Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Keystone Cop" Comic Actor Ford Sterling 1939 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Ford Sterling (November 3, 1883 – October 13, 1939) was an American comedian and actor best known for his work with Keystone Studios. One of the 'Big 4' he was the original chief of the Keystone Cops.


Born George Franklin Stich in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he began his career in silent films in 1911 with Biograph Studios. When director Mack Sennett left to set up Keystone Studios, Sterling followed him. There, he performed as 'Chief Teeheezel' in the Keystone Cops series of slapstick comedies in a successful career that spanned twenty-five years.

Making a smooth transition to talking films, Ford Sterling made the last of his more than two hundred and seventy film appearances in 1936. He died in 1939 of a heart attack (following long standing diabetes) in Los Angeles, California and is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ford Sterling has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6612 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography

Safe in Jail (1913) 
Murphy's I.O.U. (1913) 
His Chum the Baron (1913) 
That Ragtime Band (1913) 
The Foreman of the Jury (1913) 
The Gangsters (1913) 
Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (1913) 
The Waiters' Picnic (1913) 
Peeping Pete (1913) 
A Bandit (1913) 
For the Love of Mabel (1913) 
Love and Courage (1913) 
Professor Bean's Removal (1913) 
The Riot (1913) 
Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913) 
The Faithful Taxicab (1913) 
When Dreams Come True (1913) 
Two Old Tars (1913) 
The Speed Kings (1913) 
Fatty at San Diego (1913) 
Wine (1913) 
A Ride for a Bride (1913) 
Fatty's Flirtation (1913) 
Some Nerve (1913) 
Cohen Saves the Flag (1913) 
A Game of Pool (1913) 
A Misplaced Foot (1914) 
In the Clutches of the Gang (1914) 
A Robust Romeo (1914) 
Between Showers (1914) 
Tango Tangles (1914) 
That Minstrel Man (1914) 
The Sea Nymphs (1914) 
Hogan's Romance Upset (1915) 
That Little Band of Gold (1915) 
Court House Crooks (1915) 
Fatty and the Broadway Stars (1915) 
The Day of Faith (1923) 
Hollywood (1923) cameo 
Wild Oranges (1924) 
He Who Gets Slapped (1924) 
Stage Struck (1925) 
The American Venus (1926) 
Miss Brewster's Millions (1926) 
Good and Naughty (1926) 
Mantrap (1926) 
The Show Off (1926) 
Stranded in Paris (1926) 
Casey at the Bat (1927) 
For the Love of Mike (1927) 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928) 
Sally (1929) 
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) 
Spring Is Here (1930) 
Bride of the Regiment (1930) 
Alice in Wonderland (1933) 
Keystone Hotel (short subject) (1935) 
Black Sheep (1935) 
The Headline Woman (1935) 
Behind the Green Lights (1935)




Wendy Warwick White, Ford Sterling - His Life and Films (McFarland and Company, 2007) ISBN 0-7864-2587-3 
Simon Louvish, Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett (Faber and Faber, 2005) ISBN 0-571-21100-3

"Pickup on South Street" Actress Jean Peters 2000 Holy Cross Cemetery

Jean Peters (October 15, 1926 – October 13, 2000) was an American actress, known as a star of 20th Century Fox in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and as the second (or possibly third) wife of Howard Hughes. Although possibly best remembered for her siren role in Pickup on South Street (1953), Peters was known for her resistance to being turned into a sex symbol. She preferred to play unglamorous, down-to-earth women.[1]

Early life

Born Elizabeth Jean Peters in 1926 in East Canton, Ohio, she was the daughter of Elizabeth and Gerald Peters, a laundry manager. Raised on a small farm in East Canton, Peters attended East Canton High School. She was raised as a Methodist.[2] She went to college at the University of Michigan and later the Ohio State University, where she studied to become a teacher and majored in literature. While studying for a teaching degree at Ohio State, she entered the Miss Ohio State Pageant in the fall of 1945. From the twelve finalists, Peters won. Sponsored by the photographer Paul Robinson of the "House of Portraits," she was awarded the grand prize of a screen test with 20th Century-Fox.[3]

As her agent, Robinson accompanied her to Hollywood, and helped her secure a seven-year contract with Fox. She dropped out of college to become an actress, a decision she later regretted.[3] In the late 1940s, Peters returned to college, in between filming, to complete her work and obtain a diploma.[4]

It was announced that in her first film I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (1947), she would play an "ugly duckling," supported by "artificial freckles and horn-rimmed glasses."[5] She eventually withdrew from the film. Peters was tested in 1946 for a farm girl role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948), but the producer and director decided she was not suitable.[6]


Peters was selected to replace Linda Darnell as the female lead in Captain from Castile (1947) opposite Tyrone Power, when Darnell was reassigned to save the production of Forever Amber. Although she had not yet made her screen debut, Peters was highly publicized. She received a star treatment during the filming.[7] Captain from Castile was a hit. Leonard Maltin wrote that afterward, Peters spent the new decade playing "sexy spitfires, often in period dramas and Westerns."[8] She was offered a similar role in the western Yellow Sky (1948), but she refused the part, explaining it was "too sexy."[8] As a result, the studio, frustrated by her stubbornness, put her on her first suspension.[8]

For her second film, Deep Waters (1948), which Peters filmed in late 1947, she was reunited with her director from Captain from Castile, Henry King. On this, she commented: "It's really a break for me, because he knows where he's going and what he wants, and I naturally have great confidence in him."[3] The film was not nearly as successful as Captain from Castile, but Peters was again noticed. She was named among the best five 'finds' of the year, among Barbara Bel Geddes, Valli, Richard Widmark and Wanda Hendrix.[9] She was next assigned to co-star next to Clifton Webb in Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949), but Shirley Temple later replaced her.[10]

In early 1949 Peters signed on to play Ray Milland's love interest in It Happens Every Spring (1949). For the role, she offered to bleach her hair, but the studio overruled this.[8] Although the film became a success, most of the publicity was for Milland's performance.

Peters next starred alongside Paul Douglas in the period film Love That Brute (1950), for which she had to wear a dress so snug she was unable to sit.[11] The film was originally titled Turned Up Toes, and Peters was cast in the film in June 1949, shortly after the release of It Happens Every Spring. To prepare for a singing and dancing scene, Peters took a few lessons with Betty Grable's dance instructor.[12]

By 1950, Peters was almost forgotten by the public, although she had been playing lead roles since 1947. In late 1950, she was cast in a secondary role as a college girl in Take Care of My Little Girl (1951), a Jeanne Crain vehicle.[13] A Long Beach newspaper reported that Peters gained her role by impressing Jean Negulesco with her sewing.[14] She once became famous for being a small country girl, but as she grew up, the studio did not find her any more suitable roles.[15]


Due to her insistence, Peters was given the title role in Anne of the Indies (1951), which the press declared was the film that finally brought her stardom.[16] Before its release, she was cast in Viva Zapata! (1952) opposite Marlon Brando. Julie Harris had been considered for this role. Also in 1951, Peters had her first collaboration with Marilyn Monroe, when they had secondary roles in As Young as You Feel.[17]

