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

Archive for June, 2013

Post

Marie Dressler

Marie Dressler
Marie Dressler

Marie Dressler was one of the great Hollywood stars of the 1930’s.   She was in her sixties when she came to fame and had a very short period at the top before her death.    She was one of the U.S’s most beloved movie stars, especially for her roles opposite Wallace Beery in films made by MGM.   In 1930 she won the Oscar for “Min and Bill”.   Her other major roles were in “Tugboat Annie”, “Anna Christie” with Greta Garbo, “Dinner At Eight” with Jean Harlow and John Barrymore and “Emma”.   She died in 1934 at the age of 65.

TCM overview:

Measuring 5’8″ and sporting a hefty frame, Marie Dressler was an imposing lady, but her remarkably expressive face and superb comedic timing made her a beloved figure during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Playing equally larger-than-life women, Dressler’s rise started with years of acting in repertory theatre before moving to Broadway in her twenties and biding her time in vaudeville. She finally achieved recognition in “Tillie’s Nightmare” (1910-11). The popularity of that humorous musical presentation led to an invitation to take her Tillie to the silver screen in “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” (1914), where she starred with a young Charlie Chaplin. Motion picture roles continued through the teens and twenties, but it was at the beginning of the sound era where this veteran character player finally found herself a star, thanks to her supporting work in Greta Garbo’s “Anna Christie” (1930) and her own Academy Award-winning turn in the tragicomedy “Min and Bill” (1930). Perfectly paired in the latter with the similarly craggy and uncouth Wallace Beery, Dressler joined him again in “Tugboat Annie” (1933) and she enjoyed much attention for her performance as a faded stage actress in “Dinner at Eight” (1933) who delivered one of Hollywood’s most memorable lines. Sadly, right at the height of her fame, she discovered she had cancer and died within a year. Proof that movie stars need not be picture-perfect, Dressler’s determination was as immense as her skills and the status she earned made for a most unique success story.

Marie Dressler was born Leila Marie Koerber on Nov. 9, 1868 in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, but the Koerber family moved a number of times during her childhood. Her stage debut came at age five in a local performance put on by her mother, leading the outgoing child to discover that she possessed a knack for winning people over. Tired of attending school, Dressler pretended to be 18 and was accepted into Nevada Travelling Stock Company. She soon grew accustomed to performing on the road under less than lavish circumstances, but eventually worked her way up to a lead role in a different company when the star was unable to take the stage. Dressler went where parts were available, and after gaining additional experience with a pair of opera companies, she finally made her way to New York City. After barely making ends meet as a singer, she was offered her chance on Broadway in a production of “The Robber of the Rhine” (1892). The comedic talent she displayed soon earned her another performing gig in “Princess Nicotine” (1893), which scored well enough with local audiences for it to be taken on the road.

Her fame increased further thanks to the success of “The Lady Slavey” (1896), a two act operetta that enjoyed a lengthy engagement and further performances on tour. She next appeared in the farce “Courted into Court” (1897) as the memorably monikered Dottie Dimple. The play had a short run, but Dressler continued to find assignments in other Broadway productions, including “The Man in the Moon” (1899), “The King’s Carnival” (1901), and “Higgledy-Piggledy” (1904-05) as the incomparable Philopena Schnitz. While those shows drew crowds of variable size, Dressler was all but guaranteed to help fill seats on the vaudeville circuit and enjoyed a warm reception from British audiences when she played there. One of the primary draws of vaudeville was the promise of sexy girls, but the portly 5’8″ Dressler never worried about her figure. In fact, nothing about this lady would ever have been considered petite or demure. Nonetheless, Dressler’s face was a major component of her appeal and it caught patrons’ fancies for its incredible range of comedic expression. Dressler wed George Hoppert, a union that produced a daughter, who reportedly died at a young age. Their union ended sometime early in the 20th century and in 1908, she married her manager, J.H. Dalton.

While she had more than made a name for herself on vaudeville, even greater popularity awaited Dressler on Broadway in “Tillie’s Nightmare” (1910-11), where she made audiences keel over with laughter and knocked them out with the song “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl.” Dressler next starred in the two-act production “Roly Poly/Without the Law” (1912-13) and wore a number of hats for “Marie Dressler’s ‘All Star Gambol'” (1913), serving as star, stager, book author, and both scenic and costume designer. The Ontario native was in her mid-forties when she was convinced to bring Tillie to the silver screen in “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” (1914). Co-starring with an up-and-coming Charlie Chaplin, it was not only Dressler’s first feature, but also the very first feature-length comedy. A hit with audiences, it spawned the follow-ups “Tillie’s Tomato Surprise” (1915) and “Tillie Wakes Up” (1917), but Chaplin’s presence in the original ensured that it would be her most widely seen silent credit among later generations.

Although movies offered another medium for her talents, Dressler kept her options open. She returned to Broadway for director and star duties on “A Mix-up” (1914-15), but went back to just performing on “The Century Girl” (1916-17), which enjoyed a considerably longer run. After appearing in a handful more features, “The Red Cross Nurse” (1918) proved to be Dressler’s last for almost a decade. Back on the New York stage, she graced “The Passing Show of 1921” (1920-21) and what turned out to be her final Broadway engagement, “The Dancing Girl” (1923). In the interim, Dressler became a widow and never remarried. She resumed film work with such productions as “Breakfast at Sunrise” (1927), but major technological changes were soon in motion for the industry. The introduction of sound brought about the end of some careers, while Dressler would find her greatest success.

