Happy Birthday Paul Muni

Today is the 119th birthday of Paul Muni.  He has probably one of the best ‘before’ names in Hollywood History.

NAME: Paul Muni
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Television Actor
BIRTH DATE: September 22, 1895
DEATH DATE: August 25, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lviv, Poland
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecito, California
ORIGINALLY: Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund

BEST KNOWN FOR: American actor Paul Muni is best known for his film and stage portrayals of noted historical figures. He was nominated five times for the Academy Awards.

Paul Muni was born on September 22nd, 1895 in Lenberg, Galicia in Austria-Hungary with the birth name Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund to parents Salli and Phillip Weisenfreund, both of whom were actors.

His family moved to the United States in 1902, where he attended school in the public school system in Cleveland and in New York. At the young age of twelve he worked on a stage production of, Seven Faces where he portrayed an eighty year old man and played seven different characters.

When he completed high school he joined the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York and studied there for four years. He then went on to work on Yiddish stage plays making his stage debut in 1907. It was not until 1926 that he transferred over to doing American stage plays having his first English language role. In 1928, he was discovered by Fox.

His first screen role in English was on the film, The Valiant (1929) also with Marguerite Churchill and Johnny Mack Brown, in which he was one of only six actors total to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his first screen appearance. However, this film along with his next were both unsuccessful box office films and therefore, Muni returned back to Broadway to work on stage on the play, Counselor at Law.

In 1932, Muni decided to give films another chance and went back to Hollywood working on two films, Scarface also starring George Raft, Ann Dvorak, Tully Marshall and Boris Karloff and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (both 1932) starring with Glenda Farrell, Preston Foster and Sally Blane in which for the latter role he received his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

He was soon signed to a long contract with Warner Brothers studios who were so highly impressed with his talents. He became one of their most prestigious actors. They actually allowed him to choose which parts he wanted in various films.

Muni had such an influential impact on Warner Brothers that in 1935, they agreed to produce a historical biography called, The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) also starring Anita Louise, Akim Tamiroff, Dickie Moore, Donald Woods and Josephine Hutchinson, which was his idea, a huge success and earned Mini an Oscar for his performance.

During the late 30’s and early 40’s, Muni took on a couple more roles in films such as, The Good Earth (1937) also starring Academy Award winner for Best Actress Luise Rainer, A Song to Remember (1945) also starring Cornel Wilde, Merle Oberon and Nina Foch and Angel on My Shoulder (1946) co-starring Anne Baxter and Claude Rains. He was really beginning to fade himself out of the film industry as he was quite dissatisfied with Hollywood.

He focused the remainder of his career working back as a stage actor and won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his role in Inherit the Wind (1956).

Muni retired from acting not by choice, but more due to failing health reasons after his final appearance in, The Last Angry Man (1959) starring alongside David Wayne, Betsy Palmer, Billy Dee Williams and Godfrey Cambridge in which he received an Oscar nomination for. He suffered throughout his entire life from a rheumatic heart.

Muni was married only once to Bella Muni on May 8th, 1921 and they remained together until he passed away on August 25th, 1967 in Montecito, California from heart problems at the age of seventy one. He is interred at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery in Hollywood, California and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the Motion Picture Industry.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Last Angry Man (22-Oct-1959) · Dr. Sam Abelman
Stranger on the Prowl (12-Mar-1952)
Angel on My Shoulder (20-Sep-1946) · Eddie Kagle
Counter-Attack (26-Apr-1945)
A Song to Remember (18-Jan-1945) · Prof. Joseph Elsner
Stage Door Canteen (24-Jun-1943) · Himself
Commandos Strike at Dawn (30-Dec-1942) · Eric Toresen
Hudson’s Bay (9-Jan-1941) · Pierre Esprit Radisson
We Are Not Alone (25-Nov-1939)
Juarez (24-Apr-1939) · Benito Juarez
The Life of Emile Zola (11-Aug-1937) · Émile Zola
The Woman I Love (15-Apr-1937)
The Good Earth (29-Jan-1937) · Wang
The Story of Louis Pasteur (23-Nov-1935) · Louis Pasteur
Dr. Socrates (19-Oct-1935)
Black Fury (18-May-1935) · Joe Radek
Bordertown (23-Jan-1935)
Hi, Nellie! (20-Jan-1934)
The World Changes (25-Nov-1933)
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (19-Nov-1932) · James Allen
Scarface (31-Mar-1932) · Tony
The Valiant (12-May-1929) · James Dyke

Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

Today is the 69th birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead, known the world over as the drag queen/performance artist/actor/personality called “Divine.”  I was first introduced to Divine through the subscription of Interview Magazine I had while I was in high school.  This lead to renting the early John Waters movies and so forth.  I adore anyone who is fearless, who is in on the joke, and who plows forward.  Divine had all of those qualities and many more.

divine5

Born: Harris Glenn Milstead 19 October 1945 Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland
Died: 7 March 1988 (aged 42) Los Angeles, California, United States

Divine (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women’s clothing in musical performances. Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films. He was often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters’s films, usually in a leading role. Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as “the most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a conservative, upper middle class family, he became involved with John Waters and his acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, in the mid-1960s and starred in a number of Waters’s early films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). These films became hits on the midnight movie and underground cinema circuit in the U.S., and have since become cult classics, with Divine becoming particularly renowned for playing the role of Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos, during which he had to perform a series of extreme acts including eating dog excrement. In the 1970s, Milstead made the transition to theater and appeared in a number of productions, including Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman, while continuing to star in such films as Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). Meanwhile, in 1981 Divine had embarked on a disco career, producing Hi-NRG tracks, most of which had been written by Bobby Orlando, and went on to achieve chart success with hits like “You Think You’re A Man”, “I’m So Beautiful” and “Walk Like a Man.” Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, Divine died from cardiomegaly in 1988.

The New York Times said of Milstead’s ’80s films: “Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine’s performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick.” He was also described as “one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century… [who] was an audacious symbol of man’s quest for liberty and freedom.” Since his death, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly with those in the LGBT community, of which he was a part, being openly gay.

Due to Divine’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film.

A 12 foot tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

Happy Birthday Greta Garbo

Today is the 109th birthday of Greta Garbo.

NAME: Greta Garbo
OCCUPATION: Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: September 18, 1905
DEATH DATE: April 15, 1990
EDUCATION: Royal Dramatic Theater
PLACE OF BIRTH: Stockholm, Sweden
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
AKA: Greta Gustafsson
FULL NAME: Greta Lovisa Garbo
NICKNAME: The Mona Lisa of the 20th Century

BEST KNOWN FOR: Greta Garbo is best known for her acting career, in both silent and talking films before World War II.

One of Hollywood‘s most enigmatic stars, Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafson on September 8, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden. To her parents, Karl and Anna, who already had two children, Greta came as a surprise arrival, further straining the family’s already tight finances.

Greta’s father was an unskilled laborer who was often out of work and in poor health, which forced his family to live with the constant threat of poverty.

At the age of 13, Greta dropped out of school to care for her father, who had fallen deeply ill. He died two years later of kidney failure. The strain her father’s health and subsequent death left on the family deeply affected young Greta, who promised to make a life for herself that was void of financial hardship.

Following her father’s death, Greta landed job as a salesperson at Swedish department store. To help promote the men’s clothing line Greta starred in a pair of advertising shorts, modeling the attire. Her natural instincts in front of the camera soon led her to a role in her first film, a comedy called Peter the Tramp (1922).

A bigger opportunity followed when Greta earned a scholarship at the prestigious Royal Dramatic Theater, Sweden’s premier school for aspiring actors. But Greta cut her education short after just a year after meeting director Mauritz Stiller, Sweden’s leading silent film director, who wanted the young actress to star in his new film, The Legend of Gosta Berling (1924).

The film’s success in both Sweden and Germany made Garbo famous. It also solidified a partnership with Stiller that would change her career and life. Stiller coached her as an actress and convinced her to change her last name to Garbo.