Peters was set to play the title role in the drama film Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952). It was the first time since the beginning of her career that Peters received this much publicity.[18] While shooting the film in Hutchinson, Kansas, Peters was honored with the title 'Miss Wheatheart of America.'[19]

In 1953 the director Samuel Fuller chose Peters over Marilyn Monroe for the part of Candy in Pickup on South Street. He said he thought Peters had the right blend of sex appeal and the tough-talking, streetwise quality he was seeking. Monroe, he said, was too innocent looking for the role. Shelley Winters and Betty Grable had previously been considered but both had turned it down. Because of the sex symbol status of her character, Peters was not thrilled with the role.[20] She preferred playing more down-to-earth, unglamorous parts as she had done with Anne of the Indies (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952) and Lure of the Wilderness (1952).[21]

For Pickup on South Street, Peters was advised to bleach her hair but she refused to do so. She wanted to avoid comparisons with Winters and Grable.[22] She did agree to adopt a "sexy shuffle" for the role.[22] She was helped by Marilyn Monroe to understand the role of a siren.[15] Peters later said that she had enjoyed making the film, but announced in an interview that she was not willing to take on other siren roles. She said: "'[Pickup on South Street]' was fine for my career, but that doesn't mean I'm going to put on a tight sweater and skirt and slither around. I'm just not the type. On Marilyn Monroe it looks good. On me it would look silly."[23] In another interview, Peters explained that playing down-to-earth and sometimes unwashed women have the most to offer in the way of drama.[21]

She said:

A clothes horse seldom has lines or situations that pierce the outer layer and get into the core of life. After all, a woman in the latest Paris creation might feel and think like a plain, simple soul but the clothes she wears would prevent her from revealing exactly what she feels and thinks. One look in the mirror and she must live up to what she sees there. The same is true on screen. If the character is chic and soignee and lines are either 'bright' or 'smart aleck' I do not think of myself as a person suited to reading such lines. Sophistication in an actress usually comes from many years of training. I came to the screen from the classroom and I'm learning as I go along. I like to play roles I understand. As I am a farm girl, born and raised near Canton, Ohio, I like the frank, honest approach. Innuendo, intrigue, the devious slant, are foreign to me and to the sort of character I best understand. I often think our glamorization of Hollywood stars – the perpetual photographing us in ermine and bouffant tulle, in French bathing suits or sleek satin – throws the public off. They don't recognize us as human beings subject to the same discomforts of climate and working conditions as they are. They expect to see that goddess leading couple of wolfhounds come striding onto the set. Because I like to get away from all that and down to the heart of things I choose such characters as Josefa, or Anne, or Louise, the girl in Lure of the Wilderness.[21]

Peters and Marilyn Monroe starred together in another 1953 film noir, Niagara, also starring Joseph Cotten. In Niagara, Peters replaced Anne Baxter, with whom she co-starred in the anthology film O. Henry's Full House (1952). Shooting of Niagara took place in the summer of 1952.[17] Peters' character was initially the leading role, but the film eventually became a vehicle for Monroe, who was by that time more successful.[24]

Peters' third film in 1953, A Blueprint for Murder, reunited her with Joseph Cotten. She was assigned to the film in December 1952 and told the press she liked playing in the film because it allowed her to sing, but there is no song by her in the picture, only the playing of a piano.[25][26] Shortly after the film's premiere in July 1953, the studio renewed Peters' contract for another two years.[27]

In 1953 she also starred in the film noir Vicki. The writer Leo Townsend bought the story of the film, a remake of I Wake Up Screaming, as a vehicle for Peters.[28] Townsend said that he gave the role to Peters in December 1952, because she was "one of the greatest sirens he's ever seen."[28]

Next, Peters was assigned to replace Crain in the film Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), which was shot on location in late 1953 in Italy.[8] Peters was unsatisfied with her role and said in a September 1953 interview: "When I heard Dorothy McGuire, Clifton Webb and Maggie McNamara were going to be in the picture, I thought I would finally have the kind of role that suited me. They sounded like smart, sophisticated company. But when I got to Italy and read the script, I discovered I was going to be an earthy kind of girl again. The script had me nearly being killed in a runaway truck."[1] However, the film became a great success and brought Peters again into the limelight.[29]

Other 1954 films co-starring Peters were the westerns Apache and Broken Lance. Although Broken Lance did not attract much attention, she was critically acclaimed for her performance in Apache. One critic praised her for "giving an excellent account for herself," declaring she was "on her way to becoming one of the finest young actresses around Hollywood today."[29]

Peters' next (and ultimately final) film was A Man Called Peter (1955), in which she played Catherine Marshall, the wife of Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian minister and Chaplain of the United States Senate. After the release of A Man Called Peter, Peters refused several roles, for which she was placed on suspension by the studio.[8]

Deciding she had had enough, Peters left Fox to focus on her private life.[8] Following her marriage to Howard Hughes, she retired from acting. In 1957, the producer Jerry Wald tried to persuade her not to leave Hollywood but had no luck.[30] She was supposedly discouraged from continuing as an actress by Hughes, and reported in late 1957 that she was planning on becoming a producer.[31]

In March 1959, it was announced that Peters was to return to the screen for a supporting role in The Best of Everything.[32] But, she did not appear in that film; and, despite her earlier announcement, never produced a film.

Later career

In 1970, rumors arose of Peters making a comeback to acting when the press reported that she was considering three film offers and a weekly TV series for the 1970–1971 season.[33] She chose the television movie Winesburg, Ohio (1973). Afterward, she said, "I am not pleased with the show or my performance in it. I found it rather dull."[34] At the beginning, she had expressed enthusiasm for the project, saying: "I'm very fond of this script. It's the right age for me. I won't have to pretend I'm a glamour girl."[35] Her co-star William Windom praised her, saying she was "warm, friendly and charming on the set."[35]

In 1976, Peters had a supporting role in the TV miniseries The Moneychangers. When asked why she took the role, she said: "I'll be darned if I know. A moment of madness, I think. I ran into my old friend Ross Hunter, who was producing The Moneychangers for NBC-TV, and he asked me if I wanted to be in it. It seemed like fun. It's a nice part – not too big – and I greatly admire Christopher Plummer, whom I play opposite."[36]

Peters appeared in the 1981 television film Peter and Paul, produced by her husband. She guest starred in Murder, She Wrote in 1988, which was her final acting performance.

Personal life and death

After landing a contract in Hollywood, Peters moved there, where she initially lived with her aunt, Melba Diesel.[3] From the beginning of her career, Peters openly admitted she did not like the fame, explaining she did not like crowds.[3] Co-actors at Fox recalled that she was very serious about her career. Jeanne Crain said Peters was "anything but a party girl."[37] Despite her clashes with the studio, Peters was well liked by other contract players.[8]

One biographer recalled: "In all the research and planning that went into this book, no one ever had an unkind word to say of Miss Peters, and that is unusual."[8] Peters was close friends with Marilyn Monroe, who also worked for Fox.[22] Other actors she befriended during her career were Joseph Cotten, David Niven, Ray Milland, Marie McDonald, and especially Jeanne Crain.[8]

The soldier and actor Audie Murphy claimed that he had a relationship with Peters in 1946, before she met Howard Hughes.[38] In 1954, Peters married Texas oilman Stuart Cramer.[39] At the time they married, they had known each other for only a few weeks, and they separated a few months later.[33] There was much talk of Peters possibly retiring from the screen, but the actress insisted that after her eight-week leave from Fox, she was to return to Hollywood.[40]

In 1957, after her divorce from Cramer, Peters married Howard Hughes. Soon after that, he retreated from public view and, reportedly, started becoming an eccentric recluse.[41] The couple had met in the 1940s, before Peters became a film actress.[42] During their highly publicized romance in 1947 there was talk of marriage, but Peters said that she could not combine it with her career.[3] The columnist Jack Anderson claimed that Peters was "the only woman [Hughes] ever loved."[43] He reportedly had his security officers follow her everywhere even when they were not in a relationship. The actor Max Showalter confirmed this, after becoming a close friend of Peters during shooting of Niagara (1953).[44]

During her marriage, which lasted from 1957 to 1971, Peters retired from acting and social events in Hollywood. According to a 1969 article, she went through life unrecognized, despite being protected by Hughes' security officers all day.[45] Living in anonymity was easy, according to Peters, because she "didn't act like an actress."[46] It was later reported that during the marriage, Peters was frequently involved in numerous activities, such as charitable work, arts and crafts, and university studies including psychology and anthropology at UCLA.[46]

In 1971, Peters and Hughes divorced. She agreed to a lifetime alimony payment of $70,000 annually, adjusted for inflation, and she waived all claims to Hughes' estate. In the media, she refused to speak about the marriage, claiming she preferred to focus on the present and future.[46] She said that she hoped to avoid being known as 'Mrs. Howard Hughes' for the rest of her life, although knowing that would be difficult. "I'm a realist. I know what the score is, and I know who the superstar is."[46]

Later in 1971, Peters married Stan Hough, an executive with 20th Century Fox. They were married until Hough's death in 1990.

Peters died of leukemia in 2000 in Carlsbad, California, two days before her 74th birthday. She was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[47]



Year Film Role Notes

1947 Captain from Castile Catana Perez 
1948 Deep Waters Ann Freeman 
1949 It Happens Every Spring Deborah Greenleaf 
1950 Love That Brute Ruth Manning 
1951 As Young as You Feel Alice Hodges 
 Take Care of My Little Girl Dallas Prewitt 
 Anne of the Indies Captain Anne Providence 
1952 Viva Zapata! Josefa Zapata 
 Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie Nellie Halper 
 Lure of the Wilderness Laurie Harper 
O. Henry's Full House Susan Goodwin (The Last Leaf) 
1953 Niagara Polly Cutler 
 Pickup on South Street Candy 
 Vicki Vicki Lynn 
 A Blueprint for Murder Lynne Cameron 
1954 Three Coins in the Fountain Anita Hutchins 
 Apache Nalinle 
 Broken Lance Barbara 
1955 A Man Called Peter Catherine Wood Marshall


Year Title Role Notes

1973 Winesburg, Ohio Elizabeth Willard Television movie 
1976 The Moneychangers Beatrice Heyward Miniseries 
1981 Peter and Paul Priscilla Television movie 
1988 Murder, She Wrote Siobhan O'Dea 1 episode

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source

1953 Lux Radio Theatre Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie[48]


1. Bob Thomas, "Jean Peters Hopes to Avoid Roles of Siren on Screen," Reading Eagle, September 21, 1953, p. 19 
2. http://www.fumceunice.org/About.html 
3. Interview with Louella Parsons, Waterloo Daily Courier, 12 October 1947, Waterloo, Iowa, p. 19 
4. Long Beach Independent, October 14, 1948, Long Beach, California, p. 26 
5. Evening Independent, July 26, 1946, Massillon, Ohio. p. 21 
6. The Oakland Tribune, November 6, 1946, Oakland, California. p. 10 
7. Evening Independent, December 5, 1946, Massillon, Ohio. p. 4 
8. "Jean Peters: biography of a forgotten leading lady". Filmjournal.com.  
9. St. Petersburg Times,October 25, 1948. p. 3 
10. "Notes for Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949)". Turner Classic Movies. 
11. Long Beach Press-Telegram – April 9, 1950, Long Beach, California. p. 7 
12. Post-Standard, April 9, 1950, Syracuse, New York. p. 63 
13. The Salt Lake Tribune, October 11, 1950, Salt Lake City, Utah. p. 17 
14. Independent Long Beach, November 30, 1950, Long Beach, California. p. 52 
15. Syracuse Herald-Journal – February 11, 1953, Syracuse, New York. p. 31 
16. Syracuse Herald Journal, October 25, 1951, Syracuse, New York. p. 59 
17. "Production dates for Niagara (1953)". Turner Classic Movies. 
18. San Antonio Light, July 21, 1951, San Antonio, Texas. p. 6 
19. The Salt Lake Tribune, July 3, 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah. p. 9 
20. Kingsport Times-News, September 30, 1952, Kingsport, Tennessee. p. 14 
21. Long Beach Press-Telegram, January 10, 1952, Long Beach, California. p. 33 
22. Austin Daily Herald, September 30, 1952, Austin, Minnesota. p. 3 
23. The San Mateo Times, September 21, 1953, San Mateo, California. p. 13 
24. "Notes for Niagara (1953)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
25. The Portsmouth Herald – January 23, 1953, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. p. 7 
26. Independent Press-Telegram – August 9, 1953, Long Beach, California. p. 55 
27. "Jean Peters Proves Popular With Bosses", Deseret News, July 27, 1953, p. 5 
28. "Goldstein Will Star Jean Peters as Siren", Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1952 
29. "Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters Offer Top Performances in 'Apache'" by Thomas Blakley, Pittsburgh Press, July 6, 1954 
30. "Boyer Will Costar in 'The Buccaneer'", Los Angeles Times, February 16, 1957 
31. Sheilah Graham, "Jean Peters New Producer", The Miami News, November 6, 1957, p. 10B 
32. "Hedda Hopper" by Hedda Hopper, The Lima News, March 30, 1959, p. 11 
33. Harold Hefferman, "Jean Peters May Resume Once Budding Film Career," The Milwaukee Journal, January 23, 1970, p. 1 
34. The Des Moines Register – March 4, 1973, Des Moines, Iowa. p. 109 
35. Charles Witbeck, "Winesburg, Ohio days," The Miami News, March 3, 1973 
36. "For Jean Peters", Spartanburg Herald-Journal, October 16, 1976 
37. The Des Moines Register, January 25, 1970, Des Moines, Iowa. p. 47 
38. Starr, Kevin (2003). Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940–1950. Oxford University Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-19-516897-6. 
39. McCarthy, Todd (2000). Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood. Grove Press. p. 659. ISBN 978-0-8021-3740-1. 
40. The Progress-Index, July 18, 1954, Petersburg, Virginia. p. 18: Jean Peters Denies Quitting Movies Because Of Marriage 
41. Bartlett, Donald L. and James B. Steele (1979) Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes, W. W. Norton and Company, New York – p. 458' 
42. The Delta Democrat-Times, September 29, 1946, Greenville, Mississippi. p. 4 
43. Jack Anderson with Les Whitten, "Hughes and Jean Peters," The Gadsden Times, April 13, 1976, p. 4 
44. Weaver, Tom (2004). Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks: Conversations with 24 Actors, Writers, Producers and Directors from the Golden Age. McFarland and Company. p. 9. ISBN 0-7864-2070-7. 
45. "Mrs. Hughes: A Mysterious Figure", The Milwaukee Journal, December 12, 1969, p. 10 
46. "Jean Peters asserts Hughes secret safe", The Register-Guard, December 6, 1972, p. 5A 
47. Jean Peters at Find a Grave 
48. Kirby, Walter (May 3, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Batman" Composer & Musician Neal Hefti 2008 Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery

Neal Hefti (October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, songwriter, and arranger. He composed the theme music for the Batman television series of the 1960s, and scored the 1968 film The Odd Couple and the subsequent TV series also titled The Odd Couple.

He began arranging professionally in his teens, when he wrote charts for Nat Towles. He became a prominent composer and arranger while playing trumpet for Woody Herman; while working for Herman he provided new arrangements for "Woodchopper's Ball" and "Blowin' Up a Storm," and composed "The Good Earth" and "Wild Root." After leaving Herman's band in 1946, Hefti concentrated on arranging and composing, although he occasionally led his own bands. He is especially known for his charts for Count Basie such as "Li'l Darlin'" and "Cute."


Neal Paul Hefti was born October 29, 1922, to an impoverished family in Hastings, Nebraska. As a young child, he remembered his family relying on charity during the holidays. He started playing the trumpet in school at the age of eleven, and by high school was spending his summer vacations playing in local territory bands to help his family make ends meet.

Growing up in, and near, a big city like Omaha, Hefti was exposed to some of the great bands and trumpeters of the Southwest territory bands. He also was able to see some of the virtuoso jazz musicians from New York that came through Omaha on tour. His early influences all came from the North Omaha scene. He said,

We'd see Basie in town, and I was impressed by Harry Edison and Buck Clayton, being a trumpet player. And I would say I was impressed by Dizzy Gillespie when he was with Cab Calloway. I was impressed by those three trumpet players of the people I saw in person... I thought Harry Edison and Dizzy Gillespie were the most unique of the trumpet players I heard.[1]

These experiences seeing Gillespie and Basie play in Omaha foreshadowed his period in New York watching Gillespie play and develop the music of bebop on 52nd Street and his later involvement with Count Basie's band.

In 1939, while still a junior at North High in Omaha, he got his start in the music industry by writing arrangements of vocal ballads for local Mickey Mouse bands, like the Nat Towles band. Harold Johnson recalled that Hefti's first scores for that band were "Swingin' On Lennox Avenue" and "More Than You Know," as well as a very popular arrangement of "Anchors Aweigh."[2] Some material that he penned in high school also was used by the Earl Hines band.

Two days before his high school graduation ceremony in 1941, he got an offer to go on tour with the Dick Barry band, so he traveled with them to New Jersey. He quickly was fired from the band after two gigs because he couldn't sight-read music well enough. Stranded in New Jersey because he didn't have enough money to get home to Nebraska, he finally joined Bob Astor's band. Shelly Manne, drummer with Bob Astor at the time, recalled that even then Hefti's writing skills were quite impressive:

We roomed together. And at night we didn't have nothing to do, and we were up at this place — Budd Lake. He said, "What are we going to do tonight?" I said, "Why don't you write a chart for tomorrow?" Neal was so great that he'd just take out the music paper, no score, [hums] — trumpet part, [hums] — trumpet part, [hums] — trombone part, [hums], and you'd play it the next day. It was the end. Cooking charts. I never forget, I couldn't believe it. I kept watching him. It was fantastic.[1]

Hefti wouldn't focus on arranging seriously for a few more years. As a member of Astor's band, he concentrated on playing trumpet.

After an injury forced him to leave Bob Astor, he stayed a while in New York. He played with Bobby Byrne in late 1942, then with Charlie Barnet for whom he wrote the classic arrangement of Skyliner. During his time in New York, he hung around the clubs on 52nd Street, listening to bebop trumpet master Dizzy Gillespie and other musicians, and immersing himself in the new music. Since he didn't have the money to actually go into the clubs, he would sneak into the kitchen and hang out with the bands, and he got to know many of the great beboppers.

He finally left New York for a while to play with the Les Lieber rhumba band in Cuba. When he returned from Cuba in 1943, he joined the Charlie Spivak band, which led him out to California for the first time, to make a band picture. Hefti fell in love with California. After making the picture in Los Angeles, he dropped out of the Spivak band to stay in California.

First Herd

After playing with Horace Heidt in Los Angeles for a few months in 1944, Hefti met up with Woody Herman who was out in California making a band picture. Hefti then joined Herman's progressive First Herd band as a trumpeter. The Herman band was a different from any band that he had played with before. He referred to it as his first experience with a real jazz band. He said:

I would say that I got into jazz when I got into Woody Herman's band because that band was sorta jazz-oriented. They had records. It was the first band I ever joined where the musicians carried records on the road... Duke Ellington records... Woody Herman discs [and] Charlie Barnet V-Discs... That's the first time I sort of got into jazz. The first time I sort of felt that I was anything remotely connected with jazz.[1]

Even though he had been playing with swing bands and other popular music bands for five years, this was the first time he had been immersed in the music of Duke Ellington, and this was the first music that really felt like jazz to him.

First Herd was one of the first big bands to really embrace bebop. They incorporated the use of many bebop ideas in their music. As part of the ensemble, Hefti was instrumental in this development, drawing from his experiences in New York and his respect for Gillespie, who had his own bebop big band. Chubby Jackson, First Herd's bassist, said

Neal started to write some of his ensembles with some of the figures that come from that early bebop thing. We were really one of the first bands outside of Dizzy's big band that flavored bebop into the big band — different tonal quality and rhythms, and the drum feeling started changing, and that I think was really the beginning of it...

I fell in love with it, and I finally got into playing it with the big band because Neal had it down. Neal would write some beautiful things along those patterns.[1]

During these years with Herman's band, as they started to turn more and more towards bop ideas, Hefti started to turn more of his attention and effort to writing, at which he quickly excelled. He composed and arranged some of First Herd's most popular recordings, including two of the band's finest instrumentals: "Wild Root" and "The Good Earth."

He contributed to the band a refinement of bop trumpet style that reflected his experience with Byrne, Barnet, and Spivak, as well as an unusually imaginative mind, essentially restless on the trumpet, but beautifully grounded on manuscript paper.[3]

He also wrote band favorites such as "Apple Honey" and "Blowin' Up a Storm." His first hand experience in New York, hanging around 52nd Street and listening to the great Dizzy Gillespie, became an important resource to the whole band.

