Happy Birthday Harpo Marx

Today is the 126th birthday of Harpo Marx.  We have all seen the brilliant mirror scene that he did with Lucile Ball when I Love Lucy went to Hollywood.  To think that it was almost 20 years after Animal Crackers and he was still at the top of his game.  The world is a better place because Harpo was in it and still feels the loss that Harpo has left.

NAME: Harpo Marx
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: November 23, 1888
DEATH DATE: September 28, 1964
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Adolph Arthur Marx

Best Known For:  Harpo Marx was a talented comedian and mime best known for his performances as part of the Marx Brothers comedy act.

Comedian and actor Marx Harpo was born Adolph Arthur Marx on November 23, 1888, in New York City. The second oldest of five boys born to Samuel “Frenchie” Marx and Minnie Schoenberg Marx, Harpo was the only Jewish boy in his public school class and, after being bullied one too many times, dropped out at age 8.

Harpo and his brothers, Leonard (Chico), Julius (Groucho), Milton (Gummo) and Herbert (Zeppo), performed countless odd jobs while growing up to help support the family. Minnie, however, was bound and determined for her boys to become stars of the stage. In 1910, the Marx Brothers singing troupe was formed, which was originally dubbed the Four Nightingales. Minnie even leased a harp for the occasion for her second eldest, and hence his stage name was born.

In 1912, the Marx Brothers’ singing act devolved to madcap comedy, and the new show became the hallmark of their fame. Because Harpo couldn’t compete with the comedic wits of his brothers, his lines were taken away from him. Though insulted at first, he soon became a gifted mime, particularly in his use of facial expressions and a honking horn. He never spoke professionally again.

The Marx Brothers comedy act was wildly successful, and they eventually made their way to Broadway and in films, including Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers and Room Service. Harpo also traveled the world entertaining troops during World War II and made numerous television appearances.

Harpo married actress Susan Fleming in 1936. The couple adopted four children to whom Harpo was a devoted and loving father. He published his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, in 1961 and died three years later following complications from open-heart surgery.

 

 

Happy Birthday Boris Karloff

Today is Boris Karloff‘s 127th birthday.  I first learned about him through a book I was reading as a kid called “The Three Investigators Mystery of Terror Castle.”  They are a series of books a lot like the Hardy Boys, but set in the Los Angeles area in the 1940′s.  The Terror Castle one is the first in the series and centers around the mysterious goings-on at the abandoned Hollywood mansion of a silent movie monster actor.  Shortly after reading that book, my mom must have shown me one of his movies and I connected them in my head.  The world is a better place because Boris was in it and still feels the loss that Boris has left.

 

NAME: Boris Karloff
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: November 23, 1887
DEATH DATE: February 02, 1969
EDUCATION: London University
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: England
Originally: William Henry Pratt

Best Known For:  Boris Karloff was an English-born actor whose name became synonymous with horror movies.

Actor. Film star Boris Karloff, whose name became synonymous with the horror genre, was born William Henry Pratt in London, England, on November 23, 1887. He studied at London University, then went to Canada and the United States, aiming become a diplomat like his father, and became involved in acting.

Karloff spent 10 years in repertory companies, went to Hollywood, appearing in forty five silent films for Universal Studios, among them The Last of the Mohicans, Forbidden Cargo and an installment in the popular Tarzan series. When Bela Lugosi refused to take a role in which he would have his face hidden by makeup and have no lines, the role of The Monster in 1931′s Frankenstein went to Karloff. His tender, sympathetic performance received enormous critical praise and he became an overnight sensation.

“The monster was the best friend I ever had.” – Boris Karloff

Apart from a notable performance in a World War I story, The Lost Patrol (1934), his career was mostly spent in popular horror films. His performances frequently transcended the crudity of the genre, bringing, as in Frankenstein, a depth and pathos to the characterization.

He is also well known for providing the voice to the 1966 cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Karloff was known within the film industry for his great kindness and gentleness of manner; he was also central to the foundation of the Screen Actors Guild. After battling emphysema for a number of years, Boris Karloff died at his home in England on February 2, 1969.

