Film Legends

Steve McQueen

Stardust – TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

I'm not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing.”     

He was known as “The King of Cool.” His anti-hero persona, carefully developed through the ‘60s, made him a top box-office draw in the 1960s and 1970s. He became the highest-paid movie star in the world in 1974, although he would not act in a film again for four years. Though a headache for producers and director, his popularity kept him in high demand, enabling him to reap huge salaries for his services.

It took more than a few life lessons for McQueen to even break into show business. Born Terence Steven McQueen on March 24, 1930, in the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove, his father was a stunt pilot named William Terence McQueen. He left McQueen’s mother, Julia Ann, six moths after meeting her. Julia Ann, an alcoholic, couldn’t cope with raising a young son and left him with her parents, Victor and Lillian, in Slater, Missouri. As the Depression worsened, his grandparents moved in with Lillian's brother Claude at his farm in Slater. These were the happiest years of McQueen’s childhood, as he worked on the farm with Uncle Claude. When he was eight, his mother moved him to Indianapolis, where she lived with her new husband. 

To say he and his new stepfather did not get along is an understatement. McQueen suffered many beatings from the man and at the age of nine left home to live on the streets, where he ran with a street gang, becoming a petty criminal. Unable to control him, Julia Ann sent him back to Slater. When he was 12, Julia, who married for a third time. She wrote to Claude and asked that her son be sent to live with her and her new husband in Los Angeles. But the pattern repeated itself as Steve clashed with his stepfather, who McQueen recalled as being “a prime son of a bitch” not averse to using his fists on McQueen and his mother. Again McQueen was sent back to live with Claude. This lasted until he was 14, when he left Claude's farm without a word and joined a circus. That lasted for a short time before McQueen found his way back to Los Angeles where he resumed life as a gang member and petty criminal. Caught stealing hubcaps by police, McQueen was handed over to his stepfather, who beat him severely and threw the young man down a flight of stairs, after which McQueen told him that if he laid his hands on him again, McQueen would kill him. 

His stepfather persuaded Julia to commit her son to the California Junior Boys Republic at Chino. Unpopular with the other boys at first, he ultimately became a role model and was elected to the Boys Council, a group who set the rules and regulations governing the boys. When he later became famous he regularly returned to talk to the boys in what became a lifelong association. He would also demand bulk quantities of items such as razor blades and other items from studios, which he donated to Chino.

At 16, McQueen left Chino and returned to his mother, who was now living in Greenwich Village in New York. After meeting two sailors from the Merchant Marine, he and volunteered to serve on a ship bound for the Dominican Republic. Once there he left his new assignment and drifted around, eventually finding work in a brothel in Santo Domingo. Later he made his way to Texas, working several jobs ranging from a roughneck to a carnival barker to a lumberjack.

In 1947, McQueen enlisted in the Marines, where he promoted to private first class and assigned to an armored unit. His first years there saw him as a rebellious soldier, at one point serving 41 days in the brig. After his release he resolved to mend his ways and embraced Marine discipline. He saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise by pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea. He was assigned to the honor guard, responsible for guarding the yacht of President Truman. McQueen served until 1950, when he was honorably discharged. In later interviews he said he enjoyed his life in the Marines. 

In 1952 he used his benefits under the G.I. Bill to study acting in New York last Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. To make ends meet he began competing in weekend motorcycle races at Long Island City Raceway and purchased the first of many motorcycles, a Harley-Davidson and a Triumph. He was an excellent racer taking home about $100 in winnings ($900 in 2018) each weekend. He also appeared as a musical judge in an episode of ABC’s Jukebox Jury during the 1953-54 season.  He made his Broadway debut in 1955 in the play A Hatful of Rain, starring Ben Gazzara.

McQueen left New York in late 1955 for Hollywood, seeking acting jobs. After appearing in a two-part television presentation entitled The Defenders for Westinghouse Studio One, Hollywood manager Hilly Elkins signed him. Deciding that B-movies would be a good place for the young actor to start, Elkins helped him land a bit part in Paul Newman’s Somebody Up There Likes Me. That was followed by the films Never Love a StrangerThe Blob (his first leading role), and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

But as B-movies gave way to the even cheaper Z-movies, McQueen decided to try his luck in television, which had replaced the Bs as a place for young actors to learn their craft. He appeared on Tales of Wells Fargo, starring Dale Robertson, then won the leading role in a new show called Trackdown playing bounty hunter Josh Randall. CBS pocked up the show, which was retitled Wanted: Dead or Alive in September 1958. Randall's special holster holding a sawed-off Winchester rifle instead of a six-shooter, combined with the generally negative image of bounty hunters and McQueen’s aura of mystery and detachment fostered an anti-hero image which caught on with young fans. The show ran for 94 episodes from 1958 until early 1961, keeping McQueen steadily employed.

In 1959, McQueen got a big break when Frank Sinatra cast him as Bill Ringa in his war film Never So Few. The film’s director, John Sturges, was so impressed with McQueen that he cast him as Vin Tanner in his Western remake of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, entitled The Magnificent Seven (1960). It was McQueen’s first major hit and led him to quit Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen's focused portrayal of the taciturn second lead catapulted his career. 

Lead roles followed in such films as The Great Escape (1963), a fictional depiction of the true story of a historical mass escape from the supposedly inescapable German World War II POW camp, Stalag Luft III; The Cincinnati Kid (1965), with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Blondell; and The Sand Pebbles (1966) opposite Candace Bergen and Richard Attenborough, and his only Oscar nomination..

Then followed one of his best known films, Bullitt (1968), co-starring Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn and Don Gordon, the highlight of which was the auto chase through the streets of San Francisco. Though a box-office hit, Bullitt went so far over budget that Warner Brothers cancelled the seven remaining films on his contract. Warner’s realized its mistake and tried to lure him back, but he signed with The Mirisch Corporation and released his next film, The Thomas Crown Affair, co-starring Faye Dunaway, through United Artists.

In 1971 McQueen made his only critical and box-office bomb, the auto-racing drama Le Mans. In 1972 he made Junior Bonner, starring as an aging rodeo rider. Sam Peckinpah directed him once again in 1972’s The Getaway, where he met future wife Ali McGraw. He followed this with a memorable role as a prisoner who escapes Devil’s Island in Papillon, with Dustin Hoffman as his ill-fated sidekick. 

After 1974’s The Towering Inferno, with Paul Newman, McQueen dropped out of sight to pursue his interest in motorcycle racing and traveled around the country in a motor home  and on his vintage Indian motorcycles. Moviegoers did not see him again until 1978, when he starred in an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, playing against type as a bearded, bespectacled 19th-century doctor in a small southern Norwegian town who stands up against the town when he discovers their medicinal spa is polluted.

His last two films, both in 1980, were loosely based on true stories. First up was Tom Horn, a Western about a former Army scout-turned professional gunman who worked for the big cattle ranchers hunting down rustlers and was later hanged for murder in the shooting death of a sheepherder. His last film, The Hunter, was an action movie about a modern-day bounty hunter.  

On the personal side, McQueen married three times, first to actress Neile Adams, which lasted from1956 to their divorce in 1972. The couple had two children: daughter Terry (1959-88) and son Chad (born 1960). In 1973 McQueen married his Getaway co-star, Ali MacGraw. The couple divorced in 1978. His last marriage, less than a year before his death, was to model Barbara Minty. In addition he was also said to have had affairs with Junior Bonner co-star Barbara Leigh, actress-model Lauren Hutton, and actress Mamie Van Doren, who claimed they tried hallucinogens together.

McQueen was a heavy user of both tobacco and marijuana. He fought battles with cocaine in the early ‘70s and alcohol. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Anchorage, Alaska in 1972. He followed a daily two-hour exercise regimen, involving lifting weights and running five miles a day. He was also a practitioner of the martial art Tang Soo Do.

A persistent cough in 1978 led McQueen to give up cigarettes and undergo antibiotic treatments without improvement. The shortness of breath grew more pronounced and in 1979, after filming The Hunter, a biopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma, a cancer associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos and for which there is no known cure. McQueen believed the lines traced back to his days in the Marines removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship.

By February 1980, the condition worsened and the actor traveled to a clinic in Rosario Beach, Mexico after doctors in the U.S. told him there was nothing they could do. While in Mexico Steve McQueen met with Billy Graham, who gave him his personal Bible. His third wife Barbara lated said that McQueen had become an evangelical Christian in the days before he died.

On November 7, 1980, McQueen died of cardiac arrest as a clinic in Juarez, Mexico where he had gone to have a tumor on his liver removed. He was 50 years old. McQueen was cremated and his ashes were spread in the Pacific Ocean.

Recommended Films

July 5: Begin at 8:00 pm with his first starring role in The Blob (1958), a highly entertaining B-movie. McQueen never spoke about the movie unless pressed, preferring to write it off as a youthful indiscretion (he was 28 when he filmed it). Perhaps the underlying reason was that he turned down an offer of 10% of the gross in forever of a straight salary of $3,000. McQueen figured the movie would play for a week or two, then never ben seen again, Instead it grossed more than $4 million. The movie playing in the theater when the Blob invades is real. Daughter of Horror was a low-budget film made in 1953 under the title of Dementia. It was released as Daughter of Horror in 1955. The only distinction the film holds is that it was narrated by none other than Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon. A DVD can be purchased on Amazon.

At 9:45 comes one of the best remakes ever released, The Magnificent Seven (1960). The film is a remake of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai set in Mexico and shot by director John Sturges. Although it received middling reviews when released, the passage of time has transformed it into a cult favorite. McQueen annoyed star Yul Brynner no end with his scene-stealing antics, which included such as shaking a shotgun round before loading it, repeatedly that y checking his gun while in the background of a shot, and wiping his hat rim. They worked, because we end up watching McQueen instead of paying attention to Brynner. It got so bad that Brynner, knowing of McQueen’s experience with Wanted: Dead or Alive, refused to draw his gun in the same scene with McQueen in fear of being outdrawn.

McQueen received his first big break in films as Cpl. Bill Ringa in 1959’s Never So Few (Midnight) a cliched war flick set in WW2 Burma. Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida star with Peter Lawford. And for McQueen completists, there’s his early bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), which can be seen at 2:15 am.

July 12: The Great Escape at 8:00 pm is the one to see. McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson were added to the starring cast of this WW2 film to boost the box office, but the real stars as Richard Attenborough and James Donald. James Coburn made an impression as an Audie POW involved in the escape.

July 19: Three entertaining films are on tap with Bullitt (1968) leading off at 8:00 pm. McQueen, who owned a vast collection of vintage carts and motorcycles, tried to obtain the Mustang he drove in the film, but was unsuccessful. There were reportedly two; one was wrecked during filming.

At 10 pm McQueen once again stars with Richard Attenborough in The Sand Pebbles (1966). He is an American sailor aboard a  gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River in 1926 civil-war torn China. Things reach a climax when the boat is assigned to rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission. Candace Bergen and Richard Crenna co-star. 

Finally, at 1:30 am, McQueen is a young stud poker player known as The Cincinnati Kid who travels to 1930s New Orleans to pit himself against the legendary card-sharp Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) in a high-stakes poker game.

July 26: The McQueen fest ends on a high note with four excellent films, beginning at 8:00 pm with The Thomas Crown Affair from 1968. McQueen is Thomas Crown, a rich investment banker in Boston. Bored with the ease of his life, he plans and executes a bank robbery that nets him over $2 million. The police, stumped, bring in ace insurance investigator Vick Anderson (Faye Dunaway) to solve the case. After narrowing the list of suspects to Crown and so begins a complex game of cat and mouse a complex cat and mouse game between Anderson and Crown that eventually develops into a serious romance. In the finale, Thomas puts Vicki's love to the test by revealing his plans for a final heist.

In The Getaway (1972), airing at 10 pm, McQueen is Carter "Doc" McCoy, a career robber, currently serving a 10-year prison sentence at the Texas State Penitentiary. After his request for parole is denied despite he being a model prisoner, Doc asks his loving wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) to contact crooked businessman Jack Beynon (Ben Johnson) to secure his release. In return Doc will be “for sale” to Beynon. Beynon gets Doc released, with the price being for Doc to plan and execute a robbery at a small bank branch in Beacon City, Texas where Beynon knows there is $750,000 in the vault. But rather than Doc using his own men for the job, Beynon dictates that he will choose the helpers. While the job is a success, Benyon's men betray Doc, and he and Carol must take off across Texas with the money, running from both the law and other criminals, aiming to get to Mexico before they're caught, or worse, killed.

At 12:15 am McQueen stars as convicted murderer Henri Charriere in Papillon (1973). Known as “Papillon” for his butterfly chest tattoo, Charriere is transported to Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana to serve his sentence in a work camp. After saving the life of the frail but notorious forger Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman). Papillon convinces him to join in an escape. Despite the harshness of solitary confinement, brutal conditions and constant threats of betrayal, Papillon leads a desperate escape off the island. However, they are betrayed and returned to prison. Years later, Dega is made a trustee and is content with his lot, but the aging, white-haired Charriere cannot be held back. Papillon is a wonderful testament to the residency of the human spirit and the transcendence of hope.

Finally, at 3 am, McQueen gives us a change of pace with his  performance in An Enemy of the People (1978). This adaptation of Ibsen’s ecological drama stars McQueen as Dr. Thomas Stockman, who discovers that his town’s local hot spring is polluted. At first the townsfolk rally behind him; they are hoping to use the springs to generate tourism. Unfortunately, the doctor insists that they be closed because waste from the town tannery has rendered the springs unsafe. After he closes the springs he becomes ostracized by the angry residents. This results in the loss of his practice, and the break-up of his family. Though the film is rather stagy and badly paced, McQueen’s performance makes it worth watching.

Leslie Howard

Stardust – TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

I can't think of anything more exciting than trying to be an actor.”

During World War II such British film stars as Dirk Bogarde, Richard Todd and Alec Guinness were among those who distinguished themselves on the battlefield.

But there were others who served Britain by fighting the enemy through the art of propaganda. This was the case with Leslie Howard, the British matinee idol killed in 1943 when he was shot down by the Luftwaffe in circumstances that remain mysterious to this day.

As an actor he was best-known for the film Gone with the Wind (1939), in which he played Ashley Wilkes, the gallant plantation owner (and a character Howard intensely disliked playing) who is pursued by Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) before she marries Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).

Playing disillusioned intellectuals and gallant gentlemen wasn’t exactly a stretch for Howard, having been educated privately at the exclusive Alleyn’s School in London. Born Leslie Howard Steiner on April 3, 1893 in Crystal Palace, London, his father’s side of the family were Jewish immigrants from Hungary who Anglicized their name to "Stainer" during the First World War to sound more English (although Howard's name remained Steiner in official documents, such as his military records). 

During the First World War, Howard suffered shell-shock, which led to his relinquishing his commission only a few weeks before the battle of the Somme began in 1916.

When he returned to England he decided to become an actor as a form of therapy for his extreme shyness and shell-shock and soon found himself on the West End stage. In March 1920, Howard abandoned the use of the name Steiner, opting to be known by the name of Howard. In the 1920s he achieved his greatest theatrical success in the United States, becoming a bonafide Broadway star in the 1927 play, Her Cardboard Lover. After his success as time traveler Peter Standish in 1929’s Berkeley Square, he began his Hollywood career for Warner Bros. in the film Outward Bound. However, he found the experience distasteful and vowed never to return to Hollywood, a promise, fortunately, he did not keep.  

Though he became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, he always returned periodically to the theater, starring in such productions as The Animal Kingdom (1932, which he also directed and co-produced) and The Petrified Forest (1935, with Humphrey Bogart).

Never one to be deterred, Howard returned to Hollywood, starring in Never The Twain Shall Meet (MGM, 1932). He would find his true vocation as the personification of the elegant gentleman in such films as The Animal Kingdom and The Scarlet Pimpernel. His performance opposite Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage cemented his standing as one of the most popular stars of the 1930s. In 1936 he teamed again with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart for the film version of The Petrified Forest.

After finishing Gone with the Wind Howard decided he must return to Britain to do his bit, and he offered his services to the British government, who accepted. Their first assignment for Howard was to make broadcasts to neutral America in order to persuade them to join the war effort.

Howard also made programs for the British audience, working with the novelist JB Priestley on the BBC radio series Britain Speaks and joining with Noel Coward to make National Savings documentaries for the Ministry of Information, the theme of which was to remind the British of the values of decency, tolerance and freedom they were fighting for and Hitler was fighting against.

Howard also directed and starred in a number of morale films, including Pimpernel Smith (1941, a reworking of the Scarlet Pimpernel story set in Vichy France), The First of the Few (1942, the story of RJ Mitchell, the inventor of the Spitfire), and The Gentle Sex (1943, narrating the stories of seven British girls who decide to "do their bit" and serve during World War II). Pimpernel Smith in particular so ridiculed the Nazis that it was said to have infuriated Goebbels, not least because Howard was well known in Germany and Gone with the Wind was Hitler’s favorite film.

On June 1, 1943 Howard boarded Flight 777 at Lisbon airport, a civilian DC-3 heading for Bristol, England. A squadron of Junkers 88 fighter-bombers shadowed them, and even though the airliner was known to be a civilian plane on a scheduled flight, shot it down over the Bay of Biscay.

The reasons remain unknown to this day. Was it a mistake? The most persistent rumor had it that the Luftwaffe had targeted the plane because they believed that Churchill was on it. (The British prime minister was indeed supposed to be returning to the UK from Lisbon that day, on a later flight.) Another theory is that the English Secret Service intercepted Luftwaffe plans to attack the civilian plane, but did not warn the airline in order to avoid arousing German suspicions that their Enigma coding machines had been cracked. Yet another had it that Howard had been targeted and killed in order to demoralize Britain. 

JB Priestley spoke for many that night when he said, on a broadcast for the BBC, that “The war has claimed another casualty. The stage and screen have lost an unselfish artist, and millions of us have lost a friend.” 

On the personal side, Howard married Ruth Evelyn Martin (1895-1980) in March, 1916 and they had two children, Ronald "Winkie" and Leslie Ruth "Doodie." Howard was not the most faithful husband, saying that while he didn’t chase women, he couldn’t always be bothered to run away. In reality he was a well-known and unrepentant philanderer, who usually scored with his leading lady. Among those rumored to have kept him company in bed were Tallulah Bankhead, Marion Davies, Conchita Montenegro, Merle Oberon, Katharine Hepburn, Mary Pickford and Marlene Dietrich.

In her autobiography Myrna Loy recalled that during the filming of The Animal Kingdom, when her future husband Arthur Hornblow was in New York on business, Howard came to her house to convince her to run away with him. Myrna tactfully talked him out of his passion. “I mean, it could have been a real scrambola – if I’d allowed it to be,” she wrote.       

But Howard's most serious affair began in 1938 when he met the 27-year old Violette Cunnington while filming Pygmalion. Cunnington, of French nationality, was the secretary for Gabriel Pascal, the film’s producer. Soon she became Howard’s secretary – and lover. When Howard came to California Cunnington was with him and the pair secretly lived together while Howard was filming Gone with the Wind and Intermezzo: A Love Story. When his wife and daughter joined him in Hollywood before production ended on both films, Howard’s arrangement with Cunnington became rather uncomfortable, as he arranged separate quarters for her.

When he left the United States for England in 1939, Cunnington soon followed. She later appeared in minor roles in “Pimpernel” Smith and The First of the Few under the stage name of Suzanne Clair. Her death from pneumonia at the age of 42 in 1942 devastated the actor.

In the documentary, Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn (2016), airing this month of TCM, his daughter was asked why his wife Ruth put up with his dalliances. She said her mother came right out and asked him if he wanted a divorce. “Oh no, not a divorce,” he replied. “I’d have to marry someone.” His daughter added that her mother was his “safety net. “He relied on her in many ways,” she said. Late one night Ruth took a phone message for her husband that Cunnington had died of pneumonia, but rather than disturb his sleep she stayed awake until he woke up and told him then. “My mother was very good like that,” his daughter said.


June 4

8:00 pm: The excellent documentary, Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn. 

9:45 pm: Gone with the Wind, with Howard as Ashely Wilkes. Howard reportedly accepted the role on condition he didn’t have to read the interminable book. 

3:30 am: The Petrified Forest, with Howard and Bogart repeating their stage roles as the disillusioned intellectual Alan Squires and the killer Duke Mantee, respectively. Bette Davis co-stars as the idealistic waitress Gabrielle Maple. There is the famous story about the film where Howard wired Warner Bros, that he would not star in the film unless Bogart, who starred with him in the play on Broadway, was brought in to play the role of Duke Mantee. Bogart and Howard became firm friends, and many years after Howard’s death Bogart named his daughter Leslie in tribute to the man who Bogart said made it possible for him to become a star.

June 11

6:30 pm: Never the Twain Shall Meet, a 1931 film starring Howard as lawyer bored with his job and bored with chasing his “ice box” tease of a girl friend, Maisie (Karen Morley). When he suddenly becomes guardian of a young South Seas woman named Tamea (Conchita Montenegro), he brings her home and with the help of Maisie, tries to teach her the ways of civilization. But instead he falls in love with Tamea and runs away to the islands with her, where he finds the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.

8:00 pm: One of Howard’s best roles, that of Professor Henry Higgins in 1938’s Pygmalion, taking a bet that he can’t teach Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) how to be a society lady. The film was remade in 1964 as the musical My Fair Lady.

9:45 pm: Of Human Bondage (1934) adapted from Somerset Maugham’s novel about clubfooted medical student Philip Carey (Howard) and his ill-fated romance with the slatternly waitress Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis). The film made a star out of Davis and she was nominated for Best Actress for her performance.

11:15 pm: Romeo and Juliet (1936). This adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play is OK if you can get past the fact that Howard and Norma Shearer are far too old to play the teenage lovers.

1:30 am: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). Howard is memorable as the London fop Percy Blakeney, who as the Scarlet Pimpernel secretly makes repeated daring trips to France in a variety of disguises to save aristocrats from the guillotine. Merle Oberon is his French wife who has no idea of her husband’s moonlighting. It’s not shown very often, which makes it must viewing, or recording.

3:15 am: A Free Soul. Howard has a small role in this 1931 drama as Dwight Winthrop, whom Norma Shearer has thrown over to romance gangster Clark Gable. See our review of it here.

June 18 

8:00 pm: Berkeley Square (1933). Howard is Peter Standish, a young American who unexpectedly inherits a house in Berkeley Square, London and is magically transported back to London in 1784. He finds he has a hard time adjusting because of his unfamiliarity with 18th century customs. People also begin to be afraid of him, as he frequently speaks of things which have not yet taken place. He meets and falls in love with Helen (Heather Angel), but his disillusionment with London causes her to urge him to return ahead to his time.

9:30 pm: Secrets (UA, 1933). In the 1860s, Mary Marlowe (Mary Pickford) runs away with clerk John Carlton (Howard) as he heads West to make his fortune. They endure hard times before making a success that sees John prosper in politics as we follow the family’s fortunes.

11:15 pm: The Animal Kingdom (1932). Tom Collier (Howard) publishes off-the-beaten-path type of book and loves his open-minded mistress, artist Daisy Sage (Ann Harding). But while Daisy is away Tom falls in love with, and marries, socialite Cee Henry (Myrna Loy), a move he later regrets. As he becomes an established member of the upper class, Cee convinces him to publish books solely for profit and give up his other ideals. When Daisy criticizes his transformation, he’s forced to choose between the two. Read our essay on it here.

12:45 am: It’s Love I’m After (1937). Howard and Bette Davis are squabbling Shakespearean actors who plan to marry before Olivia de Havilland falls in love with him and threatens to break up the couple. 

2:30 am: Smilin’ Through (1932). On the day of his wedding, Sir John Carteret's (Howard) fiancée, Moonyeen (Shearer), is killed by jealous rival Jeremy (March), leaving him devastated. Carteret spends years in seclusion, communing with Moonyeen’s spirit, until he learns that her niece, Kathleen (also Shearer), has become an orphan. He adopts and raises the child as his own but is alarmed when, as a young woman, she falls in love with the son of Moonyeen's murderer.

June 25

6:30 pm: Outward Bound (1930). A group of strangers find themselves aboard an unmanned ship, surrounded by fog and uncertain of their destination. They slowly discover that they are dead and en route to their final judgment. The studio remade it in 1944 as Between Two Worlds.

8:00 pm: The 49th Parallel (1941). Six Nazi sailors are trapped in Canada after their U-boat is sunk. They seek to evade capture by making it across the border to the neutral United States. Howard is among those pursuing them. From the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

10:15 pm: Spitfire (aka The First of the Few, 1942). The story of famed British aviator R.J. Mitchell (Howard). While vacationing in early Nazi Germany Mitchell watches a group of German gliders and realizes that German air technology is rapidly advancing. Despite serious illness he sets out to develop a new British warplane.

12:30 am: Captured (1933). During World War I British Captain Allison (Howard) is captured by the Germans and taken to a prison camp, where he spends his time yearning for wife Monica (Margaret Lindsay). When his best friend, Lt. Digby (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), happens to be imprisoned in the same camp, Allison is greatly relieved. But what he doesn’t know is that before being shipped off, Digby was having an affair with Monica.

2:00 am: British Agent (1934). British consul-general (Leslie Howard) falls in love with Lenin's secretary (Kay Francis) during the Russian Revolution. Slight, but turgid.

3:30 am: Five and Ten (1931): Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, a dime-store heiress (Marion Davies) falls for a New York society architect (Leslie Howard) despite the fact that he's engaged to another woman.

Marlene Dietrich

Stardust – TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

Glamour is what I sell, it its my stock in trade.”

There are some actors in the history of film who have transcended their occupation to become cultural icons. Marlene Dietrich stands out as a prime example.

From her beginnings in German cinema, she came to America and quickly established herself in the Hollywood of the ‘30s. Despite encountering career slumps, such as being named “box-office poison” by theater exhibitors in May 1938, Dietrich made a comeback and continued to survive in the movie business by constantly reinventing herself. Her legacy was such that although her last film was in 1978 (as Baroness von Semering in Just a Gigolo, starring David Bowie), film clips and soundtracks of her songs continue to be used in documentaries, movies and television shows through the current day.

Dietrich was smart in that she didn’t just rely on films for her livelihood. Seeing that older actresses had difficulty finding work, she turned to her voice for support, becoming a cabaret and stage star beginning in the ‘50s and lasting through the ‘70s. It’s been said that a Dietrich show was more than a mere performance; it was an experience, as she would perform the first half of her act in slinky, almost see-through gowns  and change to top hat and tails for the second half of the performance. She knew what her audience wanted and often closed her show with what was considered her signature song, “Falling in Love Again,” which she sang in the 1930 German film, The Blue Angel.   

She was also noted for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their US citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium, and Israel.

On the personal side she was noted for her bisexuality, which was kept out of public view so as not to interfere with her carefully crafted professional celebrity. She quietly enjoyed the thriving gay scene and drag balls of 1920s Berlin and  also boxed at Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir’s boxing studio in Berlin, which opened to women in the late 1920s.

Dietrich’s sex life was described as “voracious,” and she took full advantage of the opportunities Hollywood offered to pursue it. She was said to have had affairs with Gary Cooper, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Wayne, James Stewart, writer Erich Maria Remarque,  Errol Flynn, Jean Gabin, Yul Brenner, John F. Kennedy, Ann Warner (the wife of Jack L. Warner), Lili Damita, Claudette Colbert, Dolores Del Rio, and some say, Greta Garbo.

If there was one word that could be used to describe Dietrich’s career, it is “persistence.” She entered the world as Marie Magdalene Dietrich on December 27, 1901, born to Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine (née Felsing) and Louis Erich Otto Dietrich in Schoenberg, now a part of the city of Berlin. Her mother was from was from an affluent Berlin family who owned a jewelry and clock-making firm, while her father was a police lieutenant. She had sister, Elisabeth, who was one year older. Her father died in 1907 and her mother remarried in 1916 to family friend Eduard von Losch, who died the next year in the war. Combining her first two names to form the name “Marlene.” Dietrich she graduated from the Victoria-Luise-Schule in 1918, where she studied the violin and became interested in theater and poetry. A wrist injury curtailed her dreams of becoming a concert violinist, but by 1922 she had her first job, playing violin in an orchestra pit for silent films at a Berlin cinema.     

In 1922 she unsuccessfully auditioned for theatrical director and impresario Max Reinhardt’s drama academy, bur soon found employment as a chorus girl in his theatres. In addition she played small roles in dramas and made her film debut as a bit player in The Little Napoleon (1923). It was while working on the set of Tragodie der Liebe (Love Tragedy) in 1923 that she met future husband, producer Rudolph Sieber. That married in a civil ceremony in Berlin one May 17, 1923. The union produced a daughter, Maria Sieber, who was born on December 13, 1924.  

Dietrich continued to work on stage and in film throughout the 1920s. By the late 1920s, she was cast in increasingly important roles on the screen, but it was in 1929 that she received her big break, being cast as Lola Lola, a cabaret singer who caused the downfall of a hitherto respectable schoolmaster (Emil Jannings) in the UFA-Paramount co-production of The Blue Angel (1930). The film was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who thereafter took credit as the person who “discovered” Marlene Dietrich. On the strength of her performance and with the encouragement of von Sternberg, who was established in Hollywood, she followed him to America and signed with Paramount, where she was marketed as the studio’s answer to MGM’s Greta Garbo. Dietrich starred in six films directed by von Sternberg at Paramount Between 1930 and 1935 she starred in six films for the director, who worked closely with her to create the image of a glamorous and mysterious femme fatale. He encouraged her to lose weight and coached her intensively as an actress. It paid off with memorable performances in such films as Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil is a Woman (1935).

But extravagant box office bombs such as The Garden of Allah (1936) and Knight Without Armor (1937) caused Dietrich’s popularity to plummet and in May 1938 she was labeled “box office poison in an article titled “Dead Cats” by Harry Brandt on behalf of the Independent Theatre Owners of America in the Independent Film Journal. She wasn’t alone, as Greta Garbo, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Kay Francis, Norma Shearer, Luise Reiner, John Barrymore, Dolores Del Rio, Katharine Hepburn, Edward Arnold, and Fred Astaire were named alongside her. 

While in London filming Knight Without Armor, Dietrich was approached by officials of the Nazi Party who offered her a lucrative contract if she would return to Germany. She declined the offer and applied for US citizenship. Returning to Hollywood she filmed the romantic comedy Angel (1937) for Paramount and director Ernst Lubitsch, but the film’s reception was so poor the studio bought out her contract.

She was down, but not out. In 1939 she accepted an offer from producer Joe Pasternak to play against type in the role of  cowboy saloon girl Frenchie in the Western comedy Destry Rides Again, opposite James Stewart and Brian Donlevy. Though paid significantly less than she had been accustomed to receiving, the role revived her career and the song she introduced “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have,” became a hit when she later recorded it. The popularity of Destry Rides Again led to playing similar types in Seven Sinners (1940) and The Spoilers (1942, alongside John Wayne).

It took World War II and her participation on the Allied side to  establish Dietrich as a cultural icon. She always had strong political opinions, especially concerning Germany, and was not afraid to express them. In the late ‘30s, Dietrich, Billy Wilder and several other Germans created a fund to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, she placed her salary of $450,000 forKnight Without Armor into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen,  renouncing her German citizenship. In December 1941, when the U.S. entered World War II, Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds, and toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone). Reportedly, she sold more war bonds than any other star.     

During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945 she performed for Allied troops in North Africa, Italy, England, and France before accompanying General George Patton into Germany. Her revue opened with Danny Thomas and included songs from her films, performances on a musical saw (a skill she had acquired for stage appearances in Berlin in the 1920s) and a “mindreading" act that had been taught to her by good friend Orson Welles. During the course of the act Dietrich would inform the audience that she could read minds and ask them to concentrate on whatever came into their minds. Then she would walk over to a soldier and earnestly tell him, "Oh, think of something else. I can't possibly talk about that!” She also recorded songs in German for the Muzak project, a creation of the OSS designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Among the songs she recorded was “Lili Marleen,” a favorite of soldiers on both sides of the war.     

She returned to Hollywood, and though she never regained the status she had before the war, she nevertheless appeared in a number of well-known films, including Golden Earrings (1947), A Foreign Affair (1948), Stage Fright (1950), Rancho Notorious (1952), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Touch of Evil (1958), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).

As mentioned before, she also embarked on a very successful career as a cabaret singer. In 1953 the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas paid her $30,000 per week to appear live. The show was short, consisting only of a few songs associated with her while she was costumed in a sheer "nude dress,” a heavily beaded evening gown of silk soufflé, which gave the illusion of transparency. The dress, designed by Jean Louis, attracted a lot of publicity and made the show a must-see. The engagement was so successful that she was signed to appear at the Cafe de Paris in London the following year, while her her Las Vegas contracts were renewed.     

She returned to West Germany in 1960 for a concert tour that was met with mixed reception. Despite consistently negative press coverage, vehement protests by those who saw her as a traitor, and two bomb threats, her performance nonetheless attracted huge crowds. East Germany, however, received her well. She also toured Israel around the same time, becoming the first woman and German to receive the Israeli Medallion of Valor in 1965, "in recognition for her courageous adherence to principle and consistent record of friendship for the Jewish people.”          

Dietrich performed on twice on Broadway and won a special Tony Award in 1968. Though plagued by a series of ailments (she survived cervical cancer in 1965) and accidents on stage she continued to perform until she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia in 1975. The fall ended her career and she went into retirement, with her final on-camera film appearance a cameo role in Just a Gigolo.   

Alcoholic and dependent on painkillers, Dietrich withdrew to her apartment in Paris, where she spent the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden and allowing only a select few – including family and employees – to enter the apartment. (Her husband, Rudolph Siebert, died from cancer in 1976.) During this time, she was a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller. Her published her autobiography, Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life) in 1979.     

On 6 May 1992, Dietrich died of renal failure  at her flat in Paris at age 90. Her funeral ceremony was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris, a Roman Catholic church on 14 May 1992. The funeral service was attended by approximately 1,500 mourners in the church itself – including several ambassadors from Germany, Russia, the US, the UK and other countries – with thousands more outside. Her closed coffin rested beneath the altar draped in the French flag and adorned with a simple bouquet of white wildflowers and roses from French President Francois Mitterrand. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dietrich instructed in her will that she was to be buried in her birthplace, Berlin, near her family and on May 16 her body was flown there to fulfill her wish. She was interred at the Stadtischer Friedhof III, Berlin-Schoneberg next to the grave of her mother, Josefine von Losch, and near the house where she was born.     

In 1996, after some debate, it was decided not to name a street after her in her birthplace of Berlin-Schöneberg, but on November 8, 1997, the central Marlene-Dietrich-Platz was unveiled in Berlin to honor her. 

The Films on TCM

May 10: Lots to choose from here, starting with The Blue Angel (8 pm), followed by The Scarlett Empress (10 pm), Shanghai Express (Midnight), Morocco (1:45 am), and Blonde Venus (3:30 am). However, if we had to recommend one, we would go with The Scarlett Empress, as it’s not shown all that often.

May 17: A mixed bag. Our choices are the wonderful Destry Rides Again (8 pm) and The Devil is a Woman (11:45 pm). We chose this because Dietrich said it was the most beautiful she ever looked in a film, and that’s good enough for us.

May 24: Another mixed bag. Our recommendations are Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair (8 pm) with Marlene wonderful as she’s up against prim and proper Congresswoman Jean Arthur, who is in Berlin investigating the goings-on, and Manpower (2 am), from Warner Bros. with Marlene caught between co-workers George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. It’s no classic, but is an entertaining B movie.

May 31: Another evening of entertaining Dietrich films, leading off with the superb and underrated Touch of Evil at 8 pm, followed by the utterly sublime Witness for the Prosecution at 10 pm. Directed by Billy Wilder from the Agatha Christie novel, it’s a great way to spend two hours and Dietrich practically steals the show from Charles Laughton, with Tyrone Power providing an excellent performance. At 12:15 it’s Stage Fright from Alfred Hitchcock, another good choice, and at 2:15 am, Fritz Lang’s offbeat Western, Rancho Notorious.

William Holden

Stardust: TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

His star burned bright for only about a decade until it was put out by alcohol, but while it was aflame, none burned any brighter.

Born William Franklin Beedle Jr. on April 17, 1918, in O’Fallon, Illinois, he was the oldest son of William Franklin Beedle, an industrial chemist, and his wife Mary Blanche Ball, a schoolteacher. The family moved to Pasadena when he was three. An alumni of South Pasadena High School, he attended Pasadena Junior College, studying chemistry. While there he became involved in local radio plays, which led to a talent scout from Paramount signing him to a contract.

It was decided a change of name was necessary. One version of how he obtained the stage name "Holden" is that an assistant director and scout named Harold Winston gave him that name in honor of his ex-wife, actress Gloria Holden. However, a more conventional explanation was that he was given the name of silent and early sound character actor William Holden, who died in 1932.

Holden's first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), co-starring Barbara Stanwyck, where he played violinist-turned-boxer. Stanwyck liked the young tyro and went out of her way to help him succeed, using her personal time to coach and encourage him. This sparked a lifelong friendship. At the 1982 Oscars ceremony Stanwyck was presented with an honorary Oscar for a lifetime of work in pictures. Holden had died only a few months before, and at the end of her acceptance speech she paid him a personal tribute: "I loved him very much, and I miss him. He always wished that I would get an Oscar. And so tonight, my golden boy, you got your wish.”

He worked with George Raft and Humphrey Bogart in Invisible Stripes (WB, 1939), following it with a turn as George Gibbs in the film adaptation of Our Town (UA, 1940). After Columbia picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several minor pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. There he acted in training films for the First Motion Picture Unit. It wasn’t until 1950 that he became a star when he replaced Montgomery Clift as the co-lead with Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (Paramount, 1950). His role as down-at-the-heels screenwriter Joe Gillis, taken in by faded silent-screen star Norma Desmond (Swanson) won Holden his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Up next he starred with Judy Holliday in the classic Born Yesterday (Columbia, 1950).

Following the success of Sunset Boulevard, his career took off as he played a series of roles deftly combining his matinee idol looks with a philosophy of cynical detachment. This paid off with the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as a prisoner-of-war entrepreneur in Stalag 17 (Paramount, 1953). He played a pressured young engineer/family man in Executive Suite (MGM, 1954), a playboy who becomes interested in the daughter of his family's chauffeur (Audrey Hepburn) in Sabrina (Paramount, 1954), a conflicted jet pilot in the Korean War film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Paramount,1954), an acerbic stage director in The Country Girl (Paramount, 1954), a handsome drifter in Picnic (Columbia, 1955), and a dashing war correspondent in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (20th Century Fox, 1955). His last blockbuster and his most widely recognized role was as an ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai (Columbia, 1957) with Alec Guinness.  

His later career was marked by a series of mediocre movies, but in 1969, Holden made a comeback, starring in director Sam Peckinpah’s graphically violent Western The Wild Bunch (WB, 1969). In 1974 Holden won a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal of cynical, tough veteran LAPD street cop Bumper Morgan in the made-for-television film The Blue Knight. He also starred in The Towering Inferno (Fox/WB, 1974) with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. In 1976 he won acclaim for his role as television executive Max Schumacher in Network (MGM). His last role was as Tim Culley in Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (Paramount, 1981).

On the personal side, Holden was married to actress Brenda Marshall (Ardis Ankerson) from 1941 until their divorce 30 years later, in 1971. The marriage produced sons Peter Westfield "West" Holden and Scott Porter Holden. He also adopted Marshall’s daughter, Virginia, from her first marriage with actor Richard Gaines.

While on the set of Sabrina he had a brief romance with Hepburn. Although they discussed marriage, the relationship fizzled due to two factors: (1) his dependence on alcohol, and (2) the fact he had a vasectomy. Hepburn wanted children. After meeting French actress Capucine on the set of The Lion (Fox, 1962), the two began a two-year affair that ended because of Holden’s drinking, though they remained friends until his death in 1981. While in Italy in 1966, Holden killed another driver in a drunk-driving incident for which he received an eight-month suspended sentence for vehicular manslaughter.

Holden was best man at the wedding of his friend Ronald Reagan to Nancy Davis in 1952, but never became interested in politics. Instead, his passion was animal conservation. On a trip to Africa, he fell in love with the wildlife and became increasingly concerned with the animal species that were beginning to decrease in population. and he spent much of his time working for wildlife conservation as a managing partner in an animal preserve in Africa. With the help of his partners, he created the Mount Kenya Game Ranch in 1959,  dedicated to assisting Kenya with the wildlife education of its youth.  

Within the compound, which soon became a go-to place for the international jet set, is the Mount Kenya Conservancy, which runs an animal orphanage, providing shelter and care for orphaned, injured and neglected animals found in the wild, with the aim of releasing these animals back into the wild whenever possible, as well as the Bongo Rehabilitation Program in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

In 1972, Holden began a nine-year relationship with actress Stefanie Powers, which sparked her interest in animal welfare. After his death, Powers set up the William Holden Wildlife Foundation at Holden's Mount Kenya Game Ranch.

On November 12, 1981, while in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, Holden slipped on a rug and severely lacerated his forehead on a teak bedside table, bleeding to death. His body was found four days later, with the cause of death listed as "exsanguination" and "blunt laceration of scalp.” His will specified that he be cremated, with his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean. In accordance with his wishes, no funeral or memorial service was held.


Of his early films, we recommend his memorable debut, Golden Boy (April 2, 8 pm), Invisible Stripes (April 3, 6:45 am), The slice-of-life Our Town (April 2, Midnight),  the underrated Apartment For Peggy (April 16, 2:15 am), and the hilarious Born Yesterday (April 30, 8 pm).

From his star period we recommend, of course, Sunset Boulevard (April 9, 8 pm), Billy Wilder’s cynical and wonderful Stalag 17 (April 9, 10 pm), the high-gloss soap opera Executive Suite (April 2, 10 pm), David Lean’s epic The Bridge on the River Kwai (April 9, 12:15 am), a war correspondent in love with Eurasian doctor Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (20th Century Fox, 1955), and the absorbing Picnic (April 30, 10 pm).

Those in his late period we recommend are the ultra-violent The Wild Bunch (April 23, 12:30 am), the satire-with-a-sledgehammer Network* (April 30, Midnight), and the comedy S.O.B. (April 30, 2:15 am).  (* - not really, but David likes it)

Of his other, unheralded films, we recommend the offbeat comedy Boots Malone, with Stanley Clements, who replaced Leo Gorcey with The Bowery Boys (April 10, 7 am), Otto Preminger’s misfire, The Moon is Blue, with David Niven (April 16, 8 pm), John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers, with John Wayne (April 23, 8 pm), and the Western Escape From Fort Bravo, a rare chance to see Howard McNear – Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith Show – on film (April 24, 7:15 am).

Lana Turner

Stardust: TCM's Star of the Month for December

By Ed Garea

My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.”

She was one of the most glamorous film stars of all time, and the story of her discovery became the basis of a few Hollywood legends. Early in her career she was known as “the sweater girl,” a name she hated, according to her daughter. She was a better actress than she was given credit for being, though the studio rarely took advantage of those skills and cast her in turgid melodramas. Yet, over the length of her almost 50-year career, her life frequently intersected with her film roles. According to film historian Jeanine Basinger in her book The Star Machine (2008), Turner’s person became her persona: “She was cast only in roles that were symbolic of what the public knew – or thought they knew – of her life from headlines she made as a person, not as a movie character.” 

She was born Julia Jean Turner on February 8, 1921, in the small mining town of Wallace, Idaho, in the Idaho Panhandle region. She was the only child of miner John Turner and his wife, Mildred Francis (nee Cowan). Her father was 26 when Julia was born, her mother 16.  As a child, Julia Turner, known to family and friends as “Judy," expressed interest an early in performance, performing short routines at her father’s Elks Club in Wallace.

When she was six years old, hard times forced the family to move to San Francisco. Her parents separated soon afterward. In December 1930 her father won a tidy fortune in a craps game, stuffed his winnings in his left sock, and headed back home. He was later found murdered on the corner of Minnesota and Mariposa Streets, his left shoe and sock missing. The crime was never solved.     

In the mid-1930s, respiratory problems forced Turner’s mother to heed her doctor and find a drier climate. She and Julia moved to Los Angeles in 1936. Their stay in L.A. was marked by poverty and there were times when Julia had to stay with friends or acquaintances so her mother could save money for the family, money she earned by working 80-hour weeks as a beautician. After Turner was signed to a movie contract, her mother quit work to oversee her daughter’s career.    

Her discovery in Hollywood is considered to be a show-business legend, and has been recounted numerous times with only slight variations. The most famous version of has her having a soda at Schwab’s Pharmacy, where she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout. 

However, Turner always maintained the truth was that, during her junior year at Hollywood High, she skipped a typing class and bought a Coke at the Top Hat Malt Shop, located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place. It was there that she was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Taken with her beauty and physique, Wilkerson secured the permission of her mother to refer her to actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx. In December 1936, Marx introduced his client to director Mervyn LeRoy. LeRoy signed her to a $50 weekly contract with Warner Bros. on February 22, 1937. LeRoy changed Julia’s first name to Lana, a name she legally adopted several years later.     

Her first picture with Warner Bros. was James Whale’s comedy The Great Garrick (1937) in a supporting part. LeRoy then cast Turner in her second film, They Won’t Forget (1937), a crime drama in which she played a teenage murder victim. Though the part was minor, William Wilkerson wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that Turner's performance was "worthy of more than a passing note." Turner earned the nickname “The Sweater Girl” from her form-fitting attire in a scene in They Won't Forget. In late 1937, she signed a contract with MGM for $100 a week, and graduated from high school in between filming. The same year, she was loaned to United Artists for a minor role as a maid in The Adventures of Marco Polo.    

When LeRoy left Warner Bros. to work at MGM, he took his protege with him on the advice of Warner’s studio head Jack L. Warner, who told the director that she would never “amount to anything.” Her first starring role at MGM was scheduled to be an adaptation of The Sea Wolf, with Clark Gable, but the project was shelved. Instead, she was cast opposite Mickey Rooney in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). Her role as the flirtatious Cynthia Potter was noticed by none other than Louis B. Mayer. 

Convinced that Turner could be the next Jean Harlow, Mayer began casting her in such youth-oriented films as Dramatic School (1938), These Glamour Girls (1939) and Dancing Co-Ed (1939). The studio also changer her hair from its natural auburn to blonde, the better for the public to make the connection with Harlow. 

Turner was all set to ply Ivy in MGM’s 1941 remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but Ingrid Bergman, who was cast as Jekyll’s bland fiancee, Beatrix Emery, used her star power to get the studio to switch the roles where Bergman would now play Ivy. If she was disappointed, it wasn’t for long, for she became a popular pin-up girl during the war, though she wasn’t given a role that would test her.

It wasn’t until after the war that Turner landed a juicy role. That came by playing Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1946. She never looked so beautiful, and it was easy to see why co-star John Garfield’s character became instantly smitten by her. Few played the role of a femme fatale with such ease and eroticism. The film was a hit with both the public and critics. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times noted that it was the best role of her career, noting she was “remarkably effective as the cheap and uncertain blonde who has a pathetic ambition to ‘be somebody’ and a pitiful notion that she can realize it through crime.”     

In a 1946 newspaper interview Turner spoke about her lack of meaningful roles: “I finally got tired of making movies where all I did was walk across the screen and look pretty. I got a big chance to do some real acting in The Postman Always Rings Twice, and I'm not going to slip back if I can help it. I tried to persuade the studio to give me something different. But every time I went into my argument about how bad a picture was, they'd say, ‘Well, it's making a fortune.’ That licked me.”

In a sense, her lot improved after The Postman Always Rings Twice, but not really for the better. Instead of taking advantage of her newly found status as a major sex symbol, the studio decided to place her in such bland fare as Green Dolphin StreetCass Timberlane (both 1947), HomecomingThe Three Musketeers (both 1948), A Life of Her Own (1950), and The Merry Widow (1952). She managed to break the trend with an admirable performance as Gloria in Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), but then it was right back to uninspiring roles in such humdrum as Latin Lovers (1953), Flame and the Flesh (1954), and The Prodigal (1955).

Moving over to 20th Century Fox it seemed as if she was still stuck in a rut with her first film, The Rains of Ranchipur (1956). But then her career received a much needed boost when she was cast in Peyton Place (1957). Her turn as Constance MacKensie, a small town mother with a secret to hide, namely the fact that her daughter is illegitimate, earned Lana her first Oscar nomination as Best Actress. 

