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?”
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A key scene is filmed for Miracle on 34th Street, 1946. For the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sequence, filmmakers saved time and money recreating it for the film by arranging for actor Edmund Gwenn, playing Kris Kringle in the film, to play Santa Claus in the actual parade. Three cameras were stationed throughout the parade route to ensure proper coverage, as retakes were out of the question.
The film, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, also starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and an itsy bitsy Natalie Wood, who was eight years old at the time. Zanuck, realizing more people attend movies in the summer—and wanting to put as many butts in the seats as possible—opted to release the Christmas classic in May 1947. Posters for the film were careful not to show Gwenn as Santa and instead emphasized the relationship between O’Hara and Payne’s characters.
The film was a huge hit and a favorite among critics. The Academy was not exactly hostile to it either, giving it four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. It ended up winning three: Best Writing - Original Story, Best Writing - Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. “Americans don’t like whimsy,” actor Cecil Kellaway is reported as saying when he turned down the role of Kringle. Gwenn, Kellaway’s cousin, happily stepped in and earned an Academy Award for his efforts. Upon accepting his prize, the actor remarked, “Now I know there is a Santa Claus.”
Here’s a bit of niftiness: a Roddy McDowell silent home movie from 1965, featuring Sal Mineo, Juliet Mills, Christopher Plummer, Natalie Wood and others in Malibu. Chev, a Joe.My.God reader, alerted that site, and I couldn’t resist pilfering it for this one. Enjoy!