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Archive for January, 2011

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Edith Atwater

Edith Atwater
Edith Atwater

Character actress Edith Atwater was born in Chicago in 1911. She made her Broadway debut in 1933 and six years later she had a leading role on stage in “The Man Who Came to Dinner”. Her films include “Sweet Smell of Success” in 1957 and “Straitjacket” in 1964. She died in 1985, the same year as her husband Kent Smith.

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Carol Channing

Carol Channing
Carol Channing

Carol Channing was born in Seattle in 1921.   She is best known for her performance in “Hello Dolly” on Broadway which opened in 1964.   Her films include “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Skiddoo”.

IMDB entry:

Carol Channing was born January 31, 1921, at Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a prominent newspaper editor, who was very active in the Christian Science movement. She attended high school in San Francisco and later worked as a model in Los Angeles. She attended prestigious Bennington College in Vermont and majored in drama and dance and supplemented her work by taking parts in nearby Pocono Resort area. She initially made her mark on Broadway in “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” playing Lorelei Lee. In “Hello Dolly” she played Dolly Gallagher Levi, the witty, manipulative widow intent upon finding a wealthy husband. The musical won ten Tony awards in 1964, including Channing’s for best actress in a comedy. Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children made their first public appearance after President John F. Kennedy‘s death by seeing her perform in “Hello Dolly” and later visited her backstage. She appeared in the film Thoroughly Modern Millie(1967). Her son is a Pulitizer Prize-nominated finalist cartoonist and she continues to practice her Christian Science religion.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Mike McKinley <alovelyway@aol.com>

The above IMDB entry can also be accessedon line here.

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Gary Busey

Gary Busey
Gary Busey

Gary Busey was borin in 1944 in Goose Creek, Texas. In 1978 he starred in the title role in “The Buddy Holly Story”. That same year he also starred with Jan-Michael Vincent and William Katt in the iconic classic “The Big Wednesday”.

IMDB entry:

A blond-haired, fair-complexioned actor with a toothy grin and capable of an unsettling glint in his eyes, Gary Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, and was raised in Oklahoma. He is the son of Sadie Virginia (Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmar Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. He has English, as well as Irish, Scottish, and German, ancestry. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1962 and for a while was a professional musician. A talented drummer, he played in several bands, including those of country-and-western legends Leon RussellKris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.

Busey’s first film appearance was as a biker in the low-budget Angels Hard as They Come(1971) and, over the next few years, he landed several film roles generally as a country hick/redneck or surly, rebellious types. His real breakthrough came in the dynamic filmThe Buddy Holly Story (1978), with Busey taking the lead role as Buddy Holly, in addition to playing guitar and singing all the vocals! His stellar performance scored him a Best Actor nomination and the attention of Hollywood taking overcasting agents. Next up, he joined fellow young actors William Katt and Jan-Michael Vincent as surfing buddies growing up together in the cult surf film Big Wednesday (1978), directed by John Milius. However, a string of appearances in somewhat mediocre films took him out of the spotlight for several years, until he played the brutal assassin Mr. Joshua trying to kill Los Angeles cops Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the runaway mega-hit Lethal Weapon(1987). Further strong roles followed, including alongside Danny Glover once again inPredator 2 (1990). He was back on the beaches, this time tracking bank robbers with FBI agent Keanu Reeves, in Point Break (1991) and nearly stole the show as a psychotic Navy officer in league with terrorists led by Tommy Lee Jones taking over the USS Missouri in the highly popular Under Siege (1992).

The entertaining Busey has continued to remain busy in front of the cameras and has certainly developed a minor cult following among many film fans. Plus, he’s also the proud father of accomplished young actor Jake Busey, whose looks make him almost a dead ringer for his famous father.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44@hotmail.c

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

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Sidney Poitier

Sir Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier
Joanna Smimkus.. & Sidney Poitier
Joanna Smimkus.. & Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier was born in 1927 in Miami, Floria. He was brought up on the Bahamas islands. He began his acting career on the New York stage. In 1950 he was given a leading role in “No Way Out” opposite Richard Widmark and Linda Darnell. He came into his own in the 1960’s with magnificent performances in such films as “Lilies of the Field” in 1963, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in 1967, “To Sir With Love” with Judy Geeson and “In the Heat of the Night” with Rod Steiger. In 1969 he made “The Lost Man” with Joanna Shimkus whom he subsequently married. Sidney Poitier is one of the iconic figures of American cinema. Joanna Shimkus was born in 1943 in Halifax, Novia Scotia. In 1962 she went to Paris to pursue a career as a model. She began acting in French movies and made her debut in 1964 in “De l’amour”. She starred opposite Alain Delon in “The Adventurers” and “Boom” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. After her marriage to Sidney Poitier, she gave up acting to concentrate on family life and bring up her two daughters.

