Wednesday, July 3, 2019

An Interesting Independence Day Display

Both Harold Clurman, in his book The Fervent Years, and Robert Lewis, in his book Slings and Arrows, recounted Franchot defiantly celebrating the 4th of July alone while he was a member of the Group Theatre in the early 1930's. Both refer to this display as being attached to Franchot's frustration with the constant "plethora of intellectual talk and classic music", but that reason seems so in contrast with everything else I've learned about him. Franchot was a fond participator in deep discussion and I can't tell you how much I've read about his enthusiasm for classical music, especially Mozart.

But Franchot's time with the Group Theatre seemed to be a complicated mixture of joyful success and feelings of alienation and I have much more to share about that subject in a future post. Perhaps Franchot was just letting off steam or drunk. Perhaps even the most devoted Mozart fan can grow weary of endless playback.  Or, perhaps, Franchot was just very enthusiastic about Independence Day. Here's what Clurman said:
On the Fourth of July, Franchot alone had decided to celebrate by shooting off fireworks. He began rather early in the day. Perhaps this was his childhood custom, perhaps it released his tension, perhaps it was his protest against what seemed to be the indifference of the others to the proprieties of this holiday. Solitary, with darkened brow, he went from place to place over the grounds and set off his firecrackers. Carnovsky and others were fond of music and played recordings of Mozart at every opportunity (except one man who played Caruso records, and Puccini). Carnovsky, no longer able to tolerate Franchot's acoustic vandalism, came out on the porch and cried: "Franchot, for God's sake, I can't stand the noise." Franchot turned and yelled: "And I can't stand your  noise"—referring to Mozart and the rest. He stamped off yelling: "I am an American." 
I have written a little bit about the Group Theatre (click here), but have some more detailed stories of Franchot's time with the Group coming soon.

Happy Independence Day! Set off some fireworks for loin-clothed Franchot the American!
Photo Source: Slings and Arrows, 1996.


Clurman, Harold. The Fervent Years. Harcourt. 1945.
Lewis, Robert. Slings and Arrows: Theatre in My Life. 1996.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Franchot Talks to Picturegoers Magazine

In 1935, Franchot talked to Picturegoers Magazine while on the set of No More Ladies:

My opinion as to why the fifteenth screen test resulted in a film contract is that in the space of those four years in New York the manufacturers of motion picture negatives had improved their product to such an extent that almost anyone could be photographed satisfactorily. In pictures, the first thing they want to do is make a person a hero. You know, broad shoulders, wavy hair and that sort of thing. I have no illusions about myself. I’m not a hero, and I can’t see what I should be made what I’m not. The other day I read a story about myself that made me human. I like that kind of stuff, because it’s sincere.There’s nothing unusual about me—I’m just an ordinary, and, I hope, normal individual.
In the film colony there is little to do besides work. People in pictures don’t relax socially to any extent. Thy work like the devil to finish one picture so they can go into another. I would like actually to work about thirty-six weeks out of the year. The remainder of the time I would rest, study, and travel. Then I would have an opportunity to enjoy life. 
Picture making is not easy—it requires a terrific amount of concentration. It requires more from a person than does working on the stage. To be a success on the screen a person must have a lot of force and drive, like Joan Crawford…I definitely intend to return to the stage, not permanently, however, I would enjoy dividing my time between the stage and screen. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Straight is the Way (1934)

With a runtime of just one hour, Straight is the Way packs a lot of Franchot into a very short amount of time. I have always had a soft spot for this film, but most reviewers have not held the same opinion as me. I should admit that Franchot is in nearly every scene of this film, plus he is young and quite beautiful in it, and I know that those factors play a part in my positive assessment. Franchot didn't get to carry many films during this time period. He was typically cast as the love interest with a small story who supports the main actress (Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis) with a big story during his early years in Hollywood. It's nice to watch a film whose plot revolves completely around Tone's character. The plot may be a bit flimsy, but I think it's a nice story with a solid cast, nevertheless.

Straight is the Way is a remake of the 1928 film Four Walls which starred John Gilbert and a young Joan Crawford—what a neat coincidence! Sadly, I believe that original film, which was based on a George Abbott play of the same name, is now lost.

First, let's look at the film itself, then we will get to the reviews.

