Happy Birthday Claudette Colbert

Today is the 111th birthday of Claudette Colbert.

NAME: Claudette Colbert
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: September 13, 1903
DEATH DATE: July 30, 1996
EDUCATION: Art Students League of New York
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint-Mandé, Val-de-Marne, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Speightstown, Barbados
ORIGINALLY: Lily Claudette Chauchoin

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Claudette Colbert was known for her trademark bangs, her velvety, purring voice, her confident, intelligent style and her subtle, graceful acting.

One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, Avenue Général de Gaulle. The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette grew up, she wanted nothing more than to play to Broadway audiences (in those days, any actress or actor worth their salt went for Broadway, not Hollywood). After her formal education ended, she enrolled in the Art Students League, where she paid for her dramatic training by working in a dress shop. She made her Broadway debut in 1923 in the stage production of “The Wild Wescotts“. It was during this event that she adopted the name Claudette Colbert.

When the Great Depression shut down most of the theaters, Claudette decided to make a go of it in films. Her first film was called For the Love of Mike (1927). Unfortunately, it was a box-office disaster. She wasn’t real keen on the film industry, but with an extreme scarcity in theatrical roles, she had no choice but to remain. In 1929 she starred as Joyce Roamer in The Lady Lies (1929). The film was a success and later that year she had another hit entitled The Hole in the Wall (1929). In 1930 she starred opposite Fredric March in Manslaughter (1930), which was a remake of the silent version of eight years earlier. A year after that Claudette was again paired in a film with March, Honor Among Lovers (1931). It fared well at the box-office, probably only because it was the kind of film that catered to women who enjoyed magazine fiction romantic stories. In 1932 Claudette played the evil Poppeia in Cecil B. DeMille’s last great work, The Sign of the Cross (1932), and once again was cast with March. Later the same year she was paired with Jimmy Durante in The Phantom President (1932). By now Claudette’s name symbolized good movies and she, along with March, pulled crowds into the theaters with the acclaimed Tonight Is Ours (1933).

The next year started a little on the slow side with the release of Four Frightened People (1934), where Claudette and her co-stars were at odds with the dreaded bubonic plague on board a ship. However, the next two films were real gems for this young actress. First up, Claudette was charming and radiant in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular Cleopatra (1934). It wasn’t one of DeMille’s finest by any means, but it was a financial success and showcased Claudette as never before. However, it was as Ellie Andrews, in the now famous It Happened One Night (1934), that ensured she would be forever immortalized. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. It also resulted in Claudette being nominated for and winning the Oscar that year for Best Actress. In 1935 she was nominated again for Private Worlds (1935), where she played Dr. Jane Everest, on the staff at a mental institution. The performance was exquisite. Films such as The Gilded Lily (1935), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and No Time for Love (1943) kept fans coming to the theaters and the movie moguls happy. Claudette was a sure drawing card for virtually any film she was in. In 1944 she starred as Anne Hilton in Since You Went Away (1944). Again, although she didn’t win, Claudette picked up her third nomination for Best Actress.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s she was not only seen on the screen but the infant medium of television, where she appeared in a number of programs. However, her drawing power was fading somewhat as new stars replaced the older ones. In 1955 she filmed the western Texas Lady (1955) and wasn’t seen on the screen again until Parrish (1961). It was her final silver screen performance. Her final appearance before the cameras was in a TV movie, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987). She did, however, remain on the stage where she had returned in 1956, her first love. After a series of strokes, Claudette divided her time between New York and Barbados. On July 30, 1996, Claudette died in Speightstown, Barbados. She was 92.

The Seven Year Itch – Required Viewing

It’s still summer, it’s still warm outside and even a bit warm at night.  This film always reminds me of hot summer nights in New York.  I love she just brings a fan with her, so sensible.

seven-year-itch9

The Wiki:

The Seven Year Itch is a romantic comedy 1955 American film based on a three-act play with the same name by George Axelrod. The film was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, and starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role. It contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown by a passing train. The titular phrase, which refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, has been used by psychologists.

