Thursday, August 4, 2011

Anita Page, Victor Mature

Who was born on this date:

Actress Anita Page was born on August 4, 1910 in Flushing, Queens, New York. She was a very popular star of the late silent era and early talkies. She was known as “the girl with the most beautiful face in Hollywood" in the 1920s. Page entered films with the help of friend, actress Betty Bronson. Page's picture was spotted by a man who handled Bronson's fan mail who was also interested in representing actors. With the encouragement of her mother, Page telephoned the man who arranged a meeting for her with a casting director at Paramount Studios. After screen testing for Paramount, Page also tested for MGM. After being offered a contract for both studios, Page decided on MGM. 

Her first film was the 1928 comedy drama, Telling the World.  Her second film was Our Dancing Daughters (1928), which also starred Joan Crawford. She also appeared in 1929’s, The Broadway Melody (1929) opposite Bessie Love. Her popularity allowed her to make a smooth transition into talking pictures and during the early 1930s; she was one of Hollywood’s busiest actresses. When her contract with MGM expired in 1933, she surprised Hollywood by announcing her retirement at the age of 23. She made one more movie, Hitch Hike to Heaven, in 1936, and then left the Hollywood, virtually disappearing for sixty years. In a 2004 interview with author Scott Feinberg, she claimed that her refusal to meet demands for sexual favors by MGM head of production Irving Thalberg, supported by studio chief Louis B. Mayer, is what truly ended her career. She said that Mayer colluded with the other studio bosses to ban her and other uncooperative actresses from finding work. 

Page returned to the screen in 1996 after sixty years retirement and appeared in several low budget horror films. She relished her status as "last star of the silents" and frequently gave interviews and appeared in documentaries about the era. Although ill health prevented her from making public appearances in her final years, her reputation for answering letters from fans never diminished. At the time of her death on September 6, 2008, she was among the last to have acted as an adult in silent films and was the last living attendee of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. Page was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.

Who died on this date:

On August 4, 1999, actor Victor Mature died. He was born on January 29, 1913 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was discovered while on stage at the Pasadena Community Playhouse and his first leading role was as a caveman in One Million B.C. (1940), after which he joined 20th Century Fox.  He appeared in No, No, Nanette (1940), My Gal Sal (1942), and Song of the Islands (1942). Mature was cast by John Ford in My Darling Clementine (1946), which also starred Henry Fonda.  

For the next decade, Mature settled into playing hard-boiled characters in a range of genres such as film noir, Westerns, and Biblical motion pictures like The Robe, and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators, which also starred Susan Hayward. Mature also starred with Hedy Lamarr in the Biblical epic, Samson and Delilah (1949). He also starred with Esther Williams in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and, according to her autobiography, had a romantic relationship with her.

Mature with Hedy Lamarr in Samson and Delilah (1949)

Mature was famously self-deprecatory about his acting skills. Once, after being rejected for membership in a country club because he was an actor, he cracked, "I'm not an actor and I've got sixty-four films to prove it!" He was quoted in 1968 on his acting career: "Actually, I am a golfer. That is my real occupation. I never was an actor. Ask anybody, particularly the critics." Victor Mature died of leukemia on August 4, 1999 at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California. He was buried in the family plot at St. Michael's Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky., author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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