Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 in Review

2016 has surely been an excellent year for me, Franchot-wise. I feel that I have gained so many new details on Franchot in the past 12 months and have discovered innumerable nuggets of information that bear more investigation. I started this blog in the spring of 2015 as a personal spot to celebrate someone I admire. My enthusiasm over Mr. Tone only multiplies with passing time it seems. Thanks for checking in here throughout the year and for all your thoughtful comments.

Before ringing in the new year with new posts, I've decided to share a summary of posts from this year. This year, I added summaries, photos, and information on individual plays, television shows, films, and voicework in which Franchot starred. Thankfully, Franchot worked endlessly so I've many films, shows, and plays yet to highlight. I featured more quotes and details about Franchot's personal life (which are my favorite items to read) and participated in many classic film blogathons. I had the best time putting together clips for a tribute video in January, added some neat memorabilia items to my collection, and created a traditional fansite for Franchot last spring. The Finding Franchot fansite still needs some work so I'm planning to focus heavily on finishing those pages this coming month in addition to my regular posting here.

Below, I've categorized and provided links to this year's posts in case you missed them the first time around.  I have a lot of future topics that I'm researching now and excited to share, but would love to hear any specific posts you'd enjoy reading. Please feel free to request any films, events, or subjects related to Franchot you'd like to see here in the future in the comments section of this post. Happy New Year!

Age of Innocence
The Dirty Old Man
The Gentle People
Strange Interlude

All Hallow's Eve
Shadow Over Elveron
The Award
Eleventh Hour

Advise and Consent
The Bride Wore Red
Dark Waters
Every Girl Should Be Married
Exclusive Story
Gabriel Over the White House
Gentlemen are Born
The Girl Downstairs
The Gorgeous Hussy
The King Steps Out
Nobody Runs Forever
Pilot No. 5
The Stranger's Return
Without Honor
Unguarded Hour

Voice Work/Radio
This is the U.N.
Information Please

Personal Life
Friendships/Coworkers: Christopher PlummerDeanna Durbin, Doris Roberts, Helen Ferguson, Horton Foote, John Strasberg, Leading Ladies
Love Affairs: Dolores Dorn, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jean Wallace, Joan Crawford, Olivia DeHavilland
Personality: Acheson Award Presentation, The Actor's Angle, Charlie Chaplin Influence, Early Life in Niagara Falls, Publicity Leaps, Reserved Loner or Master Prankster?, Ties to the Gatineau Fish & Game Club
Politics: Blacklist, Nixon Luncheon, Political Ancestry
Random: French Film Finances, Grape Juice, Lemon Merengue Pie, Old Acquaintance, Photo Deja Vu, Shabby Chic, Stork Business

Agnes Moorehead Blogathon
The Bette Davis Blogathon
Cary Grant Blogathon
Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon
Hail to the Chief! Blogathon
Joan Crawford Blogathon
Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon
Royalty on Film Blogathon
Second Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon
The Star-Studded Couple Blogathon
You Must Remember This...A Kiss is Just a Kiss Blogathon

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Information Please (1944)

On February 28, 1944, Franchot appeared as a guest on Information Please. Information Please was a radio quiz show that ran on NBC from 1938 to 1951. On each episode, panelists would try to answer trivia that had been mailed in by listeners. If a listener stumped the panel, he or she received cash and prizes.

The episode runs for just under 29 minutes. Franchot's first answers come after the 3:44 mark when the questions turn to the American Revolution. His thoughtful, soft-spoken answers reveal a deep knowledge of history, literature, and opera. Franchot is humble here, too. When host Clifton Fadiman praises him, Franchot plays it off like he doesn't know how the answers came to him and says that maybe he's been "reading up on it in preparation for this program." He doesn't quite correctly answer questions related to his work in The Gorgeous Hussy and Green Grow the Lilacs, but he proudly recites some of the lines from The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (often noted as Franchot's favorite of his own films.)

At the end of the program, the host thanks Franchot for lending a little "Tone" to the show. Franchot responds with "now I know why they call you a pundit."

