There are very few character actors from the 1930s, '40s or '50s who rose to the rank of stardom. Only a rare man or woman reached the level of renown and admiration, and had enough audience appeal, to be the first name in a cast's billing, a name that got marquee posting. Charles Coburn comes to mind, but there aren't many others. However, one who made it was Edmund Gwenn.
Gwenn was born Edmund Kellaway in Wandsworth, London, on September 26, 1877. He was the oldest boy in the family, which at that time meant he was the only one who really mattered. His father was a British civil servant, and he groomed Edmund to take a position of power in the Empire. However, early on, the boy had a mind of his own. For a while his inclination was to go to sea, but that ended when one of his forebear's in the Queen's Navy was court-martialed for exceeding his "wine bill." In addition to that, Edmund had poor eyesight and perhaps most importantly, he was his mother's darling, and she kept having visions of shipwrecks and desert island strandings. As for the civil service, to the boy it seemed like a "continent of unexplored boredom."
He attended St. Olaf's College and would attend King's College in London as well. Surprisingly, he excelled at rugby and amateur boxing. Meanwhile, he developed a strong inclination to the stage, partly because of his admiration for the great English actor, Henry Irving. A major roadblock to that ambition, however, was his father, who, at that time, was stationed in Ireland. When Edmund broke the news to his father that he had chosen acting as a career, there followed "a scene without parallel in Victorian melodrama." His father called the theatre "that sink of iniquity." He predicted that, if Edmund went into theatre, he would end up in the gutter, and then literally "showed him the door." Years later his father would admit he had been wrong, but that didn't help the young man during an all-night crossing from Dublin to England during which he had time to reflect. He was penniless. His experience consisted of a few performances in amateur productions, and he knew that if he failed, there was no going back home.
However, in 1895, at the age of eighteen, he made his first appearance on the English stage with a group of amateurs just turned professional, playing two roles, Dodo Twinkle and Damper, in "Rogue and Vagabond." For a long time afterward he refused to go on stage without a false beard or some other disguise, fearing someone would recognize him and tell his father (it's a bit ironic, by the way, that Edmund's younger brother Arthur would also become an actor using the name of 'Arthur Chesney'). During the next few years roles were hard to come by but, by 1899, he made his first appearance on the West End in London in "A Jealous Mistake." This was followed by ten years in the hinterlands acting with stock and touring companies, gradually working his way up from small parts to juicier roles. While with Edmund Tearle's Repertory Company, which toured the provinces, he played a different role each night. It was excellent training, in that he acted in everything from William Shakespeare to old melodrama.
About this time he married Minnie Terry, niece of the more famous actress Ellen Terry, a marriage that evidently was short-lived. Most sources list it as beginning and ending in 1901, perhaps only for a matter of days or even hours. From that point Gwenn would remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. He seems to have preferred not going into any details about the marriage and divorce, and Minnie Terry, who outlived Gwenn, apparently never mentioned what happened, at least not publicly. That same year, however, he went to Australia and acted there for three years, not returning to London until 1904. There he took a small part in "In the Hospital," which led to his receiving a postcard from George Bernard Shaw, offering him a leading role as Straker, the Cockney chauffeur, in "Man and Superman." Gwenn accepted (by this time he was Edmund Gwenn) and the play was a success. Shaw became a sort of professional godfather for him. He appeared in "John Bull's Island," "Major Barbara," "You Never Can Tell," "Captain Brassbound's Conversion" and "The Devil's Disciple," all by Shaw. He spent three years in Shaw's company, years which he called "the happiest I've ever had in the theatre."
From 1908 until 1915 he performed in new plays by noted playwrights of the time, including John Masefield's "The Campden Wonder," 'John Galsworthy''s "Justice" and "The Skin Game," J.M. Barrie's "What Every Woman Knows" and "The Twelve Pound Look," as well as Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck" and Harley Granville-Barker's "The Voysey Inheritance". By this time World War I had started and Gwenn, despite his poor eyesight, was inducted into the British Army. Most of his time during "The Great War" was spent drawing supplies up to the front lines under fire. He was so successful at this task that, after a year as a private, he received a steady stream of promotions until eventually becoming a captain.
After the War he returned to the stage and, in 1921, made his first appearance in the US in "A Voice from the Minaret" and "Fedora." He would return to America in 1928 to replace his friend Dennis Eadie, who had died while in rehearsal for "The House of Arrows," but for most of this time, he was in England doing more stage roles and two dozen British films.
His first appearance on screen was in a British short, The Real Thing at Last in 1916, while he was still in the army. His next film roles were in Shaw's How He Lied to Her Husband and J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions. He was also in Unmarried in 1920 and a silent version of "The Skin Game" (The Skin Game) as Hornblower, a role he would reprise in 1931 for a talking version (The Skin Game) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. From then on Gwenn was to work steadily until the end of his life. He appeared in English stage plays and films, eventually doing more and more on Broadway and in Hollywood. For example, he played the amiable counterfeiter in "Laburnum Grove" in 1933 (later to become the film Laburnum Grove in which he would star) and then with the entire British company brought it to New York. He was also a huge success in "The Wookey" in 1942, playing a Cockney tugboat captain. That same year he appeared as Chebutykin in Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters", with Katharine Cornell, Ruth Gordon and Judith Anderson. In such illustrious company Gwenn was hailed by critics as "magnificent" and "superlatively good."
