Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: Ann Nyberg's Remembering Katharine Hepburn: Stories of Wit and Wisdom of America’s Leading Lady

Ann Nyberg's Remembering Katharine Hepburn: Stories of Wit and Wisdom of America’s Leading Lady is a unique and captivating look at a woman who has been an inspiration to many and whose legacy continues on to this day. A local Connecticut journalist, Nyberg did what any good journalist would do by going straight to the source to deliver stories from those who knew her best-her family, friends, neighbors, and many others who knew her during her lifetime. Many of the stories bring out the true Hepburn in Katharine Hepburn. There have been numerous books about Katharine Hepburn written over the years, both prior to her death in 2003 and afterwards, Nyberg’s book is one of-if not THE-best there is. This book portrays Hepburn for who she was-not how people perceived who she was based on what was seen in the media, from an outsider’s point of view or from a “so-called insider” who’s really looking in from an outsider’s point of view. This book offers a unique look at Hepburn's life and legacy through the eyes of those who knew her as simply "Kate". If you are a fan, even in the slightest of classic films or Katharine Hepburn, definitely get this book.

Ann Nyberg – Remembering Katharine Hepburn: Stories of Wit and Wisdom of America’s Leading Lady - 168 pages - $ 14.52USD (

This review also appears on, and 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The -ISMs of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?: Ageism, Classism and Racism

In 1967, Stanley Kramer along with William Rose conceived the idea of a film intentionally structured the film to debunk ethnic stereotypes called Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?. The premise of the plot was that a young, white woman meets a doctor while on vacation in Hawaii and falls madly in love quickly. No problem, right?  What parents wouldn't love their daughter to come home with a DOCTOR?!?! Right. Of course. However, there was one slight little problem-the Doctor was black. During the period in which the film was made and set in, this was a major issue. In some states, interracial relationships were even illegal. In addition to raising the issue of racism, the movie also made focuses on other -isms: class-ism and ageism (also known as the "age gap"). Stanley Kramer and his team of actors-Katharine Hepburn playing the white mother, Christina Drayton, Spencer Tracy playing her husband Matt, Katharine Houghton (in her debut film and is Hepburn's real-life niece) plays Tracy and Hepburn's daughter, Joanna, Sidney Poitier rounds out the principal cast as Dr. John Wade Prentice, Joanna's fiancee. The way the script was done, it portrayed several "-isms" in classy ways. Kramer was well known for producing and directing films that were "out of the box" for typical directors at the time and making his audiences think outside the box.

During the  timing of the filming of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  Racisim was a hot-button topic. Racism is the belief by someone that the color of their skin is superior to someone else's. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? portrays the issue of racism in several points throughout the film. It begins in one of the very first scenes of the film. When Joanna (Houghton) and Prentice (Poiter) are on their way to visit Joanna's mother at "The Gallery", the two lovebirds are seen making out in the back of the cab, while the cabbie (an older, white man) looks at them in disgust, shaking his head in dismay. The cabbie is noticed one more time in the film, when John goes to pay him when they arrive at the house. John confirms how much he should pay him, including the tip and the cabbie acts all disgusted with him. Upon arriving at the Gallery, Hilary (played by Virginia Christine), is aghast at the thought of "Joey" with a colored man. When the two lovebirds leave the gallery, Hillary does as well-to go find Christina. Hillary arrives at Christina's home, after "Joey" and Dr. Prentice and Christina had returned. Hepburn's character had already met Dr. Prentice and did not react too positively at first. Dr. Prentice even expressed concern for Mrs. Drayton when she first spotted him because she looked shocked that he was a colored man, in fact, he even told her that she'd "better sit down, before you fall down", her young naïve daughter translated her new love's words "He thinks you're going to faint because he's a negro."  Later on, Houghton and Poiter are having coffee and sandwiches out on the terrace overlooking a great view when Tillie comes out, and shoves coffee at John as if she were angry with him for falling for "her little Joey whom she had raised from a cradle". When Mr. Drayton arrived home, Tillie was the first to greet him, with the line "All Hell's done broke loose, Mr. Matt!". Tracy's character was immediately concerned, and grows even more concerned when told that there is a doctor in the house, and inquired about it. She told him that, "He'll see." And boy, did he as the evening went on. He and Christina discuss the issue privately at length, where Christina reminds Matt how they explained the differences between the whites and the blacks, why things were the way they were and how wrong it was but had never told her not to "fall in love with a colored boy." Racisim was such a hot topic, that when this film first was released, some theatres wouldn't even play the film on their screens! Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  is a classic example of a film that portrays racism in a classy way.

