Tag Archives: Hollywood

Kirk Douglas

 

Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch December 9, 1916) is an American
retired actor, filmmaker, and author. A centenarian, he is one of the last
surviving stars of the film industry’s Golden Age.

After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he made his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck and
Lizabeth Scott. Douglas soon developed into a leading box-office star
throughout the 1950s, known for serious dramas, including westerns and
war movies. During his career, he appeared in more than 90 movies.
Douglas is known for his explosive acting style, which he displayed as a
criminal defense attorney in Town Without Pity (1961).

Douglas became an international star through positive reception for his
leading role as an unscrupulous boxing hero in Champion (1949), which
brought him his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Other early films include Young Man with a Horn (1950), playing opposite
Lauren Bacall and Doris Day, Ace in the Hole opposite Jan Sterling (1951), and            Detective Story (1951), for which he received a Golden Globe
nomination as Best Actor in a Drama. He received a second Oscar
nomination for his dramatic role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952),
opposite Lana Turner, and his third nomination for portraying Vincent van
Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), which landed him a second Golden Globe
nomination.

In 1955, he established Bryna Productions, which began producing films as
varied as Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960). In those two films,
he collaborated with the then-relatively-unknown director Stanley Kubrick,
taking lead roles in both films. Douglas has been praised for helping to
break the Hollywood blacklist by having Dalton Trumbo write Spartacus
with an official on-screen credit.  He produced and starred in Lonely Are
the Brave (1962), considered a classic, and Seven Days in May (1964),
opposite Burt Lancaster, with whom he made seven films. In 1963, he
starred in the Broadway play One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a story
he purchased and later gave to his son Michael Douglas, who turned it
into an Oscar-winning film.

As an actor and philanthropist, Douglas has received three Academy
Award nominations, an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, and the
Presidential Medal of Freedom. As an author, he has written ten novels and
memoirs. He is No. 17 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest
male screen legends of classic Hollywood cinema, the highest-ranked living
person on the list. After barely surviving a helicopter crash in 1991, and then
suffering a stroke in 1996, he has focused on renewing his spiritual and
religious life. He lives with his second wife (of 65 years), Anne Buydens, a
producer.

Early life and education

Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch. His father’s brother, who immigrated earlier, used the surname Demsky, which Douglas’s family adopted in the United States. Douglas grew up as
Izzy Demsky and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the United States Navy during World War II.

In his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, Douglas notes the hardships that he, along with six sisters and his parents, endured during their early years in Amsterdam, New York:

My father, who had been a horse trader in Russia, got himself a horse and a small wagon, and became a ragman, buying old rags, pieces of metal, and junk for pennies, nickels, and dimes…. Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder. And I was the ragman’s son.

Growing up, Douglas sold snacks to mill workers to earn enough to buy milk and bread to help his family. Later, he delivered newspapers and during his youth he had more than forty jobs before becoming an actor. He found living in a family with six sisters to be stifling: “I was dying to get out. In a sense, it lit a fire under me.”

In high school, after acting in plays, he knew he wanted to become a professional actor. Unable to afford thetuition, Douglas talked his way into the dean’ office at St. Lawrence
University and showed him a list of his high school honors. He received a loan which he paid back by working part-time as a gardener and a janitor. He was a standout on the wrestling team and wrestled one summer in a carnival to make money.

Douglas’s acting talents were noticed at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, which gave him a special scholarship. One of his classmates was Betty Joan Perske (later known as Lauren Bacall), who would play an important role in launching his film career. Bacall wrote that she “had a wild crush on Kirk,” and they dated casually.

Another classmate, and a friend of Bacall’s, was aspiring actress Diana Dill, who would later become Douglas’s first wife. During their time together, Bacall learned Douglas had no money, and that he once spent the night in jail since he had no place to sleep. She once
gave him her uncle’s old coat to keep warm: “I thought he must be frozen in the winter. … He was thrilled and grateful.” Sometimes, just to see him, she would drag a friend or her mother to the restaurant where he worked as a busboy and waiter.

He told her his dream was to someday bring his family to New York to see him on stage. During that period, she fantasized about someday sharing her personal and stage lives with Douglas, but would later be disappointed: “Kirk did not really pursue me. He was friendly and sweet—enjoyed my company—but I was clearly too young for him,” the
eight-years-younger Bacall later wrote.

 

Early career

Douglas first wanted to be an actor after he recited the poem The Red Robin of Spring while in kindergarten and received applause. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, where he served as a communications officer in anti- submarine warfare aboard USS PC-1137. He was medically discharged in
1944 for war injuries sustained from the accidental dropping of a depth charge.