In 1935 RKO summoned him to Hollywood to portray Katharine Hepburn's father in Sylvia Scarlett. From then on he was much in demand, appearing in Anthony Adverse, All American Chump, Parnell, and A Yank at Oxford. In 1940 he was the delightful Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, then made a 180-degree turn by playing a folksy assassin in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent. The year 1941 brought Cheers for Miss Bishop, One Night in Lisbon, The Devil and Miss Jones and Scotland Yard. Then came Charley's Aunt in which he romanced Jack Benny, masquerading as a woman. Other important films included A Yank at Eton, The Meanest Man in the World, The Keys of the Kingdom and Between Two Worlds.
In 1945 he played villain Albert Richard Kingby in Dangerous Partners. There is a peculiar scene in this film, which makes one wonder what director Edward L. Cahn was thinking. James Craig and Signe Hasso, the hero and heroine, are being held by the villainous Gwenn in a room, when Gwenn comes in to interrogate them. In the midst of this, the 33-year-old, 6'2" Craig punches the 68-year-old, 5'5" Gwenn in the belly and then forces the doubled-over Gwenn to release them. Admittedly, Craig and Hasso must escape, and Gwenn's character is pretty evil, but knocking the wind out of the old man makes Craig seem like a bully and far less sympathetic.
After "Dangerous Partners" Gwenn was in Bewitched, She Went to the Races, Of Human Bondage, Undercurrent, Life with Father, Green Dolphin Street and Apartment for Peggy. In Thunder in the Valley he played one of his most unlikable characters, a father who beats his son, smashes his violin and shoots his dog.
Then in 1947, he struck it rich. Twentieth Century-Fox was planning Miracle on 34th Street. It had offered the role of Kris Kringle to Gwenn's cousin, the well-known character actor 'Cecil Kellaway', but he had turned it down with the observation that "Americans don't like whimsy." Fox then offered it to Gwenn, who pounced on it. His performance was to earn him an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor (at age 71) and, because it is rerun every Christmas season, he would become for many their all-time favorite screen Santa. Accepting the award, Gwenn said, "Now I know there is a Santa Claus." He beat out some stiff competition: Charles Bickford (The Farmer's Daughter), Thomas Gomez (Ride the Pink Horse), Robert Ryan (Crossfire) and Richard Widmark (Kiss of Death). As soon as he got the part, Gwenn went to work turning himself into Santa Claus. Though rotund, Gwenn didn't feel he was rotund enough to look like the jolly old elf most people expected after having read Clement Moore's "The Night before Christmas" in which Santa "had a broad face and a little round belly / That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly." He could of course wear padding, but he resisted that as too artificial. So he put on almost 30 pounds for the role, a fair amount for a man of his short stature, and added nearly five inches to his waistline. The problem was that after the film was finished, Gwenn found it hard to lose the extra weight. "I've been stocky all my adult life," he said, "but now I must accept the fact that I'm fat." As was his nature, he didn't get upset, and instead was able to laugh about it. Six years later, when playing an elderly professor in The Student Prince, he had a scene in which he entered the Prince's chamber, struggling with the buttons of a ceremonial uniform. The line he was given was, "I'm too old to wear a uniform," but Gwenn suggested a change which stayed in the finished film, "I'm too old and fat to wear a uniform."
Gwenn had lost his hair early on, and had no more concern about it than he did about his portliness. In a fair number of films, such as Pride and Prejudice, he appears bald, but he also played many roles with a toupee if he felt that worked better for the character. He would select a hairpiece that helped achieve the look he was after for the role. As regards the rest of his appearance, Gwenn is commonly listed as 5'6" tall, which may have been accurate when he was a younger man, but by the time he was a Hollywood regular he appears to be at least two inches shorter. Plagued by weak eyesight since his youth, Gwenn wore a pince-nez for a while, and then glasses, off-screen and sometimes on. Though he enjoyed fine clothes, he does not seem to have been in the least bit vain about any physical shortcomings he may have had. He looked a bit like a benign clergyman, perhaps of the Anglican faith, an image enhanced by his soft, almost soothing voice. He once said he was "always short and stocky, and not a particularly handsome thing. I could never play romantic leads." After "Miracle on 34th Street," however, Gwenn was a star and constantly in demand, especially when the role called for a kindly eccentric.
Gwenn remained a British subject all his life. When he first moved to Hollywood, he lived at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. His home in London had been reduced to rubble during the bombings by the Luftwaffe in World War II. Only the fireplace survived. What Gwenn regretted most was the loss of the memorabilia he had collected of the famous actor Henry Irving. Eventually Gwenn bought a house at 617 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, which he was to share with his secretary and "confidential man," Ernest C. Bach, and later with former Olympic athlete Rodney Soher.
