Friday, February 1, 2013
Earlier this evening Captain Blood and Company set sail again, courtesy of TCM. As I had a truckload of tedious chores to complete (or at least pretend to attempt to complete), I told myself not to turn on the television. Over the past 5 decades I've seen this cherished film close to a zillion times now. I have the laser disc, the worn video as well as the DVD. And yet, how could I resist watching the Captain, the Navigator and assorted character actors once again kick Basil Rathbone's butt and thus ensure the waters of Southern California safe for pirating? Good heavens! Ross is on television.....who am I to resist? I should be made of sterner stuff and stagger away. Yeah, sure. So ignoring the pile of boxes and containers of Christmas Past, I surrendered 120 minutes to Ross, Errol, Basil, Olivia, Lionel and the rest of the crew. One. More.Time. It was time well spent. I found myself smiling again and again at these dear friends of ours. A pox upon the boxes and the assorted clutter. Tomorrow is another day--in fact it's Saturday--and I can guarantee it will all be waiting for me in the morning. And the delicate layer of dust won't be any thicker than it is now. In the meantime, I have visions of Ross' biceps dancing in my head.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
As January 2nd was fast approaching, I found myself thinking of a favorite line by poet Langston Hughes. For a few days, it puzzled me but then----as so often with Ross---I felt as if I were privy to something directly related to him....or possibly from him. It isn't the first time, and most likely will not be the last. Prayers for you upon your Angel Day, dearest Ross. Wherever you are, may you always be within the Light and find Peace within yourself.
Posted by MELISSA at 12:15 AM
Friday, July 27, 2012
Although the rest of the world considers today the start of the XXX London 2012 Summer Olympics, WE
know what July 27th, 2012 really means....it's Ross's 105th birthday! Somewhere "out there" I hope he understands that after all this time, people still care. So with a wish and a prayer winging your way, here's to you, Birthday Boy and may you always know how dearly loved you are.
Posted by MELISSA at 12:23 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Alexander Ross Smith, Jr. was born on July 27, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. After spending his first 17 years in Brooklyn his family moved to Rochester. Alex had an avid interest in acting as by the time he was in high school, he was active in both Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall and later, West Rochester High School’s theatre productions. However amateur theatrics could not begin to meet with Alex’s ambition and he dropped out of school to attend Hugh W. Towne’s acting group. This led to signing with the Packard Theatrical Agency. Upon visiting Packard, the well known stage actress Blanche Yurka was impressed with the talented teenager and hired him to appear in her production of “Enter Madame.” [Note: He was NOT in the original 1920 Broadway production as he was 13 years old and still attending school.]
It was at this time (1925) Alex Smith officially became Ross Alexander. He was then to appear with Miss Yurka in several of the Jewett Stock Company’s productions which was under the management of The Repertory Theatre of Boston. On October 22, 1926, Ross made his Broadway debut as the juvenile lead in “The Ladder.” From 1929 to 1932 he co-starred in several Broadway productions in which critics gave him excellent reviews and all of which folded fairly quickly, with the exception of “That’s Gratitude.” In 1932, he made his screen debut in Paramount’s “The Wiser Sex” starring Claudette Colbert and Melvyn Douglas. He also made a one time appearance for Columbia Studios, in Colleen Moore’s “The Social Register” which was filmed in 1933 but released in October of 1934. After starring in four more Broadway productions, which collapsed as opposed to folding, Ross received an offer early the following year he couldn’t refuse…a contract with Warner Brothers Studio.
