Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy birthday, Barbara Kent!

Today’s birthday tribute is going to be a bit difficult to write because I haven’t seen many of celebrant Barbara Kent’s films; the Canadian actress, born one hundred and three years ago on this date in Gadsby, Alberta—one hundred and three, ladies and gentlemen!—was quite popular during the silent movie era and even continued to be so in the transition to talkies.  She is, as of this post, one of the very few surviving adult-aged players from Hollywood’s golden age of silents.

Of Kent’s output, I’ve seen 1926’s Flesh and the Devil—she played the “good girl” to Greta Garbo’s not-so-good girl—and the two films she made with Harold Lloyd, Welcome Danger (1929) and Feet First (1930).  (I’ve not “officially” seen 1927’s The Drop Kick but because clips of it were lampooned in an episode of Jay Ward’s Fractured Flickers I have seen some of it.)  According to the always reliable IMDb (ah, sarcasm—you are my true mistress!) Kent appeared in a total of thirty-five films, notably a 1927 western entitled No Man’s Law (featuring Oliver Hardy), in which she went swimming in the buff (take that, Maureen O’Sullivan!) with the help of a moleskin body suit, and 1933’s Oliver Twist.  She married agent Harry E. Eddington in 1934, and Eddington had her take a time-out so he could “groom” her for bigger and better things but her subsequent film appearances didn’t start any fires and by 1941 she said sayonara to the movie industry.  With the passing of her husband in 1949, she retreated from public life and since that time has downplayed her previous career by refusing all interviews.

But hey—when you reach the one-oh-oh mark and beyond, maybe you deserve a little “me” time…so we’ll just wish Ms. Kent the happiest of natal anniversaries (I’m sure she stops by here on a daily basis) and tiptoe out to the kitchen for cake, ice cream and acknowledgment of her fellow celebrants:

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) – German composer and pianist…and one of the most influential composers in the history of music

Jane Austen (1775-1817) – English author who wrote works of romantic fiction including Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park

Max Linder (1883-1925) – French silent film comedy great whose influence on other film comedians is immense; his vehicles include Seven Years Bad Luck, Be My Wife and The Three Must-Get-Theres

J.M. Kerrigan (1884-1964) – Irish-born stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include The Lost Patrol, Treasure Island, Gone with the Wind, The Wolf Man, Park Row and The Fastest Gun Alive

Ted Wilde (1889-1929) – Motion picture writer-director who served as one of Harold Lloyd’s gag men and directed Lloyd’s The Kid Brother and Speedy

Jane Morgan (1890-1972) – Radio, television and film actress who’s best known as dotty landlady Margaret Davis on the radio, TV and movie versions of Our Miss Brooks

Clyde Cook (1891-1984) – Australian-born “rubber” silent and sound film (and a bit of TV) comic actor who served a stint as one of the Keystone Kops and whose vehicles include The Winning of Barbara Worth, The Docks of New York and Barbary Coast

Cameron Prud’Homme (1892-1967) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Abraham Lincoln, Back from Eternity, The Rainmaker and The Cardinal

G. Pat Collins (1895-1959) – Unsung stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include The Racket, All Quiet on the Western Front, Picture Snatcher, Black Fury, Alibi Ike and Triple Trouble

Lud Gluskin (1898-1989) – Composer-musician who led a jazz band early in his career before becoming director of music for CBS in 1937; also scored a number of feature films including those in the Lum ‘n’ Abner series

Noël Coward (1899-1973) – English playwright, actor-director-screenwriter and singer whose film contributions include In Which We Serve, Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter

Hardie Albright (1903-1975) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include So Big, Three-Cornered Moon, The Scarlet Letter, Flight from Destiny, The Pride of the Yankees and Angel on My Shoulder

Hollingsworth Morse (1910-1988) – Veteran television and film director who helmed episodes of such series as The Lone Ranger, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Lassie, Zorro, McHale’s Navy, Adam-12 and The Dukes of Hazzard

Charles Marquis Warren (1912-1990) – Motion picture and television writer-director-producer best known for his duties as the executive producer on the inaugural TV seasons of Gunsmoke and Rawhide; also did similar duty on The Virginian and The Iron Horse

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) – British science fiction author who’s known for such works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End

George Schaefer (1920-1997) – Veteran stage, screen and television director whose oeuvre includes the TV movies Amelia Earhart, First You Cry, Right of Way, Stone Pillow and the TV miniseries Lincoln and Blind Ambition

