Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday to Sally Blane

On this day in 1910 actress Sally Blane was born in Salida, California, the second daughter of Boarding House owner Gladys Belzner. She was a sister to actress Loretta Young. Sally began her career in silent films both as a child and a teenager. When talking films arrived her career progressed. In 1935 she married film actor and director Norman Foster and had two children whom they named Robert and Gretchen.

She retiered from acting in 1957 and lived in Los Angeles, CA until her death from cancer on August 27, 1997 age 87. Being a devout Catholic she was laid to rest in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA. Her sisters Polly Ann Young (1908 - 1997) and Loretta (1913 - 2000) both died of cancer too and were laid to rest in the same cemetery. She had another sister named Georgianna Young (1924 - 2007) who was married to actor Ricardo Montalban (1920 - 2009) and the two of them are buried in Holy Cross Cemetery as well.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Little Known Actors - William Demarest

William Demarest (1892 - 1983) was an American character actor who often specialized in playing crusty yet kind hearted old men. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota he began his acting career in Vaudeville later moving on to Broadway in the 1920s. It is documented that with his acting parts totaled from both film and TV apperances that he played 140 roles. He made apperances in such films as Hands Across the Table (1935), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullavan's Travels (1941), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944).

He retired from acting in 1978 and enjoyed a peaceful retierment in Palm Springs, CA. He would die from a mix of pneumonia and prostate cancer in 1982 at the age of 91. He was laid to rest in Glendale, CA's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

The BFF's of Classic Hollywood, Part 2

Yesterday I talked to you about some of the friendships made in Classic Hollywood and today I am going to tell you a couple more. After all it is hard to mention all of them in just one day. Let's hear some more shall we?

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were one of Hollywood's most beloved dance teams in the 1930s. They first starred together in Flying Down to Rio (1933) and by the mid-1930s they were making one musical a year. It was obvious that they liked one another, it shows in their dancing. Fred's nickname for Ginger was feathers for when they did Top Hat in 1935 when they danced their famous cheek to cheek number Ginger wore a dress she designed that had ostrich feathers top to bottom and as they danced some of the feathers came off and got stuck on Fred's suit.

They had alot in common too which added more to their friendship: They were both stauch Republicans, they loved to dance (which was rather obvious), they both began their careers on both Vaudeville and the Broadway stage, and they both got Oscars at some point in their lives. She a Best Actress Oscar in 1940 for Kitty Foyle and he an Honorary Oscar in 1950 for his contribution to dance which was presented to him by Ginger. They remained close friends until Fred's death in 1987.

Errol Flynn and John Barrymore were very much friends. They drank together quite a bit and they often met with one another once in a while to play golf or gamble. Flynn always said that John Barrymore was an idol to him and in 1958, a year before his death, he portrayed him in the biopic Too Much, Too Soon. Barrymore would die of a heart attack in 1942 and it was said that when his wake was held Flynn actually came over to his home and proped him up in his favorite chair and acted as though he was still alive.

Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland were lifelong friends. They both were under contract to Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s. They starred together in It's Love I'm After (1937), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), In This Our Life (1942), and Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964). When Bette was honored by the American Film Institute in 1977 Olivia came down from France to honor her and when Bette's centenial birthday came to be Olivia came down to celebrate it even though Bette didn't live to see it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Little Known Actors - Theresa Harris

Theresa Harris (1906 - 1985) was an African American actress who starred in a number of supporting and or uncredited roles in films between 1929 and 1958. Born in Houston, Texas on New Years Eve 1906; the daughter of Isaiah (1879 - 1956) and Mable (1883 - 1964) Harris who were former sharecroppers in Louisianna; growing up she was raised as a Methodist and had originally wanted to become a singer from having listened to the voices of Louis Armstrong and Ethel Waters in the 1920s.

In 1929, she came out to Hollywood and lent her singing voice to an early talkie entitled Thunderbolt and from there her career took off. In the 1930s she was a free-lance actress and moved around between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Studios. Her roles, a large percent of them uncredited, consisted of her playing blues singers, hat-check girls, maids, waitresses, tribal women, prostitutes, and, most particurally, maids.

Some of the notable actresses that she played a servant to included Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Frances Dee, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and Kay Francis. She felt that Hollywood would someday give her the chance to play a real role but unfortunatley due to the racial prejudice and steryotypes of the time that thought never transpired into a reality.