TCM Overview:

As elegant and quietly commanding a personality as ever graced motion pictures, Sidney Poitier came to the fore of American culture in the 1950s and 1960s as a fine actor, and as an ambassador of America’s long-delayed civil rights movement. While other actors and actresses of color made impact before and after him, Poitier in his time leveraged his mesmerizing screen presence into a culture-changing force. His very first film set off a chain of events that freed his native Bahamas of British colonial rule, and from there he not only became the first black Best Actor Oscar winner – for “Lilies of the Field” (1963) – but was the number-one box-office draw in 1967 in a triumvirate of movies: “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), “To Sir, with Love” (1967) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (1967). The regal Poitier’s influence as an admirable role model of any color could not be underestimated. As he phased himself out of entertainment, his worldwide prestige would allow his native Bahamas to call on him to take on the new role of diplomat and representative to the United Nations. Simply put, Sidney Poitier became a beloved national treasure and symbol of a struggle almost as old as the United States itself.

Sidney Poitier was born prematurely on Feb. 20, 1927, to Bahamian citizens and tomato farmers, Reggie and Evelyn Poitier, on a trip to Miami, FL to bring their harvest to market. Weighing only three pounds as a newborn, his parents did not know if he would survive, and in Miami, his mother sought the prognosis of a local fortuneteller, who, for fifty cents, reassured her. As Poitier later recalled the story in his memoir The Measure of a Man, his mother was told that Sidney would not only survive, he would “travel to most of the corners of the Earth. He will walk with kings. He will be rich and famous. Your name will be carried all over the world.” Poitier did survive and grew up outside Arthur’s Town on the Bahamas’ Cat Island, a 46-mile-long island in the British colony, enduring an impoverished but idyllic boyhood. The family lit its small house with kerosene lamps, and Poitier occupied his idle hours with free reign of the island, roaming, climbing trees, swimming and fishing. This sense of freedom would greatly influence the self-confidence with which he would eventually deal with the color barriers awaiting him in the States.

In 1936, when the tomato market faltered, his family moved to the colony’s capital, Nassau, in search of work. The city would introduce him to the marvels of electricity, cars and movies – he saw his first film at age 12 and decided he wanted to be a cowboy – but also to his second-class citizenship, as the colony remained governed by a white minority and he found even equally poor white boys treating him as an inferior. He quit school the same year to help support his family, but his father sent him to live with an older brother in Miami. After two years of menial work and even more dehumanizing treatment than in Nassau, including one encounter with the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, he left Florida for New York. Relegated to work as a dishwasher in Harlem, he wound up homeless and, afraid of freezing as winter set in, lied about his age to join the U.S. Army, which assigned him to a medical/psychiatric unit on Long Island.

Disillusioned with how the Army treated its addled soldiers, he tapped his experience with them to fake insanity himself and received a discharge. He returned to Harlem, where he auditioned at the American Negro Theater, but his poor reading skills and Caribbean accent made the performance awkward at best. His interviewer told him he might find work washing dishes. Though he held no previous aspirations of treading the boards, Poitier abruptly developed them. “I got so pissed, I said, ‘I’m going to become an actor – whatever that is,'” he said years later. Six months later, Sidney Poitier returned to the theater having remade himself. He had purchased a radio and begun repeating what he heard on it, enunciating how radio announcers did. Rejected again, he agreed to work as the theater’s janitor in exchange for classes. He wound up understudying for another Caribbean transplant, Harry Belafonte, in the play “Days of Our Youth,” which became a launchpad for other stage roles, including a short Broadway stint in a production of the Greek comedy “Lysistrata” featuring an all-African-American cast, and “Anna Lucasta,” in which he performed both on Broadway and in the touring production. It was enough to get the attention of 20th Century Fox, which signed Poitier to a contract in September 1949, and put him to work on what was then one of the most unvarnished examinations of American race relations in cinematic history, Joseph Mankiewicz’s “No Way Out” (1950). The year 1950 would be a monumental one for Poitier as he married dancer Juanita Hardy, and “No Way Out” became a first of a career of firsts.

