Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tarzan - Part 3 (1949-1960)

Character's first film appearance: Tarzan of the Apes (released January 27th, 1918)
Character description: Tarzan - aka John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke - is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1912. He was a feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani great apes after being separated from his parents when their ship was marooned off the African coast by mutineers. As an adult he experiences modern civilisation for the first time, largely rejecting it and choosing to remain in the wild as a heroic adventurer.

This is the third in a multi-part entry charting what happened to the various actors who have played Tarzan over the years. Click here for the silent era (1918-1929), or click here for the 1930s and 1940s (1932-1948). Or read on to find out about the Tarzans of the 1950s...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Audie Murphy (1925-1971)

Birth name: Audie Leon Murphy
Birthdate: Saturday, June 20th, 1925
Location: Hunt County, Texas, USA

Died: Friday, May 28th, 1971
Location: Brush Mountain, Virginia, USA
Cause of death: Plane crash

Best known for: Audie was one of the most decorated soldiers in the US military during World War Two (27 in all), receiving every major combat award for valour there was, as well as awards from the French and Belgian militaries. At the age of 19 Audie received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire squad of Nazi soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France, then leading a successful counter-attack while out of ammunition and wounded. After the war his heroism was rightfully celebrated on American shores and he was cast as an all-American hero in various war and Western films, including The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Drums Across the River (1954) and The Quiet American (1958), after being "discovered" by James Cagney.

As you can see above, war hero Audie died young, aged 45, and his film career was going great guns right up until the end. Throughout the 1960s he'd continued to star in films and did not need to make the transition to television that many of his greater colleagues had been forced to do. However, his fate suddenly cut short what was turning out to be a pretty amazing life - from war hero to movie star.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)

Birth name: Ingrid Bergman
Birthdate: Sunday, August 29th, 1915
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Died: Sunday, August 29th, 1982
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Breast cancer

Best known for: Multi-award winning actress who won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and was nominated a further four times for For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), The Bells of St Mary's (1945), Joan of Arc (1948) and Autumn Sonata (1978) - losing to Jennifer Jones, Joan Crawford, Jane Wyman and Jane Fonda respectively (it seems women whose names began with J were her nemeses!). She was also nominated for a Golden Globe eight times (winning four), an Emmy three times (winning two) and a BAFTA twice (winning one). Other films of note include Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941), Casablanca (1942), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Under Capricorn (1949), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) and The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tarzan - Part 2 (1932-1948)

Character's first film appearance: Tarzan of the Apes (released January 27th, 1918)
Character description: Tarzan - aka John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke - is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1912. He was a feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani great apes after being separated from his parents when their ship was marooned off the African coast by mutineers. As an adult he experiences modern civilisation for the first time, largely rejecting it and choosing to remain in the wild as a heroic adventurer.

This is the second in a multi-part entry charting what happened to the various actors who have played Tarzan over the years. Click here for the silent era (1918-1929), click here for 1949-60, or read on to find out about the Tarzans of the 1930s and 40s...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tarzan - Part 1 (1918-1929)

Character's first film appearance: Tarzan of the Apes (released January 27th, 1918)
Character description: Tarzan - aka John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke - is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1912. He was a feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani great apes after being separated from his parents when their ship was marooned off the African coast by mutineers. As an adult he experiences modern civilisation for the first time, largely rejecting it and choosing to remain in the wild as a heroic adventurer.

This is the first in a multi-part entry charting what happened to the various actors who have played Tarzan over the years, beginning with the character's very first film appearance just six years after his invention by Burroughs, during the silent era...

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Dorothy Lamour (1914-1996)

Birth name: Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton
Birthdate: Thursday, December 10th, 1914
Location: New Orleans, USA

Died: Sunday, September 22nd, 1996
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack (unsubstantiated)

Best known for: Actress and singer who hit gold alongside Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the Road to... series of films in the 1940s. She was also crowned Miss Orleans in 1931!

The jewel in Dorothy's CV is her involvement in the seven films in the popular Road to... series with Crosby and Hope. After 1940's Road to Singapore, the trio went on to visit Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia and Rio, with the final regular outing being to Bali in 1952. A seventh film was made in 1962 called Road to Hong Kong, but the main female star of this outing was Brit Joan Collins, with Dorothy only turning in a cameo at the end, singing Warmer Than a Whisper in a nightclub.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Errol Flynn (1909-1959)

Birth name: Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn
Birthdate: Sunday, June 20th, 1909
Location: Hobart, Tasmania

Died: Wednesday, October 14th, 1959
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: The ultimate swashbuckling Hollywood hero who portrayed big screen idols with natural flair, but whose silver screen persona became off-screen reality, leading to a sorry decline. He hit the big time in the title role of Captain Blood (1935) and starred in smash after smash in films such as The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941).

