Thursday, December 24, 2015
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Born Mabel Paige Roberts in New York City in the borough of Manhattan, she started on the stage at just the age of four. She went on to be an extremely successful Broadway actress, and founded her own touring company in her own name: The Mabel Paige Theatrical Company after 1918. She made her film debut in 1912 in Comedic short entitled No Trespassing ironically playing a character named "Mable Long." This began her tenure had the Lubin Manufacturing Company, which quit production of motion pictures in 1916 when it was forced into bankrupcy by court rulings on motion picture patenting. During this period of time, she starred in a number or romantic comedies opposite Oliver Hardy. After Lubin's bankruptcy, it was a full two years before she appeared in another motion picture; that would be Eight Bells (1918). This was the last silent motion picture she was ever in. This is when she founded her stage company. The company toured in the southern United States extensively and for a protracted period of time. This came during a period time after she retired from the motion picture industry, during the silent era. Ever a creature of the stage, silent acting was just not for her. This earned her the nickname "Idol of the South." She did not appear again in a film until 1942. In all she appeared in over 50 films, many of them silent shorts between 1912 through 1916. She also worked in television. Her appearance on I Love Lucy, is probably her most famous T.V. appearance. She died of a heart attack on 9 February in Van Nuys at the age of 73. She is buried in Pearce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, under her married name of Mary Paige Ritchie.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in Saint Louis, Missouri; she was pressured by an over-bearing to become a performer. She was entered into dance school at the very young age of 3 and taken, by her mother, to Hollywood when she was 12 or 13. Her mother lied about her age, thus getting her bit parts in movies in the 1930's. She made 1 full sound talkie in 1929, a musical entitled Happy Days, as a chorus girl. The sound was by MovieTone. Despite being a very talented singer, and actress, she evidently suffered from a phobic fear of crowds; which must have terrorized her when her mother enrolled her in multiple beauty contests and pressured her to become a model. Though the modeling experience did pay off, as she was able to fall back on it in WWII as photos of her "million dollar legs" provided titillation and comfort for soldiers. And she was able to provide entertainment by actually making a film about being a USO hostess called Pin Up Girl, thus avoiding actually facing throngs of actual soldiers as a real USO hostess. She passed away passed away on the 2nd of July 1973 of lung cancer at the young age of 56. She is entombed in Inglewood Park Cemetery....with her mother, under the name Betty Grable James.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Born Noël Peirce Coward in Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK. He is best known as a influential comedy playwright; but in reality he was the epitome of a Renaissance man: he was also a composer/lyricist, director, painter, singer and actor. He possessed a unique and extraordinary wit, with which in invented a form "Englishness" that persisted at least up until and, even through, the British rock invasion of the 1960's. He was on the unprofessional stage by the age of 6 and acting professionally by the age of 11, while attending dance academy in London (on strong encouragement from his mother). He is supposed to have written his first play, a drama, by the age of 16. In 1921, he visited an increasingly swinging New York City and caught "the Broadway bug" in a big way, when a play he was starring in debuted on "The Great White Way." By this time, he had already appeared in film for the first time, and with no slouch director either; he had two bit parts in D. W. Griffith's Hearts Of The World, which was released in 1918 and is an anthology of series of tales set in Europe about the coming of The Great War (and is currently on Amazon's Prime rental free). In the silent era, only three films were produced as adaptations of his work; one of the directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The first one was German, Forbidden Love (originally titled "The Queen Was in the Palour"), was made in 1927. The next was Easy Virtue in 1928, and was directed by Hitchcock before he left England for Hollywood. The last was The Vortex, also in 1928, based on his infamous play of the same name that had taken New York by scandalous storm earlier in the 1920's. From then on out, his adapted works were in full sound; and often either included songs that he had written, or were turned into musicals. One of my personal favorites, is the David Lean directed Blithe Spirit (1945), which he is reported to have worked on the screenplay covertly. Coward died in Jamaica, on his Firefly Estate, in Blue Harbor on 26 March 1973 of a heart attack, after suffering for many years the condition that is properly known as "hardening of the arteries." He is buried there.
