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Archive for August, 2019


Graham Faulkner

Graham Faulkner (Wikipedia)

Graham Faulkner was born in 1947 in London, UK and is a British former actor.

His first and greatest role was as Francis of Assisi in Franco Zeffirelli‘s Brother Sun, Sister Moon(1972). After that, he virtually retired from acting. He played a small number of very minor roles, but has not been involved in film or television since 1984. He left acting to find stable employment in order to support his family and has worked for a private British bank.


Liam Gaffney

Liam Gaffney (22 June 1911 – July 1994) was an Irish film  and television actor.


George Chakiris

George Chakiris
George Chakiris

George Chakiris was born in 1934 is a retired American dancer, singer, and actor. He is best known for his appearance in the film version of West Side Story as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.

George Chakiris
George Chakiris

Chakiris was born in Norwood, Ohio, to Steven and Zoe (née Anastasiadou) Chakiris, immigrants from Greece. He attended high school in Tucson, Arizona and Long Beach.

Chakiris did one year of college, but he wanted to dance, so he dropped out and moved to Hollywood. He worked in the advertising branch of a department store and began to study dancing at night.

Chakiris made his film debut in 1947, in the chorus of Song of Love.

George Chakiris
George Chakiris

For several years he appeared in small roles, usually as a dancer or a member of the chorus in various musical films, including The Great Caruso (1951), Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), Call Me Madam (1953), Second Chance (1953) and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953).

He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe‘s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and was also in Give a Girl a Break (1953).

He can be seen in the funeral dance in the MGM musical film Brigadoon (1954) and was in There’s No Business Like Show Business‘ (1954).

Chakiris appeared as a dancer in White Christmas (1954). A publicity photo of Chakiris with Rosemary Clooney from her “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” scene generated fan mail, and Paramount signed him to a movie contract. “I got lucky with the close-up with Rosemary,” said Chakiris.[4][5]

George Chakiris
George Chakiris

Chakiris was in The Country Girl (1954), and The Girl Rush (1955), dancing with Rosalind Russell in the latter. He received a positive notice from Hedda Hopper.

MGM borrowed him for Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) and he did dancing in Las Vegas.

Chakiris had a small non-dancing part in Under Fire (1957).

Frustrated with the progress of his career, Chakiris left Hollywood for New York. West Side Story had been running for a year on Broadway, and Chakiris auditioned for Jerome Robbins. He was cast in the London production as “Riff”, leader of the Jets. The musical launched on the West End in late 1958 and Chakiris received excellent reviews, playing it for almost 22 months.

The Mirisch Brothers bought the film rights to West Side Story and tested Chakiris. They ended up feeling his dark complexion made him more ideal for the role of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, and cast Russ Tamblyn as Riff. Filming took seven months.

The film of West Side Story (1961) was hugely successful and Chakiris won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. This led him to be contracted by the Mirisch Company to a long-term contract.

Chakiris played the lead role in a British film, Two and Two Make Six (1962), directed by Freddie Francis. He was announced for Day of the Damned with Montgomery Clift but it was not made.

He starred as a doctor in the film Diamond Head (1963) opposite Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux, which was popular.

In the early 1960s, he embarked on a career as a pop singer, resulting in a couple of minor hit songs. In 1960, he recorded one single with noted producer Joe Meek.

Chakiris’ fee around this time was a reported $100,000 per movie.[13] His first new film for the Mirishes was Flight from Ashiya (1964), shot in Japan with Yul Brynner and Richard Widmark.

The Mirisches announced him for Young Lucifer, with Tuesday Weld and directed by Irvin Kershner, but it was not made.Neither was a film version of Carnival! which Arthur Freed wanted to make with Chakiris, Yvette Mimieux, and Robert Goulet.

Instead the Mirisches reunited Chakiris with Brynner in Kings of the Sun (1963), an epic about the Mayans which was a box office flop. Chakiris went to Italy to make Bebo’s Girl (1964) with Claudia Cardinale.

He did 633 Squadron (1964), a popular war movie with Cliff Robertson, the last movie he made for the Mirisches. Chakiris later said he made a mistake with his Hollywood films by looking at the “potential” of them instead of the quality of the roles.

