Archive for October, 2008

Mr. Blackwell’s Final Resting Place…

Monday, October 27th, 2008


Mr. Blackwell


Mr. Blackwell and his partner of 60 years, Robert Spencer


Mr. Blackwell’s final resting place

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Section 7 (behind Darren McGavin)




 Point of reference



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…

Sunday, October 26th, 2008






by David Del Valle


This edited interview was conducted in 1983, when Rouben Mamoulian and writer David Del Valle met as a result of their appearance on the PBS special The Horror of it All.



DDV: Mr. Mamoulian, could you tell us how your version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came together back in 1931?


RM: Part of the question you ask is relevant to the year you just mentioned, 1931. Universal had galvanized show business with their adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein. Mr. Adolph Zukor, being a very astute businessman, decided to make his own horror thriller for Paramount. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde had not been filmed since the John Barrymore version, and there was much about the Stevenson novel that could really be enhanced by talking pictures. You have to realize Frankenstein changed forever the notion that no matter how unfilmable a novel may be, if the subject matter is profound or powerful enough, it’s going to get to the screen.


Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins and Rouben Mamoulian (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)


DDV: Why was this your only horror film?


RM: You may consider this a horror film, and perhaps Stevenson’s novel was a horror story. I don’t know if you’ve read the novel, but Dr. Jekyll was a rather fat fellow of 55 who was trying to see how far he could go within the restrictions of morality. He would like to indulge in every kind of debauchery, but he could not do this as Dr. Jekyll. And for Mr. Hyde, I did not want to make him a monster or a caricature of the John Barrymore performance. Referring to the performance which won Fredric March an Academy Award, the studio originally wanted a character named Irving Pichel. I’m sure this actor is unknown to a young man like you…


DDV: On the contrary, I’m quite aware that Mr. Pichel played a leading role in Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and directed Destination Moon (1950).


RM: Well, you are a film buff, so I suppose these facts are important to you. In any case, Irving Pichel might have been suited to the doctor as he was written in the novel, but I knew he was completely inappropriate for the film. The studio definitely wanted him to play the part; they kept telling me what a wonderful Mr. Hyde he would make. But my concept all along for the character of Hyde was that of a Neanderthal man, not a monster, because it is the animal side of human nature that attracted me to the piece. At the time I was offered Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I had seen Freddie March in some comedy, and I knew he would be perfect. Now I had never met this actor before in my life, but I took a risk and told Paramount that I would not make the film without Fredric March. And he gave an inspired and dazzling performance!


Fredric March as Dr. Jekyll (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)


DDV: Let’s discuss the sound techniques you used in both the transformation sequences. The two instances I remember best are the heartbeat used during the first transformation scene, and another sequence in which Jekyll listens to a nightingale in a park, and turns into Hyde when a cat pounces on the bird.


RM: It’s no longer the mystery it was a few years ago. Regarding the nightingale sequence, it was impossible to find a real nightingale, so I thought we might have to import one from England or something. As the search continued, this enormous Englishwoman came into my office and explained to me that she could imitate the sound of any bird. So I asked her to do a nightingale for me, to which she asked, “Do you want a Welsh nightingale or a Northern nightingale?” I said, “Whichever one you wish.” And she was perfect; it was her voice that you hear in the film.


The heartbeat used in the transformation sequence was my own heartbeat. I ran up and down a flight of stairs and had a sound man record my own heartbeat. We had tried drums of all kind and nothing worked. The playwright Edward Albee wrote me a fan letter informing me that the heartbeat sequence in my film stayed in his imagination as a kid and he used the same effect in his play, Tiny Alice.


Miriam Hopkins as Ivy (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)


DDV: Fredric March notwithstanding, Miriam Hopkins is the scene-stealer of the film. Was there any truth to her notoriety?


RM: All of the stories I hear about Miriam Hopkins, her temper tantrums, and her demonic ego were not in play at the time we were filming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For me, as a director, Miriam was a very gifted and talented actress who could play comedy (as she did for Lubitsch) or a tragic figure such as Ivy. Originally, Miriam wanted to play Muriel, the Rose Hobart role, and I told her that it would be very dull for her, and that I knew she could play this Ivy character like no one else. Her scenes were considered very erotic for 1931. In fact, we filmed her bed sequence when she first encounters Dr. Jekyll with her removing her clothes under the sheets. Not much of this remained, I am told. Miriam wanted to work with me and I think she sensed how disappointed I would have been, had she played the other role. Directing her performance is one of my fondest memories of the picture. And if anything, she was Bette Davis’ equal!


DDV: Considering that you don’t see yourself as a specialist in the horror genre, do you feel out of place in this documentary?


RM: I am very proud of my work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I agreed to appear in the documentary because it was being addressed in a respectful way. Even though I never mad another picture in that genre, I certainly do not mind being spoken of in such glowing terms! Who wouldn’t? My opinion of the finished product is quite enthusiastic.


Watch a clip from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)





Sunday, October 26th, 2008








Polly Ann Young’s Birthday…

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Happy 100th Birthday

Polly Ann Young!


