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Friday, 16th May 2008
A Star is Born

T he list below

represents film stars born in March that appear on cigarette cards.

David Attenborough did a documentary film that showed some tribesman who leapt off very rickety looking structures with vines tied about their ankles in a primitive form of bungee jump. These people are famous for the stunt and it takes some nerve as basically the vines seem only there to break your legs in the event hitting the ground (they hit the ground hard) does not break their neck.

The film rolled and David thought nothing more of it. Then a few years later a very hefty manuscript came through the door. Some learned type had seen the programme and done some complex calculations which showed the bone structure of these tribesmen was a lot stronger than anyone else on the planet. A clear example of evolution through natural selection.

They hit the ground hard

David barely had the heart to tell the chap there had been a film cut between the tribesman leaping off the platform and hitting the ground, the distance was consideraly less than the death plunge it had appeared to be on the TV screen. The tribesman had bones which were just about like everyone elses.

The world is littered with theories being held up by very dodgy foundations.

So when I look at the list below and conclude card manufacturers had a vendetta against film stars born in March there is a possibility I am wrong. I have dug pretty deep to find the few I have, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality (I say).

David Niven
1910 - 1983

The perfect English gentleman was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland.

The on-screen Niven personality was at least part total nonsense. A gentleman perhaps he was but a foppish fraud he was not. More often than not he played the role of a somewhat brittle fellow, unreliable in thought and deed. Quite often the charm would slip to reveal something not quite up to the mark.

The reality was rather different, he served in the Highland Light Infantry and during World War Two was actually a major in the Commandos. He came from a military family so hardly surprising in such troubled times he followed the family business.

All this something of a contrast to the role he took in Seperate Tables [1928] where he played the part of a man giving himself the rank of major and ending up caught in a Bournemouth cinema commiting an indecent offence, a role in which he won his Oscar.

Upon leaving the army Niven took up the job of lumberjack and from there appeared in a number of cheap westerns as an extra.

Goldwyn signed him in 1935. He made films steadily until his return to England for Second World War.

In between active service he made The First of the Few [1942] and The Way Ahead [1944].

He returned to America after the war but perhaps the film market had moved on and left him behind somewhat. He continued to work but quite a bit of it was beneath his talent by the 1960's. Casino Royale [1967] probably sums up his body of work at that period.

A film directed by John Huston which also starred Orson Welles and mis-cast just about everyone. Niven was apparently Fleming's first choice as Bond, and that would not have been a bad choice at all.

Like Welles, Niven did commercials which I supposed paid the bills but it always has the smell of a punch drunk boxer ranting in a fairground ring.

His last film was Curse of the Pink Panther [1983]. For some years Niven had been unwell and in this one has his voice dubbed and of course Sellers was three years dead.

Somehow though the film was even worse than that. No man deserves this to be their last movie, not even Blake Edwards, its director and this was the man that re-animated Sellers in the form of out-takes to keep the Pink Panther going (and it was better than this film).

Carreras Turf Cigarettes Famous Film Stars (1949)
Kane Film Stars [1955]

Jean Harlow

1911-1937

You could look back and realise it all had to end in tears but perhaps it was not so easy to predict without the vision of hindsight. Born Harlean Carpenter in Kansas City. She moved to Los Angeles when she married at the age of 16.

She supplemented the family income by appearing as an extra in films. Soon she was appearing in Hal Roach comedy shorts including Double Whoopee [1928] with Laurel and Hardy.

Coming from a good family apparently her grandfather disapproved of this move and so she had to start all over again.

After divorcing (The London Times seemed to have glossed over her first marraige altogether) she adopted her mother's maiden name she was discovered by Howard Hughes (with his directors hat on). In 1930 he cast her in the sound spectacular 'Hell's Angels'.

Her die was cast with the line, 'Would you be shocked if I slipped into something more comfortable?'

Unfortunately her career as a sex symbol (and a lot of other such careers) were rather reduced by the censorship laws of 1932. However Harlow was not just so much well arranged fat in a swimsuit she was capable of being genuinely comic and the censorship meant this side of her ability had to be used in films and that can only be considered a good thing.

A huge success on screen life was not so sweet off it. Married and divorced twice more (her second husband, Paul Bern, commited divorce after two months of marraige) her health was at best fragile.

In 1937 she collapsed on the set of Saratoga (Clark Gable plays alongside as he did in so many Harlow movies) with kidney failure. It was her last film and had to be completed by the use of doubles. She died of swelling of the brain brought about by this condition shortly afterwards at the age of 26. The fact she had insisted on continuing to film despite considerable discomfort probably did not improve her chances of survival.

Players Film Stars (1934) 1st
Ardath Film Stage and Radio Stars (1935)
Ardath From Screen & Stage (1936)
Ardath Scenes from big films

Sir Rex Harrison

1908-1990

Born Reginal Carey Harrison in Huyton, England. Probably most memorable in My Fair Lady [1964] it is something which seems to dominate his career which encompassed so much more.

Mind you he did all but make the role his own playing the role on Broadway for two years (1956-67) before being the natural choice for the 1964 film.

There could not really be anyone else for this role or for that matter the role of Dr Doolittle, which he so clearly enjoyed.

Indeed the fact he has 'Sir' put before his name suggests a good deal of board treading because knighthoods were rare on the ground for film actors back then. He first began to tread those boards in 1924 and continued to work on his stage performances until he was 80.

He was married six times. Four of his wives were actresses (why do teachers marry teachers and actors marry actresses, there should be some sort of law against it), Lili Palmer, Kay Kendal,, Rachael Roberts, Elizabeth Harris.

Kay Kendall died of Leukaemia. Harrison apparently did not want her to know how ill she was so continued arguing with her as normal. As she lay in hospital she asked, 'You wouldn't tell me I'm not dying if I were, would you?' 'Of course not you silly little fool. See you tomorrow.' That was the last words they exchanged, she died a few hours later.

In a biography evidence was put forward to suggest Kendall actually knew how ill she was but did not want to let on to Harrison that she knew.

Please Lord save us from English reserve.



DeBeukelaer Film Stars KF900 1937