Archive for April, 2012

Virginia O’Brien actress and singer in MGM musicals of the 1940s.

“If you study your dancing like I did, you’ll end up just like I did…a deadpan singer.” ~ Virginia O’Brien
 

Virginia Lee O’Brien (April 18, 1919 – January 16, 2001) was a popular American actress, singer, and radio personality known for her comedic roles and her deadpan delivery singing style in MGM musicals of the 1940s.

 

Virginia O'Brien

Virginia O’Brien

Virginia O’Brien was born on April 18, 1919 in Los Angeles, California. The daughter of the captain of detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department, O’Brien became interested in music and dance at an early age and it didn’t hurt her career chances that her uncle was noted film director Lloyd Bacon. Her big show-business break came in 1939 after she secured a singing role in the L.A. production of the musical comedy “Meet the People”. On opening night, when time came for her solo number, O’Brien became so paralyzed with fright that she sang her song with a wide-eyed motionless stare that sent the audience, which thought her performance a gag, into convulsions. She left the stage demoralized, only to soon find out that she was a sensation. Signed by MGM in 1940, Virginia O’Brien deadpanned her way to acclaim and immense popularity with appearances in some of the studio’s most memorable musicals including “The Big Store” (1941) with the Marx Brothers, “Lady Be Good” (1941) and “Ship Ahoy” (1942) with Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton, “Thousands Cheer” (1943) with Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson, “Du Barry Was a Lady” (1943) with Skelton and Lucille Ball, the film version of “Meet the People” (1944) with Dick Powell, “The Harvey Girls” (1946) with Judy Garland and the star studded “Ziegfeld Follies” in 1945.

 

Virginia O'Brien

Virginia O’Brien

 

After appearing once again with Red Skelton in “Merton of the Movies” in 1947 and a guest appearance the following year in the short Musical “Merry-Go-Round”, O’Brien was suddenly dropped from her MGM film contract. She returned to films only twice more after her termination from MGM, in Universal’s “Francis in the Navy” (1955) and Disney’s “Gus” (1976). Instead O’Brien moved into television and back to live performances. The tall and still beautiful O’Brien was among the stars in a 1972 nostalgia revue entitled “The Big Show of 1928” with Allan Jones, Cass Daley, Beatrice Kay and Sally Rand, which toured the country and played New York’s Madison Square Garden. In 1984 she created a cabaret act, touring the country and recorded a live album from the show at the famed Masquers Club entitled “Virginia O’Brien Salutes the Great MGM Musicals”. She performed several times at such clubs as Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel Cinegrill, the Vine St. Bar and Grill and the Gardenia, as well as the Plush Room in San Francisco. O’Brien continued to perform well into the 1990s with both her one-woman show and a production of “Show Boat” co-starring Alan Young and also headlined “The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies”.

 

Virginia O'Brien

Virginia O’Brien

 

Virginia O’Brien was married three times. The first marriage to Kirk Alyn in 1942. They had three children together and divorced in 1955. Her second marriage was to Vern Evans from 1958 to 1966. The couple had one child together.  Her third marriage was to contractor Harry B. White from 1968 to 1996.

 

June Allyson, Virginia O' Brien, and Betty Jaynes in "Meet The People" (1944)

June Allyson, Virginia O’ Brien, and Betty Jaynes in “Meet The People” (1944)

 

Virginia O’Brien remained in semi-retirement in a large home in Wrightwood, California for most of her later years. She died on January 16, 2001 aged 81, in Woodland Hills, California from natural causes. She is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

 

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Anne Shirley successful actress from the 1930s and early 40s

 

Dawn Evelyeen Paris, known as Anne Shirley, was an American film actress. She began her acting career in 1922 as a child actress under the name Dawn O’Day. Shirley adopted the name of the character she played in Anne of “Green Gables” in 1934 as her screen name and went on to achieve a successful career in supporting roles. Among her films is “Stella Dallas” (1937), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

 

Anne Shirley  (April 17, 1918 – July 4, 1993)

Anne Shirley
(April 17, 1918 – July 4, 1993)

 

