Franchot Tone (1905-1968)
- Richard Cromwell, This Day and Age, 1932. Although he (modestly!) called it “FIRST Great Spectacle of Modern Times,” This is the forgotten Cecil B DeMille film - his only gangster talkie. (Close to his 1929 demi-talkie, The Godless Girl). Dorkin had been first choice for the leader of the LA High School students battling crimelord Charles Bickford. Tone was a tad too old for high school - at 27. senior. Cromwell was 23.
- Clark Gable, Night Flight, 1932. Another star-studded MGM enterprise (a la Dinner at Eight, Grand Hotel) except the stars rarely shared scenes when turning up on days off other movies. “I didn't work with Gable,” said Myrna Loy, “didn’t see Jack [Barrymore] or Helen [Hayes] or anybody but Bill Gargan.” Story obviously came from a pilot in love with flying (and the moon) - The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint Exupéry - based on his life with the pioneering French Aeropostale. And yet this was Gable’s biggest flop since… Polly of the Circus, 1931.
- John Gilbert, Queen Christina, 1933. Everyone from Tone, Nils Asther, Fredric March to even King Kong tough guy Bruce Cabot were considered. Laurence Olivier even started shooting. Garbo stamped her foot . Gilbert or no film! Even though the Metro contract and career her most famous (indeed, jilted) lover, were in the toilet After one more film, Gibert died in 1936.
- Robert Young, Death on the Diamond, 1933. MGM changed its mind about Tone and switched to Young as Larry Kelly. What? Father Know Best as a baseball ace – well, this was 1933.Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, The Rage of Paris, 1938. Tone was one Hollywood male who did not agree with the hype of Danielle Darrieux's Hollywood debut: 50million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong!
- John Beal, The Little Minister, 1934. The titular role of JM Barrie’s novel was too weak for Tone. (The director, Richard Wallace, was weaker, said co-star Katharine Hepburn).! “Let Beal make an ass of himself,” said Tone, “not me.” Everyone did!
- Clark Gable, Men In White, 1933. Tone was in when Gable fell out. Then, Gable waltzed back in. So it goes…
- Otto Kruger, The Prizefighter and the Lady, 1933. Before Myrna Loy fell for the (real) prizefighter Max Baer, her lady was involved with a nightclub racketeer offered to Tone and played by Kruger. Baer won every round!
- Roland Young, West Point of the Air, 1934. First choice for Wallace Beery's son was Tone - who ended the film being kissed on the mouth by James Gleason. Beery then said: "I told you the army was a place for men." And the censor said: Cut ! The enytire "pansy gag" sequence was deleted.
- Michael Whalen, Professional Soldier, 1934. Early versions of the script (housed in the 20th Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, were right in suggesting that Tone play George Foster. Whalen was weak in the romance with Gloria Stuart’s Countess Sonia.
- Robert Taylor, His Brother's Wife, 1935. The co-stars changed as rapidly as the shooting. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow became Harlow and Tone (not the same heat, at all!) and, ultimately, the first of three teamings of Stanwyck and her 1939-1952 husband, Robert Taylor. And “One Take Woody” Van Dyke shot the 137 page script in 13½ days.
- Robert Montgomery, Small Town Girl, 1935. Montgomery lost Jean Harlow but gained Janet Gaynor - even though she (a) didn’t want Harlow’s leavings nor (b) second billing to Bob. His role then nearly became Tone’s on November 7, 1935, when Montgomery was momentarily up for the young (!) Montagu in Romeo and Juliet.
- Robert Young, Rich Man, Poor Girl, 1937. First choice for the millionaire trying to understand the ways - and means! - of the mid-class family of his secretary and fiancee.
- Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1937. Tone, George Brent and Fredric March were also in the frame to wed Bette Davis. Until she was joined the movie - and share the kudos - the notorious Flynn had the questionable solo billing of: Errol Flynn in The Sisters. D’oh!
