Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949, a decision for which he was severely criticized when his star began to dim in the 1960s and he was excoriated for squandering his talents. No actor ever exerted such a profound influence on succeeding generations of actors as did Brando. More than 50 years after he first scorched the screen as Stanley Kowalski in the movie version of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and a quarter-century after his last great performance as Col. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, all American actors are still being measured by the yardstick that was Brando. It was if the shadow of John Barrymore, the great American actor closest to Brando in terms of talent and stardom, dominated the acting field up until the 1970s. He did not, nor did any other actor so dominate the public's consciousness of what WAS an actor before or since Brando's 1951 on-screen portrayal of Stanley made him a cultural icon. Brando eclipsed the reputation of other great actors circa 1950, such as Paul Muni and Fredric March. Only the luster of Spencer Tracy's reputation hasn't dimmed when seen in the starlight thrown off by Brando. However, neither Tracy nor Olivier created an entire school of acting just by the force of his personality. Brando did.
Marlon Brando, Jr. was born on April 3, 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr., a calcium carbonate salesman, and his artistically inclined wife, the former Dorothy Julia Pennebaker. "Bud" Brando was one of three children. His ancestry included English, and smaller amounts of Irish, German, Dutch, French Huguenot, Welsh, and Scottish; his surname originated with a distant German immigrant ancestor named "Brandau". His oldest sister Jocelyn Brando was also an actress, taking after their mother, who engaged in amateur theatricals and mentored a then-unknown Henry Fonda, another Nebraska native, in her role as director of the Omaha Community Playhouse. Frannie, Brando's other sibling, was a visual artist. Both Brando sisters contrived to leave the Midwest for New York City, Jocelyn to study acting and Frannie to study art. Marlon managed to escape the vocational doldrums forecast for him by his cold, distant father and his disapproving schoolteachers by striking out for The Big Apple in 1943, following Jocelyn into the acting profession. Acting was the only thing he was good at, for which he received praise, so he was determined to make it his career - a high-school dropout, he had nothing else to fall back on, having been rejected by the military due to a knee injury he incurred playing football at Shattuck Military Academy, Brando Sr.'s alma mater. The school booted Marlon out as incorrigible before graduation.
Acting was a skill he honed as a child, the lonely son of alcoholic parents. With his father away on the road, and his mother frequently intoxicated to the point of stupefaction, the young Bud would play-act for her to draw her out of her stupor and to attract her attention and love. His mother was exceedingly neglectful, but he loved her, particularly for instilling in him a love of nature, a feeling which informed his character Paul in Last Tango in Paris ("Last Tango in Paris") when he is recalling his childhood for his young lover Jeanne. "I don't have many good memories," Paul confesses, and neither did Brando of his childhood. Sometimes he had to go down to the town jail to pick up his mother after she had spent the night in the drunk tank and bring her home, events that traumatized the young boy but may have been the grain that irritated the oyster of his talent, producing the pearls of his performances. Anthony Quinn, his Oscar-winning co-star in Viva Zapata! told Brando's first wife Anna Kashfi, "I admire Marlon's talent, but I don't envy the pain that created it."
Brando enrolled in Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop at New York's New School, and was mentored by Stella Adler, a member of a famous Yiddish Theatre acting family. Adler helped introduce to the New York stage the "emotional memory" technique of Russian theatrical actor, director and impresario Konstantin Stanislavski, whose motto was "Think of your own experiences and use them truthfully." The results of this meeting between an actor and the teacher preparing him for a life in the theater would mark a watershed in American acting and culture.
Brando made his debut on the boards of Broadway on October 19, 1944, in "I Remember Mama," a great success. As a young Broadway actor, Brando was invited by talent scouts from several different studios to screen-test for them, but he turned them down because he would not let himself be bound by the then-standard seven-year contract. Brando would make his film debut quite some time later in Fred Zinnemann's The Men for producer Stanley Kramer. Playing a paraplegic soldier, Brando brought new levels of realism to the screen, expanding on the verisimilitude brought to movies by Group Theatre alumni John Garfield, the predecessor closest to him in the raw power he projected on-screen. Ironically, it was Garfield whom producer Irene Mayer Selznick had chosen to play the lead in a new Tennessee Williams play she was about to produce, but negotiations broke down when Garfield demanded an ownership stake in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Burt Lancaster was next approached, but couldn't get out of a prior film commitment. Then director Elia Kazan suggested Brando, whom he had directed to great effect in Maxwell Anderson's play "Truckline Café," in which Brando co-starred with Karl Malden, who was to remain a close friend for the next 60 years.
During the production of "Truckline Café", Kazan had found that Brando's presence was so magnetic, he had to re-block the play to keep Marlon near other major characters' stage business, as the audience could not take its eyes off of him. For the scene where Brando's character re-enters the stage after killing his wife, Kazan placed him upstage-center, partially obscured by scenery, but where the audience could still see him as Karl Malden and others played out their scene within the café set. When he eventually entered the scene, crying, the effect was electric. A young Pauline Kael, arriving late to the play, had to avert her eyes when Brando made this entrance as she believed the young actor on stage was having a real-life conniption. She did not look back until her escort commented that the young man was a great actor.
The problem with casting Brando as Stanley was that he was much younger than the character as written by Williams. However, after a meeting between Brando and Williams, the playwright eagerly agreed that Brando would make an ideal Stanley. Williams believed that by casting a younger actor, the Neanderthalish Kowalski would evolve from being a vicious older man to someone whose unintentional cruelty can be attributed to his youthful ignorance. Brando ultimately was dissatisfied with his performance, though, saying he never was able to bring out the humor of the character, which was ironic as his characterization often drew laughs from the audience at the expense of Jessica Tandy's Blanche Dubois. During the out-of-town tryouts, Kazan realized that Brando's magnetism was attracting attention and audience sympathy away from Blanche to Stanley, which was not what the playwright intended. The audience's sympathy should be solely with Blanche, but many spectators were identifying with Stanley. Kazan queried Williams on the matter, broaching the idea of a slight rewrite to tip the scales back to more of a balance between Stanley and Blanche, but Williams demurred, smitten as he was by Brando, just like the preview audiences.
For his part, Brando believed that the audience sided with his Stanley because Jessica Tandy was too shrill. He thought Vivien Leigh, who played the part in the movie, was ideal, as she was not only a great beauty but she WAS Blanche Dubois, troubled as she was in her real life by mental illness and nymphomania. Brando's appearance as Stanley on stage and on screen revolutionized American acting by introducing "The Method" into American consciousness and culture. Method acting, rooted in Adler's study at the Moscow Art Theatre of Stanislavsky's theories that she subsequently introduced to the Group Theatre, was a more naturalistic style of performing, as it engendered a close identification of the actor with the character's emotions. Adler took first place among Brando's acting teachers, and socially she helped turn him from an unsophisticated Midwestern farm boy into a knowledgeable and cosmopolitan artist who one day would socialize with presidents.
Brando didn't like the term "The Method," which quickly became the prominent paradigm taught by such acting gurus as Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Brando denounced Strasberg in his autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me" (1994), saying that he was a talentless exploiter who claimed he had been Brando's mentor. The Actors Studio had been founded by Strasberg along with Kazan and Stella Adler's husband, Harold Clurman, all Group Theatre alumni, all political progressives deeply committed to the didactic function of the stage. Brando credits his knowledge of the craft to Adler and Kazan, while Kazan in his autobiography "A Life" claimed that Brando's genius thrived due to the thorough training Adler had given him. Adler's method emphasized that authenticity in acting is achieved by drawing on inner reality to expose deep emotional experience
Interestingly, Elia Kazan believed that Brando had ruined two generations of actors, his contemporaries and those who came after him, all wanting to emulate the great Brando by employing The Method. Kazan felt that Brando was never a Method actor, that he had been highly trained by Adler and did not rely on gut instincts for his performances, as was commonly believed. Many a young actor, mistaken about the true roots of Brando's genius, thought that all it took was to find a character's motivation, empathize with the character through sense and memory association, and regurgitate it all on stage to become the character. That's not how the superbly trained Brando did it; he could, for example, play accents, whereas your average American Method actor could not. There was a method to Brando's art, Kazan felt, but it was not The Method.
After A Streetcar Named Desire, for which he received the first of his eight Academy Award nominations, Brando appeared in a string of Academy Award-nominated performances - in Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar and the summit of his early career, Kazan's On the Waterfront. For his "Waterfront" portrayal of meat-headed longshoreman Terry Malloy, the washed-up pug who "coulda been a contender," Brando won his first Oscar. Along with his iconic performance as the rebel-without-a-cause Johnny in The Wild One ("What are you rebelling against?" Johnny is asked. "What have ya got?" is his reply), the first wave of his career was, according to Jon Voight, unprecedented in its audacious presentation of such a wide range of great acting. Director John Huston said his performance of Marc Antony was like seeing the door of a furnace opened in a dark room, and co-star John Gielgud, the premier Shakespearean actor of the 20th century, invited Brando to join his repertory company.
It was this period of 1951-54 that revolutionized American acting, spawning such imitators as James Dean - who modeled his acting and even his lifestyle on his hero Brando - the young Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. After Brando, every up-and-coming star with true acting talent and a brooding, alienated quality would be hailed as the "New Brando," such as Warren Beatty in Kazan's Splendor in the Grass. "We are all Brando's children," Jack Nicholson pointed out in 1972. "He gave us our freedom." He was truly "The Godfather" of American acting - and he was just 30 years old.
In the second period of his career, 1955-62, Brando managed to uniquely establish himself as a great actor who also was a Top 10 movie star, although that star began to dim after the box-office high point of his early career, Sayonara (for which he received his fifth Best Actor Oscar nomination). Brando tried his hand at directing a film, the well-reviewed One-Eyed Jacks that he made for his own production company, Pennebaker Productions (after his mother's maiden name). Stanley Kubrick had been hired to direct the film, but after months of script rewrites in which Brando participated, Kubrick and Brando had a falling out and Kubrick was sacked. According to his widow Christiane Kubrick, Stanley believed that Brando had wanted to direct the film himself all along.
