Sunday, March 10, 2019

What's New?

Finding Franchot fansite

I've scanned and added more photos to the fansite since 2019 began. You can find those at www.findingfranchot.com and specifically on the following pages:

Portraits/Franchot Alone

Candids

Film Stills and Publicity

Newspaper and Magazine

A new addition to the fansite: I Love Trouble candid

Phantom Lady

The 1944 film noir Phantom Lady was just released on blu-ray. You can read more about the specs here


I'm hoping we will see some Warner Archive releases of other Franchot films (my personal wishlist includes the release of Gentlemen are Born, The Stranger's Return, Straight is the Way, or Between Two Women) later this year, but no word yet.

Franchot on TV

If you have Turner Classic Movies, you can enjoy these upcoming Franchot showings:

Dancing Lady - March 14th at 4:45 p.m. eastern
They Gave Him a Gun - April 5th at 9:15 a.m. eastern
Midnight Mary - May 1st at 4:45 p.m. eastern
The Girl Downstairs - May 8th at 6:30 a.m. eastern

Monday, February 25, 2019

Franchot and Carole Landis


Franchot is proudly framed on Carole's table.
Franchot and actress Carole Landis met each other just a few weeks shy of Carole's divorce from Willis Hunt, Jr., which would be granted in mid-November 1940. Carole and Franchot were all smiles in the many photographs of the couple, often taken at Ciro's, published in fall 1940 and early 1941. Although she was very serious about her relationship with Franchot, Carole and Franchot both still casually dated other people in the entertainment industry.

Although both still visibly on the market, Carole apparently intimated to friends that Franchot was close to proposing or had already quietly proposed marriage. When reporters from Modern Screen magazine stopped by Carole's home, they observed a photo of Franchot signed, "Yours without protest." (Wouldn't it be nice to see that one pop up on eBay?) Still, some doubted that he had made such a commitment. Franchot was very active on the dating scene at this time and although he clearly cared about Carole, it doesn't seem like he was quite ready to jump into marriage in late 1940.




Carole described what she was looking for in a man:
I'm the happy type, by nature and by inclination. I expect men to amuse me, interest me, flatter me, spoil me, I say that if there is any heart-breaking to be done, it is a woman's privilege...if I meet the man with the qualities, he is welcome, love is welcome. But I am NOT seeking. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open, that's all. Because if you were 'in love' a couple of times when, obviously, you weren't, if you follow me—you just relax and wait. You also do a spot of figuring. I've done several spots. I've made a sort of man-map. I know now what I want in a man, what I expect of a man, what I demand of a man.

What were some of the reasons she fell so hard for Franchot? Carole shared:
Franchot Tone has a divine sense of humor. Hollywood practically turned hand-springs a few months ago over 'the change' in Franchot. Over bars, at parties, on sound stages, over the counter at Schwabs Drugstore, at the races and in print, people wondered, what's happened to Franchot? A dozen different versions were given, including one that set forth that I had changed him. Flattering, but fallacious. The real low-down is that Franchot sat himself down one night in New York, did one of those Rochester-talking-to-himself-in-the-mirror turns. He said to his reflection, 'You've a dull disposition, my boy, let's face it, let's break through and have some fun, let's go back to Hollywood, quit being snooty, laugh and make mad and merry.'
He came back to Hollywood. He broke through. But the point is that he had a sense of humor about himself. He had the very rare ability of being able to see himself as others saw him. Another nice thing about Franchot, as about Cesar [Romero], is that he is always so moderate, so restrained. No ear-marks of The Actor, not an ear-mark. I used to watch him when I first came to Hollywood, when he was still married to Joan Crawford and I'd think, what a lucky girl! I still say that any girl who gets Franchot will be a lucky girl. I think it would be very pleasant indeed to be married to Franchot...One little thing Franchot does always bowls me over when we're dining out, at Ciro's, at the Brown Derby, or wherever, and I go to the powder room, he never lets me go alone, always escorts me, always waits for me, takes me back to our table, pulls my chair out for me, and then sits down himself.  If you are in pictures, which means that your face is known, and have ever tried to battle your way through a public place, waylaid at every other table by too convivial strangers, you have some idea of what this thoughtfulness—believe me, gentlemen, this rare thoughtfulness, means...From Franchot I learned about classical music, opera. I adore men I can learn from. And they never make me feel that I don't know, never make me feel stupid or inferior. They make it seem as though we are sharing an experience together...Franchot took me to my first opera. I knew nothing about operatic music and, frankly, I expected to be bored to a welcome death. But throughout the evening, in his nice, quiet way, Franchot explained it all to me so that I was sharing the experience with him, and loving it.