In 1933, she married a well to do African American doctor named Joe Robinson and they were happily married until his death in 1964. Theresa made her last screen apperance in another uncredited role in 1958's The Gift of Love and upon the film's completion she retired from acting all together. She lived a comfortable remainder of her life having invested in movies and on October 8, 1985 Theresa Harris died from natural causes at her home in Inglewood, California. By her request she was interred at the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

The BFF's of Classic Hollywood

Like everyone else famous people can make long lasting friendships too. From what I have read about a great many classic film stars and what relationships they had with other formidable actors you would be quite surprised at some of the friendships that they had. Here are a few:

Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck began their friendship in the 1930s and they remained the best of friends until Joan's death in 1977; during the course of their friendship Barbara and Joan frequently had lunch together, went out to the Cocoanut Grove from time to time accompanied by their then husbands (Franchot Tone and Robert Taylor), and they constantly sent letters back and forth. Here is a Christmas letter that Joan wrote for Barbara in 1962 (the hand written note at the bottom is Stanwyck's handwriting):
Some of Crawford's other Hollywood friends included Cesar Romero, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Loretta Young, and Anita Loos. She even remained close to some of her ex-husbands including Franchot Tone and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Clark Gable and Victor Fleming were very good friends. They often fished and hunted together and when Clark Gable demanded that George Cukor be dismissed from Gone With The Wind he had Victor Fleming come in to direct the remainder of the film as he had just finished direction of The Wizard of Oz.

Irene Dunne and Loretta Young were very much gal-pals. The attended charity events and Academy Award dinners together very often and they were both very devot Roman Catholics who also went to the same Catholic church somewhere in Beverly Hills, CA and would sit next to one another along with Loretta's three sisters if they were able to attend. In fact because they came to Mass together reguarly the became known as "Our Lady of the Cadillacs".

Two other dear friends of Loretta Young's were actresses Jane Wyman and Rosalind Russell who were also Roman Catholics attending the same Catholic church and would assist Loretta and Irene with their church duties and Catholic charities. In fact, when Loretta Young won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1947 for her work in The Farmers Daughter she actually called Rosalind that morning to wish her luck with the ceremony that night because she had been nominated for her dramatic performance in Mourning Becomes Electra. At the ceremony that evening everyone was so convinced that Rosalind was going to win, because her performance got such rave reviews, that when Fredric March got on stage to announce the Best Actress of 1947 he actually began saying Rosalind Russell's name as he was pulling the paper out of the envelope.

When he looked and saw it was Loretta Young he cut off Roz's name short and said Loretta's name instead and when Loretta got on stage to accept the award she actually hesitated as accepting her Oscar and asked Fredric to hand her the envelope so that she could see for herself that she had she had won. After Loretta accepted her award Rosalind came up to her later in the evening, gave her a big hug and said, "Congratulations honey!". One of Loretta's best male friends was actor James Stewart, whom you'll get to read about in the next paragraph, whom she ate lunch with occasionally and was given an award by him in December 1987 when she recieved the Louella O. Parsons Award as being the best "image of Hollywood".

Henry Fonda and James Stewart were lifelong friends. In the early 1930s Fonda and Stewart roomed together at the same Actors Apartment in New York City and developed a strong friendship. When they both began their Hollywood careers in the mid-1930s they often lunched at the Hollywood Brown Derby or they went to either Stewart or Fonda's home for a meal followed by a game of ping pong or poker. In 1940, Stewart and Fonda were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor; Stewart for The Philadelphia Story and Fonda for The Grapes of Wrath. Stewart won that year and later when Henry came up to congratulate him for his accomplishment Stewart looked at him and said, "Henry I didn't deserve this, this should have gone to you". Fonda laughed and thanked him and told him that everyone gets what they deserve and that maybe he'd ge it next time. Henry would recieve an Academy Award before his death in 1982 and he did with his performance as Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond (1981). Until his death James and Henry were dear friends.

Bette Davis and Claude Rains developed a longlasting friendship when they were employed at Warner Bros. Studios in the 1930s and 1940s. Their first film apperance together was in Juarez (1939) followed by Now, Voyager (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and Deception (1946). When Bette Davis was married to William Grant Sherry she suffered alot of physical and verbal abuse and when she wanted to evade him Claude Rains let her come down to stay with him and his family at their farm in West Bradford Township, PA just outside of West Chester. Even when Bette divorced Sherry in 1950 she was still always a welcomed guest at Rains farm whenever she wanted to come down. She and he would remain the best of friends until his death in 1967.

The Sexuality of Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier (1907 - 1989) is cited as being of classic Hollywood's most sophisticated and dashing leading men. However, in the years following his death there has been several alligations that in life Olivier was a bisexual. For example, biographer Donald Spoto claimed that Olivier was in a sexual relationship with actor/comediene Danny Kaye as well as singer/songwriter/playwright Noel Coward. Olivier's third and last wife was actress Joan Plowright. In her memoir she denied the affair with Kaye but did not deny that Olivier may have been bisexual. Here is a section from her memoir:

"Larry tended to shower almost everyone he knew with endearments and demonstrative terms of address. In the same way as the macho Sean Kenny had to put up with ‘Shawnie, darling’, and our son Richard had to endure 'Dickie-Wickie' for a short time, there is a published letter addressing his supposed arch-enemy, Peter Hall, as 'My dear Peterkins'. And Larry could say, 'I adored Danny Kaye', in exactly the same way as he said, 'I adored old Ralphie', without anyone suspecting Ralph Richardson of harbouring carnal desires for his own sex. — No man, alive or dead, has ever claimed to have slept with Larry, though the kiss-and-tell merchants of the female sex have tumbled over themselves to boast of a night or two, here or there."

