Franchot Tone

Franchot Tone

From the film trailer for the 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty. Tone should have been credited as "Midshipman Byam"
Born Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone
(1905-02-27)February 27, 1905
Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.
Died September 18, 1968(1968-09-18) (aged 63)
New York City, U.S.
Cause of death Lung cancer
Education The Hill School
Alma mater Cornell University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1926–68
Spouse(s) Joan Crawford (m. 1935; div. 1939)
Jean Wallace (m. 1941; div. 1948)
Barbara Payton (m. 1951; div. 1952)
Dolores Dorn (m. 1956; div. 1959)
Children 2
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.

Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone, known as Franchot Tone (February 27, 1905 – September 18, 1968), was an American stage, film, and television actor. He was the star of many successful films and television series throughout his career, such as Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. He is perhaps best known for his role as Midshipman Roger Byam in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), starring alongside Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.

Family and early life

Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone was born in Niagara Falls, New York, the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, the wealthy president of the Carborundum Company, and his socially-prominent wife, Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. His maternal great-grandfather was congressman Richard Franchot. Tone was a distant relative of Wolfe Tone (the "father of Irish Republicanism"): his fourth great grandfather John Tone was a first cousin of Peter Tone, the father of Wolfe Tone.[1] Tone was of French Canadian, Irish, and English ancestry. Through his ancestor, the nobleman Gilbert BasqueHomme (Bascom), he was of French Basque descent.

Tone attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and Cornell University, where he was President of the drama club and was elected to the Sphinx Head Society. He also joined Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. He gave up the family business to pursue an acting career in the theatre. After graduating, he moved to Greenwich Village, New York and got his first major Broadway role in the 1929 Katharine Cornell production of The Age of Innocence.[2]


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.[3] 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).

The same year, however, Tone was the first of the Group to turn his back on the theatre and go to Hollywood 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 sporadic stage work after the 1940s.

Tone summered at Pine Brook Country Club, located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut, which became the Group Theatre summer rehearsal headquarters during the 1930s.[4][5]

Tone's 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, Bombshell, with Jean Harlow (with whom he co-starred in three other movies), and the smash hit Dancing Lady, again with then-wife Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. In 1935, 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.

Tone worked steadily through the 1940s, but he often played second leads or love interests in films that focused on a major female star. Frequently typecast as the wealthy cafe-society playboy, he notably played against type in films like Five Graves to Cairo, a World War II espionage story directed by Billy Wilder, and Phantom Lady, a film noir thriller. He played the heroic lead in the 1940 Western comedy Trail of the Vigilantes featuring Warren William, Broderick Crawford and Andy Devine.

In 1949 he produced and starred in The Man on the Eiffel Tower, a troubled production whose reputation has benefited from restorations in the 2000s that have coincided with theatrical showings and vastly improved DVD releases.[6][7] Tone's tour de force role as a manic depressive sociopath included performing many of his own stunts on the Paris landmark.[8]

In the 1950s, facing subtle blacklisting in Hollywood, he found parts in New York City-based live television, including the original production of Twelve Angry Men. He also returned to Broadway, notably appearing in A Moon for the Misbegotten with Wendy Hiller in 1957. Also that year he co-produced, co-directed, and starred in an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, which was filmed concurrently with an off-Broadway revival.

In the early 1960s, Tone returned to Hollywood and, appearing aged beyond his years, essayed many showcase character roles on popular TV dramas like Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also co-starred in the Ben Casey medical series from 1965 to 1966 as Casey's supervisor, Dr. Daniel Niles Freeland.

On film, he received acclaim as the charismatic, dying president in Otto Preminger's 1962 film version of Advise & Consent. His final movie appearances were cameos in Preminger's 1965 film In Harm's Way (in which he portrayed Admiral Husband E. Kimmel) and Nobody Runs Forever (1968).

