The cool patrician good looks of Grace Kelly may have helped her break into show business, but her acting ability kept her in Hollywood's top tier until she gave it all up in 1956 for an even loftier setting as Princess of Monaco. Born on Nov. 12, 1929, Kelly's relative brief but notable big screen career -- High Noon, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, High Society, To Catch a Thief to name a few -- was preceded by a slew of television appearances beginning in 1950. Her appearance on Studio One in Hollywood in "The Rockingham Tea Set" was broadcast on January 23, 1950:
Her royal life in Monaco as the wife of Prince Rainier was a never-ending source of interest for the world at large, and though she had retired from Hollywood her high profile as a celebrity never waned. Her untimely death on September 14, 1982 resulting from an auto accident was a shattering experience; the funeral telecast four days later drew an audience of millions of mourners from all over the globe.
Lifetime did one of their Intimate Portrait specials on Princess Grace:
Also very interesting is the ABC network 20/20 special with an hour-long interview of Princess Grace conducted by Pierre Salinger which aired on June 22, 1982, just two months before her death.
On a decidedly different and depraved note, mass murdering mastermind Charles Manson was born on November 12th, in 1934. Not only were the crimes and subsequent trial of he and his band of marauders front page news and TV fodder ever since that bloody summer of 1969, the gruesome story was the subject of one of the most famous TV movies ever made. Helter Skelter, based on the Vincent Bugliosi bestseller, starred Steve Railsback as Manson, his wild-eyed portrayal capturing perfectly Manson's unforgettably disturbing mien.
The whole movie is on YouTube available by clicking here.
While Manson was a whole lot of crazy, our last November 12th birthday is a little bit wild. Ice skater Tonya Harding was born in 1970. Most remembered for the ongoing rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan and other skaters and ultimately the knee-bashing attack on Kerrigan prior to the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Tonya and her reputation suffered irreparable damage as tawdry revelations of the involvement of her coterie of intimates in the incident came to the surface.
Nevertheless, her strong skating style, rough-and-tumble personality and the lure of the anti-hero kept her in the public's consciousness. Tonya's continued appeal was proven earlier this year on the 20th anniversary of the Kerrigan attack -- she is a survivor, perhaps more perfectly suited to today's media world where we celebrate scrappy outsiders who live on the fringe and fight hard to keep going despite the odds.
Everybody was all over the 20th anniversary -- here is a short segment from ABC's Good Morning America from January of this year:
Here's a full-length documentary entitled Tonya Harding: Anything to Win:
And this is the ESPN doc from its 30 for 30 series The Price of Gold about the rivalry:
You know what...I like her. Happy Birthday, girl!
November 13th brings some especially interesting TV birthdays for us to celebrate! First of all we wish a very Happy 92nd Birthday to veteran actress Madeleine Sherwood! In addition to her impressive stage and screen career -- including reprising her Broadway co-starring role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the acclaimed big screen version -- Sherwood was a frequent guest star on TV and starred in one of the most iconic sitcoms of the mid-1960s, namely The Flying Nun featuring Sally Field in the title role.
Next up we send a Happy Birthday salute to the late actor Robert Sterling, born on Nov. 13, 1917. The always charming, utterly handsome and extremely talented Sterling had a long and successful career on stage, screen and especially on TV where his versatility made him a favorite in all genres. His 2nd marriage in 1951 to the lovely and talented actress Anne Jeffreys was a true love match; the scintillating and all-around gorgeous couple were a success in real life as well as a performing duo. Their biggest hit was their teaming with actor Leo G. Carroll in the 1953 TV series adaptation of Thorne Smith's popular ghostly romp Topper. Here are a few clips and a complete episode -- several more available on YouTube, too!
In July 1957 Anne and Robert appeared as the mystery guests on the popular game show What's My Line?:
Anne and Robert also appeared together in the sitcom Love That Jill from 1958:
In 1961 Sterling starred in the TV comedy Icabod and Me with prolific character George Chandler:
He was also a frequent guest star on many other top TV series from the 1950s through the 1980s -- here he is in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 1962:
Robert Sterling passed away in May of 2006 at the age of 88. He has been greatly missed.
November 13th is also the birthday of the actor-producer-director-writer Garry Marshall, born on this date in 1934. Marshall's career is legend; he's been associated with a laundry list of super-successful productions from the early 1960s to the present day. Probably best known for Happy Days and The Odd Couple, Marshall's output is prodigious, with more hits than misses. Be sure to take a look at his IMDb credits -- click here -- to see exactly how amazing his career has been. Everybody knows the shows that worked -- here are a few clips from some of his shows that didn't fare quite as well:
1966's Hey Landlord (and boy do I really remember this theme song after all these years!):
1972 brought The Brian Keith Show:
How about Blansky's Beauties from 1977 starring Nancy Walker?:
1979's Angie starring Donna Pescow and Robert Hays:
And 1982's Joanie Loves Chachi with its almost embarrassingly earnest love song theme:
To turn to a big hit of Marshall's, how about a little The Odd Couple:
For some fascinating, insightful and entertaining stories from Garry Marshall himself talking about his long career, be sure to check out his interview at the Archive of American TV, available by clicking here. Happy 80th Birthday, Garry Marshall!
Let's also slip in a Happy Birthday today to talented actress Frances Conroy, currently wowing us on the latest season of American Horror Story: Freak Show on FX.
This Juilliard graduate and veteran of stage, screen and television has been doing excellent work for more than thirty years, but it's probably accurate to say that she burst into prominence through her outstanding work on HBO's landmark series Six Feet Under which began in 2001.
And would it be spoiling anybody's day after all these years if we ran the transcendent end sequence of the series? Probably not, but if you think so, please don't watch...
A very Happy Birthday to you, Frances Conroy!