John Carradine – Second Best Dracula

John Carradine

John Carradine is a fantastic American actor that had 321 television and film credits. He was very tall and slim and had a wonderfully deep voice that made him ideal playing horror roles.

John Carradine was born on February 5, 1906, in New York City. When Carradine was two years old his father died. When his mother remarried they moved to Philidelphia. Apparently, his new stepfather treated him brutally. Carradine ran away from home when he was 14 but later returned. For a time he attended Philadelphia’s Graphic Arts Institute. Later he moved to New York and lived with his uncle Peter Richmond. At some point, he studied under a sculptor in Richmond, Virgina. For a time he worked as painter and sketch artist. He eventually ended up in New Orleans in 1925. Remember Lugosi showed up there in late 1920. I believe this is where you go to learn to be a vampire and I think I turned into on one Maudlin Monday night myself. During this travel period, … Continue reading

Gary Cooper – The High Noon Man

Sergeant York (1941)

Gary Cooper was born in Montana in 1901. Both his parents were English immigrants. The family was well to do and owned a large ranch where Cooper spent a good portion of his youth. Cooper spent a couple of years going to
school in England before returning to Montana.

Cooper was out of school for some time with a hip injury from an auto accident. In 1920, he finally graduated with the help of a teacher that got him interested in drama. Cooper went to college in Iowa but was more successful with painting than drama. He left after about 18 months.

In 1924, he followed his parents to Los Angeles where he eventually got a job as a western stunt rider for a poverty row studio. Cooper didn’t care for the stunt work because it was hard on the body and cruel to the horses. He hired an agent and paid for his own screen test.

He began to get extra work like being a Roman guard in … Continue reading

Henry Fonda – One-Take Fonda

Warlock (1959) - Henry Fonda

 

Henry Fonda was a soft-spoken man who was born in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1905. Following high school, he attended the University of Minnesota and studied journalism. At the age of 20, Fonda began acting at the Omaha Community Playhouse. After becoming a part of the Cape Cod University Players Fonda moved to New York and began working on Broadway. He worked on Broadway through 1934. The last play he did was “The Farmer Takes a Wife.” When this was made into a film he got a role. For the next fifty years, he made some of the most important movies of their era. Fonda worked across all genera’s.

Henry Fonda is remembered for so many movies it is hard to summarize. In 1939, Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) were released. The next year Fonda struck gold with his portrayal of Oakie Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). He received an Oscar nomination for this role. He excelled in westerns starring in … Continue reading

Whit Bissell – This Guys is in Everything

Whit Bissell

Whit Bissell was born in New York City in 1909. Whit Bissell came to Hollywood in the 1940s, and by the time he retired he had appeared in over 300 movies and TV series. Sometimes it seems like he is in every movie. Just there moving steadily along and never standing out. However, his performance was always solid. He may be best known for playing the mad scientist who turned Michael Landon into a monster in the 1957 cult classic film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). He was also in I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1967). Whit Bissell specialized in playing authority figures such as doctors, military officers, and other authority figures. One of his standout roles was as a lovesick convict in the harsh film noir movie Brute Force (1947).  He was familiar on television in “Bachelor Father” 1957-1960 and “The Time Tunnel” 1966-1967. He was in only in one “Star Trek” episode but it was  “The Trouble with Tribbles” 1967.

Whit Bissell served on the Screen … Continue reading

Strother Martin – Character Actor with Profound Impact

Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Strother Martin Short Biography

Strother Martin while famous for that line and many others, he was a springboard champion, taught swimming in the Navy during WWII, and missed the 1948 Olympic team by one place. He moved to Hollywood and among other things, was a swimming instructor to Charles Chaplin’s children. After meeting Sam Peckinpah he began to get roles like Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Slap Shot (1977), and The Wild Bunch (1969).

