Category Archives: Hollywood

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.

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.

 

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.

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

Don Rickles

Donald JayDonRickles (May 8, 1926 – April 6, 2017) was an American stand-up comedian, actor and author. Although he became well known as an insult comic, his pudgy, balding appearance and pugnacious style led to few leading roles in film or television, including his prominent film roles included Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970). Beginning in 1976, he enjoyed a two-year run starring in the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey.

He received widespread exposure as a popular guest on numerous talk shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Show with David Letterman, and later voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

 

Early life

Donald Jay Rickles was born to Jewish parents in Queens, New York, on May 8, 1926. His father, Max Rickles, emigrated in 1903 with his Lithuanian parents from Kaunas (then in the Russian Empire), and his mother, Etta (née Feldman), was born in New York City to Austrian immigrant parents. Rickles grew up in Jackson Heights, New York.

After graduating from Newtown High School, Rickles enlisted in the US Navy, and served during World War II on the motor torpedo boat tender USS Cyrene (AGP-13) as a seaman first class. He was honorably discharged in 1946. Two years later, intending to be a dramatic actor, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then played bit parts on television. Frustrated by a lack of acting work, Rickles began performing comedy in clubs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. He became known as an insult comedian when he responded to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, so he incorporated them into his act.

When he began his career in the early 1950s, he started calling ill-mannered members of the audience “hockey pucks.” His style was similar to that of an older insult comic, Jack E. Leonard, though Rickles denied Leonard influenced his style. During an interview on Larry King Live, Rickles credited Milton Berle‘s comedy style for inspiring him to enter show business.

 

Career

 1950s–1960s

While working in the “Murray Franklin’s” nightclub in Miami Beach, Florida, early in his career, Rickles spotted Frank Sinatra and remarked to him, “I just saw your movie The Pride and the Passion and I want to tell you, the cannon’s acting was great.” He added, “Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!” Sinatra, whose pet name for Rickles was “bullet-head,” enjoyed him so much that he encouraged other celebrities to see Rickles’ act and be insulted by him. Sinatra’s support helped Rickles become a popular headline performer in Las Vegas. During a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast special, Rickles was among those who took part in roasting Sinatra, although Rickles himself was also roasted during another show in the series.

Rickles earned the nicknames, “The Merchant of Venom” and “Mr. Warmth” for his poking fun at people of all ethnicities and walks of life. When he was introduced to an audience or on a television talk show, Spanish matador music, “La Virgen de la Macarena,” would usually be played, subtly foreshadowing someone was about to be metaphorically gored. Rickles said, “I always pictured myself facing the audience as the matador.”

In 1958, Rickles made his film debut in a serious part in Run Silent, Run Deep with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Throughout the 1960s, he often appeared on television in sitcoms and dramatic series. Rickles guest-starred in Get Smart as Sid, an old war buddy of Max who comes to stay with him. In an episode of the 1960s drama series Run for Your Life, Rickles played a distressed comedian whose act culminates when he strangles a patron while imploring the patron to “Laugh!” Rickles took a dramatic turn in the low-budget Roger Corman film X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes as a carnival barker out to exploit the title character (played by Ray Milland).

Rickles appeared in the popular Beach Party film series. He recalled in his 2007 memoir that at a White House dinner, Barbara Bush teased him about his decision to appear in those films. Rickles’ agent, Jack Gilardi, was married to Annette Funicello when Rickles was cast in the Beach Party films. He subsequently began appearing more frequently on television talk shows, first appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965.

He became a frequent guest and guest host, appearing more than 100 times on The Tonight Show during Carson’s era. An early Carson-Rickles Tonight highlight occurred in 1968 when, while two Japanese women treated Carson to a bath and foot massage, Rickles walked onto the set. Rickles also made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show and became a fixture on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials.

In 1968, Rickles released a live comedy album, Hello, Dummy!, which reached #54 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The same year he starred in his own variety show on ABC, The Don Rickles Show, with comedy writer Pat McCormick as his sidekick. The show lasted one season. During the 1960s, Rickles made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Mothers-in-Law, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show and I Dream of Jeannie.

1970s–1980s

In 1970, Rickles had a notable role as Crapgame in Kelly’s Heroes, sharing the marquee poster with co-stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Carroll O’Connor. In 1972, he starred in The Don Rickles Show, which lasted for 13 episodes. He also starred in a series of television specials. In his memoir, Rickles acknowledged a scripted sitcom was not well-suited to his ad-lib style of performing.

