Lloyd was born inBurchard,Nebraskato James Darsie Lloyd and Elizabeth Fraser; his paternal great-grandparents were fromWales. When he was a child, his parents divorced and Lloyd chose to stay with his father, who was always dreaming up grand get-rich-quick schemes that ended in disasters. They eventually ended up in Omaha where Lloyd had his first acting experience in a local stock company. He attendedEast High Schooland San Diego High School and received his stage training at the School of Dramatic Art (San Diego). In 1912, his father J. Darsie “Foxy” Lloyd was awarded the then-massive sum of $6,000 in a personal injury judgment (although this was split evenly between Lloyd and his lawyer) after being run over by an Omaha beer truck. Reportedly, on the toss of a coin (“Heads is New York or Nashville or where I decide!, tails isSan Diego”), he and Lloyd moved west.
Lloyd had acted in theatre since boyhood, and started acting in one-reel film comedies shortly after moving to California. He soon began working withThomas Edison’s motion picture company, and eventually formed a partnership with fellow struggling actor and directorHal Roach, who had formed his own studio in 1913. The hard-working Lloyd became the most successful of Roach’s comic actors between 1915 and 1919.
Lloyd hiredBebe Danielsas a supporting actress in 1914; the two of them were involved romantically and were known as “The Boy” and “The Girl.” In 1919, she left Lloyd to pursue her dramatic aspirations. Lloyd replaced Daniels withMildred Davisin 1919. Lloyd was tipped off by Hal Roach to watch Davis in a movie. Reportedly, the more Lloyd watched Davis the more he liked her. Lloyd’s first reaction in seeing her was that “she looked like a big French doll!” Davis retired from acting in 1923, andJobyna Ralstonbecame Lloyd’s co-star.
From 1915 to 1917, Lloyd and Roach created more than 60 one-reel comedies.
Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (22 January 1893 – 3 April 1943) was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), The Man Who Laughs (1928), The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Casablanca (1942). After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best paid stars of Ufa, he left Germany in 1933 with his new Jewish wife and settled in the United Kingdom, where he participated in a number of films before continuing to the United States around 1941.
In 1939, Columbia Pictureshired Keaton to star in ten two-reel comedies, running for two years. The director was usually Jules White, whose emphasis on slapstickmade most of these films resemble White’s Three Stoogescomedies. Keaton’s personal favorite was the series’ debut entry, Pest from the West, a shorter, tighter remake of Keaton’s little-viewed 1935 feature The Invader; it was directed not by White but by Del Lord, a veteran director for Mack Sennett. Moviegoers and exhibitors welcomed Keaton’s Columbia comedies, proving that the comedian had not lost his appeal. However, taken as a whole, Keaton’s Columbia shorts rank as the worst comedies he made, an assessment he concurred with in his autobiography. The final entry was She’s Oil Mine, and Keaton swore he would never again “make another crummy two-reeler.” These Columbia films are his final starring series for any film studio
Rudolph Valentino (May 6, 1895 – August 23, 1926) was an Italian actor, known simply as “Valentino” and also an early pop icon. A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the “Latin Lover”. He starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and Son of the Sheik. He had applied for American citizenship shortly before his death.
His sudden death at age 31 causedmass hysteriaamong his female fans, further propelling him intoiconstatus. Though his films are not as well known today, his name is still widely known.
Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr. (April 20, 1893 – March 8, 1971) was an American film actor and producer, most famous for his silent comedies.
Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era. Lloyd made nearly 200 comedy films, both silent and “talkies”, between 1914 and 1947. He is best known for his “Glasses Character”, a resourceful, success-seeking go-getter who was perfectly in tune with 1920s era America.
His films frequently contained “thrill sequences” of extended chase scenes and daredevil physical feats, for which he is best remembered today. Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923) is one of the most enduring images in all of cinema. Lloyd did many of these dangerous stunts himself, despite having injured himself in August, 1919 while doing publicity pictures for the Roach studio. An accident with a bomb mistaken as a prop resulted in the loss of the thumb and index finger of his right hand (the injury was disguised on future films with the use of a special prosthetic glove, though the glove often did not go by unnoticed).
Although Lloyd’s individual films were not as commercially successful as Charlie Chaplin’s on average, he was far more prolific (releasing twelve feature films in the 1920s while Chaplin released just three), and made more money overall ($15.7 million to Chaplin’s $10.5 million).
Selznick sold half of Kelly’s contract to MGMand loaned him out to MGM for his first motion picture: For Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland. Kelly was “appalled at the sight of myself blown up twenty times. I had an awful feeling that I was a tremendous flop” but the picture did well and, in the face of much internal resistance, Arthur Freed of MGM picked up the other half of Kelly’s contract. After appearing in the B-movie drama Pilot #5 he took the male lead in Cole Porter’s Du Barry Was a Lady opposite Lucille Ball. His first opportunity to dance to his own choreography came in his next picture Thousands Cheer, where he performed a mock-love dance with a mop.
He achieved his breakthrough as a dancer on film when MGM loaned him out to Columbiato work with Rita Hayworthin Cover Girl (1944), where he created a memorable routine dancing to his own reflection. In his next film Anchors Aweigh (1945), MGM virtually gave him a free hand to devise a range of dance routines, including the celebrated and much imitated animated dances with Jerry Mouse, and his duets with co-star Frank Sinatra. Anchors Aweigh became one of the most successful films of 1945 and it garnered Kelly his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) – which was produced in 1944 but not released until 1946 – Kelly collaborated withFred Astaire – for whom he had the greatest admiration – in the famous “The Babbitt and the Bromide” challenge dance routine.
At the end of 1944, Kelly enlisted in theU.S. Naval Air Serviceand was commissioned aslieutenant junior grade. He was stationed in the Photographic Section, Washington D.C., where he was involved in writing and directing a range of documentaries, and this stimulated his interest in the production side of film-making
Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I. Chaplin used mime, slapstick and other visual comedy routines, and continued well into the era of the talkies, though his films decreased in frequency from the end of the 1920s. His most famous role was that of The Tramp, which he first played in the Keystone comedy Kid Auto Races at Venice in 1914. From the April 1914 one-reeler Twenty Minutes of Love onwards he was writing and directing most of his films, by 1916 he was also producing them, and from 1918 he was even composing the music for them. WithMary Pickford,Douglas Fairbanks andD. W. Griffith, he co-foundedUnited Artists in 1919.
Chaplin was one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent-film era. He was influenced by his predecessor, the French silent film comedianMax Linder, to whom he dedicated one of his films.His working life in entertainment spanned over 75 years, from theVictorianstage and themusic hallin the United Kingdom as a child performer, until close to his death at the age of 88. His high-profile public and private life encompassed both adulation and controversy. Chaplin was identified withleft-wing politicsduring theMcCarthy eraand he was ultimately forced to resettle in Europe from 1952.
In 1999, the American Film Instituteranked Chaplin the 10th greatest male screen legend of all time. In 2008, Martin Sieff, in a review of the book Chaplin: A Life, wrote: “Chaplin was not just ‘big’, he was gigantic. In 1915, he burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through theGreat Depression and the rise ofAdolf Hitler, he stayed on the job. … It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most”.George Bernard Shaw called Chaplin “the only genius to come out of the movie industry”.
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Crosby’s trademarkbass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation.
A multimedia star, from 1934 to 1954 Bing Crosby was a leader in record sales, radio ratings and motion picture grosses. His early career coincided with technical recording innovations; this allowed him to develop a laid-back, intimate singing style that influenced many of the popular male singers who followed him, including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. Yank magazine recognized Crosby as the person who had done the most for American G.I. morale during World War II and, during his peak years, around 1948, polls declared him the “most admired man alive,” ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII. Also in 1948, the Music Digest estimated that Crosby recordings filled more than half of the 80,000 weekly hours allocated to recorded radio music.
Crosby exerted an important influence on the development of the postwar recording industry. He worked for NBC at the time and wanted to record his shows; however, mostbroadcast networksdid not allow recording. This was mainly because of the quality of recording at the time. While in Europe performing during the war, Crosby had witnessed tape recording, on which The Crosby Research Foundation would come to have many patents. The company also developed equipment and recording techniques such as theLaugh Trackwhich are still in use today. In 1947, he invested $50,000 in theAmpexcompany, which built North America’s first commercialreel-to-reel tape recorder. He left NBC to work for ABC because NBC was not interested in recording at the time. This proved beneficial because ABC accepted him and his new ideas. Crosby then became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings ontomagnetic tape. He gave one of the first Ampex Model 200 recorders to his friend, musicianLes Paul, which led directly to Paul’s invention ofmultitrack recording. Along withFrank Sinatra, Crosby was one of the principal backers behind the famousUnited Western Recordersrecording studio complex in Los Angeles.
During the “Golden Age of Radio,” performers often had to recreate their live shows a second time for the west coast time zone. Through the medium of recording, Crosby constructed his radio programs with the same directorial tools and craftsmanship (editing, retaking, rehearsal,time shifting) being used in motion picture production. This became the industry standard.
Crosby won an Academy Award for Best Actorfor his role as Father Chuck O’Malley in the 1944 motion picture Going My Way, and was nominated for his reprise of the role in The Bells of St. Mary’s the next year, becoming the first of four actors to be nominated twice for playing the same character. In 1963, Crosby received the firstGrammy Global Achievement Award. Crosby is one of the 22 people to have three stars on theHollywood Walk of Fame.
After a fruitless search, Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, to his first position as a choreographer with the Charles Gaynor musical revue Hold Your Hats at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in April, 1938. Kelly appeared in six of the sketches, one of which, “La Cumparsita”, became the basis of an extended Spanish number in Anchors Aweigh” eight years later.
His first Broadwayassignment, in November 1938, was as a dancer in Cole Porter’s Leave It to Me! as the American ambassador’s secretary who supports Mary Martin while she sings “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”. He had been hired by Robert Alton who had staged a show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and been impressed by Kelly’s teaching skills. When Alton moved on to choreograph One for the Money he hired Kelly to act, sing and dance in a total of eight routines. In 1939, he was selected to be part of a musical revue “One for the Money” produced by the actressKatharine Cornell, who was known for finding and hiring talented young actors.
Kelly’s first career breakthrough was in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Time of Your Life, which opened on October 25, 1939, where for the first time on Broadway he danced to his own choreography. In the same year he received his first assignment as a Broadway choreographer, for Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe. His future wife,Betsy Blair, was a member of the cast. They began dating and married on October 16, 1941.
In 1940, he was given the leading role in Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey, again choreographed by Robert Alton, and this role propelled him to stardom. During its run he told reporters: “I don’t believe in conformity to any school of dancing. I create what the drama and the music demand. While I am a hundred percent for ballet technique, I use only what I can adapt to my own use. I never let technique get in the way of mood or continuity.” It was at this time also, that his phenomenal commitment to rehearsal and hard work was noticed by his colleagues. Van Johnson who also appeared in Pal Joey recalled: “I watched him rehearsing, and it seemed to me that there was no possible room for improvement. Yet he wasn’t satisfied. It was midnight and we had been rehearsing since eight in the morning. I was making my way sleepily down the long flight of stairs when I heard staccato steps coming from the stage…I could see just a single lamp burning. Under it, a figure was dancing…Gene.”
Offers from Hollywood began to arrive but Kelly was in no particular hurry to leave New York. Eventually, he signed with David O. Selznick, agreeing to go to Hollywood at the end of his commitment to Pal Joey, in October 1941. Prior to his contract, he also managed to fit in choreographing the stage production of Best Foot Forward.