Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jack Haley, Norma Shearer, Rin-Tin-Tin, Dick Foran, Joan Marsh

Who was born on this date:

On June 6, 1979, actor Jack Haley died. He is best known for his portrayal of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Haley was a star in the vaudeville circuit as a song-and-dance comedian. In the early 1930’s, he starred in comedy shorts for Vitaphone studiois in Brooklyn, New York. His wide-eyed, good-natured expression landed him supporting roles in musicals such as Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) with Shirley Temple, and Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938) and he eventually appeared in over forty feature films from 1927-1970.

In 1939, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hired Haley for The Wizard of Oz after another song-and-dance comic, Buddy Ebsen, who was originally set to play the Tin Man, had a near-fatal reaction from inhaling the aluminum dust makeup. The makeup was switched to a paste, to avoid risking the same reaction for Haley. The new makeup did cause an eye infection which caused Haley to miss four days of filming, but he received treatment in time to prevent permanent damage. Haley did not take to the makeup or to the discomfort of the costume very kindly. When being interviewed about the film years later by Tom Snyder, he remarked that many people had commented that making the film must have been fun. Haley's reply: "Like hell it was; it was work.

He married Florence McFadden, a native of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1921, and they remained married until his death. The couple had one son, Jack Haley, Jr. (later a successful film producer) and one daughter, Gloria. Jack Haley, Jr. was married to Liza Minnelli, daughter of his father's Oz co-star Judy Garland, in 1974. Haley died of a heart attack on June 6, 1979 in Los Angeles, California, aged 80. Only a short time previously, he had made an appearance at that year's Academy Awards ceremony with Ray Bolger, who had played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. He was still active only a week prior to his death. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.

On June 12, 1983, actress Norma Shearer died. She was known as the “First Lady of MGM,” Norma Shearer was born Edith Norma Shearer on August 10, 1902 in Montreal, Canada. She was one of only a handful of actress to successfully transition from silent films to talkies. During a successful film career that lasted from 1919 to 1942, she appeared in sixty films. Known mainly for playing heroic and tragic roles, the versatile actress’ major film credits include; The Stealers (1920), The Actress (1928), The Trial of Mary Dungan (1929), Let Us Be Gay (1930), A Free Soul (1931), Strange Interlude (1932), Riptide (1934), The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street (1934), Romeo and Juliet (1937), and Marie Antoinette (1938).

During her long and storied film career, Shearer was nominated for six lead actress Academy Awards but won only once in 1930 for her portrayal of Jerry Martin in the Divorcee. That same year she was nominated for a second lead actress award for the film, Their Own Desire (1929). Actress Joan Crawford’s alleged reaction to Shearer’s Oscar win was quite catty, “What do you expect? She sleeps with the boss!” Shearer was the wife of MGM executive Irving Thalberg.

Following the death of her first husband, Irving Thalberg, in 1937, Shearer’s film career began to steadily decline. She retired from film in 1942 after marrying Martin Arrouge, a young ski instructor (20 years her junior). Shunning the limelight in her later years, she became anxious, depressed, and suicidal. The former actress spent the last years of her life locked away at the Motion Picture and Television Country Home in Woodland Hills, California. Wheel chair bound and incoherent, she died on June 12, 1983 at the country home from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia. She is interred with her first husband Irving Thalberg at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction in the Thalberg alcove. Her crypt simply reads; Norma Arrouge.

Who died on this date:

On August 10, 1932, Animal actor, Rin-Tin-Tin (the first) died. The dog was found by an American serviceman named Lee Duncan in a bombed-out dog kennel in Lorraine, France, less than two months before the end of World War I. He was named for a puppet called Rin tin tin that French children gave to the American soldiers for good luck. The dog returned at war's end with Duncan to his home in Los Angeles, California. Nicknamed Rinty by his owner, the dog learned tricks and could leap great heights. He was seen performing at a dog show by film producer Charles Jones, who paid Duncan to film Rinty. Duncan became convinced Rin Tin Tin could become a star. 

The dog's big break came when he stepped in for a recalcitrant wolf in The Man From Hell's River (1922). Rin Tin Tin would be cast as a wolf or wolf-hybrid many times in his career, though not looking like one. His first starring role was in 1923's Where the North begins, playing alongside silent screen actress Claire Adams. This film was a huge success and has often been credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy. It was followed by Shadows of the North (1923), Clash of the Wolves (1925), A Dog of the Regiment (1927), and Tiger Rose (1929).

Although primarily a star of silent films, Rin Tin Tin did appear in four sound features, including the Lightning Warrior (1931), co-starring with Frankie Darro. Rin-Tin-Tin died on August 10, 1932 in Los Angeles. Hollywood legend states that the dog died in the arms of screen icon Jean Harlow. The dog was returned to France for burial at the Cimetiere des Chiens, , the renowned pet cemetery in the French suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine. Descendants of the original Rin-Tin-Tin would go onto star in dozens of future films and television shows.

On August 10, 1979, actor Dick Foran died. He was born on June 18, 1910 in Flemington, New Jersey. Foran studied music at the Leibling Studio in New York before singing on radio. After becoming a lead singer in a band and later forming his own orchestra, Foran was hired by Warner Brothers as a supporting actor. He would also croon when called upon in films such as Change of Heart (1934) with Janet Gaynor. His handsome appearance and good natured personality made him a natural choice for the supporting cast. He first appeared as a singing cowboy in Moonlight on the Prairie (1935). Other singing cowboy features included Song of the Saddle (1936), Guns of the Pecos (1937), Empty Holsters (1937) and Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938). In 1938, Foran moved to Universal Studios and acted in many different genres of film from horror to comedies such as The Petrified Forest (1936), The Sisters (1938) and The Mummy’s Hand (1940. One of his last movie roles was a small one in Donovan’s Reef (1963), starring his long-time friend John Wayne. Foran died on August 10, 1979 in Panorama City, California and is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California.

On August 10, 2000, actress Joan Marsh died. She made her first film appearance as an infant in the Universal film Hearts Aflame (1915), billed as Dorothy Rosher. After a number of baby roles, Marsh became a child star in Pickford films such as Daddy Long Legs (1919) and Pollyanna (1920). Marsh made her last film appearance as a child in 1921, and returned to films with a role in King of Jazz (1930), in which she sang with Bing Crosby. She played W.C. Fields' daughter in You’re Telling Me (1934). She continued in small roles until the early 1940s. During production of Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937), Marsh met and later married Charles Belden, who had co-written the film's screenplay. The marriage ended in divorce in 1943, and the following year Marsh made her final film appearance in Follow the Leader (1944). Marsh died on August 10, 200 in Ojai, California. Her remains were cremated and given to family with final disposition unknown., author of Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950

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