More Thirties Movie Trivia – PT6

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Jon Hall in The Hurricane (1937)

Director John Ford was convinced that no actor could effectively fake the pain experienced in a flogging, so the star of The Hurricane (1937), Jon Hall, volunteered to be whipped for real and was horse-whipped until his back bled! The censors, however, took one look at the footage and declared it to be too realistic and the entire sequence was cut from the film! Hall had made several features prior to this one, but all of them under his real name, Charles Locher. However, the co-author of The Hurricane novel was his uncle James Hall, so the young actor changed his name to Jon Hall in order to capitalise on his relationship to the co-author.

Hall’s father was a former world skating champion turned actor; his mother a Tahitian princess. Unlike his father, Jon never liked being an actor. He thought it was a boring way to make a living and especially disliked being told what to do and say. But the money enabled him to pursue his varied interests away from the screen.

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Ben Chapman as the creature with Julia Adams

Another of Jon’s uncles was the 6’5”, athletic Ben Chapman. The name probably does not mean much to the average movie-goer, but Ben had a solitary claim to celluloid fame. He played the creature in the cult classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Well, to be precise, he played the finned creature when he was out of the water and walking around. The swimming creature was played by someone else. Jon was an athletic man also for most of his life, but he suffered dreadfully with bladder cancer in his final years, so much so that he took his own life with a firearm when he was 64.


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William Powell & Myrna Loy in THe Great Ziegfeld (1936)

One of the Ziegfeld girls bobbing about in the 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld is an uncredited youngster named Patricia Ryan. She only racked up four screen credits before, as she put it, she ‘sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious in order to advance the political career of my husband.’ From 1969 until 1974 she would be First Lady of the United States while her husband, Richard Nixon, presided over the nation and made an almighty mess of it.

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                 Patricia Ryan                                                      Pat Nixon & family

Although actress Billie Burke was not in the movie, she had a hand in writing the screenplay. From 1914 until his death in 1932, she was married to Flo Ziegfeld, the subject of the picture. Movie fans will remember her playing Glinda the Good Witch in 1939’s classic The Wizard of Oz. She never much cared for The Great Ziegfeld as a biographical account of the man’s life. And little wonder. She oversaw the script and managed to keep the screenwriters from besmirching her deceased husband’s memory by ensuring they overlooked his numerous infidelities. As a biopic it was far from factual and she knew it

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Flo & Billie Ziegfeld                                       Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Myrna Loy portrayed Billie in the picture. She had second billing, yet does not appear until over two hours into the film. William Powell played Flo. Universal soon found it could not handle the costs involved in making The Great Ziegfeld, so MGM stepped in and paid $300,000 for the rights. Universal had initially purchased the rights from Billie. It cost MGM $2 million to make the film, a huge amount in 1936, but it raked in $40 million over the years. It also picked up the Best Picture Oscar that year.

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Henry Fonda & Claudette Colbert in Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Henry Fonda starred in the 1939 classic western Drums along the Mohawk, a story set in the Mohawk Valley in the late 18th century. Interestingly, his ancestors settled there in the mid-17th century. In fact, his 5th great, great, grandfather, a man named Douw Jellis Fonda, was too old to fight in the Revolutionary War, but had the misfortune to be killed and scalped in 1780 by an Indian fighting with the Tories. Henry’s 4th great grandfather Adam Fonda and his brother John were captured and held in Canada for two years.

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Mayo Methot – the future Mrs. Humphrey Bogart

The 1937 drama Marked Woman featured Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and was loosely based on the trial and tribulations of real-life mobster Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano. Luciano had been informed on by some of the prostitutes who worked in his brothels, women who had tired of his beatings and mistreatment. A group of them courageously went to the police. Of course, they may have been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment themselves unless they co-operated, but we shall give them the benefit of the doubt. District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey was on a crusade to get Luciano and he eventually succeeded. He prosecuted the case and the mobster was ultimately imprisoned.

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                                                                                 One of the 28 women who testified against Luciano                            Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano

The girls who had spoken out against him were released from the House of Detention and escorted to Dewey’s offices in the Woolworth Building. Those who had testified against their former boss were paid amounts ranging from $150 to $175 each, approximately half what they had been making as hookers each week, as a matter of fact. Then, (just as they did in the film), they disappeared into the fog. Whether or not Luciano’s minions tracked them down has been long lost to history. Given the Mob’s track record regarding betrayal, one imagines it would not have been too difficult to find and punish them, if that indeed was Luciano’s orders.

