Happy Birthday Boris Karloff

Today is Boris Karloff‘s 127th birthday.  I first learned about him through a book I was reading as a kid called “The Three Investigators Mystery of Terror Castle.”  They are a series of books a lot like the Hardy Boys, but set in the Los Angeles area in the 1940’s.  The Terror Castle one is the first in the series and centers around the mysterious goings-on at the abandoned Hollywood mansion of a silent movie monster actor.  Shortly after reading that book, my mom must have shown me one of his movies and I connected them in my head.  The world is a better place because Boris was in it and still feels the loss that Boris has left.

 

NAME: Boris Karloff
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: November 23, 1887
DEATH DATE: February 02, 1969
EDUCATION: London University
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: England
Originally: William Henry Pratt

Best Known For:  Boris Karloff was an English-born actor whose name became synonymous with horror movies.

Actor. Film star Boris Karloff, whose name became synonymous with the horror genre, was born William Henry Pratt in London, England, on November 23, 1887. He studied at London University, then went to Canada and the United States, aiming become a diplomat like his father, and became involved in acting.

Karloff spent 10 years in repertory companies, went to Hollywood, appearing in forty five silent films for Universal Studios, among them The Last of the Mohicans, Forbidden Cargo and an installment in the popular Tarzan series. When Bela Lugosi refused to take a role in which he would have his face hidden by makeup and have no lines, the role of The Monster in 1931’s Frankenstein went to Karloff. His tender, sympathetic performance received enormous critical praise and he became an overnight sensation.

“The monster was the best friend I ever had.” – Boris Karloff

Apart from a notable performance in a World War I story, The Lost Patrol (1934), his career was mostly spent in popular horror films. His performances frequently transcended the crudity of the genre, bringing, as in Frankenstein, a depth and pathos to the characterization.

He is also well known for providing the voice to the 1966 cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Karloff was known within the film industry for his great kindness and gentleness of manner; he was also central to the foundation of the Screen Actors Guild. After battling emphysema for a number of years, Boris Karloff died at his home in England on February 2, 1969.

Happy Birthday Isabella Blow

Today is the 56th birthday of the fashion visionary Isabella Blow.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Name:  Isabella Blow
Occupation:  Editor
Birth Date: November 19, 1958
Death Date:  May 7, 2007
Education:  Columbia University
Place of BirthLondon, England
Place of Death:  Gloucester, England

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Isabella Blow was a British fashion director and style icon known for wearing flamboyant hats, many by designer Philip Treacy.

“Fashion is a vampiric thing, it’s the hoover on your brain. That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me. They say, ‘Oh, can I kiss you?’ I say, ‘No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye.’ I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.”

Born Isabella Delves Broughton in 1958, Blow was a fashion editor, consultant, muse and nurturer of young fashion talent. She was renowned for her extrovert dress sense, which sometimes involved little more than a fur coat, red lipstick and a hat. To many she was the embodiment of the English eccentric, but her life was marred by tragedy, depression and unhappiness.

Part of an aristocratic family, Blow grew up on the family’s estate in Doddington, Cheshire, with her parents, two sisters and brother, John, who drowned in the family’s half-full swimming pool at the age of two. The tragedy had a great impact upon the family, fracturing her parents’ marriage and leading to their divorce when Isabella was aged 14. Blow later recalled that her mother left offering her nothing more than a goodbye handshake, attributing this to the beginning of her lifelong battle with depression.

Blow was sent to Heathfield School in Ascot, Surrey, where she remained until she was 18. After finishing her education she moved into a London squat and took odd jobs to earn money. In 1979 she moved to New York to study ancient Chinese art at Columbia University, where she became friends with many prominent artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michael Basquiat and Roy Lichenstein.

In 1980, she moved briefly to West Texas to work for the designer Guy Laroche, but returned to New York a year later. It was then that she was first introduced to Anna Wintour, then-creative director of American Vogue, and soon after she became her assistant. In 1981 she married her first husband, Nicholas Taylor, although the marriage ended in divorce two years later.

Blow moved back to London in 1986 and began working at Tatler magazine, assisting the then-fashion editor Michael Roberts. In 1988, she met her second husband Detmar Blow. They were wed at Gloucester Cathedral a year later, with Isabella wearing a hat created by milliner Philip Treacy – then an unknown student at the Royal College of Art whom she had recently discovered. Treacy was to become a lifelong friend and confidante of Blow’s, and Blow was almost never seen without one of Treacy’s hats upon her head. “I don’t use a hat as a prop, I use it as a part of me. If I am feeling really low, I go and see Philip, cover my face, and feel fantastic. Although, if I’m on a real low it requires going to the doctor for a prescription,” Blow once said.