He married Diana Dill on November 2, 1943. They had two sons, Michael in 1944 and Joel in 1947, before they divorced in 1951. After the war, Douglas returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater and commercials. In his radio work, he acted in network soap
operas, and sees those experiences as being especially valuable, as a skill in using one’s voice is important for aspiring actors, and regrets that the same avenues are no longer available.

His stage break occurred when he took over the role played by Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell (1943), which then led to other offers. Douglas had planned to remain a stage actor, until his friend, Lauren Bacall helped him get his first film role by recommending him to producer Hal B. Wallis, who was looking for a new male talent. Wallis’ film, The
Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck, became Douglas’s debut screen appearance. He played a young, insecure man, stung with jealousy, whose life was dominated by his ruthless wife, and he hid his feelings with alcohol. It would be the last time that Douglas portrayed a weakling in a film role.

Reviewers of the film noted that Douglas already projected qualities of a “natural film actor” with the similarity of this role with later ones explained by biographer Tony Thomas:

His style and his personality came across on the screen, something that does not always
happen, even with the finest actors. Douglas had, and has, a distinctly individual manner. He radiates a certain inexplicable quality, and it is this, as much as talent, that accounts for his success in films.

 

Career

1940s

Douglas’s image as a tough guy was established in his eighth film, Champion (1949), after producer Stanley Kramer chose him to play a selfish boxer. In accepting the role, he took a gamble, however, since he had to turn down an offer to star in a big-budget MGM film, The Great Sinner, which would have earned him three times the income. Film historian Ray Didinger says, “he saw Champion as a greater risk, but also a greater opportunity… Douglas took the part and absolutely nailed it.” Frederick Romano, another sports film historian, described Douglas’s acting as “alarmingly authentic: Douglas shows great concentration in the ring. His intense focus on his opponent draws the viewer into the ring.
Perhaps his best characteristic is his patented snarl and grimace … he leaves no doubt that he is a man on a mission.”

Douglas received his first Academy Award nomination and the film earned six nominations in all. Variety magazine called it “a stark, realistic study of the boxing rackets.” From that film on, he decided that to succeed as a star, he needed to ramp up his intensity, overcome his natural shyness, and choose stronger roles. He later stated, “I don’t think I’d be much of an actor without vanity. And I’m not interested in being a ‘modest actor.'”

Early in his Hollywood career, he demonstrated his independent streak and broke his studio contracts to gain total control over his projects, forming his own movie company, Bryna Productions, named after his mother. In 1947 Douglas made Out of the
Past (UK: Build My Gallows High). He starred in this film with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. Douglas made his Broadway debut in 1949 in Three Sisters, produced by Katharine Cornell.

 

1950s

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Douglas was a major box-office star, playing opposite some of the leading actresses of that era. He played a frontier peace officer in his first western, Along the Great Divide (1951). He quickly became very comfortable with riding horses and playing gunslingers, and appeared in many westerns. He considers Lonely Are the Brave (1962), in which he plays a cowboy trying to live by his own code, as his personal favorite. The film, written by Dalton Trumbo, was respected by critics, but did not do well at the box office due to poor marketing and distribution.

In 1950, Douglas played Rick Martin in Young Man with a Horn, based on a novel of the same name by Dorothy Baker inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz cornetist. Composer-pianist Hoagy Carmichael, playing the sidekick role, added realism to the film and gave Douglas insight into the role, being a friend of the real Beiderbecke. Doris Day
starred as Jo, a young woman who was infatuated with the struggling jazz musician. This was strikingly opposite of the real-life account in Doris Day’s autobiography, which described Douglas as “civil but self-centered,” and the film as “utterly joyless.” During filming, bit actress Jean Spangler disappeared and her case remains unsolved. On October 9, 1949, Spangler’s purse was found near the Fern Dell entrance to Griffith Park in
Los Angeles. There was an unfinished note in the purse addressed to a “Kirk,” which read:

Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away.” Douglas, married at the time, called the police and told them he was not the Kirk mentioned in the note. When interviewed via telephone by the head of the investigating team, Douglas stated that he had “talked and kidded with her a bit” on set, but that he had never been out with her. Spangler’s girlfriends told police that she was three months pregnant when she disappeared and that she had talked about having an abortion, which was illegal at that time.

In 1951, Douglas starred as a newspaper reporter anxiously looking for a big story in Ace in the Hole, director Billy Wilder’s first effort as both writer and producer. The subject and story was controversial at the time, and U.S. audiences stayed away. Some reviews saw it as “ruthless and cynical … a distorted study of corruption, mob psychology and the free press.” Possibly it “hit too close to home,” says Douglas. It won a best foreign film award at
the Venice Film Festival. The film’s stature has increased in recent years, with some surveys placing it in their top 500 films list. Woody Allen considers it one of his favorite films. As the film’s star and protagonist, Douglas is credited for the intensity of his acting. Roger Ebert described Douglas’s “focus and energy … almost scary. There is nothing dated about [his] performance. It’s as right now as a sharpened knife.” Biographer Gene Philips notes that Wilder’s story was “galvanized” by Douglas’s “astounding performance,” and no doubt was a factor when George Stevens, who presented Douglas with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1991, said of him: “No other leading actor was ever more ready to tap the dark, desperate side of the soul and thus to reveal the complexity of human nature.”

Also in 1951, Douglas starred in Detective Story, nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Lee Grant in her debut film. Grant said Douglas was “dazzling, both personally and in the part. … He was a big, big star. Gorgeous. Intense. Amazing.” To prepare for the role, he spent days with the New York police department and sat in on interrogations. Reviewers recognized Douglas’s acting qualities, with Bosley Crowther
describing Douglas as “forceful and aggressive as the detective.”

In The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), another of his three Oscar-nominated roles, Douglas plays a hard-nosed film producer who manipulates and uses his actors, writers, and directors. Bacall and Doris Day played two very different types of women in his life. In 1954 Douglas starred in Ulysses from Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, with Silvana Mangano as Penelope and Circe, and Anthony Quinn playing Antinous. The film director Mario Camerini co-wrote the screenplay with writer Franco Brusati.

In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Douglas showed that in addition to serious, driven characters, he was adept at roles requiring a lighter, comic touch. In this adaptation of the Jules Verne novel, he played a happy-go-lucky sailor who was the opposite in every way to the brooding Captain Nemo (James Mason). The film was one of Walt Disney’s most successful live-action movies and a major box-office hit. He managed a similar comic turn in the western Man Without a Star (1955) and in For Love or Money (1963). He showed further diversity in one of his earlies television appearances. He was a musical guest (as himself) on The Jack Benny Program (1954).

In 1955, Douglas formed his own movie company, Bryna Productions, named after his mother. To do so, he had to break contracts with Hal B. Wallis and Warner Bros., but began to produce and star in his own films, including Paths of Glory (1957), The Vikings (1958), Spartacus (1960), Lonely are the Brave (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964).

While Paths of Glory did not do well at the box office, it has since become one of the great anti-war films, and one of early films by director Stanley Kubrick. Douglas, a fluent French speaker, plays a sympathetic French officer during World War I who tries to save three soldiers from the firing squad. Biographer Vincent LoBrutto describes Douglas’s “seething but controlled portrayal exploding with the passion of his convictions at the
injustice levelled at his men.” The film was banned in France until 1976.

Before production of the film began, however, Douglas and Kubrick had to work out some major issues, one of which was Kubrick’s rewriting the screenplay without informing Douglas first. It led to their first major argument: “I called Stanley to my room … I hit the ceiling. I called him every four-letter word I could think of … ; I got the money, based on that [original] script. Not this shit! I threw the script across the room. We’re going back to
the original script, or w’re not making the picture. Stanley never blinked an eye. We shot the original script. I think the movie is a classic, one of the most important pictures—possibly the most important picture—Stanley Kubrick has ever made.”

Douglas played military men in numerous films, with varying nuance, including Top Secret Affair (1957), Town Without Pity (1961), The Hook (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), Heroes of Telemark (1965), In Harm’s Way (1965), Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), Is Paris Burning (1966), The Final Countdown (1980), and Saturn 3 (1980). His acting style and delivery made him a favorite with television impersonators such as Frank Gorshin, Rich Little and David Frye.

His role as Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), directed by Vincente Minnelli and based on Irving Stone’s best-seller, was filmed mostly on location in France. Douglas was noted not only for the veracity of van Gogh’s appearance but for how he conveyed the painter’s internal turmoil. Some reviewers consider it the most famous example of the “tortured artist” who seeks solace from life’s pain through his work. Others see it as a portrayal not only of the “painter-as-hero,” but a unique presentation of the “action painter,” with Douglas expressing the physicality and emotion of painting, as he uses the canvas to capture a moment in time.