Garbo’s next film, Streets of Sorrow (1925), in which she played a prospective prostitute, furthered Garbo’s standing as a star in Europe. The film also caught the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production chief Louis B. Mayer. Mayer wanted Stiller, who worked on the film, to work in America. The flamboyant director agreed to a contract with one condition: Garbo was to come with him. Reluctantly, Mayer inked her to a deal, too.

The 19-year-old Garbo arrived in America in 1925. Her arrival had come quietly and from the start, she showed a reluctance to deal with the press or reveal anything about her private her life. During her first interview, she curtly told reporters, “I was born. I had a mother and father. I went to school. What does it matter?”

Garbo’s first American film, The Torrent (1926), cast her as a Spanish peasant who is desperate to become an opera star. But the planned Garbo-Stiller partnership in Hollywood never materialized. Stiller wasn’t hired to direct The Torrent, and after a subsequent blow-up with MGM executives he bolted for Paramount where he again encountered problems with his bosses. He returned to Sweden in 1928 and died a year later.

Garbo, however, proved to be an immediate star. Her next two films, The Temptress (1926) and Flesh and the Devil (1926), were both hits and made the actress an international star.

For MGM, Garbo was their biggest asset. Her first three films amounted to 13 percent of the company’s profits from 1925-26. Garbo, ever mindful of the financial difficulties she’d grown up with, knew she had leverage. After a contract dispute with MGM, Garbo, who’d threatened to return to Sweden, landed a new contract that paid her a record $270,000 per movie and gave her unprecedented control over her roles and the films she starred in.

In so many ways Garbo represented a new kind of Hollywood actress, one whose vulnerabilities, sexuality, passion and mystery swirled together to entice both male and female audiences. In addition, her style changed the course of American fashion, while her reclusiveness (she gave her last American interview in 1927) only fueled the public’s fascination with her.

The advent of sound presented a predicament for MGM. The future of films was clear, but there was real hesitancy to let audiences hear Garbo speak. Executives worried her star power would be diminished by her accent and low, throaty voice.

Finally, MGM relented and in 1930 Garbo made her debut in sound in a film adaption of Eugene O’Neill’s, Anna Christie. Despite MGM’s concerns, Garbo’s star did not fade. In 1931, she teamed up with Clark Gable in Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise, then co-starred with Melvyn Douglas in 1932’s As You Desire Me. That same year she was part of an all-star cast that included John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery in Grand Hotel. The film won a 1932 Academy Award for Best Picture.

In 1933, Garbo took on her perhaps most ambitious role as a fictional Swedish monarch in Queen Christina. Other films followed, such as Anna Karenina (1935), Camille (1936) and Conquest (1937).

In the late 1930s, however, Garbo’s box office appeal began to diminish. With America in the midst of The Depression, the actress’ cosmopolitan style didn’t resonate with audiences like it once had. Europe, meanwhile, where she had enjoyed incredible success, the continent was heading to war.

In an effort to remake herself, Garbo was cast in a pair of comedies, Ninotchka (1939) and Two Faced Woman (1941), neither of which matched her previous successes. After another contract dispute with MGM, Garbo retired from acting.

Away from the glare of Hollywood, Garbo retreated to a world she let few enter into. While she had several romantic partners, including, it seems, at least one woman, she never married.

During World War II, while much of Hollywood rallied the country around the war effort, Garbo remained largely silent, which earned her criticism. Over the last half century of her life, in fact, Garbo proved to be an ever-increasing mystery. On the advice of a friend, she invested heavily in real estate and art. At the time of her death she was estimated to be worth more than $55 million.

Eventually Garbo left California and settled into a new life in New York City, where she loved to window shop and periodic Greta Garbo spottings were reported like UFO sightings. Her friends during this last period of her life included the English photographer Cecil Beaton and ventriloquist and fellow Swede, Edgar Bergen.

