Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hollywood. Show all posts

Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30: Happy Birthday Mel Blanc


By definition, all Radio Stars are voice actors. No one had as many voices as Mel Blanc. Or perhaps, all those voices had Mel Blanc. Several voice actors have been called “the man of a thousand voices” with some degree of exaggeration. Mel's son, Noel, claimed that Mel's count was closer to 1500.

Mel was born in San Francisco, the second son of Frank and Eva Blanc, on May 30, 1908. The family moved to Portland, OR, where Mel attended Lincoln High school. Mel has been always fond of making up voices and clowning. At the age of 16,  he decided to change his last name because a teacher warned him that he could end up that way, a Blank, a nothing. It is hard to imagine someone as good natured being kept down by such a prediction. He began working in vaudeville throughout the Northwest, and at 17 was the youngest orchestra conductor in the country.

Mel's radio career began at KGW in Portland on the show The Hoot Owls. Mel became  popular with his ability to so many voices and character, and in 1932, he left for Hollywood to find everlasting fame. At this time,  fame eluded him, but he did meet and marry Estelle Rosenbaum. The couple returned to Portland, where Mel went to KEX to produce and co-host the late-night Cobweb and Nuts show. By now, Estelle was gaining confidence in her husband's talents, and convinced him to give Hollywood another try.

He found a job with KFWB, a station that belonged to the Warner Brothers Studio. In 1937, Mel found work with Leon Schlesinger Productions, whose cartoons were distributed by Warner Brothers. Mel is best remembered for the many cartoon characters he brought to life in Warner Brothers cartoons, but in some ways it was just a stepping stone.

The animators loved the way Mel brought their drawings to life. When Mel was recording a voice, he would become the character. Noel claimed he could watch his dad working, and even with the speakers turned down he could tell which character he was playing. Mel was not the only voice talent on Schlesinger's payroll, but he was the most versatile. Voice actors rarely got screen credit in cartoons. When Mel thought he deserved a raise, he went to Schlesinger with his demands. Notoriously tight-fisted Schlesinger was not about to give up anything that would eat into his profits, but did agree to credit “Voice characterizations by Mel Blanc” on each cartoon.

Now that Mel's name was appearing on screens across the country, he began to get even more radio work. He became part of the company on The Jack Benny Program as a sort of human sound effects machine. He played Jack's barely-running Maxwell automobile and gave the growls of Jack's pet polar bear, Carmichael. One day Mel told Jack “Mr. Benny... I can talk too!” Jack told his writers to let him, and Mel became Polly the Parrot, a tormented department store clerk, Jack's long suffering violin teacher, and the announcer at the train station ("Train leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cu... camonga!").

Mel had plenty of other radio work. He was the friendly postman on the Burns and Allen Show, as well as appearing on Fibber McGee and Molly, Abbot and Costello, and several AFRS programs. He gave voice to Yank magazine's Private Sad Sack. Mel's success on the Jack Benny Program helped him to get his own show on CBS. Unfortunately, Jack's writers did not come along, and the Mel Blanc Show only lasted the '46-'47 season.

Mel still had plenty to keep him busy. He even continued to work after an auto accident left him in a coma for three weeks (few people realize that for the first season of The Flintstones, Barney Rubble was played by a man in a full body cast!)

A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd honors Mel Blanc for his work in radio.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2: Myrna Loy



A few days (and seven years) after the birth of William Powell, Myrna Loy realized if she wanted to star with him in fourteen films, she'd have to be born too.  So she was, on Aug. 2, 1905.

Loy spent her childhood switching from Montana and Southern California, permanently settling into Culver City in 1918, after the death of her father.  She began playing vampy, exotic roles in less-than-stellar silent films like A Girl in Every Port.

Her big break was her first role with Powell, in The Thin Man.  She'd soon become a sought-after actress, starring alongside Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Clifton Webb, and--why not?--Shirley Temple.

