A child model and bit player in New York-based films whose appearance in "The Stealers" (1920) caught the attention of producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg signed Shearer to a long-term contract with MG...
The glimpses of Hollywood's golden age were among the first items to go under the hammer at Profiles in History's two-day Icons of Hollywood sale in California, which began on Thursday morning (15Dec11).
Camera negatives of Bankhead, Garbo and Norma Shearer, which were expected to fetch $300 (£187), sold for more than 10 times that figure, while shots of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young taken by legendary photographers Ernest Bachrach and Clarence Sinclair Bull went under the hammer for $2,250 (£1,400).
Other early big hitters included camera negatives of Gina Lollobrigida taken by John Engstead, which sold for almost seven times their expected price; a rare signed Jean Harlow photograph, which more than doubled its asking price at $4,250 (£2,650), and an autographed Ronald Reagan self-portrait, which went under the hammer at $9,225 (£5,760).
The biggest auction items, including a collection of clothing and memorabilia from The Wizard of Oz and Cleopatra, will hit the auction block on Friday (16Dec11).
What is an ensemble cast? How many actors constitute one? There aren’t any guidelines that determine what qualifies as a true ensemble, but if anyone can offer some insight it would be Woody Allen, who has been getting great groups of actors together for decades now. From Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters to Melinda and Melinda and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, he’s always had a keen eye for casting and the stars continue to line up to work with the iconic auteur.
With the home entertainment release of his latest, fore mentioned film at hand, I thought it’d be apt to honor some of the coolest ensemble casts ever assembled. Keep in mind: this isn’t a list of the best films featuring an ensemble cast. It’s about the best rosters of talent roped in for a single production.
This under-appreciated Tony Scott action spectacle was polarizing to audiences because of its ultra-violent approach, particularly toward women. But Patricia Arquette proved herself to be one tough chick, able to take a beating a give it back in equal measure. Together with her beau-to-be Christian Slater, she embarks on an odyssey to free herself from pimp Gary Oldman and, later, his criminal overlord Christopher Walken, all while L.A. detectives Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn are hot on the trail of drugs and blood. With bonus appearances by Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport and more, True Romance is a twisted web of cameos and special roles filled by some of the coolest actors of the time.
The Thin Red Line
WWII films have a long history of stellar casts comprised of legions of screen legends. This 1998 genre entry continues that grand tradition with enough A-listers to make five separate movies. George Clooney, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Miranda Otto, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Elias Koteas and Jim Caviezel all appear in the prestigious picture at one point or another – a logistic achievement in and of itself.
This sweet rom-com gets me every time. Not just because of the cheerful dialogue and warm and fuzzy relationships, but also because of the charming cast of characters played by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Lincoln, Denise Richards and the adorable Thomas Sangster. Together, there are around eight revolving, relatable romances in the film, but we wouldn’t have cared about any of them if not for the lovable cast.
In telling this sprawling tale about the intersecting lives of a handful of Angelenos, director Paul Haggis needed an international cast to represent the diverse population of the City of Angels. He got it with Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Daniel Dae Kim, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Keith David, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, Tony Danza and Thandie Newton. Though Dillon was the only actor recognized by the Academy at awards time, the triumph of the film belongs to its eclectic cast.
The Magnificent Seven
Akira Kurasawa’s epic Seven Samurai was practically begging for a Hollywood adaptation when it was released in 1954. By 1960, director John Sturges had made it a reality with a pack of screen idols including the dashing Yul Brynner, the inimitable Eli Wallach, the ultra-cool Steve McQueen, the bad-ass Charles Bronson, the slick Robert Vaughn, the cool James Coburn and the “newbie” Horst Buchholz. The septuplet of stars had a great deal of chemistry that made their on-screen antics all the more enjoyable to watch, and fifty years later their work on this classic film has become the stuff of movie mythology.
The star power packed into these popular motion pictures is astonishing. With Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt leading an army of talent - young and old - including Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck and Julia Roberts, there's no shortage of charisma throughout the film. You may be wondering why I chose Oceans Twelve over the 2001 remake of the 1960 original; it's because this hit heist pic also features the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Jared Harris, Vincent Cassel and Bruce Willis in appearances big and small. Not too shabby for a sequel...
