Hollywood beckoned and in 1957 he had roles in four prominent features: a nightclub owner in "This Could Be the Night", an unethical personal manager in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd", a hired man who falls for his boss' wife in "Wild Is the Wind" and recreating his stage triumph in Fred Zinnemann's film version of "A Hatful of Rain", for which he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination. The actor was miscast as a weak Southerner in "The Long Hot Summer" (1958) but delivered a strong portrayal of a struggling actor in "Career" (1959).
Franciosa was a member of The Actors Studio and belonged to a generation of intense Italian-American actors (e.g., Ben Gazzara, Harry Guardino) who came along too early to become movie stars in the way Al Pacino and Robert De Niro did some fifteen years later. Franciosa had a good role as an alcoholic defense attorney defending a woman (Rita Hayworth) and her lover (Gig Young) accused of murder in Clifford Odets' "Story on Page One" (1960) and nearly stole "Rio Conchos" (1964), taking on Richard Boone. He also had a good shot with "Across 110th Street" (1972), but most of his films of the 60s and, to a lesser extent, the 70s, were either standard action fare or films which spotlighted major stars. Franciosa landed his first major film role in 20 years as a Mafia don in Harold Becker's "City Hall" (1996).
The actor's good-humored and sexy but sometimes flashy and explosive personality made him ideal for devil-may-care heroes on several TV series. Both "Valentine's Day" (ABC, 1964-1965), in which he was a suave publishing executive, and "Matt Helm" (ABC, 1975-1976), which was too derivative, were short-lived. Franciosa is perhaps better recalled for his turn as an investigative reporter in "The Name of the Game" (NBC, 1968-71) and as a security agent in "Search" (NBC, 1972-73). He returned to series in "Finder of Lost Loves" (ABC, 1984-85), which saw the actor playing a wealthy widower who helped people track down their former lovers (before daytime talk shows began doing the same thing). Franciosa has also starred in numerous TV-movies like "Deadly Hunt" (CBS, 1971), as a man caught in a forest fire while being chased by two assassins, and "Earth II" (ABC, 1971), wherein he headed a futuristic space station. More frequently, he was cast as mobsters, albeit with a veneer of class, as in "Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife" (NBC, 1987).
Over his career, he has been billed as both 'Anthony' and 'Tony'. Franciosa was married to actress Shelley Winters from 1957 to 1960.