Monday, May 20, 2024

Janet Leigh: Beautiful Discovery

Beautiful actress Janet leigh starred in three of the most iconic motion pictures of all time: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958).

That's quite a resume! And with no acting experience, Janet Leigh's story is like a fairy tale. She was a pretty face that was discovered. Here's her story from Wikipedia:

In February 1946, actress Norma Shearer was vacationing at Sugar Bowl, a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada mountains where Leigh's parents were working at the time. In the resort lobby, Shearer noticed a photograph of Leigh taken by her father over the Christmas holiday, which he had printed and placed in a photo album available for guests to browse.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Shearer showed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) talent agent Lew Wasserman the photograph of the then-eighteen-year-old Leigh (Shearer's late husband Irving Thalberg had been head of production at MGM). She would later recall that "that smile made it the most fascinating face I had seen in years. I felt I had to show that face to somebody at the studio." 

Through her association with MGM, Shearer was able to facilitate screen tests for Leigh with Selena Royle, after which Wasserman negotiated a contract for her, despite her having no acting experience. Leigh dropped out of college that year, and was soon placed under the tutelage of drama coach Lillian Burns.

And the rest is history! To read more about Janet Leigh, click here. My favorite Janet Leigh movie is Touch of Evil. Do you have a favorite hanet Leigh movie? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 13, 2024

Merle Oberon's Secret

One of my favorite movies is the 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights, starring the extraordinarily beautiful Merle Oberon, a talented actress during the 1930s and '40s.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and I enjoyed spending time with my mother, as I'm sure most of us did who are still fortunate enough to have our mothers. That said, I find it sad the way Miss Oberon treated her own mother--her dark skinned mother--by passing her off as a servant. Throughout her lifetime, Merle Oberon kept her ethnic origin a secret.

 About.com says "Merle Oberon earned an Oscar nod for her acting in 1935’s “The Dark Angel” and more recognition for playing Cathy in 1939’s Wuthering Heights. But off screen, Oberon feared that her secrets would be exposed. She wasn’t solely white nor was she born in Tasmania like actor Errol Flynn, as she told people. Actually, she was born in India to an Indian mother and an Anglo father. Rather than disown her mother, though, Oberon passed her off as a servant. When the actress visited Tasmania later in life, the press hounded her for details about her upbringing, forcing her to admit that she wasn't born there. Still, Oberon did not confess to being Indian."

For a more in depth look into Merle Oberon's life and deceit regarding her origins, check out this article about the 2002 documentary "The Trouble with Merle".

Have you seen any of Merle Oberon's movies?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Barbara Bilingsley: Real Mom vs. TV Mom

Mother's Day is Sunday, so today I thought I'd republish a post about Barbara Billingsley. If you're not familiar with that name, she's the actress best known as June Cleaver, one of the world's greatest TV moms from the sitcom Leave it to Beaver.

While playing a mom on TV, she was also a mom of two boys in real life, so here's some interesting trivia about that, courtesy of Wikipedia.:

"She was the ideal mother," Billingsley said of her character in 1997 in TV Guide. "Some people think she was weakish, but I don't. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I had two boys at home when I did the show. I think the character became kind of like me and vice versa. I've never known where one started and where one stopped." As for the idealized TV family on Leave It to Beaver, which continues in reruns on cable more than half a century after its debut, Billingsley had her own explanation for the Cleavers' enduring appeal. "Good grief," she told TV Guide, "I think everybody would like a family like that. Wouldn't it be nice if you came home from school and there was Mom standing there with her little apron and cookies waiting?"

Billingsley, however, questioned her character's reactions to the Cleaver children's misbehavior, basing her concern on personal experience as the mother of two sons. As the co-producer Joseph Connelly explained, "In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming over to us with the script and objecting. 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's done. I certainly wouldn't be.' As a result, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her lady-like stack."

