Sunday, March 09, 2008

Love Affair

I, Too, Lost It At the Movies….

As a kid, movie stars were royalty to me. I was in love with Ann Blyth and June Allyson. I was in awe of Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. I remember going to one movie, drinking soda there, and thinking to myself: When I’m an adult I’ll go to TWO movies a day and drink lots of soda and eat lots of candy (chocolate, with nuts). I even listened, on the radio, to Lux Radio Theater, where movies were condensed. And I went to movie after movie.

So I’ve just enjoyed reading The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, all 500 plus pages of it. I relished the “gossip.” Wm Powell was married to Carole Lombard, was about to marry Jean Harlow. Loretta Young and Clark Gable had a kid, Judy, and Loretta raised it while claiming the kid was adopted. (I knew that they had had a kid.) I also enjoyed learning more about the people in movies—that Jean Arthur was neurotic, Joan Crawford clever.
Some things I didn’t like: The author has her pets and her non-pets. She grandly excuses Mel Gibson for being the idiot that he is, and dismisses people who turned their backs on movies (like Michelle Pfeiffer but not Deanna Durban). She does a number on Shearer/Thalberg. She loves Catholics—like Irene Dunne.* She is guilty of Wild Explanations—eg, why Betty Hutton was popular. (It had something to do with WWII. I remember that we kids were dubious about Hutton’s chewing the scenery.) You know, explanations like: people were depressed during the Depression, so they went to happy movies. Actually, people ALWAYS go to happy movies.

*As a teenager I hated Irene Dunne beginning when I heard her campaigning on the radio for some Republicans.

Interesting stuff from the book:

Robert Young said that Wallace Beery was “a shitty person.” (I heard Margaret O’Brian say on TV recently that Beery used to pinch her.)

Beery was nominated for best actor in The Champ, 1931-32, and got one fewer vote than Fredric March—so it was declared a tie.

When sound came, Paramount didn’t renew the contracts of various silent stars: Florence Vidor, Bebe Daniels, Richard Dix, Menjou, Jannings, Negri…

Jennifer Jones left Robert Walker for David O. Selznick.

Cyd Charisse’s name was Tula Finklea.

Dennis Morgan, a good singer, did NOT sing A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody in the Great Ziegfield. His voice was dubbed. “…an example of why people think Hollywood is insane.” (He was billed under his real name, Stanley Morner.)

The face of the gorgeous Linda Darnell was used as that of the Virgin Mary in Song of Bernadette.

Moviegoers don’t like it when actors don’t return to their usual roles. Example: Grant in None But the Lonely Heart. (I hated that glum film, too—I didn’t know it was by Clifford Odets.)

Frances Gifford spent two decades in a mental institution because of acute depression.

Fanny Brice sued 20th Century Fox because Rose of Washington Square (1939) was obviously based on her affair with Nick Arnstein, and the case was settled out of court.

Jane Powell at age 14 played in Song of the Open Road, playing a girl named Jane Powell, So Suzanne Burce’s name was changed to JP.

Jean Arthur married in 1928, and the marriage was annulled the same day.

Check into a website,

Joan Bennett once mailed Hedda Hopper a dead skunk.

O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra “is a candidate for the worst movie ever made.”

Pauline Kael “repeatedly knocked …the dignified female stars of her era”… (Kael was wonderful!) Like Irene Dunne.

After Thalberg’s death, Shearer had a “red-hot lover affair” with George Raft, and was rumored to have had an affair with (“hold on”) Mickey Rooney.


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