Christopher Lee

English actor and musician Sir Christopher Lee, CBE, CStJ was born 27 May 1922. Lee became famous for his role as Count Dracula in the Hammer Horror films. Other notable roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun , Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. He has collaborated with director Tim Burton in five films, most recently with Dark Shadows. He considers his best role to be that of Lord Summerisle in the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973). Lee is well known for his deep, strong voice and imposing height. He has performed roles in 275 films since 1946 making him the Guinness World Record holder for most film acting roles ever. He was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011. Lee has also released two epicly noisy heavy metal albums called Charlemagne: by the sword and the omens, and Charlemagne:The omens of Death.

Lee was born in Belgravia, Westminster, on 27th May 1922 and his mother took him and his sister to Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher’s Academy in Wengen, he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin. The family returned to London, where Lee attended Wagner’s private school. . Lee spent some time at Summer Fields School, a preparatory school in Oxford (notable for sending many alumni to Eton), where he applied unsuccessfully for a scholarship to Eton.In 1947. Lee made his film debut in Terence Young’s Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors & was a student at the Rank “charm school” later that year, Lee made an uncredited appearance in Laurence Olivier’s film version of Hamlet as a spear carrier (marking his first film with frequent co-star and close friend Peter Cushing, who played Osric), and in John Huston’s Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge. Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, playing stock action characters.Lee’s first horror film was The Curse of Frankenstein, in which he played Frankenstein’s monster, with Cushing as the Baron.

A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood, and Lee’s own appearance as Frankenstein’s monster led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire in the 1958 film Dracula. Lee returned to the role of Dracula in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965 and later he also starred in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave , Taste the Blood of Dracula and Scars of Dracula. Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy. He portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk and Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Lee later played Holmes himself in 1962′s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and returned to Holmes films with Billy Wilder’s British-made The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, in which he plays Sherlock’s smarter brother, Mycroft. Lee also played a leading role in the German film The Puzzle of the Red Orchid.He was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Dennis Wheatley to Hammer. The company made two films from Wheatley’s novels, both starring Lee., The Devil Rides Out and To the Devil a Daughter, Unfortunately though this was Hammer’s last horror film and marked the end of Lee’s long association with the studio. However Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies including the series of Fu Manchu films; I, Monster, The Creeping Flesh and The Wicker Man. In addition to doing films in the United Kingdom, Lee did movies in Mainland Europe including, Count Dracula, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Castle of the Living Dead and Horror Express.

Since the mid 1970s, Lee has eschewed horror roles almost entirely. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels and Lee’s step-cousin, had offered him the role of the titular antagonist in the first official Bond film Dr. No. Lee enthusiastically accepted, but was unable, until 1974, when Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain – the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. In 1982, Lee appeared in The Return of Captain Invincible. In 1985, he appeared alongside Reb Brown and Sybil Danning in Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, and a few years later Lee made his latest appearances to date as Sherlock Holmes in 1991′s Incident at Victoria Falls and 1992′s Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady. Lee and Peter Cushing also both appeared in separate instalments of the Star Wars films, Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film, Lee years later as Count Dooku.Lee was at one point also considered for the role of comic book villain/hero Magneto in the screen adaptation of the popular comic book series X-Men, but he lost the role to Sir Ian McKellen. However Lee did play Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy oposite Sir Ian Mckellen (Which I reckon is a much better role). Lee has also met Tolkien once (making him the only person in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to have done so) and makes a habit of reading the novels at least once a year. Lee’s appearance in the third film was cut from the theatrical release. However, the scene was reinstated in the extended edition. This marked the beginning of a major career revival that continued in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which he played Count Dooku, a name allegedly chosen to reflect his fame playing Count Dracula.

