He was born in 1886 and traveled all over Europe with his parents who were performers. At age 10 head acted in two Danish films. In 1913 her emigrated to the United States and by the 1920’s he was considered one of Hollywood’s most prolific actor, well known for applying his own make-up. Any fan of child actor Shirley Temple would immediately recognize him as the grandfather of “Heidi”. His name was Jean Hersholt.
Hersholt would later become president of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the organization that bestows Oscars on everyone, but only after serving as president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, an organization that provided financial and health services support to industry workers. He led the effort to create the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA. His tenure as Academy President was during a time of great transition and Hersholt was a successful leader.
Not content to be a great actor and excellent leader, Hersholt translated over one hundred and sixty poems of Hans Christian Anderson into English. His grave is marked with a statue of the Anderson hero “Klods Hans”. Klods Hans left Denmark and went out into the world to win the heart of his love, action that mirrors the life story of Hersholt who left Denmark and through his love of acting won the heart of the entire industry.
Each year, during the Oscars, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is given to honor those who efforts have brought credit to the motion picture industry. Last year it was awarded to another who had come to Hollywood at a young age to follow the dream of acting.
Mary Frances was a girl born in Texas, a Girl Scout in whose name a scholarship is awarded each year to a Graduating Girl Scout. When she was seven her family moved to California and at age 16 she won the Miss Burbank Contest. This led to a contract with a movie studio and a new name – Debbie Reynolds. Debbie Reynolds didn’t just act, though. In 1959 she released her first album with the album notes being written by Bing Crosby.
“Someone recently said, and with reasonable accuracy I would think, that good singers make good actors. Evidence in support of this belief is available in the recent performances of Sinatra and Martin, for instance, but I would like to put forth also the proposition that the reverse is quite true: good actors make good singers. Assuming they can carry a tune. We all know that Debbie is better than a good actress—she’s VERY good, and we all know she can sing with a lilt and a listenable quality that’s genuinely pleasant and agreeable. Witness “Tammy”. It was small surprise to me then that when I listened to this beautiful album she has etched for Dot, I found myself captivated and enchanted. Quite obviously Debbie had spent a great deal of time selecting the songs to be included, because she’s made them her own, and invested them with a sincerity that’s inescapable—of contrasting moods to be sure, but the moods are there, and to me, mighty effective. And that, mes amis, is artistry.”
Four years before the album’s release, Debbie began working with the Thalians. Founded in 1955, Thalians is a charitable organization that supports and aids people with mental health issues. Reynolds has also been instrumental in helping preserve motion picture memorabilia.
Both of these two actors were not content to simply live and reap the rewards of their stardom. They began being of service to others, giving their life purpose, before they attained stardom. They knew that a life without purpose is only half a life.
There is something you can do to help the world. Whether it is translating poetry or working for those with health issues, feeding the poor or writing newsletters to garner support, you have a skill or talent that someone needs. Never doubt that your life has purpose. It does and you are a valuable asset to the world.