On This Day … 01 February [2023]


  • 1893 – Thomas A. Edison finishes construction of the first motion picture studio, the Black Maria in West Orange, New Jersey.

People (Births)

  • 1894 – John Ford, American director and producer (d. 1973).
  • 1901 – Clark Gable, American actor (d. 1960).
  • 1942 – Bibi Besch, Austrian-American actress (d. 1996).
  • 1964 – Linus Roache, English actor.

People (Deaths)

  • 2014 – Maximilian Schell, Austrian-Swiss actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1930).

John Ford

John Martin Feeney (01 February 1894 to 31 August 1973), known professionally as John Ford, was an American film director and naval officer. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation. Ford made frequent use of location shooting and wide shots, in which his characters were framed against a vast, harsh, and rugged natural terrain.

World War II

During World War II, Ford served as head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services and made documentaries for the Navy Department. He was commissioned as a commander in the United States Navy Reserve. He won two more Academy Awards during this time, one for the semi-documentary The Battle of Midway (1942), and one for the propaganda film December 7th: The Movie (1943). Ford filmed the Japanese attack on Midway from the power plant of Sand Island and was wounded in the left arm by a machine gun bullet.

Ford was also present on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He crossed the English Channel on the USS Plunkett (DD-431), which anchored off Omaha Beach at 0600. He observed the first wave land on the beach from the ship, landing on the beach himself later with a team of Coast Guard cameramen who filmed the battle from behind the beach obstacles, with Ford directing operations. The film was edited in London, but very little was released to the public. Ford explained in a 1964 interview that the US Government was “afraid to show so many American casualties on the screen”, adding that all of the D-Day film “still exists in colour in storage in Anacostia near Washington, D.C.” Thirty years later, historian Stephen E. Ambrose reported that the Eisenhower Centre had been unable to find the film. A film matching Ford’s description was unearthed by the US National Archives in 2014.

Ford eventually rose to become a top adviser to OSS head William Joseph Donovan. According to records released in 2008, Ford was cited by his superiors for bravery, taking a position to film one mission that was “an obvious and clear target”. He survived “continuous attack and was wounded” while he continued filming, one commendation in his file states. In 1945, Ford executed affidavits testifying to the integrity of films taken to document conditions at Nazi concentration camps.

His last wartime film was They Were Expendable (MGM, 1945), an account of America’s disastrous defeat in The Philippines, told from the viewpoint of a PT boat squadron and its commander. Ford created a part for the recovering Ward Bond, who needed money. Although he was seen throughout the movie, he never walked until they put in a part where he was shot in the leg. For the rest of the picture, he was able to use a crutch on the final march. Ford repeatedly declared that he disliked the film and had never watched it, complaining that he had been forced to make it, although it was strongly championed by filmmaker Lindsay Anderson. Released several months after the end of the war, it was among the year’s top 20 box-office draws, although Tag Gallagher notes that many critics have incorrectly claimed that it lost money.

After the war, Ford remained an officer in the US Navy Reserve. He returned to active service during the Korean War, and was promoted to Rear Admiral the day he left service.

Clark Gable

William Clark Gable (01 February 1901 to 16 November 1960) was an American film actor, often referred to as “The King of Hollywood”. He had roles in more than 60 motion pictures in multiple genres during a career that lasted 37 years, three decades of which was as a leading man. Gable died of a heart attack at the age of 59; his final on-screen appearance was as an aging cowboy in The Misfits, released posthumously in 1961.

Born and raised in Ohio, Gable travelled to Hollywood where he began his film career as an extra in silent films between 1924 and 1926. He progressed to supporting roles for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his first leading role in Dance, Fools, Dance (1931) was alongside Joan Crawford, who requested him for the part. His role in the romantic drama Red Dust (1932) with reigning sex symbol Jean Harlow, made him MGM’s biggest male star. Gable won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Frank Capra’s romantic comedy It Happened One Night (1934), co-starring Claudette Colbert. He was again nominated for the award for his roles as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), and as Rhett Butler opposite Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). He found continued commercial and critical success with Manhattan Melodrama (1934), San Francisco (1936), Saratoga (1937), Test Pilot (1938), and Boom Town (1940), three of which co-starred Spencer Tracy.

Gable spent two years as an aerial cameraman and bomber gunner in Europe during World War II. Although the movies he appeared in following his return were not critically lauded, they did well at the box office. He experienced a critical revival with The Hucksters (1947), Homecoming (1948), and Mogambo (1953), which also featured newcomer Grace Kelly. Later, he starred in Westerns and War movies, such as Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) with Burt Lancaster, and in comedies and dramas that paired him with a new generation of leading ladies, such as Doris Day in Teacher’s Pet (1958), Sophia Loren in It Started in Naples (1960), and Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits (1961).

Gable was one of the most consistent box-office performers in the history of Hollywood, appearing on Quigley Publishing’s annual Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll sixteen times. He was named the seventh greatest male movie star of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute. He appeared opposite many of the most popular actresses of their time. Joan Crawford was a favourite actress of his to work with, and he partnered with her in eight films. Myrna Loy worked with him seven times, and he was paired with Jean Harlow in six productions. He also starred with Lana Turner in four features, and in three each with Norma Shearer and Ava Gardner.

Bibi Besch

Bibi Besch (born Bibiana Maria Köchert; 01 February 1942 to 07 September 1996) was an Austrian-American film, television, and stage actress. She is best known for her portrayal of Dr. Carol Marcus in the science fiction film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Her other notable film roles were in Who’s That Girl (1987), Steel Magnolias (1989), and Tremors (1990). Besch also appeared in a number of television productions, including the television film The Day After (1983) and The Jeff Foxworthy Show, and received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

Linus Roache

Linus William Roache (born 01 February 1964) is a British actor. He is known for playing Executive ADA Michael Cutter in the NBC dramas Law & Order (2008-2010) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2011-2012). More recently, Roache played Ecbert, King of Wessex in Vikings from 2014 to 2017.

He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for playing Robert F. Kennedy in RFK (2002) and won a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor (TV) for his role as Ralph Wigram in The Gathering Storm (2002). His film appearances include Priest (1994), The Wings of the Dove (1997), Pandaemonium (2000), Batman Begins (2005), Non-Stop (2014) and Mandy (2018). In 2018 and 2020 he had a recurring role in the final two seasons of Homeland.

Maximilian Schell

Maximilian Schell (08 December 1930 to 01 February 2014) was an Austrian-born Swiss actor, who also wrote, directed and produced some of his own films. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1961 American film Judgment at Nuremberg, his second acting role in Hollywood. Born in Austria, his parents were involved in the arts and he grew up surrounded by performance and literature. While he was still a child, his family fled to Switzerland in 1938 when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, and they settled in Zurich. After World War II ended, Schell took up acting and directing full-time. He appeared in numerous German films, often anti-war, before moving to Hollywood.

Fluent in both English and German, Schell earned top billing in a number of Nazi-era themed films. Two earned him Oscar nominations: The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), for a character with two identities, and Julia (1977), portraying a member of a group resisting Nazism.

His range of portrayals included personalities as diverse as Venezuelan leader Simón Bolívar, Russian emperor Peter the Great, and physicist Albert Einstein. For his role as Vladimir Lenin in the television film Stalin (1992) he won the Golden Globe Award. Schell also performed in a number of stage plays, including a celebrated performance as Prince Hamlet.

Schell was an accomplished pianist and conductor, performing with Claudio Abbado and Leonard Bernstein, and with orchestras in Berlin and Vienna. His elder sister was the internationally noted actress Maria Schell; he produced the documentary tribute My Sister Maria in 2002.

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