In the late 1980s her kidneys began to fail, forcing her to stop her walks, which only further cut her off from the outside world. She died on April 15, 1990, at a New York City hospital.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Two-Faced Woman (Nov-1941) · Karin
Ninotchka (6-Oct-1939) · Ninotchka
Conquest (22-Oct-1937) · Countess Marie Walewska
Camille (12-Dec-1936) · Marguerite
Anna Karenina (30-Aug-1935) · Anna Karenina
The Painted Veil (23-Nov-1934) · Katrin
Queen Christina (26-Dec-1933) · Christina
As You Desire Me (28-May-1932) · Zara
Grand Hotel (12-Apr-1932) · Grusinskaya, the Dancer
Mata Hari (26-Dec-1931) · Mata Hari
Susan Lenox (Her Rise and Fall) (10-Oct-1931) · Susan Lenox
Anna Christie (27-Mar-1931) · Anna
Inspiration (31-Jan-1931) · Yvonne
Romance (22-Aug-1930) · Rita Cavallini
Anna Christie (21-Feb-1930) · Anna
The Kiss (15-Nov-1929) · Irene
The Single Standard (27-Jul-1929) · Arden Stuart
Wild Orchids (23-Feb-1929) · Lillie Sterling
A Woman of Affairs (15-Dec-1928) · Diana
The Mysterious Lady (4-Aug-1928) · Tania
The Divine Woman (14-Jan-1928)
Love (29-Nov-1927) · Anna Karenina
Flesh and the Devil (25-Dec-1926) · Felicitas
The Temptress (3-Oct-1926) · Elena
Torrent (8-Feb-1926) · Leonora
The Joyless Street (18-May-1925)
The Saga of Gosta Berling (9-Mar-1924)

Happy Birthday Roddy McDowall

Today is the 86th birthday of Roddy McDowall. I think I first recognized him in a very late night movie called The Legend of Hell House, a not great mid-70’s supernatural horror film. Satanism, the whole bit, but great.

NAME: Roddy McDowall
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: September 17, 1928
DEATH DATE: October 3, 1998
PLACE OF BIRTH: Herne Hill, London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: Studio City, California
AKA: Roddy McDowall
FULL NAME: Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor Roddy McDowall had a recurring role on the Batman television series, and played Cornelius in the film and TV versions of Planet of the Apes.

Actor and photographer Roddy McDowall was born Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall was born on September 17, 1928, in London, England. He was the only son of Thomas McDowall, a merchant seaman, and his wife, Winifred. As a child, Roddy appeared in a slew of British films, including Yellow Sands (1938) and Just William (1939).

In 1940, Roddy moved to America, with his mother and sister, to escape the World War II bombing of London. Thomas McDowall joined his family shortly thereafter. They settled in Hollywood, where Roddy was immediately contracted by 20th Century-Fox. In 1941, he gave a remarkable performance as the juvenile lead in John Ford’s Oscar-winning drama How Green Was My Valley. McDowall followed the film’s success with equally impressive roles in the children’s classics My Friend Flicka and Lassie Come Home (both 1943).

Like many child stars, McDowall found it hard to transition into adult film roles. Frustrated with dwindling opportunities in Hollywood, he turned to stage acting. He toured in vaudeville and in summer stock before moving to New York in 1954. He was featured in a succession of memorable Broadway productions, including Compulsion (1957) and The Fighting Cock (1959). For the latter, McDowall earned a Supporting Actor Tony Award.

In 1963, McDowall returned to film acting in the more mature role of Octavian in the extravagant feature Cleopatra, costarring with Richard Burton and longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor. Shortly after, he made his mark in television with a recurring role—as the miscreant Bookworm—on the 1966 Batman series, opposite Adam West. His role as The Bookworm, one of Batman’s nemeses—others included Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, Cesar Romero’s Joker and Vincent Price’s Egghead—made McDowall a household name with younger viewers.

In 1968, McDowall starred as the sympathetic scientist Cornelius in the seminal science fiction film Planet of the Apes. With undeniable camp appeal, the film spawned a number of sequels and earned McDowall a cult following. He reprised his role as Cornelius in the third installment, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). In the two subsequent releases, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), McDowall assumed the role of Cornelius’ son Caesar.