It's always a treat to read/hear the genuine thoughts of Franchot Tone. I hope you'll enjoy this personal radio appearance, which I've uploaded to Youtube. If you cannot see the embedded video below, please click here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

2016 Franchot Tone Holiday Gift Guide

It's time for the 2nd Annual Franchot Tone Holiday Gift Guide!

This year's picks for that Franchot fan in your life (or, let's be honest, yourself!) are pictured above and include:
  • Vintage tobacco card - Like many film stars, Franchot was featured on quite a few collectible tobacco cards in the 1930's and 40's. Some cards show portraits of Franchot while others show him with costars (for example, Jean Harlow.) Fortunately, you can find one at an affordable price on eBay. (I've only paid between $2 and $5 each for mine, but the ones with Harlow and Crawford list for much more.)
  • Three Comrades DVD - This 1938 drama is one of Franchot's finest performances. It's a must-see! Margaret Sullavan, Robert Taylor, and Robert Young costar in this moving film.
  • Love on the Run DVD - Although definitely a Crawford-Gable film, Franchot more than holds his own and is laugh-out-loud funny as the second lead.
  • New reprint poster - I stumbled across this new poster print of Franchot at It's a great photo of him and available in multiple sizes!
  • Unguarded Hour DVD - The lesser known of Franchot and Loretta Young's two films, Unguarded Hour is a clever, glamorous, and sophisticated mystery.
  • Vintage magazine - Original magazines, like the one featuring Franchot and Deanna Durbin on the cover, can be found on eBay. Depending on condition, prices typically range anywhere from $4 to $40.
To see what made the list for last year's gift guide, click here.

Note: Hopefully you know this by now, but I am not affiliated with Amazon, eBay, or and not compensated in any way for anything I post on this site. These are simply great Franchot items and the annual gift guide is a bit of holiday fun.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Without Honor and the Television Careers of Agnes and Franchot

For the past few days, the classic film blogosphere has been celebrating actress Agnes Moorehead thanks to the Agnes Moorehead Blogathon hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. I am happy to pay my respects to the incredible actress, who was born on December 6, 1900, with a look at the many connections Agnes and Franchot had, despite never actually sharing screentime!

Without Honor (1949)
Franchot Tone and Agnes Moorehead in Without Honor.
Without Honor (1949) holds the dubious privilege of being my least favorite Franchot Tone film. I previously wrote a film summary and talked about the aspects that make me dislike the film. (You can read that here if you like.) However, Agnes Moorehead's performance is the film's saving grace. In my opinion, Laraine Day's performance is too hysterical, Dane Clark is too menacing, and Franchot (only featured in the first 10 minutes) is too flat. Everyone is too much of something to be believable. And then, over 30 minutes into the film, Agnes enters and her just right performance redeems it.

Married housewife Jane (Laraine Day) is surprised when her married lover Dennis (Franchot Tone) appears on her doorstep in the middle of the day. Embarrassed to be caught cooking in her housedress, Jane is still unable to conceal her total adoration of the man. Dennis is clearly concerned and gently breaks off the affair with the explanation that he desires to spend more time with his wife and daughters. Jane becomes hysterical immediately and in a struggle, stabs Dennis with a kabob skewer. Earlier I said that Franchot's astonishingly brief performance is flat here. I think he did the best that he could with the material as it was written. There wasn't much to his character and not a lot of room to improve it. Later that day, we find out that Jane's angry, possessive brother-in-law Bill (Dane Clark) has set up an intervention of sorts. Not knowing what has occurred between Jane and Dennis, Bill intends to expose them to their spouses.

