Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy 95th Birthday, Kirk Douglas

Today we wish classic actor, Kirk Douglas a "Happy 95th Birthday"! He is a fantastic actor and played in a variety of roles, from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Gunfight at the OK Corral. He even recorded his own record! In his long and eventful career, Mr. Douglas has made over 90 film and television appearances and has been nominated three times for the Best Actor Oscar and in 1996 he was presented with an honorary Oscar in "50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Deanna Durbin Celebrates 90 Years

America's Singing Sweetheart of the '30s and '40s celebrates her 90th birthday today. Following her overnight success with the release of her first film, Three Smart Girls, in 1936, Deanna Durbin became one of the most popular Hollywood stars worldwide. When she got her first screen kiss in 1939, it pushed the war news off the front pages of many newspapers! There was a line of clothing called "Deanna Durbin Cinderella Frocks" and there was even a "Deanna Durbin Doll".

Her Hollywood star soared brightly for twelve years, leaving behind 21 feature films, several short films, lots of recordings, loads of memorabilia and many fans with unforgettable memories. For all the fame, Deanna was never happy with Hollywood, the studio system, and the star fixation of the fans. In 1948, after the release of For the Love of Mary, she packed up and moved to France. There she met and married Director Charles David (who actually directed her film, Lady on a Train). They settled down in a farmhouse and raised her daughter, Jessica, and their son, Peter, who was born in 1951.

Today she celebrates her 90th birthday, and is still remembered by many fans across the world. You can still experience her beautiful voice on home video and cds. Who can forget the first time she came onto the silver screen? Her voice soaring over a lake surrounded in pine trees. "My heart is singing . . ."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Does Music Help the Actor?" by Elissa Landi

I got a stack of old Etude magazines and, as I was browsing through the contents page, found a very interesting article by actress Elissa Landi. Elissa Landi was a stage and film actress during the 1920s and 30s. Born in Italy, raised in Austria and England, she appeared on British and American stage in the '20s. She wrote her first book when she was twenty. She appeared on Broadway in the early 1930s and in American films since 1931. She played the heroine in Cecil B. DeMille's epic "The Sign of the Cross" in 1932, and two years later played Myrna Loy's cousin in "After the Thin Man". Only two more films followed until her retirement in 1943. She dedicated herself to writing novels and poems. She died of cancer in 1948 at the age of 43.

Does Music Help the Actor?: A Conference with Elissa Landi, Distinguished Actress of Stage and Screen. (Highlights of an article published in the September 1945 issue of Etude Magazine).

"My interest in music began when I did. Music was always a member of our home. Singing and playing were as much a part of the taken-for-granted routine of home as talking and reading. . . . As a girl, I worked at piano study with great enthusiasm and little talent, and played - and still do play - for my own enjoyment. . . . At no time have I regarded music as a possible career - yet music has been of immeasurable help to me in my career.

A Happy Coincidence
"By curious chance, seven out of ten plays in which I have acted in the past years have required me to sit down at a piano to play, sing, or both. Perhaps this is purely coincidence - . . . whatever the cause, though, the result that I felt much more at home in my roles than if I had had to start in learning how to place my hands on the keys. Incidentally, the management benefited also from my early music lessons - since I could manage the required playing myself, there was no need to hire a pianist to dub in the music from backstage!
But the relationship between music and acting roots far deeper than the odd chance of being required to play on stage. Skilled acting is a rhythmic art, and only those who are deeply aware of music and rhythm can hope to capture its fullest flexibility. When a company is newly assembled to begin rehearsals, you can invariably tell which of the group are musical and which are not. You can tell it from the way they work, and I have found that very few skilled actors - none of the great ones - are unmusical.
The relationship between music and acting shows itself in timing, and timing is the very soul of dramatic representation. Timing is the curious syncopation of gesture and speech which builds a telling effect. Suppose your script says simply: 'And that is that. (Banging on the table.)' When are you to speak the words? When are you to do the banging on the table? What - if any - is to be the relationship between the words and the banging? There you have a problem of timing. It is quite possible to speak and to bang in such a way that any connection between them becomes dissipated. Then you have a weak effect. It is also possible to time the bang between words so that it emphasizes them. Then you have a forceful effect. It is achieved by establishing an actual rhythmic pattern for the words and bringing the bang on one of the beats. You really count the rhythm, quite as you do in music study! Suppose we try it. Let us fashion our pattern into three bars of four-part rhythm - one, two, three, four.