|Statue over-looking his burial slab in Jamaica.|
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Born Yuliyakovlevich Raizman in Riga, in what was then the Russian Empire, which is now the Capital of the country of Latvia, he would go on to be a well known Soviet director of films. He got his start in the Soviet film industry as an uncredited actor in 1925 in the comedy short (which has survived and can actually be rented on Amazon) Shakhmatnaya goryachka or Chess Fever. He apparently, quickly decided that acting was not for him. He then that same year he got his first Assistant Director job, in Medvezhya svadba or The Bear's Wedding. He has two more credits as an assistant director; one in 1926 and another in 1927. His first full job as a director also came in 1927 with the feature length Krug. He made one other silent film in 1928; with his first mono sound film coming in 1930; quite early for the USSR, as other film directors at the time where still making silent pictures well into the early 1930's there. Very late into his career, his film Chastnaya zhizn (Private Life) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. He directed his last film in 1984 before retiring. He passed away in Moscow on the 11th of December 1994 at the age of 90. He was born when Russia was still and empire, and lived all but three of years of his life in the USSR, and died in a much smaller independent country. Although he, like all directors in the USSR made propaganda films, he was no where as prolific as most. From my research the most propagandistic film that he directed was a "documentary" had to do with the fall of Berlin in 1945. He is buried in Troekurov Cemetery in Moscow.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Born in London, England; he started in the theater there in 1906. In the silent era, he made it only into two films, one of which, released in 1928, was an early talkie; both were shorts. His first film was a British short Kismet made in 1914. Sometime after this he left for the U.S. By 1923 he had made his Broadway debut, and that career lasted into the 1950's. The short talking film that he made in 1928 was Two Masters. He did not appear again in films until 1939; from there he went on to have a very long career as a character actor. Notably along the way in a couple of Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone. He also did quite a lot of television, appearing on variety of shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason. He was Laelius in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960). His role came in 1970, and it is an uncredited role in Airport, as a passenger. He passed away on 1 August 1973 in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles. He is buried in Pierce Bros. Valhalla Memorial Park, in North Hollywood.
|With Basil Rathbone|
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Born Victor Andrew de Bier Everleigh McLaglen; the place of his birth is bit of a mix-up. On the one hand, he claimed to have been born in Tunbridge Wells, in County Kent; on the other, his birth certificate states that he was actually born in the East End of London. On thing is for sure, he was born somewhere in England in the United Kingdom. People popular believe that he was completely of Irish ancestry; when in fact, he was Scottish by ethnicity. His father, who would become a Bishop in the Free Protestant Episcopal Church, moved the family to South Africa when Victor was a child. He actually joined the British Army when he was 14, lying about his age, but soon after was forced to leave when his true age was discovered. Four years after this, he moved to Canada and became a successful boxer and wrestler. He was also famous for being a westerner that practiced and mastered the martial art of Jujutsu and even wrote a book on the subject. When World War I broke out and rejoined the army, serving as acting Captain for the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. He also did some service in Baghdad later in war. While in the army he was Heavyweight Champion in 1918.
After the war, he began taking roles in British silent films. From the start, they were not small roles--no uncredited roles in his filmography. The first film he appeared in was The Call Of The Road in 1920, the plot of which revolved around boxing. At some point he moved to Hollywood and quickly became a character actor in silents. He often played Irishmen, which lead movie goers to assume that he was actually from Ireland, rather than from England. One aspect of his "character" was that he was particularly good at playing drunks. One of my personal favorite silent films that he had a role in was The Unholy Three (1925), which was remade as a talkie in 1930. He starred alongside "The Man Of A Thousand Faces" himself, Lon Chaney, Sr. It is crime caper that just captivates; and, of course, he plays the strongman figure in the film. Rounding out the "three" is Harry Earles, who stood only 3'3" as Tweedledee. This is why I got the joke in Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects (2005), about the "The Unholy Two" featuring one of my favorite Native American actors: Danny Trejo. To my mind, the 1925 silent is better than the talking remake, which also featured Chaney, Sr.
|The Unholy Three|
For a man that went into acting with no formal training, and went directly into leading roles in silent film, McLaglen made the transition to sound film with a great of ease. The first full sound film that he was in is The Black Watch (1929), which starred Myrna Loy and was directed by John Ford. Sometime toward the end of his life and during his third and final marriage, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He died of a heart attack on 7 November 1959 in Newport Beach, CA. He is interred in Forest Law Memorial Park in Glendale.
