A disarming character lady quite capable of scene-stealing, Mildred Natwick was a well-rounded talent with distinctively dowdy features and idiosyncratic tendencies who, over a six-decade period, assembled together a number of unforgettable matrons on stage and (eventually) film and TV. Whimsical, feisty, loony, stern, impish, shrewish, quizzical, scheming -- she greatly enhanced both comedies and dramas and, thankfully, her off-centered greatness was captured perfectly on occasion by such film directors as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Neil Simon.
A short, plumpish, oval-eyed figure with a unique flowery, honey-glazed voice, Natwick was born on June 19, 1905 (some sources list 1908) to Joseph (a businessman) and and Mildred Marion Dawes Natwick. The Baltimore native graduated from both the Bryn Mawr School (in Baltimore) and also from Bennett College in Dutchess County, N.Y., where she majored in drama. Breaking into the professional field touring on stage, Miss Natwick joined the Vagabonds in the late 1920s, a non-professional group from Baltimore. She later became part of the renowned University Players at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, whose rising performers at the time included Henry Fonda, Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart.
Natwick made her Broadway bow in the 1932 melodrama "Carry Nation," directed by Blanche Yurka with Esther Dale in the title role. In the cast was Joshua Logan, whom she befriended and later corroborated with when he turned director. She then continued her momentum on 1930s Broadway with "Amourette" (1933), "Spring in Autumn" (1933), "The Wind and the Rain" (1934), "The Distaff Side" (1934) "End of Summer" (1936), "Love from a Stranger" (1936), "The Star-Wagon" (1937), "Missouri Legend" (1938), "Stars in Your Eyes" (1939) (directed by Logan), and "Christmas Eve" (1939).
Natwick did not come to films until middle age (35) with the John Ford classic The Long Voyage Home, in which she played a Cockney floozie. Despite her fine work in this minor part, she did not make another film until her landlady role five years later in The Enchanted Cottage supporting Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young. Not a great beauty by Hollywood standards, Natwick learned quickly in Hollywood that if she were to succeed, it would be as a character performer. Ford himself picked up on her versatility and used her repeatedly in several of his post-war classics -- 3 Godfathers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Quiet Man.
Never abandoning the theater for long, Natwick excelled as Miss Garnett in George Bernard Shaw's "Candida" and as the buoyant medium in Noël Coward's "Blithe Spirit". As for the big screen, she was sporadically seen in such films as Yolanda and the Thief, The Late George Apley, A Woman's Vengeance, The Kissing Bandit, Cheaper by the Dozen and Against All Flags. Making use of even the tiniest of roles, none of them did much to improve her stature in Hollywood. With her delicious turn, however, in Hitchcock's eccentric black comedy The Trouble with Harry, which starred Shirley MacLaine (in her film debut), John Forsythe, Kris Kringle's Edmund Gwenn, little Jerry Mathers (of "Leave It to Beaver"), and another famous Mildred, Mildred Dunnock, Natwick enjoyed one of her best roles ever on film. This was followed by her scheming and furtive sorceress in the Danny Kaye vehicle The Court Jester in which she, Kaye and Glynis Johns participate in the memorable tongue-twisting "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle..." comedy routine. This, in turn, led to a couple of more, albeit lesser, films, including Teenage Rebel and Tammy and the Bachelor.
Preferring the theatre to movies, MIldred received her first Tony nomination for her sharp, astute work in Jean Anouilh's "Waltz of the Toredors" in 1957 and recreated her character in a TV special. She seemed to move effortlessly from the classics ("Medea," "Coriolanus") to chic comedy ("Ladies in Retirement," "The Importance of Being Earnest"). Receiving great applause as the beleaguered, overly-winded mother in Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" on Broadway in 1963, she transferred the role to film four years later. The cinematic Barefoot in the Park earned Mildred a well-deserved Oscar nomination for "best supporting actress". She switched things up again with Harold Pinter's theatrical "Landscape," and then again in 1971 when she made her debut in a singing role in the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical, "70, Girls, 70" (1971) in which she earned a second Tony nomination. Her last Broadway show came as a replacement in "Bedroom Farce" in 1979.
With only the slightest of gesture, look or tone of voice, Mildred's characters could speak volumes and she became an essential character player during the 1970s as an offbeat friend, relative or elderly on TV and film. She was awarded the Emmy for her playing of one of The Snoop Sisters_ alongside the equally delightful Helen Hayes in the short-lived TV series. Both played impish Jessica Fletcher-type mystery writers who solve real crimes on the sly. She also played Rock Hudson's quirky mother in McMillan & Wife and a notable dying grandmother in a guest appearance of the critically-lauded TV series drama Family. Her final film came with a small regal role as Madame de Rosemonde in Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Never married, Mildred was called "Milly" by close friends and family and was the first cousin of Myron 'Grim' Natwick, the creator of Betty Boop for the Max Fleischer cartoon studio and prime animator for Disney's Snow White character. She died of cancer at age 89 in New York City.
