Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Loretta Young (January 6, 1913 - August 12, 2000)

Loretta Young (January 6, 1913 – August 12, 2000) was an American actress. Starting as a child actress, she had a long and varied career in film from 1917 to 1953. She won the 1948 best actress Academy Award for her role in the 1947 film The Farmer's Daughter, and received an Oscar nomination for her role in Come to the Stable, in 1950.

Young then moved to the relatively new medium of television, where she had a dramatic anthology series called The Loretta Young Show, from 1953 to 1961. The series earned three Emmy Awards, and reran successfully on daytime TV and later in syndication. Young, a devout Catholic, later worked with various Catholic charities after her acting career.

Young hosted and starred in the well-received half hour anthology series The Loretta Young Show. It ran from 1953 to 1961. Her trademark was to appear dramatically at the beginning in various high fashion evening gowns. She returned at the program's conclusion to offer a brief passage from the Bible, or a famous quote, that reflected upon the evening's story. (Young's introductions and conclusions to her television shows were not rerun on television because she legally stipulated that they not be; she did not want the dresses she wore in those segments to "date" the program.) Her program ran in prime time on NBC for eight years, the longest-running prime-time network program hosted by a woman up to that time.

The program, which earned her three Emmys, was based on the premise that each drama was in answer to a question asked in her fan mail. The program's original title was Letter to Loretta. The title was changed to The Loretta Young Show during the first season (as of the February 14, 1954 episode), and the "letter" concept was dropped at the end of the second season. At this time, Young's hospitalization, due to overwork towards the end of the second season, required that there be a number of guest hosts and guest stars; her first appearance in the 1955–56 season was for the Christmas show. From then on, Young appeared in only about half of each season's shows as an actress, and served as the program's host for the remainder. Minus Young's introductions and conclusions, the series was rerun as the Loretta Young Theatre in daytime by NBC from 1960 to 1964. It also appeared in syndication into the early 1970s, before being withdrawn. In the 1990s, selected episodes from Loretta's personal collection, with the opening and closing segments (and original title) intact, were released on home video, and frequently shown on cable television.

In the 1962–1963 television season, Young appeared as Christine Massey, a free-lance magazine writer and mother of seven children, in CBS's The New Loretta Young Show. It fared poorly in the ratings on Monday evenings against ABC's Ben Casey. It was dropped after twenty-six weeks. Dack Rambo, later a co-star of CBS's Dallas, appeared as one of her twin sons in the series.

Young was married to actor Grant Withers from 1930 to 1931. After that she was involved in affairs with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable and in 1935 had Gable's child, a daughter. She married producer Tom Lewis in 1940 and they divorced very bitterly in the mid 1960s. Lewis died in 1988. They had two sons, Peter Lewis (of the legendary San Francisco rock band Moby Grape), and Christopher Lewis, a film director.

She married fashion designer Jean Louis in 1993. Louis died in 1997.

In 1935, Young had an affair with a then-married Clark Gable while on location for The Call of the Wild. During their relationship, Young became pregnant. Due to the moral codes placed on the film industry, Young covered up her pregnancy in order to avoid damaging her career (as well as Gable's). When she began to show she went on a "vacation" to England. Several months later she returned to California. Shortly before the birth she gave an interview stating the reason for her long movie absence was because of a condition she had had since childhood. She gave birth to Judith Young on November 6, 1935, in a house she and her mother owned in Venice, California. Three weeks later, she returned to movie-making. After several months of living in the house in Venice, Judy was transferred to St. Elizabeth's, an orphanage outside Los Angeles. When she was 19 months old, her grandmother picked her up and Young announced to Louella Parsons that she had adopted the infant. The child was raised as "Judy Lewis", taking the last name of Young's second husband, producer Tom Lewis.

According to Lewis' autobiography Uncommon Knowledge, she was made fun of because of the ears that she received from her father, Clark Gable. She states that, at seven, she had an operation to "pin back" her large ears and that her mother always had her wearing bonnets as a child. Over the years, she had heard rumors that Clark Gable was her biological father. In 1958, Lewis' future husband Joseph Tinney told her "everybody" knew that Gable was her father. The only time she remembered Gable visiting Lewis was once at her home when she was a teenager; she had no idea he was her biological father. Several years later, he turned up at the Loretta Young show after Young had been in hospital for several months. Lewis was an assistant and was right behind her mother when she noticed Gable.

