Nita Naldi - Friday, June 19, 2015

Here at the American Treasure Tour, in the Music Room, somewhat obscured by dolls there is a framed montage hanging just above eye level.  We have included a (poorly shot) image of it here (we took it ourselves, so we only have ourselves to blame).  It is a generally innocuous thing, but it is rich in stories.  In fact, it inspired the blogs for yesterday and Wednesday.  It presents a number of movie stars from the silent era - people largely forgotten today but who had a definite role to play in the creation of the modern American film.  Today, we will address Nita Naldi, who we're glad to say has a happier story than Florence Lawrence or Mary Fuller - relatively speaking - but still shows the challenges that being an actor bring with it.

Mary Dooley was born in 1894, the daughter of Irish immigrants living in New York City.  Her father abandoned the family when she was sixteen, and her mother died when she was twenty-one, which means Mary did what she had to do to care for her younger siblings.  She became a model, then a vaudeville and stage actor.  She did something right, which may have included giving herself an exotic-sounding name - Nita Naldi - because she received offers for better roles, including in films such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) with John Barrymore and Blood and Sand (1922) starring opposite heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.  In the latter, she played a 'vamp,'  which improved her fame and image.  She was also in a few early Hitchcock mysteries, and doing quite well through much of the Twenties, before retiring from film with the advent of talkies, but maintaining connections to the New York stage.  She passed away in 1961 at the age of 66.
QUESTION:  For the 1955 musical The Vamp, Naldi coached which actress to an Oscar nomination?
A)  Elizabeth Taylor
B)  Rita Hayworth
C)  Carol Channing
D)  Judy Garland

EQUALITY.  This is a very important anniversary for the cause of Civil Rights in America.  In 1964, many Southern politicians did everything they could to prevent the passage of laws that ensured the protection of the basic rights of African-American citizens.  It seems bizarre, but the desire to maintain dominance over a misrepresented and mistreated minority population had continued for over three hundred years, and white majorities did not want to trade that in.  On this day in 1964, the filibuster of these congressmen to block the Civil Rights Act's passage effectively failed, and it became officially illegal to treat African Americans as inferior.  Justice prevailed.

HEY GUY!  How could we not celebrate the birth of one of the best known bandleaders of Canada and the United States, whose career stretched from the 1920s into the 1970s?  Gaetano "Guy" Lombardo was born today in 1902 to two Italian immigrants to Canada.  Growing up in London with his three musically-inclined brothers, Lombardo moved to the States and, in his early twenties, began recording music.  He famously played at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City for three decades before moving to the Waldorf-Astoria down the street, with his sessions often broadcast nationally on the radio.  The band disbanded shortly after Guy's death in 1977 at the age of 75.

QUOTE:  Enjoy yourself.  It's later than you think. - Guy Lombardo

ANSWER:  C)  Carol Channing.