Film, stage and TV actor Anthony Franciosa died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles following a massive stroke. He was 77.
Franciosa received both Tony and Oscar nominations for his portrayal of the brother of a heroin addict in “Hatful of Rain,” won a Golden Globe for his role as an actor who gives up everything for the stage in “Career” and starred in TV series including “The Name of the Game.”
The compact, forceful Italian American thesp, sometimes credited as Tony, was married for three years to the late Shelley Winters, who appeared with him onstage in “A Hatful of Rain.”
Born Anthony Papaleo in New York, he got his start playing small theater parts before netting more significant parts on Broadway including “End as a Man,” and “The Wedding Breakfast.” His next role in “A Hatful of Rain” brought him a Tony nom for actor in a drama as well as the Drama Critics Award in the same category.
He was quickly brought to Hollywood, making his film debut in “This Could Be the Night” in 1957 and then appearing in Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” before reprising his Broadway role for Fred Zinnemann’s film version of “A Hatful of Rain,” which netted him a supporting actor nom.
The Actors Studio-trained performer set himself apart from conventionally handsome leading men by seeking out offbeat roles that emphasized his sexy, explosive personality. Other notable early film roles included Orson Welles’ submissive son-in-law in Martin Ritt’s “The Long, Hot Summer,” “Wild Is the Wind” with Anna Magnani and “The Naked Maja” opposite Ava Gardner.
Other actresses with whom he was romantically cast included Jane Fonda in “Period of Adjustment” and Melina Mercouri and Sandra Dee in “A Man Could Get Killed” (also released as “Welcome, Mr. Beddoes”) and Claudia Cardinale in “Senilita.”
His TV series included “Valentine’s Day” in 1964 and “Matt Helm” in 1975. Franciosa is perhaps better recalled for his turn as an investigative reporter in “The Name of the Game,” which ran for three years on NBC starting in 1968 and as a security agent in “Search.” In Aaron Spelling’s 1984 series “Finder of Lost Loves,” he played wealthy widower who helped people track down their former lovers.
During the 1970s and 1980s, he also appeared in European comedies and thrillers, including Dario Argento’s “Tenebre,” and starred in TV movies such as “Wheels” and “Aspen.”
His most recent film appearance was in Harold Becker’s “City Hall.”
Throughout his life, he worked for the cause of civil rights, marching in the South with Martin Luther King Jr., joined by Marlon Brando and Robert Culp.
He was married to Winters from 1957 to 1960 and two other marriages ended in divorce.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Rita; daughter, Nina; sons, Marco and Christopher, an actor; and a granddaughter.
Donations may be made to the non-profit organic farm organization, Soil Born Urban Agriculture Center.