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Archive for March, 2012


Karen Black

In the 1970’s Karen Black seemed to feature in every other film from big-budget movies like “The Great Gatsby” in 1974 to Hitchcock’s final film “Family Plot”, “Nashville”, “Airport 1975”  to “Day of the Locusts”.   She was born in Illinois in 1939.   She made her debut in “You’re A Big Boy Now” in 1966.   Her more recent movies include “Irene in Time” in 2009.   She died in 2013.

Ryan Gilbey ‘s obituary in “The Guardian”:

The New Hollywood movement was primarily a male, auteur-led phenomenon. But the contribution of performers as adventurous and vital as Karen Black, who has died aged 74 from complications from cancer, should not be overlooked. Black was electrified as well as electrifying: her tornado of hair, her fearless physicality and those indelible feline eyes combined to create a woozy and unapologetic sexual energy. She looked offbeat, and she knew how to use that. “I couldn’t have been an actress in the 1930s,” she said, reflecting on her role as a movie extra in The Day of the Locust (1975). “My face moves around too much.”

It was in the late 1960s and 70s that she became one of the great character actors of US cinema in a series of performances in key New Hollywood works. Partly it was that she exhibited qualities outside the skill set of a conventional female lead – she could play volatile and nerve-jangled, or maligned and wounded, without ever approaching caricature, and suddenly these talents came to be much in demand from countercultural film-makers. “Could actors such as Ellen Burstyn, Karen Black, Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall, with their neediness, blankness, oddity, have become leading players in any other decade?” asked Adam Mars-Jones recently in the Guardian. But if her skew-whiff style and appearance were well-suited to a cinema not guilty of undervaluing the marginal, then the humanity she brought to those characters would surely have been recognised in any era or art form.

Her career overlapped with several key figures of New Hollywood: she made her screen debut in Francis Ford Coppola’s own first film, You’re a Big Boy Now (1966), and collaborated more than once with Jack Nicholson, who cast Black in his 1971 directorial debut, Drive, He Said, after co-starring with her in Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). She was also a favourite of Robert Altman, who directed her in Nashville (1975), for which she and many of the cast wrote and performed their own songs, and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). Playing herself in Altman’s The Player (1992), she was one of many such celebrity guest stars in that overpopulated satire to be left on the cutting-room floor.)

These parts were strikingly different from one another, but they had in common Black’s knack for conveying her characters’ rich and troubled inner lives, their cramped or thwarted dreams. The consummate example could be found in her Oscar-nominated performance as Rayette, the Tammy Wynette-loving girlfriend to Nicholson’s discontented antihero Bobby Dupea, in Five Easy Pieces. There was a comical but achingly sad intellectual gap between the two. Bobby resented her. Crucially, the audience never did. “I dig [Rayette], she’s not dumb, she’s just not into thinking,” said Black in 1970. “I didn’t have to know anybody like her to play her. I mean, I’m like her, in ways. Rayette enjoys things as she sees them, she doesn’t have to add significances. She can just love the dog, love the cat. See? There are many things she does not know, but that’s cool; she doesn’t intrude on anybody else’s trip. And she’s going to survive.”

She was born Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinois, daughter of Norman and Elsie Ziegler, the latter a children’s novelist. She studied at Northwestern University in Illinois from the age of 15, then moved to New York at 17 and took odd jobs and off-Broadway roles. In 1960 she married Charles Black. She was nominated for best actress in the Drama Critics’ Circle awards for playing the lead in The Play Room (1965); Coppola, who was in the audience, cast her in You’re a Big Boy Now. From there, she met Henry Jaglom and Dennis Hopper, both of whom were, like Coppola, part of the coterie of up-and-coming film-makers and actors benefiting from the patronage of Roger Corman. Hopper cast her in Easy Rider as a prostitute who has a bad acid trip in a New Orleans cemetery; Jaglom, who was brought in to help edit the film, insisted that improvised scenes of Black which had been cut should be put back in. Jaglom would continue to help her career as late as 1983 when he gave her the lead in his underrated romantic comedy Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

She attracted attention for those groundbreaking films with Hopper and Nicholson, and for numerous other fascinating oddities including Cisco Pike (1972), with Kris Kristofferson as a musician turned dealer; a 1972 adaptation of Philip Roth’s comic novel Portnoy’s Complaint; and a foolhardy film version of Ionesco’s absurdist Rhinoceros (1974), with Zero Mostel. But she was not averse to the mainstream. She played the doomed Myrtle in the Coppola-scripted adaptation of The Great Gatsby (1974); she was the flight attendant who must land a plane single-handed in the efficient but much-parodied disaster movie Airport 1975 (1974); and she played a kidnapper in Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976). She also became a darling of the horror genre after taking on three roles in the television anthology Trilogy of Terror (1975) and starring in movies such as Burnt Offerings (1976), Invaders from Mars (1986) and House of 1,000 Corpses (2003).

Pickings became steadily slimmer in the 1980s, though her dynamic turn as a post-operative male-to-female transsexual in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean was singled out by Pauline Kael of the New Yorker as Black’s finest work. Kael highlighted her “spectacular tawdry world-weariness” and commended her for “keep[ing] the mawkishness from splashing all over the set. I think this isn’t just the best performance she has given on screen – it’s a different kind of acting from what she usually does. It’s subdued, controlled, quiet – but not parched.” Black worked continuously until becoming ill in 2009. She had a small role in George Sluizer’s Dark Blood, best known now as the film River Phoenix was making when he died in 1993. Illness prevented her from attending the world premiere of a salvaged cut of the film last year in the Netherlands.