As of today the sexuality of Laurence Olivier is still disputed. I guess there are some secrets people can take to their graves.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jimmy and Ginger were Lovers

James Stewart and Ginger Rogers are both popular favorites in the Classic Actors/Actresses department but what a lot of people don't know is that in their private lives there were very close. Jimmy and Ginger co-starred together in 1938's Vivacious Lady for RKO Radio Pictures in leads where the two main characters are linked romantically.

In their private lives, Jimmy, who during this stage in his life was a bachelor, was in a relationship with Ginger who was married to actor Lew Ayers around this time. They became good friends and in 1940 the two of them won Oscars in the Best Actor and Actress categories; he for The Philadelphia Story and she for Kitty Foyle. When Ginger's marriage to Lew Ayers dissolved in 1941 she and Jimmy began a romantic relationship.

In Jimmy's autobiography, which was released after Ginger's death in 1995, he claimed that during the time he'd been in a relatinship with her that he had lost his virginity with her. Until Ginger's death Jimmy and Ginger were the best of friends. Jimmy would marry Gloria Hatrick in 1949 and would remain married to her until her death in 1994.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tallulah Bankhead - The Girl who didn't give a Damn

When someone thinks to name a classic actress who was considered to be difficult some names that come to mind may be that of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Sylvia Sidney, or Loretta Young. However, when you read about the life of Tallulah Bankhead and or hear some of the things she did while alive it can be easily said that she was the Queen of Difficulty.

Born in Huntsville, Alabame in 1902 and raised in the lap of luxury under the wings of an affluent family with strong political ties in the U.S. Senate, Tallulah certainly had what seemed to be a colorful life but there probably wasn't anything about her that was more colorful then her language, ideas, and mannerisms.

Tallulah was obviously the type of person who lived by her own rules and didn't care what others though or did. For example here are some of the things she did:

She was reported to have smoked an astounding 1,000 cigarettes a day which was perhaps the largest contributor to the husky voice that became her trademark due to developments of chronic bronchitis.

She drank gin and other types of alcohol on a daily basis as if it were a simple glass of water.

At parties she would randomly start taking off her clothes so that she could get more comfortable.

While she lived in New York in the early part of her acting career she was a member of the Algonquin Round Table and she began to use cocaine and marijuana leading her to tell others, "Cocaine isn't habit forming, I should know I've been doing it for years".

She made it well known both in Hollywood and in New York that she had a love for sexual relations but she didn't prefer to engaged in the traditional form of it. She much prefered to have intimate relations in a number of different forms but she claimed that time and again when doing that she either got lockjaw or a stiff neck.

Tallulah Bankhead began her Hollywood career in 1931 and apperared in a few films between that year and 1933. When she was interviewed by the magazine Film Weekly she told them that the only reason she came to Hollywood was because she "wanted to fuck that divine Gary Cooper".

Talluah was a self-proclaimed bisexual and it is believed that she may have been involved sexually with such actresses as Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Alla Nazimoza, and the singer Billie Holiday.

Some times Tallulah would answer her door naked.

In 1968, Tallulah died from double pneumonia arising from influenza, complicated by emphysema. Her reported last words were, "Codedine...bourbon". In the end, Tallulah still lived her moment without a care in the world. In fact, her life and mannerisms were the inspiration for the play Looped on Broadway starring Valerie Harper in the role of Tallulah Bankhead.

A Rough Start for Fred Astaire

In 1933, Fred Astaire did a screentest for RKO Radio Pictures and upon review he was cited as being a bad singer, bad actor, balding, and no dance skills what so ever. David O. Selznick had actually reviewed this screen test and was reported to have wrote, " am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test."

This however didn't stop RKO Radio Pictures from doing some type of film work with Fred. He was loaned out to Metro-Goldywn-Mayer Studios for a few days to star in the musical Dancing Lady (1933) making his screen debut and first on-screen dance with Joan Crawford. When he got back to RKO Radio Pictures he was assinged to do another musical entitled Flying Down to Rio co-starring Ginger Rogers who would later become his most popular and well-known dancing partner.

Fred Astaire cemented his musical fame after that and in the 1930s he and Ginger became the most popular and beloved dance team in American films. Fred Astaire danced with other actresses later on in his career; Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Cyd Charisse, and Rita Hayworth. Although the start of his Hollywood career was rather rough he triumphed over criticism and began a reputable actor. In 1981 he recieved an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the art of dance.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Little Known Actors - Sterling Holloway

Sterling Holloway (1905 - 1992) was a character actor who appeared in over 150 films and television apperances; he was active in acting from 1926 to 1989. What some of you may not have known of he was a voice actor for the Walt Disney Company originatting the voices of Winnie the Poo and he voiced the Chesire Cat in the 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland.

