Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Belinda Lee, Steve Cochran

Who was born on this date:

Actress Belinda Lee was born on June 15, 1935 in Budleigh Salterton, England. She was signed to a film contract in 1954 by the Rank Studios after being seen performing as a student of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Often cast in demure roles in her early career, she was able to demonstrate her dramatic abilities; however she found more constant employment when she began to play "sexpot" roles. Typecast as one of several "sexy blondes" she was often compared, unfavorably, to the popular Diana Dors. Typical of these roles was a supporting part in the Benny Hill film Who Done It? (1956).

She was married to the photographer Cornel Lucas from1954 until 1959, it was after their divorce that Lee moved to Italy, where she continued playing voluptuous temptresses in Italian films, yet also found the occasion of credible dramatic performances in Francesco Rosi's immigration drama I Magliari (1959) and Florestano Vancini's intense war story La lunga notte del '43 (1960). She died in a car accident while on holiday near San Bernardino, California on March 12, 1961. Her ashes are interred at Campo Cestio Cemetery in Rome, Italy.

Who died on this date:

On June 15, 1965, actor Steve Cochran died. He was born Robert Alexander Cochran on May 25, 1917. From 1949 to 1952, he worked for Warner Brothers Studios and appeared in many films including The Chase (1946), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Copacabana (1947), A Song Is Born (1948), Highway 301 (1950), The Damned Don't Cry! (1950), and Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951). One of his most memorable roles was as psychotic mobster James Cagney’s deceitful, power-hungry henchman, Big Ed Somers, in the gangster classic White Heat (1949).

In 1953, Cochran formed his own production company, Robert Alexander Productions, where he won critical acclaim for two of his performances in his company's films. Cochran was a disgraced, alcoholic itinerant farmer struggling to regain the love of his family in Come Next Spring (1956), and was a troubled drifter in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il grido (1957), produced in Italy. Cochran's company attempted to produce some television series and other films such as The Tom Mix Story, but they were never produced with the exception of a television pilot where he played John C. Fremont in Fremont the Trailblazer. Cochran starred in a string of B-movies throughout the 1950’s, including Carnival Story (1954). He also frequently appeared in episodes of the most popular television series of the era, including guest spots on Bonanza, The Untouchables, Route 66, and The Twilight Zone.

Cochran was a notorious womanizer and attracted tabloid attention for his tumultuous private life, which included well-documented affairs with actresses such as Mae West, Jayne Mansfield, Barbara Payton, Joan Crawford, Merle Oberon, Kay Kendall, Virginia Lord, and Ida Lupino. Perhaps his most famous affair was with Mamie Van Doren, who later wrote about their sex life in graphic detail in her tell-all autobiography “Playing the Field: My Story” (1987).

On June 15, 1965, Cochran died from a lung infection, on his yacht off the coast of Guatemala. His body, along with three female assistants, remained on board the yacht for ten days because the three women didn't know how to operate the boat. The boat drifted to shore in Port Champerico, Guatemala and was found by authorities. There were various rumors of foul play and poisoning, and Merle Oberon tried to use her influence to push for further police investigations. No new evidence was ever found. Cochran was buried at the Monterey City Cemetery in Monterey, California., author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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