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Archive for November, 2010

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Pat Kirkwood

Pat Kirkwood
Pat Kirkwood

Pat Kirkwood was born in Salford in 1921.   She appeared in many revues and musicals in England from the 1930’s onwards.   She became a very popular concert and recording star during World War Two.   She had made her film debut in 1939 in “Save A Little Sunshine for Me”.   In 1945 she went to Hollywood to make her only film there “No Leave, No Love” with Van Johnson.   When she returned to England she continued her career in musical theatre with occasional films such as “After the Ball” in 1937.   Pat Kirkwood died in 2007.

Her “Independent” obituary:

 

During the 1940s and 1950s, Pat Kirkwood starred in West End musicals and several films and she was first female to have her own television series on the BBC. In 1950, Noël Coward specifically requested that she star in his new musical, Ace Of Clubs, and Cole Porter allowed her to introduce the song “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” to British audiences. Kirkwood herself tired of journalists commenting on her looks and her shapely legs and especially on an alleged affair with the Duke of Edinburgh, which she strenuously denied.

Patricia Kirkwood was born, the daughter of a shipping clerk, in Pendleton, about three miles from Manchester’s city centre, in 1921. Whilst on holiday with her parents in the Isle of Man, she took part in a talent contest and as a result, was asked to sing on the BBC’s Children’s Hour. In 1936, she played variety at the Hippodrome, Salford where she was billed as “The Schoolgirl Songstress”. The following year, she played Dandini in Cinderella in a West End pantomime.

Kirkwood’s potential was obvious to all: she could act, dance and sing; she spoke well; and she had a gorgeous figure. She appeared with success in the films Save A Little Sunshine (1937) and Me And My Pal (1938) and made her first record, “Hurry Home”.

Her first prominent role was in 1939, alongside George Formby in his horse-racing comedy Come On, George! Formby’s possessive and overbearing wife, Beryl, considered Kirkwood a threat and refused to let her sing with him. Kirkwood herself refused to perform a scene in which a wind machine would blow her skirt over her head, a controversial exploit which would have predated Marilyn Monroe’s iconic pose by several years.

With the director Anthony Kimmins exercising little control, Beryl insisted that Kirkwood’s hair be cropped, her make-up minimal, and her clothes dowdy. Even so, her beauty shone through and towards the end of the film, when Beryl was called away for a bogus telephone call, the director got Kirkwood to give Formby a long kiss. “Ayee! What a to-do,” comments Formby, clearly mixing his character with real life.

The comedy duo Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch were happy to allow Kirkwood to sing, look lovely and shine in their film of Band Waggon (1940). It led to her being described as Britain’s Betty Grable but she hated references to her million-pound legs, “It did make me cross. They are simply things to walk around on. I never thought anything more of them than that.”

In 1939, Kirkwood opened to tremendous reviews in the revue Black Velvet at the London Hippodrome; in the show she introduced British audiences to Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”. One critic called her personality “as inescapable as sheet lightning” and likened her voice to Deanna Durbin’s.

She was the queen of a new universe in the London Palladium extravaganza Top Of The World in 1940, with Tommy Trinder and the Crazy Gang. The rehearsals took place while the Luftwaffe was bombing London and the director requested an audience of servicemen for the dress rehearsal. Mistakenly, the invitation went to the International YMCA so few of the audience could speak English and hence, laugh at the humour.

The show continued despite falling bombs. One evening Bud Flanagan took a taxi to the theatre, but fear overcame him and he told the cabbie to drive him to Blackpool instead. Kirkwood later recalled standing on the roof of the Palladium one night with buildings burning on all sides.

Kirkwood worked hard during the war. She was involved in making films, records, personal appearances and with her own radio series, A Date With Pat Kirkwood. She also appeared before George VI at a Command Performance at Windsor Castle.

In 1944, she was offered a contract, allegedly worth 250,000, with MGM in Hollywood. She and her mother flew to America shortly after the war ended and she appeared alongside Van Johnson in the romantic No Leave, No Love, (1946) directed by Charles Martin. She sang three songs in the film including “Love on a Greyhound Bus”. The poor reviews plus the strict diet and fitness regime of the studio led to a breakdown and an attempted suicide, and she returned home.

Kirkwood had a West End hit with Starlight Roof in 1947 and some record success with one of its songs, “Make Mine Allegro”. Noël Coward was impressed and wrote to his agent, “I should like to get Pat Kirkwood. You might make discreet enquiries about her.” As a result she appeared in Coward’s 1950 musical Ace Of Clubs, but it was an old-fashioned operetta that was lucky to make 250 performances. Encouraged by Coward, she also played a successful season at the Desert Inn, Las Vegas. She had further West End success in Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town (1955) with Shani Wallis and a musical comedy, Chrysanthemum (1958), which co-starred her then husband Hubert Gregg.

There was much unwanted publicity when it was suggested that Kirkwood had had an affair with the Duke of Edinburgh. She had met him in 1948 and reporters had seen them dancing and having breakfast. She totally denied any impropriety but said, “He was so full of life and energy. I suspect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be himself. I think I got off on the right foot because I made him laugh.”

She became the first female to have her own television series with The Pat Kirkwood Show in 1954 and also appeared in various TV plays. In Our Marie (1953) she played the music hall star Marie Lloyd; she also appeared in Pygmalion (1956) and The Great Little Tilley (1956) as another music hall star, Vesta Tilley, which was directed by Hubert Gregg and subsequently became the film After The Ball (1957). In 1953, she was reunited with George Formby on the panel of What’s My Line but was seen on screen feeding Formby questions to ask the contestants.

In the 1960s, Kirkwood and Gregg moved to Portugal and she told reporters, “I never play my old records or look at my cuttings. I’ve retired.” She was to write her autobiography, The Time Of My Life, in 1999.

Kirkwood made several stage appearances in the 1970s, often in pantomime, and she had success in a revival of Pal Joey at the Edinburgh Festival in 1976 and touring in The Cabinet Minister with Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison in 1978. She married for the fourth time in 1981 and settled down to a life in Yorkshire. Occasionally, she performed her one woman show, An Evening With Pat Kirkwood, and appeared in revivals of Noël Coward and Cole Porter’s works.

Spencer Leigh

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

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Frankie Avalon

Frankie Avalon
Frankie Avalon

Frankie Avalon was born in 1940 in Philadelphia.    He became a teenage pop singer along with Bobby Rydell and Fabian.   In the early sixties he starred in a series if “beach” movies with Annette Funicello starting with “Beach Party”.   He was featured in “The Alamo” with John Wayne in 1960 and “The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”.