Born Sterling Price Holloway Jr. he was raised in Cedartown, Georgia and was educated at the Georgia Military Academy. After his graduation he went to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and he made his Broadway debut in the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Garrick Gaieties . Having good vocal chords he introduced the songs "Manhatten" and "Mountain Greenery". In 1926 he moved to Hollywood and began a six decade career starring opposite such people as Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Bing Crosby, Lon Chaney Jr., David Carradine, Gene Autry, Robert Montgomery, and Joan Blondell.

He retired from acting in 1989 and in 1991 he was honored as a Disney Legend. In 1992, Sterling Holloway died from a heart attack in a Los Angeles, CA. By request his remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

Happy Birthday to Janet Leigh

On this day in 1927, Janet Leigh was born in Merced, CA. In the winter of 1945 Leigh was discovered by actress Norma Shearer helping Leigh to secure a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Hollywood. She made her screen apperance in 1947 in The Romance of Rosy Ridge opposite Van Johnson.

In the course of her career she starred in a number of different films; some of which included Little Women (1949), If Winter Comes (1947), The Stratton Story (1949), Touch of Evil (1958), and most notably Psycho (1960).

In 1951 Leigh married actor Tony Curtis and had two daughters; actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis. The marriage ended in 1962. She also was on the board of directors for the Motion Picture and Television Foundation. She appeared with her daughter Jaime in two horror films, The Fog (1980) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998).

On October 3, 2004 Janet Leigh died in Los Angeles, CA from cardiac arrest. She had been suffering from vascutilis and peripheral neuropathy. She was laid to rest in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, CA.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kate Winslet as Mildred Pierce

It was announced recently that HBO is going to begin a cable miniseries based off the James Cain novel Mildred Pierce as well as the well-known 1945 film adaptation starring Joan Crawford in the title lead which got her the only Best Actress Oscar she ever recieved in her career.

As some of you may already know Mildred Pierce tells the story of a self-sacrificing mother who goes out of her way to give her spoiled daughter Veda anything she wants due to the fact that Mildred went without so much as a child. After her husband divorces her Mildred must now find some form of income to support her and her two daughters. Being the cook that she is she decides to go into the restaurant business and becomes a big success yet even that cannot earn Mildren the respect she deserves from her horrid daughter Veda.

I personally think that this is ridiculous! I find it hard to believe that with all the writers in the world that nobody can come up with their own ideas for movies. A classic is a classic and I feel that older films shouldn't be remade but continue to be aired on channels like TCM so that people can keep rediscovering them and look at how films were in done in the past and who the actors/actresses were back then too.

Behind the scenes of "Rebecca" (1940)

Based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same name, Rebecca is a psychological thriller released by Selznick International in the spring of 1940. The plot focuses on a young ladies maid who marries a wealthy man and comes to live with him at his family's grand estate only to find herself, physically and mentally, fighting against the demonic maid Mrs. Danvers and the ghost of her husband's first wife. This film is considered to be Joan Fontaine at her very best, along with her Oscar winning performance in Suspicion (1941), and Laurence Olivier is astounding in his role as Maxim de Winter. This film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and this won two Academy Awards; Best Picture of 1940 (this was the only film he ever made to win that accolade) and Best Black and White Cinematography.

However what you may not have known was that there is some very intresting trivia hidden behind this classic. Here are a few of them:

Over twenty actresses were tested for the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter; some of those actresses included Maureen O'Hara, Loretta Young, Vivien Leigh, Anne Baxter, Margaret Sullavan, Carole Lombard, Olivia de Havilland, and Anita Louise.

For the role of Maxim de Winter the following actors were considered: Ronald Coleman, Robert Donat, Leslie Howard, and William Powell. Donat and Coleman both declined the part and Laurence Olivier was chosen instead because he agree to work for less then $100,000 when Powell wanted to work at a higher price. Leslie Howard had done a lot of work the year before while he was starring as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind; in fact, he decided that he wanted to return to his native Great Britain and start appearing in films down there so he declined the role and took all of 1940 off so that he could move back to Britain and at the same time treat himself to a well deserved vacation to recuperate from all the strenouis work he endured while doing Gone With The Wind.

Originally Laurence Olivier wanted his then fiance Vivien Leigh to play the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter since she wasn't able to play opposite him as Kathy in Wuthering Heights the year before. When Joan Fontaine got the part instead Olivier treated her horrificly. Alfred Hitchcock got to make Joan more uncomfortable when he told her that everyone on the set disliked her. This made Joan very upset and uneasy which was what he wanted her to reveal through her performance.