A second prevalent issue in the film is classism. Classism is the prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social class {Source}. Classism is present when Dr. John Wade Prentice first shows up at the home of the Draytons, where they employ a maid, who happens to be a black woman. This example is prominent because it shows how the classes were during that time period-Tillie was an older black woman working as a maid, while John was a younger black man who had become a doctor. Another example is that Mr. Matt Drayton-the white father- worked as a newspaper publisher and was fairly well off, while Dr. Prentice's father worked as a post man for 36+ years. Dr. Prentice's parents had to work and save for every opportunity they had given their son, while Joanna's parents were able to give her virtually anything from the beginning as they were fairly well off. Another prevalent incident is that, like a good father, Matt Drayton had one of his people do a search (this was BEFORE google, folks) on Dr. Prentice's background to see if he was lying about anything he had mentioned. When his assistant returns the call with the information checking out, she basically tells the Draytons that he's perfect-Ivy Leage grad, top of his class, well to do for a career, does charity work, etc...what parents wouldn't want this kind of man for their daughter?  Right. The Draytons discuss the issue, at length. One particular line stands out to me, said by Christina to Matt: "We answered her questions honestly about the differences between the races and racism and how wrong it was morally, but never said to not fall in love with a colored boy"When Joanna impulsively invites John's parents to fly in for dinner,she informs her mother after the fact, to which Christina replies "Good. You'll tell Tillie, won't you?", knowing how Tillie would react to having to serve more black people at dinner. Needless to say, it didn't go over too well.  When Joanna approaches her about the issue, she also wants to know if the guest room is in order as John wants to shower and change before dinner...which becomes an issue between the two women. Another way there is classism is when John and Joanna first arrive at the Drayton homestead and John is looking around in awe, like he's in some kind of museum, rather than his fiancee's home. While this issue isn't as prominent as some of the other issues in the film,Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  is a classic example of a film that portrays the differences between the classes at that time.

