Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Lew Ayres, born Lewis Frederick Ayres III (December 28, 1908 – December 30, 1996) was an American actor.
Ayres was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and reared in San Diego, California, Ayres began acting in bit player roles in films in 1927. He was discovered in 1927 playing banjo in the Henry Halstead Orchestra as Halstead was recording one of the earliest Vitaphone movie shorts called Carnival Night in Paris (Warner Brothers, 1927). Ayres wrote, "I was a member of Henry Halstead's orchestra in 1927 at the Mission Beach Ballroom in San Diego, California for the summer. My instruments were tenor banjo, long-neck banjo and guitar. After a hiatus, I rejoined Mr. Halstead with a new group, including Phil Harris, on New Year's Eve the same year for the opening night of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a memorable occasion."
Ayres played opposite Greta Garbo in 1929's The Kiss, but it was his starring role in 1930's All Quiet on the Western Front which made him a star. Ayres was Janet Gaynor's leading man in Servants' Entrance (1934), which featured a combination of live action and Walt Disney animation in a musical dream sequence. He played the title role in Young Dr. Kildare in 1938 and became a matinee idol, starring in several Kildare films. During this time, Ayres also co-starred with Joan Crawford and James Stewart in The Ice Follies of 1939.
Mirroring his anti-war and medical roles in his film work, Ayres was a pacifist who sought to become a member of the Medical Corps during World War II. The military would not guarantee him that position, so he declared as a conscientious objector, and reported to a CPS camp. Having such a well-known public figure take this stance was poor publicity for the military, and it led to changes in the rules, at which point Ayres was then able to join the Medical Corps. He served in the Pacific theater and in New Guinea.
In 1948 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Johnny Belinda, but his career was sparse after the war. Costar Jane Wyman fell in love with Ayres and left her husband Ronald Reagan for him, albeit unsuccessfully.
In the summer of 1958, Ayers hosted eleven original episodes of a CBS Western anthology television series called Frontier Justice, a production of Dick Powell's Four Star Television. He was offered the part of Dr. Kildare in an NBC series, but his (now prescient) request that the show not have cigarette advertising torpedoed that. The part went in 1961 to Richard Chamberlain.
He played the role of the governor in the pilot episode of the TV CBS series, Hawaii Five-O. He chose not to move to Hawaii to do the series, but did appear in the show in other roles from time to time. He also had many guest roles in other television programs.
His 1976 documentary film Altars of the World brought his Eastern philosophical beliefs to the screen and earned him critical acclaim. Ayres' science-fiction roles included appearances in the second season of The Bionic Woman as a pacifist scientist, Dr. Elijah Cooper, in the 1977 two-part episode "Doomsday Is Tomorrow," and as a pacifist politician in the original Battlestar Galactica film in 1978.
Late in life, he appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the father of the Murray Slaughter character played by Gavin MacLeod. The episode involved Mary's May-November romance with Mr. Slaughter, Sr.
Ayres was married three times. He was married to actress Lola Lane from 1931 until 1933 and to actress Ginger Rogers from 1934 until 1940. His third marriage, to Diana Hall, lasted from 1964 until his death from complications while in a coma at the age of 88. They had one son, Justin, born in 1968.
Actor Lew Ayres is buried at Westwood Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
In 1949 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Johnny Belinda. In 1975 he was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series in Kung Fu episode The Vanishing Image. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd.
The Kiss (1929)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Common Clay (1930)
Iron Man (1931)
Night World (1932)
State Fair (1933)
Servants' Entrance (1934)
Young Dr. Kildare (1938)
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)
Calling Dr. Kildare (1939)
These Glamour Girls (1939)
The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940)
Dr. Kildare Goes Home (1940)
Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940)
The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941)
Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941)
Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942)
The Dark Mirror (1946)
The Unfaithful (1947)
Johnny Belinda (1948)
The Capture (1950)
Donovan's Brain (1953)
The DuPont Show with June Allyson as Howard Moon in "A Thief or Two" (CBS, 1960)
The Barbara Stanwyck Show as Dr. Paul Harris in "Adventure on Happiness Street" (NBC, 1961)
Advise and Consent (1962)
The Carpetbaggers (1964)
The Biscuit Eater (1972)
The Stranger (1973), made-for-TV pilot for an unproduced series
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Little House on the Prairie (NBC, 1976)
Damien: Omen II (1978)
Battlestar Galactica (1978)
Salem's Lot (for American TV) (1979)
1. Lyon, Christopher; Susan Doll and James Vinson. "Ayres, Lew." The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers Google.com. Retrieved September 30, 2008.
Irving Paul "Swifty" Lazar (March 28, 1907 – December 30, 1993) was a talent agent and deal-maker, representing both movie stars and authors.
Born as Samuel Lazar in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1931. While practicing bankruptcy law during the early-1930s, he negotiated a business deal for a vaudeville performer and realized the income potential for acting as an agent.
He moved to Hollywood in 1936 but maintained a presence in New York until after World War II when he moved to Los Angeles permanently. After putting together three major deals for Humphrey Bogart in a single day, he was dubbed "Swifty" by Bogart. The moniker stuck but was a name he actually disliked.
In addition to Bogart, Lazar became the agent representing the top tier of celebrities, including Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote, Cher, Joan Collins, Noel Coward, Ira Gershwin, Cary Grant, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Walter Matthau, Larry McMurtry, Vladimir Nabokov, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, Richard Nixon and Tennessee Williams. Lazar's power became such that he could negotiate a deal for someone who was not even his client and then collect a fee from that person's agent.
During World War II, Lazar, with Benjamin Landis, suggested to the U.S. Army Air Forces that it produce a play to encourage enlistment and to raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. The Air Forces commanding general, Henry H. Arnold, agreed and the play Winged Victory was written by Moss Hart and produced by Hart and Lazar. It was a huge success, playing on Broadway and on tour around the U.S. for over a million people. A film version was produced during the same period.
Lazar was an executive producer (with Bernie Brillstein) of John G. Avildsen's Neighbors (1981), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and he was an associate producer on two television miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1983) and Robert Kennedy & His Times (1985). He was renowned for his annual post-Academy Award parties that started at the famous Romanoff's, then moved to the Bistro Garden and finally to Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, Spago. His was widely regarded as the most important Oscar celebration, and those who received invitations were regarded as the inner circle.
Lazar died in 1993, aged 86, from complications stemming from diabetes which eventually cut off circulation to his feet which doctors wanted to amputate. Lazar, who was being treated at home via peritoneal dialysis, refused treatments, which technically caused his own death, rather than suffer the loss of both feet and being wheelchair bound. The Death Certificate states "Imminent Cause: Chronic Renal Failure due to Glomerulo Sclerosis due to Hypertension. Other significant conditions contributing to death but not related to cause: lower extremities diabetes." He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles next to his wife, Mary, who had died in January that same year from liver cancer. Michael Korda wrote a 1993 New Yorker profile of Lazar, later incorporated into Korda's book, Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (Random House, 1999). At the time of his death, Lazar was working on his autobiography, Swifty: My Life and Good Times, which was completed by Annette Tapert and published by Simon & Schuster in 1995.