Happy Birthday Rock Hudson

Today is the 98th birthday of the legendary screen heartthrob Rock Hudson.  I once read a recount of how he got his gravely voice.  He was told by movie executives to go up into the mountains and scream until he lost his voice, this damaged his vocal cords in a way that left him with the very low voice he had for his entire career.  I am not sure if it is true, but it is crazy to think that someone would tell a person to do that.  With his legendary good looks and impressive resume of film credits behind him, he publicly announced he had AIDS to the world and took it from being a fringe disease that no one personally knew who had it to being on the cover of People Magazine.  The bravery at the end of his life is an example of true strength of character.  He propelled the image of AIDS mainstream, we all now knew someone with it, it became immediately personal for all of us.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Rock Hudson
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: November 17, 1925
DEATH DATE: October 02, 1985
PLACE OF BIRTH: Winnetka, Illinois
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
ORIGINALLY: Roy Harold Scherer, Jr.
AKA: Roy Harold Fitzgerald

BEST KNOWN FOR: Rock Hudson was a leading man of the Hollywood screen in the 1950s and 1960s. His death from AIDS in 1985 greatly increased awareness of the disease.

The Wiki:

Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., later Roy Harold Fitzgerald (November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985), known professionally as Rock Hudson, was an American film and television actor, most recognized as a romantic leading man during the 1950s and 1960s, most notably in Magnificent Obsession (1954), Giant (1956) and several popular comedies with Doris Day. Later roles included the leads in Ice Station Zebra and the popular televison series McMillan & Wife along with a role in the hugely successful series Dynasty.

Hudson was voted “Star of the Year”, “Favorite Leading Man”, and similar titles by numerous movie magazines. The 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall actor was one of the most popular and well-known movie stars of the time. He completed nearly 70 motion pictures and starred in several television productions during a career that spanned over four decades.

Hudson died in 1985, being the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness.

Following his death, Elizabeth Taylor, his co-star in the film Giant, purchased a bronze plaque for Hudson on the West Hollywood Memorial Walk.

 

Why He’s a Style Icon

Millions of men would kill for the ability to make women swoon the way Roy Harold Scherer Jr. did on-screen. This actor had the kind of charisma that couldn’t be manufactured. When he changed his name to Rock Hudson, he broke box-office records with his films and TV appearances. But as a child, the actor was never cast for any of the productions that he auditioned for, and he had trouble memorizing his lines. Superstardom didn’t happen overnight. He sent his photos to tons of production companies until he began getting small roles, which led to larger ones. In 1956, he starred in Giant with fellow style icons James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. His performance got him an Academy Award nod for best actor.

Hudson epitomized classic American style making simple choices with embellished impressions. On-screen, he wooed woman with his manly good looks and suave style. He pre-dated the word “swag” but would have done it justice. The height of Hudson’s career spanned two decades, both of which were probably the most important to menswear. The ’50s and ’60s brought rebels and statement looks, but menswear still catered to the classics. Hudson was no different.

The best thing about Hudson was his effortless style. He used very little in order to create a look — his presence on- and off-screen was the wow factor. Menswear wasn’t complicated or overly thought out. This is what the ’50s and ’60s were about. Consumers and designers both believed in grooming, so clean looks were always in order. This actor knew how to take something as simple as a white linen shirt and pair it with light-blue slacks, an early version of what would probably be referred to as espadrilles, and a basic leather belt to create the perfect everyday outfit. If he looked like he didn’t try that hard, it’s probably because he didn’t.

Dress the Rock Hudson Way

Rock Hudson’s style wasn’t complicated. From his choices, it’s evident that the actor believed in keeping everything simple and to the point. His perspective was classic and minimalist. That didn’t necessarily mean all white and no patterns, but the actor let embellishments accent his look without overpowering his perspective. When shopping or browsing through your closet, look for basic pieces that can be dressed up and down — nothing too over-the-top. Ermenegildo Zegna’s cotton-stretch pants are great for a simplistic, chic look. These pants (available in white at Bergdorf Goodman) give you that extra room for breathing and the stretch element can conform to the body, making them slim or baggy depending on how they are worn. Grooming should be clean and trimmed. Hudson’s style was more dapper than rugged.

Happy Birthday Jean Seberg

I do love that a girl from Iowa can become so beloved by the French.  Her story reads like a Greek tragedy:  fame, three husbands, suicide at 40.  Breathless is available on NetFlix/Hulu, you should watch it.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.


Name:  Jean Dorothy Seberg
Born: November 13, 1938 Marshalltown, Iowa, U.S.
Died:  August 30, 1979 (aged 40) Paris, France

Jean Dorothy Seberg was an American actress. She starred in 37 films in Hollywood and in France, including Breathless (1960), the musical Paint Your Wagon (1969) and the disaster film Airport (1970).