"Loverly" soprano Marni Nixon has ensured herself a proper place in film history although most moviegoers would not recognize her if they passed her on the street. But if you heard her, that might be a horse of a different color. Marni is one of those unsung heroes (or should I say "much sung" heroes) whose incredible talents were given short shrift at the time. For those who think film superstars such as Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Audrey Hepburn possessed not only powerhouse dramatic talents but amazing singing voices as well...think again. Kerr's Anna in The King and I, Natalie's Maria in West Side Story, and Audrey's Eliza in My Fair Lady were all dubbed by the amazing Marni Nixon, and nowhere in the credits will you find that fact. Born Marni McEathron in Altadena, California, she was a former child actress and soloist with the Roger Wagner Chorale in the beginning. Trained in opera, yet possessing a versatile voice for pop music and easy standards as well, she not only sang for Arnold Schönberg and Igor Stravinsky but also recorded light songs. Marni made her Broadway musical debut in 1954 in a show that lasted two months but nothing came from it. In 1955, the singer contracted to dub Deborah Kerr in The King and I was killed in a car accident in Europe and a replacement was needed. Marni was hired...and the rest is history. Much impressed, the studios brought her in to "ghost" Ms. Kerr's voice once again in the classic tearjerker An Affair to Remember. From there she went on to make Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn sound incredibly good with such classic songs as "Tonight" and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly."
She finally appeared on screen in a musical in The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews, who physically resembles Marni. The role is a small one, however, and she is only given a couple of solo lines in "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" as a singing nun. Marni's vocal career in films dissolved by the mid 1960s, but she continued on with concerts and in symphony halls, while billing herself as "The Voice of Hollywood" in one-woman cabaret shows. Throughout the years, she has played on the legit stage, including the lead roles in "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music," and in her matronly years has been seen as Fraulein Schneider in "Cabaret," and in the musicals "Follies" and "70 Girls 70." Her last filmed singing voice was as the grandmother in the animated feature Mulan in the 1990s. Married three times, twice to musicians; one of her husbands, Ernest Gold, by whom she had three children, was a film composer and is best known for his Academy Award-winning epic Exodus.
Lovely, vivacious, honey-blonde entertainer Jane Kean enjoyed a lengthy career spanning over six decades encompassing vaudeville, radio, Broadway, nightclubs, Las Vegas showrooms, TV variety and the occasional film. Born April 10, 1923, in Hartford, Connecticut, Jane's parents split up while she was fairly young and her mother, prodding her daughters into the performing arts, moved the family to New York to test the waters. Elder sister (by 8 years) Betty Kean (1915-1986) moved quickly and successfully into show business and Jane would follow suit.
Beginning her career on the professional stage with a role in "Hi Ya, Gentlemen!" at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, Jane made her film debut in the Republic musical Sailors on Leave starring William Lundigan and Shirley Ross and was also featured in the film Flying with Music before focusing strongly on the live stage. She took her first Broadway curtain call in the Fats Waller musical "Early to Bed" with actor/producer Richard Kollmar in 1943. She followed this with another Broadway musical "The Girl from Nantucket" (1945) and then came in as a replacement for "Call Me Mister".
Following these successes, Jane and sister Betty teamed up as a popular nightclub duo ("Betty & Jane Kean") who weaved singing and dancing with broad comedy. The ladies also worked together on Broadway in the musical shows "Along Fifth Avenue" (1949) which starred Jackie Gleason and "Ankles Aweigh" (1955) which featured Betty's third husband, Lew Parker, a veteran character actor who would gain fame a decade later as Marlo Thomas beleaguered dad on That Girl. Betty and Jane also appeared to advantage on the such TV variety shows as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Jackie Gleason Show," and headlined their own vaudeville act both here and abroad (London Palladium (1956)).
Betty, who was previously married to comedian Frank Fay and actor Jim Backus before marrying Parker, and Jane eventually decided to go their own ways. Having worked with The Great One" Jackie Gleason back on the vaudeville circuit as well as on the musical stage back in the 1940s and 1950s, Jane was asked to join "The Honeymooners" cast as Trixie Norton when the show was revived on Gleason's variety show The Jackie Gleason Show as a sketch segment. Joining Sheila MacRae as Alice Kramden and TV husband Art Carney as Ed Norton, the segment, which was shot in Miami Beach, subsequently expanded to an hour format and would include songs.
