Happy Birthday Gummo Marx

gummo marx

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

NAME: Gummo Marx
OCCUPATION: Actor, Comedian, Inventor
BIRTH DATE: October 21, 1892
DEATH DATE: April 21, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Palm Springs, California
Full Name: Milton Marx
AKA: Gummo Marx

Best Known For:  Often referred to as the “forgotten” Marx brother, Gummo Marx was the first to leave the act to enlist in World War I and become a businessman.

Everyone thinks of Harpo as the silent one (not with that horn!), but Gummo Marx was acgtually the quiet one. Born Milton Marx on October 21, 1892, in New York City, Gummo, like his brothers, was a first-generation American, the fifth of six boys born to Sam and Minnie Marx, who left Europe and met in New York. The first of their six sons, Manfred, died in infancy.

There are related versions as to how Gummo acquired his nickname, all revolving around shoes: Legend has it that he was stealthy backstage, sneaking up on people like a gumshoe (detective), so monologist Art Fisher dubbed him Gummo. However, it has also been reported that Gummo actually wore rubber-soled shoes because frequent illnesses required that his feet be protected from damp.

Gummo was actually the first Marx brother on stage, appearing early on in his Uncle Julius’s ventriloquism act. Then, Minnie Marx organized a vaudeville singing troupe called the Three Nightingales in 1909, with Groucho, Gummo and singer Mabel O’Donell, to tour the circuit. When Harpo was brought in, they became the Four Nightingales, and Minnie occasionally joined in the act along with the boys’ aunt, Hannah Schickler, making them the Six Mascots. When Chico joined the act, they became the Four Marx Brothers.

When Gummo left the brother act to join the war effort in 1917, youngest brother Zeppo took over his role as straight man.

Gummo’s military service in the U.S. Army didn’t require him to go overseas, but he didn’t return to the stage after World War I, deciding to start a raincoat business instead. He later became a successful talent agent, especially after Zeppo joined him in the business when he, too, left the act.

Gummo ended up representing brother Groucho as well as other top talent of the time, including Glenn Ford, and helped develop the television series Life of Riley. He also held a patent for a packing rack he’d invented.

Gummo married Helen von Tilzer in 1929 and their son, Robert, was born the following year.

Gummo Marx died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 21, 1977, at his home in Palm Springs, California. He is buried next to wife Helen at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His three grandsons all went into show business.

In The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, Groucho expressed his affection for Gummo, with some unkind words for Zeppo. But Zeppo, too, felt closest to Gummo. In his last interview, Zeppo told the BBC, “Gummo was a love. He didn’t like show business but I think he felt, same as I did, that he was inadequate, that he wasn’t doing his share. I miss Gummo very much.”

Happy Birthday Bela Lugosi

Today is the 132nd birthday of Bela Lugosi.

NAME: Bela Lugosi
OCCUPATION: Actor
BIRTH DATE: October 20, 1882
DEATH DATE: August 16, 1956
EDUCATION: Budapest Academy of Theatrical Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lugos, Hungary
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6340 Hollywood Blvd. (motion pictures)

BEST KNOWN FOR: Count Dracula was Actor Bela Lugosi’s most famous role. Lugosi played him in stage productions and in the 1931 Universal Pictures film Dracula.

Actor. Bela Lugosi was born as Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko on October 20, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His birthplace was only some fifty miles away from the western border of Transylvania and the Poenari Castle, the legendary home of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, whom Lugosi would portray to great acclaim on both stage and screen. Although descended from a long line of Hungarian farmers, Lugosi’s father, Istvan Blasko, broke with family tradition to become a baker and banker. Bela Lugosi was a temperamental and rebellious child. “I was very unruly as a boy, very out of control,” he later admitted. “Like Jekyll and Hyde, except that I changed according to sex. I mean, with boys I was tough and brutal. But the minute I came into company with girls and women, I kissed their hands… With boys, I say, I was a brute. With girls, I was a lamb.”

Lugosi attended the local grammar school in Lugos and then continued on to the Hungarian State Gymnasium at the age of 11, in 1893. However, Lugosi hated the strict discipline and formality of the State Gymnnasium, and one year later, he dropped out of school and ran away from home. Traveling on foot and relying on the occasional odd job and the charity of strangers for food and lodging, Lugosi finally settled in a small mining town named Resita, approximately 300 miles south of Lugos. He worked in the mines and also as a machinist’s assistant. However, Lugosi was captivated by the touring theatrical troupes that came through Resita and set his heart on becoming an actor. “They tried to give me little parts in their plays, but I was so uneducated, so stupid, people just laughed at me,” he recalled. “But I got the taste of the stage. I got, also, the rancid taste of humiliation.”

In 1897, Lugosi left Resita to join his mother and his sister Vilma in Szabadka. In 1898, he returned to school but dropped out after only four months and took a job as a railroad laborer. Soon after, Vilma’s husband managed to land Lugosi a place in the chorus of a traveling theater company. Displaying remarkable raw talent despite his lack of education or training, Lugosi quickly ascended from the back of the chorus into leading roles as he traveled across Hungary performing with the troupe. By the early 1900s, he had been accepted into Hungary’s Academy of Performing Arts with a specialty in Shakespearean acting. Adopting the name “Lugosi” as a reference to his birthplace of Lugos, throughout the first decade of the 20th century he toured the Austro-Hungarian Empire performing male lead roles in such Shakespearean classics as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew. In 1913, he joined the Hungarian National Theater in Budapest and starred in more Shakespearean plays, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac and Faust.

