Happy 122nd Birthday, Jean Renoir!

Jean Renoir, one of our very favorite directors, was born 122 years ago today in Paris, France. Enjoy our 10 JR Did-You-Knows, then make it a point to watch one of Renoir’s classic pictures tonight: Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, La Bête Humaine or any of a dozen others.

  • Renoir was a member of a very artistic family: His father was Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter; his older brother Pierre was a prominent actor, and his nephew, Claude, was a successful cinematographer.
  • When Jean was a small boy, his father insisted he keep his hair long (one of Auguste’s most famous paintings depicts young Jean with flowing locks), which led to him being teased by other boys. So Jean was initially relieved to be sent off to boarding school because he knew he’d be required to have his hair cut short.
  • Renoir was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal while serving in World War I.
  • His first artistic endeavor, undertaken at his father’s suggestion, was making ceramics, but he soon left that pursuit behind in favor of filmmaking.
  • Orson Welles frequently praised Renoir as the greatest film director of all time. Charlie Chaplin made a similar pronouncement.
  • Renoir frequently acted in his own films, usually playing lovable lugs.
  • Renoir was married twice, with one partner, Marguerite Renoir, in between—the pair never married, but she did take his name.
  • Renoir left Paris during the Nazi occupation and took up residence in Hollywood.
  • In 1975, he received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his contributions to the motion picture industry.
  • Renoir eventually became a naturalized American citizen, but following his death, he was interred in France after being given a state funeral.

Joyeux anniversaire, Jean Renoir, wherever you may be!

Jean Renoir

Happy 95th Birthday, Judy Holliday!

The delightful Judy Holliday, born Judith Tuvim in New York City 95 years ago today, appeared in fewer than a dozen pictures and starred or was featured in fewer than that, but her impact on Hollywood was indelible. She remains one of our very favorites.

Here are 10 Judy Holliday Did-You-Knows:

  • Holliday grew up in Sunnyside, Queens and graduated from Julia Richman High School.
  • Holiday was rejected by Yale Drama School out of high school.
  • She went on to work briefly as a switchboard operator in Orson WellesMercury Theater.
  • Early in her career, Judy Holliday was a member of a cabaret group called The Revuers that was founded by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
  • She made her motion picture debut in a small role in Greenwich Village (1944). After two more bits parts that year, she returned to New York City and the theatre for five years.
  • Prior to its Broadway debut, Holliday replaced Jean Arthur as Billie Dawn in Garson Kanin‘s play Born Yesterday. Though there was talk of casting Rita Hayworth in the movie adaptation of the play, Katharine Hepburn, impressed by Holliday’s work in Adam’s Rib (1949), helped Holliday nab the screen role.
  • Though she was associated with dumb blonde roles, Judy Holliday’s IQ was said to be 172.
  • Holiday was investigated in 1950 (and eventually cleared) by the FBI due to allegations that she was a Communist. In 1952, she was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee regarding those same allegations. She wasn’t blacklisted as a results of the (unfounded) rumors surrounding her, but it is thought her career was negatively impacted.
  • Holliday won the 1957 Tony Award as best actress in a musical for Bells Are Ringing. She went on to play the same role in the 1960 film version opposite Dean Martin.
  • Holliday wrote a number of songs with jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan; he wrote the melodies, she wrote the lyrics. They also recorded an album, Holliday with Mulligan, together

Judy Holliday died of cancer three weeks before her 44th birthday, on June 7, 1965.

Happy birthday, Ms. Holliday, wherever you may be; you are sorely missed!

Judy Holliday

An OTR Christmas, Day 4

Today’s Christmas-themed old-time radio program is a drama, an episode of the very popular mystery program, The Shadow. This episode, “The Stockings Were Hung,” first aired on on Christmas Eve, 1939.

If you’ve never before listened to an installment of The Shadow, you’ll want to listen carefully to the show’s opening—“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows….”

If the voice sounds familiar to you, it should—it’s Orson Welles (Welles also portrays Lamont Cranston, the Shadow’s alter-ego).

The Shadow: “The Stockings Were Hung”—December 24, 1939 (24:49)