Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray, Penny Singleton, Margaret Lockwood, Sara Haden

Who was born on this date:

Actor Jackie Cooper was born on September 15, 1922 in Los Angeles, California. He was a child actor who managed to make the transition to an adult career. Cooper was the first child actor to receive an Academy Award nomination. At age 9, he was also the youngest performer to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, an honor that he received for the film Skippy (1931). For nearly 50 years, Cooper remained the youngest Oscar nominee in any category, until he was surpassed by Justin Henry, age 8, in the Supporting Actor category for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).

Cooper first appeared in films as an extra with his grandmother, who would bring him along in hopes of aiding her own attempts to get extra work. He graduated to bit parts in feature films and director Leo McCarey, arranged an audition for the Our Gang serial. Cooper joined the series in 1929, signing to a three-year contract. He initially was only a supporting character in the series, but by early 1930 he had done so well with the transition to sound films that he had become one of the Gang's major characters. According to his autobiography, Cooper, under contract to Hal Roach Studios, was loaned in the spring of 1931 to Paramount to star in Skippy (directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog). The movie catapulted young Cooper to super-stardom. He began a long on-screen relationship with actor Wallace Beery in such films as The Champ (1931), The Bowery (1933), The Choices of Andy Purcell (1933), Treasure Island (1934), and O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935). A legion of film critics and fans have lauded the relationship between the two as an example of classic movie magic. However, in his autobiography Cooper wrote that Beery was "a big disappointment", and accused him of upstaging and other attempts to undermine the boy's performances out of what Cooper presumed was jealousy.  

Not conventionally handsome as he approached adulthood, Cooper had the typical child-actor problems finding roles as an adolescent. From 1964 to 1969, Cooper was vice president of program development at Columbia Pictures TV division. He was responsible for packaging series (such as Bewitched) and other projects and selling them to the networks. He reportedly cast Sally Field as Gidget. Cooper acted only once during this period, in the 1968 TV-movie Shadow on the Land. Cooper left Columbia in 1969 and started yet another phase of his career, one in which he would act occasionally in key character roles. Cooper found renewed fame in the 1970s and 1980s as editor Perry White in the Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve. Cooper announced his retirement in 1989, although he was still directing episodes of the syndicated series Superboy. He began spending more time training and racing horses at Hollywood Park and outside San Diego during the Del Mar racing season. He lived in Beverly Hills from 1955 to his death. Cooper died on May 3, 2011, after a short illness and his final resting place is unknown.

Actress Fay Wray  was born on September 15, 1907in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. She is most famous for playing the lead in King Kong. Through an acting career that spanned 57 years, Wray attained international stardom as an actress in horror film roles, leading to many considering her as the first "scream queen.” After appearing in minor film roles, Wray gained media attention being selected as one of the "WAMPAS Baby Stars.”. This led to Wray being signed to Paramount Studios as a teenager, where she made more than a dozen films. After leaving Paramount, she signed deals with various film companies, being cast in her first horror film roles among many other types of roles, including in The Bowery (1933) and Viva Villa (1934). At RKO Pictures, she starred in the film with which she is most identified, King Kong (1933). After the success of King Kong, she continued to star in various films, but by the early 1940s, her appearances became sporadic. She retired from acting in 1942, after her second marriage. However, due to financial problems she had to continue acting, and over the next three decades, Wray appeared in minor film roles and also frequently on television. Wray died in her sleep of natural causes on August 8, 2004, in her Manhattan apartment and is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Two days after her death, the lights of the Empire State Building were extinguished for 15 minutes in her memory.

Actress Penny Singleton was born on September 15, 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During her sixty year career Singleton is best known for her role as Blondie in the Blondie film series from 1938 until 1950. She also provided the voice of Jane Jetson in the animated series, the Jetson’s. Singleton began her show business career when she was a child, singing at a silent movie theater, and toured in vaudeville as part of an act called "The Kiddie Kabaret.” She was cast opposite Arthur Lake in the feature film Blondie in 1938, based on the comic strip. As Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead they proved so popular that a succession of 27 sequels were made from 1938 until 1950. Singleton died on November 12, 2003 from a stroke and was interred at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in San Fernando, California.

Actress Margaret Lockwood was born on September 15, 1916 in Karachi, Pakistan. She began studying for the stage at an early age at the Italia Conti, and made her debut in 1928, at the age of 12, at the Holborn Empire, where she played a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In December of the following year, she appeared at the Scala Theatre in the pantomime The Babes in the Wood. In 1932, she appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in Cavalcade. Lockwood then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where she was seen by a talent scout and signed to a contract. In June 1934, she played Myrtle in House on Fire at the Queen's Theatre, and on 22 August 1934 appeared as Margaret Hamilton in Gertrude Jenning's play Family Affairs when it premiered at the Ambassadors Theatre; Helene Ferber in Repayment at the Arts Theatre in January 1936; Trixie Drew in Henry Bernard's play Miss Smith at the Duke of York's Theatre in July 1936; and back at the Queen's in July 1937 as Ann Harlow in Ann's Lapse.

Lockwood’s film career began in 1935, when she appeared in the film version of Lorna Doone. In 1938 she starred in her most successful film, Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. In 1940, she played the role of Jenny Sunley in The Stars Look Down. In the early 1940s, Lockwood changed her on-screen image to play villainesses in both contemporary and period films, becoming the most successful actress in British films during that period. Her greatest success was in the title role in The Wicked Lady (1945), a film which was controversial in its day and brought her considerable publicity. She made a return to the stage in a record-breaking national tour of Noël Coward's Private Lives in 1949, and also played Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at the Edinburgh Festival of 1951, and the title role in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan in 1949, 1950, and 1957 (the latter with her daughter as Wendy). Her subsequent long-running West End hits include an all-star production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (1965/66, in which she played the villainous Mrs Cheveley), W. Somerset Maugham's Lady Frederick (1970), Relative Values (Noël Coward revival, 1973), and the thrillers Spider's Web (1955, written for her by Agatha Christie), Signpost to Murder (1962), and Double Edge (1975). Margaret Lockwood lived her final years in seclusion in Kingston-upon-Thames and died in the Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London on July 15, 1990 from cirrhosis of the liver. Her cremated remains were given to family and final disposition is unknown.

 Who died on this date:

On September 15, 1981, actress Sara Haden died. She was born on November 17, 1899 in Galveston, Texas. She was a character actress of the 1930s through the 1950s. Haden made her film debut in 1934 (one year after her mother's retirement) in Spitfire. Haden later became a MGM contract player in the late 1930s and had smallish roles in many of the studio's films, most notably in the Andy Hardy series starring Mickey Rooney, cast as the spinsterish Aunt Milly Forrest. Haden made her last film in 1958 but was active on television up until a 1965 guest spot on Dr. Kildare. She was most notable for her stern, humorless characterizations such as a truant officer in Captain January (1936), but she also played the much-loved teacher Miss Pipps who is unjustly fired in the Our Gang serial Come Back, Miss Pipps (1941). Her other films include Poor Little Rich Girl (1936), Woman of the Year (1942), and The Bishop’s Wife (1947).  She died on September 15, 1981 and is buried at the Old City Cemetery in Galveston, Texas.

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