Douglas was nominated for an Academy Award for the role, with his co-star Anthony Quinn winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Paul Gauguin, van Gogh’s friend. Douglas won a Golden Globe award, although Minnelli said Douglas should have won an Oscar: “He achieved a moving and memorable portrait of the artist—a man of massive creative power,
triggered by severe emotional stress, the fear and horror of madness.” Douglas himself called his acting role as Van Gogh a painful experience: “Not only did I look like Van Gogh, I was the same age he was when he committed suicide.

His wife said he often remained in character in his personal life: “When he was doing Lust for Life, he came home in that red beard of Van Gogh’s, wearing those big boots, stomping around the house—it was frightening.”

In general, however, Douglas’s acting style fit well with Minnelli’s preference for “melodrama and neurotic-artist roles,” writes film historian, James Naremore. He adds that Minnelli had his “richest, most impressive collaborations” with Douglas, and for Minnelli, no other actor portrayed his level of ‘cool.’ A robust, athletic, sometimes explosive player, Douglas loved stagy rhetoric, and he did everything passionately.”  That level of
passion in Douglas&’s persona was also used effectively by Minnelli in The Bad and the Beautiful, four years earlier, for which Douglas was nominated for Best Actor, with the film winning five Oscars.

1960s

In 1960, Douglas played the title role in what many consider his career defining appearance as the Thracian slave rebel Spartacus with an all-star cast in Spartacus (1960). He was the executive producer as well, and raised the $12 million production cost that made it one of the most expensive films up to that time. Douglas initially selected Anthony Mann to direct, but replaced him early on with Stanley Kubrick, with whom he previously collaborated in Paths of Glory.

When the film was released, Douglas gave full credit to its screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who was on the Hollywood blacklist, and thereby effectively ended it. About that event, he said, “Ive made over 85 pictures, but the thing I’m most proud of is breaking the blacklist.” However the film’s producer Edward Lewis and the family of Dalton Trumbo publicly disputed Douglas’s claim. In the film Trumbo (2015), Douglas is portrayed by Dean
Gorman.

Douglas bought the rights to the novel  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from its author, Ken Kesey. He turned it into a play in 1963 in which he starred, and it ran on Broadway for five months. Reviews were mixed. Douglas retained the movie rights, but after a decade of being unable to find a producer, gave the rights to his son, Michael. In 1975, the film version was produced by Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, and starred Jack Nicholson, as Douglas was then considered too old to play the character as written. It won all five major Academy Awards, only the second to achieve that, including one for Nicholson.

Douglas made seven films over the decades with Burt Lancaster: I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Devil’s Disciple (1959), The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), Victory at Entebbe (1976) and Tough Guys (1986), which fixed the notion of the pair as something of a team in the public imagination. Douglas was
always second-billed under Lancaster in these movies but, with the exception of I Walk Alone, in which Douglas played a villain, their roles were more or less the same size. Both actors arrived in Hollywood at the same time, and first appeared together in the fourth film for each, albeit with Douglas in a supporting role. They both became actor-producers who
sought out independent Hollywood careers.

John Frankenheimer, who directed the political thriller Seven Days in May in 1964, had not worked well with Lancaster in the past, and originally did not want him in this film. However, Douglas thought Lancaster would fit the part and “begged me to reconsider,”  said Frankenheimer, and he then gave Lancaster the most colorful role. “It turns out that Burt Lancaster and I got along magnificently well on the picture,” he later said.

In 1967 Douglas starred with John Wayne in the western film directed by Burt Kennedy titled The War Wagon. In The Arrangement (1969), a drama directed by Elia Kazan, based upon his novel of the same title, Douglas starred as a tormented advertising executive, with Faye Dunaway as costar. The film did poorly at the box office, receiving mostly negative reviews, while Dunaway felt many of the reviews were unfair, writing in her biography, “I can’t understand it when people knock Kirk’s performance, because I think he’s terrific in the picture,” adding that “he’s as bright a person as I’ve met in the acting
profession.” She says that his “pragmatic approach to acting” would later be “a philosophy that ended up rubbing off on me.”

 

1970s–2010s

Between 1970 and 2008, Douglas made nearly 40 movies and appeared
on various television shows. He starred in a western, There Was a Crooked
Man… (1970), alongside Henry Fonda. The film was produced and directed
by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

In 1972, he was a guest in David Winters’ television special The London Bridge Special, starring Tom Jones. In 1973, he directed his first film, Scalawag. That same year, Douglas
reunited with director David Winters and appeared in the made-for-TV musical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (nominated for three Emmys)alongside Stanley Holloway, and Donald Pleasence.

