Happy 108th Birthday Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar

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Today is the 108th birthday of Swifty Lazar.  He is dead and is still more powerful than all of us will ever be combined.  I am a sucker for a person in a pair of gigantic glasses (think of Iris ApfelCarrie Donovan, me) and in a strange turn of events, my original post about Swifty is the most-visited post I have ever had.  This is all due to the Howard Stern Show mentioning him and his glasses and linking to my blog from their blog for visual reference.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar (March 28, 1907 – December 30, 1993) was a talent agent and dealmaker, representing both movie stars and authors.

Born Samuel Lazar in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1931. While practicing bankruptcy law during the early 1930s, he negotiated a business deal for a vaudeville performer and realized the income potential for acting as an agent.
He moved to Hollywood in 1936 but maintained a presence in New York until after World War II when he moved to Los Angeles permanently. After putting together three major deals for Humphrey Bogart in a single day, he was dubbed “Swifty” by Bogart. The moniker stuck but was a name he actually disliked.

In addition to Bogart, Lazar became the agent representing the top tier of celebrities, including Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote, Cher, Joan Collins, Noel Coward, Ira Gershwin, Cary Grant, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Walter Matthau, Larry McMurtry, Vladimir Nabokov, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, President Richard Nixon and Tennessee Williams. Lazar’s power became such that he could negotiate a deal for someone who was not even his client and then collect a fee from that person’s agent.

During World War II, Lazar, with Benjamin Landis, suggested to the U.S. Army Air Forces that it produce a play to encourage enlistment and to raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. The Air Forces commanding general, Henry H. Arnold, agreed and the play Winged Victory was written by Moss Hart and produced by Hart and Lazar. It was a huge success, playing on Broadway and on tour around the U.S. for over a million people. A film version was produced during the same period.

Lazar was an executive producer (with Bernie Brillstein) of John G. Avildsen’s Neighbors (1981), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and he was an associate producer on two television miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1983) and Robert Kennedy & His Times (1985). He was renowned for his annual post-Academy Award parties that started at the famous Romanoff’s, then moved to the Bistro Garden and finally to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Spago. His was widely regarded as the most important Oscar celebration, and those who received invitations were regarded as the inner circle.

Lazar died in 1993, aged 86, from complications stemming from diabetes which eventually cut off circulation to his feet, which doctors wanted to amputate. Lazar, who was being treated at home via peritoneal dialysis, refused amputation. This refusal hastened Lazar’s death. The Death Certificate states “Imminent Cause: Chronic Renal Failure due to Glomerulo Sclerosis due to Hypertension. Other significant conditions contributing to death but not related to cause given in 21 [above]: lower extremities diabetes.” He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles next to his wife, Mary, who had died in January that same year from liver cancer. Michael Korda wrote a 1993 New Yorker profile of Lazar, later incorporated into Korda’s book, Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (Random House, 1999). At the time of his death, Lazar was working on his autobiography, Swifty: My Life and Good Times, which was completed by Annette Tapert and published by Simon & Schuster in 1995.

Swifty Lazar appears as a character in Peter Morgan’s stage play, Frost/Nixon, first staged at the Donmar Warehouse, London on August 10, 2006 and played by actor Kerry Shale. In the play Lazar negotiates a deal with David Frost on behalf of President Richard Nixon for Frost to interview Nixon. The play is closely based on real-life events. He has also been portrayed by Toby Jones in the 2008 film version of Frost/Nixon.

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Happy 91st Birthday Sarah Vaughan

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Today is the 91st birthday of arguably one of the very best jazz singers of the last century:  Sarah Vaughan.  Our local public radio station has a Big Band and Jazz program every Saturday night, I remember hearing a recording of her singing Black Coffee over twenty years ago and have been a fan ever since.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Sarah Vaughan
OCCUPATION: Pianist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: March 27, 1924
DEATH DATE: April 03, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Newark, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Hidden Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan performed with big bands before becoming a solo artist. She is known for singing “Send in the Clowns” and “Broken-Hearted Melody.”

Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924. Outside of their regular jobs—as a carpenter and as a laundress—her parents were also musicians. Growing up in Newark, a young Sarah Vaughan studied the piano and organ, and her voice could be heard as a soloist at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Vaughan’s first step toward becoming a professional singer was taken at a talent contest held at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where many African-American music legends made their name. After being dared to enter, she won the 1942 competition with her rendition of “Body and Soul.” She also caught the attention of another vocalist, Billy Eckstine, who persuaded Earl Hines to hire Vaughan to sing with his orchestra.

In 1944, Vaughan left Hines to join Eckstine’s new band. Also working with Eckstine were trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie Parker, who introduced the group to a new form of jazz, known as bebop. An inspired Vaughan brought bebop into her singing, which can be heard in the 1945 recording of “Lover Man” that she made with Parker and Gillespie.

After performing with Eckstine’s orchestra for a year, Vaughan briefly worked with John Kirby before leaving big bands behind to become a solo artist (though she often reunited with Eckstine for duets). Having already been given the nickname “Sassy” as a commentary on her onstage style, it was while striking out on her own that she was dubbed “The Divine One” by a DJ in Chicago. In the late 1940s, her popular recordings included “If You Could See Me Now” and “It’s Magic.”

The next decade saw Vaughan produce more pop music, though when she joined Mercury Records she also recorded jazz numbers on a subsidiary label, EmArcy. She sang hits like “Whatever Lola Wants” (1955), “Misty” (1957) and “Broken-Hearted Melody” (1959), which sold more than a million copies. Vaughan gave concerts in the United States and Europe, and her singing was also heard in films such as Disc Jockey (1951) and Basin Street Revue (1956).

After the 1950s, shifting musical tastes meant that Vaughan no longer produced huge hits. However, she remained a popular performer, particularly when she sang live. In front of an audience, her emotional, vibrato-rich delivery, three-octave vocal range and captivating scat technique were even more appealing. Though her voice took on a deeper pitch as Vaughan got older—likely due in part her smoking habit—this didn’t impact the quality of her singing, as could be heard on “Send in the Clowns,” a staple in her repertoire.

Vaughan’s later recordings include interpretations of Beatles songs and Brazilian music. Over the years, she collaborated with people like producer Quincy Jones, pianist Oscar Peterson and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Vaughan won her first Grammy thanks to her work with Thomas and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Gershwin Live! (1982).

Vaughan’s final concert was given at New York’s Blue Note Club in 1989. She passed away from lung cancer on April 3, 1990, at age 66, in Hidden Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. Married and divorced four times, she was survived by her adopted daughter.

Throughout her career, Vaughan was recognized as a supremely gifted singer and performer. She was invited to perform at the White House and at venues like Carnegie Hall, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1989 and was selected to join the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1990. She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Happy Birthday Billy Wilder

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Billy Wilder was born 109 years ago today.  Do yourself a favor and throw a few of his films on your Netflix queue.  There are so many movies that you should watch, quite a few of them are directed by Billy Wilder. See “Sunset Boulevard,” Wilder’s tale of the true Hollywood that no one had dared to tell before. Make sure you watch the making of the film portion of the DVD, it is brilliant.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Billy Wilder
OCCUPATION: Director, Producer
BIRTH DATE: June 22, 1906
DEATH DATE: March 27, 2002
EDUCATION: University of Vienna
PLACE OF BIRTH: Sucha, Poland
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
ORIGINALLY: Samuel Wilder

BEST KNOWN FOR: Billy Wilder is best known for the many films he directed and produced, like Some Like It Hot.

Billy Wilder (22 June 1906 – 27 March 2002) was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age. Wilder is one of only five people to have won Academy Awards as producer, director, and writer for the same film (The Apartment).

