Info for Don Bluth
Quote: “With movies, you are always in search is a good story, one that everyone will relate to and love. I love finding those stories and creating a visual world to tell the story.”
Producer/director Don Bluth is one of the most prestigious animators in the industry, admired by peers all over the world for his creative talent, as well as his versatility in bringing memorable characters to life. While working on his films, Bluth wears many hats. He designs all the characters, serves as key storyboard artist, and when the mood strikes him, he has also been known to write some clever songs to accompany his lively and amusing characters. As if these duties don’t keep him busy enough, he also writes and/or collaborates on most of the scripts for his projects.
Bluth was born into a family of seven children in El Paso, Texas. He grew up on a farm in Payson, Utah, in a highly creative environment. After watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), he found his calling. From the age of six on, Don was always drawing. It soon became his dream to work for Walt Disney Studios and to bring his drawings to life as he had seen accomplished in films. In 1954, Don’s father moved the family to Santa Monica, California. Upon graduation from high school, Don took a portfolio of his drawings to the Disney Studio in Burbank. He landed a position in the animation department as an “in-betweener”. This job required him to create the drawings in between the animator’s key drawings to complete a movement. Bluth worked with Disney from 1955 through 1956 on the classic motion picture Sleeping Beauty (1959). He left after one year. Don spent the next two and a half years as a Mormon missionary in Argentina. Upon his return he made the decision to continue his formal education, he enrolled at Brigham Young University, studying English Literature. During this time he continued to work summers for Disney.
After completing his education, he and his brother, Toby, started a live theater in Santa Monica, where they produced and directed popular musical comedies. Although this venture proved to be exciting, after three years, Bluth decided to commit to a career in animation. His first job upon re-entering the animation field was as a layout artist for Filmation Studios, a television production company. In this capacity he was required to draw and design the backgrounds, and create the character poses for the animators. Bluth was extremely adept at this and was soon promoted to the head of the department, where he continued for three years.
In 1971, Bluth returned to Walt Disney Productions as an Animator, beginning what would be considered a skyrocket ride to the top of the animation field. He started as an animator on the feature film Robin Hood (1973). Don was promoted within two years to directing animator on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) and The Rescuers (1977). Don was director of animation on Pete’s Dragon (1977) and the following year, Producer/Director on The Small One (1978). Inspired by many of Disney’s classics and filled with the desire to restore that quality to animated films, Bluth began a short project in his garage with two fellow Disney animators, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. This short project, known as Banjo the Woodpile Cat (1979) (TV), began production in March 1975. For the next four-and-a-half years, the trio worked nights and weekends in all areas of production to accomplish the finished project. During this time, they still kept their “day” jobs at Disney.
In early 1979, Bluth, Goldman and Pomeroy were approached by film industry businessmen who offered to fund them on a feature film. “Banjo the Woodpile Cat” served as an excellent portfolio and showed that they could create the “classical” look. In September 1979, the trio resigned from Walt Disney Productions to start their own independent production company. For their first feature film, they selected Robert C. O’Brien’s award-winning novel “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H.”. In July 1982, they released their first non-Disney animated feature with the altered title, The Secret of NIMH (1982). With the introduction of new laser disc technology in 1983, Bluth and partners created the first interactive laser disc game, Dragon’s Lair (1983) (VG). Two additional laser disc games followed, Space Ace (1984) (VG) and Dragon’s Lair II: Timewarp (1991) (VG). In December 1984, they began work on the acclaimed family feature about a young mouse’s struggle to survive in a new land entitled An American Tail (1986), a collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
In November of 1986, they moved their studio and its employees to Dublin, Ireland at the invitation of the Irish government, where their studio grew to be the largest in Europe. Their third feature film, The Land Before Time (1988), was their first production created entirely in Ireland. Released by universal Pictures during the Thanksgiving, 1988 holiday, it achieved a record-breaking opening weekend gross for an animated film. Their subsequent efforts include All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), Rock-A-Doodle (1991), Thumbelina (1994), and A Troll in Central Park (1994).
Producer/Director Don Bluth returned from Ireland to head up the Fox Animation Studio located in Phoenix, Arizona where he shared the creative leadership with his partner Producer/Director Gary Goldman through June of 2000. During those years the duo produced and directed the hit animated musical Anastasia (1997), which received two Oscar nominations; the direct-to-video musical, Bartok the Magnificent (1999) (V); and the animated space opera Titan A.E. (2000), now on video and DVD.
In early 1999, Bluth agreed to form a new company with Rick Dyer, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and David Foster of Digital Leisure. The new company, Dragon’s Lair LLC, is in the final stages of development of a new 3D version of the original game, Dragon’s Lair. This time the player would have total control of Dirk the Daring. It will be distributed on multiple platforms, including Playstation 2, Game Cube, Xbox, PC and MAC, in the Fall of 2002.
Don has returned to independent filmmaking with partner, Gary Goldman, establishing their new company Don Bluth Films, Inc. Based in Phoenix, Arizona they have begun preproduction work on “Dragon’s Lair” the movie. Their web site www.donbluth.com will enable them to communicate directly with their audience. There are plans to expand the web site to include animation education and the sale of animation artwork. Don Bluth has been an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1976.
Info for Elem Klimov
Quote: “I’ve lost interest in making films. Everything that was possible I felt I had already done.”
Russian filmmaker Elem Klimov’s best known film in the West is the gripping, internationally acclaimed war drama Idi i Smotri/Come and See (1985), a film that simultaneously chronicles the rape of the Byelorussian people and their land by the Nazi invaders in 1943 and pays tribute to the strength and resilience of the Russian peasants who stood fast, determined to survive in the face of genocide. His earlier films were satires that criticized the communist state. In turn, his work was not appreciated by authorities. Klimov also directed a few sports docudramas. Another of his better known films is Agoniya/Rasputin (1975) a biography of the notorious rake in which Klimov blended old documentary footage with new dramatic, color scenes. The film was considered without point and was not released in the Soviet Union until 1981 at the Moscow Film Festival. His 1985 entry in the same festival, Come and See earned Klimov the Grand Prix. He was married to noted filmmaker Larisa Shepitko who died in 1979 while filming Farewell. He later finished the film for her and released it in 1981. During perestroika he was elected the First Secretary of the Filmmakers Union. He negotiated with American producers about the adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s cult novel Master and Margarita but the project failed to materialize.
Info for Yuriy Norshteyn
Quote: “Never allow oneself to remain the same – like a river, always renew yourself. I’m always wondering about the paths that would open animation to become a real dramatic art.”
Yuriy Norshteyn was born in a Jewish family in the village of Andreyevka, Penza Oblast, during his parents’ World War II evacuation. He grew up in the Maryina Roshcha suburb of Moscow. After studying at an art school, Norshteyn initially found work at a furniture factory. Then he finished a two-year animation course and found employment at studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1961. The first film that he participated in as an animator was Who Said “Meow”? (1962).
After working as an animation artist in some fifty films, Norshteyn got the chance to direct his own. In 1968 he debuted with 25th October, the First Day, sharing directorial credit with Arkadiy Tyurin. The film used the artwork of 1920s-era Soviet artists Nathan Altman and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
The next film in which he had a major role was The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971), a co-production with Russian animation director Ivan Ivanov-Vano under whose direction Norshteyn had earlier worked on 1969’s Times of the Year.
Throughout the 1970s Norshteyn continued to work as an animator in many films (a more complete list can be found at IMDB), and also directed several. As the decade progressed his animation style became ever more sophisticated, looking less like flat cut-outs and more like smoothly-moving paintings or sophisticated pencil sketches.
Norshteyn uses a special technique in his animation, involving multiple glass planes to give his animation a three-dimensional look. The camera is placed at the top looking down on a series of glass planes about a meter deep (one every 25–30 cm). The individual glass planes can move horizontally as well as toward and away from the camera (to give the effect of a character moving closer or further away).
For many years he has collaborated with his wife, the artist Franchesca Yarbusova, and the cinematographer Aleksandr Zhukovskiy.
Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Norshteyn’s animations were showered with both state and international awards. Then, in a bitter twist of irony, he was fired from Soyuzmultfilm in 1985 for working too slowly on his latest film, a (presumably) feature-length adaptation of Gogol’s Overcoat. By that time he had been working on it with his usual small team of three people for two years and had finished ten minutes.
In April 1993, Norshteyn and three other leading animators (Fyodor Khitruk, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, and Edward Nazarov) founded the Animation School and Studio (SHAR Studio) in Russia. The Russian Cinema Committee is among the share-holders of the studio.
To this day, Norshteyn is still working on The Overcoat—his ardent perfectionism has earned him the nickname “The Golden Snail”. The project has met numerous financial troubles and false starts, but Norshteyn has said that it currently has reliable funding from several sources, both from within and outside of Russia. At least 25 minutes have been completed to date. A couple of short, low-resolution clips have been made available to the public. The first 20 minutes of the film have also toured among various exhibits of Norshteyn’s work in Russian museums. The full film is expected to be 65 minutes long.
Norshteyn wrote an essay for a book by Giannalberto Bendazzi about the pinscreen animator Alexandre Alexeïeff titled Alexeieff – Itinerary of a Master.
In 2005, he released a Russian-language book titled Snow on the Grass. Fragments of a Book. Lectures about the Art of Animation, featuring a number of lectures that he gave about the art of animation. That same year, he was invited as “guest animator” to work on Kihachiro Kawamoto’s puppet-animated feature film, The Book of the Dead.
On August 10, 2008, the full version of the book Snow on the Grass was released (the “incomplete” 2005 book was 248-pages). The book, which was printed in the Czech Republic and funded by Sberbank, consists of two tomes, 620 pages and 1700 color illustrations. The studio stopped working on The Overcoat for nearly a year while Norshteyn worked to release the book.
Info for Walt Disney
Quote: “I am interested in entertaining people, in bringing pleasure, particularly laughter, to others, rather than being concerned with ‘expressing’ myself with obscure creative impressions.”
