Here’s to the self-reliant and very strong Ms. Joan Crawford on the 110th anniversary of her birth!
We’ve shared in this space before how fond we are of actress Kay Francis‘s oeuvre. Her movies, once called “women’s pictures,” would likely be dubbed “soap operas” by most observers today, but whatever tag you choose, the chance to see Kay suffer (she almost always suffered), adorned all the while in elegant gowns designed by the likes of Orry-Kelly and Adrian, is one not to be missed.
One attribute that makes Kay especially appealing is that she has one tiny flaw as an actress: She had trouble with her Rs, much as Elmer Fudd (opposite whom she never starred) struggled with his. To make it clearer for the uninitiated, Kay, were she still with us and if asked to introduce herself, would pronounce her own name, “Kay Fwancis.”
Today marks our Kay’s 110th birthday. She’s brought us much enjoyment over the years, and we’re happy to remember her on this day.
We are fascinated by Automats, those self-serve restaurants that asked diners to drop nickels in slots in order to raise one of dozens of small glass doors to access a serving a meatloaf or apple pie.
Horn and Hardart opened the United States’ first Automat in Philadelphia in 1902, but they are mostly closely associated with New York City, where they thrived for decades before dying off in the 1980s and early ’90s. There were only a handful remaining when we arrived in the Big Apple in 1982, and we just made it to the last one before it closed in 1991.
But the Automat lives on in old (and not-so-old) movies, and we’ve devoted a playlist on the Cladrite Radio Youtube channel to scenes depicting these grand old eateries.
The most recent addition, from a 1925 silent called The Early Bird, can be viewed below, but if you wish to see full playlist of a dozen clips (and you do, take it from us), just follow this link. You’ll enjoy scenes featuring Joan Crawford, Ray Milland, Jean Arthur, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Debbie Reynolds, Sylvia Sidney, and many more.
Today marks the 126th anniversary of the birth of the great Harpo Marx.
Born Adolph—he later changed his name to Arthur—Harpo was said by all who knew him to be the kindest and gentlest of men. When we first became fans of the Marx Brothers, it was Groucho to whom we were drawn, but over the years, the delightful film work of Harpo—and the very endearing stories of his life and career—have made Harpo a very close second favorite. If Groucho stills leads, it’s only by a nose.
Happy birthday, Harpo, wherever you may be!
We came across, as perhaps you did, too, a notice or two that actress Mona Freeman had passed away at the age of 87. Hers was a relatively modest career, though she had some well-known projects among her credits.
She starred in Black Beauty (1946), for example, and assayed smaller roles in The Heiress (1949) and Angel Face (1952), among many others, before moving on to a very active television career in the 1950s and ’60s.
After giving up acting, she devoted herself to painting, and not without success. Her portrait of Mary See, the mother of the founder of See’s Candy, a California-based company, can still be seen in many of the chain’s more than 200 shops across the country.
But what we didn’t know is that Freeman was, in 1941 and at the ripe old age of 14, named NYC’s very first Miss Subways (this despite the fact that she’d never ridden the subway at the time), which meant that her photograph appeared on a poster that was seen by millions of straphangers daily.
The Miss Subways program, undertaken to draw riders’ eyes to the advertisements that line the walls of commuter-filled cars, lasted until 1976. Approximately 200 young women were afforded the honor over that span.
But the very first of them was Mona Freeman, who died in her home in Beverly Hills on May 23.