Tales proliferated about the profligacy of Brando the director, burning up a million and a half feet of expensive VistaVision film at 50 cents a foot, fully ten times the normal amount of raw stock expended during production of an equivalent motion picture. Brando took so long editing the film that he was never able to present the studio with a cut. Paramount took it away from him and tacked on a re-shot ending that Brando was dissatisfied with, as it made the Oedipal figure of Dad Longworth into a villain. In any normal film Dad would have been the heavy, but Brando believed that no one was innately evil, that it was a matter of an individual responding to, and being molded by, one's environment. It was not a black-and-white world, Brando felt, but a gray world in which once-decent people could do horrible things. This attitude explains his sympathetic portrayal of Nazi officer Christian Diestl in the film he made before shooting One-Eyed Jacks, Edward Dmytryk's filming of Irwin Shaw's novel The Young Lions. Shaw denounced Brando's performance, but audiences obviously disagreed, as the film was a major hit. It would be the last hit movie Brando would have for more than a decade.
One-Eyed Jacks generated respectable numbers at the box office, but the production costs were exorbitant - a then-staggering $6 million - which made it run a deficit. A film essentially is "made" in the editing room, and Brando found cutting to be a terribly boring process, which was why the studio eventually took the film away from him. Despite his proved talent in handling actors and a large production, Brando never again directed another film, though he would claim that all actors essentially direct themselves during the shooting of a picture.
Between the production and release of One-Eyed Jacks, Brando appeared in Sidney Lumet's film version of Tennessee Williams' play "Orpheus Descending", The Fugitive Kind which teamed him with fellow Oscar winners Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward. Following in Elizabeth Taylor's trailblazing footsteps, Brando became the second performer to receive a $1-million salary for a motion picture, so high were the expectations for this re-teaming of Kowalski and his creator (in 1961 critic Hollis Alpert had published a book "Brando and the Shadow of Stanley Kowalski). Critics and audiences waiting for another incendiary display from Brando in a Williams work were disappointed when the renamed The Fugitive Kind finally released. Though Tennessee was hot, with movie versions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer burning up the box office and receiving kudos from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Fugitive Kind was a failure. This was followed by the so-so box-office reception of One-Eyed Jacks in 1961 and then by a failure of a more monumental kind: Mutiny on the Bounty, a remake of the famed 1935 film.
Brando signed on to Mutiny on the Bounty after turning down the lead in the David Lean classic Lawrence of Arabia because he didn't want to spend a year in the desert riding around on a camel. He received another $1-million salary, plus $200,000 in overages as the shoot went overtime and over budget. During principal photography, highly respected director Carol Reed (an eventual Academy Award winner) was fired, and his replacement, two-time Oscar winner Lewis Milestone, was shunted aside by Brando as Marlon basically took over the direction of the film himself. The long shoot became so notorious that President John F. Kennedy asked director Billy Wilder at a cocktail party not "when" but "if" the "Bounty" shoot would ever be over. The MGM remake of one of its classic Golden Age films garnered a Best Picture Oscar nomination and was one of the top grossing films of 1962, yet failed to go into the black due to its Brobdingnagian budget estimated at $20 million, which is equivalent to $120 million when adjusted for inflation.
Brando and Taylor, whose Cleopatra nearly bankrupted 20th Century-Fox due to its huge cost overruns (its final budget was more than twice that of Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty), were pilloried by the show business press for being the epitome of the pampered, self-indulgent stars who were ruining the industry. Seeking scapegoats, the Hollywood press conveniently ignored the financial pressures on the studios. The studios had been hurt by television and by the antitrust-mandated divestiture of their movie theater chains, causing a large outflow of production to Italy and other countries in the 1950s and 1960s in order to lower costs. The studio bosses, seeking to replicate such blockbuster hits as the remakes of The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, were the real culprits behind the losses generated by large-budgeted films that found it impossible to recoup their costs despite long lines at the box office.
While Elizabeth Taylor, receiving the unwanted gift of reams of publicity from her adulterous romance with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton, remained hot until the tanking of her own Tennessee Williams-renamed debacle Boom!, Brando from 1963 until the end of the decade appeared in one box-office failure after another as he worked out a contract he had signed with Universal Pictures. The industry had grown tired of Brando and his idiosyncrasies, though he continued to be offered prestige projects up through 1968.
Some of the films Brando made in the 1960s were noble failures, such as The Ugly American, The Chase and Reflections in a Golden Eye. For every "Reflections," though, there seemed to be two or three outright debacles, such as Bedtime Story, A Countess from Hong Kong and The Night of the Following Day. By the time Brando began making the anti-colonialist picture Burn! in Colombia with Gillo Pontecorvo in the director's chair, he was box-office poison, despite having worked in the previous five years with such top directors as Arthur Penn, John Huston and the legendary Charles Chaplin, and with such top-drawer co-stars as David Niven, Yul Brynner, Sophia Loren and Taylor.
The rap on Brando in the 1960s was that a great talent had ruined his potential to be America's answer to Laurence Olivier, as his friend William Redfield limned the dilemma in his book "Letters from an Actor" (1967), a memoir about Redfield's appearance in Burton's 1964 theatrical production of "Hamlet." By failing to go back on stage and recharge his artistic batteries, something British actors such as Burton were not afraid to do, Brando had stifled his great talent, by refusing to tackle the classical repertoire and contemporary drama. Actors and critics had yearned for an American response to the high-acting style of the Brits, and while Method actors such as Rod Steiger tried to create an American style, they were hampered in their quest, as their king was lost in a wasteland of Hollywood movies that were beneath his talent. Many of his early supporters now turned on him, claiming he was a crass sellout.
Despite evidence in such films as The Chase, The Appaloosa and Reflections in a Golden Eye that Brando was in fact doing some of the best acting of his life, critics, perhaps with an eye on the box office, slammed him for failing to live up to, and nurture, his great gift. Brando's political activism, starting in the early 1960s with his championing of Native Americans' rights, followed by his participation in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's March on Washington in 1963, and followed by his appearance at a Black Panther rally in 1968, did not win him many admirers in the establishment. In fact, there was a de facto embargo on Brando films in the recently segregated (officially, at least) southeastern US in the 1960s. Southern exhibitors simply would not book his films, and producers took notice. After 1968, Brando would not work for three years.
Pauline Kael wrote of Brando that he was Fortune's fool. She drew a parallel with the latter career of John Barrymore, a similarly gifted thespian with talents as prodigious, who seemingly threw them away. Brando, like the late-career Barrymore, had become a great ham, evidenced by his turn as the faux Indian guru in the egregious Candy, seemingly because the material was so beneath his talent. Most observers of Brando in the 1960s believed that he needed to be reunited with his old mentor Elia Kazan, a relationship that had soured due to Kazan's friendly testimony naming names before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. Perhaps Brando believed this, too, as he originally accepted an offer to appear as the star of Kazan's film adaptation of his own novel, The Arrangement. However, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Brando backed out of the film, telling Kazan that he could not appear in a Hollywood film after this tragedy. Also reportedly turning down a role opposite box-office king Paul Newman in a surefire script, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Brando decided to make Burn! with Pontecorvo. The film, a searing indictment of racism and colonialism, flopped at the box office but won the esteem of progressive critics and cultural arbiters such as Howard Zinn.
Kazan, after a life in film and the theater, said that, aside from Orson Welles, whose greatness lay in filmmaking, he only met one actor who was a genius: Brando. Richard Burton, an intellectual with a keen eye for observation if not for his own film projects, said that he found Brando to be very bright, unlike the public perception of him as a Terry Malloy-type character that he himself inadvertently promoted through his boorish behavior. Brando's problem, Burton felt, was that he was unique, and that he had gotten too much fame too soon at too early an age. Cut off from being nurtured by normal contact with society, fame had distorted Brando's personality and his ability to cope with the world, as he had not had time to grow up outside the limelight.
Truman Capote, who eviscerated Brando in print in the mid-'50s and had as much to do with the public perception of the dyslexic Brando as a dumbbell, always said that the best actors were ignorant, and that an intelligent person could not be a good actor. However, Brando was highly intelligent, and possessed of a rare genius in a then-deprecated art, acting. The problem that an intelligent performer has in movies is that it is the director, and not the actor, who has the power in his chosen field. Greatness in the other arts is defined by how much control the artist is able to exert over his chosen medium, but in movie acting, the medium is controlled by a person outside the individual artist. It is an axiom of the cinema that a performance, as is a film, is "created" in the cutting room, thus further removing the actor from control over his art. Brando had tried his hand at directing, in controlling the whole artistic enterprise, but he could not abide the cutting room, where a film and the film's performances are made. This lack of control over his art was the root of Brando's discontent with acting, with movies, and, eventually, with the whole wide world that invested so much cachet in movie actors, as long as "they" were at the top of the box-office charts. Hollywood was a matter of "they" and not the work, and Brando became disgusted.
Charlton Heston, who participated in Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington with Brando, believes that Marlon was the great actor of his generation. However, noting a story that Brando had once refused a role in the early 1960s with the excuse "How can I act when people are starving in India?", Heston believes that it was this attitude, the inability to separate one's idealism from one's work, that prevented Brando from reaching his potential. As Rod Steiger once said, Brando had it all, great stardom and a great talent. He could have taken his audience on a trip to the stars, but he simply would not. Steiger, one of Brando's children even though a contemporary, could not understand it. When James Mason' was asked in 1971 who was the best American actor, he had replied that since Brando had let his career go belly-up, it had to be George C. Scott, by default.
Paramount thought that only Laurence Olivier would suffice, but Lord Olivier was ill. The young director believed there was only one actor who could play godfather to the group of Young Turk actors he had assembled for his film, The Godfather of method acting himself - Marlon Brando. Francis Ford Coppola won the fight for Brando, Brando won - and refused - his second Oscar, and Paramount won a pot of gold by producing the then top-grossing film of all-time, The Godfather, a gangster movie most critics now judge one of the greatest American films of all time. Brando followed his iconic portrayal of Don Corleone with his Oscar-nominated turn in the high-grossing and highly scandalous Last Tango in Paris ("Last Tango in Paris"), the first film dealing explicitly with sexuality in which an actor of Brando's stature had participated. He was now again a Top-Ten box office star and once again heralded as the greatest actor of his generation, an unprecedented comeback that put him on the cover of "Time" magazine and would make him the highest-paid actor in the history of motion pictures by the end of the decade. Little did the world know that Brando, who had struggled through many projects in good faith during the 1960s, delivering some of his best acting, only to be excoriated and ignored as the films did not do well at the box office, essentially was through with the movies.