Dennis' wife Katherine (Agnes Moorehead) is first to arrive. Katherine walks in Jane's house. She is soft-spoken, cool and not completely focused. Agnes plays the scene quietly. She eyes Jane warily and looks around the room with a slight disinterest. She concentrates on lighting and smoking her cigarette and as the viewer, you can feel the character waiting and knowing the score. Katherine's knowledge of the affair is confirmed when she realizes that Jane's husband Fred (Bruce Bennett) is completely unaware. Concerned and surprised, she asks, "He doesn't know?" As Bill eagerly takes Fred outside to tell him of the affair, Katherine addresses Jane in a wonderful speech that is truly the best moment in the film. Agnes, as Katherine, says:
You know that as the wronged wife I'm supposed to hate you. But, I don't. Does that surprise you? I don't like you. I think you're a fool and a weak girl...I knew he'd found somebody because lately he's been so kind and so considerate and attentive at home...I understand it, but it hurts just the same...If you really understood him, you'd know that he's a man with a tremendous desire to be worshipped. And you worship him. I'm telling you this because I want you to stop it. Things are going to be different from now on. You understand all this?..You're quite alone. I feel sorry for you, I really do.
These are not empty words. Agnes conveys all the conflicted emotions her character is feeling through her facial expressions and body movements. She is uncomfortable, but self-assured. She's firm, but caring. She's heartbroken, but resilient. As deeply as she is hurt, Katherine genuinely feels for Jane. She's worried about the future of a woman who has the stigma of being a home wrecker. Katherine knows of the double standard, that others will judge Jane, that Jane could lose her marriage, security, and social worth.  It's clear, to Katherine and the audience, that Dennis never truly loved Jane. Jane refuses to believe it, asserts that Katherine never truly loved or appreciated him. Realizing that Jane can never understand the bond that Katherine still feels for Dennis and that Jane is still worshiping her lover, Katherine ends the conversation with a defeated:
You never heard a word I said.
It's a sparkling performance in a film noir that is quite lackluster for me. Although they play spouses, Franchot and Agnes never share any screentime in Without Honor.  I've not spoiled the ending of the film, so please watch for yourself.

"You never heard a word I said."

Franchot Tone in Ben Casey. Agnes Moorehead in Bewitched.
Following Without Honor, both Franchot and Agnes heavily embraced the television medium in their careers. In the 1950's, Franchot, softly blacklisted and not considered "bankable" by the studio, focused almost solely on television and theater work, while Agnes was able to successfully balance film and television. Agnes would, of course, end up on one of the most beloved shows of all time. From 1964 to 1972, Agnes played Endora, the most clever and entertaining antagonist I've ever seen in television history, on Bewitched. Franchot does not register as a television household name for most folks, but he did become a series regular on the top rated medical drama Ben Casey in 1965.

Before and after joining Bewitched and Ben Casey, Franchot and Agnes appeared in many of the same television shows and anthologies—only never at the same time! I truly regret that there are so many missed opportunities for collaboration between these two. Let's take a look at some of these lost chances.

Franchot Tone in Old Cowboy. Agnes Moorehead in Gun Quest.
Franchot and Agnes guest-starred on the popular western show The Virginian five years apart. Franchot starred as Murdock in the "Old Cowboy" episode on March 31, 1965. Agnes played Emma Garvey in the episode entitled "Gun Quest" that aired on October 21, 1970.

Franchot Tone in The Silence. Agnes Moorehead in The Invaders.
Apart from Bewitched obviously, the most memorable television performances may possibly be found in their 1961 Twilight Zone episodes.  Agnes believed there was a U.F.O. on her roof on the January 27th episode "The Invaders" while later that year on April 28th, Franchot was the intimidating gentleman who enters into an unfair bet in "The Silence."

Franchot Tone in The Malachi Hobart Story. Agnes Moorehead in The Mary Halstead Story.
Another popular western show of its day, Wagon Train featured many celebrity guest stars. On November 20, 1957, Agnes appeared as the title character in "The Mary Halstead Story." Five seasons later on January 24, 1962, Franchot showed up as the title character in "The Malachi Hobart Story."

Franchot Tone in Bitter Heritage. Agnes Moorehead in The Dungeon.
From 1956 to 1960, Franchot and Agnes could be seen on Playhouse 90. Franchot acted in six different Playhouse 90 productions, the first one airing on October 25, 1956 and the final one airing on May 2, 1960. Franchot's episodes included: "Rendezvous in Black," "The Thundering Wave," "Bitter Heritage," "A Quiet Game of Cards," "The Hidden Image," and "The Shape of the River." Agnes performed in "The Dungeon" episode that aired on April 10, 1958.

