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About R.G. Morse

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

Steven Spielberg

Steven Allan Spielberg (born December 18, 1946) is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. He is also one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Spielberg’s films have spanned many themes and genres. Spielberg’s early science fiction and adventure films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), were seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood escapist filmmaking. In later years, his films began addressing numerous humanistic issues such as the Holocaust, the transatlantic slave trade, civil rights, war, and terrorism in such films as The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler’s List (1993), Amistad (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005), War Horse (2011), Lincoln (2012), Bridge of Spies (2015), and The Post (2017). His other films include Jurassic Park (1993), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), and War of the Worlds (2005).

Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, as well as receiving five other nominations. Three of Spielberg’s films—Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park—achieved box office records and came to epitomize the blockbuster film. The unadjusted gross of all Spielberg-directed films exceeds $9 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing director in history. His personal net worth is estimated to be more than $3 billion. He is also known for his long-standing associations with several actors, producers, and technicians, most notably composer John Williams, who has composed music for all but three of Spielberg’s films (The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, and Ready Player One).

 

Early life

Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother, Leah (née Posner, later Adler; January 12, 1920 – February 21, 2017), was a restaurateur and concert pianist, and his father, Arnold Spielberg (born 1917), was an electrical engineer involved in the development of computers. His family was Orthodox Jewish. Spielberg’s paternal grandparents were Jewish Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Cincinnati in the 1900s; his grandmother was from Sudylkiv, while his grandfather was from Kamianets-Podilskyi. In 1950, his family moved to Haddon Township, New Jersey, when his father took a job with RCA. Three years later, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Spielberg attended Hebrew school from 1953 to 1957, in classes taught by Rabbi Albert L. Lewis.

As a child, Spielberg faced difficulty reconciling being an Orthodox Jew with the perception of him by other children he played with. “It isn’t something I enjoy admitting,” he once said, “but when I was seven, eight, nine years old, God forgive me, I was embarrassed because we were Orthodox Jews. I was embarrassed by the outward perception of my parents’ Jewish practices. I was never really ashamed to be Jewish, but I was uneasy at times.” Spielberg also said he suffered from acts of anti-Semitic prejudice and bullying: “In high school, I got smacked and kicked around. Two bloody noses. It was horrible.” His first home movie was of a train wreck involving his toy Lionel trains, then age 12. Throughout his early teens, and after entering high school, Spielberg continued to make amateur 8 mm “adventure” films.

In 1958, he became a Boy Scout and fulfilled a requirement for the photography merit badge by making a nine-minute 8 mm film entitled The Last Gunfight. Years later, Spielberg recalled to a magazine interviewer, “My dad’s still-camera was broken, so I asked the scoutmaster if I could tell a story with my father’s movie camera. He said yes, and I got an idea to do a Western. I made it and got my merit badge. That was how it all started.” At age thirteen, while living in Phoenix, Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war film he titled Escape to Nowhere, using a cast composed of other high school friends. That motivated him to make 15 more amateur 8mm films. In 1963, at age sixteen, Spielberg wrote and directed his first independent film, a 140-minute science fiction adventure called Firelight, which would later inspire Close Encounters. The film was made for $500, most of which came from his father, and was shown in a local cinema for one evening, which earned back its cost.

After attending Arcadia High School in Phoenix for three years, his family next moved to Saratoga, California, where he later graduated from Saratoga High School in 1965. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout. His parents divorced while he was still in school, and soon after he graduated Spielberg moved to Los Angeles, staying initially with his father. His long-term goal was to become a film director. His three sisters and mother remained in Saratoga. In Los Angeles, he applied to the University of Southern California‘s film school, but was turned down because of his “C” grade average. He then applied and was admitted to California State University, Long Beach, where he became a brother of Theta Chi Fraternity.

While still a student, he was offered a small unpaid intern job at Universal Studios with the editing department. He was later given the opportunity to make a short film for theatrical release, the 26-minute, 35mm, Amblin’, which he wrote and directed. Studio vice president Sidney Sheinberg was impressed by the film, which had won a number of awards, and offered Spielberg a seven-year directing contract. It made him the youngest director ever to be signed for a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio. He subsequently dropped out of college to begin professionally directing TV productions with Universal. Spielberg later returned to Cal State Long Beach and completed his BA degree in Film and Electronic Arts in 2002.

 

Career

1970s

Spielberg’s first professional TV job came when he was hired to direct one of the segments for the 1969 pilot episode of Night Gallery, written by Rod Serling and starring Joan Crawford. Crawford, however, was “speechless, and then horrified” at the thought of a twenty-one-year-old newcomer directing her, one of Hollywood’s leading stars. “Why was this happening to me?” she asked the producer. Her attitude changed after they began working on her scenes:

When I began to work with Steven, I understood everything. It was immediately obvious to me, and probably everyone else, that here was a young genius. I thought maybe more experience was important, but then I thought of all of those experienced directors who didn’t have Steven’s intuitive inspiration and who just kept repeating the same old routine performances. That was called ‘experience.’ I knew then that Steven Spielberg had a brilliant future ahead of him. Hollywood doesn’t always recognize talent, but Steven’s was not going to be overlooked. I told him so in a note I wrote him. I wrote to Rod Serling, too. I was so grateful that he had approved Steven as the director. I told him he had been totally right.

She and Spielberg were reportedly close friends until her death. The episode is unusual in his body of work, in that the camerawork is more highly stylized than his later, more “mature” films. After this, and an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D., Spielberg got his first feature-length assignment: an episode of The Name of the Game called “L.A. 2017.” This futuristic science fiction episode impressed Universal Studios and they signed him to a short contract. He did another segment on Night Gallery and did some work for shows such as Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law and The Psychiatrist, before landing the first series episode of Columbo (previous episodes were actually TV films).

Based on the strength of his work, Universal signed Spielberg to do four TV films. The first was a Richard Matheson adaptation called Duel. The film is about a psychotic Peterbilt 281 tanker truck driver who chases the terrified driver (Dennis Weaver) of a small Plymouth Valiant and tries to run him off the road. Special praise of this film by the influential British critic Dilys Powell was highly significant to Spielberg’s career. Another TV film (Something Evil) was made and released to capitalize on the popularity of The Exorcist, then a major best-selling book which had not yet been released as a film. He fulfilled his contract by directing the TV film-length pilot of a show called Savage, starring Martin Landau. Spielberg’s debut full-length feature film was The Sugarland Express, about a married couple who are chased by police as the couple tries to regain custody of their baby. Spielberg’s cinematography for the police chase was praised by reviewers, and The Hollywood Reporter stated that “a major new director is on the horizon.” However, the film fared poorly at the box office and received a limited release.

Studio producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown offered Spielberg the director’s chair for Jaws, a thriller-horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about an enormous killer shark. Spielberg has often referred to the gruelling shoot as his professional crucible. Despite the film’s ultimate, enormous success, it was nearly shut down due to delays and budget over-runs. But Spielberg persevered and finished the film. It was an enormous hit, winning three Academy Awards (for editing, original score and sound) and grossing more than $470 million worldwide at the box office. It also set the domestic record for box office gross, leading to what the press described as “Jawsmania.” Jaws made Spielberg a household name and one of America’s youngest multi-millionaires, allowing him a great deal of autonomy for his future projects. It was nominated for Best Picture and featured Spielberg’s first of three collaborations with actor Richard Dreyfuss.

 

Rejecting offers to direct Jaws 2, King Kong and Superman, Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss re-convened to work on a film about UFOs, which became Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). One of the rare films both written and directed by Spielberg, Close Encounters was a critical and box office hit, giving Spielberg his first Best Director nomination from the Academy as well as earning six other Academy Awards nominations. It won Oscars in two categories (Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, and a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner). This second blockbuster helped to secure Spielberg’s rise. His next film, 1941, a big-budgeted World War II farce, was not nearly as successful and though it grossed over $92.4 million worldwide (and did make a small profit for co-producing studios Columbia and Universal) it was seen as a disappointment, mainly with the critics.

Spielberg then revisited his Close Encounters project and, with financial backing from Columbia Pictures, released Close Encounters: The Special Edition in 1980. For this, Spielberg fixed some of the flaws he thought impeded the original 1977 version of the film and also, at the behest of Columbia, and as a condition of Spielberg revising the film, shot additional footage showing the audience the interior of the mother-ship seen at the end of the film (a decision Spielberg would later regret as he felt the interior of the mother-ship should have remained a mystery). Nevertheless, the re-release was a moderate success, while the 2001 DVD release of the film restored the original ending.

 

1980s

Next, Spielberg teamed with Star Wars creator and friend George Lucas on an action adventure film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones films. The archaeologist and adventurer hero Indiana Jones was played by Harrison Ford (whom Lucas had previously cast in his Star Wars films as Han Solo). The film was considered an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It became the biggest film at the box office in 1981, and the recipient of numerous Oscar nominations including Best Director (Spielberg’s second nomination) and Best Picture (the second Spielberg film to be nominated for Best Picture). Raiders is still considered a landmark example of the action-adventure genre. The film also led to Ford’s casting in Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner.

 

A year later, Spielberg returned to the science fiction genre with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It was the story of a young boy and the alien he befriends, who was accidentally left behind by his companions and is attempting to return home. E.T. went on to become the top-grossing film of all time. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director and it won four of them.

Between 1982 and 1985, Spielberg produced three high-grossing films: Poltergeist (for which he also co-wrote the screenplay), a big-screen adaptation of The Twilight Zone (for which he directed the segment “Kick The Can”), and The Goonies (Spielberg, executive producer, also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based). Spielberg appeared in a cameo on Cyndi Lauper‘s music video for the movie’s theme song, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.”

 

His next directorial feature was the Raiders prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Teaming up once again with Lucas and Ford, the film was plagued with uncertainty for the material and script. This film and the Spielberg-produced Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to the high level of violence in films targeted at younger audiences. In spite of this, Temple of Doom is rated PG by the MPAA, even though it is the darkest and, possibly, most violent Indy film. Nonetheless, the film was still a huge blockbuster hit in 1984. It was on this project that Spielberg also met his future wife, actress Kate Capshaw.

In 1985, Spielberg released The Color Purple, an adaptation of Alice Walker‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, about a generation of empowered African-American women during depression-era America. Starring Whoopi Goldberg and future talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey, the film was a box office smash and critics hailed Spielberg’s successful foray into the dramatic genre. Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best film of the year and later entered it into his Great Films archive. The film received eleven Academy Award nominations, including two for Goldberg and Winfrey. However, Spielberg did not get a Best Director nomination.

 

In 1987, as China began opening to Western capital investment, Spielberg shot the first American film in Shanghai since the 1930s, an adaptation of J. G. Ballard‘s autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, starring John Malkovich and a young Christian Bale. The film garnered much praise from critics and was nominated for several Oscars, but did not yield substantial box office revenues. Reviewer Andrew Sarris called it the best film of the year and later included it among the best films of the decade. Spielberg was also a co-producer of the 1987 film *batteries not included.

After two forays into more serious dramatic films, Spielberg then directed the third Indiana Jones film, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Once again teaming up with Lucas and Ford, Spielberg also cast actor Sean Connery in a supporting role as Indy’s father. The film earned generally positive reviews and was another box office success, becoming the highest-grossing film worldwide that year; its total box office receipts even topped those of Tim Burton’s much-anticipated film Batman, which had been the bigger hit domestically. Also in 1989, he re-united with actor Richard Dreyfuss for the romantic comedy-drama Always, about a daredevil pilot who extinguishes forest fires. Spielberg’s first romantic film, Always was only a moderate success and had mixed reviews.

 

1990s

In 1991, Spielberg directed Hook, about a middle-aged Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, who returns to Neverland. Despite innumerable rewrites and creative changes coupled with mixed reviews, the film proved popular with audiences, making over $300 million worldwide (from a $70 million budget).

In 1993, Spielberg returned to the adventure genre with the film version of Michael Crichton‘s novel Jurassic Park, about a theme park with genetically engineered dinosaurs. With revolutionary special effects provided by friend George Lucas‘s Industrial Light & Magic company, the film would eventually become the highest-grossing film of all time (at the worldwide box office) with $914.7 million. This would be the third time that one of Spielberg’s films became the highest-grossing film ever.

 

Spielberg’s next film, Schindler’s List, was based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a man who risked his life to save 1,100 Jews from the Holocaust. Schindler’s List earned Spielberg his first Academy Award for Best Director (it also won Best Picture). With the film a huge success at the box office, Spielberg used the profits to set up the Shoah Foundation, a non-profit organization that archives filmed testimony of Holocaust survivors. In 1997, the American Film Institute listed it among the 10 Greatest American Films ever Made (#9) which moved up to (#8) when the list was remade in 2007.

 

In 1994, Spielberg took a hiatus from directing to spend more time with his family and build his new studio, DreamWorks, with partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. In 1996, he directed the sequel to 1993’s Jurassic Park with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which generated over $618 million worldwide despite mixed reviews, and was the second biggest film of 1997 behind James Cameron‘s Titanic (which topped the original Jurassic Park to become the new record holder for box office receipts).

His next film, Amistad, was based on a true story (like Schindler’s List), specifically about an African slave rebellion. Despite decent reviews from critics, it did not do well at the box office. Spielberg released Amistad under DreamWorks Pictures, which has produced all of his films from Amistad onwards with the exception of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin and Ready Player One.

 

His 1998 theatrical release was the World War II film Saving Private Ryan, about a group of U.S. soldiers led by Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) sent to bring home a paratrooper whose three older brothers were killed in the same twenty-four hours, June 5–6, of the Normandy landing. The film was a huge box office success, grossing over $481 million worldwide and was the biggest film of the year at the North American box office (worldwide it made second place after Michael Bay’s Armageddon). Spielberg won his second Academy Award for his direction. The film’s graphic, realistic depiction of combat violence influenced later war films such as Black Hawk Down and Enemy at the Gates. The film was also the first major hit for DreamWorks, which co-produced the film with Paramount Pictures (as such, it was Spielberg’s first release from the latter that was not part of the Indiana Jones series). Later, Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced a TV mini-series based on Stephen Ambrose‘s book Band of Brothers. The ten-part HBO mini-series follows Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division‘s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The series won a number of awards at the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

 

2000s

In 2001, Spielberg filmed fellow director and friend Stanley Kubrick‘s final project, A.I. Artificial Intelligence which Kubrick was unable to begin during his lifetime. A futuristic film about a humanoid android longing for love, A.I. featured groundbreaking visual effects and a multi-layered, allegorical storyline, adapted by Spielberg himself. Though the film’s reception in the US was relatively muted, it performed better overseas for a worldwide total box office gross of $236 million.

Spielberg and actor Tom Cruise collaborated for the first time for the futuristic neo-noir Minority Report, based upon the science fiction short story written by Philip K. Dick about a Washington D.C. police captain in the year 2054 who has been foreseen to murder a man he has not yet met. The film received strong reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 92% approval rating, reporting that 206 out of the 225 reviews they tallied were positive. The film earned over $358 million worldwide. Roger Ebert, who named it the best film of 2002, praised its breathtaking vision of the future as well as for the way Spielberg blended CGI with live-action.

 

Spielberg’s 2002 film Catch Me If You Can is about the daring adventures of a youthful con artist (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). It earned Christopher Walken an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film is known for John Williams‘ score and its unique title sequence. It was a hit both commercially and critically.

Spielberg collaborated again with Tom Hanks along with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stanley Tucci in 2004’s The Terminal, a warm-hearted comedy about a man of Eastern European descent who is stranded in an airport. It received mixed reviews but performed relatively well at the box office. In 2005, Empire magazine ranked Spielberg number one on a list of the greatest film directors of all time.

Also in 2005, Spielberg directed a modern adaptation of War of the Worlds (a co-production of Paramount and DreamWorks), based on the H. G. Wells book of the same name (Spielberg had been a huge fan of the book and the original 1953 film). It starred Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, and, as with past Spielberg films, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) provided the visual effects. Unlike E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which depicted friendly alien visitors, War of the Worlds featured violent invaders. The film was another huge box office smash, grossing over $591 million worldwide.

Spielberg’s film Munich, about the events following the 1972 Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games, was his second film essaying Jewish relations in the world (the first being Schindler’s List). The film is based on Vengeance, a book by Canadian journalist George Jonas. It was previously adapted into the 1986 made-for-TV film Sword of Gideon. The film received strong critical praise, but underperformed at the U.S. and world box-office; it remains one of Spielberg’s most controversial films to date. Munich received five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture, Film Editing, Original Music Score (by John Williams), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director for Spielberg. It was Spielberg’s sixth Best Director nomination and fifth Best Picture nomination.

 

In June 2006, Steven Spielberg announced he would direct a scientifically accurate film about “a group of explorers who travel through a worm hole and into another dimension,” from a treatment by Kip Thorne and producer Lynda Obst. In January 2007, screenwriter Jonathan Nolan met with them to discuss adapting Obst and Thorne’s treatment into a narrative screenplay. The screenwriter suggested the addition of a “time element” to the treatment’s basic idea, which was welcomed by Obst and Thorne. In March of that year, Paramount hired Nolan, as well as scientists from Caltech, forming a workshop to adapt the treatment under the title Interstellar. The following July, Kip Thorne said there was a push by people for him to portray himself in the film. Spielberg later abandoned Interstellar, which was eventually directed by Christopher Nolan.

Spielberg directed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which wrapped filming in October 2007 and was released on May 22, 2008. This was his first film not to be released by DreamWorks since 1997. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, and was financially successful, grossing $786 million worldwide.

 

2010s

In early 2009, Spielberg shot the first film in a planned trilogy of motion capture films based on The Adventures of Tintin, written by Belgian artist Hergé, with Peter Jackson. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, was not released until October 2011, due to the complexity of the computer animation involved. The world premiere took place on October 22, 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. The film was released in North American theaters on December 21, 2011, in Digital 3D and IMAX. It received generally positive reviews from critics, and grossed over $373 million worldwide. The Adventures of Tintin won the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the Golden Globe Awards that year. It is the first non-Pixar film to win the award since the category was first introduced. Jackson has been announced to direct the second film.

 

Spielberg followed with War Horse, shot in England in the summer of 2010. It was released just four days after The Adventures of Tintin, on December 25, 2011. The film, based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Morpurgo and published in 1982, follows the long friendship between a British boy and his horse Joey before and during World War I – the novel was also adapted into a hit play in London which is still running there, as well as on Broadway. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios, with whom DreamWorks made a distribution deal in 2009, War Horse was the first of four consecutive Spielberg films released by Disney. War Horse received generally positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Spielberg next directed the historical drama film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s bestseller Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the film covered the final four months of Lincoln’s life. Written by Tony Kushner, the film was shot in Richmond, Virginia, in late 2011, and was released in the United States in November 2012. Upon release, Lincoln received widespread critical acclaim, and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards (the most of any film that year) including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg. It won the award for Best Production Design and Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lincoln, becoming the first three-time winner in that category as well as the first to win for a performance directed by Spielberg.

 

It was announced on May 2, 2013, that Spielberg would direct the film about the story of U.S. sniper Chris Kyle, titled American Sniper. However, on August 5, 2013, it was announced that Spielberg had decided not to direct the film, which was instead directed by Clint Eastwood.

Spielberg directed 2015’s Bridge of Spies, a Cold War thriller based on the 1960 U-2 incident, and focusing on James B. Donovan‘s negotiations with the Soviets for the release of pilot Gary Powers after his aircraft was shot down over Soviet territory. The film starred Tom Hanks as Donovan, as well as Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda, with a script by the Coen brothers. The film was shot from September to December 2014 on location in New York City, Berlin and Wroclaw, Poland (which doubled for East Berlin), and was released on October 16, 2015. Bridge of Spies received positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture; Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the second actor to win for a performance directed by Spielberg.

Spielberg’s The BFG is an adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s celebrated children’s story, starring newcomer Ruby Barnhill, and Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant. DreamWorks bought the rights in 2010, originally intending John Madden to direct. The film was the last to be written by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison before she died. It was co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures, marking the first Disney-branded film to be directed by Spielberg. The BFG premiered out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2016 and received a wide release in the US on July 1, 2016.

 

Spielberg directed Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post, an account of The Washington Posts printing of the Pentagon Papers. Production began in New York on May 30, 2017. The film began a limited release on December 22, 2017, with a wide release following on January 12, 2018.

Spielberg’s next film is an adaptation of the popular sci-fi novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance. The film began production in London in July 2016, a year before The Post, which was filmed, edited and released during the lengthy, effects-heavy post-production period for Ready Player One. It was originally slated to be released on December 15, 2017 by Warner Bros., but was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars Episode VIII.

Upcoming projects

Spielberg first plans to film a fifth instalment in the Indiana Jones series. The untitled film is set to star Harrison Ford and will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It is being written by David Koepp, who has written numerous other films for Spielberg, including the last Indiana Jones film. It was originally set for release by Disney on July 19, 2019, but will now come out on July 10, 2020.

Spielberg plans to then direct a film remake of the musical West Side Story. Tony Kushner stated in July 2017 that he is adapting the classic show’s book for Spielberg, though the musical score will remain unchanged, as will the late-1950s setting. In January 2018, he began an open casting search for the four lead roles, three of the roles being specifically for Latino actors.

Spielberg had planned to film his long-planned adaptation of David Kertzer‘s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in early 2017 for release at the end of that year, but production has been postponed. The book follows the true story of a young Jewish boy in 1858 Italy who was secretly baptized by a family servant and then kidnapped from his family by the Papal States, where he was raised and trained as a priest, causing international outrage and becoming a media sensation. It was first announced in 2014, with Kushner adapting the book for the screen. Mark Rylance, in his fourth consecutive collaboration with Spielberg, was announced to star in the role of Pope Pius IX. Oscar Isaac was set to star as Mortara’s father, but eventually dropped out. Spielberg had difficulty casting the title role, though he saw more than 2000 kids.

Spielberg is attached to direct Cortes, a historical epic written by Steven Zaillian about the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, and Hernán Cortés‘s relationship with Aztec ruler Montezuma. The script is based on an earlier one from 1965 by Oscar-winner Dalton Trumbo. The project at one time had Javier Bardem attached to play the lead role of explorer Hernán Cortés.

Spielberg is attached to direct an adaptation of American photojournalist Lynsey Addario‘s memoir It’s What I Do. Jennifer Lawrence is attached to star in the lead role.

 

Projects on hold

Spielberg was scheduled to shoot a $200 million adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson‘s novel Robopocalypse, adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard. The film would follow a global human war against a robot uprising about 15–20 years in the future. Like Lincoln, it was to be released by Disney in the United States and Fox overseas. It was set for release on April 25, 2014, with Anne Hathaway and Chris Hemsworth set to star, but Spielberg postponed production indefinitely in January 2013, just before it had been set to begin.

In 2009, Spielberg reportedly tried to obtain the screen rights to make a film based on Microsoft‘s Halo series. In September 2008, Steven Spielberg bought film rights for John Wyndham‘s novel Chocky and is interested in directing it. He is also interested in making an adaptation of A Steady Rain, Pirate Latitudes, The 39 Clues, and a remake of When Worlds Collide.

In May 2009, Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the life story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Spielberg will be involved not only as producer but also as a director. However, the purchase was made from the King estate, led by son Dexter, while the two other surviving children, the Reverend Bernice and Martin III, immediately threatened to sue, not having given their approvals to the project.

 

Production credits

Since the mid-1980s, Spielberg has increased his role as a film producer. He headed up the production team for several cartoons, including the Warner Bros. hits Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Toonsylvania, and Freakazoid!, for which he collaborated with Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger. Due to his work on these series, in the official titles, most of them say, “Steven Spielberg presents” as well as making numerous cameos on the shows. Spielberg also produced the Don Bluth animated features, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, which were released by Universal Studios. He also served as one of the executive producers of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and its three related shorts (Tummy Trouble, Roller Coaster Rabbit, Trail Mix-Up), which were all released by Disney, under both the Walt Disney Pictures and the Touchstone Pictures banners. He was furthermore, for a short time, the executive producer of the long-running medical drama ER. In 1989, he brought the concept of The Dig to LucasArts. He contributed to the project from that time until 1995 when the game was released. He also collaborated with software publishers Knowledge Adventure on the multimedia game Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair, which was released in 1996. Spielberg appears, as himself, in the game to direct the player. The Spielberg name provided branding for a Lego Moviemaker kit, the proceeds of which went to the Starbright Foundation.

In 1993, Spielberg acted as executive producer for the highly anticipated television series seaQuest DSV; a science fiction series set “in the near future” starring Roy Scheider (who Spielberg had directed in Jaws) and Jonathan Brandis that aired on NBC. While the first season was moderately successful, the second season did less well. Spielberg’s name no longer appeared in the third season and the show was cancelled midway through it.

Spielberg served as an uncredited executive producer on The Haunting, The Prince of Egypt, Just Like Heaven, Shrek, Road to Perdition, and Evolution. He served as an executive producer for the 1997 film Men in Black, and its sequels, Men in Black II and Men in Black III. In 2005, he served as a producer of Memoirs of a Geisha, an adaptation of the novel by Arthur Golden, a film to which he was previously attached as director. In 2006, Spielberg co-executive produced with famed filmmaker Robert Zemeckis a CGI children’s film called Monster House, marking their eighth collaboration since 1990’s Back to the Future Part III. He also teamed with Clint Eastwood for the first time in their careers, co-producing Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima with Robert Lorenz and Eastwood himself. He earned his twelfth Academy Award nomination for the latter film as it was nominated for Best Picture. Spielberg served as executive producer for Disturbia and the Transformers live action film with Brian Goldner, an employee of Hasbro. The film was directed by Michael Bay and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and Spielberg continued to collaborate on the sequels, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Transformers: The Last Knight. In 2011, he produced the J. J. Abrams science fiction thriller film Super 8 for Paramount Pictures.

