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.