Tone was born on February 27, 1905 in Niagara
Falls, NY. His father was president of the Carborundum
Company. Franchot traveled with his parents all over
the world, attended Miss Otis's School, then a boys' academy,
Hill School, from which he was dismissed "for being a subtle
influence for disorder throughout the fall term." His
instinct for rebellion began early. With a half-year
of high school remaining, Franchot entered Cornell University,
where his brother had attended and retained some influence. He
joined his brother's fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi and the
drama club and spent a summer studying in France. He
breezed through Cornell in three years, Phi Beta Kappa.
his father's disapproval, Franchot declined a career at Carborundum
to join a Buffalo stock company at fifteen dollars a week.
He moved to Greenwich Village and auditioned for the New
Playwrights' Theater, making his broadway debut with Katharine
Cornell in The Age of Innocence.
September 28, 1931, at the depth of the Depression, the Group
Theater presented its first play, The House of Connelly,
with Franchot Tone and Morris Carnovsky in the leading roles. Franchot
later appeared in Success Story for the Group. His
performance in Success Story drew an offer from MGM
and although he had no ambition to become a movie star he
decided to take the contract. He intended to endure a year
in Hollywood and return to his comrades in the Group and
never lost his attitude that films were somewhat beneath
an actor's dignity.
first film was Gabriel
Over the White House, with
Walter Huston and Karen Morley. During the thirties, he met
and fell in love with, Joan Crawford while making the film Today
We Live. He found that he was fascinated with her,
as well as, the power structure of Hollywood and its glamor.
He and Joan did six additional films together, including
Lady and Sadie
McKee. During Sadie McKee, they
were observed holding hands. Franchot introduced Joan
Crawford to sophisticated writing and plays, a new and stimulating
world for her.
had been part of the flood of actors who had poured into
Culver City, and producers didn't know what to do with him. Most
of them felt that his polished manner seemed best suited
to white tie and tails. Mayer fancied that the Crawford-Tone
romance could contribute to the box office, and he approved
casting of the pair in the four films they did together in
two years. Tone had third and fourth billing and it
rankled him that he seemed typed as the "other man" in Joan
soon he was to be loaned to Paramount to costar with Gary
Cooper in Lives of the Bengal Lancer. Because
of this success in an adventurous role, Irving Thalberg cast
him in his oscar nominated performance, Mutiny
on the Bounty, 1935 with Clark
Gable and Charles
on October 11, 1935, Joan Crawford agreed to marry him. Unfortunately,
the marriage only lasted four years. Joan Crawford,
such a formidable actress who sought the limelight of publicity,
who had such success in her career, was too much for Franchot. Joan
filed for divorce in March 1939.
appeared in over fifty movies during the next fifteen years.
By the late 1930s he was one of Hollywood's leading actors
and appeared in some notable successes, including the Academy
Award winning Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and the
highly acclaimed, Five
Graves to Cairo (1943).
most former members of the Group Theater, Tone had difficulty
making films in Hollywood during the 1950s. He returned to
the cinema with Advise and Consent in 1962 and followed
it with In Harm's Way (1965) and Mickey One (1965).
played on the stage and co-starred in the "Ben Casey" TV
series 1965-66 and did a classic Twilight
Zone episode entitled "The
was married four times; his wives included actresses, Joan
Crawford, Jean Wallace, Barbara
Payton and Delores Dorn-Heft.
He died on September 18, 1968.