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

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.

 

 

Kim Novak

 

Marilyn Pauline “Kim” Novak (born February 13, 1933) is a retired American film and television actress.

She began her film career in 1954 after signing with Columbia Pictures. There, she became a successful actress, starring in a string of movies, among them the critically acclaimed Picnic (1955). She later starred in such films as The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Pal Joey (1957). However, she is perhaps best known today for her performance as Madeline Elster/Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic thriller Vertigo (1958) with James Stewart. Novak enjoyed box-office popularity and starred opposite several top leading actors of the era, including Fred MacMurray, William Holden, Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Kirk Douglas, and Laurence Harvey.

Novak with William Holden, in Picnic

 

Although still young, Novak withdrew from acting in 1966 at the peak of her career, and has only sporadically worked in films since. She appeared in The Mirror Crack’d (1980), and had a regular role on the primetime series Falcon Crest (1986–87). After a disappointing experience during the filming of Liebestraum (1991), she permanently retired from acting, stating she had no desire to return. Her contributions to world cinema have been honored with two Golden Globe Awards, an Honorary Golden Bear Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among others. She works as a visual artist.

 

Early life

Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 13, 1933. She is the daughter of Joseph and Blanche (née Kral) Novak. Both her parents were of Czech descent. Her father was a history teacher who took a job as a freight dispatcher on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad during the Depression, and her mother was a factory worker. She was raised Catholic.

She attended William Penn Elementary, Farragut High School, and Wright Junior College. She won two scholarships to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and during the summer break in her last semester of junior college, Novak went on a cross-country tour modelling for a refrigerator company at trade shows.

 

Acting career

Beginnings and breakthrough (1953–58)

While stopping by Los Angeles, Novak was crowned “Miss Deepfreeze” by the refrigerator company. While there, she and two other models stood in line to be extras in two RKO films: The French Line (1954), starring Jane Russell and Son of Sinbad (filmed in 1953, not released until 1955). There she was discovered by an agent, who signed her to a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures. From the beginning of her career, she wanted to be an original and not another stereotype. Therefore, she fought with Columbia’s chief, Harry Cohn, over the changing of her name. He suggested the name “Kit Marlowe”, arguing, “Nobody’s gonna go see a girl with a Polack name!”, but she insisted on keeping her name, saying, “I’m Czech, but Polish, Czech, no matter, it’s my name!” The two sides eventually settled on the name “Kim Novak” as a compromise.

Columbia intended for Novak to be their successor to Rita Hayworth, their biggest star of the 1940s, whose career had declined; also, the studio was hopeful that Novak would bring them the same success 20th Century-Fox was having with Marilyn Monroe. Her first role for the studio was in the film noir Pushover (1954), in which she received third billing below Fred MacMurray and Philip Carey. She then co-starred in the romantic comedy Phffft (1954) as Janis, a Monroe-type character who finds Jack Lemmon‘s character, Robert Tracey, “real cute”. Both films were reasonably successful at the box office, and Novak received favorable reviews for her performances. In her third feature film, 5 Against the House (1955), a gritty crime drama, she received equal billing with Guy Madison. It was only a minor critical and box-office success.

She then played Madge Owens in the film version of Picnic (1955), co-starring William Holden and Rosalind Russell. Its director, Joshua Logan, felt that it would be more in character for Novak to have red hair; she agreed to wear a red wig during filming. Picnic was a resounding critical and box-office triumph, and Novak won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. She was also nominated for BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress, but did not win. She appeared as a mystery guest on the popular game show What’s My Line? on February 5, 1956, to promote the film’s opening at the Radio City Music Hall. Director Otto Preminger then cast her in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), in which she played Frank Sinatra‘s sultry ex-girlfriend. In a cast which included Eleanor Parker, Novak received praise for being one of the film’s bright spots, and the film was a box-office triumph.

 

Novak’s next project, The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), cast her as Marjorie Oelrichs, the wife of pianist Eddy Duchin, played by Tyrone Power. Because Power and she did not get along during filming, Novak nearly considered backing out of the production, but decided against it. At the time of its release, the film was a critical and box-office hit, with many suggesting that Novak’s advertisements for No-Cal diet soda contributed positively to the film’s success. Offered a choice for her next project, she selected the biopic Jeanne Eagels, in which she portrayed the immensely popular stage and silent-screen actress who was addicted to heroin. Co-starring Jeff Chandler, the film was a largely fictional account of Eagels’ life, and despite its success, Eagels’ family sued Columbia over the way Eagels had been depicted in the movie.

After appearing in a series of successful films, Novak became one of the biggest box-office draws of 1957 and 1958. Columbia then placed her in a film adaptation of Pal Joey in 1957, based on the 1940 novel and Broadway play, both written by John O’Hara. Playing Linda English, a naive showgirl, she again co-starred opposite Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth. Released in October, the film received favorable reviews; Variety called the film “strong, funny entertainment,” although Novak’s performance has generated a mixed reaction, partly because of noticeable lack of on-screen charisma. The movie was a box-office hit and has been considered one of Novak’s better performances.

