Category Archives: Early Movies

On this Day in Movie History, June 15, 1996: the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald Dies


On this day, June 15, 1996 the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”, American jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald died. With a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6), she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

A notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook, over the course of her 59-year recording career, Fitzgerald sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.

1945 – Nicola Pagett (actress: An Awfully Big Adventure, Privates on Parade, Oliver’s Story, There’s a Girl in My Soup, Upstairs Downstairs)

1949 – Jim Varney (actor: The Beverly Hillbillies, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Saves Christmas; died Feb 10, 2000)

1954 – Jim Belushi (actor: Saturday Night Live, Trading Places, The Man with One Red Shoe, Little Shop of Horrors, The Principal, Who’s Harry Crumb?, Diary of a Hit Man, Destiny Turns on the Radio, Mighty Ducks the Movie: The Face-Off, Retroactive, Wag the Dog, K-911; John Belushi’s brother)

1955 – Julie Hagerty (actress: Airplane!, Airplane II: The Sequel, Women of the House, Noises Off, What About Bob?, Reversal of Fortune, Lost in America, The House of Blue Leaves)

1963 – Helen (Elizabeth) Hunt (Academy Award-winning actress: As Good As It Gets [1997]; Emmy Award-winning actress: Mad About You [1995-1996, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 1998-1999]; Swiss Family Robinson, It Takes Two, The Fitzpatricks, Amy Prentiss, Twister, Kiss of Death, Next of Kin, Peggy Sue Got Married, Quarterback Princess, Desperate Lives, The Spell, My Life and Times)

1964 – Courteney Cox (actress: Friends, Family Ties, Ace Ventura Pet Detective)

1970 – Leah Remini (actress: The King of Queens, Living Dolls, Glory Daze, Follow Your Heart)

1971 – Jake Busey (actor: Starship Troopers, Shimmer, Twister, Contact, Enemy of the State, Shasta McNasty; son of actor Gary Busey)

1973 – Neil Patrick Harris (actor: Doogie Howser, M.D., Clara’s Heart, Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story, My Antonia, Starship Troopers, The Next Best Thing)


On this Day in Movie History, June 14, 1994: Henry Mancini Dies


On this day, June 14, 1994, Enrico Nicola “Henry” Mancini died. Best-known works include the jazz-idiom theme to The Pink Panther film series (“The Pink Panther Theme”) and the theme to the Peter Gunn television series, Mancini had a long collaboration with the film director Blake Edwards and won numerous Academy Awards for the songs in Edwards films, including “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “Days of Wine and Roses” and for the score to Victor Victoria.

Mancini died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles on June 14, 1994. He was working at the time on the Broadway stage version of Victor/Victoria, which he never saw on stage. Mancini was survived by his wife of 43 years, singer Virginia “Ginny” O’Connor, with whom he had three children.

He won a record number of Grammy Awards, plus a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

1919 – Gene Barry (Eugene Klass) (actor: Bat Masterson, Burke’s Law, The Name of the Game, War of the Worlds, A Cry for Love, Our Miss Brooks, La Cage aux Folles; died Dec 9, 2009)

1919 – Sam Wanamaker (actor: Superman 4, Private Benjamin, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Taras Bulba; director: The Executioner, Killing of Randy Webster, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger; died Dec 18, 1993)

1954 – Will Patton (actor: Fled, Copycat, Natural Causes, The Client, Midnight Edition, Dillinger, No Way Out, Desperately Seeking Susan, Silkwood; Obie Award-winner: Tourists and Refugees #2)

1968 – Yasmine Bleeth (actress: Nash Bridges, Baywatch, Titans)


On this Day in Movie History, June 13, 1895: Basil Rathbone Born


South African-born British actor Philip St. John Basil Rathbone, MC was born on this day, June 13, 1895. He rose to prominence in the UK as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in over 70 films, primarily costume dramas, swashbucklers and, occasionally, horror films.

Frequently portraying suave villains or morally ambiguous characters, such as Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), his most famous role, however, was heroic — that of Sherlock Holmes in fourteen Hollywood films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series.