Although members of the National Theater were exempt from military service, in June 1914 the highly patriotic Lugosi put his acting career on hold to fight for Hungary against Russia in World War I. After being discharged from the army due to health problems in 1916, Lugosi returned to the National Theater and delivered a celebrated performance as Jesus Christ in The Passion. Over the next few years, Lugosi gradually transitioned from stage acting into Hungary’s rapidly growing silent film industry. In addition to acting in many silent Hungarian films, Lugosi organized Hungary’s National Trade Union of Actors, the world’s first film actors’ union. He was a staunch supporter of the 1919 Hungarian Revolution that briefly brought Bela Kun’s Hungarian Soviet Republic into power, and as a result when the revolution collapsed Lugosi found himself a wanted enemy of the new government. “After the war, I participated in the revolution,” he said. “Later, I found myself on the wrong side.”

In 1919, Lugosi fled to Vienna, as legend has it buried beneath a pile of straw in wheelbarrow. From there he traveled to Berlin where he quickly found work in the German cinema. Lugosi appeared in several German films in 1920, most notably The Head of Janus, an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Despite this quick success in Germany, Lugosi decided to immigrate to the United States; after a brief stop in Italy, he set sail for New Orleans, arriving on December 4, 1920. From there he immediately made his way to New York City, where an already sizeable Hungarian theatrical community welcomed him with open arms. Lugosi plunged himself into New York’s Hungarian theater as an actor and director of many Hungarian productions over the next several years. Despite not yet having a firm grasp of the language, he made his English-language stage debut in a 1922 production of The Red Poppy, for which Lugosi memorized his lines phonetically. Since silent films still predominated, Lugosi’s language skills were not a barrier to his acting in American movies. He made his American film debut in The Silent Command (1923) and then appeared in The Midnight Girl (1925).

In 1927, Lugosi accepted the titular role in the American theatrical run of Dracula, a play based on Bram Stoker’s gothic novel of the same name. Lugosi’s Dracula was unlike any previous portrayals of the role. Handsome, mysterious and alluring, Lugosi’s Dracula was at once so sexy and so haunting that audiences gasped when he first opened his mouth to speak. After a half-year run on Broadway, Dracula toured the United States to much fanfare and critical acclaim throughout 1928 and 1929. “It is a marvelous play,” Lugosi said. “We keep nurses and physicians in the theatre every night… for the people in the audience who faint.” With the popularization of “talking pictures” – movies with sound – Universal decided to make a film version of Dracula starring Lugosi. The 1931 film, entitled The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known, was a smash hit and forever immortalized Lugosi’s chilling portrayal of Dracula. Although countless actors have played Dracula since, to this date vampire enthusiasts idolize Lugosi as synonymous with the character.

Throughout the 1930s, Lugosi was typecast as a Hollywood horror villain – playing monsters, murderers and mad scientists – in dozens of B-list films. His most notable performances were Murderers in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), International House (1933), The Raven (1934), Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). While none of these roles were especially noteworthy in isolation, Lugosi’s cumulative body of work during the 1930s established him as one of the first great stars of the horror genre. Nevertheless, throughout his entire career Lugosi was frustrated by his inability to break through into other types of films. “I am definitely typed, doomed to be an exponent of evil,” he said. “But I want sympathetic roles. Then parents would tell their offspring, ‘Eat your spinach and you’ll grow up to be a nice man like Bela Lugosi.’ As it is, they threaten their children with me instead of the bogey-man.”

After a few lean years in the late 1930s, when horror movies fell out of vogue in Hollywood, in the 1940s Lugosi once again began appearing in countless horror films as well as sequels and spoofs such as The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Despite his prolific acting career and high profile, due to Universal’s ruthless compensation system and his own careless spending, Lugosi lived the majority of his adult life deeply mired in debt. He spent the last few years of his career in the early 1950s back on the stage in revival productions of Dracula as well as Arsenic and Old Lace.

In 1956, Lugosi began work on a sci-fi thriller called Plan 9 From Outer Space. However, he passed away in the middle of filming on August 16, 1956, aged 73. Lugosi was fittingly buried in his Dracula cape.

Despite Lugosi’s death, Plan 9 from Outer Space was completed with director Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor taking over his part. The final version of the film bizarrely mixes footage of Lugosi as well as footage of his replacement (who looks nothing at all like him), one of many oddities that make Plan 9 From Outer Space both a cult classic and a film many critics have called the worst of all time.

Bela Lugosi married five times. In 1917, while still in Hungary, he married Ilona Szmik. They divorced two years later, when Lugosi fled for Germany and Szmik refused to leave her native land. In 1921, shortly after arriving in New York, he married Illona von Montagh, but they too divorced after three years in 1924. Lugosi married his third wife, Woodruff Weeks, in 1929; their marriage lasted all of three days. In 1933, he married his fourth wife, Lillian Arch, and they remained married for twenty years before finally separating in 1953. He married Hope Lininger in 1955 and they stayed together until his death a year later.

The actor who became synonymous with Dracula, Bela Lugosi paved the way for the incredible proliferation of vampire movies in Hollywood. His depiction of Dracula as at once dangerous and mysteriously sexy continues to shape the way vampires are portrayed in such pop culture phenomena as Twilight and True Blood. However, Lugosi was much more than a one-hit wonder who played out the rest of his career in B-grade slasher movies. He was a multitalented and immensely gifted performer who mastered Shakespearean acting in Hungary before coming to define the American horror film genre. Nevertheless, despite his dozens of films and stage performances, Lugosi lives on for posterity not so much as an actor but as the personification of his greatest character. When he performed as Dracula, Lugosi spoke for his own personal legacy as much as for his character when he pronounced the immortal line, “I am Dracula.”