Black is survived by her fourth husband, Stephen Eckelberry, whom she married in 1987; and by a son, Hunter, and two daughters, Celine and Diane. Hunter is her son by her third husband, LM Kit Carson, who wrote Paris, Texas, which was filmed with Hunter, then nine years old, playing the main character’s son, also named Hunter.

• Karen Black, actor, born 1 July 1939; died 8 August 2013

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

Karen Black
Karen Black

Pia Lindstrom


Pia Lindstrom was born in Sweden in 1938.   Her mother was Ingrid Bergman and when her mother went to Hollywood to begin her U.S. career, Pia and her father followed.   Pia Lindstrom is prinarily known as a television news reporter and commentator but she mas made the occasional film including “Marriage Italian Style” in 1964 and “La Fate” in 1966.

IMDB entry:

Pia Lindström was born on September 20, 1938 in Stockholm, Sweden as Friedel Pia Lindström. She is an actress and writer, known for You Must Remember This: A Tribute to ‘Casablanca’ (1992), Reflections on ‘Gaslight’ (2003) and Ingrid Bergman Remembered(1996). She has been married to John Carley since August 4, 2000. She was previously married to Joseph Daly and Fuller E. Greenway I

Pia Lindstrom
Pia Lindstrom
Pia Lindstrom.
Pia Lindstrom.

Peter Fonda.

Peter Fonda was born in 1940 in New York.   He is the son of Henry and younger brother of Jane.   He began his movie career as a callow young leading man opposite Sandra Dee in “Tammy and the Doctor” in 1963.   In 1967 he made the biker movie “The Wild Angels” and two years later starred in the iconic “Easy Rider”.   Surprisingly he did not go on to have a profilic movie career but in 1997 he won rave reviews for his Oscar nominated performance in “Ulee’s Gold”.

TCM overview:

Possessing his father’s piercing blue eyes, Peter Fonda also inherited his old man’s talent, but not the same level of drive and commitment that passed on to older sister Jane. Still, the stubbornness and tenacity that enabled the black sheep of the Fonda acting dynasty to fashion an iconic career as the quintessential 1960s “hippie,” also kept him focused into the 21st Century, where, long after Jane’s “retirement,” he continued to come into his own as an actor of quiet restraint to rival even his famously taciturn father. For many, he would always be Captain America, the spaced-out cat in “Easy Rider” (1969), the low-budget motorbikes-and-drugs road movie that perfectly captured the Zeitgeist of its day and made Fonda, as producer, “filthy rich.” To another younger generation, he was simply Bridget Fonda’s dad, but there were still chapters yet to be written, having survived the classic “dysfunctional” family and putting the substance abuse of his youth behind him.

Born Feb. 23, 1940 in New York, NY to his famous father, actor Henry Fonda and financier Frances Ford Seymour, Fonda was the younger brother of big sis, Jane. Tragically, his mother took her own life when he was just 10 and on his 11th birthday, he accidentally shot himself – nearly dying as well. As he grew older, the tormented Fonda traded his Eastern boarding school existence for the Midwestern stability of his Aunt Harriet and Uncle Jack’s Omaha, Nebraska – Henry Fonda’s hometown. It was there that he first gravitated to the stage, acting in the same community playhouse that had once nurtured his father, before quickly moving to Broadway in 1961 and starring as the earnest Private Ogletorpe of “Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole.” He also acted in a 1962 episode of ABC’s “Naked City” while in New York, and for the next few years, alternated between NYC and Hollywood, progressing from the boy-next-door of his feature debut, “Tammy and the Doctor” (1963), to the rebel biker of Roger Corman’s “The Wild Angels” (1966). En route, he delivered a strong portrayal of a neurotic infatuated with Jean Seberg’s “Lilith” (1963) – but it was his second picture with Corman – “The Trip” (1967) – which laid the groundwork for filmmaking history, introducing him to Jack Nicholson (its screenwriter) and Dennis Hopper, whose intuitive, improvisatory approach to acting had allegedly led to an eight-year exile from Hollywood.

Co-written by Fonda, Hopper – who also directed and co-starred – and Terry Southern, “Easy Rider” boasted a great soundtrack of late 1960s rock music and featured a 16mm LSD sequence, during which Hopper coaxed Fonda up on a headstone in a New Orleans cemetery to confront his real mother’s 1950 suicide (“Mother, why did you?”). Remembering the catharsis later, he said, “That was it. That was the high point of the whole thing. That was real tears, real time, a real question.” Hailed by critics, “Easy Rider” earned a bundle and sent Hollywood studios scrambling to duplicate its uniqueness; the resulting shake-up opening the door to a new generation of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Though Nicholson stole the show as the wealthy alcoholic who joins the two rebels on their sojourn, Fonda’s marketability soared, and for nearly a decade, he starred in B-movies made on the strength of his name. Ironically, the hippie-capitalist’s salary was always a third to a half of the total budget. The pictures invariably suffered, and his reputation for being difficult (“You know, I didn’t play the game in town”) precluded his working with better talent in bigger-budget pics.

Fonda and Hopper reteamed on Hopper’s virtually incomprehensible and pretentious “The Last Movie” (1971), but a falling out over “Easy Rider” profits made Hopper’s name taboo around Fonda’s Montana digs. He branched into directing at the helm of a critically-acclaimed commercial failure – the offbeat Western “The Hired Hand” (1971) – opting to step far away from his Captain America pose, as a cowboy who g s to work for the wife (Verna Bloom) he had deserted seven years before. His foray into experimental sci-fi, “Idaho Transfer” (1973), taught him never to again invest his own money in a directing project, and “Wanda Nevada” (1979), his last film as director, gave him the only opportunity of his career to work with his father. Convinced that the beard he was wearing looked fake, the older Fonda insisted his son shoot him from a distance, but Peter’s response was to throw some dirt and spit licorice juice in his father’s face to weather his countenance.

