Geena Davis was born January 21, 1956 in Wareham, Massachusetts, to Lucille (née Cook; 1919-2001), a teacher's assistant, and William F. Davis (1913-2009), a church deacon and civil engineer. Her parents, originally from small towns in Vermont, were both from families with deep roots in New England. Her brother, Danforth, is a geotechnical engineer in Las Vegas.
As a child, Geena dreamed of being an actress. While in high school, she felt left out and had low self-esteem because, at 6 feet, she was the tallest girl in school. After high school graduation, Geena entered New England College in New Hampshire and then transferred the next year to Boston University, where she majored in drama. In 1979, she graduated and moved to New York to start her career. Her career consisted of sales clerk and waitress. She worked at Ann Taylor, where she eventually rose to Saturday window mannequin while trying to get a job with a modeling agency. Eventually signed by the Zoli Agency, she wound up as a model in the Victoria Secret's Catalogue. Ever vigilant, Sydney Pollack was looking for new talent in the catalog when he spotted Geena and cast her in Tootsie. With good reviews, Geena moved to Los Angeles where she was cast as Wendy in the short-lived but critically acclaimed television series Buffalo Bill. That same year she was divorced from restaurateur Richard Emmolo, after a brief marriage. Her next appearance on television was in her own series Sara, which was also good, but soon canceled.
Geena then returned to the big screen in the below-average Transylvania 6-5000 followed by the successful Chevy Chase movie Fletch. From there on, she was on a roll with second husband Jeff Goldblum in the horror remake The Fly. More successful were Tim Burton's dark comedy Beetlejuice and The Accidental Tourist. For the last film, she was the surprise winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. More fun movies followed with the flying-saucer-in-the-pool Earth Girls Are Easy and everyone-loves-a-clown Quick Change with Bill Murray. The very successful Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott, again garnered nominations for the Academy Award and Golden Globe. A League of Their Own, with Tom Hanks and directed by Penny Marshall, was the turning point as her next film, Hero, was only average. Then she married director Renny Harlin and they set up a production and development company called "The Forge". Their first film was Speechless, which flopped at the box office.
Undeterred, Renny decided to film the big-budget Cutthroat Island, starring Geena as pirate leader Morgan, which also flopped. Geena has since starred in the thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight and played Eleanor Little in Stuart Little and Stuart Little 2. Since 2001 she has been married to her fourth husband, plastic surgeon Reza Jarrahy, and they have three children. In 2008, after being missed from the big screen for some years, Geena ventured to Sydney, Australia, playing the foul-mouthed mother of Harry Cook and Harrison Gilbertson to shoot the dark comedy Accidents Happen.
Charlie Chaplin, considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular "Little Tramp" character; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk.
Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in Walworth, London, England on April 16th, 1889, to Hannah Harriet Pedlingham (Hill) and Charles Chaplin, both music hall performers, who were married on June 22nd, 1885. After Charles Sr. separated from Hannah to perform in New York City, Hannah then tried to resurrect her stage career. Unfortunately, her singing voice had a tendency to break at unexpected moments. When this happened, the stage manager spotted young Charlie standing in the wings and led him on stage, where five-year-old Charlie began to sing a popular tune. Charlie and his half-brother, Syd Chaplin spent their lives in and out of charity homes and workhouses between their mother's bouts of insanity. Hannah was committed to Cane Hill Asylum in May of 1903 and lived there until 1921, when Chaplin moved her to California.
Chaplin began his official acting career at the age of eight, touring with The Eight Lancashire Lads. At 18 he began touring with Fred Karno's vaudeville troupe, joining them on the troupe's 1910 US tour. He traveled west to California in December 1913 and signed on with Keystone Studios' popular comedy director Mack Sennett, who had seen Chaplin perform on stage in New York. Charlie soon wrote his brother Syd, asking him to become his manager. While at Keystone, Chaplin appeared in and directed 35 films, starring as the Little Tramp in nearly all.
In November 1914, he left Keystone and signed on at Essanay, where he made 15 films. In 1916, he signed on at Mutual and made 12 films. In June 1917, Chaplin signed up with First National Studios, after which he built Chaplin Studios. In 1919 he and Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith formed United Artists (UA).
Chaplin's life and career was full of scandal and controversy. His first big scandal was during World War I, during which time his loyalty to England, his home country, was questioned. He had never applied for US citizenship, but claimed that he was a "paying visitor" to the United States. Many British citizens called Chaplin a coward and a slacker. This and his other career eccentricities sparked suspicion with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Council (HUAC), who believed that he was injecting Communist propaganda into his films. Chaplin's later film The Great Dictator, which was his first "talkie", also created a stir. In the film Chaplin plays a humorous caricature of Adolf Hitler. Some thought the film was poorly done and in bad taste. However it grossed over $5 million and earned five Academy Award Nominations.
Another scandal occurred when Chaplin briefly dated 22-year-old Joan Barry. However Chaplin's relationship with Barry came to an end in 1942, after a series of harassing actions from her. In May of 1943 Barry returned to inform Chaplin that she was pregnant and filed a paternity suit, claiming that the unborn child was his. During the 1944 trial blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father, but at the time blood tests were inadmissible evidence and he was ordered to pay $75 a week until the child turned 21.
Chaplin was also scrutinized for his support in aiding the Russian struggle against the invading Nazis during World War II, and the U.S. government questioned his moral and political views, suspecting him of having Communist ties. For this reason HUAC subpoenaed him in 1947. However HUAC finally decided that it was no longer necessary for him to appear for testimony. Conversely, when Chaplin and his family traveled to London for the premier of Limelight, he was denied re-entry to the United States. In reality, the government had almost no evidence to prove that he was a threat to national security. He and his wife decided, instead, to settle in Switzerland.
Chaplin was married four times and had a total of 11 children. In 1918 he wed Mildred Harrisand they had a son together, Norman Spencer Chaplin, who only lived three days. Chaplin and Mildred were divorced in 1920. He married Lita Grey in 1924, who had two sons, Charles Chaplin Jr. and Sydney Chaplin. They were divorced in 1927. In 1936, Chaplin married Paulette Goddard and his final marriage was to Oona O'Neill (Oona Chaplin), daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1943. Oona gave birth to eight children: Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin, Eugene, Jane, Annette-Emilie and Christopher Chaplin.
In contrast to many of his boisterous characters, Chaplin was a quiet man who kept to himself a lot. He also had an "un-millionaire" way of living. Even after he had accumulated millions, he continued to live in shabby accommodations. In 1921 Chaplin was decorated by the French government for his outstanding work as a filmmaker, and was elevated to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1952. In 1972 he was honored with an Academy Award for his "incalculable effect in making motion pictures the art form of the century." He was created Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1975 New Year's Honours List. No formal reason for the honour was listed. The citation simply reads "Charles Spencer CHAPLIN, Film Actor and Producer".
Chaplin's other works included musical scores he composed for many of his films. He also authored two autobiographical books, "My Autobiography" in 1964 and its companion volume, "My Life in Pictures" in 1974.
Chaplin died of natural causes on December 25, 1977 at his home in Switzerland. In 1978 Chaplin's corpse was stolen from its grave and was not recovered for three months; he was re-buried in a vault surrounded by cement.
Charlie Chaplin was considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema, whose movies were and still are popular throughout the world, and have even gained notoriety as time progresses. His films show, through the Little Tramp's positive outlook on life in a world full of chaos, that the human spirit has and always will remain the same.
John Gilbert was born into a show-business family - his father was a comic with the Pringle Stock Company. By 1915 John was an extra with Thomas H. Ince's company and a lead player by 1917. In those days he was assistant director, actor or screenwriter. He also tried his hand at directing. By 1919 he was being noticed in films and getting better roles. In 1921 he signed a three-year contract with Fox Films. His popularity continued to soar and he was turning from villain to leading man. In 1924 he signed with MGM which put him into His Hour. In 1925 he appeared in the very successful The Big Parade and was, by now, as popular as Rudolph Valentino. Lillian Gish, who had a new contract with MGM, picked Gilbert to co-star with her in La Bohème. With the death of Valentino, his only competition, John was on top of the world. Then came Greta Garbo, who starred with him in Love, Flesh and the Devil and A Woman of Affairs. The screen chemistry between these two was incredible and led to a torrid off-screen affair. The studio publicity department worked overtime to publicize the romance between the two, but when it came time to marry, John was left at the altar. His performances after that were devoid of the sparkle that he once had and he began to drink heavily. Added to that, the whole industry was moving towards sound, and while his voice was not as bad as some had thought, it did not match the image that he portrayed on the screen. Even his characters had changed, in such films as Redemption and Way for a Sailor. He was no longer the person that bad things happened to, but he now was the cause of bad things which happen. MGM did little to help John adjust to the new sound medium, as studio chief Louis B. Mayer and Gilbert had a fierce and nasty confrontation over Garbo. John was still under contract to MGM for a very large salary, but the money meant little to him. His contract ran out in 1933 after he appeared in Fast Workers as a riveter.
Garbo tried to restore some of his image when she insisted that he play opposite her in Queen Christina, but by then it was too late. He appeared in only one more film and died of a heart attack in January 1936.
Eva Gabor was born on February 11, 1919 in Budapest, Hungary, to Jolie Gabor (née Janka Tilleman) and Vilmos Gabor (born Farkas Miklós Grün), a soldier. Her older siblings were Eva Gabor, an actress, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, an actress and socialite. Her parents were both from Jewish families. She went to Hollywood, California, to act in the 1930s. Her mother escaped from Nazi-occupied Budapest in the 1940s, also settling in the U.S.
Eva appeared both in films and on Broadway in the 1950s, as well as in several "A"-movies, including The Last Time I Saw Paris, starring Elizabeth Taylor, and Artists and Models, which featured Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
In 1953, she was gives her own television talk show, The Eva Gabor Show. Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, she appeared on television and in movies. She appeared on one episode of the mystery series Justice, and was on the game show What's My Line? as the "mystery challenger". Her film appearances during this period include a remake of My Man Godfrey, Gigi and It Started with a Kiss.
However, she is best remembered as Lisa Douglas, the socialite turned farm wife on Green Acres with co-star Eddie Albert playing her attorney husband Oliver Wendell Douglas. Eva Gabor died at age 76 from respiratory failure and pneumonia and July 4, 1995 in Los Angeles, California.
Jack Palance exemplified evil incarnate on film -- portraying some of the most intensely despised villains witnessed in 50s westerns and melodrama. He received two Best Supporting Actor nominations early in his career, but it would take a grizzled, eccentric comic performance 40 years later for him to finally grab the coveted statuette.
Of Ukranian descent, Palance was born Volodymyr Jack Palahniuk on February 18, 1919, in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania coal country, to Anna (Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk. His father, an anthracite miner, died of black lung disease. The sensitive, artistic lad worked in the mines in his early years but averted the same fate as his father. Athletics was his ticket out of the mines when he won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He subsequently dropped out to try his hand at professional boxing. Fighting under the name "Jack Brazzo," he won his first 15 fights, 12 by knockout, before losing a 4th round decision to future heavyweight contender Joe Baksi on Dec. 17, 1940.
With the outbreak of World War II, Palance's boxing career ended and his military career began, serving in the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot. Wounded in combat and suffering severe injuries and burns, he received the purple heart, good conduct medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He resumed college studies as a journalist at Stanford University and became a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also worked for a radio station until the acting bug bit.
Palance made his stage debut in "The Big Two" in 1947 and immediately followed it understudying Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in the groundbreaking Broadway classic "A Streetcar Named Desire," a role he eventually took over. Following stage parts in "Temporary Island" (1948), "The Vigil" (1948) and "The Silver Tassle" (1949), Palance won a choice role in "Darkness of Noon" and also the Theatre World Award for "promising new personality". This recognition helped him secure a 20th Century-Fox contract. The facial burns and resulting reconstructive surgery following the crash and burn of his WWII bomber plane actually worked to the leathery actor's advantage in Hollywood. Hardly possessing the look of a glossy romantic leading man, Palance instead became an archetypal villain equipped with an imposing glare, intimidating stance and killer-shark smile.
He stood out among a powerhouse cast (Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas') in his movie debut in Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, as a plague-carrying fugitive. He was soon on his way. Initially billed as Walter Jack Palance, the actor made fine use of his former boxing skills and war experience for the film Halls of Montezuma as a boxing Marine in Richard Widmark's platoon. Palance followed this with the first of his back-to-back Oscar nods. In Sudden Fear, only his third film, he played rich-and-famous playwright Joan Crawford's struggling actor husband who plots to murder her and run off with gorgeous Gloria Grahame. Finding the right menace and intensity to pretty much steal the proceedings, he followed this with arguably his finest villain of the decade, that of creepy, sadistic gunslinger Jack Wilson who becomes Alan Ladd's biggest nightmare (not to mention others) in the classic western Shane. Their climactic showdown alone is text book.
Throughout the 1950s Palance earned some very good film roles such as those in Man in the Attic (his first lead), The Big Knife and the war classic Attack. Mixed in were a few routine to highly mediocre parts in Flight to Tangier, Sign of the Pagan, in which he played Attila the Hun, and the biblical bomb The Silver Chalice. In between filmmaking were a host of powerful TV roles -- none better than his down-and-out boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight, a rare sympathetic role that earned him an Emmy. Overseas in the 1960s, Palance made a killing in biblical and war epics and in "spaghetti -- The Barbarians, Barabbas [Barabbas], and A Bullet for Rommel [A Bullet for Rommel]. Also included in his 60s foreign work was his participation in the Jean-Luc Godard masterpiece Contempt [Contempt].
On TV, Palance played a number of nefarious nasties to perfection ranging from Dracula to Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Into his twilight years he showed a penchant for brash, quirky comedy capped by his Oscar-winning role in City Slickers, its sequel, and others. He even played Ebenezer Scrooge in a TV-movie incongruously set in the Wild West. Married twice, his three children -- Holly, Brooke and Cody (the last died in 1998 of cancer) -- all dabbled in acting and appeared with their father at one time or another. A man of few words off the set, he owned his own cattle ranch and displayed other creative sides as a exhibited painter and published poet. Jack's last years were marred by failing health and he died at age 87 of natural causes at his daughter Holly's Montecito, California home.
Balding, quietly-spoken, of slight build and possessed of piercing blue eyes -- often peering out from behind round, steel-rimmed glasses -- Donald Pleasence had the necessary physical attributes which make a great screen villain. In the course of his lengthy career, he relished playing the obsessed, the paranoid and the purely evil. Even the Van Helsing-like psychiatrist Sam Loomis in the Halloween franchise seems only marginally more balanced than his prey. An actor of great intensity, Pleasence excelled on stage as Shakespearean villains. He was an unrelenting prosecutor in Jean Anouilh's "Poor Bitos" and made his theatrical reputation in the title role of the seedy, scheming tramp in Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker" (1960). On screen, he gave a perfectly plausible interpretation of the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in The Eagle Has Landed. He was a convincingly devious Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII and His Six Wives, disturbing in his portrayal of the crazed, bloodthirsty preacher Quint in Will Penny; and as sexually depraved, alcohol-sodden 'Doc' Tydon in the brilliant Aussie outback drama Wake in Fright. And, of course, he was Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. These are some of the films, for which we may remember Pleasence, but there was a great deal more to this fabulous, multi-faceted actor.
Donald Henry Pleasence was born on October 5, 1919 in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, to Alice (Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence. His family worked on the railway; his grandfather had been a signal man and both his brother and father were station masters. When Donald failed to get a scholarship at RADA, he joined the family occupation working as a clerk at his father's station before becoming station master at Swinton, Yorkshire. While there he wrote letters to theatre companies eventually being accepted by one on the island of Jersey in Spring 1939 as an assistant stage manager. On the eve of World War II, he made his theatrical debut in "Wuthering Heights". In 1942, he played Curio in "Twelfth Night", but his career was then interrupted by military service in the RAF. He was shot down over France, incarcerated and tortured in a German POW camp. Once repatriated, Donald returned to the stage in Peter Brook's 1946 London production of "The Brothers Karamazov" with Alec Guinness although he missed the opening due to measles, followed by a stint on Broadway with Laurence Olivier's touring company in "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "Anthony and Cleopatra". Upon his return to England, he won critical plaudits for his performance in "Hobson's Choice". In 1952, Donald began his screen career, rather unobtrusively, in small parts. He was only really noticed once having found his métier as dastardly, sneaky Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood. It took several more years, until international recognition came his way: first, through the filmed adaptation of The Guest; and, secondly, with his blind forger in The Great Escape, a role imbued with added conviction due to his own wartime experience.
Some of his best acting Donald reserved for the small screen. In 1962, the producer of The Twilight Zone, Buck Houghton, brought Donald to the United States ('damn the expense'!) to guest star in the third season episode "The Changing of the Guard". He was given a mere five days to immerse himself in the part of a gentle school teacher, Professor Ellis Fowler, who, on the eve of Christmas is forcibly retired after fifty-one years of teaching. Devastated, and believing himself a failure who has made no mark on the world, he is about to commit suicide when the school's bell summons him to his classroom. There, he is confronted by the spirits of deceased students who exhort him to consider that his lessons have had fundamental effects on their lives, even leading to acts of great heroism. Upon hearing this, Fowler is now content to graciously accept his retirement. Managing to avoid maudlin sentimentality, Donald's performance was intuitive and, arguably, one of the most poignant ever accomplished in a thirty-minute television episode. Once again, against type, he was equally delightful as the mild-mannered Reverend Septimus Harding in Anthony Trollope's The Barchester Chronicles. Whether eccentric, sinister or given to pathos, Donald Pleasence was always great value-for-money and his performances have rarely failed to engage.
Gloria Swanson went to public schools in Chicago; Key West, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her film debut was as an extra in The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket. From the following year on, she had leading roles in pictures for Keystone, then a year with Triangle, and, in 1919, a contract with Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille transformed her from a typical Mack Sennett comedienne into a lively, provocative, even predatory, star. She collected husbands (e.g., the indigent Henri de la Falaise) and lovers (e.g., Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy). Kennedy produced her Queen Kelly, directed by Erich von Stroheim (it was von Stroheim's copy of this film that Swanson was watching as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. when she leaped into the projection beam shouting, "Have they forgotten what a star looks like? I'll be up there again, so help me!"--ironic in that the butler-projectionist was, again, von Stroheim). She survived the switch to talkies, even learning how to sing for Music in the Air, but her kinds of films were over with by that time. She returned to the stage in the 1940s ("Reflected Glory," "Let us Be Gay," "A Goose for a Gander"). She was a clothes designer and artist; she founded Essence of Nature Cosmetics; and she made television appearances through the 1960s and 1970s, doing cameos and pushing health foods. She received Best Actress nominations for Sadie Thompson, The Trespasser and Sunset Blvd..
It's ironic that Martin Landau won an Oscar for impersonating Bela Lugosi (in Ed Wood) when Lugosi himself never came within a mile of one, but that's just the latest of many sad ironies surrounding Lugosi's career.
Bela Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó on October 20, 1882, Lugos, Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), to Paula de Vojnich and István Blaskó, a banker. He was the youngest of four children. During WWI, he volunteered and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant, and was wounded three times.
