Happy Birthday Raymond Chandler

Today is the 126th birthday of Raymond Chandler.

raymond-chandler

NAME: Raymond Chandler
OCCUPATION: Entrepreneur, Author, Screenwriter
BIRTH DATE: July 23, 1888
DEATH DATE: March 26, 1959
EDUCATION: Dulwich School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois
PLACE OF DEATH: La Jolla, California

Best Known For:  Raymond Chandler was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and author known for seminal detective novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.

Today the birthday of Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago (1888). His parents were Irish, and after his father left the family, his mother moved them back to Ireland, and he grew up there and in England. Later, he moved back to America and settled in California.

He wrote pulp fiction about the city of Los Angeles and a detective there named Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s first novel was The Big Sleep (1939), which sold well and was made into a movie in 1946 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall — William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay. Chandler wrote seven more novels featuring Philip Marlowe, who became the quintessential “hard-boiled” private eye, tough and street-smart and full of wise cracks. In Farewell, My Lovely (1940), Marlowe says: “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.”

Chandler was never any good at coming up with plots. He had to study and steal from other mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett. But he knew how to create atmosphere. One of his early stories, “Red Wind” (1938), begins: “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that . meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.”

Chandler is famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.” In another he wrote, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

Happy Birthday Phyllis Diller

“My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee.” – Phyllis Diller

NAME: Phyllis Diller
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Comedian, Pianist
BIRTH DATE: July 17, 1917
DEATH DATE: August 20, 2012
EDUCATION: Chicago‘s Sherwood Music Conservatory
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lima, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Phyllis Ada Driver

Best Known For:  First noticed as a contestant on Groucho Marx‘s game show in 1955, Phyllis Diller went on to become a successful comedian, actress and author.

Today is the birthday of actress and comedian Phyllis Diller was born in Lima, Ohio in 1917. She was first noticed as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s game show, and went on to become a successful comedian, actress and author, recognizable by her eccentric costumes, overdone makeup and trademark laugh. In 1992, she received the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Diller was also an accomplished pianist and author. She died on August 20, 2012, at age 95,  at her home in Los Angeles.

Comedian, actress and author Phyllis Diller was born as Phyllis Ada Driver on July 17, 1917, in Lima, Ohio. Diller was the only child of Frances and Perry Driver. After graduating high school, she continued her studies at Chicago’s Sherwood Music Conservatory for three years, before eloping with Sherwood Diller in 1939. The couple soon moved to California, where they had six children (one of their children died in infancy).

In 1955, while working as a journalist for the San Leandro News-Observer, Diller appeared as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s game show, You Bet Your Life. Her memorable performance on the show sparked the advent of her national exposure. She received an offer to make her comedic debut at The Purple Onion Comedy Club in San Francisco, where she floored the audience with her dynamic one-liners and comical costumes. This success led to future bookings at New York’s Blue Angel, as well as an appearance on The Jack Paar Show.

In her monologues, Diller adopted the stage personality of a typical housewife and spoke of topics that affected American suburbia—kids, pets, neighbors and even mothers-in-law. Her most notable routines were filled with anecdotes about her fictitious husband, “Fang,” and her numerous face-lifts. Diller’s delivery was accentuated by her animated facial expressions, eccentric costumes, overdone make-up and signature loud, cackling laugh. During performances, she would often flaunt a cigarette and laugh at her own jokes with her trademark cackle.

In 1961, Diller acquired her first minor film role, as Texas Guinan in Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass. She also co-starred in a few low-budget movies with longtime friend and fellow comedian Bob Hope, including Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966), Eight On the Lam (1967) and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968). Additionally, Diller made recurring appearances on Hope’s annual Christmas Special (1965-94).

Diller’s first stage acting appearance was in The Dark Top of the Stairs (1961). However, her most notable theatre performance was in 1970, when she replaced Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!. After Hello, Dolly!, Diller would not return to the stage until 1988, when she played the vivacious Mother Superior in San Francisco’s Nunsense.

In 1965, Diller ended her 26-year marriage with Sherman Anderson Diller. The two were divorced in September of that year, and Diller hastily married Ward Donovan just one month later. In the late 1960s, Diller focused her creative efforts toward television. She created two poorly received television series: the sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton in 1966, and the variety show The Phyllis Diller Show two years later, in 1968.