The final prevalent issue in the film is age-ism. Age-ism is the prejudice against someone for their age, otherwise known as the "age gap". There are several prime examples of the "age gap" scattered throughout the film.  In the 1960s, everything was changing-there was the civil rights movement, there was Woodstock, the "hippie movement", songs about questionable values with television programs with traditional values, women's equality, and Vietnam, among all of this times were changing-couples were living together before marriage ("in sin"). Times were changing rapidly. However, people's attitudes, especially in the older generations (like their parents, Tillie and Hilary's generation for example) were not as quickly to adapt. One way that Dr. Prentice and Joanna's character's showed an age gap (he was 37 years old, she was only 23 years old) was when Dr. Prentice took her parents aside and informed them that there would be no wedding if they chose not to approve. When his fiancee found out about his ultimatum to her parents, she said "Why would you do such a thing? What a funny thing to do." Throughout the film, Joanna Drayton is portrayed as a naive young woman who is often underestimated by those around her-her friends, family, and even her fiancee! At one point Poitier's character even told her that (referring to him meeting her parents for the first time) "that you may be in for the biggest shock of your  young life!" Another way their age gap shows is their marriage proposal approval-she doesn't "give a damn what anyone thinks" (points if you know where that quote comes from! ;)) while he has the opposite issue-he insists upon having her parents approval, knowing that it would destroy his lovely bride-to-be if she had to cut her parents off to marry John. A third way she shows naivete is when she doesn't seem to see the so-called problem that they are going to have, and even according to her husband-to-be, thinks that their children "will grow up to be President of the United States someday."Another particularly minor scene in the film was during the dinner preparations, when Tillie's assistant Dorothy  leaves with the butcher shop delivery boy-both are young and grooving to music as they leave, he's a white boy, she's a black girl, while it made no difference to either one of them at all. Meanwhile, Tillie, the older black maid, was witnessing this whole thing and was appalled by the younger generations behavior. Another example is when Mr. and Mrs. Drayton go out for ice cream before the big dinner and they accidentally get into a fender-bender with another car-coincidentally driven by a young, black male and the young man gets into a fuss, calling Tracy's character "a stupid, old man" before the Draytons drive off after Matt offers the guy money for the repairs. All of these examples show how Mr. Kramer skillfully portrays the issue of ageism through out the film.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  portrays the eras many hot-button issues in a tasteful and tactful way.  Kramer was well known for producing and directing films that were "out of the box" for typical directors at the time and making his audiences think outside the box.During the  timing of the filming of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  Racism was a hot-button topic due to the civil rights movement lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Anther hot-button topic Kramer brings into his film is class-ism. The final hot-button topic of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  is age-ism. All three of these -isms are portrayed in a very classy way to make people think of the issues at hand, often without realizing it. Kramer was known for films like this during that time period.  Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  is a classic example of a film that portrays many issues that force the movie watcher to THINK about what they are watching and what they are doing in their own lives.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Obituary: Patty Duke

Patty Duke aka Anna Marie Duke was born 17 December 1946 as the youngest of three children to be born to John and Frances Duke {Source}.

When she was six years old, her mother (who was suffering from un-diagnosed mental illness) kicked her father out of their family home. Duke barely saw her father after that.

In 1955 or so, she made her stage debut during a play at the local YMCA with her elder brother Raymond (19), he managed to catch the eye of a couple of talent agents, John and Ethel Ross {Source}. After several projects together, Ray and the Rosses came across a project that needed a little girl to play Ray's came Anna (talk about type casting!). The Rosses were introduced to the young Anna, and immediately saw the spark in her that they had seen a few years earlier in her brother. There was a slight problem with little Anna Marie-she had a thick New Yorker accent, which would make her difficult to cast as anything but a New Yorker {Source}. However, the Rosses were up for the challenge, and quickly got to work correcting her dialect {Source}. Soon after, Anna wasted no time, quickly landing television jobs {Source}. Her speaking voice was so good, she eventually was cast a the young British Catherine in Wuthering Heights on television {Source}.

In the next couple of years, she appeared along side the industry's top performers-Helen Hayes, Laurence Oliver, Gloria Vanderbilt, Richard Burton, just to name a few {Source}. She worked steadly in television for several years, then the film offers began to pour in {Source}. She was uncredited in several films including I'll Cry Tomorrow {Source}. She made her film debut in 1958 in The Goddess, playing the title role at a young age, opposite Kim Stanley who played the role as an adult {Source}. During the next two years she was also featured in The 4D Man, starring Robert Lansing, Country Music Holiday, with Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Happy Anniversary where David Niven and Mitzi Gaynor played her parents. None of these would bring her the stardom that Broadway had previously {Source}.

In 1959, Anna made her big debut as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker {Source}. To prepare her for the role, John Ross would blindfold her to see if she could find her way around a room and moving the furniture while she was blindfolded {Source}. After intensely training for over a year, it was Anna's chance to audition for the role of Helen Keller {Source}. When she auditioned for the part, the producer and director where amazed at how convincing she was, they eventually hired her to play opposite Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan {Source}. The production opened in October 1959, with the best reviews ever for a Broadway play {Source}. In 1960, the young Anna was awarded the Theatre World Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the production received The Tony Award for Best Play {Source}. In 1960, her career skyrocketed to her becoming the youngest star on Broadway {Source}.