Happy Birthday Mae West

Tomorrow is the 121st birthday of Mae West.

NAME: Mae West
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: August 17, 1893
DEATH DATE: November 22, 1980
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mae West started in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York, and later moved to Hollywood to star in films known for their blunt sexuality and steamy settings.

Mae West was an American screen legend and erotic icon famous for her voluptuous figure, sexy innuendos, and irrepressible wit. A free thinking and independent woman far ahead of her time, West expressed herself boldly, both sexually and creatively. She famously surrounded herself with handsome muscle men, both onscreen and off, and accrued a long list of famous and powerful lovers. Notably, West was one of the first female American playwrights, and actresses, to demand and receive creative control over her work. West’s creative expression encompassed nearly every facet of the entertainment spectrum including theatre and screenwriting, film, radio, television, and audio recording. And with a career spanning some 80+ years, she holds the further distinction of having performed both vaudeville and rock and roll. As a cultural icon she is immortalized by imitators, biographers, and even an assortment of snacks and devices bearing her name. Her trademark phrases have been translated into numerous languages, including Mandarin, Mongolian, Norwegian, and Lithuanian.

She was born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, the bare knuckles prizefighter Battlin’ Jack West, was a native New Yorker from the lower east side. A heavy smoker and drinker, he turned to violence when thwarted. Her mother, “Tillie”, was a former corset and fashion model, and frustrated actress, who had immigrated to America from Germany with her parents. Although Mae West always claimed that Tillie was Jewish, records show that the family listed their religion as Lutheran upon arrival in America. West’s paternal grandmother had also immigrated as a child — an Irish Catholic, she married Mae’s paternal grandfather, John Edwin, while only 12 years old. Edwin’s own ancestry remains enigmatic. But according to West biographer Jill Watts, he may have been a light-skinned African American who passed for white.

Arising from this milieu of adversity, Mae learned early on that her unusual talent and good looks were an advantage that just might leverage her into a better life — if she played it smart. Encouraged by her mother, she used her sexuality to build alliances with, or dominate, nearly every man who crossed her path. And she learned to view marriage as a double edged institution – one that offered legal protection and social acceptance, but which robbed women of their independence and sexual freedom. According to most sources she took refuge in marriage just once, with fellow actor and lover Frank Wallace. When she tired of Wallace, and discovered she was not pregnant as feared, she ended the relationship. She neglected to file for divorce however, and Wallace showed up years later, in 1937, with marriage certificate in hand to receive a share of West’s ample earnings. She may have been simultaneously married to musician Guido Deiro, divorcing him in 1920. West allegedly used the alias Catherine Mae Belle West when marrying Deiro to avoid bigamy charges.

While West’s attitudes toward men were heavily influenced by her mother so was her choice of career. Tillie West had once longed to follow in the footsteps of idol Lillian Russell, even having her portrait painted in such way as to highlight a certain resemblance. She started Mae off in show business as early as age 5, according to some reports, and by age 7 Mae had won the gold medal in a talent show, with Tillie billing her as “Baby Mae.” By age 12 she was appearing on the vaudeville circuit and was soon performing as the sexy “Baby Vamp.” At 18 she introduced vaudeville to the “shimmy”, a sexy full body undulation that she had first observed in the blues bars of Chicago.

In the 1920s she had moved on to playwriting. A shameless self promoter, she is said to have single billed herself on works that were in fact jointly authored. Nonetheless both on the stage and later in film she showed tremendous wit and intelligence for writing dialogue, especially for those parts she played herself. But while West is chiefly remembered for her clever dialogue and powerhouse sensuality, much of her work dealt also with spiritual matters and West was herself a deeply and eclectically spiritual person for most of her life. Not surprisingly, her tendency toward frankness and maverick free thinking, on all subjects, often put her at odds with moralists and hard line religious leaders.

Her first major run in with censorship laws came in 1926 when she was jailed for the play Sex, which she both wrote and starred in. West was sentenced to 10 days in jail on obscenity charges. However she allegedly received star treatment in prison, dining each night with the warden and getting two days off for good behavior. Despite this fact she was sympathetic to those less fortunate, and upon her release she penned an article about the women she had met behind bars. Putting her money where her mouth was, she also made a donation on their behalf to fund a prison library.

