Friday, August 5, 2011

John Huston, Robert Taylor, Reginald Owen, Alec Guinness, Marilyn Monroe

Who was born on this date:

John Huston was one of the most eccentric and multi-talented actor/ director/ writers of the Golden Age of Cinema; John Marcellus Huston was born on August 5, 1906 in Nevada, Missouri. He is the son of Oscar winning actor, Walter Huston. John’s parents separated when he was three and the young Huston divided his time between his two parents. John had an adventuresome spirit, and at the age of nineteen enlisted in the Mexican army, where he spent two years in the cavalry. Returning the New York after his enlistment expired; Huston tried his hand at writing and then traveled to Hollywood with his father. His first film writing credit was A House Divided (1931), a film in which his father was starring.

Tragedy struck in the early evening of September 25, 1933, while driving his car Huston struck and killed young actress Tosca Roulien (the wife of Brazilian actor Raoul Roulien) who was crossing Sunset Boulevard at Gardner Street in Hollywood. There was suspicion that Huston may have been driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident but this was quickly ruled out with the help and influence of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. After a brief coroner’s inquest held on September 27, 1933, Huston was quietly absolved of any blame for the accident. Following this incident Huston left Hollywood for a brief period, returning in the late 1930’s; where he helped write screen plays for numerous films such as Jezebel (1938), Juarez (1939), Sergeant York (1941), and High Sierra (1941).  

Huston made his motion picture directorial debut in 1941 with the classic film, The Maltese Falcon. It was this film that launched two careers, Huston’s and Humphrey Bogart’s. Huston’s acting/ directing/ writing career spanned five decades (1929-1988), as an actor he appeared in over fifty films primarily as an extra or as a narrator, acting credits included; Casino Royale (1967), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), Chinatown (1974), and The Wind and the Lion (1975). As a director Huston made forty-seven films some of which have become all-time classics, his directorial film credits include; Key Largo (1948), The Misfits (1961), The Night of the Iguana (1964), Casino Royale (1967), and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972).

Huston was nominated for an astounding fourteen Academy Awards during his film career; one for best actor in a supporting role for The Cardinal (1963), eight for writing; Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sergeant York (1941), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), The Man Who Would be King (1975), and Prizzi’s Honor (1985), and five for best director; The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952). He won the 1949 Academy Award for best director and writing for his film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), a movie in which his father, Walter Huston won for best supporting actor.   

As a film director, John Huston was able to tell an effective story and he had a gift for capturing the raw emotion between people and his actors. Many of his films have become legendary classics. He died on August 28, 1987 at a rental home in Newport, Rhode Island from emphysema. He had been in ill health for almost a decade, first suffering a near fatal aortic aneurysm in 1977, and then developed respiratory problems, due to a lifelong smoking habit that left the rough and tumble director wheel chair bound. Even with these debilitating illnesses, Huston continued to work right up until his death. His final resting place is at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles in the Garden of Legends section, lot 6 on the west side of the lake.

Actor Robert Taylor was born on August 5, 1911 in Filley, Nebraska. As a teenager, he was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska to study music.While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor E. Gray, a man whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Taylor moved to California and enrolled at Pomona. He joined the campus theatre group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932.After signing a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Taylor made his film debut in the 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, opposite Will Rogers. After appearing in a few small roles, he appeared in one of his first leading roles in Magnificent Obsession, with Irene Dunne. This was followed by Camille, opposite Greta Garbo.

Throughout the late 1930s, Taylor appeared in films of varying genres including the musicals Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938, and the British comedy A Yank at Oxford with Vivien Leigh. In 1940, he reteamed with his A Yank at Oxford co-star Vivien Leigh in Mervyn LeRoy's drama Waterloo Bridge. Taylor would say that Waterloo Bridge was his favorite film. After being given the nickname "The Man with the Perfect Profile,” Taylor began breaking away from his perfect leading man image and began appearing in darker roles beginning in 1941. That year he appeared in Billy the Kid and the next year, he played the title role in the film noir, Johnny Eager opposite Lana Turner. After playing a tough sergeant in Bataan in 1943, Taylor contributed to the war effort by becoming a flying instructor in U.S. Naval Air Corps. During this time, he also starred in instructional films and narrated the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady. Robert Taylor first appeared with actress Elizabeth Taylor in the 1949 movie Conspirator. Taylor (38 at the time) was somewhat uncomfortable with Elizabeth Taylor being sixteen and his love interest. The age difference was mentioned in the film, when they made Elizabeth state her age as eighteen years old to Robert's age of 31 years of age.

In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, opposite Deborah Kerr. The following year, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott's classic Ivanhoe, followed by 1953's Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all filmed in England. By the mid-1950s, Taylor's career began to wane. He starred in a comedy western in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker called Many Rivers To Cross. In 1958 he shared lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western, The Law and Jake Wade. In 1958, he formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year, he starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959–1962). Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo. In 1964, he co-starred with his former wife, Barbara Stanwyck, in William Castle's psychological horror film The Night Walker, from a novel by Robert Bloch. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics. Taylor would remain with the series until 1969 when he became too ill to continue working.

In his personal life, Taylor appeared with actress Barbara Stanwyck in the 1937 film This Is My Affair, the two were married in 1939. The marriage had its ups and downs and eventually ended in 1951. In 1954, Taylor married German-born actress, Ursula Thiess. On June 8, 1969, Taylor died of lung cancer at the age of 57 and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.           

 Actor Reginald Owen was born on August 5, 1887 in Wheathampstead, England. He studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and made his professional debut in 1905. He came to the United States in 1920 and worked originally on Broadway, but later moved to Hollywood, where he began a lengthy film career. Owen is perhaps best known today for his performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 film version of A Christmas Carol.  Owen was one of only four actors to play both Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr Watson. He first played Watson in the 1932 film Sherlock Holmes, and then Holmes himself in 1933's A Study in Scarlet. Later in his career, Owen appeared opposite James Garner in the Television series Maverick. He was also featured in the Walt Disney movies Mary Poppins (1964) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Owen died from a heart attack on November 5, 1972 in Boise, Idaho. He is buried at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

Who died on this date:

On August 5, 2000, actor Alec Guinness died. He was born on April 2, in London. In films, Guinness was initially associated mainly with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing eight different characters in Kind Hearts and Coronets. In 1952, he was cast in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card. He won particular acclaim for his work with director David Lean. After appearing in Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, he was given a starring role opposite William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai. For his performance Guinness won the Academy Award for best actor. Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship with Lean, he continued to be cast in character roles such as Lawrence of Arabia; Doctor Zhivago; and A Passage to India. Other notable film roles of this period included The Swan (1956) with Grace Kelly, The Horse’s Mouth (1958) for which he was nominated for an Academy Award; Our Man in Havana (1959); and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).  

Guinness's role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, beginning in 1977, brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation. Guinness agreed to take the part on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film. He was also one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit; he negotiated a deal for 2% of the gross, which made him very wealthy in his later life. His role would also result in Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Despite these rewards, Guinness soon became unhappy with being identified with the part, and expressed dismay at the fan-following that the Star Wars trilogy attracted. Guinness died on August 5, 2000, from liver cancer at Midhurst in West Sussex. He had been receiving hospital treatment for glaucoma, and had recently also been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was buried at Petersfield Cemetery in Petersfield, England.

What can be added to the life of Marilyn Monroe that has not already been told. She was THE sex symbol of the later part of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Monroe died under suspicious circumstances on August 5, 1962 and is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles., author of Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950

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