Walt Disney has become a 20th century icon of Americana. Like many mythic American figures, he had a humble beginning, an ambitious entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for modern technology. Born in Chicago, he enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute at age 14. Toward the end of World War I, when he was 16, Disney volunteered to drive ambulances in France. Upon his return home, he worked for a commercial art studio in Kansas City; there he teamed up with artist Ub Iwerks, who would become his lifelong business partner. Together, they moved to the Kansas City Film Ad Company to make animated commercials; this spawned their first brief business venture, Laugh-O-Grams, which sold satirical cartoons to a local theater. The success of these cartoons inspired Disney to create his own animation studio, where he independently produced such shorts as Puss in Boots (1922) and The Musicians of Bremen (1923). As the cartoons cost more to make than they earned, this first studio was not financially successful. In 1923, Disney (who, legend has it, had only 40 dollars to his name), his brother Roy, and Iwerks, went to Hollywood to begin producing the Alice in Cartoonland series of shorts that combined animation with live-action.
In 1927, Disney and Iwerks created their first popular character, Oswald Rabbit. Unfortunately, a bitter dispute with the cartoon’s distributor resulted in Disney losing the rights to Oswald. The distributor also hired away most of Disney’s staff and produced more Oswald cartoons without him. Disney’s next character was the beloved Mickey Mouse, whom he starred in two silent shorts, Plane Crazy and Gallopin’ Gaucho. For his third Mickey cartoon, Steamboat Willie (1928), Disney used sound. The success of Willie led Disney to create the “Silly Symphony” series, in which the characters’ antics were synchronized to prerecorded music. As most animators did it the other way around, this was an innovation. The best known of this series was The Three Little Pigs (1933), which contained the hit song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” During the 1930s, many of Disney’s other beloved characters began to appear, including Minnie Mouse, Pluto (originally called Dippy Dawg), Goofy, and Donald Duck. And as they developed, so did his use of technology. Disney began using two-strip color in 1931; by the mid-’30s, he was using three-strip Technicolor, and he had exclusive use of the process for three years. At his growing studio — which employed hundreds of people and included its own art school — the revolutionary multiplane camera was developed, which allowed for more fluid, realistic animated movements with greater perspective and depth.
In 1934, Disney began working on his first feature-length animated film, a project he’d been dreaming of for years. No one in the industry supported his idea, believing that such extended exposure to animation would give the audience headaches. But Disney, driven to experiment further with his newfound technology, was not dissuaded; in 1937, he released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a film that went on to gross nearly eight million dollars in its first release. Soon, other such features followed. Audiences liked them for many reasons: the animation was spectacular, the tunes were hummable, and the stories — ultra-sanitized versions of the originals — were reassuringly upbeat during the troubled war years. The one exception was Disney’s technical masterpiece, Fantasia (1940). Though it didn’t initially do well, subsequent, more sophisticated audiences have come love it. During World War II, the Disney studios also churned out propaganda films for the government; the best-known was the documentary Victory Through Air Power (1943).
At one point during the early ‘40s, it looked as if all of Disney’s dreams would disintegrate when most of his staff resigned over his authoritarianism and insistence upon absolute artistic control. Still, Disney continued turning out shorts and features, some of them, such as Song of the South (1946), combining live-action with animation. Beginning in the 1950s, Disney made live-action adaptations of classics and pseudo-documentaries, which, like his fictional features, presented a sanitized, anthropomorphic version of nature. Wanting complete control over his empire, he formed Buena Vista Distribution Company for his films. And, in 1954, he launched his long-running television anthology, Disneyland (later dubbed Walt Disney Presents), which was broadcast in various incarnations for 30 years and consisted of animated shorts, live-action serials, and movies. In 1955, he opened Disneyland, his 160-acre fantasy theme park in Anaheim, CA, which eventually spawned the massive Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, a Disneyland in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Euro Disney in France.
During his heyday, Disney was awarded 29 Oscars for his films, and, by the 1960s, he had become the king of American entertainment. But many felt the quality of his work was in decline; the animation was not as rich, and he did not produce as many shorts. His live-action films, with a few notable exceptions — such as Mary Poppins (1965) — were also becoming routine, and had a hastily made feel to them. Still, he remained a beloved figure. So when he died of acute circulatory collapse following the removal of a lung tumor on December 15, 1966, the world paused to mourn his passing. His legacy lives on in a whole new generation of Disney animated features, including The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).
Info for Claude Rains
Quote: “Often we’d secretly like to do the very things we discipline ourselves against. Isn’t that true? Well, here in the movies I can be as mean, as wicked as I want to – and all without hurting anybody. Look at that lovely girl I’ve just shot!”
The son of British stage actor Frederick Rains, Claude Rains gave his first theatrical performance at age 11 in Nell of Old Drury. He learned the technical end of the business by working his way up from being a two-dollars-a-week page boy to stage manager. After making his first U.S. appearance in 1913, Rains returned to England, served in the Scottish regiment during WWI, then established himself as a leading actor in the postwar years. He was also featured in one obscure British silent film, Build Thy House. During the 1920s, Rains was a member of the teaching staff at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; among his pupils were a young sprout named Laurence Olivier and a lovely lass named Isabel Jeans, who became the first of Rains’ six wives. While performing with the Theatre Guild in New York in 1932, Rains filmed a screen test for Universal Pictures. On the basis of his voice alone, the actor was engaged by Universal director James Whale to make his talking-picture debut in the title role of The Invisible Man (1933). During his subsequent years at Warner Bros., the mellifluous-voiced Rains became one of the studio’s busiest and most versatile character players, at his best when playing cultured villains. Though surprisingly never a recipient of an Academy award, Rains was Oscar-nominated for his performances as the “bought” Senator Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), the title character in Mr. Skeffington (1944), the Nazi husband of Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946), and, best of all, the cheerfully corrupt Inspector Renault in Casablanca (1942). In 1946, Rains became one of the first film actors to demand and receive one million dollars for a single picture; the role was Julius Caesar, and the picture Caesar and Cleopatra. He made a triumphant return to Broadway in 1951’s Darkness at Noon. In his last two decades, Claude Rains made occasional forays into television (notably on Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and continued to play choice character roles in big-budget films like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
Info for Gary Cooper
Quote: “You’ve got to have a fire under you, and when you’re beginning, you’ve got one all the time. After you get established, you have to create your own fire, and it’s never easy.”
American actor Gary Cooper was born on the Montana ranch of his wealthy father, and educated in a prestigious school in England — a dichotomy that may explain how the adult Cooper was able to combine the ruggedness of the frontiersman with the poise of a cultured gentleman. Injured in an auto accident while attending Wesleyan College, he convalesced on his dad’s ranch, perfecting the riding skills that would see him through many a future Western film.
After trying to make a living at his chosen avocation of political cartooning, Cooper was encouraged by two friends to seek employment as a cowboy extra in movies. Agent Nan Collins felt she could get more prestigious work for the handsome, gangling Cooper, and, in 1926, she was instrumental in obtaining for the actor an important role in The Winning of Barbara Worth. Movie star Clara Bow also took an interest in Cooper, seeing to it that he was cast in a couple of her films. Cooper really couldn’t act at this point, but he applied himself to his work in a brief series of silent Westerns for his home studio, Paramount Pictures, and, by 1929, both his acting expertise and his popularity had soared. Cooper’s first talking-picture success was The Virginian (1929), in which he developed the taciturn, laconic speech patterns that became fodder for every impressionist on radio, nightclubs, and television.
Cooper alternated between tie-and-tails parts in Design for Living (1933) and he-man adventurer roles in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) for most of the 1930s; in 1941, he was honored with an Oscar for Sergeant York, a part for which he was the personal choice of the real-life title character, World War I hero Alvin York. One year later, Cooper scored in another film biography, Pride of the Yankees. As baseball great Lou Gehrig, the actor was utterly convincing (despite the fact that he’d never played baseball and wasn’t a southpaw like Gehrig), and left few dry eyes in the audiences with his fade-out “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech. In 1933, Cooper married socialite Veronica Balfe, who, billed as Sandra Shaw, enjoyed a short-lived acting career. Too old for World War II service, Cooper gave tirelessly of his time in hazardous South Pacific personal-appearance tours.
Ignoring the actor’s indirect participation in the communist witch-hunt of the 1940s, Hollywood held Cooper in the highest regard as an actor and a man. Even those co-workers who thought that Cooper wasn’t exerting himself at all when filming were amazed to see how, in the final product, Cooper was actually outacting everyone else, albeit in a subtle, unobtrusive manner. Consigned mostly to Westerns by the 1950s (including the classic High Noon 1952), Cooper retained his box-office stature. Privately, however, he was plagued with painful, recurring illnesses, and one of them developed into lung cancer. Discovering the extent of his sickness, Cooper kept the news secret, although hints of his condition were accidentally blurted out by his close friend Jimmy Stewart during the 1961 Academy Awards ceremony, where Stewart was accepting a career-achievement Oscar for Cooper. One month later, and less than two months after his final public appearance as the narrator of a TV documentary on the “real West,” Cooper died; to fans still reeling from the death of Clark Gable six months earlier, it seemed that Hollywood’s Golden Era had suddenly died, as well.
Info for Rod Steiger
Quote: “[on acting] It sounds pompous but it’s the nearest thing I can do to being God. I’m trying to create human beings and so does He.”
A renowned character actor who never liked that label, Rod Steiger left his mark on 1950s and ‘60s Hollywood with forceful performances in such critical favorites as On the Waterfront (1954) and The Pawnbroker (1964), culminating in an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967). Despite myriad health problems and less sterling job offers from the 1970s onward, Steiger never stopped acting before he passed away in 2002.