Instead of a stereotypical role, Poitier, just 22 – but telling Mankiewicz he was 27 – played a young ER doctor who deals with racism even among the patients whose lives he saves. While not the first “Negro problem” film, as mainstream media called it, Ebony magazine called it the “first out-and-out blast against racial discrimination in everyday American life,” even as film boards in Chicago, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania demanded selective edits of the film before they would approve it for screening. Mankiewicz and Fox chief Daryl Zanuck refused, though it limited the film’s distribution. The film would impact even harder in Poitier’s homeland, where the white colonial government banned it, fearing it would be inflammatory on the majority of black inhabitants. This angered many black residents eager to see their ascendant countryman, and a local attorney organized them into “The Citizens Committee,” which embarked upon a campaign to end the ban. They succeeded, and much of the leaders and rank-and-file would in 1953 found the Progressive Liberal Party, which became the primary catalyst for Bahamian independence.

Poitier became a go-to actor for the rare roles of will and character offered actors of African descent in the 1950s. He journeyed to Africa for two revolutionary roles; a clergyman beset by apartheid society in “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1951) – shot on location in South Africa, where director Zoltan Korda had to convince authorities Poitier and co-star Canada Lee were his servants in order to associate with them – and a Kenyan revolutionary in “Something of Value” (1957). Poitier consistently and consciously took roles that defied traditional type, playing a steely high-school tough torn between the streets and his scholarly potential in “The Blackboard Jungle” (1955); an educated, rebellious antebellum slave in “Band of Angels” (1957); and an amicable, self-assured dockworker standing up to a racist boss in the Martin Ritt’s debut noir, “Edge of the City” (1957).

Still, when powerful independent producer Samuel Goldwyn began prepping a film version of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Poitier found his personal code challenged. Many African-Americans had come to view the opera, populated mostly with impoverished, pidgin-talking African-Americans in the South, as a symbol of cultural condescension. Poitier’s friend Harry Belafonte refused the lead male role, and when Goldwyn next turned to Poitier, he also had grave misgivings about taking the part. But producer-director Stanley Kramer had him on the line for a prestige project he wanted, and Poitier later said he feared that, if he did not do “Porgy,” Goldwyn might exert his influence to blackball him for that and future parts. He did the movie, and expressed regret about it for years after, but Kramer’s picture, “The Defiant Ones” (1959), vaulted him into Hollywood’s rarified echelon.

“The Defiant Ones” cast Poitier opposite Tony Curtis as two convicts on the lam, forced to deal with the chain that still binds them together and mutual disdain stemming from Curtis’ character’s abrasive racism. The odyssey winnows down their differences to yield a basic respect for and obligation to each other. According to Poitier, Curtis was slated to receive the only above-title billing, but requested Kramer put both their names on the opening title card. Top-billing made Poitier eligible for the Best Actor Oscar the next year, and he received the nomination – making him the first African-American male to be receive an acting nomination in the lead category (“Porgy” co-star Dorothy Dandridge had been nominated as Best Actress for “Carmen Jones” in 1954).

The next year, he would participate in another first, returning to Broadway to star as Walter Lee Younger in the first play by a black playwright ever put up on the Great White Way, Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Poitier gave a stunningly raw performance as a family man seething at social oppression, and was nominated for the 1960 Tony Award as Best Dramatic Actor. He reprised the role when Columbia Pictures translated the play to film in 1961. He was next paired with Paul Newman in a moody tale of American expatriate jazz musicians in “Paris Blues” (1961), then did a turn as a psychoanalyst parsing the dark mind of an American Nazi (Bobby Darin), and realizing his own hatreds therein in “Pressure Point” (1962), before landing the part that would see him to the thespian’s Promised Land. In “The Lilies of the Field” (1963), Poitier played Homer Smith, an itinerant handyman who chances by a remote Arizona farm run by German nuns, who convince him to help them with some minor repairs. His performance made him the first black actor to win the Best Actor Oscar. Expecting again to be passed over, he prepared no acceptance speech and, nearly breathless, accepted the award with a mere three sentences, notably beginning, “It is a long journey to this moment.”