Straight is the Way opens with Momma Horowitz (May Robson) anxiously awaiting the arrival of her son. She is so overwhelmed by her emotions that she can barely keep her eyes from tearing up and her hands from shaking. Bertha (Karen Morley) cannot contain her excitement either because her childhood friend Benny Horowitz (Franchot Tone) is coming home after a five-year stint in prison. Benny returns and shares that although he disliked being locked up, he survived by realizing "you stand anything if you have get to feeling you wanna smash the walls down and then after awhile you begin to realize it's not the walls. It's something inside that holds you prisoner. It wasn't so bad. I got along fine. I was president of the welfare league."

Benny promises his mother that he has no plans to ever return to jail again, but she's devastated and terrified when Benny immediately goes out to the street to say hello to former friends who are on the wrong side of the law. Benny learns that while he was in prison his buddy Monk (Jack La Rue) took Benny's old girlfriend Shirley (Gladys George) and became the leader of a criminal organization he's named the East Side Political and Social Club.

When Shirley comes around ready to rekindle a love affair, Benny rejects her:
Well, you're all wrong, Shirley. You can go back to Monk. I don't want ya. You don't mean nothin' to me. Listen, I'm free now and I'm going to stay free—all of me, inside and out. Nothing's ever gonna get hold of me again, ya got it?

Throughout the film, there is much emphasis placed on the fact that Benny is a Jewish man and that this is a Jewish neighborhood. There is a great deal of celebration surrounding the Sabbath in its scenes. Franchot received criticism for playing a Jewish man. A Silver Screen reviewer remarked, 'If Franchot looks like a Horowitz, then I look like an Adonis." In a separate review within the pages of Silver Screen, readers read, "You'll die laughing when we tell you who plays the nice Jewish boy who calls his Mater "Momma"—that elegant gentleman Franchot Tone."

Benny struggles to re-enter the workforce and grows weary of being treated like a criminal in his hometown. Every one is trying to match him with Bertha, but he feels she is too good and pure for him. He's desperate to relocate to the west and start fresh, but he's offered a mechanic job in his old neighborhood. Thrilled to be clocking in and out and bringing home an honest living, Benny defends his employer and makes an enemy of the mob when he stands up to Monk and his gang, who have been intimidating and stealing from his employer.

Benny resists temptation when he turns down an offer to take over Monk's position, but continues to struggle where Shirley is concerned. Will he return to the life that landed him in jail in the first place? Or will he continue on the straight path to moral and physical freedom?

On-set Stories

Cal York noted that Jack LaRue was originally cast in the part of Monk in the stage production, but it was decided he looked too young and Paul Muni was cast instead.

Silver Screen included this on set story:


Silver Screen said the film was simply not hot. It gave the film a cool rating of 35 degrees and wondered, "Why?...Why a studio ever saw fit to produce it in the first place is something that we can't understand..." Silver Screen felt that Franchot and Karen Morley were miscast and that the only actor who managed to "get by" was May Robson.

Photoplay was kinder in their assessment. The magazine called it a "powerfully constructed drama" and urged "All you doubters, come and see Franchot Tone give a performance, because he can and does!" Photoplay Magazine (December 1934) included this sweet photo of May Robson holding her great grandaughter.

Motion Picture Reviews only rated it fair, but praised Robson, writing that she "provides a very human and sympathetic appeal as the mother and does much toward making the action vivid though the tempo is often slow." Motion Picture Reviews summed up with a statement that the "value of the picture as entertainment depends on taste."

Based on that statement, I might have bad taste, but I enjoy this film. It's quick, it's simple, it's not going to win any awards—but I really, really like it.

Straight is the Way has not been released on DVD, but it does occasionally pop up on Turner Classic Movies and online video sites.

"Cal York's Monthly Broadcast from Hollywood." Photoplay. 1934.
"Straight is the Way." Silver Screen. October 1934.
"Straight is the Way." Photoplay. October 1934.
"Straight is the Way." Motion Picture Reviews. 1934.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Strasbergs Remember Franchot

A friend of Lee and Paula Strasberg, Franchot also created lasting friendships with their children, Susan and John. Both went on to relate the details of Franchot's influence in their books.