Swifty Lazar appears as a character in Peter Morgan's stage play, Frost/Nixon, first staged at the Donmar Warehouse, London on August 10, 2006 and played by actor Kerry Shale. In the play Lazar negotiates a deal with David Frost on behalf of former President Richard Nixon for Frost to interview Nixon. The play is closely based on real-life events. He has also been portrayed by Toby Jones in the 2008 film version of Frost/Nixon.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Missing Sarah H. Foxwell, 11, was last seen Tuesday night, December 22nd, 2009, at her home on Maryland's Eastern Shore. A relative discovered she was missing early Wednesday while checking on Sarah and her 6-year-old sister.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said that Sarah's corpse was discovered at about 4 p.m. on Friday, Christmas Day, near the Delaware state line after thousands of volunteers fanned out to look for her.
Registered sex offender Thomas J. Leggs Jr., 30, has been charged in her kidnapping. A charging document says Leggs was the last person seen with Sarah. A "juvenile witness" awoke during the night Tuesday and saw Sarah leave the bedroom with "Tommy," and said he was wearing blue jeans, an orange jacket and white sneakers.
Leggs is a former boyfriend of the girl's aunt, Amy Fothergill, who is her legal guardian.
The statement of probable cause also says Fothergill noticed that Sarah's green toothbrush was missing from the home. Deputies found a green toothbrush and a lollipop in a truck Leggs admitted driving. Leggs said he had been wearing jeans and white sneakers the previous night, which happened to be the same clothes he was wearing when police questioned him.
The sheriff said Leggs has been uncooperative and "of no assistance to our investigators."
Leggs is listed on the Maryland and Delaware sex offender registries.
Bridget Sullivan (1866 – March 25, 1948) was an Irish domestic housemaid. She was employed by the Borden family of 92 Second Street Fall River, Massachusetts, at the time of the gruesome hatchet murders of Andrew J. Borden and his second wife, Abby Gray Borden, on the hot morning of August 4, 1892.
While cleaning the windows, which Abby insisted be done, Sullivan was one of the last to see her employers alive. Andrew's younger daughter, Lizzie Borden, became the chief suspect, but was later acquitted of the crimes. Sullivan provided key testimony at the inquest, preliminary hearing and final trial.
Bridget Sullivan was born in the copper mining village of Allihies, County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of Eugene Sullivan and Margaret Leary. She emigrated to the United States in 1886, arriving in New York City, aboard the White Star Line's 3,707 ton S.S. Republic, on May 24. She worked as a scullery maid in Newport, Rhode Island, then moved to South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she likely joined relatives. In 1888, she moved to Fall River and worked as a cook for Charles Reed, a lawyer who lived in the exclusive "Highlands" neighborhood of the city. In 1889, she moved on to the home of another Highlands resident, Clinton V. S. Remington.
Her next job, with the Bordens of 92 Second Street, where she was employed in November 1889, was a step down, as the extremely wealthy, yet frugal, Bordens lived in a less fashionable setting than her two previous employers. The Borden home, however, was two blocks from the Irish neighborhood, Fourth Street's Corcaigh "Corky" Row, which may have influenced her decision. In her testimony, Sullivan denied having connections to the Irish neighborhood, although many of the Irish in that section of the city also originated from the Allihies region of Cork.
Sullivan's duties included cooking, cleaning and ironing. Lizzie and her elder sister, Emma, called her "Maggie," the name of their previous servant. A Borden authority, Victoria Lincoln, was quoted by essayist Florence King as saying their use of Maggie may have been forgetfulness; or it could have been a courtesy; the name "Bridget" having taken on an "off" stereotype of the typical Irish maid of the era.
During Lizzie Borden's trial, Sullivan testified that on the day of the murder, she prepared a meal of two-day old mutton for the Bordens and then was sent by Abby to wash the windows. After finishing the outside windows in the sweltering heat, she retired to her room in the third floor attic to rest, as she felt ill. At 11:10 a.m., Lizzie called to her, "Maggie, come quick! Father's dead. Somebody came in and killed him."
During the trial, the defense team and the press equated Lizzie's gender with innocence, claiming no woman could commit so terrible a crime. Sullivan testified, however, that Lizzie shed no tears for her murdered father and stepmother.
Legend had it that after the trial, and Lizzie's acquittal, Sullivan returned to Ireland, with the help of Lizzie and Emma, but there is no documentary proof of this. She later moved to Anaconda, Montana, where she is said to have become, in 1896, the maid of attorney George B. Winston (1861-1936). She is said to have worked for Winston until his death, never once mentioning the gory details of the murders or what she witnessed that fateful morning in Fall River, Massachusetts.
She married in 1905, in Anaconda, John M. Sullivan (c. 1868-1939), a copper smelting furnace man. In 1910, they lived at 412 Monroe Street. They later moved to 701 Alder Street, where they lived for many years. When John died in '39, she moved to Butte, Montana, where she remained until her death.
While ill with pneumonia, and fearing that her death was near, Sullivan allegedly summoned a friend to her bedside because she had something to reveal. By the time the woman arrived, however, Sullivan was recovering and said it was nothing. She did remark that she always liked Lizzie Borden.
Bridget Sullivan died at age 82 in Butte, Montana. She is interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Anaconda, Montana, along with her husband.
Binette, Dennis and Michael Martins, eds. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie Borden: The Knowlton Papers, 1892-1893 (Fall River, Mass.: The Fall River Historical Society, 1994), 464.
Burns, Catherine M., "The Irish of Fall River, Massachusetts, 1843-1894: Variations of Irish Ethnicity in an Industrial City," (Unpublished B.A. thesis, University of Massachusetts--Amherst, 1999).
King, Florence. WASP, Where is Thy Sting? Chapter 15, "One WASP's Family, or the Ties That Bind." Stein & Day, 1977. ISBN 0-552-99377-8 (1990 Reprint Edition)
O'Dwyer, Riobard, "Who Were My Ancestors? Geneaology (Family Trees) of the Allihies (Copper Mines) Parish, County Cork, Ireland," n.d., n.p. Located at the Fall River Historical Society.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Susan Powell, the 28-year-old mother of two small children, was reported missing Monday, December 7, 2009 under what police are calling suspicious circumstances.
Police consider her husband a person of interest in the case. Josh Powell has been under intense scrutiny since he told police he last saw her at 12:30 a.m. when he left her at home to go on a midnight "desert camping trip" in freezing conditions with his two sons, ages 2 and 4. Thus far, he has refused to retrace his whereabouts or give investigators an in-depth interview about the night's events.
West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan says police haven't been able to verify Josh Powell's story because snow had covered the spot along the Pony Express Trail in Utah's west desert where he said he went. Complicating the search for Susan Powell, McLachlan said police don't have a description of the clothing she was wearing when Josh Powell last saw her.
"I'm kind of concerned that all the focus is on him at the present. I mean he's told his story — believable or not — and I don't see him as capable of harming her. And the more time spent on him, the less time there is looking at other possibilities."
-- her father, Charles Cox,
who flew in from Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle
A prayer service was held for her Saturday in West Valley City and volunteers have posted thousands of fliers with her image on it. Following the prayer service, Josh Powell declined to answer questions from The Associated Press on Saturday.
"I can't say anything,"
-- Josh Powell
Susan Powell's friend, Kiirsi Hellewell, described her as a "girly girl" who liked to get dressed up when she went out with friends and make blankets for friends at church. She said that winter camping trip seemed out-of-character.
"They might go camping, but they would not do it in the winter, they would not do it in the middle of night and they wouldn't do it when they were expected at work the next day."
-- Susan Powell's friend, Kiirsi Hellewell
Tim Peterson says that he and other neighbors tried to call Josh all day Dec. 7 after his wife was reported missing, but it took him two hours to get home when they finally reached him.