 

Vertigo (1958)

Director Alfred Hitchcock was working on his next film, Vertigo, when his leading actress, Vera Miles, became pregnant and had to withdraw from the complex role of Judy Barton. Hitchcock approached Harry Cohn to offer Novak the female lead without even requesting a screen test. Though Cohn hated the script, he allowed Novak to read it because he considered Hitchcock to be a great director. Novak loved it, as she could identify with the character and agreed to take part in the film without meeting Hitchcock. At the same time, she was striking for more money from Columbia, and refused to show up for work on the Vertigo set to protest her salary of $1,250 a week. Novak hired new agents to represent her and demanded an adjustment in her contract. Cohn, who was paid $250,000 for Novak to do Vertigo, suspended her, but after a few weeks of negotiations, he relented and offered her a new contract worthy of a major star. She was now receiving $3,000 a week and explained to the press, “I don’t like to have anyone take advantage of me.”

Novak finally reported for work, and according to Hitchcock, she had “all sorts of preconceived notions” about her character, including what she would and would not wear. Before shooting started, she told the director she did not like the grey suit and black shoes she was slated to wear, thinking them too heavy and stiff for her character. Novak later recalled, “I didn’t think it would matter to him what kind of shoes I wore. I had never had a director who was particular about the costumes, the way they were designed, the specific colors. The two things he wanted the most were those shoes and that gray suit.” Indeed, Hitchcock explained to Novak that the visual aspect of the film was even more important to him than the story, and insisted on her wearing the suit and the shoes that he had been planning for several months. Novak learned to make it work for her, as she saw it a symbol of her character. Nonetheless, Hitchcock allowed Novak the freedom to develop the character herself. As she later recalled, “It excites me to work on dual personalities because I think I have many myself. And I think that I was able to use so much of me in that movie. At first I was feeling insecure because I kept saying, “Is this right? How do you want me to play this character?” And Hitchcock said, “I hired you and that’s who I want, what you bring to this role. But what I do expect from you is to stand where I want you to, wear what I want you to and speak in the rhythm that I want you to.” And he worked a long time with me to try to get the right rhythm.” The role took on a personal significance for her, as she felt she went through the same thing as her character when she arrived in Hollywood: From my point of view, when I first read those lines where she says, “I want you to love me for me,” and all the talking in that scene, I just identified with it so much because going to Hollywood as a young girl and suddenly finding they want to make you over totally, it’s such a total change and it was like I was always fighting to show some of myself, feeling that I wanted to be there as well. It was like they’d do my hair and go and redo a bunch of things. So I really identified with the fact of someone that was being made over with the resentment, with wanting to. Needing approval and wanting to be loved and willing, eventually, to go to any lengths to get that by changing her hair and all of these different things. And then when Judy appears, it’s another story and then when she has to go through that change. I really identified with the movie because it was saying, “Please, see who I am. Fall in love with me.”

Novak described Hitchcock as a gentleman, but found the experience of working with him to be strange. “I don’t know if he ever liked me. I never sat down with him for dinner or tea or anything, except one cast dinner, and I was late to that. It wasn’t my fault, but I think he thought I had delayed to make a star entrance, and he held that against me. During the shooting, he never really told me what he was thinking.” The director was actually frustrated to have her instead of Vera Miles, as Novak learned later. “Hitchcock didn’t like having me in his picture and he felt I was ruining it. It was only after the film was finished that I heard how much he thought I’d wrecked his picture. I felt I did a lot of good work in that movie, and I got some of the best notices of my career. But Hitchcock couldn’t blame himself, so he blamed me.” Novak got along well with her co-star, James Stewart, who supported her during filming. “He treated me so well. I learned a lot about acting from him. When we had emotional scenes, he had to prepare himself first by somehow going deep inside of himself, and you knew to leave him alone when he was like that. And when it was over, he wouldn’t just walk away. He allowed himself to slowly come out of it. He’d hold my hand and I would squeeze his hand so that we both had time to come down from the emotion.”

The film was poorly received at the time of its release in 1958, and failed at the box office, but has since been re-evaluated and is widely considered one of the director’s best works. In the 2012 British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound critics’ poll, Vertigo was voted as the best film of all time, displacing Orson WellesCitizen Kane from the position it had occupied since 1962. Novak received mixed reviews for her performance, but she managed to surprise film critics. While Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times, described her as “really quite amazing,”] the Variety review noted that she was “interesting under Hitchcock’s direction” and “nearer an actress than she was in either Pal Joey or Jeanne Eagles.” The consensus regarding her performance also changed with time. For example, film critic David Thomson thought it was “one of the major female performances in the cinema” and film director Martin Scorsese called it “extraordinary,” adding that Novak’s work was “so brave and emotionally immediate.” However, Novak was disappointed by her performance when she watched the film in 2013. “I was really disappointed. Both characters were exaggerated. They’ll always remember me in Vertigo, and I’m not that good in it, but I don’t blame me because there are a couple of scenes where I was wonderful.”

