Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anne Frank Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery


Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main – early March 1945 in Bergen Belsen) was one of the most renowned and most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Acknowledged for the quality of her writing, her diary has become one of the world's most widely read books, and has been the basis for several plays and films.


Born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. By nationality, she was officially considered a German until 1941, when she lost her nationality owing to the anti-Semitic policies of Nazi Germany (the Nuremberg Laws). She gained international fame posthumously following the publication of her diary, which documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.


The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained control over Germany. By the beginning of 1940, they were trapped in Amsterdam by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of Anne's father, Otto Frank's, office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945.


Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that Anne's diary had been saved, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl. It has since been translated into many languages. The diary, which was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jury Recommends Death for Manson Family 1971


On January 25, 1971, guilty verdicts were returned against the four defendants in the Charles Manson murder trial on each of the 27 separate counts against them. Not far into the trial's penalty phase, the jurors saw, at last, the defense that Manson—in the prosecution's view—had planned to present. Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten testified the murders had been conceived as "copycat" versions of the Hinman murder, for which Atkins now took credit. The killings, they said, were intended to draw suspicion away from Bobby Beausoleil, by resembling the crime for which he had been jailed. This plan had supposedly been the work of, and carried out under the guidance of, not Manson, but someone allegedly in love with Beausoleil—Linda Kasabian. Among the narrative's weak points was the inability of Atkins to explain why, as she was maintaining, she had written "political piggy" at the Hinman house in the first place.

Midway through the penalty phase, Manson shaved his head and trimmed his beard to a fork; he told the press, "I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head." In what the prosecution regarded as belated recognition on their part that imitation of Manson only proved his domination, the female defendants refrained from shaving their heads until the jurors retired to weigh the state's request for the death penalty.


The effort to exonerate Manson via the "copycat" scenario failed. On March 29, 1971, the jury returned verdicts of death against all four defendants on all counts. On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced the four to death.

On the day the verdicts recommending the death penalty were returned, news came that the badly decomposed body of Ronald Hughes had been found wedged between two boulders in Ventura County. It was rumored, although never proven, that Hughes was murdered by the Family, possibly because he had stood up to Manson and refused to allow Van Houten to take the stand and absolve Manson of the crimes. Though he might have perished in flooding, Family member Sandra Good stated that Hughes was "the first of the retaliation murders."


Celebrity Grave: "Casablanca" Actor Paul Henreid 1992

Paul Henreid (10 January 1905 – 29 March 1992), whose birthname was Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter von Wassel-Waldingau, was an Austrian actor and film director.


In 1942, Henreid appeared in his two most important films. In Now, Voyager, he and Bette Davis created one of the screen's most imitated scenes, in which he lights two cigarettes and hands one to her. Henreid's next role was as Victor Laszlo, heroic anti-Nazi leader, in Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.


Henreid died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. He was buried with a fan letter from one Mildred Jacobs which he received in 1937, before he became famous, and which he said meant more to him than any award he had won.

 

Celebrity Grave: Celebrity Lawyer Johnnie Cochran 2005

 
Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. (October 2, 1937 – March 29, 2005) was an American lawyer best known for his leadership role in the defense and criminal acquittal of O. J. Simpson for the murder of his former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

 
Cochran also represented Sean Combs (during his trial on gun and bribery charges), Michael Jackson, actor Todd Bridges, football player Jim Brown, rapper Snoop Dogg, former heavyweight Champion Riddick Bowe, and Reginald Oliver Denny, the trucker beaten by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He also defended athlete Marion Jones when she faced charges of doping during her high school track career. Cochran was known for his skill in the courtroom and his prominence as an early advocate for victims of alleged police abuse.

Johnnie Cochran died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 from a brain tumor. In April 2004, Cochran underwent surgery, which led to his staying away from the media. Shortly thereafter, he told the New York Post he was feeling well, and that he was in good health.

Public viewing of his casket was conducted on April 4 and April 5 and a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church on April 8, 2005 in Shreveport. His remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. The funeral was attended by numerous former clients and friends. Among them were Michael Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, Sean "Diddy" Combs, O.J. Simpson, Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, actress Angela Bassett, Gloria Allred, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Abner Louima, and others.