Arriving in Los Angeles with his bride, actress Aleta Freile, he began filming “Gentlemen are Born” in February of 1934, to immediately be followed by “Flirtation Walk.” His charm, humor, and endearing boyishness soon garnered a notable fan following and in 1935, he was cast in three smash hits, “Shipmates Forever,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Captain Blood.” Instead of supporting roles or secondary leads, the following year found him now starring in his own films including “Brides Are Like That,” “Boulder Dam” and “Here Comes Carter.” His performance in “I Married a Doctor” (the studio's insipid renaming of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Main Street) was undoubtedly his finest. His final film was the musical, “Ready, Willing and Able” which was released two months after his death. Although he was clearly the star and gave an engaging performance which enhanced the film, Warner Brothers felt it necessary to drop his billing to 5th place because, well…suicides just ain’t big box office.
Ross Alexander was married three times. Yes, there was a *first* wife, whose identity shall remain private, as this is pertinent information for his biography.
His second wife, the aforementioned Aleta Freile was to die early on the morning of December 7, 1935 after committing suicide. His third wife was actress Anne Nagel whom he had met at Warner Brothers and appeared in three films together. Despite his recent marriage to Anne, Ross Alexander was chronically depressed over the death of Miss Freile; it was because of said depression he was to shoot himself with a .22 caliber pistol in his left temple, alone in the loft of his ranch’s barn early in the evening of January 2, 1937.
Posted by MELISSA at 5:36 AM
Monday, January 2, 2012
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As of this writing, the loss of this very special lady has not yet been publicized, but obviously will be soon. It is with great sadness that I must report that child star, Sybil Jason passed away on August 23, 2011. Having been ill for half a year, Sybil, surrounded by her beloved family, left peacefully late Tuesday afternoon to begin life anew.
Born Sybil Jacobson on November 23, 1927 in Cape Town, South Africa, by the age of three Sybil was making public appearances doing impersonations and playing the piano. This led to London where she performed on stage and was to make two 1935 film appearances in England, BARNACLE BILL and DANCE BAND. Her unique beauty, obvious intelligence and talent was noted by Irving Asher, head of Warner Brothers' London based studio. This led to a contract with Warners, which brought Sybil and her family to Los Angeles. She made her US screen debut in LITTLE BIG SHOT released in 1935. She co-starred in six films and four shorts at Warners, making her final WB film, COMET OVER BROADWAY in 1938. She scored her greatest hit at Warners in THE SINGING FOOL, appearing with the legendary Al Jolson. 1939 found her at Republic Studios, co-starring in WOMAN DOCTOR. Sybil then was to make two films in 1939/1940, THE LITTLE PRINCESS and THE BLUE BIRD, both starring her soon-to-be lifelong friend, Shirley Temple. It is her engaging performance as the little cockney maid, Becky for which she is best remembered.
On New Years' Eve of 1947, Sybil Jason married the love of her life, Anthony Drake. Mr. Drake passed away in 2005. They had one daughter, Toni Maryanna who now is married to Phillip Rossi, producer of THE NEW PRICE IS RIGHT.
Sybil was the author of three well received autobiographies, "My Fifteen Minutes: An Autobiography of a Child Star of the Golden Era of Hollywood" (2005), "Five Minutes More" (2007), and "What's It All About, Sybil? The Sybil Jason International Fan Club" (2010).
This wee biography is by no means complete nor is attempting to be. Undoubtedly there will be accolades and obituaries shortly to follow in both print and on the Internet. But I simply could not let Ms Jason's passing go unmentioned by yours truly as she has been such gracious and thoughtful friend to me. For whenever possible in her busy schedule over these past years, she has taken the time to answer my questions regarding Ross Alexander with accuracy, detail, and sincere enthusiasm. Throughout our correspondence, she offered me viable information with a unique perspective. Sybil's intelligence and memory were truly a priceless rarity and I am forever grateful.
Miss Jason will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, which--ironically as such--is within eyesight of Warner Brothers Studios and is now reunited with her cherished husband in their family plot. I shall miss my dear correspondent and her charmingly insightful letters. Later tonight, when all is quiet, I think I will watch THE LITTLE PRINCESS once more, savor her performance and weep a little weep. Goodnight sweetheart.
Posted by MELISSA at 10:25 PM