I watched reruns of Leave it to Beaver while growing up and thought she was a great mom. My mom was and is still a great mom, but she never wore pearls and heels while doing housework! Did yours?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You

When my second son was born on May 4, 2001, I had no idea he was born on what was known as Star Wars Day, May the 4th Be With You. I didn't even know such a thing existed until he was in high school and happened to mention it. 

This coming Saturday is May 4th and my son's 23rd birthday, even though it seems like he was just born yesterday.

If you're like me and knew nothing about Star Wars Day, here's an article you might find interesting from Starwars.com., "May the 4th Be With You: A Cultural History," by Lucas Seastrom.

The earliest uses of the phrase “May the 4th Be With You” that we have evidence for date from 1978, one year after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope. By then, Star Wars was firmly established within American popular culture and became “like a handshake,” as Professor Leo Braudy would later comment in the documentary, Empire of Dreams. That summer of ’78, clever newspaper writers used the phrase as a gimmick to mark Independence Day celebrations on the Fourth of July. “May the Force be with you,” as heard in A New Hope, had been appearing on licensed (and unlicensed) buttons, posters, and various items for months, enough to convince those writers that the joke would be well-received by their readers.

Star Wars at Grauman's Chinese Theater

English-speaking audiences in the United Kingdom were familiar with it as well. It was on May 4, 1979, that the first known instance of “May the 4th Be With You” being used to mark the earlier date took place. Britain’s new prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, happened to assume office that day, and another clever newspaper writer for The London Evening News declared in a full-page ad: “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!” (Coincidentally, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was in production at nearby Elstree Studios at the same time, and issues of the Evening News could have appeared in Lucasfilm’s offices.)

Another lesser-known instance came from within Lucasfilm in 1982. Randy Thom, who today is the director of sound design at Skywalker Sound and has been with the company for over 40 years, worked as a location sound recordist on Revenge of the Jedi (its title, of course, was later changed, and at the time of production it was known under the codename Blue Harvest).

Thom joined the production unit in northern California as they shot in the redwood forest doubling for the moon of Endor. May 4, 1982, happened to be a working day, and Thom recalled thinking of the pun on his own when contemplating the date. He shared it with others on the set, and would continue to write an annual message to the company declaring “May the 4th Be With You” for years to come.

A May the 4th poster wirth Yoda promoting the holiday and Episode III

In ensuing years, evidence for use of the phrase in public or private is hazy. As recently as 2005, it was used once again in context with the American Fourth of July holiday. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith had been released weeks earlier, and a marketing push to bring audiences back to theaters inspired a unique newspaper ad sporting Yoda, a background of red-white-and-blue fireworks, and “May the Fourth Be With You” (the ad was later made into a poster sold at StarWars.com).

As the laughable pun continued to circulate underground, an unofficial holiday emerged. Star Wars fans chose the day to hold themed parties or host community events and gatherings. Others simply used it as a time to revisit the films. It was not unlike other ways fans exercised their passion throughout the year, such as the popular “Blow Up the Death Star” watch-parties on New Year’s Eve. This point is essential because Lucasfilm cannot take credit for Star Wars Day. That belongs to the fans, along with the irresistible attraction of using the phrase to evoke laughter (or even an eye-roll) from bemused friends, relatives, colleagues, or even strangers on the street!

For the complete article, click here. Are you a Star Wars fan? If so, do you celebrate Star Wars Day? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 22, 2024

When Cigarette Companies Used Doctors to Push Smoking

When I was very young, smoking was still considered glamorous. Movie stars of years gone by were seen smoking. Cigarettes were fashionable, almost like an accessory.  

My parents didn't smoke, but my chic aunt, always dressed to the nines, did. And she used a long black cigarette holder. My uncle smoked, so did my grandfather. 


When my parents had parties, my sister and I could smell the cigarette smoke that wafted to the second floor. My mom had beautiful ash trays placed throughout the living room. 


