On This Day … 21 January [2023]


People (Births)

  • 1922 – Telly Savalas, American actor (d. 1994).
  • 1941 – Mike Medavoy, Chinese-born American film producer, co-founded Orion Pictures.
  • 1970 – Ken Leung, American actor.
  • 1977 – John DeSantis, Canadian actor.

People (Deaths)

  • 1959 – Cecil B. DeMille, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1881).

Telly Savalas

Aristotelis “Telly” Savalas (21 January 1922 to 22 January 1994) was an American actor and singer whose career spanned four decades. Noted for his bald head and deep, resonant voice, he is perhaps best known for portraying Lieutenant Theo Kojak on the crime drama series Kojak (1973-1978) and James Bond archvillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).

Savalas’ other roles include Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Battle of the Bulge (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Horror Express (1972), Lisa and the Devil (1974) and Escape to Athena (1979). For Birdman of Alcatraz, he was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

As a singer, Savalas released a cover of the Bread song “If”, which became a UK No. 1 single in 1975. The song also peaked at number 12 in Australia.

Mike Medavoy

Morris Mike Medavoy (born 21 January 1941) is an American film producer and business executive. He is the co-founder of Orion Pictures (1978), former chairman of TriStar Pictures, former head of production for United Artists (1974-1978), and the current chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures.

Orion Pictures

Orion Pictures (legal name Orion Releasing, LLC) is an American film production and distribution company owned by Amazon through its Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) subsidiary. In its original operating period, the company produced and released films from 1978 until 1999 and was also involved in television production and syndication throughout the 1980s until the early 1990s. It was formed in 1978 as a joint venture between Warner Bros. and three former senior executives at United Artists. From its founding until its buyout by MGM in the late 1990s, Orion was considered one of the largest mini-major studios.

Woody Allen, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Oliver Stone, and several other prominent directors worked with Orion during its most successful years from 1978 to 1992. Of the films distributed by Orion, four won Academy Awards for Best Picture: Amadeus (1984), Platoon (1986), Dances with Wolves (1990), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Two other Orion films, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Mississippi Burning (1988), were nominated for that same category.

Since 1997, Orion has been owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). In 2013, MGM revived the Orion name for television; a year later, Orion Pictures was relaunched by the studio.

Ken Leung

Kenneth Leung (Chinese: 梁振邦; pinyin: Liáng Zhènbāng; born 21 January 1970) is an American actor. His roles include Sang in Rush Hour, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and Eric Tao in HBO’s Industry.

John DeSantis

John DeSantis, sometimes credited as John De Santis or John Desantis, (born 13 November 1973) is a Canadian actor, best known as Lurch on Fox Family’s television of The New Addams Family. His other work includes a principal role in Disney’s Touchstone Pictures film The 13th Warrior (1999), in which he played a Viking warrior named Ragnar the Dour. He has also appeared in television series Police Academy and Supernatural.

Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil Blount DeMille (12 August 1881 to 21 January 1959) was an American film director, producer and actor. Between 1914 and 1958, he made 70 features, both silent and sound films. He is acknowledged as a founding father of the American cinema and the most commercially successful producer-director in film history. His films were distinguished by their epic scale and by his cinematic showmanship. His silent films included social dramas, comedies, Westerns, farces, morality plays, and historical pageants. He was an active Freemason and member of Prince of Orange Lodge #16 in New York City.

DeMille was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in New York City. He began his career as a stage actor in 1900. He later moved to writing and directing stage productions, some with Jesse Lasky, who was then a vaudeville producer. DeMille’s first film, The Squaw Man (1914), was also the first full-length feature film shot in Hollywood. Its interracial love story made it commercially successful and it first publicised Hollywood as the home of the US film industry. The continued success of his productions led to the founding of Paramount Pictures with Lasky and Adolph Zukor. His first biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), was both a critical and commercial success; it held the Paramount revenue record for twenty-five years.

DeMille directed The King of Kings (1927), a biography of Jesus, which gained approval for its sensitivity and reached more than 800 million viewers. The Sign of the Cross (1932) is said to be the first sound film to integrate all aspects of cinematic technique. Cleopatra (1934) was his first film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. After more than thirty years in film production, DeMille reached a pinnacle in his career with Samson and Delilah (1949), a biblical epic which became the highest-grossing film of 1950. Along with biblical and historical narratives, he also directed films oriented toward “neo-naturalism”, which tried to portray the laws of man fighting the forces of nature.

He received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director for his circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which won both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. His last and best known film, The Ten Commandments (1956), also a Best Picture Academy Award nominee, is currently the eighth-highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. In addition to his Best Picture Awards, he received an Academy Honorary Award for his film contributions, the Palme d’Or (posthumously) for Union Pacific (1939), a DGA Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was the first recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, which was named in his honour. DeMille’s reputation as a filmmaker has grown over time and his work has influenced numerous other films and directors.

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