Happy Birthday Johnny Carson

Today is the 89th birthday of Johnny Carson.

johnny carson 2

NAME: Johnny Carson
OCCUPATION: Talk Show Host
BIRTH DATE: October 23, 1925
DEATH DATE: January 23, 2005
EDUCATION: University of Nebraska
PLACE OF BIRTH: Corning, Iowa
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: Johnny Carson
Full Name: John William Carson

Best Known For:  One of television’s best known personalities, Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years. His farewell show in 1992 drew 50 million viewers.

Born in Corning, Iowa on October 23, 1925 to Ruth and Homer R. Carson, a power company manager, Johnny Carson learned how to reel in audiences at a young age. He fell in love with magic when he was 12 years old, and after purchasing a magician’s kit through the mail, began performing magic tricks in public, as “The Great Carson.”

Following high school, in 1943, an 18-year-old Carson joined the U.S. Navy as an ensign, and then decoded encrypted messages as a communications officer. Serving aboard the USS Pennsylvania, he continued performing magic, mainly for his fellow shipmates. He later said that one of the fondest memories from his service was performing magic for James Forrestal, U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Though assigned to combat in the summer of 1945, Carson never went into battle — WWII ended in 1945, following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and Carson was sent back to the United States.

In the fall of 1945, Carson began studying at the University of Nebraska, and received a bachelor’s degree in radio and speech four years later. After college, he had a short stint as television writer for The Red Skelton Show in Los Angeles, and then moved to New York City in pursuit of bigger audiences.

In October of 1962, Carson replaced Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show—a counterpart to NBC’s Tonight show—and, following wavering ratings his first year, Carson became a prime-time hit.

Audiences found comfort in Carson’s calm and steady presence in their living rooms each evening. Revered for his affable personality, quick wit and crisp interviews, he guided viewers into the late night hours with a familiarity they grew to rely on year after year. Featuring interviews with the stars of the latest Hollywood movies or the hottest bands, Carson kept Americans up-to-date on popular culture, and reflected some of the most distinct personalities of his era through impersonations, including his classic take on President Ronald Reagan.

Carson created several recurring comedic characters that popped up regularly on his show, including Carnac the Magnificent, an Eastern psychic who was said to know the answers to all kinds of baffling questions. In these skits, Carson would wear a colorful cape and featured turban and attempt to answer questions on cards before even opening their sealed envelopes. Carson, as Carmac, would demand silence before answering questions such as “Answer: Flypaper.” “Question: What do you use to gift wrap a zipper?”

Carson was The Tonight Show’s host for three decades. During that time, he received six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson’s final appearance as host in 1992 attracted an estimated 50 million viewers.

Carson was in and out of relationships throughout his life, marrying four separate times. He married Jody Wolcott in 1948, and they had three sons, Charles (Kit), Cory and Richard. Richard died in an auto accident in 1991.

Carson and Jody divorced in 1963, and only months later, Carson married his second wife, Joanne Copeland. That relationship ended in 1972, following a grueling legal battle that ended with Copeland receiving a settlement of nearly $500,000 and annual alimony from Carson. That same year, Carson married third wife Joanna Holland—from whom he filed for divorce in 1983.

For the first time in 35 years, Carson lived life as an unmarried man from 1983 to 1987. He married for the final time in June of 1987; Carson and Alexis Maas remained together until Carson’s death, nearly eighteen years later.

At age 74, in 1999, Carson suffered a severe heart attack while he was sleeping at his Malibu, California home. Soon after, he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. In January of 2005, at age 79, Carson died of respiratory failure caused by emphysema.

Carson, considered to be one of the most popular stars of American television, has been praised by several mainstream comics—including Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon—for helping them launch their careers. Today, he is regarded worldwide as a televison legacy.

Happy Birthday Joan Fontaine

Today is Joan Fontaine‘s 97th birthday.  If nothing else, watch The Women (1939) (and Rebecca and Suspicion and and and…), it is one of the best all time ensemble casts ever created.  You will not be disappointed.