 

Career slowdown and other early ventures (1958–65)

In 1958, Novak again worked with Stewart in Richard Quine‘s Bell, Book and Candle, a comedy tale of modern-day witchcraft, that proved to be a box-office success. The following year, she starred opposite Fredric March in the acclaimed Middle of the Night (1959), which she has described as not only her favorite of the films she has been in, but also cites her performance in Middle of the Night as her best. In 1960, Novak starred opposite Kirk Douglas in Strangers When We Meet. Richard Quine was the director, as well as her fiancé at the time. The studio planned to give them the house that was built as part of the story line during the filming as a wedding gift, but their wedding never occurred. Instead, during the last film that Quine and she made together in 1962, The Notorious Landlady with Jack Lemmon, she discovered and purchased her future home by the sea near Big Sur, California. It became her retreat and salvation after leaving Hollywood.

In Bell, Book & Candle

She made an independent five-picture deal with Martin Ransohoff and Filmways Pictures to co-produce, but it proved to be a bad choice due to clashes with personalities over scripts. Their first endeavor, Boys’ Night Out (1962), was unsuccessful. After her Hollywood house survived the big Bel Air fire of 1961, it was finally lost a few years later when it was swept away with most of her belongings in a mudslide in 1966. During the interim, she made W. Somerset Maugham‘s drama Of Human Bondage (1964) with Laurence Harvey in Ireland.

Kiss Me, Stupid followed for director Billy Wilder. Actor Peter Sellers had originally been selected, but he had suffered a heart attack, so Ray Walston took his place. Also co-starring was Dean Martin. The film had problems getting released because of conflicts with the Legion of Decency. Later it was rediscovered and acclaimed for its forward thinking and got rave reviews, particularly for Novak’s performance as “Polly the Pistol.” In 1965, she made The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders in England with British actor Richard Johnson. Novak married Johnson in 1965 and divorced him in the spring of 1966. They remained good friends.

Novak, as Moll Flanders

 

Acting sporadically (1966–91)

By the end of 1966, she was emotionally drained and no longer wanted to live the life of a Hollywood movie star, in the glare of the spotlight with the press criticizing her every move. When the mudslide took her Bel Air home and cost her entire life’s savings in bulldozer fees, she moved away from Hollywood to discover herself anew. From then on, acting became a job and was no longer a career of choice. Novak preferred to concentrate on her first love, the visual arts, often writing poetry to accompany her paintings, and even writing some song lyrics. Harry Belafonte and the Kingston Trio recorded some of her folk songs in the 1960s.

In 1968, she returned to the screen for The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), starring Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine, and directed by Robert Aldrich. She played a dual role, portraying a person who becomes possessed by a look-alike film actress who gets made over by her obsessive-compulsive director lover. Robert Aldrich asked Novak to do a German accent for that role, but she felt it was unbelievable and over the top, so she did not want to do it, and he never insisted. At the premiere, Novak was totally shocked to hear her voice had been dubbed by a German actress in many scenes. Aldrich had never told her, nor had he given her the opportunity to dub it herself. She was extremely upset. The last film Novak made in the ’60s was The Great Bank Robbery (1969), opposite Zero Mostel, Clint Walker, and Claude Akins.

With David Bowie

After spending nearly four years she described as a “self-imposed vacation”, Novak agreed to take part in two projects. She returned to the screen with a role in the horror anthology film Tales That Witness Madness (1973). Novak also starred as Las Vegas chorus girl Gloria Joyce, a character with whom she could identify, in the made-for-TV movie, The Third Girl From the Left (1973), with her real-life boyfriend at the time, Michael Brandon. Novak admitted a preference for TV films as she thought they were faster to shoot than features. She described scripts of that time as offensive, saying she disliked the unnecessary sex she found in most of them. In 1975, Novak took part in the ABC movie Satan’s Triangle because she liked the story which dealt in the supernatural. Novak had a small role in The White Buffalo (1977), a Western starring Charles Bronson. She ended the decade by playing Helga in Just a Gigolo (1979), opposite David Bowie.

In 1980, Novak played fictional actress Lola Brewster in the British mystery-thriller The Mirror Crack’d, based on the story by Agatha Christie. She co-starred alongside Angela Lansbury, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Novak did not appear in any feature films during the remainder of the 1980s. Her acting credits during the decade included the ensemble television movie Malibu (1983) and the pilot episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985). Producers of the successful primetime soap opera Falcon Crest offered Novak a role in their series similar to her character in Vertigo. She appeared as the secretive “Kit Marlowe” in 19 episodes from 1986 to 1987. It was Novak’s idea to name her character Kit Marlowe, as it was the stage name that Columbia had wanted her to use when she started in the business. The former Marilyn Pauline Novak wryly described this turn of events as effectively being Cohn’s revenge on her from beyond the grave.

In 1989, Novak appeared along with James Stewart as a presenter at the 61st Academy Awards. Asked in the press room about a possible comeback, Novak said that if someone sent her a script she really wanted to do, with a part she felt she could not turn down, she would be happy to go back to work on the big or little screen. At the same time, Novak turned down plenty of offers for movies, as well as an opportunity to appear in a second season of Falcon Crest, to write her autobiography, tentatively titled Through My Eyes. Novak decided to re-establish contact with her agent and seek challenging roles after she realized she was not satisfied artistically. She said at the time, “I feel that I didn’t live up to what I should have done with it. In other words, I’m glad I made the move away from Hollywood: I don’t regret that. I know that was a major thing and a good thing. But by the same token, it was like unfinished business.” She returned to film with the leading role of Rose Sellers in The Children (1990) opposite Ben Kingsley. A British-German coproduction, the film premiered at the London Film Festival and received good reviews. Leonard Maltin praised the acting and felt Novak’s performance was “excellent”. However, following disputes between the director Tony Palmer and the distributor over editing and music, the film was pulled from release and never distributed.

Director Mike Figgis offered Novak the role of a terminally ill writer with a mysterious past in his thriller Liebestraum (1991) opposite Kevin Anderson and Bill Pullman. Novak loved the script and thought it was going to be an important picture. However, her collaboration with Figgis was tense and the two had conflicts from the beginning. Novak agreed to do the film under the impression she was going to play the whole character, but Figgis felt she was unable to play the flashback role the way he wanted, and hired actress Sarah Fearon for those scenes. The two clashed on the set, as their visions of the script differed and were in many ways diametrically opposed. Although she considered him to be a brilliant director, she felt the story was too personal for him, as it was about his own life, and Novak was playing his mother. She was also unhappy, as she felt he wanted her to act like a puppet. “He wanted what he thought Hitchcock had made over. But Hitchcock didn’t do that. Figgis didn’t know Hitchcock. So he treated me the way he thought Hitchcock must have, tried to manipulate me into doing exactly…I went crazy.” Novak later said she was hurt and distraught, as “It was such a painful thing for me because it took me right back to Harry Cohn and all that time. And back into saying, Look, for god’s sake, haven’t you heard it enough? We don’t want you to do anything. Just be ‘Kim Novak.’ That movie pained me more than any movie in the world could do.” Novak later told Movieline in 2005 she felt she had been “unprofessional” not to obey her director. “I know he thinks I’m a total bitch. That role was fabulous, full of depth. When I interpreted it the way I thought was evident in the incredible script, he said, ‘We’re not making a Kim Novak movie, just say the lines. If you continue to play the role this way, I’m going to cut you out of the movie,’ and he pretty much did that.”

Liebestraum

Novak was supposed to do a comedy with the French director Claude Berri, also starring Peter Falk, and a remake of Bell, Book and Candle with Sharon Stone. Neither film was made, and following the difficult experience with Liebestraum, she has usually cited that experience as the reason for her decision to retire from the film industry. In 2004, she told the Associated Press:

I got so burned out on that picture that I wanted to leave the business, but then if you wait long enough you think, “Oh, I miss certain things.” The making of a movie is wonderful. What’s difficult is afterward when you have to go around and try to sell it. The actual filming, when you have a good script — which isn’t often— nothing beats it.

 

Retirement (1992–present)

Since her retirement from acting, Novak has made only rare public appearances and turned down most offers she received. In 1996, Vertigo was given a restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz and re-released to theaters. Novak loved their work so much, she agreed to make appearances at screenings of the film, something she originally refused when Universal asked her in 1984. She also took part in Obsessed with Vertigo, a documentary retracing the making and restoration of the film. In 1997, Novak received an Honorary Golden Bear Award for lifetime achievement at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.

In 2003, Novak was presented with the Eastman Kodak Archives Award for her major contribution to film. Prior honorees include Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Martin Scorsese, and Meryl Streep. During that time, Novak received several offers to do some major films and to appear on high-profile television shows. She made an appearance on Larry King Live in 2004, where she stated she would consider returning to the screen “if it was the right role.” In 2010, Novak was the recipient of a special tribute from the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, where her films were shown at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. She made a rare personal appearance with a Q&A onstage between showing of Pal Joey and Bell, Book and Candle, earning a two-minute long standing ovation upon her entrance.

In April 2012, Novak was honored at the TCM Classic Film Festival, where she introduced a screening of Vertigo. She joined in conversation with Robert Osborne for a Q&A session in which she discussed her career and personal life. The hour-long interview aired on TCM as Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival on March 6, 2013. Novak broke down in tears while discussing Liebestraum. As she nearly sobbed in front of the audience, Novak said, “I couldn’t do a movie after that. I’ve never done a movie after that. I just couldn’t do a movie after that.” The interview was an eye-opener for many fans who had wondered why Novak made so few films. Acknowledging that she never reached her potential as an actress, Novak revealed to the audience that she was bipolar and explained, “I was not diagnosed until much later. I go through more of the depression than the mania part. I don’t think I was ever cut out to have a Hollywood life,” Novak also commented. “Did I do the right thing, leaving? Did I walk out when I shouldn’t have? That’s when I get sad.” On the possibility of acting again, Novak said in another interview, with the fashion website LifeGoesStrong, “Who knows what the future holds? It would take an awful lot to lure me out there, but I would never say never.” Also during the TCM Festival, Novak was honored in a handprint and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. That same year, Novak received the San Francisco Cinematic Icon Award from the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society.

Novak’s “Vertigo/Vortex of Delusion”
At Cannes

After years of seclusion, Novak started to make public appearances more frequently as she felt her body of work was being more appreciated. In 2013, she was recognized as the guest of honor by the Cannes Film Festival and attended the 2013 Festival, where she introduced a new restored version of Vertigo. She also took part in the festival’s closing ceremony as a presenter, earning a standing ovation upon her entrance. In 2014, she was a presenter at the 86th Academy Awards. That same year, she appeared at the TCM Classic Film Festival, where she unveiled her painting Vertigo / Vortex of Delusion commissioned by the TCM network as part of their 20th anniversary. Novak also introduced a screening of her 1958 movie, Bell Book and Candle, during the Festival. Also in 2014, Novak was invited by Cunard Line to be a speaker onboard during a New York-to-London cruise on RMS Queen Mary 2. She introduced screenings of Vertigo and Bell, Book and Candle, and did a Q&A session with Hollywood expert Sue Cameron, who is also her manager. That same year, Novak appeared with both of her art mentors, Harley Brown and Richard McKinley, for a solo show of her paintings at the Butler Institute of American Art.

In 2015, Novak attended the 22nd Febiofest international film festival, where she received the Kristián Award for her contribution to world cinema and also had an exhibition of her paintings at the Strahov Monastery. She hosted special screenings of Vertigo featuring live performances of Bernard Herrmann‘s score by members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and by members of the San Francisco Symphony at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in 2016. Also in 2016, Novak was invited by Turner Classic Movies to be a guest on their Caribbean Cruise where she sold five of her paintings and was able to raise nearly $7,000 for the prevention of teenage suicide with the auction of a framed giclée of her.

In 2018, Novak joined in conversation with Larry King for a Q&A session at the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, in celebration of Vertigo’s 60th Anniversary. That same year, she was the recipient of a special tribute from the Castro Theatre, A Tribute to Living Legend Kim Novak.

 

Honors

Novak was honored in a handprint & footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 2012.

In 1955, Novak won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female. Two years later she won another Golden Globe for World Favorite Female Actress. On February 8, 1960, Novak was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1995, Novak was ranked 92nd by Empire Magazine on a list of the 100 sexiest stars in film history. Novak was honored with a Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997 and was presented with the Eastman Kodak Archives Award for her major contribution to film in 2003. In 2012, Novak was honored in a handprint and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. That same year, she received the S.F. Cinematic Icon Award from the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society for her screen contributions in San Francisco with Pal Joey and Vertigo. Her contribution to world cinema was also rewarded with the Kristián Award she was given at the 22nd Febiofest international film festival in 2015.

Naomi Watts, in Mulholland Drive

Novak influenced many actors, as well as fashion designers with the roles she played. Naomi Watts stated that her character interpretation in Mulholland Drive (2001) was influenced by the look and performances of Novak in Vertigo. Renée Zellweger said that Novak was “pure magic” and dressed up as her character from Vertigo for a photo shoot for March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair. Nicole Kidman wrote Novak a letter saying she was “an inspiration to me and to women everywhere. Your cinematic body of work speaks for yourself, but so does the other side of Kim Novak – the free spirit who left Hollywood to live atop the hills of Big Sur. Kim Novak the painter and llama farmer. You are an icon whose screen presence is unmatched, and yet you’ve lived your life with dignity and authenticity, and the courage to follow your heart wherever it takes you.”

“The Novak”

In 2005, British fashion designer Alexander McQueen named his first It Bag The Novak, saying, “I’m drawn to Kim Novak in the same way that Hitchcock was. She had an air of uptightness you wouldn’t want to cross.”

 

 

Personal life

Novak’s first marriage was to English actor Richard Johnson. It lasted 13 months, from March 15, 1965 to April 23, 1966. The two remained friends afterwards.

After her engagement to director Richard Quine, much was made of her relationships with Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ramfis Trujillo, the adopted son of the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. She dated Frank Sinatra, Richard Beymer, and actor Michael Brandon. A BBC documentary claimed that Columbia Studios chief, Harry Cohn, to end her relationship with a black man, had mobsters threaten Sammy Davis, Jr., with blinding or having his legs broken if he did not marry a black woman within 48 hours.

Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.

In the 1960s, Novak left Hollywood for Big Sur, where she raised horses and painted, making an occasional film. In 1974, she met her present husband, equine veterinarian Robert Malloy, when he made a house call after one of her Arabian mares suffered colic. They have been together ever since, and married on March 12, 1976. As a result of her marriage, she has two adult stepchildren. The couple built a log home along the Williamson River near Chiloquin.

In 1997, Novak bought a 43-acre ranch in Sams Valley, Oregon, which they made into their home. Novak took classes in painting with pastels from artists Harley Brown and Richard McKinley. In July 2000, their home burned to the ground, and she lost all her art and the only draft of the autobiography she had been working on for 10 years.

In 2006, Novak was injured in a horse-riding accident. She suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and nerve damage, but made a full recovery within a year.

In October 2010, her manager, Sue Cameron, reported that Novak had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cameron also noted that Novak is “undergoing treatment” and “her doctors say she is in fantastic physical shape and should recover very well.” Upon completion of treatment, Novak was declared cancer-free.

In 2014, after Novak’s rare public appearance at the 86th Academy Awards, the media and social commentary indicated she was hardly recognizable, which resulted in speculation that she had undertaken substantial cosmetic surgery. Novak was devastated by the criticism — “It really did throw me into a tailspin and it hit me hard,” and wrote an open letter in which she stood up to all of her Oscar-night “bullies.” Novak admitted that she “had fat injections in my face” as she felt “they seemed far less invasive than a face-lift,” but later regretted it, “So why did I do it? I trusted somebody doing what I thought they knew how to do best. I should have known better, but what do you do? We do some stupid things in our lives.”

Novak continues her creative endeavors today as a photographer, poet, and visual artist who paints in watercolor, oil, and pastel. Her paintings are impressionistic and surrealistic.

 

Edward G. Robinson

Introduction

Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; December 12, 1893 – January 26, 1973) was a Romanian-American actor of stage and screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age. He appeared in 40 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career and is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as gangsters in such films as Little Caesar and Key Largo.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, which were first growing in strength in Europe and led up to World War II. His activism included contributing over $250,000 to more than 850 organizations involved in war relief, along with cultural, educational and religious groups. During the 1950s, he was called to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare, but was cleared of any Communist involvement.

Robinson’s character portrayals have covered a wide range, with such roles as an insurance investigator in the film noir Double Indemnity, Dathan (adversary of Moses) in The Ten Commandments, and his final performance in the science-fiction story Soylent Green. Robinson received an Honorary Academy Award for his work in the film industry, which was awarded two months after his death in 1973. He is ranked number 24 in the American Film Institute‘s list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic American cinema.

 

Early years and education

Robinson was born as Emanuel Goldenberg to a Yiddish-speaking Romanian Jewish family in Bucharest, the son of Sarah (née Guttman) and Morris Goldenberg, a builder.

After one of his brothers was attacked by an anti-semitic mob, the family decided to immigrate to the United States. Robinson arrived in New York City on February 21, 1904. “At Ellis Island I was born again,” he wrote. “Life for me began when I was 10 years old.” He grew up on the Lower East Side, had his Bar Mitzvah at First Roumanian-American Congregation, and attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New York, planning to become a criminal attorney. An interest in acting and performing in front of people led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship, after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson (the G. standing for his original surname).

He served in the United States Navy during World War I, but was never sent overseas.

 

Career

Robinson began his acting career in the Yiddish Theater District in 1913 and made his Broadway debut in 1915. He made his film debut in Arms and the Man (1916).

In 1923 made his named debut as E. G. Robinson in the silent film, The Bright Shawl.

He played a snarling gangster in the 1927 Broadway police/crime drama The Racket, which led to his being cast in similar film roles, starting with The Hole in the Wall (1929) with Claudette Colbert at Paramount. Paramount kept him on for a comedy, The Kibitzer (1930).

One of many actors who saw his career flourish in the new sound film era rather than falter, he made only three films prior to 1930, but left his stage career that year and made 14 films between 1930 and 1932.

Robinson went to Universal for Night Ride (1930) and MGM for A Lady to Love (1930) directed by Victor Sjöström. At Universal he was in Outside the Law (1930) and East Is West, then he did The Widow from Chicago (1931) at First National.

Robinson was established as a film actor. What made him a star was an acclaimed performance as the gangster Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) at Warner Bros.

Robinson signed a long term contract with Warners. They put him in another gangster film, Smart Money (1931), his only movie with James Cagney. He was reunited with Mervyn LeRoy, director of Little Caesar, in Five Star Final (1931), playing a journalist, and played a Tong gangster in The Hatchet Man (1932).

Robinson made a third film with LeRoy, Two Seconds (1932) then did a melodrama directed by Howard Hawks, Tiger Shark (1932). Warners tried him in a biopic, Silver Dollar (1932), where Robinson played Horace Tabor, a comedy, The Little Giant (1933) and a romance, I Loved a Woman (1933). Robinson was then in Dark Hazard (1934), and The Man with Two Faces (1934).

He went to Columbia for The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), a comedy directed by John Ford. Sam Goldwyn borrowed him for Barbary Coast (1935), again directed by Hawks.

Back at Warners he did Bullets or Ballots (1936) then he went to Britain for Thunder in the City (1937). He made Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

MGM borrowed him for The Last Gangster (1937) then he did a comedy A Slight Case of Murder (1938).

