Born On This Day: John Gilbert 1897-1936


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John Cecil Pringle was born on July 10, 1897, in Logan, Utah. His parents were both stock company actors, and after their divorce his mother married Walter Gilbert. After many years on the road, the family settled in California. Jack, as he was nicknamed, began working at Thomas Ince’s studio in 1915, graduating from bit parts to more substantial roles over the next five years. He married Olivia Burwell in 1918, but they separated a year later. Continue reading

‘True Blue’ at 30




Madonna’s third album, True Blue, was released on June 30, 1986. Recorded during the honeymoon period of her stormy marriage to Sean Penn, and revealing a sleeker, more sophisticated style, True Blue yielded a slew of classic pop singles, affirming Madonna’s status as one of the decade’s musical icons. Thirty years on, you can read my expanded review here.

Born On This Day: Anthony Bushell 1904-1997


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Anthony BushellAnthony Arnatt Bushell was born in Westerham, Kent on May 19, 1904. He was educated at Magdalen College School, and later Hertford College in Oxford. He was a champion boxer, rower, and member of the Hypocrites Club, infamous for its wild parties. After graduating, Bushell trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and made his theatrical debut in Diplomacy (1924), opposite Gerald Du Maurier. Continue reading

‘How Could You Just Leave Me Standing…’



I first discovered Prince in 1983, while scrabbling for singles in a bargain bin. The song was ‘Controversy’, and its B-side, ‘When You Were Mine.’ Then along came Purple Rain, and so much more.

Born in the same Midwestern summer of ’58 that brought us Michael Jackson (the entertainer), and Madonna (the provocateur), Prince Rogers Nelson – the maestro – headed the holy trinity of Eighties pop.

Sign O’ The Times heralded a new age, and rock ‘n’ roll’s last hurrah. Technology rules now, but Prince stood alone.

Art Decades 7: Bowie, Madonna and More


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Ever since the death of David Bowie in January, there has been an outpouring of public grief. Not corporate-led, but a genuine groundswell of feeling from generations of fans to whom Bowie was not just an idol, but an inspiration. Continue reading

Born On This Day: George Arliss 1868-1946


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Augustus George Andrews was born in London on April 10, 1868. He was educated at Harrow, one of Britain’s leading public schools. He worked for the publishing house owned by his father, William Joseph Arliss Andrews, before leaving at eighteen to pursue a life on the stage. After a long apprenticeship in provincial theatre, George Arliss established himself as a supporting actor in London’s West End. Continue reading

Born On This Day: Leslie Howard 1893-1943


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(c) Kirklees Museums and Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Leslie Howard Steiner was born in Forest Hill, South London, on April 3, 1893. His mother, Lillian Blumberg, came from an upper middle-class family who initially disapproved of her choice of husband, the Hungarian Ferdinand Steiner. The Steiners briefly moved to Vienna, returning to London when the rift was healed. They had four more children, and changed their name to the less Germanic ‘Stainer’ at the outbreak of World War I. Continue reading

Born On This Day: Laurette Taylor 1883-1946


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Loretta Helen Cooney was born in Harlem, New York on April 1, 1883, to Irish parents. Her mother, Elizabeth Dorsey, was the owner of a successful millinery, and the family breadwinner. Loretta had two younger siblings. A gifted mimic, she was encouraged by Elizabeth to pursue a life on the stage, though her father, James Cooney, disapproved. Continue reading

Born On This Day: Gloria Swanson 1899-1983


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Gloria May Josephine Swanson was born in Chicago on March 27, 1899. Her father was in the US army, and the family moved frequently during her childhood. After an aunt took her to visit Essanay Studios in Chicago, she left school to work as an extra. She made an uncredited debut in The Song of Soul, and acted alongside Charlie Chaplin in His New Job (1915.) Continue reading