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
The Black Sleep (Jun-1956) · Casimir
Bride of the Monster (11-May-1955) · Dr. Eric Vornoff
Glen or Glenda (1953) · Scientist
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (4-Sep-1952)
Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) · Von Housen
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (15-Jun-1948) · Dracula
Scared to Death (1-Feb-1947) · Prof. Leonide
Genius at Work (20-Oct-1946)
The Body Snatcher (25-May-1945) · Joseph
Zombies on Broadway (26-Apr-1945)
One Body Too Many (24-Nov-1944)
Return of the Ape Man (17-Jul-1944) · Prof. Dexter
Voodoo Man (21-Feb-1944)
The Return of the Vampire (1-Jan-1944) · Armand Tesla
Ghosts on the Loose (30-Jul-1943)
The Ape Man (5-Mar-1943)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (5-Mar-1943)
Bowery at Midnight (30-Oct-1942) · Prof. Brenner
Night Monster (20-Oct-1942)
The Corpse Vanishes (8-May-1942) · Dr. Lorenz
The Ghost of Frankenstein (13-Mar-1942)
Black Dragons (6-Mar-1942) · Dr. Melcher
The Wolf Man (12-Dec-1941) · Bela
Spooks Run Wild (24-Oct-1941)
The Black Cat (2-May-1941)
Invisible Ghost (25-Apr-1941)
You’ll Find Out (22-Nov-1940) · Prince Saliano
The Devil Bat (11-Nov-1940) · Dr. Paul Carruthers
Black Friday (29-Feb-1940)
The Saint’s Double Trouble (26-Jan-1940) · Partner
The Dark Eyes of London (20-Jan-1940)
Ninotchka (6-Oct-1939) · Razinin
The Gorilla (26-May-1939)
Son of Frankenstein (13-Jan-1939) · Ygor
The Phantom Creeps (7-Jan-1939)
S.O.S. Coast Guard (28-Aug-1937)
Postal Inspector (16-Aug-1936)
The Invisible Ray (20-Jan-1936) · Dr. Felix Benet
Murder by Television (1-Oct-1935)
The Raven (8-Jul-1935)
The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (27-Apr-1935) · Anton Lorenzen
Mark of the Vampire (28-Mar-1935) · Count Mora
Chandu on the Magic Island (1935)
The Mysterious Mr. Wong (22-Dec-1934) · Fu Wong
The Return of Chandu (1-Oct-1934)
The Black Cat (3-May-1934) · Dr. Vitus Werdegast
International House (27-May-1933)
Island of Lost Souls (12-Jan-1933) · Sayer of the Law
The Death Kiss (5-Dec-1932) · Joseph Steiner
White Zombie (4-Aug-1932) · Murder Legendre
Chandu the Magician (4-Aug-1932) · Roxor
Murders in the Rue Morgue (21-Feb-1932) · Dr. Mirakle
Broadminded (1-Aug-1931)
The Black Camel (21-Jun-1931)
Dracula (12-Feb-1931) · Count Dracula
Renegades (26-Oct-1930) · The Marabout
The Thirteenth Chair (19-Oct-1929)
The Midnight Girl (15-Feb-1925)

Happy Birthday Montgomery Clift

Today would have been Montgomery Clift’s 94th birthday.  His life seemed to be full of super highs and super lows and I think that makes the best life story.  It makes me root for them (even if I know the outcome) and love their humanity, vulnerability, and fragility.  Plus, his best friend was Elizabeth Taylor, the 1950’s Elizabeth Taylor at that.  Have you seen A Place in the Sun or Misfits lately?  Have you seen them ever?  They both have ridiculously talented casts that make them more than worthwhile to watch.

NAME: Edward Montgomery Clift
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: October 17, 1920
DEATH DATE: July 23, 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor Montgomery Clift starred in films like Red River (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951), and From Here To Eternity (1953).

Edward Montgomery Clift (October 17, 1920 – July 23, 1966) was an American film and stage actor. The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of “moody, sensitive young men”.

He invariably played outsiders, often “victim-heroes,” – examples include the social climber in George Stevens’s A Place in the Sun, the anguished Catholic priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess, the doomed regular soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt in Fred Zinnemann‘s From Here to Eternity, and the Jewish GI bullied by antisemites in Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions. Later, after a disfiguring car crash in 1956, and alcohol and prescription drug abuse, he became erratic. Nevertheless important roles were still his, including “the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer in Huston’s The Misfits, the title role in Huston’s Freud, and the concentration camp victim in Stanley Kramer‘s Judgment at Nuremberg.

Clift received four Academy Award nominations during his career, three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.

Happy Birthday Rita Hayworth

Today is Rita Hayworth’s 96th birthday.  If you have not seen any of her films, start with “Gilda,” it is by far my favorite and you will fall in love with her.

 

NAME: Rita Hayworth
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: October 17, 1918
DEATH DATE: May 14, 1987
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
Full Name: Margarita Carmen Cansino

Best Known For:  American film actress Rita Hayworth is best known for her stunning explosive sexual charisma on screen in films throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

A legendary Hollywood actress whose beauty catapulted her to international stardom in the 1940s and 1950s, Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918, in New York City. She changed her last name to Hayworth early on in her acting career on the advice of her first husband and manager, Edward Judson.

Hayworth hailed from show business stock. Her father, the Spanish-born Eduardo Cansino, was a dancer, and her mother, Volga, had been a Ziegfeld Follies girl. Soon after their daughter was born, they shortened her name to Rita Cansino. By the time Rita was 12 she was dancing professionally.

Still a young girl, Rita moved with her family to Los Angeles and eventually joined her father on the stage in nightclubs both in the United States and in Mexico. It was on a stage in Agua Caliente, Mexico, that a Fox Film Company producer spotted the 16-year-old dancer and inked her to a contract.

Rita Cansino, as she was still known, made her film debut in 1935 with Under the Pampas Moon, which was followed by a string of other films including Dante’s Inferno (1935) with Spencer Tracy, Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935), Meet Nero Wolfe (1936), and Human Cargo (1936).

