Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck

This week marks the 107th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck.

NAME: Barbara Stanwyck
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: July 16, 1907
DEATH DATE: January 20, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California
ORIGINALLY: Ruby Stevens

BEST KNOWN FOR: Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who had a 60-year career in film and TV. Usually playing strong-willed women, Stanwyck defined the femme fatale.

Barbara Stanwyck (July 16, 1907 – January 20, 1990) was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra. After a short but notable career as a stage actress in the late 1920s, she made 85 films in 38 years in Hollywood, before turning to television.

Stanwyck was nominated for the Academy Award four times, and won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. She was the recipient of honorary lifetime awards from the Motion Picture Academy, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Golden Globes, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Screen Actors Guild, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is ranked as the eleventh greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.

Happy Birthday Eva Marie Saint

Tomorrow is the 90th birthday of Eva Marie Saint.  If ever asked to pick my favorite “Hitchcock Blonde,” I would have a very hard time picking just one. Eva Marie Saint is one of them for sure, maybe the first. Her cool sexiness in North by Northwest is par none. My sister and I must have watched that film at least 25 times after school, it was the beginning of my obsession with Mid Century everything and that amazing Paramount VistaVision! You should also watch On The Waterfront to truly see her range, it is her first film and beyond legendary.

Born July 4, 1924  Newark, New Jersey, United States
Occupation: Actress

Eva Marie Saint (born July 4, 1924) is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront (1954), and later starred in the thriller film North by Northwest (1959), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Saint received Golden Globe and BAFTA award nominations for the drama film A Hatful of Rain (1957) and won an Emmy Award for the television miniseries People Like Us (1990). Her film career also includes roles in Raintree County (1957), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), and Superman Returns (2006).

Saint’s first feature-film role, at age 30, was in On the Waterfront (1954), directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando – a performance for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her role as Edie Doyle (whose brother’s death sets the film’s drama in motion), which she won over such leading contenders as Claire Trevor, Nina Foch, Katy Jurado, and Jan Sterling also earned her a British Academy of Film and Television Award nomination for “Most Promising Newcomer.” In his New York Times review, film critic Bosley Crowther wrote:

“In casting Eva Marie Saint – a newcomer to movies from TV and Broadway – Mr. Kazan has come up with a pretty and blond artisan who does not have to depend on these attributes. Her parochial school training is no bar to love with the proper stranger. Amid scenes of carnage, she gives tenderness and sensitivity to genuine romance.”

 

In a 2000 interview in Premiere magazine, Saint recalled making the hugely influential film:

“[Elia] Kazan put me in a room with Marlon Brando. He said ‘Brando is the boyfriend of your sister. You’re not used to being with a young man. Don’t let him in the door under any circumstances’. I don’t know what he told Marlon; you’ll have to ask him – good luck! [Brando] came in and started teasing me. He put me off-balance. And I remained off-balance for the whole shoot.”

The film was a major success and launched Saint’s movie career. She starred with Don Murray in the pioneering drug-addiction drama, A Hatful of Rain (1957), for which she received a nomination for the “Best Foreign Actress” award from the British Academy of Film and Television, and the lavish Civil War epic Raintree County (also 1957) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Director Alfred Hitchcock surprised many by choosing Saint over dozens of other candidates for the femme fatale role in what was to become a suspense classic North by Northwest (1959) with Cary Grant and James Mason. Written by Ernest Lehman, the film updated and expanded upon the director’s early “wrong man” spy adventures of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, including The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, and Foreign Correspondent. North by Northwest became a box-office hit and an influence on spy films for decades. The film ranks number forty on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.

At the time of the film’s production, much publicity was gained by Hitchcock’s decision to cut Saint’s waist-length blonde hair for the first time in her career. Hitchcock explained at the time, “Short hair gives Eva a more exotic look, in keeping with her role of the glamorous woman of my story. I wanted her dressed like a kept woman – smart, simple, subtle and quiet. In other words, anything but the bangles and beads type.” The director also worked with Saint to make her voice lower and huskier and even personally chose costumes for her during a shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

The change in Saint’s screen persona, coupled with her adroit performance as a seductive woman of mystery who keeps Cary Grant (and the audience) off-balance, was widely heralded. In his New York Times review of August 7, 1959, critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “In casting Eva Marie Saint as [Cary Grant's] romantic vis-a-vis, Mr. Hitchcock has plumbed some talents not shown by the actress heretofore. Although she is seemingly a hard, designing type, she also emerges both the sweet heroine and a glamorous charmer.” In 2000, recalling her experience making the picture with Cary Grant and Hitchcock, Saint said, “[Grant] would say, ‘See, Eva Marie, you don’t have to cry in a movie to have a good time. Just kick up your heels and have fun.’ Hitchcock said, ‘I don’t want you to do a sink-to-sink movie again, ever. You’ve done these black-and-white movies like On the Waterfront. It’s drab in that tenement house. Women go to the movies, and they’ve just left the sink at home. They don’t want to see you at the sink.’ I said, ‘I can’t promise you that, Hitch, because I love those dramas.'”

