Friday, October 17, 2014

Steve McQueen (1930-1980)

Birth name: Terence Steven McQueen
Birthdate: Monday, March 24th, 1930
Location: Beech Grove, Indiana, USA

Died: Friday, November 7th, 1980
Location: Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Cause of death: Malignant pleural mesolethioma

Best known for: American actor who became known for his tough, action roles and anti-hero persona, and often referred to as the King of Cool. His most successful films included The Great Escape (1963), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and Bullitt (1968). He was nominated for an Oscar as Best Lead Actor for The Sand Pebbles (1966), but lost out to Paul Scofield. He was also nominated for six Golden Globes, winning two of them for World Film Favourite Male.

The mid to late 1960s were Steve McQueen's heyday, but following the huge success of The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt, he began to make fewer films as he became increasingly disillusioned with the Hollywood studio system. 1971's Le Mans was poorly received, but despite this, his role as Doc McCoy in 1972's The Getaway made him the world's highest paid actor.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Betty Hutton (1921-2007)

Birth name: Elizabeth June Thornburg
Birthdate: Saturday, February 26th, 1921
Location: Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

Died: Sunday, March 11th, 2007 (although her gravestone says March 12th)
Location: Palm Springs, California, USA
Cause of death: Colon cancer

Best known for: Bubbly Betty was a multi-talented personality who acted and sang on stage and screen, but was more comfortable in comedic roles or musicals. She had worked wonders entertaining the troops during World War Two. Her greatest hits included The Perils of Pauline (1947) and playing Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) - for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe for best musical actress, but beaten by Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday - as well as The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and even her own TV show in 1959-60. In 1944 she won a Golden Apple Award for Most Cooperative Actress, while in 1956 was awarded Mother of the Year by the City of Hope charity...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Edward G Robinson (1893-1973)

Birth name: Emanuel Goldenberg
Birthdate: Tuesday, December 12th, 1893
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Died: Friday, January 26th, 1973
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Bladder cancer

Best known for: Edward became most famous for his roles in numerous gangster films of the 1930s and 40s, most notably in Little Caesar (1931), Double Indemnity (1944) and Key Largo (1948). Edward was awarded an honorary Oscar in March 1973, two months after he had died. The award was accepted by his widow, Jane.

After achieving such great success in gangster and mobster flicks in the 1930s and 40s, Edward's career took a stumble in the early 1950s thanks to the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Despite a meticulous defense, and his name being ultimately cleared, his career suffered in its wake, until in 1956 he was thrust back onto the main stage by director Cecil B DeMille when he was cast as Dathan in The Ten Commandments.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lillian Gish (1893-1993)

Birth name: Lillian Diana Gish
Birthdate: Saturday, October 14th, 1893
Location: Springfield, Ohio, USA

Died: Saturday, February 27th, 1993
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Cause of death: Heart failure

Best known for: Known as The First Lady of American Cinema, Lillian's career spanned 75 years, with her most notable work in the silent era, and partnership with director D W Griffith, such as on Birth of a Nation (1915), and later in Duel in the Sun (1946, for which she was nominated for an Oscar - beaten by Anne Baxter) and Night of the Hunter (1955). In 1971 she was awarded an honorary Oscar, at the age of 78.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Joan Crawford (1904-1977)

Birth name: Lucille Fay LeSueur
Birthdate: Wednesday, March 23rd, 1904 (this date is disputed, with a more reasonable birth year being 1905 or 1906, according to some records. Her gravestone says 1908, but this is no doubt Hollywood glitter.)
Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA

Died: Tuesday, May 10th, 1977
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer and heart failure

Best known for: Oscar-winning actress who dominated Hollywood from the 1930s and for most of her life. Her most acclaimed films included Strange Cargo (1940), Mildred Pierce (1945, for which she won an Oscar), The Damned Don't Cry (1950) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). She was nominated for a further two Oscars - for 1947's Possessed (losing out to Loretta Young) and for 1952's Sudden Fear (losing to Shirley Booth). She did not attend the 1946 Academy Awards ceremony, feigning illness, but listened to it on the radio, and when she won, she beckoned journalists into her rooms to accept the award!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Claude Rains (1889-1967)