Born on Long Island, Steiger was raised in New Jersey by his mother after his parents divorced. Dropping out of high school at 16, Steiger enlisted in the Navy in 1941, serving on a destroyer in the World War II South Pacific. Returning to New Jersey after his 1945 discharge, Steiger worked at the Veterans Administration and joined a civil service theater group where one of the female members urged him to make acting his career. Along with using his G.I. Bill to study at several New York schools, including the Actors Studio, Steiger began landing roles in live TV plays in 1947. Over the next five years, Steiger honed his formidable Method skills in 250-plus live TV productions, as well as on Broadway. Though he appeared in the movie Teresa (1951), Steiger didn’t fully make the transition to film until his award-winning performance as the lonely title character in the 1953 TV production of Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, which helped him nab a part in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront. As Charley Malloy, Steiger most memorably shared the backseat of a cab with screen brother Marlon Brando as Brando’s ex-boxer Terry laid the blame for his one-way trip to Palookaville on his corrupt older sibling. Though Kazan had guided Steiger to his first Oscar nomination, Steiger later condemned the Academy’s controversial decision to award Kazan an honorary Oscar in 1999. After On the Waterfront, Steiger made his presence felt as a movie tycoon in his erstwhile TV director Robert Aldrich’s Hollywood tale The Big Knife (1955), a scheming attorney in Otto Preminger’s The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), and (in his professional singing and dancing debut) the villain Jud in Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation of the Broadway musical Oklahoma! (1955). Further underlining his effusive talent and his intense (if occasionally overwrought) screen style, Steiger co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in Bogart’s final film, The Harder They Fall (1956); survived Samuel Fuller-style Western sadism as an Irish-accented ex-soldier in Run of the Arrow (1957); played a psychopath in Cry Terror! (1958); and raged as Al Capone (1959) (Steiger’s Capone was later credited as the inadvertent model for Robert De Niro’s performance in The Untouchables 1987).
Steiger still occasionally acted on-stage, including Orson Welles’ unusual adaptation of Moby Dick in 1962. Nevertheless, Steiger concentrated mostly on movies, with his career taking on an international flavor after he married his second wife and Broadway co-star, Claire Bloom, in 1959. After appearing in the low-key British drama The Mark (1961), Steiger joined the impressive Hollywood all-star cast re-staging of D-Day in the war epic The Longest Day (1962). He returned to films after his 1962 theater hiatus as a dishonest politico in the Italian film Le Mani Sulla Città (1963). Rather than a permanent sign of a professional ebb, Steiger’s forays into Italian movies preceded two of the best years of his career. In Sidney Lumet’s groundbreaking independent drama The Pawnbroker, Steiger’s powerful performance as a Holocaust survivor running a Harlem pawnshop earned the Berlin Film Festival’s Best Actor prize in 1964 and garnered raves upon the film’s 1965 U.S. release. That same year, Steiger also gleefully played the asexual embalmer Mr. Joyboy in Tony Richardson’s outrageous comedy The Loved One (1965) and had a small part in David Lean’s blockbuster romance Doctor Zhivago (1965). After his banner year resulted in a much-desired Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Pawnbroker, Steiger lost to Lee Marvin. The outcome was different for his next American film, the acclaimed racially charged police drama In the Heat of the Night. Starring opposite Sidney Poitier, Steiger imbued his bigoted Southern sheriff with enough complexity to make him more than just a cliché redneck, reaching a prickly, believable détente with Poitier’s sophisticated Northern detective. Nominated alongside youth cult phenomena Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman’s iconic “Cool Hand” Luke, and venerable lion Spencer Tracy, Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar and closed his acceptance speech by asserting, “We shall overcome.” Though he co-starred with Bloom in two films post-In the Heat of the Night, The Illustrated Man (1969) and Three Into Two Won’t Go (1969), they divorced in 1969.
Steiger won critics’ hearts again with his bravura performance as a schizoid serial killer in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968). His antiwar sentiments, however, provoked Steiger to turn down the eponymous World War II general in Patton (1970); Steiger instead played French emperor Napoleon in the European production depicting his defeat at Waterloo (1970). In search of good roles, Steiger mostly worked abroad in the early ‘70s. Though they clashed over Steiger’s Method techniques during production, Steiger was excellent as a peasant caught up in the Mexican Revolution in Sergio Leone’s Western Duck, You Sucker! (1972). He also worked with veteran Leone star Gian Maria Volonté in Francesco Rosi’s Lucky Luciano (1974), and played Benito Mussolini in the The Last Days of Mussolini (1974). His performance in Claude Chabrol’s Dirty Hands (1975), however, fell prey to his tendency to over-emote. Though he was a superb W.C. Fields in American biopic W.C. Fields and Me (1976), Steiger’s Hollywood career had undeniably fallen from his 1950s and ‘60s heights. He shared the screen with new star Sylvester Stallone in one of Stallone’s early flops, F.I.S.T. (1978), and chewed the haunted house scenery in schlock horror flick The Amityville Horror (1979). Steiger joined the distinguished cast of the British drama Lion of the Desert (1981) for his second turn as Il Duce, but the film sat on the shelf for two years before its release; appealing Western Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981) was buried by its distributor. Steiger was back in peak form as a Hasidic rabbi in the film version of The Chosen (1981), but that did little to stop Steiger’s slide into TV movies and such B-horror pictures as The Kindred (1987) and American Gothic (1987) in the 1980s. Steiger’s career problems were exacerbated by health difficulties, as he was forced to undergo open-heart surgery in 1976 and 1980. With producers wary of hiring him, and his third marriage ending in 1979, Steiger suffered debilitating bouts of depression in the late ‘70s and mid-’80s.
Nevertheless, Steiger continued to work into the 1990s. Crediting his fourth wife, Paula Ellis, with keeping him sane, Steiger weathered his disappointment with The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991), and took pleasure in appearing as “himself” in Robert Altman’s acclaimed Hollywood evisceration The Player (1992) as well as playing Sam Giancana in the TV biopic Sinatra (1992). While he mostly worked in TV, Steiger turned up in small yet memorable feature roles as a Mafia capo in The Specialist (1994), a loony Army commander in Mars Attacks! (1996), a judge in The Hurricane (1999), and a bombastic priest in End of Days (1999). His final film, the indie drama Poolhall Junkies (2002) with Christopher Walken, was slated for release the same year he was one of the indie-friendly actors dining on Jon Favreau’s IFC talk show Dinner for Five. Steiger passed away from pneumonia and kidney failure on July 9, 2002. He was survived by his fifth wife, his daughter with Bloom, and his son with Ellis.
Info for John Barrymore
Quote: “One of my chief regrets during my years in the theater is that I could not sit in the audience and watch me”
Like his brother Lionel and his sister Ethel, American actor John Barrymore had early intentions to break away from the family theatrical tradition and become an artist, in the “demonic” style of Gustav Doré. But acting won out; thanks to his natural flair and good looks, Barrymore was a matinee idol within a few seasons after his 1903 stage debut. His best-known Broadway role for many years was as an inebriated wireless operator in the Dick Davis farce The Dictator. On stage and in silent films (including a 1915 version of The Dictator), John was most at home in comedies. His one chance for greatness occurred in 1922, when he played Hamlet; even British audiences hailed Barrymore’s performance as one of the best, if not the best, interpretation of the melancholy Dane. Eventually, Barrymore abandoned the theatre altogether for the movies, where he was often cast more for his looks than his talent. Perhaps in revenge against Hollywood “flesh peddlers,” Barrymore loved to play roles that required physical distortion, grotesque makeup, or all-out “mad” scenes; to him, his Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) was infinitely more satisfying than Don Juan (1926). When talkies came in, Barrymore’s days as a romantic lead had passed, but his exquisite voice and superb bearing guaranteed him stronger film roles than he’d had in silents; still, for every Grand Hotel (1932), there were the gloriously hammy excesses of Moby Dick (1930) and Svengali (1931). Unfortunately, throughout his life, Barrymore was plagued by his taste for alcohol, and his personal problems began catching up with him in the mid-1930s. From Romeo and Juliet(1936) onward, the actor’s memory had become so befuddled that he had to recite his lines from cue cards, and from The Great Profile (1940) onward, virtually the only parts he’d get were those in which he lampooned his screen image and his offstage shenanigans. In 1939, at the behest of his latest wife Elaine Barrie, Barrymore returned to the stage in My Dear Children, a second-rate play that evolved into a freak show as Barrymore’s performance deteriorated and he began profanely ad-libbing, and behaving outrageously during the play’s run. Sadly, the more Barrymore debased himself in public, the more the public ate it up, and My Dear Children was a hit, as were his humiliatingly hilarious appearances on Rudy Vallee’s radio show. To paraphrase his old friend and drinking companion Gene Fowler, Barrymore had gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel; we are lucky indeed that he left a gallery of brilliant film portrayals before the fall.
Info for Leslie Howard
Quote: “The stage is the actor’s medium. The actor controls there. But films, why they’re the director’s and the cutter’s . . . the actor is merely incidental”.
Son of a London stockbroker, British actor Leslie Howard worked as a bank clerk after graduating from London’s Dulwich School. Serving briefly in World War I, Howard was mustered out for medical reasons in 1918, deciding at that time to act for a living. Working in both England and the U.S. throughout the 1920s, Howard specialized in playing disillusioned intellectuals in such plays as Outward Bound, the film version of which served as his 1930 film debut. Other films followed on both sides of the Atlantic, the best of these being Howard’s masterful star turn in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). In 1935, Howard portrayed yet another disenchanted soul in The Petrified Forest, which co-starred Humphrey Bogart as a gangster patterned after John Dillinger. Howard was tapped for the film version, but refused to make the movie unless Bogart was also hired (Warner Bros. had planned to use their resident gangster type, Edward G. Robinson). Hardly a candidate for “Mr. Nice Guy” — he was known to count the lines of his fellow actors and demand cuts if they exceeded his dialogue — Howard was nonetheless loyal to those he cared about. Bogart became a star after The Petrified Forest, and in gratitude named his first daughter Leslie Bogart. Somehow able to hide encroaching middle-age when on screen, Howard played romantic leads well into his late 40s, none more so than the role of — yes — disillusioned intellectual Southern aristocrat Ashley Wilkes in the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. In the late 1930s, Howard began dabbling in directing, notably in his starring films Pygmalion (1938) and Pimpernel Smith (1941). Fiercely patriotic, Howard traveled extensively on behalf of war relief; on one of these trips, he boarded a British Overseas Airways plane in 1943 with several other British notables, flying en route from England to Lisbon. The plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay and all on board were killed. Only after the war ended was it revealed that Howard had selflessly taken that plane ride knowing it would probably never arrive in Lisbon; it was ostensibly carrying Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and was sent out as a decoy so that Churchill’s actual plane would be undisturbed by enemy fire.
Info for Vivien Leigh
Quote: “People think that if you look fairly reasonable, you can’t possibly act, and as I only care about acting, I think beauty can be a great handicap.”
Born in India to a British stockbroker and his Irish wife, Vivien Leigh first appeared on stage in convent-school amateur theatricals. Completing her education in England, France, Italy, and Germany, she studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; not a particularly impressive pupil, Leigh continued her training with private tutors. In 1932, she briefly interrupted her pursuit of a theatrical career to marry London barrister Herbert Leigh Holman.
