Posts Tagged ‘Jr.’

Recent Celebrity Deaths…

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

RECENT CELEBRITY DEATHS

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Arthur Rankin Jr., the animator behind the classic holiday special classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Jackson Five cartoon series and dozens of other productions, died Thursday, January 30 at his home in Harrington Sound, Bermuda. He was 89.

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Hungarian filmmaker Miklos Jancso, winner of the best director award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, died Friday, January 31 after a long illness. He was 92.

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Actor Christopher Jones, who abruptly quit working Hollywood in the 1960s after starring in Ryan’s Daughter and ABC’s The Legend of Jesse James, died Friday in California of complications from cancer, his partner Paule McKenna told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 72.

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Universal Studios, the Laemmle years, 1912-1936…

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

FILM HISTORY

Universal Studios, the Laemmle years, 1912—1936…      

 

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The 100th anniversary of Universal Studios was celebrated this year (April 30) thus making it the first of the major Hollywood studios to achieve that impressive longevity. The story of Universal, especially the years of Carl Laemmle’s control, is typical of the industry and carries a recognizable theme that reverberates through all American business successes.

 

 

 

 

When Carl Laemmle arrived in New York at 17 years-old, he had $50 and a telescope valise packed with only a few personal items from his home in Laupheim, Germany. From there he headed west like many other immigrants and found odd jobs in stores, factories, working as a farm hand in South Dakota, as a bookkeeper in Chicago and as the general manager of a department store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Twenty-two years later, Laemmle had saved a capital of $2,500 and started on his next venture.

 

Laemmle had returned to Chicago where he waited in line for the new sensation, the motion picture shows, which was shown in a store converted to resemble the interior of a railroad coach; the motion picture representing scenery was viewed from the rear of a train. Laemmle was astonished at the long line of people willing to pay a dime for this privilege and envisioned the possibility for a new money-making opportunity.

 

With the assistance of R. H. Cochrane, a young Chicago advertising man, they acquired a store on Milwaukee Avenue where he opened the White Front Theater on February 24, 1906 (it had been the White Front store and the sign served as a name for the theater). It was on a Saturday night and he gave patrons fifteen minutes of movies and a song with beautifully colored slides. On Sunday he ran twenty shows. At five cents a head his gross for the two days was $192.05. That was the beginning of a long association with Cochrane who later became a vice-president of Universal.

 

A second theater was soon opened and from that point Laemmle entered all branches of the rapidly expanding motion picture industry. This new success brought him into conflict with the larger interests in the industry. After breaking with the Patents Company, which owned most of the patents on cameras, projectors, etc. he announced he would produce his own films. The Independent Moving Picture (IMP) Company was formed. Its first film, Hiawatha, was released in October 1909. IMP has been given the credit for introducing the star system to Hollywood, when it signed the Biograph Girl, Florence Lawrence, and billed her name above the title of her pictures in 1910. Over the next three years Laemmle battled Edison’s motion picture trust which was followed by a federal investigation, leading to the termination of the General Film Company.

 

The Universal Film Manufacturing Company was founded on April 30, 1912, and was composed of six of the leading independent producers. The name Universal was given, according to Hollywood legend, when Laemmle was presiding over a pretentious gathering of independent film producers in his office overlooking Union Square to decide upon a name. After glancing out the window at the Broadway traffic, with the usual flourishes, gave the designation—Universal. He had seen the name, it is said, on a delivery wagon marked “Universal Pipe Fittings.”

 

Following other film producers, by the end of 1912, Universal was making most of its films in Hollywood on the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. During the first year of the studio’s operation, 250 films were produced, mostly two-reelers.

 

As Laemmle and Universal prospered, he purchased a former chicken farm, the 230-acre Taylor ranch on the banks of the Los Angeles River five miles north of Hollywood. The land was part of the ancient Rancho Cahuenga de Ramirez and on the property where General John C. Fremont and Pio Pico signed the Treaty of Cahuenga.  

 

 

 

 

Formal dedication of the studio on March 14, 1915, was an affair heralded by posters in railway stations throughout the country. Exhibitors were brought here by special trains to witness the ceremony. Laura Oakley, Universal City’s female police chief, presented Laemmle with a golden key and he officially unlocked the huge front gate of the studio as bands played. Flags were unfurled and a cheering crowd of 20,000 jammed Lankershim Blvd.  

 

 

 

Carl Laemmle and friends at the opening of Universal City in March 1915

 

Universal City came into existence and the studio was created as a small city with a population of nearly 300, with its own post office, fire department and police department. Children have been born on the lot and men and women have died there. Virginia Richdale Kerrigan, the daughter of William W. Kerrigan, one-time manager of Universal and the twin brother of actor J. Warren Kerrigan, had the distinction of being the first baby born on the Universal lot in 1915. Tragically only nine years later, Virginia’s dress caught fire at a Christmas gathering and she died from her burns.