Errol wasn't even a decade into his Hollywood matinee idol stardom when the outbreak of World War Two - or rather, the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 which forced the United States to get involved with the European conflict - signalled the beginning of the end. In August 1942, aged just 33, Errol failed to pass the requisite medical tests to allow him to enlist in the US Army - the results of his physical exam showed he had multiple cardiac problems, recurrent malaria (contracted in Papua New Guinea in the 1920s), chronic back pain (which he soothed by taking morphine and heroin), chronic tuberculosis (not helped by his smoking) and various venereal diseases (Errol was a notorious bed-hopper).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cyd Charisse (1922-2008)

Birth name: Tula Ellice Finklea
Birthdate: Wednesday, March 8th, 1922
Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA

Died: Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: American actress and dancer known for her endless legs and elegant style opposite the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in a number of musicals in the 1940s and 50s, including Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953). She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1958 for the previous year's Silk Stockings, losing out to Kay Kendall and Taina Elg for Les Girls.

Cyd cottoned on quickly to the decline of the blockbuster MGM musicals in the late 1950s, and retired from dancing after playing showgirl Vicky Gaye in 1958's Party Girl opposite Robert Taylor. Instead she concentrated on straightforward acting, in romantic comedies and the occasional serious role too - Black Tights (1961), The Silencers (1966), Maroc 7 (1967) and Warlords of the Deep (1978).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Rock Hudson (1925-1985)

Birth name: Roy Harold Scherer Jr
Birthdate: Tuesday, November 17th, 1925
Location: Illinois, USA

Died: Wednesday, October 2nd, 1985
Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: AIDS

Best known for: All-American leading man whose most successful period was the 1950s and 60s in romantic comedies with Doris Day. His legacy is perhaps a little overshadowed by his high profile death from AIDS at a time when the disease was little understood, but his bravery in being open about his diagnosis helped pave the way for more reasoned discussion of how to tackle the disease. Rock was nominated for an Oscar in 1957 for his part in the previous year's Giant (Yul Brynner won for The King and I). However, he did win four Henrietta Awards at the Golden Globes for Male World Film Favourite between 1959-63 (with a fifth nomination in 1966, losing to Paul Newman), and was voted America's biggest box office star in both 1957 and 1959.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Joyce Grenfell (1910-1979)

Birth name: Joyce Irene Phipps
Birthdate: Thursday, February 10th, 1910
Location: London, UK

Died: Friday, November 30th, 1979
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Eye cancer

Best known for: Much-loved comedy actress and writer who was something of a pioneer in the UK for performing her own comedy songs and monologues, something Victoria Wood would popularise in the 1980s and 90s. Joyce's best known acting work is for her role as Ruby Gates in the St Trinian's series of British comedy films. She was awarded an OBE in 1946.

After being such a mainstay of British comedy films in the 1950s and 60s, it's somewhat surprising to learn that Joyce's final acting credit was actually a whole 15 years before she died. In 1964 she played Hortense Astor in The Yellow Rolls-Royce, a Golden Globe-winning film starring Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison. Joyce's role was modest, but at the age of just 54, she had so much more to offer which the acting profession ultimately missed out on.

Charles Bronson (1921-2003)

Birth name: Charles Dennis Buchinsky
Birthdate: Thursday, November 3rd, 1921
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

Died: Saturday, August 30th, 2003
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease and pneumonia

Best known for: Actor known for his tough guy action roles, weather-beaten good looks and, in later years, a move toward more violent films such as the Death Wish franchise.

Charles had always excelled in action roles in both the movies and on TV, whether it was serial Westerns or blockbuster war movies, but in the 1970s, as he reached his 50th year, this speciality for the genre only grew when he signed with United Artists to make several action pictures, beginning with 1972's Chato's Land. These films were somewhat churned out, but were no less successful, and one of these films was Death Wish, released in July 1974 and directed by Michael Winner. Charles played a New York architect turned vigilante called Paul Kersey who hits the streets and murders random drop-outs after the murder of his wife (Hope Lange) by "street punks".

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Peter Cushing (1913-1994)

Birth name: Peter Wilton Cushing
Birthdate: Monday, May 26th, 1913
Location: London, UK

Died: Thursday, August 11th, 1994
Location: Canterbury, UK
Cause of death: Prostate cancer

Best known for: Charismatic English character actor who made a name for himself in the horror film genre, principally with Hammer Studios in the Dr Frankenstein role. Peter, who was awarded an OBE in 1989, also took the legendary roles of Doctor Who in two 1960s movie adaptations, and the austere Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). In 1956 he won a BAFTA for Best TV Actor.

