Happy Birthday Jean Harlow

Today is the 104th birthday of the original blonde bombshell:  Jean Harlow.  It is amazing to think that someone can die at 26 over 70 years ago and the world can still adore her.  Watch a few of her films and the biopic Harlow with Caroll Baker, you will become a lifelong fan.  Some people just have IT, although IT never gets any better defined than that.  Just something that draws us moths to their flame, something that we see, admire, perhaps even aspire to, but IT is something that attracts us on a biological level.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she left.

 

NAME: Jean Harlow
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: March 03, 1911
DEATH DATE: June 07, 1937
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kansas City, Missouri
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
ORIGINALLY: Harlean Carpenter

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jean Harlow was an American actress who proved herself a platinum-blonde sex-symbol and able comedian in 1930s Hollywood.

Jean Harlow (March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) was an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s. Known as the “Blonde Bombshell” and the “Platinum Blonde” (due to her platinum blonde hair), Harlow was ranked as one of the greatest movie stars of all time by the American Film Institute. Harlow starred in several films, mainly designed to showcase her magnetic sex appeal and strong screen presence, before making the transition to more developed roles and achieving massive fame under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Harlow’s enormous popularity and “laughing vamp” image were in distinct contrast to her personal life, which was marred by disappointment, tragedy, and ultimately her sudden death from renal failure at the age of 26.

Harlow wrote a novel, entitled Today is Tonight. According to Arthur Landau in his introduction to the 1965 paperback edition, Harlow stated her intention to write the book around 1933–1934, but it was not published during her lifetime. After her death, Landau writes, her mother sold the film rights to MGM, but no film was made. The publication rights to the novel were passed from Harlow’s mother to a family friend and the book was finally published in 1965.

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Happy Birthday Elizabeth Taylor

Today is the 83rd birthday of Elizabeth Taylor.  Everything has already been said and everything should be said about Elizabeth Taylor.  Pick one of her films and watch it and re-fall in love with her.  I can’t even decide which one it should be.  Cat? Place? BUtterfield? Suddenly? Giant? Just watch one.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Elizabeth Taylor
OCCUPATION: Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: February 27, 1932
DEATH DATE: March 23, 2011
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
NICKNAME: Liz Taylor
FULL NAME: Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, DBE

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Elizabeth Taylor starred in films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and BUtterfield 8, but was just as famous for her violet eyes and scandalous love life.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932, in London, England. One of film’s most celebrated stars, Elizabeth Taylor has fashioned a career that’s covered more than six decades, accepting roles that have not only showcased her beauty, but her ability to take on emotionally charged characters.

Taylor’s American parents, both art dealers, were residing in London when she was born. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, the Taylors returned to the United States and settled into their new life in Los Angeles.

“One problem with people who have no vices is that they’re pretty sure to have some annoying virtues.” – Elizabeth Taylor

Performance was in Taylor’s blood. Her mother had worked as an actress until she married. At the age of 3, the young Taylor started dancing, and eventually gave a recital for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Not long after relocating to California a family friend suggested the Taylors’ daughter take a screen test.

She soon signed a contract with Universal Studios, and made her screen debut at the age of 10 in There’s One Born Every Minute (1942). She followed that up with a bigger role in Lassie Come Home (1943) and later The White Cliffs of Dover (1944).

Her breakout role, however, came in 1944 with National Velvet, in a role Elizabeth Taylor spent four months working to get. The film subsequently turned out to be a huge hit that pulled in more than $4 million and made the 12-year-old actress a huge star.

In the glare of the Hollywood spotlight, the young actress showed she was more than adept at handling celebrity’s tricky terrain. Even more impressive was the fact that, unlike so many child stars before and after her, Taylor proved she could make a seamless transition to more adult roles.

“It would be glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor’s finger.” – Andy Warhol

Her stunning looks helped. At just 18 she played opposite Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride (1950). Taylor also showed her acting talents in 1954 with three films: The Last Time I Saw Paris, Rhapsody, and Elephant Walk, the latter of which saw Taylor take on the role of a plantation owner’s wife who is in love with the farm’s manager.

Her personal life only boosted the success of her films. For a time she dated millionaire Howard Hughes, then at the age of 17, Elizabeth Taylor made her first entrance into marriage, when she wed hotel heir, Nicky Hilton.

