Family Affair – Not So Secret Obsession

I remember that my sister and I really enjoyed this show in reruns.  It seemed like we were a bit obsessed with TV shows of that era, we loved My Three Sons, Bewitched, and Brady Bunch too.  I loved the doorknobs in the middle of the door, that must be what rich people have.  All the spinning gems at the opening seemed so extravagant.

family affair

Original channel: CBS
Original run: September 12, 1966 – September 9, 1971

Family Affair is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966 to September 9, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother’s orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis’ traditional English gentleman’s gentleman, Mr. Giles French (Sebastian Cabot), also had adjustments to make as he became saddled with the responsibility of caring for 15-year-old Cissy (Kathy Garver) and the 6-year-old twins, Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones).

The show ran for 138 episodes. Family Affair was created and produced by Don Fedderson, also known for My Three Sons and The Millionaire.

William “Bill” Davis, originally of Terre Haute, Indiana, is a successful civil engineer who develops major projects all over the world. A wealthy bachelor often dating socialites, he lives in a large Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan, and has a quintessential gentleman’s gentleman, Giles French. However, his quiet lifestyle is turned upside-down when his two nieces and nephew move in.

Bill’s brother Bob and sister-in-law Mary had died in an automobile accident a year prior to the premiere episode. Their children, teen Cissy and her young twin siblings Buffy and Jody, had been dispersed among relatives in Terre Haute, but none wanted to continue raising the children, so they attempt to give the responsibility to Bill. “Uncle Bill” is not keen on the idea at first, but the children endear themselves to him. First Buffy comes along, followed by Jody, and finally Cissy. Initially mortified by the situation is Mr. French, who effectively becomes the children’s nanny, on top of his valet duties. However as time passes they all become a family, albeit an accidental one.

When Sebastian Cabot became ill, Giles’s brother, Nigel “Niles” French (John Williams) was introduced, working for the Davis family for nine episodes in 1967 while Giles is said to be in England visiting the Queen. In the last season, Bill hires a part-time housekeeper, Emily Turner (Nancy Walker) to assist Mr. French.

Various other characters were also seen regularly, including several acquaintances of Mr. French who are in service (most notably Miss Faversham (Heather Angel), colleagues of Bill, and friends of Cissy.

As discussed by Kathy Garver on the final season’s DVD features, the show’s cast suffered several deaths. Anissa Jones died of a drug overdose in 1976 at age 18. Sebastian Cabot died of a stroke in 1977 at age 59. In 1997, two months after the suicide of his daughter, and having lived with cancer for some time, Brian Keith committed suicide by gunshot. In 2002, Gregg Fedderson died of cancer at age 53. Cancer also claimed the lives of Heather Angel in 1986 and Nancy Walker in 1992. John Williams died in 1983. Both Phil Ober and John Hubbard, who portrayed Bill Davis’ business partner, Ted Gaynor, are also deceased.

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.

 

Happy Birthday Cher

Today is the 68th birthday of Cher.  Love her or love her, there are any number of reasons you love her more, any decade that you love more, any humanitarian cause you love more, but you love her.  She is bad ass at everything she does, be it a Vegas show that would kill performers half her age or calling into C-SPAN to support body armor for our troops.  You love her, it is in our American DNA to love her.

 

NAME: Cher
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Singer
BIRTH DATE: May 20, 1946
PLACE OF BIRTH: El Centro, California
ORIGINALLY: Cherilyn Sarkisian

BEST KNOWN FOR: Equally famous for her unusual outfits as for her musical talent, Cher is a singer and actress who got her start as half of Sonny and Cher in the 1960s.

Cher  (born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946) is an American recording artist, television personality, actress, director, record producer and philanthropist. Referred to as the Goddess of Pop, she has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival Award among others for her work in film, music and television. She is the only person in history to have received all of these awards. Cher began her career as a backup singer and later came to prominence as one half of the pop rock duo Sonny & Cher with the success of their song “I Got You Babe” in 1965. She subsequently established herself as a solo recording artist, and became a television star in 1971 with The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, a variety show for which she won a Golden Globe. A well received performance in the film Silkwood earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress of 1983. In the following years, Cher starred in a string of hit films including Mask, The Witches of Eastwick, and Moonstruck, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1987.