Anne Shirley was born Dawn Evelyeen Paris on April 17, 1918 in New York, New York. She began acting under the name of Dawn O’Day at the age of five and had a highly successful child star career in Pre-Code movies, appearing in such films as Tom Mix’s “Riders of the Purple Sage” (1925); “So Big” (1932) with Barbara Stanwyck and Betty Davis; “Three on a Match” (1932) starring Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, and Ann Dvorak; and “Rasputin and the Empress” (1932) with John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, and Lionel Barrymore. In 1934 she starred as the character of Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables”, and took that character’s name as her stage name. After adopting the name Anne Shirley, she starred in “Steamboat ‘Round the Bend” (1935) with Will Rogers and directed by John Ford; “Make Way for a Lady” (1936); and “Stella Dallas” (1937) for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Shirley’s later roles were in such movies as “Saturday’s Children” (1940), “Vigil in the Night” (1940), “Anne of Windy Poplars” (1940), “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (1941), “Music in Manhattan” (1944), and “Murder My Sweet” (1944).

 

Anne Shirley

Anne Shirley

Anne Shirley was married three times. Her first husband was the actor John Payne. They were married in 1937 and divorced in 1943. They had one child together, a daughter, former actress Julie Payne. Shirley married her second husband, producer Adrian Scott, in 1945. When he was blacklisted and decided to move the family to Europe in 1948, she wrote him a “Dear John” letter saying she’d rather stay behind and divorce him. Her third husband was Charles Lederer, nephew of Marion Davies. They were married in 1949 and remained married until his death in 1976. They had a son named Daniel Lederer.

 

Anne Shirley

Anne Shirley

 

Anne Shirley retired from film in 1944 after making “Murder My Sweet” to marry Adrian Scott. Never tempted to resume her career at any time, she became a charming and gracious socialite in the Hollywood circle. When her third husband Charles Lederer died in 1976, it triggered a severe emotional crisis for Shirley, who turned for a time to alcohol. After she recovered, Shirley then lived the rest of her life completely out of the limelight.

 

Anne Shirley in "Music in Manhattan" (1944)

Anne Shirley in “Music in Manhattan” (1944)

 

Anne Shirley died July 4, 1993 of lung cancer at age 75 in Los Angeles, California.
For her contributions to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7020 Hollywood Blvd.

 

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Charlie Chaplin – A Pictorial

 

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin

 

“I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. everything a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin

 

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp 1915

 

“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in “The Kid” (1921)

 

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Gloria Swanson, Charles Chaplin and Marion Davies at the premiere of “City Lights” in Los Angeles – January 30, 1931

 

“The glamour of it all! New York! America!” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

 

“I have no further use for America. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ was President.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard at a dinner honoring Walt Disney Sep. 28, 1933, Hollywood (Image by Bettmann/Corbis)

 

“I am at peace with God. My conflict is with Man.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

 

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Wallace Reid – The Screen’s Most Perfect Lover

 

Wallace Reid was a popular silent film actor who became known as “the screen’s most perfect lover”.

 

Wallace Reed

 

Reid was born April 15, 1892 in St. Louis, Missouri into a show business family. His mother, Bertha Westbrook (1868-1939), was an actress and his father, James Halleck aka Hal Reid (actor) (1862–1920), worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, travelling the country. As a boy, Wallace Reid was performing on stage by the age of four but he spent most of his early years, not on the stage, but in private schools where he excelled in music and athletics. As a teenager, he spent time in Wyoming where he learned to be an outdoorsman. In 1910, his father went to the Chicago studio of ‘Selig Ployscope Company’ and Wallace decided that he wanted to be a cameraman. However, with his athletic good looks, he was often put in front of the camera instead of behind. His first film before the camera was “The Phoenix” (1910), where he played the role of the young reporter. Although Reid’s good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect “matinee idol,” he was equally happy with roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director. Reid appeared in several films with his father and, as his career in film flourished, he was soon acting and directing with and for early film mogul Allan Dwan. In 1913, while at Universal Pictures, Reid met and married actress Dorothy Davenport. He was featured in both “Birth of a Nation” (1915) and “Intolerance” (1916) both directed by D.W. Griffith, and starred opposite leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar en route to becoming one of Hollywood’s major heartthrobs, being referred to as “the screen’s most perfect lover”.