Susan Strasberg on Franchot Tone
In her memoir Bittersweet, Susan recalled that her very first memories were being a toddler crawling around famous feet under the dining table. Those guests included Luise Rainier, John Garfield, Tallulah Bankhead, and Franchot Tone (whom she lovingly referred to as "Uncle".) Uncle Franchot was a "tender, aesthetic, scholarly gentleman" who often held young Susan, and Susan found it hard to reconcile his naturally kind, quiet nature with the version he presented one night when he arrived "drunk and bloody from a battle over some woman."

A close friend of the family, Franchot often visited the house to consult with Lee Strasberg—who was at times very tender (embracing Franchot with a heartfelt hug) yet frequently standoffish (blaring music and not making eye contact with Franchot despite his patiently waiting.)

Franchot and Susan read reviews of "The Diary of Anne Frank."
Source: Bittersweet

Franchot was present for many celebrations. When Susan performed in "The Diary of Anne Frank", Franchot (along with Marilyn Monroe and Joshua Logan) was waiting to congratulate her in the dressing room. At a party at Sardi's following her performance, Franchot "raised his glass. 'Little Susan, you have been launched on a long and glittering career. I drink to you.' As they waited for the reviews, everyone ate and drank champagne. Franchot ordered pizza—for inquiring minds, Franchot once told a reporter that his favorite pizza topping was "plain mozzarella."

Franchot with Burton, Fonda, and Ustinov at Susan's surprise party.
Source: scan from my collection

Franchot was also on hand for Susan's surprise 20th birthday party. The party was inside a dark theater and also present were Henry Fonda, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Lena Horne, Julie Harris, Tony Perkins, and Richard Burton (whom Susan was dating at the time.) In her book, Susan also recalls attending Franchot's own small parties hosted at Don the Beachcomber's, and counts him as a person she "cared about and respected" when she saw him at a 1960's New Year's Eve party.
Franchot and Susan in rehearsal for The Time of Your Life, 1958.
Source: scan from my collection
Franchot and Susan had the pleasure to act together on several projects. They both appeared in a 1956 television production of J.M. Barrie's play "Dear Brutus" on Omnibus, an educational television program that aired on CBS. In 1958, they traveled—and actually financed the entire trip on their own dime after funding fell through— to the Brussels World's Fair to perform "The Time of Your Life." You can read more about that production here. In 1959, they toured together for the play "Caesar and Cleopatra." Getty Images has a great photo of them in costume for that production, which you can view here.

Franchot and Susan in a publicity photo for Caesar and Cleopatra in 1959.
Source: scan from my collection.
When Franchot realized Susan was struggling with her role as Camille in Franco Zeffirelli's "The Lady of the Camellias" in 1963, he came to her aid. "He described his mother, who had died of tuberculosis, Camille's disease, detailing for me her flushes, her fevers, and high gaiety followed by her complete collapses..."

John Strasberg on Franchot Tone
Susan's brother John also devoted space to Franchot in his own memoir. He wrote:
I don't remember feeling any peace or harmony from the moment we moved back to New York in 1947 until I began spending summers in Canada with Franchot Tone when I was twelve. We hunted and fished, camping in Quebec's wilderness country.
Franchot's wealthy industrialist family owned three houses that sat on a ridge of land between two lakes that were part of the Gatineau Fish and Game Club, near Gracefield, Quebec. We portaged deep into land that he owned, smearing honey under the canoes of poachers so that the bears would destroy them. Franchot became one of my heroes, once I realized that heroes could be human...Normally quiet and reflective, he could be very temperamental. He was a movie star, but to me, above all, he was a Renaissance man. He thought about more than just the theater. He gave me books he loved, like the writings of the Comte de Rochechouart and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and a Marlin .22 lever action rifle, the gift of which startled my parents and endeared Franchot to me even more.
He exposed me to a world that I loved and felt at home in, and that my parents knew nothing about. He loved women, smoked two packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes a day, and drank double vodkas. So did I, but some years later. He was definitely more of what I wanted to be than was my own father, and I often wonder what kind of father he was to his own children. Franchot's humanity touched me deeply. It was due in part to his influence that I learned to define success on my own terms. Above all, he taught me that work is part of one's natural respect and love of human life, but it is not a way to ignore or dominate it.