After reaching the summit of his career, a rarefied atmosphere never reached before or since by any actor, Brando essentially walked away. He would give no more of himself after giving everything as he had done in "Last Tango in Paris," a performance that embarrassed him, according to his autobiography. Brando had come as close to any actor to being the "auteur," or author, of a film, as the English-language scenes of "Tango" were created by encouraging Brando to improvise. The improvisations were written down and turned into a shooting script, and the scripted improvisations were shot the next day. Pauline Kael, the Brando of movie critics in that she was the most influential arbiter of cinematic quality of her generation and spawned a whole legion of Kael wanna-bes, said Brando's performance in Last Tango in Paris had revolutionized the art of film. Brando, who had to act to gain his mother's attention; Brando, who believed acting at best was nothing special as everyone in the world engaged in it every day of their lives to get what they wanted from other people; Brando, who believed acting at its worst was a childish charade and that movie stardom was a whorish fraud, would have agreed with Sam Peckinpah's summation of Pauline Kael: "Pauline's a brilliant critic but sometimes she's just cracking walnuts with her ass." Probably in a simulacrum of those words, too.
After another three-year hiatus, Brando took on just one more major role for the next 20 years, as the bounty hunter after Jack Nicholson in Arthur Penn's The Missouri Breaks, a western that succeeded neither with the critics or at the box office. From then on, Brando concentrated on extracting the maximum amount of capital for the least amount of work from producers, as when he got the Salkind brothers to pony up a then-record $3.7 million against 10% of the gross for 13 days work on Superman. Factoring in inflation, the straight salary for "Superman" equals or exceeds the new record of $1 million a day Harrison Ford set with K-19: The Widowmaker. Before cashing his first paycheck for Superman, Brando had picked up $2 million for his extended cameo in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now in a role, that of Col. Kurtz, that he authored on-camera through improvisation while Coppola shot take after take. It was Brando's last bravura performance, though he did receive an eighth and final Oscar nomination for A Dry White Season after coming out of a near-decade-long retirement. Contrary to those who claimed he now only was in it for the money, Brando donated his entire seven-figure salary to an anti-apartheid charity.
Brando had first attracted media attention at the age of 24, when "Life" magazine ran a photo of himself and his sister Jocelyn, who were both then appearing on Broadway. The curiosity continued, and snowballed. Playing the paraplegic soldier of The Men, Brando had gone to live at a Veterans Administration hospital with actual disabled veterans, and confined himself to a wheelchair for weeks. It was an acting method, research, that no one in Hollywood had ever heard of before, and that willingness to experience life.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was considered one of the last, if not the last, major star to have come out of the old Hollywood studio system. She was known internationally for her beauty, especially for her violet eyes, with which she captured audiences early on in her youth and kept the world hooked on with since.
Taylor was born on February 27, 1932 in London, England. Although she was born an English subject, her parents, Sara Sothern (née Sara Viola Warmbrodt) and Francis Lenn Taylor, were Americans, art dealers from St. Louis, Missouri (her father had gone to London to set up a gallery). Her mother had been an actress on the stage, but gave up that vocation when she married. Elizabeth lived in London until the age of seven, when the family left for the US when the clouds of war began brewing in Europe in 1939. They sailed without her father, who stayed behind to wrap up the loose ends of the art business.
The family relocated to Los Angeles, where Mrs. Taylor's own family had moved. Mr. Taylor followed not long afterward. A family friend noticed the strikingly beautiful little Elizabeth and suggested that she be taken for a screen test. Her test impressed executives at Universal Pictures enough to sign her to a contract. Her first foray onto the screen was in There's One Born Every Minute, released when she was ten. Universal dropped her contract after that one film, but Elizabeth was soon picked up by MGM.
The first production she made with that studio was Lassie Come Home, and on the strength of that one film, MGM signed her for a full year. She had minuscule parts in her next two films, The White Cliffs of Dover and Jane Eyre (the former made while she was on loan to 20th Century-Fox). Then came the picture that made Elizabeth a star: MGM's National Velvet. She played Velvet Brown opposite Mickey Rooney. The film was a smash hit, grossing over $4 million. Elizabeth now had a long-term contract with MGM and was its top child star. She made no films in 1945, but returned in 1946 in Courage of Lassie, another success. In 1947, when she was 15, she starred in Life with Father with such heavyweights as William Powell, Irene Dunne and Zasu Pitts, which was one of the biggest box office hits of the year. She also co-starred in the ensemble film Little Women, which was also a huge success.
Throughout the 1950s Elizabeth appeared in film after film with mostly good results. She won an Oscar nomination for her role in the George Stevens film _A Place In The Sun_, co-starring her good friend Montgomery Clift. The following year, she co-starred in _Ivanhoe_, one of the biggest box office hits of the year. Her busiest year was 1954. She had a supporting role in the box office flop Beau Brummell, but later that year starred in the hits The Last Time I Saw Paris and Elephant Walk. She was 22 now, and even at that young age was considered one of the world's great beauties. In 1955 she appeared in the hit Giant with James Dean.
Sadly, Dean never saw the release of the film, as he died in a car accident in 1955. The next year saw Elizabeth co-star with Montgomery Cliftin Raintree County, an overblown epic made, partially, in Kentucky. Critics called it dry as dust. In addition, Clift was seriously injured during the film, with Taylor helping save his life. Despite the film's shortcomings and off-camera tragedy, Elizabeth was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Southern belle Susanna Drake. However, on Oscar night the honor went to Joanne Woodward for The Three Faces of Eve.
In 1958 Elizabeth starred as Maggie Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The film received rave reviews from the critics and Elizabeth was nominated again for an Academy Award for best actress, but this time she lost to Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!. She was still a hot commodity in the film world, though. In 1959 she appeared in another mega-hit and received yet another Oscar nomination for Suddenly, Last Summer. Once again, however, she lost out, this time to Simone Signoret for Room at the Top. Her Oscar drought ended in 1960 when she brought home the coveted statue for her performance in BUtterfield 8 as Gloria Wandrous, a call girl who is involved with a married man. Some critics blasted the movie but they couldn't ignore her performance. There were no more films for Elizabeth for three years. She left MGM after her contract ran out, but would do projects for the studio later down the road. In 1963 she starred in Cleopatra, which was one of the most expensive productions up to that time--as was her salary, a whopping $1,000,000. The film took years to complete, due in part to a serious illness during which she nearly died.
This was the film where she met her future and fifth husband, Richard Burton (the previous four were Conrad Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd--who died in a plane crash--and Eddie Fisher). Her next handful of films were lackluster at best, including 1963's The V.I.P.s and The Sandpiper, which were shredded by most critics but were financially successful. Elizabeth was to return to fine form, however, with the role of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Her performance as the loudmouthed, shrewish, unkempt Martha was easily her finest to date. For this she would win her second Oscar and one that was more than well-deserved. The following year, she and Burton co-starred in another box office hit, The Taming of the Shrew, again giving winning performances and being nominated for an Oscas, but losing. However, her films afterward were box office failures, including Reflections in a Golden Eye, Boom! (again co-starring with Burton), Secret Ceremony, The Only Game in Town, X, Y and Zee, Hammersmith Is Out (with Burton again), Ash Wednesday, The Driver's Seat (considered by many to be her worst), The Blue Bird, A Little Night Music, and Winter Kills (a controversial film which was never given a full release and in which she only had a small role). Since then she has appeared in several movies, both theatrical and made-for-television, and a number of television programs. In February 1997, Elizabeth entered the hospital for the removal of a brain tumor. The operation was successful. As for her private life, she divorced Burton in 1974, only to remarry him in 1975 and divorce him, permanently, in 1976. She had two more husbands, U.S. Senator John Warner and construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she met in rehab.
In 1959, Taylor converted to Judaism, and continued to identify herself as Jewish throughout her life, being active in Jewish causes. Upon the death of her friend, actor Rock Hudson, in 1985, she began her crusade on the behalf of AIDS sufferers. In the 1990s, she also developed a successful series of scents. In her later years, her acting career was relegated to the occasional tv-movie or TV guest appearance.
Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, from congestive heart failure. Her final resting place is Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.
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 Noel 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.
Robin Sherwood is an American actress. She was born in Miami Beach, Florida to the Hon. Wolfie Cohen, a two-term city councilman and successful restaurateur, and Miriam Rose Cohen a prominent society hostess. The family lived in Miami Beach, Florida during the fall and winter and traveled in Europe during the spring and summer. She first appeared on stage when she was nine years old.
She lost her mother at the age of 11 to Ovarian Cancer and subsequently navigated adolescence on her own. Without a mother to guide her, she learned about becoming a woman and a lady through watching movies, and reading classic romantic literature such as Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Emily Dickinson and Lord Byron. By being brought up in a household with all men Robin learned about life as a woman through her imagination. She would later draw on her self-formed nature to create her acting roles.
Robin signed with a talent agency in Miami, Florida at the age of 14. Already a great beauty, the resulting contract landed her a national television commercial, fashion modeling assignments in Glamour Magazine and on the runway for designer Oleg Cassini .
Through Sarah Lawrence college in New York, she studied acting in London, England. Robin performed the leading roles in both musical comedies, Guys and Dolls as Sarah Brown to Sky Masterson played by Jeff Zinn (founder of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater), and Philia in Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for the North Country Players New England summer repertory theater, under the direction of Ron Bennett.
Robin made her movie debut in independent films. She appeared briefly in the Bill Murray comedy Coming Attractions. Soon her resume began to grow with a role in Outside Chance a CBS movie of the week with Yvette Mimieux. She arrived as a leading lady, with the David Schmoeller iconic mystery/horror film Tourist Trap, which she starred in with Chuck Connors.
She then moved into major motion pictures, at MGM Studios, director Martin Davidson saw a photograph of her on the wall of the studio's art director and cast Sherwood in a small role in the romantic comedy, Hero at Large (1980)_ with John Ritter.
Immediately following, showing a keen comedic talent, she was delightful as a Marin County hippie feminist, in a supporting role opposite Tuesday Weld in Serial for Paramount. She then was given the chance to work with director Brian De Palma in a scene stealing cameo role with John Travolta in Blow Out for Columbia Studios.