In 1937 she married Judson, a man 22 years older than her, who would set the stage for his young wife’s future stardom. On his advice, Rita not only changed her last name, but also dyed her hair auburn. Judson worked the phones and managed to get Hayworth plenty of press in newspapers and magazines, and eventually helped her get a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures.

After a few disappointing roles in several mediocre films, Hayworth landed an important role as an unfaithful wife opposite Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Critical praise came Hayworth’s way. So did more movie offers.

Just two years after the relatively unknown actress shared the screen with Grant, Hayworth was a star herself. Her stunning, sensual looks greatly helped, and that year Life magazine writer Winthrop Sargeant nicknamed Hayworth “The Great American Love Goddess.”

The moniker stuck, and only helped further her career and the fascination many male movie fans had with her. In 1941 Hayworth took the screen opposite James Cagney in Strawberry Blonde. That same year she shared the dance floor with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich. Astaire later called Hayworth his favorite dance partner.

The following year Hayworth starred in three more big films: My Gal Sal, Tales of Manhattan, and You Were Never Lovelier.

Hayworth’s high-voltage power of seduction was affirmed in 1944 when a photograph of her in Life magazine wearing black lace became the unofficial pin-up photo for American servicemen serving overseas in World War II.

For her part, Hayworth didn’t shy away from the attention. “Why should I mind?” she said. “I like having my picture taken and being a glamorous person. Sometimes when I find myself getting impatient, I just remember the times I cried my eyes out because nobody wanted to take my picture at the Trocadero.”

Her stardom peaked in 1946 with the film Gilda, which cast her opposite Glenn Ford. A favorite of film noir fans,  the film was chock-full of sexual innuendo, which included a controversial (tame by today’s standards) striptease by Hayworth.

The following year she starred in another film noir favorite, The Lady From Shanghai, which was directed by her then-husband, Orson Welles.

Hayworth’s marriage to Welles in 1943 and subsequent divorce from the director and actor in 1948 garnered plenty of press. It was Hayworth’s second marriage, and with Welles she had a daughter, Rebecca.

It was during the filming of The Lady From Shanghai that Hayworth filed for divorce from Welles. In court documents she claimed, “he showed no interest in establishing a home. When I suggested purchasing a home, he told me he didn’t want the responsibility. Mr. Welles told me he never should have married in the first place; that it interfered with his freedom in his way of life.”

But Hayworth had also met and fallen in love with Prince Aly Khan, whose father was the head of the Ismaili Muslims. A statesman and a bit of a playboy, Khan eventually served as Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations.

Hayworth and Khan married in 1949 and had a daughter together, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. After divorcing Khan after just two years of marriage, Hayworth later married and divorced the singer Dick Haymes. Her fifth and final marriage was to movie producer James Hill.

As her personal life was dogged by turmoil, her acting career sputtered. Periodic film roles did come her way, but they failed to capture magic and project the kind of star power her earlier work once had. In all, Hayworth appeared in more than 40 films, the last of which was the 1972 release The Wrath of God.

In 1971 she briefly attempted a stage career, but it was quickly halted when it was apparent that Hayworth was unable to memorize her lines.

Hayworth’s diminished skills as an actress were largely chalked up to what many believed was a severe alcohol problem. Her deteriorating state made headlines in January 1976 when the actress, appearing disheveled and out of sorts, was escorted off a plane.

That same year a California court, citing Hayworth’s alcohol issues, named an administrator for her affairs.

But alcohol was only one of the factors ruining her life. Hayworth was also suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which doctors diagnosed her as having in 1980. A year later she was placed under the care of her daughter, Princess Yasmin, who used her mother’s condition as a catalyst for increasing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. In 1985, Yasmin helped organize Alzheimer’s Disease International, and eventually helmed the group as its president.

After years of struggle Hayworth died on May 14, 1987, in the apartment she shared with her daughter in New York City. Her passing elicited an outpouring of appreciation from fans and fellow actors.

“Rita Hayworth was one of our country’s most beloved stars,” President Ronald Reagan said upon hearing of Hayworth’s death. “Glamorous and talented, she gave us many wonderful moments on the stage and screen and delighted audiences from the time she was a young girl. Nancy and I are saddened by Rita’s death. She was a friend whom we will miss.”

Happy Birthday Le Corbusier

Today is the 127th birthday of Le Corbusier.

NAME: Le Corbusier
OCCUPATION: Architect, Artist
BIRTH DATE: October 6, 1887
DEATH DATE: August 27, 1965
EDUCATION: École des Arts Décoratifs at La Chaux-de-Fonds
PLACE OF BIRTH: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
PLACE OF DEATH: Cap Martin, France
AKA: Charles Jeanneret-Gris

BEST KNOWN FOR: Le Corbusier was a Swiss-born French architect who belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture.

Born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris on October 6, 1887, Le Corbusier was the second son of Edouard Jeanneret, an artist who painted dials in the town’s renowned watch industry, and Madame Jeannerct-Perrct, a musician and piano teacher. His family’s Calvinism, love of the arts and enthusiasm for the Jura Mountains, where his family fled during the Albigensian Wars of the 12th century, were all formative influences on the young Le Corbusier.

At age 13, Le Corbusier left primary school to attend Arts Décoratifs at La Chaux-de-Fonds, where he would learn the art of enameling and engraving watch faces, following in the footsteps of his father.

There, he fell under the tutelage of L’Eplattenier, whom Le Corbusier called “my master” and later referred to him as his only teacher. L’Eplattenier taught Le Corbusier art history, drawing and the naturalist aesthetics of art nouveau. Perhaps because of his extended studies in art, Corbusier soon abandoned watchmaking and continued his studies in art and decoration, intending to become a painter. L’Eplattenier insisted that his pupil also study architecture, and he arranged for his first commissions working on local projects.

