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About R.G. Morse

Author, editor, publisher, artist, songwriter, radio host, R.G. Morse lives and works in the spectacularly mountainous West Kootenay region of British Columbia.

Mario Lanza

Introduction

Mario Lanza (born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza, January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an American tenor of Italian ancestry, and an actor and Hollywood film star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.

Lanza began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year film contract with Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to that, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948), however, he sang the role of Pinkerton in Puccini‘s Madame Butterfly in New Orleans.

His film début for MGM was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson and Ethel Barrymore. A year later, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song “Be My Love” became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he played the role of tenor Enrico Caruso, his idol, in the biopic The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with “The Loveliest Night of the Year” (a song which used the melody of Sobre las Olas). The Great Caruso was the top-grossing film that year.

The title song of his next film, Because You’re Mine, was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with studio head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt, and was eventually dismissed by MGM.

Lanza was known to be “rebellious, tough, and ambitious.” During most of his film career, he suffered from addictions to overeating and alcohol which had a serious effect on his health and his relationships with directors, producers and, occasionally, other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper writes that “his smile, which was as big as his voice, was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak.” She adds that he was the “last of the great romantic performers.” He made three more films before dying of an apparent pulmonary embolism at the age of 38. At the time of his death in 1959 he was still “the most famous tenor in the world.” Author Eleonora Kimmel concludes that Lanza “blazed like a meteor whose light lasts a brief moment in time.”

 

Early years

Born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was exposed to classical singing at an early age by his AbruzzeseMolisan Italian parents. His mother, Maria Lanza, was from Tocco da Casauria, a town in the province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo. His father, Antonio Cocozza, was from Filignano, a town in the province of Isernia in the region of Molise.

By age 16, his vocal talent had become apparent. Starting out in local operatic productions in Philadelphia for the YMCA Opera Company while still in his teens, he later came to the attention of longtime (1924–49) principal Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky provided young Cocozza with a full student scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Koussevitzky would later tell him, “Yours is a voice such as is heard once in a hundred years.”

 

Opera career

He made his opera debut, as Fenton in Otto Nicolai‘s The Merry Wives of Windsor (in English), at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood on August 7, 1942, after a period of study with conductors Boris Goldovsky and Leonard Bernstein. This was when Cocozza adopted the stage name Mario Lanza, for its similarity to his mother’s maiden name, Maria Lanza.

His performances at Tanglewood won him critical acclaim, with Noel Straus of The New York Times hailing the 21-year-old tenor as having “few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power.” Herbert Graf subsequently wrote in Opera News (October 5, 1942), “A real find of the season was Mario Lanza […] He would have no difficulty one day being asked to join the Metropolitan Opera.” Lanza sang Nicolai’s Fenton twice at Tanglewood, in addition to appearing there in a one-off presentation of Act III of Puccini‘s La bohème with the noted Mexican soprano Irma González, baritone James Pease and mezzo-soprano Laura Castellano. Music critic Jay C. Rosenfeld wrote in The New York Times of August 9, 1942, “Irma González as Mimì and Mario Lanza as Rodolfo were conspicuous by the beauty of their voices and the vividness of their characterizations.” In an interview shortly before her own death in 2008, González recalled that Lanza was “very correct, likeable, with a powerful and beautiful voice.”

His budding operatic career was interrupted by World War II, when he was assigned to Special Services in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He appeared in the wartime shows On the Beam and Winged Victory. He also appeared in the film version of the latter (albeit as an unrecognizable member of the chorus). He resumed his singing career with a concert in Atlantic City with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in September 1945 under Peter Herman Adler, subsequently his mentor. The following month, he replaced tenor Jan Peerce on the live CBS radio program Great Moments in Music on which he made six appearances in four months, singing extracts from various operas and other works.

He studied with Enrico Rosati for fifteen months, and then embarked on an 86-concert tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico between July 1947 and May 1948 with bass George London and soprano Frances Yeend. Reviewing his second appearance at Chicago’s Grant Park in July 1947 in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Claudia Cassidy praised Lanza’s “superbly natural tenor” and observed that “though a multitude of fine points evade him, he possesses the things almost impossible to learn. He knows the accent that makes a lyric line reach its audience, and he knows why opera is music drama.”

In April 1948, Lanza sang two performances as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for the New Orleans Opera Association conducted by Walter Herbert with stage director Armando Agnini. Reviewing the opening-night performance in the St. Louis News (April 9, 1948), Laurence Oden wrote, “Mario Lanza performed … Lieutenant Pinkerton with considerable verve and dash. Rarely have we seen a more superbly romantic leading tenor. His exceptionally beautiful voice helps immeasurably.” Following the success of these performances, he was invited to return to New Orleans in 1949 as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata. But, as biographer Armando Cesari wrote, Lanza by 1949 “was already deeply engulfed in the Hollywood machinery and consequently never learned [that key mid-Verdi tenor] role.”

At the time of his death, Lanza was preparing to return to the operatic stage. Conductor Peter Herman Adler, with whom Lanza had previously worked both in concert and on the soundtrack of The Great Caruso, visited the tenor in Rome during the summer of 1959 and later recalled that, “[Lanza] was working two hours a day with an operatic coach, and intended to go back to opera, his only true love.” Adler promised the tenor “all possible help” in his “planning for his operatic future.” In the October 14, 1959, edition of Variety, it was reported that Lanza had planned to make his return to opera in the role of Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci during the Rome Opera’s 1960–61 season. This was subsequently confirmed by Riccardo Vitale, Artistic Director of the Rome Opera. Variety also noted that preparations had been underway at the time of Lanza’s death for him to participate in recording a series of complete operas for RCA Italiana.

 

Film career

A concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947 had brought Lanza to the attention of Louis B. Mayer, who promptly signed Lanza to a seven-year film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The contract required him to commit to the studio for six months, and at first Lanza believed he would be able to combine his film career with his operatic and concert one. In May 1949, he made his first commercial recordings with RCA Victor. His rendition of the aria “Che gelida manina” (from La bohème) from that session was subsequently awarded the prize of Operatic Recording of the Year by the (United States) National Record Critics Association.

Lanza’s first two starring films, That Midnight Kiss and The Toast of New Orleans, both opposite top-billed Kathryn Grayson, were commercial successes, and in 1950 his recording of “Be My Love” from the latter became the first of three million-selling singles for the young singer, earning him enormous fame in the process. While at MGM, Lanza worked closely with the Academy Award-winning conductor, composer, and arranger Johnny Green.

In a 1977 interview with Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, Green recalled that the tenor was insecure about the manner in which he had become successful, and was keenly aware of the fact that he had become a Hollywood star before first having established himself on the operatic stage.

Had Lanza been already a leading tenor, if not the leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera House, and come to Hollywood in between seasons to make a picture, he would have had the security of having the Met as his home,” Green remarked. According to Green, Lanza possessed “the voice of the next Caruso. Lanza had an unusual, very unusual quality … a tenor with a baritone color in the middle and lower registers, and a great feeling for the making of music. A great musicality. I found it fascinating, musically, to work with him.

In 1951, Lanza portrayed Enrico Caruso in The Great Caruso, which was one of MGM’s biggest successes of the year. At the same time, Lanza’s increasing popularity exposed him to intense criticism by some music critics, including those who had praised his work years earlier. His performance earned him compliments from the subject’s son, Enrico Caruso Jr., a tenor in his own right. Shortly before his own death in 1987, Enrico Jr. wrote in Enrico Caruso: My Father and My Family (posthumously published by Amadeus in 1990) that: “I can think of no other tenor, before or since Mario Lanza, who could have risen with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen biography … Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great tenor voices of the century, with a natural voice placement, an unmistakable and very pleasing timbre, and a nearly infallible musical instinct.”

In 1952, Lanza was dismissed by MGM after he had recorded the songs for The Student Prince. The reason most frequently cited in the tabloid press at the time was that his recurring weight problem had made it impossible for him to fit into the costumes of the Prince. However, as his biographers Cesari and Mannering have established, Lanza was not overweight at the beginning of the production, and it was, in fact, a disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over Lanza’s singing of one of the songs in the film that led to Lanza walking off the set. MGM refused to replace Bernhardt, and the film was subsequently made with English actor Edmund Purdom, who was dubbed to Lanza’s recorded voice.

Depressed by his dismissal, and with his self-confidence severely undermined, Lanza became a virtual recluse for more than a year, frequently seeking refuge in alcoholic binges. During this period, Lanza also came very close to bankruptcy as a result of poor investment decisions by his former manager, and his lavish spending habits left him owing about $250,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

Lanza returned to an active film career in 1955 in Serenade, released by Warner Bros. However the film was not as successful as his previous films, despite its strong musical content, including arias from Der Rosenkavalier, Fedora, L’arlesiana, and Otello, as well as the Act I duet from Otello with soprano Licia Albanese. Ms. Albanese said of Lanza in 1980: “I had heard all sorts of stories about Mario. That his voice was too small for the stage, that he couldn’t learn a score, that he couldn’t sustain a full opera; in fact, that he couldn’t even sing a full aria, that his recordings were made by splicing together various portions of an aria. None of it is true! He had the most beautiful lirico spinto voice. It was a gorgeous, beautiful, powerful voice. I should know because I sang with so many tenors. He had everything that one needs. The voice, the temperament, perfect diction. … Vocally he was very secure. All he needed was coaching. Everything was so easy for him. He was fantastic!”

He then moved to Rome, Italy in May 1957, where he worked on the film Seven Hills of Rome, and returned to live performing in November of that year, singing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium. From January to April 1958, Lanza gave a concert tour of the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. He gave a total of 22 concerts on this tour, receiving mostly positive reviews for his singing. Despite a number of cancellations, which resulted from his failing health during this period, Lanza continued to receive offers for operatic appearances, concerts, and films.

In September 1958, he made a number of operatic recordings at the Rome Opera House for the soundtrack of what would turn out to be his final film, For the First Time. It was then that he came to the attention of that opera house’s artistic director, Riccardo Vitale, who promptly offered the tenor carte blanche in his choice of operatic roles. Lanza also received offers to sing in any opera of his choosing from the San Carlo in Naples. At the same time, however, his health continued to decline, with the tenor suffering from a variety of ailments, including phlebitis and acute high blood pressure. His old habits of overeating and crash dieting, coupled with binge drinking, compounded his problems.

 

Death

In April 1959, Lanza reportedly fell ill, mainly with heart problems, as well as pneumonia. On September 25, 1959, he entered Rome’s Valle Giulia clinic for the purpose of losing weight for an upcoming film. While in the clinic, he underwent a controversial weight loss program colloquially known as “the twilight sleep treatment,” which required its patients to be kept immobile and sedated for prolonged periods. Lanza died of a heart attack at the age of 38. No autopsy was performed. He was survived by his wife and four children. Betty Lanza returned to Hollywood completely devastated. She died five months later of a drug overdose. Maria Caniglia, Franco Fabrizi and Enzo Fiermonte attended the funeral. Frank Sinatra sent his condolences by telegram.

In 1991 son Marc Lanza died of a heart attack. He was 37, a year younger than Mario was when he died. In 1998, daughter Colleen Lanza was run down and killed by a car as she crossed a street. She spent two weeks in the hospital in a coma from which she never recovered. Son Damon Anthony Lanza passed away on August 16, 2008 in California at the age of 55. Apparently he had severe diabetes and heart-related problems.

 

Musical legacy

Lanza was the first RCA Victor Red Seal artist to win a gold disc and the first artist to sell 2.5 million albums.

Lanza was referred to by some sources as the “new Caruso” after his “instant success” in Hollywood films, while MGM hoped he would become the movie studio’s “singing Clark Gable” for his good looks and powerful voice.

In 1994, outstanding tenor José Carreras paid tribute to Lanza during a worldwide concert tour, saying of him, “If I’m an opera singer, it’s thanks to Mario Lanza.” His equally outstanding colleague Plácido Domingo echoed these comments in a 2009 CBS interview with, “Lanza’s passion and the way his voice sounds are what made me sing opera. I actually owe my love for opera … to a kid from Philadelphia.”

Even today “the magnitude of his contribution to popular music is still hotly debated,” and because he appeared on the operatic stage only twice, many critics feel that he needed to have had more “operatic quality time” in major theaters before he could be considered a star of that art form. His films, especially The Great Caruso, influenced numerous future opera stars, including Joseph Calleja, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. According to opera historian Clyde McCants, “Of all the Hollywood singers who performed operatic music … the one who made the greatest impact was Mario Lanza.” Hedda Hopper concluded that “there had never been anyone like Mario, and I doubt whether we shall ever see his like again.”

 

Portrayal on stage

In October 2007, Charles Messina directed the big budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere, about Lanza’s life, which was produced by Sonny Grosso and Phil Ramone, and which premiered at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, New York.

 

Legacy

Mario Lanza Boulevard is a roadway in the Eastwick section of Lanza’s native Philadelphia, close to Philadelphia International Airport and ending on the grounds of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

The Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, which honors Lanza’s legacy and also provides scholarships to young singers, is located at 712 Montrose Street in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s Queen Street Park was renamed for Lanza in 1967.

Lanza was born at 636 Christian Street in South Philadelphia. The building was demolished on June 29, 2018; a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker marks the site.

In 1983, a 90-minute PBS documentary, Mario Lanza: The American Caruso, hosted by Plácido Domingo and featuring Lanza’s family and professional associates; was nominated for a Primetime Emmy as “Outstanding Informational Special.”

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

Mario Lanza has been awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a Star for Recording at 1751 Vine Street, and a Star at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard for Motion Pictures.