Batman TV Series (1966-68) - The Bad Guys

First broadcast: Wednesday, January 12th, 1966 on the US ABC network
Final broadcast: Thursday, March 14th, 1968 on the US ABC network
Description: Camp, colourful live action series based on the characters from the DC Comics universe with its tongue thrust firmly into its cheek. There was a regular roster of guest villains for Batman and his Boy Wonder sidekick Robin to face each week, as well as a wealth of one-off guest villains, often played by popular performers of the day. It ran for 120 episodes over three series.
  • A film version often referred to as Batman: The Movie was released in July 1966, just one month after the end of the first television series. It starred all of the main series villains (ie, Penguin, Joker, Catwoman and Riddler) working together to defeat the Caped Crusader. It had a budget of $1.54m but only made $1.7m at the box office and through North American rentals.

But now, some of the bad guys...

Batman TV Series (1966-68) - The Good Guys

First broadcast: Wednesday, January 12th, 1966 on the US ABC network
Final broadcast: Thursday, March 14th, 1968 on the US ABC network
Description: Camp, colourful live action series based on the characters from the DC Comics universe with its tongue thrust firmly into its cheek. There was a regular roster of guest villains for Batman and his Boy Wonder sidekick Robin to face each week, as well as a wealth of one-off guest villains, often played by popular performers of the day. It ran for 120 episodes over three series.
  • A film version often referred to as Batman: The Movie was released in July 1966, just one month after the end of the first television series. It starred all of the main series villains (ie, Penguin, Joker, Catwoman and Riddler) working together to defeat the Caped Crusader. It had a budget of $1.54m but only made $1.7m at the box office and through North American rentals.
But here's the good guys...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are You Being Served? (1972-1985)

First broadcast: Friday, September 8th, 1972 (pilot, as part of Comedy Playhouse) in the UK
Final broadcast: Monday, April 1st, 1985 in the UK
Description: BBC TV situation comedy written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft which ran for 69 episodes over 10 series. It was set in a department store called Grace Brothers and focused on the increasingly ridiculous antics of the shop floor staff. It was one of many sitcoms Croft wrote with Lloyd, as well as other collaborators, with a distinctive ensemble cast.
  • Are You Being Served? also had a stage version, which ran at Blackpool's Winter Gardens Theatre in the Summer of 1976, and this supplied the basic idea for a movie spin-off in 1977.
  • A partial remake of Are You Being Served? ran for two series in Australia, in which John Inman reprised his role as Mr Humphries, but the others were based on the UK characters, renamed, and recast. It ran on Network 10 for 16 episodes between Monday, June 16th, 1980 and an unknown date in early 1981.
  • Finally, there was a sequel series entitled Grace and Favour (UK) aka Are You Being Served Again! (North America) which ran for two six-part series between Friday, January 10th, 1992 and Monday, February 8th, 1993.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rita Hayworth (1918-1987)

Birth name: Margarita Carmen Cansino
Birthdate: Thursday, October 17th, 1918
Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Died: Thursday, May 14th, 1987
Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease

Best known for: Beautiful actress and dancer who was at her height in the 1940s with films such as Cover Girl (1944), Gilda (1946) and Salome (1953). She was never nominated for an Oscar, but was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Circus World (1964 - she lost to Anne Bancroft). She was married five times, including to actor and director Orson Welles, Argentinean actor and singer Dick Haymes, socialite Prince Aly Khan, and producer James Hill.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Stewart Granger (1913-1993)

Birth name: James Lablache Stewart
Birthdate: Tuesday, May 6th, 1913
Location: London, UK

Died: Monday, August 16th, 1993
Location: Santa Monica, California, USA
Cause of death: Bone and prostate cancer

Best known for: Actor associated with heroic and romantic leading roles between the 1940s and 1960s. Although he was never nominated for an Oscar, he found great fame and success in films such as Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Blanche Fury (1948), King Solomon's Mines (1950) and North to Alaska (1960). He had two famous wives - the English actresses Elspeth March (1938-48) and Jean Simmons (1950-60).

North to Alaska was actually the last Hollywood film Stewart made, having turned down a role in 1959's Ben-Hur as he refused to take second billing to Charlton Heston. The 1960s was taken up with productions in Europe, principally Germany, where he took on the role of Old Surehand in three adaptations of Karl May's Western novels - Amongst Vultures aka Frontier Hellcat (1964), The Oil Prince aka Rampage at Apache Wells (1965) and Old Surehand aka Flaming Frontier (1965). Further 1960s work included the Italian production Requiem for a Secret Agent (1966), the British/ German co-production The Trygon Factor (1966) and the British/ American co-production The Last Safari (1967).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Betty Grable (1916-1973)

Birth name: Elizabeth Ruth Grable
Birthdate: Monday, December 18th, 1916
Location: St Louis, Missouri, USA

Died: Monday, July 2nd, 1973
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Lung cancer

Best known for: Actress, dancer and singer who enjoyed great success in the war years and the 1950s with a string of Technicolor musicals, becoming the number one box office draw of 1943. For all her fame and success, however, she wasn't once nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe or Emmy. Her famous legs, however, were insured with Lloyds of London for $1m.

