Posts Tagged ‘Judy Garland’

Margaret O’Brien’s Stolen Oscar

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Margaret O’Brien, on stage at Grauman’s Chinese Theater receiving her juvenile Academy Award for Meet Me in St. Louis

Oscar. The Academy Award. Regardless of its name, it evokes the same emotion of respect for those who have been fortunate enough to receive one. And for those lucky ones, whether deserved or not, it is the brass ring, the ultimate in praise from their peers.

And so it was for little eight-year-old Margaret O’Brien, arguably the most talented of all the child stars of her day – or since – who received the coveted award for most outstanding child actress of 1944 for her performance in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). The special Oscar, which was a miniature version of the acclaimed award, was given sporadically in the 1930s and 1940s. Previous winners included Mickey Rooney, Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, who was Margaret’s co-star that year.

Robert Young and Margaret O’Brien in Journey for Margaret

Born Angela Maxine O’Brien, Margaret’s rise to fame was meteoric. When her photograph was seen on a magazine cover, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive signed her for a one-line scene in Babes on Broadway (1941). The powers-that-be at MGM saw the four-year-old’s raw talent and cast her with Robert Young in a war-time drama called Journey for Margaret (1942), from which she took her stage name. Small parts in three films followed until her starring role in Lost Angel, (1944) which was the first film written specifically for her.

At the request of director Vincent Minnelli, the studio cast her in the role of Tootie Smith in their new Technicolor musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. MGM had big hopes for this film and spent an astronomical $100,000 to build the St. Louis street on their back lot. Besides Margaret, the film included Judy Garland, Lucille Bremmer and Mary Astor, and introduced such musical standards as “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and the holiday classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which Garland sang to Margaret.

When the film was released near the end of 1944, critics across the country praised her performance. The Hollywood Reporter claimed that she was the hottest thing on the MGM roster.

“Hers is a great talent,” the Reporter continued, “as distinctly outstanding as the greatest stars we have. The O’Brien appeal is based on her naturalness. She’s all America’s child, the type every person in an audience wants to take into his arms.”

But it wasn’t only America that raved. In London, the film was the biggest hit that city had seen in months. The Daily Express prophetically declared, “Her quiet, compelling acting, worthy of an Academy Award, steals the show.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shared that opinion and awarded her a Special Oscar for the Most Outstanding Child Actress of 1944. At the ceremony, which was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on March 15, 1945, Margaret was given her Oscar by director Mervyn LeRoy.

The emcee for the evening, comedian Bob Hope, lifted Margaret to the microphone so she could be heard by the listening radio audience.

“Will you hurry up and grow up, please?” Hope said as he struggled with the young winner.

As LeRoy handed her the Oscar, he said, “To the best young actress of the whole year of 1944. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” she replied. I really don’t know what to say. Thank you very much.”

However, she did know what to say. Her mother had written her an acceptance speech, but at the last-minute Margaret decided to improvise her very own thank you to the Academy.

Margaret O’Brien and her mother Gladys at the footprints ceremony in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater

During her career, Margaret O’Brien was bestowed with many awards and accolades, including the honor of placing her hands and footprints in cement in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese, but the Oscar would be her most prized and valued possession. Unfortunately, the little statuette would not stay around for long.

At the O’Brien home on Beverly Drive, Margaret had a separate room for her awards. One day in 1958, their maid took the Oscar and several other awards to her home to polish – a practice she did on several occasions. After three days, the maid failed to return so Mrs. O’Brien dismissed her and asked that she return the awards.

Not long after, Mrs. O’Brien, who was not in good health, suffered a relapse and died. Grief stricken, Margaret forgot about the maid and her Oscar until several months later when she tried to contact her, only to find that her phone was disconnected. The maid had moved and did not leave a forwarding address. Margaret considered the Oscar was gone forever. A few years later, the Academy graciously replaced the award with a substitute, but it was not the same.

Over the next thirty years, Margaret attended memorabilia shows searching for her lost Oscar. Then, in early 1995, a friend saw her Oscar in a an upcoming memorabilia auction catalogue. Margaret contacted the Academy’s legal department and they acted swiftly to have the Oscar returned.

Margaret O’Brien with her stolen Oscar that was returned to her by the Academy, and me in my younger days (no I’m not drunk it’s just one-of-those-pics) Michael Schwibs photo.

On February 7, 1995, nearly fifty years after receiving it, the Academy returned the stolen Oscar to O’Brien in a special ceremony at their Beverly Hills offices. Margaret told those attending:

“For all those people who have lost or misplaced something that was dear to them, as I have, never give up the dream of searching – never let go of the hope that you’ll find it because after all these many years, at last, my Oscar has been returned to me.”

 

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Judy Garland: her death and afterlife

Friday, January 19th, 2018

On the morning of June 23, 1969, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times both declared the same event with the same headline: “Judy Garland, 47, Found Dead.”

The actress died in her London apartment early on Sunday morning, June 22, 1969. Mickey Deans, her husband of three months, found her body behind a locked bathroom door. When the police arrived, they viewed Garland’s body slumped on the toilet, with her head resting in her hands.

Judy Garland’s British death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

An autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was accidental barbiturate poisoning, “an incautious self-overdosage of sleeping pills,” said Coroner Gavin Thurston. “This is quite clearly an accidental circumstance to a person who was accustomed to taking barbiturates over a very long time. She took more barbiturates than she could tolerate.”

Back in the States, Garland’s daughter Liza, by her second husband Vincent Minnelli, was staying with friends in the Hamptons along with her husband, singer and songwriter, Peter Allen. Early that morning, Allen took a phone call from Liza’s secretary. When Allen woke Liza, she suspected bad news but thought there was something wrong with her father. Instead, he told her that her mother was dead.

