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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of George Brent, Irish-Born Actor

george-brentGeorge Brent, Irish-born American stage, film, and television actor in American cinema, is born on March 15, 1904 in Ballinasloe, County Galway.

Brent was born George Patrick Nolan to John J. and Mary (née McGuinness) Nolan. His mother is a native of Clonfad, Moore, County Roscommon. During the Irish War of Independence, Brent is part of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He flees Ireland with a bounty set on his head by the British government, although he later claims only to have been a courier for guerrilla leader and tactician Michael Collins.

Brent arrives in the United States in 1921. Some time later he tours with a production of Abie’s Irish Rose. During the next five years, he acts in stock companies in Colorado, Rhode Island, Florida, and Massachusetts. In 1930, he appears on Broadway in Love, Honor, and Betray, alongside Clark Gable.

He eventually moves to Hollywood, and makes his first film, Under Suspicion, in 1930. Over the next two years, he appears in a number of minor films produced by Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox, before being signed to contract by Warner Bros. in 1932. He remains at Warner Bros. for the next 20 years, carving out a successful career as a top-flight leading man during the late 1930s and 1940s.

Highly regarded by Bette Davis, Brent becomes her most frequent male co-star, appearing with her in 13 films, including Front Page Woman (1935), Special Agent (1935), The Golden Arrow (1936), Jezebel (1938), The Old Maid (1939), Dark Victory (1939), and The Great Lie (1941). Brent also plays opposite Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street (1933), Greta Garbo in The Painted Veil (1934), Ginger Rogers in In Person (1935), Madeleine Carroll in The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936), Jean Arthur in More Than a Secretary (1936), Myrna Loy in Stamboul Quest (1934) and The Rains Came (1939), Merle Oberon in ‘Til We Meet Again (1940), Ann Sheridan in Honeymoon for Three (1941), Joan Fontaine in The Affairs of Susan (1945), Barbara Stanwyck in So Big! (1932), The Purchase Price (1932), Baby Face (1933), The Gay Sisters (1942), and My Reputation (1946), Claudette Colbert in Tomorrow Is Forever (1946), Dorothy McGuire in The Spiral Staircase (1946), Lucille Ball in Lover Come Back (1946), and Yvonne De Carlo in Slave Girl (1947).

Brent drifts into “B” pictures from the late 1940s and retires from film in 1953. He continues to appear on television until 1960, having appeared on the religion anthology series, Crossroads. He is cast in the lead in the 1956 television series, Wire Service. In 1978, he makes one last film, the made-for-television production Born Again.

George Brent receives two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first, at 1709 Vine St., for his film contributions, the second star, at 1614 Vine St., for his work in television.

Brent is married five times: Helen Louise Campbell (1925–1927), Ruth Chatterton (1932–1934), Constance Worth (1937), Ann Sheridan (1942–1943), and Janet Michaels (1947-1974). His final marriage to Janet Michaels, a former model and dress designer, lasts 27 years until her death in 1974. They have a son and a daughter.

Brent also carries on a lengthy relationship with his frequent Warner Bros. co-star, actress Bette Davis, who describes her last meeting with Brent after many years of estrangement. He is suffering from advanced emphysema, and she expresses great sadness at his ill health and deterioration. George Brent dies on May 26, 1979 in Solana Beach, California.

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Publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”

dracula-1st-editionThe Gothic horror novel Dracula, written by Bram Stoker of Dublin, is first published on May 26, 1897. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker is a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplements his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, including the vampire tale Dracula. Parts of the novel are set around the town of Whitby, where he spends summer holidays.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells write many tales in which fantastic creatures threaten the British Empire. Invasion literature is at a peak, and Stoker’s formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences is very familiar by 1897 to readers of fantastic adventure stories. Victorian readers enjoy Dracula as a good adventure story like many others, but it does not reach its iconic legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions begin to appear.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spends seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard‘s 1885 essay Transylvania Superstitions. Later he also claims that he has a nightmare, caused by eating too much crab meat covered with mayonnaise sauce, about a “vampire king” rising from his grave.

Despite being the most widely known vampire novel, Dracula is not the first. It is preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu‘s 1871 Carmilla, about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman, and by Varney the Vampire, a lengthy penny dreadful serial from the mid-Victorian period by James Malcolm Rymer. John Polidori creates the image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, in his tale The Vampyre in 1819.

The Lyceum Theatre where Stoker works between 1878 and 1898 is headed by actor-manager Henry Irving, who is Stoker’s real-life inspiration for Dracula’s mannerisms and who Stoker hopes would play Dracula in a stage version. Irving never does agree to do a stage version, but Dracula’s dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms draw their living embodiment from Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead is one of Stoker’s original titles for Dracula, and the manuscript is entitled simply The Un-Dead up until a few weeks before publication. Stoker’s notes for Dracula show that the name of the count is originally “Count Wampyr”, but Stoker becomes intrigued by the name “Dracula” while doing research, after reading William Wilkinson‘s book An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them (London 1820), which he finds in the Whitby Library and consults a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula is the patronym of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who takes the name “Dracul” after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Romanian language, the word dracul can mean either “the dragon” or, especially in the present day, “the devil.”

Dracula is copyrighted in the United States in 1899 with the publication by Doubleday & McClure of New York. However, when Universal Studios purchases the rights, it comes to light that Bram Stoker has not complied with a portion of U.S. copyright law, placing the novel into the public domain. In the United Kingdom and other countries following the Berne Convention on copyrights, the novel is under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker’s death.

F. W. Murnau‘s unauthorized film adaptation Nosferatu is released in 1922, and the popularity of the novel increases considerably, owing to the controversy caused when Stoker’s widow tries to have the film removed from public circulation. Florence Stoker sues the film company and wins, however, the company is bankrupt, and Stoker only recovers her legal fees and an order by the court for all copies of the film to be destroyed. Some copies survive and find their way into theatres. Eventually, Florence Stoker simply gives up the fight against public displays of the film.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic fiction, and invasion literature. Stoker does not invent the vampire but he defines its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film, and television interpretations.