In addition to her comedic talents, Diller could boast that she was both an accomplished concert pianist and author. Over a 10-year period, from 1972 to 1982, under the pseudonym “Dame Illya Pillya,” Diller performed as a solo pianist throughout America, with more than 100 symphony orchestras. She published five best-selling books throughout her career, including 1963′s Phyllis Diller Tells All About Fang, 1966′s Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1967′s Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual, 1969′s The Complete Mother and 1981′s The Joys of Aging and How to Avoid Them.

In 1992, Diller received the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Diller died on August 20, 2012, at her home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, where she had briefly served as honorary mayor. She was 95 years old, and was survived by three children and several grandchildren. According to an Associated Press article, Diller’s longtime manager, Milton Suchin, said that Diller “died peacefully in her sleep, and with a smile on her face.”

Happy Birthday Louis B. Mayer

Today is the 130th birthday of the first movie mogul, Louis B. Mayer.

Mayer

NAME: Louis B. Mayer
OCCUPATION: Business Leader, Producer
BIRTH DATE: c. July 12, 1884
DEATH DATE: October 29, 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH: Minsk, Russia
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: Louis Burt Mayer
AKA: Louis Mayer
Originally: Eliezer Mayer

Best Known For:  Louis B. Mayer was a film mogul and the most influential person in Hollywood from the mid-1920s to the late-1940s.

Film producer and executive Louis Burt Mayer was born to an Eastern European Jewish family in Minsk, Russia. Though he was reportedly born on July 12, 1884, Mayer would claim throughout his life that he was born on the Fourth of July; he was similarly unclear about the exact location of his birth. The future mogul was the middle child of five siblings, with two sisters and two brothers, all of whom grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

At the age of 12, Mayer quit school to help his father run the family scrap metal business. When he was 19, he moved to Boston, expanding the father-son scrap enterprise into the United States. Soon after he arrived, Mayer met and married a butcher’s daughter, Margaret Shenberg. The couple had two daughters, Edith Mayer (1905-1987) and Irene Mayer (1907-1990), who would both go on to marry movie executives.

It wasn’t long before Mayer grew tired of the family business and began to look for a less gritty line of work. Luckily, a friend in the know tipped him off to a burlesque theater for sale in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a joint known derisively as the “Garlic Box.” It was a rundown theater with a bad reputation, but the enterprising young Mayer smartly chose to premiere a religious film at the establishment’s opening, immediately currying favor with community skeptics.

The budding businessman soon got a taste for success and began to acquire more and more old theaters in the area, rebuilding their reputations and facades in equal measure. After taking over all five of Haverhill’s theaters, he partnered with Nathan Gordon to gain control of a large theater chain in New England.

In 1914, Mayer made his first foray into film distribution when he bought exclusive rights to the landmark picture The Birth of a Nation with the money he earned pawning his wife’s wedding ring. He would also start a distribution agency in Boston and a talent-booking agency in New York. However, the siren song of Hollywood couldn’t be ignored for long; in 1918, Mayer moved to Los Angeles to form Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation.

By then the producer had gained a reputation for his hunger, audacity and ability to spot talent. Far from a hands-off studio honcho, Mayer cultivated a specialty for acquiring talent and roaming the back lots looking for his next glamorous lead. Some of Mayer’s landmark discoveries included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable and Fred Astaire.

The producer’s watershed moment would come when Marcus Loew came knocking on his door. Recently having merged his company with Samuel Goldwyn’s studios to give birth to Metro-Goldwyn, Loew found himself without a head executive for the company. Soon Metro-Goldwyn became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the iconic MGM Studios was born. Over the next 25 years, Mayer built the studio’s reputation on a string of glamorous and mostly uncontroversial films. Some of the biggest hits of Mayer’s era were Ben-Hur (1925), Grand Hotel (1932),  Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Good Earth (1937).

At its height MGM, was Hollywood’s kingmaker (and queenmaker), churning out more films and stars than any other studio. The MGM lot itself was legendary—over 150 acres and as self-sufficient as a town, complete with its own opium den, barbershop and 24-hour dining establishment. Also housed on the property was none other than the iconic MGM lion, whose digs amounted to an onsite zoo.

