Happy Birthday Ezra Pound

Today is the birthday of Ezra Pound, born 129 years ago in Hailey, Idaho . He was known as “the poet’s poet” because he was so generous about promoting the work of other writers — including James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, D.H. Lawrence, Marianne Moore, Hilda Doolittle, and T.S. Eliot.  The world is a better place because he was in it and feels the loss since he has left it.

NAME: Ezra Pound
OCCUPATION: Journalist, Poet
BIRTH DATE: October 30, 1885
DEATH DATE: November 01, 1972
EDUCATION: Cheltenham Military Academy, University of Pennsylvania, Hamilton College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hailey, Idaho
PLACE OF DEATH: Venice, Italy

Best Known For:  Poet Ezra Pond authored more than 70 books and promoted many other now-famous writers, including James Joyce and T.S. Eliot.

The Wiki:

Poet Ezra Pound was born on October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho. He studied literature and languages in college and in 1908 left for Europe, where he published several successful books of poetry. Pound advanced a “modern” movement in English and American literature. His pro-Fascist broadcasts in Italy during World War II led to his arrest and confinement until 1958.

One of the 20th century’s most influential voices in American and English literature, Ezra Pound was born in the small mining town of Hailey, Idaho, on October 30, 1885. The only child of Homer Loomis Pound, a Federal Land Office official, and his wife, Isabel, Ezra spent the bulk of his childhood just outside Philadelphia, where his father had moved the family after accepting a job with the U.S. Mint. His childhood seems to have been a happy one. He eventually attended Cheltenham Military Academy, staying there two years before leaving to finish his high school education at a local public school.

In 1901, Pound enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, but left after two years and transferred to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. By this time, Pound knew full well that he wanted to be a poet. At the age of 15, he had told his parents as much. Though his chosen vocation certainly wasn’t something he had inherited directly from his more conventional mother and father, Homer and Isabel were supportive of their son’s choice.

In 1907, after finishing college, Pound accepted a teaching job at Indiana’s Wabash College. But the fit between the artistic, somewhat bohemian poet and the formal institution was less than perfect, and Pound soon left.

His next move proved to be more daring. In 1908, with just $80 in his pocket, he set sail for Europe, and landed in Venice brimming with confidence that he would soon make a name for himself in the world of poetry. With his own money, Pound paid for the publication of his first book of poems, “A Lume Spento.”

Despite the face that the work did not create the kind of fireworks he had hoped for, it did open some important doors for him. In late 1908, Pound traveled to London, where he befriended the influential writer and editor Ford Madox Ford, as well as William Butler Yeats. His friendship with Yeats in particular was a close one, and Pound eventually took a job as the writer’s secretary, and later served as best man at his wedding.

In 1909, Pound found the kind of success as a writer that he had wanted. Over the next year, he produced three books, “Personae,” “Exultations” and “The Spirit of Romance,” the last one based on the lectures he had given in London. All three books were warmly received. Wrote one reviewer: Pound “is that rare thing among modern poets, a scholar.”

In addition, Pound wrote numerous reviews and critiques for a variety of publications, such as New Age, the Egoist, and Poetry. As his friend T.S. Eliot would later note, “During a crucial decade in the history of modern literature, approximately 1912–1922, Pound was the most influential and in some ways the best critic in England or America.”

In 1912, Pound helped create a movement that he and others called “Imagism,” which signaled a new literary direction for the poet. At the core of Imagism, was a push to set a more direct course with language, shedding the sentiment that had so wholly shaped Victorian and Romantic poetry.

Precision and economy were highly valued by Pound and the other proponents of the movement, which included F.S. Flint, William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell, Richard Aldington, and Hilda Doolittle. With its focus on the “thing” as the “thing,” Imagism reflected the changes happening in other art forms,  most notably painting and the Cubists.

