Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ann Blyth Refuses to Smoke in Film

Ann Blyth Refuses To Smoke In Films

HOLLYWOOD - Although Ann Blyth plays a toughie in "Swell Guy," Mark Hellinger production for Universal, she balked at learning to smoke.

"I'm practically an alcoholic in the picture," said Ann, "but the drinks are fake. There's no way to fake smoking, so I'll just have to skip it. I've never learned to smoke and even a smoke-filled room makes me ill."

For the picture, Ann had to learn to flip a coin like a dyed-in-the-wool gambler. With between-scenes insstruction from Sonny Tufts, William Gargan, John Craven, John Litel and other males of the cast, it took her about a week to acquire this skill.

(Transcribed from THE DESERET NEWS, Monday, 9 Sept 1946)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ann Blyth is Perfect Hollywood Star

Ann Is Perfect Hollywood Star - - She's Liked By Fellow Workers


Ann Blyth is one of those rare individuals who reach the top rung of stardom in Hollywood. She is as popular with her Hollywood colleagues as she is with the fans.

The tiny 24-year-old charmer of many pictures has been called "the perfect trouper" by those whose responsibility it is to make preparations for star tours, draw up itineraries and then accompany the celebrities wherever they make personal appearances.

One studio representative on a recent tour with "Annie", as she is called by those who know her, said that Miss Blyth makes no unreasonable demands, is perfectly amiable at all times and accommodating to all. "She's the type of woman I hope my daughter becomes," he said.

Little things that cause such comments include putting on extra shows at military bases when the boys cannot be accomodated at the regularly scheduled number of programs, stopping to chat with youngsters who want to see her, and generally putting herself out for her fans and fellow workers.

Additionally, Ann's personal habits make her one of the most pleasant stars to work with. She does not smoke or drink or visit night clubs, and her behavior is always the best.

These items probably account for her long-standing stardom in Hollywood, where she has been at the top since she was 11 years old, when she scored in "Watch on the Rhine." [This was actually on stage, not film.] Since then, her roles have covered all types and varieties. These include "The World In His Arms," now playing at the Lyric Theater, and "One Minute to Zero," soon coming to the Utah Theater.

Illustrative of her versatility, these pictures present her in different types of parts in different centuries. In "The World in His Arms," she is a Russian countess in an adventure film whose story takes place in the 1850s. In "One Minute to Zero," she is an American girl with the United Nations forces in Korea.

(Transcribed from THE DESERET NEWS, Wednesday, 13 Aug 1952)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Anne Baxter is Tops in Dialogue

Anne Baxter Is Tops In Dialogue

Anne Baxter, who is always letter-perfect in her lines, established a new record for a day's performance before the cameras. For her starring role in "My Wife's Best Friend," in which she is teamed with MacDonald Carey, she polished off 11 pages of dialogue and went through 14 different setups without a hitch. Three to five pages of dialogue are considered good pace for the average day's work.

(Transcribed from THE DESERET NEWS, Wednesday, 13 Aug 1952)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter 1919 - 2012

PHYLLIS THAXTER (20 Nov 1919 - 14 Aug 2012)

Actress Phyllis Thaxter died on 14 Aug. She was 92 years old. She was an actress for many years, on Broadway and made her film debut in 1944, in the smash hit, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Playing bomber pilot Van Johnson's wife, her performance was touching and sensitive. She continued films and moved into television as well. With the newer generations, she is probably best remembered for playing Martha Kent in the movie, Superman (1978).

Below is a link to a full obituary and you can view an episode of the TV series, Wagon Train, in which she was the guest star.

Obituary in the New York Times.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy Birthday! Ann Blyth turns 84!

Today, actress and singer Ann Blyth celebrates her 84th birthday! Her sweet personality and beautiful voice graced the silver screen for 13 years and, thanks to home video, her talents still continue to entertain fans today. Although she is best remembered for playing Joan Crawford's spiteful daughter in Mildred Pierce, this role was a brilliant piece of casting against type. Ann Blyth was known as the screen's 'little lady'. Very kind, down-to-earth and a devout Catholic, she always insisted that family was more important than success.

