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The Ulmer Scale

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You hear it bandied about all the time -- such-and-such celebrity is an "A-lister," or an actor you recognize from a minor role or two might reside on the "D-list." But did you know that there actually are such lists -- official ones -- and how celebrities are ranked on them is calculated according to a formula? It's called the Ulmer Scale, and was devised by longtime entertainment journalist James Ulmer as a tool to calculate the "bankability" of a given star.

What's bankability? When it comes to putting together financing for a movie, it's incredibly important: the skyrocketing salaries of the top 20 or so movie stars these days is a direct result of how movie moguls perceive their bankability; can they open the movie? IE, will their name alone get butts in theater seats? There are other factors, too, which Ulmer rates on a 1-100 point scale:

Willingness to travel/promote. It may sound ridiculous that going on Letterman and giving interviews is considered work, but when you do weeks of this kind of thing at a stretch, I've no doubt that it is (though I can't speak from experience). If the star of your movie is too lazy/busy/agoraphobic to fly to New York and go on some talk shows, you're going to have a problem getting a return on the investment which is his or her salary. Thus, they are less bankable -- thus, their Ulmer Scale rating sinks.

Professionalism. Is your star going to wind up in the tabloid pages for drunk driving or cavorting with hookers in Vegas? Is he going to fuss and cry when his trailer isn't stocked with the right brand of bottled water, or scream at the crew like a madman? In the 90s Robert Downey, Jr. was considered one of Hollywood's most talented actors -- he was nominated for an Oscar for 1992's Chaplin -- but his reputation as an insane, drug-addled bad boy kept him off the A-list.

Career management. What other kinds of roles in what other kinds of films is the star accepting? It's hard to remain bankable as an A-list action star if you decide to start taking roles on daytime soaps, just as it's hard to land roles in high-profile Oscar-bait movies if you have a reputation for taking any role in any schlocky movie that comes along (I'm looking at you, Sam Jackson).

Talent. Yep, talent is actually a factor. Surprised? A lot of stars are great at playing one kind of role: Kate Winslet in dramas, for instance. But would you ever consider replacing Kate Beckinsale in the Resident Evil movies with Kate Winslet? Not likely. Just the same, one-time A-lister Arnold Schwarzenegger saw his star power sink not because he dropped out of movies to pursue politics, but because as he approached late-middle-age, it became clear that he couldn't keep toplining action movies, but there wasn't a whole lot else he could do, either. Range is important. That's why an actor like Tom Hanks -- who started out in comedy, but won an Oscar for drama Philadelphia and is now appearing in action-thriller Angels and Demons -- is solidly A-list.

B-list celebrities are people whose names everyone knows, like Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson, but who can't quite "open" a movie on their name alone. The C-list is pretty much everyone else who could be considered famous, and the D-list -- contrary to popular belief -- isn't part of the Ulmer Scale, and doesn't actually exist.

There are other factors, too, which Ulmer uses to compile his massive Hot List, which he's issued as a book and is available through Amazon.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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