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Five Real Life People And The Actors Who Played Them On Screen




Biopics have always been a staple of Hollywood and cinema in general and over the years hundreds of movies have been made about historical figures and sometimes, as is the case with Jean Harlow, movies about movie stars. This is a list of five of our favourites.


THOMAS A’ BECKETT (1118-1170)
Archbishop of Canterbury in twelfth century England, murdered by soldiers in his cathedral on the orders of his former friend King Henry The turbulent relationship between Becket and Henry, from the time they drank and whored together, to their clash of wills over matters of state, was examined in Peter Glenville’s version of Anouilh’s 1959 stage play. Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole (Henry) both received Oscar nominations for their portrayals.

Played in the movies by
Father John Croser in Murder In The Cathedral (1952)
Richard Burton in Becket (1964)


Scottish-born American physicist whose invention of the telephone in 1876 brought him wealth, fame and a posthumous Hollywood biography starring Don Ameche!

Played in the movies by
Don Ameche in The Story Of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)
Jim Ameche in The Story Of Mankind (1957)


JEAN HARLOW (1911-1937)
MGM’s most glamorous sex symbol of the 30s, a ‘blonde bombshell’ who co-starred with many of the studio’s leading actors, especially Gable, before meeting a tragically early death at the age of 26. Neither of the screen biographies produced during the 60s was satisfactory, although the opening scenes of studio activity in Gordon Douglas’ film remain some of the most realistic ever put on celluloid.

Played in the movies by
Carol Lynley in Harlow (1965)
Carroll Baker in Harlow (directed by Gordon Douglas) (1965)

Note: Carroll Baker’s Rina Marlowe in The Carpetbaggers (1964) was also fashioned after Harlow. Paul Bern, Harlow’s husband who committed suicide shortly after their marriage, was played by Hurd Hatfield in the Alex Segal film and by Peter Lawford in the Douglas movie.


T.E. LAWRENCE (1888-1935)
Enigmatic British soldier and scholar who during his two years in Arabia in the First World War succeeded in uniting the Arab tribes against the Turks and became known as the legendary ‘El Aurens’. Once described by Winston Churchill as ‘the greatest living Englishman’, he died in obscurity in a motor cycle accident in Dorset after serving in the RAF under the name of Shaw. Peter O’Toole’s performance as Lawrence in David Lean’s film turned him into a major star; Albert Finney, first choice for the role, turned the part down.

Played in the movies by
PeterO’Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)


JOE LOUIS (1914-1981)
Real name, Joseph Louis Barrow. Prior to the rise of Muhammad Ali, Louis was the most famous of the modern American heavyweights. Known as The Brown Bomber’, he reigned as world champion from 1936 to 1948 and defended his title 25 times. He won 68 of his 71 fights. A minor screen biography was produced in 1953, two years after Louis had retired from the ring.

Played in the movies by
Coley Wallace in The Joe Louis Story (1953)

Bernie Casey played Louis in the 1978 TV film Ring Of Passion which centred on the two prewar Louis/Max Schmeling fights and the way both boxers became symbols of political ideologies Stephen Macht featured as the German Schmeling.



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