  • Roach, Janet. "Perfectionist Franchot Tone 'Sacrifices' Own Shirt for Play." The Day. New London, Connecticut. August 5, 1966. Page 12. 
  • Strasberg, John. Accidentally on Purpose: Reflections on Life, Acting, and the Nine Natural Laws of Creativity. New York: Applause, 1996. Print. 8-9.
  • Strasberg, Susan. Bittersweet. New York:, Putnam, 1980. Print.

Monday, April 8, 2019

"Pandemonium" at 470 Layton Drive

When I was browsing fan magazine articles about Franchot and Carole Landis' relationship earlier this year, I stumbled upon this article about Franchot living at the Layton Drive address with photographs! This is the home listed on Franchot's World War II draft card (here) that I did a brief post on last year (here.) When Bubbles Schinasi and actor Wayne Morris called it quits leaving their home vacant and open to tenants, Franchot and his pal Burgess Meredith ("as gay a brace of bachelors as ever haunted the sleep of the countless impressionable co-eds throughout our wonderful democracy") moved in. Hollywood was surprised that two bachelors would take on a large, elegant property. Jimmy Durante even asked, "Those guys and that house—what have they got in common?"

How did they end up living in such style? Burgess settled into the extra room at Jimmy Stewart's Santa Monica house when he arrived in Hollywood for film work. Soon, photographer John Swope became Jimmy and Burgess' housemate as well. All men enjoying and being popular with the ladies, the house grew crowded fast. Buzz (as Burgess was known to friends) found a beach house in need of repairs to reside in, but Jimmy and John didn't want to break up the gang. It was decided that the beach house would just be for Buzz to sleep in, but the guys would all hang out at Jimmy's house during waking hours.

Then, Franchot arrived from New York and needed a place to stay. Franchot and Buzz were roommates in New York shortly after Franchot's divorce from Joan Crawford and remained lifelong friends. Both Franchot and Buzz were acting in plays at the time and found they shared equal passion for acting and being fixtures at the hottest nightspots. Buzz and Franchot decided to lease the Morrises' chateau, now nicknamed Pandemonium. Their neighbors included Nelson Eddy, Anna Sten, and Frank Capra. Franchot felt the place was perfect for his return to Hollywood as a bachelor.

Franchot and Buzz threw a cocktail party after getting settled in and locating domestic servants. In the article, the descriptions of the rooms are pretty exaggerated in comparison to the photographs. Yes, they are beautiful, large nice rooms, but Screenland refers to their living room as "Dali-esque." Their living room was described as a "surrealistic masterpiece...The walls were a pale blue set off by a gray carpet. Two disconsolate love seats done in yellow leather hugged the fireplace, over which a mural by Lee Blair (a South American cockfight framed in blue mirror) looked down..."
The living room.

Buzz's room was decorated in red and white walls ("calculated to woo sleep"), a sea green carpeted floor, and "flaming" draperies.
The bedroom of Burgess Meredith.

Franchot shared his room with a Great Dane named Bad Boy (pictured with Buzz and Franchot in the top photo), who used the former outdoor tennis court as his play area. Franchot's room would "stand up as the most sexy and glamorous bedroom in houses the biggest bed in California—a little number measuring exactly ten feet long, ensconced on a pale grey rug and sporting a half-canopy of coral fish net...the walls are pale blue...the lights are soft and harem-like."
The bedroom of Franchot Tone.

Burgess would recall in his biography and he and Franchot "shared many a bottle and many a girl, both in New York and Hollywood, in our bachelor days. There were also some quiet times in Canada at his hunting lodge...But he enjoyed life to the end, loving and being loved by an army of fans and friends..."

Franchey, John R. Hollywood's Gayest Bachelors! Screenland. May 1941. p. 28-29, 88. 
Meredith, Burgess. So Far, so Good: A Memoir. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994. 72-76. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

What's New?

Finding Franchot fansite

I've scanned and added more photos to the fansite since 2019 began. You can find those at and specifically on the following pages:

Portraits/Franchot Alone


Film Stills and Publicity

Newspaper and Magazine

A new addition to the fansite: I Love Trouble candid

Phantom Lady

The 1944 film noir Phantom Lady was just released on blu-ray. You can read more about the specs here

I'm hoping we will see some Warner Archive releases of other Franchot films (my personal wishlist includes the release of Gentlemen are Born, The Stranger's Return, Straight is the Way, or Between Two Women) later this year, but no word yet.

