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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).

Tony Franciosa
Tony Franciosa - 1969.jpg
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 active1955–2006
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 lifeEdit

Born to an Italian-American family (his grandparents emigrated from Melfi, Basilicata, in the center of the boot of Southern Italy, in 1890),[1] and raised by his mother and aunt, he adopted his mother's maiden name Franciosa as his professional name.[2]



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 going forward[3] but it would be a few years more before Franciosa could make a living from acting. In the meantime, he worked a variety of jobs which included being a waiter, dishwasher, day laborer, and messenger boy.

Several years later he garnered rave reviews and a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway performance of the play A Hatful of Rain.

Franciosa began guest atarring 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.


Franciosa made his film debut in This Could Be the Night (1957) as the romantic interest for Jean Simmons, under the direction of Robert Wise. He had a key role in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) then reprised his role in A Hatful of Rain in the film version, directed by Fred Zinnemann earning Franciosca an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Franciosa supported Anna Magnani and Anthony Quinn in Wild Is the Wind (1957) directed by George Cukor and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in The Long Hot Summer (1958). He made The Naked Maja (1958) with Ava Gardner and Career (1959) with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine.

After making The Story on Page One (1959) with Rita Hayworth for Clifford Odets he appeared in Cradle Song (1960) on TV.

He supported Gina Lollobrigida in Go Naked in the World (1961) then was top billed in the Italian Careless (1962) with Claudia Cardinale and MGM's Period of Adjustment (1962) with Jane Fonda.


With Robert Stack and Gene Barry in the TV series The Name of the Game (1968)

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 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). 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) and Raquel Welch in Fathom (1967).

He starred in a TV movie Fame Is the Name of the Game (1966), a spaghetti Western, A Man Called Gannon (1968), a drama with Jacqueline Bisset, The Sweet Ride (1968) and a war film 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.[4]

Franciosa returned to regular series with The Name of the Game (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 because of his temper.

Franciosa was in Web of the Spider (1971), The Deadly Hunt (1971), Earth II (1971), The Catcher, and Across 110th Street (1972).

With Laraine Stephens in a publicity photo for the TV series Matt Helm in 1975

He had a further alternating lead role, this time alongside Hugh O'Brian and Doug McClure, as agent Nick Bianco in Search (1972), and then on his own in Matt Helm (1975), a spinoff of the spy-spoof films that starred Dean Martin. Neither enjoyed a long run.

In between he appeared in Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973), and This Is the West That Was (1974).

Later CareerEdit

He also played roles in all-star television miniseries, such as Aspen (1977) and Wheels (1978).

In the 1980s, Franciosa starred in the Aaron Spelling-produced series Finder of Lost Loves. 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.

Franciosa's final film was City Hall, a 1996 drama starring Al Pacino and John Cusack, in which he portrayed a New York City 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.[5]

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.[6]


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. He had won the Globe competing with actors Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur, Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger, Fredric March in Middle of the Night and Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.

In 1958, Franciosa had been 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.

Personal lifeEdit

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 Oscar-winning 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."[7]

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."[8]

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 filmographyEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Racine Journal-Times Sunday Bulletin
  2. ^ Tony Franciosa background
  3. ^ 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"
  4. ^ Darrow
  5. ^ Garner, James; Winokur, Jon (2011). The Garner Files. Simon & Schuster. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-4516-4260-5.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ People Weekly, March 18, 1996, v.45 n.11 p. 73.
  8. ^ Source: TV Heaven.

External linksEdit