Renowned for her unique ability to spot and nurture design talent, she discovered many of the fashion industry’s leading figures. Three years after discovering Treacy, she attended the Central Saint Martins MA graduate show where she spotted the work of then-student Alexander McQueen. Blow famously bought McQueen’s entire graduate collection for £5,000, and began supporting him and his talent in any way she could. After McQueen became famous across the world – and his label was bought by the Gucci Group – Blow expressed bitterness that he did not employ her in an official capacity within his brand, despite her efforts to make him a success. “She was upset that Alexander McQueen didn’t take her along when he sold his brand to Gucci. Once the deals started happening, she fell by the wayside. Everybody else got contracts, and she got a free dress,” said her friend Daphne Guinness in an interview with Cathy Horyn in 2007.

She was also credited with discovering the models Sophie Dahl, who she spotted crying on Kensington street corner, and Stella Tennant.

Blow left Tatler in 1997 to work at the Sunday Times, only to return to the publication as fashion director in 2001. During her tenure at Tatlers he became notorious for her risqué shoots, once featuring herself topless in a 2004 shoot entitled See nipples and die.

In the years leading up to Blow’s death in 2007 she attempted suicide numerous times, once shattering both her ankles after jumping from the Hammersmith flyover. She died in hospital on May 7 2007 after drinking the weed killer Paraquat. At the time of her death she was also suffering from ovarian cancer.

Blow’s funeral took place at Gloucester Cathedral on May 15 2007 – the same place she had married her husband almost 20 years earlier. Philip Treacy created a hat resembling a black sailing ship which was placed atop her coffin, and she was buried in a red-and-gold brocade dress designed by McQueen. McQueen, Treacy and Blow’s sister Julia helped dress the body.

Rupert Everett, a long time friend of Blow’s, read the eulogy at her funeral. “For someone who was suicidal, she was constantly dazzled by life and life was constantly dazzled by her,” he said. “You were a one-off, a genius friend, your own creation in a world of copycats and I will miss you for the rest of my life.”

Alexander McQueen dedicated his spring/summer 2008 show to Blow, collaborating with Treacy to create ambitious head pieces.  The show space was sprayed with Isabella’s favourite Robert Piguet scent and the invitations were illustrations which depicted a triumphant Blow in a McQueen dress and Philip Treacy headdress, aboard a horse-drawn carriage ascending to heaven.

In 2010, Bryan Ferry dedicated his album Olympia to Blow. Blow was godmother to his son, Otis.

In May 2010, Philip Treacy confirmed that a film was set to be made about Blow’s life.

After her death Blow’s sisters arranged an auction of Isabella’s clothes at Christie’s, which included over 90 McQueen dresses, 50 Treacy hats and portraits of Blow by photographer Mario Testino and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. The auction was later cancelled after Blow’s friend Daphne Guinness bought the entire lot. “The planned sale at Christie’s could only result in carnage, as souvenir seekers plundered the incredible body of work Issie had created over her life,” said Guinness. “Indeed, in many ways, the auction would not be merely a sale of clothes; it would be a sale of what was left of Issie, and the carrion crows would gather and take away her essence forever.”

In July 2010, Blow’s sister Julie Broughton was presented with a rose that had been named after Isabella by Alexander McQueen, before his death. It was named Alexander’s Issie. “My sister, Isabella, was passionate and totally dedicated to fashion – but only her closest friends knew of her love of gardens, and in particular, roses,” said Broughton. “Their unique colour and beauty combined with their thorny nature greatly appealed to her and to her distinctive eye. She would have been extremely honoured to receive this wonderful gift from her most beloved friend, Alexander.” Alexander’s Issie was selected after the designer had trawled through hundreds of flower pictures. He thought the rose reflected Blow’s bright personality – heralding her love of fashion and famous sense of style.

In September 2010, Detmar Blow released a memoir based on the life of his late wife – entitled Blow By Blow. In the book he recalled the first time he saw his wife at a wedding in Salisbury. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. After the service, I waited for an opportunity to speak to her – and we immediately connected. Despite the brevity of our meeting, I knew I had fallen in love with her, and sat with her after dinner.”

Detmar Blow also spoke of his wife’s friendship with Treacy. “In Philip Treacy she had found not only the creator of her wedding headdress, but her best friend for life and the greatest discovery of her career so far,” Detmar wrote. “They quickly developed an intense and creative relationship that he later likened to ‘having an affair with no sex.”

Philip Treacy has said that Blow’s life should not be looked back upon with sadness. “Nothing about her was tragic. She was triumphant,” he said in September 2010.

In October 2010, Detmar Blow said in an interview with London’s Evening Standard that he believed Alexander McQueen betrayed Isabella. “Money changed him and then drugs changed him. I remember reading of how he had flown his boyfriend somewhere for £130,000,” recalled Blow. “What did Issie get? Some clothes. I find that quite shocking.”

In the March 2011 issue of American Vogue, Lady Gaga attributed some of her success to her similarities with Blow. “The fashion community in general got me much earlier than everyone else. But actually, I felt truly embraced by this London cultural movement, the McQueen, Isabella [Blow], Daphne Guinness wing of the English crowd. I remember when I first started doing photo shoots people would say, ‘My God, you look so much like Isabella Blow, it scares me.’ And McQueen used to say, ‘Oh, my God, your boobs!’ He actually grabbed both of them and said, ‘Even your boobs are like hers!'”