A distinguished stage actor in his native Hungary, Austria-Hungary, he ended up a drug-addicted pauper in Hollywood, thanks largely to typecasting brought about by his most famous role. He began his stage career in 1901 and started appearing in films during World War I, fleeing to Germany in 1919 as a result of his left-wing political activity (he organized an actors' union). In 1920 he emigrated to the US and made a living as a character actor, shooting to fame when he played Count Dracula in the legendary 1927 Broadway stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. It ran for three years, and was subsequently, and memorably, filmed by Tod Browning in 1931, establishing Lugosi as one of the screen's greatest personifications of pure evil. Also in 1931, he became a U.S. citizen. Sadly, his reputation rapidly declined, mainly because he was only too happy to accept any part (and script) handed to him, and ended up playing pathetic parodies of his greatest role, in low-grade poverty row shockers. He ended his career working for the legendary Worst Director of All Time, Edward D. Wood Jr..
Lugosi was married Ilona Szmik (1917 - 1920), Ilona von Montagh (? - ?), and Lillian Arch (1933 - 1951). He is the father of Bela Lugosi Jr. (1938). Lugosi helped organize the Screen Actors Guild in the mid-'30s, joining as member number 28.
Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack August 16, 1956. He was buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions.
He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London, England, the son of Nadezhda Leontievna (Benois) and Iona von Ustinov. His father was of one quarter Polish Jewish, one half Russian, one eighth African Ethiopian, and one eighth German, descent, while his mother was of one half Russian, one quarter Italian, one eighth French, and one eighth German, ancestry. Ustinov had ancestral connections to Russian nobility, as well as to the Ethiopian Royal Family. His father, also known as "Klop", was a pilot in the German Air Force during World War I. In 1919, Peter's father joined his own mother and sister in St. Petersburg, Russia. There he met Peter's mother, artist Nadia Benois, who worked for the Imperial Mariinsky Ballet and Opera House in St. Petersburg. In 1920, in a modest and discrete ceremony at a Russian-German Church in St. Petersburg, Ustinov's father married Nadia. Later, when she was seven months pregnant with Peter, the couple emigrated from Russia, in 1921, in the aftermath of the Communist Revolution.
Young Peter was brought up in a multi-lingual family--he was fluent in Russian, French, Italian and German, and also was a native English speaker. He attended Westminster College in 1934-37, took the drama and acting class under Michel St. Denis at the London Theatre Studio, 1937-39, and made his stage debut in 1938 in a theatre in Surrey. In 1939 he made his London stage debut in a revue sketch, then had regular performances with Aylesbury Repertory Company. In 1940 he made his film debut in Hullo, Fame!.
From 1942-46 Ustinov served as a private soldier with the British Army's Royal Sussex Regiment. He was batman for David Niven and the two became lifelong friends. Ustinov spent most of his service working with the Army Cinema Unit, where he was involved in making recruitment films, wrote plays and appeared in three films as an actor. At that time he wrote and directed The Way Ahead (aka "The Immortal Battalion").
Ustinov had a stellar film career as actor, director and writer, appearing in more than 100 film and television productions. He was awarded two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor--one for his role in Spartacus and one for his role in Topkapi--and received two more Oscar nominations as an actor and writer. His career slowed down a bit in the 1970s, but he made a comeback as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile by director John Guillermin. In the 1980s Ustinov reprized the Poirot role in several subsequent television movies and theatrical films, such as Evil Under the Sun and Appointment with Death. Later he appeared as a sympathetic doctor in the disease thriller Lorenzo's Oil.
Ustinov's effortless style and his expertise in dialectic and physical comedy made him a regular guest of talk shows and late night comedians. His witty and multi-dimensional humor was legendary, and he later published a collection of his jokes and quotations, summarizing his wide popularity as a raconteur. He was also an internationally acclaimed TV journalist. Ustinov covered over 100,000 miles and visited more than 30 Russian cities during the making of his well-received BBC television series Russia.
In his autobiographical books, such as "Dear Me" (1977) and "My Russia" (1996), Ustinov revealed a wealth of thoughtful and deep observations about how his life and career was formed by his rich multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background. He wrote and directed numerous stage plays, having success presenting his plays in several countries. His autobiographical play "Photo Finish" was staged in New York, London and St. Petersburg, Russia, where Ustinov directed the acclaimed production starring Elena Solovey and Petr Shelokhonov.
Outside of his acting and writing professions, Ustinov served as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and president of WFM, a global citizens movement. He was knighted Sir Peter Ustinov in 1990. From 1971 to his death in 2004, Ustinov lived in a château in the village of Bursins, Vaud, Switzerland, He died of heart failure on March 28, 2004, in a clinic in Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland. His funeral service was held at Geneva's historic cathedral of St. Pierre, and he was laid to rest in the village cemetery of Bursins, Switzerland. He was survived by three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, and Andrea, and son, Igor Ustinov.
"I am an international citizen conceived in Russia, born in England, working in Hollywood, living in Switzerland, and touring the World" said Peter Ustinov.
Alan Young was born in Northern England in 1919, but his Scots father moved the family to Edinburgh, Scotland, when Young was a toddler and then to Canada when Young was about 6 years old. As a boy, he suffered from severe asthma, which kept him bedridden for long periods of time but encouraged his love of radio. By age 13, Young had become a radio performer, and by age 17, he was writing and performing in his own radio show for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The show was broadcast in the U.S. and led to an invitation to New York, initiating Young's career as an "All-American boy," despite his non-American origins and a vestigial Scots accent. He became popular on American radio from 1944 to 1949 with his "Alan Young Radio Show," but when radio began to lose its popularity and his show was canceled, Young decided to put together a comedy act and tour the U.S. theater circuit. After this experience, he wrote a television pilot for CBS in 1950, which resulted in The Alan Young Show. The show was a well-received live revue that ran for 3 years, earned a couple of Emmy Awards, and garnered Young a star on the "Walk of Fame." However, the strain of writing and performing a weekly show got to Young, and the quality of the show declined, leading to his departure from the show and its cancellation. In the meantime, based on his popularity on radio and television, Young had established a film career, starting with his debut in Margie followed by Chicken Every Sunday, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, Androcles and the Lion, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Tom Thumb, and The Time Machine.
In the early 1960s, Young landed his best-known role, Wilbur Post, in the popular television series Mister Ed, which ran for 5 years. Since then, Young has made a number of television and film appearances but is known primarily for his voice characterizations in cartoons, especially as Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales.
He was the Errol Flynn and Clark Gable of "golden age" movie musicals back in the 1950s. With a barrel-chested swagger and cocky, confident air, not to mention his lusty handsomeness and obvious athleticism, 6'4" brawny baritone Howard Keel had MGM's loveliest songbirds swooning helplessly for over a decade in what were some of the finest musical films ever produced.
Born Harold Clifford Keel in Gillespie, IL, in 1919, his childhood was admittedly unhappy, his father being a hard-drinking coal miner and his mother a stern, repressed Methodist homemaker. When Keel was 11 his father died, and the family moved to California. He later earned his living as a car mechanic, then found work during WWII at Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles. His naturally untrained voice was discovered by the staff of his aircraft company and soon he was performing at various entertainments for the company's clients. He was inspired to sing professionally one day while attending a Hollywood Bowl concert, and quickly advanced through the musical ranks from singing waiter to music festival contest winner to guest recitalist.
Oscar Hammerstein II "discovered" Keel in 1946 during John Raitt's understudy auditions for the role of Billy Bigelow in Broadway's popular musical "Carousel." He was cast on sight and the die was cast. Keel managed to understudy Alfred Drake as Curly in "Oklahoma!" as well, and in 1947 took over the rustic lead in the London production, earning great success. British audiences took to the charismatic singer and he remained there as a concertist while making a non-singing film debut in the British crime drama The Hideout (aka "Hideout").
MGM was looking for an answer to Warner Bros.' Gordon MacRae when they came upon Keel in England. They made a great pitch for him and he returned to the US, changing his stage moniker to Howard Keel. He became a star with his very first role, playing sharpshooter Frank Butler opposite brassy Betty Hutton's Annie Oakley in the film version of the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun. From then on Keel would be showcased in several of MGM's biggest and most classic extravaganzas, with Show Boat, Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate and (his favorite) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the top of the list. Kismet opposite Ann Blyth would be his last, as the passion for movie musicals ran its course.
The robust musical star also managed to move effortlessly into rugged (if routine) action fare, appearing in such 1960s films as Armored Command, Waco, Red Tomahawk and The War Wagon, the last one starring John Wayne and featuring Keel as a wisecracking Indian, of all things. In the 1970s Keel kept his singing voice alive by returning full force to his musical roots. Some of his summer stock and touring productions, which included "Camelot," "South Pacific," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Man of La Mancha," and "Show Boat," often reunited him with his former MGM leading ladies, including Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell. He also worked up a Las Vegas nightclub act Ms. with Grayson in the 1970s.
Keel became an unexpected TV household name when he replaced Jim Davis as the upstanding family patriarch of the nighttime soap drama Dallas after Davis' untimely death. As Clayton Farlow, Miss Ellie's second husband, he enjoyed a decade of steady work. In later years he continued to appear in concerts. As a result of this renewed fame on TV, Keel landed his first solo recording contract with "And I Love You So" in 1983. Married three times, he died in 2004 of colon cancer, survived by his third wife, three daughters and one son.
Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, where Basil and his two younger siblings, Beatrice and John, were raised. Their mother, Anna Barbara (George), was a violinist, who was born in Grahamstown, South Africa, of British parents, and their father, Edgar Philip Rathbone, was a mining engineer born in Liverpool. From 1906 to 1910 Rathbone attended Repton School, where he was more interested in sports--especially fencing, at which he excelled--than studies, but where he also discovered his interest in the theater. After graduation he planned to pursue acting as a profession, but his father disapproved and suggested that his son try working in business for a year, hoping he would forget about acting. Rathbone accepted his father's suggestion and worked as a clerk for an insurance company--for exactly one year. Then he contacted his cousin Frank Benson, an actor managing a Shakespearean troupe in Stratford-on-Avon.
Rathbone was hired as an actor on the condition that he work his way through the ranks, which he did quite rapidly. Starting in bit parts in 1911, he was playing juvenile leads within two years. In 1915 his career was interrupted by the First World War. During his military service, as a second lieutenant in the Liverpool Scottish 2nd Battalion, he worked in intelligence and received the Military Cross for bravery. In 1919, released from military service, he returned to Stratford-on-Avon and continued with Shakespeare but after a year moved onto the London stage. The year after that he made his first appearance on Broadway and his film debut in the silent Innocent.
For the remainder of the decade Rathbone alternated between the London and New York stages and occasional appearances in films. In 1929 he co-wrote and starred as the title character in a short-running Broadway play called "Judas". Soon afterwards he abandoned his first love, the theater, for a film career. During the 1920s his roles had evolved from the romantic lead to the suave lady-killer to the sinister villain (usually wielding a sword), and Hollywood put him to good use during the 1930s in numerous costume romps, including Captain Blood, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Karenina, The Last Days of Pompeii, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Tower of London, The Mark of Zorro and others. Rathbone earned two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and as King Louis XI in If I Were King.
However, it was in 1939 that Rathbone played his best-known and most popular character, Sherlock Holmes, with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, first in The Hound of the Baskervilles and then in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which were followed by 12 more films and numerous radio broadcasts over the next seven years.
Feeling that his identification with the character was killing his film career, Rathbone went back to New York and the stage in 1946. The next year he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Dr. Sloper in the Broadway play "The Heiress," but afterwards found little rewarding stage work. Nevertheless, during the last two decades of his life, Rathbone was a very busy actor, appearing on numerous television shows, primarily drama, variety and game shows; in occasional films, such as Casanova's Big Night, The Court Jester, Tales of Terror and The Comedy of Terrors; and in his own one-man show, "An Evening with Basil Rathbone", with which he toured the U.S.
Blustery, stocky, loud although often genial character actor who has created a niche for himself playing often frustrated and fast talking Southern characters... most noticeably as Sheriff J.W. Pepper alongside Roger Moore in the James Bond spy adventure Live and Let Die, plus his character returned to assist 007 again in The Man with the Golden Gun.
He may have perfected a Southern drawl, however Clifton James was actually born on May 29, 1921 in Spokane, Washington, a graduate of the Actors Studio and was regularly appearing in guest roles on 1950s-60s television series including Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Virginian. He was also busy in the cinema with minor roles in classy productions, such as Cool Hand Luke, Will Penny and The New Centurions. After his 007 escapades, James remained busy putting in a great dramatic performance in The Deadly Tower, played another loud-mouthed Sheriff in the action comedy Silver Streak and was superb as team owner Charles Comiskey in the dramatization of the 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal, Eight Men Out.
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club. After high school, he continued his interest in acting by attending Manhattan's progressive New School. When World War II broke out, Martin was called to service in his early twenties. After the war, he was lucky to secure a position as an usher at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. By 1947, he was honing his craft at the Actors Studio, run at that time by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. His time at the Actors Studio in New York City allowed him training in the famous Stanislavsky method. Despite his excellent training, he had to prove himself, just like any up and coming young actor. He began on Broadway in the late 1940s. But, it was not until 1951 that he experienced real success. That play was Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo". After his Broadway success, he had a few minor television roles before his big break arrived when he joined the cast of On the Waterfront. In the 1950s, Martin had many television roles. He had recurring roles on some of the most popular television series of that time, including The United States Steel Hour, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Goodyear Playhouse and Studio One in Hollywood. In 1957, he was able to prove himself on the big-screen once again, with a prominent role in 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda. All of Martin's television work in the 1950s did not go to waste. While starring on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hitchcock was so impressed by his work, that he offered him a key supporting role of Detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho. His work with Hitchcock opened him up to a world of other acting opportunities. Many strong movie roles came his way in the 1960s, including parts in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Cape Fear and The Carpetbaggers. One of the proudest moments in his life was when he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Thousand Clowns. It was soon after that he began accepting roles in European movies. He soon developed a love for Italy, and lived there most of his remaining years. He acted in over a dozen Italian movies and spent his later life traveling between Hollywood and Europe for his many roles. After a career that spanned more than fifty years, Martin Balsam died of natural causes in his beloved Italy at age 76. He passed away of a heart attack at a hotel in Rome called Residenza di Repetta. He was survived by his third wife Irene Miller and three children, Adam, Zoe and Talia.
One of the world's most underrated Academy Award-winning actresses, Jennifer Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on 2 March 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Flora Mae (Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley, who ran a travelling stage show. As a young aspiring actress, she met and fell for young aspiring actor Robert Walker and they soon married, moving to Chicago in order to fufill their dreams of becoming movie stars. When their plans fell through, Phyllis began working as a model, sporting mainly hats, gloves and jewellery, as well as occasionally finding some work on local radio stations providing her voice to various characters in radio programmes along with her husband.
In a last-ditch attempt to pursue her dream, Phyllis travelled to the Selznick studios for a reading that would ultimately change her life. It was that day that she met David O. Selznick and after that particular audition her career began to take shape. Initially, Phyllis thought that the audition had went terribly and stormed out of the studios in tears, only to be chased by Selznick who assured her that she had been fine. Although she wasn't given that particular part, Phyllis was given a contract with Selznick studios, changing her name to Jennifer Jones, and was cast over thousands of other hopefuls in the role of Bernadette Soubirous in The Song of Bernadette. For her innocent, sweet and moving portrayal of the sickly teenager who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes and devotes her life to her by becoming a nun and then ultimately dies of bone cancer, Jones won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role on 2 March 1944 - coincidentally her 25th birthday - beating out stiff competition such as Ingrid Bergman (who later became a close friend of hers), Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine and Jean Arthur.
Now a Hollywood star, Jones' career was marked out and molded for her by Selznick, who would become the love of her life. They began an affair and eventually she left her husband and two sons for the producer that inevitably led Walker to his untimely death through alcohol and drug abuse, instigated due to their separation. As for her career, Jones took on the supporting role of Jane Hilton, a headstrong teenage girl who in the end grows up fast when her fiance is killed in action during WWII, in Since You Went Away. For her performance Jones received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, losing out to Ethel Barrymore for None But the Lonely Heart. Jennifer continued to deliver strong performances, receiving further Best Actress Oscar nominations for Love Letters (she lost out to Joan Crawford for Mildred Pierce) and Duel in the Sun, (she lost out to Olivia de Havilland for To Each His Own) which saw her cast against type as seductive half-breed Pearl Chavez.
Throughout the remainder of the 1940s Jones continued to produce memorable performances, such as in Portrait of Jennie, which carried her into the 1950s and saw her receive her fifth and final Oscar nomination for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, losing out to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo. However, despite her obvious success within the film industry Jones was a very private person and managed to stay out of the spotlight which dominated so many other actresses of the time. As a result Jones began to become less and less noticed, which increased further when Selznick died in 1965. Films roles began to appear less and less and after a moderately successful supporting performance in The Towering Inferno Jones decided to make this her swansong and bowed out of the film industry. She did, however, try to revive her film career in later years by campaigning for the role of Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment, but Shirley MacLaine was cast instead and as a result won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance.
Jennifer Jones died December 17, 2009, in Malibu, California. In the 21st century, Jones is relatively unknown in comparison to the other actresses of her time such as Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Greer Garson, Bette Davis etc. But for those that are aware of her and her extraordinary talent, she is alluring to watch and her acting abilities extended far greater than most of her contemporaries.
Paul Fix, the well-known movie and TV character actor who played "Marshal Micah Torrance" on the TV series The Rifleman, was born Peter Paul Fix on March 13, 1901 in Dobbs Ferry, New York to brew-master Wilhelm Fix and his wife, the former Louise C. Walz. His mother and father were German immigrants who had left their Black Forest home and arrived in New York City in the 1870s. (The name "Fix" is of Latin/Germanic origin, and is derived from St. Vitus and means "animated" or "vital").
Besides Peter Paul, the Fix family consisted of two girls and three boys, the youngest of whom was six years older than the future actor. Peter Paul's childhood was a happy one. He and his family lived on the 200-acre property on which the Manilla Anchor Brewery, where his father was brew-master, was situated. Such was the importance of Fix to the brewery that when he died at the age of 62 on the eve of America's entry into the First World War (two years after his 54-year old wife had died), the brewery closed.
The orphaned Peter Paul, who kept to himself a lot and had a vivid imagination, was sent to live with his married sisters, first one who lived nearby in Yonkers, and then to another in Zanesville, Ohio. The just-turned-17-year-old Peter Paul Fix joined the U.S. Navy on March 12, 1918, and spent his state-side service time during World War I in Newport, Rhode Island and Charleston, South Carolina. He first tread the boards as an actor while a sailor stationed in Newport, when the baby-faced salt (who looked much younger than his age) was one of six gobs chosen to play female roles in the Navy Relief Show "HMS Pinafore". The Navy staging of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was a big hit and chalked up a run of several weeks in Providence and Boston.
Fix was assigned as an able-bodied seaman to the troopship U.S.S. Mount Vernon, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of France but did not sink as it was run aground. The rest of Fix's naval career was less exciting, and he was demobilized on September 5, 1919. After his discharge, Fix went back to his girlfriend Frances (Taddy) Harvey, whom he had left behind in Zanesville. He and Taddy were married in 1922 and they moved to California as Fix had always wanted to live in a warm climate.
