Victor Mature was notorious in Hollywood for being frightened of his own shadow. When he was required to fight the lion bare-handed in Samson and Delilah (1949), he managed to convince director Cecil B. DeMille to use stunt double Kay Bell instead. ‘I had no love for the lion,’ Mature told ‘Movie-land Magazine’, ‘and he wasn’t carrying any torch for me. In the scene in which I was supposed to be stalking him, DeMille kept urging me to get closer, and I was calling out, ‘Nice kitty; nice kitty. Didn’t do any good…A stunt man finally tackled the lion.’
Loretta Swit played Major ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan throughout the eleven seasons of M.A.S.H. and her outspoken stand against the killing of fur-bearing animals for high-fashion wear was rewarded with acknowledgements from the American Humane Society and the Animal Protection Institute of America. In addition, she teamed with Robert Redford for a PBS special focusing on animal species that were threatened with extinction. She is also an active board member for Actors & Others for Animals and other similar organizations.
Constance Towers with John Wayne in The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Fans of John Wayne films will probably recall the lovely Constance Towers who played opposite him as a feisty southern belle in the 1959 Civil War drama The Horse Soldiers. It may, however, surprise readers to learn that she also enjoyed a highly successful later career in musicals on Broadway. That career encompassed the leads in Guys and Dolls, Carousel, The Sound of Music, Camelot, Kiss Me Kate and Oklahoma! She reached the pinnacle of her Broadway success playing opposite Yul Brynner in over 800 performances of The King and I in the 1970s. Born in 1933, she has just entered (2023) her 90th year. Constance was married to actor John Gavin for 44 years until his death in 2018. In 1998, the then 65 year-old actress portrayed Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother in the excellent A Perfect Murder.
Rex Harrison had a reputation for being abrupt with his fans. One night, after a stage performance of ‘My Fair Lady’, it was late, cold and pouring rain and an old woman was standing alone outside the stage door. As Rex emerged, she asked him for his autograph. Rex told her abruptly to ‘Sod off!’ The old woman was so enraged that she rolled up her program and struck him with it. Harrison’s co-star Stanley Holloway, who had followed Rex out in time to see this, commented sarcastically that, for the first time in theatre history, ‘The fan has hit the shit!’
Elvis in Fun in Acapulco
When Elvis Presley made the movie Fun in Acapulco (1963), he did not actually set foot in the Mexican resort at any time. Instead, a stunt double was employed because Elvis had been banned from entering Mexico altogether, having been declared a ‘persona non grata’ by the government. It was all a ‘storm in a teacup’. He had been accused of making derogatory comments about Mexico, stating that he found the country ‘distasteful’ as a whole, and that he would have preferred to kiss ‘three African-Americans than a single Mexican’. None of the accusations were true, of course. A Mexican politician had started the rumor simply because Elvis had refused to give a private concert for his daughter and her friends.
Pat Boone at the peak of his popularity
When singer/actor and devout Christian Pat Boone covered Fats Domino’s hit song ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ in 1956, he initially insisted that the title should be grammatically amended to ‘Isn’t That a Shame’. Why? He believed that the incorrect grammar would be a bad influence on young people! He was over-ruled. Boone also rewrote all the suggestive lyrics in ‘Long Tall Sally’. His 1958 hit tune titled ’A Wonderful Time up There’ became the first million-selling single with religious lyrics. Although he is not Jewish, he penned the lyrics for the music of the song ‘Exodus’. As the lyrics clearly show, he is a major supporter of the state of Israel.
Boone seriously considered running for office in 1968, on a ‘pro-Vietnam War’ platform. In 2006, he penned an article in the conservative magazine World Net Daily, in which he argued that those who were against the Iraq War could not, under any circumstances, be considered patriotic. On Fox News he later expressed outrage over The Dixie Chicks’ criticism of President George W. Bush, appalled that they ‘did not respect their elders’. After actor and devout Catholic Mel Gibson unleashed a vicious anti-Semitic tirade while being arrested for drunk driving, Boone wrote another article defending the outburst. In 2007, he penned yet another two articles, claiming that the scientific theory of evolution is ‘absurd’, ‘nonsensical’ and a ‘bankrupt false religion’. The question, therefore, begs answering: ‘Does he ever get anything right?’
John McIntyre & his wife Jeanette Nolan
John McIntyre (1907-91) met and married actress Jeanette Nolan in 1935, when they appeared together on radio. Their marriage lasted until John’s death from emphysema fifty-six years later. They had two children. John replaced Ward Bond as the wagon-master on Wagon Train after Bond’s death in 1960, and remained with the show until it ended in 1965. Then, in 1968, he again replaced the star of a popular series (Charles Bickford, owner of the Shiloh Ranch, on The Virginian), when Bickford died in 1967. McIntyre remained with that particular show until 1970.
The role of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters (1984) was originally written for John Belushi. After his death, the role went to fellow Saturday Nite Live player Bill Murray. Belushi’s nickname ‘America’s Guest’ stemmed from his habit of wandering to a random house of a complete stranger, knocking on the door, going in, helping himself to something in the refrigerator and then sleeping on the stranger’s couch. Most strangers, recognizing who he was, did not seem to mind Belushi’s ‘visit’.’
Contrary to popular belief, character actor Victor McLaglen was of Scottish ancestry – not Irish. He provided a vital presence in several John Ford westerns, and even won a Best Actor Academy Award for The Informer (1935). In his youth he dabbled in professional prize-fighting as he travelled to the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. In 1909, he was the first fighter to box the newly crowned Heavyweight Champion of the World, Jack Johnson, in a six-round exhibition match in Vancouver. ‘He never knocked me down’, McLaglen said later, ‘but he sure beat the livin’ be-Jesus out of me!’