Clare Danes jumped from TV Life to movie stardom

Ken Beck

Dear Ken: I recently saw an actress named Clare Danes in the movie “To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday” on Lifetime Channel. Where else I have seen her before?

Danes, 30, really hit the limelight as Angela Chase in the 1994 TV series “My So-Called Life.” She then jumped comfortably to feature films and has been on the silver screen since. Among her credits: “How To Make an American Quilt,” “The Rainmaker,” “The Mod Squad,” “Terminator 3,” “Shopgirl,” “Stardust” and “Me and Orson Welles.”

She next stars in an HBO film, “Temple Grandin,” as an autistic woman who is a leading scientist in the handling of livestock in a humane manner. Co-stars include Julia Ormond, David Strathairn and Catherine O’Hara.

Dear Ken: How many of the “Francis the Talking Mule” movies did Donald O’Connor make? He was also a great dancer in a bunch of other films. Where was he born?

Donald David Dixon Ronald O'Connor, who died in 2003 at age 78, was born into a family of vaudevillians in Chicago. He hoofed it up all over the screen with Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.” as he did back flips off the walls. From 1950 to 1955, he made six “Francis” flicks. He didn’t appear in the seventh and final film as Mickey Rooney became the mule’s sidekick. Chill Wills was the voice of Francis. The series was the inspiration for the TV show “Mister Ed.” 

Dear Ken: “Viva la Bam” is one of my favorite shows on MTV2. What has Bam been up to lately and what happened to the show?

I suspect the show simply ran its course. How many ways can a guy find to torture his parents, anyway? Skateboarding actor Bam Margera, 29, has been producing a few films and is working now on “Dream Seller,” about a teen skater who lost his career due to drugs and then cleans up and makes a comeback. He also has been filming a new MTV show, “Nitro Circus.”

Dear Ken: How old is Betty White of “Golden Girls” fame? Didn’t she have a husband who was host of a game show back in the 1960s?

White is 87 and still working. She just appeared in the film “The Proposal” and will have a role in “You Again,” which is set for a 2010 release.

She was married to “Password” host Allen Ludden from 1963 until his death in 1981 and has never rewed. The animal welfare activist has written five books, including last year‘s “Together.” If you have a trivia question about actors, singers, movies, TV shows or pop culture, e-mail your query to Ken Beck via where you can also find classic films and TV shows on DVD or visit Sherlock’s Book Emporium in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Ask Ken Beck

Journalist Ken Beck, a longtime resident of Wilson  County, has recently become a contributing writer for Main Street Media and its local newspaper, "The Wilson Post."

Earlier this year Beck concluded a 31-year career with "The Tennessean" where he edited the Nashville paper’s “Sunday Showcase” entertainment magazine for 25 years. Besides interviewing stars of film and television, Beck wrote Tennessee travel and feature stories and a popular Q&A entertainment column.