Of course, her life wasn't perfect. John and Ethel Ross spoke with Anna's mother about having complete control over her daughter-to make sure she stayed focused on acting and little else, and they wanted her to move in with them full time so they could teach her full time {Source}. Being strapped for cash and being emotional issues of her own, Frances agreed to let the Rosses take her youngest daughter {Source}. For the next several years, Anna took it personally and resented her mother for giving her up to the Rosses {Source}. In the meantime, the Rosses had professionally changed her name from Anna to Patty Duke, and were controlling her every move-what she ate, exactly what to say in interviews, even when her mother could visit her {Source}! Frances would visit her daughter from time-to-time, but usually it was to do her laundry, and was once even asked to use the servant's door {Source}! The Rosses were controlling her enough to where they couldn't bear to let anyone get in the way of their little fortune, event the fortune's own mother {Source}!

Before long, the Rosses were both heavy drinkers and invited a teenage Anna along to the "party" {Source}. While she was still young, the Rosses were feeding her prescription pills and alcohol {Source}. She was also subject to sexual abuse {Source}. She wasn't even permitted to shut the bathroom door for more than 10 minutes at a time {Source}.

The Miracle Worker ran for almost two years{Source}. After it's closing, the Rosses began to look for a play with a suitable role for their little star{Source}. Isle of Children was being produced at Cort Theatre on Broadway, and was auditioning for a young, dying girl{Source}. The show opened in 1962, again with rave reviews for Anna{Source}. Despite the great reviews, the show was a box office flop and closed shortly after{Source}.

However, things quickly turned for Anna, after it was announced that The Miracle Worker was being adapted for a feature film-and she and Anne Bancroft were both offered their original parts from Broadway{Source}. She was beyond thrilled to work with Bancroft again, along with Fred Coe, and Arthur Penn{Source}. The film did not get the same reception as the play had, however it did win Anna more awards. She was awarded a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer of 1962, and was nominated for an Best Supporting Actress Academy Award{Source}.

Anna's happiness of the news she was going to Hollywood for the Oscars was short-lived-her mother and her family were not invited to attend with them{Source}. Anna would attend with the Rosses and their dog{Source}. Anna was devastated that the most important person in her life (her mother) had to miss her biggest night of her young life{Source}. Although she had some stiff competition-Anna won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the ripe old age of sixteen{Source}! This was an Academy record until Tatum O'Neal won for 1973's Paper Moon{Source}. Duke was also the youngest person to have a television show named after her{Source}. The Patty Duke Show made it's television debut in 1963, revolving around two young identical cousins (both portrayed by Duke){Source}. This required twice the work, twice the number of hours, and because there were no child labor laws back then, they could work her all day if they wished{Source}. The success of the show was quick-and due to this the Rosses became even more control freaks than they already were{Source}.

At seventeen years old, she found her father, whom she hadn't seen in about a decade, had died, alone in a rooming house{Source}. Her father had only two things on him when he died-an autographed photo of his daughter and a letter written by his son Raymond{Source}. The Rosses allowed her to attend the funeral-but only if she went to the television studio to be made up properly first{Source}. She was allowed very little time to grieve for her father's passing{Source}.The Show must go on...and it did. Then came the mountains of merchandise-including a studio album (even though Anna thought she couldn't sing){Source}.

The one thing the Rosses couldn't control-Anna's new found interest in men{Source}. Previously, she had not been allowed to date, but that didn't stop her interest in the assistant director, Harry Falk{Source}. Their romance started off slow-flirting then turned into a full blown romance{Source}. In order to regain control over her, the Rosses moved the production-and Duke-to California{Source}. However, the tactic didn't work-Harry followed them to California, and the relationship continued{Source}.

During her time in California, Anna was cast in a part in the film Billie{Source}. Anna hadn't wanted to do the role, but was forced into it by the Rosses{Source}. Her hair was cut and bleached (badly) and she was forced to sing on the soundtrack{Source}.