One month before her 18th birthday, this blonde actress landed the title role in Otto Preminger‘s Saint Joan (1957) after a much-publicized contest involving some 18,000 hopefuls. The failure of that film and the only moderate success of her next, Bonjour tristesse (1958), combined to stall Seberg’s career, until her role in Jean-Luc Godard‘s landmark feature, Breathless (1960), brought her renewed international attention. Seberg gave a memorable performance as a schizophrenic in the title role of Robert Rossen‘s Lilith (1964), costarring Warren Beatty. Her two most famous films in America were back to back. The first was the western-musical Paint Your Wagon (1969). The second was Airport (1970), which became the trend setter for “disaster films” of the 1970s.

During this time Seberg became involved in anti-war politics and was the target of an undercover campaign by the FBI to discredit her because of her association with several members of the Black Panther party. Bad press and several personal problems nearly ruined her career, and she only acted in foreign films from then on.  She was found dead of a barbiturate overdose in a Paris suburb on August 30, 1979. She was 40 years old.

Seberg was survived by both of her parents, two younger siblings, three ex-husbands, and a 16-year old son named Diego. In 1970 she gave birth to a daughter named Nina, who was the product of an extramarital affair she had with a college student named Carlos Navarra; Nina died two days after her birth as a result of Jean overdosing on sleeping pills during her pregnancy.

Happy Birthday Marie Dressler

This week is the 146th birthday of Marie Dressler, an amazing character actress.  She is one of those actors that play the mother or the wealthy aunt or the uptight grandmother that is really there to create conflict and contrast between the leading roles, but I end up watching her.  Later in her film career, they would give her these lines, little throw away quips that were so hilarious and I hope she really loved being able to sneak in zingers while the rest of the characters were too caught up in love and so forth to notice.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss since she has left.

NAME: Marie Dressler
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Comedian
BIRTHDATE: November 09, 1868
DEATH DATE: July 28, 1934
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cobourg, Canada
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Barbara, California
Originally: Leila Marie Koerber

Best Known For:  Marie Dressler is best known for her acting in the theater and film, winning an Oscar.

Dressler had appeared in two shorts as herself, but her first role in a feature film came in 1914, at the age of 44.  After Mack Sennett became the owner of his namesake motion picture studio, he convinced Dressler to star in his 1914 silent film Tillie’s Punctured Romance. The film was to be the first full-length, six-reel motion picture comedy.  According to Sennett, a prospective budget of $200,000 meant that he needed “a star whose name and face meant something to every possible theatre-goer in the United States and the British Empire.”  The movie was based on Dressler’s hit Tillie’s Nightmare, a choice credited either to Dressler or to a Keystone studio employee.  Dressler herself claims to have cast Charles Chaplin in the movie as her leading man, and was “proud to have had a part in giving him his first big chance.”  Instead of his recently invented Tramp character, Chaplin played a villainous rogue. Silent film comedienne Mabel Normand also starred in the movie. Tillie’s Punctured Romance was a hit with audiences and Dressler appeared in two Tillie sequels and other comedies until 1918, when she returned to vaudeville.

In 1919, during the Actors’ Equity strike in New York City, the Chorus Equity Association was formed and voted Dressler its first president. Dressler was blacklisted by the theater production companies due to her strong stance. Dressler found it difficult to find work during the 1920s. She left New York for Hollywood in search of work in films.

In 1927, Frances Marion, an MGM screenwriter, came to Dressler’s rescue. Dressler had shown great kindness to Marion during the filming of Tillie Wakes Up in 1917, and in return, Marion used her influence with MGM’s production chief Irving Thalberg to return Dressler to the screen.  Her first MGM feature was The Callahans and the Murphys (1927), a rowdy silent comedy co-starring Dressler (as Ma Callahan) with another former Mack Sennett comedienne, Polly Moran, written by Marion.

The film was initially a success, but the portrayal of Irish characters caused a protest in the Irish World newspaper, protests by the American Irish Vigilance Committee, and pickets outside the film’s New York theatre. The film was first cut by MGM in an attempt to appease the Irish community, then eventually pulled from release after Cardinal Dougherty of the diocese of Philadelphia called MGM president Nicholas Schenck.  It was not shown again, and the negative and prints may have been destroyed. While the film brought her to Hollywood, it did not establish Dressler’s career. Her next appearance was a minor part in the First National film Breakfast at Sunrise. She appeared again with Moran in Bringing Up Father, another film written by Marion, and also appeared in an early color film, The Joy Girl. Dressler returned to MGM in 1928′s The Patsy in a winning portrayal, playing the fluttery mother to star Marion Davies and Jane Winton.

