Gloria Grahame

tumblr_po4zqc02cP1qadho7o1_500

Gloria Grahame in Fritz Lang’s 1954 “Human Desire”

Gloria Grahame Hallward, born November 28, 1923, was an American film star, singer, and stage and television actor. After appearing on Broadway for several years, she was signed to a contact with MGM Studios in 1944 . Two years after her film debut in “Blonde Fever”, she was given the role of flirty Violet Bick, saved from disgrace by Stewart’s George Bailey,  in the 1946 “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Her contract was then sold to RKO Studios in 1947 which featured her in several film noir pictures, portraying beautiful, flawed but seductive, women.

Gloria Grahame received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role portraying Ginny Tremaine in the 1947 “Crossfire”, a film noir drama based on the theme of anti-Semitism. In 1950 she appeared with Humphrey Bogart in Columbia Pictures’ film “In a Lonely Place”, garnering praise from critics. Her very short role of nine minutes playing southern belle Rosemary Bartlow in the 1952 “The Bad and the Beautiful” won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Grahame appeared in two films directed by Fritz Lang: the 1953 film noir “The Big Heat”, a crime drama co-starring Lee Marvin and Glenn Ford; and the 1954 film noir “Human Desire”, playing the femme fatale Vicki Buckley opposite her jealous film husband played by Broderick Crawford. As her film career began to wane, Grahame returned to the stage and made several guest appearances on television, including “The Twilight Zone” and “The Fugitive”.

After an initial bout with breast cancer in 1974, which had gone into remission, Gloria Grahame was again diagnosed with its return in 1980. Despite her failing health, she continued to work on stage in England and the United States. At the age of fifty-seven in 1981, Gloria Grahame was admitted to Saint Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, where she passed a few hours after admittance. She is buried at the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. For her work in the film industry, Gloria Grahame has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An account of Grahame’s final years of life, based on recollections of actor Peter Turner, was presented in the 2017 film “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”.

Image reblogged with thanks to http://doctordee.tumblr.com

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 2nd of December,  Solar Year 2018

The Craving of Human Touch in Form

December 2, 1933 was the release date of Fred Astaire’s first film, “Dancing Lady”.

“Dancing lady” is a 1933 pre-Code musical film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by David O Selznick and John W Considine, Jr. It starred Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and featured Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire, Robert Benchley, and Ted Healy and His Stooges, who later became the Three Stooges. It was also one of Eve Arden’s first uncredited appearances on film.

The film featured the film debut of extraordinary dancer Fred Astaire, who appears as himself, as well as the first credited appearance of actor and singer Nelson Eddy, a classically trained baritone who became the highest paid singer at that time in the world. The film was a box office hit upon its release, receiving many positive reviews from critics.

After appearing in “Dancing Lady” for MGM Studios, Fred Astaire returned to RKO Radio Pictures and received fifth billing In the 1933 Dolores del Rio film “Flying Down to Rio”. It was in this film that Astaire first danced with Ginger Rogers. Astaire was reluctant to become part of a dance team; however, the obvious public appeal of the pairing persuaded him. The Astaire-Rogers partnership, and the choreography of Astaire and collaborator Hermes Pan, helped make dancing an important element of the Hollywood film musical.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine films together at RKO, including the 1934 “Gay Divorcee”, “Top hat” in 1935, the 1936 “ Swing Time, and “Carefree” released in 1938. Six films of the nine became the biggest moneymakers for the RKO studio, bringing the studio the prestige and artistry it coveted. The Astaire-Rogers partnership elevated them both to stardom.

Fed Astaire was given complete autonomy over the dance production. He is credited with two important innovations in early film musicals: Astaire insisted that a closely tracking dolly camera film a dance routine in as few shots as possible, typically with just four to eight cuts,  while holding the dancers in full view at all times. This gave the illusion of an almost stationary camera filming an entire dance in a single shot.

Astaire’s second innovation involved the context of the dance. Astaire was adamant that all song and dance routines be seamlessly integrated into the plot lines of the film. Instead of using the dance as a spectacle such as a Busby Berkeley routine, the dance was used to move the plot along. A typical Astaire film would include three dance routines in the plot: a solo by Astaire, a partnered comedy dance, and a partnered romantic dance routine.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Sextant-Carrier

November 30 1937 was the birthdate of British film director and producer Ridley Scott.

Ridley Scott grew up in West Hartlepool, England, and attended the West Hartlepool College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. He worked as a set designer and a director in British television. In 1967, Scott began to direct commercials, known for their visual stylization and their distinctive atmospheric lighting effects.