 

Many of the 300 Universal employees lived in houses on the lot when the studio was opened in 1915. Some merely converted sets into practical living quarters and others just camped. Most of the actors had horses, for Universal was the home of the Western, which provided the studios bread-and-butter in the first two decades. The players with horses carried saddle bags in which were stuffed two uniforms. Sometimes they would appear in the mornings as Indians and after lunch, once the Indians were defeated by the cowboys, they would switch costumes and chase the images of themselves.

 

 

 

The above and following two photos were taken on a visit to Universal Studios in 1916 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

One day in 1916, Harry Carey, one of Universal’s early western star attractions, was leading a bunch of cowhands down Broadway when the whole group tired of the script. Just for fun, and the undying mortification of the city’s budding social set, Carey and his dusty mounted troupe, rode up the steps and into the lobby of the stylish Alexandria Hotel.

 

Many stories of early Universal were based on nepotism, for there it thrived. Several Laemmles changed their names so that strangers wouldn’t get the impression they were there only because they were related. Some made good, others did not. But Uncle Carl, as he was known in the industry, never fired one of them. Ogden Nash, the poet, said the following about Laemmle’s habit of giving top executive jobs to family members: “Uncle Carl Laemmle has a very large faemmle.”

 

Laemmle’s greatest pride was for his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., who was originally named Julius after his grandfather in Germany. But when the senior Laemmle made him general manager of Universal on his twenty-first birthday, Julius became Junior.

 

Something else that Laemmle loved was gambling. High-stakes poker games with such cronies as Joseph Schenck and Sid Grauman would last all night and when the local action slowed a bit, Laemmle thought nothing of taking quick trips to Agua Caliente, the Mexican forerunner of Las Vegas. One night he lost $10,000 there. In one weekend, he lost three times that.

 

Universal Studios was the site of a number of industry firsts—Laemmle established the first European exchange for independent American films; he built the first electrically lighted stages so he would not have to depend on sunlight, and produced the first $1,000,000 feature, Foolish Wives (1922), directed by Erich von Stroheim, who the studio billed as “the man you love to hate.”

 

Many famous names in Hollywood history served at one time or another on the Universal lot. On it Charlie Chaplin courted Mildred Harris and Wallace Reid won Dorothy Davenport. John Ford and William Wyler (a Laemmle family member) received their early training at the studio—on Harry Carey westerns and farces with Laura La Plante. Such films as Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), both with Lon Chaney; Showboat (1929 and 1936) and the Academy Award winner, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) were made there. The studio launched the comedies of the 1930s with My Man Godfrey (1936) and introduced Deanna Durbin as a 14-year-old singer in her first great success, Three Smart Girls (1936). The studio also produced such classic soap operas as Magnificent Obsession (1936), Back Street (1932) and Imitation of Life (1934), the same titles that turned out to be box-office hits in the 1950s in remakes refurbished with color. And of course, there are the famed monster films which include Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933).

 

 

 

 

All studios were famous for their publicity stunts, but one at Universal had repercussions for many years to come. For the film, The Black Cat (1934), an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, the studio advertised a county-wide contest for a cat to play the title role. Every child in town showed up. By the time the pre-selected winner was announced, cats were loose everywhere. Few chose to return home, and for decades (and possibly to this day) the studio lot teemed with their descendants.

 

 

 

Cast of Show Boat–Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger and Helen Westley

 

The Laemmle era came to an end in 1936 when the studio produced a lavish remake of Show Boat, featuring several stars from the Broadway stage version. Carl Jr.’s disturbing spending habits, the studios attempts at high-quality productions and the costs of modernizing and upgrading during the depression brought about their decline and being placed into receivership. Stockholders demanded that the Laemmle’s take out a loan from Standard Capital Corporation to make Show Boat, using the family’s controlling interest as collateral. When production problems created a huge overrun, the loan was called in and Universal could not pay. Standard foreclosed and seized control of Universal. Ironically when Show Boat was released it was a financial success but it was not enough to save the Laemmles who were forced to leave the studio on April 2, 1936. Carl Laemmle died three years later at the age of 72.

 

Despite low periods in its history, Universal Studios has survived. Over the past seventy-plus years Universal has had several owners and name variations. It is the debris from the Laemmle years, 1912 to 1936, that saw hundreds of films made on the 230 (and eventually 410) acres and that form most of Universal today. It doesn’t look much like a chicken farm any more.