“Pompadoured Frankie Avalon became a hit recording artist (with two Number 1 Billboard songs ‘Venus’ and ‘Why’) and pop idol while still a teen.   Unlike many of his contemporaries he actually managed to parlay his juke-box fame into a successful movie career” – Barry Monush in “The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors” (2003).

TCM overview:

A pop crooner and teen idol during the late 1950s, singer Frankie Avalon transformed into a movie star via a string of surf-and-sand musicals in the 1960s like “Beach Party” (1963) and “Muscle Beach Party” (1964). Slight of stature and build but handsome and charismatic in an eminently safe and approachable way, Avalon wooed teenage girls with light romantic tunes like “Venus” and “Why,” both of which shot to the top of the charts. When rock and roll took over the music business in the 1960s, he shifted fulltime to films, where he teamed with Annette Funicello for the silly but watchable beach party films. In ensuing decades, he was a familiar face on television and the occasional film, most notably 1978’s “Grease” as the Teen Angel, and always happy to revisit the nostalgia of his career for new audiences. If his body of work was lightweight, it was also well loved, which ensured Avalon’s place in pop culture history.

Born Francis Thomas Avallone in South Philadelphia, PA on Sept. 18, 1939, Frankie Avalon was the son of Nicholas and Mary Avallone and brother to older sister Theresa Avallone. From an early age, he displayed a genuine talent for music, but as a trumpeter, not a singer. Having learned the instrument from his father, he quickly developed into something of a child prodigy, playing at clubs and on television while still in grade school. A performance at a private party for singer Al Martino led to an appearance on “The Jackie Gleason Show” (DuMont/CBS, 1949-1957) and a 1954 record, “Trumpet Sorrento,” for X Records, a subsidiary of RCA/Victor. By the time he had reached his teens, he was performing regularly in a local group called Rocco and the Saints, which featured one Robert Ridarelli on drums. Ridarelli would later follow Avalon into the teen idol scene under the name of Bobby Rydell.

Avalon was approached by Philadelphia music producer Bob Marcucci about singers who might be interested in recording some of his rock and roll numbers. He directed Marcucci to Andy Martin, frontman for Rocco and the Saints, but he passed on the Nordic-looking performer in favor of Avalon himself, whose dark Mediterranean looks would translate better with teen female audiences. After hearing Avalon perform a few songs, Marcucci quickly signed him to his label, Chancellor Records. His first record, a swooning pop song called “Cupid” was followed by “Teacher’s Pet.” Neither song made much of a dent on the charts, but they did earn him his first film appearance in 1957’s proto-rock and roll movie, “Jamboree,” where he promoted the latter tune. But his third release, “Dede Dinah” (1958), was a bonafide smash, reaching No. 7 on the pop charts, selling over a million copies. From that point on, Avalon was a certifiable teen idol, delivering five Top 20 hits between 1958 and 1959, including two No. 1 hits: 1959’s “Why” and his signature tune, “Venus.”

Blessed with boyish good looks, a capable voice and an abundant head of hair, Avalon found himself at the epicenter of teen fandom. He was unquestionably safe for adolescent consumption – Marcucci had shrewdly steered Avalon away from anything resembling rock and roll for that expressed purpose – and his clean-cut image passed muster with adults as well. His popularity on both fronts allowed him to transition smoothly into feature films as well. He played juvenile leads in mostly low-budget, drive-in films like “Guns of the Timberland” (1960) and “Panic in Year Zero!” (1961), with occasional forays into major features. He was a member of Davy Crockett’s militia in John Wayne’s “The Alamo” (1960) and a Navy seaman aboard Walter Pidgeon’s nuclear-powered submarine in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961). Avalon was of course granted the chance to croon songs in both films, thus guaranteeing youthful ticket buyers.

However, by the time of those film’s releases, Avalon’s stock in the teen music business was beginning to drop. Avalon’s brand of smooth, brassy pop gave way to more rock-oriented acts like The Beach Boys and, eventually, The Beatles, though he continued to release songs until 1960. He wisely shifted his focus to acting, and found a second stardom as the lead in a string of light musical comedies for American International Pictures (AIP), a low-budget production and distribution company that specialized in genre films for teen audiences. The rise of the surf culture in California had begun to catch on with national audiences, thanks in part to The Beach Boys’ music and the film “Gidget” (1959); AIP decided to exploit its growing popularity with “Beach Party” (1963), a harmless comedy about an anthropologist (Robert Cummings) studying the “mating habits” of Southern Californian teens while frolicking in the surf. Avalon was the “juvenile” lead, though by this point, he was well into his twenties and married to beauty pageant winner, Kathyrn Diebel. His onscreen partner was Annette Funicello, a former Mouseketeer who, like Avalon, was searching for her own niche after her initial teen stardom. “Beach Party’s” mix of silly comedy, real surf music (courtesy Dick Dale and the Del-Tones), sunny locations and plenty of semi-unclad flesh, was a massive hit with young audiences. AIP quickly ground out seven more “beach party” films between 1963 and 1965, most of which featured Avalon and Funicello repeating the same storyline of break-up and make-up, between crooning disposable pop tunes. Though the pictures were limited in terms of plot or dialogue, they did afford Avalon an opportunity to flex some comic muscles, most notably in 1964’s “Bikini Beach,” where he took broad potshots at the British Invasion as “Potato Bug,” a bespectacled and bewigged English rocker who bore a remarkable resemblance to Terry-Thomas.

When the beach party films ran their course, Avalon continued to work for AIP on several other features – all forgettable. By the 1970s, he was a staple on television as a guest star on episodic series and variety shows, playing up the nostalgic aspects of his celebrity. In 1976, he hosted his own variety program, “Easy Does It with Frankie Avalon” (CBS, 1976), a musical comedy show that also featured Funicello. Two years later, he experienced a career boost when he played the Teen Angel, heavenly guardian to the wayward Frenchie (Didi Conn), in the film version of “Grease” (1978). Reportedly, the character was based on Avalon’s stage presence and audiences’ responses to his charms. Avalon would reprise the role in numerous stage productions of the play, and performed the song along with contestants on the reality series “Grease: You’re the One that I Want!” (NBC, 2007), which sought out new cast members for the national productions.

In 1980, Avalon’s pop career and relationship with Bob Marcucci was the uncredited subject of Taylor Hackford’s film “The Idolmaker.” The Avalon figure, called “Tommy Dee” and played by Paul Land, was groomed by Ray Sharkey’s avaricious manager. Peter Gallagher played a fictitious Fabian, who devolved into a monster due to the pressures and glories of fame. When pressed for his take on the picture, Avalon dismissed it, stating that most of the incidents in the film were untrue.