According to author Eric Gans and researcher Lisa Burks, Franchot liked Carole quite a bit but felt she, nearly 14 years his junior, was "immature and coming on too strong." At some point, Franchot broke away from the relationship and shocked everyone when he suddenly eloped with Jean Wallace, who at just 18 years old was actually 4 years younger than Carole, on October 18, 1941. It has long been suspected that the ex Carole Landis talks about with reporter Gladys Hall in the article, "Glamour Girls are Suckers!" is indeed Franchot. In the interview, Carole is clearly hurting deeply from the breakup and feels betrayed. She says:
A great, terrific constant thing came into my life. A man, of course. For obvious reasons I can't use his name, but he is an actor and—it was love I felt. Real love. I knew it and I still know it...This went on for months. We were constantly together every possibly moment. I felt this, at last, was it...I lived in a dream when, suddenly, a little girl, a nonprofessional, not pretty really, clothes just so-so but not chi-chi, vivacious perhaps, but that was all, stepped in and—here I am...the minute you let a fellow know so completely that he's the whole floor show, you're sunk.
If this unnamed man is Franchot as everyone believes, then Carole, in pain, is unnecessarily cruel in her description of Franchot's wife Jean Wallace. With time, the bad feelings between Carole and Franchot disappeared and a real friendship emerged.  Franchot attended a surprise party to honor Carole's dedication to the war effort. Carole was a tireless supporter of the brave men overseas. As the actress who visited the most troops during World War II, Carole sold war bonds, entertained on multiple tours and at the Hollywood Canteen, served as an air raid warden, Aerial Nurses Corps commander, first aid instructor, and visited over two hundred bases. Carole famously documented a 1942 tour with Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair in her book Four Jills in a Jeep. The story of her travels was made into the 1944 film of the same name.

Although they didn't marry, Franchot and Carole remained close friends until her death. When Screen Guide and Eagle-Lion Films wanted a Christmas layout at Carole Landis's house in 1947, Carole hosted a little preview of Christmas and Franchot and his wife Jean were present. Of course, it was July when the layout was shot—with a Christmas tree by the pool and friends gathered around an outdoor Christmas feast—but it wasn't published until December 1947.

Carole, husband Horace, Jean Wallace, Betty Garrett, Larry Parks, and Franchot
celebrating Christmas in July 1947.

Franchot (under the tree) and Carole Landis directly in front. You can also see
Jean's legs to the right.

Tragically, Carole would be dead just one year after these photos were taken. On July 5, 1948, Carole was found unconscious after taking an overdose of barbiturates. She was only 29 years old. You can read a full account of her last day here: Carole Landis Official Blogspot

The website above is a fantastic resource for all information on Carole and I highly suggest it for further reading as well as the Facebook page A Comet Over Hollywood.

Sources:
  • http://carolelandisofficial.blogspot.com/
  • https://www.facebook.com/A-Comet-Over-Hollywood-1769075543417007/
  • Fleming, E.J. Fleming (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. McFarland and Company, 2005."What Carol Landis Demands of Men!" Screenland. October 1941.
  • Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008.
  • "Glamour Girls are Suckers!" Photoplay. December 1941.
  • "It's Out-landis!" Modern Screen. October 1941.
  • www.mediahistoryproject.org

Friday, February 22, 2019

Top Ten Comfort Comedies

We're always talking about the importance of self-care in the world today and I must say that Franchot is an essential element of my own self-care. I've been experiencing a good deal of stress lately, suffering from insomnia at nights and exhausting work during the days.  I hadn't watched Franchot since the holidays and I literally whispered aloud to myself, "I need to watch some Franchot," after coming home after a trying day.

I watched Dark Waters and Nice Girl? earlier this week and as I type, I'm finishing up One New York Night. And it feels great! Franchot left behind a wonderful body of comedies that are perfect for comfort viewing and I've compiled my top ten picks.

10. Every Girl Should Be Married-1948



Lovable cad Roger Sanford is used as a tool of jealousy by Anabel (Betsy Drake) to snag Dr. Brown (Cary Grant).


