- © Domenico Casadibari
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American leading man. Born Victor John Mature (to knife sharpener Marcellus George Mature, born Marcello Gelindo Maturi in Pinzolo, Trentino, and a Swiss-American mother, Clara Ackley) in Louisville, Kentucky, Victor Mature worked as a teenager with his father as a salesman for butcher supplies. Hoping to become an actor, he studied at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. He auditioned forGone with the Wind (1939) for the role ultimately played by his fellow Playhouse student, George Reeves. After achieving some acclaim in his first few films, he served in the Coast Guard in World War II. Mature became one of Hollywood’s busiest and most popular actors after the war, though rarely was he given the critical respect he often deserved. His roles in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946) and in Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (1947) were among his finest work, though he moved more and more frequently into more exotic roles in films like Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Egyptian(1954). Never an energetic actor nor one of great artistic pretensions, he nevertheless continued as a Hollywood stalwart both in programme and in more prominent films like The Robe (1953). More interested in golf than acting, his appearances diminished through the 1960s, but he made a stunning comeback of sorts in a hilarious romp as a very Victor Mature-like actor in Neil Simon’s After the Fox(1966). Golf eventually took over his activities and, after a cameo as Samson’s father in a TV remake of his own “Samson and Delilah” (Samson and Delilah (1984)), he retired for good. Rumors occasionally surfaced of another comeback, most notably in a never-realized remake of Red River (1948) withSylvester Stallone, but none came to fruition. He died of cancer at his Rancho Santa Fe, California, home in 1999.
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Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood’s lamented Golden Era. Her natural and unpretentious beauty and her immense acting talent made her one of the most celebrated figures in the history of American cinema. Bergman is also one of the most Oscar-awarded actresses, second only to Katharine Hepburn.
Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 29, 1915, to a German mother, Frieda Henrietta (Adler), and a Swedish father, Justus Samuel Bergman, an artist and photographer. Her mother died when she was only two and her father died when she was 12. She went to live with an elderly uncle.
The woman who would be one of the top stars in Hollywood in the 1940s had decided to become an actress after finishing her formal schooling. She had had a taste of acting at age 17 when she played an uncredited role of a girl standing in line in the Swedish film Landskamp (1932) in 1932 – not much of a beginning for a girl who would be known as “Sweden’s illustrious gift to Hollywood.” Her parents died when she was just a girl and the uncle she lived with didn’t want to stand in the way of Ingrid’s dream. The next year she enrolled in the Swedish Royal Theatre but decided that stage acting was not for her. It would be three more years before she would have another chance at a film. When she did, it was more than just a bit part. The film in question was Munkbrogreven (1935), where she had a speaking part as Elsa Edlund. After several films that year that established her as a class actress, Ingrid appeared in Intermezzo (1936) as Anita Hoffman. Luckily for her, American producer David O. Selznick saw it and sent a representative from Selznick International Pictures to gain rights to the story and have Ingrid signed to a contract. Once signed, she came to California and starred in United Artists’ 1939 remake of her 1936 film, Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939), reprising her original role. The film was a hit and so was Ingrid. Her beauty was unlike anything the movie industry had seen before and her acting was superb. Hollywood was about to find out that they had the most versatile actress the industry had ever seen. Here was a woman who truly cared about the craft she represented. The public fell in love with her. Ingrid was under contract to go back to Sweden to film Only One Night (1939) in 1939 and Juninatten (1940) in 1940. Back in the US she appeared in three films, all well-received. She made only one film in 1942, but it was the classic Casablanca (1942) opposite the great Humphrey Bogart.