He said, “The only pictures worth making are the ones that are playing with fire.”

some like it hotWilder became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of Nazi Party, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He relocated to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit when he co-wrote the screenplay to the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend, about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.

From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly comedies. Among the classics Wilder created in this period are the farces The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), satires such as The Apartment (1960), and the drama comedy Sabrina (1954). He directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. Wilder was recognized with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Wilder has attained a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for his role in expanding the range of acceptable subject matter.

Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of acceptable subject matter. He is responsible for two of the film noir era’s most definitive films in Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. Along with Woody Allen and the Marx Brothers, he leads the list of films on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 funniest American films with 5 films written and holds the honor of holding the top spot with Some Like it Hot. Also on the list are The Apartment and The Seven Year Itch which he directed, and Ball of Fire and Ninotchka which he co-wrote. The American Film Institute has ranked four of Wilder’s films among their top 100 American films of the 20th century: Sunset Boulevard (no. 12), Some Like It Hot (no. 14), Double Indemnity (no. 38) and The Apartment (no. 93). For the tenth anniversary edition of their list, the AFI moved Sunset Blvd. to #16, Some Like it Hot to #22, Double Indemnity to #29 and The Apartment to #80.

wilder 4Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba said in his acceptance speech for the 1993 Best Non-English Speaking Film Oscar: “I would like to believe in God in order to thank him. But I just believe in Billy Wilder… so, thank you Mr. Wilder.” According to Trueba, Wilder called him the day after and told him: “Fernando, it’s God.” French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius also thanked Billy Wilder in the 2012 Best Picture Oscar acceptance speech for The Artist by saying “I would like to thank the following three people, I would like to thank Billy Wilder, I would like to thank Billy Wilder, and I would like to thank Billy Wilder.” Wilder’s 12 Academy Award nominations for screenwriting were a record until 1997 when Woody Allen received a 13th nomination for Deconstructing Harry.

Happy 54th Birthday Leigh Bowery

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Today is the 54th birthday of visionary, artist, and quite possibly alien from the future Leigh Bowery.  It is very brave to make your life performance art. You can see his influences in people are considered ‘edgy’ today.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left it.

Born: Leigh Bowery 26 March 1961 Sunshine, Victoria, Australia
Died: 31 December 1994 (aged 33) London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation: performance artist, fashion designer, club promoter, actor and model

Leigh Bowery (26 March 1961 – 31 December 1994) was an Australian performance artist, club promoter, actor, pop star, model and fashion designer, based in London. Bowery is considered one of the more influential figures in the 1980s and 1990s London and New York art and fashion circles influencing a generation of artists and designers. His influence reached through the fashion, club and art worlds to impact, amongst others, Alexander McQueen, Lucian Freud, Vivienne Westwood, Boy George, Antony and the Johnsons, John Galliano, the Scissor Sisters, David LaChapelle, Lady Bunny plus numerous Nu-Rave bands and nightclubs in London and New York which arguably perpetuated his avant garde ideas.

Glimmers of the influences of film maker John Waters and artist Andy Warhol can be seen in his keen appreciation of bad taste, truly outlandish self presentation and a deep desire to shock and confuse. “I want to be the Andy Warhol of London” he once said. “Dressed-up,” he was obviously “Modern Art on legs” (as Boy George commented), but in daytime attire the badly-fitting, obvious, disturbing wigs are a nod to Warhol’s self-presentation strategies that has thus far seemed invisible to both critics and friends alike.

Other art historical parallels include an early 80s attempt at Vincent van Gogh type ear-cutting with friend Trojan (in an attempt to out do nightclub rivals), and as a result inflicted facial perforations that he was warned would not heal (reminiscent of Warhol’s weeping wounds). Bowery made a full auto-couture appearance at the 1986 Warhol show Success is a job in New York at London’s Serpentine Gallery with Nicola and an unknown assistant.

