Monroe Wannabes IV
Image Via Nature BoyVirna Lisi, born 8 November 1936 in Ancona, Italy, began her film career in her teens. She was discovered by two Neapolitan producers (Antonio Ferrigno and Ettore Pesce) in Paris. Her debut was in La corda d'acciaio (The line of steel, 1953). Initially, she did musical films, like in E Napoli canta (Napoli sings, 1953) and the successful Questa è la vita (1954, with the popular Totò). Nonetheless, soon Virna Lisi became a figure whose beauty was more valued than her talent, like in Le diciottenni and Lo scapolo films of 1955. Still, she incarnated demanding roles, particularly in La Donna del Giorno (1956),Eva (1962), and the Italian-made spectacle Romolo e Remo (1961).
In the late 1950s, Lisi did theater at Piccolo Teatro di Milano, in I giacobini by Federico Zardi, under the direction of Giorgio Strehler. During the 1960s, Virna Lisi did comedies and, also, she participated in dramatic television productions which were of the most viewed in Italy. Also in television Lisi was the figure who promoted a toothpaste brand, with a slogan which would become a catchphrase amongst the Italians: "con quella bocca può dire ciò che vuole" (with such mouth, she can say whatever she wants).
In Hollywood, producers were looking for a new figure of the Marilyn Monroe vibe and so Virna Lisi made a dent in Hollywood comedy as a tempting blue-eyed blonde starring opposite Jack Lemmon in How to Murder Your Wife (1965), and appearing with Tony Curtis in Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966). Lisi starred with Frank Sinatra, in Assault on a Queen (1966). Also Lisi starred in films such as La Ragazza e il Generale, co-starring with Rod Steiger, and two films with Anthony Quinn, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, directed by Stanley Kramer, and the war drama The 25th Hour. She also gained attention for a photo of her shaving her face that appeared on the March 1965 cover of Esquire magazine.
To overcome her typecast of just a seductive woman, Virna Lisi sought new types of roles, of evil women or of a lover in relationships of disparate age for example. In those years, Virna Lisi participated in Italian productions, in Casanova 70 and Le bambole (1965), Arabella (1967), and Le dolci signore (1968). Also Lisi starred some arthouse films, of which The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (1965) is an example.
In the early 1970s, Virna Lisi decided temporarily to attend to her family, husband Franco Pesci and her son Corrado, born in July 1962. Nonetheless, a career renaissance occurred soon for Virna with a large list of productions, including Al di là del bene e del male (1977), Ernesto (1979), and La Cicala (1980). For the film La Reine Margot (1994), Lisi portrayed a malevolent Catherine de' Medici and so she won both the César and Cannes Film Festival awards, along with the David di Donatello award, the Italian equivalent of the Oscar. Since the late 1990s, Lisi has performed in many successful dramatic productions on television. In 2002, she starred in her last film, Il più bel giorno della mia vita.
Virna Lisi today, age 75.
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Image Via Nature BoySheree North (January 17, 1932 – November 4, 2005) was an actress, singer, and dancer. Between 1954 and 1956, she had lead roles in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), opposite Betty Grable; The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956), with Tom Ewell and Rita Moreno; andThe Best Things in Life Are Free, with Gordon MacRae, Dan Dailey, and Ernest Borgnine (1956).
North, whose real name was Dawn Shirley Crang, made her film debut as one of the many club members in Excuse My Dust (1951). She was then spotted by a choreographer performing at the Macayo Club in Santa Monica, and was cast as a chorus girl in the 1953 film Here Come the Girls, starring Bob Hope. Around that time, she adopted the stage name Sheree North(originally Sherree). She would then make her Broadway debut in the musical Hazel Flagg, for which she won a Theatre World Award. She reprised her role in the film version of Living It Up (1954). In early 1954 she appeared in a live TV version of Cole Porter's Anything Goes on The Colgate Comedy Hour with Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra and Bert Lahr.
In 1954, North signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. Fox had plans to mold North as a Marilyn Monroe replacement. North was soon convinced by Fox to bleach her hair blonde. The studio would then screen test North for Monroe's roles (while wearing Monroe's studio wardrobe) in The Girl in Pink Tights and There's No Business Like Show Business as a threat to Monroe. North was not cast in either part.
The following year, she won the lead role opposite Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), a role that was rejected by Monroe. Media attention resulted in North appearing on the cover of Life magazine with the cover line "Sheree North Takes Over From Marilyn Monroe." Film historians, then and now, cite North's electrically-charged dancing to "Shake, Rattle and Roll", as the film's most memorable scene.
