Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Archive for October, 2014

Post

Sharon Power

Sharon Power
Sharon Power
Post

Janie Dee

Janie Dee
Janie Dee
Post

Jack Warner

Jack Warner
Jack Warner

 

“Wikipedia” entry:

Jack Warner  OBE (24 October 1895 – 24 May 1981) was an English film and television actor. He is closely associated with the role of PC George Dixon, which he played until the age of eighty; but was also for some years one of Great Britain’s most popular film stars.

Warner was born in London, his real name being Horace John Waters.[1] His sisters Elsie and Doris Waters were well-known comediennes who usually performed as “Gert and Daisy“.[2]

Warner attended the Coopers’ Company’s Grammar School for Boys in Mile End,[3] while his sisters both attended the nearby sister school, Coborn School for Girls in Bow. The three children were choristers at St. Leonard’s Church, Bromley-by-Bow, and for a time, Warner was the choir’s soloist.[3] During the First World War he served as a driver in the Royal Flying Corps .

Warner first made his name in music hall and radio. By the early years of the Second World War, he was nationally known and starred in a BBC radio comedy show Garrison Theatre, invariably opening with, “A Monologue Entitled…”. He became known to cinema audiences as the patriarch in a trio of popular post-World War II family films beginning with Here Come the Huggetts. He also co-starred in the 1955 Hammer film version of The Quatermass Xperiment and as a police superintendent in the 1955 Ealing Studios black comedy The Ladykillers.

It was in 1949 that Warner first played the role for which he would be remembered, PC George Dixon, in the film The Blue Lamp.[4] One observer predicted, “This film will make Jack the most famous policeman in Britain“.[4]Although the police constable he played was shot dead in the film, the character was revived in 1955 for the BBC television series Dixon of Dock Green, which ran until 1976. In later years though, Warner and his long-past-retirement-age character were confined to a less prominent desk sergeant role. The series had a prime-time slot on Saturday evenings, and always opened with Dixon giving a little soliloquy to the camera, beginning with the words, “Good evening, all”. According to Warner’s autobiography, Jack of All TradesElizabeth II once visited the television studio where the series was made and told Warner “that she thought Dixon of Dock Green had become part of the British way of life”.[5]

Warner was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1965.[6] In 1973, he was made a Freeman of the City of London. Warner commented in his autobiography that the honour “entitles me to a set of 18th century rules for the conduct of life urging me to be sober and temperate”. Warner added, “Not too difficult with Dixon to keep an eye on me!”[7]

He died of pneumonia in London in 1981, aged 85. The characterisation by Warner of Dixon was held in such high regard that officers from Paddington Green Police Station bore the coffin at his funeral.[8]

Warner is buried in East London Cemetery.

The above “Wikipedia” entry can also be accessed online here.

Post

Tom Drake

Tom Drake
Tom Drake

IMDB entry:

Tom Drake was born on August 5, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA as Alfred Alderdice. He was an actor, known for Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Green Years (1946) and Raintree County (1957). He was married to Isabelle Dunn. He died on August 11, 1982 in Torrance, California, USA. to MGM during the war years, he will always be remembered as the wholesome “boy next door” that Judy Garland sings about in the musical classic Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

Known as Buddy to family and friends.
Half Scottish, half Norwegian.
Post

Terry Dene

Terry Dene
Terry Dene

 

Wikipedia entry:

Terry Dene was born in Lancaster Street, Elephant & CastleLondon in 1938, and was discovered by Paul Lincoln at the 2i’s Coffee Bar (the London club that helped launch Tommy SteeleAdam Faith and Cliff Richard) in Soho in the late 1950s.[2] Jack Good, producer of Six-Five Special, and Dick Rowe helped him obtain a recording contract with Decca.[2] At the time he was regarded as the British Elvis and recognised as one of the best voices of the rock and roll era of pre-Beatles Britain.[2] His first single “A White Sport Coat” in the first seven weeks sold in excess of 300,000 copies, together with “Stairway Of Love”, which remained in the chart for eight weeks, and his own version of “Start Movin'” at number 14, put his records in the Top 20 twice in the same year UK Singles Chart and secured his name in the Guinness Book of Records.[3] [1]

 He toured Britain, was one of the first to appear in the BBC Television‘s first pop show, Six-Five Special, and appeared in a filmThe Golden Disc
Post

Michael McStay

Michael McStay
Michael McStay

 

Michael McStay was born in 1933 in Essex, England. He is an actor and writer, known for No Hiding Place (1959), Le mari de l’ambassadeur (1990) and Jack & Sarah (1995).