Fix and his bride settled in Hollywood, not so much because he had set ideas about becoming an actor but because he didn't know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He liked writing and acting in local plays, and soon became friends with the fellow tyro actor Clark Gable, who was his own age. Fix and Gable were discovered by the stage actress Pauline Frederick, who hired them to be members of her touring troupe that traveled by train the length of the West Coast putting on plays. In all, Fix - who had informally renamed himself Paul Peter - appeared in 20 plays with Gable.
Paul Fix had one of his earliest acting roles on celluloid in the mid-1920s, appearing in a silent Western starring William S. Hart. The Western genre eventually would become the one he was most identified with. He played uncredited bit parts and small roles in silents before getting his first credited role in an early talkie (which was part-silent and part-talking), The First Kiss, which starred future Hollywood superstar Gary Cooper and the dame that drove King Kong ape, Fay Wray. In all, Fix appeared in 300-400 films. The Western programmers of the silent and early talkie days could be shot in less than a week.
In 1925, Taddy gave birth to their daughter Marilyn Carey, who eventually would marry Harry Carey Jr., the son of one of the first great Western superstars. They would have three more children and become part of the extended family gathered around the director John Ford. In his career, Paul Fix would appear with another Western legend, John Wayne, in 26 films, starting in 1931 with Three Girls Lost. Urged on by Loretta Young, Fix became an acting coach for the young actor, and Wayne later paid him back when he became a star by having Fix appear in his movies. (The Duke also was a part of the close-knit group that collected around John Ford). With the Duke's patronage, the kinds of roles that Fix played changed. He had been typed as villains in the 1930s but, in the 40s, he began assaying a better class of character.
Paul Fix was also a screenwriter, and is credited as the writer on three films: Tall in the Saddle, Ring of Fear and The Notorious Mr. Monks. His favorites parts included playing the stricken passenger in the John Wayne picture The High and the Mighty, Elizabeth Taylor's father in George Stevens' classic Giant, the grandfather of the eponymous The Bad Seed and the judge in To Kill a Mockingbird. His last screen appearance was in the Brooke Shields movie Wanda Nevada, but he is most famous for appearing in the recurring role of "Marshal Micah Torrance" in the popular Western TV series The Rifleman. As of 1981, the 80-year old Fix was still getting mail from all over the world from "Rifleman" fans.
Paul Fix died October 14, 1983 of kidney failure. He was survived by his daughter Marilyn Carey and son-in-law Harry "Dobe" Carey, three grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
|Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
The son of a rancher-turned-politician, Guinn Williams was given the nickname "Big Boy" (and he was, too - 6' 2" of mostly solid muscle from years of working on ranches and playing semi-pro and pro baseball) by Will Rogers, with whom he made one of his first films, in 1919. Although his father wanted him to attend West Point (he had been an officer in the Army during World War I), Williams had always wanted to act and made his way to Hollywood in 1919. His experience as a cowboy and rodeo rider got him work as a stuntman, and he gradually worked his way up to acting. He became friends with Rogers and together they made around 15 films. Additionally,in a film that has recently received critical acclaim, he appeared alongside Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor in the silent film "Lucky Star"(1927), playing a brute vieing for the affections of Janet Gaynor in competition with a returning war veteran, played by Charles Farrell. He then easily made the transition from silents to talkies. Although he also starred in a series of low-budget westerns in the early and mid-1930s, he really came into his own as a supporting player in the late 1930s and early 1940s, especially at Warner Bros., where he appeared in such resoundingly successful westerns as Dodge City and Santa Fe Trail with his friends Errol Flynn and Alan Hale. Williams specialized in the somewhat dim and quick-tempered but basically decent sidekick, a role he would play for the next 20 years or so. He also made sound films other than westerns, and was in, for example, A Star Is Born. Late in his career, he won the hearts of TV viewers in a regular role as Pete, the comedic roadie in "Circus Boy"(1957). In the early 1960s Williams' health began to deteriorate, which was noticeable in his last film, The Comancheros, in which he had a small part and, sadly, did not look well at all. He died of uremic poisoning shortly afterwards.
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Charlotte (Hennessy) and John Charles Smith. She was of English and Irish descent. Pickford began in the theater at age seven. Then known as "Baby Gladys Smith", she toured with her family in a number of theater companies. In 1907, she adopted a family name Pickford and joined the David Belasco troupe, appearing in the long-running The Warrens of Virginia". She began in films in 1909 with the 'American Mutoscope & Biograph [us]', working with director D.W. Griffith. For a short time in 1911, to earn more money, she joined the IMP Film Co. under Carl Laemmle. She returned to Biograph in 1912, and, in 1913 joined the Famous Players Film Company under Adolph Zukor. She then joined First National Exhibitor's Circuit in 1918. In 1919 she helped to establish United Artists.
This short, quicksilver comic of TV's "Golden Age" has been heard more than seen in the last few decades, as he possesses one of the finest vocal instruments around for animation. Howard ("Howie") Morris was born in New York City in 1919 and forged his own destiny after a chance meeting with Carl Reiner in a radio workshop. Following the war in which they entertained troops together, they performed in the stage musical "Call Me Mister", then came aboard as part of Sid Caesar's repertory/writing company in the classic sketch shows of the 50s. After years of "second banana" success, however, Morris sought his own solo identity and went off to pursue work as an actor, director and voice artist. Since the early 60s, he has been a main staple of the Hanna-Barbera Productions vocal team, offering hundreds and hundreds of voices for The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and other such Saturday morning shows. Interspersed have been some catchy offbeat characterizations in front of the camera. He has given zest to a number of standard comedy films including Boys' Night Out with Kim Novak, The Nutty Professor and Way... Way Out, both with Jerry Lewis, and Mel Brooks' spoofs High Anxiety and History of the World: Part I. Morris has directed Danny Thomas and Andy Griffith in their respective sitcoms, and made a wonderfully eccentric impression on-camera as the grizzled rock-tosser Ernest T. Bass in Griffiths' vehicle. He was so popular in that role, it was brought back faithfully for three seasons. The director of such comedy film fluff as Who's Minding the Mint?, With Six You Get Eggroll, and Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water, Morris continued on with directing commercials and popping up here and there well into the 1990s.
Forrest Tucker, best known to the Baby Boom generation as Sergeant O'Rourke on the classic TV sitcom F Troop, was born on February 12, 1919, in Plainfield, Indiana. He began his performing career at age 14 at the 1933 Chicago "Century of Progress" World's Fair, pushing big wicker tourists' chairs by day and singing at night. His family moved to Arlington, Virginia, where he attended Washington-Lee High School in 1938.
Big for his age, as a youth Tucker was hired by the Old Gayety Burlesque Theater in Washington, DC, to serve as a Master of Ceremonies for the burly-cue after consecutively winning Saturday night amateur contests. He was fired when it was found out that he was underage. When he turned 18, he was rehired by the Old Gayety.
After graduating from high school in 1938, the 6'4", 200-lb. Tucker played semi-pro football in the Washington, DC, area. He also enlisted in the National Guard and was assigned to a cavalry unit in Ft. Myers, Virginia. He started at the top when he entered the movies, in a supporting role in William Wyler's The Westerner opposite Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan, who won his third Oscar for portraying Judge Roy Bean in the picture. He got the role during his 1939 vacation from the Old Gayety, which shut down due to the District of Columbia's horrible summers in the days before air conditioning was common.He was signed to the part in the Wyler picture, which required a big fellow with enough presence for a fight scene with the 6'3" superstar Cooper.
Tucker moved to California and began auditioning for parts in films. After "The Westerner", it was off to Poverty Row, where he appeared in William Beaudine's Emergency Landing at rock-bottom PRC (Producers Releasing Corp.). He was soon signed by Columbia and assigned to the B-pictures unit, though he was lent to MGM for the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn vehicle Keeper of the Flame, his last film before going off to World War II.
Tucker served as an enlisted man in the Army during the war, being discharged as a second lieutenant in 1945. He returned to Columbia and resumed his acting career with an appearance in the classic film The Yearling. He signed with Republic Pictures in 1948, which brought him one of his greatest roles, that of the Marine corporal bearing a grudge against gung-ho sergeant John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima. At Republic Tucker was top-billed in many of the "B' pictures in the action and western genres the studio was famous for, such as Rock Island Trail, California Passage and Ride the Man Down, among many others. In 1958 he broke out of action / western pictures and played Beauregard Burnside to Rosalind Russell's Auntie Mame, the highest grossing US film of the year. It showed that Tucker was capable of performing in light comedy.
Morton DaCosta, his director on "Auntie Mame", cast Tucker as "Professor" Harold Hill in the national touring production of The Music Man, and he was a more than credible substitute for the great Broadway star Robert Preston, who originated the role. Tucker made 2,008 appearances in The Music Man over the next five years, then starred in "Fair Game for Lovers" on Broadway in 1964.
However, it was television that provided Tucker with his most famous role: scheming cavalry sergeant Morgan O'Rourke in "F Troop", which ran from 1965 to 1967 on ABC. Ably supported by Larry Storch, Ken Berry and James Hampton, Tucker showed a flair for comedy and he and Storch had great chemistry, but the series was canceled after only two seasons. It has, however, remained in syndication ever since.
Following "F Troop", Tucker returned to films in supporting parts (having a good turn as the villain in the John Wayne western Chisum) and character leads (The Wild McCullochs). On television he was a regular on three series: Dusty's Trail with Bob Denver; The Ghost Busters, which reunited him with Larry Storch; and Filthy Rich. Tucker was also a frequent guest star on TV, with many appearances on Gunsmoke and in the recurring role of Jarvis Castleberry, Flo's estranged father, on Alice and its spin-off, Flo. He continued to be active on stage as well, starring in the national productions of Plaza Suite, Show Boat, and That Championship Season. He also toured with Roy Radin's Vaudeville Revue, a variety show in which, as a headliner, he told Irish stories and jokes and sang Irish songs.
Tucker returned to the big screen after an absence of several years in 1986, playing hero trucker Charlie Morrison in the action film Thunder Run. His comeback to features was short-lived, however, as he died on October 25, 1986, in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, of complications from lung cancer and emphysema. He was 67 years old. Tucker was buried in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
With effortless class and elegant charm, Gene Barry took 50s and 60s TV by storm after a rather lackluster start on the musical stage and in films. Born Eugene Klass in New York City on June 14, 1919, the son of Martin, an amateur violinist, and Eva Klass, an amateur singer, he showed a gift at an early age as a violin virtuoso during adolescence (obviously inherited from his father). Attending various public schools, he graduated valedictorian from New Utrecht High School.
Possessing a naturally attractive baritone voice, he concentrated on singing after breaking his arm playing football in school ended thoughts of a symphonic career. At age 17 he earned a singing scholarship awarded by David Sarnoff, then head of RCA, to the Chatham Square School of Music and studied there for two years. In the meantime Gene found work in nightclubs, choirs, fairs and emceeing variety shows, and briefly appeared on the vaudeville stage and on radio (winning a prize on Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scouts" program).
The young actor made it to Braodway in 1942 with the musical "New Moon" in 1942 and went on to appear in the 1944 Mae West vehicle "Catherine Was Great," where he met and subsequently married chorine Betty Barry, whose stage name at the time was Julie Carson. For the rest of the decade, Gene appeared in a random selection of plays and musicals, which did little to elevate his standing. Hollywood finally beckoned in the 1950s after gaining some notice on the program "Hollywood Screen Test," and Paramount signed him up.
Gene had stoic co-starring roles in such dramatic "B" films as The Atomic City (his debut movie), Those Redheads from Seattle, and Alaska Seas, none of which capitalized on his singing skills. The one movie in which he did sing, Red Garters, did not fare well with the public. His most recognizable role during this period was as Dr. Clayton Forrester, a scientist who finds himself in the midst of a Martian invasion in the cult sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds.
Television became his preferred medium after being offered the title role in Bat Masterson, and he quickly established a very profitable niche as a suave, dapper gentleman in this and other TV productions. Despite the elegant, globe-trotting typecast that befell him, his other TV gents proved just as successful: jet-setting detective Amos Burke in Burke's Law, for which he won a Golden Globe award, and the impeccably-dressed publishing tycoon Glenn Howard in The Name of the Game. Gene revisited the stage and cabaret venues in the 1970s when his on-camera career hit a lull, appearing frequently with his wife as co-star.
The singer/actor made a triumphant return to Broadway in 1983 starring as a gay boulevardier in the musical version of the popular French film La Cage aux Folles, which earned him a Tony nomination. He lost the Tony to his more flamboyant co-star George Hearn. After a year on Broadway, he joined the road company in San Francisco and played Los Angeles for a long stint. Another musicals included "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," "Watergate: The Musical" (as Nixon), "Fiddler on the Roof" (with his wife) and "No, No, Nanette". Gene's also appeared in his one-man cabaret show entitled "Gene Barry in One" from time to time.
In later years he has made only occasional TV and stage appearances (bringing back his famous characters Bat Masterson and Amos Burke, much to the enjoyment of his fans), preferring to indulge in his hobby of painting. He made a very brief return to feature films sharing a cameo scene with one-time co-star Ann Robinson in Steven Spielberg's epic remake of The War of the Worlds with both of them playing the Tom Cruise character's wife's parents. Also a political activist, his wife Betty died in 2003 after a nearly 60-year marriage. The couple had two sons of their own and adopted a daughter in middle age. Gene himself passed away on December 9, 2009, at age 90.
Born in 1919 (some sources say 1920) in Jerusalem, Nehemiah Persoff immigrated with his family to America in 1929.
Following schooling at the Hebrew Technical Institute of New York, he found a job as a subway electrician doing signal maintenance until an interest in the theater altered the direction of his life. He joined amateur groups and subsequently won a scholarship to the Dramatic Workshop in New York.
This led to what would have been his Broadway debut in a production of "Eve of St. Mark", but he was fired before the show opened. He made his official New York debut in a production of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in 1940.
WWII interrupted his young career in 1942, returning to the stage after his hitch in the Army was over, three years later. He sought work in stock plays and became an intern of Stella Adler and, as a result, a strong exponent of the Actor's Studio. Discovered by Charles Laughton and cast in his production of "Galileo" in 1947, Persoff made his film debut a year later with an uncredited bit in The Naked City.
Short, dark, chunky-framed and with a distinct talent for dialects, Persoff became known primarily for his ethnic villainy, usually playing authoritative Eastern Europeans. In a formidable career that had him portraying everything from cab drivers to Joseph Stalin, standout film roles would include Leo in The Harder They Fall with Humphrey Bogart, Gene Conforti in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, Albert in This Angry Age and gangster Johnny Torrio in Al Capone. That same year he played another gangster, the small role of Little Bonaparte, in the classic comedy Some Like It Hot.
Later stage work included well-received productions of "I'm Not Rappaport" and his biographical one-man show "Sholem Aleichem".
When declining health and high blood pressure forced him to slow down, Persoff took up painting in 1985, studying sketching in Los Angeles. Specializing in watercolor, he has created around 100 works of art, many of which have been exhibited up and down the coast of California.
One of France's most beloved character stars from the 1950s through and including the 1980s was the Italian-born Lino Ventura. Born Angiolino Joseph Pascal Ventura to Giovanni Ventura and Luisa Borrini, on July 14, 1919, in Parma (northern) Italy, young Lino moved with his family at a young age to Paris, where he grew up. A school dropout at age eight, Lino drifted from job to job (mechanic's apprentice, etc.), unable to decide on what to do for a living. Marrying in 1942 at age 23, he and wife Odette had four children.
Lino finally found a career calling as a Greek/Roman-styled wrestler and went on to become a professional European champion in 1950. He was forced to abandon this sporting life, however, after incurring a serious injury in the ring. Looking for gangster types for his next film, director Jacques Becker gave the inexperienced 34-year-old his first acting job as bad guy support to star Jean Gabin in the crime thriller Touchez Pas au Grisbi [Grisbi]. Gabin was impressed and did more than just encourage Lino to pursue acting as a living. Lino went on to appear with Gabin in several of the star's subsequent movies, often playing a gangster, including Razzia [Razzia], Crime and Punishment, Le rouge est mis [Crime and Punishment] and Inspector Maigret [Inspector Maigret].
A tough, brutish, burly-framed presence, Lino came into his own as a tough-nut character star in the 1960s playing both sides of the moral fence. Adept in both light comedy and dark-edged drama, he appeared in scores of films now considered classic French cinema. His homely, craggy-looking mug took the form of various criminals types as in Le Deuxieme Souffle [Second Breath] and Happy New Year [Happy New Year], as well as dogged, good-guy inspectors in The French Detective [The French Detective], Illustrious Corpses [Illustrious Corpses'], and Garde à vue. Lino bore a patented weight-of-the-world-on-his-shoulders countenance that audiences sympathized with, even when playing the arch-villain. Over the course of three decades he built up an impressive gallery of blue-collar protagonists. Not to be missed are his embittered, vengeful husband in Un témoin dans la ville [Witness in the City]; corrupt police chief Tiger Brown in Three Penny Opera [The Threepenny Opera]; a WWII French Resistance fighter in The Army of Shadows [Army in the Shadows]; and Mafia boss Vito Genovese in Charles Bronson's The Valachi Papers, among many, many others. Toward the end of his career he played Jean Valjean in a French production of Les Misérables for which he received a Cesar award nomination (i.e, the French "Oscar"). He performed practically until the time of his fatal heart attack in 1987 at age 68 in his beloved France. Survivors included his wife of 45 years and children. Daughter Mylene died in a plane crash in 1998 and wife Odette died in 2013.
Born the fourth of six children to Austrian customs officer Alois Hitler--who had been married twice before--and the former Klara Polzl, Adolf Hitler grew up in a small Austrian town in the late 19th century. He was a slow learner and did poorly in school. He was frequently beaten by his authoritarian father. Things got worse when Adolf's older brother, Alois Jr., ran away from home. His mild-mannered mother occasionally tried to shield him, but was ineffectual. Adolf's attempt to run away at 11 was unsuccessful. At the age of 14 he was freed when his hated father died - an event that he did not mourn.