Several years later, after becoming a mother herself, Lewis finally confronted her mother. After promptly vomiting, Young admitted her true parentage, stating that she was "just a walking mortal sin."

Young died on August 12, 2000, from ovarian cancer at the Santa Monica, California, home of her half-sister, Georgiana Montalbán, and was interred in the family plot in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Her ashes were buried in the grave of her mother, Gladys Belzer.

Young has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures, at 6104 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television, at 6141 Hollywood Boulevard.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Barbara Rush (January 4, 1927)

Barbara Rush (born January 4, 1927) is an American stage, film, and television actress.

A student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Barbara Rush performed on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse before signing with Paramount Pictures. She made her screen debut in the 1951 movie The Goldbergs and went on to star opposite the likes of James Mason, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas. In 1954 she won the Golden Globe Award for "Most Promising Newcomer - Female" for her performance in It Came from Outer Space.

Rush began her career on stage and it has always been a part of her professional life. In 1970, she earned the Sarah Siddons Award for dramatic achievement in Chicago theatre for her leading role in Forty Carats and brought her one-woman play A Woman of Independent Means to Broadway in 1984. She began working on television in the 1950s. She later became a regular performer in TV movies, miniseries, and a variety of other shows including Peyton Place and the soap opera All My Children.

In 1962, she guest starred as Linda Kinkcaid in the episode "Make Me a Place" on the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. In 1962-1963, she appeared three times as Lizzie Hogan on the short-lived NBC drama about newspapers, Saints and Sinners. In 1967, she guest starred on the ABC western series Custer starring Wayne Maunder.

She often played a willful woman of means or a polished, high-society doyenne. Rush also was cast in an occasional villainess role, as in the Rat Pack's gangster musical Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964) or in the Western drama Hombre (1967), as a rich, condescending wife of a thief who ends up taken hostage and tied to a stake.

She portrayed the devious Nora Clavicle in the TV series Batman. After appearing in the 1980 disco-themed Can't Stop the Music, Rush returned to television work. She was a regular cast member on the early 1980s soap opera Flamingo Road as Eudora Weldon. She also was a guest star character named Elizabeth Knight in the season 2 debut episode "Goliath" of the 80's TV series Knight Rider. In 1998 she was featured in an episode called "Balance of Nature" on the television series The Outer Limits. Rush continues to make guest appearances on television as recent as 2007 in the recurring role of Ruth Camden on the series, 7th Heaven. Peter Graves appeared as her husband in the role of the by-the-book Colonel John Camden.

Barbara Rush married actor Jeffrey Hunter in 1950 and had a son, Christopher. They divorced in 1955. She married publicist Warren Cowan in 1959. Their daughter, Claudia Cowan, is a journalist with Fox News television channel.

Monday, January 3, 2011

ZaSu Pitts (January 3, 1894 – June 7, 1963)

ZaSu Pitts (January 3, 1894 – June 7, 1963) was an American actress who starred in many silent dramas and comedies, although later, her career digressed to comedy sound films. She overcame her looks and voice, which had served her in silent films to play dramatic roles, using them to craft her persona in talkie comedies.

Pitts enjoyed her greatest fame in the 1930s, often starring in B movies and comedy shorts, teamed with Thelma Todd. She also played secondary parts in many films. Her stock persona (a fretful, flustered, worrisome spinster) made her instantly recognizable and was often imitated in cartoons and other films. She starred in a number of Hal Roach shorts and features, and co-starred in a series of feature-length comedies with Slim Summerville.

Switching between comedy shorts and features, by the advent of sound, she was relegated to comedy roles. A bitter disappointment was when she was replaced in the classic war drama All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) by Beryl Mercer after her initial appearance in previews drew unintentional laughs, despite the intensity of her acting. She had viewers rolling in the aisles in The Dummy (1929), Finn and Hattie (1931), The Guardsman (1931), Blondie of the Follies (1932), Sing and Like It (1934) and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).

