Ida Lupino dies of a stroke in Los Angeles, 1995. She was a rare commodity of her time—a Hollywood actress who could also direct, helming eight feature films and numerous television episodes over the course of 29 years. Her experience behind the camera began when director Elmer Clifton fell ill during filming of Not Wanted (1949), starring Lupino with a script written by the actress and Paul Jarrico. It was enough to propel the England native to write, produce and direct her own films, among them the low-budget dramas Never Fear (1949), Outrage (1950), Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and The Bigamist (1953). “I'd love to see more women working as directors and producers,” remarked Lupino, today considered a pioneer in the field. “It's almost impossible to do it unless you are an actress or writer with power. I wouldn't hesitate right this minute to hire a talented woman if the subject matter were right.”
Fritz Lang dies in Beverly Hills, 1976. The Austrian-born director first made his name in Europe with Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924) and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924), then managed to eek out two masterpieces—Metropolis (1927) and M (1931)—before emigrating to the United States in 1934. In Hollywood his output was less artistic but eminently watchable, with two of his more entertaining American films bearing striking similarities in tale, tone and talent. They were The Woman in the Window, which premiered in 1944, and Scarlet Street, released the following year. Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea headlined the movies, both of them atmospheric crime dramas involving a mild-mannered gentleman who is mixed up with a mysterious, seductive woman and eventually driven to murder. Robinson in particular was a favorite of the director. “Each part he plays,” said Lang, “he enriches with deep and warm understanding of human frailties and compels us to pity rather than condemnation, always adding vivid color to the intricate mosaic of motion picture reality.”
Natalie Wood is born in San Francisco, 1938. From The Moon is Down (1943), her first film, to Penelope (1966), a woeful comedy about a woman who robs her husband’s bank, the actress worked steadily, amassing some 41 titles to her credit. After a three-year respite, Wood returned in one of 1969’s highest grossing films—Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a comedy-drama about a newly emotionally liberated married couple, Bob and Carol (Robert Culp and Wood), who try to bring friends Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon) around to their way of thinking. Director Paul Mazursky considered it his best work, with New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael calling the film “a slick, whorey movie, and the liveliest American comedy so far this year.” An attempt at a sexual foursome caps the picture, about which Wood remarked, “I felt a little funny when we were going to do the bed scene…I'm no prude, but four is a crowd in my book. Fortunately, Dyan Cannon was there. The thought of another woman being in there in the bed helped get me through it…I don't think I could have done it if it had been me and three men.”
“Janet Gaynor and I were always receiving wedding-anniversary presents in the mail, care of the studio. The fans didn't even know what date our anniversary fell on, which is logical, since we were never married.”
— Charles Farrell on his frequent romantic leading lady. Farrell and Gaynor made 12 movies together, including silent films and musicals. They played themselves in the musical Happy Days (1929), one of the first 70mm widescreen motion pictures ever released.
Maureen O’Sullivan dies of a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona, 1998. She was a young woman of 18 when she compelled director Frank Borzage to cast her in Song o' My Heart (1930), which was being filmed in her native Ireland. After finishing the picture in Hollywood, O’Sullivan stayed in California to grace a handful of 20th Century Fox productions before MGM scooped her up in 1932. Producer Irving Thalberg chose her for one of her most famous and recurring roles—that of Jane Parker in a series of five Tarzan films costarring Johnny Weissmuller (“an amiable piece of beefcake”) and Cheetah (“that ape son of a bitch”). “There was a period when I got so sick of all they would ask me about Tarzan, as though I had done nothing else,” the actress recalled. “I changed my mind when my oldest son said to me he was very proud that I was Tarzan's mate.’