Birthdays May 21
Raymond Burr…May 21, 1917
William Raymond Stacy Burr was born in New Westminster, British Columbia. His father was a hardware salesman and his mother was a pianist and music teacher. When he was six his parents divorced and he moved to Vallejo, CA. and attended a Military Academy and graduated from Berkeley High School.
He claimed that when he was 12 years old his mother sent him to New Mexico for a year to work as a ranch hand. He was already at full height and had fallen in with a group of college aged kids and was able to tag along with them in activities far too sophisticated for him. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for a year in his teens and did a little acting work with a stock company.
Burr hoped to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse but was unable to afford the tuition so in 1934 he joined a repertory theatre group in Toronto and toured throughout Canada and in another group that toured India, Australia and England.
He briefly attended Long Beach Junior College, worked nights as a radio actor and singer and eventually made it to Pasadena Playhouse. He performed in over 30 plays and it led to a contract with RKO Pictures.
Burr appeared in over 50 films by 1957. They ranged from westerns, dramas, horror films and adventure films. He also worked steadily in radio. He had a regular role in Jack Webb’s first radio show “Pat Novak for Hire” and in “Dragnet”, “Suspense” and “Johnny Dollar” to name a few.
He emerged as a popular character actor in the 50’s appearing in many television theatre and playhouse programs. In 1956 Raymond’s footage as a foreign correspondent in Godzilla (for American audiences) was shot in a tiny LA studio for nearly 24 hours straight. Those scenes of him appearing to chat with the original actors were carefully spliced into the original Japanese version. It was planned to give the film’s ending a more optimistic note as Burr said “The monster was gone, the whole world could wake up and live again.” The film was renamed “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” That same month he auditioned for Perry Mason.
Raymond originally auditioned for the role as District Attorney Hamilton Burger in Perry Mason. The producers were impressed with Raymond’s courtroom performance in a “Place in the Sun” and was cast for the role of Mason after Eric Stanley Gardner (Mason’s creator) stood up and pointed at the screen…”That’s Perry Mason”!
The series ran from 57’ to 66’, had 30 million viewers every Saturday night and he received 3,000 fan letters a week.
Burr won 2 Primetime Emmy awards for Perry Mason.
Raymond was a collector of wine, art, stamps and seashells. He had an interest in flying, sailing and fishing and was one of the earliest breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs in the US as well as cultivated orchids into a business with a friend. They added more that 1,500 new orchids to the worldwide catalog.
Short list of Raymond Burr films
Pitfall…1948..co-starred Dick Powell
Borderline…1950..co-starred Fred Mac Murray
M…1951…directed by Fritz Lang
A Place In The Sun…1951.directed by George Stevens...co-starred Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, film won 6 AA awards
Bride of the Gorilla…1951..directed by Curt Siodmak, co-starred Lon Chaney Jr., Edward G. Robinson was originally cast in the film but was fired by the producers after his arrest for writing a bad check for $138 to Laguna Beach Garage
The Blue Gardenia..1953..directed by Fritz Lang
Rear Window…1954…directed by Alfred Hitchcock, co-starred James Stewart, Grace Kelly, film nominated for 4 AA awards
Godzilla, King of the Monsters…1956..directed by Ishiro Honda and Terry Morse (American version)
James Stewart...May 20, 1908-1997
James Maitland Stewart “Jimmy” was an American actor known for his distinctive drawl and ‘everyman’ screen persona.
James Stewart was born in Pennsylvania where his father ran the family business, the “J.M. Stewart and Company Hardware Store” which he had hoped James would take over as a family tradition. His mother was a pianist. When a customer at the store was unable to pay his bill Stewart’s father accepted an old accordion as payment that is when James was able to to play the instrument with the help of a local barber. His accordion became a fixture offstage during his acting career.
He spent much of his time after school in the basement working on model airplanes (which started a life long passion for aviation) mechanical drawings and chemistry. He was not a gifted student, receiving just average to low grades…he had a tendency to daydream said a few of his teachers. He attended a prep school and during summer breaks he worked as a brick loader and then a magician’s assistant. Due to scarlet fever that turned into a kidney infection he had to take time out from school and was late graduating.
He was able to enroll in Princeton, received a degree in architecture and later joined the University Players (a drama group). He performed in bit parts and moved to New York and appeared on Broadway with decent reviews. He later signed a contract with MGM by a talent scout who had been following his career.
James starred in over 80 films and won one AA award for Best Actor in “The Philadelphia Story.” He kept that Oscar statuette displayed in his father’s Hardware store for 25 years.
James authored a book of poems entitled “Jimmy Stewart and His Poems” and read the one titled “Beau” (which was about his late dog) to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show appearance in 1981 which left them both tear-eyed by the end of the poem.
