Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck

This week marks the 107th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck.

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Eva Marie Saint

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Hedda Hopper

Today is the 124th birthday of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

NAME: Hedda Hopper
OCCUPATION: Theater Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: June 2, 1890
DEATH DATE: February 1, 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California
ORIGINALLY: Elda Furry

BEST KNOWN FOR: Hedda Hopper, a woman with amazing hats, was an American gossip columnists during the first half of the 1900s. She was also an actress and radio personality.

Gossip columist and actress Elda Furry, better known as Hedda Hopper, was born on June 2, 1890, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. One of nine children, Furry studied singing at the Carter Conservatory of Music in Pittsburgh during high school.

At the age of 18, she ran away after her Quaker parents rejected her plans to pursue a career in musical theater. She worked as a chorus girl and appeared in amateur theater productions before making her Broadway debut in 1909 in a small role in The Motor Girl. In 1913, Furry appeared with the popular comedic actor, and notorious womanizer, DeWolf Hopper in the musical comedy A Matinee Idol. Later that same year, she became Hopper’s much-older fifth wife.

She took the name Hedda Hopper in 1919; the first name was reportedly chosen by a numerologist. After making her big screen debut in the 1916 silent film The Battle of Hearts, Hopper found success in Hollywood as a character actress for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), appearing in over 100 films over the next three decades. In 1922, she and DeWolf Hopper divorced.

By the mid-1930s, Hopper was working as a freelance actress (without a studio contract) and her film career had fallen into a slump. Her famous sense of style and outspoken personality led to jobs at Elizabeth Arden cosmetics and as a fashion commentator on a Hollywood radio station. In 1937, the Esquire Feature Syndicate was looking for a Hollywood columnist and found one in Hopper. Untried, her column was sold to 13 papers and a career was launched.

When the column began appearing in the prestigious Los Angeles Times, her status shot upward and her power grew. Her column appeared in 85 metropolitan papers, 3,000 small-town dailies, and 2,000 weeklies. When she replaced John Chapman at The New York Daily News, she picked up an additional audience of 5,750,000 daily and 7,500,000 on Sunday. She appeared on weekly radio shows and wrote two best sellers: From Under My Hat and The Whole Truth and Nothing But.

Hedda’s large, flamboyant hats became her trademarks–she reportedly bought about 150 new hats a year. Hopper also acquired a reputation for journalistic bitchiness, which actually made her more popular. She took on anything or anyone who went against her set of “American” values. She doggedly spoke out against the threat of communism, real or imagined, in Hollywood. During the infamous “blacklisting” era, she destroyed the reputations of many people with hearsay.

She badgered Charlie Chaplin about the way he used women and America. She blasted Louis B. Mayer for lacking generosity. Her 10-year feud with her rival columnist Louella Parsons was legendary.  After publishing a “blind item” on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s relationship, Tracy confronted her at Ciro’s and kicked her in the rear.  Similarly, after she had printed a story about an extramarital affair between Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin, Cotten ran into Hopper at a social event and pulled out her chair, only to continue pulling it out from under her when she sat down.

Hopper never remarried and lived to see her son, William (Bill) DeWolf Hopper Jr., achieve success as Paul Drake on the TV drama Perry Mason.

She died of pneumonia in 1966.  She is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery,Altoona, Pennsylvania.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hopper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313½ Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

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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 Sarah Vaughan

NAME: Sarah Vaughan
OCCUPATION: Pianist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: March 27, 1924
DEATH DATE: April 03, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Newark, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Hidden Hills, California
FULL NAME: Sarah Lois Vaughan
NICKNAME: Sassy
NICKNAME: The Divine One
AKA: Sarah Vaughan

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan performed with big bands before becoming a solo artist. She is known for singing “Send in the Clowns” and “Broken-Hearted Melody.”

Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924. Outside of their regular jobs—as a carpenter and as a laundress—her parents were also musicians. Growing up in Newark, a young Sarah Vaughan studied the piano and organ, and her voice could be heard as a soloist at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Vaughan’s first step toward becoming a professional singer was taken at a talent contest held at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where many African-American music legends made their name. After being dared to enter, she won the 1942 competition with her rendition of “Body and Soul.” She also caught the attention of another vocalist, Billy Eckstine, who persuaded Earl Hines to hire Vaughan to sing with his orchestra.

In 1944, Vaughan left Hines to join Eckstine’s new band. Also working with Eckstine were trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie Parker, who introduced the group to a new form of jazz, known as bebop. An inspired Vaughan brought bebop into her singing, which can be heard in the 1945 recording of “Lover Man” that she made with Parker and Gillespie.

After performing with Eckstine’s orchestra for a year, Vaughan briefly worked with John Kirby before leaving big bands behind to become a solo artist (though she often reunited with Eckstine for duets). Having already been given the nickname “Sassy” as a commentary on her onstage style, it was while striking out on her own that she was dubbed “The Divine One” by a DJ in Chicago. In the late 1940s, her popular recordings included “If You Could See Me Now” and “It’s Magic.”

The next decade saw Vaughan produce more pop music, though when she joined Mercury Records she also recorded jazz numbers on a subsidiary label, EmArcy. She sang hits like “Whatever Lola Wants” (1955), “Misty” (1957) and “Broken-Hearted Melody” (1959), which sold more than a million copies. Vaughan gave concerts in the United States and Europe, and her singing was also heard in films such as Disc Jockey (1951) and Basin Street Revue (1956).

After the 1950s, shifting musical tastes meant that Vaughan no longer produced huge hits. However, she remained a popular performer, particularly when she sang live. In front of an audience, her emotional, vibrato-rich delivery, three-octave vocal range and captivating scat technique were even more appealing. Though her voice took on a deeper pitch as Vaughan got older—likely due in part her smoking habit—this didn’t impact the quality of her singing, as could be heard on “Send in the Clowns,” a staple in her repertoire.

Vaughan’s later recordings include interpretations of Beatles songs and Brazilian music. Over the years, she collaborated with people like producer Quincy Jones, pianist Oscar Peterson and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Vaughan won her first Grammy thanks to her work with Thomas and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Gershwin Live! (1982).

Vaughan’s final concert was given at New York’s Blue Note Club in 1989. She passed away from lung cancer on April 3, 1990, at age 66, in Hidden Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. Married and divorced four times, she was survived by her adopted daughter.

Throughout her career, Vaughan was recognized as a supremely gifted singer and performer. She was invited to perform at the White House and at venues like Carnegie Hall, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1989 and was selected to join the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1990. She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Happy Birthday Joan Crawford

Today is the 104th birthday of Joan Crawford.  Through reinvention and resilience, she survived in Hollywood where female actors’ shelf life is brief. She did so by exaggerating the character of herself, larger than life, meaner than hell, bitch on wheels. How much of that was always her and how much she exaggerated, we only have stories. Watch some of her early films, you may fall in love with her a bit.

NAME: Joan Crawford
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: c. March 23, 1905
DEATH DATE: May 10, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Antonio, Texas
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
ORIGINALLY: Lucille Fay LeSueur

BEST KNOWN FOR: American motion-picture actress Joan Crawford made her initial impact as a vivacious Jazz Age flapper but later matured into a star of psychological melodramas.

Joan Crawford (March 23, 1905 – May 10, 1977), born Lucille Fay LeSueur, was an American actress in film, television and theatre.

Starting as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting on Broadway, Crawford was signed to a motion picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. Initially frustrated by the size and quality of her parts, Crawford began a campaign of self-publicity and became nationally known as a flapper by the end of the 1920s. In the 1930s, Crawford’s fame rivaled MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hardworking young women who find romance and financial success. These “rags-to-riches” stories were well-received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood’s most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money and by the end of the 1930s she was labeled “box office poison”.