She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures at 6624 Hollywood Boulevard, and television at 6730 Hollywood Boulevard.

Harold and Maude – Required Viewing

A few years ago, there was a special Valentine’s Day showing of Harold and Maude and I was so annoyed I was not able to go.  I know it is a bit morbid, but it is so beautiful.  This movie is for any misfit outsider who needs a reminder to go out and grab life for all it has to offer.harold

Harold and Maude is a 1971 American black comedy romantic film directed by Hal Ashby and released by Paramount Pictures. It incorporates elements of dark humor and existentialist drama, with a plot that revolves around the exploits of a young man named Harold (played by Bud Cort) intrigued with death. Harold drifts away from the life that his detached mother (Vivian Pickles) prescribes for him, and develops a relationship with a 79-year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon).

The film was based on a screenplay written by Colin Higgins and published as a novel in 1971. The movie was shot in the San Francisco Bay Area. Harold and Maude was also a play on Broadway that closed after four performances. A French adaptation for television, translated and written by Jean-Claude Carrière, appeared in 1978. It was adapted for the stage and performed in Québec, starring Roy Dupuis.

The film was critically and commercially unsuccessful on original release, but subsequently received critical and commercial success. The film is ranked number 45 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Funniest Movies of all Time, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1997 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The Criterion Collection released a special edition version of the film on Blu-ray and DVD on June 12, 2012.

The movie ultimately developed a cult following and in 1983 began making a profit.

 

Happy Birthday Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was born 108 years ago tomorrow.  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.

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.”

Wilder 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.

Spanish 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 Birthday Marilyn Monroe

Tomorrow is the 88th birthday of Marilyn Monroe.  Do yourself a favor and watch The Misfits sometime soon.  You won’t be disappointed.

NAME: Marilyn Monroe
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: June 01, 1926
DEATH DATE: August 05, 1962
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
ORIGINALLY: Norma Jeane Mortensen

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world’s biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She died of a drug overdose in 1962.

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson but baptized and raised as Norma Jeane Baker; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s.

After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) drew attention to her—by now her hair was dyed blonde. By 1953, Monroe had progressed to a leading role in Niagara (1953), a melodramatic film noir that dwelled on her seductiveness. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics, and she received a Golden Globe nomination. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award. She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959). Monroe’s final completed film was The Misfits, co-starring Clark Gable with the screenplay written by her then-husband, Arthur Miller.

The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a “probable suicide”, the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the years and decades following her death, Monroe has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American female sex symbol.

On August 8, 1962, Monroe was interred in a crypt at Corridor of Memories #24, at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Lee Strasberg delivered the eulogy. Joe DiMaggio took control of the funeral arrangements which consisted of only 31 close family and friends. Police were also present to keep the press away. Her casket was solid bronze and was lined with champagne colored silk. Allan “Whitey” Snyder did her make-up which was supposedly a promise made in earlier years if she were to die before him. She was wearing her favorite green Emilio Pucci dress. In her hands was a small bouquet of pink teacup roses.  For the next 20 years, red roses were placed in a vase attached to the crypt, courtesy of DiMaggio.

 

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Happy Birthday Katharine Hepburn

Today is Katharine Hepburn’s 107th birthday.  I was in New York City this last Christmas, alone and not really sure how I should spend the day.  I walked the entire Highline down the West Side, crossed over and walked up the East Side and found her old townhouse.  I stood outside for a while, took a few pictures and walked to the rocks in the southeast corner of Central Park and thought about how over the last few hundred people, everyone that has come to New York City has seen these rocks.  Simple rocks.  It made me feel less alone on Christmas.

I tried to narrow down my favorite film of hers, but I couldn’t.  If you haven’t seen A Delicate Balance,” you should, it showcases some of the her best acting in a screenplay by Edward Albee.  You can’t go wrong with that team.

 


NAME
: Katharine Hepburn
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: May 12, 1907
DEATH DATE: June 29, 2003
EDUCATION: Bryn Mawr College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hartford, Connecticut
PLACE OF DEATH: Old Saybrook, Connecticut

BEST KNOWN FOR: Katharine Hepburn was an actress known as a spirited performer with a touch of eccentricity in films such as The African Queen and On Golden Pond.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. In a career that spanned 62 years as a leading lady, she was best known for playing strong-willed, sophisticated women in both dramas and comedies.

Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn turned to acting after graduation from Bryn Mawr College. After four years in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. She became an instant star with her feature debut, 1932’s A Bill of Divorcement, and within 18 months received an Academy Award for Morning Glory. This initial success was followed by a series of commercial failures, and in 1938 she was labeled “box office poison”. Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying herself out of her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. The movie was a hit, and Hepburn’s career was successfully revived.

In 1941 she joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and began an alliance with Spencer Tracy, forming a popular partnership that produced nine movies over 25 years. Her work began to slow in this decade, and is dominated by the pictures she made with Tracy. Hepburn’s output expanded in the 1950s, as she frequently worked overseas and appeared in a number of Shakespeare productions on the stage. On screen she found a niche in playing middle-aged spinsters, including The African Queen, and the public embraced Hepburn in these roles. She enjoyed a great level of success in the latter half of her life, winning three more Oscars for her work in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter and On Golden Pond. In 1973 she made her first appearance in a television movie, and the medium was where she found her greatest success in her later years. She remained active into old age, making her final screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87.

