Monday, November 30, 2015

Born Today: November 30: Charles Hawtrey


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 Today November 29: Yakima Canutt


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 Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.  

In action--John Ford's 1938 Stagecoach, doubling John Wayne.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Born Today November 28: Stefan Zweig


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 in 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.  They were laid to rest back in Rio's large Cemitério de Municipal de Petrópolis



Friday, November 27, 2015

Born Today November 27: Florence Lake


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

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Image From 1924 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

That's some float!!

Born Today November 26: Frances Dee


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.  She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Born Today November 25: Margaret Livingston


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!  She is interred at First Presbyterian Church of Ewing Cemetery in Ewing, New Jersey.

A fashion photo of her dating from 1927.

Also Born Today:

Happy Birthday Mr. P.!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Born Today November 24: Rudolf Klein-Rogge


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

Born Today November 23: Boris Karloff!


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

Born Today November 22: Lee Patrick


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 Today November 21: Jobyna Ralston


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.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Born Today November 20: Reginald Denny


Born Reginald Leigh Dugmore in Richmond, Surrey UK, he started his acting career as a child on the stage at the age of 7.  At one point in his young adult life he joined an opera company as a baritone.  He came by his stage name (actually he had two, briefly going by Leigh Denny), from his actor father W. H. Denny, who was a baritone in Savoy operas, most notably working with Gilbert & Sullivan; hence Reginald's young start on the the stage and his honing of his singing talent.  At some point before his first film appearance in 1915, he came to the United States to further his stage career, which he did even after entering the motion picture industry.  Denny well remembered for his appearance on Broadway of John Barrymore's production of Shakespeare's Richard III.  He entered the film industry with an appearance in Niobe in a 1915, a film, that unfortunately is probably lost, was partially directed by Edwin S. Porter--one of Edison's men, and one of the very first directors of film.  He had a very prolific film career during the silent era, but like all actors of the time that trained and starred on the stage, he had the skills to seamlessly make the transition into talkies and became a recognizable character actor.  He was also a pilot--as seen above, he served his country in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and in the 1920's was a stunt pilot, the photo of him in his uniform dates from 1917.  He passed away where he was born, when he was just visiting from Hollywood of a stroke on 16 June 1967.  His body was shipped back to California where he is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills location.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Born Today November 19: Clifton Webb


Born Webb Parmalee Hollenbeck in Indianapolis, IN he was well trained in dance and theater by the age of 13 when he quite school to study art (painting) and music.  By the time he was 19 he was a professional ballroom dancer; and was in this capicity that he made his first appearance in film in the year 1917 at the age of 28.  He went on to have roles in 4 films in the 1920's, with his first named character coming in the year 1925.  He was in only one film in 1930, which was a short actually a short.  He didn't show back up in film until 1944 appearing in the now well known film noir Laura, starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews; in fact, he was billed just above Vincent Price.  He also had a successful career on Broadway and is well remembered for his off-Broadway performances in run of Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirit.  Plagued by health troubles for the last five years of his life, he passed away on 13 October and is interred next to his mother in a crypt in the very famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Born Today November 17: Mischa Auer


Mischa Auer was born in Saint Petersburg, during the end days of the Russian Empire as Mikhail Semyonovich Unkovsky to Jewish parents.  He got involved with Yiddish theater and was a member of Bertha Kalich's Yiddish Theater (she herself made it to Hollywood, albeit much earlier in the silent era) and in her company was credited as Mischa Ounskowsky.  He was the grandson of Hungarian Jewish violinist Leopold Auer, so when he made the journey to Hollywood, he took that name to honour his grandfather.  He immigrated to the United States in the late 1920's and managed to star in one of the very last fully silent films Something Always Happens in 1928, a year when partially sound films were common and few full mono sound films were produced.  He went on to have a very prolific acting career right on until the time of his death in 1967.  He passed away in Rome, Italy of heart complications.  He is interred in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Gloversville NY.  
[Source: Diane Henderson (Find A Grave)]


Monday, November 16, 2015

Born Today November 16: George S. Kaufman


Born George Simon Kaufman in Pittsburgh he was a multi-talented Jack Of All Trades in the entertainment industry, well known early on for writing and/or directing musicals for The Marx Brothers. He started off as a writer; his first film credit came in that capacity in 1919 Someone Must Pay, which was an adaptation of a play that he wrote in 1918 as  Some One In The House.  Which was remade in 1920, directed by John Ince eldest of the Ince Brothers.  He had many rolls in the film industry including film credit, but also such a very successful career on Broadway.  He was also a member of the Algonquin Round Table crowd that also included Dorothy Parker, a character that the Jennifer Jason Leigh character in the Coen Brothers film The Hudsucker Proxy  is based on.  He passed away inn New York City on 2 June 1971 at the age of 71. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Born Today November 15: Lewis Stone