"He just said he was driving around West Valley City. He wasn't in a big hurry to get home to find his wife. This guy was absolutely a crackpot and there was just something wrong with this whole situation."
-- Tim Peterson, neighbor
Days after friends reported her disappearance Josh dropped by his house with "wind-burned hands" and acted very strangely. He kept pulling out a bottle of lotion and reapplying it as they spoke.
"We kept asking about Susan, but all he could talk about was the new clothes and phone he'd gotten at Walmart after the police took his stuff for evidence. He was pretty unfazed. It's just a really crappy situation."
-- Tim Peterson, neighbor
Ten days after his wife, Susan, went missing, Joshua Powell knocked on a friend's door in tears. For the next hour, he sat on Wayne Hamberg's living room sofa, sobbing.
"He was so distressed, so despondent, so overwhelmed. The reason he's not talking to police is he's just shut down. He's so emotionally drained and everybody's attacking him, making him out to be a Mark Hacking or a Scott Peterson. The Josh I know is not some kind of evil guy. I don't believe that's he's suicidal or anything like that, but right now, I don't think he's capable of doing much more than tying his own shoelaces."
"I told him Tuesday night, when he came to see me, not to say anything to me about the circumstances, only to talk to his attorney. I want to be his friend, not somebody snooping around for a scoop. I'm there to support him and I'd like to think that he's innocent. I'd like to think that of all of my friends. I do know, though, that he thought Susan was overspending. So there were some financial problems. But that happens to a lot of families."
-- Wayne Hamberg, Powell's friend
Two days after Susan was reported missing, Josh rented a car.
For those 24 hours, Powell's whereabouts were unknown. Law enforcement sources tell Salt Lake City's Desert News that the car was returned with several hundred miles on the odometer, but no GPS data was stored and they don't know where the car was taken.
"We have an open, standing invitation for him to come and talk to us."
-- West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan
Powell is still refusing to be questioned by authorities.
Joshua left Utah with his two young sons over the weekend to spend the holidays in his hometown of Puyallup, Wash., with his father.
Late last year, Susan Powell told friends she was worried what would happen if she tried to divorce her husband. According to friends Susan had set up a separate bank account and had written an informal will. She ultimately decided to stay in the marriage and hoped to make the relationship work, friends say, but her husband was upset when he learned about the secret bank account. At Susan's insistence, the couple eventually got marriage counseling and the relationship seemed to improve.
An anonymous donor is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for "original information" leading to the discovery of Susan Powell. If her disappearance is a crime, the reward will be given for information leading to an arrest.
Police are asking that anyone with information contact the West Valley City Police Department at 1-801-840-4000.
Fall River is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is located about 46 miles (74 km) south of Boston, 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and 12 miles (19 km) west of New Bedford and 12 miles south of Taunton. The city's population was 91,938 during the 2000 census, making it the eighth largest city in the state. The current mayor of the city is Bob Correia.
Located along the eastern shore of Mount Hope Bay at the mouth of the Taunton River, the City became famous during the 19th century as the leading textile manufacturing center in the United States. While the texile industry has long since moved on (first to the South, and now overseas), its impact on the City's culture and landscape remains to this day.
Fall River's motto is "We'll Try." It is nicknamed "The Scholarship City", which is seen on the welcome signs upon entering the city. Fall River is well-known for Lizzie Borden, who was accused, and later acquitted of the 1892 double axe-murder that occurred at her home on Second Street in the city. Fall River is also known for Battleship Cove, the world's largest collection of World War II naval vessels. It is also the only city in the United States to have its government center located over an interstate highway.
At the time of the establishment of the Plymouth Colony in 1620, the area what would one day become the City of Fall River was inhabited by the Pokanoket Wampanoag tribe, headquartered at Mount Hope in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island. The "falling" river that the name Fall River refers to is the Quequechan River (pronounced "kwek-a-shan" by locals) which flows through the city, dropping steeply into the bay. Quequechan is a Wampanoag word believed to mean "Falling River" or "Leaping/Falling Waters."
In 1653, Freetown was settled at Assonet Bay by members of the Plymouth Colony, as part of Freeman's Purchase, which included the northern part of what is now Fall River. In 1683 Freetown was incorporated as a town within the colony. The southern part of what is now Fall River was incorporated as the town of Tiverton as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1694, a few years after the merger with Plymouth Colony. In 1746, in the settlement of a colonial boundary dispute between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Tiverton was annexed to Rhode Island, along with Little Compton and what is now Bristol County, Rhode Island. The boundary was then placed approximately at what is now Columbia Street.
In 1703, Benjamin Church, a hero of King Phillip's War established a saw mill, grist mill and a fulling mill on the Quequechan River. In 1714, Church sold his land, along with the water rights to Richard Borden of Tiverton and his brother Joseph. This transaction would prove to be extremely valuable 100 years later, helping to establish the Borden family as the leaders in the development of Fall River's textile industry.
During the 18th century the area consisted mostly of small farms and relatively few inhabitants. In 1778, the Battle of Freetown, was fought here during the American Revolutionary War, the townspeople put up a strong defense against a British force.
In 1803, when Fall River was separated from Freetown and officially incorporated as its own town. A year later, Fall River changed its name to "Troy." The name "Troy" was used for 30 years and was officially changed back to Fall River on February 12, 1834. In July 1843, the first great fire in Fall River's history destroyed much of the town center. During this time, the southern part of what is now Fall River (south of Columbia Street) would remain part of Tiverton, Rhode Island. In 1856, the town of Tiverton, Rhode Island voted to split off its industrial northern section as Fall River, Rhode Island. In 1861, after decades of dispute, the United States Supreme Court moved the state boundary to what is now State Avenue, thereby creating a City of Fall River entirely within Massachusetts. (Also as part of this decision, Pawtucket, Massachusetts would become part of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The early establishment of the textile industry in Fall River grew out of the developments made in nearby Rhode Island beginning with Samuel Slater at Pawtucket in 1793. In 1811, Col. Joseph Durfee, the Revolutionary War veteran and hero of the Battle of Freetown in 1778 built the Globe Manufactory (a spinning mill) at the outlet of Cook Pond on Dwelly St. near what is now Globe Four Corners in the city's South End. (It was part of Tiverton, Rhode Island at the time.) While Durfee's mill was never very successful, it marked the beginning of the city's rise in the textile business.
The real development of Fall River's industry, however, would occur along the falling river from which it was named, about a mile north of Durfee's first mill. The Quequechan River, with its eight falls, combined to make Fall River the best tidewater privilege in southern New England. It was perfect for industrialization — big enough for profit and expansion, yet small enough to be developed by local capital without interference from Boston.
The Fall River Manufactory was established by David Anthony and others in 1813. That same year, the Troy Cotton & Woolen Manufactory was built at the top end of the falls by a group led by Oliver Chace, from Swansea, who had worked as a carpenter for Samuel Slater in his early years.
In 1821, Colonel Richard Borden established the Fall River Iron Works, along with Maj. Bradford Durfee at the lower part of the Quequechan River. Durfee was a shipwright, and Borden was the owner of a grist mill. After an uncertain start, in which some early investors pulled out, the Fall River Iron Works was incorporated in 1825. The Iron Works began producing nails, bar stock, and other items such as bands for casks in the nearby New Bedford whaling industry. They soon gained a reputation for producing nails of high quality, and business flourished. In 1827, Col. Borden began regular steamship service to Providence, Rhode Island.
