Archive for June 10th, 2017

Adam West, who played 1960s-era Batman, dies at 88

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

 

 

By SANDY COHEN and KEITH RIDLER

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adam West, whose straight-faced portrayal of Batman in a 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness, has died at age 88, his family said Saturday on a verified Facebook page.

West died Friday night after “a short but brave battle with leukemia,” the family statement said.

West played the superhero straight for kids and funny for adults. He initially chaffed at being typecast after “Batman” went off the air after three seasons, but in later years he admitted he was pleased to have had a role in kicking off a big-budget film franchise by showing the character’s wide appeal.

“You get terribly typecast playing a character like that,” he told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview.

“But in the overall, I’m delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too.” He returned to the role in an episode of the animated “The Simpsons.”

And more recently, he did the voice of nutty Mayor Adam West in the long-running “Family Guy” series.

“He was bright, witty and fun to work with,” Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman to West’s Batman, said in a statement Saturday. “I will miss him in the physical world and savor him always in the world of imagination and creativity.”

In April 2012, West received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, he moved to Seattle at age 15 with his mother after his parents divorced.

He graduated from Whitman College, a private liberal arts school, in Walla Walla.

After serving in the Army, he went to Hollywood and changed his name to Adam West, and began appearing on a number of television series, including “Bonanza,” ”Perry Mason” and “Bewitched.”

“Batman” was the role he would remain associated with throughout his life.

The TV show was among the most popular in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era’s top actors signed on to play villains. Burgess Meredith squawked as the Penguin. Eartha Kitt purred as Catwoman. And Cesar Romero cackled as the Joker.

Years later, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck would don Bruce Wayne’s camouflaging cape and cowl.

Filmmakers Edgar Wright and Leslye Headland were among those lamenting West’s death on Twitter. “Farewell Adam West. You were MY Batman,” Wright wrote. “Such a super funny, cool, charismatic actor. Loved the show as a kid, still love the show now. POW!”

Headland wrote: My childhood hero & still my favorite Batman. RIP Adam West. #pow”

West was married three times, and had six children. He had homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, but he and his wife, Marcelle, spent most of their time at their ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Miriam Hopkins update

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published by University Press of Kentucky

 

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UPDATE: My upcoming biography, Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published on January 5, 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky, is available NOW for pre-order at 30% off the cover price thru June 30, 2017 at UPK’s website! Please use discount code FS30 when ordering. Thank you.

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

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After tens years of research, interviews and writing, on Friday, I was notified that my biography of actress Miriam Hopkins will be published by the University Press of Kentucky as part of their Screen Classics series. The people of UPK have been great and I look forward to working with them

Miriam Hopkins (1902-1972), a top star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, was a complex, independent-minded woman decades ahead of her time. A hard-working (and highly demanding) professional, Hopkins was also a sexually daring, self-educated intellectual, who happened to be a firm believer in liberal causes

She had a reputation as one of the screen’s most difficult and temperamental actresses. A close friend, Tennessee Williams, worked with Hopkins and after an initially difficult period, he accepted her extremes. He once described her extremes as “morning mail and morning coffee,” and at other times she was like “hat-pin jabbed in your stomach. The quintessence of the female, a really magnificent bitch.

Hopkins was exceptionally smart; one who never let anyone find out how smart she was until it was too late. After many years of research, I was amazed at her intellect and temperament, which would erupt unexpectedly and disappear as quickly. Sometimes her demanding mother would trigger it, but in most cases, she was fighting for her career—or so she thought

Throughout the 1930’s, the freewheeling Hopkins was a unique case, remaining a top Hollywood star at no less than four studios: Paramount, RKO, Goldwyn and Warner Bros. And no matter where she worked, in her quest for better opportunities, Hopkins fearlessly tackled the studios’ powers-that-be, from the venerated Samuel Goldwyn to the irascible Jack Warner