Scott brought these effects into his feature films which he began directing in 1977. His directorial debut was the 1977 film “The Duelists”, a period film set in Napoleonic France base on a short story by Joseph Conrad. This film won the best first-feature award at the Cannas Film Festival. Scott followed the success with three more films, now widely regarded as classics:

The first, the science fiction horror story “Alien” was released in 1979. It was met with critical acclaim and box office success. It won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, three Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction for Scott and Best Supporting Actress for Veronica Cartwright. The second was the 1985 “Legend”, an allegorical fairy tale, was fleshed out with the help of American author William Hjortsberg, with the final screenplay going through fifteen revisions. The makeup effects were designed by special effects artist Rob Bottin, who had worked on “The Howling” and Carpenter’s “The Thing”.  The third, a dystopian fable of a dark, grim and polluted future, “Blade Runner” was released in 1982 and was based on a Philip K Dick novel. This contemporary film noir heavily employed Scott’s use of set design to enhance the mood of the film. It later became an acclaimed cult classic, hailed for its retrofitted future.

Ridley Scott’s 1991 “Thelma and Louise was acclaimed for its visual style as well as the lead characters and the feminist theme. Scott received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film. After a series of commercial failures, Scott directed the 2000 “The Gladiator”, starring Russell Crowe in the title role. the action drama set in ancient Rome was a critical and commercial success, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also earned Scott his second nomination for best director.

Scott revisited the eerie world of “Alien” in the sci-fi Thriller “Prometheus” in 2012. He brought his spectacular sensibilities to bear on the biblical story of Moses in “Exodus:Gods and Kings” in 2014, following that with the taut space drama “The Martian”, released in 2015 and starring Matt Damon as the astronaut who must survive on Mars. Ridley Scott also served as producer for a number of films and television programs, including the series “Numb3rs” from 2005-2010 and “The Good Wife” form 2009 to 2016.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Trade

November 29, 1895 was the birthdate of choreographer Busby Berkeley.

Born William Berkeley Enos in California, Busby Burkeley, enlisted for service in the military during World War I. He oversaw military drills for both the American and French forces, an experience which would give him inspiration in later years. Taking advantage of his mother’s theatrical connections, Burkeley became an entertainment officer, directing and producing plays for the American troops in postwar Germany.

Taking the name of Busby Berkeley, he turned to the stage after the war, finding his forte was directing musicals. In 1927, Berkeley choreographed the Rogers and Hart musical “A Connecticut Yankee”, which was a tremendous success, making him one of Broadway’s most-coveted choreographers. Following that success, he choreographed, directed, and produced the 1929 musical “The Street Singer”.

Success brought Busby Berkeley to the attention of Hollywood. Samuel Goldwyn had him work on comedian Eddie Cantor’s film “Whoopee”, previously a production on Broadway by Flo Ziegfeld. Berkeley choreographed and directed the dance numbers in the film. He late worked on the Bert Lahr musical “Flying High” and the 1932 “Night World” with its night club scenes.

Busby Berkeley decided to move to the Warner Brothers Studio; this is where his most famous work was done. In 1933, he staged the dances for three musicals now regarded as classics: “Gold Diggers of 1933”, “42nd Street”, and “Footlight Parade”. All three films were backstage stories, concerned with the production of a Broadway show. The musical numbers Berkeley created were a opulent fantasy universe, using camera angles and movements that produced views unable to be seen by a sitting audience. Placing his camera directly above the action, he often showed his ensemble of performers moving in precise geometric formations.

In 1935, Warner Brothers made Busby Berkeley a full-fledged director, He produced one of his best works, “Gold Diggers of 1935”, an account of the events at a summer resort showcasing the musical number “Lullaby of Broadway” sung by Wini Shaw. This song won an Academy Award in 1936 and Berkeley was nominated for an Oscar for best dance director. He won his second Oscar for his work of choreography in “Gold diggers of 1937”.

Beginning in the 1960s, Berkeley’s films enjoyed a nostalgic revival, with both critics and film lovers showing renewed interest in his work. He himself returned briefly to Broadway in 1970 to supervise a production of “No No Nanette” with Ruby Keelre, the star of his three great 1933 films.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Lure of a Blue Room

November 27, 1920 marks the release of Douglas Fairbanks’s “The Mark of Zorro”.

“The Mark of Zorro” was a 1920 silent adventure romance film, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery Senior’, based on Johnston McCulley’s 1919 “The Curse of Capistrano” which introduced the character of Zorro. The story was adapted into a screenplay by Fairbanks, under the name of Elton Thomas, and Eugene Miller.  “The Mark of Zorro” was the first film released through United Artists, formed by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Fairbanks.

Douglas Fairbanks played Don Diego Vega, the effete son of a wealthy ranch owner, who has the secret identity of a masked Robin Hood- like rogue, known as Zorro, or The Fox. He is the champion of the people who appears out of nowhere to protect and right wrongs. He has a love interest, Lolita played by Marguerite De La Motte, and is pursued by the authorities, including Sergeant Pedro Gonzales played by Noah Beery Senior.

“The Mark of Zorro” is a landmark in the career of Douglas Fairbanks and in the development of the action adventure film. This was Fairbanks’s thirtieth motion picture; and he used it to transition from comedies to costume adventure films, which is how most people remember him. The audiences responded with enthusiasm to Fairbanks’s  new persona, which allowed him to flaunt his considerable athleticism to its fullest advantage. Fairbanks’s stunts have lost none of their impact; no later cinematic superhero has ever been half so convincing as his Zorro leaping from rooftop to rooftop, and over the heads of his enemies.