Leigh made her professional stage bow three years later in The Sash, which never made it to London’s West End; still, her bewitching performance caught the eye of producer Sydney Carroll, who cast Leigh in her first London play, The Mask of Virtue. She alternated between stage and film work, usually in flighty, kittenish roles, until being introduced to Shakespeare at The Old Vic. It was there that she met Laurence Oliver, appearing with him on-stage as Ophelia in Hamlet and Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and later together onscreen in 1937’s Fire Over England. It was this picture which brought Leigh to the attention of American producer David O. Selznick, who brought his well-publicized search for the “perfect” Scarlett O’Hara to a sudden conclusion when he cast Leigh as the resourceful Southern belle in 1939’s Gone With the Wind. The role won Leigh her first Oscar, after which she kept her screen appearances to a minimum, preferring to devote her time to Olivier, who would become her second husband in 1940.
Refusing to submit to the Hollywood publicity machine, Leigh and Olivier all but disappeared from view for months at a time. The stage would also forever remain foremost in her heart, and there were often gaps of two to three years between Leigh’s films. One of her rare movie appearances during the ‘50s was as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a performance for which she received a second Oscar. In her private life, however, Leigh began developing severe emotional and health problems that would eventually damage her marriage to Olivier (whom she divorced in 1960) and seriously impede her ability to perform on-stage or before the camera. Despite her struggles with manic depression, she managed to turn in first-rate performances in such films as The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and Ship of Fools (1965), and maintained a busy theatrical schedule, including a 1963 musical version of Tovarich and a 1966 Broadway appearance opposite John Gielgud in Ivanov. Leigh was preparing to star in the London production of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance when she was found dead from tuberculosis in her London apartment in 1967. In tribute to the actress, the lights in London’s theater district were blacked out for an hour.
Still for 14 Carrot Rabbit
Lucille Ball needs a pic if that is too big
Fred Olen Ray (director) needs a pic
and a bio from all movie guide
The remarkable thing about those who work the B-quickie end of the movie business is how much they love films, how much they love to work, and how much they’re willing to give up to create their ribbons of dreams. Director/screenwriter/makeup artist Fred Olen Ray hocked virtually everything he owned to make The Alien Dead (1978). Never mind that, as a graduate of the Brown University School of Engineering, Ray could have named his own salary in practically any job in his field: Celluloid was in his blood, and there it would remain from 1978 to the present. Often shooting four or more films per year, Ray occasionally turns up something that transcends the exploitation film genre and his miserly budgets; if you look at them objectively, films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) and Beverly Hills Vamp (1989) are heaps better than most of the dreck clogging up the video stores’ R-rated shelves. If nothing else, few other bottom-barrel filmmakers outside of Fred Olen Ray can boast an acting talent pool that has included the likes of Lawrence Tierney, Buster Crabbe, John Philip Law, Jan Michael Vincent, P.J. Soles, Britt Ekland, Martine Beswick, Julie Newmar, David Carradine, and Martin Landau.
Photo for Ed D. Wood Jr.
Photo for Eugène Green
Ryo Kase is in Paco and the Magical Book – even though I’m pretty sure I had his name included when I sent the film… hmmm
Info for Franco Zeffirelli
Quote: “It’s hard for other people to realize just how easily we Florentines live with that past in our hearts and minds because it surrounds us in a very real way. To most people, the Renaissance is a few paintings on a gallery wall; to us it is more than an environment – it’s an entire culture, a way of life.”
Italian director Franco Zeffirelli started out as an actor in the stage productions of Luchino Visconti, then worked as an assistant on several Visconti-directed films. After World War II, Zeffirelli launched a career designing, costuming, and directing operas, a field of entertainment to which he’d return periodically throughout his life and which led to his first directorial credit, the Swiss-produced filmization La Boheme (1965). Zeffirelli’s reputation in the 1960s rested on his boisterous, non-traditional movie versions of Shakespeare. He directed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in a lusty adaptation of Taming of the Shrew (1967), then became an icon for the Youth Movement by casting 17-year-old Leonard Whiting and 15-year-old Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet (1968). Zeffirelli’s eye for visual richness served him well in the opulent Brother Sun/Sister Moon (1973), a romanticized account of Francis of Assisi. Some of Zeffirelli’s later American films were unworthy of his talents, though he made the most of the emotional possibilities of The Champ (1979) and actually helped Brooke Shields pass as an actress in the otherwise lachrymose Endless Love (1981). The director found himself in the center of a controversy upon finishing the expensive Euro-American TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth; certain religious activists, upset that the ads promised a “human” look at Jesus, forced several sponsors to withdraw their advertising from the telecast. (The “scandal” proved groundless, since Zeffirelli’s Jesus was one of the most reverently accurate ever seen in films.) Zeffirelli has been represented by his televised stagings of operas, many of which have shown up on American public television. And in 1990, Franco Zeffirelli returned to Shakespeare for an all-star film version of Hamlet, wherein the “surprise” was not so much Mel Gibson’s superb rendition of the title role as the fact that this was the first movie Hamlet that looked like it was actually taking place in 12th century Denmark.
Info for Wladyslaw Starewicz
Wladyslaw Starewicz, a grand master of animation, was one of the directors of Lovno Museum of Natural History and graduate of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. He began making puppet films about 1911 (see ‘Mest finematograficheskogo operatou’), emigrated to France in 1920 and continued to develop there his technique for plastic animation with the help of his two daughters, Irene Starewicz and Nina Star, whose birth-name was Jeannie Starewicz. He, with the help of his daughters, in front of and behind the camera, employed articulated puppets constructed with an extraordinary precision, with features that could be altered at will (with stop-motion)to produce any desired expression, and dressed in costumes designed with great attention to detail. He filmed laboriously, frame by frame, and produced some of the most fantastic storybook characters and tales ever seen on the screen.
Although his name nowadays means very little except to animation buffs (and even they have to be pretty well informed), Wladyslaw Starewicz ranks alongside Walt Disney, as one of the great animation pioneers, and his career started nearly a decade before Disney’s. He became an animator by accident – fascinated by insects, he bought a camera and attempted to film them, but they kept dying under the hot lights. Stop-motion animation provided an instant (if slow) solution, and Starewicz discovered that he had a natural talent for it. He subsequently made dozens of short films, mostly featuring his trademark stop-motion puppets, but also live action films (some blending live action and animation), moving to France after the Russian Revolution to continue his career. His longest and most ambitious film was the feature-length ‘Tale of the Fox’, which took ten years to plan and eighteen months to shoot. Starewicz’ films were virtually one-man shows (writer/director/cameraman/designer/animator), though other important contributions (in front of and behind the camera) were made by his daughters.
Info for Aleksandr Petrov, should be updated to DIRECTOR
Quote: “Painting is very sensual…I use only five or six colors, combining and recombining them, to get the look of spring.”
Petrov was born in the village of Prechistoye (Yaroslavl Oblast) and lives in Yaroslavl. He studied art at VGIK (state institute of cinema and TV). He was a disciple of Yuriy Norshteyn at the Advanced School for screenwriters and directors (Moscow).
After making his first films in Russia, in Canada he adapted the novel The Old Man and the Sea, resulting in a 20-minute animated short — the first large-format animated film ever made. Technically impressive, the film is made entirely in pastel oil paintings on glass, a technique mastered by only a handful of animators in the world. By using his fingertips instead of a paintbrush on different glass sheets positioned on multiple levels, each covered with slow-drying oil paints, he was able to add depth to his paintings. After photographing each frame painted on the glass sheets, which was four times larger than the usual A4-sized canvas, he had to slightly modify the painting for the next frame and so on. It took Aleksandr Petrov over two years, from March 1997 through April 1999, to paint each of the 29,000+ frames. For the shooting of the frames a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. On this an IMAX camera was mounted, and a video-assist camera was then attached to the IMAX camera. The film was highly acclaimed, receiving the Academy Award for Animated Short Film and Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
After this, Aleksandr Petrov has maintained a close relationship with Pascal Blais Studio in Canada, which helped fund The Old Man and the Sea, where he works on commercials.
He returned to Yaroslavl in Russia to work on his latest film, My Love, which was finished in spring 2006 after three years’ work and had its premiere at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival on August 27, where it won the Audience Prize and the Special International Jury Prize. On March 17, 2007, My Love will be theatrically released at the Cinema Angelika in Shibuya, (Japan) by Studio Ghibli, as the first release of the “Ghibli Museum Library” (theatrical and DVD releases of Western animated films in Japan).
Info for Julien Duvivier
Quote: “[Renoir on Duvivier] If I were an architect and I had to build a monument to the cinema, I would place a statue of Duvivier above the entrance.”
(I couldn’t find a quote actually by him…)
Briefly enrolled at the University in his home town of Lille, France, Julien Duvivier dropped out to study acting in Paris. Hired by Andre Antoine’s Theatre Libre, Duvivier was retained as Antoine’s assistant when the latter began directing films in 1916. After apprenticing under several notables of the French cinema, Duvivier was allowed to direct his first feature, Haceldama ou le Prix du Sang (1919). Working steadily and successfully throughout the 1920s, Duvivier emerged as one of the major French film talents of the early talkie era. He was particularly adept at handling multi-storied films, all-star efforts in which several short vignettes were tied together by a central theme. His two biggest European hits, Un Carnet du Bal (1935) and Pepe le Moko (1937), won Duvivier his first Hollywood contract. He made his American bow with a stylized and heavily romanticized biography of Johann Strauss, The Great Waltz (1938). Duvivier’s best-remembered Hollywood efforts of the 1940s were his multi-storied Tales of Manhattan (1942) and Flesh and Fantasy (1943); on these and most of his other films, he was also credited as one of the screenwriters. At the end of World War II, Duvivier returned to Europe, continuing to turn out moneymaking films. His The Little World of Don Camillo (1953) won him an award at the Venice Film Festival. Not long after helming his last picture, the enigmatic amnesia drama Diabolically Yours (1967), the 71-year-old Julien Duvivier was killed in a car accident.
