irving thalberg

Luise Rainer – the forgotten star.

March 15, 2016 // 4 Comments

                             The lovely Luise Rainer is pretty much the forgotten star of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Era. The petite actress had all the assets necessary for screen success, but she was built of sterner stuff than her contemporaries when it came to ‘playing the Hollywood game’. Right from the beginning she set her own standards and never strayed from them. [...]

Norma Shearer – MGM’S ‘Queen of the Lot’.

January 5, 2016 // 0 Comments

  Irving Thalberg, the ‘boy genius’ in charge of production at MGM, died in 1936 while his wife, Norma Shearer, was in the middle of making Marie Antoinette. He was a genius when it came to organizing a film studio and making it run efficiently and profitably. The fledgling company run by L B Mayer had taken him on at $600 a week, although an important clause in his contract guaranteed [...]

Hollywood – tales from the dark side.

December 14, 2015 // 6 Comments

  Mabel Normand was one of the wildest of the silent stars whose off-screen antics ultimately wrecked her career and contributed to her early death. Mack Sennett credited her with inventing the pie-throwing gag that came to be used extensively throughout the silent picture era, claiming she threw one in comedian Ben Turpin’s face while the cross-eyed star was struggling to get a laugh from [...]

MGM’s ‘fixers – Mannix & Strickling.

November 29, 2015 // 0 Comments

    Back when the studio system was in vogue, back in the ‘Golden Years of Hollywood, each of the ‘Big Five’ had its ‘fixers’, men whose job it was to keep scandal and bad publicity at bay; to do whatever it took to ensure that the paying public remained ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’ about the movie industry and its stars. MGM had two such men who were even more adept at [...]

The 4 ‘Romeo & Juliets’ – enough already!

November 25, 2015 // 6 Comments

  The chronic problem with casting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is finding actors who are both young and experienced enough in stage acting to carry it off. After all, in Bill the Bard’s play Juliet is just fourteen years old. MGM producer Irving Thalberg unwisely chose to tackle the problem in the 1936 version by giving his wife Norma Shearer the role. Depending on which birth date is the [...]

MICKEY ROONEY – Will the real Mickey please stand up?

August 28, 2015 // 3 Comments

  young Lana Turner If you happen to be a Mickey Rooney fan (I am most certainly not, by the way), then you should definitely not read his sleazy autobiography titled Life Is Too Short. I have and I wish I hadn’t. My reason for repeating a couple of excerpts here is simple. I think it is important that we fully understand what a grubby little pervert the guy was, and the best way to do so [...]

SPENCER TRACY – A nightmare of a man.

August 6, 2015 // 6 Comments

  As an actor Spencer Tracy had few peers and cinema-goers adored him. Off screen he was a very ordinary human being, a man beset with all kinds of problems. He was a violent alcoholic his entire life and a rampant womanizer who had almost as many conquests to his name as Gable although, unlike ‘the King’, he is alleged to have taken male lovers as well. When he went on a ‘bender’, [...]

What’s in a name Part One?

August 2, 2015 // 0 Comments

Back in the good old studio days it was customary for studios to come up with snappy nicknames for their female stars. Well, they thought they were snappy, anyway. For some reason these were seldom given to male actors, although that is not to say that some of these guys didn’t have nicknames of their own long before their movie careers took off. John ‘Duke’ Wayne was one, for example. As a [...]

The Studio System – the Big Five.

July 22, 2015 // 6 Comments

  For several decades the ‘Big Five’ in Hollywood were MGM, 20th Century Fox, RKO, Paramount and Warner Bros. United Artists had its moments in the sun, as did Columbia, Republic and Universal, but they were not really in the same league as the others. Of the ‘Big Five’ only RKO Pictures was not owned by European Jews. The initials RKO, incidentally, stand for ‘Radio – Keith – [...]

Paul Bern ( 1889 – 1932 ) – An exercise in character assassination.

July 12, 2015 // 6 Comments

  Irene Selznick, the wife of producer David O, once described Paul Bern as ‘the single most beloved person in Hollywood’. He was a writer at MGM, 45 years old, short and bald, yet his new wife, Jean Harlow, clearly seemed to be in love with him. It was probably not a ‘match made in heaven’, but there seemed to be considerable trust and real friendship between them, qualities not [...]
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