Post

Victor Spinetti

Victor Spinetti
Victor Spinetti

 

His 2012 “Guardian” obituary by Michael Coveney:

Victor Spinetti, who has died of cancer aged 82, was an outrageously talented Welsh actor and raconteur who made his name with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and found fame and fortune as a friend and colleague of the Beatles, appearing in three of their five films, and with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967).

It was while he was giving his brilliantly articulated and hilarious “turn” as the gobbledegook-shouting drill sergeant in Oh, What a Lovely War! in the West End in 1963 – he won a Tony for the performance when the show went to Broadway – that the Beatles visited him backstage and invited him to appear in A Hard Day’s Night (1964).

George Harrison later said that his mother would refuse to go and see the group’s films unless Spinetti was in them. These, and other tales of the stars, would be recounted by Spinetti himself in his one-man shows, and in the wonderful autobiography he wrote, Up Front (2006), with the help of another Littlewood associate, Peter Rankin.

“The people I miss most are all in the show,” Spinetti told me over lunch four years ago, “so I don’t miss them at all, really. It’s like a seance, and there they all are, Noël and Marlene, Frank, Joan and Tennessee. Tenn came to see me in a play that was a disaster. ‘Victor,’ he said, ‘I’ll see you in anything. But don’t be in this again.'”

Spinetti was the eldest of six children, born in the mining village of Cwm in the Ebbw Vale. His father, Giuseppe, who ran a fish and chip shop, was interned on the Isle of Man when the second world war broke out. Spinetti was educated at Monmouth school, then became embroiled in amateur dramatics and was discharged from his national service, and a TB ward, in 1948 with a pleural effusion. He then attended the Cardiff School of Music and Drama where he met his partner, the actor Graham Curnow (who died in 1997). They shared a house, and an openly non-monogamous life, thereafter.

Spinetti’s grounding in show business was both louche and demanding: a Welsh concert party, revues, variety theatres, US air force bases and hotel functions. He made his London debut in Expresso Bongo (1958) by Wolf Mankowitz and Julian More at the Saville theatre. Paul Scofield was the star in this satire on the entertainment industry, but a multitasking Spinetti made a comic mark as a Fleet Street editor, a parson, a psychiatrist and a head waiter.

He was more than ready for the swinging 60s, living a champagne lifestyle and dressing colourfully, even when he could not pay all the bills. And if that happened, he told me, he “spanked old gentlemen for money” so he could buy Christmas presents. “My dear old mother told me that, if she’d known at the time, she would have come along and given me a hand!”

Littlewood snapped him up at Stratford East, where his association, in a great company including Barbara Windsor, Harry H Corbett, Avis Bunnage, George A Cooper and Murray Melvin, stretched from 1959 to 1965. This was a golden age in British theatre, running in parallel with first stirrings at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National theatre.

He appeared as Brain-Worm in Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour, as an IRA officer in Brendan Behan’s The Hostage (which he also played in New York), and as Tosh in Frank Norman and Lionel Bart’s Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be with Windsor before Lovely War took him back into the West End.

After his New York success and the first two Beatles films – Richard Lester’s Help! followed A Hard Day’s Night in 1965 – he played opposite Jack Klugman in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple at the Queen’s in 1966 and then accepted an invitation from the critic Kenneth Tynan to co-write and direct John Lennon’s zany, poetic In His Own Write at the National (then based at the Old Vic) in 1968.

His career after this phenomenal start was erratic. He clocked up more than 30 films, including the third Beatles collaboration, Magical Mystery Tour (1967) for television, and Andrew Sinclair’s Under Milk Wood (1972) with the Burtons again, as well as Peter O’Toole, Siân Phillips and Vivien Merchant.

Spinetti was always in work but there was not much focus to it. He started directing musicals in the 1970s, taking charge of Hair in Amsterdam and Rome, and Jesus Christ Superstar in Paris. In 1980 he directed The Biograph Girl, a mediocre musical about the silent movie era at the Phoenix theatre, London, and shortly afterwards launched his one-man show of tart and funny reminiscences, A Very Private Diary, at the Edinburgh festival, but only on the fringe.

A season with the RSC at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1995 was not a happy experience (“we were called by page numbers and I didn’t know the names of the people I was on stage with”) but he delivered superb performances as Lord Foppington in John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse and as a composite of cardinals opposite David Troughton’s four-square Richard III.

Later film work included a nice cameo in Peter Medak’s The Krays (1990). On television he played in an early sitcom opposite Sid James, Two in Clover, but became even better known as a Mexican snack thief in adverts for McVitie’s Jaffa cakes. In the 1980s he was the voice of Texas Pete in the children’s series SuperTed, and 10 years ago played the “man of a thousand faces” in the popular children’s show Harry and the Wrinklies.