Elsewhere, Jane appeared a series of stage plays and musicals including "The Pajama Game" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" in which she would take over Jayne Mansfield's sexpot role. Other productions included "The Mind with the Dirty Man," "Light Up the Sky," "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," "Carnival," "Follies" and "70 Girls 70." As for TV, she guested on such established programs as "The Danny Thomas Show," "The Lucy Show," "Love, American Style," "The Dean Martin Show," "Cannon," "The Love Boat," "The Facts of Life," "Growing Pains," "Dallas," "Dream On" and the daytime soaps "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital." Jane intermittently lent her voice to films and commercials, notably the perennial animated holiday classic Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol starring Jim Backus, Jack Cassidy and Royal Dano in which she spoke and sang the part of Belle, and in the part live/part animated feature film Pete's Dragon which co-starred Helen Reddy and Jim Dale.
In later years Jane performed on the dinner theatre circuit, at college campuses and on cruise lines. She was married twice -- first to Richard Linkroum (1962-1969) and then to her manager, Joe Hecht, who died in 2006. She had no children.
She remained active throughout her life and in 2012, at age 89, appeared in her own one-woman show "An Evening with Jane Kean" in which she humorously referred to herself as the "Lady Gaga of the Stone Age." She also wrote her memoir "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Honeymooners...I had a Life." One of her last professional jobs was voicing the role of Aunt Ida in the animated feature Dose Hermanos: Shadow of the Invisible Man. Jane died in Burbank, California, on November 26, 2013, at age 90 of a stroke after being hospitalized following a fall at her Toluca Lake home.
Paul Aaron has been creating successful productions since he began his professional career directing a national company of "The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie", starring Oscar-winning actress Kim Hunter. He made an impressive switch to films with the sensitive and critically acclaimed A Different Story, starring Meg Foster and Perry King. This film, which now appears regularly in film revival houses and on cable television, has become a "cult classic".
Following graduation from Bennington College, Paul Aaron arrived in Los Angeles to become the Casting and New Programs Director for the Mark Taper Forum. At the same time, he founded an actor's workshop and directed several plays, including a critically acclaimed production of "The Three Penny Opera". He was brought to New York to direct the successful, off-Broadway rock musical hit, "Salvation", featuring, among others, the then- unknowns Bette Midler, Barry Bostwick and Joe Morton. He next moved to Broadway to direct the comedy "Paris Is Out", starring Sam Levene and Molly Picon, becoming the youngest director in Broadway history.
After directing the first international company of "Salvation" in Amsterdam, he returned to New York to helm, among other plays, the Obie award-winning off-Broadway musical, "Love My Children", and, on Broadway, the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, "70 Girls 70", the Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz musical, "That's Entertainment", and the American premier of Italian playwright Ugo Betti's drama, "The Burnt Flowerbed". Variety called his direction of that play "...nothing less than masterful".
Soon after moving back to the West Coast, Aaron directed an immensely successful revival of Paddy Chayefsky's, "The Tenth Man", starring Richard Dreyfuss. He was awarded the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Award as best director of the year for this presentation.
His second feature film as a director, A Force of One, an action-thriller staring Chuck Norris and Jennifer O'Neill, with a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Ernest Tidyman, was a tremendous box office success.
Paul's next challenge was to direct William Gibson's classic, The Miracle Worker, starring Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert. This NBC Special Event not only garnered some of the network's highest ratings for the season, but also won Paul a number of distinguished awards, both here and abroad. These include a Director's Guild nomination, the Director's prize from the Monte Carlo Film Festival, a Golden Globe nomination and the Christopher Award. "The Miracle Worker" was nominated for four Emmys and won three, including one for Patty Duke as "Lead Actress in a Dramatic Special" and, even more impressive, the Emmy as "Outstanding Dramatic Special" of the 1979-1980 season.
He followed "Thin Ice" with a return to Broadway, directing Claudette Colbert in "A Talent For Murder", an original suspense-comedy that turned out to be her last work on the stage.
Next on film was the CBS Special, Maid in America, starring Mildred Natwick, Susan Clark and Fritz Weaver. Aaron then directed the ABC film, When She Says No, which starred Kathleen Quinlan, Jane Alexander and Rip Torn.
Aaron's company, "Elsboy Entertainment", purchased and developed the Jack Finney novel, "Marion's Wall", and Aaron adapted it for the screen with Patricia Resnick, who wrote the screenplay. The movie, entitled Maxie, starring Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin and directed by Aaron, was produced in association with "Elsboy Entertainment" and was released by Orion Pictures.
He then directed the award-winning NBC television special, In Love and War, the story of Adm. Jim Stockdale, which starred James Woods and Jane Alexander. "In Love and War" garnered brilliant reviews and was chosen by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top five shows televised during the season.
Aaron had also been concentrating on building a successful management and production company under the umbrella of "Elsboy Entertainment". In 1992, he sold the management division of his company to Erwin Stoff, who had worked with him for fifteen years. They met when Paul was a guest professor at the University of Washington in Seattle where Erwin was a grad student. Together, they developed the careers of several now-famous actors, writers and directors.
