Category Archives: Broadway

Idina Menzel 5.30.13 Thought of the Day

“I’ve been singing since I was born. It’s something I do everywhere I go. In the shower, walking down the street. I don’t need any impetus to do it. I just sing” — Idina Menzel

English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside t...
English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside the Today Show studios following an appearance and performance promoting the release of her debut Warner Bros album “I Stand.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Idina Kim Menzel  was born in Queens, New York City, New York, in  1971. She is 42 years old.

She is one of two girls born to Helene and Stuart Mentzel. She grew up in New Jersey and Syosset, New York. She attended the Tisch School of the Arts and earned her Bachelors of fine Arts from New York University.  A singer since childhood Menzel began to perform professionally at weddings and bar mitzvahs as a teenager.

She had her first Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes of fame as Maureen Johnson in RENT in 1996. She originated the role in New York Theatre Workshop and moved with the show to Broadway. Menzel later played Maureen in the 2005 movie version of the play. She earned a Tony nomination the role.

Here’s Take Me or Leave Me...

Menzel had a string of smaller, but successful gigs both on and off Broadway  (including: Tha Vagina Monologues, Aida, The Wild party, Summer of ‘42, and a Hair encore concert) but she really defied gravity with her second big role as Elphaba in Wicked.

The show, based on the Gregory Maguire novel, hit the Great White Way in 2003. She won the 2004 Tony for her role as the green witch.

Her post Wicked stage resume includes See What I Wana See, Chess and Nero. Next year she will return to Broadway to open in Tom Kit and Brian Yorkey’s musuical If/Then.

In 2008 Menzel released I Stand on Warner Bros. Records. The album is a …

powerful collection of exquisite new songs written by the Tony Award winning actress/singer/songwriter…filled with pop tunes and heartfelt ballads—intimate yet universal stories of life, its challenges, relationships and of course – the subject of love. [Idena Menzel.com ]

Here’s Brave from I Stand:

She tours domestically and internationally to promote both her original work from the album and her Broadway work.

Most recently Menzel has appeared on television’s Glee’s.


Katharine Hepburn 5.11.13 Thought of the Day

“. . . as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”–Katharine Hepburn

From Woman of the Year [Image courtesy: Wikimedia]

From Woman of the Year [Image courtesy: Wikimedia]

Katharine Houghton Hepburn was born on this day in Hartford, Connecticut, USA in 1907. Today is the 106th anniversary of her birth.

She was the second of six children born to Thomas and Katharine Hepburn. Her father was a urologist, her mother was a suffragette. Her parents “encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential.” [IMDb] She decided to become an actress while attending Bryn Mawr College.

Upon graduation  in 1928 (she got her degree in history and philosophy) she went to Broadway  where she got a number of small roles before starring as Antiope, the Amazon princess, in A Warrior’s Husband in 1932. The same year she made her first film A Bill of Divorce with John Barrymore. She won her first Academy Award for 1933’s Morning Glory.

Hepburn was always her own woman. She wore pants, but didn’t wear makeup. She spoke her mind and she certainly didn’t fit into the Hollywood starlet mold. That made for a difficult road for the actress in the mid to late 1930’s. Although she had a few stage and screen successes  she struggled until she starred in The Philadelphia Story on Broadway in 1938.

Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphi...

Cropped screenshot of the film The Philadelphia Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She quickly bought the film rights, and so was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars. The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940), was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again. For her next film, Woman of the Year (1942), she was paired with Spencer Tracy, and the chemistry between them lasted for eight more films, spanning the course of 25 years, and a romance that lasted that long off-screen. (She received her fourth Oscar nomination for the film.) Their films included the very successful Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957). [Ibid]

Cover of "The Hepburn & Tracy Signature C...

Cover via Amazon

By the 1950’s she was pegged for more mature roles like Oscar nominated role opposite Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.

She won her second Oscar opposite Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Tracy’s last movie) in 1967. And repeated the walk down the red carpet to pick up Oscar #3 the following year for The Lion In Winter.

