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.
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Tony Randall is born Ira Leonard Rosenberg in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1920. His film roles were mostly comic, starring opposite Jayne Mansfield in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and Debbie Reynolds in The Mating Game (1959). Then came the film roles for which he is perhaps best remembered, providing crack support to Doris Day and Rock Hudson in the three movies they made together: Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). “Comedy's a serious business,” the actor once remarked. “You've got to be true and funny and not look as though you're trying.”
Stanley Kubrick is born in New York City, 1928. In the mid-1960s, the director of Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) wished to make a decent science fiction film, so he turned to writer Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke suggested that Kubrick film a story called “The Sentinel” that he wrote about the discovery of an alien object on the moon. The two worked simultaneously on the story; Kubrick wrote the screenplay while Clarke adapted his story into a novel, with both men reviewing and commenting on each other’s work along the way. From this association sprang Clarke’s book 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kubrick’s landmark picture of the same name, frequently mentioned as one of the greatest movies ever made.
One may view the 1968 film as an inscrutable, somewhat delicate rumination on human evolution, and as such is not everyone’s cup of tea. One of the director’s post-production regrets was to screen the film for critics, who called it a “big, beautiful but plodding sci-fi epic" (Variety), “a monumentally unimaginative movie" (Harpers) and "somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring" (The New York Times). During a preview, in which hundreds walked out, an exasperated Rock Hudson was reported as saying, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?” as he made his exit. Kubrick later commented, “How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas, 'The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover?’ This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don't want this to happen to 2001.”
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.