Pound’s maxims included, “Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose” and “Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.” But Pound’s connection to Imagism was short-lived. After just a few years, he stepped aside, frustrated when he couldn’t secure total control of the movement from Lowell and the others.

Pound’s influence extended in other directions. He had an incredible eye for talent and tirelessly promoted writers whose works he felt demanded attention. He introduced the world to up-and-coming poets like Robert Frost and D.H. Lawrence, and was T.S. Eliot’s editor. In fact, it was Pound who edited Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which many consider to be one of the greatest poems produced during the modernist era.

Over the years, Pound and Eliot would become great friends. Early in his career, when Eliot abandoned his graduate studies in philosophy at Oxford, it was Pound who wrote the young poet’s parents to break the news to them.

Pound’s lineup of friends also included the Irish novelist James Joyce, whom he helped introduce to publishers and find landing spots in magazines for several of the stories in “The Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” During Joyce’s leanest years, Pound helped him with money and even, it is said, helped secure for him an old pair of shoes to wear.

Pound’s own work continued to flourish as well. The years immediately following World War I saw the production of two of his most admired works, “Homage to Sextus Propertius” (1919) and the 18-part “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (1921), the latter of which tackled a wide range of subjects, from the artist and society to the horrors of mass production and World War I.

In late 1920, after 12 years in London, Pound left England for a new start in Paris. But his tolerance for French life, it seems, was limited. In 1924, tired of the Parisian scene, Pound moved again, this time settling in the Italian city of Rapallo, where he would remain for the next two decades. It was here that Pound’s life changed significantly. In 1925, he had a daughter, Maria, with American violinist Olga Rudge, and the following year he had a son, Omar, with his wife, Dorothy.

Professionally, Pound had turned his full attention to “The Cantos,” an ambitious long- form poem he had begun in 1915. A work he self described as his “poem including history,” “The Cantos” revealed Pound’s interest in economics and in the world’s changing financial landscape in the wake of World War I.

The first section of the poem was published in 1925, with later editions appearing later (“Eleven New Cantos,” 1934; “The Fifth Decade of Cantos,” 1937; “Cantos LII-LXXI,” 1940).

As Pound’s interest in economics and economic history increased, he showed his support for the theories of Major C.H. Douglas, the founder of Social Credit, an economic theory that believed that the poor distribution of wealth was due to insufficient purchasing power on the part of governments. Pound began to see a world of injustice shaped by international bankers, whose manipulation of money led to wars and conflict.

Pound’s impassioned feelings on the matter soon led him to support the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. In 1939, Pound visited the United States in the hope that he could help prevent war between his native country and his adopted one. But success eluded him, and upon his return to Italy, Pound set out recording hundreds of broadcasts for Rome Radio in which he threw his support behind Mussolini, condemned the United States, and claimed that a group of Jewish bankers had directed America into war.

In 1945, partisans arrested Pound and handed him over to U.S. Forces, who held him for six months at a detention center outside Pisa. He was then flown back to the United States to stand trial for treason, but was found to be insane and was directed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington DC, where he remained until 1958.

Pound’s exact state of mind during this time has come into question over the years. In the early 1980s, a full decade after Pound’s death, a professor of American Institutions at the University of Wisconsin presented evidence that Pound was indeed sane enough to stand trial for treason. However, it was certainly true that Pound was healthy enough to work. During his imprisonment in Italy he finished the “Pisan Cantos,” which The New York Times praised as “among the masterpieces of the century.”

Pound continued to write during his confinement at St. Elizabeths as well. There he completed additional sections of his long poem, “Section: Rock-Drill,” published in 1955, and “Thrones,” which appeared in 1959.

In 1958, Robert Frost spearheaded a successful campaign to free Pound from the comfortable confines of St. Elizabeths. Pound returned to Italy immediately, and in 1969,  published “Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII.”

Publicly, Pound spoke little about his work, but on the rare occasion he did, he described “The Cantos” as a failed work of poetry. Whether Pound truly felt that way about his defining work is often debated.

