Happy 115th (or thereabouts) Birthday, Norma Shearer!

There seems to be widespread confusion regarding Norma Shearer’s date of birth. Some sources say she was born on August 10, others say August 11, and The New York Times​, in its 1983 obituary, cites August 15. The year is in question too: Was she born in 1900, 1902 or 1904?

We trying to cover all our bases by sharing this tribute on the 10th but using the 11th as her birthdate in the video. Whichever date you prefer, we hope you enjoy the video. Happy birthday, Ms. Shearer, wherever you may be!

Here are 10 things you should know about Norma Shearer…

Happy 110th Birthday, Robert Young!

Robert Young, born 110 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois, is best remembered nowadays for his television roles as a wise and affable dad on Father Knows Best and a kindly doctor on Marcus Welby, M.D., but Young also enjoyed a successful movie career in the 1930s and ’40s (he even had extra roles and bit parts in silent pictures in the late ’20s). Here are 10 RY Did-You-Knows:

  • Young’s father was an Irish immigrant who moved his family from the Midwest first to Seattle and then to Los Angeles before abandoning the family when Robert was 10 years old. Young would go on to attend Abraham Lincoln High School.
  • After high school, Young studied and performed at the famed Pasadena Playhouse before touring with a stock production of a play called The Ship.
  • Young was discovered by an M-G-M talent scout and made his talkie debut in 1931 in a Charlie Chan picture called Black Camel. Young appeared in more than 100 pictures over the next two decades.
  • Young was occasionally given the kind of role so frequently assigned to Franchot Tone and Robert Montgomery–spoiled young men from well-to-do families, but Young, while a reliable performer, was considered less appealing as a leading man than those two actors. “He has no sex appeal,” Louis B. Mayer is reported to have said of Young.
  • Young and his wife, Betty, met when he was 17 and she was 14. They would be married for more than 60 years and had four daughters.
  • Young tended to play amiable all-American types, but by the mid-1940s, after his contract with M-G-M came to an end, he was given a number of opportunities to play darker characters, even appearing in a handful of pictures that are today considered film noir classics.
  • As his movie career wound down in the late 1940s and into the ’50s, Young began to work more frequently in radio. In fact, it was on radio that he first assayed the role of insurance salesman Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best, which ran from 1949–54 on radio and on television from 1954-60.
  • Young was the only cast member to be carried over from the radio version of Father Knows Best to the television series.
  • During the 1960s, Young did occasional guest shots on television series and appeared in TV movies, including Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Matter of Humanities, which spawned a popular series by that same name (without the subtitle) that ran util 1976.
  • Young struggled with depression for more than four decades (and with alcoholism for more than 30 years) before conquering both in his later years.

Happy birthday, Robert Young, wherever you may be!

Robert Young

Happy 112th Birthday, Greer Garson!

The lovely Greer Garson was born Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson 112 years ago today in London, England. Here are 10 GG Did-You-Knows:

  • Garson was of Scottish and Ulster-Scots descent. Her father was a commercial clerk.
  • She attended King’s College London with the intention of becoming a teacher, but the acclaim she received while working on local theatrical productions gave her the acting bug.
  • In 1937, Garson appeared in a thirty-minute television production of an excerpt from Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night. The production is thought to have been the first performance of a Shakespeare play on TV.
  • Louis B. Mayer signed Garson to a contract in 1937 while on a talent search in London. Her first film was Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1938), for which she received an Oscar nomination.
  • Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, including five consecutive Best Actress nominations, an achievement that tied Bette Davis for the record (which still stands), and a Best Actress win for Mrs. Miniver (1942). After the announcement that she had won, Garson gave the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history, clocking in at five minutes and 30 seconds (another record that still stands).
  • Garson married Richard Ney after filming Mrs. Miniver, in which he played her son. He was the second of her two husbands; their marriage lasted just over five years.
  • A fire in Garson’s home destroyed her Oscar; the Academy provided a replacement.
  • Garson was envious of all the comedy roles Lucille Ball received while the two were both at MGM in the 1940s; for her part, Ball wished she were given more dramatic roles, as Garson was.
  • Garson accepted Oscars for two actress who weren’t present for the Academy Awards ceremony: Vivian Leigh in 1952 and Sophia Loren in 1962.
  • She played Walter Pidgeon‘s wife eight times in twelve years: Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver, Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), Julia Misbehaves (1948), That Forsyte Woman (1949), The Miniver Story (1950) and Scandal at Scourie (1953).

Happy birthday, Greer Garson, wherever you may be!

Greer Garson

Happy 114th Birthday, Norma Shearer!

There seems to be widespread confusion regarding Norma Shearer’s birthday. Some sources say she was born on August 10, some say August 11, and The New York Times, in its obituary for her, cites August 15. The year is in question too: Was she born in 1900, 1902 or 1904? Biography.com lists her birth as occurring in 1900 and 1902.

We’re going with August 10, 1900, but we cannot promise that’s correct….

Norma Shearer was born Edith Norma Shearer 114 years ago today in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Here are 10 Did-You-Knows about the former Queen of MGM:

  • Shearer, who won a beauty contest at 14, moved to NYC with her (stage) mother and sister Athole (who would later marry legendary director Howard Hawks) four years later. After Florenz Ziegfeld passed on casting Shearer in his Follies, she got some small roles in movies.
  • Irving Thalberg saw some of her early movie work and in 1923 signed Shearer to a contract with with Louis B. Mayer Pictures, a precursor of MGM, where he was vice-president.
  • Shearer made eight—count ’em, 8!—feature pictures in 1924.
  • Shearer converted to Judaism to marry Thalberg in 1927 and continued to observe the faith after his death and for the rest of her life.
  • Norma’s brother, Douglas, won twelve Academy Awards for his work as a sound designer. The pair were the first brother-and-sister tandem to win Oscars.
  • At a point in her career when she appeared in only prestige productions, she played a part in The Stolen Jools (1931), a star-studded short subject intended to raise money for a tuberculosis sanatorium, as the owner of the titular “jools.” Also in the film were such luminaries as Wallace Beery, Buster Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Laurel and Hardy, and members of the Our Gang cast.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have based one of his stories, “Crazy Sunday,” on one of Shearer’s parties and the story’s protagonist, Stella Calman, on Shearer herself.
  • Weak eye muscles gave Shearer a slightly crossed eye; she worked with eye doctors to improve it and cameramen to disguise it.
  • She was the third woman to win the Best Actress Oscar and the second of three consecutive Canadians to win it (Mary Pickford won it in 1929 and Marie Dressler in 1931).
  • Among the roles she is reported to have turned down were Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind), Mrs. Miniver, and Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard). Of Scarlett, she said, “Scarlett O’Hara is going to be a thankless and difficult role. The part I’d like to play is Rhett Butler.”

Happy birthday, Norma Shearer, wherever you may be!

Norma Shearer