00 Oscar Actors: Actors–M–Background, Occupational Inheritance

M (22)

McConaughey, Matthew

McKellen, Ian (nominee, supp)

McLaglen, Victor (nominee, supp)

McQueen, Steve

March, Fredric (winner, 2)

Marvin, Lee

Mascal, Paul

Mason, James (nominee, supp)

Massey, Raymond

Mastroianni, Marcello (Italian for Italian)

Matthau, Walter (winner of Supp. Actor)

Menjou, Adolph

Milland, Ray: No; long way to success

Montgomery, Robert

Moody, Ron

Moore, Dudley

Morgan, Frank

Morris, Chester: Yes

Mortensen, Vigo

Muni, Paul

22. Murray, Bill

Ray Milland: No

Milland was born Alfred Reginald Jones on January 3, 1907 in Neath, Wales, the son of Elizabeth Annie (née Truscott) and steel mill superintendent Alfred Jones.

Father: steel mill superintendent

He was schooled independently before attending private King’s College School in Cardiff. He also worked at his uncle’s horse-breeding farm before leaving home at 21.

Of his parents, he wrote in 1974 autobiography: “My father was not a cruel or harsh man. Just a very quiet one. He was an incurable romantic and consequently a little afraid of his emotions and perhaps ashamed of them … he had been a young hussar in the Boer War and had been present at the relief of Mafeking. He never held long conversations with anyone, except perhaps with me, possibly because I was the only other male in our family. The household consisted of my mother, a rather flighty and coquettish woman much concerned with propriety and what the neighbors thought.

Prior to becoming actor, Milland served in the Household Cavalry, in 1925. An expert shot, he became a member of his company’s rifle team, winning many prestigious competitions, including the Bisley Match in England. He won the British Army Championship in both pistol and rifle marksmanship.

While stationed in London, Milland met dancer Margot St. Leger, and through her was introduced to US actress Estelle Brody.

Brody queried Milland’s commitment to army career, which led him into buying himself out of the forces in 1928 with the hope of becoming an actor.

He was able to support himself with a $17,000 inheritance from his aunt. Another said he was forced to drop out when his father refused to continue subsidizing him.

His first appearance on film was as uncredited extra on the E.A. Dupont film Piccadilly (1929).

After some unproductive extra work, which never reached the screen, he signed with talent agent Frank Zeitlin on the recommendation of fellow actor Jack Raine.

His prowess as a marksman earned him work as extra at the British International Pictures studio in Arthur Robison’s production of The Informer (1929), the first screen version of the Liam O’Flaherty novel.

While working on The Informer, he was asked to test for production being shot on a neighbouring stage. Milland made a favourable impression on director Castleton Knight, and was hired for his first acting role as Jim Edwards in The Flying Scotsman (also 1929).

Stage Name

In his autobiography, Milland recalls that on this film set, it was suggested that he adopt a stage name; he chose Milland from the “mill lands” area of his Welsh hometown of Neath.

His work on The Flying Scotsman resulted in being granted six-month contract over the course of which Milland starred in two more Knight-directed films, The Lady from the Sea and The Plaything (both 1929).

Believing that his acting was poor, and that he had won his roles through his looks alone, Milland decided to gain stage experience to improve his ability.

After hearing that club owner Bobby Page was financing touring company, Milland approached him in hopes of work. He was given the role of second lead in a production of Sam Shipman and Max Marcin’s The Woman in Room 13. Despite being released from the play after five weeks, Milland felt he had gained valuable acting experience.

In between plays, Milland was approached by MGM vice-president Robert Rubin, who had seen the film The Flying Scotsman.

MGM offered Milland a nine-month contract at $175 a week, based in Hollywood. He accepted, leaving the UK in August 1930. MGM used Milland as a ‘stock’ player, selecting him for small speaking parts in mainstream productions.

Milland’s first Hollywood film was a humiliating scene on the set of Son of India (1931), when the film’s director Jacques Feyder berated Milland’s acting in front of the entire crew.

Despite this setback, the studio executives talked Milland into staying in Hollywood, and in 1930, he appeared in his first US film Passion Flower.

Over the next two years, Milland appeared in minor parts for MGM and a few films for which he was lent to Warner; he was uncredited. His largest role during this period was as Charles Laughton’s nephew in Payment Deferred (1932).

While in this first period working in the United States, Milland met Muriel Frances Weber, whom he always called “Mal”, a student at the University of Southern California. Within eight months of first meeting, the two were married. The ceremony took place on 30 September 1932 at the Riverside Mission Inn. The couple had a son, Daniel, and adopted a daughter, Victoria.

Shortly after making Payment Deferred, Milland found himself out of work when MGM failed to renew his contract.

He spent 5 months in the US attempting to find further acting work, but after little success and strained relationship with his father-in-law, he headed back to Britain, hoping that two years in Hollywood would lead to roles in British films. Milland cashed in his contracted first-class return ticket to Britain and found an alternative, cheaper way back home. Muriel remained in the US to finish her studies, and Milland found temporary accommodation in Earl’s Court in London.


Morris, Chester: Yes


Father: stage actor William Morris

Mother: stage comedienne Etta Hawkins.

Joined parents and siblings on circuit

One of 5 childs

Spotted by a talent agent when on Broadway

John Chester Brooks Morris (February 16, 1901 – September 11, 1970) was an American stage, film, television, and radio actor.

He had some prestigious film roles early in his career, and received an Oscar nomination for Alibi (1929). Chester Morris is remembered for portraying Boston Blackie, a criminal-turned-detective, in the Boston Blackie film series of the 1940s.

Chester Morris was born John Chester Brooks Morris in New York City, and was one of 5 children of Broadway stage actor William Morris and stage comedienne Etta Hawkins. His siblings who lived to adulthood were screenwriter-actor Gordon Morris, actor Adrian Morris, and actress Wilhelmina Morris. Another brother, Lloyd Morris, had died young.

Morris dropped out of school and began his Broadway career at 15 years old opposite Lionel Barrymore in The Copperhead. He made his film debut in the silent comedy-drama film An Amateur Orphan (1917).

After appearing in several more Broadway productions in the early 1920s, Morris joined his parents, sister, and two brothers, Gordon and Adrian, on the vaudeville circuit.

From 1923, they performed William Morris’ original sketch called All the Horrors of Home, which premiered at the Palace Theatre, New York, then on the Keith-Orpheum circuit for two years, including Proctor’s Theatre, Mount Vernon, New York, and culminating in Los Angeles in 1925.

Morris returned to Broadway with roles in The Home Towners (1926) and Yellow (1927). While appearing in the 1927 play Crime, he was spotted by a talent agent and was signed to a film contract.

Morris made his sound film debut in the 1929 film Alibi, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.[8] He followed with roles in Woman Trap (1929), The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930) and The Divorcee, starring Norma Shearer in 1930. Later that year, Morris was cast as one of the leads (with Wallace Beery and Robert Montgomery) in the MGM prison drama The Big House.

For the next two years, he worked steadily in films for United Artists and MGM and was cast opposite Jean Harlow in the 1932 comedy-drama Red-Headed Woman.[

By the mid- to late 1930s, Morris’ popularity had begun to wane and he was cast as the lead actor in such B-movies as Smashing the Rackets (1938) and Five Came Back (1939).


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