Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jackie Cooper Passes On

Jackie Cooper, who had phenomenal success as a child actor in the Thirties and went onto a successful acting career as an adult, passed on 3 May 2011 at the age of 88.

Jackie Cooper was born in Los Angeles, California on 15 September 1922. He came from an entertainment family. His mother had been a child actress, while his maternal uncle Jack Leonard was a screen writer and his maternal aunt Julie Leonard was an actress. It was perhaps natural, then, that Mr. Cooper would end up in entertainment. Indeed, starting when he was 3 years old, his grandmother would take him to the studio to work as an extra. When he was 6 years old his mother, a rehearsal pianist, got him a singing role in a film. Jackie Cooper appeared in Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. With Boxing Gloves (1929) he received his first credited role. He soon joined the cast of the Our Gang comedy shorts. With the feature film Soooky (1931) Jackie Cooper became a star. Indeed, he became the youngest person to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Over the next several years Jackie Cooper was a major star. Often he was teamed with Wallace Beery, appearing in such films as The Champ (1931), The Bowery (1933), Treasure Island (1934),  and O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935). Mr. Cooper also appeared in such films as Peck's Bad Boy (1935), That Certain Age (1938), The Return of Frank James (1940), Life with Henry (1941) and Ziegfield Girl (1941). During World War II he joined the United States Navy, in which he served as a musician.

It was after the war, in 1947, that Jackie Cooper attempted a comeback. He appeared in such films as Stork Bites Man (1947), Kilroy Was Here (1947), and French Leave (1948). From the late Forties into the Fifities, however, most of Mr. Cooper's career would be spent on television. He made his television debut on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1949, then appeared in such shows as Tales of Tomorrow. Lux Video Theatre, Suspense, Kraft Theatre, Producer's Showcase, G. E. Theatre, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One, and The Gertrude Berg Show. He starred as Socrates "Sock" Miller for three years on the series The People's Choice. He also played the title role on the series Hennesey for three years.

In the Sixties Jackie Cooper continued to work in television. He appeared in such shows as Dick Powell Theatre, The U. S. Steel Hour, and The Twilight Zone. He appeared in the film Everything's Ducky (1961). The Seventies into the Nineties saw Jackie Cooper appear on both television and in films. He appeared in such TV shows as Hawaii Five-O, McCloud, Ironside, Hec Ramsey, Columbo, Police Story, Operation Petticoat, The Rockford Files, St. Elsewhere, Murder She Wrote, Sledge Hammer, and Capital News. He was a regular on the show Mobile One. Mr. Cooper appeared in such films as The Love Machine (1971), Chosen Survivors, Journey into Fear (1975), and Surrender (1985). He appeared as Perry White in the Eighties Superman films, starting with Superman in 1978.

Arguably, Jackie Cooper was the first child mega-star. At his height he made $2000 a week. He also associated with such big name celebrities as Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby. The reason for such success was young Mr. Cooper's acting skills. He could convincingly play a average little boy with none of cloying sweetness of other child stars. Indeed, he could even cry on cue. While his adult career was nowhere nearly as successful as his career as a child, he still possessed a considerable talent, playing everything from heavies to Daily Planet editor Perry White. He was quite simply a fine child actor who grew into a fine adult actor.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Love Affair with Audrey Hepburn

It was 82 years ago that Audrey Hepburn was born. This brings me to a confession that has been one of the central truths of my existence for years. Ever since I was a lad I have been in love with Audrey Hepburn. Time has neither faded nor tarnished the ardour I feel for Miss Hepburn And short of Grace Kelly and one other, no other actress has ever had such a hold on my heart. Quite simply, I believe Audrey Hepburn was one of the most beautiful, most graceful, and classiest ladies in the history of mankind.

If anyone is to blame for my unrequited love for Audrey Hepburn, it is perhaps my father. I was only around 8 years old when My Fair Lady came on the television. Being a typical boy, I wanted to change the channel. After all, this was a musical and every boy knows musicals are for sissies. Little did I know that, outside of Westerns, musicals were his favourite genre of motion picture. He persuaded me to watch the movie, telling me that I should give it a chance, that I might like it. Little did he know what he had done. At eight years old I was still at that age where I thought girls were "yucky," but once I laid eyes on Audrey Hepburn, especially after Professor Higgins had cleaned Eliza Doolittle up, I was hopelessly, irrevocably in love. On that night my father not only changed my mind about musicals, he also created another Audrey Hepburn fan.

It would  be some time before I would see Breakfast at Tiffany's, but when I did I once more found myself drawn to Audrey. And the process would be repeated with each Audrey Hepburn movie I saw: Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Funny Face, it was always the same. I fell even deeper in love with Miss Hepburn. I was at university before I saw Charade and How to Steal a Million, but the result was the same. Even as an adult I found my heart belonged to Audrey Hepburn.

