Here are 10 things you should know about James Cagney, born 123 years ago today. He worked on Broadway, in vaudeville, in radio and television, but he was a true force of nature on the silver screen.
Here are 10 things you should know about Paul Guilfoyle, born 119 years ago today. The character actor enjoyed success on stage and screen before becoming a director to close out his career.
Here are 10 things you should know about Joan Blondell, born 114 years ago today. She’s a favorite here at Cladrite Radio; if her name is in the credits, we’re watching.
The wonderful Joan Blondell was born into a vaudeville family 110 years ago today in New York City. A performer from early childhood, she provided a spark to just about any picture or program she appeared in. Here are 10 JB Did-You-Knows:
- Blondell toured with her family’s act, the Bouncing Blondells, until she was 17, at which point the family settled in Dallas, Texas.
- In Dallas, Blondell became a beauty contest contestant under the name Rosebud Blondell. She won the 1926 Miss Dallas pageant, was a finalist in an early version of the Miss Universe pageant in May of that year, and came in fourth in that year’s Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
- Blondell relocated to NYC around 1927 to join a stock theatrical company, and in 1930, she appeared on Broadway opposite James Cagney in a play called Penny Arcade (Cagney would soon make his film debut in the film version of the play, Sinners’ Holiday; Blondell was in that picture, too, but she already had a small handful of films to her credit at that point). Both Cagney and Blondell repeated their Broadway roles in the film version at the insistence of Al Jolson, who’d seen the play on Broadway and purchased the film rights, though the play had closed after just three weeks.
- Blondell and Cagney made six pictures together at Warner Brothers—more than any other actress.
- Blondell was a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1930.
- Blondell was married three times—to cinematographer George Barnes for just under three years, to actor and crooner Dick Powell for just under eight years and to theatrical impresario Michael Todd for just under three years. She had a son with Barnes and a daughter with Powell.
- When she signed with Warner Brothers, Jack Warner urged her to change her name—he thought Inez Holmes had a nice ring to it—but Blondell refused.
- In 1972, Blondell published a novel, Center Door Fancy, that was said to be something of a roman à clef, with characters based on former husband Dick Powell and his third wife, June Allyson, with whom he had an affair while married to Blondell.
- Blondell was nominated once for an Oscar, in the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in The Blue Veil (1951).
- In a career that lasted a half-century (if you count vaudeville, her career lasted 75 years), Blondell totaled more than 150 combined credits in pictures and on television. She worked until the very end, with her two final films released after her death of leukemia in 1979.
Happy birthday, Joan Blondell, wherever you may be!
The unforgettable James Cagney was born 117 years ago today on New York City’s Lower East Side. Here are ten JC Did-You-Knows:
- Cagney’s first show biz gig was as a female dancer in the chorus line of the 1919 Broadway revue, Every Sailor.
- Cagney was three-quarters Irish and one quarter Norwegian.
- Having grown up on the Lower East Side, Cagney was conversant in Yiddish.
- Cagney’s brother William (actor/producer) and sister Jeanne (actress) both worked in pictures, too.
- Cagney was a Black Belt in Judo.
- Cagney was married to wife Frances for 64 years.
- On March 26, 1984, Cagney was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Cagney and his wife, Frances, worked in vaudeville as “Vernon and Nye,” performing comedy routines and musical numbers.
- Cagney once operated a dance school for professional performers.
- Cagney’s first film, Sinner’s Holiday (1930), saw him and Joan Blondell reprising the roles they had played in Penny Arcade, the Broadway play on which the picture was based.
Happy birthday, James Cagney, wherever you may be!