Franchot on TV

If you have Turner Classic Movies, you can enjoy these upcoming Franchot showings:

Dancing Lady - March 14th at 4:45 p.m. eastern
They Gave Him a Gun - April 5th at 9:15 a.m. eastern
Midnight Mary - May 1st at 4:45 p.m. eastern
The Girl Downstairs - May 8th at 6:30 a.m. eastern

Monday, February 25, 2019

Franchot and Carole Landis

Franchot is proudly framed on Carole's table.
Franchot and actress Carole Landis met each other just a few weeks shy of Carole's divorce from Willis Hunt, Jr., which would be granted in mid-November 1940. Carole and Franchot were all smiles in the many photographs of the couple, often taken at Ciro's, published in fall 1940 and early 1941. Although she was very serious about her relationship with Franchot, Carole and Franchot both still casually dated other people in the entertainment industry.

Although both still visibly on the market, Carole apparently intimated to friends that Franchot was close to proposing or had already quietly proposed marriage. When reporters from Modern Screen magazine stopped by Carole's home, they observed a photo of Franchot signed, "Yours without protest." (Wouldn't it be nice to see that one pop up on eBay?) Still, some doubted that he had made such a commitment. Franchot was very active on the dating scene at this time and although he clearly cared about Carole, it doesn't seem like he was quite ready to jump into marriage in late 1940.

Carole described what she was looking for in a man:
I'm the happy type, by nature and by inclination. I expect men to amuse me, interest me, flatter me, spoil me, I say that if there is any heart-breaking to be done, it is a woman's privilege...if I meet the man with the qualities, he is welcome, love is welcome. But I am NOT seeking. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open, that's all. Because if you were 'in love' a couple of times when, obviously, you weren't, if you follow me—you just relax and wait. You also do a spot of figuring. I've done several spots. I've made a sort of man-map. I know now what I want in a man, what I expect of a man, what I demand of a man.

What were some of the reasons she fell so hard for Franchot? Carole shared:
Franchot Tone has a divine sense of humor. Hollywood practically turned hand-springs a few months ago over 'the change' in Franchot. Over bars, at parties, on sound stages, over the counter at Schwabs Drugstore, at the races and in print, people wondered, what's happened to Franchot? A dozen different versions were given, including one that set forth that I had changed him. Flattering, but fallacious. The real low-down is that Franchot sat himself down one night in New York, did one of those Rochester-talking-to-himself-in-the-mirror turns. He said to his reflection, 'You've a dull disposition, my boy, let's face it, let's break through and have some fun, let's go back to Hollywood, quit being snooty, laugh and make mad and merry.'
He came back to Hollywood. He broke through. But the point is that he had a sense of humor about himself. He had the very rare ability of being able to see himself as others saw him. Another nice thing about Franchot, as about Cesar [Romero], is that he is always so moderate, so restrained. No ear-marks of The Actor, not an ear-mark. I used to watch him when I first came to Hollywood, when he was still married to Joan Crawford and I'd think, what a lucky girl! I still say that any girl who gets Franchot will be a lucky girl. I think it would be very pleasant indeed to be married to Franchot...One little thing Franchot does always bowls me over when we're dining out, at Ciro's, at the Brown Derby, or wherever, and I go to the powder room, he never lets me go alone, always escorts me, always waits for me, takes me back to our table, pulls my chair out for me, and then sits down himself.  If you are in pictures, which means that your face is known, and have ever tried to battle your way through a public place, waylaid at every other table by too convivial strangers, you have some idea of what this thoughtfulness—believe me, gentlemen, this rare thoughtfulness, means...From Franchot I learned about classical music, opera. I adore men I can learn from. And they never make me feel that I don't know, never make me feel stupid or inferior. They make it seem as though we are sharing an experience together...Franchot took me to my first opera. I knew nothing about operatic music and, frankly, I expected to be bored to a welcome death. But throughout the evening, in his nice, quiet way, Franchot explained it all to me so that I was sharing the experience with him, and loving it.

