Born in New York City to Italian-American parents, raised by his mother and aunt, Franciosa was his mother's maiden name (see ).
When he reprised his role in the film version in 1957, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He followed that with roles in several major films, including Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, Career with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine, The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Orson Welles, Period of Adjustment with Jane Fonda, The Pleasure Seekers with Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley, The Drowning Pool with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Rio Conchos with Richard Boone and Stuart Whitman.
Eager to act in any medium, he became a series lead in Valentine's Day, The Name of the Game (and its pilot TV-movie Fame Is the Name of the Game), and Matt Helm. In the 1980s he starred in the Aaron Spelling produced series "Finder of Lost Loves".
During his career, his behavior on movie productions became the subject of Hollywood gossip. The stories alleged fiery disputes with directors, sulking in his dressing room, and outbursts with other actors.
His first wife, Beatrice Bakalyar, was a writer. They were married for five years from 1952 to 1957. The marriage ended in divorce.
His third wife, the former Judith Balaban, is the author of the book "The Bridesmaids," about her friend Princess Grace of Monaco, in whose wedding she served as a bridesmaid. This marriage produced Franciosa's only daughter, Nina.
His last wife (from November 27, 1970 until his death in 2006) was Rita Theil, by whom he had two sons, Marco and Christopher. Christopher Franciosa is an actor. Marco Franciosa is an organic farmer.
During his later years, Tony lived in Brentwood, a district in West Los Angeles.
Tony, reflecting about Rita's influence on him, said; "It took years of therapy and simply Iiving through things to finally accept and enjoy myself. My wife Rita's influence has been profound in that process. Her family was a product of The Great Disaster -- World War II. She emerged from the flames with a remarkable buoyancy. Each day she rises with an optimism, a serenity toward life that is certainly contagious. Does that sound romantic? If so, so be it." Source: TV Heaven
Several times throughout the "Space Travelers" episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel or one of the robots mentions the star of that week's movie, James Franciscus. As a running joke, another character always asks if he was the "finder of lost loves", and is quickly corrected "No, that was Tony Franciosa".