Starting in 1973, Rickles became a popular comedian appearing on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials. In 1976–1978, he starred in C.P.O. Sharkey, which lasted two seasons. The series is primarily remembered for the cigarette box incident when Johnny Carson did an impromptu surprise visit during an episode’s taping because he was “incensed” Rickles broke his cigarette box while he chatted with Bob Newhart (who was sitting in for Carson as the guest host of The Tonight Show) on the previous night’s show. The incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the series.

 

Rickles occasionally appeared as a panelist on Hollywood Squares, and was depicted in comic book form by Jack Kirby during his work on the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen series.

 

1980s–1990s

 In the early 1980s, Rickles began performing with Steve Lawrence in concerts in Las Vegas. In 1983, the duo co-hosted Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders, an imitation of TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes. In 1985, when Frank Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan‘s Second Inaugural Ball, he insisted that Rickles be allowed to perform, and do it unrehearsed. Rickles considered this performance the highlight of his career.

In 1990, he appeared in the second season of Tales from the Crypt in the episode “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy.” In 1992, he was cast in Innocent Blood, directed by John Landis. In his memoir, Rickles wrote that he recalled that Landis was a Production Assistant to Brian G. Hutton during the filming of Kelly’s Heroes. During the filming of Innocent Blood, Rickles would kid Landis by ordering him to get coffee or to run other errands befitting his one-time “gofer” status.

In 1993, Rickles starred in another short-lived sitcom, Daddy Dearest, with Richard Lewis. In 1995, he played Billy Sherbert in Casino, and voiced Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story (1995) and reprised his role in Toy Story 2 (1999). Rickles starred as George Wilson in 1998’s Dennis the Menace Strikes Again. In 1998, he portrayed a film theater manager in Dirty Workand voiced Cornwall, one of the heads of a two-headed dragon, in Quest for Camelot.

 

2000s–2010s

Rickles made a cameo appearance as himself in a recurring dream sequence in “Sub Conscious”, an episode of the CBS dramatic series, The Unit which aired in February 2007.

A memoir titled Rickles’ Book was released on May 8, 2007, by Simon & Schuster. Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, a documentary about Rickles directed by John Landis, made its debut on HBO on December 2, 2007. Rickles won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, besting a number of notable comics, including David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. Rickles remarked, “Stephen Colbert’s a funny man, but he’s too young. He has got plenty of time to win awards, but this may be my last year and I think that I made it count. On second thought it was probably just a mercy award for an old man.” Rickles reprised his role of Mr. Potato Head for the Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction at Disney California Adventure Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Toy Story 3.

Rickles appeared on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List in 2009, and met Griffin’s mother, Maggie, to fulfill one item on Maggie’s “bucket list.” In 2010, he appeared in a commercial during Super Bowl XLIV as a talking rose, and appeared on the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on CBS TV on June 27, 2010. In 2011, Rickles reunited with his Casino co-star Joe Pesci in a Snickers advertisement highlighting the actors known for their “short fuses.” Rickles also played the late husband of Elka (Betty White) on the TV Land original comedy Hot in Cleveland— a “surprise” because his character was thought to be dead.

On May 28, 2014, Rickles was honored by Spike TV‘s “One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles”. Recorded live at New York City’s Apollo Theater, Jerry Seinfeld was the master of ceremonies for the two-hour special, with live monologues by Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Tracy Morgan, Brian Williams, Regis Philbin, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Recorded segments included bits from Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Kimmel and Eddie Murphy.

“The camaraderie and the comedy made the show a cross between a traditional roast and a dignified lifetime achievement award, spanning emotions ranging from admiration and gratitude to, well, degradation. And as the evening reached its climax, when Rickles got his say after all that had said about him and his nearly 60-year-long career, fittingly, he had the last laugh.”   — TV Week

Rickles was still a frequent guest on late night talk shows, including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon during the later months of his life. On May 11, 2015, Rickles appeared as a guest on one of the final episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman. He also made a cameo in the show Grandfathered.

In a 2014 interview, Rickles dismissed thoughts of retiring, saying: “I’m in good health. I’m working better than I ever have. The audiences are great. Why should I retire? I’m like a fighter. The bell rings and you come out and fight. My energy comes alive. And I still enjoy it.”