Personal life

In 1935, Tone married actress Joan Crawford. They were divorced in 1939.[9] 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). They also experienced seven miscarriages, a fact highlighted in Mommie Dearest. Tone took their split hard, and his recollections of her were cynical — "She's like that old joke about Philadelphia: first prize, four years with Joan; second prize, eight." Many years later, when Tone was suffering with lung cancer, Joan often took care of him, making sure he had food and medical treatments and paying for all of it herself. At one point during this period, Tone even suggested they remarry which Joan turned down.

In 1941, Tone married fashion model-turned-actress Jean Wallace, with whom he had two sons and who appeared with Tone in both Jigsaw and The Man on the Eiffel Tower. They were divorced in 1948.

In 1951, Tone's relationship with actress Barbara Payton made headlines when he suffered numerous facial injuries and became unconscious for 18 hours following a fistfight with actor Tom Neal, a rival for Payton's attention. Plastic surgery nearly restored his broken nose and cheek. Tone subsequently married Payton, divorcing her in 1952, after obtaining photographic evidence she had continued her relationship with Neal.[10]

In 1956, Tone married Dolores Dorn with whom he appeared in Uncle Vanya. They were divorced in 1959.


Tone, a chain smoker, died of lung cancer in New York City on September 18, 1968.[11][12] Crawford arranged for him to be cremated and his ashes scattered at Muskoka Lakes, Canada.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Franchot Tone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6558 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Wiser Sex Phil Long
1933 Bombshell Gifford Middleton
1933 Today We Live Ronnie
1933 Gabriel Over the White House Hartley "Beek" Beekman
1933 Midnight Mary Thomas "Tom" Mannering, Jr.
1933 Dancing Lady Tod Newton
1933 Stage Mother Warren Foster
1934 Moulin Rouge Douglas Hall
1934 Sadie McKee Michael Alderson
1934 The World Moves On Richard Girard
1934 The Girl from Missouri T.R. Paige, Jr. Alternative titles: 100 Per Cent Pure
Born to Be Kissed
1934 Gentlemen Are Born Bob Bailey
1935 The Lives of a Bengal Lancer Lieutenant Forsythe
1935 Reckless Robert "Bob" Harrison, Jr.
1935 No More Ladies Jim "Jimsy Boysie" Salston
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty Midshipman Roger Byam Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actor
1935 Dangerous Don Bellows
1936 The Unguarded Hour Sir Alan Dearden
1936 The King Steps Out Emperor Franz Josef
1936 Suzy Terry
1936 The Gorgeous Hussy John Eaton
1936 Love on the Run Barnabus W. "Barney" Pells
1937 Quality Street Dr. Valentine Brown
1937 The Bride Wore Red Giulio
1937 They Gave Him a Gun
1938 The Girl Downstairs Paul / Mr. Wagner
1938 Three Comrades Otto Koster
1938 Three Loves Has Nancy Robert "Bob" Hanson
1938 Man-Proof Jimmy Kilmartin
1939 Fast and Furious Joel Sloane
1941 Nice Girl? Richard Calvert
1943 His Butler's Sister Charles Gerard
1943 Five Graves to Cairo Cpl. John J. Bramble/Paul Davos
1943 Pilot No. 5 George Braynor Collins
1944 Phantom Lady Jack Marlow
1944 Dark Waters Dr. George Grover
1946 "Because Of Him" Paul Taylor
1947 Lost Honeymoon John Gray
1947 Her Husband's Affairs William "Bill" Weldon
1947 Honeymoon David Flanner
1948 I Love Trouble Stuart Bailey
1948 Every Girl Should Be Married Roger Sanford
1949 Jigsaw Howard Malloy Alternative title: Gun Moll
1949 Without Honor Dennis Williams Alternative title: Woman Accused
1950 The Man on the Eiffel Tower Johann Radek Co-producer
1951 Here Comes the Groom Wilbur Stanley
1955 Four Star Playhouse Ben Chaney Episode: "Award"
1956 General Electric Theater Charles Proteus Steinmetz Episode: "Steinmetz"
1957 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Arthur Baldwin Episode: "Throw Me a Rope"
1957 Uncle Vanya Dr. Astroff Co-producer, co-director
1958 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Candy Lombe Episode: "The Crazy Hunter"
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Oliver Mathews Episode: "The Impossible Dream"
1960 Bonanza Denver McKee Episode: "Denver McKee"
1961 The Twilight Zone Col. Archie Taylor Episode: "The Silence"
1962 Advise & Consent The President
1962–1967 Ben Casey Dr. Daniel Niles Freeland 27 episodes
1964 See How They Run Baron Frood Television movie
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour The Great Rudolph Episode: "The Final Performance"
1965 In Harm's Way Admiral Kimmel
1965 Mickey One Rudy Lapp Directed by Arthur Penn
1965 The Virginian Murdock Episode: "Old Cowboy"
1967 Run for Your Life Judge Taliaferro Wilson Episode: "Tell It Like It Is"
1968 Nobody Runs Forever Ambassador Townsend Alternative title: The High Commissioner