Cher, throughout a career spanning over 45 years, has broken many records. She is the only artist to reach number one on the Billboard charts in each of the previous six decades. Her hit dance single “Believe” is her biggest-selling recording and was the best-selling single of 1999, having sold over 10 million copies worldwide. She holds the Hot 100 record for the longest hit-making career span, with 33 years between the release of her first and most recent Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles, in 1965 and 1999 and 45 years between her first and most recent #1 ranking on any Billboard chart Cher ended her 3-year-long “Farewell Tour” in 2005 as the most successful tour by a female solo artist of all time. Cher has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. After a three-year hiatus and retirement from touring, Cher returned to the stage in May 2008 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where she performed her show Cher at the Colosseum until February 2011. Cher has a deep contralto vocal range.

Unlike her late ex-husband Sonny Bono, Cher has always been a staunch Democrat. She has attended and performed at Democratic Party conventions and events. Today, she considers herself a Democrat by default, but more of an Independent. Cher has always defined herself as an anti-war activist; she demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and the video for “Turn Back Time” in 1989 was sometimes interpreted as an admonition against the military: “Make love, not war.”  On October 27, 2003, Cher anonymously called a C-SPAN phone-in program. She recounted a visit she had made to maimed soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and criticized the lack of media coverage and government attention given to injured servicemen.  She also remarked that she watches C-SPAN every day. Though she simply identified herself as an unnamed entertainer with the USO, she was recognized by the C-SPAN host.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2006, Cher called in again, endorsing Operation Helmet, an organization started by a doctor that provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to those ordered to deploy in the near future. She identified herself as a caller from Malibu, California, and proceeded to complain about the current presidential administration. She read aloud a letter from a soldier on the ground in Iraq, praising Operation Helmet’s efforts, and decrying the lack of protection afforded by the military’s provisions for troops. It has been reported that Cher has so far donated over US$130,000 to Operation Helmet.

 

 

 

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Grace Jones – Style Icon

Today is the 62nd birthday of the absolutely ageless Grace Jones.  I first experienced her when she and Adam Ant made a Honda Elite Scooter commercial.  I thought they were both the coolest people I had ever seen.

Birth name: Grace Jones
Born: 19 May 1952  Linstead, St. Catherine, Jamaica
Occupations: actress, singer/songwriter, model, artist

Grace Jones (born May 19, 1952) is a Jamaican-American singer, model and actress.
Jones started out as a model and became a muse to Andy Warhol, who photographed her extensively. During that era she regularly went to the New York City nightclub Studio 54. Grace secured a record deal with Island Records in 1977, which resulted in a string of dance-club hits. In the late 1970s, she adapted the emerging electronic music style and adopted a severe, androgynous look with square-cut hair and angular, padded clothes. Many of her the singles were hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Dance Airplay charts, for example 1981 “Pull Up to the Bumper“, which spent seven weeks at #2 on the U.S. dance chart. Jones was able to find mainstream success in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, scoring a number of Top 40 entries on the UK Singles Chart. Her most notable albums are Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing and Slave to the Rhythm, while her biggest hits (other than “Pull Up to the Bumper”) are “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango)”, “Private Life”, “Slave to the Rhythm” and “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”.

Jones is also an actress. Her acting occasionally overshadowed her musical output in America; but not in Europe, where her profile as a recording artist was much higher. She appeared in some low-budget films in the 1970s and early 1980s. Her work as an actress in mainstream film began in the 1984 fantasy-action film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill. In 1986 she played a vampire in Vamp, and both acted in and contributed a song to the 1992 film Boomerang with Eddie Murphy. In 2001, she appeared in Wolf Girl alongside Tim Curry.

grace-jones

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Happy Birthday Studs Terkel

It is the 102nd birthday of writer and broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel, born in the Bronx, New York . His family moved to Chicago when Terkel was 10 years old and his parents ran rooming houses. Terkel remembers all different kinds of people moving through the rooming houses — dissidents, labor organizers, religions fanatics — and that that exposure helped build his knowledge of the outside world.

Terkel said: “Why are we born? We’re born eventually to die, of course. But what happens between the time we’re born and we die? We’re born to live. One is a realist if one hopes.”

And, “With optimism, you look upon the sunny side of things. People say, ‘Studs, you’re an optimist.’ I never said I was an optimist. I have hope because what’s the alternative to hope? Despair? If you have despair, you might as well put your head in the oven.”

And, “I’ve always felt, in all my books, that there’s a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence — providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.”

NAME: Studs Terkel
OCCUPATION: Radio Talk Show Host, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: May 16, 1912
DEATH DATE: October 31, 2008
EDUCATION: University of Chicago Law School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Chicago, Illinois
ORIGINALLY: Louis Turkel

BEST KNOWN FOR: Studs Terkel was an American radio personality, interviewer and author who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans.