Hepburn added more TV work to she schedule in the 1970s, but still found some plum film work  including Rooster Cogburn and On Golden Pond. She won her 4th Oscar for Golden Pond.

From On Golden Pond [Image courtesy: The Hairpin.com]

From On Golden Pond [Image courtesy: The Hairpin.com]

Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, 2003. She was 96 years old.


Edward Albee 3.12.13 Thought of the Day

“If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly.”–Edward Albee
[Image courtesy: The Modern World.com]

[Image courtesy: The Modern World.com]

Edward Harvey was born on this day in Washington, DC in 1928. He is 85 years old.
When he was 2 weeks old he was adopted by Reed and Frances Albee. The family moved to Larchmont, New York soon afterward. The Albees had a theatre pedigree. Grandfather Edward Franklin Albee II  was the owner of several theaters, part of the Keith-Albee chain. With its roots in vaudeville the theatres hosted touring companies and eventually made the leap to movies. The company merged with two other companies and became RKO pictures….and the Albees were set for life.
Albee grew up in an affluent family. He had access to the stage from a young age and his love of theatre and art was well founded from his childhood. He did not do well at school. He was rebellious, and he was expelled from a number of public, private and military schools.
Almost from the beginning he clashed with the strong-minded Mrs. Albee, rebelling against her attempts to make him a success as well as a sportsman and a member of the Larchmont, New York, social set. Instead, young Albee pursued his interest in the arts, writing macabre and bitter stories and poetry, while associating with artists and intellectuals considered objectionable by Mrs. Albee. [The Kennedy Center. org]

After he dropped out of Trinity College in his sophomore year he had a rift with his family. (He never saw his father again.) He moved to New York’s Greenwich Village and lived on a small inheritance and by doing odd jobs — like delivering telegrams — while honing his writing skills. Albee tried his hand at poetry and fiction before finding his groove as a playwright.

Edward Albee [Image courtesy: Academy Achievement.]

Edward Albee [Image courtesy: Academy Achievement.]

In 1959 his first play, The Zoo Story was produced in Berlin, Germany. I came to New York, Off-Broadway in 1960. The Zoo Story is a one-act play “in which a loquacious drifter meets a conventional family man on a park bench and provokes him to violence” [Academy of Achievement]  Other one acts and short dramas followed including : The Sandbox, The American Dream and The Death of Bessie Smith.

By 1962, he was ready to storm Broadway, the bastion of commercial theater in America. His first Broadway production, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was a runaway success and a critical sensation. The play received a Tony Award, and Albee was enshrined in the pantheon of American dramatists alongside Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. [Academy of Achievement] 

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Image courtesy: The Movie Jerk]

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Image courtesy: The Movie Jerk]

His first Pulitzer Prize came for the 1966 drama A Delicate Balance.  Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975 with Seascape, “which combined theatrical experiment and social commentary in a story about a retired vacationing couple who meet a pair of sea lizards at the beach.” [The Kennedy Center. org] “As bizarre as the idea sounded on first hearing, the result was both humorous and moving. The play charmed audiences and critics…” [Academy of Achievement] 

After Seascape the theater critics, unexpectedly, fell out of love with Albee. For nearly two decades he struggled to get the audiences and critical praise he deserved.

In an era of Hollywood-style “play development” by committee, Albee has remained an uncompromising defender of the integrity of his own texts, and a champion of the work of younger authors. Over the years, he has scrupulously reserved part of his time for the training of younger writers. He has conducted regular writing workshops in New York, and … taught playwriting at the University of Houston. He has persistently asked young writers to hold themselves to the highest artistic standards, and to resist what he sees as the encroachment of commercialism on the dramatic imagination.  [Academy of Achievement] 

In 1994 he was back with Three Tall Women. The play won Albee his third Pulitzer. “In 1996, Albee was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.” [Ibid] The triumph of Three Tall Women launched the second act for the playwright who saw The Play About the Baby, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award / Drama Desk Award) and  Occupant (the story of artist Louise Nevelson*), hit the Great White Way within a decade.  Next Albee reworked The Zoo Story in Homelife and presented both plays as Peter and Jerry.

