Kelsey Grammer- The story of a Hero.

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The man who made so many of us laughs(and still does) had so little to laugh about himself, but yet he remained positive. In my books that makes him a Hero.

Mostly known as Dr Frasier Crane in the sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, but he also appeared in “the X Men” “Star Trek-the next Generation” and produced the hit show “Medium”

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Most people are lucky enough to never experience having a loved one taken from them as a result of violence. Kelsey Grammer is not one of those people- his father was shot and killed and his sister was raped and brutally murdered.

Kelsey Grammer’s parents were divorced when he was 2 years old and his  father, Frank Grammer, owned a coffee shop and a bar-and-grill called Greer’s Place. His mother brought Kelsey and Karen back to her parents’ house in New Jersey where they were raised by their mother and grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandfather died when Kelsey was 11.

On April 25, 1968, a man named Arthur B. Niles set fire to Frank Grammer’s car outside the St. Thomas home he shared with his second wife, Elizabeth, and their four children (Betty, John, Billy and Stephen). When Frank Grammer went outside, Niles shot him twice. During the trial, Elizabeth Grammer testified that she pulled her husband’s body from in front of Niles’ car because he had threatened to run over him as well. Kelsey Grammer was only 13 years old at the time of his father’s murder.

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Niles was found not guilty of the murder by reason of insanity and spent several decades in a psychiatric ward. In 1994, he was assessed to no longer be a threat to society and was released. In November of 2002, a judge issued a restraining order against Niles which prevented him from seeing his son. In March 2003, Niles went back to prison after pleading guilty to threatening to kill that same judge.

Seven years later, when Kelsey was 20 years old, his younger sister, 18 year old Karen Grammer, was raped by four men and murdered by Freddie Lee Glenn.

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On July 1, 1975. Glenn, Corbett, and two other men decided to rob the Red Lobster restaurant on South Academy Boulevard. They left without any money, but on their way out they grabbed Karen Grammer,  who worked there and was waiting for her boyfriend to get off work, because they feared she could identify them.karen_grammerAfter robbing a convenience store, the men took Grammer to the apartment they shared, where they raped her repeatedly. They promised to take her home, then sat her in the car, put a cloth over her head and let her out in a mobile home park on South Wahsatch Avenue. Then Glenn, who, according to court testimony, had taken LSD, stabbed her in the throat, back and hand, and left her to die. In a desperate attempt to save herself, she ran toward the back porch of a nearby home where there was a light, but the homeowners were out. She died there, leaving bloody hand prints and fingerprints where she tried to reach the doorbell for help. Police photographs show a bloody hand print on the wall, inches from the doorbell. Police did not know her name for a week, until her brother Kelsey Grammer arrived to identify the body.

Glenn was convicted in 1976 for the murders of Van Lone, Profitt and Grammer. Judge Hunter Hardeman, noting “there was no rhyme or reason for what happened,” sentenced Glenn to the gas chamber for Grammer’s murder. Two years later, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty. When Glenn was sentenced, the law allowed parole after a convict served 10 years, so he became eligible. Because two of his sentences were to be served consecutively, Corbett became eligible in 1996. All his parole appeals have been denied to date

Alas the tragedies didn’t stop after the murder of Karen.Five years after Karen’s murder, on June 1, 1980, both of Kelsey Grammer’s half brothers died unexpectedly. Stephen and Billy were scuba diving off of St. Thomas at the time. When Billy failed to resurface, Stephen went back in after him but died of a fatal embolism during an improper ascent that followed. Billy’s body was never recovered.

Kelsey did also suffered  alcohol and cocaine addictions.He credits his religion and Alcoholics Anonymous for helping him through with his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, as well as his personal tragedies.

The most amazing thing to come out of all these deaths is not the unreal amount of tragedy, but Kelsey’s ability to cope and prosper. He’s admitted to how painful these harsh realities felt, especially at such a young age, but he has refused to let bitterness consume him.