Starlet on the riseAfter the modest box-office success of How to Be Very, Very Popular, Fox's studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck, suggested promoting North. The studio got her guest appeances on some well-known television series including What's My Line?; in which she had to sign her name on a chalkboard; she wrote her name as: Shereë North.
July, 1955She then appeared in a skit entitled Anthything Goes on a episode of Shower of Stars.
Soon after, Fox gave North the lead role in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956), co-starring Tom Ewell and Rita Moreno. North was happy to get a lead role. Directed by Frank Tashlin, the filming of The Lieutenant Wore Skirts went smoothly and the film was completed on time and on budget. North enjoyed working with her co-stars, Tom Ewell, Rita Moreno, and Rick Jason. When released in January 1956, The Lieutenant Wore Skirts was a huge box-office success. The film was the 13th-highest grossing film of the year. Fox was thrilled with the success of the film.
Later that same year, believing North was now a box-office draw, Fox cast her in a supporting role opposite Gordon MacRae, Dan Dailey, and Ernest Borgnine in the big-budget picture The Best Things in Life Are Free The film was a success, but the studio began to lose interest in North and started to promote another sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield.
Career declineIn 1957, North won a dramatic role in The Way to the Gold, also starring Jeffrey Hunter. North proved she could act in The Way to the Gold, and the film drew modest box-office success. In the fall of 1957, Fox cast North in the all-star drama, No Down Payment. The film co-starred several newcomers, such as Joanne Woodward, Tony Randall, Jeffrey Hunter, Cameron Mitchell, Patricia Owens, and Barbara Rush. No Down Payment was released with high hopes, and drew mild box-office praise.
The next year North won a role in the war-time drama, In Love and War (1958), starring Robert Wagner. This film was a success, which convinced Fox to cast North opposite Pat Boone in the musical comedy Mardi Gras (1958). This film was another modest box-office success, but the studio decided not to renew North's contract.
After North's contract with Fox ended in 1958, she continued act in movies, and had guest spots on television shows such as Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Breaking Point, and Ben Casey. In the 1960s she returned to Broadway in the Harold Rome musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which featured Elliott Gould and introduced Barbra Streisand.
Later yearsNorth's next role was the lead in the science fiction film Destination Inner Space (1966). In 1969, she appeared in The Trouble with Girls starring Elvis Presley. Other performances were in Don Siegel's Charley Varrick (1973), and as John Wayne's long-lost love in the actor's final film, The Shootist (1976). She had supporting roles in two Charles Bronson movies, Breakout (also starring Robert Duvall and Randy Quaid) in 1975 and Telefon (featuring Donald Pleasence and Lee Remick) in 1977. In 1980, she played Marilyn Monroe's mother in the made-for-TV film Marilyn: The Untold Story.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, North appeared in guest spots on Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, Matlock, Magnum, P.I., The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which she played Lou Grant's girlfriend and The Golden Girls, playing Blanche Devereaux's sister, Virginia, in two episodes.
She starred in the ABC sitcom I'm a Big Girl Now with Diana Canova, Danny Thomas, Rori King, and a young Martin Short. The series aired 19 episodes during the 1980 - 1981 season.
In 1983 she appeared in the ensemble cast of the Steven Bochco series Bay City Blues, starring Michael Nouri, Dennis Franz, Pat Corley, and Sharon Stone. The hour-long drama series aired eight episodes.
In the 1990s, she appeared as Kramer's mother, Babs Kramer, in two episodes of the TV series Seinfeld. North's last onscreen role came in the1998 John Landis film Susan's Plan.
Personal lifeNorth was married four times and had two children. In 1948, at age 16, she married Fred Bessire, a draftsman with whom she had a daughter, Dawn. The marriage ended in 1953. In 1955, she married music publisher John "Bud" Freedman; the marriage ended a year later. Her third marriage to psychologist Gerhardt Sommer resulted in another daughter, Erica Eve; that marriage also ended in divorce in 1963.
North died from complications during cancer surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. At that time, she was married to Phillip Norman.
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The long-running TV quiz show What's My Line? had a devout following to this day. One reason is because each episode had a special feature at the end in which the panel would be blindfolded and were made to quiz a major star personality in order to obtain his or her identity. Often, the stars would disguise their voices to try to stump the panel.
What's My Line?
Practically anybody who was anybody appeared in this segment including some of the top stars EVER. Miss Joan Crawford appeared several times, but so did many major celebrities. Even an up and coming singer/actress named Barbra Streisand was selected to be a mystery guest.
...Come to think of it, there probably aren't a great deal of living celebs who can say they were a mystery guest on WML. Most of them are dead now!
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