After an absence of nearly two years from the screen, Crawford staged a comeback by starring in Mildred Pierce (1945), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1955, she became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors but was forcibly retired in 1973. She continued acting in film and television regularly through the 1960s, when her performances became fewer; after the release of the British horror film Trog in 1970, Crawford retired from the screen. Following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became more and more reclusive until her death in 1977.

Crawford married four times. Her first three marriages ended in divorce; the last ended with the death of husband Al Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed by his birth mother. Crawford’s relationships with her two older children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. Crawford disinherited the two and, after Crawford’s death, Christina wrote a “tell-all” memoir, Mommie Dearest, in which she alleged a lifelong pattern of physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by Crawford.

Crawford was voted the tenth greatest female star in the history of American cinema by the American Film Institute.

Crawford published her autobiography, A Portrait of Joan – written with Jane Kesner Ardmore – in 1962 through Doubleday. Crawford’s next book, My Way of Life, was published in 1971 by Simon and Schuster. Those expecting a racy tell-all were disappointed, although Crawford’s meticulous ways were revealed in her advice on grooming, wardrobe, exercise, and even food storage.

On May 8, 1977, Crawford gave away her beloved Shih Tzu “Princess Lotus Blossom”, which she was too weak to care for properly. Crawford died two days later at her New York apartment from a heart attack, while also ill with pancreatic cancer.[2] A funeral was held at Campbell Funeral Home, New York, on May 13, 1977. In her will, which was signed October 28, 1976, Crawford bequeathed to her two youngest children, Cindy and Cathy, $77,500 each from her $2,000,000 estate. She explicitly disinherited the two eldest, Christina and Christopher, writing “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son Christopher or my daughter Christina for reasons which are well known to them.”

Crawford’s hand and footprints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street. In 1999, Playboy listed Crawford as one of the “100 Sexiest Women of the 20th century”, ranking her #84.

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Happy Birthday Ramón Novarro

Today is the 115th birthday of silent movie idol Ramon Novarro.  I first discovered him back in the early 90s through an article in Architectural Digest about his Lloyd Wright house on Los Feliz.  Gorgeous house, I could go on and on about it (and have).  Since that first article, I have read several biographies and done my best to watch the films of his that are available.  His story is fascinating.

 

Name: José Ramón Gil Samaniego
Born: February 6, 1899 Durango, Mexico
Died: October 30, 1968 (aged 69) North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death: Asphyxiation
Resting place: Calvary Cemetery

Navarro was born José Ramón Gil Samaniego on February 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico to Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego. He moved with his family to Los Angeles, California, to escape the Mexican Revolution in 1913.

Allan Ellenberger, Novarro’s biographer, writes:

…the Samaniegos were an influential and well-respected family in Mexico. Many Samaniegos had prominent positions the affairs of state and were held in high esteem by the president. Ramon’s grandfather, Mariano Samaniego, was a well-known physician in Juarez. Known as a charitable and outgoing man, he was once an interim governor for the State of Chihuahua and was the first city councilman of El Paso, Texas…

Ramon’s father, Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego, was born in Juarez and attended high school in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After receiving his degree in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to Durango, Mexico, and began a flourishing dental practice. In 1891 he married Leonor Gavilan, the beautiful daughter of a prosperous landowner. The Gavilans were a mixture of Spanish and Aztec blood, and according to local legend, they were descended from Guerrero, a prince of Montezuma.

The family estate was called the “Garden of Eden”. Thirteen children were born there: Emilio; Guadalupe; Rosa; Ramon; Leonor; Mariano; Luz; Antonio; a stillborn child; Carmen; Angel and Eduardo.

At the time of the revolution in Mexico the family moved from Durango to Mexico City and then back to Durango. Ramon’s three sisters, Guadalupe, Rosa, and Leonor became nuns.

A second cousin of the Mexican actresses Dolores del Río and Andrea Palma, he entered films in 1917 in bit parts; and he supplemented his income by working as a singing waiter. His friends, the actor and director Rex Ingram and his wife, the actress Alice Terry, began to promote him as a rival to Rudolph Valentino, and Ingram suggested he change his name to “Novarro.” From 1923, he began to play more prominent roles. His role in Scaramouche (1923) brought him his first major success.

