Category Archives: Star of the month

More Than a Little Black Dress: Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and UNICEF

Audrey Hepburn, UNICEF ambassador in Ethiopia

What do you think of when you hear the name Audrey Hepburn? Most people will picture her in a little black dress with a slender cigarette holder between her fingers but we should see her as so much more. Before she was Holly Golightly, Hepburn appeared in many successful films including her first film and Oscar winning performance in Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck. She would appear with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Sabrina and dance with Fred Astaire in Funny Face. With a long and successful career, Hepburn can easily be seen as an overrated star considering the fact that it is her image in that black dress with a string of pearls around her neck that stands out. What should stand out is the work she did after her long film career. Audrey Hepburn was an ambassador for UNICEF. That was the work she was most proud of and that is how we should remember her.

Born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium, Audrey Hepburn lived a privileged life during her younger years. Due to her father’s job, the family traveled and relocated several times before finally settling in Brussels. Eventually the family would help raise money for the British Union of Fascists before her father left the family for London where he would become more involved in Fascism. This was a turning point in young Audrey’s life and it began the downfall of the family. As World War II broke out, Audrey’s mother relocated the family to the Netherlands believing that they would stay neutral and no harm would come to them there. Sadly things didn’t go as planned. The Nazi’s invaded, her uncle was killed, one brother went to a work camp and the other went on the run. It’s these horrific happenings in her early life that would later inspire her and influence her work with UNICEF.

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When the war ended in 1945, Hepburn moved with her family to Amsterdam where she began studying Ballet. Her aspirations to be a prima ballerina were lost when she was told that her height and weak constitution made it impossible. Hepburn decided to focus on acting and she moved to London. Here she would find success after work as a chorus girl when she was offered a role in her future Tony Award Winning performance in the Broadway adaptation of the film Gigi.

As 1953 rolled around, Audrey Hepburn’s life was looking better than ever. An appearance in Roman Holiday, the film that would win her the Academy Award, catapulted her to stardom. After her first Hollywood film, Audrey went on to have a successful career in the US. Popular among female audiences, Audrey’s most iconic role came in 1961 when she was cast as Holly Golightly in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her Holly is far different the novella’s Holly. The film traded in the book’s Teenage Blonde with a more appropriately aged brunette; and today we can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

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While Hepburn continued to work into the seventies it was her work in the eighties and to her death that should be what we remember her for. Her work with UNICEF has changed lives and spread the word for the wonderful organization. Her work in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Vietnam would lead to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom. After a successful film career and a remarkable resume, the work we should remember is the efforts she put in to making the lives of starving children something we were all forced to see.

There is something that attracts so many young women to Audrey Hepburn. I have a picture of her on my wall. I love her movies and anytime I see her image I automatically take note. In the end, we should look past the surface and see the beautiful soul that lived inside this remarkable woman. If you want to honor her, do what you can to help those who are less fortunate. Remember money isn’t the only thing you can give. Your time is also valuable, as are the clothes in your closet you don’t wear and the books on your shelf you don’t read. I challenge you to look into the work Audrey and to research UNICEF for yourself. When you watch a film, or even think of her, share a link on your social media pages. The list of things we can do to help our fellow humans is long so let’s make Audrey Hepburn proud and participate in making this world a better place.

http://www.audreyhepburn.com, https://www.unicef.org

June Star of the Month: Joseph Cotten

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Born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1905 Joseph Cotten rose to prominence on Broadway starring in The Philadelphia Story and Sabrina Fair. He went on to a successful career in film starring alongside Orson Welles in his films Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Journey into Fear. He had great success as a leading man of the forties starring in Portrait of Jenny, Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Duel in the Sun and The Third Man. 

While studding acting in Washington DC Cotton worked as an advertising agent. It was while working as a critic that he became interested in theater. Cotten began working in Virginia and then in New York City. He made his Broadway debut in 1930.  In 1934 Cotten met Orson Welles at The American School of Air. In 1936 he appeared in Welles production Horse Eats Hat. In 1937 he became a member of Welles Mercury Theater. In 1939 Cotton returned to Broadway in The Philadelphia Story opposite Katherine Hepburn. In 1940 Orson Welles began filming Citizen Kane after the success of War of the Worlds. Joseph starred opposite Welles in the lead role as his best friend. Other Mercury Theater performers including Agnes Moorehead also starred. The film had a slow start due to its inspiration from the life of William Randolph Hearst who did not allow his news paper to run advertisements. In 1942 Citizen Kane won an Academy Award for best screenplay and is now widely considered the best film of all time. 