And even more astounding he has forgiven the killer of his sister. In a BBC 4 interview a few days ago he said “I have learnt to forgive. I have even told the guy I forgive him, although I don’t advocate his freedom. I don’t think that is reasonable.”

 

Kelsey on Radio

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Smoke gets in your eyes

Children from the past.

I never smoked, really only because I did not see the fascination of spending an enormous amount of money to see something go up in smoke.

However most of my family were or still are smokers and I do feel sorry for smokers. I do think they get a bad press. Yes, smoking is bad for you but what chance did the smokers have with so many people making it look cool.

If I was a smoker I don’t think I could have resisted the temptation. Here are just some historical pictures of people,mostly famous, who made smoking look cool.

Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, with a tame Raven shown helping her indulge a bad habit.

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Young Drew Barrymore

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Models learning proper cigarette smoking technique in practice for TV ad. 1953

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Jack Nicholson & Sean Penn

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Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, Mogambo, 1953

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I mean Steve McQueen on a bike smoking a cigarette, how cool is that. Yes I know it’s bad and can kill you but with images like that what chance does a smoker have.

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This is the Marilyn Monroe pic that obviously inspired Lana Del Rey.

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Michael Caine and Natalie Wood

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Humphrey Bogart Lauren Bacall.

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I do not want to trivialize the dangers of smoking because the dangers are real, but too often smokers and particularly smokers of an older generation are being preached to, where they should be educated.

They grew up in an era where smoking was perceived to be cool as per their screen idols, and I do feel sorry for them because often this is the last vice they may have and they are being crucified for it.

Celebrities who contributed their services in WWII-Part 3

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Tony Curtis is a legend in his own right. He has starred in dozens of classic films including Some Like It Hot, The Defiant Ones ,Spartacus and Operation Petticoat.

He enlisted in the United States Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and war was declared. He joined the Pacific submarine force. Curtis served aboard a submarine tender, the USS Proteus, until the end of the Second World War.

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On September 2, 1945, Curtis witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay from his ship’s signal bridge about a mile away.

John Coltrane

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John served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. It is said that he joined the Navy to avoid being drafted into the Army. He enlisted in 1945, August 6th, the same day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He found himself being shipped off to Pearl Harbor and was stationed at Manana Barracks. While in the Navy, he was a member of the swing band, the Melody Masters. Coltrane, who is also known as “Trane,”

Johnny Carson

 

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Carson is famous as the host of The Tonight Show, a role that he held for 30 years.Carson joined the United States Navy on June 8, 1943, and received V-12 Navy College Training Program officer training at Columbia University and Millsaps College. Commissioned an ensign late in the war, Carson was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific.

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While in the Navy, Carson posted a 10–0 amateur boxing record, with most of his bouts fought on board the Pennsylvania.He was en route to the combat zone aboard a troop ship when the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war. Carson served as a communications officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages. He said that the high point of his military career was performing a magic trick for United States Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal.

James_Forrestal_-_SecOfDefIn a conversation with Forrestal, the Secretary asked Carson if he planned to stay in the navy after the war.In response, Carson said no and told him he wanted to be a magician. Forrestal asked him to perform, and Carson responded with a card trick.Carson made the discovery that he could entertain and amuse someone as cranky and sophisticated as Forrestal.

Don Knotts

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Jesse Donald “Don” Knotts was an American comedian  best known as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, a 1960s sitcom for which he earned five Emmy awards.

