Here are 10 things you should know about Kirk Douglas, who is celebrating his 103rd birthday today. Here’s wishing him many happy returns of the day!
Here are 10 things you should know about Dickie Moore, born 93 years ago today. Some years ago, we were lucky enough to attend a special event at NYC’s Film Forum: a Q&A with Moore and his wife, actress Jane Powell.
It was a delight to see these two Hollywood veterans in tandem that night. They couldn’t have been more charming, and their mutual affection and respect was readily apparent—in short, they were darned cute together—as they delighted those assembled with insider tales of Hollywood’s glory days.
Moore was darned cute in the movies back in the day, too. He’s one of our favorite child actors of the 1930s.
Film noir royalty Jane Greer was born 94 years ago today. If asked which actress we’d choose to have pull a gun on us, Ms. Greer would top our short list.
- Douglas’ parents emigrated to the United States from what is now Belarus (it was at the time part of the Russian Empire). As Douglas wrote in his autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, “My father, who had been a horse trader in Russia, got himself a horse and a small wagon, and became a ragman, buying old rags, pieces of metal, and junk for pennies, nickels, and dimes. … Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder. And I was the ragman’s son.”
- Douglas worked many odd jobs in his youth before attending St. Lawrence University. Upon graduation, he was given a special scholarship to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. One of his classmates there was Betty Joan Perske (Lauren Bacall, don’tcha know).
- Coming from a poor family, Douglas struggled greatly while studying at the American Academy, so much so that Bacall, who had acquired a crush on Douglas, gave him one of her uncle’s old coats. Douglas and Bacall were good pals, but never romantic.
- In 1941, Kirk Douglas enlisted in the Navy, where he served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. He received a medical discharge in 1944, due to injuries he’d received.
- Douglas planned to pursue a life in the theatre, but Hollywood came calling in 1946 when Bacall, who was already a success in pictures, recommended him to producer Hal Wallis to play opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).
- Among Douglas’ most memorable early roles were his portrayals of a steely gangster in the film noir classic Out of the Past (1947) and an unscrupulous boxer in Champion (1949). The latter gave Douglas the first of his three Oscar nominations in the Best Leading Actor category.
- Douglas made his Broadway debut in Katharine Cornell‘s production of Chekov‘s Three Sisters.
- In January 1981, Douglas, who has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the US State Department since 1963, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter.
- Douglas suffered a severe stroke in 1996 that impaired his ability to speak, but he diligently pursued treatment and rehabilitation and just weeks later, when he received a honorary Academy Award “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community,” he was able to be on hand to deliver an inspiring acceptance speech to those on hand and millions more watching on television.
- Douglas is the author of no fewer than 10 books.
Happy birthday, Kirk Douglas, and many happy returns of the day!
Jane Greer was born Bettejane Greer 92 years ago today in Washington, D.C. If she had played no other role in a motion picture than Kathie Moffat, the femme fatale who bedeviled Robert Mitchum in the noir classic Out of the Past, she’d be remembered with great fondness in the Cladrite household.
Here are 10 JG Did-You-Knows:
- As a child Greer suffered from a facial palsy that partially paralyzed her face. She credited the facial exercises she performed to overcome the condition helped her expressiveness as an actress.
- After winning beauty contests and working as a model as a teen, Greer began her career as a performer singing (in phonetic Spanish) with the dance orchestra of Enrique Madriguera.
- Howard Hughes spotted Greer in a 1942 modeling spread in Life magazine and brought her to Hollywood to work in pictures.
- Greer married Rudy Vallée in 1943, in order, it was said in some circles, to escape the overly possessive and controlling Hughes. She was 19; he was 42. We’re big Rudy fans, but he was an oddball on his best day and this has to be as one of the unlikeliest pairings in Hollywood history. The couple separated after just three months of marriage and divorced five months later.
- Greer had her name legally changed from Bettejane to Jane in December 1945. About her birth name, she said, “Mine is a sissy name. It’s too bo-peepish, ingenueish, for the type of role I’ve been playing. It’s like Mary Lou or Mary Ann.”
- Greer was a descendant of the poet John Donne.
- Greer had three sons with second husband Edward Lasker, an attorney and business, to whom she was married for 16 years. TWo of her sons, Alex and Lawrence, worked in Hollywood in the 1980s and ’90s as writers and producers.
- Her longest romantic relationship was a 36-year domestic partnership with actor and dialogue coach Frank London that lasted until his death in 2001. She passed away six months later.
- In addition to the 28 motion pictures she appeared in, Greer worked extensively on television, beginning in 1953 with an appearance on The Revlon Mirror Theater and ending in 1990 with a recurring role in the second season of Twin Peaks.
- Greer had a twin brother named Don.
Happy birthday, Jane Greer, wherever you may be!