According to author Eric Gans and researcher Lisa Burks, Franchot liked Carole quite a bit but felt she, nearly 14 years his junior, was "immature and coming on too strong." At some point, Franchot broke away from the relationship and shocked everyone when he suddenly eloped with Jean Wallace, who at just 18 years old was actually 4 years younger than Carole, on October 18, 1941. It has long been suspected that the ex Carole Landis talks about with reporter Gladys Hall in the article, "Glamour Girls are Suckers!" is indeed Franchot. In the interview, Carole is clearly hurting deeply from the breakup and feels betrayed. She says:
A great, terrific constant thing came into my life. A man, of course. For obvious reasons I can't use his name, but he is an actor and—it was love I felt. Real love. I knew it and I still know it...This went on for months. We were constantly together every possibly moment. I felt this, at last, was it...I lived in a dream when, suddenly, a little girl, a nonprofessional, not pretty really, clothes just so-so but not chi-chi, vivacious perhaps, but that was all, stepped in and—here I am...the minute you let a fellow know so completely that he's the whole floor show, you're sunk.
If this unnamed man is Franchot as everyone believes, then Carole, in pain, is unnecessarily cruel in her description of Franchot's wife Jean Wallace. With time, the bad feelings between Carole and Franchot disappeared and a real friendship emerged.  Franchot attended a surprise party to honor Carole's dedication to the war effort. Carole was a tireless supporter of the brave men overseas. As the actress who visited the most troops during World War II, Carole sold war bonds, entertained on multiple tours and at the Hollywood Canteen, served as an air raid warden, Aerial Nurses Corps commander, first aid instructor, and visited over two hundred bases. Carole famously documented a 1942 tour with Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair in her book Four Jills in a Jeep. The story of her travels was made into the 1944 film of the same name.

Although they didn't marry, Franchot and Carole remained close friends until her death. When Screen Guide and Eagle-Lion Films wanted a Christmas layout at Carole Landis's house in 1947, Carole hosted a little preview of Christmas and Franchot and his wife Jean were present. Of course, it was July when the layout was shot—with a Christmas tree by the pool and friends gathered around an outdoor Christmas feast—but it wasn't published until December 1947.

Carole, husband Horace, Jean Wallace, Betty Garrett, Larry Parks, and Franchot
celebrating Christmas in July 1947.

Franchot (under the tree) and Carole Landis directly in front. You can also see
Jean's legs to the right.

Tragically, Carole would be dead just one year after these photos were taken. On July 5, 1948, Carole was found unconscious after taking an overdose of barbiturates. She was only 29 years old. You can read a full account of her last day here: Carole Landis Official Blogspot

The website above is a fantastic resource for all information on Carole and I highly suggest it for further reading as well as the Facebook page A Comet Over Hollywood.

  • Fleming, E.J. Fleming (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. McFarland and Company, 2005."What Carol Landis Demands of Men!" Screenland. October 1941.
  • Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008.
  • "Glamour Girls are Suckers!" Photoplay. December 1941.
  • "It's Out-landis!" Modern Screen. October 1941.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Top Ten Comfort Comedies

We're always talking about the importance of self-care in the world today and I must say that Franchot is an essential element of my own self-care. I've been experiencing a good deal of stress lately, suffering from insomnia at nights and exhausting work during the days.  I hadn't watched Franchot since the holidays and I literally whispered aloud to myself, "I need to watch some Franchot," after coming home after a trying day.

I watched Dark Waters and Nice Girl? earlier this week and as I type, I'm finishing up One New York Night. And it feels great! Franchot left behind a wonderful body of comedies that are perfect for comfort viewing and I've compiled my top ten picks.

10. Every Girl Should Be Married-1948

Lovable cad Roger Sanford is used as a tool of jealousy by Anabel (Betsy Drake) to snag Dr. Brown (Cary Grant).

9. Nice Girl?-1941

High-schooler Jane Dana (Deanna Durbin) dreams of dating an older houseguest Richard Calvert (Franchot Tone). Calvert plays along to bolster Jane's reputation at school.

8. She Knew All the Answers-1941

Social wallflower Mark Willows falls for his new secretary Catherine Long (Joan Bennett), but Catherine is part of a bigger scheme cooked up by Mark's ward Randy.

7. Love on the Run-1936

Rival correspondents Mike (Clark Gable) and Barney (Franchot) compete to cover the wedding of socialite Sally Parker (Joan Crawford) and hilarious hijinks ensue.

6. Honeymoon-1947

United States Embassy Consul David Flanner (Franchot) gets caught up in a web of problems trying to help a young corporal (Guy Madison) and his sweetheart (Shirley Temple) get married in Mexico City.