And then her private life made her movie roles seem tame by comparison. In the spring of 1957 Turner made the acquaintance of Johnny Stompanato, a bodyguard and enforcer for L.A. gangster Mickey Cohen. After she discovered his line of work she tried to break off the affair for fear of bad publicity. But Stompanato was not easily dissuaded and over the course of the following year they carried on a relationship marked by violent arguments, physical abuse, and repeated reconciliations. 

On the evening of April 4, 1958, Turner and Stompanato were engaged in a loud argument in Turner’s bedroom. Daughter Cheryl later testified that she was in her room when she heard Stompanato threatening to harm her mother. She ran down to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and heard towards her mother’s bedroom. Banging on the door, she heard Stompanato again threaten her mother. Lana was crying and wailing, begging him to leave. Suddenly the door flew open and Cheryl saw Stompanato behind her mother with his hands raised like he was about to hit her. Cheryl stepped forward with the knife in her hand, and Stompanato moved right into it as she stabbed him in the abdomen. As he pulled backward off the knife he fell to the ground. 14-year-old Cheryl dropped the knife and ran into her bedroom, where she curled up into a ball and cried. Lana wasn’t sure what had just happened. Seeing that John’s sweater was cut, she lifted it up and was shocked when blood started gushing out.          

An inquest declared that the crime had been justifiable homicide, and the DA decided not to prosecute Cheryl for murder. Lana was now in massive debt; Cheryl’s legal bills averaged about $1,000 a day during the entire ordeal. In addition she still owed money to MGM. After the media circus that accompanied the inquest and branded her as the mother of a murderess, Turner wondered if anyone would want to cast her again. 

But Ross Hunter, producer of lavish melodramas at Universal, did. He approached Turner about starring in Douglas Sirk’s remake of Imitation of Life, a 1934 film about two single moms, one white and one black, and their respective struggles with their teenage daughters. 

Hunter was honest with Lana about his interest in the ways in which the material would take advantage of what the public knew about Lana’s real life. To exaggerate them in the remake, he had Lana’s character written as an actress whose career causes her to neglect her daughter – until her daughter becomes involved with the mother’s boyfriend. While Lana took the job for only $2,500 a week, she also negotiated a deal that would net her 50% of the film’s profits. The film was an unqualified hit, in large part due to the curiosity about Turner. Released in 1959, Turner earned $11 million during its first year of release.

She followed it up the next year (1960) by making another box-office hit, Portrait in Black, with Anthony Quinn and Lloyd Nolan. A string of undistinguished box-office flops followed until she returned to Ross Hunter and Universal for a remake of the sturdy soaper Madame X in 1966. It was her last major starring role on the silver screen. Turner spent most of the late ‘60s, 1970s and early 1980s in semiretirement, working occasionally. In 1982, she accepted a much publicized (and lucrative) recurring guest role in the television series Falcon Crest. Her participation gave the series the highest rating it ever achieved. Turner made her final film appearance in Witches’ Brew (1980) and her final television appearance in The Love Boat (1985).     

Awards were few. On October 25, 1981, the National Film Society presented Turner with an Artistry in Cinema Award. In 1994 at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain, she received the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award.          

In 1982, Turner released an autobiography entitled Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth. In the book Turner admitted that she had two abortions (in one case the child was Tyrone Power’s) and suffered three stillbirths. She also confessed to attempting suicide in 1951 by slitting her wrists following the collapse of her fourth marriage to Bob Topping. It was only through the intervention of her business manager, Benton Cole, who broke down her bathroom door and was able to call emergency medical services, saving Turner's life. In addition, she revealed that she was an alcoholic and for much of the 1970s she was drinking heavily, not eating, and missing performances, though she states that she was never drunk. She decided to stop drinking, crediting herbalism with helping her to overcome her alcoholism and her decision to eat only organic food. In 1980, she experienced a "religious awakening" and became a devout Roman Catholic. For most of her life she was a lapsed Catholic. As a young girl she attended the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in San Francisco, hoping to become a nun when she grew up.

Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands: bandleader Artie Shaw, actor and restaurateur Steve Crane (twice), millionaire socialite Henry J. “Bob” Topping, actor Lex Barker, rancher Frederick May, a member of the May department store family, producer Robert P. Eaton, and nightclub hypnotist Ronald Pellar, aka Ronald Dante or Dr. Dante. Her first marriage took place in 1940 and her last marriage ended in 1972. In between marriages she was romantically involved with John Garfield (an on-set romance), Howard Hughes and Tyrone Power.           

Her only child was daughter Cheryl, born during her marriage to Crane. In her memoir Cheryl Crane states that during her mother’s marriage to Lex Barker, Barker molested and raped her. When she informed her mother about what had happened, Turner forced Barker out of the home at gunpoint and immediately filed for divorce. A heavy smoker throughout most of her life, Turner was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1992. At Cheryl’s urging she underwent radiation treatment and in February 1993 announced that she was in remission. But the cancer returned in July 1994, and during her final public appearance in Spain at San Sebastian International Film Festival she was bound in a wheelchair for much of the proceedings. Turner died nine months later at the age of 74 on June 29, 1995, of complications from the cancer at her home. Her remains were cremated and scattered in Oahu, Hawaii.

She was survived by daughter Cheryl Crane and Crane’s life partner Joyce LeRoy, whom she said she accepted "as a second daughter.” They inherited some of Turner's personal effects and $50,000 in Turner's will. The majority of the $1.7 million estate was left to Carmen Lopez Cruz, her maid and companion for 45 years and her caregiver during her final illness. Cheryl challenged the will with Lopez claiming that the majority of the estate was consumed by probate costs, legal fees, and medical expenses.      

TCM is showing 44 of Turner’s films on December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27. Of these films the following are our recommendations.  

December 5

8:00 pm – THEY WON’T FORGET (WB, 1937): Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson & Lana Turner. A southern town is rocked by scandal when a teenager is murdered on Confederate Decoration Day. Turner’s first film.

10:00 pm – LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (MGM, 1938): Mickey Rooney, Ann Rutherford, Lewis Stone, Lana Turner, & Judy Garland. Young Andy tries to juggle two girlfriends. Turner is quite good as Cynthia Potter, who Andy promised to mind while her boyfriend Beezy Anderson was away.

11:45 pm – DANCING CO-ED (MGM, 1939): Lana Turner, Richard Carlson. College girl Lana its caught up in a rigged dance contest. Richard Carlson helps her uncover the truth.

1:15 am – THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (MGM, 1939): Lew Ayres, Lana Turner & Ann Rutherford. Drunken college student Ayres invites taxi dancer Turner to spend the weekend at his snobbish school, then forgets he asked her. When she shows up he tries to get rid of her, but she stays and shows up both him and his classmates’ snooty dates.

2:45 am – ZIEGFELD GIRL (MGM, 1941): Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr & Lana Turner Three young ladies discovered by Ziegfeld find their lives changed when they come to Broadway.

5:15 am – HONKY TONK (MGM, 1941): Clark Gable, Lana Turner. Turner is a young girl who falls in love with crooked gambler Gable. Chill Wills is Gable’s sidekick and Albert Dekker as the heel. 

December 6

10:15 am – THE GREAT GARRICK (WB, 1937): Brian Aherne, Olivia de Havilland. French actors set out to deflate the ego of legendary stage star David Garrick in director James Whale’s comedy. Turner has a small role as Auber.

1:45 pm – CALLING DR. KILDARE (MGM, 1939): Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, & Laraine Day. Assigned to a street clinic by Dr. Gillespie, Kildare treats a suspected murderer he believes is innocent. When the cops collar him for it, he has to try and prove his patient's innocence, especially for his sister Rosalie’s (Turner) sake.

December 12

8:00 pm – THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (MGM, 1946): John Garfield, Lana Turner. A drifter and a married woman fall in love and kill her husband, unleashing consequences they had not foreseen.

12:30 am – JOHNNY EAGER (WB, 1942): Robert Taylor, Lana Turner. A suave gangster Taylor seduces D.A.’s daughter Turner for purposes of revenge, but unexpectedly falls in love with her. 

December 13

7:00 am – WE WHO ARE YOUNG (MGM, 1940): Lana Turner, John Shelton. Office workers Shelton and Turner violate strict company policy by getting married. 

3:15 pm – SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS (MGM, 1943): Lana Turner, Robert Young. Small-town girl Peggy Evans (Turner) is bored with her lot in life. She leaves a note, which is taken as suicidal, and heads for New York, where she gets a make over. A new outfit, a new look and an freak accident gets her in the paper as an amnesia victim. Because she does not want to be Peggy Evans anymore she searches the paper and decides to be missing heiress Carol Burden. But Carol’s father has already jailed other claiming to be his daughter. Can she trick him and keep her old manager (Young) from spilling the beans?

December 19

8:00 pm – PEYTON PLACE (Fox, 1957): Lloyd Nolan, Lana Turner. Mark Robson directed this glossy filmed version of the bestselling novel about the scandals behind the closed doors of a small New England town.

11:00 pm – IMITATION OF LIFE (Universal, 1959): Lana Turner, John Gavin. Turner dominates this remake of the 1934 soaper as aspiring actress Lora Meredith. She meets homeless black woman Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), and soon they share a tiny apartment. Each woman has an intolerable daughter, Annie's daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), is neurotic and obnoxious. She doesn't like being black; since she's light-skinned (her father was practically white), she spends the rest of the film passing as white, much to her mother's heartache and shame. Lora, meanwhile, virtually ignores her own daughter in her quest for stardom.

1:15 am – THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (MGM, 1952): Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner & Dick Powell. The rise and fall of tough, ambitious Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields (Douglas), as seen through the eyes of people he took advantage of on his rise to the top, including a writer James Lee Bartlow (Powell), a star Georgia Lorrison (Turner) and a director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan).

December 20

9:30 am – WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF (MGM, 1945): Ginger Rogers, Van Johnson, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, & Robert Benchley. The misadventures of a group of diverse guests at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan in a glossy remake of Grand Hotel.

11:45 am – CASS TIMBERLANE (MGM, 1947): Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner. Aging judge Tracy creates a scandal when he marries Turner, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks.

December 26

8:00 pm – MADAME X (Universal, 1966): Lana Turner, John Forsythe. A fallen woman on trial for murder is defended by the son she abandoned years earlier.

10:00 pm – PORTRAIT IN BLACK (Universal, 1960): Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn. A woman and her lover kill her husband and are blackmailed by someone who knows of their crime.

4:15 am – THE BIG CUBE (WB, 1969): Lana Turner, George Chakiris. Easily Turner’s worst film. She plays a retired star who lands in an asylum after her medicine is spiked with LSD by her stepdaughter (Karin Mossberg), whose boyfriend (George Chakiris) is only after her late father’s fortune.

December 27

7:30 am – THE SEA CHASE (WB, 1955): John Wayne, Lana Turner. A German freighter captain tries to elude British warships in the early days of World War Two. Turner is Elsa Keller, a Mata Hari type.

9:45 am – THE PRODIGAL (MGM, 1955): Lana Turner, Edward Purdom. Biblical story of a wealthy young man (Purdom) led astray by evil pagan princess Turner.

James Stewart 

Stardust: TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

I'd like people to remember me as someone who was good at his job and seemed to mean what he said.”

Over the years Jimmy Stewart became one of America's most loved actors. Noted for his unique drawl and down-to-earth persona, he became part of the nation’s popular culture in his later years. Several of his films were rightly recognized as classics, and his voice and mannerisms were imitated by countless mimics and comedians. Ironically, Stewart became his own best parody through his frequent appearances on The Tonight Show, where he read his homespun poetry and spun yarns recalling his life and career. 

The folksy persona he projected gave us the illusion that he was always that way, but in actuality there were two Jimmy Stewarts. The pre-War Stewart was folksy and innocent, the star of such fare as Born to DanceMr. Smith Goes to Washington and You Can’t Take It With You. A bomber pilot in World War II, he came back a different man, suffering from PTSD. The postwar Stewart was serious and somber, with an outlook that was reflected in his choice of roles. It took many years and a solid marriage to a loving and supportive wife for him to return to the humble and folksy man we saw in later years. 

Born James Maitland Stewart on May 20, 1908, in Indiana, Pennsylvania, he was the eldest of three children born to Alexander Maitland and Elizabeth Ruth (nee Jackson) Stewart. The only son, he was expected one day to inherit the family business – a hardware store that had been in the family for three generations. But young Jimmy also had an artistic side. His mother was an excellent pianist and Jimmy inherited her talents, teaching himself the accordion and becoming quite accomplished at it. His dream, however, was to become a flyer. He spent many of his after-school hours in his basement, occupied with building model airplanes, mechanical drawing and chemistry. 

His dream was to attend the Naval Academy and specialize in aviation, but his father instead sent him to Princeton, where he graduated with a B.A. in architecture. In his spare time Stewart became involved with the school’s music and drama clubs. After he graduated in 1932, his acting and musical talents earned him an invitation to the University Players, an intercollegiate summer stock company on Cape Cod directed by such notables as Joshua Logan and Bretaigne Windust. It was there he met lifelong friends Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan (who were married at the time) and Myron McCormick. He tried his luck on Broadway, but later noted that from 1932 to 1934 he had worked a total of three months, as every play he was cast in folded soon after. Landing a part in the play, Divided By Three, he was spotted by MGM talent scout Bill Grady. Fonda, who had come to Hollywood earlier in 1934, encouraged Stewart to take a screen test, after which he was signed as a contract player at $350 a week. 

His first film was The Murder Man (1935). Starring Spencer Tracy, it opened to dismal reviews and poor box office. In 1936, however, he began to get better parts, gaining notice as Jean Harlow’s boyfriend in Wife vs. Secretary, and for his strong dramatic part in After the Thin Man. Also that year he signed with powerhouse agent Leland Hayward, who decided his client’s best route to stardom was in being loaned out to other studios. 

The strategy paid off when he was loaned out to Columbia to star in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You in 1938. Capra was so impressed with Stewart that he cast him as the star of his next film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), replacing original star Gary Cooper as the idealistic political neophyte. Also that year Stewart starred with Marlene Dietrich and Brian Donlevy in Universal’s hit Western parody, Destry Rides Again

Returning to MGM, he co-starred with Margaret Sullavan in two 1940 classics, The Shop Around The Corner, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and the anti-Nazi drama, The Mortal Storm. Also that year, his performance as fast-talking reporter Macaulay Connor in the Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn vehicle, The Philadelphia Story (1940), won him the Best Actor Oscar (which he gave to his father, who displayed it in a case inside the front door of his hardware store).

Stewart became the first major American movie star to wear a military uniform in World War II when he enlisted as a private in the Army on March 22, 1941. As a licensed commercial pilot and college graduate, he applied for an Air Corps commission and Service Pilot rating, receiving both as a second lieutenant. Originally assigned to recruiting duties, he applied for and was granted advanced training on multi-engine aircraft as well as the rank of captain. However, to his disappointment, he was still assigned to recruiting and training duties. He appealed to his commander, who recommended him to the commander of the 445th Bombardment Group.   

After several weeks of training, Stewart flew his first combat mission on December 13, 1943, to bomb the U-Boat base at Kiel, Germany. In 1944, Stewart was promoted to major, and on March 30, 1944, he became group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer. He would lead the group on 20 bombing missions over Germany, hitting targets in Bremen, Frankfurt and Berlin. His service resulted in a cascade of decorations: the Air Medal, a succession of oak leaf clusters, six battle stars and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. In addition he was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one for piloting the lead plane in a spectacular raid on key aircraft factories in Brunswick, Germany. 

He was promoted to full colonel on March 29, 1945, becoming one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel during the Second World War. After the official establishment of the Air Force as an independent service in 1947, he joined the newly formed United States Air Force Reserve, where he remained until retiring as a major general on May 31, 1968.

Upon his return from the war in late 1945, Stewart insisted that his military exploits not be publicized. He avoided war films, making only the rather staid Strategic Air Command in 1955. The only hint that he was an active participant in the war came in an episode of the 1974 TV documentary series The World at War titled “Whirlwind: Bombing Germany – September 1939-April 1944,” commenting on a mission of October 14, 1943, against Schweinfurt, Germany, where American forces suffered heavy losses while doing minimal damage. In the episode, he was identified only as "James Stewart, Squadron Commander” at his request.

After the war Stewart took time off to reflect on his career. Upon returning to Hollywood in 1945 he decided not to renew his MGM contract. He also invested in Leland Hayward’s newly formed Southwest Airlines, figuring to fall back on a career in aviation if his film career faltered. His first postwar film was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, released in 1946. Now considered one of the classics of cinema, it opened to mixed reviews and poor box office. After starring in a few more ill-received films, Stewart decided to return to the stage, filling in twice for vacationing Frank Fay on Broadway as Elwood P. Dodd, a wealthy eccentric whose best friend is a six-foot invisible rabbit, in Mary Coyle Chase’s Harvey. The play ran for three more years and Stewart reprised the role in the 1950 film adaptation, breaking his string of box office flops. 

The 1950s were also significant for Stewart for his collaborations with directors Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock. With Mann he helped redefine the classic western with films like Winchester ‘73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954), and The Man From Laramie (1955). 

Stewart’s collaboration with Hitchcock began with Rope in 1949, a box office failure. Their second collaboration, Rear Window (1954), was a hit, as was The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Hitchcock’s remake of his 1934 thriller. However, their 1958 film, Vertigo, opened to mixed reviews and poor box office though it's now considered one of the greatest films of all-time. Hitchcock blamed his star for the film’s failure, noting that Stewart looked too old to be romancing Kim Novak. As a consequence, Hitchcock replaced Stewart with Cary Grant (who was four years older, but photographed much younger) for North By Northwest (1959), a role Stewart coveted.

Other notable films of the '50s include Delmar Daves’ Broken Arrow (1950), Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Anthony Mann’s The Glen Miller Story (1954), Billy Wilder’s The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), and Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959), which saw him awarded The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, and his fifth and final nomination for the Oscar as Best Actor.

In the early ‘60s he teamed with John Ford for three Westerns: Two Rode Together (1962, with Richard Widmark), the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, with John Wayne), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964, again with Widmark). Though Stewart also appeared in the multi-episodic How the West Was Won (1963) he did not appear in the segment Ford directed. In 1965 he starred in the Civil War-era Shenandoah and the family Western, The Rare Breed (1966) with Maureen O’Hara. Both were critical and commercial successes. His next, and final, film of any importance was The Shootist (1976), playing Dr. Hostetler, who gives John Wayne’s character his terminal cancer diagnosis.

During this period Stewart also began to transition to television. In the ‘50s he and wife Gloria guested on The Jack Benny Program, playing themselves. The running gag during their appearances was that Jack thought they were all good friends, while the Stewarts studiously tried to avoid him. He played a college professor in the NBC domestic comedy The Jimmy Stewart Show in 1971, but the show failed to find an audience and folded after a year. In 1973 he starred in Hawkins for CBS as a small-town lawyer in West Virginia whose laid-back manner often fooled his adversaries into underestimating his ability as an attorney. Although he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Dramatic TV Series, the show failed to gain a wide audience and was canceled after one season.

A revival of Harvey on Broadway in 1970 led to a 1972 TV-movie with Stewart again as Dodds. Another notable made-for-HBO movie was Right of Way (1973), in which he and Bette Davis starred as an elderly couple who, when they learn Bette is ill, make a joint suicide pact. His final role was as the voice of Sheriff Wylie Burp in the 1991 animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.

On the personal side, Stewart married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean in 1949. Their marriage lasted until her death from lung cancer in 1994. Stewart adopted her two sons, Michael and Ronald, and with Gloria he had twin daughters, Judy and Kelly, on May 7, 1951.     

In February 1997, he was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. On June 25, a blood clot formed in his right leg, leading to a pulmonary embolism a week later. On July 2, 1997, surrounded by his children, Stewart died at the age of 89 at his home in Beverly Hills, California. His final words to his family were "I'm going to be with Gloria now.”

TCM is showing Stewart’s films on November 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. Of these 54 films the following are our recommendations.     

 November 1 

6:00 am – THE MURDER MAN (RKO, 1935): Spencer Tracy, Lionel Atwill & Virginia Bruce. Tracy is a hotshot reporter specializing in murder cases. His latest investigation leads to the trial, conviction and a sentence of death. But Tracy is noticeably bothered by this case. His girlfriend, columnist Virginia Bruce, doesn’t understand why until she begins typing out his recorded dictation. Stewart has a small role as “Shorty,” Tracy’s fellow reporter. An actor’s first film is always a must see, and this case is no different.

9:15 am – WIFE VS. SECRETARY (MGM, 1936): Clark Gable, Myrna Loy & Jean Harlow. An executive’s wife believes her husband's relationship with his secretary is more than professional. Stewart acquits himself well as Harlow’s boyfriend. 

8:00 pm – JAMES STEWART: A WONDERFUL LIFE (MGM/WNET, 1987): A retrospective on the life and career of actor James Stewart, with clips from many of his films and interviews with people who have worked with him.

9:45 pm – MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Columbia, 1938): James Stewart, Jean Arthur. Stewart is in top form as a naive young man who is appointed to fill out a Senate term and winds up turning the Senate upside down. One of his best.

12:15 am – DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1939): Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart. A deputy sworn not to shoot again takes on a corrupt town boss and a sultry saloon singer. Even though Dietrich gets top billing, it’s Stewart’s film. He is perfect for the role. Dietrich’s role as bar singer Frenchie, which revitalized her career, was the inspiration for Madeline’s Kahn’s Lili Von Schtupp in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.

2:00 am – AFTER THE THIN MAN (MGM, 1936): William Powell, Myrna Loy, & James Stewart. Nick investigates the case of a missing man and later a murder that is connected to Nora’s family. A good early performance from Stewart, who turns out to be the film’s villain. 

November 8

6:30 am – NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (MGM, 1937): Robert Young, James Stewart, Tom Brown, & Lionel Barrymore. Three Midshipmen buddies adjust to life and football at the Naval Academy. It’s a real can of corn, but fun to watch.

8:15 am – BORN TO DANCE (MGM, 1936): Eleanor Powell, James Stewart. Stewart sings! Entertaining nonsense about a sailor who meets a girl at the Lonely Hearts Club and falls in love. As a singer, Stewart sounds like a tomcat in heat. One of his worst, and therefore, worth a look and a laugh. Truly cringeworthy.

5:30 pm – YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Columbia, 1938): James Stewart, Jean Arthur. Capra’s adaptation of the Kaufman-Hart play about a man from a staid family engaged to a woman from an eccentric family. Interestingly, none of the remakes were as funny or captured the chemistry that existed between Arthur and Stewart.

8:00 pm – THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (WB, 1940): James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan. Bickering co-workers Stewart and Sullavan do not know that they are secret romantic pen pals. Probably Lubitsch’s best film and one that can be seen numerous times without getting tired. The performances are perfect, as is the direction.

10:00 pm – THE MORTAL STORM (MGM, 1940): James Stewart, Frank Morgan & Margaret Sullavan. An uncompromising look at what occurs in a small town in Germany when the Nazis come to power. MGM finally stands up to Nazi Germany and the results are terrific.

12:00 am – THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (MGM, 1940): Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn & James Stewart. Society lady Hepburn finds herself being wooed by ex-husband Grant and tabloid reporter Stewart. Stewart won the Oscar for this, and it’s easy to see why. He walks away with the picture.

2:00 am – CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (20th Century Fox, 1948): James Stewart, Richard Conte, & Lee J. Cobb. Convinced an inmate is innocent, reporter Stewart re-opens a ten-year old murder case. Excellent docudrama from Henry Hathaway.

November 15

11:45 am – NO TIME FOR COMEDY (WB, 1940): James Stewart, Rosalind Russell. A playwright’s wife convinces him to give up comedy for tragedy with the usual comedic results. Nice give and take between Stewart and Russell. 

6:00 pm – ROPE (WB, 1948): James Stewart, John Dall, & Farley Granger. Two wealthy young men attempt the perfect crime by murdering a friend. Based on the famous Leopold-Loeb murder case, two pretentious college students kill a friend for the thrill of it, with the suspense coming as they invite friends and family to their apartment afterward – with the body hidden on the premises. Stewart, one of the dinner guests, is their former college mentor. His views on superior human beings formed the theoretical basis for their murder. He gives an excellent performance, controlling the party with his intellect and cynical humor, but later comes to reflect on his own opinions with more than a bit of guilt. It was Hitchcock’s first color film and was shot in ten-minute takes to provide a seamless flow of movement; an interesting experiment that the director never attempted again. 

8:00 pm – VERTIGO (Paramount, 1958): James Stewart, Kim Novak. Hitchcock’s masterpiece about a detective who falls for a mysterious woman he’s been hired to tail. A critical and commercial flop when released in 1958, it has gathered acclaim over the years and today is not only seen as the director’s best film, but some rank it over Citizen Kane as the greatest film ever made. Judge for yourselves. 

10:30 pm – ANATOMY OF A MURDER (Columbia, 1959): James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, & Lee Remick. A small town lawyer defends a military man who avenged an attack on his wife. Director Otto Preminger loved to push the envelope and like some of his other efforts, the film’s more serious and compelling aspects were overwhelmed by the production’s publicity, which played up and sensationalized the more unsavory aspects of the film’s rape/murder trial. 

November 22

4:00 pm – CARBINE WILLIAMS (MGM, 1952): James Stewart, Jean Hagen. Stewart is excellent in this true story of the bootlegger who fought for his freedom by inventing a new rifle. Stewart turns in a convincing performance as the inventor of the famous rifle in this simple and unpretentious film which examines his problems with the law and his simple family life.

6:00 pm – SHENANDOAH (Universal, 1965): James Stewart, Doug McClure. Stewart is a Virginia farmer who fights to keep his family together during the Civil War in this folksy, sentimental and well-acted drama. Directed in a forthright manner by Andrew McLaglen (son of Victor), who keeps things simple and moving. Released during the Vietnam War, it’s anti-war message caught on with the public and in 1974 it became a long-running Broadway musical. 

10:15 pm – HARVEY (Universal, 1950): James Stewart, Wallace Ford & Victoria Horne. A wealthy eccentric prefers the company of an invisible six-foot rabbit to his family. A comic tour de force from Stewart as amiable drunk Elwood P. Dowd, who is convinced that an imaginary white rabbit pal named Harvey is following him around. It’s a slight plot that wears noticeably thin near the end, but watch it for Stewart,

2:15 am – REAR WINDOW (Paramount, 1954): James Stewart, Grace Kelly. A superior exercise in dark suspense with Stewart as an incapacitated photojournalist who, out of boredom, begins spying on his neighbors and taking photos of them. Hitchcock makes the most of a simple plot line: an experienced journalist’s suspicions that a murder has been committed even though he lacks the corpse or even any witnesses to it. As much of a romance as a thriller, Hitchcock employs Grace Kelly very effectively as Stewart’s model girlfriend who is frustrated because she can’t talk him into marriage, but who helps him uncover the murderer. What helps the film gain momentum is the strong chemistry between Stewart and Kelly and the perfect casting of Raymond Burr as the killer.

November 29

The evening is dedicated to Stewarts Westerns, shot under the direction of John Ford and Anthony Mann. The actor turned to the Western genre after his return from World War II, and as he matured, the shy, modest innocents he played in the prewar years gave way to tougher, more worldly characters. They were troubled and petulant people torn between firmness and vulnerability, mirroring Stewart’s own adaptation to postwar life. Westerns were the perfect medium to express these feelings, and the ones directed by Ford and Mann allowed Stewart to express the full range of his characters.

In interviews he said his favorite movies were Westerns “because they're told against the background of a very dramatic period in our history.” Westerns also “give people a feeling of hope, an affirmative statement of living.’’     

Stewart's starring role in Winchester '73 marked a major turning point in Hollywood. Universal was negotiating with Stewart to appear both in that film and Harvey, but his $230,000 asking price was deemed too rich by the studio. In response Stewart’s agent, Lew Wasserman brokered an alternate deal: Stewart would star in both films for no pay. Instead he was to be given a percentage of the profits and approval of both cast and director. The deal proved to be a slam dunk for Stewart, as he wound up taking home about $600,000 for Winchester '73 alone. Other Hollywood stars were quick to capitalize on this new way of doing business, further undermining the already crumbling studio system and speeding its demise.

5:45 pm – THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount, 1962): James Stewart, Lee Marvin & John Wayne. John Ford’s Western about the visit of a popular senator to the town where he first made his fame by shooting the area’s deadly villain, Liberty Valance (played by Lee Marvin). The events in the film are seen through an interview Stewart grants to as young reporter, and as the film goes on, we see that Stewart’s heroism is not really the stuff of heroic legend, as he himself confesses to the young scribe.

8:00 pm – WINCHESTER ’73 (Universal, 1953): James Stewart, Dan Duryea, & Shelley Winters. Stewart wins a Winchester rifle in a shooting contest, but the prize is stolen by runner-up Duryea.  The movie follows Stewart as he combs the West in search of his stolen rifle. It’s a simple plot supported and enhanced by great characterization.

9:45 pm – BEND OF THE RIVER (Universal, 1952): James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy & Rock Hudson. Two men with questionable pasts (Stewart and Kennedy) lead a wagon train into the Oregon Territory. After Kennedy double-crosses him for quick profits, Stewart is forced to fight back. One of Mann and Stewart’s best efforts, a great combination of action and characterization.

11:30 pm – THE FAR COUNTRY (Universal, 1955): James Stewart, Ruth Roman & Walter Brennan. Stewart is a cynical adventurer who gets in on the Klondike gold rush, but his hard-bitten outlook and ignorance of the growing lawlessness in the area lead to events that cause him to think twice.

1:30 pm – THE NAKED SPUR (MGM, 1953): James Stewart, Robert Ryan, & Janet Leigh. Anthony Mann directed this tense drama about cold bounty hunter Stewart bringing murderer Ryan back to civilization. Interestingly, Stewart’s character is a Civil War veteran trying to raise money to get back the ranch he lost while fighting in the war. A message hidden in the movie is how Stewart is haunted by demons emanating from the psychological trauma he suffered from the war, demons that changed his character – very much like the demons he was haunted by after returning from Europe in 1945, now known as PTSD.

3:30 am – TWO RODE TOGETHER (Columbia, 1961): James Stewart, Richard Widmark. In this terrific John Ford Western, cynical and corrupt marshal Stewart is pressured by Army Lieutenant Widmark to assist in the negotiations with the Comanches for the release of a group of settlers who have spent years as hostages. However, just two are released, and their reintegration into white society proves difficult.

Jeanne Moreau: In Memoriam

By Gabrielle Garrieux

I was in England with my husband when the news of Jeanne Moreau’s death broke, announced by none other than President Emmanuel Macron, who said she died at her home on July 31 at the age of 89. His announcement was an acknowledgement of her status in France, and to the arts she represented.

I had interviewed her several times over the years. Although we got on well and the interviews were excellent and revealing, I never got close to her like I did with others in the entertainment world. She always seemed to keep a distance, letting you in only so far. I took it as part of her mystique, a mystique that served her well over the course of her career. In France we called her the thinking cinephile’s femme fatale and she fit that description perfectly.

The American press labeled her “The Femme Fatale of the New Wave,” but she more than transcended that label. She was a powerful actress. While not as glamorous as contemporaries Jean Seberg and Anna Karina, her acting ability enabled her to bring a new dimension to her roles. She embodied a new kind of freedom, seen in the spontaneous, seemingly unpredictable style of her performances and in the characters she played, characters that broke the bounds. 

Although she was not generally considered photogenic, she more than made up for it by using her personality and stage training, showing audiences that sexy is not simply a matter of glamour, but in how one carries oneself. She once told me, “Want to make men notice you? Then carry yourself as if you don’t give a damn.”

The first time I saw her was while I was at the university. I attended a screening of Jules and Jim at a revival theater in Paris. She played Catherine, a capricious woman, loved by the title characters (Oskar Werner and Henri Serre) and who turned their desire into a tragic ménage à trois.

I was captivated by her command of the screen, and after awhile I forgot all about Werner and Serre and concentrated on Jeanne. She possessed a personal magnetism that made one follow her, as if she and she alone was the only person on the screen.  

Later, when I met and interviewed her, I realized that she was Catherine, headstrong and willful in her decisions. It’s what made her into a star.

Jeanne was a true daughter of Paris, born there Jan. 23, 1928. Although she seems the essence of France, her mother, Katherine (nee Buckley) was born in Lancashire, England, and danced at the Folies Bergère. Her father, Anatole-Désiré Moreau, was the owner of a Montmartre hotel and restaurant. 

Thinking about her mother, she let out a quiet laugh. “Maybe that’s why I attracted so many Anglo-Saxon directors like Orson Welles and Tony Richardson,” she said as she took a sip of espresso. “I’m very proud of my English heritage. It made me different from other actresses of the time and I think audiences could see that.”

She told me that when she was about a year old, “my father moved us down to Vichy, where he opened a small hotel and restaurant. We lived in a small town outside Vichy called Mazirat.” The Moreau family dominated the village; Jeanne said she came from a long line of farmers. “It was so nice,” she said. “It seemed that almost every tombstone in the local cemetery had the name Moreau on it. I was quite the tomboy, climbing trees, riding my bicycle around the countryside, and generally getting into trouble with my sister. I went to a strict Catholic school, so you could imagine how I drove the nuns to distraction.” 

Beneath the idyll, however, existed a personal hell. Her parents’ marriage was far from a happy one. “I used to wonder later in life why my parents ever married,” she said. “My father’s family was ashamed of him for marrying a dancer and never made my mother feel welcome.” In addition, Anatole drank heavily. “He even refused to learn English, I think, just to spite my mother.” The stress in the marriage led Katherine to pack up Jeanne and her sister Michelle and move back to England, but when war broke out Katherine decided that her place was with her husband and returned to France. 

During the war the family was separated and she lived in Paris with her mother while her father hid down south from the Germans, making occasional visits to Paris. Her mother, as an enemy alien, was forced to stay in Paris and report to the Gestapo every day. “We lived in an apartment right above a brothel,” she said. “I remember whenever I went out on an errand or to see my friends I had to make my way past the line of German soldiers waiting their turn. I ran fast and tried not to look. Is it any wonder that books became my escape?” 

She was an excellent student, but when she saw a performance of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone at the age of 15, she knew what she wanted to do with her life. “My father had forbidden me to go to the theatre or the cinema, but my school friends spoke of little else. It wasn’t like there was a lot to do in Occupied Paris. We decided one day to skip a Latin class and see Antigone. Being there in the audience I felt that my place wasn’t there in the dark. No, it was on stage. I came out of the theatre completely overwhelmed, knowing the path I wanted to follow in life. I wanted more than anything to be an actress. It was not a money or a fame thing but an escape from real life. I went to see more and more plays, becoming entranced with the idea of acting for a living. I forgot about school.”

But when she told her father for her future plans, “he slapped me across the face and called me a whore. He said he never wanted to hear me speak of it again.” (Jeanne’s father reconciled withhis daughter’s profession only a few years before he died in 1975.) 

I believe his opposition to my choice was that he didn’t want me following in my mother’s footsteps,” she said. “And I never spoke of it again, at least to him,” she said. “My mother, on the other hand, was more sympathetic. She asked a neighbor of ours, who was an actor, for advice. He recommended a drama teacher.”

The teacher carefully and painstakingly prepared her for an audition at the Conservatoir National d’Art Dramatique. He did his job well, for she was accepted almost immediately after her audition, and a year later made her debut at the Comédie Francaise in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country. At only 20 years old she became a member of the company, the youngest ever to achieve that position. During her four years there she appeared in 22 parts, being cast in almost every production.

When I asked her about her father’s violent opposition, she said it was a blessing in disguise, for it steeled her resolve to make a success of her career. “I wanted to prove to him that I was right and that he was wrong.”

While at the conservatory her parents separated. “My mother, after 24 very difficult years in France, finally got the strength to leave my father. She took my sister Michelle and returned to England.”   

In 1949, she married Jean-Louis Richard. “We met at the Conservatoire and one could say it was love at first sight. I was alone. I wanted to get away from my father. Jean-Louis was the right man at the right time, unfortunately. He was wonderful to me, but we married for all the wrong reasons. But I did get a beautiful son out of the marriage.” The day they married Jeanne gave birth to a son, Jerome. She returned to work a month later, leaving Jerome in the care of her mother-in-law. Soon the marriage began to fall apart. After two years of marriage, Richard left, although they would remain close friends. They didn’t officially divorce until 1964.  

Jeanne left the Comédie Francaise in 1952, spending a year at the prestigious Théatre National Populaire, where she was a cast in a supporting role as a prostitute in a new play by Anna Bonacci called L’Heure Eblouissante (The Dazzling Hour). On the second night, the star of the show fell ill and Jeanne was asked to take her part. She learned it overnight, and the next evening, since the two characters never appeared onstage at the same time, she was able to play both roles. “I was alternating between an honest woman who feels like a street walker and a streetwalker who feels like an honest woman.” The play was a hit, running for two years and almost 500 performances.   

Jeanne moved onto other productions, including Jean Cocteau’s La Machine Infernale and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, in which she had a two-year run. It was while she was in the Paris production of Tennessee Williams’s melodrama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that she was spotted by director Louis Malle, who immediately saw her as the star in his new production.

It is supposed by some that Jeanne’s movie debut was because of Malle, but in reality Moreau had been appearing in films since 1949, accepting small parts here and there. Her most famous role back then was her turn as the call girl dancer Josy in Jacques Becker’s 1954 crime drama Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Don’t Touch the Loot), a role she barely remembered in our interview. “I never felt comfortable in films because I felt I was far from beautiful. It might have continued like that if not for Louis.”

Malle wanted her as the star of his debut feature, Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows, first released in America in 1961 as Frantic.). She played a woman whose lover (Maurice Ronet) murders her rich husband in a perfectly planned murder, only to find himself trapped in a broken down elevator while leaving the scene of the crime. Malle hit upon the idea of using light makeup on his star, allowing her to fill in the rest. By using her natural charisma instead of relying on makeup, she created a new sort of “natural” star, one French women could identify with. “Louis thought I was crazy to think I wasn’t good looking. He showed me how just a little makeup and the ability to carry oneself could bring out my natural beauty, as he called it. I placed myself in his care and never regretted it for one moment.”

Malle and Moreau followed this up in 1958 with his film Les Amants (The Lovers) with Moreau as a bored wife who abandons her home and family for a casual lover she has met. The film’s explicit love scenes caused it to run into trouble with the censors, which, in turn, made an ordinary drama into a must-see picture. But the intensity of the love scenes, added to the attention Moreau was drawing from the press, led her to end her affair with Malle, through they remained close friends for years afterward. He later directed Moreau in Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within, 1963) and Viva Maria! (1965), co-starring with Brigitte Bardot.     

While filming Moderato Cantabile (Seven Days, Seven Nights, 1960) on location in the south of France, Moreau suffered a near personal tragedy. Co-star Jean-Paul Belmondo invited her 10-year-old son Jérôme for a ride in his sports car. They crashed and the boy was rushed to a clinic where he lay in a coma for 16 days before eventually making a full recovery. Moreau saw it as a wake-up call. Having experienced the near death of someone she loved made her value life all the more. This in turn led her to new interests, such as becoming a recording artist. With a husky voice honed by a nearly three pack-day Gauloises habit, she had a string of successful releases. (She also performed with Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall.) She purchased a farm house in the south of France, where she would spend most of her leisure time reading, cooking, and entertaining friends.  

It was while she was at a personal crossroads that she met Francois Truffaut. At this point Jeanne was desperate for a part in which she could sink her heart and soul into. Truffaut offered her the part of Catherine in Jules et Jim. Adapted from Henri-Pierre Roché's novel of the same name, it takes place in the belle époque period in Paris, telling the story of best friends Jules and Jim who both fall in love with the same woman.   

In the months leading up to production, Truffaut spent much of his time at Moreau’s house developing the script with his star. This developed into a passionate, though brief, love affair,. However, by the end of filming it had evolved into an everlasting friendship. Truffaut introduced her to serious filmmakers and intellectuals, expanding her horizons and allowing her to see cinema as something beyond simply being an actress. Jules et Jim became a critical and commercial success, winning numerous prizes worldwide and cementing Moreau’s status as a major actress and cultural icon. Her portrayal of a woman who lives for the moment inspired many young women to rethink their roles in society.

After Jules et Jim Moreau hit a speed bump of sorts with the production of Eva, in which she plays a high-class prostitute who destroys the life of a Welsh writer (Stanley Baker) living in Venice. “I asked the producers for Jean-Luc Godard as director,” she told me. “He signed the contract, and got some money upfront, for which he was supposed to deliver a first draft in a month. Well, the month comes and goes. The producers want to know where the screenplay is. I don’t know. Godard’s supposed to deliver it. Finally he does – and it’s a one-page letter! Now the producers are yelling at me! ‘Where did you get that crazy bum?’ Finally, my co-star, Stanley Baker suggested his friend Joe Losey and I agreed. He was a good director, although I found him a bit strange.”

Jeanne’s next starring role saw her give one of her best performances. In La Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels, 1963) she plays Jacqueline Demaistre, a compulsive gambler who leads a young bank clerk (Claude Mann) astray. She was so impressed with the then unknown director, Jacques Demy, that she agreed to co-produce the film. “I was disappointed that we could never get together to do a musical. I mean, Deneuve couldn’t even sing. I could. It would have been a lot of fun.”

Her growing international fame brought offers to appear in English language productions, the best of which was John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1965), with Burt Lancaster and Paul Schofield. “I enjoyed working with Burt,” she said. “He always challenged himself during the filming and I admired that.” Although the films gave her exposure outside France, none compared with the smaller films with which she made her name. She summed them up as “a learning experience.”

One of her best films was made in 1964 for director Luis Bunuel. Diary of a Chambermaid saw her as an unscrupulous maid who discovers she has an ability to influence the lives of her masters. Though a critical and commercial flop when released, it has since come to be regarded as a classic.

In 1966 she became involved with director Tony Richardson, with whom she made two films, Mademoiselle (1966) and The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967), both commercial and critical flops. When Richardson’s then-wife, Vanessa Redgrave, filed for divorce, she named Moreau as co-respondent.

In 1967 she turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (“It just wasn’t for me.”) to star in Truffaut's homage to Hitchcock, La Mariée était en Noir (The Bride Wore Black, 1968) as a widow who kills the men responsible for her husband’s murder. If she looked worn on the screen it was due to the stress of her break-up with designer Pierre Cardin. 

After the failure of Orson Welles’ troubled production of The Deep, Jeanne retreated to her farmhouse, remaining there for almost a year. She was now 40 and feeling exhausted. “I was unhappy with my recent work and wanted time to reflect. So I threw myself into other things, tending the vineyards, making jam, and looking after my sick father. The less time I had to brood over my career the better off I was.”

She was lured out of this semi-retirement to make Monte Walsh (1970), with Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. In 1975, with encouragement from Orson Welles, she took her first turn at directing.Lumière follows four actresses of different ages and their relationships with one another, their men and their careers. The reviews were good enough to get Jeanne behind the camera once again with L’Adolescente (The Adolescent, 1979), a tender coming-of-age story set in the French countryside in the years just before World War Two based on her personal experiences. (In 1983 she directed a documentary about silent-screen star Lillian Gish.)

L’Adolescente came at the right moment. I was depressed after my second marriage fell apart and needed to lose myself in work.” In 1977 Jeanne married director William Friedkin, moving with him to Los Angeles. But their conflicting schedules left little time to be together, and as a result, the marriage floundered. “The marriage was an extraordinary experience, extremely painful and violent, but I never regretted it,” Moreau said. She moved back to Paris and took a small apartment in Paris, taking time off to recover her health. “I could have retreated to my farmhouse,” she said. “But at this time I felt I needed to be around people, to be in the city and feel the vibrancy.”

In 1982 she made a comeback in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film, Querelle. When Fassbinder died shortly after completing the film, Moreau took it upon herself to promote it, a difficult undertaking because of its explicit gay subject matter.   

She spent the next four years traveling, forming her own production company (producing a number of projects for television), and acting in a few television productions. These included L’Arbre (1984) and The Last Séance (1986), both of which dealt with death. This was a theme that preoccupied Jeanne at the time, having lost such close friends as Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut and Luis Bunuel. “I’ve learned that as long as I think of them and continue to be influenced by them, they remain alive to me each and every day.”

In 1986 she not only returned to the silver screen, but also to the stage, where her performance in the play Le Récit de la Servante Zerline (as a servant who tells a guest in a château the story of her life), marked her greatest stage triumph since the 1950s. She revitalized her career by taking the production on a worldwide tour. It would have been easier just to sit back and drink in the plaudits, but that was never Jeanne’s style.

Notable films included Luc Besson’s Nikita, a thriller about a female government assassin, and Wim Wenders’  epic Until the End of the World (1990), where she played a blind woman who, at the end of her life, is finally able to see. She also starred in a series of six television films based on Jean Giorno’s Ennemonde, as a wife and mother of nine who falls for a fairground wrestler and finds the real meaning of love.

Other films followed, keeping Moreau busy until the end of her life. Her last film appearance was in 2015, in a small role as the protagonist’s grandmother in Alex Lutz’s comedy Le Talent de Mes Amis (The Talent of My Friends).

A recipient of many awards during her lifetime, Jeanne also achieved that rare phenomenon of being celebrated while still working, with film retrospectives in her honor. Among the many awards she has received are the Légion d’honneur, the Fellowship of the British Film Institute, a Golden Lion for career achievement at the 1991 Venice Film Festival and a 1997 European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the first woman inducted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts.   

I remember an interview she granted me while in her 70s. “People – especially women – worry about aging,” she said. “But, believe me, if you want to look younger, then don’t worry about it. Don’t give it even so much as a thought. Beyond the beauty, the sex, the titillation, the surface, there is a human being. And that has to emerge.”

Rarely has a star so captivated her audience to the extent Jeanne Moreau did. She remained vitally alive throughout her career, refusing to be deterred by circumstances or fortunes. Her son Jerome, an artist, survives her.

Ronald Colman

Stardust: TCM’s Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

He was suave, genteel and roguishly handsome. While Cary Grant was seen as a Cockney who rose to higher status, Ronald Colman always struck us as to the manor born. He was the picture of good manners, erudition and charm. Even when cast as the heel, he still came off as a lovable rogue. And while other silent stars went through a rough time converting to sound, Colman had no trouble, thanks to his velvety voice.

And this month, TCM will be showing 22 of his 56 movies, many of them familiar classics. For a man known to many as the "stereotypical English gentleman,” Colman’s roots may surprise some. He was born on February 9, 1891, in Richmond, Surrey, England to lower middle-class parents Charles Colman and Marjory Read Fraser, the second son and their fourth child. During his boarding school days in Littlehampton he discovered an aptitude and love of the theater, even though he was painfully shy. His goal was to study engineering at Cambridge, but his father’s sudden death from pneumonia in 1907 made that dream financially impossible.

He took a position as a clerk at the British Steamship Company in London at a salary of 15 shillings a week. Though he rose to bookkeeper, and later, accountant, he found the work boring. To relieve the tedium he moonlighted on the stage, becoming a well-known amateur actor and a member of the West Middlesex Dramatic Society in 1908-09, later switching to the Bancroft Dramatic Company. 

In 1909 he joined the London Scottish Regiment (fellow actors Claude Rains, Herbert Marshall, Basil Rathbone and Cedric Hardwicke also served with this regiment), and in 1914, shortly after his debut on the professional stage, he was mobilized and sent to France to take part in the fighting on the Western Front. On October 31, 1914, he was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Messines, giving him a limp that he would attempt to hide through his dramatic career. As a consequence he was invalided out of the British Army in 1915.  

Sufficiently recovered from wartime injuries he resumed his dramatic career on June 19, 1916, appearing as Rahmat Sheikh in The Maharani of Arakan, with Lena Ashwell at the London Coliseum. He kept busy during the next few years, appearing in various productions, and in 1920 he went to America, touring with Robert Warwick in The Dauntless Three before joining Fay Bainter to tour in East is West. In September 1922 he scored a great success as Alain Sergyll in La Tendresse (Tenderness) at New York City’s Empire Theatre.

It was while starring in La Tendresse that director Henry King saw him and hired him to play the leading man to Lillian Gish in The White Sister (1923), where he was an immediate success. Colman was no stranger to film, having appeared in films in Britain in 1917 and 1919 for directors Cecil Hepworth and Walter West.