The union didn’t last long and, in 1952, Taylor was walking down the aisle again—this time to marry actor Michael Welding. In all, Taylor has married eight times during life, including twice to actor Richard Burton.

While her love life continued to make international headlines, Taylor continued to shine showed as an actress.

She delivered a riveting performance in the drama A Place in the Sun, and turned things up even more in 1956 with the film adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel, Giant that co-starred James Dean. Two years later, she sizzled on the big screen in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The following year, she starred in another Williams classic, Suddenly Last Summer. Taylor earned her first Oscar, capturing the coveted Best Actress award for her role as call girl in BUtterfield 8 (1960).

But Taylor’s fame was also touched by tragedy and loss. In 1958, she became a young widow when her husband, pioneering film producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. After his death, Taylor became embroiled in one of the greatest Hollywood love scandals of the era when she began an affair with Todd’s close friend, Eddie Fisher. Fisher divorced Debbie Reynolds and married Taylor in 1959. The couple stayed married for five years until she left Fisher for actor Richard Burton.

The public’s obsession with Taylor’s love life hit new heights with her 1964 marriage to Richard Burton. She’d met and fallen in love with the actor during her work on Cleopatra (1963), a film that not only heightened Taylor’s clout and fame, but also proved to be a staggering investment, clocking in at an unprecedented $37 million to make.

The Taylor-Burton union was a fiery and passionate one. They appeared onscreen together in the much-panned The V.I.P.’s (1963), and then again two years later for the heralded Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film that earned Taylor her second Oscar for her role as an overweight, angry wife of an alcoholic professor, played by Burton.

The subsequent years proved to be an up-and-down affair for Taylor. There were more marriages, more divorces, health obstacles, and a struggling film career, with movies that gained little traction with critics or the movie-going public.

Still, Taylor continued to act. She found work on television, even making a guest appearance on General Hospital, and on stage. She also began focusing more attention on philanthropy. After her close friend Rock Hudson died in 1985 following his battle with HIV/AIDS, the actress started work to find a cure for the disease. In 1991 she launched the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation in order to offer greater support for those who are sick, as well fund research for more advanced treatments.

Largely retired from the world of acting, Taylor received numerous awards for her body of work. In 1993 she received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. In 2000 she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

Taylor overcame a litany of health problems throughout the 90s, from diabetes to congestive heart failure. She had both hips replaced, and in 1997 had a brain tumor removed. In October 2009, Taylor, who has four children, underwent successful heart surgery. In early 2011, Taylor again experienced heart problems.

She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in that February for congestive heart failure. On March 23, 2011, Taylor passed away from the condition.

Shortly after her death, her son Michael Wilding released a statement, saying “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love … We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”

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Happy Birthday Gloria Vanderbilt

Today is the 91st birthday of Gloria Vanderbilt.  Heiress, fashion designer, artist, jet setter, and Anderson Cooper’s mother.  Her life is huge, we can all take a couple notes from her.  The world is very lucky to still have her in it.

 

NAME: Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt-Cooper
OCCUPATION: Artist, Fashion Designer, Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 20, 1924
PLACE OF BIRTH: NY, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Known for her fashion design and tumultuous personal life, actress, writer and artist Gloria Vanderbilt became an iconic figure in American popular culture during the 20th century.

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (born February 20, 1924) is an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans. She is a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family of New York and mother of CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

At 17 years old, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood where she married agent Pasquale (“Pat”) DiCicco in 1941; they divorced in 1945.

Her second marriage, to conductor Leopold Stokowski in April 1945, produced two sons, Leopold Stanislaus “Stan” Stokowski, born August 22, 1950 and Christopher Stokowski, born January 31, 1952; they divorced in October 1955.

On August 28, 1956, she married director Sidney Lumet; they divorced in August 1963.
She married her fourth husband, author Wyatt Emory Cooper on December 24, 1963. They had two sons: Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (born January 27, 1965 – July 22, 1988) and CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper (born June 3, 1967). Wyatt Cooper died in 1978 during open heart surgery in New York City. Carter Cooper committed suicide at the age of 23 by jumping from the family’s 14th floor apartment as his mother tried in vain to stop him. Vanderbilt believed that it was caused by a psychotic episode induced by an allergy to the anti-asthma medical prescription drug Proventil.