Avalon celebrated his third decade in show business by hitting the road in 1985 with fellow former teen idols Rydell and Fabian in a package tour called “The Golden Boys of Bandstand,” which saw the principals – now in their fifties – reprising their greatest hits for an adoring audience. Two years later, Avalon had his first starring role in nearly two decades with “Back to the Beach” (1987), an amusing tribute-cum-parody of his beach party films that featured Funicello and a host of ’60s-era stars in cameos. Avalon and Funicello played the adult version of their beach party characters, wrestling with parenthood, middle age and the glories of the past. A fizzy, silly delight, it pleased audiences and critics alike, and gave Avalon his first credit as producer.

Avalon continued to play the oldies circuit throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, while selling health and cosmetics to his demographic via his web site and the Home Shopping Network. Still full of abundant good health in his sixth and seventh decade, he enjoyed a cameo opposite Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” (1995) and made frequent appearances in show biz documentaries and specials, most notably in “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” (2007), which honored his frequent beach party co-star. In 2009, he performed “Venus” on “American Idol” (Fox, 2002- ), where he showed that he had lost none of his ability to charm audiences with a gentle pop tune.

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

“New York Times” arcicle on Frankie Avalon here.

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Kathie McGrath

Kathie MacGrath
Kathie MacGrath

Kathie McGrath was born in Dublin in 1983.   She graduated in History from Dublin’s Trinity College.   In 2007 she appeared in the film “Damage” and then in “Eden”.   She had a role in “The Tudors”.   Is currently on television in “The Adventures of Merlin”.   “Independent.ie” article on Kathie McGrath here.

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Kay Callard

Kay Callard
Kay Callard
 

Kay Callard was a Canadian actress who spent most of her career in Britain.   Her films include “Reluctant Bride” in 1955, “Find the Lady” in the following year and “Our Cissy” in 1974.   She died in 2008 at the age of 75.

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Richard Todd

Richard Todd
Richard Todd

Richard Todd obituary in “The Guardian” in 2009.

Richard Todd, who has died of cancer aged 90, will be best remembered for the films in which he played a wide assortment of clean-cut British heroes. His most famous performance was as Wing Commander Guy Gibson in The Dam Busters (1955), although he also played Robin Hood and Sir Walter Raleigh.

As dour and stiff upper-lipped as any of the characters he portrayed in his highly successful film career in the 1940s and 1950s, he was one of the first members of the Parachute Regiment to jump on D-day – a real-life role he later echoed, albeit at a higher rank, in The Longest Day (1962), the reconstruction of the invasion of Normandy 17 years after the event (another actor posed as Todd himself).

As Gibson, Todd starred as the leader of the daring airborne mission in May 1943 to smash German industry in the Ruhr valley by strategic bombing of its dams, causing massive flooding. The movie retold the story of Barnes Wallis’s invention of a bouncing bomb that skimmed the surface of the reservoirs before colliding with the three targets – two of which were destroyed.Advertisement

Born in Dublin, Todd was the son of an army major of Scots and Irish descent. His early life in England was one of private schools, including Shrewsbury, genteel poverty and family squabbles, usually over his father’s drinking and extravagances that included buying a large Chrysler roadster behind his wife’s back.

Through two divorces, Todd himself displayed a love of large cars, large houses and large domestic staffs, which only his earlier career as a film star – one of the busiest faces in British cinema – could comfortably support.

Richard Todd
Richard Todd

After the Italia Conti school of acting in London, where a teacher advised him to “bring it up from the genitals, dear!” – advice beyond his dramatic range – Todd first appeared with the Welsh Players, a precarious touring group, then with Dundee Rep. Just before the second world war, he appeared at the Regents Park open air theatre, then got a part in a mediocre film, For Them That Trespass (1949), and a seven-year contract with the Associated British Film Corporation (ABFC), then the main rival to Rank.

His tear-jerking portrayal of a dying and bitter Scots corporal in his second contract film, The Hasty Heart (1949), made him an instant hot property. Ronald Reagan was in a supporting role, his only appearance in a film made in Britain. The two men stayed in touch and once dined together at 10 Downing Street with a woman they both admired, Margaret Thatcher. Hitchcock used him in Stage Fright (1950), Walt Disney used him in Robin Hood (1952). But Todd was always uneasy in Hollywood. Once, in his enthusiasm for tennis and ignorance of local idiom, he told a startled Ruth Roman that he would love a knock up with her, and on another occasion he arrived for work in a car with a flat battery that his distinguished director King Vidor had to help push-start.

Todd nevertheless appeared as Raleigh, alongside Bette Davis, in The Virgin Queen in 1955, made The Sword and the Rose (1953) for Disney and Saint Joan (1957) for Otto Preminger. He certainly made ABFC more money than his salary by being hired out to other film-makers. But he was happiest while filming in England, although he refused the lead in The Guns of Navarone (1961) and was also unable to accept the role of James Bond – despite being Ian Fleming’s first choice – because of other commitments. Sean Connery took the role instead.

By the end of the 1950s, the studio system was breaking up, his contract was not renewed, and wheeler-dealing over individual films became the norm. While flirting with television, for which he did Carrington VC in 1960, he became a stage actor-manager by forming Triumph theatre productions and touring middlebrow plays. Under the Triumph umbrella, he appeared in Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including The Hollow Crown. He also played the lead for eight unbroken years from 1981 in Richard Harris’s The Business of Murder in the West End. His denigration of his own business sense and his squire’s tweeds and eyeglass were partly a pose.

Richard Todd
Richard Todd

He became a dairy farmer from 1957, leading to his appointment as president of the Henley and District Agricultural Association in Buckinghamshire. A very British perfectionist, he confessed to a dream that, despite the warnings of his friends and everyone else he talked to, there would always be a market for the best. So he bought the very best Jersey cows, the best hens and the best pigs – and ran straight into trouble. Todd claimed that this came about because the Milk Marketing Board tended to help mediocre produce at the expense of the best. In those days most dairy farmers found it expedient to market their produce through the board, but he decided to go it alone.

“I saw to it that my Wensleydale cheese came from Wensleydale, my Gloucester from Gloucester,” he said. He hawked it, along with the cream, around restaurants, little shops and supermarkets across the Midlands and southern England. As a result, Richard Todd cream was praised by the Consumer Association magazine Which? and by many gourmet publications.