With the rapping of Billie and the final season of The Patty Duke Show underway, Anna decided it was time to move out on her own{Source}. Soon after she moved away from the Rosses, she married Harry and they moved to Beverly Hills{Source}. She tried playing the role of a grown up married lady but due to her upbringing-a mentally ill mother and abusive caretakers-she was ill equipped to do such a role{Source}. Her depression that started a few years earlier became increasingly worse{Source}.

Matters were made worse, when ABC canceled The Patty Duke Show in 1966 after 104 episodes{Source}. Anna held mixed emotions about the ending-she was relieved as she thought the show was dumb anyway{Source}. When Anna married Harry, she cashed her savings bonds from her earnings, which should've netted her close to a million dollars...but not so much{Source}. The Rosses had spent the majority of the funds on their good times over the years-vacations, booze, and drugs{Source}.

Soon after the ending of The Patty Duke Show, Harry committed his wife to a mental facility due to her wild highs and suicidal tendencies{Source}. She was humiliated to be in the hospital, but played the part of a model patient and "acted" her way out{Source}.

After her release, the couple learned Twentieth Century Fox was in the process of casting for the film adaptation of Valley of the Dolls{Source}. Anna was eager to get the part of Neely O'Hara, but the producers wanted her to audition for the role because it would be the kind of adult role that people were not used to seeing her in{Source}. Anna was highly insulted, but eventually agreed to the audition and won the part{Source}.

She and the film's director did not get along, therefore filming was miserable for Anna{Source}. The film turned into both a personal flop for Anna and a professional one{Source}. After the 1967 release of Valley, Anna didn't work much {Source}. In 1968, she was offered the lead in the film Me, Natalie{Source}. During the filing, she and Harry decided to end their marriage, which caused her to attempt suicide{Source}. She passed out and had to have her stomach pumped, but was okay to go on{Source}. She continued filming and eventually won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in Me, Natalie{Source}. However, despite her personal success with the film, the film was a flop{Source}. After two major flops, Anna went back to television{Source}. She was mentioned for the part of Marlene Chambers in My Sweet Charlie, a role she had been mentioned for years ealrier for the Broadway production, but was hospitalized at the time{Source}. It was for My Sweet Charlie that Anna would win her first Emmy{Source}.

During this time, she found out the John Ross had died of a heart attack-despite of their past and differences, Anna was deeply effected by his death{Source}. Soon after she began to date Desi Arnaz, Jr. {Source}. Lucy was displeased with the match up-Desi was only 17 years old, and Anna was already once divorced and in her early 20s{Source}. Other than Lucy, their other issue was the American tabloid magazines, both factors caused major strain in their romance and they eventually parted ways{Source}.

Soon after her affair with Desi ended, she began a secret love affair with John Astin (Gomez in The Addams Family){Source}. Anna wound up pregnant, but couldn't tell anyone due to the fact by the time she had uncovered the pregnancy, John had gone back to his wife and three children{Source}. Again, she found herself at the top of tabloid news, most assumed the child was Desi's{Source}. At the time, Anna was Catholic, unmarried and pregnant{Source}. She married a man who sublet-ed her apartment in LA while she was in Chicago doing a play{Source}. The marriage was annulled less than two weeks later{Source}. Sean Astin was born on 17 February 1971{Source}. After his birth, Duke's behavior calmed down for a bit{Source}. In 1971, she believed that Desi Anz was his father, but he was raised by John Astin. It was later determined through DNA testing that neither is true-his biological father is her first husband, Michael Tell {Source}. There was little to no maternity leave for this actress! She went back to work two weeks after birthing her first child to film the TV film If Tomorrow Comes, and soon thereafter flew to Boston to shoot another one entitled Two on a Bench{Source}. During the filming of Bench, which co-stared her former flame John Astin, Astin realized that Sean was his child{Source}. John adopted Sean shortly thereafter and Patty and John were married in 1972{Source}. In 1973, they welcomed their second son, Mackenzie Alexander{Source}.

