Friday, September 26, 2008
George Brent was born as George Brendan Nolan, on March 15th, 1899 in Raharabeg, County Roscommon, Ireland. He was born to a family with a history of British Army Service, however during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), Brent was part of an IRA Active Service Unit as early as 1920 carrying out IRA directives. He fled to Canada with a bounty set on his head by the British, although he claimed only to have been a courier for tactician Michael Collins.
In Canada, Brent toured with a stock company for two years before moving to New York. There, he continued to appear with several stock companies, three of which he formed on his own. He then found work on Broadway in the late twenties before heading for Hollywood.
Brent made his first film in 1930, and was signed to a contract with Warner Brothers with whom he worked for twenty years. He became one of Hollywoods top leading men of the late thirties and forties. Highly regarded by Bette Davis, he becamee her most frequent male co-star, appearing with her in thirteen films, including; "Front Page" in 1935, "Special Agent" in 1935, "The Golden Arrow" in 1936, Jezebel in 1938, "The Old Maid" in 1939, "Dark Victory" in 1939 and "The Great Lie" in 1941. He is most noted for his pencil thin moustache, and suave,gentlemanly, romantic, gallant manner. He was also one of Hollywoods most dependable leading men.
Brent drifted into "B" pictures in the late forties and retired from film in 1953. He continued to appear on television though until 1960.
Known as a womanizer in Hollywood, Brent reputedly carried on a long relationship with Bette Davis. He was married four times, three times to actress Ruth Chatterton (1932-1934), Constance Worth (1937), and Ann Sheridan (1942-1943). His final marriage was to Janet Michaels, a former model and dress designed, this marriage lasted twenty seven years until her death in 1974. They had two children, a daughter born in 1950 and a son born in 1954.
Bette Davis described in her final years her last meeting with Brent after many years of estrangement. He was suffering from emphysema and she later expressed great remorse at his ill health and sadness that such a virile and attractive man could have deteriorated so dramatically. He died shortly after in 1979 at the age of 80 in Solona Beach, California. Davis also mentioned that Brent was totally gray haired when he started working for Warner Brothers, and that he had to dye his hair black.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Spencer Bonadventure Tracy was born on April 5th, 1900 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the second son of John Edward Tracy, an Irish American Catholic truck salesman and Caroline Brown, a Protestant turned Christian Scientist.
Tracy attended six high schools, starting in 1915 in Milwaukee, The Tracy family moved to Kansas City, Missouri two years later where he again went to school. John Tracy's job in Kansas City, did not work out and the family returned to Milwaukee six months after her departure. Spencer once again was enrolled at a Jesuit school, where he met fellow actor Pat O'Brien. The two left school in spring 1917 to enlist in the Navy with the American entry into World War I, but remained in Norfolk Navy Yard, in Norfolk Virginia throughout the war. Afterwards, Tracy continued his education, and ended up finishing his studies at Milwaukee's West Division High School (now, Milwaukee High School of the Arts), in February of 1921.
Tracy attended Ripon College where he appeared in a leading role in a play entitled "The Truth" and decided on acting as a career.
While touring the North East with the Ripon debate team he auditioned for and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Spencer Tracy's first Broadway role was that of a robot in Karel Capeks R.U.R. in 1922, followed by five other plays in the twenties. In 1923 he married actress Louise Treadwell. They had two children, John and Louise (Susie).
For several years he performed in stock in Michigan, Canada and Ohio. Finally in 1930 he appeared in a hit play on Broadway, "The Last Mile". Director John Ford saw him and signed him to do "Up the River" with Humphry Bogart for Fox Film Corporation. Shortly after that he and his family moved to Hollywood where he made twenty five films in five years.
In 1935 he signed with Metro Goldwyn Mayer. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for two years in a row for "Captains Courageous" in 1937 and "Boys Town" in 1938.
He was also nominated for:
"San Francisco" - 1936
"Father of the Bride" - 1950
"Bad Day at Black Rock" - 1955
"The Old Man and the Sea - 1958
"Inherit the Wind" - 1960
"Judgement at Nurenburg - 1961
And posthumously for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" - 1967
Tracy and Lawrence Olivier share the record for the most Academy Award Best Actor nods with nine Oscar nominations.