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Once the second world war came along, he enlisted in the army and began entertaining his fellow troops. He toured the pacific islands with Stars and Gripes, a variety show put on by other troops. An urban legend claims that Knotts served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, serving as a drill instructor at Parris Island, but this is not true

 

Robert Montgomery

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When Robert Montgomery enlisted into the US Navy during the start of World War 2, he was already a huge name. He had acted opposite of huge actors like Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard and had been nominated for several Oscars

After World War II broke out in Europe in September, 1939, and while the United States was still officially neutral, Montgomery enlisted in London for American field service and drove ambulances in France until the Dunkirk evacuation. He then returned to Hollywood and addressed a massive rally on the MGM lot for the American Red Cross in July 1940. Montgomery returned to playing light comedy roles, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) with Carole Lombard. He continued his search for dramatic roles. For his role as Joe Pendleton, a boxer and pilot in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Montgomery was nominated for an Oscar a second time. After the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, he joined the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, and served on the USS Barton (DD-722) which was part of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

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Harry Dean Stanton

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Harry Dean Stanton might not be an A-list celebrity, but  he worked with the best of them. He has been in a number of big name pictures that include The Godfather 2, Red Dawn, Alien, Pretty in Pink and The Green Mile.

During World War II, Stanton served in the United States Navy, including a stint as a cook aboard the Landing Ship Tank USS LST-970 during the Battle of Okinawa.

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Lee Van Cleef

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Many will remember Lee Van Cleef for his role as Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. No doubt his penetrating and scary eyes are what saw him play the villain in a number of big Western flicks throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s

After basic training and further training at the Naval Fleet Sound School, Van Cleef was assigned to a submarine chaser and then to a minesweeper, USS Incredible, on which he worked as a sonarman.

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The ship initially patrolled the Caribbean, then moved to the Mediterranean, participating in the landings in southern France. In January 1945, Incredible moved to the Black Sea, and performed sweeping duties out of the Soviet Navy base at Sevastopol, Crimea.WWIIVictory

Afterwards the ship performed air-sea rescue patrols in the Black Sea before returning to Palermo, Sicily. By the time of his discharge in March 1946, he had achieved the rank of Sonarman First Class (SO1) and had earned his mine sweeper patch.

 

He also had been awarded the Bronze Star and the Good Conduct Medal. By virtue of his deployments Van Cleef also qualified for the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

 

Henry Fonda

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A fellow actor known for another classic and iconic Western “Once upon a time in the West”(and many other movie)

Fonda enlisted in the United States Navy to fight in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.”Previously, James Stewart and he had helped raise funds for the defense of Britain.Fonda served for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee.

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He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Navy Presidential Unit Citation.

Frankly my dear I DO give a damn-Clark Gable in WWII.

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Clark Gable was a Hollywood star and among the most famous figures in the world when two events altered his life. First, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, hurtling the United States into World War II. Then, the following month, Gable’s beloved wife Carole Lombard was killed in the crash of a DC-3 airliner returning from a war bonds tour.

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Devastated, patriotic, and at age 40 a bit old for military service, Gable didn’t feel that the work he and Lombard had been doing to raise money through war bonds was enough of a contribution. He sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for a role in the war effort. The president replied, “STAY WHERE YOU ARE.”

In 1942, following Lombard’s death, Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Lombard had suggested that Gable enlist as part of the war effort, but MGM was reluctant to let him go, and he resisted the suggestion. Gable made a public statement after Lombard’s death that prompted the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces Henry H. “Hap” Arnold to offer Gable a “special assignment” in aerial gunnery.

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The Washington Evening Star reported that Gable took a physical examination at Bolling Field on June 19, preliminary to joining the service.

“Mr. Gable, it was learned from a source outside the war department, conferred with Lieutenant General H. H. Arnold, head of the air forces yesterday.” the Star continued. “It was understood that Mr. Gable, if he is commissioned, will make movies for the air forces. Lieutenant Jimmy Stewart, another actor in uniform, has been doing this.”
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Gable had earlier expressed an interest in officer candidate school, but he enlisted on August 12, 1942, with the intention of becoming an enlisted aerial gunner on a bomber. MGM arranged for his studio friend, the cinematographer Andrew McIntyre, to enlist with him and accompany him through training.