Louis B. Mayer himself had gained a reputation of leonine proportions not long after his arrival in Hollywood. Characterized by his strong will and tell-it-straight relationships, Mayer once told Robert Young, “Put on a little weight and get more sex, we have a whole stable of girls here.” Clearly, the approach worked; MGM was the most successful studio in Hollywood, even managing to stay profitable through the Great Depression. For almost a decade Mayer held the rank of highest paid man in America, a far cry from his days diving in the Bay of Fundy for scrap metal.

By 1948, the heyday of the Hollywood studio era had begun to fade. MGM had gone years without an Oscar and relations between Mayer and other executives began to fray as profit margins thinned. In 1951, Mayer left MGM after 27 years at the helm. Six years later, on October 29, 1957, the legendary producer and executive died of leukemia.

One of Hollywood’s first true moguls, there is no denying his influence on the early years of the film industry’s boom, but as Mayer himself once said, “The sign of a clever auteur is to achieve the illusion that there is a sole individual responsible for magnificent creations that require thousands of people to accomplish.”

Happy Birthday Milton Berle

Today is the 106th birthday of Milton Berle.

NAME:  Milton Berle
OCCUPATION:  Radio Personality, Film Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE:  July 12, 1908
DEATH DATE:  March 27, 2002
PLACE OF BIRTH:  New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH:  Los Angeles, California
AKA:  Milton Berle, Mr. Television, Uncle Miltie
NICKNAME:  The Thief of Bad Gags
ORIGINALLY:  Milton Berlinger

BEST KNOWN FOR: Milton Berle was a Jewish-American comedian who started in vaudeville acts, and was a success in the early days of TV, becoming known as “Uncle Miltie.”

Comedy legend Milton Berle was born as Milton Berlinger in New York City on July 12, 1908. He started his career by impersonating Charlie Chaplin at as a young boy. After winning a Chaplin look-alike contest at the age of 5, he began landing film roles. Berle appeared in numerous silent films, including The Mark of Zorro, with Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Tillie’s Punctured Romance, with Charlie Chaplin.

Berle also performed on the vaudeville circuit, sometimes landing on the same bill as Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson. Nearly every step of the way, in his early years, Berle was accompanied by his mother, who was both his manager and biggest fan. According to the The Boston Globe, Berle said that his mother sat in the audience “for every show,” adding, “She had a loud laugh. She’d cue the audience, but they never knew it was my mother.”

Berle made his first radio appearance in 1934, but he continued to be more famous for his live acts. By the 1940s, he was one of the highest paid night-club performers. He also developed a reputation for being a joke thief, stealing other people’s material for his routine—an accusation that he embraced. “Like every comedian, if I heard a joke that I thought would work, I used it,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. Journalist Walter Winchell nicknamed Berle “The Thief of Bad Gags.”

In the late 1940s, Berle took a gamble on a then-emerging medium—television. His show Texaco Star Theater debuted in 1948, and he quickly became a huge star. Known as “Mr. Television” and “Uncle Miltie,” Berle became a weekly fixture in the homes of many Americans, and a motivation for some to purchase their first television set. He joked aggressively with his audience, and seemed to have no limits for getting laughs, including dressing up in women’s clothing. The show’s writers included Neil Simon, who later found fame as a playwright.

Berle’s ratings started to ebb in 1953, and he lost Texaco as a sponsor. When the Buick car company jumped aboard for one season, the show was renamed The Buick-Berle Show. In its final year, however, it was titled The Milton Berle Show. After signing off in 1955, Berle made several attempts to recapture his earlier success, but had no luck. He continued to make guest TV appearances on such shows as The Love Boat and Batman—on which he played a recurring role as the villainous “Louie the Lilac.”

Outside of his TV career, Berle continued to thrive as a comedian in Las Vegas, as well as other parts of the country. He performed until December 1998, when he suffered a mild stroke. Rather than go on stage, Berle held court at the Friars Club, a popular haunt for comics in Beverly Hills, California.

A year after being diagnosed with colon cancer, on March 27, 2002, Milton Berle died at his Los Angeles, California home. He was survived by his third wife, Lorna, his two stepchildren, and two children from previous marriages.