She hit the airwaves for a few adaptations of movies she'd starred in, produced by Lux Radio Theatre.  On Suspense she starred in "The Library Book," which probably sounded a lot more intriguing in 1945 than it would today, and she was part of an intrepid group of artists appearing on the 1947 special Hollywood Fights Back.  This program voiced protest against the Un-American Activities Committee.

Thanks for the memories, Myrna!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

December 27: Happy Birthday, Cathy Lewis

December 27: Happy Birthday, Cathy Lewis

Cathy Lewis (December 27th, 1916-November 20, 1968) was best known for her numerous radio appearances.

Lewis moved from her hometown of Spokane, Washington to Chicago and found work on The First Nighter Program. Eventually, Lewis moved back across the country to Hollywood, where she had starring roles in the Pasadena Playhouse productions of Stage Door, Winterset, and To Quito and Back.

In 1943, Cathy met and married Elliot Lewis, a radio actor and writer. They both became staples of the vintage radio scene, regulars among the group known as Hollywood’s Radio Row. The pair appeared both together and separately on programs such as The Whistler. Together they co-created the respected anthology series On Stage and helped to steward the popular mystery's program Suspense. Cathy and Elliot began to be billed as “Mr. and Mrs. Radio.”

Cathy is most remembered for her role as Jane Stacy, a sensibly droll woman that roomed with Irma Peterson in the television comedy My Friend Irma. A lot of Lewis’ early film work was uncredited, but she was eventually able to get bigger roles, such as the female lead in Double Trouble and of course the role in My Friend Irma.

Lewis died of cancer on November 20th, 1968.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2: Happy Birthday, Burt Lancaster



In the world of show biz bios, you can either be a lower-working class kid from Bumble Bluffs, Illinois who hopped on a tomato truck and rode out to L.A. hoping to make it big, or you can come from one of the big cities and be drawn to the entertainment world around you.

Burt Lancaster wasn't from Bumble Bluffs.  He was born in New York City and was very affected by Joan Crawford and Lon Chaney in the 1927 silent film The Unknown.  From there it was a stint working for the circus (OK, maybe he was a bumpkin from the corn belt), Hollywood, and eventually his huge roles in Elmer Gantry, Atlantic City, and The Birdman of Alcatraz.

If you were a radio listener at the time and you wanted to hear Burt's voice, you could tune in to The Bob Hope Show, Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, Lux Radio Theatre, and The Cavalcade of America.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 22: Happy Birthday, Joan Fontaine



The lovely Joan Fontaine led a colorful and unusual childhood, alternately living in California and Japan.

As soon as she struck adulthood she began auditioning for Hollywood film roles, racking up a spree of parts in B-movies.  A breakthrough role was in Hitchcock's Rebecca, in which she co-starred with Laurence Olivier.

The radio producers new she even sounded pretty, and snapped her up for parts in adaptations of contemporary dramas.  In this capacity, she appeared on Lux Radio Theater, Screen Guild Theater, and Theater Guild on the Air.

Born in 1917, Fontaine is now an American treasure.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23: Happy Birthday, Gene Kelly

Hey, thrill seekers, did you know that superstar Gene Kelly appeared in several episodes of Suspense? One of today's birthday boys did just that, lending his considerable acting chops to such episodes as "Thieves Fall Out," "The Man Who Couldn't Lose," and "The Most Dangerous Game."  

But what's just as thrilling is that in 1946 Cresta Blanca wines launched its radio program Cresta Blanca's Hollywood Players, on which it very proudly rolled out its stable of top Hollywood stars. Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, Joan Fontaine, and Gene Kelly were among the players. The show brought to listeners recently-written productions, both dramas and comedies. These included "Heaven Can Wait," "Kitty," "Pride of the Yankees," and "The Glass Key." The latter, in November of '46, presented Kelly's debut on the show.

This show's Kelly's versatility, since no one dances on the radio. Best known for Singin' In the Rain, Kelly is the only Pittsburgh-born dancer of which we are aware. He would've been one hundred and one today!

