet, be warned that you probably will not like Barbara very much once you have. She unapologetically brags about using people (for example, Franchot) to move up in the world. (Note: Biographer John O'Dowd asserts that much of the book's content was fictitious and sensationalized due to Guild's involvement.)

Payton referred to Franchot as "the actor with the most class in Hollywood' and recalled:
I went out with every big male star in town. They wanted my body and I needed their name for success...Franchot Tone, suave, likeable, quiet, unexciting Franchot asked me to do a play with him in New York. He was hooked on me. He believed in me, too. That was the route I had to travel. He spelled it out for me and I read him...'Kiss me and your troubles are over.' Right? So I went East with Tone...
Despite warnings from friends that he may be entering into dangerous territory, 45-year-old Franchot fell hard and devoted himself to wooing 23-year-old Barbara. According to O'Dowd's book, Franchot took a Pygmalion interest in Barbara. He was drawn to her gutsiness and rough-around-the-edges persona. Franchot liked that Barbara wore temporary face tattoos and had pink dye in her hair, atypical of 1950's beauty norms. As much as he liked this side of Barbara, Franchot felt the need to guide her into his version of the perfect lady. He gifted her with jewelry and expensive furs and introduced her to the most well-respected people and establishments. Barbara was certainly unfair to Franchot in many ways, but it was also unrealistic and unfair of Franchot to expect Barbara to eventually change to suit him.

Franchot was only 6 years younger than Barbara's father Lee "Flip" Redfield, and Barbara seemed to view Franchot as a father-figure of sorts. Barbara had always desired more love and attention from her father (there's some speculation out there that abuse may have occurred between father and daughter which created Barbara's need to please men and eagerness for attention.) During their courtship, Barbara called Franchot "Doc," liked to cook for him, and embraced his guidance.

In the summer of 1950, Franchot traveled with Barbara to the Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye premiere and a key to the city presentation in Miami. A man who usually shielded himself from publicity of any kind, Franchot embraced public appearances with his new girlfriend. In September 1950, Franchot and Barbara costarred in a production of The Second Man. (Franchot would later reprise his role in the play with Margaret Lindsay as his costar.)

By October of 1950, Franchot and Barbara announced their engagement. That same month, Barbara garnered negative attention when she was a defense witness in the perjury trial of Stanley Adams, a friend of Barbara's who was suspected of murder.  December 1950 marked the second occasion of bad publicity for the couple. Before Franchot's custody battle with ex-wife Jean Wallace, the write-ups on Franchot and Barbara's association were pretty benign. Jean testified that she was concerned about her sons being near Barbara and didn't approve of Barbara's social activities. On the stand, Franchot had to publicly state that he'd seen Barbara nude on many occasions. Not scandalous by today's standards, but it made quite a headline in 1950.

In January 1951, the engaged couple hit the premiere of the film Operation Pacific looking glamorous and receiving big applause from the audience at the Pantage Theater. Barbara's career and her relationship with Franchot seemed to be going smoothly. She had met his friends and family and he, hers. Barbara's friend and sister-in-law, Jan Zollinger Redfield said:
Franchot Tone was a very nice and extremely generous person. We saw him several times at Barbara's apartment and he was a lovely man. Although I don't think I ever saw him without a drink in his hand, he was never out of line nor did I ever hear him raise his voice at Barbara—ever. His manners were always impeccable. Lee and Mabel [Barbara's parents] both liked him and were impressed with how cultured he was. I know they were hoping that he would get Barbara to finally settle down and start behaving herself...Franchot was a gentle human being, and Frank and I were always very comfortable around him. And he adored Barbara. He showered her with gifts and she loved it!
By the middle of 1951, Franchot had heard gossip that Barbara was fooling around with costars on her movie sets. Franchot hired a private detective to tale Barbara and caught her with actor Guy Madison. Despite this, Franchot remained dedicated to the couple's engagement. (I have no knowledge about the terms of Franchot's own physical fidelity during the Payton relationship, so I cannot vouch for his own innocence.)