Until his death in 2017, despite being impeded by multiple surgeries following a bout with necrotizing fasciitis in 2013, Rickles continued touring across the United States.

 

Personal life

On March 14, 1965, Rickles married Barbara Sklar of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He admitted having a very difficult time romantically in his 20s and 30s (he married at the age of 38), finally meeting Sklar through his agent and falling for her when she failed to get his sense of humor. They had two children, Mindy and Larry Rickles. According to Rickles’ memoir, his grandchildren, Ethan and Harrison Mann, are much more impressed by his role as Mr. Potato Head than by any of his other achievements.

Although a lifelong Democrat, Rickles performed at the inaugurations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush with his friend Frank Sinatra. He considered comedian Bob Newhart to be his best friend, and their wives were also close friends. Rickles and Newhart appeared together on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 24, 2005, the Monday following Johnny Carson’s death, reminiscing about their many guest appearances on Carson’s show. The two also appeared together on the television sitcom Newhart, and for previous episodes of The Tonight Show, where Newhart or Rickles were guest-hosts. They and their wives often vacationed together.

 

Death

Rickles died of kidney failure on April 6, 2017, at his home in Beverly Hills, California; he was 90 years old. He was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.

 

Tributes

Upon hearing of his death, a number of television hosts and other actors paid tribute to his comedy talents. Among them was a tribute by Jimmy Kimmel, who recalled Rickles as a “towering presence in Las Vegas,” where Kimmel grew up. Seth Meyers, said “there’s nothing better than getting burned by Don Rickles,” while David Letterman noted that Rickles “was always a highlight for me. Just endless mischief and nonsense, and a guy who would make the audience go completely crazy.”

Director Martin Scorsese, who directed him in Casino in 1995, stated:

Don Rickles was a giant, a legend … and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino. He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set — yet he was a complete pro.

For Rickles’ 88th birthday in 2014, a number of stars helped celebrate with a televised special, One Night Only: An All Star Tribute to Don Rickles. Among them was Jerry Seinfeld, who described Rickles as part of “the Mount Rushmore of stand-up comedy.”

 

 

 

 

Gary Busey

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William Gary Busey (born June 29, 1944) is an American actor. A prolific character actor, Busey has appeared in over 150 films, including Lethal Weapon (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Firm (1993), Carried Away (1996), Black Sheep (1996), Lost Highway (1997), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Gingerdead Man (2005) and Piranha 3DD (2012). Busey has also made guest appearances on television shows such as Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, Scrubs, and Entourage.

For portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), Busey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor. In 2014, he lampooned his public image through a series of advertisements for Amazon Fire TV.

 

Early life

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Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962. While attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, on a football scholarship, he became interested in acting. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he quit school just one class short of graduation.

 

Career

Early career

Busey began his show business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band. He appears on several Leon Russell recordings, credited as playing drums under the names “Teddy Jack Eddy” and “Sprunk,” a character he created when he was a cast member of a local television comedy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on station KTUL (which starred fellow Tulsan Gailard Sartain as “Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi”). For his skits on Uncanny Film Festival, Busey drew on his American Hero, belligerent, know-it-all character. When he told Gailard Sartain his character needed a name, Sartain replied, “Take three: Teddy, Jack ,and Eddy.”

He played in a band called Carp, which released one album on Epic Records in 1969. Busey continued to play several small roles in both film and television during the 1970s. In 1975, as the character “Harvey Daley,” he was the last person killed on the series Gunsmoke (in the third-to-last episode, No. 633 – “The Busters”).

 

Rise to prominence

In 1974, Busey made his major film debut with a supporting role in Michael Cimino‘s buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.

In 1976, he was hired by Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters to play Bobby Ritchie, road manager to Kris Kristofferson‘s character in the remake film A Star is Born. On the DVD commentary of the film, Streisand says Busey was great and that she had seen him on a TV series and thought he had the right qualities to play the role.

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In 1978, he starred as rock legend Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story with Sartain as The Big Bopper. For his performance, Busey received the greatest critical acclaim of his career and the movie earned Busey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the National Society of Film CriticsBest Actor award.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-03-51In the same year he also starred in the small yet acclaimed drama Straight Time and the surfing movie Big Wednesday, which is now a minor cult classic.