Hollywood was converting from silent films, but “talkies” presented no problems for Dressler, whose rumbling voice could handle both sympathetic scenes and snappy comebacks (she’s the wisecracking stage actress in Chasing Rainbows and the dubious matron in Rudy Vallee’s Vagabond Lover). Early in 1930, Dressler joined Edward Everett Horton’s theater troupe in L.A. to play a princess in Ferenc Molnár’s The Swan. But after one week, she quit the troupe. She proceeded to leave Horton flat, much to his indignation.

Frances Marion persuaded Thalberg to give Dressler the role of Marthy, the old harridan who welcomes Greta Garbo home after the search for her father, in the 1930 film Anna Christie. Garbo and the critics were impressed by Dressler’s acting ability, and so was MGM, which quickly signed her to a $500-per-week contract.

A robust, full-bodied woman of very plain features, Dressler went on to act in comic films which were very popular with the movie-going public and an equally lucrative investment for MGM. Although past sixty years of age, she quickly became Hollywood’s number one box-office attraction, and stayed on top until her death at age 65. In addition to her comedic genius and her natural elegance, Dressler demonstrated her considerable talents by taking on serious roles. For her starring portrayal in Min and Bill, with Wallace Beery, she won the 1930–31 Academy Award for Best Actress (the eligibility years were staggered at that time). Dressler was nominated again for Best Actress for her 1932 starring role in Emma. With that film, Dressler demonstrated her profound generosity to other performers. Dressler personally insisted that her studio bosses cast a friend of hers, a largely unknown young actor named Richard Cromwell, in the lead opposite her. This break helped launch his career.

Dressler followed these successes with more hits in 1933, including the comedy Dinner at Eight, in which she played an aging but vivacious former stage actress. Dressler had a memorable bit with Jean Harlow in the film:

Harlow: Do you know that the guy said that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Dressler: Oh my dear, that’s something you need never worry about.

Following the release of that film, Dressler appeared on the cover of Time magazine, in its August 7, 1933, issue. MGM held a huge birthday party for Dressler in 1933, broadcast live via radio. Her newly regenerated career came to an abrupt end when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1934. MGM head Louis B. Mayer learned of Dressler’s illness from her doctor and asked that she not be told. To keep her home, he ordered her not to travel on her vacation because he wanted to put her in a new film. Dressler was furious but complied.

Dressler appeared in more than forty films, and achieved her greatest successes in talking pictures made during the last years of her life. Always seeing herself as physically unattractive, she wrote an autobiography titled The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling.

On Saturday July 28, 1934, Dressler died of cancer at the age of 65 in Santa Barbara, California. After a private funeral held at The Wee Kirk o’ the Heather chapel, Dressler was interred in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale in Glendale, California.

Dressler left an estate worth $310,000, the bulk left to her sister Bonita.  Dressler left her 1931 automobile and $35,000 in her will to her maid of twenty years, Mamie Cox, and $15,000 to Cox’s husband Jerry, who had served as Dressler’s butler for four years.  The two used the funds to open the Cocoanut Grove night club in Savannah, Georgia in 1936, named after the night club in Los Angeles.

Dressler’s birth home in Cobourg, Ontario is known as the “Marie Dressler House” and is open to the public. The home was converted to a restaurant in 1937 and operated as a restaurant until 1989, when it was damaged by fire. It was restored but did not open again as a restaurant. It was the office of the Cobourg Chamber of Commerce until its conversion to its current use as a museum about Dressler and as a visitor information office for Cobourg. Each year, the Marie Dressler Foundation Vintage Film Festival is held, with screenings in Cobourg and in Port Hope, Ontario.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Marie Dressler has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street, added in 1960.

Canada Post, as part of its “Canada in Hollywood” series, issued a postage stamp on June 30, 2008 to honour Marie Dressler.

Happy Birthday Sally Field

Today is the 68th birthday of Sally Field.  The world is a better place because she is in it.

NAME: Sally Field
OCCUPATION: Actress
BIRTH DATE: November 6, 1946
PLACE OF BIRTH: Pasadena, California
FULL NAME: Sally Margaret Field

BEST KNOWN FOR: Sally Field is an American actress best known TV and film roles such as Gidget, The Flying Nun, Smokey and the Bandit, Sybil and Places in the Heart.

