Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dennis Price, Maureen O' Sullivan, Nigel Stock

Who was born on this date:

Actor Dennis Price was born on June 23, 1915 in Twyford, Berkshire, England. He is best remembered for his suave screen roles, particularly Louis Mazzini in Kind Hearts and Coronets. He studied acting at the Embassy Theatre School of Acting and made his first appearance on stage at the Croydon Repertory Theatre in June 1937, followed by a London debut at the Queen's Theatre on September 6, 1937 in Richard II.

His first film role was A Canterbury Tale in 1944, and the high point of his film career came in 1949’s, Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other films included Tunes of Glory and The Amorous Prawn. Price later appeared in a series of 'B movie' horror films such as Horror Hospital, Twins of Evil and Theatre of Blood. Although some of these films have acquired a cult following, they are far from the more intellectual roles with which he was originally associated. One of his last film appearances was in a star-studded 1972 version of Alice in Wonderland with Ralph Richardson, Robert Helpmann, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, among others.

Price was married to the actress Joan Schofield from 1939 to 1950. He struggled to lead a conventional life, during a period when homosexuality was still a criminal offense in the United Kingdom. In April 1954 he tried to commit suicide by gas in a London guest house. However, his private life, which included heavy gambling and an increasing reliance upon alcohol, began to affect his health, looks and career. Price's private anguish may have led to his role in the film Victim (1961), controversial at the time, which portrayed the dilemma faced by a group of gay men who were being blackmailed for their sexuality. In 1967, Price was declared bankrupt; he attributed his financial distress to "extravagant living and most inadequate gambling.” He then moved to the tax haven of the Channel Islands, France. This coincided with an escalation in his alcoholism and he died there of heart failure on October 6, 1973 and was buried at the St. Peter’s Church Graveyard, Guernsey, France.

Who died on this date:

Actress Maureen O'Sullivan died on June 23, 191998. She was born on May 17, 1911 in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland. Her film career began when she met motion picture director Frank Borzage, who was doing location filming on Song o' My Heart for 20th Century Fox. He suggested she take a screen test. She did and won a part in the movie, which starred Irish tenor John McCormack. In 1932, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After several roles there and at other movie studios, she was chosen by Irving Thalberg to appear as Jane Parker in Tarzan the Ape Man, opposite co-star Johnny Weissmuller. Besides playing Jane, she was one of the more popular actresses at MGM throughout the 1930’s. In all, O'Sullivan played Jane in six features between 1932 and 1942. She also starred with William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934) and played Kitty in Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo and Basil Rathbone. She appeared as Molly Beaumont in A Yank at Oxford (1938), which was written partly by F. Scott Fitzgerald. At her request, he rewrote her part to give it more substance. Other notable films included Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Maisie was a Lady (1941).

O'Sullivan as "Jane" with Johnny Weismuller

After appearing in Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), O'Sullivan asked MGM to release her from her contract so she could care for her ill husband John Farrow who was suffering from typhoid. She then retired from show business, devoting her time to being a wife and mother. Her daughter is actress Mia Farrow. O'Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications from heart surgery on June 23, 1998 and is buried in the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Schenectady, New York.

On June 23, 1986, actor Nigel Stock died. He was born on September 21, 1919 in Malta. He was a British character actor who appeared in numerous films during the golden age of Hollywood. He made his debut stage appearance in 1931. His film career began with uncredited bit parts in The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1938) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). In 1937 he made his first credited film appearance in Lancashire Luck. Other film's included popular releases such as Brighton Rock (1947), The Dam Busters (1955), The Great Escape (1963), The Lion in Winter (1968), The Lost Continent (1968), and Russian Roulette (1975).

Between 1964 and 1968, Stock became a household name in the UK for his portrayal of Dr. Watson in a series of Sherlock Holmes dramas for BBC television. Later in life, he portrayed the mentor of Sherlock Holmes in Young Sherlock Holmes. His television credits included Danger Man (1965), The Avengers (1964, 1966), and many other. He died on June 23, 1986 from a heart attack and his ashes are interred at Golders Green Crematorium in London, England.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950. The book was honored with a silver medal in the 2011 Readers Favorite International Book Awards in the music and entertainment category and was the winner of the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Awards in the arts and entertainment category. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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