In September 2011, Tom Ford spoke about the Philip Treacy hat worn by Princess Beatrice at the wedding of Catherine Middleton and Prince William. “I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but at the royal wedding, one of the princesses wore a now-very-famous (or infamous),  Philip Treacy hat – that hat wore her,” Ford said. “Now, Isabella Blow, a woman those of us in fashion knew well – had she worn the same hat, it would have looked great. She would have worn the hat. She knew what she was about, what she wanted to express in fashion.” The hat sold for over £81,000 on ebay, with all proceeds going to charity.

In October 2011, a double portrait of Blow and McQueen taken by David LaChapelle went on public display for the first time. The picture, entitled Burning Down The House, was taken in December 1996 at Hedingham House in Essex, and first appeared in Vanity Fair. At the time the picture was taken McQueen was just 27 years old and was still working at Givenchy. Both wear creations by the designer himself, with Blow sporting a Philip Treacy hat. The image was bought by the National Portrait Gallery with the financial help of McQueen and Blow’s long-term friend Daphne Guinness, The Marrakech Gallery Foundation and artist management company Fred Torres.

 

Happy Birthday Vivien Leigh

Today is the 101st birthday of Vivien Leigh.  Absolutely everyone has seen her amazing performance in Gone With The Wind and fell in love with her from it, it is undeniable.  You may have even seen Streetcar Named Desire, which became another iconic role for her.  I really really love her in Ship of Fools, it is just so different and so very beautiful.  For a woman that died far too early at the age of 53 from tuberculosis, she left behind a body of work that inspires generations of film lovers.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left it.

NAME: Vivien Leigh
OCCUPATION: Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: November 05, 1913
DEATH DATE: July 08, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Darjeeling, India
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom

Best Known For:  Vivien Leigh was a British actress who achieved film immortality by playing two of American literature’s most celebrated Southern belles, Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois.

The Wiki:

Famed actress Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India, to an English stockbroker and his Irish wife. The family returned to England when Hartley was 6 years old. A year later, the precocious Hartley announced to classmate Maureen O’Sullivan that she “was going to be famous.” She was right, though her fame would eventually come under a different name.

As a teen, Vivian Hartley attended schools in England, France, Italy and Germany, becoming fluent in both French and Italian. She went on to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but put her career temporarily on hold at age 19, when she married a lawyer named Leigh Holman and had his daughter. Replacing the “a” in her first name with the less commonly used “e,” Hartley used her husband’s name to craft a more glamorous stage name, Vivien Leigh.

Vivien Leigh made both her onstage and film debuts in 1935. She starred in the play The Bash, which, although wasn’t particularly successful, allowed Leigh to make an impression on producer Sydney Carroll, who soon cast the actress in her first London play; and landed the lead role in the aptly titled movie Things are Looking Up (1935).

Although Leigh was initially typecast as a fickle coquette, she began to explore more dynamic roles by doing Shakespearean plays at the Old Vic in London, England. There, she met and fell in love with Laurence Olivier, a respected actor who, like Leigh, already happened to be married. The two soon embarked on a highly collaborative and inspired acting relationship—not to mention a very public love affair.

Around the same time, American director George Cukor was hunting for the perfect actress to play the lead role of Scarlett O’Hara in his film adaptation of Gone with the Wind. “The girl I select must be possessed of the devil and charged with electricity,” Cukor insisted at the time. An impressive list of Hollywood’s top actresses, including Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, had long been vying for the part by the time Leigh, who was on a two-week vacation in California, took and passed the screen test.

Casting a virtually unknown British theater actress in the role of a Southern belle struggling for survival during the American Civil War was risky, to say the least—especially considering that Gone with the Wind was already, even in pre-production, one of the most highly anticipated Hollywood pictures of all time. However, the decision paid off as the film smashed box office records, and garnered 13 Academy Award nominations and eight wins—including one for Leigh as best actress.

Gone with the Wind remains one of the most iconic pictures in cinema history.

Finally having secured divorces from their respective spouses, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier married in 1940, cementing their status as a powerhouse couple in the world of show business. The pair continued to co-star in movies and plays, but tried to stay out of the limelight, often taking breaks of several years between films—this was partly due to the deteriorating state of Leigh’s mental health, as increasingly severe bouts of manic depression strained her relationship with Olivier and made it difficult for her to perform.

Tragedy struck in 1944, when Leigh fell during a rehearsal for Anthony and Cleopatra and suffered a miscarriage. Her health took a turn for the worse; she became increasingly unstable while simultaneously battling insomnia, bipolar disorder and a respiratory ailment that was eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. Hoping for relief, Leigh underwent electroshock therapy, which was very rudimentary at the time and sometimes left her with burn marks on her temples. It wasn’t long before she began to drink heavily.