Late Wednesday night, Garland’s body was returned to New York, with her husband, Mickey Deans, and the Rev. Peter Delany, who married the couple earlier that year, accompanying the body. In New York, when the plane arrived, Garland’s daughter, actress and singer Liza Minnelli, waited in a car in the parking lot of Kennedy Airport.

Minnelli released a statement: “I know my mother was a great star and a great talent, but I am not thinking about those things today. What I am thinking about is the woman, my mother, and what a lovely, vital, extraordinary woman she was. It is because of my memory of that woman that all my life I will be proud to say, ‘I am Judy Garland’s daughter.’”

The casket containing the body of Judy Garland is placed into a hearse at the airport after arriving from London.

A hearse took Garland’s body to Frank E. Campbell’s Funeral Church on East Eighty-First Street and Madison Avenue. The following day, she would repose for public viewing in a glass-covered coffin; a private funeral service would be held that Friday.

On Thursday, June 26, lines of Garland’s fans began forming by the thousand’s at one o’clock in the morning, ten hours before the doors opened to the public. Many were openly weeping, waiting to say their last good-bye to their idol. At the appointed time, each one passed by her bier at the rate of 1,200 an hour. Outside, recordings of Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other of her songs were played by an admirer on a battery-powered record play. “She’s found the rainbow now,” sobbed one twenty-year-old fan. “I hope she has got some peace.” By noon, police estimated that there were 5,000 mourners waiting on the block between Madison and Fifth Avenues, that were closed to traffic.

In the flower-filled chapel—decorated with yellow and white daisies and chrysanthemums—fans moved past the glass-topped, baby-blue casket containing Garland’s body. The front of the casket, which was low to the floor, was wisely covered with flower arrangements so that those paying their respects could not get close to her. Her dark hair was short, and she wore red-orange lipstick and black fake eye lashes were placed on her closed eyes. She reportedly was wearing her wedding dress; an ankle length beige or light taupe gown with long sleeves, high neck, and a belt of gold and pearls. On her feet were silver satin shoes with silver bows. An Episcopal missal was in her gloved hands; she wore her wedding ring.

Huge floral sprays from such show business celebrities as Irving Berlin, Dirk Bogarde, several of the Hollywood studios, and from the Palace Theater, surrounded the bier. A huge, colorful “Over the Rainbow” flower tribute from Frank Sinatra was arched behind Garland’s casket.

Mickey Deans and Judy Garland.

Garland’s burial was left up to Mickey Deans (her children “had no say in the matter”) who announced earlier that morning that his wife’s body would be interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, a small town approximately twenty-five miles north of New York City. “I didn’t want to bury her in Hollywood, to have people walking over her grave and pointing,” he told reporters. “She has given enough. Anyway, they didn’t care in Hollywood. She was just a property and they used her as such.”

However, Sid Luft, Garland’s third husband would rather that his ex-wife be buried in Los Angeles, feeling it was where she became a star. But Deans felt that she would have preferred a cemetery on the East Coast since she reportedly was never fond of California.

Fans of Judy Garland stand in line to view the singer’s body.

The following day, the hot and humid weather did not deter the estimated 1,300 to 1,500 fans from maintaining a fervent vigil. Over the course of the previous day, an estimated 20,000 people had paused to peer into the glass-covered casket of their idol. It was the largest funeral that Campbell’s had seen since the death of silent film idol Rudolph Valentino in 1926.

In the crowd, pop icon Andy Warhol tape recorded many of the fans conversations, and photographer Diane Arbus took pictures.

Joey Luft, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft enter Frank E. Campbell’s to attend their mother’s funeral.

Among Garland’s show business friends and colleagues attending were: Ray Bolger, Lauren Bacall, Alan King, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Johnny Mercer, Paulo Wayne, Fred Ebb, Freddie Bartholomew, Otto Preminger and Spyros Skouras, Harold Arlen, Mickey Rooney, Mayor and Mrs. Lindsay, and Patricia Kennedy Lawford.

The Rev. Peter Delaney of Marylebone Church, London, who officiated at Garland’s marriage to Deans, conducted the twenty-minute Episcopal service, portions of which were heard through a loudspeaker provided by Campbell’s in an upstairs room. Jack French, Garland’s musical accompanist, began the funeral with an organ rendition of one of Garland’s favorite songs, “Here’s to Us,” from the Broadway production Little Me.

The service included one of Garland’s favorite Bible passages, I Corinthians 13, which begins: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

James Mason, Garland’s costar from A Star is Born, gave the eulogy. “Judy’s great gift,” Mason began, “was that she could wring tears out of hearts of rock. She gave so richly and so generously, that there was no currency in which to repay her.”

French ended the service playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which the congregation sang. Then, Garland’s coffin, under a blanket of yellow roses, was placed in a waiting hearse that headed a cortege of three limousines and a flower car. On Madison Avenue, where the crowd had surged through the barricades, a few Garland fans still gathered. Said one, “I have nothing else to do right now.”

Later, at Ferncliff Cemetery, several hundred-people waited as Garland’s casket was placed in a temporary crypt where it would remain until the elaborate tomb that Deans planned to build was completed. The crowd lingered about the crypt until finally, a policeman told them: “The funeral of Judy Garland is over. We would appreciate your leaving.”

That evening, many of the still emotional mourners who attended that day’s funeral, were reportedly drowning their sorrows across town at the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar. Since the Stonewall had no liquor license, it was basically a bottle club (a meeting place where customers are served drinks from their own liquor bottles) so customers had to sign-in, however, many used pseudonyms and “Judy Garland” was one of the most popular that evening.