McDowall made a transition to the small screen with the Planet of the Apes TV series, appearing in a number of episodes in 1974. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he continued to direct his efforts toward television work. He acted in the TV movies The Rhineman Exchange (1977), The Martian Chronicles (1980) and Hollywood Wives (1985). During this period, McDowall’s most notable film credit was as a washed-up movie star in the acclaimed horror film Fright Night (1985).

Toward the end of his prolific career, McDowall lent his voice to a number of animated series, including the Darkwing Duck (1992) and The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1994). In 1998, he provided the voice of Mr. Soil in the Disney/Pixar animated feature A Bug’s Life, which marked his final film role.

McDowall was also an accomplished portrait photographer whose pictures of Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Mia Farrow appeared in Look and Life magazines. He published a series of books: Double Exposure (1966), Double Exposure, Take Two (1989), Double Exposure, Take Three (1992) and Double Exposure, Take Four (1993). An active and respected member of the Hollywood community, McDowall served on the executive boards of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

McDowall died on October 3, 1998, in Studio City, California, after a long battle with cancer. He was 70 years old.

TELEVISION
The Pirates of Dark Water Niddler (1991-93)
Tales of the Gold Monkey Bon Chance Louie (1982-83)
The Fantastic Journey Dr. Jonathan Willoway (1977)
Planet of the Apes Galen (1974)

FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
The Devil’s Widow (Dec-1970)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
A Bug’s Life (14-Nov-1998) [VOICE]
Something to Believe In (8-May-1998)
The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (16-May-1997)
Unlikely Angel (17-Dec-1996)
Dead Man’s Island (5-Mar-1996)
It’s My Party (11-Jan-1996)
Last Summer in the Hamptons (13-Sep-1995) · Thomas
The Grass Harp (10-Sep-1995)
Star Hunter (1995)
The Color of Evening (1994)
Double Trouble (14-Feb-1992) · Philip Chamberlain
Deadly Game (10-Jul-1991)
Shakma (1990) · Sorenson
Going Under (1990)
The Big Picture (15-Sep-1989)
Cutting Class (Jul-1989)
Around the World in 80 Days (16-Apr-1989)
Fright Night Part II (11-Jan-1989)
Doin’ Time on Planet Earth (1988)
Overboard (16-Dec-1987) · Andrew
Dead of Winter (6-Feb-1987)
GoBots: War of the Rock Lords (21-Mar-1986) [VOICE]
Alice in Wonderland (9-Dec-1985)
Fright Night (2-Aug-1985)
Class of 1984 (20-Aug-1982)
Mae West (2-May-1982)
Evil Under the Sun (5-Mar-1982) · Rex Brewster
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (Feb-1981)
The Return of the King (11-May-1980) [VOICE]
The Martian Chronicles (27-Jan-1980)
Scavenger Hunt (21-Dec-1979)
Circle of Iron (14-Dec-1978)
The Thief of Baghdad (23-Nov-1978)
The Cat from Outer Space (9-Jun-1978)
Rabbit Test (9-Apr-1978)
Laserblast (1-Mar-1978) · Dr. Mellon
Sixth and Main (1977)
Flood! (24-Nov-1976)
Embryo (21-May-1976)
Mean Johnny Barrows (Jan-1976)
Funny Lady (15-Mar-1975) · Bobby
Arnold (16-Nov-1973)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (15-Jun-1973) · Caesar
The Legend of Hell House (15-Jun-1973) · Ben Fischer
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (18-Dec-1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (12-Dec-1972) · Acres
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (29-Jun-1972) · Caesar
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (11-Nov-1971)
A Taste of Evil (12-Oct-1971)
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (21-May-1971) · Cornelius
Pretty Maids All in a Row (28-Apr-1971)
Angel, Angel, Down We Go (19-Aug-1969)
Hello Down There (25-Jun-1969)
Midas Run (7-May-1969)
5 Card Stud (31-Jul-1968)
Planet of the Apes (8-Feb-1968) · Cornelius
The Cool Ones (12-Apr-1967) · Tony
The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (3-Mar-1967)
It! (Nov-1966)
The Defector (20-Oct-1966) · Adams
Lord Love a Duck (21-Feb-1966) · Alan Musgrave
Inside Daisy Clover (17-Feb-1966) · Baines
That Darn Cat! (2-Dec-1965)
The Loved One (11-Oct-1965) · D. J. Jr.
The Third Day (4-Aug-1965)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (15-Feb-1965) · Matthew
Shock Treatment (22-Jul-1964) · Martin Ashley
Cleopatra (12-Jun-1963) · Octavian
The Longest Day (Sep-1962) · Pvt. Morris
The Power and the Glory (29-Oct-1961)
Midnight Lace (13-Oct-1960) · Malcolm
The Subterraneans (23-Jun-1960)
The Tempest (3-Feb-1960)
Killer Shark (19-Mar-1950) · Ted
Tuna Clipper (10-Apr-1949)
Kidnapped (28-Nov-1948) · David Balfour
Macbeth (1-Oct-1948)
Holiday in Mexico (15-Aug-1946) · Stanley Owen
Molly and Me (25-May-1945) · Jimmy Graham
Thunderhead: Son of Flicka (15-Mar-1945) · Ken McLaughlin
The Keys of the Kingdom (15-Dec-1944) · Francis Chisholm
The White Cliffs of Dover (11-May-1944) · John Ashwood II
Lassie Come Home (10-Oct-1943) · Joe Carraclough
My Friend Flicka (26-May-1943)
The Pied Piper (8-Jul-1942)
Son of Fury (29-Jan-1942) · Benjamin
Confirm or Deny (19-Nov-1941)
How Green Was My Valley (28-Oct-1941) · Huw
Man Hunt (13-Jun-1941) · Vaner
Saloon Bar (2-Nov-1940)
Just William (20-Jul-1940)