Born May 16, 1912, New York City. Lois Terkel, commonly known as “Studs,” interviewed the common man, probing everyday people for personal narratives about their lives and the historic moments during which they lived. He was a master of pulling out peoples’ best stories, and as such, established oral history as a respected genre.

At the age of 10, Studs Terkel moved with his family to Chicago. Arriving in the Windy City his parents, Samuel and Anna, opened a rooming house which sheltered people from all walks of life. Terkel later credited his curiosity and comfort with the world’s people to the many tenants he met there. “The thing I’m able to do, I guess, is break down walls,” he once told an interviewer. “If they think you’re listening, they’ll talk. It’s more of a conversation than an interview.”

After earning a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1934, he married Ida Goldberg, to whom he stayed wed to the rest of his life. Terkel never pursued a career in law, but instead was hired by the radio division of the WPA’s Federal Writers Project. Before long, he was asked to read a script, play parts in radio soap operas, and read the news. After a short stint in the Air Force, he returned to Chicago and continued writing radio shows and ads.

In 1944, Terkel landed his own program on WENR, the Wax Museum Show. A kind of variety program, he used the time to share his love of folk music, jazz, blues, and any number of other audible curios. A year later, he had his own television show called Stud’s Place, an improvised sitcom where he began developing what later became his interviewing style. People listened and watched, finding his love for the every-man endearing and entertaining.

The Studs Terkel Show first aired on Chicago’s WFMT in 1952. Terkel mostly played music, but slowly introduced his listeners to interviews with both famous and unknown characters. The program eventually became the award-winning The Studs Terkel Program, which ran for 35 years.

In 1956, Terkel published his first book, Giants of Jazz. A decade later, he put out his first book of oral history interviews, Division Street: America, following it with a succession of oral history works. His book were mostly based on interviews with everyday Americans around a single topic. His 1985 book The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two, which detailed ordinary peoples’ accounts of the country’s involvement in World War II, won the Pulitzer Prize. His last oral history book, which came out just after his wife died, was Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith (2001). Terkel continued to interview people and make public appearances into his 90s. His last book, P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening was released in November 2008.

Terkel died of health complications on October 31, 2008, after a fall in his home. He was 96 years old. Shortly before his death, he requested that his ashes be mixed with those of his wife, and scattered in Bughouse Square, a park near his childhood home. “My father lived a long, satisfying and fulfilling but tempestuous life,” Dan Terkel told the Chicago Tribune after his father’s passing. “It was a life well lived.”

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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 Bette Davis

Today is the 109th birthday of Bette Davis.  You have seen All About Eve, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, and maybe even Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and The Nanny.  But have you seen Madame Sin, Return From Witch Mountain or her episode of To Catch a Thief?  You must.

“But you ARE, Blanche. You ARE in that chair.”

NAME: Bette Davis
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: April 05, 1908
DEATH DATE: October 06, 1989
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lowell, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Bette Davis is one of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies, whose raw, unbridled intensity kept her at the top of her profession for 50 years.

Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.

After appearing in Broadway plays, Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930, but her early films for Universal Studios were unsuccessful. She joined Warner Bros. in 1932 and established her career with several critically acclaimed performances. In 1937, she attempted to free herself from her contract and although she lost a well-publicized legal case, it marked the beginning of the most successful period of her career. Until the late 1940s, she was one of American cinema‘s most celebrated leading ladies, known for her forceful and intense style. Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative, and confrontations with studio executives, film directors and costars were often reported. Her forthright manner, clipped vocal style and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona which has often been imitated and satirized.

Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, was the first person to accrue 10 Academy Award nominations for acting, and was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and thrice divorced, and raised her children as a single parent. Her final years were marred by a long period of ill health, but she continued acting until shortly before her death from breast cancer, with more than 100 films, television and theater roles to her credit. In 1999, Davis was placed second, after Katharine Hepburn, on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of all time.

In 1964, Jack Warner spoke of the “magic quality that transformed this sometimes bland and not beautiful little girl into a great artist”, and in a 1988 interview, Davis remarked that, unlike many of her contemporaries, she had forged a career without the benefit of beauty.[83] She admitted she was terrified during the making of her earliest films and that she became tough by necessity. “Until you’re known in my profession as a monster, you are not a star”, she said, “[but] I’ve never fought for anything in a treacherous way. I’ve never fought for anything but the good of the film.” During the making of All About Eve, (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz told her of the perception in Hollywood that she was difficult, and she explained that when the audience saw her on screen, they did not consider that her appearance was the result of numerous people working behind the scenes. If she was presented as “a horse’s ass … forty feet wide, and thirty feet high”, that is all the audience “would see or care about”.