His success as a businessman/farmer was a double-edged sword as his acting career receded. However, Todd retained his instinct for business. In the 1970s, actors – especially well-spoken and well-dressed middle-class actors who had slipped out of fashion – were having a lean time. An organisation was set up to use such players by touring them in the US and other parts of the world. Todd – the star of 50 films over 20 years – was one of the relatively few former high-powered stars who turned out to support the idea.

Richard Todd
Richard Todd

Physically small but sturdy, Todd was more of a realist than many actors. He said bluntly that when the film parts dried up and he had returned to the stage, he had been “absolutely dreadful” in a production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1965) and had had to relearn the stage technique he had acquired at the beginning of his career. At that time, too, he sold his farm to support himself.

He was married twice, in 1949 to Catherine Grant-Bogle, by whom he had a son and daughter, and in 1970 to Virginia Mailer, by whom he had two sons. Both marriages ended in divorce. His son from his first marriage and one of his sons from his second marriage killed themselves. He is survived by his other two children.

• Richard Andrew Palethorpe-Todd, actor, born 11 June 1919; died 3 December 2009

Richard Todd
Richard Todd
Richard Todd
Richard Todd
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Anna Charleston

Anna Charleston

Anna Charleston was born in Melbourne, Australia.   She began her television career in Australian television in the series “Consider Your Verdict” in 1962.    Her other series include 2Class of 74″, “Neighbours” and in the UK,  “Emmerdale Farm”.   While not not working, Ms Charleson resides in her home in the West of Ireland.

Interview with Anne Charleston in “The Mayo News”:

Australian star smitten with life in the west

Ciara Galvin talks to ex-Neighbours star Anne Charleston ahead of her performance in Steel Magnolias in Castlebar

It’s not often you get to chat with Australian soap royalty. But when the actor in question lives on the Galway/Mayo border, it makes for what feels like a relaxed catch-up.
Anne Charleston played the iconic role of Madge Bishop in Neighbours. The Melbourne-born actress relocated to the west of Ireland in 1992, and is currently on tour with a theatre production of ‘Steel Magnolias’, which is due to be staged in Castlebar this Thursday and Friday, October 18 and 19.
The play tells the story of six women’s enduring bond of friendship despite their age and class differences. Set in the American deep south, it is a tale of love, loss and the women’s sudden realisation of their own mortality. Anne plays the grumpy and eccentric Ouiser Boudreaux, sharing the stage with another well-known actress Mischa Barton, who starred in the film Sixth Sense and US hit series The OC. Barton plays another central character, Shelby Eatenton.
In her gravelly Aussie drawl, Anne describes Steel Magnolias as a ‘fabulous and lovely play’, revealing that from the start, she and her fellow cast members ‘worked like a charm’ on stage.
Having starred in the theatre hit Calendar Girls, it comes as no surprise that Anne is at ease in an all-female production. The straight-talking Melbournian dispels any notion that women are harder to work with. “You’re either a good actor or you’re not,” she confided.
So, does she identify with Ouiser, who (a little like Madge in the early days) has quite a fiery temperament? Perhaps a little. “You always have to associate with your character on some level, I don’t think I’m quite as bad as Ouiser, but you know, we all have our moments don’t we,” she quipped.
Irish home
Anne Charleston lives in a cottage in a quiet area between Shrule and Headford – a far cry from the bright lights of Melbourne, which was named ‘the world’s most liveable city’ by The Economist this year. A far cry it might be, but the bond with her adopted country is strong. “This is my home,” she said, warmly.
Charleston credits her Irish grandparents with playing a part in her relocation to Ireland. She also grew up in ‘a very Irish community’. “I was brought up on stories of the place.”
When she eventually came to Ireland, she was smitten – with the west especially. “When I saw the west of Ireland I kind of came under its spell. It’s very beautiful. I came across to shop, basically. I looked at properties in Clare and Galway, and the interesting properties appeared to be in Galway.”
Totally at ease in her countryside hideaway, Anne spends her days walking, tending to her garden, reading (‘a lot’) and sometimes having friends over for drinks.
She makes frequent trips back to Australia, however, and plans to visit Melbourne soon after the Steel Magnolias tour finishes up.

Minding Madge
Anne played Madge Bishop in Neighbours from 1986 to 1992, when she left to move to Ireland. She reprised the role again in 1996, but left Ramsay Street permanently in 2000.
Talking candidly about her fame as Madge, Anne said it was a ‘double-edged sword’. “It did open a lot of doors for me, but there is also this slight snobbery that I’m regarded as a soap actress, and that’s not entirely true.”
Anne’s career took flight in the ’70s and was well established before she ever began in Neighbours. Her acting CV includes a wide variety of roles from drama to theatre. When asked how she got into acting, Charelston quickly replied, “I can’t remember when I wanted to do anything else.”
On her reasons for leaving Neighbours after her return to the series, Anne explained she was unhappy with the direction Madge’s once-feisty character was being taken in by the soap’s writers.
“I didn’t like the way they wrote the character, and we couldn’t come to an agreement. It became a real pain. They wrote her in such a way that I think they decided that because I was over 50, I had to be a victim … I was sick of playing that kind of character because it was not the kind of character that I had built up.”
In a comment that could just as easily have been made by the quick-tongued Ouiser, Anne laughed and said she was ‘happy enough to go’, adding ‘I think they [the writers] were sick of me as well!’.
Looking to the future, she is noncommittal as to whether she’ll return to TV work, stay in theatre or opt for film. “I like to work.” she said simply, “if the role’s good, I’m there.”

Steel Magnolias has been touring the country since September 11 and will be staged at the Royal Theatre, Castlebar this Thursday and Friday, October 18 and 19. Tickets (€25.65 each) are available from the threatre box office on 0818 300 000.

This “Mayo News” article can also be accessed online here.

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Ruth Roman

Ruth Roman
Ruth Roman

Ruth Roman was a striking, dark-haired strong actress who made many fine films in Hollywood during the 1950’s. She was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1922. Shie is perhaps best remembered for her leading role opposite Farley Granger in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Strangers On A Train” in 1951. Other films of note include “Beyond the Forest” with Bette Davis, “Three Secrets” with Eleanor Parker and “The Far Country” with James Stewart and Corinne Calvet. She had a recurring role on Angela Lansbury’s “Murder She Wrote” as beauty parlor owner Loretta. Ruth Roman died in 1999.