The reason Paul decided to leave the rigors of running a full-time management company was to concentrate on his writing and producing. The first project he sold was a three-hour mini-series for HBO, entitled Laurel Avenue, which he executive-produced, co-created and wrote with Michael Henry Brown. It aired in 1993 and was called "a golden moment in the history of television", by Pulitzer prize-winning critic Tom Shales of the Washington Post.
Paul returned to directing with a film, for the Lifetime Cable Network, entitled, Untamed Love. It is based on the book, "One Child", by Torey Hayden, and recounts the extraordinary true story of her work with special education students in the public schools.
Aaron's next project was a one-hour dramatic series for CBS entitled, Under One Roof, which he executive-produced with Michael Henry Brown and Thomas Carter, and which he co-created and co-wrote. It starred James Earl Jones and Joe Morton.
The summer of 1996 saw the premiere of Grand Avenue, a three-hour dramatic mini-series based on the book of the same title by Greg Sarris. Aaron and "Elsboy Entertainment" executive-produced the project with Robert Redford and his company, Wildwood Enterprises, Inc. This saga of three Native American families in Santa Rosa, California, was the first major exploration of contemporary Indian life on American television. It won critical acclaim among both the Native American and mainstream audiences, and scored the highest rating of any HBO program of the season. Paul is continuing to develop "Calle Ocho" (Eighth Street), the next installment in his 'American family' series for HBO, which focuses on an extended Cuban-American family in Miami.
In addition, Paul recently did a rewrite for "Jerry Bruckheimer Films" and another for 'Robert DeNiro''s "Tribeca Films" with his former writing partner, Michael Henry Brown. They also wrote "Land of Opportunity" (2000), adapted from the book by William Adler, and "Shadowman" (2000), based on the popular comic book, both for New Line Pictures. Their original screenplay In Too Deep was made into a major motion picture by Miramax Films which Paul also produced. Roger Ebert, among many other critics, gave the film two very "big thumbs up".
Currently, Paul is producing the independent film which Suntaur developed, Skills Like This.
Dwight Hunter Marfield, a New York based theatre, film & TV actor was best known for his character acting, comedic talent and artwork. Additionally he was known for his musical abilities, pantomime and dance skills and appeared in Lotte Goslar's show "For Humans Only" in Southern California, and at the Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts.
On screen, he can be seen as Dr. Greenbow in the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Trouble With Harry," as the soapbox orator in "Studs Lonigan" and as Ellsworth in "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest." He also appeared on television, twice on the Garry Moore Show, as himself, playing the Ukulele, The Jackie Gleason Show, and as Mark Twain on the Bell Telephone spectacular "Sounds Of America". As a stage actor, he played nearly 200 parts both on and off Broadway stages and had worked with Robert Alda and Nancy Walker. He performed on Broadway in the following productions: "The Day Before Spring (1965},""Galileo," "The Ponder Heart," "Lesson,""The Flower Drum Song," and the Pulitzer Prize play "Look Homeward Angel." His great love was theatre, in addition to directing and choreographing projects. He performed in summer stock plays, and had a long running association with the NY-based La Mama Experimental Theatre Club (The Dumb Dancer), The World's Fair Enough (1964}, various projects (1971-1978} and the Actors Playhouse.
In 1978, fans and critics hailed his talents for his one-man play, a production entitled "Dwight Night" that he wrote, acted, directed and produced. Other stage appearances include: "Hot L Baltimore," "Blind Alley," " Take My Advice," " Stardust," "The Playboy Of The Newark," " The Private Life Of The Master Race," " Private Lives, " "Horace," "Bittersweet," & "70-Girls-70." His comedic talent prompted critic Kenneth Tynan to write in Bandwagon (London, England), "(he) convinced me, within ten minutes, that I was in the presence of one of a half-dozen great comedians of my lifetime."
Dwight Hunter Marfield died in New York of heart failure as a result of complications from his battle with cancer. He is survived by his sister, family and friends.
Essentially a stage actress, Geraldine Gulbranson began her acting career at the Duluth Playhouse, appearing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next. She appeared in a variety of roles in assorted Minnesota theaters, and when she moved to the Twin Cities, appeared as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit; Aunt Ev in The Miracle Worker, Josie Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Stage Manager in The Dresser, Marthy Owens in Anna Christie, Gertrude Stein in the area premiere of Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful, Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced, Captain Hook/Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan, Tock in The Phantom Tollbooth, Cora in Morning's at Seven, the Great Djinn in Carnival of the Animals, Sister Mary Ignatius and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Other credits include Noel Coward's Still Life, Laundry and Bourbon, Being a Ghost Story: Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol, Arsenic and Old Lace, Come Blow Your Horn, Bullshot Crummond, 70, Girls, 70 and many more.