Lee is one of the favourite actors of Tim Burton and has become a regular in many of Burton’s films, having now worked for the director five times since 1999. He had a small role as the Burgomaster in the film Sleepy Hollow. In 2005, Lee then went on to voice the character of Pastor Galswells in Corpse Bride co-directed by Burton and Mike Johnson and play a small role in the Burton’s reimagining of the Roald Dahl tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Willy Wonka’s strict dentist father Dr. Wilbur Wonka. In 2007, Lee collaborated with Burton on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, playing the spirit of Sweeney Todd’s victims called The Gentleman Ghost alongside Anthony Head, with both singing “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, in 2009, Lee starred in Stephen Poliakoff’s British period drama Glorious 39 with Julie Christie, Bill Nighy, Romola Garai and David Tennant, Academy Award-nominated director Danis Tanović’s war film Triage with Colin Farrell and Paz Vega, and Duncan Ward’s comedy Boogie Woogie alongside Amanda Seyfried, Gillian Anderson, Stellan Skarsgård and Joanna Lumley .In 2010, Lee marked his fourth collaboration with Tim Burton by voicing the Jabberwocky in Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic book Alice in Wonderland alongside Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, and reprised his role as Saruman in The Hobbit. saying he wants to show Saruman’s corruption by Sauron, portraying Saruman as a kind and noble wizard, before his subsequent fall into darkness. In 2012, Lee marked his fifth collaboration with Tim Burton by appearing in his film adaptation of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Lee also reprised his role as Saruman in the video game The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth along with the other actors of the films and has also contributed his voice as Death in the animated versions of Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters and reprised the role in the Sky1 live action adaptation The Colour of Magic, taking over the role from the late Ian Richardson.

During his long and varied career, Lee has recieved many Honours & awards. In 2001, Lee was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009 by Prince Charles. Lee was named 2005′s ‘most marketable star in the world’ in a USA Today newspaper poll. In 2011, Lee was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship by Tim Burton. Lee was also honoured with a tribute by University College Dublin, and described his honorary life membership of the UCD Law Society as “in some ways as special as the Oscars”. He was awarded the Bram Stoker Gold Medal by the Trinity College Philosophical Society, of which Stoker was President, and a copy of Collected Ghost Stories of MR James by Trinity College’s School of English.

Sir Ian McKellen

English actor Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE was born 25 May 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, his family moved to Wigan. They lived there until Ian was twelve years old, before relocating to Bolton in 1951, after his father had been promoted. McKellen’s father was a civil engineer and lay preacher, and was of Protestant Irish and Scottish descent. Both of McKellen’s grandfathers were preachers, and his great-great-grandfather, James McKellen, was a “strict, evangelical Protestant minister” in Ballymena, County Antrim. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. When he was 12, his mother died of breast cancer; his father died when he was 24. His great-great-grandfather Robert J. Lowes was an activist and campaigner in the ultimately successful campaign for a Saturday half-holiday in Manchester, the forerunner to the modern five-day work week, thus making Lowes a “grandfather of the modern weekend. McKellen attended Bolton School (Boys’ Division), and his acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron.

An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan’s Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Mendelssohn, with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen. In 1958, McKellen won a scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English literature.While at Cambridge, McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, where he appeared in 23 plays over the course of 3 years. At that young age he was already giving performances that have since become legendary such as his Justice Shallow in Henry IV alongside Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi, Cymbeline (as Posthumus, opposite Margaret Drabble as Imogen) and Doctor Faustus.

McKellen made his first professional appearance in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers. In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to roles at the Chichester Festival. With the Prospect Theatre Company, McKellen made his breakthrough performances of Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II at the Edinburgh festival in 1969. During the 1970s and 1980s McKellen performed frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, portraying several leading Shakespearean characters including Macbeth and Iago in Othello. In 2007 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company, productions of King Lear and The Seagull. In 2009 he appeared in Waiting for Godot at London’s Haymarket Theatre, opposite Patrick Stewart. He is Patron of English Touring Theatre and also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK. In late August 2012, he took part in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics, portraying Prospero from The Tempest.

McKellen’s career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and He started his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company. In 1965 McKellen made his first West End appearance. In 1969 he was invited to join the Prospect Theatre Company to play the lead parts in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II, firmly establishing himself as one of the country’s foremost classical actors. In the 1970s McKellen became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Over the years he has gained fame for many notable film roles, which include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films, both of which introduced McKellen to a new generation.

