Tag Archives: film

Almanac – May11

1811 – Chang and Eng Bunker born.  Conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term “Siamese twins”.

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1812 – British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval  assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons, London.

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1894 – Martha Graham born. American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on the modern visual arts,  Stravinsky had on music, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.

She danced and choreographed for over seventy years –  “I have spent all my life with dance and being a dancer. It’s permitting life to use you in a very intense way. Sometimes it is not pleasant. Sometimes it is fearful. But nevertheless it is inevitable.”

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1904 – Salvador Dalí born. Spanish surrealist painter,  best known for the striking and bizarre images. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

Dalí attributed his “love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes” to a self-styled “Arab lineage“, claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.

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1981 – Bob Marley died.  Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician.

He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for  The Wailers (1963-1974) and Bob Marley & The Wailers (1974–1981).

 Marley remains the most widely known and the best-selling performer of reggae music, having sold more than 75 million albums worldwide. He is also credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.

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Almanac – May 06

1895 – Rudolph Valentino born.  Italian actor  and  an early pop icon.

A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the “Latin Lover“, and  starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and The Son of the Sheik.

His death at age 31 caused mass hysteria among his female fans, further propelling him into icon status.

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1915 – Orson Welles born.  American actor, director, writer and producer who worked extensively in theater, radio and film.

He is best remembered for his innovative work in all three media, most notably Caesar (1937), a groundbreaking Broadway adaption of Julius Caesar and the debut of the Mercury Theatre;

The War of the Worlds (1938), one of the most famous broadcasts in the history of radio;

and Citizen Kane (1941), which is consistently ranked as one of the all-time greatest films.

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1992 – Marlene Dietrich died.  German  actress and singer.

Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically.

In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, brought her international fame and provided her a contract with Paramount Pictures in the US.

Hollywood films such as Shanghai Express and Desire capitalised on her glamour and exotic looks, cementing her stardom and making her one of the highest-paid actresses of the era.

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Almanac – April 26

1886 – Ma Rainey born. One of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. she has been  billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She  was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition, though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry’s poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.

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1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque), Spain  bombed by German Luftwaffe, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths – the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. It was depicted by Heinz Kiwitz, a German artist who made a woodcut of it  and later was killed fighting in the International Brigades.

The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and a poem by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais entitled Guernica.

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1938 – Duane Eddy born.  American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically “twangy” sound, including “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, and “Because They’re Young“. He had sold 12 million records by 1963.

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1940 – Giorgio Moroder born. Italian record producer, songwriter and performer.

When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records.

 He collaborated with Donna Summer during the  disco era (including “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love“) and was the founder of the former Musicland Studios in Munich, which was used as a recording studio by artists including the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Elton John.

Moroder also produced a number of electronic disco hits for The Three Degrees, two albums for Sparks, songs for performers including David Bowie, Irene Cara, Madleen Kane, Melissa Manchester, Blondie, Japan, and France Joli.

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1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee died.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act.

She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a “high-class” stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast.  Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number “Zip!” from Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared.

Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

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Almanac – April 19

1791 – Richard Price died.  British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution.

He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the Constitution of the United States. He spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, where possibly the congregant he most influenced was early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who extended his ideas on the egalitarianism inherent in the spirit of the French Revolution to encompass women’s rights as well.

In addition to his work as a moral and political philosopher, he also wrote on issues of statistics and finance, and was inducted into the Royal Society for these contributions.

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1928 – Alexis Korner born.  Blues musician and radio broadcaster, who has sometimes been referred to as “a Founding Father of British Blues”

A major influence on the sound of the British music scene in the 1960s, he was instrumental in bringing together various English blues musicians.

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1933 – Jayne Mansfield born. American actress in film, theatre, and television, a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of the early Playboy Playmates. She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163.  She spoke five languages, including English,  fluent French and Spanish, German that she learned in high school, and she studied Italian .

 Reputed to be Hollywood’s “smartest dumb blonde”, she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: “They’re more interested in 40–21–35,” she said.

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Almanac – February 27

1940 – Bill Hunter born.  Australian actor of film, stage and television, appearing in more than 60 films.

Of acting, Hunter said, “As long as the direc­tor told me where to stand and what to say, I was happy. Any­one who says there’s any more to it than that, is full of bullshit. … It’s a job. It is a craft, but there’s no art involved. What you need is com­mon sense and a rea­son­ably rough head. You put on the makeup and the wardrobe, and that is half the per­for­mance. That upsets the purists, but never mind, they don’t work as much as I do.”

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1968 – Frankie Lymon died. American rock and roll/rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, best known as the boy soprano lead singer of a New York City-based early rock and roll group, The Teenagers.

He was found dead from a heroin overdose, aged 25,  in his grandmother’s bathroom .

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2006 – Linda Smith died.  British stand-up comic and comedy writer. She appeared regularly on Radio 4 panel games, and was voted “Wittiest Living Person” by listeners in 2002.

Her style was described as beguiling, apparently vulnerable and whimsical, but often waspish. She excelled at deadpan diatribes about everyday irritations.

She died as a consequence of ovarian cancer at the age of 48.

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Almanac – February 25

1993 – Eddie Constantine died.  American  actor and singer who spent his career working in Europe.

He became well known for a series of French B movies in which he played secret agent Lemmy Caution and is now best remembered for his role in Jean-Luc Godard‘s philosophical science fiction film Alphaville (1965).

Constantine also appeared in films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (as himself in Beware of a Holy Whore 1971), Lars von Trier, and Mika Kaurismäki. He continued reprising the role of Lemmy Caution well into his 70s; his final appearance as the character was in Jean-Luc Godard’s Allemagne 90 neuf zéro (1991).

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