Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Couple of 'Paul Newman' Anecdotes

In noting the recent passing of legendary film star Paul Newman, I thought I'd relate a couple of relevant anecdotes.

Sometime in the late 1970s (could have been earlier, I really don't remember), Paul Newman's chauffeur-driven limo got a flat tire while passing through here (Mount Vernon, NY) on the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway. The driver managed to get off the highway and to a service station to have the flat changed. While waiting, Newman went to a nearby deli and bought a 6-pack of beer. Someone in the store told him he "looked like Paul Newman", and he replied, "Yeah, I get that a lot". Then he returned to his car, and he and the driver drove back onto the highway to Connecticut. This was reported in the newspaper the next day after the deli clerk called the newspaper to tell them he thought he had Paul Newman as a customer. A few phone calls from the press to Newman's public relations office, confirmed that he was, indeed, in Mount Vernon the previous day.

Another story: In my early days with DHL (mid-1980s), for the first four years my delivery route was in Fairfield County, Connecticut. One of the cities I delivered was Westport (partially, not the entire city), and two or three times, I had letters addressed to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I believe their house/farm was on Coleytown Road. Neither was home when I delivered, or if they were, they didn't come to the door. Instead, their housekeeper accepted and signed for the letters. She had a bit of an attitude too, sort of like "I work for the Newmans, what do YOU want from them?". Perhaps she thought I was there to ask for an autograph?

During my active years of collecting autographs, I sent photos to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, to their home in Westport, asking them to sign them. The photos were never returned. A few years later I read an article in which was mentioned Mr. Newman did not sign autographs. The article stated that he said he always signed for people in his early days of acting, but one time, when he was in a restaurant, he got up to go to the men's room, and while standing at the urinal, somebody approached him and asked for his autograph. At that point, he decided to turn down all such requests. Some autograph seekers are overanxious and ruin it for everybody!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson is a British stage and movie actress who has been acting since the 1950s. In addition to movies, she has appeared on many tv shows and made-for-tv movies.

I enjoyed her performances in 1973's "A Touch of Class" and 1977's "Nasty Habits".

In 1981, I wrote to her, at her residence in England, requesting a photo, and she replied within one month. She sent this letter as well as this post-card size photo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mel Blanc - 'Man of a Thousand Voices'

Mel Blanc was a comic actor who was very adept at creating voices for all types of characters, which he played on Jack Benny's radio show in the 1940s. He also had his own radio show for several years. But he is best known for the voices he created for various cartoon characters in Warner Brothers cartoons - Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Yosemite Sam - the list goes on and on.

In 1980 I wrote to Mr. Blanc and requested a photo, and he sent this one within two weeks. This is a great photo, showing him surrounded by some of the animated characters for which he provided voices. The inscription: "Eh - what's up Bill? 'Bugs Bunny & Gang' - Mel Blanc".

Here's Mr. Blanc in a well-known routine he did with Jack Benny.

And here he tells how he created the voices for the Warner Brothers cartoon characters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

David Tomlinson

David Tomlinson was an English actor who was in movies from the 1940s into the 1970s. He had many memorable appearances, but is best remembered for his role of 'George Banks' in the 1964 Disney movie "Mary Poppins". I also remember him in "The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu", the 1980 comedy starring Peter Sellers.

In 1980, I wrote to him, at his residence in England, and requested a photo. He sent this vintage post-card size photo within one month.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ruth Donnelly

Ruth Donnelly was an actress on stage and in movies. She began her career as a teenager in about 1915, on Broadway. About the same time, she appeared in some movies. She continued to perform in plays and musicals until she went to Hollywood in the 1930s and played supporting roles in dozens of features until she retired in the 1960s.

In 1971, I read a newspaper interview which mentioned she was living in New York City. I looked up her number in the phone directory and called. She was very friendly and happy to be appreciated for her movies, especially by a person of my young age (at the time, I was 19). I asked for an autographed photo, and she sent this photo which I received within one week. The photo is a 'contemporary' portrait, as she did not have any photos from her earlier years.

Here is a vintage photo of how I remember her, as she appeared in movies of the 1930s and '40s.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dennis Patrick

Dennis Patrick was a well-known and recognizable character actor whose career began in the early 1950s. While he appeared in several feature movies, he was more prolific in tv shows, and was seen on many dozens of shows right into the 1990s.

When I first saw him in a movie, it was as the wealthy businessman character 'Bill Compton', in 1972's "Joe", which starred Peter Boyle. The movie was very controversial at the time, but by today's societal standards, it wouldn't be so.

Mr. Patrick was a New York City resident in the 1970s, and his phone number was published in the Manhattan directory. I called him shortly after seeing "Joe", to tell him I appreciated his performance. He may have been receiving crank calls about his role, because when he answered the phone and I asked, "Is this Dennis Patrick the actor?", he cautiously and slowly replied "Y-e-e-e-s-s". When I explained why I was calling, he became at ease, and after a few minutes of light conversation, I asked for an autographed photo. He took down my name and address and in a few days, I received this photo in the mail. His brief inscription: "Thanks for asking".

In 2002, Mr. Patrick died tragically, in a house fire in Los Angeles, at the age of 84.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rhonda Fleming

Rhonda Fleming was a popular movie actress in the 1940s and '50s, and on many tv shows in the 1960s and '70s. Some of her most well-known feature roles are in "Spellbound" (1945), "Out of the Past" (1947), "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (1949), and "While the City Sleeps" (1956).

Miss Fleming was one of the most beautiful actresses in the '40s and '50s, and was nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor" because complexion and red hair photographed exceptionally well in Technicolor films.

I sent Miss Fleming this photo in 1981, to her Los Angeles residence, and she returned it within two weeks.