In the 1940s, she also found work in vaudeville and on radio, trading quivery banter with Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, and Rudy Vallee, among others. She appeared several times on the earliest Fibber McGee and Molly show, playing a dizzy dame constantly looking for a husband. Her brief stint in the Hildegarde Withers mystery series, replacing Edna May Oliver, was not successful, however.

In 1944 Pitts tackled Broadway, making her debut in the mystery, Ramshackle Inn. The play, written expressly for her, fared well, and she took the show on the road in later years. Post-war films continued to give Pitts the chance to play comic snoops and flighty relatives in such fare as Life with Father (1947), but in the 1950s she started focusing on TV.

This culminated in her best known series role, playing second banana to Gale Storm on The Gale Storm Show (1956) (also known as Oh, Susannah), as Elvira Nugent ("Nugie"), the shipboard beautician. Her last role was as a switchboard operator in the Stanley Kramer comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and, one day past six months after the filming of the last scene, she became that movie's second cast member to die.

Declining health dominated Pitts' later years, particularly after she was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1950s. However, she continued to work until the very end – making brief appearances in The Thrill of It All (1963) with Doris Day and James Garner, besides It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

She died June 7, 1963, aged 69, in Hollywood, California and was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.

Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961)

Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961) was an American film actress. Davies is best remembered for her relationship with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, as her high-profile social life often obscured her professional career.

Hearst and Davies lived as a couple for decades but were never married, as Hearst's wife refused to give him a divorce. At one point, he reportedly came close to marrying Davies, but decided his wife's settlement demands were too high. Hearst was extremely jealous and possessive of her, even though he was married throughout their relationship. Davies was aboard the Hearst yacht when film producer Thomas Ince took ill, and died.

An "urban legend" having to do with a rumored relationship with Chaplin has endured since 1924. Chaplin (among other actresses and actors) and Davies were aboard the yacht the fateful night Thomas Ince died. Despite the lack of evidence to support a relationship, rumors have circulated since that Hearst mistook Ince for Chaplin and shot him in a jealous rage. The rumors were dramatised in the play The Cat's Meow, which was later made into Peter Bogdanovich's 2001 film of the same name starring Edward Herrmann as Hearst, Kirste Dunst as Davies, Eddie Izzard as Chaplin, Joanna Lumley as Elinor Glyn, Jennifer Tilly as gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and Cary Elwes as Ince. Patty Hearst co-authored a novel with Cordelia Frances Biddle titled Murder at San Simeon (Scribner, 1996), based upon the death of Ince.

The factual record shows that Thomas Ince suffered an attack of acute indigestion while aboard the yacht and was escorted off the boat in San Diego by another of the guests, Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, a Hollywood writer and producer. Ince was put on a train bound for Los Angeles, but was removed from the train at Del Mar when his condition worsened. He was given medical attention by Dr. T. A. Parker and a nurse, Jesse Howard. Ince told them that he had drunk liquor aboard Hearst's yacht. Ince was taken to his Hollywood home where he died the following day of a heart condition.

By the late-1930s, Hearst was suffering financial reversals. After selling St Donat's, Davies bailed him out by writing out a check for $1 million to him. Hearst died on August 14, 1951.
The California State Parks staff at Hearst Castle now report at the time of his death, 51% of his fortune had been willed to Davies.
Eight weeks and six days after Hearst's death Davies married Horace Brown on October 31, 1951, in Las Vegas. It was not a happy marriage; Brown allegedly encouraged her drinking. Davies filed for divorce twice, but neither was finalized.

In her last years, Davies was involved with charity work. In 1952, she donated $1.9 million to establish a children's clinic at UCLA, which was changed to The Mattel Children's Hospital in 1998. She also fought childhood diseases through the Marion Davies Foundation. Part of the Medical Center at UCLA is named the Marion Davies Clinic.

She suffered a minor stroke in 1956, and was later diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. She had an operation which appeared to be successful. Soon after the operation Davies fell and broke her leg. The last time Davies was seen by the American public was on January 10, 1960, on an NBC television special called Hedda Hopper's Hollywood.

