1-20 of 98 results  for:

  • Media and performing arts x
  • Results with images only x
Clear all

Article

Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

Article

Arbuckle, Roscoe “Fatty” (24 March 1887–29 June 1933), actor, was born Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle in Smith Center, Kansas, the son of William Arbuckle, a wheat farmer. His mother's name and occupation are unknown. At birth, he weighed approximately fourteen pounds; his mother almost died during the delivery, and her health remained tenuous throughout his childhood. His father, an alcoholic, blamed him for her condition and routinely beat him and berated him about his weight. Around 1889 his family moved to Santa Ana, California. Shortly thereafter his father moved alone to northern California, where he worked as a crop picker and eventually purchased a small hotel in San Jose....

Article

Astaire, Fred (10 May 1899–22 June 1987), dancer, film star, and choreographer, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Frederick Austerlitz, an immigrant Austrian brewery employee, and Ann Geilus. Astaire’s sister, Adele Astaire, showed unusual talent in early dancing school recitals and was taken to New York in 1904 by her mother for professional training. Her brother, younger by a year and a half, was enrolled in dancing school with her. In 1906, when Fred was only seven, the two children began performing successfully in vaudeville....

Article

Autry, Gene (29 September 1908–02 October 1998), country singer, actor, and baseball team owner, was born Orvon Gene Autry in Tioga, Texas, the son of Delbert Autry, a livestock dealer and tenant farmer, and Elnora Ozmont Autry. He later recalled that his family was poor but “never Tobacco Road poor. My father earned good money, when he felt like it, which was some of the time” (Autry, p. 4). They moved frequently during his childhood, to small farms and hamlets in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma, eventually settling outside Ravia, Oklahoma. His grandfather, a Baptist minister, taught him to sing when he was five years old so he could join the church choir; his musically talented mother taught him how to play a mail-order guitar. As a teenager he sang ballads for tips at cafes, and around 1923 he toured for three months with the Fields Brothers Marvelous Medicine Show. During these years he was reportedly fired from a job as a ranch hand because his singing distracted the other hands from their labor....

Article

Ayres, Lew (28 December 1908–30 December 1996), actor, was born Lewis Frederick Ayres III in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (No information about his parents could be obtained for this article, although it is assumed that he shared his father's name.) After graduating from high school in San Diego, California, he attended the University of Arizona, planning to earn a medical degree. A talented banjo and guitar player and pianist, he played in a university jazz band and became a musician in Los Angeles. An agent who spotted Ayres performing in a Hollywood nightclub, and dancing with the actress Lily Damita, in 1928, obtained a small part for him in ...

Article

Balaban, Barney (08 June 1887–07 March 1971), motion picture executive, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Israel Balaban, a grocer, and Goldie Manderbursky. At age twelve Balaban began working as a messenger for Western Union, then worked at various jobs until the mid-1910s when he settled as a bookkeeper at the Western Cold Storage Company. With his father, brothers, and a friend (soon thereafter brother-in-law), Sam Katz, Balaban launched the Balaban & Katz movie theater company in 1912. During the next decade Balaban & Katz redefined movie exhibition; the company’s Chicago-based movie palaces became the talk of the film business and enabled Balaban to quit his day job. Thereafter, whenever he worked, Balaban managed the corporation’s books and created many of the principles of modern movie accounting and record keeping....

Article

Barbera, Joseph (24 March 1911–18 December 2006), film animator and producer, was born in the neighborhood called Little Italy on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, the son of Sicilian immigrants Vincente Barbera, a barber, and Francesca Calvacca. His family (which pronounced the name ...

Article

Barrymore, John (14 or 15 Feb. 1882–29 May 1942), actor, was born John Sidney Blyth Barrymore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew (Georgie Drew Barrymore), actors. The third of three children, Barrymore would become the most conspicuous member of America’s “Royal Family” of actors. Wild as a youth, he frequently received disciplinary action at the many elementary schools he attended; one such experience led to what he believed would be his life’s calling. “I was punished by remaining the whole day in an empty schoolroom with a big book,” he recalled to his biographer Alma Power-Waters. “It was ...

Article

Thomas W. Collins Jr.

Bellamy, Ralph (17 June 1904–29 November 1991), actor, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Rexford Bellamy, an advertising executive, and Lilla Louise Smith Bellamy. He later recalled that he developed a “colossal urge” to become an actor while attending New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. The president of his school's dramatic club, he was expelled during his senior year for smoking a cigarette in the school theater. At the age of eighteen he began his acting career; one of his first professional acting jobs was playing two roles in ...

Article

Blore, Eric (23 December 1886–01 March 1959), actor, was born in London, England, one of two children of Henry Blore, a schoolmaster, and his wife Mary Newton Blore. Blore was educated at the Mills School in Finchley. After selling insurance a while, he went on the stage in 1908, and by 1913 he had made his London performing debut....

Article

Brando, Marlon (03 April 1924–01 July 2004), actor, was born Marlon Brando, Jr., in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr., a salesman of agricultural chemicals, and Dorothy Pennebaker, an amateur actress who was active in community theater. As a casting director in Omaha, Dorothy Brando reportedly gave the young ...

Article

Brown, Johnny Mack (01 September 1904–14 November 1974), college football player and film actor, was born John Mack Brown in Dothan, Alabama, the son of John Henry Brown and Hattie McGillary. Brown’s father owned a small retail shoe store in Dothan that brought the family only a small income. Johnny had to go to work at an early age selling newspapers. He spent much of his youth fishing, hunting, and playing football and other sports with his five brothers. Brown attended Dothan High School, where he earned letters in track, baseball, and football and was an all-state football player. In 1923 Brown earned a scholarship to play football all four years at the University of Alabama....