His bebop composition work also started to attract outside attention from other composers, including the interest of neo-classicist Igor Stravinsky, who later wrote "Ebony Concerto" for the band.

What first attracted Stravinsky to Herman was the five trumpet unison on "Caldonia," which mirrored the new music of Gillespie... First it had been [Neal Hefti's] solo on Herman's "Woodchopper's Ball," then it became the property of the whole section, and finally, in this set form, it was made part of [Hefti's] arrangement of "Caldonia." [4]

Hefti's work successfully drew from many sources. As composer, arranger, and as a crucial part of the Herman ensemble, he provided the Herman band with a solid base which led to their popularity and mastery of the big band bebop style.

Late 1940s

While playing with the First Herd, Neal married Herman's vocalist, Frances Wayne. Playing with the band was very enjoyable for Hefti, which made it doubly hard for him to leave when he wanted to pursue arranging and composing full-time. Talking about Herman's band, Hefti said,

The band was a lot of fun. I think there was great rapport between the people in it. And none of us wanted to leave. We were always getting sort of offers from other bands for much more money than we were making with Woody, and it was always like if you left, you were a rat. You were really letting down the team.[1]

The Heftis finally left Woody Herman in late 1946, and Neal began freelance arranging. He wrote charts for Buddy Rich's band, and the ill-fated Billy Butterfield band. He wrote a few arrangements and compositions for George Auld's band, including the outstanding composition "Mo Mo." He joined the short-lived Charlie Ventura band as both sideman and arranger (arranging popular songs such as "How High the Moon"). He also arranged for the best of Harry James's bands in the late forties.

One of the serendipitous highlights of his work in the late forties was the recording of his Cuban-influenced song "Repetition" using a big band and string orchestra, for an anthology album called The Jazz Scene intended to showcase the best jazz artists around at that time. What saved this otherwise uncharacteristically bland arrangement was the featuring of Charlie Parker as soloist. Hefti had written the piece with no soloist in mind, but Parker was in the studio while Hefti was recording, heard the arrangement, and asked to be included as soloist. In the liner notes to the album, producer Norman Granz wrote:

Parker actually plays on top of the original arrangement; that it jells as well as it does is a tribute both to the flexible arrangement of Hefti and the inventive genius of Parker to adapt himself to any musical surrounding.[5]

The Basie years

In 1950, Hefti started arranging for Count Basie and what became known as "The New Testament" band. According to Hefti in a Billboard interview, Basie wanted to develop a stage band that could appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Although the New Testament band never became a show band in that sense, it was much more of an ensemble band than Basie's previous orchestras. Hefti's tight, well-crafted arrangements resulted in a new band identity that was maintained for more than twenty years.[6] In his autobiography, Count Basie recalls their first meeting and the first compositions that Hefti provided the new band:

Neal came by, and we had a talk, and he said he'd just like to put something in the book. Then he came back with "Little Pony" and then "Sure Thing," "Why Not?" and "Fawncy Meeting You," and we ran them down, and that's how we got married.[7]

Hefti's compositions and arrangements featured and recorded by the orchestra established the distinctive, tighter, modern sound of the later Basie. His work was popular with both the band and with audiences. Basie said, "There is something of his on each one of those first albums of that new band."[7]

One of the new Basie band's most popular records was titled Basie and subtitled "E=MC²=Count Basie Orchestra+Neal Hefti Arrangements," now more commonly referred to as Atomic Basie, an album featuring eleven songs composed and arranged by Hefti, including the now-standard ballad "Lil' Darlin" and "Splanky." Also on the album were "The Kid from Red Bank" featuring a gloriously sparse piano solo that was Basie's hallmark, and other songs that quickly became Basie favorites, such as "Flight of the Foo Birds" with Eddie Lockjaw Davis' flying tenor solo, "Fantail" with Frank Wess's soaring alto solo, and the masterpiece ensemble lines of "Teddy the Toad." These pieces are evidence of both Hefti's masterful hand, and the strong ensemble that Count Basie had put together.

During the Fifties, Hefti didn't get as much respect as a musician and band leader as he did as composer and arranger. In a 1955 interview, Miles Davis said "if it weren't for Neal Hefti, the Basie band wouldn't sound as good as it does. But Neal's band can't play those same arrangements nearly as well."[8] This disparity is not so much a reflection of Hefti's ability (or lack thereof) as a musician, as it is a reflection of his focus as a writer. In the liner notes to Atomic Basie, critic Barry Ulanov says:

In a presentation of the Count Basie band notable of its justness, for its attention to all the rich instrumental talent and all the high good taste of this band — in this presentation, not the least of the achievements is the evenness of the manuscript. Neal Hefti has matched — figure for figure, note for note-blower — his talent to the Basie band's, and it comes out, as it should, Basie.[3]

Much the same way that the influential Duke Ellington matched his scores to the unique abilities of his performers, Hefti was able to take advantage of the same kind of 'fine-tuning' to bring out the best of the talents of the Basie band. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when the same charts are played by a different band, even the composer's own, that the result is not as strong.

As composer, Hefti garnered many accolades. In addition to Ulanov's praise, Hefti won two Grammy awards for his composition work on Atomic Basie including "Li'l Darlin," "Splanky," and "Teddy the Toad." The success of the album had Basie and Hefti in the studio six months later making another album. This second album was also very successful for Basie. Basie recalled:

That is the one that came out under the title of "Basie Plays Hefti." All the tunes were very musical. That's the way Neal's things were, and those guys in that band always had something to put with whatever you laid in front of them.[7]

Hefti's influence on the Basie sound was so successful, his writing for the band so strong, that Basie used his arranging talents even when recording standard jazz tunes with the likes of Frank Sinatra. Basie said,

So we went on out to Los Angeles and did ten tunes in two four-hour sessions [with Frank Sinatra]. All of those tunes were standards, which I'm pretty sure he had recorded before (and had hits on). But this time they had been arranged by Neal Hefti with our instrumentation and voicing in mind.[7]

Again, by matching the individual parts of the arrangements to the unique abilities of Basie's band, Hefti was able to highlight the best of their talents, and make the most of the ensemble.

Overall, Basie was very impressed with Hefti's charts, but was perhaps too proud to admit the extent of his influence:

I think Neal did a lot of marvelous things for us, because even though what he did was a different thing and not quite the style but sort of a different sound, I think it was quite musical.[7]

1950s and 1960s

Outside of his work with the new Basie band, Hefti also led a big band of his own during the fifties. In 1951, one of these bands featured his wife Frances on vocals. They recorded and toured off and on with this and other incarnations of this band throughout the 1950s. Although his own band did not attain the same level of success as the famous bands he arranged for, he did receive a Grammy nomination for his own album Jazz Pops (1962), which included recordings of "Li'l Darlin," "Cute," and "Coral Reef." It was his last work in the Jazz idiom.

Later in the 1950s he finally abandoned trumpet playing altogether to concentrate on scoring and conducting. He had steady work conducting big bands, backing singers in the studio during recording sessions, and appearing on the television shows of Arthur Godfrey, Kate Smith, and others.