In July, Franchot traveled to fulfill an obligation in New York and Barbara stayed behind to work in Bride of the Gorilla. Only a few days passed before Barbara set her eyes on a muscular, 37-year-old actor named Tom Neal. Several days later, and obviously without Franchot's knowledge, Barbara had moved Tom into her apartment (on which Franchot paid the rent) and began introducing him as her boyfriend to others. When a concerned friend asked her about Franchot, Barbara dismissed it with the explanation that she'd deal with Franchot later. Barbara publicly called off her engagement to Franchot by the end of July.

In I Am Not Ashamed, Barbara said of the situation:
I didn't want to get involved with him [Neal] on any permanent basis because he was just another bit player with a gorgeous physique. But he lusted for me and I lusted for him...Here a sociably acceptable Mr. Tone was begging to pay my bills legally and Mr. Have-Nothing was living in my house while I was in New York doing his exercises by the pool...Like all feminine romantics, I thought if I stayed long enough from Tom, he'd beg me to marry him. That's why I held off Franchot until we got back to Hollywood.
August saw Barbara back with Franchot then abruptly back with Tom. September found the entire screwed-up affair blowing up in everyone's faces and presenting lasting consequences for all involved. Stay tuned for details of the Neal-Tone altercation, my second post in the Payton-Tone series.

  • O'Dowd, John. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story. Bear Manor Media, 2006.
  • Payton, Barbara. I Am Not Ashamed. Holloway House, 1963.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Arthur Penn on Franchot Tone

Franchot in Mickey One, 1965.

Discussing his directorial experiences, Arthur Penn talked about working with Franchot in 1965.
Franchot Tone is an absolutely fascinating actor. Before he went to Hollywood, Tone was the leader of young actors in the Group Theater with Strasberg, much earlier than John Garfield. He was remarkably well trained. I didn't know him before I made Mickey One, and he was very ill during filming. I directed him the same way I would have done with Newman, Brando or Jimmy Dean. It was quite remarkable that the language I used with actors from the old generation was also suitable for the next one.  I was very impressed by the skill he showed even while suffering from cancer. Every time we finished shooting, he would collapse into a chair, out of breath as if he just won a race. For me watching this man at work was unforgettable.
I wrote about Mickey One in 2015. You can read that post here.
Penn, Arthur. Arthur Penn: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2008. p71-72.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I Love Trouble (1948)

I Love Trouble is a swell little detective noir starring Franchot Tone as Stuart Bailey, a good-natured, witty private detective who is hired by politician Ralph Johnston to investigate Johnston's wife. Also starring Glenda Farrell, Janet Blair, and Adele Jergens, the film was based on the book Double Take by Roy Huggins. You may be familiar with the character of Stuart Bailey since actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. reprised the role on television in 77 Sunset Strip.

Franchot appeared to be enthusiastic about I Love Trouble. He said:
I don’t even use rough stuff when I corner the murderer. I use my wits instead. I go about solving this murder in strictly a mental way. Just like the detectives in real life. I’m keeping my face tan with a sun lamp. My only concession to the traditional screen dick is to wear a suit that doesn’t fit. Well, it fits but not the wonderful way my clothes in the playboy pictures did.
Tone also talked about the story's writer Roy Huggins:
He operated a statistics gathering office for factories to help them reconvert. After they reconverted, he told his staff their last job would be to reconvert him. They gathered a lot of figures and discovered the boss could make the most money with the least effort writing mysteries
Because the film fell into the public domain, it is readily available online on most video sites. Unfortunately, the picture quality is not very good. There are even brief moments when the screen is black and the scene lost. Please watch the film anyway! It is a well-written, well-acted mystery that will hook you despite the film's quality. Franchot gives a convincing and entertaining performance as the investigator with a keen eye for clues and pretty ladies.