His later career included roles on Broadway, as well as self-ironic film and television work. He received a Tony Award in 1948 as Best Actor in a Play.

1910 – Mary (Isabelle) Wickes (Wickenhauser) (actress: Little Women, Sister Act, Postcards from the Edge, How to Murder Your Wife; died Oct 22, 1995)

1913 – Ralph Edwards (actor/host: Radio Stars on Parade, Beat the Band, The Devil’s Bedroom; TV and radio host: Truth or Consequences, This is Your Life; died Nov 16, 2005)

1918 – Ben Johnson (actor: Angels in the Outfield, The Getaway, The Last Picture Show, One-Eyed Jacks, Red Dawn, Shane; died Apr 8, 1996)

1943 – Malcolm McDowell (actor: A Clockwork Orange, O Lucky Man, Blue Thunder, Caligula, Gulag, Look Back in Anger, Fantasy Island [1998])

1953 – Tim Allen (Timothy Allen Dick) (comedian, actor: Home Improvement, Showtime Comedy Club All-Stars II, The Santa Clause, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Galaxy Quest)


X MARKS THE SPOT (1942) Dick Purcell – Neil Hamilton – Jack LaRue

X MARKS THE SPOT (1942) Dick Purcell – Neil Hamilton – Jack LaRue

BLACK MARKET CZAR!…Exchanging human lives for blood-soaked Profit!


On this Day in Movie History, May 31, 1930: Clint Eastwood, Jr. Born

American film actor, director, producer, composer, pianist, and politician. Clinton “Clint” Eastwood, Jr. was born on this day May 31, 1930.


First caming to prominence as a supporting cast member in the TV series Rawhide (1959–1966)., Eastwood rose to fame for playing the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy of spaghetti westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) during the late 1960s, and as Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry films (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool) throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

For his work in the films Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), Eastwood won Academy Awards for Best Director and Producer of the Best Picture, as well as receiving nominations for Best Actor. These films in particular, as well as others including Play Misty for Me (1971), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Tightrope (1984), Pale Rider (1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), In the Line of Fire (1993), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), and Gran Torino (2008), have all received commercial success and critical acclaim.

Since 1967, Eastwood has run his own production company, Malpaso, which has produced all except four of his American films.

In 2000, he was awarded the Italian Venice Film Festival Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.

Other Birthdays

1908 – Don Ameche (Dominic Felix Amici) (Academy Award-winning actor: Cocoon [1985]; Trading Places, Corinna Corinna; inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame [1992]; died Dec 6, 1993)

1922 – Denholm Elliott (actor: A Room with a View, The Bourne Identity, The Boys from Brazil, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Voyage of the Damned, Trading Places, Scorchers; died Oct 6, 1992)

1945 – Rainer Werner Fassbinder (director: Chinese Roulette, Querelle, Veronika Voss, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Beware of a Holy Whore; died June 10, 1982)

1949 – Tom Berenger (Thomas Michael Moore) (actor: One Life to Live, If Tomorrow Comes, Platoon, Sliver, The Big Chill, Eddie and the Cruisers, Gettysburg, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, A Murder of Crows, In the Company of Spies, Turbulence II: Fear of Flying)

1950 – Gregory Harrison (actor: Logan’s Run, Trapper John, M.D., Family Man, Cadillac Girls, Caught in the Act)

1961 – Lea Thompson (actress: The Right to Remain Silent, Dennis the Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies, Howard the Duck, Back to the Future series, Jaws 3, All the Right Moves, Caroline in the City)


On this Day in Movie History, May 30, 1896: Director Howard Hawks Born


American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era, Howard Winchester Hawks was born on this day, May 30, 1896.

Popular for his films from a wide range of genres such as Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Sergeant York (1941), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), The Thing from Another World (1951), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959), in 1942, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for Sergeant York. In 1975, Hawks was awarded an Honorary Academy Award as “a master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema”

His directorial style and the use of natural, conversational dialogue in his films were cited a major influence on many noted filmmakers, including Robert Altman, John Carpenter, and Quentin Tarantino. His work is admired by many notable directors including Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, François Truffaut, Michael Mann and Jacques Rivette.

