Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Edward Van Sloan

Edward Van Sloan was a character actor best known for his roles in Universal Studios' horror films. He is best known for his roles in Dracula (1931) as Dr. Van Helsing, Frankenstein (1931) as Dr. Waldman, and The Mummy (1932) as Dr. Muller.

His close-cropped gray hair, thick spectacles, and clipped, ominous tones would serve memorably as the nemesis and antagonist of evil-doers and monsters played by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Erich von Strotheim.

Edward Van Sloan had a style of playing horror roles that was unmistakably his, speaking his lines in a slow, exaggerated style of elocution.

Edward Van Sloan was born on November 1, 1882 in Minnesota and passed away on March 6, 1964 at the age of 81.

After a lengthy career as a commercial artist, Van Sloan turned to the stage and movies after World War I.

He made his film debut in 1916 playing Joseph Tremaine in Slander. He did not appear in another movie until 1931.

From 1916 to 1927, Edward Van Sloan had a successful career on Broadway appearing in The Unknown Purple, Polly Preferred, Morals, Schweiger, Juarez and Maximilian, Remote Control, and Lost.

In 1927 he would be cast as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in the Broadway production of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

His broadway role would lead to his successful film career as a character actor. He was cast to play Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in the 1931 film Dracula. He would later recreate the role of Dr. Van Helsing in Dracula's Daughter (1936).

Edward's third movie credit was playing Dr. Waldman in Frankenstein (1931) starring Boris Karloff. Right before the opening credits of Frankenstein, he stepped out in front of a curtain to warn the audience that they now had a chance to escape the theater if they were too squeamish.

Edward was also a successful character actor in mystery films of the era including The Death Kiss (1932), Trick or Treat (1933), Murder on Campus (1934), and Danger on the Air (1938).

He also appeared in such classics as Baby Face (1933), Manhatten Melodrama (1934), The Woman in Red (1935), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), and Love Crazy (1941).

In the late 1940s, Edward would return to the Broadway stage in The Vigil.

Edward Van Sloan retired from both the stage and movies in 1950 after a final performance in an uncredited movie role as a Minister in The Underworld Story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jack Warden

Jack Warden was a character actor from the 1950s to 2000. He made his acting debut at the age of 30 and worked steadily until he was 80 years old. He appeared in over one hundred movies, typically playing gruff cops, sports coaches, soliders, trusted friends and similar type roles. His career spanned six decades and the peak of his career was when he was in his 60s. He also had a career on Broadway and in television.

Jack Warden was born John H. Lebzelter on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey to Jack Warden Lebzelter and Laura Costello. Jack Warden was raised in Louisville, Kentucky.

At the age of 17, young Jack, was expelled from school for fighting. Good with his fists, he turned professional boxer as a welterweight under the name Johnny Costello.

Since there was not much money in boxing, Jack left the ring and began working as a bouncer in a night club. He also worked as a lifeguard before signing with the U.S. Navy in 1938. He served in China with the Yangtazee River Patrol before joining the Merchant Marine in 1941.

Dissatisfied with life on a ship, he quit in 1942 in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was a paratrooper with the elite 101st Airborne Division and missed the June 1944 invasion of Normandy due to a broken leg he suffered during a practice jump shortly before D-Day. After he recovered, he did gone on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

While recovering with the broken leg (he spent almost a year in the hospital) he read a Clifford Odets play and decided to become an actor.

After World War II, he moved to New York City and pursued an acting career on the G.I. Bill. He joined the company of the Dallas Alley Theater and performed on the stage for five years. After several years in small, local productions, he made his Broadway debut in 1952 in Golden Boy.

He made his television debut in 1948, on The Philco Television Playhouse. He also would go on to appear in such television shows as Studio One, Mr. Peepers, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, Dr. Kildare and Crazy Like A Fox.

In 1971, he won an Emmy award for supporting actor for his performance as Chicago Bears coach George Halas in Brian's Song. He also received two Emmy nominations for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Crazy Like a Fox.

Jack Warden made his film debut in 1950 in a bit part in an uncredited role in The Asphalt Jungle.

Jack Warden appeared in such films as From Here to Eternity (1953), Edge of the City (1953), 12 Angry Men (1957), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Donovan's Reef (1963), Shampoo (1975), All The President's Men (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), And Justice for All (1979), Used Cars (1980), The Verdict (1982), Problem Child (1990), While You Were Sleeping (1995) and Dirty Work (1998).

At the age of 80, his final film appearance would be in the The Replacements (2000).

Jack Warden was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Shampoo (1975) and Heaven Can Wait (1978).