Rebecca was adapted into a number of radio shows. They included one through the The Screen Guild Theatre on May 31, 1943 starring Joan Fontaine with then husband Brian Aherne and Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Danvers. The second one was also through The Screen Guild Theatre and it was aired on November 18, 1948 with Loretta Young, John Lund and Agnes Moorehead. The Lux Radio Theatre did an adaptaion n February 3, 1941 with Ronald Colman and Ida Lupino and the final radio show adaptation took place on November 6, 1950 with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

All in all, Rebecca is one of the many wonderful classics you'll ever see especially if you are a fan of Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, or both.

Little Known Actors - Doris Lloyd

Doris Lloyd (1896 - 1968) was an English actress who, including television roles, apperared in over 200 features during the course of her career between 1920 and 1967; even though a large percent of her roles were uncredited ones. Some of her film credits include parts in Waterloo Bridge (1931), Oliver Twist (1933), Peg o' My Heart (1933), Becky Sharp (1935), The Old Maid (1939), The Letter (1940), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Midnight Lace (1960), and The Sound of Music (1965). She retired from acting in 1967 and one year later she died from natural causes.

Film Review for "The Letter" (1940)

Today on Turner Classic Movies I watched the great Bette Davis in The Letter, a 1940 film made during her years at Warner Bros. Studios (Davis was employed there from 1932 to 1949). In the film Davis plays Leslie Crosbie, a wealthy woman whose husband owns a successful rubber plantation. In the opening scene of The Letter we see Bette shooting down a man bullet after bullet with a cold expression on her face. When the police investegators and her husband Robert Crosbie (played by Herbert Marshall) arrive she claimes that she shot and killed the man in self defense for he was trying to moleste her.

In actuallity Leslie is lying; the man that Leslie has murdered was actually a lover whom she'd been seeing while her husband was away overseeing the various plantations. During the investigation a letter comes into focus written by Leslie in which it asks the deceased to come to her home and see her. The drama then continues as Leslie confesses to having written it.

Ms. Davis, as always, gives a brilliant performance in the female lead and she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her endeavors but she lost to out that year to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle. This film was actually a remake; the first film version of The Letter was made in 1929 and starred Jeanne Eagles in the female lead and Herbert Marshall played Robert Crosbie; in this remake, which is more well known, he reprised his role.

Overall, The Letter is a wonderful film filled with suspense, intrigue, and boat loads of drama. Should you wish to see this film check your local listings. For those of you who are Bette Davis fans, like myself, this is one of her "must-see movies".

The End of a Marriage for a Crooner and an Actress

On this day in 1957, the marriage of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner dissolved. In Gardner's autobiography she claimed that out of all the men she met and married that Sinatra was the "love of her life". When word got out that he was going to marry Gardner he was hounded by Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, his fans for planning to marry a girl who's roles consisted of playing "femme fatales", and he was even savaged by Hollywood itself and the Roman Catholic church.

In fact during the course of their marriage Gardner became twice pregnant but was forced to have abortions because Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer actually had penalty clauses about their stars having children. When the marriage ended Gardner and Sinatra remained the closet of friends until Ava's death in 1990. Sinatra would die in 1998.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

Actress Leila Hyams shows off the American flags for one Fourth of July in the early 1930s. Below is a video of famed singer Kate Smith singing the song that would become her biggest trademark, "God Bless America" which was introuduced in 1938.

Happy 100th Birthday to Gloria Stuart

On this day in 1910, Gloria Stuart was born in Santa Monica, CA. She will be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today at a invitation only life retrospective celebration. Happy Birthday Gloria! Many happy returns. Isn't it rather ironic that she is best remembered for her comeback role as a 100 year old Titanic survivior and in real life she made it to 100 herself?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Little Known Actors - James Rennie

James Rennie (1890 - 1965) was a Canadian film actor who began his career in silent films. When the 1930s began he began to adapt to speaking roles; there were only two movies he was remembered for and they were the 1931 film Illict with Barbara Stanwyck and a small role in the 1942 tear-jerker Now, Voyager opposite Bette Davis. From 1920 to 1935 Rennie was married to silent film actress Dorothy Gish; their marriage ended in divorce. He made his last screen apperance in 1945 in a B-movie and never acted again. He died in 1965.

Happy Birthday to George M. Cohan

On this day in 1878, George M. Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He is cited as being one of the first original song and dance men on Broadway and during his lifetime he is said to have written 500 songs; some of which include "Over There", "Yankee Doodle Dandy", and "Give My Regards to Broadway". In the 1920s and 1930s he made apperances in a few films and in 1942 (the year of his death) James Cagney portrayed him in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy; Gagney won an Oscar for his portrayal.

