Franchot Tone & his films: Top 20 List

franchot-tone-1934At first, I wanted to do a tribute to actor Franchot Tone but at the last minute I’ve decided to hold off on that until later on; for now, I wanted to dedicate this next cinematic post to his film career & my favorite classics of his. First thing I would like to state is that I have not seen ALL of his films but just enough in which I can do a Top 20 countdown of my favorites; the following films that I have on my list are the ones in which I have had the pleasure in viewing on more than one occasion. Some may agree with my Top 20 list while others may not; to that I say only this…that I highly respect and appreciate the insight no matter what the outcome maybe for every one is entitled to their own opinion. On a personal note, actor Franchot Tone is one of my favorites from Hollywood’s Golden Age who never got the cinematic credit and recognition that he so rightly deserved. So now without further adieu, I present to you the viewers my Top 20 list of Franchot Tone’s films & why I chose the film to be in that particular spot:24

No. 20 Five Graves to Cairo (1943) The only reason why this film in particular is on the bottom of my Top 20 list was because I’ve been unable to view it, but hopefully TCM will be able to showcase the film and air it often…especially knowing that it stars Erich von Stroheim & Anne Baxter as well as being directed by Billy Wilder (loved her in every film that she’s starred in)

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No.19 Fast and Furious (1939) Tone was an incredibly talented versatile actor who adapted to any film genre he starred in, from romance and dramas to classic film noir; this film in particular was not one of my favorite films of his. Grant it the movie was directed by the legendary Busby Berkeley but actress Ann Sothern was all wrong for him as his leading lady (I imagined another individual who could match Tone’s wit tit for tat, someone like Joan Crawford or maybe Bette Davis); Sothern’s best remembered for her iconic role in the Maisie film series as well as the television series Private Secretary, plus the film lacked some cinematic punch to me even though it leans more towards the mystery comedy side.6No. 18 Gabriel Over the White House (1933) To me, this film had a more surreal aura about it…almost reminiscent of the 1957 Irwin Allen flick The Story of Mankind. With both films, I tried to see past the storyline and gave it my all regarding enjoying the classic in its entirety; the former I was able to do so but the latter no (It was such a relief to know that I viewed the film for as long as I did). Nevertheless, both films had amazingly talented stars in its leading men.

 

 

15No 17. No More Ladies (1935) How can one go wrong with Robert Montgomery and Franchot Tone battling it out over the affections of Ms. Joan Crawford? Well it is indeed a film that I really enjoyed viewing, but for some reason I enjoyed Forsaking All Others the best even though the latter did not have Tone in its cast of characters; he was exceptional in the romantic lead and I’ve enjoyed seeing some of his comedies.

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No. 16 The Bride Wore Red (1937) This time, Joan Crawford teams up with both Franchot Tone and Robert Young; I have to say that I really enjoyed Tone in this one regarding the romantic comedy genre. I prefer him more in the romantic drama/thrilling type of roles, but it really does get better when you also add into the colorful mix of characters Billie Burke and Reginald Owen (always a joy to view onscreen they were). Of course I often wondered what would’ve happened if Young forgave Crawford for deceiving him from the beginning and asked for her hand in marriage/love, but then again that’s another story.

 

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No. 15 Sadie McKee (1934) When it comes to the romantic comedies, The Bride Wore Red was clearly the winner for me hands down, but the only reason why the former topped The Bride Wore Red was because of the chemistry between Crawford and leading man Gene Raymond (plus I was hoping that Tone’s character professed his long standing love for Crawford’s Sadie McKee) even though Raymond left her high & dry just to pursue his own selfish desires instead of including hers as well.

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No. 14 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) Of course you just can’t beat the original plus Franchot Tone received his first & only Oscar nomination for his compelling role as Midshipman Roger Byam, a cinematic nod that he shared with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton for their roles in the film as well; even though Victor McLaglen won for The Informer, Mutiny on the Bounty is still a pretty good film to view and keep your eyes peeled for.10

No. 13 The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1934) This was Tone’s favorite film of his in which he’s starred in and I must say that he knows a great film when it hits him right in the kisser; I saw this one on Netflix a few months ago and I’ve really enjoyed it! It should be in my Top 5 list, but I haven’t seen a lot of it lately (just that ONE time in its entirety) and yet I loved the cast of characters which included Gary Cooper and Richard Cromwell.8

 

No. 12 Dancing Lady (1933) A film in which we get to see Joan Crawford not only showcase her amazing tap dancing/flapper skills on the silver screen, but for the first time the audience catches a glimpse or two of the legendary American dancer and singer Fred Astaire portraying himself…WOW! Plus you have in your midst Clark Gable πŸ™‚7

 

No. 11 Midnight Mary (1933) A Pre-Code flick that first made me fall in love with Tone very much, this film also starred Loretta Young in the title role; I really enjoyed the chemistry between Tone & Young’s character in the film. I would love to gain the opportunity to view it again on TCM someday, or DVD for that matter.

So now we come to my Top 10 favorite Franchot Tone films of mine; these films I have had the pleasure of viewing on more than one occasion, maybe twice….

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No. 10 Dangerous (1935) Bette Davis’ first of two Oscar wins that she’s garnered in her films career; another amazingly talented leading lady that Tone has incredible chemistry with in my opinion. I’ve always wanted both Tone and Davis to make more films, including a possibility of changing up the plot line for Fast and Furious (a film I mentioned earlier with actress Ann Sothern).

 

21No. 9 Pilot No. 5 (1943) This one honestly I did not expect would grow on me the way it did, especially when you have a cast like Gene Kelly, Marsha Hunt & Van Johnson (one of my underrated favorites!); it’s a really great film once you view it for the first time. Even though it’s more of a compelling propaganda war film, it does have its share of romance, drama and thrilling action; Tone was absolutely wonderful portraying pilot George Braynor Collins.