He moved back to his beloved California in the early 1960s. During this time he began working for the Hollywood film industry, and he enjoyed tremendous popular success writing music for film and television. He wrote much background and theme music for motion pictures, including the films Sex and the Single Girl, How to Murder Your Wife (1965), Synanon, Boeing Boeing (1965), Lord Love a Duck (1966), Duel at Diablo (1966), Barefoot in the Park (1967), The Odd Couple (1968), and Harlow (1965), for which he received two Grammy nominations for the song "Girl Talk." While most of his compositions during this period were geared to the demands of the medium and the directors, there were many moments when he was able to infuse his work with echoes of his jazz heritage.

In 1961 Hefti joined with Frank Sinatra on his Sinatra and Swingin' Brass album where Hefti was credited as arranger and conductor of the album's 12 cuts.

He also wrote background and theme music for television shows, including Batman and The Odd Couple.[9] He received three Grammy nominations for his television work and received one award for his Batman television score. His Batman title theme, a simple cyclic twelve-bar blues-based theme, became a Top 10 single for The Marketts and later for Hefti himself.[10] His theme for The Odd Couple movie was reprised as part of his score for the television series of the early 1970s. He received two Grammy nominations for his work on The Odd Couple television series.

Throughout these years and into the 1970s, Hefti periodically formed big bands for club, concert, or record dates.


Hefti died of throat cancer on October 11, 2008, at his home in Toluca Lake, California, at the age of 85.[11] He subsequently was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. His grave can be found at the Court of Remembrance (Sanctuary of Enduring Protection) in crypt No. 2763. The epitaph on the front of the crypt reads "Forever In Tune."[12]


Grammy nominations

Nomination for Jazz Pops (Li'l Darlin', Cute, Coral Reef) as artist. 
Two awards for Basie, aka Atomic Basie (Li'l Darlin', Splanky, Teddy the Toad) as composer. 
Three nominations (one award) for the Batman TV score. 
Two nominations for the Harlow movie score ("Girl Talk"). 
Two nominations for The Odd Couple TV score. 

Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 

Nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music - 1968 "The Fred Astaire Show" as conductor 

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers 

Jazz Wall of Fame 2005



Sinatra and Swinging Brass - Reprise ·R-1005 (1962) 
Swingin' On Coral Reef - Coral CRL-56083 (1953) 
The Band With Young Ideas Concert Miniatures - VIK LX-1092 (1957) 
Hefti, Hot and Hearty Hefti in Gotham City - RCA Victor LSP-3621 (stereo) LPM-3621 (mono) (1966) 
Mr and Mrs Music Neal Hefti's Singing Instrumentals - Epic LG 1013 (1955) 
Hollywood Songbook Jazz Pops - Reprise Records 6039 (1962) 
Light and Right - Columbia CL-1516 (mono) CS-8316 (stereo) (1960) 
Li'l Darlin - 20th Century Fox Records TFS 41399 (1966) 
Music USA Pardon my Doo-Wah Presenting Neal Hefti and His Orchestra A Salute to the Instruments Definitely Hefti! - United Artists Records UAS 6573

Film scores

1964: Sex and the Single Girl 
1965: Boeing Boeing 
1965: How to Murder Your Wife 
1965: Harlow 
1965: Synanon 
1966: Lord Love a Duck 
1966: Duel at Diablo 
1967: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad 
1967: Barefoot in the Park 
1968: The Odd Couple 
1968: P.J. 
1971: A New Leaf 
1972: Last of the Red Hot Lovers 
1976: Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood


1. Ira Gitler. Swing to Bop. Oxford University Press, New York, 1985 
2. Albert McCarthy. Big Band Jazz. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1974. 
3. Barry Ulanov. A History of Jazz in America. Da Capo Press, New York, 1972 
4. Ira Gitler. Jazz Masters of the 40s. Da Capo Press, New York, 1983 
5. Norman Granz. Album Liner Notes for The Jazz Scene. Verve Records, 1949. 
6. Stanley Dance. The World of Count Basie. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1980. 
7. Count Basie and Albert Murray. Good Morning Blues, the Autobiography of Count Basie. Donald Fine, Inc., New York, 1985. 
8. Frank Alkyer, editor. Downbeat: 60 Years of Jazz. Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, 1995. 
9. Schudel, Matt (2008-10-15). "Composer Neal Hefti; Jazz Master Penned Theme for 'Batman'". washingtonpost.com. 
 10. McLellan, Dennis (2008-10-15). "Neal Hefti - Ex-big band trumpeter, arranger and composer - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. 
11. Weber, Bruce (2008-10-15). "Neal Hefti, Composer, Is Dead at 85 ". The New York Times. 
12. Neal Hefti (1922 - 2008) - Find A Grave Memorial


Frank Alkyer, editor. Downbeat: 60 Years of Jazz. Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, 1995. 
Count Basie and Albert Murray. Good Morning Blues, the Autobiography of Count Basie. 
Donald Fine, Inc., New York, 1985. 
Stanley Dance. The World of Count Basie. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1980. 
Ira Gitler. Jazz Masters of the 40s. Da Capo Press, New York, 1983. 
Ira Gitler. Swing to Bop. Oxford University Press, New York, 1985. 
Norman Granz. Album Liner Notes for The Jazz Scene. Verve Records, 1949. 
Kinkle, editor. Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz 1900–1950, volume 2. Arlington House Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 1974. 
Colin Larkin, editor. Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, volume 3. Guinness Publishing, Enfield, England, 1995. 
Albert McCarthy. Big Band Jazz. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1974. 
Barry Ulanov. Album Liner Notes for Atomic Basie. Roulette Jazz, 1957. 
Barry Ulanov. A History of Jazz in America. Da Capo Press, New York, 1972. 

Further reading

Neal Hefti, Jazz classics for the young ensemble: By Neal Hefti, arranged by Dave Barduhn (Unknown Binding). Publisher: Jenson (1962) ASIN: B0007I4VDM 
Neal Hefti, Batman Theme: From the Original TV Series (Beginning Band) 130 pages. Publisher: Alfred Pub Co (September 1989). ISBN 978-0-7579-3346-2 
Neal Hefti, Roy Phillippe Li'l Darlin' (First Year Charts for Jazz Ensemble). 46 pages. Publisher: Warner Bros Pubns (July 1998). ISBN 978-0-7579-3514-5 
Neal Hefti Li'l Darlin'. Publisher: Encino Music (1958). ASIN: B000ICUQ72 
Neal Hefti, Anthology. Publisher: Warner Bros Pubns (July 1999). ISBN 978-0-7692-0735-3 
Neal Hefti, Roy Phillippe Splanky (First Year Charts for Jazz Ensemble). 42 pages. Publisher: Warner Bros Pubns (June 2004) ISBN 978-0-7579-3513-8 
Neal ; Styne, Stanley Hefti Cute. # Publisher: Encino Music (1958). ASIN: B000ICQX8I 
Neal Hefti, Duel at Diablo. Publisher: United Artists (1963) ASIN: B000KWOIFQ 
Bobby ; Hefti, Neal Troup Girl Talk. Publisher: Famous Music Corporation (1965). ASIN: B000ICULIG

Friday, October 9, 2015

"Zombo" Comic Actor Louis Nye 2005 Hillside Cemetery

Louis Nye (May 1, 1913 – October 9, 2005) was an American comedy actor.[1]

Early years

He was born Louis Neistat in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Neistat (May 18, 1881 – September 1967) and Jennie Sherman (born 1890). His sister was Rose Neistat (born 1917). Although Louis, who pronounced his given name Louie, claimed to have been born in 1922, he was listed as age six on the 1920 Hartford County, Connecticut, Federal Census.

