Happy 99th Birthday, Lena Horne!
The wonderful Lena Horne was born Lena Calhoun Horne 99 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York.
- Lena Horne was raised in large part by her grandparents while her mother pursued a career as an actress (her parents split when she was a toddler).
- Horne quit school at age 14 and by 16, she was dancing (and later singing) at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem.
- MGM, worried that Horne would be perceived as white onscreen, had makeup artist Max Factor create a line of makeup for her called Dark Egyptian.
- Horne was turned down at least twice—Pinky (1949), Show Boat (1951)—for film roles as light-skinned black women who pass for white. In both cases, white actresses were cast and had their skin darkened with makeup.
- Horne was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
- Horne’s favorite actor was John Garfield.
- During World War II, Horne refused to perform before racially segregated audiences of American soldiers. This was against Army policy, but she held her ground, putting on a show for a mixed audience of African-American soldiers and German POWs.
- Accused of having Communist sympathies because of her civil rights activities dating back to the 1940s and her enduring friendship with Paul Robeson, Horne was blacklisted from films and became a cabaret performer.
- Horne was born on the same day and in the same city—Brooklyn, NY—as actress Susan Hayward.
- Horne worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on anti-lynching laws and was a frequent guest in the Kennedy White House.
Lena Horne Did-You-Knows
Happy birthday, Ms. Horne—wherever you may be!
The Cladrite Radio Gorillas Galore Giveaway
We’re giving away not one, not two, but three “Sons of Kong” boxed DVD sets to lucky Cladrite Radio followers. Each set comes with 10 movies on three discs, and a goofier gaggle of gorilla pictures you’d be hard-pressed to find.
Just check out these titles:
- The Ape (1940), starring Boris Karloff
- Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952), starring, well, you can guess
- The Gorilla (1939), starring the Ritz Brothers and Bela Lugosi)
- The Ape Man (1943), starring—wait for it—Bela Lugosi
- Bride of the Gorilla (1951), starring Barbara Payton and Raymond Burr (sorry, no Bela in this one, but will Lon Chaney Jr. do?)
- The Savage Girl (1932), starring Rochelle Hudson
- The White Gorilla (1945), starring Ray Corrigan
- Law of the Jungle (1942), starring Arline Judge
- White Pongo (1945), starring Richard Fraser
- Nabonga (1944), starring Buster Crabbe and Julie London (yes, that Julie London)
We’re confident you’ll agree that that’s one impressive assortment of simian silliness. And this bounty of cinematic missteps comes in pop-up packaging that you’ll be proud to display in your home!
How to enter? Easy. Just follow us on Facebook and Twitter (if you haven’t followed us on either or both of those platforms, now’s your chance to rectify that—just follow the links on the upper left), watch for our posts/tweets about the giveaway and share/retweet them with the hashtag #crgorillagiveaway. You can enter once per post per platform. The entry period ends at midnight ET on Wednesday, July 6. (Sorry, this giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.)
Happy 95th Birthday, Judy Holliday!
The delightful Judy Holliday, born Judith Tuvim in New York City 95 years ago today, appeared in fewer than a dozen pictures and starred or was featured in fewer than that, but her impact on Hollywood was indelible. She remains one of our very favorites.
Here are 10 Judy Holliday Did-You-Knows:
- Holliday grew up in Sunnyside, Queens and graduated from Julia Richman High School.
- Holiday was rejected by Yale Drama School out of high school.
- She went on to work briefly as a switchboard operator in Orson Welles‘ Mercury Theater.
- Early in her career, Judy Holliday was a member of a cabaret group called The Revuers that was founded by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
- She made her motion picture debut in a small role in Greenwich Village (1944). After two more bits parts that year, she returned to New York City and the theatre for five years.
- Prior to its Broadway debut, Holliday replaced Jean Arthur as Billie Dawn in Garson Kanin‘s play Born Yesterday. Though there was talk of casting Rita Hayworth in the movie adaptation of the play, Katharine Hepburn, impressed by Holliday’s work in Adam’s Rib (1949), helped Holliday nab the screen role.
- Though she was associated with dumb blonde roles, Judy Holliday’s IQ was said to be 172.
- Holiday was investigated in 1950 (and eventually cleared) by the FBI due to allegations that she was a Communist. In 1952, she was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee regarding those same allegations. She wasn’t blacklisted as a results of the (unfounded) rumors surrounding her, but it is thought her career was negatively impacted.
- Holliday won the 1957 Tony Award as best actress in a musical for Bells Are Ringing. She went on to play the same role in the 1960 film version opposite Dean Martin.
- Holliday wrote a number of songs with jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan; he wrote the melodies, she wrote the lyrics. They also recorded an album, Holliday with Mulligan, together
Judy Holliday died of cancer three weeks before her 44th birthday, on June 7, 1965.
Happy birthday, Ms. Holliday, wherever you may be; you are sorely missed!