Other major television series Spielberg produced were Band of Brothers, Taken and The Pacific. He was an executive producer on the critically acclaimed 2005 TV miniseries Into the West which won two Emmy awards, including one for Geoff Zanelli‘s score. For his 2010 miniseries The Pacific he teamed up once again with co-producer Tom Hanks, with Gary Goetzman also co-producing’. The miniseries is believed to have cost $250 million and is a 10-part war miniseries centered on the battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Writer Bruce McKenna, who penned several instalments of (Band of Brothers), was the head writer.

In 2007, Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett co-produced On the Lot a short-lived TV reality show about filmmaking. Despite this, he never gave up working on television. He currently serves as one of the executive producers on United States of Tara, a show created by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody which they developed together (Spielberg is uncredited as creator).

In 2011, Spielberg launched Falling Skies, a science fiction television series, on the TNT network. He developed the series with Robert Rodat and is credited as an executive producer. Spielberg is also producing the Fox TV series Terra Nova. Terra Nova begins in the year 2149 when all life on the planet Earth is threatened with extinction resulting in scientists opening a door that allows people to travel back 85 million years to prehistoric times. Spielberg also produced The River, Smash, Under the Dome, Extant, The Whispers, a TV adaptation of Minority Report, and Bull.

In 2008, Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the rights to produce a live-action film adaptation of the original Ghost in the Shell manga. Avi Arad and Steven Paul were later confirmed as producers, Rupert Sanders directed, and Scarlett Johansson stars in the lead role.

In March 2013, Spielberg announced that he was “developing a Stanley Kubrick screenplay for a miniseries, not for a motion picture, about the life of Napoleon.” In May 2016, it was announced that Cary Fukunaga is in talks to direct the miniseries for HBO, from a script by David Lenland based on extensive research materials accumulated by Kubrick over many years.

 

Onscreen appearances

Spielberg had cameo roles in The Blues Brothers, Gremlins, Vanilla Sky, and Austin Powers in Goldmember, as well as small uncredited cameos in a handful of other films, such as a life-station worker in Jaws. He also made numerous cameo roles in the Warner Bros. cartoons he produced, such as Animaniacs, and even made reference to some of his films. Spielberg voiced himself in the film Paul, and in one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures titled Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian.

In 2017, Spielberg, along with fellow directors Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan were featured in the Netflix documentary series Five Came Back, which discussed the contributions of film directors Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler towards recording the events of World War II. Spielberg also served as an executive producer on the series.

 

Involvement in video games

Apart from being an ardent gamer Spielberg has had a long history of involvement in video games. He has been giving thanks to his games of his division DreamWorks Interactive most notable as Someone’s in the Kitchen with script written by AnimaniacsPaul Rugg, Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorLand, The Neverhood (all in 1996), Skullmonkeys, Dilbert’s Desktop Games, Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant (all 1997), Boombots (1999), T’ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger (1999), and Clive Barker’s Undying (2001). In 2005 the director signed with Electronic Arts to collaborate on three games including an action game and an award-winning puzzle game for the Wii called Boom Blox (and its 2009 sequel: Boom Blox Bash Party). Previously, he was involved in creating the scenario for the adventure game The Dig. In 1996, Spielberg worked on and shot original footage for a movie-making simulation game called Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair. He is the creator of the Medal of Honor series by Electronic Arts. He is credited in the special thanks section of the 1998 video game Trespasser. In 2013, Spielberg has announced he is collaborating with 343 Industries for a live-action TV show of Halo.

 

Themes

Spielberg’s films often deal with several recurring themes. Most of his films deal with ordinary characters searching for or coming in contact with extraordinary beings or finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances. In an AFI interview in August 2000 Spielberg commented on his interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and how it has influenced some of his films. Spielberg described himself as feeling like an alien during childhood, and his interest came from his father, a science fiction fan, and his opinion that aliens would not travel light years for conquest, but instead curiosity and sharing of knowledge.

A strong consistent theme in his family-friendly work is a childlike sense of wonder and faith, as attested by works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and The BFG. According to Warren Buckland, these themes are portrayed through the use of low height camera tracking shots, which have become one of Spielberg’s directing trademarks. In the cases when his films include children (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, etc.), this type of shot is more apparent, but it is also used in films like Munich, Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal, Minority Report, and Amistad. If one views each of his films, one will see this shot utilized by the director, notably the water scenes in Jaws are filmed from the low-angle perspective of someone swimming. Another child oriented theme in Spielberg’s films is that of loss of innocence and coming-of-age. In Empire of the Sun, Jim, a well-groomed and spoiled English youth, loses his innocence as he suffers through World War II China. Similarly, in Catch Me If You Can, Frank naively and foolishly believes that he can reclaim his shattered family if he accumulates enough money to support them.

The most persistent theme throughout his films is tension in parent-child relationships. Parents (often fathers) are reluctant, absent or ignorant. Peter Banning in Hook starts off in the beginning of the film as a reluctant married-to-his-work parent who through the course of the film regains the respect of his children. The notable absence of Elliott’s father in E.T., is the most famous example of this theme. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it is revealed that Indy has always had a very strained relationship with his father, who is a professor of medieval literature, as his father always seemed more interested in his work, specifically in his studies of the Holy Grail, than in his own son, although his father does not seem to realize or understand the negative effect that his aloof nature had on Indy (he even believes he was a good father in the sense that he taught his son “self reliance,” which is not how Indy saw it). Even Oskar Schindler, from Schindler’s List, is reluctant to have a child with his wife. In The Color Purple, the main character, Celie, has been impregnated by her father multiple times. Munich depicts Avner as a man away from his wife and newborn daughter. There are exceptions; Brody in Jaws is a committed family man, while John Anderton in Minority Report is a shattered man after the disappearance of his son. This theme is arguably the most autobiographical aspect of Spielberg’s films, since Spielberg himself was affected by his parents’ divorce as a child and by the absence of his father. Furthermore, to this theme, protagonists in his films often come from families with divorced parents, most notably E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (protagonist Elliot’s mother is divorced) and Catch Me If You Can (Frank Abagnale’s mother and father split early on in the film). Little known also is Tim in Jurassic Park (early in the film, another secondary character mentions Tim and Lex’s parents’ divorce). The family often shown divided is often resolved in the ending as well. Following this theme of reluctant fathers and father figures, Tim looks to Dr. Alan Grant as a father figure. Initially, Dr. Grant is reluctant to return those paternal feelings to Tim. However, by the end of the film, he has changed, and the kids even fall asleep with their heads on his shoulders.

Most of his films are generally optimistic in nature. Though some critics accuse his films of being a little overly sentimental, Spielberg feels it is fine as long as it is disguised. He is still a highly praised director as well as being credited as one of the most influential directors of all time. The influence comes from directors Frank Capra and John Ford.

 

Actors

In terms of casting and production itself, Spielberg has a known penchant for working with actors and production members from his previous films. For instance:

  • He has cast Richard Dreyfuss in three films – Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Always.
  • He has has cast Harrison Ford in five films – as a head teacher in T. the Extra-Terrestrial (though the scene was ultimately cut) and in the four Indiana Jones films.
  • He has has used Tom Hanks in five films – Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Bridge of Spies, and The Post.
  • He has cast Mark Rylance in four films – Bridge of Spies, The BFG, and the upcoming films Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Ready Player One.
  • He has directed veteran voice actor Frank Welker once (in Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which he voiced many of the animals), Welker has lent his voice in a number of productions Spielberg has executive produced from Gremlins to its sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch, as well as The Land Before Time, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and television shows such as Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and SeaQuest DSV.

 

Other collaborations

Spielberg prefers working with production members with whom he has developed an existing working relationship. An example of this is his production relationship with Kathleen Kennedy who has served as producer on all his major films from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to the recent Lincoln. For cinematography, Allen Daviau, a childhood friend and cinematographer, shot the early Spielberg film Amblin and most of his films up to Empire of the Sun; Janusz Kamiński who has shot every Spielberg film since Schindler’s List (see List of film director and cinematographer collaborations); and the film editor Michael Kahn who has edited every film directed by Spielberg from Close Encounters to Munich (except E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). Most of the DVDs of Spielberg’s films have documentaries by Laurent Bouzereau.

A famous example of Spielberg working with the same professionals is his long-time collaboration with John Williams and the use of his musical scores in all of his films since The Sugarland Express (except for Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One, The Color Purple, and Twilight Zone: The Movie). One of Spielberg’s trademarks is his use of music by Williams to add to the visual impact of his scenes and to try and create a lasting picture and sound of the film in the memories of the film audience. These visual scenes often uses images of the sun (e.g. Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, the final scene of both Jurassic Park and War Horse, and the end credits of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (where they ride into the sunset)), of which the last three feature a Williams score at that end scene. Spielberg is a contemporary of filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, John Milius, and Brian De Palma, collectively known as the “Movie Brats.” Aside from his principal role as a director, Spielberg has acted as a producer for a considerable number of films, including early hits for Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis. Spielberg has often never worked with the same screenwriter in his films, beside Tony Kushner and David Koepp, who have written a few of his films more than once.

 

Personal life

Marriages and children

Spielberg first met actress Amy Irving in 1976 at the suggestion of director Brian De Palma, who knew he was looking for an actress to play in Close Encounters. After meeting her, Spielberg told his co-producer Julia Phillips, “I met a real heartbreaker last night.” Although she was too young for the role, she and Spielberg began dating and she eventually moved into what she described as his “bachelor funky” house. They lived together for four years, but the stresses of their professional careers took a toll on their relationship. Irving wanted to be certain that whatever success she attained as an actress would be her own: “I don’t want to be known as Steven’s girlfriend,” she said, and chose not to be in any of his films during those years.

As a result, they broke up in 1979, but remained close friends. Then in 1984 they renewed their romance, and in November 1985, they married, already having had a son, Max Samuel. After three and a half years of marriage, however, many of the same competing stresses of their careers caused them to divorce in 1989. They agreed to maintain homes near each other as to facilitate the shared custody and parenting of their son. Their divorce was recorded as the third most costly celebrity divorce in history.

Spielberg subsequently developed a relationship with actress Kate Capshaw, whom he met when he cast her in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They married on October 12, 1991. Capshaw is a convert to Judaism. They currently move among their four homes in Pacific Palisades, California; Quelle Farm, Georgica Pond in East Hampton, New York; New York City; and Naples, Florida.

There are seven children in the Spielberg-Capshaw family:

  • Jessica Capshaw (born August 9, 1976) – daughter from Kate Capshaw’s previous marriage to Robert Capshaw
  • Max Samuel Spielberg (born June 13, 1985) – son from Spielberg’s previous marriage to actress Amy Irving
  • Theo Spielberg (born August 21, 1988) – son adopted by Capshaw before her marriage to Spielberg, who later also adopted him
  • Sasha Rebecca Spielberg (born May 14, 1990, Los Angeles)
  • Sawyer Avery Spielberg (born March 10, 1992, Los Angeles)
  • Mikaela George (born February 28, 1996) – adopted with Kate Capshaw
  • Destry Allyn Spielberg (born December 1, 1996)

 

Religion

Spielberg grew up in a Jewish household, including having a bar mitzvah ceremony in Phoenix when he turned 13. He grew away from Judaism after his family moved to various cities during his high school years, where they became the only Jews in the neighborhood. Before those years, his family was involved in the synagogue and had many Jewish friends and nearby relatives.

He remembers his grandparents telling him about their life in Russia, where they were subjected to religious persecution, causing them to eventually flee to the United States. He was made aware of the Holocaust by his parents, who he says “talked about it all the time, and so it was always on my mind.” His father had lost between sixteen and twenty relatives during the Holocaust.

Spielberg “rediscovered the honor of being a Jew,” he says, before he made Schindler’s List, when he married Kate Capshaw. Until then, having become a filmmaker, he only felt his connection to Judaism when he visited his parents. He says he made the film partly to create “something that would confirm my Judaism to my family and myself.”He credits her with fuelling his family’s current level of observance and for keeping the “momentum flowing” in their lives, as they now observe Jewish holidays, light candles on Friday nights, and give their children Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. “This shiksa goddess has made me a better Jew than my own parents.”

Kate is Protestant and she insisted on converting to Judaism. She spent a year studying, did the “mikveh,” the whole thing. She chose to do a full conversion before we were married in 1991, and she married me after becoming a Jew. I think that, more than anything else, brought me back to Judaism.

Producing Schindler’s List in 1993 also renewed his faith, Spielberg says, but “it really was the fact that my wife took a profound interest in Judaism.” He waited ten years after being given the story in 1982 to make the film, as he did not yet feel “mature” enough. He first wanted to have a family, “to figure out what my place was in the world…. When my first son, [Max] was born, it greatly affected me…. A spirit began to ignite in me, and I became a Jewish dad…”

He said that making the film became a “natural experience” for him, adding, “I had to tell the story. I’ve lived on its outer edges.” The film, writes biographer Joseph McBride, thereby became the “culmination” of Spielberg’s long personal struggle with his Jewish identity. Some claim the film has made Spielberg “the one true heir to the great Jewish moguls who created Hollywood,” most of whom had actively avoided depicting Jews or the Holocaust in their films.

 

Wealth

Forbes magazine places Spielberg’s personal net worth at $3.7 billion.

 

Yachting

In 2013, Spielberg purchased the 282-foot (86 m) mega-yacht Seven Seas for US$182 million. He has since put it up for sale and in the meantime has made it available for charter. At US$1.2 million per month, it is one of the most expensive charters on the market. He has ordered a new 300-foot (91 m) yacht costing a reported US$250 million.

 

Recognition

In 2002, Spielberg was one of eight flag bearers who carried the Olympic Flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2006, Premiere listed him as the most powerful and influential figure in the motion picture industry. Time listed him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the Century. At the end of the 20th century, Life named him the most influential person of his generation. In 2009, Boston University presented him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

According to Forbes‘ Most Influential Celebrities 2014 list, Spielberg was listed as the most influential celebrity in America. The annual list is conducted by E-Poll Market Research and it gave more than 6,600 celebrities on 46 different personality attributes a score representing “how that person is perceived as influencing the public, their peers, or both.” Spielberg received a score of 47, meaning 47% of the US believes he is influential. Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research, supported Spielberg’s score by stating, “If anyone doubts that Steven Spielberg has greatly influenced the public, think about how many will think for a second before going into the water this summer.”

 

Politics

Spielberg usually supports U.S. Democratic Party candidates. He has donated over $800,000 to the Democratic party and its nominees. He has been a close friend of former President Bill Clinton and worked with the President for the USA Millennium celebrations. He directed an 18-minute film for the project, scored by John Williams and entitled The American Journey. It was shown at America’s Millennium Gala on December 31, 1999, in the National Mall at the Reflecting Pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Spielberg resigned as a member of the national advisory board of the Boy Scouts of America in 2001 because of his disapproval of the organization’s anti-homosexuality stance. In 2007 the Arab League voted to boycott Spielberg’s movies after he donated $1 million for relief efforts in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War. On February 20, 2007, Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen invited Democrats to a fundraiser for Barack Obama. In February 2008, Spielberg pulled out of his role as advisor to the 2008 Summer Olympics in response to the Chinese government’s inaction over the War in Darfur. Spielberg said in a statement that “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual.” It also said that “Sudan’s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these on-going crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more.” The International Olympic Committee respected Spielberg’s decision, but IOC president Jacques Rogge admitted in an interview that “[Spielberg] certainly would have brought a lot to the opening ceremony in terms of creativity.” Spielberg’s statement drew criticism from Chinese officials and state-run media calling his criticism “unfair,” In September 2008, Spielberg and his wife offered their support to same-sex marriage, by issuing a statement following their donation of $100,000 to the “No on Proposition 8” campaign fund, a figure equal to the amount of money Brad Pitt donated to the same campaign less than a week prior.

Spielberg supported Hillary Clinton for President of the United States in the 2016 election. He donated US$1 million to Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton Super PAC.

 

Hobbies

A collector of film memorabilia, Spielberg purchased a balsa Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane (1941) in 1982. He bought Orson Welles‘s own directorial copy of the script for the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds (1938) in 1994. Spielberg has purchased Academy Award statuettes being sold on the open market and donated them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to prevent their further commercial exploitation. His donations include the Oscars that Bette Davis received for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938), and Clark Gable‘s Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934).

Spielberg is a major collector of the work of American illustrator and painter Norman Rockwell. A collection of 57 Rockwell paintings and drawings owned by Spielberg and fellow Rockwell collector and film director George Lucas were displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum July 2, 2010 – January 2, 2011, in an exhibition titled Telling Stories.

Spielberg is an avid film buff, and, when not shooting a picture, he will watch many films in a single weekend. He sees almost every major summer blockbuster in theaters if not preoccupied and enjoys most of them.

Since playing Pong while filming Jaws in 1974, Spielberg has been an avid video gamer. Spielberg played many of LucasArts adventure games, including the first Monkey Island games. He owns a Wii, a PlayStation 3, a PSP and Xbox 360, and enjoys playing first-person shooters such as the Medal of Honor series and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He has also criticized the use of cutscenes in games, calling them intrusive, and feels making story flow naturally into the gameplay is a challenge for future game developers.

 

Stalking

In 2001, Spielberg was stalked by conspiracy theorist and former social worker Diana Napolis. She accused him, along with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, of controlling her thoughts through “cybertronic” technology and being part of a satanic conspiracy against her. Napolis was committed to a mental institution before pleading guilty to stalking, and released on probation with a condition that she have no contact with either Spielberg or Hewitt.

Jonathan Norman was arrested after making two attempts to enter Spielberg’s Pacific Palisades home in June and July 1997. Norman was jailed for 25 years in California. Spielberg told the court: “Had Jonathan Norman actually confronted me, I genuinely, in my heart of hearts, believe that I would have been raped or maimed or killed.”

 

Awards and honors

Spielberg has won three Academy Awards. He has been nominated for seven Academy Awards for the category of Best Director, winning two of them (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan), and ten of the films he directed were up for the Best Picture Oscar (Schindler’s List won). In 1987, he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a creative producer.

Drawing from his own experiences in Scouting, Spielberg helped the Boy Scouts of America develop a merit badge in cinematography in order to help promote filmmaking as a marketable skill. The badge was launched at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree, which Spielberg attended, and where he personally counselled many boys in their work on requirements. That same year, 1989, saw the release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The opening scene shows a teenage Indiana Jones in scout uniform bearing the rank of a Life Scout. Spielberg stated he made Indiana Jones a Boy Scout in honor of his experience in Scouting. For his career accomplishments, service to others, and dedication to a new merit badge Spielberg was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

In 1998, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Award was presented to him by President Roman Herzog in recognition of his film Schindler’s List and his Shoa-Foundation.

In 1999, Spielberg received an honorary degree from Brown University. Spielberg was also awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William Cohen at the Pentagon on August 11, 1999; Cohen presented the award in recognition of Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan.

In 2001, he was appointed as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the entertainment industry of the United Kingdom.

In 2004, he was admitted as knight of the Légion d’honneur by president Jacques Chirac. On July 15, 2006, Spielberg was also awarded the Gold Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award at the Summer Gala of the Chicago International Film Festival, and also was awarded a Kennedy Center honor on December 3. The tribute to Spielberg featured a short, filmed biography narrated by Liam Neeson and included “thank-you” letters from World War II veterans for Saving Private Ryan, as well as a performance of the finale to Leonard Bernstein‘s Candide, conducted by John Williams (Spielberg’s frequent composer)

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Spielberg in 2005, the first year it considered non-literary contributors. In November 2007, he was chosen for a Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented at the sixth annual Visual Effects Society Awards in February 2009. He was set to be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the January 2008 Golden Globes; however, due to the new, watered-down format of the ceremony resulting from conflicts in the 2007–08 writers strike, the HFPA postponed his honor to the 2009 ceremony. In 2008, Spielberg was awarded the Légion d’honneur.

In June 2008, Spielberg received Arizona State University‘s Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence.

Spielberg received an honorary degree at Boston University‘s 136th Annual Commencement on May 17, 2009. In October 2009 Steven Spielberg received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; presenting him with the medal was former US president and Liberty Medal recipient Bill Clinton. Special guests included Whoopi Goldberg, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

On October 22, 2011 he was admitted as a Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown. He was given the badge on a red neck ribbon by the Belgian Federal Minister of Finance Didier Reynders. The Commander is the third highest rank of the Order of the Crown. He was the president of the jury for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

On November 19, 2013, Spielberg was honored by the National Archives and Records Administration with its Records of Achievement Award. Spielberg was given two facsimiles of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, one passed but not ratified in 1861, as well as a facsimile of the actual 1865 amendment signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The amendment and the process of passing it were the subject of his film Lincoln.

In November 24, 2015, Spielberg was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House.

On May 26, 2016, Spielberg was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by Harvard University.

In July 2016, Spielberg was awarded a gold Blue Peter badge on the BBC children’s television program Blue Peter.

 

Filmography

Praise and criticism

  • In 2005, Steven Spielberg was rated the greatest film director of all time by Empire magazine. In 1997, a Wall Street sell-side analyst said, “There are only two brand names in the business: Disney and Spielberg.”
  • After watching the unconventional, off-center camera techniques of Jaws, Alfred Hitchcock praised “young Spielberg,” for thinking outside of the visual dynamics of the theater, saying “He’s the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch.”
  • Some of Spielberg’s most notable admirers include Robert Aldrich, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Sidney Lumet,] Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, François Truffaut, David Lynch and Zhang Yimou.
  • Spielberg’s movies have also influenced many directors that followed, including Adam Green, J. Abrams, Paul Thomas Anderson, Neill Blomkamp, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, David Fincher, Peter Jackson, Kal Ng, Robert Rodriguez, John Sayles, Ridley Scott, John Singleton, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Gareth Edwards. In 2016, Jeffrey Katzenberg said of Spielberg: “You can take James Cameron, Chris Nolan or Martin Scorsese – all brilliant and in many ways his peers, but look at quality and consistency, and no one compares.”
  • British film critic Tom Shone has said of Spielberg, “If you have to point to any one director of the last twenty-five years in whose work the medium of film was most fully itself – where we found out what it does best when left to its own devices, it has to be that guy.” Jess Cagle, the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, called Spielberg “…arguably (well, who would argue?) the greatest filmmaker in history.”
  • Spielberg’s critics complain that his films are overly sentimental and tritely moralistic. In his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, Peter Biskind summarized the views of Spielberg’s detractors, accusing the director of “infantilizing the audience, reconstituting the spectator as child, then overwhelming him and her with sound and spectacle, obliterating irony, aesthetic self-consciousness, and critical reflection.”
  • Critics of mainstream film such as Ray Carney and American artist and actor Crispin Glover (who starred in the Spielberg-produced Back to the Future and who sued Spielberg for using his likeness in Back to the Future Part II)] claim that Spielberg’s films lack depth and do not take risks.
  • French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard stated that he holds Spielberg partly responsible for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema and accused Spielberg of using his film Schindler’s List to make a profit off tragedy while Schindler’s wife, Emilie Schindler, lived in poverty in Argentina. In defense of Spielberg, critic Roger Ebert said “Has Godard or any other director living or dead done more than Spielberg, with his Holocaust Project, to honor and preserve the memories of the survivors?” Author Thomas Keneally has also disputed claims that Emilie Schindler was never paid for her contributions to the film, “not least because I had recently sent Emilie a check myself.”
  • Film critic Pauline Kael, who had championed Spielberg’s films in the 1970s, expressed disappointment in his later development, stating that “he’s become, I think, a very bad director…. And I’m a little ashamed for him, because I loved his early work…. [H]e turned to virtuous movies. And he’s become so uninteresting now…. I think that he had it in him to become more of a fluid, far-out director. But, instead, he’s become a melodramatist.”
  • Imre Kertész, Hungarian Jewish author, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, criticized Spielberg’s depiction of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List as kitsch, saying “I regard as kitsch any representation of the Holocaust that is incapable of understanding or unwilling to understand the organic connection between our own deformed mode of life and the very possibility of the Holocaust.” Veteran documentary filmmaker and professor Claude Lanzmann also labeled Schindler’s List “pernicious in its impact and influence” and “very sentimental.”
  • Stephen Rowley wrote an extensive essay about Spielberg and his career in Senses of Cinema. In it, he discussed Spielberg’s strengths as a filmmaker, saying “there is a welcome complexity of tone and approach in these later films that defies the lazy stereotypes often bandied about his films” and that “Spielberg continues to take risks, with his body of work continuing to grow more impressive and ambitious,” concluding that he has only received “limited, begrudging recognition” from critics.
  • Shia LaBeouf, who worked with Spielberg on a number of films including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and various DreamWorks productions (notably the Transformers film series), described his experiences working with the director in a wide-ranging interview with Variety in 2016. He stated, “I grew up with this idea, [that] if you got to Spielberg, that’s where it is – I’m not talking about fame, and I’m not talking about money. You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of. You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a fucking company.” He went on to discuss his on-set actor/director relationship with Spielberg, as well as the films they made together, “Spielberg’s sets are very different – everything has been so meticulously planned. You got to get this line out in 37 seconds. You do that for five years, you start to feel like not knowing what you’re doing for a living.” He concluded his point by stating: “I don’t like the movies that I made with Spielberg. The only movie that I liked that we made together was [the first] Transformers [film].” Later in the interview, LaBeouf recited and criticized the advice given to him by Spielberg following the mixed reaction to both Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and LaBeouf’s performance in the film. He claims Spielberg told him not to read about himself in the media, but LaBeouf felt irritated by what he perceived to be non-advice and a lack of understanding, saying “There’s no way to not do that. For me to not read that means I need to not take part in society. The generation previous to mine didn’t have the immediate response [of the internet]. If you were Mark Hamill [in Star Wars], you could lie to yourself. You could find the pockets of joy, and turn a blind eye to the shit over there.”