Hepburn was famously outspoken and evasive with the press, while refusing to conform to societal expectations of women. She married once, before moving to Hollywood, but thereafter maintained an independent lifestyle. In 1941, Hepburn began an affair with her co-star Spencer Tracy and became devoted to the actor. They remained together until his death in 1967, although the relationship was hidden from the public and Tracy never divorced his wife. After a period of inactivity and ill-health, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.

Hepburn received a total of 12 Academy Award nominations for Best Actress throughout her career, and her four wins is a record for a performer. Her on-screen persona often matched her own independent personality, and she came to epitomize the “modern woman” in 20th century America. She is credited with helping change the way females were depicted on screen, and acknowledged as an influential figure in the public’s changing perception of women. In 1999, she was named by the American Film Institute as the top female legend of the screen

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”

 

 

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Happy Birthday Fred Astaire

Today is the 115th birthday of Fred Astaire.  Naming his best work is pointless, it is all flawless. Naming one of my favorite pieces is easy, I absolutely love the “Clap Your Hands” piece from Funny Face he performs with Kay Thompson (included below).  Absolutely brilliant.Astaire

NAME: Fred Astaire
OCCUPATION: Dancer
BIRTH DATE: May 10, 1899
DEATH DATE: June 22, 1987
PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

Best Known For:  Fred Astaire was an American dancer of stage and film who is best known for a number of successful musical comedy films in which he starred with Ginger Rogers.

Light on his feet, Fred Astaire revolutionized the movie musical with his elegant and seemingly effortless dance style. He may have made dancing look easy, but he was a well-known perfectionist, and his work was the product of endless hours of practice.

Astaire started performing as a child, partnering up with his older sister Adele. The two toured the vaudeville circuit before making it to Broadway in 1917. Among their many productions the brother-sister team starred in the 1927 George and Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face. For all his early success, though, career in the movies alluded Astaire. He had done a screen test, but he failed to attract any interest. A studio executive wrote at the time, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

In 1932, Astaire suffered a career setback. His sister Adele retired from the act to marry a British aristocrat. He floundered a bit professionally without his usual partner, but then decided to go to Hollywood to try once more to break into film.

Finally, Astaire landed a small role in 1933’s Dancing Lady with Joan Crawford. The role opened the door to new opportunities, and Astaire signed a contract with RKO Radio Pictures. He was matched up with another Broadway talent, Ginger Rogers, for Flying Down to Rio, also in 1933. Cast as supporting players, their dance number stole the movie. Astaire and Rogers appeared in several more films together, including The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935). The duo became film’s most beloved dance team. Their routines featured a hybrid of styles—borrowing elements from tap, ballroom and even ballet. Katharine Hepburn once described what each of them brought their successful partnership: “Fred gave Ginger class, and Ginger gave Fred sex.”

Off-screen, Astaire was known for his relentless pursuit of perfection. He thought nothing of rehearsing a scene for days, and Rogers eventually tired of the grueling schedule. The pair went their separate ways after 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Years later, they reunited once more for 1949’s The Barkleys of Broadway.

After the split with Rogers in 1939, Astaire performed with such leading ladies as Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Leslie Caron and Audrey Hepburn. Some of his most famous musicals from his later career include Easter Parade with Garland and Funny Face with Hepburn.

As his movie roles tapered off, Astaire worked more in television. He often appeared as himself for special tribute shows. Astaire had a growing interest in dramatic parts, working on such series as Dr. Kildare. He also worked with another legendary dancer, Gene Kelly, on the documentary That’s Entertainment, which explored the golden era of the movie musical.  Around this time, Astaire received his only Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also won an Emmy Award for his work on the television special A Family Upside Down in 1978. More accolades soon followed. Astaire received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1981.

A few years later, Astaire was hospitalized for pneumonia. He died on June 22, 1987, in Los Angeles, California. With his passing, Hollywood had lost one of its greatest talents. Former actor and president Ronald Reagan, upon learning the news, called Astaire “an American legend” and “the ultimate dancer.” Ginger Rogers said Astaire “was the best partner anyone could ever have.”

Off-screen, Astaire was more casual than his upper-crust characters. He was devoted to his family. Astaire and his first wife, socialite Phyllis Baker Potter, married in 1933 and had two children together, Fred Jr. and Ava. He also helped raise her son from an earlier union. Fred and Phyllis remained a couple until her death in 1954.

Astaire shocked friends and family when he remarried in 1980. His second wife was Robyn Smith, a famous jockey. Despite a more than 40-year age difference, the pair’s mutual interest in horses and racing turned into romance. After his death in 1987, his widow has been a fierce protector of his name and image. She has filed numerous lawsuits to prevent any unauthorized uses of his likeness or name. In 1997, however, she granted permission for film clips of Fred Astaire to be changed and used for a series of vacuum cleaner commercials.

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