He returned to the director’s chair for Posse (1975), in which he starred alongside Bruce Dern. In 1978, he costarred with John Cassavetes and Amy Irving in a horror film, The Fury, directed by Brian De Palma. In 1980, he starred in The Final Countdown, playing the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which travels through time to the day before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It was produced by his son Peter Douglas. In
1982, he starred in The Man from Snowy River, an Australian film which received critical acclaim and numerous awards. In 1986, he reunited with his longtime costar, Burt Lancaster, in a crime comedy, Tough Guys, which included Charles Durning and Eli Wallach. It marked the final collaboration between Douglas and Lancaster, completing a partnership of more than 40 years.

In 1986, he co-hosted (with Angela Lansbury) the New York Philharmonic’s tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. The symphony was conducted by Zubin Mehta. In 1988, Douglas starred in a television adaptation of Inherit the Wind, opposite Jason Robards and Jean Simmons. The film won two EmmyAwards.

In the 1990s, Douglas continued starring in various features. Among them was The Secret in 1992, a television movie about a grandfather and his grandson who both struggle with dyslexia. That same year, he played the uncle of Michael J. Fox in a comedy, Greedy. He appeared as the Devil in the video for the Don Henley song “The Garden of Allah.” In 1996, after suffering a severe stroke which impaired his ability to speak, Douglas still wanted to make movies. He underwent years of voice therapy and made Diamonds in 1999, in which he played an old prizefighter who was recovering from a stroke. It costarred his longtime friend from his early years, Lauren Bacall.

In 2003, Michael and Joel Douglas produced It Runs in the Family, which along with Kirk starred various family members, including Michael, Michael’s son, and his wife from 50 years earlier, Diana Dill, playing his wife. In March 2009, Douglas did an autobiographical one-man show, Before I Forget, at the Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California. The four performances were filmed and turned into a documentary that was first screened in January 2010.Douglas appeared at the 2018 Golden Globes at the age of 101 with his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones; he received a standing ovation and helped to present the award for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. This was a rare appearance for Douglas, who suffered a stroke 20 years prior, and his first at a major awards show since the Oscars in 2011.

 

Style and philosophy of acting

Kirk is one of a kind. He has an overpowering physical presence, which is why on a
large movie screen he looms over the audience like a tidal wave in full flood. Globally
revered, he is now the last living screen legend of those who vaulted to stardom at the
war’s end, that special breed of movie idol instantly recognizable anywhere, whose
luminous on-screen characters are forever memorable.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Douglas stated that the keys to acting success are determination and application: “You must know how to function and how to maintain yourself, and you must have a love of what you do. But an actor also needs great good luck. I have had that luck.” Douglas had great vitality and explained that, “it takes a lot out of you to work in this business. Many people fall by the wayside because they don’t have the energy to sustain their talent.”

That attitude toward acting became evident with Champion (1949). From that one role, writes biographer John Parker, he went from stardom and entered the superleague, where his style was in marked contrast to Hollywood’s other leading men at the time. His sudden rise to prominence is explained and compared to that of Jack Nicholson’s: He virtually ignored interventionist directors. He prepared himself privately for each role he
played, so that when the cameras were ready to roll he was suitably, and some would say egotistically and even selfishly, inspired to steal every scene in a manner comparable in modern times to Jack Nicholson’s modus operandi.

As a producer, Douglas had a reputation of being a compulsively hard worker who expected others to exude the same level of energy. As such, he was typically demanding and direct in his dealing with people who worked on his projects, with his intensity spilling over into all elements of his film-making. This was partly due to his high opinion of actors, movies, and moviemaking: “To me it is the most important art form—it is an art, and
it includes all the elements of the modern age.” He also stressed prioritizing the entertainment goal of films over any messages, “You can make a statement, you can say something, but it must be entertaining.”

As an actor, he dived into every role, dissecting not only his own lines but all the parts in the script to measure the rightness of the role, and he was willing to fight with a director if he felt justified. Melville Shavelson, who produced and directed Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), said that it didn’t take him long to discover what his main problem was going to be in directing Douglas: Kirk Douglas was intelligent. When discussing a script with actors,
I have always found it necessary to remember that they never read the other actors’ lines, so their concept of the story is somewhat hazy. Kirk had not only read the lines of everyone in the picture, he had also read the stage directions … Kirk, I was to discover, always read every word, discussed every word, always argued every scene, until he was convinced
of its correctness. … He listened, so it was necessary to fight every minute.