Fonda enjoyed a memorable turn in the non-stop actioner “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” (1974), stealing money for a competition sports car, then careening around rural California accompanied by Susan George with a demonic officer of the law (Vic Morrow) in hot pursuit. He also delivered the goods as a fishing boat captain duking it out with a nemesis (Warren Oates) in Thomas McGuane’s “92 in the Shade” (1975), and as an investigative reporter in “Futureworld” (1976), the strong sequel to 1973’s “Westworld.” Fonda was back on a bike for the pointless moneymaker “Cannonball Run” (1981) and the 1983 epic “Dance of the Dwarfs,” in which he was a drunken helicopter pilot searching for a lost pygmy tribe – both of which epitomized the decline in quality of his projects. There were starring turns in two 1983 foreign films (“Peppermint Frieden” from West Germany; “All Right, My Friend” from Japan), followed by forgettable titles like “Certain Fury” (1985) and “Mercenary Fighters” (1987)- making “The Rose Garden” (1989) look like an inspired choice by comparison. His contributions to the script of “Fatal Mission” (1990), in which he starred as a gung-ho war hero, failed to save that promising film from its disastrous final reel.

Things started to turn around for Fonda with his understated portrayal of the vampire hunting Van Helsing in Michael Almereyda’s quirky “Nadja” (1994), but his big break came when Nick Nolte passed on the leading role in Victor Nunez’s “Ulee’s Gold” (1997). Fonda gave the performance of his life as an emotionally crippled beekeeper raising his granddaughters and experiencing romance with a divorcee (Patricia Richardson), drawing raves and reminding people of the kind of decent yet stoic loner that his father made a career of playing. Looking through the lens, Nunez could see the elder Fonda in the son’s drooping shoulders and flat-footed walk. The actor described his technique to USA Today: “It’s like a little pond, no movement on the surface, so you can look down. If I overdramatize, it would disturb the surface. You won’t see the depth.” Fonda followed up this career highlight with a starring turn as Gideon Prosper, a man blinded by sorrow over the death of his wife, in “The Tempest” (1998), NBC’s novel Civil War take on the Shakespeare classic, and gave an even more nuanced (and Emmy-nominated) turn as the passive, pitiful spouse of Ayn Rand (Helen Mirren) in “The Passion of Ayn Rand” (Showtime, 1999).

Fonda teamed with fellow 1960s icon Terrence Stamp in Steven Soderbergh’s “Point Blank”-like revenge thriller “The Limey” (1999), which used elements from both actors’ real-life pasts in improvisational moments during filming. The director’s virtuoso editing style paid homage to the Godardian New Wave jump-cutting that inspired the original “Point Blank,” and Fonda had a blast patterning his corrupt Hollywood record exec after some of the self-absorbed industry types whose paths he had crossed. He also got a chance to play opposite Thomas the Tank Engine in Britt Allcroft’s live-action adaptation “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” (2000), creating a convincing grandpop for the children who frequented Shining Time Station.

Fonda was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and in 2007, finally returned to the big screen in a pair of well-received supporting roles. Still first on the wish list for any motorcycle-related film, he co-starred with Nicholas Cage in an adaptation of the Marvel Comic “Ghost Rider” (2007) playing villain Mephistopheles with an unsettling, understated coolness that brilliantly contrasted the roar of the hero’s engine. Fonda took on another bad guy in the James Mangold remake of “3:10 to Yuma,” co-starring with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The character-driven Western featured Fonda as career killer Byron McElroy who gives Crowe’s Ben Wade cause to reconsider his own path. The film opened at number one at the box office and critics hailed it among the best of the season’s slew of Westerns.

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.


Peter Fonda
Peter Fonda
Peter Fonda
Peter Fonda

Gene Tierney

“Gene Tierney was as sleek and as beautiful as a lynx – a shade warmer perhaps, but nowhere near as agile.   Once she emerged from the miscasting which almost wrecked her career at the  outset, she was neither very good or very bad.   She was simply there on the screen – which when you come to look at her, was not at all a bad place for her to be” – David Shipman – “The Great Movie Stars – The International Years” (1972)

 Gene Tierney was one of the most beautiful actresses of Hollywood movies of the 1940’s.   She was born in 1920 in New York.   She made her stage debut on Broadway in 1838 in “What A Life”.   In 1940 she won a contract for movies with 20th Century Fox and came West.   Her debut was in “The Return of Frank James” opposite Henry Fonda, a well regarded Western.   She made a number of film classics including “Laura” in 1944, “The Ghost and Mrs Muir” and magnificant “Leave Her to Heaven” with Jeanne Crain.   Her film career tapered off in the 1960’s although she made occasional television appearances including “Scruples” in 1980.   She died in 1991.


TCM Overview:

When Paramount Pictures fumbled Gene Tierney’s proposed film debut in its aborted adaptation of “National Velvet,” 20th Century Fox saw promise in the gimlet-eyed beauty with the regal cheekbones and curiously beguiling overbite. Honing her craft under extreme conditions – she brooked the tempers of such autocratic émigrés as Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch and Otto Preminger – Tierney emerged as a leading lady of equal beauty and depth. Gliding seamlessly from smoldering sensuality in Preminger’s “Laura” (1944), to sang froid psychopathy in John M. Stahl’s “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945), to a maturity and grace far beyond her years in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947), Tierney attained a strata of celebrity that put her on par with fellow sirens Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Her personal life was no less dramatic, punctuated by a controversial marriage to designer Oleg Cassini, the traumatic birth of her first child, whose severe mental retardation resulted in lifelong institutionalization, love affairs with several leading men and a future U.S. president, and a devastating bipolar disorder that effectively quashed her career. Tierney’s 1979 memoirs laid bare the devastation wrought by her inner demons while allowing the troubled actress to emerge on the far side of her troubles at some measure of peace with her legacy as “the most beautiful woman in film history.”