Her increasingly troubled personal life forced Leigh to take occasional breaks from work throughout the 1940s, but she continued to take on many high-profile roles, both on the stage and screen. None could match the critical or commercial success she had won for playing Scarlett O’Hara, however.

That changed in 1949, when Leigh won the part of Blanche Du Bois in a London production of Tennessee Williams’s play, A Streetcar Named Desire. After a successful run that lasted nearly a year, Leigh was cast in the same demanding role in Elia Kazan’s 1951 Hollywood film adaptation, in which she starred opposite Marlon Brando. Her portrayal of Blanche Du Bois, a character struggling to hide a shattered psyche behind a facade of gentility, may have drawn on Leigh’s real-life struggles with mental illness, and perhaps even contributed to them. (The actress later said that the year she spent inside the tortured soul of Blanche Du Bois tipped her “into madness.”)

In the judgment of many critics, Leigh’s acting in Streetcar surpassed even her star turn in Gone with the Wind; she won a second Best Actress Oscar, as well as a New York Film Critics Award and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, for the part.

Soon after, Leigh made theater history by starring alongside Olivier in simultaneous London stage productions of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra—both of which were critical successes.

Despite these triumphs, bipolar disorder continued to take a heavy toll on Vivien Leigh. After another miscarriage, she had a breakdown in 1953, forcing her to withdraw from the filming of Elephant Walk and earning her a reputation for being difficult to work with. Additionally, her relationship with Olivier became more and more tumultuous; in 1960, their troubled marriage ended in divorce.  After Olivier remarried and started a new family, Leigh moved in with a younger actor named Jack Merivale. The change of pace seemed to do her good, as she re-emerged to take part in several successful performances during the 1960s. In 1963, she headlined in a musical adaptation of Tovarich and earned her a first Tony Award. Two years later,  she starred in the Oscar-winning film Ship of Fools.

Just before she began rehearsing for a London production of A Delicate Balance in 1967, Leigh fell seriously ill. A month passed before she finally succumbed to her tuberculosis, on July 8, 1967, at the age of 53, in London, England. Marking a sad and premature end to a career that was both tumultuous and triumphant, the London theater district blacked out its lights for a full hour in Leigh’s honor.

In 2013, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London purchased her personal archives, which includes her personal diaries and previously unseen photographs. The museum’s director Martin Roth told UPI that the archive “not only represents Vivien Leigh’s career, but is also a fascinating insight into the theater and social world that surrounded her.” Selections from the archive will put on display in time for the centennial celebration of Leigh’s birth.

Happy Birthday Adam Ant

Today is the 60th birthday of Adam Ant.

NAME: Adam Ant
BIRTH DATE: November 3, 1954 (age 60)
EDUCATION: Hornsey College of Art
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England, United Kingdom

BEST KNOWN FOR: Adam Ant came to fame in the early 1980s as the lead singer of the New Wave band Adam and the Ants.

A post-punk, New Wave superstar, Stuart Leslie Goddard, better known as Adam Ant, was born on November 3, 1954 in London, England. An only child, his parents, Leslie Goddard and Betty Kathleen Smith, divorced when he was 7 years old.

Troubled by the divorce and affected by his father’s alcoholism and abusive nature, Goddard struggled in school and flashed his own temper, until a teacher took him under his wing and introduced him to the arts. Able to turn around his academic performance, Goddard graduated with high marks and enrolled at the prestigious Hornsey College of Art, where he planned to study graphic design.

While at Hornsey, Goddard met and fell in love with a fellow student, Carol Mills. By this time, he had jumped into music, playing bass for a band called Bazooka Joe. To support her young husband, Carol designed rubber outfits for him, an idea that Goddard had picked up from fetish magazines. But confusion greeted Goddard at college. He was unsure whether he should study art or music, and he was confused about his marriage. In his final year of college, he became anorexic. “I just didn’t eat,” he later said. “I wasn’t attempting to slim, I was attempting to kill myself.”

After overdosing on pills, Goddard was committed to a mental hospital in London. Upon his release, he changed his name to Adam Ant; Carol, who was entrusted to take care of Ant, became known as Eve. But their marriage was on the rocks, and in 1976, the couple divorced.

Committed to making music, Ant reconnected with a few former band mates after his release from the hospital and formed a new band, at first called The Ants. Later they renamed themselves, Adam and the Ants.

While the band’s original incarnation proved to be a flop, after a reshuffling of the lineup, the Ants, backed by the playing of new guitar player, Marco Pirroni, rose to the top of the charts, first in Britain and later, America. The group’s two albums, Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) and Prince Charming (1982) that produced an astounding 16 hits and sole more than 15 million records.

In 1981 alone, the Ants had an astonishing seven singles, including Stand and Deliver, in the UK top 40 at the same time. As their popularity crossed the Atlantic, Adam, donning David Hemmings’ jacket from the 1968 film, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and a white stripe across his face, became the face of New Wave music.