Polly Ann Young (center) with sisters Loretta Young (l) and Sally Blane (r)




  • BORN: October 25, 1908, Denver, Colorado
  • DIED: January 21, 1997, Los Angeles, California
  • CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer
  • BURIAL: Holy Cross Cemetery, Section F, Tier 61, Grave 49


( / Tom and Carla)



Jennifer Hudson Tragedy…

Friday, October 24th, 2008


Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother found dead



WMAQ reportedly confirmed the victims’ identities through family member


Access Hollywood
Fri., Oct. 24, 2008

CHICAGO – Two people found murdered in a home owned by Jennifer Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donnerson, are believed to be the Oscar-winning actress’ mother and brother, according to WMAQ in Chicago.


Two adults were found reportedly shot to death inside the home on the south side of Chicago on Friday afternoon.


When contacted by Access Hollywood, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department confirmed “two people were found unresponsive in the home.”


“There was a male subject found in the bedroom with a fatal gunshot wound,” Chicago police said at a press conference late Friday. “The crime lab personnel are still on the scene gathering evidence. We have some promising leads right now, but it’s very preliminary.”


Although police would not confirm the identities of the victims, police said the shooting involved one male and one female victim “believed to be related to Hudson.”


In addition, as first reported by The Chicago Tribune, police confirmed to Access they have also issued an Amber Alert for a 7-year-old boy, named Julian King, who is believed to be Hudson’s nephew.


Police also confirmed to Access they have declared a man named William Balfour as “a suspect in the double homicide,” which The Chicago Tribune also first reported. Balfour is considered to be “armed and dangerous,” police told Access.


Police are looking for a 1994 white Suburban, which they believe may contain Balfour and the boy. According to the Chicago Tribune, the vehicle is registered to Jason Hudson, Jennifer’s brother.


Access has confirmed Balfour resided at Darnell Donnerson’s home in 2007.


During the press conference late Friday, police said neighbors reported “hearing gunshots” sometime around 8 a.m. Police told Access the victims were discovered around 3 p.m. local time and Access has verified the address of the home where the victims were found belongs to Hudson’s mother.


Hudson, the former American Idol alum and Academy Award winner for her role in Dreamgirls, was in Florida at the time of the incident, according to WABC-TV in New York. She is now reportedly en route to Chicago.


In her self-titled debut album, released in September, Hudson included a message of love to her family, including her mother.


“Next, of course, is u my mommy DARNELL AKA DOLL…,” Hudson wrote in the liner notes of the album after thanking God. “Thank u for instilling in me that I could do anything I put my mind to and teaching me to always put God first. Thank you for loving me no matter what.”


After sending the message of thanks to her mother, Jennifer also including loving words for her siblings and her nephew.


“To the original JHUD’s, my big bro and sis JASON and JULIA, I love you so much. Thank you both for rooting me on and supporting me like nobody else. Also for believing in me and never letting me settle for just ok but the best. Because of u, I don’t believe in limits. LIL’ JULIAN KING my lil’ nephew, I love u, baby.”


A call placed to Jennifer Hudson’s rep by Access Hollywood was not immediately returned.



Houdini’s Star Repaired…

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Houdini’s Hollywood Star Repaired


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 (UPI) — Harry Houdini’s cracked star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been repaired and was unveiled 82 years after the illusionist’s final performance.

The square honoring Houdini was damaged the night of Halloween 2000, exactly 25 years after the famous magician’s star was first unveiled.


The newly restored marker was unveiled this afternoon courtesy of the Academy of Magical Arts in association with The Magic Castle.


Expected to attend the re-dedication were actor Neil Patrick Harris, illusionists Penn & Teller and Siegfried Fischbacher, actresses JoAnne Worley and Tippi Hedren and Magic Castle co-founder Milt Larsen.


Among those who contributed to the restoration are top magicians such as David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Lance Burton, Tihany, Marvyn Roy (Mr. Electric,) and Siegfried and Roy.


The Magic Castle, a popular magic club, said it will hold a reception after the unveiling.


Houdini died on Halloween 1926 at age 52.



LA Archives Bazaar…

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The 3rd Annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar




Larry Harnisch
Los Angeles Times


Anyone who has researched Los Angeles history knows that the material is spread all over the city and not always in the most logical spot. For example, items from the early history of USC’s medical school are housed at UCLA. The archives bazaar, sponsored by L.A. as Subject, is an annual gathering to show off Los Angeles history and provide a clearinghouse for researchers, whether they are working on a scholarly project or family genealogy.


The list of exhibitors shows the amazing diversity of the city’s many archives and libraries. Of course, the better-known collections, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Autry National Center, Los Angeles City Archives, Los Angeles Public Library, and UCLA Special Collections, will be represented.


But that’s only the beginning. Consider these groups, which will also be taking part:


Boyle Heights Historical Society; Chinese Historical Society of Southern California; Filipino-American Library; Japanese American National Museum; LA84 Foundation–Sports Library; Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum; One National Gay and Lesbian Archives; Orange Empire Railway Museum; Society of California Archivists and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library and Archive.


