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Aldrich, Robert Burgess (09 August 1918–05 December 1983), filmmaker, was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Edward Burgess Aldrich, a leading Rhode Island newspaper publisher and Republican politician, and Lora Lawson. His grandfather was Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, a self-made millionaire and influential U.S. senator; his aunt Abby Greene Aldrich (...

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Dorothy Arzner Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1927. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-5202-001-x).

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Arzner, Dorothy (03 January 1897–01 October 1979), film director, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Louis Arzner, a restaurateur. Her mother’s name is unknown. After moving the family to Los Angeles, her father managed the Hoffman Café, a popular establishment frequented by movie people, including a number of directors. Arzner graduated from Westlake School for Girls, then enrolled in the University of Southern California with the hope of becoming a physician. With the outbreak of World War I she volunteered for service with the Los Angeles Emergency Ambulance Corps. At the end of her stint with the corps Arzner realized she did not want to continue pursuing a career in medicine. Determined to become financially independent from her father, she sought a job in the movie industry....

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Avery, Tex (26 February 1908–26 August 1980), director of animated films, was born Frederick Bean Avery in Taylor, Texas. Little is known about his family, except that he was a lineal descendant of Judge Roy Bean, from whom his middle name was derived. Interested in art as a youth, Avery took a three-month summer course in art taught by professional newspaper cartoonists at the Chicago Art Institute a year before graduating, in June 1927, from North Dallas High School, where he was a cartoonist for the yearbook and drew a cartoon strip. Two years later, he headed to California seeking a position as a comic strip artist. Finding no opportunities in that field, he took a job in the inking and painting department at the Walter Lantz Studio, which was producing Oswald the Rabbit cartoons. Remaining at the studio from 1930 to 1935, he painted cartoon backgrounds, worked as an in-betweener completing sequences to bridge the key drawings produced by the animators, wrote gags and stories, and directed two cartoons, although without screen credit....

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Joseph Barbera [left to right] Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, with some of their cartoon characters at their office in Los Angeles, 1988. Photograph by Douglas Pizac. Associated Press

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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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Blackton, James Stuart (05 January 1875–13 August 1941), motion picture pioneer, was born in Sheffield, England, the son of Henry Blackton, a carriage maker, and Jessie Stuart. After the family moved to the United States in 1886, Blackton worked several years as a carpenter while taking night classes at City College of New York. He then became an illustrator and reporter for the ...

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Boleslavsky, Richard Valentinovich (04 February 1889–17 January 1937), acting teacher, stage and film director, actor, and author, was born Boleslaw Ryszard Srzednicki in Plock, Poland, the son of Valentine Srzednicki, a landowner, and Pani (maiden name unknown). When the family estate was lost, the Srzednickis relocated to South Bessarabia and then to Odessa, where Boleslaw received his education at the Polytechnic Institute of Odessa and the University of Odessa. He joined an amateur theater group in Odessa called the Polish Hearth, which he administered during his college days, in addition to performing leading roles. His first professional acting engagement was with a Russian troupe, sometime around 1904; his career began to flourish in 1908, when he was fully accepted as a student at the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) and almost immediately was admitted into the acting company. Richard Valentinovich Boleslavsky was his stage name, and he retained it when he immigrated to the United States in 1922....

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Borzage, Frank (23 April 1894–19 June 1962), motion-picture director and producer, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Lewis Borzage, a mason and cattle rancher, and Maria Ruegg. As a teenager Borzage began acting with traveling theater groups. By 1913 he had arrived in Hollywood; after mostly bit appearances for the Universal and Lubin film companies, he began playing leads and villains for ...

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Boyd, William (05 June 1898–12 September 1972), film actor and producer, was born in either Cambridge or Hendrysburg, Ohio, the son of Charles W. Boyd, a laborer, and Linda Alberta Wilkins. When Boyd was six the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was killed in a work-related accident before Boyd reached the age of thirteen, and the boy was forced to quit school after the sixth grade to earn money for the family....

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Brackett, Charles William (26 November 1892–09 March 1969), writer and motion-picture producer, was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, the son of Edgar Truman Brackett, a lawyer and state legislator, and Mary Emma Corliss. For a time, he seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a prominent lawyer in Saratoga Springs. Brackett did, indeed, pursue such a career in his college studies, first taking a B.A. from Williams College in 1915 and then receiving an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1920. While at Harvard, Brackett interrupted his studies in 1917 to serve in World War I, positioned in St. Nazaire, France, as a second lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Forces and serving as vice-consul and assistant liaison officer to the French general. His efforts were acknowledged with the awarding of the Medaille d’Honneur en Argent....

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Brenon, Herbert (13 January 1880–21 June 1958), film director, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Edward St. John Brenon, a writer and journalist, and Frances Harris, a writer. Brenon was educated at St. Paul’s School and King’s College in London, England, where his family lived and where his father was a drama critic. Always volatile in temperament, Brenon broke away from his family at age sixteen and immigrated to the United States. From work as an office boy for a vaudeville agent and as a call boy at Daly’s Theatre, he became an actor and assistant stage manager with Walker Whiteside’s touring repertory company. In 1904, while acting with a stock company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he married a local woman, Helen Oberg....

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Browning, Tod (12 July 1882–06 October 1962), film director, was born Charles Albert Browning in Louisville, Kentucky. Nothing is known of his parents. He attended school in Churchill Downs and went to the Louisville Male High School before running away from home to join a touring carnival in 1898. He worked as a contortionist and a clown on the carnival circuit for a few years before moving up to burlesque and vaudeville where he became known as an expert in blackface comic performing. He toured the United States as the principal burlesque comic in ...

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Stephen G. Marshall

Capra, Frank (18 May 1897–03 September 1991), filmmaker, was born in Bisacquino, Sicily, the son of Salvatore Capra and Rosaria Nicolosi, farmers. The family immigrated to the United States, settling on a farm outside Los Angeles, when Capra was six years old. Capra was the only of his parents’ fourteen children to attend college; he obtained a scholarship and graduated from Throop College of Technology (later California Institute of Technology) in 1918 with a degree in chemical engineering....

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Cassavetes, John (09 December 1929–03 February 1989), actor, screenwriter, director, and filmmaker, was born in New York City, the son of Nicholas John Cassavetes, the owner of a travel business, and Katherine Demitri. Although his father, a Greek immigrant, had a “knack” for making and losing millions, Cassavetes grew up in the affluent Long Island towns of Sands Point and Port Washington, where he went to public schools. He attended Mohawk College and Colgate University, majoring in English. He left college for a brief stint as a sports announcer, but after reading the plays of ...

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Charlie Chaplin Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111085).

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Charlie Chaplin. A movie still from A Dog's Life, 1918, with Scraps, the dog. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97609).

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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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Coe, Fred Hayden (23 December 1914–29 April 1979), television, film, and theater producer and director, was born in Alligator, Mississippi, the son of Frederick Hayden Coe and Annette Harroll. Coe was raised in Buckhorn, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, where he attended Peabody Demonstration School, writing the class play when he was twelve years old. He later studied at Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. In 1938 he attended Yale Drama School, taking graduate studies until 1940, when he returned to Nashville to accept a job at radio station WSM. He also directed plays at a local Nashville community theater. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945. In the postwar period Coe became a pivotal figure in the early development of television, particularly the realm of live drama. In 1945 Coe was hired as a production manager at NBC and in 1948 produced and directed the acclaimed live dramatic series “Philco Television Playhouse,” which later became “Goodyear Playhouse.” These productions were intended to bring Broadway to American households, which they did admirably. From 1952 to 1956 Coe produced a variety of programs for NBC, including the situation comedy “Mr. Peepers,” with ...

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Cooper, Merian Coldwell (24 October 1893–21 April 1973), filmmaker and adventurer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of John C. Cooper, a lawyer, and Mary Coldwell. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, but resigned in his last year. After a failed attempt to become an aviator early in World War I, he worked for short periods on newspapers and then enlisted in the Georgia National Guard, seeing service in Mexico....