Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Claudette Colbert: 1910 Census

Claudette Colbert's real name was Lily Claudette Chaucoin. She was living at 1141 Third Avenue in 1910. As stated in a previous post:

Émilie Chauchoin was born in Saint-Mandé, Seine, France, to Georges Claude, a banker, and Jeanne Loew Chauchoin. After some financial reverses, her family emigrated to New York City in 1906.
Note her banker father must him been struggling since here it is stated he is working as a cook and Claudette's mother is working as a dressmaker
Below: This is what the address looks like today.

Washington Irving High School: 1938

from the nypl digital collection
looking west from Second Avenue and Rutherford Place. The 3rd Avenue El was still in use at the time.

The Spewack Script From Kiss Me Kate

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Claudette Colbert: It Happened One Night, Biography: Part 2

A famous scene from one of her most famous pictures with Clark Gable
continuing her biography:

In 1958, she returned to Broadway in The Marriage-Go-Round, for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Tony Award.
By 1955 she had stopped making films, although returned to the screen in Parrish (1961) for Warner Brothers. When the film was released, most of the studio publicity was in support of the young male lead Troy Donahue, who was being groomed by the studio. Colbert, playing the supporting role of Donahue's mother, received little attention, and the film was not a success. She never made another film although the press occasionally referred to upcoming projects that did not exist. Embarrassed, Colbert instructed her agent to stop his attempts to generate interest in her as a film actress. In the late 1960s, a reporter asked her why she had made no more films, to which she replied, "Because there have been no offers."
Her occasional acting ventures were limited to theater and included The Irregular Verb to Love (1963); The Kingfisher (1978) in which she co-starred with Rex Harrison, and Frederick Lonsdale's Aren't We All? (1985).
In 1987, Colbert appeared in a supporting role in the television miniseries The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. The production was a ratings success and was nominated for several awards. Colbert won a Golden Globe and received a nomination for an Emmy Award. This marked her final performance on film, however she continued to act in theater.
In 1928, Colbert married Norman Foster, an actor and director, who appeared with Colbert in the Broadway show The Barker. However, she and her first husband lived apart, never sharing a home together in Hollywood. They divorced in 1935, and in December of that year, Colbert married Dr. Joel Pressman, a surgeon at UCLA. The marriage lasted 33 years, until Pressman's death of liver cancer in 1968.
Colbert had one brother, Charles (1898-1971), who used the surname Wendling and served as her agent and business manager for a time. He is credited with negotiating some of the more lucrative of her contracts in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Colbert was a staunch Republican and conservative.
For years, Colbert divided her time between her apartment in Manhattan and her summer home in Speightstown, Barbados. After suffering a series of strokes in 1993, she remained in her Barbados home, Belle-rive, where she died on July 30, 1996, at age 92. She was buried in the Parish of St. Peter Cemetery in Barbados. Colbert left no immediate family.
The bulk of Colbert's estate was left to a friend, Helen O'Hagan, a retired director of corporate relations at Saks Fifth Avenue, whom Colbert had met in 1961 on the set of the her last film and who cared for Colbert following her 1993 strokes.
Colbert established one of the most successful film careers of any actress of her generation, and was considered a dependable and bankable star. Her status was reflected in her earnings as one of the best-paid performers of the 1930s and 1940s. Colbert once commented that she had sacrificed for the sake of her career.
In discussing Colbert's career, her contemporaries confirmed her drive. Irene Dunne commented that she had lacked Colbert's "terrifying ambition" and noted that if Colbert "finished work on a film on a Saturday, she would be looking for a new project by Monday". Hedda Hopper wrote that Colbert placed her career "ahead of everything save possibly her marriage", and described her as the "smartest and canniest" of Hollywood actresses, with a strong sense of what was best for her, and a "deep rooted desire to be in shape, efficient and under control".

