MOVIE TRIVIA – PT156.

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Debbie Reynolds & Eddie Fisher on their wedding day

Husband and wife team Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds co-starred in the squeaky-clean romantic comedy Bundle of Joy (1956). Debbie was pregnant at the time with their daughter Carrie, the future Princess Leia of Star Wars fame. Her brother, Todd, would come along in February 1958 and be named for his parents’ close friend, entrepreneur Mike Todd, the husband of movie icon Elizabeth Taylor. Less than a month after the boy’s birth, on March 22, 1958, his namesake was killed in a plane crash.

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Max Jacobson – ‘Dr. Feelgood’.

In 1953, Coca-Cola had given Eddie a $1 million deal to be the company’s national spokesperson. When we consider that the flashiest car cost about $3,000 and a house around $7,000 at the time, this was a staggering amount of money. It would be another dull decade, for instance, before Liz Taylor would be given the same amount for playing the title role in Cleopatra (1963) and create history as the first female to be paid a million for a movie.

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Eddie & Liz Taylor

Unfortunately, by 1953, Eddie was already a client of a certain Dr Max Jacobson, known in the entertainment business as ‘Dr Feelgood’, and happily partaking of the man’s ‘vitamin cocktails’. These concoctions were simply ‘speed balls’ and would constitute the start of Fisher’s thirty-seven year ‘high’, a condition he maintained through a combination of speed, alcohol and cocaine. Not that he was alone in this. Not by a long shot. Jacobson had clients throughout the entertainment industry and high society as well. President JFK and the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, were two of the very highest.

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Debbie Reynolds (L) & daughter Carrie Fisher

In his second autobiography, a 1999 volume titled Been There, Done That, Fisher chose to reveal all kinds of intimate details about his love life and about the women who he claimed had been part of it. His family and the friends of ex-wife Debbie Reynolds virtually wrote him off because of it. His daughter, Carrie Fisher, was especially incensed, publicly declaring that she ‘needed her DNA fumigated.’ In spite of earning incredibly high royalties on his numerous hit records and in spite of the money lavished on him by Coca-Cola, Eddie declared himself bankrupt in 1970. By then he owed nearly a million dollars, yet could only boast assets worth about $40,000. He had blown everything.

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Eddie & Ann-Margaret during their relationship

Among the many lovers he laid claim to, (and that did not include fans, groupies, chorus girls and scores of pretty girls he encountered along the way), the following celebrities made his list of seductions: Angie Dickinson, Ann-Margret, Joan Collins, Marlene Dietrich, Judith Exner-Campbell, Mia Farrow, Abbe Lane, Hope Lange, Sue Lyon, Carol Lynley, Kim Novak, Merle Oberon, Michelle Phillips, Stefanie Powers, Juliet Prowse, Dinah Shore, Mamie Van Doren and Lana Wood, Natalie’s sister. When we add in three of his five wives – Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens, it is quite an impressive list – providing it is all true. Michelle Phillips (of the pop group ‘The Mamas & the Papas’) and actress Carol Lynley hotly denied having slept with him, but Fisher brushed aside their rebuttals. According to daughter Carrie, he also slept with Princess Margaret, the Queen of England’s party-loving sister. Eddie passed away in 2010 after suffering complications following hip surgery. He was 82.

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The four singing Lane Sisters – Leota, Lola, Rosemary & Priscilla – began life with the surname of Mullican. The oldest of the siblings was, Leota, who hailed from Macy, Indiana, as did Lola (born Dorothy). Rosemary and Priscilla were born in Indianola, Iowa. It was Lola who gave the show business bug to her sisters. Small town life was not for her. As a teenager, on one occasion, she scandalized the locals by dancing a highly suggestive Charleston, right in front of the church as it was emptying after Sunday services. She toured with a vaudevillian and, in 1928, was in a Broadway show. All four girls changed their surname to Lane around that time and Lola landed a role in the 1929 movie Speakeasy.

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Leota Lane

Rosemary got her start as a vocalist with bandleader Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Contracted by Warner Bros, she made Hollywood Hotel (1937) with her sister Lola, and also played second fiddle to Priscilla, the youngest (and most famous) of the four girls, in several films. Warners decided to film Four Daughters (1938), starring Priscilla, who suggested her sisters should play the other three daughters. Leota was brought in from Broadway and tested to join Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola, but she was deemed unsuitable and Gale Page got the part instead.

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Priscilla with Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Priscilla played opposite Wayne Morris in three films. She was also Jimmy Cagney’s girlfriend in The Roaring Twenties (1939) and Cary Grant’s in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). In January 1939, she married assistant director/screenwriter Oren W. Haglund, but left him the following day and the marriage was annulled. She retired from films in 1948. Rosemary had already called it a day three years before; Lola a year after that.

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Rosalind & Loretta – ‘The Toni Twins’ 1948

The annual Press Photographers Ball was a Hollywood ritual held each year at Ciro’s. It provided the more adventurous agents with an opportunity to show off their latest ‘discoveries’; to get unknown, their up and coming clients, some free publicity. In 1948, good Catholic friends Loretta Young and Rosalind Russell, turned up at the ball dressed as ‘The Toni Twins’, complete with frizzy wigs parodying the famous Toni ad campaign that posed the question: ‘Can you tell which twin had the home permanent?’ That same year, agent Henry Willson escorted Rhonda Fleming, the latest addition to his stable, to the ball. The unlikely couple were decked out as Mr. and Mrs. Bo Peep, even carting around a couple of adorable lambs in their arms!

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Vera-Ellen & Rock Hudson 1949

Competition for attention got stiffer each year. In 1949, Red Skelton did his Confederate soldier thing; Betty Hutton turned up as a bearded cowboy and Ann Blyth appeared as a rotating helicopter! But Willson trumped everyone in his endeavours to get his latest piece of beefcake noticed. Every camera in the place snapped shots of the virtually unknown Rock Hudson and the established Vera-Ellen. They were depicting a male and female Oscar, each covered from head to toe in gold paint and sporting a golden sword. Louella Parsons could not wait to interview them. A gawky and nervous Hudson had his first exposure to the media.

2 Comments

    • Priscilla was the most successful of the sisters, Cat. She was quite cute actually. So was Vera-Ellen, although I must say that she and Rock did themselves no favours in the gold paint. None at all. Anything to get themselves noticed, I guess.

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