 
In honor of Cochran, on January 24, 2006, Los Angeles Unified School District officials unanimously approved the renaming of Mount Vernon Middle School, Cochran's boyhood middle school, to Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School, saying he was an "extraordinary, superb lawyer with movie-star celebrity status." There have been mixed reactions about the board of education's decision, primarily because of Cochran's work as a lawyer. For instance, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson has expressed her disappointment with the decision, although she called Cochran "a great defense attorney." Since the school was renamed, others have voiced their ideas of naming a street after Cochran. City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr. wants the city to rename a section of 17th Street, because he feels Cochran was "a great attorney and a great role model who contributed to this community."

In 2007, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles opened the new Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center, a research center headed by noted neurosurgeon Keith Black, who had been Cochran's doctor.

 
 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Celebrity Grave: Marilyn Monroe Husband & Author Robert Slatzer 2005


In a 1974 book on Marilyn Monroe's death that was not publicized on television, author Robert Slatzer (April 4, 1927 - March 28, 2005) made controversial claims about not only a conspiracy, but also his alleged brief marriage to Monroe in Tijuana, Mexico in 1952. (During that year her romance with Joe DiMaggio was reported by gossip columnists, although they did not marry until 1954.) Unlike Norman Mailer, Slatzer interviewed an authority whose name, which was unknown to the public at the time, appears in official documents from 1962. Slatzer's source was Jack Clemmons, a sergeant with the LAPD who was the first officer to report to the death scene. According to Clemmons' statements in Slatzer's book, Eunice Murray behaved suspiciously, doing laundry at 4:30 a.m. and answering his questions evasively. When Slatzer approached Murray with questions, she denied any wrongdoing by herself or by Monroe's psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, who had hired Murray to watch the actress for signs of drug abuse or suicidal tendency. Greenson himself refused to talk to Slatzer, having reacted to Norman Mailer's highly publicized book by telling the New York Post that Monroe "had no significant involvement" with John or Robert Kennedy.



Celebrity Grave: TV Actor Hugh O'Connor 1995 Suicide

 
Hugh Edward Ralph O'Connor (April 7, 1962 – March 28, 1995) was an American actor, known for his role as Det./ Lt. Lonnie Jamison on the television drama In the Heat of the Night from 1988-1995.

Hugh O'Connor was born in Rome, Italy. When he was six days old, he was adopted by Carroll O'Connor and his wife Nancy. Carroll was in Rome filming Cleopatra. He was named after Carroll O'Connor's brother, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1961. When he was 16, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. He survived the cancer with chemotherapy and two surgeries, but became addicted to drugs. He had been taking prescription drugs for the pain and marijuana for nausea. He quickly became addicted to harder drugs. Despite numerous stays at rehabilitation clinics, he never conquered his addiction.

He was married to Angela Clayton, a wardrobe assistant on In the Heat of the Night, on March 28, 1992, and their son Sean Carroll O'Connor was born in 1993.

On March 28, 1995, the third anniversary of his marriage, O'Connor called his father to tell him he was going to end his life. He told his father he believed he could not beat the drugs and could not face another drug rehabilitation program. Carroll called the police, who arrived at Hugh's Pacific Palisades, California home just as he shot himself in the head. The police later determined he had cocaine in his blood.

 
Hugh O'Connor was cremated and his remains were originally buried at the Church of St. Susanna in Rome, Italy. Later, his remains were moved to the North American College in Rome. Today, he has a cenotaph at the Church of St. Susanna and at his father's gravesite in Los Angeles, leading many people to believe that he is buried at either place.

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Celebrity Grave: "Sunset Boulevard" Filmmaker Billy Wilder 2002

Billy Wilder (22 June 1906 – 27 March 2002) was an Austrian-American journalist, filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age. Wilder is one of only five people who have won three Academy Awards for producing, directing and writing the same film (The Apartment).

 
He first became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He relocated to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit with the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend, about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.

 
From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly comedies. Among the classics Wilder created in this period are the farces The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), satires such as The Apartment (1960), and the romantic comedy Sabrina (1954). He directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. Wilder was recognized with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of acceptable subject matter.

Billy Wilder - Westwood Cemetery
Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles, California and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles, California next to Jack Lemmon. Walter Matthau is mere steps away. Marilyn Monroe's crypt is located nearby. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French top-ranking newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, "Billy Wilder is dead. Nobody is perfect." This was a reference to the famous closing line of his film Some Like it Hot spoken by Joe E. Brown after Jack Lemmon reveals he is not female.