Chakiris played a Greek terrorist in Cyprus in a British filmThe High Bright Sun (1965) with Dirk Bogarde for which he was paid $100,000. He went to Italy for The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen (1965) and France for Is Paris Burning? (1966).[17]

He acted along with Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly in Jacques Demy‘s French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967). Around this time his manager cancelled his contract with Capital Records. However he enjoyed his time in Europe saying he had time to “experiment and refine my craft.”[16] He also did a nightclub act at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, his first stage work since West Side Story.

The show was successful and led to Chakiris receiving an offer to appear alongside Jose Ferrer in a TV production of Kismet (1967). He did The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968) in France and The Big Cube (1969) with Lana Turner in America. He made Sharon vestida de rojo (1970) in Spain.

In 1969 Chakiris did a stage production of The Corn Is Green in Chicago with Eileen Herlie. He enjoyed the experience and it revived his confidence as an actor. He said all the films he made after West Side Story had been “a waste of time… it was difficult to take them seriously… It was my fault and no one else’s”.

Chakiris accepted a dramatic role on Medical Center to change his image.

He starred in the first national tour of the Stephen Sondheim musical, Company, touring as Bobby in 1971-72.

Chakiris worked heavily on TV in the 1970s and 1980s in Britain and America, guest starring on shows like Hawaii Five-OPolice SurgeonThriller,  Notorious WomanWonder WomanFantasy IslandCHiPsMatt HoustonScarecrow and Mrs. KingPoor Little Rich GirlsHell Town and Murder, She Wrote.

He appeared in the final episode of The Partridge Family as an old high school boyfriend to Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones, also a musical theater veteran and the person who just happened to have presented him with his Academy Award). Their kiss goodbye was the final scene in the program’s run. He also starred in a film Why Not Stay for Breakfast? (1979).

Chakiris appeared in several episodes of Dallas and had a role on Santa Barbara.

Chakiris had a recurring role on the TV show Superboy as Professor Peterson during the first two seasons from 1988-1990.

He was top billed in the film Pale Blood (1990) and guest starred on Human Target and The Girls of Lido. He played The King And I on stage in 1995 in Los Angeles.

Chakiris’ last role to date was in a 1996 episode of the British sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.

He has given occasional television interviews since then, but is mostly retired. His hobby of making sterling silver jewelry has turned into a new occupation,[21] working as a jewelry designer for his own brand, George Chakiris Collections, consisting of handmade original sterling silver jewelry.

A vegetarian, in 2012 he presented a musical about veganism titled Loving the Silent Tears.


Gary Conway

Gary Conway

Gary Conway (Wikipedia)

Gary Conway was born in 1936 and is an American actor and screenwriter. His notable credits include a co-starring role with Gene Barry in the detective series, Burke’s Law, from 1963–1965. In addition, he starred in the Irwin Allen sci-fi series Land of the Giants from 1968–1970.

Conway’s early film credits include the cult horror films I Was a Teenage Frankenstein(1957) as the monster, and How to Make a Monster (1958). In 1958, he was cast in the “Man Hunt” episode of the western aviation television seriesSky King, with Kirby GrantRichard Beymer and Gloria Winters.

In 1960, Conway appeared as Lt. Charles Williams in the episode “Absent Without Leave” of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Colt .45, starring Wayde PrestonTyler McVeywas in the guest cast as Col. Ben Williams, and Steve Brodie also appeared in the episode.  He also appeared in 1960 in three episodes under the names of different characters on the ABC/WB crime drama, Bourbon Street Beat, starring Andrew Duggan. In 1966 Conway made an unsuccessful television pilot Assault!, made by the producers of Combat! about the US Marine Corps in the Pacific in 1942.

Gary also starred in the tv series Land of the Giants from 1967-1969 as Captain Steve Burton. 

Conway starred with Bette Davis in the 1972 television movie The Judge and Jake Wyler. In 1973, Conway was featured in Playgirl magazine’s August issue. He also guest-starred as the murder victim in the 1973 Columbo episode “Any Old Port in a Storm”.

His other film credits include Young Guns of Texas (1962), Black Gunn (1972), The Farmer(1977),[9] Once Is Not Enough (1975), American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987) and Liberty & Bash (1989). He also starred in Woman’s Story (2000), which he also wrote and directed.