After a couple of years, Anna changed her professional name to Patty Duke Astin, and shortly thereafter, John's sons from previous relationships joined their family and she quickly adopted them as her own{Source}. Already in her late 20s, Patty was the mother to five sons-David, Tom, Alan, Sean & Mackenzie{Source}. She also suffered from a yet-to-be diagnosed mental illness, which often caused havoc in the household{Source}. During this time, the family toured the country, where John and Patty would appear in many theatrical productions{Source}. The duo often guest starred on several of the era's top television shows{Source}. During this time, Anna continued to work on her own as well.

In 1974, she starred in Nightmare and it's television squeal, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby in 1976. In 1976, she co-starred in Captains and the Kings, which she won her first Best Actress Emmy{Source}. The next few years were steady work for Duke{Source}.

In 1978, tragedy struck her again-this time with the death of Ethel Ross, who she had seen infrequently over the years since John's death{Source}. However, unlike with John, Duke and Ethel had a "bit of resolution"{Source}. Also in 1978, she was nominated for two additional Emmys, the movies Having Babies 3 and A Family Upside Down{Source}. The late 1970s and into the 1980s were very busy and semi-productive years for Anna{Source}.

She began to see a psychiatrist{Source}. Dr. Arlen diagnosed her with Manic Depression (Bi-Polar Disorder){Source}. At last-her unknown demon had a name-and a treatment! Soon after she was prescribed Lithium to soothe her symptoms{Source}. The treatment was successful!{Source}. However, it was much too late and she had suffered far too long with her issues{Source}. The Astin marriage began to crumble{Source}. The couple legally separated, reconciled, and divorced in 1985{Source}. Instead of dwelling, Anna got right back to what she did best-acting{Source}. She did a few mini-series, soap operas (one of which she co-starred with her son Mackenzie), among other projects{Source}.

After undergoing some "research" for a film role during "basic training for the army", she fell in love with her trainer, Sgt. Michael Pearce{Source}. He was separated from his current wife and had two daughters{Source}. On 15 March 1986, they were married{Source}. In 1989, Mike and Anna celebrated their union by adopting a one year old child, Kevin{Source}.

After a short honeymoon period, Anna began to work once again-a short lived television series and wrote her autobiography (available on Amazon) were in her hand for 1987 {Source}. After her autobiography's release, she began to speak out for mental health, among other social issues-women's rights, AIDS, and the Screen Actor's Guild{Source}. From 1985-1988, she served as President of the Screen Actor's Guild{Source}.

The 1990s were good to Anna as well-she worked a stage production, starred in the TV adaption of her autobiography, did several successful television films, and watched her son Sean get married{Source}. She and the producers used the film adaptation as a platform for The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill{Source}. Her publishers then approached her with another book idea-and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness was published in 1992{Source}. She also uprooted her family-Mike, Anna and Kevin-to Northern Idaho, where they resided on a farm{Source}.

In 1993, she had a goodbye to say to her mother{Source}. After many years of suffering mental illness like her daughter, her mother died{Source}. This time Anna allowed herself time to reflect and grieve{Source}. In 1995, she was back at it-this time taking a stab at acting and producing a television series, which was short-lived{Source}. The late 1990s and early 2000s were good to Anna....she fulfilled many life-long dreams{Source}. She starred in films for The Halmark Hall of Fame, made her musical theatre debut in Follies in Los Angeles, played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!'s Broadway revival{Source}.

However, her life in the 1990s was also filled with several downs. In 1998, her daughter died in a car accident at the age of 22{Source}. In 2002, she was in a near-tragic horse accident, but miraculously recovered{Source}. She lived her last years as a happy wife, mother, grandmother, mental health spokesperson, and actress{Source}.

Patty Duke is survived by three sons, three stepsons and three granddaughters-19 year old Alexandra "Ali" Astin (actress, known for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), 13 year old Elizabeth Astin and 10 year old Isabella Astin.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Obituary: Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman was born 21 Februrary 1946 as the son of Margaret Doreen Rose Rickman and Bernard Rickman. He had an older brother, David, and two younger siblings, Michael and Shelia.