In 1941 Spencer during filming of "Woman of the Year", he began a relationship with Katherine Hepburn who had just ended a five year relationship with producer Howard Hughes. Her agile mind, sleek elegance and New England brogue complimented Tracy's easy working-class machismo very well. Spencer would never end up getting a divorce from his wife due to his Catholicism, but they did end up separating. His relationship with Hepburn continued, which neither would discuss publicly lasted until his death in 1967. Their relationship was complex and there were often periods when they were estranged.
As he got older Tracy was diagnosed with diabetes, exacerbated by his alcoholism. Seventeen days after filming had ended on his last film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?", with Katherine Hepburn, he died of a heart attack at age sixty seven.
Seventeen years after his death, Katherine Hepburn wrote the following letter to him:
"Living wasn't easy for you, was it? What did you like to do? Sailing - especially in stormy weather. You loved polo, but tennis, golf, swimming - no, not really. Walking - no, that didn't suit you - that was one of those things where you could think at the same time. Of this, of that...of what, Spence, what was it? Was it some specific thing, like being a Catholic and you felt a bad Catholic? You concentrated on all the bad, none of the good which your religion offered. It must've been something very fundamental, very ever-present. And the incredible fact that there you were, really the greatest movie actor - you could do it, and you could do it with that glorious simplicity, that directness. You couldn't enter your own life, but you could be someone else. You were the character in a moment, you hardly had to study - what a relief, you could be someone else for awhile, you weren't you, you were safe. And then back to life's trials: 'Oh, hell, take a drink. Yes. No. Maybe.' And then stop taking those drinks - you were great at that, Spence, you could just stop. How I respected you for that - very unusual. But why the escape hatch? Why was it always open? To get away from the remarkable you. I always meant to ask you. Did you know what it was? Are you having a long rest after all your tossing and turning in life? Are you happy finally?"
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
"The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his" - General George Patton
"Show me a sane man and I will cure him" - Carl Gustav Jung
"Vote early an vote often" - Al Capone
"Happiness is good health and a bad memory" - Ingrid Bergman
"Friends may come and go, but enemies accumlate" - Thomas Jefferson
"You can get with a kind word and a gun than you can get with a kind word alone" - Al Capone
"Always do right - this will gratify some and astonish the rest" - Mark Twain
"Never mistake motion for action" - Ernest Hemingway
"Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame" - Benjamin Franklin
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle" - Albert Einstein
"There are only two tragedies in life; one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it" - Oscar Wilde
"We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction - General Douglas MacArthur
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go" - Oscar Wilde
"Maybe this world is another planets hell" - Aldous Huxley
"Let us live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry" - Mark Twain
Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle was an American silent film star, comedian, director and screenwriter.
He was married three times. His first wife was Minta Durfee and that marriage lasted from 1918 till 1925. His second wife was Doris Deane and that marriage lasted from 1925 till 1929, and his third marriage was to Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail and that lasted from 1929 till 1933.
Arbuckle is noted as one of the most popular actors of his era, but he is best remembered for a highly publicized criminal prosecution case that occur ed in 1921,that ended his career. Although he was totally acquitted by a jury with a written apology, the trials scandal ruined the actors career and personal life and he would not appear again onscreen for another ten years.
He was born with the name of Roscoe Contling Arbuckle on March 24th, 1887 in a town called Smith Center, Kansas. His fathers name was William Goodrich Arbuckle and his mothers name was Millie Arbuckle. His mother died in 1899 leaving Roscoe with his father who was extremely cruel to him and eventually abandoned him altogether. Roscoe survived by doing odd jobs at a hotel in San Jose, California. One night he entered an amateur talent contest where he caught the attention of showman David Grareman.
Between 1902 and 1908 he worked several years in the vaudeville and burlesque circuit. He was even in San Fransisco during the great earthquake of 1906, and was forced at gunpoint to help clean debris.
Besides being a wonderfully talented comedian, Arbuckle was also a talented singer, something few people knew. After Enrico Caruso heard him sing he urged the comedian to "Give up this nonsense you do for a living, with training you could become the second greatest singer in the world!".
