20 April, 2009

Harold Nicolson

Sir Harold George Nicolson was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West, their unusual relationship being described in their son's book, Portrait of a Marriage.

Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, the younger son of a diplomat, Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock. He was educated at Wellington College and Balliol College, Oxford.

In 1909 he joined HM Diplomatic Service. He served as attaché at Madrid from February to September 1911, and then Third Secretary at Constantinople from January 1912 to October 1914. During the First World War, he served at the Foreign Office in London, during which time he was promoted Second Secretary. He served in a junior capacity in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, for which he was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1920 New Year Honours.

Promoted First Secretary in 1920, he was appointed private secretary to Sir Eric Drummond, first Secretary-General of the League of Nations, but was recalled to the Foreign Office in June 1920.

In 1925, he was promoted Counsellor and posted to Tehran as Chargé d'affaires. However, in Summer 1927 he was recalled to London and demoted to First Secretary for criticising his Minister, Sir Percy Loraine, in a dispatch. He was posted to Berlin as Chargé d'affaires in 1928. He was promoted Counsellor again, but resigned from the Diplomatic Service in September 1929.

From 1930 to 1931, Nicolson wrote for the Evening Standard, but found it increasingly tedious.

In 1931, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley and his recently formed New Party. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament for the Combined English Universities in the general election that year and edited the party newspaper, Action. He ceased to support Mosley when the latter formed the British Union of Fascists the following year.

Nicolson entered the House of Commons as National Labour Party Member of Parliament for Leicester West in the 1935 election. In the latter half of the 1930s he was among a relatively small number of MPs who alerted the country to the threat of Fascism. More a follower of Anthony Eden in this regard than of Winston Churchill, he nevertheless was a friend (though not an intimate) of Churchill, and often supported his efforts in the Commons to stiffen British resolve and support rearmament.

He became Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Information in Churchill's 1940 war time government of national unity, serving under Cabinet member Duff Cooper for approximately a year; thereafter he was a well-respected backbencher, especially on foreign policy issues given his early and prominent diplomatic career. From 1941 to 1946 he was also on the Board of Governors of the BBC. He lost his seat in the 1945 election. Having joined the Labour Party, he stood in the Croydon North by-election in 1948, but lost once again.

After Nicolson's last attempt to enter Parliament, he continued with an extensive social schedule and his programme of writing, which included books, book reviews, and a weekly column for The Spectator. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1953, as a reward for writing the official biography of George V, which had been published in the previous year.

Franchot Tone

Franchot Tone was an American actor.

He was born Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone in Niagara Falls, New York, the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, the president of the Carborundum Company, and his wife, Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. He was of French Canadian, Irish, English and Basque ancestry.

Tone attended Cornell University, where he was President of the drama club and was elected to the Sphinx Head Society. He gave up the family business to pursue an acting career in the theatre. After graduating, he moved to Greenwich Village, New York, and got his first Broadway role in the 1929 Katharine Cornell production of The Age of Innocence.

The following year, he joined the Theatre Guild and played Curly in their production of Green Grow the Lilacs (later to become the famous musical Oklahoma!). He later became a founding member of the famed Group Theatre, together with Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, and others, many of whom had worked with the Theatre Guild. Strasberg had been a castmate of Tone's in Green Grow the Lilacs. These were intense and productive years for him: among the productions of the Group he acted in were 1931 (1931) and Success Story (1932). Franchot Tone was universally regarded by the critics as one of the most promising actors of his generation. Gary Cooper called Tone the best actor he had ever worked with.