Harry Spear (1921-2006) – Little Rascal

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) – Science fiction author-novelist-essayist whose works have been frequently adapted for movies like Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall (“We Can Remember it For You Wholesale”) and Minority Report (“The Minority Report’)

Terry Carter (1928-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose TV gigs have included The Phil Silvers Show, McCloud and Battlestar Galactica

Nicholas Courtney (1929-     ) – English stage, screen and television actor whom I always remember as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who

Shelby Singleton (1931-2009) – Record producer and music label owner who worked with such artists as varied as Brook Benton, Roger Miller, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave Dudley, Paul & Paula and Jeannie C. Riley

Jim Glaser (1937-     ) – Country music vocalist who performed in a trio with brothers Chuck and Tompall…but also had a simultaneous solo career

Joyce Bulifant (1937-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actress who had regular gigs on such TV shows as Tom, Dick and Mary, The Bill Cosby Show, Mary Tyler Moore and Flo; was once married to James MacArthur and William Asher (though not at the same time)

Liv Ullmann (1938-     ) – Japan-born stage, screen and television actress best known for her work with director Ingmar Bergman including Persona, Shame, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage

Lesley Stahl (1941-     ) – Television journalist regularly featured on 60 Minutes…and who secretly has pizzas delivered to Diane Sawyer’s house as a prank*

Steven Bochco (1943-     ) – Television writer-producer who created such hits as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue…as well as some real clinkers like Cop Rock and Bay City Blues

N!xau (1944-2003) – Kalahari Desert bushman famous for appearing in several The Gods Must Be Crazy movies

Patti Deutsch (1945-     ) – Ubiquitous television game show panelist who also appeared on such shows as The John Byner Comedy Hour and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In

Terence Knox (1946-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known for his roles as doctor-turned-rapist Peter White on St. Elsewhere and Sgt. Clayton “Zeke” Anderson on Tour of Duty

Benny Andersson (1946-     ) – One of those ABBA guys

Ben Cross (1947-     ) – English stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Chariots of Fire, Paper House, First Knight, Star Trek and the TV revival of Dark Shadows

Christopher Biggins (1948-     ) – English stage, screen and television actor whom I always remember as the gay prisoner Lukewarm on the Britcom Porridge

Xander Berkeley (1955-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Sid and Nancy, The Grifters, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Candyman, Apollo 13, Amistad and TV’s 24

Alison La Placa (1959-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose character of self-absorbed Linda Philips so overshadowed the bland leads of the sitcom Duet that she took over and wound up with the replacement series Open House

Jon Tenney (1961-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor who’s had regular gigs on such TV shows as Equal Justice, Brooklyn South, Kristin, Get Real and The Closer

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) – Subversive standup comedian who was one of the funniest men to ever walk the planet and who left us far too soon

Shane Black (1961-     ) – Motion picture writer-director-producer whose film contributions include the Lethal Weapon movies, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

James Mangold (1963-     ) – Motion picture and television writer-director-producer whose oeuvre includes Heavy, Cop Land, Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma

Benjamin Bratt (1963-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known as Detective Rey Curtis on TV’s Law & Order

Jeff Carson (1963-     ) – Country music vocalist who had several big chart hits in the 1990s before he decided to chuck it all last year and become a cop

*Okay, I may have made this up.

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Jeff Overturf said...

LOVE them Glaser Brothers.

Anonymous said...

Great piece about Barbara Kent - wow, 104. I've seen 'Flesh and the Devil', which I thought was brilliant, but must admit I only really remember Garbo and Gilbert. Don't think I've seen any more of Kent's films, but I'm interested to learn from the imdb that she played Amelia in an early talkie version of 'Vanity Fair' - that is one I'd love to see. I'd also like to see the early 'Oliver Twist' you mention, although, amazingly, it seems it misses the workhouse out altogether. How can you have an Oliver who doesn't ask for more?! Judy

Scott said...

Hollingsworth Morse will be familiar to MST3K fans from the two Rocky Jones, Space Ranger movies, Manhunt in Space, which was a feature version of the three-part TV episode Pirates of Prah, and Crash of the Moons (starring a pre-Hogan's Heroes John Banner).

Anonymous said...

Dude, she never lived to 104- in fact she died at the age of 103- fact check?