In the film, Bailey thinks he's uncovering the mysterious past of a politician's missing wife. He soon finds that no one and nothing is what it seems. As he chases leads, Bailey begins to believe that he's the one who is actually being followed. Is he setting the trap or falling into one? I've embedded the full video at the end of this post so that you can watch the film in its entirety.

If you are unable to see the embedded video below, you can access the movie on Youtube and Internet Archive.

Mosby, Aline. "Franchot Tone to Play Flicker Role of Good-Natured Detective." Herald-Journal. June 1, 1947.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Gone with the Wind: Missed Opportunity

Like Old Acquaintance, here's another one of those "what might've been" posts for you. Did you know that Franchot was considered for the two male lead roles in Gone With the Wind?

Clark, Joan, Leslie, and Franchot in one photo. Source:
On November 14, 1936, secretary Lydia Schiller sent a tally of those up for the roles of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler to David O. Selznick. At this point in time, Vivien Leigh wasn’t even in consideration for the part of Scarlett. The top votes for the role were for Miriam Hopkins, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Katharine Hepburn. Franchot was being considered for the role of Rhett Butler, but even at this early stage, Clark Gable had an overwhelming majority of the votes. Others being considered for the role included Ronald Colman, Warner Baxter, Fredric March, and William Powell.

I cannot picture Franchot as Rhett Butler. Clark Gable was made for it and it's hard to imagine any other actor of that time stepping in Rhett's shoes. Franchot was a highly skilled actor, but I don't believe audiences would've bought him as the rugged and rebellious Charlestonian.

In 1937, The New Yorker published a cartoon depicting Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Franchot Tone in the lead roles of Scarlett, Rhett, and Ashley. The cartoon was meant as a joke, but Franchot was a serious contender for the role of Ashley Wilkes before Leslie Howard was chosen. Selznick International Pictures story editor Kay Brown favored Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis for Scarlett, Janet Gaynor as Melanie, Clark Gable as Rhett, and, in a 1936 letter to Selznick, urged him to hire Franchot Tone as Ashley.

I can completely envision Franchot in the part of Ashley Wilkes.  I think Leslie Howard was absolutely perfect in the part and my speculation of Franchot's abilities as Ashley are by no means a criticism of Howard's performance. A gentle character torn between an attraction to a fiery opposite and the safe steadiness of a like-minded cousin, Ashley is a commendable hero and coward all at the same time. This duality in the character could've been perfectly captured by Franchot. He excelled at the quiet exchanges, world weary glances, and elegant declarations of commitment that Ashley possesses.

Franchot starred in a period romance of his own during the GWTW casting process: the understated J.M. Barrie story Quality Street set in the early 1800's. Franchot is Dr. Valentine Brown, a man who devastates Phoebe (Katharine Hepburn) when he goes off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. When he returns many years later, Valentine is stunned to find that his once light and playful Phoebe has become a drab, spinster schoolteacher. (I would like to point out that Katharine Hepburn is as luminous and as gorgeous as ever as the slightly aged Phoebe, so it's hard to buy this "poor, homely girl" storyline.) Valentine may think she's lost her spontaneity and zest for life, but Phoebe has a scheme up her sleeve.

Valentine Brown is an upstanding man who takes his duty in the war seriously, is gentlemanly to the ladies in the community, yet is influenced by the allure of youth and beauty. There is a gentle, kind quality to both Valentine Brown and Ashley Wilkes and, for me, Leslie Howard and Franchot Tone seem worthy candidates of either role.

Franchot Tone in Quality Street (1937); Leslie Howard in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Franchot Tone & Katharine Hepburn in Quality Street (1937);
Leslie Howard and Olivia DeHavilland in Gone with the Wind (1939).

  • Harwell, Richard. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind Letters: 1936-1949. Macmillan, 1976.
  • Inafferrabile Leslie Howard:
  • The New Yorker. Volume 13. 1937.
  • Wiley, John.The Scarlett Letters: The Making of the Film Gone with the Wind. Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014.
  • Wilson, Steve. The Making of Gone with the Wind. University of Texas Press, 2014.