Over the years McKellen has been the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received two Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations and five Emmy Award nomination. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1979 Birthday Honours, was knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, and made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours. He has been openly gay since 1988, and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in October 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Henson (The Muppets)

Best known as the creator of The Muppets, The late great Jim Henson sadly passed away 16 May 1990. He was born on 24th September 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi. Raised in Maryland he was educated atUniversity of Maryland, College Park, where he created Sam and Friends. He spent his early childhood in Leland, Mississipi moving with his family to Hyattsville, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., in the late 1940s. He later remembered the arrival of the family’s first television as “the biggest event of his adolescence,”having been heavily influenced by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the early television puppets of Burr Tillstrom and Bil and Cora Baird. In 1954 while attending Northwestern High School, he began working for WTOP-TV, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children’s show called The Junior Morning Show.

After graduating from high school, Henson enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, as a studio arts major. A puppetry class offered in the applied arts department introduced him to the craft and textiles courses in the College of Home Economics, and he graduated in 1960 with a B.S. in home economics. As a freshman, he was asked to create Sam and Friends, a 5-minute puppet show for WRC-TV. The characters on Sam and Friends were forerunners of the Muppets, and the show included a prototype of Henson’s most famous character: Kermit the Frog. Henson remained at WRC for seven years from 1954 to 1961. He began experimenting with techniques which improved puppetry, such as using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppeteer to work from off-screen.

To give his puppets “life and sensitivity,” Henson began making characters from flexible, fabric-covered foam rubber, making them more expressive. Henson also used rods instead of string to move his Muppets’ arms, allowing greater control of expression and to enable his muppet characters to “speak” more creatively than was possible for previous puppets, Henson used precise mouth movements to match the dialogue. Henson asked fellow University of Maryland sophomore Jane Nebel (whom he later married) to assist him on Sam and Friends Which became a financial success, After Graduating from college Henson visited Europe where he was inspired by European puppeteers who look on their work as an art form. Henson also contributed to Saturday Night Live, but eventually found success when In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney and the team at the Children’s Television Workshop asked him to work on Sesame Street, Which featured a series of funny, colourful puppet characters living on the titular street, including Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smile, and Kermit the Frog, the roving television news reporter.At first, Henson’s Muppets appeared separately from the realistic segments on the Street, but the two were gradually integrated and The success of Sesame Street allowed Henson to stop producing commercials.

In addition to creating and performing Muppet characters, Henson was involved in producing various shows and animation inserts using a variety of methods including (“Dollhouse”, “Number Three Ball Film”), stop-motion (“King of Eight”, “Queen of Six”), cut-out animation (“Eleven Cheer”), computer animation (“Nobody Counts To 10″) and the original C is For Cookie. Henson also directed Tales from Muppetland, a short series of TV movie specials—in the form of comedic tellings of classic fairy tales—aimed at a young audience and hosted by Kermit the Frog. The series included Hey, Cinderella!, The Frog Prince, and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen. Henson, Frank Oz, and his team also created a series of adult orientated sketches on the first season of the comedy series Saturday Night Live(SNL). Eleven “Dregs and Vestiges” sketches, set mostly in the Land of Gorch, Around the time of Henson’s characters’ final appearances on SNL, he began developing two projects featuring the Muppets: a Broadway show and a weekly television series, which was rejected by American Networks.

however Henson convinced British impresario Lew Grade to finance the Muppet show which featured Kermit the Frog as host, and a variety of other memorable characters, notably Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Scooter, Animal, the Swedish Chef, Bunsen Honeydew and Fozzie Bear. The creative team moved to England and began working on the Muppets. Jim Henson was himself the performer for several well known characters, including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, the Swedish Chef,Waldorf, Link Hogthrob, and Guy Smiley. In 1977, Henson produced a one-hour television adaptation of the Russell Hoban story Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and Three years after the start of The Muppet Show, the Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film The Muppet Movie, which was a critical and financial success; and A song from the movie, “The Rainbow Connection”, sung by Henson as Kermit, hit number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award. A sequel, The Great Muppet Caper, followed in 1981 and Henson decided to end the still-popular Muppet Show to concentrate on making films, however the Muppet characters occasionally appeared in made-for-TV-movies and television specials. Recently The Muppets appeared in a Walt Disney Movie in 2012 alongside Amy Adams and remain popular.