This film helped popularize one of Americas’s most prominent creations of fiction; the enduring character of the superhero. It established the pattern for future caped crusaders with dual identities. “The Mark of Zorro” was remade twice: in 1940 starring Tyrone Power and in 1974 starring Frank Langella. The United States Library of Congress selected it in 2015 for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In DC Comics, it is established that “The Mark of Zorro” was the film that young Bruce Wayne saw just before the death of his parents outside the movie theater. Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce Wayne’s childhood hero and an influence upon his Batman persona. Bill Finger, co-creator with Bob Kane of the character Batman, was inspired by the Zorro played by Fairbanks, leading to similarities in costumes, the secret caves, and the unexpected secret identities.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Jaguar Hunter

November 25, 1920 marks the birthdate of actor Ricardo Montalban.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Spanish immigrants, Ricardo Montalban made his New York stage debut in 1940 in a small role in “Her Cardboard Lover”, starring Tallulah Bankhead. In 1947 he landed his first major Hollywood film role in the musical “Fiesta”, playing twin siblings with Esther Williams. Montalbam had a memorable dance number in that film with Cyd Charisse.

The dark, handsome Montalbam with the Spanish accent would go on to play numerous Latin romantic-types. He teamed up again with Esther Williams in two more films, the musical romantic comedy “Neptune’s Daughter” and the 1948 romantic comedy “On an Island with You”. In 1949, Montalbam broke from his romantic typecast to play a border agent in the suspense drama film “Border Incident” directed by Anthony Mann.

During the 1950s and 1960s Montalbam was one of only a handful of actively working Hispanic actors in Hollywood, often playing characters of different ethnicities, such as the character Nakamura in the 1957 “Sayonara” and Tokura in a “Hawaii Five-O” episode. He also starred as a naive, penniless French duke in the romance comedy “Love is a Ball” released in 1963.

Ricardo Montalbam’s best known television role was that of the man in the white suit with the cultured demeanor, Mr. Roarke, on the television series “Fantasy Island” which ran from 1977 to 1984. The series was one of the most popular on television at that time, making him and his co-star Herve Villechaize, playing Tattoo, popular icons.

Montalbam’s most well-known film role was the character of Khan Noonien Singh in the 1982 “Star Trek II: The Wrath of khan”, in which he reprised the role he had originated in the 1967 episode of “Star Trek” titled “Space Seed”. Montalbam was already physically fit; so Khan’s costume was specifically designed to display his physique. He agreed to take the role at a significant pay cut because he relished reprising his original character. His only regret, he said, was that he and William Shatner never interacted in their roles; the scenes were all done through video communication, filming their scenes months apart to accommodate Montalbam’s schedule for “Fantasy Island”.

Montalbam reacted to the poor way Mexicans were being portrayed by establishing with other stars the Nosotros (We) Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latinos in the movie and television industry. He served as its first president. The foundation created the Golden Eagle Awards, an annual awards show that highlights Latino actors. The awards are presented in conjunction with the Nosotros American Latino Film Festival, held at the now named Ricardo Montalbam Theater in Hollywood.

“Sebastiane”

“Sebastiane”, 1976, Directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress

Sebastiane” is a 1976 Latin-language British historical thriller directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress. The screenplay, written by Jarman, Humfress, and James Whaley, portrays events in the life of Saint Sebastian, including his martyrdom by arrows. The film, which was targeted to a gay audience, was controversial for the homoerotism portrayed and for being dialogued entirely in vulgar Latin. It was the only English-made film to have required English subtitles.

Intensely erotic, “Sebastiane” was filmed in Sardinia, near the town of Buggerru, and in locations in Italy. The film is an early film by the noted experimental and outspokenly gay director Jarman and features the debut of actor Leonardo Treviglio in his role of Sebastian. A bold film having the distinction of being the first non-porn film to show a male erection, “Sebastiane” now is probably only for the film aficionado who loves film- making and its history. A milestone in the history of non-porn gay films.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Treasure of the Island

November 22, 1932 was the birthdate of actor Robert Vaughn.

Born in New York City, Robert Vaughn studied at the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, earning a Master’s Degree in theater. He received a Ph. D in communications from the University of Southern California in 1970. He published his dissertation as a book, “Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting” in 1972.

Vaughn made his television debut in November of 1955 on the series “Medic”, the first of more than two hundred appearances on the show. He first film appearance was as an uncredited extra playing a golden calf idolater visible behind Yul Brynner in a scene from “The Ten Commandments”. Vaughn’s first credited movie role was playing Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James, in the 1957 western “Hell’s Crossroads”.

Vaughn’s first film appearance of note was in “The Young Philadelphians”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. He next appeared as the gunman Lee in “ The Magnificent Seven” in 1960, the western adaption of Kuorsawa’s epic “ Seven Samurai”.

Robert Vaughn was offered his most memorable role in 1964, starring in his own series as secret agent Napoleon Solo in the television series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. His co-star was Scottish actor David McCallum who played fellow agent Illya Kuryakin. This role would make Robert Vaughn a household name even behind the Iron Curtain. This series which ran from 1964 to 1968 created a spin-off show, large amounts of merchandising, overseas theatrical movies, and a sequel.

