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Decades of Research, over 640 pages
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The ultimate collection of scandals, on-set feuds and affairs, humorous anecdotes, behind the scenes tragedies, studio cover-ups and casting couch activity in the first hundred years of Hollywood.
Here is a Sample From the Book
Adventures of Robin Hood, the (1938)
The studio’s first choice to play Robin Hood in this film was James Cagney, believe it or not, but he withdrew over a dispute about money. And we are all truly grateful. Robert Donat was next but he was too ill to accept. Douglas Fairbanks Junior was also approached. ‘I felt that it would be sacrilege to copy my father’s kind of silent picture action’, he said, when he too declined.
The picture was shot entirely in southern California, which may surprise some people. In fact, David Niven, who was wanted for the role of Will Scarlet, was unavailable because he was off holidaying – in Britain. The site chosen as Sherwood Forest was Bidwell Park in Chico, California, famous for containing the world’s largest living oak tree, the Sir Joseph Hooker, a 92 foot giant with a branch-spread of 149 feet and a trunk that measured 28 feet in circumference. Just why it was considered necessary to attach hanging vines to it and other trees in the movie is a mystery, as they are not normally found in England anyway. By the way, the palomino horse ridden by Olivia De Havilland later became Roy Rogers’ steed Trigger. Stuntmen were paid $150 per shot if they agreed to have arrows fired into them by expert bowman Howard Hill.
British character actor, chubby-faced Herbert Mundin, plays Much the Miller. Tragically, in less than twelve months of completing the picture he would die in a car crash at the age of forty.
Olivia De Havilland (1916 – )
Aherne would later marry Olivia’s sister Joan Fontaine. I have not included Errol Flynn in her ‘Known relationships’ because she has steadfastly refused to acknowledge her co-star of all those films as being one of her intimates, even though she said many times that she had a crush on him back in the thirties and forties. Were they ever lovers? Who knows?
Clearly a much tougher lady than she appeared on screen, it was De Havilland who took on the studios’ dictatorial rules regarding breaches of contract and secured a Supreme Court ruling in her favor. Until then, studios deliberately gave actors assignments they knew would be rejected, enabling them to impose lengthy extensions to their contracts as punishment. Some performers found their seven-year contracts extended to as long as fifteen years because of this process. De Havilland changed all that and consequently incurred the wrath of the studios for the rest of her career.
The rivalry between Olivia and her sister Joan Fontaine was very real and appears to have been instigated and continued by Olivia, the older of the two siblings. Since childhood the outgoing, vibrant Olivia bullied and demeaned the more reserved and unsure Joan. Olivia was first to gain an acting contract and first to become a star, but Joan married first, had a child first and unforgivably won an Oscar first. She also died first – in 2013, aged 96. Olivia (as of May 2015) is still battling on.
Her first big break came in 1934 in the much-publicized Max Reinhardt production of The Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. It was without doubt the event of the season. She was involved initially as an ‘understudy to an understudy’ for the part of Hermia. Gloria Stuart (the same Gloria Stuart who would be nominated for Titanic 64 years later) was all set to play Hermia when both she and her understudy were called away to appear in movies.
This left the door ajar for Olivia. She went on and was instantly recognized as a real talent by Hal Wallis of Warner Brothers who signed her up at once. Stuart caught her first performance as Hermia and went back stage to offer congratulations. She claims Olivia turned her back on her and the two women did not speak to each other again for twenty years. Bette Davis had already been selected to play Hermia in the movie, but she was having one of her fights with the studio, so lady luck smiled again and, again, the part went to Olivia.
Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1909. His mother Marelle Young was directly descended from a midshipman aboard HMS Bounty named Richmond Young. Hollywood would typically claim Errol was descended from Fletcher Christian but that was not so. His father was a marine biologist, happy to pursue his vocation while Marelle led the high life with a string of wealthy lovers in Paris. Errol never forgave her for it. The man who literally had hundreds of affairs in his own lifetime could not condone any semblance of such behavior in his mother.
At seventeen Errol joined the Constabulary in New Guinea, but was soon dismissed because of his scandalous affairs with several married women.