Info for W.C. Fields
Quote: “I remember Shakespeare’s words because he was a great writer. I can’t remember Hollywood lines; just as I may well recall a wonderful meal at Delmonico’s many years ago, but not the contents of the garbage pail last Tuesday at Joe’s Fountain Grill.”
A Charles Dickens character come to life, American comedian W. C. Fields (born William Claude Dukenfield) ran away from home at age 11. Continuous exposure to cold weather gave his voice its distinctive hoarse timbre, while constant fights with bigger kids gave Fields his trademarked red, battered nose. Perfecting his skills as a juggler until his fingers bled, Fields became a vaudeville headliner before the age of 21, traveling the world with his pantomimed comedy juggling act. After making his Broadway debut in the musical comedy The Ham Tree (1906), “W.C. Fields — Tramp Juggler,” as he then billed himself, achieved the pinnacle of stage stardom by signing on with impresario Flo Ziegfeld. Somewhere along the line the comedian decided to speak on stage, to the everlasting gratitude of Fields fans everywhere. Though his flowery, pompous comic dialogue would seem to have been indispensable, Fields did rather well in silent films (the first was the 1915 one-reeler Pool Sharks) thanks to his keen juggler’s dexterity. In 1923, Fields took Broadway by storm with a part specially written for him in the musical Poppy. As larcenous snake-oil peddler Eustace McGargle, the comedian cemented his familiar stage and screen persona as Confidence Man Supreme. Poppy was filmed as Sally of the Sawdust by director D.W. Griffith in 1925; incredible as it may seem, Fields was not the first choice for the film, but once ensconced in celluloid (to use a Fields-like turn of phrase), he became a favorite of small-town and rural movie fans — even though it was those very fans who were often the targets of Field’s brand of social satire.
From 1930 through 1934, Fields appeared in talking feature films and short subjects, truly hitting his stride in It’s a Gift (1934), which contained his famous “sleeping on the back porch” stage sketch. By this time, audiences responded to his characterization of the bemused, beleaguered everyman, attacked from all sides by nagging wives, bratty children, noisy neighbors and pesky strangers. His film characters also embraced his offstage adoration of alcoholic beverages (Fields was one of the more conspicuous and prolific drinkers of his time). In private life, Fields was perhaps Hollywood’s most enigmatic personality. He was simultaneously an inveterate ad-libber and improviser who meticulously prepared his ad-libs and improvisations on paper ahead of time; a frequently nasty, obstinate man who was surrounded by a strong core of loyal and lasting friends. Beloved by most of his fellow actors, W.C. Fields was a man who often showed up late and hung over on the film set, but who never missed a performance and finished all his films on schedule and under budget.
Though most fans prefer Fields’ freewheeling starring comedies, which he wrote under such colorful pseudonyms as “Otis J. Criblecoblis” and “Mahatma Kane Jeeves,” he also shone in at least one prestige picture, MGM’s David Copperfield (directed by George Cukor, wherein Fields portrayed Mr. Micawber. A serious illness curtailed Fields’ film work in 1936, but he made a comeback trading insults with ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy on radio in 1938. Fields’ final films for Universal are a mixed bag; teaming with Mae West in My Little Chickadee (1940), was more surreal than funny, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) makes very little sense, but The Bank Dick (1940), starring Fields as Egbert Souse is an unadulterated classic. Too ill to contribute anything but guest appearances in his final films, W. C. Fields died at age 67 on the one holiday he claimed he despised: Christmas Day.
Two pages for David O. Selznick
David O. Selznick (correct, those films should be moved over)David O. Selznick
Quote: “The difference between me and other producers is that I am interested in the thousands and thousands of details that go into the making of a film. It is the sum total of all these things that either makes a great picture or destroys it.”
The scion of a film-producing family, David O. Selznick was one of the forerunners of the modern independent producer. As a studio executive during the first half of the 1930s, he was responsible for the making of such classics as King Kong (1933) at RKO and A Tale of Two Cities (1935) at MGM. As an independent producer from 1936 until 1957, Selznick made a small but substantial body of dramas, comedies, and thrillers, 18 films in all, many of which are cited among the best films of their era in their respective genres. In most of these films — excepting the thrillers — he had as much (or more) to say about their content than their officially credited directors. In that regard, Selznick also probably had a keener understanding and appreciation of movies as art than any of his rival film moguls of the mid-20th century.
David Oliver Selznick was the younger son of Lewis Selznick, a film producer in his own right until bankruptcy forced him out of business in 1923; the family’s older son, Myron Selznick, was a producer who later became one of Hollywood’s most respected agents. After his father’s bankruptcy, David Selznick found some success producing exploitation films on his own, but it was only after coming to Hollywood in 1926 that he really began his filmmaking career. He started as an assistant story editor to Louis B. Mayer at MGM and rose to associate producer, but quickly moved to Paramount Pictures, where he became a production executive. During 1931, Selznick got his first opportunity to show what he could do as an executive when he became head of production at RKO, which was then in terrible financial trouble. He managed to turn the studio’s fortunes around by bringing in some of the top talent with whom he had previously worked, including Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack from Paramount, and setting up an ambitious production schedule that included King Kong. His next stop was MGM, where he remained for three years as a vice president and producer, and shepherded such big-budget, prestige productions as A Tale of Two Cities (1935), David Copperfield (1935), and Anna Karenina (1935) to completion. In 1936, he formed his own production company, Selznick International, with United Artists serving as his distributor. His films were all high-quality productions, rivalling the best work of MGM and such figures as fellow independent filmmaking mogul Samuel Goldwyn. Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), and Intermezzo (1939) were all extremely successful, and the latter film also brought Ingrid Bergman to Hollywood.
His major coup, however, was buying up the film rights to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind, which he brought to the screen in 1939 in partnership with MGM. The most sought-after literary property of the 1930s, Gone With the Wind was both a lure and a challenge to dozens of would-be producers; its sweeping story — encompassing the whole of the Civil War and the beginnings of Reconstruction, and a lot more — made it seemingly impossible to film, even as its popularity made it impossible to ignore as a potential movie adaptation. Selznick was able to put the production together over a period of three years by marshaling an army of talent both behind and in front of the cameras. He did this, in part, by incorporating his ultimate goal of filming Mitchell’s book into the process of making his other films during that period. In retrospect, he seemed to be working out some aspect of his conception of Gone With the Wind through his early use of Technicolor in the films The Garden of Allah (1936), Nothing Sacred, and A Star Is Born; and in his national talent search for a star for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938); and his combining of Technicolor and an authentic-looking mid-19th century setting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; all of these earlier productions made it possible to move Gone With the Wind forward. Unfortunately, the business arrangement he was forced to conclude with MGM, in order to obtain the services of Clark Gable in the role of Rhett Butler, left the studio with most of the profits of the biggest moneymaker that Hollywood had seen up to that time. It earned Selznick recognition but relatively little financial reward, even as it permanently enshrined its four leads, Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Havilland, at the pinnacle of Hollywood stardom.
His other major coup, though somewhat less widely recognized at the time, was his signing of English director Alfred Hitchcock to a long-term contract in 1939. Their first film together, Rebecca (1940), was a huge hit and made the screen careers of several of its participants while transforming Joan Fontaine into a top star. Selznick and Hitchcock didn’t enjoy working together, however, and the director was only too happy to be loaned out to Universal and RKO over the next six years, where he was freer to work the way he liked; conversely, Selznick collected huge fees for the loan of Hitchcock’s services to those studios (and got ownership of the best of those outside pictures, Notorious), in essence using the director as a cash cow to help finance his own films during this period. While Hitchcock made five movies during the years 1941-1944 on loan-out, Selznick’s own production during this same period was limited to a single movie, Since You Went Away (1944), an over-long but extremely popular drama of life on the home front during World War II, which co-starred Jennifer Jones, a young actress with whom the producer fell passionately in love; at the time, however, he was still married to the former Irene Mayer, the daughter of MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, while Jones was married to actor Robert Walker, and the producer had to tread lightly in pursuing his romantic interest. Selznick’s relationship with Jones was played out in a veiled yet public manner, on the screen — she starred in all but two of his subsequent productions (those exceptions were Hitchcock films), and it seemed as though the budgets and shooting schedules ballooned to reflect the depth of his feelings for her. Duel in the Sun (1946) was the most notable of these — Selznick’s attempt to replicate the scope of Gone With the Wind in a Western setting, it was two years in the making and employed the services of at least three directors, with Jones at the center of the movie in a fiercely and provocatively sexual role. Possibly the most expensive (and sexually overheated) Western ever made up to that time, it did good business once it was released, but had nearly bankrupted the Selznick company while in production; it also marked the first time that one of Selznick’s movies had enjoyed less than full critical acclaim — Duel in the Sun was a little too daring, even campy at times, and it was treated very harshly by some reviewers. Portrait of Jennie (1948), by contrast, was a delicately textured 86-minute fantasy love story, casting Jones as an idealized woman, her role built on equal parts of innocence and romantic yearning; it took over a year to shoot and was nearly as expensive to make as Gone With the Wind, mostly due to the decision to shoot in New York, and also the large number of retakes and extensive rewrites during shooting ordered by the producer, and the shooting of many scenes that were not used. Even amid this massive expenditure and waste, however, something of Selznick’s taste and artistic vision from the 1930s survived — just as he had chosen Technicolor for The Garden of Allah, A Star Is Born, Nothing Sacred, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and supervised the entire look of each movie, so he very deliberately had Portrait of Jennie shot in black-and-white, but reserved some dazzling photographic effects for the final reel, and a gorgeous single Technicolor sequence for the final shot in the film, of the painting of the title. Selznick benefited from the movie in the most personal way of all, by marrying Jones once he was free of his first wife. The second half of the 1940s were difficult years for Selznick. He lost the services of Hitchcock following the release of The Paradine Case (1947), a difficult and unprofitable production, the troubled history of which is reflected in the different running times of various extant versions of the film. Duel in the Sun barely broke even once the extended production and distribution costs were calculated, and it had done little to enhance the producer’s reputation — indeed, it was often referred to quietly in the business, mockingly, as “Lust in the Dust.” And Portrait of Jennie was a financial debacle that wouldn’t begin to recover its costs until the middle of the decade. Selznick’s business was kept afloat by sheer force of will and his fortuitous acquisition of U.S. distribution rights to two British films, The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949). Though he issued the latter film in the United States in a somewhat edited form, it proved to be a massive success on this side of the Atlantic and kept the wolf from the door, for a time at least. By the early ‘50s, however, his filmmaking activities had slowed under the weight of mounting business pressures and health problems, including the addictive use of stimulants, and ceased altogether following his disastrous remake of A Farewell to Arms. As a producer, Selznick did far more than initiate projects, although even from that standpoint he was often among the more gifted members of his profession. Beyond such ambitious projects as King Kong or Gone With the Wind, he also exerted a unique influence on Hollywood’s embrace of new types of subject matter — it was Selznick’s fascination with psychiatry, for example, that led to the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945); and his romance with Jones led to the making of one of the greatest fantasy films of all time, Portrait of Jennie, which would not have been mounted so handsomely or compellingly by any other producer. Additionally, he tended to involve himself in every phase of a movie’s production, and it can be said that he had as much to do with the shaping of the films he made as his directors did, with sometimes impressive results — directors hated his interference, but the results, in all but one or two cases, were highly memorable and successful films. He also understood the art of film as well as the business of movies — Selznick was alone, among producers of any standing in Hollywood, in urging RKO to preserve an uncut print of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, when everyone else at his level of the industry merely looked at the movie as a losing investment. His level of involvement and care as a producer is reflected in the fact that so many of Selznick’s movies, beginning with King Kong and Gone With the Wind, have been deemed worthy of major restoration efforts, and continue to be available for theatrical showings a half-century or more after their release. Of course, this same level of involvement also alienated many people with whom he had contact — he was so concerned with protecting the stardom that he’d brought to Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind that he refused to permit her to play a role that he deemed too small in her husband Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944); yet he never used her in another picture after Gone With the Wind. His conflicts with Hitchcock are perhaps most obvious in the opening credits of the pictures they did together, Rebecca, Spellbound, and The Paradine Case, where it seems as though each is trying to one-up the prominence of their name over the other. Hitchcock probably got in the last word when he made Rear Window in 1954, by deliberately making the murderer in the film (portrayed by Raymond Burr) resemble Selznick.
