Former boy genius and Paul Masson wine pitchman Orson Welles was born 105 years ago today. Let’s face it, any of us would be happy to have left a legacy that included Citizen Kane, not to mention The Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, Touch of Evil and the rest.
The lovely Fay Wray was born 114 years ago today in Cardston, Alberta.
Here’s the story of our one personal encounter with Ms. Wray. She was a patron and paying member of Film Forum, a terrific repertory movie theatre here in NYC, and every now and then she would attend a screening there.
We were waiting in the lobby one evening when one of her movies was on the bill—it might have been King Kong, we can’t be sure—and as the credits rolled on the previous screening, we heard a round of applause from within the auditorium. That’s not unusual at Film Forum; old-movie fans often show their appreciation at the end of a picture they’ve enjoyed.
But perhaps thirty seconds later, there was another, more boisterous round of applause. Why would they be clapping again?, we wondered. But then it occurred to us that there was likely an actor in the house who was being introduced to the audience, and we guessed—correctly, as it turned out—that it must be Ms. Wray.
The funny thing was, no one else waiting in line in the lobby seemed to be paying attention to these rounds of applause. They were in pairs and threes and were chatting among themselves, so we were, seemingly, the only ones aware that Ms. Wray might be on the premises. And when she left the auditorium, we were the only ones who took any notice whatsoever of the elderly lady making her way through the lobby.
“Hello, Ms. Wray,” we said as she drew near, and she, still on an emotional high from the ovation she’d just received in the theatre, said, “God bless you!”
“God bless you, too, Ms. Wray,” we replied, and off she went.
The great Claude Rains was born 125 years ago today in London. Few actors in cinematic history were more reliable in consistently delivering memorable performances. We’re not sure we can name a bad one from Mr. Rains.
If you wish to watch one of his pictures today to celebrate his birthday, there are dozens of worthy options, but you can certainly not go wrong by choosing either Casablanca, The Invisible Man, or Notorious.
Happy birthday, Mr. Rains, wherever you may be!
October 6 marks the birthday of the divine Carole Lombard. As you probably know, she was taken from us far too soon, dying in 1942 in a plane crash outside Las Vegas, Nevada. She was returning to Los Angeles after participating in a war bonds rally in her home state of Indiana. She was only 33.
One of the reigning queens of screwball comedy, Carole Lombard was said to have been a great dame, with the colorful vocabulary of a sailor and a courageous and joyous spirit. Too bad she never appeared in a Preston Sturges comedy; what a team they’d have made.
Happy birthday, Ms. Carole Lombard, wherever you may be!