For most of his career, Douglas enjoyed good health and what seemed like an inexhaustible supply of energy. He attributed much of that vitality to his childhood and pre-acting years: “The drive that got me out of my hometown and through college is part of the makeup that I utilize in my work. It’s a constant fight, and it’s tough.” His demands on others, however, were an expression of the demands he placed on himself, rooted in his youth.

“It took me years to concentrate on being a human being—I was too busy scrounging for money and food, and struggling to better myself.”

Actress Lee Grant, who acted with him and later filmed a documentary about him and his family, notes that even after he achieved worldwide stardom, his father would not acknowledge his success. He said”nothing. Ever.” Douglas’s wife, Anne, similarly attributes the energy he devotes to acting to his tough childhood: “He was reared by his mother and his sisters and as a schoolboy he had to work to help support the family. I think part of
Kirk’s life has been a monstrous effort to prove himself and gain recognition in the eyes of his father … Not even four years of psychoanalysis could alter the drives that began as a desire to prove himself.”

Douglas has credited his mother, Bryna, for instilling in him the importance of “gambling on yourself;” and he kept her advice in mind when making films. Bryna Productions was named in her honor. Douglas realized that his intense style of acting was something of a shield: “Acting is the most direct way of escaping reality, and in my case it was a means of escaping a drab and dismal background.”

 

Personal life

In The Ragman’s Son, Douglas described himself as a “sonofabitch,” adding, “I’m probably the most disliked actor in Hollywood. And I feel pretty good about it. Because that’s me…. I was born aggressive, and I guess I’ll die aggressive.” Co-workers and associates alike noted similar traits, with Burt Lancaster once remarking, “Kirk would be the first to tell you that he is a very difficult man. And I would be the second.”

Douglas’ personality is attributed to his difficult upbringing living in poverty and his aggressive alcoholic father who was neglectful of Kirk as a young child. According to
Douglas, “there was an awful lot of rage churning around inside me, rage that I was afraid to reveal because there was so much more of it, and so much stronger, in my father.” Douglas’ discipline, wit and sense of humor is also often recognized.

Anne Buydens and Douglas at the 2003 Jefferson Awards for Public Service ceremony
Douglas and his first wife, Diana Dill, married on November 2, 1943. They had two sons, actor Michael Douglas and producer Joel Douglas, before divorcing in 1951. Afterwards, in Paris, he met producer Anne Buydens (born Hannelore Marx; April 23, 1919, Hanover, Germany) while acting on location in Lust for Life. She originally fled from Germany to escape Nazism and survived by putting her multilingual skills to work at a film studio, doing translations for subtitles. They married on May 29, 1954.

In 2014, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the Greystone Mansion in
Beverly Hills. They had two sons, Peter, a producer, and Eric, an actor who died on July 6, 2004, from an overdose of alcohol and drugs. In 2017, the couple released a book, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood, that revealed intimate letters they shared through the years. Throughout their marriage, Douglas had affairs with other women including several Hollywood starlets, though he never hid his infidelities
from his wife who was accepting of them and explained, “as a European, I
understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage.”

In February 1991, Douglas was in a helicopter and was injured when the aircraft collided with a small plane above Santa Paula Airport. Two other people were also injured; two people in the plane were killed. This near- death experience sparked a search for meaning by Douglas, which led him, after much study, to embrace the Judaism in which he had been raised. He documented this spiritual journey in his book, Climbing the Mountain: My
Search for Meaning (2001).

In his earlier autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, he recalled, “years back, I tried to forget that I was a Jew,” but later in his career he began “coming to grips with what it means to be a Jew,” which became a theme in his life. In an interview in 2000, he explained this transition: Judaism and I parted ways a long time ago, when I was a poor kid growing up in Amsterdam, N.Y. Back then, I was pretty good in cheder, so the Jews of our community
thought they would do a wonderful thing and collect enough money to send me to a yeshiva to become a rabbi. Holy Moses! That scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to be a rabbi. I wanted to be an actor. Believe me, the members of the Sons of Israel were persistent. I had nightmares – wearing long payos and a black hat. I had to work very hard to get out of it. But it took me a long time to learn that you don’t have to be a rabbi to be a Jew.

