Anthony Franciosa was a talented and charismatic actor who rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s with his intense and realistic performances in movies and TV shows. He was nominated for an Oscar, a Tony, and a Golden Globe for his roles in A Hatful of Rain, The Long, Hot Summer, and Career. He also starred in several popular TV series, such as The Name of the Game, Search, and Matt Helm. However, his career was also marred by his temperamental and combative behavior, which led to conflicts with directors, producers, and co-stars. He was fired from some of his projects and had trouble finding steady work in Hollywood. He died of a stroke at the age of 77 in 2006. Here is a closer look at Anthony Franciosa’s cause of death and his life story.
Early Life and Career
Anthony Franciosa was born as Anthony George Papaleo on October 25, 1928, in the Little Italy district of New York City. His parents were Italian immigrants who separated when he was one year old. He was raised by his mother and aunt, who changed his surname to Franciosa. He had a difficult childhood and worked various odd jobs to support himself. He became interested in acting after taking free dancing lessons at the YMCA and joining a local theater group. He studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop and the Actors Studio, where he learned the method acting technique that would influence his style.
He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in End as a Man, a play about military school cadets. He gained critical acclaim for his role as the brother of a drug addict in A Hatful of Rain, which earned him a Tony nomination in 1956. He reprised his role in the film adaptation in 1957, which won him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
He moved to Hollywood and appeared in several high-profile films, such as A Face in the Crowd (1957), directed by Elia Kazan; The Long, Hot Summer (1958), co-starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; The Naked Maja (1959), playing the painter Francisco Goya; and Period of Adjustment (1962), based on a Tennessee Williams play. He also changed his name from Anthony to Tony to appear more friendly and approachable.
Personal Life and Controversies
Anthony Franciosa was married four times and had three children. His first wife was Beatrice Bakalyar, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1957. His second wife was actress Shelley Winters, whom he married in 1957 and divorced in 1960. They had one daughter, Vittoria Gina Gassman (born Pia Ann Rose Papaleo), who later became an actress. His third wife was Judy Balaban, the daughter of Paramount Pictures head Barney Balaban, whom he married in 1961 and divorced in 1967. They had two sons, Marco Franciosa (born Mark Anthony Papaleo) and Christopher Franciosa (born Christopher Michael Papaleo). His fourth wife was Rita Thiel, a German fashion model, whom he married in 1970 and remained with until his death.
Anthony Franciosa had a reputation for being difficult to work with on set. He often clashed with directors, producers, and co-stars over creative differences or personal issues. He was fired from The Name of the Game after punching a photographer who intruded on his privacy. He also had physical altercations with actors such as Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Glenn Ford, and Frank Sinatra. He was banned from working at MGM after throwing a chair at director Vincente Minnelli during the filming of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962). He later apologized for his behavior and blamed it on his insecurity and perfectionism.
Later Career and Death
Anthony Franciosa’s career declined in the 1970s and 1980s as he struggled to find quality roles in Hollywood. He turned to television and starred in several series, such as Search (1972-73), Matt Helm (1975-76), Finder of Lost Loves (1984), and The Family Man (1990-91). He also acted in European films, such as The Cricket (1980), an erotic drama; Tenebrae (1982), a horror film directed by Dario Argento; and Across the Line (2000), his last film.
Anthony Franciosa suffered from heart problems throughout his life. He had a heart attack in 1980 and underwent bypass surgery in 1981. He had another heart attack in 2005 while attending an event honoring Shelley Winters, who died shortly after. On January 19, 2006, he had a massive stroke at his home in Los Angeles and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center, where he died later that day. He was 77 years old. He was survived by his wife, Rita, his three children, and his grandchildren. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Anthony Franciosa was a talented and charismatic actor who left a lasting impression on the audiences and critics with his intense and realistic performances. He was also a troubled and turbulent personality who had a difficult life and career. He died of a stroke, which was Anthony Franciosa’s cause of death, in 2006. He will be remembered as one of the stars of the golden age of Hollywood.