Forget the awful 2008 remake. I implore you to give the original a chance. It’s a virtual who’s who of top Hollywood talent of the era. The premise is simple by today’s standards, but in 1939 its empowering themes were ahead of its time. Some of best actresses to ever grace the silver screen, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Lucile Watson and Marjorie Main delivered the message. All of the above are Oscar winners or nominees, making this cast of female performers one of the most celebrated of all time.
I’m not sure if Francis Ford Coppola knew what he was onto when he picked his rag-tag group of actors for this kick-ass 1983 film. After all, most of the actors were relatively unknown and untested at the time (save for C. Thomas Howell, who had just starred in Steven Spielberg's E.T.), but that quickly changed in the years following its release. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise all appeared in the acclaimed teen drama, leaving behind one hell of a legacy.
Robert Evans was still in his 20s when on a business trip to Los Angeles for his brother's successful Evan-Picone clothing business actress Norma Shearer discovered him poolside and tapped him for the role of her late husband in the biopic Man of a Thousand Faces. A few years and a few films later after Evans realized he preferred pulling the strings on the other side of the camera he landed jobs with 20th Century Fox and Paramount where he ran the studio during its golden era. As an executive and independent producer Evans is credited with dozens of films including such classics as Love Story The Godfather Chinatown and occasional stinkers like the notoriously plagued and maligned The Cotton Club. Evans also found time for many affairs and marriages including his headline-grabbing union with Ali MacGraw. Besides the Cotton Club disaster Evans was rocked by both personal and professional setbacks including cocaine abuse tangential connections to The Cotton Club murder case financial ruin and a near-fatal stroke. But with a lot of help from important friends and his own passion and determination to prevail Evans returned to producing and remains today an active Hollywood mover and shaker.
Working mostly in voiceover Evans makes the most of his almost preternatural magnetism and talent for irresistible gab and engaging storytelling. Armed with good looks and a silky voice that also (sometimes ironically) screams intimacy and honesty Evans leverages his telegenic gifts and insider stature to the max. In his famously seductive and often wise-ass voice he narrates over a lively amalgam of rare footage stills and cinematic surprises that delivers a Photoplay-like chunk of Hollywood glamour that is as nostalgic as it is entertaining.
Yes directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein were blessed with a terrific subject and terrific access but their documentary is just as terrifically crafted. The filmmakers digitally enhancing their material move back and forth between archival footage home movies stills etc. to deliver a lively and kinetic portrait of Evans. Avoiding the usual talking heads Morgen and Burstein employ a highly original style of visuals voiceover and spot-on music to convey the life time and traumas of a still-kickin' Hollywood legend. Look for The Kid Stays in the Picture to cop an Oscar nom if not the award itself.
Appeared on exhibitors' poll of ten most popular boxoffice stars for three years in a row, in sixth, ninth and tenth place, respectively
Selected Robert Evans to play the role of Irving Thalberg in a film about the life of film star Lon Chaney, "Man of a Thousand Faces"
Appeared in single loan-out during two-decade tenure at MGM, in "Waking Up the Town"
Took another year off from filmmaking to give birth to daughter Katherine; began preliminary work toward the end of the year on "Romeo and Juliet" (1936)
Took lengthy vacation in Europe with Thalberg as he recovered from heart attack
Starred in what is perhaps her best-remembered film, the all-star, all-female "The Women"
Made preliminary agreement to star in films for producer David Lewis' Enterprise Productions; company had financial problems; no films made
Moved with mother, brother, and sister to New York; began appearing in films in bit parts (e.g., "The Flapper" and D.W. Griffith's "Way Down East")
Turned down offer by producer David Merrick to star in Broadway revival of "Lady in the Dark" in the early 1950s
Worked as model; appeared as "Miss Lotta Miles" in tire advertisements
