Monday, September 26, 2011

Edmund Gwenn, George Raft, Anna Magnani

Who was born on this date:

Actor Edmund Gwenn was a venerable character actor, who will forever be known for his portrayal of Kris Kringle was born Edmund Kellaway on September 26, 1877 in Wandsworth, London, England. His parents disapproved of his interest in the theater and disowned him when at seventeen; he chose an acting career rather than a civil service profession. They were reconciled many years later when Gwenn neared his acting peak. At the age of twenty in a chance meeting, he was introduced to famed playwright George Bernard Shaw. The famed play write offered the young actor a prominent role in his London production of Man and Superman. Gwenn’s performance was critically acclaimed, and this led to five other Shaw stage productions. At the outbreak of World War I, Gwenn enlisted in the British Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. Following the war, he resumed his London stage acting career, eventually moving to New York City and the bright lights of Broadway. Gwenn was a success here as well, appearing in numerous stage productions. His prolific motion picture career began in 1931 with How He Lied to Her Husband and from here on out, Gwenn was devoted primarily to film. During a screen and television career that spanned two decades (1931- 1957), he appeared in over eighty feature motion pictures that included; Tell Me Tonight (1932), Marooned (1933), Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), All American Chump (1936), Pride and Prejudice (1938), Foreign Correspondent (1940), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), Charley’s Aunt (1941), Lassie Come Home (1943), Of Human Bondage (1946), Hills of Home (1948), Bonzo Goes to College (1952), and Them (1954).   

He won the best supporting actor Oscar in 1948 for his portrayal of the loveable Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and upon accepting his statuette; Gwenn was quoted as saying “Now, I know there is a Santa Claus.” He was again nominated for a best supporting actor Academy Award in 1951 for Mister 880 (1950), but lost to George Sanders. Late in life Gwenn was crippled by severe arthritis and this ended his film career. Gwenn’s final days were spent in tremendous pain at the Motion Picture and Television Actors Home in Woodland Hills. He suffered a stroke and later developed pneumonia and died on September 6, 1959. A memorial service was held at the Motion Picture and Television Actors Home and at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. Edmund Gwenn’s cremated remains are interred at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.

Actor George Raft was born on September 26, 1901 in New York City. He is best known for his portrayals of gangsters in crime movies of the 1930s and 1940s. Film credits include Scarface (1932), Bolero (1934), Each Dawn I Die (1939), They Drive By Night (1940), and Some Like It Hot (1959). Raft's career as a leading man continued through the 1940s with films of gradually declining quality and his career spiraled steadily downward as a result until the iconic star was finally limited as a box office draw. Raft died from Leukemia on November 24, 1980 and his ashes are interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills.

Who died on this date:

On September 26, 1973, actress Anna Magnani died. She was born on March 7, 1908 in Rome, Italy. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the The Rose Tattoo (1955). Film credits include Wild is the Wind (1957), The Fugitive Kind (1959), and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969). She died on September 26, 1973 from pancreatic cancer and is buried at Cimitero Comunale in Lazio, Italy.

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