Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Coronation Street - Part 1

First broadcast: Friday, December 9th, 1960 in the UK
Description: Granada Television soap opera created by Tony Warren, set in and around a small terraced backstreet in the fictional town of Weatherfield (based on the real-life city of Salford, near Manchester). Initially broadcast twice a week between 1961 and 1989, the soap then broadcast three episodes a week between 1989 and 1996, four between 1996 and 2009, five regularly between 2009 and 2017, and a sixth was added in September 2017.

There have been several spin-offs over the years, including:

  • Pardon the Expression, a sitcom featuring Arthur Lowe as Leonard Swindley, a clothing store manager who left the parent show in 1965, but appeared in two series and 36 episodes of this spin-off between June 1965 and June 1966. Pardon the Expression itself had its own spin-off, Turn Out the Lights, which ran for one series and six episodes between January and February 1967, also featuring Lowe as Swindley.
  • Albion Market was intended as a sister soap to Coronation Street, set in Weatherfield's undercover market, but only ran for one year (between August 1985 and August 1986) and 100 episodes.
  • The Brothers McGregor, a sitcom set in Liverpool featuring two characters who had appeared in one episode of Coronation Street (Eddie Yeats and Marion Willis's engagement, May 1982). The sitcom ran for four series and 26 episodes between September 1985 and August 1988, but the two leads were not the same actors who's played the wheeler-dealer brothers in the parent show. In Coronation Street, Wesley and Cyril were played by Carl Chase and Tony Osoba, whereas in the spin-off, they were played by Philip Whitchurch and Paul Barber.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Wallace Reid (1891-1923)

Birth name: William Wallace Halleck Reid
Birthdate: April 15th, 1891
Location: St Louis, Missouri, USA

Died: January 18th, 1923
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Renal suppression and pneumonia caused by morphine addiction

Best known for: American silent film star labelled "the screen's most perfect lover" by Motion Picture Magazine who appeared in more than 200 productions, including D W Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), as well as The World's Champion (1922) and Across the Continent (1922).

Born into a showbiz family (both his parents were actors or playwrights), Wallace Reid was an accomplished athlete and outdoorsman, but slipped into the film industry when his father began working for motion pictures rather than theatres. Wallace's first appearance on film was in the 1910 short The Phoenix, and although he initially preferred to remain behind the scenes, directing rather than acting, the studios soon latched onto his matinee idol looks and turned him into one of the greatest sex symbols of the silent era.

Nevertheless, between 1912 and 1917 Wallace directed a total of 69 productions, and wrote 26 scripts between 1912 and 1916. In 1913, while working for Universal Pictures, the 6ft 1in performer met the actress Dorothy Davenport, who he married the same year and had two children with (Wallace Jr, and Betty, who was adopted but who it is believed was Wallace's daughter via an affair).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Margaret Lockwood (1916-1990)

Birth name: Margaret Mary Day Lockwood
Birthdate: September 15th, 1916
Location: Karachi, British India

Died: July 15th, 1990
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Cirrhosis of the liver

Best known for: British film starlet who found fame in the 1930s and 40s in films such as Lorna Doone (1934), Doctor Syn (1937), Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Jassy (1947). She was nominated for a Best British Actress BAFTA for her role in 1955's Cast a Dark Shadow, but lost out to Katie Johnson for The Ladykillers.

Margaret's success in films both in the UK and the US is undeniable, shifting her screen image from lead starlet to darker, villainous roles in the post-war years. However, as she approached her 40th birthday, her popularity began to wane, so instead she turned to the stage and television screen to sustain her career.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

Birth name: Marlon Brando Jr
Birthdate: April 3rd, 1924
Location: Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Died: July 1st, 2004
Location: Westwood, California, USA
Cause of death: Respiratory failure

Best known for: Legendary American performer often cited as the greatest actor of all time, and an influence on generations of performers to come. He was nominated eight times for an Oscar, winning two - for On the Waterfront in 1955 and The Godfather in 1973 (although Marlon refused this award due to the poor treatment of American Indians in the entertainment industry). He also won five Golden Globes, a Primetime Emmy and three BAFTAs. His iconic status as a legend in film history will last forever, thanks to films such as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), The Godfather (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979).

Everybody knows how great Marlon was in his prime in the 1950s and 60s, his legendary status as a principal icon of American film history meaning that most people know something about his career when it was at its height. And most people know that Marlon put on a great deal of weight as he entered old age. But what exactly did this Hollywood icon do in his latter years?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Hattie Jacques (1922-1980)

Birth name: Josephine Edwina Jaques
Birthdate: February 7th, 1922
Location: Sandgate, Kent, UK

Died: October 6th, 1980
Location: Kensington, London, UK
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: Larger than life comedy actress who is most famous for being part of the repertory company of actors who made up the Carry On film franchise team, in particular playing Matron in the various hospital-themed installments. Between 1949-1965 Hattie was married to fellow actor John Le Mesurier (best known as Sergeant Wilson in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army).

Hattie had enjoyed a successful career almost constantly since the late 1940s, both as part of the Carry On team and outside of it. Although she appeared in a total of 14 Carry On films between 1958-1974, she also had great success alongside comedy actor and writer Eric Sykes in his various TV shows, including 59 episodes of Sykes and a... (1960-65), The Plank (1967) and 68 episodes of Sykes (1972-79). She also worked with Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd, and appeared in 26 episodes of a now largely forgotten sitcom called Our House (1960-62), co-starring the likes of Norman Rossington and Charles Hawtrey.

Clark Gable (1901-1960)

Birth name: William Clark Gable
Birthdate: February 1st, 1901
Location: Cadiz, Ohio, USA

Died: November 16th, 1960
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Coronary thrombosis

Best known for: Oscar-winning actor who was a matinee idol of both the silent and sound era, starting out in small parts in the 1920s before securing roles in classic films such as It Happened One Night (1934), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Saratoga (1937). It is his iconic role as Rhett Butler in 1939's Gone with the Wind which secured his legendary status, after which he appeared in various war and Western films. He won an Oscar for Best Actor for It Happened One Night (beating Frank Morgan and William Powell) and was nominated for a further two (for Mutiny on the Bounty and Gone with the Wind). He was also nominated for two Golden Globes. He was married five times, most famously to the actress Carole Lombard, who died in an airplane crash in 1942.

In the 1950s, times were hard at Clark's home studio, MGM, thanks to the advent and success of television, and plummeting movie revenues. Many MGM execs were fired (including Louis B Mayer in 1951), and a number of stars considered to have excessive salaries were let go too, including Judy Garland and Greer Garson. Although Clark was not one of these stars, his salary was deemed excessive, and when his contract came up for renewal in 1953, he decided to go his own, independent way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bette Davis (1908-1989)

Birth name: Ruth Elizabeth Davis
Birthdate: April 5th, 1908
Location: Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

Died: October 6th, 1989
Location: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Cause of death: Breast cancer

Best known for: Actress who became one of the most successful and revered in Hollywood history, being nominated for 11 Oscars (and winning two, for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1939)), three Golden Globes (and being awarded the Cecil B DeMille Award in 1974) and four Emmys (winning one, for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter in 1979). In 1999 the American Film Institute named her the second greatest female actor of the 20th century (after Katharine Hepburn).

By 1980, the year Bette turned 72, big-screen leading roles had all but dried out. As with so many stars of the classic era of Hollywood, Bette turned to television, and made a good many TV movies in her final decade, including the Emmy-nominated White Mama (1980) and A Piano for Mrs Cimino (1982). These projects were almost always well-received, and Bette appeared in an average of one every year until ill-health really took its debilitating effect.