After the series ended, Vaughn was given the role of playing the ambitious California politician Chalmers, in the critical and box-offise smash film “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen. Vaughn was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role. He won an Emmy for his portrayal of Frank Flaherty in ABC’s 1977 “Washington: Behind Closed Doors”. Vaughn did acting work in England also, appearing on the BBC drama “Hustle” and the British soap opera “Coronation Street”.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Blue Sky and Two Ravens

November 20, 1890 was the birthdate of American film actor Robert Armstrong.

Robert Armstrong, born in Bay City, Michigan, attended the University of Washington, where he studied law. He gave up his studies to manage his uncle’s touring company. In his spare time, Armstrong wrote plays, appearing in one when it was produced. In 1926, he traveled to London and appeared on the British stage for one season.

Robert Armstrong’s film career began in 1927 when he appeared in Pathé’s romantic silent film drama ”The Main Event”, produced by Cecil DeMille. He had a very prolific film career in the late 1920s and early 1930s, making nine movies just in 1928. Armstrong is best know for his role as film director Carl Denham in the 1933 monster adventure film “King Kong”. He reprised his role as Denham in the sequel “Son of Kong”, released at the end of 1933.

“King Kong” producer Merian C. Cooper used Armstrong in several more movies. Armstrong and Fay Wray starred in “The Most Dangerous Game”, filmed at night on the same sets being used during the day for “King Kong”. He worked throughout the 1930s and 1940s for several film studios, starring in the 1937 musical comedy “The Girl Said No”, released by Grand National Films. In 1940, Armstrong co-starred in the Universal Pictures film “Enemy Agent”, a story about A Nazi spy ring in the country.

In 1942, Armstrong teamed up with actor Richard Cromwell in the notable gangster B-movie “Baby Face Nelson”, playing “Doc” Rogers, the boss of ‘Baby Face’ played by Cromwell. Later he played another leading character role, similar to Carl Denham, as Max O’Hara in “Mighty Joe Young” released in 1949. This film, produced by Merian C. Cooper and directed by Ernst B. Schoedsack, became a stop-motion animation classic, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1950.

Armstrong appeared in the 1950s as Sheriff Andy Anderson on the syndicated wester-themed television series “State Trooper”. He also made four guest appearances on the long-running television series “Perry Mason”, playing the both title character and murder victim on one show, a defendant on another, and the murderer in “The Case of the Accosted Accountant”. Robert Armstrong died of cancer in Santa Monica, California, within sixteen hours of the death of the co-producer of “King Kong”, Merian C. Cooper.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Caution: Fire in the Room

November 19, 1959 marks the release date for the television show “Rocky and His Friends”.

“Rocky and His Friends” was a serialized animation show, produce by Jay Ward Productions, that ran from November 1959 to June of 1964. During its history, it appeared under several broadcast titles, most notably “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”. The series was structured as a variety show, with the main feature being the adventures of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the moose Bullwinkle. Their main adversaries were the two “Russian” spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. both who worked for the Fearless Leader.

The animation show included three other supporting segments: the old-time melodrama styled “Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties”; “Peabody’s Improbable History”, in which the dog Mr. Peabody takes his boy Sherman to different historical events in time; and “Fractured Fairy Tales”, a new look, albeit slightly askew, at the classic fairy tales.

The idea for “Rocky and His Friends” was from Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had both collaborated on “Crusader Rabbit”, the first animated series created specifically for television. Production began in February of 1958 with the hiring of the voice actors: June Foray who voiced Rocky, Natasha, and every female character on the show; Paul Frees who voiced Boris and Inspector Fenwick,; Bill Scott who voiced Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and Mr. Peabody, and William Conrad who narrated the Rocky and Dudley Do-Right segments..

“Rocky and His Friends” was sponsored by the cereal-manufacturer General Mills, who insisted that the show have an late-afternoon time slot, targeting it toward children. The writers and designers were hired; however, no animators were hired. Instead in a move to save cost, the advertising agency for General Mills outsourced the animation to a Mexican company called Gamma Productions, which caused many productions problems because of its quality of animation and mistakes in the continuity of the animated characters and scenes.

“Rocky and His Friends” abounded with quality writing and wry humor, appealing to adults as well as children. Its segments mixed puns, self-humor, and satire on the existing culture and topics in life. The animation art has an unpolished look with limited action compared to the other animated series produced at that time. Despite this, the series is still held in high esteem by critics, with some viewing it as a well-written radio program with visual images. The series was influential to the development of other animated series and, to date, has aired in one hundred countries.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 18th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Cross

November 18, 1908 was the birthdate of American comic actress Imogene Coca.

Imogene Coca, born Imogene Fernandez de Coca in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the daughter of José Fernandez de Coca, a conductor, and his wife Sadie Brady, a dancer and magician’s assistant.