Cover of "The Play About The Baby"

Cover of The Play About The Baby

He was honored with a Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award  in 2005.

At 85 Albee continues to write for the stage.

—————————————————


Frank Sinatra 12.12.12 Thought of the Day

“May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.”
— Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy last.fm

Image courtesy last.fm

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this day in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA in 1915. Today is the 97th anniversary of his birth.

Frank was the only child of Marty and Dolly Sinatra. As a kid he stood on top of the bar at a local nightclub and sang for tips. He dropped (or was kicked) out of high school, and help make ends meet at home by delivering the local paper, the Jersey Observer. He also worked as a riveter at a local shipyard. Although he couldn’t read music he began singing professionally by the mid 1930s when he joined the Three Flashes (they changed their name to the Hoboken Four.)

He worked as a singing waiter in Englewood Cliffs for $15 a week for almost 4 years. Then Henry James signed him for a one year contract at $75 a week. On July 13th, 1939, as the US was emerging from a decade of Depression and the world was on the advent of another great War, 23-year-old  Frank Sinatra recorded his first record, From the Bottom of my Heart, with the Harry James Orchestra.

He released 10 songs with James (none of which charted particularly high in their original pressing.) Sinatra switched to the more popular Tommy Dorsey’s band (with James’ blessing) in November. He recorded over 40 songs on Dorsey. One of his biggest hits with Dorsey was I’ll Never Smile Again.

By 1941 he was at the top of  both the Billboard and Down Beat magazine polls. Not only did he sell records, he opened up an entirely new audience — the bobby soxers (aka teenagers.) [It seems odd today — when so much of a company’s advertising budget goes toward capturing the 12-20 year old’s pocketbook — but prior to 1940 most consumers were adults.  Sinatra appealed to both adult women and bobby sox wearing girls.]

Image courtesy last.fm

Image courtesy last.fm

He went solo in 1943 and in the next three years he charted 17 times.  Sinatra was classified 4-F for military service because of a perforated eardrum, so he did not serve in the military.

He started making films as part of the Dorsey Band  with Las Vegas Nights and  Ship Ahoy, he had a walk on / singing part in the wonderfully named Reveille with Beverly but then had his first real role in Higher and Higher. He teamed with Gene Kelly for the hugely successful Anchors Aweigh in 1945.  It was the first of three Sinatra/Kelly films with Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town coming out in 1949.  He won a special academy award for his work on the (dated) short film The House I Live In. (1945)

At the beginning of the 1950’s Sinatra saw his popularity wane somewhat. The bobby soxers who had screamed out deafening choruses of “FRANKIE” for the thin, blue-eyed singer had found new idols to adore.

He came back with a bang with his next movie, 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He won an Oscar as bad boy Angelo Maggio.

Cover of "From Here to Eternity"

Cover of From Here to Eternity

The same year he signed with Capitol Records. In 1954 his album Swing Easy! was named Album of the Year by Billboard and the single Young At Heart was picked for Song of the year. Swing Easy was arranged by Nelson Riddle. Sinatra and Riddle worked together again for Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! which included I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

He poked fun at his mobster image in the movie version of Guys and Dolls. in 1955 as Nathan Detroit.  In 1956 he played Mike Connor to Grace Kelly’s Tracy Lord in High Society.  The next year he was Joey in Pal Joey.

He started his own record label in 1960, Reprise Records. 

In 1962 he starred in his most dramatic movie the classic political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate. [For my money The Manchurian Candidate is the best movie of the bunch.]

He was a founding member of the Rat Pack and worked alongside Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop in several movies and countless nightclub acts.

Here he is  having a ton of fun singing Lady Is a Tramp with the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald

Sinatra was a sucker for charities.  He raised over a billion dollars in the course of his life for charities all over the world.

