Tag Archives: Movie Star

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. 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.