In her youth, Imogene Coca received piano, dance, and voice lessons. While still a teenager, she moved from Philadelphia to seek a living as a dancer, starting in the chorus of the 1925 Broadway musical “When You Smile” which ran forty-nine performances in New York City. Coca came to be featured as a headliner, appearing in Manhattan nightclubs, with music arranged by her first husband, Robert Burton. She came to prominence when she began to combine music with comedy. Coca’s first big critical success was in Broadway musical revue “New Faces of 1934”. A well-received part of her act was a comic striptease, during which Coca made sultry faces and gestures but would manage to remove only one glove.

Imogene Coca played opposite Sid Caesar on “The Admiral Broadway Revue” from January to June in 1949. In the early days of live television, she again played opposite Sid Caesar in a sketch comedy program, “Your Show of Shows”, which was immensely popular from 1950 to 1954. Coca won the second-ever Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1951 and was nominated for four other Emmys for her work in the show. Her success in that program earned Coca her own series “The Imogen Coca Show which ran from 1954-1955.

Imogene Coca continued to appear on comedy and variety series from the 1950s to the 1980s. She appeared on “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Hollywood Palace”, made guest appearances on “Bewitched” and “The Brady Bunch”, and occasionally appeared in films such as “Under the Yum Yum Tree” in 1963 and the 1963 “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, as Aunt Edna.

After having appeared in several Broadway musical-comedy revues and plays between the 1930s and the 1950s, Imogene Coca returned to Broadway at the age of 70 with a Tony Award-nominated performance as religious zealot Letitia Primrose in “On the Twentieth Century”, a 1978 stage musical adapted from the 1934 film. Her role, that of a religious fanatic who plasters decals onto every available surface, had been a male in both the film and the original stage production, and was rewritten specifically as a vehicle for Coca.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The View from the Heavens

November 17, 1933 was the released date of the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup”.

Movies gave the Marx Brothers a mass audience, and the films were the instrument that translated what was once essentially a Jewish style of humor into the dominant note of American comedy. Although they were not taken as seriously, the Marx Brothers were as surrealist as Dali, and as verbally outrageous as Gertrude Stein. Because they worked the genres of slapstick and screwball comedy, the Marx Brothers did not get the same kind of attention. However, their effect on the mind of the population was very influential.

The Marx Brothers created a body of work in which individual films are like slices from the whole, but the 1933 “Duck Soup” is probably the best. It represents a turning point in their movie work; it was their last film for Paramount, and the last in which all of the scenes directly involved the brothers.

When “Duck Soup” became a box office disappointment for Paramount, the Marx Brothers moved over to MGM. Production chief Irving Thalberg ordered their plots pf new films to find room for roles of conventional romantic couples, breaking up the madcap routines and slowing the pace. Buster Keaton’s sound comedies for MGM suffered from the same interference, meddling and dilution by the studio.

To describe the plot of a Marx Brothers film would be an exercise in futility, since a Marx Brothers movie exists in moments, bits, sequences, and dialogue, not in comprehensible stories. The film “Duck Soup” stars Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly, who becomes dictator of Fredonia under the sponsorship of the rich Mrs. Teasdale, played wonderfully as Margaret Dumont. The neighboring nation of Sylvania and its Ambassador Trintino have designs on the country of Fredonia. So Ambassador Trintino hires Harpo and Chico as spies for information. This premise provides a basis for one inspired sequence after another, including sustained examples of Groucho’s puns and sneaky double entendres. It also supports a couple of wordless physical sequences that probably have their roots in the vaudeville acts the brothers performed and saw years earlier.

One comedy sequence in “Duck Soup” is one of the highlights of the first century of film. Harpo, who has disguised himself as Groucho, sneaks into Mrs. Teasdale’s room , tries to break into a safe and shatters a mirror. Groucho himself comes downstairs to investigate. Harpo is standing inside the frame of the broken mirror, and tries to avoid detection by pretending to be Groucho’s reflection. This leads to a sustained pantomime involving flawless timing, as Groucho tries to catch the reflection in an error, and Harpo matches every move. Finally, in a perfect escalation of zaniness, Chico blunders into the frame, also dressed as Groucho.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Pale Skin and Leather

November 14, 1922 was the birthdate of American actress Veronica Lake.

Born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in the Burroough of Brooklynn, Veronica Lake moved to Miami, Florida with her family and attended Miami High School. In 1938 the family moved to Beverly Hills, California, where she was briefly under contract to MGM. Lake enrolled in MGM’s acting school, the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting, and soon went to an audition at RKO studio. She later appeared in the 1939 play “Thought for Food” and had a small role in “She Made Her Bed”.

Veronica Lake appeared as an extra in a number of movies. Her first appearance on screen was for RKO in the 1939 co-ed film “Sorority House”, which wound up being cut from the film. Lake was given similar roles in “All Women Have Secrets” “Forty Little Mothers” and “Dancing Co-Ed”. Producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. from Paramount Pictures decided to give her a chance in the role of a nightclub singer in a military drama entitled “I Wanted Wings”, released in 1940. This role made Veronica Lake, still in her teens, a star.