Article

Burns, George (20 January 1896–09 March 1996), comedian, was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City, the son of Louis Philip Birnbaum, a kosher butcher and part-time cantor, and Dora Bluth. One of twelve children, Burns spent his childhood living in poverty in the tenements of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Indifferent to his parents' Orthodox Judaism, Burns adopted show business as his religion at age five when he got his first taste of applause by dancing to the music of an organ grinder. A natural entertainer, Burns had little interest in the rigors of education and quit school permanently after he failed the fifth grade. Even though he enjoyed enormous wealth and celebrity in later years, for the rest of his life Burns would never master basic reading skills....

Article

Mary C. Kalfatovic

Burton, Richard (10 November 1925–05 August 1984), actor, was born Richard Walter Jenkins, Jr., in Pontrhydyfen, South Wales, the son of Richard Walter Jenkins, a coal miner, and Edith Maude Thomas Jenkins. Burton was the twelfth of thirteen children. He was two years old when his mother died, and he was sent to live with his married older sister in the nearby industrial city of Port Talbot. A good student and athlete, Burton attended the Port Talbot Secondary School. At age fifteen he made his first stage appearance in a school play. In 1941 Burton left school for financial reasons to work in a clothing store. While employed at the store, he joined the local squadron of the Air Training Corps, a program designed to prepare teenagers for military service, and his participation in a corps-produced radio documentary gave him the idea to become an actor. In the fall of 1942 Burton returned to the Port Talbot Secondary School, where he came under the tutelage of the English instructor Philip Burton, who strongly encouraged his interest in the theater. Philip Burton became his legal guardian in 1943. Assuming his guardian's last name instead of Jenkins, Burton, aided by Philip Burton's theater world connections, made his professional stage debut in a minor role in ...

Article

Calhoun, Rory (08 August 1922–28 April 1999), film and television actor, was born Francis Timothy McCown in Los Angeles, California, and was known as Frank. Details of his parentage are unknown. When he was nine months old his father died, and his mother subsequently married a man named Nathaniel Durgin. The family moved north to Santa Cruz, California, during McCown's childhood and he attended school there, sometimes using his stepfather's name as his surname. McCown was an indifferent student and began getting into serious trouble as a teenager. His first criminal offense, the theft of a revolver when he was thirteen, landed him in a state reformatory, but he escaped shortly afterward. Accounts of his behavior over the next seven years vary in detail, but by his own admission he dropped out of high school at sixteen and supported himself as a thief. After robbing a series of jewelry stores, he stole a getaway car and was apprehended across state lines. For these and other offenses, he reportedly served time at federal penitentiaries in Oklahoma and Missouri before being incarcerated at California's San Quentin State Prison. Following his release in the early 1940s, he returned to the Los Angeles area and worked at a series of laboring jobs—as a fisherman, truck driver, mechanic, miner, logger, firefighter, and ranch hand....

Article

Chaplin, Charlie (16 April 1889–25 December 1977), motion picture actor and director, was born Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England, the son of Charles Chaplin, Sr., and Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill. His parents were singers in the English music halls. His father, after separating from the family in 1890, provided little child support and died an alcoholic in 1901. After her singing career ended, Chaplin’s mother worked as a seamstress. From 1895 on, however, she was frequently hospitalized for physical and emotional difficulties. During this period Chaplin was placed in several different institutions, including the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children, and intermittently obtained over four years his only formal education....

Article

Cohan, George M. (3 or 4 July 1878–05 November 1942), performer, writer of songs, musicals, and plays, and producer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Jeremiah “Jerry” John Cohan and Helen “Nellie” Frances Costigan. (Cohan’s middle initial stands for Michael.) At the age of seven, Cohan was sent to the E Street School in Providence. His formal schooling lasted six weeks, after which the school sent him to rejoin his parents and sister, Josie, in their theatrical travels. He took violin lessons and played the instrument both in the theater orchestra and in a trick violin act he devised. The Cohans went on their first road show as a family in 1889; when the show failed they went back to ...

Article

Cohn, Harry (23 July 1891–27 February 1958), studio executive, was born in New York City, the son of German and Russian immigrants Joseph Cohn and Bella Hudesman. His father was a tailor, and with his parents, four siblings, and two grandmothers, he shared four rooms on Eighty-eighth Street in abject poverty. At the age of fourteen, in 1905, Cohn quit school to appear in the chorus of a popular play, ...

Article

Conklin, Chester (11 January 1888–11 October 1971), actor, was born Jules Cowles in Oskaloosa, Iowa, the son of farmers. He fulfilled many a country boy’s dream when, probably sometime between 1905 and 1910, he ran off to join the circus and see the world. He was playing with the Al G. Barnes Circus during the 1912–1913 season, and when the company took up its winter quarters on the West Coast he decided to join the newly formed Keystone company begun by ...

Article

Robert P. Holtzclaw

Coogan, Jackie (24 October 1914–01 March 1984), actor, was born John Leslie Coogan in Los Angeles, California, the son of John Coogan and Lillian Dolliver, vaudeville performers. Coogan began performing at an early age, with a film to his credit and regular appearances in his father’s vaudeville act before the age of three. One performance in Los Angeles was witnessed by film star ...