 

Other

  • In 1999, Spielberg, then a co-owner of DreamWorks, was involved in a heated debate in which the studio proposed building on wetlands near Los Angeles, though development was later dropped for economic reasons.
  • In August 2007, Ai Weiwei, artistic consultant for the Beijing Olympic Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest,” accused those choreographing the Olympic opening ceremony, including Spielberg, of failing to live up to their responsibility as artists by allowing their work to be used by the Chinese government, which has suppressed human rights in China, including those of Ai’s family, for the purpose of “propaganda.” Ai said, “It’s disgusting. I don’t like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment.”

 

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille

 

Cecil Blount DeMille (August 12, 1881 – January 21, 1959) was an American filmmaker. Between 1914 and 1958, he made a total of 70 features, both silent and sound filmsHe is acknowledged as a founding father of the cinema of the United States and the most commercially successful producer-director in film history. His films were distinguished by their epic scale and by his cinematic showmanship. He made silent films of every genre: social dramas, comedies, Westerns, farces, morality plays, and historical pageants.

DeMille began his career as a stage actor in 1900. He later moved to writing and directing stage productions, some with Jesse Lasky, who was then a vaudeville producer. DeMille’s first film, The Squaw Man (1914), was also the first feature film shot in Hollywood. Its interracial love story made it a phenomenal hit and it “put Hollywood on the map.” The continued success of his productions led to the founding of Paramount Pictures with Lasky and Adolph Zukor. His first biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), was both a critical and financial success; it held the Paramount revenue record for twenty-five years.

In 1927, he directed The King of Kings, a biography of Jesus of Nazareth, which was acclaimed for its sensitivity and reached more than 800 million viewers. The Sign of the Cross (1932) was the first sound film to integrate all aspects of cinematic technique. Cleopatra (1934) was his first film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. After more than thirty years in film production, DeMille reached the pinnacle of his career with Samson and Delilah (1949), a biblical epic which did “an all-time record business.” Along with biblical and historical narratives, he also directed films oriented toward “neo-naturalism,” which tried to portray the laws of man fighting the forces of nature.

He went on to receive his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director for his circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. His last and most famous film, The Ten Commandments (1956), is currently the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. In addition to his Best Picture Award, he received an Academy Honorary Award for his film contributions, the Palme d’Or (posthumously) for Union Pacific, a DGA Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was also the first recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, which was later named in his honor.

 

Family, childhood, youth

Cecil Blount DeMille was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, while his parents were vacationing there, and grew up in Washington, North Carolina. His father, Henry Churchill de Mille (1853–1893), was a North Carolina-born dramatist and lay reader in the Episcopal Church, who had earlier begun a career as a playwright, writing his first play at age 15. His mother was the playwight and script writer Matilda Beatrice DeMille (née Samuel), whose parents were both of German Jewish heritage. She emigrated from England with her parents in 1871 when she was 18, and they settled in Brooklyn. Beatrice grew up in a middle-class English household. DeMille’s mother was related to British politician Herbert Louis Samuel.

DeMille’s parents met as members of a music and literary society in New York. Henry was a tall, red-headed student. Beatrice was intelligent, educated, forthright, and strong-willed. They were both born in 1853 and both loved the theater. When they married, Beatrice converted to Henry’s faith. Henry worked as a playwright, administrator, and faculty member during the early years of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, established in New York City in 1884. He built a house for his family in Wayne, New Jersey.

The family spent time in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, operating a private school in that town and attending Christ Episcopal Church. DeMille recalled that this church was the place where he visualized the story of his 1923 version of The Ten CommandmentsHenry read to his children nightly, both from the classics and from the Bible. DeMille studied Scripture his entire life and read the Bible during lunch in the studio commissary. He was the first to admit that he did not attend church services but he did profess an unshakable belief in prayer. He stated that his films were a continuation of his father’s work. “My ministry,” said DeMille, “has been to make religious movies and to get more people to read the Bible than anyone else ever has.”

In 1893, at the age of forty, Henry de Mille contracted typhoid fever and died suddenly, leaving Beatrice with three children, a house, and no savings. Beatrice had “enthusiastically supported” her husband’s theatrical aspirations. In his eulogy, she wrote:

“May your sons be as fine and as noble and good and honest as you were. May they follow in your steps.”

Within eight weeks of Henry’s death, Beatrice opened an acting workshop in her home, the Henry C. De Mille School for Girls. She later became the second female play broker on Broadway. DeMille attended Pennsylvania Military College in Chester, Pennsylvania from the age of fifteen. Both DeMille (Class of 1900) and his brother William (Class of 1901) also attended and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, which they attended on scholarship. The Academy later honored DeMille with an Alumni Achievement Award.

Career

Broadway

DeMille began his career as an actor on the Broadway stage in the theatrical company of Charles Frohman in 1900. His brother William was establishing himself as a playwright and sometimes invited him to collaborate. DeMille performed on stage with actors whom he would later direct in films: Charlotte WalkerMary Pickford, and Pedro de Cordoba. DeMille also produced and directed plays. DeMille found success in the spring of 1913 producing Reckless Age by Lee Wilson, a play about a high society girl wrongly accused of manslaughter starring Frederick Burton and Sydney ShieldsDeMille and his brother at times worked with the legendary impresario David Belasco, who had been a friend and collaborator of their father. Changes in the theater rendered DeMille’s melodramas obsolete before they were produced, and true theatrical success eluded him. By 1913 he was having difficulty supporting his wife and baby daughter.

 

Moving pictures

In July 1913 DeMille, Jesse Lasky, Sam Goldfish (later Samuel Goldwyn), and a group of East Coast businessmen created the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. On December 12, 1913, DeMille, his cast, and crew boarded a Southern Pacific train bound for Flagstaff via New Orleans. His tentative plan was to shoot a film in Arizona, but he disliked the quality of light he saw there. He continued to Los Angeles. Once there, he chose not to shoot in Edendale, where many studios were, but in Hollywood. He also flouted the dictum that a film should run twenty minutes. He made his first film run sixty minutes, as long as a short play. The Squaw Man (1914), co-directed by Oscar Apfel, was a sensation and it established the Lasky Company.

Silent era

 The first few years of the Lasky Company (soon to become Famous Players-Lasky) were spent in making films nonstop, literally writing the language of film. DeMille adapted Belasco’s dramatic lighting techniques to film technology, mimicking moonlight with U.S. cinema’s first attempts at “motivated lighting” in The Warrens of Virginia.

After five years and thirty hit films, DeMille became the American film industry’s most successful director. In the silent era, he was renowned for Male and Female (1919), Manslaughter (1921), The Volga Boatman (1926), and The Godless Girl (1928). DeMille’s trademark scenes included bathtubs, lion attacks, and Roman orgies. A number of his films featured scenes in two-color Technicolor.

The immense popularity of DeMille’s silent films enabled him to branch out into other areas. The Roaring Twenties were the boom years and DeMille took full advantage, opening the Mercury Aviation Company, one of America’s first commercial airlines. He was also a real estate speculator, an underwriter of political campaigns, and a Bank of America executive, approving loans for other filmmakers.

 

Sound era

When “talking pictures” were innovated in 1928, DeMille made a successful transition, offering his own innovations to the painful process; he devised a microphone boom and a soundproof camera blimp. He also popularized the camera crane.

DeMille made stars of unknown actors: Gloria SwansonBebe DanielsRod La RocqueWilliam BoydClaudette Colbert, and Charlton Heston. He also cast established stars such as Gary CooperRobert PrestonPaulette Goddard and Fredric March in multiple pictures. DeMille displayed a loyalty to his performers, casting them repeatedly. They included Henry WilcoxonJulia FayeJoseph SchildkrautIan KeithCharles BickfordTheodore RobertsAkim Tamiroff and William Boyd. DeMille was credited by actor Edward G. Robinson with saving his career following his eclipse in the Hollywood blacklist.

DeMille had a reputation for autocratic behavior on the set, singling out and berating extras who were not paying attention. A number of these displays were thought to be staged, however, as an exercise in discipline. He despised actors who were unwilling to take physical risks, especially when he had first demonstrated that the required stunt would not harm them.

This occurred with Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah. Mature refused to wrestle Jackie the Lion, even though DeMille had just tussled with the lion, proving that he was tame. DeMille told the actor that he was “one hundred percent yellow”. Paulette Goddard‘s refusal to risk personal injury in a scene involving fire in Unconquered cost her DeMille’s favor and a role in The Greatest Show on Earth.

DeMille was adept at directing “thousands of extras”, and many of his pictures include spectacular setpieces: the toppling of the pagan temple in Samson and Delilah; train wrecks in The Road to YesterdayUnion Pacific and The Greatest Show on Earth; the destruction of an airship in Madam Satan; and the parting of the Red Sea in both versions of The Ten Commandments.

DeMille first used three-strip Technicolor in North West Mounted Police (1940). Audiences liked its highly saturated color, so DeMille made no further black-and-white features.

Showmanship as director

DeMille was one of the first directors to become a celebrity in his own right. He cultivated the image of the omnipotent director, complete with megaphone, riding crop, and jodhpurs. From 1936 to 1944, DeMille hosted Lux Radio Theater, a weekly digest of current feature films.

DeMille was respected by his peers, yet his individual films were sometimes criticized. “Directorially, I think his pictures were the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in my life”, said director William Wellman. “But he put on pictures that made a fortune. In that respect, he was better than any of us.” Producer David O. Selznick wrote: “There has appeared only one Cecil B. DeMille. He is one of the most extraordinarily able showmen of modern times. However much I may dislike some of his pictures, it would be very silly of me, as a producer of commercial motion pictures, to demean for an instant his unparalleled skill as a maker of mass entertainment.”

DeMille appeared as himself in numerous films, including the M-G-M comedy Free and Easy. He often appeared in his coming-attraction trailers and narrated many of his later films, even stepping on screen to introduce The Ten Commandments. DeMille was immortalized in Billy Wilder‘s Sunset Boulevard when Gloria Swanson spoke the line: “All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my closeup.” DeMille plays himself in the film.

In the 1940s DeMille continued to please the public. He averaged one film a year; most of them centered on historical figures or Bible stories. His first attempt at a drama set within a semi-documentary frame was The Greatest Show on Earth, a saga of circus performers released in 1952. His experiment gained him a nomination for best director and won an Oscar for best picture.

 

The Ten Commandments

In 1954, DeMille began his last film, the production for which he is best remembered, The Ten Commandments.

On November 7, 1954, while in Egypt filming the Exodus sequence for The Ten Commandments, DeMille (who was seventy-three) climbed a 107-foot (33 m) ladder to the top of the massive Per Rameses set and suffered a serious heart attack. Ignoring his doctor’s orders, DeMille was back directing the film within a week. Although DeMille completed the film, his health was diminished by several more heart attacks. This film would be his last.

 

Unfulfilled projects

Because of his illness, DeMille asked his son-in-law, actor Anthony Quinn, to direct a remake of his 1938 film The Buccaneer. DeMille served as executive producer. Despite a cast led by Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, the 1958 film The Buccaneer was a disappointment.

In the months before his death, DeMille was researching a film biography of Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement. DeMille asked David Niven to star in the film, but it was never made. DeMille also was planning a film about the space race as well as another Biblical epic about the Book of Revelation.

 

Personal life

DeMille married Constance Adams on August 16, 1902 and had one child, Cecilia. The couple also adopted an orphan child, Katherine Lester, in the early 1920s; her father had been killed in World War Iand her mother had died of tuberculosis.

Katherine became an actress at Paramount Pictures, ultimately gaining his approval. In 1937 she married actor Anthony Quinn. In the 1920s the DeMilles adopted two sons, John and Richard, the latter of whom became a notable filmmaker, writer, and psychologist.

DeMille was a Freemason and a member of Prince of Orange Lodge #16 in New York City.

Cecil had an older brother William, and a sister Agnes who died in childhood. William later named a daughter after her, Agnes de Mille, the famed dancer-choreographer.

 

Politics

DeMille was a lifelong conservative Republican activist. He greatly admired Herbert Hoover. In 1944, he was the master of ceremonies at the massive rally organized by David O. Selznick in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the DeweyBricker ticket as well as Governor Earl Warren of California, who would become Dewey’s running mate in 1948 and later the Chief Justice of the United States. The gathering drew 93,000, with short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney. Among those in attendance were Ann SothernGinger RogersRandolph ScottAdolphe MenjouGary Cooper, and Walter Pidgeon. Though the rally drew a good response, most Hollywood celebrities who took a public position sided with the RooseveltTruman ticket.

In 1954, Secretary of the Air Force Harold E. Talbott asked DeMille for help in designing the cadet uniforms at the newly established United States Air Force Academy. DeMille’s designs, most notably his design of the distinctive cadet parade uniform, won praise from Air Force and Academy leadership, were ultimately adopted, and are still worn by cadets.

In the early 1950s, DeMille was recruited by Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner to serve on the board of the anti-communist National Committee for a Free Europe, the public face of the organization that oversaw the Radio Free Europe service.

 

Race and religion

DeMille drew on his Jewish and Protestant heritage to convey a message of tolerance. The Crusades was the first film to show accord between Christians and Muslims. DeMille received more than a dozen awards from Jewish religious and cultural groups, including B’nai B’rith.

In 1954, he was seeking approval for a lavish remake of his 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments. He went before the Paramount board of directors, which was mostly Jewish-American. The members rejected his proposal, even though his last two films, Samson and Delilah and The Greatest Show on Earth, had been record-breaking hits. Adolph Zukor, the chairman of the board, rebuked the members, saying: “We have just lived through a war where our people were systematically executed. Here we have a man who made a film praising the Jewish people, that tells of Samson, one of the legends of our Scripture. Now he wants to make the life of Moses. We should get down on our knees to Cecil and say ‘Thank you!’” DeMille did not have an exact budget proposal for the project, and it promised to be the most costly in U.S. film history. Still, the members unanimously approved it.

 

Death

In the early hours of January 21, 1959, DeMille died of a heart ailment.

DeMille’s funeral was held on January 23 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. He was entombed at the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now known as Hollywood Forever).

 

Legacy

DeMille received hundreds of awards, commendations, and honors in his lifetime.

Posthumous honors

For his contribution to the motion picture and radio industry, DeMille has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The first, for radio contributions, is located at 6240 Vine Street. The second star is located at 1725 Vine Street.

Two schools have been named after him: Cecil B. DeMille Middle School, in Long Beach, California, closed and demolished in 2007 to make way for a new high school; and Cecil B. DeMille Elementary School in Midway City, California.

The former film building at Chapman University in Orange, California is named in honor of DeMille. The Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts now resides in Marion Knotts Studios.

The Golden Globe‘s annual Cecil B. DeMille Award recognizes lifetime achievement in the film industry.

The moving image collection of Cecil B. DeMille is held at the Academy Film Archive and includes home movies, outtakes, and never-before-seen test footage.

During the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin refers to himself in one instance as “Cecil B. DeAldrin,” as a humorous nod to DeMille.

Ava Gardner

Ava Lavinia Gardner (December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990) was an American actress and singer.

She was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1941 and appeared mainly in small roles until she drew attention with her performance in The Killers (1946). She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mogambo (1953), and also received BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for other films.

Gardner appeared in several high-profile films from the 1940s to 1970s, including The Hucksters (1947), Show Boat (1951), Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959), 55 Days at Peking (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), The Night of the Iguana(1964), The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), Earthquake (1974), and The Cassandra Crossing (1976). Gardner continued to act regularly until 1986, four years before her death in London in 1990 at the age of 67.

 

Early life

Gardner was born near the farming community of Grabtown, North CarolinaShe was the youngest of seven children. She had two older brothers, Raymond and Melvin, and four older sisters, Beatrice, Elsie Mae, Inez, and Myra. Her parents, Mary Elizabeth “Molly” (née Baker) and Jonas Bailey Gardner, were poor cotton and tobacco farmers. While there are varying accounts of her background, Gardner’s only documented ancestry was English.

She was raised in the Baptist faith of her mother. While the children were still young, the Gardners lost their property, forcing Jonas Gardner to work at a sawmill and Molly to begin working as a cook and housekeeper at a dormitory for teachers at the nearby Brogden School. When Gardner was seven years old, the family decided to try their luck in a larger city, Newport News, Virginia, where Mollie Gardner found work managing a boarding house for the city’s many shipworkers. While in Newport News, Gardner’s father became ill and died from bronchitis in 1938, when Ava was 15 years old. After Jonas Gardner’s death, the family moved to Rock Ridge near Wilson, North Carolina, where Mollie Gardner ran another boarding house for teachers. Gardner attended high school in Rock Ridge and she graduated from there in 1939. She then attended secretarial classes at Atlantic Christian College in Wilson for about a year.

 

Early career

Gardner was visiting her sister Beatrice in New York in 1941 when Beatrice’s husband Larry Tarr, a professional photographer, offered to take her portrait. He was so pleased with the results that he displayed the finished product in the front window of his Tarr Photography Studio on Fifth Avenue.

Loews Theatres legal clerk, Barnard Duhan, spotted Gardner’s photo in Tarr’s studio. At the time, Duhan often posed as an MGM talent scout to meet girls, using the fact that MGM was a subsidiary of Loews. Duhan entered Tarr’s and tried to get Gardner’s number, but was rebuffed by the receptionist. Duhan made the offhand comment, “Somebody should send her info to MGM”, and the Tarrs did so immediately. Shortly after, Gardner, who at the time was a student at Atlantic Christian College, traveled to New York to be interviewed at MGM’s New York office by Al Altman, head of MGM’s New York talent department. With cameras rolling, he directed the 18-year-old to walk toward the camera, turn and walk away, then rearrange some flowers in a vase. He did not attempt to record her voice because her Southern accent made it almost impossible for him to understand her. Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, however, sent a telegram to Altman: “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, She’s terrific!” She was offered a standard contract by MGM, and left school for Hollywood in 1941 with her sister Beatrice accompanying her. MGM’s first order of business was to provide her with a speech coach, as her Carolina drawl was nearly incomprehensible to them.

Films

After five years of bit parts, mostly at MGM and many of them uncredited, Gardner came to prominence in the Mark Hellinger-produced smash-hit film noir The Killers(1946), playing the femme fatale Kitty Collins.

Other films include The Hucksters (1947), Show Boat (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), Lone Star (1952), Mogambo(1953), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Bhowani Junction (1956), The Sun Also Rises (1957), and On the Beach (1959). A particularly notable role was in The Barefoot Contessa as the doomed beauty Maria Vargas, a fiercely independent woman who goes from Spanish dancer to international film star with the help of a Hollywood director played by Humphrey Bogart, with tragic consequences.

Gardner starred as Guinevere in 1953’s Knights of the Round Table, opposite actor Robert Taylor as Sir Lancelot. Indicative of her sophistication, she portrayed a duchess, a baroness, and other ladies of royal lineage in her films of the 1950s.

Off-camera, she could be witty and pithy, as in her assessment of director John Ford, who directed Mogambo (“The meanest man on earth. Thoroughly evil. Adored him!”).

She was billed between Charlton Heston and David Niven in 55 Days at Peking in 1963, which was set in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The following year, she played her last major leading role in a critically acclaimed film, The Night of the Iguana(1964), based upon a Tennessee Williams play and starring Richard Burton as an atheist clergyman and Deborah Kerr as a gentle artist traveling with her aged poet grandfather. John Huston directed the movie in Puerto VallartaMexico, insisting on making the film in black and white, a decision he later regretted because of the vivid colors of the flora. Gardner received billing below Burton but above Kerr. She was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

She next appeared again with Burt Lancaster, her co-star from The Killers, this time along with Kirk Douglas and Fredric March, in Seven Days in May (1964), a thriller about an attempted military takeover of the US government. Gardner played a former love interest of Lancaster’s who could have been instrumental in Douglas’s preventing a coup against the President of the United States.

John Huston chose Gardner for the part of Sarah, the wife of Abraham (played by George C. Scott), in the Dino De Laurentiis production The Bible: In the Beginning…, which was released in 1966. In a 1964 interview, she explained why she accepted the role:

He [Huston] had more faith in me than I did myself. Now I’m glad I listened, for it is a challenging role and a very demanding one. I start out as a young wife and age through various periods, forcing me to adjust psychologically to each age. It is a complete departure for me and most intriguing. In this role, I must create a character, not just play one.

Two years later, in 1966, Gardner briefly sought the role of Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate (1967). She reportedly called Nichols and said, “I want to see you! I want to talk about this Graduate thing!” Nichols never seriously considered her for the part, preferring to cast a younger woman (Anne Bancroft was 36 while Gardner was 43), but he did visit her hotel, where he later recounted that “she sat at a little French desk with a telephone, she went through every movie star cliché. She said, ‘All right, let’s talk about your movie. First of all, I strip for nobody.'”

Gardner moved to London in 1968, undergoing an elective hysterectomy to allay her worries of contracting the uterine cancer that had claimed the life of her mother. That year, she appeared in Mayerling, in which she played the supporting role of Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Austria opposite James Mason as Emperor Franz Joseph I.

She appeared in a number of disaster films throughout the 1970s, notably Earthquake (1974) with Heston, The Cassandra Crossing (1976) with Lancaster, and the Canadian movie City on Fire (1979). She appeared briefly as Lillie Langtry at the end of The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), and in The Blue Bird (1976). Her last movie was Regina Roma (1982), a direct-to-video release. In the 1980s she acted primarily on television, including the mini-series remake of The Long, Hot Summer and in a story arc on Knots Landing (both 1985).

Personal life

Marriages

Soon after Gardner arrived in Los Angeles, she met fellow MGM contract player Mickey Rooney; they married on January 10, 1942. The ceremony was held in the remote town of Ballard, California, because MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer was worried that fans would desert Rooney’s Andy Hardy movie series if it became known that their star was married. Largely due to Rooney’s serial adultery, Gardner divorced him in 1943, but agreed not to reveal the cause so as not to affect his career.

Gardner’s second marriage was brief as well, to jazz musician and bandleader Artie Shaw, from 1945 to 1946. Shaw had previously been married to Lana Turner. Gardner’s third and last marriage was to singer and actor Frank Sinatra, from 1951 to 1957. She would later say in her autobiography that he was the love of her life. Sinatra left his wife, Nancy, for Gardner and their subsequent marriage made headlines.

Sinatra was blasted by gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, the Hollywood establishment, the Roman Catholic Church, and by his fans for leaving his wife for a noted femme fatale. Gardner used her considerable influence, particularly with Harry Cohn, to get Sinatra cast in his Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity(1953). That role and the award revitalized both Sinatra’s acting and singing careers.

The Gardner-Sinatra marriage was tumultuous. Gardner confided to Artie Shaw, her second husband, that “With him [Frank] it’s impossible…it’s like being with a woman. He’s so gentle. It’s as though he thinks I’ll break, as though I’m a piece of Dresden china and he’s gonna hurt me.” During their marriage Gardner became pregnant twice, but aborted both pregnancies. “MGM had all sorts of penalty clauses about their stars having babies,” according to her autobiography, which was published eight months after her death. Gardner remained good friends with Sinatra for the rest of her life.

Relationships

Gardner became a friend of businessman and aviator Howard Hughes in the early to mid-1940s, and the relationship lasted into the 1950s. Gardner stated in her autobiography, Ava: My Story, that she was never in love with Hughes, but he was in and out of her life for about 20 years. Hughes’ trust in Gardner was what kept their relationship alive. She described him as “painfully shy, completely enigmatic and more eccentric…than anyone [she] had ever met.”

After Gardner divorced Sinatra in 1957, she headed for Spain, where she began a friendship with writer Ernest Hemingway (she had starred in an adaptation of his The Sun Also Rises that year, and five years earlier, Hemingway had successfully urged producer Darryl F. Zanuck to cast Gardner in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a film which adapted several of his short stories). While staying with Hemingway at his villa in San Francisco de Paula in Havana, Cuba, Gardner once swam alone without a swimsuit in his pool. After watching her, Hemingway ordered his staff: “The water is not to be emptied”. Her friendship with Hemingway led to her becoming a fan of bullfighting and bullfighters, such as Luis Miguel Dominguín, who became her lover. “It was a sort of madness, honey”, she later said of the time.

Gardner was also involved in a relationship with her live-in boyfriend and companion, American actor Benjamin Tatar, who worked in Spain as a foreign-language dubbing director. Tatar later wrote an autobiography in which he discussed his relationship with Gardner, though the book was never published.

Religion and political views

Although Gardner was exposed to Christianity throughout her early years, she identified herself as an atheist later in life. Religion never played a positive role in her life, according to biographers and Gardner herself, in her autobiography Ava: My Story. Her friend Zoe Sallis, who met her on the set of The Bible: In the Beginning…when Gardner was living with John Huston in Puerto Vallarta, said Gardner always seemed unconcerned about religion. When Sallis asked her about religion once, Gardner replied, “It doesn’t exist.” Another factor that attributed to this was the death of Gardner’s father in her younger days, stating, “Nobody wanted to know Daddy when he was dying. He was so alone. He was scared. I could see the fear in his eyes when he was smiling. I went to see the preacher, the guy who’d baptized me. I begged him to come and visit Daddy, just to talk to him, you know? Give him a blessing or something. But he never did. He never came. God, I hated him. Cold-ass bastards like that ought to … I don’t know … they should be in some other racket, I know that. I had no time for religion after that. I never prayed. I never said another prayer.” Concerning politics, Gardner was a lifelong Democrat.

Death

After a lifetime of smoking, Gardner suffered from emphysema, as well as an unidentified auto-immune disorder. Two strokes in 1986 left her partially paralyzed and bedridden. Although Gardner could afford her medical expenses, Sinatra wanted to pay for her visit to a specialist in the United States, and she allowed him to make the arrangements for a medically staffed private plane. She suffered a bad fall a week before she died, and she lay on the floor, alone and unable to move, until her housekeeper returned. Her last words (to her housekeeper) were reportedly “I’m so tired”. She died of pneumonia at the age of 67, at her London home, 34 Ennismore Gardens, where she had lived since 1968.

