Category Archives: Movies

Steven Spielberg

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

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

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

 

Early life

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

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

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

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

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

 

Career

1970s

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

1980s

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

1990s

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

2000s

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

2010s

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Upcoming projects

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

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

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

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

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

 

Projects on hold

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

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

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

 

Production credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Onscreen appearances

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

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

 

Involvement in video games

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

 

Themes

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

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

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

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

 

Actors

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

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

 

Other collaborations

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

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

 

Personal life

Marriages and children

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

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

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

There are seven children in the Spielberg-Capshaw family:

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

 

Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wealth

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

 

Yachting

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

 

Recognition

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

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

 

Politics

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

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

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

 

Hobbies

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

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

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

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

 

Stalking

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

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

 

Awards and honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Filmography

Praise and criticism

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

 

Other

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

 

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille

 

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

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

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

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

 

Family, childhood, youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career

Broadway

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

 

Moving pictures

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

Silent era

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

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

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

 

Sound era

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showmanship as director

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

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

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

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

 

The Ten Commandments

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

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

 

Unfulfilled projects

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

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

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

 

Politics

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

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

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

 

Race and religion

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

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

 

Death

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

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

 

Legacy

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

Posthumous honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ava Gardner

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

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

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

 

Early life

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

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

 

Early career

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

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

Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal life

Marriages

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

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

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

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

Relationships

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

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

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

Religion and political views

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

Death

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

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

 

Julie London

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

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

Early life

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

Career

Singing

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

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

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

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

 

Film

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

Television

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

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

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

Emergency!

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

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

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

Personal life

Marriages and family

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

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

Death

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

 

Rosalind Russell

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

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

Early years

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

Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

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

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

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

 

Death

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

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

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

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

Edmond O’Brien

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

 

Early years

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

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

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

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

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

 

Theatre

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

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

 

Film Actor

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

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

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

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

 

World War II

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

 

Warner Bros

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

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

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

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

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

 

Freelance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Later career

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

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

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

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

 

Recording

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

 

Personal life

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

 

Final Years and Death

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

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

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

Walk of Fame

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

 

 

Gary Busey

screenshot-2017-03-03-11-56-40

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

screenshot-2017-03-03-11-58-25

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-01-03

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-06-32

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-00-14

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-04-57

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

screenshot-2017-03-03-11-59-33

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-11-56-28

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.

screenshot-2017-03-03-11-59-57

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.

Mary Tyler Moore

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-48

Mary Tyler Moore (December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017) was an American actress, known for her roles in the television sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977), in which she starred as Mary Richards, a thirty-something single woman who worked as a local news producer in Minneapolis, and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), in which she played Laura Petrie, a former dancer turned Westchester homemaker, wife and mother. Her notable film work includes 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie and 1980’s Ordinary People, in which she played a role that was very different from the television characters she had portrayed, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Moore was active in charity work and various political causes, particularly the issues of animal rights and diabetes mellitus type 1. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes early in the run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She also suffered from alcoholism, which she wrote about in her first of two memoirs. In May 2011, Moore underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma. She died from cardiopulmonary arrest because of pneumonia at the age of 80 on January 25, 2017.

Early life

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-59-56

Moore was born in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, to Marjorie (née Hackett) (1916–92) and George Tyler Moore (1913–2006), a clerk. The oldest of three children (her siblings are John and Elizabeth), Moore and her family lived in Flushing, Queens. Her paternal great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, owned the house which is now Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters Museum. When she was eight years old, Moore moved with her family to Los Angeles. She was raised Catholic, and attended St. Rose de Lima Parochial School in Brooklyn, Saint Ambrose School in Los Angeles, and Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood.

Career

Television

Moore decided at age 17 that she wanted to be a dancer. Her television career began with her first job, as “Happy Hotpoint”, a tiny elf dancing on Hotpoint appliances TV commercials during the 1950s series Ozzie and Harriet. After appearing in 39 Hotpoint commercials in five days, she received approximately $6,000. After she became pregnant while still working as “Happy,” Hotpoint ended her stint when it became too difficult to conceal her pregnancy beneath the elf costume. Moore modeled anonymously on the covers of a number of record albums and auditioned for the role of the older daughter of Danny Thomas for his long-running TV show but was turned down. Much later, Thomas explained that “no daughter of mine could have that [little] nose.”

