Anthony Franciosa

Anthony Franciosa (born Anthony George Papaleo, October 25, 1928 January 19, 2006) was an American film, TV and stage actor. He began as a successful stage actor, gaining a Tony Award nomination for the drug-addiction play A Hatful of Rain. After relocating to Hollywood he made numerous feature films, including A Face in the Crowd (1957), The Long, Hot Summer (1958) , and Career (1959), for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor/Drama. In television he played lead roles in five television series: the sitcom Valentine's Day (1964–65), drama The Name of the Game (1968–71), Search (1972–73), Matt Helm (1975) and Finder of Lost Loves (1984).[1]

Tony Franciosa
Publicity photo, 1969
Anthony George Papaleo

(1928-10-25)October 25, 1928
DiedJanuary 19, 2006(2006-01-19) (aged 77)
OccupationTV, stage, and film actor
Years active19552006
Beatrice Bakalyar
(m. 1952; div. 1957)

Shelley Winters
(m. 1957; div. 1960)

Judy Balaban
(m. 1961; div. 1967)

Rita Thiel
(m. 1970)
FamilyBarney Balaban (former father-in-law)

Early life

He was born in the Little Italy district of New York to an Italian-American family (his grandparents emigrated from Melfi, Basilicata, in the center of the boot of Southern Italy, in 1890),[2]. His parents separated when he was one and he was raised by his mother and aunt, adopting his mother's maiden name Franciosa as his professional name.[3]

After high school he worked as a welder, ship steward and cook. At the age of 18 he was doing free dancing lessons at the YMCA. They offered him a role in a production of The Seagull and the experience made him want to be an actor.[1] [4]



Franciosa studied privately for two years with Joseph Geigler. He got a four year scholarship at the Dramatic Workshop which led to the New York Repertory Theatre.[5]

In 1948, Franciosa joined the Cherry Lane Theatre Group off Broadway (at the same time as actress Bea Arthur). Within two years, he had been accepted as a member of the Actors Studio, which would prove an invaluable resource throughout his career [6] but it would be a few years more before Franciosa could make a living from acting. In the meantime, he accepted a variety of jobs which included being a waiter, dishwasher, day laborer, and messenger boy at CBD. He worked in Theatre of the Sky on Lake Tahoe. In 1950 he was in a San Francisco production of Detective Story.[7][8]

In 1953 Franciosa made his Broadway debut in End as a Man alongside Ben Gazzara, and the following year in Wedding Breakfast (1954).[9]

Franciosa began guest starring on TV shows such as Studio One in Hollywood, Kraft Theatre, Ford Star Jubilee (an adaptation of This Happy Breed with Noel Coward), and Goodyear Playhouse.[10]

A Hatful of Rain

Franciosa's breakthrough role came when cast in the Actor's Studio production of A Hatful of Rain (1955-56) under the direction of Elia Kazan. He played Polo, the brother of the drug addicted Johnny (Ben Gazzara). Shelley Winters played Gazzara's wife and she would marry Franciosa the following year. Franciosa was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance. [1]

Franciosa made his film debut in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) alongside Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal and Lee Remick.

He followed it in MGM's This Could Be the Night (1957) as the romantic interest for Jean Simmons, under the direction of Robert Wise.

Franciosa reprised his role in A Hatful of Rain in the film version, directed by Fred Zinnemann at 20th Century Fox, with Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint playing the roles originated by Gazzara and Winters. Hedda Hopper pointed out that these three films were made before the first one had been released.[8] Franciosa's performance in Hatful of Rain earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Film star

Franciosa supported Anna Magnani and Anthony Quinn in Wild Is the Wind (1957) directed by George Cukor, produced by Hal B. Wallis who put Fanciosa under a multi-film contract.

He then appeared with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in The Long Hot Summer (1958), playing one of the two sons of Orson Welles, directed by Martin Ritt at Fox.[11]

In December 1957, he spent 10 days in jail for hitting a press photographer in April of that year.[12][13] However he was much in demand: In an interview in December, he said he owed Fox and MGM three films each over five years, Kazan two more films, and Hal Wallis one film a year over seven years.[5]

He played Francisco Goya in MGM's The Naked Maja (1958) with Ava Gardner, which earned Franciosa $250,000 in acting fees due to production delays. He made a second film for Wallis, Career (1959) with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine,[14][15] then The Story on Page One (1959) with Rita Hayworth for Clifford Odets at Fox.