He began his film career with Selig Polyscope Company in July 1909. He appeared sporadically in Selig one reelers until 1913, moved briefly to Universal Pictures and became a star in producer, directer Mack Sennetts "Keystone Cops" comedies.
Between 1909 and 1921 Arbuckle had made more than one hundred and fifty silent films defining the art of slapstick at "Keystone Studios".
Even thought he had a bulky two hundred and fifty pound frame, he was a very able acrobat and played the hero who saved the day by pie throwing - back flipping and outwitting his opponents. In "A Noise from the Deep", Arbuckle became the first film comedian to be hit by a pie on film. He also had the ability to throw two of them at the same time in different directions. Mack Sennett when recounting his first meeting with Arbuckle noted that "He skipped up the stairs as lightly as Fred Astaire, and without warning went into a feather light step, clapped his hands and did a backward somersault as graceful as a girl tumbler"
In 1914 Paramount Pictures made the unheard of offer of $1,000 a day/25% of all profits? complete artistic control to make movies with Arbuckle and Mabel Normand. The movies were so popular and lucrative that in 1918 Paramount offered Arbuckle a three year/three million dollar contract. In 1921, Paramount again signed him. A million dollars a year. He worked tirelessly filming three feature films simultaneously!
Roscoe disliked his screen nickname which was obviously because of his substantial size. However, the name Fatty (Big Buster) identifies the character that Roscoe portrayed on screen (usually as a naive hayseed) - not Arbuckle himself. When Arbuckle portrayed a female the character was named "Miss Fatty" as in the film "Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers", hence, Arbuckle discouraged anyone from addressing him as "Fatty" off screen.
The scandal that destroyed Arbuckles life began as follows; and while I will attempt to be as brief as possible, I truly feel that the so called facts surrounding this outrage need to be addressed as it shows how both the press, and the era made it possible to destroy the life of a innocent man.
On September 5, 1921, Arbuckle had decided to take a much deserved and well needed small vacation. He went with two friends. Lowell Sherman (an actor/director) and Fred Fischbach (a cameraman). They checked into rooms 1219, 1220 and 1221 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. It is not known who for sure, but one of the men decided to have a party. The party was to be held in room 1220. They also invited several woman to the suite. Including one Virginia Rappe, a 30 year old aspiring actress. Rappe was reportedly "a heavy drinker". Apparently, she became ill during some point of the party and when Arbuckle went into his private suite to change clothes to go out to do some sight seeing, he opened the bathroom door to find Miss Rappe vomiting into the toilet and complaining of being very ill. Arbuckle, carried her to a bed and made her comfortable and then continued on his way. Miss Rappe got progressively worse as the evening wore on and started screaming with pain in her pelvic area. The Hotel doctor was called and examined her and concluded that her symptoms were mostly caused by intoxication.
Virginia was also at the party with a friend of hers named Maude Delmont. Delmont was a woman of very dubious character. She had a large criminal record including 50 counts of extortion, bigamy, fraud and racketeering. And was also know as a pro co-respondent for blackmailers. Miss Delmont had been drinking quite extensively also that evening, and was passed out on the bed next to Miss Rappes while watching over her.
The Hotel physician who had examined Miss Rappe had told Miss Delmont that Miss Rappe should be taken to the hospital right away, but it wasn't until two days later that this was done. Unfortunately, one day after being hospitalized, Miss Rappe, died due to peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Her companion, Miss Delmont told police that Arbuckle had raped Rappe and police concluded that the impact of his overweight body had on Rappe must have eventually caused her bladder to rupture. Rappes manager, Al Semnnacker accused Arbuckle of using a piece of ice to simulate sex with her which led to the injuries. But, by the time the story was in the newspapers, the object had evolved into being a Coca-Cola bottle or a champagne bottle instead. In truth, witnesses testified that Arbuckle had rubbed the ice on Rappes stomach to ease he abdominal pain. This rumor, however was never proven.