A Film Review for "Fury" (1936)

Last night on Turner Classic Movies I watched the 1936 drama Fury; a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release directed by German film-maker Fritz Lang. The cast consisted of Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney, Walter Abel, Bruce Cabot, Edward Ellis, and Walter Brennan. Also in the cast was Terry the Terrior, a movie dog who is best remembered for playing Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

The film focuses on injustice in the American court system as Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) is falsley arrested on kidnapping charges and he is imprissoned in a ficticious small town. Like in all little towns word travels fast and by nightfall a mob is made to kill the false kidnapper. Joe's fiance Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney) soon learns about this and she races to this little town only to see the jail burning with her true love inside.

When word gets out that an innocent man was killed there is a nationwide upset and the district attorney (Walter Abel) brings the main suspects to court to be tried for murder and twenty-two lives now hang in the balance as a newsreel is brought in for evidence revealing them doing things leading to this death.

Little does anyone know, Joe somehow escaped this fiery death and is miraculosly alive. He seeks refuge in the apartment his two brothers share and listens to the radio to hear the court trial progress. Katherine still believes that Joe is dead but one day while in court she the district attorney announces that someone sent in an anonymous letter with a partially melted ring. That ring was Katherine's she'd given it to Joe and when she see's the letter she recognizes some of the mispelling and realizes that Joe must still be alive.

She soon goes to his apartment and discovers that Joe's been hiding there all this time and she pleads with him to come to court but he refuses to do so. However, in time his conscience gets to him and he makes an apperance in court and sets things straight just as the verdicts are given out.

The acting in this movie was wonderful, as always Spencer Tracy gave a fantastic performance in the male lead but then again Spencer Tracy was very good in dramatic roles. Just the way he behaved after his characters near death escape was astounding; the look on his face, the stiffness he applied to his body and the input of vigor in the dialogue made for an extremley captive watch. Just to watch Spencer Tracy in almost anything is a treat and I read that Tracy was actually nominated for an Academy Award for his endeavors in this movie.

Sylvia Sidney's performance was of equal candor. Her role as the prim schoolteacher was very charming and she acted so ladylike. When it came to the sequence where she arrives to the jail where her fiance is kept and she see's it burning her expression was the stuff Oscar nominations are made of. She stood there with her eyes fixated on this terrible scene and she did and said nothing she just stood there frozen and watched as her fiance was perishing before a sudden faint. Ms. Sidney truly shows her acting abilities in this.

If you ever want to see Fury I recommend you go to and review they're scheduale or you could even go to YouTube and see if you can find it there in parts.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Billy Wilder Fans Rejoice! A book about the acclaimed director is released!

From The University Press of Kentucky:

One of the most accomplished writers and directors of classic Hollywood, Billy Wilder (1906 - 2002) directed numerous acclaimed films, including Sunset Boulevard (1950), Sabrina (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Some Like It Hot (1959). Featuring Gene D. Phillips's unique, in-depth critical approach, Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder provides a groundbreaking overview of a filmmaking icon.

Wilder began his career as a screenwriter in Berlin but, because of his Jewish heritage, sought refuge in America when Germany came under Nazi control. Making fast connections in Hollywood, Wilder immediately made the jump from screenwriter to director. His classic films Five Graves to Cairo (1943), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Lost Weekend (1945) earned Academy Awards for best picture, director, and screenplay. During the 1960s, Wilder continued to direct and produce controversial comedies, including Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) and The Apartment (1960), which won Oscars for best picture and director. This definitive biography reveals that Wilder was, and remains, one of the most influential directors in filmmaking.

The book was written by author Gene D. Phillips

She Kept the Post Office in Business - Joan Crawford's Love of Letter Writing

Joan Crawford's fame stemmed from a number of different things: glamour, acting, wit, quotes, her charity work, her board position at the Pepsi-Cola Corporation, and various accolades she recieved while alive. I personally think that what was her most memorable attribute was the joy she took in answering her fan mail. It is roughly estimated that between her career beginnings in the 1920s until her death in the Spring of 1977 that she wrote and mailed an astounding three million fan letters. (of course when she was alive stamps cost somewhere between two and three cents so she was able to do a lot with that.)

Joan Crawford loved nothing more then getting letters, cards, and photo requests from her fans. She believed that it was a great compliment and considering how she grew up in an unhappy and abused enviorment as a child these sentiments to her were a sign that she was admired and cared for. Crawford believed that it was her fans who helped her reach her famous stature and she felt it not as an obligation but a duty to correspond with her fans as much as possible so that they would continue to support her in the course of her career.

When it came to her personal correspondence Crawford always thanked her family and Hollywood friends for their kindness to her as well. For example, one of Joan Crawford's best friends was film actress Barbara Stanwyck. In a Christmas letter Joan sent to her, dated December 22, 1962, she wrote:

Barbara darling,
Your Christmas card is the merriest, gaysest, most charming and happiest thing I ever saw. Thank you for thinking of me.

And now we are going to stop this nonsense - I will be out in Los Angeles
in January, and God damn it, we are going to have dinner together.