 

Filmography

 

Box office ranking

At the height of his career, Lanza was voted by exhibitors as being among the most popular stars in the country:

  • 1951 – 13th most popular (US), 10th (UK)
  • 1952 – 23rd (US), 6th (UK

 

 

Barbara Hale

Barbara Hale (April 18, 1922 – January 26, 2017) was an American actress best known for her role as legal secretary Della Street in the television series Perry Mason (1957–1966), earning her a 1959 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason movies for television (1985–1995). Her film roles included The Window (1949), in which she starred as the mother of a boy who witnesses a murder.

 

Early life

Barbara Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois, a daughter of Wilma (née Colvin) and Luther Ezra Hale, a landscape gardener. She had one sister, Juanita, for whom Hale’s younger daughter was named. The family was of Scots-Irish ancestry. In 1940, Hale was a member of the final graduating class from Rockford High School in Rockford, Illinois, then attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, planning to be an artist. Her performing career began in Chicago, when she started modelling to pay for her education.

 

 

 

 

 

Career

 

Film

Hale moved to Hollywood in 1943, and under contract to RKO Radio Pictures, made her first screen appearance (uncredited) in Gildersleeve’s Bad Day. She continued to make small uncredited appearances in films, until her first credited role alongside Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher (1943) (even singing with him in the film). Hale had leading roles in movies including West of the Pecos (1945), Lady Luck (1946) — opposite Robert Young in what she described as her first “full stardom” and “her fifth A picture” — and The Window (1949).

 

 

Her roles in 1950s films such as the adventure Lorna Doone (1951); the comedy The Jackpot (with James Stewart) (also 1951); the drama A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), and the Westerns Seminole (also 1953) and The Oklahoman (1957) continued Hale’s run of successful movies during that decade. The latter film, co-starring Joel McCrea, would mark Hale’s last leading role in a motion picture. She seldom appeared in film after this time, but was part of an all-star cast in the 1970 movie Airport, playing the wife of an airline pilot (played by Dean Martin). Hale’s final appearance in a feature film was in the 1978 drama Big Wednesday as Mrs. Barlow, the mother of the character played by Hale’s real-life son William Katt.

 

Television

Perry Mason (1957–1966; 1985–1995)

Hale was considering retirement from acting when she accepted her best known role as legal secretary Della Street in the television series Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr as the titular character. The show ran for nine seasons, from 1957 to 1966, with 271 episodes produced. The role won Hale a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

In 1985, Hale and Burr (by then the only surviving cast members from the original series) reprised their roles for the TV movie Perry Mason Returns. The film was such a ratings hit that a further 29 movies were produced until 1995. Hale continued her role as Della in the four telefilms produced after Burr’s death in 1993, subtitled A Perry Mason Mystery (and starring Paul Sorvino as Anthony Caruso in the first film and Hal Holbrook as “Wild” Bill McKenzie in the remaining three). Hale is thus the only actor to feature in all 30 films.

 

Hale’s career became inextricably linked with that of Perry Mason co-star Burr; she guest-starred in “Murder Impromptu,” a 1971 episode of his next series, Ironside.

Her last on-screen appearance was a TV biographical documentary about Burr that aired in 2000.

 

Radio

Hale’s activity in radio was limited; she appeared in one episode each of Voice of the Army (1947), Lux Radio Theatre (1950), and Proudly We Hail (syndicated), as well as five episodes of Family Theater (1950–1954).

 

Spokesperson

Hale also is remembered as a spokesperson for Amana, makers of Radarange microwave ovens, memorably intoning, “If it doesn’t say Amana, it’s not a Radarange.”

 

Private life and death

In 1945 during the filming of West of the Pecos, Hale met actor Bill Williams (birth name Herman August Wilhelm Katt). They were married for 46 years, from 1946 until Williams’ death from cancer in 1992. The couple had two daughters, Jodi and Juanita, and a son, actor William Katt. Williams made guest appearances on four episodes of Perry Mason in the 1960s.

Katt played detective Paul Drake, Jr., alongside Hale in nine of the Perry Mason TV movies from 1985–1988. Hale guest-starred on Katt’s series, The Greatest American Hero in which Katt played the title role, aka Ralph Hinkley; Hale played Hinkley’s mother in the 1982 episode, “Who’s Woo in America”. She also played his mother in the 1978 movie Big Wednesday.

A bladder cancer survivor, Hale became a follower of the Bahá’í Faith.

She died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, on January 26, 2017, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 94 years old. She is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) next to her husband.

 

Accolades

Hale was recognized as a Star of Television (with a marker at 1628 Vine Street) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. She won the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series in 1959, and was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series in 1961.

She was presented with the Golden Boot Award in 2001 for her contributions to Western cinema.

Raymond Burr

 

Raymond William Stacy Burr (May 21, 1917 – September 12, 1993) was a Canadian- American actor, primarily known for his title roles in the television dramas Perry Mason and Ironside. He was prominently involved in multiple charitable endeavors, such as working on behalf of the United Service Organizations.

Burr’s early acting career included roles on Broadway, radio, television and in film, usually as the villain. His portrayal of the suspected murderer in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window (1954) is regarded as his best-known film role, although he is also remembered for his role in the American version of Godzilla, which he would later reprise in another (1984) version of the film. He won two Emmy Awards, in 1959 and 1961, for the role of Perry Mason, which he played for nine seasons (1957–1966), and reprised in a series of 26 television films (1985–1993). His second TV series, Ironside, earned him six Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

 

Early life

Raymond William Stacy Burr was born May 21, 1917, in New WestminsterBritish Columbia, Canada. His father, William Johnston Burr (1889–1985), was a hardware salesman. His mother, Minerva Annette (née Smith, 1892–1974), was a pianist and music teacher.

When Burr was six, his parents divorced. Burr’s mother moved to Vallejo, California, with him and his younger siblings, Geraldine and James. His father remained in New Westminster. Burr briefly attended San Rafael Military Academy in San Rafael, California, and graduated from Berkeley High School In later years, Burr freely invented stories of a happy childhood. In 1986 he told journalist Jane Ardmore that when he was 12 years old his mother sent him to New Mexico for a year to work as a ranch hand. He was already his full adult height, was rather large, and “had fallen in with a group of college-aged kids who didn’t realize how young Raymond was, and they let him tag along with them in activities and situations far too sophisticated for him to handle.” He developed a passion for growing things and, while still a teenager, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for a year. Throughout his teenage years, he had some acting work, making his stage debut at age 12 with a Vancouver stock company.

 

Theatre

Growing up during the Great Depression, Burr hoped to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, a renowned community theater and school in Pasadena, California, but he was unable to afford the tuition. In 1934, he joined a repertory theatre group in Toronto that toured throughout Canada, then joined another company that toured India, Australia and England. He briefly attended Long Beach Junior College and taught for a semester at San Jose Junior College, working nights as a radio actor and singer. He began his association with the Pasadena Playhouse in 1937.

Burr moved to New York in 1940, and made his first Broadway appearance in Crazy With the Heat, a two-act musical revue produced by Kurt Kasznar that quickly folded. His first starring role on the stage came in November 1942, when he was an emergency replacement in a Pasadena Playhouse production of Quiet Wedding, directed by Lenore Shanewise. He became a member of the Pasadena Playhouse drama faculty for 18 months, and he performed in some 30 plays over the years ]He returned to the Broadway stage for Patrick Hamilton‘s The Duke in Darkness (1944), a psychological drama set during the French Wars of Religion. Burr’s performance as the loyal friend of the imprisoned protagonist led to a contract with RKO Radio Pictures.

 

Film

Lars Thorwald realizes he is being watched across the courtyard via telephoto lens in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rear Window (1954), which offered Burr his most notable film role.

Burr appeared in more than 50 feature films between 1946 and 1957, creating an array of villains that established him as an icon of film noir. Film historian Alain Silver concluded that Burr’s most significant work in the genre is in these ten films: Desperate (1947), Sleep, My Love (1948), Raw Deal (1948), Pitfall (1948), Abandoned (1949), Red Light (1950), M (1951), His Kind of Woman (1951), The Blue Gardenia (1953) and Crime of Passion (1957). Silver described Burr’s private detective in Pitfall as “both reprehensible and pathetic”,  a characterization also cited by film historian Richard Schickel as a prototype of film noir, in contrast with the appealing television characters for which Burr later became famous.

“He tried to make you see the psychosis below the surface, even when the parts weren’t huge,” said film historian James Ursini. “He was able to bring such complexity and different levels to those characters, and create sympathy for his characters even though they were doing reprehensible things.”

Other titles in Burr’s film noir legacy include Walk a Crooked Mile (1948), Borderline (1950), Unmasked (1950), The Whip Hand(1951), FBI Girl (1951), Meet Danny Wilson (1952), Rear Window (1954), They Were So Young (1954), A Cry in the Night (1956) and Affair in Havana (1957). Beyond noir, Burr’s villains were also seen in Westerns, period dramas, horror films and adventure films.

“I was just a fat heavy,” Burr told journalist James Bawden. “I split the heavy parts with Bill Conrad. We were both in our twenties playing much older men. I never got the girl but I once got the gorilla in a 3-D picture called Gorilla at Large. I menaced Claudette ColbertLizabeth ScottPaulette GoddardAnne BaxterBarbara Stanwyck. Those girls would take one look at me and scream and can you blame them? I was drowned, beaten, stabbed and all for my art. But I knew I was horribly overweight. I lacked any kind of self esteem. At 25 I was playing the fathers of people older than me.”

Burr’s occasional roles on the right side of the law include the aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951).  His courtroom performance in that film made an impression on Gail Patrick and her husband Cornwell Jackson, who had Burr in mind when they began casting the role of Los Angeles district attorney Hamilton Burger in the CBS-TV series Perry Mason.

 

Radio

As a young man Burr weighed more than 300 lbs., which limited his on-screen roles. “But in radio this presented no problems, given the magnificent quality of his voice,” reported The Globe and Mail. “He played romantic leads and menacing villains with equal authority, and he earned a steady and comfortable income.”

Working steadily in radio since the 1940s, often uncredited,  Burr was a leading player on the West Coast. He had a regular role in Jack Webb‘s first radio show, Pat Novak for Hire (1949), and in Dragnet (1949–50) he played Joe Friday’s boss, Ed Backstrand, chief of detectives. Burr worked on other Los Angeles-based series including Suspense, Screen Directors Playhouse, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Family Theater, Hallmark Playhouse and Hallmark Hall of Fame. He performed in five episodes of the experimental dramatic radio anthology series CBS Radio Workshop, and had what is arguably his best radio role in “The Silent Witness” (1957), in which his is the only voice.

In 1956 Burr was the star of CBS Radio’s Fort Laramie, an adult Western drama produced, written and directed by the creators of Gunsmoke. He played the role of Lee Quince, captain of the cavalry, in the series set at a post-Civil War military post where disease, boredom, the elements, and the uncharted terrain were the greatest enemies of “ordinary men who lived in extraordinary times”. The half-hour transcribed program aired Sundays at 5:30 p.m. ET January 22 – October 28, 1956. Burr told columnist Sheilah Graham that he had received 1,500 fan letters after the first broadcasts, and he continued to receive letters praising the show’s authenticity and presentation of human dignity.

Also in 1956, Burr featured in the American adaptation of the Japanese film Godzilla; the 1956 American film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! attempted to splice scenes with Burr into the original Japanese film.

In August 1956, CBS announced that Burr would star in the television series Perry Mason. Although the network wanted Burr to continue work on Fort Laramie as well, the TV series required an extraordinary commitment and the radio show ended.

Known for his loyalty and consciousness of history, Burr went out of his way to employ his radio colleagues in his television programs. Some 180 radio celebrities appeared on Perry Mason during the first season alone.

 

Television

Burr emerged as a prolific television character actor in the 1950s. He made his television debut in 1951, appearing in episodes of Stars Over Hollywood, The Bigelow Theatre, Family Theater and the debut episode of Dragnet. He went on to appear in such programs as Gruen Playhouse, Four Star Playhouse, Ford Theatre,  Lux Video Theatre, Mr. and Mrs. North, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and Playhouse 90.

Perry Mason

In 1956, Burr auditioned for the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger in Perry Mason, a new CBS-TV courtroom drama based on the highly successful novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. Impressed with his courtroom performance in the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson told Burr he was perfect for Perry Mason, but at least 60 pounds overweight. Over the next month, Burr went on a crash diet. When he returned, he tested as Perry Mason and won the role. While Burr’s test was running, Gardner reportedly stood up, pointed at the screen and said, “That’s Perry Mason.” William Hopper also auditioned as Mason, but was cast instead as private detective Paul Drake. Also starring were Barbara Hale as Della Street, Mason’s secretary; William Talman as Hamilton Burger, the district attorney who loses nearly every case to Mason; and Ray Collins as homicide detective Lieutenant Arthur Tragg.

The series ran from 1957 to 1966. Burr received three consecutive Emmy Award nominations and won the award in 1959 and 1961 for his performance as Perry Mason. The series has been rerun in syndication ever since, and was released on DVD between 2006 and 2013. Though Burr’s character is often said never to have lost a case, he did lose two murder cases — offscreen — in early episodes of the series.

Ironside

Other series

After Ironside went off the air, NBC failed in two attempts to launch Burr as the star of a new series. In a two-hour television movie format, Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence aired in February 1976 with Burr again in the role of the lawyer who outwits the district attorney. Despite good reviews for Burr, the critical reception was poor, and NBC decided against developing it into a series.

