Powered By

Free XML Skins for Blogger

Powered by Blogger

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tenebrae star Tony Franciosa 1928-2006

A great actor and with Tenebrae being the first Argento flick I ever saw, he was a particular favourite of mine. RIP, Tony.

Anthony Franciosa - 1928-2006

"Fifteen years before Robert De Niro and Al Pacino became the major Italian-American film stars in the 1970s, there was the vibrant actor Anthony Franciosa, who has died aged 77 (five days after the death of his second wife, Shelley Winters, obituary January 16). Franciosa came to Hollywood in 1957 in the wake of the new wave of actors such as Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, schooled in "the method" at the Actors Studio in New York. It stressed a more instinctive approach to acting, the performers arriving at their interpretation of a role through seeking equivalent emotions in their own experiences.

Franciosa claimed that his expressive performances derived from his deprived background. Born Anthony Papaleo in the Little Italy section of New York City, he was the only child of a construction worker and a seamstress. His parents divorced when he was a year old and he later said he felt abandoned by his father.

Without completing high school, Franciosa took on a number of jobs, including shipyard worker, until the day he accompanied a friend to an audition at the YWCA (to meet girls) and was handed a role. Taking his mother's maiden name, he won a scholarship to the Dramatic Workshop, founded by the leftwing German exile Edwin Piscator.

The tall, handsome, cleft-chinned actor, with a flashing smile, soon found work in New York repertory theatre before making his Broadway debut, aged 25, in the Actors Studio production of Calder Willingham's controversial End as a Man (1953-54). Set in a military academy, with a homosexual subtext, it featured fellow Italian-Americans Ben Gazzara and Harry Guardino, both of whom appeared alongside Franciosa in A Hatful of Rain on Broadway in 1955. As the drunken brother of a junkie who attempts to hide his addiction from the rest of the family, Franciosa won the New York Critics' Award for best actor in a supporting role. The addict's pregnant wife was played by Winters. Franciosa and Winters were married in 1957 after he divorced his first wife, writer Beatrice Bakalyar, and she had divorced her second husband, Vittorio Gassman.

In the same year, Franciosa went to Hollywood to reprise his role in Fred Zimmermann's film version of A Hatful of Rain, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Franciosa also appeared as a tough man-of-the-world who falls for virgin Jean Simmons in Robert Wise's This Could Be the Night; as a slimy agent of a singer in A Face in the Crowd, Elia Kazan's searing satire on media manipulation; and as a cowhand on a ranch in George Cukor's Wild is the Wind, falling for Anna Magnani (on and off set), the wife of his boss, Anthony Quinn.

In the meantime, Franciosa was getting a reputation as being as explosive off screen as on. In the year of his first Hollywood triumphs, he served 10 days in the county jail for kicking a photographer. There were also stories about arguments with directors and other actors, which might have contributed to his getting fewer film roles from the 1960s.

"I went out to Hollywood in the mid-1950s," he remarked in a 1996 interview, "and I would say I went there a little too early. It was an incredible amount of attention, and I wasn't quite mature enough psychologically and emotionally for it." Nevertheless, Franciosa, despite often confusing histrionics with intensity, made an impact in The Long Hot Summer (1958) as southern patriarch Orson Welles's weak son, and as an egotistic stage actor in Career (1959), one of his best performances.

In 1958, Franciosa played Goya in a piece of Hispanic hokum called The Naked Maja opposite Ava Gardner as the Duchess of Alba. Franciosa, who seemed in the habit of having flings with his leading ladies, made no exception with Gardner, whom Winters threatened to kill by hiring a "hit-man". The marriage ended in 1960 despite or because of Winters' assertion that "if there had been an Olympic sex team, Tony would have been the champion". This reputation resurfaced in a song by Tom Waits, Goin' Out West: "Well I'm goin' out west/Where the wind blows tall/'Cause Tony Franciosa/Used to date my ma."

In 1961, now married to Judy Balaban Kanter, an author and real estate agent, Franciosa went to Italy to make Go Naked in the World and Senilit, co-starring Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale respectively. Back in the US, he was effective as heavies in the western Rio Conchos (1964) and in the gangster movie Across 110th Street (1972), and spent three years as an investigative reporter in the TV series The Name of the Game (1968-71) and as a secret agent in Matt Helm (1975-76). However, he was fired from the former by NBC executives who cited "the wear and tear" he had caused on the set. As a result, he got more regular work in Italy where he made a few so-called "giallo" (yellow for fear) thrillers, including Tenebrae (1982) by gore-master Dario Argento. His last role was as a mafia boss in City Hall (1996).

Franciosa is survived by his wife of 35 years, former German model Rita Thiel, and three children. "

Source: The Guardian

No comments: