Here are 10 things you should know about Butterfly McQueen, born 109 years ago today. Hers was a memorable, if too often frustrating, career; she had much more to offer than Hollywood allowed her to share.
Here are 10 things you should know about character actor Joseph Calleia, born 122 years ago today. His is a face that is surely familiar to every old-movie buff.
The lovely Gene Tierney was born 96 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York. Here are GT Did-You-Knows:
- Tierney’s childhood was one of privilege. Her father was a successful insurance broker, her mother a former teacher. She sometimes lived with her grandparents in Connecticut, attending St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Fairfield. She later attended finishing schools in Switzerland and Farmington, CT.
- At 17, Tierney visited Los Angeles. Her striking beauty caught director Anatole Litvak‘s eye during a visit to the Warner Brothers studio (her cousin worked there) and she was offered a contract. Her parents urged her to turn it down, due to the low salary and the fact that they envisioned a more high-society path for her.
- Gene Tierney was a debutante, making her society debut in September 24, 1938, but society life didn’t interest her and she resolved to be an actress. She began theatrical studies and was a protégée of Broadway producer-director George Abbott.
- She made her Broadway debut in a small role in What a Life! (1938) that saw her carrying a bucket of water across the stage. A Variety reviewer wrote of her performance, “Miss Tierney is certainly the most beautiful water carrier I’ve ever seen!”
- Tierney went on to appear in a handful of other Broadway shows, garnering larger roles and positive reviews each time. In 1939, she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures and was slated to star in National Velvet (1944), but when the picture was delayed, she returned to Broadway to star in The Male Animal, which was a big hit and led to a contract with 20 Century-Fox and her motion picture debut, in The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda.
- Tierney wrote poetry throughout her life; she first saw one of poems published in her high school newspaper.
- Tierney struggled with manic depression throughout her adult life. While shooting The Left Hand of God (1955), her costar, Humphrey Bogart, whose sister had struggled with mental illness, urged her to seek medical help.
- Tierney spent time in various institutions and underwent multiple shock treatments against her will. She was thereafter an outspoken critic of shock treatment therapy.
- Tierney was married twice—to fashion designer Oleg Cassini and oil baron W. Howard Lee—and had romantic relationships with many other prominent men, among them John F. Kennedy, Prince Aly Khan and Tyrone Power.
- Tierney, who took up smoking to lower her voice—“I sounded like an angry Minnie Mouse,” she is reported to have said after seeing herself on screen for the first time—remained a heavy smoker throughout her life and died of emphysema in 1999.
Happy birthday, Gene Tierney, wherever you may be!
Comic relief and sidekick extraordinaire Frank McHugh was born 118 years ago today in Homestead, Pennsylvania. If you’re not sure you recall McHugh’s name, you’ll surely recognize his face if you’ve seen even a few movies from the 1930s and ’40s.
Here are our ten Frank McHugh trivia tidbits:
- Frank McHugh’s parents ran a stock company, and as a child, he occasionally appeared in their productions. He also toured in vaudeville before making his Broadway debut in The Fall Guy in 1925, a play cowritten by George Abbott and character actor James Gleason.
- McHugh, who signed with First National/Warner Brothers as a contract player in 1930, appeared in more than 90 pictures over the next twelve years.
- Frank McHugh made 11 pictures with his pal James Cagney (they were both, along with Pat O’Brien and others, a part of Hollywood’s Irish Mafia).
- McHugh also appeared in 12 pictures with fellow character actor Allen Jenkins.
- Frank McHugh twice reprised in a remake a character he’d already played in the original version of that film: in One Way Passage (1932) and ‘Til We Meet Again (1940), he played a thief eluding Chinese authorities, and in both The Crowd Roars (1932) and Indianapolis Speedway (1939), he played a character named Spud Connors.
- Two of McHugh’s siblings, Matt McHugh and Kitty McHugh, were also film actors. Matt had appearances in more than 220 movies, shorts and TV series to his credit, and Kitty compiled 60 appearances in film and on television.
- Frank McHugh was an eager participant in USO tours during World War II and he was also a member of the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a troupe of 21 stars that traveled the US by train for three weeks, performing along the way to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Fund.
- McHugh’s USO efforts earned him a citation from the army “for exceptionally meritorious service while working as a member of an entertainment unit” that was signed by Major General Raymond S. McLain.
- Frank McHugh starred in his own radio program, Hotel for Pets, from 1954-56. Some oldtime radio references list the progam as a soap opera, but that somehow seems unlikely to us.
- McHugh and his wife, Dorothy, were married from 1933 until his death in 1981. They had three children together and two grandchildren.
Happy birthday, Mr. McHugh, wherever you may be!
THE BARD OF AVON