On This Day … 19 February [2023]

People (Births)

  • 1924 – Lee Marvin, American actor (d. 1987)
  • 1930 – John Frankenheimer, American director and producer (d. 2002)
  • 1955 – Jeff Daniels, American actor and playwright
  • 1967 – Benicio del Toro, Puerto Rican-American actor, director, and producer

People (Deaths)

  • 1972 – John Grierson, Scottish director and producer (b. 1898)
  • 2001 – Stanley Kramer, American director and producer (b. 1913)

Lee Marvin

Lee Marvin (born Lamont Waltman Marvin Jr.; 19 February 1924 to 29 August 1987) was an American film and television actor. Known for his bass voice and premature white hair, he is best remembered for playing hardboiled “tough guy” characters. Although initially typecast as the “heavy” (i.e. villainous character), he later gained prominence for portraying anti-heroes, such as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger on the television series M Squad (1957-1960). Marvin’s notable roles in film included Charlie Strom in The Killers (1964), Rico Fardan in The Professionals (1966), Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (1967), Ben Rumson in Paint Your Wagon (1969), Walker in Point Blank (1967), and the Sergeant in The Big Red One (1980).

Marvin achieved numerous accolades when he portrayed both gunfighter Kid Shelleen and criminal Tim Strawn in a dual role for the comedy Western film Cat Ballou (1965), alongside Jane Fonda, a surprise hit which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor, along with a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, an NBR Award, and the Silver Bear for Best Actor.

World War II

Marvin enlisted in the US Marine Corps on 12 August 1942. Before finishing School of Infantry, he was an quartermaster. Lee served in the 4th Marine Division as a scout sniper in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, including assaults on Eniwetok and Saipan-Tinian. While serving as a member of “I” Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Lee participated in 21 Japanese islands landings and was wounded in action on 18 June 1944, during the assault on Mount Tapochau in the Battle of Saipan, during which most of his company were casualties. He was hit by machine gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve, and then was hit again in the foot by a sniper. After over a year of medical treatment in naval hospitals, Marvin was given a medical discharge with the rank of private first class. He previously held the rank of corporal, but had been demoted for troublemaking.

Marvin’s decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

After the war, while working as a plumber’s assistant at a local community theatre in upstate New York, Marvin was asked to replace an actor who had fallen ill during rehearsals. He caught the acting bug and got a job with the company at $7 a week. He moved to Greenwich Village and used the G.I. Bill to study at the American Theatre Wing.

He was a sergeant in Seminole (1953), a Western directed by Budd Boetticher, and was a corporal in The Glory Brigade (1953), a Korean War film.

John Frankenheimer

John Michael Frankenheimer (19 February 1930 to 06 July 2002) was an American film and television director known for social dramas and action/suspense films. Among his credits were Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), The Train (1964), Seconds (1966), Grand Prix (1966), French Connection II (1975), Black Sunday (1977), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), and Ronin (1998).

He won four Emmy Awards – three consecutive – in the 1990s for directing the television movies Against the Wall, The Burning Season, Andersonville, and George Wallace, the last of which also received a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film.

Frankenheimer’s 30 feature films and over 50 plays for television were notable for their influence on contemporary thought. He became a pioneer of the “modern-day political thriller”, having begun his career at the height of the Cold War.

He was technically highly accomplished from his days in live television; many of his films were noted for creating “psychological dilemmas” for his male protagonists along with having a strong “sense of environment,” similar in style to films by director Sidney Lumet, for whom he had earlier worked as assistant director. He developed a “tremendous propensity for exploring political situations” which would ensnare his characters.

Air Force Film Squadron (1951-1953)

After graduating Williams College, Frankenheimer was drafted into the Air Force and assigned to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), serving in the Pentagon mailroom at Washington, D. C. He quickly applied for and was transferred, without any formal qualifications to an Air Force film squadron in Burbank, California. It was there that Lieutenant Frankenheimer “really started to think seriously about directing.”

Frankenheimer recollects his early apprenticeship with the Air Force photography unit as one of almost unlimited freedom. As a junior officer, Frankenheimer superiors “couldn’t have cared less” what he did in terms of utilising the filmmaking equipment. Frankenheimer reports that he was free to set up the lighting, operate the camera and perform the editing on projects he personally conceived. His first film was a documentary about an asphalt manufacturing plant in Sherman Oaks, California. Lieutenant Frankenheimer recalls moonlighting, at $40-a-week, as writer, producer and cameraman making television infomercials for a local cattle breeder in Northridge, California, in which livestock were presented on the interior stage sets. The FCC terminated the programming after 15 weeks. In addition to mastering the basic elements of filmmaking, Frankenheimer began reading widely on film technique, including the writings of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. Frankenheimer was discharged from the military in 1953.

Jeff Daniels

Jeffrey Warren Daniels (born 19 February 1955) is an American actor, musician and playwright, known for his work on stage and screen playing diverse characters switching between comedy and drama. He is the recipient of several accolades, including two Primetime Emmy Awards, in addition to nominations for three Tony Awards, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Golden Globe Awards.