He and Bogart were in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), then he was borrowed by Columbia for I Am the Law (1938).

In 1939, at the time World War II broke out in Europe, he played an FBI agent in Confessions of a Nazi Spy, the first American film which showed Nazism as a threat to the United States.

He volunteered for military service in June 1942 but was disqualified due to his age at 48, although he became an active and vocal critic of fascism and Nazism during that period.

MGM borrowed him for Blackmail (1939) then he played Paul Ehrlich in Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) and Paul Julius Reuter in A Dispatch from Reuter’s (1940), both biographies of prominent Jewish public figures. In between he and Bogart were in Brother Orchid (1940).

Robinson was teamed with John Garfield in The Sea Wolf (1941), and George Raft in Manpower (1941). He went to MGM for Unholy Partners (1942) and made a comedy Larceny, Inc. (1942). Robinson was one of several stars in Tales of Manhattan.

He did war films including Destroyer (1943) at Columbia, and Tampico (1944) at Fox. At Paramount he was in Billy Wilder‘s Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck; at Columbia he was in Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944); he was opposite Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in Fritz Lang‘s The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945).

At MGM he was in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), then did Orson WellesThe Stranger (1946) with Welles and Loretta Young. Robinson followed it with a thriller The Red House (1947) and starred in an adaptation of All My Sons (1948).

Robinson appeared for director John Huston as gangster Johnny Rocco in Key Largo (1948), the last of five films he made with Humphrey Bogart and the only one in which Bogart did not play a supporting role.

He went on to be in Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), and House of Strangers (1949).

Robinson found it hard to get work after his blacklisting. He was in low budgeted films: Actor’s and Sin (1952), Vice Squad (1953), Big Leaguer (1953), The Glass Web (1953), Black Tuesday (1954), The Violent Men (1955), Tight Spot (1955), A Bullet for Joey (1955), Illegal (1955), and Hell on Frisco Bay (1955).

His career rehabilitation received a boost in 1954, when noted anti-communist director Cecil B. DeMille cast him as the traitorous Dathan in The Ten Commandments. The film was released in 1956, as was his psychological thriller Nightmare.

After a subsequent short absence from the screen, Robinson’s film career—augmented by an increasing number of television roles—restarted for good in 1958/59, when he was second-billed after Frank Sinatra in the 1959 release A Hole in the Head.

 

Robinson went to Europe for Seven Thieves (1960). He had support roles in My Geisha (1962), Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), Sammy Going South (1963), The Prize (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Good Neighbor Sam (1964), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and The Outrage (1964).

He had a key part in The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and was top billed in The Blonde from Peking and Grand Slam (1967).

Robinson was originally cast in the role of Dr. Zaius in Planet Of The Apes (1968), and even went as far to filming a screen test with Charlton Heston. However, Robinson dropped out from the project before production began citing heart problems and concerns over the long hours under the heavy ape make up. He was replaced by Maurice Evans.

Later appearances included The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968), Never a Dull Moment (1968), It’s Your Move (1968), Mackenna’s Gold (1969), and the Night Gallery episode “The Messiah on Mott Street” (1971).

The last scene Robinson filmed was a euthanasia sequence, with friend and co-star Charlton Heston, in the science fiction cult film Soylent Green (1973); he died only twelve days later.

Heston, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, presented Robinson with its annual award in 1969, “in recognition of his pioneering work in organizing the union, his service during World War II, and his ‘outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.'”

Robinson was never nominated for an Academy Award, but in 1973 he was awarded an honorary Oscar in recognition that he had “achieved greatness as a player, a patron of the arts and a dedicated citizen … in sum, a Renaissance man.” He had been notified of the honor, but died two months before the award ceremony, so the award was accepted by his widow, Jane Robinson.

Robinson also did radio work. From 1937 to 1942, he starred as Steve Wilson, editor of the Illustrated Press, in the newspaper drama Big Town. He also portrayed hardboiled detective Sam Spade for a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.

 

Personal life

Robinson married his first wife, stage actress Gladys Lloyd, born Gladys Lloyd Cassell, in 1927; she was the former wife of Ralph L. Vestervelt and the daughter of Clement C. Cassell, an architect, sculptor and artist. The couple had one son, Edward G. Robinson, Jr. (a.k.a. Manny Robinson, 1933–1974), as well as a daughter from Gladys Robinson’s first marriage. In 1956 he was divorced from his wife. In 1958 he married Jane Bodenheimer, a dress designer professionally known as Jane Arden. Thereafter he also maintained a home in Palm Springs, California.

In noticeable contrast to many of his onscreen characters, Robinson was a sensitive, softly-spoken and cultured man, who spoke seven languages. Remaining a liberal Democrat despite his difficulties with HUAC, he attended the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, California. He was a passionate art collector, eventually building up a significant private collection. In 1956, however, he was forced to sell his collection to pay for his divorce settlement with Gladys Robinson; his finances had also suffered due to underemployment in the early 1950s. 