Hitler dropped out of high school at age 16 and went to Vienna, where he strove to become an artist, but was refused twice by the Vienna Art Academy. By this time Hitler had become an ardent German nationalist--although he was not German but Austrian--and when World War I broke out, he crossed into Germany and and joined a Bavarian regiment in the German army. He was assigned as a message runner but also saw combat. Temporarily blinded after a gas attack in Flanders in 1918, he received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and was promoted from private to corporal. In 1918, when the war ended, Hitler stayed in the army and was posted to the Intelligence division. He was assigned to spy on several radical political parties that were considered a threat to the German government. One such organization was the German Workers Party. Hitler was drawn by party founder Dietrich Eckart, a morphine addict who propagated doctrines of mysticism and anti-Semitism. Hitler soon joined the party with the help of his military intelligence ties. He became party spokesman in 1919, renamed it the National Socalist German Workers Party (NSDAP/NAZI) and declared himself its Fuhrer (leader) one year later. In 1920 Hitler's intelligence handler, Munich-based colonel named Karl Haushofer, introduced the swastika insignia. In 1921 Haushofer founded the paramilitary Storm Troopers ("Sturmabteiling", or SA), composed of German veterans of WWI and undercover military intelligence officers. They helped Hitler to organize a coup attempt--the infamous "beer hall putsch"--against the Bavarian government in Munich in 1923, but it failed. The "rebels" marched on Munich's city hall, which was cordoned off by police. Hitler's men fired at the police and missed; the police fired back and didn't, resulting in several of Hitler's fellow Nazis being shot dead. Hitler himself was arrested, convicted of treason and sent to prison. During his prison time he was coached by his advisers and dictated his book "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") to his deputy Rudolf Hess. He only served several months in prison before being released. By 1925 the Nazi party was in much better straits both organizationally and financially, as it had secured the backing of a large group of wealthy conservative German industrialists, who funneled huge amounts of money into the organization. Hitler was provided with a personal bodyguard unit named the "Schutzstaffel", better known as the SS. The Nazis began to gain considerable support in Germany through their network of army and WWI veterans, and Hitler ran for President in 1931. Defeated by the incumbent Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler next attempted to become Chancellor of Germany. Through under-the-table deals with powerful conservative businessmen and right-wing politicians, Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933. One month later, a mysterious fire--which the Nazis claimed had been started by "terrorists" but was later discovered to have been set by the Nazis themselves--destroyed the Reichstag (the building housing the German parliament). Then Hitler's machine began to issue a series of emergency decrees that gave the office of Chancellor more and more power.
In March of 1933 Hitler persuaded the German parliament to pass the Enabling Act, which made the Chancellor dictator of Germany and gave him more power than the President. Two months later Hitler began "cleaning house"; he abolished trade unions and ordered mass arrests of members of rival political groups. By the end of 1933 the Nazi Party was the only one allowed in Germany. In June of 1934 Hitler turned on his own and ordered the purge of the now radical SA--that he now saw as a potential threat to his power--which was led by one of his oldest friends, a thug and street brawler named Ernst Röhm. Röhm's ties to Hitler counted for nothing, as Hitler ordered him assassinated. Soon President Hindenburg died, and Hitler merged the office of President with the office of Chancellor. In 1935 the anti-Jewish Nuremburg laws were passed on Hitler's authorization. A year later, with Germany now under his total control, he sent troops into the Rhineland, which was a violation of the World War I Treaty of Versailles. In 1938 he forced the union of Austria with Germany and also took the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia near the German border with a large ethnic German population, on the pretext of "protecting" the German population from the Czechs. In the summer of 1939 Hitler sent his military to occupy Czechoslovakia, and narrowly averted a war with Britain, France and other European powers. At that time Hitler and Joseph Stalin made a non-aggression treaty which was later unilaterally broken by Hitler. In September of 1939 Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland. England and France at once declared war on Germany. In 1940 Germany occupied Denmark, Norway and the Low Countries, and launched a major offensive against France. Paris fell and France surrendered, after which Hitler considered invading Great Britain. However, after the German Air Force was defeated in its bombing campaign over England during what became known as the Battle of Britain, the invasion was canceled. In 1941 German troops assisted Italy, which under dictator Benito Mussolini was a German ally, in its takeover of Yugoslavia and Greece. Meanwhile, in Germany and the occupied countries, Hitler had ordered a program of mass extermination of Jews.
On June 22, 1941, German forces invaded the Soviet Union. In addition to ore than 4,000,000 German troops, there were additional forces from German allies Romania, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Spain and Finland, among others. Hitler used multinational forces in order to save Germans for the future colonization of the Russian lands. Following the detailed Nazi plan, code-named "Barbarossa," Hitler was utilizing resources of entire Europe under Nazi control to feed the invasion of Russia. Three groups of Nazi armies invaded Russia: Army Group North besieged Leningrad for 900 days, Army Group Center reached Moscow and Army Group South occupied Ukraine, reached Caucasus and Stalingrad. After a series of initial successes, however, the German Armies were stopped at Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad. Leningrad was besieged by the Nazis for 900 days until the city of 4,000,000 virtually starved itself to death. Only in January of 1944 was Marshal Georgi Zhukov able to finally defeat the German forces and liberate the city, finally lifting the siege after a cost of some 2,000,000 lives. In 1943 several major battles occurred at Kursk (which became the largest tank battle in history), Kharkov and Stalingrad, all of which the Germans lost. The battle for Stalingrad was one of the largest in the history of mankind. At Stalingrad alone the Germans lost 360,000 troops, in addition to the losses suffered by Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, Czech, Croatian and other forces, but the Russians lost over one million men. By 1944--the same year the Western allies invaded occupied Europe--Germany was retreating on both fronts and its forces in Africa had been completely defeated, resulting in the deaths and/or surrender of several hundred thousand troops. Total human losses during the six years of war were estimated at 60,000,000, of which 27,000,000 were Russians, Ukrainians, Jews and other people in Soviet territory. Germany lost over 11,000,000 soldiers and civilians. Poland and Yugoslavia lost over 3,000,000 people each. Italy and France lost over 1,000,000 each. Most nations of Central and Eastern Europe suffered severe--and in some cases total--economic destruction.
Hitler's ability to act as a figurehead of the Nazi machine was long gone by late 1944. Many of his closest advisers and handlers had already fled to other countries, been imprisoned and/or executed by the SS for offenses both real--several assassination attempts on Hitler--and imagined, or had otherwise absented themselves from Hitler's inner circle. For many years Hitler was kept on drugs by his medical personnel. In 1944 a group of German army officers and civilians pulled off an almost successful assassination attempt on Hitler, but he survived. Hitler, by the beginning of 1945, was a frail, shaken man who had almost totally lost touch with reality. The Russians reached Berlin in April of that year and began a punishing assault on the city. As their forces approached the bunker where Hitler and the last vestiges of his government were holed up, Hitler killed himself. Just a day earlier he had married his longtime mistress Eva Braun. Hitler's corpse was taken to Moscow and later shown to Allied Army Commanders and diplomats. Joseph Stalin showed Hitler's personal items to Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman at the Potsdam Conference after the victory. Hitler's personal gun was donated to the museum of the West Point Military Academy in New York. Some of his personal items are now part of the permanent collection at the National History Museum in Moscow, Russia.
This warm and winning, very non-theatrical brunette was born Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter in Portland, Maine, on November 20, 1919. The daughter of Maine Supreme Court Justice Sidney Thaxter, her acting talent came from her mother's side, who was a one-time Shakespearean actress. Phyllis was educated for a time at St. Genevieve School in Montreal and back at Portland's Deering High School. She apprenticed in summer stock and had joined the Montreal Reperatory Theatre company by the time she made her Broadway debut at age 17 in "What a Life!" in 1939, the "Henry Aldrich" play. She went on to play a maid and to understudy the leading ingénue in "There Shall Be No Night" (1940), which starred America's premiere theatrical couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, then understudied Dorothy McGuire in the hit dramatic play, "Claudia", later that year. She eventually played the title role both on Broadway and on the road, but lost out on the film role to McGuire.
Hollywood films reached her sights a few years later with the MGM war film, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, proving quite convincing as Van Johnson's noble wife. Similar to Margaret Sullavan, June Allyson, Dorothy McGuire and Teresa Wright, Phyllis was depended on as a stabilizing factor in melodramas and war pictures, often the dewy-eyed, altruistic wife, girlfriend or daughter waiting on the home-front. Other important films included the girl with a split personality in Bewitched, and as a angst-ridden, teary-eyed bride-to-be in Week-End at the Waldorf. She was dutifully wholesome as the daughter who reunites Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in the movie The Sea of Grass and evoked tears, yet again, as little Margaret O'Brien's mother in Tenth Avenue Angel. So natural and unglamorous was she that she tended to blend into the woodwork while the flashier actresses often stole the thunder and the notices. Audiences did not always fully appreciate Phyllis's understated work. She finished out her MGM contract with Act of Violence, ever-faithful to even the bad guy, this time psychotic gangster Robert Ryan. Phyllis moved to Warner Brothers in the 1950s and played more of the same. The ever-patient wife to a slew of top actors including shady boat skipper John Garfield in The Breaking Point, an alcoholic Gig Young in Come Fill the Cup and law-abiding Gary Cooper in Springfield Rifle, her nascent career at Warners was suddenly curtailed by illness. While visiting her family in Portland, she contracted a form of infantile paralysis. Fortunately, she recovered quickly but the ailment triggered the termination of her contract. Film roles were few and far between after this. Still displaying her built-in compassion and concern, her best-known part came with the touching but relatively minor role of farm wife "Martha Kent" in the highly popular Superman film series with the late Christopher Reeve as her adopted superhero son and Glenn Ford as her husband. She was also a steady guest star on TV with numerous dramatic appearances including The Twilight Zone, The F.B.I., Cannon, Medical Center, Barnaby Jones and several TV movies. Married for nearly two decades to James T. Aubrey (1918-1994), who became president of CBS-TV before taking over MGM, they had three children--including Schuyler, who would become the actress Skye Aubrey. Following the couple's divorce in 1962, Phyllis married Gilbert Lea, who owned Tower Publishing Company in Portland. They eventually retired to Cumberland, Maine, where she involved herself in civic/community activities and dedicated herself to hospital volunteer work.
George Macready--the name probably doesn't ring any bells for most but the voice would be unmistakable. He attended and graduated from Brown University and had a short stint as a New York newspaperman, but became interested in acting on the advice of colorful Polish émigré classical stage director Richard Boleslawski, who would go on to Hollywood to direct some notable and important films, including Rasputin and the Empress--the only film in which siblings John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore appeared together--and Clive of India with Ronald Colman. Perhaps acting was meant for Macready all along--he claimed that he was descended from 19th-century Shakespearean actor William Macready.
In 1926 Macready made his Broadway debut in "The Scarlet Letter". His Broadway career would extend to 1958, entailing 15 plays--mainly dramas but also some comedies--with the lion's share of roles in the 1930s. His Shakespearean run included the lead as Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1927), "Macbeth" (1928) and "Romeo and Juliet" (1934), with Broadway legend Katharine Cornell. He co-starred with her again in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" and with with Helen Hayes in "Victoria Regina" twice (1936 and 1937).
Macready's aquiline features coupled with distinctive high-brow bottom-voiced diction and superior, nose-in-the-air delivery that could be quickly tinged with a gothic menace made him perfect as the cultured bad guy. Added to his demeanor was a significant curved scar on his right cheek, remnant of a car accident in about 1919--better PR that it was a saber slash wound from his dueling days as a youth. He did not turn to films until 1942 and did not weigh-in fully committed until 1944, with a host of both well-crafted and just fair movies until the end of World War II. When he went all in, though, he excelled as strong-willed authoritarian and ambitious, murderous--but well-bred--villains. Among his better roles in that period were in The Seventh Cross, The Missing Juror, Counter-Attack and My Name Is Julia Ross with a young Nina Foch. Averaging six or more films per year throughout the 1940s, he appeared not only in dramas and thrillers, but also period pieces and even some westerns. His standout role, however--and probably the one he is best remembered for--was the silver-haired, dark-suited and mysteriously rich Ballin Mundson in Gilda, who malevolently inserted himself into the lives of smoldering Rita Hayworth and moody Glenn Ford.
By the early 1950s he had sampled the waters of early TV. He had many appearances on such anthology series as Four Star Playhouse, The Ford Television Theatre and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, among others. He became a familiar presence in episodic TV series beginning in 1954. He made the rounds of most of the hit shows of the period, including a slew of westerns, including such obscure series as The Texan and The Rough Riders. He was familiar to viewers of crime dramas--such as Perry Mason--and such classic sci-fi and horror series as Thriller, The Outer Limits and Night Gallery. He did some 200 TV roles altogether, but still continued his film appearances. He assayed what many consider his best role as the ambitious French Gen. Paul Mireau, a fanatic and martinet whose lust for fame and glory leads to the deaths of hundreds of French soldiers in a senseless frontal attack on heavily fortified German lines in Stanley Kubrick classic antiwar film Paths of Glory. Macready's performance stood out in a film brimming with standout performances, from such veterans as Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Meeker and Timothy Carey. The film was even more striking when it turns out that it was based on a true incident.
Macready stayed busy into the 1960s, mainly in TV roles. He had a three-year run as Martin Peyton in the hit series Peyton Place, the first prime-time soap opera and a launching pad for many a young rising star of the time. His film roles became fewer, but there were some good ones--the Yul Brynner adventure period piece Taras Bulba and a meaty role as an advisor to US Prlesident Fredric March attempting to stop a coup by a right-wing general played by Burt Lancaster in the gripping Seven Days in May. His next-to-last film appearance was as a very human Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, in Universal's splashy, big-budget but somewhat uneven story of Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora!.
Another role that stands out in his career is a one-in-a-kind film which you would not expect to find George Macready--Blake Edwards' uproarious comedy -The Great Race (1965)_. Macready shined in one of the film's several subplots, this one a spoof of the "Ruritanian" chestnut "The P Prizoner of Zenda", in which the racers find themselves in the middle of palace intrigue in a small European monarchy. Macready played a general trying to stave off a coup by using Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon, who is a double for the drunken ruler. Macready held his own with such comedy veterans as Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and a host of others. To top it of, Macready gets involved in one of the great pie fights in film history, and takes one right in the kisser!
In real life George Macready was as cultured as he appeared to be on-screen. He was a well-regarded connoisseur of art, and he and a fellow art devotee--and longtime friend--opened a very successful Los Angeles art gallery together during World War II. As far as the villain roles went, Macready was grateful for the depth they allowed him through his years as both film and television actor. "I like heavies," he once said, and to that he added with a philosophic twinkle, "I think there's a little bit of evil in all of us."
June Foray was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 18. Various years of birth have been given for her--1917, 1919, 1920 and 1925--but 1917 seems to be the most plausible, since it was attributed to her in an interview that she did in 2000 when The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle was released. The 1920 US Federal Census shows June Lucille Forer (Foray) living with her family in Massachusetts. The census was taken January 2, 1920, and lists June's age at her last birthday (Sept. 18, 1919) as two years old, which established her birth year as 1917. Also, the 1940 US Federal Census shows her living with her family in Los Angeles California, and working as a "Radio Artist" in the "Entertainmnet" industry. She is listed as being 22 years old, which also confirms 1917 as her birth year.
She started in the voice field at the age of 12, at a time when she was already doing old lady voices. She had the good fortune of having a speech teacher who also had a radio program in the Springfield area. This teacher became her mentor, and added June to the cast of her show. Eventually June's family moved to California, where she continued in radio. By age 15 she was writing her own show for children, "Lady Makebelieve", in which she also provided voices. June dabbled in both on-camera acting and voice work, but was particularly talented in voice characterizations, dialects and accents. Just like Daws Butler, one of her later co-stars, June was a "voice magician" and worked steadily in radio from the 1930s into the 1950s.
In the 1940s, and possibly even as early as the 1930s, June branched out from radio and began providing voices for cartoons. In the 1940s she provided the voices for a live-action series of shorts called "Speaking of Animals", in which she dubbed in voices for real on-screen animals, a task she was to repeat many years later in an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. In the late 1940s June, Stan Freberg, Daws Butler, Pinto Colvig and many others recorded hundreds of children's and adult albums for Capitol Records. Her female characterizations on these records ran the entire gamut from little girls to middle-aged women, old ladies, dowagers and witches. No one seemed to be able to do these same voices with the warmth, energy and sparkle that June did.
In the 1950s June's star in animation not only began to rise but soared when Walt Disney sought her out and hired her to do the voice of Lucifer the cat in Cinderella. The Disney organization continued to use June many times over, well into the 21st century. Warner Brothers also hired her to replace Bea Benaderet and do all of its "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons. June has done many incidental characters for Warners, but her most famous voice has been that of Granny (in the "Tweety and Sylvester" series). Unfortunately, since Mel Blanc's contract called for exclusive voice credit on these cartoons, June never received credit for all the voices she did. During this time she also appeared on The Woody Woodpecker Show
In 1957 Jay Ward met with June to discuss her voicing the characters of "Rocky the Flying Squirrel" and "Natasha Fatale" in a cartoon series. On November 19, 1959, the show debuted as Rocky and His Friends, later changing its name to The Bullwinkle Show. June provided many other voices for this show, especially its "side shows" such as "Fractured Fairy Tales" and "Aesop and Son". She did fewer voices for the "Peabody's Improbable History" segment, but she did appear in at least three of those episodes. After the show had been successful for a few years, Ward added one of its most popular segments, "Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties". June was a regular in this side show as Dudley's girlfriend "Nell Fenwick".
Since Ward used June exclusively for nearly all his female voices, he showcased her talents as no other producer had before. June missed out on doing voices for three of the show's "Fractured Fairy Tales" because she could not reschedule some bookings to do recording work with Stan Freberg, so Julie Bennett filled in for her on those occasions. Dorothy Scott--co-producer Bill Scott's wife--also filled in for June a few times for "Peabody's Improbable History". Her collaboration with Ward made her incredibly famous, and "Rocky the Flying Squirrel" became her signature voice. To this day June regularly wears a necklace with the figure of Rocky attached to the chain.
Ward later produced two other cartoon series, Hoppity Hooper and George of the Jungle. June's appearances on "Hoppity Hooper" were limited to the segments of "Fractured Fairy Tales", "Dudley Do-Right" and "Peabody" that aired during its run. On "Fractured Fairy Tales" June did a whole montage of voices similar to those from her Capitol Records days. Her witch voices were so incredibly funny and magnificently done that Disney and Warner Brothers tapped her to provide that same voice for the character of Witch Hazel. She was once again the lone female voice artist, this time on "George of the Jungle". Included on that show were the "Super Chicken" and "Tom Slick" side shows.
In the 1960s June lost out to Bea Benaderet when she auditioned for the voice of "Betty Rubble" on The Flintstones. June appeared numerous times during the decade in holiday specials such as Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy).
In the 1960s and 1970s June dubbed in voices for full-length live-action feature films many times. Jay Ward and Bill Scott also used her to dub in dialogue for silent movies in their non-animated series Fractured Flickers.
In the early 1970s June tried her hand at puppetry. She became the voice of an elephant, an aardvark and a giraffe on Curiosity Shop. Around this time she also recorded various voices for the road shows of "Disney on Parade", which toured the US and Europe for several years.
She has done some on-camera work over the years, primarily on talk shows, game shows and documentaries; in the early years of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she performed a 13-week stint as a little Mexican girl. However, June has said that she prefers to record behind the scenes because she can earn more money in less time.
Most remembered for his extravagant costumes and trademark candelabra placed on the lids of his flashy pianos, Liberace was loved by his audiences for his music talent and unique showmanship. He was born as Wladziu Valentino Liberace on May 16, 1919, into a musical family, in Wisconsin. His mother, Frances Liberace (née Zuchowski), whose parents were Polish, played the piano. His father, Salvatore Liberace, an immigrant from Formia, Italy, played the French horn. His siblings, George Liberace, Angie Liberace and Rudy Liberace, also had musical ability. Liberace's own extraordinary natural talent became evident when he learned to play the piano, by ear, at the age of four. Although Salvatore tried to discourage his son's interest in the piano, praises from Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a famous Polish pianist, helped the young musician follow his musical career.