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The 1940’s was the most successful decade for Cottens career. He appeared as a serial killer in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt along side Teresa Wright, Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Angela Lansbury. He went on to star alongside Jennifer Jones in four films. The most notable being Duel in the Sun with Gregory Peck and Portrait of Jenny. In 1949 he starred alongside friend Orsen Welles in The Third Man. In the 1950’s his career cooled and he began appearing in TV, including The Joseph Cotten Show. The 1960’s saw Cotten appearing in a number of foreign films. Heavens Gate one of the least successful films of all time would one of his last. He went on to appear in a few guest appearance including on Life Boat. After suffering from throat cancer Cotten retired from acting and spent his time with his wife.

Still from Shadow of a Doubt
Still from Shadow of a Doubt

Chances are you wont find many people in Hollywood that would say something bad about Joseph Cotten.  He was an honest man, more of star than an a character actor but it was his presence on screen that struck a chord with audiences. The directors of three of his films, Citizen Kane, Shadow of a Doubt and The Third Man list these as their favorites and Cotten appears in all of them. It is his performance in Shadow of a Doubt that makes that film as one of my two favorite Hitchcock films. To lovers of Alfred Hitchcock you will know him as Uncle Charlie, a black widower idealized by his sister and niece. Know to film audiences at the time as a nice guy, his portrayal as Uncle Charlie was quite a shock but that is where I discovered him.

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If you have yet to discover Joseph Cotten check out Shadow of a Doubt, The Third Man, and Citizen Kane. Other great films include Duel in the Sun and Portrait of Jenny both opposite Jennifer Jones. His tall stature, wavy blonde hair and baritone voice make him an actor that is hard to miss.

May Star of the Month: Ruth Gordon

Ruth Gordon winning a much deserved Oscar.
Ruth Gordon winning a much deserved Oscar.

Ruth Gordon is an American actress best know for her roles in Harold and Maude, and Rosemary’s Baby. Beginning her career on Broadway at the age of nineteen she didn’t gain critically acclaim for her film work until her later years. More than an actress, Ruth was screenwriter. She co-wrote the critically acclaimed Adams Rib with her husband. She is the winner of an Academy Award, an Emmy and two Golden Globes for her acting. She has an Oscar nomination for her writing.

A young Ruth Gordon
A young Ruth Gordon

Ruth had an uncredited appearance in 1915 as an extra. It wasn’t till an appearance along side Greta Garbo in Two Faced Women that she began acting in film. She would go on to appear in Lincoln in Illinois and Dr. Ehrlich Magic Bullet. Both of these roles were more substantial. Over the years she appeared in several supporting roles. Never too far from the stage Gordon appeared in and wrote scripts for Broadway. When she married writer Garson Kanin in 1942 the two began to collaborate. The couple remained together until Ruth’s death in 1985. After making one of her most beloved appearances in Harold and Maude she went on to star in many more films and guest starring spots on television. She worked regularly until her death.

Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude
Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude

If you asked me who the queen of character acting was, I would answer Ruth Gordon. Her effortless emotion that pours out of her. Every word and movement has meaning. She may be acting but she is real. She gives her all and her passion for the art is apparent. If you only see one Ruth Gordon film in your life make in Harold and Maude. Its a great film and you get to see one of the greats at her best. Available on Netflix, you can watch anytime from the comfort of your home. Admired by Natalie Wood whom she costarred with in Inside Daisy Clover, Wood made Gordon her first daughters Godmother. Gordon lived a long life and I am glad that we were allowed to join her on her journey as one of the greats.

January Star of The Month: Paul Newman

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You would probably have a hard time finding someone who would say something bad about out January Star of the Month. He was an actor, director, race car driver activist and philanthropist. The list goes on. Paul Newman was an great actor and an even better man.Paul 1

Married for fifty years to Joanna Woodward before his death in 2008. He co-created Newman’s own a food company where all profits go to charity. He is the founder of SeriousFun Children’s Network a world wide affiliation of 30 camps modeled after The Hole in the wall camp in Connecticut. They serve children suffering from serious illness. Paul was more than a talented actor he was a remarkable man that cared for the world and the people in it.