Davies died of cancer on September 22, 1961 in Hollywood, California. Her funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hollywood (donations to the church were from Hollywood celebrities such as Louis B. Mayer's estate (he died in 1957) and Bing Crosby) was attended by many Hollywood celebrities, including Mary Pickford and Mrs. Clark Gable (Kay Spreckels), as well as President Herbert Hoover. She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and left an estate estimated at more than $30 million.

After the death of Davies' niece, Patricia Lake (née Van Cleeve), Lake's family announced that she was in fact the birth daughter of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst. Prior to the announcement, it had been said that Lake was the daughter of Rosemary Davies (Marion's sister) and her first husband, George Van Cleeve.

Ray Milland (3 January 1905 – 10 March 1986)

Ray Milland (3 January 1905 – 10 March 1986) was a Welsh actor and director. His screen career ran from 1929 to 1985, and he is best remembered for his Academy Award–winning portrayal of an alcoholic writer in The Lost Weekend (1945) and as Oliver Barrett III in the 1970 film, Love Story.

When working on I Wanted Wings (1941), with Brian Donlevy and William Holden, he went up with a pilot to test a plane for filming. While up in the air, Ray decided to do a parachute jump (being an avid amateur parachutist) but, just before he could disembark, the plane began to sputter, and the pilot told Milland not to jump as they were running low on gas and needed to land. Once on the ground and in the hangar, Ray began to tell his story of how he had wanted to jump. As he did so, the color ran out of the costume man's face. When asked why, he told Ray that the parachute he had worn up in the plane was "just a prop", and that there had been no parachute.

During the filming of Reap the Wild Wind (1942), Milland's character was to have curly hair. Milland's hair was naturally straight, so the studio used hot curling irons on his hair to achieve the effect. Milland felt that it was this procedure that caused him to go prematurely bald, forcing him to go from leading man to supporting player earlier than he would have wished.

The pinnacle of Milland's career and acknowledgment of his serious dramatic abilities came in 1946 when he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of an alcoholic in Billy Wilder's film The Lost Weekend (1945). He was the first Welsh actor to ever win an Oscar. Milland gave the shortest acceptance speech of any Oscar winner. He was also given an award at the first Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

In 1951, he gave a strong performance in Close to My Heart, starring with Gene Tierney as a couple trying to adopt a child. In 1954, he starred opposite Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder.

He concentrated on directing for TV and film from the 1955 film A Man Alone and Lisbon for Republic Pictures that he also produced. From directing film he achieved much success directing for television. He returned as a movie character actor in the late 60s and the 70s, notably in the cult classic Daughter of the Mind (1969), in which he was reunited with Gene Tierney, and in Love Story (1970). He also made many television appearances. He starred from 1953–1955 with Phyllis Avery and Lloyd Corrigan in the CBS sitcom Meet Mr. McNutley in the role of a college English and later drama professor at fictitious Lynnhaven College. The program was renamed in its second season as The Ray Milland Show. From 1959–1960, Milland starred in the CBS detective series Markham, but the program failed to capture an audience even though it followed the hit western Gunsmoke, starring James Arness.

In the late 1960s, Milland hosted rebroadcasts of certain episodes of the syndicated western anthology series, Death Valley Days under the title Trails West. He also turned in an appearance as a hand surgeon in the Night Gallery episode "The Hand of Borgus Weems." Toward the end of his life, Milland appeared twice as Jennifer Hart's father in ABC's Hart to Hart, with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers. He also guest starred as Sire Uri in the pilot episode of the original Battlestar Galactica television series.

Milland had a tattoo on his upper right arm of a skull with a snake curled up on top of it with the tail of the snake sticking out through one of the eyes. The tattoo can be seen for a brief moment in the movie Her Jungle Love (1938).

Milland had a near-fatal accident on the set of Hotel Imperial (1939). One scene called for him to lead a cavalry charge through a small village. An accomplished horseman, Milland insisted upon doing this scene himself. As he was making a scripted jump on the horse, his saddle came loose, sending him flying straight into a pile of broken masonry. Laid up in the hospital for weeks with multiple fractures and lacerations, he was lucky to be alive.

Milland died of lung cancer in Torrance, California in 1986, aged 81. He was survived by his wife, the former Muriel Weber, and children. (The couple had a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Victoria.)