Her break out role came when she signed to star opposite Charles Bronson as his emotionally traumatized daughter in the high profile, box office hit, Death Wish II for MGM, directed by Michael Winner.
She was showered with accolades for her performance as the muted daughter in Death Wish II and singled out for her beauty on screen by Vincent Canby of the New York Times. Her talent and beauty made her an international box office star.
Finding herself in demand on both sides of the Atlantic, she moved to Paris, France. Robin was introduced to the French film community by her companion Serge Siritzky (Parafrance CEO and President).
While based in Paris, her father died. And she returned to the states to run his restaurant, The Rascal House Restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida - fulfilling a promise she had made to him. Robin oversaw the managing of the restaurant with a staff of 300 employees.
She cooked with Regis Philbin as a guest on his national morning show, and wrote articles with recipes she created that ran in major newspapers around the United States.
Robin top-lined on the stage in 1991 playing the titled role in the drama, "Clare's Dream", in Los Angeles at the Coast Theater. She won critical acclaim from the Los Angeles Times for her earnest and heartfelt performance as a spirited writer coming-of-age-in rural California of the 1930s.
Robin decided to enjoy the private world outside of a movie set. Although she broadened her visibility in the public eye through her home and fashion accessories catalog she launched, frecklefarm, that reached an audience of 26 million women.
She returned to acting in 2009, by guest starring at Chiller Theatre for producer Kevin Clement.
On December 21, 2010 she debuted off-Broadway headlining in Fear Mongers: Fireside Chats about Horror Films at Dixon Place, hosted and curated by Clay McLeod Chapman.
Robin Sherwood stars in the feature length documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films The documentary is directed by Mark Hartley and produced by Veronica Fury and Brett Ratner.
Lillian Müller was born on August 19, 1951 in a small town by the sea in the South of Norway. Spending her early childhood in the financial turmoil of the post-WWII era, her determination to make something of herself was embedded deep within. Lillian spent her formative years burying her head in books, igniting an optimistic sense of reality that differentiated from the world around her. In the meantime, she blossomed into a strikingly beautiful woman who would go on to become a successful model in London, where she strutted the catwalk, graced the pages of French Vogue, and hit the stands as the "Page Three Girl" in the London Sun. After being discovered by Playboy, she moved to America and was featured as the 1976 "Playboy's Playmate of the Year". Lillian went on to become the most featured "Playmate Of The Year" in the history of the publication and has nine covers from 1975 through 1999 to her name. To date, Lillian has more than 1,000 cover stories and features in international media publications as a celebrity and supermodel.
Utilizing her beauty and charm, Lillian found herself as a desired commodity in the acting world, where she has been featured in more than 30 movies and television shows, such as Remington Steele, Starsky and Hutch, Once Upon a Spy, Eischied and Fantasy Island. Intent on perfecting the art, Lillian immersed herself in studying under talented acting teachers. Since 2009, she has been studying under Oscar Winners, Martin Landau and Mark Rydell at The Actors Studio in Hollywood, which is home to legendary actors, such as Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. Throughout the years, Lillian has starred opposite established leading men, such as Tom Selleck on Magnum, P.I.; Tony Curtis in Some Like It Cool; Rock Hudson in Superstunt II; and Bill Cosby in The Devil and Max Devlin. She has also co-starred with Pierce Brosnan, Elliott Gould, Vincent Price, Dudley Moore, Kirstie Alley, Harry Hamlin, Dennis Hopper and Ted Danson. Most recently, Lillian has been circulating amongst Norway's mainstream media, starring in hit television shows, such as "Ja, Vi Elsker Hollywood" (Yes, We Love Hollywood - 2011), "4-Stjerners Middag" (4-Star Dining - 2011), "71 Grader Nord - Celbrity Edition" (71 Degrees North - 2010), and, most recently, "Skal Vi Danse" (Dancing with the Stars - 2012).
The portrayal of Lillian as the leading female vixen in Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" music video could not stray farther from reality, as she is a walking advertisement of health and fitness. In December 2010, Lillian won PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 title, which was well-justified, thanks to her 35 years as a vegetarian. She promotes her vegan lifestyle through her book, "Feel Great, Be Beautiful Over 40", as well as her lectures as a motivational speaker. This past half-decade, Lillian has been well received by audiences listening to her speak about health, fitness, beauty, and anti-aging. She acclaims that her youthful looks and demeanor are the product of her healthy lifestyle, as well as the fact that she has never tried tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Lillian's charismatic and informative lectures have proved to be a sensation for those she has inspired throughout the years, all over the US and Norway. Her fascinating life story, as well as her transformations from the runner-up of Miss Norway; successful fashion model; most celebrated Playmate of the Year of all time; actress; and, finally, today as a health guru and inspirational speaking leader, have all elicited immense interest culminating in the creation of her 1998 biography, "Usminket", and two documentaries, "Tillbake Hos Hef (The Lillian Müller Story - 2003)" and, more recently, "Lillian Müller- Mitt I Livet" (Lilian Müller - In the Midst of Life - 2012).
Born in Chicago in 1931, Joan attended St. Clement's School. Looking far more "mature" than her age would indicate, when she was just 14 years old she auditioned for, and was hired, as a Showgirl at Chicago's Chez Paree, one of the country's foremost nightclubs in the 1940s & '50s. Two years later, she was appearing in Las Vegas productions. Vegas was also where she met her first husband and her son, Steven, was born. Daughter Shari was born 3 years after Steven. Moving to Beverly Hills, she starred in the TV series Bold Venture in the 1959-60 season. She made some 10 feature films, liking only a few of them. In 1961, she starred in Homicidal (billed as "Jean Arless") playing 2 roles, one as a male. This small film has developed a cult-like following. A woman of great beauty and style, she was signed by CBS and appeared often on such TV shows as The Jack Benny Program & The Red Skelton Hour. She had a gift for comedy, which often was overlooked because of her beauty. Possessing a flair for writing, in the 1970s, Joan collaborated with her best friend (from grammar school days in Chicago and an award-winning writer) Dirk Wayne Summers, co-scripting TV sitcoms. She married film director Hal Ashby and, over the first 6 months of their marriage, and at his insistence, she related personal experiences of her life. Mr. Ashby (and Robert Towne) turned Joan's life into the film Shampoo. She was not pleased that her husband had used such personal details in creating this film. (Joan Marshall did a cameo in "Shampoo" and can be seen in the opening scene in the Beauty shop). Her real-life wedding (to Ashby) can be seen in the opening scenes behind the credits in Ashby's 1970 film The Landlord. Ashby died in 1988 and, in 1989, Joan married business executive Mel Bartfield. Although there were many rumors that Joan was secretly wed to Richard Chamberlain, this was not the case. She and the gifted Mr. Chamberlain were -- and remained -- very close friends. After visiting Jamaica, Joan fell in love with the island nation, where she had a home, and, subsequently, died in June 1992. Her ashes were spread under her favorite tree on the property.
Oliveretta Elaine Duffy was born on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Olive, as she was known to family and friends, did not have much of a childhood. Life in industrial Pittsburgh was depressing and grim with its smoky factories and hard living. She married Bernard Krug Thomas at the age of 16 (which wasn't uncommon at the time), but the marriage wasn't happy and they divorced two years later. By that time Olive had left Pittsburgh for New York, where she found work in a department store. On a lark, she entered a competition for the most beautiful girl in New York City, as fate would have it, she won. With the ensuing publicity, Olive caught the eye of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and immediately joined his famed Follies. An outstanding addition, men went wild over her beauty. She also posed nude for the famed Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas. As a result of her sudden fame, she was signed to a contract with Triangle Pictures. Her first film was Beatrice Fairfax. Later that year, she married Jack Pickford, brother of screen star Mary Pickford. The relationship was a stormy one. In 1917, she starred in four more films: Madcap Madge, A Girl Like That, Broadway Arizona and Indiscreet Corinne. With five films on her resume, Olive was the toast of Hollywood. Her beauty was captivating. One look at her pictures can make one understand why. She made three films in 1918 and six in 1919. By 1920, Olive was at the top of the film world. She continued to make good pictures, most notably, Youthful Folly and The Flapper, which was an overwhelming success. After finishing Everybody's Sweetheart, Olive and Jack sailed to France for a much-needed vacation. The couple finally seemed happy, which seems odd in light of what was to follow. Olive accidentally ingested bi-chloride of mercury from a French-labeled bottle in a darkened bathroom, believing it to be another medication. Found unconscious, she died five days later. The death made worldwide headlines and was ruled accidental. Always remembered as one of the finest actresses of the silent era, With the advent of sound pictures, she would have no doubt continued a dazzling career. Considered to be one of the world's great beauties, Olive was only 25 when she died.
Sharon Elizabeth Hugueny was a leap-year baby, born on February 29, 1944, in Los Angeles, California. She was an intelligent, introspective, and sensitive child who preferred serious reading, writing, and music to the "more frivolous" interests of her peers. Sharon's parents - a World War II Navy veteran and his wife - were loving-but notoriously strict with their three children (Sharon, a younger brother, born in 1950, and a sister born, in 1957). Any boy interested in dating teen-aged Sharon was reportedly required to pass two interviews plus a car inspection, before being allowed to take her out. However, when Warner Brothers' famous talent-scout, Solly Biano, spotted Sharon in a theatrical production of "Blue Denim" when she was fifteen, her parents did allow her to meet producer/director Delmer Daves and to accept the contract offered to her by Mr. Jack L. Warner. Sharon signed that seven-year contract on her 16th birthday. Under Warner's personal guidance, she quickly began a performing guest-star on appearances in all of Warners' television programs, such as Lawman, and _"Maverick"(1957)_, where she received her first on-screen kiss from star Roger Moore (and off-screen kisses from Peter Brown of "Lawman", and The Adventures of the Wilderness Family's Robert Logan}.