It was during the filming of “I Wanted Wings” that Veronica Lake developed her signature look. Lake’s long blonde hair accidentally fell over her right eye during a take and created a peek-a-boo effect. After the film was a big hit, the hairstyle became Lakes’s trademark and inspired women to copy it. Paramount next cast Lake in Preston Sturges’s “Sullivan’s Travels” with Joel McCrea. Next came the 1942 thriller “This Gun for Hire” with Robert Preston and Alan Ladd. She and Alan Ladd both had cameos in the all-star Paramount film “Star Spangled Rhythm” in 1942.

During World War II, Veronica Lake became popular as a pin-up girl for soldiers and traveled throughout the United States raising money for war bonds. Lake’s career began to falter after her portrayal as a Nazi spy in the 1944 “The Hour Before the Dawn”. Diagnosed early in her life with schizophrenia, Lake, after receiving scathing reviews, began drinking more heavily during this period, prompting many actors to refuse to work with her. After some time off, Lake was brought back in the 1945 “Bring On the Girls”, her first proper musical.

Veronica Lake made more movies between 1947 and 1951: a western “Ramrod” in 1947; the 1948 “Saigon” which reunited her with actor Alan Ladd; a romantic drama “Isn’t It Romantic” and a comedy “The Sainted Sisters”, both in 1948 and not well received by audiences. In 1948 Paramount decided not to renew Veronica Lake’s contract. After that, she performed in two more films in minor roles, was a television host for a brief stint and performed in summer stock theater.

In June of 1972, Veronica lake visited a doctor complaining of stomach pains. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver as a result of her years of drinking and was admitted on June 26 to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. She died there on July 7, 1973 of acute hepatitis and acute kidney injury. Veronica Lake was cremated and her ashes scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands. For her contributions to the film industry, Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 12th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Bravery

November 12, 1920 was the birthdate of American B-western film star Sunset Carson.

Born Winifred Maurice Harrison, Sunset Carson became an accomplished rodeo rider in his youth, working for a time in a western show owned by early cowboy actor Tom Mix. In 1940, Carson traveled to South America, where he competed in rodeos for two years. After he returned to the States, he appeared in a small role in the 1943 “Stage Coast Canteen”, a film featuring many celebrities of that time. In the next year, Carson had a role in the 1944 film “Janie”, under the name of Michael Harrison.

Carson caught the attention of Lou Grey, an executive of Republic Pictures, who signed him to a contract, giving him his own series of B-westerns and the stage name of Sunset Carson. He was given a horse named “Cactus” and had a succession of popular western genre films. Carson was in the 1944 “Bordertown Trail”, followed in the same year by “Code of the Prarie” and “Firebrands of Arizona”, playing opposite comic western actor Smiley Burnette.

Sunset Carson’s peak year was in 1945, appearing in seven western films. He appeared in his own name in “Sheriff of Cimarron”, “Bandits of the Badlands”. “The Cherokee Flash”, and four other hour-long films. Carson began the year of 1946 strong, starring in five films including “The El Paso Kid” and “The Red River Renegades”. By the end of 1946, however, Republic Pictures and Carson were having disputes. Carson claimed it was over his contract; the studio claimed that Carson was fired after attending a studio function while intoxicated and accompanied by an underage girl. At the end of the year, he and the studio parted company.

In 1948, Sunset Carson starred in “Sunset Carson Rides Again” produced by Oliver Drake. In 1949 he starred in “Rio Grande” and in 1950 the film “Battling Marshal”, his last role as the main character. For the next several years, Carson just obtained small bit parts. He played the lead once again in the B-movie “The Marshall of Windy Hollow”, a 1972 that costarred many old-time western actors. Then Carson had bit parts in two movies during the next thirteen years: “Seabo” in 1978 and the 1985 sci-fi “Alien Outlaw”, his final movie role.

Sunset Carson retired to Reno, Nevada and died in a Reno hospital on May 1, 1990 of an apparent heart attack. He died one day after winning a settlement in a three-year old lawsuit over money earned from some of his old films.

Note: The image above is reblogged with many thanks to a great instagram site that I follow, having a “green thumb” and an inclination towards hot guys. The site is https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/boyswithplants.

Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”, 1927

The Lodger, the silent film that Hitchcock directed in 1927, is generally acknowledged to be the one where he properly found his “voice”: that distinctive combination of death and fetishism, trick shots and music-hall humour, intense menace and elegant camerawork that assured his place among cinema’s giants.

The material, drawn from a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, is rather obviously inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders; they were still within living memory. Hitchcock himself claimed later that producing studio Gainsborough, including Michael Balcon, ordered him to remove any ambiguity that the central character, the mysterious room-renter of the title, might be guilty of the crimes himself, instead of simply the innocent victim of false suspicion.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Homestead Fire

November 10, 1889 was the birthdate of British actor Claude Rains.

William Claude Rains was a British film and stage actor known for his smooth, distinguished voice; polished, ironic style; and intelligent portrayal of a variety of roles, ranging from villains to sympathetic gentlemen. He began his acting career at the age of eleven working backstage jobs before making his adult stage debut. He enjoyed a successful stage career in London and taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; two of his students were John Gielgud and Charles Laughton.