Stewart was in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and received several medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross and Ronald Regan presented him with The Presidential Medal of Freedom along with Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Jacques Cousteau and Mother Teresa.
Short list of James Stewart films
After the Thin Man…1936
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington..1939
The Philadelphia Story…1940..film won 2 AA awards
It’s A Wonderful Life…1946..film nominated for 5 AA awards
Rope…1948..directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The Greatest Show on Earth..1952
Rear Window..1954…directed by Alfred Hitchcock..film nominated for 4 AA awards
The Man Who Knew Too Much…1956..directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo…1958..directed by Alfred Hitchcock..film nominated for 2 AA awards
Anatomy of A Murder..1959..film nominated for 7 AA awards…directed by Otto Preminger, music by Duke Ellington
How the West Was Won…1962…film won 3 AA awards…filmed in Cinerama
Arthur Conan Doyle…May 22, 1859-1930
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was a British writer and physician who created the character Sherlock Holmes in 1887.
Doyle was born in Scotland. He and his family lived in tenement flats as his father was an alcoholic and dealt with years of psychiatric illness. Supported by wealthy uncles Doyle went to preparatory school after his father’s death. He found that the school was harsh and instead of compassion and warmth it favored ritual corporal punishment. Later, Arthur spent time in an Austrian school and became a spiritualist mystic.
Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, and botany at a Botanic garden and began writing short stories. He set up a private medical practice after completing his Doctor of Medicine degree and continued to write fiction as he waited for patients.
His first published book was in 1886 titled “A Study in Scarlet” featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and was received with favorable reviews.
Doyle was a cricketer and played 10 first class matches and was also an occasional bowler. He served as one of three judges for the world’s first major bodybuilding competition. Doyle, (an amateur boxer) was requested to referee a heavyweight championship fight in Reno, NV. He also entered the English Amateur Billiards Championship in 1913.
Doyle was interested in mystical subjects and paranormal phenomena. He was a member of the supernaturalist organization “The Ghost Club”, attending and participating in séances. One of his non-fiction spiritualist works was “The Coming of the Fairies” and authenticated the “Cottingley Fairies” photographs. The film “Fairy Tale: A True Story” 1997 was based on these photographs, Peter O’ Toole played Arthur Conan Doyle and Harvey Keitel played Harry Houdini.
Arthur was friends with magician Harry Houdini and was convinced that Harry had supernatural powers.
Doyle wrote 56 “Sherlock Holmes” short stories and four novels. A series of 14 films based on those stories were released between 1939 and 1946 with the actors Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
The following is a short list of prominent actors that have played Sherlock in films:
John Barrymore, Raymond Massey, Peter Cushing, Nicol Williamson, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Lee, John Neville, Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, and Robert Downing Jr.
Jeremy Brett… stage, film, Shakespearean and musical theatre actor played Sherlock Holmes in four British Granada TV Series from 1984 to 1994. He said that Holmes was the hardest part he had ever played, harder than MacBeth. When getting ready for the part he conducted extensive research by having his 77 page “Baker Street Files” on set that had everything from Holmes mannerisms to his eating and drinking habits. Brett said ”The actor is like a sponge, squeezing himself dry to remove his own personality then absorbing the character’s like a liquid.”
Special Holidays…May 21
National Endangered Species Day
This day was created to keep us aware of how fragile the existence of some animals, plants and insects is and reminds us to take the time to learn about why it’s so important to protect endangered species from any further harm. At least 40% of animals, insects and plants are at risk across the world due to environmental changes, overhunting, poaching and destruction of habitats by humans. We have to protect the natural world, after all, we must all live in it. Local zoos may be offering special events for families today.
National Pizza Party Day
Celebrate by inviting friends and family to go out to your favorite pizzeria eat there or bring some home and support local businesses. Americans eat about 350 slices of pizza per second. The largest pizza made was 26,833 lbs. in 1990 in South Africa and 278 people tossed pizza dough simutaneously in Naples, Italy in 2014.
Reasons for having a pizza party:
It’s someone’s half birthday
A bee flew by and you didn’t gasp
The sun came out
You woke up
On This Day
“The Empire Strikes Back released” nationwide May 21, 1980….Story by George Lucas, directed by Irvin Kershner (a former professor of Lucas)
The scene where R2-D2 is submerged in the mudpool was actually shot in Lucas’ unfinished swimming pool and that scene was shot entirely by George himself.
While filming in Norway a blizzard in the film was a real blizzard. The director thought the weather was perfect. Harrison couldn’t arrive at the film location via train so he arrived on a snow plow.
The sound of Darth Vader’s shuttle door opening is a recording of a whole block of Alcatraz cell doors slamming shut.