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Archive for October, 2010

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Loretta Young

Loretta Young
Loretta Young
Loretta Young
Loretta Young
Loretta Young
Loretta Young
Loretta Young.
Loretta Young.

Loretta Young has had one of the longest cinema careers in the history of movies.   She made her first film as a child in the silent  “The Primrose Ring” in 1917 and her final movie was the television film “Lady in a Corner” in 1989.     She was born in 1913 in Salt Lake City, Utah.   In the 1930’s she made several films with Tyrone Power while both were under contract with 20th Century Fox.   Among those films were “Cafe Metropole” and “Suez”.   In the 1940’s she made such high profile movies as “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant and David Niven, “China” with Alan Ladd and “The Stranger” with Orson Welles and Edward G. Robinson.   She won an Academy Award in 1947 for her performance in “The Farmer’s Daughter”.   In the early fifties she became of the first major movie stars to go into television with the long running “Letter to Loretta”.    One of her children is Tom Lewis a musician with the rock group Moby Grape.   Loretta young was the widow of the movie fashion designer Jean Louis.   She died in 2000 at the age of 87.

 

“The Guardian” obituary by Ronald Bergan on Loretta Young:

At the Academy Award ceremony of 1947, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Rosalind Russell would win the Oscar for best actress, for Mourning Becomes Electra. But when the envelope was opened, out came the name of Loretta Young. There was a gasp from the audience.

Nobody was more surprised than Young, then aged 35, as she made her way up to the stage. All she could say, on receiving the Oscar for her part in The Farmer’s Daughter, was “At long last”, an understandable comment from a woman who had been in the business so long: she made her first screen appearance at the age of four.

Young, who has died aged 87, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was three when her parents separated and her mother moved with her five children to Hollywood, where she opened a boarding house. A year later, the child appeared in The Only Way (1917), paid $3.50 a day for playing a patient weeping on the operating table. At eight, she and her siblings were Arab children in the Rudolph Valentino film, The Sheik (1921). Her three sisters had acting ambitions too; one became the actress Sally Blane.

At 14, while at convent school, Young returned to the screen in a supporting role in Naughty But Nice (1927). She got the part by default. Director Mervyn LeRoy wanted one of her sisters, but Young asked if she might do. This led to a contract with First National, and a change of name. The studio thought her real name, Gretchen, “sounded too Dutchy”, and changed it to Loretta, the favourite saint of the star of the film, Coleen Moore.

Young often took herself for her saintly namesake, irritating her colleagues. While working on The Stranger (1945), there was a scene where she was supposed to walk off with Orson Welles instead of attending Sunday morning mass. But as a devout Catholic, she refused to be shown on screen dodging church. Reluctantly, Wells changed it to another day of the week. She always objected to casts and crews swearing, and would set up a “swear box”, giving the fines to Catholic charities.

But saint she was not. She was married three times and divorced twice, and had affairs with, among others, George Brent, Clark Gable (said to be the father of her “adopted” daughter), David Niven, Joseph Mankiewicz, William Wellman and Spencer Tracy. Wellman and the married Tracy came to blows over her. Young and Tracy had played down-and-outs sharing a shanty in Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle (1933). Though it pre-dated the Hays Code, it was censored because of the character’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Of their off-screen romance, Young remarked, “Since Spence and I were both Catholic, and can never be married, we have agreed not to see each other any more.”

In 1930, she had eloped with co-star Grant Withers in imitation of the plot of the film Too Young To Marry. The marriage was annulled the following year, with Withers describing Young as “a steel butterfly”.

She was determinedly litigious. In 1966, she sued NBC for $2.5m when they used the introductions to her old TV shows, because the 1950s fashions dated her; she sued them again in 1972, and won $600,000 for their unlawful exhibition of her TV shows abroad. In 1969, she sued 20th Century-Fox for $54,000 because the movie Myra Breckinridge contained clips from her films, used without her permission. The studio cut them out.

Thirty years before, Young had left Fox, which had labelled her too difficult; then she found that few studios would meet her price of $150,000 a picture, and was advised to lower it. When Columbia mogul Harry Cohn refused to pay $300 for a dress she had bought for her role in Bedtime Story (1942), she made herself available only for night-time fittings, adding to the budget.

According to Robert Preston, her co-star in The Lady From Cheyenne, “she worked with a full-length mirror beside the camera. I didn’t know which Loretta to play to – the one in the mirror or the one that was with me.” Virginia Field, with whom she worked on Eternally Yours, commented, “She was and is the only actress I really dislike. She was sickeningly sweet, a pure phony. Her two faces sent me home angry and crying.”

