Friday, October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr and Joey Bishop

Deborah Kerr and Joey Bishop both died recently. Both were important individuals in their respective fields.

Deborah Kerr died Tuesday at the age of 86. She has long had Parkinson's disease.

She was born Deborah Kerr-Trimmer in Helensburgh, Scotland. She studied acting under her aunt, Phyllis Smale, at Hicks-Smale Drama School in Bristol.She would make her acting debut at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, London. From 1939 to 1940 she was a part of the Oxford Repertory Company. By 1943 she made her debut on the West End in Heartbreak House.

Kerr made her debut in film in an uncredited, bit part in Contraband in 1940. In 1941 she received her first credited role in Major Barbara. Kerr swiftly graduated to lead roles, in such films as Love on the Dole, Hatter's Castle, and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Arguably the Fifties were her decade. Kerr began the Fifties appearing as the female lead in King Solomon's Mines. She appeared in high profile roles in such films as Quo Vadis, The Prisoner of Zenda, The King and I, and An Affair to Remember. Perhaps her most notable role was in From Here to Eternity. Playing Karen Holmes, she appeared in the memorable love scene on the beach with Burt Lancaster. From the Sixties to the Eighties she appeared in such films as The Sundowners, Casino Royale, The Arrangement, and The Assam Garden.

Kerr did not appear on stage often, although she received a Tony for her role on Broadway in 1953 in Tea and Sympathy. She later appeared on Broadway in Seascape in 1975.

Deborah Kerr was a versatile actress. Early in her career she often played the dignified British woman or simply complimented male leads in adventure films. At the same time, however, she could convincingly play her smouldering role in From Here to Eternity or the alcoholic wife in Edward, My Son. There have certainly been few actresses like her.

Comedian Joey Bishop died Wednesday at the age of 89. He was perhaps best known for being part of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack.

Bishop was born Joseph Gottlieb in the Bronx on February 3, 1918. While still he was still an infant, Bishop's family moved to Philadelphia where he was raised. He entered show business as part of a vaudeville act with his brother. He later formed an act with two friends, calling themselves "the Bishop Trio;" hence he adopted Joey Bishop as his stage name. During World War II Bishop served in the United States Army, where he rose to the rank of sergeant.

After the war Bishop began his career as a stand up comedian. Appearing in New York clubs, television producers took notice and Bishop made his debut on the small screen in an episode of Cavalcade of Bands in 1951. Throughout the Fifties Bishop made appearances on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, and Keep Talking, as well as several appearances on both The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. He starred in his own sitcom, The Joey Bishop Show, from 1961 to 1965. He was also a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show and guest panellist on What's My Line. In 1967 he recieved his own short lived, late night talk show--the American Broadcasting Company's attempt to take on NBC's The Tonight Show. It only lasted a few months. From the Sixties into the Seventies Bishop appeared on such shows as The Jack Benny Programme, The Andy Williams Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Laugh In, Match Game '73, The Tonight Show, and Murder She Wrote.

Bishop also had a film career. He made his cinematic debut in The Deep Six in 1958, and appeared in the films The Naked and the Dead and Onionhead. It would be the films he made with his fellow members of the Rat Pack for which Bishop would be best known. Alongside the rest of the Rat Pack he appeared in Ocean's Eleven andSergeants Three. Bishop would continue to appear in films into the Nineties, including A Guide for the Married Man, Valley of the Dolls, Delta Force, and Betsy's Wedding. Bishop also appeared on Broadway in Sugar Babies in the early Eighties.

Although a very talented comedian, it may have been for being part of the Rat Pack that Joey Bishop was best known. He had met Sinatra in the early Fifties when Sinatra saw his act at a club. He soon began opening for Sinatra and his career took off. Bishop was the least flashy member of the group, Rather than partying all the time, Bishop was a dedicated family man. He was married to the same woman for most for 58 years. His idea of fun was playing golf. Like the rest of the Rat Pack, Bishop was a fixture in Las Vegas. He regularly played the Sands and other casinos. It was Bishop who wrote most of the material for the Rat Pack in their appearances. Perhaps because of his more sedate lifestyle, Bishop lived longer than any other member of the Rat Pack.

While he may be best known as part of the Rat Pack, Joey Bishop was a very talented comedian. He had a gift for improvising jokes, to the point that he never bothered to memorise them. His delivery was brilliant and deadpan. In fact, at the height of his success he was known as "the Frown Prince." Joey Bishop may not have been the best known member of the Rat Pack, but he was definitely one of its most talented members.

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