 

19No. 8 Jigsaw (1949) A film noir gem that is immensely underappreciated; it’s one of the first film noirs I viewed that made me gain notice in regards to Tone’s masterful craft into the dark underworld of film noir. I’ve come to since fully appreciate every genre that he’s starred in, but film noirs became my personal favorites of his to view!

 

11No. 7 Reckless (1935) This film was loosely based on real life events surrounding the scandal of the 1931 marriage between torch singer Libby Holman and tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds as well as his untimely demise regarding a gunshot wound to the head. Jean Harlow portrays his long suffering wife, Tone portraying the fateful character Bob Harrison (the name was changed but based on the real life tobacco heir Reynolds) & William Powell giving an amazing performance as friend/gambler Ned Riley, a sports promoter. Wonderful film which moved me to tears towards the very end when we see Harlow’s character suffering through incredible heartbreak.

 

18No. 6 Suzy (1936) The two leading men in this film are Franchot Tone and Cary Grant; this one I have to say developed such great cinematic chemistry between the three stars onscreen. It didn’t matter that Grant’s character had to emulate a French accent for his role as the ace pilot Capt. Andre Charville; Grant mastered the role with such wit, charm, debonair and impeccable sophistication….but that’s what I really enjoyed the most and admired greatly about him, other than the fact that he was so incredibly talented. Highly recommend that every classic film fan view this one.

Here we go, winding down my Top 20 list to just 5 favorite films of mine from Franchot Tone’s film career and I can tell you this: it wasn’t easy picking out my all time favorite film but I did….

 

5No. 5 Today We Live (1933) Just like my previous film Suzy, this one also has a legendary talented actor in the leading role, actor Gary Cooper but this time he is also joined by Robert Young. Wonderful film to view from beginning to end; there really isn’t much to say about this amazing film since it has just the right amount of drama, romance and action except that it should’ve been number one.

 

14No. 4 The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1950) Directed by and starring Burgess Meredith alongside Oscar winner Charles Laughton, The Man on the Eiffel Tower is a brilliant piece of classic film noir history in my opinion; I loved the color cinematography the film captured so (although you really can’t go wrong with the stark contrast of black & white either). Meredith was simply awe-inspiring in front of and behind the camera as well.

23No. 3 Three Comrades (1938) It only gets harder from here: This classic drama film is a favorite of mine from Margaret Sullavan’s film career; her life was cut tragically short but her legacy remains indelible and enduring in Three Comrades. Starring Robert Taylor along with Robert Young, it’s a film that really grabs a hold of you and does not want to let go. The stark contrast of the storyline complete with its breathtaking b&w cinematography makes for one amazing film not to be missed; every now and then, a film comes along (a war film at that) that moves you so deep that tears of joy come from within with an unexpected burst of cinematic delight that is just purely indescribable. Three Comrades just so happens to be that film and its one of my favorites.

 

13No. 2 Advise and Consent (1962) Now we come to the final two and WOW!! I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult this cinematic decision was for me, but even though I’ve had the pleasure in seeing both films on my Top 2 list more than once, one film became my personal favorite for a much different reason. Let’s look at that reason with my next pick: I’m not a political/politics kind of gal. Yes I do view classic films which have politics in its storyline, like The Best Man and The Manchurian Candidate for instance along with a host of others (hence the ONLY reason behind Advise and Consent being No. 2 on my list). Other than that, it truly is an exceptional film with an equally stellar cast including-but not limited to-Gene Tierney, Don Murray, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Lew Ayres, Edward Andrews, George Grizzard, Burgess Meredith, Paul Ford, Will Geer, Betty White & Henry Fonda…quite a cast indeed! A powerful compelling classic produced and directed by masterful director Otto Preminger.

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No. 1 Phantom Lady (1944) Here at last is my all time favorite film of Franchot Tone’s! Yes I may have mentioned this film in a previous post that I did of him earlier on, but one cannot help it when it’s a film that deserves its cinematic spotlight. Sure the cast of characters boasts some of classic Hollywood’s most compelling character actors like Thomas Gomez, Milburn Stone and Elisha Cook, Jr. as well as Ella Raines and Alan Curtis but there’s a reason why I picked it to be my favorite of all time. First, Franchot Tone definitely wasn’t playing against type when he portrayed Jack Marlow (I really admired and loved that dark mysterious persona about his character); second, it always seems that some cannot fully appreciate his talents in regards to classic film noir. This was a genre that I felt he was comfortable in, not quite so with The Lives of a Bengal Lancer mind you, but pretty close I’d say. I saw Phantom Lady more times than I did any of his other films and yet I never garnered the opportunity to own it on DVD; I also appreciated the subtle hint of romanticism with a burst of malevolent passion and sex appeal about him. Of course anyone could go gaga over a great actor dressed in a tuxedo, but as difficult as it was I resisted temptation to focus more on his depth, the dark tone that he sets whenever he walked into that room. He didn’t upstage anyone in the film, but then again he didn’t need to because with each scene, Franchot Tone emanated a craft that was quite unique and extraordinary; I can’t fully express myself anymore except to go view the film for yourself and give me your insight πŸ™‚

1Well there you have it ladies & gentlemen, my Top 20 List of the best Franchot Tone films that I view to be my favorites; of course there are other classics that did not make it on the list in which I’d like to have a chance at viewing (for that we will save for another time). But I do hope that more individuals will view his films whenever they get the opportunity; I’m grateful to have seen many of his classics on TV when I did and to be honest, Franchot Tone’s well worth taking a second look at!

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