He then tried his hand at gold prospecting in the interior, and when that failed, he ‘black birded’ for a slaving outfit. It was during these operations he shot and killed a native while his party was under attack. Charged with murder, he was released partly on the grounds of self-defense, but primarily because the victim’s body could not be produced.
While in New Guinea he contracted malaria and also suffered his first bout of gonorrhea. Malaria and a touch of tuberculosis would later keep him out of World War Two. While still in New Guinea he landed an acting job with an Australian crew making In the Wake of the Bounty in 1933. Errol’s performance was very ordinary and he was paid just six pounds for his three weeks on the film.
It was around this time that he became friends with a rather shady German of dubious political persuasion. Stories of Errol being a Nazi stem from this, but appear completely groundless. The FBI investigated him at length and found nothing solid. In fact, the head of British Intelligence, William Stephenson, dismissed the claims as well, as did Errol’s ex-wife Nora Eddington. She maintained he thoroughly detested Nazis, although he genuinely thought they would probably win the war.
But back to the 1930s. Irving Asher, the director of the British division of Warner Brothers, met Errol in London and was impressed by his looks.
He signed the young Australian to a contract without even checking to see if he could act or not, then booked him passage to America to try out for the movies. While crossing the Atlantic Errol introduced himself to film star Lily Damita, a bi-sexual fireball he would later marry. She was eight years his senior, but subtracted them on the wedding certificate, making both parties twenty-six years old at the time of the union.
She was a resident of the notorious Garden of Alla, a three and a half acre complex on Sunset Boulevard founded by the exotic Crimean-born artiste Alla Nazimova.
The Garden was a hotbed of lesbian activity and home to the ‘Sewing Circle’, a euphemism for the Hollywood lesbian fraternity. It was here Flynn first met David Niven, another recent arrival in the movie colony. The two men became close friends. Marlene Dietrich told writer David Bret she was sure they were lovers as well. ‘Carole Lombard was a very good friend of mine’, said Dietrich, ‘who spent much of her time with these twilight boys.
One morning, when she went over to Niven’s place, she found him in bed with Errol Flynn. They maintained they were not gay in the conventional sense, but just fooling around for fun. None of us thought it such a big deal, though. Lots of actors slept with each other if there were no women around’. Considering this was wartime, it is stretching credulity to the limit to have us believe there was a shortage of available women. Those young men who never made it into uniform must have felt like they were rabbits in a carrot patch.
Besides, we are talking about movie stars Flynn and Niven here. A shortage of women was a problem they never encountered, war or no war.
Lombard was the undisputed doyenne of the lavender set, and believed the two men shared many male lovers at Niven’s apartment, among them actor William Lundigan. Errol was certainly intimate with the young star, but there is no evidence that Niven was. When he was sober Flynn confided in Lombard that Lundigan was as good in bed ‘as any woman he had ever been with’.
With several of his anti-Semitic pals Flynn formed a carousing group dubbed ‘the Olympiads’.
Alan Hale Senior and Patrick Knowles were regulars, while John Barrymore, W C Fields, Bruce Cabot and assorted writers dropped in from time to time. Edward G Robinson was refused admission because he was Jewish. Errol’s known anti-Semitism has often been misinterpreted as pro-Nazism.
He once philosophized on his attitude to women in general. ‘From the time I began to have women on the assembly-line basis, I discovered that the only thing you need, want, or should have, is the absolutely physical. No mind at all.
A woman’s mind will get in the way’.
His home was installed with secret two-way mirrors to enable him and his cronies to observe the bedroom and bathroom antics of his invited guests. They were usually well known Hollywood couples. He would often hire a large group of prostitutes to entertain his single male guests. His own personal favorite arrangement was to have sex with a very young girl while observing two men copulating via his two-way mirrors.
The house was also furnished with lounge chairs from which erect rubber penises sprung as unwary victims sat in them. To open his liquor cabinet it was necessary for someone (preferably a female guest) to squeeze the testicles of a china bull that adorned it.
Errol once estimated he spent between 12,000 and 14,000 nights of his life indulging in sexual activities of some kind or other. Reliable sources number a four-year affair with Argentina’s Evita Peron as one of his exploits. He also regularly visited his Acapulco beach boy lover Apollonia Diaz.