While filming Parrish in 1961, actor (later, producer-and-president of Paramount, Mr. Robert Evans) visited her set and was immediately bedazzled by breathtaking Sharon, whose dark beauty earned frequent comparisons by Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons to Elizabeth Taylor. Evans' feeling for Sharon was reciprocated; and so, seventeen-year-old Sharon began dating the thirty-one-year-old Evans, much to the dismay of her parents, friends, and studio. Within weeks, the two became engaged and then, on May 28, 1961, married. Unfortunately, their union was doomed from the start. Sharon was, by all accounts, extremely mature for her age; yet Evans seemed to regard her as a child, not as a wife. Their relationship deteriorated. At one time, Mr. Evans abandoned California for his clothing business, "Evan Picone", located in New York, which effectively broke her motion picture- and -television contract with Warner Bros. This uprooting had taken Sharon thousands of miles from her family, work, and friends; furthermore, Warner Brothers placed her on suspension. (Evans later said that "taking Sharon to New York was like forcing a Persian cat into the Amazon"). In Mexico, less than six months after they married, he arranged for a quick, no alimony, divorce, which confused his naive wife.
Sharon's career, unfortunately, never recovered. She would become one of many fine actresses of the 1960s who possessed great beauty and tremendous talent but were not provided with good-quality material to showcase their assets. From 1965 to the mid-1970s, Sharon virtually disappeared from public view, other than for a number of television guest-starring spots, such as Mannix.
There followed a marriage to photographer Raymond Ross in 1968 to his death in 1974), a divorce, and a child. By 1976, she was under new management and married to Gordon Cornell Layne, founder of "Mid-America Pictures".
Sharon was en route to ABC to sign two contracts when a new tragedy intervened: Sharon was struck by a speeding police car, doing 90 mph in pursuit of a fleeing drug addict. Not only did this end Sharon's career, it very nearly ended her life. Still seeking recovery, she and Mr. Layne left Santa Monica for Lake Arrowhead, in 1987. After nineteen years under Gordon's personal around-the-clock care, on July 3,1996, Sharon Elizabeth Hugueny Layne died at home, from misdiagnosed cancer. The "Sharon Elizabeth Hugueny Performance Arts Scholarship" has been projected to honor her memory.
Houston-born-and-bred Florence Vidor was one of the great beauties of early Hollywood. But while her photogenic looks went a long way, audiences would not get to enjoy or really experience her voice as she abruptly left the silver screen after her first disastrous attempt at a talking picture.
Born Florence Arto on July 23, 1895, she was the daughter of John F. Arto, a realtor, and his wife Ida. Educated in both public and finishing schools, she was also a student at the Convent of the Sacred Heart for a time. Her fate was sealed after an eventful but happenstance meeting of two local aspiring filmmakers--future directors Edward Sedgwick and King Vidor. Vidor, a freelance photographer, cast Florence in his very first two-reel picture, although she had no real designs on being an actress. The two went on to become a romantic item and married in 1915. They would have one child, Suzanne Vidor Parry, in 1919. King set his sites on Hollywood and the couple made the big move, financing their trip by filming travelogue footage for the Ford Motor Co.
Settling in Santa Monica, the couple soon found employment at Vitagraph Studios. Florence knew actress Corinne Griffith from her days in Houston and was introduced around the sets. The studio was quite taken by her exquisite beauty and quickly signed her to a contract, starting with some minor roles in such comedy shorts as The Yellow Girl and Curfew at Simpton Center. In the meantime, husband King sought work as a scriptwriter and occasional movie extra.
Florence first turned heads portraying the tragic seamstress "Mimi" in A Tale of Two Cities. Audiences took notice and the beautiful brunette was immediately promoted to leading lady status opposite such established stars as Sessue Hayakawa and chic "drag" performer Julian Eltinge. She and Hayakawa made several pictures together, including Hashimura Togo, The Secret Game and The White Man's Law, among others. With the popular Eltinge--who often out dressed his leading ladies--the actress graced the comedies The Countess Charming and The Widow's Might. Within a short time she was starring in quality pictures for both William C. de Mille and his brother, Cecil B. DeMille, but still preferred to work for her husband, King, who had by this time established himself as a formidable director after opening his own studio in 1919.
A mature, opulent presence, Florence became a huge star under her husband's guidance, operating under the banners of King Vidor Productions and Florence Vidor Productions. With such silent classics as The Other Half, Poor Relations, The Family Honor, The Jack-Knife Man, Real Adventure, Dusk to Dawn and Conquering the Woman, Florence came to the forefront. Her best-regarded film of that period, was King's comedy-drama Alice Adams, remade successfully a decade or so later by Katharine Hepburn.
King and Florence divorced in 1924 and Florence went on to appear for other well-known directors, notably Ernst Lubitsch, in such glossy pictures as The Marriage Circle and The Patriot. She also portrayed famous female Revolutionary War character Barbara Frietchie in Barbara Frietchie, but she earned most of her kudos specializing in sophisticated comedy. She was well represented in that genre with Marry Me, The Grand Duchess and the Waiter and The Magnificent Flirt. Her stylish humor coupled with a charming sensitivity put her squarely on top throughout most of the 1920s opposite such other well-tailored charmers as Adolphe Menjou, Clive Brook and William Powell.
Florence's first major talking film would also become her last. The unhappy experience and end result of working on Chinatown Nights, which used highly experimental sound equipment, was enough to convince her to leave films altogether. By that time Florence had married a second time to famed violinist Jascha Heifetz and preferred to raise a family. The couple went on to have two children. Following her divorce from Heifetz in 1946, Florence continued to remain completely out of the limelight. She later moved to Pacific Palisades, California, and stayed there for the remainder of her life, succumbing to heart failure in 1977 at age 82.
Queen Alexandra was born Princess Alexandra Caroline Mary Charlotte Louisa Julia on December 1, 1844. She was the granddaughter of the king of Denmark. She lived an uneventful childhood in the palaces of Denmark with her sister, Marie, who became the mother of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. When Alex, as she was called, turned 16 she was considered a great beauty, and won the hand of the heir to the throne of England. She and Prince Albert Edward, or "Bertie", were married on March 10, 1863. They had six children including the future King George V. The first 40 years of marriage were very turbulent for Alexandra. As well as the six children, she had to contend with a brother-in-law (the husband of Bertie's sister Helena) whose family wanted a stake in the Schleswig-Holstein lands that had belonged to the kings of Denmark for generations. Finally in 1901 her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, died, making her husband King Edward VII and she, in turn, Queen Consort. During her time as Queen she did many things to make England better, including the establishment of The Red Cross.
In 1910, however, something happened to change everything. Her husband of almost 50 years died. On his death bed she did a very magnanimous thing: she allowed his mistress, Alice Keppel, to say goodbye to him. After his death she lived at the house in which she had lived during her marriage. Unfortunately, she also lived with the increasing deafness that plagued her life as well as that of her son Albert Victor, who would have become king if he had not died. Alexandra died in 1925 of a heart attack and is buried at Windsor near her husband and mother and father-in-law.
One of the great voices of the Metropolitan Opera, New York-born mezzo-soprano Rise (pronounced REE-za) Stevens made her debut with the company in 1939 as Octavian in Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" in a tour performance in Philadelphia. Her other notable roles in 21 years with the company included the two characterizations most associated with her, the title role in Bizet's "Carmen" and Dalila in Saint-Saens's "Samson et Dalila," Laura in Ponchielli's "La Gioconda," Marfa in Mussorgsky's "Khovanschina," Prince Orlofsky in Johann Strauss's "Die Fledermaus," and Hansel in Humperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel." A great beauty as well as a great singer, she enjoyed one of the more successful careers of the many opera singers who made films, most notably in "The Chocolate Soldier" opposite Nelson Eddy and "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. She was also something of a fixture on early TV, appearing frequently on such programs as "The Bell Telephone Hour" and "The Voice of Firestone," where she sang both operatic arias and popular songs. She also appeared on one of the first telecasts from the Met, in 1954, singing Carmen opposite one of her most frequent Don Joses, Richard Tucker.
Since her retirement from opera in 1960, she has continued to play a very active role in the New York fine arts scene. In 1964, she inaugurated the Music Theater of Lincoln Center as Anna Leonowens in a well-received revival of "The King and I," produced by Richard Rodgers, opposite Darren McGavin 's King. Also that year, she became director of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, a touring company which served as a training ground for promising young singers and conductors, many of whom (Marilyn Niska, Ron Boettcher) became members of the regular company. She held this job for three years, until the company ceased operations when the Met could no longer afford to finance it. Since then, she has remained active with the Met as a long-time official of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Dorothy Hyson was one of the British cinema and theatre's most gifted players. Noted for her great beauty and striking looks, the songwriters Rogers and Hart dedicated their song, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", to her. Her second husband, the actor Anthony Quayle, described her as "the Most Beautiful Creature I Have Ever Seen".
She was born in Chicago in 1914, the only child of the musical comedy star, Dorothy Dickson and her husband, Carl Heison (who changed his name to Hyson). She made her London stage debut at the age of 12 at the Savoy Theatre in J.M. Barrie's "Quality Street" and, the following year, acted in Daisy Ashford's "The Young Visitors" (Strand Theatre), prompting the leading critic of the day, James Agate, to write: "I think in Dorothy Hyson we may have the comedienne of the future". In 1933, Ivor Novello, impressed by her charm and beauty, offered her the role of Gladys Cooper's daughter in his play, "Flies in the Sun". Later successes included Maxwell Anderson's comedy, "Saturday's Children and Touch Wood", in which she co-starred with Flora Robson.
She was rarely off the West End stage throughout the thirties and forties and, in June 1947, married Anthony Quayle. In later years, Quayle said of his wife, "Without her, I could have been nothing - and done nothing. With her love and help, our two lives joined together and I could lift the world up and carry it aloft".
Hyson was a renowned hostess in London and numbered among her close friends, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Noel Coward and John Gielgud. On her retirement from acting, she said: "I always tried my best at being an actress - but when I met Anthony Quayle all I wanted to do was to be his wife and look after him. My acting didn't matter anymore. He always came first for me".
Her son is the designer Christopher Quayle. Her two daughters are Rosanna Astley and the actress Jenny Quayle.
Maria Antonietta Farias Portocarrero was born in Rio de Janeiro on August 23, 1922. Her father, Hermenegildo Portocarrero (1894-1959), was a military man and maths teacher with a lifelong interest in show business. A close friend of the great Brazilian actor Procópio Ferreira, he was acquainted with actors, singers and musicians, and for a time was the director of Radio Nacional, the chief radio station in Rio, then capital of Brazil. Tônia had two older brothers, both military men and teachers. At a very early age, she took an interest in dancing and in sports, eventually graduating as a physical education teacher.