Strother Douglas Martin, Jr. (March 26, 1919 – August 1, 1980) was a character actor who often worked with John Wayne and Paul Newman. Many of his memorable western films were directed by John Ford and Sam Peckinpah. He is no doubt best known as the prison “captain” in Cool Hand Luke (1967), where he utters the famous line “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” This line is ranked number 11 on the American Film Institute list 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.

As a youth, he was very … Continue reading

Lionel Jeffries – Veteran Character Actor

Lionel Jeffries

Lionel Jeffries was an English character actor. He was known for his bald head and bushy mustache. This allowed him to play much older roles. During his career Lionel Jeffries played a nice line of English eccentrics.

Lionel Jeffries was born in London in 1926. During World War II he was an officer in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Following the war, he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. This lead to a two-year stint with a repertory company followed by work in English television.

Lionel Jeffries had a successful career in English films mainly in comic character roles but he also had dramatic roles such as in Bhowani Junction (1956) with Ava Gardner. In the 1960s he began to get lead roles in films such as Two-Way Stretch (1960), The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), First Men in the Moon (1964) and Camelot (1967). However Jefferies continued his drama roles in films such as Dunkirk (1958), horror such as The … Continue reading

Patric Knowles – From Will Scarlet to the Wolf Man

Patric Knowles

Patric Knowles had a successful acting career with 128 TV and movie credits. He stared in some of the biggest films of his time such at The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Wolf Man (1941), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Auntie Mame (1958), The Devil’s Brigade (1968), and Chisum (1970). In retirement he worked to take care of actors that had been less fortunate than himself.

Patric Knowles was born in England on November 11, 1911. He was 14 years old when he ran away from the family bookbinding business to pursue acting. He was brought back home but left again in a few years. He was able to find some regional theater work and then entered British films in 1932 and eventually made 14 British films. Based on this work he was offered a contract with Warner Brothers. His second American movie was the hugely popular The Charge of the Light … Continue reading

Edmond O’Brien – American Tough Guy

Edmund O'Brian

Edmond O’Brien was born in the Bronx, New York in 1915. O’Brein stated that he learned magic tricks from his neighbor Harry Houdini. He was in the school theater and major in drama a Columbia University. He started on Broadway debut at 21.

He was brought to Hollywood and he was uncredited in his first film – Prison Break (1938). The next year he was in a supporting role as “Gringoire” in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with Charles Laughton.

He joined the Army Air Force during World War II and returned to a solid career as a supporting actor. By 1950, he was given the lead role in D.O.A. (1950).

O’Brien has roles in other film noir classics such as The Killers (1946) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

In 1954, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954).

Perhaps one of O’Brien’s greatest performance was as the drunken newspaper editor Dutton Peabody in The Man Who Shot … Continue reading

Boris Karloff – King of the Monsters

Boris Karloff on set taking a tea and toast break

I don’t think I will get much argument if I say that Boris Karloff was the greatest Frankenstein of them all. Although Peter Boyle was pretty good.

Karloff was a British actor that began stage work in Canada and then made his way to Hollywood. He made some silent films but had to maintain jobs such as ditch digger to survive. By 1931 Karloff was on his way with The Criminal Code (1931) and Five Star Final (1931), a film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Of course, the biggest role of all was that of the monster in Frankenstein (1931). Karloff was about 5 feet 11 inches. The costume that he work for this role had 4-inch platforms and weighed 8 pounds each. Karloff’s costume was designed by Jack Pierce and was copyrighted by Universal Studios making it harder for other studios to copy the success of Frankenstein. Oddly Lon Chaney Sr, father of Wolf Man Lon Chaney Jr. Was offer the role of … Continue reading

Basil Rathbone – A Bad Guy You Love to Hate

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone was born in South Africa, in 1892, but left as a forthcoming Boer War. In England Rathbone attended Repton School where he excelled at fencing, a skill that would serve him well later in the movies, and showed an interest in theater. After graduation, he worked for one year in business to please his father and then left for the theater. He had a cousin that was managing one of the Shakespearean troupes in Stratford-on-Avon. He joined at the bottom rung and began working his way to larger roles. These roles were interrupted by WWI when Rathbone severed as a second lieutenant in the Liverpool Scottish 2nd Battalion. He was assigned to military intelligence and later received the Military Cross for bravery. In 1919, he returned to Stratford-on-Avon. After a year there he moved to the London stage and eventually began working on Broadway.