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Paul Newman’s life began in Shaker Heights, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland. His father ran a sporting good store that is mother worked in while raising his older brother Arthur and him. Paul showed an interest in theater at an early age. At seven he appeared in a production of Robin Hood as the Court Jester. He graduated High School in 1943 after graduation he spent a short time a Ohio University where he was initiated into Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

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Originally enrolling in Yale Universities Navy V-12 pilot training program, he was dropped when they discovered he was color blind. He went on to the Pacific Theater serving with The United States Navy. In 1945 he was one of a pair of sole survivors after he was grounded with an ear infection. The rest of his unit was wiped out during the campaign.

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After the war he finished his Bachelors Degree at Kenyan University. After graduating he joined several summer stock companies. He attended one year at Yale Drama before leaving for New York to study under Lee Strasberg at the actors studio.
He arrived in New York in 1951. He made his Broadway Debut in Picnic with Kim Stanley in 1953 and appeared in the original Broadway production of The Desperate Hours in 1955.

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In 1954 Paul Newman would appear in a screen test for East of Eden with James Dean. The screen test is not famous on Tumblr. By the time 1958 rolled around he was one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood. In 1957 he appeared with his future wife in The Long, Hot Summer. They met on the stage in 1953. He wood best actor a Cannes in 1958.

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The majority of Newman’s major films where in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He would appear with Robert Redford twice in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Newman won an Academy Award for his reprisal of “Fast” Eddie Felson in The Color of Money. Newman’s final role for a major film was in Cars voicing the role of Doc Hudson.

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In his long life Newman created an incredible body of work as an actor and as a director. He lit of the stage and charmed us in films but his greatest accomplishments will always be those off the set. His work for sick children and philanthropic causes will live on and he will be remembered as a great man.

November Star of the Month: Lauren Bacall

Opp’s! Is it already December? I want to apologize for dropping the ball on this one. I was working on this one for awhile. Coming back and fourth. I allowed the last week to get away from me.  I’ll blame it on the stress of the holidays. I know that I have missed a few months but I want to get back on the horse and continue with my stars of the month, so here we go.

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Lauren Bacall is our November star of the month. She passed away on September 16 of this year at the age of 89. Death wasn’t going to take this fire cracker early. What do you think of when you hear the name Lauren Bacall? What movie does your mind usually venture to? If you’re a fan of Marilyn Monroe I am guessing How to Marry a Millionaire but if you are fan of the actress herself I am going to take a wild guess and say her early work with husband Humphrey Bogart. Did you know they met when she was 19 on the set of To Have and Have Not? This is where they fell in love.

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Bacall is just as known for her outspoken personality as she is for her performances. A strong and brave women mirroring the characters she played. Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924 in New York City. She died Aug 12, 2014 a little over a month from her 90 birthday. She is one of the four inspirations for Jessica Rabbit (Are you surprised?) along with Veronica Lake, Julie London and Rita Hayworth. Just look at that stare.

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Lauren referred to as Betty by close friends through her life was 18 when she graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. This led to her first film role when she was discovered by Howard Hawks. He dismissed her at first due to her voice. She left his office to return two weeks later with the lower pitch she is now famous for. He cast her in To Have and Have Not.

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Winner of a two Tony Awards. One for her role as Margo Channing in the Broadway production of Applause. Applause is a musical adaptation of All About Eve. Her second was for her role in Woman of the Year based on the film of the same name. In her career she never won an Academy Award, though she was nominated once for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996. Lauren Bacall had an open mind that I believe contributed to her roles as the sultry characters she played along side husband Humphrey Bogart. She wasn’t afraid to speak up and talk openly about what she believed in. Bacall left behind a legacy with as many layers as the characters she’s played.

June Star of the Month. Farley Granger.

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Today Farley Granger is best known for his two collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock. He appeared in Rope alongside Jimmy Stewart and Strangers on a Train opposite Robert Walker.  Granger’s father was a wealthy owner of a automobile dealership before the effects of the 1929 stock market crash took it all away. A few years later the Granger’s packed up their belongings and moved to Los Angeles. After his appearance in a local stage play Granger auditioned for a part in the film North Star. Lillian Hellman who penned the script wanted Montgomery Clift but when negotiations fell through Farley Granger was cast in the role. He was signed to a seven year contract for $100 a week. Afraid he would be confused with actor Stewart Granger the studio wanted Farley to change his name. They gave him a list of several names but he refused. He shared his name with his father and grandfather. He loved the name and didn’t wish to change it.

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North Star was a commercial and critical failure but the experience was enjoyed by Granger. For his next project he was loaned to 20th Century Fox for a role in Purple Heart where he became close friends with Roddy McDowel and Sam Levene.  After filming finished Granger enlisted in the United States Navy. On route he experienced severe sea sickness. He spent the rest of his stint in the Navy on land. It was in Honolulu that Granger met many of his contacts from Hollywood.