Actress, director and writer Sally Margaret Field was born on November 6, 1946, in Pasadena, California. Sally Field, the youngest of two children born to actress Margaret Field, grew up in show business. After Sally’s parents divorced, her mother married actor and stuntman Jock Mahoney. Field’s stepfather was a strict disciplinarian who expected faithful obedience from Field, her older brother, and half-sister Princess. Mahoney also fought frequently with Sally’s mother, and the couple’s increasingly rocky relationship weighted heavily on the children. Sally found solace from her difficult home life by focusing on her extracurricular activities at school. “I’d landed in the drama department, and it just kind of saved me,” she later explained to Good Housekeeping magazine.

After finishing up at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California, Field attended an acting workshop at Columbia Studios, which helped launch her film and television career. She landed the leading role in the television series Gidget, which was based on the popular 1959 Sandra Dee film by the same name. Field was only 18 years old when the series debuted in the fall of 1965. Petite and perky, she played a teenager on a quest to find fun with her best friend Larue (played by Lynette Winter). The show was canceled after one season, but Field became popular with television audiences—so popular, in fact, that the network created another series for her. The Flying Nun starred Field as Sister Bertrille, a nun so light that she could take flight. Field didn’t want to take the part, but her stepfather insisted, telling her, “If you turn down this part, you may never work again.”

The Flying Nun premiered in September 1967, and soon became a huge hit. Viewers seemed to enjoy following the misadventures of quirky, aerodynamic Sister Bertrille. Behind the scenes, however, Field was miserable. She struggled with the feeling that she would never be considered a serious actress, and the show only magnified that fear. In 1968, she married her high school sweetheart, Steven Craig, and soon became pregnant. Her pregnancy was hidden on the series using creative shots and the folds of her billowy nun’s habit. Field wouldn’t have to hide for long, though; the show was canceled in 1970, after three seasons on the air.

After giving birth to a second child in 1972, Field returned to acting in 1973 with the short-lived sitcom The Girl with Something Extra. Field played a young newlywed with ESP on the show, which lasted only one season. Reconnecting to her craft, Field studied acting at the Actors Studio with famed teacher Lee Strasberg. Strasberg became a powerful mentor, encouraging Field to move away from her goody-two-shoes television image. This new part of her transformation also included divorcing her husband in 1975.

After several auditions, Field landed a role in 1976′s bodybuilding film Stay Hungry with Jeff Bridges and Arnold Schwarzenegger. She co-starred as a party girl, a far cry from the innocent characters she played on the small screen. That same year, Field entered a new phase of her career with the television movie Sybil. She showed great emotional range as a woman with multiple-personality disorder, winning her first Emmy Award for her work on the TV film. Returning to the big screen, Field appeared in 1977′s Smokey and the Bandit, playing a runaway bride who catches a ride from a trucker (played by Bert Reynolds). Field and Reynolds became romantically involved on the set of film, and starred together in several light-hearted comedies, including 1978′s Hooper and 1980′s Smokey and the Bandit II.

It was a dramatic role that brought Field her first Academy Award. In 1979, she starred as a gutsy, determined mill worker who tries to unionize her workplace in Norma Rae. Field received raves for her performance and netted the Best Actress Oscar, beating out the likes of Jane Fonda, Marsha Mason, Jill Clayburgh, and Bette Midler. She continued to take on dramatic fare, starring opposite Paul Newman in 1981′s Absence of Malice. In the film, Field played a ruthless journalist.

Re-teaming with Jeff Bridges, Field starred in the 1982 romantic comedy Kiss Me Goodbye as a widow trying to rebuild her life. Her character is haunted by her late husband’s ghost (played by James Caan), who does not approve of her new love interest. For her work on the film, Field was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

Field then starred the 1984 historical drama Places in the Heart, as a widow struggling to keep her family’s farm during the Great Depression. The film featured a strong supporting cast, including John Malkovich, Lindsay Crouse, Danny Glover and Ed Harris, and received strong reviews. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film won two—one for writing, and one for Field as Best Actress. Field was just as thrilled to be winning her second Academy Award as she was for her first, perhaps even more so. During her acceptance speech, she gushed, “You like me. You really like me.” This enthusiastic comment may have been the most memorable quote of the evening, and Field soon found herself the subject of numerous jokes and quips because of it.

Field’s career continued to thrive with leading roles in 1985′s Murphy’s Romance with James Garner and 1988′s Punchline. As part of an all-star cast, she appeared in the 1989 Southern drama Steel Magnolias, which included Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and a young starlet named Julia Roberts. Field later produced the 1991 drama Dying Young, which starred Roberts.