Pound passed away in Venice in 1972 and was buried on the cemetery island Isole di San Michele. Over the course of his long, productive lifetime, Pound published 70 books of his own writing, had a hand in some 70 others, and authored more than 1,500 articles.

Happy Birthday Bob Ross

Today is the 72nd birthday of the artist and public television personality Bob Ross.  There is a generation of people that watched The Joy of Painting sincerely (not ironically) and sincerely loved it.  The world is a better place because he was in it and feels the loss that he now isn’t.

bob-ross

NAME: Bob Ross
OCCUPATION: Painter, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: October 29, 1942
DEATH DATE: July 04, 1995
PLACE OF BIRTH: Daytona Beach, Florida
PLACE OF DEATH: New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Best Known For:  Known for his fast and easy “wet-on-wet” painting technique, Bob Ross reached millions of art lovers with his popular television program The Joy of Painting.

Bob Ross, television’s famous painting instructor, was born Robert Norman Ross in Daytona, Florida, on October 29, 1942. He was raised in Orlando, Florida. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, Ross served in the U.S. Air Force. During his service, he took his first painting lesson at an Anchorage, Alaska United Service Organizations club. From that point on, he was “hooked,” a term he would use frequently during his years as a painting instructor.

After returning from the Air Force, Ross attended various art schools until he learned the technique of “wet-on-wet” from William Alexander (later his bitter rival), where oil paints are applied directly on top of one another to produce complete paintings (mostly landscapes) in less than an hour. Ross taught wet-on-wet to several friends and colleagues, and in the early 1980s, he was given his on show on PBS based on the technique.

bob ross 2

Ross’s instructional program, The Joy of Painting, premiered in 1983 on PBS, where it would run for more than a decade and attract millions of viewers. As a TV painting instructor, Ross became known for his light humor and gentle demeanor, as well as his ability to complete a painting in 30 minutes. The Joy of Painting would eventually be carried by more than 275 stations, spawning an empire that would include videos, how-to books, art supplies and certified Bob Ross instructors.

The Joy of Painting was canceled in 1994 so that Ross could focus on his health; the famous TV instructor and host had been diagnosed with lymphoma around that same time.

Ross died from lymphoma at the age of 52, on July 4, 1995, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The majority of his original oil paintings were donated to charities or to PBS stations. Today, Ross remains one of the best-known and highest-paid American painters. His legacy lives on through a number of facets, including a fan-based Twitter page of more than 15,000 followers.

Happy Birthday Pablo Picasso

Today is Picasso’s 133rd birthday.  He died 41 years ago at the impressive age of 91.  A long life only matched by his long long full name:  Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso.  He was part of that group of friends back in the 20’s that I became madly fascinated with, that lost generation.  Only, he managed to get through it and continue.  Take some time to view his work today (phone-google images-picasso) and remember that life is more vibrant than you think and perspective is different for everyone.  Jump start your weekend and recharge yourself and remember, beauty is everywhere as long as you don’t rush past it.

picasso

NAME: Pablo Picasso
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: October 25, 1881
DEATH DATE: April 08, 1973
EDUCATION: La Llotja, Royal Academy of San Fernando
PLACE OF BIRTH: Málaga, Spain
PLACE OF DEATH: Mougins, France

Best Known For:  Spanish expatriate Pablo Picasso was one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, and the co-creator of Cubism.

The Wiki:

Artist. Born October 25, 1881 in Málaga, Spain. Picasso’s gargantuan full name, which honors a variety of relatives and saints, is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Picasso’s mother was Doña Maria Picasso y Lopez and his father was Don José Ruiz Blasco, a painter and art teacher. A serious and prematurely world-weary child, the young Pablo Picasso possessed a pair of piercing, watchful black eyes that seemed to mark him out for greatness. He remembered, “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

Although he was a relatively poor student, Picasso displayed a prodigious talent for drawing from a very young age. According to legend, his first words were “piz, piz,” his childish attempt at lápiz, the Spanish word for pencil. Picasso’s father began teaching him to draw and paint from early childhood, and by the time he was 13 years old his paintings were already better executed than his father’s. He lost all desire to do any schoolwork and instead spent the school days doodling in his notebook. Picasso recalled, “for being a bad student, they would send me to the ‘cells’& I loved it when they sent me there, because I could take a pad of paper and draw nonstop.”

