Kay Francis, Happy Birthday! 1930s Super-Star! Born January 13th

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The exceptional Kay Francis was born on Friday the 13th, 1905 and died in August of 1968. She is most likely, the largest of Hollywood’s Golden era forgotten stars, although, this statement has been made repeatedly, it is true none the less. She made more than seventy movies in just seventeen years and earned an important position in Hollywood history.

 

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Francis was already a success on Broadway before appearing before the cameras; she started on the Great White Way, with Hamlet in 1925, Crime, and then Venus, both in 1927; she finished her pre-Hollywood career with Elmer the Great in 1928.

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, September 25, 1928

 

Both Francis and Walter Huston had been in Elmer the Great on Broadway, and each made their film debuts in 1929; Elmer the Great the celluloid version was originally proposed with Huston repeating his Broadway role of Elmer Kane and it was suspected that Francis would reprise her part as Evelyn Corey as well;[1] Elmer the Great would be delayed until 1933, with Joe E. Brown and Claire Dodd in those respective roles.

Near the end of her work in movies, Francis would return to the Great White Way for one more play, State of the Union, 1945; albeit as a replacement for Ruth Hussey, who was in her first Broadway production. In celebration of the lady who was given the moniker “America’s Best Dressed Woman” (which was bestowed during her Broadway years),[2] christened with the title “Vamping with Sound” and was described as “the first menace of the talkies”[3] make it a Kay Francis day…

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By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Film Daily, April 21, 1929

[2] Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) July 24, 1929

[3] Photoplay Magazine, October, 1934

 

 

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Louise Rainer, Happy Birthday! Born January 12th, 1910, in Dusseldorf, Germany.

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Louise Rainer would have been 105 years today but we lost this shining star on December 30, 2014, in London.

“Just as the light of a sun

is seen for years to come

even after it kindles no flame

we will see the Rainer light

still bright on the silver-screen

and in our homes so keen

in each role as she did mean”

 

With just 9 movies from 1932 to 1943 Louise Rainer did not find Hollywood a welcoming place. It did not fit into her world-view of life. Yet, she was able to parlay her short film career into something memorable. Acting, that was full of grace and an understated realistic approach that had not been seen in Hollywoodland before and only few times since. Much of her celluloid communication came through her doe-like eyes and the extreme line by line, chin, brow and forehead facial control which she possessed. Two films, The Great Ziegfeld, 1936 and The Good Earth, 1937 should be added to everyone’s list of “must sees” and anyone who is serious about the study of film, either from the acting perspective or of cinematic history needs a viewing of these tours-de-force performances. Rainer was the first actor to receive consecutive Oscar wins, those for the aforementioned The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth…

 

 

 

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Elegance, rare and unusual beauty, delicate features, yet imbued with great strength fail to describe Ms. Rainer, suffice it to say, she was and is, and no one else will be like her. Her view and opinion of her own work would have us to believe that beyond The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth that she did nothing else of  merit, but we know better; each of her 9 Hollywood movies are like a breath of fresh air after being closed in, in a dark, dank room, that is what Louise Rainer brought to film-lovers everywhere. So, schedule a Louise Rainer movie day, hey, why not today? Enjoy!

 

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By C. S. Williams (I am guilty of the verse as well: 1/11/2015)

Oscar Micheaux, Director, Producer, Writer and Film Pioneer: Happy Birthday! Born January 2nd; 1884-1951

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Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux, Director, Producer, Writer, Presenter and film promoter with 42 credits as Director, 38 films as Producer and 39 movies as Writer was born on January 2, 1884. Micheaux was the first African-American to make a feature-length movie (The Homesteader) which was released in 1919, 2 years before Charlie Chaplin made “The Kid” (Chaplin’s first feature).

He made forays into nearly every genre: Social-Dramas, Comedies and Westerns, traditional Dramas, Mysteries, Musicals and Gangster films. In the spring of 1933, Phantom of Kenwood was produced, followed by a spring and summer release, what made this film stand apart from other projects was found in the production time. From the point the script was finished until the last scene was in the can, took just six days;[1] a case of a man staying within the confines of his financial constraints. What business at the box-office was accomplished by the Phantom of Kenwood will most likely never be known. Since the target audiences were in black neighborhoods, advertising would have been by word of mouth, flyers and theater promotions and what adverts would have been seen in the few newspapers that catered to black citizens, I can find no trace. One of the stars was song-writer and pianist Roland C. Irving (unlisted on Internet Movie Data Base) of New York City, who promoted the movie by touring with the picture, making personal appearances at the host theaters.[2] The Phantom of Kenwood is believed to be lost.

Many today are offended by some of the stereotypical casting decisions Micheaux made in certain of his films, but, like his work, love his work, respect his content and his methods or not, none of us can doubt that he was a true film pioneer.

I rejoice that Oscar Micheaux did not give in to the restraints and restrictions which legal racism constructed, nor give up under the great pressure laid upon his shoulders financially and socially, but that he continued to give out; for that, we are all blessed, not only as devotees of film but also as lovers of the human-race.

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Directing star of stage in his film debut: Paul Robeson

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By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Film Daily, April 4, 1933

Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) July 22, 1933

[2] Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) July 22, 1933

The Many Faces of Boris Karloff; a Happy Birthday Remembrance

Happy Birthday, Boris Karloff November 23rd. An Icon of horror cinema, Karloff ranks with Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price as the most recognizable faces. Clearly, he and Chaney are the best actors that the horror genre has had to offer. With more than 150 film appearances, with performances in 7 decades, Karloff’s is a career to be treasured; portrayals, which are subtle yet riveting.

A bit trivia: Boris Karloff was denied the privilege of playing in the classic comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Cary Grant, because Broadway producers Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse were concerned that letting the star of the Broadway run would hurt sales; Josephine Hull, Jean Adair and John Alexander, all got time off from the New York play to make the film version, sans Karloff. Raymond Massey played up the part with the running joke that he looked like Boris Karloff; not quite as amusing as Karloff being likened as Karloff on stage.

 

 

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