But Young was physically exquisite, and had a genuine touch of class. She started as a Hollywood leading lady in Laugh Clown, Laugh (1928), playing a tightrope walker. The director Herbert Brenon, who had tested 48 other girls for the role, told Loretta, 15: “Your legs can be padded. Likewise your body. It’s your eyes that are getting you the part.”

She remembered that “my first director taught me not to take myself seriously, but to take my work seriously, never to be satisfied unless I was doing my very best.” She first did her best in minor melodramas and comedies. After acting a miscast Jean Harlow off the screen in Frank Capra’s Platinum Blonde (1931) at Columbia, she was given meatier parts at Warner Bros in Taxi and The Hatchet Man.

When she moved to Fox in 1934, the head of the studio, Darryl F Zanuck decided she was ideal for period pieces. She played Robert Clive’s wife in Clive Of India (1935) and the Empress Eugenie in Suez (1938). She was touching as the deaf girl in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1938), in which her sisters also had parts.

The Farmer’s Daughter was originally intended for Ingrid Bergman. In a blonde wig and Swedish accent, Young was convincing as a headstrong farm girl whose homespun ideas earn her a seat in Congress in a contest against the man she loves. This was followed by the title roles in the comedy The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and as the 1820 bondswoman in Rachel And The Stranger (1948).

Her career petered out in the early 1950s, to be revived by her long-running TV show. Each 30-minute drama was introduced by the star. “After the audience has seen me well groomed, I can wear horrible clothes and ugly makeup or even a false nose, without anyone wondering whether I’ve aged overnight.”

After her divorce in 1968 from producer/writer Thomas Lewis, with whom she had two children, Young wrote a syndicated lonely-hearts column in Catholic newspapers, and worked as a consultant for the wedding dress firm, Brides Showcase International. At 81 she married costume designer Jean Louis (he did her famous TV show frocks), who died three years ago.

She devoted herself to Catholic charities in the 1980s, selling her Hollywood home and jewels to finance her work. “They are the luxuries of life … If selling a bracelet will help feed children, that is what I want to do,” she explained. She might have been making some progress at last towards her canonisation.

• Loretta (Gretchen Michaela) Young, actress, born January 6, 1913; died August 12 2000

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

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Danny Dyer

Danny Dyer
Danny Dyer
Danny Dyer.
Danny Dyer.

Danny Dyer is a brilliant British actor who seems to have cornered the market in playing hard young urban types with a penchant for violence.   It would be good to see him in a different role, perhaps a university college professor with left-wing tendencies who is launching a campaign to save the trees in the New Forest.   He was born in 1977 in Canning Town in London.   He began his career at the age of sixteen in televisions “Prime Suspect 3” in 1993.   His first film role was in 1999 in “Human Traffic”.   Other film roles include “The Mean Machine”, “The Football Factory” and “The Borstal Boy,   He has enormous screen presence and he should become one of the leading lights of cinema.

Interview with Danny Dyer here.

TCM Overview:

Football fanatic and working-class lad, Danny Dyer is also one of the most recognizable young actors in Britain. He began his career at the age of 16 after being scouted by a talent agent, appearing on numerous television shows during the â¿¿90s. His breakthrough role came in 1999 as Moff in Justin Kerriganâ¿¿s film romp through British club culture, “Human Traffic.” The following year, Dyer found himself among some of the most highly regarded British actors with a role in the prison comedy “Greenfingers.” In 2001, Dyer began his collaboration with Nick Love, the drama “Goodbye Charlie Bright” appeared in “The Football Factory,” about football hooligans. The latter allowed Dyer to express his personal fandom, making him one of football cultureâ¿¿s most recognized fanatics. Capitalizing on this successful role, Dyer became the host of the Bravo documentary series “The Real Football Factories” and “Football Hooligans International” in 2007. Interestingly, his next film with Love, gangster flick “The Business,” was followed by another Bravo documentary series, “Danny Dyerâ¿¿s Deadliest Men,” about the British crime underworld.

The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.