However, shortly after his enlistment, McIntyre and he were sent to Miami Beach, Florida, where they entered USAAF OCS Class 42-E on August 17, 1942. Both completed training on October 28, 1942, commissioned as second lieutenants. His class of about 2,600 fellow students (of which he ranked about 700th in class standing) selected Gable as its graduation speaker, at which General Arnold presented the cadets with their commissions. Arnold then informed Gable of his special assignment: to make a recruiting film in combat with the Eighth Air Force to recruit aerial gunners. Gable and McIntyre were immediately sent to Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field, Florida, followed by a photography course at Fort George Wright, Washington State and promoted to first lieutenants upon its completion.

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Gable reported to Biggs Army Air Base, Texas, on January 27, 1943, to train with and accompany the 351st Bomb Group to England as head of a six-man motion picture unit. In addition to McIntyre, he recruited the screenwriter John Lee Mahin, camera operators Sgts. Mario Toti and Robert Boles, and the sound man Lt. Howard Voss to complete his crew. Gable was promoted to captain while he was with the 351st Bomb Group at Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado, a rank commensurate with his position as a unit commander. (As first lieutenants, McIntyre and he had equal seniority.)

Gable spent most of 1943 in England at RAF Polebrook with the 351st Bomb Group. Gable flew five combat missions, including one to Germany, as an observer-gunner in B-17 Flying Fortresses between May 4 and September 23, 1943, earning the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.

(This portrait of a B-17G Flying Fortress of the 351st Bombardment Group was taken by Capt. Clark Gable. Photo courtesy of the Robert F. Dorr Collection)

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During one of the missions, Gable’s aircraft was damaged by flak and attacked by fighters, which knocked out one of the engines and shot up the stabilizer. In the raid on Germany, one crewman was killed and two others were wounded, and flak went through Gable’s boot and narrowly missed his head. When word of this reached MGM, studio executives began to badger the Army Air Forces to reassign its most valuable screen actor to noncombat duty. In November 1943, Gable returned to the United States to edit his film, only to find that the personnel shortage of aerial gunners had already been rectified. He was allowed to complete the film anyway, joining the First Motion Picture Unit in Hollywood.

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In May 1944, Gable was promoted to major. He hoped for another combat assignment, but when the invasion of Normandy came and went in June without any further orders, Gable was relieved from active duty as a major on June 12, 1944, at his request, since he was over-age for combat. His discharge papers were signed by Captain (later U.S. President) Ronald Reagan. Gable completed editing of the film Combat America in September 1944, giving the narration himself and making use of numerous interviews with enlisted gunners as focus of the film. Because his motion picture production schedule made it impossible for him to fulfill reserve officer duties, he resigned his commission on September 26, 1947, a week after the Air Force became an independent service branch.

Adolf Hitler favored Gable above all other actors. During World War II, Hitler offered a sizable reward to anyone who could capture and bring Gable to him unscathed.

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So despite what he said in “Gone with the wind” he did actually give a damn.

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Twilight Zone fatal accident

 

 

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On this day in 1982, Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, are killed in an accident involving a helicopter during filming on the California set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Morrow, age 53, and the children, ages six and seven, were shooting a Vietnam War battle scene in which they were supposed to be running from a pursuing helicopter.

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The film featured four sequences, one of which was based on a 1961 Twilight Zone episode, “A Quality of Mercy.” In the script, character Bill Connor (Morrow) is a bigot who travels back in time to suffer through various eras of persecution, such as Nazi-occupied Europe and the racial segregation of the American South during the mid-20th century. He then finds himself in the midst of the Vietnam War, where he decides to protect some Vietnamese children from American troops.

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Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims.

 

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The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.

Twilight Zone co-director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Animal House) and four other men working on the film, including the special-effects coordinator and the helicopter pilot, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. According to a 1987 New York Times report, it was the first time a film director faced criminal charges for events that occurred while making a movie. During the subsequent trial, the defense maintained the crash was an accident that could not have been predicted while the prosecution claimed Landis and his crew had been reckless and violated laws regarding child actors, including regulations about their working conditions and hours. Following the emotional 10-month trial, a jury acquitted all five defendants in 1987. The familes of the three victims filed lawsuits against Landis, Warner Brothers and Twilight Zone co-director and producer Steven Spielberg that were settled for undisclosed amounts.

