Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Twelve Tux Moments

Happy New Year's Eve! In honor of the new year, I'm counting down Franchot's Top Twelve Tux Moments in his film and television appearances.

12. Placing a high stakes bet in Twilight Zone: The Silence, 1961.
11. Supporting the relationship between a frail Margaret Sullavan and friend Robert Taylor in Three Comrades, 1938.
10. Mysteriously lingering in a doorway in Phantom Lady, 1944.
9. Giving Jean Harlow quite a performance in Bombshell, 1933.
8. Dodging a lion in his hotel room in Fast and Furious, 1939.
7. Longingly looking at Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee, 1934.
6. Walking toward a singing Deanna Durbin in His Butler's Sister, 1943.
5. Facing Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery in No More Ladies, 1935.
4. Defending himself under scrutiny in The Unguarded Hour, 1936.
3. Falling in love with Constance Bennett all over again in Moulin Rouge, 1934.
2. Entertaining Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady, 1933.
1. Gazing at Loretta Young in Midnight Mary, 1933.

Franchot wears many a tux in many a film, so it was a bit of a challenge to pick my top 12. Wishing you a safe and happy New Year's Eve and all the best in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all a happy holiday! I've already received a few early FT gifts from my a-m-a-z-i-n-g husband and can't wait to share them with you soon. Over the last few weeks, I've been creating a tribute video that I hope to have finished and posted in January. Also, in early January, I'm excited to be participating in the Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon hosted by Cinema Dilettante, Now Voyaging, and the Young Sisters Appreciation Group.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Green Grow the Lilacs (1931)

Green Grow the Lilacs was a play produced by the Guild Theatre that ran for 64 performances from January 26, 1931 through March 21, 1931. According to The Playbill Vault, the Guild Theatre first opened in 1925 at 245 West 52nd Street. It was renamed the Virginia Theatre in 1981 and the August Wilson Theatre in 2005.

The Pulitzer Prize-nominated play was written by Lynn Riggs, directed by Herbert Biberman, and featured a 26-year-old Franchot Tone in the role of Curly McClain. Green Grow the Lilacs was later the basis for Rodgers and Hammerstein's famous 1943 play, Oklahoma! According to Edward R. Halline's "Plays & Players" column in the November 11, 1951 edition of The Milwaukee Sentinel, the original 1931 play featured songs as well. The songs performed included "Hello, Girls, I Wish I Was Single Again", "Home on the Range", "Blood on the Saddle", "The Old Chisholm Trail", and "The Next Big River". You can browse the written play online at Google Books (some pages are omitted).

The New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division houses many photographs of the 1931 production. You can view the collection online in the NYPL's Digital Collections. I've included a handful of the photos here.
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Franchot Tone as Curly McClain (with the guitar) & Helen Westley as Aunt Eller Murphy." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Scene from the Green Grow the Lilacs starring Franchot Tone as Curly McClain & Helen Westley as Aunt Eller Murphy." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Franchot Tone as Curly McClain & Richard Hale as Jeeter Fry." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Franchot Tone (Curley McClain) & June Walker (Laurey)." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Franchot Tone (Curley McClain) and Claire Woodbury (Aunt Eller)." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Franchot Tone as Curley McClain." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931.
In researching this play, I discovered many 1950-1970s newspaper columnists who, when looking back at this play, found it strange that the "debonair Franchot Tone" was a cast member. This shouldn't be a shock to anyone, especially theatre columnists, because Franchot was active in the theatre for several years before he found Hollywood stardom. Throughout his life, Franchot maintained an active theatrical career, from his time at Cornell University up until the year of his death.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Franchot Tone Holiday Gift Guide

Have a Franchot Tone fan in your life or want to treat yourself to a new Franchot DVD this holiday season? Here are my picks for the movies that should be wrapped under your tree!
  • Wish you had been able to see Franchot in a live play? Buy the 1957 film Uncle Vanya. The film is staged like the play in which Franchot performed multiple times and was dear to his heart.

  • Enjoy a little music with your comedy? Try Because of Him, a 1946 musical comedy teaming Franchot with the delightful Deanna Durbin and Tone's chum Charles Laughton.

  • Eager to see Franchot in a darker role? Look for Phantom Lady, a 1944 film noir with Franchot in a deliciously devious part.

  • Want to see footage that captures some of that Crawford-Tone magic? You must watch The Bride Wore Red, a 1937 romantic comedy starring Franchot as a sweet postman and Joan as his complicated dreamgirl.

  • Looking for more of a period piece? Look no further than Quality Street which was written by J.M. Barrie and costars Franchot with a young Katharine Hepburn.

  • Intrigued by political drama and scandal? Advise & Consent is the way to go! This 1962 film directed by Otto Preminger stars an older Franchot as the U.S. President.