Gene Eliza Tierney was born on Nov. 19, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY. The second of three children of insurance broker Howard Sherwood Tierney and the former Belle Lavina Taylor, Tierney was named after a maternal uncle who had died from diabetes at age 17. When Tierney was five, the family traded Brooklyn for a modest country home in Green’s Farms, CT. Over the years, Howard Tierney would buy up increasing amounts of the surrounding land, ultimately building a more ostentatious family manor in the meadow across the street and filling it with servants and a German nanny for his three children. Educated first at the all girls’ St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, which her mother had attended as a child, Tierney continued her studies at the arts-centered Unquowa School in Fairfield. A budding poet, she had her first works published in the school newspaper and played Jo in a student production of “Little Women.” At her own insistence, Tierney was packed off to finishing school in Switzerland, to the Brillantmont International School in Lausanne.

At Brillantmont, Tierney spoke only French and spent Christmas holidays with fellow students in England and Norway. Returning to the United States a more mature, albeit pudgier young woman, Tierney topped off her education at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, where the rigorous academic and athletic regime helped her shave 20 pounds off of her 5′ 4″ frame. Upon graduation in 1938, Tierney was sent with her mother and siblings on vacation to California. Through a connection at Warner Brothers, Howard Tierney got his family onto the lot to watch the shooting of “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939) and meet with star Bette Davis. According to the legend, director Anatole Litvak spotted Tierney on the sidelines and exclaimed “Young woman, you ought to be in pictures!” Her screen test was scheduled for the next day, at which time she was asked to read a Dorothy Parker monologue. That evening, she was offered a studio contract.

Feeling that his underage daughter would be better served by returning home to make her society debut, Howard Tierney called his daughter back to Connecticut. She had her coming out party at the Fairfield Country Club in September 1938, in a dress copied from one Bette Davis wore in “Jezebel” (1938). Despite this concession to propriety, Tierney had no interest in the life of a debutante. If Hollywood was denied her, she would try her luck on Broadway. Success was not immediately forthcoming and she was offered more jobs as a model than as an actress. Between assignments, Tierney studied acting with Broadway director Benno Schneider while becoming a protégée of esteemed producer-director George Abbott. Abbott gave the newcomer a walk-on in his production of “What a Life!” in 1938 and hired her as an understudy for “Primrose Path” the following year. Tierney made her Broadway debut for Abbott in “Miss O’Brien Entertains” at the Lyceum Theater in February 1939.

Graced with gimlet green eyes, imperious cheekbones, and a pronounced overbite that often made her closed lips appear to be in perpetual pucker, Tierney’s beauty never failed to attract critical attention no matter how small the role, prompting The New York Herald Tribune to suggest that she had a bright future in theatre unless she were kidnapped for pictures. That very thing occurred when Tierney was offered a limited contract by Paramount. Having acquired rights to Enid Bagnold’s 1933 novel National Velvet, the studio thought Tierney a perfect fit to play an English schoolgirl who poses as a male jockey to enter the Grand National Steeplechase. When Paramount passed the property to MGM – who made it in 1944 with a 12 year-old Elizabeth Taylor – Tierney returned to Broadway, scoring a critical coup in the James Thurber-Elliot Nugent comedy “The Male Animal.” During the play’s seven month run, Tierney was photographed by VogueLife and Colliers Weekly, which caught the eye of 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck. He was quick to offer an exclusive contract to Tierney, whom he would later characterize as “unquestionably the most beautiful woman in movie history.”

Tierney made her film debut for Fox in “The Return of Frank James” (1940), directed by German émigré Fritz Lang. The autocratic Lang clashed mightily on set with stars Henry Fonda and Jackie Cooper and spared Tierney little of his trademark ire. To her credit, Tierney took Lang’s often cruel criticisms to heart, gleaning from his insults pearls of practical advice for film acting. With the success of the Lang picture, additional roles followed for Tierney, who was paired with Paul Muni in Irving Pichel’s historic drama “Hudson’s Bay” (1941) and joined the ensemble cast of John Ford’s “Tobacco Road” (1941), the studio’s highly-anticipated adaptation of the novel by Erskine Caldwell. Just as “Tobacco Road” had been Fox’s bid to capitalize on the success of Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939), so the popularity of “Gone with the Wind” (1939), which Selznick had produced with MGM, was channeled into another Technicolor costumer. Tierney received star billing for playing “Belle Starr” (1941), a highly sanitized take on the short life and troubled times of the Wild West outlaw.

Despite starring in her first Hollywood film, Tierney was still considered a minor in the eyes of the law. Though her parents had by this point separated, Howard and Belle Tierney continued to exert influence over their daughter’s career, for which they had set up the Belle-Tier Corporation. With her self-confidence undermined by her parents’ rapidly dissolving marriage, Tierney suffered from a host of anxiety-related gastrointestinal ailments and an ocular disability that held up production of “Belle Starr.” During her convalescence, she sought refuge in the arms of boyfriend Oleg Cassini, the Paris-born son of an Italian countess and Edith Head’s assistant in the Paramount costume department. In June 1941, Tierney and Cassini flew to Las Vegas to be married in a civil ceremony. The controversial marriage worsened Tierney’s relationship with her parents while alarming Hollywood executives to the degree that Cassini was fired by Paramount. Tierney also discovered that her father has siphoned off her Hollywood earnings via the Bel-Tier Corporation.