Eventually, he left the stage to begin working in movies. His roles evolved from ladies man to sinister villain where his sword work became … Continue reading

Robert Donat – A Life Too Short

The last film line spoken by Robert Donat before his death was “We shall not see each other again. I think. Farewell.”

Robert Donat was a mellow sounding English actor. Donat was born in 1905 and was in his first Shakespeare production by the age of 16.  He began traveling with his theater group and acted all over Britain. Alexander Korda noticed Donat’s acting chops and gave him a 3-year film contract. During this time Donat’s was cast as Thomas Culpepper, in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Donat’s went to Hollywood to work on The Count of Monte Cristo (1934). Based on the strength of his performance he was offered the role of Captain Blood (1935). I can maybe see that casting. Donat’s didn’t like life in Hollywood and continued to avoid roles that forced him outside of Briton.

Hollywood usually had to shoot in England if it wanted him badly enough. And that was not a problem, after the box office reception given The 39 Steps (1935), the … Continue reading

Glenn Ford – From Film Noir to Superman’s Father

Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford was born in Canada in 1916 and moved to the US when he was 8. After high school, he began working in theater and taking odd jobs including with Will Rogers who taught him to ride a horse. Wow.

In 1939, he began working for Columbia Pictures and became a US citizen the same year. His first major role was Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939). In late 1942, Ford joined the Marine Corp reserve.

He spent his time working in the Photographic Section. He was discharged in 1944 for ulcers. In 1958, he returned as a reserve officer.

Ford’s best-known role is most likely the film noir classic Gilda (1946) with co-star Rita Hayworth. This pair eventually made five movies together.

Through the 50s and 60s, Ford’s career was on fire. He made thrillers, dramas, action, comedies, and westerns. Some of his best-known films include A Stolen Life (1946) with Bette Davis, The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) with Gene Tierney, The Big Heat (1953), … Continue reading

Sidney Poitier – The Cool Cat from Cat Island

Sidney Poitier in The Long Ships (1964)

Sidney Poitier became a stage actor after moving from Cat Island in the Bahamas and serving time in the Army. By 1949 he was so respected that he was offered a role in No Way Out (1950) directed by Darryl F. Zanuck. In this film, Poitier is playing a black doctor that must treat two white racists, one of which is played by Richard Widmark.

This was the first of the roles he played that showed the conflict between the races. In the Blackboard Jungle (1955) he played a resentful youth that was won over by his teacher played by Glenn Ford. In The Defiant Ones (1958) he played an escaped convict shackled to a white prisoner. In Lilies of the Field (1963), he helped white nuns build a chapel and became the first African-American to win an Oscar for a lead role. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) he is engaged to a white girl and has to deal with generational bigotry from both sides. In To Sir, … Continue reading

Anthony Quinn Short Bio

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915. The family moved to Los Angeles where Quinn attended but eventually dropped out of high school. Quinn spent some time boxing and then studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright encouraged Quinn to try acting and by 1936 he was in Hollywood.

Quinn’s first role in tinsel town was The Plainsman (1936) directed by his future father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille. That’s one way to make it big. As part of the studio system at Paramount Quinn was given many ethnic bit parts. Since he was not a US citizen he did not serve in WWII but received extra roles as many actors were away.

At the end of his contract he returned to the stage to sharpen his skills. Elia Kazan cast Quinn and Marlon Brando as brothers in Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Oscar for best-supporting actor and became the first Mexican-American to win one of the golden statuettes. Quinn wasn’t done as he got his second one for Lust … Continue reading