Sunday, 29 November 2009

Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster was one of five children born to a New York City postal worker.
He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics.
He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured.
It was in the Army during WW II that he was introduced to the USO and acting.
His first film was The Killers (1946), and that made him a star.
He was a self-taught actor who learned the business as he went along.
He set up his own production company in 1948 with Harold Hecht and James Hill to direct his career.
He played many different roles in pictures as varied as The Crimson Pirate (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), Elmer Gantry (1960) and Atlantic City (1980).

His production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, produced the such films as Paddy Chayefsky's Marty (1955) (Oscar winner 1955) and The Catered Affair (1956).
In the 1980s he appeared as a supporting player in a number of movies, such as Local Hero (1983) and Field of Dreams (1989).
However, it will be the sound of his voice, the way that he laughed, and the larger-than-life characters he played that will always be remembered.

According to Kate Buford in her biography "Burt Lancaster: An American Life," he felt competitive with Marlon Brando, who achieved stardom playing Stanley Kowalski on Broadway, a role Lancaster turned down.
A Top 10 box-office success in the early 1960s,
it was this sense of competition with Brando, who was known as both an actor's actor and a major movie star, that led Lancaster to plunge into art films and riskier fare such as Luchino Visconti's Il gattopardo (1963),
in order to prove himself as an actor and be known as an artist rather than just a movie star.
After this refocusing of his career, he slipped out of the Top 10 and never again was a major box office attraction.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Marilyn Monroe

Her mother was a film-cutter at RKO Studios who, widowed and insane, abandoned her to sequence of foster homes.
She was almost smothered to death at two, nearly raped at six. At nine the LA Orphans' Home paid her a nickel a month for kitchen work while taking back a penny every Sunday for church.
At sixteen she worked in an aircraft plant and married a man she called Daddy; he went into the military, she modeled, they divorced in 1946.
She owned 200 books (including Tolstoy, Whitman, Milton), listened to Beethoven records, studied acting at the Actors' lab in Hollywood, and took literature courses at UCLA downtown.
20th Century Fox gave her a contract but let it lapse a year later. In 1948, Columbia gave her a six-month contract, turned her over to coach Natasha Lytess and featured her in the B movie Ladies of the Chorus (1948) in which she sang two numbers.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz saw her in a small part in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and put her in All About Eve (1950), resulting in 20th Century re-signing her to a seven-year contract. Niagara (1953) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) launched her as a sex symbol superstar.
When she went to a supper honoring her The Seven Year Itch (1955) she arrived in a red chiffon gown borrowed from the studio (she had never owned a gown). The same year she married and divorced baseball great 'Joe Dimaggio' (their wedding night was spent in Paso Robles, CA).
After The Seven Year Itch (1955), she wanted serious acting to replace the sexpot image and went to New York's Actors Studio.
She worked with director Lee Strasberg and also underwent psychoanalysis to learn more about herself. Critics praised her transformation in Bus Stop (1956) and the press was stunned by her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.
True to form, she had no veil to match her beige wedding dress so she dyed one in coffee; he wore one of the two suits he owned.
They went to England that fall where she made The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) with Laurence Olivier, fighting with him and falling further prey to alcohol and pills.
Two miscarriages and gynecological surgery followed.
So did an affair with Yves Montand.
Work on her last picture The Misfits (1961), written for her by departing husband Miller was interrupted by exhaustion.
She was dropped from the unfinished Something's Got to Give (1962) due to chronic lateness and drug dependency.
Four months later she was found dead in her Brentwood home of a drug overdose, adjudged "probable suicide".