Below is the clip from The Devil's Rejects that includes the "the unholy two."
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Born Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr. in New York City the his famous actor father Douglas Fairbanks Sr.--he was the only from Fairbanks Sr.'s first marriage. After his parents divorce when he was just 9 years of age, he lived with his mother in various large cities, both here in the US and in Europe. His first film role came in 1916 in a bit role in one of his father's films American Aristocracy , when he was just 7. He didn't appear in another film until 1921, when he was 12. Both of these roles went uncredited. Two years later, because his father was one of the very first Hollywood icons of film, Fairbanks Jr. was given a contract at Paramount just because of his name: he was 14 years old at the time. The first film that he made under that contract was Stephen Steps Out (1923); not only was this his first credited role, he actually got top billing--even over Noah Beery! Many of his performances in under this contract were pretty unimpressive. He fell from top billing to supporting roles for the most part. Though he did have steady work through the silent 1920's. He is said to have be disillusioned with the motion picture industry, so he took to the stage instead. There his acting skills improved vastly; reportedly even impressing his father. It is said that it was his famous stepmother Mary Pickford and family friend Charlie Chaplin that encouraged him to continue his acting career in film. By the late 1920's he was a well established film actor in his own right, and was back to top billed roles. His first partial sound film came in 1928 with The Toilers, with the musical score and sound effects provided by the RCA Photophone System. Also in 1928 he starred in The Barker, which had a silent version and a full mono alternative version--this was his first speaking role on film. His first full sound film came later that same year with the very famous early talkie A Woman of Affairs (1928), starring the great Greta Garbo. During World War II he became a highly decorated Naval officer, earning the Distinguished Service Cross from the UK Naval because he was the head the Beach Jumpers program. He was later appointed a KBE, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the King of Great Britain, for this wartime service. One of his last roles came in one of my favorite ghost films of all time Ghost Story (1981), as Charles Edward Wanderley. His very last role came in 1989 in a episode of the television show B. L. Stryker. Fairbanks Jr. passed away in the city of his birth, at the age of 90 on 7 May 2000. His body was shipped back to Los Angeles, where he is interred in tomb with his famous father, at the equally famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Born Walter Elias Disney in Chicago. Obviously we are talking about a towering figure here, so for the purposes of this blog, I am sticking to the silent era stuff for the most part. Disney was a multi-talented voice actor, animator, print cartoonist and producer. His first interest in these arts seems to have come when he was in high school in Chicago, he began to take night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts studying under artist Louis Grell. However, at the age of 16 he dropped out of high school and tried to join the Army to fight in World War I, but, was, of course, rejected for being underage. So he joined the Red Cross instead and he was sent to France as an ambulance driver, but this was only after armistice was signed. Back in the United States, and in Kansas City, he decided in 1919 to start some sort of artistic career and briefly considered becoming an actor, but then changed his mind to drawing political cartoons and comic strips for newspapers; no was hiring him. He did manage, through connections with brother Roy, to get temporary work at the Pesman-Rubin where he created advertisements for magazines, newspapers, and, I think, most importantly--movie theaters. There he met one of my personal favorite cartoonists, Ubbe "Ub" Iwerks, who was also working there temporarily. When both of their contracts ran out, they decided to start a commercial company together. That company was the short lived Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. The company got off to a rocking start and Disney left, he thought temporarily, to find work at the Kansas City Film Ad Company; Iwerks, unable to run their company alone, soon joined him there. There, Disney started to make ads by a method known as Cutout Animation; this is when he became intensely interested and decided to become a full time animator. The owner of the company allowed him to borrow a camera to experiment with at night at home; after reading Edwin G. Lutz's book Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin And Development, he decided that Cel animation (short for celluloid) was a much more promising approach to actual animation. So effectively he was back in a kind night school situation, only he was teaching himself. He then decided to open his own animation company and lured Fred Harman from the Ad Company to be his first employee. There they started creating cartoons they called "Laugh-O-Grams." After studying Asps Fables, they created modernized versions in 6 Laugh-o-Grams; they