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Johnny Weissmuller

Johnny Weissmuller
Johnny Weissmuller

Johnny Weissmuller will forever be remembered as the greatest film Tarzan of all.   He was born in 1904 in Austria.   He arrived with his parents in the U.S. the following year.   At the age of ine he contracted polio and his doctors advised swimming as a form of therapy.   He became so proficint at the sport that by his teens he had achieved a degree of fame as a sports athlete.   He competed and won gold medals for swimming at the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.   In all he won five medals.   He signed a contract with MGM to make the Tarzan films in 1932.   The first film was “Tarzan the Ape Man” which featured Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane.   It is generally recogn ised that they were the test of the many whoo played the roles.   They made six Tarzan films together finishing with “Tarzan’s New York Adventure” in 1942.   O’Sullivan left to rear her family and Weissmuller continued the films with Brenda Joyce as the new Jane.   He also made a series Jungle Jim films.   Johnny Weissmuller died in Mexico in 1984 at the age of 79.

His mini biography by Ed Stephen:

Johnny Weissmuller was born in Timisoara, Romania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, though he would later claim to have been born in Windber, Pennsylvania, probably to ensure his eligibility to compete as part of the US Olympic team.

A sickly child, he took up swimming on the advice of a doctor. He grew to be a 6′ 3″, 190-pound champion athlete – undefeated winner of five Olympic gold medals, 67 world and 52 national titles, holder of every freestyle record from 100 yards to the half-mile. In his first picture, Glorifying the American Girl (1929), he appeared as an Adonis clad only in a fig leaf. After great success with a jungle movie, MGM head Louis B. Mayer, via Irving Thalberg, optioned two of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan stories. Cyril Hume, working on the adaptation of Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), noticed Weissmuller swimming in the pool at his hotel and suggested him for the part of Tarzan. Weissmuller was under contract to BVD to model underwear and swimsuits; MGM got him released by agreeing to pose many of its female stars in BVD swimsuits. The studio billed him as “the only man in Hollywood who’s natural in the flesh and can act without clothes”. The film was an immediate box-office and critical hit. Seeing that he was wildly popular with girls, the studio told him to divorce his wife and paid her $10,000 to agree to it. After 1942, however, MGM had used up its options; it dropped the Tarzan series and Weissmuller, too. He then moved to RKO and made six more Tarzans. After that he made 16 Jungle Jim (1948) programmers for Columbia. He retired from movies to run private business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

This IMDB entry can also be accessed on lone here.

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Brenda de Banzie

Brenda De Banzie
Brenda De Banzie
Brenda de Banzie
Brenda de Banzie

Brenda de Banzie starred in several major films in Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s but biographical information on her seems very scarce.   She was born in Manchester in 1909.   She did not begin a career on film until she was in her mid 40’s.   Her film debut was in “The Yellow Balloon” with Kathleen Ryan and Kenneth More in 1953.   She had the female lead opposite John Mills and Charles Laughton in “Hobson’s Choice”.   Her other major films include “The Purple Plain”, “The Man Who Knew too Much”, “A Kid for Two Farthings”, “Doctor at Sea” , “The Entertainer” and “The Pink Panter”.      Her last film was “Pretty Polly” as the aunt of Hayley Mills in 1967.   She died in 1981 at the age of 71.   She never seemed to play tender roles.   It would have been interesting to see her in such parts.

Her IMDB mini biography:

The daughter of a musical conductor, fair-haired, slightly plump Brenda de Banzie appeared in just a handful of films. As the result of two outstanding performances, she became an unexpected star when well into her middle age. Brenda first came to public notice as a sixteen year old chorine on the London stage in “Du Barry Was a Lady”, in 1942. By that time, she had already been treading the boards in repertory for some seven years. The theatre was, first and foremost, her preferred medium. In the early 1950’s, she had an excellent run of top-billed performances at the West End, which included “Venus Observed” with Laurence Olivier, and “Murder Mistaken”, as a wealthy hotel owner whose husband is plotting to bump her off for her money. For this, she won the coveted Clarence Derwent Award as Best Supporting Actress.

Critical plaudits tempted her to try her luck on screen, so Brenda eventually made her celluloid debut in Anthony Bushell‘s murder mystery The Long Dark Hall (1951). Her performance, as a rather vulgar and dowdy boarding house landlady, drew good notices – including one from Bosley Crowther of The New York Times. In 1954, director David Leancast Brenda in her defining role as Maggie Hobson, a middle-aged, temperamental spinster, opposite Charles Laughton and John Mills in Hobson’s Choice (1954). She pretty much stole every scene from her illustrious co-stars. Rather surprisingly, a BAFTA, eluded her. In 1958, Brenda landed the prize role of Phoebe Rice, the bitter, alcoholic wife of a second-rate music hall performer (played superbly by Olivier) in John Osborne‘s The Entertainer (1960). She recreated her performance for Broadway and for the film version in 1960 and received a Tony Award nomination. Sadly, little else came along which did much justice to Brenda’s intelligence and acting skills. During the 1960’s, she appeared primarily in matronly character roles and passed away during surgery for a non-malignant brain tumor in March 1981.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Interesting article on Brenda de Banzie here.