NAME: Joan Fontaine
OCCUPATION:
Film Actress
BIRTH DATE:
October 22, 1917
DEATH DATE:
December 16, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Tokyo, Japan
PLACE OF DEATH:
Carmel, California
AKA: Joan Burfield,
Joan Fontaine
ORIGINALLY:
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

Best Known ForAcademy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has appeared in such films as Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Jane Eyre (1944) and Othello (1952).

The Wiki:

Born in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, actress Joan Fontaine was a sickly child. Her mother Lillian moved the family to California when she was young to help improve her health. Her parents split up around this time. Fontaine and her older sister, Olivia (de Havilland), seemed to have a difficult relationship from the start, with the pair fighting for their mother’s attention and affection. According to some reports, Lillian favored Olivia.

In 1932, Fontaine moved to Japan to live with her father. Their reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and she returned the United States after about a year. Before long, Fontaine began her acting career, following in the footsteps of her older sister. She reportedly studied with Max Reinhardt, just as her sister had done before her.

Using the name Joan Burfield, Fontaine made her film debut in 1935’s No More Ladies, starring Joan Crawford. She eventually took the last name “Fontaine” after her stepfather. Continuing to work in movies, Fontaine appeared alongside Fred Astaire in the musical A Damsel in Distress in 1937. She was better suited to dramatic roles, however, made apparent by her performances in films like Gunga Din (1939), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant; and The Women (1939), with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. She reportedly also missed out another great role that year, turning down the part of Melanie in Gone With the Wind—a role eventually won by her sister, Olivia de Havilland, and for which Olivia earned great acclaim.

Fontaine’s career reached new heights in 1940 with her starring role in Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of the popular Daphne du Maurier novel. She played the title character, starring opposite Laurence Olivier. The following year, Fontaine reteamed with Hitchcock for the thriller Suspicion, co-starring with Cary Grant. She received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Rebecca and Suspicion, taking home the golden statue for Suspicion. This win became the latest flare-up in the feud between Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, who had been nominated as well.

In 1943, Fontaine picked up her third and final Academy Award nomination (best actress) for her performance in The Constant Nymph. She went on to co-star with Orson Welles in 1944’s classic romantic tale Jane Eyre. The pair worked together again in 1952’s Shakespearean tragedy Othello. That same year, Fontaine had another hit with Ivanhoe, co-starring with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the 1960s, the once-busy Fontaine saw her career slow down. She made only a handful of films in her later years, and played a number of television roles. She made guest appearances on such shows as Wagon Train, Hotel and The Love Boat. She also had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope in the early 1980s.

Fontaine has been married and divorced four times: In 1939, she married actor Brian Aherne. The couple divorced in 1945. The following year, she wed producer and actor William Dozier. Dozier and Fontaine had one child together, a daughter named Deborah, before splitting up in 1951. In 1952, she married Collier Young, a writer, and their union lasted until 1961. Her final marriage to journalist Alfred Wright Jr. lasted from 1964 to 1969.

In 1978, Fontaine released her autobiography, No Bed of Roses. She wrote about her long, troubled relationship with sister Olivia, much to Olivia’s dismay. Their final straw between the two siblings reportedly came with their mother’s death around the same time. Fontaine has said that she was not invited to the funeral, and has threatened to talk to the press about being omitted from the service. The date of the funeral was changed so that Fontaine and her daughter could attend, but Joan and Olivia have allegedly not spoken since their mother’s funeral.

Happy Birthday George C. Scott

Today is the 87th birthday of the actor George C. Scott. I remember seeing The Changeling (entire movie below) on TV when I was a kid and being so scared, but not being able to stop watching because it was filmed in Seattle. His film There Might Be Giants is honestly funny and quirky and about half the time, you feel like you are either not in on the joke or it just wasn’t a joke, but you aren’t sure, but you wish you were in on the joke it it was in fact a joke. I am sure that is why it is loved and hated, but rarely anything in-between.