Born Lewis Shepard Stone in Worcester, Massachusetts, he first entered motion film acting in the year 1915 in a short film as an extra.  He got a lot of roles as older and old men, because he hair turned prematurely gray, he said by the age of 20.  In the silent era he is probably best known for he role in The Lost World (1925).  He also served in the US Army during the Spanish-American war.  He passed away in Hancock Park, Beverly Hills, California on 12 September 1953 at the age of 73 of a sudden heart attack outside his home.  Unfortunately a photo was taken of his dead body on the sidewalk and later made it's way into infamous Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon.  He is buried at the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Stone with the cast of The Lost World

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Born Today November 14: Brian Keith


Well known and very recognizable American character actor Brian Keith, was born either Robert Keith Richey Jr., or Brian Alba Keith in Bayonne NJ to an actor father Rolland Keith Richey.  As the son of stage actor it was a bit inevitable that he would venture into show business.  He is being written up here today due to one infant role that he had as an toddler in 1924 Pied Piper Malone when he was three.  He passed away on 24 June 1997 at the age of 75 In Malibu CA.  He is interred with his daughter in  Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Born Today November 13: Robert Louis Stevenson


Scottish born writer Robert Louis Steveson's fanciful stories were fodder for the earliest narrative adaptations as soon as film was long enough to include at least the basics of a short story, novelette or novel.  He was born in Edinburgh.  The very first adaptation of his work is unsurprisingly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1908 and was a whopping 16 minutes in time length (long for the time).  Unfortunately, it is probably a lost film.  He died, probably of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, on 3 December in Viliama, Somoa; he was only 44 years of age.  He was beloved by the Samoan people who guarded his body until his burial on sacred Mt. Vaea, where a tomb was eventually erected over his grave.  

A very early Daguerreotype photo of him as a child. 

His original native burial.

Old postcard of his tomb

Modern Photo

The Samoan song "Under The Wild And Starry Sky" translated into English from the Native Samoan

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Born Today November 12: Jacques Tourneur


Born in Paris France to a silent film director father, Maurice Tourneur, this great director's silent work actually came in the form of an actor in the 1920's, starting with a film as uncredited extra in the year 1923.  With his father being a director of silent film, it goes without saying that he would be lured into the world of the motion picture himself--starting with acting jobs--kind of like odd jobs really (he had been in the US since the age of 10). Of course, he is most well known for directing some wonderful 1940's Val Lewton produced horror, such as I Walked With A Zombie (1943) and The Leopard Man (also 1943); with his most famous Lewton produced directing job coming in 1942 with Cat People.   In Hollywood he was often just called "Jack."  For us die hard horror fans, it's worth mentioning that the last film he directed, War Gods Of The Deep or City In The Sea starred Vincent Price himself in 1965.  He was also a fine director of films noir.  He passed away on 19 December 1977 (a very personal date for me, my father passed on that same day in 2009) at the age of 73 in Bergerac, Dordogne, France.  He was obviously buried on a private family owned land of some sort, his burial is listed at "non-cemetery burial" (though his father in buried in a family plot at Pére Lachaise, it is possible that Jacques wound up there to??)  Happy 111 Mon. Tourneur!

Have to love those Paris gargoyles!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Born Today November 11: Roland Young


British born actor Roland Young was born on this day in the greater London area, where he made is stage debut in 1908. He made his stage debut in New York in 1912. He stayed in New York and became a reliable actor on Broadway for the next ten years.

Although most famous as the character of "Mr. Topper" that first appears in Topper  (1937) where is hilariously tormented by the ghosts of George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett), he got his start in films in the silent era, in 1922, in fact, playing Dr. Watson to John Barrymore's Sherlock Holmes.  Young died at the age of 65 from natural causes on the 5th of June in 1953 in New York City. He was cremated an urned (please see the Find a Grave entry below to leave virtual flowers [registration required])

Mr. Topper!

Wikipedia (at the bottom of his Wikipedia page has an impressive list of interesting links!)
Find A Grave entry 

Young and Barrymore in Sherlock Holmes  (1922)