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John Alderton

John Alderton
John Alderton
John Alderton
John Alderton
John Alderton & Pauline Collins
John Alderton & Pauline Collins

John Alderton was born in 1940 in Gainsborough in England.   He has had many successful British television series including “Emergency Ward 10”,  “Please Sir”, “Upstairs, Downstairs”, “Thomas and Sarah” , “My Wife Next Door”,and “Forever Green”.   His films include “Duffy” in 1969 and more recently “Calender Girls”.   He is long married to actress Pauline Collins.   Interview here.

“Wikipedia” entry:

John Alderton was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, the son of Ivy (née Handley) and Gordon John Alderton. He grew up in Hullwhere he attended Kingston High School.

Alderton first became familiar to television viewers in 1962, when he played Dr Moone in the ITV soap opera, Emergency – Ward 10. He married his co-star, Jill Browne, but they later divorced. After appearing in British films such as The System (1964), Assignment K(1968), Duffy (1968) and Hannibal Brooks (1969), he played the lead in the comedy series Please Sir!, as hapless teacher Mr Hedges, which later resulted in him also playing the character in the 1971 feature film of the same name. In 1972 he appeared with Hannah Gordon in the BBC comedy series My Wife Next Door which ran for 13 episodes, and for which he won a Jacob’s Award in 1975. He then transferred to another top-rated ITV series when he played Thomas Watkins, the chauffeur, in Upstairs, Downstairs, opposite his wife, Pauline Collins. They had a daughter (the actress Kate Alderton) and two sons and also acted together in spin-off series, Thomas & Sarah, and another sitcom, No, Honestly, as well as in Wodehouse Playhouse (1975–78), a series that featured adaptations of short stories by P. G. Wodehouse (primarily the Mr. Mulliner stories.) In the meantime, he appeared on the big screen against-type as ‘Friend’ in John Boorman‘s cult sci-fi film Zardoz (1974), before returning to more familiar territory, as 1930s Yorkshire vet James Herriot in the 1976 film, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet.

He made his first stage appearance with the repertory company of the Theatre Royal, York in August 1961, in Badger’s Green by R.C. Sherriff. After a period in repertory, made his first London appearance at the Mermaid, November, 1965, as Harold Crompton in Spring and Port Wine, later transferring with the production to the Apollo. At the Aldwych, March 1969, played Eric Hoyden in the RSC’s production of Dutch Uncle. At the Comedy Theatre, July 1969, played Jimmy Cooper in The Night I Chased the Women with an Eel. At the Howff, October, 1973, played Stanley in Punch and Judy Stories, and played the same part in “Judies” at the Comedy, January, 1974. At the Shaw, January 1975, played Stanley in Pinter’s The Birthday Party. At the Apollo, May 1976, played four parts in Ayckbourn’s Confusions.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Alderton had few roles, but he narrated the children’s original animated series ‘Little Miss‘ in 1983 (with his wife Pauline Collins) and, from 1987 to 1994, he narrated and voiced all the characters in the original series of Fireman Sam. From 1989 to 1992, he starred in the series Forever Green as the character Jack Boult, and appeared in the film Clockwork Mice in 1995.

Alderton played against his wife Pauline in Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War in 2002 and made something of a comeback in the 2003 film, Calendar Girls. Then, in 2004 he played a role in the BBC series of Anthony Trollope‘s He Knew He Was Right. Also in 2004 Alderton starred in the first series of ITV 1’s Doc Martin in an episode entitled “Of All The Harbours In All The Towns” as sailor John Slater, a friend and former lover of Aunt Joan. He played Christopher Casby in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Charles DickensLittle Dorrit.    In 1969, he married actress Pauline Collins and they had three children, a daughter and two sons, and a step daughter.

The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.

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Rod Taylor

Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor

“Handsome and brawny, Rod Taylor has nevertheless played comedy with some finesse and drama with considerable sensitivity, but he seems less to want to act than to blaze away as the beefy, breezy hero of what “Variety” called ‘middle-budget action pictures.   While the fan magazines refer to him as a ‘Tough Guy’, critics call him ‘underrated’.   The public likes him.   He says he waits for parts that interest him, then adds that he has little patience with stars who sits around demanding the earth in exchange for their services.   If I get the rate for the job, I’m satisfied’.   Perhaps this is what has kept him from reaching that area here all the best parts are offered around” – David Shipman in “The Great Movie Stars – The International Years” (1972).