Happy Birthday Claudette Colbert

Today is the 111th birthday of Claudette Colbert.

NAME: Claudette Colbert
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: September 13, 1903
DEATH DATE: July 30, 1996
EDUCATION: Art Students League of New York
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint-Mandé, Val-de-Marne, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Speightstown, Barbados
ORIGINALLY: Lily Claudette Chauchoin

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Claudette Colbert was known for her trademark bangs, her velvety, purring voice, her confident, intelligent style and her subtle, graceful acting.

One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, Avenue Général de Gaulle. The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette grew up, she wanted nothing more than to play to Broadway audiences (in those days, any actress or actor worth their salt went for Broadway, not Hollywood). After her formal education ended, she enrolled in the Art Students League, where she paid for her dramatic training by working in a dress shop. She made her Broadway debut in 1923 in the stage production of “The Wild Wescotts“. It was during this event that she adopted the name Claudette Colbert.

When the Great Depression shut down most of the theaters, Claudette decided to make a go of it in films. Her first film was called For the Love of Mike (1927). Unfortunately, it was a box-office disaster. She wasn’t real keen on the film industry, but with an extreme scarcity in theatrical roles, she had no choice but to remain. In 1929 she starred as Joyce Roamer in The Lady Lies (1929). The film was a success and later that year she had another hit entitled The Hole in the Wall (1929). In 1930 she starred opposite Fredric March in Manslaughter (1930), which was a remake of the silent version of eight years earlier. A year after that Claudette was again paired in a film with March, Honor Among Lovers (1931). It fared well at the box-office, probably only because it was the kind of film that catered to women who enjoyed magazine fiction romantic stories. In 1932 Claudette played the evil Poppeia in Cecil B. DeMille’s last great work, The Sign of the Cross (1932), and once again was cast with March. Later the same year she was paired with Jimmy Durante in The Phantom President (1932). By now Claudette’s name symbolized good movies and she, along with March, pulled crowds into the theaters with the acclaimed Tonight Is Ours (1933).