NAME: George C. Scott
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: October 18, 1927
DEATH DATE: September 22, 1999
EDUCATION: University of Missouri
PLACE OF BIRTH: Wise, Virginia
PLACE OF DEATH: Westlake Village, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: American actor George C. Scott starred in films and on Broadway during his 40-year career. In 1970, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of George S. Patton.

George C. Scott was born on October 18, 1927, in a small Virginia town in the Appalachian Mountains. At the age of 2, Scott’s family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his father took a job at an automobile plant. His mother, a poet, died when he was 8.

In 1945, Scott joined the Marines and was posted to Arlington National Cemetery. His subsequent four-year tour was marked with heavy drinking and a raft of nose-breaking barroom brawls. After being discharged from the military, he studied journalism under the G.I. Bill at the University of Missouri. While there, Scott auditioned for a role in a campus production of Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy. He won the role, marking the beginning of his career in acting.

Acting jobs did not come easy at first. In fact, it would be years before Scott landed his first big role: as the lead in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of Richard III. His intense stage presence won acclaim by critics and would garner him a lifetime of notable roles on the stage, on television and in film.

In 1959, Scott starred opposite James Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder, and was awarded an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Despite all of his praise, however, he would gain even more attention for his over-the-top portrayal of General “Buck” Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.

Scott once again turned to his military roots in order to play his most iconic role: General George Patton in the 1970 film Patton. His ability to dominate the screen once again won rave reviews from critics, as well as an Academy Award for his performance. The actor, however, defiantly refused to accepted the honor. Months earlier, Scott had sent a telegram to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rejecting his nomination as best actor, citing his disapproval of the voting process and his disdain for competition among actors. His win at the award ceremony came as a shock to the audience, and led award presenter Goldie Hawn to famously announce, “Oh my God. It’s George C. Scott!”

Less controversial was Scott’s 1984 performance in the CBS television production of A Christmas Carol. As Ebenezer Scrooge, Scott played the role with a visceral intensity that evoked associations with Reagan and Thatcher. He even played the Dickensian role of the cliché penny-pincher with an American accent.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Scott continued to appear in film, on television and on stage. In 1981, he starred with Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in the drama Taps. He also appeared in television remakes of the films 12 Angry Men (1997) and Inherit the Wind (1999).

In the mid-1990s, however, the actor’s health began to fade. In April 1996, he walked off the stage in the middle of a Broadway performance of Inherit the Wind. One month later, news reports revealed that Scott had been suffering from an aortic aneurysm. Three years later, on September 22, 1999, the actor died in Westlake Village, California, when the aneurysm ruptured. He was reportedly working on his memoirs at the time.

George C. Scott left behind his wife, actress Trish Van Devere, whom he starred alongside in the 1980 film The Changeling, as well as five children. He had daughter Victoria with his first wife, Carolyn Hughes; son Matthew and daughter Devon Scott with his second wife, Patricia Reed; and sons Alexander and Campbell, an actor, from his marriage to Colleen Dewhurst.

TELEVISION
East Side/West Side Neil Brock (1963-64)
Mr. President President Samuel A. Tresch (1987-88)

FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
The Savage is Loose (1974)
Rage (22-Nov-1972)
The Andersonville Trial (17-May-1970)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Inherit the Wind (29-May-1999)
Rocky Marciano (15-May-1999)
Gloria (22-Jan-1999) · Ruby
12 Angry Men (17-Aug-1997)
Titanic (17-Nov-1996)
Angus (15-Sep-1995) · Ivan
Tyson (29-Apr-1995)
The Whipping Boy (31-Jul-1994) · Blind George
Malice (29-Sep-1993)
Deadly Currents (27-Jun-1993)
Descending Angel (25-Nov-1990)
The Rescuers Down Under (16-Nov-1990) [VOICE]
The Exorcist III (17-Aug-1990) · Kinderman
The Ryan White Story (16-Jan-1989)
Pals (28-Feb-1987)
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (7-Dec-1986) · Auguste Dupin
The Last Days of Patton (14-Sep-1986)
The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt (3-Jun-1986) · Narrator [VOICE]
Choices (17-Feb-1986)
A Christmas Carol (Nov-1984) · Ebenezer Scrooge
Firestarter (11-May-1984) · John Rainbird
China Rose (18-Oct-1983)
Oliver Twist (23-Mar-1982)
Taps (11-Dec-1981)
The Formula (19-Dec-1980)
The Changeling (28-Mar-1980)
Hardcore (9-Feb-1979)
Movie Movie (Nov-1978)
Crossed Swords (17-Mar-1978)
Islands in the Stream (8-Aug-1977)
Beauty and the Beast (3-Dec-1976) · The Beast
The Hindenburg (25-Dec-1975) · Ritter
Fear on Trial (2-Oct-1975)
Bank Shot (Jul-1974) · Walter Upjohn Ballantine
The Savage is Loose (1974)
The Day of the Dolphin (19-Dec-1973) · Jake Terrell
Oklahoma Crude (3-Jul-1973)
Rage (22-Nov-1972)
The New Centurions (3-Aug-1972)
The Hospital (14-Dec-1971) · Dr. Bock
The Last Run (7-Jul-1971) · Harry Garmes
They Might Be Giants (9-Jun-1971)
Jane Eyre (24-Mar-1971)
Patton (4-Feb-1970) · Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
This Savage Land (1-Jul-1969) · Jud Barker
Petulia (10-Jun-1968) · Archie
The Flim-Flam Man (22-Aug-1967)
Not With My Wife, You Don’t! (2-Nov-1966) · Tank Martin
The Bible (28-Sep-1966)
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (31-Dec-1964) · Paolo Maltese
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (29-Jan-1964) · Gen. Buck Turgidson
The List of Adrian Messenger (29-May-1963)
The Power and the Glory (29-Oct-1961)
The Hustler (25-Sep-1961) · Bert Gordon
Anatomy of a Murder (1-Jul-1959) · Claude Dancer
The Hanging Tree (11-Feb-1959) · Dr. George Grubb

Happy Birthday Jean Arthur

Today is the 114th birthday of Jean Arthur.

NAME: Jean Arthur
OCCUPATION: Academic, Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: October 17, 1900
DEATH DATE: June 19, 1991
PLACE OF BIRTH: Plattsburgh, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Carmel, California
FULL NAME: Gladys Georgianna Greene

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jean Arthur was an American actress best known for her roles in films such as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and The More The Merrier.