Ingrid was choosing her roles well. In 1943 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), the only film she made that year. The critics and public didn’t forget her when she made Gaslight (1944) the following year–her role of Paula Alquist got her the Oscar for Best Actress. In 1945 Ingrid played in Spellbound(1945), Saratoga Trunk (1945) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), for which she received her third Oscar nomination for her role of Sister Benedict. She made no films in 1947, but bounced back with a fourth nomination for Joan of Arc (1948). In 1949 she went to Italy to film Stromboli (1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini. She fell in love with him and left her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom, and daughter, Pia Lindström. America’s “moral guardians” in the press and the pulpits were outraged. She was pregnant and decided to remain in Italy, where her son was born. In 1952 Ingrid had twins, Isotta and Isabella Rossellini, who became an outstanding actress in her own right, as did Pia. Ingrid continued to make films in Italy and finally returned to Hollywood in 1956 in the title role in Anastasia (1956), which was filmed in England. For this she won her second Academy Award. She had scarcely missed a beat. Ingrid continued to bounce between Europe and the US making movies, and fine ones at that. A film with Ingrid Bergman was sure to be a quality production. In her final big-screen performance in 1978’s Autumn Sonata (1978) she had her final Academy Award nomination. Though she didn’t win, many felt it was the most sterling performance of her career. Ingrid retired, but not before she gave an outstanding performance in the mini-series A Woman Called Golda (1982), a film about Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. For this she won an Emmy Award as Best Actress, but, unfortunately, she didn’t live to see the fruits of her labor. Ingrid died from cancer on August 29, 1982, her 67th birthday, in London, England.
Washington Heights—the neighborhood in northern Manhattan that houses The Cloisters museum and gardens—is built upon a series of bluffs and cliffs. Concrete staircases and creaky subway elevators connect different sections of the neighborhood, and buildings stand tall on stilts driven deep into Manhattan schist. From a distance, blocks of apartment buildings appear like castellated European villages. However, despite its once-impenetrable terrain, or maybe because of it, Washington Heights is a place where some of the wildest and most romantic medieval-architecture fantasies in New York City have been realized for over 150 years.
The Cloisters, of course, is not a castle, though parents may at times describe it as such to their young children who are excited about visiting with dragons and unicorns. Initial designs for The Cloisters were, in fact, inspired by benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s boyhood fascination with the ruins of Kenilworth Castle in England, but it was ultimately decided that a monastic plan would better suit The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newly acquired collection of medieval art and architecture. Rockefeller had felt since childhood that the rough and scrubby “North Hill” would make an ideal park, and decades later, when he acquired the property and helped to create Fort Tryon Park (where The Cloisters is located), he favored elements reminiscent of when the property housed a military fort during the Revolutionary War; the stonework on the Park walls and Museum ramparts reflects this rougher evocation. Today, visitors can observe the difference in stone color and texture on the lower sections of The Cloisters, contrasted against the tower and main structure that serve as evidence of the two distinct aspects of its design: the fortress and the European monastery.
Washington Heights had already been attracting ambitious and evocative architecture since the mid-nineteenth century, when wealthy New Yorkers began to see the rocky hills and high river views as an enticing location for their “country” estates. Woodcliff Castle, later and better known as Libbey Castle, was the crown jewel of northern Manhattan’s landscape. It was built in the 1850s near what is today the cul-de-sac at Margaret Corbin Drive, and according to an 1895 “Gossip of Gotham” piece in the New York Times, it was “the only dwelling of its kind ever built in America. It was known as ‘The Castle’ and was built by its owner to imitate a castle he had seen in Austria.” Owned by a succession of prominent figures that included William “Boss” Tweed, the famous residence was eventually razed for the initial development of Fort Tryon Park.
Further south near West 185th Street and Riverside Drive—once called Boulevard Lafayette—was the neo-Gothic behemoth known as Paterno Castle. Built of white marble, the structure was designed using an eccentric architectural vocabulary that drew influence from both Norman castles and the Rhineland. Attended by elegant Italian gardens and pergolas that peered out onto the Hudson, it also featured a cellar solely devoted to growing mushrooms and a swimming pool that filtered water directly from the adjacent Hudson River. It cost $500,000 to build (about $7 million when adjusted for inflation) and was destroyed by its owner, Dr. Charles Paterno, in 1938 so he could subsequently build the appropriately titled “Castle Village” complex of co-operative apartments. (Interestingly enough, Dr. Paterno emigrated from a Southern Italian village named Castelmezzano, which translates to “middle castle.”)
Two pillars from Paterno Castle remain near the intersection of West 181st Street and Cabrini Boulevard, as well as part of the massive retaining wall that resembles a dismembered piece of the Castle Nuovo in Naples. Part of the wall was destroyed in 2005 when it collapsed and slid onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, but a large section of Paterno’s original wall remains intact, with the restored portion recreating the tone and texture of the facade’s original grandeur.
The impracticable bluff of Fort Washington Avenue at today’s West 190th Street, leading down to Overlook Terrace and Bennett Avenue, was the setting of George Grey Barnard’s grand fantasy of medieval cloisters. In the early 1900s, he scouted and collected the remains of five French cloisters, shipped them to New York, and built his very own museum of medieval art and architecture—a collection that would later form the core of The Cloisters museum.
