Thursday, August 20, 2015

No More Ladies (1935)

The 1935 romantic drama No More Ladies focuses on a smitten girl with a common problem: she sets out to reform a philandering bad boy even though he has no desire to change. A firm believer in true, faithful love, Marcia (Joan Crawford) is pursued by notorious ladies' man Sherry Warren (Robert Montgomery). Franchot Tone is Jim Salston, an endearing and honest man whose marriage was broken up by Sherry. Jim is attracted to Marcia, but she only has eyes for Sherry (even as his eyes rove from woman to woman before and on their honeymoon).

Shortly after their wedding, Sherry goes out with another woman and doesn't return home until the next day. Marcia is devastated. The scene in which Joan Crawford breaks down before pushing those beautiful broad shoulders back and strong head up is completely heart wrenching. Her character's crushed heart is laid bare for viewers to see, and this is one of those classic Crawford scenes that remains with you long after the credits have finished.

Marcia regains her composure and promptly throws a revenge party. Franchot's character Jim attends the party where he wittily banters with his nemesis Sherry (another highlight of this film for me) and stays close by Marcia's side. Marcia is clearly trying to get even with her cheating husband by being flirtatiously suggestive with Jim. Will Marcia abandon her views on marriage? Will she choose to forgive or forget Sherry?

A few other thoughts on this's a great film, but as far as Tone-Crawford collaborations go, I do enjoy them better together in Dancing Lady, Sadie McKee, and Love on the Run. I always think of character actor Arthur Treacher as the delightful butler in countless Shirley Temple films, so I got a real kick out of him showing up at the revenge party as the even more delightful Lord Knowleton! Also notable, Joan Fontaine makes her film debut in No More Ladies. 

No More Ladies is available on DVD on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Toned Down

Source: The Cavalier Daily. 24 April 1940. Page 3.

To read Burgess Meredith's thoughts on his friend Franchot, click on this earlier post

I'm not sure of the particular war drama this non-Franchot fan was referring to, but Franchot starred in quite a few excellent war films: Today We Live (1933); The World Moves On (1934); The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935); Suzy (1936); They Gave Him a Gun (1937); Three Comrades (1938); The Wife Takes a Flyer (1942); Five Graves to Cairo (1943); Pilot No. 5 (1943); The Hour Before the Dawn (1944). 

According to the naysayer in this column, I guess there ought to be more than one dreamer peddling Coca Cola in the North Pole, eh? ;)
How I imagine Franchot's face as he overheard the reporter's comments from the next room.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to pronounce Franchot's name

Some people have asked how to pronounce Franchot's name and even my film historian hero Robert Osborne incorrectly pronounces it before he introduces Franchot's films on TCM. To set the record straight, I uploaded a quick 4 second soundclip of Franchot introducing himself before a radio performance of "Remember the Day" with Loretta Young for the Screen Guild Theater. If the embedded clip doesn't play for you, here's the link:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)

The Man on the Eiffel Tower stands out among Franchot's filmography for many reasons. First, it is a film that Franchot cited as one of his favorites. Second, it is the only film of his in color. Third, it features his second wife and mother of his children, Jean Wallace (yet they were either separated or divorced at the time of filming). Fourth, it was filmed with his pals Burgess Meredith and Charles Laughton. And fifth, it gave Franchot the opportunity to play a disheveled, quietly plotting killer.
Jean Wallace
Truthfully, I did not appreciate this movie the first time I watched it. I had come off a string of Franchot's 40s light romantic comedies and the plot of Eiffel Tower was a bit more complicated to follow. Also, I first watched a spotty quality copy with bad audio on Youtube, so I struggled to make out all the dialogue and was distracted by the rough cut. Later, I found a better version on Moving Image Archive and watched the film over in its entirety. (Just a note, because this film now falls under public domain, there really is no pristine copy. I've included links to the ones available online at the end of this post). On my second viewing, I enjoyed the The Man on the Eiffel Tower for the unique thriller that it is. My advice to you is don't write it off just because it hasn't been restored and it's not your typical glossy Hollywood mystery. The film has a clever plot, great cast, and amazing color views of Paris in the late 1940s.

In the movie, Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton) and his girlfriend Edna (played by Jean Wallace) confess to Bill's wife that they have been having an affair. In a cafe, Bill talks about his wealthy aunt and how her death could benefit his and Edna's future.

Johann Radek (Franchot Tone) is a sly, kooky character dining across the cafe. Radek passes a note to Mr. Kirby, offering to murder the wealthy aunt.
Meanwhile, the film's director Burgess Meredith stars as Joseph Heurtin, a quiet, hard-working man whose wife does nothing but belittle him. Heurtin decides to break in to and steal from Kirby's aunt's house, and unwittingly walks into a murder scene. When Heurtin loses his thick glasses (very similar to Meredith's Twilight Zone "Time Enough at Last" spectacles), the murderer Radek helps him home.

Because his glasses are left at the scene, Heurtin is first implicated in the murder. Heurtin helps the police identify Radek, but Radek is so sneaky and clever that he is able to taunt the police. Charles Laughton is brilliant as the lead inspector working to bait and catch Radek.
Franchot was 44 years old when The Man on the Eiffel Tower was filmed and the film, in my eyes, is his transition from romantic lead to interesting character actor. Although Franchot had played a killer once before in 1944's Phantom Lady, Eiffel Tower is where we first see Franchot's face (a bit more lined with wrinkles and wisdom) taking on the characteristics that he would display in his television work. His hair and clothes are somewhat disheveled and his eyes are full of mischief.
One of my favorite scenes is the exciting Eiffel Tower climb at the end of the film. Radek attempts to resist arrest by climbing the Tower, but Heurtin and the Inspector are close behind. The cityscape is visually stunning and the scene itself will have you on the edge of your seat!

You can watch The Man on the Eiffel Tower on Youtube or at the Moving Image Archive. There is also a DVD available on Amazon.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Franchot Tone on His Career

Since I've had my own gray hair and wrinkles, producers have been willing to recognize me as a character actor. 
There was a long spell in Hollywood where I appeared in nothing but bad romantic comedies. They were 'dress suit roles.' Acting talent didn't matter. The important thing was to have a good tailor. That was in the days before a dissatisfied movie star was free to refuse to work at something he didn't like and take a suspension. Maybe it's just as well because I'd have been under suspension more often than not if I had had any option to exercise.
I was a leading man making an outrageous salary. But I was jealous of character actors with three-line bit roles. At least, they enjoyed their work. 
Most actors pay too much attention to the size of a role anyway. One good, biting scene is worth more than hours of drivel. Well, I got older, and eventually I reached a point where I looked ridiculous bounding through a bay window with a tennis raquet in my hands. I went into television at a time when the industry was hungry for movie names. I could be demanding. For instance, when one video producer offered me the romantic lead in a murder mystery, I held out for the role of the killer—a marvelous psychopathic character—and got it.
                                                    -Franchot Tone

Source: Gaver, Jack. "Franchot Tone is Happy in TV Character Roles." Schenectady Gazette. 18 October 1962. Page 20.