She has three grandchildren by her eldest son, Stan: Aurora, born in March 1983 and Abra, born in February 1985, both to author Ivy Strick, and Myles, born in 1998 to artist Emily Goldstein.

Gloria is very close friends with comedienne Kathy Griffin, and while appearing as a guest on her son Anderson Cooper’s talk show, Anderson on September 19, 2011, referred to Kathy as her “fantasy daughter.” Kathy refers to Gloria as “Glo”, as did her third husband, Lumet.

During the 1970s, she ventured into the fashion business, first with Glentex, licensing her name for a line of scarves. In 1976, Indian designer Mohan Murjani’s Murjani Corporation, proposed launching a line of designer jeans carrying Vanderbilt’s name embossed in script on the back pocket, as well as her swan logo. Her jeans were more tightly fitted than the other jeans of that time. The logo eventually appeared on dresses and perfumes as well. Along with her jeans, Vanderbilt also launched a line of blouses, sheets, shoes, leather goods, liqueurs, and accessories.

Vanderbilt is the author of four memoirs and three novels, and is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Elle.

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Happy Birthday Cesar Romero

Today is the 108th birthday of Cesar Romero.  There is a scene in “The Thin Man” where he (who’s character is Chris Jorgensen, I guess foreign is foreign) is sitting in a chair while people are inquiring why he doesn’t get a job, he stands up and storms away.  His much-0lder wife yells after him as one would a child throwing a temper tantrum.  That was his first movie and first scene.  I thought it was hilarious, possibly unintentionally so, but hilarious.  It took me quite a few years to merge in my head that that actor also was the actor that played The Joker on the 60’s Batman TV series and various other guest rolls on “The Love Boat” and so forth.  His career spanned more than 60 years, with continued relevance and popularity today.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

 

NAME: Cesar Romero
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Dancer
BIRTH DATE: February 15, 1907
DEATH DATE: January 01, 1994
EDUCATION: Collegiate School, Riverdale Country School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor and dancer Cesar Romero performed in movies from the ’30s through the ’60s. He became a pop culture icon in the 1966 Batman television series.

Actor, dancer. Born February 15, 1907, in New York City, to a prosperous Cuban family. Romero was raised by his parents, Cesar Julio Romero and Maria Mantilla, among Manhattan’s social elite. His maternal grandfather was the famed Cuban patriot Jose Marti (for whom Havana’s airport is named). Romero was first introduced to acting while attending Collegiate and Riverdale Country schools, where he starred in a stage production of The Merchant of Venice.

While still in his teens, Romero met fellow socialite Lisbeth Higgins, with whom he began a professional dance partnership. The couple performed in New York City’s nightclub and theatre circuit. Romero began his solo career as a dancer in a number of off-Broadway productions, before coming to Broadway as an actor. His early stage credits included Social Register, Stella Brady, and Dinner at Eight. Romero’s performance in the latter influenced MGM Studios to sign him to a short-term film contract.

Romero moved to Hollywood, where he made his film debut as a gigolo in the mystery The Thin Man (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. In the mid-30s (now under contract to Universal Studios), he appeared in a number of projects ranging from box office disasters like The Devil is a Woman (1935) to well-received comedies like Love Before Breakfast (1936).

In 1937, failed salary negotiations with Universal led Romero to sign with 20th Century Fox, where he would remain for the next 15 years. In the late 30s and early 40s, he was cast as the Cisco Kid in a handful of Westerns including, The Cisco Kid and the Lady (1939) and Viva Cisco Kid (1940).

With the onset of World War II, Romero temporarily shelved his film career in order to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1947, after three years of service, he returned to acting with supporting roles in the musical romance Carnival in Costa Rica followed by the 16th-century epic The Captain from Castile, with Tyrone Power.

Romero’s credits during the 1950s and early 1960s included secondary parts in more memorable films. In the Oscar-winning adventure Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Romero was cast in a minor role alongside a stellar ensemble that included Shirley MacLaine, Buster Keaton, Marlene Dietrich, and John Gielgud. In 1960, he won another supporting role in the Rat Pack caper Ocean’s Eleven, featuring Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.

For the duration of his career, Romero’s most notable projects were his television appearances. He attained pop icon status with his portrayal of the maniacal Joker in the 1966 television series Batman. Starring Adam West in the title role, Batman became an overnight sensation, boasting an impressive cast that included Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Roddy McDowall, and Vincent Price.