In 1925, he achieved his greatest success in Ben-Hur, his revealing costumes causing a sensation, and was elevated into the Hollywood elite. As with many stars, Novarro engaged Sylvia of Hollywood as a therapist (although in her tell-all book, Sylvia erroneously claimed Novarro slept in a coffin). With Valentino’s death in 1926, Novarro became the screen’s leading Latin actor, though ranked behind his MGM stablemate, John Gilbert, as a model lover. He was popular as a swashbuckler in action roles and was considered one of the great romantic lead actors of his day. Novarro appeared with Norma Shearer in The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) and with Joan Crawford in Across to Singapore (1928). He made his first talking film, starring as a singing French soldier, in Devil-May-Care (1929). He also starred with the French actress Renée Adorée in The Pagan (1929). Novarro starred with Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (1932) and was a qualified success opposite Myrna Loy in The Barbarian (1933).

When Novarro’s contract with MGM Studios expired in 1935, the studio did not renew it. He continued to act sporadically, appearing in films for Republic Pictures, a Mexican religious drama, and a French comedy. In the 1940s, he had several small roles in American films, including John Huston’s We Were Strangers (1949) starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. In 1958, he was considered for a role in a television series, The Green Peacock with Howard Duff and Ida Lupino after the demise of their CBS sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. The project, however, never materialized. A Broadway tryout was aborted in the 1960s; but Novarro kept busy on television, appearing in NBC’s The High Chaparral as late as 1968.

At the peak of his success in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was earning more than US$100,000 per film. He invested some of his income in real estate, and his Hollywood Hills residence is one of the more renowned designs (1927) by architect Lloyd Wright. After his career ended, he was still able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

Novarro had been troubled all his life as a result of his conflicting views over his Roman Catholic religion and his homosexuality, and his life-long struggle with alcoholism is often traced to these issues. MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer reportedly tried to coerce Novarro into a “lavender marriage”, which he refused. He was a friend of adventurer and author Richard Halliburton, also a celebrity in the closet, and was romantically involved with journalist Herbert Howe, who was also his publicist during the late 1920s.

Novarro was murdered on October 30, 1968, by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson (aged 22 and 17, respectively), whom he had hired from an agency to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. According to the prosecution in the murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro’s house. The prosecution accused them of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the nonexistent money was hidden. They left with a mere 20 dollars that they took from his bathrobe pocket before fleeing the scene. Novarro allegedly died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being brutally beaten. The two brothers were later caught and sentenced to long prison terms, but were quickly released on probation. Both were later rearrested for unrelated crimes, for which they served longer terms than for their murder conviction.

Ramón Novarro is buried in Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles. Ramón Novarro’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard

Novarro’s murder served as the influence for the short story by Charles Bukowski, The Murder of Ramon Vasquez, and the song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Tango,” recorded by Peggy Lee on her Mirrors album.

In late 2005, the Wings Theatre in New York City staged the world premiere of Through a Naked Lens by George Barthel. The play combined fact and fiction to depict Novarro’s rise to fame and a relationship with Hollywood journalist Herbert Howe.

Novarro’s relationship with Herbert Howe is discussed in two biographies: Allan R. Ellenberger’s Ramón Novarro and André Soares’s Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramón Novarro. A recounting of Novarro’s murder can be found in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon.

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Happy Birthday Tallulah Bankhead

Tomorrow is the 112th birthday of Tallulah Bankhead.  She was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed broad who’s brilliance may very well have been in being Tallulah Bankhead.  She is what the world needed:  a smart, quick-witted shit-kicker that made us laugh uncomfortably at her brave observations and truths. 