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screenshot-2017-03-03-12-06-10In the 1980s, Busey’s roles included the critically acclaimed western Barbarosa, the comedies D.C. Cab and Insignificance, and the Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet. He played one of the primary antagonists opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the action comedy Lethal Weapon.

In the 1990s, he had prominent supporting roles in successful action films such as Predator 2, Point Break and Under Siege. He also appeared in Rookie of the Year, The Firm, Black Sheep, Lost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Busey sang the song “Stay All Night” on Saturday Night Live in March 1979 (season 4, episode 14), and on the Late Show with David Letterman in the 1990s.

 

2000s–present

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-04-44In 2003, Busey starred in a Comedy Central reality show, I’m with Busey. In 2005, he also voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons and appeared in the popular miniseries Into the West. Busey controversially appeared in the 2006 Turkish nationalist film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak, in Turkish), which was accused of fascism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.

In 2007, he appeared as himself in a prominent recurring role on HBO‘s Entourage, in which he parodied his eccentric image, ultimately appearing on three episodes of the show.

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In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Busey returned to reality television in Celebrity Apprentice 4, which premiered in March 2011, and appeared again in Celebrity Apprentice 6. There, he briefly reprised his role as Buddy Holly by performing “Not Fade Away”.

In a series of 2010 YouTube advertisements for Vitamin Water, Busey appeared as Norman Tugwater, a lawyer who defends professional athletes’ entitlements to a cut from Fantasy Football team owners.

In 2014, he became a celebrity spokesperson for Amazon Fire TV. That August, he appeared in, and became the first American winner of the fourteenth series of the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother.

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On September 1, 2015, it was announced that he would be competing on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya. Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.

 

Personal life

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In 1971, Busey’s wife Judy Helkenberg gave birth to their son, William Jacob “Jake” Busey. Busey and Helkenberg divorced when Jake was 19 years old. Busey has a daughter named Alectra from a previous relationship. In February 2010, Busey’s fiancee Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son, Luke Sampson Busey.

On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage. During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey’s brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively. Sophy recommended Busey take valproic acid (Depakote), with which Busey agreed.

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In 1996, Busey publicly announced that he was a Christian, saying: “I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian. For the first time I am now free to be myself.” This return to Christianity occurred as a result of his motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose.

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In 2011, Busey supported Donald Trump‘s 2012 presidential bid saying, “For the American people, vote for Donald Trump come election night.” In 2015, he again endorsed Trump for president.

Buddy Hackett

Buddy Hackett (born Leonard Hacker; August 31, 1924 – June 30, 2003) was an American comedian and actor. His best remembered roles include Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man (1962), Benjy Benjamin in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Tennessee Steinmetz in The Love Bug (1968), and Scuttle in The Little Mermaid (1989).

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Early life

Hackett was born in Brooklyn, New York to Anna (née Geller) and Philip Hacker, an upholsterer and part-time inventor. He grew up on 54th and 14th Ave in Borough Park, Brooklyn, across from Public School 103 (now a yeshiva). He graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1942.

While still a student, he began performing in nightclubs in the Catskills Borscht Belt resorts as “Butch Hacker.” He appeared first at the Golden Hotel in Hurleyville, New York, and he claimed he did not get a single laugh. He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, and served for three years in an anti-aircraft battery.

 

Career

 Early career

Hackett’s first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett. He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials.

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Hackett’s movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute “World of Sports” reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett’s “The Chinese Waiter” lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: “No, we no have sprit-pea soup … We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll … No orda for her, juss orda for you!” The routine was such a hit, Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the Universal-International musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), in which he was third-billed under Donald O’Connor and Janet Leigh.

Hackett was an emergency replacement for the similarly built Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, featuring Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O’Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles, using already shot footage of the comedy duo in some long shots; Jones and his band became the main attraction.

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Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and ’60s as a frequent guest on variety talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. Hackett was a frequent guest on both the Jack Paar and the Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. According to the board game Trivial Pursuit, Hackett has the distinction of making the most guest appearances in the history of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-50-04During this time, he also appeared as a panelist and mystery guest on CBS-TV’s What’s My Line? and filled in as emcee for the game show Treasure Hunt. He made fifteen guest appearances on NBC-TV’s The Perry Como Show between 1955 and 1961.

