|Madonna Josephine Davis
Vaudeville, Stage, Radio, Film and Television Comedienne
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A.
1942 Rudy Vallee Sealtest Show
1942 Command Performance
1943 Groucho Marx Audition For Pabst Beer
1943 Sealtest Village Store
1943 Camel Comedy Caravan
1943 Duffy's Tavern
1943 Kraft Music Hall
1944 Mail Call
1944 Eddie Cantor Show
1944 Elgin Christmas Day Greeting To America
1945 The Pepsodent Show
1945 Guest Critic Series
1945 Joan Davis Show
1946 Birds Eye Open House
1946 March Of the Movies
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1947 Here's To Veterans
1947 Joan Davis Time
1949 Sealtest Variety Theater
1949 Leave It To Joan
1950 The Big Show
1951 Stars On Parade
1951 Martin and Lewis Show
1957 A Tribute To...The Memory Of Humphrey Bogart
1957 Recollections At Thirty
To the Rear March
Joan Davis circa 1947
|From the May 23rd 1961 edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner:
'Scatterbrain' Joan Davis Dies
On Coast After Heart Attack
FINAL CURTAIN: Comedienne Joan Davis, 53, one-time runner-up to Bob Hope and Jack Benny as the highest paid radio star, died today of a heart attack at Desert Hospital, Palm Springs, Calif.
The noisy, grimacing actress was admitted to the hospital late Monday. With her when she died early today were her mother and a Roman Catholic priest.
Miss Davis was born June 29, 1907, at St. Paul, Minn., to train dispatcher Leroy Davis and his wife, Nina.
While best known in radio, the actress, who frequently portrayed the ungainly, frustrated female type, appeared in many motion, pictures, including "George White's Scandals," and "Love and Hisses."
She entered pictures in 1934 as a hillbilly in a Mack Sennett short subject, "Way Up Thar."
She easily made the transition to television, starring in the "I Married Joan" series with Jim Backus.
After a long career in vaudeville, Miss Davis satirized the song, "My Jim," on a Rudy Vallee program to win her first nationwide attention.
She appeared in an Abbott and Costello picture "Hold That Ghost," then became the highest paid woman on the radio with a network contract at $1 million a year.
She married her vaudeville partner, Si Wills, in 1931 and their daughter, Beverly, later appeared with her in the television series.
Miss Davis divorced Wills in 1947.
|Lionel Jay Stander
(MGM Contract Player)
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor, Political Activist
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, NY, U.S.A.
University of North Carolina
1934 The Hour Of Smiles
1937 Lux Radio Theatre
1939 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1940 The Rudy Vallee Sealtest Show
1941 Texaco Star Theatre
1943 Mayor Of the Town
1945 The Danny Kaye Show
1945 G.I. Journal
1947 Favorite Story
1947 Leo and the Blonde
1947 The Jack Parr Program
1948 Joan Davis Time
1948 The Eddie Cantor Pabst Blue Ribbon Show
1950 Crime Does Not Pay
To the Rear March
Damon Runyon Theatre (Audition)
Lionel Stander publicity photo, ca. 1938
Lionel Stander, reading, ca. 1935
Lionel Stander, reading, ca. 1936
Lionel Stander, publicity still, ca. 1936
Lionel Stander in St Benny, The Dip (1950)
Another Gordon Parks still from 1950's St Benny The Dip; Lionel Stander with Charles Ruggles
Photo caption reads: Lionel Stander, now a private in the U.S. army air corps, is heard in WGN's ''Men of the Air from Mitchell Field'' a portion of the ''Full Speed Ahead'' series, heard every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
Stander in NY production of "Banjo Eyes" starring Eddie Cantor, ca. 1942
Stander was founding member of The Screen Actor's Guild
Stander before the infamous HUAC, ca.1943
Stander in Once Upon A Time In The West, ca. 1969
Lionel Stander in Hart To Hart, ca. 1981
Photo study of Stander, ca. 1984
Stander at Awards ceremony, ca. 1990
|The loveable thug, gravel-voiced Lionel Stander, was born in The Bronx, New York, to Russian-Jewish immigrants; the first of three children. As a teenager Stander appeared in the 1926 silent film Men of Steel as an uncredited extra. During his one year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he appeared in a student production of The Muse and the Movies: A Comedy of Greenwich Village.
Stander's professional acting career began in 1928, as Cop and First Fairy in Him by e.e. cummings at the Provincetown Playhouse. He claimed that he got the roles because one of them required shooting craps, and a friend in the company volunteered him. He appeared in a series of short-lived plays through the early 1930s, including The House Beautiful, which Dorothy Parker famously derided as "the play lousy."
In 1932, Stander landed his first credited film roles in the Warner-Vitaphone short features In the Dough, with Fatty Arbuckle and Shemp Howard, and Salt Water Daffy (1933) with Jack Haley and Shemp Howard. He made several other shorts, the last being The Old Grey Mayor (1935) with Bob Hope. That year, he was cast in a feature, Ben Hecht's The Scoundrel with Noel Coward. He moved to Hollywood and signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. Stander was in a string of films over the next three years, most notably in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) with Gary Cooper, Meet Nero Wolfe (1936), A Star Is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and Nothing Sacred (1937).
Stander's distinctive, gravelly voice, tough-guy appearance, comedic timing, and talent with dialects made him a very popular, respected, and successful radio actor. In the 1930s and 1940s he was on the Eddie Cantor Show, Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall Show, the Lux Radio Theater production of A Star Is Born, The Fred Allen Show, The Mayor of the Town with Lionel Barrymore and Agnes Moorehead, Kraft Music Hall for NBC, Stage Door Canteen for CBS, the Lincoln Highway Radio Show, and The Jack Paar Show.