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Rex Bell, Jr. Obituary

Monday, July 11th, 2011

OBITUARY

Rex Bell Jr., former Clark County district attorney, dies at 76

 

Clara Bow with her husband Rex Bell and her two sons: Rex  Jr. and George.

  

By Doug McMurdo
and John L. Smith
Las Vegas Review-Journal

 

Rex Bell Jr., former Clark County district attorney, Las Vegas justice of the peace and the son of Hollywood royalty, died Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was 76.

 

Click here to continue reading the Las Vegas Review-Journal obituary for Rex Bell, Jr.

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Harry Blackstone in Hollywood

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

HOLLYWOOD-ENDINGS

The Great Blackstone

 

Blackstone

  

Hollywood-Endings tells of celebrities who have died within the environs and boundaries of the community of Hollywood

  

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today, when magician Harry Blackstone retired, he moved to Hollywood and settled in an apartment just a few blocks from Grauman’s Chinese and the Magic Castle.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Harry Blackstone, regarded as the last of the great golden-age magicians, and ranked with such wizards as Houdini, Herrmann the Great, Harry Kellar and Thurston, died at his Hollywood apartment on November 16, 1965 after a four-month illness.

 

Blackstone was born Harry Boughton on September 27, 1885, the fourth of eight children of a Chicago florist. In 1897, he saw his first magician – Harry Kellar, doing a rope escape trick. The young boy was captivated and began the slow process of learning sleight of hand.

 

In 1904 he began his stage career, when, with his brother Peter, he appeared in an act called “Straight and Crooked Magic.” Later, he shortened his name and the act was billed as the “Bouton Brothers.” The brothers toured the vaudeville circuit where Harry became the “master magician” of the act..

 

Later, he changed his stage name to Frederick the Great, however, during World War I, that name became unpopular. One day he was standing in front of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago talking to an agent about changing his name. The agent pointed to the hotel marquee and said: “There’s your new billing – Blackstone the Great.”

 

News that Blackstone and his mahogany magic wand would be appearing brought pleasure to young and old, for Blackstone was a superb technician who could devote a two-hour stage show to nothing but tricks.

  

 

 

 BLACKSTONE

   

 

 

“It (magic) doesn’t need to be sleight of hand. It’s nothing but pure psychology – applied in the right place.

 

“If the leaders of the world would turn their talents to a little more magic, or psychology, there wouldn’t be so much hurt and misery. Politicians are nothing more than magicians anyhow. They put people under a spell.”

 

— Harry Blackstone

 

Blackstone was primarily an illusionist who shunned the use of trapdoors, mirrors or wires. He could saw a woman in half, make her float above ground and then thrust her into a cabinet lined with lighted light bulbs that could pass through her body. He used the same cabinet to cut the woman into three separate but equal parts.

 

In the Hindu rope trick, a boy climbed a rope and disappeared. The dancing handkerchief was just that – a borrowed man’s handkerchief placed on the floor and made to dance to a foxtrot.

 

Another trick was the vanishing donkey, in which a live animal disappeared before the astonished eyes of the audience. Using dozens of rabbits in his act, he once estimated giving away 80,000 of the creatures during his career.

 

When he would dine with friends, he liked to startle them by reaching into the air and finding oranges or bananas there, or by taking a salt shaker and violently pounding it through the table and reaching underneath to bring it up.

 

Blackstone once performed at the White House for President Calvin Coolidge. He stole the President’s fountain pen, pulled a rabbit from the pocket of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon and palmed the wallet of Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg.

 

“This man’s a magician,” the President dryly remarked. As he left, Blackstone made the pistol vanish from the holster of the guard on duty.

 

Blackstone retired in 1959 and moved to Hollywood two years later. He made two known appearances after that – at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium for a “It’s Magic” extravaganza and was the subject of the television show, This is Your Life, hosted by Ralph Edwards, both in 1960.

 

 

1749 N. Sycamore Avenue

1749 N. Sycamore Avenue, Hollywood where Harry Blackstone died in his apartment on November 16, 1965. (NOTE: This is a private residence. Please do NOT disturb the occupants)

 

Harry Blackstone moved to 1749 N. Sycamore Avenue, apartment 19, in the heart of Hollywood, just a few blocks from Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Magic Castle, where he reportedly made appearances during his last few years.

 

During the summer of 1965, the 80 year-old Blackstone took ill and spent a month in Good Samaritan Hospital. On November 16, he died in his N. Sycamore apartment, apparently from pulmonary edema. At his bedside were his wife, Elizabeth, and his manager Charles McDonald. His son, Harry Jr., also an accomplished magician, was on tour in Florida.

 

There was no funeral, however his body was cremated at Hollywood Cemetery and his cremains sent to Colon, Michigan where a service was held. Harry Blackstone was buried at Lakeside Cemetery in Colon.

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