Stanley

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Hackett starred as the title character on NBC-TV’s Stanley, a 1956-57 situation comedy which ran for 19 weeks on Monday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. The half hour series also featured a young Carol Burnett and the voice of Paul Lynde. The Max Liebman produced program aired live before a studio audience and was one of the last sitcoms from New York to do so. Stanley revolved around the adventures of the titular character (Hackett) as the operator of a newsstand in a posh New York City hotel. On September 30, 1960, he appeared as himself in an episode of NBC’s short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier, set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-53-29After starring on Broadway in I Had a Ball, Hackett appeared opposite Robert Preston in the film adaptation of The Music Man (1962). In It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Hackett was paired with Mickey Rooney, with whom he had also recently made Everything’s Ducky (1961), in which they played two sailors who smuggle a talking duck aboard a Navy ship. Children became familiar with him as lovable hippie auto mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz in Disney‘s The Love Bug (1969).

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He appeared many times on the game show Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s. In one episode, Hackett was asked which was the country with the highest ratio of doctors to populace; he answered Israel, or in his words, “The country with the most Jews.” Despite the audience roaring with laughter (and Hackett’s own belief that the actual answer was Sweden), the answer turned out to be correct. Hackett’s regular guest shots on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show in the early 1960s were rewarded with a coveted appearance on his final program on March 29, 1962.

Later career

Hackett continued to appear on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show until Carson left the series in 1992.

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-07-25In 1978, Hackett surprised many with his dramatic performance as Lou Costello in the television movie Bud and Lou opposite Harvey Korman as Bud Abbott. The film told the story of Abbott and Costello, and Hackett’s portrayal was widely praised. He and Korman did a memorable rendition of the team’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine. In 1979, Hackett was the voice of the groundhog “Pardon Me Pete,”,and the narrator of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special Jack Frost (1979). He starred in the 1980 film Hey Babe!. That same year, he hosted a syndicated revival of the 1950-61 Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life which lasted for one year. Throughout the 1970s Hackett appeared regularly in TV ads for Tuscan Dairy popsicles and yogurt. But his most famous television campaign was for Lay’s potato chips (“Nobody can eat just one!”) which ran from 1968–71; Hackett had succeeded Bert Lahr as Lay’s spokesman. He guest-starred in the Space Rangers episode, “To Be Or Not To Be,” as has-been comedian Lenny Hacker, a parody of his stage persona. The character’s name was Hackett’s own real name.

 

Other

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For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Hackett was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

In April 1998, Hackett guest starred in an episode of LateLine called “Buddy Hackett.” The episode focused on a news broadcast paying tribute to Hackett following his death, only to discover that the report of his death was a mistake. Robert Reich and Dick Gephardt also appeared in the episode, paying tribute to Hackett.

In his final years, Hackett had a recurring spot called “Tuesdays with Buddy” on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in which he shared stories of his career and delivered some of his comedic routines.

 

Personal life

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-05-36On June 12, 1955, Hackett married Sherry Cohen. They lived in Leonia, New Jersey in the late 1950s. In August 1958, they bought the house previously owned by deceased crime boss Albert Anastasia in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After renovations, they moved in and lived there through most of the 1960s. In 2003, Hackett and his wife established the Singita Animal Sanctuary in California’s San Fernando Valley.

He was an avid firearms collector and owned a large collection that he sold off in his later years due to declining health.

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Death

Hackett died on June 30, 2003 at his beach house in Malibu, California at the age of 78. His son, comedian Sandy Hackett, said his father had been suffering from diabetes for several years and suffered a stroke nearly a week before his death which may have contributed to his demise. Two days later, on July 2, 2003, he was cremated and his ashes were given to family and friends.

 

 

 

Carol Burnett

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Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer, whose career spans six decades of television. She is best known for her long-running TV variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, originally aired on CBS. She has achieved success on stage, television, and film in varying genres including dramatic and comedy roles. She also has appeared on various talk shows and as a panelist on game shows.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Burnett moved with her grandmother to Hollywood, where she attended Hollywood High School and eventually studied theater and musical comedy at UCLA. Later she performed in nightclubs in New York City and had a breakout success on Broadway in 1959 in Once Upon a Mattress, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. She soon made her television debut, regularly appearing on The Garry Moore Show for the next three years, and won her first Emmy Award in 1962. In 1963, she was the star of the Dallas State Fair Musicals presentation of “Calamity Jane.” Burnett moved to Los Angeles and began an 11-year run as star of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS television from 1967 to 1978. With its vaudeville roots, The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show that combined comedy sketches with song and dance. The comedy sketches included film parodies and character pieces. Burnett created many memorable characters during the show’s run, and both she and the show won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.

