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Anthony Franciosa (born October 25, 1928,New York City, New Yorkmarker – died January 19, 2006, Los Angeles, Californiamarker) was an Americanmarker actor, usually billed as Tony Franciosa during the height of his career.

Born as Anthony George Papaleo to Italian-American parents, and raised by his mother and aunt, he adopted his mother's maiden name (Franciosa) as his professional name.

Acting career

In 1948 he joined the Cherry Lane Theatremarker Group off Broadway (at the same time as actress Beatrice Arthur). Before he became successful at acting, he worked a variety of jobs which included being a waiter, dishwasher, day laborer, and messenger boy. Several years later he garnered rave reviews and a Tony Award nomination for his Broadwaymarker performance of the play A Hatful of Rain.

When he reprised his role in the film version in 1957, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He followed that with roles in several major films, including A Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, Career with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine, The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Orson Welles, Period of Adjustment with Jane Fonda, The Pleasure Seekers with Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley, The Drowning Pool with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Rio Conchos with Richard Boone and Stuart Whitman.

He guest-starred in such television series as Jack Palance's circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth, which aired on ABC from 1963-1964. That same season, he appeared in the ABC medical drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point.

Eager to act in any medium, he became a series lead in Valentine's Day, The Name of the Game (and its pilot TV-movie Fame Is the Name of the Game), and Matt Helm. In the 1980s he starred in the Aaron Spelling-produced series Finder of Lost Loves.

Personal life

He was married four times, and had three children. His most famous wife was Oscar-winning actress Shelley Winters; they were married from May 4, 1957 until their divorce in 1960. They had no children.

His first wife, Beatrice Bakalyar, was a writer. They were married for five years from 1952 to 1957. The marriage ended in divorce.

His third wife, the former Judith Balaban, is the author of the book "The Bridesmaids," about her friend Princess Grace of Monaco, in whose wedding she served as a bridesmaid. This marriage produced Franciosa's only daughter, Nina.

His last wife (from November 27, 1970 until his death in 2006) was Rita Theil, by whom he had two sons, Marco and Christopher. Christopher Franciosa is an actor. Marco Franciosa is an organic farmer.

During his later years, Tony lived in Brentwood, a district in West Los Angeles.


On January 19, 2006, Anthony Franciosa died at age 77 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Californiamarker after suffering a massive stroke. His death came only five days after that of his ex-wife Shelley Winters (Franciosa suffered the stroke the day Winters died - January 14th). He is survived by his wife, Rita, his children, Nina, Christopher and Marco and his grandchildren, Ruby and Cassius Franciosa.


Rita, when asked about Anthony's hair-trigger temper said, "He was never taught how to control his temper ... I changed him a lot ... We still have good fights once in a while, but I can scream back at him."
Source: People Weekly, March 18, 1996 v45 n11 p73

Tony, reflecting about Rita's influence on him, said; "It took years of therapy and simply living through things to finally accept and enjoy myself. My wife Rita's influence has been profound in that process. Her family was a product of The Great Disaster — World War II. She emerged from the flames with a remarkable buoyancy. Each day she rises with an optimism, a serenity toward life that is certainly contagious. Does that sound romantic? If so, so be it."
Source: TV Heaven


In Tom Waits' song "Goin' Out West" from his 1992 album Bone Machine, a lyric states "Tony Franciosa used to date my ma".

Several times throughout the "Space Travelers" episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel or one of the robots mentions the star of that week's movie, James Franciscus. As a running joke, another character always asks if he was the "finder of lost loves", and is quickly corrected "No, that was Tony Franciosa".

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