Poitier reunited twice with old friend Richard Widmark; first for a Viking adventure “The Long Ships” (1964), then for another wholly race-independent role, the dark, gripping Cold War drama, “The Bedford Incident” (1965), a cautionary tale of nuclear brinksmanship. He did a memorable turn in “A Patch of Blue” (1965) as a stranger who befriends a young, uneducated blind woman, who does not know he is black and only discovers it through her alarmed, racist mother (Shelley Winters, in an Oscar-winning role). But 1967 would see the true payoff to Poitier’s Oscar win. In that year, he took center stage in no less than three landmark films: “To Sir, With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Though he’d dallied with the innovative-teacher-saves-otherwise-forsaken-students concept before in “The Blackboard Jungle,” Poitier made “To Sir, With Love” the truly seminal film of the genre, playing West Indian engineer Mark Thackeray, who, unable to find a job in his trade, accepts one teaching marginal, troubled cockney students in London and reached them via honest empathy and by treating them as adults. Buoyed by the popular title song by Britpop star Lulu (who also played a student), the film became a sleeper hit.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” returned Poitier to the familiar turf of “Negro problem” pictures, but with a contemporized twist: instead of battling the unabashed ignorance of racist America, he found himself opposite sophisticated Northerners played by Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film). The grand old screen duo played an ostensibly enlightened couple who find their liberal sensibilities strained when their daughter brings home her fiancé, an older, divorced doctor, who just happens to be Poitier. Again under Kramer’s direction, the picture parlayed the myriad pitfalls of the stark realities simple “love” still faced, given the country’s darkly drawn racial lines, especially at the zenith of the civil rights movement; the Supreme Court had just that summer struck down 14 Southern states’ standing laws against interracial marriages, and Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated while the film was still in theaters. The film’s heady discourse struck a chord, taking in a for-the-time whopping $56.7 million at the box office in North America.

But Poitier’s most dauntlessly cool performance came in “In the Heat of the Night,” a steamy neo-noir that set Poitier in the heart of the deep South – still so blatantly segregated that Poitier nixed location shooting in Mississippi, prompting the production to move to tiny Sparta, IL. Poitier played a Philadelphia homicide detective, Virgil Tibbs, initially accused of a murder in a hick Mississippi town, who then assists the local Sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger) solve the case. Under the deft direction of Norman Jewison, Poitier and Steiger played a dueling character study; a sophisticated black authority the likes of which the town has never seen versus an abrasive, outwardly racist yokel stereotype more enlightened and thoughtful than he lets on. The film also proved a hit, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor (Steiger). Poitier’s three films in 1967 made him, by total box-office receipts, the No. 1 box-office draw in Hollywood.

And yet, even in the thick of his success, Poitier’s singular identification as the spokesman for African-Americans came with proportionate scrutiny. While he had embraced the civil rights movement publicly – he keynoted the annual convention of Martin Luther King’s activist Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967 – some in the African-American community (as well as some film critics) began vocalizing their displeasure with the never-ending string of saintly and sexless characters Poitier played. Black playwright and drama critic Clifford Mason became the sounding board for these sentiments in an analysis published on the front page of The New York Times’ drama section on Sept. 10, 1967. Mason referred to Poitier’s characters as “unreal” and essentially “the same role, the antiseptic, one-dimensional hero.” Although devastated by the attacks, Poitier himself had begun to chafe against the cultural restrictions which cast him as the unimpeachable role model instead of a fully flawed and functioning human.

Poitier attempted to take a greater hand in his work, penning a romantic comedy that he would star in called “For the Love of Ivy” (1968), and attempting a more visceral representation of the travails of inner city America in “The Lost Man” (1969), but neither met the success of his previous films or effectively muted his critics. The Times’ Vincent Canby called the latter, “Poitier’s attempt to recognize the existence and root causes of black militancy without making anyone – white or black – feel too guilty or hopeless.” He also founded a creator-controlled studio, First Artists Corp., with partners Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand. But his damaged image, amid an up-and-coming crop of black actors unencumbered by his “integrationist” stigma, enforced a sense of isolation about Poitier, likely amplified by a falling out with his longtime friend Belafonte and his estrangement from wife Juanita. Some of that oddly went reflected in an unlikely, blaxploitation-infused sequel, “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!” (1970), in which he reprised his classic character to ill-effect. By 1970, Poitier had struck up a passionate new romance with Canadian model Joanna Shimkus and exiled himself to a semi-permanent residence in The Bahamas.