The year 1950 brought a pair of interesting films. In Louisa he and Charles Coburn were romantic rivals for the hand of Spring Byington. In one scene Gwenn socks Coburn in the jaw, though Coburn later bests him in arm wrestling. Gwenn wins Byington's hand in the end. He was also delightful in Mister 880 as a kindly counterfeiter. Gwenn received his second Oscar nomination for his performance, though this time he lost out to George Sanders in All About Eve He did, however, win the Golden Globe Award.
In 1952 he appeared in Sally and Saint Anne as Grandpa Patrick Ryan, affecting an Irish brogue for the role. He played football coach Pop Doyle, teamed up with a chimpanzee, in Bonzo Goes to College. "The Student Prince" followed in 1954, as did the science-fiction classic Them!. This film raises an interesting observation. The year before, Cecil Kellaway had appeared in another sci-fi classic, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Watch the two films together and you'll see that the two cousins are playing essentially the same role, that of an elderly scientist with a lovely daughter who is able to provide the hero, and the audience, with some scholarly background on the dangers they face. The two actors could easily have switched roles. "Them!" is noteworthy, too, in that it was a particularly physically painful part for Gwenn. By this time he was 77 and suffering from advanced arthritis. Several scenes in the movie were filmed in the desert, where the temperature often reached 110 degrees. The costumer had outfitted him in a wool suit for some of the early scenes. Joan Weldon, who played his daughter, has noted that Gwenn was in great discomfort and almost certainly could not have continued without the help of his valet, Ernest.
The next year Gwenn was in It's a Dog's Life and The Trouble with Harry. His film work has some interesting patterns. "Dog's Life" was at least the third time Gwenn made a film centered on a dog. He had already co-starred with Pal as Lassie in Lassie Come Homeand Challenge to Lassie. "Harry" was Gwenn's fourth picture directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the others being "The Skin Game," Strauss' Great Waltz and "Foreign Correspondent". Gwenn's last feature film was The Rocket from Calabuch, shot in Spain and released in 1958 when he was 81. As for TV, his most memorable role may have been as a snowman that comes to life in a Christmas night telecast on The Ford Television Theatre from a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Heart of Gold."
Gwenn's final days were spent at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California. Having endured terrible arthritis for many years, he had suffered a stroke, and then contracted pneumonia from which he died at age 81 on September 6, 1959. His body was cremated, and his ashes are buried in a vault at The Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles.
Gwenn had appointed Rodney Soher as the executor of his will, in which he had left Minnie Terry one-third of his estate, his sister Elsie Kellaway a third, and Ernest Bach a third, in addition to his clothes, shoes, linens, ties and luggage. However, for some reason, while he was spending his last days at the Motion Picture Home, Gwenn signed a codicil to his will, in which he said he had given Bach the lump sum of $5000, and that was all he was to receive. After Gwenn's death, Bach challenged the codicil, claiming that Gwenn was not of sound mind while in the Home and that some unnamed person--possibly referring to Soher--had unduly influenced Gwenn to change his will. The outcome is not known. There is a story that has been around for years that shortly before he died a visitor observed, "It must be hard [to die]", to which Gwenn replied, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." The story and the wording vary somewhat from teller to teller. Gwenn may indeed have said it, but he may have been repeating someone else. The quotation has also been ascribed to several earlier wits, including his mentor George Bernard Shaw and the famous actor Edmund Kean. Gwenn's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at 1751 Vine Street.
German-born Marco Weber started his career in 1992 at German broadcaster RTL and received critical acclaim with his documentary "Annie's Shooting" about famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Driven by his love and passion for cinema, he went to Los Angeles at the age of 25 hoping to make motion pictures. One year later, in 1994, the stars aligned and he produced his first feature "Don't do it" with young and upcoming actors as Heather Graham and David Arquette. His next two productions were "Red Meat" and "No Strings attached".
In 1997, together with blockbuster director Roland Emmerich, he set out to produce the $20M sci-fi thriller "The Thirteenth Floor" for Columbia Tristar, directed by Josef Rusnak, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Armin Mueller Stahl.
In 1998, he founded his company Atlantic Streamline, which was to produce, among others, the heist comedy "You Are Dead," starring John Hurt and Rhys Ifans. He went on to produce "All the Queens Men" which was directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, who went on to win the Academy Award for best foreign picture for his film "The Counterfeiters" in 2007. One year later, Weber was able to celebrate his biggest success up to that point, the black comedy "Igby Goes Down," starring Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Ryan Phillipe, Claire Danes, and Kieran Culkin. The film earned Weber his first Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominations. The film was distributed through MGM/United Artists and on the heels of "Igby Goes Down," the studio offered Weber a first look/co-financing deal, starting a long relationship with Studio Chairman Chris McGurk.