During the 1970s, Romero played the recurring role of Freddie Prinze’s father on the NBC comedy series Chico and the Man. From 1985-88, his part as the patriarchal Peter Stavros on the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest introduced the seasoned Romero to a whole new generation of viewers.

With a body of work spanning more than seven decades and over a hundred film credits, Romero remained an active member in Hollywood’s social scene throughout his career. Although he never married, the self-described “Latin from Manhattan” was romantically linked to a number of women. On January 1, 1994, Romero died of a blood clot. He was 86 years old.

He believed that to live well you must dress well. And never in the same outfit. His closets held 30 tuxedos, 200 sports jackets, and 500 suits.

TELEVISION
Falcon Crest Peter Stavros (1985-88)
Alias Smith and Jones Armendariz (1971-72)
Julia Bunny (1970)
Batman The Joker (1966-68)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business (13-Apr-1995) · Himself
Lust in the Dust (1-Mar-1985)
The Strongest Man in the World (6-Feb-1975)
Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (23-Aug-1972)
The Proud and the Damned (1972)
Soul Soldier (16-Dec-1970)
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (31-Dec-1969)
Latitude Zero (26-Jul-1969)
Midas Run (7-May-1969)
Crooks & Coronets (2-Apr-1969)
Target: Harry (1969)
A Talent for Loving (1969) · Don Jose
Skidoo (2-Dec-1968)
Hot Millions (19-Sep-1968) · Customs Officer
Madigan’s Millions (30-May-1968) · Madigan
Batman (30-Jul-1966) · The Joker
Marriage on the Rocks (16-Sep-1965) · Miguel Santos
Sergeant Deadhead (18-Aug-1965)
Two on a Guillotine (23-Jan-1965) · John Duquesne
A House Is Not a Home (1-Sep-1964)
Donovan’s Reef (12-Jun-1963)
The Castilian (14-Apr-1963) · Jeronimo
If a Man Answers (10-Oct-1962)
Seven Women from Hell (Oct-1961)
Pepe (21-Dec-1960) · Himself
Ocean’s Eleven (10-Aug-1960) · Duke Santos
The Story of Mankind (8-Nov-1957) · Spanish Envoy
Around the World in Eighty Days (17-Oct-1956) · Henchman
The Leather Saint (6-Jun-1956)
The Racers (4-Feb-1955)
The Americano (19-Jan-1955)
Vera Cruz (25-Dec-1954)
Prisoners of the Casbah (3-Nov-1953)
The Shadow Man (Apr-1953)
Scotland Yard Inspector (13-Oct-1952)
The Jungle (1-Aug-1952)
FBI Girl (4-Nov-1951)
Lost Continent (17-Aug-1951) · Maj. Joe Nolan
Happy Go Lovely (25-Jul-1951) · John Frost
Love That Brute (26-May-1950)
The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (27-May-1949) · Blackie Jobero
That Lady in Ermine (24-Aug-1948) · Mario
Julia Misbehaves (8-Aug-1948) · Fred Ghenoccio
Deep Waters (22-Jul-1948)
Captain from Castile (25-Dec-1947) · Hernando Cortez
Carnival in Costa Rica (28-Mar-1947)
Wintertime (17-Sep-1943) · Brad Barton
Coney Island (16-Jun-1943) · Joe Rocco
Springtime in the Rockies (6-Nov-1942) · Victor Prince
Orchestra Wives (4-Sep-1942) · St. John Smith
Tales of Manhattan (5-Aug-1942)
A Gentleman at Heart (16-Jan-1942) · Tony Miller
Week-End in Havana (8-Oct-1941)
Dance Hall (18-Jul-1941)
The Great American Broadcast (9-May-1941)
Ride on Vaquero (18-Apr-1941)
Tall, Dark and Handsome (23-Jan-1941)
The Gay Caballero (4-Oct-1940) · The Cisco Kid
He Married His Wife (19-Jan-1940) · Freddie
The Cisco Kid and the Lady (24-Dec-1939)
Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (31-Aug-1939)
Frontier Marshal (28-Jul-1939)
Return of the Cisco Kid (28-Apr-1939)
The Little Princess (10-Mar-1939) · Ram Dass
Wife, Husband and Friend (25-Feb-1939) · Hugo
My Lucky Star (4-Dec-1938)
Always Goodbye (24-Jun-1938)
Happy Landing (23-Jan-1938)
Wee Willie Winkie (30-Jul-1937)
She’s Dangerous! (24-Jan-1937)
Public Enemy’s Wife (8-Jul-1936)
Love Before Breakfast (9-Mar-1936) · William Wadsworth
Rendezvous (23-Oct-1935) · Nieterstein
Metropolitan (17-Oct-1935)
Diamond Jim (2-Sep-1935)
Cardinal Richelieu (26-Mar-1935)
The Devil is a Woman (15-Mar-1935) · Antonio Galvan
The Good Fairy (31-Jan-1935) · Joe
Clive of India (7-Jan-1935)
British Agent (15-Sep-1934) · Del Val
The Thin Man (23-May-1934) · Chris