Douglas notes that the underlying theme of some of his films, including The Juggler (1953), Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), and Remembrance of Love (1982), was about “a Jew who doesn’t think of himself as one, and eventually finds his Jewishness.” The Juggler was the first Hollywood feature to be filmed in the newly established state of Israel. Douglas recalls that while there, he saw “extreme poverty and food being rationed.” But he
found it “wonderful, finally, to be in the majority.”; Its producer, Stanley Kramer, tried to portray “Israel as the Jews’ heroic response to Hitler’s destruction.” Although his children had non-Jewish mothers, Douglas states that they were “aware culturally” of his “eep convictions,” and he never tried to influence their own religious decisions. Douglas’s wife, Anne, converted to Judaism before they renewed their wedding vows in 2004. Douglas
celebrated a second Bar-Mitzvah ceremony in 1999, aged 83.

Douglas and his wife have donated to various non-profit causes during his career, and are planning on donating most of their $80 million net worth. Among the donations have been those to his former high school and college. In September 2001, he helped fund his high school’s musical, Amsterdam Oratorio, composed by Maria Riccio Bryce, who won the
school Thespian Society’s Kirk Douglas Award in 1968. In 2012 he donated $5 million to St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. The college used the donation for the scholarship fund he began in 1999. He has donated to various schools, medical facilities and other non-profit organizations in southern California. These have included the rebuilding of over 400 Los Angeles Unified School District playgrounds that were aged and in need of restoration. They established the Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women at the Los Angeles Mission, which has helped hundreds of women turn their lives around. In Culver City, they opened the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2004. They supported the Anne Douglas Childhood
Center at the Sinai Temple of Westwood. In March 2015, Kirk and his wife donated $2.3 million to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Since the early 1990s Kirk and Anne Douglas have donated up to $40 million to Harry’s Haven, an Alzheimer’s treatment facility in Woodland Hills, to care for patients at the Motion Picture Home. To celebrate his 99th birthday in December 2015, they donated another $15 million to help expand the facility with a new two-story Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion. Douglas has donated a number of playgrounds in Jerusalem, and donated
the Kirk Douglas Theater at the Aish Center across from the Western Wall.

The couple have been involved in numerous volunteer and philanthropic activities. They traveled to more than 40 countries, at their own expense, to act as goodwill ambassadors for the U.S. Information Agency, speaking to audiences about why democracy works and what freedom means. In 1980, Douglas flew to Cairo to talk with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. For all his goodwill efforts, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from
President Jimmy Carter in 1981. At the ceremony, Carter said that Douglas had “done this in a sacrificial way, almost invariably without fanfare and without claiming any personal credit or acclaim for himself.”

In subsequent years, Douglas testified before Congress about elder abuse. Douglas has been a lifelong member of the Democratic Party. He has written letters to politicians who were friends. He notes in his memoir, Let’s Face It (2007), that he felt compelled to write to former president Jimmy Carter in 2006 in order to stress that “Israel is the only successful
democracy in the Middle East … [and] has had to endure many wars against overwhelming odds. If Israel loses one war, they lose Israel.”

Douglas recalled an incident involving his son Eric, who at the time was a friend of Ronald Reagan’s son Ron. When the younger Douglas saw a Barry Goldwater bumper sticker on the Reagans’ car, he shouted “;Boo Goldwater!” In response, Nancy Reagan telephoned the elder Douglas and said, “Come pick up this boy at once.” Kirk said of this that it was “a
sentiment I confess he picked up from me.”

On January 28, 1996, he suffered a severe stroke, which impaired his ability to speak. Doctors told his wife that unless there was rapid improvement, the loss of the ability to speak was likely permanent. After a regime of daily speech-language therapy that lasted several months, his ability to speak returned, although it was still limited. He was able to accept an honorary Academy Award two months later in March and thanked the audience. He wrote about this experience in his 2002 book, My Stroke of Luck, which he hoped would be an “operating manual” for others on how to handle a stroke victim in their own family.

On December 9, 2016, Douglas became a centenarian. He celebrated his 100th birthday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, joined by several of his friends and family, including Don Rickles, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, his wife Anne, his son Michael and his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta- Jones. Douglas was described by his guests as being still in good shape, able to walk with confidence into the Sunset Room for the celebration.

Douglas blogs from time to time. Originally hosted on Myspace, his posts have been hosted by the Huffington Post since 2012. He is believed to be the oldest celebrity blogger in the world.

