Friday, January 29, 2016

The Eleventh Hour: Along About Late in the Afternoon (1962)

Franchot guest starred in episode 12 of The Eleventh Hour's first season. Before watching Franchot's episode, I was not familiar with this television show. For those of you like me, here's a bit of background info on The Eleventh Hour. The show ran for two seasons from 1962 to 1964 and starred Jack Ging as the young, compassionate psychologist and Wendell Corey and Ralph Bellamy as his mentors. As the psychologists provided healing to patients with mental issues, anxiety, and depression, the show also dealt with corresponding fictional court cases.

In Along About Late in the Afternoon, Franchot stars as an aging newspaperman Leo Haynes. Leo's newspaper has just gone under and with it, Leo's position and his sense of self-worth. As Dr. Bassett, Wendell Corey sums up Leo's predicament this way:
"A man who was on top of the world and suddenly, someone kicked the world out from under him, maybe."

After he is treated poorly due to his age in a bar (a younger protégée insists he's a failure) and in the parking lot (a group of teens throw a bag of popcorn at him and call him "pop") and sees the emptiness of his now-defunct newspaper office, Leo decides to end his life. With the car running in a closed garage, Leo's head slumps onto the steering wheel causing the horn to sound. The attempted suicide attempt is what lands Leo under Dr. Bassett's care and Franchot delivers a moving speech from his hospital bed:

"It's the same world. It's just as good and just as bad as it always was. The Record was dying…I am not a cub reporter anymore. Ted, I'm not mad at anybody. We all grow old. It's nobody's fault but my own. You're right. The trouble is I was on top…too long. I was too important. You get to depend on importance and suddenly, I'm not in it anymore…the center where things are born. Ted, it's my life. If I don't like it anymore, I can stop it. That much stays with me."
*spoilers in this paragraph*The specialists are eager to rebuild Leo's confidence and zest for life, and find the perfect person to get Leo's blood pumping again…the man whose crimes Leo has been exposing for years, criminal Frankie Morrison. Played by veteran actor Chester Morris (Redheaded Woman, The Divorcee), Frankie has finally been arrested for murder and Leo's determination to keep him behind bars fuels his desire to keep working and living.

Chester Morris as Frankie Morrison
This episode is currently streaming through the subscription site Warner Archive Instant. See it while you can!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Missed Opportunity with Old Acquaintance, Bette Davis

In 1942, Franchot Tone was all set to star in the upcoming Bette Davis drama Old Acquaintance until the Stabilization Act of 1942 changed his plans. In his executive order, President Roosevelt listed regulations to prevent inflation and protect the U.S. economy during wartime, including the following:

  • no increases in wage rates (unless necessary to correct inequalities, maladjustments, or to aid in war)
  • no decreases in wage rates "below the highest wages paid therefore between January 1, 1942 and September 15, 1942, unless to correct gross inequities and to aid in the effective prosecution of the war"
  • no salary increases over $5,000 per year (with exceptions)
  • no salary decreases for any work under the highest salary "paid between January 1, 1942 and September 15, 1942 unless to correct gross inequities and to aid in the effective prosecution of the war"
In early November 1942, Variety magazine featured several informational articles about how the Stabilization Act was affecting the film industry. At the start, FDR wished to place a $25,000 income limit (after taxes) and studio executives began to sweat about how they would hold onto their major talent and keep the film industry, already changed by the war, still prospering both creatively and financially.
Source: Variety. November 11, 1942. Page 78.

Just a few columns away from the article above, Variety posted a small piece on how these new regulations affected Franchot.
Source: Variety. November 11, 1942. Page 79.
Franchot was Bette's first choice for the role of Preston in Old Acquaintance. Franchot and Bette had worked well together in Dangerous (1935) and Bette was eager to work alongside Franchot again. In Modern Screen magazine (December 1942. Vol. 26), it was noted that Bette:
"is convinced that Franchot Tone is one of the most sensitive of actors on the screen today and she wanted him for her opposite part in 'Old Acquaintance'.  All arrangements were made and Franchot was set for the part when the government announced the $25,000 ceiling. Tone was still willing to make the picture if his total salary-which he couldn't draw-would be turned over, intact, to charity. There seemed to be some red tape attached to this, so Mr. Tone simple withdrew from the cast. Later, when the ceiling was announced for 1943, instead of 1942, it was too late for Franchot to return to the part."
So, by trying to play it safe, Franchot actually took a huge gamble and lost out on an interesting role in a memorable picture. It is evident that Franchot truly wanted the acting opportunity, because he was eager to donate his entire salary to charity. It's too bad that his charitable act wasn't approved and that he dropped out of the cast shortly before the income regulations were adjusted.