He was meant to star in Opheus Descending (which became The Fugitive Kind) with Anna Magnani, but the producers decided to cast Marlon Brando, and Franciosa was paid out $75,000. He was mentioned as a possibility for one of the roles in The Magnificent Seven and for the title role in a proposed Simon Bolivar biopic that Dino De Laurentiis was going to make.[16]

In 1959, he served 30 days at an open-prison farm for possession of marijuana. The same year, he was in a car accident.[17]

Franciosa returned to TV to appear in Heaven Can Wait an adaptation of Here Comes Mr Jordan (1960), then in Cradle Song (1960).[18]

He supported Gina Lollobrigida in MGM's Go Naked in the World (1961), which lost money. He was top-billed in the Italian Careless (1962) with Claudia Cardinale and MGM's Period of Adjustment (1962) with Jane Fonda, Franciosa's first film for that studio which made a profit. In August 1963, he addressed a race rally in Alabama alongside Marlon Brando and Paul Newman.[19]


Franciosa guest starred on The DuPont Show of the Week, Arrest and Trial, Breaking Point, The Greatest Show on Earth and Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre. He had support parts in two films for Fox: Rio Conchos (1964) with Richard Boone and Stuart Whitman and The Pleasure Seekers (1964) with Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley.

He starred in a TV series Valentine's Day (1964-65).[20] When that ended he had support parts in A Man Could Get Killed (1966) with James Garner and Assault on a Queen (1966) with Frank Sinatra. He was leading man to Ann-Margret in The Swinger (1966) at Paramount and Raquel Welch in Fathom (1967) at Fox.

In a 1966 interview he confessed that Hollywood stardom had come a little too early: "It was an incredible amount of attention, and I wasn't quite mature enough psychologically or emotionally for it."[1]

He starred in a TV movie for Universal Fame Is the Name of the Game (1966),then a spaghetti Western at Universal, A Man Called Gannon (1968), a drama with Jacqueline Bisset at Fox, The Sweet Ride (1968) and a war film at Universal, In Enemy Country (1968).

Producer David Dortort was on the verge of casting him as Cameron Mitchell's best friend and brother-in-law, Manolito Montoya, on the western, The High Chaparral, if Henry Darrow did not make it to the set in time. Darrow did.[21]

Franciosa returned to regular series with The Name of the Game (1968-71) (based on Fame Is the Name of the Game), as lead role of charismatic but doggedly determined star reporter Jeff Dillon, alternating the regular lead spot with Gene Barry and Robert Stack. He was fired from the series in 1970 because of his temper.

Franciosa was in Web of the Spider (1971), an Italian horror film, then a series of TV movies: The Deadly Hunt (1971), Earth II (1971), and The Catcher (1972), He had a support part in the action film Across 110th Street (1972).

Franciosa had a further alternating lead role in a TV series, this time alongside Hugh O'Brian and Doug McClure, as agent Nick Bianco in Search (1972). When that ended he supported Peter Sellers in Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973), then had support roles in This Is the West That Was (1974) for TV and The Drowning Pool (1975).[22]

Franciosa had his own series with Matt Helm (1975), a spinoff of the spy-spoof films that starred Dean Martin, but it only lasted 14 episodes.

He was in Curse of the Black Widow (1977), Aspen (1977), Wheels (1978), Firepower (1979), The World Is Full of Married Men (1979), The Cricket (1980), Help Me to Dream (1981), an episode of Tales of the Unexpected, Side Show (1981), Death Wish II (1982), Kiss My Grits (1982), Tenebrae (1982) from Dario Argento, Julie Darling (1983), and an episode of Masquerade. In his memoir, From I Love Lucy to Shōgun and Beyond: Tales from the Other Side of the Camera, Jerry London stated that Franciosa could not remember his lines during the shooting of the television movie Wheels, so co-star Rock Hudson had to hold up cue cards for him during one scene in a car.[23]

Later Career

Franciosa starred in the Aaron Spelling-produced series Finder of Lost Loves (1984-85). He could be seen in Stagecoach (1986) and episodes of Hotel, The Love Boat, and Jake and the Fatman.[24]

In the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone, he appeared in the third-season episode "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich," playing a gangster who is revealed to be the ultimate demon.

Later performances included Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife (1987), Death House (1988), Fashion Crime (1989), Ghost Writer (1989), Backstreet Dreams (1990), and Double Threat (1992). In 1990-91, he portrayed Colonel Doctor Otternschlag in the U.S. national tour of the musical Grand Hotel at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and other national tour locations. [25] [26]

Franciosa's final film was City Hall, a 1996 drama starring Al Pacino and John Cusack, in which he portrayed a crime boss.

In his autobiography The Garner Files, actor James Garner stated that Franciosa, on the set of A Man Could Get Killed, constantly abused the stunt crew by not pulling punches in fight scenes, resulting in a physical confrontation with Garner.[27]


In 1958, Franciosa was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Polo Pope in the film version of A Hatful of Rain (1957), opposite Eva Marie Saint and Don Murray as his brother, Johnny, a morphine addict. Billed as Anthony Franciosa, he won the 1960 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for the role Sam Lawson in Career (1959), opposite Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine.

Personal life

Franciosa was married four times, and had three children. His first marriage to writer Beatrice Bakalyar in 1952 ended in divorce in 1957. That May 4, he married actress Shelley Winters; the couple divorced in 1960.