Resisted a flat settlement with MGM regarding Thalberg's estate; held MGM executives to an agreement Thalberg had forged: successfully fought for her stock and for a percentage of the profits made on all films produced from the inception of MGM in 1924 th
Last film, "Her Cardboard Lover"
Discovered Janet Leigh (nee Jeanette Morrison) while on skiing vacation; helped set up screen test for her at MGM
Returned to films; made two popular films, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" and "Riptide"
Successfully returned to films to make "Marie Antoinette", which Thalberg had prepared for production; signed six-picture deal with MGM at $150,000 per film
Signed with MGM; moved to California
Turned down starring roles in "Gone With the Wind" and "Mrs. Miniver" (dates approximate)
Began appearing in leading roles; had major successes in "He Who Gets Slapped" and "The Snob"
Turned down co-starring but secondary role opposite Bette Davis in "Old Acquaintance"
Death of Thalberg; retreat into seclusion; contracted pneumonia
Made successful talkie debut, "The Trial of Mary Dugan"
A child model and bit player in New York-based films whose appearance in "The Stealers" (1920) caught the attention of producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg signed Shearer to a long-term contract with MGM in 1923 and she quickly became a popular star in such films as "He Who Gets Slapped" (1924), "His Secretary" (1925) and "The Student Prince" (1927), typically as a gentle but vivacious ingenue. Thalberg married his star in 1927, after which she had her pick of films, parts and directors. A striking and often lovely brunette actress with a great profile, Shearer compensated for a slight lack of conventional beauty with great poise, elegance and charm. She played a wide range of roles in a glittering array of films; among her most notable efforts were "The Divorcee" (1930), for which she won an Oscar, "A Free Soul" (1931), "Private Lives" (1931; an especially fine and rare comic performance at this stage in her career), "Smilin' Through" (1932; one of her loveliest performances, and most romantic films) and "Romeo and Juliet" (1936).
born on March 23, 1914 in San Francisco; Married from August 23, 1942 until Shearer's death 1983; remarried in 1985; died in L.A. on August 8, 1999 at age 85
popular star in action films and melodramas of the 1930s and 40s; became romantically involved with Shearer in 1940; attempted to get a divorce from his estranged wife, but she refused; relationship ended later that year
born on June 13, 1935; at one time married to actor Richard Anderson (perhaps best remembered from TV's "The Six Million Dollar Man"); as of September 1991 owner of the Explorers Bookshop in Aspen, Colorado; married to Bill Stirling
Married from September 29, 1927 until his death on September 14, 1936 of lobar pneumonia
born August 25, 1930; died of cancer in 1987 at age 57
Montreal High School for Girls
Westmount High School
Some sources list August 11 as the date of Ms. Shearer's birth, but public records indicate that the August 10 date is correct.
Besides Oscar win for "The Divorcee" (1930), Shearer was also nominated for "Their Own Desire" (1930, multiple nominations for the same year then possible under Academy rules of the time), "A Free Soul" (1931), "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934), "Romeo and Juliet" (1936), and "Marie Antoinette" (1938).
Shearer had a slight cast in her left eye as a child which became less noticeable as she grew into adulthood. The observant can still notice it in some shots in her films, but cinematographers filmed her carefully and Shearer did therapeutic exercises to minimize its presence.
Among Shearer's admirers were F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wanted her to play Nicole in a film version of his novel, "Tender Is the Night" and used her as the model for a character in his short story, "Crazy Sunday".
Actor Robert Morley, appearing with Shearer in "Marie Antoinette" (1938), reportedly once asked her, "How did you become a movie star?" She replied, "I wanted to!" --reported by Lambert's "Norma Shearer" 1990.
"In her final years, Norma Shearer, looking and behaving more like Miss Haversham than one of the 1930s big movie stars, would clutch the wrists of friends visiting her at the Motion Picture Country House hospital in the San Fernando Valley and ask, 'Are you Irving? Were we married?'" --Leah Rozen in her review of Gavin Lambert's "Norma Shearer" in People, June 25, 1990.
In his later years, Alfred Hitchcock would reportedly lament the absence of movie queens in contemporary cinema by asking, "Where are the Norma Shearers?" --reported by Gavin Lambert in his 1990 biography "Norma Shearer".