After designing his first house, in 1907, at age 20, Le Corbusier took trips through central Europe and the Mediterranean, including Italy, Vienna, Munich and Paris. His travels included apprenticeships with various architects, most significantly with structural rationalist Auguste Perret, a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction, and later with renowned architect Peter Behrens, with whom Le Corbusier worked from October 1910 to March 1911, near Berlin.

These trips played a pivotal role in Le Corbusier’s education. He made three major architectural discoveries. In various settings, he witnessed and absorbed the importance of (1) the contrast between large collective spaces and individual compartmentalized spaces, an observation that formed the basis for his vision of residential buildings and later became vastly influential; (2) classical proportion via Renaissance architecture; and (3) geometric forms and the use of landscape as an architectural tool.

In 1912, Le Corbusier returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds to teach alongside L’Eplattenier and to open his own architectural practice. He designed a series of villas and began to theorize on the use of reinforced concrete as a structural frame, a thoroughly modern technique.

Le Corbusier began to envisage buildings designed from these concepts as affordable prefabricated housing that would help rebuild cities after World War I came to an end. The floor plans of the proposed housing consisted of open space, leaving out obstructive support poles, freeing exterior and interior walls from the usual structural constraints. This design system became the backbone for most of Le Corbusier’s architecture for the next 10 years.

In 1917, Le Corbusier moved to Paris, where he worked as an architect on concrete structures under government contracts. He spent most of his efforts, however, on the more influential, and at the time more lucrative, discipline of painting.

Then, in 1918, Le Corbusier met Cubist painter Amédée Ozenfant, who encouraged Le Corbusier to paint. Kindred spirits, the two began a period of collaboration in which they rejected cubism, an art form finding its peak at the time, as irrational and romantic.

With these thoughts in mind, the pair published the book Après le cubisme (After Cubism), an anti-cubism manifesto, and established a new artistic movement called purism. In 1920, the pair, along with poet Paul Dermée, established the purist journal L’Esprit Nouveau (The New Spirit), an avant-garde review.

In the first issue of the new publication, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret took on the pseudonym Le Corbusier, an alteration of his grandfather’s last name, to reflect his belief that anyone could reinvent himself. Also, adopting a single name to represent oneself artistically was particularly en vogue at the time, especially in Paris, and Le Corbusier wanted to create a persona that could keep separate his critical writing from his work as a painter and architect.

In the pages of L’Esprit Nouveau, the three men railed against past artistic and architectural movements, such as those embracing elaborate nonstructural (that is, nonfunctional) decoration, and defended Le Corbusier’s new style of functionalism.

In 1923, Le Corbusier published Vers une Architecture (Toward a New Architecture), which collected his polemical writing from L’Esprit Nouveau. In the book are such famous Le Corbusier declarations as “a house is a machine for living in” and “a curved street is a donkey track; a straight street, a road for men.”

Le Corbusier’s collected articles also proposed a new architecture that would satisfy the demands of industry, hence functionalism, and the abiding concerns of architectural form, as defined over generations. His proposals included his first city plan, the Contemporary City, and two housing types that were the basis for much of his architecture throughout his life: the Maison Monol and, more famously, the Maison Citrohan, which he also referred to as “the machine of living.”

Le Corbusier envisioned prefabricated houses, imitating the concept of assembly line manufacturing of cars, for instance. Maison Citrohan displayed the characteristics by which the architect would later define modern architecture: support pillars that raise the house above the ground, a roof terrace, an open floor plan, an ornamentation-free facade and horizontal windows in strips for maximum natural light. The interior featured the typical spatial contrast between open living space and cell-like bedrooms.

In an accompanying diagram to the design, the city in which Citrohan would rest featured green parks and gardens at the feet of clusters of skyscrapers, an idea that would come to define urban planning in years to come.

Soon Le Corbusier’s social ideals and structural design theories became a reality. In 1925-1926, he built a workers’ city of 40 houses in the style of the Citrohan house at Pessac, near Bordeaux. Unfortunately, the chosen design and colors provoked hostility on the part of authorities, who refused to route the public water supply to the complex, and for six years the buildings sat uninhabited.

In the 1930s, Le Corbusier reformulated his theories on urbanism, publishing them in La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City) in 1935. The most apparent distinction between the Contemporary City and the Radiant City is that the latter abandoned the class-based system of the former, with housing now assigned according to family size, not economic position.

The Radiant City brought with it some controversy, as all Le Corbusier projects seemed to. In describing Stockholm, for instance, a classically rendered city, Le Corbusier saw only “frightening chaos and saddening monotony.” He dreamed of “cleaning and purging” the city with “a calm and powerful architecture”; that is, steel, plate glass and reinforced concrete, what many observers might see as a modern blight applied to the beautiful city.

At the end of the 1930s and through the end of World War II, Le Corbusier kept busy with creating such famous projects as the proposed master plans for the cities of Algiers and Buenos Aires, and using government connections to implement his ideas for eventual reconstruction, all to no avail.

Happy Birthday Groucho Marx

Today is the 124th birthday of Groucho Marx.

NAME: Groucho Marx
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: October 2, 1890
DEATH DATE: August 19, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
ORIGINALLY: Julius Henry Marx

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian and film actor Groucho Marx was one of the Marx Brothers. He spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit.

Comedian, actor, singer and writer Groucho Marx was born Julius Henry Marx on October 2, 1890, in New York City. Groucho Marx spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit. He once described his comedy as “the type of humor that made people laugh at themselves.”

While he originally aspired to be a doctor, Marx started his career as a singer. One of his earliest efforts proved to be disastrous, however. As part of the Le May Trio, Marx got stuck in Colorado for a while after another group member took off with his pay. He had to work at a grocery store to earn enough money to make it back to New York.