Shivaun Casey

Shivaun O’Casey interview in “The Irish Independent” in 2018.

Shivaun O’Casey can clearly remember the moment when she realised just how much some Irish people hated her father. It was February 1955 and the 15-year-old had made her first trip to Ireland for the premiere of Sean O’Casey’s new clerical drama, The Bishop’s Bonfire. While religious groups protested outside the Gaiety Theatre, inside there were cries of “Blasphemy”, “Sacrilege!” and “Get out, ye dirty Protestants!”

“It was a very exciting evening,” recalls Shivaun, now an elegantly spoken 78-year-old woman with a ready laugh. “Leaflets were thrown down on our heads from the gallery and my mother Eileen whispered to me, ‘They’re trying to make it like the Plough, dear.'”

Even as a teenager, Shivaun understood the reference. At the Abbey Theatre in 1926, the first production of The Plough and the Stars had been disrupted by rioters who felt outraged by its less than reverential depiction of the Easter Rising. An equally annoyed WB Yeats famously arrived on stage himself and shouted at the protesters, “You have disgraced yourselves again!”

When Shivaun revisits the Gaiety later this month for another performance of The Plough and the Stars, it seems safe to assume that the atmosphere will be a lot more respectful. Previously staged at the Abbey and Lyric Hammersmith in London, this is a radical, modern-dress interpretation that begins with the sickly tenement girl Mollser singing ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ before coughing up blood. Although Shivaun has no formal connection with the production, she was consulted by director Sean Holmes during its planning stages and is happy to give it her endorsement.

“I could see that he had a great love for the play,” she says. “That was so important to me. Plough isn’t performed as often as Juno and the Paycock or The Shadow of a Gunman because it needs so many actors, but this has a brilliant cast – it’s definitely of the best versions I’ve ever seen.”

As O’Casey’s last surviving child, Shivaun feels both proud and protective of his legacy. In particular, she is keen to dispel the popular notion that he was a bitter, cantankerous man who ended up hating his native country.

“The truth is that he always loved Ireland and kept in close contact with it,” she insists. “He just didn’t like the conservative political direction it had taken.”

Shivaun was born in 1939, by which time O’Casey had become fed up with his treatment by the Irish literary establishment and moved to south-west England. Among the family friends who sent letters of congratulations were Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw and future British prime minister Harold Macmillan. Shaw congratulated Eileen on producing a girl after two boys, declaring: “Sisterless men are always afraid of women.”

O’Casey, his daughter points out, was something of an early feminist himself. “As a boy, he had bad eyesight and would sit quietly for hours, just listening to his mother and her friends talking. He used to say that if presidents and prime ministers were women, there would be no more war because they understood what it’s like to lose a child.”

Growing up in Devon, Shivaun did not realise at first that her father was anything special. She fondly remembers the constant clack-clack of his typewriter and him singing out loud when things were going well. She would then go into his room, where he often greeted her with the words, “would you like a piece of fudge?” At the age of eight she listened to Juno and the Paycock on the radio and felt “very nervous that perhaps I wouldn’t like it. Fortunately, I thought it was wonderful”.

When Shivaun decided she wanted to be an actress herself, Sean was not particularly keen. “He said it was a thankless profession and I should be a scene designer instead, because then at least you’ve got something to hang on the wall.”ADVERTISEMENT

She defied his advice and later enjoyed success as a director, too, co-founding the O’Casey Theatre Company that staged classic Irish plays around this country and the US.

Shortly before Sean’s death in 1964, John Ford began directing a wildly romantic and inaccurate film about his early life called Young Cassidy. Although Shivaun herself had a cameo role as Lady Gregory’s maid, she claims never to have actually watched it. “I just didn’t think much of the script. It gave such a wrong impression of life in the Dublin tenements, with chickens running about and people throwing chamber pots out the window. I’ve got a copy at home, but I could never get past the first 10 minutes – isn’t that awful?”

Shivaun made a documentary about her father in 2005 and is currently working on a memoir based around the family’s correspondence. She is also looking forward to visiting Dublin again, where her granddaughter is a drama student at the Lir Academy. She keeps a close eye on Irish current affairs and is fervently hoping for a Yes vote in next month’s abortion referendum.