She happens to be one of my very favorite actresses. Lately, we have been watching some more of her films, which has made me an even bigger fan. :o) I'll Never Forget You, Thunder on the Hill, The World in His Arms, and The King's Thief are some of the standouts. In honor of her birthday, here is a hi-res image from each of these films.

We just got Top O' the Morning, a film that she made with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald about the theft of the Blarney Stone! We have been waiting years to find a copy, and can't wait to see it. Ann, Bing, Barry, and Ireland can't be anything but fabulous! So, thank you, Ann Blyth, for sharing your talents!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

'Have Faith, My Darling. You'll Walk.'

In 1954, Guideposts published a book of stories by different celebrities who had gone through particularly trying times. The volume was compiled by Norman Vincent Peale and titled "Faith Made Them Champions". Screen actress Ann Blyth shared about the time that she suffered a broken back in a sledding accident. She was, and still is, a devout Catholic, whose faith grew during a time when her world seemed to be ending. Her story was published in many newspapers across the country under the title "Lenten Guideposts".

By Ann Blyth

When I was a very little girl I remember praying fervently for a pair of red wings. After several days of watching and waiting, I took my shaken faith and spread it out before my mother.

"Why?" I demanded. "Why don't I get red wings?"

My mother had, skillfully balanced with her sensitive Irish wit, an enormous respect for a serious problem. Together we examined mine. "Faith, my darling," she told me, "is believing that God is very wise. Wiser than you. Somehow you must be praying wrong."

As I grew older, I was filled with gratitude that I need not walk through life wearing red wings. But, I was equally grateful for her gentle lesson.

Mother worked very hard and her tiny body wasn't nearly as big as her heart. Yet I never heard her complain. In our walk-up flat on New York's East side, she would jubilantly finish a batch of ironing for her select Park Avenue clientele and call to us to admire its crisp freshness.

A Constant Faith
Sometimes it was a close shave when it came to scraping together the money for my singing, dancing and dramatic lessons, but she never told me of it. Instead, she let me know constantly that Faith was the foundation for lasting joy, the chief cornerstone for building a whole life.

She dreamed dreams about my wonderful future as an actress and at eight, nine, and ten, I began getting radio and stage bits. When I tried for something better and failed, she would smile her wonderful warm smile, put a pert new feather in my hat, and together we'd go to St. Boniface's to pray.

"Just have faith, my darling," she'd say cheerfully as we walked home in the fading light. "Something better will come." And it did. It came so fast it was like riding a giant roller coaster clear to the top. We two looked out over the whole world.

At 13, I was on Broadway as Paul Lukas' daughter in "Watch on the Rhine." At 14, I had dinner at the White House. At 15, I came to Hollywood and was given the coveted role of Joan Crawford's daughter in "Mildred Pierce." Overnight, life was glamorous, exciting, completely wonderful.

Her Back Broken
Yes, we went up so fast that when we hit the first giant dip, it shook my faith. But it didn't shake my mother's on that tragic day in a hospital room, where doctors told me I might never walk again.

We had finished "Mildred Pierce" and mother took a group of us to Snow Valley, a spot in the San Bernadino Mountains. While my friends and I were tobogganing, it happened. One minute we were sailing down the hard-packed icy hillside like snow birds, then there was a crash and I fell on my back with a sickening thud.

I din't cry out. The feeling was too big for that. Involuntarily, from long habit, my spirit reached out for faith and halting prayers rose to my lips. At the hospital, the doctors were grave; my back was broken.

My glowing world tumbled all about me. It seemed like the end of everything.

At first, I couldn't look at my mother. When at last I raised my head, I was startled. Those warm, hazel eyes under her crown of auburn hair were actually smiling.

"Have faith, my darling," she said. "You'll walk."

Busy Days
Together my mother and I planned cheerful, busy days. In a cast, with my head and feet toward the floor, my back raised high, I concentrated on high school work, determined to graduate with my studio class.