In 1940 she married the artist Carlos Thiré, who was already creating the comic books for which he is now recognized as a major name of the early years of comics in Brazil. The young couple's only child, the actor, director and drama teacher Cecil Thiré was born on May 28, 1943. In early 1947, she was invited to appear as one of the schoolgirls in Querida Susana (aka "Querida Suzana") (literally, "Darling Suzana"), directed by Alberto Pieralisi and starring Anselmo Duarte, who was soon to become the biggest leading man in Brazilian films. In her film debut, she had nothing to do but smile. At her insistence, however, she was given one line. When the film was completed, they asked her how she should be credited. She had no idea. Maria Antonietta Portocarrero surely didn't sound like an actress' name. She was having singing lessons at the time and told her teacher about it. The woman thought for a moment and said, "From 'Antonietta' we take 'Tônia.' By breaking the surname in two and keeping the second half, we get 'Carrero.' Your name is going to be Tônia Carrero." And so it was. For her family and closest friends, however, she has always been Mariinha, the nickname given to her when she was born.
Shortly after the making of "Querida Suzana", Thiré got a scholarship and went to Paris to study art with the famous French painter André Lothe (1885-1962). Tônia accompanied him and, once there, enrolled in an acting course named "Education par les Jeux Dramatiques", directed by the famous actor-director Jean-Louis Barrault. As she likes to recall, half of her classmates were horrified to have among them someone so cheerful and healthy in direct contrast to the somber atmosphere of those post-war years. The other half loved her precisely for that.
In December of 1947, the Thirés came back to Brazil and Tônia started looking for work. In 1948 she was invited by 'Fernando de Barros' to play the sister of his wife Maria Della Costa in his first film as a director, Caminhos do Sul (lit. "Paths of the South"). When the film was released, in late 1949, the two actresses were praised for their beauty, presence, and adroit acting. Fernando then cast Tônia as the lead in Quando a Noite Acaba (lit. "When the Night Is Over"), made in 1949, right after "Caminhos do Sul." The story was set in Rio and the film was released in that city first. To the director's great annoyance, when it was later shown in São Paulo the title was changed to "Perdida pela Paixão" (lit. "Lost by Passion"), which, besides being misleading, has often caused the two titles to appear in the filmographies of cast and crew as two different films.
Whatever the title, the film did well and Tônia's performance was hailed as a great accomplishment for its lack of pretense and its amazing blend of intensity and restraint, audiences being very impressed by her awesome death scene at the end. She got the admiration of critics and audiences alike for being a stunningly beautiful woman who didn't rest on that, one critic (Décio Vieira Ottoni) going as far as calling her performance "the best by any actress ever seen in Brazilian films so far."
December 13, 1949 became a historical date for the Brazilian theater. On that day, at Rio's Teatro Copacabana, Tônia Carrero and a young lawyer named Paulo Autran made their joint stage debut in "Um Deus Dormiu Lá em Casa", a comedy by the Brazilian author Guilherme Figueiredo, based on the Greek myth of Amphitryon. In the years to come, Tônia and Paulo would turn into household names for their work, together and separately, in films, on the stage, and on TV. 1949 marked the beginning of a legendary partnership that lasted until 2004 when they were seen acting together for the last time in the TV mini-series Um Só Coração (lit. "One Heart"), as an elderly couple dining at the restaurant where the young actors and directors who were starting a new phase of the Brazilian theater in São Paulo gathered every night, in the late 1940s, the inside joke being that two of the young actors they saw at a nearby table and talked about were ... Tônia Carrero and Paulo Autran!
The creation of the Vera Cruz film company in late 1949 attracted a great number of actors and Tônia was no exception. In 1952 she was seen in the studio's most lavish production, Tico-Tico no Fubá, about the life of that song's composer, Zequinha de Abreu, played by Anselmo Duarte. Tônia was Branca, the circus ballerina the composer falls in love with. The film represented Brazil in the Cannes Film Festival and, like the composer whose life it portrayed, audiences all over fell in love with the beautiful woman who rode a horse with so much skill and enchanted the whole town where the circus stayed for a while, until finding out that she too had fallen in love with the composer. The director was Adolfo Celi, an Italian actor who had come to Brazil in 1948 and in time became one of the country's most influential directors and drama teachers. During the making of the film, in 1951, they fell in love and decided to stay together. That was the end of Tônia's marriage to Carlos Thiré and Adolfo Celi's relationship with the first lady of the Brazilian theater, the celebrated actress Cacilda Becker.
Soon after the enormous success of "Tico Tico no Fubá," Tônia was seen in Fernando de Barros' Appassionata, a somewhat turgid melodrama in which she played a pianist who is loved by Anselmo Duarte. The film did well in spite of mixed reviews and among all her films remains the one in which, beautifully photographed by British cinematographer Ray Sturgess, she looks more stunning. Her last film for Vera Cruz was É Proibido Beijar (lit. "Kissing Forbidden"). A light comedy directed by Ugo Lombardi, in which for the third time in a row she acted with Zbigniew Ziembinski, the father-figure of the modern Brazilian theater, the film looks dated today, its biggest asset being once again Tônia's striking beauty.
As it was being made, in 1953, pre-production began for the studio's most ambitious project, a film version of "Ana Terra", one of the segments of Érico Veríssimo's monumental epic novel "O Tempo e o Vento" ("Time and the Wind"). Tônia was to star and Celi to direct. Alas, the film was not to be. Vera Cruz collapsed, its contract players, directors, and technicians disbanded, and all that remains today are the beautiful photographic studies suggesting that Ana Terra could have been Tônia's most emblematic film role. In retrospect, Tônia's greatest moment at Vera Cruz remains the scene in "Tico Tico no Fubá" in which, as the circus caravan moves away from the small town where she had met the composer, she and Ziembinski are seen at the coachman's seat of the leading wagon, talking about how life makes you leave things behind, and how hard it can be to make choices.
With the end of hers and Celi's Vera Cruz tenure, they decided to settle in Rio, where, along with Paulo Autran, they founded the famous Tônia-Celi-Autran theater company. From 1956 to 1961, Celi directed, Tônia and Paulo starred, and some of the best actors of the day joined the cast in carefully selected plays by Shakespeare, Goldoni, Lillian Hellman, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pirandello, George Axelrod, Françoise Sagan, and Brazilian authors such as Osman Lins. The company's success was immense, to the point of extending a tour of the southern states of Brazil to Buenos Aires, where Argentinian audiences didn't seem to mind seeing "Othello" in Portuguese.
However, the theatergoers' gain was the moviegoers' loss. Her Vera Cruz days behind her, Tônia turned down an offer to make films in Italy (she dreaded the idea of being away from her son) and became essentially a stage actress. In 1955 she was seen on the screen once more, opposite Arturo de Córdova in Mãos Sangrentas (released in the US as "The Violent and the Damned"), a prison melodrama made the year before at another studio by the Argentinian director Carlos Hugo Christensen, and then went on a film hiatus of six years, during which she kept a hectic schedule of theater and TV work.
In 1960, during the company's exceptionally successful Buenos Aires season, she was invited by the illustrious director and actor Lautaro Murúa to play his wife in his own film Alias Big Shot. She completed her scenes in four days at neck breaking speed so as to be able to come back to Rio where she was being expected to fulfill a theater engagement. She couldn't possibly know then that, following its release in 1961, the film she had no idea she would be making when she arrived to Buenos Aires would become a classic of the Argentinian cinema, the big irony being that, since it was never released in Brazil and this was before the VHS/DVD era, she has never seen it.
For a while it looked as if the early 1960s would be the beginning of a new phase of her work as a film actress. Early in 1961, almost back to back, she made two films, both released in 1962. First, Carnival of Crime, a Brazilian-American-Argentinian co-production directed by George Cahan and starring the internationally famous French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont (released in the US in 1964 as "Carnival of Crime", the film is available on DVD). Then, Esse Rio Que Eu Amo (lit. "My Beloved Rio"), an episode film directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen, in which she played an unfaithful woman in the modern version of a story by Brazil's greatest writer, Machado de Assis.
In 1962, when "Esse Rio que Eu Amo" was released, her delicate performance and great beauty at 38 so much impressed the European producers of Copacabana Palace, about to start shooting in Rio, that they offered her the juicy part of the elegant wife of a jewel thief who acted in the famous hotel of the title. Released the same year it was made, this Italian-French co-production directed by Steno (also known as Stefano Vanzina), and starring the popular Italian actor Walter Chiari, became something of a cult movie of its kind. In 1979, when Adolfo Celi came to Rio to direct her in the theater for the first time after the break-up of their marriage in 1962, he jokingly told Tônia that he had never really stopped seeing her, for every other time he turned on the TV in his Rome home, there she was in "Copacabana Palace."
In 1963 Celi had gone back to Italy, where he became an amazingly active actor in international films, his best remembered role being Emilio Largo, the villain who defies James Bond in Thunderball. In 1964 Tônia married the engineer César Thedim (1930-2000), who was to have a brief career as a film producer. They separated in 1977, and she didn't marry again. Like Paulo Autran, after the end of Tônia-Celi-Autran, she founded a new theater company and went on producing and acting in plays by world-wide famous authors like Ibsen (her Nora in "A Doll's House", in which she was directed by her son, Cecil Thiré, and for which she won an award, stands as one of her stage performances people remember more fondly), Feydeau, Somerset Maugham, and Tennessee Williams, as well as Brazilian authors such as Domingos de Oliveira.
In 1967, during the military regime ("the years of lead") when censorship made life hell for those whose work had to do with theater, cinema, music, and literature, she read a play named "Navalha na Carne" (lit. "Razor in the Flesh"), by a brilliant young Brazilian author named Plínio Marcos, and decided to do it. It told the story of an aging prostitute living with her pimp in the shabby pension of a poor and dangerous neighborhood where she walked the streets every night. She can hardly get clients anymore, the pimp gets mad at her, they go through a ghastly night during which he beats her, takes all her money, humiliates her, and leaves her to her fate. Alone, she cries like hell, than pulls herself together, sits down and very calmly eats a sandwich as the curtain comes down. The play was banned by the censors and couldn't be performed anywhere in Brazil. But Tônia fought for it so ferociously and with so much intelligence that the authorities ended up thinking it wiser not to go against a woman the whole country adored, and she was granted permission to do it.