The year 1952 was the turning point in Betty's career. Until that point, she'd enjoyed hit after hit and was one of the most popular and highest paid entertainers on the planet. But in 1952, at the age of 35, her contract with 20th Century Fox came up for renewal and Betty asked for more money and more say in the type of films she starred in. The studio refused and Betty went out on strike, and was replaced in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by a certain Marilyn Monroe. In late 1952 Betty failed to turn up for work to film the musical comedy The Girl Next Door, and she was promptly suspended by Fox. Incidentally, Betty was replaced in this film by June Haver, but The Girl Next Door became her last movie, and she quit Hollywood to join a convent!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gary Cooper (1901-1961)

Birth name: Frank James Cooper
Birthdate: Tuesday, May 7th, 1901
Location: Helena, Montana, USA

Died: Saturday, May 13th, 1961
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Cancer

Best known for: Major movie star whose career spanned from the end of the silent era to the end of its "golden" years. He came to prominence with 1929's The Virginian, and followed that with hits such as A Farewell to Arms (1932), Sergeant York (1941), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and High Noon (1952). He won two Oscars - for Sergeant York and High Noon - and was nominated for a further three - for Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936), The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (he lost to Paul Muni, James Cagney and Paul Lukas respectively). He also won a Golden Globe for High Noon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jessica Tandy (1909-1994)

Birth name: Jessie Alice Tandy
Birthdate: Monday, June 7th, 1909
Location: London, UK

Died: Sunday, September 11th, 1994
Location: Easton, Connecticut, USA
Cause of death: Ovarian cancer

Best known for: British actress who enjoyed a solid career over almost seven decades, but who might be best known for her work toward the latter end of her lifetime. She won a Best Actress Oscar in 1990 for Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and was nominated for a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar in 1992 for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1991, losing out to Mercedes Ruehl).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fritz Lang (1890-1976)

Birth name: Friedrich Christian Anton Lang
Birthdate: Friday, December 5th, 1890
Location: Vienna, Austria-Hungary

Died: Monday, August 2nd, 1976
Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: Stroke

Best known for: Pioneering director and producer from the German Expressionism school of film making who gave the world the groundbreaking spectacle of Metropolis (1927), as well as M (1931) and The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933). However, he was never nominated for an Oscar, or indeed any of the major movie awards that Hollywood's glitterati crave.

Following the success of his European films, Hollywood signed Fritz up to cash in on his talent, and films such as Fury (1936), Ministry of Fear (1944), The Big Heat (1953) and Moonfleet (1955) were born in a 21-year career Stateside. But as the 1950s wore on it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to secure the financial backing from the Hollywood studios that he required, and after 1956's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, he returned to Germany, lured by the opportunity to make a film of his ex-wife Thea von Harbou's novel Das Indische Grabmal, something he'd toyed with in 1921.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)

Birth name: Virginia Katherine McMath
Birthdate: Sunday, July 16th, 1911
Location: Independence, Missouri, USA

Died: Tuesday, April 25th, 1995
Location: Rancho Mirage, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: Singer and dancer most remembered for her timeless partnership in 10 musical films with Fred Astaire, but who also enjoyed a successful career apart from Astaire in many solo outings. She won a Best Actress Oscar in 1941 for her part in Kitty Foyle (1940), and was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1953 for Monkey Business (1952 - she lost to Susan Hayward).

Inevitably with somebody known predominantly for dancing and glamour, as the years ticked by it became harder for Ginger to find the roles that suited her. As the 1950s wore on, when she was in her forties, the hits became scarcer, although she was still proving a successful name in films such as Storm Warning (1950), Monkey Business (1952), Black Widow (1954) and Tight Spot (1955).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939)

Birth name: Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman
Birthdate: Wednesday, May 23rd, 1883
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA

Died: Tuesday, December 12th, 1939
Location: Santa Monica, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: One of the earliest action heroes, a swashbuckling star of the silent era who also branched into writing and producing. He was also one of four Hollywood luminaries - along with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford (his second wife) and director D W Griffith - who set up United Artists in 1919, giving performers greater control over their careers. He was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1940, following his death.

Greta Garbo (1905-1990)

Birth name: Greta Lovisa Gustafsson
Birthdate: Monday, September 18th, 1905
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Died: Sunday, April 15th, 1990
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Cause of death: Kidney failure

Best known for: One of the most successful and enigmatic stars ever to grace the Hollywood screens, both in the silent and the early talkies periods, Greta's star burnt brightly until she turned her back on fame and retired into seclusion for the final 50 years of her life. She was nominated for four Best Actress Oscars (two in the same year for different films!), but never won one, losing out to Norma Shearer, Luise Rainer and Vivien Leigh. She was, however, awarded an honorary Oscar in 1955, but Greta did not attend the ceremony to receive it (Nancy Kelly picked it up on her behalf).