In the 1990s, Field took on more character and supporting roles. She played Robin Williams’ estranged wife in the family comedy Mrs. Doubtfire and Tom Hanks’ mother in the 1994 whimsical hit Forest Gump. She also produced and starred in the 1995 television miniseries A Woman of Independent Means, the story of one woman’s life journey during the early 20th century. Continuing to work behind the scenes, she directed and wrote the 1996 holiday television movie The Christmas Tree, which starred Julie Harris.

Field next directed the 2000 film Beautiful, which starred Minnie Driver as a ruthless beauty queen. Returning to series television, Field won accolades for her recurring role on the hit drama ER, playing the bipolar mother of one of the doctors. Field’s nuanced performance earned her another Emmy Award—this time for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2001.

In 2002, Field fulfilled a personal dream by starring on Broadway in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. She then had a supporting role on the 2003 big-screen comedy Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon. Before long, Field was contemplating a return to series television. She found great success with the family drama Brothers & Sisters, playing the matriarch of the Walker family. The show resonated with Field’s own values, saying it “is all about a dysfunctional family whose members deeply love each other and are bonded together. My whole life is about family,” Field told the Saturday Evening Post. She won her third Emmy Award for her portrayal of Nora Walker in 2007.

After Brothers & Sisters went off the air in 2011, Field returned to the big screen. She had a supporting role in the summer blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) starring Andrew Garfield. In the film, Field played Peter Parker’s beloved Aunt May. That fall, Field tackled the role of one of American history’s least popular first ladies. She co-starred with Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, with Day-Lewis as the beloved president Abraham Lincoln and Field as his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Robert Todd Lincoln in the film.

Outside of her television work, Field has served on the board of the Sundance Institute. She has also worked with young actors during the institute’s summer programs. Diagnosed with osteoporosis, Field has become a spokesperson on the issue for a pharmaceutical company that markets Boniva, a medication to treat the disease.

Field is also devoted to her three adult children and her grandchildren. She has two sons, Peter and Eli, from her first marriage. Her youngest son, Samuel, is from her second marriage to producer Alan Greisman, which lasted from 1984 to 1993.

Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

Today is the 69th birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead, known the world over as the drag queen/performance artist/actor/personality called “Divine.”  I was first introduced to Divine through the subscription of Interview Magazine I had while I was in high school.  This lead to renting the early John Waters movies and so forth.  I adore anyone who is fearless, who is in on the joke, and who plows forward.  Divine had all of those qualities and many more.

divine5

NAME: Harris Glenn Milstead
BORN: October 19, 1945
BIRTHPLACE: Towson, MD
DIED: March 7, 1988
LOCATION AT DEATH: Los Angeles, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Respiratory failure
REMAINS: Buried, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Towson, MD

Divine (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women’s clothing in musical performances. Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films. He was often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters’s films, usually in a leading role. Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as “the most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a conservative, upper middle class family, he became involved with John Waters and his acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, in the mid-1960s and starred in a number of Waters’s early films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). These films became hits on the midnight movie and underground cinema circuit in the U.S., and have since become cult classics, with Divine becoming particularly renowned for playing the role of Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos, during which he had to perform a series of extreme acts including eating dog excrement. In the 1970s, Milstead made the transition to theater and appeared in a number of productions, including Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman, while continuing to star in such films as Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). Meanwhile, in 1981 Divine had embarked on a disco career, producing Hi-NRG tracks, most of which had been written by Bobby Orlando, and went on to achieve chart success with hits like “You Think You’re A Man”, “I’m So Beautiful” and “Walk Like a Man.” Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, Divine died from cardiomegaly in 1988.

The New York Times said of Milstead’s ’80s films: “Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine’s performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick.” He was also described as “one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century… [who] was an audacious symbol of man’s quest for liberty and freedom.” Since his death, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly with those in the LGBT community, of which he was a part, being openly gay.

Due to Divine’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film.

A 12 foot tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Out of the Dark (5-May-1989)
Hairspray (16-Feb-1988)
Trouble in Mind (Dec-1985)
Lust in the Dust (1-Mar-1985)
Polyester (29-May-1981)
Female Trouble (4-Oct-1974)
Pink Flamingos (17-Mar-1972)
Multiple Maniacs (10-Apr-1970)
Mondo Trasho (14-Mar-1969)

Is the subject of books:
My Son Divine, 2001, BY: Frances Milstead, DETAILS: Alyson Publications:with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Yeager
Not Simply Divine, 1994, BY: Bernard Jay, DETAILS: Fireside:by Divine’s personal manager