In 1979, he was asked by the producers of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back to aid make-up artist Stuart Freeborn in the creation and articulation of enigmatic Jedi Master Yoda. Henson suggested to George Lucas that he use Frank Oz as the puppeteer and voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and each of the four subsequent Star Wars films. Lucas even lobbied unsuccessfully to have Oz nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. In 1982, Henson founded the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States. He also began creating darker and more realistic fantasy films that did not feature the Muppets such as 1982’s The Dark Crystal, which he co-directed with Frank Oz from conceptual artwork created by Brian Froud. In 1983 The Muppets Take Manhattan (directed by Frank Oz) was released, then In 1986 the film Labyrinth, was released, a Dark Crystal-like fantasy featuring Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie as The Goblin King.

During production of his later projects, Henson began to experience flu like symptoms. On May 4, 1990, Henson made one of his last television appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, Feeling tired and having a sore throat, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina, for a family visit And consulted a physician in North Carolina before returning to to New York. At 2 am on May 15, Henson started having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. But delayed visiting the hospital for two hours until he finally agreed to go to New York Hospital, By which time he could not breathe on his own anymore due to abscesses in his lungs and was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly into septic shock, until sadly On the morning of May 16, 1990, Henson died at the age of 53 at New York Hospital. Henson’s death was covered as a significant news story, occurring on the same day as the death of Sammy Davis Jr.

The official cause of death was first reported as a Bacterial Infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Henson’s actual cause of death, however, was organ failure resulting from Streptococcus pyogenes, a severe Group A streptococcal infection. A public memorial service was conducted in New York City On May 21, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Another one was conducted on July 2 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As per Henson’s wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band finished the service by performing “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Harry Belafonte also sang “Turn the World Around,” a song he had debuted on The Muppet Show, Big Bird, performed by Caroll Spinney, also sang Kermit the Frog’s signature song, “Bein’ Green”. six of the core Muppet performers—Dave Goelz, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt—also sang, in their characters’ voices, a medley of Jim Henson’s favorite songs, eventually ending with a growing number of performers singing “Just One Person” which was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene in the 2003 film Love Actually.

Henson was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery and his ashes were scattered at his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Henson’s companies, which are now run by his children, continue to produce films and television shows. The Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Foundation continued after his death, producing new series and specials. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, founded by Henson, also continues to build creatures for a large number of other films and series, such as Farscape, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie MirrorMask). Henson remains one of the most advanced and well respected creators of film creatures and In 2004, The Muppets were sold to The Walt Disney Company. One of Henson’s last projects is a show attraction in Walt Disney World and Disneyland featuring the Muppets, called Muppet*Vision 3D, which opened in 1991, shortly after his death. To date The Jim Henson Company retains the Creature Shop, as well as the rest of its film and television library including Fraggle Rock, Farscape, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.

L. Frank Baum

Best known for writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the prolific American author Lyman “L.” Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, in 1856, and grew up on his parents’ expansive estate, Rose Lawn. AS a young child, he was tutored at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12, he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy, and after two utterly miserable years he was allowed to return home. Baum started writing at an early age and His father bought him a cheap printing press; which, with the help of his younger brother Henry (Harry) Clay Baum, he used to produce The Rose Lawn Home Journal.

The brothers published several issues of the journal, Baum also established a second amateur journal, The Stamp Collector, he also printed “Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers” Directory, and started a stamp dealership with friends. At the age of 20, Baum started breeding fancy poultry, and specialized in raising a particular breed of fowl, the Hamburg. In March 1880 he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record, and in 1886, he published his first book: The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Baum, then became interested in theatre, performing under the stage names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. In 1880, his father built him a theatre in Richburg, New York, and he set about writing plays and gathering a company to act in them. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama with songs based on William Black’s novel A Princess of Thule, proved a modest success. Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it and also acted in the leading role. His aunt was also the founder of Syracuse Oratory School, and Baum advertised his services in her catalog to teach theatre, including stage business, playwriting, directing, and translating, revision, and operettas.