According to legend, because of Garlands death and the funeral that day, many were still expressive about the diva’s passing. Even more so, when the New York police raided the bar at 1:20 a.m. the following morning; the patrons were ready for a fight. According to Sylvia Rivera, a seventeen-year-old drag queen who would become a well-known gay rights activist, there was a feeling in the air that something would happen that night: “I guess Judy Garland’s death just really helped us really hit the fan.”

The Stonewall Riots

What followed was a riot that became the flashpoint of the modern day gay liberation movement. Time magazine wrote: “The uprising was inspirited by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raids of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands had wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs.”

However, years later some historians have contradicted that Garland’s death influenced the burgeoning gay rights movement, stating it was untrue. Some contend that most of those involved in the riots “were not the type to moon over Judy Garland records or attend her concerts at Carnegie Hall. They were more preoccupied with where they were going to sleep and where their next meal would come from.”

Nevertheless, Judy Garland’s connection to the Stonewall riots has persevered throughout gay history. It even inspired a play, Judy at the Stonewall Inn, where the ghost of Garland appears at the fabled Christopher Street bar as a sort of spiritual cheerleader. Even Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft, is proud of the connection, saying that her mother was a “huge, huge advocate of human rights” and that she would have found the rioting appropriate.

In the meantime, at Ferncliff, Garland’s body was not yet at rest. The cemetery is the final resting place of many celebrities, including Jerome Kern, Basil Rathbone and Moss Hart. The wing that would contain Garland’s planned memorial was still being built, so until then, her body was placed in a temporary vault. Ferncliff’s manager had assured Mickey Deans that “Judy would be its greatest star.” However, to pay for the memorial, Deans needed to raise $37,500, hoping to get it from Garland’s family and friends. But by November 1970, he still had not raised the funds and Garland remained in a drawer with the nameplate: “Judy Garland DeVinko” (Mickey Deans real name).

Deans was desperate. The fact that Garland was still in a temporary crypt evidently bothered him. “It’s wrong. It’s very wrong,” he would say. He hoped to raise the money by writing a book about his time with Garland (the book’s advance would cover Garland’s burial and more), but unfortunately Deans was not a writer, so he approached author Anne Edwards, who was working on her first non-fiction book, a biography of Garland. Deans suggested that they collaborate; he was sure it would be a best-seller. Naturally, Edwards refused his request, believing that Deans had created these “appalling” circumstances that he was in, himself. “I did not hesitate in telling him that I would in no way consider collaborating with him on a book,” Edwards stated.

Meanwhile, Garland’s interment bill at Ferncliff was still outstanding—plus steep interest charges. At the time, Edwards was corresponding with crooner Frank Sinatra about his memories of Garland. In one letter, she mentioned the “state of affairs at Ferncliff” with Garland still reposing in storage.

Then, several weeks later, Ferncliff’s manager informed Edwards that Sinatra had paid Garland’s outstanding bill, and that “Mrs. DeVinko” would be given a proper burial. Within weeks, Garland was placed in a simple wall crypt on the second floor of the new wing of the mausoleum with the simple inscription: “Judy Garland 1922 – 1969.” At Sinatra’s request, Edwards did not disclose that information in her biography.

Judy Garland’s grave at Ferncliff Cemetery.

Over the years, more celebrities joined Garland at Ferncliff including television host, Ed Sullivan; diva, Joan Crawford (downstairs in the old wing of the same building as Garland), and composer Harold Arlen (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), among others.

Fans visited, and floral tributes were left in front of her floor level, beige marble slab. Members of Garland’s three fan clubs made sure there were always flowers. One fan had mums and roses delivered to her crypt every month for more than two decades. In the mid-1990s, a Ferncliff employee said, “Judy is the most popular interment we have here. We used to keep track of how many people came to see Judy, but now that everyone knows were she is they head right to her by themselves. If they forget, they simply look for the crypt with all the flowers in front of it.”

Fast forward nearly forty-eight years to January 2017, when Garland’s family announced that the singer’s remains would be exhumed from Ferncliff and moved cross-country to a new crypt at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. The family, who were now living in Southern California, had deliberated for several years about moving her and “wished to have their mother resting near them.” In addition, when Mickey Deans died in 2003, it became the family’s “opportunity to do what they feel their mother would have wanted in the first place—to be united with her family in Hollywood.”

Entrance to the Judy Garland Pavilion.

Hollywood Forever set aside a recently built, special wing of the Abbey of the Psalms mausoleum and renamed it the “Judy Garland Pavilion.” There is room for Garland’s family, including her children Liza, Lorna and brother Joey. Additionally, there are crypts and niches available for sale to any Judy Garland fan that might wish to be interred near their idol.

Ironically, she is not far from many that she knew in life. There’s her close friend, Mickey Rooney, and from The Wizard of Oz: director Victor Fleming, cinematographer Harold Rosson, and costume designer Adrian.

At Ferncliff Cemetery, the management wasn’t certain what would be done with Garland’s empty crypt: “We haven’t decided what to do yet, but we think because she’s been here so long, we will just leave it here and memorialize her.”

In Hollywood, a private memorial service was held by Garland’s family and friends at her new crypt on June 10, 2017, which would have been the actresses 95th birthday. In a statement released to The Associated Press, the family offered gratitude to their mother’s “millions of fans around the world for their constant love and support.”