Richard Borden also constructed the Metacomet Mill in 1847, which today is the oldest remaining textile (cloth-producing) mill in the city, located on Anawan Street.
The American Print Works was established in 1835 by Holder Borden, uncle of Colonel Richard. With the leadership of the Borden family, the American Print Works (later known as the American Printing Company) became the largest and most important textile company in the City, employing thousands at its peak in the early 20th century.
By 1845, the Quequechan's power had been all but maximized. The Massasoit Steam Mill was established in 1846, above the dam near the end of Pleasant Street. However, it would be another decade or so when improvements in the steam engine by George Corliss would enable the construction of the first large steam-powered mill in the city, the Union Mills in 1859.
The advantage of being able to import baled of cotton and coal to fuel the steam engines to Fall River's deep water harbor, and ship out the finished goods also by water, made Fall River the choice of a series of cotton mill magnates. The first railroad line serving Fall River, The Fall River Branch Railroad, was incorporated in 1844 and opened in 1845. Two years later, in 1847, the first regular steamboat service to New York City began. The Fall River Line as it came to be known operated until 1937, and for many years, was the preferred way to travel between Boston and Manhattan. The Old Colony Railroad and Fall River Railroad merged in 1854, forming the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad.
In 1854, Fall River was officially incorporated as a city, and had a population of about 12,000. Its first mayor was James Buffington.
Fall River profited well from the Civil War and was in a fine position to take advantage of the prosperity that followed. By 1868, it had surpassed Lowell as the leading textile city in America with over 500,000 spindles.
Then, during 1871 and 1872, a "most dramatic expansion" of the city occurred: 15 new corporations were founded, building 22 new mills throughout the city, while some of the older mills expanded. The city's population increased by an astounding 20,000 people during these two years, while overall mill capacity double to more than 1,000,000 spindles. (One can only imagine the level of excitement and chaos that would have existed in the city at that time.)
By 1876, the city had 1/6th of all New England cotton capacity and one-half of all print cloth production. "King Cotton" had definitely arrived. The "Spindle City" as it became known, was second in the world to only Manchester, England.
To house the thousands of new workers, mostly Irish and French Canadian immigrants during these years, over 12,000 units of company housing were built. Unlike the well-spaced boardinghouses of early Lowell or the tidy cottages of Rhode Island, worker housing in Fall River consisted of thousands of wood-framed multi-family tenements, usually three-floor "triple-deckers" with up to six apartments. Many more privately owned tenements supplemented the company housing.
During the 19th century, Fall River became famous for the granite rock on which much of the city is built. Several granite quarries operated during this time, the largest of which was the Beattie Granite Quarry, near what is now North Quarry Street, near the corner of Locust. Many of the mills in the city were built from this native stone, and it was highly regarded as a building material for many public buildings and private homes alike. The Chateau-sur-Mer mansion in Newport, Rhode Island is perhaps the best example of Fall River granite being used for private home construction.
While most of the mills "above the hill" were constructed from native Fall River granite, nearly all of their counterparts along the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay were made of red brick. This was due to the high costs and impracticality associated with transporting the rock through the city and down the hill, where there were no rail lines because of the steep grades. (One notable exception is the Sagamore Mills on North Main Street, which were constructed from similar rock quarried in Freetown and brought to the site by rail.)
On August 4, 1892, Fall River was the scene of two murders allegedly committed by Lizzie Borden. These grisly murders are remembered in a children's rhyme originally for jumping rope, according to the Fall River Historical Society. "Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one." Borden was ultimately acquitted of the murders. Lizzie Borden is one of the most famous Fall River natives, because of the alleged murders.
Fall River rode the wave of economic prosperity well into the early 1900s. During this time, the city boasted several fancy hotels, theaters, and a bustling downtown. As the city continually expanded during the late 19th century, its leaders built several fine parks, schools, streetcar lines, a public water supply, and sewerage system to meet the needs of its growing population.
In 1920 the population of Fall River peaked at 120,485.
The cotton mills of Fall River had built their business largely on one product: print cloth. About 1910, the city's largest employer, the American Printing Company (APC), employed 6,000 people and was the largest company printer of cloth in the world. Dozens of other city mills solely produced cloth to be printed at the APC. The city's industry had all its eggs in one, very large basket.
World War I had provided a general increase in demand for textiles, and many of the mills of New England benefited during this time. The post-war economy quickly slowed, however, and production quickly outpaced demand. The Northern mills faced serious competition from their Southern counterparts due to factors such as lower labor and transportation costs, as well as the South's large investment in new machinery and other equipment. In 1923, Fall River faced the first wave of mill closures. Some mills merged and were able to limp along until the late 1920s. By the 1930s and the Great Depression, many more mills were out of business and the City was bankrupt. A few somehow managed to survive through World War II and into the 1950s.
The worst fire in Fall River's history occurred on the evening of February 2, 1928. It began when workers were dismantling the recently vacated Pocasset Mill. During the night the fire spread quickly and wiped out a large portion of downtown. City Hall was spared but was badly damaged. Today, many of the structures near the corner of North Main and Bedford Street date from the early 1930s, as they were rebuilt soon after the fire.
The once mighty American Printing Company finally closed for good in 1934. In 1937, their huge plant waterfront on Water Street was acquired by the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company and soon employed 2,600 people. In October, 1941, just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a huge fire broke out in the old 1860's main building of the print works. The fire was a major setback to the U.S. war effort, as $15 million in raw rubber (30,000 lbs.) was lost in the inferno.
With the demise of the textile industry, many of the city's mills were occupied by smaller companies, some in the garment industry, traditionally based in the New York City area but attracted to New England by the lure of cheap factory space and an eager workforce in need of jobs. The garment industry survived in the city well into the 1990s but has also largely become a victim of globilization and foreign competition.
In the 1960s the city's landscape was drastically transformed with the construction of the Braga Bridge and Interstate 195, which cut directly through the heart of the city. In the wake of the highway building boom, the city lost some great pieces of its history. The Quequechan River was filled in and re-routed for much of its length. The historic falls, which had given the city its name, were diverted into underground culverts. A series of elevated steel viaducts was constructed as to access the new Braga Bridge. Many historic buildings were demolished, including the Old City Hall, the 150-year-old Troy Mills, the Second Granite Block (built after the 1928 fire), as well as other 19th century brick-and-mortar buildings near Old City Hall.
Constructed directly over Interstate 195, where its predecessor was, the new city hall was opened in 1976, after years of construction delays and quality control problems. Built in the Brutalist style popular in the 1960s and 1970s, the new city hall drew complaints from city workers and residents almost immediately.
Also during the 1970s, several modern apartment high-rise towers were built throughout the city, many part of the Fall River Housing Authority. There were two built near Milliken Boulevard, two on Pleasant Street in Flint Village, another on South Main Street, and in the north end off Robeson Street. Today, these high-rises mostly house the elderly.
In 1978, the city opened the new B.M.C. Durfee High School in the north end, replacing the historic Rock Street masterpiece that had become overcrowded and outdated for use as a high school. The "new" Durfee is one of the largest high schools in Massachusetts.
Since about 1980, there has been a considerable amount of new development in the North end of the city, with many new single- and multi-family housing developments, particularly along North Main Street.
In 2002, Fall River was controversially tapped as the location for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tank. Weaver's Cove Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of Hess Corporation, proposed building this facility in a densely populated neighborhood (approximately 10,000 people live within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius of the proposed site). Major concerns of residents were that no facility of this sort had been built in an inner city before and that LNG has a mixed safety track record.