The Plough and the Stars still endures, she believes, because it has a timeless message about the suffering of ordinary people in conflict situations.

“When I directed the play in 1997, it felt relevant due to the war in Bosnia. Today it’s Syria. If Sean was here today, he’d be delighted by the progress Ireland has made. But he’d also be writing about the things that still need to change.”


Billy Gray

Billy Gray

Billy Gray (Wikipedia)

Billy Gray was born in 1938 and is an American former actor known primarily for his role as James “Bud” Anderson, Jr., in 193 episodes of the situation comedy Father Knows Best, which aired between 1954 and 1960 on both NBC and CBS. A motorcycleaficionado, Gray maintains a large collection of the vehicles.

Gray was born in Los Angeles to actress Beatrice Gray (March 3, 1911 – November 25, 2009), and her husband, William H. Gray. His mother was mostly uncredited in the 1930s and 1940s, having appeared in Otto Preminger‘s Laura, with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. In 1949, Billy Gray and his mother appeared in separate scenes in the film Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

In 1951, at age 13, he appeared in the film Jim Thorpe — All-American, with Burt Lancaster in the lead role. Gray portrayed the Indian athlete Jim Thorpe as a child. Later that year, he was chosen to appear in the science fiction picture The Day the Earth Stood StillMichael Rennieplayed the part of the alien who befriends a boy played by Gray.[2] In 1952 he appeared in an uncredited role as one of the many children in Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair. That same year he played George Murphy‘s son in MGM‘s Talk About a Stranger, portraying a boy who saves his money to buy a dog, only to have it killed. He blames a strange reclusive new neighbor played by Kurt Kasznar for the death. Gray in 1952 was also slated to play the part of Tagg Oakley in the syndicated western television series Annie Oakley, starring Gail Davis and Brad Johnson. Billy did perform as Tagg in the first of two pilots produced for that series, in the 1952 episode titled “Bull’s Eye”, which potential sponsors opted not to purchase and underwrite the series. Oddly, the Bull’s Eye episode was aired as Season 1, Episode 21.  This makes watching the series a bit confusing when Annie’s appearance is somewhat different and Tagg is played by a completely different actor for a single mid season episode. The role of Tagg later went to 12-year-old Jimmy Hawkins for the series’ second pilot, “Annie Gets Her Man” (aired as Season 1, Episode 14)[6], and for the full run of Annie Oakley after sponsors bought the series. Gray instead joined the cast of Father Knows Best, which would premiere nine months after the first broadcast of Annie Oakley in January 1954.

After Gray’s brief work on the Annie Oakley series, Warner Bros. in 1953 cast Gray as Wesley Winfield in By the Light of the Silvery Moon, a sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951) in which Gray had played the role of the same Wesley Winfield. He appeared as Alan in the 1953 episode “Shot in the Dark” of the Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. In that episode’s plot, the character Alan takes a photograph of Superman that could expose the hero’s secret identity. Also in 1953 Billy Gray appeared in “The Girl Next Door” as Dan Dailey’s son Joe Carter. In 1953 Billy Gray appeared in “All I Desire” as Barbara Stanwyck’s son Ted Murdoch.

In 1955, Gray appeared in The Seven Little Foys, which starred Bob Hope as famed vaudeville entertainer Eddie Foy, in the teen role of Bryan Lincoln Foy. In 1957, while still on Father Knows Best, Gray appeared as Mike Edwards in the episode “Come Back Darling Asta” of Peter Lawford‘s NBC crime series The Thin Man, based on the work of Dashiell Hammett.

After Father Knows Best, Gray appeared in several dozen single-appearance television roles. In 1960, he guest-starred as Frankie Niles in the episode “Dark Return” of the ABC western series Stagecoach West, a program similar to the longer-running Wagon Train. That same year he portrayed David Ross in the episode “Ginger’s Big Romance” on Bachelor Father.

In 1961, he played Johnny Blatner in the episode “Two-Way Deal” of the Henry Fonda/Allen Case NBC western The Deputy. He appeared twice in 1961 on the anthology series General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan. That same year he was Perry Hatch in “The Hatbox” of CBS’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1962, he appeared on CBS’s The Red Skelton Show.[8] His other roles included appearances on The Greatest Show on Earth and Combat!. He guest-starred in such series as RawhideArrest and Trial, and Custer.

