Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gene Autry, Greer Garson, Trevor Howard, Tony Curtis

Who was born on this date:

Actor Gene Autry was born on September 29, 1907 in Tioga, Texas. He is best known for being the Singing Cowboy on radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s. Autry was also owner of the Los Angeles Angels from 1961 to 1997. He also owned several television and several radio stations in Southern California. Although his signature song was "Back in the Saddle Again," Autry is best known today for his Christmas songs, Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Autry died from lymphoma on October 2, 1998 at his home in Studio City, California and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Hollywood Hills.

Actress Greer Garson was born on September 29, 1904 in London, England. She never intended to become an actress, educated at London University. She aspired to be a school teacher, but ended up working in an advertising agency. To make ends meet, she sought out work as a part-time actress in small, local London theaters. She quickly gained a reputation as a talented actress and was discovered by MGM studio boss, Louis B. Mayer, while on a talent expedition in London. Signed to a contract by MGM, the vivacious actress took Hollywood by storm appearing for the first time onscreen in 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chip’s, in which she garnered the first of seven best actress Oscar nominations. In a television and film career that spanned four decades (1939-1982), she appeared in only twenty-four feature motion pictures. She often played a courageous mother character, but in later years was able to break out of this type casting to play comedic and other forms of dramatic parts. She was often paired with actor Walter Pigeon, and the two appeared together in eight motion pictures.   

She won the golden statuette only once in 1943 for her portrayal of the courageous house wife, Mrs. Miniver in Mrs. Miniver (1942). Her other Academy Award nominated films are Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), Valley of Decision (1945), and Sunrise at Campobello (1960). By the late 1940’s, her film career began to wane with less than spectacular box office successes. In 1960 she made a comeback with Sunrise at Campbello (considered by many to be her best performance) but this new found success was short lived and she soon found herself with few opportunities. She retired in the late 1960’s with her husband Buddy Fogelson to their New Mexico, ranch. In the 1980’s, she suffered from chronic heart problems which drastically slowed her environmental and charity work. She underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery in 1988. On April 6, 1996 while in residence at the Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, she had another heart attack and died. Greer Garson’s final resting place is found in the Fogelson family plot at Sparkman Hill Crest Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas.  

Actor Trevor Howard was born on September 29, 1913 in Cliftonville, England. His film credits include The Way to the Stars (1945), Brief Encounter (1945), I see a Dark Stranger (1945), Green for Danger (1946), They Made Me a Fugitive (1947), The Passionate Friends (1949), The Third Man (1949),and Sons and Lovers (1960), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Over time Howard easily shifted to being one of England's finest character actors. Howard's later works included such films as Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Von Ryan’s Express (1965), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), and Superman (1978). He died on January 7, 1988, from a combination of bronchitis and influenza and was buried at the St. Peter Churchyard in Arkley, England.

Who died on this date: 

On September 29, 2010, actor Tony Curtis died. He was born Bernard Schwartz On June 3, 1925 in the Bronx, New York. Following his discharge from the army following World War II, Curtis attended City College of New York under the G.I. Bill and studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German stage director Erwin Piscator. He was discovered by a talent agent and casting director Joyce Selznick. Curtis claims it was because he "was the handsomest of the boys." Arriving in Hollywood in 1948 at age 23, he was placed under contract at Universal Pictures and changed his name to Tony Curtis, taking his first name from the novel Anthony Adverse and his last name from "Kurtz", a surname from his mother's family. Although the studio taught him fencing and riding, Curtis admitted he was at first only interested in girls and money. Nonetheless, he was not hopeful of his chances in becoming a major actor, and feared having to return to the Bronx, a failure.  

Although his early film roles were partly the result of his good looks, by the latter half of the 1950's he became a notable and strong screen presence. He began proving himself to be a “fine dramatic actor,” having the range to act in numerous dramatic and comedy roles. In his earliest parts he acted in a string of "mediocre" films, including swashbucklers, westerns, light comedies, sports films, and a musical. However, by the time he starred in Houdini (1953) with his wife Janet Leigh. He won his first serious recognition as a skilled dramatic actor in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) with co-star Burt Lancaster. The following year he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in another drama, The Defiant Ones (1958). Curtis then gave what many believe was his best acting, in a completely different role, the comedy Some Like It Hot (1959). Thomson calls it an "outrageous film," and it was voted the number 1 funniest film in history from a survey done by the American Film Institute. It costarred Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, and was directed by Billy Wilder. That was followed by Blake Edwards’ comedy Operation Petticoat (1959) with Cary Grant. They were both “frantic comedies,” and displayed "his impeccable comic timing." He often collaborated with Edwards on later films. His most significant serious part came in 1968 when he starred in the true-life drama The Boston Strangler, which some consider his "last major film role." The part reinforced his reputation as a serious actor with his "chilling portrayal" of serial killer Albert DeSalvo. He gained 30 pounds and had his face "rebuilt" with a false nose to look like the real DeSalvo. 

Curtis was married five times. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, to whom he was married from 1951 to 1962, and with whom he fathered actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee Curtis. On July 8, 2010, Curtis, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was hospitalized in Las Vegas after suffering an asthma attack during a book signing engagement in Henderson, Nevada and died at his Henderson, Nevada home on September 29, 2010, of a cardiac arrest. He is buried at Palm Memorial Park in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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