During and after her variety show, Burnett appeared in many television and film projects. Her film roles include Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), The Front Page (1974), The Four Seasons (1981), Annie (1982), Noises Off (1992), and Horton Hears a Who! (2008). On television, she has appeared in other sketch shows; in dramatic roles in 6 Rms Riv Vu (1974) and Friendly Fire (1979); in various well-regarded guest roles, such as in Mad About You, for which she won an Emmy Award; and in specials with Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, Beverly Sills, and others. She returned to the Broadway stage in 1995 in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was again nominated for a Tony.

 

Early life

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-18-23Burnett was born on April 26, 1933, the daughter of Ina Louise (née Creighton), a publicity writer for movie studios, and Joseph Thomas Burnett, a movie theater manager. Both of her parents were alcoholics, and at a young age, she was left with her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White. Burnett’s parents divorced in the late 1930s, and she and her grandmother moved to an apartment near Burnett’s mother’s in an impoverished area of Hollywood. There they stayed in a boarding house with Burnett’s younger half-sister, Chrissie. When Burnett was in second grade, she briefly invented an imaginary twin sister named Karen, with Shirley Temple-like dimples. Motivated to further the pretence, Burnett fondly recalls that she “fooled the other boarders in the rooming house where we lived by frantically switching clothes and dashing in and out of the house by the fire escape and the front door. Then I became exhausted and Karen mysteriously vanished.”

For a while, she worked as an usherette at what is now the Hollywood Pacific Theatre (the forecourt of which is now the location of her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Burnett received an anonymous envelope containing $50 for one year’s tuition at UCLA, where she initially planned on studying journalism. During her first year of college, Burnett switched her focus to theater arts and English, with the goal of becoming a playwright. She found she had to take an acting course to enter the playwright program — “I wasn’t really ready to do the acting thing, but I had no choice,” she recalled. She followed a sudden impulse in her first performance.

“Don’t ask me why, but when we were in front of the audience, I suddenly decided I was going to stretch out all my words and my first line came out ‘I’m baaaaaaaack!'” The audience response moved her deeply:

“They laughed and it felt great. All of a sudden, after so much coldness and emptiness in my life, I knew the sensation of all that warmth wrapping around me. I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you’ll hear a laugh that great again.”

During this time, Burnett performed in several university productions, garnering recognition for her comedic and musical abilities. Her mother disapproved of her acting ambitions:

“She wanted me to be a writer. She said you can always write, no matter what you look like. When I was growing up she told me to be a little lady, and a couple of times I got a whack for crossing my eyes or making funny faces. Of course, she never, I never, dreamed I would ever perform.”

The young Burnett, always insecure about her looks, responded many years afterward to her mother’s advice, “You can always write, no matter what you look like,” in Burnett’s memoir One More Time (1986), noting, “God, that hurt!”

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During her senior year at UCLA, a professor invited Burnett and some other students to perform at a party in place of their class final that had been canceled (which required a performance in front of an audience). Afterward, a man and his wife approached Burnett while Carol was stuffing cookies in her purse to take home to her grandmother. Instead of reprimanding her, the man complimented Burnett’s performance and asked about her future plans. When he learned she wished to travel to New York in order to try her luck in musical comedy but couldn’t afford the trip, right then and there he offered Carol and her boyfriend Don Saroyan each a $1,000 interest-free loan. His conditions were simply that the loans were to be repaid within five years, his name was never to be revealed, and if she achieved success, she would help other aspiring talents to pursue their artistic dreams. Burnett took him up on his offer; she and Saroyan left college and moved to New York to pursue acting careers. That same year, Burnett’s father died of causes related to his alcoholism.