In 1895, when Picasso was fourteen years old, his family moved to Barcelona and he immediately applied to the city’s prestigious School of Fine Arts. Although the school typically only accepted students several years his senior, Picasso’s entrance exam was so extraordinary that the school made an exception and admitted him immediately. Nevertheless, Picasso chafed at the strict rules and formalities and began skipping class to roam the streets of Barcelona, sketching the city scenes he observed.

In 1897, a 16-year-old Picasso moved to Madrid to attend the Royal Academy of San Fernando. However, he again grew frustrated at the school’s singular focus on classical subjects and techniques. He wrote to a friend, “They just go and on& about the same old stuff: Velazquez for painting, Michelangelo for sculpture.” Again he started skipping class to wander the city and paint what he observed: gypsies, beggars, prostitutes.

In 1899, Picasso moved back to Barcelona and fell in with a crowd of artists and intellectuals who made their headquarters at a café called El Quatre Gats, the four cats. Inspired by the anarchists and radicals he met there, Picasso made his decisive break with the classical methods in which he had been trained and began a lifelong process of experimentation and innovation.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Picasso moved to Paris, the cultural center of European art,  to open his own studio. Art critics and historians typically break Picasso’s adult career into distinct periods and the first of these, which lasted from 1901-1904, is called his Blue Period after the color that dominated nearly all of Picasso’s paintings during these years. Lonely and deeply depressed over the death of his close friend Carlos Casagemas, he painted scenes of poverty, isolation and anguish using almost exclusively blues and greens. The critic Charles Morice wondered, “Is this frighteningly precocious child not fated to bestow the consecration of a masterpiece on the negative sense of living, the illness from which he more than anyone else seems to be suffering?” Picasso’s most famous paintings from the Blue Period include Blue Nude, La Vieand The Old Guitarist, all three completed in 1903.

By 1905, Picasso had largely overcome his depression of the previous years. He was madly in love with a beautiful model named Fernande Olivier and newly prosperous thanks to the generous patronage of the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The artistic manifestation of Picasso’s improved spirits was the introduction of warmer colors beiges, pinks and reds in what is known as his Rose Period. His most famous paintings from this time include Family at Saltimbanques (1905), Gertrude Stein (1905-1906) and Two Nudes (1906).

picasso2

In 1907, Picasso produced a painting unlike anything he or anyone else had ever painted before, a work that would profoundly influence the direction of art in the twentieth century: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a chilling depiction of five beige figures, prostitutes, abstracted and distorted with sharp geometric features and stark blotches of blues, greens and grays. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is considered the precursor and inspiration of Cubism, an artistic style pioneered by Picasso and Georges Braque.

In Cubist paintings, objects are broken apart and reassembled in an abstracted form, highlighting their composite geometric shapes and depicting the object from multiple viewpoints at once to create physics-defying, collage-like effects. At once destructive and creative, Cubism shocked, appalled and fascinated the art world. “It made me feel as if someone was drinking gasoline and spitting fire,” Braque said. The French writer and critic Max Jacob reflected, “It was really the harbinger comet of the new century.” Picasso’s early Cubist paintings, known as his Analytic Cubist works, include Three Women (1907), Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table (1909) and Girl with Mandolin (1910). Picasso’s later Cubist paintings are distinguished as Synthetic Cubism because they go further toward creating vast collages out of a great number of tiny individual fragments.  These include Still Life with Chair Caning (1912), Card Player (1913-1914), and Three Musicians (1921).