Claude Rains toured the United States in the 1926 play “The Constant Nymph” and made a name for himself on Broadway. He came relatively late in his career to film acting and, while working for the Theater Guild in New York City, was given a screen test for a role in the 1932 “A Bill of Divorcement” by RKO. Rains did not get that role but was cast in the title role, partly because of his voice, in James Whale’s 1933 “The Invisible Man”. Although Rains’s face is hidden behind bandages throughout most of the film, his ominous voice effectively reflects the heightening madness of the megalomaniacal scientist he portrays.

Claude Rains went on to play a variety of leading and supporting roles, including criminals, aristocrats, politicians, spies, learned professionals, and family men, all with equal charm and finesse. He displayed great chemistry with Bette Davis as her sympathetic psychiatrist in the 1942 “Now, Voyager” and as her patient, loving husband in the 1944 “Mr. Skeffington”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Rains was also nominated for Oscars as best supporting actor for his work in three much-loved American film classics: as the corrupt senator in the 1939 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” by Frank Capra; as the charming, opportunistic police chief in the 1942 “Casablanca”, one of his most famous roles; and as the likable, sensitive Nazi agent in love with costar Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 “Notorious”.

In 1951 Claude Rains won a Tony Award for his lead role in the play “Darkness at Noon”. He was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in his career: “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”, “Casablanca”, “Mr. Skeffington”, and “Notorious”. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 9th of November,  Solar Year 2018

An Autumn Afternoon

November 9, 1980 marks the passing of character actor Victor Sen Yung.

Victor Sen Yung , born Sen Yew Cheung, was born in San Francisco to parents who were both immigrants from China. After his mother died in the great flu epidemic of 1919, he and his younger sister were placed in a children’s shelter by their father, who returned to China seeking a new wife. Upon his father’s and his new wife’s return, the family again reunited as a household.

Sen Yung made his first significant acting debut in the 1938 “Charlie Chan in Honolulu”, as the detective’s ‘number two son”, Jimmy Chan. In this movie, Sidney Toler had his first role as Charlie Chan, replacing the recently deceased Warner Oland; Sen Yung replaced Oland’s ‘number one son’ Lee, who had been played by actor Keye Luke. Sen Yung played his Jimmy Chan role for ten “Charlie Chan” films from 1938 to 1942.

In 1940 Victor Sen Yung played the crucial role of the lawyer’s clerk Ong Chi Seng in the Bette Davis film “The Letter”, a film noir murder story. Like other Chinese-American actors, he was cast in Japanese roles during World War II, appearing as a traitor in the 1942 Humphrey Bogart film “Across the Pacific”. After enlisting in the Army Air Force, Sen Yung’s military service included training films and a role in the Army Air Force play and film “Winged Victory”.

After the war, Victor Sen Yung resumed his Hollywood career, appearing in the final two of Sidney Toler’s  Charlie Chan films, “Shadows Over Chinatown” and “The Trap”. Following Toler’s death in 1947, Sen Yung continued in films but also appeared on television, most notably as Hop Sing, the cook on the long-running “Bonanza” western series, appearing in 102 episodes during its fourteen year run.

An accomplished and talented cook, Sen Yung frequently appeared on cooking programs and authored “The Great Wok Cookbook” in 1974.

Victor Sen Yung died under unusual circumstances at his North Hollywood home in 1980. A creative ceramic artist with a small business, he died of natural gas poisoning from a gas leak while creating clayware and curing the items in an oven. After an investigation, the authorities ultimately ruled the death an accident. A memorial scholarship is awarded each year at his alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley. Victor Sen Yung’s eulogy was given by fellow “Bonanza” actor Pernell Roberts, who also paid the funeral expenses.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 6th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Standing on the Edge of the World

November 6, 1914 was the birthdate of character actor Jonathan Harris.

Born in the Bronx section of New York City, Jonathan Harris was the son of a Russian-Jewish family. He attended Fordham University, New York, to study medicine, earning a degree in 1936. Harris transformed himself into the American idea of an Englishman by replacing his Bronx accent with the lightly modulated vocal tone he heard on British films.

After joining the Millpond Playhouse repertory company, on Long Island in 1939, Harris appeared in more than 100 regional theaters, before his debute on Broadway in 1942. He appeared in the 1946 play “A Flag is Born” opposite Quentin Reynolds and Marlon Brando. His first television work came in 1949 with The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre’s “His Name Is Jason”, followed by roles in many other series: “Bonanza”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Zorro” and others.

Jonathan Harris was in a co-star role opposite Michael Rennie, who played Harry Lime, in the television series “The Third Man”, playing sidekick Bradford Webster for seventy-two episodes. From 1963-1965, Harris co-starred in the sitcom “The Bill Dana Show”. He played Mister Phillips, the pompous manager of a posh hotel who is constantly at odds with Bill Dana’s character José Jiménez.

Jonathan Harris was cast over two other actors for the role of Dr. Zachary Smith, the evil and conniving double agent on “Lost in Space”. The series was already in production when Harris joined the cast, and the starring/co-starring billing had already been contractually assigned. Harris successfully negotiated to receive “Special Guest Star” billing on every episode.

