Happy 115th (or thereabouts) Birthday, Norma Shearer!

There seems to be widespread confusion regarding Norma Shearer’s date of birth. Some sources say she was born on August 10, others say August 11, and The New York Times​, in its 1983 obituary, cites August 15. The year is in question too: Was she born in 1900, 1902 or 1904?

We trying to cover all our bases by sharing this tribute on the 10th but using the 11th as her birthdate in the video. Whichever date you prefer, we hope you enjoy the video. Happy birthday, Ms. Shearer, wherever you may be!

Here are 10 things you should know about Norma Shearer…

Happy 92nd Birthday, Eva Marie Saint!

The lovely Eva Marie Saint was born 92 years ago today in Newark, New Jersey. Here are 10 EVS Did-You Knows:

  • Saint attended Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, New York, graduating in 1942.
  • Saint won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her first theatrical picture, Elia Kazan‘s On The Waterfront, in which appeared opposite Marlon Brando. All 18 of her earlier credits were on television.
  • Just two days after winning the Oscar, Saint gave birth to her son Darrell.
  • Saint’s competition for the role of Edie Doyle in that picture was Elizabeth Montgomery. Saint won the role by a nose.
  • Saint graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1946. There is a theatre on the campus that is named after her.
  • Saint’s waist-length hair was cut short for her role as a seductive spy opposite Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest; the director insisted it made her more exotic. Hitchcock also personally chose Saint’s outfits for the film during a shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
  • Her nickname in high school was “Bubbles.” She was the senior class secretary and also a cheerleader.
  • Saint was named after her mother, Eva Marie Rice.
  • Her favorite movie is Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night.
  • Saint has been married to writer-director-producer Jeffrey Hayden since 1951.

Happy birthday, Eva Marie Saint, and many happy returns of the day!

Eva Marie Saint

Happy 121st (123rd?) Birthday, Hattie McDaniel!

Hattie McDaniel was born 121 (or perhaps 123—see below) years ago today in Wichita, Kansas. If we were to make a list of departed stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood whom we’d like to meet in heaven, Ms. McDaniel would most certainly be on it.

Here are 10 Hattie McDaniel Did-You-Knows?:

  • In the 1910s and ’20s, McDaniel worked as a vocalist in a band
  • It’s thought by some that she was the first African-American woman to sing on the radio, when she appeared on a Denver-based broadcast as the vocalist for Professor George Morrison’s Negro Orchestra.
  • She made her movie debut in The Golden West (1932).
  • McDaniel was the first African American to win an
    Academy Award.
  • In addition to work in pictures, McDaniel kept busy in radio, playing recurring roles on Amos and Andy and on Eddie Cantor‘s radio programs. She also starred in her own radio show, Beulah, from 1947-1951 (the show later migrated to television).
  • Her siblings Sam and Etta McDaniel also acted in pictures.
  • Her father was a former slave.
  • McDaniel was depicted on a USA commemorative postage stamp, issued on January 25, 2006.
  • Hattie McDaniel may have been two years older than she claimed. The 1895 Kansas census cited her age as two.
  • McDaniel’s wish to be buried in Hollywood was denied due to racial attitudes and practices of the day when she died in 1952; she was instead interred at Los Angeles’ Rosedale Cemetery. A pink-and-gray granite monument in her memory was placed in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 1999, 47 years after her death.

Happy birthday, Ms. McDaniel, wherever you maybe!

Hattie McDaniel

Happy Birthday, Janet Gaynor!

Janet Gaynor, born Laura Gainor 109 years today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is not as well remembered today as she should be. (Yes, we old movie buffs know her and love her, but the general public has largely forgotten her.)

There were few bigger stars in 1920s and early ’30s, and her screen partnership with Charles Farrell had fans dreaming that he’d leave his wife for her.

Janet Gaynor made any number of terrific films, but our two favorites are F. W. Murnau‘s silent masterpiece, Sunrise (1927), and the first A Star Is Born (1937), directed by the great William Wellman (A Star Is Born can be viewed for free by Amazon Prime members).

A few TV appearances aside, Janet Gaynor retired in 1938, but she left an indelible mark on the motion picture industry (she won the very first Best Actress Oscar on May 16, 1929, about which she said, “Naturally, I was thrilled, but being the first year, the Academy Awards had no background or tradition, and it naturally didn’t mean what it does now. Had I known then what it would come to mean in the next few years, I’m sure I’d have been overwhelmed. At the time, I think I was more thrilled over meeting Douglas Fairbanks.”

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday, Ms. Gaynor, wherever you may be.

Janet Gaynor quote