Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nelson Eddy, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner, Rosemary Clooney, Jayne Mansfield

Due to travel...there will be no blog entries from June 30 -July 8th

Who was born on this date:

Actor Nelson Eddy was born on June 29, 1901 in Providence, Rhode Island. He appeared in 19 musical’s during the 1930’s and 1940’s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred with Jeanette MacDonald.

Eddy was "discovered" by Hollywood when he substituted at the last minute for the noted diva, Lotte Lehmann, at a sold-out concert in Los Angeles on February 28, 1933. He scored a professional triumph with 18 curtain calls, and several film offers immediately followed. After much agonizing, he decided that being seen on screen might boost audiences for what he considered his "real work," his concerts. Eddy signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he would make the first 14 of his 19 feature films. He appeared and sang one song each in Broadway to Hollywood and Dancing Lady, both in 1933, and Student Tour in 1934. Audience response was favorable, and he was cast as the male lead opposite the established star Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta (1935). This film was a surprise hit and its key song, "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life," became a hit and earned Eddy his first Gold Record. The film was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture.

After Eddy and MacDonald left MGM in 1942, there were several unrealized films that would have reunited the team. Eddy signed with Universal in 1943 for a two-picture deal. The first was Phantom of the Opera and the second would have co-starred MacDonald. She filmed her two scenes for Follow the Boys then both stars severed ties with Universal, as Eddy was upset with how Phantom of the Opera turned out. Eddy visibly aged after the death of Jeanette MacDonald in January 1965. On January 31, 1960, he told Jack Paar on The Tonight Show that "I love her,” and he broke down when interviewed after her death. In March 1967, Eddy was singing "Dardanella" at the Sans Souci Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, when he was stricken on stage with a cerebral hemorrhage. His singing partner, Gale Sherwood, and his accompanist, Ted Paxson, were at his side. He died a few hours later in the early hours of March 6, 1967, at the age of 65. He is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Who died on this date:

On June 29, 2003, actress Katharine Hepburn died. She is considered the first lady of American cinema, Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father Thomas Houghton Hepburn was a prominent surgeon and her mother Katharine Martha Houghton was a renowned suffragette. The actress had strong family ties and spoke highly of her parents, she is quoted as saying “the single most important thing anyone needs to know about me is that I am totally, completely the product of two damn fascinating individuals who happen to be my parents.” Her upper-class upbringing helped with her on-screen character development; she often played the femme fatale or the slightly pretentious woman on a mission. She was a very unique person, head strong with plenty of arrogance that went against the traditional Hollywood starlet mold.
Her legendary film career spanned six decades (1932-1994), with over fifty feature motion picture credits. Hepburn was the winner of four best actress Academy Awards, Morning Glory (1932), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). Hepburn was also nominated for eight additional best actress awards, Alice Adams (1935), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Woman of the Year (1942), The African Queen (1951), Summer Time (1955), The Rainmaker (1956), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), and Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962).

Romantically, Hepburn was linked to many of the leading men of the era, they included; Howard Hughes, Leland Howard, and the self professed love of her life Spencer Tracy. The on and off screen chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn was very apparent in the nine films in which they both starred. Tracy was a married man who never divorced his wife because of his devout Catholicism. Hepburn and Tracy’s unconventional twenty-seven year romance ended with his death in 1967. In her 1991 memoir, Hepburn wrote about the romance, “I have no idea how Spence felt about me. I can only say, I think that if he hadn’t liked me, he wouldn’t have hung around. As simple as that. He wouldn’t talk about it, and I didn’t talk about it. We just passed twenty-seven years together in what was to be absolute bliss. It is called LOVE.”

One of the last true, iconic legends of the golden age of cinema, Hepburn died on June 29, 2003 at her home in Sunnybrook, Connecticut from complications of Parkinson’s disease and old age. A notoriously private person in life, her funeral was a private affair. She is buried in the family plot with her parents and other siblings at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut, section 10.

On June 29, 1995, actress Lana Turner died. She was born on February 8, 1921in Wallace, Idaho. She was discovered and signed to a film contract by MGM at the age of sixteen, Turner first attracted attention in They Won't Forget (1937). She played featured roles, often as the ingenue, in such films as Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). During the early 1940s she established herself as a leading actress in such films as Johnny Eager (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). She is known as one of the first Hollywood scream queens thanks to her role in the 1941 horror film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and her reputation as a glamorous femme fatale was enhanced by her performance in the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Her popularity continued through the 1950s, in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

In 1958, her daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Turner's lover Johnny Stompanato to death. A coroner's inquest brought considerable media attention to Turner and concluded that Crane had acted in self defense. Turner's next film, Imitation of Life (1959), proved to be one of the greatest successes of her career, but from the early 1960s, her roles were fewer. She gained recognition near the end of her career with a recurring guest role in the television series Falcon Crest during 1982 and 1983. Turner made her final television appearance in 1991, and died from throat cancer on June 29, 1995. Her cremated remains are with family members.

On June 29, 2002, actress/ singer Rosemary Clooney died. She was born on May 23, 1928 in Maysville, Kentucky. She came to prominence in the early 1950’s with the novelty hit "Come On-a My House" written by William Saroyan. In 1954, she starred, along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen, in the movie White Christmas. She starred, in 1956, in a half-hour syndicated television musical-variety show The Rosemary Clooney Show. The show featured The Hi-Lo's singing group and Nelson Riddle's orchestra. The following year, the show moved to NBC prime time as The Lux Show Starring Rosemary Clooney but only lasted one season. The new show featured the singing group The Modernaires and Frank DeVol's orchestra. In later years, Clooney would often appear with Bing Crosby on television, such as in the 1957 special The Edsel Show, and the two friends made a concert tour of Ireland together. On November 21, 1957, she appeared on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, a frequent entry in the "Top 20" and featuring a musical group called "The Top Twenty." In 1960, Clooney and Crosby co-starred in a 20-minute CBS radio program aired before the midday news each weekday. She guest-starred in the NBC television medical drama, ER (starring her nephew, George Clooney) in 1995; she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

Clooney suffered for much of her life from bipolar disorder. She revealed this and other details of her life in her two autobiographies. Clooney was married twice to the movie star José Ferrer who was sixteen years her senior. They were first married from 1953 until 1961 and, despite his open infidelities, again from 1964 to 1967. She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of 2001. Despite surgery, she died six months later on June 29, 2002, at her Beverly Hills home and she is buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Maysville, Kentucky.

On June 29, 1967, actress Jayne Mansfield died. She was born on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. One of the leading blonde sex symbols of the 1950’s, Mansfield starred in several popular Hollywood films that emphasized her platinum-blonde hair, hourglass figure and cleavage-revealing costumes. While Mansfield's film career was short-lived, she had several box office successes. She won the Theatre World Award, a Golden Globe and a Golden Laurel. She's well-known for her starring roles in, The Girl Can't Help It (1956), and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). As the demand for blonde bombshells declined in the 1960’s, Mansfield was relegated to low-budget film melodramas and comedies, but remained a popular celebrity. Her most noted film in the '60s was the romantic-comedy, Promises! Promises! (1963), in which she appeared nude in four scenes. In her later career she continued to attract large crowds in foreign countries and in lucrative and successful nightclub tours. Mansfield had been a Playboy Playmate of the Month and appeared in the magazine several additional times. She died in an automobile accident on June 29, 1967 at age 34 and is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania., author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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