Indeed, in 1941 he originated the title role of The Life of Riley for CBS, later made famous by William Bendix. He was a regular on Danny Kaye's zany comedy-variety radio show on CBS (19461947), playing himself as "just the elevator operator" amidst the antics of Kaye, future Our Miss Brooks star Eve Arden, and bandleader Harry James.
Strongly liberal and staunchly pro-labor, Stander espoused a variety of social and political causes, and was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild. At a SAG meeting held during a 1937 studio technicians' strike, he told the assemblage of 2000 members, "With the eyes of the whole world on this meeting, will it not give the Guild a black eye if its members continue to cross picket lines?" Stander also supported the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) in its fight against the Mob-influenced International Alliance of Stage Employees (IATSE).
Also in 1937, Ivan F. Cox, a deposed officer of the San Francisco longshoremen's union, sued Stander and a host of others, including union leader Harry Bridges, actors Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Mary Astor, James Cagney, Jean Muir, and director William Dieterle. The charge, according to Time magazine, was "conspiring to propagate Communism on the Pacific Coast, causing Mr. Cox to lose his job." This was a common accusation throughout the 1930s and 1940s as the powerful studios were actively enlisting the support of everyone they could, to combat the growing voice of technical and performers' unions--including the support of the Mob and reactionary, 'free-trade' right-wing politicians.
In 1938, Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn allegedly called Stander "a Red son of a bitch" and threatened a $100,000 fine against any studio that renewed his contract. Despite continuing critical acclaim for his performances, Stander's film work dropped off drastically. After appearing in 15 films in 1935 and 1936, he appeared in only six films in 1937 and 1938. Then he was in just six movies from 1939 through 1943--none by major studios, and the most notable being Guadalcanal Diary (1943).
Stander was understandably unapologetic for his beliefs and causes. The Hollywood Studio System manipulated and controlled its talent like chattel, responding to any objections or union organizing by ostracizing or blacklisting any technician or performer who dared stand up to them. Stander once observed:
"We fought on every front because we realized that the forces of reaction and Faciscm fight democracy on every front. We, too, have been forced, therefore, to organize in order to combat them on every front: politically through such organizations as the Motion Picture Democratic Committee; economically through our guilds and unions; socially, and culturally through such organizations as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League."
Lionel Stander had been subpoenaed by the very first House Un-American Activities Committee inquisition in Hollywood during 1940, when it was headed by Texas Congressman Martin Dies. The right-wing extremist Dies Committee had succeeded in abolishing the Works Progress Administration's Federal Theatre Project as a 'left-wing menace' in 1939. The attack on the Federal Theatre Project was understandably opposed by most progressives in Hollywood. Stung by the criticism from Hollywood, the Dies Committee decided to turn its attention to Hollywood itself.
Dies' infamous HUAC compiled a long-list of "real and suspected" communists to a Los Angeles County grand jury, which also subpoenaed Lionel Stander. The testimony was leaked, and the newspapers reported that Stander, along with such prominent Hollywood progressives such as James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Frederic March and Franchot Tone, had been identified as communists. Reactionary committee chairman Dies offered all of the people named as communists the "opportunity" to "clear themselves" if they would "cooperate" with him in executive session. Stander was the only one to appear who was not "cleared" by Dies' committee. He was subsequently fired by his studio Republic Pictures.
Stander continued to work after being fired by Republic. He appeared in Hangmen Also Die! (1943), a film about the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, who was assassinated by anti-fascists. After being blacklisted, Stander worked as a broker on Wall Street and appeared on the stage as a journeyman actor. He returned to the movies in Tony Richardson's The Loved One (1965), and he began his career anew as a character actor, appearing in many films, including Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966) and Martin Scorsese's New York, New York (1977). Other movies he appeared in included Promise Her Anything (1965), The Black Bird (1975), The Cassandra Crossing (1976), 1941 (1979), Cookie (1989) and The Last Good Time (1994), his final film.
Stander is remembered by contemporary audiences for playing Max on TV's Hart to Hart (1979-1984) with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, a role he reprised in a series of Hart to Hart TV movies. Stander also appeared on Wagner's earlier TV series It Takes a Thief (1968) and on the HBO series Dream On (1990).
Why take so much space describing Lionel Stander's heroic stand against the fascist Hollywood Studio system--and their right-wing supporters in Congress? Because it informs much of what we lost when we lost The Golden Age of Radio. We lost more than the wonderful entertainment. The systematic dismantiling of the tens of thousands of small radio stations that built The Golden Age of Radio, destroyed the 'voice' of political and social diversity over public airwaves--forever. The airwaves are no longer public. They're privately controlled, privately influenced, and create enormous private profits. Under the Law we still technically own the airwaves, but we've ceded our ownership of the airwaves to private corporations--by our apathy and ignorance alone.
Lionel Stander saw it coming decades before his peers. He believed in the freedom of the public airwaves and his career was systematically destroyed simply because he espoused a belief in the Freedom of Speech, the freedom to organize, and the freedom of the airwaves.
Lionel Stander died of lung cancer on November 30, 1994 in Los Angeles, California. He was 86 years old. Let us hope that as we listen and watch Lionel Stander's body of work in Film, Radio and Television, we'll remember that he was more than an actor. He was a brave, outspoken patriot at a time in Hollywood when the majority of his peers were running for cover.