Building on his success in The White Sister, Colman virtually quit the stage for the cinema, becoming a very popular star during the silent era. Notable films include The Dark Angel (1925), Stella Dallas (1926) and Beau Geste (1926). His dark good looks and athletic ability led to him being cast in exotic roles. In 1926 producer Samuel Goldwyn signed him and teamed him with Hungarian actress Vilma Banky in The Winning of Barbra Worth (1926), The Night of Love (1927), The Magic Flame (1927), and Two Lovers (1928). As a screen team their popularity rivaled that of Gilbert and Garbo.

However, with the coming of talkies he and Vilma had to split up, for Vilma’s Hungarian accent precluded her from making the jump into talkies. The coming of sound transformed Colman into a huge star, thanks to his beautifully modulated and cultured voice. English film critic David Shipman described him as follows: “the dream lover – calm, dignified, trustworthy. Although he was a lithe figure in adventure stories, his glamour – which was genuine – came from his respectability; he was an aristocratic figure without being aloof.”

In 1930 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor based on his performances in Bulldog Drummond and Condemned. Among his other notable films were Raffles (1930), Clive of India (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Lost Horizon (1937), If I Were King (1938), Random Harvest (1942) and The Talk of the Town (1942). In 1948 he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in A Double Life, and in 1950 he starred in the screwball comedy Champagne for Caesar (unfortunately not being shown this month). In 1958 MGM signed him for the lead role in Village of the Damned, but his death postponed the project, which MGM eventually brought to the screen in 1961 with George Sanders (who married Colman’s widow, Benita Hume) and Barbara Shelley.

Colman died from acute emphysema on May 19, 1958, in Santa Barbara, California. He was 67. He was survived by his second wife, Benita Hume, and their daughter, Juliet Benita Colman (born 1944).

Following is a rundown of Colman’s films this month:

July 6

8:00 pm - The White Sister (Metro, 1923): Captain Giovanni Severini (Colman) is the lover of Angela Chiaromonte (Lillian Gish). When Giovanni is reported dead, Angela enters the convent, but Giovanni is alive. He was taken prisoner and escaped to Italy, but Angela rejects his proposal of marriage, for she has taken her vows. Giovanni is later killed helping townsfolk escape the erupting Vesuvius. Remade by MGM in 1933 with Clark Gable and Helen Hayes.

10:30 pm - The Winning of Barbara Worth (UA, 1926): Engineer Willard Holmes Colman) is caught between his greedy stepfather, James Greenfield (E.J. Ratcliffe) and Jefferson Worth and his daughter Barbara (Vilma Banky), whom Holmes loves.

12:15 am - Bulldog Drummond (UA, 1929): Former British flying hero Bulldog Drummond (Colman) and his friend, Algy (Claude Allister) helps Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett) free her uncle, Hiram J. Travers (Charles Sellon), from the clutches of sadistic physician Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant), who is holding Travers in an insane asylum to torture him into signing over his fortune.

2:00 am - Raffles (UA, 1930): A breezy story with Colman as a gentleman thief who continually eludes Scotland Yard. 

3:30 am - The Devil to Pay (UA, 1930): Spendthrift heir Willie Hale (Colman) returns broke from Kenya, reconciles with his father (Frederic Kerr), and romances Loretta Young and Myrna Loy in this delightful drawing-room comedy. 

5:00 am - Cynara (UA, 1932): English lawyer Jim Warlock’s (Colman) marriage to wife Clemency (Kay Francis) is threatened by his serious dalliance with Doris Lea (Phyliss Barry). 

July 7

6:30 am - Arrowsmith (UA, 1931): John Ford’s adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel about a dedicated research doctor is not without its problems. But the acting isn’t one of them. Fine performances from Colman, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Russell Hopkin, David Landau and Richard Bennett make this one to catch.

July 13

8:00 pm - Lost Horizon (Columbia, 1937): Frank Capra does a magnificent job turning James Hilton’s classic story into a compelling film. Five people fleeing a revolution stumble into a Tibetan realm where health, peace and longevity are the rule. It has one of the great haunting finales. The film has been restored to its original length, though several scenes are missing and are represented by dialogue only. Avoid the 1973 musical remake.

10:30 pm - If I Were King (Paramount, 1938): Colman is French poet Francois Villon, matching wits with King Louis XI (Basil Rathbone) and falling head over heels for lady-in-waiting Frances Dee. Preston Sturges wrote the script.

12:30 pm - Clive of India (UA, 1935): Colman is Robert Clive, acknowledged as the driving force behind the English colonization of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh at the sacrifice of his own personal happiness. More Hollywood than history, but lavishly entertaining with an excellent supporting cast, including Loretta Young, Colin Clive and C. Aubrey Smith.

2:15 am - The Light That Failed (Paramount, 1939): Colman is London artist Dick Heldar. He’s gradually losing his sight and is struggling to complete his masterpiece, the portrait of cockney girl Bessie Broke (Ida Lupino), before his eyesight fails. Walter Huston and Muriel Angelus also star.

4:00 am - The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (20th Century Pictures, 1935): Expatriate Russian prince Colman, his money supplied by Russian ex-pats in Paris, creates a scandal by winning big at the gambling tables. More charm than substance.

July 20

8:00 pm - A Tale of Two Cities (MGM, 1935): Colman is outstanding in this adaptation of Dickens’ classic about two men in love with the same woman during the French Revolution. With Elizabeth Allen, Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone, and the unforgettable Blanche Yurka as Madame De Farge.

10:30 pm - The Prisoner of Zenda (UA, 1937): Colman stars is a dual role as King Rudolf V of Ruritanian and his doppelgänger distant cousin, Major Rudolf Rassendyllwho must impersonate the king when he is drugged and kidnapped. With an all-star supporting cast, including Madeleine Carroll, C. Aubrey Smith, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, David Niven and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

12:30 am - Kismet (MGM, 1944): Colman is “the king of the beggars,” a savvy musician whose daughter, Marsinah (Joy Page), is being wooed by the handsome young caliph (James Craig). With Marlene Dietrich, Edward Arnold and Hugh Herbert.

2:30 am - Lucky Partners (RKO, 1940): Colman shares an Irish Sweepstakes ticket with Ginger Rogers and after a series of events they embark on a tour of Niagara Falls as brother and sister. But Rogers doesn’t know that Colman is a famous painter. With Jack Carson.

4:30 am - My Life With Caroline (RKO, 1941): Colman is a New York publisher who suspects his wife Caroline (Anna Lee) is having an affair with Argentinean millionaire Paco Del Valle (Gilbert Roland). Even Colman’s charm can’t compensate for this middling comedy. 

July 27

8:00 pm - A Double Life (Universal, 1948): Colman won the Oscar for his performance as a Shakespearean act playing Othello who finds he can no longer differentiate between the character and the real person. The Method gone into madness. With Signe Hasso, Edmond O’Brien, Shelley Winters and Ray Collins. Great fun.

10:00 pm - Random Harvest (MGM, 1942): Grand tearjerker about a soldier (Colman) left as an amnesiac after World War I who is saved from a mental institution by the love of music-hall entertainer Greer Carson. 

12:15 am - The Talk of the Town (Columbia, 1942): Anarchist Grant, on the lam for a crime he didn’t commit, is sheltered by landlady and childhood friend Arthur. The problem is how to hide him from her new tenant, renowned and stuffy Harvard law professor Colman. An intelligent and thoughtful comedy, well-written and well-acted by all in the cast. Director George Stevens does a masterful job.

2:30 am - The Late George Apley (20th Century Fox, 1947): Colman is perfectly cast as a stuffy patriarch of a family of Boston bluebloods who strives to maintain his family’s social status in this gentle and excellent satire based on the John P. Marquand novel.

4:15 am - The Story of Mankind (WB, 1957): Colman’s last picture and certainly his least. He is the Spirit of Man, debating the Devil (Vincent Price) over whether humanity is ultimately good or evil. If you can watch Peter Lorre as Nero, Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc, Dennis Hopper as Napoleon, Chico Marx as a monk, Harpo Marx as Sir Isaac Newton, Groucho Marx as Peter Minuit, Agnes Moorehead chewing every last bit of scenery as Queen Elizabeth I, and Bobby Watson reprising his role as Hitler (which he played in at least eight films prior), without laughing yourself into unconsciousness, you’re made of better stuff than I am. With stock footage from Land of the Pharaohs. One wonders what was going through Colman’s mind as he was acting in this mess. To quote film critic Michael Weldon: “Unbelievable! Don’t miss it!”

Clark Gable

Stardust: TCM's May Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

May’s choice for Star of the Month should please classic movie buffs. Clark Gable was one of the dominant stars in film from his breakthrough to superstardom in 1934 until his death in 1961.

Born William Clark Gable in Cadiz, Ohio, on February 1, 1901, to oil well driller William Henry "Will" and Adeline (nee Hershelman) Gable, he was mistakenly listed as  female on his birth certificate. Adeline died, possibly from a brain tumor, when he was just 10 months old. Two years later, his father married Jennie Dunlap and she raised young William to be well-dressed and well-groomed. She played the piano and gave her young stepson lessons at home. He later took up brass instruments, and at the age of 13 his talent allowed him to be the only boys in the men’s town band. While in high school, his father took up farming and moved to Ravenna. Father wanted son to work the farm with him, but the young Gable preferred working for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in nearby Akron.

He said he was inspired to become an actor at the age of 17 after seeing the play The Bird of Paradise. He toured in stock companies while working the oil fields and also worked as a horse manager. He caught on with several second-class theater companies, and traveled all the way to Portland, Oregon, working as a logger. It was in Portland that he met Laura Hope Crews, who encouraged him to return to the stage with another theater company. Twenty years later, Crews played Aunt Pittypat alongside Gable in Gone With the Wind (1939). 

His acting coach in Portland was theater manager Josephine Dillon, 17 years his senior. She remade the young actor, financing his dental work and hair style. She also helped him build his body, teaching him body control and posture, as well as training him to lower his natural high-pitched voice for better resonance and tone. After this long period of training, she considered him ready for Hollywood and financed his move there in 1924, where she became his first manager and wife. He adopted the name Clark Gable and worked as an extra. As no starring roles were forthcoming he returned to the stage, encouraged by Lionel Barrymore, who later became a lifelong friend.

In 1930, he made quite an impression as the troubled and desperate Killer Mears in the Los Angeles stage production of The Last Mile. On the strength of his performance, MGM offered Gable a contract, with his first film role being that of a villain in the low-budget William Boyd Western The Painted Desert (1930). The amount of fan mail he received caused the studio to take notice.

In 1930, Gable and Josephine Dillon were divorced. A few days later, he married Texas socialite Maria Franklin Prentiss Lucas “Rhea” Langham. He went to Warner Brothers, where he tested for the lead in The Public Enemy, but studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck rejected him, saying, ”His ears are too big and he looks like an ape.” 

After several failed screen tests for Barrymore and Zanuck, Gable was signed by MGM in 1930 by Irving Thalberg. He started mainly in supporting roles, usually as the villain. Meanwhile MGM's publicity manager Howard Strickling was developing the young actor’s studio image, playing up his he-man experiences and a persona as a “lumberjack in evening clothes.”

To build his brand and increase his popularity, MGM paired him with well-established female stars such as Joan Crawford in Dance, Fools, Dance (1931). He received a big push with his role as gangster Ace Wilfong in A Free Soul (read our essay here), who brutalized star Norma Shearer. The critical and popular reaction he received ended his days as a supporting actor.    

Now a star, Gable quickly got himself in Louis Mayer’s doghouse for refusing roles. In 1934, according to Hollywood legend, Mayer’s form of punishment for his rebellious star was to lend him to Columbia, then regarded as a second-rate operation. This has been refuted by more recent biographies, which state that the truth was that MGM did not have a film ready, and as they were paying him $2,000 per week, Mayer decided to lend him to Columbia for $2,500 per week, pocketing the extra $500. The film was Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night.   

When Gable returned to MGM he returned as a superstar, having won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as reporter Peter Warne. Though Gable and Capra got off to a rocky start, they ended up enjoying the making of the movie, for Capra discovered the perfect role for Gable: that of Clark Gable. The director tailored Gable's character in the film to closely fit his real personality. Gable would play himself from then onward, no matter what the film and no matter what the subject – with one exception, Parnell (1937), which served as proof never to leave his comfort zone again.

In choosing which of Gable’s films to recommend, we are sticking with his early roles along with a few that do not air that often or stand out by dint of being unusual or unusually lousy. The reason is that we’re not so much taken with Pre-Code pictures, which we regard as so much smoke and mirrors, as with the development of Clark Gable. His early films offer a good map to trace his evolution from supporting player to superstar.

May 2: Besides It Happened One Night, there are three Must Sees airing this night. At 10:00 pm it’s 1932’s No Man of Her Own. This film is important as it was Gable’s only film with his future wife, Carole Lombard. It’s a rather run of the mill story about a card sharp on the lam (Gable) who meets and marries a small town librarian (Lombard). Supposedly they got on well, and when Lombard handed out her usual prank gifts at the wrap party, she gave Gable a ham with his picture on it.  

At 3:00 am Gable slaps around Norma Shearer in A Free Soul (1931) and at 5:00 am he slaps around Barbara Stanwyck in Night Nurse, also from 1931. According to Robert Osborne, the role of Nick the chauffeur in Night Nurse was originally set for James Cagney, but his breakthrough in The Public Enemy caused Darryl Zanuck to assign the role to Gable.

May 3: The morning and afternoon is devoted to Gable, with the pick of the litter being Sporting Blood (1931) at 8 am, and Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931) at 9:30 – his only movie with Garbo.  At 2:30 pm it’s Strange Interlude (1932) with Norma Shearer, and at 6:00 pm it’s The White Sister (1933) with Helen Hayes, a film rarely shown.

May 9: The evening is devoted to Gable and frequent co-star Joan Crawford. Beginning at 8 pm, it’s Possessed (1931), followed at 9:30 by Strange Cargo (1940), one of the strangest films either has ever made and a psychotronic classic. At 11:30 it’s the excellent Dance, Fools, Dance (1931), followed by the cult classic Dancing Lady (1933) at 1 am, the debut film of Fred Astaire. It was also the first film for The Three Stooges.

Kept woman Joan finds herself attracted to rancher Gable in Chained (1934) at 3 am, while Gable is a Salvation Army preacher who saves troubled Joan from suicide in Laughing Sinners (1931) at 4:15. Finally, Joan runs after the wrong man for 20 years in 1934’s Forsaking All Others at 5:45 am. 

May 10: Today’s picks are After Office Hours (1935) at 8:45 am and They Met in Bombay (1941) at 1:45 pm. The latter teams Gable with Rosalind Russell, who is at her best here. Both films are really shown.

May 16: Three good Pre-Code Gables are on tap. First up at 11 pm, Gable lives it up with Mary Astor and Jean Harlow in Red Dust (1932). At 12:45 it’s one of Gable’s signature roles, that of Blackie in Manhattan Melodrama (1934), co-starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. Then, at 2:30 am con man Gable abuses Harlow, but hard-boiled Jean can’t help but love him in Hold Your Man (1933).

May 17: Besides Pre-Codes Men in White (1934) at 8 am and The Secret Six (1931) at 9:30 am (read our essay on it here), there is Parnell (1937) at 11:15 am. Parnell is a Must See, a train wreck of a film, with Gable vainly trying to emulate George Arliss as Irish statesman Charles Stewart Parnell. The story is that his co-star Myrna Loy was not originally slated for the film, but traded places with good friend Joan Crawford, who was badly burned the year before by critics for the costumer The Gorgeous Hussy. Wonder if Myrna ever forgave her. It’s a testament to Gable’s star power that he was able to rebound from this critical and box-office disaster. A lesser star would have been crushed like a bug underfoot.

May 24: The pick of the day is The Painted Desert (1931) at 6:45 am. It’s Gable’s first film and is important for just that reason. 

May 30: Recommended tonight are It Started in Naples (1960) with Sophia Loren at 8 pm; The Misfits (1961), Gable’s last film. (He died from a heart attack two days after the picture wrapped.) And at 2:30 am, Gable, Burt Lancaster and Don Rickles chase Japanese submarines in Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) at 2:30 am. Always worth a view.

Richard Burton 

Stardust: TCM’s March Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

The Star of the Month for March is Richard Burton, one of the most talented — and tragic – actors ever to appear on stage and in film. 

Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins, Jr. in the Welsh village of Pontrhydyfen, Neath Port Talbot, on November 10, 1925. He was the 12th of 13 children born to Richard Jenkins, Sr, a coal miner, and Edith Maude Jenkins, who worked as a bartender. His mother died when he was barely two years old and he was raised by an older sister and brother at home. He excelled in athletics, especially rugby, for which he had a passion. He was also the first in his family to attend secondary school, though he dropped out in 1941 to help out the family by working in the mines. 

During the war, he served in the Port Talbot Squadron 499 of the Air Training Corps. He also joined the Taibach Youth Center, a youth drama group founded by Meredith Jones. It was led by steel worker and avid amateur thespian Leo Lloyd, who taught Richard the fundamentals of acting. As both Jones and Lloyd saw the latent talent in young Richard they encouraged him to return to school, and with the tutoring help of schoolmaster Philip Burton, whom Richard had known since youth, he passed the exams. In 1943, Philip became Richard’s legal ward and Richard changed his surname to Burton. Also that year Philip petitioned for Richard to enter Exeter College, Oxford as part of a 6-month RAF scholarship program for qualified cadets prior to active service.

While at Exeter, Richard was featured as Angelo in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Among those who caught his performance were John Gielgud, Terence Rattigan, and producer Binkie Beaumont. After his discharge from the RAF in 1947 he came to London and looked up Beaumont, who put him under contract. Over the next few years Burton took the London stage by storm, leading critics to label him “the next Laurence Olivier.” He starred as Prince Hal in Anthony Quayle’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 as part of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. While the play received mixed reviews, Burton received raves. 

Producer Alexander Korda signed him to a film contract, then lent him to 20th Century Fox for three films. His first film was the 1952 Gothic romance drama, My Cousin Rachel, with Olivia de Havilland. He followed that with The Desert Rats and The Robe (both 1953). He signed a contract extension with Fox for seven years and seven films and returned to England, where played Hamlet at the Old Vic. He spent the rest of the decade moving back and forth between the stage and the silver screen. Offscreen he had married fellow actor Sybil Williams in 1949, and they had two daughters, Kate and Jessica. His marriage to Sylvia fell apart when he began working with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Richard divorced Sybil, Elizabeth divorced Eddie Fisher, and the two married in  1964, becoming Hollywood’s most dynamic acting couple. Burton and Taylor’s marriage was stormy, fueled in part by Burton’s out-of-control alcoholism (he was reputed to have polished off five bottles of whiskey or vodka a day). They divorced in 1974, but remarried in 1975, though the remarriage lasted less than a year. He married actress Susan Hunt in 1976. That union lasted until 1982. His last marriage was to Sally Hay, which lasted from July 3, 1983, until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage on August 5, 1984.

Over time his heavy drinking affected the quality of his work and the quality of the films in which he appeared. TCM is devoting the evening from March 6-10 to Burton’s films. At this end we are quite disappointed that some of his more celebrated turkeys, such as The Exorcist, Part II (which has aired here before), Hammersmith Is OutThe Klansman, or The Assassination of Trotsky are not being shown … but there’s always the future.

March 6: Recommended tonight are his first film, My Cousin Rachel (8 pm), The Desert Rats (11:45 pm), and The Robe (3:15 am). Offscreen on My Cousin Rachel, he and Olivia de Havilland had a rather contentious relationship. She couldn’t stand him. The Desert Rats is an excellent war film about Rommel’s siege of Tobruk, with James Mason reprising his role of Rommel. And The Robe is a decent film about the aftermath of the crucifixion of Christ. Burton is a Roman officer who converts to Christianity, Jay Robinson gives a way over-the-top performance as Caligula, and Victor Mature just can’t act.

March 7: Anne Of The Thousand Days (10:15 pm) is a well-acted and scripted film about the ill-fated Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold), whose main mistake was to marry Henry VIII (Burton). Burton is fine, although Bujold steals the film. Look Back in Anger (1 am) is lauded as the first of the “kitchen-sink” dramas with Burton excellent as the embittered part-time trumpeter Jimmy Porter, Mary Ure as his wife, and Claire Bloom as the other woman in their lives. Written by playwright John Osbourne of Britain’s famous “Angry Young Men” of the late ‘50s. The film sparkles with great acting and bristling dialogue. For those who haven’t yet seen this gem, please do so. Record it, for you will want to savor its richness of performance later. Finally, there’s Alexander the Great (5 am) with Burton as the Macedonian conquerer, Frederic March as his father, Philip, and Barry Jones as his teacher, Aristotle. Excellent acting, but it lacks that epic sweep. However, it is better than the monstrosity Oliver Stone later gave us.

March 8: Start with Cleopatra at 8 pm, if only to see Liz and Dick in action. It’s terrible, but compulsive viewing. Next up is The Taming of the Shrew (12:15 am), a lively entry directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Finally, it’s that dull bomb, Doctor Faustus (2:30 am), which shows just how bad it can be when Liz and Dick walk through a film.

March 9: Liz and Dick go the slob route in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff? (8 pm). Who knew at the time that it mirrored their private lives? Neither David or I care for this overblown stinker, but if you do, why not drop us a line and tell us where we’re wrong? We’d greatly appreciate it. The V.I.P.S. is a rather constricted film about wealthy passengers stranded in Heathrow Airport who all have personal hurdles to clear. The Sandpiper (12:45 am) is one of the great train wrecks, with Liz and Dick spitting out howler after howler. Finally, the evening ends with The Comedians (3 am), an uninspired attempt to realize Graham Greene’s novel about political intrigue in Haiti, despite some good performances from the stars.

March 10: Begin with Where Eagles Dare (8 pm), a lively war drama with Burton and Clint Eastwood out to rescue an Allied general being held in a fortified mountain castle by the Nazis. Staircase (10:45 pm) is an absolute hoot, with Burton and Rex Harrison playing two old homosexuals, unintentionally funny. Villain (12:30 am is a fine crime drama with Burton as a paranoid crime lord who thinks everyone ales is a potential stool pidgeon. Ian McShane co-stars. Finally, Equus (2:15 am) is an awful adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s awful play with Burton as a tortured psychiatrist called in a treat a sexually repressed young man (Peter Firth) accused of a terrible act of animal cruelty. (He blinded six race horses who had supposedly witnessed his part in a clandestine sexual act in a stable.) Investigating, Burton’s doctor traces the boy’s repressive act to a family clash between his anti-religious father (Colin Blakely) and his very devout mother (Joan Plowright). The lad has transformed his mother’s Christ worship into one of horses. Oh, Brother. It might have been passable somewhat if not for all the acting that goes on, with long soliloquies and other meaningful readings of lines. Avoid if you can and are an animal lover.

John Hurt: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

"I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"

Character actor John Hurt, best known for roles in The Elephant Man and who enjoyed cult status as the first victim in Alien, died on January 25 at the age of 77. 

John Vincent Hurt was born on January 22, 1940, in Shirebrook, a coal mining town near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. His father, Arnold Herbert Hurt, was a mathematician who became of Church of England clergyman and served as vicar of St. Stephen’s Church in Woodville, south Derbyshire. His mother, Phyliss (Massey), was an amateur actress and engineer. 

When he was eight, Hurt was sent to the Anglican St. Michael’s Preparatory School in Otford, Kent, where he developed a passion for acting. His first role was that of a girl in a school production of The Bluebird. His parents didn’t think much of his chosen profession and encouraged him to become an art teacher instead. At 17, Hurt enrolled in Grimsby Art School and in 1959 won a scholarship at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, where he pursued an Art Teacher’s Diploma (ATD). In 1960 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts, where he trained for two years.

Hurt started out with small roles in television dramas. He made his film debut in Young and Willing (1962), playing the roommate of rebellious student Ian McShane. That same year, he appeared onstage at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Fred Watson’s Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger, a shocking play that ended with the gratuitous killing of a child by feeding him alcohol. 

Through the 1960s and early ’70s, Hurt’s appeared in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and The Dumb Waiter; Tom Stoppard’s Travesties; and opposite Nicol Williamson in John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence, all on the London stage.

After working mainly on television and the stage, he landed a role that brought him some attention, that of Richard Rich, an ambitious young man in pre-Elizabethan England who betrays Sir Thomas More (Paul Schofield) in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons. He earned a BAFTA nomination for playing Timothy Evans, a man hanged for murders committed by his landlord John Christie (Richard Attenborough) in 10 Rillington Place (1971). 

In 1975 he co-starred with Peter Cushing in The Ghoul. Later that year, in the TV play The Naked Civil Servant, his performance as flame-haired raconteur and social butterfly Quentin Crisp, whose outspoken gay flamboyance helped break down barriers to the acceptance of homosexuality in Britain, brought him to prominence and won him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. It also brought him to the attention of American audiences when the show became a hit in the States. In 2009 Hurt reprised the role in An Englishman in New York, a television movie that covers Crisp’s later years in New York.

The following year Hurt won widespread acclaim for his portrayal of Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial I, Claudius. In a 2002 documentary about the series, I Claudius: A Television Epic, Hurt revealed that he originally tuned the part down, but director Herbert Wise invited him to a special pre-production party in the hopes it would change his mind. He was so impressed when he met the rest of the cast and crew that he changed his mind and accepted the role.

In 1978 he played Max in Midnight Express, for which he won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award. He was also nominated for his first Oscar (Best Supporting Actor). Also in that year he lent his voice to Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings as Aragorn and also voiced the character of Hazel in the animated film adaptation of Richard Adams’s Watership Down. (In the 1999 Canadian television series of the book Hurt voiced the man villain, General Woundwort.)

In 1979 he appeared in a small role that later won him acclaim, that of Kane, who was the first victim of the title creature in the film Alien. (He would later reprise the role in Mel Brooks’s 1979 parody Spaceballs. As the little alien comes forth from his rib cage, he quietly wails, “Oh, no, not again.”)

He also appeared as Dostoevsky’s guilt tormented killer, Raskolnikov in the 1979 BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment, which was shown in the U.S. on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater.

In 1980 Hurt appeared in his best-known role, that of the deformed John Merrick in director David Lynch’s The Elephant Man. As Merrick he was unrecognizable as the monstrous-looking but gentle and civilized sufferer of a rare malady that enlarged his head, twisted his muscles and limited his speech and mobility. The role required seven to eight hours of makeup before each day’s filming and two hours to remove, but like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, Hurt’s superior acting ability enabled him not only to bring the character to life, but to endow him with sympathetic qualities. For this role he won a BAFTA and was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor, but lost both awards to the shapeshifting Robert DeNiro for his role in Raging Bull.  

Other major roles during this time included a starring role in Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend (1983), a wonderful turn as the Fool opposite Laurence Olivier’s king in Granada Television’s King Lear (1983), Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 (1984), the on-screen narrator in Jim Henson’s television series, The Storyteller (1988), and supporting roles as “Bird” O’Donnell in Jim Sheridan’s The Field (1990), and Buchanan in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990). 

In the 1990s Hurt’s theater career saw a resurgence. He appeared in London with Helen Mirren in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country. Later, at the Gate Theater in Dublin, he took on the title (and only) role in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, a portrait of a 69-year-old man revisiting his earlier life by means of listening to an old tape recording. It became a signature role for him as he performed it in London and appeared in a 2000 film version directed by Atom Egoyan. In 2011, at the age of 71 he reprised the role at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Returning to films, he starred as Stephen Ward, a English bon-vivant osteopath who is the friend and mentor of exotic dancer Christine Keeler in Scandal (1989), a film dramatization of the notorious Profumo affair that brought down the government of Harold Macmillan. In 1993 Hurt was the cross-dressing Countess in the adaptation of Tom Robbins’s novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993).

In 2001, he appeared in a film series that became de rigueur for English actors, the Harry Potter series. He played wand expert Mr. Ollivander in several of the films. 

Hurt’s other noted film roles include the almost unrecognizable Trevor Bruttenholm, the paranormal expert who discovers the young title demon in the sci-fi flick Hellboy (2004). He also starred in the role of Adam Sutler, leader of the Norsefire fascist dictatorship ruling Britain in V for Vendetta (2006). He was Professor Oxley, an archaeologist pal of the title character (Harrison Ford) in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). In 2011 he played the head of British intelligence, known only as Control, in John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the War Doctor in Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor (2013). One of his last roles was that of a Roman Catholic priest in Jackie (2016).

Hurt also finished four films set for release in 2017: That Good Night (in which he plays a terminally ill writer), Damascus CoverMy Name is Lenny, and a turn as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Darkest Hour.

His personal life was marred by frequent bouts with alcohol, which affected his life and work. In 1962 he married actress Annette Robinson. The marriage was a short one and ended in 1964. His longest relationship began in 1967, with French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, sister of fashion photographer Jean-Claude Volpeliere-Pierrot. They planned to marry after 15 years together, but on January 26, 1983, they went horseback riding near their house in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Volpeliere-Pierrot was thrown from her horse. Taken to the hospital, she slipped into a coma and died later that day. 

In September 1984, Hurt married American actress Donna Peacock at a local Register Office. The couple relocated to Kenya but divorced in January 1990. 

On January 24, 1990, Hurt married American production assistant Joan Dalton, who he had met while filming Scandal. With her, he had two sons. The marriage ended in 1996 and was followed by a seven-year relationship with Dublin-born presenter and writer Sarah Owens. The couple moved to County Wicklow, settling close to friends John Boorman and Claddagh Records founder and Guinness heir Garech Browne. The relationship lasted until July 2002, when the couple separated. 

In March 2005, Hurt married his fourth wife, advertising film producer Anwen Rees-Meyers. Finally realizing the deleterious effector alcohol on his relationships, he gave up drinking. He also quit smoking. The couple settled near Cromer, Norfolk. 

Hurt had also been active in the world of charity. In 2003, Hurt became a patron of the Proteus Syndrome Foundation (the condition that John Merrick suffered from), both in the United Kingdom and in the U.S. Since 2006, Hurt had been a patron of Project Harar, a British-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements. In March 2013 he was announced as patron of Norwich Cinema City. In September 2016, The John Hurt Centre was founded as an exhibition space at Cinema City.

Over the course of his career Hurt had accumulated a number of awards. Included among them are two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award, and four BAFTA Awards – the fourth being a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions to British cinema. 

In 2004, Hurt was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2012 he was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear on a new version of his most famous artwork – the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The purpose was to celebrate the British cultural figures that Blake most admired in his life. 

In 2014, Hurt, along with Stacey Keach and Dame Diana Rigg, received the Will Award, presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company. In 2015 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition for his contributions to British drama. 

On June 16, 2015, Hurt publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer. He said he would continue to work while undergoing treatment and said that both he and his medical team were "more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome.” On October 12, 2015, following treatment, Hurt stated that his cancer was in remission.

Hurt died at his home in Cromer Norfolk, on January 25, 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. In addition to his wife he is survived by sons Alexander and Nicholas.

In an interview for the New York Times Magazine Hurt summed up his philosophy of acting: “In front of the camera you try to do subtle, telling things and hope the director, and the camera, notices. You can feel when you pass something through the camera. The old Alan Ladd story is the best one in that respect. He came back from a long day of shooting out in the dusty Arizona desert and someone said, ‘Did you have a good day, Alan?’ In his soft rasp, he said, ‘Yup, a couple of good looks.’”

France's Grande Dame of Cinema

By Christine

When Michele Morgan passed away on December 20 in Meudon, at the age of 96, France lost one of its grande dames of cinema. Her death was announced by President François Hollande, who called her “a legend who made her mark on numerous generations.” 

She was often referred to as the woman with the most beautiful eyes in the world, an appellation she received from her 1938 film, Port of Shadows. Jean Gabin’s character tells her, “You have beautiful eyes, you know,” to which she replies, “Kiss me.” The film was very popular, and as a result, the phrase caught on.

She was already an actress of note when she fled the German Occupation to America. But she came back after the war and it was as if she had never been away. Picking up almost right where she left off, she won the best actress award at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946 for her role in Andre Gide’s drama, La Symphonie Pastorale, directed by Jean Delannoy, for whom she worked frequently over the years.

I once interviewed the lovely Michele back ago more years that I care to remember. I was just a young tyro at the time, looking to make a niche for myself and she was so taken with my persistence and forthrightness that she agreed to sit down and share some of her time. We talked of many things, but what I remember most was her rather bitter memories of her stay in Hollywood during World War II. 

They (Hollywood) stifled me artistically. Their idea of handling an actor was to try to make me look just like everyone else. After Joan of Paris I thought maybe I could be a star; maybe it would lead to bigger things, but they couldn’t even be bothered to photograph me correctly.”

Michele continued. “Another thing that bothered me was their idea of a working day. A 15- or 16-hour day was considered normal there. I didn’t know how long the war was going to last, so I bit my tongue and did as I was told.”

While in America, Michele met and married her first husband, William Marshall, a band leader and later an actor and director. “We had only known each other for just about a month,” she said. “To this day I don’t know why I married him. I was very lonely when I came to America, torn away from the country where I was raised. He turned out to be nothing like the man I married. It was like living under a dictator, and after he was injured in the war, he only got worse. He called me ‘Mike’ because he couldn’t pronounce ‘Michele’ and he didn’t like France. So why did he marry a Frenchwoman? The only good thing that came out of it was my son Mike.” 

They had a very acrimonious divorce in 1949. “At the time I was having an affair with Henri Vidal, who I later married, he was having an affair with my friend Micheline Presle. He knew I wanted custody of Mike and had a private detective follow us. He eventually got his incriminating shot, and as I had no evidence of his adultery, he was awarded custody of my son. When he later married Micheline they lived in Paris and I could see my son on a regular basis. But then he moved back to America and it became harder and harder to see my son. Only after he finished his studies was I able to spend time with him.”

We spoke for quite a while. She told me that as she was unsure how long the war would last she decided to build a home in Los Angeles to remind her of France. Built in the style of a 19th century French farmhouse in the Benedict Canyon section of Los Angeles, it didn’t quite bring her the happiness she hoped for, whether with her marriage or her career. Years later it become infamous as the house were Sharon Tate and four others were brutally murdered by Charles Manson in 1969. 

She still shivered at the thought of the house. “It was somewhat isolated from the other homes in the area and had an eerie effect on me. Perhaps it was from staying there alone, but I frequently hard some strange noises. To keep myself company I hired a few maids, but they were of no help whatsoever. Good help was very difficult to find during the war, and when these people weren’t getting drunk they were sealing my jewelry and whatever else they could find. I was better off without them."

Once I married, he demanded I sell the place and move in with him. According to his family, a man loses honor if he moves into the woman’s place. So I sold the house, which was not a bad thing. Years later, when I read of the murders there, I knew I did the right thing. I think that place was cursed from the beginning.” 

She was born Simone Renée Roussel in Neuilly-sur-Seine (now Hauts-sur-Seine), a well-to-do suburb of Paris, on February 29, 1920. Her father was an executive at a fragrance company who lost his job after the Crash of 1929. He moved the family north, to Dieppe in Normandy, where Michele grew up. She began to attend stage shows at the Dieppe Casino and became so enamored with the idea of acting that she left home at the age of 15 with her brother Paul. They went to Paris, where she was determined to become an actress, taking acting lessons while working as an extra in several films to pay for her classes and rent. Her film debut was as an extra in Meet Miss Mozart (1936), a comedy starring Danielle Darrieux. It was then that she adopted the stage name of "Michèle Morgan,” reasoning that she didn’t look like a Simone, and that "Morgan" sounded more Hollywood-friendly and easy to pronounce the world over. “Morgan” came from the Morgan Bank in Paris.

Her breakthrough came in the film Gribouille (Heart of Paris, 1937), directed by Marc Allegret. Morgan plays Natalie Rouguin, a young girl on trial in the accidental death of her rich boyfriend. It looks bad for her, but one juror convinces the others to acquit after new evidence is discovered and she is released. Now free, she cannot find work of any kind and the juror who convinced the rest of her innocence takes her in, where she falls in love with his son. Hollywood remade it in 1940 as The Lady in Question with Brian Aherne, Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. Shortly after, she co-starred with Jean Gabin in Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows, 1938), about an army deserter and a teenage runaway directed by Marcel Carne;  Orage (Storm, 1938), with Charles Boyer; and Remorques (Stormy Waters, 1941) directed by Jean Gremillon.

During the filming of Port of Shadows, there was an incident between her co-stars Pierre Brasseur and Jean Gabin. At a cast dinner, Brasseur made several off-color and inappropriate remarks to Michele, which bothered Gabin. The next day, Brasseur apologized to Michèle and brought her flowers. However, later that day he had to shoot a scene where his character, Lucien, gets punched in the face by Gabin's protagonist, Jean. But instead of faking the punch, Gabin hit Brasseur full force, knocking him over. Brasseur know what it was for and said nothing. Ironically, the scene was later noted by critics, who lauded its “realistic feeling.”

When the Germans conquered France in 1940, Morgan fled to the United States and RKO, with whom she signed a contract while still in France. Her career started off well with Joan of Paris (1942), with Paul Henreid and Thomas Mitchell before being loaned to Universal for Two Tickets to London (1943) with Alan Curtis. She returned to RKO to make Higher and Higher (1943) with Frank Sinatra and Jack Haley, a film that did not do well either commercially or critically. From here on it was all downhill. She tested and was strongly considered for the role of Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, but RKO balked at the compensation Warners was offering and she was replaced by Ingrid Bergman. She would eventually work with Bogart in Passage to Marseille (1944), her next to last film in America. In 1945, she filmed The Chase, a film noir with Robert Cummings, for independent producers Nero Films, before returning to France.

She told me she wasn’t happy with any of the films she made in America, but nothing could compare with her experience filming Passage to Marseille.

That was my worst time in Hollywood. The director (Michael Curtiz) was the worst I ever worked with. All he did was belittle me. He offered no support. And apart from (Peter) Lorre, I received no help or support from my co-stars. I really can’t blame Humphrey Bogart, though. He had his own problems. I think he was going through hell, which is why I couldn’t blame him when he left his wife for Lauren Bacall.”

She was warmly welcomed back in Paris and immediately began working in La Symphonie Pastorale, where she played Gertrude, a young blind woman adopted by Jean Martens (Pierre Blanchar), a Swiss minister who raises her with his own four children. But as time passes and Gertrude grows into a very beautiful young woman, Martens finds himself falling in love with her. He refuses to admit this turn of events to himself and later fools his conscience by interpreting the Scriptures to his advantage. However, once she regains her eyesight in an operation she soon sees for herself how sin has corrupted the minister’s soul and decides to take her own life in shame. Though highly praised upon its release, both the film and its director came under heavy criticism from Francois Truffaut in Cahiers du Cinema among others and is now regarded as hopelessly dated and maudlin.

Morgan’s next film, The Fallen Idol (1948), with Ralph Richardson was notable as the straw that broke the back of her marriage to Marshall. While shooting in London, Michele and Marshall were staying at the Savoy Hotel. One day they ran into her good friend Micheline Presle, who was staying there before a trip to America. “I remember remarking to him about how beautiful Micheline looked,” she told me. “He told me he had already noticed that. I was too dumb to pick up on what was going on between them. He married her right after we were divorced. For someone who told me how he despised France and the French, he spent a lot of time here and married a few of our citizens. I didn’t bear Micheline any ill will. I thanked her for taking him off my hands. The only error I made was in not hiring a detective to follow him. Maybe if I had I would have gotten custody, but, frankly, I never expected him to sink that low.”

For her part, Michele married actor Henri Vidal (The DamnedThe Gates of Paris) in 1950. They remained married until his death in 1959. “Henri was very, very handsome,” Michele said. “He had the world at his feet, but he couldn’t overcome his demons. As a teenager, he was introduced to drugs and he could never kick the habit. I think in the time we were married he went to rehab about a dozen times. The drugs definitely affected him for the worse. He was jealous of whoever I was working with and believed I was having an affair. I remember working on a film with Jean Gabin (The Moment of Truth, 1952) early in our marriage. He was jealous, intensely jealous, of Jean and would show up on the set looking for me. (He knew Michele had a brief affair with Gabin while filming Coral Reefs in 1939.) God help me if I wasn’t on stage or in my dressing room. I used to tell him the drugs were killing him and that he would die early. I wasn’t surprised when his heart gave out at the age of 40.” 

Other notable films from the  late ‘40s and ‘50s include Fabiola (1949), The Proud and the Beautiful (1953), Les Grandes Maneuvers (1955, directed by Rene Clair) and Marie-Antoinette reine de France (Shadow of the Guillotine, 1956).   

In 1960, she married director, actor and writer Gerard Oury. Though they stayed married until his death in 2006 they lived in different domiciles. During the decade her career lost momentum, the main reason being the dominance of the French New Wave and its cutting of ties with classic French cinema and its stars in favor of discovering new faces. Truffaut had been a critic of her work since his days as a reviewer for Cahiers du Cinema. The only New Wave director she worked for was Claude Chabrol as a victim of Charles Denner’s murderous title character in Landru (Bluebeard, 1963), a faithful account of the notorious Henri Desire Landru, who murdered and dismembered more than 10 women during World War I. It had been previously adapted by Charlie Chaplin as Monsieur Verdoux in 1947. Michele’s character,  Celestine Buisson, is one of his victims. 

After appearing in movies of little interest for most of the decade, Michèle eventually decided to concentrate on other interests, such as painting, and limited her roles to occasional appearances over the following years. She made her stage stage debut in 1978 in Francoise Dorin’s Le Tout pour le tout (All For All).

Her final screen role was in La Rivale (1999), a film about love and age made for French television. 

But she kept busy nonetheless. Her art brought her a new world of fame and she he had a solo exhibition March 2 to April 30, 2009, at the Espace Cardin in Paris. She also presided over and served on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1977, she released her autobiography, With These Eyes, and founded her own tie label called “Cravates Michèle Morgan.”

Over the years Michele earned her share of awards. She was awarded the "Victoire du cinéma Français" for Best Actress in 1954, 1955 and 1956. In 1954, she won the “Triomphe du Cinéma” for her performance in The Proud and the BeautifulCinérevue magazine awarded her the prize for Most Popular actress in 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. In 1960, she was made a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 1967, she received the “Médaille de vermeil de la Ville de Paris” (Paris Vermeil Medal). In 1969, she was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, raised to Officer in 1994, to Grand Officer in 2009, and received the Grand-Croix in 2013. In 1975, she was made an Officer of the French National Order of Merit.

In 1992, she was given an honorary Cesar Award for her contributions to French cinema. In 1996, the Venice Film Festival awarded her the Career Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. And last, but not least, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1645 Vine Street).

Sadly, her son Mike died in 2005. He worked as an actor in both the United States and France, having been bitten by the acting bug when Michele brought him on the set of her film, The Grand Manuever. She is survived by several grandchildren. Her funeral was held at the Église Saint-Pierre in Neuilly-sur-Seine on December 23, 2016, and she was buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery. 

Jane Wyman 

Stardust: TCM’s January Star of the Month

By The Editors

TCM’s Star of the Month for January is Jane Wyman. Many people who still remember her today know her for being married to Ronald Reagan or for her long run on the TV soap Falcon Crest. Yet, she was a great actress who won the Oscar for her starring role in Johnny Belinda (1948) and also won three Golden Globes over her long career.

She was born Sarah Jane Mayfield on January 5, 1917, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Her father was a laborer for a meal company and her mother a stenographer and office assistant. Her mother filed for divorce in October 1921 and her father died unexpectedly the following year at age 27. After her father passed away, her mother moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and left young Sarah with foster parents, Emma and Richard D. Fulks. (Richard was the chief of detectives in Saint Joseph.) She adopted their surname, using it for her school records and her first marriage certificate. She attended Lafayette High School in St. Joseph, dropping out in 1932 at the age of 15.

She moved to Hollywood that year, supporting herself as a manicurist and switchboard operator before landing small uncredited parts in films. She was a “Goldwyn Girl” in The Kid from Spain (1932), a gold digger in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), a socialite in My Man Godfrey (1936), and a chorus girl in Cain and Mabel (1936). After taking the surname of her first husband and changing her name to Jane Wyman, she signed with Warner Bros. in 1936 as a contract player. Her first credited role came as Dixie the hat check girl in Smart Blonde (1937).

After years as a supporting player, she won notice for her role in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945). She received an Oscar nomination for The Yearling (1946), and as noted above, won the Best Actress statuette for Johnny Belinda (1948). Other notable films included Stage Fright (1950), The Glass Menagerie (1950), The Story of Will Rogers (1952), So Big (1953), Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Lucy Gallant (1955). Her last film was How To Commit Marriage (1969).

She also did quite a lot of television, beginning in the ‘50s. Her first guest-starring role was on General Electric Theater (1955), ironically, hosted by ex-husband Ronald Reagan. In 1957, she hosted the anthology series, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theater. Later she hosted The Bell Telephone Hour and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater. She went into semi-retirement in the ‘70s, appearing on only a few shows. In spring 1981, Wyman was cast as the scheming vintner and matriarch Angela Channing in The Vintage Years, which was reconfigured as the primetime soap opera, Falcon Crest (1981-1990).

Angela Channing revitalized Wyman’s career. She was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award five times (Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role and for Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Serial), and was also nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1983 and 1984, winning in 1984 for (Best Performance By an Actress in a TV Series). Over the years, health problems cut back her appearances, and in the ninth and final season, she was written out of the series as comatose in a hospital bed following an attempted murder.

After Falcon Crest, Wyman only had one more screen appearance as Jane Seymour’s mother in an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993). She then retired totally from acting, having appeared in 83 movies and nominated four times for an Academy Award (The YearlingJohnny BelindaThe Blue Veil, and Magnificent Obsession). She won the Golden Globe for Johnny Belinda and The Blue Veil. She was also nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (1957 and 1959).

She was married five times: to Ernest Eugene Wyman (April 8, 1933, to sometime in 1935), New Orleans dress manufacturer Arthur Futterman (June 29, 1937, to December 5, 1938), Ronald Reagan (January 26, 1940, to June 28, 1948), and twice to Hollywood music director and composer Frederick M. Karger (November 1, 1952, to December 7, 1954, and March 11, 1961, to March 9, 1965).

She died in her sleep from natural causes at her Rancho Mirage home on September 10, 2007. Because she was a lay tertiary (associate) of the Dominican Order, she was allowed to be buried in a nun's habit.

Wyman Essentials

January 5: Let’s begin at 8 pm with Public Wedding (1937). It was her first starring role and, as such, is an Essential. William Hopper, future psychotronic star who won fame for his role as investigator Paul Drake on the popular Perry Mason show from the ‘50s and ‘60s, was the son of powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

At 10: 30 pm, it’s Brother Rat (1938), a harmless comedy about a VMI cadet (Eddie Albert) whose secret marriage to girlfriend Kate Rice (Jane Bryan) is about to become public with the news that she is pregnant. Priscilla Lane and Wayne Morris are the stars, but this is more of an ensemble piece. Wyman has a supporting role as Claire Adams, a friend of Lane who is set up on a blind date with Dan Crawford (Ronald Reagan). Things proceed from there. This is the movie where Jane met Ronnie and off-set sparks began to fly.

January 12: A bumper night of Wyman, beginning at 8 pm with her Oscar-winning turn in Johnny Belinda (1948). As the deaf-mute farm girl Belinda, Wyman gives one of the most sensitive performances on film. This was the first time in the Sound Era that an actress won the Oscar for playing a character who doesn’t speak. Co-star Lew Ayres, as Dr. Robert Richardson, teaches Belinda sign language and lip reading, and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.

At 10 pm, it Wyman in her Oscar-nominated role in The Yearling (1946) as Orry Baxter, mother of Jody (Claude Jarman, Jr.), whose pet deer threatens the family farm. Co-star Gregory Pack, as the family’s father, Penny, received a nomination for Best Actor.

Following at 12:15 am is Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945), a groundbreaking film that deals with the problem of alcoholism. Ray Milland is struggling writer Don Birnam, a talented man who takes solace for his lack of self-confidence by crawling into the bottle. Wyman is his girlfriend, Helen McBride, who loves him and wants to save him from himself. Newcomer Lillian Fontaine, who plays Helen’s mother, was herself the real life mother of sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.