In 2006, Weber acquired, together with his partner Helge Sasse, 50.1% in German Distributor Senator Entertainment AG. As newly appointed Chief Creative Officer, he was responsible for the acquisition and theatrical releases of films like "Pan's Labyrinth," "Death Proof," "Planet Terror," "1408," "The Mist," "The Reader," "Hard Candy," and "Splice," amongst many others. He also invented the genre label, Autobahn.
Concurrently, he also remained active as producer. In 2007 he financed and produced "Fireflies in the Garden", starring Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, and Hayden Panetierre. The film screened in competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008. Following this film, Weber joined forces with acclaimed author Bret Easton Ellis and went on to finance and produce "The Informers", starring Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger and Winona Ryder.
In August 2008, Weber stepped down from the Board of Senator Entertainment AG in order to focus entirely on filmmaking.
In 2009 he went on to finance and produce the thriller "Unthinkable", starring Samuel Jackson, Michael Sheen, and Carrie-Anne Moss and was the executive Producer on Antoine Fuqua's "Brooklyn's Finest", starring Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes, and Ethan Hawke.
In 2012 Weber decided to transition into writing and directing with his debut "California Scheming". This tale of four troubled Teenagers was financed and produced through his label Rapid Eye Film. The film was shot entirely in Malibu, California and stars teen actors Gia Mantegna, Rachel Seiferth, Devon Werkheiser and Spencer Daniels.
In 2014 and following the distribution of "California Scheming", Weber entered into a 15 Picture US Distribution Deal with Cinedigm Entertainment. Under the agreement, Rapid Eye will produce, co-produce, or acquire three to four genre-centric films per year. Cinedigm will handle the theatrical and home entertainment release and distribution strategy, with RES producing and managing the marketing. This deal reunites Weber and Cinedigm Chairman and CEO, Chris McGurk. The first film in development under the deal with Cinedigm is called "Datum" and is expected to go into production in late 2014.
The international distribution on each Rapid Eye production will be handled by Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures (The Hurt Locker, Dallas Buyers Club).
In addition to the deal with Cinedigm, Weber created and co-wrote a series pilot entitled "Children of the Machine". He invented and created a unique and innovative distribution model in collaboration with BitTorrent. Under this model, Rapid Eye Studios will finance and produce the pilot and launch and distribute it for free to all BitTorrent subscribers. After reviewing the pilot, users will have the opportunity to help finance an additional 8 hour-long episodes by subscribing to the show via BitTorrent paygates. If the threshold of subscribers is met, the full series will be produced and launched in Summer 2015 to those users who donated. "Children of the Machine" is co-written by Jeff Stockwell.
Weber lives with his wife, Anne Caroline, and their four children Moritz, Nikita, Winona, and Lola in Malibu, California.
Paul moved to New York at a young age to pursue an acting career when he was a child. After studying acting, singing and dancing for a few years, Paul got his Equity card while still in his teens acting in summer stock in such productions as Come Blow Your Horn, Butterflies Are Free, Brigadoon and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, amongst others and then appeared in the Off-Broadway revival of Redhead. Paul has made several commercials for Dodge, Columbia Records, and Coca Cola. In Hollywood, Paul created roles in mini-series and Movies-of-the Week such as Studs Lonigan and Amazons, directed by Paul Michael Glaser. Paul portrayed Walter Richards on the prime-time soap, Rituals. He then wrote and starred in the feature film, Ice Pawn, which had its world premier at the Cannes Film Festival. Paul starred in the series Railaway for European television and has recently appeared in the musicals 1776 and Spoon River, The Musical. For the past several years, besides acting, Paul has directed, written and produced documentaries and feature films which include, West End Story, An Anatomy of the Musical Theatre. West End Story was filmed on location in London and New York and won Best First Documentary at the Thunderbird International Film Festival and Best Music Documentary at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. West End Story stars Petula Clark, Lucie Arnaz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, Barbara Dickson, Brent Barrett and many others. Paul's second documentary was Follow The Leader, which was filmed at the White House and is the winner of Best Documentary at the Atlantic City Film Festival. Follow the Leader stars President George W. Bush, Wolf Blitzer, Marlin Fitzwater, the Secret Service, Senator Orrin Hatch and others. Paul's documentaries have also been an Official Selection in the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, the Salt Lake City Film Festival, the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival, and the Thunderbird International Film Festival. In 2004 Paul won Best Original Screenplay for Champagne & Chocolate at the Thunderbird International Film Festival in Utah. Paul's feature film directorial debut is Severe Visibility which was nominated Best North American Film at the Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival. Severe Visibility was followed by the documentary The Philippines, filmed on location in Manila with President Joseph Estrada, and most recently the feature film Operation Terror in which Paul also acts.
In 2012 Paul directed and starred in the political thriller feature film, Operation Terror. The film was an Official Selection in the Fajr International Film Festival 2012, Riverside International Film Festival 2012, Monaco Charity Film Festival 2012, New Horizon International Independent Filmmakers Festival 2012, Baghdad International Film Festival 2012, Honorable Mention International Film Festival for Peace and Inspiration and Equality 2012, Winner Award of Excellence, Best Genre Film: Best Thriller Film, International Movie Awards 2012.