The outbreak of World War I ushered in the next great change in Picasso’s art. He grew more somber and once again preoccupied with the depiction of reality. Picasso’s works between 1918-1927 are considered his Classical Period,  a brief return to realism in a career otherwise dominated by experimentation. His most interesting and important works from this period include Three Women at the Spring (1921), Two Women Running on the Beach/The Race (1922) and The Pipes of Pan (1923).

Then, from 1927 onward, Picasso became caught up in a new philosophical and cultural movement, Surrealism, whose artistic manifestation was an offspring of his own Cubism. Picasso’s greatest surrealist painting, one of the great paintings of all time, was completed in 1937, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. On April 26, 1937, German bombers supporting Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces, carried out a devastating aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica. Outraged by the bombing and the inhumanity of war, Picasso painted Guernica shortly thereafter, a surrealist testament to the horrors of war in black, white and grays, featuring a Minotaur and several human-like figures in various states of anguish and terror. Guernica remains one of the most moving and powerful antiwar paintings in history.

In the aftermath of World War II, Picasso became more overtly political. He joined the Communist Party and was twice honored with the International Lenin Peace Prize, once in 1950 and again in 1961. By this point in his life, Picasso was also an international celebrity, the world’s most famous living artist. However, while paparazzi chronicled his every move, few paid attention to his art during this time. In contrast to the dazzling complexity of Synthetic Cubism, Picasso’s later paintings use simple imagery and crude technique. Upon passing a group of school kids in his old age Picasso remarked, “When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.” The epitome of his later work is his Self Portrait Facing Death, drawn with pencil and crayon a year before he passed away. The autobiographical subject, who appears as something between a human and an ape, with a green face and pink hair, is drawn with the crude technique of a child. Yet the expression in his eyes, capturing a lifetime of wisdom, fear and uncertainty, is the unmistakable work of a master at the height of his powers.

Picasso was an incorrigible womanizer who had countless relationships with girlfriends, mistresses, muses and prostitutes over the course of his long life. However, he had only two wives. He married a ballerina named Olga Khokhlova in 1918, and they remained together for nine years before parting ways in 1927. He married his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, at the age of 69 in 1961. Picasso had four children: Paul, Maya, Claude and Paloma.

He passed away on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91.

Pablo Picasso stands alone as the most celebrated and influential painter of the twentieth century. His technical mastery, visionary creativity and profound empathy distinguish him as a revolutionary artist. Picasso was also endlessly reinventing himself, switching between styles so radically different that his life’s work seems the product of five or six great artists rather than just one. Discussing his penchant for radical shifts in style, Picasso insisted that his career was not an evolution or progression. Rather, the diversity of his work was the result of freshly evaluating for each piece the form and technique best suited to achieve his desired effects. “Whenever I wanted to say something, I said it the way I believed I should,” Picasso said. “Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.”

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Mystery of Picasso (5-May-1956) · Himself

Wrote plays:
Desire Caught by the Tail (1941)

Selected paintings:
The First Communion (1896)
The Absinthe Drinker (1901)
Garçon à la pipe (1905)
The Family of Saltimbanques (1905)
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)
Guernica (1937)
Dora Maar au Chat (1941)
Massacre in Korea (1951)
Las Menina (1957)

 

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Happy Birthday Johnny Carson

Today is the 89th birthday of Johnny Carson.

johnny carson 2

NAME: Johnny Carson
OCCUPATION: Talk Show Host
BIRTH DATE: October 23, 1925
DEATH DATE: January 23, 2005
EDUCATION: University of Nebraska
PLACE OF BIRTH: Corning, Iowa
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: Johnny Carson
Full Name: John William Carson

Best Known For:  One of television’s best known personalities, Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years. His farewell show in 1992 drew 50 million viewers.