Fellow comedian Buddy Hackett remembered Berle as a pioneer. “Whatever you see on television, Milton did it first,” Hackett told The New York Times.

Happy Birthday David Hockney

Today is the 77th birthday of the artist David Hockney.  His work makes me happy.  I know that isn’t super artsy and fancy was of describing art, but it is the truth.david-hockney

NAME: David Hockney
OCCUPATION: Painter, Photographer
BIRTH DATE: July 09, 1937
EDUCATION: Bradford College of Art, Royal College of Art, London
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bradford, England

Best Known For:  Known for his photo collages and paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

David Hockney was born in Bradford, England, on July 9, 1937. He loved books and was interested in art from an early age, admiring Picasso, Matisse and Fragonard. His parents encouraged their son’s artistic exploration, and gave him the freedom to doodle and daydream.

Hockney attended the Bradford College of Art from 1953 to 1957. Then, because he was a conscientious objector to military service, he spent two years working in hospitals to fulfill his national service requirement. In 1959, he entered graduate school at the Royal College of Art in London alongside other young artists such as Peter Blake and Allen Jones, and he experimented with different forms, including abstract expressionism. He did well as a student, and his paintings won prizes and were purchased for private collections.

Hockney’s early paintings incorporated his literary leanings, and he used fragments of poems and quotations from Walt Whitman in his work. This practice, and paintings such as We Two Boys Clinging Together, which he created in 1961, were the first nods to his homosexuality in his art.

Because he frequently went to the movies with his father as a child, Hockney once quipped that he was raised in both Bradford and Hollywood. He was drawn to the light and the heat of California, and first visited Los Angeles in 1963. He officially moved there in 1966. The swimming pools of L.A. were one of his favorite subjects, and he became known for large, iconic works such as A Bigger Splash. His expressionistic style evolved, and by the 1970s, he was considered more of a realist.

In addition to pools, Hockney painted the interiors and exteriors of California homes. In 1970, this led to the creation of his first “joiner,” an assemblage of Polaroid photos laid out in a grid. Although this medium would become one his claims to fame, he stumbled upon it by accident. While working on a painting of a Los Angeles living room, he took a series of photos for his own reference, and fixed them together so he could paint from the image. When he finished, however, he recognized the collage as an art form unto itself, and began to create more.

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Hockney was an adept photographer, and he began working with photography more extensively. By the mid 1970s, he had all but abandoned painting in favor of projects involving photography, lithographs, and set and costume design for the ballet, opera and theater.

In the late 1980s, Hockney returned to painting, primarily painting seascapes, flowers and portraits of loved ones.

He also began incorporating technology in his art, creating his first homemade prints on a photocopier in 1986. The marriage of art and technology became an ongoing fascination—he used laser fax machines and laser printers in 1990, and in 2009 he started using the Brushes app on iPhones and iPads to create paintings. A 2011 exhibit at the Royal Museum of Ontario showcased 100 of these paintings.

In a 2011 poll of more than 1,000 British artists, Hockney was voted the most influential British artist of all time. He continues to paint and exhibit, and advocates for funding for the arts.

Happy Birthday George Cukor

Today is the 115th birthday of George Cukor.  He is responsible for almost all of my favorite classic films: Holiday, The Women, Gone With The Wind, The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, It Should Happen To You, etc. His teaming with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Judy Holliday, Clark Gable, Jack Lemmon, and Joan Crawford made countless of hours of perfection.

Born: July 7, 1899 New York City, New York, U.S.
Died: January 24, 1983 (aged 83) Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Occupation: Director

George Dewey Cukor (July 7, 1899 – January 24, 1983) was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His career flourished at RKO and later MGM, where he directed What Price Hollywood? (1932), A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Camille (1936).

He was replaced as the director of Gone with the Wind (1939), but he went on to direct The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam’s Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star Is Born (1954) and My Fair Lady (1964). He continued to work into the 1980s.

Cukor’s friends were of paramount importance to him and he kept his home filled with their photographs. Regular attendees at his famed soirées included Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, actor Richard Cromwell, Stanley Holloway, Judy Garland, Gene Tierney, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, director James Whale, costume designer Edith Head, and Norma Shearer, especially after the death of her first husband, Irving Thalberg. He often entertained literary figures like Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, Aldous Huxley, Ferenc Molnár, and close friend Somerset Maugham, as well.