5. The Girl Downstairs-1938

Playboy Paul Wagner (Franchot) impersonates a butler so that he can gain access into the home of his girlfriend (Rita Johnson) and her disapproving father (Walter Connolly), but a wide-eyed maid Katerina (Franciska Gaal) gets in the way.

4. Fast and Furious-1939

Booksellers by day and sleuths by night, Joel (Franchot) and Garda Sloane (Ann Sothern) investigate corruption in a seaside beauty pageant.

3. One New York Night-1935

Cattle rancher Foxy Ridgeway (Franchot) arrives in New York City to wrangle up a dark-haired wife, but instead gets mixed up in a suspicious murder investigation with an adorable blonde (Una Merkel).

2. His Butler's Sister-1943

Eager for a chance at singing stardom, Ann Carter (Deanna Durbin) poses as the maid in the home of  famous musical writer Charles Gerard (Franchot) so that she can audition for him.

1. Three Loves Has Nancy-1938

Sophisticated author Mal (Robert Montgomery) and his oft-drunk but always amusing publisher Bob (Franchot) both fall for small town girl Nancy (Janet Gaynor).

Since starting this post, I've finished One New York Night and am now enjoying Three Loves Has Nancy. I believe Honeymoon will be next in line. I can't think of a happier, more comforting way to spend a rainy day off! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Making of the Man on the Eiffel Tower

The Man on the Eiffel Tower, produced by Franchot and often noted as one of his favorite films, was the first feature film shot entirely in color in France. Director of photography Stanley Cortez spoke with American Cinematographer about how shooting only in Ansco Color following the war created challenges:
The two studios which we used Billancourt and Joinville had been occupied by the Germans during the war. When they retreated, they sacked both studios of every available piece of equipment, leaving only the bare walls. It has been a heartbreaking job ever since for the gallant French technicians who are trying to refurnish their studios with the modern equipment necessary to full scale motion picture production.
Because there were no Ansco labs in Europe at the time and sending film to the United States for development would've been too costly, The Man on The Eiffel Tower was shot—with a Debrie Super Parvo camera—without lighting and makeup tests.

The cast and crew encountered additional issues. A coal shortage in France meant that there were days spent without electricity. Cortez elaborated:
Happily, the two days that Billancourt studios were without power, Joinville studios, several miles distant, had it; so on those days we would transport our camera, lighting equipment, and any necessary props or sets to Joinville and work there—returning to Billancourt when the rationing edict darkened the stages at Joinville.
Despite the setbacks, Cortez said that Franchot and coproducer Irving Allen "were most cooperative and considerate at all times."

Cortez was pleased with the final results:
I feel that we have given Ansco Color film the acid test, having put it through a major production under all sorts of conditions. It is safe to predict that Ansco Color film will really come into its own as a medium for feature film production once The Man on the Eiffel Tower is released.
Watching the film, you'll be struck by the numerous French locations that are captured in each scene. The mystery plays out in cafes, streets, flats, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The city is a major part of the plot and as American Cinematographer stated, the film can also be considered a "travelogue type of documentation of Paris." The city is even listed in the film's cast of characters.

The New York Times felt that the film was "largely composed of subdued excitements" and did not praise its actors:
...City of Light was never lovelier than as the Ansco-colored background for this manhunt and, what is more pertinent, it very often makes the other principals look like spear carriers. In losing their hearts to the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the boulevards and Montparnasse, the producers and the director have given some distinction to an otherwise routine adventure...Although this short tour is, by and large, a delight, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. They don't seem to be straining, but their efforts can't be counted as outstanding. 
Franchot made The Man on the Eiffel Tower with some of his favorite people. Franchot's close friends Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith were the principal actors along with Franchot. Meredith directed the film. Though their marriage was ending at the time, Franchot's wife Jean Wallace also starred.

I do agree that some of the scenes are subdued, but it's an interesting film, a different role for Franchot, with enough thrilling elements to keep me entertained. It has fallen into the public domain, and here it is in its entirety:

 "Filming the Man on the Eiffel Tower." American Cinematographer. February 1949. p 46

"The Screen in Review; 'The Man on the Eiffel Tower,' From Novel by Simenon, Opens at the Criterion." The New York Times. January 30, 1950.