The same year, however, Tone was the first of the Group to turn his back on the theatre and go to Hollywood when MGM offered him a film contract. In his memoir on the Group Theatre, The Fervent Years, Harold Clurman recalls Tone as the most confrontational and egocentric of the group in the beginning. Nevertheless, he always considered cinema far inferior to the theatre and recalled his stage years with longing. He often sent financial support to the Group Theatre, which often needed it. He eventually returned to the stage from time to time after the 1940s. His screen debut was in the 1932 movie The Wiser Sex. He achieved fame in 1933, when he made seven movies that year, including Today We Live, written by William Faulkner, where he first met his future wife Joan Crawford, Bombshell, with Jean Harlow (with whom he co-starred in three other movies), and the smash hit Dancing Lady, again with Crawford and Clark Gable. In 1935, probably his best year, he starred in Mutiny on the Bounty (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and Dangerous opposite Bette Davis, with whom he was rumored to have had an affair.

He worked steadily through the 1940s without breaking through as a major star. He was beginning to be type-cast as the wealthy cafe-society playboy and very few of the films of this period are notable. One conspicuous exception was Five Graves to Cairo (1943), the third film by the young Billy Wilder; a World War II espionage story starring Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff and Erich von Stroheim as German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

In the 1950s, he moved to television and returned to Broadway. In 1957, he appeared on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten with Wendy Hiller. In 1962, he appeared as Leo Haynes in the episode "Along About Late in the Afternoon" of the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour. He co-starred in the Ben Casey medical series from 1965 to 1966 as Casey's supervisor, Robert Ashton. He also starred in, directed, and produced his first film, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (1957) with then wife Dolores Dorn. He appeared as a disheartened traveling preacher named "Malachi Hobart" in an early episode of NBC's Wagon Train.

Tone's final movie appearance was in the 1965 Otto Preminger film "In Harm's Way" starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. He is identified as "CINCPAC I" (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack) in the film credits.

A chain smoker, Tone died of lung cancer in New York City at the age of 63.

Norman Davis

Norman Davis was a U.S. diplomat. He was born in Bedford, Tennessee. He served as President Wilson's Assistant Secretary of Treasury and later as Undersecretary of State. He was a delegate to a General Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1931. He was chairman of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 1938 to 1944 and president of the Council on Foreign Relations 1936-1944.

In 1939, following the outbreak of war in Europe, Davis chaired the steering committee of the Council on Foreign Relations' War and Peace Studies project, created to advise the U.S. Government on wartime policy. He would also join the State Department's committee on overseas war measures, the fifteen-member Advisory Committee on Problems of Foreign Relations.

William Gropper

William Victor Gropper, aka Samuel Gropper, was a U.S. cartoonist, painter, lithographer, and muralist.

Born in New York City, he studied art at the Ferrer School and at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, under George Bellows and Robert Henri.

Gropper died from a myocardial infarction at Manhasset, New York, at the age of 79.

Samuel Fuller

Samuel Fuller was an American screenwriter and film director known for low-budget genre movies with controversial themes.

He was born Samuel Michael Fuller in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Rabinovitch, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and Rebecca Baum, a Jewish immigrant from Poland. After immigrating to America, the family's surname was changed to "Fuller". At the age of 12, he began working in journalism as a newspaper copyboy. He became a crime reporter in New York City at age 17, working for the New York Evening Graphic. He wrote pulp novels and screenplays from the mid-1930s onwards.

During World War II, Fuller joined the United States Army infantry. He was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, and saw heavy fighting. He was involved in landings in Africa, Sicily, and Normandy and also saw action in Belgium and Czechoslovakia. In 1945 he was present at the liberation of the German concentration camp at Falkenau and shot 16 mm footage which was used later in the documenatary Falkenau: The Impossible. For his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. Fuller used his wartime experiences as material in his films, especially in The Big Red One (1980), a nickname of the 1st Infantry Division.

After his controversial film White Dog was shelved by Paramount pictures, Fuller moved to France, and never directed another American film. Fuller eventually returned to America. He died of natural causes in his California home. In November 1997, the Directors Guild held a three hour memorial in his honor, hosted by Curtis Hanson, his long time friend and co-writer on White Dog. He was survived by his wife Christa and daughter Samantha.