DCS: mary ure

eileen

As an elementary school student in her native Scotland, Mary Ure express an interest in acting. In her final year as a student at the Royal Albert Hall’s Central School of Speech and Drama, Mary was offered an opportunity to join the BBC’s Radio Drama Company. She declined. Instead she pursued a successful career on the London stage where she was recognized form her skills as a dramatic actress.

Mary’s reputation brought her to Broadway, In 1958, her performance in Look Back in Anger earned a Tony nomination. The following year, she was cast in the film version of the play opposite Richard Burton. She continued to act in both films and on the stage for the next decade, although it became difficult to maintain both careers. In 1974, Mary was fired from the stage production of Love for Love and replaced by her understudy, Glenn Close.

In 1963, Mary married actor Robert Shaw, her co-star in the play The Changeling. The couple appeared in several plays and films together.

Mary had been dealing with mental health issues for most of her life. Her problems were exacerbated by her heavy alcohol consumption. In 1974, she appeared on the London stage in The Exorcism with actress Honor Blackman and rehearsals were not going well. After a disastrous opening night. Mary was found dead by her husband. She had succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Mary was 42 years old.

 

 

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DCS: renée adorée

reborn and adored

Jeanne de la Fonte began performing with her family in their circus act and drew acclaim throughout her native France and Europe. Just into her 20s, she came to the United States and appeared in a musical revue in Washington DC, using the stage name “Renée Adorée.” The show, Oh Uncle!, was a hit and Renée’s dancing skills landed her roles in several more productions, including an opening at the Schubert Theater in New York City in 1919.

In 1920, she was cast in director Raoul Walsh’s silent film The Strongest. Based on favorable reviews, Renée made several more films. At the end of the year, she met and married Tom Moore, a popular actor 15 years her senior. The couple divorced after three years and Renée married again just a few months later.

Renée starred in one of MGM’s biggest hits, the 1925 war melodrama The Big Parade. She followed that film with the Howard Hughes-produced The Mating Call, in which she appeared in a controversial nude scene. She made a smooth transition to sound films in 1928, unlike a lot of actors at the time.

In 1930, with 45 films to her credit, Renée was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Against doctor’s orders, she continued to work on the film Call of the Flesh with co-star Ramón Novarro. At the movie’s completion, she was rushed to a hospital. She recovered, but the disease weakened her severely. Attempting to resume her acting career, Renée struggled and eventually resigned from the spotlight. She passed away in 1933 at the age of 35.

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IF: cat

ev'rybody wants to be a cat

I loved Batman, the campy cool TV series whose episodes were broadcast twice weekly on ABC for two of its three-season run from 1966 until 1968. Batman, starring Adam West, in his best ultra-suave put-on, featured a “who’s who” of Hollywood notables in guest villain roles throughout the entire 120-episode run. Since the show appealed to mostly the under 13 demographic, a lot of these featured celebrities were unknown to its target audience. However, moms and dads (like my mom and dad) recognized these personalities immediately, reminisced about their heyday and relished their hammy appearances. As a six-year old, I had no clue that Cesar Romero was a dashing leading man of 1940s cinema or Burgess Meredith was a respected veteran of dozens of films and was briefly wed to screen siren Paulette Goddard. To me, they were larger-than-life cartoons, menacing the Caped Crusaders from the confines of a cockeyed camera shot.

When the third season of Batman began, series favorite Julie Newmar left the role of “Catwoman,” the Dark Knight’s sultry antagonist. She was replaced by the equally sultry Eartha Kitt. This was a pretty groundbreaking move for 1968, considering that no reference was made or concern was given to the fact that Miss Kitt was African-American. She still flirted with the whiter-than-white West and, surprisingly, no one put up a fuss. Eartha Kitt appeared as “Catwoman” on three episodes of Batman (not counting two uncredited cameos announcing the she would be the guest of the following week’s episode). At my young age, I knew as much about Eartha Kitt’s career as I did about nuclear physics, but prior to donning that skin-tight catsuit, what a career she had.

Eartha had a sketchy childhood. According to one story, she was born to a Cherokee/African mother on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, a birth that was the result of rape. Her mother married a black man who refused to care for young Eartha because of her pale complexion. Eartha was passed around from relative to relative until she wound up in Harlem, New York where she lived with her Aunt Mamie and attended the Metropolitan Vocational High School (later renamed the High School of Performing Arts).

Eartha’s career took off during her stint with the Katherine Dunham Company, a performance troupe where she honed her singing skills and perfected her dancing. In the 1950s, Eartha released a slew of popular songs including “Let’s Do It,” “C’est si bon,” “Just an Old Fashioned Girl,” “Monotonous,” “Love for Sale” and her famous holiday favorite “Santa Baby.” From performing in Europe, Eartha learned and spoke fluent French, as well as German and Dutch. She sang and recorded songs in eleven different languages throughout her career.

Orson Welles gave Eartha her first stage role as “Helen of Troy” in his production of Dr. Faustus. He went on to a stellar Broadway run, eventually earning some well-deserved Tony nominations. She also appeared frequently in films and episodic television.