As evening becomes early morning, Wyman stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 Stage Fright as Eve Gill, an aspiring actress who goes undercover as a maid in order to flush out who committed the murder that Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) is wanted for by the police, as she believes him innocent. The movie is overlooked by many film buffs as a misfire, but I believe it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated movies. Part of its reputation may come from the fact that Wyman never really connected with Hitchcock, who admittedly cast her with box office on his mind, as she had recently won the Best Actress award. Years later, Hitchcock revealed to Francois Truffaut, in his book Hitchcock, that he had “great difficulties” with Wyman stemming from her disguise as a lady’s maid. In this disguise, she was supposed to look unattractive, but each time Wyman saw the rushes she burst into tears over how unglamorous she looked on film, while co-star Marlene Dietrich was the epitome of glam. In response, Wyman kept improving her makeup every day until she rivaled Dietrich, and for Hitchcock, that caused her to lose the character. Stage Fright was the last movie Hitchcock filmed in England until 1971, when he made Frenzy.

January 26: Two of Wyman’s most iconic films are showing back to back, beginning at 8 pm with Douglas Sirk’s slick soaper, Magnificent Obsession (1954). A remake of Universal’s 1935 hit with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (directed by John M. Stahl), Rock Hudson takes over Taylor’s role as spoiled playboy Bob Merrick, whose irresponsibility behind the wheel of his speedboat leads to a crash and a diversion of life-saving equipment that could have saved the life of heart attack victim Dr. Wayne Phillips, a man who has done much good in the community. At first churlish, Bob falls in love with Wayne’s widow, Helen (Wyman). He attempts to give her a check, but she turns it down. After another accident, this time in a car, Bob is led to the home of Wayne’s friend, artist Edward Randolph. There he learns Wayne’s philosophy of life from Ed – that people can access their source of power, and thus live out their true destinies, only by performing works of great generosity in private and without compensation. So Bob, under the influence of this “Magnificent Obsession,” begins to do just that. When he bumps into Helen, he announces his plan, but she runs away – and straight into the path of an oncoming car. A resulting blood clot leaves her blind. As she copes, he secretly supports her and goes to medical school, eventually becoming a neurosurgeon, helping his patients both in and out of the hospital. When he learns that Helen is in a coma he operates to remove the old blood clot, saving her life and restoring her eyesight. He also learns she’s in love with him and we have a happy ending. Unlike Stahl, who treats his material in a straightforward manner, Sirk directs with a wink and a nod, making the film into more of a morality play. Today, it’s considered an example of high camp. And, as the original made a star out of Robert Taylor, the remake made a star out of Rock Hudson.

Then, at 10 pm, it’s another Sirk soaper, All That Heaven Allows (1955), again with Rock and Jane in the leads. This time, Wyman is a lonely widow who falls for her younger, hunky gardner, played by Rock. Set in a conservative New England town, their relationship is something of a scandal and Wyman must choose between the hunk and social acceptance. For years the film was dismissed as a woman’s weeper, but the resurgence of interest in Sirk caused cinephiles to take another look, and it is now seen as a beautifully stylized film with a sharp social critique. See it for yourself and decide on whether or not you agree.

Unexpected Pleasures

Two films made before Wyman became an acknowledges star merit our attention. 

January 6: At 7:00 am, it’s a lively little B, Private Detective (1939), with Dick Foran as a homicide detective who must reluctantly team with private eye Jane Wyman to solve the murder of a millionaire. Foran finds himself constantly upstaged by the wise-cracking Wyman is what is really a retooling of the Torchy Blaine series, However, the snappy dialogue and fast pacing make for enjoyable viewing.

January 19: At midnight comes one of the most enjoyable comedies from Warner Bros., Larceny, Inc. (1942) Edward G. Robinson is marvelous as J. Chalmers “Pressure” Maxwell, a recently released convict who finds he needs $25,000 to go into business. As the bank won’t lend him the necessary capital, Maxwell, decides on a scheme to break into the bank’s vault. He buys the failing luggage store next to the bank and plans to tunnel into the bank from his basement. Robinson has everything going for him: business is terrible and the street outside has been under construction seemingly forever. However, everything goes wrong, as customers begin pouring in and his fellow merchants elect him as their spokesman. His half-hearted plea to the city on their behalf to fix the street unexpectedly gets action. It seems that no matter what he does he succeeds. Wyman is his adopted daughter, Denny Costello, who falls for charming luggage salesman Jack Carson. Broderick Crawford and Edward Brophy shine as Robinson’s underlings, and Anthony Quinn is Leo, the guy with the original plan to break into the bank, which was turned down by Robinson. When he learns what Eddie G. and his cohorts are up to, he breaks out of jail to collect his cut. Director Lloyd Bacon does an admirable job of keeping everything in play and he is helped with a sharp script from Everett Freeman and Edwin Gilbert. The whole thing was based on the Broadway farce, The Night Before Christmas by S.J. and Laura Perelman.

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

There’s an old adage the death comes in threes, but this time it more poignantly came in a dual setting. They couldn’t live without each other and they couldn’t die without each other.

Carrie Fisher, forever immortal for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died at the age of 60 on December 27, four days after experiencing a serious medical emergency on a flight from London to New York. 

On December 28, she was followed to heaven by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who succumbed to a stroke at age of 84. Reynolds had been discussing funeral plans for Fisher when she died.

Look up the word “trouper” in the dictionary and you will likely see Debbie Reynolds’ picture below it. She embodied the word. 

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas. Her father, Ray, was a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad and her mother, Maxene, was a homemaker who took in laundry to help make ends meet. 

With the promise of a better job, her father moved the family to California when Mary Frances was 7. She dreamed of going to college and becoming a gym teacher, but her career plans changed radically when she was named Miss Burbank 1948 with an act in which she impersonated Betty Hutton. Her reason for entering the contest was because everyone who entered received a silk scarf, blouse and free lunch. Two of the judges were movie-studio scouts, and she was soon under contract to Warner Bros., which changed her name to “Debbie Reynolds.” 

Although she wanted to be in show business, the family’s church, the Nazarene Baptists, forbade acting and considered movies sinful. However, her father saw her talent and gave his support, seeing it as a means of paying her college costs. Her mother then gave her support knowing that there would be no "evil" going on in her movies.

Her first film was an uncredited role in Warner Bros.’ 1948 comedy, June Bride, starring Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery. The studio dropped her option after six months and she signed with MGM.

In 1950, she made her debut with MGM in the musical comedy The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady, which starred June Haver and Gordon MacRae, as Maureen O’Grady. That same year, she played Helen Kane, the 1920s singer known as the boop-boop-a-doop girl, in Three Little Words and also appeared in Two Weeks With Love as Melba Robinson. In the movie she she sang “Aba Daba Honeymoon” with Carleton Carpenter. The song became a huge novelty hit.

Her breakthrough role came in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, a musical about how talkies put the silent movie out of business. She played Kathy Selden, a chorus girl who is hired to provide the voice for Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), the self-important co-star of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), with whom she falls in love.

Her roles reflected the current attitudes toward love, marriage and family. In 1953, she was the girl friend of Bobby Van in the musical comedy The Affairs of Dobie Gillis. In The Tender Trap (1955), she played a marriage-minded young woman opposite Frank Sinatra. In 1956, she starred as the daughter of Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine in Paddy Chayefsky’s The Catered Affair, about a poor working-class couple scraping to afford a decent wedding for their daughter. Later that year she starred with new husband Eddie Fisher in Bundle of Joy, a musical remake of the 1939 Ginger Rogers-David Niven comedy Bachelor Mother. And in the smash hit Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), she played the daughter of a moonshiner from the Louisiana swamps who falls in love with unconventional Southern gentleman Leslie Nielsen. The film’s theme song, “Tammy,” sung by Reynolds, gave her a second smash hit single (five weeks at No. 1). She also had begun appearing on TV, and was a semi-regular on The Eddie Fisher Show (NBC, 1953-57).

But it was her off-screen role with Fisher that made the headlines. In 1955, Reynolds married Fisher, a boyish singer known for his hits “Oh! My Pa-Pa” and “I’m Walking Behind You.” The young couple were quickly embraced by fan magazines and promoted as second only to Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh as America’s sweethearts. She and Fisher had two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher. Their best friends were producer Mike Todd and his new wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Trouble for the Fisher-Reynolds union began when Todd died in a private-plane crash in 1958. The Fishers immediately rushed to comfort the young widow. But Eddie Fisher’s comforting turned into a very public extramarital affair. The result was that Fisher and Reynolds divorced the next year with Fisher marrying Taylor weeks later. Their marriage lasted five years, with Taylor leaving Fisher for Richard Burton, whom she had met in Rome on the set of Cleopatra (1963).

Looking back in an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times almost 40 years later, Reynolds said that Taylor, “Probably she did me a great favor.” In Debbie: My Life, her 1988 autobiography, she described a marriage that was unhappy from the beginning, as nothing she did ever pleased her husband.

While Fisher’s career went into decline, Reynolds, now a single mother of two, rode the waves of a public sympathy that went well with her wholesome screen persona, ranking as one of the top 10 box-office stars in both 1959 and 1960.

Her film choices were mainly lighthearted romantic comedies, such as The Gazebo (1959), Say One for Me (1959), The Pleasure of His Company (1961), and The Second Time Around (1961). She broke this string when she appeared in the epic Western drama, How the West Was Won, in 1963. 

Her career peaked with the smash hit The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1964, a Western musical based on a true rags-to-riches story that was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Reynolds’ only nomination – for Best Actress. Other hit films from the ‘60s included The Singing Nun (1966), and Divorce, American Style (1967).

But as the Code began to crumble and movies became closer to real life – or, more to the point, real-ish, infused with and taking on social politics – the less that the buoyancy and breezy virtue epitomized by Reynolds seemed relevant.

In 1971, she tried to adapt to the new sensibility by starring in a train wreck with Shelley Winters called What’s the Matter with Helen?, a take on the classic battle of the hags film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? It was her only live action film of the decade. She managed to redeem herself by supplying the voice of the spider Charlotte in the classic animation, Charlotte’s Web (1973).

Reading the handwriting on the wall, Reynolds turned to television, beginning in 1969 with the ill-fated Debbie Reynolds Show. A sitcom in the I Love Lucy vein with Debbie as a wacky wife who wanted to be a journalist like her husband, it lasted only one season, more for its off-screen drama rather than the quality of its on-screen comedy. Reynolds, a vociferous non-smoker, complained long and loud to NBC about cigarette commercials during the show. NBC became so fed up it pulled the plug after one season.

At a stage in life where other could afford to take it easy, Reynolds was forced to the road after her second marriage to shoe magnate Harry Karl, whom she married in 1960, collapsed in 1973. By the time they divorced, he had gambled away or otherwise misspent his fortune and hers, forcing Reynolds to set out to re-establish herself financially.

She began to play Las Vegas, and in 1973, turned to Broadway and became a star all over again in the smash revival of the old musical chestnut Irene, for which she received a Tony nomination for best actress in a musical. In 1975, she played in a revue at the London Palladium. In 1976, she starred in a short-lived one-woman Broadway show, Debbie. Her last Broadway appearance was in 1983, when she took over the role originated by Lauren Bacall in the musical version of Woman of the Year. She adapted her formidable talent into a lively nightclub act that kept her in demand for the next 20 years, including touring the country with stage shows including Annie Get Your Gun and a new version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

During the ‘80s she also guest-starred on a number of television shows and starred in the short-lived Aloha Paradise (ABC, 1981) – a Fantasy Island/Love Boat rip-off with Reynolds as a female Ricardo Montalban – and starred as a cop whose partner was her son in the TV-movie, Sadie and Son (CBS, 1987).

Already a fixture in Las Vegas during the ’70s and ’80s, she and her third husband, Richard Hamlett, a Virginia real estate developer to whom she was married from 1984 to 1996, established their own hotel, casino and movie-memorabilia museum there, trying to cash in on the boom of nostalgia for the heyday of the studios with a collection packed with memorabilia she had obtained for decades. The largest collection of its kind in the world, Reynolds' memorabilia included over 40,000 costumes, including Dorothy's ruby slippers and the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in her infamous 1952 Life magazine photo spread. To keep there enterprise afloat, Reynolds performed constantly at her hotel's nightclub. But the financial problems were too much to overcome, and the property had to be sold in the ’90s.

Reynolds kept searching for a permanent home for her memorabilia collection. At one point it looked as if she would finally find one in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the home of Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood. But that fell through, and in 2011, a large portion of her collection was auctioned at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. Over the course of two sales, the first in June and the second in December, it took in a little more than $25 million, including $4.6 million for the dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the famous subway-grate scene in The Seven Year Itch

As daughter Carrie Fisher shot to stardom as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series and wrote semi-autobiographical novels, Reynolds for a while became better known as her mother rather than as an actress or singer.  

In 1996, Reynolds made a big-screen comeback as Albert Brooks’ often-clueless yet admirably self-possessed widowed mother in Mother. Her beautifully underplayed comic performance won her a Golden Globe nomination. 

The next year, she played Kevin Kline’s mother in the sexual-identity film comedy In & Out. And from 1999 to 2006, she played Bobbi Adler, Debra Messing’s sociable and uninhibited mother (who had a tendency to burst into show tunes) in the sitcom Will & Grace. To millennials, she is remembered as Aggie Cromwell, the beloved grandmother witch on the Disney Channel's Halloweentown movie series.

Reynolds continued working in both films and television into her late 70s. In 2013, she appeared as Liberace’s strong-willed mother, Frances, in the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra, with Michael Douglas as Liberace. She appeared in a 2016 documentary called Rip Rip, Hooray! about the life and career of comedian Rip Taylor, and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which was shown at the New York Film Festival in October 2016. Her son, Todd Fisher, also appears and is one of the producers. A documentary called Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age is slated for release in 2017. 

In her 2008 memoir, Wishful DrinkingCarrie Fisher often liked joked that while her mother was under anesthetic delivering her, her father fainted. “So when I arrived, I was virtually unattended! And I have been trying to make up for that fact ever since.” 

Carrie Frances Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, the first child of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Her parents divorced when she was a little over two, and her early years were spent traveling from movie set to movie set with mother Debbie and younger brother Todd. 

In 1973, she played a debutante in the Broadway musical Irene, which starred her mother, and also appeared in her mother’s Las Vegas nightclub act. In 1975, Carrie made her movie debut in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo, a satire of Nixon-era politics and the sexually driven future of Los Angeles. She played the precocious daughter of a wealthy woman (Lee Grant) having an affair with a promiscuous hairdresser (Warren Beatty). 

The next year found her competing in an audition with nearly two dozen other actresses (Cindy Williams, Amy Irving, Sissy Spacek and Jodie Foster among them) for the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ Star Wars. She won the part and the rest is history. Released in 1977, the movie turned her into an international movie star almost overnight, the first installment in a series whose characters lived “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Fisher established Princess Leia as a damsel who, while in distress, was never helpless. Her independence was seen in the way she faced down the villainy of Darth Vader. She had both the mettle to escape the clutches of the gangster Jabba the Hutt and the tender affection to tell Han Solo (as he is about to be frozen in carbonite) that she loved him.

She returned in three more films: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). In the last, she had become a battle-hardened general.

She had recently completed her work in an as-yet-untitled eighth episode of the main Star Wars saga, scheduled to be released in December 2017.

Off-screen, she was forthcoming about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which fueled her frequent bouts of depression and substance abuse, channeling these struggles into powerful comic works, including her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge, her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking (which later became a memoir), and The Princess Diarist.

Her substance abuse included such drugs as LSD, Percodan, and cocaine. After completing her role as April in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1985), she had nearly overdosed and had to have her stomach pumped. Afterward, she checked herself into a rehab program in Los Angeles. Those experiences later became the subject for her comic novel Postcards From the Edge, the chapters of which are variously presented as letters, diary entries, monologues and third-person narratives.

The other subject of the novel was her often fractious relationship with her mother. Postcards From the Edge portrayed Ms. Reynolds as a nonchalant, easygoing raconteur ill-suited for real life. The book was made into a movie in 1990, written by Fisher and directed by Mike Nichols, starring Meryl Streep as Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine as her movie-star mother.

Besides the movies motioned above, Fisher also appeared in The Blues Brothers (1980), The Man With One Red Shoe (1985), a segment in Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The ‘Burbs (1989), Drop Dead Fred (1991), Soapdish (1991), This Is My Life (1992), and Wonderland (2003), among others. She stole the movie as Meg Ryan’s best friend in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.

Turning to television, she parodied herself in Sex and the City and The Big Bang Theory. She also guest starred on A Nero Wolfe Mystery (A&E, 2002), 30 Rock (NBC, 2007), the British series Catastrophe (Channel 4, 2015), and was the voice of Angela on Family Guy (Fox, 2014-16).

Fisher’s personal life includes an engagement to Dan Ackroyd and a marriage to Paul Simon that lasted for about a year (his song, “Hearts and Bones,” is about her). In The Princess Diarist she finally reveled what many fans suspected – that during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she and Harrison Ford, who was married at the time, had an affair.

Survivors include her brother, Todd, daughter, Billie Lourd (from a relationship with the talent agent Bryan Lourd), and half-sisters, Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, the daughters of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens.

Gene Wilder: In Memoriam

A Little Nonsense Now and Then is Relished By the Wisest Men

By Ed Garea

Gene Wilder, the frizzy-haired comic star best known for his work with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, died August 29 at his home in Stamford, Conn., from Alzheimer's disease complications. He was 83. 

Twice Oscar nominated, for his role in “The Producers” and for writing “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks, Wilder was known in his films for playing a neurotic who frequently went from total hysteria to dewy-eyed tenderness, and back again, according to Variety. He told Time magazine in a 1970 interview, “My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria. After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

Wilder was the proverbial success story. He was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisc. His father, William J. Silberman, was a Russian Jewish immigrant who manufactured and sold novelty items like miniature beer and whiskey bottles. His mother, Jeanne (Baer), was diagnosed with rheumatic fever when Wilder was 8 years old. Her doctor told the young Wilder that if he directed anger toward his emotionally fragile mother, it might kill her. From the hours he spent trying to make her laugh, he developed an interest in theater. 

At the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting at the time, perform onstage. Totally fascinated by what he saw, he asked her teacher if he could become his student. The teacher replied that if he was still interested when he turned 13, he would take him on as a student. The day after he turned 13, Wilder called the teacher and was accepted. He studied under the teacher for two years. 

But when his mother felt that her son was not fully reaching his potential in Wisconsin, she sent him to Black-Foxe, a military school in Hollywood. His stay there was not a pleasant one; he was bullied and sexually assaulted, mainly because he was the only Jewish boy in the school. Wilder returned home and became involved with the local theater community, performing for the first time to a paying audience at age 15 as Balthasar in a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  

After graduating from Milwaukee’s Washington High School in 1951, Wilder continued his education at the University of Iowa, studying communications and theater arts. After graduating in 1955, he spent a year at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England, where, in addition to acting classes, he also took up fencing, winning the all-school fencing championship, according to Variety.

On September 10, 1956, Wilder was drafted into the Army, where he was assigned to the medical corps and sent to Fort Sam Houston for training. After training, he was given the opportunity to choose any post that was open. Wanting to stay near New York City to attend acting classes at Herbert Berghof’s HB Studio (and later at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg, where he studied “the Method”), he chose to serve as paramedic in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology in Phoenixville, Pa. 

In November 1957, his mother died from ovarian cancer. After his discharge from the Army, he returned to New York on a full-time scholarship from the HB Studio, supporting himself as a limo driver and fencing instructor. 

Feeling that Jerry Silberman did not have the right ring, he decided to adopt a stage name, and chose “Gene Wilder.” “Gene” from Thomas Wolfe’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel, and “Wilder” in honor of Thornton Wilder, whom he admired. 

Wilder made his professional debut in the Off-Broadway play Roots in 1961, followed by a stay on Broadway in Graham Greene’s comedy The Complaisant Lover, according to Variety. He won the Clarence Derwent Award as promising newcomer for this role. His performance in the 1963 production of Brecht’s Mother Courage with star Anne Bancroft was seen by her future husband Mel Brooks. A few months later, Brooks told Wilder that he was working on a screenplay called Springtime for Hitler, and Wilder would be perfect in the role of Leo Bloom. Brooks had Wilder promise him that he would check before making any long-term commitments.

Meanwhile, Wilder continued to work in the theater, acting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1963 and Dynamite Tonight and The White House in 1964. Afterward he understudied Alan Arkin and Gabriel Dell in Luv, eventually taking over the role. 

Wilder also worked in television, appearing in “The Sound of Hunting,” “The Interrogators,” and “Windfall” for The DuPont Show of the Week in 1962. In 1966, he appeared in the TV production of Death of a Salesman with Lee J. Cobb. He would later star in TV movies, including The Scarecrow (1972), Acts of Love and Other Comedies (1973), and Thursday’s Game (1974).

In 1967, Wilder made his film debut in a minor but memorable role as Eugene Grizzard in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). And after three years of not hearing from Brooks, Wilder was called to read with Zero Mostel, who had approval of his co-star in Brooks’ upcoming Springtime for Hitler. Wilder was cast as the neurotic accountant Leo Bloom in the feature film, now retitled The Producers (1967). His performance earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. 

He next starred in a dual role with Donald Sutherland in Bud Yorkin’s disappointing Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), a comedy set during the French Revolution, where he got a chance to display his fencing abilities. It was followed by another middling comedy, Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (also 1970).

In 1971, he auditioned for and won the role of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic that became one of his most beloved characters. Though the film was not an immediate hit, it has gained a cult following over the years, especially with children. It's a magic film filled with dream and nightmare scenarios. So many of Wilder's line still remain well known such as "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

Wilder followed this with a role in one segment of Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) in 1973. The film was a solid hit, with a domestic gross of $18 million against a $2 million budget.

After finishing filming, he began work on a script he called Young Frankenstein. After finishing a two-page scenario, he called Mel Brooks, who told him it sounded like “a cute idea,” but otherwise showed little interest. Meanwhile, Wilder was offered the part of The Fox in Stanley Donen’s musical adaptation of Saint Exupery’s classic The Little Prince. But right before filming was to begin in London, Wilder received an emergency call from Mel Brooks, who needed someone to play The Waco Kid in his Western parody, Blazing Saddles, after Dan Dailey dropped out at the last moment and Gig Young had to be hospitalized during filming. After the picture finished, Wilder returned to London and filmed The Little Prince.

After Blazing Saddles became a huge hit, Wilder and Brooks began co-writing Young Frankenstein. Wilder always defined his role with Brooks as to “make him more subtle, while his job was to make me more broad.” But there was an instance were Wilder was the Brooks-type and Brooks the Wilder-type while writing the movie. Wilder had an idea where he (Dr. Frankenstein) and the monster would tap dance together to “Puttin' On the Ritz.” Brooks was strongly against the idea, claiming it went too far, but after a test audience reacted with howls of laughter, Brooks relented and the scene went into the movie. 

The rights to Young Frankenstein were to be sold to Columbia, but after having trouble agreeing on the budget, Wilder, Brooks, and producer Michael Gruskoff signed with 20th Century Fox, where both Brooks and Wilder had to sign five-year contracts. Young Frankenstein was a commercial hit, with Wilder and Brooks receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The experience of working with Brooks encouraged Wilder to write and direct his own comedies. The first of these was The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), in which he included such Brooks regulars as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. It wasn't a critical or commercial hit. 

In 1975, Wilder's agent sent him a script for a film called Super Chief. Wilder accepted, but told the film's producers that he thought the only person who could keep the film from being offensive was Richard Pryor. Pryor accepted the role in the film, now renamed Silver Streak, and the two became Hollywood’s first interracial comedy duo.  

Wilder’s next project was The World’s Greatest Lover, inspired by Fellini’s The White Sheik, from 1952. He wrote, produced, and directed the film, which premiered in 1977, but it was a critical failure. This was followed by The Frisco Kid (1979), a Western comedy that was originally to have starred John Wayne, but Wayne dropped out and was replaced by the up-and-coming Harrison Ford. It fared no better than its predecessor. 

Wilder rebounded with Stir Crazy (1980), again starring Richard Pryor. directed by Sidney Poitier, it was an even bigger hit than Silver Streak, grossing more than $100 million. However, two more Wilder-Pryor pairings, See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991) provided diminishing returns. 

While filming Hanky Panky in 1982 for director Poitier, Wilder met and fell in love with Saturday Night Live comedienne Gilda Radner. She became his third wife shortly thereafter. Wilder and Radner co-starred in his most successful directing project, The Woman in Red (1984) as well as Haunted Honeymoon (1986), according to Variety. But Radner grew ill with ovarian cancer. He devoted himself to her care, working sporadically after that and hardly at all after her death in 1989. Her death led him, becoming actively involved in promoting cancer awareness and treatment. He helped create the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and Gilda’s Club. Also in 1989 Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another factor that caused him to slow down his working pace. 

In 1994, he starred in the failed TV series Something Wilder for NBC. In 1999, he wrote and starred in the two A&E mystery telepics The Lady in Question and Murder in a Small Town. He also appeared as the Mock Turtle in NBC’s 1999 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. His last acting stint was as Mr. Stein in a couple of episodes of Will and Grace in 2002-03, for which he won an Emmy.

In 2005, Wilder turned to writing, penning a memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art. Afterward he wrote fiction: the novels My French Whore (2007) and The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008); a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and the novella Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance (2013). Wilder is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991, and his nephew.

Before Radner, Wilder was married to actress-playwright Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz.

Garry Marshall: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

Garry Marshall not only created the classic sitcoms Happy DaysThe Odd CoupleLaverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy, but also directed a string of hit movies, including The Flamingo Kid, BeachesPretty WomanRunaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries. He died on July 19 at a hospital in Burbank, California, from complications of pneumonia after suffering a stroke. He was 81. 

Marshall was the classic American success story, born Garry Kent Marshall in the New York City borough of The Bronx on November 13, 1934. His mother, Marjorie Irene (née Ward; 1908-1983), was a tap dance teacher who ran a tap dance school. His father,  Anthony Wallace Marshall (1906–1999), was a director of industrial films who later became a producer – as Tony Marshall – on some of his son’s television programs. 

He was of Italian descent on his father’s side and German, English and Scottish on his mother’s. His father changed the family’s last name from "Masciarelli" to "Marshall" before Garry was born. Marshall attended DeWitt Clinton High School and matriculated at Northwestern, where he wrote a sports column for The Daily Northwestern, penning a controversial column suggesting that Northwestern leave the Big Ten Conference. 

After graduation, he began his career as a joke writer for comedians including Joey Bishop. He later joined the writing staff of The Tonight Show With Jack Paar. He also worked for the New York Daily News as a copy boy in 1959 followed by a stint as a sports statistician in 1960. In 1961, he moved to Hollywood, where he teamed with Jerry Belson, writing for The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Joey Bishop ShowThe Danny Thomas Show, and The Lucy Show.

Marshall and Belson struck out on their own as creator/producers for Hey, Landlord, which lasted one season (1966–67). In 1970, they adapted Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple for ABC and scored a substantial hit. Over the course of its five-season run, the show drew three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series. Stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall won individual Emmys for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series – Klugman twice (1971 and 1973) and Randall once (1975). 

In 1971, Marshall wrote the pilot for Happy Days, which was aired in 1972 as a segment of ABC’s comedy anthology series Love, American Style called “Love and the Happy Days.” George Lucas asked to view the pilot before deciding to cast the segment’s star, Ron Howard, in American Graffiti, which was released in 1973.

The success of American Graffiti, in turn, led to ABC picking up Happy Days for its 1974 schedule. The series began slowly, but steadily expanding its audience, becoming the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-1978 and No. 4 the following year. Henry Winkler, who played Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli became a pop culture icon; his leather jacket eventually winding up in the Smithsonian. 

In 1977, as the show searched for new ideas, the gang visit Hollywood, where Fonzie accepts a challenge to jump over a shark while on water skis. This decision later gave rise to the phrase “jumped the shark,” which was used to describe a show clearly past its prime and running on fumes. However, that is a misnomer for Happy Days. While the quality declined   that happens with nearly all long-running TV shows  and actors came and went, the ratings were still strong for years after that episode. It didn't go off the air until 1984.

While at the height of its success, Happy Days spawned two spinoffs. One was Laverne and Shirley (1976-83), starring Cindy Williams, who appeared in American Graffiti, along with Marshall’s sister Penny, who was Myrna Turner, Klugman's character's secretary on The Odd Couple TV show. The other was Mork and Mindy (1978-82), which made a star out of its lead, Robin Williams. Mork made two appearances on the show.

Marshall made his directorial debut in 1967 on his series Hey, Landlord and also helmed episodes of The Odd CoupleHappy DaysMork and Mindy, and Laverne and Shirley. The first feature film he directed was the comedy Young Doctors in Love (1982), a spoof of the long-running TV soap opera General Hospital, starring Sean Young and Michael McKean. A bit of trivia: Before making the film, he met actor Hector Elizondo during a pick-up basketball game. The two became fast friends and Elizondo then appeared in every Marshall movie.

His second film was The Flamingo Kid (1984), which he scripted from a story by Neal Marshall. A coming-of-age comedy starring Matt Dillon as a recent high school graduate who learns important life lessons while working during the summer as a cabana boy, it drew critical raves and decent box office. 

Marshall’s next venture was the comedy-drama Nothing in Common (1986) starring Tom Hanks as a successful ad man whose world falls apart when his mother, Eva Marie Saint, leaves his father, Jackie Gleason. Hanks now finds himself juggling his life to meet the needs of his parents, especially his father, who he realizes he never really knew. Though the critics weren’t as crazy about this as The Flamingo Kid, it still did decent business at the box office thanks to its star power. Marshall followed it with another modest success, the screwball comedy Overboard (1987), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Marshall’s first taste of success came with the 1988 tear-jerking chick flick, Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. The critics panned it, but the audience loved it, as it racked up a domestic gross of $57 million with an even more successful afterlife on home video. 

After directing The Lottery (1989), a short starring Bette Midler as a music teacher who loses her winning lottery ticket, Marshall hit the Hollywood lottery with the megahit Pretty Woman (1990), starring Richard Gere as a millionaire businessman who hires hooker Julia Roberts as an escort and winds up falling in love with her. Made on a budget of $14 million, the film grossed $178.4 million in the USA and $463.4 million worldwide. 

Marshall followed Pretty Woman with Frankie and Johnny, a adaptation of Terrence McNally’s play starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer that scored well with critics, but returned only $22.7 million against a budget of $29 million. But that was nothing compared with his next two films, the critical and commercial bombs Exit to Eden (1994) and Dear God (1996), which some critics said would have been better served as a TV movie. He managed to rebound with The Other Sister (1999), a modest financial success with Juliette Lewis as a mentally handicapped young woman and Diane Keaton as her mother.

Realizing what made him successful, Marshall reunited with his Pretty Woman stars Roberts and Gere for Runaway Bride (1999), about a reporter (Gere) whose latest assignment is writing a story about a woman he knows back home (Roberts) who keeps leaving her fiancés at the altar. Filmed on a $70 million budget, it grossed $309 million worldwide.

He followed this hit with another one: The Princess Diaries (2001), starring Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopiles, a normal teenager who learns that she is the heir to the throne of a European country named Genovia and now must becomes used to a totally different lifestyle. The film was followed by a sequel, The Princess Diaries 2. The films made a star out of Hathaway and its sequel was also big hits for Marshall.

The films he later made were nowhere near the commercial or critical successes he had in the past. Georgia Rule (2007), starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman, was a by-the-number weepie that turned a modest profit thanks to overseas grosses and home video sales. 

Valentine’s Day (2010) and its sequel New Year’s Eve (2011) were more commercially successful enterprises. Valentine’s Day, a story about three couples who break up and make up over the pressures of Valentine’s Day starred Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Bradley Cooper, and Eric Dane. It returned a worldwide gross of $216.4 million against a budget of  $52 miillion. New Year’s Eve, which was the same story set against the backdrop of New Year’s Eve and starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, and Halle Berry, returned $142 million against a budget of $57 million. Marshall’s last film, Mother’s Day, following the same formula and starred Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis, was released in April 2016. 

One facet of Marshall’s life that’s usually overlooked is he was also an actor with 83 roles to his name almost all of them uncredited or as a guest star. He played a U.S. recruiting officer in The Phony American (1961), with Christine Kaufman and William Bendix; an uncredited mafioso in Goldfinger (1964); a service station attendant in Fabian’s anti-drug Maryjane (1968); a plainclothes cop in the Dick Clark-produced Psych-Out for AIP in 1968; and chewing gum magnate Phil Harvey in the 1992 A League of Their Own (which he later reprised for the short-lived TV spinoff) for sister Penny Marshall, who directed. In television he had a recurring role as network head Stan Lansing on Murphy Brown (1994-1997) and Bernie in Father of the Bride (2004), besides numerous guest appearances and voice-overs for animated series,

Marshall even found time to pound the stage boards, appearing in Wrong Turn at Lungfish (co-written with Lowell Ganz), played L.A., Chicago and Off Broadway. The Roast, which he co-wrote with Jerry Belson, played Broadway in a production directed by Carl Reiner in 1980. In 1997, he and his daughter Kathleen founded the Falcon Theater in Burbank. Marshall also occasionally direct opera, including stagings of Jacques Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess, which opened the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005-2006 season, and Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, which played at the San Antonio Opera in January 2008.

Over his career, Marshall received a plethora of honors: the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award (1990); the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award (1995); the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of excellence and innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television (1996); the PGA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television (1998); the American Cinema Editors’ Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award (2004); and the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement from the Writers Guild of America (2014).

He was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame for his contributions to the field of television in 1997. In 2012, he was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters' Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He also has a star on the Walk of Fame. Northwestern University named a building specializing in radio/television/film production for him and his wife.

Marshall wrote two volumes of memoirs: Wake Me When It’s Funny (co-written with his daughter Lori in 1995), which recounted his first 35 years in Hollywood; and My Happy Days in Hollywood (2012).

Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married since 1963; son Scott, a film director; and daughters Lori, an actress and casting director, and Kathleen, an actress; a number of grandchildren; and sisters Penny Marshall, an actress and film director, and Ronny Hallin, a TV producer.

Patty Duke: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

At the age of 13, her name was listed over the title on the marquee for her Broadway hit play. At the age of 16, she starred in a sitcom that is still beloved by fans today and began a career in television that saw her win three Emmys. She also campaigned tirelessly for mental health awareness, AIDS research, and nuclear disarmament in addition to serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild. But her best accomplishment may have been her real-life role as a survivor; a force that refused to yield to whatever obstacles came her way.

Patty Duke, Oscar-winning actress and ‘60s television icon, died March 29 at a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was 69. The cause of death was sepsis caused by a ruptured intestine that she suffered a couple of days before, according to Duke’s husband, Michael Pearce.

Duke first came to public notice in 1959, when at the age of 12, she starred as Helen Keller in the original Broadway production of William Gibson’s drama, The Miracle Worker. Anne Bancroft co-starred as Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan. 

When Duke and Bancroft reprised their roles for the 1962 film version, Duke won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

She followed this by starring in an eponymous sitcom created by Sidney Sheldon that was launched in 1963 and ran on ABC until 1966. In the sitcom, Duke played the dual roles of Patty Lane, a typical Brooklyn teenager, and her worldly Scottish “identical cousin” Cathy Lane.

Quite a few critics were nonplussed over how a talented actress such as Duke could travel so quickly from the sublimity of an Oscar winning role to playing identical cousins living in Brooklyn.

But Duke supplied the answer in her 1987 memoir, Call Me Anna. She was a meal ticket.

Patty was born Anna Marie Duke in New York City on Dec. 14, 1946, the youngest of three children to John Patrick Duke, a handyman and cabby, and Frances (McMahon) Duke, a cashier. Patty, who was reared in Queens, described her mother as chronically depressed and prone to violence, and her father as an alcoholic who was forced by her mother to leave the family home when she was six.

Anna began acting around the age of 8, when she was taken on by John and Ethel Ross, a husband-and-wife-managing team who represented her older brother Raymond. The Rosses began by neutralizing Anna’s distinct Queens accent and changed her name to the more “all-American” sounding Patty, most likely after successful teenage actress Patty McCormick. 

As Patty Duke, she worked bit parts in television, appearing on the soap opera The Brighter Day, and also in print ads and television commercials. There were also tiny parts in films such as The Goddess and 4D Man. In 1959, before landing the part of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, Duke appeared in a television adaptation of Meet Me in St. Louis as Tootie Smith, the role played in the 1944 film by Margaret O’Brien.

To land the part of the young Helen Keller, the Rosses prepared her by blindfolding her and moving the furniture around. She also intensively trained by learning to do things without sight. The work paid off when producer Fred Coe cast her to play Keller. The role was a daunting one, requiring her to engage nightly with co-star Anne Bancroft in an ad-libbed, physical onstage fight that could last up to 10 minutes. At 13, her name was raised above the title on the marquee, believed to be the first to have her name above the title at such an early age.

Shortly after winning her Oscar in 1963 at age 16, the youngest at the time to win an Academy Award, she also scored another first when she became the youngest star at the time to have a television series bearing her name. The series, written by Sidney Sheldon, revolved around an incredible premise: two cousins so indistinguishable that they could pass for one another, which they often did over the course of the series. The public loved it and tuned in every week, along with purchasing related merchandise like dolls, clothes and board games.

For her part, as related in her memoir, Duke felt trapped, having to pretend she was younger than she was; not being consulted about anything; and having no choice in how she looked or what she wore. She wrote about the Rosses removing her from her home to live with them where they monitored her every movement, telling her what to wear, what to eat, what to do; even controlling her mother’s access to her. They billed Duke as being two years younger than she actually was and padded her resume with false credits. Duke also wrote about the Rosses introducing her to alcohol and feeding her uppers and downers to get her in shape to work. She also wrote that both sexually molested her on occasion. 

In addition, there were financial shenanigans. In 1959, Ross admitted to a congressional committee that Patty, who had appeared not long before on the TV quiz show The $64,000 Question, had been fed the answers by the show’s producers. Her area of expertise was spelling. She won $32,000 on the show, less the 15% fee the Rosses took. After she had broken with the Rosses as a young woman, she discovered that they had embezzled the vast portion of her earnings, about $1 million.

To escape from the Rosses, she married Harry Falk, an assistant director on The Patty Duke Show who was 13 years her senior, in 1965. During their marriage, she suffered from repeated mood swings and anorexia, drank heavily, and overdosed on pills a number of times. They divorced in 1970. A second marriage, to Michael Tell, was annulled after only 13 days.

In 1972, Patty married actor John Astin, billing herself as Patty Duke Astin during their marriage. They divorced in 1985. Her fourth, and final, marriage was in 1986 to Michael Pearce, an Army drill sergeant. They had met during the production of A Time to Triumph. It's the story of Concetta Hassan, a woman who struggles to support her family after her husband is injured but who eventually becomes a United States Army helicopter pilot, for which Pearce served as a consultant. The couple moved Idaho and adopted a son, Kevin, who was born in 1988. During the course of her marriage Duke occasionally used the name "Anna Duke-Pearce" in her writings and other professional work.

After The Patty Duke Show was canceled, Duke began her adult acting career by playing Neely O’Hara, a character loosely based on Judy Garland in the 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Suzann’s crap classic, Valley of the Dolls. It was a role she had campaigned to play, and one she hoped would cause audiences to leave her teen persona behind. However, while the film was a box-office success, audiences and critics alike had a difficult time accepting Duke in her new persona as an alcoholic, drug-addicted singing star. While the film is heralded today as a something of a camp classic, thanks in part to Duke's over-the-top performance, at the time, it almost sunk her career.

In 1969, Duke won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) for her starring role in Me, Natalie, a film in which she played an "ugly duckling" Brooklyn teenager struggling to make a life for herself in Greenwich Village.

In 1970, she won the first of her three Emmy awards for her starring role in the TV movie My Sweet Charlie, in which she portrayed a pregnant runaway who falls in love with a black man, played by Al Freeman Jr.

Duke won her second Emmy for her work in the 1976 NBC mini-series Captains and the Kings, and her third Emmy for playing Annie Sullivan (to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen Keller) in a 1979 TV adaptation of The Miracle Worker.

Duke played herself from her mid-30s onward in Call Me Anna, a 1990 TV movie based on her memoir. And over the years she had guest roles on many shows, including The Love BoatAmazing GraceTouched by an Angel and Glee.

And as if all this weren’t enough, Duke also has a successful signing career, including two Top 40 hits in 1965, "Don't Just Stand There" (#8) and "Say Something Funny" (#22).

Off-screen, she served a term as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988, the second woman (actress Kathleen Nolan was the first) to be elected to the position.

For years, Duke dealt with an emotional disability for which there was as yet no name. It led her to attempt suicide several times, and commitments to mental hospitals. Only in 1982, was she finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given proper medication, which included lithium as a medication and therapy. 

The treatment stabilized her and she became an activist for numerous mental health causes. She lobbied Congress and joined forces with the National Institute of Mental Health and National Alliance on Mental Illness in order to increase awareness, funding, and research for people with mental illness.

Rita Gam, Ken Howard and Jan Nemec: In Memoriam

Silent but Sexy, a Shadow and a Czech Visionary

By Ed Garea

Although the big news was the untimely death of Garry Shandling, three other notable people in the world of film also passed away.

Rita Gam

Rita Gam, a breakout star of the 1950s who went on to a lengthy career in film and television, died on March 22. Nancy Willen, Gam’s publicist, said the actress passed away in Los Angeles of respiratory failure. She was 88. 

Gam was born Rita Eleanore Mackay in Pittsburgh on April 2, 1927, to Milton A. Mackay, an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine who died when she was four, and Belle (Fately) Mackay, who was born in Romania.

She took her stage name from her stepfather, Benjamin J. Gam, a dress manufacturer who was born in Russia who her mother married in 1932. She was raised in Manhattan and attended the private Fieldston School in the Bronx. At the age of 17 she “ran away” from home – actually about 25 blocks – to a Midtown hotel, and found work modeling hats and selling stuffed pandas while pursuing an acting career in her spare time.

A founding member of The Actor’s Studio, she made her Broadway debut in Ben Hecht’s 1946 play A Flag Is Born alongside future husband Sidney Lumet. She appeared in three more productions before turning to television, where she guest starred in several series.

In 1952, she was signed by Clarence Greene, a producer for Harry Popkin, for the lead opposite Ray Milland in The Thief. The film was a slow-moving noir about a nuclear physicist in Washington who is also working as a spy for an unnamed foreign country. It was unique in that it was filmed without dialogue.

Gam’s performance caught the eye of Life magazine, which featured her on its September 1952 cover, describing Gam as a “silent and sexy” actress who “can express herself eloquently without words.” In just a few moments on the screen, the magazine noted, Gam “makes a striking movie debut without uttering a word.”

The publicity also caught the eye of MGM, which signed her to a long-term contract in October 1952. After serving a brief suspension in October 1953 for refusing a loan-out to Paramount to star in the Martin-Lewis comedy Living It Up (a remake of Nothing Sacred), she starred with Cornel Wilde in the exotic Saadia

While working for MGM, she shared an apartment with fellow newcomer Grace Kelly. They developed a close friendship that later led to Gam’s serving as a bridesmaid at the wedding of Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.

Other notable movie roles were Night People (1954) with Gregory Peck; Sign of the Pagan (1954) with Jack Palance and Jeff Chandler; Hannibal (1959) with Victor Mature; King of Kings (1961), as Queen Hernias; and Klute (1971) with Jane Fonda. Interestingly, she was offered a leading role in The Ten Commandments (1956), but during her interview with director Cecil B. DeMille, she confided that she was not religious, so he died not hire her.

At the 1962 Berlin Film Festival, she shared a Silver Bear award as Best Actress with Viveca Lindfors for her performance as Estelle in Tad Danielewski’s adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (aka Sinners Go To Hell ). Lindfors was also in the film as Inez.

Besides her work in film and television, she also played a leading role, along with Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Zoe Caldwell and others, with the Minnesota Theater Company in 1963 during the opening season of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

She also became a producer (with two documentary series, World of Film and World of Beauty, to her credit) and an author. She write two books: Actress to Actress (1986), and Actors: A Celebration (1988). 

Gam was married and divorced twice, to director Sidney Lumet (1949-1955), and book publisher and co-founder of The Paris Review, Thomas Guinzburg (1956-63). She is survived by daughter, Kate Guinzburg, a film producer, who worked in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Vin Rosa Productions; son, Michael Guinzburg, a novelist; and three granddaughters. 

Ken Howard

Ken Howard, who earned acclaim for his role in the television series The White Shadow, and as Thomas Jefferson in both the Broadway and film versions of 1776, died on March 23 at his home near Los Angeles. No cause of death was given. He was 71. 

Howard was also was the sitting president of SAG-Aftra, Hollywood’s largest union, which he helped form in 2012.

During the course of a 47-year career, Mr. Howard appeared in more than 100 movies and television series, including the previously mentioned The White Shadow, a critically lauded drama that ran on CBS from 1978 to 1981 when it was cut for low ratings. One of its problems with ratings was it aired at least two years opposite Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, typically the top two rated shows on the air at the time. Howard starred as a retired professional basketball player who becomes a coach at an urban high school. 

A stockbroker’s son, he was born Kenneth Joseph Howard in El Centro, Calif., on March 28, 1944. His family moved to Manhasset, on Long Island, where he starred on the high school basketball team. At Amherst College, he captained the basketball team and was a member of an a cappella group, the Zumbyes. He later studied at the Yale School of Drama, but left before graduation for the lights of Broadway, making his debut in 1968 in the original production of Neil Simon’s Promises, Promises with Jerry Orbach. 

In 1969, he originated the role of Thomas Jefferson in the Tony-winning musical 1776, a role that he repeated in the film version made the same year. In 1970, he won a Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his role as a young gym coach at a Catholic boys’ school in Child’s Play. His other Broadway appearances include Seesaw (1973), The Norman Conquests (1975), 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976), and Rumors (1988). He also starred as Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill in According to Tip (2008).

Howard made his film debut in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), co-starring with Liza Minelli. Other noted films were Such Good Friends (1971), The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie (1972), Second Thoughts (1983), Oscar (1991, with Sylvester Stallone), Ulterior Motives (1991), Clear and Present Danger (1994, with Harrison Ford), The Net (1995, with Sandra Bullock), Tactical Assault (2005), In Her Shoes (2005), Michael Clayton (2007), Rambo (also known as Rambo IV) (2008), A Numbers Game (2010), and J. Edgar (2010).

He received an Emmy Award for his performance Phelan Beale in the HBO production of Grey Gardens (2009). His last films were Better Living Through Chemistry (2013), The Judge (2014), The Wedding Ringer (2015), and Joy (2015).

But it was television where he was best known, primarily for his work as coach Ken Reeves on The White Shadow, which took its name from a nickname given to him by the Long Island Press, as he was the only Caucasian starter on the Manhasset High School varsity basketball team.

He co-starred on the series Adam’s Rib (1973), The Manhunter (1974-75), It’s Not Easy (1983), The Colbys (1985) and Dynasty (1981), Melrose Place (1994-98 as George Andrews), Crossing Jordan (2001 where he played Jill Hennessy’s father), Cane (2007), and as Hank Hooper on 30 Rock (2011-13). He also guest starred six times on Murder, She Wrote (1985-94).

Notable miniseries include The Thorn Birds (1983), Rage of Angels (1983), The Country Girl (1982), Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Rojas Smart Story (1991), Memories of Midnight (1991), Mastergate (1992), OP Center (1995), and Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder (2000). He also won a Daytime Emmy Award for the 1980 TV documentary,The Body Human: Facts for Boys.

A working member of SAG for over 40 years, he was first elected National President beginning September 24, 2009. He inherited a union suffering the effects of a strike by the Writers Guild of America and anxiety over shrinking pay as studios and television networks were tightening their belts.

His notable achievement was in negotiating the merger of SAG with the competing American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, significantly bolstering actors’ bargaining power and creating a union 160,000 members strong. He then won re-election campaigns in August 2013 and August 2015.

In addition to his acting and union work, Howard also served as National Spokesperson and Executive Board Member of the Onyx and Breezy Foundation (which grants financial aid to individuals and qualified rescues that benefit the welfare of animals), The National Kidney Foundation (Chancellor), and was a member, along with his wife Linda, on the Board of the Los Angeles Alzheimer's Committee.