Movie audiences finally became acquainted with her voice in the early musicals “The Vagabond Lover” (1929) and “Chasing Rainbows” (1930), the allure of the latter enhanced by sequences presented in the early two-strip Technicolor process. By that point, Dressler had been signed by MGM and it was in their releases that she found her greatest exposure and most worthwhile cinema roles. After supporting Greta Garbo in the Swedish bombshell’s first talkie, the company’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie” (1930), Dressler graced several more features that year, most notably “Min and Bill” (1930). Paired with Wallace Beery – whose appearance and comedic skills almost made him her male equivalent – Dressler was able to elicit both laughs and sympathy in her turn as a woman running a low-class dive on the waterfront. During the course of the film, she willingly pays a terrible price to help a young woman she loves like a daughter escape to a better life. While the film occasionally descended into hoary melodrama, Dressler’s casting was spot on and earned her the Best Actress Academy Award.

At age 62, Marie Dressler was a bona fide movie star. MGM quickly toplined her in other vehicles that mixed comedy and drama, including “Reducing” (1931), “Prosperity” (1932), and “Emma” (1932), the latter resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The incomparable team of Dressler and Beery were back for “Tugboat Annie” (1933) and Dressler was honored with top billing over such leading lights as Jean Harlow and John and Lionel Barrymore in the star-laden classic “Dinner at Eight” (1933), where she impressed as Carlotta Vance, a former stage diva whose career has faded. In the film’s final scene, after the shapely, sexy Harlow wonders aloud if “machinery will take the place of every profession, Dressler does not miss a beat with “My dear, that is something you need never worry about.” In the wake of these successes, Dressler was named the top box office star of 1933 by the Motion Picture Herald, an amazing feat for a character actress-comedienne. She also earned the distinction of being the first woman ever featured on the cover of TIME magazine. Sadly, it proved to be her final year as an entertainer. Afflicted with cancer, Dressler could no longer perform following “Christopher Bean” (1933) and succumbed to the disease on July 28, 1934. She was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

By John Charles

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.
Post

Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch was born in 1940 in Chicago. She had a small role in the 1964 Elvis Presley movie “Roustabout”.   Welch came to attention as a new star in 1966 in “One Million Years B.C.”She posed iconically in an animal skin bikini for the British-release “One Million Years B.C” in 1966. She later starred in “Bedazzled” in 1967, “Bandolero”, “Lady in Cement” with Frank Sinatra and the title role in “Myra Breckinridge” in 1970.

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:

A new reigning 1960s international sex symbol took to the cinematic throne as soon as Raquel Welch emerged from the sea in her purposely depleted, furry prehistoric bikini. Tantalizingly wet with her garb clinging to all the right amazonian places, One Million Years B.C. (1966), if nothing else, captured the hearts and libidos of modern men (not to mention their teenage sons) while producing THE most definitive and best-selling pin-up poster of that time. After a major dry spell following the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, the auburn-maned Ms. Welch effortlessly assumed Marilyn’s place and forever wiped away the notion that enduring sex goddesses came only in one form — bottled blonds.

She was born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois, the first of three children born to Bolivian Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, an aerospace engineer, and his Irish-American wife Josephine Sarah Hall, who was the daughter of American architect Emery Stanford Hall (1869-1939) and his wife Clara Louise Adams. The family moved to San Diego, California (her father was transferred) when Raquel was only two. Taking dance lessons as a youngster, she grew up to be quite a knockout and nailed a number of teen beauty titles (“Miss Photogenic,” “Miss La Jolla,” “Miss Contour,” “Miss Fairest of the Fair” and “Miss San Diego”). With her sights set on theater arts, she studied at San Diego State College on a scholarship starting in 1958 and married her first husband, high school sweetheart James Welch, the following year. They had two childrenDamon Welch (born 1959) and Tahnee Welch (born 1961). Tahnee went on to take advantage of her own stunning looks as an actress, most notably a prime featured role inCocoon (1985).

Off campus Raquel became a local TV weather girl in San Diego and eventually quit college. Following the end of her marriage in 1961 (she and Welch didn’t divorced until 1965), she packed up her two children and moved to Dallas, Texas, where she modeled for Neiman-Marcus and worked as a barmaid for a time. Regrouping, she returned to California, migrated to Los Angeles, and made the rounds of film/TV auditions. Providing minor but sexy set decoration on the small screen (Bewitched (1964), McHale’s Navy(1962) and The Virginian (1962)) as well as the large (Elvis Presley‘s Roustabout (1964) and Doris Day‘s Do Not Disturb (1965)). Caught in the midst of the “beach party” craze, it’s not surprising to find out that her first prime film role was A Swingin’ Summer (1965), which concentrated more on musical guests The Righteous Brothers and Gary Lewis & The Playboys than on Raquel’s outstanding contributions. But 20th Century Fox certainly took notice and signed her up.

With her very first film under contract (actually, she was on loan out to Britain’s Hammer Studios at the time), she took on the remake of One Million B.C. (1940) in the Carole Landis role and the rest is history. Raquel remained an international celebrity in her first few years of stardom. In England, she was quite revealing as the deadly sin representing “lust” for the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their vehicle Bedazzled(1967), and as the title secret agent in the sexy spy spoof Fathom (1967). In Italy, she gained some exposure in primarily mediocre vehicles opposite such heartthrobs asMarcello Mastroianni. Back in the U.S., however, she caused quite a stir in her ground-breaking sex scenes with black athlete Jim Brown in the “spaghetti western” 100 Rifles(1969), and as the transgendered title role in the unfathomable Myra Breckinridge(1970).

