Birthdays May 7
Darren McGavin..May 7, 1922-2006
Darren was born William Lyle Richardson in Spokane WA. His parents divorced when he was 11 years old and custody was given to his father who was a traveling salesman for a chemical company.
When he was a young teen he lived with a family on a farm in Puget Sound while his father traveled for work. At 16 he eventually ran away from the farm and lived with a Native American family along the Nisqually River in WA. When his father was notified that he fled McGavin dodged police and welfare workers before he was put into a boarding school. Once he deserted the boarding school he temporarily lived as a runaway under the wharf in San Francisco before moving in with his mother and stepfather at their ranch in Southern California.
While in High School in CA he decided to be an architect and studied at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. where he took a side job building scenery for a local theater group. After dropping out of college he worked as a painter for Columbia Pictures’ movie studios in 1945 and soon got a bit part in “A Song To Remember.” He moved to NYC and studied acting and began appearing on Broadway along with theatre television programs such as the “Kraft Television Theatre” and “The US Steel Hour”.
After returning to Hollywood he appeared in short films and then in feature films such as David Lean’s “Summertime” opposite Katherine Hepburn and also in “The Man with the Golden Arm” with Frank Sinatra.
During this early part of his career he starred in seven different tv series such as “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer” and guest starred in many more as well as leading parts in films.
Darren starred in the television film “The Night Stalker” (script written by Richard Matheson) in 1972. It was one of the highest rated of all time and was followed by a sequel “The Night Strangler”.
Then came the TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” in 1974. This was a uniquely eerie mystery series. His character was an investigative reporter for the Independent News Service (Chicago based) who regularly stumbles upon the supernatural or the occult. Kolchak routinely has his evidence in the case destroyed or seized usually by a public official to cover up the incident. He’s neither a warrior nor an expert in the occult, little money and a few friends, a nonchalant goofball on the surface with a straw hat and ill-fitting seersucker suit.
The show ran one season only, 20 episodes. One of the episodes was written by Robert Zemeckis (which gave him his first screen credit) and Bob Gale who both went on to write “Back to the Future.” Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files) said that Kolchak was the inspiration for his show.
Another success for Darren was the film “A Christmas Story” (1983) which is now an American tradition as the 24 hr “A Christmas Story” holiday marathon on tv (an alternative to staring at the Christmas Yule Log). Jack Nicholson was interested in playing the role of Ralphie’s father but the studio did not want to pay Jack’s high fee as it would have doubled the film’s budget. The actor who played Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) got the part out of 8,000 boys auditioning. He went on to be the Executive Producer of the film Iron Man in 2008.
Darren starred in 28 films.
Short film list
Mission Mars..1968..starred Nick Adams…story by Aubrey Wiseberg who also co-wrote and co-produced “The Man from Planet X”
The Man With The Golden Arm..1955…Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, film nominated for 3 AA awards
Airport 77….1977, film nominated for 2 AA awards
A Christmas Story…1983
Raw Deal…1986… Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hanger 18…1980… Robert Vaughn
Darren won an Emmy Award in 1990 for his role in the series Murphy Brown.
Ishiro Honda…May 7, 1911-1993
Ishiro was a Japanese film director and screenwriter best known for his action monster movies and his Godzilla franchise.
Honda was born as one of five children in Asahi, Yamagata. His father and grandfather were Buddist monks and the family lived on the temples’ property. The family grew rice, potatoes, radishes and carrots. They made and sold miso and soy sauce as well receiving income from a silk moth farm they managed.
Honda always had a love for reading scientific magazines. After his family moved to Tokyo his grades declined in chemistry and algebra. He became interested in films growing up. He would sneak into movie theatres without his parents’ permission. Silent films at that time in Japan had live narrators instead of “on screen texts” and he found that fascinating. He joined the film department at Nihon University in 1931. He and his class mates rented a room from their university where they would gather after school to discuss films.
Honda was offered an entry level job at Photographic Chemical Laboratories (PCL) in 1933. He became an assistant director and scriptwriter. He enlisted in the service in 1935, served his time and was recalled in 1939.
He returned home in 1942 and found PCL was now rebranded as Toho. He continued as assistant director and in 1946 began his film career. Three years later he worked with friend Akira Kurosawa as a chief assistant director on Kurosawa’s second film “Stray Dog” and continued to do documentaries for Toho for several years. He directed his first feature film “The Blue Pearl” a film about pearl divers which was one of the first Japanese feature films to utilize underwater photography.
In 1954 he directed Godzilla and continued to do the monster films for about 20 years. Later he went back to assist friend Kurosawa as advisor, consultant and production coordinator for Kurosawa’s last five films as well as a portion of the film “Dreams” which was with the assistance from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Honda directed over 30 feature films and considered the father of Godzilla.
Honda’s Godzilla pioneered a form of special effects called “suitmation” in which a stunt performer wearing a suit interacts with miniature sets.
Short List of Honda’s Monster Films
Rodan…1956…the actor in Rodan’s “suit” almost drowned when the wires holding the 150 lb costume above a water tank snapped.
