Wednesday, April 24, 2024

In Memoriam: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This October, there will be constant statistics coming up to raise awareness for this killer disease which accounts for 25% of all types of cancer in women. As of 2020, there are 2.2 million people who suffer from breast cancer with the number of deaths from it around 685,000. Breast cancer screenings are highly encouraged and the pink ribbon is its symbol. There are those who have survived breast cancer including Maggie Smith, Edie Falco, Cynthia Nixon, Kathy Bates, and Richard Roundtree, a survivor of male breast cancer which accounts for 20,000 new cases every year. Sadly, there are others who have fought and lost the battle; here are notables who we have lost to the disease. 


Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)

The continental legend who performed in multiple languages won three Academy Awards, worked with some of the best directors in history, and endured an international scandal. Bergman made her name known with the Swedish film Intermezzo and was hired to Hollywood where films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Notorious, and Anastasia cemented her place amongst legends. Then, her famous affair and marriage with Roberto Rossellini led to Stromboli and Journey To Italy among several films abroad, topped off by one last Oscar nomination in Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 and would continue to work and receive treatment until her death on her 67th birthday. 


Bette Davis (1908-1989)

“The First Lady of the American Screen” is an icon of cinema and one of the early thespians of the medium. Her strong-headed nature with studio heads and directors promoted Davis to a diva status, but it is one out of respect because of the high-quality performances she always brought. Of Human Bondage, Jezabel, The Letter, All About Eve, and What Ever Happened To Baby Jane are amongst her finest roles, and fans and historians are consistently revisiting those. In the last decade, she was diagnosed with cancer and other ailments but continued to work until her death, aged 81. 


Greta Garbo (1905 -1990)

The second Swedish noted victim of the disease retired in 1941 and went into seclusion for the rest of her life. Like Bergman, she was invited to Hollywood where she flourished in silent films and made the successful crossover to talkies with her darkened, blue accent. A Woman of Affairs, Anne Christie, Romance, Grand Hotel, and Ninotchka were among her most outstanding screen performances where MGM advertised her with “Greta Talks!”, then finished with “Garbo Laughs!” Living in a New York apartment and keeping close-knit friends, Garbo beat breast cancer in the early 80s but dealt with numerous complications afterward in the last years of her life.


Kelly Preston (1962-2020)

Preston’s death was a total surprise to the world when her husband, John Travolta, broke the news on Instagram that she had been battling breast cancer privately for two years. Preston made a name for herself thanks to roles in comedies including Twins, Jerry McGuire, Nothing To Lose, and View From The Top, but also acted in the noted dramas For The Love Of The Game and Gotti, which co-starred her husband in the infamous crime story. The two met while shooting The Experts after Preston’s first marriage ended and the couple married in 1991.


Lynn Redgrave (1943-2010)

Coming from a prestigious acting family, which included her Oscar-winning sister (Vanessa), her niece (Natasha), and her father (Sir Michael), Lynn Redgrave fit in naturally on stage with the National Theatre and on screen. Her most notable performances include Georgy Girl, The Deadly Affair, a TV adaptation of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane with sister Vanessa, and Gods And Monsters. In contrast to her relatives, Lynn kept a steady stream of work but would remain localized in her adopted home of Connecticut. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, Lynn openly talked about her battle until her death in 2010, aged 67. Three years later, the Off-Broadway Bleecker Street Theatre was renamed after Redgrave.


Olivia Newton-John (1948-2022)

This piece was written and submitted before the Grease superstar passed away, but it was well-known that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer for decades. She was diagnosed in 1992 and became an advocate for cancer awareness by establishing the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund. She was already an established singer when she got the immortal role of Sandy opposite John Travolta in 1978. “You’re The One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted To You” remain part of the musical staple that came out of Grease and its legacy. Even when her cancer returned in 2017, Newton-John remained active and defiant in the face of this mortal illness.


Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man)

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