Theater appearances

Date Production Role
October 19 – November 1927 The Belt Bunner
November 29 – 1928 Centuries Yankel
January 12 – February 1928 The International David Fitch
November 27, 1928 – May 1929 The Age of Innocence Newland Archer, Jr.
May 24 – 1929 Uncle Vanya Mikhail lvovich Astrov
November 11 – December 1929 Cross Roads Duke
December 17, 1929 – February 1930 Red Rust Fedor
April 14 – June 1930 Hotel Universe Tom Ames
October 20, 1930 – March 1931 Pagan Lady Ernest Todd
January 26 – March 21, 1931 Green Grow the Lilacs Curly McClain
September 28 – December 1931 The House of Connelly Will Connelly
December 10, 1931 – December 1931 1931
March 9, 1932 – March 1932 Night Over Taos Federico
May 24 – June 1932 A Thousand Summers Neil Barton
September 26, 1932 – January 1933 Success Story Raymond Merritt
January 5 – May 1939 The Gentle People Harold Goff
March 6 – May 18, 1940 The Fifth Column Philip Rawlings
February 7 – May 19, 1945 Hope for the Best Michael Jordan
December 17, 1953 – November 13, 1954 Oh, Men! Oh, Women! Alan Coles
January 19–30, 1955 The Time of Your Life Joe
May 2 – June 29, 1957 A Moon for the Misbegotten James Tyrone, Jr.
May 22–27, 1961 Mandingo Warren Maxwell
March 11 – June 29, 1963 Strange Interlude Professor Henry Leeds
September 24, 1963 Bicycle Ride to Nevada Winston Sawyer

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air The House of Mirth[13]
1953 Broadway Playhouse His Brother's Keeper[14]


  1. The website
  2. Chandler, Charlotte (2008). Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, A Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. p. 120. ISBN 1-4165-4751-7.
  3. Hardison Londré, Felicia; Berthold, Margot (1999). The History of World Theater: From the English Restoration to the Present. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 530. ISBN 0-8264-1167-3.
  4. The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, Don Wilmeth, p. 21
  5. Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997, p. 123
  6. "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)".
  7. "The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949)".
  8. Higham, Charles (1986). Hollywood cameramen: sources of light. Garland. p. 110. ISBN 0-8240-5764-3. ISBN 9780824057640.
  9. "Milestones, Mar. 17, 1958". March 17, 1958. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  10. Nash, Jay Robert (2004). Great Pictorial History of World Crime: Murder. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 888. ISBN 1-928831-22-2.
  11. Donnelley, Paul (October 5, 2005). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 922. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  12. "Milestones: Sep. 27, 1968". September 27, 1968. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  13. Kirby, Walter (December 14, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
  14. Kirby, Walter (February 22, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 23, 2015 via
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