Info for John Gielgud
Quote: “The joke is that people think of me as an intellectual actor. Yet I have always trusted almost entirely to observation, emotion and instinct.”
One of the theatre’s greatest legends, Sir John Gielgud spent almost 80 of the 96 years of his life appearing in countless plays that saw him portray every major Shakespearean role. The last surviving member of a generation of classical actors that included Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, and Ralph Richardson, Gielgud worked up to a month before his death, performing in over 50 films and numerous television productions when he wasn’t busy with his stage work.
The grandnephew of famed stage actress Ellen Terry, Gielgud was born in London on August 14, 1904. He received his education at Westminster School and would have studied to be an architect had he not rebelled against his parents by announcing his plans to be an actor. Persuading his parents to let him train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Gielgud promised them that if he had failed to make a stage career by the age of 25, he would become an architect.
As it turned out, Gielgud was playing Hamlet by the time he was 26, having made his stage debut eight years earlier at the Old Vic. His reputation was made in 1924, when he played Romeo to rave reviews; in addition to Hamlet, roles in plays by Chekov and Ibsen followed, and in 1928, Gielgud traveled to the U.S. for the first time to play the Grand Duke Alexander in The Patriot. The epitome of the kind of old-school Englishness associated with the Victorian theatre, he went on to break theatre box office records when he brought his Hamlet to Broadway in the 1930s.
Gielgud began appearing on the big screen in the 1920s, and over the course of the next seven decades, he lent his name to films of every imaginable genre and level of quality. In addition to starring in a number of film adaptations of Shakespeare, he could be seen in projects as disparate as Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1967), the 1977 porn extravaganza Caligula, and Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books (1991), in which he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream by playing the role of the Shakespearean patriarch Prospero.
In 1981, Gielgud was awarded his only Oscar for his portrayal of Dudley Moore’s butler in Arthur; he reprised the role for the film’s 1988 sequel, despite the fact that the character had died. Gielgud continued to appear onscreen until the year preceding his death, making enthusiastically-received turns in Shine (1996), in which he played pianist David Helfgott’s mentor; Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard (1996); and Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth (1998), in which he made a brief appearance as the Pope.
Gielgud also did notable work on television, particularly in Brideshead Revisited (1981), which cast him as a stodgily eccentric patriarch, and Merlin (1998), a lavish and well-received take on Arthurian legend. He wrote several books as well, including an autobiography entitled Early Stages. Gielgud was knighted in 1953 and was honored on his 90th birthday with the decision to rename the West End’s Globe Theatre as the Gielgud Theatre. He died on May 21, 2000, at the age of 96, having spent the last 25 years of his life with his partner, Martin Hensler.
Info for Basil Rathbone
Quote: “Never regret anything you have done with a sincere affection; nothing is lost that is born of the heart.”
South African-born Basil Rathbone was the son of a British mining engineer working in Johannesburg. After a brief career as an insurance agent, the 19-year-old aspiring actor joined his cousin’s repertory group. World War I service as a lieutenant in Liverpool Scottish Regiment followed, then a rapid ascension to leading-man status on the British stage. Rathbone’s movie debut was in the London-filmed The Fruitful Vine (1921). Tall, well profiled, and blessed with a commanding stage voice, Rathbone shifted from modern-dress productions to Shakespeare and back again with finesse. Very much in demand in the early talkie era, one of Rathbone’s earliest American films was The Bishop Murder Case (1930), in which, as erudite amateur sleuth Philo Vance, he was presciently referred to by one of the characters as “Sherlock Holmes.” He was seldom more effective than when cast in costume dramas as a civilized but cold-hearted villain: Murdstone in David Copperfield (1934), Evremonde in Tale of Two Cities (1935), and Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (Rathbone was a good friend of Robin Hood star Errol Flynn — and a far better swordsman). Never content with shallow, one-note performances, Rathbone often brought a touch of humanity and pathos to such stock “heavies” as Karenin in Anna Karenina (1936) and Pontius Pilate in The Last Days of Pompeii (1936). He was Oscar-nominated for his portrayals of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (1936) and the crotchety Louis XVI in If I Were King (1938). In 1939, Rathbone was cast as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the first of 14 screen appearances as Conan Doyle’s master detective. He also played Holmes on radio from 1939 through 1946, and in 1952 returned to the character (despite his despairing comments that Holmes had hopelessly “typed” him in films) in the Broadway flop The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which was written by his wife, Ouida Bergere. Famous for giving some of Hollywood’s most elegant and elaborate parties, Rathbone left the West Coast in 1947 to return to Broadway in Washington Square. He made a movie comeback in 1954, essaying saturnine character roles in such films as We’re No Angels (1955), The Court Jester (1956), and The Last Hurrah (1958). Alas, like many Hollywood veterans, Rathbone often found the pickings lean in the 1960s, compelling him to accept roles in such inconsequential quickies as The Comedy of Terrors (1964) and Hillbillies in the Haunted House (1967). He could take consolation in the fact that these negligible films enabled him to finance projects that he truly cared about, such as his college lecture tours and his Caedmon Record transcriptions of the works of Shakespeare. Basil Rathbone’s autobiography, In and Out of Character, was published in 1962.
Info for George Sanders
Quote: “I was beastly but never coarse. A high-class sort of heel.”
Throughout much of his screen career, actor George Sanders was the very personification of cynicism, an elegantly dissolute figure whose distinct brand of anomie distinguished dozens of films during a career spanning nearly four decades. Born in St. Petersburg on July 3, 1906, Sanders and his family fled to the U.K. during the Revolution, and he was later educated at Brighton College. After first pursuing a career in the textile industry, Sanders briefly flirted with a South American tobacco venture; when it failed, he returned to Britain with seemingly no other options outside of a stage career. After a series of small theatrical roles, in 1934 he appeared in Noel Coward’s Conversation Piece; the performance led to his film debut in 1936’s Find the Lady, followed by a starring role in Strange Cargo.
After a series of other undistinguished projects, Sanders appeared briefly in William Cameron Menzies’ influential science fiction epic Things to Come. In 1937, he traveled to Hollywood, where a small but effective role in Lloyd’s of London resulted in a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. A number of lead roles in projects followed, including Love Is News and The Lady Escapes, before Fox and RKO cut a deal to allow him to star as the Leslie Charteris adventurer the Saint in a pair of back-to-back 1939 features, The Saint Strikes Back and The Saint in London. The series remained Sanders’ primary focus for the next two years, and in total he starred in five Saint pictures, culminating in 1941’s The Saint at Palm Springs. Sandwiched in between were a variety of other projects, including performances in a pair of 1940 Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Foreign Correspondent and the Best Picture Oscar-winner Rebecca.
After co-starring with Ingrid Bergman in 1941’s Rage in Heaven, Sanders began work on another adventure series, playing a suave investigator dubbed the Falcon; after debuting the character in The Gay Falcon, he starred in three more entries — A Date With the Falcon, The Falcon Takes Over, and The Falcon’s Brother — before turning over the role to his real-life brother, Tom Conway. Through his work in Julien Duvivier’s Tales of Manhattan, Sanders began to earn notice as a more serious actor, and his lead performance in a 1943 adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Moon and Sixpence established him among the Hollywood elite. He then appeared as an evil privateer in the Tyrone Power swashbuckler The Black Swan, followed by Jean Renoir’s This Land Is Mine. A pair of excellent John Brahm thrillers, 1944’s The Lodger and 1945’s Hangover Square, helped bring Sanders’ contract with Fox to its close.
With his portrayal of the world-weary Lord Henry Wooten in 1945’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Sanders essayed the first of the rakish, cynical performances which would typify the balance of his career; while occasionally playing more sympathetic roles in pictures like The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, he was primarily cast as a malcontent, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his venomous turn in 1951’s All About Eve. The award brought Sanders such high-profile projects as 1951’s I Can Get It for You Wholesale, 1952’s Ivanhoe, and Roberto Rossellini’s 1953 effort Viaggio in Italia. However, his star waned, and the musical Call Me Madam, opposite Ethel Merman, was his last major performance. A series of historical pieces followed, and late in the decade he hosted a television series, The George Sanders Mystery Theater. In 1960, he also published an autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad.