In 1977, Burr starred in the short-lived TV series Kingston: Confidential as R.B. Kingston, a William Randolph Hearst-esque publishing magnate, owner of numerous newspapers and TV stations, who, in his spare time, solved crimes along with a group of employees. It was a critical failure that was scheduled opposite the extraordinarily popular Charlie’s Angels. It was cancelled after 13 weeks.

Burr took on a shorter project next, playing an underworld boss in a six-hour miniseries, 79 Park Avenue.

One last attempt to launch a series followed on CBS. The two-hour premiere of The Jordan Chance aroused little interest.

On January 20, 1987, Burr hosted the television special that later served as the pilot for the long-running series Unsolved Mysteries.

 

Television films

In 1985, Burr was approached by producers Dean Hargrove and Fred Silverman to star in a made-for-TV movie, Perry Mason Returns. The same week, Burr recalled, he was asked to reprise the role he played in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!,  in a low-budget film that would be titled Godzilla 1985.

“When they asked me to do it a second time, I said, ‘Certainly,’ and everybody thought I was out of my mind,” Burr told Tom Shales of The Washington Post. “But it wasn’t the large sum of money. It was the fact that, first of all, I kind of liked ‘Godzilla,’ and where do you get the opportunity to play yourself 30 years later? So I said yes to both of them.” Although Burr is best remembered for his role as Perry Mason, a devoted following continues to appreciate him as the actor that brought the Godzilla series to America.

He agreed to do the Mason movie if Barbara Hale returned to reprise her role as Della Street. Hale agreed, and when Perry Mason Returns aired in December 1985, her character became the defendant. The rest of the principal cast had died, but Hale’s real-life son William Katt played the role of Paul Drake, Jr. The movie was so successful that Burr made a total of 26 Perry Mason television films before his death. Many were filmed in and around Denver, Colorado.

By 1993, when Burr signed with NBC for another season of Mason films, he was using a wheelchair full-time because of his failing health. In his final Perry Mason movie, The Case of the Killer Kiss, he was shown either sitting or standing while leaning on a table, but only once standing unsupported for a few seconds. Twelve more Mason movies were scheduled before Burr’s death, including one scheduled to film the month he died.

As he had with the Perry Mason TV movies, Burr decided to do an Ironside reunion movie. The Return of Ironside aired in May 1993, reuniting the entire original cast of the 1967–75 series. Like many of the Mason movies, it was set and filmed in Denver.

 

Personal life

Physical characteristics

Burr said that he weighed 12.75 pounds at birth, and was chubby throughout his childhood. “When you’re a little fat boy in public school, or any kind of school, you’re just persecuted something awful,” he remembered.

Burr’s weight, always an issue for him in getting roles, became a public relations problem when Johnny Carson began making jokes about him during his Tonight Show monologues. Burr refused to appear as Carson’s guest from then on, and told Us Weekly years later, “I have been asked a number of times to do his show and I won’t do it. Because I like NBC. He’s doing an NBC show. If I went on I’d have some things to say, not just about the bad jokes he’s done about me, but bad jokes he does about everybody who can’t fight back because they aren’t there. And that wouldn’t be good for NBC.” In later life, his distinctive physique and manner could be used as a reference that would be universally recognized. One journal for librarians published a writer’s opinion that, “asking persons without cataloging experience to design automated catalogs … is as practical as asking Raymond Burr to pole vault.” A character in a 1989 short story refers to Burr as “grossly overweight” in Ironside.

He had a low basso voice, capable of expressing villainous menace, and commanding power.

Family life

Burr married actress Isabella Ward (1919–2004) on January 10, 1948. They met in 1943 while Ward was a student at the Pasadena Playhouse, where Burr was teaching. They met again in 1947, when Ward was in California with a short-lived theatre company. They were married shortly before Burr began work on the 1948 film noir, Pitfall. In May 1948 they appeared on stage together, in a Pasadena Playhouse production based on the life of Paul Gauguin. The couple lived in a basement apartment in a large house in Hollywood that Burr shared with his mother and grandparents. The marriage ended within months, and Ward returned to her native Delaware. They divorced in 1952, and neither remarried.

In 1960, Burr met Robert Benevides (born February 9, 1930, Visalia, California) a young actor and Korean War veteran, on the set of Perry Mason. According to Benevides, they soon became a couple. Benevides gave up acting in 1963, and later became a production consultant for 21 of the Perry Mason TV movies. Together they owned and operated an orchid business and then a vineyard, in California’s Dry Creek Valley. They were partners until Burr’s death in 1993.[ Burr bequeathed to Benevides his entire estate, including “all my jewelry, clothing, books, works of art … and other items of a personal nature.”Benevides subsequently renamed the Dry Creek property Raymond Burr Vineyards (reportedly against Burr’s wishes) and managed it as a commercial enterprise. In 2017, the property was sold.

Biographical contradictions

At various times in his career, Burr and his managers and publicists offered spurious or unverifiable biographical details to the press and public. Burr’s obituary in The New York Times states that he entered the US Navy in 1944, after The Duke in Darkness, and left in 1946, weighing almost 350 pounds. Although Burr may have served in the Coast Guard, reports of his service in the US Navy cannot be confirmed, nor can his statements that he sustained battle injuries at Okinawa.

Other invented biographical details include years of college education at a variety of institutions, being widowed twice, a son who died young, world travel and success in high school athletics. Most of these claims were accepted as fact by the press at the time of Burr’s death and by his first biographer, Ona Hill.

Burr was reportedly married at the beginning of World War II to a Scottish actress named Annette Sutherland—killed, Burr said, in the same 1943 plane crash that claimed the life of actor Leslie Howard. However, multiple sources have reported that no one by that name appears on any of the published passenger manifests from the flight. A son supposedly born during this marriage, Michael Evan, was said to have died of leukemia in 1953 at the age of ten. Another marriage purportedly took place in the early 1950s to a Laura Andrina Morgan—who died of cancer, Burr said, in 1955. Yet no evidence exists of either marriage, nor of a son’s birth, other than Burr’s own claims.

As late as 1991, Burr stood by the account of this son’s life and death. He told Parade Magazine that when he realized Michael was dying, he took him on a one-year tour of the United States. “Before my boy left, before his time was gone,” he said, “I wanted him to see the beauty of his country and its people.” After Burr’s death, his publicist confirmed that Burr worked in Hollywood throughout the year that he was supposedly touring with his son.

In the late 1950s, Burr was rumored to be romantically involved with Natalie Wood. Wood’s agent sent her on public dates so she could be noticed by directors and producers, and so the men she dated could present themselves in public as heterosexuals. The dates helped to disguise Wood’s relationship with Robert Wagner, whom she later married. Burr reportedly resented Warner Bros.‘ decision to promote her attachment to another gay actor, Tab Hunter, rather than him. Robert Benevides later said, “He was a little bitter about it. He was really in love with her, I guess.”

Later accounts of Burr’s life explain that he hid his homosexuality to protect his career. “That was a time in Hollywood history when homosexuality was not countenanced”, Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas recalled in a 2000 episode of Biography. “Ray was not a romantic star by any means, but he was a very popular figure … If it was revealed at that time in Hollywood history it would have been very difficult for him to continue.”

Arthur Marks, a producer of Perry Mason, recalled Burr’s talk of wives and children: “I know he was just putting on a show. … That was my gut feeling. I think the wives and the loving women, the Natalie Wood thing, were a bit of a cover.” Dean Hargrove, executive producer of the Perry Mason TV films, said in 2006, “I had always assumed that Raymond was gay, because he had a relationship with Robert Benevides for a very long time. Whether or not he had relationships with women, I had no idea. I did know that I had trouble keeping track of whether he was married or not in these stories. Raymond had the ability to mythologize himself, to some extent, and some of his stories about his past … tended to grow as time went by.”

 

Hobbies and businesses

Burr had many hobbies over the course of his life: cultivating orchids and collecting wine, art, stamps, and seashells. He was very fond of cooking. He was interested in flying, sailing, and fishing. According to A&E Biography, Burr was an avid reader with a retentive memory. He was also among the earliest importers and breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs in the United States.

Burr developed his interest in cultivating and hybridizing orchids into a business with Benevides. Over 20 years, their company, Sea God Nurseries, had nurseries in Fiji, Hawaii, the Azores, and California, and was responsible for adding more than 1,500 new orchids to the worldwide catalog. Burr named one of them the “Barbara Hale Orchid” after his Perry Mason costar. Burr and Benevides cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and grapes for Port wine, as well as orchids, at Burr’s farmland holdings in Sonoma County, California.

In 1965, Burr purchased Naitauba, a 4,000-acre (16 km2) island in Fiji, rich in seashells. There, he and Benevides oversaw the raising of copra (coconut meat) and cattle, as well as orchids. Burr planned to retire there permanently. However, medical problems made that impossible and he sold the property in 1983.

Philanthropy

Burr was a well-known philanthropist. He gave enormous sums of money, including his salaries from the Perry Mason movies, to charity. He was also known for sharing his wealth with friends. He sponsored 26 foster children through the Foster Parents’ Plan or Save The Children, many with the greatest medical needs. He also gave money and some of his Perry Mason scripts to the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.

Burr was an early supporter of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida, raising funds and chairing its first capital campaign. He also donated a large collection of Fijian cowries and cones from his island in Fiji.

In 1993, Sonoma State University awarded Burr an honorary doctorate. He supported medical and education institutions in Denver, and in 1993, the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate for his acting work. Burr also founded and financed the American Fijian Foundation that funded academic research, including efforts to develop a dictionary of the Fijian language.

Burr made repeated trips on behalf of the United Service Organizations (USO). He toured both Korea and Vietnam during wartime and once spent six months touring Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. He sometimes organized his own troupe and toured bases both in the U.S. and overseas, often small installations that the USO did not serve, like one tour of Greenland, Baffin Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Returning from Vietnam in 1965, he made a speaking tour of the U.S. to advocate an intensified war effort. As the war became more controversial, he modified his tone, called for more attention to the sacrifice of the troops, and said, “My only position on the war is that I wish it were over.” In October 1967, NBC aired Raymond Burr Visits Vietnam, a documentary of one of his visits. The reception was mixed. “The impressions he came up with are neither weighty nor particularly revealing”, wrote the Chicago Tribune; the Los Angeles Times called Burr’s questions “intelligent and elicited some interesting replies.”

Burr had a reputation in Hollywood as a thoughtful, generous man years before much of his more-visible philanthropic work. In 1960, Ray Collins, who portrayed Lt. Arthur Tragg on the original Perry Mason series, and who was by that time often ill and unable to remember all the lines he was supposed to speak, stated, “There is nothing but kindness from our star, Ray Burr. Part of his life is dedicated to us, and that’s no bull. If there’s anything the matter with any of us, he comes around before anyone else and does what he can to help. He’s a great star—in the old tradition.”

Illness and death

During the filming of his last Perry Mason movie in the spring of 1993, Raymond Burr fell ill. A Viacom spokesperson told the media that the illness might be related to the renal cell carcinoma (malignant kidney tumor) that Burr had removed that February. It was determined that the cancer had spread to his liver and was at that point inoperable. Burr threw several “goodbye parties” before his death on September 12, 1993, at his Sonoma County ranch near Healdsburg. He was 76 years old.

The day after Burr’s death, American Bar Association president R. William Ide III released a statement: “Raymond Burr’s portrayals of Perry Mason represented lawyers in a professional and dignified manner. … Mr. Burr strove for such authenticity in his courtroom characterizations that we regard his passing as though we lost one of our own.” The New York Times reported that Perry Mason had been named second—after F. Lee Bailey, and before Abraham LincolnThurgood MarshallJanet RenoBen Matlock and Hillary Clinton—in a recent National Law Journal poll that asked Americans to name the attorney, fictional or not, they most admired.

Burr was interred with his parents at Fraser Cemetery, New Westminster, British Columbia. On October 1, 1993, about 600 family members and friends paid tribute to Burr at a private memorial service at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Although Burr had not revealed his homosexuality during his lifetime, it was an open secret and was reported in the press upon his death. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that People magazine was preparing a story on Burr’s “secret life” and asked, “Are the inevitable rumors true?” It received sensational treatment in the tabloid press; biographer Michael Starr wrote of the “wild stories about Raymond’s private life spiced up with quotes from unidentified ‘friends’ who described his closeted homosexual lifestyle in almost cartoonish terms.”

Burr bequeathed his estate to Robert Benevides, and excluded all relatives, including a sister, nieces, and nephews. His will was challenged, without success, by the two children of his late brother, James E. Burr. Benevides’s attorney said that tabloid reports of an estate worth $32 million were an overestimate.

In 1996, Burr was ranked as number 44 of the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time by TV Guide.

Dean Martin

Dino Paul Crocetti (June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) known famously as Dean Martin, was an American actor, comedian, and singer. One of the most popular and enduring American entertainers of the mid-20th century, Martin was nicknamed “The King of Cool” for his seemingly effortless charisma and self-assurance.

He and Jerry Lewis formed the immensely popular comedy duo Martin and Lewis, with Martin serving as the straight man to Lewis’ slapstick hijinks. A member of the “Rat Pack“, Martin went on to become a star of concert stages, nightclubs, audio recordings, motion pictures and television.

Martin was the host of the variety programs The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. His relaxed, warbling, crooning voice earned him dozens of hit singles, including his signature songs “Memories Are Made of This“, “That’s Amore“, “Everybody Loves Somebody“, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You“, “Sway“, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?“, and “Volare“.