He became known to a wider audience by appearing in a Post-Modernist/Surrealist series of television and cinema and commercials for the Pepe jeans company, MTV London and other commissions such as stage work for rock band U2. He also appeared regularly in articles, vox pops and as cover star in London’s i-D magazine. Bowery was also Art Director for the famous video for Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy”.

As a character he featured in the stage musical Taboo that was based on the New Romantic movement. It also featured actors playing Marilyn, Boy George, Steve Strange and other stars of the early 1980s. The musical, which was written by Mark Davies with music composed partly by Boy George, was a London West End hit. American media star Rosie O’Donnell financed a much- altered version for Broadway, but this was not successful.

Johnny Rozsa‘s photographs of Bowery have been exhibited in several museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the Kunsthalle in Vienna, and the Kunstverein in Hanover.

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Happy 127th Birthday Gerald Murphy

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Today is the 127th birthday of one half of one of the most elegant couples of the Jazz-Age-Lost-Generation-Paris-in-the-1920s:  Gerald Murphy.  I think that I first ‘discovered’ Gerald and Sara Murphy when I was reading a collections of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters.  He and Sara wrote back and forth quite frequently, especially after Zelda’s first trip to the hospital.  I feel in love them while mourned the slow death of letter writing.  No one will ever publish a collection of text messages between anyone, that form of communication is one of the casualties on the other side of the conveniences of all this connectivity.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

© Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.

Gerald Clery Murphy (March 25, 1888 – October 17, 1964) born in Boston to the family that owned the Mark Cross Company, sellers of fine leather goods.

Gerald was an esthete from his childhood forward. He was never comfortable in the boardrooms and clubs for which his father was grooming him. He flunked the entrance exams at Yale three times before matriculating, although he performed respectably there. He joined DKE and the Skull and Bones society.[1]:237 He befriended a young freshman named Cole Porter (Yale class of 1913) and brought him into DKE. Murphy also introduced Porter to his friends, propelling him into writing music for Yale musicals.

Sara Sherman Wiborg (November 7, 1883 – October 10, 1975) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the wealthy Wiborg family. Her father, manufacturing chemist Frank Bestow Wiborg, was a self-made millionaire by the age of 40, and her mother was a member of the noted Sherman family, daughter of Hoyt Sherman, and niece to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Raised in Cincinnati, her family moved to Germany for several years when she was a teenager, so her father could concentrate on the European expansion of his company. Upon returning to the United States, the Wiborgs spent most of their time in New York City and, later, East Hampton, where they were one of the first wealthy families to build a home.

In East Hampton Sara Wiborg and Gerald Murphy met when they were both adolescents. Gerald was five years younger than Sara, and for many years they were more familiar companions than romantically attached; they became engaged in 1915, when Sara was 32 years old. Sara’s parents did not approve of their daughter marrying someone “in trade,” and Gerald’s parents were not much happier with the prospect, seemingly because his father found it difficult to approve anything that Gerald did.

After marrying they lived at 50 West 11th Street in New York City, where they had three children. In 1921 they moved to Paris to escape the strictures of New York and their families’ mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage. In Paris Gerald took up painting, and they began to make the acquaintances for which they became famous. Eventually they moved to the French Riviera, where they became the center of a large circle of artists and writers of later fame, especially Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O’Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Prior to their arrival on the French Riviera, the region was experiencing a period when the fashionable only wintered there, abandoning the region during the high summer months. However, the activities of the Murphys fueled the same renaissance in arts and letters as did the excitement of Paris, especially among the cafés of Montparnasse. In 1923 the Murphys convinced the Hotel du Cap to stay open for the summer so that they might entertain their friends, sparking a new era for the French Riviera as a summer haven. The Murphys eventually purchased a villa in Cap d’Antibes and named it Villa America; they resided there for many years. When the Murphys arrived on the Riviera, lying on the beach merely to enjoy the sun was not a common activity. Occasionally, someone would go swimming, but the joys of being at the beach just for sun were still unknown at the time. The Murphys, with their long forays and picnics at La Garoupe, introduced sunbathing on the beach as a fashionable activity.

