The following is a biographical sketch as it appeared in the New York City Center Theatre Company's All-Star Winter Play Festival souvenir program in 1955:
Franchot Tone is not only a fine actor—in motion pictures, radio or on the stage—but he is a true theatre lover and theatre fan. When he was tied up with film-making on the West Coast, he often flew to New York for a few days of play-seeing, and audiences at City Center are well used to his presence at performances here of the ballet and the opera companies.
Nothing in his early life, a prosaic existence, foretold Mr. Tone’s future in the histrionic field. Born in Niagara Falls, New York, the son of a scientist and president of the Carborundum Company, he followed the course of normal young men through prep school, displaying many interests from football to French. During his four years at Cornell, however, Franchot acquired his first taste of the theatre. He acted and directed plays presented by Dramatic Club of which he was later elected President.
From Dramatic Club President, he stepped into the dual role of Property-man- bit actor in his first professional job with the Garry McGarry Players, a stock organization in Buffalo. The opportunity that rarely comes the way of understudies who nightly wait and pray—good-naturedly—that they will be included in the half-hour call was presented to Franchot when the principal player suddenly took sick, and he was summoned to report on stage—in the juvenile lead. That experience confirmed the young stage novice’s firm belief that acting was the career he wanted to follow.
Since then, Tone has spent his time almost equally behind the footlights and in motion picture studios. He made his Broadway debut with Katharine Cornell in “The Age of Innocence” and overnight became a top-ranking leading man. He appeared successively with Sylvia Sidney, Irene Purcell, and Peggy Shannon
in “Cross Roads”; in three Theatre Guild productions, “Red Rust,” “Hotel Universe,” and “Green Grow the Lilacs”; and opposite Lenore Ulric in “Pagan Lady.” The actor, one of the original members of the Group Theatre, also played in numerous productions presented by that organization, including “The House of Connelly,” “1931,” “Night Over Taos,” “Success Story,” and “The Gentle People.” He was also in the adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s outstanding play, “The Fifth Column.”
Although the list of motion pictures in which Mr. Tone has performed is much longer than the catalogue of stage roles, the time he has spent in the studios, since a picture is only four to eight weeks in the making, is no more than he has given to the legitimate theatre. Among the many pictures in which he has been seen are, “Lives of a Bengal Lancer,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “The Gorgeous Hussy,” “Quality Street,” “The Bride Wore Red,” “Man Proof,” “Three Comrades,” “Fast and Furious”, “This Woman is Mine,” “She Knew All the Answers,” and “Five Graves to Cairo,” “Dark Waters” and “The Man on the Eiffel Tower,” which he also co-produced. His last appearance behind the footlights was as the romantically-involved psychiatrist in “Oh, Men! Oh, Women!”
Below is an excerpted obituary as it appeared in the Ottawa Citizen
on September 19, 1968:
Stage and screen actor Franchot Tone, whose second home from early childhood was the Gatineau area, died at his home in New York City Wednesday of lung cancer. He was 63.
Tone, who led a tempestuous life both on and off-stage, appeared in such plays as Fifth Column in 1940, Oh Men Oh Women in 1953, A Moon for the Misbegotten and The Time of Your Life in 1958.
His first film was Today We Live, with Joan Crawford and Gary Cooper, in Hollywood in 1932. He also appeared in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Mutiny on the Bounty, Three Comrades, Without Honor, Man on the Eiffel Tower, and Here Comes the Groom.
Tone sought privacy away from the gossip columns in the Thirty-One Mile Lake area 28 miles south of Maniwaki. His father was one of the first to build a summer home on Thirty-One Mile Lake near Gracefield, Quebec. Tone’s father had married a French-Canadian girl from Buckingham, Quebec, named Franchot. Tone was named after her.
Eventually the camp on Thirty-One Mile Lake became the Gatineau Fish and Game Club. Tone visited the area annually in the summer and fall to fish and hunt moose. He held a lease on at least a dozen good trout lakes. He sometimes visited the Gracefield area in winter to hunt wolves on snow sleds. He was an excellent outdoorsman.
When rehearsing a Broadway play, he would frequently invite the cast to Thirty-One Mile Lake for long weekends. He was a lifelong friend of the late Jean Paul Desjardins, mayor of Gracefield for many years.
“I love every stick and stone in this wonderful country,” he said once. Tone, born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and a Cornell University honors graduate, joined a theatre stock company in Buffalo, N.Y. After a time with the New Playwrights Company in New York, he was chosen to appear in The Age of Innocence, starring Katharine Cornell.
Burgess Meredith, an old friend of Tone’s, said that Tone’s problem “aside from his obsession with lovely women, was, I suppose, that he had too many social graces. If he had a little less money, a little less looks, he might have made a larger mark. But I can’t think of a man who enjoyed life more."