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 Lucille Ball

Today is the 103rd birthday of Lucille Ball.

NAME: Lucille Ball
OCCUPATION: Actress
BIRTH DATE: August 06, 1911
DEATH DATE: April 26, 1989
EDUCATION: John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Jamestown, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Lucille Ball was a comedienne and actress and the star of the pioneering sitcoms “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucille Ball Show” and “Here’s Lucy.”

I’m not funny. What I am is brave.

Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American comedienne, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy and Life With Lucy. One of the most popular and influential stars in the United States during her lifetime, with one of Hollywood’s longest careers, especially on television, Ball began acting in the 1930s, becoming both a radio actress and B-movie star in the 1940s, and then a television star during the 1950s. She was still making films in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1962, Ball became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu; a studio that produced many successful and popular television series.

Ball was nominated for an Emmy Award thirteen times, and won four times. In 1977 Ball was among the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award. She was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986 and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.

In 1929, Ball landed work as a model and later began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Diane Belmont. She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures. Ball was labeled as the “Queen of the Bs” (referring to her many roles in B-films). In 1951, Ball was pivotal in the creation of the television series I Love Lucy. The show co-starred her then-husband, Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo, Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz and William Frawley as Fred Mertz. The Mertzs were the Ricardos’ landlords and friends. The show ended in 1957 after 180 episodes. Then, some minor adjustments were made to the program’s format – the time of the show was lengthened from 30 minutes to 60 minutes (the first show lasted 75 mins), some new characters were added, the storyline was altered, and the show was renamed The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which ran for three seasons (1957–1960) and 13 episodes. Ball went on to star in two more successful television series: The Lucy Show, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1968 (156 Episodes), and Here’s Lucy from 1968 to 1974 (144 episodes). Her last attempt at a television series was a 1986 show called Life with Lucy – which failed after 8 episodes aired, although 13 were produced.

Ball met and eloped with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940. On July 17, 1951, at almost 40 years old, Ball gave birth to their first child, Lucie Désirée Arnaz. A year and a half later, Ball gave birth to their second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, known as Desi Arnaz, Jr. Ball and Arnaz divorced on May 4, 1960.

On April 26, 1989, Ball died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm at age 77. At the time of her death she was married to her second husband and business partner, standup comedian Gary Morton for more than twenty-seven years.

Happy Birthday Paul Lynde

Today is the 88th birthday of Paul Lynde.  He had a lengthy and varied career, but I remember him best as Uncle Arthur.  Also, there is a very very cult following of Halloween episode of The Paul Lynde Show.  I included a link below.  I cannot even prepare you for the experience.

Peter Marshall: Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?
Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

NAME: Paul Lynde
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Game Show Host
BIRTH DATE: June 13, 1926
DEATH DATE: January 10, 1982
EDUCATION: Northwestern University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Mount Vernon, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor Paul Lynde is best known for his work on the fledgling game show Hollywood Squares, where he worked for 15 years.

Paul Lynde studied drama with classmates Charlotte Rae, Patricia O’Neal and Charlton Heston. He moved to New York in 1948 to hone his comedic skills by performing stand-up routines. In 1960 he was cast as the father of a star-struck teenager in the Broadway production Bye, Bye Birdie, the success of which led to the recording of a comedy album and regular spots on The Perry Como Show.

Actor. Born June 13, 1926, in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Lynde attended Northwestern University, where he studied drama with classmates Charlotte Rae, Patricia O’Neal, and Charlton Heston. In 1948, upon his graduation, he moved to New York and honed his comedic skills by performing stand-up routines.

In the early 1950s, Lynde landed a role in a Broadway revue New Faces of 1952. Featuring the now-classic monologue “The Trip of the Month Club,” Lynde was singled out for his manic portrayal of a hapless but determinedly upbeat survivor of a tourist trip to Africa. Despite an auspicious Broadway debut, Lynde did not return to stage work for quite some time. Over the next eight years, he made guest appearances on variety and radio shows.

In 1960, Lynde was cast as the father of a star-struck teenager in the Broadway production Bye, Bye Birdie a role that he reprised in the 1963 film adaptation, which starred Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margaret. For Lynde, the success of Bye, Bye Birdie led to the recording of a comedy album and regular spots on The Red Buttons Show and The Perry Como Show.

Over the next few years, Lynde appeared in supporting roles in lighthearted films like Under the Yum-Yum Tree (1963), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). Lynde forged a lucrative career as a character actor with parts on the popular TV series The Munsters, I Dream of Jeanie, and Bewitched. In 1967, he debuted on the fledgling game show Hollywood Squares, where, as the permanent center square, he found an outlet to showcase his comedic talents for the next 15 years.

