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Chase, Ilka (08 April 1905?–15 February 1978), actress and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Francis Dane Chase, a hotel manager, and Edna Woolman Chase, editor of Vogue magazine. She was given her unusual first name in honor of a Hungarian friend of her mother. Chase, whose parents divorced when she was a child, was educated at a succession of boarding schools, including convent schools in Manhattan and Suffern, New York, run by the Sisters of the Holy Child, and Mrs. Dow’s School, Briarcliff Manor, New York. Most summers were spent at her grandmother’s estate at Brookhaven, Long Island. At age sixteen Chase was sent to finishing school in Groslay, France, and later attended a convent school at Neuilly, outside Paris. In 1923 she returned to New York to make her society debut at the Cosmopolitan Club....

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Collinge, Patricia (20 September 1894–10 April 1974), actress and writer, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the daughter of Frederick Channon Collinge, a musical director and conductor, and Emmie Russell. She was privately educated in Dublin. It was there, admitted free to plays as a professional courtesy to her father, that she first saw and loved theater. At the age of ten she made her first professional appearance at London’s Garrick Theatre, playing Ching-a-Ling in a 1904 Christmas pantomime, ...

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Fisher, Carrie (21 Oct. 1956–27 Dec. 2016), actress and writer, was born Carrie Frances Fisher in Beverly Hills, California, to Eddie Fisher, a popular singer and the grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants, and Debbie Reynolds, a Hollywood actress whose forebears were Anglo-Saxon Protestants of modest means. At the time of Carrie’s birth, Fisher and Reynolds, who had married to great fanfare a year earlier, were a celebrated young couple, labeled “America’s sweethearts” by the media. The public doted on newspaper and magazine coverage as well as film footage of the seemingly perfect couple and their adorable little daughter. The arrival little more than a year later of a son, Todd, only enhanced their image....

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Loos, Anita (26 April 1893–18 August 1981), author and child actress, was born Corinne Anita Loos in Sissons (now called Mount Shasta), California, the daughter of Richard Beers Loos, a newspaper owner and editor, and Minnie Ellen Smith. “In my youth I never kept a diary, feeling that a girl who could sell her words for money had other fish to fry,” Loos (pronounced Lohse) wrote in her 1974 autobiography, ...

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Niven, David (01 March 1910–29 July 1983), actor and author, was born in London, England, the son of William E. G. Niven, an inheritor of extensive landholdings, and Henrietta de Gacher. He sometimes named as his birthplace the more arresting locale of Kirriemuir, Scotland, where his father had an estate. William Niven served as a naval lieutenant during World War I and died at Gallipoli in 1915. Finding herself in reduced financial circumstances because of her husband’s gambling, Henrietta Niven made a second marriage in 1917 to a man who remained distant from her four children. Niven’s rootless childhood was spent in a series of boarding schools, ending at Stowe House. During these years he showed a budding interest in amateur dramatics and writing but not in serious study. He was known as the school clown of Stowe, a born entertainer whose devil-may-care charm got him in and out of various scrapes. In 1927 he entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He continued to appear in amateur dramatic productions there and also during his army service as a junior officer in the Highland Light Infantry from 1929 through 1933....

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Robins, Elizabeth (06 August 1862–08 May 1952), actress, author, and suffragist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of Charles Ephraim Robins, a financier who later became a metallurgist, and Hannah Mariah Crow. After a move to Staten Island, New York, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain his failing business interests, Robins’s father was forced by severe financial difficulties to make a desperate move to Colorado to mine for metals, leaving his family in the care of his wife. In 1872, after the deterioration of her mother’s mental faculties and subsequent removal to an asylum, Elizabeth Robins and her five younger siblings were sent to live with their paternal grandmother, Jane Hussey Robins, in Zanesville, Ohio. This distinguished albeit impoverished side of the family provided Robins with a stable and refined atmosphere, enabling her to receive a superior education at the Putnam Seminary for Young Ladies in Zanesville, from which she graduated in 1880. As she developed strong interests in acting and writing, her performances and essays won praise from fellow students and teachers....

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Wilder, Gene (11 June 1933–29 Aug. 2016), actor, writer, director, and novelist, was born Jerome “Jerry” Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Velvel (William) Silberman, a Jewish salesman who emigrated from Russia, and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman, from a Polish Jewish family in Chicago.

Jerry became a comedian when he was eight, hoping to make his mother laugh as she recovered from her first heart attack. “If my mother hadn’t laughed, I probably wouldn’t be a comic actor” (...