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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 ...

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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....

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Disney, Walt (05 December 1901–15 December 1966), animator and motion picture producer, was born Walter Elias Disney in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Elias Disney, a building contractor, and Flora Call, a teacher. After a childhood near Marceline and in Kansas City, Missouri, Disney studied at the Chicago Institute of Art in the evening while attending McKinley High School during the day. In 1918 he enlisted in the American Ambulance Corps, serving in France and returning to employment as an artist at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio, where he befriended artist ...

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Eames, Charles (17 June 1907–21 August 1978), architect, furniture designer, and filmmaker, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Charles Ormond Eames, a Pinkerton security officer, and Marie Celine Adele Pauline Lambert. In 1921 Eames’s discovery of photographic equipment belonging to his father, who had died that year, initiated his lifelong interest in photography. He began his formal architectural education at Washington University in St. Louis on a scholarship in 1925. Prior to his enrollment, Eames had worked as a laborer with the LaClede Steel Company and as a designer of electrical lighting fixtures with the Edwin F. Guth Fixture Company, and while attending the university he worked summers as a draftsman in a St. Louis architectural office, Trueblood and Graf. He left school in 1928, his sophomore year. Despite his lack of a formal degree in architecture, other jobs and contacts in St. Louis substantially contributed to his education and to the development of his interests and skills in all aspects of design....

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Frankovich, Mike (29 September 1908–01 January 1992), film producer, was born Mitchell John Frankovich in Bisbee, Arizona, one of four children of Yova Frankovich and Melica Frankovich (maiden name unknown), immigrant Yugoslavians. When all the children were small, the Frankovich family left the copper-mining town of Bisbee en route to California but stopped in Tonopah, Nevada, for several years after the elder Frankovich won its casino in a card game. They moved on to Long Beach, California, where he owned a fishing fleet. After Yova Frankovich abandoned the family, his wife moved to Los Angeles, where Mike and a brother excelled in high school football, gaining scholarships to the University of California, Los Angeles, on the recommendation of comedian ...

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Goetz, William (24 March 1903–15 August 1979), film producer, was born in New York City, the youngest of the eight children of Theodore Goetz, a ship's purser, and Fanny Goetz (maiden name unknown). After his mother's death in 1913 and his father's subsequent abandonment of the family, Goetz was raised by his elder brothers and educated locally....

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Griffith, D. W. (22 January 1875–23 July 1948), pioneer film director, was born David Lewelyn Wark Griffith in Oldham County, Kentucky, the son of Jacob Wark Griffith, a physician and Confederate veteran, and Mary Perkins Oglesby. The family plantation—Jacob Griffith had been a slaveholder—was no longer viable after the Civil War, and in 1889, four years after his death, Mary Griffith moved her large family (Griffith had six siblings) to Louisville, where she ran a boardinghouse. Griffith attended both country and city schools before going to work in a dry goods store and later in a bookstore. Although he originally intended to become a writer, Griffith was attracted by the theater, and in 1895 he joined an amateur acting company that toured Kentucky and Indiana. Within five years he was touring the country, playing bit parts under a variety of stage names. In 1906 he married Linda Arvidson Johnson, an actress whom he had met in San Francisco. They had no children....

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Hart, William Surrey (06 December 1870–24 June 1946), actor and film director, was born in Newburgh, New York, the second son of Nicholas Hart, an itinerant English mill mechanic, and Roseanna McCauley. Like many actors, Hart tried to make himself younger and may have been born as early as 1862. He grew up in Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, and Iowa during the last days of the Wild West. As a child he played with Sioux boys, spoke Lakota, and was one of the rare movie cowboys who had worked on cattle ranches....

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Kazan, Elia (07 September 1909–28 September 2003), film director, was born Elia Kazanjoglou, the first of four sons born to Athena Sishmanoglou and George Kazanjoglous, both Anatolian Greeks. His father was a successful merchant with the Kazan Carpet Company in Constantinople, then capital of the Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey). Elia saw himself as an outsider whether living among Turks or Americans. As a child he perfected an Anatolian smile that masked resentment....