The series was successful upon its debut, and midway through the first season, Harris began to rewrite his own dialogue. Due to Harris’s popularity on the show, creator and producer Irwin Allen approved his changes and gave him carte blanche as a writer. Harris subsequently stole the show, mainly via a seemingly never-ended series of alliterative insults directed toward The Robot, which soon worked their way into popular culture.

Jonathan Harris spent much of his later career as a voice actor, heard in television commercials as well as cartoons such as “Darkwing Duck”, “A Bug’s Life”, the series “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command”, and “Toy Story 2”. In 2001, a year prior to his death, he recorded voice work for the animated theatrical short “The bolt Who Screwed Christmas”. This film, Harris’s last work, was released posthumously in 2009.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Heat of the Sun

November 4,1896 was the birthdate of American character actor Ian Wolfe.

Born in Illinois, Ian Wolfe worked in theater productions until 1934 when he started his career as a character actor in film and later television. Central to Wolfe’s appeal was the fact that, until he reached actual old age, he always looked considerably older than he actually was. His career lasted until the last years in his life, encompassing almost four hundred roles in television and film, including many classics.

Ian Wolfe appeared in many well known films: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur” playing Robert in the film noir spy thriller; “Rebel Without a Cause” as Dr. Minton, the astronomy professor; the role of Maggs in the 1935 “Mutiny on the Bounty”; and George Lucas’s “THX 1138”, playing the prisoner PTO.

American at birth, Ian Wolfe, because of his experience in theater, had very precise diction which caused him to be often cast as an Englishman. He appeared in the 1943 film :Sherlock Holmes in Washington” , as an antique shop clerk. He also was in the final film of the Holmes series, the 1946 “Dressed to Kill” as the Commissioner of Scotland Yard. In Billy Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution”, Ian Wolfe played Carter, chief clerk to Sir Wilfrid, played by Charles Laughton.

Ian Wolfe guest-starred on many television series over the course of his career. The first season of “The Lone Ranger” had him playing a crooked small town doctor attempting to swindle a man. He  appeared on the episode “The Case of the Midnight Howler” of the 1966 “Perry Mason” series. Star Trek fans will recognize him in two episodes of the original series: the 1968 “Bread and Circuses” as Septinus, and the 1969 “All Our Yesterdays” acting in the role of Mr. Atoz.

Wolfe’s last film role, at the age of 94, was as Munger in the 1990 released “Dick Tracy”, produced and directed by Warren Beatty. Ian Wolfe died a year later at the age of 95 of natural causes in January of 1992.

“Mostly, they know the face, but they don’t know the name. Some people are funny. Some are nice. They don’t try to take up your time. They say, “I see you a lot and I sure enjoy you” and they’re gone. It’s my voice, too, that people recognize. I had no idea that my voice is distinctive in any way. But people will say, “I knew you by your voice”. – Ian Wolfe

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Redness of the World

November 3, 1928 was the birthdate of Japanese manga artist and film producer Osamu Tezuka.

Osamu Tezuka was born in the Osaka Perfecture of Japan. Drawing from a early age, he continued his manga skills throughout his school years, creating his first adept amateur works. In 1945, Tezuka was accepted into Osaka University in the field of medicine. It was during tihis time that he began publishing his first professional works.

After the end of World War II, at the age of seventeen, Osamu Tezuka published his first work, “Diary of Ma-chan”, a collection of four-panel comic strips about a small pre-school boy. After a discussion with fellow manga artist Shichima Sakai, Tezuka completed a manga based loosely on the famous story “Treasure Island”. This manga, entitled “Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island)”, was published and became an overnight success, starting the golden age of manga, similar to the craze in America for comic books at the time.

With the success of his manga Treasure Island, Tezuka traveled to Tokyo to seek a publisher. The publisher Shinseikaku agreed to purchase “The Strange Voyage of Dr. Tiger” and publisher Domei Shuppansha purchased “The Mysterious Dr. Koronko”. While he was still studying in medical school , Tezuka published his first masterpiece: a science-fiction trilogy called “Lost World”, “Metropolis”, and “Next World”.

In 1951, Tezuka graduated from the Osaka School of Medicine and published ”Ambassador Atom”, the first appearance of the Astro Boy character. The humanoid robot Atom with human emotions became extremely popular with young boys. In February of 1952, “Tetsuwan Atom” became a serial in the  Weekly Shonen Magazine. The character Atom and his adventures became an instant phenomenon in Japan.

Tezuka entered the animation industry in Japan in 1961, founding Mushi Productions. He innovated the industry with the broadcast of the animated version of “Astro Boy” in 1963, the first Japanese animation to be dubbed into English for an American audience. Other series were later translated to animation, including “Jungle Emperor”, the first Japanese animated series produced in full color.

Osamu Tezuka is a descendent of Hattori Hanzō, a famous ninja and samurai who faithfully served the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Sengoku period in Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu was one of the three unifiers of Japan in the late 1500s.