Birth name: William Claude Rains
Birthdate: Sunday, November 10th, 1889
Location: Camberwell, London, UK

Died: Tuesday, May 30th, 1967
Location: Laconia, New Hampshire, USA
Cause of death: Abdominal haemmorhage

Best known for: His best remembered role was as the title character in the 1933 adaptation of H G Wells' The Invisible Man; other well-known screen appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), Casablanca (1942), The Phantom of the Opera (1943) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He was four times nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award (for Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca, Mr Skeffington and Notorious) but never won one - he lost out to Thomas Mitchell, Charles Coburn, Barry Fitzgerald and Harold Russell respectively. He was also the first actor in Hollywood to command a million-dollar paycheck.

With the success of his film career in the 1930s, Claude became a naturalised American citizen in 1939, buying and moving into the 380-acre Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township in Pennsylvania in 1941, where he became a student of agriculture. However, his time here came to an end when, in 1956, he divorced his fourth wife (of six!) Frances Propper. Claude then moved to an 1850s Greek Revival house on the corner of Route 109 North and Little Pond Road in Sandwich, New Hampshire for the final 11 years of his life, where he kept a low profile within the community.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Rex Harrison (1908-1990)

Birth name: Reginald Carey Harrison
Birthdate: Thursday, March 8th, 1908
Location: Huyton, Merseyside, UK

Died: Saturday, June 2nd, 1990
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer

Best known for: English-born stage and screen actor most synonymous with his roles as Professor Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady (1964) and the title character in Dr Dolittle (1967), although other films include Blithe Spirit (1945), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), Cleopatra (1963) and The Fifth Musketeer (1979).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ava Gardner (1922-1990)

Birth name: Ava Lavinia Gardner
Birthdate: Sunday, December 24th, 1922
Location: Smithfield, North Carolina, USA

Died: Thursday, January 25th, 1990
Location: Westminster, London, UK
Cause of death: Broncho-pneumonia

Best known for: Lead actress in Hollywood films from the 1950s to 1970s, and often considered one of the most beautiful women ever to appear in cinema. Her greatest films were The Killers (1946), Show Boat (1951), Mogambo (1953, for which she was Oscar-nominated; beaten by Audrey Hepburn), The Barefoot Contessa (1954) and Bhowani Junction (1956). Her husbands included Hollywood legends Mickey Rooney (1942-43) and Frank Sinatra (1951-57).

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

Updated and expanded September 16th, 2015

Birth name: Lucille Desiree Ball
Birthdate: Sunday, August 6th, 1911
Location: Jamestown, New York, USA

Died: Wednesday, April 26th, 1989
Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart failure

Best known for: Comedy performer who started out as a serious actress in the 1930s and 40s before embracing her talent for comedy, particularly physical comedy, in her own ground-breaking sitcom, I Love Lucy (1951-57), co-starring her then husband Desi Arnaz. Later TV work included The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-60), The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here's Lucy (1968-74).

Lucille Ball revolutionised television comedy the world over with her 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, and practically invented the template for the next half-century. The fact you feel you've seen it all done before is forgetting the fact you're probably seeing it done for the first time on television, copied and adapted from the best slapstick silent comedians, such as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Keaton.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fred Astaire (1899-1987)

Updated and expanded September 16th, 2015

Birth name: Frederick Austerlitz
Birthdate: Wednesday, May 10th, 1899
Location: Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Died: Monday, June 22nd, 1987
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Best known for: Acting and dancing in, and choreographing, musical films, often with Ginger Rogers, with most success in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, including Top Hat (1935), Holiday Inn (1942), Easter Parade (1948), The Band Wagon (1953), Funny Face (1957), Finian's Rainbow (1968) and The Towering Inferno (1976).