The rhythm gives it pace to the words, and the gesture enters, in proper time, as part of the pattern. If the gesture of banging comes in unrhythmically, or in just haphazard fashion, the emphasis is lost. In solving such problems of timing, it is helpful to think of the words as the melodic line - the part that is written across the staff - and of the gestures as the harmonic accompaniment - the chords that are written up and down on the staff."

The Value of Effective Timing
"If you study dramatic techniques, you will find that this completely rhythmical art of timing is the source of most great dramatic effects. Young, inexperienced actors give emphasis through greater volume in tone - they raise their voices when they come to the telling moment in their lines. Seasoned actors achieve emphasis more through pauses and timing. Certainly they may raise their voices - sometimes the script calls for a louder tone - but they never depend on loudness alone. Such loudness is saved for the main beat of the phrase, and it is always fitted into the rhythmic relationship between words and gestures, quite as a crescendo would be bracketed across a complete musical phrase. Since timing affects every combination of word and gesture in a play, it is readily seen how necessary it becomes for the actor to know music. Indeed, I have more than once seen stage rehearsals in which the director actually beat the time for a scene, quite as a conductor does in a symphonic rehearsal. The immensely important matter of timing is, of course, a well-known technique, with which every one in the theatre is familiar. " ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The King of the Cowboys - In Celebration of 100 Years

Today is Roy Rogers' 100th birthday! On November 5, 1911, Roy Rogers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today the spot is covered by second base of the baseball stadium.Roy grew up in Ohio and then moved to California with his father during the depression.

In 1938, he burst upon the cinema screen, with his first starring role, in "Under Western Stars". Together with his beautiful palomino named Trigger, Roy quickly climbed to the top and became the King of the Cowboys. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he made 88 feature films and 100 episodes of "The Roy Rogers Show".

In 1947, Roy married his leading lady, Dale Evans. Together they made western entertainment history. Becoming beloved role models for every little "cowpoke" who ever dreamed of the American West. They provided many, many happy trails for people all over the world.

In honor of Roy's 100th birthday, we have put together a video tribute which features the fabulous song, "The King of the Cowboys", which was written by (and is sung by) Roy Rogers, Jr. (Dusty). So sit back and enjoy "The King of the Cowboys", who will forever be remembered as a "kind and gentle legend". Happy Trails to you!

He's rode across your silver screen
For over forty years
He's brought bad men to justice
he's seen laughter, and he's seen tears
and I know forever, in many hearts he'll reign
As the King of the Cowboys.
There is honour to his name.

He's a kind and gentle legend
a hero is his name
Showing young folks to see the right from wrong
And he's taught me the very same
And I know forever, in many hearts he'll reign
As the King of the Cowboys
There is magic in his name

He's the King of the Cowboys, a legend in his time
A man who loves his country
Where he will always ride
Saddled up on his golden Palomino
A six gun at each side
His spurs and boots and his white hat
Walks a man with a lot of Pride

He's the King of the Cowboys
A legend in his time
A man who loves his country
Riding off into the sunset
In a western sky of blue
He has given precious memories
and Happy Trails to me and you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dolores Hope (Bob Hope's Wife) Dies at 102

Legendary Bob Hope's wife died Monday, September 19, 2011, at the age of 102. The met in 1933 and were married on Feb. 19, 1934. She soon retired from her singing career and stayed home to raise their four children.

Friend Nancy Reagan summed it up best, "She was an extraordinary partner to Bob throughout his entire life, supporting both their family at home and Bob's selfless cause to entertain U.S. troops abroad. Together, they brought countless hours of laughter and cheer to Americans everywhere."

Friday, June 3, 2011

James Arness Dies - Farewell to Marshal Dillon

James Arness, better known as Marshal Dillon in the classic TV show "Gunsmoke", died on Friday at his home. He was 88 years old.

After graduating high school in 1942, he joined the Army as a rifleman. He had wanted to be a Navy flier, but his 6 foot 6inch height barred him from being a pilot. He took part in the landings at Anzio and was severely wounded, resulting in operations, honorable discharge, and leg trouble that would bother him the rest of his life. He had trouble walking for long periods and mounting a horse was difficult. During his service he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal and three Bronze Campaign Stars.

He played supporting roles in many films (including the John Wayne films, "Island in the Sky" and "Big Jim McLain", and "The Farmer's Daughter") before playing the lead role as Marshall Matt Dillon on the long-running TV show, "Gunsmoke". He was made an honorary US Marshal for "in recognition of his unique contribution to the image and traditions of the U.S. Marshal's Service".