On a personal note, throughout my childhood, there were three yearly events that I excitedly looked forward to: Christmas morning; the last day of school, and the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland has always been a favorite of mine. The first television showing of The Wizard of Oz on CBS was broadcast less than two months after I was born. Of course, I don’t remember it, but I do know that Oz was the first film that left an impression on me, and Judy Garland was the first “movie star” I recognized. And I never missed a yearly broadcast–much to the chagrin of my poor mother. She couldn’t understand why I had to watch it every year. “But you’ve seen it already, why do you want to see it again?” she would cry in frustration. She didn’t get it.

Yet, each year I could watch it–some years by myself, or some years with my parents. Especially when we got our first color television and Technicolor brought the Land of Oz to life. Even so, one of my favorite scenes was the twister. The special effects fascinated me then, and they still hold up today.

I was also very defensive of Dorothy/Judy and her Yellow Brick Road companions. One year, on the day following an Oz broadcast, I was riding the school bus home and a kid sitting across the aisle began talking shit about Dorothy/Judy–he called her fat, and laughed about it. I was so angry, I wanted to punch him in the nose, but I withheld my ire.

Dressing up as The Wizard of Oz characters. I am the Tin Man on the far right.

Judy followed me yearly into young adulthood when I moved to Pittsburgh to attend art school. There, I was drawn to a group who was of like mind about Oz and Judy Garland. For Halloween one year, we dressed up as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch–I was the Tin Man, and since we were art students, we made our own costumes (except for the Lion who had to rent his). Also, if memory serves me, I believe that was the last year of the annual Oz showing. But fear not, it wasn’t long before videos and VCR’s entered the market so you could own a piece of Oz and watch it whenever you wanted.

Let me just state–even though it may sound like it–I’m not a rabid Judy Garland fan. I don’t collect Garland memorabilia, nor do I attend the many conventions that are held yearly. But she was my first exposure to entertainment, and to Hollywood; a love that has remained with me my entire life.

It was almost fifteen years ago that the first rumors circulated that Judy Garland might be moving to Hollywood Forever. I was thrilled. But evidently there was a breakdown in communication within the family, or there was some other reason that it didn’t happen. I don’t know. Then, last January, when it was announced that it was finally happening–Judy Garland was being reinterred at Hollywood Forever in a beautiful art deco-ish mausoleum that sort of reminded me of Oz; it made me think.

 

 

I already had a niche at Hollywood Forever, in the Cathedral Mausoleum not far from Rudolph Valentino that I had bought several years ago. So, after deep thought, and with many niche’s (and some crypts) available for purchase, I decided to move. My new final resting place is directly across from Judy Garland’s crypt. To me, it made sense since Judy was a part of my early life–now she will be a part of my eternity (hopefully not for a few decades, though).

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Toto finds a home at Hollywood Forever

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

 

 

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Today fans of Toto and the Wizard of Oz gathered at Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the unveiling and dedication of the Toto Memorial. Cloudy skys turned to sun, however there were no rainbows but only smiling faces and many, many Cairn Terriers to celebrate the day.

 

Those who had part in the ceremony included Chanell O’Farrill who welcomed everyone on behave of Hollywood Forever; members of the Toto Memorial Committee, J. P. Myers, Steve Goldstein; Mark Dodge from FixNation, and Robert Baum, the great-grandson of The Wizard of Oz creator, L. Frank Baum. After the crowd sang a chorus of “Over the Rainbow,” the unveiling went off with smoothly. Many thanks go to all who participated today and Tyler Cassity, owner of Hollywood Forever who donated the land the memorial stands on. Enjoy the following photos from todays festivities.

 

 

 

Fans and several Cairn Terriers begin to gather for todays ceremony

 

 

 

These Cairns had front row seats for the unveiling

 

 

 

Claire and Robert Baum, great-grandson of author L. Frank Baum

 

 

 

Robert Baum speaks to the crowd before the unveiling

 

 

 

Waiting for the unveiling

 

 

 

 The unveiling of the Toto Memorial. From left, Robert Baum, J.P. Myers, Steve Goldstein, Mark Dodge, Tyler Cassity

 

 

 

Welcome home Toto.

(Toto sculpted by Roman Gal and the base was designed by Arsen Oganesyan)

 

 

 

Above and below, the inscriptions on either side of the memorial

 

 

 

 

 

Toto (1933-1945)

 

 

 

The Cairn Terrier Club of Southern California

 

 

 

J.P. Myers and Steve Goldstein, the brains behind the Toto Memorial Marker. Congratulations gentlemen on a job well done.

 

 

 

Olivia Francis with Toto

_______________________________________

 

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Toto the Story of a Dog

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

 

 

 

Fans of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz will celebrate the dedication of a full size bronze memorial sculpture of Toto, Dorothy’s beloved dog on Saturday, June 18 at 11 a.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. To commemorate the event, following is a biography of Toto.

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The most indulged of all the spoiled lovelies of Hollywood during the Golden Age were the canine actors who worked in films. They had their own hotel—The Hollywood Dog Training School—where at one time, seventy-five of the best known dogs of the screen lived in tranquil comfort.

 

The school was set on a pleasant ten-acre site, covered with oaks and willows, near Laurel Canyon Boulevard five miles north of Hollywood. Three hundred feet back from the road stood a cream colored frame house and back of it were two kennels, each 150 feet long. It featured southern exposure, long runs to each kennel, a large grass playground, showers in each section, and several porcelain bathtubs with hot and cold water, an electric drier and a special kitchen where, every day, a tempting cauldron full of vegetable and beef bone soup was cooked for dinners of the distinguished boarders.

