- Laurence Olivier turned 31 today. He was hard at work on the stage in England. He had made a couple of films in Hollywood, beginning at RKO in 1931, and again in 1933 for ‘Queen Christina’ opposite Greta Garbo. On that film he was replaced after two weeks when he was judged unsuitable for the role. Now, Sam Goldwyn was about to tempt him away from the stage and England with the promise of $50,000 and the role of Heathcliff in his production of ‘Wuthering Heights.’ One of the big films of 1939.
- MGM had the Marx Brothers and 20th Century Fox the Ritz Brothers. Harry Ritz, one third of the Ritz Brothers comedy act, also turned 31 today – just two days after the release of their film ‘Kentucky Moonshine’ from 20th Century Fox. He would be in front of the cameras soon in a Damon Runyon story ‘Straight, Place, and Show.’ The year 1939 would be up and down for them – on a high, comedy relief in the Don Ameche version of ‘The Three Musketeers’ – and a low in ‘The Gorilla’ with Bela Lugosi. [Peter Lorre refused to play the Lugosi part; and the Ritz Brothers objected also but could not refuse to play without facing a law suit].
- Also sharing a birthday with these two was Alla Navimova (see May 19th), who was born in Yalta (Crimea, then a part of the Russian Empire). She was just turning 59. The year 1938 found her back in LA after an illness cut short her return to the stage in NY. She took up residence in Villa 24 at The Garden of Allah. Ironically she had owned this former property once called Hayvenhurst. After she acquired it in 1919 with the profits from her successful silent film career, she named it after herself, calling it the Garden of Alla. When hard times came along she built 25 villas on its 2.5 acre plot and ran it as a hotel beginning in 1927. Over the years there were many famous celebrities that called it home – F Scott Fitzgerald, Greta Garbo, Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, to name a few.
While browsing the search results in the holdings of the Internet Archive when I was looking for anything about San Francisco for the year 1928, there were some audio files in the mix. After checking the books for pertinent details, I navigated to the first audio file that caught my eye – “Make Believe” by the Paul Whiteman band, featuring a very young Bing Crosby.
I then went to the audio section and called up their holdings for my search target. Several pages of results rewarded my effort. Among the music artists active at that time were:
Louis Armstrong and his jazz trumpet
The Carter Family with their Appalachian sound – Wildwood Flower
Fanny Brice (whom I had learned was appearing at one of the music halls in San Francisco during this time period).
Helen Kane – “boop boop a doop” and Sophie Tucker
Ted Lewis and his jazz orchestra
Benny Goodman’s Wolverine – with Glen Miller on the trombone.
And a ton of others which I am exploring, for I am using them as the background soundtrack while I do my writing.