That was such a different time. But is it any surprise smoking was so popular when no one suspected it caused any harm, aside from a little throat irritation? Also, doctors were pushing smoking on an unsuspecting public. Take a look at the article below from History.com, "When Cigarette Companies Used Doctors to Push Smoking."

What cigarette do doctors says causes less throat irritation? In the 1930s and 40s, tobacco companies would happily tell you it was theirs. Doctors hadn’t yet discovered a clear link between smoking and lung cancer, and a majority of them actually smoked cigarettes. So in cigarette ads, tobacco companies used doctors’ authority to make their claims about their cigarettes seem more legitimate.


To the modern-day reader, the pitching of cigarettes as healthy (even to youth and pregnant moms) and the use of doctors’ endorsements may appear horrifying. Yet before 1950, there wasn’t good evidence showing that cigarette smoking was bad for you.


“People started to get worried in the ‘40s because lung cancer was spiking; the lung cancer death rate was going through the roof,” says Martha Gardner, a history and social sciences professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “People noticed that and were worried about it, but that didn’t mean they knew it was cigarettes.”


Yes, cigarettes did cause coughing and throat irritation. But companies used this to their advantage to promote their product as better than the competition. It wasn’t all cigarettes that gave you problems—it was just those other ones.


The first cigarette company to use physicians in their ads was American Tobacco, maker of Lucky Strikes. In 1930, it published an ad claiming “20,679 Physicians say ‘LUCKIES are less irritating’” to the throat. To get this number, the company’s ad agency had sent physicians cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a letter asking if they thought Lucky Strikes were “less irritating to sensitive and tender throats than other cigarettes,” while noting “a good many people” had already said they were.

1937 PHILIP MORRIS ADVERTISEMENT CLAIMING THEIR BRAND CLEARED UP IRRITATION OF THE NOSE AND THROAT.


Unsurprisingly, many doctors responded positively to this biased, leading question, and Lucky Strike ads used their answers to imply their cigarettes must be medically better for your throat. In 1937, the Philip Morris company took that one step forward with a Saturday Evening Post ad claiming doctors had conducted a study showing “when smokers changed to Philip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.” What it didn’t mention was that Philip Morris had sponsored those doctors.


Philip Morris continued to advertise “studies” it sponsored through the 1940s, the decade that saw the introduction of penicillin. “The American public is thinking about medicine in such a positive way and science in a positive way,” says Gardner, who co-authored an American Journal of Public Health article about doctors in cigarette ads. “So framing it that way seems like it’ll help appeal to people.”


To this end, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company created a Medical Relations Division and advertised it in medical journals. Reynolds began paying for research and then citing it in its ads like Philip Morris. In 1946, Reynolds launched an ad campaign with the slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” They’d solicited this “finding” by giving doctors a free carton of Camel cigarettes, and then asking what brand they smoked.

1946 CIGARETTE ADVERTISEMENT LAUNCHED BY R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY.

By the mid-1950s, when tobacco companies had to confront good evidence that their products caused lung cancer, advertising strategies started to shift. “What happens is, all the different cigarette companies kind of work together to try to promote the idea that…we don’t know yet if it’s harmful,” Gardner says. In 1954, these companies released “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers” arguing that research showing a link between cancer and smoking was alarming but not conclusive. Therefore, the companies were forming a research committee to investigate the issue.


After this, cigarette ads stopped featuring doctors because this was no longer a convincing tactic. Doctors were coming out against cigarettes, culminating in 1964 with the U.S. Surgeon General’s report that smoking causes lung cancer, laryngeal cancer and chronic bronchitis.


Still, tobacco companies continued to maintain, through their research committee, that there was still a “controversy” over whether cigarettes were unhealthy until 1998. That year, the Tobacco Institute and the Committee for Tobacco Research (as it was then known) disbanded in accordance with a lawsuit settlement.


Read the remainder of the article here. Nowadays all the ill effects of smoking are widely known to the public and anyone who chooses to smoke is well aware of the risks. Was any of this information new to you?


Thanks for visiting and have a great week!