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-58-03

Moore’s first regular television role was as a mysterious and glamorous telephone receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective. On the show, Moore’s voice was heard, but only her shapely legs appeared on camera, adding to the character’s mystique. About this time, she guest-starred on John Cassavetes‘s NBC detective series Johnny Staccato. She also guest-starred in Bachelor Father in the episode titled “Bentley and the Big Board.” In 1960, she guest-starred in two episodes, “The O’Mara Ladies” and “All The O’Mara Horses,” of the William BendixDoug McClure NBC western series, Overland Trail. Several months later, she appeared in the first episode, entitled “One Blonde Too Many,” of NBC’s The Tab Hunter Show, a sitcom starring the former teen idol as a bachelor cartoonist. In 1961, Moore appeared in several big parts in movies and on television, including Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside Six, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Steve Canyon, Hawaiian Eye, Thrillerand Lock-Up.

 

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966)

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-00

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-59-33In 1961, Carl Reiner cast Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show, an acclaimed weekly series based on Reiner’s own life and career as a writer for Sid Caesar‘s television variety show, telling the cast from the outset that it would run no more than five years. The show was produced by Danny Thomas‘s company, and Thomas himself recommended her. He remembered Mary as “the girl with three names” whom he had turned down earlier. Moore’s energetic comic performances as Van Dyke’s character’s wife, begun at age 24 (11 years Van Dyke’s junior), made both the actress and her signature tight Capri pants extremely popular, and she became internationally famous. When she won an Emmy award for her portrayal of Laura Petrie, she said, “I know this will never happen again.”

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-58-43

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-36

In 1970, after having appeared earlier in a pivotal one-hour musical special called “Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman,” Moore and husband Grant Tinker successfully pitched a sitcom centered on Moore to CBS. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a half-hour newsroom sitcom featuring Ed Asner as her gruff boss Lou Grant, a character that would later be spun off into an hour-long dramatic series. Moore’s show proved so popular that two other regular characters, Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern and Cloris Leachman as Phyllis Lindstrom, were also spun off into their own series. The premise of the single working woman’s life, alternating during the program between work and home, became a television staple.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-40

After six years of ratings in the top 20, the show slipped to number 39 during season seven. Producers argued for its cancellation because of falling ratings, afraid that the show’s legacy might be damaged if it were renewed for another season. To the surprise of the entire cast including Mary Tyler Moore herself, it was announced that they would soon be filming their final episode. After the announcement, the series had a strong finish and the final show was the seventh most watched show during the week it aired. The 1977 season would go on to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, to add to the awards it had won in 1975 and 1976. All in all, during its seven seasons, the program held the record for winning the most Emmys – 29. That record remained unbroken until 2002 when the NBC sitcom Frasier won its 30th Emmy. The Mary Tyler Moore Show became a touch-point of the Women’s Movement because it was one of the first to show, in a serious way, an independent working woman.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-14

Later projects

During season six of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore appeared in a musical/variety special for CBS titled Mary’s Incredible Dream, which featured Ben Vereen. In 1978, she starred in a second CBS special, How to Survive the ’70s and Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness. This time, she received significant support from a strong lineup of guest stars: Bill Bixby, John Ritter, Harvey Korman and Dick Van Dyke. In the 1978–79 season, Moore attempted to try the musical-variety genre by starring in two unsuccessful CBS variety series in a row: Mary, which featured David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. CBS canceled the series. In March 1979, the network brought Moore back in a new, retooled show, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, which was described as a “sit-var” (part situation comedy/part variety series) with Moore portraying a TV star putting on a variety show. Michael Keaton was the only cast member of Mary who remained with Moore as a supporting regular in this revised format. Dick Van Dyke appeared as her guest for one episode. The program was canceled within three months.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-08

In the 1985–86 season, she returned to CBS in a series titled Mary, which suffered from poor reviews, sagging ratings, and internal strife within the production crew. According to Moore, she asked CBS to pull the show as she was unhappy with the direction of the program and the producers. She also starred in the short-lived Annie McGuire in 1988. In 1995, after another lengthy break from TV series work, Moore was cast as tough, unsympathetic newspaper owner Louise “the Dragon” Felcott on the CBS drama New York News, her third series in which her character worked in the news industry. As with her previous series Mary (1985), Moore quickly became unhappy with the nature of her character and asked to be written out of New York News; the series, however, was canceled before the writers could remove her.