American actress Jean Arthur was born on October 17, 1900 in Plattsburgh, New York. She started as a model before working in film. Born Gladys Georgianna Greene, she formed her stage name from her two heroes: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) and King Arthur. She appeared in small roles in silent films, and broke through when film began to incorporate sound. Her husky trademark voice in The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) won her fans and admirers. Arthur appeared in notable films such as You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) and The More The Merrier (1943) which earned her an Oscar nomination. In later years, Arthur starred in her own television series and taught drama at Vassar College. She died June 19, 1991 in Carmel, California.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Shane (24-Apr-1953) · Marian Starrett
A Foreign Affair (7-Jul-1948) · Phoebe Frost
The Impatient Years (7-Sep-1944)
A Lady Takes a Chance (19-Aug-1943)
The More the Merrier (26-Mar-1943) · Connie Milligan
The Talk of the Town (20-Aug-1942) · Nora Shelley
The Devil and Miss Jones (15-May-1941) · Mary
Arizona (25-Dec-1940) · Phoebe Titus
Too Many Husbands (7-Mar-1940) · Vicky Lowndes
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (17-Oct-1939) · Saunders
Only Angels Have Wings (12-May-1939) · Bonnie Lee
You Can’t Take It with You (23-Aug-1938) · Alice Sycamore
Easy Living (7-Jul-1937)
History Is Made at Night (5-Mar-1937) · Irene Vail
The Plainsman (1-Jan-1937) · Calamity Jane
More Than a Secretary (10-Dec-1936)
Adventure in Manhattan (8-Oct-1936) · Claire Peyton
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (13-May-1936) · Paula Bradford
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (12-Apr-1936) · Babe Bennett
If You Could Only Cook (25-Dec-1935) · Joan Hawthorne
Public Menace (24-Sep-1935) · Cassie
Diamond Jim (2-Sep-1935)
Public Hero #1 (16-May-1935) · Maria Theresa O’Reilly
Party Wire (27-Apr-1935)
The Whole Town’s Talking (22-Feb-1935) · Miss Clark
The Most Precious Thing in Life (5-Jun-1934)
Whirlpool (10-Apr-1934) · Sandy
The Silver Horde (25-Oct-1930) · Mildred Wayland
Danger Lights (21-Aug-1930)
The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (2-May-1930)
Paramount on Parade (22-Apr-1930)
The Saturday Night Kid (25-Oct-1929) · Janie
The Greene Murder Case (11-Aug-1929)
The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (10-Aug-1929)
The Canary Murder Case (16-Feb-1929)

Happy Birthday Linda Darnell

Today is the 89th birthday of Linda Darnell, a woman who’s success was at times overshadowed by her personal life.

NAME: Monetta Eloyse Darnell
BORN:  October 16, 1923
BIRTHPLACE: Dallas, TX
DIED: April 10, 1965
LOCATION OF DEATH: Chicago, IL

Linda Darnell was born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Dallas, Texas, one of five children of a post office worker and his wife. It was evident at an early age that she would be a ravishing beauty, and her mother encouraged her to model. By age 11 she was modeling clothes for an area department store. She had no trouble getting modeling jobs even at such a young age, mainly because her beauty was so striking that potential clients, agencies and even government officials would think she was five or six years older than she actually was–something that neither she nor her mother did anything to discourage.

By the time Linda was 13 she was acting in local theater companies and her talent was already becoming apparent. There was no doubt that Linda had a rare gift for someone so young. When the Hollywood studios sent scouts to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, her mother thought it would be a good idea to take Linda to a tryout. The talent scouts took one look at her and her acting abilities and arranged for a screen test. She made the trek to Hollywood, but when her real age became known she was sent home. After two years and more local theater appearances, Linda returned to California and her career was off and running.

Linda made her film debut in 1939 in the role of Marcia Bromley in Hotel for Women (1939). She was all of 16 at the time and became the youngest leading lady in Hollywood history. Her next film was Day-Time Wife (1939). Her third film was Star Dust (1940) made in 1940, in which she played Carolyn Ayres. Linda quickly ascended the ladder of stardom, and she began appearing in more expensive and better quality films, making a stunningly beautiful leading lady in the swashbuckling The Mark of Zorro (1940) opposite Tyrone Power. She worked with Power again in the hit Blood and Sand (1941) and held her own with Jack Oakie in the hilarious football comedy Rise and Shine (1941). In 1945 she played Netta Longdon in Hangover Square (1945), which proved to be a box-office bonanza. The following year Linda appeared with the legendary Lillian Gish in Centennial Summer (1946). Later that same year she co-starred with Henry Fonda and Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine (1946). It was another hit and garnered Linda some of the best reviews of her career. She scored another hit opposite Cornel Wilde in 1947’s Forever Amber (1947), in which she survived the notorious Great London Fire. In 1952 she starred in Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952) along with Irene Ryan, Robert Newton and William Bendix.

