Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Award (1955)

The Award, a Four Star Playhouse production, aired on CBS on June 30, 1955. Written by Leslie Stevens and directed by Roy Kellino, the episode stars Franchot Tone and innovative actress-director Ida Lupino.

Unlike much of Franchot's work that I highlight here, finding a copy of The Award is easy! Because this episode has fallen into the public domain, you can watch it instantly online. The full episode is available to watch on Jimbo Berkey's public domain site here.


I know you'll want to watch it for yourself, so I'll just include a brief summary here. Hollywood star Valerie Banks (Lupino) has just experienced a major flop in a Broadway show and is being ridiculed in newspapers across the country. Full of ego, Valerie cannot understand why audiences do not like her in the play Autumn Joy. She seeks out acting coach Ben Cheney (Tone) for an easy fix to her problem.  Because she is accustomed to being indulged by peers and fans, Valerie is dissatisfied with the solution Ben proposes.

During the episode, Franchot's character imparts the following advice to Valerie:

Well, that does it. You fight like a tiger and then fold when you’re beaten. Are you gonna let that stop you? Sure it’s broken. Is that the end of it? People get broken but they keep on going if they’re any good. You get that and nothing can stop you. Even when you’re all broken up. Pick up the pieces and start over.
These are my favorite lines in the teleplay. Franchot's delivery of these lines is spot on, but more than that, it reminds me of the strength Franchot himself displayed in the 1950's. Normally regarded as an easygoing, kind, and sensitive gentleman, Franchot was mired in scandal in the early 50's. Divorce proceedings and custody hearings with wife Jean Wallace became fodder for gossip columnists. The notoriously private Franchot became the butt of jokes when he was brutally beaten by his fianc√©'s lover and married her (the lovely, but troubled actress Barbara Payton) a few weeks later. This negative publicity plus pressure placed on him during the blacklist (both of which I'll write about in the near future) certainly affected his career. It is not my intent to paint Franchot as a saint. He certainly was human and made some poor decisions. However, I do find it admirable that Franchot didn't cave to the HUAC and managed to survive the bad publicity by throwing himself into non-stop theater and television performances. I believe his dedication to his work and the incredible performances he continued to give during this period restored his public persona. In the words of his character Ben Cheney, Franchot didn't fold when he was (literally) beaten. He didn't stop. He got broken and kept on going...because he was that good.

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