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a12102_irene dunne_01

Irene Dunne (December 20, 1898 – September 4, 1990) was an Irene Dunne American film actress and singer of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Dunne was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performances in Cimarron (1931), Theodora Goes Wild (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Love Affair (1939) and I Remember Mama (1948). She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1958.

Early life

a12102_irene dunne_02Born Irene Marie Dunn in Louisville, Kentucky, to Joseph Dunn, a steamboat inspector for the United States government, and Adelaide Henry, a concert pianist/music teacher from Newport, Kentucky, Irene Dunn would later write, “No triumph of either my stage or screen career has ever rivalled the excitement of trips down the Mississippi on the river boats with my father.” She was only eleven when her father died in 1909. She saved all of his letters and often remembered and lived by what he told her the night before he died: “Happiness is never an accident. It is the prize we get when we choose wisely from life’s great stores.”

After her father’s death, Irene, her mother, and her younger brother Charles moved to her mother’s hometown of Madison, Indiana. Dunn’s mother taught her to play the piano as a very small girl. According to Dunn, “Music was as natural as breathing in our house.” Dunne was raised as a devout Roman Catholic. Nicknamed “Dunnie,” she took piano and voice lessons, sang in local churches and high school plays before her graduation in 1916.

She earned a diploma to teach art, but took a chance on a contest and won a prestigious scholarship to the Chicago Musical College, where she graduated in 1926. With a soprano voice, she had hopes of becoming an opera singer, but did not pass the audition with the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Career

a12102_irene dunne_03Irene, after adding an “e” to her surname, turned to musical theatre, making her Broadway debut in 1922 in Zelda Sears‘s The Clinging Vine. The following year, Dunne played a season of light opera in Atlanta, Georgia. Though in her own words Dunne created “no great furore”, by 1929 she had a successful Broadway career playing leading roles, grateful to be at centre stage rather than in the chorus line. In July 1928, Dunne married Francis Griffin, a New York dentist, whom she had met in 1924 at a supper dance in New York. Despite differing opinions and battles that raged furiously, Dunne eventually agreed to marry him and leave the theatre.

Dunne’s role as Magnolia Hawks in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II‘s Show Boat was the result of a chance meeting with showman Florenz Ziegfeld in an elevator the day she returned from her honeymoon. Dunne was discovered by Hollywood while starring with the road company of Show Boat in 1929. Dunne signed a contract with RKO and appeared in her first movie in 1930, Leathernecking, a film version of the musical Present Arms. She moved to Hollywood with her mother and brother and maintained a long-distance marriage with her husband in New York until he joined her in California in 1936. a12102_irene dunne_04That year, she re-created her role as Magnolia in what is considered the classic film version of the famous musical Show Boat, directed by James Whale. (Edna Ferber‘s novel, on which the musical is based, had already been filmed as a part-talkie in 1929, and the musical would be remade in Technicolor in 1951, but the 1936 film is considered by most critics and many film buffs to be the definitive motion picture version.)

During the 1930s and 1940s, Dunne blossomed into a popular screen heroine in movies such as the original Back Street (1932) and the original Magnificent Obsession(1935). The first of three films she made opposite Charles Boyer, Love Affair (1939) is perhaps one of her best known. She starred, and sang “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes“, in the 1935 Fred AstaireGinger Rogers film version of the musical Roberta.

She was apprehensive about attempting her first comedy role, as the title character in Theodora Goes Wild (1936), but discovered that she enjoyed it. She turned out to possess an aptitude for comedy, with a flair for combining the elegant and the madcap, a quality she displayed in such films as The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favourite Wife (1940), both co-starring Cary Grant. Other notable roles include Julie Gardiner Adams in Penny Serenade (1941) (once again opposite Grant), a12102_irene dunne_05Anna Leonowens in Anna and the King of Siam (1946), Lavinia Day in Life with Father (1947), and Marta Hanson in I Remember Mama (1948). In The Mudlark(1950), Dunne was nearly unrecognizable under heavy makeup as Queen Victoria.

She retired from the screen in 1952, after the comedy It Grows on Trees. The following year, she was the opening act on the 1953 March of Dimes showcase in New York City. While in town, she made an appearance as the mystery guest on What’s My Line? She also made television performances on Ford Theatre, General Electric Theatre, and the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, continuing to act until 1962.

In 1952-53, Dunne played newspaper editor Susan Armstrong in the radio program Bright Star. The syndicated 30-minute comedy-drama also starred Fred MacMurray.

Dunne commented in an interview that she had lacked the “terrifying ambition” of some other actresses and said, “I drifted into acting and drifted out. Acting is not everything. Living is.

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Fanny Brice (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951) was a popular and influential American illustrated song model, comedian, singer, theatre and film actress, who made many stage, radio and film appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series, The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after 295_fb_03her death, she was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the musical Funny Girl and its 1968 film adaptation.

Fanny Brice (occasionally spelled Fannie Brice) was the stage name of Fania Borach, born in New York City, the third child of relatively well-off saloon owners of Hungarian Jewish descent. In 1908, Brice dropped out of school to work in a burlesque revue, The revue was called ‘The Girls from Happy Land starring Sliding Billy Watson." Two years later she began her association with Florenz Ziegfeld, headlining his Ziegfeld Follies from 1910 to 1911. She was hired again in 1921 and performed in them into the 1930s. In the 1921 Follies, she was featured singing "My Man" which became both a big hit and her signature song. She made a popular recording of it for Victor Records.

295_fb_02The second song most associated with Brice is "Second Hand Rose," which she introduced in the "Ziegfeld Follies of 1921."

She recorded nearly two dozen record sides for Victor and also cut several for Columbia. She is a posthumous recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her 1921 recording of "My Man."