The theatrical band arrived in New York by sailing up the Hudson River on a replica 18th century schooner. Ant embraced his celebrity with a deep commitment to his work and a zero-tolerance policy toward drug use. If he caught bandmates taking drugs, he fired them. Soon, however, the grind of touring—the group performed 300 gigs a year—took its toll, and in early 1982, Ant broke up the band.

In 1982, Ant released his first solo album, Friend or Foe. Though Ant anticipated a successful solo career, the record and his subsequent work, including the albums Manners and Physique (1990) and Wonderful (1995), failed to match his earlier success. Shortly after 1985’s Live Aid concert, Ant distinguished himself as being the only performer whose record went down in the charts in the week following the show.

A later move to Hollywood saw Ant take a turn at acting. He landed supporting roles in several movies and in 1989, played his first lead in the film Trust Me.

Ant’s personal life has mirrored the rocky nature of his musical career. In 1997, a 42-year-old Ant married Lorraine Gibson, a 25-year-old intern to fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. The couple eventually had a daughter together, but their subsequent divorce pushed Ant into another mental crisis.

In 2002, police arrested Ant after he threw a car alternator through the window of a pub, and threatened people inside with a fake pistol.

In recent years, however, Ant’s life seems to have settled down. In a round of interviews in 2011, he excitedly discussed plans to make music again, even suggesting that there would be an Ants reunion. “I feel very grateful to be alive and well enough to make music,” he said. “Because for a time there, it was like the Alamo. It really was. It got a bit sticky.”

Happy Birthday Elsa Lanchester

Today is Elsa Lanchester‘s 111st birthday.  I tried to include a wide range of photos because if you are like me, you will have had no idea that the Bride of Frankenstein was the same woman as one of your favorite episodes of To Catch A Thief.  Range and longevity are unique in her line of work.  The more I have been learning about her life and career, the more I simply adore her.  Raise a glass and toast Elsa Lanchester on her birthday and see if you can learn a bit from her life.  She really really lived it.

Name: Elsa Lanchester
Born: October 28, 1902, Lewisham, London, United Kingdom
Died: December 26, 1986, Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, CA
Spouse: Charles Laughton (m. 1929–1962)

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James “Shamus” Sullivan and Edith “Biddy” Lanchester, were socialists – very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the institution of marriage and being tied to any conventions of legality for that matter. Her mother had actually been committed to an asylum in 1895 by her father and older brothers because of her unmarried state with James. The incident received worldwide press as the “Lanchester Kidnapping Case.”

Elsa had a great desire to become a classical dancer and to that end at age 10 her mother enrolled her at the famed Isadora Duncan’s Bellevue School in Paris in 1912. But the uncertainties of WW1 brought her home after only two years. At age 12, she was sent to a co-educational boarding school in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England, to teach dance classes in exchange for her education and board. In 1918, she was hired as a dance teacher at Margaret Morris’s school on the Isle of Wight.

Next to dance, she loved the music halls of the period, so in 1920 she debuted in a music hall act as an Egyptian dancer. About the same time she founded the Children’s Theater in Soho, London and taught there for several years. She made her stage debut in 1922 in the West End play Thirty Minutes in a Street. In 1924 she and her partner, Harold Scott, opened a London nightclub called the Cave of Harmony. They performed one-act plays by Pirandello and Chekhov and sang cabaret songs. She would later collect and record these and many others. The spot was frequented by literati like Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells and also James Whale, working in London theater and soon to be directing on Broadway and Hollywood’s most famous horror films. Lanchester kept busy including, on her own admission, posing nude for artists. During a 1926 comic performance in the Midnight Follies at London’s Metropole, a member of the British Royal family walked out as she sang, “Please Sell No More Drink to My Father”. She closed her nightclub in 1928 as her film career began in earnest.

Perhaps not beautiful in the more conventional sense, Lanchester was certainly pretty as a young woman with a turned-up nose that gave her a pert, impish expression, all the more striking with her large, expressive dark eyes and full lips. She had a lithe figure that she carried with the assuredness of her dancing background. Her voice was bright and distinctive, and had a delightful rush and trill that had an almost Scottish burr quality. What clicked on stage would do the same in the movies.

Her first film appearance was actually in an amateur movie by friend and author Evelyn Waugh called The Scarlet Woman: An Ecclesiastical Melodrama (1925). Her formal film debut was in the British movie One of the Best (1927). She continued stage work and became associated in 1927 with a rather self-possessed but keenly dedicated actor, Charles Laughton. He appeared with her in three of four films Lanchester did in 1928. Three of these were written for her by H.G. Wells). They did a few plays as well and wed in 1929. According to Lancester, after two years, she discovered he was homosexual but they remained married until his death in 1962. Lanchester declared in a 1958 interview that she kept to a separate career path from her husband. They were never an on-screen team but appeared together on occasion — moving through 1931 with several smart play-like films including Potiphar’s Wife (1931) with Laurence Olivier. She had done the play Payment Deferred in London in 1930 and followed it to Broadway in 1931.