 

Wallace Reid and Lois Wilson in "Hell Diggers" (1921)

 

Already involved with the creation of more than 100 motion picture shorts, Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky and would star in another sixty plus films for Lasky’s Famous Players film company, later Paramount Pictures. Frequently paired with actress Ann Little, his action hero role as the dashing race car driver drew young girls and older women alike to theaters to see his daredevil auto thrillers such as “The Roaring Road” (1919), “Double Speed” (1920), “Excuse My Dust” (1920), and “Too Much Speed” (1921). One of his auto racing films, “Across the Continent” (1922), was chosen as the opening night film for San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, which opened June 22, 1922.

 

Wallace Reid and Kelly Pasha in "Thirty Days" (1922)

 

While on location in Oregon filming “The Valley of the Giants” (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck and, in order to keep on filming he was prescribed morphine for his pain. Reid soon became addicted, but kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding. Reid’s morphine addiction worsened at a time when drug rehabilitation programs were non-existent. His addiction, coupled with the alcohol, resulted in Wallace’s health going downhill and he started entering a succession of hospitals and sanitariums as his health failed. Making his last film for the studio, “Thirty Days” (1922), Reid was barely able to stand, let alone act. He died in Dorothy’s arms in a sanitarium in Los Angeles, California on January 18, 1923 at the age of 31. Wallace Reid was interred in the Holly Terrace portion of the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

 

Wallace Reid and wife Dorothy Davenport at home with son Wally and their dog - ca.1921

 

His widow, Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid), co-produced and appeared in “Human Wreckage” (1923), making a national tour with the film to publicize the dangers of drug addiction. Davenport and Reid had two children: a son, Wallace Reid, Jr., born in 1917 and a daughter, Betty Mummert, whom they adopted in 1922 at age three. Dorothy Davenport never remarried.

Wallace Reid’s contribution to the motion-picture industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

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Mari Blanchard

 

Mari Blanchard was an American actress, known for her roles as a B movie femme fatale in American films of the 1950s and early 1960s.

 

Mari Blanchard

 

Mari Blanchard was born on April 13, 1927 in Long Beach, California. The daughter of an oil tycoon and a psychotherapist, she suffered from severe polio from the age of nine, which denied her a hoped-for dancing career. For several years, she worked hard to rehabilitate her limbs from paralysis, swimming and later even performing on the trapeze at Cole Brothers Circus. She then attended the University of Southern California from where she graduated with a degree in international law. In the late 1940’s, she joined the Conover Agency as an advertising model and at the same time, was promoted by famed cartoonist and writer Al Capp, becoming the inspiration for one of his “L’il Abner” characters. Blanchard was spotted in an advertisement for bubble bath in 1950 by a producer from Paramount and was offered work in movies. Most of her work though was in small roles in a number of films at MGM, RKO, and Paramount, until she was signed by Universal-International in 1952. Her first film at Universal was “Back at the Front” (1952). One of her most memorable roles was the Venusian queen, Allura, in the 1953 comedy “Abbott and Costello Go to Mars”. She also starred in “Destry” (1954), a western with Audie Murphy. Universal then refused to renew their contract with Blanchard and her career then began to fail. Free-lancing for lesser studios she recieved roles in B-movies such as “She Devil” (1957) and “No Place to Land” (1958). Her last role of note in film was as the cheerful and likeable town madam in the John Wayne western comedy “McLintock!” (1963).

 

Mari Blanchard in "Destry" (1954)

 

With her film career in decline Blanchard turned to television and appeared in shows such as “Rawhide”, “77 Sunset Strip”, “Perry Mason”, and “The Virginian” to name a few. In the 1960–1961 television season, Blanchard starred as Kathy O’Hara in the short lived (14 episodes) NBC Western series “Klondike” with Ralph Taeger, James Coburn, and Joi Lansing. Her last television appearance was in “It Takes A Thief” in 1968.

 

Mari Blanchard in "Abbott and Costello Go To Mars" (1953)

 

Mari Blanchard died of cancer on May 10, 1970 at the age of 43 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.

 

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