were then publicly screened at a local theater that was owned by the man known as the most popular showmen in Kansas City: Frank Newman. Disney was off and running! He then created Laugh-O-Gram Studio, and the cartoons produced there were known as "Newman Laugh-O-Grams"--always with a "by Walt Disney" at the bottom of any poster. The people working there grew by three, with Harman's brother Hugh, his partner Rudolf Ising, and Disney's old friend and colleague Ubbe Iwerks. Disney, it turned out was a terrible money manager, and the profits the company was taking in didn't match the high pay to the employees, so the company wound up bankrupt. It is with these "Laugh-O-Grams" that earns Disney his first film credits, the first coming in 1921 in the capacity as a director, with Kansas City Girls Are Rolling Their Own Now, it was all of 1 minute in length. This was his first credit...and that is all that really matters. When Disney died on 15 December 1965 of lung cancer, he had amassed a huge empire including theme parks that I personally grew up with. There was a romour that he had been frozen and put under the pirates of the Caribbean ride in Los Angeles; thus the "Thaw Walt" campaign in the late 1960's. The opposite is the truth, he was cremated and his ashes are interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Born Lloyd Frances Bacon in San Jose, CA, the son a famous stage actor Frank Bacon, who managed to live just long enough to have a turn performances in early motion pictures himself. Lloyd's film debut was in a Broncho Billy film, a franchise in which he would continue to act in; the year was 1915. He was also a frequent actor in early Charlie Chaplin films. As a matter of fact, he was in a lot of very classic early Chaplin short films, including The Tramp (1915). He acted all the way through the 1920's with great frequency, but acted in only film in the 1930's. That would be Broadway Gondolier, a musical made in 1935, which he also directed. This was his last acting credit, when then became a very successful director. He actually made his directorial debut in the early 1920's; in 1922 he directed The Speeder a short film that he also starred in. The first film that he directed that he did not act in also came in 1922, another short entitled The Educator. His directing career in the 1920's was probably more prolific than was his acting career, in fact. In the 1930's and 1940's, he directed some very famous films. An early hit for him was 42 Street (1933). He continued to direct films right up until the time of his death, when on the 15th of November 1955 he passed away suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65, in Burbank, CA. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.
|Bacon with Chaplin|
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Born Anna Petrova Fesak in Kiev, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire, today it is the capital of Ukraine. The actual year of her birth is in dispute, everything from 1906 to 1910. 1906 may actually be the year of her birth, since it shows up in her handwriting on her mother's listing of entry into the US and her own college applications later; but her official biography lists 1908, so that is the year used in almost every biographical account of her. There is also some confusion/controversy over her birth name, with some accounts giving it as Anel Sudakevich. There are claims that her Ukrainian father was actually a Cossack, what is known for sure is that her mother was Swedish. There is also further confusion about her maiden name, for all this information see Wikipedia below. In entry into film came in 1926. In all she is credited with 6 roles in the 1920's. She died at the age of 84 on 12 November. That date is not in question.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Born Franz Reichert in Munich, Germany to an actor and to a mother who was the daughter of a famous opera singer, the entertainment industry was in his blood. He immigrated to the United States in 1899, becoming a US citizen in 1911. During this period of time he worked actively on and off Broadway and was quite successful, as the above photo was taken of him in character from Broadway in 1912. Also during this period of time, he was even the head of the Brooklyn Stock Company, where at least one version on Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice was performed in Yiddish. He made his film debut straight out of his Broadway career, not as an named actor, but as a director, in 1915! This is not the usual path of silent era actors making their way to Hollywood. The film is The Case Of Becky. He did give himself a bit part in the role, something in the vein the Hitchcock would go on to do. Indeed, during the silent era, he was primarily a director. His last directorial credit comes in 1931, with him then devoting his life to acting. He is most well known to the public as the captain of the ill fated boat in the 1933 hit King Kong: Captain Englehorn. He would eventually become somewhat of a fixture in Universal Horror in the 1940's in acting roles--particularly later "Mummy" movies. His last film was Superman and the Mole-Men (1951). He passed away on 19 January 1965 at the age of 89. He is interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery. His sister, Hedwiga, would also go into acting in Hollywood.