In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, and in 1888 they moved to Aberdeen, Dakota, where he opened a store, “Baum’s Bazaar” and later editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where he wrote a column, “Our Landlady”. Baum’s description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota. After Baum’s newspaper failed in 1891, he, Maud and their four sons moved to Humboldt Park, Chicago, where Baum took a job reporting for the Evening Post. In 1897 he wrote and published Mother Goose in Prose, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written as prose stories, which was illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. This was followed in 1899 when Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose, which was a collection of nonsense poetry, which became the best-selling children’s book of the year.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to much critical acclaim and financial success, and this became the best-selling children’s book for two years after its initial publication. Baum went on to write thirteen more novels based on the places and people of the Land of Oz.Two years after Wizard’s publication, Baum and Denslow teamed up with composer Paul Tietjens and director Julian Mitchell to produce a musical stage version of the book under Fred R. Hamlin, which, opened in Chicago in 1902, then ran on Broadway for 293 stage nights from January to October 1903. It returned to Broadway in 1904, where it played from March to May and again from November to December. It successfully toured the United States with much of the same cast, until 1911, it differed considerably from the book, and was aimed primarily at adults.

Baum then wrote a sequel, The Woggle-Bug, however the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman were omitted from this adaptation. He later worked on a musical version of Ozma of Oz, which eventually became The Tik-Tok Man Of Oz. This did fairly well in Los Angeles, and also began a stage version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Baum also wrote several plays for various celebrations. and In 1914, after moving to Hollywood, Baum started his own film production company, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Many times during the development of the Oz series, Baum declared that he had written his last Oz book and devoted himself to other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands, However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, and the failure of his new books, he returned to the series each time.

Sadly on May 6th 1919 L Frank Baum passed away after having a stroke, nine days short of his 63rd birthday. He was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. His final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published on July 10, 1920, a year after his death. The Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books. his other works also remained popular after his death, with The Master Key appearing on St. Nicholas Magazine’s survey of readers’ favorite books well into the 1920s. His novels also predicted such century-later commonplaces as television, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work), and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz series of books remains popular to this day and his novels have been adapted for screen numerous times, the most famous being the 1939 version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale which is a perennial Favourite on television during holidays.

J. M. Barrie OM

Best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan, The Scottish author and dramatist, Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was born 9 May 1860 in Kirriemuir, he was the child of a family of small-town weavers. At the age of 8, Barrie was sent to The Glasgow Academy, Scotland, in the care of his eldest siblings Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10 he returned home and continued his education at the Forfar Academy. At 14, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann. He became a voracious reader, and was fond of Penny Dreadfuls, and the works of Robert Michael Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper.

At Dumfries he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates “in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan”.They formed a drama club, producing his first play Bandelero the Bandit, which provoked a minor controversy following a scathing moral denunciation from a clergyman on the school’s governing board. Barrie wished to follow a career as an author, but was dissuaded by his family who wanted him to have a profession such as the ministry. With advice from Alec, he was able to work out a compromise: he was to attend a university, but would study literature. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote drama reviews for the Edinburgh Evening Courant. He graduated and obtained a M.A. on 21 April 1882.

He worked for a year and a half as a staff journalist on the Nottingham Journal following a job advertisement found by his sister in The Scotsman, then returned to Kirriemuir, using his mother’s stories about the town (which he renamed “Thrums”) for a piece submitted to the newspaper St. James’s Gazette in London. The editor ‘liked that Scotch thing’, so Barrie wrote a series of them, which served as the basis for his first novels: Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1890), and The Little Minister, which eventually established Barrie as a successful writer. After the success of the “Auld Lichts”, he printed Better Dead (1888) privately and at his own expense, and it failed to sell. His two “Tommy” novels, Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900), were about a boy and young man who clings to childish fantasy, with an unhappy ending.

Barrie began writing for the theatre, beginning with a biography of Richard Savage and written by both Barrie and H.B. Marriott Watson, this was followed by Ibsen’s Ghost (or Toole Up-to-Date) (1891), a parody of Henrik Ibsen’s dramas Hedda Gabler and Ghosts. His third play, Walker, London (1892), helped him be introduced to a young actress named Mary Ansell. He proposed to her and they were married on 9 July 1894. Barrie bought her a Saint Bernard puppy, who would play a part in the novel The Little White Bird (or Adventures in Kensington Gardens). He also gave Ansell’s given name to many characters in his novels. He then wrote Jane Annie, a failed comic opera for Richard D’Oyly Carte (1893), which he begged his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to revise and finish for him. In 1901 and 1902 he had back-to-back successes: Quality Street, about a responsible ‘old maid’ who poses as her own flirtatious niece to win the attention of a former suitor returned from the war; and The Admirable Crichton, a critically acclaimed social commentary with elaborate staging, about an aristocratic household shipwrecked on a desert island, in which the butler naturally rises to leadership over his lord and ladies for the duration of their time away from civilisation.

