Happy Birthday, Katharine Hepburn!

Katharine Hepburn was born, well, Katharine Houghton Hepburn (what, you expected her to resort to the artifice of a screen name?) 113 years ago today in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s almost startling to be reminded on such occasions that Ms. Hepburn passed on in 2003, as it’s difficult to imagine any malady or even the passing of time itself prevailing over her strong will. We’re fully prepared to believe that she left us then, at age 96, only because she was ready to go and gave the okay.

Katharine Hepburn

Happy Birthday, Duke Ellington!

Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington 121 years ago today in Washington, D.C. His contributions to music are difficult to overstate: composer, pianist, and, for more than half a century, leader of a great jazz orchestra. And my, was he an elegant man.

We’ll be featuring Ellington’s music all day on Cladrite Radio, so why not tune in right now?

Duke Ellington

Happy 128th Birthday, Charlie Chaplin!

The immortal Charlie Chaplin was born Charles Spencer Chaplin 128 years ago today. There is no official record of his birth, but Chaplin said he was born on East Street in South London. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:

  • Chaplin’s childhood was a difficult one. His alcoholic father was largely absent (and died at 37, when Charlie was just 12), and his mother was committed to a mental asylum when he was 14.
  • For some time, even after becoming very successful, Chaplin continued to live in a cheap hotel room.
  • Chaplin was married four times, with a greater disparity between his age and his wife’s with each new union (12 years, 19 years, 21 years and 37 years). He had 11 children with those four wives; he was 73 years old when his youngest, Charles, was born in 1962.
  • Stan Laurel was once Chaplin’s understudy during their years on the English stage. Later, when they had both emigrated to the United States, they roomed together in a boarding house. No cooking was allowed there, so when Laurel was making dinner on a hot plate, Chaplin played the violin to cover the sound of the frying.
  • Chaplin was the first actor to appear on the cover of Time magazine (the July 6, 1925 issue).
  • Contrary to popular belief, Chaplin’s eyes were a striking shade of blue.
  • Chaplin received no screen credit for his early films for Keystone (it was that studio’s policy not to credit actors); it wasn’t until 1915 that Chaplin finally received a screen credit, when he made his first film for Essanay.
  • In addition to his many other accomplishments, Chaplin was a composer. He wrote more than 500 songs, including the beloved hit “Smile,” and later in life scored some of his early films when they were reissued.
  • In 1947, Chaplin was subpoenaed by—but never appeared before—the House Un-American Activities Committee. He sent HUAC a telegram, reading: “I am not a Communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life.” That seems to have satisfied them.
  • Chaplin was a cofounder of United Artists, along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith.

Happy birthday, Charlie Chaplin, wherever you may be!

a young Charlie Chaplin

In Their Words: William Wellman

Director William Wellman was a leap year baby, born on February 29, 1896. “Wild Bill” enjoyed a long and prolific career, directing such classics as Wings (1927), The Public Enemy (1931), the original A Star Is Born (1937) and The Ox-Bow Incident (1942), among many others.

One of our personal hard and fast rules goes as follows: If it’s a pre-code picture and it’s directed by William Wellman, watch it. It’s an approach that every movie buff could benefit from.