|Franchot & Christopher in the Alcoa production of Even the Weariest River, 1956.|
For me, it's only fitting that the older and ailing Franchot's final scene in a film is with the young Christopher Plummer in the 1968 film Nobody Runs Forever. It's over in a heartbeat, but to see these two actors I admire share a bit of brief dialogue and knowing looks with one another is a cherished film moment for me.
Many years before Nobody Runs Forever, Plummer and Tone worked together in the Bermuda Repertory Theatre (I believe this was in/around 1952). Plummer dedicated several pages of his book to his experience with and analysis of Tone. I think his words on Franchot as an actor and as a man are the most insightful I've ever read. I was pleased that Christopher was able to see the similarities that I've noticed in Franchot and himself, and I was vastly moved by his eloquent summary of my favorite actor of all time.
On Franchot's early theater days:
At one time, not too far into the recent past, he was considered by critics, pundits and public alike 'the bright white hope of the American theatre.'...he had shown staggering potential in the famed Group Theatre days...Franchot, with his and his family's money had largely financed the Group Theatre from its inception. So it would not be an exaggeration to surmise that almost single-handedly he had oiled the machinery for the great New Wave movement...On Franchot's vulnerability and pain:
But Franchot had a weakness for the movies and a penchant for domineering, glamorous women...He seemed to search for this kind of self-destructive alliance, and alliance that could not but help inflict certain pain. Indeed, Franchot Tone was a handsome, sensitive, highly educated and tremendously talented gentleman who was, nevertheless, motivated and driven by pain. His hard living had somewhat diminished his former brilliance, but every so often his work showed strong evidence of great depth and nobility of spirit...His sense of humor, as one might guess, was seeringly self-deprecating, drawn as always from this inexplicable inner torment. These vulnerable qualities were to make his Chekovian performances (Uncle Vanya and A Moon for the Misbegotten), both of which I later saw, so memorable—a rare combination of lightness and poignancy.On working with Franchot in "The Petrified Forest":
He brought a substance to the play it didn't quite deserve...he managed at times to lift the piece far above its ken into the loftier spheres of O'Neill.On their similarities:
...we shared an unspoken bond. We were both romantics—incurable to the last—and our separate upbringings shared the same confusion of identity. He may have seen in me, occasionally, his younger self. I'm not sure and I wouldn't wish it on him; but I saw in him someone I could perhaps aspire to; not the hidden sad, pained man that was part of Franchot but the part he couldn't conceal, no matter how hard he tried, the part that was refined, noble and infinitely kind—the man of golden promise.
|Nobody Runs Forever, 1968|
Source: Plummer, Christopher. In Spite of Myself: A Memoir. New York: Afred A. Knopf, 2008. Print. 104-107.