Rod Taylor has enlivened many adventure films and is one of my favourite actors.   He was born in Sydney, Australia in 1930.   He began his career there on radio and in film.   In 1954 he went to Hollywood and soon began appearing in supproting parts in such films as “Giant” and “The Catered Affair”.   In 1960 he had his own series on U.S. television “Hong Kong” and had also the lead in the classic “The Time Machine”.   In 1962 Alfred Hitchcok cast him in “The Birds” with Tippi Hedren and Suzanne Pleshette.   In the 1960’s he was at the height of his fame with films such as “Sunday in New York” with Jane Fonda. “Fate is the Hunter”, “Young Cassidy” with Maggie Smith and Julie Christie and “Hotel” with Merle Oberon.   In 1970 he starred in an excellent TV series “Bearcats”.   He has continued working regularly over the years but he is under appreciated and his career is ready for reevaluation.   It was great to see Quentin Tarentino cast him in “Inglorious Bastards” as Winston Churchill.   Sadly he passed away in 2015.      To view the Rod Taylor website, please click here.

“Daily Telegraph” obituary:

Rod Taylor, who has died aged 84, was an early pioneer in what would much later become a flood of talented actors from Australia taking on leading roles in Hollywood.

By the time Alfred Hitchcock cast him opposite Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1963), Taylor had long cast off his Aussie vowels for an American twang as he played a ruggedly handsome hero convincingly menaced, along with the rest of the human cast, by a homicidal avian horde.

It was the sort of role that would have been played in Hitchcock’s earlier films by Cary Grant or James Stewart; but the director admitted that because of the necessarily inflated special effects budget he could not on this occasion afford a bigger star. The screenwriter on the film, Evan Hunter, amusingly described Taylor’s performance as “so full of machismo, you’d expect him to have a steer thrown over his shoulder”.

 

Not that Taylor was exactly a stranger to Hollywood when Hitchcock picked him for what will probably remain the actor’s most enduring credit across a long career in film and on television. Three years earlier he had played H G Wells’s intrepid time-traveller in The Time Machine (1960) – a film remade more than 40 years later with Guy Pearce. It was the first of many leading roles which had clearly beckoned ever since Taylor had first been signed to the traditional seven-year “slave” contract by MGM in 1956.

As a result of that contract he was given small roles in some extremely high-profile studio productions such as Giant (1956), Raintree County (1957) and Separate Tables (1958). But with star-laden casts that included the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Rock Hudson, David Niven, Wendy Hiller and Deborah Kerr, his “supporting” contributions were effectively invisible. However, after The Time Machine and The Birds, as well as a warm-hearted “voice” performance as Pongo in Disney’s animated canine classic One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), Taylor was to become swiftly translated to “above the title” status.

The son of a steel contractor and a children’s book writer, Rodney Sturt Taylor was born in Sydney on January 11 1930 and attended Parramatta High School and East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. He trained first as a commercial artist before deciding on a career as an actor after seeing various productions, notably Richard III, during Sir Laurence Olivier’s trailblazing Old Vic tour of Australia in 1948.

Work in radio – he played both the intrepid British air ace Douglas Bader in an adaptation of Reach for the Sky and Tarzan – and on stage followed. He then landed his first film roles, as an American in the people-smuggling thriller King of the Coral Sea (1954), and, in the same year, portraying Israel Hands in Long John Silver, a sequel to Treasure Island, the film that had launched a thousand impressions of the peg-legged, be-parroted pirate played by eye-rolling Robert Newton.

It was, however, Taylor’s prowess on the airwaves that led him to quit his native Australia in the 1950s, after winning a radio talent contest. Part of the prize was an air ticket to Los Angeles and London. Taylor stopped off in LA on the first leg – and never really left.

Once he had cemented his stardom in Hollywood, his roles – mostly of the virile, action-man variety – came thick and fast, notably in three films directed by Jack Cardiff, the British film-maker better known for his great cinematography. There was Young Cassidy (1965), as the aspiring Irish playwright Sean O’Casey; The Liquidator (1966), one of the earliest and best of the James Bond spoofs; and The Mercenaries (1968), a bloodily violent adaptation of Wilbur Smith’s Congo-set bestseller, Dark of the Sun, with Taylor as a hard-nosed but well-meaning major caught up in the heart of darkness.