 

 

 Carl Spitz with dogs from his training school

 

The dogs, like all other actors, employed a manager—the amiable Carl Spitz—who drove as hard a bargain for his clients as any other agent in Hollywood. The German-born Spitz first took up the work of schooling dogs in Heidelberg where his father and grandfather were dog trainers. Spitz trained dogs for military and police service in World War days. He saw Red Cross dogs search for dying men in no man’s land—and he devoted his life to educating man’s best friend.

 

Leaving Germany, Spitz arrived in New York in 1926, moved briefly to Chicago and soon found himself in Los Angeles, where, the following year he opened his first dog training school at 12239 Ventura Boulevard. Sometime around 1935 he moved the facilities one mile north to a ten-acre spot at 12350 Riverside Drive, where he remained for almost twenty years. “This is a school, where dogs go to classes just like children,” Spitz said. “We have grammar school, high school and college.

 

 

 Above is the location of Carl Spitz’s first dog training school at 12239 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA

 

 

 Advertisement for Spitz’s school at his new location on Riverside Drive

 

 

At first his services were for the public but soon the movies came calling. The transition to sound films required Spitz to drop his verbal commands and develop a series of soundless visual hand signals.

 

His first sound film was Big Boy (1930) starring Al Jolson in which he trained two Great Danes. This one was followed by the John Barrymore classic, Moby Dick (1930). It was too expensive for studios to create their own specially trained dogs so Spitz suddenly found himself in big demand.

 

Canine stars soon began to emerge such as Prince Carl, the Great Dane appearing in Wuthering Heights (1939). The first big dog star to appear from Spitz’s stable was Buck the Saint Bernard who co-starred with Clark Gable and Loretta Young in Call of the Wild (1935). Others included Musty (Swiss Family Robinson), Mr. Binkie (The Lights that Failed) and Promise (The Biscuit Eater). However, probably the best known dog star to emerge from the Spitz kennel that is known today is arguably Toto from The Wizard of Oz (1939).

 

 

Clark Gable with Buck in Call of the Wild (1935)

 

Toto, a purebred Cairn Terrier, was born in 1933 in Alta Dena, California. She soon was taken in by a married couple without children in nearby Pasadena—they named her Terry. It soon became apparent that Terry had a problem with wetting the rug, and her new owners had very little patience with her. It wasn’t long before they sought the services of Carl Spitz’s dog training school in the nearby San Fernando Valley. Spitz put her through the usual training and in a few weeks she was no longer watering the carpet.

 

However, by the time her training was completed, Terry’s owners were late on the kennel board. Spitz attempted to contact them but their telephone had been disconnected. With nothing else to do, Carl’s wife suggested that they keep her.

 

Terry sort of became the family pet until one day Clark Gable and Hedda Hopper stopped by the kennel for some publicity on Gable’s new film, Call of the Wild. One of Carl’s dogs, Buck the St. Bernard, had a large role in the film and Hedda wanted some photos of him with Gable. That day Terry made himself known to the Hollywood people and Carl took note and the next day took her to Fox Studios to audition for a part in the new Shirley Temple film, Bright Eyes (1934).

 

 

Jane Withers and Shirley Temple with Terry in Bright Eyes (1934) 

 

Spitz put her through her paces—playing dead, leaping over a leash, barking on command—for the executives and was then presented to Shirley for the final say. Terry was placed next to a Pomeranian named Ching-Ching, who wasn’t part of the film but was Shirley’s own dog. Terry stood there for a moment, while Ching-Ching looked at her. Finally Terry rolled over, was sniffed and both dogs began running around Shirley’s dressing room. At last, Shirley picked up Terry and handed her to Spitz, grabbed her dog and skipped to the door. “She’s hired,” Shirley giggled as she left the room. Bright Eyes, which co-starred Jane Withers, would be Terry’s first film.

 

That same year Terry made another film, Ready for Love (1934) at Paramount. Next she appeared in The Dark Angel (1935) with Fredric March and Merle Oberon. Other films followed including Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy; The Buccaneer (1938) for director Cecil B. DeMille and an uncredited part in Stablemates (1938) with Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney.

 

 

Franciska Gaal with Terry in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Buccaneer (1938)

 

One day it was announced that MGM was going to produce L. Frank Baum’s children classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” Spitz knew that Terry was a mirror-image for Dorothy’s dog, Toto based on sketches throughout the book. So he began teaching her all the tricks from the book, and sure enough, in two months, he received a call from MGM for an audition.

 

Spitz and Terry met with the producer, Mervyn LeRoy who had been inspecting an average of 100 dogs daily for the past week. “Here’s your dog, all up in the part,” Spitz said to LeRoy when he submitted Terry for scrutiny. Terry could already fight, chase a witch, sit up, speak, catch an apple thrown from a tree, and took an immediate liking to Judy Garland. Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley and the rest of the cast were accepted on first acquaintance with the dog. On November 1, 1938, Terry won the role of Toto without a test.

 

 

 Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” to Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 

Terry received a weekly salary of $125, which was more than the studio paid the Munchkins. Before filming began, Terry spent two weeks living with Judy Garland, who fell in love with her and tried to buy her from Spitz. Of course he refused. Judy’s daughter, Lorna Luft, once said that her mother told them that the dog had the worst breath in the world. “It all made us laugh,” Luft said, “because the dog was constantly put in her face [with its] silly panting, and she did everything but wince because poor little Toto needed an Altoid.”

 

Terry did everything required of her, although she hesitated at being put in a basket and standing in front of the giant wind fans, simulating a tornado. One day they were filming on the Witches Castle set with dozens of costumed “Winkies” when one of them stepped on Terry’s paw. When she squealed everyone came running including Judy who called the front office and told them that Terry needed a rest. Until Terry returned a few days later, they utilized a stand-in for her.