|From King Kong 1933|
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Born in Pittsburgh, Penn. he was a child actor on the stage; his one and only silent role came as an 8 year, but what a movie it was! He was the child rat catcher in the extremely famous silent of 1925 The Phantom Of The Opera, starring "the man of thousand faces" Lon Chaney Sr. He did a stint on Broadway in his late teens and gained attention in 1937. Well, of course, Hollywood beckoned. He is probably best known, at least to my mind, for his role as Sgt. Dorian "Dodo" Doubleday, in a series of late Hal Roach comedies known as Hal Roach's Streamliners, a war time series. In 1941 he also appeared in two famous director's films: John Ford's Tobacco Road and Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith (infamously remade with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). After the second world war, his star started to wane. Efforts to revive his career as a character actor fell flat. He did manage to do quite a bit of television after this that included: Dragnet and Perry Mason, The one that he is the most famous for, actually starred in, was Terry And The Pirates. He died of unknown causes on 18 June 1967 at the young age of 49 in Hollywood. He is buried at Pierce Brothers Vahalla Memorial Park, a cemetery with a very strange history.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Born George Frederick Joffre Hartree in Middlesex, England, he took his name from an earlier actor who really was born Charles Hawtrey in 1858, who was knighted, a major stage actor, and had a his own very brief career in silent film before dying in 1923. Hartree was even said to encourage the belief that he was Hawtrey's son, when, in fact, he was the son of a London auto mechanic. . Nonetheless this Charles Hawtrey went on to have a very long and truly comedic career. He did attend a prestigious acting school; with members of his family said to have been in the entertainment business. His actual career began as child boy soprano; he went on to make several early pressed vinyl records before moving on to radio. He actually made his film debut as a child during the silent era before making his professional stage debut; with his film debut coming in a very minor uncredited role in 1922, while his stage debut came in 1925. In all he was in only two silent films, the second of which was in 1923. He went on to appear on over 70 films, including Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage. He even went on to direct, mostly stage productions, but he also has two directorial film credits--one of which he served as his cinematographer. By the early 1970's he had largely stopped acting in film; he made one television short in 1979 and an appearance on a television series 1987, just a year before his death. He is most famous for his appearances in the Carry-On film franchise, which began in the 1950's. He died a lonely death. His homosexuality had alienated him from his family and his eccentric personality didn't earn him any lasting relationships, either romantically or friendly. He was said to be close with Carry On actress Joan Sims at some point. Despite a misleading biography on Internet Movie Database about his death; the truth is he had been suffering from a debilitating condition for a while in his life, which was evidently misdiagnosed as arthritis. On the 24th of October 1988 in collapsed in Deal, England--where he had lived since the late 1960's--a and busted a femur bone in his leg and transported to a hospital in Dover. There he was told that he actually had peripheral vascular disease; the main cause of which a lifetime of cigarette smoking. He was told that both of his legs would need to be amputated to save his life; an operation that he refused. He died 3 days later in a nursing home near Deal early on 24 October. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered, with no family or friends in attendance. This makes me personally very sad and want to remember this remarkably funny man on this day, not least because we share the same birthday.