Hopkins’ biography offers numerous stories—some humorous, some ugly—about her countless battles with co-workers on the set of her plays and films. Whatever drove her—be it ambition, insecurity, or something altogether different, she created conflict with her fellow actors. She was either loved or hated; there was rarely anything in-between. And to say that Hopkins was “difficult and temperamental” would be an understatement. She was Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway and Jane Fonda rolled into one

Having said that, whenever she trusted the work of her director and co-stars, she was an ideal team player, but if she did not, life for them was not worth living. If rewriting screenplays, directing her fellow actors and her directors, fighting with producers and the studio’s front office was necessary, so be it

But in Hopkins’ mind, she was never temperamental. “Proof of that is that I made four pictures with Willie Wyler, who is a very demanding director,” she once said. “I made two with Rouben Mamoulian, who is the same. Three with Ernst Lubitsch, such a dear man. When you are asked to work again with such directors, you cannot be temperamental.

In 1940, she made theater history by starring in Tennessee Williams’ first produced play, Battle of Angels. In the beginning, there were problems, but they soon came to terms. “Difficult? I guess so,” Williams reasoned. “But not with me. She was every Southern divinity you could imagine. Smart and funny and elegant, and I kept looking for her in Joanne [Woodward], and Carrie Nye and Diane Ladd, but there was no one like her. No one. I will hear nothing bad of Miriam Hopkins.

Ironically, I started working on Miriam Hopkins’ life story because of Bette Davis, who was a favorite. I enjoyed watching Hopkins clash with the indomitable Warner Bros. star in their two films together: The Old Maid and Old Acquaintance. There are stories about their dynamic real-life feud, and years later, the image of a post-stroke Davis ranting on television on how demanding her former co-star could be. For her part, Hopkins denied the bad blood between them. That intrigued me. She would say, “Yes, I know the legend is that Bette Davis and I were supposed to have had a feud. Utter rubbish. Bette and I got along fine. I’d love to make another picture with her.” Even more rubbish

I began watching Hopkins’ other films: the ones in which she collaborated with directors, Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian, and William Wyler, in addition to her lesser-known Paramount fare. It was then that I discovered Miriam Hopkins in command of her sexuality. Whether as a dance-hall prostitute in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), a participant in a ménage a trois in Design for Living (1933), or a rape victim in the scandalous The Story of Temple Drake (1933), she proved that sex was more than a three-letter word: at times, it could be raw and terrifying; at others, it could be sensual, sophisticated fun

In 1932, columnist Cal York chose Miriam Hopkins as the “best bet for stardom,” ranking her above Joan Blondell, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Sylvia Sidney and Helen Hayes. York wasn’t off the mark. Still, Hopkins temperament would hinder her rise to “stardom.” My biography on the actress examines her career decline and her several attempts at a comeback

In 1935, she made motion picture history by starring in the title role of the first all-Technicolor feature film, Becky Sharp, based on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. For her performance, she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination (she lost to—who else?—her future archrival Bette Davis)

Chronicled will be Hopkins’ remarkable film career along with the importance of her lasting legacy on the Broadway stage. Regrettably, her widely acclaimed live performances survive only in the recollections of those who witnessed them. Thus, what remain of Hopkins’ art are her films

Eventually, Hopkins appeared in 36 films, 40 stage plays, guest appearances in the early days of television, and on countless radio shows. In these media, she worked with Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Jane Fonda, Edgar Bergen, Bing Crosby, William Powell, Sally Field, Henry Fonda, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Olivia de Havilland, Peter Lorre, Merle Oberon, Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Elizabeth Montgomery, Coleen Dewhurst, Robert Redford and dozens more

Her friendships were as celebrated as well, but instead of actors, Hopkins hung around with writers and intellectuals such as writers Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and, of course, Tennessee Williams

In her love life, she was independent-minded and just as discriminating. She would have four husbands and dozens of lovers; most were writers including Bennett Cerf, William Saroyan, and John Gunther. Hopkins, once again ahead of her time, was a single mother. In 1932, she adopted a baby boy, being one of the first Hollywood stars to do so and starting a trend for such adoptions

She was an avid reader, sometimes a writer herself, a lover of poetry, and a patron of the arts. Over the years, her political beliefs vacillated from the far right to the far left. She held positions in political organizations that had the FBI tracking her actions for almost four decades, marking her as a perceived “communist sympathizer.