Paul was nominated Best Director at the Fajr International Film Festival 2012, competing against acclaimed directors such as Kevin MacDonald, Dejan Zechevich, Marius Holst, Rachid Bouchareb and Cannes Film Festival winner, Roschdy Zem
Paul has recently written the published novel, A Counterfeit Priest, and he is the recipient of the prestigious title of Kentucky Colonel which was bestowed on him by the Governor of Kentucky, Steven L. Beshear. He also has a day named after him in his home town in Kentucky.
It's been said that if Donn Pearce is remembered at all, it won't be for having written "Cool Hand Luke," his acclaimed but little-read novel about his life as a convict on a southern chain gang, but for the classic movie based on it. Starring Paul Newman in the Oscar-nominated title role, Cool Hand Luke was both a critical and commercial success. An outstanding film across the board, it brought us one of the screen's most compelling anti-heroes and one of the all-time great movie lines: "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Nominated for Best Picture, "Cool Hand Luke" was one of the key films of the Sixties. Many consider it a masterpiece.
Donn Pearce is not one of them.
"I seem to be the only guy in the United States who doesn't like the movie," Pearce told the Miami Herald in 1989. "Everyone had a whack at it. They screwed it up 99 different ways."
To begin with, Pearce has said he thinks Paul Newman was wrong for the part of Luke. Then there's the minimal royalties the financially strapped Pierson receives from a very successful movie based on his life. Faced with ill health, mounting medical bills, and other financial hardships, Pearce has had to work as a process server, bail bondsman, and private investigator just to make ends meets all these years.
On top of this, when people think of "Cool Hand Luke," they invariably remember the movie, not Pearce's book. Though critically acclaimed, Pearce's novel never received the readership it deserves. Even Pearce has said that "the book is a nonentity." For over forty years, he's been trying to recreate its success with little luck.
Donald Mills Pearce was born in 1928 in Croydon, Pennsylvania, but "never really knew what it was like to have a home." His parents divorced when he was eleven. At fifteen, he dropped out of school and tried joining the merchant marine but was refused because he was underage. The Army was another story. In 1944, it needed infantry badly. Pearce lied about his age (he was sixteen) and was inducted. But he chafed under Army discipline and went AWOL before turning himself in. A court martial sentenced him to 30 days in the stockade but he was released almost immediately as a combat infantry replacement. About to be shipped off to war, Pearce wrote a desperate letter to his mom, who informed the Army that her son was underage. The Army discharged Pearce for false enlistment.
Now seventeen, Pearce was old enough to join the merchant marine. He marveled at the world he saw during his travels. Arriving in Paris, he became involved in the thriving post-war European black market. He sold counterfeit American money to a police officer and wound up in a tough French prison. While working outside prison walls, Pearce made a run for it. Traveling cross-country by foot, he crossed the border into Italy. After replacing the seaman's papers the French had confiscated from him, Pearce boarded a ship to Canada. From there, he re-entered the United States.
Back in America, the nineteen-year-old Pearce met an older burglar, who became his safecracking partner. Pearce admits he wasn't very good at it but he was addicted to the adrenaline rush of crime. But businesses now used checks instead of cash, and most of the 27 safes Pearce says he cracked held little or no money.
In Tampa, Florida, Pearce thought he saw his big chance. Moviegoers were lined up around the block to see "Hamlet." Pearce envisioned a theater safe full of money. His partner passed on the job. Pearce, who has described himself as someone whose "mouth runs like a lunatic," bragged about the job to a waitress he was trying to bed. She told her husband, who was a cop.
Pearce was convicted of breaking & entering and grand larceny. In 1949, he was sentenced to five years hard labor ("back when hard time meant hard"). He was twenty.
Pearce spent the first year working in the print shop at the Florida State Penitentiary at Raiford. But then, he was sent to Road Camp No. 48, Tavares, Lake County, Florida. Over thirty years later, Pearce recalled the experience as "a chamber of horrors."
Chain gang inmates lived and worked with iron shackles riveted to their ankles for their entire sentences. Simple tasks such as removing and putting on their pants became a struggle. To avoid bruising their ankles, inmates had to adopt a stiff-legged, pigeon-toed gate or tie the ankle rings high on their calves.
Road gangs worked from sunup to sundown tarring roads or clearing the tall grass and weeds along roadsides with "bush axes" or "yo-yos." Also called Kayser blades or sling blades, these weed cutters had long wooden handles attached to an A-shaped yoke with a double-edged blade for clearing brush with vigorous forward and backward swings.
Guards beat prisoners for any infraction. For special punishment, there was the "Box," a cramped, unventilated wooden outhouse that was stifling by day and cold and full of insects at night. An inmate could earn a night in the Box for offenses ranging from losing his dinner spoon to "eyeballing," that is, "looking at someone who was passing you on the road. Prisoners weren't allowed to look at a free person in those days." Pearce was put in the Box twice: "Once for talking in lineup and once for letting the mess hall door slam." After a night in the Box, an inmate was put back on the "hard road" at sunup.