- Chester Morris, Thunder Afloat, 1938. When Barbara Stanwyck became, er, unavailable, it says here, so did Tone as her planned screen lover. Neither one relished a Wallace Beery vehicle. Not even one set in WW1 but released earlier than than planned when WW11 broke out. Morris was stuck with Virginia Gilmore and good it did him.
- Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, The Rage of Paris, 1938. Tone was one Hollywood male who did not agree with the hype of Danielle Darrieux's Hollywood debut: 50million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong!
- Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Gunga Din, 1938. Tone made his movie debut in Howard Hawks’ Today We Live, in 1932. Five years later, The Grey Fox wanted him as Ballantine - opposite Gable and Tracy - in the Kipling tale. However, the director’s RKO screwballer, Bringing Up Baby, flopped. He was out, George Stevens was in, happily settling for Junior Doug, Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen. The result was second only to Gone With The Wind in 1939.
- John Wyne, Seven Sinners, 1939. With her subtle spoof of barroom belles (as the New York Times put it), this was Marlene Dietrich’s film. The guy was never important. All the same, producer Joe Pasternak dropped poor Tone as soon as he heard Wayne was available. This is the first of three Dietrich-Duke couplings. She checked him over, “from cowlick to cowboots,” and then in her characteristic bosso whisper, she told director Tay Garnett: “Daddy, buy me that!”
- Ronald Reagan, Kings Row, 1941. John Garfield in a role played by Reagan?!! Well, at least it wasn’t Bedtime With Bonzo! Tone, Eddie Albert, Dennis Morgan were also up for the orphaned playboy, Drake McHugh - Reagan’s finest hour as an actor, particularly when realising his legs were amputated: "Where's the rest of me?" (This became the title of his 1965 autobio and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score was played during Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th US President (1981-1989).
- John Loder, Old Acquaintance, 1942. Tone refused to be Bette Davis’ husband when infvorme he woupd not be paid due to a US government wage freeze. He wanted a proper salary, which held be happy to give to a charity, but that was not allowed, either. The Byrnes Act prohibited actors from earning more than the salary they had received before October 27, 1942. Tone’s 1941 earnings had been very low due to ill-health.
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Tone, Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz selected Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Orson Welles, The Lady From Shanghai, 1948. Needing money for his stage version of Around The World In 80 Days, Orson Welles called Columbia czar Harry Cohn - The Most Hated Man In Hollywood - and offered to make a film with his wife, RitaHayworth, of... er, well, the legend varies... Her always refered toas this paperback he’d just found at the rail station. Except it seems that much earlier, Welles appeared to have planned Sherwood King’s pulp novel, If I Die Before I Wake (never in paperback) with Tone - whose lawyers were hounding Welles, like so many others. Then again, B-movie king William Castle had the rights and Welles suggested a Welles-Hayworth teaming - and indeed, Castle was associate producer.
- Robert Mitchum, My Forbidden Past, 1950. As part of her $150,000 (plus 10%) per film deal, Ann Sheridan had script, director and co-star approval. When Robert Young had to leave, she listed her choices: Tone, Charles Boyer, Richard Conte, John Lund or Mitchum. Then, Howard Hughes bought RKO, dumped Sheridan like a sack of coal and joined together, Mitchum and Ava Gardner. (Sheridan sued RKO and won big money - and another movie, Appointment in Honduras).
- Tyrone Power, The Sun Also Rises, 1957. After the Hays Office censors stopped Fox filming the hedonistic Hemingway book in 1933, Ann Harding and Paulette Goddard tried to obtain the rights -as did Tone and Burgess Meredith. By the 50s, HowardHawks planned Montgomery Clift as the impotent (sssh!) Jake Barnes opposite Margaret Sheridan as Lady Brett Ashley, thenBrando and Gene Tierney... It took Fox a quarter-century to finally make the film and even then, producer Darryl F Zanuck had to promise not touse the word impotent.He did, anyway!