 

Landis’s career was not significantly affected by the incident, although he said in 1996: “There was absolutely no good aspect about this whole story. The tragedy, which I think about every day, had an enormous impact on my career, from which it may possibly never recover.”

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Film director Steven Spielberg, who co-produced the film with Landis, broke off their friendship following the accident.Spielberg said that the crash had “made me grow up a little more” and had left everyone who worked on the movie “sick to the center of our souls.” With regard to how the crash had influenced people’s attitudes towards safety, he said: “No movie is worth dying for. I think people are standing up much more now than ever before to producers and directors who ask too much. If something isn’t safe, it’s the right and responsibility of every actor or crew member to yell, ‘Cut!’

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Twilight Zone: The Movie opened on June 24, 1983 and received mixed reviews.

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Hedy Lamarr- WiFi during WWII

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For most of the late 1930s and ’40s, Hedy Lamarr was just your average world-famous actress who appeared in countless films alongside the likes of Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable — and also invented a critically important military technology in her spare time.

She had a room in her house that was dedicated to tinkering, inventing, and just figuring out whatever she wanted!

Unbeknownst to many who saw her on screen, Lamarr was a passionate inventor — and, as an Austrian immigrant, an ardent Nazi despiser. Working with composer George Antheil, Lamarr discovered an ingenious method of preventing enemy ships from jamming American torpedoes by making radio signals jump between frequencies, rather than stay on a single channel.

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As a foreigner, a non-member of the military, and a woman, Lamarr’s invention went largely ignored until the 1960s, when some dude scientists unearthed it and put it to use during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and probably took all the credit for it at parties). It’s also basically the reason we have things like GPS, Bluetooth, and advanced guided missile technology.

Before Hedy became a famous movie star, she was married to an Austrian military arms merchant. And while her arms-dealing husband was chatting about weapons . Hedy was listening. So when she got fed up with hearing about all the crappy news of the war, she called upon her own talents to make a difference.

So she teamed up with George Antheil, a pianist and composer, and they came up with a solution.

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If it looks a bit like piano music, you’d be on track. Using a player-piano mechanism, they created a radio system that could jump frequencies, making it essentially jam-proof.

Lamarr and Antheil got a patent for their idea in 1942, in the middle of Hedy’s career as a Hollywood star!

And even though the U.S. military didn’t use the technology until the ’60s, the work they did laid the foundation for the complex radio communications that are behind cellphones, Wi-Fi, satellite tech, and more.

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Once upon a time in WWII

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Once upon a time in the West is not only one of my favourite westerns, it is also one of my favourite movies of all time. Many people don’t appreciate this fact but it is one of the few if not the only movie where Henry Fonda plays the bad guy.

But before I ramble on ,on how great the movie is and how the music in it is just magical, this piece isn’t called “Once upon a time in the West” but “Once upon a time in WWII”

There are 3 actors and one stunning looking actress on the poster. My focus is really on the 3 leading men of the movie Henry Fonda,Charles Bronson and Jason Robard, apart from the fact they starred together in this movie, they also served in WWII. The beautiful Claudia Cardinale was born in 1938 so she was just a child during the war.

Henry Fonda

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Fonda enlisted in the United States Navy to fight in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” . Fonda served for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee.

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He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.

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Charles Bronson

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Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky

Buchinsky enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943, serving as an aircraft gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945 he became a Superfortress crewman with the 39th Bombardment Group, based on Guam, and was assigned to a B-29 bomber, flying on 25 missions.

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Eventually he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service and left the military in 1946.

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Jason Robards

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Following the completion of recruit training and radio school, Robards was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Northampton in 1941 as a radioman 3rd class.