In the mid-1990s, Moore had a cameo and a guest-starring role as herself on two episodes of Ellen. She also guest-starred on Ellen DeGeneres‘s next TV show, The Ellen Show, in 2001. In 2004, Moore reunited with her Dick Van Dyke Show cast-mates for a reunion “episode” called The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.

In August 2005, Moore guest-starred as Christine St. George, a high-strung host of a fictional TV show, on three episodes of Fox sitcom That ’70s Show. Moore’s scenes were shot on the same soundstage where The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in the 1970s. Moore made a guest appearance on the season 2 premiere of Hot in Cleveland, which starred her former co-star Betty White. This marked the first time that White and Moore had worked together since The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended in 1977. In the fall of 2013, Moore reprised her role on Hot in Cleveland in a season four episode which not only reunited Moore and White, but also former MTM cast members Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel as well. This reunion coincided with Harper’s public announcement that she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given only a few months to live.

Theater

Moore appeared in several Broadway plays. She starred in Whose Life Is It Anyway with James Naughton, which opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on February 24, 1980, and ran for 96 performances, and in Sweet Sue, which opened at the Music Box Theatre on January 8, 1987, later transferred to the Royale Theatre, and ran for 164 performances. She was the star of a new musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in December 1966, but the show, titled Holly Golightly, was a flop that closed in previews before opening on Broadway. In reviews of performances in Philadelphia and Boston, critics “murdered” the play in which Moore claimed to be singing with bronchial pneumonia.

Moore appeared in previews of the Neil Simon play Rose’s Dilemma at the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club in December 2003 but quit the production after receiving a critical letter from Simon instructing her to “learn your lines or get out of my play.” Moore had been using an earpiece on stage to feed her lines to the repeatedly rewritten play.

During the 1980s, Moore and her production company produced five plays: Noises Off, The Octette Bridge Club, Joe Egg, Benefactors, and Safe Sex.

 

Films

 Moore made her film debut in 1961’s X-15. She subsequently appeared in a string of 1960s films (after signing an exclusive contract with Universal Pictures), including 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews, and the 1968 films What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? with George Peppard, and Don’t Just Stand There! with Robert Wagner.

In 1969, she starred opposite Elvis Presley as a nun in Change of Habit. Moore’s future television cast-mate Ed Asner also appeared in that film (as a cop). After that film’s disappointing reviews and reception at the box office, Moore returned to television, and did not appear in another feature film for eleven years. She received her only nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1980 coming-of-age drama Ordinary People, in which she portrayed a grieving mother unable to cope with the drowning death of one of her sons and unable to cope with the other son for his attempted suicide. Other feature film credits include Six Weeks (1982), Just Between Friends (1986) and Flirting with Disaster (1996).

She appeared in a number of television movies, including Like Mother, Like Son, Run a Crooked Mile, Heartsounds, The Gin Game (based on the Broadway play; reuniting her with Dick Van Dyke), Mary and Rhoda, Finnegan Begin Again, and Stolen Babies for which she won an Emmy Award in 1993.

 

Author

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-01-03

Moore wrote two memoirs. In the first, After All, released in 1995, she acknowledged that she was a recovering alcoholic. The next, Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes, was released on April 1, 2009, and focuses on living with Type 1 diabetes.

MTM Enterprises

 Moore and her husband Grant Tinker founded MTM Enterprises, Inc. in 1969; Moore later commented that he had named the entity after her in much the same fashion that someone might name a boat after a spouse. This company produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show and several other television shows and films. It also included a record label, MTM Records MTM Enterprises produced a variety of American sitcoms and drama television series such as Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis (all spin-offs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Bob Newhart Show, The Texas Wheelers, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Friends and Lovers, St Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues, and was later sold to Television South, an ITV Franchise holder during the 1980s. The MTM logo is very similar to the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo, but features Moore’s cat Mimsie instead of the lion.