He next wed the former Judith Balaban, daughter of Barney Balaban, and author of the book The Bridesmaids, about her friend Princess Grace of Monaco, in whose wedding she served as a bridesmaid. This union produced Franciosa's only daughter, Nina.

A final marriage, to Rita Theil on November 27, 1970, lasted until his death in 2006. The pair had two sons, organic farmer Marco and actor Christopher.

When asked about Franciosa's hair-trigger temper, Theil said "He was never taught how to control his temper ... I changed him a lot ... We still have good fights once in a while, but I can scream back at him."[28]

Franciosa, reflecting about Theil's influence on him, said

"It took years of therapy and simply living through things to finally accept and enjoy myself. My wife Rita's influence has been profound in that process. Her family was a product of The Great Disaster — World War II. She emerged from the flames with a remarkable buoyancy. Each day she rises with an optimism, a serenity toward life that is certainly contagious. Does that sound romantic? If so, so be it."[29]

During his later years, Franciosa lived in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He died on January 19, 2006 at age 77 at nearby UCLA Medical Center after suffering a massive stroke.

Selected filmography

See also


  1. ANTHONY FRANCIOSA ; Temperamental leading man: [First Edition] Vallance, Tom. The Independent 23 Jan 2006: 37
  2. The Racine Journal-Times Sunday Bulletin
  3. Tony Franciosa background
  4. Anthony Franciosa, TV and Film Actor, Dies at 77: [Obituary (Obit)] New York Times 21 Jan 2006: 14.
  5. ASCENDING BRIGHT STAR: Anthony Franciosa Retraces His Path in Rapid Rise to Screen Success Face in the Crowd Personal Approach By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 8 Dec 1957: D11.
  6. Michael A. Lipton: "Back in the Game," People Magazine (March 18, 1996). "By 22, Anthony Franciosa (he had taken his mother's maiden name) was studying at the Actors Studio. At 25, he made his Broadway debut in End as a Man"
  7. The Life Story of ANTHONY FRANCIOSA Picture Show; London Vol. 70, Iss. 1827, (Apr 5, 1958): 12.
  8. Franciosa Rated Star Before Public Sees Films Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 21 Apr 1957: E1.
  9. NEW REEVES PLAY WILL OPEN NOV. 16: New York Times 27 Aug 1954: 11.
  10. THE TV SCENE---: Franciosa to Do 'Heaven Can Wait' Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 26 Oct 1960: A10.
  11. Anthony Franciosa Agrees to Try Faulkner Role Louella Parsons:. The Washington Post and Times Herald 14 Aug 1957: A16.
  12. Actor Anthony Franciosa Begins Jail Sentence Los Angeles Times 13 Dec 1957: B1.
  13. Attack on Newsman Jails Shelley Winters' Fiance Los Angeles Times 20 Apr 1957: 1.
  14. Tale of Theater World Stars Anthony Franciosa By John Beaufort. The Christian Science Monitor 10 Oct 1959: 11.
  15. GOYA AND HIS 'MAJA' FACE CAMERA: Artist's Film Biography Started After Many Delays -- Addenda By ROBERT F. HAWKINSROME. New York Times 27 July 1958: X5.
  16. Franciosa Strong 'Bolivar' Prospect: Busy Actor, Set in 10 Films, Gives Answer to Pessimists Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 20 Feb 1959: A9.
  17. Anthony Franciosa Injured New York Times 29 Nov 1959: 73.
  18. SOUL IN SEARCH OF A BODY: Anthony Franciosa Has an Off-beat Role for His Return to Television Anderson, Robert. Chicago Daily Tribune 12 Nov 1960: c3.
  19. Four Actors Address Negro Rally in Alabama: RACIAL RALLY Los Angeles Times 23 Aug 1963: 2.
  20. HOOTENANNY' CUT FROM A.B.C. LIST: Franciosa to Star Next Fall in TV 'Valentine's Day' By VAL ADAMS. New York Times 9 June 1964: 71
  21. Darrow
  22. Peter Sellers Goes to Sea Hall, William. Los Angeles Times 22 Dec 1973: b11.
  23. London, Jerry; Collier, Rhonda (2017). From I Love Lucy to Shōgun and Beyond: Tales from the Other Side of the Camera. p. 60. ISBN 978-0692866993.
  24. Hollywood bad boy Anthony Franciosa, 77: [All Editions] Thomas, Bob. The Record 21 Jan 2006: A13.
  25. Theatre by Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post, December 7, 1990.
  26. Anthony Franciosa, the matinee idol under the makeup: [FINAL Edition] Walsh, Winifred. The Evening Sun 25 Feb 1991: B1.
  27. Garner, James; Winokur, Jon (2011). The Garner Files. Simon & Schuster. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-4516-4260-5.
  28. People Weekly, March 18, 1996, v.45 n.11 p. 73.
  29. Source: TV Heaven.
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