I would have loved to see Franchot and Bette together again 8 years after the release of their romantic drama Dangerous and I think that Old Acquaintance would've given Franchot a career boost. Then again, had it worked out, we may have not had the pleasure of seeing him in two war dramas Five Graves to Cairo and Pilot No. 5 and two comedies His Butler's Sister and True to Life the following year.
John Loder and Bette Davis in Old Acquaintance. Source:

British actor John Loder (How Green Was My Valley, Now, Voyager) took over the role of Preston Drake from Franchot. The character is the put-upon husband of housewife-turned-romance novelist Millie Drake (Miriam Hopkins). Preston falls for his wife's childhood friend, the more humble and talented novelist Kit Marlowe (Bette Davis), but Kit remains loyal to Millie. As an actor, John Loder possesses the dignity and sensitivity of Franchot, but he lacks the same level of sex appeal. (I'm sure John Loder enthusiasts will completely disagree with me). When Kit (Bette) is on the phone and Preston (John) is uttering his devotion to her and kissing her on the hand, I can't help but think that Franchot would've made that scene a bit steamier and more playful! In the early scenes of the film where Kit and Preston meet in the Drake house, I can see Franchot, with his deep voice, mischievous grin,  and knack for sensitivity, being perfect in the role. However, John Loder turns in a great performance, one that the New York Times deemed the most convincing in the film.

Old Acquaintance is remembered now as being a powerful "woman's picture" and perhaps more than that, for the shaking scene between rivals Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins. For Franchot, I wonder if he remembered it as the film that got away.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jean on Franchot, Part 2

"I love his laugh and his smile.
Because I was very young and Franchot's what people call a man of the world, the hazards of our marriage were delightedly estimated by those who fill the lack in their own lives with an acute interest in the lives of others. We've confounded the prophets so far. Sometimes I think we've even confounded ourselves.
There are times when Franchot's every virtue seems a fault. When I wish his independence would crack, when his over-generosity would stop and go into reverse. I don't mind the exciting few times his control has burst wide open and his quiet evaporated in an outraged roar. There are times when I wish his tie would be crooked, his suit wrinkled. And then I think of the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when we're laughing together—or glow when he likes a new gown. I see the charming casualness of his perfect manners, feel the dependability of his tact, diplomacy and forbearance. So what if he does like a symphony better than having a crowd for dinner? Prefers a sneak preview to a premiere? What if he does prefer going to the races to going dancing? And bets the horses with more enthusiasm than know-how? My thrifty soul capitulates before his guileless smile when he hands me the uncashed tickets, saying merely, "I forgot to tell the horses I was on 'em."
You can't resent a man just because he looks like a "Man of Distinction" at the breakfast table when you've seen him, with infinite patience, console his son when his favorite toy was broken, or discipline his first-born with firmness, when a toss-off would have been easier by far.
As Franchot's wife I've come to respect a lot of things which, when I was a youngster, seemed unimportant. It was inevitable, I suppose, that I first resisted his attraction for me—disliked him, even, because of it. Perhaps in a vague way I realized the enchantment his even-tempered, almost casual way would throw about me. It's no longer enchantment—it's real. I guess through all of this I've been trying to say what is fully said in a simple sentence. Franchot is civilized. That's his burden—and his glory. It's my pride and my cross."

Jean Wallace Tone

Source: "Franchot's Femmes: Four Women in His Life Tell All, About the Suave and Elegant Mr. Tone." Screenland. July 1948. Vol 52, No.9.Page 42-43, 64-65.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jean on Franchot, Part 1