In 1977, Gray appeared on both Father Knows Best television movie reunion specials that aired on NBC: the Father Knows Best Family Reunion special on May 15, 1977, and the Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas special on December 18, 1977. Both specials were reunions of the entire cast from the former series that had left the air 17 years earlier.

As the co-owner of a company called BigRock Engineering, Gray markets several products that he has invented, including a self-massager, high-technology guitar picks, and a candleholder for jack-o-lanterns. He raced competitively at dirt tracks in southern California from 1970 to 1995. He has since been a spectator and finds the sport is shrinking in availability.

Gray still resides at the house in Topanga, California, which he purchased in 1957 at the height of his Father Knows Best popularity. The house has over the years become something of a “motorcycle museum”.


Donald Sumpter

Donald Sumpter

Donald Sumpter (Wikipedia)

Donald Sumpter In one of his early television appearances was the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Wheel in Space with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. He appeared in Doctor Who again in the 1972 serial The Sea Devils with Jon Pertwee. He also appeared in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. In 2015 he appears as the Time Lord President Rassilonin “Hell Bent“. 

His early film work included a lead role as real life British criminal Donald Neilson in the 1977 film The Black Panther.

He also appeared in many television films and serials, including adaptations of Dickens‘ novels: Nicholas Nickleby in 2001, Great Expectations in 1999 and Bleak House in 1985. Also in 1985, he was remembered for the part of villain Ronnie Day in Big Deal. He played the part of suspected serial killer Alexander Bonaparte Cust in the (1992) Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode, The ABC Murders. He has also appeared in episodes of Midsomer MurdersThe BillHolby CityBlack Mirror, and A Touch of Frost. He also had a recurring role as Uncle Ginger in the Children’s BBC series The Queen’s Nose. He played Harold Chapple in Our Friends in the North, and portrayed the physicist Max Planck in Einstein and Eddington. He has also been seen as Kemp in the horror-drama series Being Human. In seasons 1 and 2, he portrayed Maester Luwin in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

His film appearances include The Constant Gardener (2005), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), Enigma (2001) and Ultramarines: The Movie (2010).


Peter Blythe

Peter Blythe

Peter Blythe obituary in “The Guardian” in 2004.

Peter Blythe who has died aged 69, lived for the theatre, and spent most of his life in it. Whether as a member of the National Theatre, the Old Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company or in the West End, he brought his pale looks, thoughtful demeanour and dry sense of often angry comedy to some of the most stylish productions of the day, and a fascinating edge to almost every type he played.

On television, he is best remembered as “Soapy” Sam Ballard, the head of chambers in Rumpole Of The Bailey, in the 1980s and early 1990s. Earlier this year, he portrayed Tom King in BBC4’s The Alan Clark Diaries. 

He got on well with younger players, especially in seasons at the National; his technique, variety of approach and way of thinking gave them heart. Over their gifts he exercised a quiet influence. He would strut hilariously about the stage as a vain aristocrat in a Feydeau farce; lurk knowingly as a judge who was wiser than he could say in Ibsen; chatter shrewdly as an atheistic salesman among believers in Michael Frayn; and rise to authority as the man closest to Henry V in Shakespeare. 

His performances nearly always caught critical attention. It was the ability, apart from pacing dialogue, to single out the leading trait in a character and make it seem more complicated than it was that made his acting arresting. 

Yorkshire born, Blythe was one of that last generation to be called up for national service. He won a scholarship to Rada, and began his career with the Living Theatre Company, Leicester. Then he moved to the Nottingham Playhouse, under the direc tion of John Neville and Frank Dunlop. In 1963, Neville assembled a company to tour west Africa. Blythe played Orsino, to Judi Dench’s Viola, in Twelfth Night. She fell ill with malaria in Accra: “I passed out and Peter Blythe had to carry me off. There was thunderous applause. They thought it was part of the play.” 

In 1964, the Nottingham Playhouse put on Macaulay’s The Creeper, “a small masterpiece in mystery plays”. It transferred to the West End in 1965. Blythe, as Maurice in the three-hander, was described as “choking, fumbling, poignant, and suddenly frightening”. It was a performance to relish. 