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On December 7, 1941, Northampton was at sea in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles (160 km) off Hawaii. Contrary to some stories, he did not see the devastation of the Japanese attack on Hawaii until Northampton returned to Pearl Harbor two days later.Northampton was later directed into the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II’s Pacific theater, where she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

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During the Battle of Tassafaronga in the waters north of Guadalcanal on the night of November 30, 1942, Northampton was sunk by hits from two Japanese torpedoes. Robards found himself treading water until near daybreak, when he was rescued by an American destroyer. For her service in the war, Northampton was awarded six battle stars.

Two years later, in November 1944, Robards was radioman aboard the light cruiser USS Nashville, the flagship for the invasion of Mindoro in the northern Philippines.

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On December 13, she was struck by a kamikaze aircraft off Negros Island in the Philippines.

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The aircraft hit one of the port five-inch gun mounts, while the plane’s two bombs set the midsection of the ship ablaze. With this damage and 223 casualties, Nashville was forced to return to Pearl Harbor and then to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

Robards served honorably during the war, but was not a recipient of the U.S. Navy Cross for bravery, contrary to what has been reported in numerous sources.

Another cast member from “Once upon a time in the West”, Jack Elam, also served two years in the United States Navy during World War II.

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Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

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Dietrich was noted for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their US citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States.

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This photo shows Marlene Dietrich passionately kissing an American soldier as he arrives home from World War II. It seems that the guy on the left holding her up is enjoying the view. It was first published in Life Magazine with the caption: “While soldiers hold her up by her famous legs, Marlene Dietrich is kissed by a home-coming GI”.

Actress Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

The ship was the Monticello, a converted cruise liner. Her original name was SS Conte Grande and was built in 1927 in Trieste, Italy. During World War II, she was acquired by the United States and was used as an American troopship—renamed USS Monticello (AP-61) in 1942.1928-conte

At the time the photo was taken it was transporting parts of the 2nd infantry division home.The 2nd division soldiers had entered the war in Normandy on D-Day. They fought across Europe into Czechoslovakia. They arrived in New York (when this photo was taken) on July 20, 1945. The war was not over for them. They were on their way to Camp Swift in Texas for training. They were supposed to be a part of the invasion of Japan.

Marlene Dietrich has a curious story. She was a German actress and singer. Her cinematography life started in Germany and later in Hollywood where she became very famous.

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Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. Dietrich, a staunch anti-Nazi, became an American citizen in 1939. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star. At the end of the war she was awarded the highest American civil medal: The Medal of Freedom.

Herbert Brenon-Forgotten Irish Oscar nominated Movie Director

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I pride myself to be a bit of a movie buff, but to my amazement I had never heard of this Oscar nominated and ‘Photo Play-Medal of Honor’ winner.

Today marks his 137th birthday. He has been credited for directing at least 124 movie and shorts, which is an amazing feat by any measure.

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Herbert Brenon (13 January 1880 – 21 June 1958) born Alexander Herbert Reginald St. John Brenon was an Irish film director, actor and screenwriter during the era of silent movies through the 1930s.

He was born at 25 Crosthwaite Park, in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, to journalist, poet and politician Edward St John Brenon and Francis Harries.

In 1882, the family moved to London, where Herbert was educated at St Paul’s School and at King’s College London.

 

Before becoming a director, he performed in vaudeville acts with his wife, Helen Oberg. Started as a stagehand in New York. By 1909 he operated a small picture theatre in Pennsylvania. Two years later he was hired as a writer by Carl Laemmle, directing his first short the next year. Signed by William Fox in 1915, graduating to feature films.

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Some of his more noteworthy films were the first movie adaptations of Peter Pan (1924) and Beau Geste (1926),and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) with Lon Chaney.

For the 1927 movie “Sorrell and Son” about a a decorated war hero, who raises his son Kit alone after Kit’s mother deserts husband and child in the boy’s infancy, he was nominated for the Academy Award for best director ,dramatic pictures, at the First ever Oscars(Academy Awards) in 1929.