He also authored a book, Act Natural: How to Speak to Any Audience (2003), and has lent his voice to more than 30 best-selling books on tape. 

Howard was married three times, to actress Louise Sorel (1973-75), Margo Howard, the daughter of advice columnist Ann Landers (1977-91), and retired stuntwoman Linda Fetters (1992-2016). He is survived by Linda and three stepchildren. 

Jan Nemec

A Czech director whose surreal, parable-like films made him one of the leaders, along with Miloš Forman, Jirí Menzel, and Vera Chytilová, of the Czech New Wave movement in the 1960s, died on March 18 in Prague. His death was announced by wife Iva Ruszelakova in the newspaper Dnes (Today). She did not give the cause of death. He was 79.

He was born in Prague on July 12, 1936. Proficient on the piano and clarinet, he thought about becoming a jazz musician until dissuades by his father, who thought that filmmaking was a more practical profession. He enrolled in 1956 at the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (also known as FAMU), where he was mentored by revered filmmaker Vaclav Krska.

For graduation in 1960, Nemec adapted an autobiographical short story by Arnost Lustig into the film A Piece of Bread about three prisoners who plot their escape while being transported by train from one concentration camp to another. While trying to steal a loaf of bread, they find themselves at one another’s throats.

Nemec’s first film was Diamonds of the Night (1964), an adaptation of Lustig’s wartime novel. Using a hand-held camera, Nemec spins a story of two young men who escape from a Nazi prison train and wander across a bleak landscape. Using such devices as flashbacks and simulated hallucinations, their thoughts and fantasies play out on the screen as they encounter strange scenes and even stranger people, resulting in an ending that leaves the viewer in doubt as to their fate.

It was all part of a style he invented and called “dream realism.” He relied on haunting imagery, flashbacks, using hallucinations and other dislocating devices to bend the narratives in directions viewers were not expecting.

His next film Report on the Party and the Guests (1966) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. A Buñuelesque allegory about a party that degenerates into a sinister game, the film drew the ire of the Communist authorities, in part because the sadistic host of the party resembled Lenin. The result was that the film ended up on the censor’s shelf for the next 20 years though it was available to be shown at the 1968 New York Film Festival.

He also contributed a segment to Pearls of the Deep, an anthology showcasing up-and-coming Czech directors, with all stories being based on the writings of author Bohumil Hrabal. Nemec's segment, The Poseurs, concerns two elderly residents at a clinic who spend their days bragging about their glamorous pasts, but later turn out to be nonentities.

He next completed Martyrs of Love (1967), a feature consisting of three love stories, each with a surreal overtone. The resulting furor from the censors forced Nemec to work outside the government-approved system. His next production, the short Mother and Son (Mutter und Sohn) in 1967, was shot while attending a student film festival in Amsterdam. The fact that it was made with financing from West German television and a Dutch film company further strained his relations with the Czech government. 

But it was the documentary, Oratorio for Prague (1968), that ultimately forced him to leave Czechoslovakia. The film, intended as praise for the new artistic freedoms under the reformist government of Alexander Dubcek, ended with scenes of Russian tanks rolling through the streets of Prague.

The film was smuggled out of the country and served as proof that the Soviet invasion was not by invitation of the Czech people, as was claimed. In addition, news programs worldwide broadcast the footage, and in 1988, Philip Kaufman even included it in his adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Nemec served as an adviser and appeared in a cameo as a documentarian interrogated for filming the invasion. 

Nemec attempted to leave the country soon after it was completed, but he was held until 1974, when he was able to leave for Germany, where he made several films for television, including an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1975). From 1974 to 1989, he traveled to Germany, Paris, Holland, Sweden and the United States, staying in the latter for 12 years. Unable to work in traditional cinema, he pioneered the use of video cameras to record weddings, including documenting the nuptials of the Swedish royal family.

He returned to the Czech Republic in 1989 after democracy was restored by the “Velvet Revolution.” He accepted a job teaching film at his alma mater. He also made the features In the Light of the King’s Love (1991);  Jmeno kodu: Rubin (Code Name: Ruby, 1997), a combination of documentary, fiction, and the supernatural that creates a collage of his country’s past, present, and future; the documentaries, Late Night Talks With My Mother (2001) and Landscape of My Heart (2004); Toyen (2005), a biopic of the Czech surrealistic painter; and The Ferrari Dino Girl (2010). Right before his death, he completed filming The Wolf of Royal Vineyard Street, a comedy based on his life. It will premiere in the Czech Republic on July 1. 

Nemec married four times: to costume designer and screenwriter Ester Krumbachova (1963-68), singer Marta Kubisova (1970-73), Czech language teacher Veronica Baumann (1984-2003), and film editor Iva Ruszelakova in 2003. In addition to his wife, Nemec is survived by a daughter, Arleta Nemcova.

Nemec was an uncompromising visionary. His vision was not only limited to cinema. In 2014, he protested against the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, by returning the medals given to him by the first president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel (who happened to be Nemec’s cousin).

George Kennedy: In Memoriam

The Dependable Sidekick

By Ed Garea

Like most actors who made their living in supporting roles, George Kennedy’s oeuvre included many films that were terrible, with absurd plotting, bad direction, and over-emoted acting. Yet, his versatility was noted by casting directors, and in a career that spanned five decades, Kennedy had 191 film and television roles to his credit. Kennedy, who died February 28 in Boise at the age of 91, played cowboys, drifters, G.I.’s, and other assorted tough guys, including convict “Dragline” in Cool Hand Luke, a role that earned him 1967's Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Except for that performance and a handful of films, he most often played a peripheral role – the dependable sidekick, whose function was to set up the star.

He was born George Harris Kennedy, Jr. on February 18, 1925, in New York City. His father, George Harris Kennedy, was a musician and orchestra leader who dies when Kennedy was four years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother, Helen, who was a ballet dancer by trade. He made his stage debut at age 2 in a touring company of Bringing Up Father, and by age 7 was a radio DJ in New York City.  

After graduating in 1943 from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, Kennedy enlisted in the Army and fought as an infantryman under George Patton in Europe during World War II. He intended to make the military his career, serving for 16 years and opening the Army’s first office of technical assistance for films and television, until a back injury forced him to find another line of work.

His experience led to his hiring as a technical adviser to The Phil Silvers Show, and soon he was appearing on screen as MP Sergeant Kennedy and given a couple of lines to speak in each episode. He would be quoted later as saying that his duties on the whole provided “a great technical ground.”

Other guest shots on shows such as Colt .45CheyennePeter Gunn, and Maverick confirmed the acting bug, and Kennedy decided to make acting his career. He was steadily employed as a guest star on various television series from 1959 to 1963 with only a few bit roles in movies such as Spartacus (1960), playing a rebel soldier who, during the scene when the Roman victors asked the crowd for Spartacus, had the last close-up as he yelled, “I am Spartacus.” In the 1961 Civil War drama The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, he had a meatier role as Nathan Dillon.

In 1963, Kennedy won notice for his performance as heavy Herman Scobie in the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie, Charade, a film often described as the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made. He also had roles in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), In Harm’s Way (1965), and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).

He returned to television as his main stock, winning a following for his portrayal of “Big Frenchie” in McHale’s Navy, which he parleyed into a role in the big screen version of the series (1964). Many of his television appearances were in Westerns, where Kennedy described his function: “The big guys were on TV and they needed big lumps to eat up. All I had to do was show up on the set, and I got beaten up.” His rugged but bland looks were right for almost any part.

In 1967, his fortunes changed. First he was cast as Maj. Max Armbruster in the cult World War II movie The Dirty Dozen (1967). Then he won the role that brought him the Oscar, that of Dragline, the convict leader in Cool Hand Luke who at first resents the new prisoner, Lucas “Luke” Jackson, played by Paul Newman, for his independence, but is later won over by Luke’s integrity and forcefulness, becoming the disciple who is ultimately responsible for his friend’s death. His mix of brutality and compassion in his portrayal reveled a hitherto unseen range and deftly illuminated the character of Luke.

From then on, movies became Kennedy’s stock in trade, usually in the supporting role. The television roles he took were as the star: Sarge, about a cop-turned- priest, in 1971-72, and The Blue Knight (1975-76), playing patrolman William “Bumper” Morgan, with the only major exception being Dallas, where he played corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay from 1988 to 1991.

In 1970, he played the improbable rescuer, Joe Patroni, the maintenance chief who comes to the rescue in the soapy, all-star, over-the-top Airport, a melodrama about a bomber on a plane, an airport socked in by a blizzard, and desperation everywhere. He reprised his role in the sequels, Airport ’75Airport ’77, and The Concorde ... Airport ’79, the only cast member to appear in all four. Because of this, he was sought for a role in the spoof, Airplane, as the airport dispatcher (a role that went to Lloyd Bridges), but according to producer Jerry Zucker, he turned it down because he was afraid of losing his Airport cash cow. 

But the Zuckers weren’t done with Kennedy, casting him in the hit movie The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), where he played Capt. Ed Hocken, whose role was to wince at the damage brought on by Leslie Nielsen’s bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin. Kennedy would repose the role in the two sequels that followed: Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). 

Other notable movies included Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), with Clint Eastwood, the ensemble disaster flick, Earthquake (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1975, again with Eastwood), The 'Human' Factor (1975), Death on the Nile (1978), the box office bomb, Bolero, with Bo Derek (1984), and The Delta Force (1986). 

He also co-starred in a Japanese movie, Ningen no shomei (Proof of the Man, 1977) as Ken Shufftan, a New York City detective who joins forces with Tokyo detective Koichiro Munesue (Yûsaku Matsuda) in pursuing a murderer of an American in Tokyo who has fled to the Big Apple. Tensions later arise when Munesue realizes Shufftan is the man who killed his father during World War II.

His last role was in the film The Gambler (2014), where he played Ed, the grandfather of Mark Wahlberg's character.

In 1991, Mr. Kennedy was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6352 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, California.

Off screen, Kennedy authored three books: Murder On Location (1983) a murder mystery set on a film shoot, Murder on High (1984), and a memoir, Trust Me (2011).

Kennedy married four times. Kennedy was married four times. He married his first wife, Dorothy Gillooly in the 1940s. He then married and divorced twice Norma Wurman (also known as Revel Wurman), with whom he had two children. In 1978, he married Joan McCarthy, who died a little over a year before his own death. The couple adopted four children, including granddaughter Taylor, whose mother, one of their children, was found unfit due to drug-abuse issues. In addition to grandson Cory Schenkel, Kennedy (who lived in Eagle, Idaho, near Boise) is survived by a daughter, Shannon Sullivan; four other grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

Setsuko Hara: In Memoriam

Japan's Everywoman 

By Ed Garea

She was one of Japan’s most beloved actresses, known for her subtle portrayals of women torn between family and their own desires, a sort of Everywoman for a Japan rising from the old feudal age into the modern world.

Best known for her films with director Yasuhiro Ozu, it seems at times as if she worked for no one else, yet her filmography shows she made more than 100 films during her long career, a career that might have been even longer were it not for her abrupt retirement at the age of 46.

Setsuko Hara, known among filmgoers in Japan as “the Eternal Virgin” (due to the fact she never married) and “the Japanese Garbo,” died on September 5 in Kamakura, near Tokyo, from pneumonia at the age of 95.

The Kyodo News Agency announced her death on November 25, stating that family members had waited until then, as per her last wishes to make the news of her death public.

Born Masae Aida in Yokohama on June 17, 1920, Hara dropped out of high school at age 15 with the encouragement of her brother-in-law, director Hisatora Kumagai, who promised her that she could find meaningful work at Nikkatsu Studios.

She made her movie debut in 1935 in director Tetsu Taguchi’s Tamerau nakare wakodo yo (Do Not Hesitate, Young Folks) as Osetsu, but it was her role in Arnold Fanck’s (who first made Leni Riefenstahl a star) German-Japanese production of Atarashiki Tsuchi (The New Earth) that she achieved popularity, playing a pure-hearted Japanese maiden who, after being rejected by her fiancé, unsuccessfully attempts to throw herself into an active volcano.

Now established in the public as the epitome of the Japanese woman in crisis, she was cast in a number of wartime propaganda films as the pathetic victim. In films such as The Suicide Troops of the Watchtower (1942) and Wakai Sensei (1942), she perfected the role of the pathetic victim.

In 1946, she was cast in Akira Kurosawa’s first postwar film, No Regrets for Our Youth, as Yukie Yagihara, the privileged daughter of a leftist university professor. Two suitors, both students of her father, romantically pursue her. Things turn darker when she decides to marry Noge (Susumu Fujita), the more radical of the two. They are arrested in 1941 for treason (as part of the antiwar protest) and imprisoned. After her release, and Noge’s execution, Yukie exiles herself to the peasant village where Noge grew up. There she devotes herself to Noge’s elderly parents, helping them bring in the rice crop, and also aiding their neighbors, who has previously castigated the family for producing a traitor.

Two other immediate postwar films cast her in a new role, that of the “new “ Japanese woman. She is optimistic, looking forward to a brighter future, cultured, yet with an eye of cynicism towards the men in her life. In Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s A Ball at the Anjo House (1947), she plays the daughter of a cultured family that was ruined by the war and must give up its mansion and find a new way to live. In Keisuke Kinoshita’s Here’s to the Girls (1949), Hara is the daughter of a formerly rich aristocratic family who is being pawned off as the wife to an uncouth factory owner.

It was also in this year that Hara was cast in a film titled Late Spring. Its director was Yasujiro Ozu, a director who began his career in the ‘20s as an imitator of the Hollywood style (many of his films were simply uncredited remakes of Hollywood product). He refined his style and technique during the ‘30s, and although being conscripted into the Japanese army and fighting in China, managed to make his way into the Japanese film and propaganda unit, planning films he had no intention on finishing and assisting with the technical duties on a few of the other productions.

During the postwar period, he put his wartime plans into action, developing a limited style based partially on his vision and partially on the dearth of funds available to him. Chained by his studio to plots already owned and given a stock company of actors (including Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama and Haruko Sugimura) with which to work, Ozu nevertheless managed to turn out films that were not only highly praised at the time, but which also became enduring classics. Working for him could be a trial in itself. A perfectionist who had to get every scene just right, it was not unusual for the director to shoot 30 to 40 takes of a long, dialogue-heavy scene, which placed his stars under more than normal pressure. Added to this was his preference for shooting his films during Tokyo’s hot, humid summers made working for him an even more daunting task. Yet the method bore fruit, for Late Spring was one such film, and Ozu made a megastar out of Hara by developing a new character for her. She became the modern woman with a string filial devotion, a character she would play in many a later Ozu production.

In Late Spring, she plays Noriko, a modern woman conflicted between her own needs and that of caring for her widowed father (played by Chishu Ryu, with whom she would frequently work in later films). On one hand, Noriko has the pressures of society, which tells her to marry and start a family; in the other, there’s the need to care for her father, who has become a sort of security blanket for her. Noriko would prefer the security provided by caring for her father, but it is apparent to everyone, especially to her father, that she must leave the nest and marry.

In their next collaboration, Early Summer (1951), Hara is once again an adult single woman – also named Noriko – living with her family and pressured to choose a husband. This time, however, her choice brings consequences, as the income lost by her departure leaves the family unable to afford the rent on their house. Nonetheless, everyone on the family campaigns to arrange a marriage, knowing that remaining single is a social death knell. She surprises her family in the end when she rejects their choice to marry a widower with a child and move to a village in the far north.

It as during this time that Hara began to form her enduring screen presence as a modern young woman whose outward good manners conceal a strong inner strength that helps her along pathways often strewn with difficult outcomes, no matter what the choice. It was also during this period that she worked with director Mikio Naruse, who helped her further develop and refine this persona, as Naruse was known for his complex female leads.

For his part, Ozu fully appreciated Hara’s versatility and talent: “Every Japanese actor can play the role of a soldier, and every Japanese actress can play the role of a prostitute to some extent,” he said of her in an interview. “However, it is rare to find an actress who can play the role of a daughter from a good family.”

Both star and director peaked professionally in the 1953 drama Tokyo Story, which has become a highly-ranked regular on film critics’ lists of the greatest movies. As with Ozu films in general, the plot is superficially simple. However, as the film rolls on we find that what seems basic at first is only leading to a host of psychologically complex situations that lie just beneath the quiet surface.

Tokyo Story begins simply enough: an elderly couple is traveling to Tokyo to visit their children. But as the film progresses, we see that not only are the children too busy to receive them properly, but that they have also become a burden to their children. The only one in the family who shows them the tenderness and devotion to which they are entitled is Noriko (Hara), their daughter-in-law whose husband was killed in the war. Although Noriko was bullied by the eldest sister to take the elderly couple off her hands for a day, she nonetheless takes a day off from work to take them sightseeing and manages to scrounge up a good dinner at her modest flat, borrowing sake from her neighbor. She and the couple are the only sympathetic characters throughout the entire film.

There is a brilliantly moving scene at the end after the mother has passed away. Noriko is sitting at the family home with the youngest daughter, Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa), who is sharply criticizing her siblings for their lack of devotion and respect. She turns to Noriko and asks, “Isn’t life disappointing?” To which Noriko tersely responds, “Yes. It is.”

Her work with director Naruse includes an extraordinary film titled Repast (1951) in which she is the wife of an Osaka stockbroker and discovers to her horror that he is sexually involved with his niece. She leaves him and returns to Tokyo, where she grew up, only to find it has become an alien and traumatized place. In 1954, she and Naruse made The Sound of the Mountain, based on Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata’s acclaimed novel.

By this time, Hara’s character seemed to be set in stone, although there were some exceptions, such as Kurosawa’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (1951). Here she went radically against type as the love interest of the title character and an aristocrat played by Toshiro Mifune. Although her performance was excellent, playing the part of a sexual temptress with a natural coolness, the film was not well received by both critics and the public, and Hara returned to the characters audiences expected her to play. 

Yet there was room to maneuver. In Ozu’s 1957 drama, Tokyo Twilight (his last black-and-white film), she was a proud young woman who summons the courage to leave her abusive and alcoholic husband, an option unthinkable to the typical Japanese wife, although in the end she returns resolved to make the marriage work.

In her last two films with Ozu, Late Autumn (1960) and the End of Summer (1961), Hara inverted her character from Late Spring and Early Summer. In Late Autumn, she is now the widowed parent of a grown daughter who does not to leave her to get married and start a family. But, as the parent, she knows that her daughter has to live her own life, despite the situation, and summoning considerable self-sacrifice, insists on her daughter leaving the nest.

In The End of Summer (1961), Hara reverses her role in Tokyo Story as the widowed daughter-in-law. Although older, she contemplates remarriage, with her family attempting to decide to whom she will be betrothed. She, however, insists on the right to choose her own partner, and the battle between desires and devotions rages on.

Her last role was as Riku in Hiroshi Inagaki’s 1962 actioner, Chushingura (47 Samurai), a retelling of the classic story of the 47 ronin, 18th-century samurai bent on avenging their slain leader.

It’s said that Ozu’s death from cancer in 1963 was a major factor in Hara’s sudden retirement. She went on record as saying that she did not enjoy acting and only did so to support her large, extended family. She moved to a small house in Kamakura (ironically where Ozu lived and where so many of his films were set), and was never seen again in public.

Any and all attempts to lure back into the spotlight were coldly rebuffed. A relative would turn away any reporter who visited in hopes of an interview with a terse, “She’s here and in good health,” and “She doesn’t give any interviews.” In 1992, a reporter with Yomiuri Shimbun actually managed a brief telephone conversation with the reclusive star. She told him, “I was not the only star shining, back then, everyone was shining.”

When a documentary on Ozu was made, there was some thought she would show up at the premiere, but as happened at his funeral, she declined to attend.

When Setsuko Hara retired, to many Japanese fans, it was as if they had part of their souls ripped away. She meant that much. I feel the same way; she was an extraordinary actress and personality. But to paraphrase Bogart, “We’ll always have Tokyo Story.”

Maureen O'Hara: In Memoriam

The Queen of Technicolor

By Ed Garea

She was a mainstay of American movies since her debut in 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and when Technicolor came into use, she seemed born for it due to her bright red hair, sparkling green eyes, and peaches-and-cream complexion, being labeled as “The Queen of Technicolor.”

We often thought of her as married to John Wayne, since they had done so many notable films together, but no matter what part in what film, she always managed to stand out as an independent woman; if not always sure of herself, at least standing on her own two feet and beholden to no one. In fact, her screen persona became not only part of her legacy, but also part of our conception of Irish women, for she seemed to epitomize them with her feisty hands-on-her-hips, right-in-your-face approach.

Though she’ll always be immortal on the screen, we have to say goodbye to Maureen O’Hara, who passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 24 at her home in Boise, Idaho, surrounded by family members. She was 95.

Johnny Nicoletti, her longtime manager, confirmed her death.

During her career, which lasted over 60 years with 65 credits, she played everything from a gypsy dancer in The Hunchback to a Welsh coal miner’s daughter in How Green Was My Valley (1941), to a French resister in This Land is Mine (1943) to a Macy’s department store executive in Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

She also starred in Westerns, period pieces, and even swashbucklers. Her best-known film is perhaps John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), where she starred opposite Wayne as Mary Kate Dannaher, the proud, passionate and stubborn woman who refuses to consummate her marriage to Irish-American boxer Wayne until he fights for her dowry. He does that in one of the most uproarious fight scenes in film history.

Wayne once paid her his ultimate compliment when he said, “I’ve had many friends, and I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara. She is a great guy.”

She was born Maureen FitzSimons on Aug. 17, 1920, and grew up at 32 Upper Beechwood Ave. in Churchtown, a suburb in the Dublin, Ireland, district of Ranelagh, the second of six children of Charles FitzSimons, a clothing-business manager and part-owner of a soccer team, and the former Marguerita Lilburn, an accomplished contralto. Besides his business, her father was also part owner of The Shamrock Rovers, a renowned Irish soccer team.

Maureen’s talents in the performing arts blossomed early. She began appearing in school plays as a child and was so good that she won multiple Feis awards for drama and the performing arts. That directly led to her entry as the age of 14 as a student into the prestigious Abbey Theater in Dublin, where she pursued her dream of classical theater and operatic singing. She won the All-Ireland Cup there for her portrayal of Portia in The Merchant of Venice.

In 1938, she was offered a screen test, arranged by American bandleader Harry Richman (who was then appearing in Dublin and had seen her perform) for a British film called The Playboy at Elstree Studios. A friend convinced her reluctant parents to allow it. In her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, she recalled being horrified by the results, particularly the way she looked in the heavy makeup and a gold lamé gown with strange, winglike sleeves that she had been given to wear. ("I was mad as hell and disappointed by the whole unprofessional event," she said.)

After appearing in minor roles in two 1938 British musicals, Kicking the Moon Around and My Irish Molly, she was contacted by Charles Laughton and his partner, Erick Pommer. Laughton happened to see the test and although he agreed that it was awful, he was nonetheless taken by her hauntingly beautiful eyes. He and Pommer signed her to a contract and promptly cast her opposite him as the orphaned Mary Yelland in director Alfred Hitchcock's British-made 1939 pirate yarn, Jamaica Innof which he was a producer as well as the star.

Laughton and Pommer, finding her given name of FitzSimons somewhat unmanageable, gave her the choice of either “O’Hara” or “O’Mara” as a surname. She chose the former.

The coming of World War II brought the film business in England to a virtual halt. Laughton signed with RKO and came to California to play Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He brought his protégé along for the part of the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. The film was a box office smash and RKO bought Maureen’s contract from Laughton. Unlike most stars of her era, she began at the top, and remained there, with her skills and talents only getting sharper with the passing years.

What enabled O’Hara to remain at the top went far beyond her dynamic beauty. She had a lovely soprano voice, developed by signing with her mother and siblings when she was young, and a natural athletic talent, probably inherited and developed by her father, who was an excellent soccer player and believed in physical games for his children. (In fact, she performed many of the stunts in her own films.) This, added to her desire to try anything, expanded her range of parts. She could easily transition from playing Tacey King in the suburban comedy Sitting Pretty (1948) to a diplomat’s daughter who disguises herself as a dancing girl in the 1950 actioner Tripoli to pirate captain Spitfire Stevens in the 1952 Yo-Ho-Ho-Matey pirate adventure Against All Flags with Errol Flynn.

O’Hara also had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of director John Ford, who cast her as Angharad in his 1941 multi-Oscar drama about Welsh coal miners, How Green Was My Valley. It was the first of five films she made with Ford, with whom she had a love/hate relationship, as exemplified later by her description of him in a interview with the Irish newspaper The Sunday Independent as “an auld devil and cruel as hell.”

As with any other major celebrity in the ‘50s, she was the feature of a slanderous article in the tabloid magazine Confidential. That article claimed she and a lover engaged in "the hottest show in town" in a back row in Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater. She sued for libel, presenting her passport as proof that she had not been in the country when the activity was supposed to have taken place. In a later interview with the Associated Press, she said, "I was making a movie in Spain, and I had the passport to prove it." The case was eventually settled out of court, and would be another nail in the magazine’s coffin that would lead to its eventual demise.

In 1960, just as it seemed that her career was winding down, she breathed new life by playing the title character in a television remake of Mrs. Miniver. Overnight, it seemed, she transformed herself from the fiery young love interest to the dependable, well-preserved wife/mother/widow, a career course she stayed with until retiring for good in 2000.

Some of her best-known roles in the ‘60s were as the mother of twins, both played by Hayley Mills, who conspire to reunite their divorced parents in the 1961 Disney comedy The Parent Trap; John Wayne’s feisty wife in McLintock, a 1963 Western adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew; the 1963 family drama, Spencer’s Mountain, with Henry Fonda, a precursor to TV's The Waltons; and a 1966 Western, The Rare Breed, with James Stewart. She said that one of the biggest thrills in her life was being inducted into the Western Hall of Fame.

O’Hara was married three times. In 1939, just before leaving for the United States, she married George H. Brown, a British film producer who later became the father of the magazine editor Tina Brown. He remained in England and the marriage was annulled in 1941. Later that year, she married her second husband, Will Price, a writer and director with whom she had her only child, a daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons, born in 1944. They were divorced in 1953.

In 1968, she married Gen. Charles F. Blair, an Air Force aviator who operated Antilles Air Boats, a small Caribbean airline, and whom she had known as a friend of her family for many years. O’Hara always said there was no man quite like Wayne, and in marrying Blair she wed the real-life version of what John Wayne had been on the screen: He had been a Brigadier General in the Air Force, a Senior Pilot with Pan American World Airways, and held many incredible record-breaking aeronautic achievements.

In 1973, O’Hara retired from films after making the TV movie The Red Pony with Henry Fonda. (The film went on to win the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence.) The couple relocated to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where they managed Antilles Airboats, a commuter seaplane service in the Caribbean, building it into a 27-plane commercial fleet covering the upper Caribbean and grossing $5 million a year. She also owned and published a magazine, The Virgin Islander, writing a monthly column called "Maureen O'Hara Says." After Blair’s tragic death in a plane crash in 1978, O’Hara took over Antilles after General Blair’s death in September 1978. As President and CEO, she was the first woman in that position for a scheduled American airline.

She sold her controlling stock the next year to Resorts International, though she remained as company president until 1981. A year earlier, she sold the Virgin Islander magazine to Gannett publishing, then split her time between her 25-acre estate overlooking Ireland's Bantry Bay and her home in St. Croix, until moving to a home in Boise, Idaho, near her grandson and his family after her retirement in 2000.

O’Hara eventually returned to film in 1991 as the overbearing mother of John Candy’s character in Chris Columbus’s 1991 comedy/drama Only the Lonely. In the ‘90s, she starred in three television movies: The Christmas Box (1995), Cab to Canada (1998) and her final screen appearance, The Last Dance (2000), in which she played a retired teacher helped by former student Eric Stoltz.

In 2004, she received an Irish Film and Television Awards lifetime achievement honor and published her autobiography, ’Tis Herself. In 2011, O'Hara was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. On Nov. 4, 2014, she received an honorary Oscar for "Lifetime Achievement" at the annual Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards.

Survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons of Glengarriff, Ireland; her grandson, Conor FitzSimons of Boise, and two great-grandchildren, Maureen O’Hara  is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., alongside her husband, Blair, who was a U.S. Navy pilot.

Mae Clarke Tribute

By Ed Garea

On August 20, TCM is devoting a day of its “Summer Under the Stars” tribute to the great Mae Clarke. Although she’s best known to film fans as the woman who takes a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney, Mae had a full career on the stage as well as on the screen.

Born Violet Mary Klotz in Philadelphia, Pa., on August 16, 1910, she grew up in Atlantic City, where he father worked as an organist in a motion picture theatre. She learned how to dance, and at the age of 13 was already performing in nightclubs and amateur theatricals. By 1925, she was working as a dancer and burlesque artist at the Everglades Club, earning $40 a week. It was there she would strike up a life-long friendship with fellow dancer Ruby Stevens, who later became known as Barbara Stanwyck.

In 1926, Mae got her break in “legitimate” theater, appearing in the drama The Noose with Stanwyck and Ed Wynn. She followed this with a role in the musical comedy Manhattan Mary in 1927. While working in vaudeville, Mae was screen-tested by Fox and landed her first role in Big Time (1929). In her next film, the musical comedy Nix on Dames (1929), she was given top billing. Afterwards, however, the quality of her films declined, and she left the studio a year later. 

Freelancing resulted in better parts, and she began to be typecast in “hard luck” roles. She played a prostitute in the Lewis Milestone-directed hit, The Front Page (1931), and on the strength of her performance, was signed by Universal’s Carl Laemmle, Jr. for the role of ballerina-turned streetwalker Myra Deauville in James Whale’s Waterloo Bridge (1931). Before taking on this assignment, she was cast, uncredited, as Kitty in The Public Enemy, with James Cagney, appearing in one of the most memorable scenes in film history. She was also third-billed as Henry’s Frankenstein’s bride in Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), with her most famous moment being terrorized by the Monster (Boris Karloff) in her bedroom.

In 1932, just as her career was taking off she suffered a nervous breakdown, most likely from a combination of overwork and marital problems. A serious car accident in March of 1933 further damaged her career, as did yet another breakdown in 1934. In addition, her sexy screen persona was restricted by the clampdown and strict enforcement of the Production Code. 

When she was given a clean bill of health and returned to the screen, it was in B-pictures, mainly at Columbia and Republic. Her most notable role was that opposite Cagney in Grand National’s production of Great Guy (1936). In 1949, she was reduced to starring as the female lead in Republic’s serial, King of the Rocketmen. During the 50’s she worked minor parts, mostly unbilled, with a few decent minor roles in Westerns such as Wichita (1955). Like many other actors looking for work, she turned to television and carved out a steady, if unspectacular, career, save for a few notable appearances on The Loretta Young Show. After he last film appearance in Melvin Van Peebles’ Watermelon Man (1970), Mae retired to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital and devoted her remaining years to her favorite hobby: painting in the style of Swiss abstract artist Paul Klee. She died there of cancer in April 1992.

The schedule for August 20 is as follows:

6:00 am – A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY (WB, 1966): Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward. A pioneer woman replaces her ailing husband in a poker game after he loses most of their money.

8:00 am – MOHAWK (Fox, 1956): Scott Brady, Rita Gam. When a Boston artist is commissioned to paint landscapes, he gets caught up in a land war between settlers and the Mohawks.

9:30 am – WICHITA (Allied Artists, 1955): Joel McCrea, Vera Miles. Wyatt Earp fights to tame a wild and crooked cow town.

11:00 am – THE FALL GUY (RKO, 1930): Mae Clarke, Jack Mulhall, & Ned Sparks. An unemployed druggist gets mixed up with gangsters.

12:15 pm – TURN BACK THE CLOCK (MGM, 1933): Lee Tracy, Mae Clarke. A middle-aged workingman gets to relive his life and make himself wealthy.

1:45 pm – PENTHOUSE (MGM, 1933): Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy. Framed for murder by the Mob, a lawyer enlists the help of a call girl to prove his innocence in this good, all-around mystery.

3:30 pm – PAROLE GIRL (Columbia, 1933): Mae Clarke, Ralph Bellamy. A wrongly convicted woman tries to make amends after her release from prison.

5:00 pm – THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN (MGM, 1934): Lionel Barrymore, Fay Bainter. A family pulls together when the patriarch is accused of embezzlement.

6:30 pm – THE MAN WITH TWO FACES (WB, 1934): Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor. An actor uses his skills to protect his sister from her sinister husband.

8:00 pm – WATERLOO BRIDGE (Universal 1931): Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass. James Whale directed this film an American soldier in love with a London dance-hall girl, not realizing that she’s a prostitute.

9:30 pm – FRANKENSTEIN (Universal 1931): Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, & Edward Van Sloan. The original with all censored scenes restored. A must.

10:45 pm – FAST WORKERS (MGM, 1933): John Gilbert, Robert Armstrong, & Mae Clarke. Construction workers become romantic rivals.

12:00 am – THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER (RKO 1932): Edna May Oliver, James Gleason. Schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers helps solve a murder at the aquarium.

1:15 am – LADY KILLER (WB, 1933): James Cagney, Mae Clarke, & Margaret Lindsay. Cagney is a criminal on the lam who wanders into Hollywood and becomes a star in this frantic comedy.

2:45 am – THE PUBLIC ENEMY (WB, 1930): James Cagney, Jean Harlow. William Wellman directed this electrifying rise and fall of a hoodlum as played by James Cagney.

4:15 am – THE FRONT PAGE (U.A., 1931): The original with Pat O’Brien and Adolph Menjou as Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns. It’s prehistoric and highly entertaining.

Omar Sharif: In Memoriam

By Christine

I'd rather be playing bridge than making a bad movie”

I first met Omar Sherif while covering a celebrity bridge tournament in Deaxville. I was immediately taken, not only with his physical beauty, but also his charm and stature. When he rose from his table to take a break, I then noticed his profile. It was one that most men would sell their soul to the devil to have. When he passed me by he smiled at me. For my part, I swooned.

I was – and still am – happily married. But I often wondered that if he showed me any encouragement, would I have broken my marital vows? Needless to say, I have never been tempted since, but there’s always that one – that one special person – who crosses your path and subjects everything to a fleeting reconsideration. Oh, well, it was only the briefest of encounters, less than momentary. He returned to his table, and after the day ended, left with a beautiful woman on his arm; one whose fur and jewelry spoke much louder than she could have hoped. I returned to my office, and later to my husband and children wiser in the knowledge that I didn’t succumb.

If he only knew of the endless afternoons we spent together in the dark of the cinema. I would often skip school to spend my time watching him. I don’t know how many times I saw Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago. I even saw his Egyptian films. Paris was always noted for its many “art houses” where one could take in movies from America to India to Vietnam.

My husband, bless his heart, is not a fan of Sharif. He likes many of the movies, particularly Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but as he once told me, “You overdosed me on that man.” To this I plead guilty. We have practically all his works on DVD and I confess to running them frequently. But as I tell my husband, “This is no mere mortal we’re discussing. This is Adonis in the flesh.” He laughs and retreats to his office for a few moments of sanity while I get my Omar fix.

And now the world is a sadder place, at least for me. On July 10, Omar Sharif died in Cairo from a heart attack. He was 83. Steve Kenis, his agent, relayed the sad news.

There are few actors who can fill a screen with the verve and panache Sharif brought to each of his roles. His dark, handsome presence commanded the screen whenever he appeared. He began his career in Egypt, his first film being Devil of the Sahara in 1954. His worldwide debut came in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, as Sherif Ali. Multillingual (he was fluent in Arabic, English, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish), Omar was also multicultural as well. He once told me during an interview that the worst fate that can befall an actor is to be typecast. And throughout his career he did his best to avoid that. In The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), he was an Armenian king; in Behold a Pale Horse (1964), he played a Spanish priest; The Yellow Rolls-Royce saw him as a Yugoslav patriot fighting the Nazis; in Genghis Khan (1965), he was the conquering Mongol leader, and Doctor Zhivago (1965) saw him as a Russian physician-poet during the Revolution. He didn’t stop there: in Night of the Generals (1967), he was a German intelligence officer; Funny Girl (1968), a shifty gambler, and, in his biggest career misstep, he played Che Guevera to Jack Palance’s Fidel Castro in the bombastic flop, Che! (1969).

Looking back, it could well be said that it was during the Sixties that Sharif’s career peaked. In Lawrence of Arabia as Sherif Ali, a chieftain who joins forces with Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence, he received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. Doctor Zhivago, usually regarded as his best role, gave him the starring role as a sensitive and brooding doctor/poet who begins a love affair – doomed from the start – with another man’s wife, played exquisitely by Julie Christie, amid the violence and anarchy of the Russian Revolution.

Zhivago couldn’t have been further away from his next notable role: that of a junior intelligence officer assigned to investigate a trio of generals, one of who is suspected of killing prostitutes, in Night of the Generals. It also reunited him with O’Toole. And he went from playing a Nazi to playing card-sharp Nicky Arnstein in 1968’s Funny Girl, with whom Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice falls in love.

Although Sharif’s career continued after the debacle of Che!, the choice roles shrank, along with the actor’s enthusiasm for his vocation. He loved to gamble and was a regular in casinos all over France. When he wasn’t at the roulette wheel or baccarat table, he could be found at the horse races. Sharif once told me that he never did anything halfway, and proved it by becoming an aficionado of horse racing. He had a long relationship with horse trainer David Smaga, and was often spotted at racecourses, with Deauville-LaTouques Racecourse being his favorite. He bought a couple of racehorses and won a couple of important races. His horse, Don Bosco, won the Prix Gontaut-Biron, Prix Perth, and Prix du Muguet. He also had a regular tipping column in a Parisian racing magazine.

Another pursuit that would take up more and more of his time was the world of competitive bridge, where he was widely regarded as an expert on the game. At one time, Sharif ranked among the world’s top 50 contract bridge players. He played an exhibition match before the Shah of Iran. He also wrote a number of books as well as penning a syndicated bridge column with Charles Goren and licensing his name to a bridge video game. He even found the time in 1977 to write his autobiography, with Marie-Therese Guinchard, titled The Eternal Male.

And if all this weren’t enough, Sharif was also a die-hard football fan and dedicated follower of the fortunes of Hull City. Sharif became a fan after sharing a flat with co-star Tom Courtenay during the filming of Doctor Zhivago. He became such an avid fan that, if he were not near a radio or television on match day, he would call the club and get the results. In 2010, Sharif received an honorary degree from the University of Hull in recognition of his fervor and used the occasion to meet his favorite player, prolific striker Ken Wagstaff.

If Sharif seemed to be most comfortable playing characters born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there was good reason. He was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932, in Alexandria, Egypt. His father, Joseph, was a wealthy timer merchant from Lebanon who settled in Egypt in the early 20th century. His mother, Claire Saada, was a Syrian beauty and noted society hostess. She frequently played cards with Egyptian King Farouk, who was a regular visitor until he was deposed in 1952.

In his youth, Omar was a chubby boy, and in the hope that he might lose some weight, his parents enrolled him at Victoria College in Alexandria. Young Omar found the school’s food quite appalling, and lost the weight. He also showed an aptitude for languages. He graduated from Cairo University with a degree in mathematics and physics and went straight to work in his father’s lumber company, specializing in selling exotic woods. This lasted for several years, until ennui got to him and he journeyed to England to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

As noted earlier, he began his film career in Egypt, changing his name to Omar el-Sharif. (Sharif means “the noble man” in Arabic.) He soon shot to stardom, partially due to his successful paring with popular Egyptian actress Faten Hamama. They starred together in the 1954 drama Struggle in the Valley. In the movie, Hamama shared a kiss with him, although she had previously refused to kiss on the screen. The couple’s on-screen romance was continued off-screen as well, and in 1955 they wed in Cairo. In order to marry Hamama, Omar converted to Islam from his original Melkite Greek Catholicism. The marriage was a passionate one, but not a long-lasting one. They had a son, Tarek, who survives him, before separating in 1966 and divorcing in 1974.

A strong factor in the collapse of his marriage was the draconian restriction on travel instituted by the Nasser government, which impeded his ability to appear in international productions. He decided to remain in Europe and lived in Hollywood for a while, though he never really took to the attractions of Tinseltown. As he told me, “It provided me with fame but also brought with it a loneliness I couldn’t get past. I missed my homeland greatly.” After leaving Hollywood, he became a virtual nomad before settling down again in Cairo after Nasser’s death.

At any rate, Omar wasn’t really the marrying type. He never re-married after his divorce; too busy romancing his co-stars. In many of his films he carried on with a co-star, whether the leading lady or supporting player. His most notorious liaison was with co-star Barbra Streisand on the set of Funny Girl in 1968. When word of their affair reached Egypt, authorities there were aghast; Streisand, besides being Jewish, was also an outspoken advocate of Israel. For the Egyptians, this was tantamount to sleeping with the enemy. Even worse, their affair took place while the Six-Day War was in full swing. On the verge of being stripped of his citizenship, government officials asked him to justify himself. Sharif simply replied, “When I kiss a woman, I never ask her nationality or her religion.” He even had the temerity to appear in the 1975 sequel, Funny Lady, although James Caan, playing showman Billy Rose, was the romantic lead.

Other steamy affairs took place with Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Anouk Aimee, and Catherine Deneuve, with whom he starred in Mayerling, a 1968 film about the tragic love affair of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover, Baroness Mary Versara.

As the years wound into the Seventies, Sharif’s film fortunes began to fade. In an interview I had with him he blamed the reversal of fortunes on the rise of young, talented directors more interested in making films about their own societies, their own worlds. “There was no more room for a foreigner, so suddenly there were no more parts.” He freely admitted that he squandered his talent in favor of quick money, spending his time drinking away the weeks in the company of O’Toole and other hell raisers. His nights were spent gambling and he made up for his losses at the roulette tables by signing on to play the “foreign gentleman” in whatever picture he could find, regardless of quality.

Though he continued to make films, they were a far cry from the level of Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago. As the years went on, though, he became more selective about which movies. Many were television productions, such as Pleasure Palace, made for CBS in 1980, where he played a European playboy who comes to Las Vegas for a gambling showdown with a millionaire Texan. He was Russian Czar Nicholas II in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, a 1986 NBC production. And he played Prince Razumovsky in the A&E production of Catherine the Great, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.

But his film choices weren’t restricted to historical costume dramas. Sharif also liked to work in comedies that intrigued him, such as his brief appearance as Cedric in the Jim Abrahams/David Zucker spy spoof, Top Secret (1984). He told me he read the script and thought it was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen. He had to be in it.

In 2003, he produced and starred in M Ibrahim (original title M Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran), a French film directed by François Dupeyron in which he played a Turkish shop-owner who befriends a Jewish teenager. It was a huge hit in France and the public came out in droves. It earned him a Cesar Award (France’s version of the Oscars) and the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival, which he shared with Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams). In 2004, he played the wealthy Sheikh Riyadh in Hidalgo who invites American Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) to take part in the Ocean of Fire, a 3,000-mile survival race across the Arabian desert. His last released film is the French family drama Rock the Casbah (2013).

In May 2015, news broke that Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His son, Tarek El-Sharif said his father was becoming confused when trying to remember some of the biggest films of his career, mixing up the titles and often forgetting where they were filmed.

His death came less than six months after ex-wife Hamama’s death at the same age, reportedly also from heart failure. In addition to his son, he had two grandsons, Omar (also an actor) and Karim.

Christopher Lee: In Memoriam

Remembering a Psychotronic Legend

By Ed Garea

Christopher Lee, one of the giants of psychotronic films, has passed. A man who breathed new life into the Prince of the Undead and went on to lend his distinguished looks to a slew of films, both of the A and B variety, died June 7 in London. He was 93.

An official for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London confirmed his death, attributed to respiratory problems and heart failure, according to the Associated Press.

Although he made acting his life’s work after the war ended in 1945, it took 11 years until he made his breakthrough in 1956 playing the Creature in Hammer Studio’s The Curse of Frankenstein. The next year he starred in Hammer’s remake of Dracula. Released in 1958 as Horror of Dracula, the movie made him a worldwide star, and he never looked back.

He was born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee in London on May 27, 1922, the son of Lt. Col. Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a professional soldier, and Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, a member of an old Italian family.

He grew up along with older sister Xandra in the fashionable Belgravia neighborhood. His parents separated when he was four and divorced when he was six. His mother later married (and later divorced) banker Harcourt George St.-Croix Rose, and uncle of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The family settled in Fulham, where his stepfather maintained their extravagant lifestyle until his bankruptcy in 1939.

After attending Wellington College from age 14 to 17, Lee worked as a clerk for United States Lines and later Beecham’s. When Beecham’s moved out of London, Lee joined the Home Guard until he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941. A failure of his optic nerve grounded the would-be pilot and he volunteered with RAF Intelligence and the Special Forces during World War II, serving in Rhodesia, South Africa, North Africa, and Italy. After the war’s end, Lee, who spoke fluent French and German, worked at ferreting out high-ranking Nazis in occupied Germany before retiring from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant.

After the war’s end, Beecham’s offered him a job with a large raise, but Lee didn’t want to be tied down to a desk. A cousin suggested that he try acting, and introduced him to people at the Rank movie studio in London. He was signed to a seven-year contract and joined the Rank Organization in 1947, training in their “charm school.” Because of his height (6’5”), his appearances were limited. In his film debut, Corridor of Mirrors (1948), Lee, playing nightclub customer Charles, remained seated throughout his appearance, lest he tower over his fellow actors. Later in that year he was seen in an unbilled role as a spear-carrier in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

His career through the mid-‘50s saw him cast in small roles in films as diverse as Scott of the Antarctic with John Mills (1948), to 1951’s Captain Hornblower, R.N., with Gregory Peck (He was cast after the director asked if could speak Spanish and fence, both of which he was able to do) to 1952’s The Crimson Pirate with Burt Lancaster. He supplemented these tiny roles with appearances in television shows.

In 1956, at the age of 35, Lee auditioned for and won the role of The Creature in Hammer’s color remake of Frankenstein. Released in 1957 as The Curse of Frankenstein, it was a runaway hit. For once, Lee’s height didn’t work against him, but he was disappointed when he found he had no lines. He complained to co-star Peter Cushing about this during a break in filming. Cushing gently replied, “You’re lucky. I’ve read the script.” This exchange would cement a close friendship that lasted until Cushing’s death.

Satisfied with his work, Hammer offered him the lead role in their color remake of Dracula. Though the role only paid 750 pounds, it did offer stardom, and based on the returns of his previous film, looked to be another mega-hit.

With the use of color, Hammer could no longer rely on what sustained horror films in the age of black and white – shadows. Instead, blood became the new barometer of horror as color filming meant brighter lighting. Just as the role of the vampire count made Bela Lugosi into a sex symbol, so did the role make Lee a sex symbol. Seizing on the sex appeal potential of Lee, director Terence Fisher amped up the volume on the erotic, telling actress Melissa Stribling, who played Mina Holmwood, that after the scene where Dracula seduces and bites her, to exit her bedroom imagining she had just experienced the best sex of her life. She did as he suggested and the scene was done in just one take.

For his part, even co-starring with Cushing, Lee only had 13 lines, all of them in his scenes with John Van Eyssen, who played Jonathan Harker. The rest of his time was spent glaring, jumping and hissing.

Again, the film was a huge hit, and Lee began to be typecast into horror roles. He played Kharis the Mummy in 1959’s The Mummy, the heel in a French remake of remake of The Hands of Orlac, and a murderer who sells bodies to Boris Karloff in Corridors of Blood. Even when he played Henry Baskerville in Hammer’s color remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles, he still found himself in a horror-tinged film. He also played Chinese master villain Fu Manchu in a series of German-produced films in the ‘60s.

As for Count Dracula, he was far from bring done with his most famous portrayal. He would play the Count 10 more times, 7 of them for Hammer in a devolving series of films during the late ‘60s to early ‘70s with such titles as Taste the Blood of DraculaDracula A.D., 1972, and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. During his appearance with Cushing on the talk show Tomorrow with Tom Snyder, Lee reflected on the paltry salary he received on the Dracula films while they reaped multi-millions for the studio. Cushing remarked that the series kept becoming sillier and sillier, finding he, as Van Helsing, was chasing the Count in worse and worse movies. “What next,” he remarked, “Dracula in the DarkSearch the House for Dracula? Thankfully they ran out of ideas.”

