Friday, June 10, 2011

Judy Garland, Hattie McDaniel, Spencer Tracy

Who was born on this date:

On June 10, 1922, actress Judy Garland was born. The sweet and innocent child star of numerous legendary MGM musicals of the golden age of cinema was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The youngest daughter of vaudeville performers Frank and Ethel Gumm, young Frances joined the family business at the age of two, performing song and dance routines with her two older sisters. Most of her childhood was spent on the road and this and other factors would lead to trauma and heartache later in life.

In 1935, at the age of thirteen, young Frances was discovered by MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. She changed her name to Judy Garland, a hybrid of the popular song “Judy” and “Garland” after the famous movie critic Robert Garland. Judy Garland’s career began, but early successes were far and few between. Her film debut was in 1936’s Pigskin Parade, but it wasn’t until three years later that she would rocket to superstardom.

1939 would be a watershed year for Garland. MGM finally cast her in a movie that could show case her talents, The Wizard of Oz (1939). In this film, Garland portrayed Dorothy, an orphan living with her grandparents in Kansas. She gets whisked away by a twister to the land of Oz, on the other side of the rainbow. Her sweet and poignant performance and delivery of the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” helped earn Judy a special best juvenile performance Academy Award. This performance would propel Garland into legendary status.

In a film career that would span three decades (1936-1969), Garland would appear in over forty feature motion pictures that include; Broadway Melody of 1938 (1938), Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), For Me and My Gal (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Ziegfeld Follies (1945), Easter Parade (1948), and A Star is Born (1954). She also appeared alongside actor Mickey Rooney in numerous films such as Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940), and Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941). She was nominated for two best actress Oscars, A Star is Born (1954) and Judgment at Nuremburg (1961).

While Garland’s film career was a success; her personal life was a wreck. At an early age she developed a drug problem related to weight issues. She would have numerous affairs with many of her acting co-stars, such as Frank Sinatra and James Mason. Of her five marriages, four would end in divorce. Her battle with drugs and alcohol would be front page tabloid news most of her adult life. On the evening of June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead in the bathroom of her rented Chelsea, London apartment from an accidental overdose of barbiturates.

Judy Garland's final resting place at Ferncliff Cemetery

Her funeral was held at the Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel in Manhattan, New York. An estimated 20,000 well wishers paid their final respects to the legendary actress. Actor James Mason delivered the eulogy. At the funeral, Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger commented “She (Judy) just plain wore out.” Controversy erupted after the funeral as to who was going to pay the expenses. As a result, Garland’s body lay in a temporary crypt for over a year until her daughter, Liza Minnelli, raised enough funds to have her mother properly buried. Judy Garland’s final resting place is found at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York in the main mausoleum, unit 9, alcove HH, crypt 31.

On June 10, 1892, actress Hattie McDaniel was born. She was the first African-American to win an Academy Award was born in Wichita, Kansas. She began her career in show business in the 1910’s as a band vocalist, continued into radio, then into film, and television. Her award winning film career produced ninety-five motion pictures from 1932 to 1949. She is primarily known for playing house servant roles and is perhaps best recognized as Mammy – the house keeper in Gone with the Wind (1939). It was for this role that she won the best supporting actress Oscar in 1940. Her other notable films include: The Golden West (1932), Judge Priest (1934), The Little Colonel (1935), Show Boat (1936), The Mad Miss Manton (1938), The Shining Hour (1938), and Song of the South (1946).

Hattie McDaniel with Vivien Leigh in a scene from Gone with the Wind

McDaniel died on October 26, 1952 at the Motion Picture and Television County Home in Woodland, Hills, California after a long battle with breast cancer. Her funeral service was held at the Independent Church of Christ in Los Angeles where numerous Hollywood dignitaries were in attendance. Outside the church thousands of people waited to pay their last respects to the famed actress.

Hattie McDaniels final resting place at Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery

Hattie McDaniels memorial cenotaph at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

It was McDaniel’s express final wish to be buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but she was denied such a request due to racial bias at the time. Instead she was interred at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. Her unassuming grave is located near the front entrance to the cemetery. On the forty-seventh anniversary of her death, October 26, 1999, a memorial cenotaph marker was placed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery by relatives, partially fulfilling her final wish.

Who died on this date:

On June 10, 1967, actor Spencer Tracy died. He was one of Hollywood’s true legends. He was born Spencer Bonaventure Tracy on April 5, 1900 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A boyhood friend of fellow actor Pat O’Brien, Tracy had rugged good looks and boyish mannerisms that made him a successful box office draw for nearly forty years. His legendary career in film started in 1930 and after seventy-eight motion pictures and ended in 1967, just a few months prior to his death.

He was nominated for nine best acting Oscars and was the first male actor to win the award in back to back years, 1937 and 1938. His first Oscar win was for the sea adventure film, Captains Courageous (1936), in which he portrayed a light hearted Portuguese fisherman, who befriends a young stowaway, and his second win was for the bio-pic, Boy’s Town (1937), in which Tracy portrayed the legendary Father Flanagan. His other Oscar nominated films were San Francisco (1936), Father of the Bride (1951), Bad Day at Black Rock (1956), Inherit the Wind (1961), Judgment At Nuremburg (1962), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

Hepburn and Tracy

Tracy appeared in numerous films with Katharine Hepburn and their on screen chemistry continued off screen. The pair had a twenty plus year romance (of which Hepburn considered him the love her life) but because he was a devout Catholic, he never divorced his wife, actress Louise Treadwell. The couple lived separately for many years and she was aware of and tolerant of Hepburn’s love interest in her husband.

A few weeks prior to his death on June 10, 1967, he finished what would be his last motion picture, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, co-starring Katharine Hepburn. The actor had been in failing health for several years and suffered a fatal heart attack at his West Hollywood Hills home. His private funeral mass was held at the Immaculate Heart Catholic Church that attended by attended by nearly five hundred close friends, family and Hollywood dignitaries that included pallbearers Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, and John Ford. Out of respect for the family, Katharine Hepburn did not attend either the funeral or burial service. Spencer Tracy is buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale in the private Garden of Everlasting Peace, near the Freedom Mausoleum, and his marker simply reads; “Tracy.”

Spencer Tracy's final resting place at Forest Lawn - Glendale, author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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