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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.

 

 

Clint Walker

Screenshot 2018-06-22 12.25.25

 

Norman EugeneClintWalker (May 30, 1927 – May 21, 2018) was an American actor and singer. He was perhaps best known for his starring role as cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the ABC/Warner Bros. western series Cheyenne from (1955–1963).                

 

Early life

Walker was born in Hartford, Illinois, the son of Gladys Huldah (née Schwanda) and Paul Arnold Walker. His mother was Czech. He had a twin sister named Lucy (1927–2000).

Walker left school to work at a factory and on a riverboat, then joined the United States Merchant Marine at the age of 17 in the last months of World War II. After leaving the Merchant Marine, he worked doing odd jobs in Brownwood, Texas, Long Beach, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where he worked as a doorman at the Sands Hotel. Walker was also employed as a sheet metal worker and a nightclub bouncer.

 

Career

 

— Early Work

 Walker became a client of Henry Willson, who renamed him “Jett Norman” and cast him to appear in a Bowery Boys film (Jungle Gents) as a Tarzan-type character. In Los Angeles, he was hired by Cecil B. DeMille to appear in The Ten Commandments.

A friend in the film industry helped get him a few bit parts that brought him to the attention of Warner Bros., which was developing a Western-style television series.

Screenshot 2018-06-22 12.25.59Walker’s good looks and imposing physique (he stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall with a 48-inch chest and a 32-inch waist) helped him land an audition — he won the lead role in the TV series Cheyenne. Billed as “Clint Walker,” he was cast as Cheyenne Bodie, a roaming cowboy hero in the post-American Civil War era. His casting was announced in June 1955.

Cheyenne originally appeared as part of Warner Bros. Presents rotating with adaptations of Kings Row and CasablancaCheyenne turned out to be a breakout hit.

 

While the series regularly capitalized on Walker’s rugged frame with frequent bare-chested scenes, it was also well written and acted. It proved hugely popular for eight seasons. Walker’s pleasant baritone singing voice was also occasionally utilized on the series, and led Warner Brothers to produce an album of Walker doing traditional songs and ballads.

Early on in the series run, Warners announced they would star Walker in a feature, The Story of Sam Houston, a film that was never made.

In April 1956 Walker said, “I don’t think I’d want any other roles” than Westerns. “Westerns keep me outdoors and active.”

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Warners cast Walker in the lead of a Western feature film, Fort Dobbs (1958), directed by Gordon Douglas. Howard Thompson described the actor as “the biggest, finest-looking Western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivalling King Kong’s.”

Box office returns were modest. Warners tried him in another Douglas-directed Western, Yellowstone Kelly (1959), co-starring Edd Byrnes from another Warners TV show, 77 Sunset Strip. It was a minor success.

A number of Cheyenne episodes were cut into feature films and released theatrically in some markets, and Walker guest starred as Bodie in an episode of Maverick. (He also guest starred on an episode of 77 Sunset Strip). Warners tried Walker in a third Western feature directed by Douglas, Gold of the Seven Saints (1961), this time co-starring Roger Moore, who was also under contract to Warners.

Cheyenne ended in 1963.

— Post-Cheyenne

Walker had a role in Kraft Suspense Theatre (episode “Portrait of an Unknown Man”, alongside Robert Duvall). He had a supporting role in the Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy, Send Me No Flowers (1964).

Frank Sinatra cast him in the leading role in the war drama None but the Brave (1965), the only film Sinatra directed. After doing some guest appearances on The Lucy Show he fought a grizzly bear in Paramount’s Western, The Night of the Grizzly (1966). He starred in a family adventure movie shot in India, Maya (1966).

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Walker had his biggest hit to-date when he played the meek convict Samson Posey in the war drama The Dirty Dozen (1967).

 

Walker returned to Westerns with More Dead Than Alive (1969). The New York Times described the actor as “a big, fine-looking chap and about as live-looking as any man could be. And there is something winning about his taciturn earnestness as an actor, although real emotion seldom breaks through.”

Walker had support roles in two comic Westerns, Sam Whiskey (1969) and The Great Bank Robbery (1969).

 

— 1970s

 Walker was one of many names in The Phynx (1970) and returned to TV with the leads in the TV movies, Yuma (1971), Hardcase (1972), and The Bounty Man (1972).