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope with John Dall and Jimmy Stewart.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope with John Dall and Jimmy Stewart.

Back in Hollywood Granger appeared in Nicolas Ray’s Thief’s Like Us. The film wasn’t released for two years and the name was changed to They Live by Night. Released only in London the film received positive reviews and was eventually released in the States. During the film’s time in limbo it was viewed during several screenings. One of the viewers was director Alfred Hitchcock. He was soon cast in his first film with Hitchcock Rope. The experience wasn’t always positive. Due to censorship from the studios who kept close to production, Hitchcock shot Rope in ten minute long takes. Technical problems made the twenty one day shoot difficult.

Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train

Granger’s next few films were unpleasant experiences until he would appear in his second and final film for Alfred Hitchcock. The film Strangers on a Train was adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. Also consisting of homosexual subtext that was considerably toned down from the novel, the film paired Farley Granger alongside Robert Walker who had recently split from his wife, Jennifer Jones. The two became dear friends during shooting and Granger considered this the happiest of his film making experiences. He was deeply saddened by Walker’s death before the film’s release.

With Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train
With Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train was a critical and commercial success. It was the first success of Granger’s career. Granger would go on to have a long career in the film and television industry although it would never mirror the success he experienced with Strangers on a Train. While in Italy Granger made appearances in several Italian films. Granger contiued to work well into his seventies. He appeared in theater and television soap operas produced by his partner Robert Calhoun.

Farley Granger and Partner Robert Calhoun
Farley Granger and partner Robert Calhoun

Before he died in 2011 Granger released a book titled Include Me Out detailing with his career and relationships with both men and women. Granger enjoyed a fruitful career in film, television and theater on both sides of the Atlantic.

May Star of the Month. Grace Kelly

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Born in Pennsylvania on November 12, 1929 to Jack Kelly an Irish immigrant and self made man. Looking at her picture it is hard to believe that at a young age she was seen as the runt of the family. Suffering from asthma as a child Grace was not the athletic child her father wanted her to be. Unlike the other children Grace was a more artistic child more like her uncle, Pulitzer prize winning playwright George Kelly.

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After a rejection from Bennington College Grace decided to pursue her dreams to become an actress. With the help of her Uncle George she was accepted to American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  While in New York she stayed at the all girls boarding house Barbizon Hotel. While there she worked as a model to support herself. She used a tape recorder to perfect her voice. After a few stage roles and parts in television Grace made her film debut in a small, unrecognized part in Fourteen Hours. While performing in Eilitch Gardens she received a telegram offering her a role opposite  Gary Cooper in High Noon.

Still from To Catch a Thief
Still from To Catch a Thief

In 1954 Grace would make her first appearance in a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock when she starred alongside Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder. This was the first of three films with the director followed by Rear Window opposite James Steward and To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant. After her appearance in Rear Window Kelly went on to her Oscar winning role opposite William Holden and Bing Crosby in The Country Girl.  She had worked with Holden previously in The Bridges over Toko-Ri.

On her wedding day to HSH Prince Rainier of Monaco
On her wedding day to HSH Prince Rainier of Monaco

While attending the Cannes film festival Grace was invited to a photo session with Prince Rainier. After returning to America to film The Swan where she played a Princess she corresponded with the Prince of Monaco.  Soon the couple were engaged and Kelly would appear in her last film. She appeared in High Society a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. After leaving Hollywood for Monaco Kelly and Hitchcock’s relationship became strained. He wanted her to appear in Marnie but the people of Monaco did not want their Princess staring alongside Scottish leading man Sean Connery.

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The ice blonde left Hollywood to become the Princess she always appeared to be. Her parents where pleased that their little girl married a man they deemed worthy. The question however still remains. What could she have been had she never left the cameras behind? After an automobile accident caused by a stroke, Kelly died of her injuries at the hospital later named in her honor.  Her legacy still lives. To many she is a fashion icon. Grace was the perfect name for a women as poised as her.

Alongside Marlon Brando after winning her Oscar for The Country Girl.
Alongside Marlon Brando after winning her Oscar for The Country Girl.

A movie star, a princess, a legend, Grace Kelly’s dedication to the arts still existed after her marriage to Prince Rainier. Her kind heart carried her through life. Despite her early retirement from film and her death at only 52 years of age Grace made her mark on the world. If she were alive today she would be 84 years old and probably still charming us with her grace, smile and elegance.