Cukor died of a heart attack on January 24, 1983, and was interred in an unmarked grave at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.Records in probate court indicated his net worth at the time of his death was $2,377,720.

Happy Birthday Marilyn Monroe

Tomorrow is the 88th birthday of Marilyn Monroe.  Do yourself a favor and watch The Misfits sometime soon.  You won’t be disappointed.

NAME: Marilyn Monroe
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: June 01, 1926
DEATH DATE: August 05, 1962
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
ORIGINALLY: Norma Jeane Mortensen

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world’s biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She died of a drug overdose in 1962.

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson but baptized and raised as Norma Jeane Baker; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s.

After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) drew attention to her—by now her hair was dyed blonde. By 1953, Monroe had progressed to a leading role in Niagara (1953), a melodramatic film noir that dwelled on her seductiveness. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics, and she received a Golden Globe nomination. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award. She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959). Monroe’s final completed film was The Misfits, co-starring Clark Gable with the screenplay written by her then-husband, Arthur Miller.

The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a “probable suicide”, the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the years and decades following her death, Monroe has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American female sex symbol.

On August 8, 1962, Monroe was interred in a crypt at Corridor of Memories #24, at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Lee Strasberg delivered the eulogy. Joe DiMaggio took control of the funeral arrangements which consisted of only 31 close family and friends. Police were also present to keep the press away. Her casket was solid bronze and was lined with champagne colored silk. Allan “Whitey” Snyder did her make-up which was supposedly a promise made in earlier years if she were to die before him. She was wearing her favorite green Emilio Pucci dress. In her hands was a small bouquet of pink teacup roses.  For the next 20 years, red roses were placed in a vase attached to the crypt, courtesy of DiMaggio.

 

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Happy Birthday Vincent Price

Today is the 97th birthday of Vincent Price.  I think my first exposure to him was probably the Hawaiian episodes of the Brady Bunch, followed next by the Michael Jackson “Thriller” music video.  I have since made up for the lack of well-rounded knowledge.  I actually have a copy of “The Bad” on this very computer, as well as the original “House on Haunted Hill.”  His career spanned seven decades and he is imitated regularly on Saturday Night Live, 2o years after his death.  Ladies and gentlemen, Vincent Price.  Style Icon. 

NAME: Vincent Price
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: May 27, 1911
DEATH DATE: October 25, 1993
EDUCATION: Yale University, University of London
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint Louis, Missouri
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

Best Known For:  American actor Vincent Price starred as the villain in the 1953 film House of Wax, which revitalized the horror genre, and was one of the first films shot in 3D.

Vincent Price was born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri. His acting career began on stage in London in 1935. He also performed with Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre. In the 1950s, Price started making horror films,  including House of Wax and The Fly. He later worked with Roger Corman on several films based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. Price died on October 25, 1993.

Sometimes called the “Master of Menace,” actor Vincent Price was born on May 27, 1911, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Price was the youngest of four children born to an upper-middle-class family. His father served as the president of a candy company, and he had a cultured upbringing. Price was educated in private schools, and toured Europe at the age of 16. At Yale University, Price studied art history and English. He then traveled to England to pursue the fine arts at University of London.

In 1935, Price landed his first major stage role, playing Prince Albert in a London production of Victoria Regina. The play moved to Broadway, with Helen Hayes as Price’s co-star, and it became a big hit. Before long, Price made his way to the silver screen.

Despite his lasting association with the world of horror, Price started out as a dramatic actor. His tall, lanky frame and distinctive voice lent themselves nicely to character parts. One of Price’s most famous early roles was in the film noir classic Laura (1944) which was directed by Otto Preminger and also starred Gene Tierney. Two years later, he reunited with Tierney for the dramatic thriller Dragonwyck. Price also appeared in some comedies, including 1950′s Champagne for Caesar—one of his favorite film roles.