Personal life

Family

 In 1955, at age 18, Moore married Richard Carleton Meeker, whom she described as “the boy next door.” and within six weeks she was pregnant with her only child, Richard Jr. (born July 3, 1956). Meeker and Moore divorced in 1961. Moore married Grant Tinker, a CBS executive (later chairman of NBC), in 1962, and in 1970 they formed the television production company MTM Enterprises, which created and produced the company’s first television series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

On October 14, 1980, at the age of 24, Moore’s son Richard died of an accidental gunshot to the head while handling a sawed off shotgun. The model was later taken off the market because of its “hair trigger.” Moore and Tinker divorced in 1981.

Moore married Dr. Robert Levine on November 23, 1983, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. They met when her mother was treated by him in New York City on a weekend house call, after Moore and her mother returned from a visit to the Vatican where they had had a personal audience with Pope John Paul II.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-28

Health

Moore was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 33. In 2011, she had surgery to remove a meningioma, a benign brain tumor. In 2014 friends reported that she had heart and kidney problems and was nearly blind. In October 2015, Moore’s former co-star Dick Van Dyke said on an episode of Larry King Now, “[Diabetes] has taken a toll on her; she’s not well at all.” She died on January 25, 2017, after she had been placed on a respirator the previous week.

Charity work

In addition to her acting work, Moore was the International Chairman of JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). In this role, she used her celebrity to help raise funds and awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1.

In 2007, in honor of Moore’s dedication to the Foundation, JDRF created the “Forever Moore” research initiative which will support JDRF’s Academic Research and Development and JDRF’s Clinical Development Program. The program works on translating basic research advances into new treatments and technologies for those living with type 1 diabetes.

A long-time animal rights activist, Moore worked with Farm Sanctuary to raise awareness about the process involved in factory farming and to promote compassionate treatment of farm animals. Moore appeared as herself in 1996 on an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sitcom Ellen. The storyline of the episode includes Moore honoring Ellen for trying to save a 65-year-old lobster from being eaten at a seafood restaurant. She was also a co-founder of Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in New York City. Moore and friend Bernadette Peters worked to make it a no-kill city and to encourage adopting animals from shelters.

In honor of her father, George Tyler Moore, a lifelong American Civil War enthusiast, in 1995 Moore donated funds to acquire an historic structure in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) to be used as a center for Civil War studies. The center, named the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, is housed in the historic Conrad Shindler House (c. 1795), which is named in honor of her great-great-great-grandfather, who owned the structure from 1815 to 1852. Moore also contributed to the renovation of the house used as headquarters during 1861–62 by Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Use of the house had been offered to Jackson by its owner, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, commander of the 4th Virginia Infantry and a great-grandfather of Mary Tyler Moore.

Politics

 During the 1960s and 1970s, Moore had a reputation as a liberal or moderate liberal and endorsed President Jimmy Carter for re-election in a 1980 campaign television ad. In 2011, friend and former co-star Ed Asner claimed during an interview on the O’Reilly Factor that Moore “has become much more conservative of late.” Bill O’Reilly, host of the O’Reilly Factor, has previously stated that Moore had been a viewer of his show and her political views had leaned conservative in recent years. In a Parade magazine article from March 22, 2009, Moore identified herself as a “libertarian centrist” who watches Fox News. She stated, “…when one looks at what’s happened to television, there are so few shows that interest me. I do watch a lot of Fox News. I like Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly…If McCain had asked me to campaign for him, I would have.” In an interview for the 2013 PBS series Pioneers of Television, Moore says that she was “recruited” to join the feminist movement of the 1970s by Gloria Steinem but did not agree with Steinem’s views. Moore said she believed that women have an important role in raising children and that she did not believe in Steinem’s view that “women owe it to themselves to have a career.”