  • Hoping for a mixture of war, romantic, and gangster drama in one film? You'll love 1937's They Gave Him a Gun starring Franchot, Spencer Tracy, and Gladys George.

  • Ready to laugh out loud at a fast-paced, quick-quipped comedy? Fast and Furious, a 1939 comedy pairing Franchot with Ann Sothern is charming. Bonus: The DVD comes with two other films in the Joel and Garda Sloane series. (The other films in the series do not feature Franchot, however.)

  • Avid for adventure? See Franchot as a lieutenant in India during the British Raj in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, a 1935 film featuring Gary Cooper and Richard Cromwell.

  • Collect Oscar Best Picture Winners on DVD? Make sure you have the 1935 Oscar winner Mutiny on the Bounty! Franchot was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in this sea adventure.

Already own every single Franchot DVD available? Think about using eBay or another auction/used goods site to add some original photos, lobby cards, playbills, or movie posters to your collection!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lost Honeymoon (1947)

Lost Honeymoon is a 1947 romantic comedy starring Franchot Tone, Ann Richards, and Tom Conway that has fallen into the public domain. Following World War II, Johnny Grey (Franchot Tone) is confronted by his abandoned English wife Tillie Grey and their two little children. But Johnny doesn't remember ever being married thanks to a case of amnesia and Tillie is not exactly who she says she is. It's a light, cute movie that I recommend to those of you who enjoy Franchot's other light comedies (for example, His Butler's Sister and Nice Girl?).


Lobby card. Source:
The film is available online, but my attempt at screen capturing was not successful due to the film quality. Instead, I'll just embed the film here, so you can watch it for yourself. If the film below doesn't work properly, just use this direct Youtube link:

The interaction that occurs between a wandering Franchot and the police officer at around the 1 hour mark really cracks me up! I always rewind that scene to watch the "kidding pants" part.

This film is also available on DVD, but I'm not sure of the quality on that one.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stage Mother (1933)

The focus of the 1933 film Stage Mother is exactly what the title suggests: a former performer pushes her only daughter into show business and controls every aspect of her daughter's life. Think of it as an early non-musical Gypsy. Alice Brady and Maureen O'Sullivan star as the mother Kitty and daughter Shirley, respectively, while Franchot Tone is Shirley's love interest, Warren Foster.

Franchot does not enter the film until a good 45 minutes have passed (Only I would post 20-something screen captures of a 15-20 minute performance). His role is small, but pivotal. Before his entrance, we see vaudeville performer Kitty lose her husband, a fellow entertainer, in a tragic accident. Their daughter Shirley is sent to live with Kitty's in-laws, who disapprove of the entertainment industry and Kitty personally. When Shirley is 14, Kitty returns to raise her and quickly trains her to enter the biz.

It is quickly apparent that Kitty is a ruthless stage mother who will stop at nothing to make her daughter famous. Maureen O'Sullivan is sweet and obliging as the put-upon daughter while Alice Brady (as Kitty) schemes and blackmails to get Shirley to the top.

When a new production takes her to Boston, Shirley is eager to revisit her childhood home. Enter Franchot. Warren Foster, an artist, answers the door and gives her a tour of the house he now owns. There is an immediate rapport between the two and without her mother's knowledge, Shirley begins to see Warren often. Because this is pre-code, Shirley is even shown spending the night with Warren.
Now recovered from an illness that kept her bedridden while Shirley experienced a bit of freedom, Kitty is backstage and reading Shirley's mail from Warren when she hatches a plan to regain control of her daughter. Unbeknownst to Shirley, Kitty blackmails Warren's family for ten thousand dollars with the threat of exposing the two lovers' clandestine meetings. Warren assumes that Shirley seduced him with the extortion plot in mind and confronts her in a stage dressing room. Franchot is as powerful as the angry, manipulated young man in latter scenes as he was the carefree, patient lover earlier in the film. Maureen O'Sullivan (Franchot's costar in Between Two Women) is perfectly cast as the lovely, trapped Shirley in this oft-told tale of a mother living vicariously through her daughter.
Watch Stage Mother to see if Kitty maintains control of her daughter or if Shirley finally fights back for a life of her own. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hill School fight leaves Jean defeated

The photograph above makes my heart ache for Jean Wallace. She looks so devastated moments after a court supported Franchot's urging that his son attend The Hill School, which had been a Tone tradition. It probably didn't help matters that her husband Cornel Wilde looks so chummy with ex Franchot for the photograph. According to reports of the day, Jean had a difficult and emotional time during her divorce and custody battles with Franchot. I'm sure this extra battle (which would place son Pascal away from her in Pottstown, Pennsylvania for a good part of the year) was painful for her. Below is an article that described the court's decision.