Una Merkel—Picture Saver
This interview with Una Merkel originally appeared in the May 1935 edition of Movie Classic magazine.
disposition, keeps this charming
young player the busiest actress
By ROBERT FENDER
THERE’S a girl in Hollywood known to directors and writers as “the pulmotor girl.” Does that mean anything to you? It didn’t to me, either, until I started thinking of those things used by firemen, lifeguards and physicians known as pulmotors. They’re the emergency machines employed to bring nearly dead people back to life.
Just so, when writers have a nearly dead story on their hands, they write in a part for this girl. And when directors see their pictures expiring dead away, they broadcast a frantic call for this very same girl. She’ll save it if it can be saved, they cry. Get her. And get her right now!
The “her” in this case, as anyone in Hollywood will tell you, is a charming little person with blonde ringlets in her hair, a twinkle in her eyes and a great heart tucked away inside her. Her name is Una Merkel. And she’s perhaps the most universally loved girl in town. Certainly she’s the busiest.
If you saw Una in a Hollywood crowd (say at a preview), you couldn’t pick her out if your life depended upon it. But ten to one she would be the young lady on your left who, on very tip-toe was jockeying for a better position to see the movie stars pass by. For Una is the most confirmed and ardent movie fan in town. She is, to my knowledge, the only one who saves all the programs of all the shows she attends—yes, and makes tiny penciled notes on the margins about players she likes best and why.
Una is so necessary to directors and ailing pictures, I suppose, because she is the only one of her kind in town. She is no more “movie actress” than you. Her unaffected laugh, tinkly and delightful to hear, differs from the average star’s studied “abandon” as a child’s laughter differs from the wearied old man’s croak. She is youth itself, mighty good for the soul, and she’ll continue to be young no matter how many years pile up on her.
“There’s so much,” she told me in her tiny feminine dressing room at M-G-M, “to be happy for. There’s so much to laugh about. Do you see that big building next door? Well, next week I’m going to have a grand big new dressing room.”
“Moving you over there, Una?”
Una laughed. “Oh, Heavens no,” she cried. “That’s going to be for the big stars. But they’ll leave their dressing rooms here and they’re going to give me a bigger one in this building. And they’re going to let me furnish it. Just as I like!” she finished, evidently carried away in high glee.
“Don’t you want to be a big star, Una?”
Una burst out laughing. “Me a star? Do you know any more funny ones?” Then she wrinkled her cute little brow and indulged in some thinking. “But,” she began, “but—even if I could, I don’t think I would. The other night I was trying to think what I’d rather be than myself and I couldn’t think of anything. Not,” she hurried, “that I think I’m pretty good but simply that I’m—I’m so darned happy!
“I love my husband, Ronnie Burla, and he loves me. I get more pleasure out of my work than anyone in Hollywood. There’s just one thing that worries me and that is that there are so many people who don’t share my good luck. I feel so sorry for people who don’t seem to have anything. I wish there was some better way of distributing money and happiness.
Happy 121st (123rd?) Birthday, Hattie McDaniel!
Hattie McDaniel was born 121 (or perhaps 123—see below) years ago today in Wichita, Kansas. If we were to make a list of departed stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood whom we’d like to meet in heaven, Ms. McDaniel would most certainly be on it.
Here are 10 Hattie McDaniel Did-You-Knows?:
- In the 1910s and ’20s, McDaniel worked as a vocalist in a band
- It’s thought by some that she was the first African-American woman to sing on the radio, when she appeared on a Denver-based broadcast as the vocalist for Professor George Morrison’s Negro Orchestra.
- She made her movie debut in The Golden West (1932).
- McDaniel was the first African American to win an
- In addition to work in pictures, McDaniel kept busy in radio, playing recurring roles on Amos and Andy and on Eddie Cantor‘s radio programs. She also starred in her own radio show, Beulah, from 1947-1951 (the show later migrated to television).
- Her siblings Sam and Etta McDaniel also acted in pictures.
- Her father was a former slave.
- McDaniel was depicted on a USA commemorative postage stamp, issued on January 25, 2006.
- Hattie McDaniel may have been two years older than she claimed. The 1895 Kansas census cited her age as two.
- McDaniel’s wish to be buried in Hollywood was denied due to racial attitudes and practices of the day when she died in 1952; she was instead interred at Los Angeles’ Rosedale Cemetery. A pink-and-gray granite monument in her memory was placed in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 1999, 47 years after her death.
Happy birthday, Ms. McDaniel, wherever you maybe!
You think that money is everything,
And yet it's anybody's Spring.
Go make a fortune, become a king
And still it's anybody's Spring.
And if you flash a bank roll
Do you suppose the brook would care?
Or that a rose would say
"There goes a millionaire"?
It's more than diamonds around a ring
Because it's anybody's Spring.
You may be born with the silver spoon
And yet it's anybody's moon.
You couldn't buy a ticket
To hear the first robin sing.
It's free because
It's anybody's Spring
—It's Anybody's Spring
Music: Jimmy Van Heusen; Lyrics: Johnny Burke, 1944