Errol Flynn had various mirrors and hiding places constructed inside his mansion, including an overhead trapdoor above one of the guest bedrooms for surreptitious viewing! Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood toured the house as a prospective buyer back in the seventies, and reported: ‘Errol had two-way mirrors…speaker systems in the ladies’ room. Not for security. Just that he was an A-1 voyeur.’ In her 1966 biography, Hedy Lamarr wrote, ‘Many of the bathrooms have peepholes or ceilings with squares of opaque glass through which you can’t see out but someone can see in.’
Fans who remember Edward Platt as ‘The Chief’ in the TV series Get Smart (1965-70), will no doubt be surprised to learn that he started out as a singer. As a youth he was a member of the ski jump team at a private school near Lake Placid, before majoring in romantic languages at Princeton. A year later, he left Princeton to study at the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, his thoughts turning to a possible operatic career. Instead of opera, however, he first became a band vocalist with Paul Whiteman & his Orchestra. With the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company in 1942, he appeared in ‘The Mikado’, ‘The Gondoliers’ and ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. When he auditioned for the role of ‘The Chief’, Platt burst into song, convincing the producers that he was more than capable of carrying off comedy, and he got the part. Sadly, he suffered from undiagnosed and untreated depression and, after unsuccessfully attempting suicide on two occasions, he finally ended his life in 1974. He was 58.
Dick Van Dyke & his 2nd wife Arlene Silver
On December 13, 2019, song and dance man Dick Van Dyke will celebrate his 94th birthday. Back in 2012, when he was 86, he married his second wife, a make-up artist named Arlene Silver who was 40 at the time. The couple met at a Screen Actors Guild awards dinner when an intrigued Van Dyke sat down next to her and introduced himself. Before long he had hired her as his personal make-up artist and sparks began to fly soon afterwards. She had never married before but happily states that he is ‘the prince she has been waiting for’. Arlene recognized him as a star of Mary Poppins (1964), but had not seen any of his other movies or TV series at the time. An excellent belly dancer in her spare time, she shares her husband’s sense of fun.
Van Dyke & Michelle Triola
From 1976 until her death in 2009, Van Dyke lived with Michelle Triola, the former partner of actor Lee Marvin. Dick had become involved with her before his first marriage ended. In his autobiography, he admits that the final cause of his divorce was when he gave Michelle, out of his own pocket, the six-figure amount she had sued Marvin for unsuccessfully in their famous ‘palimony’ case. Not surprisingly, this extraordinary demonstration of generosity to a lover proved to be more than his wife could endure. As of August 2019, Van Dyke is said to be worth in the vicinity of $30 million.
David Niven & Hjordis Genberg
David Niven was a most popular man among his peers, but his marriage to Hjordis Genberg was anything but a happy or smooth one. ‘I thought it would make Hjordis happy if we adopted a child’, he told an interviewer. ‘We talked to friends about the idea and they thought it would be marvellous. Hjordis said she’d love to adopt a Swedish girl, so we did. Her name was Kristina.’ This all sounded most amicable but there was a slight snag. The child was, in fact, Niven’s by an affair with an 18 year-old model. Hjordis had to put up with the pretence.
Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man (briefly)
MGM cast Buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow in its 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but he swapped roles with Ray Bolger who had been picked to play the Tinman. Bolger wanted to play the Scarecrow and Ebsen was fine with the switch, so he recorded all the Tin Man’s songs, attended all the rehearsals, and began filming. However, he soon became very ill from a reaction to the aluminium dust used in the Tin Man make-up, and was forced to leave the production. Curiously, MGM heads did not believe he was ill until they ordered him back to the set and he was intercepted by a furious nurse! He was replaced by Jack Haley, the make-up having been changed to a safer, less toxic aluminium paste. Haley, incidentally, was not told of the reason for Buddy leaving the production until much later. For the rest of his life, Buddy complained of breathing problems from his involvement in ‘that damned movie’.
For forty years, actors Jack Klugman (Oscar Madison in TV’s The Odd Couple) and Norman Fell were supposed to have been bitter enemies, engaging in a feud that rivalled the one between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. When Fell passed away in 1998, however, Jack attended his funeral. ‘Best funeral I’ve ever been to’, said Klugman. ‘I’ve never laughed so hard in years. I had the time of my life.’ In truth, their ‘feud’ was just a friendly rivalry that got blown out of proportion, one that both men mischievously encouraged at every opportunity. In reality, they were good friends.
Comedian Phil Silvers once told a story about standing next to fellow funny man Milton Berle at a urinal. Berle had long been regarded in Hollywood as having the largest penis in living memory. Silvers glanced down at the man’s equipment and quipped: ‘You’d better feed that thing, or it’s liable to turn on you!’ At Berle’s memorial service at the New York Friars’ Club, Freddie Roman further perpetuated the myth, when he solemnly announced: ‘On May 1st and May 2nd, his penis will be buried.’ In his autobiography, Berle claimed to have had sexual relationships with many famous women, among them Marilyn Monroe, Betty Hutton, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. The last of these claims has been vigorously challenged by Ms McPherson’s biographer and her daughter.
Patricia Blair (L) & Veronica Cartwright (R) in Daniel Boone
Veronica Cartwright played Daniel’s daughter Jemima in the popular TV series Daniel Boone (1964-70) that starred Fess Parker in the title role. The show went for 165 episodes but Veronica only made 37 of them and was gone after season two. In an interview she explained what happened. Texan Beauty Patricia Blair had been cast as Daniel’s wife Rebecca, but when the producers decided they wanted to have Jemima involved in more mature situations, such as budding romantic relationships in season three, Patricia objected because ‘it made her feel old’. She threatened to leave the series unless Veronica was removed from the show. Sixteen year-old Veronica was consequently dropped!