Tom Vallance’s obituary in “The Independent”:

FEW FILM stars struggled longer and harder for success than Ruth Roman, who spent six years playing bit parts until she achieved stardom in 1949 and won a contract with Warner Bros.

In less than three years the studio had featured her in 10 films, but, although she starred opposite some of the top players of the time, including Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and James Stewart, Roman was a leading lady rather than a major star, and Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train was the only outstanding film she was to make at the studio. Roman loved her profession, but her long struggle left her with no illusions. She told Hedda Hopper in 1949, “I love everything about show business, even the junk. You can’t change the junk. People have tried. So you might as well accept it along with the good. Acting is my life. The profession can break my heart. In fact, it already has several times. But I love it.” The actress was to experience real-life drama when she and her son, then aged three, were aboard the luxury liner Andrea Doria when it was struck by another ship and wrecked.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1923, Roman was the youngest of three daughters of immigrants from Lithuania. Her father, Anthony Roman, was a fairground barker who died when she was a child, which forced her mother to work as a waitress, charlady and laundress. “For a while,” Roman later recounted, “we were moving regularly once a month because we couldn’t pay our rent.” She added that she never felt sorry for herself, stating, “When you start out poor you don’t know what you’re missing.”

She had little formal education – she left high school in her second year – but won a scholarship to the Bishop Lee Dramatic School, after which she worked as a cinema usher to support herself while working at night with the New England Repertory Company, a semi-professional group in Boston. Moving to New York, she tried unsuccessfully to get roles on Broadway, and instead posed for crime magazine stills at $5 an hour. With $200 saved, she next headed for Hollywood, where she lived in a boarding house with six other actresses hoping for film fame (“We called our home `The House of Seven Garbos’ “).

Roman’s combination of dark-haired beauty and wholesomeness won her a small role as a navy girl in Frank Borzage’s all-star Stage Door Canteen (1943), a tribute to New York’s famed canteen for servicemen. The film’s casting director said he chose Roman from dozens of hopefuls because, “I felt right away that here was a girl who would show up on time in the morning with her lines learned and no nonsense.”

The role was the first of many blink-and-you-miss-her bits Roman played over the next few years, including Since You Went Away (1944), Incendiary Blonde (1945), Gilda (1946) and The Big Clock (1948). She also learned to endure disappointments – a prominent role in a Ken Maynard western, Harmony Trail (1944), went unseen when the low-budget film failed to obtain a release, and a showy part in the Marx Brothers vehicle A Night in Casablanca (1946) was left on the cutting-room floor.

Her first leading role was in one of Universal’s weakest serials, Jungle Queen (1945), in which as Lothal, a jungle ruler with the ability to walk through flames, she rescued her co-stars Edward Norris and Eddie Quillan from raging lions or natives with what one critic called “boring regularity”. She played the title role in a minor western, Belle Starr’s Daughter (1947), but her breakthrough was to come when she auditioned for Stanley Kramer, who was producing a film version of Ring Lardner’s story of a ruthless boxer, Champion (1949).

Thinking she would be right for the role of the fighter’s gold-digging girlfriend, she wore a tight-fitting black dress and heavy make-up, but Kramer told her, “Actually, I thought of you for the other girl”, and cast her as the innocent girl the fighter seduces then is forced to marry. Roman said later,

My happiest 26 days in the movies were spent making the picture Champion. For, though you hear a great deal about teamwork in Hollywood, you almost never see as much of it as we did while shooting this film. Whenever there was a question about a scene, we’d hold a group conference, complete with producer, director and cast, to thrash the matter out. Each suggestion was not only considered but also thoroughly discussed. . . All this was immensely helpful to me in playing the role of Emma, for I was very young in pictures then, and this was quite a different type of role from the few I’d played.

She said of her co-star Kirk Douglas,

He surprised me on the second day of shooting by saying, “Do you know that this picture is going to make you?” I couldn’t believe that but Kirk insisted and even offered to make a bet on it. If I had taken the bet I would have lost, for the role of Emma did more for my career than any other role.

Roman’s performance as the victimised wife brought her fine reviews (“Ruth Roman’s wife is hauntingly lovely,” said the Hollywood Reporter) and her beach scene with Douglas attracted particular attention. “The scene I liked best was the one on the beach, and apparently a number of fans agreed with me. About half the letters I received asked for a picture of me in the bathing suit.” Another reason Roman enjoyed working on Champion so much was because of her passion (unrequited) for its producer Kramer, whom she would later describe as “the love of my life”.

Roman consolidated her impact in Champion with her role later that year in the highly praised B movie The Window, based on Cornell Woolrich’s story The Boy Who Cried Wolf, about a boy who constantly fabricates stories of adventure so that when he sees a real murder committed he is not believed. “It is a piece of suspense entertainment rarely equalled,” said Variety, adding that Paul Stewart and Roman were “exceptionally good as the menace, driven to their deeds more by circumstance than sheer badness”.

On the strength of these films, Warners gave Roman a contract and cast her in Beyond the Forest (1949), the last film Bette Davis, once the studio’s greatest star, was making under her contract. Roman was to later speak fondly of the star:

Bette Davis was great. I kept blowing my lines in one scene with her because they were so awful to try to say. I finally told the director that and Bette immediately came to my rescue. “She’s right,” Bette shouted. “This girl is absolutely right.” Later she told me, “Ruthie, never forget what you did today. . . never be afraid to fight for what you know is right.” And I never did forget.

Roman had a sympathetic part as Bert Lahr’s girl-friend in the vaudeville saga Always Leave Them Laughing (1949), notable for preserving some of the classic sketches of Milton Berle and Lahr, then she was given her first starring role at the studio, as a hard-bitten fugitive from justice in Barricade (1950), an undistinguished remake of The Sea Wolf with the setting changed to a western mining camp. Leading roles followed in two westerns, Colt .45 (1950) with Randolph Scott, and Dallas (1950) with Gary Cooper – routine films but popular with audiences of the time.

Three Secrets (1950), directed by Robert Wise, was a good soap opera in which Roman gave one of her most effective performances as a woman who had killed the father of her child and, before serving her prison sentence, had turned the boy over to a foster-home. A newspaper reports that a five-year-old foster-child is the sole survivor of a plane crash and Roman waits with two other women (played by her fellow contract players Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal) to see if one of them is the child’s real mother. The film’s director Wise said, “I realised Three Secrets was soap opera, but I liked the idea. I hadn’t done a woman’s picture and was intrigued by working with the three actresses who were already cast for it.”

