Happy 75th Anniversary, Casablanca!

It’s a tough choice, but if asked to name our favorite motion picture of all time, we’d have to say it’s Casablanca​, which premiered 75 years ago today in New York City. (You can still visit the theatre where it debuted, but you’ll have to watch the video to learn more about that.)

We rewatched the “La Marseillaise” scene recently, in which a passionate rendition of the French national anthem gives the patrons of Rick’s Cafe Americain a small but satisfying victory over Maj. Strasser and his Nazi henchmen, and though we’ve seen this wonderful movie easily a dozen times (probably closer to two dozen), that scene still gave us chills.

Here are 16 things you should know about Casablanca​, the official movie of Cladrite Radio…

Happy 121st Birthday, Paul Muni!

Actor Paul Muni was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund in what is now the Ukraine 121 years ago today. Here are 10 PM Did-You-Knows:

  • Both of his parents were professional actors in the Yiddish theatre.
  • Muni grew up speaking Yiddish. When he was seven, his family left Austria-Hungary and settled in Chicago.
  • Beginning in 1908, Muni spent four years with New York’s Yiddish Art Theatre before moving on to work for the next 14 years with other Yiddish theatres in NYC.
  • His first English-language role—and Broadway debut—was in a 1926 production of a play called We Americans. Though just 31 years of age, Muni portrayed an elderly man.
  • Muni began his motion picture career in 1929, but continued to alternate between the Broadway stage and Hollywood.
  • Muni, along with James Dean, is one of just two actors to receive an Oscar nomination for his first film role (The Valiant, 1929) and his last (The Last Angry Man, 1959). Muni totaled six Oscar nominations, winning once (Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Story of Louis Pasteur, 1936).
  • Muni’s nickname was Munya.
  • Muni suffered his entire life with a rheumatic heart.
  • Muni turned down the role of Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941). The part eventually went to Humphrey Bogart.
  • In 1956, Muni won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Henry Drummond in the play Inherit the Wind.

Happy birthday, Paul Muni, wherever you may be!

Paul Muni width=

Happy 113th Birthday, Claudette Colbert!

The lovely Claudette Colbert was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin 113 years agao today in Saint-Mandé, France, an eastern suburb of Paris. We saw her perform on Broadway 31 years ago opposite Rex Harrison in a drawing room comedy called Aren’t We All? and it remains among our greatest regrets that we didn’t play Stage-Door Johnny after the show to tell her how we admired her. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:

  • Her father owned a bakery on what is now Avenue Général de Gaulle, but the family moved to New York City in 1906.
  • Colbert attended Washington Irving High School in New York City, graduating in 1923.
  • As a child, Colbert dreamed of being a Broadway actress, and to that end, after her formal education was completed, she enrolled for dramatic training at the Art Students League of New York and paid for her studies by working in a dress shop.
  • She debuted on Broadway in 1923 in a play called The Wild Wescotts, and it was during that show’s run that she changed her name.
  • She turned to films as a practical choice when the Great Depression proved to be a difficult time for live theatre. Her first movie was a 1927 Frank Capra-directed silent picture called For the Love of Mike (alas, the film is now considered lost). It was so poorly under-budgeted that Capra had to hitchhike back to Hollywood from New York City. After making the picture, Colbert vowed, “I shall never make another film.”
  • Colbert considered her left side to be her best and was rarely photographed from any other angle.
  • Colbert was so convinced that she wouldn’t win the Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934) that she skipped the ceremony. She was quickly transported over from a train station when the announcement was made that she had won.
  • Colbert turned down the role of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940).
  • Colbert was one of five French actresses (though she later became a naturalized U.S. citizen) to win an Academy Award and one of just 12 French actresses to earn an Oscar nomination.
  • Her nickname was Lily.

Happy birthday, Claudette Colbert, wherever you may be!

Claudette Colbert

Happy 92nd Birthday, Jane Greer!

Jane Greer was born Bettejane Greer 92 years ago today in Washington, D.C. If she had played no other role in a motion picture than Kathie Moffat, the femme fatale who bedeviled Robert Mitchum in the noir classic Out of the Past, she’d be remembered with great fondness in the Cladrite household.

Here are 10 JG Did-You-Knows:

  • As a child Greer suffered from a facial palsy that partially paralyzed her face. She credited the facial exercises she performed to overcome the condition helped her expressiveness as an actress.
  • After winning beauty contests and working as a model as a teen, Greer began her career as a performer singing (in phonetic Spanish) with the dance orchestra of Enrique Madriguera.
  • Howard Hughes spotted Greer in a 1942 modeling spread in Life magazine and brought her to Hollywood to work in pictures.
  • Greer married Rudy Vallée in 1943, in order, it was said in some circles, to escape the overly possessive and controlling Hughes. She was 19; he was 42. We’re big Rudy fans, but he was an oddball on his best day and this has to be as one of the unlikeliest pairings in Hollywood history. The couple separated after just three months of marriage and divorced five months later.
  • Greer had her name legally changed from Bettejane to Jane in December 1945. About her birth name, she said, “Mine is a sissy name. It’s too bo-peepish, ingenueish, for the type of role I’ve been playing. It’s like Mary Lou or Mary Ann.”
  • Greer was a descendant of the poet John Donne.
  • Greer had three sons with second husband Edward Lasker, an attorney and business, to whom she was married for 16 years. TWo of her sons, Alex and Lawrence, worked in Hollywood in the 1980s and ’90s as writers and producers.
  • Her longest romantic relationship was a 36-year domestic partnership with actor and dialogue coach Frank London that lasted until his death in 2001. She passed away six months later.
  • In addition to the 28 motion pictures she appeared in, Greer worked extensively on television, beginning in 1953 with an appearance on The Revlon Mirror Theater and ending in 1990 with a recurring role in the second season of Twin Peaks.
  • Greer had a twin brother named Don.

Happy birthday, Jane Greer, wherever you may be!

Jane Greer

Happy 118th Birthday, Preston Sturges!

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!

Preston Sturges