At this point in her career, Tierney could at least count on a wealth of work offers. In addition, the appreciation of her Hollywood stock enabled her to retain Cassini as her personal costumer. She was given a plum role in Ernst Lubitsch’s Technicolor comedy “Heaven Can Wait” (1943), as doomed rogue Don Ameche’s long suffering wife. Tierney locked antlers often with Lubitsch during production while also attempting to conceal from her coworkers the fact that she was pregnant. The joy to which Tierney and Cassini (then fulfilling his wartime military service with the United States Army at Fort Riley in Kansas) looked forward was cruelly dashed when the actress contracted rubella after making an appearance at The Hollywood Canteen. Their first child, daughter Antoinette Daria Cassini, was born two months prematurely and suffered from severe mental retardation, ultimately requiring lifelong institutionalization. She would later learn that it was her own stardom that impacted the child’s health when a fan later told her she had broken quarantine for rubella to meet her at the Canteen. The tragedy caused a strain on the Tierney-Cassini marriage, leading to a separation. The pair reconciled and their second child, Tina, was born without complications in 1948.

Tierney was kept out of the picture for most of Otto Preminger’s seminal film noir “Laura” (1944), in the role of a presumed murder victim whose haunting portrait inspires detective Dana Andrews to track down her killer. A multiple Academy Award nominee (and Oscar winner for Best Black & White Cinematography), “Laura” urged Tierney on to a larger role in an even darker psychological thriller. As the femme fatale of “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945), Tierney was nominated for an Academy Award as an icy beauty so venal she allows a handicapped boy to drown so that she might maintain an emotional stranglehold on leading man Cornel Wilde. The film was Fox’s most successful of the decade and marked Tierney’s entre to the A-list while also securing her a measure of cult notoriety on par with Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” (1944), Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” (1946) and Lana Turner in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946). While filming “Dragonwyck” (1946) during her separation from Cassini, Tierney enjoyed a dalliance with war hero John F. Kennedy, then pointed towards a brilliant political career.

Persuasive as a spoiled rich girl who cannot share Tyrone Power’s spiritual interests in “The Razor’s Edge” (1946), Tierney offered moviegoers a dramatic about-face in her next film, as the widowed heroine of Mankiewicz’s “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947). Tierney’s heartfelt performance as a single mother who accepts companionship and a second chance at love from spectral sea captain Rex Harrison, was a hit with moviegoers. She reteamed with Otto Preminger for the thrillers “Whirlpool” (1949) and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (1950), and traveled to England for a choice role opposite Richard Widmark in blacklisted director Jules Dassin’s “Night and the City” (1950). On loan to other studios, Tierney showed a lighter side in the Paramount screwball comedy “The Mating Season” (1951) while playing it straight in the adoption drama Close to My Heart” (1951), with Ray Milland. Divorced from Oleg Cassini in 1952, she had relationships with Spencer Tracy while shooting “Plymouth Adventure” (1952) and with Clark Gable between takes on “Never Let Me Go” (1953).

Due in large part to the guilt and sadness related to her daughter’s institutionalization, Tierney began to suffer from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder which took a toll on her work. She excused herself from John Ford’s “Mogambo” (1953), for which she was replaced by Grace Kelly, and sought psychiatric help after wrapping Edward Dmytryk’s “The Left Hand of God” (1955). Tierney’s treatments would drag on for years, comprising nearly 30 sessions of shock therapy and days wrapped in icy sheets to control her wild mood swings. Released from one East Coast clinic, Tierney’s suicidal ideations drove her to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, KS. During a hiatus from treatment, she worked briefly as a store clerk in at Talmage’s Ladies Apparel Shop in nearby Westboro, until the press got wind of her situation and forced Tierney to go public with her humbling personal history. In 1958, Tierney met Texas oilman Howard Lee, then the estranged husband of actress Hedy Lamarr. Tierney and Lee married in 1960 and settled in Houston, where the former actress wrote a newspaper column and became an expert at contract bridge.

Despite her self-imposed exile in Texas, Tierney received work offers from Hollywood, prompting her to mull a comeback. She tested the waters by appearing in a November 1960 broadcast of “General Electric Theater” (CBS, 1953-1962), during which time she discovered that she was again pregnant. Slated to appear in Fox’s “Return to Peyton Place” (1961), she withdrew from the production after suffering a miscarriage. She contributed a small role as the catty Washington mistress of Senate Majority Leader Walter Pidgeon in Otto Preminger’s “Advise and Consent” (1962) and appeared as Dean Martin’s domineering mother-in-law in “Toys in the Attic” (1963), George Roy Hill’s film adaptation of the stage play by Lillian Hellman. She made her final feature film appearance in “The Pleasure Seekers” (1963), opposite Ann-Margret and Brian Keith. At the distance of several years, she returned to television in “Daughter of the Mind” (1969), reuniting with old co-star Ray Milland in the chilling tale of a scientist haunted by the specter of his long-dead daughter.

In 1979, Tierney published her memoirs, detailing her cherished childhood memories, her schoolgirl years abroad, her triumphs on Broadway and in Hollywood, and the nightmare years of her descent into mental illness. Lured out of retirement yet again, she signed on to play lesbian magazine publisher Harriet Toppingham in the CBS miniseries “Scruples” (1980), based on the best-selling novel by Judith Krantz. The following year, Howard Lee died. Tierney remained in Houston for the next decade, during which time she was diagnosed with emphysema, which she developed from a lifelong cigarette habit adopted in Hollywood as a means of lowering the timbre of her speaking voice. Gene Tierney died on Nov. 6, 1991, two weeks shy of what would have been her 71st birthday.