As a teenager, Liberace earned wages playing popular tunes at movie theaters and speakeasies. Despite being proud of his son's accomplishments, Salvatore strictly opposed Liberace's preference for popular music over the classics. Pianist Florence Bettray Kelly took control of Liberace's classical training when he was 14.
He debuted as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony, under the direction of Dr. Frederick Stock. At age 17, Liberace joined the Works Progress Administration Symphony Orchestra. He received a scholarship to attend the Wisconsin College of Music. In 1939, after a classical recital, Liberace's audience requested the popular tune, "Three Little Fishes". Liberace seized the opportunity and performed the tune with a semi-classical style which the audience loved. Soon, this unique style of playing the piano got Liberace bookings in large nightclubs.
By 1940, Liberace was traveling with his custom-made piano, on top of which he would place his candelabrum. He then took Paderewski's advice and dropped Wladziu and Valentino to become simply Liberace. South Sea Sinner, a movie with Shelley Winters, was Liberace's film debut. He played a honky tonk pianist in the movie, which opened in 1950.
In 1952, The Liberace Show, a syndicated television program, turned Liberace into a musical symbol. It began as a summertime replacement for The Dinah Shore Show, but after two years, the show was one of the most popular on TV. It was carried by 217 American stations and could be seen in 20 foreign countries. Sold-out live appearances at Madison Square Garden enhanced the pianist's popularity even more. Soon, Liberace added flamboyant costumes and expensive ornaments to his already unique performances. His second movie, Sincerely Yours, opened in 1955, and Liberace wrote his best-selling autobiography, "Liberace", in 1972. His first book, "Liberace Cooks", went into seven printings.
In 1977, Liberace founded the non-profit "Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts". The year 1978 brought the opening of "The Liberace Museum" in Las Vegas, Nevada, which serves as key funding for the Liberace Foundation. The profits from the museum provide scholarship money for financially needy college musicians. He continued performing until the fall of 1986, despite suffering from heart disease and emphysema during most of the 1980s. A closeted homosexual his entire life, Liberace was secretly diagnosed with AIDS sometime in August 1985, which he also kept secret from the public until the day he died. His last concert performance was at Radio City Music Hall on November 2, 1986. He passed away in his Palm Springs home on February 4, 1987 at age 67.
Liberace was bestowed with many awards during his lifetime including: Instrumentalist of the Year, Best Dressed Entertainer, Entertainer of the Year, two Emmy Awards, six gold albums, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In The Guinness Book of World Records, he has been listed as the world's highest paid musician and pianist. Liberace was an extremely talented and versatile man. He not only played the piano, but sang, danced and joked during his performances. In fact, one of Liberace's biggest accomplishments was his ability to turn a recital into a show full of music, glitter and personality.
Versatile, award-winning character actress Eileen Heckart, with the lean, horsey face and assured, fervent gait, was born Anna Eileen Stark on March 29, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio. An only child, she lived with her mother after her parents separated at age 2. Her childhood was an acutely unhappy one. Her mother, an alcoholic, was married five times, and her stern grandmother, whom Eileen was often shuttled off to stay with, was physically abusive. To survive, Eileen escaped into the joy and imaginary world of movies as an adolescent.
Somehow she managed to survive it all and attend (and graduate from) Ohio State University in 1942 with a degree in English. That same year she married John Harrison Yankee Jr., an insurance broker. They had three sons in a union that lasted 53 years, unusual for a feisty, independent lady of show business. While her husband was off to the war (he joined the Navy), Eileen moved to New York and toiled in a number of day jobs while trying to jumpstart a career in acting. Beginning in summer stock, Eileen took classes at the American Theatre Wing and apprenticed in a number of obscure plays/revues such as "Tinker's Dam" (1943) and "Musical Moment" (1943).
Following extensive work on the NY stage, which included her Broadway debut as an understudy and eventual replacement in "The Voice of the Turtle" (1945), she established herself as a major force on the Great White Way. Her first big break under the Broadway lights was her portrayal of the arch, lonely schoolteacher in William Inge's "Picnic," which earned her both the Outer Critic's Circle and Theatre World awards in 1953. She began quick in demand as flinty, overwrought, down-to-earth types or wise-to-the-bone old gals who, more than not, lived a life of drudgery. Later award-worthy Broadway hits would include "The Bad Seed" (which earned her the Donaldson award), "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (Tony-nom), "Invitation to a March" (Tony-nom), and "Butterflies Are Free" (Tony-nom). Intermixed were live performances on TV for such prestigious programs as "Goodyear Television Playhouse", "Kraft Television Theatre", "Studio One", "Suspense", "The Alcoa Hour" and "Playhouse 90".
Heckart was a dominant yet only intermittent force in films, making her debut in the so-so Miracle in the Rain featured as Jane Wyman's confidante. Although greatly disappointed at losing the bid to recreate her Broadway role in the film version of Picnic (Rosalind Russell won the honors), she did receive the satisfaction of transferring her scene-chewing stage role as the despairing, drunken mom whose son falls victim to young Patty McCormack's malevolent mischief in The Bad Seed. For this Eileen copped both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. During this period she fell into a number of dowdy matrons, dour moms and matter-of-fact gal friends with flashy roles in Somebody Up There Likes Me, Bus Stop, Hot Spell and Heller in Pink Tights. Earning another Tony nomination and the New York Drama Critics award for her brittle role in the 1957 production of Inge's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs," she was pregnant with her third child when the film version of The Dark at the Top of the Stairs started rolling and Angela Lansbury stepped in to replace her.
For most of the 60s, Eileen traded off TV guest parts ("Ben Casey," "Dr. Kildare", "The F.B.I.", "The Defenders") with theater roles ("Pal Joey", "Barefoot in the Park", "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running"). She was finally rewarded on film as blind Edward Albert's busybody mom in the welterweight comedy Butterflies Are Free, netting the Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actress". It was a role she had played on Broadway, receiving her fourth Tony nomination.
The Oscar did not bring her pick-of-the-litter roles afforded to other fortunates, but the veteran continued on in all three mediums quite enviably. While not fond of sitcom work, she gave Emmy-style for her guest work on such shows as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Love & War", "Ellen", "Cybill" and was part of a short-lived ensemble series as one of The 5 Mrs. Buchanans. She also put together a one-woman stage tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt and gave assertive theater performances in "The Ladies of the Alamo," "The Cemetery Club" and "Northeast Local".
Strangely enough, the Tony Award eluded the three-time nominee during her long, eventful career. The Tony committee finally made up for this oversight in 2000 by awarding her a "special" Tony for "excellence in theater, triggered by her final, multiple award-winning success (Obie, Drama Desk) as an Alzheimer's patient in "The Waverly Gallery" in 2000. In retrospect, it was none too soon for Ms. Heckart, who worked nearly until the end, was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on the last day of 2001. She was 82.
Although his parents were never in show business, as a young boy Oliver Hardy was a gifted singer and, by age eight, was performing with minstrel shows. In 1910 he ran a movie theatre, which he preferred to studying law. In 1913 he became a comedy actor with the Lubin Company in Florida and began appearing in a long series of shorts; his debut film was Outwitting Dad. He appeared in he 1914-15 series of "Pokes and Jabbs" shorts, and from 1916-18 he was in the "Plump and Runt" series. From 1919-21 he was a regular in the "Jimmy Aubrey" series of shorts, and from 1921-25 he worked as an actor and co-director of comedy shorts for Larry Semon. In addition to appearing in two-reeler comedies, he found time to make westerns and even melodramas in which he played the heavy. He is most famous, however, as the partner of British comic Stan Laurel, with whom he had played a bit part in The Lucky Dog. in the mid-1920s both he and Laurel wee working for comedy producer Hal Roach, although not as a team. In a moment of inspiration Roach teamed them together, and their first film as a team was 45 Minutes from Hollywood. Their first release for Roach through MGM was Sugar Daddies and the first with star billing was From Soup to Nuts. They became a huge hit as a comedy team, and after several years of two-reelers, Roach decided to star them in features, their first of which was Pardon Us. They clicked with audiences in features, too, and starred in such classics as Way Out West, Babes in Toyland and Block-Heads. They eventually parted ways with Roach and in the mid-1940s signed on with Twentieth Century-Fox. Unfortunately, Fox did not let them have the autonomy they had at Roach, where Laurel basically wrote and directed their films, though others were credited, and their films became more assembly-line and formulaic. Their popularity waned and less popular during the war years, and they made their last film for Fox in 1946. Several years later they made their final appearance as a team in a French film, a troubled and haphazard production eventually, after several name changes, called Utopia, generally regarded to be their worst film. Hardy appeared without Laurel in a few features, such as Zenobia with Harry Langdon, The Fighting Kentuckian in a semi-comedic role as a frontiersman alongside John Wayne and Riding High, in a cameo role. He died in 1957.
|Victor Sen Yung
Achieving both film and TV notice during his lengthy career, this diminutive Asian-American character was born Sen Yew Cheung on October 18, 1915 in San Francisco of humble Chinese émigrés. When his mother died during the flu epidemic of 1919, his father placed Victor and his sister in a children's shelter and returned to his homeland. He arrived back in America in the mid-20s having remarried, and the children were released back to his guardianship where they began learning Chinese. To contribute to the family income, young Sen Yung was employed as a houseboy at age 11 and managed to earn his way through college at the University of California at Berkeley with an interest in animal husbandry and receiving a degree in economics.
Following a move to Hollywood for some post graduate work at UCLA and USC, Victor gained an entrance into films via extra work, where he was in such roles as a peasant boy in The Good Earth, and a soldier in Mr. Moto Takes a Chance, among others. During this early period he also worked as a salesman for a chemical firm. In one of Hollywood's more interesting tales of being "discovered", the story goes that Victor was on the Twentieth Century-Fox studio lot at the time trying to pitch one of his company's flame retardant compounds to industry techies when one of them suggested he check out casting. The original Charlie Chan, Warner Oland, had passed away and the series was undergoing a major casting overhaul. In the end, Sidney Toler, who was replacing the late Mr. Oland and received cast approval, chose the fledgling actor following a screen test to play his #2 son, Jimmy Chan, for the film Charlie Chan in Honolulu. Victor went on to play the role for seventeen other "Charlie Chan" features. Needless, to say he quit the sales business for good.
Victor enjoyed playing Jimmy, the earnest rookie detective who, to his chagrin, was always under the watchful eye of his famous father while trying to help solve murder cases. Outside the role, however, Victor (billed as Sen Yung, Victor Yung and Victor Sen Yung at different times) found the atmosphere oppressive. Usually cast in nothing-special Asian stereotypes, sometimes villainous, in war-era films, parts in such movies as The Letter starring Bette Davis, Secret Agent of Japan, Little Tokyo, U.S.A., Moontide, Across the Pacific, Manila Calling, China and Night Plane from Chungking, did little to advance his stature in Hollywood. His career was interrupted for U.S. Air Force duty as a Captain of Intelligence during WWII. His part in the Chan pictures was taken over by actor Benson Fong.
Victor was able to pick up where he left off in Hollywood following the war and returned to his famous role as #2 son. The character's name, however, was eventually changed from "Jimmy" to "Tommy" after a third installment of Charlie Chan pictures were filmed with Roland Winters now the title sleuth after the passing of Mr. Toler in 1947. While Victor's workload was fairly steady, again the roles themselves were meager and hardly inspiring. Most were in "B" level crime mysteries and war pictures and many were accepted with no screen credit at all. Reduced often to playing middle-age servile roles (houseboys, laundrymen, valets, clerks, dock workers and waiters), some of his slightly more prominent roles include those in Woman on the Run, Forbidden, Target Hong Kong, and Trader Tom of the China Seas. His last film appearance was in The Man with Bogart's Face.
On TV, Victor appeared in two familiar recurring roles. On the John Forsythe series Bachelor Father, he showed up as "Peter Fong" on the final season of the sitcom. He played the cousin to houseboy Sammee Tong's regular character. Victor is better remembered, however, for the part of Hop Sing, the earnest, volatile cook to the Cartwright clan, provided sporadic comic relief on the long-running Bonanza western series. He also appeared in the TV pilot and in several episodes of the popular philosophical western series Kung Fu, as well as popping up in dramatic episodes of Hawaiian Eye, The F.B.I.. and Hawaii Five-O. Sitcoms gave a hint of his gentle, humorous side in Here's Lucy, Get Smart and Mister Ed, but there was not a single role that truly improved his standing in Hollywood.
Married and divorced with one child, Victor was looking for work outside of acting by the mid-1970s. At one point he was giving cooking demonstrations in department stores. An accomplished chef who specialized in Cantonese-style cooking, he wrote the 1974 Great Wok Cookbook and dedicated the book to his father, Sen Gam Yung. Victor was working on a second cookbook when he was suddenly found dead in November of 1980 under initially "mysterious circumstances" in his modest San Fernando Valley bungalow. Following an investigation it was determined that Victor was accidentally asphyxiated in his sleep after turning on a faulty kitchen stove for heat. He was survived by his son and two grandchildren.
Primarily known as a "B" movie bad guy of hundreds of films, husky actor Steve Brodie was born John Daugherty Stephens on November 25, 1919, in El Dorado, Kansas. Raised in Wichita, he dropped out of school and raced cars, boxed and worked on oil rigs to get by. He initially entertained a criminal law career but that interest quickly wore off after having to toil as a property boy.
A passion for acting then was instigated and Brodie found early work in summer stock. Changing his stage name to "Steve Brodie", a move to New York did not pay off but a subsequent move to Los Angeles did. He broke into films after being spotted by an MGM talent scout in a Hollywood theatre production entitled "Money Girls". Loaned out for his first film, Universal's Ladies Courageous, Brodie appeared in a few tough-guy bit parts in such MGM films as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, The Clock and Anchors Aweigh before he was dropped. It wasn't long before he was signed by RKO and it was with studio that his reputation as a heavy in westerns grew, with such roles as notorious outlaws Bob Dalton in Badman's Territory and Cole Younger in Return of the Bad Men. In between those two pictures were strong roles in three film noir classics: Desperate (leading good guy), Crossfire and Out of the Past (both supporting baddies).
A hard-living, hard-drinking actor, Brodie married "B" actress Lois Andrews in 1946 but the couple divorced four years later, not long after appearing together in the western programmer Rustlers. He married Barbara Savitt--the widow of bandleader Jan Savitt--in September of 1950 and the union produced son Kevin Brodie two years later (Kevin later became a producer/director). Steve's second marriage lasted until 1966.
Interest in Brodie eventually waned at the studio and his contract was not renewed. Freelancing elsewhere, he appeared as a lead in Rose of the Yukon and another classic film noir, Armored Car Robbery (on the right side of the law for a change), and also earned good parts in Home of the Brave, The Steel Helmet and Lady in the Iron Mask (as the Musketeer Athos). Most of his post-RKO film work, however, would be in low-budgeters: I Cheated the Law, The Great Plane Robbery, Army Bound, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Donovan's Brain and Under Fire. He also appeared as the hero's nemesis in several Tim Holt / Richard Martin westerns, including The Arizona Ranger, Guns of Hate and Brothers in the Saddle. In the late 1950s he had leads in the "C"-level films Spy in the Sky!, Arson for Hire and Here Come the Jets.
A familiar presence on 1950s and 1960s TV, he worked on such crime series as Public Defender, Hawaiian Eye, Surfside 6, Perry Mason, Burke's Law and such western series as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (recurring part), The Lone Ranger, Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Laramie, Sugarfoot, Maverick, Rawhide, Gunsmoke and comedies including The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, _"The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962)_ (qav). He also appeared in a touring production of "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" starring Paul Douglas and Wendell Corey. The company ended abruptly when the liberal-minded Douglas, in a North Carolina interview, strongly criticized the conservative state and the resulting backlash forced the production's closure.
Brodie's later years were marred by drinking arrests. In the 1970s he made sporadic appearances, including a lead in the campy low-budget horror film The Giant Spider Invasion opposite Barbara Hale and a part in Delta Pi [aka "Mugsy's Girls"], which was written, produced and directed by son Kevin and was also his last film. He also provided voice work in commercials and showed up at nostalgia conventions, including The Knoxville Western Film Fair in 1991, less than a year before his death.
In 1973 Brodie married a third time, to Virginia Hefner, and they had a son Sean. Suffering from esophageal cancer and heart problems, Brodie died at age 72 on January 9, 1992, at a West Hills, California, hospital.
Douglas Fairbanks was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman in Denver, Colorado, to Ella Adelaide (Marsh) and Hezekiah Charles Ullman, an attorney. His paternal grandparents were German Jewish immigrants, while his mother was from an Anglo family from the South. He was raised by his mother, who had separated from his father when he was five. He began amateur theater at age 12 and continued while attending the Colorado School of Mines. In 1900 they moved to New York. He attended Harvard, traveled to Europe, worked on a cattle freighter, in a hardware store and as a clerk on Wall Street. He made his Broadway debut in 1902 and five years later left theater to marry an industrialist's daughter. He returned when his father-in-law went broke the next year. In 1915 he went to Hollywood and worked under a reluctant D.W. Griffith. The following year he formed his own production company. During a Liberty Bond tour with Charles Chaplin he fell in love with Mary Pickford with whom he, Chaplin and Griffith had formed United Artists in 1919. He made very successful early social comedies, then highly popular swashbucklers during the 'twenties. The owners of Hollywood's Pickfair Mansion separated in 1933 and divorced in 1936. In March of that year he married an ex-chorus girl and retired from acting.
Born in Buchard, Nebraska, USA to Elizabeth Fraser and 'J. Darcie 'Foxy' Lloyd' who fought constantly and soon divorced (at the time a rare event), Harold Clayton Lloyd was nominally educated in Denver and San Diego high schools and received his stage training at the School of Dramatic Art (San Diego). Lloyd grew up far more attached to his footloose, chronically unemployed father than his overbearing mother.
He made his stage debut at age 12 as "Little Abe" in "Tess of d'Ubervilles" with the Burwood Stock company of Omaha. Harold and his father moved to California as a result of a fortuitous accident settlement in 1913. Foxy bought a pool hall (that soon failed) while Harold attended high school. The pair were soon broke when his father suggested he try out for a job on a movie being shot at San Diego's Pan American Exposition by the Edison Company. On the set he first met Hal Roach who would be the most influential person in his professional life. Roach (admittedly a poor actor) told Lloyd that someday he'd be a movie producer and he'd make him his star.
