The great James Stewart was born 112 years ago today in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He remains one of the most popular actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age (and a favorite here at Cladrite Radio).
Director and screenwriter Mikio Naruse was born 112 years today in Tokyo, Japan. Naruse isn’t as well-known as some other directors of classic Japanese cinema, such as Yazujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, and Kenji Mizoguchi, but we are great admirers of his quiet, well-crafted family dramas and the compelling women who are so often at the center of them (not to mention the remarkable actresses who played them). 誕生日おめでとう、成瀬巳喜男、どこにおしています… (Happy birthday, Mikio Naruse, wherever you may be…)
Here are 10 things you should know about Mikio Naruse…
The great Preston Sturges was born Edmund Preston Biden 118 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois. We consider him one of the true giants of American comedy filmmaking. Among the pictures he wrote or directed are The Good Fairy, Easy Living, Remember the Night, The Great McGinty, Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero, Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve, and The Palm Beach Story—classics, every last one of them. Here are 10 PS Did-You-Knows:
- His mother, Mary Estelle Dempsey (though she would be known by many names), an eccentric character worthy of inclusion in one of Sturges’ films, was close friends with dancer and choreographer Isadora Duncan; in fact, it was a scarf Dempsey gave to Duncan that led to the dancer’s infamous death.
- Sturges’ mother was married several times, but it was her third husband, a wealthy Chicago stockbroker named Solomon Sturges, who was a true father to Preston. He adopted him when Sturges was 4 years old and provided guidance and support to him throughout his life.
- Prior to launching his writing career, Sturges was employed as a runner on Wall Street and worked for his mother’s cosmetics company, even inventing a kiss-proof lipstick.
- In 1917, Sturges enlisted in the Army Air Service, serving at Camp Dick in Texas without ever seeing action. Three Hundred Words of Humor, a humorous essay he wrote for the camp newspaper, was his first published work.
- Sturges claimed to have introduced the club sandwich to Germany.
- His first success came on Broadway with a play he wrote called Strictly Dishonorable. He wrote the play in just six days, it ran for 16 months (a very lengthy run in 1929), and he was working for Paramount Pictures soon thereafter.
- He worked for a decade as a studio screenwriter, and though he wrote some terrific movies during that time, he was often frustated by the final product.
- So eager was Sturges to direct his own scripts that he sold the rights to The Great McGinty to Paramount for just one dollar (some reports say the fee was $10), with the stipulation that he would be allowed to direct it. He would go on to win the very first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for that script.
- Sturges amassed a troupe of actors that he used repeatedly in his films, and when the studio objected, fearing the actors’ faces would become too familiar to the audience, Sturges responded, “These little players who had contributed so much to my first hits had a moral right to work in my subsequent pictures.”
- In the 1940s and ’50s, he owned and operated a nightclub called The Players on the Sunset Strip.
Happy birthday, Preston Sturges, wherever you may be, and thanks for the laughs!
Actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian and sex symbol Mae West was born Mary Jane West 123 years ago today in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Here are 10 MW Did-You-Knows:
Happy birthday, Mae West, wherever you may be!
Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock was born 117 years ago today in Leytonstone, East London. Few directors in the history of cinema have carved out so distinctive a niche as did Hitch. Here are 10 AH Did-You-Knows:
- Hitchcock’s parents were both of half-Irish and half-English ancestry. His father was a greengrocer.
- Hitchcock was the youngest of three children, born seven years after his sister, Eileen.
- Hitchcock always wore a suit and tie while directing his pictures.
- He found eggs revolting and claimed never to have eaten one.
- When he was a child, his father asked the local constabulary to lock up young Alfred, telling him, “This is what happens to people who do bad things.” Though his stint in jail lasted just ten minutes, Hitchcock had an aversion to the police for the rest of his life and used the phobia to explain why he never learned to drive (no driving, no dealing with traffic cops).
- Though he was nominated five times, Hitchcock never won the Best Director Oscar. He was, however, presented with the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Academy Awards ceremony.
- The speech he gave in accepting the award was the shortest in Academy Award history: “Thank you.”
- In 1980, Hitchock was named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (honorary because he had become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956).
- His favorite among his pictures was Shadow of a Doubt (1943).
- Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville, was one day younger than he was (a belated happy birthday to you, Alma).
Happy birthday, Alfred Hitchcock, wherever you may be!