Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jack Hawkins, Kay Medford, Grace Kelly, Irving Thalberg, Janet Gaynor

Who was born on this date:

Actor Jack Hawkins was born on September 14, 1910 - 18 July 1973) in Middlesex, England. Although he had appeared in several films during the 1930s, it was only after World War II that he began to build a successful career in the cinema and often played stern but sympathetic authority figures in films like Angels One Five, The Cruel Sea, and The Long Arm. From the late 1950s, he mostly appeared in character roles, often in epic films like Ben-Hur, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Lord Jim, Oh, What a Lovely War and Zulu. For The Bridge on the River Kwai, he had to persuade good friend Alec Guinness to take the lead role, which would ultimately win Guinness an Oscar.Hawkins was married to actress Jessica Tandy from 1932 to 1940. A three-pack-a-day smoker, Hawkins began experiencing voice problems in the late 1950s; unknown to the public he had undergone cobalt treatment in 1959 for what was then described as a secondary condition of the larynx, but which was probably cancer. In December 1965, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. His entire larynx was removed in January of the following year; thereafter his performances were dubbed. Following an unsuccessful operation to fit him with an artificial voice box, he died at St Stephen's Hospital, London, on July 18, 1973. He was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium, London.

Actress Kay Medford was born on September 14, 1914 in New York City. She was a character actress who began her career as the original "Mama" in Bye Bye Birdie, starring opposite Dick Van Dyke on Broadway. Medford appeared in the Warner Bros. rock and roll movie Jamboree (1957). She appeared in musicals such as Paint Your Wagon and Carousel, before appearing onstage in Funny Girl. For her performance she was nominated for a 1964 Tony Award for Featured Actress (Musical), and when she repeated the role in the 1968 film version and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress. From 1969-70 she co-starred opposite John Forsythe in the CBS television series To Rome with Love. Medford never married and died on April 10, 1980 in New York City from cervical cancer. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered.

Who died on this date: 

On September 14, 1982, actress Grace Kelly died. She was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at the age of 20, Grace Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions as well as in more than forty episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television. In October 1953, with the release of Mogambo, she became a movie star, a status confirmed in 1954 with a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nomination as well as leading roles in five films, including The Country Girl, in which she won the Oscar for best actress. On April 18, 1956, she married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco and became The Princess of Monaco. She retired from acting at 26 to enter upon her duties in Monaco. She died on September 14, 1982, when she lost control of her automobile and crashed after suffering a stroke. Her daughter Princess Stephanie, who was in the car with her, survived the accident. Princess Grace is buried at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

On September 14, 1936, movie mogul Irving Thalberg died. He was born on May 30, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York.  He was called "The Boy Wonder" for his youth and his extraordinary ability to select the right scripts, choose the right actors, gather the best production staff and make very profitable films. He worked as personal secretary to legendary studio founder carl Laemmle at Universal Studios. Irving Thalberg was bright and persistent, and by age 21 was executive in charge of production at Universal City. In 1924, he left Universal for MGM to become head of production. At the time he joined MGM, Thalberg was dating actress Norma Shearer, whom he married in 1927. At first, Thalberg and studio chief Louis B. Mayer got along famously well. However, they had different production philosophies. Thalberg preferred literary works, while Mayer preferred glitzy crowd-pleasing films. A clash was inevitable, and their relationship grew decidedly frosty. When Thalberg fell ill in 1932, Mayer took advantage of the situation and replaced him with David O. Selznick. When Thalberg returned to work in 1933, it was as one of the studio's unit producers; he helped develop some of MGM's most prestigious films of the early 1930s. Thalberg died of pneumonia on September 14, 1936 in Santa Monica, California. He is interred in a private marble tomb in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His crypt is engraved, "My Sweetheart Forever" by his wife Norma Shearer.

On September 14, 1984, actress Janet Gaynor died. She was the first winner of the Academy Award for lead actress and the youngest ever to win the award (until Marlee Matlin in 1986). She was born Laura Gainer on October 6, 1906 in Philadelphia. Gaynor had a long career in show business with over sixty film, theater, and television credits from 1924 until 1981. She was one of Hollywood’s top stars from the late 1920’s through the 1930’s. The classic virgin-heroine type on screen, her personal life mirrored her on screen persona. A devout Quaker, Gaynor lived at home with her mother until she got married. She was one of the few actresses to successfully move from silent pictures to talkies. Gaynor’s major film credits include; High Society Blues (1930), Daddy Long Legs (1931), State Fair (1933), The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), and A Star is Born (1937). Gaynor won the lead actress Academy award (1927-1928) for performances in three films, Sunrise (1927), 7th Heaven (1927), and Street Angel (1928). During the first years of the Academy Awards, actors and actresses could win for multiple films. Gaynor’s award winning performances during 1927-1928, were a real challenge to box office champ, Gloria Swanson’s dominance. Gaynor was nominated for a second best actress Academy Award in 1937 in A Star is Born, but lost to Luise Rainer.                          

At the peak of her film career in 1938, Gaynor abruptly retired from films and married MGM dress designer Gilbert Adrian. Her retirement from show business lasted until 1959, when she returned to the Broadway stage in Midnight Sun. On September 5, 1982, Gaynor was seriously hurt in an automobile accident in San Francisco, which also injured fellow actress Mary Martin. Unfortunately, Gaynor never fully recovered from these injuries. Chronic illness followed the accident and on September 14, 1984, almost two years after the tragic car crash, Gaynor died from pneumonia at a Palm Springs, California area hospital. In accordance with her final wishes, there was no memorial or funeral service. Gaynor is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery next to her first husband, Gilbert Adrian in the Garden of Legends (formerly section 8), lot 193.

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