Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jane Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011)

She performed in an assortment of movie roles. She played Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface (1948) on loan out to Paramount, and Mike "the Torch" Delroy opposite Hope in another western comedy, Son of Paleface (1952), again at Paramount. Russell played Dorothy Shaw in the hit film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe for 20th Century Fox.

She appeared in two movies opposite Robert Mitchum, His Kind of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952). Other co-stars include Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx in the comedy Double Dynamite (1951); Victor Mature, Vincent Price and Hoagy Carmichael in The Las Vegas Story (1952); Jeff Chandler in Foxfire (1955); and Clark Gable and Robert Ryan in The Tall Men (1955).

In Howard Hughes's RKO production The French Line (1954), the movie's penultimate moment showed Russell in a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit with strategic cut outs, performing a then-provocative musical number titled "Lookin' for Trouble." In her autobiography, Russell said that the revealing outfit was an alternative to Hughes' original suggestion of a bikini, a very racy choice for a movie costume in 1954. Russell said that she initially wore the bikini in front of her "horrified" movie crew while "feeling very naked."

In 1955, Russell and her first husband, former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, formed Russ-Field Productions. They produced Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The King and Four Queens (1956) starring Clark Gable and Eleanor Parker, Run for the Sun (1956) and The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957), which was a box-office failure. She also starred in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes alongside Jeanne Crain, and in The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956).

Russell had three husbands: Bob Waterfield, (a UCLA All American, Cleveland Rams quarterback, Los Angeles Rams quarterback, Los Angeles Rams head coach, and Pro Football Hall of Fame member (married on April 24, 1943, then divorced in July 1968)); actor Roger Barrett, (married on August 25, 1968, until his death on November 18, 1968); and the real-estate broker John Calvin Peoples (married January 31, 1974 until his death from heart failure on April 9, 1999). Russell and Peoples lived in Sedona, Arizona for a few years, but spent the majority of their married life residing in Montecito, California. In February 1952, she and Waterfield adopted a baby girl, Tracy. In December 1952, they adopted a fifteen-month-old boy, Thomas, whose birth mother, Hannah McDermott had moved to London to escape poverty in Derry, Northern Ireland, and in 1956 she and Waterfield adopted a nine-month-old boy, Robert John. Due to back street abortions, her first at 18, Russell herself was unable to have children, and in 1955 she founded World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), an organization to place children with adoptive families and which pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans. She described herself as "vigorously pro-life".

At the height of her career, Russell started the "Hollywood Christian Group," a weekly Bible study at her home which was arranged for Christians in the film industry. In 1953 she tried to convert Marilyn Monroe during the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Monroe later said "Jane tried to convert me (to religion) and I tried to introduce her to Freud". Russell appeared occasionally on the Praise The Lord program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian television channel based in Costa Mesa, California. In 1995, she starred with Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney and Deborah Winters in the Warren Chaney production, America: A Call to Greatness. Russell was, at times, a prominent Republican Party member who attended Dwight Eisenhower's inauguration along with other notables from Hollywood such as Lou Costello, Dick Powell, June Allyson, Anita Louise and Louella Parsons. She was a recovering alcoholic who had gone into rehab at the age of 79 and described herself in a 2003 interview as "These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist.

Russell resided in the Santa Maria Valley along the Central Coast of California. She died at her home in Santa Maria of a respiratory-related illness on February 28, 2011. She was survived by her three children: Thomas Waterfield, Tracy Foundas and Robert Waterfield. Her funeral was held on March 12, 2011 at Pacific Christian Church, Santa Maria.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rex Harrison (5 March 1908 – 2 June 1990)

Harrison's film debut was in The Great Game (1930), and other notable early films include The Citadel (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), Major Barbara (1941), Blithe Spirit (1945), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and The Foxes of Harrow (1947). He was best known for his portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins with Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film version of My Fair Lady, based on the Broadway production of the same name (which itself was based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion), for which Harrison won a Best Actor Oscar. He also starred in 1967's Doctor Dolittle. Harrison was not by general terms a singer; thus, the music was generally written to allow for long periods of recitative, generally identified as "speaking to the music." Nevertheless, "Talk to the Animals", which Harrison performed in Doctor Dolittle, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1967. His son, Noel, coincidentally sang the 1968 Oscar winner, "The Windmills of Your Mind".

Although excelling in comedy (Noël Coward described him thus: "the best light comedy actor in the world—except for me."), he attracted favourable notices in dramatic roles such as his portrayal of Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963) and as Pope Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), opposite Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. He also acted in a Hindi movie Shalimar alongside Indian Bollywood star Dharmendra.

Harrison was married six times. In 1942 he divorced his first wife, Colette Thomas, and married actress Lilli Palmer the next year; the two later appeared together in numerous plays and films, including The Fourposter.