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Terry-Thomas (1911-1990)

Birth name: Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens
Birthdate: Monday, July 10th, 1911
Location: Finchley, London, UK

Died: Monday, January 8th, 1990
Location: Godalming, Surrey, UK
Cause of death: Parkinson's Disease

Best known for: English comedian and character actor whose gap-toothed grin and upper-crust cad persona made him a popular staple of British films in the 1950s and 60s, such as School for Scoundrels (1960) and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965). He was nominated for a Best Actor BAFTA in 1959 for his role in the previous year's Tom Thumb (losing to Trevor Howard) and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in The Mouse on the Moon (losing to Alberto Sordi).

Deanna Durbin (1921-2013)

Birth name: Edna Mae Durbin
Birthdate: Sunday, December 4th, 1921
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Died: Saturday, April 20th, 2013 (approx.)
Location: Neauphle-le-Chateau, Yvelines, France
Cause of death: Unknown

Best known for: Teenage starlet of musicals in the 1930s and 40s who cornered the market in "perfect teenage daughters" in films such as Three Smart Girls (1936) and Every Sunday (1936). She was credited as saving Universal Studios from bankruptcy.

Deanna may have been a runaway box office success playing the sweet little daughter parts throughout the 1930s, but as girlhood gave way to womanhood, she grew more and more frustrated with the limiting roles she was being given. She craved meatier parts than that of Penny Craig, who she'd played in Three Smart Girls and their sequels Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) and Hers to Hold (1943). At the time of that third film, she was 22 years old and ready to leave Penny behind.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

James Stewart (1908-1997)

Birth name: James Maitland Stewart
Birthdate: Wednesday, May 20th, 1908
Location: Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA

Died: Wednesday, July 2nd, 1997
Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: Pulmonary embolism

Best known for: One of Hollywood's best known and best loved actors whose work with Alfred Hitchcock left an indelible impact on Hollywood history. His most famous films include Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). He was Oscar-nominated five times, winning Best Actor only once for 1940's The Philadelphia Story (he lost the other four times to Robert Donat, Fredric March, Jose Ferrer and Charlton Heston) and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1985.

James's career was barely dented by the arrival of the more permissive 1960s and 70s, as he continued to secure good, solid film roles well into his sixties in movies such as The Shootist (1976), Airport (1977), The Big Sleep (1978) and even The Magic of Lassie (1978). But as James turned 70 he decided to take things a little slower and wind down to semi-retirement, and deservedly so after 45 years in the business.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Lana Turner (1921-1995)

Birth name: Julia Jean Turner
Birthdate: Tuesday, February 8th, 1921
Location: Wallace, Idaho, USA

Died: Thursday, June 29th, 1995
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Throat cancer

Best known for: Hollywood starlet of the 1940s and 50s who made her name as a femme fatale in films such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Peyton Place (1957, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, losing out to Joanne Woodward).

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1887-1933)

Birth name: Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle
Birthdate: Thursday, March 24th, 1887
Location: Smith Center, Kansas, USA

Died: Thursday, June 29th, 1933
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: One of the most successful stars of the silent comedy era (he was the first movie star to be paid $1m a year) whose fall from grace has overshadowed his achievements in film ever since. Few people could name one of his films, but more probably know all about the scandal that destroyed his career and rocked Hollywood to its core.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Gummo Marx (1893-1977)

This is one of a blog grouping for the Marx Brothers: see also ChicoGroucho, Zeppo and Harpo.

Birth name: Milton Marx
Birthdate: Monday, October 23rd, 1893
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Thursday, April 21st, 1977
Location: Palm Springs, California, USA
Cause of death: Cerebral haemmorhage

Best known for: Being a member of the Marx Brothers before the act made it into films (around 1909-17), forming part of the collective on the vaudeville circuit before retiring from acting in World War One.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Zeppo Marx (1901-1979)

This is one of a blog grouping for the Marx Brothers: see also ChicoGroucho, Gummo and Harpo.

Birth name: Herbert Manfred Marx
Birthdate: Monday, February 25th, 1901
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Friday, November 30th, 1979
Location: Rancho Mirage, California, USA
Cause of death: Lung cancer

Best known for: One of the original, and youngest, of the Marx Brothers act who appeared in the siblings' first five films before retiring from acting to become a theatrical agent and engineer. He became a multi-millionaire as a result of his engineering efforts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Harpo Marx (1888-1964)

This is one of a blog grouping for the Marx Brothers: see also Chico, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo.

