Franken, Rose Dorothy Lewin (1895–1988)

By: Sherilyn Brandenstein

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Rose Lewin Franken, author and playwright, was born on December 28, 1895, in Gainesville, Texas, the youngest child of Michael and Hannah (Younker) Lewin. She was educated there until age twelve, when she moved with her mother and siblings to New York. She attended New York's Ethical Culture School, but did not graduate. In 1914 Lewin married Dr. Sigmund W. A. Franken, an oral surgeon. She began writing to amuse Franken, and he encouraged her efforts. At first she wrote short stories for newspapers and popular magazines. She had three sons, born in 1920, 1925, and 1928. She continued writing while raising the children (she was assisted by a housekeeper). The noted editor Maxwell Perkins of Charles Scribner's and Sons arranged the publication of her first novel, Pattern, in 1925. Twice Born, her second, followed in 1926. Franken's first play, Another Language, met with immediate success in 1932, running for more than 450 performances and setting a Broadway record for a first play. In December 1932, soon after the play opened in London, Sigmund Franken died of tuberculosis. Rose Franken moved her family to Hollywood, and between 1932 and 1941 she turned out stories, film scripts, and novels. The 1933 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film Another Language, based on her play, starred the young Helen Hayes. United Artists obtained a Franken script for the studio's 1936 movie Beloved Enemy. Her books included Of Great Riches (1937), Strange Victory (1939), Claudia: The Story of A Marriage (1939), and When Doctors Disagree (1940). In 1937 Franken married writer and attorney William Brown Meloney, Jr. They returned to New York and continued writing, both individually and collaboratively, for magazines, including Harper's Bazaar and Collier's. They sometimes wrote together under the pseudonym Franken Meloney. From her novel Claudia and a Redbook Magazine serial story, "Claudia and David," Franken developed a play, a radio series, and two films. In 1941 she directed the play Claudia, starring Dorothy McGuire, in its first Broadway run. The story of a naive young wife's maturing, Claudia had a total of 722 New York performances. Franken sold the screen adaptation to 20th Century Fox for $187,500, an enormous amount at the time, on the condition that the producer keep McGuire in the leading role. This 1943 film, also titled Claudia, led to Franken's screenplay for Claudia and David, a 1946 sequel from 20th Century Fox. She also wrote the script for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Secret Heart (1946).

While overseeing British, Australian, and American touring productions of the play Claudia, Franken wrote the novel Another Claudia (1943). Young Claudia was completed in 1946, The Marriage of Claudia in 1948, and From Claudia to David in 1949. Two more Claudia novels followed in 1952, and Doubleday and Company released an omnibus edition, The Complete Book of Claudia, in 1958. Like most of Franken's stories, the Claudia series explored the challenges and delights of family relationships that foster personal growth. Franken wrote and directed two additional commercially successful plays, both produced by Meloney. Outrageous Fortune, a psychological drama, opened on Broadway in 1943. It was soon followed by Soldier's Wife, which concerned a family's adjustments after wartime separation. Meloney and Franken encountered little enthusiasm for a 1944 stage adaptation of her 1940 novel, retitled Doctors Disagree, nor for The Hallams, a 1948 sequel to Another Language. In January 1953, NBC-TV premiered a series based on Claudia: The Story of a Marriage, but it was dropped three months later. Returning to the novel form, Franken wrote Rendezvous, published in 1954 and sold in the United Kingdom under the title The Quiet Heart. After another novel, Intimate Story, was published in 1955, her writing pace slowed. She and Meloney spent more time at their Connecticut mountain home and eventually retreated from New York entirely. In 1963 Doubleday published her autobiography, When All Is Said and Done. Three years later she completed a whimsical novelette, You're Well Out of the Hospital. William Meloney died in 1970. Franken returned to New York and wrote another play, but never saw it produced. Although she continued to write, the changing tastes of audiences caused editors and producers to reject most of her manuscripts after the 1960s. Discouraged, she spent her last years organizing her papers and tending to family affairs. In 1984 she moved to Tucson, Arizona, where her youngest son lived. Franken died in Tucson on June 22, 1988.

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New York Times, June 24, 1988. Alice M. Robinson et al., Notable Women in the American Theatre: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989). Who's Who 1986 (London: A&C Black).
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Screenwriters
  • Women
  • Authors and Writers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sherilyn Brandenstein, “Franken, Rose Dorothy Lewin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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