Other Birthdays

1902 – Stepin Fetchit (Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry) (actor: Amazing Grace, The Sun Shines Bright, Miracle in Harlem, Judge Priest; died Nov 19, 1985)

1920 – Franklin Schaffner (Academy Award-winning director: Patton [1970]; The Boys from Brazil, Papillon, Planet of the Apes, The Stripper, Islands in the Stream, Lionheart; died July 2, 1989)

1927 – Clint Walker (actor: Cheyenne, The Ten Commandments, Yellowstone Kelly, The Dirty Dozen, None But the Brave, Cheyenne)

1936 – Keir Dullea (actor: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Oh, What a Night, Blind Date, The Hostage Tower, Paperback Hero)

1939 – Michael J. Pollard (actor: Bonnie and Clyde, Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills, Dick Tracy, American Gothic, The Arrival, Roxanne, Tango and Cash, Skeeter)

1944 – Meredith MacRae (actress: Petticoat Junction, My Three Sons, Bikini Beach, Sketches of a Strangler, Vultures; daughter of Gordon and Sheila MacRae; died July 14, 2000)

1951 – Stephen Tobolowsky (actor: Murder in the First, Radioland Murders, Groundhog Day, Sneakers, Basic Instinct, Thelma and Louise, Bird on a Wire, Mississippi Burning, Spaceballs, Keep My Grave Open, The Grifters, A Whole New Ballgame, Against the Grain)

1981 – Blake Bashoff (actor: Bushwacked, Big Bully, The New Swiss Family Robinson, Deuces Wild)


On this Day in Movie History, May 29, 1929: Warner Brothers Debuts First All-color Talking Picture–A Musical


It was on this day, May 28, 1929, Warner Brothers debuted the first all-color talking picture–On with the Show! A musical, noted as the first ever all-talking all-color feature length movie, and the second color movie released by Warner Bros., the film debuted at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. Ethel Waters, Joe E. Brown and Arthur Lake starred in “On With the Show”

The film generated much interest in Hollywood and virtually overnight, most other major studios began films shot in the process. The film would be eclipsed by the far greater success of the second Technicolor film, Gold Diggers of Broadway.

The original negative of On With the Show is now lost and no Technicolor prints have survived, only prints in black-and-white. A fragment of an original color print lasting about 20 seconds was recently discovered.

Other Birthdays

1903 – Bob Hope (Leslie Townes Hope) (comedian, entertainer, actor: “Road” series [w/Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour]: The Road to Singapore, Zanzibar, Morroco, Utopia, Rio, Bali, Hong Kong; multitude of other films; nightclub entertainer, countless TV specials; host of The Academy Awards; possibly best known for his USO tours and entertaining of troops overseas and on the front lines during World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and even during Desert Storm; died July 27, 2003)
1914 – (Walter) Stacy Keach Sr. (actor: The Parallax View, High Velocity, Fighting Back, Armed and Dangerous, The Rockford Files, Bonanza, Longstreet, Maverick D Feb 13, 2003)
1921 – Clifton James (actor: Lone Star, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die, David and Lisa, Cool Hand Luke, Lewis & Clark, City of Angels)

1942 – Kevin Conway (actor: Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy, The Quick and the Dead, Gettysburg, One Good Cop, Home Boy, Rage of Angels, Paradise Alley, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Other People’s Money, Of Mice and Men, When You Comin’ Back-Red Ryder?)

1944 – Helmut Berger (actor: The Damned, Dorian Gray, The Godfather, Part 3)

1958 – Annette Bening (actress: Richard III, The American President, Love Affair, Bugsy, Postcards from the Edge, The Grifters, Valmont, The Great Outdoors, Mars Attacks!, American Beauty)

1963 – Lisa Whelchel (actress: The Facts of Life, Where the Red Fern Grows: Part 2, Twirl, The Double McGuffin)

The film was a combination of a few genres. Part backstage musical using the now familiar ‘show within a show’ format, part mystery and part comedy. It featured famed singer Ethel Waters in two songs written and staged for the film. “Am I Blue?” and “Birmingham Bertha”


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