After Royal Court productions in 1969 of Edward Bond’s Saved and Narrow Road To The Deep North, Blythe played Sir John Melville in David Garrick and George Colman the elder’s The Clandestine Marriage (1975); and in Frayn’s Make And Break (1980), was a light-minded salesman who brought the action to a halt with his reflections on the death of a businessman. 

In David Hare and Howard Brenton’s satirical play about Fleet Street, Pravda (1985), Blythe displayed a fine suit as – according to Michael Billington – “a biddable Tory smoothie”. In Alan Ayckbourn’s A Woman In Mind (1986), his portrayal of the secretly admiring doctor of the unhappy heroine found memorable expression in a strange, nervous, grating cry. Only thus, Blythe decided, could he give meaning to repressed emotion. 

As the dim, booming older brother, Major Booth Voysey, in William Gaskill’s revival of Harley Granville-Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance at the Edinburgh festival, Blythe made a self-righteous bully deflate spectacularly “whenever the intellectual argument gets tough”. 

As for Peter Hall’s version of Feydeau’s Occupe-toi d’Amelie, known as Mind Millie For Me (1986), Blythe gave in it one of his most candidly comic portraits. In pursuit of the heroine, the Prince of Palestrina, wrote Benedict Nightingale in the Times, ended “with his trousers flung from the window and (an overboard touch maybe) his body festooned in vast orange long-johns”. As if in contrast, Blythe’s portrait of the manipulative Judge Brack, to Harriet Walter’s Hedda Gabler (1996) proved “wonderfully quiet and controlled”. 

And so to Shakespeare: of his acting as Exeter, in Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Henry V (2003), John Peter wrote in the Sunday Times that Blythe begins “as a smooth foxy operator and ends as a rocklike military commander, rather like Sir Michael Jackson, baggy-eyed hero of Kosovo”. 

Blythe’s other television credits included Only Fools And Horses, The Falklands Play, Sword Of Honour, The High Life, Devil’s Advocate, Love On A Branch Line, Barchester Chronicles and Foyle’s War. 

Blythe was married and had a daughter. For the last eight years, his partner was Harriet Walter. 

· Peter Blythe, actor, born September 14 1934; died June 27 2004


Bethel Leslie

Bethel Leslie

Bethel Leslie (Wikipedia)

Bethel Lesliewas an American actress and screenwriter who was born in 1929. In her career spanning half a century, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Laurel Award in 1964, a Tony Award in 1986, and a CableACE Award in 1988.

Bethel Leslie was born in New YorkNew York. Her parents were a lawyer, Warren Leslie,  and Jane Leslie, a newspaperwoman. She was a student at Brearley School in New York City.

While a 13-year-old student at Brearley School, Leslie was discovered by George Abbott, who cast her in the play Snafu in 1944. In a 1965 newspaper article, Leslie described herself as “a ‘quick study’ — able to learn my lines rather fast.”

Over the next four decades she appeared in a number of Broadway productions, including Goodbye, My Fancy (1948), The Time of the Cuckoo (1952), Inherit the Wind (1955), Catch Me If You Can (1965), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1986).

In 1950, Leslie was cast as Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Girls, a television series based on the author’s Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. She departed the show after two months to appear with Helen Hayes in the play The Wisteria Trees, adapted from Anton Chekhov‘s The Cherry Orchard by Joshua Logan.

Leslie began working in television in the 1940s and frequently was a guest on the many anthology series popular in the early to mid-1950s, such as Studio One and Playhouse 90. She appeared with Ronald W. Reagan and Stafford Repp in the 1960 episode “The Way Home” of CBS‘s The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Later, she was one of the repertory of actors starring in The Richard Boone Show (1963-1964).

Leslie made three guest appearances on Perry Mason, and was featured as Perry’s client in all three episodes. In 1958 she played Janet Morris in “The Case of the Fugitive Nurse,” and Evelyn Girard in “The Case of the Purple Woman.” In 1960 she played Sylvia Sutton in “The Case of the Wayward Wife.”

In 1962, she portrayed the part of Martha Hastings in the episode, “The Long Count”, on CBS’s Rawhide.