 

NAME: Tallulah Brockman Bankhead
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: January 31, 1902
DEATH DATE: December 12, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hunstville, Alabama
PLACE OF DEATH: New York City, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Tullulah Bankhead was an American stage and film actress, popular from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Born to a prestigious family (her father became a prominent congressman), she made her Broadway debut in 1918 and achieved fame on the London stage in The Dancer (1923). Her vivid presence and throaty voice contributed to her singular performances in the hit plays The Little Foxes (1939), The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), and Private Lives (1946). She made films such as A Woman’s Law (1928) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) but remained primarily a stage performer. Her final stage appearance was in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1964).

Personal Quotes:

“Say anything about me, darling, as long as it isn’t boring.”

“It’s the good girls that keep diaries. Bad girls never have the time.”

Tallulah Bankhead died in St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia, complicated by emphysema and malnutrition, at 7:45 A.M. on December 12, 1968, aged 66. She was buried in Saint Paul’s Churchyard, Chestertown, Maryland. Her last coherent words reportedly were “Codeine… bourbon.”

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Tallulah Bankhead has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6141 Hollywood Blvd.

Rock star Suzi Quatro portrayed Bankhead in a musical named Tallulah Who? in 1991. The musical was based on a book by Willie Rushton. Quatro co-wrote the music with Shirlie Roden. The show ran from 14 February to 9 March at The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, UK and received favourable reviews.

Valerie Harper starred as Bankhead in Looped, which originated at The Pasadena Playhouse. It opened on Broadway on March 14, 2010 at the Lyceum Theatre, and closed on April 11, 2010.

Other actresses to portray Bankhead include Eugenia Rawls (in her one-woman stage show “Tallulah, A Memory”), Kathleen Turner (in Sandra Ryan Heyward’s one-woman touring show “Tallulah” in the late 1990s), Carrie Nye (on television in The Scarlett O’Hara War) and Helen Gallagher in an off-Broadway musical, Tallulah!

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Happy Birthday Carole Lombard

Today is the 106th birthday of Carole Lombard.  My Man Godfrey is one of my favorite movies and part of that reason is because of Carole Lombard. She is perfection. Her life story is one of those that even Hollywood couldn’t make up and have people believe.

 

NAME: Carole Lombard
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: October 06, 1908
DEATH DATE: January 16, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH: Fort Wayne, Indiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Las Vegas, Nevada
ORIGINALLY: Jane Alice Peters

BEST KNOWN FOR: Carole Lombard starred in comedic films during the 1930s. She married actor Clark Gable in 1939, but died in a tragic plane accident a few years later.

Carole Lombard  was an American actress. She is particularly noted for her comedic roles in the screwball comedies of the 1930s. She is listed as one of the American Film Institute’s greatest stars of all time and was the highest-paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s, earning around US $500,000 per year (more than five times the salary of the US President). Lombard’s career was cut short when she died at the age of 33 in a plane crash while returning from a World War II Bond tour.

Queen of the 1930s screwball comedies, she personified the anxiety of a nervous age. Graham Greene praised the “heartbreaking and nostalgic melodies” of her faster-than-thought delivery. “Platinum blonde, with a heart-shaped face, delicate, impish features and a figure made to be swathed in silver lamé, she wriggled expressively through such classics of hysteria as Twentieth Century and My Man Godfrey.”

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Lombard 23rd on its list of the 50 greatest American female screen legends. She received one Academy Award for Best Actress nomination, for My Man Godfrey. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6930 Hollywood Blvd.

Lombard’s Fort Wayne childhood home has been designated a historic landmark. The city named the nearby bridge over the St. Mary’s River the Carole Lombard Memorial Bridge.

Personal Quotes:

“I can’t imagine a duller fate than being the best dressed woman in reality. When I want to do something I don’t pause to contemplate whether I’m exquisitely gowned. I want to live, not pose!” 

Carole Lombard’s Golden Rules:

1. Play Fair.

“You’ll find that men usually play fair,” Carole said. “It’s all very well to say that you want to back out of a bargain because you’ve changed your mind. That’s supposed to be a woman’s privilege. But men don’t play the game that way. A man who says he’ll do a thing and then reneges, is soon put where he belongs, out in the cold.

“If I say I’ll do something, I make it stick.”