MGM offered her a contract in 1932. In 1933 Alexander Korda was casting his The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933) and decided that Laughton was the perfect choice – and his wife would be just as perfect as one of Henry’s six wives. Elsa’s versatility pointed to a part with some comedic elements and fitting more into a caricature. She looked most like Hans Holbein’s famous portrait of Anne of Cleves (Henry’s fourth wife who was actually somewhat more homely than the painter depicted). In costume Lanchester was charming if not striking. Her interpretation of Anne was a perfect integration with herself, and her scene with Laughton informally playing cards on the marriage bed and deciding on annulment is a highpoint of the movie.

Of course, it would be hard to mention her film career of the 1930s without mentioning the one role that would forever dog her, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Having come to Hollywood with Laughton in 1932 (but not permanently until 1939), Lanchester did only a few films up to 1935 and was disappointed enough with Hollywood’s reception to return to London for a respite. She was quickly called back by old friend from London, stage and film associate James Whale, now the noted director of Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933). He wanted her for two parts in Bride: author Mary Shelley and the bride. A central joke of the movie build-up was the tag lines: “WHO will be The Bride of Frankenstein? WHO will dare?”

Indeed, it was no honeymoon for her. For some ten days, Lanchester was wrapped in yards of bandage and covered in heavy makeup. The stand-on-end hairdo was accomplished by combing it over a wire mesh cage. Lanchester was in real agony with her eyes kept taped wide open for long takes – and it showed in her looks of horror. Her monster’s screaming and hissing sounds (based on the sounds of Regents Park swans in London) were taped and then run backward to spook-up the effect. She was delightfully melodramatic and picturesque as Wollstonecraft, and her bride would become iconic. Many have considered The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) the best of the golden age horror movies.

Lanchester stood out in her next movie with Laughton the next year, Korda’s dark Rembrandt (1936), but she only did a few more films for the remainder of the decade. Through the 1940s she was doubly busy – a couple of films per year while regenerating her beloved musical revue sketches. She performed for 10 years at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood, using old London music hall/cabaret songs and others written for her. Later she would have to split her time further doing a similar act at a supper club called The Bar of Music. By the later 1940s she had become rather matronly, and the roles would settle appropriately. But she always lent her sparkle, as with her charming maid Matilda in The Bishop’s Wife (1947). She would be nominated for best supporting actress in Come to the Stable (1949).

She entered the 1950s busy with road touring of her nightclub act with pianist J. Raymond Henderson (who went by “Ray” and who is sometimes confused with popular songwriter Ray Henderson). There was a series of tours to complement Laughton’s famous reading tours, called Elsa Lanchester’s Private Music Hall which ended in 1952; Elsa Lanchester–Herself which ended in 1961; and once more in 1964 at the Ivar Theater. She was equally busy with a stock of film roles and a large share of TV playhouse theater.

She had made ten movies with Laughton, the last of which, Witness for the Prosecution (1957) garnered her second supporting actress nomination. But her dizzy Aunt Queenie Holroyd of Bell Book and Candle (1958) is a fond remembrance of that time.

With the two decades from the 1960s to early 1980s, Lanchester was a fixture on episodic TV and an institution in Disney and G-rated fare — perhaps a bit ironic for the unconventional Lanchester. She wrote two autobiographies: Charles Laughton and I (1938) and Elsa Lanchester: Herself (1983), both recalling nearly 100 roles before the camera.

Elsa Lanchester remained humorously reflective in regard to her film career: “…large parts in lousy pictures and small parts in big pictures.” It was the mix of silly, bawdy, and outrageous in her revues that was her great joy: “I was content because I was fully aware that I did not like straight acting but preferred performing direct to an audience. You might call what I do vaudeville. Making a joke, especially impromptu, and getting a big laugh is just plain heaven.”