Birth name: Adolph Marx
Birthdate: Friday, November 23rd, 1888
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Monday, September 28th, 1964
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: One of the main trio of the Marx Brothers comedy act which had huge success in the movies in the 1930s and 40s, alongside Harpo and Chico. His comedy style was influenced by pantomime, slapstick and mime, and he frequently played a harp in most of his films.

Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

This is one of a blog grouping for the Marx Brothers: see also Chico, HarpoZeppo and Gummo.

Birth name: Julius Henry Marx
Birthdate: Thursday, October 2nd, 1890
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Friday, August 19th, 1977
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Best known for: One of the main trio of the Marx Brothers comedy act which had huge success in the movies in the 1930s and 40s, alongside Harpo and Chico. He also enjoyed a successful solo career, notably as the host of You Bet Your Life on TV and radio. He was given an honorary Oscar in 1974 in recognition of his "unequaled achievements" in motion picture comedy.

Chico Marx (1887-1961)

This is one of a blog grouping for the Marx Brothers: see also Groucho, Harpo, Gummo and Zeppo.

Birth name: Leonard Marx
Birthdate: Tuesday, March 22nd, 1887
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Wednesday, October 11th, 1961
Location: Hollywood, California, USA
Cause of death: Arteriosclerosis

Best known for: One of the main trio of the Marx Brothers comedy act which had huge success in the movies in the 1930s and 40s, alongside Harpo and Groucho. He played an important role in the management and development of the Marx Brothers act, particularly in their early years.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Louise Brooks (1906-1985)

Birth name: Mary Louise Brooks
Birthdate: Wednesday, November 14th, 1906
Location: Kansas, USA

Died: Thursday, August 8th, 1985
Location: Rochester, New York, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: Becoming one of Hollywood's earliest female screen goddesses, notably in the silent films Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl (both 1929), as well as popularising the bob hairstyle.

Louise is probably better remembered today for her publicity pictures and distinctive hairstyle than for her actual body of work, which itself wasn't extensive. She appeared in just 22 films between 1925 and 1938, after which she retired at the tender age of 32 - and not once did she act on screen again.

Louise's premature downward spiral came after she refused to stay with Paramount Pictures after completing 1928's Beggars of Life. Louise was not keen on the "Hollywood scene" and, after Paramount denied her a promised salary rise, she left for Europe to make films there. Those films were successful in their own right (Pandora's Box and Prix de Beaute (1930), for instance), but when she returned to the US in 1931 and refused to play ball with Paramount - who wanted her to conduct sound retakes of the silent film The Canary Murder Case - she was essentially blacklisted.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

James Cagney (1899-1986)

Birth name: James Francis Cagney Jr
Birthdate: Monday, July 17th, 1899
Location: New York City, USA

Died: Sunday, March 30th, 1986
Location: Stanford, New York, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: A string of gangster and tough guy movies in the 1930s and 40s, in particular The Public Enemy (1931), Frisco Kid (1935), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and White Heat (1949). He was nominated for an Oscar three times, but only won it once - for 1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy. He missed out on Best Actor awards for Angels with Dirty Faces (losing to Spencer Tracy) and Love Me or Leave Me (1955, losing to Ernest Borgnine).

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)

Birth name: Audrey Kathleen Ruston
Birthdate: Saturday, May 4th, 1929
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Died: Wednesday, January 29th, 1993
Location: Vaud, Switzerland
Cause of death: Appendiceal cancer

Best known for: Actress who became an icon of Hollywood chic in the role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and in later life became a hard-working humanitarian for UNICEF. She was nominated for five Oscars, but only ever won Best Actress for Roman Holiday in 1953 (the others were for Sabrina, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Wait Until Dark, beaten by Grace Kelly, Simone Signoret, Sophia Loren and Katharine Hepburn respectively). And by the way, she was not related to fellow Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn. It's just not true.

After years of hit after box office hit - Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Nun's Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and How to Steal a Million (1966) - it seemed like her fourth consecutive Best Actress Oscar defeat marked a turning point in her acting career. At the age of just 38, she decided to devote more time to her family, and after 1967's Wait Until Dark, didn't make another film for nine years.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984)

Birth name: Peter Johann Weißmüller
Birthdate: Thursday, June 2nd, 1904
Location: Freidorf, Hungary

Died: Friday, January 20th, 1984
Location: Acapulco, Mexico
Cause of death: Pulmonary edema

Best known for: If ever there was an actor known for just one singular role, and none of any others he might have played, it's Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan in several films of the 1930s and 40s. His previous career as a championship swimmer should not be overlooked, however - he won three gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics and a further two at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. He also bagged a bronze as part of the US water polo team in 1924.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ethel Merman (1908-1984)

Birth name: Ethel Agnes Zimmermann
Birthdate: Thursday, January 16th, 1908
Location: Queens, New York, USA

Died: Wednesday, February 15th, 1984
Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Cause of death: Brain cancer

Best known for: Actress and singer known as the First Lady of the musical comedy stage, appearing in big hits in Broadway musicals throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical/ Comedy for 1953's Call Me Madam, but is best known for her belting voice and introducing such standards as I Got Rhythm, Everything's Coming Up Roses and There's No Business Like Show Business to the live stage lexicon.

