Happy 101st Birthday, Gregory Peck!
Gregory Peck was born Eldred Gregory Peck 101 years ago in La Jolla, California. Here are 10 GP Did-You-Knows:
- Peck’s father, a druggist in San Diego, and his mother divorced when Peck was just five years old, and he was sent to live with his grandmother, who took him to the movies every week. He studied pre-med UC-Berkeley and there became interested in acting. While at UC Berkeley, Peck was a houseboy for the school’s chapter of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. (Atta boy, Greg!)
- After graduating from UC-Berkeley, Peck moved to NYC to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He debuted on Broadway in 1942 in an Emlyn Williams play, The Morning Star. By 1943, he’d returned to Southern California, where he made his motion picture debut in the RKO film Days of Glory (1944).
- Stardom came quickly for Peck, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his second film, The Keys of the Kingdom (1944). In all, he was nominated as Best Actor five times, finally winning the Academy Award in 1963 for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Peck was the first California native to earn the Best Actor nod.
- Mockingbird was Peck’s favorite among his pictures, and he said of Atticus, “I can honestly say that in twenty years of making movies I never had a part that came close to being the real me until Atticus Finch.”
- Peck, along with Dorothy McGuire, Mel Ferrer and David O. Selznick, was one of the founders of the La Jolla Playhouse. His busy schedule didn’t allow him to return to Broadway, but the Playhouse allowed him to occasionally scratch his itch to work in live theatre.
- In 1969, Peck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
- Peck, a liberal Democrat, strongly considered challenging Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, when Reagan ran for reelection in 1970, but decided against it at the last minute despite strong encouragement from state and national Democratic officials.
- In 1980, Peck volunteered to be TV spokesperson for the then-struggling Chrysler Corporation out of concern for the 600,000 jobs that would be lost if the company went under.
- In 1997, Peck was a presenter at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) awards ceremony. “It just seems silly to me,” he said at the time, “that something so right and simple has to be fought for at all.” Peck was also a vocal supporter of AIDS fund-raising efforts.
- Peck was close friend to Michael Jackson for the final quarter-century of the pop star’s life, often going horseback riding with Jackson at the singer’s Neverland Ranch.
Happy birthday, Gregory Peck, wherever you may be!
Happy 104th Birthday, Gene Kelly!
Gene Kelly was born 104 years ago today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which seems apt, given that he was something of a blue-collar hoofer. As Kelly once put it, “Fred Astaire represented the aristocracy, I represented the proletariat.” Here are 10 GK Did-You-Knows:
- Kelly’s father was of Irish descent, and his mother was Irish and German.
- Kelly’s father was Al Jolson‘s road manager in the 1920s.
- He attended Penn State University for a while before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics.
- At Pitt, Kelly was a member of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.
- He and his younger brother, Fred, had a dance act in vaudeville. Fred eventually replaced Gene as Harry the Hoofer in the 1939 Broadway production of The Time of Your Life.
- While Kelly was starring in Pal Joey on Broadway, he signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick. Selznick, after struggling to find a suitable role for Kelly, sold his contract to MGM.
- Kelly was fighting a high fever while filming the iconic rain scene in Singin’ in the Rain.
- The first two of Kelly’s three wives were dancers.
- He was a dance consultant for Madonna‘s 1993 Girlie Show tour.
- Kelly was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Happy birthday, Gene Kelly, wherever you may be!
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