Price delved into disturbing territory with the 3D hit House of Wax (1953). In the film, he plays a deranged and disfigured artist, who makes wax sculptures using real people. Price also did well with The Fly (1958), a classic science-fiction horror flim about a scientist who has a tragic mishap with a device that he created, as it turns him into a flying insect. In the 1960s, Price appeared in a number of Roger Corman’s low-budget scare-fests. Price also starred in several film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories, including The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

Part of Price’s appeal as a villain was the humor he could inject into these sinister roles. His distinctive voice also contributed to his ability to create tension in films. He spoke in rich, deep tones, which sometimes had an eerie and unsettling quality. Price thought nothing of his famous speech patterns. “To me, I sound like everybody else in Missouri. I think I sound like Harry Truman,” he once said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One of his most favorite later roles, Price plays an actor who gets his revenge on his critics in Theater of Blood (1973). He voiced the villainous Ratigan in the animated tale The Great Mouse Detective (1986). The following year, Price took a dramatic turn with The Whales of August, playing a Russian paramour to two sisters ( Bette Davis and Lillian Gish).

Price enjoyed success in many arenas outside of cinema; he made numerous television appearances, ranging from The Brady Bunch to the TV series Batman. In the 1980s, he hosted the PBS series Mystery. He also added an ominous air to the Michael Jackson’s 1983 “Thriller” video, by delivering an opening monologue. Price also worked with rocker Alice Cooper.

A lifelong art aficionado, Price wrote several books on his passion. He even served as an art consultant to Sears in the early 1960s, on a line of artworks for sale. A popular lecturer on art, Price also donated some of his art collection to establish the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College. Also a devoted foodie, Price co-wrote several cookbooks.

One of Price’s final roles was in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990). In the film, he plays a gentle version of Dr. Frankenstein, who creates a teenage boy (Johnny Depp). Price’s character dies before he finishes his work, leaving the boy with metal scissors for hands.

Around this time, the veteran actor discovered that he had lung cancer. He died of the disease on October 25, 1993, at his Los Angeles home. Predeceased by his third wife, actress Coral Browne, Price was survived by his two children—Vincent Barrett Price, his son from first wife Edith Barrett, and daughter Victoria, from his second marriage to Mary Grant. Victoria Price later wrote a biography on her father. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she described him as “a lovely, sweet man,” who was “larger than life”—a far cry from the villains that Price played on the big screen.

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Columbo – Not So Secret Obsession

I have often claimed that if left to my own devices, I would have the exact same TV watching habits as my grandfather in 1978.  It’s true.  I could watch Columbo over and over.  I am have not been able to pinpoint exactly why I enjoy it as much as I do, but I am sure that it has to do with the character being considered an outsider, having his abilities being underestimated, and him using that to his advantage.  I find that entertaining.

Columbo is an American crime fiction television film series, which starred Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The character and television show were created by William Link and Richard Levinson. The show popularized the inverted detective story format. With the exception of a few special episodes, almost every episode began by showing the commission of the crime and its perpetrator. Therefore, there is no “whodunit” element. The plot mainly revolves around how the perpetrator, whose identity is already known to the audience, will finally be caught and exposed by Columbo.

Lt. Columbo is a friendly, verbose, disheveled-looking, American police detective (of Italian descent) who is consistently underestimated by his suspects. Suspects are initially both reassured and distracted by his circumstantial speech and increasingly irritating pestering behavior. Despite his unprepossessing appearance and apparent absentmindedness, he shrewdly solves all of his cases and secures all evidence needed for indictment. His formidable eye for detail and meticulous and dedicated approach become apparent only late in the storyline.

The character first appeared in a 1960 episode of the television-anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was itself partly derived from a short story by Levinson and Link published in an issue of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as “Dear Corpus Delicti”. Levinson and Link adapted the TV drama into the stage play Prescription: Murder, and a TV-movie based on the play was broadcast in 1968. The series began on a Wednesday presentation of the “NBC Mystery Movie” rotation: McCloud, McMillan & Wife, and other whodunits. After one season, the series moved as a group to Sundays and were replaced on Wednesdays by a series with a similar format with fare such as The Snoop Sisters, Cool Million, and Banacek. Columbo aired regularly from 1971-78 on NBC, and then less frequently on ABC beginning in 1989. The final episode was broadcast in 2003.

The episodes are all movie-length, between 70 and 100 minutes long. The early episodes ran for an hour, until the decision was made to expand them to full television movie-length. On October 2, 2011, reruns of Columbo began airing Sunday evenings on the classic television network Me-TV.