Soon afterward, Roach inherited enough money to begin a small production company (Phun Philms, quickly renamed Rolin, with a partner who he soon bought out) and contacted Lloyd to star in the kinds of films he wanted to make: comedies. On the basis of a handful of self-produced shorts starring Lloyd, he managed to land a production contract with the U.S. branch of the French firm, Pathe, who literally paid Road by the exposed foot of film on what films were accepted. Things were touch and go in the beginning, with improvised scenarios, outdoor shoots meaning Pathe rejected several of their first efforts, resulting in missed paydays. During his first contract with Roach he appeared in "Will E. Work" and then "Lonesome Luke" comedies, essentially cheap variations of Charles Chaplin's Little Tramp character. He abandoned the character in disgust in late 1917, adopting his "glasses" persona, an average young man capable of conquering any obstacle thrown at him. He began cementing his new image with Over the Fence, that ushered in a prolific number of shorts through late 1921, often releasing 3 per month. In his "glasses" personification, Lloyd's popularity grew exponentially with each new release, but Lloyd rapidly grew dissatisfied with his relationship with his producer. Roach and Lloyd fought constantly; it's not so much that he didn't want to work for Roach, he didn't want to work for anyone - a trait he himself recognized from early on. To be fair, Roach was increasingly preoccupied with other stars (The "Our Gang" series was launched to huge success in 1922 and he also produced ''Snub' Pollard' shorts, among others) and although he would always resent Lloyd's attitude and ultimate defection to Paramount, the loss of his major star wouldn't financially cripple him. Lloyd had his own quirks; he fell in love with his first co-star Bebe Daniels, who left him after it became apparent he was unable to make a commitment (however the two would remain lifelong friends). Lloyd, in his own way was decidedly complex: he could be professionally generous (often allowing debatably deserving directorial credit to members of his crew) while being notoriously cheap. Yet he practiced little financial self control in anything that concerned himself. Wildly superstitious, he engaged in strict rituals about dressing himself, leaving through the same doors as he entered, and expected his chauffeurs to know which streets were unlucky to traverse. As his finances improved with age he happily indulged himself with a myriad of hobbies that would include breeding Great Danes, amassing cars, bowling, photography, womanizing, and high-fidelity stereo systems. He was open minded about homosexuals while being practically Victorian in his ideas about raising his daughters. He had an enormous libido and rumors abounded about illegitimate children and according to Roach, chronic bouts with VD. Most traumatically, he suffered the loss of his right thumb and forefinger in an accidental prop bomb explosion on August 14, 1919, just as his career was starting to take off. Lloyd would go to great lengths to hide his disability, spending thousands on flesh-colored prosthetic gloves and hiding his right hand whenever knowingly photographed, even long after his career ended. Upon his recovery he completed work on Haunted Spooks and successfully renegotiated his contract with Pathe, which began a career ascent that would rival Chaplin's (indeed, Lloyd was more successful, considering grosses on total output as Chaplin's output soon dwindled by comparison). Lloyd began feature film production with the 4-reel A Sailor-Made Man. It began as a 2-reel short but contained, in his words, "so much good stuff we were loathe to take any of it out." It became a huge hit and continued to release hit features with ever increasing grosses but split with Hal Roach (who retained lucrative re-issue rights to his earlier films) after completing The Freshman, one of his finest films. Pathe's U.S. operations quickly unraveled after their U.S. representative, Paul Brunet returned to France, and Lloyd made a decisive move (Roach himself would also leave Pathe, opting for a distribution deal with MGM - Mack Sennett, also distributed by Pathe, would be financially ruined). After weighing various attractive offers, Lloyd signed an advantageous contract with Paramount and racked up another hit with For Heaven's Sake, one of his weakest silent features, yet it grossed an incredible $2.591 million, nearly equaling "The Freshman" and astonishing even himself.
Lloyd could do no wrong throughout the 1920s, he consistently earned at or near $1.5 million per film with his Paramount contract, and seemed invincible. He married his second co-star Mildred Davis on February 10, 1923 and she retired from acting (replaced by Jobyna Ralston). He built a huge 32-room mansion he christened, "Greenacres" that took over 3 years to complete and the couple eventually had 3 children. His final silent film, Speedy, shot on location in New York, was one of the few major hits of the sound transition period and remains (as do most of Lloyd's films) thoroughly enjoyable today. The advent of sound proved problematic for the comedian. His films were gag-driven and his writing team was wholly unaccustomed to converting their type of comedy into dialog. While his first sound effort (began as a silent), Welcome Danger grossed nearly $3 million, by any standard it's a bad film, and marked a serious decline in Lloyd's screen persona; he became a talking comedian. Ironically, as bad as the film is, it would prove to be the last solid hit of his career. His next talkie, Feet First, included a climb reminiscent (but technically superior to that) of his hit Safety Last!, only being in sound, it contained every grunt and groan and proved painful to watch. With a gross of less that $1 million, Lloyd would see slightly over $300,000, his smallest feature paycheck to date, and it became clear he was in trouble. Lloyd fought back with Movie Crazy. Generally regarded as his finest talkie, it grossed even less than "Feet First." Lloyd left Paramount for Fox and suffered his first outright flop with his next feature, The Cat's-Paw, which grossed $693,000 against a negative cost of $617,000 ---resulting in red ink on a net basis. The miracle Harold Lloyd needed to salvage his career would never happen, but he refused to go down without a fight. Amazingly, the public was oblivious to his decline, and he was widely considered as one of the few silent comedy stars to have made a successful transition through the first decade of sound. But to those within the industry, the numbers didn't add up. Back at Paramount on a 2-movie deal, Lloyd starred in The Milky Way, a better-than-average comedy that pulled a world-wide gross of $1.179 million, but it had production budget exceeding $1 million, resulting in a $250,000 loss for the studio. Paramount was livid, demanding a personal guarantee from Lloyd on anything over $600,000 for his next film, Professor Beware. The comedian soon discovered he couldn't complete the film within the required budget and did something unprecedented --for him at least-- he invested his own money. The final production cost was $820,275 - and it grossed a mere $796,385 - and as a result of a complex payment deal, Lloyd ended up personally losing $119,400 on its initial release (he would eventually recoup the bulk of his losses over the next 35 years). At the relatively young age of 45, Harold Lloyd's Hollywood career was effectively over. Still immensely wealthy from a conservative investment strategy, and always hyperactive, he sought out ways to occupy his time, dragging his kids on marathon movie nights all across Los Angeles and falling back on his many hobbies. Foxy, who had handled the bulk of his correspondence (almost all Lloyd's pre-1938 autographs were actually signed by Foxy) and had carefully documented his press clippings since his acting career had began, retired to Palm Springs in 1938, leaving a void in Lloyd's life. He produced two pictures for RKO, A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob, and a Kay Kyser vehicle, My Favorite Spy which must have looked good on paper but went nowhere at the box office. This ended his career as a producer. He would sign a $25,000 deal with Columbia in 1943 for a comeback project that never materialized. In 1944, Lloyd was approached by director Preston Sturges who envisioned a first-rate vehicle for him entitled, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock. The production launched Sturges' new California Pictures, was financed by Howard Hughes, and initially released by United Artists. It which proved to be a nightmare for everyone concerned. Its $1.7 million production cost proved to be an insurmountable obstacle preventing it from profitability and the eccentric Hughes withdrew it from circulation, later retitling it "Mad Wednesday," re-editing and re-releasing it as an RKO feature in 1951 to an even more dismal box office. Lloyd would also zealously protect ownership of his material and was quite litigious. He successfully sued MGM over their unauthorized poaching of his gags on a Joan Davis vehicle, She Gets Her Man (sadly an action that put the final nail in the professional coffin of the hopelessly alcoholic Clyde Bruckman). With his career at an end, Harold renewed his interest in photography and became involved with color film experiments. Some of the earliest 2 color Technicolor tests had been shot at Greenacres in 1929. In the late 1940s he became fascinated with color 3D still photography and often visited friends on film sets. Throughout the late 40s and well into the 1960s Lloyd indulged himself with glamor models. At his death, his collection of 3D stills numbered 250,000 (the vast majority of which are nudes). Recently his granddaughter published an elaborate book of photos carefully excised from the collection. In the late 1940s Lloyd became an active member of the Shriner's (he'd joined originally in 1924) and an effective administrator for their Los Angeles crippled children's hospital. Harold is reported to be the only actor that owned most of the films he appeared in (sadly many of the earliest ones were destroyed in a nitrite fire in a vault at Greenacres in 1943). This ownership gave him the ability to withhold his films from being shown on television; Lloyd feared incorrect projection speed and commercials would damage his reputation. As a result, a generation of film fans saw very few of his films and his reputation was diminished. He did release 2 compilation films, of which the first, World of Comedy was very successful. Mildred descended into alcoholism in the 1950s and died in 1969. Lloyd occupied his time with extensive travel (he thoroughly enjoyed speaking engagements where he could interact with students on the subject of silent film) and continued his pathological passion for his hobbies through the end of his life. He became interested in high fidelity stereo systems and habitually ordered several record companies' entire annual catalogs, eventually amassing an LP collection rivaling most record stores. He enjoyed cranking music to volumes that caused the inlaid gold leaf on Greenacres' ceilings to rain down on anyone below. Conversely, he balked at modernizing anything inside the mansion, seeing improvements and redecorating as things that would survive him, and thus a complete waste of money. Lloyd was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer by his brother-in-law, Dr. John Davis (Jack Davis, who starred in early "Our Gang" shorts) and died on March 8, 1971. His son, Harold Lloyd Jr. was an alcoholic homosexual and died soon afterward. Although Lloyd left an estate valued at $12 million (in 1971 dollars), he failed to make a provision for the maintenance of Greenacres, a blunder that would seriously complicate his estate. His granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd has been largely responsible for restoring his reputation of late, working to preserve his surviving films; many have been issued on HBO Video, Thames Video. Several have been superbly restored with new musical accompaniments and are shown periodically on TCM.
Tall, dark and regal Frieda Inescort's placid loveliness and dignified patrician features bode her well in Hollywood during the late 30s and 40s. Born on June 29, 1901, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the stage-established actress didn't arrive in Hollywood until age 34 (then considered too late for leading lady roles!) but managed to settle fairly comfortably on the supporting sidelines in chic melodrama and tearjerkers.
Her years growing up were unsettling. Born Frieda Wrightman, she was the daughter of Scots-born journalist John "Jock" Wrightman and actress Elaine Inescourt, who was of German and Polish descent. Her parents initially met when he came to review a play she was appearing in. They married in 1899 but eventually parted ways while Frieda was still young. Her impulsive mother, who had strong designs on a theater career and placed it high on her priority list, sent young Frieda off to live with other families and in boarding schools in England and Wales while she avidly pursued her dreams. Although her father divorced Elaine in 1911 charging his wife with abandonment and adultery, Frieda ended up moving to America with her mother. Again, when Elaine found occasional roles in touring shows, Frieda wound up being carted off to convents or boarding schools.
Mother and daughter eventually returned to London following World War I and the young girl, now solely on her own, managed to find employment as a personal secretary to British Member of Parliament Waldorf Astor (2nd Viscount Astor), who was then Parliamentary Secretary to British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George. She also assisted the American-born Lady (Nancy) Astor. While accompanying Lady Astor on a trip to the United States in July 1919, Frieda decided to stay in the States and terminated her position with the Astors. In New York she continued finding secretarial work that supported both her and her unemployed actress-mother. She worked at one point with the British consulate in New York.
Noticing a number of American actors cast in British parts on Broadway, Frieda was encouraged in the early 1920s to test the waters out as British actresses were in short supply. By chance, she was introduced to producer/director Winthrop Ames, who gave the unseasoned hopeful a small but showy role in his Broadway comedy "The Truth About Blayds" (1922). The play turned out to be a hit. Playwright Philip Barry caught her stage performance and offered her a starring role in his upcoming comedy production "You and I". The show proved to be another winner and Frieda, a star on the horizon, finally saw the end of her days as part of a secretarial pool.
For the rest of the decade Frieda alternated between stage comedy and drama and became a vital force on Broadway with prominent roles in "The Woman on the Jury" (1923), "The Fake" (1924), "Hay Fever" (1925), "Mozart" (1926), "Trelawney of the Wells" (1926) and "Escape" (1927). Frieda's happenstance into acting and her sudden surge of success triggered deep envy and jealousy within her mother, who was unemployed. This led to a bitter and long-term estrangement between the two that never managed to heal itself. Elaine died in 1964.
While working in the late 20s as an assistant for Putnam's Publishing Company in New York, Frieda met assistant editor Ben Ray Redman. They married in 1926 and Redman later became a literary critic for the New York Herald Tribune. Frieda, in the meantime, continued to resonate on the New York and touring stage with such plays as "Springtime for Henry" and "When Ladies Meet".
For over a decade, Frieda had resisted the cinema, having turned down several offers in silent and early talking films. When her husband was offered a job with Universal Studios as a literary adviser and author, however, and the couple had to relocate to Hollywood, she decided to take a difference stance. Discovered by a talent scout while performing in a Los Angeles play, Frieda was signed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company and made her debut supporting 'Fredric March' and Merle Oberon in the dewy-eyed drama The Dark Angel in which she received attractive notices and rare sympathy as blind author March's secretary.
She did not stay long at Goldwyn, however, and went on to freelance for various other studios. During the course of her movie career, Frieda could be quite charming on the screen playing a wronged woman (as she did in Give Me Your Heart), but she specialized in haughtier hearts and played them older and colder than she really was off-camera. She soon gained a classy reputation for both her benign and haughty sophisticates. After Warner Bros. signed her up, she showed promise in Another Dawn, Call It a Day and The Great O'Malley, all 1937 releases. After this, however, Warner Bros. lost interest in her career and loaned her out more and more to other studios. Some of these films were leads -- including the "B"-level Woman Doctor opposite Henry Wilcoxon, A Woman Is the Judge with Otto Kruger, Shadows on the Stairs co-starring Paul Cavanagh, and, in particular, the title role in Portia on Trial. For MGM she played the irrepressibly snobbish Caroline Bingley who sets her sights on Darcy (Laurence Olivier) in the classic Jane Austen film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Besides competing with (and losing out) to Greer Garson in that film, she also played the "other woman" in Beauty for the Asking starring Lucille Ball.
When her career starting to lose steam, Frieda returned to New York and the Broadway stage with matronly parts in Soldier's Wife" (1944), "The Mermaids Singing" (1945) and George Bernard Shaw's successful revival of "You Never Can Tell" (1948). After the tour of the Shaw play folded, she returned to Hollywood. Finding it difficult to pick up where she left off in films, Frieda focused on the relatively new medium of TV in the early 1950s. She appeared as Mrs. Archer on the Meet Corliss Archer series (based on the popular bobbysoxer's radio program) but was replaced by Irene Tedrow in its second and final season. She also graced a number of dramatic TV showcases. The films she did do later that decade, including The She-Creature, Senior Prom, Juke Box Rhythm, were generally dismissed by the critics.
While filming her last picture, The Crowded Sky, for Warner Bros., Frieda began experiencing health problems. She was quickly diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. By the next year, she was forced to retire and had to walk with the aid of a cane. Things got worse that year when her husband, who had grown despondent over personal and financial issues, committed suicide with pills at their California home on August 2, 1961. By the mid-60s the former actress was virtually incapacitated and confined to a wheelchair but valiantly worked for the multiple sclerosis association when she could muster the strength. In 1973 Frieda finally had no choice but to move permanently into the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, where she died at age 74 on February 21, 1976.
Above all else, singer/actress Peggy Wood has endeared herself to both TV and film audiences with one single role in each medium. She made warm, lasting impressions as the benevolent, strong-willed Scandinanvian matriarch Marta Hansen in the series drama Mama, and as the knowing Mother Abbess who gently but firmly steers Julie Andrews' novice away from the nunnery and into the arms of love and a certain Austrian captain with her stirring rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" in, what is arguably considered the most popular musical film ever made, The Sound of Music. But Peggy was so much more than those two undeniable treasures. Encompassing a stage career that lasted six decades, Peggy was unequivocally one of the grand dames of Broadway and London theatre, heightened by the fact that writer Noël Coward wrote some of his strongest pieces with her in mind.
Brooklyn-born Peggy was christened Margaret Wood on February 9, 1892, the daughter of a popular newspaperman and humorist. The lovely blonde soprano began taking singing lessons at age 8 and made her debut as a teenager in the chorus of "Naughty Marietta" (1910). Within a year, she took her first her Broadway bow in "The Three Romeos" (1911) and grew in status after drawing strong applause for her lead ingenue debut in "Maytime" in 1917 while introducing the song "Will You Remember?" The blossoming performer went on to excel prominently in musicals/operettas, including "Buddies" (1919), "Marjolaine" (1922), and "The Clinging Vine" (1922), before making equally respectable ventures into witty comedy (the title role in George Bernard Shaw's "Candida" (1925) and "A Lady in Love" (1927)) and Shakespeare (Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" (1928)).
A quiet beauty who projected little sex appeal, she was naturally not a strong contender for Hollywood stardom but made her feature film debut anyway in the silent movie Almost a Husband opposite humorist Will Rogers. She never made another silent picture. Along with her first husband, poet, and literary editor John V.A. Weaver, she was a member of the New York "intellectual" circuit and the well-chronicled Algonquin (restaurant) Round Table. Noël Coward wrote Peggy's "Bitter Sweet" role specifically for her. She originated the part in London's West End in 1929 and introduced the song "I'll See You Again." While in London, she also appeared in Jerome Kern's "The Cat and the Fiddle" (1932) with Francis Lederer, wherein she sang the popular "Try to Forget," and complemented Coward once again in the musical "Operette" (1938) with her renditions of "Where Are the Songs We Sung" and "Dearest Love." In 1941, Peggy again inspired Coward, this time playing the role of second wife Ruth Condomine in the New York premiere of "Blithe Spirit" with Clifton Webb, and then took the show to the Piccadilly Theatre in London. During World War II, she also lent her singing talent patriotically with several USO tours.
She returned to films in mid-career and co-starred without much fanfare in Handy Andy playing Will Rogers' nagging wife, The Right to Live, Jalna and Call It a Day. Following her supporting work in The Bride Wore Boots, Magnificent Doll and Dream Girl, she was ignored in films until handed the roles of Naomi in the biblical drama The Story of Ruth and her Oscar-nominated Mother Abbess.
A master dialectician who handled many ethnic roles during her long career, she became one of early TV's critically-acclaimed "Golden Age" stars with the Norwegian family drama Mama and was Emmy-nominated twice for her efforts. She also continued on the 50s and 60s stage with roles in "Charley's Aunt", "The Girls in 508" with Imogene Coca, "The Rape of the Belt", "Pictures in the Hallway" and "The Madwoman of Chaillot", which would be one of her last stage shows in 1970. From 1959 to 1966, she served as President of ANTA (American National Theatre and Academy).
Peggy married and was widowed twice. Her first husband died of tuberculosis at age 44 and her second, William Walling, an executive in the printing business, died in 1973 after 32 years. Peggy herself, at age 86, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Stanford, Connecticut, on March 18, 1978, and was survived by her son, David Weaver, who once assistant stage managed one of her Broadway plays "The Happiest Years".
Carole Landis was born on New Year's Day in 1919 in Fairchild, Wisconsin, as Frances Lillian Mary Ridste. Her father, a railroad mechanic, was of Norwegian descent and her mother was Polish. Her father walked out, leaving Carole, her mother and an older brother and sister to fend for themselves.
After graduating from high school, she married Irving Wheeler, but the union lasted a month (the marriage was annulled because Carole was only 15 at the time). The couple remarried in August 1934, and the two headed to California to start a new life. For a while she worked as a dancer and singer, but before long the glitter of show business drew her to Los Angeles.