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Happy Birthday Thelma Ritter

Today is the 113th birthday of Thelma Ritter.  She is one of the actors that will make me want to watch the movie if she is in it, no matter how small. She perfected the working class voice of reason character that kept all the other characters from getting too out of touch. And if they did, she had no problem telling them so. Watch her in “Rear Window” and “The Misfits” and you will want to add every movie she is in to your Netflix queue. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

Born February 14, 1902 Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died February 5, 1969 (aged 66) New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress

BEST KNOWN FOR: American actress. She typically played working class characters and was noted for her distinctive voice, with a strong Brooklyn accent.

Ritter did stock theater and radio shows early in her career, without much impact. Ritter’s first movie role was in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). She made a memorable impression in a brief uncredited part, as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle has promised to her son. Her second role, in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s A Letter to Three Wives (1949), also left a mark, although Ritter was again uncredited.

Mankiewicz kept Ritter in mind, and cast her as “Birdie” in All About Eve (1950), which earned her an Oscar nomination. A second nomination followed for her work in Mitchell Leisen’s’ classic ensemble screwball comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney and John Lund. Ritter enjoyed steady film work for the next dozen years. She also appeared in many of the episodic drama TV series of the 1950s, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, General Electric Theater, and The United States Steel Hour. Other film roles were as James Stewart’s nurse in Rear Window (1954) and as Doris Day‘s housekeeper in Pillow Talk (1959). Although best-known for comedy roles, she played the occasional dramatic role, most notably in Pickup on South Street (1953), Titanic (1953), and The Misfits (1961).

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? (17-May-1968)
The Incident (5-Nov-1967)
Boeing Boeing (22-Dec-1965) · Bertha
Move Over, Darling (19-Dec-1963) · Grace Arden
A New Kind of Love (30-Oct-1963)
For Love or Money (7-Aug-1963)
How the West Was Won (1-Nov-1962) · Agatha Clegg
Birdman of Alcatraz (3-Jul-1962) · Elizabeth Stroud
The Second Time Around (22-Dec-1961) · Aggie
The Misfits (1-Feb-1961) · Isabelle Steers
Pillow Talk (6-Oct-1959) · Alma
A Hole in the Head (15-Jul-1959) · Sophie Manetta
The Proud and Profane (13-Jun-1956) · Kate Connors
Lucy Gallant (20-Oct-1955)
Daddy Long Legs (5-May-1955) · Alicia Pritchard
Rear Window (1-Aug-1954) · Stella
Pickup on South Street (17-Jun-1953) · Moe Williams
The Farmer Takes a Wife (12-Jun-1953) · Lucy Cashdollar
Titanic (16-Apr-1953) · Maude Young
With a Song in My Heart (4-Apr-1952) · Clancy
The Model and the Marriage Broker (Nov-1951)
As Young as You Feel (2-Aug-1951)
The Mating Season (12-Jan-1951) · Ellen McNulty
All About Eve (13-Oct-1950) · Birdie
I’ll Get By (2-Oct-1950) · Miss Murphy
Perfect Strangers (11-Mar-1950) · Lena Fassler
Father Was a Fullback (30-Sep-1949)
City Across the River (7-Apr-1949)

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Happy Birthday Ramón Novarro

Today is the 116th 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.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

 

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 Clark Gable

Today is the 114th birthday of one of the greatest actors of the golden age of Hollywood:  Clark Gable.  Do yourself a favor and watch one of his movies soon, if you can’t decide which one, watch “The Misfits.”  It was written by Arthur Miller, directed by John Huston and also stars Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach.  “The Misfits” was the final screen appearance of both Gable and Monroe.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Clark Gable
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: February 01, 1901
DEATH DATE: November 16, 1960
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cadiz, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California
Full Name: William Clark Gable
AKA: Clark Gable

Best Known For:  Dubbed “King of Hollywood,” Gone with the Wind actor Clark Gable epitomized Hollywood’s Golden Age, and was a legend for his on- and off-screen romances.