Marx’s father Samuel never had much success as a tailor, and the family struggled financially. His mother Minnie hoped that she might find prosperity through her five children. She became the quintessential “stage mother,” guiding her children’s theatrical acts and even performing herself. The act eventually featured Groucho and his brothers Leonard, Adolph and Milton.

Groucho received his colorful nickname from fellow vaudeville performer Art Fisher because of his personality. Fisher also coined amusing names for Marx’s brothers, renaming Leonard “Chico,” Adolph “Harpo” and Milton “Gummo.” Milton left the act to fight in World War I and was replaced by youngest brother Herbert, known as “Zeppo.” Both Herbert and Milton later became theatrical agents.

The Marx Brothers had a career breakthrough in 1914 while performing in Texas. During a show, some of the audience left to go see a runaway mule. When they returned, the Marx Brothers put aside their usual routines to make fun of the audience. Groucho’s quick-witted quips won over the crowd. The switch to comedy proved to be their ticket to success.

By the 1920s, the Marx Brothers had become a hugely popular theatrical act. Groucho had developed some of his trademarks by this time. He often wore a long coat, a painted-on mustache, thick glasses and held on to a cigar on stage. In addition to just liking cigars, Marx explained that they proved useful, too. He said that “if you forget a line, all you have to do is stick the cigar in your mouth and puff on it until you think of what you’ve forgotten.”

The Marx Brothers had a string of Broadway hits, starting with 1924’s I’ll Say She Is, which Groucho helped write. The following year, they returned to the stage with The Cocoanuts, a spoof on land speculation in Florida. The Marx Brothers hit it big again in 1928 with Animal Crackers.

In great demand, Marx appeared on Broadway in Animal Crackers at night while filming the film version of The Cocoanuts during the day. Around this time, he nearly suffered a complete mental breakdown. His hectic schedule and his enormous financial loss in the 1929 stock market crash had taken a toll on the performer and left him with a lifelong struggle with insomnia.

Working with producer Irving Thalberg, the Marx Brothers created one of their most popular movies: A Night at the Opera (1935). As the decade drew to a close, the Marx Brothers continued to make more films, but none matched the success of their earlier efforts. Their last film together was 1949’s Love Happy.

Even before the Marx Brothers split up, Groucho had been exploring other career opportunities. He wrote the 1930 humorous book Beds, and followed it up in 1942 with Many Happy Returns, his comic attack on taxes. On the radio, Groucho worked on several programs before landing a hit in 1947 with You Bet Your Life. He hosted the quirky game show, which focused more on his quick wit than on contestants winning prizes.

You Bet Your Life moved from radio to television in 1950, and Marx entertained America with his wisecracks for 11 years, also winning a 1951 Emmy. After that program ended in 1961, he appeared on Tell It to Groucho, a short-lived game show the following year. Then Marx largely retreated from the limelight, making only sporadic appearances on television and in films.

Later in life, instead of performing, Marx wrote a follow-up to his 1959 autobiography Groucho and Me. This time around, he focused on love and sex in 1963’s Memoirs of a Mangy Lover. The thrice-married comedian had a lot to say on those topics. Marx had been married to first wife Ruth from 1920 to 1942. The couple had two children together, Miriam and Arthur. He had his third child, Melinda, with his second wife, Catherine Gorcey. His third marriage to Eden Hartford lasted from 1953 to 1969.

A prolific correspondent with friends and associates, Marx had his personal writings published in 1967 as The Groucho Letters. He returned to the stage in 1972 with a one-man show at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Crowds turned out to see the performer, then in his 80s. He had trouble hearing and his voice was much weaker than it was in his prime. Still, he managed to charm and entertain the audience. Two years later, Marx received a special Academy Award for his stage and screen efforts.

By 1977, Marx was in decline both physically and mentally. He struggled with health problems, and his family battled with his companion Erin Fleming over control of his affairs. After spending nearly two months in a Los Angeles hospital, Marx died of pneumonia on August 19, 1977. “He developed the insult into an art form,” The New York Times mused on his death. “And he used the insult, delivered with maniacal glee, to shatter the egos of the pompous ??and to plunge his audience into helpless laughter.”

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Skidoo (2-Dec-1968)
The Story of Mankind (8-Nov-1957) · Peter Minuit
A Girl in Every Port (13-Feb-1952)
Double Dynamite (25-Dec-1951) · Emile J. Keck
Mr. Music (8-Dec-1950) · Himself
Love Happy (12-Oct-1949) · Det. Sam Grunion
Copacabana (1-Nov-1947) · Lionel Q. Deveraux
A Night in Casablanca (10-May-1946) · Kornblow
The Big Store (20-Jun-1941)
Go West (6-Dec-1940) · S. Quentin Quale
At the Circus (20-Oct-1939) · Attorney Loophole
Room Service (30-Sep-1938) · Gordon Miller
A Day at the Races (11-Jun-1937) · Dr. Hackenbush
A Night at the Opera (15-Nov-1935) · Otis B. Driftwood
Duck Soup (17-Nov-1933) · Rufus T. Firefly
Horse Feathers (10-Aug-1932) · Prof. Wagstaff
Monkey Business (19-Sep-1931) · Groucho
Animal Crackers (28-Aug-1930) · Capt. Jeffrey T. Spaulding
The Cocoanuts (3-May-1929)

Happy Birthday Truman Capote

Today is the 90th birthday of American writer Truman Capote (books by this author), born in New Orleans (1924). Even as a child, Capote wanted to become famous. He moved with his mother to New York City and applied to the prestigious Trinity School. He was given an IQ test as an entrance exam, and he scored 215, the highest in the school’s history. Capote said: “I was having 50 perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five. I always felt nobody was going to understand me, going to understand what I felt about things. I guess that’s why I started writing.”