She won a studio contract with Warner Brothers but was a bit player for the most part in such films as A Star Is Born, A Day at the Races, and The Emperor's Candlesticks. The following year started out much the same way, with more bit roles. By 1939, she was getting a few speaking roles, although mostly one-liners, and that year ended much as had the previous two years, with more bit roles; also, she and Wheeler were divorced.
In 1940 she was cast as Loana in the Hal Roach production of One Million B.C.; she finally got noticed (the skimpy outfit helped), and her career began moving. She began getting parts in B pictures but didn't star in big productions -- although she had talent, the really good roles were given to the established stars of the day.
Her busiest year was 1942, with roles in Manila Calling, The Powers Girl, A Gentleman at Heart, and three other movies. Unfortunately, critics took little notice of her films, and and when they did, reviewers tended to focus on her breathtaking beauty. By the middle 1940s, Carole's career was beginning to short-circuit. Her contract with 20th Century-Fox had been canceled, her marriages to Willis Hunt Jr. and Thomas Wallace had failed, and her current marriage to Horace Schmidlapp was on the skids; all of that plus health problems spelled disaster for her professionally and personally.
Her final two films, Brass Monkey and The Silk Noose were released in 1948. On July 5, 1948, Carole committed suicide by taking an overdose of Seconal in her Brentwood Heights, California, home. She was only 29 and had made 49 pictures, most of which were, unfortunately, forgettable. If Hollywood moguls had given Carole a chance, she could have been one of the brightest stars in its history.
John Newman Mitchum was the September child of a Norwegian mother and an Irish/Blackfoot father whom he never knew, as he was killed in a tragic train yard accident in 1919. His two-years-older brother Robert filled the role as best as he could, while their older sister Annette studied the lively arts and eventually joined a traveling vaudeville team. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the young family moved to Rising Sun, Delaware, where farm life didn't agree with the young boys. Scarce opportunities took them to New York City, where the streets of Hell's kitchen taught the brothers to fight, a skill they developed so well they earned the moniker 'them ornery Mitchum boys'. Eventually, when the Great Depression deepened, the family was forced to separate with the intention of meeting up with sister Annette, who had married a sailor and moved to California, changing her name to Julie. The teenage boys set out with little more than clean handkerchiefs to find their way across the country by the only means they could: hitchhiking and riding the rails. Their somewhat aimless journey took them to places they had never been; where their Eastern accents were not welcome, so they quickly learned that accurately mimicking the local dialect would keep them out of trouble--some of the time! While brother Robert fairly quickly discovered his place in Hollywood legend, John sought his destiny on the high seas, professionally boxing, or conducting a choir. When the opportunity for acting came along John found his perfect niche as a character actor, mostly playing heavies since he was an imposing figure of a man. John's roles had him playing alongside a wide range of celebrities, from Humphrey Bogart in "Knock On Any Door" (1949) to Gladys Knight in "Pipe Dreams" (1976), Clint Eastwood of "Dirty Harry" (1971) to John Wayne in "Chisum" (1970), appearing in 58 films overall. It was during production of "Chisum" that John Wayne offered his voice for an anthology of John's poetry that seeks to uplift American culture, "America, Why I Love Her", a recording for which Mitchum was nominated for a Grammy in 1973. John was a consummate storyteller (as was his brother Robert), and with his fascination with American history in particular he was ever-ready to regale anyone with a thoughtful, interesting, and insightful anecdote, especially if a guitar was available. It was the wedding of music and history that brought him to create the recording "Our Land, Our Heritage" with Dan Blocker; big "Hoss" from "Bonanza", in 1964. Mitchum had some recurring roles throughout his television career; such as "Pickalong" from "Riverboat", or "Hoffenmueller" from "F-Troop", over 150 appearances in all during the span of a half-century career. The brothers Mitchum legacy has been well-preserved in his often hilarious autobiography, "Them Ornery Mitchum Boys", published in 1989. The subjects range from brother Robert escaping a Georgia chain-gang to his "poontang" interview; from John surviving an attacking whale on a three-masted schooner to his adventures riding the rails, developing a great love and respect for the American people.
Albert was born on June 24, 1919 to Raffaele Molinaro and Teresa Marrone. His father was born in Calabria, Italy and immigrated to the US when he was 15 years old and worked as a water boy with a railroad crew going west from New York. He ended up in Kenosha Wisconsin where he met and married Albert's mother Teresa on December 22, 1901. His father named Albert after his favorite Italian Prince, Umberto II who was born 15 years earlier. A school teacher later suggested that "Albert" might be more suitable. His mother chose his middle name Fransico after Santo Francisco since he was born on Saint Francis Day. The midwife who's English was only slightly better than Albert's parents spelled his middle name with a feminine "A" at the end which was never corrected. His legal named remained Umberto Francisca Molinaro. He was the ninth child of what would later become a family of ten children, eight boys and 2 girls. At 19 years of age Albert became a union leader at the Vincent-McCall furniture spring factory after working there for only 4 months. He later became the special assistant to the Kenosha City Manager when he was 20. At this time Albert's best friend from Kenosha, Mills Tenuta, who had moved to Southern California to work in an aircraft plant, began harassing him to come out to Hollywood. He was sure that Albert could be a movie star. Albert left a promising career with the city after only a year to head to Hollywood to become an actor. Albert had many jobs while pursuing his acting career. His first job was at Reginald Denny's Hobby shop in Hollywood. He spent 2 years as a live action animator at George Pal's studios. If Technicolor hadn't gone on a sympathy strike with the Studio Carpenters union he might have spent his career as an animator. He managed the M&G Grand Variety Store for a year and then became a bill collector for the "Collection Agency of America" in downtown LA. He quickly learned the art of bill collecting and was able to become a salesman who procured collection accounts for another agency which he later purchased. This gave him flexible hours and a steady income so he could focus again on his dreams of Hollywood. Even after his acting career took off he kept his Bill Collection business until he retired. Albert married Jacqueline Martin in 1948. They moved into a home in Granada Hills, CA and adopted their son Michael Molinaro. Albert and Jacqueline were divorced in 1980. Albert then married Betty Sedillos in 1981 and they lived in Glendale CA until his death in 2015. Albert had two step children, Jim Sedillos & Victoria Sedillos and a total of 6 grandchildren and 2 great-grand children. Albert's movie debut happened when he was 25 years old. After appearing as the lead in a Chekhov play called "The Bear" at the old Sartu Theater that used to be on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea Ave. A movie producer saw the performance and cast him in a picture that had three separate stories, one of the stories was Chekhov's play "The Bear" but changed from a Russian setting to a Spanish locale. The movie was titled "Love Me Madly". Albert was not told that some of the scenes they shot without him were R rated in today's standards but X rated for 1954's standards. He was surprised and upset during the movies premiere and vowed to never again be in a film that his mother couldn't watch. During the early 1950's Albert began producing live television shows for local televisions stations channel 5 KTLA, channel 9 KHJ & channel 11 KTTV. He Co-created "Insomnia" a late night live show and a "Ski Show" in which Warren Miller allowed him to use some of his skiing footage. He created "Star Finder" a pre-teen amateur show, "Square Dance Party" and "The Tiny Late Show" which was his own late night one man show that filled the few minutes of time between the end of the late night movie and the station signing off for the night.
All the time Albert was working to pay his bills he was also acting in small plays in theaters all over Hollywood. After 25 years of theater acting he was convinced to play a small part in a play directed by his friend, Leo Matranga, at the Hollywood Horseshoe Theater. After the show, a commercial agent named Don Schwartz offered to represent him. Albert swore off acting and never called Don. One year later, Don called Albert telling him that he already set up an appointment for him and convinced him to audition for a national commercial. Albert got the commercial for the Volvo 140. You can see his commercial debut on youtube "Volvo 140 advertising". It's 3 min. & 30 seconds into the video (they have strung many vintage Volvo ads together). Take a look at his first commercial and you will see the face that went on to land over 100 commercials. 42 of them were nationals. He also landed a 10 year deal with "Encore" frozen dinners becoming their spokesperson. A friend from George Pal's Studios named Glenn Grossman cast Albert whenever he could in the industrial films that he would make from time to time. It was while working on one of Glenn's films that Albert met another working actor named Harvey Lembeck. When Harvey wasn't acting he ran an actor's workshop. Harvey convinced Albert that he could help him with his comedy timing. Gary Marshall's sister Penny was also a member of Harvey's workshop. One night Penny asked her brother to come down and see Albert. Gary was in the process of producing a movie starring Jacquiline Bissett called "The Grasshopper" and wanted Al to play the part of a truck driver. Albert did not play the part because the shooting dates conflicted with a Pepto-Bismol commercial he was scheduled to shoot in Phoenix. A year later, when Albert learned from his writer friend, John Rappaport, that Garry Marshall was casting for The Odd Couple TV show, John convinced him that he would be perfect to play one of the poker players. Albert first refused to call Gary but John badgered him enough to finally make him call. Albert made numerous phone calls but got no response so he decided to dress up like a delivery man and deliver a 2'x3' card with many pictures of himself glued to it stating that "Al Molinaro is a Poker Player. ...Assorted Poker Faces ... More faces available upon demand. Just Call (his Phone #) Dear Gary, If you don't call me for an audition, I'll put a curse on you to make you sterile for life. Sincerely, Al Molinaro. The delivery outfit did not get him past the guard at the Paramount gate but it did get the card delivered and Albert got an audition and landed the part of Murray the Cop. Later, Gary stated that, "Although we thought Albert was wrong for the part, we decided to take a chance on Al because of all the men who we auditioned, he was the funniest. Albert spent 5 years on The Odd Couple and when it finished, due to the fact that Jack Klugman wanted to do drama, he was offered the roll of the Malt Shop Owner on Gary's new show "Happy Days". Albert turned down the role feeling he did not want to work with a "bunch of kids". After the first season of Happy Days, Pat Morita, who was cast in the role of the malt shop owner, was offered his own show so Gary once again asked Albert to work on the show. Albert asked Gary that if he didn't like working on the show, could he quit whenever he wanted. Gary said he couldn't put that in writing but that they would shake on it. Albert enjoyed 10 years on "Happy Days" from 1974 to 1984 and 1 more year on "Joanie Loves Chachi. He guest starred on many television shows during and after the filming of the Odd Couple and Happy Days. He also worked on a short lived sitcom called "The Family Man" from 1990-1991 but decided to stop taking roles by the mid 90's. He completed his 10 year contract with Encore Frozen Foods and as his last job he surprisingly accepted an offer to be in a music video with Wheezer.
Albert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the mid 90's and lived with the illness for 20 years. Early diagnosis and careful medication allowed Albert to enjoy life until he had a small heart attack in May of 2015. He was a wonderfully kind man. He taught himself to play the piano, clarinet and ukulele and even had a few real gigs in Reno playing the clarinet in his youth. His family believes that his improvisational skills allowed him to mask his Alzheimer's disease from most people until just before he died. He continued to personally answer his fan mail until his health did not allow it. In June he celebrated his 96th birthday but he was declining quickly. He developed a gall stones and due to his age and the recent heart attack, surgery was not recommended. Albert died on October 30th 2015.
The favorite leading man of star actress Bette Davis, was born George Brendan Nolan, near Dublin, and became an orphan at the tender age of eleven. For a while, he stayed with an aunt in New York, but returned to Ireland to study at the University of Dublin. After leaving university in 1919, George became a courier for Sinn Fein leader Michael Collins, hunted by the Black and Tan, with a price on his head. By that time, he had developed an interest in acting and joined the Abbey Theatre Players. In 1925, he returned to New York, touring with 'Abie's Irish Rose', then working with stock companies in Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts. He appeared in the ensemble cast of 'The Nightingale' on Broadway (1927), and, three years later, co-starred with Alice Brady and Clark Gable in the short-lived play 'Love, Honor and Betray'.
He worked in Hollywood from 1930, initially cast as farmers, doctors and partner of Rin Tin Tin, before Warner Brothers recognised his potential as a strong leading man for some of their more temperamental female stars. One of those was Ruth Chatterton, who picked him to play opposite her in The Rich Are Always with Us. This was the first of four films he made with the actress, whom he married - and divorced after two years. A specialist in dapper, sophisticated gentlemen, George gave reliable support to stars like Greta Garbo, Hedy Lamarr, Barbara Stanwyck and (eleven times) Bette Davis, though he could rarely be described as dynamic. His most memorable performances were opposite Davis in Front Page Woman, Dark Victory, The Old Maid, and, co-starring Myrna Loy, The Rains Came. When his looks dissipated and leading man roles became scarce, George gave arguably his best performance (against type) as the maniacal murderer in the Robert Siodmak-directed thriller The Spiral Staircase. Following that, there were several B-movies on both sides of the Atlantic, after which he effectively retired to breed race horses.
Patricia Paz Maria Medina was born on July 19, 1919 in Liverpool, England to a Spanish father and an English mother. She began acting as a teenager in the late 1930s and worked her way up to leading roles in the mid-1940s, where she left for Hollywood. Medina teamed up with British actor Louis Hayward and they appeared together in Fortunes of Captain Blood, The Lady and the Bandit, Lady in the Iron Mask and Captain Pirate. Voluptuous and exotic-looking, Medina was often typecast in period melodramas such as The Black Knight. Two of her more notable films were William Witney's Stranger at My Door and Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin, a follow-up of The Third Man, based on the radio series "The Lives of Harry Lime". Although prolific during the early 1950s, her film career faded away by the end of the decade.
Medina appeared as Margarita Cortazar in four episodes of Walt Disney's Zorro, and as Diana Coulter in two episodes of Richard Boone's Have Gun - Will Travel. She returned to the screen in Robert Aldrich's adaptation of the lesbian-themed drama The Killing of Sister George. She and her husband, American actor Joseph Cotten, toured together in several plays and on Broadway in the murder mystery "Calculated Risk". Her appearances on television include episodes of Bonanza titled "The Spanish Grant" and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour titled "See the Monkey Dance". She also appeared as Harriet Balfour in an episode of Perry Mason titled "The Case of the Lucky Loser", and as Lucia Belmont in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. titled "The Foxes and Hounds Affair".
Patricia Medina retired from acting in 1978 after 40 years in the motion picture industry. She died at age 92 of natural causes on April 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. She was interred at Blandford Cemetary in Petersburg, Virginia beside her second husband Joseph Cotten.
Gladys Cooper was the daughter of journalist William Frederick Cooper and his wife Mabel Barnett. As a child she was very striking and was used as a photographic model beginning at six years old. She wanted to become an actress and started on that road in 1905 after being discovered by Seymour Hicks to tour with his company in "Bluebell in Fairyland". She came to the London stage in 1906 in "The Belle of Mayfair", and in 1907 took a departure from the legitimate stage to become a member of Frank Curzon's famous Gaiety Girls chorus entertainments at The Gaiety theater. Her more concerted stage work began in 1911 in a production of Oscar Wilde's comedy "The Importance of Being Ernest" which was followed quickly with other roles. From the craze for post cards with photos of actors - that ensued between about 1890 and 1914 - Cooper became a popular subject of maidenly beauty with scenes as Juliet and many others. During World War I her popularity grew into something of pin-up fad for the British military.
In the meantime she sampled the early British silent film industry starting in 1913 with The Eleventh Commandment. She had roles in a few other movies in 1916 and 1917. But in the latter year she joined Frank Curzon to co-manage the Playhouse Theatre. This was a decidedly new direction for a woman of the period. She took sole control from 1927 until other stage commitments in 1933. She was also doing plays, some producing of her own, and a few more films in the early 1920s. It was actually about this time that she achieved major stage actress success. She appeared in W. Somerset Maugham's "Home and Beauty" in London in 1919 and triumphed in her 1922 appearance in Arthur Wing Pinero's "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray". It was ironic that writer Aldous Huxley criticized her performance in "Home and Beauty" as "too impassive, too statuesque, playing all the time as if she were Galatea, newly unpetrified and still unused to the ways of the living world." On the other hand, Maugham himself applauded her for "turning herself from an indifferent actress (at the start of her career) to an extremely competent one". She also debuted the role of Leslie Crosbie (the Bette Davis role in the 1940 film) in Maugham's "The Letter" in 1927.
In 1934 Cooper made her first sound picture in the UK and came to Broadway with "The Shining Hour" which she had been doing in London. She and it were a success, and she followed it with several plays through 1938, including "MacBeth". About this time Hollywood scouts caught wind of her, and she began her 30 odd years in American film. That first film was also Alfred Hitchcock's first Hollywood directorial effort, Rebecca (1940). Her's was a small and light role as Laurence Olivier's gregarious sister, but she stood out all the same. Two years later she bit into the much more substantial role as Bette Davis' domineering and repressive mother in the classic Now, Voyager for which she received a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress - the first of three. Though aristocratic elderly ladies was a role she revisited in various guises, Cooper was very busy through 1940s Hollywood.
She returned to London stage work from 1947 and stayed for some early episodic British TV into 1950 before once again returning to the US, but was busy on both sides of the Atlantic until her passing. Through the 1950s and into the 1960s Cooper did a few films but was an especially familiar face on American TV in teleplays, a wide range of prime time episodic shows, and popular weird/sci-fi series: several Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits. When Enid Bagnold's "The Chalk Garden" opened in London in 1955, Cooper debuted as Mrs. St. Maugham and brought it to Broadway in October of that year where it ran through March of 1956. Her last major film was My Fair Lady as Henry Higgins' mother. The year before she had played the part on TV. In the film, the portrait prop of a fine lady over Higgins' fireplace is that of Cooper painted in 1922. She wrote an autobiography (1931) followed by two biographies (1953 and 1979). In 1967 she was honored as a Dame Commander of the Order of British Empire (DBE) for her great accomplishments in furthering acting.
|Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Although he appeared in approximately 100 movies or TV shows, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. never really intended to take up acting as a career. However, the environment he was born into and the circumstances naturally led him to be a thespian. Noblesse oblige.
He was born Douglas Elton Fairbanks, Jr. in New York City, New York, to Anna Beth (Sully), daughter of a very wealthy cotton mogul, and actor Douglas Fairbanks (born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman), then not yet established as the swashbuckling idol he would become. Fairbanks, Jr. had German Jewish (from his paternal grandfather), English, and Scottish ancestry.
He proved a gifted boy early in life. To the end of his life he remained a multi-talented, hyperactive man, not content to appear in the 100 films mentioned above. Handsome, distinguished and extremely bright, he excelled at sports (much like his father), notably during his stay at the Military Academy in 1919 (his role in Claude Autant-Lara's "L'athlète incomplete" illustrated these abilities). He also excelled academically, and attended the Lycéee Janson de Sailly in Paris, where he had followed his divorced mother. Very early in his life he developed a taste for the arts as well and became a painter and sculptor. Not content to limiting himself to just one field, he became involved in business, in fields as varied as mining, hotel management, owning a chain of bowling alleys and a firm that manufactured popcorn. During World War II he headed London's Douglas Voluntary Hospital (an establishment taking care of war refugees), was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's special envoy for the Special Mission to South America in 1940 before becoming a lieutenant in the Navy (he was promoted to the rank of captain in 1954) and taking part in the Allies' landing in Sicily and Elba in 1943. A fervent Anglophile, was knighted in 1949 and often entertained Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in his London mansion, "The Boltons".