At the peak of her beauty and charm, Tônia gained weight, stopped having her hair done, developed a heavy walk and a clumsy way to move around, learned how to speak with a most ungracious croaky voice, and, under the clever direction of Fauzi Arap, came up with a performance that has become part of the history of the Brazilian theater, for which she became the first actress to win the prestigious Molière Award by unanimous vote. People went to the theater and for a moment their minds boggled. It took them a while to realize that the woman on the stage really was Tônia Carrero. Needless to say, there was a standing ovation every night.
However, when two years later the play was filmed by Braz Chediak and she was invited to repeat on screen her most famous stage role, she turned it down. As she explained, she had done the play for more than a year, all over Brazil, and it was a marvelous experience. But now she was through with it and had even done another play (Frank D. Gilroy's "The Subject Was Roses", in which she played her own son's mother). Along with the suicidal woman in Terence Rattigan's "The Deep Blue Sea", the prostitute in Plínio Marcos' play had been one of the two most straining roles she had ever played. While acting in both she felt she was using up her emotional energy. Playing the prostitute had been immensely rewarding, but she didn't want to go through it again. She suggested Glauce Rocha, one of Brazil's most gifted actresses, whom she admired and was personally very fond of. Her suggestion was accepted and "Navalha na Carne" became one of the last film credits in Glauce Rocha's sadly short career.
In late 1968 Tônia gave a fine performance as the lead in Hugo Kusnet's Tempo de Violência (lit. "Time of Violence"), a vigorous film about the risk in politically deranged times of thinking that if you mind your own business you will stay out of trouble. The film got good reviews and did well with the public. The same year it was released, Tônia appeared as an elegant 19th century French courtesan in Sangue do Meu Sangue (lit. "My Own Blood"), a TV series, or rather a "novela" (the Portuguese word to define a genre that flourished in Brazil in the 1960s and doesn't quite have an equivalent in English speaking countries, the best way to describe it being, "Imagine a mini-series, with daily episodes like all mini-series, but lasting from six to eight months").
It was the beginning of the great phase of her career as a TV actress. In 1970 she did something very few actresses in the world (if any at all) must have done. At the same time as she appeared every night on the stage as Lady MacBeth with Paulo Autran in the title role, she played the lead in Pigmalião 70, her first "novela" for TV Globo, Brazil's biggest TV studio. Such was her success in it, that all over Brazil, hairdressers had a hard time trying to make room for all the women who wanted to get a "Dona Cristina cut" (her character's name). After a number of Globo "novelas" she became tired of the hoopla and asked to be released from her contract. She decided to concentrate on her work in the theater, which was always phenomenally successful, and eventually make a film, like Mário Carneiro's Gordos e Magros (lit. "The Fat Ones and the Thin Ones"), made in early 1976 and released in 1977, in which she played the mother of her lifelong friend Carlos Kroeber. Alas, the film got bad reviews and did poorly with audiences.
She did accept to make other things for TV, like specials, or single episodes of shows like "Aplauso" (not to be confused with the 1978 Spanish series of the same title), in which a different repertory play was adapted for TV every week. But she would only make another "novela" in 1980, when author Gilberto Braga invited her to what would become one of his biggest hits, Água Viva (lit. "Jelly Fish"). At 57 she looked more beautiful than the young stars around her. As an eccentric millionairess who had a bolder, more outgoing attitude to life than people half her age, she won the hearts of a whole new generation who had heard about her but was seeing her for the first time. As a tribute to her, towards the end Braga wrote a highly dramatic scene in which, following a depressive bout triggered by the mysterious death of a dear friend, she took a whole bottle of sleeping pills and, as she played again and again an old recording of a famous French song, went on a long monologue explaining to the people she had loved and lost why she had decided to join them.
When the scene was aired, even her most unabashed fans were taken aback by how intimately and with how much intensity the actress they loved so much could relate to the camera. For some of them the scene brought back memories of her doing Jean Cocteau's "The Human Voice" live on TV, in the 1950s, directed by Adolfo Celi, with whom, she has always been very proud to say, she learned her craft.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a sad time for the Brazilian film industry. A time of uncertainty when it became extremely difficult to raise money for any kind of project, to the point when (in 1990-91) production practically stopped. For actors, much as they all relished the idea of making films, it became the sort of thing you jump at if it comes your way, but you never count on. With Tônia it wasn't any different. With no film projects in view, at the peak of her prestige as one of the leading figures of the Brazilian theater, she enjoyed very long runs in Rio and São Paulo, as well as touring other Brazilian cities in plays such as Marguerite Duras' "L'Amante Anglaise" (once again with Paulo Autran), John Murrell's "Memoir" (as Sarah Bernhardt, with her son Cecil), William Luce's "Zelda" (as Zelda Fitzgerald), Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance," Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard," and "As Atrizes" ("The Actresses") by the Brazilian actor and author Juca de Oliveira.
In 1986 she appeared in "Quartett," a strange play by German author Rainer Muller, in which she played Merteuil, the vicious aristocrat of the famous classic "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," as seen many years after the events of that novel. Alone in her mansion, she talked to the ghost of her former lover Valmont (played by Sérgio Britto), in what turned out to be a tragicomic comment on modern life. Under the brilliant direction of Gerald Thomas, she came up with what was hailed as the top of her achievements as a stage actress, for which, once again she was given a Molière Award, now in the honorary category.
By now the Vera Cruz film company ("The Brazilian Hollywood") had become a legend and she was constantly asked if she didn't miss making films. She certainly did and in 1987 gladly took the chance to start again by making three films in a row. Early in the year, she joined a large number of stars (including Paulo Autran, if not with her in the same scene) who played cameo roles in Fogo e Paixão (lit "Fire and Passion"), co-directed by Marcio Kogan and Isay Weinfeld. Released in 1988, it turned out to be a fascinating film in which the big joke was to see her as a beggar after the endless series of rich, sophisticated women audiences had grown accustomed to see her play, especially on TV. Next she played the male lead's mother in Ruy Guerra's Fábula de la Bella Palomera (aka "A Bela Palomera"), a Brazilian-Spanish co-production released in 1988.
As soon as it was finished, she filmed Best Wishes (aka "Best Wishes"), as the matriarch of a large and rich family. An ambitious project by director Tereza Trautman, when it was generally released in 1988 after a round of international festivals, the film was poorly received and hasn't been seen much, the general line being that there were too many script problems. Late in 1988 Tônia played the grandmother telling the story in O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre (lit. "The Extraterrestrial Puss in Boots"), released in 1990. Directed by Wilson Rodrigues, this well-done film for children was her last in 16 years.
As active as ever in the theater, in 2002 she celebrated her 80th birthday on the stage, in Rio, as the old lady in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's famous play, "The Visit." During the curtain call of the first performance for the general public, after a long standing ovation, having read in the press that it was her very special birthday, the whole audience broke into a warm "Happy Birthday." Being in the cast, the author of this biography was on the stage with the others, and like them has not forgotten the expression of gratitude in the faces of the people who paid her such a spontaneous tribute. She had become what they would like to be at her age. She was a star all right, a very big one, but she was their own, tangible star, and they loved her for that.
In 2004, along with several other people who had known or worked with him, she filmed a series of interviews for Vinicius, a documentary by Miguel Faria Jr. about one of her dearest friends, the poet and composer Vinicius de Moraes. Released in 2005, it turned out to be a wonderful film, getting rave reviews and setting a new box office record for a documentary. While it was still making the rounds, in 2006, Tônia worked for the first time with the young and enormously talented director Laís Bodanzky, who cast her as the old lady who comes with her lifelong companion (wonderfully played by the great Leonardo Villar) to the ballroom of the title in Chega de Saudade.
Among a great number of characters (beautifully played by an impeccable cast), the events of one single evening concentrate on three couples: one very young, one middle-aged, and one elderly. When the film was generally released in 2008 (after a preview in 2007 at the Brasília Film Festival) it became a huge success. Lots of people told they had come back to see it again shortly after the first time, their favorite moment being the scene towards the end, in which, out of jealousy, the cranky old man played by Leo Villar decides to leave without saying goodbye. From the top of the stairs, Tônia stops him calling it a shame to leave like that, not simply because of the bad manners, but especially because of the defeat attitude in life.
He asks her what she expects from him. Her stern face dissolving into a beautiful smile, she says, "Dance with me!" He goes back and they dance. In a long arc shot, as the camera shows the entire cast watching them, it becomes possible to see how moved they all are to witness this absolutely magical moment. Then the camera cuts to Tônia and Leo Villar, as she kisses him saying, "I love you- I love you-"
When the film was released, perhaps because of having done it so many times while watching these two live on the stage, at the peak of their big scene audiences often burst into a very loud applause. At 84, Tônia Carrero, the film actress, had made the best film of her entire career. Just before it was released, in 2007, she made her last stage appearance to date in a play by the Russian author Alexei Arbuzov known in America as "Do You Do Somersaults?" and in England as "Old World." With her on the stage was the much loved actor Mauro Mendonça. The director was none other than her own grandson Carlos Thiré (aka Carlos Artur Thiré), whose sister, 'Luisa Thiré', and younger brother, Miguel Thiré, are also actors. While Tônia's youngest grandson, João Thiré, is pursuing a career in music, her great-grandson Vitor Thiré (Luisa's son) has already made his acting debut in the TV series "Filhos do Carnaval."
Also in 2007, a year tainted by sadness with the death of Paulo Autran, a theater was named after her in Rio, not long after she had been decorated by the Brazilian government (she had already been decorated by the French government, who made her a "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" for making some of the best French playwrights well-known in Brazil). Then, in 2008, during the ceremony of the prestigious Shell Theater Award she was given a Life Achievement Award, presented to her by her good friend, the cartoonist Chico Caruso, and received a thunderous standing ovation that didn't seem to finish, from an audience of actors, directors, playwrights, producers, designers, journalists and friends who had loved her for longer than they could remember.