They had three children, Baoth, Patrick, and Honoria. In 1929, Patrick was diagnosed with tuberculosis. They took him to Switzerland, and then returned to the U.S. in 1934, with Gerald in Manhattan, where he ran Mark Cross, serving as president of the company from 1934 to 1956; he never painted again. Sara settled in Saranac Lake, New York to nurse Patrick, and Baoth and Honoria were put in boarding schools. In 1935, Baoth died unexpectedly of meningitis, a complication of the measles, and Patrick succumbed to TB in 1937.[3] Archibald MacLeish based the main characters in his play J.B. on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

Later they lived at “The Dunes”, once the largest house in East Hampton, built by Sara’s father on 600 acres (2.4 km2). By 1941, the house proved impossible to maintain, sell or even rent, and the Murphys had it demolished, and moved to the renovated dairy barn.

© Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Gerald died October 17, 1964 in East Hampton. Sara died on October 10, 1975 in Arlington, Virginia.

Nicole and Dick Diver of Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald are widely recognized as based on the Murphys, based on marked physical similarities, although many of their friends, as well as the Murphys themselves, saw as much or more of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship and personalities in the couple than the Murphys. Ernest Hemingway’s couple in Garden of Eden is not explicitly based on this pair, but given the similarities and the setting (Nice), there is clearly some basis for such an assumption. Interestingly, guests of the Murphys would often swim at Eden Roc, an event emulated in The Garden of Eden.

Calvin Tomkins’s biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy Living Well Is the Best Revenge was published in 1971, and Amanda Vaill documented their lives in the 1995 book Everybody Was So Young. Both accounts are balanced and kind, unlike some of their portrayals in the memoirs and fictitious works by their many friends, including Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
In 1982, Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys’ daughter, with Richard N. Billings, wrote Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After.

On July 12, 2007, a play by Crispin Whittell entitled Villa America, based entirely on the relationships between Sara and Gerald Murphy and their friends had its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival with Jennifer Mudge playing Sara Murphy.

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Happy 85th Birthday Steve McQueen

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Today is the 85th birthday of Steve McQueen.  A true Style Icon, I covet his sunglasses, Rolex, car, haircut and the suits he wore in his movies. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Steven Terrence McQueen
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: March 24, 1930
DEATH DATE: November 07, 1980
PLACE OF BIRTH: Beech Grove, Indiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

BEST KNOWN FOR: One of the most popular actors of the 1960s and 70s, Steve McQueen had a cool, tough guy persona. One of his most famous films is The Thomas Crown Affair.

Terrence Stephen “Steve” McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an American movie actor. He was nicknamed “The King of Cool.” His “anti-hero” persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. Although McQueen was combative with directors and producers, his popularity put him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.

He was an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars. While he studied acting, he supported himself partly by competing in weekend motorcycle races and bought his first motorcycle with his winnings. He is recognized for performing many of his own stunts, but one of the most widely claimed and cherished examples of this—that he did the majority of the stunt driving for his character during the high-speed chase scene in Bullitt—was revealed not to be true by his most trusted stuntman and stunt driver Loren James. McQueen also designed and patented a bucket seat and transbrake for race cars.

The blue-tinted sunglasses (Persol 714) worn by McQueen in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair sold at a Bonhams & Butterfields auction in Los Angeles for $70,200 in 2006.

The Rolex Explorer II 2 Reference 1655, is also now so-called Rolex Steve McQueen in the horology collectors world, but the Rolex Submariner Reference 5512 he was often photographed wearing in private moments sold for $234,000 at auction on June 11, 2009, a world-record price for the reference.

 

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Happy 110th Birthday Joan Crawford

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Today is the 110th birthday of Joan Crawford.  Through reinvention and resilience, she survived in Hollywood where female actors’ shelf life is brief. She did so by exaggerating the character of herself, larger than life, meaner than hell, bitch on wheels. How much of that was always her and how much she exaggerated, we only have stories. Watch some of her early films, you may fall in love with her a bit.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.


