Actor Anthony Franciosa died of a massive stroke this past Friday, Jan. 20, ’06, at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Franciosa’s film career began late – but auspiciously – in 1957. The 32-year-old actor (born in New York City on Oct. 28, 1925) had key roles in Robert Wise’s This Could Be the Night, George Cukor’s Wild Is the Wind, Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, and Fred Zinnemann’s A Hatful of Rain, in which he recreated his well-regarded Broadway role.
For his somewhat mechanical performance – stage mannerisms were much in evidence – Franciosa received his one and only best actor Academy Award nomination.
Yet, major stardom proved elusive. Although he was cast in several important productions of the late 1950s and early 1960s, including Martin Ritt’s The Long Hot Summer (1958), as Orson Welles’ no-good son; Clifford Odets’ The Story on Page One (1959), opposite Rita Hayworth; and George Roy Hill’s A Period of Adjustment (1962), with Jane Fonda, both Franciosa and his vehicles failed to click with audiences.
At about that time he began appearing on television, whereas his film roles became more sporadic and generally less interesting. Among his movies of the late 1960s were the weak comedy The Swinger (1966), with Ann-Margret; the adventure-comedy Fathom (1967), with Raquel Welch; and the poorly received drama The Sweet Ride (1968), with Michael Sarrazin and Jacqueline Bisset (1968).
Franciosa had better luck on television, acting in several TV series, most notably Matt Helm (1975-76).
His last film appearance was in Harold Becker’s 1996 thriller City Hall, starring Al Pacino, John Cusack, and Bridget Fonda.
One of Franciosa’s four wives was actress Shelley Winters, who died this past Jan. 14.