Pierce says he always yearned to write. He found a writing mentor in an inmate who was a Stanford graduate. Released after two years, Pearce returned to the merchant marine (earning a third-mate's license) and began writing in earnest during the long voyages. His fellow shipmates "used to say in the forecastle, 'Imagine, a seaman trying to write a book!' and they'd roar laughing."
A near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1959 immobilized Pearce for two years. In 1960, while recuperating, he started writing "Cool Hand Luke." For five years, he rewrote it as many as six times, while serving in the merchant marine and living in studio apartments in New York. Pearce already had six unpublished novels under his belt when he finished "Cool Hand Luke." It garnered a string of rejections. Finally, Scribner's published it in 1965. The New York Times called it an "impressive novel; the most brutal and authentic account of a road gang-or chain gang-that we have had." Publishers Weekly praised "the author's extraordinary gift for rhythmic prose, tragic drama, and realism made larger than life."
The day before the book's release, the New York Times printed an article entitled "A Picket Rejoices at his First Novel." Pearce was walking a picket line at New York's Pier 59. Unlike his fellow strikers, he was "beaming" on the eve of publication of his first book. He said that he met his wife, Christine, a nurse, while recuperating from his motorcycle crash, which he called "one of the best accidents of my life."
But despite good reviews, the hardcover sold a meager eleven hundred copies. A decade after the movie's release, the book was out of print and would be for another eight years. Sales of "Cool Hand Luke" were always disappointing, especially to Pearce, who struggled all his life to make a living despite having a hit film based on his life.
Two years after the book's release, it was a major motion picture. Jalem, the production company of actor Jack Lemmon, bought the film rights. Pearce wrote the first draft of the screenplay, which was completed by Frank Pierson, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Dog Day Afternoon.
Pearce served as the film's technical adviser and had an uncredited bit part as "Sailor." His entire time in Hollywood, Pearce felt unwelcome. He'd expected movie people to be more open-minded about his past, but he said they treated him like an ex-con. On the last day of filming, Pearce punched out a fellow actor. He wasn't invited to the movie's premiere but attended the Oscars ceremony when he was nominated for Best Screenplay. He lost to In the Heat of the Night.
The Pearces bought a house in Fort Lauderdale and struggled to raise their three sons, Hawser, Anker, and Rudder. Pearce wrote books and stories that were either rejected or published and made very little money. He worked as a freelance writer for Esquire, Playboy, Oui, and the Miami Herald. His wife, Chris, often had to work as a nurse to support them, despite ill health.
It took Pearce fours years to complete the follow up to "Cool Hand Luke." Published in 1972, "Pier Head Jump" was an off-beat, off-color tale about merchant marines who "rescue" an inflatable female doll that's so life-like, they squabble, fight, and, eventually, commit murder to possess "her" sexually. It was supposed to be a comedy.
In 1974, Pearce published "Dying in the Sun," a non-fiction account of the elderly in Florida that was not well-received. That's when Pearce quit writing to support his family, just six years after his Oscar nomination. For the next thirty years, he worked as a process server, bail bondsman, and private investigator.
In later years, Pearce underwent hernia operations, fought cancer of the spleen, and suffered from arthritis. His wife, Chris, also struggles with rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2004, Pearce returned to form with the acclaimed "Nobody Comes Back," a tale of a young soldier during the Battle of the Bulge. The review from Newsweek was so good, it caused a brief spike in sales.
"Nobody Comes Back" is Pearce's first acclaimed book since "Cool Hand Luke." As further vindication, the paperback is due out in February 2009.
Born in Hythe, Kent in South East England, son of Alan and Elsie White.
After first appearing in Rep, Ben began his career doing sketch comedy. Shortly after he started to appear as an actor in TV shows such as Spatz, Streetwise, Crime Monthly and The Bill.
He has been in numerous stage plays and shows and has toured extensively throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as appearing at the San Francisco Fringe festival, The Edinburgh Festival and in the West End, where he worked with David Tennant, Andy Serkis, Mark Benton and Rupert Graves in Hurlyburly.
After appearing in over a dozen short films, Ben then moved into feature films. He played bit parts in the independent feature films Written in Blood and Left for Dead, and since 2005 has appeared in many other feature films, which include independent and more mainstream movies.
In 2005 actor and film maker Ken Colley asked Ben to play a lead role in his feature film directorial debut called Greetings.
Since then Ben has played lead roles, character parts, as well as the odd bit parts in feature films such as Ten Dead Men (narrated by the Horror Legend Doug Bradley), Dark Secrets (with martial artist Gary Daniels), Counterfeit Butterfly, Bad Day (with Sarah Harding from 'Girl's Aloud'), Bloodmyth, Dark Rage, The Firm and The Shouting Men (with Craig Fairbrass), most of which are available to buy on DVD.
Other films include On the Ropes, Death, The Landlord and The Wedding Ensemble.