In spite of the protests, the plan was recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Local citizens and politicians, notably Richard Clarke, the former "terror czar" advisor to former president George H. W. Bush, have attempted to derail the project since FERC's approval.
The Coast Guard, through its Southcoast Commander, Captain Ray Nash, determined in October 2007 that the LNG facility proposed for Weaver's Cove not be constructed, citing problems with navigating large tankers through and around the Brightman Street Bridge.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.2 square miles (102 km2), of which, 31.0 square miles (80.3 km2) of it is land and 8.2 square miles (21 km2) of it (18.84%) is water.
The city lies on the eastern border of Mount Hope Bay, which begins at the mouth of the Taunton River starting south from the Charles M. Braga, Jr. Bridge. The greater portion of the city is built on hillsides rising quite abruptly from the water's edge to a height of more than 150 feet (46 m). From the summits of these hills the country extends back in a comparatively level table-land, on which a large section of the city now stands.
Two miles (3 km) eastward from the shore lies a chain of deep and narrow ponds, eight miles (13 km) long (13 km), with an average width of three-quarters of a mile, and covering an area of 3,500 acres (14 km²). These ponds are supplied by springs and brooks, draining a water-shed of 20,000 acres (80 km²). The northern pond is the North Watuppa Pond, the city's main reservoir. The southern pond is the South Watuppa Pond. Where the two ponds meet is called the "The Narrows." East of the North Watuppa Pond is the Watuppa Reservation that includes several thousand acres of forest-land for water supply protection that extends north into the Freetown-Fall River State Forest, and east to Copicut Reservoir. Copicut Pond is located on the border of Dartmouth in North Dartmouth's Hixville section that borders Fall River. The Quequechan River breaks out of its bed in the west part of the South Watuppa Pond, just west of The Narrows, and flows through the city (partially underground in conduits) where it falls to a channel leading to what is now Heritage State Park at Battleship Cove on the Taunton River. The Quequechan River originally flowed unconfined over an almost level course for more than a mile. In the last half-mile (800 m) of its progress it rushes down the hillside in a narrow, precipitous, rocky channel, creating the falls for which Fall River is named. In this distance the total fall is about 132 feet (40 m). and the volume of water 122 cubic feet (3.5 m3) per second.
Originally an attractive feature of the landscape, the Quequechan has seldom been visible since it was covered over by cotton mills and the Bay Colony Railroad line in the 19th century. As the Quequechan become an underground feature of the industrial landscape, it also became a sewer. In the 20th century the mills were abandoned and some of them burned, exposing the falls once more. Because of highway construction in the 1960s, the waterfalls were buried under Interstate 195, which crosses the Taunton River at Battleship Cove.
Plans exist to "daylight" the falls, restore or re-create them, and build a green belt with a bicycle path along the Quequechan River. In the south end, Cook Pond, also formerly known as Laurel Lake, is located east of the Taunton River and west of the South Watuppa Pond. Between the area of modern day Cook and South Watuppa Ponds, east of the Taunton River and north of Tiverton, Rhode Island, was once referred to as "Pocasset Swamp" during King Philip's War in 1675–1676.
According to the United States Census of 2000, the population of Fall River is 91,938. The largest racial groups within the city were 91.2% (83,815) White, 2.5% (2,283) African American, 2.2% (1,987) Asian and 0.2% (172) Native American. 47% (43,253) of the population described themselves as being of Portuguese ancestry. The next largest groups by ancestry are French 13.4% (12,343), Irish 9.8% (9,029), English 6.6% (6,085), French Canadian 5.9% (5,458), Italian 3.6% (3,293) and Polish 3.4% (3,148).
Fall River and surrounding communities form a part of the Providence metropolitan area, which has an estimated population of 1,622,520.
In percentage terms Fall River has the largest Portuguese American population in the United States. However, the exact percentage of the population they make up is disputed. A 2005 study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has given it at 49.6% while other sources give it as 43.9%.
The city has 38,759 households and 23,558 families. The population density was 2,963.7 per square mile (1,144.3/km²). There were 41,857 housing units at an average density of 1,349.3/sq mi (521.0/km²). Of the 38,759 households 29.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.2% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 3.00.
In terms of age the population was spread out with 24.1% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.9 males.
The median household income was $29,014, and the median family income was $37,671. Males had a median income of $31,330 versus $22,883 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,118. About 14.0% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.4% of those under age 18 and 17.4% of those age 65 or over.
Fall River retains a vibrant mix of cultures from around the globe. While the distinct ethnic neighborhoods formed in the late 19th and early 20th century have changed over the years, the legacy of immigrants who came to work in the mills can be found in the various parishes and restaurants throughout the city.
The city is host to many ethnic festivals throughout the year. The largest, the Great Holy Ghost Festival, occurs each August at Kennedy Park and attracts over 200,000 visitors.
Each summer, the city uses its waterfront at Heritage State Park and Battleship Cove for a Fourth of July fireworks display as well as the annual Fall River Celebrates America Festival.
In recent years, different groups have made an effort to increase awareness in the arts in the city, using vacant mill space for studios and performance centers, such as the Narrows Center for the Arts on Anawan Street. A proposal is in place to revitalize the downtown area by the creation of an Arts District.
Fall River remains a predominately Roman Catholic city and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River, located at St. Mary's Cathedral on Second Street, formed in the 1850s by Irish immigrants. Another very imposing Catholic church is St. Anne's Church. Dozens of other Catholic parishes existed throughout the city, with each ethnic enclave having its own parish. In recent years, the diocese has merged several parishes in the city, closing some, and renaming the united congregations.
Historically, the Highlands neighborhood was predominantly Protestant, with several churches in the area of North Main and Rock Streets. Various other ethno-religious groups also live in the city, including a historic Jewish synagogue on High Street and many newer congregations throughout the city.
The city is led by the mayor-council form of government, and the current mayor is Will Flanagan. The city's police department is consolidated into a large central police station. There are six fire stations located around the city. The Fire Headquarters is located on Commerce Drive, just across from the former Fall River Municipal Airport. There are four post offices in the city, located in Flint Village, the South End Branch (near Globe Corners), Highland Station and the central branch just behind Government Center, a post office modeled after the New York City main post office behind Penn Plaza. The city is also home to a Superior Court, a District Court and the new Bristol County Court House, located in the former B.M.C. Durfee High School building on Rock Street. A new District Court is under construction on South Main Street.
Fall River is represented by three separate Massachusetts House of Representatives districts (one of which represents the majority of the city) and is represented by David B. Sullivan (6th Bristol), Kevin Aguiar (7th Bristol), and Michael J. Rodrigues (8th Bristol). The city is represented by Senator Joan M. Menard (D-Fall River) who serves as the Assistant Majority Leader of the State Senate, in the First Bristol and Plymouth district, which includes the city and the towns of Freetown, Lakeville, Rochester, Somerset and Swansea.
Fall River is patrolled by the Third Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police, based out of Dartmouth.
On the national level, the city is divided between Massachusetts Congressional Districts 3 and 4, which are represented by Jim McGovern and Barney Frank, respectively. The state's senior (Class II) Senator is John Kerry.