Sanders spent virtually all of the 1960s appearing in little-seen, low-budget foreign productions. Exceptions to the rule included the 1962 Disney adventure In Search of the Castaways, the 1964 Blake Edwards Pink Panther comedy A Shot in the Dark, and 1967’s animated Disney fable The Jungle Book, in which he voiced the character of Shere Khan the Tiger. After appearing on Broadway in the title role of The Man Who Came to Dinner, Sanders appeared in John Huston’s 1970 thriller The Kremlin Letter, an indication of a career upswing; however, the only offers which came his way were low-rent horror pictures like 1972’s Doomwatch and 1973’s Psychomania. Prior to the release of the latter, Sanders killed himself on August 25, 1972, by overdosing on sleeping pills while staying in a Costa Brava hotel; his suicide note read, “Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored.” He was 66 years old.
Info for Merle Oberon
Quote: “Without security it is difficult for a woman to look or feel beautiful.”
Born in India to an Indian mother and an Indo-Irish father, Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson spent an impoverished childhood in the subcontinent, before coming to England in 1928 where, among other things, she worked as a dance hostess before starting to pick up bit parts in movies in the early ‘30s, beginning with Alf’s Button (1930). It was Hungarian-born film mogul Alexander Korda who first spotted Oberon’s screen potential, and began giving her parts in his pictures, building her up toward stardom with role such as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Although she was an actress of very limited range, Oberon acquitted herself well in movies such as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), as Sir Percy Blakeney’s wife, and her exotic good looks made her extremely appealing. She was cast opposite Laurence Olivier in the 1938 comedy The Divorce of Lady X, which was shot in Technicolor and showed Oberon off to even better advantage. Seeking to build her up as an international star, Korda sold half of Oberon’s contract to Samuel Goldwyn in America, who cast her as Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939). She moved to America with the outbreak of war, and also married Korda (1939-1945), but despite some success in That Uncertain Feeling, The Lodger, and A Song to Remember, her star quickly began to fade, and the Korda vehicle Lydia (1941), a slow-moving melodrama that had her aging 50 years, didn’t help her career at all. Even a good acting performance in the Hitchcock-like chiller Dark Waters (1944) failed to register with the public. Oberon re-emerged only occasionally after the early ’50s, until 1973 when she starred in, produced, and co-edited Interval, a strange romantic drama that costarred her future husband Robert Wolders, that failed to find good reviews or an audience.
Info for Burt Lancaster
Quote: “Most people seem to think I’m the kind of guy who shaves with a blowtorch. Actually, I’m bookish and worrisome.”
Rugged, athletic, and handsome, Burt Lancaster enjoyed phenomenal success from his first film, The Killers, to his last, Field of Dreams — over a career spanning more than four decades. Boasting an impressively wide range, he delivered thoughtful, sensitive performances across a spectrum of genres: from film noir to Westerns to melodrama, he commanded the screen with a presence and power matched by only a handful of stars.
Lancaster was born November 2, 1913, in New York City. As a child, he exhibited considerable athletic and acrobatic prowess, and at the age of 17 joined a circus troupe, forming a duo with the diminutive performer Nick Cravat (later to frequently serve as his onscreen sidekick). He eventually joined the army, and, after acting and dancing in a number of armed forces revues, he decided to pursue a dramatic career. Upon hiring an agent, Harold Hecht, Lancaster made his Broadway debut in A Sound of Hunting, a role which led to a contract with Paramount. Because the release of his first picture, Desert Fury, was delayed, he initially came to the attention of audiences in 1946’s The Killers, a certified classic of film noir. It remained the genre of choice in several of his subsequent projects, including 1947’s Brute Force and I Walk Alone the following year.
After starring as Barbara Stanwyck’s cheating husband in Sorry, Wrong Number, Lancaster and his manager formed their own production company, Hecht-Lancaster, the first notable star-owned venture of its kind; more were to follow, and they contributed significantly to the ultimate downfall of the old studio system. Its formation was a result of Lancaster’s conscious effort to avoid “beefcake” roles, instead seeking projects which spotlighted his versatility as a performer. While the company’s first effort, the war melodrama Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, was not a success, they were nonetheless able to secure enough financial backing to break off completely from the mainstream Hollywood system. Still, Lancaster also continued to appear in studio productions. In 1949, he reunited with The Killers director Robert Siodmak at Universal for another excellent noir, Criss Cross, followed by Rope of Sand. He also signed a non-exclusive contract with Warner Bros., where he and Hecht produced 1950’s The Flame and the Arrow, a swashbuckler which was his first major box-office success.
After producing Ten Tall Men with Hecht, Lancaster starred in the MGM Western Vengeance Valley, followed by the biopic Jim Thorpe — All American. With Siodmak again directing, he next headlined the 1952 adventure spoof The Crimson Pirate, followed by Daniel Mann’s Come Back, Little Sheba opposite Oscar-winner Shirley Booth. A minor effort, South Sea Woman, followed in 1953 before Lancaster starred in the Fred Zinnemann classic From Here to Eternity, earning him a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance and, in his beachside rendezvous with co-star Deborah Kerr, creating one of the most indelible images in film history. Another swashbuckler, His Majesty O’Keefe, followed, and under director Robert Aldrich the actor headlined a pair of Westerns, Apache and Vera Cruz. Finally, in 1955, Lancaster realized a long-held dream and helmed his own film, The Kentuckian; reviews were negative, however, and he did not return to the director’s chair for another two decades.
Again working with Mann, Lancaster co-starred with another Oscar winner, Anna Magnani, in 1955’s The Rose Tattoo. Opposite Tony Curtis, he appeared in the 1956 hit Trapeze, and, with Katherine Hepburn, headlined The Rainmaker later that same year. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a blockbuster featuring Lancaster as Wyatt Earp, followed, as did the acclaimed The Sweet Smell of Success. With Clark Gable, Lancaster starred in 1958’s Run Silent, Run Deep, followed by Separate Tables. For 1960’s Elmer Gantry, he won an Academy Award for his superb portrayal of the title character, a disreputable evangelist, and a year later co-starred in Judgment at Nuremberg. Under John Frankenheimer, Lancaster next portrayed The Birdman of Alcatraz, earning Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival for his sympathetic turn as prisoner Robert Stroud, an expert in bird disease. For John Cassavetes, he starred in 1963’s A Child Is Waiting, but the picture was the victim of studio interference and poor distribution.
Around the same time, Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti was trying to secure financing for his planned historical epic Il Gattopardo (aka The Leopard), and needed to cast an international superstar in the lead role; Lancaster actively campaigned for the part, and delivered one of the strongest performances of his career. Released in 1963, it was a massive success everywhere but in the U.S., where it was brutally edited prior to release. After two hit movies with Frankenheimer, the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May and the 1965 war drama The Train, Lancaster starred in another Western, The Hallelujah Trail, followed by the 1966 smash The Professionals. A rare series of flops — The Swimmer, Castle Keep, and The Gypsy Moths — rounded out the decade, but by 1970 he was back at the top of the box office with Airport. Still, Lancaster’s star was clearly dimming, and he next appeared in a pair of low-budget Westerns, Lawman and Valdez Is Coming. After an underwhelming reunion with Aldrich, 1972’s Ulzana’s Raid, he attempted to take matters into his own hands, writing and directing 1974’s The Midnight Man in collaboration with Roland Kibbee, but it failed to attract much attention, either.
For Visconti, Lancaster next starred in 1975’s Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno. Remaining in Europe, he also appeared in Bernardo Bertollucci’s epic 1900. Neither resuscitated his career, nor did Robert Altman’s much-panned Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson. Lancaster languished in a number of television projects before appearing in 1978’s Go Tell the Spartans, which, despite critical acclaim, failed to catch on. In 1980, however, he delivered a stunning turn as an aging gangster in Louis Malle’s excellent Atlantic City, a performance which earned him Best Actor honors from the New York critics as well as another Oscar nomination. Also highly acclaimed was his supporting role in the 1983 Bill Forsyth gem Local Hero. Heart trouble sidelined him for all of 1984, but soon Lancaster was back at full steam, teaming one last time with Kirk Douglas for 1986’s Tough Guys. Several more TV projects followed before he returned to feature films with 1988’s little-seen Rocket Gibraltar and the 1989 blockbuster Field of Dreams. In 1991, Lancaster made his final appearance in the telefilm Separate But Equal. He died October 20, 1994.
Info for Gene Tierney
Quote: “I simply did not want my face to be my talent.”
One of Hollywood’s most luminous actresses, Gene Tierney remains best remembered for her performance in the title role of the 1944 mystery classic Laura. Born November 20, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, Tierney was the daughter of a wealthy insurance broker, and was educated in Connecticut and Switzerland; she traveled in social circles, and at a party met Anatole Litvak, who was so stunned by her beauty that he requested she screen test at Warner Bros. The studio offered a contract, but the salary was so low that her parents dissuaded her from signing; instead, Tierney pursued a stage career, making her Broadway debut in 1938’s Mrs. O’Brien Entertains. A six-month contract was then offered by Columbia, which she accepted. However, after the studio failed to find her a project, she returned to New York to star on-stage in The Male Animal. The lead in MGM’s National Velvet was offered her, but when the project was delayed Tierney signed with Fox, where in 1940 she made her film debut opposite Henry Fonda in the Fritz Lang Western The Return of Frank James.
A small role in Hudson’s Bay followed before Tierney essayed her first major role in John Ford’s 1940 drama Tobacco Road. She then starred as the titular Belle Starr. Fox remained impressed with her skills, but critics consistently savaged her work. Inexplicably and wholly inappropriately, she was cast as a native girl in three consecutive features: Sundown, The Shanghai Gesture, and Son of Fury. Closer to home was 1942’s Thunder Birds, in which Tierney starred as a socialite; however, she was just as quickly returned to more exotic fare later that same year for China Girl. A supporting turn in Ernst Lubitsch’s classic 1943 comedy Heaven Can Wait signalled an upward turn in Tierney’s career, however, and the following year she starred as the enigmatic Laura in Otto’s Preminger’s masterful mystery. After 1945’s A Bell for Adano, she next appeared as a femme fatale in the melodrama Leave Her to Heaven, a performance which won her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination — her most successful film to date.