Jack Lemmon - Westwood Cemetery
Walter Matthau - Westwood Cemetery


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Novelist & Screenwriter Raymond Chandler Takes "The Big Sleep" 1959

 
Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was an Anglo-American novelist and screenwriter who had an immense stylistic influence upon the modern private detective story, especially in the style of the writing and the attitudes now characteristic of the genre. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is, along with Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, considered synonymous with "private detective."

Early life

Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1888, but moved to the United Kingdom in 1900[1] with his Irish-born mother after they were abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer who worked for a North American railway company. His uncle, a successful lawyer, supported them.[2] In 1900, after attending a local school in Upper Norwood, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College, London (the public school that also taught P.G. Wodehouse to write prose[2] and which also taught C. S. Forester). He did not attend university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich. In 1907, he was naturalised as a British subject in order to take the Civil Service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.[3]

Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist, published reviews and continued writing romantic poetry. Accounting for that time he said, "Of course in those days as now there were...clever young men who made a decent living as freelances for the numerous literary weeklies..." but "...I was distinctly not a clever young man. Nor was I at all a happy young man." [4]

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it repaid with interest), and returned to North America, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913[5]. He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom at war’s end.[2]

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles, California. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior.[2] Cissy divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920 in what was an amicable separation but Chandler's mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction marriage. For four years Chandler had to support both his mother and Cissy. But when Florence Chandler died on 26 September 1923, Raymond was free to marry Cissy on February 6, 1924.[6][2] By 1932, during his bookkeeping career, he became a highly-paid vice-president of the Dabney Oil syndicate, but a year later, his alcoholism, absenteeism, and threatened suicide[2] contributed to his firing.

Pulp writer

To earn a living with his creative talent, he taught himself to write pulp fiction; his first story, “Blackmailers Don't Shoot,” was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. Literary success led to work as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain's novel of the same name. His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946). Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) - a story he thought implausible - based on Patricia Highsmith's novel. By then, the Chandlers had moved to La Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego.

 
Later life and death

In 1954, Cissy Chandler died after a long illness, during which time Raymond Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye. His subsequent loneliness worsened his natural propensity for clinical depression, he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered.[2] In 1955, he attempted suicide; literary scholars documented that suicide attempt. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, Judith Freeman says it was “a cry for help”, given that he called the police beforehand, saying he planned to kill himself. Chandler’s personal and professional life were both helped and complicated by the women to whom he was attracted — notably Helga Greene (his literary agent); Jean Fracasse (his secretary); Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's widow); and Natasha Spender (Stephen Spender's wife), the latter two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed homosexual.[7] (Unfortunately, Judith Freeman's book perpetuates errors dating back to the Frank MacShane biography relating to the death of Florence Chandler and a number of residences.[6])

After a respite in England (Chandler regained US citizenship in 1956.[3]), he returned to La Jolla, where he died (according to the death certificate) of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia in the Scripps Memorial Hospital. Greene inherited the Chandler estate, after prevailing in a lawsuit vs. Fracasse.

Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California, as per Frank MacShane's, "The Life of Raymond Chandler" Chandler wished to be cremated and placed next to Cissy in Cypress View Mausoleum, but was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, by the County of San Diego, Public Administrator's Office because he left an estate of $60,000 with no will (intestate) apparently found. The lawsuit over his estate complicated life for Helga Greene, but didn't take place until 1960.

Critical reception

Critics and writers from W. H. Auden to Evelyn Waugh to Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler's prose.[2] In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that the former offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today.” [8] Although his swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original: "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel"; "The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips", defining private eye fiction genre, and leading to the coining of the adjective 'Chandleresque', which is subject and object of parody and pastiche. Yet, Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man of few friends, who attended university, speaks some Spanish and, at times, admires Mexicans, is a student of classical chess games and classical music. He will refuse a prospective client’s money if he is ethically unsatisfied by the job.

The high critical regard in which Chandler is generally held today is in contrast to the critical pans that stung Chandler in his lifetime. In a March 1942 letter to Mrs. Blanche Knopf, published in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Chandler complained: "The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time."

Although his work enjoys general acclaim today, Chandler has still received criticism for certain aspects of his stories; in one interview, Washington Post reviewer Patrick Anderson described his plots as "rambling at best and incoherent at worst", and chastised his treatment of black, female and homosexual characters, calling him a "rather nasty man". Anderson did, however, acknowledge Chandler's importance as a lyrical writer, and said that, despite his flaws, "he often wrote truly beautiful scenes and descriptions".