It was far less dangerous, he said, to pursue under-age boys and girls in Mexico than risk exposure chasing them in Hollywood. Before arriving at that conclusion, however, he often indulged in the highly risky practice of picking up young girls at Hollywood high schools and taking them back to his home for sex.
Apart from his well-publicized trial for the statutory rape of two teenage girls aboard his yacht during the Second World War, he was also charged with ’libidinous behavior’ with a seventeen year-old girl in Monaco a few years later.
He wriggled out of both charges. He met Nora Eddington when she was serving behind a counter selling chewing gum and cigarettes in the lobby of City Hall during his trial for statutory rape. He arranged to see her during the trial, although he was careful to treat her with kid gloves until its outcome was decided. After all, she was the daughter of a captain in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office! When nineteen year-old Nora refused to sleep with him he filled himself with cocaine and alcohol and summarily raped her. She was a devout Catholic and would not abort the resultant pregnancy, so he reluctantly agreed to marry her.
Friends aboard his yacht the Sirocco were awarded silver lapel pins depicting an erect penis and testicles and emblazoned with the letters ‘FFF’. The initials stood for ‘Flynn’s Flying Fuckers’. The yacht was the scene of regular sex contests as he and his buddies seduced the numerous young women brought aboard. On one notorious occasion he invited the cast and crew of a film he was making to a ‘feast’ aboard Sirocco. Such an invitation coming from Flynn usually meant an orgy, so his guests were greatly surprised to find no women when they arrived. At a signal from their host, however, a number of girls hidden under the large banquet table undid the men’s flies and fellated them.
Incidentally, the tall tale that Errol was possessed of an outrageously huge penis is not true. Earl
Conrad, his biographer, described it as in no way special or out of the ordinary, and he saw it many times as did any friend of the actor. Errol was always walking about naked (especially around the pool) and cared nothing about it. Over the years he became addicted to morphine and suffered regularly from gonorrhea, brittle bones and piles. On the set he would suck on oranges injected with vodka, a trick taught him by actress Ann Sheridan. He put cocaine in his water bottle and used an eyedropper to insert it in his sinuses. He was also known to put a pinch of cocaine on the end of his penis as an aphrodisiac.
When he married Patrice Wymore, the bride was doubtless unaware that all four of her bridesmaids had slept with the groom while they were extras on one of his movies Adventures of Captain Fabian. Even in his final years he remained obsessed with sex. Spending his time in Jamaica, he would arrange for a half a dozen or more prostitutes to be presented each day at noon for his inspection. He would then select one or more for a brief twenty-minute interlude. Generally they were very young, sometimes only thirteen or fourteen years old. His ‘secretary’ at that time was a thirteen year-old girl named Dhondi whom he would also service each day.
In the marketplace he would pay young girls to lift their tops and reveal their breasts to him, and then offer those he fancied extra money to come to his bed.
In those final years creditors came after him from all directions as he sunk farther into debt. None of this overly bothered him until Bruce Cabot, the man he once described as ‘my brother in all but name’, sued him for $17,000 salary owing on a Flynn-produced movie he had worked in. Cabot, who had dined with Flynn just hours before, also threatened to expose details of Errol’s sex-life to the media unless he was paid. ‘I could have killed the bastard!’ said Errol. ‘I should have killed him”.
But in the end he rang Cabot and forgave him, as was often his way.
When Errol died in Toronto, Canada, he was with Beverly Aadland, a girl of fifteen who had been his lover for more than a year. His body was so ravaged by alcohol and drugs it resembled that of a man of sixty-five or seventy years of age. It is believed he intended to marry the girl as soon as she came of age. Her parents attempted to sue his estate for $5 million dollars, claiming the actor had corrupted their daughter – but there was nothing left to get. He had spent nearly everything. Six bottles of whiskey went into his coffin with him. When a reporter once asked him what he would like written on his tombstone the typical but unpublished reply was, ‘If it moved, Flynn fucked it!’
African Queen, The (1951)
Although this film was made on location in the Congo, the classic scene where Humphrey Bogart drags the boat through the reeds was shot in a huge water tank at Pinewood Studios in London. Robert Morley who plays Hepburn’s brother never even left England during the entire shoot. All his scenes were completed in the London studio. In some long shots you can detect an unconvincing stand-in waddling about in his place.