But still there were those long periods of just lying down. The busy, exciting world I had known faded away and my life slowed down to little things.

But even hear, I found myself blessed, for a new sense of prayer began to unfold to me. Now there were not the busy times of telling Him what I needed, but rather, times of listening communion, of gathering strength, when my human strength and courage seemed to ebb away.

In seven months, they told me I could walk. Not walk really, but take those first important steps on the long road back to complete freedom. As I had gotten to know Him in my time of trial, I knew Him now in thanksgiving.

7 Months in Chair
I took those steps, and then more. I graduated with my class from a wheel chair. There were seven months in and out of that wheel chair, but every one was another step forward. There was my first swim. The preview of "Mildred Pierce." My first game of golf. And then I made my first picture since the accident.

Now, at last, my life was again the same. Only, not quite the same. I found within me an immense gratitude for simple things. An acute appreciation of all I might have lost, all the things I had accepted unconsciously before.

And one more difference, I had grown up. At first, I had clung to my mother's faith, leaned on her, step by step as she showed me the way. Now, I had found my own rock. Nor did I find it too soon.

An Emptiness
Before I finished that first picture after my accident, I was standing alone. My mother, beloved companion, was gone. A little unsteadily, I clung to my rock.

But I missed her. There was an aching emptiness. Until it came to me, almost in a revelation, that she had not left me. She had prepared me for her going as she had prepared me for everything else I'd met in life.

Reaching out again for my faith came the assurance that she would be by my side in every good, beautiful, and true experience, wherever I might go; a part of every decision, every success and every happiness - for they all stemmed from her inspired teaching. They would become the flowers of the mustard seed of faith she had placed in my heart.


"I think that period was the greatest test of my faith. That was my most desperate moment. But it's how you cope with such moments, how you come out of them, that counts. Sometimes we do have to survive periods when we wonder whether God has forgotten all about us. However, God never forgets us. He always answers our prayers, though he doesn't always answer them in the way we wish He would."

(Lenten Guideposts; Lebanon Daily News (PA); 20 March 1954, pages 1 and 9)
(The Press-Courier (CA); 11 Aug 1974, page 10)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tony Martin (1913-2012)

I promised myself that I would write a non-obituary entry this week, but we just found out that singer Tony Martin died on Friday evening! Mr. Martin is one of our favorites, and he is one of the five singers who Sarah has classified as having a 'Disney Prince'-type voice. He died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday night at 98 years old.

In 1948, Mr. Martin married dancer Cyd Charisse. They remained devoted to each other, even co-writing their autobiography, The Two of Us. She passed away in 2008, after sixty years of marriage. Their son, Tony Jr., died in 2011. Mr. Martin is survived by his step-son, Nicky Charisse.

He appeared in many films during the 1930s-50s, including The Big Store with the Marx Bros., Easy To Love with Esther Williams, Deep In My Heart, and Till The Clouds Roll By. His voice was clear and smooth, with a very gentle quality. This is the passing of an era.

There is one time in a film where Tony and Cyd appeared together. At the very end of Easy To Love, he is walking along a lane when a girl drops her hat in front of him. That girl is Mrs. Tony Martin. :o)

To read his full obituary at the San Francisco Chronicle, click here.

Here is his section of the finale from the 1946 film, Till the Clouds Roll By. This is one of his best musical moments. He is singing the fabulous Jerome Kern song, "All the Things You Are".

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peter Breck; Nick Barkley in 'The Big Velley'; Dies at 82

PETER BRECK (13 March 1929 - 6 February 2012)

I know that this is a little late, but we just found out last night that Peter Breck died February 6th. He is best remembered for playing Barbra Stanwyk's hot-headed son, Nick Barkley, in the TV show, The Big Valley. Always the one to come to the rescue with the guns blazing, or belt the dishonest citizen in the face, or get into trouble and have to be rescued by his level-headed brothers.