Try as she might in such films as Kansas City Bomber (1972) and The Wild Party (1975), which drew some good reviews for her, her sexy typecast gave her little room to breathe. With determination, however, she partly offset this with modest supporting roles in larger ensemble pieces. She showed definite spark and won a Golden Globe for the swashbuckler The Three Musketeers (1973), and appeared to good advantage in the mystery thriller The Last of Sheila (1973). She planned on making a comeback in Cannery Row (1982), even agreeing to appear topless (which she had never done before), but was suddenly fired during production without notice. She sued MGM for breach of contract and ultimately won a $15 million settlement, but it didn’t help her film career and only helped to label her as trouble on a set. TV movies became a positive milieu for Raquel as she developed sound vehicles for herself such as The Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982) and Right to Die (1987). She also found a lucrative avenue pitching beauty products in infomercials and developing exercise videos à la Jane Fonda.

Raquel took advantage of her modest singing and dancing abilities by performing in splashy Las Vegas showrooms and starring in such plausible stage vehicles as “Woman of the Year” and “Victor/Victoria.” Still a dazzler broaching age 70, Raquel continues to show up here and there and still can turn heads. She has even spoofed her own diva image on occasion, most memorably on “Seinfeld”. More recently she has co-starred in the Hispanic-oriented TV series American Family (2002) and in the short-lived comedyWelcome to the Captain (2008), and appeared in the movies Tortilla Soup (2001), Legally Blonde (2001) and Forget About It (2006).

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

 

 

Post

Anne Baxter

 

Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter & Tom Tryon
Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter & Tom Tryon
Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter

“In her best-remembered role Anne Baxter was matched against Bette Davis, playing an actress who hoped to supplant her and did.   The film as named for her and not Davis – “All About Eve”.   It was an entirely competent performance – guile hidden by sweetness, and baleful in a mild way.   But it was not entirely believable.   Even if Davis had not been at her best you could not imagine Baxter supplanting her.   She was just not individual or forceful enough.   Baxter was no slouch as an actress and her (Best Supporting) Oscar was well deserved – it is just that on most outings she has been middle-of-the-road.   What one thinks of her is a shy smile – a lesser gift for actresses” – David Shipman – “The Great Movie Stars – The International Years” (1972).

Anne Baxter was born in Michigan in 1923.    She won an Oscar in 1946 for her performance as ‘Sophie’ in “The Razor’s Edge”.   Other films include “All About Eve” with Bette Davis and “A Walk On the Wild Side” in 1962.    Was especially effective in “The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”which was made in Australia with Ernest Borgnine, Angela Lansbury and John Mills.   She starred in the early 1980’s in the TV series “Hotel”.  In 1985 she suffered a brain aneurysm on the streets of New York and died a few days later.

TCM overview:

A luminous screen presence best known for a handful of roles, Anne Baxter acted in three Broadway productions while still in her teens and was soon invited to Hollywood. Her early films were not of consistent quality, but the lovely, husky-voiced actress usually managed to make a positive impression and showed genuine ability in pictures as varied as Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942), “Five Graves to Cairo” (1943) and “The Razor’s Edge” (1946), winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the latter. However, she was best remembered for her indelible performances as a ruthless, success-driven young actress in “All About Eve” (1950) and the gorgeous and nefarious Nefretiri in Cecil B. DeMille’s religious epic “The Ten Commandments” (1956). The movie assignments offered to Baxter in the wake of those triumphs were often not worthy of her skills, but she still managed to give consistent and laudable performances, particularly in projects that suitably challenged her. Principal among these was “Applause” (1972), a musical re-working of “All About Eve” for the stage in which the now older Baxter successfully assumed the role of the character she had deceived in the film. It was that sort of versatility and professionalism that allowed Baxter to earn numerous credits in three different mediums over a career spanning almost 50 years.

Born in Michigan City, IN on May 7, 1923, Anne Baxter was interested in acting from a young age; with her parents’ encouragement, she attended the Theodora Irvine School of Theatre for two years. She also received instruction from famous character actress Maria Ouspenskaya, a devotee of Constantin Stanislavski’s reality based “Method” style. At age 13, Baxter made her acting debut in the Broadway production “Seen But Not Heard” (1936) and returned to The Great White Way two years later in “There’s Always a Breeze” (1938) and “Madame Capet” (1938). The granddaughter of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, she received the balance of her education in private schools and honed her acting skills by appearing in summer stock productions. She was invited to do a screen test for 20th Century Fox’s production of “Rebecca” (1940). While the studio felt she was too young for that role, the higher-ups were impressed and Baxter was instead offered a seven-year contract. Her parents were initially against letting the still underage girl accept, but relented when family friend and veteran actor Nigel Bruce agreed to let her live with him and his wife.

Fox did not initially know what to do with Baxter, so she was sometimes loaned out to other studios. Following her first film, the forgettable MGM Western “20 Mule Team” (1940), Baxter had supporting roles in a handful of Fox productions and was criticized for her rather ripe performance in Jean Renoir’s melodramatic “Swamp Water” (1941). However, she was dispatched to RKO for Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) and did impressive work under his attentive direction. Unfortunately, the film was taken away from Welles and re-cut by the studio into an abbreviated version that greatly compromised the cinematic wunderkind’s original vision for the film. Baxter went over to Paramount for Billy Wilder’s impressive spy thriller “Five Graves to Cairo” (1943) and returned to RKO for “The North Star” (1943), a film designed to show America’s wartime Russian allies in a good light, a political slant that would make the picture rather infamous only a decade later. Further ingénue roles came in “Crash Dive” (1943) and “The Fighting Sullivans” (1944), but parts with more substance were in Baxter’s future. She enjoyed prime roles in the family outing “Smoky” (1946) and the fantasy comedy “Angel on My Shoulder” (1946), but really excelled in “The Razor’s Edge” (1946) as a young woman who turns to alcohol in an attempt to cope with the tragic death of her husband and daughter. Baxter’s powerful performance in the popular Somerset Maugham adaptation earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. That same year, she wed fellow performer John Hodiak, her co-star from “Sunday Dinner for a Soldier” (1944).