In May 1971 he was seriously injured in a skiing accident on Mammoth Mountain but he recovered.

Walker supported Telly Savalas in the biopic Pancho Villa (1972) and starred a short-lived series in 1974 called Kodiak, playing an Alaskan patrolman. He starred in the made-for-television cult film Killdozer! the same year, as well as Scream of the Wolf (1974).

Walker starred in Baker’s Hawk (1976) and had support parts in Snowbeast (1977), and The White Buffalo (1977). He starred in the Canadian Deadly Harvest (1977) and had a small role in Centennial and Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979).

 

— 1980s and 1990s

 In the 1980s Walker had roles in Hysterical (1983), The Love Boat, a lead in The Serpent Warriors (1985), and The All American Cowboy (1985).

He was later in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. In 1998, he voiced Nick Nitro in the film Small Soldiers.

 

— Literary pursuits

Walker met Western author Kirby Jonas through James Drury, a mutual friend. Jonas and Walker subsequently spent two years collaborating on a storyline by Walker involving gold and the Yaqui. The partnership led to the publication of the 2003 Western novel, Yaqui Gold.

 

Honors

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Walker has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1505 Vine Street, near its intersection with Sunset Boulevard.

In 2004, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

He received the Golden Boot Award in 1997.

 

Personal life and death

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Walker had three marriages, each of which lasted approximately twenty years. He married Verna Garver in 1948. The marriage produced one daughter, Valerie, in 1950 before divorce in 1968. Valerie became one of the first female airline pilots. In 1974, Walker married Giselle Hennessy, who died in 1994. He then married Susan Cavallari in 1997. Eventually he took up residence in Grass Valley, California.

In May 1971, Walker narrowly escaped death in a skiing accident at Mammoth Mountain, California. In a fall from a ski lift, Walker was pierced through the heart with a ski pole. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. However, a doctor detected faint signs of life and rushed Walker to surgery, where his damaged heart was repaired. Within two months, he was working again.

Walker died of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley on May 21, 2018, nine days before his 91st birthday.

 

 

 

 

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.

Steven Spielberg

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

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

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

 

Early life

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

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

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

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

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

 

Career

1970s

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

1980s

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

1990s

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

2000s

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

2010s

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Upcoming projects

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

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

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

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

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

 

Projects on hold

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

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

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

 

Production credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Onscreen appearances

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

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

 

Involvement in video games

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

 

Themes

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

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

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

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

 

Actors

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

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

 

Other collaborations

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

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

 

Personal life

Marriages and children

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

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

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

There are seven children in the Spielberg-Capshaw family:

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

 

Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wealth

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

 

Yachting

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

 

Recognition

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

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

 

Politics

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

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

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

 

Hobbies

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

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

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

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

 

Stalking

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

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

 

Awards and honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Filmography

Praise and criticism

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

 

Other

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

 

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille

 

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

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

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

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

 

Family, childhood, youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career

Broadway

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

 

Moving pictures

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

Silent era

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

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

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

 

Sound era

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showmanship as director

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

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

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

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

 

The Ten Commandments

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

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

 

Unfulfilled projects

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

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

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

 

Politics

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

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

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

 

Race and religion

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

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

 

Death

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

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

 

Legacy

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

Posthumous honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ava Gardner

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

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

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

 

Early life

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

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

 

Early career

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

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

Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal life

Marriages

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

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

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

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

Relationships

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

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

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

Religion and political views

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

Death

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

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

 

Julie London

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

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

Early life

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

Career

Singing

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

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

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

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

 

Film

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

Television

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

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

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

Emergency!

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

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

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

Personal life

Marriages and family

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

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

Death

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

 

Tom Petty

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

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

 

Biography

Early life

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

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

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

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

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

 

1976–1987: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

1988–1991: Traveling Wilburys and solo career

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

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

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

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

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

 

1991–2017: Move to Warner Bros. Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Acting career

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

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

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

 

Views on artistic control

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Personal life

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

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

Death

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

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

 

Equipment

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

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

 

Awards and honors

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

 

Hollywood Walk of Fame star

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

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

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

The Nelsons

 

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

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

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

 

Ricky Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

David Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ozzie Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Harriet Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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