Truman_Capote _ YoungNAME: Truman Capote
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: September 30, 1924
DEATH DATE: August 25, 1984
EDUCATION: Trinity School, St. Joseph Military Academy, Greenwich High School, Dwight School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New Orleans, Louisiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Truman Streckfus Persons

Best Known For:  Truman Capote was a trailblazing writer of Southern descent known for the works Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, among others.

Acclaimed writer Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons on September 30, 1924, in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the 20th century’s most well-known writers, Capote was as fascinating a character as those who appeared in his stories. His parents were an odd pair—a small-town girl named Lillie Mae and a charming schemer called Arch—and they largely neglected their son, often leaving him in the care of others. Capote spent much of his young life in the care of his mother’s relatives in Monroeville, Alabama.

In Monroeville, Capote befriended a young Harper Lee. The two were opposites—Capote was a sensitive boy who was picked on by other kids for being a wimp, while Lee was a rough and tumble tomboy. Despite their differences, Lee found Capote to be a delight, calling him “a pocket Merlin” for his creative and inventive ways. Little did these playful pals know that they would both become famous writers one day.

While he had fun with his friends, Capote also had to struggle with his nightmarish family life. Seeing little of his mother and his father over the years, he often wrestled with feeling abandoned by them. One of the few times he caught their interest was during their divorce with each of them fighting for custody as a way to hurt the other. Capote finally did get to live with his mother full time in 1932, but this reunion did not turn out as he had hoped. He moved to New York City to live with her and his new stepfather, Joe Capote.

His once-doting mother was quite different once he started to encounter her on a daily basis. Lillie Mae—now calling herself Nina—could easily be cruel or kind to Truman, and he never knew what to expect from her. She often picked on him for his effeminate ways, and for not being like other boys. His stepfather seemed to be a more stable personality in the home, but Truman was not interested in his help or support at the time. Still, he was officially adopted by his stepfather, and his name was changed to Truman Garcia Capote in 1935.

A mediocre student, Capote did well in the courses that interested him and paid little attention in those that did not. He attended a private boys’ school in Manhattan from 1933 to 1936, where he charmed some of his classmates. An unusual boy, Capote had a gift for telling stories and entertaining people. His mother wanted to make him more masculine, and thought that sending him to a military academy would be the answer. The 1936-1937 school year proved to be a disaster for Capote. The smallest in his class, he was often picked on by the other cadets.

“I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t true.” – Truman Capote

Returning to Manhattan, Capote started to attract attention for his work at school. Some of his teachers noted his promise as a writer. In 1939, the Capotes moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where Truman enrolled at Greenwich High School. He stood out among his classmates with his ebullient personality. Over time, Capote developed a group of friends who would often go over to his house to smoke, drink, and dance in his room. He and his group would also go out to nearby clubs. Seeking adventure as well as an escape, Capote and his good friend Phoebe Pierce would also go into New York City and scheme their way into some of the most popular nightspots, including the Stork Club and Café Society.

While living in Greenwich, his mother’s drinking began to escalate, which made Capote’s home life even more unstable. Capote did not do well in school and had repeat the 12th grade at the Franklin School after he and his family returned to Manhattan in 1942. Instead of studying, Capote spent his nights at the clubs, making friends with Oona O’Neill, the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.

truman-capote

While still a teen, Capote got his first job working as a copyboy for The New Yorker magazine. During his time with the publication, Capote tried to get his stories published there with no success. He left The New Yorker to write full time, and started the novel Summer Crossing, which he shelved to work on a novella entitled Other Voices, Other Rooms. Capote’s first successes were not his novels, but several short stories. In 1945, editor George Davis selected Capote’s story “Miriam” about a strange little girl for publication in Mademoiselle. In addition to befriending Davis, Capote became close to his assistant Rita Smith, the sister of famous southern author Carson McCullers. She later introduced the two, and Capote and McCullers were friends for a time.

Capote’s story in Mademoiselle attracted the attention of Harper’s Bazaar fiction editor Mary Louise Aswell. The publication ran another dark and eerie story by Capote, “A Tree of Light” in its October 1945. These stories as well as “My Side of the Matter” and “Jug of Silver” helped launch Capote’s career and gave him entrée into the New York literary world.

While struggling to work on his first novel, Capote received some assistance from Carson McCullers. She helped him get accepted at Yaddo, a famous artists’ colony in New York State. Capote spent part of the summer of 1946 there, where he did some work on his novel and completed the short story, “The Headless Hawk,” which was published by Mademoiselle that fall. Capote also fell in love with Newton Arvin, a college professor and literary scholar. The bookish academic and the effervescent charmer made quite an interesting pair. Arvin, as with most of the others at Yaddo, was completely taken by Capote’s wit, manner, and appearance. That same year, Capote won the prestigious O. Henry Award for his short story “Miriam.”

His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948 to mixed reviews. In the work, a young boy is sent to live with his father after the death of his mother. His father’s home is a decrepit old plantation. For a time the boy does not get to see his father and instead must deal with his stepmother, her cousin, and some other unusual characters that inhabit this desolate place. While some criticized elements of the story, such as its homosexual theme, many reviewers noted Capote’s talents as a writer. The book sold well, especially for a first-time author.

In addition to receiving accolades and publicity, Capote found love in 1948. He met author Jack Dunphy at a party in 1948, and the two began what was to be a 35-year relationship. During the early years of their relationship, Capote and Dunphy traveled extensively. They spent time in Europe and other places where they both worked on their own projects.

Capote followed the success of Other Voices, Other Rooms with a collection of short stories, A Tree of Light, published in 1949. Not one to stay out of the public eye for long, his travel essays were put out in book form in 1950 as Local Color. His much-anticipated second novel, The Grass Harp, was released to in the fall of 1951. The fanciful tale explored an unlikely group of characters who take refuge from their troubles in a large tree. At the request of Broadway producer Saint Subber, Capote adapted his novel for the stage. The sets and costumes were designed by Capote’s close friend, Cecil Beaton. The comedy opened in March 1952, closing after 31 performances.