Lee’s roles in the Dracula films gave him no lines to speak. Again he hissed his way through. Stories vary as to the reason: Lee claims that he refused to speak the lousy dialogue he was given while screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims there were no lines for him in the script. It has also been suggested that the reason may have been that, according to union rules, the more lines and scenes an actor has, the more he or she is to be paid. That may be one reason why his appearances in the sequels were brief.

In an interview with Total Film ( Lee stated that he was virtually blackmailed by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films: I did have a big problem after the first two. I said to my agent, 'I don’t want to do this part again.' Because all they do is write a story and try and fit the character in somewhere, which is very clear when you see the films. They gave me nothing to do! I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in. Eventually I told them that I wasn’t going to play Dracula any more. All hell broke loose. I got frantic telephone calls from [Hammer honcho] Jimmy Carreras saying, 'I’m begging you! I’m on my knees. You’ve got to do this film!' I asked why and he said, 'I’ve already sold it to the American distributor with you playing the part.' Then he said something I’ve never forgotten because it was sheer blackmail: 'Think of the people you’re putting out of work.' That’s the only reason I did the last few Draculas. I didn’t want to be the reason for a hundred people not working.”

Lee did gain revenge of a sort when he starred in director Jesse Franco’s Count Dracula in 1970. It was faithfully based on the Bram Stoker novel and Lee got to speak Stoker’s lines.

Seeking to move away from the horror genre, Lee took on other roles, notably as Mycroft Homes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and a cameo as a gunsmith who builds Raquel Welch a special revolver in Hannie Cauler (1971). He also played the swashbuckling assassin Rochefort in director Richard Lester’s remake of The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers (1974), and notable Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). 

One of his favorite roles was that of Lord Summerisle, the hedonistic pagan chief who rules over an island where free love, public nudity, and ultimately, human sacrifice, is practiced in the 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man. In interviews, Lee noted that, although it was his favorite role, most remembered Britt Eklund and her nude dance.

In 1973, he founded his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., for whom he starred in the films Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). Meanwhile, he continued to move away from his horror image, even spoofing his most famous role of Count Dracula in the weak French comedy Dracula and Son (1976).

Lee moved to Hollywood in the late ‘70s, and while he remained a busy actor, the bulk of his film and television appearances were rather unremarkable. An exception was his appearance as guest host on Saturday Night Live in 1978. The highlight was his portrayal of Mr. Death in a sketch where he apologizes to a little girl, (Laraine Newman) for taking her dog. The two then get into a long conversation of why he has to do what he does. When asked about his portrayal in The Seventh Seal, he replies, “Ingmar Bergman makes movies I’ll never understand.”

In the 1990s, he decided to branch out into music, embarking on a music career including concerts and recordings. His material ranged from arias to show tunes, and in 2010, what he called “symphonic metal” with the album “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.” He released a follow-up album, “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death,” in 2013. Lee could be described as a frustrated musician. In his 30s, he applied to study at the Royal College of Music, but was rejected as being too old.

The dawn of a new century brought about a revival in Lee’s movie’s fortunes. He landed the role of the dangerously charismatic wizard Saruman, set on destroying the “world of men,” in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and would repeat the role in the other two chapters of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit movies. He also played the treacherous Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), and reprised the role in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. He also played Dr. Wonka, the father of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). In 2012, when he turned 90, he appeared as Clarney in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

Lee lived in Switzerland and California before returning to England. On June 16, 2001, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to drama. On June 13, 2009, he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List for his services to drama and charity, knighted by Prince Charles, and in 2011, he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

In 1960, a Danish friend and his wife introduced Lee to Danish painter and ex-model Birgit “Gitte” Kronecke. They were engaged soon after and married on March 17, 1961. Their daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee, was born in 1963. Both survive him.


In 1962, Lee auditioned for a part in The Longest Day, but was turned down because he did not look like a military man.

Lee appeared on the cover of the Paul McCartney & Wings album “Band on the Run” (1973). Also appearing on the cover were talk show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, actor James Coburn, boxer John Conteh, and pundit Clement Freud.

He was named 2005’s “most marketable star in the world in a poll conducted by USA Today on the strength of his appearances in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit series and the Star Wars films.

He and wife Birgit were listed as among the 50 best dressed over 50 by the Guardian in March 2013.

Lee was far from the occult characters he portrayed in movies. Despite rumors, he did not own a vast library of occult books. When giving a speech at the University College Dublin on November 8 2011, he said: "Somebody wrote I have 20,000 books. I'd have to live in a bath! I have maybe four or five [occult books]." Lee told them he had met "people who claimed to be Satanists. Who claimed to be involved with black magic. Who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it." He added: "I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind, you'll lose your soul."

In Memoriam: Gregory Walcott

Now You Just Hold On, Buster”

By Ed Garea 

He was an accomplished actor who appeared in such notable films as Mister RobertsThe Eiger SanctionNorma Rae, and Midway. He romanced Claudette Colbert in Texas Lady (1955), portrayed hard-as-nails drill instructors in Battle Cry (1955) and Delbert Mann’s The Outsider (1960), and was Gene Hackman’s psychopathic brother in Prime Cut (1972). He worked with such noted filmmakers as Raoul Walsh, John Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Steven Spielberg.

And yet, for all that, he is probably best known among cinephiles for the role of pilot Jeff Trent in Ed Wood’s cult classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Gregory Walcott passed away at his home in Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, on March 20, 2015. His son, Men in Black puppeteer Todd Mattox, announced his death, which was attributed to natural causes. Walcott was 87.

For years afterward, Walcott avoided any reference to Plan 9 like the plague. In an interview with a reporter, he stated, “I will go to my grave not remembered for those meaty roles I did for the likes of John Ford or Steven Spielberg, but as the leading man in a film that many movie historians regard as the worst of all time. It's enough to drive a Puritan to drink!”

However, in recent years, his attitude softened greatly to the point where he made a cameo appearance in Tim Burton’s 1995 biopic, Ed Wood. He explained his position to the L.A. Times in 2000, “I didn't want to be remembered for (Plan 9). But it's better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don't you think?”

How Walcott came to star in Wood’s “masterpiece” is a story that like all stories connected with the film, is decidedly offbeat. In a 1998 interview for Filmax magazine, Walcott said he was approached by a friend, fledgling producer J. Edwards Reynolds, about starring in a sci-fi film opposite Bela Lugosi. “But Ed,” I replied, “Bela Lugosi is dead.” He was told not to worry, for director Ed Wood was going to use footage he shot of Lugosi before his death, and the footage would be blended into the film.

I refused at first,” Walcott said. “I read the script, and it was gibberish. It made no sense, but I saw Ed Reynolds as a naive, sweet man. I had done some pretty good things before that, so I thought I had a little credibility in Hollywood. I thought maybe my name would give the show some credibility. … The film was made surreptitiously. My agent didn’t even know I did it.”

The road for Greg Walcott was one many actors had trod. He was born Bernard Wasdon Mattox on January 13, 1928, in Wendell, North Carolina, outside Raleigh. He was raised in the nearby town of Wilson, where his father was a furniture salesman. He enlisted in the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II, and also saw action in the Korean War.

After leaving the service, his restless spirit took over and with a $100 in his pocket, he hitchhiked from the East Coast to California to pursue a dream of an acting career. Once there he studied the craft under Ben Bard. An agent spotted Walcott in a little theater play and helped him land his first movie role in Red Skies of Montana (1952). A couple of years later, he made something of a splash as a Marine Corps drill instructor in Raoul Walsh’s Battle Cry (1955), and the studio, Warner Brothers, signed him to a contract.

Aside from his role as Deputy Jess Foley in Texas Lady (1955), Walcott worked mainly in television with occasional film roles, mainly in Westerns, such as Warner Brothers’ Badman’s Country (1958), where he played Bat Masterson.

Then came Plan 9.

Walcott shot the film in late 1956 into the first part of 1957. As mentioned before, he took the role as a favor to J. Edwards Reynolds, a fellow member of his Baptist church who Wood conned into putting up the money for the film. Luckily for Walcott, the film took two years to find a distributor, and less than 20 release copies were struck, because the distributor, DCA, made Reynolds foot the cost of prints. It wouldn’t have made a difference at any rate, for the film played a week at most to empty houses. In 1961, it made its debut as late night fodder on independent TV stations. Thus, practically no one in the business knew Walcott appeared in it until the ‘70s, when the Medved Brothers gave the film a splash of publicity by naming it as the Worst Movie Ever Made in their book, The Golden Turkey Awards. Since then, Plan 9 and its director have become pop culture icons.

Regarding Walcott, in 1958, he appeared in a film almost as gruesome, critically speaking, as Plan 9. That would be Jet Attack (1958) from director Edward L. Cahn. Walcott is one of three pilots (with John Agar and James Dobson) sent behind North Korean lines to rescue a scientist held prisoner. There, they encounter a mysterious Russian nurse (Audrey Totter) who ultimately helps them in their mission, for she has fallen in love with Agar. (Yes, I know.)

In 1961, he won acclaim as drill instructor Sgt. Kiley in the Universal film The Outsider, the story of Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima. Walcott was third-billed behind star Tony Curtis (as Hayes) and James Franciscus. Later that year, Walcott co-starred as Det. Roger Havilland in NBC’s police drama 87thPrecinct (1961-62), based on the novels of Ed McBain.

Other prestige films he made during the ‘60s include On the Double (1961), with Danny Kaye, and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), with Gregory Peck. Most of the paychecks during the decade were earned guest starring on television series, mainly Westerns such as Rawhide (5 appearances), The High Chaparral (2 appearances), The Big ValleyAlias Smith and Jones, and Bonanza (7 appearances).

In the ‘70s, he hooked up with Clint Eastwood, having earlier worked with the actor-director on Rawhide. He appeared in Joe Kidd (1972), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1975), and Every Which Way But Loose (1978). He said in later interviews that he enjoyed working for Eastwood, but noted that his character was the tough guy who was beaten thoroughly to a pulp by the star in the films.

Besides the Eastwood quartet, other major pictures Walcott appeared in included Prime Cut (1971), with Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express (1974), Midway (1976), with Charlton Heston, and Martin Ritt’s Norma Rae (1978), where he had a memorable role who hauls away Sally Field’s character during the famous protest scene.

Again, the bulk of his work in both the ‘70s and ‘80s came from television, where he frequently guest starred on series from Baretta, to The Six Million Dollar Man, to Dallas. His last appearance came in a cameo role as a potential backer in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994).

On the personal side, Walcott was married twice, first to Martha Garland, from 1948 to 1953, and later to Barbara May Watkins, to whom he was introduced at a party by Western legend Dale Evans. He married Barbara in 1954 and the marriage lasted for 55 years until her death in June 2010.

He also published a memoir, “Hollywood Adventures: The Gregory Walcott Story,” in 2003.

In addition to son Todd Mattox, Walcott's survivors include his daughters Jina and Pam and several grandchildren.

In Memoriam: Albert Maysles

It's Just a Shot Away

By Ed Garea

The world of documentary film lost one of its giants with the passing of Albert Maysles, who, along with his late brother David, was one of the giants of their unique American version of cinema verite, as illustrated in such films as SalesmenGrey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter.

To honor Mr. Maysles, TCM will air an evening of his documentaries tonight beginning at 8:00 pm.

Maysles died on March 5 of this year at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.

The Maysles Brothers were known for their departure from the usual documentary conventions in that they did not interview their subjects. As Albert explained it in a 1994 interview with The New York Times, “Making a film isn’t finding the answer to a question; it’s trying to capture life as it is."

He was born Albert H. Maysles in Boston on Nov. 26, 1926. His parents were both Jewish immigrants. His father, who emigrated from the Ukraine, was a postal clerk, and his mother, originally from Poland, was a schoolteacher.

The family lived in Dorchester and later moved to suburban Brookline, where Albert and younger brother David grew up. Albert was diagnosed with a learning disability, which he later credited with the development of intense listening skills that later served him well in documentary filmmaking.

Albert attended Syracuse University, from where he graduated in 1949 with a B.A. in Psychology. He later went on to earn his M.A. from Boston University, where he taught psychology for three years before switching to film. A trip to Russia to film a mental hospital was repeated the next year, but this time with a camera supplied to him by CBS, which permitted him to film his first documentary, Psychiatry in Russia, a silent film he made in 1955.

He followed this with Youth in Poland (1957), which began his collaboration with brother David. David, who had been working as a production assistant on Hollywood movies, served as co-director.

Their work impressed the famous documentarian Robert Drew. Drew, who has been called the “father” of cinema verite, invited Albert to be part of the crew, along with sound recordist D.A. Pennebaker, that produced the 1960 documentary Primary, which concerned the contest between John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey for the Democratic presidential nomination in Wisconsin.

In 1962, he and David established Maysles Films, making ends meet by producing television commercials for firms such as IBM and Merrill Lynch. Their 1964 film on the Beatles, in which they followed the rock group to three U.S. cities, was to form the linchpin of the DVD, The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit. They followed their work on The Beatles with two 1966 documentaries, Meet Marlon Brando, and With Love From Truman, both of which were well received by public and critics alike.

But it was their 1968 film, Salesmen, a study of four door-to-door Bible sellers who target the poor, which made their reputation. The 85-minute documentary follows the salesmen as the travel cross-country selling expensive Bibles to low-income families, and the accompanying crises they endure, including burnout.

They followed it that year with Monterey Pop, a deftly filmed account of the most famous pre-Woodstock concert gathering, featuring the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Who, and the Mamas and the Papas. An indication of how exactly the camera could follow the participants was evidenced by the oft-cited scene of Cass Elliot being deeply moved while listening to Janis Joplin’s set. At the end of “Ball and Chain,” Cass is caught saying, “Wow.”

Monterey Pop proved an excellent warm-up for what became their most famous documentary, Gimme Shelter (1970), about the 1969 American tour of the Rolling Stones, which ended with the tragedy that occurred during their concert at Altamont, California, in which a fan is shown being stabbed to death. The film became a staple of countless midnight showings across the country, earning critical admiration tempered by concerns that the Maysles Brothers were also exploiting the violence.

In 1975, they made what many critics consider their masterpiece, Grey Gardens, a portrait of Edith Bouvier and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, both cousins of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The mother and daughter were filmed living in squalor and isolation in a once grand mansion in East Hampton, N.Y. The house, infested with fleas and populated not only by the mother and daughter, but a large population of cats and raccoons, was brought to public attention as a result of a story in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine. When notified by the Suffolk County Health Department that the Beale women were to be evicted and the house razed, Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provide the necessary funds to repair the damage and bring the house up to village code.

Grey Gardens proved so popular that, over the years, it has taken on a life of its own, spawning a 2006 Broadway musical starring Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, and a 2009 HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as the Beales, with Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Onassis. The HBO production was nominated for 17 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning three, and was nominated for three Golden Globes.

Albert and David also made Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic (1987), which was nominated for three Primetime Emmys, winning two. Their last collaboration was Islands (1987) a study of the artist Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1987 Sundance Awards.

After David’s death from a stroke in 1987, Albert co-directed the 1992 Emmy Award winning Abortion: Desperate Choices, with Deborah Dickson and Susan Froemke.

Over the years since David’s death, Albert worked as director, co-director and cinematographer, on a wide range of subjects, from the Getty Museum, to Gypsy music, Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, extreme choreography, rock concerts, and artist Keith Haring. In 2001, he received the Cinematography Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for his documentary LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, about a Mississippi Delta family’s struggle against poverty. In 2006, he released The Beales of Grey Gardens, a new perspective on the Beales utilizing unseen footage from Grey Gardens. His latest project was Hollywood Renegade, a documentary about screenwriter Budd Schulberg and his times, to be released this year.

In 2006, he founded what is now the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem, and in July 2014, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Survivors include Gillian Walker, his wife of 39 years; two daughters, Rebekah and Sara; a son, Philip; and a stepdaughter, Auralice Graft.


8:00 p.m. GREY GARDENS (Rialto Pictures, 1976): Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith B. Beale, Jr. Documentary of a reclusive Long Island mother and daughter living in their own world at their mansion, “Grey Gardens.”

9:48 p.m. PORTRAIT OF AN ACTOR (Calliope Films, 1971): George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere. A portrait of George C. Scott, as related on the set of his film, The Last Run.

10:00 p.m. SALESMAN (Maysles Films, 1968): Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt. David Maysles directed this documentary about the adventures and misadventures of four door-to-door salesmen.

11:45 p.m. GIMME SHELTER (Maysles Films, 1970): The original rude boys of British rock, the Rolling Stones, tour America, culminating in a death at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in California.

1:30 a.m. MEET MARLON BRANDO (Maysles Films, 1966): Marlon Brando, Rex Morgan. A portrait of Marlon Brando, who is in New York to promote his film Morituri, goes awry when Brando becomes more interested in an interview conducted by a former winner of the Miss USA beauty contest.

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

Live Long and Prosper

By Ed Garea

Leonard Nimoy, who won a global following as Mr. Spock, the human-Vulcan first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie versions of Star Trek, died on February 27 at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, attributing the cause to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy had announced last year that he was suffering from the disease, stating that it came from years of smoking, which he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

Although he had been acting in television and films since 1951, it was the character of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek that made Nimoy a household name in popular culture as he brought to life a character who was cerebral, resolutely logical, and imperturbable, known by his pointed ears, his unique salute and blessing, “Live long and prosper.” 

Born Leonard Simon Nimoy in Boston on March 26, 1931, the second son of Ukrainian immigrants Orthodox Jewish immigrants Max Nimoy, a barber, and Dora Spinner Nimoy. He was raised in the city’s predominantly Italian West End and sang in his synagogue choir.

He got the acting bug early, beginning at age 8 at a local theater and in high school productions. After graduation, he relocated to California to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse. His start in the movies came with a bit part in the 1951 production of Queen For a Day, based on the popular radio (and later television) show. He also scored an unbilled part as a ball player in the 1951 movie, Rhubarb, a comedy about a cat that inherits a baseball team.

He scored the title role in the 1952 low-budget production, Kid Monk Baroni, as the disfigured leader of a street gang who becomes a boxer to escape his life in the “Little Italy” section of New York. Drafted into the Army in 1953, Nimoy began training for the infantry before being reassigned as an entertainment specialist, directing and hosting radio, television and stage shows for the Army’s Special Services branch.

After his discharge, he returned to California, studying at the Pasadena Playhouse and working as a soda jerk, movie usher, and cabdriver in between acting jobs, mainly in television, as he was cast in guest spots in such shows as Luke and the TenderfootNavy LogThe Man Called XHighway PatrolHarbor Command, and Broken Arrow. What few movies he appeared in during this period have become cult classics. In 1952, he was Narab, a Martian invader in the Commando Cody serial for Republic Studios, Zombies of the Stratosphere. His turn at the end to helping the forces of Earth against his planet somewhat foreshadowed his turn as Mr. Spock. He played Chief Black Hawk in Old Overland Trail (Republic, 1953), one in a series of oaters starring Rex Allen. He was the Army sergeant at the telex in 1954’s Them! After that, his only movie role in the ‘50s was as Professor Cole in the 1958 low-budget version of Robert Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters, titled the Brain Eaters.

As the ‘60s rolled around so did the quality of the television shows in which Nimoy worked. He began receiving guest shots on such shows as The Twilight ZoneWagon TrainSea HuntM SquadBonanzaPerry MasonDr. KildareDeath Valley Days, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., where he worked with future Star Trek shipmate and later close friend, William Shatner. In between assignments, Nimoy taught Method acting at his own school. But in 1963, a guest shot on the police drama, The Lieutenant, led to his big break.

The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was impressed with Nimoy’s performance and called his agent about a part in a new science-fiction show he was developing. Although the character was not yet fleshed out, Roddenberry told Nimoy’s agent that it would be extra-terrestrial, as the show was set in the 23rd century, and the space ship’s crew members were not just international crew, but interplanetary as well. The name of the show would be Star Trek.

Nimoy shot the pilot, which introduced his character of Mr. Spock and that of Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. NBC rejected it and plans were made for a second pilot with a somewhat different cast. Because Hunter had already committed to another project when the second pilot was to be filmed, Shatner was cast as Captain James T. Kirk.

As the character of Spock was unknown territory, Nimoy was given free rein to create. He incorporated his childhood memories of the kohanim blessing from his religious upbringing and created the Vulcan split-fingered salute, along with the salutation, “Live long and prosper,” which was an accompanying blessing to the prayer from Numbers 6:24-26.

Another of Spock’s trademarks was the result of improvisation. After reading in the script that Spock was to knock another character out cold with the butt of his phaser, Nimoy worked out a better solution: the Vulcan nerve pinch, claiming that Spock studies would have included knowledge of anatomy to be used in self-defense.

The character of Spock connected with the public and Nimoy was reported to have been receiving about 10,000 letters week, most of them from women. He also received an Emmy nomination for each season the show aired. After the show was canceled after a three-year run, however, Nimoy seemed pleased and highly reluctant to play the character again. He was the only member of the cast who did not sign up for a projected sequel in the ‘70s (abandoned for other reasons), and after much soul-searching, finally agreed to be part of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. The reason for this reluctance, he said in interviews, was the poor quality of writing on Star Trek, especially in its third  and last  season. But Nimoy was also reluctant to attend the Trek fan conventions that become wildly popular in the ‘70s. Fans were also dismayed by the title of his 1975 book, “I Am Not Spock,” which was taken by many as Nimoy’s rejection of, and distancing from, the character of Spock. Perhaps it was the very real fear of being permanently typecast, though he did have a successful run in Mission Impossible, which he signed on for right after Star Trek finished its initial television run, as Paris, an IMF agent who was a ex-magician and make-up expert.

But it seemed that Nimoy had a change of heart about Spock after the character was killed off in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (supposedly at his insistence). Given the chance to direct the next Trek installment, he seemingly made peace with the character, allowing it to be reborn in the course of the movie. He also directed Star Trek IV (1986) and Star Trek VI (1991), both of which he helped write, and guest-starred as Spock on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When director J. J. Abrams revived Star Trek in 2009, with an all-new cast, he included a cameo part for Nimoy as an older version of Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Of his work outside Star Trek, Nimoy received kudos for his work in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the 1982 TV movie A Woman Called Golda, where he played Morris Meyerson, the husband of Golda Meir, played by Ingrid Bergman. He also directed the successful 1987 comedy, Three Men and a Baby.

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the popular syndicated series “In Search Of ...,” which explored such mysteries as the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, and U.F.O.s. In addition, he narrated Ancient Mysteries on the History Channel, took on a recurring role on the science-fiction series Fringe and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Nimoy also performed on stage, appearing in such works as Fiddler on the RoofThe King and ICaligulaTwelfth Night, and My Fair Lady in regional theater, and Full Circle and Equus on Broadway. In 1975, he toured with and played the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Sherlock Holmes, and in 1981, he starred in Vincent, a one-man show based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

If all this wasn’t enough, during and following Star Trek, Nimoy also released five albums of musical recordings. His first was titled Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space. His second album, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, features him singing as Spock. On the final three albums he sings popular folk sings and covers of works such as “Proud Mary” and “I Walk the Line.” Though the critics panned his recordings, fans ate them up, perhaps enjoying the campy performances.

He also published several books of poetry and photography, and came to terms with himself in his 1995 tome, “I Am Spock,” in which he said he hoped the book would place to rest the ugly and unfounded rumors about his relationship to the character. For the record, he said that he liked and admired Spock.

Regarding his personal life, Nimoy returned to college, earning his M.A. in Spanish from Antioch College in 1978. The school later awarded him an honorary doctorate.

His first marriage to actress Sandi Zober lasted from 1954 to 1987 and produced two children, Julie and Adam. In 1989, he married actress Susan Bey (cousin of director Michael Bay).

In Memoriam: Louis Jourdan

By Ed Garea
Louis Jourdan, the handsome, doe-eyed actor best known for his role in Gigi, and who to many seemed to be the epitome of everything French, died on February 14 at his home in Los Angeles, according to his official biographer, Olivier Minne.

For audiences from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, Jourdan’s good looks and sexy French purr made him the most popular French export since Charles Boyer. He specialized in playing the smooth Continental type, whether in musicals, dramas, or comedies. He became so identified with this role and such as his popularity that he was later spoofed by Christopher Walken as "The Continental" in a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live.

He was born Louis Henri Gendre in Marseilles on June 19, 1921, one of three sons of hotelier Henri Gendre, who organized the Cannes Film Festival after the second world war, and Yvonne, whose maiden name of Jourdan Louis took as his stage name. Henri’s work necessitated frequent travel, and the family followed him. Thus Louis was educated in France, Turkey and Britain, where he learned to speak perfect English, while being savvy enough to keep his slight soft French accent.

Jourdan knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor and studied under Rene Simon at the Ecole Dramatique in Paris. While studying, he began to appear on the professional stage, where he caught the attention of director Marc Allégret, who hired him as an assistant camera operator on his 1938 film, Entrée des Artistes (The Curtain Rises). A year later, Allégre cast him in his film debut, Le Corsaire (1939), starring Charles Boyer. But the outbreak of World War II interrupted the production, and the movie was never completed.

Jourdan continued to make films, before and after the German Occupation. But when he was ordered to make German propaganda films, he refused and fled to the Unoccupied Zone, where he continued to work in film. However, when the Gestapo arrested his father, Louis and his brothers went underground and joined the French Resistance. Louis helped print and distribute Resistance leaflets during this time.

With the Liberation in 1944, Jourdan found film and stage work easier to come by, the main reason being that, as he was in the Resistance, he was not tainted by having worked for Marshal Petain and entertained the Germans, as had many of his contemporaries.

In 1946, Jourdan married childhood sweetheart Berthe Frédérique (known as Quique) and went to Los Angeles after producer David O. Selznick promised he could make more of himself in Hollywood than he ever could in Paris. Selznick cast him as the slightly sinister valet suspected of murdering his employer in The Paradine Case (1947), starring Gregory Peck. This was done over the objections of director Alfred Hitchcock, who conceived of the character as a rough, earthy type. Hitchcock referred to Jourdan as “a pretty-pretty boy,” complaining that his casting “destroyed the whole point of the film.” But Jourdan’s relationship with Hitchcock was far better than his relationship with Selznick, who put him on suspension many times for refusing roles.

Jourdan followed up with a starring role in his next film, Max Ophüls’s masterly Letter From an Unknown Woman in 1948. Based on the story by Stefan Zweig, he played the debonair, womanizing pianist who seduces and abandons Joan Fontaine. The role allowed him to make the most of his smooth charm, and to play a complex character: an empty man who comes to realize in the end how much this emptiness has cost him.

In 1949, he starred in director Vincente Minnelli’s glossy version of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, as Rodolphe Boulanger, the lover of adulterous Emma Bovary, played by Jennifer Jones. 1952 saw him co-starring with Boyer in director Richard Fleischer’s The Happy Time, about a French family in Ottawa during the 1920s.

Jourdan returned to France in 1953 for Rue de l’Estrapade, and La mariee est trop belle (The Bride is Too Beautiful), with Brigitte Bardot, which wasn’t released until 1956 with the title Her Bridal Night. While in Italy in 1954 he appeared in Three Coins in the Fountain, playing the dashing Prince Dino di Cessi.

When not making movies, Jourdan kept busy in television, playing a police inspector in the ABC series Paris Precinct (1955). He guested on such prestigious programs as Studio OneThe Elgin Hour, and Celebrity Playhouse. He also made his debut on the Broadway stage in 1954, starring in an adaptation of Andre Gide’s The Immoralist, playing a repressed gay man embarking on marriage. Although his reviews were generally excellent, he found himself upstaged by the performance of a striking young supporting actor: James Dean. He returned to the New York stage the next year in Tonight in Samarkand, letting Hollywood know that he was not getting more of the serious film roles he wanted.

In 1958 came the role of a lifetime, playing Gaston Lachaille in director Minnelli’s Gigi. The film, which co-starred Maurice Chevalier and Leslie Caron, won nine Oscars, including Best Picture, and made Jourdan an international celebrity, as he sang the title song. But Jourdan did not receive a nomination (for this or any other movie in his career). Gigi did earn him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

In the ‘60s, the suave, Continental types that Jourdan specialized in began to fall out of favor with American moviegoers. He played the suave Philipe Forrestier in Can-Can (1960), starring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, and Chevalier. He also played Continental types in 1963’s The VIPs and the 1966 Made in Paris, as a fashion designer, before the bottom finally fell out.

With each passing year, Jourdan found himself cast more as the suave, charming villain than the suave, charming hero. He also made more of a living on television than in the movies, finding himself in demand as a guest star. In 1977, he gave a memorable and seductive performance in the title role of Count Dracula, a movie directed by Phillip Saville for the BBC. It was the closest version of the venerable vampire tale to Bram Stoker’s novel. In 1983, he appeared as the villainous Kamal Khan in the James Bond opus Octopussy. He also played the evil and oily Dr. Anton Arcane in Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing and its 1989 sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing.

In the mid-80s, he would return to Gigi, this time in a touring show and in Chevalier’s role. To the frequent criticism that he lip-synched his songs, he answered: “If I sang them live, the fragile little voice I have would go.”

His final film appearance came as a suave villain in director Peter Yates’s Year of the Comet (1992), an excellent caper about a rare bottle of wine. In 2010, he was named as a chevalier, or knight, of the Légion d’Honneur.

Jourdan was well liked in Hollywood, but noted for keeping his private life private. In 2014, he lost wife Berthe Frederique after 68 years of marriage. Son Louis Henry died in 1981 from a drug overdose at 29. Pierre Jourdan, a brother who was an actor and a theater director in France, died in 2007.

In Memoriam: Lizabeth Scott

She's a Femme Fatale

By Ed Garea

I didn’t want any part of her, but I kept smelling that jasmine in her hair, and I wanted her in my arms. Yeah. I knew I was walking into something.”  “Rip” Murdock (Humphrey Bogart), Dead Reckoning, 1947.

She was made for film noir: a sultry blonde with a smoky, come-hither voice who had romance on her mind and homicide in her heart. She played opposite such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Van Heflin. And though her heyday lasted only about a decade, her influence remains; fueled as much by her private life as by the femme fatales she played on screen.

Lizabeth Scott, nicknamed by Paramount, the studio that signed her in 1945, as “the Threat,” died on January 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 92. While the hospital confirmed the death, it did not list a cause, but her longtime friend Mary Goodstein stated the cause was congestive heart failure.

When Paramount signed her, the studio described her as “beautiful, blonde, aloof, and alluring.” Their plans were to cast her in the mold of Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake, two other blonde dames of noir. But critics and the public never saw her as being in the same league with Bacall and Lake; she was seen as more of a generic imitation. It wasn’t until years after her career flamed out that she was seen and appreciated for bringing something original to the hard-boiled characters she often played. In her book, Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film (1998), film historian Karen Burroughs Hannsberry called Scott “one of film noir’s archetypal femmes.”

She was born Emma Matzo on Sept. 29, 1922, in Scranton, Pa., one of six children of Ukrainian immigrant John Matzo and wife Mary (nee Pennock), who owned a grocery store. She attended Marywood Seminary, a local Catholic girls’ high school, but transferred to Scranton’s Central High School. After graduation, she spent the summer working with the Mae Desmond Players, a stock company in the nearby town of Newfoundland. That autumn she enrolled at Marywood College, but quit after six months, against her parents’ wishes, to move to New York City, where she enrolled at the Alvienne School of Drama. She took the stage name of “Elizabeth Scott,” and landed a small role with the touring company of the stage hit Hellzapoppin, where she had little to do, except to appear between sketches in stunning gowns is a series of comedy blackouts.

After the tour concluded, she returned to New York in 1942. Unable to get an acting job, she was hired as a fashion model by Harper’s Bazaar at $25 an hour. Later that year, Broadway producer Michael Myerberg cast her in a small role in Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. She also understudied star Tallulah Bankhead, but had no chance to substitute. When Bankhead left the show in 1943, Scott hoped to replace her as star. But the role was given instead to Miriam Hopkins, and Scott returned to modeling. But when Gladys George, who replaced Hopkins, became ill, Scott was called back to the show and won rave reviews. She later played the lead in the play’s Boston run, also to rave reviews and good business.

Later in 1943, when she was modeling after leaving the play, Warner Brothers producer Hal B. Wallis spotted her at her 21st birthday party held at the Stork Club in New York. Wallis scheduled an interview with Scott the following day, but she canceled it when a telegram asked her to replace Hopkins in the Boston production of The Skin of Our Teeth. 

In 1944, agent Charles K. Feldman, who saw her photos in Harper's Bazaar, invited Scott to Los Angeles. After failed screen tests at Universal-International and Warner Brothers, Scott again ran into Wallis, who told her that he would hire her if he had the power to do so. She thought he was jerking her around and left for New York. But Wallis left Warner Bros. and formed his own production company, which would release their product through Paramount. He called her again, and she came out to Los Angeles, signing a contract with Paramount. She was now known as Lizabeth Scott after dropping the “E” in her first name “to be different.”

Her debut film was the Ayn Rand-scripted You Came Along in 1945, in a role originally intended for Barbara Stanwyck. Scott played U.S. Treasury flak Ivy Hotchkiss, whose job was to look after three pilots on a patriotic bond-selling tour. She falls in love with one of the pilots, Major Bob Collins (Robert Cummings), but while she’s serious, he’s lackadaisical. Despite the efforts of the other two pilots (Don DeFore and Charles Drake) to keep her in the dark, she discovers why Collins isn’t serious: he has terminal leukemia. It wasn’t a smooth shoot for Scott; she experienced problems with leading man Cummings, though these were later worked out, and she had difficulties with director John Farrow, who made no secret of the fact he wanted Teresa Wright for the starring role. Another consequence of the film was the lifelong friendship between Scott and Rand.

On the strength of this film, Wallis next cast Scott as one of the leads in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946 over the protests of top billed star Stanwyck who, in a letter, said that she would not be co-starred with any other person other than a recognized male or female star. Nevertheless, Scott wound up in third place at the top behind Stanwyck and Heflin and ahead of Douglas, appearing in his first film. Wallis, notorious for a weakness for blondes, was obsessive with his new discovery to the point of demanding director Lewis Milestone reshoot certain scenes to feature more close-up of Scott. Milestone walked out, telling Wallis that if he wanted to reshoot the scenes, he could do so himself, which is just what he did.

It was during this time that the publicity for Scott from Paramount and Wallis began to backfire. Journalists began to notice the resemblance between Scott and Bacall, which, coupled with the studio’s nickname for Scott being “The Threat” (as compared with Bacall being nicknamed “The Look”), began the critical trend of marginalizing Scott in favor of Bacall.

Scott got her next starring role as a result of a loan-out from Wallis. Columbia was about to film Dead Reckoning with Bogart and Rita Hayworth. But Hayworth was busy filming The Lady From Shanghai, so Scott was imported to fill in. The film represented Scott’s first portrayal of a hard-boiled femme fatale. She plays Coral “Dusty” Chandler, the ex-girlfriend of Bogart’s murdered war buddy who’s a singer in a nightclub run by a local gangster. She knows more about the buddy’s murder than she lets on, and to keep Bogart from finding out the truth about his buddy, she seduces him into believing that she loves him. Both the film and Scott were hits, with the film typecasting her as a beautiful schemer caught in a whirlpool of jealousy, greed, betrayal and murder, but nevertheless irresistible.

Her fourth film was Desert Noir (1947), a coming-of-age noir with Scott as the rebellious daughter of Mary Astor, whose character, a casino and bordello owner, runs the corrupt town of Chuckawalla, Nevada. The film also starred newcomers Burt Lancaster and Wendell Corey.

In December 1946, Scott began filming on Wallis’s I Walk Alone, co-starring Douglas, Lancaster, and Wendell Corey. Scott plays torch singer Kay Lawrence, who befriends convict Frankie Madison (Lancaster), returning to New York after being in stir for the last 14 years. Kay’s boyfriend is Noll “Dink” Turner (Douglas), who owns the Regent Club. However, Madison claims that he’s Dink’s partner. Dink sends Kay to sweet-talk Frankie in order to stall for time, but the truth is that Dink, having tired of Kay, intends to dump her and marry socialite Mrs. Richardson (Kristine Miller).

The film, a big hit with audiences and seen as one of the classic film noirs today, contained even more drama behind the scenes. Originally titled Deadlock, the role of Kay was supposed to be Kristine Miller’s breakout role. But Scott, having read the script, decided she wanted the role, and prevailed upon Wallis, with whom she was involved in a hot and heavy affair, to give her the part, which he did. Miller wound up with the secondary role of the socialite. Her relations with Lancaster, previously romantic (it was rumored that they were to marry at one point) cooled to the point of near hostility. After filming wrapped, Lancaster tried to break his seven-year contract with Paramount, ostensibly on the grounds that it violated a previous freelance deal. However, he also admitted that he never wanted to work with Scott again.

Scott followed up I Walk Alone with two films that refined her femme fatale image even further. First up was Pitfall (1948), with Scott playing Mona Stevens, a model who becomes involved in a hot and heavy extramarital affair with bored insurance investigator Dick Powell. Powell soon finds himself competing for her with sociopath detective Raymond Burr, who is blackmailing Mona. She followed this with a film that many critics and viewers regard as her best performance and film: Too Late For Tears (1949). In this film, Scott is the ultimate femme fatale, Jane Palmer, who discovers $60,000 that had accidentally been thrown in the back of her husband’s car. She will go to any length to keep the sudden fortune, as witnessed by the bodies that begin to pile up. Unfortunately, the film bombed at the box office, resulting in bankruptcy for producer Hunt Stromberg.

One of Scott’s problems was that, despite appearing in nine films from 1946 to 1949, she failed to achieve the level of stardom and clout necessary to maintain popularity at the box office. Her health also contributed, for in 1949 she collapsed in hysterics during the filming of RKO’s The Big Steal, with Mitchum. Her illness was such that she had to quit the film. The doctors prescribed rest. By July 1949, Scott was sufficiently recovered to star in the Princeton (University) Drama Festival’s production of Philip Yordan’s Anna Lucasta. She also legalized her stage name.

Her films in the ‘50s were a mediocre lot, attributed in large part to her falling star. Dark City (1950) was a traditional noir with Charlton Heston (in his film debut) playing a bookie who is the target of the vengeful brother of a dead man he swindled. Scott once again played the torch singer-girlfriend. Two of a Kind (1951) featured Scott as a socialite who seduces gambler Edmond O’Brien into joining a caper. In The Racket (1951), another traditional noir, Scott plays a torch singer (for the last time), based loosely on mob moll Virginia Hill, who is caught up in a struggle between big city police captain Mitchum and local mob boss Robert Ryan. Red Mountain (1951) is a programmer starring Alan Ladd as a Confederate Army captain who goes west to join Quantrill’s Raiders. Scott is the wife of Arthur Kennedy, who along with Scott, join up with Ladd after he rescues Kennedy from a lynching.

In the midst of this, Scott traveled to England in October 1951 to begin filming Stolen Face, a Hammer Studio noir directed by Terence Fisher. It’s a uniquely nutty film about plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Ritter (Paul Henreid), who is devastated when the love of his life, American concert pianist Alice Brent (Scott) leaves him and reveals she’s engaged to another man. Dr. Ritter’s not about to take this lying down, and decides that if he can’t have the real thing, perhaps he can construct a duplicate to take her place. Which is just what he does when he meets horribly scarred convict Lily Conover (Mary Mackensie). A snip-snip here, a tug-tug there, and voila! Mary now looks exactly like Alice, and Scott now takes over the role as Lily. And, of course, he marries her. Not only that, Ritter gives her the same clothes, hairstyle, and so forth, as the departed Alice. Unfortunately for the good doctor, his pet theory, elaborated in the first part of the film, that physical deformities can lead to a life of crime, and if the deformities are removed, so is the criminal’s need to commit crime, falls by the wayside when Lily returns to her criminal ways. She steals jewelry and furs, with the doctor bribing shop owners to keep it on the QT. Just when it can’t get any worse, Alice pops back into Ritter’s life, and now he’s stuck with two Lizabeth Scotts. It presages Hitchcock’s Vertigo in a way, and Scott is wonderful in the dual role.

An important footnote here is that by casting Henreid, who was blacklisted in America because of his participation with the Committee for the First Amendment, Scott and Wallis were effectively among the first to break the Hollywood blacklist.

Returning to America, Scott began work on the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis vehicle, Scared Stiff, a remake of the 1940 Bob Hope-Paulette Goddard comedy, The Ghost Breakers. Scott plays the Goddard role, an heiress who inherits a haunted castle on Lost Island, off the Cuban coast. Although Scott would claim fond memories of working on the set in later interviews, it was not without its trials. Scott found Lewis’s impersonation of her offensive and made a point of telling him. Behind the scenes, a jealous Wallis was instructing director George Marshall against letting the romantic scenes between Scott and Martin get too steamy.

Scott’s last picture for Paramount was 1953’s Bad for Each Other, a drama set in Scott’s home state of Pennsylvania. She plays avaricious heiress Helen Curtis, who has her sights on recently returned Korean War physician Colonel Tom Owen (Heston), poor but idealistic. Despite her plans to encase him in her jewel-encrusted world, treating the imaginary illnesses of her society friends, Owen opts to leave that world to minister to the impoverished community. The film was a box office failure and ended not only her Paramount contract, but also her professional and personal relationship with Wallis. Scott was now a freelancer, going on to make a Western noir titled Silver Lode in 1954 and the JD drama The Weapon, in 1956. She also attended USC, where she audited courses in political science and philosophy, and began investing in real estate.

In April 1954, Scott flew to the Cannes Film Festival, where she spent time posing for photographers, wading barefoot in a fountain and the surf. Though she left immediately after the festival’s closing for London, her visit to France would come back to haunt her, both professionally and personally, damaging her film career beyond repair, for she found herself caught in the crosshairs of Confidential.

Confidential was the premier scandal sheet of its day. There were others, such as Hush Hush, but Confidential was the most popular by far. Bogart said of it, “Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.” The magazine developed a network of call girls, waiters, bellboys, journalists, private detectives, and even minor actors who would provide small bits of fact about celebrities. The magazine then elaborated on the facts, magnifying them with a great deal of innuendo, marked by the frequent use of puns and alliteration. Instead of stating outright that an actor had participated in a scandalous act, Confidential operated by suggesting that something scandalous has occurred. Because the stories contained a kernel of actual truth and could be attributed to reliable sources, for a time celebrities would be unlikely to sue the publication, if only because of fear of further revelations that would come out at trial. For those who found themselves splashed over the front pages, the advice was to wait it out until the scandal died down.

In September 1954, Confidential ran a story titled, “Why Was Lizabeth Scott’s Name in the Call Girls’ Black Book?” A police raid on a Hollywood bordello in 1954 uncovered some interesting evidence. A “little black book” seized on the premises contained one entry under ‘S’ that astounded the vice officers: Scott, Lizabeth (4), Ho-2-0064, Br-2-6111. According to the article, the cops could scarcely believe their eyes. “Could that name be that of the honey-blonde star they’d seen in a dozen top movies? If so, what was it doing rubbing elbows with a zesty collection of customers for a trio of cuddle-for-cast cuties?”

The magazine went on to state that when the cops questioned the older girls, all they said was “We don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” But then the article noted that one of the three girls arrested, a juvenile of 17, cracked enough to convince the cops that their first suspicions were right. Supposedly the cops called the number listed in the book, only to have Scott answering, “with her famous husky drawl giving her away.”

To this little nugget was added a myriad of suggestion and supposition. “Liz,” the article stated, “was a strange girl, even for Hollywood, and from the moment she arrived in the cinema city, she never married, never even got close to the altar.”

Her movie career,” the article continued, “went off like a rocket” with such hits as You Came AlongThe Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and Dead Reckoning, but faded just as quickly. Liz “had few friends and never went out of her way to make new ones.” But now, according to the article, she “was taking up almost exclusively with Hollywood’s weird society of baritone babes.”

Baritone babes” was the magazine’s euphemism for the Sapphic sisterhood, or what Hollywood insiders called “the sewing circle.” In what was par for the course with every Confidential story on lesbianism, Liz was linked to a Parisian lesbian named Frede: “In one jaunt to Europe she headed straight for Paris and the left bank where she took up with Frede, the city’s most notorious lesbian queen and operator of a nightclub devoted exclusively to entertaining deviates just like herself.” Well, she did visit France, taking in Cannes. Whether or not she visited Paris was of no consequence to the magazine, which was only getting started. The fact that Frede was a friend and ex-lover of Marlene Dietrich, whose own bisexualism was no secret, was enough to paint Scott with the taint of guilt by supposed association. In fact, Frede was the proprietor of the posh Parisian nightclub Carroll’s, where the stars of France performed to a mixed clientele. In her 1989 memoirs, Eartha Kitt, who began her singing career at Carroll’s in the late 1940’s, described Frede as “the most beautiful manly-looking lady in the world.” The article also quoted her as saying that she “always wore male colognes, slept in men’s pajamas and positively hated frilly feminine dresses.”

The truth about Scott was that she was a nonconformist to the core. Off screen she was fairly open about her life, loved wearing shirts and slacks, and unlike many other stars rumored to be gay, she refused the services of a studio-provided “beard” husband. When Scott saw the article she was furious, but instead of merely sitting by and waiting for the storm to blow over, she enlisted the services of lawyer-to-the-stars Jerry Geisler and sued the magazine for $2.5 million, accusing it of “holding the plaintiff up to contempt and ridicule and implying in the eyes of every reader indecent, unnatural and illegal conduct in her private and public life.” However, it is important to note that she did not sue the magazine for implying that she was gay, but rather for its allegations that she used the services of call girls. The outcome of the trial was never made public. Some reports state the suit was settled out of court, while others maintain Scott lost on a technicality.

Her movie career was in tatters, although ex-lover Wallis gave her the female lead in the Elvis Presley vehicle, Loving You (1957). She played Glenda Markle, a press agent who discovers young country singer Presley and sets him on the road to fame. Backstage rumors were that she was smitten with co-star Elvis and tried to pursue a romance. Whether or not she was successful is not known. The film did very well at the box office and Scott received favorable reviews, but for her, the joy of making movies had passed. “I simply decided there was more to life than just making films,” she said in a 1970s interview. “And, I proceeded to explore all of life’s other facets. None of us is ever too young or too old or too smart to learn or to create.” In fact, after Loving You, she would only come out of “retirement” to make one more film, Pulp, with Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney, in 1972, as a nymphomaniac princess.

Instead, she turned to other things, such as music. In 1957, she cut an album simply titled Lizabeth for Vik Records, a subsidiary of RCA Victor. The album, a mixture of torch songs and romantic ballads such as Cole Porter’s “I’m in Love Again,” also contains in the inner notes an interview with Earl Wilson, in which he states she is a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson, sleeps in the nude, loves deep-sea fishing, and adores sexy clothes (possibly a counter to the Confidential article). On April 23, 1958, she made her public singing debt on the CBS program The Big Record. The album was poorly received after its release, but since has become a cult favorite.

She also kept busy with television appearances, radio shows, and television voice-overs for juice and cat food commercials. In later years, living off returns from her many real estate investments, Scott led a quiet, private life at her house in the Hollywood Hills, helping to raise funds for museums, art galleries and charities (including hemophilia research and hunger). She turned down many requests for interviews and guest appearances, save for the occasional appearance for special screenings of her films. She also attended health clubs on a regular basis, and studied literature, philosophy and languages. There were rumors that she might marry Hal Wallis, but she remained steadfastly single, with Wallis marrying actress Martha Hyer instead.

Survivors include her brother Gus Matzo of Plymouth, Mich.; and sister Justine Birdsall of Middletown, N.Y.

In Memoriam: Rod Taylor

By Ed Garea

If there were one word that would describe the life and career of Rod Taylor, it would be Persistence.

Coming to Los Angeles with few precious credits, Taylor worked his way from the bottom up, taking anything that came his way and never letting down until his big break came.

The star of such favorite films as The Time Machine and The Birds, Taylor died at his home on January 7 at age 84. Daughter Felicia Taylor, a former correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, announced his death to the press.

Taylor was only the second Australian actor, after Errol Flynn, to gain fame on the Silver Screen.

Taylor was born Rodney Sturt Taylor on January 11, 1930, in Sydney, Australia, the only child of steel-construction worker and draftsman William Taylor and his wife, the former Mona Stewart, a children’s book author.

Growing up in the suburb of Lidcombe, Taylor’s first aspiration was to become an artist. As a teenager, he studied at East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. But the friends he made while there interested him in acting, and when he saw Sir Laurence Olivier in a Royal Vic tour of Shakespeare’s Richard III, his decision was firmly cemented.