Monday, July 7, 2014

July, 7: Happy Birthday, Bill Stern

Early American baseball never had quite the voice it did in announcer Bill Stern.

Born on July 1, 1907, Bill Stern would lead a life of sportscasting and baseball announcing that very few in his genre ever eclipsed.

By 1988, 17 years after his passing in 1971, Bill Stern would be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Stern started doing on-air broadcasting in 1925 for a Rochester, New York radio station. in 1937, Stern went to work for NBC doing boxing commentating on the Colgate Sports Newsreel. As one of the big names in radio sportscasting, Stern developed a theme of making on-air stories that were never authenticated in any form. He would give the acknowledgement that whether the stories were true or not; “might be actual, may be mythical, but definitely interesting.”

A car accident in 1935 caused Bill Stern to have one leg amputated; but, it never stopped him from his on-air work. He had opportunity to be the on-air sports commentator for NBC Newsreels. Stern had opportunity to portray himself in two Hollywood movie productions including Pride of the Yankees.

The verbose, but much loved sportscaster was also a major fan of baseball and loved to share stories; including the one about who created the curve ball  Stern never missed a chance to talk the sports he loved.

After retiring from the big leagues, Bill Stern continued doing local sports casting for the Mutual Broadcasting System during the 50’s and 60’s. He passed away in November of 1971.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, Happy Birthday: Tito Guizar


Guizar was a classically-trained Mexican singer who starred with Roy Rogers and Bob Hope in Hollywood films. His acting and singing career spanned an astonishing seventy years. He's probably best known for his song "Alla en el Rancho Grande," the title song from a 1936 film.

His radio appearances were on Duffy's Tavern, Hello Americans, Its Time to Smile, Mail Call, and Quiz Kids.

His appearance on Duffy's Tavern had him singing "La Feria De Las Flores," just before Talullah Bankhead read from Boris Voitekhov's "The Last Days of Sevastopol." You just can't find radio like this anymore, folks!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23: Happy Birthday, Joan Crawford

Today's birthday salute goes to Joan Crawford, born today in 1904.  Crawford's career began kicking in 1924, when she worked as a dancer in traveling revues.  Spotted in a performances, she landed a gig in Innocent Eyes on Broadway.  It wasn't long before she landed her first movie role, in The Circle, and the rest is history.

In 1934, Crawford made her first of many appearance on The Lux Radio Theatre, starring in an adaptation of the 1934 MGM film "Chained."  In 1938 it was "Anna Christie," with Crawford playing the role made famous by Greta Garbo.  She would later star in "A Doll's House" on the same program.

The much-sought actress also lent her talents to Screen Directors' Playhouse, Stars Over Hollywood, Hollywood Star Playhouse, and Suspense.

A happy birthday to Joan Crawford.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20: Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn

June 20 of 1909, Robin Hood and Captain Blood was born in the visage of Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn.

Born and raised in Australia, the entrepreneur turned performer made his way to the USA via time performing theatre and movie work in England. Flynn made a major impression upon the American scene for motion pictures due to his swarthy good looks and care-free attitude to life. It was during his short, but action-filled life that Errol Flynn created the roles of Captain Blood, Don Juan and Robin Hood.

His sword-play was considered some of the best Hollywood magic of the time and earned him more roles as a 200.000 dollar a film performer. Flynn was able to handle less swash-buckling of on-screen roles in war and western themed motion pictures.

During the 1940’s Errol Flynn attempted to serve the country that had made him famous by trying to enlist, but heart and health issues prevented that from happening. However, in 1937 he did serve as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War and used the 40’s and 50’s to write his autobiography and other works. Errol Flynn’s voice was so distinctive that he did some some characterizations for the radio airwaves.

 In fact, his characterizations made him a favorite for work on The Cavalcade of America and Lux Radio Theatre radio programs. These programs were a few of his more notable movie roles scripted for the airwaves. Flynn was married three times and had one son (later declared missed and dead in Cambodia) and a number of daughters.