 

Early life

Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of Italian father Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti (1894–1967) and Italian-American mother Angela Crocetti (née Barra; 1899–1966). His parents were married in 1914. His father, who was a barber, was originally from Montesilvano, Abruzzo, and his mother’s origins are also believed to be from Abruzzo, although they are not clearly known. Martin had an older brother named William Alfonso Crocetti (1916–1968). His first language was Italian and he did not speak English until he started school at the age of five. He attended Grant Elementary School in Steubenville, where he was bullied for his broken English. As a teenager, he played the drums as a hobby. He dropped out of Steubenville High School in the tenth grade because he thought he was smarter than his teachers. He bootlegged liquor, worked in a steel mill, served as a croupier at a speakeasy and a blackjack dealer, and was a welterweight boxer.

At 15, he was a boxer who billed himself as “Kid Crochet”. His prizefighting earned him a broken nose (later straightened), a scarred lip, many broken knuckles (a result of not being able to afford tape used to wrap boxers’ hands), and a bruised body. Of his 12 bouts, he said that he “won all but 11”. For a time, he shared a New York City apartment with Sonny King, who was also starting in show business and had little money. The two reportedly charged people to watch them bare-knuckle box each other in their apartment, fighting until one was knocked out. Martin knocked out King in the first round of an amateur boxing match. Martin gave up boxing to work as a roulette stickman and croupier in an illegal casino behind a tobacco shop, where he had started as a stock boy. At the same time, he sang with local bands, calling himself “Dino Martini” (after the Metropolitan Opera tenor Nino Martini). He got his break working for the Ernie McKay Orchestra. He sang in a crooning style influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers, among others. In the early 1940s, he started singing for bandleader Sammy Watkins, who suggested he change his name to Dean Martin.

In October 1941, Martin married Elizabeth “Betty” Anne McDonald in Cleveland, Ohio, and the couple had an apartment in Cleveland Heights for a while. They eventually had four children before the marriage ended in 1949. Martin worked for various bands throughout the early 1940s, mostly on looks and personality until he developed his own singing style. He flopped at the Riobamba nightclub in New York, when he followed Frank Sinatra in 1943.

 

Career

Teaming with Jerry Lewis

Martin attracted the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures, but a Hollywood contract was not forthcoming. He met comic Jerry Lewis at the Glass Hat Club in New York, where both were performing. Martin and Lewis formed a fast friendship which led to their participation in each other’s acts and the formation of a music-comedy team. Martin and Lewis’s debut together occurred at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 24, 1946, and they were not well received. The owner, Skinny D’Amato, warned them that if they did not come up with a better act for their second show that night, they would be fired. Huddling in the alley behind the club, Lewis and Martin agreed to “go for broke”, they divided their act between songs, skits, and ad-libbed material. Martin sang and Lewis dressed as a busboy, dropping plates and making a shambles of Martin’s performance and the club’s decorum until Lewis was chased from the room as Martin pelted him with breadrolls.

They did slapstick, reeled off old vaudeville jokes, and did whatever else popped into their heads. The audience laughed. This success led to a series of well-paying engagements on the Eastern seaboard, culminating in a run at New York’s Copacabana. The act consisted of Lewis interrupting and heckling Martin while he was trying to sing, with the two ultimately chasing each other around the stage. The secret, both said, is that they ignored the audience and played to each other. The team made its TV debut on the first broadcast of CBS-TV network’s The Ed Sullivan Show (then called The Toast Of The Town) on June 20, 1948, with composers Rodgers and Hammerstein also appearing. Hoping to improve their act, the two hired young comedy writers Norman Lear and Ed Simmons to write their bits. With the assistance of both Lear and Simmons, the two would take their act beyond nightclubs.

A radio series began in 1949, the year Martin and Lewis signed with Paramount producer Hal B. Wallis as comedy relief for the movie My Friend Irma. Their agent, Abby Greshler, negotiated one of Hollywood’s best deals: although they received only $75,000 between them for their films with Wallis, Martin and Lewis were free to do one outside film a year, which they would co-produce through their own York Productions.

They also controlled their club, record, radio, and television appearances, and through these they earned millions of dollars. In Dean & Me, Lewis calls Martin one of the great comic geniuses of all time. They were friends, as well, with Lewis acting as best man when Martin remarried in 1949. But harsh comments from critics, as well as frustration with the similarity of Martin and Lewis movies, which producer Hal Wallis refused to change, led to Martin’s dissatisfaction. He put less enthusiasm into the work, leading to escalating arguments with Lewis. Martin told his partner he was “nothing to me but a dollar sign”. The act broke up in 1956, ten years to the day from the first teaming.

 

Solo career

Martin’s first solo film, Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), was a box-office failure. He was still popular as a singer, but with rock and roll to the fore, the era of the pop crooner was waning. Martin wanted to become a dramatic actor, known for more than slapstick comedy films. Though offered a fraction of his former salary to co-star in a war drama, The Young Lions (1958), his part would be with Marlon Brando and Montgomery CliftTony Randall already had the part, but talent agency MCA realized that with this film, Martin would become a triple threat: they could make money from his work in nightclubs, films, and records. Martin replaced Randall and the film turned out to be the beginning of Martin’s comeback. Martin starred alongside Frank Sinatra for the first time in the Vincente Minnelli drama, Some Came Running (1958). By the mid-1960s, Martin was a movie, recording, television, and nightclub star. Martin was acclaimed as Dude in Rio Bravo (1959), directed by Howard Hawks and also starring John Wayne and singer Ricky Nelson. He teamed again with Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), cast as brothers. In 1960, Martin was cast in the film version of the Judy Holliday stage musical comedy Bells Are Ringing. He won a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the 1960 film comedy Who Was That Lady? but continued to seek dramatic roles, portraying a Southern politician in 1961’s Ada, and starring in 1963’s screen adaptation of an intense stage drama, Toys in the Attic, opposite Geraldine Page, as well as in 1970’s drama Airport, a huge box-office success.

Sinatra and he teamed up for several more movies, the crime caper Ocean’s 11, the musical Robin and the 7 Hoods, and the Western comedies Sergeants 3 and 4 for Texas, often with their Rat Pack pals such as Sammy Davis, Jr.Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, as well as a romantic comedy, Marriage on the Rocks. Martin also co-starred with Shirley MacLaine in a number of films, including Some Came RunningArtists and ModelsCareerAll in a Night’s Work, and What a Way to Go! He played a satiric variation of his own womanizing persona as Las Vegas singer “Dino” in Billy Wilder‘s comedy Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) with Kim Novak, and he poked fun at his image in films such as the Matt Helm spy spoofs of the 1960s, in which he was a co-producer. In the third Matt Helm film The Ambushers (1967), Helm, about to be executed, receives a last cigarette and tells the provider, “I’ll remember you from the great beyond,” continuing sotto voce, “somewhere around Steubenville, I hope.”

As a singer, Martin copied the styles of Harry Mills (of the Mills Brothers), Bing Crosby, and Perry Como until he developed his own and could hold his own in duets with Sinatra and Crosby. Like Sinatra, he could not read music, but he recorded more than 100 albums and 600 songs. His signature tune, “Everybody Loves Somebody“, knocked the Beatles‘ “A Hard Day’s Night” off number one in the United States in 1964. This was followed by “The Door is Still Open to My Heart”, which reached number six that year. Elvis Presley was said to have been a fan of Martin, and patterned his performance of “Love Me Tender” after Martin’s style. Martin, like Elvis, was influenced by country music. By 1965, some of Martin’s albums, such as Dean “Tex” Martin Rides AgainHouston,Welcome to My World, and Gentle on My Mind, were composed of country and western songs by artists such as Johnny CashMerle Haggard, and Buck Owens. Martin often hosted country performers on his TV show and was named “Man Of the Year” by the Country Music Association in 1966. The final album of his recording career was 1983’s The Nashville Sessions.

The image of Martin as a Vegas entertainer in a tuxedo has been an enduring one. “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?“, a song Martin performed in Ocean’s 11, did not become a hit at the time, but has enjoyed a revival in the media and pop culture. For three decades, Martin was among the most popular acts in Las Vegas. Martin sang and was one of the smoothest comics in the business, benefiting from the decade of comedy with Lewis. Martin’s daughter, Gail, also sang in Vegas and on many TV shows including his, co-hosting his summer replacement series on NBC. Daughter Deana Martin continues to perform, as did youngest son Ricci Martin until his death in August 2016. Eldest son Craig was a producer on Martin’s television show and daughter Claudia was an actress in films such as For Those Who Think Young. Though often thought of as a ladies’ man, Martin spent a lot of time with his family; as second wife Jeanne put it, prior to the couple’s divorce, “He was home every night for dinner.”

 

 

Rat Pack

As Martin’s solo career grew, he and Frank Sinatra became friends. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Martin and Sinatra, along with friends Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis, Jr.formed the Rat Pack, so-called after an earlier group of social friends, the Holmby Hills Rat Pack centered on Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, of which Sinatra had been a member (The Martin-Sinatra-Davis-Lawford-Bishop group referred to themselves as “The Summit” or “The Clan” and never as “The Rat Pack”, although this has remained their identity in popular imagination). The men made films together, formed part of the Hollywood social scene, and were politically influential (through Lawford’s marriage to Patricia Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy).

The Rat Pack was legendary for its Las Vegas Strip performances. For example, the marquee at the Sands Hotel might read DEAN MARTIN—MAYBE FRANK—MAYBE SAMMY. Their appearances were valuable because the city would flood with wealthy gamblers. Their act (always in tuxedo) consisted of each singing individual numbers, duets and trios, along with seemingly improvised slapstick and chatter. In the socially charged 1960s, their jokes revolved around adult themes, such as Sinatra’s womanizing and Martin’s drinking, as well as Davis’s race and religion. Sinatra and Martin supported the civil rights movement and refused to perform in clubs that would not allow African-American or Jewish performers. Posthumously, the Rat Pack has experienced a popular revival, inspiring the George Clooney/Brad Pitt “Ocean’s Trilogy.”

 

The Dean Martin Show

In 1965, Martin launched his weekly NBC comedy-variety series, The Dean Martin Show, which ran for 264 episodes until 1974. He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1966 and was nominated again the following three years. The show exploited his image as a carefree boozer. Martin capitalized on his laid-back persona of the half-drunk crooner, hitting on women with remarks that would get anyone else slapped, and making snappy if slurred remarks about fellow celebrities during his roasts. During an interview on the British TV documentary Wine, Women and Song, aired in 1983, he stated, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that he had someone record them on cassette tape so he could listen to them. His TV show was a success. The show’s loose format featured quick-witted improvisation from Martin and his weekly guests. This prompted a battle between Martin and NBC censors, who insisted on more scrutiny of the content. He later had trouble with NBC for his off-the-cuff use of obscene Italian phrases, which brought complaints from viewers who spoke the language. The show was often in the Top Ten. Martin, appreciative of the show’s producer, his friend Greg Garrison, made a handshake deal giving Garrison, a pioneer TV producer in the 1950s, 50% of the show. However, the validity of that ownership is the subject of a lawsuit brought by NBCUniversal.

Despite Martin’s reputation as a drinker – perpetuated via his vanity license plate “DRUNKY” – his alcohol use was quite disciplined. He was often the first to call it a night, and when not on tour or on a film location, liked to go home to see his wife and children. He borrowed the lovable-drunk shtick from Joe E. Lewis, but his convincing portrayals of heavy boozers in Some Came Running and Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo led to unsubstantiated claims of alcoholism. Martin starred in and co-produced four Matt Helm superspy comedy adventures during this time, as well as a number of Westerns. By the early 1970s, The Dean Martin Show was still earning solid ratings, and although he was no longer a Top 40 hitmaker, his record albums continued to sell. He found a way to make his passion for golf profitable by offering a signature line of golf balls and the Dean Martin Tucson Open was an event on golf’s PGA Tour from 1972–75. At his death, Martin was reportedly the single largest minority shareholder of RCA stock.

Now comfortable financially, Martin began reducing his schedule. The final (1973–1974) season of his variety show was retooled into one of celebrity roasts, requiring less involvement. In the roasts, Martin and his panel of pals made fun of a variety of popular entertainment, athletic, and political figures. After the show’s cancellation, NBC continued to air The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast as a series of TV specials through 1984.

 

Later career

For nearly a decade, Martin had recorded as many as four albums a year for Reprise Records. Martin recorded his final Reprise album, Once in a While in 1974, which was not issued until 1978. His final recordings were made for Warner Bros. RecordsThe Nashville Sessions was released in 1983, from which he had a hit with “(I Think That I Just Wrote) My First Country Song”, which was recorded with Conway Twitty and made a respectable showing on the country charts. A follow-up single, “L.A. Is My Home”/”Drinking Champagne”, came in 1985. The 1974 film drama Mr. Ricco marked Martin’s final starring role, in which he played a criminal defense lawyer. He played a featured role in the 1981 comedy The Cannonball Run and its sequel, both starring Burt Reynolds.

In 1972, he filed for divorce from his second wife, Jeanne. A week later, his business partnership with the Riviera hotel in Las Vegas dissolved amid reports of the casino’s refusal to agree to Martin’s request to perform only once a night. He joined the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, where he was the featured performer on the hotel’s opening night of December 23, 1973, and his contract required him to star in a film (Mr. Ricco ) for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Less than a month after his second marriage had dissolved, Martin was 55 when he married 26-year-old Catherine Hawn, on April 25, 1973. Hawn had been the receptionist at the chic Gene Shacove hair salon in Beverly Hills. They divorced November 10, 1976. He was also briefly engaged to Gail Renshaw, Miss World–U.S.A. 1969. Eventually, Martin reconciled with Jeanne, though they never remarried.