He made his film debut in Miloš Forman’s drama Ragtime (1981) followed by James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983), and Mike Nichols’ Heartburn (1986). He then received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986). The following decade he starred in Gettysburg (1993), action film Speed (1994), the comedy Dumb and Dumber (1994), the family film 101 Dalmatians (1996), and fantasy film Pleasantville (1998). During the 2000s, Daniels starred in critically acclaimed films such as Stephen Daldry’s psychological drama The Hours (2002), Noah Baumbach’s coming of age comedy The Squid and the Whale (2005), George Clooney’s historical drama Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), and the Truman Capote drama Infamous (2006). He also appeared in the science fiction action film Looper (2012), Danny Boyle’s drama Steve Jobs (2015), and Ridley Scott’s science fiction film The Martian (2015).

From 2012 to 2014, Daniels starred as Will McAvoy in the HBO political drama series The Newsroom, for which he won the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. He won a second Primetime Emmy Award in 2018 for his performance in the Netflix miniseries Godless (2017). That same year he was nominated for portraying John P. O’Neill in the Hulu miniseries The Looming Tower (2018). In 2020 he played FBI director James Comey in The Comey Rule for Showtime.

Daniels has also received several award nominations for his work on stage, including Tony Award nominations for Best Actor for his roles in the plays Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, David Harrower’s Blackbird, and Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill a Mockingbird. He is the founder and current executive director of the Chelsea, Michigan Purple Rose Theatre Company.

In 1993, Daniels starred as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain in Gettysburg. Daniels reprised the role of Chamberlain 10 years later in the prequel film Gods and Generals (2003).

Benicio del Toro

Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez (born 19 February 1967) is a Puerto Rican actor and producer. He has garnered critical acclaim and numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Silver Bear for his portrayal of the jaded but morally upright police officer Javier Rodriguez in the film Traffic (2000). Del Toro’s performance as ex-con turned religious fanatic in despair Jack Jordan, in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams (2003), earned him a second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He is also known for his breakout role as the eccentric, unintelligible crook Fred Fenster in The Usual Suspects (1995); Benny Dalmau in Basquiat (1996), winning two consecutive Independent Spirit Awards for both films; Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998); gambling addict Franky Four Fingers in Snatch (2000); the predatory, unhinged antagonist Jackie Boy in Sin City (2005); revolutionary Che Guevara in Che (2008), a performance that earned him the Best Actor award both at the Cannes Film Festival and at the Goya Awards; and as Alejandro, a mysterious, ruthless agent out to bring down a drug cartel in Sicario (2015), for which del Toro was nominated for several awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

His other roles include portrayals of the Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; drug lord Pablo Escobar in Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014); Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman; and the codebreaker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). In 2018, he starred as Richard Matt in the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, for which he received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

John Grierson

John Grierson CBE (26 April 1898 to 19 February 1972) was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film.

In 1926, Grierson coined the term “documentary” in a review of Robert J. Flaherty’s Moana.

Stanley Kramer

Stanley Earl Kramer (29 September 1913 to 19 February 2001) was an American film director and producer, responsible for making many of Hollywood’s most famous “message films” (he called his movies heavy dramas) and a liberal movie icon. As an independent producer and director, he brought attention to topical social issues that most studios avoided. Among the subjects covered in his films were racism (in The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), nuclear war (in On the Beach), greed (in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), creationism vs. evolution (in Inherit the Wind), and the causes and effects of fascism (in Judgment at Nuremberg). His other films included High Noon (1952, as producer), The Caine Mutiny (1954, as producer), and Ship of Fools (1965).

Director Steven Spielberg described him as an “incredibly talented visionary” and “one of our great filmmakers, not just for the art and passion he put on screen, but for the impact he has made on the conscience of the world.” Kramer was recognised for his fierce independence as a producer-director, with author Victor Navasky writing that “among the independents…none seemed more vocal, more liberal, more pugnacious than young Stanley Kramer.” His friend Kevin Spacey, during his acceptance speech at the 2015 Golden Globes, honoured Kramer’s work, calling him “one of the great filmmakers of all time.”

Despite uneven critical reception, both then and now, Kramer’s body of work has received many awards, including 16 Academy Awards and 80 nominations, and he was nominated nine times as either producer or director. In 1961, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival. In 1998, he was awarded the first NAACP Vanguard Award in recognition of “the strong social themes that ran through his body of work”. In 2002, the Stanley Kramer Award was created, to be awarded to recipients whose work “dramatically illustrates provocative social issues”.

World War II

He was drafted into the Army in 1943, during World War II, where he helped make training films with the Signal Corps in New York, along with other Hollywood filmmakers including Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak. He left the army with the rank of first lieutenant.

After the war, Kramer soon discovered that there were no available jobs in Hollywood in 1947, so he created an independent production company, Screen Plays Inc.

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