Claudette Colbert Biography: Part 1

from wikipedia

Émilie Chauchoin was born in Saint-Mandé, Seine, France, to Georges Claude, a banker, and Jeanne Loew Chauchoin. After some financial reverses, her family emigrated to New York City in 1906. Colbert eventually became a naturalized citizen of the U.S.
Colbert studied at Washington Irving High School, where her speech teacher, Alice Rossetter helped her overcome a slight lisp. Rossetter encouraged her to audition for a play she had written, and Colbert made her stage debut at the Provincetown Playhouse in The Widow's Veil, at the age of fifteen.
She then attended the Art Students League of New York and worked as a stenographer, a salesclerk in womens' clothing, and a tutor in order to pay her expenses. She intended to become a fashion designer but after she attended a party with the playwright Anne Morrison she was offered a three-line role in Morrison's new play. She appeared on the Broadway stage in a small role in The Wild Westcotts (1923). Inspired to pursue a career in theater, Colbert ended her studies and embarked on a stage career in 1925. She adopted the name "Claudette Colbert" as her stage name two years later; she had been using the name of Claudette since high school, and Colbert was the maiden name of her maternal grandmother.
After signing a five-year contract with the producer Al Woods, Colbert played ingénue roles on Broadway from 1925 through 1929. During her early years on stage, she fought against being typecast as a maid, and received critical acclaim on Broadway in the production of The Barker (1927), playing a carnival snake charmer, a role she reprised for the play's run in London's West End.
She co-starred with Fredric March in Manslaughter (1930), and received positive reviews for her performance as a rich girl, jailed for manslaughter. The New York Times wrote, "It cannot be denied that Claudette Colbert – given an even chance – is capable of excellent acting." She was briefly paired with March, and they made four films together, including Dorothy Arzner's Honor Among Lovers (1931), which fared well at the box-office. She sang in her role opposite Maurice Chevalier in the Ernst Lubitsch musical The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and was acknowledged by critics for her ability to assert herself opposite the more experienced Miriam Hopkins.
Cecil B. DeMille cast her as the Roman empress Poppaea in his historical epic, The Sign of the Cross (1932), opposite Fredric March. In one sequence, Colbert bathes in a marble pool filled with asses' milk, a scene that came to be regarded as an example of Hollywood decadence prior to the enforcement of the Production Code. Later the same year she played in The Phantom President, which was one of Paramount's biggest failures of the year. Other successes of this period included Tonight Is Ours (1933) with Fredric March and Torch Singer (1933), with Ricardo Cortez. In 1933, Colbert renegotiated her contract with Paramount to allow her to appear in films for other studios. However, Cecil B. DeMille's Four Frightened People (1934) failed to find a substantial audience.
During 1934, Colbert's film career flourished. Of the four films she made that year, three of them – the historical biography, Cleopatra, the romantic drama, Imitation of Life and the screwball comedy, It Happened One Night were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture.
Colbert's success allowed her to renegotiate her contract, raising her salary. In 1935 and 1936, she was listed in the annual "Quigley Poll of the Top Ten Money Making Stars", which was compiled from the votes of movie exhibitors throughout the U.S. for the stars that had generated the most revenue in their theaters over the previous year.
She received a second Academy Award nomination for her role in the hospital drama, Private Worlds (1935).
In 1936, she signed a new contract with Paramount Pictures, which required her to make seven films over a two-year period, and this contract made her Hollywood's highest paid actress. This was followed by a contract renewal in 1938, after which she was reported to be the highest paid performer in Hollywood with a salary of $426,924. Her films during this period include The Gilded Lily (1935) and The Bride Comes Home (1935) with Fred MacMurray, She Married Her Boss (1935), with Melvyn Douglas, Under Two Flags (1936), with Ronald Colman, Maid of Salem (1937), again with MacMurray, Tovarich (1937), with Charles Boyer, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938), with Gary Cooper, Zaza (1939), with Herbert Marshall, Midnight (1939), with Don Ameche and It's a Wonderful World (1939), with James Stewart.

Famous Graduate: Claudette Colbert

from the alternative film guide

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Biography Of Patricia Morison: Washington Irving Graduate

from wikipedia:

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Gloom Pervades Student Poems: NYTimes' 5/24/1940

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Washington Irving Art Gallery Dedication: 12/19/1913

The Myths Of The Washington Irving House

from the nytimes streetscape column by Christopher Gray

Read this doc on Scribd: irving-New York Streetscapes

Sam And Bella Spewack's "Kiss Me Kate"

The Spewack's wrote the screenplay for this great play and later (here, 1953) movie.
In this scene Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore perform the Cole Porter song, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
the lyrics:

The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry,
So to win their hearts you must quote with ease Aeschylus and Euripides.
But the poet of them all
Who will start 'em simply ravin'
Is the poet people call
The bard of Stratford-on-Avon.
Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Just declaim a few lines from "Othella"
And they think you're a heckuva fella.
If your blonde won't respond when you flatter 'er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopaterer,
And if still, to be shocked, she pretends well,
Just remind her that "All's Well That Ends Well."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.
Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.If your goil is a Washington Heights dream
Treat the kid to "A Midsummer Night Dream."
If she fights when her clothes you are mussing,
What are clothes? "Much Ado About Nussing."
If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the "Coriolanus."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow,
And they'll all kowtow,
And they'll all kowtow.
Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow,