Sarah and I were introduced to The Big Valley several years ago, when we got a disc of episodes out from the library. Ever since, we have been ardent fans of the show. In our minds, it even surpassed Bonanza. The five family members work so well together and make the stories believable. This is definitely a show not to be missed. Right now, the complete first season and the first half of season two are available on DVD.

Right after we discovered the series, we wrote to Mr. Breck and received autographed photos of him as Nick. He was a fantastic cowboy and a great character. We have seen him in several other shows, and it is funny as it always seems like Nick on another show. :o)

For a full obituary, see the NYTimes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Screen Legend, Celeste Holm, Dies at 95

CELESTE HOLM (29 April 1917 - 15 July 2012)

Oscar-winning actress, Celeste Holm, died on Sunday at her apartment from complications of a heart attack. Celeste Holm appeared in over a dozen films, lots of TV shows and many stage productions during her long and distinguished career. She won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her third movie role in Gentleman's Agreement, opposite Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire. She was also nominated for her roles in Come To The Stable and the classic All About Eve. Some of her other film credits include The Snake Pit, High Society and The Tender Trap.

To read her full obituary, go to the NYTimes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Remembering Andy: Mayberry Bids Farewell to Sheriff Taylor

ANDY GRIFFITH (1 June 1926 - 3 July 2012)

Died Tuesday at his home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. An actor, singer and comedian, he is fondly remembered by generations of fans as the Mayberry sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. Who can forget the opening of a man and a little boy, walking down a dirt road, carrying their fishing poles and whistling a tune? It featured the memorable characters of Deputy Barney Fife, garage mechanic Gomer Pyle, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou, and little Opie Taylor.

Sheriff Andy Griffith made his screen debut in a 1960 episode of The Danny Thomas Show, where Danny is arrested for running a stop sign. Later that same year, Andy's own show debuted and continued for 8 seasons and a total of 249 episodes. Andy helped other townspeople fix their problems and the show provided wholesome entertainment for the entire family.

Mr. Griffith also recorded and released several albums of Gospel songs and comedy sketches. He performed on Broadway, at night clubs, and in films as well as television.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy 111th Birthday, Nelson Eddy!

Nelson Eddy. His was a unique Hollywood talent that shot to stardom through his first starring role. He became one of the most top names in motion pictures and radio between 1935 and 1945.

(L. to R.: Nelson at six months, Nelson c. 1906, Nelson c. 1908, as a choir boy.)

(L. to R.: Nelson in 1915, Nelson c. 1921, Nelson on USO Tour in 1942)

Today marks his 111th birthday. He was born June 29, 1901 in Providence, Rhode Island. Out of humble beginnings he became one of MGM's top stars. He had to drop out of school after eighth grade in order to support his mother. His jobs ranged from that of a clerk in a plumbing supply company, to a typesetter on a newspaper, a sports reporter and even a copywriter for an advertising firm. Finally, he landed a job with the Philadelphia Civic Opera which enabled him to give private concerts in the evenings. It was at one of these events that a Hollywood talent scout spotted him . . . and the rest is Entertainment history.

In honor of his birthday, we're posting some harder-to-come-by photographs, taken throughout his childhood. So, Happy Birthday, Nelson Eddy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Goodbye to Polly Benedict: Ann Rutherford Dies at 94

Came home from vacation and found out that actress Ann Rutherford passed away on the 11th. She is probably best remembered for playing Mickey Rooney's friend, Polly Benedict, in the Andy Hardy series. She played in more than 50 films, including Gone With The Wind. Usually played the girl-next-door type roles and displayed solid, reliable acting in most of her films. She is always enjoyable in her film appearances.

To read her full obituary, click here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Judy Garland's 90th Birthday

JUDY GARLAND (10 June 1922 - 22 June 1969) is known the world over for her performance as "Dorothy" in The Wizard of Oz. A singer and actress since childhood, her early movie career is best remembered for her teaming with Mickey Rooney, an on-screen duo that would continue until 1948. However, it was "The Wizard of Oz" that pushed her into instant stardom, as well as giving her her signature song "Over the Rainbow". Her 1954 comeback film, "A Star is Born" became another instant success and was the last starring film success of her career. She regularly appeared on television and the concert stage, and in 1961 appeared at Carnegie Hall. The album of her performance that night won four Grammys and has never been out of print.

