Happy 124th Birthday, Harold Lloyd!
Comedy giant Harold Lloyd was born 124 years ago today in Burchard, Nebraska. Here are 10 HL Did-You-Knows:
- Lloyd’s parents fought frequently when he was a child (due in large part to his father’s penchant for launching unsuccessful, short-lived businesses); they divorced when he was a teenager, after which Lloyd and his dad moved west to San Diego. In 1912, Lloyd, who’d acted on stage since childhood, began to work in one-reel comedies for the Thomas Edison company. His first role was a Yaqui Indian in short called The Old Monk’s Tale.
- Before long, Lloyd moved to Los Angeles, where he became friends with aspiring filmmaker Hal Roach. Roach told Lloyd that when he was able to produce his own pictures, he’d make a star out of Lloyd. When Roach opened his studio in 1913, the pair began to collaborate on creating Lloyd’s first recurring role, Lonesome Luke, a character influenced greatly by Charlie Chaplin‘s Tramp.
- Within a few years, Lloyd began to shift toward the character that is better remembered today, often referred to as the “Glass character” for the round specs that he wore. “When I adopted the glasses,” Lloyd said in a 1962 television interview, “it more or less put me in a different category because I became a human being. He was a kid that you would meet next door, across the street, but at the same time I could still do all the crazy things that we did before, but you believed them. They were natural and the romance could be believable.”
- In his Lonely Luke days, Harold Lloyd gave actress Bebe Daniels his start. The credits usually listed Lloyd’s character as “The Boy” and Daniels’ as “The Girl.” The pair were romantically involved for a time. After five years, Daniels went on to a very successful career as a leading lady. Daniels’ replacement in Lloyd’s pictures was Mildred Davis, whom he wed in 1923. They were married until her death in 1969.
- In 1919, while shooting some publicity photographs, Lloyd suffered extensive damage to his hand while lighting a cigarette with a prop bomb that he thought was just a smoke pot. The bomb exploded, and Lloyd lost his thumb and forefinger. He also suffered burns on his face and incurred damage to one of his eyes (luckily, his sight was unaffected).
- Lloyd and Roach began focusing on feature-length pictures, rather than shorts, in 1921, and when the pair parted ways in 1924, Lloyd launched his own production company.
- Though Buster Keaton and Chaplin are today considered the greatest comedians of the silent era, in the 1920s, Lloyd’s pictures made more money than either (in large part because he was so prolific—he made 12 full-length features in that decades to Chaplin’s four).
- In the late 1920s, Lloyd built a home in Beverly Hills he called Green Acres that boasted 44 rooms, 26 bathrooms, 12 fountains, 12 gardens, and a nine-hole golf course. Though the surrounding grounds have been subdivided, the main house and the estate’s principal gardens are still there, and the estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- It’s been reported that Lloyd was approached to portray Elwood P. Dowd in the original Broadway production of Mary Chase’s play, Harvey. When Lloyd turned the part down, the role went to Frank Fay.
- Lloyd’s post-cinema hobby was 3-D photography; among his works were portraits of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Sterling Holloway, Richard Burton and Roy Rogers. He also shot a good many nude…er, artistic photographs of more anonymous starlets of the day.
Happy birthday, Harold Lloyd, wherever you may be!
Happy 128th Birthday, Charlie Chaplin!
The immortal Charlie Chaplin was born Charles Spencer Chaplin 128 years ago today. There is no official record of his birth, but Chaplin said he was born on East Street in South London. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:
- Chaplin’s childhood was a difficult one. His alcoholic father was largely absent (and died at 37, when Charlie was just 12), and his mother was committed to a mental asylum when he was 14.
- For some time, even after becoming very successful, Chaplin continued to live in a cheap hotel room.
- Chaplin was married four times, with a greater disparity between his age and his wife’s with each new union (12 years, 19 years, 21 years and 37 years). He had 11 children with those four wives; he was 73 years old when his youngest, Charles, was born in 1962.
- Stan Laurel was once Chaplin’s understudy during their years on the English stage. Later, when they had both emigrated to the United States, they roomed together in a boarding house. No cooking was allowed there, so when Laurel was making dinner on a hot plate, Chaplin played the violin to cover the sound of the frying.
- Chaplin was the first actor to appear on the cover of Time magazine (the July 6, 1925 issue).
- Contrary to popular belief, Chaplin’s eyes were a striking shade of blue.
- Chaplin received no screen credit for his early films for Keystone (it was that studio’s policy not to credit actors); it wasn’t until 1915 that Chaplin finally received a screen credit, when he made his first film for Essanay.
- In addition to his many other accomplishments, Chaplin was a composer. He wrote more than 500 songs, including the beloved hit “Smile,” and later in life scored some of his early films when they were reissued.
- In 1947, Chaplin was subpoenaed by—but never appeared before—the House Un-American Activities Committee. He sent HUAC a telegram, reading: “I am not a Communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life.” That seems to have satisfied them.
- Chaplin was a cofounder of United Artists, along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith.
Happy birthday, Charlie Chaplin, wherever you may be!
Happy 148th Birthday, Marie Dressler!
Beloved character actress and comedian Marie Dressler was born Leila Marie Koerber 148 years ago today in Cobourg, Ontario. Here are 10 MD Did-You-Knows:
- Dressler’s father was a music teacher and her mother a musician. When she was still a child, her family moved to the United States, residing in Michigan and Ohio. She grew appearing in amateur theatricals.