Bogart did not think much of Katharine Hepburn as a person. ‘How affected can you get in the middle of Africa?’ he complained. ‘Katharine Hepburn used to say everything was ‘divine’. The god-dam stinking natives were ‘divine’. Oh, what a divine native, she would say.
Oh, what a divine pile of manure’.
Hollywood gatecrasher and conman Sam Spiegel produced The African Queen. To avoid having to pay several outstanding debts he used the name S P Eagle, which appears in the credits. When he wrote a letter to Darryl Zanuck, asking if he would be interested in distributing the picture he even signed it, ‘S P Eagle’. Zanuck responded in the negative, signing his reply, ‘Z. A. Nuck’.
For most of his career Bogart made fun of the Oscars – until he won one himself for this picture. During a heated debate about acting with Richard Burton, he suddenly got up and stormed out of his lounge-room. A moment later he returned and thumped down his Oscar on the table and growled, ‘you were saying…?
Agony & the Ecstasy, The (1965)
Historically, the casting of one of the leads in this movie leaves a lot to be desired. The real Michelangelo was a homosexual dwarf, yet he is portrayed by, of all people, the statuesque and utterly heterosexual Charlton Heston. Truman Capote would have been the perfect choice, but then, who’s going to pay good money to watch him in anything?
A Guy Named Joe (1943)
Spencer Tracy (1900-1967)
Known relationships with women:
De Havilland, Olivia
Known relationships with men:
Tracy was a sour alcoholic much of the time with an eye for the ladies, although away from the public eye he was known to be bi-sexual, as mentioned previously here. During love scenes in this film with Irene Dunne he would whisper graphic details in her ear of his intentions, should he ever get her alone. The prim and proper Miss Dunne threatened to walk off the picture unless he desisted. After Van Johnson was badly disfigured in a car crash during the production, L B Mayer agreed to put the picture on hold until he recovered, but only if Tracy would lay off his leading lady. Tracy deigned to put Johnson’s needs before his own and the problem was resolved. The picture made Van a star. Incidentally, Keenan Wynne, who was reputedly Johnson’s lover, received superficial injuries in the same crash.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
George Harrison’s future wife Patti Boyd has a miniscule role here. She is the girl who sits next to Paul McCartney on the train and sings on ‘I Should Have Known Better’. She and George married in 1966. Two years after they divorced in 1977 she wed rock guitarist Eric Clapton. Look for young Phil Collins (wearing spectacles) in the audience at the television theatre.
The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein made a staggering blunder when he signed a deal with an American firm named Seltaeb (‘Beatles’ backwards) in the year this picture was released.
He naively handed over 90% of all profits from the group’s merchandising! On receipt of the first royalty cheque for $9,700, he complained to Saltaeb’s manager, ‘I suppose I owe you 90% of this?’ The man quietly advised him that the company had already taken its cut of $87,300! The deal would cost the Beatles about fifty million pounds in lost revenue.
Wilfrid Brambell achieved fame as the dirty old man in the British TV series Steptoe & Son. In 1955 he divorced his wife after she became pregnant to his lodger.
Just before he made A Hard Day’s Night he received a conditional discharge from a magistrate for ‘importuning for immoral purposes’ in a men’s toilet in London. From 1969 until his death he lived with his Chinese boyfriend Yussof Saman to whom he left the bulk of his estate.
Air Force (1943)
Tom Neal once smashed Franchot Tone’s nose to a bloody pulp in a fight over their lover, actress Barbara Payton. She would later star in the 1951 Gregory Peck film Only the Valiant. Tone was in the hospital for weeks and married Payton on his release. Following their divorce a few months later she moved back in with Neal! The bad press greatly affected both their careers, Payton eventually drifting into prostitution when roles dried up.
In 1965, Neal was charged with murdering his third wife Gail Evatt. He claimed (rather lamely) that his gun accidentally discharged during a quarrel. To everyone’s surprise, considering his violent reputation, the jury bought his story and he was convicted of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter. He served six years in prison, was released in 1972, and died eight months later.