Louis's parents were both Yiddish speaking Jews born in Russia. They emigrated to the United States in 1906, and became naturalized citizens in 1911. Joseph Neistat ran a small grocery store. Louis attended Weaver High School, but did not excel as a student. "My marks were so low," he said, "that they wouldn't let me in the drama club. So, I went down to WTIC Radio, auditioned and got on a show."

Radio and television

Later he went to New York and worked in radio, including various roles on soap operas. He later recalled, "I still think of myself as an actor. In the radio days, I was busy playing rotten Nazis, rich uncles and emotional juveniles -- the whole span -- and the only time I tried to be funny was at parties."

He served in the United States Army during World War II, where he generated laughs by mimicking other soldiers and was given the job of running the recreation hall. After his discharge, Nye returned to New York, began working in live television and appeared in several plays on Broadway.

He made numerous appearances on The Jack Benny Program and The Jimmy Durante Show. He also appeared on The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. 

He found fame with Steve Allen. As a regular on The Steve Allen Show, he took part in the weekly "Man on the Street" sketches, performing with Allen, Don Knotts, Dayton Allen, Tom Poston and Bill Dana.

Nye was a popular sketch comedian who primarily played urbane, wealthy bon vivant types. His characterization of the delightfully pretentious country-club braggart Gordon Hathaway, his catchphrase, "Hi, ho, Steverino," and Allen's inability to resist bursting into hysterical laughter at Nye's ad-libs during gags, made Nye one of the favorite performers on Allen's show. When production was moved to Los Angeles, Nye went along and became a character actor in Hollywood.

Nye was cast as a guest star in such series as Make Room for Daddy, Guestward, Ho!, Burke's Law, The Munsters, Love, American Style, Laverne and Shirley, Starsky and Hutch, Police Woman, Fantasy Island, St. Elsewhere, and The Cosby Show.

Louis Nye as "Zombo" on "The Munsters"

Nye played dentist Delbert Gray on several episodes of The Ann Sothern Show from 1960 to 1961, the romantic interest of Olive Smith, played by Ann Tyrrell (1909–1983). Nye also played Sonny Drysdale, the spoiled rich stepson of the banker, Milburn Drysdale, on CBS's The Beverly Hillbillies during the 1962 season. He did six episodes, and received more mail than from anything else he had ever done on TV, but the character was dropped. It was rumored that someone in the CBS network, or a sponsor, thought Sonny was too "sissified." Nye revived the character briefly during the 1966 season, however.

Nye was a member of the cast of the situation comedy Needles and Pins, playing Harry Karp. The show, which starred Norman Fell, ran for 14 episodes in the autumn of 1973.

Nye also recorded a few comedy LPs, doing a variety of characterizations. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to reach his potential in movies. Many of his character roles were little more than cameos. Nevertheless, he performed with stars as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Walter Matthau, Robert Mitchum, Jack Webb and Joanne Woodward, among others. Nye also appeared on the lecture circuit, in concerts and in night clubs, and did voice work in animation, such as Inspector Gadget with Don Adams.

Last years

Nye never retired. He completed a 24-city tour of the country for Columbia Artists, ending the tour with a two-week stint at the Sahara in Las Vegas. At the age of 92, he continued to work, appearing in his recurring role of Jeff Greene's father on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm from 2000 to 2005.

Nye lived in Pacific Palisades with his wife, pianist-songwriter Anita Leonard, who wrote the standard, "A Sunday Kind of Love." Married since the late 1940s, they had a son, artist Peter Nye.

Louis Nye died of lung cancer. He is interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) ... Dr. Zorch 
The Facts of Life (1960) ... Hamilton Busbee 
The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961) ... Private Sam Beacham 
Zotz! (1962) ... Hugh Fundy 
The Stripper (1963) ... Ronnie 
The Wheeler Dealers (1963) ... Stanislaus 
Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963) ... Harry Tobler 
Good Neighbor Sam (1964) ... Det. Reinhold Shiffner 
A Guide for the Married Man (1967) ... Irving 
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) ... Radio Announcer 
Charge of the Model T's (1977) ... Friedrich Schmidt 
Harper Valley PTA (1978) ... Kirby Baker 
Full Moon High (1981) ... Minister 
Cannonball Run II (1984) ... Fisherman #3 
O.C. and Stiggs (1987) ... Garth Sloan


1. "Louis Nye". The New York Times.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Dracula" Director Tod Browning 1962 Rosedale Cemetery

Tod Browning (born Charles Albert Browning, Jr.; July 12, 1880 – October 6, 1962) was an American motion picture actor, director and screenwriter.[1] Browning's career spanned the silent and talkie eras. 

Best known as the director of Dracula (1931),[2] the cult classic Freaks (1932),[3] and classic silent film collaborations with Lon Chaney, Browning directed many movies in a wide range of genres.

Early life

He was born Charles Albert Browning, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, the second son of Charles Albert and Lydia Browning, and the nephew of baseball star Pete Browning. As a young boy, he put on amateur plays in his backyard. He was fascinated by the circus and carnival life, and at the age of 16 he ran away from his well-to-do family to become a performer.

Changing his name to "Tod," he traveled extensively with sideshows, carnivals, and circuses. His jobs included working as a talker (barker, as the term is also known, is not correct) for the Wild Man of Borneo, performing a live burial act in which he was billed as "The Living Corpse," and performing as a clown with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He would draw on this experience as inspiration for some of his film work.

He performed in vaudeville as an actor, magician and dancer. He appeared in the Mutt and Jeff and The Lizard and the Coon acts, and in a blackface act titled The Wheel of Mirth alongside comedian Charles Murray.

Beginnings of a film career

Later, while Browning was working as director of a variety theater in New York, he met D. W. Griffith also from Louisville. He began acting along with Murray on single-reel nickelodeon comedies for Griffith and the Biograph Company.

In 1913 Griffith split from Biograph and moved to California. Browning followed and continued to act in Griffith's films, now for Reliance-Majestic Studios, including a stint as an extra in the epic Intolerance. Around that time he began directing, eventually directing 11 short films for Reliance-Majestic. Between 1913 and 1919, Browning would appear as an actor in approximately fifty motion pictures.

In June 1915, he crashed his car at full speed into a moving train. His passengers were film actors Elmer Booth and George Siegmann. Booth was killed instantly, while Siegmann and Browning suffered serious injuries, including in Browning's case a shattered right leg and the loss of his front teeth. During his convalescence, Browning wrote scripts, and did not return to active film work until 1917. Booth's sister, Margaret Booth, later a famous MGM editor, never forgave Browning for the loss of her brother.