Later in his career Taylor occasionally returned to Australia to make home-grown films such as The Picture Show Man (1977), as a travelling projectionist in the pre-talkies 1920s, and Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), chewing up the scenery as a foul-mouthed, small-town tyrant in the Outback. In these Taylor was able, unusually, to play in his native accent.

He had grabbed that rare opportunity with both hands in Anthony Asquith’s comedy-drama The V.I.P.s (1963), opposite Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Louis Jordan and Margaret Rutherford, as an Australian tycoon giving his secretly adoring assistant Maggie Smith, in a scene-stealing early screen role, a hard time as he tries to seal a last-minute deal.

Urged out of retirement by Quentin Tarantino in 2009, his final showy cameo was, almost unrecognisably, as a cigar-smoking Winston Churchill in Tarantino’s revisionist Second World War thriller romp Inglourious Basterds.

Taylor was thrice married. He is survived by a daughter from his second marriage, Felicia, a reporter for CNN, and by his third wife, Carol, whom he married in 1980.

Rod Taylor, born January 11 1930, died January 7 2015

His IMDB mini biography:

Suave and handsome Australian actor who came to Hollywood in the 1950s, and built himself up from a supporting actor into taking the lead in several well-remembered movies. Arguably his most fondly remembered role was that as George (Herbert George Wells), the inventor, in George Pal‘s spectacular The Time Machine (1960). As the movie finished with George, and his best friend Filby Alan Young seemingly parting forever, both actors were brought back together in 1993 to film a 30 minute epilogue to the original movie! Taylor’s virile, matinée idol looks also assisted him in scoring the lead of Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock‘s creepy thriller The Birds (1963), the role of Jane Fonda‘s love interest in Sunday in New York (1963), the title role in John Ford‘s biopic of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey in Young Cassidy (1965), and a co-starring role in The Train Robbers (1973) with John Wayne. Taylor also appeared as Bette Davis future son-in-law in the well-received film The Catered Affair (1956). He also gave a sterling performance as the German-American Nazi Major trying to fool James Garner in 36 Hours(1965). Later Taylor made many westerns and action movies during the 1960s and 1970s; however, none of them were much better than “B pictures” and failed to push his star to the next level. Aditionally, Taylor was cast as the lead in several TV series including Bearcats! (1971), Masquerade (1983), and Outlaws (1986); however, none of them truly ignited viewer interest, and they were canceled after only one or two seasons. Most fans would agree that Rod Taylor’s last great role was in the wonderful Australian film The Picture Show Man (1977), about a traveling side show bringing “moving pictures” to remote towns in the Australian outback.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44

This IMDB page can also be accessed online here.

Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor
Rod Taylor
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John Bindon

John Bindon
John Bindon

John Bindon was a very interesting screen actor in British films in the 1960’s and 70’s .   He usually played tough guys a role which he seemed to play in real life.   The director Ken Loach spotted him in an East End pub in London in 1966 and cast him as the abusive husband of Carol White in the excellent “Poor Cow”.   He was then cast in “Performance” with Mick Jagger.   He also had major roles in “Quadrophenia” and “Get Carter”.   He died in 1993 at the age of 50.

His “Independent” obituary:

A MAN of the Sixties, John Bindon lived a life at least as colourful as the roles he played: he was the archetypal actor-villain, and an all- round ‘good geezer’. ‘The fundamental thing about John was that he was a bright, intelligent man a size bigger than the room he was in,’ recalls his agent, Tony Howard.

The son of a Fulham cabbie, Bindon had an upbringing shrouded in machismo myth. It was all good training for the adult Bindon, for whom the term method acting might have been invented. The director Ken Loach cast him in Poor Cow (1967), the gritty realist film of Nell Dunn’s novel, having been introduced to him by Dunn ‘through a contact of hers. He was very easy to direct,’ says Loach, ‘and he was very good in it, very straight.’ Bindon’s portrayal of Carol White’s wife-battering husband was to set the tone for his acting career.

The celebrity of Poor Cow brought the model Vicki Hodge into Bindon’s life, and Bindon into high society. He was ‘not an East End tough,’ says Tony Howard. ‘He was a genial fellow welcome everywhere he went, from the highest to the lowest places. He could make a horse laugh – he could put people on the ground. He could charm Princess Margaret equally as well as anyone else.’ Bindon’s bonhomie certainly won him many celebrated friends: ‘John Huston loved him, Stanley Kubrick loved him,’ Howard says. Bindon appeared in the former’s film The Mackintosh Man (1972) , with Paul Newman, and had a small part in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975).