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dana Wynter Dies; 79

Actress Dana Wynter died on Thursday, May 5, at the age of 79. Dark haired, dark eyed, and strikingly pretty, she is best remembered for her role in the B-film, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". She also played the sympathetic and kind secretary to Kenneth Moore in "Sink the Bismark!". Born in Germany, she grew up in England and Southern Rhodesia before coming to America. She started in New York on the stage and television, before moving to California to try movies. In the 1960s, she appeared on many TV shows, and in 1970, she appeared as Burt Lancaster's wife in the movie, "Airport". She is survived by her son, Mark.

Here is a fantastic quote about her feeling of modern Hollywood stars versus the classic greats. "In my opinion, there aren't as many originals today. Everyone looks the same to me. Where are the Katharine Hepburns, Spencer Tracys, Clark Gables and Bette Davises of today? Those actors were instantly recognizable. Nowadays I have trouble separating one actor from another."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jackie Cooper dies, 88 - Goodbye to "America's Boy"!

Famous child star, Jackie Cooper, died Tuesday in California. He was 88 years old. As a child in the 1930s, he reigned with Shirley Temple as the most famous child stars. He is remembered as the little blonde-haired boy with the winning smile. Nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in the 1931 film, "Skippy" (which was directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog). Some of his other screen credits include "The Little Rascals", "The Champ", "Treasure Island", and "That Certain Age".

After returning home from four years of Navy service during World War II, he had trouble finding worthwhile roles. Following the advise of actor friend John Garfield, he went to New York and worked on the stage, eventually starring in two hit comedies. He acted on Television and went on to become production head of Columbia Pictures' TV company. In the 1970s, he returned to acting and appeared as the Metropolis Daily Planet editor, Perry White, in Christopher Reeve's four "Superman" films.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Special Tribute to Bing Crosby

Where the blue of the night, Meets the gold of the day, Someone waits for me.

Today would have been Bing Crosby's 108th birthday. His special friend and frequent costar, Bob Hope, wrote this touching tribute when Der Bingle died on October 14,1977. Bob Hope was in New York, scheduled to perform at a benefit in New Jersey that night. For the first time in his career, he cancelled, saying "I just can't get funny tonight"

"When Bing Crosby died at a golf course in Madrid, I lost a partner with whom I've had some of the most delightful moments of my life.

Yet it would be selfish to say that it was my personal loss. It was a great loss to his family and to the entire world.

The whole world loved Bing Crosby with a devotion that not only crossed international boundries, but erased them.

Bing made the world a single place, and through his music he spoke to it in a language everybody understands - the language of the heart.

We lost the most recognizable voice in the world. He called his singing "groaning". We called it magic.

No matter where you were in the world, because of Bing every Christmas was white. And because we had him with us, it will always somehow seem a little whiter.

Bing may have started out as a singer, but while he was here he did more than sell records. is music spread a kind of joy and happiness that had a label all its own.

Although he was courted by king and common man alike, Bing was a simple man who never cared much about himself. Which made him a minority of one.

The world put Bing Crosby on a pedestal. But somehow I don't think he ever really knew it.

Bing asked the world, "Going My Way?" and we all were. He never said an unkind word about anyone, whether he was on life's fairway or in the rough. And that's one scorecard I'd be proud to sign.

Whether he was singing or joking, or just living, Bing always had fun. And somehow he made all of us say, "Hey, he's right!"

On Friday, October 14, 1977, a heart may have stopped, a voice stilled. But the real melody Bing Crosby sang will linger as long as there's a phonograph to be played . . . and a heart to be lifted."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011)

27 February 1932 - 23 March 2011

"People who know me well, call me Elizabeth. I dislike Liz."

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died this morning, at age 79, after six weeks in Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Hospital for congestive heart failure. She was surrounded by her four children.

Known for her dark beauty and violet eyes, she was the winner of two Oscars and made over 50 films in a career which started in 1942 and went all the way through 2001. She starred in such films as Lassie Come Home, National Velvet, A Date With Judy, and The Taming of the Shrew (with husband Richard Burton).

To read a full obituary, click here to read the LATimes obituary or here to read the NYTimes obituary.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jane Russell 1921 - 2011

June 21, 1921 - February 28, 2011
You asked if I am a Christian. Yes, I am --- very much so!

Jane Russell; star of "The Outlaw" (1943), "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953), "Paleface" (1948), and "Son of Paleface" (1952); died yesterday at her home in Santa Maria, California. She was 89 years old.