Awards

In 1980, Moore was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the drama film Ordinary People, but lost to Sissy Spacek for her role in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Moore received a total of six Emmy Awards. Five of those awards (1964, 1966, 1973, 1974, 1976) tie her with Candice Bergen and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

On Broadway, Moore received a special Tony Award for her performance in Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 1980, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as well. In addition, as a producer, she received nominations for Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards for MTM’s productions of Noises Off in 1984 and Benefactors in 1986, and won a Tony Award for Best Reproduction of a Play or Musical in 1985 for Joe Egg.

In 1986, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Then, in 1987, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from the American Comedy Awards.

Moore’s contributions to the television industry were recognized in 1992 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

On May 8, 2002, Moore was present when cable network TV Land and the City of Minneapolis dedicated a statue in downtown Minneapolis of the television character she made famous on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The statue, by sculptor Gwendolyn Gillen, was located in front of the Dayton’s department store – now Macy’s – near the corner of 7th Street South and Nicollet Mall. It depicts the iconic moment in the show’s opening credits where Moore tosses her Tam o’ Shanter in the air, in a freeze-frame at the end of the montage. While Dayton’s is clearly seen in the opening sequence, the store in the background of the hat toss is actually Donaldson’s, which was, like Dayton’s, a locally based department store with a long history and which was cater-cornered from Dayton’s. In late 2015 the statue was placed in storage during renovations to the mall, and in December it was relocated to the city’s visitor center, where it will remain until the renovation is complete in 2017, after which it is planned to be returned to its original location.

Moore was awarded the 2011 Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award. In New York City in 2012, Moore and Bernadette Peters were honored by the Ride of Fame and a double-decker bus was dedicated to them.

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).

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-46-14

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.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-51-02

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.

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-04-32

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

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-08-40

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).

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-07-05

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

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-49-26

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.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-52-00

 

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.

 

 

 

Charles Bronson

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-49-53

Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky; November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) was a Lithuanian-American film and television actor.

He starred in films such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, Rider on the Rain, The Mechanic, and the Death Wish series. He was often cast in the role of a police officer, gunfighter, or vigilante in revenge-oriented plot lines. He had long collaborations with film directors Michael Winner and J. Lee Thompson. In 1965, he was featured as Major Wolenski in Battle of the Bulge.

 

Early life and World War II service

Bronson was born Charles Dennis Buchinsky in Ehrenfeld in Cambria County in the  coal region of the Allegheny Mountains north of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

He was the 11th of 15 children born to a Lithuanian immigrant father and a Lithuanian-American mother. His father, Walter Bunchinski (who later adjusted his surname to Buchinsky to sound more “American”), hailed from the town of Druskininkai. Bronson’s mother, Mary (née Valinsky), whose parents were from Lithuania, was born in the coal mining town of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. He learned to speak English when he was a teenager; before that, he spoke Lithuanian and Russian.

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-47-58

Bronson was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. When Bronson was 10 years old, his father died. Young Charles went to work in the coal mines, first in the mining office and then in the mine. He later said he earned one dollar for each ton of coal that he mined. He worked in the mine until he entered military service during World War II. His family was so poor that at one time, he said, he had to wear his sister’s dress to school because of his lack of clothing.

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-43-49In 1943, Bronson enlisted in the US Army Air Force. He served in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron, and in 1945 as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress aerial gunner with the Guam-based 61st Bombardment Squadron within the 39th Bombardment Group, which conducted combat missions against the Japanese home islands. Bronson, a corporal, flew 25 missions and received a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.

 

Acting career

Early roles, 1951–1959

After the end of World War II, Bronson worked at many odd jobs until joining a theatrical group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He later shared an apartment in New York City with Jack Klugman while both were aspiring to play on the stage. In 1950, he married and moved to Hollywood, where he enrolled in acting classes and began to find small roles.

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-52-50Bronson’s first film role — an uncredited one — was as a sailor in You’re in the Navy Now in 1951. Other early screen appearances were in Pat and Mike, Miss Sadie Thompson and House of Wax (as Vincent Price‘s mute henchman, Igor). In 1952, Bronson boxed in a ring with Roy Rogers in Rogers’ show Knockout. He appeared on an episode of The Red Skelton Show as a boxer in a skit with Skelton playing “Cauliflower McPugg.” He also had a part credited as Charles Buchinsky in a western named Riding Shotgun, starring Randolph Scott. In 1954, Bronson made a strong impact in Drum Beat as a murderous Modoc warrior, Captain Jack, who relishes wearing the tunics of soldiers he has killed.