Robinson died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of bladder cancer on January 26, 1973. Services were held at Temple Israel in Los Angeles where Charlton Heston delivered the eulogy. Over 1,500 friends of Robinson attended, with another crowd of 500 people outside. His body was then flown to New York where it was entombed in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in Brooklyn. Among his pallbearers were Jack L. Warner, Hal B. Wallis, Mervyn Leroy, George Burns, Sam Jaffe, and Frank Sinatra.

In October 2000, Robinson’s image was imprinted on a U.S. postage stamp, its sixth in its Legends of Hollywood series.

 

Political activism

During the 1930s, Robinson was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, and donated more than $250,000 to 850 political and charitable groups between 1939 and 1949. He was host to the Committee of 56 who gathered at his home on December 9, 1938, signing a “Declaration of Democratic Independence” which called for a boycott of all German-made products.

Although he tried to do so, he was unable to enlist in the military at the outbreak of World War II because of his age; instead, the Office of War Information appointed him as a Special Representative based in London. From there, taking advantage of his multilingual skills, he delivered radio addresses in over six languages to countries in Europe which had fallen under Nazi domination. His talent as a radio speaker in the U.S. had previously been recognized by the American Legion, which had given him an award for his “outstanding contribution to Americanism through his stirring patriotic appeals.” Robinson was also active with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, serving on its executive board in 1944, during which time he became an “enthusiastic” campaigner for Roosevelt’s reelection that year.

In early July 1944, less than a month after the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces, Robinson traveled to the front in France to entertain the troops, becoming the first movie star to go there for the USO. He personally donated $100,000 ($1,500,000 in 2015 dollars) to the USO. After returning to the U.S. he continued his active involvement with the war effort by going to shipyards and defense plants to inspire workers, in addition to appearing at rallies to help sell war bonds. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, while not a supporter of Communism, he appeared at Soviet war relief rallies to give moral aid to America’s new ally, which he said could join “together in their hatred of Hitlerism.”

After the war ended, Robinson spoke publicly in support of democratic rights for all Americans, especially in demanding equality for Blacks in the workplace. He endorsed the Fair Employment Practices Commission‘s call to end workplace discrimination. Black leaders praised him as “one of the great friends of the Negro and a great advocator of Democracy.”

During the years Robinson spoke against fascism and Nazism, although not a supporter of Communism, he failed to criticize the Soviet Union which he saw as an ally against Hitler. However, notes film historian Steven J. Ross, “activists who attacked Hitler without simultaneously attacking Stalin were vilified by conservative critics as either Communists, Communist dupes, or, at best, naive liberal dupes.” In addition, Robinson learned that 11 of the more than the 850 charities and groups he had helped over the previous decade were listed by the FBI as Communist front organizations. As a result, he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950 and 1952 and was threatened with blacklisting.

As appears in the full House of Un-American activities Committee transcript for April 30th 1952, Robinson “named names” of Communist sympathizers (Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Frank Tuttle, and Sidney Buchman) and repudiated some of the organizations he had belonged to in the 1930s and 1940s. He came to realize, “I was duped and used.” His own name was cleared, but in the aftermath his career noticeably suffered, as he was offered smaller roles and those less frequently. In October 1952 he wrote an article titled “How the Reds made a Sucker Out of Me,” that was published in the American Legion Magazine. The chair of the Committee, Francis E. Walter, told Robinson at the end of his testimonies, that the Committee “never had any evidence presented to indicate that you were anything more than a very choice sucker.”

 

Other

Robinson has been the inspiration for a number of animated television characters, usually caricatures of his most distinctive ‘snarling gangster’ guise. An early version of the gangster character Rocky, featured in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Racketeer Rabbit, shared his likeness. This version of the character also appears briefly in Justice League, in the episode “Comfort and Joy,” as an alien with Robinson’s face and non-human body, who hovers past the screen as a background character.

Similar caricatures also appeared in The Coo-Coo Nut Grove, Thugs with Dirty Mugs and Hush My Mouse. Another character based on Robinson’s tough-guy image was The Frog (Chauncey “Flat Face” Frog) from the cartoon series Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse. The voice of B.B. Eyes in The Dick Tracy Show was based on Robinson, with Mel Blanc and Jerry Hausner sharing voicing duties. The animated series Wacky Races character ‘Clyde’ from the Ant Hill Mob was based on Robinson’s Little Caesar persona.

In the 1989 animated series C.O.P.S. the mastermind villain Brandon “Big Boss” Babel’s voice sounded just like Edward G. Robinson when he would talk to his gangsters. Then years later voice actor Hank Azaria has noted that the voice of Simpsons character police chief Clancy Wiggum is an impression of Robinson. This has been explicitly joked about in episodes of the show. In “The Day the Violence Died” (1996), a character states that Chief Wiggum is clearly based on Robinson. In 2008’s “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” Wiggum and Robinson’s ghost each accuse the other of being rip-offs. Another caricature of Robinson appears in two episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season two, in the person of Lt. Tan Divo.