 

The remainder of filming went smoothly for Terry and even though she appeared in approximately fifteen films, The Wizard of Oz was ultimately her best known. When the film was released, Terry appeared along with the cast at the premiere held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. She became so famous that her paw print brought top prices among autograph seekers. Soon she began making public appearances and became so popular, that Spitz officially changed her name to Toto.

 

 

Terry, now billed as Toto with Virginia Weidler in Bad Little Angel (1939) 

 

That year was a busy one for Toto. Besides The Wizard of Oz, Toto also made a cameo appearance in MGM’s The Women (1939) starring Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford and had a larger role in Bad Little Angel with Virginia Weidler. The next few years had her appearing in Calling Philo Vance (1940), Twin Beds (1942), and Tortilla Flat (1942), again with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr and John Garfield. Her final film was George Washington Slept Here (1942) starring Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan. That year Toto retired to Spitz’s huge facility on Riverside Drive until she died sometime in 1944. Even though several of Spitz’s dogs were interred at the Camarillo Pet Cemetery in Ventura, he chose to bury Toto on the school property.

 

Carl Spitz continued to train dogs. In 1938, he wrote a handbook, “Training your Dog,” which contained a foreword by Clark Gable. As far back as 1930 Spitz tried to get the Army to let him train dogs for war use. But nothing came of it. Finally in the summer of 1941 they took him up, in a limited way. Spitz agreed to furnish the Army fifty trained sentry dogs—at no cost. He delivered six, had twelve more under training, and already spent $1500 of his own money in the process.

 

 

 

Spitz trained the first platoon of war dogs installed in the continental United States just prior to World War II. He was an expert advisor to the War Department in Washington DC and helped formulate the now famous K-9 Corps for both the US Army and Marine Corps. He became prominent nationally as a dog obedience judge at dog shows. Carl Spitz died on September 15, 1976 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

 

 

 Aerial view of the site of Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School on Riverside Drive. Toto was buried somewhere on this site.

 

Around 1958, the Ventura Freeway was being built through the San Fernando Valley and the route went through Spitz’s school, forcing him to relocate. Today the Hollywood Dog Training School is still in existence at 10805 Van Owen Street.

 

Sadly, not only did the freeway erase the school, but it also obliterated Toto’s grave.

 

It’s appropriate that Toto’s Memorial Marker is being installed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery this Saturday, June 18 at 11 a.m. Many of the people that worked with Toto are interred there including Victor Fleming, Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz, Tortilla Flat); Cecil B DeMille, Maude Fealy (The Buccaneer); Erville Anderson, Carl Stockdale, Franz Waxman (Fury); Arthur C. Miller (Bright Eyes); Sidney Franklin, Gregg Toldand (The Dark Angel); Ann Sheridan (George Washington Slept Here). She is in good company.

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Toto Memorial Marker Dedication

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

HOLLYWOOD EVENTS

Toto memorial marker dedication

 

 

 

TODAY

Saturday, June 18, 2011

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA, 90038

 

Fans of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz will celebrate the dedication of a full size bronze memorial sculpture of Toto, Dorothy’s beloved dog. The Cairn Terrier’s original grave marker was destroyed in 1958 to make way for a Los Angeles freeway. Attendees are encouraged to bring their pets.

 

More on the life of Toto at a future date on Hollywoodland

 

Link to Donate to the Endowment Fund for care of the monument and the cemetery using FundRazr (PayPal) CLICK HERE

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An interview with Margaret O’Brien — PART TWO

Monday, January 17th, 2011

INTERVIEWS

Margaret O’Brien: the MGM Years —

PART TWO

 

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger 

 

Continued…

 

AE: You worked with the wonderful Charles Laughton in “The Canterville Ghost” (1944). Is it true that he was worried that you would upstage him in your scenes together?

Margaret O’Brien: (laughs) I thought, oh my goodness, I’m going to be afraid to work with this great English actor. And I also thought that he probably didn’t like children—but he was wonderful, just wonderful. I liked him because he treated me like an adult actress. We would fight for each other’s scenes, and we’d get mad at each other and then we’d make up. Then he would cry to Robert Young and say, “I think she’s stealing my scenes, she must be a changeling.” Then Robert would say, “Look, I’m just a soldier, and you’re a ghost and come in on all these wires, so look what you have working for you. So, don’t worry about it.” But he was very insecure. And he really worried that he wouldn’t be good in the scene. But, of course, he was always marvelous. He was one of my favorite actors, and we became real good friends.

 

AE: Now, let’s discuss what is arguably your most famous film, the classic, “Meet Me In St. Louis.” (1944).

Margaret O’Brien: Well, Meet Me In St. Louis was one of my favorites because I got to play a bratty part. I was a pretty nice little girl and didn’t get into much trouble as a kid. I was quiet. But as Tooty I was able to say and do all the things that maybe I would not have done myself. And I loved the Halloween sequence because Halloween was always my favorite time of the year. That sequence was shot at night, and I loved that because it made me feel real grown. I didn’t have to be at the studio until four in the afternoon, and I don’t think I had to go to school so I was able to play with all the kids.

 

AE: What are your memories of Judy Garland?

Margaret O’Brien: Judy was wonderful to work with. She was like a big sister. I remember that just before filming started, I lost my two front teeth, and the dentist put in false ones. During the cake walk scene I was singing, and those two teeth popped out and flew across the room and hit Vincente Minnelli in the head. Well, everyone began to roar with laughter, and it embarrassed me, and I began to cry. Judy took me in her arms and comforted me, explaining that they were not laughing at me. I appreciated that. I think that was a happy time for Judy. It was during that film that she fell in love with Vincente Minnelli.

