Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Birthday: Duke Ellington!

Duke Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. Ellington, performed in, jazz, blues, gospel and film scores. His career spanned more than 50 years. Because of his charisma, he is credited to have elevated the popularity of jazz to an art form. His reputation increased after his death, the Pulitzer Prize Board gave him a special posthumous honor in 1999.

Ellington, began to work in films in the year, 1929 with the short films: Black and Tan. Symphony in Black (1935). Which introduced Billie Holiday, and won an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. He also appeared in the film, Check and Double Check (1930). Murder at the Vanities, Belle of the Nineties (19340 and Cabin in the Sky (1943). In the late 1950s, he put together soundtracks for the films: Anatomy of a Murder (1959), with James Stewart, Paris Blues (1961), which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday: Ann Margret!

Ann Margret (born April 28, 1941). She became famous for her performances in the film, Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, The Cincinnati Kid, Carnal Knowledge, and Tommy. Her later career include Grumpy Old Men, Any Given Sunday, The Santa Clause 3, and The Break-Up. She has won five Golden Globe Awards and been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and six Emmy Awards.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Birthday: Shirley Temple!

Shirley Temple (born April 23, 1928), began her film career in 1932 at the age of three, and in 1934, she reached superstardom in the film, Bright Eyes (1934). Comedy drama film directed by David Butler. The screenplay by William Conselman is based on a story by David Butler and Edwin Burke, and focuses on the relationship between bachelor aviator James 'Loop' Merritt (James Dunn) and his orphaned godchild, Shirley Blake (Shirley Temple). Merritt becomes involved in a custody battle for the child with a rich, elderly gentleman. The film featured one musical number:

"On the Good Ship Lollipop".

She received a special Academy Award in February 1935, and films, Curly Top(1935)musical film directed by Irving Cummings. The screenplay by Patterson McNutt and Arthur J. Beckhard focuses on the adoption of a young orphan (Shirley Temple) by a wealthy bachelor (John Boles) and his romantic attraction to her older sister (Rochelle Hudson). The film’s musical numbers include:

"Animal Crackers in My Soup"

"When I Grow Up".

My favorite Shirley Temple film, Heidi (1937), was a dramatic film directed by Allan Dwan. The screenplay by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris was based on the 1880 children's story of the same name by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. The film is about an orphan named Heidi (Temple) who is taken from her grandfather (Hersholt) to live as a companion to Klara, a spoiled, crippled girl (Jones).

She left the film industry at the age of 12 to attend high school. She performed in a few films in her mid to late teens and retired completely from films in 1950 at the age of 22.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Birthday: Ann Miller!

Ann Miller (April 12, 1923– January 22, 2004). In an interview featured in a "behind the scenes" documentary on, That's Entertainment III, she said that Eleanor Powell was her inspiration. Miller, made it "big" , in her roles in the musicals: Kiss Me Kate, Easter Parade and On the Town.

Miller, popularized pantyhose in the 1940s as a solution to the problem of torn stockings during the filming of her dance production numbers.

She was known, later in her career, for her black bouffant hair, heavy makeup with crimson red lipstick and fashions that showed off her figure. Her film career ended in 1956 as the movies lost their popularity to television, although, she remained active in the theatre and on television.

Video is from: Two Tickets to Broadway(1951). Nancy Peterson and her friends wants to get a spot on Bob Crosby's TV show.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Meet the People(1944).

Meet the People(1944). The film stars Lucille Ball as Julie Hampton, a stage actress who goes to work in a shipyard after the play in which she was planning to star in is cancelled by shipyard worker Dick Powell.

The first day on the job, the actress discovers that the shipyard workers are talented group of people. Swanson and Hampton, come up with an idea to put on a show.. only to butt heads.

Lucille Ball, was at the height of her looks in this film. Bert Lahr, Virginia O'Brien and a young June Allyson, also perform in supporting roles.

Meet the People features Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra, as well as Spike Jones and his City Slickers, as well as Virginia O'Brien from the original stage cast, who sings the hit song, Say We're Sweethearts Again.

Virginia O'Brien (April 18, 1919 – January 16, 2001). O'Brien was best known for her comedic roles. This was because of her humorous singing style, with no facial expressions and very little movement. The audience thought she was hilarious and she was soon hired to repeat this performance in a number of movies beginning in 1940s.

The films she performed in during her time at MGM were, Till the Clouds Roll By(1946), The Big Store (1941), Ship Ahoy (1942), Thousands Cheer, Du Barry Was a Lady, Meet the People, The Harvey Girls and Ziegfeld Follies.