But the biggest tribute came every night from the audience that had come to see her on the stage in "Um Barco para o Sonho" (the Arbuzov play). At the end of scene four, she told the doctor played by Mauro Mendonça that, being a circus artist, she had once made a film in Moscow. He wanted to know more about it and she described the one scene she had in the film as being a routine with a horse. Impressed by the passionate way she talked about it, to her big surprise, he invited her out to dinner. The lights went out, circus music started playing, and there she was, at 28, more beautiful than ever, riding her horse around the arena, in a clip from "Tico Tico no Fubá." Those who had seen the film were always very moved. Those who hadn't marveled at her beauty and, like with all movie stars, the way the camera seemed to be caressing her. Invariably, they all burst into applause to the woman who had given so much of herself for both theater and films to be something Brazilians can be so immensely proud of.
Raffaela Perra O'Neill is an Italian actress and United States permanent resident. Raffaela is Mona Lisa in the film, The Mona Lisa Myth, narrated by Morgan Freeman and produced by Pantheon Studios. She plays Simone on NBC's Days of Our Lives and can be seen in the American feature films Crew 2 Crew (Lions Gate) and Piranha Sharks (Festival de Cannes). Raffaela plays Evangelina in the National Geographic television show American Genius. She will be featured in the forthcoming films Devil's Work and Nasty Piece of Work. She is a protagonist in the European films Labbra Mute (Italian), Bainbonora (French) and was featured in Le Deuil de la Beauté (Requiem for Beauty) an experimental art film directed by Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjin in Paris. She played a comedic role in the Italian television sitcom Wilma (Roma Fiction Fest) and was featured on stage in the acclaimed theatrical production Le Dissolute Assolte in Rome. Raffaela's dance training and stage experience has led to dancing, action, and stage combat roles. She played a dancer role in La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty ), the 2014 Oscar award winning foreign film directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Raffaela is the face of television and print campaigns for renowned international brands including Marriott, Danskin, Lavazza, Luxottica, Loews, Lonely Planet, and Vanish.
Born in Italy, Raffaela is a native Italian speaker and polyglot fluent in English, Portuguese and French. Raffaela is a dynamic physical actress professionally trained in the Strasberg method in Rome.
Amii Stewart will forever be remembered for her 1979 US #1 hit "Knock On Wood", a disco remake of Eddie Floyd's original. Born Amy Stewart, she became "Amii" in the 70s because another Amy Stewart had registered with Equity before she did. Amii toured with several musical productions (among them "Bubbling Brown Sugar") before meeting up with Barry Leng in London, the producer of her breakthrough hit. Although considered a "one hit wonder" in her homeland, Amii achieved considerably more success in the UK before moving to Italy in the early-80s (where she remains to this day). A great beauty and dancer, equally adept at belters and ballads, Ms. Stewart has retained a hardcore fan base. Her recordings have been produced by such diverse talents as Giorgio Moroder and Ennio Morricone, and it is unfortunate that her post-disco recordings are rarely heard outside her adopted country.
Considered in her day to be one of the screen's great beauties, Vola Vale was born born Violet Smith in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Rochester. As a youngster she appeared in amateur stage productions in Rochester, and at age 15 made her film debut under her real name (she didn't use Vola Vale until 1916). Under contract to Biograph, she appeared in a wide variety of films. She left that studio in 1916 and joined Universal Pictures, where she appeared in a long series of comedy and dramatic shorts before making her feature debut in 1917. She worked not only for Universal but for many independent companies, and made several films with veteran western star William S. Hart. Her popularity soared in the 1917-1918 period as she turned out a slew of films for many different studios. In 1918 she married director Albert Russell, who specialized in westerns, and began making westerns herself. After she and Russell divorced, she abandoned westerns and began turning out "society" dramas. Her popularity began to decline in 1923, and she began appearing in more and more undistinguished, low-budget independent fodder for the states-rights market. She met director John Gorman in 1926 while appearing in one of his films and they were married later that year. She retired from the screen in 1927. She and Gorman divorced, and she later married Lawrence McDougal, and that lasted until he died in 1970. Several months later, in October of 1970, she herself died of heart disease and diabetes.
Elizabeth Lee is an actress, writer and producer based in New York City. Raised and educated in Florida, Elizabeth developed lasting appreciation for both great beauty and tremendous absurdity, an affinity that continues to prove useful. Elizabeth has taken on lead roles in demanding productions across a variety of mediums, and continues to seek out unusual and challenging projects helmed by filmmakers with a strong vision. Elizabeth has written and produced two feature films and several shorts in connection with Cold Hands Productions. Her next short film project with Cold Hands, titled "Switch" will be completed this fall.
Little-known today but regarded in her time as one of the screen's great beauties, New Jersey-born Marguerite Courtot was sent in 1909, at age 12, to be educated in a European convent. By the time she returned to the US she had blossomed into such a beauty that she soon had a career as a top photographer's model; it didn't take long for offers from the film industry (much of which, at the time, was based in New Jersey) to come pouring in. Her mother, determined that Marguerite would finish her education, refused all offers until 1912, when she let her daughter take some small bit parts in movies filmed at a local New Jersey studio. Within a year Marguerite went from extra work to starring roles. Although excelling in comedy roles, she preferred to do action/drama pictures, and by 1915 was making serials for Kalem. She was off the screen for a year during World War I, when she decided to help in the war effort and toured the country selling war bonds and savings stamps. She returned to the screen in 1918 playing a World War I Belgian refugee in The Unbeliever. In 1919 she was in a succession of serials, all of which were extremely successful. In 1918 her co-star in The Unbeliever was actor 'Raymond McKee (I)' and she starred with him again in Down to the Sea in Ships in 1922. They were married soon after. She made only a few more films, then retired from the industry to raise a family. She died in Hawaii, her longtime home, in 1984.
Magda Holm was born in a real sailing family, with her father Knut (harbour captain and sailing-yachtbuilder), her mother Anna (nee Kristoffersson), and her elder brothers Yngve and Tore (following the steps of their father). The whole family were good sailors and winners of many sailing trophies. Magda herself was a pioneer among women sailors, starting at the age of 10 years and winner of many sailing races with her boats, always called "Bimbi". Magda's best friend was her dog Bimbi, which followed Magda everywhere and was often seen at pictures from her youth. Magda was also a great beauty and after comfirmation she went to the actress 'Sophie Mantzius' in Copenhagen to try her hand at acting. After one year in Copenhagen she joined the Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. The first years she spent on different theatres in Stocholm both with drama and comedy. But there was as comedienne she 1924 started her career as film actress and by 1932 had played in 8 different films (7 in Swedish and 1 in Norwegen). She was playing among the greatest Swedish acters uring this time. She also went a trip to Hollywood but she didn't find that life as the right for her. Back in Swden in the 1930th she married director Gunnar Andersson in Stocholm and they got two children together. But that marriage was just for a few years. In 1940 she was married with Erik Ernberg, member of the municipal court in Kalmar. In Kalmar Magda started a new career as director of the amateur theatre society "Society Magda Ernberg". The last active years she spended as theater reviewer and as member in the committee of the local theatre organisation. After her death she was burried at the old cemetery of Westervik.
Even with some personal problems, the quality of Guillaume Bilodeau's work is considered great and influential by some special people. He first directed a short entitled "Une nuit suffit" which was filmed in the great beauty of his house with the collaboration of an underrated actor named Sébastien Genest, also known for his famous research on Albert Camus. The movie itself and the "making of" was a great success among student circles. After that, Bilodeau has (Bill for his intimate friends and fans) participated in numerous projects: "Tango Fever", "Graffitis stolen from TQS" (both of them made with unusual people called the "Dream Team"), "Film sur les gros, les gais et les yos" and "L'aplat télévisuel par saturation du bleu".
After those underground movies, he was brought to the business by a strange meeting he made at "Le Diable Vert". That event made him a legend among his friends and a star among the movie business. People are saying that he must have been good at what he did with that mature woman. He contributed to the making of Summer and Two Summers; with this work, he became one of the famous PA of the Montreal teams. His hard work made him be a part of Ascension production team where somebody told him: "Tu n'es pas la salope à Karim, tu es ma salope". That was too much for him and he decided to momentary leave the business and to work on an old project: "La Chop de porc".
To this day, this movie is his masterpiece. Even some technical errors can't erase the greatness of actor performances like those from Benoit Trottier, Jonathan Bouchard and Mr. Bilodeau itself. For now, Guillaume went back to the university and is known to have many projects in his head who are waiting to made. As he is saying: "In life, you're either the one who looks or the one who is being looked at".
Gorgeous Josephine Edwards was the singing and acting sensation in the entertaining race film/Black Cinema movie, "Mystery In Swing." She gave a great performance as one of the scorned lovers of a playboy trumpet player, she witnesses the murder of her lover, and before she condemn the murderer, she is murdered after singing her swan song. Josephine stole the movie with her emotional, heartfelt singing of the beautiful song "You Can't Fool Yourself About Love," and finishing it with a little swing dancing. She appeared in another race film playing Mantan Moreland's daughter in "One Dark Night" but that film is presumed lost.
Josephine was a nightclub dancer and singer in the 1930s and 1940s. She and her husband Frog Edwards had a dance team for several years performing at such places as the legendary Creole Palace in San Diego for many years. Josephine had the beauty, singing and acting talent, and screen presence, had times been different, she definitely would had become a huge star of stage and screen, but because of her race she was denied the opportunity. Hopefully more info will surface on this great beauty and great talent.
Wendy Orme was born Gwynneth May Zillah Orme in 1911. She was the second of Emeric Pressburger's two wives, by whom she had two children. Their grandsons are the film director Andrew Macdonald and the film producer Kevin Macdonald.
She was married three times and Emeric was heartbroken by the end of their marriage. She was a great beauty in her day.
The daughter of an American living abroad, Aedita Stuart grew up in France and was known as a great beauty. First married to a French nobleman who died in World War I, the widowed Countess de Beaumont went on the stage as a dancer and actress, using the name "Gypsy Norman", performing both on Broadway and in vaudeville from 1921. She was married to her second husband, cartoonist Bud Fisher, by the captain of the ocean liner "Leviathan"; although the marriage lasted only a few months, she was Fisher's sole heir and after his death, owned the copyright to his comic strip "Mutt and Jeff", which afforded her a comfortable retirement.
Actress and dancer for cinema, contemporary dance and theatre. She played a leading role as actress in the Academy Award Nominee "Don'tell" , dancer in the film Oscar winning "The great beauty" by Paolo Sorrentino. She also worked with Marco Bellocchio, Mario Martone, Cristina Comencini, Pippo Del Bono, Doug Liman, Joe Pytka.