Madeline Kahn was one of the funniest women of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, starring in a string of movies that showcased her wit and comedic timing. Mel Brooks brought her back again and again for movies such as “Blazing Saddles,” for which she received an Oscar nomination, and “Young Frankenstein.” Other notable movies include “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Clue,” and she also starred on Broadway in “The Sisters Rosensweig” and “In the Boom Boom Room.” Her death at 57 from ovarian cancer shocked and saddened her many fans. We remember Kahn’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1955: Gwen Ifill, U.S. television journalist who was the moderator for the PBS talk show “Washington Week,” dies from cancer at 61.
1955: Ken Weatherwax, U.S. actor who played Pugsley on TV’s “The Addams Family,” is born in Los Angeles, California.
Pugsley, the son of Gomez and Morticia, was a member of the family of macabre oddballs on the television series, which aired on ABC from 1964 to 1966 with its familiar, finger-snapping theme song. He stayed in show business after he grew up, although on the other side of the camera. Weatherwax worked as a grip on the sets of several Hollywood productions. Read more
1946: Ian Wallace, English drummer who was a member of the progressive-rock band King Crimson, is born in Bury, England.
1942: Madeline Kahn, U.S. actress whose notable movies include “Blazing Saddles” and “Clue,” is born in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mel Brooks, who directed Kahn in four of his goofy comedies, said of her, “She is one of the most talented people that ever lived. … I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can’t beat Madeline Kahn.” And she shined in roles like the weary Lili von Shtupp in Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” and stuck-up Elizabeth in his “Young Frankenstein.” Both of those roles showcased one of Kahn’s greatest talents: mixing comedy and music. She may have doubted her own ability to tell a joke, but she could certainly sing one – as anyone who has chuckled through “I’m Tired” from “Blazing Saddles” can attest. Read more
1942: Steve Tesich, Serbian-American screenwriter who won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “Breaking Away,” is born in Užice, Yugoslavia.
1939: Larry Linville, U.S. actor known best for playing Major Frank Burns in the TV adaptation of “M*A*S*H,” is born in Ojai, California.
1931: Anita Ekberg, Swedish-Italian actress and model who starred in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” is born in Malmö, Sweden.
Her curvaceous body and glamorous social life made her a favorite of tabloid press in the 1950s and 1960s. She married twice but never had children – a fact she came to regret later in her life. Some gossip magazines called her the Iceberg in a nod to her Scandinavian background. But even as she became one of Sweden’s most famous exports, Ekberg maintained a problematic relation with her native country. She never starred in a Swedish film and was often at odds with Swedish journalists, who criticized her for leaving the country and ridiculed her for adopting an American accent. Read more
In more than 200 books, the Berenstain Bears, written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain, helped children for 40 years cope with trips to the dentist, new babies in the family, eating junk food, and cleaning their messy rooms. The first Berenstain Bears book, “The Big Honey Hunt,” was published in 1962. The couple developed the series with children’s author Theodor Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss, then head of children’s publishing at Random House – with the goal of teaching children to read while entertaining them. Read more
1922: Lizabeth Scott, U.S. actress known for appearing in film noir in the 1940s and 1950s, is born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
1921: Franny Beecher, U.S. guitarist who was a member of Bill Haley and His Comets, is born in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Although Philadelphia session musician Danny Cedrone played on the original recording of “Rock Around the Clock” before his death in 1954, Beecher played the signature song for the first time on national television in 1955 and also played with the group in films. “Rock Around the Clock” became a hit again nearly 20 years after its release when it was included on the soundtrack of “American Graffiti.” Read more
1913: Stanley Kramer, U.S. film director and producer known for making “message films” including “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Inherit the Wind,” is born in Manhattan, New York.
In 1959, when the prospect of nuclear war loomed over Americans and had schoolchildren practicing their “duck and cover” response, Kramer directed a movie that took an unflinching look at the end of human civilization caused by fallout from a nuclear war. Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins starred in “On the Beach” as some of the last people on earth. Their plight resonated with viewers everywhere who worried about aggressions between the world’s superpowers. Read more
1907: Gene Autry, U.S. singer and actor who was a popular singing cowboy and hat hits including “Back in the Saddle Again,” is born in Tioga, Texas.
A few years before he died Oct. 2, 1998, of lymphoma at 91, Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans estimated Autry’s worth at $320 million, a fortune he amassed through entertainment, real estate (including a 110-acre ranch in California used for Western movie locations), and ownership of radio and television stations, hotels, oil wells, and the American Baseball League’s Anaheim Angels. Not bad for a “singing cowboy”! Read more
1904: Greer Garson, English-American actress who won an Academy Award for best actress for “Mrs. Miniver,” is born in East Ham, England.
Garson would be nominated for an Academy Award six more times during her career. She has the dubious honor of delivering the longest Oscar acceptance speech in history – seven minutes – after winning best actress for her role in “Mrs. Miniver” (1943). Coincidentally or not, she never won another Oscar. She did, however, enjoy a career as one of the most popular actresses of the early 1940s, typically starring as the upstanding, intrepid-but-elegant wife and/or mother in glossy, sentimental wartime films. Of her MGM typecasting, Garson quipped she had become “Metro’s Glorified Mrs.” Read more
1901: Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist who created the first nuclear reactor, is born in Rome, Italy.
1810: Elizabeth Gaskell, English novelist whose books include “North and South” and “Cranford,” is born in London, England.