- At 14, Dressler left home, lying about her age that she might join a traveling stock company that played mostly in the Midwest. Her older sister, Bonita, also worked with the stock company for a time before leaving to get married. Much of Dressler’s early stage work was in light opera.
- Dressler made her Broadway debut in 1892 in Waldemar, the Robber of the Rhine, a production that enjoyed a brief five-week run. Dressler, who stood 5′ 7″ and weighed 200 pounds, had dreamed of being an operatic diva or a tragedienne, but the author of Waldemar, Maurice Barrymore, father to Lionel, John and Ethel, convinced her that comedic roles would suit her best.
- Dressler’s first starring role came in 1896 in The Lady Slaver, which played for two years at the Casino Theatre.
- Throughout the 1900s and ’10, Dressler kept busy in Broadway productions and in vaudeville, and during World War I, she toured the country, selling Liberty bonds and entertaining the troops.
- Aside from cameo roles playing herself in a pair of film shorts, Dressler’s movie debut came in 1914 at age 44 when fellow Canadian Mack Sennett hired her to star opposite Charlie Chaplin (in a villainous, non-Tramp role) in Tillie’s Punctured Romance, one of the first full-length, six-reel motion picture comedies. The movie was a hit, and Dressler continued to enjoy success in film comedies into the 1920s.
- Her movie career on the wane in the late ’20s, Dressler, now in her late 50s, was considering taking a position as a housekeeper on Long Island—another story has it that she was on the verge of committing suicide—when screenwriter Frances Marion convinced MGM to cast her in The Callahans and the Murphys (1927). That hit picture revived her career.
- Dressler won the Best Actress Oscar for Min and Bill (1930), the first of three popular pictures she would make with Wallace Beery. Only the fourth actress to win that award, she was the third Canadian in a role to do so (after Mary Pickford and Norma Shearer). She received the award the day after her 63rd birthday.
- At age 65, Dressler was named the top box-office draw of 1933 by the Motion Picture Herald.
- The house Dressler was born in Cobourg still stands. Known today as the Marie Dressler House, it was a restaurant from 1937 through 1989, when it was damaged by fire. After being restored, it served as the office for the Cobourg Chamber of Commerce for a time until it was transoformed into a Marie Dressler museum and information center for tourists visiting Cobourg.
Happy birthday, Marie Dressler, wherever you may be!
Happy 122nd Birthday, Jean Renoir!
Jean Renoir, one of our very favorite directors, was born 122 years ago today in Paris, France. Enjoy our 10 JR Did-You-Knows, then make it a point to watch one of Renoir’s classic pictures tonight: Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, La Bête Humaine or any of a dozen others.
- Renoir was a member of a very artistic family: His father was Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter; his older brother Pierre was a prominent actor, and his nephew, Claude, was a successful cinematographer.
- When Jean was a small boy, his father insisted he keep his hair long (one of Auguste’s most famous paintings depicts young Jean with flowing locks), which led to him being teased by other boys. So Jean was initially relieved to be sent off to boarding school because he knew he’d be required to have his hair cut short.
- Renoir was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal while serving in World War I.
- His first artistic endeavor, undertaken at his father’s suggestion, was making ceramics, but he soon left that pursuit behind in favor of filmmaking.
- Orson Welles frequently praised Renoir as the greatest film director of all time. Charlie Chaplin made a similar pronouncement.
- Renoir frequently acted in his own films, usually playing lovable lugs.
- Renoir was married twice, with one partner, Marguerite Renoir, in between—the pair never married, but she did take his name.
- Renoir left Paris during the Nazi occupation and took up residence in Hollywood.
- In 1975, he received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his contributions to the motion picture industry.
- Renoir eventually became a naturalized American citizen, but following his death, he was interred in France after being given a state funeral.
Joyeux anniversaire, Jean Renoir, wherever you may be!
Gloria DeHaven: Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal
Here’s a fond farewell to actress Gloria DeHaven, who passed away this weekend just a few days after her 91st birthday. There aren’t many stars still with us who debuted in pictures as far back as 1936, as she did. Here are 10 GDH Did-You-Knows:
- DeHaven’s first film appearance was at age 11 in Charlie Chaplin‘s Modern Times.
- During her film career, she dabbled in a number of genres, from romantic comedy to film noir, but she was best known for her work in musicals.
- In the film Three Little Words (1950), DeHaven played the role of her own mother, actress Flora Parker DeHaven.
- She was the recipient of Frank Sinatra‘s first screen kiss, in Step Lively (1944).
- In addition to her film career, DeHaven worked in nightclubs and the theater, and she would go on to enjoy a long and successful career on television.
- Early in her career, she was a girl singer with the orchestras of Jan Savitt and Bob Crosby.
- She was a regular on two popular soap operas—Ryan’s Hope and As the World Turns—and one takeoff on soaps, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
- In 1975, DeHaven appeared as a panelist on five episodes of The Match Game.
- Her Broadway debut came in the 1955 musical adaptation of Seventh Heaven.
- DeHaven was married four times to three different men, and had two children each with two of them.
Godspeed and rest in peace, Gloria DeHaven…
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.
Music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke, 1944