Chandler’s short stories and novels are evocatively written, conveying the time, place and ambience of Los Angeles and environs in the 1930s and 1940s.[2] The places are real, if pseudonymous: Bay City is Santa Monica, Gray Lake is Silver Lake, and Idle Valley a synthesis of rich San Fernando Valley communities.

Raymond Chandler also was a perceptive critic of pulp fiction; his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" is the standard reference work in the field.

All but one of his novels have been cinematically adapted. Most notable was The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. William Faulkner was a co-writer on the screenplay. Raymond Chandler's few screen writing efforts and the cinematic adaptation of his novels proved stylistically and thematically influential upon the American film noir genre.

References

Notes

1.^ 1900 U.S. Census, Plattsmouth, NB
2.^ Iyer, Pico (December 6, 2007). "The Knight of Sunset Boulevard". The New York Review of Books: pp. 31–33.
3.^ [1]
4.^ Raymond Chandler: Raymond Chandler Speaking (Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Wakker, ed.) p.24 (Houghton Mifflin Company (1962) ISBN 978-0520208353.
5.^ Florence arrives 12/1912 - Passenger Manifest S.S. Merion
6.^ Raymond Chandler's Shamus Town Timeline and Residences pages using official government sources (death certificate, census, military & civil - city & phone directories)
7.^ http://www.nysun.com/arts/man-who-gave-us-marlowe/65983/
8.^ Chandler/Fleming discussion, BBC Home Service, 10th July 1958

Further reading

Dorothy Gardiner and Katherine Sorley Walker (eds.; 1962), Raymond Chandler Speaking. Boston: Houghton Miflin.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. (ed.; 1973). Chandler Before Marlowe: Raymond Chandler's Early Prose and Poetry, 1908-1912. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
MacShane, Frank (1976). The Life of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: E.P. Dutton.
MacShane, Frank (1976). The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler & English Summer: A Gothic Romance. N.Y.: The Ecco Press.
Chandler, Raymond (1976). The Blue Dahlia (screenplay). Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Gross, Mirian (1977). The World of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: A & W Publsihers.
MacShane, Frank (ed.) (1981). Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.
Chandler, Raymond (1985). Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller (unfilmed screenplay for Playback). N.Y.: The Mysterious Press.
Hiney, Tom (1999). Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Grove Press. ISBN 0-80213-637-0
Hiney, Tom and MacShane, Frank (eds.; 2000). The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959. N.Y.: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Ward, Elizabeth and Alain Silver (1987). Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-351-9
Howe, Alexander N. "The Detective and the Analyst: Truth, Knowledge, and Psychoanalysis in the Hard-Boiled Fiction of Raymond Chandler." CLUES: A Journal of Detection 24.4 (Summer 2006): 15-29.
Howe, Alexander N. (2008). "It Didn't Mean Anything: A Psychoanalytic Reading of American Detective Fiction". North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 0786434546
Moss, Robert (2002) "Raymond Chandler A Literary Reference" New York Carrol and Graf
Freeman, Judith (2007). The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. N.Y.:Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42351-2 (0-375-42351-6)

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrity Grave: Filmmaker Nunnally Johnson 1977

 
Nunnally Hunter Johnson (December 5, 1897 - March 25, 1977) was an American filmmaker who wrote, produced, and directed motion pictures.

Johnson was born in Columbus, Georgia. He began his career as a journalist, writing for the Columbus Enquirer Sun, the Savannah Press, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the New York Herald Tribune. He also wrote short stories and a collection of these, There Ought To Be a Law, was published in 1930.

Johnson's first connection with film work was the sale of screen rights to one of his stories in 1927. Johnson asked his editor if he could write film criticism articles in 1932. When this request was denied, he decided to relocate to Hollywood and work directly in the film industry.

Quickly finding work as a scriptwriter, Johnson was hired fulltime as a writer by 20th Century-Fox in 1935. He soon began producing films as well and co-founded International Pictures in 1943 with William Goetz. Johnson also directed several films in the 1950s, including two starring Gregory Peck.

Johnson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath and the Directors Guild of America Best Directors Award in 1956 for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

 
Johnson died of pneumonia in Hollywood in 1977 and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

 
 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrity Grave: "Maltese Falcon" Actor Peter Lorre 1964

 
Peter Lorre (26 June 1904 – 23 March 1964) was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.