2. Don’t Brag.

“Men can brag,” Carole points out, “but that’s where a woman can’t do what men do, and still be feminine. No man will endure listening to a girl boast about how smart she is.”

3. Obey the Boss.

“A career girl who competes with men has to learn that rule — or else. If she won’t accept discipline, or bow to the rules of the institution and take orders, she can’t succeed. I know that the picture director knows best. I remember when I was making ‘My Man Godfrey’ with William Powell. Gregory La Cava was directing. One day he was ill, but he insisted that work go on while he rested.

“‘You know what to do,’ he told us. ‘Just pretend I’m there and go ahead.’

“Well, it didn’t work. Bill and I were used to taking orders because it’s part of the discipline of the studio. It was a simple scene, we knew what to do, but the director wasn’t there and we felt lost. Somebody has to be the boss in every big enterprise, and if the boss is absent the business soon comes to a halt.”

4. Take Criticism.

“Men have learned to take criticism, that is, the successful men. The ones who flare up and go home mad are the kind who never get the last installment paid on the radio.

“Here again the movies have taught me. I have learned to take criticism and stand up to it like a man. Yet a woman will simply burn if you hint that the hat she’s got on doesn’t look quite perfect, or that she might, just might, have led from the queen, jack, ten instead of tossing in an eight spot.

“I went to a showing of the first rough cut of ‘Swing High, Swing Low,’ in a small college town.

“In the tragic scene, where I screwed up my face to cry (I can’t help it if I look that way when I cry), the audience laughed. When I really turned it on and emoted, they howled. It was heartbreaking. I felt like crawling under the seats and losing myself among the gum and other useless things.

“But I had to take it. If you’re playing according to masculine rules, which is required of any girl with a career, you’ve got to accept criticism and profit by it. Otherwise how could you become a singer, decorator, painter or private secretary? I learned something from that experience, too. I’m best if I top off tears with a laugh. A star who is too big for criticism sooner or later loses out. That goes for working women, too.”

5. Love is Private.

“When it comes to your personal life, such as love and romance, girls should take a tip from the men and keep their affairs to themselves. Any man worth his salt regards his private life as his own. To kiss a girl and run and tell would mark him as a cad. Why doesn’t that apply to girls also?”

6. Work — And Like It!

All women should have something worthwhile to do,” says Carole, “and cultivate efficiency at it, whether it’s housekeeping or raising chickens.

Working women are interesting women. And they’re easier to live with. Idle women who can think of nothing to do with their time are dangerous to themselves and to others. The only ‘catty’ women I’ve known were idlers, with nothing to do but gossip and make trouble.”

7. Pay Your Share.

“Nobody likes a man who is always fumbling when it’s time to pay the check,” Carole points out. “I think the woman who assumes that the man can afford to pay for everything is making a mistake. More and more the custom of the Dutch treat is coming in vogue, particularly among working men and women. You don’t have to surrender your femininity if you pay your share of the bills.”

8. The Cardinal Virtue

“–Is a sense of humor,” says Carole. “Do you laugh in the right places? Then, you’ll get along, in fair weather or foul. Humor is nothing less than a sense of the fitness of things. Something that’s out of proportion, like an inflated ego, should strike you funny, particularly if it’s your own inflated ego. Otherwise you are pathetic and quite hopeless.”

9. Be Consistent.

“By that,” remarks Carole, “I mean you should take a hint from the men. They are terribly consistent, as a rule. You can tell what they’ll do in any given circumstance.

“If a girl puts her best foot forward at the office, she shouldn’t change steps when she gets home. A career girl must be neatly turned out, even-tempered and willing to take orders at work, and there’s no reason why she must check these virtues with her hat and coat when she leaves her place of business.

“I manage to add enough inconsistency to my behavior at the studio so that I’m the same there as at home; inclined to blow off steam at odd moments or be very demure and sweet-tempered — just to keep ‘em guessing. In fact I’ve got myself guessing. I don’t quite know which way I am. That’s being consistently inconsistent, anyway.