In 1927 West was back in trouble again. Her new play Drag, about a homosexual party, was a big hit in New Jersey. But it was banned from Broadway and was soon bogged down in extensive legal battles. She bounced back the following year with her naughty, but more acceptable Diamond Lil. Not only was it a big hit on Broadway, but it more significantly catapulted her toward Hollywood stardom. West debuted on film in 1932 with what was supposed to be a small part in Night After Night, starringGeorge Raft. However West insisted on rewriting all her lines, and the result was pure gold — for West and for the film. Building on this success West was able to translate her Broadway play Diamond Lilto the big screen as She Done Him Wrong in 1933. Audiences went wild, and the film was a huge success, garnering an Academy Award nomination and catapulting male lead Cary Grant, to stardom. The picture saved its studio, Paramount Pictures, from bankruptcy.

West’s next film, I’m No Angel, was also a big hit with moviegoers. But her empowered sexuality and ribald wit, that so entranced movie goers, incensed religious leaders and moralists. The Catholic Church in particular launched a campaign to put an end to the “filth” churned out by West, and to an extent, by the studios in general. By July of 1934 Hollywood was being squeezed toward more exact compliance with the strict Motion Picture Production Code. Since West was not one to give in easily and she managed for a while to pull a clever bait and switch with the censors. She laded scripts with obvious material for them to cut, while slipping in more subtle elements they would overlook. Most famous of these were her sly double entendres, lines she rolled out with such droll understatement that fans were never quite sure what was a straight line and what was intentional innuendo.

But censors could not be duped indefinitely, not with more clever moralists writing them outraged letters. And so West found her work in Hollywood more and more constrained. She churned out several more films, including My Little Chickadee, in which she starred alongside nemesis W. C. Fields (1940). But 1943’s The Heat’s On proved to be her last offering, until her film rebirth in the 1970s.

For the next few decades she returned her attention to writing and performing for the more liberal environment of the stage. One of West’s favorite roles was her 1944 Broadway production ofCatherine Was Great. West’s version of the famed Russian empress was a woman after her own heart — a powerful, lusty, independent woman who surrounded herself with tall muscle men. According to West, an ardent spiritualist, this likeness was appropriate as she herself was the reincarnation ofCatherine the Great.

Like the historic Catherine, West’s identity as a sexual titan who seemed untarnished by age. West still demanded daily sex well into her 60s and held onto a girlish figure through an assortment of eccentric practices. According to West, she avoided sunlight to preserve her skin, massaged her breasts for two hours a day with cold cream to keep them firm, had her men massage warm baby oil into her skin to keep it soft, and began each day with an enema to rid her body of toxins and keep her skin silky smooth.

Determined never to be a “has been” (she hotly turned down Billy Wilder‘s invitation to play Norma Desmond in Sunset Strip) West frequently managed to reinvent and reintroduce herself to the American public. She had her own Las Vegas show in the 1950s. And in the 1960s, she appeared on the album sleeve for The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, she popped up on a number of popular television programs (including The Red Skelton Show and Mr. Ed), and she even cut two rock and roll albums. In 1970 she at last returned to the big screen with Gore Vidal‘s Myra Breckinridge.

But although the time seemed ripe for West’s bawdy humor to make a come back, with society and censors more open to sexuality, age was catching up with her. Now in her mid 80s, she was struggling with diabetes and other ailments. During the 1978 filming of Sextette, her last film, she often needed to rest during scenes. And she forgot her lines so often that it was necessary to fit her with an earpiece so she could be prompted with her lines. But the indomitable Mae insisted on playing a woman in her late 20s, and she behaved as if she were still the knockout sex goddess that every man wanted to make love too. Despite such handicaps and eccentricities her co-stars would remember West as a grand lady. And when the film finally premiered her cult of longtime fans still found her adorable and embracedSextette, viewing the flaws of the film as delightful self-parody. But the public in general was not so impressed and despite added talent from the likes of Timothy Dalton, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton,Tony Curtis, Walter Pidgeon and George Raft, the film fell flat at the box office.