William Clark Gable was born February 1, 1901, in Cadiz, Ohio. His father was an oil driller and farmer; his mother died when he was an infant.

Gable dropped out of high school at 16 and went to work at a tire factory in Akron, Ohio. One evening he saw a play and enjoyed it so much that he decided to become an actor. He tried to work his way in by taking an unpaid job with a theater company, but his dream was temporarily derailed when his stepmother died in 1919 and he went to help his father in the oilfields of Oklahoma.

After three years there, he joined a traveling theater company, which quickly went bankrupt, leaving Gable stranded in Montana. He hitchhiked to Oregon and joined another company, where he met Josephine Dillon, the theater manager. Dillon, a former actress and respected theater teacher 17 years his senior, took an interest in Gable. She became his acting coach and paid to have his teeth fixed and his hair and eyebrows styled. Before long they were married, and Gable and Dillon moved to Hollywood, California.

Gable worked as an extra in Hollywood before turning his attention to the theater, first in traveling productions and then in the Broadway play Machinal, for which he got good reviews. After it wrapped, he returned back to California and appeared in a stage production of The Last Mile.

Back in Hollywood, Gable was rejected at screen tests because casting agents thought his ears were too big for a leading man. He managed to land his first speaking role in a movie in The Painted Desert in 1931, and after seeing him on the big screen, MGM offered him a contract. His first leading role was in Dance, Fools, Dance, with Joan Crawford. Gable was a hit, and the studio began casting him as a roughneck villain opposite starlets including Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. By year’s end, he had made a dozen films and launched his career as a leading man. Ultimately, though, he became sick of playing the bad guy and made his displeasure known.

During the filming of Dancing Lady in 1933, Gable developed pyorrhea, an infection in his gums that required immediate removal of nearly all his teeth. The infection spread through his body and reached his gallbladder, and he was hospitalized. Because of delays in filming and necessary reshoots due to Gable’s illness, the film ran $150,000 over budget. When he returned to work, MGM loaned him to the then-low-budget Columbia Pictures for a Frank Capra comedy, It Happened One Night. It was widely rumored to have been punishment for either his bad attitude about his parts or the difficulty in shooting his last film, but in truth, MGM simply didn’t have a project for him. He ended up winning an Academy Award for It Happened One Night, and having shown his range, began being cast in a wider variety of roles.

By now, Gable was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and he churned out a series of successful movies like Boomtown, San Francisco and Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1939 he appeared as Rhett Butler in his best-known film, the civil-war epic Gone with the Wind. He was dubbed the “King of Hollywood,” and was a symbol of masculinity, admired by men and adored by women.

Then, during filming of Somewhere I’ll Find You with Lana Turner in 1942, tragedy struck. Carole Lombard, Gable’s third wife and the love of his life, died in a plane crash. He was devastated. Disconsolate, he enlisted in the Army Air Force at age 41. He served as a tail-gunner on five bombing missions over Germany and made a propaganda film for the Army.

After his discharge in 1944, he returned to the big screen in Adventure. Though it was a lackluster flick, Gable’s return to film had people flocking to the box office. He continued to make movies with MGM, including Mogambo with Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, but his career never regained the same momentum. Still, when his studio contract expired in 1954, he became the highest-paid freelance actor of his day.

Gable’s status as a legend carried him, and he consistently made at least one movie a year, most notably Soldier of Fortune and The Tall Men. He gave what is considered to be one of his finest performances in The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift, but he never got to enjoy its success: Two days after they completed filming, Clark Gable suffered a heart attack. He died November 16, 1960.

Gable was a ladies’ man both on and off screen, and he was married five times over the course of his life. His wives included his first theater director Josephine Dillon, socialite Rhea Langham, actress Carole Lombard, Lady Sylvia Ashley and actress Kay Williams Spreckels. Spreckels and Gable had one son, John Clark Gable, who was born after Gable’s death.

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