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January 22, 2005

Anthony Franciosa Dies at 77

Veteran Actor Starred in Five Series

Los Angeles, CA – Actor Anthony Franciosa, whose intense persona proved to be one of his greatest assets as a performer, as well as a professional liability at times, died Thursday in a Los Angeles hospital from complications caused by a severe stroke. He was 77 years old.

Franciosa, a native New Yorker who emerged from the city’s vaunted Actors Studio in the early 1950s at the same time as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, Rod Steiger and others trained in the intense precepts of the so-called “method” school of acting, amassed nearly 100 film and television credits over the course of a forty-year career. He earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance as the brother of a drug-addicted Korean War veteran in the 1957 drama A Hatful of Rain, which began as an Actors Studio play and was a Broadway hit before being adapted for the screen.

In the late 1950s, Franciosa was cast in several high-profile films, including A Face in the Crowd, opposite Andy Griffith, and two Tennessee Williams adaptations—The Long, Hot Summer, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Orson Welles, and Period of Adjustment, with Jane Fonda and Lois Nettleton.

Franciosa’s other feature films included The Drowning Pool, Death Wish II and Across 110th Street. His last film appearance was the 1996 drama City Hall, starring Al Pacino.

As his career advanced, Franciosa’s occasionally combative nature and a reputation for disputes with directors and fellow performers are believed to have limited his opportunities. In 1957 he spent ten days in jail for punching a press photographer.

Born Anthony Papaleo on October 25, 1928, in Manhattan’s Little Italy, Franciosa grew up poor and worked a variety of jobs before devoting himself to acting in his early twenties.

In addition to his film work, Franciosa appeared in numerous television projects, and had starring roles in five series. He made his earliest TV appearances on anthology series such as Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio One and Kraft Television Theater, and appeared in guest roles on Naked City, The Virginian, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and other series.

In the early 1960s, Franciosa adopted the less formal moniker Tony, and was cast in the sitcom Valentine's Day (1964-65). From 1968-71 he was one of the stars in the ambitious dramatic adventure series The Name of the Game, but was eventually dropped for allegedly erratic behavior. He later starred in the espionage drama Search (1972) and Matt Helm (1975-76). His final series, which aired in the 1984-85 season, was the Aaron Spelling production Finder of Lost Loves.

Franciosa is survived by his fourth wife, former model Rita Thiel, to whom he was married for thirty-five years, and their two sons. He also leaves a daughter by his second wife, real estate agent Judy Kanter. His first marriage was to writer Beatrice Bakalyar, and he had a three-year union in the late 1950s to his Hatful of Rain co-star Shelley Winters, who died last week.

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