O'Brien was suddenly dropped from her MGM film contract and she moved into television and back to live performances. She made only two film appearances after this: Francis in the Navy and the 1976 Walt Disney Studios comedy, Gus.

Kathryn Grayson and June Allyson are TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON (1946)

A delightful musical comedy set at turn of the century New York and centering on Abigail Chandler (top notch turn by Kathryn Grayson) who tells her stuffy Boston relatives that she is a big time opera singer. In truth she works at a burlesque house and is billed as High-C Susie. Trouble ensues when the family comes for a visit. Her sister, Martha (played by June Allyson) is all giddy about seeing her big sis in an opera. Jimmy Durante is the club manager that lets loose with zingers. Grayson and Allyson are terrific as the sisters with Grayson's voice a heavenly sound. Allyson is quite fun in her role, all wide eyed and innocent but gets in on the act with a grand and funny performance at the club. Also starring MGM regular Peter Lawford as a love interest for Allyson. These two sisters are definitely worth hanging out with.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday: Doris Day!

Doris Day April 3, 1922), While singing with the Les Brown band and briefly with Bob Hope, Day's popularity as a radio performer and vocalist, landed her to a career in films. Her performance of the song "Embraceable You", impressed Styne and his partner, Sammy Cahn and they recommended her for a role in my favorite Doris Day film, Romance on the High Seas. The film provided her with a beautiful song, "It's Magic."

She continued to make musicals such as: Starlift, The West Point Story, On Moonlight Bay, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, and Tea For Two. In 1953 Day performed as Calamity Jane, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Secret Love".

After filming, Young at Heart (1954) with Frank Sinatra, went on to perform in more dramatic roles, including her performance of singer Ruth Etting in the film, Love Me or Leave Me (1954), which she thought was her best film.

In Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Day sang "Que Sera, Sera" which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and became her signature song. The song was used again in another one of my favorite films,Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), and was also used in a brief duet with Arthur Godfrey in another favorite film, The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). "Que Sera, Sera", also became the theme song for her CBS television show (1968–73).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Birthday: Debbie Reynolds!

Debbie Reynolds (born April 1, 1932), performed in many movie musicals during the 1950s and had several hit records during the same period. Her song "Aba Daba Honeymoon" featured in the 1950 film, Two Weeks with Love(1950) was a top-three hit in 1951. She is best known for her performance in the film, Singin' in the Rain (1952). A comedy musical film starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Kelly also providing the choreography. It shows a comic view of Hollywood, and its transition from silent films to "talkies."

Next she went on to perform in the film, In Bundle of Joy (1956), with her then-husband, Eddie Fisher. Which, is a musical remake of the comedy film, Bachelor Mother (1939).  The story is about a unmarried salesgirl at a department store, who finds and takes care of an abandoned baby. The fun begins when her co-workers believe the child is hers and that the father is the son of the store owner.

Her recording of the song "Tammy", from her 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), was the best-selling single by a female vocalist in 1957.

In 1959, Reynolds recorded her first album, called Debbie, which included her own selection of 12 standards including "S’posin'", "Moonglow", "Mean To Me" and "Time After Time". Reynolds also had two other top-25 Billboard hits with "A Very Special Love" (1958) and "Am I That Easy to Forget" (1960).

Her starring role in the film The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) led to a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She then portrayed Jeanine Deckers in the film, The Singing Nun (1966).

From 1999 to its 2006 series finale, she played Grace Adler's mother, Bobbi Adler, on the sitcom, Will & Grace (1998–2006), which earned her a Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2000. She also plays a recurring role in the Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown film series as Aggie Cromwell. Reynolds made a guest appearance as a presenter at the 69th Academy Awards in 1997.

She is currently performing in her West End show Debbie Reynolds: Alive and Fabulous. In June 2010, her publicist Edward Lozzi secured her a role as a regular columnist for the weekly paper Globe, replacing Ivana Trump in answering reader queries.

She has received various nominations for awards including: an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for The Debbie Reynolds Show (1970), a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Mother (1996) and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, for her role of Bobbi Adler in the sitcom Will & Grace (2000). In 1996 and 1997, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, in the American Comedy Awards.

Happy Birthday: Jane Powell!

Fun Facts:

Her role model and favorite actress is the lyrical soprano/actress, Jeanette MacDonald.

Grew up watching Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies.

Best known as 'Milly' in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Was bridesmaid for Elizabeth Taylor for her first marriage. Taylor was bridesmaid for Powell's first marriage.

Sang at the Inaugural Ball for President Harry S. Truman, January 20, 1949.

Roddy McDowall, a friend from the beginning of Jane's Hollywood career and the remainder of his life, was an usher at her first wedding.