I know my story is not unique, as I know many men who fell in love with Audrey Hepburn as boys and love her to this day. And looking at Audrey Hepburn it is easy to see why a young boy would fall in love with her. With dark hair, big eyes, and full lips, Audrey Hepburn was incredibly beautiful. Indeed, in the Fifties and Sixties there were those who would say the recently deceased Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful woman in the world. I have to disagree. Even if it was not for Grace Kelly (the only actress who stole my heart as a child), Miss Taylor would have no claim to the title. It belonged to Audrey Hepburn . As a evidence I offer the fact that I have never seen another male watching an Audrey Hepburn who was not transfixed by her every moment she appeared on the screen.

Of course, this brings me to another point I would like to make about Audrey Hepburn. While Miss Hepburn almost never appears on the lists of sex symbols of the 20th Century, she was almost certainly one. As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, men find her incredibly attractive. And there is little reason they should not. True, Audrey did not possess the traditional hourglass figure of such sex symbols as Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner, but her beauty did not stop at her face. Audrey Hepburn had trained as a ballerina and possessed the figure of such.  When at her proper weight Audrey Hepburn's figure was every bit as attractive as that of the top sex symbols. Here I must point out that sex appeal goes beyond a woman's figure, however, as it is often in how a woman moves as well. And Audrey, trained as a ballerina, was perhaps the most graceful actress to ever appear on the big screen.

Beyond Audrey's beauty and her obvious sex appeal, however, I must point out that much of her attractiveness emerged simply because of who she was. Audrey Hepburn was not the typical movie star. She always conducted herself as a lady, never behaving in such a way that was unbecoming. If ever the word "lady" was true of a woman, it was true of Audrey Hepburn. Indeed, she was a woman who had endured much in her life, including the Dutch Famine of World War II. Perhaps because of this, Audrey Hepburn emerged as a woman who cared deeply about her fellow man. Audrey had worked for UNICEF as far back as the Fifties, and became a Goodwill Ambassador for the organisation in 1989. Even four months before her untimely death, Audrey Hepburn visited Somalia on behalf of UNICEF. Needless to say, Miss Hepburn's work for charity would endear her even more to me.

So it is that on this, Audrey Hepburn's 82nd birthday, I find myself still hopelessly in love with the woman. To me she was one of the classiest, most graceful, most beautiful women to have ever live. The fact is I have been in love with Audrey as long as some adults have been alive. I have to say that it is perhaps because of Audrey that I have a preference for brunettes, not to mention it is perhaps because of Audrey that I have certain  expectations of how a lady should behave. Except for Grace Kelly, no other actress has had such an impact on my life. And it is all because my father insisted I watch a musical....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yvette Vickers R.I..P.

The mummified corpse of former Playboy Playmate and B-movie actress Yvette Vickers was discovered by a neighbour last week in her home in Los Angeles. Based upon the state of her corpse, it is believed that she could have been dead for up to one year. It is not believed that she died due to foul play, although the official cause of death has yet to be determined by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Yvette Vickers was one of the earliest Playmates, as well as the star of such movies as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959).

Yvette Vickers was born Yvette Vedder in Kansas City, Missouri on 26 August 1936. Her parents were jazz musicians whom she often accompanied on tour. In 1950, when she was only 16, she began performing small local theatre productions. It was also in 1950 that she made her screen debut in an uncredited role in Sunset Boulevard. She also appeared that year in The Sound of Fury. She also adopted the stage name Yvette Vickers in 1950 as well.

In 1951 Miss Vickers enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1953 she appeared in episodes of I Led Three Lives  and The Red Skelton Show. It was in 1954 that she received her big break, appearing in television adverts for White Rain shampoo. In 1956 Yvette Vickers' career began to take off. She guest starred on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp that year. From 1957 to 1960 Yvette Vickers appeared in such films as Reform School Girl (1957), Short Cut to Hell(1957), The Sad Sack (1957), I Mobster (1958), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Saga of Hemp Brown (1958), and Attack of the Giant Leeches. She appeared in such TV shows as Mike Hammer, The Texan, Bat Masterson, Northwest Passage, Dragnet, and One Step Beyond. In July 1959 she appeared in Playboy as Playmate of the Month.

From the Sixties into the Eighties she appeared in such films as Pressure Point (1962), Hud (1963), Beach Party (1963), What's the Matter with Helen (1972), and Evil Spirits (1990). She appeared on the TV shows The Rebel, The Asphalt Jungle, The Bob Cummings Show, Tales of Well Fargo, My Three Sons, Emergency, and Switch.

In the Seventies Yvette Vickers would go into real estate and in the Nineties would begin singing jazz, recording CDs and appearing in cabarets.

I cannot in all honestly say that Yvette Vickers was a great actress, although she was certainly beautiful. That having been said, she was perfectly suited to the roles she played and she played them with a good deal of sincerity. It is perhaps that sincerity which makes Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and Attack of the Giant Leeches more memorable than many other B-movies. It is also perhaps the reason that Yvette Vickers remains remembered.