Gardner was buried in the Sunset Memorial Park, Smithfield, North Carolina, next to her brothers and their parents, Jonas (1878–1938) and Molly Gardner (1883–1943). The town of Smithfield now has an Ava Gardner Museum.

 

Julie London

Julie London (born Julie PeckGayle Peckor Nancy Peck (sources differ); September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned over forty years. She was noted for her smoky voice and languid vocal style. She released 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being “Cry Me a River“, which she introduced in 1955. She also appeared as a guest on several talk shows and as a panelist on game shows.

London’s 35-year acting career began in movies in 1944, and included roles co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Gary Cooper in Man of the West (1958) and with Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959). She achieved continuing success in the 1970s television show Emergency! (1972–79), in which she appeared with her husband, Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb. London played the role of Nurse Dixie McCall, her last acting role.

Early life

An only child, Julie London was born on September 26, 1926, in Santa Rosa, California, the daughter of Josephine (née Taylor; 1905 – 1976) and Jack Peck (1901 – 1977), who were a vaudeville song-and-dance team. At one time, her mother worked in a pharmacy. In 1929, when she was three years old, her family moved to San Bernardino, California, where she made her professional singing debut on her parents’ radio program. In 1941, when she was 14, her family moved to Hollywood, California. Shortly after that, she began appearing in films. She graduated from the Hollywood Professional School in 1945.

Career

Singing

London began singing under the name Gayle Peck in her teens. She was discovered by talent agent Sue Carol (wife of actor Alan Ladd), while working as an elevator operator. Her early film career did not include any singing parts.

London recorded 32 albums in a career that began in 1955 with a live performance at the 881 Club in Los Angeles. Billboard named her the most popular female vocalist for 1955, 1956, and 1957. She was the subject of a 1957 Life cover article in which she was quoted as saying, “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

London’s debut recordings were for the Bethlehem Records label. While searching for a record deal, she recorded four tracks which would later be included on the album Bethlehem’s Girlfriends in 1955. Bobby Troup was one of the session musicians on the album. London recorded the standards, “Don’t Worry About Me”, “Motherless Child“, “A Foggy Day“, and “You’re Blasé“.

London’s most famous single, “Cry Me a River“, was written by her high-school classmate Arthur Hamilton and produced by Troup. The recording became a million-seller after its release in December 1955, and also sold on reissue in April 1983 from the attention brought by a Mari Wilson cover. London performed the song in the film The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), and her recording gained later attention in the films Passion of Mind (2000) and V for Vendetta (2006). Her cover of the Ohio Express song “Yummy Yummy Yummy” was featured on the HBO television series Six Feet Under and appears on its soundtrack album. London’s “Must Be Catchin'” was featured in the 2011 premiere episode of the ABC series Pan Am. Her last recording was “My Funny Valentine” for the soundtrack of the Burt Reynolds film Sharky’s Machine (1981).

 

Film

Though primarily remembered as a singer, London also made more than 20 films and she was a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II. One of her strongest performances came in Man of the West (1958), starring Gary Cooper and directed by Anthony Mann, in which her character, the film’s only woman, is abused and humiliated by an outlaw gang.

Television

In the 1950s, London appeared in a television advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes, singing the “Marlboro Song”. She and second husband Bobby Troup appeared as panelists on the game show Tattletales several times in the 1970s. In 1978, London appeared in TV advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream.

She performed on many television variety series, and also in dramatic roles, including guest appearances on Rawhide (1960), Laramie (1960),  I Spy (1965) and The Big Valley (1968).

On May 28, 1964, she and Troup recorded a one-hour program for Japanese television in Japan. London sang 13 of her classic songs including “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “Lonesome Road”, and “Cry Me a River”.

Emergency!

 She remained close with ex-husband Jack Webb, and in 1972 he cast London and Troup in his TV series Emergency!, on which he was executive producer. London played Rampart General Hospital’s Chief Emergency Room Nurse Dixie McCall, while Troup was cast as emergency room physician Dr. Joe Early. They also appeared in the same roles in an episode of the Webb-produced series Adam-12.

The on-screen friendship between London, Troup, Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe, who played paramedics Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto, carried over into real-life. London maintained her friendship with Mantooth and Tighe after the series ended.

In 1977, after a six-year run of 128 episodes, Emergency! was cancelled, despite good ratings. London, the only actress to appear in every episode of the series, was invited back for two of the four subsequent TV movie specials, before the show finally ended in 1979. Later, Webb offered London a position as executive producer of future TV projects, but she chose to retire from active TV work to spend more time with her family.

Personal life

Marriages and family

In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). Their relationship was based partly on their common love of jazz. They had two daughters, Stacy and Lisa Webb. London and Webb divorced in 1954. Daughter Stacy Webb died in a traffic accident in 1996.

In 1959, London married jazz composer and musician Bobby Troup and they remained married until his death in 1999. They had one daughter, Kelly Troup, who died in 2002, and twin sons, Jody and Reese Troup. Jody Troup died in 2010. London was also the stepmother of Cynthia and Ronne Troup, Bobby’s daughters from his marriage to Cynthia Hare.

Death

Julie London was a private, reserved woman, who was also a chain smoker from the age of 16. She suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health for five years. She died in the early morning hours of October 18, 2000, in Encino, California, age 74. London was buried next to Troup in the Courts of Remembrance Columbarium of Providence, at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for recording) is at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.

 

Tom Petty

Tom Petty was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record
producer best known as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the
Heartbreakers. He was also a member and co-founder of the late 1980s
supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, and his early band Mudcrutch.
Petty recorded a number of hit singles with the Heartbreakers and as a solo
artist, many of which are mainstays on adult contemporary and classic rock
radio. His music became popular among younger generations. In his
career, Petty sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one
of the best-selling music artists of all time. In 2002, Petty was inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Petty suffered cardiac arrest early in the morning of October 2, 2017, and
died that night at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California.

 

Biography

Early life

Petty was born October 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida, the first of two
sons of Kitty (Avery) and Earl Petty. His interest in rock and roll music
began at age ten when he met Elvis Presley. In the summer of 1961, his
uncle was working on the set of Presley’s film Follow That Dream in nearby
Ocala, and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot. He instantly
became an Elvis Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday, he was
greeted by his friend Keith Harben, and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot
for a collection of Elvis 45s.

In a 2006 interview, Petty said that he knew he wanted to be in a band the
moment he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys— there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends
and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports…. I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place.

Petty dropped out of high school at age 17 to play bass with his newly formed band. In an interview with the CBC in 2014, Petty stated that the Rolling Stones were “my punk music.” Petty credited the group with inspiring him by demonstrating that he and musicians like him could make it in rock and roll. One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, a fellow Gainesville resident, who would later join the Eagles.

As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew for the University of Florida, but never attended as a student. An Ogeechee lime tree that he planted while employed at the
university is now called the Tom Petty tree (Petty stated that he did not recall planting any trees). He also worked briefly as a gravedigger. Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father, who found it hard to accept that his son was “a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts,” and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Petty was extremely close to his mother, and remained close to his brother,
Bruce.

 

1976–1987: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Shortly after embracing his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known
as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch. Although the band, which featured future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, were popular in Gainesville, their recordings went unnoticed by a mainstream audience. Their only single, “Depot Street,” was released in 1975 by Shelter Records, but failed to chart.

After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career. Tench decided to form his own group, whose sound Petty appreciated. Eventually, Petty and Campbell collaborated with Tench and fellow members Ron Blair and Stan Lynch, resulting in the first lineup of the Heartbreakers. Their eponymous debut album gained minute popularity
among American audiences, achieving greater success in Britain. The single “Breakdown” was re-released in 1977, and peaked at #40 in early 1978 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren. The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC Records.

Their second album, You’re Gonna Get It!, marked the band’s first Top 40 album and featured the singles “Need to Know” and “Listen To Her Heart.” Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, quickly went platinum, selling nearly two million copies; it includes their breakthrough singles Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “Refugee.”

In September 1979, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at aMusicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. Their rendition of “Cry To Me” was featured on the resulting NoNukes album.

1981’s Hard Promises became a top-ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single “The Waiting.” The album also featured Petty’s first duet, “Insider” with Stevie Nicks.
Bass player Ron Blair quit the group and was replaced on the fifth album (1982’s Long After Dark) by Howie Epstein; the resulting line-up would last until 1994.

In 1985, the band participated in Live Aid, playing four songs at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium. Southern Accents was also released in 1985. This album included the hit “Don’t Come Around Here No More,”which was produced by Dave Stewart. The song’s video featured Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter, mocking and chasing Alice from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake. The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! and to an invitation from Bob Dylan—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers joined him on his True Confessions Tour. They also played some dates with the Grateful Dead in 1986 and 1987. Also in 1987, the
group released Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) which includes “Jammin’ Me” which Petty wrote with Dylan.

 

 

1988–1991: Traveling Wilburys and solo career

In 1988, Petty joined George Harrison’s group, the Traveling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The band’s first song,”Handle With Care,” was intended as a B-side of one of Harrison’s singles, but was judged too good for that purpose and the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. A second Wilburys album, mischievously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990. The album was named Vol. 3 as a response to a series of bootlegged studio sessions being sold as Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2. Petty incorporated
Traveling Wilburys songs into his live shows, consistently playing “Handle With Care” in shows from 2003 to 2006, and for his 2008 tour adding “surprises” such as “End of the Line” to the set list.

In 1989, Petty released Full Moon Fever, which featured hits “Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” It was nominally his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians participated: Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and fellow Wilburys Roy Orbison and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for ” Won’t Back Down,”but they were actually performed by Phil Jones).

Petty and the Heartbreakers reformed in 1991 and released Into the Great Wide Open, which was co-produced by Lynne and included the hit singles “Learning To Fly,” and “Into the Great Wide Open,” the latter featuring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway in the music video.

Before leaving MCA Records, Petty and the Heartbreakers got together to record, live in the studio, two new songs for a Greatest Hits package: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air.” This was Stan Lynch’s last recorded performance with the Heartbreakers.

Petty commented that Lynch, ” left right after the session without really saying goodbye.” The package went on to sell over ten million copies, therefore receiving diamond certification by the RIAA.

 

1991–2017: Move to Warner Bros. Records

In 1989, while still under contract to MCA, Petty secretly signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records, to which the Traveling Wilburys had been signed. His first album on his new label, 1994’s Wildflowers (Petty’s second of three solo albums), included the singles “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “You Wreck Me,” “It’s Good to Be King,”and “A Higher Place.” The album, produced by Rick Rubin, sold over three million copies in the United States.

In 1996, Petty, with the Heartbreakers, released a soundtrack to the movie She’s the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. The album’s singles were “Walls (Circus)” featuring Lindsey Buckingham, “Climb that Hill,”and a song written by Lucinda Williams, “Change the Locks.” The album also included a cover of “Asshole,” a song by Beck. The same year, the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained (provisionally entitled “Petty Cash,” for which Cash would win a Grammy for Best Country Album (Cash would later cover Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” on American III: Solitary Man).

In 1999, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their last album with Rubin at the helm, Echo. Two songs were released as singles in the U.S., “Room at the Top”and “Free Girl Now.” The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played “Won’t Back Down” at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The following year, they played “Taxman,””I Need You,” and “Handle with Care” (joined for the last by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honor of Petty’s friend and former bandmate George Harrison.

Petty’s 2002 release, The Last DJ, was an album-length critique of the practices within the music industry. The title track, inspired by Los Angeles radio personality Jim Ladd, bemoaned the end of the freedom that radio DJs once had to personally select songs for their station’s playlists. The album was a commercial success, and peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States.

In 2005, Petty began hosting his own show “Buried Treasure”on XM Satellite Radio, on which he shared selections from his personal record collection. In February 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers agreed to be the headline act at the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Following that announcement came the itinerary for Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “30th Anniversary Tour.” Special guests included Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam,
the Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio, the Derek Trucks Band, and the Black Crowes (who also opened for Petty on their 2005 Summer Tour). Nicks would join Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage for a selection of songs, notably the rendition of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

In July 2006, Petty released a solo album titled Highway Companion, whichincluded the hit “Saving Grace.” It debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200, which was Petty’s highest chart position since the introduction of the Nielsen SoundScan system for tracking album sales in 1991. Highway Companion was briefly promoted on the tour with the Heartbreakers in 2006, with performances of “Saving Grace,” “Square One,” “Down South,”
and “Flirting with Time.&” In 2006, the American Broadcasting Company hired Petty to do the music for its National Basketball Association playoffs coverage.

During the summer of 2007, Petty reunited with his old bandmates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band, Mudcrutch. The band originally formed in 1967 in Gainesville, Florida, before relocating to California where they released one single in 1974 before breaking up. The quintet recorded a self-titled new album of 14 songs that was released on
April 29, 2008 (on iTunes, an additional song “Special Place,” was available if the album was pre-ordered). The band supported the album with a brief tour of California in the spring of 2008.

In 2007, artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Lenny Kravitz, and Paul McCartney paid tribute to Fats Domino on the double-CD covers set, Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. The album’s sales helped buy instruments for students in New Orleans public schools, and they contributed to the building of a community center in the city’s Hurricane Katrina-damaged Ninth Ward. Petty and the Heartbreakers contributed a critically acclaimed cover of “I’m Walkin'” to the package.

In January 2008, it was announced that the band would be embarking on a North American Tour that was set to start on May 30, following their appearance at Super Bowl XLII. Steve Winwood served as the opening act, who joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage at select shows, starting on June 6, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Winwood performed his Spencer Davis Group hit “Gimme Some Lovin’,” and occasionally he
performed his Blind Faith hit “Can’t Find My Way Home” before it.

On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium. They played “American Girl,” ” I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream,”in that order. I Won’t Back Down”was used in the closing credits of the coverage on BBC Two.

In November 2009, Petty told Rolling Stone that he was working on a new album with the Heartbreakers, saying, “It’s blues-based. Some of the tunesare longer, more jam-y kind of music. A couple of tracks really sound like the Allman Brothers—not the songs but the atmosphere of the band.”

The band’s twelfth album, Mojo, was released on June 15, 2010, and reached number two on the Billboard 200 album chart. To promote the record, the band appeared as the musical guests on the finale of the 35th season of Saturday Night Live on May 15, 2010.
The release of Mojo was followed by a North American summer tour, which began on June 1, 2010. In spring 2012, the band went on a world tour that included their first European dates in 20 years and their first ever concerts in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Prior to the tour, five of the band’s guitars, including two owned by Petty, were stolen from the band’s practice space in Culver City, California in April 2010. The items were recovered by Los Angeles police the next week.

On July 29, 2014, Reprise Records released Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ thirteenth studio album, Hypnotic Eye. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album to ever top the chart. On November 20, 2015, a new channel called Tom Petty Radio debuted on SiriusXM.

 

Acting career

Petty’s first appearance in film took place in 1978, when he had a cameo in FM. He later had a small part in 1987’s Made in Heaven and appeared in several episodes of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show between 1987 and 1990, playing himself as one of Garry Shandling’s neighbors. Petty was also featured in Shandling’s other show, The Larry Sanders Show, as one of the story within a story final guests. In the episode, Petty gets bumped from
the show and nearly comes to blows with Greg Kinnear.

Petty appeared in the 1997 film The Postman, directed by and starring Kevin Costner, as the Bridge City Mayor (from the dialogue it is implied that he is playing a future history version of himself). In 2002, he appeared on The Simpsons in the episode “How I Spent My
Strummer Vacation,” along with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer. In it, Petty spoofed himself as a tutor to Homer Simpson on the art of lyric writing, composing a brief song about a drunk girl driving down the road while concerned with the state of public schools. Later in the episode, he loses a toe during a riot.

Petty had a recurring role as the voice of Elroy & “Lucky” Kleinschmidt in the animated comedy series King of the Hill from 2004 to 2009.In 2010, Petty made a five-second cameo appearance with comedian Andy Samberg in a musical video titled “Great Day” featured on the bonus DVD as part of The Lonely Island’s new album Turtleneck Chain.

 

Views on artistic control

 

Petty was known as a staunch guardian of his artistic control and artistic freedom. In 1979, he was involved in a legal dispute when ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. He refused to be transferred to another record label without his consent. In May 1979, he filed for bankruptcy and was signed to the new MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.

In early 1981, the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, which would become Hard Promises, was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan’s Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack. This so-called “superstar pricing” was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98. Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press and the issue became a popular cause among music fans. Non-delivery of the album and naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase.

In 1987, Petty sued tire company B.F. Goodrich for $1 million for using a song very similar to his song “Mary’s New Car” in a TV commercial. The ad agency that produced the commercial had previously sought permission to use Petty’s song but was refused. A judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the ad and the suit was later settled out of court.

Some have claimed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers single, “Dani California,” released in May 2006, is very similar to Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Petty told Rolling Stone, “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ‘n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took ‘American Girl’ for their song ‘Last Nite,’ and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you’ … If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe [I’d sue]. But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”

In January 2015, it was revealed that Petty and Jeff Lynne would receive royalties from Sam Smith’s song “Stay with Me” after its writers acknowledged similarities between it and “Won’t Back Down.” Petty and co-composer Lynne were awarded 12.5% of the royalties from “Stay with Me,” and the names of Petty, Lynne, joined James John Napier (known
professionally as Jimmy Napes) in the ASCAP song credit. Petty clarified that he did not believe Smith plagiarized him, saying, “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.”

 

Personal life

Petty married Jane Benyo in 1974, and they divorced in 1996. Benyo disclosed to Stevie Nicks that she had met Petty at “the age of seventeen.” Nicks misheard Benyo, leading to Nicks’ song “Edge of Seventeen.” Petty and Benyo had two daughters; Adria is a director, and AnnaKim Violette an artist. Petty married Dana York on June 3, 2001, and had a stepson, Dylan, from York’s earlier marriage.

In May 1987, an arsonist set fire to Petty’s house in Encino, California. Firefighters were able to salvage the basement recording studio and the original tapes stored there, as well as his Gibson Dove acoustic guitar. His signature gray top hat, however, was destroyed. Petty later rebuilt the house with fire-resistant materials.

Death

Petty was found unconscious at his home, not breathing and in full cardiac arrest, early in the morning of Monday, October 2, 2017. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, where he died at 8:40 pm PDT that evening

After reports of Petty’s hospitalization, premature reports of his death spread quickly and widely, and without official denial or confirmation, continued throughout the day until the band’s management issued official confirmation about two hours after Petty’s actual death Monday evening. While the official announcement said Petty collapsed early Monday morning, original reports claimed the incident happened Sunday night.

 

Equipment

Petty owned and used a number of guitars over the years. From 1976 to 1982, his main instrument was a sunburst 1964 Fender Stratocaster. He also used a number of Rickenbacker guitars from 1979 onward, notably a 1965 Rose Morris 1993 and 1987 reissue of the Rose Morris 1997, a 1967 360/12 and 1989 660/12TP. The Rickenbacker 660/12TP was designed by Petty (specifically the neck) and featured his signature from 1991 to 1997.

For acoustic guitars, Petty had a signature C.F. Martin HD-40, and wrote virtually all of his songs on a Gibson Dove acoustic saved from his 1987 house fire. He also used a Gibson J-200 in a natural finish and a late 1970s Guild D25 12-string acoustic. Petty’s later amplifier setup featured two Fender Vibro-King 60-watt combos.

 

Awards and honors

In 1994, You Got Lucky, a Petty tribute album featuring such bands as Everclear and Silkworm was released. In April 1996, Petty received the UCLA’s George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. The next month, Petty won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Golden Note Award.

 

Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, for their contribution to the recording industry. In December 2001, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York. The same year, Conversations with Tom Petty, an oral history/biography composed of interviews conducted in 2004 and 2005 with Petty by music journalist Paul Zollo was published (ISBN 1-84449- 815-8).

Petty received the Billboard Century Award, the organization’s highest honor for creative achievement, at a ceremony on December 6, 2005, during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In September 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida, where he and his bandmates either lived or grew up. From July 2006 until 2007 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items; much of the
content was donated by Petty during a visit to his home by some of the Hall’s curatorial staff.

Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary film on Petty’s career titled Runnin’ Down a Dream premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2007.

The Nelsons

 

The popularity of musician Ricky Nelson grew out of a popular American sitcom that aired on ABC from October 3, 1952 through March 26, 1966.The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred the real-life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series stars Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David and Eric “Ricky” Nelson. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor, “Thorny.”

The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US television history.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made the Nelsons’ younger son, Rick or Ricky, into a music teen idol. Ozzie realized the impact his musically gifted son could bring to the series, and went on to write storylines featuring Rick singing. Rick first sang in the April 10, 1957, episode, “Ricky the Drummer,” performing a version of Fats Domino’s hit, “I’m Walkin’,” and later signed a recording contract with Domino’s label, Imperial Records. Subsequent shows that aired after Rick became one of the nation’s most successful musicians were some of the show’s highest-rated episodes.

 

Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson or Rick Nelson, was an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and actor, starring alongside his family in the long-running television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966) as well as co-starring alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’s Western feature film, Rio Bravo (1959). He placed 53 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973, including Poor Little Fool, which holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on Billboard magazine’s then newly created Hot 100 chart. He recorded nineteen additional top-ten hits, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. In 1996, he was ranked #49 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

Nelson began his entertainment career in 1949, playing himself in the radio sitcom series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and in 1952 appeared in his first feature film, Here Come the Nelsons. In 1957, he recorded his first single, debuted as a singer on the television version of the sitcom, and recorded a number one album, Ricky. In 1958, Nelson recorded his first number one single, Poor Little Fool, and in 1959 received a Golden Globe “Most Promising Male Newcomer” nomination after starring in Rio Bravo. A few films followed, and when the television series was cancelled in 1966, Nelson made occasional appearances as a guest star on various television programs.

Nelson and Sharon Kristin Harmon were married on April 20, 1963, and divorced in December 1982. They had four children: Tracy Kristine, twin sons Gunnar Eric and Matthew Gray, and Sam Hilliard. On February 14, 1981, a son (Eric Crewe) was born to Nelson and Georgeann Crewe. A blood test in 1985 confirmed that Nelson was the child’s father. Nelson was engaged to Helen Blair at the time of his death in an airplane crash on December 31, 1985.

Ricky Nelson was born on May 8, 1940, at 1:25 p.m. at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey. He was the second son of big band leader Ozzie Nelson, who was of half Swedish descent, and his wife, big band vocalist Harriet Hilliard Nelson (née Peggy Louise Snyder). Harriett remained in Englewood, New Jersey, with her newborn and her older son David while Ozzie toured the nation with the Nelson orchestra. The Nelsons bought a two-story colonial house in Tenafly, New Jersey, and, six months after the purchase, moved with son David to Hollywood, California, where Ozzie and Harriet were slated to appear in the 1941-42 season of Red Skelton’s The Raleigh Cigarette Hour; Ricky remained in Tenafly in the care of his paternal grandmother. In November 1941, the Nelsons bought what would become their permanent home: a green and white, two-story, Cape Cod colonial home at 1822 Camino Palmero in Los Angeles. Ricky joined his parents and brother in Los Angeles in 1942.

Ricky was a small and insecure child who suffered from severe asthma. At night, his sleep was eased with a vaporizer emitting tincture of evergreen. He was described by Red Skelton’s producer John Guedel as “an odd little kid,” likeable, shy, introspective, mysterious, and inscrutable. When Skelton was drafted in 1944, Guedel crafted the radio sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for Ricky’s parents. The show debuted on Sunday, October 8, 1944, to favorable reviews. Ozzie eventually became head writer for the show, and based episodes on the fraternal exploits and enmity of his sons. Professional child actors first played the Nelson boys in the radio series until twelve-year-old Dave and eight-year-old Ricky joined the show on February 20, 1949, in the episode “Invitation to Dinner.”

In 1952, the Nelsons tested the waters for a television series with the theatrically released film Here Come the Nelsons. The film was a hit, and Ozzie was convinced the family could make the transition from radio’s airwaves to television’s small screen. On October 3, 1952, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made its television debut and was broadcast in first run until September 3, 1966, to become one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history.

Ricky Nelson attended Gardner Street Public School, Bancroft Junior High, and, between 1954 and 1958, Hollywood High School, from which he graduated with a B average. He played football at Hollywood High and represented the school in interscholastic tennis matches. Twenty-five years later, Nelson told the Los Angeles Weekly he hated school because it “smelled of pencils,” and he was forced to rise early in the morning to attend.

At Hollywood High, Nelson was blackballed by the Elksters, a fraternity of a dozen conservative sports-loving teens who thought him too wild. Many of the Elksters were family friends and spent weekends at the Nelson home playing basketball or relaxing around the pool. In retaliation, he joined the Rooks, a greaser car club of side-burned high school teens clad in leather jackets and motorcycle boots. He tattooed his hands, wrist, and shoulder with India ink and a sewing needle, slicked his hair with oil, and accompanied the Rooks on nocturnal forays along Hollywood Boulevard, randomly harassing and beating up gay people. Nelson was jailed twice in connection with incidents perpetrated by the Rooks, and escaped punishment after sucker-punching a police officer only through the intervention of his father. Nelson’s parents were alarmed. Their son’s juvenile delinquency did little to enhance the All-American image of Ozzie and Harriet, and they quickly put an end to Ricky’s involvement with the Rooks by banishing one of the most influential of the club’s members from Ricky’s life and their home. One of Ricky’s seldom-publicized traits was his “fierce loyalty” to boyhood friends whom he regarded as trusted confidants. When young friend Bill Aken was in a crippling auto accident in New York City and confined to a hospital bed for months, Ricky would often phone Billy’s mother, asking about his progress and writing short notes and letters to Billy to cheer him up. They became lifelong friends, and Aken recorded the only family-authorized tribute record (“Gentle Friend”) for the fan club after Rick’s death.

