Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fredric March, Richard Basehart, John Ford, Billy Laughlin, Marguerite Chapman, Sally Rand

Who was born on this date:

Actor Fredric March was a two-time Academy Award winning actor and was born Fredrick McIntyre Bickel on August 31, 1897 in Racine, Wisconsin. His film career began inauspiciously in 1920 as a film extra, but by 1926 he had become a full fledged star of the Broadway stage. He was a well respected actor who appeared in eighty-four films and television programs in a film career that spanned five decades (1920 to 1973). March was known primarily as the suave, romantic leading man in many of his films, he broke tradition for his first Academy Award winning role, (he shared the award with fellow actor Wallace Beery) playing the diabolical Mr.Hyde in 1932’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He would go on to win another best acting Oscar in 1947 for the film, The Best Years of Our Lives. He was nominated for three additional best acting Oscar’s in 1930, 1938, and 1952 but lost each time. March’s other notable film credits include; The Royal Family of Broadway (1930), All of Me (1934), Death Takes a Holiday (1934), Anna Karenina (1935), A Star is Born (1937), The Buccaneer (1938), Death of a Salesman (1951), The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1954), and Inherit the Wind (1960). He was also the recipient of two Tony Awards for best acting in 1947 and 1957. Fredric March died on April 14, 1975 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles from prostate cancer. He is buried at his family estate in New Milford, Connecticut.

Actor Richard Basehart was born on August 31, 1914 in Zanesville, Ohio. He is best known for starring in the 1960s television drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. One of his most notable film roles was in the acclaimed Italian film La Strada directed by Federico Fellini. He also appeared as the killer in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948), as a psychotic member of the Hatfield clan in Roseanna McCoy (1949), as Ishmael in Moby Dick (1956), and in the drama Decision Before Dawn (1951). Basehart was also noted for his deep, distinctive voice and was prolific as a narrator of many television and movie projects ranging from features to documentaries. He was married to Italian Academy Award-nominated actress Valentina Cortese. Basehart died on September 17, 1984 from a stroke and was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Who died on this date: 

On August 31, 1973, director John Ford died. He is considered by many to be America’s greatest film director, he was born John Martin Feeney on February 1, 1894 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He was known as “Pappy” to his closest friends and his storied and award winning directorial film career spanned nearly five decades from 1917 to 1966 and included one hundred and forty-four motion pictures. The hardnosed director was best known for his numerous Westerns starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Henry Fonda. He is credited with discovering John Wayne and giving him his first big break in motion pictures (Stagecoach, 1939). Wayne and Ford made numerous films together and the pair remained very close friends all their lives. Ford’s major film credits include: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), The Battle of Midway (1942, he won a best documentary Oscar), They Were Expendable (1945), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), Mister Roberts (1955), The Searchers (1956), The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and How the West was Won (1962). 

During his legendary film career Ford was nominated for five best director Academy Awards, winning four times and include: The Informer (1935, won), Stagecoach (1939, nominated), The Grapes of Wrath (1940, won), How Green is My Valley (1941, won), and The Quiet Man (1952, won). The award winning director died on August 31, 1973 at his home in Palm Desert, California from cancer. His funeral was held at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Hollywood and in attendance were over 1,400 mourners, counted among them were numerous members of Hollywood’s elite. He was eulogized as “the incomparable mater of his trade” by both John Wayne and Cardinal Timothy Manning. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles, lawn M, lot 304, space 5.    

On August 31, 1948, child actor Billy Laughlin died. He was born on July 5, 1932 in San Gabriel, California. He is best known for playing the character Froggy in the Our Gang short films from 1940 to 1944. Laughlin rose to fame at the age of eight when he appeared in his first Our Gang film, The New Pupil. His character was known for his strange, Popeye like voice, which was reminiscent of a frog's croak. When Our Gang stopped production in 1944, Laughlin voluntarily moved away from show business and enjoyed relatively peaceful teenage years. Laughlin died on August 31, 1948, when a bus hit him from behind while he was delivering newspapers and riding a motor scooter in La Puente, California. He and his friend, who was also delivering newspapers, were killed instantly.

On August 31, 1999, actress Marguerite Chapman died. She was born on March 9, 1918 in Chatam, New York. She was working as a telephone switchboard operator, when her good looks brought about the opportunity to pursue a career in modeling. Signed by the prestigious John Robert Powers Agency in New York City, the publicity she earned modeling brought an offer from 20th Century Fox studios. She made her film debut in 1940, working for the next two years in small roles. In 1942, her big break came with Republic Pictures when she was cast in the leading female role in the twelve-part adventure serial Spy Smasher, a production that is considered by many as one of the best serials ever made. As a result, Chapman soon began receiving offers for more leading roles.  During the 1950s Chapman continued to perform mostly in secondary film roles, notably in Marilyn Monroe's 1955 hit The Seven Year Itch. However, with the advent of television she kept busy into the early 1960s with guest appearances in numerous T.V. shows. She died on August 31, 1999 in Burbank, California and was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

On August 31, 1979, actress Sally Rand died. She was born Helen Harriet Beck on April 3, 1904 in Hickory Country, Missouri. She is best known as a burlesque dancer, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance but also appeared a few films in the late 1920s and 1930s. During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927. After the introduction of sound film, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club. Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. She had been arrested four times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago, but the nudity was only an illusion. She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero, released in 1934. Other notable film credits include Heroes in Blue (1927), Crashing Through (1928), The Sign of the Cross (1932), and Sunset Murder Case (1938). She died on August 31, 1979 in Glendora, California from undisclosed causes and was buried at the Oakdale Memorial Park., author of Fade to Black Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950

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