There were plenty of additional roles in anthologies. Franchot was in "The Gioconda Smile," "Silent Decision," and "The Largest City in Captivity" episodes of Climax! in 1954, 1955, and 1957, respectively. In 1956 and 1957, Agnes appeared in two Climax! episodes: "Child of the Wind" and "Locked in Fear." Franchot's Alcoa Theatre productions were 1956's "Even the Weariest River" and 1957's "Night," while Agnes was seen in the "Man of His House" episode that aired in 1959. 

Franchot and Agnes each starred in the Dupont Show, General Electric Theater, Colgate Comedy Hour, and Revlon Mirror Theatre. The Dupont Shows were 1958's A Tale of Two Cities (Agnes) and 1959's Body and Soul (Franchot.) For General Electric Theater, it was 1956's Steinmetz (Franchot) and 1959's Deed of Mercy (Agnes.) Just months apart in 1955, Franchot made an appearance as himself in Episode 5.15 and Agnes appeared in "Roberta" of The Colgate Comedy Hour. Franchot and Agnes were both Revlon Mirror Theatre performers in 1953; He in "One Summer's Rain" and she in "Lullaby."

I am aware that many film stars of the 1930's to 1950's worked steadily in television anthologies, but I am still struck by just how many similarities Franchot and Agnes share in the television portions of their careers. Although they costarred as husband and wife in a 1949 film noir and then over the course of 15 years, appeared in many of the same anthologies and series, Franchot and Agnes never actually shared one scene. I wish that wasn't so. I think they would've made a fine match as true costars.

I hope you'll continue celebrating Agnes Moorehead on her birthday by heading over to In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and reading all of the marvelous tributes there.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Dirty Old Man (1964)

Photo that accompanied reviews of The Dirty Old Man
In 1964, Franchot starred in Lewis John Carlino's play "The Dirty Old Man." The play was presented along with Carlino's "Sarah and the Sax" under the title Doubletalk. Doubletalk, which earned Carlino the Vernon Rice Award, ran for 16 performances from May 4 to May 17, 1964 at the Theatre de Lys. Now the Lucille Lortel Theatre, the Theatre de Lys is located at 121 Christopher Street in New York City.

In the play, Franchot stars as the old man (the character is not given a name.) A recluse living alone, the old man embraces the solitude of nature as he comes to terms with his aging body. Despite issues with his heart, the old man hikes the cliff near his secluded house each day. He is content to peacefully journal all that he sees around him.

One day, returning to his cabin, the old man stumbles upon two teenagers making out. Chuck (Gregory Rozakis) runs out, but Mary (Amy Taubin) stays behind after the old man assures her the boy will come back within an hour. As they wait, the young woman and old man introduce themselves and find that despite the discrepancy in their ages and lifestyles, there is much that they understand about and relate to each other. Concerned because he is experiencing pain due to his heart condition and seeing the youthful spirit behind his eyes, Mary asks if she can kiss the man. Chuck returns, and interpreting the kiss as an attack by the old man, violently beats him. The play ends with the old man feeling beaten down, literally by the physical punches and figuratively by the cruel passing of time.

Franchot received positive reviews about his role. Jack Gaver wrote:
Franchot Tone gives a moving performance in a touching little play called "The Dirty Old Man," which Cheryl Crawford and Roger L. Stevens presented at the De Lys Theatre Monday night...Tone hasn't been seen to such advantage around here in several years. His is a completely understanding performance and Carlino is indebted to his interpretation under the affectionate direction of Cyril Simon. Amy Taubin is a good match for Tone. Her teen-ager portrayal is so real that it is almost frightening. Gregory Rozakis does well the little he has to do as the boy.
In their book The One-Act Play Companion, Colin Dolley and Rex Walford deem the play a "deeply affecting story." As of this writing, I have not found any photos from the staging of the play or any playbills promoting it. I'm sure they are available, I just haven't tracked them down yet. You can read a bit of the play online through Google Books here.

Carlino, Lewis John. "The Dirty Old Man." Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1964.
"The Dirty Old Man." Stage Plays.
Dolley, Colin and Rex Walford. The One-Act Play Companion: A Guide to Plays, Playwrights, and Performance. YEAR.
Gaver, Jack. "Tone is Moving in 'Dirty Old Man'." St. Petersburg Times. May 6, 1964.