Here are 10 things you should know about Grace Kelly, born 90 years ago today. One of the most beautiful women ever to, er, grace the silver screen, she left a remarkable legacy, considering she appeared in just 11 Hollywood movies.
Here are 10 things you should know about Henry Fonda, born 114 years ago. He specialized, with occasional detours, in playing strong, stalwart characters that possessed an inherent sense of decency and fairness.
The inimitable Thelma Ritter, born 116 years ago today, was a sublime character actress who specialized in portrayals of a very particular type of wise and wisecracking New Yorker.
Here are 10 things you should know about Thelma Ritter…
The great James Stewart was born 109 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). Here are ten JS Did-You-Knows:
- James Stewart was the first prominent actor to enlist in the military during World War II. He joined the Army eight months before Pearl Harbor and served overseas for 21 months, where, as a pilot with the 445th Bomb Group, 703rd squadron, he flew 20 combat missions and rose to the rank of colonel.
- Stewart held the highest active military rank of any actor in history. After World War II, he continued serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, ultimately attaining the rank of brigadier general.
- James Stewart attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1932 with a degree in architecture.
- Stewart was a member of Princeton’s Triangle Club, a musical-comedy theater group. A 1931 recording exists of Stewart performing the song Day After Day with the Princeton Triangle Club Dance Orchestra (regular listeners to Cladrite Radio have heard this recording).
- Stewart played the accordion and hoped to do demonstrate his facility with the instrument in the 1957 picture Night Passage, but his playing was dubbed by a professional musician.
- James Stewart wore the same hat in all of his westerns.
- Stewart was very conservative, politically, supporting such presidential candidates as Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
- James Stewart was originally in line to play Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest, but because Vertigo had not done well at the box office, director Alfred Hitchcock went with Cary Grant instead.
- Stewart was a bachelor until age 41, but his marriage to former model Gloria Hatrick McLean was a happy one.
- James Stewart’s Best Actor Oscar statuette (The Philadelphia Story, 1940) was on display in the window of his father’s hardware store for 25 years.
- The word “Philadelphia” on that statuette was misspelled.
Happy birthday, Mr. Stewart, wherever you may be.
This story was first published in slightly different form in 2016.
Henry Fonda was born Henry Jaynes Fonda 112 years ago today in Grand Island, Nebraska. Here are 10 HF Did-You-Knows:
- Fonda and James Stewart were roommates early in their careers, first in New York and later in Hollywood, and were both known as ladies’ men. Their political views were diametrically opposed—Fonda was liberal, Stewart conservative—and after a argument over Hollywood blacklisting threatened to end their friendship in 1947, the pair agreed never to discuss politics again.
- As a young man in Omaha, Henry Fonda studied acting with Marlon Brando‘s mother, Dorothy.
- Fonda’s first wife was actress Margaret Sullavan; the two separated after just two months of marriage.
- Henry Fonda’s Dutch ancestors settled the still-extant town of Fonda, New York, in the early 1600s. Fonda also had English, Scottish, and Norwegian ancestry. The town of Fonda is situated 44 miles northwest of Albany, N.Y. and 54 miles southeast of Utica, N.Y.
- Among Fonda’s hobbies were bee-keeping and building model airplanes.
- Henry Fonda enlisted in the Navy in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” He was a recipient of the Bronze Star, the fourth highest award for bravery or meritorious service in conflict with the enemy.
- Fonda holds the record for the longest gap between acting Oscar nominations: His first nomination was for The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, his second for On Golden Pond in 1981.
- Though his movie career last more than 50 years, Henry Fonda continued to work in the theatre from time to time, as long as his health allowed it. From his debut on the Great White Way in 1929 to his final stage appearance in 1978, Fonda appeared in 16 Broadway productions.
- Fonda was offered the role of George in the original Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? His agent turned it down without consulting him, and Fonda was furious.
- Fonda won one Best Actor Academy Award (he was nominated another time), a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and one Tony award. He also won honorary lifetime achievement awards from the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Tonys and the American Film Institute.
Happy birthday, Mr. Fonda, wherever you may be!
This story originally appeared in a slightly different form in May 2016.