Born in Corning, Iowa on October 23, 1925 to Ruth and Homer R. Carson, a power company manager, Johnny Carson learned how to reel in audiences at a young age. He fell in love with magic when he was 12 years old, and after purchasing a magician’s kit through the mail, began performing magic tricks in public, as “The Great Carson.”

Following high school, in 1943, an 18-year-old Carson joined the U.S. Navy as an ensign, and then decoded encrypted messages as a communications officer. Serving aboard the USS Pennsylvania, he continued performing magic, mainly for his fellow shipmates. He later said that one of the fondest memories from his service was performing magic for James Forrestal, U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Though assigned to combat in the summer of 1945, Carson never went into battle — WWII ended in 1945, following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and Carson was sent back to the United States.

In the fall of 1945, Carson began studying at the University of Nebraska, and received a bachelor’s degree in radio and speech four years later. After college, he had a short stint as television writer for The Red Skelton Show in Los Angeles, and then moved to New York City in pursuit of bigger audiences.

In October of 1962, Carson replaced Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show—a counterpart to NBC’s Tonight show—and, following wavering ratings his first year, Carson became a prime-time hit.

Audiences found comfort in Carson’s calm and steady presence in their living rooms each evening. Revered for his affable personality, quick wit and crisp interviews, he guided viewers into the late night hours with a familiarity they grew to rely on year after year. Featuring interviews with the stars of the latest Hollywood movies or the hottest bands, Carson kept Americans up-to-date on popular culture, and reflected some of the most distinct personalities of his era through impersonations, including his classic take on President Ronald Reagan.

Carson created several recurring comedic characters that popped up regularly on his show, including Carnac the Magnificent, an Eastern psychic who was said to know the answers to all kinds of baffling questions. In these skits, Carson would wear a colorful cape and featured turban and attempt to answer questions on cards before even opening their sealed envelopes. Carson, as Carmac, would demand silence before answering questions such as “Answer: Flypaper.” “Question: What do you use to gift wrap a zipper?”

Carson was The Tonight Show’s host for three decades. During that time, he received six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson’s final appearance as host in 1992 attracted an estimated 50 million viewers.

Carson was in and out of relationships throughout his life, marrying four separate times. He married Jody Wolcott in 1948, and they had three sons, Charles (Kit), Cory and Richard. Richard died in an auto accident in 1991.

Carson and Jody divorced in 1963, and only months later, Carson married his second wife, Joanne Copeland. That relationship ended in 1972, following a grueling legal battle that ended with Copeland receiving a settlement of nearly $500,000 and annual alimony from Carson. That same year, Carson married third wife Joanna Holland—from whom he filed for divorce in 1983.

For the first time in 35 years, Carson lived life as an unmarried man from 1983 to 1987. He married for the final time in June of 1987; Carson and Alexis Maas remained together until Carson’s death, nearly eighteen years later.

At age 74, in 1999, Carson suffered a severe heart attack while he was sleeping at his Malibu, California home. Soon after, he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. In January of 2005, at age 79, Carson died of respiratory failure caused by emphysema.

Carson, considered to be one of the most popular stars of American television, has been praised by several mainstream comics—including Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon—for helping them launch their careers. Today, he is regarded worldwide as a televison legacy.

Happy Birthday Joan Fontaine

Today is Joan Fontaine‘s 97th birthday.  If nothing else, watch The Women (1939) (and Rebecca and Suspicion and and and…), it is one of the best all time ensemble casts ever created.  You will not be disappointed.

NAME: Joan Fontaine
OCCUPATION:
Film Actress
BIRTH DATE:
October 22, 1917
DEATH DATE:
December 16, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Tokyo, Japan
PLACE OF DEATH:
Carmel, California
AKA: Joan Burfield,
Joan Fontaine
ORIGINALLY:
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

Best Known ForAcademy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has appeared in such films as Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Jane Eyre (1944) and Othello (1952).