NAME: Joan Crawford
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: c. March 23, 1905
DEATH DATE: May 10, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Antonio, Texas
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
ORIGINALLY: Lucille Fay LeSueur

BEST KNOWN FOR: American motion-picture actress Joan Crawford made her initial impact as a vivacious Jazz Age flapper but later matured into a star of psychological melodramas.

Joan Crawford (March 23, 1905 – May 10, 1977), born Lucille Fay LeSueur, was an American actress in film, television and theatre.

Starting as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting on Broadway, Crawford was signed to a motion picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. Initially frustrated by the size and quality of her parts, Crawford began a campaign of self-publicity and became nationally known as a flapper by the end of the 1920s. In the 1930s, Crawford’s fame rivaled MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hardworking young women who find romance and financial success. These “rags-to-riches” stories were well-received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood’s most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money and by the end of the 1930s she was labeled “box office poison”.

After an absence of nearly two years from the screen, Crawford staged a comeback by starring in Mildred Pierce (1945), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1955, she became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors but was forcibly retired in 1973. She continued acting in film and television regularly through the 1960s, when her performances became fewer; after the release of the British horror film Trog in 1970, Crawford retired from the screen. Following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became more and more reclusive until her death in 1977.

Crawford married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Al Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed by his birth mother. Crawford’s relationships with her two older children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. Crawford disinherited the two and, after Crawford’s death, Christina wrote a “tell-all” memoir, Mommie Dearest, in which she alleged a lifelong pattern of physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by Crawford.

Crawford was voted the tenth greatest female star in the history of American cinema by the American Film Institute.

Crawford published her autobiography, A Portrait of Joan – written with Jane Kesner Ardmore – in 1962 through Doubleday. Crawford’s next book, My Way of Life, was published in 1971 by Simon and Schuster. Those expecting a racy tell-all were disappointed, although Crawford’s meticulous ways were revealed in her advice on grooming, wardrobe, exercise, and even food storage.

On May 8, 1977, Crawford gave away her beloved Shih Tzu “Princess Lotus Blossom”, which she was too weak to care for properly. Crawford died two days later at her New York apartment from a heart attack, while also ill with pancreatic cancer.[2] A funeral was held at Campbell Funeral Home, New York, on May 13, 1977. In her will, which was signed October 28, 1976, Crawford bequeathed to her two youngest children, Cindy and Cathy, $77,500 each from her $2,000,000 estate. She explicitly disinherited the two eldest, Christina and Christopher, writing “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them.”

Crawford’s hand and footprints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street. In 1999, Playboy listed Crawford as one of the “100 Sexiest Women of the 20th century”, ranking her #84.

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Happy 84th Birthday Anna Maria Piaggi

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Today is the 84th birthday of fashion Icon Anna Maria Piaggi.  Her style was legendary, like Isabella Blow and Edith Head.  Thank god we still have Iris Apfel, Daphne Guinness and Grace Coddington to cary on the her artistry.  He was an original and the world was a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Anna Maria Piaggi (22 March 1931 – 7 August 2012) was an Italian fashion writer and style icon.

Piaggi was born in Milan in 1931. She worked as a translator for an Italian publishing company Mondadori, then wrote for fashion magazines such as the Italian edition of Vogue and, in the 1980s, the avant-garde magazine Vanity. She was known especially for double page spreads in the Italian Vogue, where her artistic flair was given free expression in a montage of images and text, with layout by Luca Stoppini.