Leslie also guest starred in many western television series, including The Texan, Mackenzie’s Raiders (episode as Lucinda Cabot in “The Lucinda Cabot Affair”), Dick Powell’s Zane Grey TheaterThe Man from BlackhawkRiverboatWanted: Dead or Alive (episode “Secret Ballot”), Trackdown (episode “False Witness”), Bat MastersonThe RiflemanGunsmokeMaverickPony ExpressStagecoach WestBonanzaThe Wild Wild WestHave Gun – Will Travel with Richard Boone, and Wagon Train (Season 8, Episode 20).

Her other credits were on drama series, such as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsRichard Diamond, Private Detective and The Fugitive, both starring David Janssen;  The Eleventh HourThe Lloyd Bridges ShowMannixRoute 66 (episodes “The Layout at Glen Canyon” and “City of Wheels”), StraightawayBus StopTarget: The Corruptors!The InvestigatorsThe Man and the ChallengeAdventures in ParadiseBen CaseyOne Step BeyondThrillerEmpire, and a later western, The High Chaparral.

Leslie became a regular on the NBC soap, The Doctors, when she took over the role of “Maggie Powers” after Ann Williams left the part. Leslie was also featured in the 1964 episode “The Fluellen Family” in the NBC western Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker. She had recurring roles on Another World and All My Children and was featured in the television adaptations of In Cold Blood and Saint Maybe.

Leslie was the head writer for The Secret Storm in 1954. She also scripted episodes for GunsmokeBracken’s WorldBarnaby JonesMcCloudThe New LandMatt Helm, and Falcon Crest. In 1970, producer Howard Christie referred to Leslie as “a good actress who has turned into a fine scriptwriter.”[9]

Leslie’s debut in feature films came in 1964 in Captain Newman, M.D.. Her feature film credits include A Rage to Live (1965), The Molly Maguires (1970), with Sean ConneryDr. Cook’s Garden (1971), Old Boyfriends (1979), Ironweed (1987), Message in a Bottle (1999) and Uninvited (1999).

Bethel Leslie died in 1999 aged 70.


James Stewart

James Stewart

‘Guardian” tribute by David Thompson in 2002.

There is no hint of an anniversary, so far as one can tell: James Stewart was born in 1908 and he died just five years ago, in 1997. Yet why should we require any pretext of the National Film Theatre if they have a mind to run 25 of his films? I say that not out of any banal thought that Stewart was one of the most endearing actors in the movies, a role model for us all and automatic casting as the decent American everyman. There’s some truth in all of those assumptions, and you can see it in pictures like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shop Around the Corner. If that’s all you’re looking for. Or if you’re content with the thought that you’re going to have a really nice, comfortable, sweet time. Cosy, even. No, the real reason for running James Stewart movies is because he’s someone you have to stay wide awake with. In other words, I’ll settle for him as Everyman so long as you are prepared to allow that every George Bailey has some bad moments.

Yes, it’s certainly true that, on his way towards universal public affection, Jimmy Stewart was shamelessly appealing: very nice-looking without having a trace of sexual menace, high-voiced (his Easy to Love in Born to Dance may be closer to the aural range of dogs than of men), polite, sincere, honest. That’s why Frank Capra cast him in Mr Smith Goes to Washington – because you could believe that Stewart could break down in tears over his failure to convince a mean old Senate about the workability of the constitution and still not surrender his boyish manhood. In much the same way, Stewart was adorable in wide-eyed contests with Margaret Sullavan in such films as The Mortal Storm and The Shop Around the Corner.

Sullavan and Stewart are one of the great romantic couples of the late 1930s: her hushed voice seemed to urge his to be deeper and quieter. They were old friends. Sullavan, who was younger but ahead of him on stardom’s tree, insisted on him being in several pictures and then acted as if she was crazy about him. Who knows? Stewart’s later air of fidelity and reliability did not quite fit with the way he had been seen once with every attractive woman in town. Once married, Jimmy stayed that way, but it was 1949 before he agreed to settle down. Thereafter, he and Gloria were joined in perpetuity. They had four children. Jimmy would recite his poetry on television. And Gloria watched over him. 