Mothra…1961..Mothra (a giant divine moth) is accompanied by two miniature female humanoids to speak on her behalf
King Kong vs Godzilla…1962
Mothra vs Godzilla…1964
Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster…1964
War of the Gargantuas…1966..Russ Tamblyn…Tab Hunter was originally cast in Tamblyn’s role
Destroy All Monsters…1968
Terror of Mechagodzilla…1975
Orson Welles…May 6, 1915-1985
George Orson Welles was an American actor, director, screenwriter and producer. Orson was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His parents separated and moved to Chicago. His father who made a fortune as the inventor of a popular bicycle lamp became an alcoholic and eventually stopped working. His mother was a pianist and played during lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago and died from hepatitis when Orson was 9.
After he moved back with his father he attended an expensive independent school (Todd School for Boys) where he was expelled for misbehavior. One of his teachers provided him with an educational environment that helped him with subjects that he liked which enabled him to perform in productions on stage. In addition to a theatre the school’s own radio station was at his disposal. His first radio experience was on that station where he performed an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes that was written by him.
After his father’s death Orson traveled to Europe using a portion of his inheritance. He went on a “walking and painting” trip in Ireland when he walked into the Gate Theatre in Dublin and claimed he was a Broadway star. The manager was so impressed he gave him an audition. Thus started his professional career starring in supporting roles and designing productions of his own in Dublin and London then returned to the US. He met Thornton Wilder at a party and became part of a repertory theatre company and was cast in three plays in New York.
He got his first job on radio in 1934, joined a theatre project a year later introduced by John Houseman and used much of his radio earnings to stage productions. In 1937 he founded the Mercury Theatre which included Joseph Cotton and Vincent Price.
Orson continued on radio when he did the famous adaptation of “The War Of The Worlds” in 1938 when panic was reported spreading among listeners who believed the fictional news reports of a Martian Invasion. This new fame attracted Hollywood offers. Orson began to commute from CA to NY and led to roles as an actor and director in several films over the years.
Orson had a lifelong interest in magic having been taught by Houdini in the 20’s when he was still a boy. He demonstrated some of his tricks in films and television programs.
When you are down and out something always turns up and it is usually the noses of your friends.
I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts, but I can’t stop eating peanuts.
Living in the lap of luxury isn’t bad except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up.
Orson Welles won AA award for Best Writing and Original Screenplay for “Citizen Kane” 1941
Orson starred in over 60 films and directed 13 films.
Short list of films
Citizen Kane…1941…starred, directed..won AA Original Screenplay and Best Writing
The Magnificent Ambersons…1942…starred, directed..nominated for 4 AA awards
Journey Into Fear…1943..starred, co-directed
The Third Man…1949..starred, screenplay..won AA award for Best Cinematography
Touch of Evil…1958..starred, directed
F for Fake….1973…directed, written
Birthday Honorable Mentions….May 7
Gary Cooper…1901-1961 (High Noon, Beau Geste)…starred in 48 films
Ann Baxter…1923-1985 (The Magnificent Ambersons, All About Eve)…starred in 22 films
Edwin H. Land…1909-1991 “Poloroid Land Camera” inventor
Special Holidays…May 7
International Space Day…created in 1997 by Lockheed Martin to promote science, technology and engineering among young people.
International Tuba Day….created to recognize tubists in musical organizations around the world who have to go through the hassle of handling the tuba which can weigh up to 35 pounds. The tuba was invented in 1835.
National Public Gardens Day..this is a chance to support Mother Nature and check out botanical gardens, museums and zoos. Public gardens are treasures whether the gardens are in urban centers or in rural communities…many are with free admission. Many gardens conduct research in the discovery of new plant species and has a role in protecting endangered plants.
National Roast Leg of Lamb Day ...this meal can be roasted or grilled with vegetables and is loaded with nutrition. Leg of Lamb is a unique and tasty dish and is usually cooked with lots of garlic. It not only delivers protein but also potassium, vitamin B-12, as well as iron and magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids.
On This Day
The film “The Fifth Element” was released on May 7, 1997 at the Cannes Film Festival where it was selected as the opening film. Guests were given a “Fifth Element” Swatch (watch) which was used as their ticket for entry. The event included a futuristic ballet, fashion show and fireworks.
Paramount Pictures was founded on May 8, 1912. Originally called the “Famous Players Film Company”, founder Adolph Zukor (who had been an early investor in nickelodeons) saw that movies appealed mainly to working class immigrants and planned to offer feature length films and started his company with 22 actors and completed 5 films in one year. It remains to be fifth oldest movie studio in the world.
The beverage Coca Cola was first sold on May 8, 1886 at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. The drink was invented by John Pemberton originally as a painkiller. Kola nuts contained caffine and was the main ingredient in the early version. The formula was sold for $2300 in 1887.
Hammer Films released “Dracula” their first film in their “Dracula series” on May 7, 1958 in Milwaukee. This version starred Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
The McMinnville UFO Photographs….
May 11, 1950