Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vivien Leigh and Fred MacMurray

Who was born on this date:

Actress Vivien Leigh was born on November 5, 1913 in Darjeeling, India, a city near the foot of Mount Everest. Her father Ernest Hartley was a Calcutta stock broker. She began her career on the stage in her early teens and in 1935 appeared on the London stage for the first time. She changed her stage name to Vivien Leigh because it sounded more feminine, using her first husband’s (Herbert Leigh Holman) middle name as her new last name and changed the “a” in Vivian to an “e.” Leigh was known for her fiery personality on and off screen and in a short twenty year film career (1935 to 1965), appeared in nineteen films that included: Things are Looking Up (1935), Gentlemen’s Agreement (1935), Fire Over London (1937), Waterloo Bridge (1940), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Anna Karenina (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1955), and Ship of Fools (1965).  

Leigh is best known for her famous portrayal of firebrand heroine Scarlett O’Hara in Victor Flemings Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind (1939). This performance starring opposite Clark Gable earned her the first of two best actress Academy Awards (1940). Her second best actress Oscar (1952) came in A Street Car Named Desire (1951) in which she portrayed the neurotic Blance DuBois starring opposite Marlon Brando. After 1951, her film career began to wane, and she appeared more on the stage.   

The celebrated actress was beleaguered with illness most of her adult life, she suffered from manic depressive episodes (bipolar disorder), endured the tragedy of two miscarriages, one of which occurred as the result of an onset accident while filming Caesar and Cleopatra (1944), and she contracted tuberculosis in her early thirties. On July 7, 1967, while at her London apartment, Leigh died from the tuberculosis that had plagued most of her adult life. Following her death and as a tribute to the award winning actress, the lights of the West London theater district were dimmed in her honor. Leigh’s ashes are scattered near her country home, on the Lake at Tickerage Mill, East Sussex, England.

Who died on this date:

On November 5, 1991, actor Fred MacMurray died. He was born on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois. He appeared in more than 100 movies and was a successful television star in career that spanned nearly a half-century, from 1930 to the 1970s. MacMurray is well known for his role in the 1944 film noir Double Indemnity. Later in his career, he became better known as the paternal Steve Douglas, the widowed patriarch on My Three Sons, which ran on ABC from 1960–1965 and then on CBS from 1965–1972.  

In his heyday, MacMurray worked with some of Hollywood’s greatest names, including Billy Wilder and actors Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart and Marlene Dietrich. He played opposite Claudette Colbert in seven films, beginning with The Gilded Lily. He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams and with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion, and with Carole Lombard in four films. Despite being typecast as a "nice guy," MacMurray often said his best roles were when he was cast against this type by Wilder. In 1944, he played the role of Walter Neff, an insurance salesman who plots with a greedy wife to murder her husband in Double Indemnity. Sixteen years later he played Jeff Sheldrake, a two-timing corporate executive in Wilder's Oscar winning comedy The Apartment. In another turn in the "not so nice" category, MacMurray played the cynical, duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in 1954's The Caine Mutiny.  

MacMurray's career got its second wind beginning in 1959, when he was cast as the father figure in a popular Disney comedy, The Shaggy Dog. In the 1960s, he starred in My Three Sons, which ran for 12 seasons, making it one of America's longest-running television series. Concurrent with My Three Sons, MacMurray stayed busy in films, starring in 1961 as Professor Ned Brainerd in Disney's The Absent Minded Professor and in its sequel, Son of Flubber (1964). Later in life he suffered from a variety of illness, first suffering from throat cancer in the late 1970s and then a stroke in 1988. This stroke left his right side paralyzed and his speech affected, although with therapy he was able to make a remarkable recovery. He also suffered from leukemia but died from pneumonia on November 5, 1991. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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