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)

Happy Birthday Banksy

Since there is no official birthday for the unknown artist who goes by the name Banksy, I have randomly chosen a day to celebrate it.

NAME: Banksy
OCCUPATION: Artist
BIRTH DATE: c. 1974
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bristol, England, United Kingdom

BEST KNOWN FOR: Banksy is the pseudonym of a “guerrilla” street artist known for his controversial, and often politically themed, stenciled pieces.

Banksy began his career as a graffiti artist in the early 1990s, in Bristol’s graffiti gang DryBreadZ Crew. Although his early work was largely freehand, Banksy used stencils on occasion. In the late ’90s, he began using stencils predominantly. His work became more widely recognized around Bristol and in London, as his signature style developed.

“We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves.”

Banksy’s artwork is characterized by striking images, often combined with slogans. His work often engages political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children. In addition to his two-dimensional work, Banksy is known for his installation artwork. One of the most celebrated of these pieces, which featured a live elephant painted with a Victorian wallpaper pattern, sparked controversy among animal rights activists.

Other pieces have drawn attention for their edgy themes or the boldness of their execution. Banksy’s work on the West Bank barrier, between Israel and Palestine, received significant media attention in 2005. He is also known for his use of copyrighted material and subversion of classic images. An example of this is Banksy’s version of Monet’s famous series of water lilies paintings, adapted by Banksy to include drifting trash and debris.

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that’s only if it’s done properly.”

Banksy’s worldwide fame has transformed his artwork from acts of vandalism to sought-after high art pieces. Journalist Max Foster has referred to the rising prices of graffiti as street art as “the Banksy effect.” Interest in Banksy escalated with the release of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award.

In October 2013, Banksy took to the streets of New York City. There he pledged to create a new piece of art for each day of his residency. As he explained to the Village Voice, “The plan is to live here, react to things, see the sights—and paint on them. Some of it will be pretty elaborate, and some will just be a scrawl on a toilet wall.” During that month, he also sold some of his works on the street for $60 a piece, well below the market value for his art.

“People who should be shot: Fascist thugs, religious fundamentalists, people who write lists telling you who should be shot.”

Banksy’s identity remains unknown, despite intense speculation. The two names most often suggested are Robert Banks and Robin Gunningham. Pictures that surfaced of a man who was supposedly Banksy pointed toward Gunningham, an artist who was born in Bristol in 1973. Gunningham moved to London around 2000, a timeline that correlates with the progression of Banksy’s artwork.

Happy Birthday Twiggy

Today is the 65th birthday of Twiggy.

NAME: Twiggy
OCCUPATION: Pin-up, Animal Rights Activist
BIRTH DATE: September 19, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England, United Kingdom
FULL NAME: Lesley Lawson
MAIDEN NAME: Lesley Hornby

BEST KNOWN FOR: In the mid-1960s, Twiggy became one of the world’s first supermodels as well as the face of London’s “mod” scene.

Born Lesley Hornby on September 19, 1949 in London, England, Twiggy first rose to fame as a model in the 1960s. She has since established herself as an actress, singer and television personality. Twiggy is the youngest of three sisters. One of her earlier nicknames during her school years was “Sticks.” But the name she is famous for was given to her as a teenager. She dropped out of school around the age of 15.

Before long, Twiggy became one of the world’s top models. She had her career breakthrough when she was named the face of 1966 by the Daily Express newspaper. With her thin build, dramatic eyes and boyish hair style, Twiggy captured the spirit of the “swinging sixties” in London’s Carnaby Street mod scene. She soon appeared on the cover of many leading fashion magazines, including Elle and British Vogue.

Twiggy was one of the first models to parlay her success as a model into other business ventures. In 1967, she came to the United States to promote her own clothing line as well as model. The trip also afforded her a chance to work with famed photographer Richard Avedon. Twiggy became so popular in America that she even inspired her own Barbie doll. More Twiggy merchandise soon followed, including a board game and a lunch box. Fans would even copy her distinctive eye look with their own set of Twiggy fake eyelashes.

Twiggy started acting in the 1970s, making her film debut in Ken Russell’s musical The Boy Friend (1971) with Tommy Tune. More movie roles followed, including appearances in The Blues Brothers (1980) with John Belushi and Madame Sousatzka (1988) with Shirley MacLaine. Twiggy also enjoyed some success on the stage. In 1983, she made her Broadway debut in My One and Only with Tommy Tune.

Over the years, Twiggy has also made numerous television appearances as well. She was briefly co-presenter of ITV’s popular This Morning program in 2001. On American television, Twiggy also served as a judge on Tyra Banks‘s popular modeling-competition show America’s Next Top Model.

Twiggy became the face of Marks & Spencer in 2005. In addition to modeling for the company, she sells a line of clothing through its website. Twiggy has also been a model for Olay beauty products in recent years. She also remained a subject of great interest and fascination with several books and documentaries made about her life and career. In 2009, Twiggy: A Life in Photographs was published.

In 1977, Twiggy married actor Michael Witney. The couple had one daughter, Carly, before Witney’s death in 1983. She married her second husband, actor Leigh Lawson, in 1988. Twiggy is an advocate of animal welfare and is recognized for her support of breast cancer research groups.

Happy Birthday Mama Cass

Today is the 73rd birthday of Mama Cass.

mama cass

NAME: Mama Cass
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: September 19, 1941
DEATH DATE: July 29, 1974
PLACE OF BIRTH: Baltimore, Maryland
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England
AKA: Cass Elliot
ORIGINALLY: Ellen Naomi Cohen

BEST KNOWN FOR: Cass “Mama Cass” Elliot was known for her heavyset figure, and was one of four members of the late 1960s pop sensation The Mamas and the Papas.

Cass Elliot, better known as “Mama Cass,” was born as Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. After initially pursuing a career in acting, Elliot became a folk singer. In 1963, she gained notice as part of an innovative folk trio called The Big Three. After recording two albums with bandmates Tim Rose and James Hendricks, the band began to fall apart, so she formed a new group, Cass Elliot and the Big Three—which also featured Hendricks, Denny Doherty and Zal Yanovsky. That group, renamed The Mugwumps, played mainly out of a Washington, D.C. nightclub, The Shadows. The Mugwumps broke up in early 1965, after releasing only one single, and Elliot began working as a solo singer.

In mid-1965, Elliot began singing with former Mugwump Doherty and the two other members of his new band, The New Journeymen: John and Michelle Phillips. The foursome, known as The Mamas and the Papas, were an overnight success, releasing a hit debut single, “California Dreamin’,” and album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, by the end of 1965.

The Mamas and the Papas stayed together until 1968, releasing five albums and a series of Top 10 singles, including “Monday, Monday,” “I Saw Her Again” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Various problems within the group, including romantic jealousy (Elliot was reportedly in love with Doherty; Doherty became involved with Michelle Phillips), drug abuse, alcoholism and Elliot??’s constant struggle with her weight, led to the group’s eventual break-up in 1971.

On July 29, 1974, after a concert series at the London Palladium, Elliot was found dead in her hotel room. She had succumbed to heart failure, at the age of 32.

Elliot had been married twice, to Hendricks of The Big Three and The Mugwumps (1963-1968), and to Baron Donald von Wiedenman (1971). She had one daughter, Owen Elliot Kugell, in 1967. Owen accepted her mother’s award in 1998, when The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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)