Two great movie composers, Max Steiner and Dimitri Tiomkin, were born on this date in 1888 and 1899, respectively. Steiner, a Viennese refugee from Nazism, created musical themes for over three hundred films, including King Kong,Casablanca, The Summer Place, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Caine Mutiny, and Gone with the Wind. Tiomkin, born in Russia, emigrated to the U.S in the 1930s and scored dozens of films, including Lost Horizon, Meet John Doe,Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,It’s a Wonderful Life,Giant, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train, TheGuns of Navarone and High Noon (“Do Not Forsake Me O My Darling”), for which he won an Oscar. Tiomkin also wrote the theme song for the Rawhide television series, cracking whip and all. He received twenty-two Academy Award nominations and won four.
“[Tiomkin's] trademarks, huge, noisy cues, propulsive adventure themes that seemingly employed every brass instrument ever invented, and melting, emotionally wrought melodies accompanying romantic scenes also became the stock-in trade of just about every film composer since.” —David Wallace
Herschel Bernardi, a child of the Yiddish theater who became the first Zorba the Greek on Broadway and one of the last Tevyes in Fiddleron the Roof, died at 62 on this date in 1986. Bernardi was a victim of the anti- communist blacklist in the 1950s and played a role in Woody Allen’s 1976 film on the subject, The Front. He also starred as a Jewish cop, Lieutenant Jacoby, on the television series Peter Gunn, and provided the voice for Charlie the Tuna in Starkist television commercials (and the “Ho-Ho-Ho” of the Jolly Green Giant). His movie credits included Irma La Douce and Love with the Proper Stranger. To see him performing “If I Were a Rich Man” from the 1981 revival of Fiddler, see below. Bernardi took over the role from Zero Mostel in 1965, and performed as Tevye more than 1,200 times.
“There are five stages to an actor’s career: who is Herschel Bernardi? get me Herschel Bernardi; get me a Herschel Bernardi type; get me a young Herschel Bernardi; and who is Herschel Bernardi?”—Herschel Bernardi
Moe Howard (Moses Harry Horwitz), leader and main eye-gouger of the Three Stooges, died at 77 on this date in 1975. Howard caught the show biz bug in high school and became a vaudeville performer at 17. He attached his star to Ted Healey (Ernest Nash), a childhood friend and vaudevillian who would ultimately be best remembered for launching The Stooges. In 1934, the Three Stooges went their own way, and ultimately starred in 190 comedy shorts with Columbia Pictures, which were also broadcast for years on television, turning the Stooges into cultural icons of the baby-boom generation. The trio consisted of Moe as the bossy, violent, impatient fool of a leader; his real-life brother Jerry as Curly, as the irrepressible shlimazl who collects the most slaps; and Larry Fine as Larry the earnest nudnik. Moe’s older brother, Shemp, also worked in the troupe before Curly came on board and after Curly was temporarily sidelined by a stroke in 1946. (Shemp worked in 73 of the shorts before he died in 1955.) Moe, Larry, and Curly continued as the Three Stooges in films and other venues until 1965, when they were all nearly 70 and unable to handle the slapstick violence. Among their films were several with anti-Nazi themes, in which Moe impersonated Adolf Hitler.
“What’s that for? I didn’t do nuthin’!” “That’s in case ya do and I’m not around!” —Larry and Moe
The first Hollywood cowboy, Gilbert Anderson (Maxwell Henry Aronson), who starred as “Broncho Billy” in 148 silent Western shorts beginning in 1907, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on this date in 1880. Anderson’s parents hailed from New York, where he moved at the age of 18 to attempt a career in vaudeville. In 1903, he played three roles in Edwin S. Porter’s silent film, The Great Train Robbery, and was soon writing and starring in his own movies, many of them shot in Niles, a town southeast of San Francisco. In 1916, Anderson returned to New York and bought the Longacre Theater, then filmed a series of shorts with Stan Laurel, including his first work with Oliver Hardy, in 1919, titled A Lucky Dog. Anderson produced movies into the 1950s and received an Honorary Academy Award in 1958 as a “motion picture pioneer.” To watch a 1914 film featuring Broncho Billy, see below.
“Anderson’s contribution was to develop the western film and the techniques he devised, including the ‘long shot,’ ‘medium shot,’ ‘close up,’ and ‘reestablishment scene,’ have become standard techniques present even in modern westerns.” —David Wallis, Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
Jerome Kern, who wrote more than 700 songs for stage and film, including “Ol’ Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and “A Fine Romance,” was born in New York on this date in 1885. In the course of a four-decade career, Kern created dozens of Broadway musicals and Hollywood [...]
Steven Spielberg, whose blockbuster movies have included Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), War of the Worlds (2005) and Lincoln (2012) — among many others — was born in Cincinnati on this date in 1946. Spielberg was raised as an Orthodox Jew in New Jersey [...]
Song lyricist Adolph Green was born in the Bronx on this date in 1914. Green collaborated on words and ideas with Betty Comden for more than six productive decades, and worked as a team with numerous melody-makers to create show tunes (and librettos and screenplays) for Broadway shows and movies that included Gene Kelly’s Singin’ [...]
Filmmaker Woody Allen (Allan Stewart Konigsberg) was born in the Bronx on this date in 1935. He became a successful comedy writer as a teenager — by age 19 he was writing for Ed Sullivan, Sid Caesar, and other television acts — and then performed as a stand-up comic in the early 1960s, developing the [...]
Goldie Hawn, whose arc in show business paralleled the arc of feminist empowerment in the 1970s, was born in Washington, DC on this date in 1945. Hawn played a giggling “dumb blonde” bikini girl on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-’73). By 1980, she was producer and star of Private Benjamin, a comedy (82 out of [...]
Actor, activist, and philanthropist Paul Newman died at 83 on this date in 2008. Newman was the son of a Jewish father and a Christian Scientist mother, but described himself in his adulthood as a Jew, saying that “it’s more of a challenge.” Known for his good looks, piercing blue eyes (yet he was colorblind), [...]