 

Career

Early career

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat-check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett along with other girls living at the Rehearsal Club, a boarding house for women seriously pursuing an acting career, put on The Rehearsal Club Revue on March 3, 1955. They mailed invitations to agents, who showed up along with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich, and this opened doors for several of the girls. Burnett was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom Stanley from 1956 to 1957. In the 1950s, a young Carol Burnett was working as an usherette when the theater was showing Alfred Hitchcock‘s Strangers on a Train (1951). Having already seen the film and loving it, she advised two patrons arriving during the last ten minutes of a showing to wait until the beginning of the next showing to avoid spoiling the ending for them. The manager observed Burnett, let the couple in, then callously fired her, stripping the epaulettes from her uniform. Years later in the 1970s after achieving TV stardom, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offered her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they asked her where she wanted it. She replied “Right in front of where the old Warner Brothers Theater was, at Hollywood and Wilcox”, which is where it was placed, at 6439 Hollywood Blvd.

After Stanley, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both The Tonight Show, hosted by Jack Paar, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Dulles was asked about Carol Burnett on Meet the Press and joked, “I never discuss matters of the heart in public.”

Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television’s earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz, during this time. In 1957, just as Burnett was achieving her first small successes, her mother died.

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Burnett’s first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress, for which she was nominated for a Tony. The same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, a job that lasted until 1962. She won an Emmy that year for her “Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series” on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore Show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (1962), co-starring with her friend Julie Andrews. The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music, and Burnett won an Emmy for her performance. Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including The Twilight Zone episode “Cavender is Coming.”

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In 1964, Burnett starred in the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In but was forced to withdraw after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident. She returned to the show later but withdrew again to participate in a variety show, The Entertainers, opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart. The producers of Fade Out – Fade In sued the actress for breach of contract after her absences from the popular show caused its failure, but the suit was later dropped. The Entertainers ran for only one season.

Around the same time, Burnett became good friends with Jim Nabors, who was enjoying great success with his series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. As a result of their close friendship, Burnett played a recurring role on Nabors’ show as a tough corporal, later gunnery sergeant. Nabors would later be her first guest every season on her variety show.

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In 1966, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett. After having guested on Burnett’s highly successful CBS-TV special Carol + 2 and having the younger performer reciprocate by appearing on The Lucy Show, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom called “Here’s Agnes,” to be produced by Desilu Productions. Burnett declined the offer, not wanting to commit herself to a weekly series.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-19-39The two remained close friends until Ball’s death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on Burnett’s birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Lucille Ball had died. Later that afternoon, flowers arrived at Burnett’s house with a note reading, “Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy.”

 

 

 

The Carol Burnett Show

In 1967, CBS offered to put Burnett in a weekly comedy series called Here’s Agnes. However, Burnett had a stipulation in her ten-year contract with CBS that said she had five years from the date The Garry Moore Show ended to “push the button” on hosting thirty one-hour episodes of a music/comedy variety show. As a result, the hour-long Carol Burnett Show was born and debuted in September 1967, garnering 23 Emmy Awards and winning or being nominated for multiple Emmy and Golden Globes every season it was on the air. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the ninth season), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence, whom Burnett herself discovered and mentored. The network initially did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety, but Burnett’s contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. She chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes.

A true variety show, The Carol Burnett Show struck a chord with viewers. Among other things, it parodied films (“Went With the Wind” for Gone With the Wind), television (“As the Stomach Turns” for the soap opera As the World Turns) and commercials. Musical numbers were also a frequent feature. Burnett and her team struck gold with the original sketch “The Family”, which eventually was spun off into its own television show called Mama’s Family, starring Vicki Lawrence.

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Burnett opened most shows with an impromptu question-and-answer session with the audience, lasting a few minutes, during which she often demonstrated her ability to humorously ad lib. On numerous occasions, she obliged when asked to perform her trademark Tarzan yell.

Burnett ended each show by tugging on her left ear, which was a message to her grandmother who raised her. This was done to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her. During the show’s run, Burnett’s grandmother died. On an Intimate Portrait episode on Burnett, she tearfully recalled her grandmother’s last moments: “She said to my husband Joe from her hospital bed ‘Joe, you see that spider up there?’ There was no spider, but Joe said he did anyhow. She said ‘Every few minutes a big spider jumps on that little spider and they go at it like rabbits!!’ And then she died. There’s laughter in everything!”

The Carol Burnett Show ceased production in 1978, Four post-script episodes were produced and aired on ABC during the summer of 1979 under the title, Carol Burnett & Company basically using the same format and, with the exception of Harvey Korman and Lyle Waggoner, the same supporting cast. Beginning in 1977, the comedy sketches of Burnett’s series were edited into half-hour episodes entitled Carol Burnett and Friends, which, for many years, proved to be extremely popular in syndication. In January 2015, Carol Burnett and Friends began airing on MeTV.