The bazaar will also include screenings of films, presentations on genealogy, teaching sessions and  book signings by William Estrada, “The Los Angeles Plaza”; Jonathan Gold, “Counter Intelligence”; Carina Monica Montoya, “Filipinos in Hollywood”; Icy Smith, “Mei Ling in China City”; Jervey Tervalon, “Lita: All the Trouble You Need Understand This”; and J. Michael Walker, “All the Saints of the City of Angels.” 


The Los Angeles Archives Bazaar will be held at USC Davidson Conference Center, 3415 S. Figueroa (at Jefferson Boulevard). Free. Parking at USC Parking Structure D is $8. Visitors can get free or discounted admissions to museums in Exposition Park.


For more information (PDF): USC-Archives-Bazaar-2008




Tod Browning’s FREAKS!

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008







By Allan R. Ellenberger


Freaks – the story of living torsos, pinheads, human skeletons, bearded ladies and little people was directed by Tod Browning, who made the successful horror film, Dracula (1931). The tale combines the strange reactions and code of loyalty of a troupe of so-called carnival “freaks” with a weird romance between the trapeze queen and the strong man, and a plot on the part of these to secure the fortune of one of the little people.


The films sideshow cast includes Johnny Eck, the half-man; the Hilton Sisters, Siamese Twins; Randian, the living torso; Harry Earles, little person previously seen in The Unholy Three and his sister Daisy, Pete Robinson, living skeleton; Josephine-Joseph, half man-half woman; Olga Roderick, the bearded lady; Elizabeth Green and Koo Koo, the bird girls and others.



Also in the cast are Olga Baclanova, the Russian actress who appeared in Grand Hotel; Leila Hyams, Wallace Ford, Roscoe Ates, Henry Victor and Edward Brophy.


When the film was first previewed in Los Angeles, some horrified spectators got up from their seats and ran – did not walk – to the nearest exit. When it was taken to San Diego for a week’s trial run, the film smashed all house records. But it aroused the indignation of some San Diegans to the extent that letters – not “fan” letters – poured in to Browning’s office at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, the film’s producer.


“You must have the mental equipment of a freak yourself to devise such a picture,” wrote one irate woman. “Horrible,” said another. “To put such creatures in a picture and before the public is unthinkable,” wrote others.


From all of which, you may gather that Freaks is either a horror of horror pictures, or at least vastly different from the usual film. It made some people ill, fascinated others.



Why was Freaks made?


“First,” according to Browning, “because millions of people have seen these people in side shows and museums for years, and evidently like to see them. Now for the time, they have an opportunity to view the top-notchers all together.


“Second, because we have a human, inside story of their world. Something that could very possibly happen in life. Does happen in life. A normal woman marries a sideshow oddity because he has money. When she treats him cruelly they all get together and make her one of them.


“Impossible? Why? Randian, the human torso who has neither arms nor legs, is married, has two children and eight grandchildren. The bearded lady has been married twice, the bird girl once, the half man-half woman is married, and also the human skeleton. Do you think these people were married for love or for money? Well —


It was a great day in the sideshow world when the human curiosities were collected at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, according to Browning.


“Most of them had never met one another before and were tickled to death at the opportunity. Temperamental? Oh, sure, and jealous. We had a few battles. The bearded woman couldn’t get along with the bird woman. The human skeleton preferred to take his meals alone instead of going on a club agreement with three others. By the way, he gained three pounds on the free noontime meals at the studio while here. He left town weighing forty-three pounds to his 5’ 8” of height.”



The cast lived at an apartment house across from the studio. Most of them had nurses or managers to care for them. Were they difficult to direct? Definitely, according to Browning.


“You never could tell what they were going to do. They had to be humored like children. Once in a while they became upset, angry, and would try to vent their rage in biting the person nearest to them. I was bitten once. But considering everything, we had little trouble.


Browning found no reason why people would object to the film.


“Those who don’t want to see it don’t have to and those that do can. We are being perfectly clear in our advertising as to what it’s all about.”



The New York Times called Freaks a film not “easily forgotten” because of the “underlying sense of horror, [and] the love of the macabre that fills the circus sideshows in the first place. Tod Browning, the director, has brought all of it out as fully as possible, trying to prove that the ‘strange people’ are children, that they do not like to be set apart. But they know they are, and in the sideshow is a spirit of mutual protection that holds if you injure one of them you injure all.”



Bela Lugosi in the 1930 Census…

Monday, October 20th, 2008


Bela Lugosi


né Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó

Film actor

Count Dracula in Dracula (1931)





1146 Hudson Avenue

Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California


Rent, $40


Census taken on April 8, 1930




  1. Bela Lugosi (head), 41 / Romania (1920) / Actor / Theatrical


NOTE: Today is the 116th birthday of Bela Lugosi!




* Information includes relationship to head of household, age / place of birth (year of arrival in this country, if applicable) / occupation / industry.


The preceeding text is taken from my recent book, Celebrities in the 1930 Census (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008). This directory provides an extensive listing of household information collected for over 2,265 famous or notorious individuals who were alive during the 1930 United States Census. Please note: The above photographs do not appear in the book.