Alamo, The (1960)
John Wayne’s choice of English actor Laurence Harvey to play Colonel Travis was considered to be almost blasphemous by most Texans. To overcome their protests, he had Governor Price of Texas make Harvey an honorary citizen of the state before filming began. As a sweetener he gave Price’s brother the most important task of doing the voice-over at the start of the film. His amateurish performance sets the picture’s standards from the outset.
Wayne and Laurence Harvey were cut from vastly different cloth. While observing Harvey walking along one of the parapets Wayne roared out to him, ‘Jesus Christ, can’t you at least walk like a man?’ Harvey, aware of Wayne’s real name, leaned over and sarcastically enquired, ‘speaking to me Marion?
Character actor Chill Wills was nominated for an Oscar for The Alamo (for reasons known only to God and the Academy) and nauseated everybody (especially the rest of the cast and crew) when he took out trade advertisements promoting his performance. These included a picture of the cast captioned: ‘We of The Alamo cast are praying harder than the real Texans prayed for their lives in the Alamo, for Chill Wills to win the supporting Oscar’. Another of his publicity man’s efforts listed every Academy member’s name alongside a picture of Wills that read: ‘Win, lose or draw, you’re still my cousins and I love you all’. Ad nausea.
Groucho Marx responded with an advertisement of his own: ‘Dear Mr. Wills: I am delighted to be your cousin, but I’m voting for Sal Mineo’. Wayne’s insinuations that anyone not voting for his picture was ‘Un-American’, combined with Wills’ obnoxious fawning, soon had wags in Tinsel Town crying ‘Forget the Alamo’. Not surprisingly, neither the picture nor Wills won. Good.
Michael Caine was rejected for the stage version of Alfie because ‘he wasn’t right for it’.
Incidentally, the song ‘What’s It All About, Alfie?’ was not written for the film. It was added in later when Cher’s version was included in the soundtrack for its American release. Later still, Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick recorded the tune as well. Millicent Martin, the girl Alfie seduces in the front seat of a Mini, sings it on the film’s soundtrack. Gillian Vaughan, the girl he seduces in the back seat of another vehicle, was the wife of singer/compere Des O’Connor at that time.
Vivien Merchant plays the middle-aged woman taken to the backyard abortionist by Alfie.
Her marriage to playwright Harold Pinter (The Birthday Party, The Caretaker) collapsed in 1975 when he took up with Lady Antonia Fraser, the wife of a Tory MP. The break-up sent Vivien spiraling into alcoholic depression. She even sought to join the notorious suicide group ‘Exit’ but was refused membership because,’ she had too much to live for’. In 1982 she died from chronic alcoholism at fifty-three, still unable to accept the loss of her husband to another woman.
Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves (1944)
Maria Montez was a native of the Dominican Republic and stars opposite Jon Hall in this ‘actioner’ made during the war. She never rose above ‘B’ pictures but managed to reach the periphery of the big time by wedding Jean-Pierre Aumont when his star was on the rise in 1943. ‘When I look at myself, I am so beautiful I scream with joy’, the mightily impressed actress would exclaim to anyone silly enough to listen. She went to great lengths to maintain that beauty, which was considerable even to others, and regularly took scalding hot baths to shed weight. In 1951 she took one too many, suffered a heart attack, and drowned. She was thirty-three.
The original ending to this film was supposed to have the alien bite off Ripley’s head and then send a message back to earth using her voice. Fox executives thought such a finale was a little on the dark side so it was rejected.
The shorthaired female crewmember crunched by the Alien was Veronica Cartwright, the older sister of The Sound of Music’s Angela Cartwright. Actually, Veronica was supposed to play the lead until the producers switched to newcomer Sigourney Weaver at the last moment. Cartwright made Goin’ South with Jack Nicholson in 1977, and was soon involved with him off screen. She was considered to be as good a ‘party animal’ as Jack. No small achievement in itself.