In 1954, during the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) proceedings, he changed his surname from Buchinsky to Bronson at the suggestion of his agent, who feared that an Eastern European surname might damage his career. He reportedly took his inspiration from the Bronson Gate at the studios of Paramount Pictures, situated on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Bronson Street.

He made several appearances on television in the 1950s and 1960s, including a 1952 segment, with fellow guest star Lee Marvin, of Biff Baker, U.S.A., an espionage series on CBS starring Alan Hale, Jr., and played a killer named Crego in Gunsmoke (1956). Bronson had the lead role of the episode “The Apache Kid” of the syndicated crime drama Sheriff of Cochise, starring John Bromfield; Bronson was subsequently cast twice in 1959 after the series was renamed U.S. Marshal. He guest-starred in the short-lived CBS situation comedy, Hey, Jeannie! and in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: And So Died Riabouchinska (1956), There Was an Old Woman (1956), and The Woman Who Wanted to Live (1962). In 1957, Bronson was cast in the Western series Colt .45 as an outlaw named Danny Arnold in the episode “Young Gun.” He also scored the lead in his own ABC detective series, Man with a Camera (from 1958 to 1960), in which he portrayed Mike Kovac, a former combat photographer freelancing in New York City. In 1959, he played Steve Ogrodowski, a naval intelligence officer, in two episodes of the CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey, starring Jackie Cooper. Bronson starred alongside Elizabeth Montgomery in The Twilight Zone episode “Two” (1961). He appeared in five episodes of Richard Boone‘s Have Gun – Will Travel (1957–1963).

In 1958, he was cast in his first lead film role in Roger Corman‘s Machine-Gun Kelly, followed by the lead role in the WWII film, When Hell Broke Loose later the same year.

 

Success, 1960–1968

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-46-08

Bronson was cast in the 1960 episode “Zigzag” of Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin. That same year, he was cast as “Dutch Malkin” in the 1960 episode “The Generous Politician” of The Islanders. In 1960, he garnered attention in John SturgesThe Magnificent Seven, in which he was cast as one of seven gunfighters taking up the cause of the defenseless. During filming, Bronson was a loner who kept to himself, according to Eli Wallach. He received $50,000 for a role that made him a favorite actor of many in the since disbanded Soviet Union, such as Vladimir Vysotsky.

Two years later, Sturges cast him in another Hollywood production, The Great Escape, as claustrophobic Polish prisoner of war Flight Lieutenant Danny Velinski, nicknamed “The Tunnel King” (coincidentally, Bronson was really claustrophobic because of his childhood work in a mine).

In 1961, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his supporting role in an episode entitled “Memory in White” of CBS’s General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan. In 1962, he played alongside Elvis Presley as his loyal trainer, Lew Nyack, in Kid Galahad. In 1963, Bronson co-starred in the NBC Western series Empire. In the 1963–1964 television season he portrayed Linc, the stubborn wagon master in the ABC western series, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. In the 1965–1966 season, he guest-starred in an episode of The Legend of Jesse James. In 1965, Bronson was cast as a demolitions expert in an episode of ABC’s Combat!.

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-51-14

Thereafter, in The Dirty Dozen (1967), he played an Army death row convict conscripted into a suicide mission. In 1967, he guest starred as Ralph Schuyler, an undercover government agent in the episode “The One That Got Away” on ABC’s The Fugitive.

 

European roles and rise with United Artists, 1968–1973

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-41-51

Bronson made a serious name for himself in European films. In 1968, he starred as Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West. The director, Sergio Leone, once called him “the greatest actor I ever worked with,” and had wanted to cast Bronson for the lead in 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars. Bronson turned him down and the role launched Clint Eastwood to film stardom. In 1970, Bronson starred in the French film Rider on the Rain, which won a Hollywood Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The following year, this overseas fame earned him a special Golden Globe Henrietta Award for “World Film Favorite – Male” together with Sean Connery. In 1972 he began a string of successful action films for United Artists, beginning with Chato’s Land, although he had done several films for UA before this in the 1960s. One film UA brought into the domestic mainstream was Violent City, an Italian-made film originally released overseas in 1970.