His last on-screen appearance was in a recent DVD of an independent film, Seth Swirsky’s Beatles Stories, issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first recording session at Abbey Road. And on stage he last garnered acclaim as Einstein in Albert’s Boy at the Finborough theatre in Earl’s Court in 2005. There he was, taking an audience by surprise right to the end.

• Vittorio (Victor) Giorgio Andrea Spinetti, actor, born 2 September 1929; died 18 June 2012

• This article was amended on 22 June 2012. The original described Expresso Bongo as a satire on the newspaper industry.

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

Post

Amanda Waring

Amanda Waring
Amanda Waring

 

Amanda Waring was born in 1966 in England. She is an actress, known for Eat Yourself Slim (2005), Tucker’s Luck (1983) and No Strings (1989).   She is the daughter of the late Dame Dorothy Tutin and Derek Waring.

Post

Ann Sothern

Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern

Ronald Bergan’s obituary from “The Guardian” in 2001:

Of all the brassy, hip-swinging, sassy blondes of the 1940s, Maisie Ravier, as embodied by Ann Sothern, who has died aged 92, was the most beloved. At that period, when film fans wrote letters addressed to “Maisie, USA”, they went straight to Sothern’s dressing room, so popular and famous was her alter ego.

Ann Sothern, who was born Harriette Lake in North Dakota, was trained as a classical singer by her concert-soprano mother. But she found her temperament and voice were more suited for musical comedy. On Broadway, she soon rose from small parts to leads in Ziegfeld shows under her real name.

In 1933 she went to Hollywood, where she spent six years at various studios playing light-hearted heroines in mostly B pictures. However, she did have a chance to shine opposite Eddie Cantor in Kid Millions, and as Mimi, Maurice Chevalier’s showgirl mistress, in Folies Bergère. In Trade Winds (1938), for United Artists, Sothern, as detective Fredric March’s dumb blonde sidekick, stole the picture from the leading lady, Joan Bennett.

Her performance gained the attention of MGM, who considered Sothern perfect to play the title role in Maisie. The studio had bought the 1935 Wilson Collison novel Dark Dame as a vehicle for Jean Harlow. After Harlow’s premature death in 1937, it was shelved. When the MGM offer came, Sothern was shooting Hotel For Women at 20th Century-Fox, but when she accepted the offer from MGM, Darryl F Zanuck, head of Fox, removed her part out of pique.

Sothern’s comic vitality and warmth gave an added dimension to the character of the scatterbrained, accident-prone but resourceful blonde heroine. In each of the series, which included Congo Maisie, Maisie Was A Lady, Gold Rush Maisie and Swing Shift Maisie, she would start off alone, broke, irritable and vulgar, gradually making friends and money, and becoming charming and well-groomed, usually helping others out of fixes.

With the Maisie movies, MGM had another hit series to add to Dr Kildare, Andy Hardy and Tarzan, and Ann Sothern had little time for other roles. However, her charm, pleasant singing voice and good looks were well used in musicals such as Lady Be Good (1941) and Panama Hattie (1942). She displayed dramatic talent in the all-female Cry Havoc (1943), as a warm-hearted army nurse in Bataan.

Perhaps her best film was Joseph L Mankiewicz’s A Letter To Three Wives (1948), for 20th Century-Fox. In this stringent and witty social comedy, Sothern plays a radio soap writer, married to intellectual schoolteacher Kirk Douglas, who despises his wife’s work. She is particularly effective in the dinner party scene, when she has to try to please both her husband and her sponsors.

After playing Jane Powell’s actress mother in Nancy Goes To Rio (1950) and Anne Baxter’s wise-cracking roommate in Fritz Lang’s The Blue Gardenia (1953), she retired from films, retaining her popularity on TV in 104 episodes of Private Secretary, which she produced herself. She later sold the rights for more than $1m. Sothern also held the rights of the equally popular The Ann Sothern Show, in which she played the assistant manager of a swanky New York hotel. “I think Hollywood has been terrible to me,” she once commented. “Hollywood doesn’t respond to a strong woman, not at all. I was too independent. How dare a woman be competitive or produce her own shows?”

Recurring hepatitis kept her off the screen for some years in the 1950s. During a particularly bad time in her life, she befriended the film actor Richard Egan, under whose influence she converted to Catholicism. Previously, she had been married to two minor screen actors, both of whom she had appeared with in films: Roger Pryor and Robert Sterling (aka socialite William J Hart). Her daughter by the latter, Tisha Sterling, became an actress. (She had a leading role in Coogan’s Bluff with Clint Eastwood.)