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Kubrick, Stanley (26 July 1928–07 March 1999), film director, was born in New York City, the son of Jacques "Jack" Kubrick, a physician, and Gertrude Perveler. Because Kubrick was seen as a bright but extremely erratic student in the public schools of the Bronx, his father hoped to motivate the underachieving boy by buying him an expensive Graflex, a camera of professional quality. The concerned father also introduced Kubrick to his extensive personal library and taught him to play chess. The plan worked: the restless thirteen-year-old showed an instant affinity for photography, literature, and chess, and his early mastery of all three would be key in the realization of his skills as a movie director....

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Lasky, Jesse Louis (13 September 1880–13 January 1958), motion picture pioneer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Isaac Lasky, a shoe store owner, and Sarah Platt. The family, including his younger sister Blanche, moved to San Jose, California, when Lasky was eight years old. Because of his father’s poor health, the subsequent bankruptcy of his shoe store, and relatives still residing in San Francisco, the Lasky family returned to San Francisco before Lasky could finish high school....

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Schine, G. David (11 September 1927–19 June 1996), government official and businessman, was born Gerard David Schine, the son of J. Myer Morris Schine, millionaire owner of radio stations, movie theaters, and hotels, and Hildegarde Feldman Schine. After graduating from Harvard in 1949, Schine was appointed by his father to be president of his own company, Schine Hotels Inc....

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Sturges, Preston (29 August 1898–06 August 1959), director, playwright, and screenwriter, was born Edmund Preston Biden in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Edmund C. Biden, a bill collector, and Mary Dempsey, an aspiring musician. His parents soon separated; his mother took him to Paris, where she became close friends with ...

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Welles, Orson (06 May 1915–10 October 1985), director and actor, was born George Orson Welles in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the son of Richard Hodgon Welles, an inventor and businessman, and Beatrice Ives, a talented amateur musician. Welles was precocious, his pampered childhood abruptly ending after his mother’s death when he was nine. At eleven he was enrolled in the progressive Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois, where he directed and acted in classics by Shakespeare and Shaw. After graduation in 1930, he spent a summer at the Chicago Art Institute....

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Wise, Robert (10 September 1914–14 September 2005), two-time Oscar-winning director, was born in Winchester, a small town in eastern Indiana, the second of three sons of Earl W. Wise, a meat packer, and Olive Longenecker. When he was eight Wise's family moved to Connersville, Indiana, and some of Wise's earliest memories were attending silent movies, where he was “in heaven” (Kreisler). In July 1933 Wise went to Los Angeles to live with his brother, an accountant at RKO Studios. Robert became a gofer for James Wilkinson, head of the studio's editing department, for $25 a week. Within a year Wise was apprenticed to the sound editor T. K. Wood, where he worked on two ...

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Zanuck, Darryl F. (05 September 1902–22 December 1979), motion picture producer and film studio head, was born Darryl Francis Zanuck in Wahoo, Nebraska, the son of Frank Zanuck, a hotel manager, and Louise Torpin. Zanuck dropped out of high school and, just one day short of his fourteenth birthday, lied about his age and joined the army. He served briefly on border detail in New Mexico, then in France during World War I. His letters home were printed in the local newspaper and later in the army newspaper ...

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Zinnemann, Fred (29 April 1907–14 March 1997), film director, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Oskar Zinnemann, a physician, and Anna Zinnemann (maiden name unknown). He later recalled that his well-to-do parents expected him to pursue a respectable professional career: “It was, of course, considered absolutely necessary to have an academic degree and to be called ‘Herr Doktor,’ no matter what one was a doctor of; in my case, the only practical answer seemed to be to study for a doctorate in law, which I duly tried and hated with a passion from the first moment” (Zinnemann, p. 8). While shirking his classes at the University of Vienna, he became an avid moviegoer. After taking a law degree in 1927 he announced to his parents that he wanted to pursue filmmaking instead. To their consternation, he enrolled at a fledgling film school, the École Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie in Paris, where he studied optics and photochemistry. In 1928 he moved to Berlin, where he found work as an assistant cameraman on Eugen Schüfftan's influential semidocumentary ...