Two years later West’s decline culminated in a series of strokes, and she died on November 22, 1980 from stroke related complications. Two days later her former lover and longtime friend, George Raft, who had co-starred with West in both her first film and her last, died as well, of leukemia. Like Raft, West is memorialized by a Motion Pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like only a handful of other stars her trademark gestures and phrases (such as “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie”, “When I’m bad I’m even better”, and “Come up and see me sometime”) have entered into the pop culture lexicon.

Mae West’s films continue to be released on video and DVD and some of her plays remain in current publication. She continues to be immortalized as well by assorted drag queens and festivals who celebrate her talent and persona. More than 20 years after her death biographies of West continue to abound, including Mae West: An Icon in Black and White by Jill Watts (2003), Becoming Mae Westby Emily Worth Leider (2000), and Mae West: Empress of Sex, by Maurice Leonard (1992). West’s autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, first appeared in 1959 and has been republished a number of times.

 

Cabaret – Required Viewing

cabaret

The Wiki:

Cabaret is a 1972 musical film directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey.[3] The film is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic in 1931, under the ominous presence of the growing Nazi Party.

The film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from the 1945 book The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 play I Am a Camera which was derived from the same book. Only a few numbers from the stage score were used for the film; Kander and Ebb wrote new ones to replace those that were discarded. In the traditional manner of musical theater, every significant character in the stage version of Cabaret sings to express emotion and advance the plot; but in the film version, the musical numbers are entirely diegetic, and just two of the film’s major characters (The Emcee and Sally) sing songs.

 

Happy Birthday Cole Porter

Today is the 123rd birthday of the man who wrote the songs “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” and “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love”: Cole Porter, born in Peru, Indiana (1891). Most of his great songs were written within a 10-year period: between his first popular Broadway musical, Paris (1928)—his first musicals had been complete flops—and a terrible riding accident in 1937.

porter

NAME: Cole Porter
OCCUPATION: Songwriter
BIRTH DATE: June 09, 1891
DEATH DATE: October 15, 1964
EDUCATION: Yale University, Harvard University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Peru, Indiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California

Best Known For:  Cole Porter was a U.S. composer and lyricist who created songs like “I Get a Kick Out of You” and his own series of Broadway musicals including Anything Goes.

Cole Porter was born today in Peru, Indiana. He was a composer and lyricist, and he wrote a string of hit songs: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Night and Day,” “You’re the Top,” “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love,” “I’ve got You Under My Skin,” and “Let’s Misbehave.” All of these songs were written within a 10-year period: between his first popular Broadway musical, Paris (1928) — his first musicals had been complete flops — and a terrible riding accident in 1937. Porter was at a party at the New York home of the Countess Edith di Zoppola when his horse rolled and crushed his legs. He claimed that he didn’t realize how badly he was hurt and that while someone ran for help he finished up the lyrics to “You Never Know.” But he was in fact seriously injured — the doctors insisted that his right leg be amputated, maybe his left as well. Porter refused. He preferred to be in intense pain than be missing a leg.

He lived with the pain for more than 20 years, and he continued to write songs, but never at the same rate of success as he had before his accident. In 1958, after 34 operations on his leg, he finally agreed to have it amputated. The playwright Noel Coward went to visit Porter in the hospital, and he said: “He has at last had his leg amputated and the lines of ceaseless pain have been wiped from his face. He is a bit fretful about having to manage his new leg but he will get over that. I think if I had had to endure all those years of agony I would have had the damned thing off at the beginning, but it is a cruel decision to have to make and involves much sex vanity and many fears of being repellent. However, it is now done at last and I am convinced that his whole life will cheer up and that his work will profit accordingly.” But Porter never recovered. He told friends, “I am only half a man now.” And never wrote another song. He died in 1964 at the age of 73.

The critic Alfred Kazin said of Porter: “The wit of his words depended on his ability to raise the audience immediately to his own level — and keep it there. The instant happiness that Porter gave his audience is the kind that becomes history.”