In 1953, Capote landed some film work. He wrote some of Stazione Termini (later released as Indiscretion of an American Wife in the United States), which starred Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift. During the filming in Italy, Capote and Clift developed a friendship. After that project wrapped, Capote was soon working on the script for the John Huston-directed Beat the Devil, starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobrigida, during its production. His best screenplay, however, was done years later when he adapted the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw into The Innocents (1961).

Undeterred by his past failure, Capote adapted his story about a Haitian bordello, “House of Flowers,” for the stage at Subber’s urging. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1954 with Pearl Bailey as its star and had Alvin Ailey and Diahann Carroll in the cast as well. Despite the best efforts of Capote and the show’s fine performers, the musical failed to attract enough critical and commercial attention. It closed after 165 performances. That same year, Capote suffered a great personal loss when his mother died.

Always fascinated by the rich and social elite, Capote found himself a popular figure in such circles. He counted Gloria Guinness, Babe and Bill Paley (the founder of CBS Television), Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwell, C. Z. Guest, and many others among his friends. Once an outsider, Capote was invited for cruises on their yachts and for stays on their estates.

Harold_Halma_photograph_of_Capote

He loved gossip—both hearing and sharing it. In the late 1950s, Capote began discussing a novel based on this jet-set world, calling it Answered Prayers.

In 1958, Capote scored another success with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He explored the life of a New York City party girl, Holly Golightly—who was a woman who depended on men to get by. With his usual style and panache, Capote had created a fascinating character within a well-crafted story. Three years later, the film version was released, starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly. Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe in the lead role, and was disappointed with this adaptation.

Capote’s next big project started out as an article for The New Yorker. He set out with friend Harper Lee to write about the impact of the murder of four members of the Clutter family on their small Kansas farming community. The two traveled to Kansas to interview townspeople, friends and family of the deceased, and the investigators working to solve the crime. Truman, with his flamboyant personality and style, had a hard time initially getting himself into his subjects’ good graces. Without using tape recorders, the two would write up their notes and observations at the end of each day and compare their findings.

During their time in Kansas, the Clutters’ suspected killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were caught in Las Vegas and brought back to Kansas. Lee and Capote got a chance to interview the suspects not long after their return in January 1960. Soon after, Lee and Capote went back to New York. Capote started working on his article, which would evolve into the non-fiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. He also corresponded with the accused killers, trying them to reveal more about themselves and the crime. In March 1960, Capote and Lee returned to Kansas for the murder trial.

While the two convicted and sentenced to death, their execution was staved off by a series of appeals. Hickock and Smith hoped that Capote would help them escape the hangman’s noose and were upset to hear that the book’s title was In Cold Blood, which indicated that the murders had been premeditated.

Writing this non-fiction masterwork took a lot out of Capote. For years, he labored on it and still had to wait for the story to find its ending in the legal system. Hickock and Smith were finally executed on April 14, 1965, at the Kansas State Penitentiary. At their request, Capote traveled to Kansas to witness their deaths. He refused to see them the day before, but he visited with both Hickock and Smith shortly before their hangings.

In Cold Blood became a huge hit, both critically and commercially. Capote used a number of techniques usually found in fiction to bring this true story to life for his readers. It was first serialized in The New Yorker in four issues with readers anxiously awaiting each gripping installment. When it was published as a book, In Cold Blood was an instant best-seller.

While In Cold Blood brought him acclaim and wealth, Capote was never the same after the project.

Digging into such dark territory had taken a toll on him psychologically and physically. Known to drink, Capote began drinking more and started taking tranquilizers to soothe his frayed nerves. His substance abuse problems escalated over the coming years.

Despite his problems, Capote did, however, manage to pull off one of the biggest social events of the 20th century. Attracting his society friends, literary notables, and stars, his Black and White Ball garnered a huge amount of publicity. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza hotel on November 28, 1966 with publisher Katharine Graham as the guest of honor. In choosing a dress code, Capote decided that the men should dress in black tie attire while women could wear either a black or white dress. Everyone had to wear a mask. One of the evening’s more memorable moments was when actress Lauren Bacall danced with director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Those society friends that flocked to the ball were in for a nasty shock several years later. Considered one of the notorious instances of biting the hand that feeds, Capote had a chapter from Answered Prayers published in Esquire magazine in 1976. That chapter, “La Cote Basque, 1965,” aired a lot of his society friends’ secrets as thinly veiled fiction. Many of his friends, hurt by his betrayal, turned their back on him. He claimed to be surprised by their reactions and was hurt by their rejection. By the late 1970s, Capote had moved on to the party scene at the famous club Studio 54 where he hung out with Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, and Liza Minnelli.

By this time, Capote’s relationship with Jack Dunphy was becoming strained. Dunphy wanted Capote to stop drinking and taking drugs, which—despite numerous trips to rehabilitation centers over the years—Capote seemed unable to do. While no longer physically intimate, the two remained close, spending time together at their neighboring homes in Sagaponack, Long Island. Capote also had other relationships with younger men, which did little to improve his emotional and psychological state.

Published in 1980, Capote’s last major work, Music for Chameleons, was a collection of non-fiction and fictional pieces, including the novella Handcarved Coffins. The collection did well, but Capote was clearly in decline, battling his addictions and physical health problems.

In the final year of his life, Capote had two bad falls, another failed stint in rehab, and a stay in a Long Island hospital for an overdose. Traveling to California, Capote went to stay with old friend Joanne Carson, the ex-wife of Johnny Carson. He died at her Los Angeles home on August 25, 1984.