While she has been retired from movies for several years, she is still very much active in humanitarian circles. She maintains her own website which can be seen here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anna Lee

Anna Lee was an English-born actress who became popular in American movies when she moved to Hollywood in the 1940s. She appeared in several of director John Ford's movies, including "How Green Was My Valley" (1941) and "Fort Apache" (1948). She appeared in many movies during the 1940s and 1950s, and eventually worked mostly on various tv shows.

Miss Lee is probably best remembered for her character 'Lila Quartermaine' on the tv 'soap opera' "General Hospital", a role she played for many years until 2003. She died the following year.

She is yet another actress I remembered from many movies but neglected to write. In 1990, a signed post card photo (seen below) was part of a small collection I'd purchased. The post card was never mailed, as it is postage-free on the back, and was published by an English company. Since it isn't dated, I'm assuming it to be from the late 1930s-early 1940s.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leon Askin - 'General Burkhalter'

Leon Askin was an Austrian-born veteran actor of the stage and movies for many years before he entered tv in the 1950s. He appeared on many shows in a variety of roles, both dramatic and comedic. Mr. Askin was adept at playing foreign characters who'd speak English but with a strong accent.

While I'd seen him in various movie and tv roles, it is as the character 'General Burkhalter' in the 1960s tv sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" for which I'll remember him.

In early February 1982, I sent Mr. Askin this photo, in character as 'General Burkhalter', to his residence in Beverly Hills, California. He returned it within two weeks.

Some years later, Mr. Askin returned to his native Austria where he continued to act and direct. He even had/has his personal website. The website is still online, and apparently is being maintained by somebody since Mr. Askin's death in Vienna in 2005, at age 97.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mary Treen

Mary Treen was a character actress who began her career on the vaudeville stage, and from there continued on to theater and movie and tv. Her movie career began in the 1930s in many uncredited roles. As audiences continued to recognize her, she eventually was given screen credit for whichever roles she played.

Ms. Treen was seen on many tv shows during the 1960s, '70s and '80s and was always fun to watch.

I wrote to Ms. Treen, at her Newport Beach, California residence, in 1982, requesting a photo. She sent this photo, within two weeks. It's signed on the upper left, in the dark portion of the photo.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Butterfly McQueen - 'Prissy' in "Gone With the Wind"

Butterfly McQueen was an actress who is best remembered for her role in 1939's "Gone With the Wind", as the young maid Prissy. She went on to appear in a handful of movies and several tv shows over the years.

In 1982, a friend who'd been collecting autographed photos for many years provided me with Miss McQueen's address, which was on West 144th Street in New York City's Harlem. I sent her this photo as 'Prissy', and she returned it to me within two weeks.

I'd heard from people who'd met her and/or talked to her by phone, that Miss McQueen was a very sweet lady who enjoyed being remembered for her movie role of many years earlier. This dear lady had a tragic end. In 1995, while living in Augusta, Georgia where she maintained a home during winter months, she attempted to light a kerosene heater, and it malfunctioned and burst into flames. She received burns over most of her body, and died a few days later. Her body was donated to medical science.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Henry Jones

Henry Jones was an actor best known for his character roles. He was active in movies from the 1940s, and tv shows from the 1950s into the 1990s. He is probably best remembered for his role as the father-in-law on the 1970s sitcom "Phyllis" which starred Cloris Leachman.

I wrote to Mr. Jones in 1982, to his residence in Los Angeles, requesting a photo. He sent this photo within one month.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Frances McCoy.....Search Ended

Welcome Back! I took a much-needed break from blogging, during the month of August, and now I'm back, with a new posting three times a week - Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I appreciate the comments people have made about my blog, and about my autographed photo collection in general, and I hope every reader will find future postings as informative and entertaining too.
On Thursday evening, August 21, 2008, the nearly 20-year search for actress Frances McCoy ended. Fellow 'Three Stooges supporting players' researcher Frank Reighter sent me a scan of a news article in a 1943 issue of the military publication, The Stars and Stripes. He found it in a section of the genealogy website Ancestry.com. The article was about a USO entertainment troupe touring Europe to entertain U.S. armed services personnel. One of the entertainers was "singer Frances McCoy, of New York". Reference was made to Miss McCoy looking for her brother, T/Sgt. Harry Popper, who was in the Air Corps. A photograph of Frances with some other people was included in the article.
With this new information, that her family name was "Popper", I proceeded to research the vast resources at Ancestry.com and found her family in the 1930 US Census, living in New York City. With an approximate birth year for Harry, I then was able to locate his date of death and an obituary. The obit mentioned several survivors, but Frances was not one of them. There were a few children of Harry's, though, and I located his daughter Victoria, living in California. I called, and she confirmed that her aunt was indeed Frances McCoy, the actress who appeared in 1930's "Soup to Nuts", the first screen appearance of a group of comics who would later be known as The Three Stooges. Victoria was pleasantly surprised that people are interested in her aunt's career, and we had a lengthy conversation during which she told me some vital family history.

Frances was born in Poland, on December 25, 1910 (some sources give the year as 1912), as Franya Popowsky. Her parents were Sam and Yetta Popowsky (this name was later 'Americanized' to 'Popper'). Her family emigrated to the U.S. in about 1913-1914 and lived in New York City, until they moved to Los Angeles in 1930. Frances, who'd become a stage actress in NYC, was offered movie roles. While her movie career never took off as hoped, she continued performing in a few movie musical shorts and nightclub revues, until she married and left the business.

As Frances Katchen, she died on June 20, 1976, a resident of River Edge, New Jersey.

Frank will continue communicating with Frances' niece to obtain more information about her career, photos, etc.