Franchot Tone


  1. Richard Cromwell, This Day and Age, 1932.    At 27, Tone was rather too old for the lead of a high school student  group bringing crimelord Charles Bickford to justice.   Junior Dorkin, 18,  had also beem considered. Cromwell was 23.  Although he  (modestly) billed it as “The 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).
  2. 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.   
  3. 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.
  4. Robert Young, Death on the Diamond, 1933.  Change of pitcher for the  St. Louis Cardinals  needing to win  the pennant to  survive.  And then the murders begin… 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.
  5. John Beal, The Little Minister, 1933.   The titular role of JM Barrie’s novel was too weak for Tone. (The director, Richard Wallace, was weaker, said co-star Katharine Hepburn!).  Tone reccommended Beal take his place. . Well, he said:  “Let Beal make an ass of himself –  not me.”  Beal wqs awstruck when meeting co-star Katharine Hepbujrn, Then, dumbstruck as she snapped: “You’re too tall. He’s a  little minister!”   They shaved his heels…
  6. Clark Gable, Men In White, 1933.      Tone was in when  Gable fell out. Then, Gable waltzed back in. So it goes… 
  7. 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! 
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Pat O’Brien, Oil for the Lamps of China, 1934. Imagine Adele singing that title song… Tone was set as Stephen Chase, a US oil-man working in China. Then, he wasn’t.
  11. Joel McCrea, Woman Wanted, 1934. The totally different Wallace Beery and Franchot Tone were up the lawyer helping a Maureen O’Sullivan falsely accused of murder.   Tone was switched to replacing Robert Montgomery in Mutiny on the Bounty. Made by four directors… Richard Boleslawski, Harry Beaumont, J Walter Ruben and finally, George B Seitz. No wonder they once called it Manhattan Madness.
  12. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935.
    Absolutely preposterous…!!  The 13-year-old Juliet was played by Norma Shearer, who was 36,  opposite Leslie Howard playing Romeo…  at 43.  “It is comical watching these middle-aged folks act as high school sophomores,” said web critic Matthew M Foster at Foster on  “But even more ridiculous is Romeo’ hotheaded, class clown friend, Mercutio, portrayed by the 54-year-old John Barrymore!”   It could have been far worse. Other unlikely  Romeos were Brian Aherne, Clark Gable (Romeo with a trash tash?), Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Roberts Montgomery and Taylor.  The British Robert Donat, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (a recent hit playing Romeo and Mercutio alternately in London) made (slightly) more sense … but really. What a sad end to Irving Thalberg’s producing career, even jf it was a love letter to his wife, Shearer – his widow months later in 1936.

  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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. 
  16. Errol Flynn, The Sisters, 1937.    George Brent, Fredric March, and Franchot Tone were on the mix for Bette Davis’ lover – until head bro Jack Warner selected Flynn.  (And even said the billing should be:  Errol Flynn in The Sisters…!)  Flynn tried his best to add Bette’s scalp to his bedpost. She resisted all overtures.  Besides, she (a) didn’t fancy bi-sexuals and (b) was in one affair with director William Wyler and another about to start with an often impotent Howard Hughes. Inn her time, she’d also had liaisons with March and Tone – when engaged to his future wife Joan Crawford. (That started their eternal feud).  
  17. 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.
  18. Alan Marshal, Dramatic School, 1938.   In her MGM finale, Luise Rainer’s fantasy lover was to have had a certain Tone… which Marshal could not match.
  19. 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!  
  20. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Gunga Din, 1938.     “From the pages if history and the pen of Rudyard Kipling…” Tone made his movie debut in Howard Hawks’ Today We Live, in 1932. Five years later, The Grey Fox wanted him as Ballantine – opposite Ronald Colman, Robert Donat, Clark Gable and Spencer  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 (the ex-Archibald Leach renamed his character,  Archibald Cutter)  and Victor McLaglen.  The result was  second only to Gone With The Wind in 1939. . By the 60s, Cannon Films’ Go Go Boys – Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus – sought Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Roger Moore for a re-make.

  21. 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!”  
  22. 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).
  23. Gig Young, Old Acquaintance, 1942.    George Brent quit to join the US Coast Guard.  He was replaced by Franchot  Tone, who then also  quit – due to a salary dispute while Vincent Sherman directed.  All three  had had affairs with their  star. Bette Davis.  She was renowned for making a bee-for-bed-line on any film with her co-star or director – whichever  one controlled her close-ups.
  24. Dennis O’Keefe, Up In Mabel’s Room, 1943.  “Warning! In spite of anything you May have heard to the contrary, this is a war picture!” A husband learns hat trying to keep a secret from  his wife… “Brother, that’s war!”  With Tone suddenly gone,  director Allan Dwan called up O’Keefe,  Of course, he did. Mabel had the same story as the sassy farce they’’d made the year before, the deliciously titled Getting Gertie’s Garter.
  25. Robert Young, Claudia, 1943.  Finding her baffled husband was difficult. Don Ameche, 35, Cary Grant, 39, Franchot Tone, 38, were too old for a “child bride.”  How salacious! Not really. She wasn’t Lolita but an immature 20-something aimed at Joan Fontaine, 26, Katharine Hepburn, 36, and Jennifer Jones, 24. Dorothy McGuire repeated her Broadway role at 27, opposite an old Young, 36… showing “what a fine actor can do in a modest and unspectacular part,” said The New York Times. They were still together for the sequel, Claudia and David, 1946.  Snore!
  26. Alan Ladd,And Now Tomorrow, 1944.  Tone and Joel McCrea were also in the mix for Dr Merek Vance treating  Loretta Young’s deafness. This was no way  for Paramounbt to  welcome back Ladd from  WWII. For, as New York Times critic Bosley Crowther put it,  “Thisis a very stupid film.”
  27. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.       Peck’s breakthrough… Producer David O Selznick gave up and sold the AJ Cronin novel to Fox when he could not find the perfect 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 finally selected Peck in July 1943 for his second film – and first Oscar nomination.
  28. 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.
  29. Errol Flynn, That Forsyte Woman, 1948.  MGM won the rights to John Galsworthy’s The Forstye Saga in 1937 – and never knew what to do with it.  (The Metro suits believed  American did not know the meaning of the word, saga!).  Instead of the full trilogy, the studio planned a re-titled version of the the first book, The Man of Property, with Joseph L Mankiewicz directing Franchot Tone as the stuffy banker, Soames Forsyte, and La Crawford as his  unfaithful wife, Irene.  Two more attempts in 1939 and 1945 never flew, either, despite being aimed at  Cark Gable,  Deborah Kerr, Myrna Loy, Michael Wilding, etc.
  30. 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).
  31. 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! 



 Birth year: 1905Death year: 1968Other name: Casting Calls:  31