|Very small early photo of him as a boy soprano.|
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Born Enos Edward Canutt in Colfax, Washington, he is our first stunt man on the "Born Today" list. He grew up on a ranch and broke his first bronco when I was just 11; by the age of 16 is was riding in the local rodeo. By 17 he was riding professionally. It was in 1914 at an event called the Pendleton Round-Up, he got his nickname "Yakima" when a local newspaper misidentified him. He went on to have a very successful rodeo career; but he got into stunts for the movies very early on in his life in the year 1915. It was in a short staring the legendary Tom Mix. In all during the 1910's and 1920's he did stunts in 7 films as a double. However, by 1919, he also embarked on an acting career in episode of the silent serial Lightning Bryce. During the silent era, he had many more acting roles than stunt doubling work--and back then stunt people were rarely, if ever credited. Of course, in all the films in which he actually acted, he did his own stunt work. With his nickname now being used as an actual first name, a new nickname "Yak" was applied to him; and during this time frame he was sometimes credited as simply Yak. His first speaking role came in the last film he acted in during the 1920's: A Texan's Honor (1929), now sadly a lost film. He went on to have almost as long an acting career as he did in stunts. Also during the silent era, he had 5 producer credits, and 2 writing credits; pretty impressive for a guy who started out breaking bronco's on his father's ranch in Washington State! His last appearance on film came in 1985, a year before his death in the short Yak's Best Ride. He passed away from natural causes on the 24th of May 1986 at the age of 90. He is interred in Vahalla Memorial Park Cemetery.
|In action--John Ford's 1938 Stagecoach, doubling John Wayne.|
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Born in Vienna in then what was the Austro-Hungarian empire, Zweig was a prolific writer of short stories, novels and plays; he was also a biographer and journalist. He was the son of wealthy Austrian Jews. By the 1920's he was at the height of his career. The first film made from one of his novels was released in 1923 in Germany: Das brennende Geheimnis. In all, 6 films were released based on his material in the 1920's, all them silent and all of them in German. The first sound film based on another of his novels was released in 1931, also in Germany. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934 Zweig fled to England, understanding early on the Nazi threat to German and Austrian Jewish people. While there, penned a libretto for composer Richard Strauss. When Strauss refused to remove Zweig's name from the program, Joseph Goebbels refused to attend its premiere performance as he planned to do. The opera was then banned after 3 performances. The work in question is Die schweigsame Frau (or The Silent Woman), and the year was 1935. From England, where he actually became a British citizen, Zweig immigrated to Brazil with his second wife fearing that the UK would fall to Germany; an irony, as this became one of the destinations that Nazi German war criminals managed to flee to after the fall of Berlin. Films are still being made from his source material, the most recent of which is a film that has been announced The Week Before. He and his wife found themselves living an village on the the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro colonized by Germans--there they faced more and more racism. He penned a note about being very depressed by the situation; he and his wife were found dead on the 23rd of February, it assumed they died the day before of barbiturate overdose. They were found holding hands. He was 60 years old. Their home there was turned into a cultural museum due to his huge collection of rare books and manuscripts, it is known as Casa Stefan Zweig.
Friday, November 27, 2015
Born Florence Silverlake in Charleston, South Carolina; she is yet another child of performers, in this case circus performers who became stage actors in vaudeville shows. Her father and his brother toured as a circus act known as "The Flying Silverlakes;" and her mother was an actress. As a couple they toured all over the southern United States, coast to coast, as a vaudeville act with a touring company, performing in a skit called "Family Affair." In 1910 Florence and her younger brother joined the act. Some time after that, the children were brought to Hollywood in attempt to get them into the growing film industry there. Her father changed his name to Arthur Lake and would later go on to have his own film success in the Blondie movie series. She, herself, went on to be quite the success in silly comedic "dumb" roles. Florence was only in 3 films in the 1920's, all of them early talkies, and all released in 1929. She made her film debut in New Year's Eve, starring Mary Astor. She went on to have a very long and prolific acting career in film and television with her last role coming in 1976 in an episode of the television series Emergency!. She passed away at the age of 75 on the 11th of April in Los Angeles. She in interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, CA. as Florence Lake Owen.