Wise may have been happy with Roman, but Elia Kazan was shocked when the studio chief Jack Warner tried to insist that he cast her in the key role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. Finally, Kazan agreed to test Roman, but he had already made up his mind that the part should be played by Kim Hunter, who had created the role so superbly on Broadway (and was to win an Oscar for the film). Warner then insisted that Hitchcock use Roman in Strangers on a Train (1951) and the great director made it clear that he was unhappy about it.

Roman is indeed somewhat distant in the role of the senator’s daughter engaged to a tennis player (Farley Granger) suspected of murder, but it can be said in her defence that she did not have the most forcible of leading men (Hitchcock had initially wanted William Holden) and she doubtless knew that her director had little faith in her. Granger said, “Hitchcock’s disinterest in Ruth Roman and the role she played led him to be outspokenly critical and harsh with her, as he had been with Edith Evanson on the set of Rope. He had to have one person in each film he could harass.”

In Starlift (1951) Roman was one of many Warner stars playing themselves in a story of troop entertainment, and in this she came across as warm and friendly. The same year, she starred in King Vidor’s thriller Lightning Strikes Twice, helping a suspected killer (the British actor Richard Todd) prove his innocence, and she teamed with Steve Cochran as lovers on the run after an accidental killing in Tomorrow Is Another Day. Neither of the last two films did very well, and the studio’s enthusiasm for their star waned. She was loaned to MGM to take third billing to Dorothy McGuire and Van Johnson in Invitation (1952) – Variety reported, “Ruth Roman gets rather short shrift in the footage and story interest” – and she supported Errol Flynn, coming to the end of his Warner career, in a modest treasure-hunt tale, Mara Maru (1952). In Blowing Wild (1953), she was third-billed to Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, and this ended her Warner career.

Freelancing, Roman had good roles in Anthony Mann’s western The Far Country (1955) and received some of her best notices for her role as a blackmail victim in Arthur Laven’s thriller Down Three Dark Streets (1954). Throughout her career, Roman would find her physical allure commented on more frequently than her acting. She and her fellow American Paul Douglas came to England in 1956 to film Ken Hughes’s Joe Macbeth – Shakespeare transposed to the world of gangsters in the 1930s.

It was after completing a film in Italy in 1956 that she was returning home with her son on the luxury liner the Andrea Doria when it was struck by another ship. More than 50 people died, though 760 survived. Roman said afterwards that she was dancing in the ship’s ballroom when “we heard a big explosion like a fire-cracker”. She saw smoke coming from the general area of her cabin and rushed there to protect her son. He was fast asleep so she awakened him and told him, “We’re going on a picnic.” When it was clear that the boat was sinking, and passengers began entering lifeboats, a seaman put her son into a boat. Roman was following down a rope ladder when the lifeboat pulled away and she was put on another one, but she and her son were safely reunited later.

After filming Nicholas Ray’s Bitter Victory (1956) with Richard Burton, Roman returned to the stage, touring successfully in Two for the Seesaw. One of her last films was Love Has Many Faces (1964), which starred Lana Turner and featured Roman and Virginia Grey as rich ladies seeking romance in Acapulco. Roman had been appearing on television since the early 1950s and as film roles became scarcer her television work became prolific, with guest appearances in over a hundred shows including Naked City, The Defenders, Burke’s Law, Outer Limits, Gunsmoke and, in the 1980s, Knots Landing.

In 1987 Roman made her first appearance on the series Murder, She Wrote, playing the gossipy owner of the town beauty salon, and she occasionally returned to the series to play the same role.

Ruth Roman, actress: born Lynn, Massachusetts 23 December 1923; married 1940 Jack Flaxman (marriage dissolved 1941), 1950 Mortimer Hall (one son; marriage dissolved 1955), 1956 Buddy Moss (marriage dissolved); died Laguna Beach, California 9 September 1999.

The above obituary in “The Independent” can also be accessed here.

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Joan Lorring

Joan Lorring
Joan Lorring
Joan Lorring
Joan Lorring

Joan Lorring was born in 1926 in Hong Kong. She made her film debut in “Song of Russia” in 1944. She was Oscar nominated for her role in “The Corn Is Green” with Bette Davis and Mildred Dunnock. Other films incliude “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”, “Three Strangers”and “The Lost Moment”.

Her IMDB entry by Gary Brumburgh:

Joan Lorring was born Mary Magdalene Ellis in Hong Kong on April 17, 1926. She was forced to leave her native country after the outbreak of WWII and, along with her family, arrived in America as a teenager in 1939. After finding radio work in Los Angeles, the Anglo-Russian actress worked her way into films making a minor debut at age 18 in the romantic war drama Song of Russia (1944) and subsequently played the small part of Pepita in the ensemble suspenser The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944).

The following year Joan won the coveted role of the scheming, trampish Bessie oppositeBette Davis in The Corn Is Green (1945), earning a Academy Award nomination for “best supporting actress” in the process. She may have lost the Oscar trophy that year to Anne Revere for National Velvet (1944) but Warner Brothers Studio was more than impressed with the up-and-comer and eagerly signed her up. Joan proved quite able in a number of juicy film noir parts, including Three Strangers (1946) and The Verdict (1946), both opposite the malevolent pairing of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

Unexplicably her film career went into a rapid decline by the end of the decade. As a result she sought work elsewhere and maintained with stage, radio and small screen endeavors into the next decade. On Broadway she made her debut in the prime role of budding college student Marie who sets off the explosive dramatic action in “Come Back, Little Sheba” (1950) starring Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer. She continued with strong roles in “The Autumn Garden” (1951), “Dead Pigeon” (1953) and “A Clearing in the Woods” (1957). _Among her many 1950s dramatic showcases on TV was her portrayal of convicted ax-murderess Lizzie Borden’s sister Emma on an Alfred Hitchcock episode. In the 1970s, Joan made a mini comeback in the Burt Lancaster movie The Midnight Man(1974) as Cameron Mitchell‘s wife. She also performed on radio soap operas and appeared for a season on the TV soap Ryan’s Hope (1975) before phasing out her career once again. Long married to New York endocrinologist Dr. Martin Sonenberg, she is the mother of two daughters.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

“LA Times” obituary from May 2014:

Joan Lorring, 88, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the 1945 Bette Davis film “The Corn Is Green,” died Friday, said her daughter, Andrea Sonenberg. Lorring had been ill and died in a hospital in the New York City suburb of Sleepy Hollow.

Davis chose Lorring for the role of the scheming Bessie Watty in the late-19th century drama after reviewing screen tests of several actresses, according to the website of cable channel Turner Classic Movies. It was only the third film for Lorring.

