Anthony Franciosa, Tony Nominee for A Hatful of Rain, Dead at 77

By Kenneth Jones
23 Jan 2006

Anthony Francisoa, a 1956 Tony Award nominee as Best Featured Actor in a Play for A Hatful of Rain, died Jan. 19 following a stroke, according to his publicist.



Mr. Franciosa was 77. He also appeared in the 1957 film version of the groundbreaking Hatful play by Michael V. Gazzo, whose plot concerned drug addiction. He played the brother of addict Don Murray, and also snagged an Academy Award nomination for the film version.

The handsome New York native was best known for film roles in the 1960s, but made a handful of other Broadway appearances: Wedding Breakfast (1954) and End as a Man (1953).

Franciosa came of age as an actor when Method Acting marked by emotional research, moody introspection and earthy realism was changing the face and sound of American theatre and film acting after World War II.

His motion pictures included "This Could Be the Night," "A Face in the Crowd," "Wild Is the Wind," "The Long Hot Summer," "The Naked Maja" (playing Goya), "The Story on Page One," "Period of Adjustment," "Rio Conchos" and "The Pleasure Seekers."

The actor was known for his temper. His confrontational quality, perhaps held over from his days growing up in New York City slums, cost him work and landed him in gossip columns (and once, in jail, for slugging a photographer).

"I went out to Hollywood in the mid-1950s," he said in a 1996 interview, CNN reported. "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."

His TV work included the series "Valentine's Day," "Matt Helm," "The Name of the Game" (1968-71). That latter series was spawned by a TV movie called "Fame Is the Name of the Game," which many consider to be the first made-for-TV-movie. (Mr. Franciosa also starred.)

Mr. Franciosa was born Anthony Papaleo in New York City. Fatherless from toddlerhood, he grew up in tough neighborhoods. A beacon of light came when he auditioned and was cast in plays at the YMCA. He later studied with the Actors Studio, known for nurturing the new generation of actors. His professional name was his mother's maiden name.

Mr. Franciosa was once married to Shelley Winters, who predeceased him by a week. He is survived by his wife, Rita.

Mr. Franciosa's previous marriages were to writer Beatrice Bakalyar and real estate agent Judy Kanter, with whom he had a daughter, Nina. His 35-year marriage was to Rita Thiel, a German fashion model. They had sons Christopher and Marco.