His first professional appearance was in a local 1947 production of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance. 1951 marked his screen debut with an appearance in an Australian short, Inland With Sturt, about the famed British explorer Captain Charles Sturt, who was Taylor’s great-great-uncle. He also had a role in the 1953 Australian production of King of the Coral Sea, written by and starring Chips Rafferty. He was fourth-billed as “Jack Janiero,” a character who, along with Rafferty, takes over a sea salvage firm owned by a dissolute playboy and turns it into a going concern.

Taylor also made dozens of radio appearances and won a radio-acting award that would finance a trip to London, where he hoped to advance his career.

Before leaving for England, however, he won a small part in Long John Silver (1954), a sequel to Treasure Island, filmed in Australia with Hollywood stars. This inspired him to make a stop in Los Angeles to check out job opportunities. Though he was rejected by a major talent agency, he decided to stay awhile and try his luck.

This marked the beginning of a long, hard climb to stardom. He started with a role in the television production of Studio 57, following that with a role in Lux Video Theatre. Films were harder to break into. There was an uncredited role in 1955’s The Virgin Queen, starring Bette Davis; a small role in the Sterling Hayden Western, Top Gun (1955); and a tiny role in the 1955 Alan Ladd-Edward G. Robinson crime drama, Hell on Frisco Bay.

His next role was meatier, playing astronaut Herb Ellis in World Without End (1956), an above-average sci-fi flick made by the below-average Allied Artists studio. He followed that with a decent role as Debbie Reynolds’ fiancé in The Catered Affair (1956), and as the debonair boyfriend Elizabeth Taylor jilts for visiting Texan Rock Hudson in Giant (1956). His performance in Giant began to win notice, but it was soon back to small supporting roles, including a turn in the acclaimed Separate Tables (1958). Apart from the movies, Taylor made ends meet by appearing in a number of television shows.

It was in 1960, when he was cast as the star of George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1960), that Taylor finally broke through to stardom. He also starred as an American newspaper correspondent in the short-lived television series Hong Kong (1960-61), and as the voice of Pongo, the puppies’ father in the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians (1961). But it was his starring role as the object of heiress Tippi Hedren and later fighting off flocks of enraged birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds in 1963 that solidified his stature as a major star.

1963 was a busy year for Taylor, as he followed The Birds with a co-starring role in the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton drama, The V.I.P.s, a co-starring role with Rock Hudson in the war drama A Gathering of Eagles, and a starring role with Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy Sunday in New York. He won acclaim for his portrayal of German Major Walter Gerber in the World War II thriller 36 Hours (1964) with James Garner and Eva Marie Saint, and as Irish playwright Sean O’Casey in Jack Cardiff’s 1965 biopic Young Cassidy.

Other notable roles in the ‘60s included starring with Doris Day in the comedies Do Not Disturb (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and the lead role in the adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s Hotel (1967). The ‘70s saw him working mainly in television series and movies with the occasional foray into a film such as Zabriskie Point (1970), The Train Robbers (1973) with John Wayne and Ann-Margret, and the remake of the 1931 MGM classic Trader Horn (1973).

As the 1980s dawned, Taylor made only an occasional film, preferring to star instead in television movies and mini-series. His best-known role was as the title character’s father, Black Jack Bouvier in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981). He also had a recurring role from 1988 to 1990 in the nighttime soap Falcon Crest as Frank Agretti, the title vineyard’s long lost owner.

Perhaps his oddest role was as Doc, the town doctor/coroner in the 2007 Sci-Fi (now Syfy) original movie, Kaw, about a town besieged by thousands of flesh-eating ravens. He also came out of retirement at the behest of Quentin Tarantino to play Winston Churchill in his 2009 World War II film, Inglourious Basterds.

Taylor was married three times and divorced twice. His first marriage was to Australian model Peggy Williams, which lasted from 1951 to 1954. His second wife was American fashion model Mary Hilem (1963-69), with whom he had daughter Felicia. In 1980, he married American actress and dancer Carol Kikumura, who, along with daughter Felicia, survives him.

TCM will honor Taylor with an evening of his films on January 29. The evening is scheduled as follows:

8:00 pm – THE TIME MACHINE (MGM, 1960): Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux. George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s dystopia set in the year 802,701 with humans divided into peaceful Eloi and cannibalistic Morlocks.

10:00 pm – THE BIRDS (Universal, 1962): Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren. Alfred Hitchcock directed this ultimate tale of nature-gone-wild when birds suddenly begin attacking humans.

12:15 am – SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (MGM, 1964): Rod Taylor, Jane Fonda. A philandering pilot changes his ways fast when his sister contemplates a premarital fling.

2:15 am – YOUNG CASSIDY (MGM, 1965): Rod Taylor, Flora Robson, & Jack MacGowran. This is the story of playwright Sean O’Caseys’ involvement in the Irish rebellion of 1910.

In Memoriam: Luise Rainer

By Ed Garea

In the mid-Thirties, a meteor burned brightly over Hollywood. And like most meteors, it burned out quickly, but while it was active, it was one of the brightest ever to be seen in that town. That meteor was named Luise Rainer.

Rainer was the first actor to win multiple Academy Awards and the first to win them consecutively. She won the Best Actress statue for her performance as Anna Held in 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld, and Best Actress the next year for her performance as O-Lan in The Good Earth. Yet, her stay at the top of her craft was short, and by 1938, her career at MGM was over. She tried a comeback for Paramount in 1943 in the film Hostages, but we would not see her again on the silver screen until 1997 in the film The Gambler.

Rainer (pronounced “rye-ner”) was born on January 12, 1910, in Dusseldorf, Germany, into an upper-class Jewish family. Her father, Heinrich, was a businessman who settled in Europe after spending most of his childhood in Texas, where he was sent at the age of six as an orphan. Her mother Emilie (nee Konigsberger) was a pianist from a cultured family.

Her father wanted her to attend finishing school and eventually marry the “right sort” of man, but Luise, who was rebellious by nature, fell in love with the world of entertainment, inspired at the age of six by the circus. At the age of 16, she decided to follow her dream and become an actress. She began studying acting under the great Max Reinhardt, and by the age of 18, many critics were hailing her talent. She became a member of Reinhardt’s Vienna theater ensemble and scored several major successes on the Berlin stage, including George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.

She began her film career in Germany in 1930, and in 1934, was signed by MGM talent scout Phil Berg, who offered her a three-year contract, thinking she would appeal to the same audience that flocked to see Greta Garbo. Rainer, for her part, stated in an interview that she had no real interest in films until she saw the 1932 production of A Farewell to Arms. After that, she said, film moved to the forefront in her career. Her decision to leave Europe for America was made easier by the ascension of Adolf Hitler in Germany and his draconian anti-Semitic laws, which would have made it impossible for her to work in Germany.

She sailed to America aboard the Ile de France in 1935. The first thing her handlers at MGM had to do was to subdue her rather pronounced Mittel-European accent. Actress Constance Collier was given the assignment, and under her tutelage, Rainer’s command of English grew rapidly. She was then cast in MGM’s 1935 comedy-romance Escapade, after Myrna Loy turned the role down. It was a remake of the 1934 Austrian film Masquerade, starring William Powell as an artist who persuades the married Rainer to pose semi-nude for him, but when the illustrated poster is printed, it causes a potential scandal.

Her next film was The Great Ziegfeld, again co-starring Powell, in which she played the real-life character of Anna Held, the actress, singer and (scorned) common-law wife of the showman Florenz Ziegfeld, played by Powell. She almost didn’t get the part. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer thought the part was too small for such a star, but Irving Thalberg felt she was the only actress on the MGM lot that could play it. Shortly after filming began in 1935, doubts about Rainer’s ability to play Held began to circulate in the press, mainly centering on the fact that she didn’t resemble the Polish-born Held.

But as Thalberg predicted, Rainer more than held her own in the part. In what may be the most famous telephone scene in film history, the heartbroken Anna attempts to congratulate Ziegfeld on his marriage to Billie Burke (Loy). As the camera records her, she smiles through tears with a voice alternating between false gaiety and utter despair. As she hangs up that camera catches her breaking down into rivers of tears.

Later Hollywood legend would have Rainer writing the teary telephone scene for the film, and Mayer, thinking it too dreary, trying his best to excise it from the picture. Ironically, it is widely believed that it was that very scene, and Rainer’s tour de force performance in it, that clinched the Oscar. Rainer later said in an interview that she based her interpretation of the scene on Jean Cocteau’s play La Voix Humaine: "Cocteau's play is just a telephone conversation about a woman who has lost her beloved to another woman."

On the evening of the Oscar ceremonies, Rainer stayed home, not expecting to win. When Mayer learned she had won the award, he sent MGM publicity head Howard Strickling to her home to fetch her. As she finally arrived, master of ceremonies George Jessel mistakenly introduced her, a task that was originally scheduled for Bette Davis.

Now that she had the Oscar, pundits wondered how she would follow it up. Rainer’s next film was The Good Earth (1937), in the role of O-Lan. Her co-star was Paul Muni, playing her husband, Wang Lung. Muni’s casting actually opened the door for Rainer to play O-Lan. Thalberg’s original choice was actress Anna May Wong, but once Muni was signed, Thalberg knew the Hays Office would not allow even the slightest hint of miscegenation, even between an actual Chinese woman and a Caucuasian actor in yellow-face drag.

O-Lan presented a challenge to Rainer, as the character was the complete opposite of Anna Held. Whereas Held was talkative, O-Lan was practically mute, speaking only a few lines of dialogue throughout the movie, which required Rainer to do a complete turnaround. Again Mayer opposed her casting, wanting her to remain a glamorous star, while Thalberg enthusiastically supported her in her desire to stretch out in unaccustomed roles. She refused to wear heavy makeup or don a Chinese mask made especially for her by the makeup department, preferring to express herself without prosthetics.

The results of Rainer’s decision helped her to portray a Chinese woman far superior to those Loy assayed in her Oriental vamp phase or Katharine Hepburn in 1944’s Dragon Seed. In an interview in the late '90s, Rainer praised her director, Sidney Franklin, as "wonderful," and explained that she used an acting technique similar to "The Method" being pioneered by husband Clifford Odet's Group Theatre.

At any rate, she collected another Oscar as Best Actress, becoming the first actor to win in consecutive years and establishing a record for actresses that lasted 30 years before Hepburn matched it. Her win was considered something of an upset, the favorite being Garbo for her performance in Camille. She was on the threshold of greatness: the public adored her, and even rivals like Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, and Loy concurred. But suddenly her career went into free-fall. She came to see her Oscars not as a blessing, but as a curse, setting expectations so high as to be impossible to achieve. She made five more films for MGM, but with the exception of 1938’s The Great Waltz, they were critical and box office failures.

Because Reiner refused to be stereotyped and knuckle under to the studio system, Mayer refused to be sympathetic to her demands for serious roles. The fact that she was also fighting for a higher salary didn’t help matters either. She soon acquired the label of being difficult and temperamental, which caused her to miss out on serious roles such as the female lead in the Edward G. Robinson opus, The Last Gangster (1937), which, ironically went to Viennese actress Rose Stradner. Her last film for MGM was the disappointing Dramatic School (1938). By this time, Rainer was listed, along with Garbo, Joan Crawford, Shearer, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Francis, and others, as “Box Office Poison” by the Independent Theatre Owners of America.

After finishing Dramatic School, Rainer abandoned Hollywood for New York, where her then-husband, playwright Odets, was living.

Rainer was also unhappy off the set as well. Her marriage to Odets, whom she met at the Brown Derby while dining with Gershwin and composer Harold Arlen, and married in 1937, was also in free-fall. Odets cheated on her and, as she told Vanity Fair, reacted so coldly to the news she was pregnant that she opted for an abortion. Odets was also extremely jealous, even accusing Rainer’s friend Albert Einstein of having an affair with his wife. She and Odets divorced in 1940.

Her unhappiness also extended to Hollywood itself, which she saw as intellectually shallow and absurdly materialistic. In a 2009 interview with The Daily Telegraph, she said Robert Taylor had once invited her to lunch. When she asked him his ambition, he replied that he wanted to own 10 very good suits. That was why, she said, she preferred the company of George Gershwin, Thomas Mann, Frank Lloyd Wright, Einstein and other intellectuals and artists to that of Hollywood people. It all boiled over in her oft-repeated account of her last meeting with Mayer, which over the years became a Hollywood legend.

"Louis B. sent for me and said, 'I understand that you want to leave us.' I said, 'Yes, Mr. Mayer, my source is dried out.'" She explained that she had run out of inspiration. "He looked at me and he said, 'What do you need a source for? Don't you have a director?' What could I say? He looked at me for a long time," and then he delivered his you'll-never-work-in-Hollywood-again threat. She managed a dignified reply and leftheading first to New York City, and later relocating to Europe. She was not yet 30, and yet her Hollywood career was over. While in Europe, she studied medicine, aided orphaned refugees of the Spanish Civil War, appeared at war bond rallies in the United States and entertained Allied troops in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

When World War II broke out in Europe, Rainer fled to America with her family. Her German-born father was also an American citizen, allowing them all to escape Hitler and the Holocaust. Rainer returned to Hollywood in 1942, her contract at MGM long expired. David Rose, head of Paramount, offered her the starring role in an English film shot on location, but war conditions prevented her from accepting the role. Rose then suggested her in 1942 to take a screen test for the lead role in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), but Ingrid Bergman was cast. Rainer eventually settled on a role in Hostages (1943), telling the press during interviews that while it was something unspectacular, she nevertheless hoped it was a step back in the right direction. Alas, it was not to be and it wasn’t until 1997 that she would again appear in a film, taking a small role in the English production of The Gambler.

It’s not that she wasn’t tempted. Director Federico Fellini pursued her to play “Delores,” a cameo role he wrote for her in his 1960 film La Dolce Vita. But it never came off, even though she came to Rome, with the reasons still unclear to this day. One story has it that she insisted on writing the part herself, which for Fellini was a no-no. Another has it that she refused because the role required an on-set sex scene with co-star Marcello Mastroianni. At any rate, after her refusal, the role was excised from the screenplay.

She made sporadic television and stage appearances following her and her husband's move to Britain, appearing as Countess De Roy in an episode titled “Finest Hour” for the World War II television series Combat! It aired on December 21, 1965. In 1983, she played Dorothy Fielding in an episode of The Love Boat that aired on March 3.

Regarding her personal life, things took a turn for the better in 1945. Rainer married publisher Robert Knittel. The marriage was a very happy one, lasting until Knittel’s death in 1989. In 1946. they welcomed daughter Francesca. Rainer abandoned filmmaking, though, as previously mentioned, she did make occasional appearances on the stage and television. She and Knittel split their time between residences in Geneva, Switzerland and Eaton Square, London. Their London residence was an apartment in a building once inhabited by actress Vivien Leigh.

The couple loved travel, books, plays, and music. Their friends reflected their interests and included such luminaries as Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht. Of special interest to the couple was climbing in the Alps. “He was a mountain climber, and he taught me how to climb,” she recalled years after her husband’s death in 1989. “Robert went with a fiddle up to the Matterhorn, and at the top of the Matterhorn he played a Bach sonata.”

In the early 1980s, Rainer memorized all 900 lines of "Enoch Arden," Tennyson's epic poem, which she performed in Europe and the United States, including at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. After Knittel died, she maintained an active life in London.

Rainer returned to Hollywood for the 1998 and 2003 Academy Awards shows honoring previous Oscar winners, and in 2010 for the TCM Classic Film Festival, where she was interviewed by Robert Osborne and presented a screening of The Good Earth. 2010 was a special year for her, as she celebrated her centenary. She was feted at the British Film Institute, where she was interviewed before screenings of The Good Earth and The Great Waltz.

In 2011, Rainer was at the center of a controversy involving her inclusion on the Boulevard der Stars in Berlin, which was created to honor actors and directors from German film and television. Despite being Germany's only Academy Award winning actress, Rainer had been overlooked when the Boulevard opened in 2010. In 2011, she was nominated, but initially rejected by the jury (Senta Berger, Gero Gandert, Uwe Kammann, Dieter Kossliock, and Hans Helmut Prinzler).

In October 2010, New Zealand music executive Paul Baylay, who had noticed Rainer's omission on the Boulevard, began a campaign to get the actress a star. Baylay campaigned in Germany, lobbying press and politicians to have the actress and her work recognized. Baylay also picked up a key supporter when the Central Council of Jews threw their weight behind the campaign. In August 2011, the Boulevard der Stars finally relented, acknowledging Baylay’s Facebook, e-mail and letter campaign had been key in their decision to awarding an extra star to Rainer. And on September 5, 2011, Rainer traveled to Berlin to receive her star on the Boulevard der Stars.

The lights finally went out for Luise Rainer on December 30, 2014. She died at her home in London from complications from pneumonia. Besides daughter Francesca Knittel-Bowyer, granddaughters, Luisa and Nicole, and great-grandchildren, Luca and Hunter also survive Rainer.

TCM will honor Rainer with a marathon of her films on January 12 that was originally to celebrate her birthday. The schedule is as follows:

6:00 am – THE GREAT ZIEGFIELD (MGM, 1936): William Powell, Luise Reiner, & Myrna Loy. This lavishly filmed biography of Broadway’s great showman won Reiner her first Oscar.

9:00 am – BIG CITY (MGM, 1937): Spencer Tracy, Luise Rainer When officials attempt to pin a bombing on a taxi driver’s foreign-born wife and deport her. Tracy takes it to heart and fights back.

10:30 am – THE EMPEROR’S CANDLESTICKS (MGM, 1937): William Powell, Luise Rainer. Spies on opposite sides fall in love in pre-Revolution Russia.

12:00 pm – THE GOOD EARTH (MGM, 1936): Paul Muni, Luise Rainer. Sidney Franklin and Victor Fleming directed this epic adaptation of Pearl Buck’s classic novel about Chinese farmers battling the elements.

2:30 pm – DRAMATIC SCHOOL (MGM, 1938): Luise Rainer, Paulette Goddard. This ensemble piece about the struggles of a young actress on the stage and in marriage could’ve been better, but Rainer sinks it.

4:00 pm – THE GREAT WALTZ (MGM, 1938): Luise Reiner, Fernand Gravey. The story of waltz king Johann Strauss II.

5:45 pm – THE TOY WIFE (MGM, 1938): Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, & Robert Young. Southern belle Rainer finds herself torn between two suitors.

In Memoriam: Lauren Bacall

By Ed Garea

It’s a scene every cinephile has seen at least 100 times and can quote by heart, perhaps the most iconic scene in Hollywood history. It’s from To Have and Have Not, Howard Hawks’ light-hearted 1944 take-off on the previous year’s hit, Casablanca. Lauren Bacall’s character, Slim, a woman of total mystery, is visiting Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-boiled charter-boat captain she calls Steve, in his hotel room. During the course of their encounter, she kisses him. “What did you do that for?” asks Steve. “I’ve been wondering if I’d like it,” she answers. Steve gives her a quizzical look, “What’s the decision?” “I don’t know yet,” she says, and she kisses him again.

It’s even better when you help,” she tells him.

As she prepares to leave the hotel room, she turns toward Steve. “You know, you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” she says. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” With that she leaves. Bogart, with the expression of someone who just can’t believe his luck, thinks it over for a minute. Then he whistles to no one in particular, except maybe we in the audience.

And with that we have just grasped the essence of the allure of Lauren Bacall and why she became a star. She was Cool before there was such a thing as Cool. Known for her striking looks and husky, sultry voice, the result of a two-pack-a-day habit, she was the embodiment of the independent woman, a role she played in one form or another until her brand of sass died out in the ‘50s, replaced by the icy aloofness of Grace Kelly and the needy, borderline trashiness of Marilyn Monroe and her seemingly uncountable imitators.

If that wasn’t enough, she went and married the King of Cool himself, Bogart. They became the storybook Hollywood couple. In her memoirs she said “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it.” She called him Bogie and he called her Slim. She gave him a son, Stephen, named for Bogie’s character in To Have and Have Not, and a daughter, Leslie, named for Leslie Howard. Betty cut back on movie offers to be closer to her young family. It was heaven on Earth . . . while it lasted. Alas, it all came to an end in 1957 when Bogie passed away from cancer of the esophagus at the age of 57. Betty went into a professional and deeply personal tailspin.

Slowly she fought to re-establish herself as an actress, returning to Broadway, where she had not been since 1942. It took awhile, but good stage roles finally came her way and she made the most of them. A second marriage in 1961 to actor Jason Robards, Jr. ended in divorce in 1969, largely due to his alcoholism.

As the Bogart legend began to take off in the ‘60s, she was embraced by the public as his wife and leading lady, yet she felt trapped by it all, seeing herself as defined only as the Widow Bogart. She wanted to be known for her own accomplishments in the arts, but in interviews, she resigned herself to the inevitable. One can’t fight one’s history.

The road to becoming Lauren Bacall was not an easy one. She was born Betty Joan Perske in Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1924, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania, William and Natalie Perske. Her parents divorced when she was six years old; she would have no contact with her father after that. Her mother moved to Manhattan, adopting the second half of her maiden name, Weinstein-Bacal. So Betty Joan Perske became Betty Joan Bacal.

Her mother’s family was close-knit, but not an affluent one. Finances were always a problem as she grew up. Through the generosity of her Uncle Charlie, she was able to attend the Highland Manor School for Girls in Tarrytown, N.Y., graduating from grade school at age 11. She attended Julia Richman High School in Manhattan and studied acting at the New York School of the Theater.

She graduated from Julia Richman in 1940 and became a full-time student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she met fellow student, and first crush, Kirk Douglas. However, she was forced to leave after the first year because her family could no longer afford the tuition. A scholarship was out of the question: the Academy did not offer scholarships to women at that time.

With no other prospects she turned to modeling, landing jobs with David Crystal, a Seventh Avenue dress manufacturer, and Sam Friedlander, who made evening gowns. It was 1941, she was 16, and the jobs, when they came, paid little. During lunch hours she stood outside Sardi’s, hawking Actor’s Cue, a casting tip sheet, and hoping to catch the eye of producers. She also worked as an usher at Broadway theaters, and became a hostess at the newly-opened Stage Door Canteen.

Her efforts eventually landed her a walk-on part in a Broadway play called Johnny 2 x 4. Though it paid only $15 a week and closed in eight weeks, it was a beginning. Meanwhile, her job as an usher led her to make the acquaintance of Paul Lukas, who would serve as an informal mentor, with his advice proving crucial to her career development.

Later that year, producer Max Gordon cast her in Franklin Street, a comedy directed by George S. Kaufman. The play had a hard time catching on with the public and closed out of town for what was called “retinkering.” It would be her last time onstage for 17 years.

Returing to New York, a friend introduced her to Nicolas de Gunzburg, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. He invited her to come to his office the next morning and took her to meet Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor. Vreeland spotted her talent and photogenic potential, and asked her to return the next day to meet the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. She took test shots, and a few days later Vreeland called with a job offer. It paid $10 an hour, a substantial sum in those days.

During this time Betty added an extra “L” to her last name to avoid the constant errors in pronunciation. She worked steadily for Vreeland, appearing in a number of advertisements. But it was a full-page, color picture of her standing in front of a window with the words “American Red Cross Blood Donor Service” on it - a poster of a besuited, independent woman caught up in the war effort. Lit rather provocatively and noirishly, the picture caught the eye of Columbia Studios, David O. Selznick, and Howard Hughes, each of whom sent inquiries. But it was a woman she had never met, Nancy “Slim” Hawks, which led to the offer she couldn’t refuse. Slim showed the picture to husband Hawks, who immediately spotted a connection between the young model and his wife. Hawks and partner Charlie Feldman offered to sign her to a seven-year, personal contract. Betty accepted, and, at the age of 18, left for Los Angeles by train with her mother. She would start at the princely sum of $124 per week.

Hawks became a surrogate father and she in turn allowed him to live out his fantasy of becoming a Svengali, taking a kid from nowhere and molding her into a superstar. He renamed her “Lauren,” to add a little glam, as ”Betty” was too friendly. He also had her work on deepening her voice (he disliked women screeching), sitting in her car up on Mulholland Drive reading The Robe aloud by the hour, and the aforementioned two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. She was also on call as a protégé at parties, so Hawks could show her off to various studio heads and the like, all the while searching for the perfect vehicle to launch her film career.

He finally found it in his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. Hawks planned the film to be a wittier take on Casablanca, and, as with all his adaptations, the only resemblance between the original and the adaptation was the title. Hawks created a character for Bacall, a woman of mystery named Marie Browning. From scant clues provided in one of the original drafts of the screenplay, it seems that Slim is a kept woman whose sugar daddy was killed by stray gunfire during a police raid at the hotel where they were staying. However, in the final cut, Hawks dispensed with explanations - they weren’t necessary. We first meet her when she picks the pocket of an obnoxious client (Walter Sande) of the story’s main character, charter ship owner Harry Morgan (Bogart). She quickly develops a flirtatious relationship with Morgan. He calls her “Slim” (Hawks honoring his wife), and she calls him “Steve.” He buys her an airline ticket to take her off the island, but she stays around to be with him.

To Have and Have Not is set on the Caribbean island of Martinique. The original location was to have been Cuba, but the Cuban government complained to Washington, which, in turn, informed Jack Warner. Besides, Martinique was more mysterious and romantic. Controlled by Vichy, it had the natural parallels to Casablanca. The leader of the Resistance approaches Steve to smuggle in an important figure, but he refuses. However, needing the money, Morgan agrees and soon incurs the wrath of the police. Therein hangs the plot.

When Bacall was informed who her co-star would be, she was less than thrilled. Bogart did nothing for the young Betty Bacall. In her memoirs she told of her mother and sister taking her to see Casablanca when it opened in New York. Although they all loved it, Rosalie was gaga over Bogart, proclaiming him to be sexy. Bacall didn’t share her sister’s enthusiasm; her idea of the ideal man was Leslie Howard or Cary Grant. That opinion was soon to change. As she said in her memoir, By Myself: “She thought he was sexy. I thought she was crazy . . . So much for my judgment at the time.”

When she finally met Bogart, she found him to be warm, funny, and supportive of a nervous young actress just embarking on her career. Bacall was so nervous at first that her head shook. To combat the shaking she tilted her chin downward to steady herself. She then looked up with her eyes toward the camera. The result was electrifying. When the film was previewed, audiences were enraptured. Bacall was both provocative and preposterous. If an older actress had delivered those lines about knowing how to whistle, audiences might have broken out into laughter. But when a young woman, trying to convince everyone in the room that she’s worldly, speaks them, the same lines evoke silent admiration. Hawks took advantage of the way she tilted her head, dubbing her as “The Look” in publicity.

Their relationship developed slowly. They became fast friends and the crew could see chemistry developing. One night, according to Bacall, after the day’s filming was finished, Bogart stood behind Bacall in her dresser as she brushed her hair. Suddenly he lifted her chin up and kissed her. Real life transcended their characters and Bacall knew she was in love.

There were two obstacles to their happiness. One was Hawks, who quickly caught on to what was happening. Jealous (he was intent on having her himself), he warned her not to risk ending her career just as it began. He also threatened to send her to Monogram Studios, sure death for a young actress on the rise. When she told Bogart later, he calmed her by pointing out that Hawks had too much invested to ship her to Monogram. He was proved correct when Hawks next cast the two in The Big Sleep. Hawks and the studio basked in the success of To Have and Have Not, and there was no way they would allow the private romance to derail further business, especially when they could build on said rumored romance to stir ticket sales.

The other obstacle was more daunting: Mayo Methot. She was Bogart’s third wife and his most tempestuous relationship. Known about town as “the Battling Bogarts,” they endured many a physical confrontation, usually brought on and fueled by large quantities of alcohol. The difference between the two was that while Bogart liked to drink, Mayo was a full-blown drunk whose worst side came out when loaded. She was not only dangerous, but also potentially lethal - once stabbing Bogart in the back during one of their fights. Bogie and Betty had to take care not to arouse Mayo, who, at any rate, was always suspicious of her husband.

During the filming of The Big Sleep Bogart told Bacall that he was giving Mayo one last chance. She had agreed to sober up, and it was the decent thing to do. Bacall was devastated. Their off-screen relationship affected the on-screen relationship as their innuendo took on new meaning. Bogart also began to miss days on the set. He was drunk, depressed, trying to save his marriage. He finally walked out on Mayo after coming home one day to find her liquored up and on the warpath. He took an apartment at the fabled Garden of Allah and began divorce proceedings. As his divorce wore on, the lovesick Bogey wired Bacall, “Please fence me in Baby - the world’s too big out there and I don’t like it without you.” When he was finally granted the divorce from Mayo, he and Bacall were married on May 21, 1945, at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, the home of Bogart’s close friend, writer Louis Bromfield. Bogie wept freely as he saw his bride walk up the aisle. He was 45; she was 20.

After their honeymoon it was back to work at Warner’s. Hawks had acknowledged defeat by selling her contract to Warner Bros. Bacall’s next assignment was the 1945 thriller, Confidential Agent, with Charles Boyer and Peter Lorre. Herman Shumlin was the director, and unlike Hawks, offered no guidance to the fledgling actress. The result was a performance that came off cold, not cool, without the zing of her Hawksian characters. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” she said in her memoir. “I was a novice.”

What helped her at the time was that while The Big Sleep had finished before Confidential Agent, it wasn’t released until the next year, 1946, due to changes and reshoots Hawks made to expand Bacall’s character. It also helped that her next two movies, Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948) were shot with Bogart as her co-star, though in both movies, the sassy Bacall was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a more self-effacing and low-key Bacall. She was beginning to wind down her movie career to concentrate on her marriage and start a family. And, in keeping with the Warner’s tradition, she was eventually suspended 12 times by the studio for rejecting scripts.

One other thing Bacall took time off for was politics. The Bogarts were among 500 Hollywood personalities to sign a petition protesting what they termed as the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ attempt “to smear the motion picture industry.” They flew to Washington as part of a group known as the Committee for the First Amendment, which also included Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, John Garfield, Ira Gershwin, and Jane Wyatt. Later, bowing to studio pressure, Bogart stated publicly that he believed the Washington trip was “ill-advised.”

The new Mrs. Bogart’s son, Stephen (named for Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not), was born on January 6, 1949. Daughter Leslie (named for Leslie Howard) followed in August 23, 1952. Still under contract to Warner Bros., Betty cranked out two films in 1950. The first, Young Man With a Horn, co-starred Kirk Douglas and Doris Day. The second, Bright Leaf, co-starred Gary Cooper. Both were considered decent films, but both fared badly at the box office. It wasn’t until 1953 that she had a box-office hit, playing the gold-digging Schatze Page in Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire, along with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.

She also remained active in politics, supporting Adlai Stevenson for president in 1952 and 1956. Back on the domestic front, she helped her husband host informal parties at their home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, sometimes as frequently as five times a week. She accompanied her husband to various film locations, and also ruled as den mother for what became known as the Hollywood Rat Pack. According to legend, the group got its name from Lauren Bacall after seeing Bogart and his friends return from a night in Las Vegas. “You look like a goddamn rat pack,” she said, and the name stuck.
Tired of suspensions from turning down crappy roles, Bacall bought out her contract with Warner’s. But it didn’t pay off the way she hoped, for all she got was a role in Douglas Sirk’s overrated soaper, Written on the Wind (1956), an unbilled cameo in Jed Harris and Rod Serling’s Patterns (1956), and a career girl who impulsively marries Gregory Peck in the passable Designing Woman (1957). Fortunately, there were other avenues to travel.

In the early ‘50s, the Bogarts began starring in radio dramas., such as the adventure series Bold Venture (in part based on To Have and Have Not). They expanded this in the mid-1950s to include television, starring with Henry Fonda in a live television version of The Petrified Forest, the 1936 film that starred Bogart, Bette Davis and Howard. Bogart reprised his role as Duke Mantee, while Bacall played Davis’s idealistic waitress, and Fonda played the dreamy Howard role. In 1956 Bacall co-starred with Noel Coward in a television production of his Blithe Spirit

In 1956, Warner Bros. had bought the rights to John P. Marquand’s novel, Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., a love story about a military man and a journalist based on Claire Boothe Luce. The studio pitched the idea to the Bogarts to star. Their last film together was Key Largo in 1948. The couple accepted, but even before pre-production planning began, Bogart told his wife that he’d had lunch with Greer Garson. Greer said she didn’t like his cough and insisted he go to see her personal physician, Dr. Maynard Brandsma, an internist at the Beverly Hills Clinic.

Brandsma examined Bogart and found an inflamed esophagus. Upon further testing, cancer was discovered. Bacall decided to put her career on hold to nurse her husband back to health and provide the children with an anchor during the troubled times. In By Myself, Bacall takes us through the painful details of Bogie’s demise and ultimate death. She notes his weight loss and his inability to eat solid food, the odor of decay in their bedroom and on his lips, the dumbwaiter he used to go from his room on the second floor to the first floor when guests arrived, and the never-ending hope they both had in a recovery until the doctors finally confessed to Bacall that everything they tried to eliminate the cancer had failed. She also described wearing the old robe she had worn in Dark Passage on the night he died in their bed, the sack in which Forest Lawn crematorium took Bogie’s lifeless body away, and how she tried to hide it from the children.

At Bogie’s funeral she displayed a model of his beloved boat, the Santana. She found keeping the real one too painful and, after a last trip during which she cleaned out his personal effects, she sold it. In trying to recover from her husband’s death, she fell into a relationship with Frank Sinatra that nearly bloomed into marriage; that is, until Frank got wind their engagement was leaked to the press and, blaming Bacall, cut her off cold. It turned out that Swifty Lazar had spilled the beans, but their relationship was over, and Bacall, in her memoirs, counts it as a blessing.

She was becoming disenchanted with Hollywood, noting that “Film is not a woman’s medium,” and that “If you weren’t the hottest kid in town, men stayed away from you.”  It was probably this disenchantment that led her back to the Broadway stage. In 1959, she starred in the George Axelrod comedy, Goodbye Charlie, playing a womanizer who is killed and returned from the grave as a woman. It only lasted for 109 performances, but her next parts would all be in hits.

Meanwhile, she met, and married, actor Jason Robards, Jr. While the union produced her third child, Sam, it ultimately failed due to Robards’ drinking. While Bogart could be a heavy drinker, there was a difference: Robards was a full-blown alcoholic, Bogart was not. Bacall, a non-drinker herself, was astounded at what alcohol did to her husband. When sober, Jason was fast, quick-witted, fun to be around, the loving parent. But, under the influence, he became surly, abusive, and neglectful of his children, leaving it to his wife to fill both parenting roles. Bacall, for her part, took time off to raise Sam. She also became a regular on the salon circuit between New York and Washington. Before she met Robards, Bacall moved to New York, purchasing a large apartment at the Dakota on Central Park West. This would be her home for the rest of her life.

As Sam got older, and to put space between her and Jason, Bacall took a lead role in Abe Burrows’ 1965 play, Cactus Flower, playing the prim assistant to a womanizing dentist played by Barry Nelson. Cactus Flower, based on the French play, Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, was a huge hit, eventually playing for almost three years and 1,234 performances - ironically at the same theater where Bacall ushered in the early ‘40s. When I.A.L. Diamond adapted it into a movie, Bacall was overlooked in favor of Ingrid Bergman, who won a Golden Globe in the part.

As for Hollywood, Bacall appeared in only three films during the ‘60s. Shock Treatment (1963), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), with Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis, and Paul Newman’s semi-noir, Harper (1966).

She divorced Robards in 1969 after learning he was having an affair. She notes in By Myself that the marriage was dead long before the discovery, and that the years allowed her to become less dependent on the men in her life.

In 1970, she returned to Broadway in the hit musical Applause, an adaptation of the 1950 film classic, All About Eve, with Bacall as the aging diva, Margo Channing, a role made famous by Bette Davis. Although she wasn’t much of a singer, the role was a perfect fit. It was also another hit, opening at New York’s Palace Theater and running for 896 performances. She won the 1970 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. When Bacall’s contract was up in 1971, she bowed out and, in an ironic note, was replaced by Anne Baxter, who had played Eve Harrington in the original film. Bacall would go on to play in the London production of the show and star in a 1973 TV-movie adaptation, using the London cast.

In 1981, she won another Tony for starring in the musical adaptation of the 1942 Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn classic, Woman of the Year. It opened at the Palace Theater and ran for 770 performances.

Her film work in the ‘70s, like the ‘60s, was sparse. She appeared as Mrs. Hubbard, one of many suspects, in the all-star Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and played the landlady in John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist (1976).

It turned out that her best work in the ‘70s was in a completely new field. Her 1978 memoir, Lauren Bacall: By Myself was a best seller and in 1980, won a National Book Award for Biography and Autobiography.

The 1980s were a mixed bag as far as Bacall’s film appearances went. She began with Robert Altman’s uneven ensemble piece, HealtH, in 1980. She then starred in the critical and financial bomb, The Fan (1981). She also appeared in the star-studded Appointment With Death (1988), with Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie’s master detective, Hercule Poirot. Despite good reviews, it performed poorly at the box office.

She also returned to her first love, the stage, in 1985, as Harold Pinter directed her in the first London production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. The ‘90s - and her late ‘60s - arrived, and Bacall continued to work. As she said in By Myself, “My goal in life has always been to work. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had nothing to do but wander.”

To be honest, Bacall also needed the money. Although Bogart left a decent estate when he died, the government glommed over half. Maintaining an apartment at the Dakota and a house in the Hamptons costs real money, lots of it. Which is why, as age broadened her features, she restyled herself with the help of a trainer and a make-up artist. She also found time to pen a second volume of memoirs, titled Now, in 1994.

In 1990, Bacall had a small role as pulp fiction writer James Caan’s supportive agent in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. She spent most of the ‘90s appearing in guest roles on television or in TV movies. As for theatrically released films, she had a minor role in Robert Altman’s all-star Pret-a-Porter(1994), and a really great role in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces (1997), where she played Streisand’s narcissistic, yet vulnerable, mother. It was perfect casting and Bacall was nothing short of brilliant. The role brought her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. 

Having won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actor’s Guild awards for Best Supporting Actress, the smart money was on her to win. But astonishingly, the Oscar went to Juliette Binoche for her part in The English Patient. I’ll never forget the look on Bacall’s face when Binoche was announced as the winner. I was dumbfounded. Hollywood had the chance to do the right thing and award an Oscar to a legend that blew away critics and public alike in her role. It wasn’t as if it were charity, giving an award to someone who had clearly seen better days. Bacall’s nomination in 1997 was her first, despite some 40-odd years of superb performances. It’s been put forward that Miramax Films, which produced The English Patient, campaigned heavily for their movie. However, consider some of the other travesties in Oscar’s history. Simply put, Bacall was screwed out of the award. Even Binoche was astonished by her victory.

However, Bacall was tougher than people supposed. The year before, she was given the Cesar, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for her lifetime body of work. Two years prior she was presented with the Commadeur des Arts et Lettres by the Minister of Culture, Jacques Toubon. Shortly after the Oscars, Bacall was selected as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted her one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history. As for the Academy, it took them until 2009 to present Bacall with a statue for “lifetime achievement.”

It was also during the ‘90s that Bacall began using her distinctive voice in television commercials and cartoons, doing everything from being a spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain to producing a line of jewelry with the Weinman Brothers Inc. to using her voice to hawk High Point coffee and Fancy Feast cat food.

As the new century dawned, her taste in films changed. No longer looking to secure parts in commercial movies, she instead looked to independent films. She appeared in two films for Danish director Lars von Trier, Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005), Birth (2004) for Jonathan Glazer (2004), and The Walker, for Paul Schrader (2007).

She also did a cameo in The Sopranos (2006) as herself, and is mugged by a masked man, who later turns out to be Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), mugs her. Her last listed credit was in 2014 as the voice of Evelyn in the cartoon Family Guy.

Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014, in her home at the Dakota from a stroke. She was 89 years old. Sons Stephen Bogart and Sam Robards, daughter Leslie Bogart, and six grandchildren survive her. 

If she had lived, she would be doing what she loved best – working.

In Memoriam: Robin Williams

The Genius of a Star Who Fell to Earth

By Mike Lano

Robin Williams was brilliant both as a comic and an actor and as many have said; there was no one like him and no one who did what he did. Nor ever will. Billy Crystal probably had it best simply tweeting "no words" upon learning his friend had died in contrast to so many other celebs and posers who either had a camera shoved in their faces or “social media'd” out trite stuff. Williams deserved more and thankfully got it from a few.

His daughter quoted a beautiful French poet/author in her tribute to her dad talking about entertaining the stars up there while Los Angeles' Comedy Store marquee said "Robin Williams, Make God Laugh." The Comedy Store was where Robin really broke in nationally after time spent in San Francisco and the East Bay. Paul Rodriguez, who Williams helped to get on the bill at The Comedy Store and L.A.'s Improv, was very moving while genuinely crying when he learned the news. As was Conan O'Brien and even Sly Stallone who talked about their private friendship in the 80's. Meryl Streep shed tears saying he was like a human volcano of thoughts and humor spewing joy all over the world. And one of the morning shows played the original Judy Garland version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz while footage of his many characters and roles were B-rolled. Powerful stuff.

Out here in Williams' Northern California, the television coverage has been nonstop. All our affiliate news are showing people camped out, laying out wreaths not just at his current Tiburon home (just north of Marin County and Sausalito) but people doing the same at his old San Francisco house in the Sea Cliff area near the Pacific Ocean and even at the Frisco mansion where the exteriors for Mrs. Doubtfire were filmed.

Throughout the 80's at Comedy Day In The (Golden Gate) Park, an only-in-SF, near all-day comedy event with hundreds of the top comics performing six-to-seven-minute sets, one after another, Robin usually was the “surprise” act that closed each show. I photographed and covered all of them at the time and posed him with Whoopi Goldberg (that's where he reportedly first met her) plus celebs like then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein (now a U.S. Senator) and later with then-Mayor Willie Brown, and so many others like Bob Sarlatte, who broke in with David Letterman.

At one of the earliest Comedy Days, I have a ton of pictures I took of Robin with his young son Zak with the flaming white Ric Flair hair. It was so white it looked bottle-bleached, yet it wasn't. In later years, the nanny, for whom he left his then-wife, was watching the kids while he'd do his thing with his good pals Rick Overton, Dana Carvey, and many others. Everyone out here has their stories of seeing Robin tooling down Van Ness Boulevard, one of our major arteries, waving to people with the top down in his old convertible (I saw him three times doing that in the 1980's). And a zillion of us were extras in his movie remake of Disney's Flubber when they shot at Treasure Island right off the Bay Bridge, and S.F.'s Embarcadero and Wharf areas - not far from that other island, Alcatraz.

So many of us were also lucky enough to have seen him perform decades ago at S.F.'s Davies Symphony Hall, the long gone and missed Holy City Zoo comedy club, and The Great American Music Hall, which music legend Boz Scaggs (and one of Robin's Marin County neighbors) co-owns along with his other club, Slims.

For all the varied and deep characters he created on TV and on stage (yep, he played Carnegie Hall and everywhere else, and some of us remember him opening for Steve Martin around 1975 at the then-Universal Amphitheatre in L.A.), his film roles were amazing. Right from The World According To Garp to Robert Altman's Popeye at the very start of his movie work. On up to a zillion projects, an Academy Award in 1998 for Good Will Hunting and four upcoming not-yet-released films, including Night at the Museum 3. Local legendary comic Brian Copeland, who hosted a weekday TV show on our ABC affiliate KGO (7 Live), and his own ABC radio show on Sunday, was thankfully quoted all over San Francisco ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox because Brian's own suicide attempts have been the subject of two one-man shows of his including Not A Genuine Black Man, which Williams had attended many times at various East Bay theaters. Few could understand the pain Williams was going through more than Brian, who was on my Legends Radio show just a few weeks ago.

Look up in the sky tonight. That's not the Perseus Meteor Shower putting on a show. It has to be the work of the great one, Robin Williams.

TCM to Show 24 Hours of Garner's Movies

By The Editors

TCM has preempted its regularly scheduled programming on July 28, starting at 6:00 am, in order to honor the late James Garner with a 24-hour marathon of his films.

Garner, who passed away on July 20 from natural causes, began his film career in 1955 with Warner Brothers, cutting his teeth in supporting roles. His first starring role came in the film Darby’s Rangers (1958), when he replaced Charlton Heston, who walked off the film.

However, he achieved stardom as a result of Warner’s placing him in a television series the studio launched in 1957, Maverick. Garner played Bret Maverick in the comedic Western, a role that fit his personality like a glove. The series was originally supposed to alternate between the Maverick brothers, played by Garner and Jack Kelly, but Garner became so popular that the show quickly became all about Garner’s character, who used his wits, rather than a gun, to settle disputes.

When it came to his onscreen roles, however, Warner’s stuck him in dull fare, such as Up Periscope (1958) and Cash McCall (1960). Garner took advantage of a suspension during the 1960 writer’s strike to sue Warner’s for breach of contract. He won and became a free agent, able to demand more for his services.

His first major role after his victory was a supporting one in The Children’s Hour (1961), starring Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn. Starring roles soon followed in such films as Boy’s Night Out (1962) and the acclaimed The Great Escape (1963). He followed that success with The Americanization of Emily with Julie Andrews (1964), and the war thriller 36 Hours (1965).

But Garner’s fame really came from television, and he returned to the small tube in 1971 with the short-lived western Nichols. In 1974, he took on his most renowned role, that of investigator in the hit series The Rockford Files (1974-1980) playing investigator Jim Rockford. A combination of injuries (suffered from doing his own stunts) and frequent pay disputes led to his quitting the series while it was still a hit.

He returned to the movies with choice roles in such hits as Blake Edwards’ musical, Victor/Victoria (1982), playing once more opposite Julie Andrews. He also won a plum role opposite Sally Field in the comedy Murphy’s Romance (1985), playing an older Wyatt Earp alongside Bruce Willis as Tom Mix in Sunset (1988), and a role as an ex-president in the comedy My Fellow Americans (1996), with Jack Lemmon.

He also returned to his television roots, reviving the role of Bret Maverick in a short-lived return on the iconic series (1981-1982), and also accepted a small role in the big screen version of the show (1994) opposite star Mel Gibson playing the role Garner made famous.

He filled in the time between big screen appearances bringing back his character of Jim Rockford with a series of television movies from 1994-1999, and playing Mark Twain in the TV movie Roughing It (2002). His last hit movie was the tearjerker The Notebook (2004), with Gena Rowlands.

Garner was also famous for a series of commercials he made with actress Marianne Hartley for Polaroid in the 1970s. The commercials became so popular people thought Garner and Hartley were married in real life.

A stroke suffered in 2008 led to retirement from films and television in 2010, and Garner lived quietly in Los Angeles until his death. He is survived by his wife, Lois Clarke, to whom he was married in 1956, his daughter Greta “Gigi) Garner, and his adopted daughter Kimberly, from Clarke’s first marriage.

Among the films to be shown on July 28 are his first, Toward the Unknown (1956) at 6:00 am, Grand Prix (1966) at 9:30 am, Darby’s Rangers (1958) at 4:00 pm, The Thrill of It All (1963) at 8:00 pm, The Americanization of Emily (1964) at 10:00 pm, The Children’s Hour (1961) at midnight, and Victor/Victoria (1982) at 2:00 am.

In Memoriam: Mickey Rooney

By Ed Garea

If there was anyone who could be said to be literally born into show business, it was Mickey Rooney. From his debut in Vaudeville at only 17 months of age, he remained a star until the day he died. It was said of Rooney that he could do it all: act, sing, play piano and drums, and anything else that was needed.

His son, Michael Joseph Rooney, confirmed Mickey’s death on April 6. Mickey was 93.

Rooney was born Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. in Brooklyn on Sept. 23, 1920. His father, Joe Yule Sr., was a headliner on the second-rate Vaudeville circuits, and his mother, Nell Carter, danced in a burlesque chorus line. Known as Sonny Yule, he grew up in boarding houses and practically lived backstage. His parents divorced when he was 4, his mother returning home to Kansas City, Missouri. It looked as though he would get the chance to lead a normal childhood when his mother spotted a notice in Variety that Hal Roach was looking for children for his Our Gang comedies.