The two enjoyed periodical flings, even though he was heavily involved with Anjelica Huston at the time. Veronica later described him as an amazing lover. ‘Funny, charming, and capable of maintaining an erection for hours on end’, she enthused to friends. A decade further down the track she gained the small role of Felicia Alden in The Witches of Eastwick, another Nicholson vehicle, and intermittently frolicked with him again whenever they got the urge, still gushing to anyone who would listen about her appreciation of his ‘undiminished staying power’ in bed. Maybe, the script didn’t lie. Maybe, Jack truly was a ‘horny little devil’.
All About Eve (1950)
It was only because Jeanne Crain became pregnant that Anne Baxter was thrown into her Oscar-winning role as Eve Harrington. Barbara Stanwyck had first dibs on the Margo Channing role but declined it, probably because playing an aging star struck a little too close to home. Claudette Colbert said ‘yes’ but then hurt her back and withdrew. Gertrude Lawrence also agreed to play Margo but was released when she insisted the drunken scene featuring her character be removed from the script. That left Bette Davis in the plum role.
Celeste Holm made several observations about her co-stars in All About Eve. Davis and Gary Merrill fell in love right away, she said, and sat apart from the rest of the cast throughout the shoot sniggering and smirking like a couple of schoolchildren harboring a secret. George Sanders never spoke to anyone at all unless compelled to do so.
Marilyn Monroe, who was embarking upon her career, was an hour late for the first of her two scenes and took twenty-five takes to get it right. ‘She was terribly shy’, said Holm,
‘In fact, she was scared to death…’ Marilyn, in fact, was always late on this and every other set she was ever on. ‘She was not very talented’, said Holm years later, ‘and she had a strange delivery, which was something she’d learned from a bad coach (Natasha Lytess). So, I was not that impressed with her, and in fact none of us were’.
Davis disliked Holm the moment the affable, classy actress wished her a ‘cheery good morning’ on the set. ‘Oh shit, good manners’, snarled Bette. Celeste did not speak to her again – ever.
Zsa Zsa Gabor said she observed four different men from the film crew go into Monroe’s suite for sex on one evening alone.
Zsa Zsa was married to George Sanders at the time and was a regular visitor to the set. George later told his wife of his arrival at Marilyn’s apartment one evening during filming. She greeted him clad in nothing but a fur coat, which she promptly opened to him. ‘Who am I, darling, not to make love to a woman like that?’ he asked.
Merrill recalled how he felt ‘an almost uncontrollable lust’ when he first met Davis.
‘I walked around with an erection for three days’, he proudly proclaimed. The couple later married, fought like cat and dog and inevitably divorced. While Bette was carrying on with Merrill her estranged husband sent her an affectionate note professing his undying love, and offering to do whatever was needed to save their marriage. She read the letter out loud at her birthday party on the set, saying it was ‘the funniest thing’. No one laughed.
Bette Davis (1908-1989)
Gary Merrill & 3 others
In 1930 a studio executive was sent to the train station to welcome her to Hollywood. He returned empty-handed, reporting that ‘no one faintly like an actress got off the train’. Studio mogul Carl Laemmle was even less complimentary in his appraisal of bug-eyed Bette. ‘She has as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville’, he wailed. Summerville was a lanky, skinny, hook-nosed, hayseed comedian of the era who resembled a cross between a scarecrow and a praying mantis.
She was only 5’2” tall.
Her first screen test sent Samuel Goldwyn into fits. ‘Who did this to me? She’s a dog!’ he ranted. Bette ran screaming from the projection room. In time, however, as her popularity and power grew the little scrapper became known as ‘the fourth Warner Brother’ because of her feisty nature.
Her feud with Joan Crawford stemmed from Bette’s affair with Joan’s lover at the time Franchot Tone. It was only a brief fling and took place when they made Dangerous together in 1935. ‘That coarse little thing doesn’t stand a chance with Franchot’, sneered Joan. Just to make doubly sure of it she married him.
Not that this worried Bette in the slightest. The love of her life was director William Wyler.
One of her husbands, Arthur Farnsworth, died of an aneurysm in 1943, almost certainly brought on when he struck his head on a railway platform after Bette pushed him during an argument. Years later she admitted as much to intimates.
Jack Carson recalled asking a marine why all the servicemen clustered around
Davis at the Hollywood Canteen during the war. ‘I hear she screws like a mink’, the man replied. It was true. Bette seduced scores of serviceman she picked up at the canteen.