In 1997, “Murder by the Book” was ranked #16 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. and in 1999, the magazine ranked Lt. Columbo #7 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.

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Happy Birthday Fred Astaire

Today is the 115th birthday of Fred Astaire.  Naming his best work is pointless, it is all flawless. Naming one of my favorite pieces is easy, I absolutely love the “Clap Your Hands” piece from Funny Face he performs with Kay Thompson (included below).  Absolutely brilliant.Astaire

NAME: Fred Astaire
OCCUPATION: Dancer
BIRTH DATE: May 10, 1899
DEATH DATE: June 22, 1987
PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

Best Known For:  Fred Astaire was an American dancer of stage and film who is best known for a number of successful musical comedy films in which he starred with Ginger Rogers.

Light on his feet, Fred Astaire revolutionized the movie musical with his elegant and seemingly effortless dance style. He may have made dancing look easy, but he was a well-known perfectionist, and his work was the product of endless hours of practice.

Astaire started performing as a child, partnering up with his older sister Adele. The two toured the vaudeville circuit before making it to Broadway in 1917. Among their many productions the brother-sister team starred in the 1927 George and Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face. For all his early success, though, career in the movies alluded Astaire. He had done a screen test, but he failed to attract any interest. A studio executive wrote at the time, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

In 1932, Astaire suffered a career setback. His sister Adele retired from the act to marry a British aristocrat. He floundered a bit professionally without his usual partner, but then decided to go to Hollywood to try once more to break into film.

Finally, Astaire landed a small role in 1933′s Dancing Lady with Joan Crawford. The role opened the door to new opportunities, and Astaire signed a contract with RKO Radio Pictures. He was matched up with another Broadway talent, Ginger Rogers, for Flying Down to Rio, also in 1933. Cast as supporting players, their dance number stole the movie. Astaire and Rogers appeared in several more films together, including The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935). The duo became film’s most beloved dance team. Their routines featured a hybrid of styles—borrowing elements from tap, ballroom and even ballet. Katharine Hepburn once described what each of them brought their successful partnership: “Fred gave Ginger class, and Ginger gave Fred sex.”

Off-screen, Astaire was known for his relentless pursuit of perfection. He thought nothing of rehearsing a scene for days, and Rogers eventually tired of the grueling schedule. The pair went their separate ways after 1939′s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Years later, they reunited once more for 1949′s The Barkleys of Broadway.

After the split with Rogers in 1939, Astaire performed with such leading ladies as Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Leslie Caron and Audrey Hepburn. Some of his most famous musicals from his later career include Easter Parade with Garland and Funny Face with Hepburn.

As his movie roles tapered off, Astaire worked more in television. He often appeared as himself for special tribute shows. Astaire had a growing interest in dramatic parts, working on such series as Dr. Kildare. He also worked with another legendary dancer, Gene Kelly, on the documentary That’s Entertainment, which explored the golden era of the movie musical.  Around this time, Astaire received his only Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also won an Emmy Award for his work on the television special A Family Upside Down in 1978. More accolades soon followed. Astaire received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1981.

A few years later, Astaire was hospitalized for pneumonia. He died on June 22, 1987, in Los Angeles, California. With his passing, Hollywood had lost one of its greatest talents. Former actor and president Ronald Reagan, upon learning the news, called Astaire “an American legend” and “the ultimate dancer.” Ginger Rogers said Astaire “was the best partner anyone could ever have.”

Off-screen, Astaire was more casual than his upper-crust characters. He was devoted to his family. Astaire and his first wife, socialite Phyllis Baker Potter, married in 1933 and had two children together, Fred Jr. and Ava. He also helped raise her son from an earlier union. Fred and Phyllis remained a couple until her death in 1954.

Astaire shocked friends and family when he remarried in 1980. His second wife was Robyn Smith, a famous jockey. Despite a more than 40-year age difference, the pair’s mutual interest in horses and racing turned into romance. After his death in 1987, his widow has been a fierce protector of his name and image. She has filed numerous lawsuits to prevent any unauthorized uses of his likeness or name. In 1997, however, she granted permission for film clips of Fred Astaire to be changed and used for a series of vacuum cleaner commercials.

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