By Richard Harland Smith

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney

Jackie Cooper

Jackie Cooper was born in 1922 in Los Angeles.   He was one of the leading child actors in Hollywood in the 1930’s.   He starred in the “Our Gang” series and in 1931 signed a contract with MGM.   He starred opposite Wallace Beery in a series of movies including the well-regarded tearkerker “The Champ”.   Among his other films was “Life with Henry” in 1941.   He became a well-respected television direcor who acted on occasion.   In the late 1970’s he played Perry White in the ‘Superman@ films.   He died in 2011.

Ronald Bergan’s “Guardian” obituary:

Jackie Cooper, who has died aged 88, was the first child star of the talkies, paving the way for Freddie Bartholomew, Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney. While they could turn on the waterworks when called for, Cooper beat them all easily at the crying game. Little Jackie, from the age of eight until his early teens, blubbed his way effectively through a number of tearjerkers. Sometimes he would try to suppress his tears, pouting and saying, “Ah, shucks! Ah, shucks!” As a critic wrote in 1934: “Jackie Cooper’s tear ducts, having been more or less in abeyance for the past few months, have been opened up to provide an autumn freshet in Peck’s Bad Boy.”

Cooper had started off in the movies billed as “the little tough guy” in eight of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedy shorts. He was a manly little fellow and complained to his mother when, during the shooting of the fight scene in Dinky (1935), the other children were warned to be careful not to hurt him. “I don’t want fellows like these to treat me like a sissy!” he said.

The sobbing all began with Skippy (1931), based on a popular comic strip, for which Cooper was Oscar-nominated (aged nine and still the youngest best actor nominee) in his first starring role. When he refused to do a crying scene on the set, the film’s director, Norman Taurog, who was also his uncle, threatened to shoot Jackie’s dog. (The title of Cooper’s 1981 autobiography was Please Don’t Shoot My Dog.)

“Later, people tried to rationalise to me that I had gained more than I lost by being a child star,” Cooper wrote. “They talked to me about the money I made. They cited the exciting things I had done, the people I had met, the career training I had had, all that and much more … But no amount of rationalisation, no excuses, can make up for what a kid loses – what I lost – when a normal childhood is abandoned for an early movie career.”

He was born John Cooper Jr into a movie family in Los Angeles. His father, John, was a studio production manager who walked out on his family when Jackie was two. His mother, Mabel, was a picture palace pianist. Jackie started in show business at the age of three, appearing as an extra with his grandmother, who used to tote him along while looking for film work.

In 1931 Cooper made the three films that launched his career. Skippy told of the adventures of two friends, Cooper, in the title role, and Bobby Coogan (younger brother of Jackie “the Kid” Coogan) as Sooky, from different sides of the tracks. Both gave entirely natural performances, and a sequel almost as popular, called Sooky, also directed by Taurog, followed.

King Vidor’s The Champ was a touching tale of an ex-champion prizefighter (Wallace Beery) and his small son (Cooper) trying to scrape a living in Tijuana, Mexico. Beery is addicted to gambling and drink, but in the eyes of his hero-worshipping son, he’s still “Champ”. Despite warnings from his doctor about his heart, he wins a comeback fight, but the terrible beating he has taken in the process causes him to collapse and die in the dressing room, in the arms of his weeping son.

Cooper was the antithesis of the grizzled, good-bad ugly guy Beery, yet the chemistry between them was remarkable. Cooper would relate years later that Beery off-camera was a disagreeable man. Cooper remembers that he once impulsively threw his arms around Beery after an especially well-played tender scene and that the gruff Beery pushed him away. Cooper produced genuine tears.

The duo would make three further films together. In Raoul Walsh’s rousing The Bowery (1933) and the sentimental O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935), the oafish Beery tries to win Cooper’s affection. However, the film that Cooper was justifiably most proud of was Treasure Island (1934), in which both he, as Jim Hawkins, and Beery, as Long John Silver, were excellent.

The Devil Is a Sissy (1936) starred MGM’s three top child actors: prissy Bartholomew, a hit in the title roles of David Copperfield and Little Lord Fauntleroy; lachrymose Cooper; and the up-and-coming, pugnacious Rooney. “The studio used to threaten my mother with Bartholomew, and even me,” Cooper commented in adulthood. “They’d say, ‘Now, if you’re not better in this today, we’re going to get Freddie Bartholomew.’ They set up this kind of competition, which isn’t nice.”

By 1936, despite his popularity, Cooper had reached his teens, and MGM decided not to renew his contract. After leaving the glossiest of Hollywood studios, he went to Monogram, the poorest, for an atmospheric programmer called Boy of the Streets (1937). He continued to be active playing teenagers for the next six years, appearing mostly in B-movies, with a few exceptions: That Certain Age (1938), as Deanna Durbin’s young beau, and in Ziegfeld Girl (1941), as Lana Turner’s brother. In Glamour Boy (1941), Cooper played an ex-child star who suggests the studio remake Skippy, the film that made him famous, with a new kiddie.

When America entered the second world war, Cooper served in the US navy with the rank of captain. After the war, he found little work in Hollywood and moved to television, having overcome a drinking problem. There were a couple of notable TV series: The People’s Choice (1955-58), a sitcom in which he had a basset hound whose thoughts were given voice for the audience; and Hennesey (1959-62), in which Cooper was a naval doctor at a US military base.

Cooper returned to the big screen after 13 years in an inane comedy, Everything’s Ducky (1961), with Rooney and a talking duck. But most of his time was taken up as an executive producer for Screen Gems, the TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, where he worked on the sitcoms Bewitched, The Donna Reed Show and Hazel.

