Happy 112th Birthday, Sterling Holloway!

Character actor Sterling Holloway was born 112 years ago today in Cedartown, Georgia. Here are 10 SH Did-You-Knows:

  • Holloway was the first of two sons born to grocer (and Cedartown mayor for one year when Sterling Jr. was seven years old) Sterling P. Holloway, Sr. and his wife, Rebecca.
  • Holloway graduated from Georgia Military Academy in 1920 and though only 15, he immediately left the South for New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (Spencer Tracy was a classmate and friend).
  • In his late teens, Holloway joined a touring company of The Shepherd of the Hills, performing in a series of one-nighters out west. Afterwards, he returned to NYC, where he performed small roles in Theatre Guild productions. He also was cast in the Rodgers and Hart review The Garrick Gaieties, in which he introduced the popular standard Manhattan.
  • In 1926, Holloway moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in pictures, and he would go on to appear in 100 of them. His bushy red hair and prominent features made him a natural for comedies, and he got his start in silent pictures, appearing in three shorts and one feature (Casey at the Bat [1927]).
  • In 1932, after four years without a film role (a director had reportedly told him he was “too repulsive” for silent pictures), Holloway began to work in talkies, where his high-pitched, chalky voice served him well, and he kept very busy indeed. From 1932-35, he averaged 10 pictures (some of them short subjects) a year.
  • Over the course of his 50-year, Holloway appeared in (or did voice work for) more than 100 features and shorts, and made nearly as many television appearances.
  • In addition to his picture and television work, Holloway worked frequently on radio, a medium to which his unique and memorable voice was well-suited. Among the shows to which Holloway lent his talents were The Railroad Hour, The United States Steel Hour, Suspense, Lux Radio Theater and Fibber McGee and Molly.
  • Holloway was one of the first actors to make the jump to television, appearing in 1949 on the anthology series Your Show Time, which featured half-hour adaptaions of literary short stories from the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson. It was the first American dramatic series to be shot on film and the first series to win an Emmy award.
  • Holloway frequently did voice work for animated features, including Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Alice in Wonderland (1951), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970) and perhaps most famously, he provided the voice of Winnie the Pooh in Disney’s popular series of Pooh featurettes.
  • College Street, where the Holloway family resided in Cedartown, is now called Sterling Holloway Place and there’s a plaque at the site of his boyhood home.

Happy birthday, Sterling Holloway, wherever you may be!

Sterling Holloway

Happy 111th Birthday, Joel McCrea!

Joel McCrea, who was born 111 years ago today in South Pasadena, California, is a favorite of ours. Though he eventually settled into a long run of western pictures, he had previously proven to be adept at many other types of roles, too, from screwball and romantic comedies to thrillers and dramas. Here are 10 JM Did-You-Knows:

  • McCrea’s father was an executive with the L.A. Gas & Electric Company; his mother was a Christian Science practitioner. McCrea had a paper route, delivering the Los Angeles Times to D. W. Griffith and other prominent members of the film community.
  • McCrea graduated from Hollywood High School and was a member of the class of ’28 at Pomona College. While in college, he took drama courses and appeared in school productions and also in plays at the Pasadena Playhouse.
  • While in high school, McCrea was already working in the film industry. An adept horseman, he worked as a stunt double and “reins holder” for stars such as William S. Hart and Tom Mix.
  • Just out of college, McCrea signed with MGM, appearing in The Jazz Age (1929) and earning his first lead role in The Silver Horde (1930). In 1930, he signed with RKO and began to establish his reputation as a handsome leading man.
  • McCrea was good friends with Will Rogers, and the Oklahoma cowboy did much to boost McCrea’s career. It was Rogers who encouraged McCrea to put his money into real estate, and that advice made McCrea a millionaire. In fact, he earned more money in real estate than he did as an actor over his 50-year career.
  • Katharine Hepburn, close friends with McCrea and his wife, actress Frances Dee, admired McCrea’s abilities as an actor, ranking him with Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy.
  • McCrea came by his affinity for all things western—roping, riding, ranching—naturally. His grandfather was a stagecoach driver who survived confrontations with Apache Indians.
  • McCrea turned down the lead role in The Postman Aways Rings Twice (1946) that eventually went to John Garfield.
  • McCrea got to meet Wyatt Earp in 1928 and had the chance to portray the western legend in Wichita (1955).
  • McCrea had the opportunity to reunite with his The More, The Merrier (1943) costars, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn, in The Impatient Years (1944), but declined the role, which would have found him playing a serviceman, saying, “If I’m too old to be called, I was too old for that kind of show.”

Happy birthday, Joel McCrea, wherever you may be!

Joel McCrea

Dickie Moore Takes His Final Bow

Some years ago, we were lucky enough to attend a special event at NYC’s Film Forum: A Q&A with actors Jane Powell and her husband, Dickie Moore (he went by Dick in his post-Hollywood professional life, but we’ll always think of him as Dickie).

Powell, of course, achieved renown for her work in musicals for MGM, while Moore … well, Moore’s career is not so easily characterized. He started working at the age of 11 months in a 1927 silent picture called Our Beloved Rogue opposite John Barrymore, and he was featured in the Our Gang series in 1932–1933.

He also had the distinct honor of planting her first on-screen smooch on Shirley Temple in a feature called Miss Annie Rooney (1942). And at the age of 21, he played a deaf-mute young man opposite Robert Mitchum in one of the greatest of films noir, Out of the Past.

It was a delight to see these two Hollywood veterans in tandem that night. They couldn’t have been more charming, and their mutual respect and affection was readily apparent—in short, they were darned cute together—as they delighted those assembled with insider tales of Hollywood’s glory days.

So it with sadness that we share news of Mr. Moore’s passing on Thursday, just two days short of his 90th birthday.

Dickie Moore was perhaps the busiest of child actors (we can’t think of a more prolific one), and he acted opposite the greatest names of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Warren William, Mary Astor, Ginger Rogers, Lionel Barrymore, Mae Clarke, Ann Harding, Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young, Glenda Farrell, Kay Francis, Barbara Stanwyck and so many more.

In his memoir, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, Dickie Moore bemoaned the struggles that so many child actors experience not only when they’re working steadily, but also as they grow older and their careers wane. We dearly hope and trust that Moore’s own post-Hollywood path was a bit smoother and that he experienced no regrets about his years in Hollywood. He certainly gave movie buffs from the 1930s through today much to be thankful for.

Rest in peace, Mr. Moore, and thanks.

Dickie Moore quote

Happy Birthday, Katharine Hepburn!

They broke the mold when they made Katharine Hepburn 108 years ago today. She went on to flirt with the century mark, dying at age 96 twelve years ago next month, but doesn’t it seem as if she’s still here among us? It’s that way with the legends of the silver screen, we suppose—at least it feels that way for those of us who remain devoted to them.

Happy birthday, Ms. Hepburn. Here’s hoping you’re giving them heck wherever you may be.

Katharine Hepburn quote