He would make one more forgettable Tibbs sequel, “The Organization” (1971), but he would return to Hollywood in a different capacity. With Hollywood now recognizing the power of the black purse, even for cheaply produced “blaxploitation” pictures, Columbia saw the potential for “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), in which Harry Belafonte and Poitier would play mismatched Western adventurers who team up to save homesteading former slaves from cowboy predators. Belafonte co-produced and Poitier, after initial squabbles with the director, was given reign by the studio to complete the film in the director’s chair. He produced, directed and starred in his next outing, a tepid romance called “A Warm December” (1973), which tanked, but he found his stride soon after back among friends. He directed and starred with Belafonte, Bill Cosby and an up-and-coming Richard Pryor in their answer to the blaxploitation wave, “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974), an action/comedy romp about two regular guys (Cosby and Poitier) whose devil-may-care night out becomes an odyssey through the criminal underworld.

“Uptown” proved such a winning combo that Poitier would make two more successful buddy pictures starring himself and Cosby: “Let’s Do it Again” (1975) and “A Piece of the Action” (1977). Poitier also returned to Africa and an actor-only capacity for another anti-apartheid film, “The Wilby Conspiracy” (1975), co-starring Michael Caine. After marrying Shimkus in 1976, he returned to the States most notably to direct Pryor’s own buddy picture; the second comedy pairing Pryor with Gene Wilder, “Stir Crazy” (1980), a story about two errant New Yorkers framed for a crime in the west and imprisoned. With Poitier letting the two actors’ fish-out-of-water comic talents play off their austere environs, the film became one of highest-grossing comedies of all time. A later outing with Wilder, “Hanky Panky” (1982), and a last directorial turn with Cosby, the infamous flop “Ghost Dad” (1990), proved profoundly less successful.

After more than a decade absent from the screen, he made a celebrated return as an actor in the 1988 action flick “Shoot to Kill” and the espionage thriller “Little Nikita” (1988), though both proved less than worthy of the milestone. He would take parts rarely after that; only those close to his heart in big-budget TV movie events: NAACP lawyer -later the U.S.’s first African-American Supreme Court justice – Thurgood Marshall in “Separate But Equal” (ABC, 1991); Nelson Mandela, the heroic South African dissident and later president, in “Nelson & De Klerk” (Showtime, 1997); and “To Sir, With Love II” (CBS, 1996). He also took some choice supporting roles in feature actioners “Sneakers” (1992) and “The Jackal” (1997). In 1997, the Bahamas appointed Poitier its ambassador to Japan, and has also made him a representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier No. 22 in the top 25 male screen legends, and in 2006, the AFI’s list of the “100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time” tabulated more Poitier films than those of any other actor except Gary Cooper (both had five). In 2002, he was given an Honorary Oscar with the inscription, “To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being,” and in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here,
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John Payne

John Payne
John Payne

John Payne was born in 1912 in Virginia.   A very underrated actor, his career is in definite need of reappraisal.   His films of note include “The Razor’s Edge” with Tyrone and Gene Tierney in 1946, two with Maureen O’Hara, “Sentimental Journey” and the classic “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Slightly Scarlet” with Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl and “Hold Back the Night”.   John Payne died in 1989 aged 77.

His IMDB entry:

Perhaps not so surprisingly, John Payne maintained that his favorite movie of all time was one of his own — Miracle on 34th Street (1947) — simply because it reflected his own strong and spiritual belief system. It was Payne, in fact, who pressured his studio (20th Century-Fox) to film it while putting up his own money! Today, of course, the film, which co-stars beautiful Maureen O’Hara, Oscar-winning Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and little non-believing scene-stealer Natalie Wood, is a perennial holiday favorite.

