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Franchot Tone (February 27, 1905 – September 18, 1968) was an American actor.

Early life

He was born Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone in Niagara Falls, New Yorkmarker, the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, the wealthy president of the Carborundum Company, and his socially-prominent wife, Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. Tone was distantly related to the Wolfe Tone: his great-great-great-great-grandfather John was a first cousin of Peter Tone, whose eldest son was Theobald Wolfe Tone. He was of French Canadian, Irishmarker, English and Basque ancestry. Tone also claimed to be a descendant of 18th Century Irish rebel Theobald Wolfe Tone.

Tone attended Cornell Universitymarker, where he was President of the drama club and was elected to the Sphinx Head Society. He gave up the family business to pursue an acting career in the theatre. After graduating, he moved to Greenwich Villagemarker, New Yorkmarker, and got his first Broadwaymarker role in the 1929 Katharine Cornell production of The Age of Innocence.


The following year, he joined the Theatre Guild and played Curly in their production of Green Grow the Lilacs (later to become the famous musical Oklahoma!). He later became a founding member of the famed Group Theatre, together with Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, and others, many of whom had worked with the Theatre Guild. Strasberg had been a castmate of Tone's in Green Grow the Lilacs. These were intense and productive years for him: among the productions of the Group he acted in were 1931 (1931) and Success Story (1932). Franchot Tone was universally regarded by the critics as one of the most promising actors of his generation. Gary Cooper called Tone the best actor he had ever worked with.

The same year, however, Tone was the first of the Group to turn his back on the theatre and go to Hollywoodmarker when MGM offered him a film contract. In his memoir on the Group Theatre, The Fervent Years, Harold Clurman recalls Tone as the most confrontational and egocentric of the group in the beginning. Nevertheless, he always considered cinema far inferior to the theatre and recalled his stage years with longing. He often sent financial support to the Group Theatre, which often needed it. He eventually returned to the stage from time to time after the 1940s. His screen debut was in the 1932 movie The Wiser Sex. He achieved fame in 1933, when he made seven movies that year, including Today We Live, written by William Faulkner, where he first met his future wife Joan Crawford, Bombshell, with Jean Harlow (with whom he co-starred in three other movies), and the smash hit Dancing Lady, again with Crawford and Clark Gable. In 1935, probably his best year, he starred in Mutiny on the Bounty (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and Dangerous opposite Bette Davis, with whom he was rumored to have had an affair.

He worked steadily through the 1940s without breaking through as a major star. He was beginning to be type-cast as the wealthy cafe-society playboy and very few of the films of this period are notable. One conspicuous exception was Five Graves to Cairo (1943), the third film by the young Billy Wilder; a World War II espionage story starring Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff and Erich von Stroheim as German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

In the 1950s, he moved to television and returned to Broadwaymarker. In 1957, he appeared on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten with Wendy Hiller. In 1962, he appeared as Leo Haynes in the episode "Along About Late in the Afternoon" of the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour. He co-starred in the Ben Casey medical series from 1965 to 1966 as Casey's supervisor, Robert Ashton. He also starred in, directed, and produced his first film, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (1957) with then wife Dolores Dorn. He appeared as a disheartened traveling preacher named "Malachi Hobart" in an early episode of NBC's Wagon Train.

Tone's penultimate movie appearance was in the 1965 Otto Preminger film In Harm's Way starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. He is identified as "CINCPAC I" (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN at the time of the Pearl Harbormarker attack) in the film credits. His final film role was a cameo as the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's in Nobody Runs Forever (1968).

Personal life

While on Broadway Tone secretly had a child out of wedlock with an actress. The child was raised by its mother and her unsuspecting husband. He was married October 11, 1935 in New Jerseymarker to actress Joan Crawford; they were divorced in 1939. They made seven films together: Today We Live (1933), Dancing Lady (1933), Sadie McKee (1934), No More Ladies (1935), The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), Love On The Run (1936) and The Bride Wore Red (1937).

He married and divorced three more times: to fashion model turned actress Jean Wallace (1941–48, with whom he had two sons), actress Barbara Payton (1951–52), and finally to the much younger actress Dolores Dorn (1956–59).


A chain smoker, Tone died of lung cancer in New York Citymarker at the age of 63. Joan Crawford was moved by Tone's plight during his illness and was reported to have taken him into her home to care for him. His remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered.

Franchot Tone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.



Stage career

  • Bicycle Ride to Nevada (1963)
  • Strange Interlude (1963)
  • Mandingo (1961)
  • A Moon for the Misbegotten (1957)
  • Oh, Men! Oh, Women (1953)
  • Hope for the Best (1945)
  • The Fifth Column (1940)
  • The Gentle People (1939)
  • Success Story (1932)
  • A Thousand Summers (1932)
  • Night Over Taos (1932)
  • 1931 (1931)
  • The House of Connelly (1931)
  • Green Grow the Lilacs (1931)
  • Pagan Lady (1930)
  • Hotel Universe (1930)
  • Cross Roads (1929)
  • Uncle Vanya (1929)
  • The Age of Innocence (1929)
  • The International (1928)
  • Centuries (1927)
  • The Belt (1927)



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