His generosity touched the worlds of education, medicine, science, and children’s needs, his favorite cause. … Sometimes it was a late-night phone call that moved him; sometimes he just caught wind of a hard-luck story on the news or in the paper and did what he could to fix it. [Sinatra.com]

In 1962 he led a 12 country World Tour for Children that raised over a million dollars for children’s charities worldwide. He paid for the entire cost of the tour himself, and recruited other musical luminaries to join him.

He also worked against segregation , taking a major role in the desegregation of Nevada entertainment and hospitality industry in the 1960s. He boycotted venues and hotels where black performers and guest were banned. And he played benefits for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Equal Right Movement.

Sinatra received the Presidential medal of Freedom from Ronal Reagan in 1985.

Ole’ Blue Eyes faced his final curtain on May 14, 1998. He was 82 years old.

Frank older

Image courtesy last.fm


Rita Moreno 12.11.12 Thought of the Day

“Then there’s the story of ill-fated love. It’s universal.”
Rita Moreno

Caption for Rita Moreno

[Image courtesy: Berkeleyside]

Rosita Dolores Alverio was born on this day in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1931. She is 81.

She moved to New York with her mother when she was six. Her first entertainment gig was doing Spanish voice overs to American films when she was 11. She made her Broadway debut in November of 1945 in Skydrift at the Belasco Theatre. Her name appeared in the program as Rita Moreno.

She appeared as Zelda Zanders in Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 and as Tuptim in The King and I in 1956. She also played a lot of  Latino “sexpot” roles, something she found degrading, but that she put up with.

Then came West Side Story…

Moreno (co-stars) as “Anita”, the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Sharks’ leader Bernardo, whose sister Maria is the piece’s Juliet. A seasoned singer and dancer, Moreno delivered a superb performance that completely overshadowed the Maria of the movie, the non-singer (and non-Hispanic) Natalie Wood, the only movie star in the ensemble cast. [IMDB Rita Moreno]

Watch her sing and dance up a storm with Geroge Chakiris and the Sharks (et al) in West Side Story…

But her performance went well beyond wise cracking, dancing and singing. She was…

…unforgettable in a harrowing scene where she had to deliver a message from Maria to the Romeo of the piece, the Jets’ member Tony, and is assaulted by his fellow gang-members. This is the real climax of the film.[Ibid]

She won an Oscar for her Anita.

Moreno is, in fact, the first person to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy — something only 12 other people have managed to achieve.. (She won Emmys for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files; The Tony was for the musical The Ritz (’76), and the Grammy was for the soundtrack to the “Electric Company.”) In 2010 President Obama awarded Moreno a National Medal of  Arts.

Here she mets her match with the Muppet Show‘s Animal (or was it the other way around?)

From PBS kids shows like Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego to the hard-hitting HBO prison drama OZ (she won 3 American Latino Media Arts awards for her role as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo) Moreno always gives herself 100% to a project.

Here she is singing It’s An Art from the musical Working...

Moreno has over 130 credits listed in her TV and Movie database and has been working for over 6 decades. At 81 she still looks and sounds great, and shows little sign of slowing down.

Moreno in 2009. [Image courtesy NOVA Southeastern University.]

Moreno in 2009. [Image courtesy NOVA Southeastern University.]


Harpo Marx 11.23.12 Thought of the Day

“He looked like something that had gotten loose from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
–Harpo Marx

English: Photograph of Harpo Marx playing the ...

Adolph Marx was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1888. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

The second  of five brothers in the Marx family, Adolph didn’t make it past second grade in school. He was small for his age and he was picked on by the bigger boys because he was Jewish. Two boys literally threw him out of the (first floor) classroom window on several occasions before he gave up and left school.  He joined his brother Chico in doing odd jobs to help the family.

His uncle Al Schoenberg (stage name Al Shean) was in a Vaudeville act. His older brother Chico played piano, and his younger bother Julius (Groucho) was a boy soprano. Adolph joined Julius and Milton (Gummo) to form “the Three Nightingales” in 1910. Lou Levy joined them to make the group “The Four Nightingales.” When their mother, Minnie, and Aunt Hannah joined the act they changed the name to “The Six Mascots.”