Born John Howard Payne on May 23, 1912, he was the middle son of three boys (Peter and Robert were the others). His parents, businessman George Washington Payne and former Met singer Ida Hope (ne Schaeffer) Payne were quite well-to-do and came from a rich heritage. John was named after an ancestor who wrote the song, “Home, Sweet, Home.” The boys grew up privileged on a Roanoke, Virginia estate complete with equestrian stables and swimming pools. At his mother’s request, John took singing lessons in order to curb an extreme shyness problem. During his teens, the boy was shipped off to Mercersburg Academy, a prep school in Pennsylvania, and later was studying at Roanoke College at the time his father died. John was forced to give up his studies in an effort to help support his family, finding work as a male nurse and, better yet, a radio singer at a local station. Eventually, he was able to return to his studies, enrolling at the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University. John continued to find work as a singer and even earned some extra cash as a boxer (“Tiger” Jack Payne) and wrestler.

The tall (6’4″), dark and handsome Payne, in his mid-20s, eventually turned to the stage and, while understudying Reginald Gardiner in the musical “At Home Abroad,” was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn during a performance signed for film work. Billed initially as John Howard Payne, he made his debut with a minor role in Dodsworth (1936), but nothing else came of it and he was released. Freelancing in minor musicals and comedies, he appeared in a starring role (billed now as John Payne) opposite soon-to-be acting guru Stella Adler in Love on Toast (1937), and also teamed up vocally with Betty Grable on a radio show. Payne met actress Anne Shirley during this time and the couple married in August of 1937. Three years later they had a daughter, Julie Payne, who would become an actress in her own right. The happiness for John and Anne wouldn’t last, however, and the couple divorced in 1943.

In 1937, Paramount took over the actor’s interest with a featured part in Bob Hope‘sCollege Swing (1938). Warner Bros. then signed him up briefly, allowing him a third-billed role in the Busby Berkeley musical Garden of the Moon (1938) starring Pat O’Brienand Margaret Lindsay in which he sang the title song as well as the tune “Love Is Where You Find It,” among others. Again, John didn’t have the right studio fit until 20th Century-Fox came along in 1940. Then it all began to happen for him. Co-starring roles opposite Alice Faye in the musicals Tin Pan Alley (1940) and Week-End in Havana (1941), and with popular skating star Sonja Henie in Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Iceland(1942) started the ball rolling. But it was a starring role in the war tearjerker Remember the Day (1941), in which he was romantically paired with Claudette Colbert, that secured his place as a dramatic actor and gave him one of his best career showcases.

After co-starring with former radio partner Betty Grable in Springtime in the Rockies(1942), John served a two-year hitch (1942-1944) with the Army. Upon his discharge he went right back to courting Betty Grable in the musical film The Dolly Sisters (1945) and met 18-year-old singer/actress Gloria DeHaven during its shoot. The twosome wed in 1945 and a daughter and son were born within three years. Problems arose when Gloria insisted on continuing her career and the couple, after on and off separations, finally divorced in 1950. John’s early post-WWII work offered some of his finest roles with significant non-singing parts coming in the form of Sentimental Journey (1946) withMaureen O’Hara which was a project he bought for himself, the glossy epic The Razor’s Edge (1946) co-starring Gene TierneyMiracle on 34th Street (1947), again paired up magically with O’Hara, and Larceny (1948) with Joan Caulfield.

When John left 20th Century-Fox, his film vehicles grew more routine. Crimers, war drama, and westerns became the norm but a smart and lucrative business arrangement (that included a seven-picture deal) with action producers William H. Pine and William C. Thomas (Pine-Thommas Productions) compensated greatly. As such John appeared in El Paso (1949), Tripoli (1950), Passage West (1951), Kansas City Confidential (1952). 99 River Street (1953), Silver Lode (1954) and ended the deal with Slightly Scarlet (1956). A shrewd businessman, Payne also obtained rights to these films in the aftermath. In 1953, he entered into his third and final marriage to Alexandra (“Sandy”) Crowell Curtis, the former wife of actor Alan Curtis. In addition to returning to his singing roots with Las Vegas showroom engagements, John went on to star in his own western TV series The Restless Gun (1957) which lasted two seasons. Daughter Julie appeared in one episode.

