Here is a run-down of most of the parent/offspring deals in the movie industry in the west. I keep thinking that movie acting must be extremely difficult, but then I see the number of sons and daughters of movie stars who take up the profession and succeed at it. Are they really extraordinary talents or is movie acting something that can be taught; handed down from parents?
ROBERT ALDA (1914-86) as George Gershwin in Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
His first screen appearance was as Gershwin in the above movie. It was a fictionalised biopic and it was not much good. At Warner Bros he was considered to strongly resemble the studio’s biggest star Cary Grant in looks. Grant made an equally poor biopic about Cole Porter’s life for Warners in 1946. It was titled Night and Day and it, too, was badly received by public and critics alike. Alda married a former Miss New York, Joan Browne, and together they produced a son named Alan. A stroke claimed Robert in 1986.
ALAN ALDA (1936 – ) as Captain Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce in M.A.S.H.
Alan Alda is Robert’s son and has made numerous movies over his long career. He has even been Oscar-nominated (unsuccessfully) for his performance in The Aviator (2004), but all this pales into insignificance when compared to his eleven seasons (1972-83) as Captain Pierce in the extraordinarily popular TV series M.A.S.H. He has been married to his wife, Arlene, since 1957 and they have three children. A strong family man, he chose to commute from New Jersey to Los Angeles every weekend for eleven years for filming of the series, rather than uproot his children from their Jersey lifestyle. He was the only member of the M.A.S.H. cast to appear in all 251 episodes. Curiously, the writer of the novel on which the series (and the movie) were based, Richard Hooker, did not like the series at all and especially disliked Alda’s portrayal of ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce.
JOHN ANISTON (1933 – ) as Victor Kiriakis in Days of our Lives
John Aniston was born in July 1933 in Crete, Greece as Yannis Anastassakis. The holder of a BA in Theatre Arts from Penn State University, he was all set to play Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) until Ted Knight came along and landed the part. Before that he served in the US Navy as an intelligence officer on active duty in Panama. He and actress Nancy Dow parented a daughter named Jennifer. Mother and daughter were estranged for around nine years but reconciled prior to Nancy’s death in 2016.
JENNIFER ANISTON (1969 – ) as Rachel Green in Friends
Actor Telly Savalas, her father’s closest friend, became baby Jennifer’s godfather at her birth. In 1994, she was asked to audition for the role of Monica in a new series soon to be titled Friends. She refused, but landed the role of Rachel instead. It made her famous after Friends became a world-wide phenomenon. That fame increased exponentially with her 2000 marriage to superstar Brad Pitt (whom she met on a blind date), but the union collapsed after five years when he moved on to Angelina Jolie. In 2015, she wed actor Justin Theroux but they, too, have since separated. Her love life has certainly had its ups and downs, but she can take consolation from her bank balance which currently stands at about $400 million.
LUCILLE BALL (1911 – 89) & DESI ARNAZ (1917 – 86)
In 1933, while Lucille Ball was taking whatever parts she could get, (mostly in ‘B’ movies in Hollywood), sixteen year-old Desi Arnaz and his folks was fleeing from the Cuban revolution to Miami. Lucy and Desi would meet on the set of one of her 72 movies, Dance Girl Dance (1940), and fall in love instantly. Despite possessing a very ordinary singing voice, Desi’s Cuban band took off and his popularity was soon rewarded with time on the silver screen. His playboy reputation was well-known to Lucy before he proposed to her, but she was smitten and took the plunge anyway. The relationship was stormy because of her husband’s philandering, but their TV series I Love Lucy was making them enormously wealthy, so the marriage rolled on. It produced two children, Lucie and Desi Jr, before concluding in an inevitable divorce in 1961. The famous couple remained friends until Desi’s death at 69 in 1986. Lucy died three years later.
LUCIE ARNAZ (1951 – ) with Neil Diamond in The Jazz Singer (1980)
Lucie is the older sister of Desi Arnaz Junior. Her mother wanted to name her Suzan Ball after their ill-fated actress cousin who died young, but Desi Senior wanted her named after Lucy. So, when his wife fell asleep, he sneakily wrote ‘Lucie’ on the birth certificate. It has often been said that young Lucie lost the role of Betty Rizzo in Grease (1978) because her mother told the producers at Paramount, ‘I used to own that studio; my daughter’s not doing a screen test!’ Lucie, however, has always insisted this was not so. As for The Jazz Singer (1980), suffice to say that its male lead, singer Neil Diamond, won the first ever ‘Razzie Award’ for Worst Actor for his performance in it. He never again accepted a dramatic role in a movie.
DESI ARNAZ Jr (1953 – ) (C) with Antonio Banderas & Armand Assante in The Mambo Kings (1992)
The film and television career of Desi Arnaz Junior is nothing to write home about; consisting of just 38 screen credits, and most of those TV appearances. In 1992 he actually played his own father in a brief scene at the end of The Mamba Kings, but has not graced the screen since. Back in the sixties he was the drummer in a pop group called Dino, Desi & Billy. It featured Dean Martin’s son Dino and another youngster named Billy Hinsche. The group recorded for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records label and had a Top 40 hit with ‘I’m a Fool’ in 1965. Desi has lived in Boulder City, Nevada since 1986 and owns the Historic Boulder Theatre, where he and his wife help direct the non-profit Boulder City Ballet Company.