The Wiki:

Born in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, actress Joan Fontaine was a sickly child. Her mother Lillian moved the family to California when she was young to help improve her health. Her parents split up around this time. Fontaine and her older sister, Olivia (de Havilland), seemed to have a difficult relationship from the start, with the pair fighting for their mother’s attention and affection. According to some reports, Lillian favored Olivia.

In 1932, Fontaine moved to Japan to live with her father. Their reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and she returned the United States after about a year. Before long, Fontaine began her acting career, following in the footsteps of her older sister. She reportedly studied with Max Reinhardt, just as her sister had done before her.

Using the name Joan Burfield, Fontaine made her film debut in 1935’s No More Ladies, starring Joan Crawford. She eventually took the last name “Fontaine” after her stepfather. Continuing to work in movies, Fontaine appeared alongside Fred Astaire in the musical A Damsel in Distress in 1937. She was better suited to dramatic roles, however, made apparent by her performances in films like Gunga Din (1939), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant; and The Women (1939), with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. She reportedly also missed out another great role that year, turning down the part of Melanie in Gone With the Wind—a role eventually won by her sister, Olivia de Havilland, and for which Olivia earned great acclaim.

Fontaine’s career reached new heights in 1940 with her starring role in Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of the popular Daphne du Maurier novel. She played the title character, starring opposite Laurence Olivier. The following year, Fontaine reteamed with Hitchcock for the thriller Suspicion, co-starring with Cary Grant. She received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Rebecca and Suspicion, taking home the golden statue for Suspicion. This win became the latest flare-up in the feud between Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, who had been nominated as well.

In 1943, Fontaine picked up her third and final Academy Award nomination (best actress) for her performance in The Constant Nymph. She went on to co-star with Orson Welles in 1944’s classic romantic tale Jane Eyre. The pair worked together again in 1952’s Shakespearean tragedy Othello. That same year, Fontaine had another hit with Ivanhoe, co-starring with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the 1960s, the once-busy Fontaine saw her career slow down. She made only a handful of films in her later years, and played a number of television roles. She made guest appearances on such shows as Wagon Train, Hotel and The Love Boat. She also had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope in the early 1980s.

Fontaine has been married and divorced four times: In 1939, she married actor Brian Aherne. The couple divorced in 1945. The following year, she wed producer and actor William Dozier. Dozier and Fontaine had one child together, a daughter named Deborah, before splitting up in 1951. In 1952, she married Collier Young, a writer, and their union lasted until 1961. Her final marriage to journalist Alfred Wright Jr. lasted from 1964 to 1969.

In 1978, Fontaine released her autobiography, No Bed of Roses. She wrote about her long, troubled relationship with sister Olivia, much to Olivia’s dismay. Their final straw between the two siblings reportedly came with their mother’s death around the same time. Fontaine has said that she was not invited to the funeral, and has threatened to talk to the press about being omitted from the service. The date of the funeral was changed so that Fontaine and her daughter could attend, but Joan and Olivia have allegedly not spoken since their mother’s funeral.

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 Harris Glenn Milstead

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

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NAME: Harris Glenn Milstead
BORN: October 19, 1945
BIRTHPLACE: Towson, MD
DIED: March 7, 1988
LOCATION AT DEATH: Los Angeles, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Respiratory failure
REMAINS: Buried, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Towson, MD

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

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

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

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

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

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Out of the Dark (5-May-1989)
Hairspray (16-Feb-1988)
Trouble in Mind (Dec-1985)
Lust in the Dust (1-Mar-1985)
Polyester (29-May-1981)
Female Trouble (4-Oct-1974)
Pink Flamingos (17-Mar-1972)
Multiple Maniacs (10-Apr-1970)
Mondo Trasho (14-Mar-1969)

Is the subject of books:
My Son Divine, 2001, BY: Frances Milstead, DETAILS: Alyson Publications:with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Yeager
Not Simply Divine, 1994, BY: Bernard Jay, DETAILS: Fireside:by Divine’s personal manager