Jude Gilliam was born September 20, 1947 in Fairdale, Kentucky. She has a large extended family, and is the elder sister of four brothers. She attended Murray State University and received a degree in Art. In 1967, Jude married and took her husband's surname of White, but four years later they divorced. For years, she worked as 5th-grade teacher.
She began writing in 1976 and her first book, The Enchanted Land was published in 1977 under the name Jude Deveraux. Following the publication of her first novel, she resigned her teaching position. She is the author of over 30 New York Times bestsellers. Her early books are set largely in 15th and 16th-century England, in which her fierce, impassioned protagonists find themselves in the midst of blood feuds and wars. Her heroines are equally scrappy -- medieval Scarlett O'Haras who often have a low regard for the men who eventually win them over. They're fighters, certainly, but they're also beauties who are preoccupied with survival and family preservation.
Jude has also stepped outside her milieu, with mixed results. Her James River trilogy (River Lady, Lost Lady, and Counterfeit Lady) is set mostly in post-Revolution America; the popular, softer-edged Twin of Fire/Twin of Ice moves to 19th-century Colorado.
Jude did later attempt modern-day romances, such as the lighthearted High Tide (her first murder caper), the contemporary female friendship story The Summerhouse, and the time-traveling Knight in Shining Armor.
She married Claude Montassir, with whom she had a son, Sam Alexander Montassir in 1997. They were eventually divorced. In 2005, Sam died in a motorcycle accident. Jude lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and also has a home in the medieval city of Badolato, Italy.
After graduating at the top of his class, Henry became a university professor of physics at Nankai University, one of the finest in China. He would continue to work in the scientific and academia for years, inventing the modern counterfeit-currency detector, and advancing theories in semi-conductor sciences, until his immigration to Canada in 1998.
Rekindling his childhood dream, he studied film at the world-renowned Vancouver Film School, and became the first Chinese-born individual to join IATSE Local 669; He continues to be one of the few Asians who successfully made it into the union.
Henry alternates between directing Chinese venue events, commercials, concerts, and music videos and working in the camera department on various productions in Vancouver. He speaks English and Mandarin, and is widely considered one of the most disciplined and diligent crew members in the union by his peers and colleagues.
Andre Paul Guillaume Gide was born on November 22, 1869, in Paris, France. His father, named Paul Gide, was a professor of law at the University of Paris, he was a descendant from Cevennes Huhuenots. His mother, named Juliette Rondeaux, was a devoted Calvinist. He received an excellent private education at home, then at the Ecole Alsacienne.
At the age of 18 Gide started writing. His first book 'Les Cahiers d'Andre Walter' (The Notebooks of Andre Walter, 1891) was well received by his friend Stéphane Mallarmé. In 1893 and 1894 Gide made voyages to North Africa, where he learned different moral and sexual conventions. In Algiers he met Oscar Wilde and the two became close friends. Gide's early collection of prose and poetry 'Les nourritues terrestres' (Fruits of the Earth, 1897), gained popularity, influencing Guillaume Apollinaire, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as a generation of young writers. His serious illness and a near-death experience there, gave him material for his "twin" psychological novels 'l'immoraliste' (The Immoralist, 1902) and 'La porte etroite' (Strait is the Gate, 1909). In dialogues between the inner narrator and the outer narrator Gide tackled the Shakesperian question, reformulated as "to be free" vs "to get freedom."
In his 'La symphonie pastorale' (The Pastoral Symphony, 1919) Gide revealed the hypocrisy behind the mask of a pastor, who adopted a blind orphan girl. Pastor seduces the girl on the eve of her eye surgery; she opens her eyes only to see the ugly truth about people, then commits suicide. In 'Les faux-monnayeurs' and 'Le journal des feux-monnayeurs' (The Couterfreiters, 1926) he exposed the self-deception and counterfeit personality of the protagonist, Edouard, who falls in love with his nephew. Gide was alluding to his own relationship with his adopted son Marc Allegret, with whom he eloped to London in 1916. In 1923 Gide conceived a daughter named Catherine with his girlfriend Elisabeth van Rysselberghe. Gide's wife Madeleine died in 1938 after an unconsummated marriage.
Andre Gide was an admirer of Fyodor Dostoevsky from his youth. In 1923 he published a collection of his lectures on Dostoyevsky, in which he reconstitutes the writer's personality through the traits of the characters of his books. At that time Gide prepared the first public release of his 'Corydon', which was initially published privately in 1911. It received widespread condemnation, but was considered by Gide his most important work. He was praised by his friends, such as Marcel Proust, Paul Claudel, Paul Valéry and others; their correspondence was published in 1948. Gide collaborated with Sergei Diaghilev on a ballet production for the "Seasons Russes" in Paris. He was a regular member of 'literary Fridays' and developed a good friendship with Gertrude Stein.
Gide briefly associated with French communists, but he repudiated the Soviet communism after his 1936 voyage to the Soviet Union. His disillusionment with the communist doctrine was expressed in his contribution to 'The God That Failed' (1949). During the Second World War he lived in Tunis. Gide was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1947). He died on February 19, 1951. A fine literary biography of Andre Gide was written by André Maurois.