Happy, happy New Year, Barbara dear.
Joan Crawford

At the bottom of that note, Barbara Stanwyck's handwriting can be seen below the signature of Joan Crawford along with the words, "Such language, really!". Should you wish to view this letter, and many others, please visit and click on the letters link. It is, in my opinion, the best Joan Crawford site you'll ever see.

As Joan Crawford once said, "Oh, the thank you notes and the best wishes are no big deal. People deserve to be remembered on special occasions, and appreciate being remembered." There has never been a celebrity back then or now who answered back to their fans with the love and devotion that Joan Crawford revealed through the thousands of letters she sent out during her lifetime. In fact, because Crawford did that so much throughout her lifetime her signature today is only worth a mere $20.

Above is a video of some Joan Crawford letters
on an episode of Antique Road Show.

Fay Wray - Hollywood Legend and devout Latter Day

Fay Wray (1907 - 2004) is best remembered today as Ann Darrow, the ficticious starlet who appears screaming herself hoarse in King Kong (1933). What you may not have known about Fay Wray was that off screen she was a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Originally from Canada, her grandfather was Daniel Webster Jones (pictured below), a pioneer who pressed for the Morman church to begin establishing ministries in Candadian territories.
Fay's grandfather not only was a Morman missionary but he is also cited as being the first person to translate sections of the Book of Morman into Spanish dialect and led the first Morman missionary to Spain in the 1850s. He died in 1915 when Fay was just eight years old. Throughout her life Fay lived it according to the teachings and preachings of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints due to the fact that it was that denomination that her grandfather had supported throughout his life.

William Powell and Myrna Loy - The Movie Couple that everyone thought was a Real Life One

In the 1930s, William Powell and Myrna Loy were one of the most popular screen couples of the day. They are best remembered for their roles as Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man movie series which was produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

Their first film apperance together was in Manhatten Melodrama (1934) opposite Clark Gable followed by Evelyn Prentice that same year. During the years when The Thin Man movies were being made William and Myrna played there roles to such a perfection that the general public at the time actually believed that they were married in real life! So much in fact, that both William and Myrna use to recieve fan mail in which the contents involved suggestions for marital bliss.

In reality, William Powell and Myrna Loy weren't married but they did share a strong and happy friendship. In fact, in the 1930s William Powell was involved with actress Jean Harlow, the original Blonde Bombshell, and they were going to be married in 1937 but those plans changed when Jean suddenly sickened and died from uremic poisoining followed by kidney failure in June of that year. She was only twenty-six years of age.

Myrna Loy was also a friend of Jean's and in 1936 she, William, and Jean starred in a screwball romantic comedy entitled Libeled Lady along with Spencer Tracy in the second male lead. On that note, when the four actors arrived to do the film they were staying at a hotel somewhere in California and when they were getting there rooms figured it out it was discovered that William Powell and Myrna Loy were booked for the bridal suite. William being the gentleman that he was let Jean share the room with Myrna and took a different room.

The Thin Man film series concluded in the late 1940s but even after that William and Myrna remained the closest of friends until his death in 1984; Myrna would die in 1993. Overall, William Powell and Myrna Loy will always be remembered for their charming portrayal as Nick and Nora Charles as well as their colorful chemistry.

Hollywood to Honor Gloria Stuart a Second Time!

In honor of Gloria Stuart celebrating her 100th birthday on July 4, 2010 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is going to pay tribute to Gloria Stuart on July 22, 2010 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. The program will be comprised of film clips from the early years of her career as well as an onstage interview with Ms. Stuart conducted by film historian Leonard Maltin.

She began her career in the 1930s starring in such films as Gold Diggers of 1935, The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Poor Little Rich Girl (1936), and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938). In 1997, Ms. Stuart made a comeback in the role of the 100 year old Rose Dewitt Bukater in James Cameron's Academy Award winning film Titanic; she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Movie Trivia: Ms. Stuart wasn't the first actress considered for the role of 100 year old Rose in Titanic; originally James Cameron tried to recruit actress Ann Rutherford for the part but she declined. Mr. Cameron then heard of Ms. Stuart and decided to use her instead. By then Ms. Stuart was almost forgotten but thanks to her performance she returned to the public eye.

"Mommie Dearest" - A Falsehood If Ever There Was

PLEASE NOTE: This article is going to take a look into the book Mommie Dearest and Joan Crawford's name will be mentioned. I ask of you not to post any hateful or derogatory words for if it begins to happen frequently I will have not choice but to disable the comment post command for this article. Thank you.

In 1978, Christina Crawford, the adoptive daughter of film star Joan Crawford, published a tell all book depicting her adoptive mother as being abusive and violent towards her and her other adopted siblings while a child. The book drew up so much interest that it was made into a 1981 film starring Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan Crawford.