9. Nice Girl?-1941




High-schooler Jane Dana (Deanna Durbin) dreams of dating an older houseguest Richard Calvert (Franchot Tone). Calvert plays along to bolster Jane's reputation at school.

8. She Knew All the Answers-1941



Social wallflower Mark Willows falls for his new secretary Catherine Long (Joan Bennett), but Catherine is part of a bigger scheme cooked up by Mark's ward Randy.

7. Love on the Run-1936


Rival correspondents Mike (Clark Gable) and Barney (Franchot) compete to cover the wedding of socialite Sally Parker (Joan Crawford) and hilarious hijinks ensue.

6. Honeymoon-1947

United States Embassy Consul David Flanner (Franchot) gets caught up in a web of problems trying to help a young corporal (Guy Madison) and his sweetheart (Shirley Temple) get married in Mexico City.

5. The Girl Downstairs-1938


Playboy Paul Wagner (Franchot) impersonates a butler so that he can gain access into the home of his girlfriend (Rita Johnson) and her disapproving father (Walter Connolly), but a wide-eyed maid Katerina (Franciska Gaal) gets in the way.

4. Fast and Furious-1939


Booksellers by day and sleuths by night, Joel (Franchot) and Garda Sloane (Ann Sothern) investigate corruption in a seaside beauty pageant.

3. One New York Night-1935

Cattle rancher Foxy Ridgeway (Franchot) arrives in New York City to wrangle up a dark-haired wife, but instead gets mixed up in a suspicious murder investigation with an adorable blonde (Una Merkel).

2. His Butler's Sister-1943

Eager for a chance at singing stardom, Ann Carter (Deanna Durbin) poses as the maid in the home of  famous musical writer Charles Gerard (Franchot) so that she can audition for him.

1. Three Loves Has Nancy-1938

Sophisticated author Mal (Robert Montgomery) and his oft-drunk but always amusing publisher Bob (Franchot) both fall for small town girl Nancy (Janet Gaynor).




Since starting this post, I've finished One New York Night and am now enjoying Three Loves Has Nancy. I believe Honeymoon will be next in line. I can't think of a happier, more comforting way to spend a rainy day off! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Making of the Man on the Eiffel Tower


The Man on the Eiffel Tower, produced by Franchot and often noted as one of his favorite films, was the first feature film shot entirely in color in France. Director of photography Stanley Cortez spoke with American Cinematographer about how shooting only in Ansco Color following the war created challenges:
The two studios which we used Billancourt and Joinville had been occupied by the Germans during the war. When they retreated, they sacked both studios of every available piece of equipment, leaving only the bare walls. It has been a heartbreaking job ever since for the gallant French technicians who are trying to refurnish their studios with the modern equipment necessary to full scale motion picture production.
Because there were no Ansco labs in Europe at the time and sending film to the United States for development would've been too costly, The Man on The Eiffel Tower was shot—with a Debrie Super Parvo camera—without lighting and makeup tests.

The cast and crew encountered additional issues. A coal shortage in France meant that there were days spent without electricity. Cortez elaborated:
Happily, the two days that Billancourt studios were without power, Joinville studios, several miles distant, had it; so on those days we would transport our camera, lighting equipment, and any necessary props or sets to Joinville and work there—returning to Billancourt when the rationing edict darkened the stages at Joinville.
Despite the setbacks, Cortez said that Franchot and coproducer Irving Allen "were most cooperative and considerate at all times."

Cortez was pleased with the final results:
I feel that we have given Ansco Color film the acid test, having put it through a major production under all sorts of conditions. It is safe to predict that Ansco Color film will really come into its own as a medium for feature film production once The Man on the Eiffel Tower is released.
Watching the film, you'll be struck by the numerous French locations that are captured in each scene. The mystery plays out in cafes, streets, flats, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The city is a major part of the plot and as American Cinematographer stated, the film can also be considered a "travelogue type of documentation of Paris." The city is even listed in the film's cast of characters.

