Renee Zellweger prepared for her role in Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) by gaining 25lbs in weight and then obtaining a job in a London office under an alias, so she could study English accents. Nobody at the firm recognised her. On her desk she kept a photograph of her real-life boyfriend, Jim Carrey, a face her co-workers certainly recognised but were reluctant to mention for fear they might embarrass the obviously star-struck girl. (She and Carrey were engaged to be married for about 6 months in 2000). Co-star Hugh Grant said she only ever spoke with her English accent while the picture was being shot, whether she was on or off the set. At the ‘wrap’ party she finally reverted to her Texan accent, much to his astonishment. Until then he had no idea that was her natural voice. She was most unlucky to miss out on an Oscar for Chicago (2002), especially when we consider she had to learn to sing and dance from scratch, whereas the winner, Catherine Zeta-Jones, had a solid grounding in song and dance over many years. Until Chicago Renee had only sung in public twice before – in the final scene in Empire Records (1995) and in the karaoke sequence in Bridget Jones’ Diary six years later
16 year-old Tuesday Weld John Ireland
Provocative Tuesday Weld’s cute looks saw her become the family breadwinner as she began modelling as a child. Cast usually as precocious ‘sex kittens’ she did appear to have talent, but she turned down the leads in Lolita, Bonnie and Clyde and True Grit, decisions that cost her chances at real stardom. Her career slowly petered out. Roman Polanski wanted her for Rosemary’s Baby (1968), but the studio chose Mia Farrow instead. Three years later he took another swing at her (for Macbeth), but she refused a starring role because he wanted her to do a nude sleepwalking scene. What a surprise.
with Elvis with Gary Lockwood
with Sal Mineo
Mr & Mrs Dudley Moore
Her 1959 romance with 45 year-old actor John Ireland when she was just 16 brought headlines around the world. Long before that, however, she had suffered a breakdown at nine, was an alcoholic at twelve, and attempted suicide around the same time. At 18 she was involved off-screen with her co-star in Wild in the Country, Elvis Presley. Other lovers in the late fifties and early sixties included Dennis Hopper, Tommy Sands, Patrick Wayne, Gary Lockwood, Sal Mineo, Omar Sharif and Richard Beymer. It was rumoured she had affairs with Frank Sinatra, Anthony Perkins and the gay Raymond Burr. Others who came and went quickly included singer Fabian and John Drew Barrymore, (with whom she had a stormy relationship). For a while writer Tom Mankiewicz alternated between Tuesday, Inger Stevens and Carol Lynley. In 1965 she married screenwriter Claude Harz who happened to be Roddy McDowall’s secretary and former lover. The marriage lasted six years. In 1972 she became involved with Al Pacino who broke off his five-year relationship with Jill Clayburgh to pursue her. In 1975 she married British comedian Dudley Moore, but they divorced in 1980. Superstar violinist Pinchas Zukerman became husband number three in 1985 – until their divorce in 1998.
funnyman Norman Wisdom
Tiny Norman Wisdom (he was just 5’2” tall) is the forgotten man of British comedy, yet in the early fifties hardly a Saturday matinee went by in Australia or Britain without serving up something or other from the little fellow. Probably his best film was his own personal favourite, Trouble in Store (1953). As strange as it might seem he is also the national comedy hero of the former communist nation of Albania! The country’s communist dictator Enver Hoxha gave the OK to his pictures to be shown in the 50s and 60s because he always played the down-trodden working class man, and Hoxha considered them to be a parable for the workers’ struggle against capitalism. The Albanian public just loved his comedy. In 2000, at the age of 85, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. As Norman left the ceremony he deliberately tripped. ‘I couldn’t help it’, he chuckled. ‘I did a little trip’. Her Majesty, we are told, was amused. Perhaps, she gave him a little leeway because he had always insisted on paying the much higher UK tax rate, despite living on the Isle of Man which is a noted tax haven. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 95.
Compliance with the Hollywood Production Code rules resulted in all reference to the lead character’s homosexuality in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) being removed from the screenplay altogether. Gay director George Cukor took umbrage at this and turned down his chance to direct the film. Writer Tennessee Williams so disliked the picture that he stood outside a theatre and told patrons: ‘This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!’ But he was wrong. The adaptation was simply too boring to have a lasting effect on anyone. Williams had the misfortune to die in a quite bizarre fashion. Coroners discovered that he had suffocated when the cap from his eye-drop bottle became lodged in his throat. Friends confirmed that he would habitually place the cap in his mouth when he tilted back his head to administer his eye drops. Evidently, it slid down his throat and he was unable to retrieve it.
Art Carney as Ed Norton
in The Honeymooners
with Jackie Gleason
Art Carney won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Harry and Tonto (1974), but will be forever remembered as the inimitable Ed Norton on the fifties hit TV series The Honeymooners. Even the show’s star, Jackie Gleason, stated years later that Art was 90% responsible for the series’ success. Long before any of that, however, Carney was a private in the US Army during the Second World War and was sent to Normandy in July 1944 as a replacement in a 30 calibre machine gun squad. On August 15 he was hit in the right leg by mortar shrapnel, and received field treatment before being sent back to England and then to the USA. Of his extremely brief military career he said: ‘Never fired a shot and maybe never wanted to.’ His injury was severe enough to keep him hospitalized for nine months and cause him to limp for the remainder of his life. He masked his injury throughout his acting career except for when, at 55, he portrayed a 72 year-old man in his Oscar-winning role. The limp, he said, made him look older. He married his first wife, Jean, in 1940, but his alcoholism and addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates eventually ended the union 25 years later. After suffering a nervous breakdown over the split he married again, this time for 11 years. In 1979, having overcome his problems, he remarried Jean and they remained together until his death in 2003. If you watch the 1941 romantic comedy Pot ‘o’ Gold, starring Jimmy Stewart and Paulette Goddard, you can glimpse a 22 year-old Carney playing an unbilled radio announcer/band member in his very first screen appearance.