A strong Christian, she joined with some friends to create the Hollywood Christian Group which held services and Bible Studies at different movie people's houses. In 1954, Jane, Connie Haines, Beryl Davis and Della Russell joined together for a Church benefit and sang a Gospel song. A representative of Coral Records heard them and asked if they would record the song, which ended up being a million-seller. The same year, Della Russell left the group and was replaced by Rhonda Fleming. (The video below is from a TV appearance that they made in 1954, singing their hit song, "Do, Lord".) The singing group, known as The Four Girls, spent three years performing together and touring the Country. They even recorded a hit album entitled Make a Joyful Noise. In 1957, Rhonda Fleming left the group to fulfill acting commitments and the others renamed the group Les Girls, continuing for the rest of the decade as a trio. During and after this time, Jane Russell also created and helped organizations that helped adopt children into the US and worked at getting the Bible put back into public school curriculum. Now she is with her Saviour in Heaven and truly happy.

"Without faith, I never would have made it. I don't know how people can survive all the disasters in their lives if they don't have any faith, if they don't know the Lord loves them and cares about them and has another plan."

Click here to read a bio from Pointing North.

(Top photo: Jane Russell in "Paleface"; Middle right photo: Jane Russell with Rhonda Fleming in 2006)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dorothy Lamour: The Sarong Girl

Dorothy Lamour (1914 - 1996)

"She pulled out some beautiful cotton print material and began to drape it around me. Beginning to daydream of all the beautiful gowns, glamorous hairdos, and magnificent jewels that I would soon be wearing, I asked how many dresses I would wear in the film. 'Dresses?' she exclaimed. 'Young lady, this is going to be a sarong!' I had to admit to her that I didn't know what a sarong was. She laughed, and when she explained, all my hopes of a glamorous movie debut flew out the window."

(Dorothy Lamour on her film debut in "Jungle Princess".)

Although Dorothy Lamour only played about six roles where she was was clad in a sarong, it became her trademark throughout her career, even though she disliked the entire image. Her most memorable roles are those opposite Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the "Road to . . . " series. Together they created an ad-libbing comedy style that has never been equaled and they remained lifelong friends, often making guest appearances in each other's films. "I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham." Even so, she always managed to hold her own with the two of them. During World War II, she was called the "Bond Bombshell" for her work selling War Bonds across the country. She was the first celebrity to use her fame for selling Bonds, selling over 300 million dollars of Bonds alone. By the 1950s her career was declining and she only made a handful of films. Some of her better known films ,other than the "Road To" films, are "Hurricane" (1937); "My Favorite Brunette" (1947); "Johnny Apollo" (1940); and "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952).

Click here to hear Miss Lamour sing her theme song "The Moon of Manakoora" (from the 1937 film, The Hurricane).

To see more photos of Dorothy Lamour, click one of the photos at the top to be directed to Dr. Macro's High Res Scans.

"I made 60 motion pictures and only wore the sarong in about six pictures, but it did become a kind of trademark."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Three Minutes of Melody

I found a very interesting article in one of my old Deanna Durbin scrapbooks. It appears to be from a music magazine, and describes everything that goes into making one three minute song in a film.

"In her newest starring vehicle, "IT'S A DATE" (Universal), Deanna Durbin sings Musetta's Song from "La Boheme"; Loch Lomand; Schubert's Ave Maria; and Love Is All, by P. Tomlin and H. Tobias. A scientifically minded film fan, holding a stop watch on the average Durbin song, would discover that he was getting three minutes of melody. What he could not discover is that he is also getting the benefit of several pieces of chalk, five hundred fifty feet of celluloid, and seven hundred seventy-six work hours of ninety-seven experts. The singing itself, which seems no more complicated than allowing Miss Durbin to send out her tones, is in reality a very involved piece of work.

Take, for instance, the rendition of Musetta's Song. The aria is first sung into a microphone in a sound room, to the accompaniment of a fifty piece orchestra, under the direction of Charles Previn. The chalk was used to write the words of the song in large letters on a blackboard high on the wall facing Miss Durbin, as is the custom in all screen singing. In the action of the picture, Miss Durbin sang the aria again, in a Hawaiian ballroom scene. This time it was photographed but not recorded, her silently filmed lip movements being later synchronized to the previously recorded song. For her gown in this scene, used once and then discarded, the services of one designer and six seamstresses were needed. Also, active in the "shooting" were one make-up man, one hairdresser, one script girl, two camera men, one assistant director, one dialogue director, and an orchestra of fifteen musicians, whose accompaniment, like the photographed song, were filmed but not recorded. An average eight hour work day was expended by each of these experts, either in filming or recording; and other specialists in the cutting room, the library, and various departments, complement the full count of ninety-seven experts needed to bring a single song to the public."

(Here are some photos of Deanna Durbin recording "I Love to Whistle" for her 1938 film, Mad About Music.)