While lauded for her achievements, Davis and her films were sometimes derided; Pauline Kael described Now, Voyager (1942) as a “shlock classic”, and by the mid-1940s her sometimes mannered and histrionic performances had become the subject of caricature. Edwin Schallert for the Los Angeles Times praised Davis’s performance in Mr. Skeffington (1944), while observing, “the mimics will have more fun than a box of monkeys imitating Miss Davis“, and Dorothy Manners at the Los Angeles Examiner said of her performance in the poorly received Beyond the Forest (1949), “no night club caricaturist has ever turned in such a cruel imitation of the Davis mannerisms as Bette turns on herself in this one”. Time magazine noted that Davis was compulsively watchable even while criticizing her acting technique, summarizing her performance in Dead Ringer (1964) with the observation, “her acting, as always, isn’t really acting: it’s shameless showing off. But just try to look away!”

She attracted a following in the gay subculture and was frequently imitated by female impersonators such as Tracey Lee and Charles Pierce.[89] Attempting to explain her popularity with gay audiences, the journalist Jim Emerson wrote, “Was she just a camp figurehead because her brittle, melodramatic style of acting hadn’t aged well? Or was it that she was ‘Larger Than Life,’ a tough broad who had survived? Probably some of both.”

Her film choices were often unconventional; she sought roles as manipulators and killers in an era when actresses usually preferred to play sympathetic characters, and she excelled in them. She favored authenticity over glamour and was willing to change her own appearance if it suited the character. Claudette Colbert commented that Davis was the first actress to play roles older than herself, and therefore did not have to make the difficult transition to character parts as she aged.

As she entered old age, Davis was acknowledged for her achievements. John Springer, who had arranged her speaking tours of the early 1970s, wrote that despite the accomplishments of many of her contemporaries, Davis was “the star of the thirties and into the forties”, achieving notability for the variety of her characterizations and her ability to assert herself, even when her material was mediocre. Individual performances continued to receive praise; in 1987, Bill Collins analyzed The Letter (1940), and described her performance as “a brilliant, subtle achievement”, and wrote, “Bette Davis makes Leslie Crosbie one of the most extraordinary females in movies.” In a 2000 review for All About Eve, (1950) Roger Ebert noted, “Davis was a character, an icon with a grand style, so even her excesses are realistic.”[92] In 2006, Premiere magazine ranked her portrayal of Margo Channing in the film as fifth on their list of “100 Greatest Performances of All Time”, commenting, “There is something deliciously audacious about her gleeful willingness to play such unattractive emotions as jealousy, bitterness, and neediness.” While reviewing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) in 2008, Ebert asserted that “no one who has seen the film will ever forget her.”

A few months before her death in 1989, Davis was one of several actors featured on the cover of Life magazine. In a film retrospective that celebrated the films and stars of 1939, Life concluded that Davis was the most significant actress of her era, and highlighted Dark Victory (1939) as one of the most-important films of the year. Her death made front-page news throughout the world as the “close of yet another chapter of the Golden Age of Hollywood”. Angela Lansbury summed up the feeling of those of the Hollywood community who attended her memorial service, commenting after a sample from Davis’s films were screened, that they had witnessed “an extraordinary legacy of acting in the twentieth century by a real master of the craft”, that should provide “encouragement and illustration to future generations of aspiring actors”.

In 1977, Davis became the first woman to be honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 1999, the American Film Institute published its list of the “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars“, which was the result of a film-industry poll to determine the “50 Greatest American Screen Legends” in order to raise public awareness and appreciation of classic film. Of the 25 actresses listed, Davis was ranked at number two, behind Katharine Hepburn.

The United States Postal Service honored Davis with a commemorative postage stamp in 2008, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth. The stamp features an image of her in the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950). The First Day of Issue celebration took place September 18, 2008, at Boston University, which houses an extensive Bette Davis archive. Featured speakers included her son Michael Merrill and Lauren Bacall.

In 1997, the executors of her estate, Michael Merrill, her son, and Kathryn Sermak, her former assistant, established “The Bette Davis Foundation” which awards college scholarships to promising actors and actresses.

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