Thanks to a long-term effort on the part of the city, the school system has been involved in a consolidation effort, bringing the total number of elementary schools down from twenty-eight as recently as the 1990s to nine today: Spencer Borden Elementary in the southern Highlands, John J. Doran Elementary in the downtown area, Mary L. Fonseca Elementary in the Flint, William S. Greene Elementary near the city's center, Alfred S. Letourneau in the Maplewood neighborhood, Frank M. Silvia Elementary in the far North End, James Tansey Elementary in the middle Highlands, Carlton M. Viveiros Elementary in the South End, and James Watson Elementary in the lower Flint. Of the old twenty-eight, only Watson, Tansey and Doran remain in their original buildings; Silvia was relocated from its old location downtown to a new building in the northern part of the city, and the other five were rebuilt on the sites of their original schools. Also, most of the closed school names (except for Wiley and Dubuque) live on in the schools they were consolidated into. There are four middle schools: Matthew J. Kuss Middle School (which was relocated to the west side of the city), Henry Lord Middle School (serving the South End), James Morton Middle School (serving the North End), and Edmond P. Talbot Middle School (serving the east side of the city).
The city has one public high school, B.M.C. Durfee High School. The school was founded in 1886, replacing an older high school. The original grand school building was a gift of Mrs. Mary B. Young, in the name of Bradford Matthew Chaloner Durfee, her late son, whose name also graces a dormitory at Yale University. The current school building was opened in 1978, and it was recently announced that a replica of the Durfee Chimes, the original school's red-capped bell tower, will be recreated on the grounds.
Durfee's teams wear black and red (in honor of the old school's black roof and red observatory dome and tower spire), and are called the Hilltoppers, sometimes shortened to Toppers. The nickname dates back to the old school's perch on top of the hill north of the Quequechan River. The school is a member of the Big Three Conference, where it competes with Brockton High School and its longtime natural rival, New Bedford High School.
In addition to public schools, there are several private and parochial schools in the city, including nine Catholic schools, two private schools, a Christian academy, and Atlantis Charter School, a Pre-K through 8 charter school with a marine science-themed curriculum. The city is also home to Bishop Connolly High School, a Catholic high school named for Bishop James L. Connolly, fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Fall River. The city is the home of Diman Regional Vocational-Technical High School, which also serves the towns of Somerset, Swansea, and Westport. Famous chef Emeril Lagasse graduated from this high school, in the Culinary Arts Program that is still run today. The school's roots date back to the days of the Durfee Textile School, which branched out to include Diman. (The college, founded to promote the city's textile sciences, is now a part of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.)
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has two branches in the city: the Professional and Continuing Education Center located at 139 South Main Street (in the 1917 Cherry & Webb building), and the Advanced Technical & Manufacturing Center at the Narrows, on the former site of the Kerr Mills. The school traces half of its roots back to the city; the Bradford Durfee Textile School was founded there in 1899, with its original 1904 building on the corner of Durfee and Bank Streets still standing. The building was also the original home of Bristol Community College, founded in 1965 and now located at 777 Elsbree Street. BCC is a two-year college offering associate degrees as well transfer programs to four-year institutions. The Eastern Nazarene College offers Adult Studies/LEAD classes in Fall River as well.
Fall River has always been considered a transportation hub for the South Coast and Mount Hope Bay areas, due to its location along the Taunton River. In addition to the Fall River Line (discussed in the "History" section), Slade's Ferry ran from Fall River to Somerset since the 1600s, connecting the two communities. In 1875, Slade's Ferry Bridge was opened, connecting the two cities for trolley lines as well as cart (and later, car) traffic. It was a two-tiered steel swing span bridge, extending over 1,100 feet (340 m) from Remington Avenue to the intersection of Wilbur Avenue, Riverside Avenue and Brayton Avenue in Somerset. This bridge was in use until 1970, when it was closed and subsequently demolished. (The path of the bridge is now roughly marked by twin sets of power lines crossing the river.) In 1903, the state authorized a second bridge, the Brightman Street Bridge, a four lane, 922-foot (281 m) long drawbridge ending at its namesake street, which opened in 1908 and is still standing today. The third bridge to span the river in Fall River was the Charles M. Braga, Jr. Memorial Bridge. Started in 1959 and opened in the spring of 1966, the six-lane cantilever truss highway bridge spans 1.2 miles (1.9 km) and was part of the project to build Interstate 195.
In the late 1980s, problems were beginning to arise with the Brightman Street Bridge. Currently 100 years old, it is often closed for repairs, which puts much strain on local traffic, forced to take long detours across the nearby Braga Bridge. In 1983 plans were being made to build a new bridge 1,500 feet (460 m) north of the current one, which would directly link with Route 138. Plans were put on hold in 1989 due to Coast Guard concerns, but construction of the new span began in the late 1990s and continues today despite numerous delays and controversy. A new avenue to link the bridge and Route 6 in Somerset has already begun construction a few yards inland. As of yet, no name for the bridge has been decided upon.
Interstate 195 is now the main point of entry for the city, entering via the Braga Bridge from Somerset and leaving over "The Narrows," a small strip of land between the North and South Watuppa Ponds that carries Interstate 195, Route 6 and Old Bedford Road into Fall River from Westport as the roads make their way east towards New Bedford and Cape Cod. The highway covers much of the old path parallel to the Bay Colony/New Bedford Cape Cod Railroad as well the original path of the Quequechan River, and has resulted in a unique situation—it is one of the few highways in the country with a city hall (officially known as "Fall River Government Center") standing directly on top of it. The tunnel which passes below Government Center was the site of an accident in March 1999, in which a cement ceiling tile, its supports worn away by corrosion, collapsed, landed on several cars but not causing more than minor injuries. The incident caused major traffic problems in the area, and bears a striking resemblance to the incident involving the I-90 tunnel collapse (a part of the Big Dig) in 2006.
In addition to Interstate 195, Fall River is also served by four other major routes, which include Route 6 (which passes over the Brightman Street Bridge going west before joining the city grid then continuing east into Westport); Route 24, a 2 Lane North/South divided highway linking Fall River to Boston and Newport; Route 79, another divided highway that begins at the Braga Bridge and continues northbound to Route 24; Route 138, which also enters the city via the Brightman Street Bridge before joining the city grid, passing southwards towards Aquidneck Island; and Route 81, which begins near the former site of the Quequechan River and travels south into Tiverton. Additionally, Route 177 clips the extreme southern part of the city for less than 0.25-mile (0.40 km) between Westport and Tiverton. Route 138, Route 24, I-195, and US 6 are based upon old Indian routes and trails.
The Fall River State Pier is still in operation, bringing goods into the city via boat and also by a freight train line which travels north from the pier parallel to Route 79. Plans are in the works to add commuter service along the current Stoughton Line of the MBTA's commuter rail line, which would also connect New Bedford.
The city, along with New Bedford, shares ownership of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), a bus line which covers much of the south coast.
Until approximately 1990, the Fall River Municipal Airport served as a general aviation airport for small planes and commuter flights to the Cape and Islands just north of the junction of Routes 79 and 24, but the airport has since closed, the land claimed for an industrial park.
Fall River has a rich soccer history. The game was first introduced to the city in the 1880s by the arrival of immigrants from Lancashire and Glasgow who worked in the local textile industry. In later decades the arrival of immigrants from Portugal helped to sustain the game's popularity. Between 1888 and 1892 teams from Fall River won the American Cup five times in succession. One of these teams, Fall River Rovers also won the 1917 National Challenge Cup. The star and captain of the team was local-born Thomas Swords who, in 1916, captained the United States in their first official international.
During the 1920s and early 1930s, Fall River Marksmen were one were one of the most successful soccer clubs in the United States and were American soccer champions on seven occasions. In 1932, another club, Fall River F.C., were also champions.