Tierney continued working at a steady pace, and in 1946 co-starred with Tyrone Power in an adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Razor’s Edge. The 1947 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was her last major starring role; from 1948’s The Iron Curtain onward, she appeared primarily in smaller supporting performances in projects including the 1949 thriller Whirlpool and Jules Dassin’s classic 1950 noir Night and the City. After 1952’s Way of a Gaucho, Tierney’s Fox contract expired, and at MGM she starred with Spencer Tracy in Plymouth Adventure, followed by the Clark Gable vehicle Never Let Me Go. The latter was filmed in Britain, and she remained there to shoot Personal Affair. While in Europe, Tierney also began a romance with Aly Khan, but their marriage plans were met by fierce opposition from the Aga Khan; dejectedly she returned to the U.S., where she appeared in 1954’s Black Widow.
After 1955’s The Left Hand of God, Tierney’s long string of personal troubles finally took their toll, and she left Hollywood and relocated to the Midwest, accepting a job in a small department store; there she was rediscovered in 1959, and Fox offered her a lead role in the film Holidays for Lovers. However, the stress of performing proved too great, and days into production Tierney quit to return to the clinic. In 1960 she married Texas oil baron Howard Lee. Two years later, Fox announced her for the lead role in Return to Peyton Place, but she became pregnant and dropped out of the project. Finally, Tierney returned to screens in 1962’s Advise and Consent, followed a year later by Toys in the Attic. After 1964’s The Pleasure Seekers, she again retired, but in 1969 starred in the TV movie Daughter of the Mind. Remaining out of the public eye for the next decade, in 1979 Tierney published an autobiography, Self-Portrait, and in 1980 appeared in the miniseries Scruples; the performance was her last — she died in Houston on November 6, 1991.
Info for Leslie Caron
Quote: “No matter what you do, your person comes through. You can’t completely change yourself on the screen. I had in mind someone colder and more in control, but I couldn’t do it. This human note just crept in and maybe it’s better.”
The sort of performer for whom the term “gaminlike” was coined, Leslie Caron was prepared for a performing career by her American mother, a former dancer. Training from childhood at the Paris Conservatoire, Caron was 16 when she was selected to dance with the Ballet de Champs Elysses. After three years with this prestigious troupe, she was discovered by Gene Kelly, who cast her as the ingénue in his 1951 film An American in Paris. This led to a long-term MGM contract and a string of films in which Caron’s dancing and singing skills were showcased to the utmost: Lili (1953), The Glass Slipper (1954), Gaby (1956), and Gigi (1958). During this period, she was loaned out to co-star with Fred Astaire in 20th Century-Fox’s Daddy Long Legs (1955), and was seen on the Paris stage in Jean Renoir’s Ornet. As musicals slowly went out of fashion, Caron sought to alter her screen image, successfully doing so with her portrayal of a pregnant, unmarried woman awaiting an abortion in The L-Shaped Room (1962), a performance that won her the British Film Academy award (she had previously been nominated for a BFA, and an Oscar, for Lili). Her later film assignments included Father Goose (1965), in which she received an image-shattering slap in the face from Cary Grant; Ken Russell’s Valentino (1977), in the role of silent-screen legend Alla Nazimova; and Louis Malle’s Damage (1992). The first of Caron’s three husbands was George Hormel, of the famous American meat-packing family. Her second marriage was to British director Peter Hall, and husband number three was producer Michael Laughlin, whom she wed in 1969. Though not quite as starry-eyed and apple-cheeked as she was in An American in Paris, Caron has retained her beauty and vivacity into her sixties. Among the many awards and honors bestowed upon Leslie Caron was the title of Jury President at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival.
Info for Julie Andrews
Quote: “Sometimes I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.”
The British actress, comedienne, singer and dancer Julie Andrews stakes a claim to fame for having one of the single most astonishing voices (four octaves!) of any entertainer alive. Yet the breadth of this raw ability is often hugely obscured by Andrews’s milquetoast image and onscreen persona. Thus, in the late ’60s, Andrews – who began her film career rooted firmly in family-oriented material – traveled far out of her way to expand her dramatic repertoire, with decidedly mixed results.
A music-hall favorite since childhood, Andrews spent the war years dodging Nazi bombs and bowing to the plaudits of her fans. Thanks to her own talents and the persistence of her vaudevillian parents, Andrews maintained her career momentum with appearances in such extravaganzas as 1947’s Starlight Roof Revue. It was in the role of a 1920s flapper in Sandy Wilson’s satire The Boy Friend (1953) that brought Andrews to Broadway; and few could resist the attractively angular young miss warbling such deliberately sappy lyrics as “I Could Be Happy With You/If You Could Be Happy With Me.” Following a live-TV performance of High Tor, Andrews regaled American audiences in the star-making role of cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the 1956 Broadway blockbuster My Fair Lady. The oft-told backstage story of this musical classic was enough to dissuade anyone from thinking that Andrews was an overnight success, as producer Moss Hart mercilessly drilled her for 48 hours to help her get her lines, songs and dialect in proper working order. In 1957, Andrews again enchanted TV audiences in the title role of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical adaptation of Cinderella. Later, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe — also the composers of My Fair Lady — developed the role of Guinevere in their 1960 musical Camelot with Andrews in mind, and the result was another Broadway triumph, albeit not as profitable as Fair Lady.
Although a proven favorite with American audiences thanks to her frequent TV variety show appearances (notably a memorable 1962 teaming with Carol Burnett), Andrews did not make a motion picture until 1964. As Mary Poppins, Andrews not only headlined one of Walt Disney’s all-time biggest moneymakers, but also won an Oscar — sweet compensation for having lost the Eliza role to Audrey Hepburn for the adaptation of My Fair Lady. Andrews hoped that Mary Poppins would not type her in “goody-goody” parts, and, to that end, accepted a decidedly mature role as James Garner’s love interest in The Americanization of Emily (1964). However, Andrews’ next film, The Sound of Music (1965) effectively locked her into sweetness and light parts in the minds of moviegoers. On the strength of the success of Music, Andrews was signed to numerous Hollywood projects, but her stardom had peaked.
Perhaps recognizing this, Andrews started to branch out fairly aggressively by the late ‘60s, with such “adult-oriented” pictures as Alfred Hitchcock’s espionage thriller Torn Curtain. That film, and others (Hawaii, Star!) all flopped. In the late ‘60s, Andrews fell in love with and married the then white-hot American director Blake Edwards; her decision to collaborate with Edwards on a professional level, to boot, waxed incredibly strategic. Today, many view Edwards in a negative light for cranking out moronic studio fodder such as A Fine Mess and Sunset). In 1969, however, he sat among Hollywood’s creme-de-la-creme, notorious for crafting mature genre pictures for adult audiences (The Days of Wine and Roses, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Experiment in Fear and sophisticated slapstick comedies unafraid to take chances (the Pink Panther series, The Party). By marrying Edwards and aligning herself with him creatively, then, Andrews was also consciously or unconsciously bucking to change her image. Unfortunately, the two began at a low ebb to end all low ebbs. The WWI musical farce Darling Lili (1970) featured Rock Hudson, electric musical numbers, stunning dogfight sequences, and – significantly – a semi-erotic striptease number by Andrews. Apparently audiences didn’t buy this sort of behavior coming from Mary Poppins: the film tanked at the box office, as did the spy thriller The Tamarind Seed, also starring Andrews.
Aside from a couple of televised musical specials, Andrews stuck with her husband for each successive film – for better or worse, as they say. Their next collaborations arrived in the late ‘70s and early ’80s, first with the smash Dudley Moore sex farce ’10’ (1979) and then with the Hollywood satire S.O.B. (1981). In the former, Andrews took a backseat to sexy bombshell Bo Derek, who catches the infatuation of Moore but delivered a finely-modulated comic performance nonetheless; the latter – an unapologetically ‘R’ rated comedy about a nutty director who attempts to turn a family-friendly stinker into a porno musical — exposed a topless Andrews to the world for the first time. This rank, cynical and angry “satire” represented the couple’s creative nadir; one critic rightly pointed out that Andrews could have used it as grounds for divorce. The 1982 transvestite musical Victor/Victoria (with Andrews in the lead) fared better; it was followed by Edwards’s 1983 Truffaut remake, The Man Who Loved Women (with Andrews as the lover of sculptor Burt Reynolds). Andrews’s attempts at image-extending here are obvious in each case; the individual films have various strengths and weaknesses, but – love ‘em or hate ’em — they broadened the appeal of Andrews only slightly – with many perceiving her as either an onscreen accessory to her husband or as an okay straight man in mediocre romantic comedies. The couple fared a thousand times better with the excellent mid-life crisis comedy-drama That’s Life! (1986), starring Andrews and Jack Lemmon.
Two esteemed dramatic roles sans Edwards – that of a frustrated multiple sclerosis victim in Duet for One (1986), and that of a grieving mother of an AIDS victim in Our Sons (1991) – did what the prior films were supposed to have done: they secured Andrews’s reputation as an actress of astonishing versatility. Yet, as Andrews aged, she ironically began to segue back into the types of roles that originally brought her infamy, with a series of sugar-coated, grandmotherly parts in family-friendly pictures. Notably, she co-starred in the first two installments of The Princess Diaries as Queen Clarisse Rinaldi, a European monarch of a tiny duchy, who tutors her “hip” teen granddaughter (Anne Hathaway) in the ways of regality. Andrews also used her polished and cultured British diction to great advantage by voicing Queen Lillian in the second and third installments of Dreamworks’s popular, CG-animated Shrek series: Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek the Third.
Info for Lars Hanson
With a delicate face and set of hands that seemed to have been carved from soft porcelain, Lars Hanson was the silent era’s archetypal Sensitive Swede. In films in his native country from 1913, Hanson gained international recognition for his wrenching portrayal of the title character in The Atonement of Gosta Berling (1923). At the request of actress Lillian Gish, Hanson was brought to America to play Reverend Dimmesdale opposite Gish’s Hester Prynne in the 1926 film version of The Scarlet Letter. Hanson went on to appear with his Gosta Berling co-star Greta Garbo and Hollywood heartthrob John Gilbert in MGM’s box-office bonanza Flesh and the Devil (1927). Leaving America just before the talkie revolution, Hanson continued to play leading roles in such British productions as Abdul the Damned (1935) and such Swedish films as Walpurgis Night (1935). Lars Hanson died in 1965, shortly after making a long-overdue return to films.