  Errol Flynn passed away in 1959 from a heart attack at the young age of 50.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1: Happy Birthday, David Niven

March 1: Happy Birthday, David Niven

While countless men have been inspired by 007, James Bond, David Niven is said to have been the inspiration for the famous fictional spy. In the Bond film You Only Live Twice, Niven is called the only true gentleman in Hollywood. Legend has it the novelist Ian Fleming had Niven in mind as a bit of a prototype for the suave, playboy type who Bond would become in the novels and then the films.

The British-born Niven , a soldier who experienced the D-Day invasion before becoming an actor, is of relevance to us here because of his appearances on Lux Radio Theatre, The Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour, and The Bob Hope Show.

Perhaps most noteworthy, the debonair Brit voiced George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 on NBC University Theatre on Aug. 27, 1949.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1: Happy Birthday, Clark Gable

February 1: Happy Birthday, Clark Gable


Both before and after his epochal role in 1939's Gone With The Wind, Clark Gable made more than a dozen appearances of popular radio shows including Lux Radio Theatre, Cavalcade of America, and Good News.

One of his earliest roles was in a 1936 performance of "The Legionnaire and the Lady" on the Lux Radio Program. This was an adaptation of the film Morocco, and starred, in addition to Gable, Marlene Dietrich.

On May 5, 1937, Gable starred with Josephine Hutchinson and Jack LaRue in a Lux production of "A Farewell To Arms."

On May 5, 1938, he starred in "Manhattan Melodrama" on Good News.

In all, Gable's radio performances allowed him to work with Ginger Rogers, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, and Judy Garland.

We honor the King of Hollywood for his sterling on-air performances.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6: Happy Birthday, Loretta Young

January 6: Happy Birthday, Loretta Young

Born as Gretchen Young on January 6th, 1913, Loretta Young was a famous American actress. After the separation of her parents, Loretta moved to Hollywood along with her mother and sisters at the age of 3. She quickly started acting, playing a small role in The Primrose Ring as a fairy at her young age.

The name “Loretta” was given to her by actress Colleen Moore, who explained that it was the name of her favorite doll. The newly dubbed Loretta Young was a highly prolific actress who made as many as nine movies a year starring alongside big name actors. In 1935, she starred in Gone With the Wind alongside Clark Gable, who she would later have a secret love affair with. The tryst ended up begetting a child, Judith Young.

Loretta won an Oscar for her performance in The Farmer’s Daughter, and she also had starring roles in The Bishop’s Wife and Mother is a Freshman. Eventually, Young’s career moved to television, where she became the host of the Loretta Young Show.

Young made numerous guest appearances on radio programs, including many production of Lux Radio Theater.

Loretta Young passed away on August 12th, 2000 from ovarian cancer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15: Happy Birthday, Jeff Chandler!



Jeff Chandler, born Ira Grossel, in 1918 could play any range of character’s and was most remembered for his portrayal of Apache Indian Chieftain Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950).
His swarthy good looks made him an early sensation in Hollywood and a popular contract player for any studio that could get him onboard. Born into a Jewish family, Chandler gained a love for acting early on in his youth. Before becoming big on the stage and cinema, Chandler had for a time spent working in radio. In fact, in Rogue’s Gallery, Chandler performed with the notable Dick Powell on the air. his movie history included playing the parts of a gangster, Israeli soldier and an Arab chieftain, before his Academy Award nomination for his casting as the Apache leader. This had been the first time an actor had received such high accolades for portraying an Indian. During the late 50’s and before his death in 1961, Chandler’s hair began to turn gray prematurely, which simply added to his leading man charm with the ladies. Jeff tried a brief stint in Las Vegas as a crooner and even had a record contract. However, it was his acting that would be his mainstay and what held true in the minds of millions of fans. Due to medical incompetence, Jeff Chandler’s life ended too soon after a botched medical procedure. Who knows where his life might have gone if not ended so soon.