The New York Times felt that the film was "largely composed of subdued excitements" and did not praise its actors:
...City of Light was never lovelier than as the Ansco-colored background for this manhunt and, what is more pertinent, it very often makes the other principals look like spear carriers. In losing their hearts to the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the boulevards and Montparnasse, the producers and the director have given some distinction to an otherwise routine adventure...Although this short tour is, by and large, a delight, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. They don't seem to be straining, but their efforts can't be counted as outstanding. 
Franchot made The Man on the Eiffel Tower with some of his favorite people. Franchot's close friends Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith were the principal actors along with Franchot. Meredith directed the film. Though their marriage was ending at the time, Franchot's wife Jean Wallace also starred.

I do agree that some of the scenes are subdued, but it's an interesting film, a different role for Franchot, with enough thrilling elements to keep me entertained. It has fallen into the public domain, and here it is in its entirety:



Sources:
 "Filming the Man on the Eiffel Tower." American Cinematographer. February 1949. p 46

"The Screen in Review; 'The Man on the Eiffel Tower,' From Novel by Simenon, Opens at the Criterion." The New York Times. January 30, 1950.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: Year in Review

Well, 2018 was definitely my least active posting year so far. That was not intentional and I apologize that I haven't shared as much content as in years past. There are still thousands of posts to be written on Franchot's life and work and my 2019 goal is to tackle them here instead of just writing them up in my head and forgetting to transfer those thoughts to the blog! I'm constantly thinking about, watching, and researching Franchot—my fascination has not waned in the the 3 years and 7 months since I wrote my first post—but I haven't done great with sharing it here lately. Case in point: I uploaded this Christmas-themed clip from That Night With You to Youtube and was going to share it here in a holiday post...I shared it on the Finding Franchot Facebook page, but completely forgot to put it on the actual blog! Here's the clip:





Here's a rundown of 2018's posts and expect a more dedicated Franchot blogger and fansite updater in me in 2019.

Television
The Virginian: The Old Cowboy (1965)
Run For Your Life: Tell It Like It Is (1967)
Wagon Train: The Malachi Hobart Story (1962)
Joining Ben Casey and Harry Landers' Recollections

Film
The Technical Backstory of Jigsaw
The Girl from Missouri (1934)
Charles Brackett's Take on Five Graves to Cairo
She Knew All the Answers (1941)
That Night With You (1945)

Theater
Pre-Hollywood Variety Mentions
Jolly's Progress with Eartha Kitt

The Man
Remembrance
Professional and Personal Collaborations with Actress Sylvia Sidney
420 Layton Drive
Franchot's World War II Draft Card
Early Supporter Garry McGarry
Henry Hathaway on Franchot
The Celebration of Franchot's Birthdays
The Gambler and his Face

The Fansite

Thank you for taking the time to read here and I wish you all the best in the new year!-Emily

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Virginian: The Old Cowboy (1965)

On March 31, 1965, the 28th episode of the 3rd season of The Virginian aired. "Old Cowboy" starred Franchot Tone and Billy Mumy and featured The Virginian's regular cast, including Doug McClure and James Drury (who had worked alongside Franchot in 1958's Bitter Heritage.)

Franchot is Murdock, the old cowboy who struggles to come to terms with his age and limitations. Billy Mumy (who you will recognize from Twilight Zone episodes among many other things) is Willy, Murdock's grandson and under his care. Murdock and Willy set out to find the biggest ranch because they need money and according to his stories, Murdock is the best cowboy and ranch hand that ever lived. Grandson Willy is his grandfather's biggest fan and proud of his grandpa's past. Willy sees that Murdock has trouble keeping up and doesn't make the smartest decisions with their money, but he still adores him.

Murdock's stories always make him out to be the hero and come back to the Double Eagle $20 coin that he was rewarded and keeps in his boot at all times.




When they reach town, Murdock quickly gambles away their money. Trampas (Doug McClure) feels sorry for the old man and his grandson and offers him a job at Shiloh.






At the ranch, Murdock doesn't fit in. He expects to be the top ranch hand and given the most important jobs, but the young cowboys view him as weak. Murdock's boastful ways alienate him from his coworkers and Willy begins to look up to Trampas. Trampas is Murdock's biggest supporter on the ranch, but Murdock only views him as competition.





Murdock is an enthusiastic, hard worker but continues to make mistake after mistake at Shiloh. He brands the wrong cattle, causes a dangerous stampede, and accidentally burns down the barn. But when he is needed on an important mission to move cow herds in a treacherous storm, Murdock proves what he's been telling everyone all along: that he is the most reliable, brave cowboy and will stop at nothing to get the job done. 