TELEVISION
The John Forsythe Show Miss Margaret Culver (1965-66)
Nanny and the Professor Aunt Henrietta (1971)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Die Laughing (Apr-1980)
Murder by Death (23-Jun-1976) · Jessica Marbles
Arnold (16-Nov-1973)
Terror in the Wax Museum (May-1973)
Willard (18-Jun-1971)
Me, Natalie (13-Jul-1969)
Rascal (11-Jun-1969)
Blackbeard’s Ghost (8-Feb-1968)
Easy Come, Easy Go (22-Mar-1967)
That Darn Cat! (2-Dec-1965)
Pajama Party (11-Nov-1964) · Aunt Wendy
Mary Poppins (27-Aug-1964)
Honeymoon Hotel (3-Jun-1964) · Chambermaid
Bell Book and Candle (19-Dec-1958) · Queenie
Witness for the Prosecution (Dec-1957) · Miss Plimsoll
The Glass Slipper (24-Mar-1955) · Widow Sonder
3 Ring Circus (25-Dec-1954)
Hell’s Half Acre (26-Feb-1954) · Lida O’Reilly
The Girls of Pleasure Island (1-Apr-1953)
Androcles and the Lion (Dec-1952)
Les Miserables (14-Aug-1952) · Mme. Magloire
Dreamboat (25-Jul-1952) · Dr. Coffey
Frenchie (25-Dec-1950) · Countess
The Petty Girl (17-Aug-1950)
Mystery Street (27-Jul-1950)
Buccaneer’s Girl (1-Mar-1950) · Mme. Brizar
The Inspector General (30-Dec-1949) · Maria
Come to the Stable (27-Jul-1949) · Amelia Potts
The Secret Garden (30-Apr-1949) · Martha
The Big Clock (9-Apr-1948)
The Bishop’s Wife (9-Dec-1947) · Matilda
Northwest Outpost (25-Jun-1947)
The Razor’s Edge (19-Nov-1946) · Miss Keith
The Spiral Staircase (6-Feb-1946) · Mrs. Oates
Passport to Destiny (31-Jan-1944) · Ella Muggins
Lassie Come Home (10-Oct-1943) · Mrs. Carraclough
Forever and a Day (21-Jan-1943)
Tales of Manhattan (5-Aug-1942)
Son of Fury (29-Jan-1942) · Bristol Isabel
Ladies in Retirement (9-Sep-1941) · Emily Creed
The Beachcomber (4-Mar-1938)
Rembrandt (6-Nov-1936) · Hendrickje
The Ghost Goes West (17-Dec-1935)
Bride of Frankenstein (22-Apr-1935) · Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Naughty Marietta (8-Mar-1935) · Mme. d’Annard
David Copperfield (8-Jan-1935) · Clickett
The Private Life of Henry VIII (17-Aug-1933) · Anne of Cleves
The Constant Nymph (20-Feb-1928)

Happy Birthday Angela Lansbury

Have you seen Gaslight?  Have you?  You absolutely must, it will change your perspective on Angela Lansbury.  All those Tony awards?  Don’t get me wrong, Murder She Wrote is everything and you should be constantly watching it on Nexflix or Hulu or wherever it is that I watch it.  Angela Lansbury is 89 today.

NAME: Angela Lansbury
OCCUPATION: Actress
BIRTH DATE: October 16, 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH: Poplar, London, England

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Angela Lansbury has entertained audiences in a variety of ways, including her 12-year stint as Jessica Fletcher on the 1984 series Murder, She Wrote.

Actress Angela Lansbury was born on October 16, 1925, in London, England. She went on to become an accomplished film, theater and television actress who has received nearly every acting honor imaginable. She has been nominated for multiple Academy Awards and Emmys and won several Tony Awards and Golden Globes.

Not long after arriving in the United States in 1940, Lansbury scored an important film role. She appeared in 1944’s Gaslight opposite Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Playing the house maid Nancy, Lansbury held her own against such established stars and earned an Academy Award nomination for Actress in a Supporting Role. She was nominated again the next year for playing Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Lansbury continued making films, including The Manchurian Candidate (1963), which brought her a third Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. A versatile performer, she appeared in the movie musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks in 1971 and on stage in the musical productions Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), Gypsy (1974) and Sweeney Todd (1979). Lansbury won Best Actress in a Musical for all four of these productions.

In the 1980s, Lansbury found success on the small screen. Beginning in 1984, she played the role of Jessica Fletcher in the popular TV mystery series Murder, She Wrote. As the diplomatic, kind and clever Mrs. Fletcher, she earned Emmy Award nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category every year from 1985 to 1996.

After the show ended, Lansbury has appeared in television movies including some Murder, She Wrote specials and in feature films, such as Nanny McPhee (2005). She has also made TV guest appearances. The most notable one was on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2005, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. During her career, she has voiced several animated characters as well for such films as Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Anastasia (1997).

In 2007, she returned to Broadway, performing in the show Deuce. Lansbury played a former tennis pro who reunites with her doubles partner for an honors ceremony at the U.S. Open. In 2009, she appeared again on stage for Blithe Spirit, a play about a man who is haunted by the ghost of his ex-wife. The performance earned Lansbury a Tony award for Best Supporting Actress in 2009. This tied Lansbury with performer Julie Harris for a record five Tony Award wins, with only Audra McDonald having surpassed this number as of 2014.

Lansbury has thankfully continued her stage work, playing Madame Armfeldt in the 2009 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and in 2012 taking on a lead role in the Gore Vidal satire The Best Man.

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde

Today is the 160th birthday of Oscar Wilde.

oscar wildeNAME: Oscar Wilde
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: October 16, 1854
DEATH DATE: November 30, 1900
EDUCATION: Portora Royal School , Magdalen College, Trinity College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Dublin, Ireland
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
FULL NAME: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

BEST KNOWN FOR: Author Oscar Wilde published several acclaimed works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Wilde, was an acclaimed doctor who was knighted for his work as medical advisor for the Irish censuses. William Wilde later founded St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital, entirely at his own personal expense, to treat the city’s poor. Oscar Wilde’s mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet who was closely associated with the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, a skilled linguist whose acclaimed English translation of Pomeranian novelist Wilhelm Meinhold’s Sidonia the Sorceress had a deep influence on her son’s later writing.