"After six-and-a-half years of marriage, Franchot Tone is the most exciting, handsome, lovable, exasperating, beguiling and challenging man in my world. His poise is a Gibraltar of strength—now that we've each done a little reforming. He's taught me to be more controlled—I've helped him discover the release an occasional outburst can be. He actually allowed himself to be angry when a business associate double-crossed him recently, and I was mighty proud of him! Never making a fuss, never aggressive about privileges he's earned—that I can cheer him for. But I've been burned to a crisp when he's allowed people to take advantage of his generosity and kindness. And I don't burn silently. Not Mrs. Tone!
His knowledge of subjects as unrelated as the ballet and the pruning of fig trees, acting and a recipe for frijoles, politics and the intricate mechanism of television, blown glass and the history of rare gems, religion and psychiatrics—no longer amazes me. Proving you can get used to anything.
Franchot's rather particularly unpredictable, I'd say. Just when you think he's a mind he makes some ridiculous off-beam investment—like the winery. We have heaven knows how many cases of wine in storage, all we have to show for quite a tidy investment he made one smart day. He won't drink a drop of the stuff. "It cost about a thousand dollars a case," says he. "And no drink is worth it."
His independence is colossal. Even when he has a cold in the head he remains aloof from any evidence of needing help or attention. He can always tie his dress tie expertly without getting the househould into an uproar. He never goes barging around blaming elusive dress shirt studs or collar buttons on my carelessness, or the kids' explorations into his dresser drawers. Of course, he doesn't have to plant any blame—he always knows just where they are!"
 Jean Wallace Tone

Source: "Franchot's Femmes: Four Women in His Life Tell All, About the Suave and Elegant Mr. Tone." Screenland. July 1948. Vol 52, No.9.Page 42-43, 64-65.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Strange Interlude (1963)

Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude was presented by members of The Actors Studio Theatre in 1963. The hit play ran for 97 performances at the Revival Hudson Theatre and then the Martin Beck Theatre from March 11, 1963 through June 29, 1963 (with a preview performance on March 9).

The Tony Award nominee starred many well-known actors, including Betty Field, Jane Fonda, Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Geoffrey Horne, Geraldine Page, William Prince, and Franchot Tone. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on Nina Leeds (Geraldine Page), a young woman who throws herself into unsavory relationships after the death of her first love in World War I. Pregnant with her unstable new husband's (Pat Hingle) child, Nina decides to secretly terminate the pregnancy and replace Sam's baby by immediately getting pregnant by an intelligent physician (Ben Gazzara).

Pretty intense stuff, eh? Especially for a play that was written in 1923 and first produced on Broadway in 1928. Because of its content, the play was banned in certain cities in its initial run. When the Actors Studio took it over in 1963, the play was heralded as one of the finest of the theater. Richard Severo, in his column "Theatre Review" dated March 16, 1963, insisted that "no one interested in good theatre can afford to miss it...the Actors Studio has scored a major triump, for 'Strange Interlude' is a production of the first rank". In the March 13, 1963 article, "Actors Studio's First 'Child' is a Hefty and Healthy Success", William Glover raved that the play "hit the bull's-eye of superb theatrical excitement...The long, tumultuous drama shows some signs of vintage quaintness. And although the play may still be the thing, this time the playing is even more important". Praising the "stellar cast", Glover remarked, "...each has created an unforgettable portrait and fused them into a colorful tapestry of dark splendor".

As a member of the stellar cast, 57-year-old Franchot Tone played the part of Nina's father, Professor Henry Leeds. His character was responsible for preventing Nina from marrying her first love before he went off to war. Strange Interlude lasted more than four hours and even included an extra break for dinner between the 5th and 6th acts. Franchot, however, only appeared in Act 1 and could often be seen in the audiences of other plays around town after his scenes were finished.

Source: eBay

In researching this fascinating play I discovered that it was actually recorded in its entirety and sold as a record! I do not own a copy, but it immediately went to the top of my wishlist!  How perfect an evening would it be to sit back and listen to Franchot and the cast act out this play in the comfort of your own home?

I do own an original Strange Interlude playbill and am including a few photos of that here. Although I would love to eventually own an autographed photo or handwritten note of his, right now it doesn't really match my budget and there haven't been a lot available on auction sites when I've browsed (Update: I have one now!!!). Knowing Franchot's extensive career in the theater and mourning the fact that I would never get to watch him in a play (apart from the Uncle Vanya film), I chose to start my own little FT theater collection. It's very small so far, but I really cherish the playbills I have! I bought Bicycle to Nevada back in October. Near Christmas, my husband told me to show him my top 4 coveted playbills and that he would surprise me with 1 of the 4. I was shocked to open up ALL FOUR on Christmas Eve! So, now my glorious little collection includes Bicycle to Nevada, Strange Interlude, The Fifth Column, The Second Man playbills and an unused feedback postcard for The Gentle People.

Strange Interlude playbill
Strange Interlude playbill
Strange Interlude playbill
Strange Interlude playbill
Photos from the Play in NYPL's Collection
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963.

Source: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Strange interlude. [1963]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1963.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Where to watch Franchot in January

January is serving up a nice variety of viewings for Franchot fans. Here is what to watch and when!