Mayo Methot, playing Estelle Porter, one of the hookers, met her future husband Bogart on the set. They married as soon as his divorce from his second wife Mary Philips was finalised. The marriage was a ‘knock down – drag out’ affair that achieved legendary status as one of the most torrid unions in Hollywood history. It ended when Bogart encountered the love of his life, Lauren Bacall, when they co-starred in To Have and Have Not in 1944.

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At the time of filming Libeled Lady (1936) there were two romances going on between the picture’s stars – according to the tabloids of the day, anyway. Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy were said to be having an affair; William Powell and Jean Harlow were also an item and had been for some time. In truth, Tracy and Myrna had already split up and she had recently (June 1936) married producer Arthur Hornblow Junior. The four stars reportedly had a ball on and off the set; and clearly enjoyed one another’s company. Tracy pretended to be heartbroken over Myrna’s recent marriage and jokingly set up an ‘I Hate Arthur Hormblow’ table near the set for all the men the vivacious Myrna had ditched in her life. Did he and Myrna rekindle their romance during the making of Libeled Lady as the tabloids insinuated? I have no idea, but Myrna’s marriage to Arthur survived six years until 1942, so I rather think not. On a sadder note, within a year of this picture’s release, Harlow would be dead and entombed in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery – clad in the very gown she wore in this film.


  1. In the early 1990’s, I befriended a lady, in her 70’s, who told me that she used to be a waitress and cigarette girl, in Mahattan. Her boss, asked her to come down to Miami Beach, to work a party, at a house, literally on the beach. She did so and realized that she was working a mafia meeting, that took place over several days. One night, who shows up but Luciano, off a boat, that just came in from the Bahamas. This was while he was exiled to Italy. After several hours, he boarded the boat and was off to the Bahamas. As a side note, she said that Sinatra was “fresh” and thought that he was a real hotshot. She did not like him at all. I told her that she should write a book.

    • Fascinating. Sinatra never refuted his Mob connections, after all he grew up with a lot of these guys, but he hedged about any connection with Luciano, probably because he was concerned that he might be accused of carrying laundered money for him, which he probably did anyway. Big stars were not checked out by customs back then. His attitude towards women fluctuated alarmingly, dependent on his moods usually. Some said he could be charming, others felt cheapened by him. It is most interesting to read that Luciano seemed able to go in and out of the USA almost at will, despite being exiled to Italy. Hotshot mobsters truly seemed to live by a different set of rules to everyone else. Thank you for your note, Mike. Most illuminating.

  2. I knew about Mayo, including Stephen Humphrey Bogart’s “loony tunes” reference,A.C. Lyles’, Paramount, laughter when Bogart showed up late for dinner date w/ scratches on
    his face, blood on shirt. He announced that he “had to take Mayo to the hospital. She
    broke her jaw,” In researching her, I found an “eye opener”. In an on line book,
    somebody wrote that Mayo was desperately crying for help and nobody listened.
    In this ‘who’s sleeping with who,’ she is the victim in my mind. In talking w/ the gossip
    beasts, she sobbed, ” I just want him home. It’s his home too.” [from Bogart bio.]
    I understand she was a good actor before alcohol took its toll.

    Here’s a surprise: “A dozen roses were delivered every week to the crypt of Mayo Methot
    in her mausoleum in the Portland Memorial cemetery. Roses ceased coming one week
    after Bogart’s death, 1957.” [Reminds me of Marilyn M. and Joe.]

    • You certainly are a full bottle on Bogey, Sheila. I did not know of the roses thing with Mayo, but by all accounts Bogey was a whole lot softer than his public image suggested, so I would not be surprised if you had a soft spot for her, particularly given Mayo’s rather desperate final years. Nice to hear from you again.

      • Getting back to frank and his mob ties, rumor was that when he wanted to break his contract, with the first band, the bandleader, can not remember who, gave him a big strong, absolutely not. Then shortly thereafter he said sure Frank, not a problem. Opinion was that he got a message, that you will release him from that contract. The lady, that I mentioned, above, was dating a mobster, at the time that she was asked to work the party, so I am sure that they strongly felt that she could be trusted. So, it is not a big reach to realize that with the mob, all over the nightclub scene, that you had to be involved with them, period. Then, remember when JFK, was going to stay at Frank’s house, in 1960, during the election, and our government told him you can not because of his mob ties. JFK switched to Crosby’s house and Frank was crushed.

        • I’m pretty sure the band leader was Tommy Dorsey, Mike. The incident was used in ‘The Godfather’ and appears to be quite true. The Mob certainly helped JFK defeat Nixon in that very close-run election, but then Jack and Bobby turned on them.

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