He also made a public reconciliation with Lewis on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in September, 1976. Sinatra shocked Lewis by bringing Martin out on stage. As Martin and Lewis embraced, the audience gave the two a standing ovation and the phones lit up, resulting in one of the telethon’s most profitable years up to that time. Lewis later reported the event was one of the three most memorable of his life. Lewis quipped, “So, you working?” Martin, playing drunk, replied that he was appearing “at the ‘Meggum'” (meaning the MGM Grand Hotel). This, with the death of Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin more than a decade later, helped bring the two men together. They maintained a quiet friendship, but only performed again once, in 1989, on Martin’s 72nd birthday.

Personal life and family

Martin was married three times. His first wife was Elizabeth Anne “Betty” McDonald, (July 14, 1922 – July 11, 1989) of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Martin and McDonald married in 1941 and had four children:

  • Craig Martin (born 1942).
  • Claudia Martin (March 16, 1944 – February 16, 2001).
  • Gail Martin (born 1945)
  • Deana Martin (born 1948).

Martin and McDonald divorced in 1949 and Dean gained custody of their children. Betty lived out her life in relative obscurity in San Francisco, California.

Martin’s second wife was Dorothy Jean “Jeanne” Biegger (March 27, 1927 – August 24, 2016), a former Orange Bowl queen from Coral Gables, Florida. Their marriage lasted 24 years (1949–1973) and produced three children:

  • Dean Paul Martin (November 17, 1951 – March 21, 1987).
  • Ricci Martin (September 20, 1953 – August 3, 2016).
  • Gina Martin (born 1956).

Martin’s third marriage, to Catherine Hawn, lasted three years before Martin initiated divorce proceedings. They had no biological children of their own but Martin adopted Hawn’s daughter, Sasha.

Martin’s uncle was Leonard Barr, who appeared in several of his shows. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he lived at 363 Copa De Oro Road in Bel Air, Los Angeles, before selling it to Tom Jones for $500,000 in June 1976.

Martin’s son-in-law was the Beach Boys‘ Carl Wilson, who married Martin’s daughter Gina. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill and actress Olivia Hussey were his daughters-in-law during their marriages to Martin’s son, Dean Paul Martin.

 

Later years and end of career

Martin returned to films briefly with appearances in the star-laden, critically panned but commercially successful The Cannonball Run and its sequel Cannonball Run II. He also had a minor hit single with “Since I Met You Baby” and made his first music video, which appeared on MTV. The video was created by Martin’s youngest son, Ricci. On March 21, 1987, Martin’s son, actor Dean Paul Martin (formerly Dino of the 1960s “teeny-bopper” rock group Dino, Desi & Billy), died when his F-4 Phantom II jet fighter crashed while flying with the California Air National Guard. Martin’s grief over his son’s death left him depressed and demoralized. Later, a tour with Davis and Sinatra in 1988, undertaken in part to help Martin recover, sputtered.

Martin, who responded best to a club audience, felt lost in the huge stadiums they were performing in at Sinatra’s insistence, and he was not interested in drinking until dawn after performances. His final Vegas shows were at Bally’s Hotel in 1990. There he had his final reunion with Lewis on his 72nd birthday. Martin’s last two TV appearances involved tributes to his former Rat Pack members. On December 8, 1989, he joined stars in Sammy Davis Jr’s 60th anniversary celebration, which aired a few weeks before Davis died from throat cancer. In December 1990, he congratulated Sinatra on his 75th birthday special.

 

Death

Martin, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September 1993, and was told that he would require surgery to prolong his life, but he rejected it. He retired from public life in early 1995 and died of acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema at his Beverly Hills home on Christmas Day, 1995 at the age of 78. The lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. Martin’s body was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The crypt features the epitaph “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, the title of his signature song.

 

Tributes and legacy

In 1996, Ohio Route 7 through Steubenville was rededicated as Dean Martin Boulevard. Road signs bearing an Al Hirschfeld caricature of Martin’s likeness designate the stretch with a historical marker bearing a small picture and brief biography in the Gazebo Park at Route 7 and North Fourth Street. An annual Dean Martin Festival celebration is held in Steubenville. Impersonators, friends and family, and entertainers, many of Italian ancestry, appear. In 2005, Clark County, Nevada, renamed a portion of Industrial Road as Dean Martin Drive. A similarly named street was dedicated in 2008 in Rancho Mirage, California. Martin’s family was presented a gold record in 2004 for Dino: The Essential Dean Martin, his fastest-selling album, which also hit the iTunes Top 10, and in 2006 it was certified “Platinum”.

For the week ending December 23, 2006, the Dean Martin and Martina McBride duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” reached No. 7 on the R&R AC chart. It also went to No. 36 on the R&R Country chart – the last time Martin had a song this high in the charts was in 1965, with the song “I Will,” which reached No. 10 on the Pop chart. An album of duets, Forever Cool, was released by Capitol/EMI in 2007. It features Martin’s voice with Kevin SpaceyShelby LynneJoss StoneBig Bad Voodoo DaddyRobbie Williams, McBride and others. His footprints were immortalized at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1964. Martin has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one at 6519 Hollywood Boulevard for movies; the second at 1617 Vine for recordings; and a third at 6651 Hollywood Boulevard for television. In February 2009, Martin was honored with a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Four of his surviving children, Gail, Deana, Ricci and Gina accepted it on his behalf. In 2010, Martin received a posthumous star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

In popular culture

A number of Martin songs have been featured across popular culture for decades. Hits such as “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”, “Sway”, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”, “That’s Amore”, and Martin’s signature song “Everybody Loves Somebody” have been in films (such as the Oscar-winning LogoramaA Bronx TaleCasinoGoodfellasPaybackMission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolSexy BeastMoonstruckVegas VacationSwingers and Return to Me), in television series (such as American Dad!FriendsThe SopranosHouse MD and Samurai Jack), video games (such as The Godfather: The GameThe Godfather IIFallout: New Vegas and Mafia II), and fashion shows (such as the 2008 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show).

Danny Gans portrayed Martin in the 1992 CBS miniseries Sinatra. Martin was portrayed by Joe Mantegna in the 1998 HBO movie about Sinatra and Martin titled The Rat Pack. Mantegna was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for the role. British actor Jeremy Northam portrayed the entertainer in the 2002 made-for-TV movie Martin and Lewis, alongside Will & GraceSean Hayes as Jerry Lewis.

Martin is the subject of Dean Martin’s Wild Party and Dean Martin’s Vegas Shindig, a pair of video slot machines found in many casinos. The games feature songs sung by Martin during the bonus feature and the count-up of a player’s winnings. A compilation album called Amore! debuted at Number One on Billboard magazine’s Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in its February 21, 2009, issue.

In 1998, The MTV animated show Celebrity Deathmatch had a clay-animated fight to the death between Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis. Martin wins by whacking Jerry out of the ring. The Rat Pack: Live from Las Vegas has been a successful tribute show, featuring Martin impersonators, on stage in Europe and North America since 2000. The walk-up song for Francisco Cervelli, a catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is the Dean Martin tune “That’s Amore”. In DePatie-Freleng‘s animated theatrical cartoon series The Ant and the Aardvark, the Ant’s voice was performed by John Byner as an imitation of Martin.

 

 

Leo Gordon

Leo Vincent Gordon (December 2, 1922 – December 26, 2000) was an American film and television character actor as well as a screenplay writer and novelist. During more than 40 years in film and television he was most frequently cast as a supporting actor playing brutish bad guys but occasionally played more sympathetic roles just as effectively.

 

Early life and career

Gordon was born in Brooklyn in New York City on December 2, 1922. Reared by his father in dire poverty, Gordon grew up during the Great Depression. He left school in the eighth grade, went to work in construction and demolition, and then joined the New Deal agency, the Civilian Conservation Corps, in which he participated in various public works projects. After the United States entered World War II in 1941, Gordon enlisted in the U.S. Army, in which he served for two years and received an undesirable discharge. Gordon was in southern California where he and a cohort attempted to rob a bar and its patrons with a pistol. He was shot in the stomach by one of the officers making the arrest. He was arrested for armed robbery and served five years in San Quentin Prison, where he furthered his education by reading nearly every book in the library.

Gordon took advantage of the benefits accorded him as part of the G.I. Bill and began taking acting lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADA). During his time at the ADA, Gordon was enrolled with several future screen legends including Grace Kelly and Anne Bancroft. For a time, Jason Robards, later a two-time Academy Award winner, was Gordon’s instructor. It was there that he also met his future wife, Lynn Cartwright, who would have a sporadic but lengthy career as a character actor, mainly in television. They were married in 1950 and remained together until his death a half century later. They had one child, a daughter named Tara.

 

Actor in film and television

Gordon started his career on the stage and worked with such luminaries as Edward G. Robinson and Tyrone Power. He was soon discovered by a Hollywood agent in a Los Angeles production of Darkness at Noon. Over the course of his career Gordon would appear in more than 170 film and television productions from the early 1950s to the mid-1990s.

In 1954 Gordon portrayed the outlaw Bill Doolin, a native Arkansan who founded the Wild Bunch gang and operated primarily in Kansas, on the syndicated television series Stories of the Century, starring and narrated by Jim Davis.

In 1955 he was cast on the ABC religion anthology series Crossroads in the role of Sergeant Leroy in “All My Love”. In 1958 he appeared as Joe Brock in the episode “Desert Fury” of CBS’s Tales of the Texas Rangers, a children’s program. That same year Gordon was cast as Zip Wyatt in “Three Wanted Men” of Rex Allen‘s syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor. He also played a gunslinging professional killer in the pilot for the television version of Gunsmoke; but many changes were later instituted on the series, such as the marshal’s office and Long Branch Saloon looking markedly different and the relationship between Matt Dillon and Kitty being subtly more formal as well, so the episode was buried deep in the season in the hope that viewers would not notice, which apparently worked.

Gordon was often cast to make the most of his 6’2″ (189 cm) height, intense features, deep, menacing voice, and icy stare. He had radiant light blue eyes. One of his earliest films was Riot in Cell Block 11, shot at Folsom prison.  The film’s director, Don Siegel, who worked with such screen tough guys as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, related that “Leo Gordon was the scariest man I have ever met.”

Other notable roles included that of John Dillinger in Siegel’s Baby Face Nelson, opposite Mickey Rooney as the crazed protagonist. Gordon may be most noted for his recurring character Big Mike McComb on the ABC/Warner Bross Western television series Maverick, working from 1957 to 1960 alongside James Garner and Jack Kelly. Gordon’s five appearances in the role include the much remembered episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres“, “According to Hoyle“, as well as “War of the Silver Kings“, the first instalment broadcast. Garner later recalled in his videotaped interview for the Archive of American Television that Gordon purposely punched him for real in one of their first scenes together and that Garner hit him back when filming the next scene. Garner and Gordon reunited in the 1970s when Gordon appeared as a dimwitted bodyguard on four episodes of NBC’s The Rockford Files.

Gordon appeared in multiple roles on Robert Stack‘s 1959 ABC crime drama The Untouchables. Gordon also guest-starred on the ABC/WB western series The Alaskans opposite Roger Moore. He was cast as Damian in the 1961 episode “Million Dollar Suit” from the ABC/WB crime drama The Roaring 20s. He also appeared on the NBC Western series Empire and Laredo.

One of Gordon’s best-remembered television appearances was on CBS’s The Andy Griffith Show in the episode “High Noon in Mayberry”, in which he portrays an ex-convict who appears destined for revenge against Sheriff Andy Taylor of fictitious Mayberry. The screenwriters for the episode, Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, borrowed heavily from Gordon’s brief criminal career and subsequent incarceration in order to supplement the role.

Perhaps Gordon’s single most memorable film scene occurred in McLintock! (1963), during which John Wayne knocks him down a long mudslide after uttering the famous line “Somebody oughta belt you but I won’t! I won’t! The hell I won’t.” Another notable role was in the 1966 western The Night of the Grizzly opposite Clint Walker, one of the very few actors who could match Gordon’s intense screen presence regarding physical size and strength. Gordon played bounty hunter Cass Dowdy, who had a soft spot for his enemy’s son but would, as one character said, “…hunt anything for a price, man or animal.” Somehow, Gordon managed to make his character as sympathetic as he was frightening, and in his final scene he gives his life to save the boy.

Gordon portrayed sympathetic parts when called upon to do so, including his performances in the Western Black Patch (1957), a film that he wrote, and in Roger Corman‘s civil rights drama The Intruder (1962), opposite a young William Shatner.

In 1965, he was cast as the troublemaker Bender in the syndicated western series Death Valley Days in the episode “No Gun Behind His Badge”, a dramatization of the Abilene, Kansas, marshal Thomas J. Smith, depicted in the segment by Ronald W. Reagan. The episode also starred Michael Witney as Wild Bill Hickok, who succeeded Smith as marshal.

Gordon also appeared as ageing wrestler Milo Stavroupolis on NBC’s Little House on the Prairie, starring Michael Landon.

Gordon’s final role was as Wyatt Earp in a 1994 episode of the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. He also appeared in the film Maverick that same year with Mel GibsonJodie Foster, and James Garner.