Ray Milland (1907-1986)

Birth name: Alfred Reginald Jones
Birthdate: Thursday, January 3rd, 1907
Location: Neath, Wales, UK

Died: Monday, March 10th, 1986
Location: Torrance, California, USA
Cause of death: Lung cancer

Best known for: Actor and director who never quite made it to the top flight of screen stars, but was ever dependable in classics such as The Lost Weekend (1945, for which he won a Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe), Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954) and of course his own The Ray Milland Show aka Meet Mr McNutley (1953-55).

As the 1950s gave way to the 60s, Ray's screen acting became less common, but this was only because he was concentrating more and more on directing from behind the camera - he'd made his directorial debut with the 1955 Western A Man Alone, and soon moved into television, helming episodes of The Ford Television Theatre (1956), Suspicion (1958) and Thriller (1961). Ray was also taking roles on the stage during this time, including 1966's Hostile Witness on Broadway (a film version of which became his last directing job in 1968).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986)

Birth name: Elsa Sullivan Lanchester
Birthdate: Tuesday, October 28th, 1902
Location: Lewisham, London, UK

Died: Friday, December 26th, 1986
Location: California, USA
Cause of death: Bronchopneumonia

Best known for: Elsa will forever be associated with the iconic role of the bride of Frankenstein in the 1935 film of the same name. She was nominated for an Oscar twice - for Best Supporting Actress in Come to the Stable (1949, losing to Mercedes McCambridge) and in Witness for the Prosecution (1958, losing to Miyoshi Umeki).

In 1929, years before Elsa came to recognition as the fright-haired bride, she married fellow actor Charles Laughton, and they remained married for the rest of Charles's life, until he died in 1962. The pair appeared in no fewer than 12 movies together during this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Max Wall (1908-1990)

Birth name: Maxwell George Lorimer
Birthdate: Thursday, March 12th, 1908
Location: Stockwell, London, UK

Died: Monday, May 21st, 1990
Location: Westminster, London, UK
Cause of death: Fractured skull

Best known for: Comedian and actor whose career spanned music hall (starting out as The Boy with the Educated Feet), film, TV and stage. He was known for his outlandish appearance, notably long black hair with bald cap, drainpipe trousers and bovver boots, along with a "funny walk" (this was actually the character of Professor Wallofski, inspiration for John Cleese's Ministry of Silly Walks in Monty Python's Flying Circus).

Max's heyday was the 1930s when he appeared in many stage comedies and musicals, never making much of an impact on the silver screen (in the 1930s he made two appearances - 1934's On the Air and 1938's Save a Little Sunshine), and it wasn't until the 1950s, following his war service, that he re-emerged as a more populist entertainer.

Margaret Rutherford (1892-1972)

Birth name: Margaret Taylor Rutherford
Birthdate: Wednesday, May 11th, 1892
Location: Balham, London, UK

Died: Sunday, May 22nd, 1972
Location: Chalfont St Peter, UK
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease

Best known for: Without doubt Margaret's lasting legacy is her depiction of Agatha Christie's elderly sleuth Miss Marple in a handful of films in the early 1960s, but by that point she'd already had an impressive career in British film, principally in comedy. It's little known that Margaret actually won an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 1964, for Best Supporting Actress, for the previous year's The VIPs, although she was not present at the awards; her trophy was collected on her behalf by Peter Ustinov. She was awarded an OBE in 1961, and then a DBE (becoming Dame Margaret Rutherford) in 1967.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Roy Rogers (1911-1998)

Birth name: Leonard Franklin Slye
Birthdate: Sunday, November 5th, 1911
Location: Cincinnati, USA

Died: Monday, July 6th, 1998
Location: California, USA
Cause of death: Heart failure

Best known for: Legendary cowboy actor and singer who was an icon of the Western film genre in the 1940s and who complemented his screen career with a string of big-selling Country and Western songs in the USA. He also had his own Roy Rogers TV show, which ran for six years and 100 episodes in the 1950s.

When the final edition of The Roy Rogers Show aired on June 9th, 1957, it also pretty much brought Roy's otherwise illustrious career to an end. Roy was 45 at this point and his style of Western, principally aimed at and merchandised for the juvenile market, was going out of fashion in the wake of grittier outings such as John Wayne's The Searchers or Rock Hudson's Giant.

