Here are 10 things you should know about Thomas Mitchell, born 128 years ago today. A prolific character actor, he is perhaps best remembered today for his portrayal of the forgetful Uncle Billy in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946).
Here are 10 things you should know about Constance Cummings, born 110 years ago today. An American, she spent nearly three-quarters of her life and career in the U.K.
Actor Paul Muni was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund in what is now the Ukraine 121 years ago today. Here are 10 PM Did-You-Knows:
- Both of his parents were professional actors in the Yiddish theatre.
- Muni grew up speaking Yiddish. When he was seven, his family left Austria-Hungary and settled in Chicago.
- Beginning in 1908, Muni spent four years with New York’s Yiddish Art Theatre before moving on to work for the next 14 years with other Yiddish theatres in NYC.
- His first English-language role—and Broadway debut—was in a 1926 production of a play called We Americans. Though just 31 years of age, Muni portrayed an elderly man.
- Muni began his motion picture career in 1929, but continued to alternate between the Broadway stage and Hollywood.
- Muni, along with James Dean, is one of just two actors to receive an Oscar nomination for his first film role (The Valiant, 1929) and his last (The Last Angry Man, 1959). Muni totaled six Oscar nominations, winning once (Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Story of Louis Pasteur, 1936).
- Muni’s nickname was Munya.
- Muni suffered his entire life with a rheumatic heart.
- Muni turned down the role of Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941). The part eventually went to Humphrey Bogart.
- In 1956, Muni won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Henry Drummond in the play Inherit the Wind.
Happy birthday, Paul Muni, wherever you may be!
Our former neighbor Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske 92 years ago today in the Bronx, New York. Here are 10 LB Did-You-Knows:
Bacall’s mother emigrated from Romania as a child; her father, whose forebears came from Poland, was born in New Jersey.
Bacall was born in the Bronx, but grew up in Brooklyn after family moved to a residence on that borough’s Ocean Parkway. Her parents were divorced when she was five, and her father disappeared from her life. She would later take her mother’s maiden name
A wealthy uncle paid for Bacall’s schooling at the Highland Manor Boarding School for Girls in Tarrytown, New York, and at Julia Richman High School in Manhattan. In 1941, Bacall studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (Kirk Douglas was a classmate), working as a fashion model and ushering at the St. James Theatre to pay for her studies.
In 1942, Bacall made her Broadway debut in a small part in a play called Johnny 2 X 4. She was just 17 years old. That same year, she was crowned Miss Greenwich Village, which is where she was living with her mother at that time.
During this time, Bacall volunteered as a hostess at NYC’s Stage Door Canteen on Monday nights, when the theatres were dark.
In 1943, Bacall appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Director Howard Hawks‘ wife, Slim, spotted Bacall on the cover and convinced her husband to test the young model for his upcoming film, To Have and Have Not. Hawks asked his secretary to find out more about Bacall, but the secretary misunderstood and instead sent Bacall a ticket to Hollywood. Upon meeting Bacall, Hawks signed her to a seven-year contract.
Lauren Bacall lived in the Dakota at 72nd and Central Park West, the same building where John Lennon resided with spouse Yoko Ono (who still lives there). Bacall once told an interviewer that she heard the shot that killed the former Beatle near the building’s entrance, but thought it was a vehicle backfiring.
Bacall was a two-time Tony award winner, in the category of Best Actress (Musical), in 1970 for her role as Margo Channing in Applause! and in 1981 for Woman of the Year.
Bacall was nominated for one Oscar, in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and she was awarded a honorary Oscar in 2010 in recognition of her place in the Golden Age of motion pictures. Bacall was the only Oscar winner to have been married to two other Oscar winners (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards).
Her autobiography, By Myself, was a 1980 National Book Award winner.
Happy birthday, Lauren Bacall, wherever you may be!
Joe E. Brown was born Joseph Evans Brown 124 years ago today in Holgate, Ohio. He’s best remembered today for the role of millionaire Osgood Fielding III in Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot (1959), but he starred in dozens of feature-length comedies in the 1930s and ’40s. Here are 10 JEB Did-You-Knows:
- At the age of 10, Brown, with the blessings of his parents, joined a traveling tumbling act, the Five Marvellous Ashtons, that played vaudeville and circuses.
- In 1920, Brown made his Broadway debut in a review called Jim Jam Jems. Throughout that decade, he continued to hone his comic chops and in 1929, he was hired to star in comedy features for Warner Brothers.
- Though he appeared small onscreen and generally played ineffectual nebbishes, he was actually quite athletic, having played semi-pro baseball for a time, and his physique, occasionally displayed in his pictures, was very impressively defined.
- During World War II, Brown let his movie career lag while he worked tirelessly to entertain the troops in Europe. He was one of just two civilians to be awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts.
- After the war, Brown and his wife adopted two German-Jewish refugee girls, naming them Mary Katherine Ann and Kathryn Francis.
- Brown’s first-born son, Don Evan, who was a Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, died during World War II in a plane crash. His second son, Joe L. Brown, grew up to be a baseball executive, serving as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his tenure, the Bucs won the 1960 World Series, defeating the New York Yankees in a seven-game series.
- Beginning in 1924, Brown was a lifelong member of The Lambs, a NYC theatrical club that was found in 1874.
- In 1948, Brown won a special Tony award for his performance as Elwood P. Dowd in the touring company of Harvey. The award cited Brown for “spreading theater to the country while the original performs in New York.”
- Brown twice contributed first-person stories to Norman Vincent Peale‘s inspirational publication, Guideposts; the stories appeared in the June 1948 and June 1962 editions of the magazine.
- Joe and his wife, Kathryn were married nearly 58 years, until his death in 1973.
Happy birthday, Joe E. Brown, wherever you may be!