 

Screenwriter and novelist

Gordon was also a prolific screenwriter and novelist. Usually credited as “Leo V. Gordon”, he wrote dozens of scripts for television series and movies, sometimes writing a good role for himself. His first successful film script, The Cry Baby Killer, featured a young and unknown Jack Nicholson. Among the more notable feature films he wrote was You Can’t Win ‘Em All (1970) starring Tony Curtis and Charles Bronson. He also wrote the screenplay and appeared in Tobruk (1967), which starred Rock Hudson and George Peppard and was directed by Arthur Hiller. As a television screenwriter he wrote nearly 50 scripts apiece for BonanzaCheyenne and Maverick, in the episodes in which he was not a guest star. In the 1970s he appeared frequently as well on the popular police drama Adam-12, another show that he often scripted. Gordon once told an interviewer that because of his imposing size he never felt he was fully accepted as a screenwriter: “Writing is more rewarding than acting, but look at my face. Nobody believes I’m a writer. I should be 5′ 8″, 142 pounds, wear patches on my elbows and horn-rimmed glasses and smoke a pipe. That’s a writer!” In addition to his script work for films and television Gordon wrote or co-wrote several novels, including the historical Western, Powderkeg.

 

Later life 

In contrast to his screen persona Gordon was a quiet, thoughtful and intelligent man who generally avoided the Hollywood spotlight. He was widely regarded by his fellow actors and his directors as a well-prepared professional. In 1997 he received the Golden Boot Award for his many years of work in westerns. In accepting the award the actor simply flashed a smile for his fans and remarked, “Thank God for typecasting!”

After struggling with a brief illness, Gordon died of cardiac failure in his sleep, aged 78, at his home in Los Angeles, California, on December 26, 2000. His ashes and those of his wife, who died in 2004, are interred together in a memorial display in a columbarium at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Russ Tamblyn

 

Russell Irving Tamblyn (born December 30, 1934) is an American film and television actor and dancer.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Tamblyn was trained as a gymnast in his youth. He began his career as a child actor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Tamblyn appeared in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). He subsequently portrayed Norman Page in the drama Peyton Place (1957), for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This led to Tamblyn being cast in leading roles, such as in the crime film High School Confidential (1958), and in the title role of Tom Thumb (1958).

Tamblyn’s gymnastic and acrobatic talents were showcased in several other musicals, including West Side Story (1961), in which he portrayed Riff, the leader of the Jets gang. The success of West Side Story led to additional leading roles, including parts in the horror film The Haunting (1963), directed by Robert Wise, and the Japanese science fiction film The War of the Gargantuas (1966).

Throughout the 1970s, Tamblyn appeared in several exploitation films and worked as a choreographer in the 1980s. In 1990, he starred as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby in David Lynch’s television drama Twin Peaks, reprising the role during its 2017 revival.

 

Early life

Tamblyn was born December 30, 1934 in Los Angeles, California, the son of actors Sally Aileen (Triplett) (1912–1995) and Eddie Tamblyn (Edward Francis Tamblyn) (1908–1957). He has one younger brother, Larry Tamblyn, who was the organist for the 1960s band, the Standells. Tamblyn was a “hyperactive” child and had a penchant for gymnastics and
performing. As a child, he would take the stage during intermissions at the local movie theater and do tumbling performances.

Career

1948–1952: Child acting

Tamblyn wanted to be a circus performer and was skilled in acrobatics and dancing as a child. He developed a musical act that involved singing, dancing, juggling and comedy. Discovered at the age of ten by actor Lloyd Bridges after acting in a play, Tamblyn first appeared on film in a small non- speaking role in The Boy With Green Hair (1948). Also as a child, he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Tamblyn was given a large role in The Kid from Cleveland (1949), billed third (as “Rusty Tamblyn”) under stars George Brent and Lynn Bari. The movie was not a large success but established Tamblyn as a film actor. He could be seen in small roles in Reign of Terror (1949), Cecil B. DeMille’s 1949 version of Samson and Delilah (where he played young Saul), and the short What Happened to Jo Jo? (1950).

He played the younger Bart Tare (played as an adult by John Dall) in the film noir Gun Crazy (1950); around the same time, he had a minor role as Elizabeth Taylor’s younger brother in Father of the Bride (also 1950) and appeared in its sequel, Father’s Little Dividend (1951). Tamblyn could also be seen in Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950), The Gangster We Made (1950), As Young as You Feel (1951), Cave of Outlaws (1951), Retreat, Hell!(1952), and The Winning Team (1952).

1953–1962: MGM and leading roles

MGM had been impressed by Tamblyn’s performance in Retreat, Hell! and
signed him to a long term contract. His first role under the new contract was
as a young soldier in boot camp in Take the High Ground! (1953), directed by Richard Brooks. His training as a gymnast in high school, and abilities as an acrobat, prepared him for his breakout role as Gideon, the youngest brother, in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

 

He was not a trained dancer and always considered himself an actor who danced rather than the other way around, but the film was a big success and established him at MGM. Tamblyn was one of many studio contract players in the musical Deep in My Heart (1954). He played Eleanor Parker’s brother in the Western, Many Rivers to Cross (1955), and was one of several young MGM actors (others included Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds) in the musical Hit the Deck (1955).

Tamblyn supported older actors in two Westerns: Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger in The Last Hunt (1956), a flop; and Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford in The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), a big hit, where he performed an extraordinary “shovel dance” at a hoe-down early in the film.

 

He served (uncredited) as a choreographer for Elvis Presley in 1957’s Jailhouse Rock. MGM loaned Tamblyn to Allied Artists for his first star role, The Young Guns (1957). Back at MGM he supported Glenn Ford and Gia Scala in Don’t Go Near the Water (1957), a comedy set among members of the U.S. Navy.

Tamblyn portrayed Norman Page in the film Peyton Place (1957) at 20th Century Fox, opposite Lana Turner and Diane Varsi. For his performance in the film he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He was then given a star role at MGM, playing Tony Baker in High School Confidential (1958). The film was a solid hit. Also successful was the musical Tom Thumb (1958) made for George Pal, in which Tamblyn
was cast in the title role.

 

Tamblyn’s career was interrupted when he was drafted into the US army in 1958. On his return, MGM gave him an excellent part in Cimarron (1960). Tamblyn’s best known musical role came as Riff, the leader of the Jets street gang in West Side Story (1961). He then appeared in two MGM Cinerama movies, The Wonderful
World of the Brothers Grimm, and How the West Was Won (both 1962). He was seen as Luke Sanderson in The Haunting, and as Lt. “Smitty” Smith in MGM’s Follow the Boys (both 1963).

 

1963–1976: Television and independent films

Tamblyn was unable to consolidate his position as a leading man, and he later recounted that he “dropped out” after his West Side Story success, that he devoted himself to art and turned down movie roles as well as a role in the TV series Gilligan’s Island.

In the 1960s he appeared in the TV series The Greatest Show on Earth (“Silent Love, Secret Love”) (1963), and Channing (“The Last Testament of Buddy Crown”)(1963).

Tamblyn played a Viking alongside Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in The Long Ships (1965). He was in Burke’s Law (“Who Killed RosieSunset?”) (1965), and Gunsmoke (“He Who Steals”) (1965). He also appeared in Days of Our Lives (1965).

 

Tamblyn was giving the star role in a low budget Western for MGM, Son of a Gunfighter (1965) and starred in the 1966 Japanese kaiju film War of the Gargantuas. He guest starred on Tarzan (“Leopard on the Loose”) (1966), and Iron Horse (“Decision at Sundown”) (1967).

Tamblyn later admitted he became “bored” with acting around this time and more interested in art. He starred in a notorious biker movie, Satan’s Sadists (1969) for Al
Adamson. He followed it with Scream Free! (1969), The Last Movie (1971), The Female Bunch (1971) and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) for Adamson.

He appeared on TV in Cade’s County (“Ragged Edge”) (1972), Win, Place or Steal (1973), The World Through the Eyes of Children (1975), The Quest (“he Captive”) (1976), The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (“TheSkyrider”) (1978), and Nero Wolf (“Before I Die” 1981). He was also in the film Black Heat (1976).

At the same time he worked in exploitation, Tamblyn also worked in the construction industry and computer software.

 

1978–1989: Choreography and film

Tamblyn played the supporting role in Neil Young’s 1982, Human Highway. while also being credited for screenplay and choreography. Tamblyn is credited as director, choreographer and actor for Neil Young’s Greendale concert tour. He choreographed a play, Man with Bags, in 1983. He could be seen in Fame, Commando Squad (1987) for Fred Olen Ray, The Phantom Empire (1988), Necromancer (1988), B.O.R.N. (1988), The Bloody Monks (1988), and an episode of Quantum Leap. He was in Aftershock (1990), and Wizards of the Demon Sword (1991) for Fred Olen Ray.

 

 

1990–2004: Twin Peaks and other work

In 1990–91, Tamblyn starred as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby on the David Lynch- created series Twin Peaks (alongside his West Side Story co-star Richard Beymer, who played Ben Horne); his scenes in the 1992 prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. were cut.

He could be see in Running Mates (1992), Little Devils: The Birth (1993),Cabin Boy (1994), Desert Steel (1995), and Babylon 5. He appeared on stage in Los Angeles in Zastrozzi.

His work drifted back to straight to video: Starstruck (1995), Rebellious (1995), Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995) and Invisible Mom (1996) for Fred Olen Ray, Johnny Mysto: Boy
Wizard (1997), My Ghost Dog (1997), and Little Miss Magic (1998) for Ray.

He appeared on another soap opera, General Hospital, alongside his daughter Amber in 1997 and 2000. In 2004, he appeared with Amber again, playing God in the form of a man walking dogs, in three episodes of Joan of Arcadia. The two also have worked together in the films Rebellious, Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard, and The Increasingly Poor
Decisions of Todd Margaret. And in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django
Unchained, they were billed respectively as “Son of a Gunfighter”and “Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter”, alluding to his leading role in the 1965 western Son of a Gunfighter.

In 2004, the Academy Film Archive preserved the mid-1960s works First Film and Rio Reel by Tamblyn.

 

2005–present: Later roles

Tamblyn has had supporting roles in Drive (2011), Django Unchained (2012), and Hits (2014). He appeared several times in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, and in the revival of Twin Peaks (2017).

 

Personal life

Tamblyn married actress Venetia Stevenson in 1956, but the couple divorced the following year. He married Elizabeth Kempton, a showgirl, in Las Vegas in 1960. He and Kempton had one child, daughter China, before divorcing in 1979. His second child, actress Amber Tamblyn, was born in 1983 to his third wife, Bonnie Murray.

In 2012, it was announced that he was working on writing an autobiography, titled Dancing On The Edge. Tamblyn underwent open heart surgery in October 2014. There were complications following the surgery and during the rehabilitation, although his health has reportedly improved since.

Pedro Armendáriz

 

Pedro Armendáriz (born Pedro Gregorio Armendáriz Hastings; May 9, 1912 – June 18, 1963) was a Mexican film actor who made films in both Mexico and the United States. With Dolores del Río and María Félix, he was one of the best-known Latin American movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s.

Armendáriz was born in Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico to Pedro Armendáriz García Conde (Mexican) and Adela Hastings (American). He was also the cousin of actress Gloria Marín. Armendáriz and his younger brother Francisco lived with their uncle Henry Hastings, Sr. in Laredo, Texas after their mother died. He later studied in California. He started in the world of acting by participating in the stage plays performed by the theater group at the University of California, where he continued a career in law. He graduated with an engineering degree from the California Polytechnic State University.

 

Career

When Armendáriz finished his studies, he moved to Mexico where he worked for the railroad, as a tour guide and as a journalist for the bilingual magazine México Real. He was discovered by film director Miguel Zacarías when Armendáriz recited a soliloquy from Hamlet to an American tourist. His meeting with the director Emilio Fernández was providential. Actor and director began working in numerous films: Soy puro mexicano (1942), Flor silvestre (1942) and specially María Candelaria (1943) were the first films of intense common path. Under the guidance of Emilio Fernández, Pedro Armendáriz developed the film personality traits of a strong nationalist — he often played tough and manly men, indigenous men, peasants, and revolutionaries. Amendáriz repeatedly portrayed Pancho Villa ,and played opposite actresses such as Dolores del Río and María Félix.

 

With Dolores del Río, Amendáriz formed one of the most legendary couples of the Mexican cinema. María Candelaria provided Armendáriz with international visibility. The film was awarded the Palm d’Or at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival. Other prominent titles where Armendáriz appeared with  del Río included Las Abandonadas (1944), Bugambilia (1944) and La Malquerida (1949). Maria Felix was his other partner in such films as Enamorada (1946) and Maclovia (1948).

 

In the late 1940s, he made the jump to Hollywood, thanks to director John Ford. Armendáriz became a favorite of Ford’s, appearing in three of his films: The Fugitive (1947), Fort Apache, and 3 Godfathers (the latter two in 1948).

 

Besides his work in Mexican cinema, Armendáriz carved out a significant career in Hollywood and Europe as well. In addition to his work with Ford, he appeared in movies such as  We Were Strangers (1949, directed by John Huston), The Torch (1950), Border River (1954), The Conqueror (1956), and Diane (1956), among others. In Europe, he appeared in Lucrèce Borgia (1953), filmed in France. In Mexico, he worked on such notable films such as El Bruto (1953, directed by Luis Buñuel), La Cucaracha (1959), and La Bandida (1962).

Armendáriz’s last appearance was in the second James Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963), as Bond’s ally, Kerim Bey. Armendáriz was terminally ill with cancer during the filming of From Russia with Love, and toward the end of shooting he was too ill to perform his part; his final scenes were performed by his double, director Terence Young. Armendáriz died four months before the release of the film.

Personal life

Armendáriz was married to actress Carmelita Bohr (née Pardo) by whom he had one son and daughter. Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. also became an actor, and appeared in the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989); his daughter Carmen Armendáriz, became a TV producer.