She was one of Hollywood’s brainiest women—yet, she was absurdly superstitious. A believer in the occult, she would not accept film or stage roles, move to a new home, or take long trips without consulting a psychic

Despite all her eccentricities, Hopkins proved that she was an accomplished performer who happened to have her own set of rules and her own personal demons. Although she was aware of being a part of film history—how could Margaret Mitchell’s personal choice to play Scarlet O’Hara not have been—she was not sentimental about her existence or her career. She kept no scrapbooks, clippings, or photographs. It was irrelevant to document or discuss her past

But no matter. This first-ever Hopkins biography will provide the real, complex, and at times a contradictory portrait of a woman who had her faults, and idiosyncrasies, but who was a major (and fearless) professional achiever—one who could be generous, gracious, and selfless

Once you read about the ambiguous, fascinatingly larger than life character that was Miriam Hopkins, you may agree with Tennessee Williams that she truly was a “magnificent bitch.”

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An Extra’s Story…

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

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One day as a screen star

An extra tells of rise to fame in twenty-four hours for $5 on lot with Doug in “Thief of Bagdad”

By G. A. E. Panter, 1923

We are all potential screen stars! At 9 a.m.  we saw the following “ad” in the morning paper: “For Douglas Fairbanks company, 2,500 men, 25-50.” Let’s go! We Went! At 10 a.m. we lined up with some 500 other aspirants for screen fame, in the rear of an old building. An hour later we emerged, the proud possessor of a ticket entitling us to a day’s work — salary $5, less 35 cents commission and 10 cents car fare. Also informing us that we had to be at the depot at 4 a.m. the following day.

We work nights. So, after two hours’ sleep and a good breakfast at 3 a.m., we hiked into town and found the crowd already assembling. A small cafe adjoining was literally swamped, but an enterprising, if unduly optimistic, newsboy did not meet with such success.

ON OUR WAY

Finally, after much jostling, accompanied by such remarks as: “Let me get my own hands in my pockets!” we achieved standing room in one of the cars provided. After a ride of twenty minutes we arrived at the studios, outside which, on a vacant lot, the earlier arrivals had kindled fires.

About 6 a.m. we commenced to file into the sacred inclosure, where we were allotted to Co. Z and filed past a window labeled “White Soldiers,” where we each drew a black and white striped helmet surmounted by a crescent and spike, a webbing collarette and belt covered with tin disks the size of a dollar, a pair of very baggy trousers and moccasins.

With these we repaired to a tent where we dressed, rather undressed, and emerged shivering into the raw morning air. We were then formed up in file behind a leader who carried a board bearing our company letter and marshaled by a guide wearing a black gown similar to those worn by university graduates. We proceeded to draw our weapons, consisting of a long bow and wooden quiver of arrows, then on to the set.

 

Aerial view of The Thief of Bagdad set

ON THE SET

A truly magnificent representation of old Bagdad with gateways, turrets, domes and minarets, quaint balconies and embrasures hung with rugs and bannerets. Company after company was marched up, dismissed and told to mingle with the crowd, forming a glittering, kaleidoscopic mass.

In front was a contrivance which aroused much curious comment. It resembled a long, slender girder of steel lattice work, one end being pivoted to a platform and at the other end were attached two small wodden structures. The girder was soon raised like the arm of a crane. The small wooden structures held the director and cameramen and slung from the top was the magic carpet, which appeared to be floating in the air over our heads. It was supported by a number of practically invisible steel wires.