Brice’s Broadway credits include Fioretta, Sweet and Low, and Billy Rose’s Crazy Quilt. Her films include My Man (1928), Be Yourself! (1930) and Everybody Sing (1938) with Judy Garland. Brice, Ray Bolger and Harriet Hoctor were the only original Ziegfeld performers to portray themselves in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946). For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at MP 6415 Hollywood Boulevard.

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11749129_dd1Dona Drake (November 15, 1914 – June 20, 1989) was an American singer, dancer and film actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born Eunice Westmoreland in Miami, Florida, in 1914. Entering show business in the 1930s, she used the names Una Velon, Rita Rio and Rita Shaw. She settled on the stage name Dona Drake in the early 1940s. Studio publicity during her heyday incorrectly stated that Drake was of Mexican origin and was born Rita Novella. (Novella was actually her mother’s first name.)

Because of her dark hair and Latin-looking features, Drake generally played Latin or other "ethnic" types. She is probably best known for playing the American Indian maid of Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest. She also appeared as an Arab girl opposite Bob Hope in Road to Morocco in 1942. Her biggest "non-ethnic" role was the second female lead in the 1949 comedy The Girl from Jones Beach, playing opposite Eddie Bracken. She died in 1989.

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Sylvia Robinson (March 6, 1936 – September 29, 2011) was an American singer, musician, record producer, and record label executive, most notably known for her work as founder/CEO of the hip hop label, Sugar Hill Records. She is credited as the driving force behind two landmark singles in the genre. The first was "Rapper’s Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, which was the first rap song to be released by a hip hop act. The second was "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five.


11629_sr5Biography
She was born as Sylvia Vanderpool in 1936 in New York City. She began recording music in 1950 for Columbia Records under the billing, Little Sylvia. In 1954, she began teaming up with Kentucky guitarist Mickey Baker, who then taught her how to play guitar. In 1956, the duo now known as Mickey & Sylvia, recorded the Bo Diddley and Jody Williams-penned rock single, "Love is Strange", which topped the R&B charts and reached number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1957. After several more releases including the modestly successful "There Oughta Be a Law", Mickey & Sylvia split up in 1959 with Sylvia later marrying Joe Robinson that same year. Sylvia re-started her solo career shortly after her initial split from Baker. In 1961, the duo reunited and recorded more songs together for various labels. They’re most noted during this period for singing background on Ike & Tina Turner’s hit single, "It’s Gonna Work Out Fine". In 1964, frustrated with the music business, Baker moved to Paris.

11629_sr3In 1966, the Robinsons moved to New Jersey where they formed a soul music label, All Platinum Records, the following year, with artist Lezli Valentine, formerly of the Jaynettes, bringing the label its first hit with "I Won’t Do Anything". In 1968, the duo signed a Washington, D.C. act named The Moments, who immediately found success with "Not on the Outside". Within a couple of years and with a new lineup, the group scored their biggest hit with "Love on a Two-Way Street", which Sylvia co-wrote and produced with Burt Keyes and (uncredited) lyrics by Lezli Valentine. Other hits the label and its subsidiaries, including Stang and Vibration, would have included Shirley & Company’s "Shame, Shame, Shame", the Moments’ "Sexy Mama" and "Look at Me I’m in Love" and the Whatnauts/Moments collaboration, "Girls". In 1973, Robinson sent a demo of a song she had written called "Pillow Talk" to Al Green. When Green passed on it due to his religious beliefs, Robinson decided to record it herself, returning to her own musical career. Billed under simply Sylvia, the record became an instant hit reaching Robinson_Sylvia_024_c_MOA.jpgnumber-one on the R&B charts and crossing over to number-three on the Hot 100 and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1973. Robinson would record four solo albums on the Vibration subsidiary and had other R&B hits including "Sweet Stuff" and "Pussycat". "Pillow Talk" has been called an early example of prototypical disco music and went on to sell two million copies. The vocals are replete with moaning and heavy breathing, predating Donna Summer’s orgasmic moans on "Love to Love You Baby". The drumming rhythm would reappear in 1985 on Kate Bush’s "Running Up that Hill", then again in 1987 on Fleetwood Mac’s "Big Love".

In the 1970s, the Robinsons founded Sugar Hill Records. The company was named after the culturally rich Sugar Hill area of Harlem, an affluent African American neighborhood in Manhattan New York City, known as a hub for artists and performers in the early and mid 1900s.

11629_sr4She co-wrote and produced Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s most successful single, "The Message", which is credited as the rap song that brought socially conscious lyrics into hip hop. She persuaded the group to record the song while it was still an estranged demo recording, surprisingly created by a studio percussionist for the Sugar Hill Gang. By commercializing the market for rap records, Robinson is credited as the mother of modern hip-hop. The song "Rapper’s Delight" brought rap into the public music arena, and revolutionized the music industry as it introduced the idea of re-using existing compositions, a practice that later became known as "sampling". Sylvia’s song, Sunday, was sampled by Moby in his 2002 album 18. Later acts signed to Sugar Hill Records included all-female rap/funk group The Sequence, featuring a teenage Angie Stone (recording as "Angie B"), who had a million-selling hit in early 1980 with "Funk U Up".

After Sugar Hill folded due to changes in the music industry and the presences of hip-hop labels Prelude and Def Jam and due to financial pressures in 1985, Robinson, who had by now divorced Joe Robinson, continued her efforts as a music executive, forming Bon Ami Records in 1987. The label was noted for signing the act The New Style, who later left and found success as Naughty by Nature.

Robinson died on the morning of September 29, 2011, aged 75, at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey from congestive heart failure.
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