After two trials resulting in hung juries, the third trial ended in a acquittal. But even though he was acquitted of any crimes and having support from Hollywood friends, the motion picture industry, etc. Public opinion was against him. He was able to still work, but behind the scenes under the name of William B. Goodrich as a director and gag writer. He also performed on the vaudeville circuit under his own name. Arbuckle was confident that he had nothing to be ashamed of, and denied any wrongdoing. Miss Delmont later made a statement incriminating Arbuckle to the police in an attempt to extort money from his attorney's but, the matter soon spun out of control. Major media events and stories in William Randolph Hearsts nationwide newspaper chain were written with the intent of making Arbuckle appear totally guilty.
After the third trial and the acquittal, the jury released the following statement to the press.
Statement From the Jury
April 12, 1922
Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was only our plain duty to give him this exoneration, under the evidence, for there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime.
He was manly throughout the case, and told a straightforward story on the witness stand, which we all believed.
The happening at the hotel was an unfortunate affair for which Arbuckle, so the evidence shows, was in no way responsible.
We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women who have sat listening for thirty-one days to the evidence, that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free of all blame.
But the damage was already done, and Arbuckles career or his life would never be the same again. In 1932 Warner Brothers gave Arbuckle a chance to star in a comedy short called "Hey Pop". The public loved it and its success led to five more talkie shorts. On June 30, 1933, hours after completing his sixth Warners short and signing to make a feature length film, Arbuckle died of a heart attack. He was only 46 years old.
Roscoe Arbuckles career is cited by many film historians as one of the greatest tragedies of Hollywood to this day.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The Hollywood Canteen was a club that was created during World War II in Hollywood, California for servicemen, usually on their way overseas. It was created by actors Bette Davis and John Garfield and operated between October 3rd 1942 and November 22, 1945 (Thanksgiving Day). This club was offered food, dancing, and entertainment for servicemen totally free of charge.
Bette Davis served as President, with John Garfield as Vice President, along with Jules Stein who was president of Music Corporation of America, who headed up the finance committee.
The Hollywood Canteen was located at 1451 Cahuanga Blvd. off of Sunset Strip out of what was formally a livery stable and nightclub. Materials for restoration of the club and decorations, etc. were donated by members of the fourteen guilds and unions of the industry, which included the board of directors of the Hollywood Canteen. Artists and cartoonists also painted murals on the walls.
Chef Milano was in charge of food. Due to his energies, a great deal was donated by different organizations, but much they had to pay for by themselves. Their average weekly food bill was $3,000.
Even though the majority of visitors were US servicemen, the Canteen was also open to servicemen of all allied countries as well as women in all branches of the service. The only ticket for admission was the soldiers uniform and as I stated earlier, everything was free.
Bette Davis devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project while serving there as its president. The Canteens staff was completely operated by volunteers from the entertainment industry who included time and energy for labor and building renovations. By the time it opened its doors over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand ins, publicists, secretaries and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers.
Glamorous stars volunteered to wait on tables, cook in the kitchen and clean up. On September 15, 1943, the on millionth guest walked through the door. The lucky soldier was Sgt. Carl Bell. In addition to other prizes, he won a kiss from Betty Grable.
A hall of Honor at the Hollywood Canteen had a wall of photos which honored the film actors who had served in the military.
In 1944 Warner Brothers made a film about the Canteen with a star studded cast and Bette Davis and John Garfield as well.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good" - Samuel Jackson
"Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. Its the transition thats troublesome" - Isaac Asimov
"It is much more comfortable to be mad and know it, than to be same and have one's doubts" - G.B. Burgin
"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance" - Oscar Wilde
"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens" - Jimi Hendrix
"The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it's their fault" - Henry Kissinger
"It was the experience of mystery---even if mixed with fear---that engendered religion" - Albert Einstein
"When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you" - Friedrick Nietzche
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy looking for it" - Henry David Thoreau
"Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me" - Ambrose Bierce
"The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows" - Aristotle Onassis
"One of the symptoms of a nervous breakdown is the belief that ones work is terribly important" - Bertrand Russell
"Make everything as simply as possible, but not simpler" - Albert Einstein
"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me" - Alice Roosevelt Longworth
"In the end, everything is a gag" - Charlie Chaplin
"The nice thing about egotists is that they don't talk about other people" - Lucille S. Harper