While some of her roles in the wake of “The Razor’s Edge” had not proved very demanding or fruitful for Baxter, she soon scored her career-defining part in “All About Eve” (1950) as ingénue Eve Harrington, who becomes consumed by ambition and betrays her older mentor, Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Originally planned with Claudette Colbert and Jeanne Crain in mind, the film was distinguished by its sophisticated script and superb direction, but it was the remarkable work of the two leading ladies that made it one of the prime dramas of that decade and a perennial favorite with moviegoers of all stripes. Baxter and Davis each received Best Actress Oscar nominations and it was felt that their placement in the same category caused them both to lose. Baxter had refused to go along with the studio plan that she be put forward for the Supporting Actress prize and confessed in later years that this show of ego damaged her relationship with Fox.

With all of the praise “Eve” had garnered, Baxter was at no loss for work and following her departure from Fox, she starred with Montgomery Clift in Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess” (1953). However, she was a very last minute replacement for original lead actress Anna Bjork in that troubled project and as a result, Baxter claimed that the director never warmed to her. She did stellar work in Fritz Lang’s stylish film noir “The Blue Gardenia” (1953), which was mostly overlooked but grew considerably in critical stature in the years following its release. However, her marriage to Hodiak had eroded and come to an end, the result of what Baxter claimed at the time was “extreme cruelty.” Following some lacklustre outings, she was cast as the self-absorbed Nefretiri in Cecil B. DeMille’s mega-production of “The Ten Commandments” (1956). Although her campy, smouldering performance certainly stood out and the film was a major success, the career bump that followed proved brief and the offers were once again largely for mediocre fare.

Baxter was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. That same year, she married Australian rancher Randolph Galt and moved to his home country. Now living thousands of miles from Hollywood, Baxter’s workload was reduced, but she did appear in movies like “Walk on the Wild Side” (1962), “The Tall Women” (1966), “The Busy Body” (1967), and a pair of early made-for-TV features. Baxter also kept busy on the small screen, gracing several episodes of “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68) as the campy villainesses Zelda the Great and Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. She guest starred on primetime perennials “The F.B.I.” (ABC, 1965-1974), “Ironside” (NBC, 1967-1975), “Marcus Welby, M.D.” (ABC, 1969-1976), and “The Name of the Game” (NBC, 1968-1971), garnering an Emmy nomination for the latter. Baxter and Galt had two children, and the rigors of being a working actress as well as a wife and mother on a remote cattle station ultimately took its toll. The couple divorced in 1968, with the actress again charging “extreme cruelty” as cause for the breakup.

With her movie options mostly reduced to little seen fare like “The Late Liz” (1971) and “Lapin 360” (1972), Baxter returned to Broadway in “Applause” (1972), a musical version of “All About Eve” with the twist that she played the Bette Davis role. Acting on stage in the same part for an extended period proved to be a challenge for Baxter, but critical response was favorable and she went on to co-star with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in “Noel Coward in Two Keys” (1974), where she performed in a pair of Coward’s one-act plays, “A Song at Twilight” and “Come into the Garden Maud.” Baxter published her autobiography, Intermission: A True Story, in 1976, but suffered a terrible personal tragedy the following year when her third husband, stockbroker David Klee, died only nine months into their marriage.

Aside from “Jane Austin in Manhattan” (1980), Baxter worked exclusively on television during the 1980s, including a four-episode stint on “The Love Boat” (ABC, 1977-1986) and a role in the miniseries remake of “East of Eden” (ABC, 1981). In yet another connection to her former “All About Eve” co-star, Baxter was called in to replace Davis when the elderly actress experienced health problems during shooting of the primetime drama “Hotel” (ABC, 1983-86). While her time on the program was originally meant to be temporary, Baxter stayed on for the remainder of its run when Davis was unable to return. Baxter had her final film role in “The Masks of Death” (1984), a British made-for-TV Sherlock Holmes mystery. While walking down Madison Avenue in December 1985, Baxter suffered a stroke. She never regained consciousness and died eight days later on Dec. 12th, 1985.

By John Charles

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

Post

Niven Boyd

Niven Boyd
Niven Boyd

Niven Boyd was born in 1954 in Gloucestershire.   Among his credits are , on television “Grange Hill, “Reilly, Ace of Spies and “Dempsey and Makepeace” and on film, “Out of Africa”and “Cry Freedom”.   He died in 2001 aged 46.

Post

Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt was born in 1893 in Berlin.   He has a special place in movie buffs hearts for his roles in “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari” which was made in Germany in 1919 and “Casablanca” which was made in Hollywood in 1942.   After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best paid stars of the studio Ufa he left Germany in 1933  after the Nazis came to power.  Conrad Veidt  moved in the United Kingdom, where he starred in a number of films such as “The Spy in Black” in 1939 with Valerie Hobson, “Contraband” and “The Thief of Bagdad”.  He emigratedto the United States around 194 to complete “The Thief of Bagdad” as production of the movie was halted in England due to World War Two.   He very quickly established himself as a major player in films made at the Warner Brothers Studio.   His other films in the U.S. included “Nazi Agent”, “A Woman’s Face” and “Above Suspicion”, the latter two movies with Joan Crawford.   He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1943 while playing golf in Los Angeles.