In 1972, playing an uptight attorney and father at odds with his liberal-minded son, Lynde starred in the short-lived sitcom The Paul Lynde Show. The series’ failure exacerbated Lynde’s pre-existing drinking problem, which led to numerous run-ins with the law and frequent arrests for public intoxication.

On January 10, 1982, at the age of 55, Paul Lynde died of a massive heart attack brought on by years of substance abuse.

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 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 Shirley MacLaine

Today is Shirley MacLaine’s 80th birthday .I love her in “Trouble With Harry” and “Sweet Charity” and “Postcards from the Edge” and “Terms of Endearment” and “Steel Magnolias” and on and on and on.NAME: Shirley MacLaine
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Television Actress, Ballet Dancer, Singer, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: April 24, 1934
PLACE OF BIRTH: Richmond, Virginia
ORIGINALLY: Shirley MacLean Beaty

BEST KNOWN FOR: American actress Shirley MacLaine is well known for leading role in the 1983 film Terms of Endearment, as well as her beliefs in reincarnation.

Shirley MacLean Beaty (known professionally as Shirley MacLaine; April 24, 1934) is an American film and theater actress, singer, dancer, activist and author, well-known for her beliefs in New Age spirituality and reincarnation. She has written a large number of autobiographical works, many dealing with her spiritual beliefs as well as her Hollywood career. In 1983, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Terms of Endearment. She was nominated for an Academy Award five times before her win. Her younger brother is Warren Beatty but they have never appeared in the same film.

MacLaine made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), for which she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year – Actress. In 1956, she had roles in Hot Spell and Around the World in Eighty Days. At the same time she starred in Some Came Running, the film that gave her her first Academy Award nomination – one of five that the film received – and a Golden Globe nomination.

Her second nomination came two years later for The Apartment, starring with Jack Lemmon. The film won five Oscars, including Best Director for Billy Wilder. She later said, “I thought I would win for The Apartment, but then Elizabeth Taylor had a tracheotomy”. She starred in The Children’s Hour (1961) also starring Audrey Hepburn, based on the play by Lillian Hellman. She was again nominated, this time for Irma la Douce (1963), for which she reunited with Wilder and Lemmon. Don Siegel, her director on Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), in which she starred opposite Clint Eastwood, once said, “It’s hard to feel any great warmth to her. She’s too unfeminine and has too much balls. She’s very, very hard.”

In 1975, she received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature for her documentary film The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir. Two years later, she was once again nominated for The Turning Point co-starring Anne Bancroft, in which she portrayed a retired ballerina much like herself. In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In 1980, she starred in A Change of Seasons alongside Anthony Hopkins. The pair famously didn’t get along and Hopkins said “she was the most obnoxious actress I have ever worked with.” In 1983, she won an Oscar for Terms of Endearment. The film won another four Oscars; one for Jack Nicholson and three for director James L. Brooks. In 1988, MacLaine won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) for Madame Sousatzka.

She continued to star in major films, such as Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts and many other stars. She made her feature-film directorial debut in Bruno, MacLaine starred as Helen in this film, which was released to video as The Dress Code. In 2007, she completed Closing the Ring, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Christopher Plummer. Other notable films in which MacLaine has starred include Sweet Charity (1968), Being There (1979) with Peter Sellers, Postcards From the Edge (1990) with actress Meryl Streep, playing a fictionalized version of Debbie Reynolds with a screenplay by Reynolds’s daughter, Carrie Fisher, Used People with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, Guarding Tess (1994) with Nicolas Cage, Mrs. Winterbourne (1996), with actress and talk show host, Ricki Lake and actor Brendan Fraser, Rumor Has It… (2005) with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston and In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz.

MacLaine has also appeared in numerous television projects including an autobiographical miniseries based upon the book Out on a Limb, The Salem Witch Trials, These Old Broads written by Carrie Fisher and co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Joan Collins, and Coco, a Lifetime production based on the life of Coco Chanel. She also had a short-lived sitcom called Shirley’s World. She will be appearing in the third series of the British drama Downton Abbey as Martha Levinson, mother to Cora, Countess of Grantham.

MacLaine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1165 Vine Street.

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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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Happy Birthday Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers would be 86 today.  He was the kindest, most gentle adult that most kids my age every knew.  He spoke to us as people and inspired us to think about our feelings.  He taught us empathy and compassion.  He changed our lives and the world is a better place because of him.  Ladies and gentlemen, Fred Rogers.  Style Icon.