All of which is lovely to remember. On the other hand, Jimmy Stewart was a kid from a well-to-do family in rural Pennsylvania – not top-drawer, but getting up there. He graduated from Princeton with a degree in architecture, even if he spent as much time with the drama club as with plans for buildings. All of which only went to show that the country-boy manner, and especially the stumbling way of speaking, were pretty calculated: they got the girls first, and then the movie roles. In five years, he went from his debut to an Oscar in The Philadelphia Story. He is very good in that film, but if you recollect that he was playing with Cary Grant you can begin to appreciate Stewart’s shy, oh-shucks way of stealing girlfriends, plum parts and big scenes. 

None of which means to suggest that James Stewart was less than a good man and officer material. He thoroughly went off to war: there was a six-year gap in his career during which he flew bombers over Europe, and then recovered from something close to a nervous breakdown. And that kind of detail is no more than proper biography for the changed actor who came back after the war, and who later became the first actor to get profit participation on his movies. Sometimes that coup has been ascribed entirely to the machinations of his agent, Lew Wasserman. But surely it’s a little naive to think that Stewart wasn’t himself very interested in the radical departure in contractual terms that made him a fortune. 

The more you see It’s a Wonderful Life, the more clear it is that George Bailey nurses not just dismay and frustration at the small-town life he has settled for, but rage and despair, too. It’s a Wonderful Life, coming just after the end of the second world war, was meant as a reminder of provincial American virtues, and of there being no place like home. But it’s also a desperate farewell to the wider world, to adventure, to all those American yearnings to go beyond old frontiers. There’s an agony in the film that’s not wrapped up and put away by the happy ending. And no one could have done it but Stewart. 

This was a warm-up for the increasingly tough, selfish and lonely cowboy hero he played for Anthony Mann – in Bend of the River, Winchester 73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country and The Man from Laramie. And those were the films on which Jimmy was taking a straight cut of the profits. Again, it’s far-fetched to think that Stewart wasn’t involved in the novel darkness of those films. 

It would be as crazy or as innocent, I think, to assume that Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t an avid viewer of those Mann westerns. Hitch had used Stewart in Rope – where he is the figure of decency, horrified by the young murderers. But then, in the 50s, in two major films, Stewart was cast as someone whose slow speech had as much stealth as charm. In Rear Window, the humour was still there. That picture plays quite nicely as a knockout love story for one of Grace Kelly’s magazines. But then notice how far the nocturnal spying in Stewart’s character is indecent, malicious, eager for the worst. It’s brilliant casting that gently draws an inner coldness forth. 

But it is as nothing compared with the authentic depression and cruelty that beset Scotty in Vertigo. I’m not sure any other actor in the late 1950s could have done that film without leaving its fantastical element nakedly exposed. It’s because we expect to like Stewart that we are drawn into his neurosis – and then it’s too late. 

Then came Anatomy of a Murder, for Otto Preminger, in which Stewart plays the Michifan lawyer, a confirmed bachelor, fisherman and jazz fan, as well as an advocate who is happy to try out every bit of rural twang and country earnestness – until George C Scott makes it clear how fully he appreciates the game. Anatomy of a Murder has a view of the legal process that is all theatre, and in casting Stewart, Preminger coolly exploited all of Stewart’s lifelong mannerisms. Which Stewart gracefully allowed. Because by then he knew how close he was to being an institution. 

He went on a long time, though only a few years after the death of his Gloria. He was sad and grumpy by then – though worse than that. A greater darkness had crept in. Of course, he could still act (witness him as the doctor in The Shootist who has to tell John Wayne he is dying), and on television talk shows he could be the dreamy charmer, the semi-senile version of that guy from Harvey or No Highway, so absent-minded that he might charm Marlene Dietrich out of her pants. Which he had managed in his day. 

Not that anyone bore a grudge or said a mean word about him. If there were scores of ladies, he must have treated them nicely or had something they wanted. I think that’s the secret – in films of diverse kinds, James Stewart had that thing unique to stardom and its great power of fantasy. We wanted to be him, and we wanted to be liked by him. In these more cynical days, I doubt if anyone could come on so likable without seeming a sham or a confidence trickster. 

· The James Stewart season starts today at the National Film Theatre, London SE1, and runs until December 30. Box office: 020-7928 3232.