In 1968, Eartha was invited to a White House dinner at the request of President and Mrs. Johnson. First Lady Lady Bird John asked Eartha her views on the Vietnam War. Eartha, an outspoken critic of the war, bluntly replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” Mrs. Johnson was brought to tears. Eartha’s career took a major hit. She found it difficult to get work as a result of the incident. She was labeled a “sadistic nymphomaniac” by the CIA, who compiled a dossier on the actress filled with falsehoods. Finding herself unjustly blacklisted by the American entertainment industry, she was welcomed in Europe and Asia and her career once again flourished.

She was able to return to Broadway in the 1970s and was very well received. Eartha starred as “The Fairy Godmother” in a successful run of Cinderella, as well as an acclaimed appearance as “The Wicked Witch of the West” in a revival of The Wizard of Oz. With a announcing credit on a TV commercial for Steely Dan‘s “Aja” album, Eartha embarked on a new career as a voice actress, lending her seductive vocal tones to cartoons, including her scene-stealing turn as the oily “Yzma” in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, a role she reprised in two television cartoon continuations, The Emperor’s New School and Kronk’s New Groove. She was even depicted in an episode of The Simpsons as one of Krusty the Clown’s ex-wives.

In her later years, Eartha was a visible and active supporter of the LGBT community, appearing a numerous rallies and fundraisers, campaigning for same-sex marriage and equal rights. She was no stranger to public causes, actively supporting underprivileged youth in the Watts area of Los Angels in the 60s and 70s, as well as women’s right through her life.

Diagnosed with colon cancer, Eartha passed away on Christmas Day 2008. According to her daughter, who was with her when she died, Eartha “left this world literally screaming at the top of her lungs.”

No wonder “ev’rybody wants to be a cat.”

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DCS: francis crowley

two-gun

Francis Crowley was no good from the very start.

As a teenager, Francis and two friends crashed an American Legion dance. When attempts were made to the remove the trio, Francis drew a gun an opened fire, wounding two men. He went into hiding, but with a week, he was confronted by police. Again, he fired on the officers. A few days after that incident, he was involved in a bank robbery in Westchester County, New York.

A month later, Francis and two accomplices broke into the home of a real estate broker, shooting the man five times when confronted. Later, Francis stole a car with Rudolph “Fats” Durringer and dance hall hostess Virginia Brannen. When Brannen resisted an aggressive Durringer’s advances, Durringer shot and killed her. Francis helped Durringer dump her body outside St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. When Brannen’s body was discovered, police set out looking for Francis. He was spotted in a car on 138th Street and a high-speed chase ensued. Francis exchanged gunfire with the police and escaped, but bullets extracted from the police car matched the bullets from Brannen’s murder, as well as other unsolved New York crimes.

In May 1931, a month after the chase, Francis killed a police officer who approached him for questioning. The next day, Francis, Durringer snd Francis’s girlfriend were cornered in a rooming house on 91st Street. Police were tipped off by an angered former lover of Francis’s. Tear gas and gunfire finally forced Francis to surrender, but not without a fight.

In just under three weeks, Francis was tried and sentenced to death. During his time spent his time on Sing Sing Prison’s Death Row, Francis was a less-than-cooperative prisoner. He regularly stuffed his prison clothes into his cell’s toilet, set fire to his bed and fashioned homemade weapons out of found objects.

On January 21, 1932, “Fats” Durringer’s trip to the electric chair preceded Francis’s. When it was Francis’s turn, he was asked if he had any final words. He asked for a rag, explaining: “I want to wipe off the chair after this rat sat in it.” Francis Crowley was 19.

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inktober 2018: week one

mother.... the blood! the blood!

Here we go again! It’s October and that means it’s time for “Inktober!” You remember from past years, don’t you? Every October, hundreds of artists… and me…. create special works daily just for October, based on a set of suggestions from the official Inktober website.  I however, follow my own set of rules for Inktober. I will be posting a new, black & white drawing each week for the entire month (in addition to my participation in Illustration Friday and a Dead Celebrity Spotlight). This year, each of my drawings will be based on fear — as depicted in various horror movies.

Week One of Inktober 2018 presents Detective Arbogast startled by Mrs. Bates in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1961 shocker Psycho.

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DCS: sandra giles

you dropped the bomb on me

Born in Hooker, Oklahoma, young Sandra Giles moved to Los Angeles with her single mother as a child. Sandra was discovered by a press agent while she was working as a waitress at Canter’s Delicatessen. Not content with being touted as the next “Blonde Bombshell,” Sandra began drama classes at Los Angeles City College.

In 1958, Sandra was cast in three, low-budget films with a teen audience in mind. Later that year, she showed up at the premier of the Clark Gable film Teacher’s Pet in a furry, pink Cadillac convertible. Life Magazine photographers chronicled the publicity appearance in a two-page spread called “The Blond from Hooker.” The pictorial also featured shots of Sandra in a bubble bath.

In 1963, Sandra landed her biggest role, opposite Elvis Presley in It Happened at the World’s Fair. She later appeared in small roles in other films, as well as episodic television. In the 70s, Sandra dated tennis star Bobby Riggs and appeared with him in an episode of the sitcom The Odd Couple. Her on-screen demand dwindled to one or two roles per year and she finished her career with a cameo in an episode of Columbo.

Sandra passed away in 2016 from complications from bullous pemphigoid, a chronic autoimmune skin disease. She was 84.

 

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