His film career began at the age of 13 when he was signed by Paramount Pictures. He debuted in Stephen Steps Out but the film flopped and his career stagnated despite a critically acclaimed role in Stella Dallas. Things really picked up when he married Lucille Le Sueur, a young starlet who was soon to become better known as Joan Crawford. The young couple became the toast of the town (one "Screen Snapshots" episode echoes this sudden glory) and good parts and success followed, such as the hapless partner of Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar a favorably reviewed turn as the villain in The Prisoner of Zenda or more debonair characters in slapstick comedies or adventure yarns. The 1930s were a fruitful period for Fairbanks, his most memorable role probably being that of the British soldier in Gunga Din; although it was somewhat of a "swasbuckling" role, Fairbanks made a point of never imitating his father. After the World War II, his star waned and, despite a moving part in Ghost Story, he did not appear in a major movie. Now a legend himself, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. left this world with the satisfaction of having lived up to the Fairbanks name at the end of a life nobody could call "wasted".
Agatha was born as "Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller" in 1890 to Frederick Alvah Miller and Clara Boehmer. Agatha was of American and British descent, her father being American and her mother British. Her father was a relatively affluent stockbroker. Agatha received home education from early childhood to when she turned 12-years-old in 1902. Her parents taught her how to read, write, perform arithmetic, and play music. Her father died in 1901. Agatha was sent to a girl's school in Torquay, Devon, where she studied from 1902 to 1905. She continued her education in Paris, France from 1905 to 1910. She then returned to her surviving family in England.
As a young adult, Agatha aspired to be a writer and produced a number of unpublished short stories and novels. She submitted them to various publishers and literary magazines, but they were all rejected. Several of these unpublished works were later revised into more successful ones. While still in this point of her life, Agatha sought advise from professional writer Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960). Meanwhile she was searching for a suitable husband and in 1913 accepted a marriage proposal from military officer and pilot-in-training Archibald "Archie" Christie. They married in late 1914. Her married name became "Agatha Christie" and she used it for most of her literary works, including ones created decades following the end of her first marriage.
During World War I, Archie Christie was send to fight in the war and Agatha joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a British voluntary unit providing field nursing services. She performed unpaid work as a volunteer nurse from 1914 to 1916. Then she was promoted to "apothecaries' assistant" (dispenser), a position which earned her a small salary until the end of the war. She ended her service in September, 1918.
Agatha wrote "The Mysterious Affair at Styles", her debut novel ,in 1916, but was unable to find a publisher for it until 1920. The novel introduced her famous character Hercule Poirot and his supporting characters Inspector Japp and Arthur Hastings. The novel is set in World War I and is one of the few of her works which are connected to a specific time period.
Following the end of World War I and their retirement from military life, Agatha and Archie Christie moved to London and settled into civilian life. Their only child Rosalind Margaret Clarissa Christie (1919-2004) was born early in the marriage. Agatha's debut novel was first published in 1920 and turned out to be a hit. It was soon followed by the successful novels "The Secret Adversary" (1922) and "Murder on the Links" (1923) and various short stories. Agatha soon became a celebrated writer.
In 1926, Archie Christie announced to Agatha that he had a mistress and that he wanted a divorce. Agatha took it hard and mysteriously disappeared for a period of 10 days. After an extensive manhunt and much publicity, she was found living under a false name in Yorkshire. She had assumed the last name of Archie's mistress and claimed to have no memory of how she ended up there. The doctors who attended to her determined that she had amnesia. Despite various theories by multiple sources, these 10 days are the most mysterious chapter in Agatha's life.
Agatha and Archie divorced in 1928, though she kept the last name Christie. She gained sole custody of her daughter Rosalind. In 1930, Agatha married her second (and last) husband Max Mallowan, a professional archaeologist. They would remain married until her death in 1976.Christie often used places that she was familiar with as settings for her novels and short stories. Her various travels with Max introduced her to locations of the Middle East, and provided inspiration for a number of novels.
In 1934, Agatha and Max settled in Winterbrook, Oxfordshire, which served as their main residence until their respective deaths. During World War II, she served in the pharmacy at the University College Hospital, where she gained additional training about substances used for poisoning cases. She incorporated such knowledge for realistic details in her stories.
She became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956 and a Dame Commander of the same order in 1971. Her husband was knighted in 1968. They are among the relatively few couples where both members have been honored for their work. Agatha continued writing until 1974, though her health problems affected her writing style. Her memory was problematic for several years and she had trouble remembering the details of her own work, even while she was writing it. Recent researches on her medical condition suggest that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. She died of natural causes in early 1976.
Nigel was, from the beginning, typecast as bumbling English aristocrats, military types or drawing room society snobs and, within the narrow parameters of his range, he was very, very good at playing these parts. Nigel Bruce was born in Mexico, where his father, Sir William W. Bruce, worked as an engineer. His family was part of English aristocracy, ever since Charles I. bestowed a baronetcy upon them in 1629 (William's older brother Michael held the hereditary title). Nigel was educated in England at Grange, Stevenage and Abingdon. His first job was at a stockbroker's firm. During World War I, he served in the British Army (like his future co-star, Basil Rathbone) where he received a serious leg wound and was for some time confined to a wheelchair.
Following his discharge, he turned to acting in 1919, but it wasn't until ten years later that he achieved a breakthrough in Noël Coward's 'This was a Man' on Broadway. Then followed the performance which was to set the standard for all his later work in Hollywood: the 1931 comedy "Springtime for Henry". On the strength of his performance as Johnny Jelliwell, Fox offered Nigel the opportunity to reprise his role in the 1934 movie. Soon after that, Nigel was cast to star as British detective Bertram Lynch in a minor thriller, Murder in Trinidad. The contemporary New York Times Review (May 16,1934) was skeptical about the film's merit, but found Nigel's performance 'compelling'. After that followed a gallery of endearingly stereotypical 'Britishers': Squire Trelawny in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island, the Prince of Wales in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Professor Holly in She and Sir Benjamin Warrenton in The Charge of the Light Brigade. All, without exception, were roles in which Nigel felt perfectly at home.
In 1939, he teamed up with Basil Rathbone for the first two Holmes/Watson movies, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, filmed at 20th Century Fox. Both films had an authentic period feel for Victorian England and the chemistry between the two stars was just right. Three years later, Rathbone was contractually obliged to make a further series of twelve Holmes pictures at Universal, again co-starring Nigel as Dr. Watson. Unfortunately, these films were incongruously set in the 1940's, often poorly written and irritatingly riddled with sermonizing wartime propaganda. Poor old Nigel had suddenly regressed from being 'my friend and colleague' to bumbling, feet shuffling comedy relief. In between filming the Sherlock Holmes series, Nigel portrayed his lovable self in two Hitchcock classics Rebecca (as Major Giles Lacy) and Suspicion (as 'Beaky').
A prominent member of the resident English colony in Hollywood, Nigel Bruce at one time captained the cricket club established by fellow actor and compatriot C. Aubrey Smith in 1932 (other members included P.G. Wodehouse, Boris Karloff, Ronald Colman and David Niven).
|Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle
Roscoe Arbuckle, one of nine children, was the baby of the family who weighed a reported 16 pounds at birth. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, his family moved to California when he was a year old. At age eight he appeared on the stage. His first part was with the Webster-Brown Stock Company. From then until 1913, Roscoe was on the stage, performing as an acrobat, clown and singer. His first real professional engagement was in 1904, singing illustrated songs for Sid Grauman at the Unique Theater in San Jose, CA, at $17.50 a week. He later worked in the Morosco Burbank stock company and traveled through China and Japan with Ferris Hartman. His last appearance on the stage was with Hartman in Yokahama, Japan, in 1913, where he played the Mikado.
Back in Hollywood, Arbuckle went to work at Mack Sennett's Keystone film studio at $40 a week. For the next 3-1/2 years he never starred or even featured, but appeared in hundreds of one-reel comedies. He would play mostly policemen, usually with the Keystone Kops, but he also played different parts. He would work with Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Charles Chaplin, among others, and would learn about the process of making movies from Henry Lehrman, who directed all but two of his pictures. Roscoe was a gentle and genteel man off screen and always believed that Sennett never thought that he was funny.
Roscoe never used his weight to get a laugh. He would never be found stuck in a chair or doorway. He was remarkably agile for his size and used that agility to find humor in situations. By 1914 he had begun directing some of his one-reels. The next year he had moved up to two-reels, which meant that he would need to sustain the comedy to be successful--as it turned out, he was. Among his films were Fatty Again, Mabel, Fatty and the Law, Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day, Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco, Fatty's Reckless Fling, and many more. For "Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco", Keystone took the actors to the real World's Fair to use as background; the studio's cost was negligible, while the San Francisco backgrounds made the picture look expensive.
By 1917 Roscoe formed a partnership with Joseph M. Schenck, a powerful producer who was also the husband of Norma Talmadge. The company they formed was called Comique and the films that Roscoe made were released through Famous Players on a percentage basis, and soon Arbuckle was making over $1,000 a week. With his own company Roscoe had complete creative control over his productions. He also hired a young performer he met in New York by the name of Buster Keaton. Keaton's film career would start with Roscoe in The Butcher Boy. Roscoe wrote his own stories first, tried them out and then devised funny twists to generate the laughs. His comedy star was second only to Charles Chaplin. With the success of Comique, Paramount asked Roscoe to move from two-reel shorts to full-length features in 1919. Roscoe's first feature was The Round-Up and it was successful. It was soon followed by other features, including Brewster's Millions and Gasoline Gus.
Ufortunately, tragedy struck on Labor Day on September 5, 1921 with the arrest and trial of Roscoe Arbuckle on manslaughter charges. Roscoe's roommate had thrown a party in their San Francisco hotel suite, which was crashed by a "starlet" named Virginia Rappe, who fell seriously ill and died three days later from a ruptured bladder. Rappe had accused Arbuckle of raping her prior to passing away, but Rappe had a history of accusing men of rape. The newspapers, led by William Randolph Hearst, used this incident to generate Hollywood's first major scandal. Roscoe was tried not once but three times for the criminal charges; the trials began in November 1921 and lasted until April 1922; the first two ended with hung juries (the mistrial decision in the second trial was reached on February 3, 1922, the day after Arbuckle's friend and fellow Paramount director William Desmond Taylor was found murdered, and Arbuckle was visibly affected by the news). At his third and final trial in April of 1922, the jury not only returned a "not guilty" verdict but excoriated the prosecution for pursuing a flimsy case with no evidence of Arbuckle having committed any crime; it was at this final trial that the jury went further, writing a personal letter of sympathy and apology to Arbuckle for putting him through this ordeal. He kept it as a treasured memento for the rest of his life.
However, Arbuckle's acquittal marked the end of his comedic acting career. Unable to return to the screen, he later found work as a comedy director for Al St. John, Buster Keaton and others under the pseudonym "William Goodrich" (he was inspired to use this pseudonym by Keaton, who suggested Arbuckle use the name "Will B. Good"). In 1932 producer Samuel Sax signed Roscoe to appear in his very first sound comic short films for Warner Brothers, starting with Hey, Pop!. He completed six shorts and showed the magic and youthful spirit that he had a decade before. With the success of the shorts, Warner Brothers signed Roscoe to a feature film contract, but he died in his sleep on June 29, 1933 , at age 46, the night after he signed the contract.
A veteran of stage, screen, radio and TV, character actor Nigel Stock was born in Malta in 1919, the son of Captain W.H. Stock, RE, and his wife Margaret Marion Munro. In British India from childhood, he and his sister Angela returned to the UK in his early teens for schooling. Nigel was educated at St. Paul's School and studied for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he earned the Leverhulme Exhibition, Northcliffe Scholarship, and the Principal's Medal. He made his debut stage appearance at the Savoy Theatre in 1931, at the age of 12, in a production of "The Traveller in the Dark". He continued to rack up a number of classical and contemporary credits at various distinguished theaters, including the Old Vic, with productions of "The Winter's Tale", "Macbeth" (playing Macduff), "Tobacco Road" and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips". Stock interrupted his thriving career by serving in the Army from 1939 to 1941 with the London Irish Rifles, and with the Assam Regiment, Indian Army between 1941 and 1945 in Burma, China and Kohima. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Major. He returned to the stage in 1946 with "And No Birds Sing" and made his first appearance on the New York stage as "Philip" in "You Never Can Tell" in 1948. A reliable player who lent distinction to every aspect of the theatrical repertoire, from William Shakespeare through Anton Chekhov to modern farce, he impressed in "She Stoops to Conquer", "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial", "Altona", "Uncle Vanya" and "Sleuth", among others. An imposing, often bearded presence, he started off in films as a teenager in Lancashire Luck, later appearing in such popular British releases as Brighton Rock, The Dam Busters, Damn the Defiant!, The Lost Continent, The Lion in Winter, Cromwell and Russian Roulette, often appearing in villainous roles. Interestingly, one of his last performances was a character part in the Steven Spielberg production of Young Sherlock Holmes. Between 1964-1968, Stock made a household name for himself playing the role of "Dr. Watson" in a BBC-TV series of "Sherlock Holmes" dramas. He had a devout interest in ornithology. Stock's third wife was actress Richenda Carey. They appeared together on stage in the world premiere of "Mumbo Jumbo" from May 8-May 31, 1986. Less than a month later, Stock died on June 23rd of a heart attack. He was survived by four children.
|Edgar Rice Burroughs
His father had been a major in the Union army during the Civil War. Edgar Rice Burroughs attended the Brown School then, due to a diphtheria epidemic, Miss Coolie's Maplehurst School for Girls, then the Harvard School, Phillips Andover and the Michigan Military Academy. He was a mediocre student and flunked his examination for West Point. He worked a variety of jobs all over the country: a cowboy in Idaho, a gold miner in Oregon, a railroad policeman in Utah, a department manager for Sears Roebuck in Chicago. He published "A Princess of Mars" under the title "Under the Moons of Mars" in six parts between February and July of 1912. The same "All-Story Magazine" put out his immediately successful "Tarzan of the Apes" in October of that year. Two years later the hardback book appeared, and on January 27, 1918, the movie opened on Broadway starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan. It was one of the first movies to gross over $1,000,000. Burroughs was able to move his family to the San Fernando Valley in 1919, converting a huge estate into Tarzana Ranch. He was in Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 and remained in Hawaii as a war correspondent. Afterward he returned home with a heart condition. On March 19, 1950, alone in his home after reading the Sunday comics in bed, he died. By then he had written 91 novels, 26 of which were about Tarzan. The man whose books have sold hundreds of millions of copies in over thirty languages once said "I write to escape ... to escape poverty".
|Oscar Beregi Jr.
Heavyweight Hungarian-born character actor Oscar Beregi Jr.'s best performances were on the small screen, usually as Germanic or Russian heavies. His stock-in-trade villainy was of a cultured or psychological, rather than physical nature, urbane and intellectual, yet inevitably sinister. His father, matinee idol Oscar Beregi Sr., had appeared on the Hungarian and German stage in Shakespearean roles, as well as acting in films, since 1919. Both Beregis left Hungary in 1939, the father settling in America, while the son ran a restaurant in Chile. It took several year for the younger Beregi to be granted a visa to enter the U.S., and then only through the intervention of then-senator Lyndon Johnson.
When Beregi finally arrived in America, he spoke little English and worked as a salesman for several years, learning the language, before re-entering the acting profession well into middle age. On the big screen, he was largely restricted to small supporting roles. However, Beregi made the most of the meatier roles offered him in television, such as mob boss Joe Kulak (a character possibly based on real-life mobster Jake Guzik) in eight episodes of The Untouchables. He was also impressively commanding as the scientific criminal mastermind Farwell in Rod Serling's The Rip Van Winkle Caper and, in the same series, as former SS concentration camp commandant Guenther Lutze, driven to insanity by the ghosts of his former victims in Deaths-Head Revisited. He was also effective in Middle Eastern intrigue (The Third Man) and excellently parodying his evil personae as the KAOS beastmaster of I'm Only Human and as Dietrick in Tequila Mockingbird and as the sadistic jailer of Young Frankenstein.
In his spare time, Beregi was a successful breeder of Komondors, a species of large, white Hungarian sheep dog, considered a living treasure in their native country.
Most of Babe Ruth's records have been broken. In 1961, not only did Roger Maris break The Babe's 34-year-old record for most home runs in a season with 61*, but Maris' teammate on the '61 Yankees, pitcher 'Whitey Ford' broke The Babe's 43-year-old record for most scoreless innings pitched in a World Series when the Yankees dispatched the Reds that year in the post-season. (When asked how it felt to have beat The Babe's "other" record, Whitey responded, "It was a bad year for The Babe".)
Though Barry Bonds now holds the record for most home runs in a season (73), most home runs in a career 762 and counting), highest slugging percentage, most intentional walks, etc., The Babe still must be considered the greatest player that ever graced the game. In addition to his record 12 home run titles, his 13 slugging titles, his six R.B.I. titles, and his solo batting title (.378 in 1934; The Babe placed in the top five hitters in terms of batting average eight times, including a career high of .393 in 1923, when Harry Heilmann hit .403), The Babe won 18, 23 and 24 games as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1915, 1916 and 1917, and won the American League E.R.A. title in '16. He set his first home run title in 1918, another year the Sox won the World Series, as a part time position player and part-time pitcher, notching up 11 homers and nine wins. George Herman Ruth likely will remain the sole player in major league baseball history to win batting, home run, R.B.I., slugging *and* E.R.A. titles, plus eat a dozen hot dogs and drink the better part of a keg of bootleg "needle" beer before suiting up for a game.
From 1914 to 1919, The Babe played for the Boston Red Sox, with whom he appeared on three World's Championship teams. Sold to the New York Yankees by Red Sox owner and theatrical impresario Harry Frazee, he led the-then crownless American League franchise in Gotham to seven A.L. pennants and four World Series titles from 1920-1934. He played out his string with the Boston Braves in 1935; even a washed-up Babe was still able to pole three circuit clouts in one game before calling it quits after 28 games and six dingers in that last season. The following year, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, the Babe was mighty, and he did prevail (more often than naught) except over one opponent: Father Time.
The Babe ended his 22 years in the Big Leagues with 2,873 hits good for a career batting average of .342, 714 home runs, 2,217 R.B.I.s, and 2,174 runs scored in 2,503 games. (From his debut in 1914 through the 1918 season, when he was making his transition to becoming a full time position player, Ruth only appeared in 261 ball games as he was considered the top left-handed pitcher in the American League.) In the record books, Ty Cobb scored more runs and Hank Aaron hit more homers and racked up more R.B.I.'s (interestingly, Hammering Hank and The Babe ended their careers with the exact same number of runs scored), but they played in far more games than the The Babe, with 3,035 and 3,298 games, respectively. Among modern players, Rickey Henderson, who surpassed Cobb's record for runs after 25 years in The Show, played in 3,081 games, and Barry Bonds have appeared in almost 3,000 games.
No player ever had the impact, both on and off the field, as did the charismatic Babe. When he died of cancer in 1948, the New York Times headline read, "Babe Ruth/Idol of Millions of Boys/Dead".