Ozzie Nelson was a Rutgers alumnus and keen on college education, but eighteen-year-old Ricky was already in the 93 percent income-tax bracket and saw no reason to attend. At age thirteen, Ricky was making over $100,000 per annum, and at sixteen he had a personal fortune of $500,000. His parents, who channeled his earnings into trust funds, astutely managed Nelson’s wealth. Although his parents permitted him a $50 allowance at the age of eighteen, Rick was often strapped for cash and one evening collected and redeemed empty pop bottles to gain entrance to a movie theater for himself and a date. Accustomed to affluence, Nelson had a cavalier attitude about money and never managed his finances very well.

Nelson played clarinet and drums in his tweens and early teens, learned rudimentary guitar chords, and vocally imitated his favorite Sun Records rockabilly artists in the bathroom at home or in the showers at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. He was strongly influenced by the music of Carl Perkins, and once said he tried to emulate the sound and the tone of the guitar break in Perkins’s March 1956 Top Ten hit, Blue Suede Shoes.

At age sixteen, he wanted to impress a friend who was an Elvis Presley fan and, although he had no record contract at the time, told her that he, too, was going to make a record. With his father’s help, he secured a one-record deal with Verve Records, an important jazz label looking for a young and popular personality who could sing or be taught to sing. On March 26, 1957, he recorded the Fats Domino standard I’m Walkin’ and A Teenager’s Romance (released in late April 1957 as his first single), and You’re My One and Only Love.

Before the single was released, he made his television rock-and-roll debut on April 10, 1957, lip-synching I’m Walkin’ in the Ozzie and Harriet episode “Ricky, the Drummer.” About the same time, he made an unpaid public appearance as a singer at a Hamilton High School lunch-hour assembly in Los Angeles with the Four Preps (graduates of Hollywood High School) and was greeted by hordes of screaming teens who had seen the television episode.

I’m Walkin’ reached #4 on Billboards Best Sellers in Stores chart, and its flip side, A Teenager’s Romance, hit #2. When the television series went on summer break in 1957, Nelson made his first road trip and played four state and county fairs in Ohio and Wisconsin with the Four Preps, who opened and closed for him.

In early summer 1957, Ozzie Nelson pulled his son from Verve after disputes about royalties and signed him to a lucrative five-year deal with Imperial Records that gave him approval over song selection, sleeve artwork, and other production details. Ricky’s first Imperial single, Be-Bop Baby, generated 750,000 advance orders, sold over one million copies, and reached number three on the charts. Nelson’s first album, Ricky, was released in October 1957 and hit number one before the end of the year. Following these successes, Nelson was given a more prominent role on the Ozzie and Harriet show and ended every two or three episodes with a musical number.

Nelson grew increasingly dissatisfied performing with older jazz session musicians, who were openly contemptuous of rock and roll. After his Ohio and Minnesota tours in the summer of 1957, he decided to form his own band with members closer to his age. Eighteen-year-old electric guitarist James Burton was the first signed and lived in the Nelson home for two years. Bassist James Kirkland, drummer Richie Frost, and pianist Gene Garf completed the band. Their first recording together was Believe What You Say. Rick selected material from demo acetates submitted by songwriters. Ozzie Nelson forbade suggestive lyrics or titles, and his late-night arrival at recording sessions forced band members to hurriedly hide their beers and cigarettes. The Jordanaires, Elvis Presley’s backup vocalists, worked for Nelson but at Presley’s behest were not permitted credit on Nelson’s albums.

In 1958, Nelson recorded seventeen-year-old Sharon Sheeley’s Poor Little Fool for his second album, Ricky Nelson, released in June. Radio airplay brought the tune notice, and Imperial suggested releasing a single, but Nelson opposed the idea, believing a single would diminish EP sales. When a single was released nonetheless, he exercised his contractual right to approve any artwork and vetoed a picture sleeve. On August 4, 1958, Poor Little Fool became the number one single on Billboard’s newly instituted Hot 100 singles chart and sold over two million copies. Nelson so loathed the song that he refused to perform it on Ozzie and Harriet. Sheeley claimed he ruined her song by slowing the tempo. More generally, Nelson stated:

“Anyone who knocks rock ’n’ roll either doesn’t understand it, or is prejudiced against it, or is just plain square. – NME – November 1958

During 1958 and 1959, Nelson placed twelve hits on the charts in comparison with Presley’s eleven (it should be remembered that the latter was then serving in West Germany with the U.S. Army). During the sitcom’s run, Ozzie Nelson, either to keep his son’s fans tuned in or as an affirmation of his reputed behind-the-scenes persona as a controlling personality, kept his son from appearing on other television shows that could have enhanced his public profile, American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show in particular. In the summer of 1958, Nelson conducted his first full-scale tour, averaging $5,000 nightly. By 1960, the Ricky Nelson International Fan Club had 9,000 chapters around the world.

Ricky once said, “Perhaps the most embarrassing moment in my career was when six girls tried to fling themselves under my car, and shouted to me to run over them. That sort of thing can be very frightening!”

Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records. Ozzie Nelson even had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos. This creative editing can be seen in videos Ozzie produced for Travelin’ Man. Nelson finally did appear on the Sullivan show in 1967, but his career by that time was in limbo. He also appeared on other television shows (usually in acting roles). In 1973, he had an acting role in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco in which he played the part of a hippie flute-playing leader of a harem of young prostitutes. In 1979, he guest-hosted on Saturday Night Live, spoofing his television sitcom image by appearing in a Twilight Zone send-up in which, always trying to go “home,” he finds himself among the characters from other 1950s/early 1960s-era sitcoms, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and I Love Lucy.

Nelson knew and loved music and was a skilled performer even before he became a teen idol, largely because of his parents’ musical background. Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including James Burton, Joe Osborn, and Allen “Puddler” Harris, all natives of Louisiana, and Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had 30 Top-40 hits, more than any other artist except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson’s early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts.

While Nelson preferred rockabilly and up-tempo rock songs like Believe What You Say (Hot 100 #4), I Got a Feeling (#10), My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (#12), Hello Mary Lou (#9), It’s Late (#9), Stood Up (#2), Waitin’ in School (#18), Be-Bop Baby (#3), and Just a Little Too Much (#9), his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with Travelin’ Man (#1), A Teenager’s Romance (#2), Poor Little Fool (#1), Young World (#5), Lonesome Town (#7), Never Be Anyone Else But You (#6), Sweeter Than You (#9), It’s Up to You (#6), and Teenage Idol (#5), which clearly could have been about Nelson himself.

In addition to his recording career, Nelson appeared in movies, including the Howard Hawks Western classic, Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan (1959), plus The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960) with Jack Lemmon, and Love and Kisses (1965) with Jack Kelly.

On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), he officially modified his recording name from “Ricky Nelson” to “Rick Nelson.” His childhood nickname proved hard to shake, especially among the generation who had watched him grow up on “Ozzie and Harriet.” Even in the 1980s, when Nelson realized his dream of meeting Carl Perkins, Perkins noted that he and “Ricky” were the last of the “rockabilly breed.”

In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records. After some early successes with the label, most notably 1964’s For You (#6), Nelson’s chart career came to a dramatic halt in the wake of The British Invasion.

In the mid 1960s, Nelson began to move toward country music, becoming a pioneer in the country-rock genre. He was one of the early influences of the so-called “California Sound” (which would include singers like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt and bands like the Eagles). Yet Nelson himself did not reach the Top 40 again until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan’s She Belongs to Me with the Stone Canyon Band, featuring steel guitarist Tom Brumley and Randy Meisner before the Eagles formed.

In 1972, Nelson reached the Top 40 one last time with Garden Party, a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him, because, in his mind, he was playing new songs instead of just his old hits. When he performed the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman, he was booed off the stage. He watched the rest of the performance on a TV monitor backstage and quietly left the venue without taking a final bow for the finale. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire Garden Party album yet. Garden Party reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and was certified as a gold single. The second single release from the album was Palace Guard, which reached number 65 in the charts.

Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. Nelson’s band soon resigned, and MCA wanted Nelson to have a producer on his next album. His band moved to Aspen and changed their name to “Canyon.” Nelson soon put together a new Stone Canyon Band and began to tour for the Garden Party album. Nelson still played nightclubs and bars, but he soon advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of Garden Party. In 1974 MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol. Albums like Windfall failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows.

Nelson tried to score another hit but did not have any luck with songs like Rock and Roll Lady. With seven years to go on his contract, MCA dropped him from the label.

Nelson studied karate, earning a brown belt before going on to learn Jeet Kune Do under Dan Inosanto. Inosanto described Nelson as a “good martial artist for those times.”

In 1957, when Nelson was 17, he met and fell in love with Marianne Gaba, who played the role of Ricky’s girlfriend in three episodes of Ozzie and Harriet. Nelson and Gaba were too young to entertain a serious relationship, although according to Gaba “we used to neck for hours.” The next year, Nelson fell in love with 15-year-old Lorrie Collins, a country singer appearing on a weekly telecast called Town Hall Party. The two wrote Nelson’s first composition, the song My Gal, and she introduced him to Johnny Cash and Tex Ritter. Collins appeared in an Ozzie and Harriet episode as Ricky’s girlfriend and sang Just Because with him in the musical finale. They went steady and discussed marriage, but their parents discouraged the idea.

At the age of 45, Nelson said the only girl he ever really loved was involved with him for two years in the late 1950s. After she became pregnant and had a nearly fatal abortion, she married another man.

At Christmas 1961, Nelson began dating Sharon Kristin “Kris” Harmon (born June 25, 1945), the daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox (née Elsie Kornbrath) and the older sister of Kelly and Mark. The Nelsons and the Harmons had long been friends, and a union between their children held great appeal. Rick and Kris had much in common: quiet dispositions, Hollywood upbringings, and high-powered, domineering fathers.

They married on April 20, 1963. Kris was pregnant, and Rick later described the union as a “shotgun wedding.” Nelson, a non-practicing Protestant, received instruction in Catholicism at the insistence of the bride’s parents and signed a pledge to have any children of the union baptized in the Catholic faith. Kris Nelson joined the television show as a regular cast member in 1963. They had four children: actress Tracy Kristine Nelson, twin sons Gunnar Eric Nelson and Matthew Gray Nelson who formed the band Nelson, and Sam Hilliard Nelson.

By 1975, following the birth of their last child, the marriage had deteriorated and a very public, controversial divorce involving both families was covered in the press for several years. In October 1977, Kris filed for divorce and asked for alimony, custody of their four children, and a portion of community property. The couple temporarily resolved their differences, but Kris retained her attorney to pursue a permanent break. Kris was contentious and jealous. Both spent enormous sums of money: Kris on parties, Rick on renting a private Lear jet. Nelson had a tremendous sexual appetite and a casual attitude toward sex, once estimating he had had sex with thousands of women. Kris wanted Rick to give up music, spend more time at home, and focus on acting, but the family enjoyed a recklessly expensive lifestyle, and Kris’s extravagant spending left Rick no choice but to tour relentlessly. The impasse over Rick’s career created unpleasantness at home. Kris became an alcoholic and left the children in the care of household help. After years of legal proceedings, they were divorced in December 1982. The divorce was financially devastating for Nelson, with attorneys and accountants taking over $1 million. Years of legal wrangling followed.

On May 16, 1980, Nelson met Georgeann Crewe at the Playboy Resort in Great Gorge, New Jersey. Crewe later claimed she felt “an attachment, an immediate attraction” to Nelson. Crewe unsuccessfully attempted to contact Nelson several times to let him know that she was pregnant, and on February 14, 1981, she gave birth to Nelson’s son, Eric Jude Crewe. In 1985, a blood test confirmed Nelson was the father, but Nelson was not interested in Crewe or their son. He declined to meet with them to the point that he avoided playing concerts in Atlantic City. Although Nelson agreed to provide $400 a month in child support, he did not provide for the child in his will.

In 1980, Nelson met Helen Blair, a part-time model and exotic animal trainer, in Las Vegas. Within months of their meeting, she became his road companion, and in 1982 she moved in with him. She was the only woman he dated after his divorce.

Blair tried to make herself useful in Nelson’s life by organizing his day and acting as a liaison for his fan club, but Nelson’s mother, brother, business manager, and manager disapproved of her presence in his life. He contemplated marrying her but eventually declined. Blair died with Nelson in the airplane fire. Her name was never mentioned at Nelson’s funeral. Blair’s parents wanted their daughter buried next to Nelson at Forest Lawn Cemetery, but Harriet Nelson dismissed the idea. The Blairs refused to bury Helen’s remains, and filed a $2 million wrongful death suit against Nelson’s estate. They received a small settlement. Nelson did not provide for Blair in his will.

Nelson used marijuana early in his musical career, and became a regular user. He buried his stash in his yard. He supported marijuana’s legalization. He tried mescaline and was a regular cocaine user, carrying the drug in an empty ginseng capsule.

During the Nelson divorce proceedings, he was accused by his wife’s attorney of using cocaine, quaaludes, and other drugs, and of having “a severe drug problem” encouraged by his managers, his entourage, and his groupies. The attorney noted that Nelson’s “personal manager” secured drugs for Nelson, that wild parties took place in his home whether he was present or not, and that his children, aware of his drug use, were in great physical danger from drugged persons entering and exiting the house at all hours. Following Nelson’s divorce, while he was involved with Helen Blair, his drug use grew so dire that friends urged him to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Traces of cocaine, marijuana, and the painkiller Darvon were found in Nelson’s blood in tests conducted after his death.

Nelson dreaded flying but refused to travel by bus. In May 1985, he decided he needed a private plane and leased a luxurious, fourteen-seat, 1944 Douglas DC-3 for private use that once belonged to the DuPont family and later to Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane’s history was plagued with mechanical issues. In one incident, the band was forced to push the plane off the runway after an engine blew, and in another incident, a malfunctioning magneto prevented Nelson from participating in the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois.

On 26 December 1985, Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the Southern United States. Following shows in Orlando, Florida and Guntersville, Alabama, Nelson and band members boarded the DC-3 in Guntersville and took off for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The plane crash-landed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas less than 2 miles from a landing strip at approximately 5:14 p.m. CST on 31 December 1985, impacting trees as it came to earth. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: Nelson and his companion, Helen Blair; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward; drummer Rick Intveld; keyboardist Andy Chapin; guitarist Bobby Neal; and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell. Pilots Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank escaped via cockpit windows, though Ferguson was severely burned.

Nelson’s remains were misdirected in transit from Texas to California, delaying the funeral for several days. On 6 January 1986, 250 mourners entered the Church of the Hills for funeral services while 700 fans gathered outside. Attendees included “Colonel” Tom Parker, Connie Stevens, Angie Dickinson, and dozens of actors, writers, and musicians. Nelson was privately buried days later in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Kris Nelson threatened to sue the Nelson clan for her former husband’s life insurance money and tried to wrest control of his estate from David Nelson, its administrator. Her bid was rejected by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. Nelson bequeathed his entire estate to his children and did not provide for Eric Crewe or Kris Nelson. Only days after the funeral, rumors and newspaper reports suggested cocaine freebasing was one of several possible causes for the plane crash. Those allegations were refuted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The reports vary as to whether or not the plane was on fire before it crashed. According to witnesses, the plane appeared to be on fire before it force-landed. Jim Burnett, then-Chairman of the NTSB, however, said that even though the plane was filled with smoke, the plane landed and came to a stop before it was swallowed by flames. The NTSB conducted a year-long investigation and finally stated that, while the definitive cause was still unknown, the crash was probably due to a gas-fueled heater that reportedly had caused in-flight problems.

When questioned by the NTSB, Pilots Brad Rank and Ken Ferguson had different accounts of key events. According to co-pilot Ferguson, the cabin heater was acting up after the plane took off. Ferguson continued that Rank kept going back to the back of the plane to see if he could get the heater to function correctly and that Rank told Ferguson several times to turn the heater back on. “One of the times, I refused to turn it on,” said Ferguson. He continued, “I was getting more nervous. I didn’t think we should be messing with that heater en-route.” After the plane crashed, Ferguson and Rank climbed out the windows, suffering from extensive burns. They shouted to the passenger cabin, but there was no response. Ferguson and Rank backed away from the plane, fearing explosion. Ferguson stated that Rank told him, “Don’t tell anyone about the heater, don’t tell anyone about the heater.”

Pilot Rank, however, told a different story: Rank said that he was checking on the passengers when he noticed smoke in the middle of the cabin, where Rick Nelson and Helen Blair were sitting. Even though he never mentioned a problematic heater, Rank stated that he went to the rear of the plane to check the heater, saw no smoke, and found the heater was cool to the touch. After activating an automatic fire extinguisher and opening the cabin’s fresh air inlets, Rank said that he returned to the cockpit where Ferguson was already asking traffic controllers for directions to the nearest airfield.

Rank was criticized by the NTSB for not following the in-flight fire checklist; opening the fresh air vents instead of leaving them closed, not instructing the passengers to use supplemental oxygen, and not attempting to fight the fire with the hand-held fire extinguisher that was in the cockpit. The board said that while these steps might not have prevented the crash, “they would have enhanced the potential for survival of the passengers.” The words of the NTSB seem to echo that of firefighter, Lewis Glover, who was one of the first on the scene. Glover stated, “All the bodies are there at the front of the plane. Apparently, they were trying to escape the fire.”

An examination indicated that a fire had originated in the right side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. Some reports said the passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing. The ignition and fuel sources of the fire could not be determined. According to another report, the pilot indicated that the crew tried to turn on the gasoline cabin heater repeatedly shortly before the fire occurred, but that it failed to respond. After the fire, the access panel to the heater compartment was found unlatched. Records that showed that DC-3s in general, and this aircraft in particular, had a history of problems with the cabin heaters support the theory.

  • Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.
  • Along with the recording’s other participants, Nelson earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for “Interviews from the Class of ’55 Recording Sessions.”
  • In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
  • In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Nelson number 91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • At the 20th anniversary of Nelson’s death, PBS televised Ricky Nelson Sings, a documentary featuring interviews with his children, James Burton, and Kris Kristofferson. On December 27, 2005, EMI Music released an album titled Ricky Nelson’s Greatest Hits that peaked at number 56 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
  • Bob Dylan wrote about Nelson’s influence on his music in his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles, Vol. 1.”
  • Nelson’s estate (The Rick Nelson Company, LLC) owns ancillary rights to the Ozzie and Harriet television series, and, in 2007, Shout! Factory released official editions of the show on DVD. Also in 2007, Nelson was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
  • The John Frusciante song Ricky was inspired by Ricky Nelson.
  • For the 25th anniversary of Nelson’s death, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton, Nelson’s original guitarist for nearly ten years, spoke about his friendship and experiences with the singer in an extensive series of interviews for Examiner.com. The first installment is entitled “Remembering Rick Nelson: An Interview With His Friend, Guitarist James Burton.”
  • Jamband Phish opened their New Year’s Eve show on 12/31/12 at Madison Square Garden with a cover of Garden Party.

 

David Nelson

David Oswald Nelson (October 24, 1936 – January 11, 2011) was an American actor, director, and producer. He was the elder son of bandleader/TV actor Ozzie Nelson and singer Harriet Hilliard and the older brother of singer Eric “Ricky” Nelson.

During the run of the The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in the 1950s and 1960s, Nelson directed several episodes. After the series’ end, he continued acting, directing and producing. His most memorable “break-out” performance was in the 1959 thriller The Big Circus, wherein Nelson played a disturbed, apparently homicidal “troubled youth,” while his last film appearance was in the campier Cry-Baby (1990). For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Nelson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street, on May 9, 1996.

He attended Hollywood High School, graduating in 1954, and was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity while attending the University of Southern California.

David Nelson had two sons—Daniel Blair and James Eric—from his first marriage with June Blair, that ended in divorce, and two sons and a daughter—John, Eric, and Teri—from his second marriage, to Yvonne Huston.

He died on January 11, 2011, in Century City, California, from complications of colon cancer. He is survived by his wife Yvonne and five children.

David Nelson was cremated. He chose not to be interred in the Nelson family plot in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California, instead choosing a niche in Westwood Memorial Park’s outdoor Garden of Serenity columbarium.

 

Ozzie Nelson

Ozzie Nelson, the second son of George Waldemar and Ethel Irene (Orr) Nelson, Ozzie Nelson was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. His paternal grandparents were Swedish and his mother was of English descent. Nelson was raised in Ridgefield Park. He graduated from Ridgefield Park High School, where he played on the football team. In the early 1990s, Ridgefield Park named a street after him, where the current high school is located. Nelson became an Eagle Scout at 13 and was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Rutgers University, where he also played football despite his slight build. He was a member of the Cap and Skull fraternity, and entered Rutgers School of Law–Newark. As a student he made pocket money playing saxophone in a band and coaching football. During the Depression, he turned to music as a full-time career.

Nelson started his entertainment career as a bandleader. He formed and led the Ozzie Nelson Band, and had some initial limited success. He made his own “big break” in 1930. The New York Daily Mirror ran a poll of its readers to determine their favorite band. He knew that news vendors got credit from the newspaper for unsold copies by returning the front page and discarding the rest of the issue. Gathering hundreds of discarded newspapers, the band filled out ballots in their favor. They edged out Paul Whiteman and were pronounced the winners.

From 1930 through the 1940s, Nelson’s band recorded prolifically—first on Brunswick (1930–1933), then Vocalion (1933–1934), then back to Brunswick (1934–1936), Bluebird (1937–1941), Victor (1941) and finally back to Bluebird (1941-through the 1940s). Nelson’s records were consistently popular and in 1934 Nelson enjoyed success with his hit song, Over Somebody Else’s Shoulder that he introduced. Nelson was their primary vocalist and (from August 1932) featured in duets with his other star vocalist, Harriet Hilliard. Nelson’s calm, easy vocal style was popular on records and radio and quite similar to son Rick’s voice and Harriet’s perky vocals added to the band’s popularity.

In 1935, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra had a number one hit with And Then Some, which was number one for one week on the U.S. pop singles chart. Ozzie Nelson composed several songs, including Wave the Stick Blues, Subway, Jersey Jive, Swingin’ on the Golden Gate, and Central Avenue Shuffle.

In October 1935 he married the band’s vocalist Harriet Hilliard. The couple had two children. David (1936–2011) became an actor and director. Eric (“Ricky”) (1940–1985) became an actor and singer.

Ozzie Nelson appeared with his band in feature films and short subjects of the 1940s, and often played speaking parts, displaying a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor (as in the 1942 musical Strictly in the Groove). He shrewdly promoted the band by agreeing to appear in soundies, three-minute musical movies shown in “film jukeboxes” of the 1940s. In 1952, when he and his family were established as radio and TV favorites, they starred in a feature film, Here Come the Nelsons (which actually doubled as a “pilot” for the TV series).

In the 1940s, Nelson began to look for a way to spend more time with his family, especially his growing sons. Besides band appearances, he and Harriet had been regulars on Red Skelton’s radio show. He developed and produced his own radio series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The show went on the air in 1944, with their sons played by actors until 1949, and in 1952 it moved over to television (the radio version continued for another two years). The show starred the entire family, and America watched Ozzie and Harriet raise their boys. Nelson was producer and co-writer of the entire series. He was very hands-on and involved with every aspect of the radio and then TV program.

His last television show was in the fall of 1973 and entitled Ozzie’s Girls, and lasted for a year. Syndicated only, the premise was Ozzie and Harriet renting their son’s room to two college girls (one white, one black) and concerned Ozzie’s difficulties in living with two young women, as opposed to David and Ricky.

In 1973, Ozzie Nelson published his autobiography, Ozzie, (Prentice Hall, 1973. He suffered from recurring malignant tumors in his later years, and died of liver cancer. He died at his home in the San Fernando Valley at 4:30 a.m. with his wife and sons at his bedside. Services were held at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, California on Friday, June 6, 1975. He is interred with his wife and son, pop singer Ricky in the Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. David Nelson was cremated, and chose not to be interred in the Nelson family plot, instead choosing a niche in Westwood Memorial Park’s outdoor Garden of Serenity columbarium.

For his contribution to the television industry, Ozzie Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6555 Hollywood Boulevard. He has an additional star with his wife at 6260 Hollywood Boulevard for their contribution to radio.

 

Harriet Nelson

Harriet Nelson (July 18, 1909 – October 2, 1994) was born Peggy Louise Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Hazel Dell (née McNutt) and Roy Hilliard Snyder. By 1932, she was performing in vaudeville when she met the saxophone-playing bandleader Ozzie Nelson. Nelson hired her to sing with the band, under the name Harriet Hilliard. They married three years later.

Hilliard had a respectable film career as a solo performer, apart from the band. RKO Radio Pictures signed her to a one-year contract in 1936, and she appeared in three feature films, the most famous being the Fred AstaireGinger Rogers musical Follow the Fleet. She was very much in demand during the World War II years for leading roles in escapist musicals, comedies, and mysteries.

In Ozzie Nelson’s book, he wrote that Harriet was quite popular during the short time at RKO and they wanted her to continue her solo film career, but decided that it was more important for her to continue with the band and subsequent radio show.

Although the couple occasionally appeared together in movies, either as a duo (in Honeymoon Lodge) or as separate characters (in Hi, Good Lookin’), they are best known for their broadcasting efforts. In 1944, the Nelsons began a domestic-comedy series for radio, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. It was highly popular and made a successful transition to television. It was one of the stalwarts of the ABC-TV schedule through 1966. The Nelsons’ two sons, Ricky and David, were featured continuously on the show. She was included in Yahoo!‘s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television for the time period 1952-1966.

In 1973, Ozzie and Harriet also appeared in the short-lived sitcom, Ozzie’s Girls.

In 1978, Harriet Nelson moved full-time to the Laguna Beach, California beach home the family had built in 1954. She died of congestive heart failure on October 2, 1994. She is interred with her husband and younger son Ricky (who died in a plane crash) in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

For her contribution to the television industry, Harriet Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard.