“Men are about the same at home as they are at work. Don’t say it’s because they lack the imagination to be otherwise — just take the hint. Men are creatures of habit and comfort, and they are puzzled and disturbed by change. That’s why so many of them marry their stenographers; it’s in hope of finding the same efficiency at home as at the office. They are supreme optimists.

“If you go into the business world to meet male competition, then you’ve got to play the game more or less according to their rules.

“By doing that, I’ve found that any intelligent girl can get along very well. About the only important difference I’ve noticed is in the problem of travel; men can travel alone easier than women. However, old habits of transportation are changing and the comfort of women is more and more the concern of air, railroad and bus travel.”

10. Be Feminine.

“All of this,” Carole declares, “does not keep you from preserving your femininity. You can still be insane about a particular brand of perfume, and weep when you get a run in your favorite pair of stockings.

“You can still have fits when the store sends out the very shade of red drapes you did not order, and which swear horribly at the red in the davenport. But when you go down to complain, be a man about it.

“All of which sums up to this. Play fair and be reasonable. When a woman can do that, she’ll make some man the best manager he ever found, or wind up running a whole department store. And being a woman, thank heaven you still have that choice!”

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Hedy Lamarr – Style Icon

Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of achingly beautiful actress, brilliant scientist, author and compulsive shoplifter Hedy Lamarr.  She is an amazing example of everyone’s ability to have many interests and explore all of them.

NAME: Hedy Lamarr
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: November 09, 1913
DEATH DATE: January 19, 2000
PLACE OF BIRTH: Vienna, Austria
PLACE OF DEATH: Orlando, Florida
ORIGINALLY: Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler

BEST KNOWN FOR: Extraordinarily beautiful, Hedy Lamarr was a Austrian-American actress during MGM’s “Golden Age.”

Actress. Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, on November 9, 1913, in Vienna, Austria. Discovered by an Austrian film director as a teenager, she gained international notice in 1933, with her role in the sexy Czech film Ecstasy. After her marriage with Fritz Mandl, a wealthy Austrian munitions manufacturer, ended, she signed a contract with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio and began her career in Hollywood as Hedy Lamarr. Upon the release of her first American film, Algiers, co-starring Charles Boyer, Lamarr became an immediate box-office sensation.

Often referred to as one of the most gorgeous and exotic of Hollywood’s leading ladies, Lamarr made a number of well-received films during the 1930s and 1940s. Notable among them were Lady of the Tropics (1939), co-starring Robert Taylor; Boom Town (1940), with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy; Tortilla Flat (1942), co-starring Tracy; and Samson and Delilah (1949), opposite Victor Mature. She was reportedly producer Hal Wallis’ first choice for the heroine in his classic 1943 film, Casablanca, a part that eventually went to Ingrid Bergman.

In 1942, during the heyday of her career, Lamarr earned recognition in a field quite different from entertainment. She and her friend, the composer George Antheil, received a patent for an idea of a radio signaling device, or “Secret Communications System,” that later became an important step in the development of technology to maintain the security of both military communications and cellular phones.

Lamarr’s film career began to decline in the 1950s; her last film was 1958’s The Female Animal, with Jane Powell. In 1966, she published a steamy best-selling autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, but later sued the publisher for what she saw as errors and distortions perpetrated by the book’s ghostwriter. She was arrested twice for shoplifting, once in 1966 and once in 1991, but neither arrest resulted in a conviction.

Lamarr was married six times and had two children, Anthony and Denise, with her third husband, the actor John Loder. She also adopted a son, James. In the later years of her life, Lamarr lived quietly in Orlando, Florida. She died on January 19, 2000, at the age of 86.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.

In 2003, the Boeing corporation ran a series of recruitment ads featuring Hedy Lamarr as a woman of science. No reference to her film career was made in the ads.

Personal Quotes

“My problem is, I’m a hell of a nice dame, The most horrible whores are famous. I did what I did for love. The others did it for money.”

“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Hedy Lamarr – Style Icon.