Wilde was a bright and bookish child. He attended the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen where he fell in love with Greek and Roman studies. He won the school’s prize for the top classics student in each of his last two years, as well as second prize in drawing during his final year. Upon graduating in 1871, Wilde was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. At the end of his first year at Trinity, in 1872, he placed first in the school’s classics examination and received the college’s Foundation Scholarship, the highest honor awarded to undergraduates.

Upon his graduation in 1874, Wilde received the Berkeley Gold Medal as Trinity’s best student in Greek, as well as the Demyship scholarship for further study at Magdalen College in Oxford. At Oxford, Wilde continued to excel academically, receiving first class marks from his examiners in both classics and classical moderations. It was also at Oxford that Wilde made his first sustained attempts at creative writing. In 1878, the year of his graduation, his poem “Ravenna” won the Newdigate Prize for the best English verse composition by an Oxford undergraduate.

Upon graduating from Oxford, Wilde moved to London to live with his friend, Frank Miles, a popular portraitist among London’s high society. There, he continued to focus on writing poetry, publishing his first collection, Poems, in 1881. While the book received only modest critical praise, it nevertheless established Wilde as an up-and-coming writer. The next year, in 1882, Wilde traveled from London to New York City to embark on an American lecture tour, for which he delivered a staggering 140 lectures in just nine months.

While not lecturing, he managed to meet with some of the leading American scholars and literary figures of the day, including Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. Wilde especially admired Whitman. “There is no one in this wide great world of America whom I love and honor so much,” he later wrote to his idol.

Upon the conclusion of his American tour, Wilde returned home and immediately commenced another lecture circuit of England and Ireland that lasted until the middle of 1884. Through his lectures, as well as his early poetry, Wilde established himself as a leading proponent of the aesthetic movement, a theory of art and literature that emphasized the pursuit of beauty for its own sake, rather than to promote any political or social viewpoint.

On May 29, 1884, Wilde married a wealthy Englishwoman named Constance Lloyd. They had two sons: Cyril, born in 1885, and Vyvyan, born in 1886. A year after his wedding, Wilde was hired to run Lady’s World, a once-popular English magazine that had recently fallen out of fashion. During his two years editing Lady’s World, Wilde revitalized the magazine by expanding its coverage to “deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think and what they feel. The Lady’s World,” wrote Wilde, “should be made the recognized organ for the expression of women’s opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure.”

Beginning in 1888, while he was still serving as editor of Lady’s World, Wilde entered a seven-year period of furious creativity, during which he produced nearly all of his great literary works. In 1888, seven years after he wrote Poems, Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of children’s stories. In 1891, he published Intentions, an essay collection arguing the tenets of aestheticism, and that same year, he published his first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The novel is a cautionary tale about a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes (and receives his wish) that his portrait ages while he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure.

Though the novel is now revered as a great and classic work, at the time critics were outraged by the book’s apparent lack of morality. Wilde vehemently defended himself in a preface to the novel, considered one of the great testaments to aestheticism, in which he wrote, “an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style” and “vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.”

Wilde’s first play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, opened in February 1892 to widespread popularity and critical acclaim, encouraging Wilde to adopt playwriting as his primary literary form. Over the next few years, Wilde produced several great plays—witty, highly satirical comedies of manners that nevertheless contained dark and serious undertones. His most notable plays were A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play.

Around the same time that he was enjoying his greatest literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, left a calling card at Wilde’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite,” a misspelling of sodomite. Although Wilde’s homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by Queensberry’s note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life.

When the trial began in March, Queensberry and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde’s homosexuality—homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas—that quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde’s libel case and his arrest on charges of “gross indecency.” Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895 and sentenced to two years in prison.

Wilde emerged from prison in 1897, physically depleted, emotionally exhausted and flat broke. He went into exile in France, where, living in cheap hotels and friends’ apartments, he briefly reunited with Douglas. Wilde wrote very little during these last years; his only notable work was a poem he completed in 1898 about his experiences in prison, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

Wilde died of meningitis on November 30, 1900 at the age of 46.

More than a century after his death, Wilde is still better remembered for his personal life—his exuberant personality, consummate wit and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality—than for his literary accomplishments. Nevertheless, his witty, imaginative and undeniably beautiful works, in particular his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his play The Importance of Being Earnest, are considered among the great literary masterpieces of the late Victorian period.

Throughout his entire life, Wilde remained deeply committed to the principles of aestheticism, principles that he expounded through his lectures and demonstrated through his works as well as anyone of his era. “All art is at once surface and symbol,” Wilde wrote in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.”

Author of books:
The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888, tales)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891, novel)
Intentions (1891, essays)
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, and Other Stories (1891, short stories)
A House of Pomegranates (1891, short stories)
Salome (1893)
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)

Wrote plays:
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)
A Woman of No Importance (1893)
An Ideal Husband (1895)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)