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Happy Birthday Rosalind Russell

Today is the 107th birthday of Rosalind Russell.  Suggesting any one of her films to watch is in no way discounting any of the others. I adore The Women, His Girl Friday, Gypsy, and Mrs. Pollifax – Spy, just for starters.  You may have your own, it is hard to not have at least a couple.

NAME: Rosalind Russell
OCCUPATION: Theater Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: June 4, 1907
DEATH DATE: November 28, 1976
EDUCATION: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Marymount College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Waterbury, Connecticut
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Theater and film actress Rosalind Russell costarred in His Girl Friday with Cary Grant, and played Auntie Mame in both the Broadway play and the movie version.

Rosalind Russell was born on June 4, 1907, in Waterbury, Connecticut. She made her on-screen debut in 1934’s Evelyn Prentice. In 1940 she starred in His Girl Friday. When her film career slowed in the 1950s, she moved to Broadway plays, including Auntie Mame, a role she reprised for the movie. Eventually, arthritis stopped her from performing. She died on November 28, 1976, in Beverly Hills, California.

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Happy Birthday Ellen Barkin

Today is the 60th birthday of ellen Barkin.  If you aren’t following @ellenbarkin, you are missing out on everything.  You will fall in love with her (if you haven’t already) and maybe even find your own voice.  There is no denying that she is a beautiful and talented woman, throw in brains, a wicked sense of humor and a foul mouth (you can take the girl out of the Bronx…).

Ellen Rona Barkin Born: April 16, 1954  The Bronx, New York, United States

She was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, New York,[1] the daughter of Evelyn (née Rozin), a hospital administrator who worked at Jamaica Hospital, and Sol Barkin, a chemical salesman. Barkin was raised in a lower-middle-class Jewish family, a descendant of immigrants from Siberia and the Russia-Poland border.

Barkin received her high school diploma at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts. She then attended Hunter College and double majored in history and drama. At one point, Barkin wanted to teach ancient history. She continued her acting education at New York City’s Actors Studio. According to Time, she studied acting for ten years before landing her first audition.

Her break-out role was in the comedy-drama film Diner (1982), written and directed by Barry Levinson,[1] for which she received favorable reviews. Barkin was cast in the drama film Tender Mercies (1983) after impressing its director Bruce Beresford during an audition in New York City, despite her inexperience and his lack of familiarity with her work. Robert Duvall, who played the lead role in Tender Mercies, said of Barkin, “She brings a real credibility for that part, plus she was young and attractive and had a certain sense of edge, a danger for her that was good for that part.” She also appeared in the 1983 rock & roll drama film Eddie and the Cruisers.

Barkin would later appear in several successful films, including the thrillers The Big Easy (1987), opposite Dennis Quaid and Sea of Love (1989), opposite Al Pacino. Barkin also appeared in Off-Broadway plays, including a role as one of the roommates in Extremities, about an intended rape victim played by Susan Sarandon who turns the tables on her attacker. About her performance in the play Eden Court, The New York Times critic Frank Rich summarized: “If it were really possible to give the kiss of life to a corpse, the actress Ellen Barkin would be the one to do it. In Eden Court, the moribund play that has brought her to the Promenade Theater, Miss Barkin is tantalizingly alive from her bouncing blond ponytail to the long legs that gyrate wildly and involuntarily every time an Elvis Presley record plays on stage”.

Barkin has also done work in made-for-television films like Before Women Had Wings (1997) and The White River Kid (1999). Currently, she voices the start of each Theme Time Radio Hour with host Bob Dylan on XM’s “Deep Tracks”. In 2005, Barkin set up a film production company with her brother, George, along with her husband at the time and billionaire investor, Ronald Perelman. She also starred in the movie ‘This boy’s life’.

Barkin appeared in her Broadway debut as Dr. Brookner in The Normal Heart, for which she won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Most recently, Barkin has received acclaim for her performance in Another Happy Day. IndieWire have cited her turn as one the best female performances of the year and have shortlisted her as an Academy Award for Best Actress contender.

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