Doug and his leading lady took their places on the the carpet and were hoisted into the air on a level with the cameras. The beam then swung out over our heads and the crowd “went mad” in the most approved style, incited thereto by numerous assistant directors armed with megaphones.

The idea of movement was greatly enhanced by a draught from two wind machines which fluttered the pennons and bannerets attached to the pikes.

 

Fairbanks on the set

 

MUCH BADINAGE

In the intervals of waiting between shots, Doug and his assistants were subjected to a crossfire of badinage by the crowd, all of which was taken in good part, although the directors had difficulty in making themselves heard. Every vantage point on the buildings forming the background was filled with men and women wearing gorgeous eastern robes.

The sun was now well up, despite the season hot enough to scorch the skin. How comic the other fellow looked. Fortunately no mirrors were provided, so we all kept the illusion that we were sheiks and the ladies on the balconies our dark-eyed fatima’s.

That the crowd was getting hungry was evinced by shouts of “When do we eat?” About 12:30 p.m. we were given a box lunch consisting of sandwiches, cake, chip potatoes, pie, fruit and bottle of milk. If the crowd was a trifle lethargic afterward — well the lunch was fine.

 

Our extra, Mr. Panter, is one of the soldiers at the top of this photo

 

After lunch, the white soldiers, after being painted terra cotta, were marched and countermarched through cheering throngs that, perhaps, had a trifle the best of the bargain! Finally, Doug, on a gaily caparisoned charger, headed the troops in a final triumphant march through cheering throngs right up to the cameramen, who, after showing the NG sign a few times, finally gave the O.K. and the day’s work was finished.

At 4 p.m., having handed in our costumes and accouterments, and obtained the final signature on our checks, we found ourselves once more outside the magic circle and free to return to our homes and  a much-needed bath.

I once played opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad. Yes, we earned that five.

— Source: Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1923

 

The Thief of Bagdad premiere at the Egyptian theater

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Marion Telva at Hollywood Forever…

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Singer Marion Telva

at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

American opera singer, Marion Telva was born on December 6, 1897  in St. Louis, Missouri to German immigrants, Herman and Elsa Toucke. There she received her vocal training and sang with the St. Louis Symphony. She went to New York in 1918 and sang in various churches and synagogues before being engaged by the Metropolitan Opera. She made her debut there as the Singer in Manon Lescaut on December 31, 1920.

Telva’s opera career was a versatile one, including such favorites as Faust, Aida and La Gioconda. Some of Telva’s regular roles at the Met included Mary in The Flying Dutchman; Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana and Brangane in Tristan and Isolde.  Many lesser known contralto roles included Tote Stadt, Snow Maiden, Don Quichotte, Bartered Bride, Jewels of Madonna, Louise, and Luisa Miller. The highlight of her career, however, was the 1927 revival of Norma, in which she sang “Adalgisa.” Others in that cast were Rosa Ponselle, Ciacomo Lauri-Volpi and Enzio Pinza, and the conductor was Tullio Serafin.

Telva left the Metropolitan Opera in 1931 after the last performance of Deems Taylor’s Peter Ibbetson the premiere of which she had sung in that year. In 1930 she was married to Elmer Ray Jones, president of the Wells Fargo Company (more about him in a future posting) at St. George’s Church, Stuyvesant Square. She was to have retired (at her new husbands urging), however, she returned to the Met in the 1932-1933 season to sing in a concert that was her final appearance there.

Her last major New York appearance was in the Missa Solemnis of Beethoven with Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic in 1935. She also appeared in Los Angeles operas under the auspices of the Grand Opera Association.

Telva and her husband made their home in the Silvermine section of Norwalk, Connecticut and also had residences in Mexico City and Taxco, Mexico. The Taxco residence was a Wells Fargo property named Rancho Telva. Her husband died in 1961 and she passed away a little over a year later. She was 64 years old.

 

 Marion Telva’s grave marker in Section 6 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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