In 1970 Bindon was cast, alongside Mick Jagger and James Fox, in Performance, in which he played minder to the Kray-like ‘Harry Flowers’. The film’s co-director Nicholas Roeg remembers him as a ‘wild, naked talent; an extraordinary man; a totally unafraid person; people often mistrust that, mistake it for pugnacity.’ Bindon kept in contact with Roeg, who met him again some 10 years later, when the actor came to the United States ‘shortly after his ‘other problems’. We were always able to pick up a friendly conversation. I had a very great regard for him. I liked his attitude of raw courage; he had an unencumbered attitude – people are so often encumbered by fear.’ Bindon won the Queen’s Award for bravery in 1968, after rescuing a drowning man from the Thames (although it was alleged that Bindon had pushed the man in himself, and only pulled him out when a policeman appeared).

In between bouts of acting, Bindon became involved in the music scene, acting as tour manager and security for Led Zeppelin and David Bowie; he was a particular friend of Bowie’s manager, Tony de Fries, and through him got to know Angie Bowie, with whom he had a well-publicised affair. Bindon’s amatory interests – Christine Keeler, Serena Williams – excited almost as many gossip column inches as did his other activities.

Unfortunately, what Roeg calls his ‘other problems’ soon established another sort of fame. In 1976 Bindon was declared bankrupt; two years later he killed John Darke, a London gangster, outside a pub in Putney, allegedly for a fee of pounds 10,000. Bindon escaped to Dublin, badly wounded. He returned to England, however, and was acquitted on a plea of self-defence when it was revealed that he had saved a victim whom Darke had stabbed in the face. The substantial appearance of Bob Hoskins as a character witness at the trial helped sway the verdict.

Bindon made various appearances, generally portrayed as a ‘heavy’, in television series such as Hazell, The Sweeney, Softly, Softly and Minder, where his tough-guy persona lent an authentic air to such productions. But film work declined after the adverse publicity of his trial – although he did memorably play a drug dealer in the rock film Quadrophenia (1979), a role which again appeared perilously close to typecasting.

In 1981, Bindon’s 12-year relationship with Vicki Hodge ended, and his criminal activities began to garner more publicity than his acting work. In 1982 he was convicted of threatening a law student with a piece of pavement; and two years later was sentenced to two months in prison for holding a carving knife in the face of a detective constable. Although this sentence, and a similar one of six months for carrying an offensive weapon, was suspended, Bindon had spent time inside for other crimes. Tony Howard recalls: ‘His time in jail was well spent, reading avidly. He had a great knowledge of history and Shakespeare – he loved the classics – he knew everything there was to know about people like Wellington – he could quote Shakespeare freely, and did.’

Bindon’s last appearance was at the tiny King’s Head theatre in Islington in 1987, but his performance merited a worthy critical mention. The latter part of Bindon’s life was spent in a small flat in Belgravia, in a degree of poverty. His death from cancer brought unlikely tributes to the man’s goodheartedness from colleagues and close friends. Over 200 people attended his funeral at Putney Vale crematorium, spilling out of the chapel in their eagerness to show respect.

His “Independent” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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Oliver MacGreevy

Oliver MacGreevy
Oliver MacGreevy

Oliver MacGreevy was born in Dublin 1928.   Virtually all of his acting career has been in the U.K.   His first film was THe Scamp” in 1057.   Other credits include “The Leather Boys”, “The Girl with Green Eyes”, “The Ipcress Files” and “Flash Gordon”.   He retired in 1984.   His “Wikipedia” entry can be accessed here.

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May Britt

May Britt
May Britt
May Britt
May Britt
May Britt
May Britt
May Britt
May Britt

May Britt was born in 1933 in Sweden.   She began her career in the 1950’s in Italian films.   In 1956 she had a featured role as the firend of Audrey Hepburn’s Natasha in “War and Peace”.   She moved to Hollywood when she obtained a contract with 20th Century Fox.   Among her films were “The Young Lions” with Marlon Brando, “The Hunters” with Robert Mitchum and “The Blue Angel” with Curt Jurgens.   She retired from acting on her marriage to Sammy Davis Jnr.   After their divorce she resumed her career for a very short time.   Her last appearance been in 1988.   She resides in California and has become a talented painter.

Her IMDB entry:

She was only 18 years old and working as a photographer’s assistant in Stockholm when two Italians showed up. Producer Carlo Ponti and director Mario Soldati were there to see pictures of beautiful models, searching for a blonde girl for a movie. They picked her instead and soon she found herself in Rome. She quickly made a number of movies, almost all of them forgotten, where all she had to do was look beautiful. She was offered a contract with 20th Century Fox and came to Hollywood, where her part in The Blue Angel (1959) got pretty good reviews.