In 1972 Cooper directed his only feature film, Stand Up and Be Counted, starring Jacqueline Bisset. Touted as the first American film about women’s lib, it received tepid reviews – such as one in the New York Times claiming that “it erratically skips between comedy and serious causes, with somewhat less than impressive impact either way”. More rewardingly, Cooper was busy directing numerous TV shows, and won Emmy awards for episodes of M*A*S*H (1974) and The White Shadow (1979).

More than four decades after he had been the biggest little star around, Cooper found himself in the full spotlight again when he was cast as the tough-talking, cigar-chomping Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, in four Superman films (1978-87). Cooper got the nod after the original choice, Keenan Wynn, had to drop out while on the set in London, due to heart problems.

Cooper was married three times and had four children, of whom his two sons, John and Russell, survive him. None of them went into show business, on the wishes of their father. “It’s no way for a kid to grow up,” Cooper explained.

• Jackie (John) Cooper, actor and director, born 15 September 1922; died 3 May 2011

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

Jackie Cooper.
Jackie Cooper.
Jackie Cooper
Jackie Cooper

Cornelia Sharpe

Cornelia Sharpe was born in 1943 in Selma, Alabama.   For a time in the 1970’s she had some leading roles in major movies opposite such famous actors as Al Pacino in “Serpico” in 1932 and Sean Connery in “The Next Man” in 1976.

IMDB entry:

Cornelia Sharpe was born on October 18, 1943 in Selma, Alabama, USA. She is an actress, known for Serpico (1973), The Next Man (1976) and S+H+E: Security Hazards Expert (1980). She has been married to Martin Bregman since 1981. They have one child.   Former fashion model.   Her father is Warner Jack Sharpe, Jr., a dental supplier and her mother is Evelyn Horne Sharpe, a dental assistant and secretary. She was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated from Robert E Lee High School in Jacksonville in 1961.   Her daughter with husband Martin Bregman Marissa Cornelia Bregman was born in 1982.   Mother of Marissa Bregman.   Stepmother of Michael Bregman and Christopher Bregman.

Cornelia Sharpe
Cornelia Sharpe

Ruth Bradley

Ruth Bradley was born in 1987 in Dublin.   In 2007 she starred in the film “Stardust” followed ib “In Her Skin”.   She is in the series “Primeval”.

IMDB entry:

Ruth Bradley was born on January 24, 1987 in Dublin, Ireland. She is an actress, known for Grabbers (2012), Flyboys (2006) and In Her Skin (2009).   When she was 18 she went to Trinity College Dublin to study drama and languages. After three weeks she dropped out of student life knowing that that lifestyle wasn’t for her. She then moved to London to pursue acting full time.   Her mother is IFTA winning actress Charlotte Bradley.   She lived in Newfoundland Canada until she was five and then moved to Ireland.   Her sister is IFTA nominated actress Roisin Murphy.   Bradley’s first screen appearance’s were in 2002 in Ultimate Force (as Georgia Gracey) and Sinners (as Angela).   Bradley won the IFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for “Stardust”.   Bradley won a Best Actress award at the Milan International Film Festival for her performance in “In Her Skin” (2010

Ruth Bradley
Ruth Bradley

Joanna David

Joanna David was born in 1947 in Lancaster.   Made her film debut in 1969 in “The Smashing Bird I Used to Know”.   Has had a very profilic career on the stage and on television. Other films include “Sleepwalker” in 1985 and “Secret Friends” in 1991.   She is the mother of actors Emilia Fox and Freddie Fox.

2006 interview by Sophie Lam in “The Independent”:

First holiday memoryGoing to Nevin in North Wales when I was about four. On the way, we all got out of the car to have a pee in a field and when we went back the car wasn’t there because the handbrake wasn’t on!

Best holiday?

Staying with my friends the Mortimers at their old farmhouse in Chianti, Tuscany. It’s in a beautiful location surrounded by the most incredible hills, and a complete rest because it’s so hot in the summer you can’t do anything.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Little Gruinard in Wester Ross on the north-west coast of Scotland. It’s unspoilt, with miles of beautiful sandy coast. We go walking along the marvellous cliffs looking out to the Summer Isles; it’s as if you’re on top of the world.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Take less!

Ideal travelling companion?

I have a continual laugh with Phyllida Law, my great friend. She’s an intrepid traveller and we have been away together before.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I’m more of a culture vulture. Luckily every summer seems to produce a job, but that makes it hard to travel. However, this year I’ve had four weeks off between jobs so I’ve been able to go up to Scotland and down to Dorset. I have done some wonderful travelling through work too.

Greatest travel luxury?

I went on a trek in Nepal and my luxury was an electric toothbrush. My second luxury is a portable CD player and some Bach.

Holiday reading?

This summer I read Lord Curzon’s biography by David Gilmour. I’m also part of a book club so we read a different book every month.

Where has seduced you?

India and Nepal. I worked in Cochin, Kerala, and it was such a wonderfully mixed culture. Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians all live together; it was an education.

Worst travel experience?

In the 1980s, I was stopped at customs at the airport in Moscow and kept back because I was bringing things back from the Stanislavsky Museum. Nobody could speak English and I couldn’t speak Russian. I could hear the last call for the plane and I was hysterical.

Worst holiday?

When I was about eight, I went on a caravan holiday in Abersoch, Wales, with a friend. I was so homesick that I couldn’t eat until the day I knew I was going home.

Best hotel?

The Summit Hotel in Kathmandu was just amazing and it was such a relief to arrive there after trekking. The staff were lovely and so welcoming. From a luxurious point of view I stayed at the Hotel Lancaster in Paris with my husband, which was pretty special.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I love swimming and walking along the cliffs at Kimmeridge in Dorset.