Since 1969, she used a bright red manual Olivetti Valentine typewriter for her work. Piaggi had a large clothes collection, including 2,865 dresses and 265 pairs of shoes, according to a 2006 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She dressed in an exuberant, unique and eclectic way, never appearing in the same outfit more than once in public. Such was her influence and knowledge in the fashion world, Manolo Blahnik dubbed her “The world’s last great authority on frocks”.[citation needed]

Her associates in the fashion world included the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (from the 1970s), who has often sketched her, and Manolo Blahnik, who is the designer of many of her shoes. She was the muse of British milliner Stephen Jones. She was also an admirer of British clothes designer Vivienne Westwood and her hats, made by Prudence Millinery. She lived in New York and visited London and Italy periodically since the 1950s. Piaggi appeared in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York on the New York Times fashion and social photographer Bill Cunningham.

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Happy 92nd Birthday Bettie Page

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Today is the 92nd birthday of Bettie Page.  Finding a G-rated photograph of her is more difficult than I had originally thought, so I decided to post some of the amazing Bettie Page inspired art that is out there.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Bettie Page
OCCUPATION: Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: April 22, 1923
DEATH DATE: December 11, 2008
EDUCATION: Peabody College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nashville, Tennessee
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Bettie Page was a Playboy pin-up model and sex symbol of the 1950s. Her straight black bangs and innocent, playful attitude made her a fashion icon.

Bettie Mae Page was born on April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee. The second of six children, Page was frequently placed in an orphanage with her sisters while her single mother worked to save money. A hard-working student, Page graduated at the top of her high school class at Peabody College. She married Billy Neal in 1943, and the couple moved to San Francisco, California, where Page launched her modeling career.

After divorcing Billy in 1947 and moving to New York, Bettie Page worked with a photographer to produce the first of many pin-up calendars. Within months, she was posing for national magazines, including the centerfold of January 1955’s Playboy.

With her deep blue eyes and raven black hair with signature short bangs, Page became more than a model—she was a living icon. She dabbled in acting, but her success was primarily in modeling. She moved to Florida to work with several influential photographers and married her second husband, Armond Walterson, in 1958. A third marriage to Harry Lear would also end in divorce.

In the 1960s, Bettie Page mysteriously disappeared from the limelight and was said to have suffered from severe mental problems. Two films have been created about her life: 2004’s Bettie Page: Dark Angel starring Paige Richards and 2005’s The Notorious Bettie Page, with Gretchen Mol.

The 1950s pin-up queen died on December 11, 2008, in Los Angeles, California. Though she retreated from the public eye to live a private life with her family, Bettie Page’s legend remains as strong as ever.

Happy 87th Birthday Carrie Donovan

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Today is 87th birthday.  I am a sucker for huge glasses, truth be told. You have got to OWN your look, make it yours, and do not hide from it. Become know by it and your “style” becomes stylish and copied.  The world was a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Born:  March 22, 1928
Died:  November 12, 2001
Wrote for:  The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar

Carrie Donovan (March 22, 1928 – November 12, 2001) was fashion editor for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine. Later in her life she became known for her work in Old Navy commercials where she wore her trademark large eyeglasses and black clothing, often declaring the merchandise “Fabulous!”. In almost all of the commercials, she appeared alongside Magic the dog and various other stars from TV and fashion.

When Donovan was just 10 years old, she mailed her own sketches for a design collection to the actress Jane Wyman, who replied with a handwritten letter. She later attended the Parsons School of Design, graduating in 1950. She worked as a journalist for 30 years but always wrote her copy out by hand, because she never got the hang of the typewriter.

“Fashion is entertainment. That’s why these top models are so fascinating to kids. They’re dying to know about Naomi and Christy, or whoever we’ve declared the new one this afternoon.”

One of her best talents was her ability to flit easily between high society and the common masses, both in her personal life and as a style professional. She helped bring Donna Karan and Perry Ellis to fame, and she united Elsa Peretti with Tiffany’s, feeling sure that Peretti would open the doors to a new demographic for the upscale company. Even her work with Old Navy gave new fashion credibility to the casual-wear company. Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland told her: ”My dear, you’ve got the common touch!”

She was portrayed as a parody by Ana Gasteyer on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

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