Today would have been Judy's 90th birthday. Thanks to her many films and recordings, we can still enjoy her talent. Whether it is 17 year old Judy singing "Over The Rainbow" or 32 year-old Judy singing "The Man That Got Away", her talent is obvious. Now, many of her films are being released on DVD and you can enjoy her performances. (If you haven't tried The Pirate, you should! Her rendition of "Mack The Black" holds its' own against "Get Happy" and "Man Who Got Away".)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy 105th Birthday, John Wayne!

Today, we want to remember the birthday of one of the "top" classic actors to play on the silver screen: John Wayne. He is one of those actors that almost everybody knows by name and seen at least one of his films. The Hollywood western was taken to "Grade A" thanks to him and his starring role in the film classic, Stagecoach (1939). He played everything from a cowboy to a boxer to an engineer to a pilot --- and he mastered them all!

Thanks to him, we have this fabulous rendition of America: Why I Love Her. Once heard it's unforgettable. In his films he was a "man of few words," but those that he did say endeared him to the whole nation. Happy Birthday, Mr. Wayne!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Silver Bells: The Voice of Carol Richards

 Singing and dancing! The fabulous world of the silver screen musical. If you really pay attention, you will notice that a musical can have singing and no dancing, but I have never seen one that has dancing but no singing. Dancing is practically inseparable from singing in the movie musical. Most dance numbers are performed to a popular tune that is vocalized at some point in the film. Ever wonder how so many talented dancers in Hollywood were great singers as well? To tell the truth . . . not all of them were. Some did there own singing: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller. Others did not. They would simply lip-sync to a song that had been previously recorded by a singer. (At least this was not a painful process. Better than singers who couldn't dance. They never did find a way to dub dancing!) Some of the more famous dancer who did not posses a perfect singing voice were Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, and Eleanor Powell. However, Miss Powell was only dubbed in the first half of her career. From 1940 on, she did her own vocals. Cyd Charisse and Vera-Ellen, however, were practically tone deaf and were always dubbed. If you are really tuned into the on-screen singing voices of these two dancers, you would notice a certain resemblance. . .

Carol Richards (sometimes spelled Carole) was born Carol Vosburgh in 1922 in Illinois. She performed from a young age and was a frequent radio and television show guest performer. Over the years she sang with a couple bands and appeared at nightclubs. She is best remembered for the hit Christmas record, "Silver Bells", which paired her with famed singer Bing Crosby. However, you can hear her voice in several very well-known and popular film musicals when she provided the singing voice for two very famous dancers - Vera-Ellen in Call Me Madam and Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon, Deep In My Heart, It's Always Fair Weather, and Silk Stockings
Once you know that it is the same vocalist, it is obvious when you sit and compare the different numbers and recordings. Happily, there is a chance to see the face behind the voice. Miss Richards appeared in the I Love Lucy episode, "The Indian Show" (1953). She is Desi Arnaz's band singer, Juanita, who sings the hauntingly beautiful "By the Waters of the Minnetonka". So, next time you sit down to watch a classic movie musical, be sure to notice the singing voices of the non-singer stars! It may lead you to a fun and interesting story behind-the-scenes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Garbo Laughs! - The Story of Ninotchka (1939)

Garbo Laughs! The publicity tagline for the 1939 Lubitsch comedy, "NINOTCHKA". It starred the movie legend Greta Garbo as the stern, unromantic Soviet envoy; Melvyn Douglas as the French dandy who wins her heart; Ina Claire as the Russian Grand Duchess in exile; and Felix Bressart, Sig Ruman, and Alexander Granach as the Soviet emissaries who are drawn to Capitalism.

