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Category Archives: Biography

Film Debut ~ 1960 – Jane Fonda

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Jane Fonda, born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda, daughter of the great actor, Henry Fonda and Francis Ford Seymour, made her film debut April 6, 1960 in Tall Story. Tall Story is a 1960 American romantic comedy film made by Warner Bros., directed by Joshua Logan and starring Anthony Perkins and Jane Fonda. The film was the first screen role for Fonda and she portrays a character who is the complete opposite of the independent liberated woman she later personified.

Jane went on to become an Oscar winning actress, winning Best Actress Oscars for her roles in Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978). She also became a political activist and gained the nickname, Hanoi Jane. Fonda visited Hanoi in July 1972. During her trip, Fonda made ten radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as “war criminals”.  During the course of her visit, Fonda visited American prisoners of war (POWs), and brought back messages from them to their families. Her visits to the POW camp led to persistent and exaggerated rumors repeated widely in the press, and decades later have continued to circulate on the Internet. Fonda has personally denied the rumors.  Jane has also been a longtime supporter of feminist causes.  She states that for many years, she feared to call herself a feminist, because she believed that all feminists were “anti-male”. But now, with her increased understanding of patriarchy, she feels that feminism is beneficial to both men and women, and states that she “still loves men”.

In the 1980’s she released a slew of exercise videoes, In 1982, Fonda released her first exercise video, titled Jane Fonda’s Workout, inspired by her best-selling book, Jane Fonda’s Workout Book. The Jane Fonda’s Workout became the highest selling home video of the next few years, selling over a million copies. The video’s release led many people to buy the then-new VCR in order to watch and perform the workout at home. Fonda subsequently released 23 workout videos with the series selling a total of 17 million copies combined, more than any other exercise series.  She also released five workout books and thirteen audio programs, through 1995. After a fifteen-year hiatus, she released two new fitness videos on DVD in 2010, aiming at an older audience.

Fonda married her first husband Roger Vadim in 1965. The couple had a daughter, Vanessa, born in 1968 and named for actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave. In 1973, shortly after her divorce from Vadim, Fonda married activist Tom Hayden. Their son, Troy O’Donovan Garity (born 1973), was given his paternal grandmother’s surname, Garity, since the names “Fonda and Hayden carried too much baggage” and “Troy”, an Americanization of the Vietnamese name “Troi”. Fonda and Hayden unofficially adopted an African-American teenager, Mary Luana Williams (known as Lulu), who was the daughter of members of the Black Panthers. Fonda and Hayden divorced in 1989.Fonda married her third husband, cable-television tycoon and CNN founder Ted Turner, in 1991. The pair divorced in 2001. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Fonda underwent a lumpectomy in November 2010, and has recovered.

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Regardles of her political and or feminist views, Jane Fonda is an outstanding actress and even after coming out of retirmement in May 2005, she returned to the screen with a box office success Monster-in-Law. She continues to act in films and stage and at 71 she says she will continue to act until she is no longer able.

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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in 1960, 60's, Actresses, Biography, Film Debuts

 