In the 1960s, having put on a great deal of weight in the interim, Sothern returned to the big screen playing blowsy hookers in three films: Lady In A Cage (1963), tormenting rich widow Olivia de Havilland; in Sylvia (1965), with Carroll Baker; and Chubasco (1967), in which she ran a brothel visited by real-life lover Richard Egan. In The Best Man (1964), she was a sententious and dangerous political committee woman. “It did Adlai Stevenson great harm not having a wife and trying to be funny all at the same time,” she warns an unmarried presidential candidate – which could well have been a reference to Gore Vidal, who adapted his play for the screen.

Apart from some schlocky movies in the 70s and 80s, she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as the friend and confidante of elderly sisters Lillian Gish and Bette Davis in Lindsay Anderson’s The Whales Of August (1987). A few years ago, Ann Sothern remarked: “Sometimes I’ll watch an old movie on TV and once in a while one of mine will come on and I’ll watch it. And you know something? I’m always amazed at what a lousy actress I was. I guess in the old days we just got by on glamour.”

Those who remember Sothern with affection would violently disagree.

• Ann Sothern, film actress, born January 22 1909; died March 15 2001

The above obituary can also be accessed online here.

Post

Ivor Emmanuel

Ivor Emmanuel
Ivor Emmanuel

 

Patrick Hannan’s obituary in “The Independent” in 2007:

Even today, long after he made an early departure from showbusiness to spend the last 25 years of his life in Spain, people still nod with recognition at the name of Ivor Emmanuel, who has died aged 79. Of course, they say, he was the guy in Zulu. More specifically, he was Private Owen in that 1964 film, leading a small band of British soldiers in the defiant singing of Men of Harlech in response to the war chants of 4,000 Zulus preparing to slaughter them.

Zulu was the story of the siege, in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, of Rorke’s Drift, when 150 British soldiers defended a supply station against the Zulus, winning 11 Victoria crosses in the process.

Starring and produced by another Welsh actor, Stanley Baker, it was given a more intensely Welsh flavour than history justified, but in its turn that provided the occasion for Emmanuel’s unforgettable part in the swelling version, with specially written words referring to Zulu spears, of the familiar and rousing (and anti-English) Welsh song, Men of Harlech. Whatever you think of the story, it remains an unforgettable movie moment. And it was to overshadow everything else Emmanuel did in his career as a singer and actor.

His own life might have made a decent drama, or perhaps a south Wales rags to riches novel. He was born in Margam and raised in the mining village of Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot, an area that forms part of a golden triangle for the acting trade. Richard Burton, a couple of years older, was born there; Anthony Hopkins, 10 years younger, was from Taibach, just down the road.

In the 1940s the future for a boy from a poor working class family was clear enough: a life in the pits or the steelworks. Emmanuel’s prospects were made even more dismal by the stray German bomb that killed his father, mother, sister and grandfather when he was 14.

Emmanuel, who was then brought up by his aunt Flossie, became a miner and then a steelworker, developing his singing with the Pontrhydyfen Operatic Society in a period when even a modest mining village might have substantial cultural ambitions. From time to time he would walk off into the countryside with his wind-up gramophone to listen to recordings of Caruso.

In 1950 he got into the chorus of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and then – advised by Burton, legend has it – he got a part in Oklahoma at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He was ideal for roles in those US musicals – strong, good-looking with dark, wavy hair and a powerful baritone voice. He was to play in many of them, including South Pacific and the King and I, but he did not get leading roles and it turned out to be his Welshness that unexpectedly brought him national recognition.

In the 1950s, Sunday television was precluded from disturbing the Sabbath’s religious character. So the ITV network was happy with Gwlad y Gan (Land of Song) from TWW, the then franchise holder for Wales and the west of England. It ran until 1964, and Emmanuel figured as an older brother figure among the children’s choirs.

It brought him much more work, but perhaps he was too Welsh for his own good. He was a natural for a New York musical of How Green Was My Valley, but it ran for only 41 performances and that was the end of his Broadway career. He made records and continued in stage musicals and on TV without becoming firmly established at the top of the bill.

It is curious that Zulu, an account of an imperial adventure, remains a staple of TV repeats in an entirely different era. But it does so and has provided Emmanuel with his piece of screen immortality.

Married three times, he is survived by his wife Malinee and their daughter, and his son and daughter from his first marriage.

· Ivor Emmanuel, singer and actor, born November 7 1927; died July 20 2007

The above obituary from “The Guardian” can also be accessed here.