TCM overview:

One of the premiere actors of the German stage and silent screen, Conrad Veidt went on to become a prominent film star in Great Britain prior to his exodus to Hollywood during World War II, where, ironically, he was most often cast as a Nazi. Amidst the turmoil of World War I, Veidt trained with the renowned Max Reinhardt at the Deutches Theater in Berlin, where he grew from bit player to prominent leading man. With his mesmerizing portrayal of the sleepwalking killer in “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), Veidt achieved true lasting stardom as he continued to work with the greatest directors of the day, including Robert Wiene and F.W. Murnau. John Barrymore lured him out to Hollywood for “The Beloved Rogue” (1927) and director Paul Leni gave him one of his most iconic roles in “The Man Who Laughs” (1928), before the advent of sound prompted the German-speaking actor to return home. Soon, however, the rise of Nazism led Veidt and his Jewish wife to immigrate to England, where he mastered the language and continued his success in such works as “I Was a Spy” (1932) and “Dark Journey” (1937). Having relocated to Hollywood after the Blitz of London, the actor continued to work throughout the war, most memorably as the icy Nazi, Major Strasser in “Casablanca” (1942). Remembered for roles at each end of his professional timeline, Veidt maintained a prolific career in both theater and film on three continents for more than 25 years.

Born Walter Hans Conrad Veidt on Jan. 22, 1893 in Berlin, Germany, he was the son of working class parents Amalie and Phillip, the latter a civil servant. As an adolescent, Conrad attended Hollenzollern secondary school and began harboring dreams of an actor’s life while attending performances at the famed Deutches Theater in Berlin. It was there he began studying acting under the legendary German stage director Max Reinhardt until he was drafted into service with the outbreak of World War I soon after his apprenticeship had begun in 1914. After several months of active duty, Veidt was taken ill with jaundice and pneumonia and pulled out of combat duty. Stationed in the city of Libau, near the Baltic Sea, he found acting work entertaining the frontline troops at theaters organized by Lucie Mannheim, an actress with whom he had begun an intensely romantic relationship back in Berlin. Eventually deemed unfit for service, Veidt was discharged from the Army and returned to Berlin and the Deutches Theater in 1916, where he immediately resumed his acting career.

Having achieved star status on stage at the Deutches Theater under Reinhardt, it came as no surprise when Veidt was inevitably courted by directors and producers in the nascent motion picture industry. Early silent films “Der Weg des Todes” (1916), “Furcht” (1917) and “Der Spion” (“The Spy”) (1917), as well as a brief marriage to cabaret performer Augusta Hall soon followed. As he had on the stage, Veidt quickly set about establishing himself as a talented, dependable screen actor in a variety of roles. He essayed composer Frederic Chopin in “Nocturno der Leibe” (1919), Jules Verne’s Phineas Fogg in “Around the World in 80 Days” (1919) and as one of the first explicitly gay characters ever written for the screen in “Different from the Others” (1919). All of these films, directed by the likes of the great F.W. Murnau, were merely a prelude to his career-making turn as Cesare, the murderous somnambulist in director Robert Wiene’s expressionistic silent horror masterpiece, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). As successful as his professional life was, the extended periods apart had taken its toll on his marriage, leading to his amicable divorce from Hall. As he continued to work at a furious pace, Veidt married for a second time to Felicitas Radke, prior to reteaming with Wiene for the thriller “The Hands of Orlac” (1924) and portraying Ivan the Terrible in “Waxworks” (1924).

Veidt was enjoying great success as one of Germany’s most popular screen actors, in addition to experiencing the joys of fatherhood, with the arrival of his only child, Viola, when he received an offer he could not refuse. Invited to Hollywood by John Barrymore, Veidt made his U.S. film debut as King Louis XI in “The Beloved Rogue” (1927), starring Barrymore in the title role. Veidt remained in Hollywood for several pictures, including his eponymous turn in “The Man Who Laughs” (1928), a character with a rictus grin, said to have inspired the design of the comic book villain The Joker, more than a decade later. Unfortunately, with his limited English and thick accent, the advent of sound in motion pictures soon led to Veidt’s return to Germany, where his commanding voice only enhanced his stature and popularity. Unfortunately, personal history repeated itself for the actor, when just as his career was once more on the upswing his marriage to his second wife began to crumble. Thankful for any excuse to get away and rethink his situation, Veidt accepted an offer to travel to England, where he made several more films and quickly learned English. The German actor made his English-language debut with “The Congress Dances” (1932), quickly followed by an appearance in “Rome Express” (1932).

Having ended his marriage to Felicitas, Veidt chose to remain in England, where he continued to work in such popular films as “I Was a Spy” (1933) and “Jew Süss” (“Power”) (1934). It was also at this time that he met and married his third wife, Ilona “Lily” Präeger, with whom he stayed for the remainder of his life. Within weeks of his marriage to Lily, who was Jewish, Veidt wisely chose to immigrate to the U.K. as the Nazi party rose to prominence in his homeland. Although not Jewish himself, the actor reportedly scrawled the word “Jude” on his race identification card in a show of solidarity for his beloved new wife. Happier than ever before, Veidt remained in England and eventually became a British citizen in 1938. Films of the period include “Dark Journey” (1937), co-starring Vivien Leigh, and “The Devil is an Empress” (1938). He made his final two British productions under the direction of Michael Powell in “The Spy in Black” (1939) and “Contraband” (1940), before the escalation of World War II prompted the studio to send their star to the relatively safer environs of the United States. And so, in 1940, Veidt made his return to Hollywood.

Veidt quickly made his first Hollywood talkie with the Norma Shearer-Robert Taylor wartime drama “Escape” (1940), cast as a menacing Nazi officer. Regrettably, despite his own personal loathing of the fascist party and all it stood for, Veidt found himself cast almost exclusively as a Nazi throughout the remainder of his career in Hollywood. One notable early exception was the Technicolor fantasy classic “The Thief of Baghdad” (1940). Although production had initially begun in London, it was moved – along with Veidt – to Hollywood for completion after the Blitz. Veidt’s inspired performance as the evil Jaffar proved so influential that it clearly served as an inspiration for the Disney animated adaptation of the tale some 50 years later. Working on such films as “A Woman’s Face” (1941) and the Humphrey Bogart comedic-caper “All Through the Night” (1941), Veidt did his part by sending large portions of his salary back to his adopted country to aid in the British war efforts. He made two more films the following year. The first, “Nazi Agent” (1942), provided Veidt with the rare opportunity to play identical twins – one a calculating Nazi spy, the other, a German expatriate – while the second film would arguably feature the role he would be most widely remembered for by American audiences.