Tyrone Power (1914-1958)

Birth name: Tyrone Edmund Power Junior
Birthdate: Tuesday, May 5th, 1914
Location: Cincinnati, USA

Died: Saturday, November 15th, 1958
Location: Madrid, Spain
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: Matinee idol in the 1940s and 50s who became known for his swashbuckling, action roles as well as his romantic leads, notably in The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Black Rose (1950) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

Tyrone's career can be cleanly divided into two halves - before the Second World War, and after it. Between 1942-46 Tyrone served as a US Marine pilot both on home turf and in the South Pacific, and was elevated to the rank of captain in the reserves in 1951. He was a war hero as well as a silver screen hero, and the first role he took upon returning to the acting profession was Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge (1946), an adaptation of the novel by W Somerset Maugham about an adventurer who goes off for a decade to "find himself". The film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and won his co-star Anne Baxter a Best Actress Oscar.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Carmen Miranda (1909-1955)

Birth name: Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha
Birthdate: Tuesday, February 9th, 1909
Location: Marco de Canaveses, Portugal

Died: Friday, August 5th, 1955
Location: California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: Singer, dancer, Broadway star and film actress who made it big on the big screen in the 1940s with films such as Down Argentine Way (1940) and The Gang's All Here (1943). She is particularly remembered for her fruit hat and extravagant appearance.

The Brazilian Bombshell became a massive star in the 1940s, being invited to sing for President Roosevelt, and becoming the highest paid woman in the United States in 1945 (in excess of $200,000). However, in the years following the war, Carmen's popularity waned, and she became frustrated with her constantly being labelled the "Brazilian Bombshell" when she felt she had much more to offer. Her career turned gradually away from movies and onto the television, appearing in variety spectaculars as well as returning to her roots performing in nightclubs.

Jackie Coogan (1914-1984)

Birth name: John Leslie Coogan
Birthdate: Monday, October 26th, 1914
Location: Los Angeles, USA

Died: Thursday, March 1st, 1984
Location: Santa Monica, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: His role as the eponymous child star in Charlie Chaplin's silent classic The Kid (1921), and much later in his career as bald-headed Uncle Fester in the sitcom The Addams Family (1964-66). He was also married to Hollywood starlet Betty Grable between 1937-39 - his first of four wives.

Making his earliest film appearance at the age of three, Jackie was the world's first child star, and the first one to go through the now familiar trappings and pitfalls of growing up and being a "former child star". After his rise to success and fame thanks to Chaplin, he became the first actor to be actively merchandised by Hollywood, and his face could be found on everything from peanut butter to whistles.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fay Wray (1907-2004)

Birth name: Vina Fay Wray
Birthdate: Sunday, September 15th, 1907
Location: Alberta, Canada

Died: Sunday, August 8th, 2004
Location: New York City, USA
Cause of death: Natural causes

Best known for: Despite an acting career that spread across five decades, Fay was forever remembered for her principal role in the 1933 monster movie King Kong, whose shadow she never escaped - however, she earned a $10,000 salary for the film and the knowledge that the movie's success saved RKO from bankruptcy.

Fay had actually been acting since she was aged 16 but hit upon her big success playing Ann Darrow in 1933's King Kong. She never managed to escape the glare of success from that film, but did continue to enjoy a healthy acting career until the mid-1960s, when she retired from the screen at the age of 58 (she'd originally retired, aged just 35, after 1942's Not a Ladies' Man, but financial concerns forced her to return to acting 11 years later). Before this retirement she'd had TV success as Catherine Morrison in The Pride of the Family (1953-54) and various roles in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train and Perry Mason.

Harold Lloyd (1893-1971)

Birth name: Harold Clayton Lloyd
Birthdate: Thursday, April 20th, 1893
Location: Nebraska, USA

Died: Monday, March 8th, 1971
Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: Prostate cancer

Best known for: His all-action, stunt-driven silent comedy films of the 1920s through to 1940s, most famously 1923's Safety Last! in which he is left suspended from a clock face high above the city.

Harold's heyday was during the 1920s when he produced a great many silent comedy shorts and films with Hal Roach, notably as the "Glass" character (he donned horn-rimmed spectacles as Roach believed Harold was too good-looking for comedy). But during the 1930s his popularity began to decline as the Great Depression promoted cynicism, which failed to match Harold's innate optimism and go-getting persona.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vivien Leigh (1913-1967)

Birth name: Vivian Mary Hartley
Birthdate: Wednesday, November 5th, 1913
Location: Darjeeling, India

Died: Saturday, July 8th, 1967
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Suffocation caused by tuberculosis

Best known for: British actress whose career was eclipsed by her early success as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939), but whose other notable work included Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Anna Karenina (1948) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). She won two Best Actress Oscars for Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her personal claim to fame was that she was married to acting legend Sir Laurence Olivier between 1940-60.

Vivien's screen CV is actually relatively slight for a woman who made such an impact on Hollywood. She made only five films in the 1940s, just two in the 1950s and two more in the 1960s before her death, but she was extremely busy on the stage throughout these decades.