Best meal abroad?

Fresh crayfish in the countryside just outside Stockholm.

Dream trip?

I’d like to go to Tibet and see Mount Everest from the opposite side. I’d also like to visit different parts of India.

Favourite city?

Venice knocked me sideways. I’d love to go back. I also fell in love with Cochin.

Where next?

I’d love to go to Peru. I’m thinking of going on a trek to Machu Picchu for the Unicorn Theatre for Children.

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

Joanna David
Joanna David
Joanna David
Joanna David

Emilia Fox


Emilia Fox is the daughter of Joanna David and Edward Fox.   Her younger brother is the actor Freddie Fox.   She was born in 1974 in London.   In 2004 she replaced Amanda Burton as the female lead in the long running television series on BBC, “Silent Witness”.   Her other roles include “The Round Tower” and “Things To Do Before You’re 30”.

“Gloucestershire Echo” feature:

Coming from a theatrical dynasty can be a huge pressure, but Silent Witness star Emilia Fox has carved her own niche. The mum-of-one tells Keeley Bolger about parenthood, her inspirational mother Joanna David and her views on women ‘having it all’

With Fox as a surname, the odd pun is somewhat of a given.

But ‘cunning as a fox’ and ‘sly old fox’ were too bland for the Silent Witness crew when it came to marking the vixen’s upcoming 10th year as Dr Nikki Alexander in the long-running BBC drama.

“Very kindly, [my colleagues] Richard, David and Liz and the whole crew put together a very funny music video of Ylvis’s What Does The Fox Say? and dressed up as animals,” the actress reveals, laughing.

“They played it at the wrap party. It was the sweetest, most touching thing. I couldn’t quite work out where I had been when they’d done it, because they filmed in the mortuary and the offices and I’d been on set all day.”

Fox is just as fond of the “great team” as they are of her, especially given how accommodating they’ve been since she became a mother to daughter Rose three years ago from a previous relationship with fellow actor Jeremy Gilley.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Silent Witness, [who’ve] been there pre-Rose, being pregnant with Rose and having Rose,” notes Fox who lives in London. “The studio filming’s done five minutes away from my house, so I’ve always been able to have her at work or go home and see her.

“That’s made things much easier. It would have been much more difficult if I had to do all of those things away from home.”

The question of balancing parenthood with a career is one very much on the 39-year-old’s mind at the moment.

For the first time in years, she’s returning to the stage for a month, until the end of February, in a production of Rapture, Blister, Burn – a play about two women who’ve gone down very different paths in life. One’s a high-flying academic while the other’s built a happy life at home, but both envy the other’s choices.

“Where we’ve got to is quite rightly women having equal opportunities,” notes Fox, who says the play’s left her burning to discuss the issue of ‘having it all’.

“But where the problem comes with that is trying to juggle professional life, domestic life, children and relationships and how to balance it and make it possible to have that balance.

“And does everyone want to have that? Not necessarily. Some people don’t. Some people are satisfied with having one of those things and that’s absolutely right.”

At face value, it would seem that Fox, who grew up in Dorset, is a shining example of someone who has struck a good balance between work and parenthood – and retained her privacy.

She was in a relationship with celebrity chef Marco Pierre White that recently ended and is divorced from Mad Men actor Jared Harris (son of Richard Harris), but she’s not the type to kiss and tell.

“I guess that’s just how I’ve always been brought up,” says Fox, whose parents are well-known actors Joanna David and Edward Fox.

“You have a professional life and you have a private life and I think that’s all-important, and my private life is only Rose and mine’s.”

Coming from an acting dynasty, including brother Freddie, uncle James and cousin Laurence, who’s married to Billie Piper, means that the possibility of Rose acting in the future is often brought up, but Fox is clearly no stage mum.

“I think I would say what every parent says, which is I just want my child to be happy. Whatever it is, or whatever direction that takes her, I just want her to be happy with it. I don’t have grand ambitions,” she adds.

“I often get asked, ‘Do you think she’ll go into acting too?’ I don’t know. It wouldn’t make any difference to me what industry she went into, I just want her to have the best out of life that she can, and hopefully I’ll be there with her.”

If Rose does decide to go into drama, she’ll have a good role model; Fox is a strong example of how to shake off the family name and carve your own niche.

“When I started off, in a way you want to stay away from family so that you get there on your own terms and establish yourself, so you feel you’ve done it in your own right,” says the actress, who studied English literature at Oxford University and made her TV debut with a role in the much-loved 1995 TV mini-series of Pride And Prejudice, as Colin Firth’s sister.

Since then, she’s appeared in the likes of Merlin and, last year, The Wrong Mans, alongside James Corden.

Now she’s fully established, she’d be delighted to be reunited on screen with her mother, best-known for roles in War And Peace, Rebecca and more recently as the Duchess of Yeovil, an old pal of the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.

The mum and daughter duo previously worked on Pride And Prejudice – Fox’s mother played kindly Mrs Gardiner.

“I would love to work with mum. She’s the actress I most look up to, I think she’s the most truthful actress,” says Fox.

Now she’s a mum herself, she admits she’s in awe of the way her parents raised their brood.

“I had such a lovely upbringing by my parents,” she says. “I have amazing, loving, very secure-making parents, and that’s what I’d like to pass on to Rose.”

The above “Gloucestershire Echo” article can also be accessed online here.

Emelia Fox
Emelia Fox

Shane Brolly

Shane Brolly was born in 1970 in Belfast.   He made his movie debut in 1998 in “Stomping Ground”.   Other films include “Underworld” and “48 Angels”.

Shane Brolly