That second feature was “Casablanca” (1942), one of the quintessential films in all of American cinema; it boasted a stellar cast that included Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Ingrid Bergman, and Bogart as the owner of a nightclub in Vichy-controlled Morocco. Supremely sinister as the calculating Major Strasser, it was ironic that the avowed anti-Nazi would be primarily remembered for a portraying a character whose very raison d’être stood for everything the actor loathed in his former homeland. To his credit, Strasser went on to be regarded as one of film’s all-time classic villains. Veidt took part in one more film after “Casablanca,” the middling espionage thriller “Above Suspicion” (1943), which paired him for the final time with Joan Crawford, as well as Fred MacMurry and Basil Rathbone. Safely away from the wartime dangers of Europe, happy, at last in his third marriage and enjoying a respectable career in American film, Veidt’s life was quite possibly as good as it had ever been – making it all the more tragic when the 50-year-old actor died of a sudden heart attack while playing golf in Los Angeles on April 3, 1943.

By Bryce Coleman

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.
Post

Lori Nelson

Lori Nelson
Lori Nelson

Lori Nelson was born in 1933 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.   She was under contract with Universal Studios in the 1950’s.

IMDB entry:

Lori Nelson began her show biz career at the age of two-and-a-half, dancing in a show in her native Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was voted Santa Fe’s most talented and beautiful child, and toured the state billed as “Santa Fe’s Shirley Temple.” At age four, Nelson moved to Hollywood with her parents and there was named Little Miss America. She worked as a fashion photographer’s model, then (in the early 1940s) made her first bid for a movie career, testing (unsuccessfully) for a role in Warner Brothers’ Kings Row(1942). There was a second false start a few years later, when Arthur M. Landau, a Hollywood producer and self-proclaimed “discoverer” of 1930s star Jean Harlow, expressed interest in casting teenage Nelson as Harlow in a movie bio. (The project never materialized.) Agent Milo O. Frank Jr. helped Nelson get into the movies, taking her to Universal to meet with casting people. Nelson trained with the studio dramatic coach, enacted a scene for the front office and ultimately was offered a seven-year contract, which was approved in court on her 17th birthday. After several years at Universal, she freelanced in movies and TV.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Tom Weaver <TomWeavr@aol.com>

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Post

Dolores Gray

Dolores Gray
Dolores Gray

Dolores Gray was born in 1924 in Chicago.   Dolores Gray was briefly signed with MGM, appearing in Kismet(1955) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955).   She died in New York in 2002..

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:

Dabbling in practically every facet of the business during her over six-decade career — nightclubs, cabaret, radio, recordings, TV, film and Broadway — sultry, opulent, hard-looking singing star Dolores Gray, distinctive for her sharp, somewhat equine features, lived the high life for most of her time on earth. Born in Chicago in 1924, she began singing in Hollywood supper clubs at age 14 and eventually was discovered by Rudy Vallee, who made her a name on his radio show. From there the larger-than-life talent took to the stage, debuting on Broadway in 1944. In 1947, she gussied up London’s post-war theater district when she starred as Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Lucky for her, Ethel Merman refused the tour and Dolores became the toast of the West End for over two years. She also attracted tabloid attention with her extravagant life style, outlandish clothes and ‘Auntie Mame’-like joie de vivre. Broadway musicals beckoned following her success abroad and the dusky alto returned to New York, earning raves in the short-lived “Carnival in Flanders” with John Raitt, which won her the Tony award, and “Destry Rides Again” co-starring pre-TV star Andy Griffith, which earned her a Tony nomination. MGM wanted in on the action and signed her. Dolores managed a few scene-grabbing second leads in It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) starring Gene Kelly,Kismet (1955) with Howard Keel and Ann BlythThe Opposite Sex (1956), starring June Allyson and Joan Collins, which was a somewhat misguided musical version of the classic comedy “The Women,” and the chic non-musical Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall. And then it was over for Dolores in movies. Hit by the decline of the musical film, she, trooper that she was, found work on TV variety, recorded for Capitol Records and remained a top-of-the-line cabaret act for decades to come. Despite her somewhat outré reputation, Dolores married only once — to California businessman and race horse owner Andrew Crevolin in 1967. Although the marriage lasted approximately 9 years. they never divorced. In fact, the couple never even formally separated as she was a devout Catholic. She and Andrew would remain close friends until his death in 1992. Dolores passed away a decade later in her Manhattan apartment of a heart attack at age 78 in 2002.

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

Ronald Bergan’s “Guardian” obituary:

f one were to compile a list of entertainers who cheered up Britain in the austere years after the second world war, the American singer and actor Dolores Gray, who has died aged 78, would be among the top names. On June 7 1947, the colourful Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun burst onto the stage of the London Coliseum, with the ebullient Gray in the title role. The show ran for three years, the longest run in the theatre’s history, and Gray, in her first big success, became the toast of the town.She may not have had as singular a sound and personality as Ethel Merman, who created the part on Broadway, but her voice was almost as powerful and she was more attractive, both in looks and character. When her voice was compared to Merman’s, Gray explained, “Actually, my voice is fragile, but I know how to amplify it.”