The Marksmen also won the National Challenge Cup four times. Among their most notable players were Billy Gonsalves and Bert Patenaude who were both raised in Fall River. In 1930 they both played for the United States at the first ever soccer World Cup. Patenaude is credited with scoring the first ever hat-trick at a World Cup.
During the 1940s, Ponta Delgada S.C. became one the most successful amateur teams in the United States. In 1947 the team was selected en masse to represent the United States at the North American soccer championship. In 1950 two of their local born players, Ed Souza and John Souza, played at the World Cup and helped the United States defeat England 1-0.
Points of interest
Battleship Cove The world's largest historic naval ship exhibit featuring the USS Massachusetts
Historic Lincoln Park Carousel - Restored 1920 Carousel, located at Battleship Cove
Fall River Heritage State Park The focal point of Fall River's waterfront.
Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Museum
The Marine Museum of Fall River.
Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Fall River Historical Society
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast
Kennedy Park, North Park and Ruggles Park, all designed by Frederick Law Olmsted
The First Congregational Church
St. Anne's Church and Shrine
Narrows Center for the Arts
Fall River Legend is a ballet based on the life of Lizzie Borden. One of choreographer Agnes de Mille's best-known works, it featured an original score by Morton Gould and scenic design by Oliver Smith.
The ballet premiered at American Ballet Theatre on April 22, 1948, with Alicia Alonso as Lizzie (called simply "the Accused"). Other notable performers in the role included Nora Kaye and Sallie Wilson. The Dance Theatre of Harlem's production, with Virginia Johnson as the Accused, is available on DVD, although a kinescope also exists of a televised version with Kaye.
De Mille had worked with the conductor Max Goberman on Three Virgins and a Devil, and it was Goberman who suggested that she approach Morton Gould to be her collaborator for her new ballet – a suggestion she nearly rejected because she knew of Gould only through his radio broadcasts.
De Mille famously altered the historical record by finding Lizzie Borden guilty as charged.
ABT was scheduled to perform the ballet during the 2007 fall season at New York City Center, with Julie Kent and Gillian Murphy in the lead role.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Heather O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 – February 1, 1988 was an American child actress who played Carol Anne Freeling in the Poltergeist film trilogy.
O'Rourke was born on December 27, 1975 in San Diego, California, the second daughter of Kathleen O'Rourke. Before O'Rourke's death in 1988, her mother married James "Jim" A. Peele. The family, including O'Rourke's older sister Tammy, lived in Lakeside, California at the time of her death.
In a contemporary interview with American Premiere magazine, Steven Spielberg explained that for he was looking for a "'beatific' four-year-old child...every mother's dream" for the lead in his 1982 horror film Poltergeist. While eating in the MGM commissary, the Academy Award-nominated director saw a five-year-old Heather O'Rourke having lunch with her mother while sister Tammy O'Rourke was shooting Pennies from Heaven. After his lunch, Spielberg approached the family and offered Heather the Poltergeist role; O'Rourke was signed the very next day, beating out Drew Barrymore for the role.
In the Poltergeist trilogy, O'Rourke played Carol Anne Freeling, a young suburban girl who becomes the conduit and target for supernatural entities. The New York Times noted that she had played the key role in the films and commented, "With her wide eyes, long blond hair and soft voice, she was so striking that the sequel played off her presence." During the production of the original Poltergeist, Spielberg twice accommodated the child actress when frightened. When scared by performing a particular stunt, Spielberg replaced O'Rourke with a stunt double wearing a blond wig; and when disturbed by the portrayal of adult abuse toward the child characters, Spielberg did not require she perform the take again. For her work in Poltergeist, O'Rourke earned between US$35,000—$100,000. Though O'Rourke played the role in all three films, the Carol Anne character was the only member of the Freeling family—and therefore the original cast—to recur in the third film, Poltergeist III.
O'Rourke's delivery of the lines "They're here!" in the first film, and "They're baa-aack!" in the second (that film's tagline), placed her in the collective pop culture consciousness of the United States.
After her work in 1982's Poltergeist, O'Rourke secured several television and TV movie roles. In April 1983 she starred as herself alongside Morey Amsterdam and well-known Walt Disney animated characters in the hour-long television special, Believe You Can ... and You Can! She also appeared in CHiPs, Webster, The New Leave It to Beaver, Our House, and had a recurring role on Happy Days as Heather Pfister. In the television movies Massarati and the Brain and 1985's Surviving, she played Skye Henry and Sarah Brogan respectively.
O'Rourke became ill in early 1987 and was misdiagnosed by Kaiser Permanente Hospital as having Crohn's disease. She was prescribed medicine to treat the Crohn's, which allegedly "puffed up [her] cheeks." On January 31, 1988, O'Rourke was ill again, vomiting and unable to keep anything down. The next morning she collapsed while trying to leave for the hospital and her step-father called paramedics. O'Rourke suffered a cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, and after resuscitation was airlifted by helicopter to Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, where she died.
Speaking to reporters, O'Rourke's manager David Wardlow initially announced that it was believed O'Rourke died of influenza. However, hospital spokesman Vincent Bond announced that O'Rourke died during surgery to repair a congenital acute bowel obstruction (stenosis of the intestine) complicated by septic shock; this report was corroborated by the San Diego County coroner's office on February 3, two days after her death. Later reports changed the specific cause of death to cardiac arrest caused by septic shock brought on by the intestinal stenosis.
O'Rourke was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on February 5, 1988. Mourners included Henry Winkler, Linda Purl, and Rick Schroder. Her tomb is scheduled stop for "Haunted Hollywood" tours.
On May 25, 1988, Sanford M. Gage, the O'Rourke family attorney, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego. O'Rourke had been seen by doctors at Kaiser since birth, and the suit claimed that they failed to properly diagnose her long-standing small-bowel obstruction: had they not simply treated her for Crohn's disease with prescription drugs, she could have been cured by means of a simple operation; and this misdiagnosis caused O'Rourke's death. Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman Janice Seib responded "We have reviewed the case extensively, and we believe that the diagnosis and the course of action taken by our physicians was entirely appropriate. It's a very complex case, complicated by a number of factors, and not given to any simple answers." The case went to arbitration and was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
O'Rourke's death complicated MGM's marketing for her last work, Poltergeist III, out of fear of appearing to be exploiting her death. Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen, O'Rourke's co-stars, were discouraged from giving interviews about the film to avoid questions about O'Rourke's death. O'Rourke passed away before the theatrical release of Poltergeist III, which was dedicated to the young actress.
O'Rourke's death (as well as four others) has been attributed to a supposed curse on the Poltergeist films and those associated with them; this urban legend supposedly stems from a real human skeleton used as a prop in the first film. According to backstage personnel, the ghost of O'Rourke herself haunts Paramount Pictures' stage #19, whereat she filmed episodes of Happy Days.
On September 26, 2008, DirecTV began airing a national TV advertisement developed by Deutsch; directed by Erich Joiner and cinematographed by Daniel Mindel, the advert features O'Rourke's famous "They're here!" scene from Poltergeist blended with contemporary footage of her co-star, Craig T. Nelson, intended to mimic the film. After the advertisement drew criticism from bloggers and columnists for exploiting O'Rourke, DirecTV responded in a Q&A session with readers of The New York Times. Jon Gieselman, its senior vice president for advertising and public relations, explained that O'Rourke's family "was involved in the spot from start to finish [and that] Heather’s mother not only approved, [...] she also commented that Heather’s inclusion was a wonderful tribute to her daughter."
Oscar Levant (27 December 1906 – 14 August 1972) was an American pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor. He was more famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and in movies and television, than for his music.
Life and career
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to an Orthodox Jewish family from Russia, Levant moved to New York with his mother, Annie, in 1922, after the death of his father, Max. He began studying under Zygmunt Stojowski, a well-established piano pedagogue. In 1924, Levant appeared with Ben Bernie in a short film Ben Bernie and All the Lads made in New York City in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film system.
In 1928, Levant traveled to Hollywood where his career took a turn for the better. During his stay, he met and befriended George Gershwin. In just twenty years, 1929-1948, he would go on to compose the music for more than twenty movies. During this period, he also wrote or co-wrote numerous popular songs that made the Hit Parade, the most noteworthy being "Blame It on My Youth", now considered to be a standard.
Around 1932, Levant began composing seriously. He studied under Arnold Schoenberg and impressed him sufficiently to be offered an assistantship (which he turned down, considering himself unqualified). His formal studies led to a request by Aaron Copland to play at the Yaddo Festival of contemporary American music on April 30 of that year. Successful, Levant began on a new orchestral work, a sinfonietta. He was also married to and divorced from actress Barbara Woodell in 1932.
In 1939, Levant married for the second time, to singer and actress June Gale (Gilmartin), part of the singing foursome The Gale Sisters (besides June, there were Jane, Joan, and Jean). They were married for almost 33 years, until his death, and had three children, Marcia, Lorna, and Amanda.
At this time, Levant was perhaps best known to American audiences as one of the regular panelists on the radio quiz show Information Please. Originally scheduled as a guest panelist, Levant proved so quick-witted and popular that he became a regular fixture on the show in the late 1930s and 1940s, along with fellow panelists Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran, and moderator Clifton Fadiman. "Mr. Levant," as he was always called, was often challenged with musical questions, though he impressed audiences with his wide depth of knowledge and quickness with a joke. Kieran praised Levant as having a "positive genius for making offhand cutting remarks that couldn't have been sharper if he'd honed them a week in his mind. Oscar was always good for a bright response edged with acid."
From 1947 to 1949, Levant regularly appeared on NBC radio's Kraft Music Hall, starring Al Jolson. He not only accompanied Jolson on the piano and played classical and popular solos, but often joked and ad-libbed with Jolson and his guests. This includes comedy sketches. The pairing of the two entertainers was inspired. Their individual ties to George Gershwin --- Jolson introduced Gershwin's "Swanee"-- undoubtedly had much to do with their rapport. Both Levant and Jolson play themselves in the Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue (1945).
Between 1958 and 1960, Levant hosted a television talk show on KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, The Oscar Levant Show, which later became syndicated. It featured his piano playing along with monologues and interviews with top-name guests such as Fred Astaire and Linus Pauling. A full recording of only one show is known to exist, that with Astaire, who paid to have a kinescope recording of the broadcast made, so that he could assess his performance. This is likely the only Astaire performance to have imperfections, as it was live, and Levant would repeatedly change the tempo of his accompaniment to Astaire's singing during the bridges between verses, which appeared to get him quite off balance at first. He did not dance, as the studio space was extremely small. The show was highly controversial, eventually being taken from the air after a comment about Marilyn Monroe's conversion to Judaism: "Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her". He later stated that he "hadn't meant it that way". Several months later, the show began to be broadcast in a slightly revised format—it was taped in order to provide a buffer for Levant's antics. This, however, failed to prevent Levant from making comments about Mae West's sex life that caused the show to be canceled for good. Levant was also a frequent guest on Jack Paar's talk show, prompting Paar in later years to sign off by saying, "Good night, Oscar Levant, wherever you are."
The 1920s and 1930s wit Alexander Woollcott, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, once said of him: "There's absolutely nothing wrong with Oscar Levant that a miracle can't fix."
Levant drew increasingly away from the limelight in his later years. Upon his death in Beverly Hills, California of a heart attack at the age of 65, he was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. In their routines, some comics have claimed, apocryphally, and citing an old joke, that hypochondriac Levant's epitaph was inscribed, "I told them I was ill."
Ben Bernie and All the Lads (1924), filmed in early DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process.
The Dance of Life (1929)
Night Parade (1929) (uncredited)
In Person (1935) (uncredited) (scenes deleted)
Rhythm on the River (1940)
Kiss the Boys Goodbye (1941)
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Romance on the High Seas (1948), Doris Day's first picture.
You Were Meant for Me (1948)
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
An American in Paris (1951), where he played a bohemian pianist.
O. Henry's Full House (1952)
The I Don't Care Girl (1953)
The Band Wagon (1953), where his songwriter character was based on the movie's own co-screenwriter — songwriter Adolph Green.
The Cobweb (1955)
The Oscar Levant Show (1958)
A Radios' Life (1950)
A Smattering of Ignorance, New York : Doubleday, 1940
The Memoirs of an Amnesiac, New York : Putnam's, 1965
The Unimportance of Being Oscar, New York : Putnam's, 1968
More examples of his controversial repartée:
"Roses are red, violets are blue, I am schizophrenic, and so am I."
"I used to call Audrey Hepburn a walking X-ray."
"A few years ago someone suggested that I read Spinoza. The first chapter in this particular volume was about superstitions and rituals. Here was my faith! Spinoza said rituals are all based on fear. My faith destroyed, I put down the book."
"When Frank Sinatra, Jr. was kidnapped, I said, 'It must have been done by music critics.'"
"Not long ago, a well-known Hollywood savings-and-loan millionaire intruded on a conversation at my table at a restaurant. Worst still, he implied that he and I were equals. 'Compared to you, I'm a Habsburg,' I told him. But it didn't offend him. He thought Habsburg was a rival local banker."
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left."
"I only make jokes when I am feeling insecure."
"So little time and so little to do..."
"I'm a concert pianist, that's a pretentious way of saying I'm unemployed at the moment." (From An American in Paris)
"I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." (Levant was in the cast of Day's first film, Romance on the High Seas (1948), in which she played a brassy showgirl very different from the virginal ingenue character that later brought her stardom.)
"I have one thing to say about psychoanalysis: fuck Dr Freud."
"The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too."
"Everyone in Hollywood is gay, except Gabby Hayes — and that's because he is a transvestite."
"It's not a pretty face, I grant you but underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character." (From An American in Paris)
When asked by Jack Paar what he does for exercise, he replied, "I stumble, then fall into a coma."
"Leonard Bernstein is revealing musical secrets that have been common knowledge for centuries."
Asked by Jack Paar to describe his reaction to Milton Berle converting to become a Christian Scientist- "Our loss is their loss."
Overheard at a dinner party: "The best kind of guests are the ones that know when to leave!"
"Strip away the false tinsel from Hollywood, and you find the real tinsel inside."
"It's not what you are, it's what you don't become that hurts."
Work on Broadway
Burlesque (1927) - musical play - performer
Ripples (1930) - musical - co-composer
The Fabulous Invalid (1938) - musical play - conductor
The American Way (1939) - musical play - composer
Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. A Talent For Genius: the Life and Times of Oscar Levant. Silman-James Press. ISBN 1-879505-39-8
Dr Charles Barber. "The Concert Music of Oscar Levant". Department of Music, Stanford University.
Oscar Levant, The Unimportance of Being Oscar, Pocket Books 1969 (reprint of G.P. Putnam 1968)