At first he was an apprentice in an iron casting works. During the Occupation, he joined the underground movement to fight against the nazi invaders. However he worked illegally making counterfeit money, and became an expert in safebreaking using a blowlamp. This "activity" lead to his imprisonment (1945-1949 and 1957-1961). During his time in jail, he still had an allegiance with the underworld and their way of talking. "La Métamorphose des Cloportes" (1962) which describes convicts and gangsters, reveals his great talent. He also wrote about 30 novels, winning the Renaudot Prize in 1977 for "Les combattants du petit bonheur" and the French Academy Prize in 1995 for "Mourir d'enfance".
Catherine Marie Wolf was raised in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania by parents Cheryl Ann Wolf and Carl David Wolf. She completed her BA in Film and Business at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA (2008) and her MFA in film production at Loyola Marymount University (2013).
Catherine has produced short film "Counterfeiters" which was selected for the 2013 Cannes Short Corner as well as "Reclamation" which took home Best Director and the Student Choice award at the 2012 Film Outside the Frame Festival. Her graduate thesis film "The Captain" was awarded the 2013 Hollywood Foreign Press Grant.
1995 - A fax from the UK rolls off the Moonshine Records fax machine in Los Angeles, California. "It's about time somebody made a track with some balls. I love it". Signed, Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim. Not a bad way to start your career!
Aaron Carter and Stephen Barry situated in Los Angeles, California. Aaron, a hip hop battle DJ, and Stephen, a Hollywood rock guitarist, meet in 1994 while individually honing their studio skills at a recording school in Huntington Beach, California. The unlikely duo quickly became friends while collaborating on musical ideas and exposing each other to the varying music scenes of LA. Turning immediately to organic electronic music as an outlet for their creativity, the collaboration proved to be a groundbreaking sound. Forceful, yet organic, Cirrus' first attempt at producing a dance record showcased Stephen and Aaron's varied musical talents and influences. After sending the demo to only one record label, Moonshine Records, Cirrus had an international outlet for their new sound. Cirrus immediately set up a professional studio in Long Beach, California and banged out the follow-up single to "Future" (the first 12" that engineered the infamous Fat Boy Slim comment) called "Superstar DJ". With a Billboard Dance Chart smash hit on their hands and a fresh, intense new live act combining electronic and organic live instruments, Cirrus stormed the national rave and club scene. By the time Cirrus released their third single "Break-In", the buzz was deafening. "Break-In" became a staple of the dance floors and is widely regarded as a classic. Their first full-length album, "Drop The Break" (1997), firmly established Cirrus worldwide as one of the forefront ambassadors of America's new "West Coast sound". What followed "Drop The Break" was a massive amount of touring. Headlining the first of many successful Moonshine Overamerica tours and one-off performances, Cirrus played in front of millions of people. From raves in the steamy jungle on Puerto Rico to the deserts of Southern California. From the sweaty underground clubs of Manhattan to the massive radio festival circuit. Cirrus was not only performing, but writing and producing on the road. Armed with laptops and road gear, in tour busses, planes, and hotel rooms, Cirrus laid the groundwork for 1998's critically acclaimed "Back On A Mission". Their 2nd full-length album opened the doors to the lucrative world of music licensing. With tracks licensed to hundreds of productions from almost every major motion picture studio, television network, and video game manufacturer, Cirrus had found a whole new audience. Un-phased by commercial success, Cirrus continued to tour and work on new music. Experimenting with new musical styles and song structures, their journey took them around the world and back. What resulted was "Counterfeit" in 2002. A "polished and mature" album with cuts that ranged from radio and MTV hits like "Boomerang" to club favorites like "Hit The Decks" and "Straight Laid Out". Seen as Cirrus' finest work to date, "Counterfeit" propelled Aaron and Steve even further onto the international music scene. Not just as ambassadors of West Coast Breakbeat, but as music producers in general. As music supervisors and film directors ask for original music, Cirrus are again on a musical journey. Hit remixes recently for the likes of Paul Van Dyk (..1 UK and top ten Billboard US) and 311 (..1 Billboard Radio Play US) have kept Cirrus rooted in the dance community. Sharing their musical knowledge and audio production experience with the next generation of artists is the natural next step.
Irene Boyle born around the early 1890's. She starred in many early silent drama, comedy and crime films for the Kalem Film Company from 1913, making her debut in 'The Game Warden' co-starring Stuart Holmes, she appeared in more than 42 movies, perhaps she's best remembered for playing the role of Marcella (the storekeeper's daughter)in 'The Pursuit of the Smugglers' in 1913 and also playing Mollie Powell in Dell Henderson's 'The Dead Line' co-starring George Walsh for the Fox studios in 1920. also worked for the Imp Film Co and the Rex Film Co, she was last seen on screen playing the character role of Miss Ferris in Ralph Ince's 'Counterfeit Love' starring Joe King for the Murray W. Garsson Production Company in 1923.