Over the years the book's contents have been disputed both by Crawford's other children and some of Joan's famous friends from the Hollywood years; i.e. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cesar Romero, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Loretta Young, Gloria de Haven, and Marlene Dietrich. However the supporters of this memoir included such stars as Helen Hayes, Arlene Dahl, and June Allyson.

I personally believe that Christina Crawford fabricated Mommie Dearest and that she did this to spite her mother for being more successful then she was herself. Besides a true Crawford fan can tell that a large percent of the book seems to be untrue and a little "over the top". In fact, Christina Crawford has even admitted herself that a large percent of the book was embelished. If you listen to statements from Crawford's other children, as well as the other reputable actors who knew her, we could develop our own perspectives at to the truths and falsehood's behind the infamous Mommie Dearest.

A Special Day for Shirley Temple

On this day in 1934, Shirley Temple signed a contract with Fox Film Corp., going from $150 a week to $1,000 plus bonuses. She was the most popular child star in Hollywood during the 1930s elevating her to the star status of people like Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, and Clark Gable.

Below is a scene from the 1935 film, Curly Top.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy 79th Birthday to Leslie Caron

On this day in 1931, Leslie Caron was born in France. She was discovered in a ballet by Gene Kelly in the early 1950s and he brought her to America to star in An American in Paris (1952). She soon began a career at MGM Studios in Hollywood and she also cemented her fame in the 1957 musical Gigi based off the novel of the same name. Ms. Caron retired from acting in 2006 and now enjoys a peaceful retierment.

An Honor for Gloria Stuart

In case you didn't hear or weren't aware, on June 21, 2010 Hollywood legend Gloria Stuart was honored by the Screen Actors Guild for her seventy years of service to the film world. In the 1930s, when the guild was established, Ms. Stuart was among the many actors of the day to became apart of the union. Ms. Stuart was very grateful for her award and thanked the guild for she has had many years of "caring and sharing".

On Sunday, July 4, 2010 (or Independence Day) Ms. Stuart will be celebrating her
100th birthday. A feature will be done on that this coming weekend time providing.

Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month - Gregory Peck

This Month, Turner Classic Movies is recognizing Academy Award winning actor Gregory Peck (1916 - 2003). First beginning his career on the Broadway stage he would later come to motion pictures during the World War II years when such stars as James Stewart, Clark Gable, and Tyrone Power were off serving their country. Originally Peck wanted to enlist back was denied due to a back injury.

He soon established himself as one of Hollywood's finest leading men and in 1962 he was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. He died in 2003 from bronchopneumonia at the age of 87. Being a devout Roman Catholic he was interred at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels Mausoleum in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information vist

The Definition of Classic Hollywood

From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia:

Classical Hollywood cinema or the classical Hollywood narrative, are terms used in film history which designates both a visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production used in the American film industry between roughly the 1910s and the 1960s.

Classical style is fundamentally built on the principle of continuity editing or "invisible" style. That is, the camera and the sound recording should never call attention to themselves (as they might in a modernist or postmodernist work).

A Fitting Background for the Classic Film Fan!

Old/Classic Hollywood Tribute

Here is a video courtesy of YouTube to help set the mood about Classic Hollywood.

More will come whenever possible.

Happy 94th Birthday to Olivia de Havilland

On this day in 1916 actress Olivia de Havilland was born in Tokyo to a British attorney and his socialite wife. The family moved to California in the 1920s when Olivia and her younger sister, actress Joan Fontaine (born in 1917), would recieve better health as they'd been ill frequently while overseas. Her first screen role came in 1935 in A Midsummer Nights Dream opposite Dick Powell.

In 1939, she starred as Melanie Hamilton in Gone With The Wind co-starring Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Vivien Leigh, and Hattie McDaniel. This role would be her most famous as well as her most memorable. In the 1940s she twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress the first in 1946 for To Each His Own and the second and final time in 1949 for her work in The Heiress opposite an up-and-coming Montgomery Clift.

As of today she is not only the last surviving cast member of Gone With The Wind but one of the last great leading ladies of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood. Presently she enjoys a peaceful retierment in France.

Happy Birthday Olivia!

Welcome to the Golden Age of Hollywood (June 1, 2010)

In my personal opinion, Hollywood has is no longer the most appealing or exciting place in the whole world. The actors are bad, the films being made make no sense, and there really is nothing that seems to be professional about it. You may not believe it but there was a time when Hollywood was exciting and glamorous. There was a time when movies made sense with their plots and characters. There was a time when actors and actresses knew how to act and how to do so in a real, authentic way.

This time all ties into the period known as "The Golden Age of Hollywood"; a time when movies were filmed in glorious black and white, wardrobes were extravagent, sets were majestic, and the price of a movie ticket was a mere twenty-five cents. The purpose of this blog is to get you to understand this period and all that took place in it and at the same time this blog is meant to open your eyes to the world of classic film and what it has to offer you. Let's begin shall we?