Here are 10 things you should know about Robert Armstrong, born 130 years ago today. Best remembered for his association with a certain giant ape, he amassed more than 200 film and TV credits.
Jean Harlow, the original Blonde Bombshell, was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter 106 years ago today in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are 10 JH Did-You-Knows:
- Harlow, the daughter of a dentist and his wife, left home at 16 to marry Charles McGrew, a businessman seven years her senior. The pair moved to Los Angeles, where Harlow was soon garnering assignments as an extra in pictures.
- Her marriage to McGrew ended after just two years, allowing Harlow to focus on her career. She soon graduated from extra work to bit parts in features and shorts.
- Harlow’s big break came in 1930 when she was cast in Howard Hughes‘ World War I epic, Hell’s Angels. The picture’s premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was reported to have drawn a crowd of 50,000 people.
- Hughes sold Harlow’s contract to MGM, where her star continued to ascend. Her work in Frank Capra‘s Platinum Blonde (1931) was very well received, and the following year she was paired with Clark Gable in John Ford‘s Red Dust, the second of six pictures she and Gable would appear in together during her short career.
- Harlow is said to have turned down lead role in Freaks (1932) and King Kong (1933).
- Harlow served as godmother to Millicent Siegel, the daughter of gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. She also dated mobster Abner “Longie” Zwillman, who advanced her career by loaning Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, $500,000.
- In 1935, Harlow demanded more money from MGM, refusing to work until they assented, and while she was on strike, she wrote a novel, Today Is Tonight. It wasn’t published until 1965, early thirty years after her death.
- Both Harlow and Marilyn Monroe starred opposite Gable in their final pictures—Harlow in Saratoga (1937) and Monroe in The Misfits (1961). Monroe idolized Harlow and refused the chance to play her in a biopic because she felt the script was not respectful to Harlow.
- At the time of her death, Harlow was engaged to actor William Powell (and had been for two years). Had the pair married, Powell would have been Harlow’s fourth husband.
- Though rumors long persisted that her mother, a Christian Scientist, refused medical care for her daughter, or that Harlow died of alcohol abuse, sunstroke, poisoning due to her platinum hair dye or any of a number of other causes, Harlow’s passing, at the young age of 26, came as a result of kidney failure.
Happy birthday, Jean Harlow, wherever you may be!
Fay Wray was born Vina Fay Wray 109 years today in Cardston, Alberta. We have a special fondness for Ms. Wray, given that, some years ago, we enjoyed a brief but memorable encounter with her. Here are 10 FW Did-You-Knows:
- Though born in Canada, Wray grew up in Utah and Southern California and began working as an extra in pictures as a teen. Her first credited roles were in westerns made at Universal.
- In 1926, The Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers chose her as one of thirteen young actresses most likely to be stars in Hollywood (Janet Gaynor and Mary Astor were among the other twelve chosen that year).
- After early success in westerns, Wray became known as a scream queen, due to a run of horror pictures she made in the early 1930s, among them King Kong, Doctor X, Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Bat and The Most Dangerous Game.
- Wray was paid $10,000 for her work in King Kong, a picture that was so successful it is said to have saved RKO Pictures from bankruptcy.
- Wray valued her writing abilities over her acting career. She published an autobiography—On the Other Hand: A Life Story—and saw one of her plays, The Meadowlark, produced. (She collaborated with Sinclair Lewis on another play, Angela Is Twenty-Two.)
- She was offered the role of Rose in Titanic (1997), but turned it down, leaving the role open for Gloria Stuart.
- Though she lived there only a few years, there is a fountain in Cardston that is named after Wray.
- In the 1950s, Wray worked frequently on television, appearing twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in three episodes of Perry Mason, among many others.
- Peter Jackson had hoped to have Wray speak the final line in his 2005 remake of King Kong, but she passed away, aged 96, before the picture finished filming.
- Two days later, the lights on the Empire State Building were dimmed for 15 minutes as a tribute to her.
Happy birthday, Fay Wray, wherever you may be!
We’re giving away not one, not two, but three “Sons of Kong” boxed DVD sets to lucky Cladrite Radio followers. Each set comes with 10 movies on three discs, and a goofier gaggle of gorilla pictures you’d be hard-pressed to find.
Just check out these titles:
- The Ape (1940), starring Boris Karloff
- Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952), starring, well, you can guess
- The Gorilla (1939), starring the Ritz Brothers and Bela Lugosi)
- The Ape Man (1943), starring—wait for it—Bela Lugosi
- Bride of the Gorilla (1951), starring Barbara Payton and Raymond Burr (sorry, no Bela in this one, but will Lon Chaney Jr. do?)
- The Savage Girl (1932), starring Rochelle Hudson
- The White Gorilla (1945), starring Ray Corrigan
- Law of the Jungle (1942), starring Arline Judge
- White Pongo (1945), starring Richard Fraser
- Nabonga (1944), starring Buster Crabbe and Julie London (yes, that Julie London)
We’re confident you’ll agree that that’s one impressive assortment of simian silliness. And this bounty of cinematic missteps comes in pop-up packaging that you’ll be proud to display in your home!
How to enter? Easy. Just follow us on Facebook and Twitter (if you haven’t followed us on either or both of those platforms, now’s your chance to rectify that—just follow the links on the upper left), watch for our posts/tweets about the giveaway and share/retweet them with the hashtag #crgorillagiveaway. You can enter once per post per platform. The entry period ends at midnight ET on Wednesday, July 6. (Sorry, this giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.)