 

AE: How was Vincente Minnelli to work for?

Margaret O’Brien: Vincente Minnelli was very meticulous about everything including the sets. He made sure everything was authentic. I loved those sets. I used to go out and walk up and down that street and pretend I was in Victorian times. I even tried to steal the doorknobs off the doors—now I wish I had. Years later I looked for a similar street and have always wanted a house like the one in Meet Me In St. Louis.

 

AE: In interviews and in his autobiography, Vincente Minnelli claims that in order to get you to cry during the snowman scene, he had to tell you that your dog was going to be killed. Is that true?

Margaret O’Brien: A lot of people have asked how they got me to cry, and it wasn’t because my dog died. Vincente Minnelli told that story, but it’s not true—my mother would never have allowed that. June Allyson and I were known as the “Town Criers” at MGM, so we had a little competition going on. So, if I had a hard time crying, all my mother had to do was say that she was sure June could do it and maybe she would have the makeup man come over and spray on the “false tears,” Well, that upset me, and then I would cry.

 

AE: What about Mary Astor? What was she like?

Margaret O’Brien: Mary Astor was very motherly. I was always afraid that I’d do something wrong. In fact, there was one scene—dinner scene—where I rearranged all the silverware and plates between takes, and nobody knew. Then we came back to shoot it, and someone realized it was all different, and they had to shoot it all over again. So, Mary got a little bit annoyed and said, “Margaret, you can’t do that. No more changing of the silverware.” (laughs) Mary still remembered that years later when I visited her at the Motion Picture Country Home.

 

 

 

 

AE: Any more memories of “Meet Me In St. Louis?”

Margaret O’Brien: Well, I almost didn’t do Meet Me In St. Louis because my mother wanted a bigger salary. So, when Mr. Mayer didn’t comply, she took me to New York, and they replaced me with another little girl. But eventually Mayer relented and agreed to my mother’s demands, so we came back. However, the family of the little girl who replaced me was so upset over her being taken off the film that later her father somehow got on the set of Unfinished Dance and tried to drop a light on me. Ironically, that same girl was also up for Journey For Margaret, so this was just another disappointment.

 

AE: Your performance in “Meet Me In St. Louis” earned you a special Academy Award for Outstanding Child Actress of 1944. What was that like?

Margaret O’Brien: Well, the night of the ceremonies, my mother wrote a special speech for me to say. So, when Mervyn LeRoy presented me with the Oscar, all I could say was, “I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.” Well, my mother wasn’t very pleased. The Oscar they gave me was a miniature one, and I remember Bob Hope (the emcee that evening) called it an Oscarette, which made me laugh.

 

 

 

 

AE: Several years later, that Oscar was stolen from your house. How did that happen?

Margaret O’Brien: Well, at our home in Beverly Hills, we had a maid whose duties included polishing some of the awards I had received, including the Oscar. One day she asked my mother if she could take the Oscar and several awards home with her to polish, and my mother agreed. After three days, the maid failed to return, and Mother called her and fired her and asked that she return the awards. Shortly after my mother became sick and died not much later. Well, I was too devastated at the time to think about the awards, but I did call the maid several months later, but her phone had been disconnected, and she had moved. I considered it gone forever. Then, several years later, the Academy graciously replaced the award, but it wasn’t the same.

 

AE: Then, in 1995, after 37 years, it miraculously appeared at a flea market. Is that right?

Margaret O’Brien: Yes. Two men bought it at a Pasadena flea market and put it up for sale at an auction. However, when they were told that it was real and that it had been stolen, they very graciously returned the Oscar to me. I was very grateful.

 

AE: You worked with movie tough guy Edward G. Robinson in “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945). What was he like?

Margaret O’Brien: I became very close with him. It was fun pretending I was his daughter and the little girl from the farm. I had seen many of his films, but I didn’t think of him as the gangster type at all. I had difficulty connecting the gangster to the loving father. He was playing such a different role, and he played it so well. He said that film was one of his favorites.

 

AE: James Craig was also in this film. Did you still have a crush on him by then?

Margaret O’Brien: Not as much. It had wandered away. (laughs)

 

AE: Did you get crushes on many of your costars?

Margaret O’Brien: No. I would feel close to many of them, like Jimmy Durante was like my uncle, and Lionel Barrymore was like a grandfather. But not crushes. And Robert Young—I felt he was nice and very handsome, but I didn’t have a crush on him—only James Craig and Bobby Blake. Oh, and I later had a crush on Dean Stockwell. But the actor who I had the biggest crush on was not at MGM and who I never worked with—Burt Lancaster.

 

AE: Did you ever meet Mr. Lancaster?

Margaret O’Brien: Yes, because we had the same dentist. That’s how my mother got me to go to the dentist and have my teeth straightened. And I used to have to go all the time because when I did a movie I had to have the braces taken off, and then between movies I had them put back on again. So, my mother had the dentist arrange a meeting with Burt Lancaster, and I got his autograph.

 

AE: How much time did you have between films before you would make another one?

Margaret O’Brien: Maybe two or three months, but you had to be at the studio all the time. I had to go to the studio every day for school, and then I’d have to do publicity shots. So you were always there except on weekends.

 

AE: Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay for “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes,” which was his last film before being labeled a Communist and being sentenced to jail for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Committee. What are your remembrances of him?

Margaret O’Brien: My family was very close to Dalton Trumbo. He would come by the set quite often. And later, they wouldn’t show the film because of the supposed communist overtones—which wasn’t true at all. So, we felt badly when they had to leave to go to Mexico, I believe. In fact, we saw them off when they left town on the train. Everyone was waving a flag. People warned my mother not to go down to the train station because it would ruin her and me, but we went anyway because they were our friends. That was a terrible time during the McCarthy era. So many of those writers were not communists.