The five Marx brothers with their parents in N...

The five Marx brothers with their parents in New York City, 1915. From left to right; Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (father), Chico, and Harpo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911 he changed his name to Arthur because he didn’t like the sound of Adolph. He adopted the stage name of Harpo when his mother sent him a harp. He didn’t know how to tune it or play it. He didn’t even know how to hold it until he found an image of an angel holding a harp at the 5&10 store. He tuned it the best he could and taught himself to play.

At that point Harpo’s two-fold schtick — he “couldn’t talk” so he blew his horn  or whistled to communicate; and he played the harp — was in place. (He could, in fact, talk. And he did so — a lot — off stage/scene. His “speaking career” stopped after he received a bad review for a largely ad-libbed performance in the play Home Again.)

A critic in the local newspaper described the show by saying, in part, “Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke.” Harpo then decided he could do a better job of stealing focus by not speaking. [The Marx Brothers; Harpo Marx from an article in Theatre Arts Monthly, October 1939]

 

The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocea...

The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocean vessel by hiding in barrels in this promotional still for Monkey Business. Left to right: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Vaudeville stage the Marx Brothers moved on to Hollywood. They made the short, Humor Risk, in 1921. (The film has since been lost.)  Harpo was then in Too Many Kisses as the character “The Village Peter Pan.” He actually has a line in this movie, but, as it’s a silent film, you don’t actually hear him speak it. His brothers did not appear in the film.

In 1929 the brothers put out The Cocoanuts.The film was based on their Broadway play of the same name. In it…

the Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves. [IMDB]

They shot during the day and performed in the stage show of Animal Crackers at night. It was an exhausting schedule and the Brothers were not happy with the result. They were “so appalled … that they offered to buy the negative from Paramount so that they could burn it.” [Ibid]

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, fa...

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brothers made Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers , Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West, The Big Store, A Night in Casablanca, and Love Happy in quick succession.

Starting in 1952 Harpo started doing guest spots on Television, most notably on the I Love Lucy Show.

His last film was The Story of Mankind in 1957.  He played Sir Isaac Newton.

Off screen Harpo, the elementary school drop out, rubbed shoulders with some pretty high level literary types. In the 1920’s he held his own at the Algonquin Round Table with writers such as George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. In 1928 he spent the summer on the French Riviera with George Bernard Shaw.

He attributes his welcome hanging out with the fast literary crowd at the Algonquin Round Table in New York in the 1920s to his ability to listen — in fact, to being the one real listener in that set. [Robert Wilfred Franson’s review of Harpo Speaks]

In 1933 Harpo did a 6-week goodwill mission in the Soviet Union. He was the “first American to perform in the Soviet Union after the United States government officially recognized it.” [Harpo’s Place] According to his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, the trip was part performance and part spy caper.  He smuggled papers out of the USSR by taping them to his leg.

Marx died while having open-heart surgery on September 28, 1964.

Here’s a clip of Harpo actually speaking (and honking):


Thought of the Day 11.12.12 Grace Kelly

“Hollywood amuses me. Holier-than-thou for the public and unholier-than-the-devil in reality.”
–Grace Kelly

 

 

English: Studio publicity portrait for film Hi...

English: Studio publicity portrait for film High Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grace Patricia Kelly was born on this day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA in 1924. Today is the 88th anniversary of her birth.

 

Third of four children, Grace was born into a wealthy family of Irish and German background. The Kellys were athletic, her father, Jack, won three gold medals in the Olympics and her mother, Margaret, was the first female head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Physical Education Department. Her brother, John, also competed in the Olympics.

 

But Grace was drawn to acting. She modeled and acted in school plays starting at age 12.

