Elizabeth Taylor is born in London, 1932. Her movie career began in 1942 with There’s One Born Every Minute, playing the daughter of a man who develops a pudding that’s chock full of Vitamin Z (!). Her last big-screen endeavor was The Flintstones in 1994. In her 52 years in front of the camera, she made a total of 52 pictures, was Oscar nominated five times and won twice—for BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). In 1955 she embarked on her 25th film, which turned out to be one of her best. Giant, released in 1956, told the sprawling saga of a Texas rancher, his Maryland-born wife and a ranch hand who inherits an oil-rich parcel of land. Directed by George Stevens, the film co-starred Rock Hudson, Mercedes McCambridge, Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Jane Withers and—in his last performance—James Dean, who was killed in a car accident a matter of days after his work was finished on the film. One evening towards the beginning of the shoot, Hudson and Taylor decided to get to know each other over drinks and, by 3:00 am the next morning, ended up bosom buddies and completely blotto. Two and a half hours later they reported to the set to shoot a wordless scene requiring Hudson and Taylor, both valiantly trying not to throw up, to look lovingly upon each other. Onlookers were reportedly moved by their performance.
Entries in james dean (8)
Jim Backus dies of pneumonia in Los Angeles, 1989. As a dumb kid, I only knew Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III on television’s Gilligan’s Island. As my appreciation for classic films grew, I was surprised to see him share the big screen with such heavy hitters as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), playing Dean’s ineffectual father, and Katharine Hepburn in Pat and Mike (1952), playing a golf club manager consoling her after a bad round. Backus made his first movie in 1930 with The Truth About Youth, the first in a six-decade-long film career distinguished by character roles and voice-over work, particularly in the popular Mr. Magoo animated shorts. One of his oddest achievements was a top 40 hit in 1958 with “Delicious!,” a novelty recording he made where he and a female companion simply drink champagne and have a few laughs. Appleknocker and His Group provide the instrumental background; the woman in question has been identified by various sources as either Phyllis Diller or Hermione Gingold.
Take a listen:
Dennis Hopper is born in Dodge City, Kansas, 1936. He emerged on the silver screen in 1954 in Johnny Guitar and soon thereafter made a number of films that became classics: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Hopper, never a shrinking violet, had this to say about his early days in Hollywood: “In the ‘50s, when me and Natalie Wood and James Dean and Nick Adams and Tony Perkins suddenly arrived…God, it was a whole group of us that sort of felt like that earlier group—the John Barrymores, Errol Flynns, Sinatras, Clifts—were a little farther out than we were. So we tried to emulate that lifestyle. For instance, once Natalie and I decided we'd have an orgy. And Natalie says, "Okay, but we have to have a champagne bath." So we filled the bathtub full of champagne. Natalie takes off her clothes, sits down in the champagne, and starts screaming. We take her to the emergency hospital. That was our orgy, you understand?”
Ursula Andress is born in Bern, Switzerland, 1936. No actress she, Andress was at least able to move her arms and legs and looked darned good doing it. She was primarily a sexy side dish, bringing a dull vivaciousness to 4 for Texas (1963), What’s New Pussycat? (1965) and Casino Royale (1967). Most notably, she emerged from the sea in a bikini in Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond movie to hit the silver screen, playing Honey Ryder opposite Sean Connery’s double agent. Cinema’s first Bond girl also had a long history of famous beaus, Jean Paul Belmondo, Ryan O’Neal, Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty among them. James Dean was another notch on her belt; the volatile nature of their relationship inspired one tabloid to report that Dean was learning German so they could argue in another language.
Rock Hudson dies of AIDS in Beverly Hills, 1985. Illinois-born and raised, Roy Fitzgerald made his way to Los Angeles, where he worked as a truck driver while trying to break into the movie business. Acting lessons, capped teeth and a name change served as prologue to his film debut in Fighter Squadron (1948). He was not a natural actor and he had trouble remembering his lines, but his handsome looks and genial nature opened doors, and his onscreen popularity grew. A career high came in 1956 when Hudson starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in Giant and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Along with his work in Seconds (1966), his role as Bick Benedict in Giant was one of his favorite performances. Hudson's least favorite performance came a year later in a bloated remake of a famous Hemingway tale. He reportedly turned down starring roles in Sayonara (1957), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Ben-Hur (1959) to portray Lt. Henry in Charles Vidor’s A Farewell to Arms. Critically and financially, the film was a flop—“the biggest mistake of my career,” Hudson said.