 

Death Wish series and departure from UA, 1974–1980

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-45-18

Bronson’s most famous role came when he was age 52, in Death Wish (Paramount, 1974), the most popular film of his long association with director Michael Winner. He played Paul Kersey, a successful New York architect who turns into a crime-fighting vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted. This successful movie spawned various sequels over the next two decades, all starring Bronson.

In 1974, he had the title role in the Elmore Leonard film adaptation Mr. Majestyk, as an army veteran and farmer who battles local gangsters. For Walter Hill‘s Hard Times (1975), he starred as a Depression-era street fighter making his living in illegal bare-knuckled matches in Louisiana. He earned good reviews. Bronson reached his pinnacle in box-office drawing power in 1975, when he was ranked 4th, behind only Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, and Al Pacino. His stint at UA came to an end in 1977 with The White Buffalo.

 

Cannon Films era and final roles, 1981–1994

He was considered for the role of Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981), but director John Carpenter thought he was too tough looking and too old for the part, and decided to cast Kurt Russell instead. In the years between 1976 and 1994, Bronson commanded high salaries to star in numerous films made by smaller production companies, most notably Cannon Films, for whom some of his last films were made. Many of them were directed by J. Lee Thompson, a collaborative relationship that Bronson enjoyed and actively pursued, reportedly because Thompson worked quickly and efficiently. Thompson’s ultra-violent films such as The Evil That Men Do (TriStar Pictures, 1984) and 10 to Midnight (1983) were blasted by critics, but provided Bronson with well-paid work throughout the 1980s. Bronson’s last starring role in a theatrically released film was 1994’s Death Wish V: The Face of Death.

 

Personal life

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-47-01His first marriage was to Harriet Tendler, whom he met when both were fledgling actors in Philadelphia. They had two children before divorcing in 1965. She wrote in her memoir that she “was an 18-year-old virgin when she met the 26-year-old Charlie Buchinsky at a Philadelphia acting school in 1947. Two years later, with the grudging consent of her father, a successful, Jewish dairy farmer, Tendler wed Bunchinsky, the Catholic Lithuanian and former coal miner. Tendler supported them both while she and Charlie pursued their acting dreams. On their first date, he had four cents in his pocket — and went on, now as Charles Bronson, to become one of the highest paid actors in the country.”

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-53-21

Bronson  then married English actress Jill Ireland. They remained together from October 5, 1968, until her death in 1990. He had met her in 1962, when she was married to Scottish actor David McCallum. At the time, Bronson (who shared the screen with McCallum in The Great Escape) reportedly told him, “I’m going to marry your wife.”

The Bronsons lived in a grand Bel Air mansion in Los Angeles with seven children: two by his previous marriage, three by hers (one of whom was adopted) and two of their own (another one of whom was adopted). After they married, she often played his leading lady, and they starred in fourteen films together.

In order to maintain a close family, they would load up everyone and take them to wherever filming was taking place, so they could all be together. They spent time in a colonial farmhouse on 260 acres in West Windsor, Vermont. Ireland raised horses and provided training for their daughter Zuleika so that she could perform at the higher levels of horse showing. Their Vermont farm was named after her, the only natural child between them. During the late 1980s through the mid-1990s Bronson regularly spent winter holidays vacationing with his family in Snowmass, Colorado.

On May 18, 1990, aged 54, after a long battle with the disease, Jill Ireland died of breast cancer at their home in Malibu, California. In December 1998, Bronson was married a third time. to Kim Weeks, a former employee of Dove Audio who had helped record Ireland in the production of her audiobooks. The couple were married for five years until Bronson’s death in 2003.

 

Death

Bronson’s health deteriorated in later years, and he retired from acting after undergoing hip-replacement surgery in 1998. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in his final years. Bronson died of pneumonia at age 81 on August 30, 2003 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was interred at Brownsville Cemetery in West Windsor, Vermont.

screenshot-2016-11-09-11-50-47