Clark Gable ~ 1901-1960

Clark Gable, born in Cadiz, Ohio as William Clark Gable on February 1, 1901. The former blue-collar worker from Ohio became the “King of Hollywood,” a title based on his being the leading male box-office attraction throughout the 1930s. The dashing, mustachioed image of Rhett Butler in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) remains indelibly associated with the name Clark Gable.
Following his marriage to actress Josephine Dillon, Gable played bit parts in several silent Hollywood features but he first achieved fame as a leading man on Broadway in the late 20s. With the flourishing of sound films, Gable joined the new generation of movie actors who made the move from New York to Hollywood in the early 30s. On the advice of director/actor Lionel Barrymore MGM granted him a screen test and, after a talkie debut in a Pathé western (THE PAINTED DESERT, 1931), Gable signed a contract with the prestigious Metro, where he remained until 1954. In his first year alone, Gable appeared in a dozen features, quickly rising from supporting player to romantic lead. He was teamed with all of MGM’s leading ladies, most notably opposite Norma Shearer in A FREE SOUL (1931), Greta Garbo in SUSAN LENOX: HER FALL AND RISE (1931) and Joan Crawford in THE POSSESSED (1931) — though he proved equally adept in male-oriented action sagas (THE SECRET SIX, 1931, SPORTING BLOOD, 1931, HELL DIVERS, 1932).
Despite his rising popularity, Gable balked at having to play gangsters and overly callous characters. In a now legendary act of studio disciplining, Louis B. Mayer “punished” Gable by loaning him out to lowly Columbia for a role in a minor romantic comedy. The project, Frank Capra’s IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), unexpectedly became the first film to sweep the five major Oscars (for best actor, actress, director, writer, and picture) and vaulted Gable to new prominence in the industry. His sensational appearance sans undershirt in the film’s bedroom scene went down in Hollywood legend as the event that caused American males to make fewer trips to the haberdasher. While its effect on undershirt purchases may be purely apochryphal, the publicity from the event no doubt led to Gable’s next major role, that of the bare-chested Fletcher Christian in MGM’s MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935), another Oscar-winner for Best Picture.
With such success under his belt, Gable commanded even greater star treatment at Metro and began appearing in fewer films each year, although his range of genre vehicle expanded. He continued his string of romantic comedies with Jean Harlow (RED DUST, 1932, HOLD YOUR MAN, 1933, CHINA SEAS, 1935, WIFE VS. SECRETARY, 1936, and SARATOGA, 1937), but also made offbeat musical appearances (SAN FRANCISCO, 1936, CAIN AND MABEL, 1936, IDIOT’S DELIGHT, 1939, in which he sang “Puttin’ on the Ritz”), action dramas (CALL OF THE WILD, 1935, TEST PILOT, 1938) and romances (LOVE ON THE RUN, 1936). With MGM even promoting his image in its other feature films (Judy Garland singing “Dear Mr. Gable –You Made Me Love You” in BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938 and Mickey Rooney doing Gable impressions in BABES IN ARMS, 1939) Clark Gable remained King of the Hollywood box office throughout the decade, culminating in his highly publicized and memorable performance in GONE WITH THE WIND.
Gable’s reign at the top of Hollywood stardom in 1939 was enhanced by his storybook romance and marriage to actress Carole Lombard. Her untimely death in a plane crash in January 1942 marked a tragic downturn in Gable’s life. He turned his back on his film career and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After two years of decorated combat service, Gable returned to the screen in 1945 with his macho hero’s image only further amplified. But despite much studio publicity for his return in ADVENTURE (“Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got Him”) and some box-office success, Gable’s post-war film career consisted mostly of routine, undistinguished vehicles. He consistently starred in one film a year, but never regained his status of 30s. Still, there were no pretenders to the throne. When MGM remade RED DUST in 1953 as MOGAMBO, Ava Gardner was in for Harlow, Grace Kelly played the Mary Astor role, and Gable’s part? Only Gable could fill Gable’s shoes, even twenty-one years later.
After a short-lived marriage (Lady Sylvia Ashley) and an unsuccessful attempt at independent production in the 1950s, Gable proved himself the King one last time, romancing the fragile Marilyn Monroe in John Huston’s THE MISFITS (1961). His performance was greatly praised, but Gable had insisted on performing his own stunts, including breaking a horse. Doctors had warned him about an already weakened heart and the exertion proved too much (this would be Monroe’s last completed film as well), and just 12 days after filing was complete Clark Gable died of a heart attack on November 16, 1960 at the age of only 59.  He widowed his fifth wife, the former Kay Spreckles, who gave birth to John Clark Gable only four months after his death.
 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in 1960, 60's, Actors, Biography, Classic Men in Cinema, Deaths

 

A Star is Born – Sean Penn

1960 was a good year for the movies. In the next few days I will be sharing some of my favorites and some of the worst of my own birth year, 1960.