Rosalind Russell

Catherine Rosalind Russell (June 4, 1907 – November 28, 1976) was an American actress of stage and screen, known for her role as fast-talking newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson in the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), as well as for her portrayals of Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame (1958) and Rose in Gypsy (1962). A noted comedian, she won all five Golden Globes for which she was nominated. Russell won a Tony Award in 1953 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Ruth in the Broadway show Wonderful Town (a musical based on the film My Sister Eileen, in which she also starred). She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress four times throughout her career.

In addition to her fame as a comedian, Russell was known for playing character roles, especially wealthy, dignified, ladylike women, as well as for being one of the few actresses of her time who regularly played professional women, such as judges, reporters, and psychiatrists. She had a wide career span from the 1930s to the 1970s, and attributed her long career to the fact that, although usually playing classy and glamorous roles, she never became a sex symbol.

Early years

Catherine Rosalind Russell was one of seven children born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to James Edward, a lawyer, and Clara A. (née McKnight) Russell, a teacher. The Russells were an Irish-American Catholic family. She was named after a ship on which her parents had traveled. She attended Catholic schools, including Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, and Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, before attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Her parents thought Russell was studying to become a teacher, and were unaware that she was planning to become a comedic actress. Upon graduation from the performing arts school, Russell acted in summer stock and joined a repertory company in Boston.

Career

Russell started her career as a fashion model and was in many Broadway shows. Against parental objections, she took a job at a stock company for seven months at Saranac Lake and then Hartford, Connecticut. Afterwards, she moved to Boston, where she acted for a year at a theater group for Edward E. Clive. Later, she appeared in a revue in New York (The Garrick Gaieties). There, she took voice lessons and built a career in the opera, which was short-lived due to her difficulty in reaching high notes.

In the early 1930s, Russell went west to Los Angeles, where she was hired as a contract player for Universal Studios. When she first arrived on the lot, she was ignored by most of the crew and later told the press she felt terrible and humiliated at Universal, which affected her self-confidence. Unhappy with Universal’s leadership, and second-class studio status at the time, Russell set her sights on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was able to get out of her Universal contract on her own terms. When MGM first approached her for a screen test, Russell was wary, remembering her experience at Universal. When she met MGM’s Benny Thau and Ben Piazza, she was surprised, as they were “the soul of understanding.” Her screen test was directed by Harold S. Bucquet, and she later recalled that she was hired because of a closeup he took of her.

Under contract to MGM, Russell debuted in Evelyn Prentice (1934). Although the role was small, she received good notices, with one critic saying that she was “convincing as the woman scorned.” She starred in many comedies such as Forsaking All Others (1934) and Four’s a Crowd (1938), as well as dramas, including Craig’s Wife (1936) (which would be the film’s second of three remakes; Joan Crawford did the third) and The Citadel (1938). Russell was first acclaimed when she co-starred with Robert Young in the MGM drama West Point of the Air (1935). One critic wrote: “Rosalind Russell as the ‘other woman’ in the story gives an intelligent and deft handling to her scenes with Young.” She quickly rose to fame, and by 1935, was seen as a replacement for actress Myrna Loy, as she took many roles for which Loy was initially set.

In her first years in Hollywood, Russell was characterized, both in her personal life and film career, as a sophisticated lady. This dissatisfied Russell, who claimed in a 1936 interview:

Being typed as a lady is the greatest misfortune possible to a motion picture actress. It limits your characterizations, confines you to play feminine sops and menaces and the public never highly approves of either. An impeccably dressed lady is always viewed with suspicion in real life, and when you strut onto the screen with beautiful clothes and charming manners, the most naive of theater goers sense immediately that you are in a position to do the hero no good. I earnestly want to get away from this. First, because I want to improve my career and professional life and, secondly because I am tired of being a clothes horse – a sort of hothouse orchid in a stand of wild flowers.

Russell approached director Frank Lloyd for help changing her image, but instead of helping her, Lloyd cast her as a wealthy aristocrat in Under Two Flags (1936). In 1939, she was cast as catty gossip Sylvia Fowler in the all-female comedy The Women, directed by George Cukor. The film was a major hit, boosting her career and establishing her reputation as a comedian.

Russell continued to display her talent for comedy in the classic screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), directed by Howard Hawks. In the film, a reworking of Ben Hecht’s story The Front Page, Russell played quick-witted ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who was also the ex-wife of her newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Russell had been, as she put it, “Everyone’s fifteenth choice” for the role of Hildy in the film. Prior to her being cast, Howard Hawks had asked Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Margaret Sullavan, and Ginger Rogers if they would like to play the brash, fast-talking reporter in his film. All of them refused. Russell found out about this while riding on a train to New York, when she read an article in the New York Times saying that she had been cast in the film and listing all the actresses who had turned the part down.

In the 1940s, she made comedies such as The Feminine Touch (1941) and Take a Letter, Darling (1942), dramas including Sister Kenny (1946), and Mourning Becomes Electra (1947), and a murder mystery: The Velvet Touch (1948).

Over the course of her career, Russell earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Actress: My Sister Eileen (1942); Sister Kenny (1946); Mourning Becomes Electra (1947); and the movie version of Auntie Mame (1958). She received a Special Academy Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1972, which came with an Oscar statuette.

Russell scored a big hit on Broadway with her Tony Award-winning performance in Wonderful Town (1953), a musical version of her successful film of a decade earlier, My Sister Eileen. Russell reprised her starring role for a 1958 television special.

Perhaps her most memorable performance was in the title role of the long-running stage hit Auntie Mame and the subsequent 1958 movie version, in which she played an eccentric aunt whose orphaned nephew comes to live with her. When asked with which role she was most closely identified, she replied that strangers who spotted her still called out, “Hey, Auntie Mame!” She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play in 1957 for her performance. Patrick Dennis dedicated his second Auntie Mame book,  Around the World with Auntie Mame, to “the one and only Rosalind Russell” in 1958.

She continued to appear in movies through the mid-1960s, including Picnic (1955), A Majority of One (1961), Five Finger Exercise (1962), Gypsy (1962), and The Trouble with Angels (1966). Russell was the logical choice for reprising her role as Auntie Mame when its Broadway musical adaptation Mame was set for production in 1966, but she declined for health reasons. In addition to her acting career, Russell also wrote the story (under the name C. A. McKnight) for the film The Unguarded Moment (1956), a story of sexual harassment starring Esther Williams.

 

Personal life

On October 25, 1941, Russell married Danish-American producer Frederick Brisson, son of actor Carl Brisson. Cary Grant was responsible for the couple’s having met, and was the best man at Frederick and Rosalind’s wedding. Brisson had been traveling from England to the United States by ship in 1939, and The Women was playing on an endless loop during the voyage. After hearing the audio for the film day after day while traveling, Brisson decided he had better sit down and watch the whole film. He became so enamoured with Russell’s performance as Sylvia Fowler that he turned to his friends and proclaimed: “I’m either gonna kill that girl, or I’m gonna marry her.” (Or so he liked to say.)

Brisson stayed with Cary Grant in his guest house while Grant was filming His Girl Friday. Upon hearing that Grant was making the movie with Russell, Brisson asked his friend if he could meet her. Cary Grant then spent weeks greeting Russell each morning on set with the question, “Have you met Freddie Brisson?” in an effort to pique the actress’s curiosity. One night, when Russell opened her door to let Grant in before they went dancing, as they often did, she found him standing next to a stranger. Grant sheepishly explained that the odd fellow was Freddie Brisson, the man who he had mentioned so often, and they set off for dinner, with Freddie in tow.

Russell and Brisson’s marriage lasted 35 years, ending with her death. They had one child, in 1943, a son, Carl Lance Brisson.

Russell was a Roman Catholic, a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.

Russell supported Richard Nixon in two of his early, unsuccessful campaigns.

 

Death

Russell died of breast cancer on November 28, 1976. She was survived by her husband and her son. She is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Rosalind Russell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1708 Vine Street.

Her autobiography, Life Is a Banquet, written with Chris Chase, was published a year after her death. The foreword (written by her husband) states that Russell had a mental breakdown in 1943. She made no films in 1944. Details are scant, but the book indicates that health problems and the deaths of a sister and a brother were major factors leading to her breakdown. Russell had rheumatoid arthritis, and the UCSF Arthritis Research Center currently bears her name.

In 2009, a documentary film Life Is a Banquet: The Life of Rosalind Russell, narrated by Kathleen Turner, was shown at film festivals across the U.S. and on some PBS stations.

Edmond O’Brien

Edmond O’Brien (September 10, 1915 – May 9, 1985) was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 films from the 1940s to the 1970s, often playing character parts. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the corresponding Golden Globe for his supporting role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), as well as a second Golden Globe and another Academy Award nomination for Seven Days in May (1964). His other notable films include The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Killers (1946), White Heat (1949), D.O.A. (1950), Julius Caesar (1953), 1984 (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1961), and The Wild Bunch (1969).

 

Early years

O’Brien was born Eamon Joseph O’Brien in Brooklyn, New York, of English and Irish stock, the seventh and last child of Agnes and James O’Brien. When he was four years old, O’Brien’s father died.

He put on magic shows for children in his neighborhood with coaching from a neighbor, Harry Houdini. He performed under the title, “Neirbo the Great” (“neirbo” being “O’Brien” spelled backwards). An aunt who taught high school English and speech took him to the theatre from an early age and he developed an interest in acting. O’Brien began acting in plays at school.

After attending Fordham University for six months, he went to Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre on a scholarship. He studied for two years under such teachers as Sanford Meisner; his classmates included Betty Garrett.

“It was simply the best training in the world for a young actor, singer or dancer,” said O’Brien. “What these teachers encouraged above all was getting your tools ready – your body, your voice, your speech.”

In addition to studying at the Playhouse, O’Brien took classes with the Columbia Laboratory Players group, which emphasized training in Shakespeare.

 

Theatre

O’Brien began working in summer stock in Yonkers. He made his first Broadway appearance at age 21 in Daughters of Atreus.

He played a grave digger in Hamlet, went on tour with Parnell, then appeared in Maxwell Anderson’s The Star Wagon, starring Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith.

 

Film Actor

O’Brien’s theatre work attracted the attention of Pandro Berman at RKO, who offered him a role as the romantic lead in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

He returned to Broadway to play Mercutio opposite Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Romeo and Juliet.

RKO offered O’Brien a long term contract. His roles included A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and Parachute Battalion (1941). The latter starred Nancy Kelly who O’Brien would later marry, although the union lasted less than a year.

O’Brien made Obliging Young Lady with Eve Arden, and Powder Town. He was loaned to Universal to appear opposite Deanna Durbin in The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943), after which he joined the armed services.

 

World War II

During World War II, O’Brien served in the U.S. Army Air Force and appeared in the Air Forces’ Broadway play Winged Victory by Moss Hart. He appeared alongside Red Buttons, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Barry Nelson and Martin Ritt. When the play was filmed in 1944, O’Brien reprised his stage performance, co-starring with Judy Holliday. He toured in the production for two years, appearing alongside a young Mario Lanza.

 

Warner Bros

In 1948, O’Brien signed a long term contract with Warner Bros, who cast him in the screen version of Lillian Hellman‘s Another Part of the Forest. This starred Fredric March who also appeared with O’Brien in An Act of Murder (1948).

He was then cast as the undercover cop in White Heat (1949) opposite James Cagney.

“He [Cagney] said he had only one rule,” O’Brien noted. “He would tap his heart and he would say, “Play it from here, kid.” He always did and I believe it’s the best rule for any performer. He could play a scene 90 ways and never repeat himself. He did this to keep himself fresh. I try to do this whenever possible.”

In 1949, 3,147 members of the Young Women’s League of America, a national charitable organization of spinsters, voted that O’Brien had more “male magnetism” than any other man in America today. “All women adore ruggedness,” said organization president Shirley Connolly. “Edmund O’Brien’s magnetic appearance and personality most fully stir women’s imaginative impulses. We’re all agreed that he has more male magnetism than any of the 60,000,000 men in the United States today. (Runners up were Ezio Pinza, William O’Dwyer and Doak Walker.)

Following an appearance in Backfire (1950) his contract with Warner Bros terminated.

 

Freelance

O’Brien then made one of his most famous movies, D.O.A. (1950 film), where he plays a man investigating his own murder. He followed this with 711 Ocean Drive (1950). However, his career then hit a slump. According to TCM, “In the early ’50s, O’Brien started struggling with his weight, which could change significantly between films. He had no problems if that relegated him to character roles, but for a few years, it was hard to come by anything really first rate.”

“The funny thing about Hollywood is that they are interested in having you do one thing and do it well and do it ever after,” said O’Brien. “That’s the sad thing about being a leading man – while the rewards may be great in fame and finances, it becomes monotonous for an actor. I think that’s why some of the people who are continually playing themselves are not happy.”

He made some notable movies including two for Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist. He also played Casca in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s film of Julius Caesar (1953).

O’Brien worked heavily in television on such shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. He announced plans to direct his own films.

In 1951 he was in a well publicized brawl with Serge Rubinstein at a cafe.

From 1950 to 1952, O’Brien starred in the radio drama Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, playing the title role. His other work in radio included Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway.

O’Brien was cast as press agent Oscar Muldoon in The Barefoot Contessa. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that role.

 

O’Brien followed this with a number of important roles, including Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1984, A Cry in the Night (1956), and The Girl Can’t Help It.

TV

O’Brien appeared extensively in television, including the 1957 live 90-minute broadcast on Playhouse 90 of The Comedian, a drama written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer in which Mickey Rooney portrayed a television comedian while O’Brien played a writer driven to the brink of insanity.

In 1958 he directed and starred in a TV drama written by his brother, “The Town That Slept With the Lights On,” about two Lancaster murders that so frightened the community that residents began sleeping with their lights on.

From 1959–60 O’Brien portrayed the title role in the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, the story of a New York City actor-turned-private detective. The producers refused to cast him unless he shed at least 50 pounds, so he went on a crash vegetarian diet and quit drinking.

“I seldom get very far away from crime,” he recalled. I’ve found it pays . . . I tried non-crime films like Another Part of the Forest . . . good picture, good cast, but no good at the box office . . . But you just put a gun in your hands and run through the streets during cops and robbers and you’re all set.”

O’Brien also had his own production company, O’Brien-Frazen.

O’Brien had roles on many television series, including an appearance on Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point and Mission: Impossible.

O’Brien walked off the set of The Last Voyage in protest at safety issues during the shoot. He later came back and found out he had been written out of the film. He was cast as a reporter in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but had a heart attack during filming and was replaced by Arthur Kennedy.

O’Brien recovered to direct his first feature, Man Trap (1961).

He continued to receive good roles: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

In the mid-’60s O’Brien co-starred with Roger Mobley and Harvey Korman in the “Gallegher” episodes of NBC‘s Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. From 1963–65 he co-starred in the NBC legal drama Sam Benedict.

O’Brien had a choice role in Seven Days in May (1964) which saw him receive a second Oscar nomination.

“I’ve never made any kind of personality success,” he admitted in a 1963 interview. “People never say ‘that’s an Eddie O’Brien part.’ They say, ‘That’s a part Eddie O’Brien can play.’

“I’d like to be able to say something important,” he added. “To say something to people about their relationship with each other. If it touches just one guy, helps illustrate some points of view about living, then you’ve accomplished something.”

He had a role in another TV series, The Long Hot Summer but left after 12 episodes due to creative differences. He was replaced by Dan O’Herlihy.

 

Later career

O’Brien worked steadily throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, his memory problems were beginning to take their toll. A heart attack meant he had to drop out of The Glass Bottom Boat.

“It would be awfully hard to do a series again,” he said in a 1971 interview. “I wouldn’t go for an hour show again. They don’t have much of a chance against the movies.”

In 1971 he was hospitalized with a “slight pulmonary condition.”

His last film would be 99 and 44/100% Dead.

 

Recording

In 1957 O’Brien recorded a spoken-word album of The Red Badge of Courage (Caedmon TC 1040). Billboard said, “Edmond O’Brien brings intensity in the narrative portions and successfully impersonates the varied characters in dialog.”

 

Personal life

O’Brien was divorced from actresses Nancy Kelly 1941–1942 and Olga San Juan. San Juan was the mother of his three children, including television producer Bridget O’Brien and actors Maria O’Brien and Brendan O’Brien.

 

Final Years and Death

O’Brien fell ill with Alzheimer’s Disease. In a 1983 interview, his daughter Maria remembers seeing her father in a straitjacket at a Veterans’ Hospital.

“He was screaming. He was violent. I remember noticing how thin he’d gotten. We didn’t know, because for years he’d been sleeping with all his clothes on. We saw him a little later and he was walking around like all the other lost souls there.”

He died May 9, 1985, at St. Erne’s Sanitorium in Inglewood, California, of Alzheimer’s disease. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Walk of Fame

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Edmond O’Brien has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1725 Vine Street, and a second star at 6523 Hollywood Blvd. for his contribution to the television industry. Both were dedicated on February 8, 1960.

 

 

Olivia de Havilland

 Olivia Mary de Havilland (born July 1, 1916; age 101) is a retired American actress whose career spanned from 1935 to 1988. She appeared in 49 feature films, and was one of the leading movie stars during the golden age of Classical Hollywood. She is best known for her early screen performances in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Gone with the Wind (1939), and her later award-winning performances in To Each His Own (1946), The Snake Pit (1948), and The Heiress (1949).

Born in Tokyo to British parents, de Havilland and her younger sister Joan moved to California in 1919. They were brought up by their mother Lilian, a former stage actress who taught them dramatic art, music, and elocution. De Havilland made her acting debut in amateur theatre in Alice in Wonderland. Later, she appeared in a local production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which led to her playing Hermia in Max Reinhardt’s stage production of the same play and a movie contract with Warner Bros.

Olivia de Havilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1935. She began her career playing demure ingénues opposite popular leading men, including Errol Flynn, with whom she made nine films. They became one of Hollywood’s most popular romantic on-screen pairings. She achieved her initial popularity in romantic comedy films, such as The Great Garrick (1937), and in Westerns, such as Dodge City (1939). Her natural beauty and refined acting style made her particularly effective in historical period dramas, such as Anthony Adverse (1936), and romantic dramas, such as Hold Back the Dawn (1941). In her later career, she was most successful in drama films, such as Light in the Piazza (1962), and unglamorous roles in psychological dramas including Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).

In addition to her film career, de Havilland continued her work in the theatre, appearing three times on Broadway, in Romeo and Juliet (1951), Candida (1952), and A Gift of Time (1962). She also worked in television, appearing in the successful miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations (1979), and television feature films, such as Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. During her film career, de Havilland won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup. For her contributions to the motion picture industry, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her lifetime contribution to the arts, she received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush, and was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

After romantic relationships with Howard Hughes, James Stewart, and John Huston, de Havilland married author Marcus Goodrich, with whom she had a son, Benjamin. Following her divorce from Goodrich in 1953, she moved to Paris and married Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match, with whom she had a daughter, Gisèle. In 1962, she published Every Frenchman Has One, an account of her life in France. De Havilland and Joan Fontaine are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards in a lead acting category. A lifelong rivalry between the two actresses resulted in an estrangement that lasted over three decades. She has lived in Paris since 1956, and celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1, 2016.

 

Early life

De Havilland’s father, Walter de Havilland (1872 – 1968), served as an English professor at the Imperial University in Tokyo before becoming a patent attorney. Her mother, Lilian Fontaine (née Ruse; 1886 – 1975), was educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and became a stage actress. Lilian also sang with the Master of the King’s Music, Sir Walter Parratt, and toured England with the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Olivia’s paternal cousin was Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882–1965), an aircraft designer and founder of the de Havilland aircraft company.

Lilian and Walter met in Japan in 1913 and were married the following year; the marriage was not a happy one due in part to Walter’s infidelities. De Havilland was born on July 1, 1916. They moved into a large house in Tokyo, where Lilian gave informal singing recitals for the European colony. Olivia’s younger sister Joan (born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland)‍—‌later known as actress Joan Fontaine‍—‌was born fifteen months later, on October 22, 1917.

In February 1919, Lilian persuaded her husband to take the family back to England to a climate better suited for their ailing daughters. They sailed aboard the SS Siberia Maru to San Francisco, where the family stopped to treat Olivia’s tonsillitis. After Joan developed pneumonia, Lilian decided to remain with her daughters in California, where they eventually settled in the village of Saratoga, 50 miles (80 km) south of San Francisco. Her father abandoned the family and returned to his Japanese housekeeper, who eventually became his second wife.

Olivia was raised to appreciate the arts, beginning with ballet lessons at the age of four, and piano lessons a year later. She learned to read before she was six, and her mother, who occasionally taught dramatic art, music, and elocution, had her reciting passages from Shakespeare to strengthen her diction. During this period, her younger sister Joan first started calling her “Livvie,” a nickname that would last throughout her life. De Havilland entered Saratoga Grammar School in 1922 and did well in her studies. She enjoyed reading, writing poetry, and drawing, and once represented her grammar school in a county spelling bee, coming in second place. In 1923, Lilian had a new Tudor-style house built, where the family resided until the early 1930s.

In April 1925, after her divorce was finalized, Lilian married George Milan Fontaine, a department store manager for O. A. Hale & Co. in San Jose. Fontaine was a good provider and respectable businessman, but his strict parenting style generated animosity and later rebellion in both of his new stepdaughters.

De Havilland continued her education at Los Gatos High School, near her home in Saratoga. There, she excelled in oratory and field hockey and participated in school plays and the school drama club, eventually becoming the club’s secretary. With plans of becoming a schoolteacher of English and speech, she also attended Notre Dame Convent in Belmont. In 1933, de Havilland made her debut in amateur theatre in Alice in Wonderland, a production of the Saratoga Community Players based on the novel by Lewis Carroll. She also appeared in several school plays, including The Merchant of Venice and Hansel and Gretel. Her passion for drama eventually led to a confrontation with her stepfather, who forbade her from participating in further extracurricular activities. When he learned that she had won the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet in a school fund-raising production of Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, he gave her an ultimatum to either stay home or not return home. Not wanting to let her school and classmates down, she left home forever, moving in with a family friend.

After graduating from high school in 1934, de Havilland was offered a scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to pursue her chosen career as an English teacher. She was also offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community Theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That summer, Austrian director Max Reinhardt came to California for a major new production of the same play to premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. After one of Reinhardt’s assistants saw her perform in Saratoga, he offered her the second understudy position for the role of Hermia. One week before the premiere, the understudy Jean Rouverol and lead actress Gloria Stuart both left the project, leaving 18-year-old de Havilland to play Hermia. Impressed with her performance, Reinhardt offered her the part in the four-week autumn tour that followed. During that tour, Reinhardt received word that he would direct the Warner Bros. film version of his stage production, and he offered her the film role of Hermia. With her mind still set on becoming a teacher, de Havilland initially wavered, but eventually Reinhardt and executive producer Henry Blanke persuaded her to sign a five-year contract with Warner Bros. on November 12, 1934, with a starting salary of $200 a week.

 

Career

Early films, 1935–37

De Havilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was filmed at Warner Bros. studios from December 19, 1934, to March 9, 1935. During the production, de Havilland picked up film acting techniques from the film’s co-director William Dieterle, and camera techniques from cinematographer Hal Mohr, who was impressed with her questions about his work. By the end of filming, she had learned the effect of lighting and camera angles on how she appeared on screen and how to find her best lighting.

Following premieres in New York and Beverly Hills, the film was released on October 30, 1935. Despite the publicity campaign, the film generated little enthusiasm with audiences. While the critical response was mixed, de Havilland’s performance was praised by The San Francisco Examiner critic. In his review in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Winston Burdett noted that she “acts graciously and does greater justice to Shakespeare’s language than anyone else in the cast.” Two minor comedies followed, Alibi Ike with Joe E. Brown and The Irish in Us with James Cagney. In both films, she played the sweet and charming love interest‍—‌a role into which she would later become typecast. After the experience of being a Reinhardt player, de Havilland felt disappointed being assigned these routine heroine roles. In March, de Havilland and her mother moved into an apartment at the Chateau des Fleurs at 6626 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

In July 1935, Warner Bros. paired de Havilland with an unknown Australian actor named Errol Flynn in the swashbuckler film Captain Blood (1935). According to film historian Tony Thomas, both actors had “classic good looks, cultured speaking voices, and a sense of distant aristocracy about them.” Filmed between August 5 and October 29, 1935, Captain Blood gave de Havilland the opportunity to appear in her first costumed historical romance and adventure epic, a genre to which she was well suited, given her beauty and elegance. In the film, she played Arabella Bishop, the niece of a Jamaica plantation owner, who purchases at auction an Irish physician wrongly condemned to servitude. The on-screen chemistry between de Havilland and Flynn was evident from their first scenes together, where clashes between her character’s spirited hauteur and his character’s playful braggadocio did not mask their mutual attraction to each other. Unlike her two previous roles, Arabella is a feisty young woman who knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it. The bantering tone of their exchanges in the film‍—‌the healthy give-and-take and mutual respect‍—‌became the basis for their on-screen relationship in subsequent films. Captain Blood was released on December 28, 1935, and received good reviews and wide public appeal. De Havilland’s performance was singled out in The New York Times and Variety. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The popular success of the film, as well as the critical response to the on-screen couple, led to seven additional collaborations.