When he was eight years old, his father died from lung cancer.

He was educated in England. He attended Latymer Upper School on a scholarship before studying Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design. While there, he met Rima Horton, who would become his life partner and later in life, his wife. Rickman graduated Chelsea College of Art and Design, then did graduate course work at the Royal College of Art. After graduation, he opened a successful graphic design business, Graphiti.

His love of theatre lead him to continue his education at  the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). In 1972, he was admitted to RADA on scholarship. Since then, his acting career hadn't stopped. He first caught the eye of American audiences as Vicomte de Valmont in the 1987 Broadway production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. For that role, he was nominated for his first Tony Award (which he lost to James Earl Jones in Fences). . He was denied the role of Vicomte de Valmont in the 1988 film version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (the role was played by John Malkovich). His first film appearance was in 1988's Die Hard with Bruce Willis. It was this film that would ultimately type cast him as a villain. He often cited as being a master of playing villains, Rickman has actually played a wide variety of characters. Some of these variety of roles include: Jamie in Anthony Minghella's Truly Madly Deeply (1990), Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), along with roles in Dogma (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Glaxay (2005). He is also known as Dr. Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made (2004), Alex Hughes in Snow Cake (2006), Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). Of course, he is probably most known for his role in the Harry Potter franchise films as Severus Snape. In 2002, he returned to New York, and Broadway, where he appeared as Elyot Chase in Private Lives, a role of which earned him both a Tony Award Nomination and Drama Desk Award Nomination (both of which he lost to Alan Bates in  Fortune's Fool). He would return to the Great White Way in 2011-2012 to appear as Leonard in Seminar.

Mr. Rickman died on 14 January 2016, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, and his three siblings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Obituary: Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'Hara was born 17 August 1920 as Maureen FitzSimmons as the second eldest of six children of Charles Stewart Parnell FitzSimons and Marguerita  FitzSimons {Source}.

O'Hara grew up in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland with her siblings Peggy, Charles (an actor/producer, 1924-2001), Florrie (known as Clare Hamilton, also an actress, died in the late 1990s), Margot (also an actress, 1926-2014), and Jimmy (1927-1992, another actor, was in The Quiet Man  with his sister as Father Paul, credited as James Lilburn).

She was first educated at the John Street West Girls' School before attending training at the Abbey Theatre and the Ena Mary Burke School of Drama and Elocution. She also took courses in bookkeeping and typing, in case her acting thing didn't work out for her. Her typing skills would come in handy during the filming of The Quiet Man  when she would take and transcribe notes from John Ford for the screen adaption of Maurice Walsh's short story The Quiet Man.

After the completion of Hunchback of Notre Dame for Laughton's Mayflower Pictures production company,  WWII began.  During WWII, Laughton's company could no longer opperate in London, so O'Hara's contract was sold to RKO. During her time at RKO, she was cast in several low-budget films, until John Ford stepped in. Ford would cast her in How Green was My Valley, which won the academy award for Best Picture. In 1947, she would be cast in the original Miracle on 34th Street along side Natalie Wood.

In 1946, O'Hara became a naturalised US Citizen, while maintaining Irish citizenship. At the height of her career, she was considered to be one of the world's most beautiful women.

Her most remembered roles are those roles in films which she starred opposite John Wayne. Together, the duo starred in 5 films in a matter of 24 years:

  1. The Quiet Man
  2. Rio Grande
  3. The Wings of Eagles
  4. McLintock!
  5. Big Jake

She took a "retirement" from acting from 1971 (after filming Big Jake) to 1991's Only the Lonely. During this 20 year period, she mostly did television appearances. She appeared with Henry Fonda in The Red Pony,  as well as several television documentaries. In 1991, she appeared in  Only the Lonely. After that, she did several made-for-TV films, such as The Christmas Box, Cab for Canada (next to Miracle, this one is my personal favorite. ;)), and The Last Dance. 