Ava Gardner recalled her first meeting with the by then legendary star. Spotting her in a hotel in Madrid, Ava walked up to the famous actress and introduced herself. ‘Miss Davis, I’m Ava Gardner and I’m a great fan of yours’.
Bette gave her a cursory glance and said, ‘Of course you are, my dear. Of course you are’, then swept on. ‘Now that’s a star’, exclaimed the star struck Ava.
Michael Curtiz, in his inimitable way, referred to Bette as, ‘a no good, sexless son of a bitch’. Carl Laemmle could only say, ‘I can’t imagine anyone giving her a tumble’.
Barbara Stanwyck called her ‘an egotistical little bitch’. Bankhead threatened to ‘tear every hair out of her moustache’. ‘That dame is too uptight’, observed Humphrey Bogart. ‘What she needs is a good screw from a man who knows how to do it’. John Mills starred opposite her in Murder with Mirrors in 1985. ‘I was never so scared in my life’, he recalled. ‘And I was in the war!’
Miriam Hopkins also detested her, although their notorious feud was played up for publicity purposes. ‘She was like a greedy little girl at a party table who just had to sample every other woman’s cupcakes’, whined Hopkins. One of the cupcakes Bette was sampling at the time was Miriam’s husband Anatole Litvak.
Like Crawford, Bette suffered the ignominy of seeing her daughter pen a critical book about her life.
Apparently, the young woman gave her mother the option of equaling the $150,000 publishing fee she had been promised, or else watch the book go into publication. Bette slammed the door in her face.
In 1983 the aging icon suffered several strokes following mastectomy surgery. Even in her sixties she continued to use an on-going stream of young men for sex. They were mostly homosexuals, many of whom she would ask to marry her after three or four dates. She hated to be alone.
George Sanders (1906-1972)
Del Rio, Dolores
Zsa Zsa Gabor & 1 other
George was born in Russia shortly before his parents escaped the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in England in 1917. Actor Tom Conway was his real life brother. In 1937 George told friends if he lived to be sixty-five he would take his own life. He would keep his word.
Openly pro-Fascist at the commencement of World War Two, he confided to Douglas Fairbanks Junior, ‘I couldn’t care less if Hitler took everything’. Referring to the Nazis as ‘reformists’, he wrote in his diary that America should befriend them and thus gain ‘a ring-side seat for ourselves in the New World they create’.
He agreed with Errol Flynn that neither would lift a finger to stop the Germans. After Pearl Harbor, however, George became decidedly more pro-American in his outlook. He even wrote to President Roosevelt suggesting he create a fast moving infantry division equipped with roller-skates! He also proposed the invention of a bomb that emitted an ‘all clear’ signal as it plummeted earthwards, designed to catch unwary civilians as they emerged from air-raid shelters. Not surprisingly, neither hair-brained scheme was adopted.
Ironically, the man who played the utterly nerveless theatre critic
Addison de Witt in All About Eve was reduced to tears when he won an Oscar for his performance. ‘I can’t help it’, he said in his acceptance speech, ‘this has un-nerved me’. During his life he had four wives and seven psychiatrists. True to his statement of 1937, when he turned sixty-five George topped himself. His suicide note read, ‘Dear world: I am leaving because I am bored. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool’.
Barbara Bates has a small part as the young starlet who ingratiates herself to Baxter at the end of the picture. After such a promising start to her career she struggled to get roles and eventually left Hollywood to find work as a dental assistant.
Harry Cohn of Columbia did offer her a contract before she left, but only if she would divorce her husband immediately! Understandably, she refused to do so. A few nights later dirty Harry called her at home in the middle of the night and invited her to spend the weekend with him aboard his yacht. ‘Don’t bring that midget husband of yours’, he added. Bates hung up on him. Later, when a reporter asked Harry why he had not signed the promising young actress for his new production Born Yesterday, he lied and said, ‘I missed signing her by minutes – dammit!’ In 1969, beset with personal problems, Barbara drove to her mother’s home and committed suicide with carbon monoxide in the old lady’s garage. It was not her first attempt, but this time she got it right.