In 1936, de Havilland appeared in Mervyn LeRoy’s historical period drama Anthony Adverse with Fredric March. Based on the popular novel by Hervey Allen, the film follows the adventures of an orphan raised by a Scottish merchant, whose pursuit of fortune separates him from the innocent peasant girl he loves, marries, and eventually loses. De Havilland played the peasant girl Angela, who after being separated from her slave-trader husband, becomes opera star Mademoiselle Georges, the mistress of Napoleon. The film earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It garnered de Havilland good exposure and the opportunity to portray a character as she develops over time. Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune found her later scenes as Mademoiselle Georges “not very credible,” but Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times called her “a winsome Angela.” That same year, she was reunited with Flynn in Michael Curtiz’s period action film The Charge of the Light Brigade, set during the Crimean War which became a box office success. During the film’s production, de Havilland renegotiated her contract with Warner Bros. and signed a seven-year contract on April 14, 1936, with a starting weekly salary of five hundred dollars (equivalent to $8,600 in 2016). Toward the end of the year, 20-year-old de Havilland and her mother moved to 2337 Nella Vista Avenue in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.

In 1937, de Havilland had her first top billing in Archie Mayo‘s comedy Call It a Day, about a middle-class English family struggling with the romantic effects of spring fever during the course of a single day. De Havilland played daughter Catherine Hilton, who falls in love with the handsome artist hired to paint her portrait. The film did not do well at the box office and did little to advance her career. She fared better in Mayo’s screwball comedy It’s Love I’m After with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. De Havilland played Marcia West, a young debutante and theater fan enamored with a Barrymore-like matinee idol who decides to help the girl’s fiancé by pretending to be an abominable cad. The film received good reviews, with Variety calling it “fresh, clever, excellently directed and produced, and acted by an ensemble that clicks from start to finish,” and praising de Havilland.

That same year, de Havilland made two more period films, beginning with The Great Garrick, a fictional romantic comedy about the 18th-century English actor’s encounter with jealous players from the Comédie-Française who plot to embarrass him on his way to Paris. Wise to their prank, Garrick plays along with the ruse, determined to get the last laugh, even on a lovely young aristocrat, de Havilland’s Germaine Dupont, whom he mistakenly believes to be one of the players. With her refined demeanor and diction, de Havilland delivers a performance that is “lighthearted and thoroughly believable,” according to Judith Kass. Variety praised the film, calling it “a production of superlative workmanship.”

Despite the positive reviews, the film did not do as well at the box office. Her final film that year was Michael Curtiz‘s romantic drama Gold Is Where You Find It,[76] a film about the late 19th-century conflict in the Sacramento Valley between gold miners and their hydraulic equipment and farmers whose land is being flooded. De Havilland played the daughter of a farmer, Serena Ferris, who falls in love with the mining engineer responsible for the flooding. The film was released in February 1938, and was her first appearance in three-strip Technicolor.

 

Movie stardom, 1938–40

In September 1937, de Havilland was selected by Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner to play Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). The Technicolor production was filmed on location between September 26, 1937, and January 14, 1938, at Bidwell Park, Busch Gardens, and Lake Sherwood in California. Directed by William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, the film is about the legendary Robin Hood, a Saxon knight who opposes the corrupt and brutal Prince John and his Norman lords while good King Richard is away fighting in the Third Crusade. The king’s ward, Maid Marian, initially opposes Robin, but later supports him after learning his true intentions of helping his oppressed people. No mere bystander to events, Marian risks her life to save Robin by providing his men a plan for his escape. As defined by de Havilland, Marian is both a beautiful fairy-tale heroine and a spirited, intelligent woman “whose actions are governed by her mind as well as her heart,” according to author Judith Kass. The Adventures of Robin Hood was released on May 14, 1938, and was an immediate critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It went on to become one of the most popular adventure films of the Classical Hollywood era.

The popularity of The Adventures of Robin Hood brought de Havilland a new level of fame as a movie star, but this new status was not reflected in her subsequent film assignments at Warner Bros. Her next several roles were more routine and less challenging. In the romantic comedy Four’s a Crowd (1938), de Havilland played Lorri Dillingwell, a dizzy rich girl being romanced by a conniving public relations man looking to land an account with her eccentric grandfather.

In Ray Enright‘s romantic comedy Hard to Get (1938), she played another dizzy rich girl, Margaret Richards, whose desire to exact revenge on a gas station attendant leads to her own comeuppance. While de Havilland was certainly capable of playing these kinds of characters, her personality was better suited to stronger and more dramatic roles, according to Judith Kass. By this time, de Havilland had serious doubts about her career at Warner Bros.

Some film scholars consider 1939 to be the high point of the golden age of Classical Hollywood, producing classics in many genres, including the Western. Warner Bros. produced Michael Curtiz’s sprawling Technicolor adventure Dodge City, Flynn and de Havilland’s first Western film. Set during the American Civil War, the film is about a Texas trailblazer who witnesses the brutal lawlessness of Dodge City, Kansas, and becomes sheriff to clean up the town. De Havilland played Abbie Irving, whose initial hostility towards Flynn’s character Wade Hatton is transformed by events, and the two fall in love‍—‌by now a proven formula for their on-screen relationships. Curtiz’s action sequences, Sol Polito’s cinematography, Max Steiner’s expansive film score, and perhaps the “definitive saloon brawl in movie history” all contributed to the film’s success. Variety described the film as “a lusty western, packed with action.” For de Havilland, playing yet one more supporting love interest in a limited role, Dodge City represented the emotional low point of her career to that point. She later said, “I was in such a depressed state that I could hardly remember my lines.”

In a letter to a colleague dated November 18, 1938, film producer David O. Selznick wrote, “I would give anything if we had Olivia de Havilland under contract to us so that we could cast her as Melanie.” The film he was preparing to shoot was Gone with the Wind, and Jack L. Warner was unwilling to lend her out for the project. De Havilland had read the novel, and unlike most other actresses, who wanted the Scarlett O’Hara role, she wanted to play Melanie Hamilton‍—‌a character whose quiet dignity and inner strength she understood and felt she could bring to life on the screen. De Havilland turned to Warner’s wife Anne for help. Warner later recalled, “Olivia, who had a brain like a computer concealed behind those fawn-like eyes, simply went to my wife and they joined forces to change my mind.” Warner relented, and de Havilland was signed to the project a few weeks before the start of principal photography on January 26, 1939.

Set in the American South during the 19th century, the film is about the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner in love with the husband of her sister-in-law, Melanie, whose kindness stands in sharp contrast to those around her. According to film historian Tony Thomas, de Havilland’s skillful and subtle performance effectively presents this character of selfless love and quiet strength in a way that keeps her vital and interesting throughout the film. Gone with the Wind had its world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1939, and was well received. Frank S. Nugent of The Times wrote that de Havilland’s Melanie “is a gracious, dignified, tender gem of characterization,” and John C. Flinn, Sr., in Variety called her “a standout.” The film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and de Havilland received her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

 

Melanie was someone different. She had very, deeply feminine qualities … that I felt were very endangered at that time, and they are from generation to generation, and that somehow they should be kept alive, and … that’s why I wanted to interpret her role. … The main thing is that she was always thinking of the other person, and the interesting thing to me is that she was a happy person … loving, compassionate.

— Olivia de Havilland

 

Within days of completing her work in Gone with the Wind in June 1939, de Havilland returned to Warner Bros. and began filming Michael Curtiz’s historical drama The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. She had hoped her work on Selznick’s prestige picture would lead to first-rate roles at Warner Bros., but instead she received third billing below the title as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. In early September, she was lent out to Samuel Goldwyn Productions for Sam Wood‘s romantic caper film Raffles with David Niven, about a high-society cricketer and jewel thief. De Havilland later complained, “I had nothing to do with that style of film.” In early 1940, de Havilland refused to appear in several films assigned to her, initiating the first of her suspensions at the studio. She agreed to play in Curtis Bernhardt’s musical comedy drama My Love Came Back with Jeffrey Lynn and Eddie Albert, who played a classical music student turned swing jazz bandleader. De Havilland played violinist Amelia Cornell, whose life becomes complicated by the support of a wealthy sponsor. In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther described the film as “a featherlight frolic, a rollicking roundelay of deliciously pointed nonsense”, noting that de Havilland “plays the part with pace and wit.”

That same year, de Havilland was reunited with Flynn in their sixth film together, Michael Curtiz’s Western adventure Santa Fe Trail, set against the backdrop of abolitionist John Brown’s fanatical antislavery attacks in the days leading up to the American Civil War. The mostly fictional story follows West Point cadets J. E. B. Stuart, played by Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer, played by Ronald Reagan, as they make their way west, both vying for the affection of de Havilland’s Kit Carson Halliday. Unlike some of her previous adventure film roles, Kit is a vital, interesting, and confident character who knows her mind and plays a pivotal role in the story. Playing Kit in a provocative, tongue-in-cheek manner, de Havilland creates a character of real substance and dimension, according to Tony Thomas. Following a world premiere on December 13, 1940, at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico‍—‌attended by cast members, reporters, the governor, and over 60,000 fans‍—‌Santa Fe Trail went on to become one of the top-grossing films of 1940. De Havilland, who accompanied Flynn on the well-publicized train ride to Santa Fe, did not attend the premiere, having been diagnosed with appendicitis that morning and rushed into surgery.

 

War years, 1941–44

Following her emergency surgery, de Havilland began a long period of convalescence in a Los Angeles hospital during which time she rejected several scripts offered to her by Warner Bros., leading to another suspension. In 1941, she appeared in three commercially successful films, beginning with Raoul Walsh’s romantic comedy The Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney. Set during the Gay Nineties, the story involves a man who marries an outspoken advocate for women’s rights after a rival steals his glamorous “strawberry blonde” girlfriend, and later discovers he ended up with a loving and understanding wife. Her performance revealed a growing confidence playing comedic roles, and a real talent for combining the qualities of kindness and love with a refined sense of naughtiness, according to film historian Tony Thomas. The film was a critical and commercial success. In Mitchell Leisen’s romantic drama Hold Back the Dawn with Charles Boyer for Paramount Pictures, de Havilland transitioned to a different type of role for her‍—‌an ordinary, decent small-town teacher whose life and sexuality are awakened by a sophisticated European gigolo, whose own life is positively affected by her love. Leisen’s careful direction and guidance appealed to de Havilland‍—‌much more than the workman-like approach of her Warner Bros. directors. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, “Olivia de Havilland plays the school teacher as a woman with romantic fancies whose honesty and pride are her own‍—‌and the film’s‍—‌chief support. Incidentally, she is excellent.” Her performance earned de Havilland her second Academy Award nomination‍—‌this time for Best Actress.

In July 1941, de Havilland was reunited with Errol Flynn for their eighth movie together, Raoul Walsh‘s epic They Died with Their Boots On. The film is loosely based on the courtship and marriage of George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon. Flynn and de Havilland had a falling out the previous year‍—‌mainly over the roles she was being given‍—‌and she did not intend to work with him again. Even Flynn acknowledged, “She was sick to death of playing ‘the girl’ and badly wanted a few good roles to show herself and the world that she was a fine actress.” After she learned from Warner that Flynn had come to his office saying he needed her in the film, de Havilland accepted. Screenwriter Lenore Coffee was brought in to add several romantic scenes, and improve the overall dialogue. The result is a film that includes some of their finest work together. Their last appearance on screen is Custer’s farewell to his wife. “Errol was quite sensitive,” de Havilland would later remember, “I think he knew it would be the last time we worked together.” Flynn’s final line in that scene would hold special meaning for her: “Walking through life with you, ma’am, has been a very gracious thing.” They Died with Their Boots On was released on November 21, 1941, and while some reviewers criticized the film’s historical inaccuracies, most applauded the action sequences, cinematography, and acting. Thomas M. Pryor of The New York Times found de Havilland “altogether captivating.” The film went on to earn $2,550,000 (equivalent to $41,500,000 in 2016), Warner Bros’ second-biggest money-maker of that year.

In 1942, de Havilland appeared in Elliott Nugent‘s romantic comedy The Male Animal with Henry Fonda, about an idealistic professor fighting for academic freedom while trying to hold onto his job and his wife Ellen. While her role was not particularly challenging, de Havilland’s delineation of an intelligent, good-natured woman trying to resolve the unsettling circumstances of her life played a major part in the film’s success, according to Tony Thomas. The film was a critical and commercial success, with Bosley Crowther of The Times noting that de Havilland “concocts a delightfully pliant and saucy character as the wife.” That year, she also appeared in John Huston‘s drama In This Our Life with Bette Davis. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Ellen Glasgow, the story is about two sisters whose lives are destroyed by the anger and jealousy of one of the sisters. Crowther gave the film a negative review, but noted de Havilland’s “warm and easy performance.” During production, de Havilland and Huston began a romantic relationship that lasted three years.

According to de Havilland, one of the few truly satisfying roles she played for Warner Bros. was the title character in Norman Krasna’s romantic comedy Princess O’Rourke (1943) with Robert Cummings. Filmed in July and August 1942, the story is about a European princess in Washington, DC, visiting her diplomat uncle, who is trying to find her an American husband. Intent on marrying a man of her own choosing, she boards a plane heading west and ends up falling in love with an American pilot, who is unaware of her true identity. The film was released on October 23, 1943, and did well at the box office. Bosley Crowther called it “a film which is in the best tradition of American screen comedy”, and found de Havilland’s performance “charming.”

 

I wanted to do complex roles, like Melanie for example, and Jack Warner saw me as an ingénue. I was really restless to portray more developed human beings. Jack never understood this, and … he would give me roles that really had no character or quality in them. I knew I wouldn’t even be effective.

— Olivia de Havilland

 

After fulfilling her seven-year Warner Bros. contract in 1943, de Havilland was informed that six months had been added to her contract for the times that she had been suspended. At the time, the studios had adopted the position that California law allowed them to suspend contract players for rejecting a role, and the period of suspension could be added to the contract period. Most contract players accepted this, but a few tried to change the system, including Bette Davis, who mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s. On August 23, 1943, acting on the advice of her lawyer, Martin Gang, de Havilland took Warner Bros. to court, citing an existing section of the California Labor Code that forbade an employer from enforcing a contract against an employee for longer than seven years from the date of first performance. In November 1943, the California Superior Court found in de Havilland’s favor, and Warner Bros. immediately appealed. On December 8, 1944, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled in her favor. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood, reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to performers. California’s resulting “seven-year rule,” also known as Labor Code Section 2855, is still known today as the De Havilland Law. Her legal victory, which cost her $13,000 (equivalent to $180,000 in 2016) in legal fees, won de Havilland the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister Joan Fontaine, who later commented, “Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal.” Warner Bros. reacted to de Havilland’s lawsuit by circulating a letter to other studios that had the effect of a “virtual blacklisting.” As a consequence, de Havilland did not work at a film studio for nearly two years.

De Havilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 28, 1941. During the war years, she actively sought out ways to express her patriotism and contribute to the war effort. In May 1942, she joined the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a three-week train tour of the country that raised money through the sale of war bonds. Later that year she began attending events at the Hollywood Canteen, meeting and dancing with the troops. In December 1943 de Havilland joined a USO tour that traveled throughout the United States, Alaska, and the South Pacific, visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals. She earned the respect and admiration of the troops for visiting the isolated islands and battlefronts in the Pacific. She survived flights in damaged aircraft and a bout with viral pneumonia requiring several days’ stay in one of the island barrack hospitals. She later remembered, “I loved doing the tours because it was a way I could serve my country and contribute to the war effort.”

 

Vindication and recognition, 1945–52

After the California Court of Appeals ruling freed her from her Warner Bros. contract, de Havilland signed a two-picture deal with Paramount Pictures. In June 1945, she began filming Mitchell Leisen’s drama To Each His Own, about an unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption and then spends the rest of her life trying to undo that decision. De Havilland insisted on bringing in Leisen as director, trusting his eye for detail, his empathy for actors, and the way he controlled sentiment in their previous collaboration, Hold Back the Dawn. The role required de Havilland to age nearly 30 years over the course of the film‍—‌from an innocent, small-town girl to a shrewd, ruthless businesswoman devoted to her cosmetics company. While de Havilland never formally studied acting, she did read Stanislavsky’s autobiography My Life in Art and applied one of his “methods” for this role. To help her define her character during the four periods of the story, she used a different perfume for each period. She also lowered the pitch of her voice incrementally in each period until it became a mature woman’s voice. Her performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1946‍—‌her first Oscar. According to film historian Tony Thomas, the award represented a vindication of her long struggle with Warner Bros. and confirmation of her abilities as an actress.

Her next two roles were challenging. In Robert Siodmak’s psychological thriller The Dark Mirror (1946), de Havilland played twin sisters Ruth and Terry Collins‍—‌one loving and normal, the other psychotic. In addition to the technical problems of showing her as two characters interacting with each other on screen at the same time, de Havilland needed to portray two separate and psychologically opposite people. While the film was not well received by critics‍—‌Variety said the film “gets lost in a maze of psychological gadgets and speculation”‍—‌de Havilland’s performance was praised by Tony Thomas, who called her final scene in the film “an almost frighteningly convincing piece of acting.” De Havilland later stated that playing the evil sister haunted her for years. In his review in The Nation, James Agee wrote that “her playing is thoughtful, quiet, detailed, and well sustained, and since it is founded, as some more talented playing is not, in an unusually healthful-seeming and likable temperament, it is an undivided pleasure to see.” While appearing in a summer stock production of What Every Woman Knows in Westport, Connecticut, her second professional stage appearance, de Havilland began dating Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, journalist, and author of the 1941 novel Delilah. They were married on August 26, 1946.

De Havilland was praised for her performance as Virginia Cunningham in Anatole Litvak‘s drama The Snake Pit (1948), one of the first films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness and an important exposé of the harsh conditions in state mental hospitals, according to film critic Philip French. Based on a novel by Mary Jane Ward and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, the film is about a woman placed in a mental institution by her husband to help her recover from a nervous breakdown. Virginia Cunningham was one of the most difficult of all her film roles, requiring significant preparation both mentally and physically‍—‌she deliberately lost weight to help create her gaunt appearance on screen. She consulted regularly with psychiatrists hired as consultants for the film, and visited Camarillo State Mental Hospital to research her role and observe the patients. The extreme physical discomfort of the hydrotherapy and simulated electric shock therapy scenes were especially challenging for the slight 5-foot-3-inch (160 cm) actress. In her performance, she conveyed her mental anguish by physically transforming her face with furrowed brow, wild staring eyes, and grimacing mouth.

 

I met a young woman who was very much like Virginia, about the same age and physical description, as well as being a schizophrenic with guilt problems. … What struck me most of all was the fact that she was rather likable and appealing. It hadn’t occurred to me before that a mental patient could be appealing, and it was that that gave me the key to the performance.

— Olivia de Havilland

 

According to author Judith Kass, de Havilland delivered a performance both “restrained and electric,” portraying varied and extreme aspects of her character‍—‌from a shy young woman to a tormented and disoriented woman. For her performance in The Snake Pit, de Havilland received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup. In 1949, de Havilland appeared in William Wyler‘s period drama The Heiress (1949), the fourth in a string of critically acclaimed performances. After seeing the play on Broadway, de Havilland called Wyler and urged him to fly to New York to see what she felt would be a perfect role for her. Wyler obliged, loved the play, and with de Havilland’s help arranged for Paramount to secure the film rights. Adapted for the screen by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James, the film is about a young naïve woman who falls in love with a young man, over the objections of her emotionally abusive father, who suspects the man of being a gold digger. As she had done in Hold Back the Dawn, de Havilland portrays a character’s transformation from a shy, trusting innocent to a guarded, mature woman over a period of years. Her delineation of Catherine Sloper is developed through carefully crafted movements, gestures, and facial expressions that convey a submissive and inhibited young woman. Her timid voice, nervous hands, downcast eyes, and careful movements all communicate what the character is too shy to verbalize. Throughout the production, Wyler pressed de Havilland hard to elicit the requisite visual points of the character. In the scene where Catherine returns home after being jilted, the director had the actress carry a suitcase filled with heavy books up the stairs to convey the weight of Catherine’s trauma physically instead of using a planned speech in the original script. The Heiress was released in October 1949 and was well received by critics. For her performance, de Havilland received the New York Film Critics Award, the Golden Globe Award, and the Academy Award for Best Actress‍—‌her second Oscar.

After giving birth to her first child, Benjamin, on September 27, 1949, de Havilland took time off from making films to be with her infant. She turned down the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, later explaining that becoming a mother was a “transforming experience” and that she could not relate to the character. In 1950, her family moved to New York City, where she began rehearsals for a major new stage production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; it was her lifelong ambition to play Juliet on the stage. The play opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 11, 1951, to mixed reviews, with some critics believing the 35-year-old actress was too old for the role. The play closed after 45 performances. Undaunted, de Havilland accepted the title role in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Candida, which opened at the National Theatre on Broadway in April 1952. While reviews of the play were mixed, de Havilland’s performance was well received, and following the scheduled 32 performances, she went on tour with the company and delivered 323 additional performances, many to sold-out audiences. While de Havilland achieved major accomplishments during this period of her career, her marriage to Goodrich, 18 years her senior, had grown strained due to his unstable temperament. In August 1952, de Havilland filed for divorce, which became final the following year.

 

New life in Paris, 1953–62

 Of course the thing that staggers you when you first come to France is the fact that all the French speak French‍—‌even the children. Many Americans and “Britishers” who visit the country never quite adjust to this, and the idea persists that the natives speak the language just to show off or be difficult.

— Olivia de Havilland in Every Frenchman Has One

 

In April 1953, at the invitation of the French government, de Havilland traveled to the Cannes Film Festival, where she met Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. Following a long-distance courtship and the requisite nine-month residency requirement, de Havilland and Galante married on April 2, 1955, in the village of Yvoy-le-Marron, and settled together in a three-story house near Bois de Boulogne park in the Rive Droite section of Paris. That same year, de Havilland returned to the screen in Terence Young’s period drama That Lady (1955), about a Spanish princess and her unrequited love for King Philip II of Spain, whose respect she earned in her youth after losing an eye in a sword fight defending his honor. According to Tony Thomas, the film uses authentic Spanish locations effectively, but suffers from a convoluted plot and excessive dialogue, and while de Havilland delivered a warm and elegant performance as Ana de Mendoza, the film was disappointing.

Following her appearances in the romantic melodrama Not as a Stranger (1955) and The Ambassador’s Daughter(1956)—‌neither of which were successful at the box office‍—‌de Havilland gave birth to her second child, Gisèle Galante, on July 18, 1956.

De Havilland returned to the screen in 1958 in Michael Curtiz’s Western drama The Proud Rebel, a film about a former Confederate soldier whose wife was killed in the war and whose son lost the ability to speak after witnessing the tragedy. De Havilland played Linnett Moore, a tough yet feminine frontier woman who cares for the boy and comes to love his father. The movie was filmed on location in Utah, where de Havilland learned to hitch and drive a team of horses and handle a gun for her role. The Proud Rebel was released May 28, 1958, and was well received by audiences and critics. In his review for The New York Times, A. H. Weiler called the film a “truly sensitive effort” and “heartwarming drama,” and praised de Havilland’s ability to convey the “warmth, affection and sturdiness needed in the role.”

One of de Havilland’s most noted performances during this period was in Guy Green’s romantic drama Light in the Piazza (1962) with Rossano Brazzi. Filmed in Florence and Rome, and based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novel of the same name, the film is about a middle-class American tourist on extended vacation in Italy with her beautiful 26-year-old daughter, who is mentally disabled as a result of a childhood accident. Faced with the prospect of her daughter falling in love with a young Italian, the mother struggles with conflicting emotions about her daughter’s future.

De Havilland projects a calm maternal serenity throughout most of the film, only showing glimpses of the worried mother anxious for her child’s happiness. The film was released on February 9, 1962, and was well received, with a Hollywood Reporter reviewer calling it “an uncommon love story … told with rare delicacy and force”, and Variet ynoting that the film “achieves the rare and delicate balance of artistic beauty, romantic substance, dramatic novelty and commercial appeal.” Variety singled out de Havilland’s performance as “one of great consistency and subtle projection.”

In early 1962, de Havilland traveled to New York and began rehearsals for Garson Kanin‘s stage play A Gift of Time. Adapted from the autobiographical book Death of a Man by Lael Tucker Wertenbaker, the play explores the emotionally painful struggle of a housewife forced to deal with the slow death of her husband, played by Henry Fonda. The play opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway to positive notices, with de Havilland receiving her best reviews as a stage actress. Theater critic Walter Kerr praised her final scene, writing, “As darkness gathers, the actress gains in stature, taking on the simple and resolute willingness to understand.” The New York World Telegram and Sun reviewer concluded, “It is Miss de Havilland who gives the play its unbroken continuity. This distinguished actress reveals Lael as a special and admirable woman.” She stayed with the production for 90 performances. The year 1962 also had the publication of de Havilland’s first book, Every Frenchman Has One, a lighthearted account of her often amusing attempts to understand and adapt to French life, manners, and customs. The book sold out its first printing prior to the publication date and went on to become a bestseller.

 

Later films and television, 1963–88

In 1964, de Havilland appeared in her last two leading roles in feature films‍—‌both psychological thrillers. In Walter Grauman‘s Lady in a Cage, she played a wealthy poet who gets trapped in her mansion’s elevator and faces the threat of three terrorizing hooligans in her own home. Critics responded negatively to the graphic violence and cruelty shown on screen. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times called it a “sordid, if suspenseful, exercise in aimless brutality.” That same year, de Havilland appeared in Robert Aldrich’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with her close friend Bette Davis. After Joan Crawford left the picture due to illness, Davis had Aldrich fly to Switzerland to persuade a reluctant de Havilland to accept the role of Miriam Deering, a cruel, conniving character hidden behind the charming façade of a polite and cultured lady. De Havilland’s quiet, restrained performance provided a counterbalance to Davis’s ranting characterization. Film historian Tony Thomas described her performance as “a subtle piece of acting” that was “a vital contribution to the effectiveness of the film.” The film was well received and earned seven Academy Award nominations.

