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!