During her stay in London, she took the opportunity to study at the Royal Academy of Art (Rada), and played Nell Gwynne at a performance in aid of the fund to rebuild the Rada theatre. She returned in 1958 to appear triumphantly at the London Palladium, where she was called upon to give her energetic renderings of Doin’ What Comes Naturally, You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun and I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning from Annie Get Your Gun.

Gray’s association with the west end continued in cabaret at the Talk of the Town in 1963, and as the monstrous stage-mother Rose in the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim musical Gypsy (another Merman creation) at the Piccadilly in 1973.

Later, as Carlotta Campion, in Sondheim’s Follies at the Shaftesbury in 1987, her legs as long and as shapely as ever, she belted out that hymn to show-biz durability, I’m Still Here, in a manner which nobody could deny. The lyrics catalogue all the events the former chorus girl has survived and the roles she has had to play: “First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp/ Then someone’s mother, then you’re camp.”

Gray’s own life and career was not as varied as Carlotta’s, but it had its share of ups and downs. She was born in Chicago, and after her parents divorced while she was still a child, her mother took her to Hollywood, taught her to sing and act, and encouraged her to perform in clubs in her mid-teens. It was not long before she was discovered by the crooner Rudy Vallee, who put her on his national radio show.

She made her Broadway debut in 1944, in the Cole Porter musical revue Seven Lively Arts – the starry company included Beatrice Lillie, Bert Lahr, Benny Goodman and Alicia Markova. The following year, she played the showgirl Bunny La Fleur in Are You With It? After her first London success, she failed to rescue the Broadway musical Carnival In Flanders, based on the Jacques Feyder film, but, although it ran for only six performances, the show earned Gray a 1954 Tony award and a successful film test at MGM, directed by Vincente Minnelli.

The four films she made for that studio were certainly enlivened by her dynamic singing and witty acting. In the Gene Kelly-Stanley Donen musical It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), she played a stunningly dressed television hostess who sings Thanks A Lot But No Thanks, while refusing gifts from wealthy chorus boys, and Music Is Better Than Words. She stood out among the oriental kitsch of Minnelli’s Kismet (1955) as Lalume, the wazir’s lustful wife, singing Not Since Ninevah and Rahadlakum.

The Opposite Sex (1956), the pallid musical remake of The Women, had Gray competing with Joan Collins, June Allyson, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller. Her final – and best – film was as Gregory Peck’s old flame in Minnelli’s comedy Designing Woman (1957), which included a splendid scene of Gray tipping a plate of pasta onto Peck’s lap, and a production number, There’ll Be Some Changes Made, in which she delivers the song wonderfully unruffled while changing gowns in a rehearsal.

Back on Broadway in 1959, she had another hit as Frenchy (the part played on film by Marlene Dietrich) in the musical Destry Rides Again. Once, during a matinee, the stage curtain caught fire while she and Andy Griffith were performing Anyone Would Love You. As fireman and stagehands fought the flames backstage, the couple kept on singing more loudly than ever.

Gray’s marriage to Andrew Crevolin, a California property developer and racehorse owner, ended in divorce. She is survived by a stepdaughter.

· Dolores Gray, actor and singer, born June 7 1924; died June 26 2002

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

 

Post

Mischa Auer

Misca Auer
Misca Auer

 

Mischa Auer Picture

Mischa Auer, who was born in Russia in 1905, was one of the great U.S. character actors in movies in the 1930’s and 40’s.   Moving to hollywood in the late 1920s. He first appeared on film there in 1928. Auer went on to a long career playing in many of the era’s most well known films, receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1936. He later moved into television and acted in films again in France and Italy well into the 1960s.   He died in 1967.

TCM overview:

The tall Russian-born Mischa Auer is perhaps best remembered for his hilarious, scene-stealing performance as Alice Brady’s gorilla-impersonating protege in the 1936 screwball classic “My Man Godfrey”, which brought him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Born and raised in St Petersburg, Russia, Auer moved to the USA after his parents’ deaths. He began his career on the stage, working with Eva LeGallienne’s acting troupe and later touring the USA with other theatrical groups. While performing on stage in “Magda”, he was hired for his first screen role in “Something Always Happens” (1927) and spent the better part of the next decade relegated to playing “foreign” exotics in features like “The Unholy Garden” (1931) and “Sinister Hands” (1932) or playing small, inconsequential roles in support of some of the period’s biggest stars like the Barrymore siblings in “Rasputin and the Empress” and Greta Garbo in “Mata Hari” (both 1932).

After his breakthrough turn in “My Man Godfrey”, Auer continued to find plentiful work in Hollywood playing wildly humorous supporting roles, often as excitable middle-Europeans. He was genuinely funny in “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938) and “Destry Rides Again” (1939) and enlivened “Hellzapoppin'” (1941) and the whodunit “And Then There Were None” (1945). By the late 1940s, however, Auer relocated to Europe where he continued to work until his 1967 fatal heart attack.

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.
Post

Eddie Fisher

Eddie Fisher
Eddie Fisher

Eddie Fisher - still.JPG

 

Eddie Fisher was one of the most famous of the popular solo singers in the U.S. in the 1950’s.   His hits included “Lady of Spain” and “On the Street Where You Live”.   He was born in Philadelphia in 1928.   He made some movies incuding “Bundle of Joy” opposite Debbie Reynolds, his first wife and “Butterfield 8” in 1960 opposite his second wife Elizabeth Taylor.   His third wife was actress Connie Stevens.   He died in 2010 at the age of 82.   His popular songs include “Lady of Spain” and “On the Street Where You Live”.