Linda’s final screen appearance was in the low-budget western Black Spurs (1965). She was married and divorced three times: to cinematographer J. Peverell Marley from 1944-1952, to Phillip Liebmann (a New York brewer) from 1954-1955 and to Merle Roy Robertson (an airline pilot) from 1957-1962. On April 10, 1965, Linda died from burns she received in a fire at the house of her former secretary. Ironically, she had been watching Star Dust (1940) on television, which was one of the films that set her career in motion, when the house caught fire. She had appeared in a total of 46 films. Often described as the “girl with the perfect face”, Linda Darnell died at the age of 41.

Happy Birthday Ed Wood

Today is the 90th birthday of Ed Wood. The phrase ‘before their time’ was coined for people like him. He is often referenced by widely popular and hugely successful current film directors as one of their major influences. Do yourself a favor and watch one of his films, you may see the films of John Waters and Quentin Tarantino in a different light.   Calling an Ed Wood script illogical is like saying dreams make no sense:  images and word went straight from his mind to the page.  His stream of consciousness dialog was like a ransom note pasted together from word randomly cut out of a Korean electronics manual.

NAME: Ed Wood
OCCUPATION: Director
BIRTH DATE: October 10, 1924
DEATH DATE: December 10, 1978
PLACE OF BIRTH: Poughkeepsie, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California
FULL NAME: Edward Davis Wood
BEST KNOWN FOR: Filmmaker and novelist Ed Wood is famous for his low-budget films of the 1950s like Plan 9 From Outer Space, which are celebrated today as sheer camp.

Movie Director, screenwriter, actor, and producer. Edward Davis Wood, Jr. was born on October 10, 1924 in Poughkeepsie, New York to Edward Sr., a postal worker and Lillian. It is said that Lillian always wanted a girl and until Ed, Jr., was 12-years-old she dressed him in girls’ clothing. Young Ed loved movies and eventually found a job as a cinema usher. He also learned several musical instruments and formed a singing quartet called Eddie Wood‘s Little Splinters. Ed Wood received his first movie camera on his 17th birthday and his first “film” records the crash of an airplane. When he was 17, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Wood enlisted in the Marines.

Upon his discharge from the Marines, Ed Wood pursued his love of the bizarre by joining the freak show of a carnival. At times, he played the part of the bearded lady and created his own prosthetic breasts. During the 1950s, he wrote, produced, and acted in a number of very low-budget science fiction, horror, and cowboy films. These films are celebrated today for their many obvious errors, cheap special effects, strange dialogue, miscasting, and crazy plots. Wood often struggled to make ends meet and was sometimes forced to churn out film scripts in one night to keep to schedules.

When his movie career began to wane, mostly from lack of funding, Ed Wood turned his prolific creative nature to the printed page, turning out sex novels, pulp fiction, and horror stories. The lack of money took its toll and Wood struggled with health issues, including an alcohol addiction. Eventually kicked out of their apartment, Wood and his wife, Kathleen O’Hara, moved in with a friend in North Hollywood. It was there that Wood died of a heart attack on December 10, 1978 at the age of 54.

Wood’s legacy and cult following lives on with, for example, the University of Southern California holding an annual “Ed Wood Film Festival” for which students are charged with writing, filming, and editing an Ed Wood-esque short film based on a predetermined theme. His movies has been spoofed on Mystery Theater 3000 and many have been remade as pornographic movies. Additionally, many of his bizarre transvestite-themed sex novels have been republished.

FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
The Sinister Urge (8-Dec-1960)
Night of the Ghouls (1959)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Bride of the Monster (11-May-1955)
Jail Bait (1954)
Glen or Glenda (1953)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Fugitive Girls (13-Jul-1974)
Glen or Glenda (1953) · Glen

Happy Birthday Buster Keaton

Today is the 119th birthday of Buster Keaton.  I absolutely adore his expressionlessness in everything.  And then, have you seen Sunset Boulevard?  I have put the clip below.  So great.