But she got tired of always playing the femme fatale and after marrying Sammy Davis Jr.she left the movies to take care of her children instead.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Mattias Thuresson

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Alexis Smith

Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith

Alexis Smith was one of the most interesting of actresses working at Warner Brothers Studios during the 1940’s.   She was born in 1921 in British Columbia, Canada.   While still in college she was signed to a contract in Hollywood and made her first film in 1941 which was “Dive Bomber”.   In 1943 she won praise for her performance in “The Constant Nymph” opposite Joan Fontaine and Charles Boyer.   This led to been cast opposite Cary Grant as Cole Porter in “Night and Day”.   She made many films throughout the late 40’s and into the 50’s.   She was particularily effective opposite Paul Newman in “The Young Philadelphians” in 1959.   Over the next decade she acted mainly on stage and scored a triumph as the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” on Broadway.   The success of the show reinvigorated her career and she was busy in film, television and stage up to her death in 1993 at the age of 72.   Her last film was “The Age of Innocence” with Daniel Day-Lewis.   She was long married to the actor Craig Stevens

Her “Independent” newspaper obituary by David Shipman:

ALEXIS SMITH was an aloof, glacial beauty who was typecast as such. She was soignee, smart, sophisticated, hair swept up (it was a shock to see it falling around her shoulders), with diamante-encrusted collars. She was a leading star who never engaged much popular attention – how could she, in those roles? – or excited the critics. She was a Warner Bros workhorse.

In the Thirties, Warners was fuelled by the star-power of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart came up about the same time, at the end of the decade, which startled Jack L. Warner, because they had both been under contract for a long while. Also, because they were rebellious, he never liked or understood either of them, but he felt it safer to go with Bette than with Bogey. Basically, Warners stopped making pictures for men (Cagney and Robinson had both left) and the roles that Davis turned down could be taken by Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan or Ida Lupino. These were all strong women. So was Alexis Smith, but she was last in the pecking order.

She first made an impact, if a mild one, as the society lady who goaded and taunted Errol Flynn throughout Gentleman Jim (1942), a romanticised life of the prize-fighter James Corbett. In The Constant Nymph (1943), stinking-rich again, she prevented the artless Charles Boyer from realising that he really loves the naive Joan Fontaine.

In Rhapsody in Blue (1945) she was a slinky Manhattanite who confused George Gershwin (Robert Alda) no end when he had troubles as to whether he should be writing concerti or Broadway songs; in Night and Day (1946) she reprised the role, in a way, as Mrs Cole Porter, incessantly fed-up because Cole (Cary Grant) cannot stop burning the midnight oil. She was Marian Halcombe in the surprisingly effective version of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1948).

Like all the best stars, there was no one else quite like her, but she did not ‘give’ very much. Her haughtiness should have contrasted well with the cynicism of Bogart – Conflict (1945), The Two Mrs Carrolls (1947) – or the devil-may-care Flynn – San Antonio (1945), Montana (1950) – but you merely admired her coiffure and tailoring. She was loaned to MGM to star opposite Clark Gable in Any Number Can Play and, her Warner contract finished, she went to Paramount to play the stuffy fiancee Bing Crosby drops for a bubbly Jane Wyman in Frank Capra’s Here Comes the Groom (1951). In the decade that followed she played occasional second leads, returning to Warners to support Paul Newman in The Young Philadelphians (1959). This was Alexis Smith? Stunning as ever – but playing with a warmth never even hinted at before.

She retired, happily married to Craig Stevens, an erstwhile star of ‘B’ movies, but she returned to show business in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies in 1971. This was Alexis Smith? This scintillating redhead, kicking her legs up and having a ball?

She had auditioned for the role, one of the show-business has-beens which comprised most of the cast, and it reflected her rather aristocratic past: but she broke out, revealing glee, radiance, a joie de vivre. She sent her old self up, gloriously, and got a Tony award, the New York Critics’ award and a Time cover.

She played Kirk Douglas’s wife in Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (1974), ‘the world’s fifth richest woman’ and a lesbian. Four years later she played a blue-blooded horse breeder in Martin Ritt’s pleasing Casey’s Shadow, starring Walter Matthau, with more style and warmth than she showed in all her Warner Bros movies put together. These two qualities were wonderfully in evidence when she sang ‘Nobody’s Chasing Me’ in the tribute to Cole Porter in London two years ago.

This “Independent” obituary can also be accessed here.

 

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