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Unfortunately he lost out to Frank Borzage for his picture “7th Heaven”

Regarded sound pictures with a measure of apprehension. Returned to Britain in 1934, but his career was well on the decline and he retired in 1940.His last movie “The Flying Squad”  he shot in London in 1940. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace in which the officers of the Flying Squad attempt to tackle a drug-smuggling organisation. The novel had previously been filmed in 1929 and 1932.

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He died in Los Angeles, California and was interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY. Survived by a son, Dr. Herbert Cyril Brenon.

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Kirk Douglas-More than just an Actor

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On his  his 101st birthday it is a good time to look back at the life of one of my all time favourite actors. But rather then looking at all the marvelous movies he did I’ll be looking at one change he made that changed the lives for many in Hollywood,at the risk of ending his own career.

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Douglas was born 9 December 1916,Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York, the son of Bryna “Bertha” (née Sanglel; 1884–1958) and Herschel “Harry” Danielovitch (c. 1884–1950). His parents were Jewish immigrants from Chavusy, Mogilev Region, in the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus), and the family spoke Yiddish at home.

His father’s brother, who emigrated earlier, used the surname Demsky, which Douglas’ family adopted in the United States. Douglas grew up as Izzy Demsky and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the United States Navy during World War II.

Douglas first wanted to be an actor after he recited the poem The Red Robin of Spring while in kindergarten and received applause.He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, where he served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. He was medically discharged for war injuries in 1944.

After the war, Douglas returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater and commercials. In his radio work, he acted in a number of network soap operas, and sees those experiences as being especially valuable, as skill in using one’s voice is important for aspiring actors, and regrets that the same avenues are no longer open to them. His stage break occurred when he took over the role played by Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell  which then led to other offers.

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Douglas had planned to remain a stage actor, until his friend, Lauren Bacall, helped him get his first film role by recommending him to director Hal Wallis, who was looking for a new male talent. Wallis’s film, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck, became Douglas’s debut screen appearance.

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He played a young, insecure man, stung with jealousy, whose life was dominated by a ruthless older woman, and he hid his feelings with alcohol. It would be the last time that Douglas portrayed a weakling in a film role.

In 1955 Douglas launched his own production company, Bryna Productions, the company behind two pivotal film roles in his career. The first was as French army officer Col. Dax in director Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant anti-war epic Paths of Glory (1957).

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The Hollywood Black list

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In October 1947, 10 members of the Hollywood film industry publicly denounced the tactics employed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an investigative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, during its probe of alleged communist influence in the American motion picture business.

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The committee’s anti-Communist investigations are often associated with those of Joseph McCarthy who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee.McCarthy was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate, not the House.

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These prominent screenwriters and directors, who became known as the Hollywood Ten, received jail sentences and were banned from working for the major Hollywood studios.

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Their defiant stands also placed them at center stage in a national debate over the controversial anti-communist crackdown that swept through the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Besides the Hollywood Ten, other members of the film industry with alleged communist ties were later banned from working for the big movie studios. The Hollywood blacklist came to an end in the 1960s.

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The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal’s office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.

Kirk Douglas was instrumental in getting this black list lifted.Douglas reunited with Kubrick for yet another epic, the magnificent Spartacus (1960).

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The film also marked a key turning point in the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy “Red Scare” hysteria in the 1950s.

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At Douglas’ insistence Trumbo was given on-screen credit for his contributions, which began the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies begun almost a decade previously that had destroyed so many careers and lives.

About that event, Douglas said, “I’ve made over 85 pictures, but the thing I’m most proud of is breaking the blacklist.”At the time, his career was at risk, with Hollywood people claiming Douglas would never get work again. “I was scared to death, but I insisted on doing it,”

On a side note I have to mention one movie which is forgotten by most and did not receive good reviews by critics or at the box office.I think it’s still one of best comedies I have ever seen, what makes it even funnier is that none of the actors are comedic actors.It had different titles ,in the US it was called “the Villain” and in the UK and Australia it was known as “Cactus Jack”

 

Along Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a character called Handsome Stranger.

 

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