Scheduled to air on TCM:
Exclusive Story (1936)

Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

Gentlemen are Born (1934)
(I'm incredibly excited about this one, since it is not available on DVD!)
FRIDAY, JANUARY 29 @ 02:15 PM (ET)

Phantom Lady (1944)
SUNDAY, JANUARY 31 @ 08:30 AM (ET)

Streaming on Warner Archive Instant:
Advise & Consent (1962)
All About Late in the Afternoon from Season 1 of The Eleventh Hour (1962). This television episode is extremely rare and features Franchot with another veteran actor Chester Morris. So thankful that Warner Archive Instant is currently featuring it on their site!

Streaming on Hulu:
The Silence from Season 2 of The Twilight Zone (1961)
The Impossible Dream from Season 4 of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959)
Denver McKee from Season 2 of Bonanza (1960)

Don't forget that several of FT's public domain films and radio plays can be found for free online on The Internet Archive and Youtube.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Now on Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If you are on Bloglovin, I've just added my blog. See you there!

(Was required to do this post so that Bloglovin would allow me to claim this blog as my own. Sorry!)

Franchot and Jean Celebrating Stork Business

Franchot and Jean. Photoplay 1942.

Original caption for Photoplay photo above

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Unguarded Hour: Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon

One of my go-to films for a healthy dose of romance, glamour, and intrigue is the 1936 film The Unguarded Hour. It was the first Franchot Tone DVD I ever purchased and stars my other favorite screen star (not to mention a lady who inspires me greatly) Loretta Young. Like Franchot, Loretta always impresses me with her performances. Whether she's portraying a young business girl struggling in a pre-code, a witty socialite falling for Tyrone Power, a mother going to college for the first time, or simply herself introducing the Loretta Young Show, Loretta never misses. Yes, she's a gorgeous, talented actress, but there's something else, too. Loretta and the characters she plays are always relatable. You know her, ache for her, root for her. 

In The Unguarded Hour, you know, ache, and root for Loretta's character, Lady Helen Dearden. I'm thrilled to be covering this film as part of the Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon hosted by Cinema Dilettante, Now Voyaging, and The Young Sisters Appreciation Group on Facebook. 

The Backstory

The Unguarded Hour is notable as it is Loretta's comeback film after the secret pregnancy and birth of daughter Judy. Louella Parsons wrote about Loretta's return in her column on January 29, 1936:
Loretta Young, who had such a long and dangerous siege of illness, is well and ready to step into a motion picture. She looks more beautiful than ever and she was entirely recovered from the cold and cough that kept her in seclusion for so many months.
In June 1936, Hollywood Magazine also heralded Loretta's return to the limelight:

That happy glint, long missing from Loretta Young's eyes, is back again after many stormy months. A year ago she basked warmly in the bright light of popularity. She completed two smash hits, The Crusades and Shanghai. Every producer was either at her door demanding her services, or lamenting his ability to line her up.
And then it happened, strangely and forebodingly. The radiance faded from her glance, the sparkle from her manner. Serious-faced doctors gathered around, ordered Loretta to take a complete rest before she encountered a complete breakdown. The ensuing months passed slowly for Loretta. She couldn't help fretting over her enforced vacation, but like a good scout she repaired to the desert and took the rest cure prescribed for her. 
Now she is back at work, busy as ever and full of the spontaneous gaiety she has always displayed. She recently finished The Unguarded Hour at M-G-M with Franchot Tone and is now doing Private Number with Robert Taylor.

Screenland article on Loretta's return
I find it interesting that The Unguarded Hour and Private Number are the two films that Loretta starred in directly after having to hide a pregnancy and her new motherhood. Private Number would find Loretta's character secretly married to her wealthy employer's son and pregnant with his child.  In that film, her character is rejected by her husband's family and moves to a secluded cottage to have her child.

The plot of The Unguarded Hour revolves around there being an unguarded moment in each person's life, a moment in which circumstances may make a person appear suspicious and there's not a witness around to vouch for one's true actions…or as the New York Times review defined it, a moment when a person "may be stripped of his normal defenses and tossed to the unkind fates."  How Loretta must have identified with these two films after going through the experience of an unexpected pregnancy and having to cover it up in order to protect the careers and reputations of Clark Gable and herself. Last year, it was revealed by her family that Loretta, in later years, privately confided that her pregnancy was the result of date rape. With this new knowledge, it is even more telling of Loretta's strength and resilience that she immediately tackled a film about being powerless to prevent a situation and the untruths that can be perpetuated for years after. Whispers and harsh judgement about what did or did not occur during Loretta's private unguarded hour would follow her for the rest of her life, but Loretta's grace, dignity, and optimism never faltered.