Although Davis was known to speak her mind forceably on movie sets, Lorring said the star was greatly supportive of her. “I have only had one or two teachers in my life about whom I felt as strongly and positively as I did about Bette Davis,” Lorring said, according to the Turner Classic Movie website. Lorring lost the Academy Award for supporting actress to Anne Revere, who was in “National Velvet.”

Lorring went on to juicy parts in “Three Strangers” (1946) and “The Verdict” (1946), both opposite Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and she was in the 1951 film noir “The Big Night” directed by Joseph Losey.

She had numerous roles in early television series while also appearing on stage. In 1950, Lorring made her Broadway debut in the William Inge drama “Come Back, Little Sheba.” “As the blond and self-centered college girl,” New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson wrote in his review, “Joan Lorring gives a genuine and attractive performance.”

Lorring appeared on TV only a few times in the 1960s and 1970s but returned to play a role in the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope” in 1979. Her final credit was for a 1980 episode of “The Love Boat.”

She was born Madeline Ellis on April 17, 1926, in Hong Kong and moved to the U.S. in 1939. She was married to prominent endocrinologist Martin Sonenberg, who preceded her in death in 2011.

In addition to her daughter Andrea Sonenberg, she is survived by daughter Santha Sonenberg and two grandchildren.

Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

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Robert Donat

Robert Donat
Robert Donat

Robert Donat was born in 1905 in Manchester.   His stage debut came in 1921 and the following year made his first film “Men of Tomorrow”.   He suffered from asthma which restristed his career.   Although his film career is not extensive , his films are choise.   They include “The Ghost Goes West” in 1935, “The Private Lives of Henry 8th”.   He went to Hollywood to make one film “The Count of Monte Cristo” in 1934.   He won an Academy Award for his performance opposite Greer Garson in “Goodbye Mr Chips”.   His last film was in 1958 in “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” with Ingrid Bergman in 1958.   He died the same year at the age of 53.

TCM Overview:

One of Britain’s biggest stars from the Golden Age of movies, handsome Manchester native Robert Donat established himself as a formidable stage performer via one of Britain’s leading Shakespearean companies and made a splash in “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933), which also proved to be a major success abroad. A well-respected star in his homeland, Donat also built a following in America, but in the wake of “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1934), he opted to work only in England, which allowed him to continue appearing on the London stage. In between those engagements, he graced some of England’s best films of the 1930s, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” (1935), “Knight Without Armour” (1937), “The Citadel” (1938) and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939), which earned him a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. Unfortunately, chronic asthma hindered Donat for much of his life, forcing him to take long periods of convalescence; by the time he appeared in “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” (1958), he was forced to have an oxygen cylinder nearby at all times. Although poor health curtailed his career and forced Donat to turn down a number of potentially interesting roles, he managed to achieve a degree of respect and popularity with British audiences that matched such formidable contemporaries as Laurence Olivier.

Robert Donat was born Friedrich Robert Donat in Withington, Manchester, England on March 18, 1905. Intrigued by the prospect of being either a stage or screen actor, Donat first needed to overcome a pronounced stammer, which he was able to eventually do with the assistance of an elocutionist, who also helped him adopt a more neutral accent. In the wake of this speech therapy, Donat was revealed to possess a superb speaking voice and he left Central High School for Boys at age 15 in order to pursue an acting career. He made his stage debut a year later in a production of “Julius Caesar” and Donat’s proficiency with the Bard’s writings helped to establish him as an up-and-coming stage performer. He spent 1924 through 1928 as a member of Sir Frank Benson’s Company, appearing in such Shakespeare standards as “Merchant of Venice,” “King Lear” and “Hamlet.”

After honing his craft for several years with the Benson players and the Venner Repertory Company, Donat began to perform regularly in London. He soon acquired a positive reputation, but sought to appear in movies in order to help support himself and his wife. Donat first graced the silver screen in the crime drama “That Night in London” (1932), with his first notable part coming in “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933) as Thomas Culpeper. The picture was a notable critical and financial success, particularly in the United States, which led to an invitation from Hollywood for him to star in “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1934). As the unjustly besmirched Edmund Dantes, Donat made for a dashing, charismatic hero and the film proved to be a rousing and visually pleasing adaptation that satisfied both critics and the public.

Although he seemed on the verge of making a big splash in America, and was considered for the title role in “Captain Blood” (1935) that eventually went to Errol Flynn, Donat decided that he preferred working in England and returned home, where he was recruited to star in one of his most famous films, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” (1935). Playing a man unjustly suspected of murder, Donat exuded great charm in his scenes with female lead Madeleine Carroll and added greatly to the movie, considered to be among its director’s best early efforts. Donat essayed a dual part in the delightful fantasy-comedy “The Ghost Goes West” (1935), as both an American businessman and his ancestral ghost, whom he unknowingly brought back home with him after moving the family’s castle in Scotland across the ocean. Critics were less impressed than ticket buyers, but it went on to be the top grossing British motion picture upon its general release the following year. Donat also displayed excellent chemistry with Marlene Dietrich in “Knight without Armour” (1937), a lavish tale of espionage set during the Russian Revolution. In the wake of these hits, he was put under contract by the British arm of the prestigious Hollywood studio, MGM.

Donat’s career was progressing wonderfully. He had become extremely popular with movie audiences, while also being able to continue his stage work in plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Devil’s Disciple.” Unfortunately, these successes were dampened by a continuing problem with asthma attacks, which first began to afflict him earlier in the decade and caused production of “Knight Without Armour” to be halted for a month. His initial film for MGM was “The Citadel” (1938) and Donat received an Oscar nomination for his turn as a doctor who selflessly devotes himself to treating the poor, but has his ideals tested upon relocating to London and being exposed to the upper class. He was honored with a Best Actor Academy Award statue for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939), in which Donat portrayed a beloved English schoolmaster from age 25 through 83. In one his best remembered performances, Donat demonstrated remarkable range, beautifully conveying the breadth of the character’s life with both subtlety and dignity.

It would be three years before Donat returned to movies by essaying the title role in “The Young Mr. Pitt” (1942), with the historical biopic about the 19th century leader designed as a morale booster for war-weary English viewers. “The Adventures of Tartu” (1943) was a WWII thriller in the same vein, with Donat cast as a British soldier ordered to destroy a poison gas plant in occupied Czechoslovakia. That year, he also took over management of the Westminster Theatre, where he staged “The Cure for Love” and worked on radio. Donat was well matched with the lovely Deborah Kerr for the wartime romance “Perfect Strangers” (1945), though his real-life marriage to first wife Ella Annesley Voysey came to an end the following year. He appeared briefly as famous Irish politician Charles Parnell in “Captain Boycott” (1947) and enjoyed one of his best latter career parts in “The Winslow Boy” (1948), a superb adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play concerning a naval cadet falsely accused of theft.

