Monday, September 12, 2011

Maurice Chevalier, Anthony Perkins, William Boyd

Who was born on this date:

Actor Maurice Chevalier was born on September 12, 1888 in Paris, France. He was a French actor, singer, and popular vaudeville entertainer.  Chevalier's signature songs included "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" from the movie, Gigi (1958). In 1928, he signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and played his first American role in Innocents of Paris. In 1930 he was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor for The Love Parade (1929) and The Big Pond (1930). Other notable screen credits include Paramount of Parade (1930), Monkey Business (1931), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931),  One Hour With You (1932), Love me Tonight (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), and Love in the Afternoon (1957). In the early 1960s, he toured the United States and between 1960 and 1963 made eight films, including Can-Can (1960) and Fanny (1961). In 1970, several years after his retirement, he sang the title song of the Disney film The Aristocats, which ended up being his final contribution to the film industry. He died in Paris on January 1, 1972, and was interred in the cemetery of Marnes-la-Coquette in Hauts-de-Seine, France.

Who died on this date:

On September 12, 1992, actor Anthony Perkins died. He was born on April 4, 1932 in New York City. He is best known for his Oscar-nominated role in Friendly Persuasion (1956) and as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho (1960). Perkins made his film debut in The Actress (1953) and received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for his second film, Friendly Persuasion (1956). He also portrayed the troubled former baseball player Jimmy Piersall Fear Strikes Out (1957). Perkins also acted in theater and in 1958; he was nominated for a Tony Award for best actor in Look Homeward, Angel. During this time he also starred in Green Mansions (1959) and Tall Story (1960), Goodbye Again (1961), The Trial (1962), Pretty Poison (1968) and Catch 22 (1970). Perkins reprised the role of Norman Bates in three sequels to Psycho. The first, Psycho II (1983), was a box office success more than 20 years after the original film. He then starred in and directed Psycho II in 1986, but refused to reprise his role as Bates in the failed television pilot Bates Motel. He died on September 12, 1992, from complications of AIDS. He was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family. His widow, Berry Berenson was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 which crashed into Tower 1 of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

On September 12, 1972, actor William Boyd, better known as the actor that played Hopalong Cassidy died. He was born on June 5, 1895 in Hendrysburg, Ohio and was the son of day laborer Charles William Boyd and his wife, the former Lida Wilkens. Following his father's death, he moved to California and worked as an orange picker, surveyor, tool dresser and auto salesman. In Hollywood, he found extra work in Why Change Your Wife? and other films. During World War I, he enlisted in the army but was exempt because of a "weak heart." More prominent film roles followed, and he became famous as a leading man in silent film romances, earning an annual salary of $100,000. He was the lead actor in Cecil B. DeMille's The Volga Boatman (1926) and DeMille's extravaganza, The King of Kings, helping Christ carry the cross as Simon of Cyrene amd also in DeMille's Skyscraper. He then appeared in D. W. Griffith's Lady of the Pavements (1929).

In 1935, he was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but asked to be considered for the title role and won it. The original Hopalong Cassidy character, written by Clarence E. Mulford for pulp fiction, was changed from a hard-drinking, rough-living wrangler to its eventual incarnation as a cowboy hero who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. Although Boyd "never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer", and disliked Western music, he became indelibly associated with the Hopalong character and, like rival cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, gained lasting fame in the Western film genre. The Hopalong Cassidy series ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last twelve.

Anticipating television's rise, Boyd spent $350,000 to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. In 1949, he released the films to television, where they became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on television. Like Rogers and Autry, Boyd licensed much merchandise, including such products as Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps trading cards, a comic strip, comic books, radio shows and cowboy outfits. The actor identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public. Although Boyd's portrayal of Hopalong made him very wealthy, he believed that it was his duty to help strengthen his "friends", the American youth. The actor refused to license his name for products he viewed as unsuitable or dangerous, and turned down personal appearances at which his "friends" would be charged admission.

Boyd had a cameo as himself in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth. DeMille reportedly asked Boyd to take the role of Moses in his remake, The Ten Commandments, but Boyd felt his identification with the Cassidy character would make it impossible for audiences to accept him as Moses. He was married five times, first to Laura Maynard, then to actresses Ruth Miller, Elinor Fair, Dorothy Sebastian and Grace Bradley. Following his retirement from the screen, Boyd invested both his time and money in real estate and moved to Palm Desert, California. He refused interviews and photographs in later years, preferring not to disillusion his millions of fans who remembered him as their screen idol. Boyd died on September 12, 1972 in Laguna Beach, California from complications from Parkinson's disease and heart failure. He was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.


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