In 1947, while married to Palmer, Harrison began an affair with actress Carole Landis. Landis committed suicide in 1948 after spending the night with Harrison. Harrison's involvement in the scandal surrounding Landis' death briefly damaged his career and his contract with Fox was ended by mutual consent.

Harrison and Lilli Palmer divorced in 1957. That same year, Harrison married actress Kay Kendall. Kendall died of leukemia in 1959. He was subsequently married to Welsh-born Rachel Roberts from 1962 to 1971 (Roberts committed suicide in 1980). Harrison then married Elizabeth Rees-Williams and, finally, Mercia Tinker, who would become his widow in 1990.

Chronology of Harrison's six marriages

Colette Thomas (1934–1942 - divorced), (one son, the actor/singer Noel Harrison)
Lilli Palmer (1943–1957 - divorced), (one son, the novelist/playwright Carey Harrison)
Kay Kendall (1957–1959 - her death)
Rachel Roberts (1962–1971 - divorced)
Elizabeth Harris (1971–1975 - divorced), (three stepsons, Damian Harris, Jared Harris, and Jamie Harris)
Mercia Tinker (1978–1990 - his death)


Granddaughters: Cathryn, Harriott, Chloe, Chiara, Rosie, Faith
Grandsons: Will, Simon, Sam

Having retired from films in the late 1970s, Harrison continued to act on Broadway until the end ofhis life, despite suffering from glaucoma, painful teeth, and a failing memory. In 1989 he appeared on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger, when he fell ill. He died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Manhattan on 2 June 1990 at the age of 82.

Harrison's second autobiography, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy (ISBN 0553073419), was published posthumously in 1991.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jane Powell (born April 1, 1929)

Jane Powell (born April 1, 1929)

Jane Powell (born Suzanne Lorraine Burce; April 1, 1929) is an American singer, dancer and actress.

After rising to fame as a singer in her home state of Oregon, Powell was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer while still in her teens. Once there, the studio utilized her vocal, dancing and acting talents, casting her in such musicals as Royal Wedding, with Fred Astaire, A Date with Judy, with friend Elizabeth Taylor, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with Howard Keel. In the late 1950s, her film career slowed, only to be replaced with a busy theater and television career.

As of 2010, Powell lives with her fifth husband, former child star Dickie Moore, in New York City and Connecticut, and is still active in television and theater.

Despite the same last name she is not related to actors William Powell, Dick Powell, or Eleanor Powell.

Powell lives in Manhattan and (since 1985), in Wilton, Connecticut, with her fifth husband, former child actor Dick Moore. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Actors' Fund of America, and still acts and performs to the present day, most recently in a 2002 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

In 2003, she made a return to the stage as Mama Mizner in the Stephen Sondheim musical Bounce. Despite Powell's great reviews in the part, Bounce was not critically successful and did not move to Broadway.

For one evening, she returned to her hometown, Portland, Oregon, narrating Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with Pink Martini on December 31, 2007. She also appeared on March 9, 2008, with Pink Martini at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City; she sang a duet of "Aba Daba Honeymoon" with lead singer China Forbes. In March 2009 she appeared and sang "Love is Where You Find It" in a show in which Michael Feinstein celebrated Movie Musicals and MGM Musicals in particular. She performed again with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl on September 10, 2010.

She has three children from her first two marriages, and has been married five times in total.
Her first marriage was to former figure skater Gearhardt "Geary" Anthony Steffen. He was a former skating partner to Sonja Henie, turned insurance broker. They married on November 5, 1949, and divorced on August 6, 1953.[20][21] They had two children, Gearhardt Anthony "G.A." (pronounced Jay) Steffen III (born 1951) and Suzanne "Sissy" Ilene Steffen (born November 21, 1952) Friend and fellow actress Elizabeth Taylor served as one of her bridesmaids, with Powell returning the favor during Taylor's 1950 wedding to Conrad "Nicky" Hilton.

On November 8, 1954, Powell married Patrick W. Nerney, an automobile executive nine years her senior, in Ojai, California. Nerney had previously been married to actress Mona Freeman, with whom he had a daughter, also named Mona. Daughter Lindsey Averill Nerney (Powell states she named her for the California-based olive processor) was born from the union on February 1, 1956. The couple divorced in 1963.

Powell's fifth marriage, to former child star Dickie Moore, has been her longest. Powell and Moore have been married since 198, when they met while Moore was researching for his own autobiography, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, But Don't Have Sex or Take the Car."

Her autobiography was published in 1988. For her 80th birthday, her husband and Robert Osborne, a film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies, organized a party at a New York hotel for forty-five of Powell's friends and family members.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Warner Baxter (March 29, 1889 – May 7, 1951) & The Crime Doctor films

The Crime Doctor films 1943-1949

The Crime Doctor is a fictional character created by Max Marcin. A crook named Phil Morgan suffers amnesia and becomes criminal psychologist Dr. Robert Ordway.