Famous Alumni Bella Spewack And Patricia Morison Visit 5/26/65

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Bella Spewack: Obituary From 1990

from the nytimes obituary of 4/19/1990

Bella Spewack, co-author with her late husband, Samuel, of a string of wacky comedies for Broadway and film - including such hits as ''Boy Meets Girl'' and the Tony Award-winning ''Kiss Me, Kate'' - died Friday night at her home in Manhattan. She was 91 years old.
''She was an original,'' said Lois Elias, a friend of Mrs. Spewack for 30 years. Mrs. Spewack had no survivors. Her husband died in 1971. ''She never thought like other people,'' Mrs. Elias said. ''She was witty, sharp, but with a quixotic approach to life, a great concern for others.'' At the same time, Mrs. Elias added, ''She was a very good businesswoman; the one who made all the arrangements for the productions.''
Mrs. Spewack, whose maiden name was Bella Cohen, was born in the Transylvania region of what is now Romania, and brought to the United States as an infant.
Radical, Pacifist Views
Growing up on the East Side of Manhattan, Mrs. Spewack graduated from Washington Irving High School in 1917. She soon went job hunting, but was turned down time after time as she sought any job available, preferably at a newspaper.
Eventually, the Yorkville Home News hired her as a writer and, soon after, her radical, pacifist views brought her to The New York Call, a socialist newspaper.
Her work apparently caught the attention of Samuel Spewack, then a young reporter for The World. ''Sam really fell in love with my writing,'' Mrs. Spewack said at the time of her husband's death. The Spewacks were married in 1922 and, after spending several years together as correspondents in Moscow, they launched a writing collaboration that eventually spanned four decades.
Their comedy was almost always madcap, verging on slapstick and knock-about farce. It was often peopled by the harassed, the rattle-brained, the blunder-prone and the pompous, among other cartoon-like characters.
Names Up in Lights
Almost every other year, from the 1930's through the 1950's, the names of Spewack works went up in lights on Broadway: ''Clear All Wires,'' in 1932; ''Spring Song,'' in 1934; ''Boy Meets Girl,'' in 1935; ''Leave It to Me,'' in 1938; ''Two Blind Mice'' and ''Kiss Me, Kate,'' both in 1949, and ''My Three Angels,'' in 1953.
Among the movies written by the Spewacks were ''The Nuisance,'' ''Three Loves Has Nancy,'' ''The Gay Bride,'' ''The Cat and the Fiddle,'' ''Weekend at the Waldorf'' and ''My Favorite Wife.''
''Clear All Wires,'' based on their experiences as reporters in Moscow, was the Spewacks' first big break on Broadway, premiering in 1932. Six years later, it was turned into a musical under the title, ''Leave It to Me,'' with a score by Cole Porter. The show, which included the song, ''My Heart Belongs to Daddy,'' introduced a new young star to Broadway - Mary Martin.
In ''Boy Meets Girl,'' which opened in New York on Nov. 27, 1935, and ran for 669 performances, the Spewacks wrote about a fictional writing team, Benson and Law. The script included an exchange that has slipped into common usage.
'Boy Meets Girl'
''Listen,'' Benson says. ''I've been writing stories for 11 years. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl.''
''Kiss Me Kate,'' a takeoff of Shakespeare's ''Taming of the Shrew,'' with a score by Mr. Porter, ran for 1,077 performances in New York and won a Tony Award, as well as a Page One Award, for the Spewacks in 1949. The critic, Brooks Atkinson, wrote that ''Kiss Me, Kate,'' had ''the best musical comedy book of the year.''
The Spewacks had their share of flops. But, in 1955, on the night after a play called ''Festival'' received a chilly reception from the critics, Mrs. Spewack - a tiny, round woman -fought back. She marched onto the stage during curtain calls and appealed to the audience to go tell their friends if they liked the show.
''Having a failure isn't such a dreadful thing,'' she told an interviewer. ''But 'Festival' is a good, clean show, and when I heard the audience laughing and applauding, I felt it must be something they wanted.''
Mrs. Spewack then went on a dozen radio and television programs, defending ''Festival.'' And the show was extended, if only for several more weeks.

Bella Spewack: A Famous Graduate Of Washington Irving

from amazon's review of Streets, by Bella Spewack

Bella Spewak began life in Transylvania in 1899, the love child of a teenage peasant and a man who disappeared before Bella was born. Three years later, she and her mother joined the flood of Eastern European Jews emigrating to New York City. In her memoir, Streets, which she wrote in her twenties but never published, Spewak recalls growing up in the slums of the Lower East Side. Through her eyes, we see the deprivation she and her mother had to endure: the abysmal housing, the unsanitary living conditions, the inadequate health care, the demeaning, exhausting work in sweatshops and wealthier homes, and the inevitable predatory employers happy to take advantage of a young single mother. Written in the stark, naturalistic prose of a born journalist, the book provides a startling, clear-eyed look at the difficult life millions endured in what sentimentalists call a simpler, happier time in America.

from the introduction
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Most Remarkable Girls' School In The World: 2/2/1913

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Work On New High School Started In Style: Jan. 11, 1911

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