 

At a young age, Grace decided she wanted to become an actress, and studied acting (primarily theater) at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Art and worked as a stage actress and model before moving to Hollywood. When in New York, Grace promoted Old Gold cigarettes and appeared on the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Redbook. [Grace Kelly Online — Biography]

She worked her way through the American Academy of Dramatic Arts by working as a model  on the side. At 19 she starred as Tracy Lord in the school’s performance of The Philadelphia Story (She reprised the role in High Society, her final film in 1956)

 

Television and stage gigs followed. Kelly played 39 roles on high brow television theatre shows such as the Kraft Television Theatre, the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, and the Armstrong Circle Theatre. The shows were a hybrid of stage performances and scripted radio drama filmed live in front of a studio audience.

 

English: Screenshot of Grace Kelly and Clark G...

English: Screenshot of Grace Kelly and Clark Gable from the trailer of the film en:Mogambo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a small role in Fourteen Hours her film career took off when she played the “mousey” Quaker bride” [Ibid] in High Noon in 1952. The following year  she went to Africa to shoot Mogambo with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. Kelly was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award for the film.

1954 brought the first of three movies that Kelly did with director Alfred Hitchcock, Dial M for Murder. Here’s THE clip from the movie. [I think  it proves what a great actress she is… not just any actress can get this much drama out of one word and a pair of scissors.]

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/5QQjSUNVM7o&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Her next movie with Hitch was Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. There’s plenty of tension and murder here too, but there is also a huge helping of likeability too.  There is a lot of chemistry between Steward and Kelly. It’s dark, but it’s funny and romantic too. And Kelly’s Lisa Carol Fremont is soooo sophisticated and, well, graceful. [Rear Window is my favorite Grace Kelly movie and probably my favorite Hitchcock movie as well.]

 

Cropped screenshot from the trailer for the fi...

Cropped screenshot from the trailer for the film Rear Window (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That same year, 1954, she also co-starred with [the always wonderful] William Holden in a Korean War drama, The Bridges at Toko-Ri; the South American emerald mining adventure, Green Fire; and as Bing Crosby’s wife in The Country Girl. Holden was the third leg of a romantic triangle in The Country Girl. Kelly’s performance as a woman torn between a verbally abusive, alcoholic, washed up husband and a charming, kind man who looks like WILLIAM HOLDEN won her an Academy Award.

 

English: Screenshot of Grace Kelly and Cary Gr...

English: Screenshot of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant from the trailer of the film en:To Catch a Thief (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1955 her last Hitchcock movie came out. In To Catch a Thief she co-starred with Cary Grant.

 

When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence. [IMDb]

Again Kelly’s onscreen chemistry with her co-star elevates a good movie to a great one. To Catch a Thief won the Academy Award for best picture that year.

 

Her next movie was The Swan with Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdan. She plays Princess Alexandra who needs to win the heart of Crown Prince Albert (Guinness) so her family can re enter the inner circle of court life. In real life Kelly was being courted by Prince Rainier III of Monaco whom she had met while attending the Cannes Festival. The engagement ring she wears in the movie is her real ring from Rainier. The studio timed the release of the film to corresponded with the date of the royal wedding.

 

Kelly’s last feature film was High Society, a musical reboot of The Philadelphia Story. In it Kelly and Crosby sing True Love, a song that went platinum — selling over a million records and and earning a best song Academy Award nod.

 

 Later that year, she married Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. As a princess, she gave up her successful acting career, in which she had made eleven films. She had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie. [Grace Kelly Online — Biography]

Wedding dress of Grace Kelly

Wedding dress of Grace Kelly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kelly had a stroke while driving with her daughter Stephanie along the windy mountainside roads of Monaco. The car went off the road and Kelly suffered fatal injuries. She died on September 14th, 1982.

 


Thought of the Day 11.6.12 John Philip Sousa

“Jazz will endure just as long people hear it through their feet instead of their brains.” –John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song.

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t think of any one who would make a better Thought of the Day Bio subject on Election Day 2012 than John Philip Sousa. He practically wrote the soundtrack for American patriotism AND he’s got a great mustache. What’s not to like?