O'Hara was married three times, to three different men. She married George H. Brown in 1939, this marriage ended in an annulment in 1941. In 1941, she married William Houston Price, with whom she would have a daughter Bronwyn Bridget Price (who I share a birthday with ironically enough). Bronwyn would eventually give her parents a grandson in 1970, Conor Beau FitzSimons. This union ended in 1953. O'Hara would date nrique Parra from 1953-1967, but they never married. Her third marriage was to Charles F. Blair, Jr. was from 1968-1978, ending in his death.

She had homes in Arizona and the Virgin Islands, but lived mainly in Glengarriff, County Cork, after suffering a stroke in 2005 {Source}. In May 2012, when O'Hara was 91 years old, her family became concerned that she may have been a victim of elder abuse  {Source}.  That September, she relocated to the United States to live with her grandson, Conor, in Idaho. In May of the following year, she appeared at  the 2013 John Wayne Birthday "Tribute to Maureen O'Hara" celebration in Iowa.
On 24 October 2015, Maureen O'Hara died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho from natural causes. She was 95 years old. She was survived by her daughter, grandson, two great grandchildren (Bailey and Everest). She will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband, Charles Blair {Source}.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Obituary: Yvonne Craig

Yvonne Joyce Craig was born 16 May 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois, but grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

She originally trained to be a ballet dancer and was a member of the corps de ballet of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (not to be confused with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo of Monaco) in the 1950s. Eventually, she moved into acting. She appeared in three films in 1959, including: The Young Land, The Gene Krup Story and Gidget.  She was also a guest star as Beverly Mills on Mr. Lucky. In 1960, she appeared with Bing Crosby in High Time. 

In 1961, she appeared wiht Cesar Romero in Seven Women from Hell. The pair would later re-unite as the Joker and CatWoman in the Batman films. Craig's second future Batman connection would come when she appeared in Perry Mason  the episode entitled The Case of the Lazy Lover, in which Neil Hamilton  played her stepfather. Hamilton would play her father, Commissioner Gordon in Batman. 

Criag would also have the opportunity to work with Elvis Presley in two of his films: It Happened at the World's Fair  and Kissin' Cousins in 1963-1964. She also appeared in the cult sci-fi films  Mars Needs Women (1966) and   In Like Flint (1967) as a Russian ballet dancer opposite James Coburn.

In the 1960s, she began to appear on television. She appeared on  The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Death Valley Days,Hennesey, and My Three Sons. Craig appeared five times on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, portraying five separate girlfriends for the titular character between 1959 and 1962. One of her more memorable roles came in 1969, when she portrayed Marta on Star Trek  in an episode titled Whom Gods Destroy. In 1965, she began appearing on other sci-fi shows, like The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. She would also appear in the theatrical film One Spy Too Many. 

Craig's highest profile would come with the cult 1960s television series Batman as Batgirl (and her alter ego, librarian Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter). She appeared in the final season (1967–1968) {Source}Craig felt some connection to the character and complained to DC Comics after Barbara Gordon was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in the 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke {Source}.

Craig died at her home on August 17, 2015, aged 78, from metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver{Source}. She was married to Jimmy Boyd from 1960-1962.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Obituary: Alex Rocco

Alex Rocco was born Alexander Federico Petricone on 29 February 1936 as the son of Mary (1909-1978) and Alessandro Sam Petricone {Source}. Rocco was most known for his versatile acting career. ranging from comedy to mobster films.

After moving to Los Angeles, Rocco became a member of the Bahá'í Faith. He married Sandra Elaine Rocco (1942-2002) on March 24, 1964{Source}. Together, they raised 3 children and eventually had a grandson:

  1. Marc Rocco (1962-2009, Alex's adopted son, Sandra's son with Harvey King) {Source}
  2. Jennifer Rocco 
    1. Anthony Dominic Rocco (1987)
  3. Lucien Rocco 

Sandi predeceased him in 2002, he later married Shannon Wilcox.

His most notable role is Moe Greene in The Godfather