Michael Freedland’s obituary in “The Guardian”:

Eddie Fisher, who has died aged 82 of complications from hip surgery, deserves to be remembered as one of the sweetest popular singers of the pre-rock’n’roll era, with 32 hits selling millions of copies. Instead, it was as one of the many husbands of Elizabeth Taylor that he etched himself a place in show business history. And further to that, “I came from the streets of Philadelphia to the White House – Harry Truman loved me, Ike loved me, Jack Kennedy and I shared drugs and women,” he later said of himself.

It was a reputation that he did not need. Numbers such as I’m Walking Behind You, Wish You Were Here and Oh, My Pa-Pa got young women screaming and music aficionados admiring the sheer strength and beauty of his voice – a most unusual combination. Yet when his love for his wife Debbie Reynolds turned sour and he switched his loyalties to Taylor, fame took on an entirely different complexion.

Fisher was born in Philadelphia, the fourth of seven children of Russian-Jewish immigrants who worked in tailoring sweatshops and lived in a slum. He was shy as a child, but not for long. And he realised from an early age that he had a remarkably strong voice. “I couldn’t have been more than three or four years old. I opened my mouth and this beautiful sound came out.”

Fisher began his singing career in traditional fashion in the local synagogue choir, but secular music appealed more, and although he sang for services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, on other evenings of the week he was taking part in amateur theatrical shows. He sang with local bands while still at high school, and at the age of 18 he was already performing with Buddy Morrow and Charlie Ventura.

He then took another traditional route – working in the Catskill mountains, the holiday resort much favoured by Jewish New Yorkers. It was the area known as the Borscht Belt, because of the emphasis on beetroot soup and sour cream, although that was never as important as the entertainers.

The Borscht Belt was the nursery of outstanding Jewish entertainers: Danny Kaye, Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis and Eddie Cantor all made huge impacts at Belt hotels. Cantor’s role there was more as a talent scout than as a performer, and it was at Grossinger’s hotel that he first heard Fisher sing in 1949. He invited him on to the Eddie Cantor Show on radio, which proved highly popular with his audiences, and in 1950 Fisher had his first hit, Thinking of You.

The following year he joined the US army, further boosting his popularity by entertaining troops in Korea in 1952-53. He continued to make records during this time, helped by a publicity campaign featuring himself in uniform. His successes with I’m Walking Behind You and Oh, My Pa-Pa were followed by I Need You Now, Downhearted and, most significantly, (You Gotta Have) Heart (1954), the big hit from the show Damn Yankees. In 1955 there was Dungaree Doll and Everybody’s Got a Home But Me, and in 1956 Cindy, Oh Cindy. But it took until 1961, with a version of Tonight, from West Side Story, and 1966, with Games That Lovers Play, for him to return to the charts in a limited way.

“I was too busy making hit records to be concerned about the music,” he said. Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Tony Bennett cared about “songs that meant something. I didn’t.” But his songs meant something to his private life. Another Fisher hit in 1956 had been Irving Berlin’s A Man Chases a Girl (Until She Catches Him). That particular record was notable for one other, uncredited, performance. The refrain “until she catches him” was recited by Reynolds who, four years earlier, had proved to be a favourite girl-next-door in the film Singin’ in the Rain.

They married in 1955, soon after the record was pressed, although Fisher would say he never really loved her enough to marry. He claimed to have had affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Mia Farrow and Bette Davis among others. Yet for a time, he and Reynolds seemed to be the ideal couple, loved by fans and the famous alike.

Their closest friends were Elizabeth Taylor and her film producer husband, Mike Todd. When Todd was killed in an air crash, Fisher took it upon himself to console his widow. He and Reynolds divorced, and Fisher and Taylor married in a Jewish religious ceremony in 1959. The marriage did not last. In 1960 Taylor met Richard Burton while making Cleopatra, and in 1964 divorced Fisher.

Three years later he married the actor and singer Connie Stevens. They, too, divorced after a couple of years. His marriage to Terry Richard in 1975 lasted 10 months, but his fifth marriage, to a Chinese-born businesswoman, Betty Lin, in 1993, was the longest, ending with her death in 2001.

Fisher was frustrated that the scale of his early success as a singer was frequently overlooked. In his autobiography, Been There, Done That (1999), he reminded people that he had had more consecutive hits than the Beatles or Elvis Presley and that at one time, he had 65,000 separate fan clubs. In the mid-1950s, he was earning $1m a year.

Fisher had a short, unimpressive film career. The most notable role was playing opposite Taylor in her Oscar-winning movie, Butterfield 8 (1960). He had also appeared opposite Reynolds in Bundle of Joy (1956).

Fisher remained out of the public eye for almost 20 years, and a comeback of sorts in 1983 did not succeed in relaunching his career. At the same time, he issued an album of new songs, After All (1984), which received some critical approval.

He is survived by four children: his daughter Carrie, who came to fame as Princess Leia in the first three Star Wars films, and a son, Todd, from his marriage to Reynolds; and two daughters, Joely and Tricia, from his marriage to Stevens.

• Eddie (Edwin John) Fisher, singer and actor, born 10 August 1928; died 22 September 2010

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

Post

Angela Clarke

Angela Clarke

Angela Clarke
Angela Clarke

Wikipedia entry:

 (born August 14, 1909 – December 16, 2010) was an American stage, television and film actress.   Clarke appeared in over thirty films throughout her forty-year career, usually in bit parts or in background roles, uncredited. Films in which she made a large impression included The Seven Little Foys, where she played a large supporting role as Bob Hope‘s disapproving sister-in-law, House of Wax,[1] A Double Life,[2] The Gunfighter[3] and The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.   Angela Clarke, despite entering the film business in her early forties (in 1949’s The Undercover Man), cornered the market for grey-haired, matriarchal motherly-types (such as her role as Mama Caruso in The Great Caruso).[5] Clarke died, aged 101, in Moorpark, California.