Opposites attract in this film, as Melvyn Douglas sets out to capture Garbo's heart in this fun film. He is a French aristocrat representing a Russian Grand Duchess in the battle to get her "legally confiscated" jewels from the Soviet emissaries who have just arrived in Paris to sell them. The emissaries are quickly attracted to Capitalism and the Soviet government sends an "envoy extraordinaire" to clear up the mess. Her entrance - magnificent. All work and no play, she decides to spend her free time inspecting Paris' technical achievements. So, to the Eiffel Tower!

On the way she meets Count Leon (Douglas), enlisting his aid in navigating a map of the city. The ensuing dialogue will keep you in stitches as the two cultures clash. He follows her and invites her to "inspect" his house. However, he receives a call from the emissaries and she realizes who he is. For the next three days, she is in conference with lawyers over the court case, and Leon is unsuccessful in his tries to see her. However, he follows her to a restaurant and tries to make her laugh. Although the other patrons find his jokes amusing, she remains impassive - that is, until an accident sends her into uncontrollable laughter.

Back at the hotel, her comrades are amazed by her changed attitude. She sends them out for a day on the town, leaving her to go visit Leon. She arrives dressed in a fashionable dress and a silly hat, and she confesses that she has fallen in love with him. A few days later, he takes her to a fancy nightclub, where she wears a fancy evening dress a la Adrian. They meet the Grand Duchess and for a moment a new front erupts. Ninotchka is unhappy until Leon tells her that he doesn't want her to go back to Russia. As the evening progresses, the champagne hits her rather hard, and Leon is asked by the management to retrieve her from the powder room, where she is urging the attendants to go on strike. They arrive back at the hotel rather tight and wind up taking the jewels out of the safe, forgetting to lock them back up. The next morning, the Grand Duchess wakes Ninotchka up, admitting that a waiter (who is a Russian aristocrat in exile) has pinched the jewels and they are now in the Grand Duchess' possession. However, knowing that she will ultimately lose the court battle, she agrees to return all the jewels and renounce her claim if Ninotchka will leave for Russia that very afternoon. Being her duty to the Soviet people, Ninotchka agrees.

Leon, however, is determined to get Ninotchka back. He applies for a visa at the Soviet Embassy, but is refused. Back in Russia, Ninotchka is back in the Communistic lifestyle. She has the three emissaries over for dinner, and they reminisce about the days spent in Paris. She gets a letter from Leon, but it has been completely censored.

About a year after her visit to Paris, she is sent, by the commisar, to Constantinople. Her three friends were sent on another mission and have failed after six weeks. She arrives to find that they have abandoned communism and opened a restaurant. At the hotel, Leon is waiting for her, and convinces her to stay with him.

This was one of the legendary Garbo's final screen roles. The original three-sentence plot outline was remarkably simple - "Russian girl saturated with Bolshevist ideals goes to fearful, Capitalistic, monopolistic Paris. She meets romance and has an uproarious good time. Capitalism not so bad after all." Garbo apparently was nervous about doing a comedy, but thought the idea was interesting. The hat that she wears in the film was actually made by costume designer Adrian, based on a sketch by Garbo herself. She disliked having to play drunk in a scene, considering it vulgar and unbecoming and found it hard to act. Ninotchka and Garbo were nominated for the Best Picture and Best Actress Academy Awards, however they lost to the monumental Gone With The Wind. Ninotchka was turned into a hit Broadway play, Silk Stockings, which was later made into a musical film starring Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. Today, Ninotchka still remains a classic and in 1990 was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Seen today, it is still captivating and Garbo still amazes as the Russian who proves that she can laugh!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy 105th Birthday, Dan Duryea!

He was that well-loved Hollywood villain with the maniacal laugh. People loved him, even though he was the heavy. In 1950, Andrea King (on behalf of all the feminine "villains" in Hollywood) presented him with a special award of a gold-plated heel, making him the "Hollywood Heel of the Year".

In his words: You can't make a picture without a villain . . . it pays well and you last.

In his personal life, Mr. Duryea was a model husband, parent and citizen. The opposite of his screen image. Today would have been his 105th birthday, so we're remembering the man (and the actor). After all, without the villains how can there be a hero? Happy Birthday, Mr. Duryea!