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Archive for the ‘Classic television’ Category

Happy Birthday, Kenny Baker!

From 1935 to 1939, Kenneth Laurence Baker—born in Monrovia, California on this date in 1912—was welcomed into millions of homes as the popular tenor vocalist on radio’s The Jack Benny Program.  Kenny was more than just a singer, however; he was pressed into showing off his comedic chops as a member of Benny’s “gang,” playing a slightly zany […]

Happy Birthday, Mickey Rooney!

“I was a 14-year-old boy for 30 years,” Mickey Rooney once jokingly observed of his show business career, which spanned stage, screen, television and radio. He had one of the longest runs in entertainment history—active from the silent era up until the time of his death (a period of nine decades).  Diminutive in stature but […]

Happy Birthday, Penny Singleton!

She had stiff competition for the film role that would make her a household name: actresses Gloria Blondell and Una Merkel had both been approached to breathe life into Blondie, the titular heroine of Murat Bernard “Chic” Young’s popular comic strip, on the silver screen.  When a third actress, Shirley Deane, fell ill before she could play the […]

Happy Birthday, Van Johnson!

During the 1940s, the man born Charles Van Dell Johnson in Newport, Rhode Island on this date in 1916 was known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “boy next door.”  Van Johnson’s affable charm and golden-boy looks (red hair and freckled face—Van used to joke he “got paid by the freckle”) made him the ideal actor to portray any […]

Happy Birthday, Mae West!

It’s a textbook example of how a mediocre movie can be redeemed by the appearance of a personality whose mere presence dominates the motion picture screen.  In an otherwise dreary 1932 film entitled Night After Night (starring George Raft and Constance Cummings), a character named Maudie Triplett rings the doorbell of the speakeasy run by Joe Anton […]

Happy Birthday, Alfred Hitchcock!

It was a story that he frequently told in interviews: when Sir Alfred Hitchcock was only five years old, his father (who referred to his son as a “little lamb without a spot”) sent him to the local police station with a note for the constable.  The policeman read the note and ushered young Alfred […]

Happy Birthday, Verna Felton!

It’s a bit of a stretch, but try to imagine Verna Felton—the actress who appeared on Jack Benny’s radio/TV show as Dennis Day’s mother and later as “Hilda Crocker” on December Bride—as “Baby Felton.”  That’s the handle Verna went by in her stage days. She began her show business career as a child performer in vaudeville, and in […]

Happy Birthday, Bill Thompson!

When he was five years old, actor Bill Thompson lost his voice campaigning around the country selling Liberty bonds (America had just entered World War I).  Now, if you’ve ever listened to a broadcast of Fibber McGee & Molly or watched a Droopy cartoon, you know that Thompson’s voice eventually returned…but it took two years of throat […]