NAME: Buster Keaton
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: October 4, 1895
DEATH DATE: February 1, 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH: Piqua, Kansas
PLACE OF DEATH: Woodland Hills, California
NICKNAME: Great Stone Face
ORIGINALLY: Joseph Frank Keaton IV

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian and director Buster Keaton was popular for his pioneering silent comedies in the 1920s.

Actor, director. Considered one of the groundbreaking comedians of the early film era, Joseph Frank Keaton IV was born October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas. His parents, Joe and Myra, were both veteran vaudevillian actors and Keaton himself first began performing at the age of three when he was incorporated into their act.

As legend has it, he earned the name of “Buster” at the age of six months, after falling down a flight of stairs. Magician Harry Houdini scooped up the child and turning to the boy’s parents quipped, “What a buster.”

Keaton quickly grew used to being knocked around a bit. Working with his parents in an act that prided itself on being as rough as it was funny, Keaton was tossed around by his father frequently. During these performances Keaton would learn to display the deadpan look that would later become a hallmark of his comedy career.

“It was the roughest knockout act that was ever in the history of the theater,” he later said of the performances he did with his parents.

Even in Keaton’s first film, a 1917 two-reeler called “The Butcher Boy” starring Roscoe (“Fatty”) Arbuckle, Keaton was extreme slapstick, with the young actor getting subjected to range of abuses, from being submerged in molasses to getting bit by a dog.

Still, film called to Keaton and for the next two years he continued to work closely with Arbuckle for $40 a week. It was an apprenticeship of sorts and through it, Keaton was given full access to the movie making process.

In 1920 Keaton struck out on his own as a filmmaker, first with a series of two-reelers that included now classics such as The Cameraman, Steamboat Bill, Jr., and The Passionate Plumber. In 1923 Keaton started making full features such as The Three Ages (1923) and Sherlock, Jr. (1924). The line up also included perhaps his finest creation, The General (1927), which starred Keaton as a train engineer in the Civil War. Keaton was the full force behind the film, writing and directing it. But while movie proved initially to be a commercial disappointment it was later hailed as a pioneering piece of filmmaking.

Woven into his films of course, was Keaton’s trademark comedy, brilliant timing and patented facial expressions. In his early two-reelers the laughing making included a mastery of the slapstick pie.

His work also included Keaton’s penchant for doing his own stunts. He became somewhat of a Hollywood legend not just for his falls but his lack of injuries.

At the height of his career, which was in the mid 1920s, Keaton experienced some of the same kind of celebrity as another silent film star, Charlie Chaplin. His salary reached $3,500 a week and he eventually built a $300,000 home in Beverly Hills.

In 1928 Buster Keaton made the move that would later call the mistake of his life. With the advent of talkies, Keaton signed on with MGM, where he proceeded to make a string of new sound comedies that fared decently at the box office but lacked the kind of Keaton punch the filmmaker had come to expect from his work.

The reason for that largely stemmed from the fact that in signing in the deal, Keaton had forked over part of the filmmaking control to his bosses. His life quickly spiraled downward. His marriage to actress Natalie Talmadge, with whom he had two sons, fell apart and he became plagued with issues related to alcoholism and depression.

In 1934, with his contract with MGM now terminated, Keaton filed for bankruptcy. His listed assets totaled just $12,000. One year later he divorced his second wife, Mae Scribbens.

In 1940 Keaton’s life started to move upward again. He got married for a third time, to a 21-year-old dancer named Eleanor Morris, who many credited with bring him stability. The two would remain together until Keaton’s death in 1966.

A return to fame came in the 1950s, a revival that was sparked by British television, where the aging comedian appeared on a string of English programs. In the States, too, American audiences became reacquainted with Keaton after he played himself in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) and then in Chaplin’s Limelight (1952).

He also raised his profile through a string of American programs and commercials. In 1956 he was paid $50,000 by Paramount for the film rights to The Keaton Story, which follows the performer’s life from his vaudeville days through his work in Hollywood.