Mario Lanza

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

 

Early years

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

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

 

Opera career

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Film career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Death

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

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

 

Musical legacy

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

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

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

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

 

Portrayal on stage

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

 

Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Filmography

 

Box office ranking

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

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

 

 

Barbara Hale

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

 

Early life

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

 

 

 

 

 

Career

 

Film

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

 

 

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

 

Television

Perry Mason (1957–1966; 1985–1995)

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

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

 

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

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

 

Radio

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

 

Spokesperson

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

 

Private life and death

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

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

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

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

 

Accolades

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

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

Leo Gordon

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

 

Early life and career

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

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

 

Actor in film and television

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Screenwriter and novelist

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

 

Later life 

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

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

Anthony Quinn

 

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

 

Early life

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

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

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

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

 

Career

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mafia

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

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

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

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

 

Painting and writing

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

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

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

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

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

 

Death

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

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

 

Tributes/legacy

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Kim Novak

 

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

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

Novak with William Holden, in Picnic

 

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

 

Early life

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

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

 

Acting career

Beginnings and breakthrough (1953–58)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Vertigo (1958)

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

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

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

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

 

Career slowdown and other early ventures (1958–65)

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

In Bell, Book & Candle

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

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

Novak, as Moll Flanders

 

Acting sporadically (1966–91)

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

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

With David Bowie

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

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

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

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

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

Liebestraum

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

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

 

Retirement (1992–present)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honors

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

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

Naomi Watts, in Mulholland Drive

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

“The Novak”

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

 

 

Personal life

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

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

Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Edward G. Robinson

Introduction

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

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

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

 

Early years and education

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

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

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

 

Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

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

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

 

Political activism

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other

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

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

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

 

 

Hal Wallis

Harold Brent Wallis was an American film producer.

Wallis is best remembered for producing Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and True Grit (1969), along with many other major films for Warner Bros. featuring such film stars as Humphrey Bogart, Betty Davis, and Errol Flynn.

 

Life and Career

Aaron Blum Wolowicz was born October 19, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Eva (née Blum) and Jacob Wolowicz,  Ashkenazi Jews from Suwalki region of Poland who changed their surname to Wallis.

His family moved in 1922 to Los Angeles, California, where he found work as part of the publicity department at Warner Bros in 1923. Within a few years, Wallis became involved in the production end of the business and would eventually become head of production at Warner. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he was involved with the production of more than 400 feature-length movies.

In addition to the films cited above, Wallis produced such hits as Dark VictoryThe Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, and Now, Voyager. During the 16th annual Academy Awards, when the award for Best Picture was announced for Casablanca, Wallis got up to accept, but studio head Jack L. Warner rushed up to the stage “with a broad, flashing smile and a look of great self-satisfaction,” Wallis later recalled.

I couldn’t believe it was happening. Casablanca had been my creation; Jack had absolutely nothing to do with it. As the audience gasped, I tried to get out of the row of seats and into the aisle, but the entire Warner family sat blocking me. I had no alternative but to sit down again, humiliated and furious…. Almost forty years later, I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

Jack Warner, Michael Curtiz, Hal Wallis (L-R)

This incident would lead Wallis to leave Warner Bros. in April. He started to work as an independent producer, enjoying considerable success both commercially and critically. The first screenwriters he hired for his new enterprise were Ayn Rand and Lillian Hellman. Among his financial hits were the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedies, and several of Elvis Presley’s movies.

Wallis  produced True Grit, for which John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor of 1969, and its sequel. After moving to Universal Pictures, he produced Mary, Queen of Scots (starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson), and Anne of the Thousand Days (starring Richard Burton and Canadian-born actress Geneviéve Bujold). He received 16 Academy Awards producer nominations for Best Picture, winning for Casablanca in 1943.

For his consistently high quality of motion picture production, Wallis  was twice honored with the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was also nominated for seven
Golden Globe awards, twice winning awards for Best Picture. In 1975, he received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1980, Wallis published his autobiography, Starmaker, co- written with Charles Higham.
In the 1930s, Wallis used his investment dollars to develop residential real estate in Sherman Oaks, California. He named one of the streets after himself using his nickname “Hal” and his nick-middle name “Brent.” Halbrent Avenue, Sherman Oaks, CA is the street, and most of the original homes are still standing today. It’s very close to Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards near the infamous Sherman Oaks Galleria used extensively in
the 1982 movie romp, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

 

Marriages

Wallis was married twice, to actress Louise Fazenda from 1927 until her death in 1962, and to actress Martha Hyer from 1966 until his death in 1986. He had one son with Fazenda,
Brent Wallis.

 

Death

Wallis died in 1986 from complications with diabetes in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 88. News of his passing was not released until after his private memorial service was
completed. U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan (who had worked for Wallis in On the Santa Fe Trail and This Is The Army) sent condolences to the family. Wallis is interred in  crypt at the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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.