 

AE: You made a western at MGM called “Bad Bascomb” with Wallace Beery and Marjorie Main. The studio actually sent you on location to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for this film, which must have been fun.

Margaret O’Brien: Yes, and I was made an Indian princess and stayed with an Indian family for several days. And I fell in love with an Indian boy. We had the Apache tribe there with us, and when they made me a princess it just thrilled me because I did admire them very much. I thought they were very strong and wonderful riders. Jackson Hole was a wild and rugged town then. It was out in the wilderness. Wallace Beery had a cabin up there, and bears would come up on the front porch.

 

 

 

 

AE: What about Wallace Beery? Are all the stories about him and child actors true?

Margaret O’Brien: Wallace Beery was very hard to work with. Thank goodness for the crew because he did not like children. They had to put blocks between us so he wouldn’t pinch me. So, I would turn my face away from the camera.

 

AE: Why would he pinch you?

Margaret O’Brien: He’d pinch me so I’d say the line the way he wanted.

 

AE: Didn’t the director or your mother see him do it?

Margaret O’Brien: Yes, that’s why they got after him and decided to put the blocks between us. Then, when he couldn’t pinch me anymore, he would steal my hot lunch on the set. It was the same with his adopted daughter, who was working as an extra—she broke her glasses one day, and he made her work extra hours to pay for them.

 

AE: This was your second film with Marjorie Main. Tell me about her.

Margaret O’Brien: Marjorie was very eccentric She was scared to death while we were there, especially of all the mosquitoes and bugs. So, she would wear toilet paper on her arms. And then we would go into this log cabin to eat, and she’d set a place for her dead husband and talk to him at the table. She was fun—she was real nice. And I loved riding on the covered wagon with her.

 

AE: Were there any other interesting things that happened on location?

Margaret O’Brien: Sylvan S. Simon directed the picture, and one day I got into a fist fight with his daughter who was working as an extra. That was the only fist fight I ever got into as a kid. We got into some disagreement—I forget what it was about—and our parents pulled us away. I got a spanking, and she got sent to a boarding school when she got home (laughs). Then years later we became real good friends, and she turned out to be one of the sweetest girls I ever met.

 

 On Wednesday in PART THREE Margaret talks about Louis B. Mayer, Elizabeth Taylor and Dean Stockwell, among others.

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Margaret O’Brien’s 74th Birthday

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Margaret O’Brien turns 74 today

  

 

 

 Born January 15, 1937 in San Diego, California

 

 

 

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Meinhardt Raabe Obituary

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

OBITUARY

Meinhardt Raabe, famous Munchkin, Is dead at 94

 

 

  

By Margalit Fox
New York Times
April 10, 2010

As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her.
And she’s not only merely dead,
She’s really most sincerely dead.

 

When Meinhardt Raabe, an unknown 23-year-old from Wisconsin, sang those lines in his first and only Hollywood feature film, he little suspected that they would shape the course of his life for the next seven decades.

 

The lines, of course, belong to the Munchkin coroner in the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Mr. Raabe’s brief appearance in the film — about 13 seconds of uncredited screen time — made him an internationally recognized pop-cultural figure, if not precisely a household name.

 

Mr. Raabe, who was also a wartime aviator and the first Little Oscar, the mascot of the Oscar Mayer meat company, died Friday in Orange Park, Fla., at 94. Bob Rigel, president of the Penney Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Fla., where Mr. Raabe had lived since 1986, said that the cause had not been officially determined but that it was presumed to be a heart attack.

 

At his death, Mr. Raabe was one of a handful of surviving Munchkins from the film.

 

Click her to continue reading the New York Times obituary for Meinhardt Raabe

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Clark Gable at 109

Monday, February 1st, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Clark Gable would have been 109 today!

 

 

February 1, 1901, Cadiz, Ohio

 

On February 1, 1937, Judy Garland sang “Dear Mr. Gable,” to the actor at an MGM birthday party . The song was so well received it was added to her next film, The Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937). Click below to watch it. 

 

 

 

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‘Wizard of Oz’ at 70

Friday, August 28th, 2009

FILM HISTORY

“Wizard of Oz,’ still magical after 70 years

 

Oz travelers

 

It was 70 years ago this week that “The Wizard of Oz” arrived in theaters and even in this CGI-jaded era those old red ruby slippers still shine brightly.

 

Geoff Boucher
Los Angeles Times
August 28, 2009 

 

The anniversary will be celebrated over the next year with numerous events, including a national tour by a seven-story Oz-themed hot-air balloon, a Sept. 23 one-night theatrical re-release of a newly restored version of the film in 450 theaters and the release next month of an “ultimate collector’s edition” package on Blu-ray and DVD with that remastered version and 16 hours of bonus material.

 

That may sound like a lot of attention for an artifact from the FDR administration, but there’s a timeless quality to the cinematic adaptation of  L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel that still transports new generations over the rainbow. The movie remains an essential reference point — this December in James Cameron’s much-ballyhooed sci-fi epic “Avatar,” for instance, when the main character arrives on a dazzling jungle planet, moviegoers will hear a familiar line : “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Cameron chuckled when asked about the line. “Yeah, it’s my favorite movie; I had to get it in there somewhere,” he said. Cameron is not alone in his ongoing romance with “Oz.” To mark the anniversary, The Times interviewed creators in film, television, music and books who have never wearied of the cinematic trip down the yellow brick road.

 

Click here to continue reading

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