1960 was a good year for the future of movies as well. Many of today’s stars were born in 1960. Some of them are more well known than others, and some are well, just a little more talented that others. But one of our most talented stars to enter the world in 1960 was …

Sean Penn

Sean Justin Penn was born August 17, 1960 in Santa Monica, California. Sean Penn is the second son of actress Eileen Ryan & director Leo Penn. After a few TV roles his first film was the acclaimed 1981 film Taps, where he palyed Cadet Captain Alex Dwyer. In 1982, he played the role that brought him to the attention of audiences nationwide (whether it was good or bad) as a surfer dude who is said in the film to have been high since the third grade. His performance as “Jeff Spicoli” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) is ranked #9 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. He went on during he 80’s with some films such as Falcon and the Snowman, Colors and We’re no Angels. One day prior to his 25th birthday he married the pop icon, Madonna, on August 16, 1985. They were married for four years, divorcing in September of 1989. In 1996 he married actress Robin Wright, with whom had had two children.
During the 1990’s, Sean continued to shine, and reach acclaim with the Academy in his role of Matthew Poncelet, Death Row inmate pleading with a caring nun played by Susan Sarandon(Who one the Oscar for best Actress for her role) to save his life in Dead Man Walking. In 2003 he won the first of two Best Actor Oscars for his role of Jimmy Markum in Clint Eastwood’s Best Picture winner, Mystic River. His charecter is an ex-con whose daughter is murdered. His second Best Actor Oscar came in 2008 for his role in Milk, the story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected officail, and was later assasinated by a disgruntled former employee.
Sean continues to be avoice to reckon with in Hollywood, as an actor, director and activist. His upcoming roles are that of gangster Mickey Cohen in Gangster Squad and is rumored to be starring in a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
 
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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in 1960, 60's, A Star is Born, Actors, Biography, Births

 

Capote ~ 2005

It’s 1959, and celebrated author Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) decides to make his next project the shocking murders of the Clutter family in a small, conservative Kansas town where nothing usually happens. Then, researching his project, the author becomes fascinated or some say even enamoured with one of the killers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.).

An outstanding film, showcasing one of the greatest biographical performances by Hoffman, at once celebrating, analysing and criticising an important writer and his major book. You’ll appreciate it more if you’ve read In Cold Blood or seen the film recently. B+

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2008 in 2005, Biography, Drama

 

Aviator ~ 2004

Leonardo finally proved himself to me with this outstanding film and portryal of Howard Hughes. I mean I’ve always liked him, but ever since Gilbert Grape, I didn’t think he was working up to his potential. After seeing Aviator, I and the rest of the world know what this actor can do.

He carried this film. He and Cate Blanchett. Howard Hughes was a mystery to so many and DeCaprio showed us a little of that mystery and what was behind the man. Hepburn is a legend and Blanchett showed us what she was all about in perfect form.

Martin Scorsese brought an air of old Hollywood back to Hollywood with this film and as most of his films this was also one of his best. His direction helped capture the essence of Hollywood in Hughes’ hey day and also the pain in which Hughes lived in it. Excellent movie, excellent direction and excellent acting. A

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2007 in 2004, Biography, Drama

 

Alexander ~ 2004

A bio-epic film is either very good, or very poor. That was until I saw Alexander, with Colin Farrell in the lead as the greatest leader of all time Alexander. Farrell’s performance was very intense, as all of Farrell’s performances seem to be, but this one was extremely well done. Other than the bad dye job with his hair, he portrayed the psychological side of Alexander the Great in true realism. This is what this film wanted to portray, the psychological side of this great man, what made him tick.

Angelina Jolie, who played Alexander’s mother, Olympias (she and Farrell are really almost the same age) was able to pull off this role with the audacity that is Jolie. She commands every scene that she is in and rightfully so. However, Val Kilmer, who played Alexander’s father, Philip was less than lackluster. He gave a very strained dry performance. The great Anthony Hokins as Ptolemy and the film’s narrator is superb as always.

The cinematography was superb, some of the finest I had seen. It pulled you into the film, and gave you that aura that you were looking deep into the mind of this man known to be great, yet somewhat mad.

Overall this was a good film, not one of the great bio epics, but one of the better. B+
 
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Posted by on July 14, 2007 in 2004, Biography, Drama