This is a red-letter day for celebrating birthdays of folks near and dear to the hearts of crime-fiction fans. As Ivan G. Shreve Jr. reminds us, it was on this date in 1927 that actor Peter Falk, who would later star in television’s Columbo, was born in New York City. Falk is now 83 years old and reportedly suffering from “advanced dementia.”
It was on another September 16, in 1924, that a second native New Yorker, Betty Joan Perske--later to be introduced to film audiences as Lauren Bacall--took her first breaths. After co-starring with Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944), the two performers became lovers and, in May 1945, swapped “I do’s”; he was 45 years old, she was 20. Bacall went on to star with Bogie in The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947), and after his death from cancer in January 1957, she appeared with Paul Newman in 1966’s Harper (based on Ross Macdonald’s first Lew Archer novel, The Moving Target), served as one of the prime suspects in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express, and co-starred with John Wayne in his last motion picture, The Shootist (1976). Bacall also featured in a two-part, 1979 episode of The Rockford Files. It was a memorable episode, if only because Bacall--the widow of the man who’d played the big screen’s iconic gumshoe (in The Maltese Falcon)--was now playing the latest love interest of the finest gumshoe ever to grace the small screen, Jim Rockford (James Garner). Below, I’ve embedded a scene from To Have and Have Not that shows why Bogart was so entranced by the woman he called “Baby,” who today turns 86.
Six years after Bacall’s birth, on September 16, 1930, Anne Francis was born in Ossining, New York. She first came to widespread public attention starring in the 1956 science-fiction film Forbidden Planet, but is undoubtedly more familiar to Rap Sheet readers as the star of ABC-TV’s Honey West (1965-1966). In the decades since, Francis has guest-starred in everything from The Name of the Game and Banacek, to Ellery Queen, Columbo, Search, Assignment: Vienna, Archer, Barnaby Jones, Without a Trace, and ... well, the list could go on and on. But many of us still remember the now 80-year-old Francis best as a lithesome sleuth. Below, I have embedded a 1965 teaser for Honey West.
Finally, let’s not forget that today would have been the 83rd birthday of Jack Kelly, who starred with James Garner in Maverick (1957-1962). He was later a regular on Get Christie Love!, guested on such shows as Ellery Queen and The Fall Guy, reprised his Bart Maverick role in a 1978 teleflick, The New Maverick, and again in Garner’s too-short-lived TV series, Bret Maverick, and like Bacall, showed up on Rockford (figuring into two episodes from 1977). After serving as the mayor of Huntington Beach, California, Kelly died of a stroke in November 1992.
We offer a toast to every one of these performers on this special day.