 

Illness and death

In 1956, Armendáriz had a role in the film The Conqueror produced by Howard Hughes. Filmed in the state of Utah at the time when the US government was doing above-ground nuclear testing in neighboring Nevada, within 25 years 91 of the 220 people involved in the production contracted cancer, 46 of whom died.

In rebuttal Pilar Wayne, John Wayne‘s widow, wrote in her autobiography that she did not believe radiation was involved in the deaths of those associated with the film. She claimed she had visited the set many times, as had others, and did not become ill. Instead, she believed her husband’s death and that of the others was solely due to smoking.

Armendáriz began to suffer pain in his hips; years later it was discovered that he had cancer in this region. He learned his condition was terminal while at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, and endured great pain to film From Russia with Love (he visibly limps in most scenes) in order to assure his family financial resources.

On June 18, 1963, Armendáriz committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a gun he had smuggled into the hospital. He was 51 years old. He is buried in the Panteón Jardín cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico.

 

Cab Calloway

Cabell Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer, dancer, and bandleader. He was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer.

Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States’ most popular big bands from the start of the 1930s to the late 1940s. Calloway’s band featured performers including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon “Chu” Berry, New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.

Early years

Calloway was born in Rochester, New York, on Christmas Day in 1907 to an African American upper-middle-class family. His mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, was a Morgan State College graduate, teacher, and church organist. His father, Cabell Calloway, Jr., graduated from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania in 1898, and worked as a lawyer and in real estate. The family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, when Cab was 11.

Cab Calloway grew up as an adolescent in a middle-class household in West Baltimore’s Sugar Hill area, considered the political, cultural and business hub of black society. Early on, his parents recognized their son’s musical talent, and he began private voice lessons in 1922. He continued to study music and voice throughout his formal schooling. Despite his parents’ and teachers’ disapproval of jazz, Calloway began frequenting and performing in many of Baltimore’s nightclubs. As a result, he came into contact with many of the local jazz luminaries of the time. He counted among his early mentors drummer Chick Webb and pianist Johnny Jones.

Calloway attended Frederick Douglass High School. He played basketball, at the guard position, both for the high school and for the professional Baltimore Athenians team. He graduated in 1925.

After graduation Calloway joined his older sister, Blanche, in a touring production of the popular Black musical revue, Plantation Days. (Blanche Calloway became an accomplished bandleader before her brother did, and he would often credit her as his inspiration for entering show business). His parents had hopes of their son becoming an attorney following after his father, so Calloway enrolled at Crane College in Chicago. His main interest, however, was in singing and entertaining, and he spent most of his nights at Chicago’s Dreamland Ballroom, the Sunset Cafe, and the Club Berlin, performing as a drummer, singer and MC. At the Sunset Café, Calloway cut his teeth as an understudy for singer Adelaide Hall. Here he met and performed with Louis Armstrong, who taught him to sing in the “scat” style. He eventually left school to sing with a band called the Alabamians.

Success

In 1930 Calloway took over a band called “The Missourians“; later on, they renamed it “Cab Calloway and His Orchestra”. The Cotton Club was the premier jazz venue in the country. In 1931 Calloway and his orchestra were hired as a replacement for the Duke Ellington Orchestra while it was touring. (Calloway’s group had joined Duke Ellington and Mills Blue Rhythm Band as another of the jazz groups handled by Irving Mills.)

Calloway quickly proved so popular that his band became the “co-house” band with Ellington’s, and his group began touring nationwide when not playing the Cotton Club. Their popularity was greatly enhanced by the twice-weekly live national radio broadcasts on NBC from the Cotton Club. Calloway also appeared on Walter Winchell‘s radio program and with Bing Crosby in his show at New York’s Paramount Theatre. As a result of these appearances, Calloway, together with Ellington, broke the major broadcast network color barrier.

Like other bands fronted by a singing bandleader, Calloway initially gave ample soloist space to its lead members and, through the varied arrangements of Walter “Foots” Thomas, provided much more in the way of musical interest. Many of his records were “vocal specialties” with Calloway’s vocals taking up the majority of the record.

In 1931 Calloway recorded his most famous song, “Minnie the Moocher.” That song, along with “St. James Infirmary Blues” and “The Old Man of the Mountain,” were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts, Minnie the Moocher (1932), Snow White (1933), and The Old Man of the Mountain(1933), respectively. Through rotoscoping, Calloway performed voiceover for these cartoons, and his dance steps were the basis of the characters’ movements. He took advantage of this, timing concerts in some communities to coincide with the release of the films in order to make the most of the publicity.

As a result of the success of “Minnie the Moocher,” Calloway became identified with its chorus, gaining the nickname “The Hi De Ho Man.” He also performed in the 1930s in a series of short films for Paramount. (Calloway’s and Ellington’s groups were featured on film more than any other jazz orchestras of the era.) In these films, Calloway can be seen performing a gliding back-step dance move, which some observers have described as the precursor to Michael Jackson‘s “moonwalk.” Calloway said 50 years later, “it was called The Buzz back then.” The 1933 film International House featured Calloway performing his classic song, “Reefer Man”, a tune about a man who favors marijuana cigarettes.

Calloway made his “first proper Hollywood movie appearance” opposite Al Jolson in The Singing Kid in 1936. He sang a number of duets with Jolson, and the film included Calloway’s band and cast of 22 Cotton Club dancers from New York. According to music historian Arthur Knight, the film aimed in part “to both erase and celebrate boundaries and differences, including most emphatically the color line.” He also notes that “when Calloway begins singing in his characteristic style – in which the words are tools for exploring rhythm and stretching melody – it becomes clear that American culture is changing around Jolson and with (and through) Calloway.”

Calloway’s was one of the most popular American jazz bands of the 1930s, recording prolifically for Brunswick and the ARC dime store labels (Banner, Cameo, Conqueror, Perfect, Melotone, Banner, Oriole, etc.) from 1930 to 1932, when he signed with RCA Victor for a year. He was back on Brunswick in late 1934 through 1936, when he signed with manager Irving Mills’s short-lived Variety in 1937. He stayed with Mills when the label collapsed during the Great Depression. Their sessions were continued on Vocalion through 1939, and then OKeh Records through 1942. After an AFM recording ban due to the 1942-44 musicians’ strike ended, Calloway continued to record prolifically.

Calloway’s vocal style is a blend of hot scat singing and improvisation, coupled with a very traditional vaudeville-like singing style. Many of his ballads are devoid of tone-bending jazz styling.

In 1941 Calloway fired Dizzy Gillespie from his orchestra after an onstage fracas erupted when Calloway was hit with spitballs. He wrongly accused Gillespie, who stabbed Calloway in the leg with a small knife.

In 1943 Calloway appeared in the high-profile 20th Century Fox musical film Stormy Weather. Stormy Weather was one of the first films that featured an all-star black cast.

In 1944 The New Cab Calloway’s Hepsters Dictionary: Language of Jive was published, an update of an earlier book in which Calloway set about translating jive for fans who might not know, for example, that “kicking the gong around” was a reference to smoking opium.

Calloway and his band starred in Hi-De-Ho (1947), an all-black full-length film directed by Josh Binney. Caricatures of Calloway appeared in the Porky Pig cartoons Porky at the Crocadero and Swooner Crooner.

The band also formed its own barnstorming baseball and basketball teams during the 1930s, starring Calloway, Milt HintonChu Berry, Benny Payne and Dizzy Gillespie.

In the late 1940s, Calloway wrote a regular humorous pseudo-gossip column called “Coastin’ With Cab” for Song Hits Magazine. It was a collection of celebrity snippets such as the following in the May 1946 issue: “Benny Goodman was dining at Ciro’s steak house in New York when a very homely girl entered. ‘If her face is her fortune,’ Benny quipped, ‘she’d be tax-free’.” In the late 1940s, however, Cab Calloway’s bad financial decisions as well as his gambling caused his band to break up.

 

Later years

During the late 1940s, Calloway lived with his wife Zulme “Nuffie” and family in Long Beach on the South Shore of Long Island, New York on the border with neighboring Lido Beach. In the 1950s, Calloway moved his family to Westchester County, New York, where he and Nuffie raised their daughters Chris, Cecelia (Lael), and Cabella Calloway.

In his later career, Calloway appeared in a number of films and stage productions that used both his acting and singing talents. In 1952, he played the prominent role of “Sportin’ Life” in a production of the Gershwin operaPorgy and Bess, with William Warfield and Leontyne Price as the title characters. Another notable role was “Yeller” in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), with Steve McQueenAnn-Margret, and Edward G. Robinson.

One of Cab Calloway’s zoot suits went on display in Baltimore’s City Hall, in October 2007.

 

Calloway appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 19, 1967, with his daughter Chris Calloway. In 1967, Calloway co-starred opposite Pearl Bailey as Horace Vandergelder in an all-black cast change of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway during its original run. Chris Calloway also joined the cast as Minnie Fay. The new cast revived the flagging business for the show and RCA Victor released a new cast recording, rare for the time. In 1973–74, Calloway was featured in an unsuccessful Broadway revival of The Pajama Game alongside Hal Linden and Barbara McNair.

His autobiography, Of Minnie the Moocher and Me (Crowell), was published in 1976. It included his complete Hepsters Dictionary as an appendix.

Renewed interest in Calloway occurred in 1980 when he appeared in the hit film The Blues Brothersperforming “Minnie the Moocher.” He also sang “The Jumpin’ Jive” with the Two-Headed Monster on the children’s TV series Sesame Street. This also was the year the cult movie Forbidden Zone was released, which included rearrangements of, and homages to, Calloway songs written by Calloway fan Danny Elfman, performed by Elfman and his band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.

Calloway helped establish the Cab Calloway Museum at Coppin State College (Baltimore, Maryland) in the 1980s. Comedian and actor Bill Cosby helped establish a scholarship in Calloway’s name at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

In 1985, Cab and his Orchestra appeared at The Ritz London Hotel where he was filmed for a 60-minute BBC TV show called The Cotton Club comes to the Ritz; Adelaide HallDoc CheathamMax Roach, and the Nicholas Brothers also appeared on the bill.

In 1986, Calloway appeared at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)’s WrestleMania 2 as a guest judge for a boxing match between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T; it took place at the Nassau Coliseum. Also in 1986, Calloway headlined to great success a gala ball for 4,000 celebrating the grand opening of the Rosewood Hotel Co.’s Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, Texas. A performance with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra directed by Erich Kunzel in August 1988 was recorded on video and features a classic presentation of “Minnie the Moocher,” 57 years after he first recorded it.

In 1990, he was the focus of Janet Jackson‘s 1930s-themed music video “Alright“, and he made a cameo appearance playing himself. In the United Kingdom, Calloway appeared in several commercials for the Hula Hoops snack, both as himself and as a voice for a cartoon (in one of these commercials he sang his hit “Minnie The Moocher”). He also made an appearance at the Apollo Theatre.

Cab enjoyed his final years as a celebrated and well-loved member of a retirement community in northern Delaware (between, and short train rides from, his beloved Baltimore and New York City). In 1994, a creative and performing arts school, the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, was dedicated in his name in Wilmington, Delaware.

On June 12, 1994, Calloway suffered a severe stroke. He died five months later on November 18, 1994, at age 86. His body was cremated and his ashes were given to his family. Upon the death of his wife Zulme “Nuffie” Calloway on October 13, 2008, his ashes were interred next to her in the Rosewood mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

A profile of Calloway, Cab Calloway: Sketches, aired on the PBS program American Masters in February 2012.

 

Honors

  • In 1993, the University of Rochester presented Calloway with the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts
  • In 1993, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts
  • In 1998, The Cab Calloway Orchestra (directed by Calloway’s grandson C. “CB” Calloway Brooks) was formed to honor his legacy on the national and international levels.

The Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers were a team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000), who performed a highly acrobatic technique known as “flash dancing.” With a high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day. Their performance in the musical number “Jumpin’ Jive” (with Cab Calloway and his orchestra) featured in the movie Stormy Weather is considered by many to be the most virtuosic dance display of all time.

Growing up surrounded by vaudeville acts as children, they became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

Early lives

Fayard Antonio Nicholas was born October 20, 1914, in Mobile, Alabama. Harold Lloyd Nicholas was born March 17, 1921, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The Nicholas Brothers’ parents

The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of college-educated musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater — their mother at the piano and father on drums. At the age of three, Fayard would always sit in the front row while his parents worked, and by the time he was ten, he had seen most of the great African-American vaudeville acts — particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice WhitmanWillie Bryant, and Bill Robinson. The brothers were fascinated by the combination of tap dancing and acrobatics. Fayard often imitated their acrobatics and clowning for the kids in his neighborhood.

Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training. Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching and imitating the professional entertainers on stage. He then taught his younger siblings, first performing with his sister Dorothy as the Nicholas Kids, later joined by Harold. Harold idolized his older brother and learned by copying his moves and distinct style. Dorothy later opted out of the act, and the Nicholas Kids became known as the Nicholas Brothers.

Career

As word spread of their talents, the Nicholas Brothers became famous in Philadelphia. They were first hired for a radio program, The Horn and Hardart Kiddie Hour, and then by other local theaters such as the Standard and the Pearl. When they were performing at the Pearl, the manager of The Lafayette, a famous New York vaudeville showcase, saw them and immediately wanted them to perform for his theater.