Silent feature films

Browning's feature film debut was Jim Bludso (1917), about a riverboat captain who sacrifices himself to save his passengers from a fire. It was well received.

Browning moved back to New York in 1917. He directed two films for Metro Studios, Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp and The Jury of Fate. Both starred Mabel Taliaferro, the latter in a dual role achieved with double exposure techniques that were groundbreaking for the time. He moved back to California in 1918 and produced two more films for Metro, The Eyes of Mystery and Revenge.

In the spring of 1918 he left Metro and joined Bluebird Productions, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, where he met Irving Thalberg. Thalberg paired Browning with Lon Chaney for the first time for the film The Wicked Darling (1919), a melodrama in which Chaney played a thief who forces a poor girl from the slums into a life of crime and possibly prostitution. Browning and Chaney would ultimately make ten films together over the next decade.

The death of his father sent Browning into a depression that led to alcoholism. He was laid off by Universal and his wife left him. However, he recovered, reconciled with his wife, and got a one-picture contract with Goldwyn Pictures. The film he produced for Goldwyn, The Day of Faith, was a moderate success, putting his career back on track.

Thalberg reunited Browning with Lon Chaney for The Unholy Three (1925), the story of three circus performers who concoct a scheme to con and steal jewels from rich people using disguises. Browning's circus experience shows in his sympathetic portrayal of the antiheroes. The film was a resounding success, so much so that it was later remade in 1930 as Lon Chaney's first (and only) talkie shortly before his death later that same year. Browning and Chaney embarked on a series of popular collaborations, including The Blackbird and The Road to Mandalay. The Unknown (1927), featuring Chaney as an armless knife thrower and Joan Crawford as his scantily clad carnival girl obsession, was originally titled Alonzo the Armless and could be considered a precursor to Freaks in that it concerns a love triangle involving a circus freak, a beauty, and a strongman. London After Midnight (1927) was Browning's first foray into the vampire genre and is a highly sought-after lost film which starred Chaney, Conrad Nagel, and Marceline Day. The last known print of London After Midnight was destroyed in an MGM studio fire in 1967. In 2002, a photographic reconstruction of London After Midnight was produced by Rick Schmidlin for Turner Classic Movies. Browning and Chaney's final collaboration was Where East is East (1929), of which only incomplete prints have survived. Browning's first talkie was The Thirteenth Chair (1929), which was also released as a silent and featured Bela Lugosi, who had a leading part as the uncanny inspector, Delzante, solving the mystery with the aid of the spirit medium. This film was directed shortly after Browning's vacation trip to Germany (arriving in the Port of New York, November 12, 1929).


After Chaney's death in 1930, Browning was hired by his old employer Universal Pictures to direct Dracula (1931).[2] Although Browning wanted to hire an unknown European actor for the title role and have him be mostly offscreen as a sinister presence, budget constraints and studio interference necessitated the casting of Bela Lugosi and a more straightforward approach. Although the film is now considered a classic, at the time Universal was unhappy with it and preferred the Spanish-language version filmed on the same sets at night.

After directing the boxing melodrama Iron Man (1931), Browning began work on Freaks (1932).[3] Based on the short story "Spurs" by Clarence Aaron "Tod" Robbins, the screenwriter of The Unholy Three, the film concerns a love triangle between a wealthy dwarf, a gold-digging aerialist, and a strongman; a murder plot; and the vengeance dealt out by the dwarf and his fellow circus freaks. The film was highly controversial, even after heavy editing to remove many disturbing scenes, and was a commercial failure and banned in the United Kingdom for thirty years.[4]

His career derailed, Browning found himself unable to get his requested projects greenlighted. After directing the drama Fast Workers (1933) starring John Gilbert, who was also not in good standing with the studio, he was allowed to direct a remake of London After Midnight, originally titled Vampires of Prague but later retitled Mark of the Vampire (1935). In the remake, the roles played by Lon Chaney in the original were split between Lionel Barrymore and Béla Lugosi (spoofing his Dracula image).

After that, Browning directed The Devil-Doll (1936), originally titled The Witch of Timbuctoo, from his own script. The picture starred Lionel Barrymore as an escapee from an island prison who avenges himself on the people who imprisoned him using living "dolls" who are actually people shrunk to doll-size and magically placed under Barrymore's hypnotic control. Browning's final film was the murder mystery Miracles for Sale (1939).


Tod Browning was found dead in his Brentwood bathroom. He was 82 years old. His remains are inurned at Rosedale Cemetery

Director filmography

Miracles for Sale (1939) 
The Devil-Doll (1936) 
Mark of the Vampire (1935) 
Fast Workers (1933) 
Freaks (1932) 
Iron Man (1931) 
Dracula (1931) 
Outside the Law (1930) 
The Thirteenth Chair (1929) 
Where East Is East (1929) 
West of Zanzibar (1928) 
The Big City (1928) 
London After Midnight (1927) 
The Unknown (1927) 
The Show (1927) 
The Road to Mandalay (1926) 
The Blackbird (1926) 
Dollar Down (1925) 
The Mystic (1925) 
The Unholy Three (1925) 
Silk Stocking Sal (1924) 
The Dangerous Flirt (1924) 
White Tiger (1923) 
The Day of Faith (1923) 
Drifting (1923) 
Under Two Flags (1922) 
Man Under Cover (1922) 
The Wise Kid (1922) 
No Woman Knows (1921) 
Outside the Law (1920) 
The Virgin of Stamboul (1920) 
Bonnie Bonnie Lassie (1919) 
The Petal on the Current (1919) 
The Unpainted Woman (1919) 
The Exquisite Thief (1919) 
The Wicked Darling (1919) 
Set Free (1918) 
The Brazen Beauty (1918) 
The Deciding Kiss (1918) 
Which Woman? (1918) 
Revenge (1918) 
The Eyes of Mystery (1918) 
The Legion of Death (1918) 
The Jury of Fate (1917) 
Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp (1917) 
Hands Up! (1917) 
A Love Sublime (1917) 
Jim Bludso (1917) 
Puppets (1916) 
Everybody's Doing It (1916) 
The Fatal Glass of Beer (1916) 
Little Marie (1915) 
The Woman from Warren's (1915) 
The Burned Hand (1915) 
The Living Death (1915) 
The Electric Alarm (1915) 
The Spell of the Poppy (1915) 
The Story of a Story (1915) 
The Highbinders (1915) 
An Image of the Past (1915) 
The Slave Girl (1915) 
The Lucky Transfer (1915)

Further reading

Dark Carnival (1995) (ISBN 0-385-47406-7) by David J. Skal and Elias Savada.


1. "Tod Browning". The New York Times. 
2. Mordaunt Hall (1931). "Dracula". The New York Times. 
3. "Freaks". The New York Times. 1932. 
4. Susan King (2011-05-18). "'Dracula,' 'Mark of the Vampire' bring vintage bite to Aero Theatre".