He was the hero of a popular CBS radio program titled Crime Doctor on Sunday nights between 1940 and 1947, as well as a series of low-budget mystery thrillers inspired by the radio show. On radio, he was played by Ray Collins, House Jameson, Everett Sloane and John McIntire, but on film, exclusively by Warner Baxter. In the first film of the series, he regains his memory, captures his former gang members, and turns them over to the police. As an in-joke, Collins appeared in the film, but not as Ordway. Baxter was in poor health, and two years after making the tenth film, he died of pneumonia.

The films:
Crime Doctor (1943)
Crime Doctor's Strangest Case (1943)
Shadows in the Night (1944)
Crime Doctor's Warning (1945)
The Crime Doctor's Courage (1945)
Just Before Dawn (1946)
Crime Doctor's Man Hunt (1946)
The Millerson Case (1947)
Crime Doctor's Gamble (1947)
The Crime Doctor's Diary (1949)

Warner Leroy Baxter (March 29, 1889 – May 7, 1951) was an American actor, known for his role as The Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona (1929), for which he won the second Academy Award for Best Actor in the 1928–1929 Academy Awards. Warner Baxter started his movie career in silent movies. Baxter's most notable silent movie is probably The Great Gatsby (1926) and The Awful Truth (1925). Today The Great Gatsby is one of many lost films of the silent era. When talkies came out, Baxter became even more famous. Baxter's most notable talkies are In Old Arizona (1929) 42nd Street (1932), and the 1931 20 minute short film, The Slippery Pearls.

By 1936, Baxter was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, but by 1943 he had slipped to B movie roles, and he starred in a series of "Crime Doctor" films for Columbia Pictures. Baxter made over 100 films between 1914 and 1950.

Baxter married actress Winifred Bryson in 1918, remaining married until his death in 1951. He suffered for several years from arthritis, and in 1951 he underwent a lobotomy to ease the pain. He died shortly after of pneumonia and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6290 Hollywood Boulevard.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999)

Sir Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999) was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House (1954) and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films like Death in Venice (1971). He also wrote several volumes of autobiography.

Bogarde served in World War II, being commissioned into the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1943. He reached the rank of major and served in both the European and Pacific theatres, principally as an intelligence officer. He claimed to have been one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, an experience that had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward.

The horror and revulsion at the cruelty and inhumanity that he claimed to have witnessed left him with a deep-seated hostility towards Germany; in the late-1980s he wrote that he would disembark from a lift rather than ride with a German. Nevertheless, three of his more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SS officer in The Night Porter.

His London West End theatre-acting debut was in 1939, with stage name "Derek Bogaerde" in J. B. Priestley's play Cornelius. After the war his agent renamed him "Dirk Bogarde." Bogarde quickly became a matinee idol and was Britain's number one box office draw of the 1950s, gaining the title of "The Matinee Idol of the Odeon". In some of his other roles during the 1960s and 1970s, Bogarde played opposite renowned stars, yet several of the films were of uneven quality.

Bogarde was nominated six times as Best Actor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), winning twice, for The Servant in 1963, and for Darling in 1965. He also received the London Film Critics Circle Lifetime Award in 1991. He made a total of 63 films between 1939 and 1991.

Bogarde was a life-long bachelor and, during his life, was reported to be homosexual. Bogarde's most serious friendship with a woman was with the bisexual French actress Capucine. For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham, England, then in France with his manager Anthony Forwood (a former husband of the actress Glynis Johns and the father of her only child, actor Gareth Forwood), but repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything but platonic. Such denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and also considering his appeal to women, which he was loath to jeopardise. His brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde in a 2004 interview with Jan Moir stated that Bogarde was engaging in homosexual sex at a time when such activity was illegal; and also claimed that the relationship with Forwood went beyond that of a manager and friend.

He was a shareholder in Pressdram Ltd, the company that owned the satirical magazine Private Eye. Upon his death his shares passed on to (his brother)Brock van der Bogaerde.

Formerly a heavy smoker, Bogarde suffered a minor stroke in November 1987, at a time when his partner, Anthony Forwood, was dying of liver cancer and Parkinson's disease. Never afraid of voicing his opinion, Bogarde, having witnessed Forwood's protracted illness and death, became active in promoting voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients in Britain, and toured the UK giving lectures and answering questions from audiences on the subject. It was a cause, he stated, that had been important to him since the war, when he had seen severely injured men pleading to be executed.

In September 1996, he underwent angioplasty to unblock arteries leading to his heart and suffered a pulmonary embolism following the operation. Bogarde was paralyzed on one side of his body, which affected his speech and left him in a wheelchair. He managed, however, to complete a final volume of autobiography, which covered the stroke and its effects. He spent some time the day before he died with his friend Lauren Bacall. Bogarde died in London from a heart attack on 8 May 1999, aged 78. His ashes were scattered at his former estate of "Le Haut Clermont" in Grasse, Southern France.