The brothers moved to Philadelphia in 1926 and gave their first performance at the Standard a few years later. In 1932 they became the featured act at Harlem’s Cotton Club, when Harold was 11 and Fayard was 18. They astonished their mainly white audiences, dancing to the jazz tempos of “Bugle Call Rag,” and they were the only entertainers in the African-American cast allowed to mingle with white patrons. They performed at the Cotton Club for two years, working with the orchestras of Lucky MillinderCab CallowayDuke Ellington, and Jimmy Lunceford. During this time they filmed their first movie short, Pie Pie Blackbird, in 1932, with Eubie Blake and his orchestra.

In their hybrid of tap dance, ballet, and acrobatics—sometimes called acrobatic dancing or “flash dancing” — no individual or group surpassed the effect the Nicholas Brothers had on audiences and on other dancers. The brothers attributed their success to this unique style of dancing, which was greatly in demand during this time.

Producer Samuel Goldwyn saw them at the Cotton Club and, impressed by their entertaining performance, invited them to California to be a part of Kid Millions (1934), which was their first role in a Hollywood movie. The brothers made their Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and also appeared in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart‘s musical Babes in Arms in 1937. They impressed their choreographer, George Balanchine, who invited them to appear in Babes in Arms. With Balanchine’s training, they learned many new stunts. Their talent led many to assume they were trained ballet dancers.

By 1940, they had moved to Hollywood and for several decades alternated between movies, nightclubs, concerts, Broadway, television, and extensive tours of Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

They toured England with a production of Blackbirds, which gave the Nicholas Brothers an opportunity to see and appreciate several of the great European ballet companies.

In 1991, the Nicholas Brothers received Kennedy Center Honors to recognize their achievements spanning 60 years. A year later, a documentary film, We Sing & We Dance, celebrated their careers and included tributes from Mikhail BaryshnikovGregory HinesM.C. Hammer and Clarke Peters. In 1994, members of the cast of Hot Shoe Shuffle also paid tribute to the Nicholas Brothers.

Teaching

The Nicholas Brothers taught master classes in tap dance as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe as Ruth Page Visiting Artists. Among their known students are Debbie AllenJanet Jackson, and Michael Jackson. Several of today’s master tap dancers have performed with or been taught by the brothers, including Dianne Walker, Sam Weber, Lane Alexander, Mark Mendonca, Terry Brock, Colburn Kids Tap/L.A, Channing Cook Holmes, Chris Baker, Artis Brienzo, Chester Whitmore, Darlene Gist, Tobius Tak, Carol Zee and Steve Zee.

Personal lives

Fayard

 Fayard married three times:

  • Geraldine Pate (1942–55);
  • Barbara January (1967–98) (until her death);
  • Katherine Hopkins (2000 – until his death on 24 January, 2006)

Fayard was a member of the Bahá’í Faith since 1967.

He died January 24, 2006, of pneumonia after having a stroke. His memorial service was standing room only. Presided over by Mary Jean Valente of A Ceremony of the Heart, the service was a moving collection of personal tributes, music, dance, and one last standing ovation.

Two of Fayard’s granddaughters dance as the “Nicholas Sisters” and have won awards for their performances.

Harold

Harold was married three times as well. He was first married to singer and actress Dorothy Dandridge, from 1942 to 1951. The couple had one child, Harolyn Nicholas, who was born severely mentally handicapped. In Paris, he had a son, Melih Nicholas, with his second wife. Harold lived on New York’s Upper West Side for approximately twenty years (until his death) with his third wife, Swedish-born Rigmor Alfredsson Newman, a producer and former Miss Sweden.

Harold died July 3, 2000, of a heart attack following minor surgery.

Style and moves

One of their signature moves was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. Its most famous performance formed the finale of the movie Stormy Weather (1943). In that routine, the Nicholas Brothers leapt exuberantly across the orchestra’s music stands and danced on  top of a grand piano in a call and response act with the pianist, to the tune of Jumpin’ JiveFred Astaire once told the brothers that this dance number was the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen.

In another signature move, they would rise from a split without using their hands. Gregory Hines declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen.

Anthony Quinn

 

Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca (April 21, 1915 – June 3, 2001), more commonly known as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican actor, painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Message, Lion of the Desert, Last Action Hero and A Walk in the Clouds. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956.

 

Early life

Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution to Manuela “Nellie” (née Oaxaca) and Francisco “Frank” Quinn. Francisco Quinn was born in Mexico, to an Irish immigrant father from County Cork and a Mexican mother. Frank Quinn rode with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, then later moved to the East Los Angeles neighborhood of City Terrace and became an assistant cameraman at a movie studio. In Quinn’s autobiography, The Original Sin: A Self-portrait by Anthony Quinn, he denied being the son of an “Irish adventurer” and attributed that tale to Hollywood publicists.

When he was six years old, Quinn attended a Catholic church (even thinking he wanted to become a priest). At age eleven, however, he joined the Pentecostals in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the Pentecostal followers of Aimee Semple McPherson). For a time he played in the church’s band and was an apprentice preacher with the renowned evangelist. “I have known most of the great actresses of my time, and not one of them could touch her,” Quinn once said of the spellbinding McPherson, whom he credited with inspiring Zorba’s gesture of the dramatically outstretched hand.

Quinn grew up first in El Paso, Texas, and later in East Los Angeles and in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, California. He attended Hammel Street Elementary School, Belvedere Junior High School, Polytechnic High School and finally Belmont High School in Los Angeles, with future baseball player and General Hospital star John Beradino, but left before graduating. Tucson High School in Arizona, many years later, awarded him an honorary high school diploma.

As a young man, Quinn boxed professionally to earn money, then studied art and architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, at Wright’s Arizona residence and his Wisconsin studio, Taliesin. The two men became friends. When Quinn mentioned that he was drawn to acting, Wright encouraged him. Quinn said he had been offered $800 per week by a film studio and didn’t know what to do. Wright replied, “Take it, you’ll never make that much with me.” During a 1999 interview on the show Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, Quinn said the contract was for only $300 per week.

 

Career

After a short time performing on the stage, Quinn launched his film career performing character roles in the 1936 films The Plainsman (1936) as a Cheyenne Indian after Custer’s defeat with Gary Cooper, Parole (in which he made his debut) and The Milky Way. He played “ethnic” villains in Paramount films such as Dangerous to Know (1938) and Road to Morocco, and played a more sympathetic Crazy Horse in They Died with Their Boots On with Errol Flynn.

By 1947, he had appeared in more than fifty films and had played Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese guerrillas, and Arab sheiks, but was still not a major star. He returned to the theater, playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. In 1947, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

He came back to Hollywood in the early 1950s, specializing in tough guy roles. He was cast in a series of B-adventures such as Mask of the Avenger (1951). His big break came from playing opposite Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan‘s Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn’s performance as Zapata’s brother won Quinn an Oscar while Brando lost the Oscar for Best Actor to Gary Cooper in High Noon.

 

Quinn was the first Mexican-American to win an Academy Award. He appeared in several Italian films starting in 1953, turning in one of his best performances as a dim-witted, thuggish and volatile strongman in Federico Fellini‘s La Strada (1954) opposite Giulietta Masina. Quinn won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of painter Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli‘s Lust for Life (1956). The following year, he received an Oscar nomination for his part in George Cukor‘s Wild Is the Wind. He starred in The Savage Innocents 1959 (film) as Inuk, an Eskimo who finds himself caught between two clashing cultures.

 

As the decade ended, Quinn allowed his age to show and began his transformation into a major character actor. His physique filled out, his hair grayed, and his once smooth, swarthy face weathered and became more rugged. He played a Greek resistance fighter in The Guns of Navarone (1961), an aging boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the Bedouin shaikh Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962). That year he also played the title role in Barabbas, based on a novel by Pär Lagerkvist.

 

The success of Zorba the Greek in 1964 resulted in another Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Other films included The 25th Hour, The Magus, La Bataille de San Sebastian and The Shoes of the Fisherman. In 1969, he starred in The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anna Magnani; each was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

 

He appeared on Broadway to great acclaim in Becket, as King Henry II to Laurence Olivier‘s Thomas Becket in 1960. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run Quinn and Olivier switched roles and Quinn played Becket to Olivier’s King. In fact, Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket, and director Peter Glenville suggested a road tour with Olivier as Henry. Olivier happily agreed and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway.

In 1971, after the success of a TV movie named The City, where Quinn played Mayor Thomas Jefferson Alcala, he starred in the television series, The Man and the City. Quinn’s subsequent television appearances were sporadic, including Jesus of Nazareth.

In 1976, he starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (also known as The Message), about the origin of Islam, as Hamza, a highly respected uncle of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. In 1981, he starred in the Lion of the Desert. Quinn played real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar who fought Benito Mussolini‘s Italian troops in the deserts of Libya.

In 1983, he reprised his role as Zorba the Greek for 362 performances in a successful musical version, called Zorba, opposite fellow film co-star Lila Kedrova, reprising her role as Madame Hortense. Quinn performed in the musical both on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Quinn’s film career slowed during the 1990s, but he nonetheless continued to work steadily, appearing in Revenge (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), A Walk in the Clouds (1995) and Seven Servants (1996).

In 1994 Quinn played the role of Zeus in five television movies focusing on the legendary journeys of Hercules. These were, in order, Hercules and the Amazon Women, Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, and Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur

 

Mafia

Quinn made an appearance at the John Gotti trial, according to John H. Davis, author of Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. He told reporters he wanted to play Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino family after Carlo Gambino. Gotti had Castellano murdered, becoming the boss of the Gambino family thereafter. Gotti was on trial concerning a variety of felony charges when Quinn visited the courtroom.

Although he tried to shake hands with Gotti, federal marshals prevented him from doing so, Davis says. The actor interpreted the testimony of Sammy (“The Bull”) Gravano, Gotti’s underboss, against Gotti as “a friend who betrays a friend.” He had not come to “judge” Gotti, Quinn insisted, but only because he wanted to portray Castellano, who inspired the actor because he had had a “thirty-year-old” mistress, which Quinn believed was “a beautiful thing.” He would later portray Gambino family underboss Aniello Dellacroce in the 1996 HBO film Gotti.

Quinn was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Dellacroce.

Quinn had a personal relationship with New York Mafia crime boss Frank Costello and other Genovese gangsters.

 

Painting and writing

Art critic Donald Kuspit explains, “Examining Quinn’s many expressions of creativity together—his art, collecting, and acting—we can see that he was a creative genius.”

Early in life Quinn had an interest in painting and drawing. Throughout his teenage years he won various art competitions in California and focused his studies at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles on drafting. Later, Quinn studied briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright through the Taliesin Fellowship — an opportunity created by winning first prize in an architectural design contest. Through Wright’s recommendation, Quinn took acting lessons as a form of post-operative speech therapy, which led to an acting career that spanned over six decades.

Apart from art classes taken in Chicago during the 1950s, Quinn never attended art school; nonetheless, taking advantage of books, museums, and amassing a sizable collection, he managed to give himself an effective education in the language of modern art. By the early 1980s, his work had caught the eyes of various gallery owners and was exhibited internationally, in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Mexico City. His work is now represented in both public and private collections throughout the world.

He wrote two memoirs, The Original Sin (1972) and One Man Tango (1997), a number of scripts, and a series of unpublished stories currently in the collection of his archive.

 

Personal life

Quinn’s first wife was the adopted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille, the actress Katherine DeMille; they wed in 1937. The couple had five children: Christopher (1939–1941), Christina (born December 1, 1941), Catalina (born November 21, 1942), Duncan (born August 4, 1945), and Valentina (born December 26, 1952). Their first child, Christopher, aged two, drowned in the lily pond of next-door neighbor W. C. Fields.

In 1965, Quinn and DeMille were divorced, because of his affair with Italian costume designer Jolanda Addolori, whom he married in 1966. They had three children: Francesco Quinn (March 22, 1963 – August 5, 2011), Danny Quinn (born April 16, 1964), and Lorenzo Quinn (born May 7, 1966).

In the 1970s, during his marriage to Addolori, Quinn also had two children with an event producer in Los Angeles named Friedel Dunbar: Sean Quinn (born February 7, 1973), a New Jersey real estate agent, and Alexander Anthony Quinn (born December 30, 1976).

By the 1990s, Quinn then had two children with his secretary, Katherine Benvin; daughter Antonia Patricia Rose Quinn (born July 23, 1993) and son Ryan Nicholas Quinn (born July 5, 1996). His marriage with Addolori finally ended in divorce in August 1997. He then married Benvin in December 1997. Quinn and Benvin remained married until his death, in June 2001.

 

Death

Quinn spent his last years in Bristol, Rhode Island. He died of respiratory failure, pneumonia and throat cancer on June 3, 2001 in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 86.

His funeral was held in the First Baptist Church in America in College Hill, Providence, Rhode Island. Late in life, he had rejoined the Foursquare evangelical Christian community. He is buried in a family plot in Bristol, Rhode Island.

 

Tributes/legacy

 

In his birth place Chihuahua, Mexico, there is a statue of Quinn doing his famous “Zorba the Greek” dance. A 70-foot high mural, entitled “Anthony Quinn” or more commonly “The Pope of Broadway” (1984) by Eloy Torrez, is at 259 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, California.

On January 5, 1982, the Belvedere County Public Library in East Los Angeles was renamed in honor of Anthony Quinn. The present library sits on the site of his family’s former home.

There is an Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach in Rhodes, Greece, just 2.7 miles (4.3 km) south of the village of Faliraki (aka Falirakion or Falirákion). The land was bought by Quinn during the filming of The Guns of Navarone in Rhodes; however, it was reclaimed by the Greek government in 1984 due to a change in property law.

Since 2002, the National Council of La Raza has given the Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures as an ALMA Award.