The Movie

In The Unguarded Hour, Helen (Loretta Young) will protect her husband, Alan Dearden, at all costs.  Alan (Franchot Tone) is a young barrister whose reputation and career are on the rise. When Helen is presented with evidence of a clandestine affair Alan engaged in before their meeting and marriage, she immediately moves to protect him.  Helen agrees to privately pay the blackmailer (devilishly played by Henry Daniell) in exchange for the handwritten love letters that will surely end her husband's career.

In the drop off of cash and retrieval of letters on a remote nature trail, Helen comes in contact with a gentleman and his wife on a leisurely hike. She sees the friendly husband and hears him warn his wife not to stand too close to the edge.

Believing that the scandal is over, Helen enjoys a casual holiday with her husband. This is one of my favorite scenes in the film, because Loretta and Franchot, decked out in casual sporty attire, are so passionate with one another. The actors completely glow in these scenes where the two playfully flirt and show what a pure connection and attraction the characters they play have in their marriage. Loretta truly is at her most gorgeous in these laid-back scenes.

But this ideal moment is cut short when friend Bunny (Roland Young) stops by with a front page headline: a woman has fallen off a hiking trail and her husband is now being prosecuted for murder. The prosecutor? None other than Sir Alan Dearden.

Here's where the film's plot gets really intriguing! Helen knows she must speak up for the kind man she met on the hill, a man she is certain did not kill his wife. But to stand up for that stranger and defend his unguarded hour will, in turn, expose her husband's (engaging in a pre-marital affair) and her own (quietly buying and destroying the evidence of her husband's love affair).

The plot thickens when Diana Roggers (Alan's former lover) is found murdered and Alan returns home late with a suspicious wound on his hand. What follows are smartly written scenes in which Alan is confronted and must use the law he so dearly respects to clear his name. Each of the main characters in this film have secrets that they are withholding and must decide if the cost is too great to reveal what truly occurred in these private moments.

Filled with clever dialogue, effective actors, and a smart plot twist, this film is one of the most sophisticated of the 1930s. In addition to the actors mentioned, the film stars Lewis Stone as General Lawrence. When the film was released, it was well-received. The New York Times pointed out the illogical plot holes, but noted the film "leaps from peak to peak with such assurance and dexterity that some of the spectators are bound to be convinced it is headwork, not just footwork, they are admiring...we must admit it has been served with decorum and effectiveness." Harold W. Cohen, in The New Films column printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated April 25, 1936, described the film as "a shrewd combination of coatroom melodrama, murder and blackmail" with an "intelligent narrative".

Whether you are drawn to the film for the star performances, mysterious plot, or simply, Loretta's amazing fashion, you must watch it! It is one of my favorite films and one that I revisit often. It's available on DVD through Warner Archive and is sold at Amazon and WBShop online.

Loretta and Franchot

Loretta and Franchot not only starred in Midnight Mary (1933) and The Unguarded Hour (1936) together. They must have enjoyed each other's company personally as well, because they were photographed together out on the town in 1939.

Photoplay, 1939

Modern Screen, 1939

Huge thanks to Kayla for sharing this one with me!

I'm so glad I was able to participate in this year's Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon! To read all of the fascinating entries from this year's event, please check out the roster here.

If you'd like to see screen captures from The Unguarded Hour, here's a post I did on the film back in May. For incredible photographs and information on Loretta, I highly recommend checking out her official website, official Facebook page, the Young Sisters Appreciation Group, or Cinema Dilettante's blog!

I have been a Loretta Young fan for ages and even before I started my Franchot Instagram and blog accounts, I had an Instagram page dedicated to Loretta. You're welcome to follow me there if you want a regular dose of loveliness in your Instagram feed!

Midnight Mary Screening

There will be a special screening of Loretta and Franchot's first film Midnight Mary on February 2, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the University of California Riverside, Palm Desert Campus. This special event is free to the public and will definitely be a night to remember! William Wellman, Jr. and Chris and Linda Lewis will introduce the film and share stories. Here's the link:

Happy birthday, Loretta!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tribute Video!

I finally finished my Franchot Tone: A Life in Film tribute video and I'm so happy with the way it turned out! It captures Franchot in many moods through over 30 years of film and television footage.

It is now on Youtube at this link: or you can just watch it here.