Category Archives: History

Remembering: Gregory Peck

Born on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, San Diego, California Eldred Gregory Peck would end up going to college at Berkley as an English major and pre-medical student.

It was there that he began to be pushed to acting instead of being a doctor.

After graduating, he dropped Eldred from his name and moved to New York to be in the theater.

When WWII started, a back injury kept him out of military service but allowed his career to gain further ground.

In 1944, his first movie was released, and over the next five years, he would receive Oscar nominations for Best Actor four times.

Peck made dozens of movies over the next decades.

He never allowed himself to be stuck in one genre of movies, even trying though never succeeding at becoming a villain.

His fifth nomination, and only win, would come in 1962 for his role as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

That role would also become his most famous, despite how fantastic he was in dozens of other movies.

Peck would continue actively making movies into the 70s, with various TV and film roles following on into the 90s.

On June 12, 2003, Peck died in his sleep at home from bronchopneumonia.

Remembering: Marilyn Monroe

On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in Los Angeles, California. Soon after, her mother would have her last name changed to Baker. When she was 7, her mother had a nervous breakdown and Norma became a ward of the state. Over the next several years she would move through various foster homes and an orphanage.

When she was 16, she would marry James Dougherty. When he joined the Merchant Marine in 1943, Norma began working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory. It was there that she met photographer David Conover, who convinced her to quit and start modeling.

As a model, she worked under the name Jean Norman, began straightening her curly hair, and dying it blonde. This look would become her signature for the rest of her life. Between August of 1945 and June of 1946, she would be on various magazine covers 33 times.

In June of 1946, she was picked up by 20th Century Fox as an actress. She divorced Dougherty, who was against her having a career, and began using the name, Marilyn Monroe.

During the first months of her contract, Marilyn did not receive any roles, but she spent that time taking acting classes, dance lessons, and singing lessons. In February of 1947, she finally gained her first acting spot, but her contract was not renewed in August.

Without a contract, Marilyn returned to modeling and took some roles on the theater stage. She also began showing up at movie producer’s offices, to ensure they all knew who she was. This led to her receiving a contract with Columbia Pictures, in March 1948. However, she would only receive one role while there, and again was without a contract come September.

In 1950, Monroe was able to gain roles in several films, enough to get a new contract from Fox, this time for seven years. Over the next few years, she gained more and more notice, for her acting, her relationships, and her sex appeal. During 1953 she became a major star due to her roles in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire. It was also then that she became considered Hollywood’s top sex symbol.

On January 4, 1954, she was suspended by Fox for refusing to take a role. Marilyn had been trying to avoid being further typecast and wanted more serious roles. Ten days later, she married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, whom she had been dating on and off again since 1952. Their relationship was called the “All-American love story”, but it was apparently doomed to fail. The two divorced in October, mostly due to DiMaggio’s being uncomfortable with her being such a sex image. However, the two would remain friends until her death.

By March 1954, Fox was desperate to have her back and so she began making movies for them again. However, in January of 1955, Marilyn Monroe open her own film studio, in order to ensure that she could play more serious roles. By the end of the year, Monroe and Fox had worked out their differences and she signed a new seven-year contract with the company. In March 1956, she had her name legally changed to Marilyn Monroe. Then on June 29, she married playwright, Arthur Miller.

Over the next several years she would give some of her best film performances, especially in 1959 with Some Like It Hot. However, medical problems led to increasing emotional and mental issues. This led to her divorce from Miller in January of 1961 as well as two hospital stays for psychiatric evaluation. Her illness took an increasing toll, leading to her being let go by Fox, in June of 1962. The studio cited repeated and extended absences from the set.

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn was found dead in her home. The autopsy revealed an overdose on multiple prescription drugs.

 

Remembering: John Wayne

May 26, 1907, Marion Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa. His family later moved to Glendale, California.

After college, he began working as a movie studio laborer but eventually began getting bit parts.

For many of his early roles, he was credited as Duke Morrison, a childhood nickname.

In 1930 he starred in The Big Trail, but the director felt a tougher name was needed for a western hero, so he had John Wayne put in the credits. The name stuck, the film tanked.

Throughout the rest of the 30’s John Wayne filmed dozens of mediocre at best westerns, so many that at times more than one opened at the same time.

It was in 1939 that John Ford cast him in Stagecoach, which won an Oscar.

From then on John Wayne became a household name, and many of his best films were directed by Ford.

He became iconic of the ultimate American western hero.

By the time he died on June 11, 1979, he had been in more than two hundred and fifty films.

Marion was extremely public about his patriotic beliefs. A staunch conservative, he showed his love for the United States in several of his films and in his off-screen life as well.

Remembering: Star Wars

May 25, 1977, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope hits theaters and the world would never be the same.

It came with the newest forms of special effects, and the superb soundtrack composed by John Williams. Those and the story line brought about an opening of imaginations throughout the world.

Though only released in forty-two theaters, the movie would make what was then, huge dollar amounts.

A New Hope would be nominated for ten Oscars, winning six of them.

Star Wars is credited with reviving a sci-fi genre that had all but died out and was until then totally unprofitable.

Combined with Jaws, it began a new idea of the summer blockbuster, that is such a huge part of today’s Hollywood.

Remembering: The First Academy Awards

May 16, 1929, a group of 270 of Hollywood’s finest paid $5 each to attend a banquet put on by the two-year-old Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It started with a long dinner, and then numerous speeches. Following that, fifteen awards were handed out in five minutes, as they had already been announced back in February.

There were two categories for Best Picture, one for artistic uniqueness and another for production. Charlie Chaplin was honored with a special award. German actor Emil Jannings took home best actor for two movies and Janet Gaynor took home the best actress award for all three movies she was nominated for.

In 1930 the Academy began releasing the names of the winners the day of the event. But in 1940 the Los Angeles Times leaked the winners ahead of time. From then on the awards moved to sealed envelopes, with the winners announced at the last second.

Remembering: Alexander’s Ragtime Band

March 18, 1911 Irving Berlin copyrights the sheet music for “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and American pop music begins to conquer the world. The song sold over 1.5 million copies within it’s first eighteen months.

Simple, yet extremely catchy, it was soon being played on pianos in homes around the world. It wouldn’t be much longer that the words were added. Once musical recordings began to be common, it was recorded with and without the vocals. It would even spawn it’s own movie in 1938.

The song also helped launch Irving Berlin into the spotlight. He would go on to write many many songs, some of which are extremely famous til this day. Three of which are: “White Christmas”, “God Bless America”, and “There’s No Business Like Show Business”.