He lit his museum with candles, had staff dress as monks, and conjured the atmosphere of a deliciously gloomy medieval monastery. His sense of drama did not go unappreciated: A “Dante pageant” was staged on Fort Washington Avenue in 1921, accompanied by a dramatic reading that the New York Times praised for eschewing “the use of a stage, the natural recesses of the Cloisters serving as a natural setting.”
Built across the street from Barnard’s cloisters was the Hospital of St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary. Architects O’Connor, Delany & Schulz incorporated elements of Romanesque architecture into the structure that may have been inspired by the rounded arches of the neighboring Cuxa Cloister. Today, the hospital has been converted into luxury apartments, serving as an elegant remnant among the less inspiring buildings that replaced Barnard’s property throughout the 1940s and ’50s.
From the edge of the hill where Barnard’s museum once stood, one can also see the glistening dome of Yeshiva University standing out among the largely Art Deco apartment buildings and the Cross Bronx Expressway. Before the Great Depression crippled the country’s economy, plans for extensive Moorish revival buildings and gardens were planned across the university’s property—another medieval fantasy conceived in Washington Heights—though financial limitations only saw one of the elaborate structures of the Yeshiva campus realized.
Other relics still abound in northern Manhattan. The elegant driveway of the C.K.G. Billings estate, closely situated to the present site of The Cloisters, is prominently viewed from the Henry Hudson Parkway and serves as an elegant terrace overlooking the river from Fort Tryon Park. The caretaker’s cottage from the estate also remains, now used by the New York City Parks Department as a shed.
Further north in Inwood, there is a graffiti-laced marble arch that originally formed the entrance to the Seaman-Drake estate. Also originally outfitted with a mushroom cellar, the grounds were full of gardens and laced with marble sculptures. Sadly, the aforementioned arch, modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and at one time used as an office by a descendant of the Seaman family, is all that remains of the once grand property.
Elsewhere around the Heights, echoes of castle-inspired architecture remain, whether they be the studious gargoyles on the southeast corner of West 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue, or the quiet lanes woven among the Tudor-style buildings of the Hudson View Gardens apartment complex. Although the spring that once flowed near Bennett Avenue and the precipitous cliffs of the Fort Washington and Fort George hills have been conquered by Manhattan’s efficient grid, there is still something about the air and light of Washington Heights, perched atop the city, that whispers about the creative possibilities that have been felt here for nearly two centuries.
Located in Greenport, NY
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Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in preparation for medical studies at Yale. He was expelled from Phillips and joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. From 1920 to 1922, he managed a stage company owned by family friend William A. Brady (the father of actress Alice Brady), performing a variety of tasks at Brady’s film studio in New York. He then began regular stage performances. Alexander Woollcott described his acting in a 1922 play as inadequate. In 1930, he gained a contract with Fox, his feature film debut in a ten-minute short, Broadway’s Like That (1930), co-starring Ruth Etting and Joan Blondell. Fox released him after two years. After five years of stage and minor film roles, he had his breakthrough role in The Petrified Forest (1936) from Warner Bros. He won the part over Edward G. Robinson only after the star, Leslie Howard, threatened Warner Bros. that he would quit unless Bogart was given the key role of Duke Mantee, which he had played in the Broadway production with Howard. The film was a major success and led to a long-term contract with Warner Bros. From 1936 to 1940, Bogart appeared in 28 films, usually as a gangster, twice in Westerns and even a horror film. His landmark year was 1941 (often capitalizing on parts George Raft had stupidly rejected) with roles in classics such as High Sierra (1941) and as Sam Spade in one of his most fondly remembered films, The Maltese Falcon (1941). These were followed by Casablanca (1942), The Big Sleep (1946), and Key Largo (1948). Bogart, despite his erratic education, was incredibly well-read and he favored writers and intellectuals within his small circle of friends. In 1947, he joined wife Lauren Bacall and other actors protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunts. He also formed his own production company, and the next year made The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Bogie won the best actor Academy Award for The African Queen (1951) and was nominated for Casablanca (1942) and as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny(1954), a film made when he was already seriously ill. He died in his sleep at his Hollywood home following surgeries and a battle with throat cancer.