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Born Frances Marion Dee, in Los Angeles, she was literally named after her father who was stationed in LA in the military; her nickname was "Frankie Dee." She may have been born in the city where the motion picture industry was migrating from New Jersey to, but she actually grew up in Chicago. After her sophomore year of college, she, her mother, and her older sister took a summer vacation back out to Los Angeles. There, just a lark, she started working in movies as an extra, with no serious plans to become a real actress. Her only credit in the 1920's came in 1929, in Words and Music, it was a musical with two versions, one fully in mono and another that was entirely silent (not sure how you pull off a silent musical--I'd love to see it, but unfortunately, I can't, because it is yet another lost film!). She caught the bug and acted in films up to the year 1954, the year she quit acting to raise a family (she had three sons). She passed away in Norwalk Connecticut on 6 March 2004 at the age of 94.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she followed her older Ivy into acting. She made her film debut in The Chain Invisible in 1916, obviously as a teenager, in an actual named part. She made more than 50 films, the bulk of her career, in the silent era. She made the successful change to talking parts in the late 1920's with her first full talkie coming in 1929 in The Canary Murder Case, she even did a turn as a Vamp in 1928 in Beware of Bachelors an early partial talkie. What she is most famous for is her third billing in Marnau's Sunrise, as "The Woman From The City;" which won 3 of the very first Oscars ever awarded. She continued her career well into the 1930's, but retired from acting when she Jazz musician Paul Whiteman, and never returned. She is portrayed Claudia Harrison in Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow (2001), which is a seriously fictionalized story based on what may or may not have happened early film pioneer Thomas Ince, that led to his death days after being on board newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst's yacht one weekend in 1924. She died in Warrington, Pennsylvania on 13 December 1984. She shares a birthday with my son!
|A fashion photo of her dating from 1927.|
Also Born Today:
Happy Birthday Mr. P.!!
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Born Frederich Rudolf Klein-Rogge in Cologne, Germany. While studying art history at two universities, one in Berlin and one and Bonn, where he began to take acting classes. He made his acting debut in 1909 in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar one the stage. His film debut came in 1919 and from then on went on to have huge career in the silent era, playing master criminals and/or mad scientists. He, in this capacity, he can be seen as an early horror icon. For example, he played a criminal in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari in 1920. His most important role was C. A. Rotwang--The Inventor, the mad scientist of Fritz Lang's masterpiece Metropolis (1927). His career continued well into the talking era, with most of his roles (and there were a great many) coming in the 1930's. He never felt or succumbed to the call of Hollywood. He remained a German actor, with his last role coming in 1949. He passed away on the 30th April in the village of Wetzelsdorf in the Styrian region Austria.
Monday, November 23, 2015
So obviously this is BIG one! Born William Henry Pratt in at exactly 36 Forest Hill Road in London England, where a plaque marks the occasion. His maternal grandmother's sister's, or great aunt, tales of the courts of Siam were reportedly the inspiration for the Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The King and I. Both of the sisters were Anglo-Indian in ethnicity. He was bow-legged, suffered from both a lisp and stuttered as a child; it is possible that attempts to conquer the speech issues may have led to an interest in the stage, as he was actually able to rid himself of the stutter. He studied at London University with idea going into diplomacy. Instead in 1909 he moved to Canada and at some point started using the stage name that we know him so well by now. There has always been a lot of strange and ridiculous speculation and to where the name came from. Personally, I believe what he himself had to say on the subject--and why not, he was known to be a man of honour and honesty. He says he chose "Boris" because it sounded exotic, and that the name "Karlov" was a family name from some time back--and why, with his ethnicity wouldn't he assume he had the right to do this? It certainly made one heck of impression! Though his daughter has said that she personally doesn't have any knowledge of any Slavic ancestor's--it's still a great name! He also claimed that the reason for the name change was to prevent embarrassment to his family. He was the youngest of nine children and had older brothers in British foreign service. [Apparently they didn't feel any such way, when Karloff met back up with his family in Britain in 1933, they not only embraced him, they reportedly vied to have photos taken with their younger brother.]