NAME: Fred McFeely Rogers
OCCUPATION: Minister, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: March 20, 1928
DEATH DATE: February 27, 2003
EDUCATION: Rollins College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
PLACE OF BIRTH: Latrobe, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
AKA: Mister Rogers

BEST KNOWN FOR: The much-loved host of the public television show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran on PBS from 1968 to 2001.

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host. Rogers was most famous for creating and hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001), that featured his gentle, soft-spoken personality and directness to his audiences.

Initially educated to be a minister, Rogers was displeased with the way television addressed children and made an effort to change this when he began to write for and perform on local Pittsburgh-area shows dedicated to youth. The Public Broadcasting System developed his own nationally-aired show in 1968 and, over the course of three decades on television, he became an indelible American icon of children’s entertainment and education, as well as a symbol of compassion, patience, and morality. He was also known for his advocacy of various public causes. His testimony before a lower court in favor of time shifting was cited in a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Betamax case, and he gave now-famous testimony to a U.S. Senate committee, advocating government funding for children’s television.

Rogers was honored extensively for his life work in children’s education. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor; a Peabody Award for his career; and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Two resolutions recognizing his work were unanimously passed by U.S. Congress, one of his trademark sweaters was acquired and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution, and several buildings and works of art in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory.

In 1996, Mister Fred Rogers was ranked #35 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

I’m not that interested in ‘mass’ communications. I’m much more interested in what happens between this person and the one person watching. The space between the television set and that person who’s watching is very holy ground.

These two clips will remind you of his power and vision and stay with you the whole day:

In 1997, Fred Rogers was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Emmys. His acceptance speech is one of the most gentle, moving, humble, and powerful statements I’ve seen in a long time. Even the way he accepts the award from Tim Robbins — in a gentle, curious manner, just standing back and calmly smiling at the crowd — it’s amazing. As the clip ends, his standing ovation begins.

His speech that he made before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture.

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Happy Birthday David Lynch

Today is the 68th birthday of David Lynch.  He is the only living director that I will see anything he does.  He makes films that are so achingly beautiful and moderately disturbing that compel me to watch and re-watch them, every time, I see something new.

NAME: David Lynch
OCCUPATION: Director
BIRTH DATE: January 20, 1946
PLACE OF BIRTH: Missoula, Montana

BEST KNOWN FOR:  David Lynch is a film director and screenwriter known for his dark, offbeat films, notable Blue Velvet and Eraserhead.

David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed “Lynchian“, and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound design. The surreal, and in many cases violent, elements to his films have earned them the reputation that they “disturb, offend or mystify” their audiences.

Born to a middle class family in Missoula, Montana, Lynch spent his childhood traveling around the United States, before going on to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he first made the transition to producing short films. Deciding to devote himself more fully to this medium, he moved to Los Angeles, where he produced his first motion picture, the surrealist horror Eraserhead (1977). After Eraserhead became a cult classic on the midnight movie circuit, Lynch was employed to direct The Elephant Man (1980), from which he gained mainstream success. Then being employed by the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, he proceeded to make two films: the science-fiction epic Dune (1984), which proved to be a critical and commercial failure, and then a neo-noir crime film, Blue Velvet (1986), which was highly critically acclaimed.

Proceeding to create his own television series with Mark Frost, the highly popular murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–1992), he also created a cinematic prequel, Fire Walk With Me (1992); a road movie, Wild at Heart (1990) and a family film, The Straight Story (1999), in the same period. Turning further towards surrealist filmmaking, three of his following films worked on “dream logic” non-linear narrative structures, Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006). Meanwhile, Lynch proceeded to embrace the internet as a medium, producing several web-based shows, such as the animation Dumbland (2002) and the surreal sitcom Rabbits (2002).

In the course of his career, Lynch has received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, and a nomination for best screenplay. Lynch has twice won France’s César Award for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival. The French government awarded him the Legion of Honor, the country’s top civilian honor, as a Chevalier in 2002 and then an Officier in 2007, while that same year, The Guardian described Lynch as “the most important director of this era”. Allmovie called him “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking”, whilst the success of his films have led to him being labelled “the first popular Surrealist.”

Lynch is an avid coffee drinker and even has his own line of special organic blends available for purchase on his website. Called “David Lynch Signature Cup”, the coffee has been advertised via flyers included with several recent Lynch-related DVD releases, including Inland Empire and the Gold Box edition of Twin Peaks. The possibly self-mocking tag-line for the brand is “It’s all in the beans … and I’m just full of beans.” This is also a quote of a line said by Justin Theroux’s character in Inland Empire.

 

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