Monday, October 29, 2007

Fay Wray

Canadian-born (September 15, 1907) Vina Fay Wray was brought up in Los Angeles and began her career in 1923 as a heroine in westerns at Universal. In 1926 she was selected as a WAMPAS Baby Star, the same year as Joan Crawford. In 1928 she would land her first important lead role in Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March (1928); it remained her favorite performance. She also appeared that year in Street of Sin (a lost film) opposite Emil Jannings.

Fay continued playing leads in a number of films and 1933 appeared in eleven films for Paramount, including King Kong. Director Merian C. Cooper told her that he had a part for her in a picture in which she would be working with a tall, dark leading man - she thought he meant Gary Cooper because she had appeared with him in several previous efforts. You can read everything you would ever want to know about Fay and Kong from any number of sources, but she was very effective in a number of other films of the period. In 1932 she starred along with Joel McCrea in The Most Dangerous Game, and opposite Lionell Atwill and Lee Tracy in Doctor X. Those films are favorites of mine. She continued her aggressive pace, making eleven films again in 1934, including The Clairvoyant with Claude Raines, and Viva Villa! with Wallace Berry.

Unfortunately, by the mid/late thirties, Fay's roles became less frequent as she had somewhat pigeon-holed herself as suited only for horror and thrillers - she is known as the first "Scream Queen". Given the right role, Fay could have had her star up alongside the most renowned actresses of the day. And she has outlived all of them through the person of Ann Darrow - the beauty who killed the beast. Fay Wray, who appeared in over 100 films during her career, died of natural causes at the age of 96 in 2004.

If you want to see images of Fay in King Kong, look elsewhere, they are everywhere.

Motion Picture Magazine September, 1929 - Artist: Marland Stone

Undated postcard

Street of Sin publicity still - 1928

Modern Screen Magazine October, 1932

The Clairvoyant publicity still - 1934

Fay Wray - What do you think - Allure?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lupita Tovar

Born in Oaxaca, Mexico on July 27, 1911, Lupita Tovar was discovered by documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty while she was acting in a school play in Mexico City. She came to Hollywood in 1929. In 1930, after a couple of bit part roles, Lupita starred in the Spanish language version of The Cat Creeps (1930) based on the The Cat and the Canary.

Lupita is best known for her starring role in the 1931 Spanish language version of Dracula, filmed in Los Angeles by Universal Pictures at night using the same sets as the Bela Lugosi version, but with a different cast and director.
In Santa, the first popular sound film produced in Mexico, Tovar stars as an innocent small-town girl whose life is ruined when she is abandoned by her soldier lover. A sensation when it was released in Mexico in 1932, the film is now considered a classic.

In 1932, Tovar married Universal Pictures executive Paul Kohner. She made 30 films during her career. Lupita has a daughter, Susan Kohner Weitz, who was nominated for an Oscar. Also, her grandchildren, Chris and Paul Weitz, are successful film directors in Hollywood, having films such as American Pie, Antz, The Nutty Professor, and About a Boy to their credit.

As of this writing, Lupita is still living and in November of 2006, was honored by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The only postcard we have of Lupita

Scenes from the the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula

Lupita Tovar - What do you think - Allure?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mae Murray

Born as Marie Adrienne Koenig in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1889, Mae Murray began her career on stage with ballroom dancing legend Vernon Castle in the 1906 Broadway show “About Town”. Two years later she joined the “Ziegfeld Follies” chorus line and moved up to headliner status by 1915. She played the top clubs in Paris and the U.S. in an act that celebrated her dancing. One of her dance partners was Rudolph Valentino.

Mae's motion picture debut was in To Have and to Hold (1916) and by 1919 she was starred in two films, The Delicious Little Devil and Big Little Person with former dance partner Valentino. Many of her films contained especially designed dance sequences, but her most acclaimed film was Stroheim's The Merry Widow (1925) opposite John Gilbert. For her fourth marriage (1926), Valentino was best man and Pola Negri was matron of honor.

Mae’s movie career faded with the advent of sound, her voice being not particularly suited to "talkies". She made a total of 41 films from 1916 to 1931. Leaving the film world, Mae grew more eccentric over the years (It has been speculated that the character Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard was modeled after her) and was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy, living in abject poverty for the better part of her later life. Mae Murray died at age 75 on March 23, 1965.

Early in her career - Postcard from 1916 or 1917

1923 Postcard

Peacock Alley - 1922 - Mae earned $10,000 a week for this film.

Mae Murray - What do you think - Allure?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Conchita Montenegro

Conchita Montenegro was born in Bilbao, Spain in 1911. During her childhood she was a dancer and ultimately was credited with revolutionizing the presentation of Spanish dances. She performed in Spain, France, and Germany by the time she was thirteen years old. Conchita came to Hollywood in June 1930 with a contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She was sixteen years old and could not speak a word of English. However, she learned the language well enough in three months to play the female lead opposite Leslie Howard in Never The Twain Shall Meet (1931).

Her next film was Strangers May Kiss (1931). The production stars Norma Shearer, with Montengro as the ingenue lead, playing a Spanish dancer. By mid-1931 Montenegro left MGM and signed with the Fox Film Company where she starred in The Cisco Kid. Conchita made 37 films before retiring from the screen in 1944. She never received the same attention as her contemporary Hispanic stars Delores Del Rio, Raquel Torres, or Lupe Velez, but she was active and well respected in the Spanish film community until her death at age 95 in April 2007.

Here is a snippet of the New York Times review of Never The Twain Shall Meet..."and another newcomer, Miss Montenegro, flashes an appealing Latin loveliness in the role of Tamea."

Click on the images for a larger size view.

New Movie Magazine - September 1931

A Still from The Cisco Kid - Film Fun Magazine - January 1932

Lobby card for The Cisco Kid

Still from Hell In The Heavens (1934)

Conchita Montenegro - What do you think - Allure?