During this time film fans also rediscovered Keaton’s work from the silent film era. In 1962, Keaton, who’d retained full rights to his older films, reissued The General and watched with awe as it drew praise from fans and critics from all over Europe.

In October 1965 the Keaton comeback reached its height after he was invited to the Venice Film Festival, where he showed his latest project, Film, a 22-minute silent movie based on a Samuel Becket screenplay. Keaton had made movie the year before in New York. When the film concluded, Keaton received a five-minute standing ovation from the audience.

“This is the first time I’ve been invited to a film festival,” a teary-eyed Keaton proclaimed. “But I hope it won’t be the last.”

A survivor to the end, the hard working Keaton was, toward the end of his life making more than $100,000 a year just from doing commercials. In all, Keaton, who was honored in 1959 with a special Academy Award, claimed he had more work than he could handle.

Keaton, who suffered from cancer, passed away in his sleep in his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on February 1, 1966.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (16-Oct-1966) · Erronius
War Italian Style (20-Apr-1966)
Film (4-Sep-1965)
Sergeant Deadhead (18-Aug-1965)
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (14-Jul-1965) · Bwana
The Railrodder (20-Jun-1965)
Beach Blanket Bingo (14-Apr-1965) · Buster
Pajama Party (11-Nov-1964) · Chief Rotten Eagle
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (7-Nov-1963) · Jimmy
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (17-Jun-1960) · Lion Tamer
Around the World in Eighty Days (17-Oct-1956) · Train Conductor
Limelight (23-Oct-1952) · Calvero’s Partner
In the Good Old Summertime (29-Jul-1949) · Hickey
You’re My Everything (29-Jun-1949) · Butler
The Lovable Cheat (11-May-1949)
San Diego I Love You (29-Sep-1944)
Forever and a Day (21-Jan-1943)
Li’l Abner (1-Nov-1940)
The Villain Still Pursued Her (11-Oct-1940)
Hollywood Cavalcade (13-Oct-1939) · Himself
An Old Spanish Custom (1935)
Allez Oop (25-May-1934)
What! No Beer? (10-Feb-1933)
Speak Easily (13-Aug-1932) · Professor Timoleon Post
The Passionate Plumber (6-Feb-1932)
Sidewalks of New York (26-Sep-1931) · Homer Van Dine Harmon
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (28-Feb-1931)
Doughboys (30-Aug-1930)
Free and Easy (22-Mar-1930)
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (14-Aug-1929) · Himself
Spite Marriage (6-Apr-1929) · Elmer Gantry
The Cameraman (22-Sep-1928) · Buster
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (12-May-1928) · William Canfield, Jr.
College (10-Sep-1927) · A Son
The General (5-Feb-1927) · Johnny Gray
Battling Butler (19-Sep-1926)
Go West (1-Nov-1925) · Friendless
Seven Chances (11-Mar-1925) · James Shannon
The Navigator (13-Oct-1924)
Sherlock, Jr. (21-Apr-1924) · Sherlock, Jr.
Our Hospitality (19-Nov-1923) · Willie McKay
The Three Ages (24-Sep-1923) · The Boy
The Balloonatic (22-Jan-1923)
Daydreams (Nov-1922) · The Young Man
The Blacksmith (21-Jul-1922)
My Wife’s Relations (May-1922)
The Paleface (Jan-1922) · Paleface
The Boat (10-Nov-1921)
The Goat (15-May-1921)
The High Sign (18-Apr-1921) · Buster
Neighbors (22-Dec-1920)
The Scarecrow (22-Dec-1920)
The Saphead (18-Oct-1920)
One Week (1-Sep-1920)
The Garage (15-Dec-1919)
The Cook (15-Sep-1918)
The Bell Boy (18-Mar-1918)
Out West (20-Jan-1918)
Oh Doctor! (30-Sep-1917)
The Butcher Boy (23-Apr-1917)