Roach’s offer to Sonny’s mother was $5 a day, but she declined, waiting for a better offer. When none was forthcoming, she and Sonny returned to Kansas City for a while, then returned to Hollywood, where Sonny secured a job in a musical revue for $50 a week. A few months later he was in a Fox short titled Not to Be Trusted, under the name of Mickey McBan. His mother then answered an audition call for the role of Mickey McGuire in a series of shorts based on the popular “Toonerville Trolley” comic strip. He won the lead, and as Mickey Yule, appeared in 78 of the shorts from 1927 to 1932. When not acting on the screen, he provided the voice for Walter Lantz’s “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoons, released through Universal Studios. His mother wanted to change his professional to Mickey McGuire, but when “Toonerville Trolley” comic strip creator Fontaine Fox objected, she chose the moniker Mickey Rooney instead.

Rooney signed on with MGM in 1934. His first notable role for the studio was playing Clark Gable as a boy in Manhattan Melodrama. He continued moving up the ladder, with roles in Ah, Wilderness (1935), and reprising his stage role as Puck in Max Reinhardt’s adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream for Warners, where he appeared with James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, and Olivia de Havilland.

However, it was his role in a minor B film that sealed his path to stardom. A Family Affair, based on a 1928 Broadway play by Aurania Rouverol called “Skidding,” told of the trials and tribulations of the Hardy family in Carvel, Idaho. As Andy Hardy, youngest child of Judge James K. Hardy (Lionel Barrymore), Rooney’s part was strictly supporting, but the film took off at the box office and MGM decided to make a series out of it. Lewis Stone would take over the role of Judge Hardy for the rest of the series’ run, and Rooney saw his role as Andy turn from supporting to lead as the public couldn’t get enough of the Hardy family adventures. The series lasted for 15 films and is estimated to have earned over $75 million. He also won plaudits later that year for his role as a young deckhand in Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy.

Although the public saw Rooney as the squeaky clean Andy Hardy, his off-screen persona was said to be more in line with Whitey Marsh, the delinquent he played in 1938’s Boys Town. Jackie Cooper said it was Joan Crawford who initiated him into the world of adult sex. For the 16-year old Rooney, it was none other than Norma Shearer. They had a hot and heavy affair while Shearer was filming Marie Antoniette, making so much noise in her trailer that the crew on the film complained to Louis Mayer himself. The death of her beloved husband, Irving Thalberg, and the continuing mental problems of her sister, Athole (married at the time to Howard Hawks), were said to have driven Shearer off the rails, and Rooney was but one in a long line of lovers (including Jimmy Stewart and George Raft) she took until she wed for the second, and last, time in 1942. For his part in the scandal, MGM severely reprimanded Rooney, and the studio publicity machine kept it quiet. They weren’t going to lose their cash cow if it could at all be helped. In fact, it wasn’t until Rooney spilled the beans in his autobiography, Life is Too Short, that the general public knew of the affair.

Looking around for other vehicles for Rooney, MGM again hit pay dirt when it decided to team him with their number one ingénue, Judy Garland. Having discovered positive buzz in their first film, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), with Mickey playing a jockey tricked into throwing a race and Garland as the young woman who tries to help him, the studio next paired them in an Andy Hardy entry, 1938’s Love Finds Andy Hardy, with Garland playing Betsy Booth, a young lady visiting her relative, who lives next door to the Hardys. Though she has a crush on Andy, he regards her as too young. But she comes through at the end and gets Andy out of a jam with regular girlfriend Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford). The character of Betsy proved so popular with the movie-going public that Garland reprised it in two later films: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940) and Life Begins For Andy Hardy (1941).

Meanwhile, MGM also teamed the pair in a series of “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” musicals, beginning with Babes in Arms in 1939, where they put on a show to raise money for their out-of-work parents. It was MGM’s biggest money grosser of 1939 and earned Rooney an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. It was followed by Strike Up the Band (1940), where they raised money for a high school band contest; Babes on Broadway (1941), where they put on a show to send orphans on an excursion to the country; and, finally, Girl Crazy (1943), where they staged a rodeo to save their college from financial ruin. But the plots, such as they were, really didn’t matter. What really mattered was Judy’s voice, Mickey’s brashness and pluck, the music by such legends as the Gershwin brothers, and Rogers and Hart, among others, and the direction by veteran Busby Berkeley.

The year 1939 saw Rooney at the top of his game. That year, theater owners voted him the No. 1 box office star, ahead of second-place finisher Tyrone Power. In 1940, Rooney again took the crown, this time over Spencer Tracy. And in 1941, he made it three in a row, beating out Clark Gable. Also, at the 1939 Academy Awards, he and Deanna Durbin were presented with special juvenile Oscars for their contributions to the cinema. Besides the Hardy series and the musicals with Garland, Rooney also kept busy in films like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), Young Tom Edison (1940), Men of Boys Town (1941), A Yank at Eton(1942), The Human Comedy (1943 and his second Oscar nomination), and National Velvet (1944), with Elizabeth Taylor and his first adult role.

He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and until 1946 served in the Jeep Theater, a traveling troupe entertaining the troops, and acting as a personality on the American Forces Radio Network.

After his wartime service, however, he had a difficult time fitting back into Hollywood. MGM cast him in a new adult image as the lead in Killer McCoy, a remake of Robert Taylor’s 1938 boxing opus, The Crowd Roars. He also starred with Gloria DeHaven in the musical, Summer Holiday (1948), and as Lorenz Hart in Words and Music, a biopic about the songwriting team of Hart and Rodgers. But all three films failed at the box office; audiences now saw the qualities that made Rooney such a fan favorite during his earlier years as dated and annoying. Rooney settled his MGM contract in 1948 after a dispute about not being cast in their prestige 1948 war drama, Battleground, and began freelancing, appearing in nightclubs and in such forgettable fare as The Big Wheel (1949), Quicksand (1950), The Strip (1951), The Atomic Kid (1954), and Francis in the Haunted House (1956), where he took over from the departed Donald O’Connor as the talking mule’s sidekick. There were some gems in the mix, such as The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Bold and the Brave (1956, for which he garnered a Supporting Actor nomination), and Baby Face Nelson (1957), but these were few and far between. He tried to rekindle the magic with 1958’s Andy Hardy Comes Home, only to discover that the magic had left long ago.

Rooney fell victim to a series of demons in the ‘40s, including gambling (playing the ponies and craps), sleeping pills, alcohol, and, of course, marriage. Rooney was a serial monogamist, with eight marriages under his belt. He would divorce six times, with the divorce complaints focusing on the same issues: his fiery temper and his propensity to leave home for days and even weeks at a time.

The first of his marriages was to the 19-year old Ava Gardner in 1942 (he was 21). MGM fought against the marriage, and the subsequent divorce one year later. His next wife was Alabama beauty queen Betty Jane Phillips, who gave him sons Mickey Rooney Jr. and Tim Rooney. They would divorce in 1949. Spouse number three was actress Martha Vickers, who made a big splash as Lauren Bacall’s troubled sister in the 1946 noir, The Big Sleep. That union lasted until September 1952 and produced a son, Teddy Rooney. Mickey wasn’t back in circulation for long when he married spouse number four, Elaine Mahnken, who divorced her first husband while he was on probation for armed robbery. She took over the finances and brought Mickey to the cusp of solvency. He repaid her by going to Las Vegas and losing $50,000. That was that and they were granted a divorce in September 1958.

Again, Mickey wasn’t on the market for long when he married wife number five, Barbara Thomason, an aspiring actress. They had four children together: daughters Kimmy Sue Rooney, Kerry Yule Rooney, Kelly Ann Rooney, and son Joseph Kyle Rooney. It was during this marriage that Rooney declared bankruptcy, listing $500 cash in assets and almost $500,000 in debts, including $100,000 in delinquent taxes. In a settlement with the IRS, Rooney was grated an allowance of $200 a month, which forced him to borrow money to play the horses. But at least Barbara didn’t divorce him. A month after they separated in December 1965 and began a custody battle, Barbara Thomason Rooney was shot to death in Rooney’s Brentwood home by jealous lover Milos Milosevic, who then turned the gun on himself. The hit Rooney took in splashy tabloid publicity made him poison to many producers.

Rooney remained at large for a slightly longer period before wedding wife number six, Margaret Lane, in September 1966. That marriage had even less staying power, as the couple divorced in December 1967. It wasn’t until May 1969 that he wed spouse number seven, Carolyn Hockett. They had daughter Jonelle, and Mickey adopted Carolyn’s son, Jimmy, from a previous marriage. This one lasted almost six years, ending in divorce on January 24, 1975.

The multiple marriages and his other addictions, combined with an impulsive, mercurial nature, left Rooney is a state of perpetual need of funds. It was said that he earned $12 million before he was 40, and spent even more. When he was in desperate need of funds, playing Las Vegas was a safety valve – of sorts. As he said in his autobiography, he would often make $17,500 a week, then lose twice that amount at the crap tables.

At one point, in 1950, he was reduced to hawking Hadacol, a tonic with supposed health benefits (ironically, not unlike Vitajex) while touring the South with the “Hadacol Caravan,” an all-star revue extolling the dietary marvels of the product that also included celebrities like Milton Berle, Carmen Miranda, Chico Marx, Bob Hope, Cesar Romero, and Judy Garland, among others. Admission to the show was two Hadacol boxtops for adults and one for children. (Hadacol usually ran from $1.25 for 8-ounces to $3.50 for the 24-ounce “family size.”) Its inventor, Dudley LeBlanc, made over $10 million from sales until the government clamped down when it tested the mixture and discovered the “health” benefit came from it being 24 proof (12% alcohol).

And when films and Vegas proved to be not enough, there was television. He had a short-lived television series (33 episodes) on NBC in 1954-55. In 1957, he accepted a role on Playhouse 90 that a half-dozen other actors refused – that of a vicious, greedy and egomaniacal comedian named Sammy Hogarth in the teleplay, “The Comedian,” with a teleplay by Rod Serling and direction by John Frankenheimer. It was both a critical and commercial triumph, earning Rooney his first Emmy nomination. He followed this the next year with another critical triumph on Alcoa Theater starring in “Eddie,” a teleplay about a bookie who owes a fortune to loan sharks. He has until 6 pm to pay up, or else. It earned him another Emmy nomination.

However, no matter how any televised triumphs Rooney appeared in, his demons always left him broke and scratching for funds. He even tried his hand at directing, but the results were uneven at best. He did get to co-direct one of the all-time laff riots with Albert Zugsmith, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), in which he also starred, playing the Devil in, of all things, a padded snake suit.

But somehow he managed to revive his acting career by shifting his roles from leading to supporting. In 1961, he made a splash of sorts in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, playing the Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi. His broad, over-the-top, stereotypical performance is condemned today, but in 1961, it was considered hysterical. Rooney followed this with roles in the critically acclaimed Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) as Army, a boxing trainer who doesn’t want to sell his fighter down the river into a career as a pro wrestler. He also had a small, but lucrative, role in Stanley Kramer’s all-star extravaganza, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963), as Ding Bell, who with buddy Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett) is one of many chasing after a hidden fortune.

But, driven by his need for cash, he would take any role offered, starring with Hackett in Everything’s Ducky (1961) as two sailors who sneak their talking duck aboard their ship. It was a bad as it sounds. Another low budget wonder was AIP’s How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the last of the popular “Beach Party” series with Frankie and Annette. Rooney was “Peachy Keane,” a scheming ad executive looking for “the boy next door” and “the girl next door” for an advertising campaign. Also during this period he attempted another television series, this one called Mickey, where he played a hapless hotel owner. However, despite winning a Golden Globe Award, it only lasted for 13 episodes.

After the death of wife Barbara in January 1966, the resulting scandalous publicity made work hard to come by for Rooney. He would continue to plug away in mediocre movies such as Otto Preminger’s trainwreck, Skidoo (1968), the numbingly dull The Extraordinary Seaman (1969), and the excruciating The Comic(1969), with Dick Van Dyke. He would also pay the bills by guest starring on shows like “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Dean Martin Show,” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” He also made 13 appearances on “Hollywood Squares” between 1969 and 1976, and made 15 appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” between 1970 and 1973.

He would personally hit bottom with the death of Judy Garland in 1969. Liza Minnelli has been quoted as saying that she wanted Rooney to give the eulogy at her mother’s funeral, but decided against it because Rooney’s emotional state made her feel that he might not be able to get through it, given his long and close friendship with Garland.

Things began to turn around for Rooney in the 70s. He gave up the booze and drugs and became a born-again Christian. In 1978, he wed his eighth – and final – wife, Jan Chamberlain, a country singer he met through son Mickey Rooney Jr. Their marriage lasted longer than his previous seven combined. (They would permanently separate, though, in 2012.) Jan brought a focus to her husband’s life, making him the star of their show.

In 1979, Rooney gained some of his best notices and his last Oscar nomination for his performance as Henry Dailey, a once successful horse trainer who receives one last shot at immortality in The Black Stallion. In 1981, he finally won an Emmy Award for his turn in the television movie Bill as a developmentally disabled man who has spent most of his life in an institution and must adjust to living in the outside world. A reprise of the role in the 1983 sequel, Bill: On His Own, led to his fifth – and final – Emmy nomination. Also, in 1983, he was awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy “in recognition of his 60 years of versatility in a variety of film performances.”

In 1979, Rooney, along with fellow MGM hoofer Ann Miler, was approached by the duo of Ralph G. Allen and Al Dubin about starring on Broadway in an old-fashioned burlesque revue called Sugar Babies. He threw himself into the project with renewed energy, relying on his years in vaudeville to whip a motley collection of burlesque skits into shape. He would argue with the producers over every skit and every song, and was vindicated when the show opened on October 8, 1979, to ecstatic reviews from critics and strong sales. Both Rooney and Miller were nominated for Tony Awards. It would run for nearly three years after 1,208 performances. A road company with Carol Channing and Robert Morse headlining was unsuccessful – people wanted to see Mickey Rooney – so Rooney stayed four more years on the road with the show. In 1991, he returned to Broadway to star in The Will Rogers Follies, a review that played from May 1, 1991, to September 5, 1993, and 981 performances. And in 2007, he and wife Jan began touring in what they described as a “one man, one wife” show with the nostalgic title “Let’s Put On a Show.”

The coming of the new millennium failed to slow Rooney, as he appeared in Night at the Museum (2006) and The Muppets (2011) in addition to other movies. At the time of his death he was working on a new version of Jekyll and Hyde. His last live appearance was as a special guest on the TCM Classic Cruise in January 2013.

In 2011, Rooney obtained a restraining order against his stepson Christopher Aber and Mr. Aber’s wife, Christina, charging them with withholding food and medicine and forcing him to sign over his assets. He later filed suit against them, which was settled in 2013, with the Abers agreeing that they owed Rooney $2.8 million.

Also in 2011, Rooney repeated his allegations against the Abers in testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens.

He is survived by wife Jan Chamberlin; sons Mickey Rooney Jr., Theodore Michael Rooney, Michael Joseph Rooney, and adopted son Jimmy Rooney; daughters Kelly Ann Rooney, Kerry Rooney, Kimmy Sue Rooney, and Jonelle Rooney. Son Tim Rooney died in 2006.


Besides his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, Rooney also published a murder mystery, The Search for Sonny Skies, in 1994.

He was a co-owner for many years of the Mickey Rooney Tabas Hotel in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

In Life Is Too Short, Rooney mentions a brothel called "The T&M Studio," where the girls looked like Hollywood starlets. Although there were many rumors of such a brothel, no one would admit to ever having been there, or even verify its existence. Rooney also wrote that Groucho Marx had taken him there once, and Groucho appeared to be on a first-name basis with many of the hookers.

According to one story, Mickey Mouse was supposedly named for Rooney. It seems that Walt Disney saw young Rooney while working on the first drawings of what was to become Mickey Mouse. He asked the child actor what he thought of the drawings and also asked what his name was. This later was proven to be false.

Rooney broke his leg while filming A Midsummer’s Night Dream and was doubled by George Breakston in many scenes. Breakston would later go on to play “Beezy” Anderson, Andy Hardy’s best friend, in the Hardy Family series.

Rooney is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest movie career: 89 years (1925-2014).

Norman Lear considered him for role of Archie Bunker, but Rooney rejected the project just as Jackie Gleason had because of the controversial nature of the role.


Death on the Diamond (MGM, 1934), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (WB, 1935), Ah, Wilderness! (MGM, 1935), A Family Affair (MGM, 1937), Captains Courageous (MGM, 1937), Love Finds Andy Hardy (MGM, 1938), Boys Town (MGM, 1938), Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (MGM, 1939), Young Tom Edison(MGM, 1940), Strike Up the Band (MGM, 1940), The Human Comedy (MGM, 1943), Girl Crazy (MGM, 1943), National Velvet (MGM, 1944), Quicksand (UA, 1950), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Paramount, 1954), The Bold and the Brave (RKO, 1956), Baby Face Nelson (UA, 1957), The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (Universal, 1960), Requiem for a Heavyweight (Columbia, 1962), The Black Stallion (UA, 1979), Bill (CBS, 1981), Night at the Museum (20th Century Fox, 2006), The Muppets (Walt Disney, 2011), Driving Me Crazy (Keith Black Films, 2012).

In Memoriam: Shirley Temple

The Little Girl Who Saved the Big Studio

By Ed Garea

The death of Shirley Temple Black at the age of 85 on February 10 has opened up a treasure trove of memories for the film fans. Many movie buffs watched her films as children; they were frequently shown on television in the mornings or afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. My mother was a huge fan of Miss Temple’s work and often made me watch with her when I could have otherwise spent the hours with a good horror film on another channel or engrossed in the latest copy of Mad or Famous Monsters of Filmland. But I’m glad she made me watch, as the films deepened my appreciation of musicals.

Over the years her films came to be regarded as family classics and were hawked on VHS and later DVD to the public in frequent advertisements, assuring the purchaser that not only would he or she receive the original black and white versions, completely restored, but as a bonus would receive a colorized version of each films, as kids today are reluctant to watch anything not in color.

If anyone could have been said to born a movie star, it was Shirley Temple. Born in Santa Monica, California, on April 23, 1928, to businessman George Temple and his wife, Gertrude, she was prepped for bigger and better things beginning at the age of 3, when her mother enrolled her in dancing school.

In 1932, she was spotted by an agent from Educational Pictures and was chosen for a role in Baby Burlesks, a series of rather sexually-suggestive shorts in which children played all the roles. The children, all around the ages of 4 and 5, wore adult costumes that ended at the waist. Below they wore diapers outfitted with oversized safety pins. The shorts were rather obvious parodies of popular films, with Shirley imitating such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, and Dolores Del Rio.

As Educational Pictures was pretty much a shoestring operation, proper behavior was strictly enforced; any child that misbehaved on the set was locked in a windowless sound box with only a block of ice on which to sit. Shirley served her share of time in the box, claiming later in her autobiography that the experience did no lasting psychological damage and taught her the lesson that wasted time is wasted money.

After Baby Burlesks ran its course, Shirley was schlepped to a series of casting calls and auditions for bit parts that won her a few small roles. But age was threatening to erode her earning potential and as a remedy, her mother cut a year off Shirley’s age. She said in her autobiography that at her 12th birthday party in 1941 she was surprised to learn that she had really turned 13.

It was in 1934 that her career began to gather steam. She was chosen to play James Dunn’s daughter in Fox’s Stand Up and Cheer, one of many Depression musicals that suggested the best way to deal with the everyday misery is to sing and dance your way to happiness. Her initial Fox contract called for a salary of $150 per week, with an additional $25 each week for Gertrude. The contract also contained an option for seven more years and the stipulation that she was to provide her own tap shoes.

The critics gushed over Stand Up and Cheer, and Shirley made an additional eight movies in 1934, the earnings of which saved the studio from certain bankruptcy. However, it was with the release of Little Miss Marker, an adaptation of a Damon Runyon story for which Fox had loaned her to Paramount, that she became a star. Besides being a box office hit for a studio that badly needed one that year, the film also established the template for future Shirley Temple films.

In Little Miss Marker, Temple plays a child left with a bookie as a marker for her father’s gambling debts. As the film progresses she goes on to reform a gang of gamblers, bookies and race fixers. This carried over to her future films: she was cast as a sort of miniature adult who dominated the adults around her, solving problems with uncanny common sense and infusing them with her sense of unbounded optimism. Each of her films onward would simply be a variation of that basic story.

Besides being cute, Shirley was also given a trademark song to sing in each film, the better to sell records. So powerfully was she identified with some of the songs that even today when a film buff hears “On the Good Ship Lollipop” or “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” he or she cannot help but associate Shirley Temple with the music.

She was also supplied with a plethora of dancing partners, including Buddy Ebsen, Jack Haley, and George Murphy. But her best-remembered partner was the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, an African-American veteran of the Broadway stage, and one of the people credited with tutoring the great Eleanor Powell in tap dancing while working together on Broadway. His staircase dance with Shirley in The Little Colonel, the first of four films they would make together, is considered one of the greatest in the history of film musicals, and Robinson would always be remembered for his work with her.

She was so ensconced in the public’s mind by 20th Century Fox that any criticism of her could result in retribution against the critic. The studio famously sued novelist Graham Greene for his review of Wee Willie Winkie in the magazine Night and Day (which he edited as well). His crime was to question whether she was really a midget and exposed an uncomfortable truth when he wrote that her “well-shaped and desirable little body” was being displayed for the enjoyment of middle-aged male admirers.

Although the studio could certainly overcome any human obstacle in its way, it was powerless against nature, and as Shirley aged her box office appeal diminished. It’s been said that the best decisions are the ones not made, and in the case of MGM this certainly proved to be the case. MGM, having the rights to The Wizard of Oz, was bound and determined to have Temple play Dorothy Gale, but Fox refused to loan her out; instead they made plans to star her in a fantasy film of their own, The Blue Bird. MGM instead was forced to go to Plan B and cast Judy Garland as Dorothy, a move for which the gods of posterity would thank them.

But while The Wizard of Oz didn’t exactly light up the box office when released, it still fared much better than The Blue Bird, which made its way to the screen in 1940. A lengthy consideration of the pathetic box office returns combined with an appraisal of her advancing age led Fox to drop her contract at the ripe old age of 12.

Now outside the protective cocoon of the studio, Shirley found the real world a lot tougher than the one created for her movies. She enrolled in the seventh grade at the private and exclusive Westlake School for Girls, where she had trouble at first fitting in with her classmates. But after she began to relax she became a popular and sought-after companion, enjoying a happy and productive five years at the school.

Meanwhile, MGM signed her eight-months later and cast her in their 1941 comedy-romance, Kathleen. It was in the mold of her earlier films, only now she had to deal with the additional problems of adolescence. Kathleen did not live up to the studio’s fiscal expectations, so she was loaned to United Artists in 1942 for Miss Annie Rooney, and made two films on loan-out to David O. Selznick: Since You Went Away and I’ll Be Seeing You (both 1944). In 1945, she starred in Columbia’s Kiss and Tell, again on loan. But the changes from an adorable little blonde moppet to a rather ordinary brunette teenager resulted in her audience losing interest in her movies.

Her private life also took another turn when, supposedly determined to be the first in her Westlake class to become engaged, she accepted the proposal of 24-year old Army Air Corps Sergeant John Agar Jr. a few days before turning 17. They were married on September 19, 1945.

Act in haste, repent in leisure.” (I’m full of pithy quotes today.) That would be the motto of her marriage to Agar. While she adjusted to the new realities of married life and films, her husband wasn’t as fortunate. Years of being ignored and being dubbed “Mr. Shirley Temple” took their toll and Agar began drinking as a hobby. Following in the footsteps of his wife, he also went into acting, but lacked his wife’s charisma and acting ability, soon working his way down the ladder to where he was headlining Z-Grade films such as The Brain From Planet Arous and The Puppet People, and, most famously in the annals of bad movies, Zontar: The Thing From Venus, which gained a cult status, being featured on SCTV.

He did appear with his wife in John Ford’s classic Western, Fort Apache (1948), but while she had a featured role as Philadelphia Thursday, the daughter of Henry Fonda’s character, Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday, Agar was given the decidedly minor role of Second Lieutenant Michael Shannon O’Rourke, which did nothing for their already troubled marriage.

They divorced in December 1949, a year after the birth of their daughter, Linda Susan Agar. Less than a month later she met and subsequently married Charles Alden Black, a 30-year old assistant to the president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and a certified member of San Francisco’s blueblood community. Shortly after their marriage he was dropped from the San Francisco Social Register as punishment for marrying an actress, but the marriage took, lasting 55 years until his death in 2005. 

Another casualty of her marriage to Black on December 6, 1950, was her career in films, which she gladly gave up in favor of being a wife and mother. Charles adopted Linda, and she and Charles had two children of their own: Charles Alden Black Jr., born in 1952, and daughter Lori Alden Black, born in 1954. Both daughters were born in Santa Monica, California, at the same hospital, not to mention delivered by the same doctor who delivered Shirley years before.

During the Korean War, Black served as a Navy lieutenant commander and Shirley and the children followed him to Washington. Later, when she entered the diplomatic service, he would travel with her to her diplomatic postings.

As the ‘50s progressed, her films began to show up on television, grabbing huge ratings. This prompted her to accept an offer as host and occasional performer on a television series titled Shirley Temple’s Storybook, an anthology of adaptations of fairy tales. The series ran from 1958 to 1961.

Outside of show business, diplomacy, and politics, she is best known for her work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, of which she later became president. She became interested in serving for the Society after the disease struck down her brother George, who was making a name at the time as a professional wrestler. She also worked to found and develop the San Francisco International Film Festival, but resigned in 1966 as a protest over a decision to screen the Swedish filmNight Games, which she derided as “pornography for profit.”

Living in Washington spurred an interest in politics, and in 1967 she made an unsuccessful run for Congress to fill the seat left vacant by the death of California Republican J. Arthur Younger, losing in the primary to the Pete McCloskey. One newspaper headline read: "McCloskey Torpedoes Good Ship Lollypop."

In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed her to the five-member delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. In 1974 she accepted the position of Ambassador to Ghana, where to all accounts she performed in an outstanding manner, despite the reservations of professional diplomats concerning her appointment. After her tenure in Ghana (1974-76), she was later appointed as ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

She also had a well-publicized bout with breast cancer, during which she underwent a mastectomy. After the operation she held a news conference in her hospital room to discuss her experience and urge women who discovered lumps in their breasts to see a doctor instead of sitting home afraid to talk about it. The American Cancer Society credited her with helping to make it acceptable to talk about the disease.

Survived by her children, she stands today as a shining example that there can, indeed not only be life after the movies, but that the life can be a rich and accomplished one.


According to Groucho Marx, his brother Harpo offered Shirley’s parents $50,000 to let him adopt her. They declined the offer.

During the filming of Little Miss Marker, co-star Adolphe Menjou reputedly referred to her as “an Ethel Barrymore at six,” and complained to director Alexander Hall about her “making a stooge out of me.”

Director Allan Dwan told Peter Bogdanovich, in his book Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors, that she was a quick study. All he had to do was tell her something once and she’d remember it. And if one of the actors gut stuck for a line, she’d tell him what the line was. “She knew it better than he did.”

From 1936 to 1939 she was America’s most popular movie star. Clark Gable was a distant second. Her popularity spurred a line of “Shirley Temple” dolls, which were the best-selling dolls of that decade. (Today collectors highly prize them.) She had sat on the laps of over 200 famous people, reportedly preferring the lap of J. Edgar Hoover. Amelia Earhart shared chewing gum with her, and she had several conservations with Eleanor Roosevelt. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood created a special drink and named it for her: the Shirley Temple, a nonalcoholic mixture of lemon-lime soda, grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry. Reportedly, she didn’t care for it.

When MGM picked up her contract, she was entering adolescence. She wrote in her autobiography that producer Arthur Freed summoned her to his office. Once there, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her. As she was ignorant of male anatomy she giggled loudly and he threw her out of the office.

Director John Ford, who got along splendidly with her during the filming of Wee Willie Winkie in 1937, gave her a hard time on the set of Fort Apache, reportedly asking her where she went to school and if she graduated.

When she came to Prague as ambassador she was surprised to discover that there had been a Shirley Temple fan club there 50 years ago. Numerous officials brought their old membership cards for her to autograph.

Daughter Lori played bass guitar for the rock band The Melvins and went by the moniker, “Lorax.” On a related note, Shirley appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Her career was the subject of a series of sketches on the Carol Burnett Show, where Carol played “Shirley Dimple.” She was also parodied on Saturday Night Live in a skit where she was played by Laraine Newman as the ambassador to Ghana. There, she cutely talks Ghana’s president, played by Garrett Morris, out of waging any more wars. 

In Memoriam: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Maximilian Schell

By Ed Garea

Two defining actors of their generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Maximilian Schell, died within 24 hours of each other, one through natural causes and the other through a drug overdose. Both added greatly to the film environment of their times.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was found dead in an apartment in the West Village of New York on Sunday morning of an apparent drug overdose.

A friend, who was concerned at not being able to reach him, discovered his body around 11:30 a.m., according to law enforcement officials.

At the scene, police found a syringe in his left forearm, with at least two plastic envelopes with what appeared to be heroin nearby. Five empty plastic envelopes were also found in a nearby trash bin.

Hoffman won the Academy Award in 2006 for Best Actor for his role in the film Capote, in which he portrayed the author Truman Capote during Capote's research for his book In Cold Blood.

Hoffman was nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category three times: for The Master (2012), Doubt (2008), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007).  He also was featured in a role in the popular The Hunger Games.

According to Variety, Hoffman had completed a detox program for substance abuse, including snorting heroin, last May. His struggle with alcohol and drugs began as a young man, and in a 2006 interview with the CBS program 60 Minutes, Heffman declared that he had been sober since the age of 22.

Hoffman was a prolific actor, having worked in films for the last two decades; films that often called for him to undertake a physical transformation. Besides appearing in films, he was also active on Broadway, earning two Tony nominations: one in 2000 for Best Actor (Play) for a revival of Sam Shephard’s “True West,” and as Best Actor (Featured Role – Play) in 2003 for a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”   

He was also the Co-Artistic Director of the LAByrinth Theater Company in New York, for which he directed Stephen Adly Guirgis’ "Our Lady of 121st Street" and “Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train.” In addition, he directed Rebecca Gilman’s "The Glory of Living" at the Manhattan Class Company.

Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. His interest and involvement in high school theatrics led him to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he graduated with a B.F.A. degree in Drama in 1989.

His feature film debut came in 1991 in an indie production called Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole (as Phil Hoffman), with his first role in a major release coming the next year in My New Gun. His breakthrough role came in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 production of Boogie Nights. Besides his Oscar wins and nominations, his other notable films included Twister (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Magnolia (2000), Almost Famous (2000), State and Main (2000), Red Dragon (2002), and Cold Mountain (2003).

Hoffman leaves behind three young children, a son and two daughters, with his partner, Mimi O’Donnell, a costume designer.

Maximilian Schell, probably the most successful German-speaking actor in English-language films since the silent days of Emil Jannings, died on early Saturday at the age of 83 in a hospital in Innsbruck, Austria, of natural causes (pneumonia). Schell's wife, Iva, who he married in August, was at his bedside when he passed.

Like Hoffman, Schell was a multi-faceted talent. Not only was he a celebrated actor with more than 100 film and TV credits, but he also achieved fame as a director of films, documentaries, plays and opera.

Schell was born in Vienna, Austria, on December 8, 1930, but his parents could read the handwriting on the wall concerning Austria’s future and fled to Zurich, Switzerland, where young Maxililian was raised. He attended the University of Basel, and began acting on the stage in 1952 and made his film debut in 1955 in the West German production of Kinder, Mutter und ein General (“Children, Mother and a General”).

His Hollywood debut came in 1958 in the World War II film,The Young Lions. The irony of his hiring is that the producers wanted his sister, Maria Schell, instead, but because of an unfortunate mix-up in communications, hired him instead. The producers were impressed with his work as Capt. Hardenberg, the friend of German soldier Marlon Brando. It was Brando who tutored Schell in English on the set, and so Schell gained fluency in both English and Brando’s native tongue, Mumble. 

He next gained notice in the role of the German defense attorney in the 1959 “Playhouse 90” production of Judgment at Nuremberg. This led to his being cast in the same role for Stanley Kramer’s Hollywood remake, for which he won a Golden Globe, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, and most importantly, the 1961 Academy Award for Best Actor, beating out fellow nominee Spencer Tracy. In addition he earned a 1962 BAFTA nomination as Best Actor for his work in the film.

He would gain two more Oscar nominations for acting: in 1976 as Best Actor for the Man in the Glass Booth (1975, with an accompanying Golden Globe nomination), and in 1978 as Best Supporting Actor for Julia (1977), for which he was also nominated for a Golden Globe and by the New York Film Critics Circle for Best Supporting Actor. He was twice been nominated for an Emmy for his TV work: in 1992 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special for Miss Rose White, and the following year as Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Lenin in the HBO film, Stalin, and won the 1993 Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, mini-series or made-for-TV movie for the film.  

Other notable films, in addition to those named above, were Topkapi (1964), The Castle (1968), The Odessa File (1974), director Sam Peckinpah’s war drama,Cross of Iron (1977), The Black Hole (1979), The Freshman (1979), where he was reunited with old friend Marlon Brando, and Deep Impact (1998).

As a director, his 1974 film, The Pedestrian, which he also wrote and starred in, was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film, and won a Golden Globe in the same category. His 1984 documentary about Marlene Dietrich, Marlene, was nominated in the Best Documentary category. Another notable documentary was My Sister Maria (2002), a mixture of documentary and staged footage about the career of his sister, Maria Schell, and his relationship with her.

And if all this weren’t enough, Schell was an accomplished pianist and conductor. His love for opera led him to produce and direct several, including Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” and Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavilier” for the L.A. Opera. He also spent time as a guest professor at the University of Southern California and received an honorary doctorate from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago.

In addition to his wife, Iva, Schell's survivors include a daughter, Nastassja, from a previous marriage to actress Natalia Andreichenko that ended in divorce, and a grandchild.

In Memoriam: Joan Fontaine

By Ed Garea

Joan Fontaine, who passed away on December 15 at the age of 96, had a long and notable career in films, on stage, and on television. Yet, the thing she will probably be remembered for most was her feud with sister Olivia de Havilland.

Joan was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, in that part of the city known as the International settlement. Both parents were British. Her father, Walter Augusts de Havilland, was a patent lawyer with a thriving practice in Japan. Her mother, Lilian Augusta (nee Ruse), was a stage actress who retired upon marrying. Joan was the younger of two daughters to the family. Her older sister was Olivia Mary de Havilland, who was born on July 1, 1916. The parents, who married in 1914, split up in 1919 when Lilian left after learning that Walter had availed himself of the services of geisha girls. The divorce was finalized in February 1925.

Joan was a sickly child, having developed anemia following a combined attack of the measles and a strep infection. A physician advised Lilian to move Joan to a warmer climate, and Lilian took Joan and Olivia to California, settling in Saratoga, a city in Santa Clara County directly west of San Jose. Fontaine’s health improved dramatically and she was educated at Los Gatos High School, taking diction lessons with Olivia after school. When she was 16 years old she returned to Japan to live with her father, and while there, graduated from the American School in Japan in 1935.

Returning to the United States later in 1935, Joan’s stage mother pushed her into films, as she did with older sister Olivia. Joan signed a contract with RKO, who immediately loaned her out to MGM. Since Mom, who reportedly favored Olivia, refused to let Joan use the family name, Joan took the moniker “Joan Burfield” (her stepfather’s name) when she made her movie debut in the 1935 Joan Crawford-Robert Montgomery MGM comedy, No More Ladies. Joan was billed ninth, as “Caroline,” an object of the wandering eye of Montgomery’s character.

Back at RKO she was idle for about a year-and-a-half, the only notable event in her career being to change her last name from “Burfield” to “Fontaine.” RKO pushed her slowly, with her first big break being cast opposite Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress (1937). She was supposed to be Fred’s love interest, but two things doomed the film: Joan couldn’t dance (theatergoers expected any partner of Fred Astaire to be able to dance), and she lacked the chemistry with Fred that he had enjoyed with Ginger.

After this she had two decent supporting roles in Gunga Din and MGM’s The Women, but it wasn’t until David O. Selznick chose her for the female lead in Rebecca that Joan hit stardom . . . and never looked back. The next year, she won the Best Actress Oscar for Suspicion (which everyone acknowledges was a consolation for not having won the year before with Rebecca) and was nominated a year after for her role in The Constant Nymph.

During this time, sister Olivia de Havilland had not won an Oscar. She had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind, but lost to fellow cast member Hattie McDaniel. In fact, de Havilland would not cop an Oscar for herself until 1946, when she won the Best Actress award for To Each His Own (1946). To say the sisters had a rivalry was putting it mildly. They couldn’t stand one another. Their feud began as children, according to Fontaine in her autobiography, with big sister Liv annoying young Joan while she was still in the crib. It later escalated to things like hair pulling, tearing her own clothes so Joan couldn’t wear them as hand-me-downs, and outright fistfights, one of which ended when Olivia broke Joan’s collarbone. As they got older and Joan got bigger, the physical was replaced with the psychological. After Olivia became a star in 1935, Joan, still looking for a regular gig, was pressed into service as her sister’s driver. And when Joan did hit it big, the tension increased.

Joan was nominated in 1942 by the Academy in the Best Actress category for her role in Hitchcock’s Suspicion the year before. Sister Olivia was also nominated for the same award for her turn on Hold Back the Dawn. Both sisters were to be seated at the same table, and Joan considered no-showing; she believed that as she didn’t win the award the previous year for a superior film, she had no chance of winning it now. However, when Olivia visited Joan on the set of her latest film with her dress in hand, Fontaine decided to attend. According to her autobiography, when Fontaine’s name was called out as the winner, she froze. She stared across the table, where Olivia was whispering to her in a commanding tone to get up there. Joan said that when she did arise to accept the trophy, she walked around the other side of the table so as to bypass Olivia, whom she was certain would trip her on the way up.

Their feud escalated even further over the years and reached the point of cold war: neither sister was speaking with the other. This war-of-the-sisters made for an indelible moment at the 1947 Oscars, where Olivia won Best Actress for To Each His Own. Joan, who was on hand to present the Best Actor award, hung around afterward backstage. After Olivia departed the stage holding the award, Joan stuck out her hand in congratulations, only to have Olivia snub it. The moment was caught in a photo by Hymie Fink of Photoplay, and remains to this day one of Tinseltown’s iconic photographs. Over time, the sisters somewhat reconciled, but the relationship was never a warm one, often diverging between hot and ice cold. In 1989, the sisters were reunited at the Oscars, but upon discovering they were staying in adjoining hotel rooms, Joan had her room changed and swore never again to attend another Academy ceremony, an oath she kept until her death. For her part, when notified of her sister’s death, Olivia issued a rare public statement: “I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of my sister, Joan Fontaine, and my niece, Deborah, and I appreciate the many kind expressions of sympathy that we have received." Unless Olivia writes something of their relationship, Joan’s autobiography remains the main source of our knowledge of the relationship between these two talented sisters.

If I were to be approached and asked as to which sister was my favorite, I would have to excuse myself. I loved seeing both in whatever film they happened to appear. My first memories of Olivia come as an 8-year old completely enraptured by Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, thinking that, I too would risk death to be with Maid Marian. Joan I didn’t catch until years later when I saw her in ads for the local New York market hawking the delights of Arnold sliced bread. I suppose it was either that or star in a bad horror films such as The Witches (1966). Joan did come out of retirement in the late ‘70s to do a few TV movies and series, among them the soaper Ryan’s Hope. But it wasn’t until I saw Rebecca at the age of 13 that I began to appreciate her ability – and her beauty. To me, she was the better looking of the sisters, but in terms of ability, both are equal in my eyes and remain as actors I love to watch no matter what sort of film they happen to be in.

My Favorite Fontaine:

Damsel in Distress (1937): Granted it’s not one of Astaire’s better films, but Joan is quite fetching as his love interest, Lady Alyce Marshmorton. OK, it’s basically the same old plot, but Joan comes off quite well, considering she doesn’t dance. The thing that always got me was the fact that someone that looked as emaciated as Astaire could score a doll like Fontaine, even in a movie.

Rebecca (1940): Joan is superb as the second Mrs. De Winter. No one can project timidity and beauty like Fontaine and make it totally work. I don’t know how bright Joan was in real life, but she projected the image of the gorgeous inhibited librarian-type to near perfection.

Suspicion (1941): With a character that’s nearly a repeat of her earlier turn as Mrs. De Winter, the role could hardly be called a stretch for Fontaine. She proved the perfect foil to Cary Grant’s easygoing con man and shnook. How Grant’s character could look at her and still call her “Monkey Face” was a mystery, even with that unflattering early ‘40s hairdo?

The Constant Nymph (1943): The picture’s not so hot, but Joan is superb. She and Ginger Rogers were the only adult actresses of that time who could rock the teenage look and make you actually believe they were that young. She manages to dominate the film, not an easy task when we can see that co-star Charles Boyer has left his teeth marks all over the scenery.

Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948): This is where one can really appreciate a good actress. Anyone less and we’d be bored out of our skulls, for this film takes a master to pull off properly. Directed by the great Max Ophuls, Joan plays lead character Lisa brilliantly, capturing both her vulnerable facet and later the mature, hardened Lisa, marrying a man for financial security and social respectability rather than love. We see in the film that the notion of romantic love makes the younger Lisa vulnerable and needy, and how Stefan (Louis Jourdan in a fine performance) takes advantage of this neediness. To make Lisa work requires an actress to be strong, yet subtle. Joan delivers on this in spades, aided by Ophuls’ excellent direction and equally strong performances by Jourdan and Marcel Journet.

Born to Be Bad (1950): Another film that’s not so hot. In fact, Joan’s character, Christabel, comes off as a junior grade Eve Harrington. Nicholas Ray’s direction doesn’t help matters, either. But Joan is still able to give her character some badly needed depth and a little oomph. It also helps when one has the sort of chemistry she had with co-star Robert Ryan. 

In Memoriam: Peter O'Toole

By Ed Garea

It always seems that, while one dies alone, death itself comes in bunches. In just two days back-to-back in December we lost two of the brightest lights in the Hollywood firmament.

Peter O’Toole passed on first, on December 14 at the age of 81, followed by Joan Fontaine a day later at the age of 96. We will cover her career in a subsequent article; for now we’ll concentrate on the great O’Toole and his films.

The thing that always amazed me about O’Toole was that he managed to last so long; one would have thought he would have drunk himself to death long ago. In his last years he sort of resembled an ill-kept grave. But what a talent: O’Toole was easily one of the most talented men ever to set foot on stage or screen. His T.E. Lawrence will always be remembered as one of the greatest performances ever on film, as will his portrayal of Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

As far as Oscar was concerned, O’Toole was always a bridesmaid but never a bride. He holds the record – eight – for having been nominated in the Best Actor category without winning.

He cemented his reputation as a brilliant actor in his late 20s, when he became the youngest leading man ever at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford. While there he also cemented his reputation as a hellraiser, fueled by goodly amounts of alcoholic beverages.

It was the latter reputation that almost caused producer Sam Spiegel to overlook him when casting the part of T.E. Lawrence, but director David Lean pitched for O’Toole and was rewarded when Spiegel saw O’Toole’s screen test and admitted to Lean that they had found their Lawrence.

Lawrence of Arabia took nearly two years to film, but upon its release O’Toole was now Filmdom’s latest superstar. Contrary to popular belief, it was not O’Toole’s first movie. He appeared in three previous films, the best known of which was Disney’s 1960 adventure, Kidnapped, in which he had a small role as “Robin McGregor.” He had third billing in the 1960 crime drama, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, about three IRA men in turn-of-the-century England who plan to rob the Bank of England of its gold bullion. O’Toole is the officer in charge of security at the bank.

Below are my favorite O’Toole performances, sorted by year.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962): Who doesn’t love this movie? Oh sure, we can find some crank on IMDb who hated it. It was overlong, not historically accurate, etc. However, they’re in the distinct minority. Lawrence is a majestic movie, the sort they don’t make anymore (for one thing, CGI may have killed off the epic). It has a great script, wonderful cinematography and pacing, and, most of all, solid performances from its cast. Despite this, however, the film is structured in such a way that if the leading man fails (most of Lean’s other epics rely on the same formula), so does the rest of the film. And O’Toole makes sure the film doesn’t fail, capturing the spirit, if not the history, of Lawrence the man. It’s a film that, despite its length, I can watch anytime.

Becket (1964): So how does one follow up on a triumph like Lawrence of Arabia? Why with Becket, of course. Using Jean Anouilh’s play as a basis, it’s the story of the turbulent relationship between King Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, childhood friends who later became bitter enemies when Becket got religion and stood up for the Church against the King, and was ultimately killed for it. O’Toole’s Henry is up against another heavyweight in Richard Burton’s Becket, in the days before Liz and booze destroyed his career. John Gielgud also turns in quite an effective performance in a supporting role as King Louis VII of France.

The Night of the Generals (1967): This is a nice little gem in the O’Toole oeuvre, a tale about three Nazi generals suspected in the murder of a Polish prostitute in Warsaw, now in Paris, where one is in on the plot to kill Hitler. O’Toole, as General Tanz, gives a good, suspicious performance. Could he be the murderer? Donald Pleasance and Charles Gray, as the other two suspected generals, also give excellent performances, as does Omar Sharif as the investigating officer on the case. The film does lose its focus with the kill Hitler plot in Paris, but overall it’s quite good, especially O’Toole.

The Lion in Winter (1968): O’Toole is once again Henry II, but this time the focus is not on his intrigue with Thomas Becket, but with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. It’s Christmas 1183. Henry, aging but still conniving, calls a meeting where he will name a successor. In attendance are his scheming wife, Eleanor, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John. Also called are his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he hopes to marry, and King Philip II of France. All want his empire, but only one will be named. O’Toole is having a field day. Having played Henry before, he is comfortable with the character. Katharine Hepburn is wonderful as Eleanor (she got the Oscar for her portrayal), and a young Anthony Hopkins shines as Richard. Watching O’Toole and Hepburn engaging in their game of political chess (Henry wants John as his successor while Eleanor favors Richard) is mesmerizing: two pros at the pinnacle of their craft. And for those looking for offbeat Christmas movies, the setting of this film should fit the bill.

The Ruling Class (1972): O’Toole is the mad 14th Earl of Gurney in Peter Medak’s wonderful satire on the upper classes. The Earl believes himself to be Christ, wearing glasses because it’s cold, resting himself on a crucifix, and suddenly breaking out into song and dance numbers. His peers and family think he’s quite mad. Yet, when he undergoes a metamorphosis, dresses as a Victorian gentleman while speaking of capital punishment and superior breeding, his peers think him not only cured but prepare him for his seat in the House of Lords. The real point is that the Earl is not cured at all; he now believes himself to be Jack the Ripper. For those who love dark comedy or simply want to see a different O’Toole, this is one to see.

My Favorite Year (1982): O’Toole is in his element in this hilarious comedy. It’s 1954 and King Kaiser (read Sid Caesar) is the biggest thing on television. His guest this week is swashbuckling actor Alan Swann. Now all Kaiser and his staff have to do is make sure Swann stays sober for his appearance, a task not as easy as it seems. As the dissolute Swann, O’Toole dominates the film. Although his character is supposedly based on Errol Flynn, there are a few touches based on O’Toole himself, such as the habit of not wearing a watch (“I don’t trust them, one hand is bigger than the other.”) and his preference for Pinch scotch. In fact, O’Toole’s performance is so true to his real life self that it’s hard to discern where Flynn ends and O’Toole begins. The idea of having junior writer Benjy Stone babysit Swann is based on the real-life incident of having then Caesar show’s junior writer, Mel Brooks, chaperone guest star Flynn around before his appearance on Your Show of Shows.

Ratatouille (2007): Having provided the voice of Sherlock Holmes in a series of animated films for Burbank Studios in Australia, O’Toole was no stranger to the genre. In this heartwarming animated movie from Pixar and Disney about a rat who dreams of becoming a great French chef, O’Toole supplies the voice of Anton Ego, food critic for “The Grim Eater,” and someone whose word can make or break a restaurant. Though he initially comes on as the villain of the piece, his character is the heart of the film because of his love of good food and his honesty. A large part of the fun in watching Ratatouille is listening to O’Toole resonant voice as Ego. Besides, if I didn’t mention this film, Steve Herte would never forgive me.

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