As film roles became more difficult to find, a common problem shared by many Hollywood veterans from her era, de Havilland began working in television dramas, despite her dislike of the networks’ practice of breaking up story lines with commercials. Her first venture into the medium was a teleplay directed by Sam Peckinpah called NoonWine (1966) on ABC Stage 67, a dark tragedy about a farmer’s act of murder that leads to his suicide. The production and her performance as the farmer’s wife Ellie were well received. In 1972, she starred in her first television feature film, The Screaming Woman, about a wealthy woman recovering from a nervous breakdown. In 1979, she appeared in the ABC miniseries Roots: The Next Generations in the role of Mrs. Warner, the wife of a former Confederate officer played by Henry Fonda. The miniseries was seen by an estimated 110 million people‍—‌nearly one-third of American homes with television sets. Throughout the 1970s, de Havilland’s film work was limited to smaller supporting roles and cameo appearances. Her last feature film was The Fifth Musketeer (1979).

During this period, de Havilland began doing speaking engagements in cities across the United States with a talk entitled “From the City of the Stars to the City of Light”, a program of personal reminiscences about her life and career. She also attended tributes to Gone with the Wind. In the 1980s, her television work included an Agatha Christie television film Murder Is Easy (1982), the television drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982) in which she played the Queen Mother, and the 1986 ABC miniseries North and South, Book II. Her most notable performance of the decade was in the television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) as Dowager Empress Maria, which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film. In 1988, de Havilland appeared in the HTV romantic television drama The Woman He Loved; it was her final screen performance.

 

Retirement and remembrance, 1989–present

In retirement, de Havilland remained active in the film community. In 1998, she traveled to New York to help promote a special showing of Gone with the Wind. In 2003, she appeared as a presenter at the 75th Academy Awards. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies produced a retrospective piece called Melanie Remembers in which she was interviewed for the 65th anniversary of the original release of Gone with the Wind. In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes commemorating her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

On November 17, 2008, at the age of 92, de Havilland received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States. The medal was presented to her by President George W. Bush, who commended her “for her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare’s Hermia to Margaret Mitchell’s Melanie. Her independence, integrity, and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors.” The following year, de Havilland narrated the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint (2009), a film about the importance of art in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

On September 9, 2010, de Havilland was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told the actress, “You honor France for having chosen us.” In February the following year, she appeared at the César Awards in France, where she was greeted with a standing ovation. De Havilland celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1, 2016.

 

Personal life

Relationships

Although known as one of Hollywood’s most exciting on-screen couples, de Havilland and Errol Flynn were never involved in a romantic relationship. Upon first meeting her at Warner Bros. in August 1935, Flynn was drawn to the 19-year-old actress with “warm brown eyes” and “extraordinary charm.” In turn, de Havilland fell in love with him, but kept her feelings inside, later recalling, “He never guessed I had a crush on him … it never occurred to me that he was smitten with me, too.” Flynn later wrote, “By the time we made The Charge of the Light Brigade, I was sure that I was in love with her.” Flynn finally professed his love on March 12, 1937, at the Coronation Ball for King George VI at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where they slow danced together to “Sweet Leilani” at the hotel’s Coconut Grove nightclub. “I was deeply affected by him,” she later remembered, “It was impossible for me not to be.” The evening ended on a sobering note, however, with de Havilland insisting that despite his separation from his wife Lili Damita, he needed to divorce her before their relationship could proceed. Flynn reunited with his wife later that year, and de Havilland never acted on her feelings for Flynn.

In July 1938, de Havilland began dating business tycoon, aviator, and filmmaker Howard Hughes, who had just completed his record-setting flight around the world in 91 hours. In addition to escorting her about town, he gave the actress her first flying lessons. She later said, “He was a rather shy man … and yet, in a whole community where the men every day played heroes on the screen and didn’t do anything heroic in life, here was this man who was a real hero.” In December 1939, de Havilland began a romantic relationship with actor James Stewart. At the request of Irene Mayer Selznick, the actor’s agent asked Stewart to escort de Havilland to the New York premiere of Gone with the Wind at the Astor Theater on December 19, 1939. Over the next few days, Stewart took her to the theater several times and to the 21 Club. They continued to see each other back in Los Angeles, where Stewart provided occasional flying lessons and romance. According to de Havilland, Stewart proposed marriage to her in 1940, but she felt that he was not ready to settle down. Their relationship ended in late 1941 when de Havilland began a romantic relationship with film director John Huston while making In This Our Life. “John was a very great love of mine,” she would later admit, “He was a man I wanted to marry.”

 

Marriages and children

On August 26, 1946, she married Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, journalist, and author of the 1941 novel Delilah. The marriage ended in divorce in 1953. They had one child, Benjamin Goodrich, who was born on September 27, 1949. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 19, but was able to graduate from the University of Texas. He worked as a statistical analyst for Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, California, and as an international banking representative for the Texas Commerce Bank in Houston. He died on October 1, 1991, in Paris at the age of 41 of heart disease brought on by treatments for Hodgkin’s disease, three weeks before the death of his father.

On April 2, 1955, de Havilland married Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. Her marriage to Galante prompted de Havilland to move to Paris. The couple separated in 1962, but continued to live in the same house for another six years to raise their daughter together. Galante moved across the street and the two remained close, even after the finalization of the divorce in 1979. She looked after him during his final bout with lung cancer prior to his death in 1998. They had one child, Gisèle Galante, who was born on July 18, 1956. After studying law at the Université de Droit de Nanterre School of Law, she worked as a journalist in France and the United States. Since 1956, de Havilland has lived in the same three-story house near Bois de Boulogne park in the Rive Droite section of Paris.

 

Religion and politics

 De Havilland was raised in the Episcopal Church and has remained an Episcopalian throughout her life. After moving to France, she became one of the first women lectors at the American Cathedral in Paris, where she was on the regular rota for Scripture readings. As recently as 2012, she was still doing readings on major feast days, including Christmas and Easter. “It’s a task I love,” she once said. In describing her preparation for her readings, de Havilland once observed, “You have to convey the deep meaning, you see, and it has to start with your own faith. But first I always pray. I pray before I start to prepare, as well. In fact, I would always say a prayer before shooting a scene, so this is not so different, in a way.” De Havilland prefers to use the Revised English Bible for its poetic style. She raised her son Benjamin in the Episcopal Church and her daughter Gisèle in the Roman Catholic Church, the faith of the child’s father.

As a United States citizen, de Havilland became involved in politics as a way of exercising her civic responsibilities. She campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s re-election in 1944. After the war, she joined the Independent Citizens’ Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, a national public policy advocacy group that included Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart in its Hollywood chapter. In June 1946, she was asked to deliver speeches for the committee that reflected the Communist Party line‍—‌the group was later identified as a Communist front organization. Disturbed at seeing a small group of Communist members manipulating the committee, de Havilland removed the pro-Communist material from her speeches and rewrote them to reflect Harry S. Truman‘s anti-Communist platform. She later recalled, “I realized a nucleus of people was controlling the organization without a majority of the members of the board being aware of it. And I knew they had to be Communists.”

She organized a fight to regain control of the committee from its pro-Soviet leadership, but her reform efforts failed. Her resignation from the committee triggered a wave of resignations from 11 other Hollywood figures, including future President Ronald Reagan. In 1958, she was secretly called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and recounted her experiences with the Independent Citizens’ Committee.

 

Relationship with only sibling, Joan Fontaine

De Havilland and her sister Joan Fontaine are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards in a lead acting category. According to biographer Charles Higham, the sisters always had an uneasy relationship, starting in early childhood when Olivia had trouble accepting the idea of having a younger sister, and Joan resenting her mother’s favoring Olivia. Olivia would rip up the clothes that her sister was given to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Joan to stitch them together again. This tension was made worse by Fontaine’s frequent childhood illnesses, which led to her mother’s overly protective expression, “Livvie can, Joan can’t.”

De Havilland was the first to become an actress, and for several years Fontaine was overshadowed by her sister’s accomplishments. When Mervyn LeRoy offered Fontaine a personal contract, her mother told her that Warner Bros. was “Olivia’s studio” and that she could not use the family name, “de Havilland.” In 1942, de Havilland and Fontaine were both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress‍—‌de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn and Fontaine for Suspicion. When Fontaine’s name was announced as winner, de Havilland reacted graciously saying, “We’ve got it!” According to biographer Charles Higham, Fontaine rejected de Havilland’s attempts to congratulate her, leaving the other offended and embarrassed.

Their relationship was further strained in 1946 when Fontaine made negative comments to an interviewer about de Havilland’s new husband, Marcus Goodrich. When she read her sister’s remarks, de Havilland was deeply hurt and waited for an apology that was never offered. The following year after accepting her first Academy Award for To Each His Own, de Havilland was approached backstage by Fontaine, who extended her hand to congratulate her; de Havilland turned away from her sister. The two did not speak for the next five years after the incident. This may have caused an estrangement between Fontaine and her own daughters, who maintained a covert relationship with their aunt, de Havilland. Following her divorce from Goodrich, de Havilland resumed contact with her sister, coming to her apartment in New York and spending Christmas together there in 1961. The final break between the sisters occurred in 1975 over disagreements over their mother’s cancer treatment‍—‌de Havilland wanted to consult other doctors and supported exploratory surgery; Fontaine disagreed. Fontaine claimed that de Havilland did not notify her of their mother’s death while she was touring with a play‍—‌de Havilland in fact had sent a telegram, which took two weeks to reach her sister. The sibling feud ended with Fontaine’s death on December 15, 2013. The following day, de Havilland released a statement saying she was “shocked and saddened” by the news.

 

Career assessment and legacy

De Havilland’s career spanned 53 years, from 1935 to 1988. During that time, she appeared in 49 feature films, and was one of the leading movie stars during the golden age of Classical Hollywood. She began her career playing demure ingénues opposite popular male stars, including Errol Flynn, with whom she made her breakout film Captain Blood in 1935. They would go on to make eight more feature films together, and became one of Hollywood’s most popular romantic on-screen pairings. Her range of performances included roles in most major movie genres. Following her film debut in the Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night’s Dream, de Havilland achieved her initial popularity in romantic comedies, such as The Great Garrick and Hard to Get, and Western adventure films, such as Dodge City and Santa Fe Trail. In her later career, she was most successful in drama films, such as In This Our Life and Light in the Piazza, and psychological dramas playing non-glamorous characters in films such as The Dark Mirror, The Snake Pit, and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

During her career, de Havilland won two Academy Awards (To Each His Own and The Heiress), two Golden Globe Awards (The Heiress and Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna), two New York Film Critics Circle Awards (The Snake Pit and The Heiress), the National Board of Review Award, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup (The Snake Pit), and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination (Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna).

For her contributions to the motion picture industry, de Havilland received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6762 Hollywood Boulevard on February 8, 1960.[267] Since her retirement in 1988, her lifetime contribution to the arts has been honored on two continents. In 1998, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in England.

In 2006, she was inducted into the Online Film & Television Association Award Film Hall of Fame. On November 17, 2008, President George W. Bush presented de Havilland the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given for achievement in the arts conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the American people. On September 9, 2010, de Havilland was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The moving-image collection of Olivia de Havilland is held at the Academy Film Archive, which preserved a nitrate reel of a screen test for Danton, Max Reinhardt’s never-produced follow-up to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935).

de Havilland, as a confidante and friend of Bette Davis, is featured in the series Feud: Bette and Joan, portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. In the series de Havilland reflects on the origins and depth of the DavisCrawford feud and how it affected contemporary female Hollywood stars.

 

Honors and awards

1939   Academy Award    –   Best Actress in a Supporting Role

1941   Academy Award    –    Best Actress in a Leading Role

1946   Academy Award    –    Best Actress in a Leading Role

1948   Academy Award    –    Best Actress in a Leading Role

Engelbert Humperdinck

 

(Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey; 2 May 1936) is an English pop singer. Humperdinck has been described as “one of the finest middle-of-the-road balladeers around.” His singles “Release Me” and “The Last Waltz” both topped the UK music charts in 1967, and sold more than a million copies each. In North America, he also had chart successes with “After the Lovin’” (1976) and “This Moment in Time” (1979). He has sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

 

Early life

Arnold George Dorsey was born in Madras, British India (present-day Chennai, India) in 1936, one of ten children to British Army NCO Mervyn Dorsey, who was of Welsh descent, and his wife Olive, who was of German descent. His family moved to Leicester, England, when he was ten. He soon showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s, he was playing saxophone in nightclubs, but he is believed not to have tried singing until he was seventeen, when friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him “Gerry Dorsey,” a name that he worked under for almost a decade.

Dorsey’s music career was interrupted by his national service in the British Army Royal Corps of Signals during the mid-1950s. He got his first chance to record in 1958 with Decca Records after his discharge. His first single “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” was not a hit, but Dorsey recorded for the same company almost a decade later with very different results. He continued working the nightclubs until 1961, when he was stricken with tuberculosis. He regained his health and returned to nightclub work, but with little success. Dorsey spent the early 1960s living in a house with Johnny “Sambuca” Todd in Jersey where he honed his talent.

 

Career

In 1965, Dorsey teamed up with Gordon Mills, his former roommate in the Bayswater area of London, who had become a music impresario and the manager of Tom Jones. Mills, aware that Dorsey had been struggling for several years to become successful in the music industry, suggested a name-change to the more arresting Engelbert Humperdinck, borrowed from the German 19th-century composer of operas such as Hansel and Gretel. Dorsey adopted the name professionally but not legally. Mills arranged a new deal for him with Decca Records, and Dorsey has been performing under this name ever since.

Humperdinck enjoyed his first real success during July 1966 in Belgium, where he and four others represented England in the annual Knokke song contest. Three months later in October 1966, he was on stage in Mechelen. He made a mark on the Belgian charts with “Dommage, Dommage,” and an early music video was filmed with him in the harbour of Zeebrugge.

In the mid-1960s, Humperdinck visited German songwriter Bert Kaempfert at his house in Spain and was offered arrangements of three songs: “Spanish Eyes“; “Strangers in the Night“; and “Wonderland by Night.” He returned to England where he recorded all three songs. He recognized the potential of “Strangers in the Night” and asked manager Gordon Mills whether it could be released as a single—but his request was refused, since the song had already been requested by Frank Sinatra.

In early 1967, the changes paid off when Humperdinck’s version of “Release Me” made the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and number one in Britain, recorded in a smooth ballad style with a full chorus joining him on the third refrain, and keeping The Beatles‘ “Strawberry Fields Forever“/”Penny Lane” from the top slot in the UK. Another groundbreaking video showed Engelbert tied up with a lasso. “Release Me” spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 in a single chart run. “Release Me” was believed to have sold 85,000 copies a day at the height of its popularity, and it was the best known of his songs for years.

Humperdinck’s easygoing style and good looks earned him a large following, particularly among women. His hardcore female fans called themselves “Humperdinckers.” “Release Me” was succeeded by two more hit ballads: “There Goes My Everything” and “The Last Waltz,” earning him a reputation as a crooner, a description which he disputed. “If you are not a crooner,” he told The Hollywood Reporter writer Rick Sherwood, “it’s something you don’t want to be called. No crooner has the range I have. I can hit notes a bank could not cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylized performer.”

In 1968, the single “A Man Without Love” reached number two in the UK Singles Chart, and the album of the same name reached number three. Another single, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, was a top 10 hit in the UK and reached the top 40 in the United States. By the end of the decade, Humperdinck’s expanding roster of songs also included “Am I That Easy to Forget,” “The Way It Used To Be,” “I’m A Better Man (For Having Loved You)” (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), and “Winter World of Love.” He supplemented these big-selling singles with a number of equally successful albums. These albums formed the bedrock of his fame, and include Release Me, The Last Waltz, A Man Without Love, and Engelbert Humperdinck.

For six months in 1969–1970, Humperdinck fronted his own television series The Engelbert Humperdinck Show for ATV in the UK, and ABC in the US.] In this musical variety show, the singer was joined by some of the most popular and legendary figures then active in entertainment, including Paul Anka, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Ray Charles, Four Tops, Lena Horne, Liberace, Lulu, Carmen McRae Dusty Springfield, Jack Jones, Tom Jones and Dionne Warwick.

 

1960s and 1970s

By the start of the 1970s, Humperdinck had settled into a busy schedule of recordings, and a number of signature songs emerged from this period, often written by noted musicians and songwriters; among them, “We Made It Happen” (written by Paul Anka), “Sweetheart” (written by Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb), “Another Time, Another Place,” and “Too Beautiful to Last” (theme from the motion picture Nicholas and Alexandra). In 1972, he starred in his own BBC Television series Engelbert with The Young Generation on BBC1 which ran for thirteen weeks, featuring the dance troupe and regular guests The Goodies and Marlene Charell, as well as international guests. By the middle of the decade, Humperdinck concentrated on selling albums and on live performances, with his style of balladry less popular on the singles charts, developing lavish stage productions that made him a natural for Las Vegas and similar venues. He performed regularly at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas through the early and middle years of the decade, recording a live album at the venue with The Three Degrees as backing singers.

In 1976, Humperdinck’s commercial credentials were buoyed by “After the Lovin,’” a ballad produced by Joel Diamond and released by CBS subsidiary Epic. The song was a top ten hit in the US and was nominated for a Grammy Award, went Gold, and won the “most played juke box record of the year” award. The album of the same name reached the top twenty on the US charts, and was a Double Platinum hit for the singer. Three of the album tracks were produced by Bobby Eli and recorded at the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. As critics point out, the singer’s unexpected foray into the “Philadelphia Sound” was successful, adding to the overall strength of the work. Rounding off the year, Humperdinck made his first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with a live performance of the hit single. Joel Diamond went on to produce a series of albums recorded by Humperdinck for Epic, including This Moment in Time from 1979 (the title song topped the US adult contemporary charts) and two Christmas albums. The two men have remained good friends. In 1979, following his late-decade chart successes stateside, Humperdinck took his stage show to Broadway with appearances at the Minskoff Theatre.

 

1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s, Humperdinck consolidated his discography, recording regularly and performing as many as 200 concerts a year while continuing with headlining appearances in Las Vegas at the Hilton Hotel (Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino). In the early and mid 1980s, he made a number of special appearances as an actor on popular television dramas of the time, including The Love Boat, Hotel, and Fantasy Island.

Following his stint as a recording artist with Epic, he released what William Ruhlmann has called an “ambitious double album” titled A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening (1985). Ruhlmann commends Humperdinck for recording this album of standards from the American Songbook; he notes that the work “was a long time coming,” while acknowledging that “the album deserved a broader distribution than it received.” The album was released in the UK as Getting Sentimental and reached the UK Top-40 album charts in the summer of 1985.

In the following years, Humperdinck continued with studio recordings, including a duet with Gloria Gaynor for his 1987 album Remember, I Love You In 1989, he recorded Step into My Life (released as Ich Denk An Dich in Germany). Songs on the album were written by songwriters and musicians such as Dieter Bohlen and Barry Mason. It spawned several singles: “Red Roses for My Lady,” “I Wanna Rock You in My Wildest Dreams,” and a version of Dieter Bohlen‘s first hit from the album Modern Talking, “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul.”

Humperdinck was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and won a Golden Globe Award as entertainer of the year, while also beginning major involvement in charitable causes such as the Leukemia Research Fund, the American Red Cross, the American Lung Association, and several AIDS relief organizations. He wrote a song for one charity-group titled “Reach Out” (released in 1992, on his studio album Hello Out There]).

Musical appraisals of Humperdinck’s career in the 1990s point to him earning “a new hip cachet” during the Lounge Revival, and note the success of new artistic ventures such as his recording of Lesbian Seagull for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-head Do America, and his dance album from 1998. 1995’s Love Unchained, produced by Bebu Silvetti, peaked in the UK Top-20 album charts, marking a return to form in his home country. He retained a public profile during these years, making numerous appearances on radio and television, including the Late Show with David Letterman and The Howard Stern Show, and at events such as the 1996 Daytona 500, where he performed The Star-Spangled Banner.

In 1988, Humperdinck filed a libel suit against the National Enquirer. The origin of the libelous statements was said to be Kathy Jetter, the mother of Humperdinck’s illegitimate child, and were made in an affidavit filed by Jetter in New York Family Court in an effort to increase child support payments from Humperdinck. Jetter lost the action. Jetter had successfully brought a paternity suit against Humperdinck following the birth of her daughter Jennifer in 1977.

 

21st century

Humperdinck’s recording career has continued into the new century, with new albums and a range of musical collaborations. In 2000, he hit the top five of the British album charts with Engelbert at His Very Best, and returned to the top five four years later, after he appeared in a John Smith’s TV-advertisement. In the spring of 2003, Humperdinck collaborated with Grammy Award-winning artist-producer Art Greenhaw to record the roots gospel album Always Hear the Harmony: The Gospel Sessions; joining Humperdinck on the album were The Light Crust Doughboys, The Jordanaires and The Blackwood Brothers. The critically acclaimed album was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album of the Year,” while Humperdinck was photographed with generations of fans at the 2004 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. He was back in the studio soon after, releasing Let There Be Love in 2005. Music critics have remarked on the historical span of material in the album, from songs first made popular in the 1920s to more recent ones from the 1990s, and point especially to Humperdinck’s version of Nick Lowe‘s “You Inspire Me” as a noteworthy cut. In 2007, Humperdinck released The Winding Road. In a conversation with Larry King, Humperdinck discussed the genesis of the album; he pointed out that The Winding Road featured songs exclusively by British composers, as a “tribute to [his] home country,” released as it was to mark 40 years since his first international hit recording.

During the recording of the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, Humperdinck was asked by Damon Albarn to contribute to the album as a guest artist. However, after listening to the proposed selection, the singer’s management of the time declined the offer without Humperdinck’s knowledge. Describing the event, Humperdinck stated that the missed opportunity was, “the most grievous sin ever committed”, and that he would have gladly collaborated with the Gorillaz. He added that he had since parted ways with his then-management, handing over duties to his son, Scott Dorsey. At the end of the interview, Humperdinck observed: “I’d really like to rekindle that suggestion again and bring it back. Hopefully they will ask me again. My son Scott will definitely say yes.”

On 1 March 2012, the BBC announced that Humperdinck would represent the United Kingdom in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, to be staged in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. The song, “Love Will Set You Free” was unveiled on 19 March 2012, produced by Grammy award-winning music producer Martin Terefe and co-written by Sacha Skarbek. The song was recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nashville, Tennessee, and was mixed by Thomas Juth in London. When Humperdinck’s participation was announced, he was set to become the oldest singer to ever participate in the contest at the age of 76. During the final allocation draw, the United Kingdom was drawn to perform first. Humperdinck eventually finished in 25th place out of 26, coming in second to last in the voting, with 12 points.

In 2013, he collaborated with Australian surf-rock band The Break (composed in part by former members of Midnight Oil) by providing the vocals to the song, “Ten Guitars,” for the album, Space Farm.

Well into his fifth decade as a successful entertainer, Humperdinck enjoys an annual schedule of international concert dates. He has performed in a range of venues and events. In 2009, Humperdinck performed at Carols in the Domain, a popular Christmas event held in Sydney, Australia. The following year found him in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the prestigious Orchestra Hall, in a performance on October 2010. In November 2010 he returned to Australia for a number of concerts, while adding a new studio album, Released, to his discography. Despite international tours, Humperdinck frequently returns for concerts in the United Kingdom; in May 2015, Humperdinck returned for three concerts in his home country, at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and the Royal Albert Hall.

A double-CD of duets, Engelbert Calling, was released in the UK on 17 March 2014 by Conehead Records, and charted in the UK Top-40. The album finds the singer in the studio with musicians like Charles Aznavour, Elton John, Il Divo, Johnny Mathis, Lulu, Willie Nelson, Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka, Ron Sexsmith, Gene Simmons, and Dionne Warwick. The album was released in North America by OK! Good Records on 30 September 2014, with Humperdinck making a number of promotional appearances on radio and television, including an extended conversation with Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on HuffPost Live. A Special Edition Vinyl EP with four tracks from the album was released in May 2015. According to OK! Good Records, the EP is Humperdinck’s first vinyl release after a gap of twenty-five years, and “will be a limited edition 7″ vinyl record with a first pressing of 1,000 copies on transparent cloudy clear vinyl.”

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Humperdinck’s first international chart success, and two major celebratory disc sets are slated for a release in the early summer. The first, Engelbert Humperdinck 50, is a two-disc album bringing together Humperdinck’s charting singles for Decca, other songs from different points in his career, two new studio recordings, and a new remix of “Release Me.” The second is an extended box set of the singer’s first eleven albums, reissued by Decca Records, complete with original album artwork and supplemented by new notes on the works.

Personal life

In 1964, Humperdinck married Patricia Healey. They have four children. Through the years, Humperdinck has maintained a strong family life, even as the family alternated between homes in England and in southern California. He was raised and remains a practicing Catholic. Daughter-in-law, Jo Dorsey, has remarked that the singer “tries to visit a cathedral in every town or city he tours globally.”

Humperdinck is a successful real-estate entrepreneur and businessman. He invested in prime real estate properties in Hawaii, Mexico and United States. In the 1970s he bought the Pink Palace, which had been owned by Jayne Mansfield, in Los Angeles. He sold it in 2002 for $4 million to developers. In the 1980s he bought a hotel property in La Paz, Mexico and renamed it La Posada de Englebert. The hotel flourished for a time, acquiring a reputation as an off-the-beaten-track gem. In later years, however, his ownership to the property was successfully challenged. The hotel was demolished in 2012, and was replaced by the Posada Hotel Beach Club.

Humperdinck retains firm ties with Leicestershire, where he spent much of his youth. In August 2005, he auctioned one of his Harley-Davidson motorcycles on eBay to raise money for the County Air Ambulance in Leicestershire. In 2006, the University of Leicester awarded Humperdinck with an Honorary Doctorate of Music. On 25 February 2009, Leicester City Council announced that Humperdinck would be given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester alongside author Sue Townsend and former professional footballer Alan Birchenall. In 2010, Humperdinck was one of the first nine people to be honored with a plaque on the Leicester Walk of Fame.