Donat expanded his motion picture credentials via the film version of “The Cure for Love” (1949), which he also wrote, produced and directed. Audiences adored the Lancashire-set comedy, but it was too local in nature to earn much international release and would be largely forgotten in later years. Remembered somewhat more widely, “The Magic Box” (1951) found Donat playing William Friese-Greene, the purported inventor of the movie camera and projector. The production’s claim of Britain deserving said honor was widely disputed, but Donat’s compelling performance more than compensated. By that point, Donat’s asthma issues (which he felt were psychosomatic) had hindered his career to an even greater degree, but he forged ahead. In 1953, the actor wed his second wife, actress Renée Asherson, and appeared at the Old Vic in “Murder in the Cathedral,” his final stage turn. Donat’s talents provided the best reason to watch the drama “Lease of Life” (1954), his first feature after a three-year absence, but by the late 1950s, Donat’s health had disintegrated to the point where he required steady access to an oxygen tank and the shooting of “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” (1958) proved to be a difficult ordeal. He died on June 9, 1958, a brief time after the movie wrapped. His acting in “Sixth Happiness” took on an extra level of poignancy as Donat’s character was also on the verge of death. He was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

By John Charles

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

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Barbara Rush

91 Barbara Rush
Barbara Rush

Barbara Rush was born in 1927 in Denver, Colorado.   She made her screen debut with “The Goldbergs” in 1951.   She starred among the major actors of the 1950’s including Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, James Mason, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis.   Her film credits include “When Worlds Collide”, “Bigger Than Life” in 1956, “The Bramble Bush” and “Hombre” in 1967.   Recently she appeared as Stephen Collin#s mother in the very popular TV series “7th Heaven”.

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:

The epitome of poise, charm, style and grace, beautiful brunette Barbara Rush was born in Denver, Colorado in 1927 and enrolled at the University of California before working with the University Players and taking acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse. It didn’t take long for talent scouts to spot her and, following a play performance, Paramount quickly signed her up in 1950, making her debut with The Goldbergs (1950). Just prior to this, she had met fellow actor Jeffrey Hunter, an incredibly handsome newcomer who would later become a “beefcake” bobbysoxer idol over at Fox. The two fell in love quickly and married in December of 1950. Soon, they were on their way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most beautiful and photogenic young couples. Their son Christopher was born in 1952.

While at Paramount, she was decorative in such assembly-line fare as When Worlds Collide (1951), Quebec (1951), The First Legion (1951), Flaming Feather (1952) andPrince of Pirates (1953). Universal picked up her option where she continued to provide love interest angles amid the action and derring-do with It Came from Outer Space(1953), Taza, Son of Cochise (1954) and The Black Shield of Falworth (1954). She finally got her break with the second lead femme role in the popular Jane Wyman tearjerkerMagnificent Obsession (1954), the movie that certified Rock Hudson as a top star. From there, Barbara’s own star began to ascend in more quality pictures. She co-starred opposite some of Hollywood’s top leading males in such glossy dramas as Bigger Than Life (1956) starring James MasonNo Down Payment (1957) with ex-husband Jeffrey Hunter (they had divorced in 1955), The Young Lions (1958) starring Montgomery Clift,Marlon Brando and Dean MartinThe Young Philadelphians (1959) alongside Paul NewmanThe Bramble Bush (1960) with Richard Burton and Strangers When We Meet(1960) with Kirk Douglas. In most cases, she played brittle wives, conniving “other women” or socialite girlfriend types.

Despite the “A” list movies Barbara was piling up, the one single role that could put her over the top never showed its face. By the early 60s, her film career started to decline. She married publicist Warren Cowan in 1959 and bore a second child, Claudia Cowan, in 1964. TV became a viable source of income for Barbara, appearing in scores of guest parts on the more popular shows of the time (Peyton Place (1964), Medical Center(1969), Ironside (1967)) while co-starring in standard mini-movie dramas. She even had a bit of fun playing a “guest villainess” on the Batman (1966) series as temptress “Nora Clavicle”. The stage also became a strong focus for Barbara, earning the Sarah Siddons Award for her starring role in “Forty Carats”. She made her Broadway debut in the one-woman 1980s showcase “A Woman of Independent Means”, which also subsequently earned her the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award during its tour. Other showcases included “Private Lives”, “Same Time, Next Year”, “The Night of the Iguana” and “Steel Magnolias”. The still-beautiful Ms. Rush occasionally graces the big and small screen these days, more recently in a recurring role on TV’s 7th Heaven (1996).

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

TCM overview:

An attractive leading lady often cast in well-bred roles, Barbara Rush entered films at the tail end of the studio system, making her debut in a small role in “Molly” (1950), based on the popular radio show “The Goldbergs”. She went on to play leading ladies in some top pictures, but appeared in numerous forgettable ones before breaking into TV in the 1960s. Although Rush won her first leading roles in such Paramount films as “The First Legion” (1951), she is probably better remembered as Joan, the woman who loves Paul Newman even after he chooses a job over her hand in marriage, in “The Young Philadelphians” (1959), and opposite Frank Sinatra in “Come Blow Your Horn” (1963). She also had key roles in “The Young Lions” (1958), “The Man” (1972), and an amusing supporting role in “Can’t Stop the Music” (1980).

Rush first worked as a series regular playing a Washington newspaper correspondent in “Saints and Sinners” (NBC, 1962). She garnered some notice for her season-long (1968-69) stint as Marcia Russell on ABC’s primetime soap “Peyton Place”. Rush then tried her hand at comedy, portraying a temperamental soap opera star on “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” (CBS, 1973-74). In the early 80s, it was back to the real thing as the matriarch Eudora Weldon on NBC’s “Flamingo Road” (1981-82) and a brief turn on ABC’s daytime staple “All My Children”.

Approaching the age when actresses find roles difficult to land, Rush stayed active on stage appearing throughout the USA in such fluff as “Forty Carats” and “Same Time, Next Year”. She commissioned and earned rave reviews in the solo theatrical piece “A Woman of Independent Means”, based on the novel by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey in New York and Los Angeles. More recently, Rush returned to the small screen appearing in the recurring role of Stephen Collins’ mother in “7th Heaven” (The WB).