Franchot is the star of this 1.25 hour-length episode and he shines as the aging cowboy struggling to prove his worth to a changing generation.  This is some of his best television work (I truly believe that all his television work is really great) and I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoyed his performances in Bonanza and Wagon Train.





 Old Cowboy is available on The Virginian Season 3 dvd. It's also currently playing On Demand if you have DISH as your provider.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Piecing together the technical story of Jigsaw

In late 1948, the publication American Cinematographer revealed the unique method in which Jigsaw was recorded. Jigsaw differed from the majority of American films being made at the time and was able to use a small budget to its advantage.

A film noir about a district attorney whose investigation into a suicide leads to a much more sinister plot involving political extremists,  Jigsaw starred Franchot, Jean Wallace, Myron McCormick, and Marc Lawrence. The film was made on a small budget, but what it lacked in budget it made up for in a Who's Who of cameo appearances. It featured cameos by Henry Fonda, John Garfield, Marlene Dietrich, Marsha Hunt, and others.

American Cinematographer praised Don Malkames, director of photography, for his skill at creating a lighting quality expected in studio films without fancy equipment and special-made sets. Journalist Norman Keane wrote:
This production demonstrates that feature films can be photographed in natural settings and locations...The natural locations were used because they afforded economy in production. Not a single set was built for the entire picture. Even the props were those found on the locations. The sites and locales used included interior of the Brooklyn Museum, a Fifth Avenue pet shop, a prominent night club, its dressing rooms, a large restaurant of unique design, an apartment house interior, elevators, and a warehouse...Every set was a challenge...none of the luxury lighting equipment of Hollywood studios. He [Don Malkames] had to get around the limitations of low ceilings of the apartment in which a great deal of the action took place, of the fixed walls of narrow halls and of elevators, and of the immovable fixtures, furniture, etc., which he invariably found in such locations as the pet shop. Before starting to shoot the picture, he had considered using mostly photo spot lamps and R-2 photofloods, but he found that even after building a number of barn doors and hangers for use with these lights, they would not give the precise lighting control necessary. 
Malkames used Mole-Richardson light spots, "inky dinks" for key lighting, and "150 watt broads for fill in light." Malkames secured lighting to ceiling beams to give scenes a more natural look and photographed the entire film with a fast lens in "exceptionally low key." He also used shafts of light to enhance the more suspenseful scenes.

Franchot said:
It is doubtful that there are many cameramen who could achieve the excellent quality of lighting that Malkames did, considering the lighting equipment he had to work with and the limitations of his sets.
Keane's article also uncovered another interesting element to Jigsaw's photography. The film was recorded entirely without sound!
Another thing which greatly simplified the photography was the absence of sound equipment—especially the mike boom which, under the lighting conditions used...most certainly would have involved unwanted shadows...It was the belief of the producers Lee and Danziger, based on long experience of dubbing foreign versions, that it is possible to get greater dramatic feeling into the dialogue when it is post-recorded and dubbed in after the picture is cut.
After the film was recorded, the cast reassembled at the recording studio. As scenes were projected on a screen, Franchot, Jean, and the rest of the cast spoke their lines. Other sounds such as the ringing of telephones, footsteps and so on were also recorded at that time. 

The cast and crew were excited to think of how this method would be studied by future producers and students of low-budget movies. They also thought it would prove a successful method for television movies in the future.

I knew the film was low-budget and that the producers, director, and Franchot himself took pride in its originality, but I had no idea of the lengths they went with natural lighting and post-filming dubbing. After learning how much the film was praised for its lighting and how the crew felt it would be studied by film students and television producers, I am even more frustrated that it fell into public domain. As a public domain title, the film has been neglected and is in bad shape. All of the copies you watch online and even the DVD I own are such poor quality in sight and sound. Can you imagine if we could see it in its original theatrical glory?

I rewatched the film after reading the American Cinematographer article and took notice of all the lighting tricks and was impressed by the effortlessly seamed dubbed video. I've always felt this was a very good performance of Franchot's (I wish he'd made more film noirs like this and I Love Trouble) and I like Jean's femme fatale character as well.

Here's the full movie on the Internet Archive. (If the embedded video doesn't play, click here.)



Source:

Keane, Norman. "'Jigsaw' Filmed Without Sound or Sets." American Cinematographer. December 1948.