 
He made an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M. Later he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, notably alongside Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, and as the star of the successful Mr. Moto detective series.

 
Lorre had suffered for years from chronic gallbladder troubles, for which doctors had prescribed morphine. Lorre became trapped between the constant pain and addiction to morphine to ease the problem. It was during the period of the Moto films that Lorre struggled and overcame this problem.

 
Overweight and never fully recovered from his addiction to morphine, Lorre suffered many personal and career disappointments in his later years. He died in 1964 of a stroke. Lorre's body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Celebrity Grave: "Woody Woodpecker" Animator Walter Lantz 1994

 
Walter Benjamin Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist, animator, film producer, and director, best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker.

 
Biography

Early years and start in animation

Lantz was born in New Rochelle, New York to Italian immigrant parents, Francesco Paolo Lantz (formerly Lanza) and Maria Gervasi. According to Joe Adamson's biography, The Walter Lantz Story, Lantz's father was given his new surname by an immigration official who Anglicized it. Walter Lantz was always interested in art, completing a mail order drawing class at age twelve. He saw his first animation when he watched Winsor McCay's cartoon short, Gertie the Dinosaur.

While working as an auto mechanic, Lantz got his first break. A wealthy customer named Fred Kafka liked his drawings on the garage's bulletin board and financed Lantz's studies at the Art Students League. Kafka also helped him get a job as a copy boy at the New York American, owned by William Randolph Hearst. Lantz worked at the newspaper and attended art school at night.

By the age of 16, Lantz was working in the animation department under director Gregory La Cava. Lantz then worked at the John R. Bray Studios on the Jerry On The Job series. In 1924, Lantz directed, animated, and even starred in his first cartoon series, Dinky Doodle. He moved to Hollywood, California in 1927, where he worked briefly for director Frank Capra and was a gag writer for Mack Sennett comedies.

The Oswald era

In 1928, Lantz was hired by Charles B. Mintz as a director on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon series for Universal. Earlier that year, Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler had succeeded in snatching Oswald from the character's original creator, Walt Disney. Universal president Carl Laemmle became dissatisfied with the Mintz-Winkler product and fired them, deciding instead to produce the Oswalds directly on the Universal lot. While schmoozing with Laemmle, Lantz wagered that if he could beat Laemmle in a game of poker, the character would be his. As fate would have it, Lantz won the bet, and Oswald was now his character.

Lantz inherited many of his initial staff, including animator Tom Palmer and musician Bert Fiske from the Winker studio, but importantly he decided to select a fellow New York animator, Bill Nolan, to help develop the series. Nolan's previous credentials included inventing the panorama background and developing a new, streamlined Felix the Cat. Nolan was (and still is) probably best known for perfecting the "rubber hose" style of animation. In September 1929, Lantz finally put out his first cartoon, Race Riot.

By 1935, Nolan had parted company with Lantz. Lantz became an independent producer, supplying cartoons to Universal instead of merely overseeing the animation department. By 1940, he was negotiating ownership for the characters he had been working with.

 
The Woody Woodpecker era

When Oswald had worn out his welcome, Lantz decided that he needed a new character. Meany, Miny and Moe (three ne'er-do-well chimps), Baby-Face Mouse, Snuffy Skunk, Doxie (a comic dachshund) and Jock and Jill (monkeys that resembled Warner Brothers' Bosko) were some of the personalities Lantz and his staff had come up with. However, one character, Andy Panda, stood out from the rest and soon became Lantz's headline star for the 1939-1940 production season.

In 1940, Lantz had married actress Grace Stafford. During their honeymoon, the couple kept hearing a woodpecker incessantly pecking on their roof. Grace suggested that Walter use the bird for inspiration and make him into a cartoon character. Taking her advice, though a bit skeptical about its success, Lantz debuted Woody Woodpecker in an Andy Panda short, Knock Knock. The brash woodpecker character was similar to the early Daffy Duck, and Lantz liked the results enough to build a series around it.

Mel Blanc supplied Woody's voice for his first three cartoons. When Blanc accepted a full-time contract with Leon Schlesinger Productions/Warner Bros. and left the Lantz studio, gagman Ben Hardaway, who was the main force responsible for Knock Knock, became the bird's voice. Despite this, Blanc's distinctive laugh was still used throughout the cartoons.