The next year started a little on the slow side with the release of Four Frightened People (1934), where Claudette and her co-stars were at odds with the dreaded bubonic plague on board a ship. However, the next two films were real gems for this young actress. First up, Claudette was charming and radiant in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular Cleopatra (1934). It wasn’t one of DeMille’s finest by any means, but it was a financial success and showcased Claudette as never before. However, it was as Ellie Andrews, in the now famous It Happened One Night (1934), that ensured she would be forever immortalized. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. It also resulted in Claudette being nominated for and winning the Oscar that year for Best Actress. In 1935 she was nominated again for Private Worlds (1935), where she played Dr. Jane Everest, on the staff at a mental institution. The performance was exquisite. Films such as The Gilded Lily (1935), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and No Time for Love (1943) kept fans coming to the theaters and the movie moguls happy. Claudette was a sure drawing card for virtually any film she was in. In 1944 she starred as Anne Hilton in Since You Went Away (1944). Again, although she didn’t win, Claudette picked up her third nomination for Best Actress.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s she was not only seen on the screen but the infant medium of television, where she appeared in a number of programs. However, her drawing power was fading somewhat as new stars replaced the older ones. In 1955 she filmed the western Texas Lady (1955) and wasn’t seen on the screen again until Parrish (1961). It was her final silver screen performance. Her final appearance before the cameras was in a TV movie, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987). She did, however, remain on the stage where she had returned in 1956, her first love. After a series of strokes, Claudette divided her time between New York and Barbados. On July 30, 1996, Claudette died in Speightstown, Barbados. She was 92.

Happy Birthday Shirley Booth

Today is the 116th birthday of Shirley Booth.  She was an amazing actress, capable of showing unflattering, unpopular, and raw emotions. On the other end of that, she was Hazel, of the same-titled TV show from the 1960s. Her acting on that show was so effortless and invisible, most people thought she was exactly like Hazel in real life.NAME: Shirley Booth
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Television Actress
BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1898
DEATH DATE: October 16, 1992
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: North Chatham, Massachusetts
ORIGINALLY: Marjory Ford

BEST KNOWN FOR: Shirley Booth was an American actress who played Lola Delaney in the drama Come Back, Little Sheba, for which she received a Tony Award in 1950.

Shirley Booth (August 30, 1898 – October 16, 1992) was an American actress. Primarily a theatre actress, Booth’s Broadway career began in 1925. Her most significant success was as Lola Delaney, in the drama Come Back, Little Sheba, for which she received a Tony Award in 1950. She made her film debut, reprising her role in the 1952 film version, and won both the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance. Despite her successful entry into films, she preferred stage acting, and made only four more films.

From 1961 until 1966, she played the title role in the sitcom Hazel, for which she won two Emmy Awards, and was acclaimed for her performance in the 1966 television production of The Glass Menagerie. She retired in 1974.

Shirley Booth has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6840 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

The Girl Most Likely to… – Required Viewing

You really absolutely have to watch this film.  Yes, I am suggesting you watch a TV movie from the early 70’s.  It is the ultimate revenge film, a lot like The Count of Monte Cristo, but with a bigger hair and makeup budget.  It’s so good.

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The Girl Most Likely to… is a black comedy with slight psychological thriller elements written by Joan Rivers and starring Stockard Channing and Edward Asner. The film was released on November 6, 1973 as a made-for-television movie broadcast on the ABC Movie of the Week. The film is about Miriam Knight, an intelligent but unattractive young woman who is disrespected by those around her. After being humiliated by the malicious pretty girl, she tearfully speeds away from the college campus. She is involved in an automobile accident. She requires reconstructive surgery on her face. Once the bandages are removed, they reveal a brunette bombshell. From the moment she steps outside the room in the hospital, she makes it her mission to exact vengeance on all those who did her wrong. It is at this point in the film where the psychological thriller elements begin to appear. Edward Asner stars as a police inspector who is the only one who figures out what she has done and why.

The film has achieved considerable cult status over the years — rare for a film made for television. Partly because of this, it was released on DVD in 2006.