Peter Pan first appeared in his novel The Little White Bird, in 1902, and later in Barrie’s more famous and enduring work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about an ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This was inspired by the Llewelyn Davis Boys whom he met in London who suggested a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird). It had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904. It has been performed innumerable times since then, and was developed by Barrie into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. It has since been adapted into feature films, musicals, and more. The Bloomsbury scenes show the societal constraints of late Victorian and Edwardian middle-class domestic reality, contrasted with Neverland, a world where morality is ambivalent. George Bernard Shaw’s description of the play as “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people”, suggests deeper social metaphors at work in Peter Pan.

Following Peter Pan Barrie had many more successes on the stage including The Twelve Pound Look which concerns a wife divorcing a peer and gaining an independent income. Other plays, such as Mary Rose and a subplot in Dear Brutus, revisit the idea of the ageless child. Later plays included What Every Woman Knows (1908). His final play was The Boy David (1936), which dramatised the Biblical story of King Saul and the young David. Like the role of Peter Pan, that of David was played by a woman, Elisabeth Bergner, for whom Barrie wrote the play.

Barrie had many Friends including Novelist George Meredith, fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa at the time, George Bernard Shaw who was his neighbour in London for several years. H. G. Wells was also a friend of many years, and Barrie met Thomas Hardy through Hugh Clifford while he was staying in London. Although Barrie continued to write, Peter Pan quickly overshadowed his previous work and became his best-known work, and is credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents and was made a baronet by George V in 1913, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1922.

Unfortunately Barrie tragically died of pneumonia on 19 June 1937. He was buried at Kirriemuir next to his parents and two of his siblings and left the bulk of his estate (excluding the Peter Pan works, which he had previously given to Great Ormond Street Hospital in April 1929) to his secretary Cynthia Asquith. His birthplace at 4 Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland. Even today Ormond Street Hospital, continues to benefit from the arrangement involving the Peter Pan novels.

L. Frank Baum

Best known for writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the prolific American author Lyman “L.” Frank Baum sadly passed away 6th May 1919. He was born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, in 1856, and grew up on his parents’ expansive estate, Rose Lawn. AS a young child, he was tutored at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12, he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy, and after two utterly miserable years he was allowed to return home. Baum started writing at an early age and His father bought him a cheap printing press; which, with the help of his younger brother Henry (Harry) Clay Baum, he used to produce The Rose Lawn Home Journal.

The brothers published several issues of the journal, Baum also established a second amateur journal, The Stamp Collector, he also printed “Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers” Directory, and started a stamp dealership with friends. At the age of 20, Baum started breeding fancy poultry, and specialized in raising a particular breed of fowl, the Hamburg. In March 1880 he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record, and in 1886, he published his first book: The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Baum, then became interested in theatre, performing under the stage names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. In 1880, his father built him a theatre in Richburg, New York, and he set about writing plays and gathering a company to act in them. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama with songs based on William Black’s novel A Princess of Thule, proved a modest success. Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it and also acted in the leading role. His aunt was also the founder of Syracuse Oratory School, and Baum advertised his services in her catalog to teach theatre, including stage business, playwriting, directing, and translating, revision, and operettas.

In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, and in 1888 they moved to Aberdeen, Dakota, where he opened a store, “Baum’s Bazaar” and later editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where he wrote a column, “Our Landlady”. Baum’s description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota. After Baum’s newspaper failed in 1891, he, Maud and their four sons moved to Humboldt Park, Chicago, where Baum took a job reporting for the Evening Post. In 1897 he wrote and published Mother Goose in Prose, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written as prose stories, which was illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. This was followed in 1899 when Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose, which was a collection of nonsense poetry, which became the best-selling children’s book of the year.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to much critical acclaim and financial success, and this became the besselling children’s book for two years after its initial publication. Baum went on to write thirteen more novels based on the places and people of the Land of Oz.Two years after Wizard’s publication, Baum and Denslow teamed up with composer Paul Tietjens and director Julian Mitchell to produce a musical stage version of the book under Fred R. Hamlin, which, opened in Chicago in 1902, then ran on Broadway for 293 stage nights from January to October 1903. It returned to Broadway in 1904, where it played from March to May and again from November to December. It successfully toured the United States with much of the same cast, until 1911, it differed considerably from the book, and was aimed primarily at adults.