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Other roles

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-19-20Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running, including Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972). She was nominated for an Emmy in 1974 for her role in the drama 6 Rms Riv Vu. After her show ended, Burnett assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie Friendly Fire. She appeared as Beatrice O’Reilly in the film Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice, a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism. Her other film work includes The Four Seasons (1981), Annie (1982), and Noises Off (1992). She also returned in 2005 to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in the movie version of Once Upon a Mattress. She guest-starred in season two of Desperate Housewives as Bree’s stepmother, Elanor Mason.

Burnett was the first celebrity to appear on the children’s series Sesame Street, on that series’ first episode on November 10, 1969. She also made occasional returns to the stage in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974, she appeared at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri, in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson, and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password, an association she maintained until the early 1980s (in fact, Mark Goodson awarded her his Silver Password All-Stars Award for best celebrity player; she’s also credited with coming up with the title Password Plus, when it was originally planned to be titled Password ’79).

In the 1980s and 1990s, Burnett made several attempts at starting a new variety program. She also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show’sThe Family” sketches spinoff, Mama’s Family, as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins. She played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno, which parodied the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. She returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You, playing Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt), for which she won another Emmy Award. In 1995, after an absence of 30 years, she was back on Broadway in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was nominated for a Tony. Four years later, she appeared in the Broadway revue Putting It Together.

Burnett has long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children. She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her in 1976. Burnett played the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds), causing trouble for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (Ruth Warrick). She made occasional appearances on the soap opera in each decade thereafter. She hosted a 25th-anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo appearance as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005, episode which celebrated the show’s 35th anniversary. Burnett reprised her role as Grubbs in September 2011 as part of the series’ finale.

In 2008, Burnett had her second role as an animated character in the film Horton Hears a Who!. Her first was in The Trumpet of the Swan in 2001. In 2009, she made a guest appearance on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In November 2010, she guest-starred on an episode of Glee as the mother of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. In 2012 she had another voice role in The Secret World of Arrietty. She has made a recurring role, traditionally on Thanksgiving-themed episodes, of Hawaii Five-0 as Steve McGarrett’s Aunt Debbie since 2013, until Aunt Deb died from cancer in the January 15, 2016 episode.

 

Personal life

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Burnett married her college sweetheart Don Saroyan on December 15, 1955; they divorced in 1962. On May 4, 1963, Burnett married TV producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, who had produced her 1962 Carnegie Hall concert and would produce The Carol Burnett Show, among other projects. The couple had three daughters:

 

  • Carrie Hamilton, born December 5, 1963 – died January 20, 2002 (at age 38) of lung and brain cancer. She was an actress and singer.
  • Jody Hamilton, born January 18, 1967
  • Erin Hamilton, born August 14, 1968. She is a singer.

Their marriage ended in divorce in 1984, and Hamilton died of cancer in 1991. On November 24, 2001, Burnett married Brian Miller, principal drummer in and contractor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, who is 23 years her junior.

Burnett is good friends with Julie Andrews, Betty White, Jim Nabors, was close with the late Beverly Sills and Lucille Ball, and is the acting mentor to her protégée Vicki Lawrence. They share a close friendship, as noted by Lawrence in a testimonial speech during her appearance at Burnett’s 2013 Mark Twain Award in Washington, D.C. (recorded and broadcast on PBS Television).

In 1981, actress Carol Burnett won a judgment against the Enquirer after it claimed she had been seen drunk in public at a restaurant with Henry Kissinger in attendance. The fact that both of her parents suffered from alcoholism made this a particularly sensitive issue to Burnett.

 

Memoirs and related works

Burnett and her oldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, co-wrote Hollywood Arms (2002), a play based on Burnett’s bestselling memoir, One More Time (1986). Sara Niemietz and Donna Lynne Champlin shared the role of Helen (the character based on Burnett); Michele Pawk played Louise, Helen’s mother, and Linda Lavin played Helen’s grandmother. For her performance, Pawk received the 2003 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

In 2010, Burnett wrote the memoir This Time Together.

In 2016, Burnett wrote the behind-the-scenes memoir In Such Good Company.