. His stage career in Canada was a rough one, with him taking various odd jobs to make ends meet--with him ending up in North Dakota performing in a penny opera. When he did finally make it to Hollywood, things didn't improve much. Though his first film credit came in 1919, and he was in many silent films from then on, many of the roles are very, very small and he still had to take odd jobs, such as digging ditches, to make ends meet. For an example of a bit role from the 1920's, he played "an Indian" in an uncredited roles, which now confirmed part, in The Last Of The Mohicans (1920), starring Wallace Beery as Magua. Many roles were of eastern or Native American or Mexican "exotics" in bit parts, due to his east Indian ancestry. This, of course, began to change after his role as The Monster in Frankenstein in 1931; however, even after this he still has eastern ethnic role that were uncredited. One has to get to 1932 in another James Whale classic The Old Dark House, to see that his career, largely in the horror genre takes off. All of the manual labor he did from 1909 until relief came much later on in his career left him with permanent back troubles that would last for the rest of his life. He was a great lover of children and at one point had his own children's radio show. Beginning in 1940 he would dress as Father Christmas and hand out presents to disabled children at a Baltimore hospital. Although he lived a great deal of his life in the United States, he remained a UK subject throughout his life. And contrary many reports, he never legally changed his name to Boris Karloff. He was born William Henry Pratt and he died with that name on 2 February 1969 (incidentally the same day as my own grandfather passed away 11 years later when I was just a kid), in a Sussex hospital after years of living the Hampshire county of England. He died of pneumonia, brought on as a complication of a years long battle with emphysema. He was cremated at Guilford Crematoria, where there is also a plaque in his name.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
She barely makes the list here, were it not for two things, her stage career in the 1920's and the fact that the only film, her motion picture debut, an early talkie from 1929 is considered a lost film. She was born in New York City, and became interested in acting because her father worked as an editor of a trade paper. She started in stock stage acting as a teenager and made her Broadway debut in 1924 at the age of 23. She continued her career on Broadway all throughout the 1930's even as her film career seriously took off. The 1929 film in question is Strange Cargo, a 75 minute mystery with full mono sound by RCA Photophone System. The oddity of it is that several people claim to have seen it, it is not one of those F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre situations. I've done some digging and can't find a wiff of it's continued existence. Perhaps some people have prints in private collections?? If so, please share! It does merit pointing out that at least one review on IMDb is from Australia; it is often from these far flung places, so called "terminus" points that lost films both famous and unknown for the most part have been found. One of the reasons for her memorial here is that I am huge fan of "Topper" franchise, and she portrayed the beleaguered role of Henrietta Topper in the 1950's television reboot of the movie franchise. She passed away on November 21, just 1 day before her 81st birthday in Laguna Beach, CA. She is interred in Pacific View Memorial Park.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Born Jobyna Lancaster Raulston in South Pittsburgh, Tenn., her unusual first name came from her parents naming her after the then very famous stage actress Jobyna Howland, who would go on to have her own successful turn in silent films. Ralston's mother was a portrait photographer, who from the beginning had plans for her daughter to go into show business; she was literally raised to have some sort of an entertainment career. She was on the professional stage by the age of 9, and went on to attend acting school in 1915 in New York City. Her Broadway debut came at the age of 21, when she began landing dancing chorus roles in musicals and small acting roles in plays. Famous comedian Max Linder noticed her in one of these productions and persuaded her to go to Hollywood. She had her film debut in 1919 in the short comedy Starting Out In Life and was credited as "Juliana Ralston." She did not keep the Juliana part, proudly going back to her famous first name, but she kept the respelling of the last name. in 1921 she played the "Heroine" in the famously lost first Marx Brothers film Humor Risk. She then began to work in comedy one reel shorts of Hal Roach, and had a very prolific career throughout the 1920's. In 1922 she abandoned the live stage altogether. She starred in her first partial sound film in The Big Hop (1928), which had a mono musical score. Her first full sound film came in The College Coquette a year later. Her greatest achievement came in 1927 when she had a billed roll in Wings which was the only silent film to technically win a "Best Picture" Oscar in the silent era, starring the likes of Clara Bow and Gary Cooper. She quit acting in the early 1930's after having a child; she made only two films in that decade. Her film career was almost entirely confined to the silent era. During this time she worked with a myriad of Hollywood silent elite talent. See links below. She passed away at the age of 67 on 22 January 1967 in Wood Hills, Los Angeles. Her grave marker states that she was born in 1900; her birth records indicate that 1899 was the correct year.