Jack Warden passed away on July 19, 2006 at the age of 85 from heart and kidney failure.

Teresa Wright

Teresa Wright was born Murial Teresa Wright on October 27, 1918 in Harlem and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. The daughter of the daughter of Martha Espy and Arthur Wright, who was an insurance agent.

While in highschool at Columbia High School, Teresa became seriously interested in acting and spent her summers working in Provincetown theater productions, appearing in such plays as such plays as "The Vinegar Tree" and "Susan and God." Following her high school graduation in 1938, she returned to New York and was hired to be the understudy of Dorothy McGuire and later Martha Scott in the role of Emily in the Broadway production of Our Town.

In the fall of 1939, she appeared in the Broadway play Life with Father, playing the role of Mary Skinner for two years. It was there that she was discovered by a talent scout hired by Samuel Goldwyn.

She was cast in the role of Bette Davis' daughter in the film Little Foxes (1941). Teresa was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her film debut.

In 1942, she would play the wife of Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees and earn her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

That same year, she won Best Supporting Actress as the daughter-in-law of Greer Garson's character in Mrs. Miniver.

She is one of the elite ten thespians to have been nominated for both a Supporting and Lead Acting Academy Award in the same year for their achievements in two different movies.

No actor has ever duplicated her accomplishment of receiving an Oscar nomination for each of her first three films.

Teresa Wright also appeared in such films as Shadow of a Doubt (1943), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Imperfect Lady (1947), Something to Live For (1952), The Actress (1953), Escapade in Japan (1957).

Teresa Wright rebelled against the studio system of the time. When Samuel Goldwyn fired her citing her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment (1948). She would say "The type of contract between players and producers is, I feel, antiquated in form and abstract in concept... We have no privacies which producers cannot invade, they trade us like cattle, boss us like children."

After 1959, she worked mainly in television and on Broadway. She was in the 1975 Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman and the 1980 revival Morning's at Seven, for which she won the Drama Desk Award as a a member of the Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

She would earn Emmy nominations for The Miracle Worker (1957) and The Margaret Bourke White Story (1960).

She also appeared on classic television shows as Robert Montgomery Presents, Your Show of Shows, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, Bonanza, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Defenders, The Guiding Light and The Love Boat.

Teresa Wright would return to the silver screen in The Rainmaker (1997), her final acting performance before officially retiring.

Teresa Wright has two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for television and one for motion pictures.

Teresa Wright passed away on March 5, 2005 at the age of 86 due to a heart attack.

Fay Wray

Fay Wray was born September 15, 1907 in Alberta Canada.

She is regarded as Hollywood's first "scream queen" originating from her appearances in the 1932 film Doctor X and the 1933 film King Kong.

She was barely in her teens when she started working as an extra. She began her career as a heroine in westerns at Universal during the silent era. Her first appearance was in Blind Husbands (1919).

Wray gained media attention when she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926 with Joan Crawford, Dolores Del Rio, Mary Astor and Janet Ganyor. This resulted in a contract at Paramount Pictures.

In 1928, director Erich von Stoheim cast Wray as the main female lead in his troubled production of The Wedding March.

However, she is best remembered for her role as Ann Darrow, the blonde captive of the gigantic gorilla in the classic King Kong (1933). She wore a blonde wig over her naturally dark hair for the role. Fay was approached by producer Merian C. Cooper, who told her that he had a part for her in a picture in which she would be working with a tall, dark leading man. What he didn't tell her was that her "tall, dark leading man" was a giant gorilla.

Wray died in her sleep on August 8, 2004, in her Manhattan apartment of natural causes She was 96 years old, only 38 days shy of her 97th birthday.

After her death was announced the lights on the Empire State Building were extinguished for 15 minutes in her memory.

Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift on August 18, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Shirley Schrift took her mother's maiden name (Winter) as her stage name and added Shelley for her favorite poet. When she saw the call sheet for A Double Life (1947) she discovered that Universal had added an "s", making her Shelley Winters.

Shelley Winters had a career spanning six decades who appeared in films, on the broadway stage and on television.

Shelley began her career on the broadway stage appearing in "The Night Before Christmas" in 1941 and followed it with the operetta "Rosalinda" (1942).

In 1943, Shelley Winters began her film career with a bit role in There's Something About a Soldier. She even had an uncredited role as a dance hall girl in Red River (1948).

Shelley received her big break in 1947 when she was casted in A Double Life (1947). She also appeared in The Great Gatsby (1949), Winchester 73 (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Executive Suite (1954), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Lolita (1962), A Patch of Blue (1965), Alfie (1966) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

She was nominated for an academy award four times: The Poseidon Adventure, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun and a Patch of Blue. She won an academy award for both A Patch of Blue and The Diary of Anne Frank.