A very serious 1961 accident, however, in which John was hit by a car in New York City, slowed him down considerably. It took well over two years for him to recover enough from his leg fractures and facial/scalp wounds to return to acting. In 1964, he co-starred on Broadway with Lisa Kirk in the Broadway musical “Here’s Love”. A decade later he returned to the arms of Alice Faye when they reunited on stage with a Broadway revival of “Good News”. Unfortunately he had to leave the show prematurely as the dancing required was re-aggravating his leg pain. His 70s career ended with TV roles on such shows as “Gunsmoke,” “Cade’s Country” and “Columbo”.

Retiring in 1975, John focused quietly on reading, writing short stories, flying and cooking. In addition to daughter Julie, two of his grandchildren went on to become actresses as well — Katharine Towne and Holly Payne. Payne died on December 6, 1989 at his Malibu home of congestive heart failure. A reliable and steady leading man who may not have been a great mover or shaker on screen, he nonetheless brought tremendous entertainment to his fans both musically and dramatically in a career that lasted four decades.

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

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

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Pat Suzuki

Pat Suzuki
Pat Suzuki

Pat Suzuki was born in California in 1930.   She had a neat reputation as a popular singer when she starred with Miyoshi Umeki on Broadway in “Flower Drum Song” in 1958 directed by Gene Kelly.   Her role in the film was played by Nancy Kwan.   Ms Suzuki’s films include “Scullduggery” with Burt Reynolds in 1970 and “Year of the Dragon”.

IMDB entry:

Pat Suzuki was born Chiyoko Suzuki in Cressy, California (northern California) on September 23, in the early 1930s. As the youngest of four children, she was nicknamed “Chiby”, which was Japanese for “squirt”. She grew up on the family farm, and discovered her love for singing early on at church on Sundays and at local events. But things took a bad turn with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Pat and her family were one of many Japanese-American families forced to enter internment camps. After release from the camp, her family returned to California. After attending college at San Jose State, she left for New York, and obtained a job as an understudy in a touring production of “Tea House of the August Moon”. While in Seattle, an impromptu performance so impressed the owner of a local club, called The Colony, that she was offered a permanent job there. It was during this time when she hit her first big break. Bing Crosby happened to catch her act one summer night in 1957, and was so taken with her that he immediately referred her to RCA Records. This led to the 1958 release of her first album, titled “The Many Sides of Pat Suzuki”. She was in high demand, and made appearances on such shows as “The Frank Sinatra Show”, which also led to a role in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s production of “Flower Drum Song”. After the show’s run, she met and married her husband, photographer Mark Shaw, and gave birth to a son. Throughout the 1970s, she continued to perform and record her music. She also appeared alongside Pat Morita on the short-lived sitcom “Mr. T. and Tina”, which was a first sitcom starring an Asian-American family. She is active in supporting Asian-American rights, and performs occasionally (in places as prestigious as Lincoln Center). In 1999 she released “The Very Best of Pat Suzuki”.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous.

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Miyoshi Umeki & Pat Suzuki
Miyoshi Umeki & Pat Suzuki
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Miles O’Keeffe

Miles O'Keeffe
Miles O’Keeffe

Miles O’Keefe was born in Tennessee in 1954.   He is best known for his perfmance in the title role of “Tarzan the Ape Man” in 1981.   Other movies include “The Drifter” and  “Waxwork”.

IMDB entry:

Attended the Air Force Academy Prep School after high school. He quit and switched over to Mississippi State to play football, but was forced to quit when he broke his hand. He then transferred to the University of the South, and graduated with a B.A. in psychology. He worked a year as a counselor at the Tennesse State Prison, then traveled around a bit before being asked to appear as an extra in a TV movie. He moved to Los Angeles in 1980, and sent in his picture to the makers of Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981). The rest is history.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Jason Parker and Sean Kilby <gestalt@ix.netcom.co

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Craig McLachlan

Craig McLaughlan
Craig McLaughlan

Craig McLachlan was born in 1965 in New South Wales, Australia. He began his acting career on Australian TV soaps such as “Neighbours” and “Home and Away”. In 2005 he starred in “Hating Alison Ashley” on film and currently he is on TV in “At Home With Julia”.

IMDB entry:

Craig McLachlan is one of Australia’s most versatile actors and a household name both in Australia and the U.K. He has been the recipient of the top Australian television accolade, the coveted Gold Logie and his stage production of Grease held the U.K. West End all time box office record from 1993 right up to 2010.