Encouraged by this success Baum then wrote a sequel, The Woggle-Bug, however the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman were omitted from this adaptation. He later worked on a musical version of Ozma of Oz, which eventually became The Tik-Tok Man Of Oz. This did fairly well in Los Angeles, and also began a stage version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Baum also wrote several plays for various celebrations. and In 1914, after moving to Hollywood, Baum started his own film production company, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Many times during the development of the Oz series, Baum declared that he had written his last Oz book and devoted himself to other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands, However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, and the failure of his new books, he returned to the series each time.

Sadly on May 6th 1919 L Frank Baum passed away after having a stroke, nine days short of his 63rd birthday. He was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. His final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published on July 10, 1920, a year after his death. The Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books. his other works also remained popular after his death, with The Master Key appearing on St. Nicholas Magazine’s survey of readers’ favorite books well into the 1920s. His novels also predicted such century-later commonplaces as television, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work), and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz series of books remains popular to this day and his novels have been adapted for screen numerous times, the most famous being the 1939 version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale which is a perennial Favourite on television during holidays.

George Takei

Best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the 60′s television series Star Trek and numerous Star Trek Movies Amercan Actor George Takei was born 20th April 1937. Takei began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, His first role was providing voiceover for several characters in the English dub of Japanese monster films such as Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan, followed by an appearance in the Emmy award winning television series Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason The Case of the Blushing Pearls.He originated the role of George in the musical Fly Blackbird!, but when the show traveled from Los Angeles to Broadway the west coast actors were forced to audition and the role went to William Sugihara instead. Eventually Sugihara had to give up the role and Takei closed out the show’s final months.Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (uncredited), Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity, Alec Guinness in A Majority of One, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run. He featured in a lead role in “The Encounter” (1964), an episode of The Twilight Zone He had an uncredited role in the film PT-109 (1963) and also guest-starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible (1966). He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front? In 1969 Takei narrated the award winning documentary The Japanese Sword as the Soul of the Samurai.

In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast him as Hikaru Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the Star Trek television series. It was intended that Sulu’s role be expanded in the second season, but Takei’s role as Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese Army officer, alongside John Wayne’s character in The Green Berets meant that he only appeared in half the season, with Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov substituting for him in the other episodes. When Takei returned, the two men had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. Takei also appeared in the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today he is a regular on the science fiction convention circuit throughout the world. He has also acted and provided voice acting for several science fiction computer games, including Freelancer and numerous Star Trek games. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as a memory of Lt. Tuvok, who served on the USS Excelsior under Sulu, during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He appeared alongside Shatner on the 2006 Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in which the two mocked each other in good humor and embraced, Takei is also one of six actors (the other actors being Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, Avery Brooks and Majel Barrett) to lend his voice to Star Trek: Captain’s Chair, reprising his role of Captain Hikaru Sulu when users visit the bridge of the original Enterprise in the computer game. In 2007, Takei also reprised his role of Sulu in the fan-made Internet based series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.

Aside from his film and television career with Star Trek, He also has a lengthy record of public service through his involvement with organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign.He is a proponent of gay rights and active in state and local politics as well as continuing his acting career. He has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum. In 2004, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of eight classes associated with the award. This decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to US-Japanese relations. George Takei also has an Asteroid named after him.


Andy Serkis

English Actor, Director and Author Andy Serkis, was born April 20th 1964. Serkis is known for his performance capture roles comprising motion capture acting, animation and voice work for such computer-generated characters as: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), King Kong in the eponymous 2005 film, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and Snoke in Star Wars the Force Awakens.

Serkis’ film work in motion capture has been critically acclaimed, earning him recognition from many associations that do not traditionally recognise motion capture as “real acting”. Serkis has received an Empire Award, a National Board of Review Award, two Saturn Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his motion capture work. Serkis also earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his portrayal of serial killer Ian Brady in the British television film Longford (2006); and he was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of New Wave and punk musician Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010). Serkis also reprised his role as the villainous Gollum in Peter Jackson’s three part Tolkien film adaptation “The Hobbit” – An unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and “The Battle of Five Armies”.