She donated her Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank to the Anne Frank museum.

One of her final roles was on televsion, playing Nana Mary on the 1990's sitcom Roseanne.

Shelley Winter's early acting training was under the great Charles Laughton.

Shelley Winter's was also roomates with Marilyn Monroe when they were both starting out in Hollywood.

Shelley was married four times. Her first husband was Captain Mack Paul Mayer (1942-1948, divorced); her second husband was Vittorio Gassman (1952, 1954, divorced); her third husband was Anthony Franciosa (1957-1960, divorced). Her last husband Gerry Deford she was married to only hours before her death. On her death bed, she married her partner of 19 years.

Shelley Winters had one daughter with Vittorio Gassman.

Shelley Winters suffered a significant weight gain later in life, frequently stating that it was a marketing tool, since there were plenty of prominent normal-weight older actresses but fewer overweight ones, and her obesity would enable her to find work more easily.

In 1973, Winters even put on a short-lived Broadway musical revue entitled "The Hoofing Hollywood Heifer." Although it closed after only eight performances, this show was applauded by many critics, one of whom stated that Winters was a "Whale of a talent looking for a sea of applause big enough to rest her massive girth."

Shelley Winters was an actress who showed pizazz and knew how to take the ball and run with it. She was gutsy, uncompromising who cuold play the Hollywood game while exposing and criticizing it at the same time. She never apologized for any of it.

Shelley Winters passed away on January 14, 2006 of natural causes at the age of 85.

Robert Taylor

Robert Taylor was born Spangler Arlington Brugh on August 5, 1911 in Filley, Nebraska.

He passed away at the age of 57 on June 8, 1969 in Santa Monica, California from lung cancer. His funeral was attented by many hollywood celebrities and the eulogy was performed by long time friend and then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

In 1934, he signed with MGM. Although his first movie, was Handy Andy in 1934, when MGM loaned him to Fox. He got his big break when MGM once again loaned him out this time to Universal when he was cast as the leading man opposite Irene Dunne in Magnificent Obsession (1935).

He was groomed by MGM to become "The Heartthrob of the Nation." He was cast to play romantic roles opposite the most famous leading ladies of that time like Janet Gaynor, Eleanor Powell, Jean Harlow, Loretta Young, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. He became one of the most popular box-office stars.

In 1936 he met Barbara Stanwyck, beginning a long and solid relationship. On January 1939, Photoplay magazine published an article titled "Hollywood's Unmarried Husbands and Wives" condemning the relationships between several couples including Taylor and Stanwyck. At Louis B. Mayer's urging and encouragement, Taylor and Stanwyck married on May 14, 1939 to avoid more public scandal. They would divorce on February 21, 1951. He appeared in three movies with Barbara Stanwyck, This is My Affair (1937), His Brother's Wife (1936) and The Night Walker (1964).

He married a second time to Ursula Thiess on May 24, 1954 and they would remain married until his death. Together they had two children.

He holds Hollywood record for longest contract with one studio (MGM) 24 years from early 1934 to late 1958

His films include, in addition to the ones already mentioned, Above and Beyond, Camille, Waterloo Bridge, Billy the Kid, Ivanhoe, Personal Property, Private Number and Three Comrades.

Robert Taylor was one of the most handsome actors to grace the silver screen and he had talent to go with his good looks.

Keenan Wynn

He was born on July 27, 1916 in New York, New York to a show biz family. His father was Edward Wynn and they starred together in The Huckster's, Annie Get Your Gun and Kiss Me Kate. His mother Hilda Wynn was also a minor actress. His paternal grandfather Frank Keenan was a Shakespearean tragedian.

A wonderful character actor who starred in more than 100 movies and television shows. He made his uncredited debut in Somewhere I Will Find You in 1942. He also starred as Gene Kelly's agent in For Me and My Gal (1942), a drunk in The Clock (1945), and a newspaper editor in Easy to Wed (1946). In these roles he usually played a shady brute who provided comic relief.

He stole scenes as a self-important burlesque star in The Hucksters (1947), his jazz reedman in Song of the Thin Man (1927) and pal to Kirk Douglas in My Dear Secretary (1949).

His later works included Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and The Great Race (1965).

He was also one of the actor's to play Digger Barnes on Dallas, appearing in 10 episodes.

He passed away October 14, 1986 of pancreatic cancer. He worked right up to the end, appearing in four different television shows in 1986 including The Fall Guy.