During 1948, the Lantz studio had a hit Academy Award-nominated tune in "The Woody Woodpecker Song", featuring Blanc's laugh. Mel Blanc sued Lantz for half a million dollars, claiming that Lantz had used his voice in various later cartoons without his permission. The judge, however, ruled against Blanc, saying that he had failed to copyright his voice or contributions. Even though Lantz had won the case, he paid Blanc the money in an out-of-court settlement when Blanc filed an appeal, and went off to search for a new voice for Woody Woodpecker.

In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions. Grace, Lantz's wife, had offered to do Woody's voice; however, Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace went about secretly making her own anonymous audition tape, and submitted it with the others for the studio to listen to. Not knowing whose voice was being heard, Lantz picked Grace's voice to do Woody Woodpecker. Grace supplied Woody's voice until the end of production in 1972, and also appeared in other non-Woody cartoons. At first, Grace voiced Woody without screen credit, because she thought that it would disappoint the children to know Woody Woodpecker was voiced by a woman. However, she soon came to enjoy being known as the voice of Woody Woodpecker, and allowed her name to be credited on the screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s, and Lantz's artists redesigned the character to suit the new voice personality.

Lantz's harmonious relationship with Universal, the studio releasing his cartoons, was interrupted when new ownership transformed the company into Universal-International and did away with most of Universal's company policies. The new management insisted on getting licensing and merchandising rights to Lantz's characters. Lantz refused and withdrew from the parent company by the end of 1947, releasing 12 cartoons independently through United Artists during 1948, into the beginning of 1949. Financial difficulties forced Lantz to shut down his studio in 1949. Universal-International re-released Lantz's UA (and several of his earlier) cartoons during the shutdown and finally came to terms with Lantz, who resumed production in 1951. From this point forward Lantz worked quicker and cheaper, no longer using the lush, artistic backgrounds and stylings that distinguished his 1940s work.

The baby boomer generation came to know and love Lantz as the creator of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons. He used his TV appearances on The Woody Woodpecker Show to show how the animation was actually done. For many of those young viewers, it was the first time they had seen an explanation of the process. That same generation later knew him for entertaining the troops during the Vietnam War and visiting hospitalized veterans. Walter Lantz was good friends with movie innovator George Pál. Because of this, Woody Woodpecker makes a cameo appearance in every feature film in which Pál was involved.

Retirement

By the 1960s other movie studios had discontinued their animation departments, leaving Walter Lantz as one of the only two producers still making cartoons for theaters (the other was Friz Freleng). Lantz finally closed up shop in 1972 (by then, he later explained, it was economically impossible to continue producing them and stay in business), and Universal serviced the remaining demand with reissues of his older cartoons.

In his retirement, Lantz continued to manage his studio’s properties by licensing them to other media. He also continued to draw and paint, selling his paintings of Woody Woodpecker rapidly. On top of that, he worked with Little League and other youth groups around his area. In 1982, Lantz donated 17 artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, among them a wooden model of Woody Woodpecker from the cartoon character’s debut in 1941.

In 1993, Lantz established a ten thousand dollar scholarship and prize for animators in his name at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Walter Lantz died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California from heart failure on March 22, 1994, aged 94. Walter Lantz's ashes are located at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Characters

Some of the characters in the Lantz universe (both cartoons and comics) are Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Space Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Homer Pigeon, Chilly Willy, Andy Panda, Charlie Chicken and many more.

Walter Lantz "Cartunes"

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1929–1938, 1943)

Cartune Classics (1934–1942, 1953–1957) (miscellaneous characters, seen in the-new Technicolor)

Andy Panda (1939–1949) (usually voiced by radio and film actor Walter Tetley)

Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat

Woody Woodpecker (1941–1949, 1951–1972)

Swing Symphonies (1941–1945) (musical cartoons, often featuring top boogie-woogie musicians)

Musical Miniatures (1946–1948) (offshoot of the Swing Symphonies, featuring classical melodies)

Chilly Willy (1953–1972) (a penguin character, inspired by mystery novelist Stuart Palmer)

The Beary Family (1962–1972) (situation-comedy series with Mom, Pop, and Junior Bear)

Inspector Willoughby(1960-1965) (it's a human mustached like to kidnap bandits, similar to Tex Avery's "Droopy")

Awards

1959 Lantz was honored by the Los Angeles City Council as "one of America's most outstanding animated film cartoonists."

1973 the international animation society, ASIFA/Hollywood, presented him with its Annie Award.

1979 he was given a special Academy Award, "for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures."

1986 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.