He was born on this day in Washington, DC, USA in 1854. Today is the 158th anniversary of his birth.

He started his music career playing the violin, and soon added voice, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone and alto horn to the mix.  After John Phillip tried to run away to join a circus band, his father, John Antonio Sousa,  “enlisted him in the Marines at age 13 as an apprentice…”[John Philip Sousa] in 1867.

He wrote and published his first composition “Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes” in 1875 and was honorably discharged from the Marines two years later. Sousa “began performing (on violin), touring and eventually conducting theater orchestras. Conducted Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.” [Ibid] While rehearsing Pinafore he met his wife Jane van Middlesworth Bellis.

In 1880 he returned to the US Marine Band as the Band’s leader, a post he kept for next 12 years.  Sousa conducted

“The President’s Own”, serving under presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur and Harrison. After two successful but limited tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band. [Ibid]

Sousa and his newly-formed civilian band, 1893

Sousa and his newly-formed civilian band, 1893 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sousa wrote his own operetta, El Capitan in 1895.

He wrote 136 marches including Semper Fidelis March, King Cotton, Fairest of the Fair, Hands Across the Sea, And Stars and Stripes Forever — which he wrote in 1896. (In 1987 Congress proclaimed it the National March of the United States)

He designed a new type of bass tuba called the sousaphone. The Sousa Band toured throughout the world.

During World War I, Sousa joins the US Naval Reserve at age 62. He is assigned the rank of lieutenant and paid a salary of $1 per month…. After the war, Sousa continued to tour with his band. He championed the cause of music education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composers’ rights, testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928.[Ibid]

Sousa died at the age of 77 in Reading, Pennsylvania after conducting a rehearsal. Fittingly, the last piece he conducted was Stars and Stripes Forever.

"Stars and Stripes Forever" (sheet m...

“Stars and Stripes Forever” (sheet music) Page 4 of 5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click HERE for a page with lots of audio clips of Sousa marches.

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Thought of the Day 11.5.12 Vivien Leigh

“It’s much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh”
–Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vivian Mary Hartley was born on this day in Darjeeling, Bengal, India in 1913. Today is the 99th anniversary of her birth.

She made her stage debut reciting “little bo peep” at age three.

She was convent-educated in England and throughout Europe, and inspired by her schoolmate Maureen O’Sullivan to embark on an acting career. [Biography.com]

After seeing O’Sullivan in a movie she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She left the school when she married Herbert Leigh Holman.

She made her first film, Things Are Looking Up in 1935. At the advice of her agent she changed her professional  name to Vivien (changing the “a” to an “e”) Leigh.

In 1937 she co-starred with Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England and the two began an affair. When Olivier went to Hollywood to film Wuthering Heights she followed. She wanted the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. The couple went to the set to see the Burning of Atlanta scene, and she was introduced to the producer, David O. Selznick. He got her a screen test, and she got the role. She won an Academy Award for her Scarlett.

English: Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh fr...

English: Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh from the trailer for the film Gone with the Wind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1940 she divorced Leigh Holman and married Olivier. The two became a Hollywood “Powerhouse couple” [Ibid] They starred in several films and plays together. But Leigh suffered from manic depression / bipolar disorder. She had a miscarriage in 1944.

…She simultaneously battled insomnia, …and a respiratory ailment eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. Hoping for relief, Leigh underwent electroshock therapy, which was very rudimentary at the time and sometimes left her with burn marks on her temples. It wasn’t long before she began to drink heavily.[Ibid]

In 1949 she took up the second great role of her life, Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She brought life to the role, first on stage and then on film. She won her second Best Actress Oscar for Streetcar.

Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh from the trailer for the film A Streetcar Named Desire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At home things were crumbling and she and Olivier divorced in 1960. She bounced back with her Tony Award winning role in Tovarich in 1963, and starring in the Oscar-winning Ship of Fools.

But she became ill again in 1967 while in London and passed away from tuberculosis at the age of 53.


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