He is an actor of huge range who is equally comfortable in film, television or stage productions. He not only carries with him huge personal charisma but is also not afraid to use it, which might account for his singular popularity across a wide range of audience demographics both in Australia and internationally.

Craig first appeared on television in a guest role on the TV drama Sons And Daughters in late 1986. He became famous in 1987 in the role of Henry Ramsay, brother of Kylie Minogue’s character Charlene, in Neighbours, a role which not only garnered him significant praise both in Australia and the UK but also led to an offer two years later to play schoolteacher Grant Mitchell on Home And Away, thereby becoming one of the few actors to achieve popularity in all of the major Australian television dramas.

Craig has also had Major success as a singer and songwriter, achieving Australian and UK hit singles with such songs as “Amanda” (AUS#23 / UK#19, 1990), and “On My Own” (AUS#23, 1991) and the now classic remake of the Bo Diddley song “Mona” (AUS#3 / UK#2, 1990),

In 1993 he was invited to London and starred as Danny Zuko in the popular West End revival of the musical Grease alongside Deborah Gibson, a role he played to great acclaim .If this wasn’t enough in 1995 Craig appeared in the popular British television series BUGS, as a free-lance agent and electronics expert, who along with his colleagues worked covertly to combat terrorist threats. Proving that his abilities extended beyond television series and stage productions he appeared in the major television movie Catherine The Great alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeanne Moreau and Omar Sharif.

In 2001, Craig had a breakthrough with the American movie Superfire, The first of many US attached performances and in 2004, was asked to take the role of Kane Morgan in the popular show, McLeod’s Daughters.

In 2005 he starred as Jeff Kennard in the successful Australian film Hating Alison Ashley, with fellow Neighbours star Delta Goodrem, and then returned to London to take over the role of Caracticus Potts in the London Palladium Production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with Richard O’Brien as the Child Catcher, who had long been a fan of Craig’s ever since Craig played Richards greatest creation, Fran ‘N Furter In The Rocky Horror Show, in 2003.

Craig continues to be popular and his star shows no sign of diminishing as is demonstrated by his appearance as Billy Flynn in Australia and Asia in Chicago as well as roles in the hit series City Homicide, The Cut, and the number one Australia TV series Packed To The Rafters. Combine this with his stand out performances in the feature films Savage Crossings and Amar A Moir and it becomes clear that Craig is not only here to stay but is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in all aspects of his profession.

Craig is thrilled to be working back in Australia with the hit show Rescue Special Opps during 2010.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: S and J Management

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

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Jim Carter

Jim Carter was born in 1948 in Harrowgate, Yorkshire.   His first appearance in a television series was in “Fox” in 1980.   His movie debut was in “Flash Gordon”.   His film appearances include “The Company of Wolves”, “A Private Function” and “Ella Enchanted”.   His most recent appearance was in the very popular mini-series “Downton Abbey” with Maggie Smith.   He is married to actress Imelda Staunton.

Jim Carter
Jim Carter
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Diane Brewster

Diane Brewster
Diane Brewster

Diane Brewster was born in 1931 in Kansas City.   She made her film debut in “Lucy Gallant” in 1955.   Her other films include “Quantrill’s Raiders”, and “Torpedo Run”.   She made many appearances on television programmes throughout the late 50’s and mid 60’s.   She died in 1991 in California.

IMDB Entry:

Diane Brewster was born on March 11, 1931, in Kansas City, Missouri. She was largely a character actress in both motion pictures and television. She was 24 years old when she began acting on TV. Her first role was in a few episodes of the westerns Cheyenne(1955) and Zane Grey Theater (1956). Her first motion picture roles was as Sylvia Quentin in Pharaoh’s Curse (1957) in 1956. However, most older viewers remember her as the attractive grade school teacher Miss Canfield on the popular TV comedy seriesLeave It to Beaver (1957). While her last big screen appearance was as Kate Lawrence inThe Young Philadelphians (1959) in 1959, Diane made one more TV appearance onFamily Affair (1966) in 1966. Afterwards, Diane retired from the camera. Diane died of heart failure on November 12, 1991. She was 60 years old.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson