In 1963, as a collegiate, Eric Idle was admitted into the Cambridge Footlights comedy club. He became president of the club the following year, and one of his first acts was to open the membership to include women. Feminist/writer Germaine Greer was one of the first women to join.
Long-legged dancer Ann Miller told a story about each time she had to dress for a dance on-screen, the tops of her stockings needed to be sewn to the costume she was wearing. This was a tedious process and had to be repeated each time there was a run, etc. One day, she suggested to the man supplying the stockings that he simply add a top to the stockings, so they could be worn as one piece. And that’s how panty-hose was born.
Ann once flew overseas to Morocco to entertain the troops on the Timex TV Hour for Bob Hope. She sang and danced the Kiss Me Kate (1953), Bianca/Lois Lane, number ‘Too Darn Hot’, in 120 degrees heat, entertaining five thousand soldiers!
Singer/actress Dinah Shore hailed from Winchester, Tennessee, where she was born in 1916. During World War Two she earned the USO Medallion Award as the first entertainer to visit GIs on the front lines. She was married to actor George Montgomery for around twenty years (December 1943 to May 1963), and was a long-time lover of actor Burt Reynolds who was twenty years her junior. She died from ovarian cancer in February 1994, less than a week shy of her seventy-eighth birthday.
Born in 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as Robert Ridarelli, singer/actor Bobby Rydell scored nineteen Top 30 hit songs from 1959 through 1964! These included ‘Kissin’ Time (#11), ‘Volare’ (#4), ‘Sway’ (#4), ‘Swingin’ School’ (#5), ‘Wild One (#2), and ‘Forget Him’ (#4). In 2012, he underwent a kidney and liver transplant that prolonged his life by almost ten more years, until pneumonia claimed him in 2022 at the age of seventy-nine
James Baskett’s portrayal of Uncle Remus in the 1946 film Song of the South won him an Honorary Oscar, the first given to an African-American in Hollywood history. He did not attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, Georgia, however, because, as an African-American, he would not have been allowed to participate in any of the festivities in that racially segregated city. Ironically, his performance in Song of the South cannot be seen in its entirety in the United States, as the Walt Disney Co. will not release it on the home video market because of its controversial nature, which was denounced as racist by the NAACP when it premiered in 1946. A further irony is that the NAACP now has no public stance on the film!
Pop singer/actor Chubby Checker was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina in 1941, as Ernest Evans. Bandstand’s Dick Clark suggested the name ‘Chubby Checker’ after comparing him to pop singer Fats Domino. Chubby has been married to Catharina Lodders since April 1964, and they have three children. Catharina was crowned Miss World in 1962 as Miss Holland that year.
Actor Carroll O’Connor (Archie Bunker for twelve years in 1971’s All in the Family and 1979’s Archie Bunker’s Place), lost his only son, Hugh, to a self-inflicted gunshot wound when the young man became despondent over the disintegration of his life resulting from his long-term drug addiction. Hugh was actually speaking on the phone to his father at the time. Carroll did a public service announcement shortly after his death about the perils of drug abuse. ‘Nothing will give me any peace’, he said. ‘I’ve lost a son, and I’ll go to my grave without any peace over that.’
Jane Powell is probably best-known for her portrayal of Milly in the 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Her husband once bought her a pair of diamond earrings and due to her fear of needles, she figured the only way she would have of wearing them was to have her ears pierced under anaesthetic. Upon discovering she was pregnant with her last daughter, Jane explained to the doctor that he could only handle her case if he would pierce her ears while she was on the delivery table. He agreed, and she left the delivery room with a baby daughter and two pierced ears.
Harve Presnell has had two distinct portions in his career; that of a smooth, silky-voiced actor cast as the romantic lead in musicals, and that of a balding gravelly-voiced older man who frequently plays cruel men of power due to his towering, imposing presence. He took a twenty-year hiatus from movie appearances (1976-1996), before effectively featuring in Fargo in 1996. An avid pilot since childhood, he had already learned how to fly a plane by the age of ten!
Topol became the first ever Israeli actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. It was 1972 and the movie, of course, was Fiddler on the Roof. He was on active duty with the Israeli army when he was nominated in early 1972, but was granted leave so he could attend the ceremony in Los Angeles that year. George C. Scott was the successful nomination for his performance in Patton.
It is interesting to note that the theme song, titled, ‘Arthur’s Theme (Best that you can do)’, for the 1981 comedy Arthur, was co-written by four people – Christopher Cross, (who sings the song), Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer-Sager, and Peter Allen. Allen was Liza Minnelli’s ex-husband, incidentally. She played the female lead and love interest of the film’s star Dudley Moore. Peter’s only contribution to the song was the chorus lyric, ‘When you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.’ He came up with the line while sitting in an airliner that was stuck in a holding pattern over New York City at night, waiting to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Despite this minimal contribution, the other three insisted on him receiving a song-writing credit. Consequently, when the tune won the Academy Award for Best Song, Allen, too, was the recipient of an Oscar! Rarely, if ever, has an Academy Award been given out for such a miniscule amount of effort from its recipient. The line, by the way, bore no connection to any part of the story-line.