The scene in which Arthur (Dudley Moore) and his ‘hooker’ date, Gloria, are dining in the 1981 film Arthur, was filmed at the famous Oak Room inside the Plaza Hotel in New York City. This was the same restaurant where Cary Grant’s character, Roger Thornhill, was abducted in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest (1958).
Paul Robeson was an exceptionally talented man who could speak and write in over twenty languages! He was only the third black person to be admitted to Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, and was Valedictorian of his senior class there in 1919. He was also a graduate of Columbia University School of Law and was captain of the Rutgers debating team. Incidentally, he was also the first black person to play football for the university. Added to these qualities was his superb baritone voice, as evidenced in the 1936 film Show Boat by his rendition of ‘Ol’ Man River’.
Despite his many accomplishments, however, he remained an unabashed champion of (of all people) the Soviet Union’s dictator Joseph Stalin. Consequently, Robeson was vilified in the United States throughout the forties until, in 1950, he was even blacklisted for his political beliefs. He was not permitted to make any films in the United States, or have any of his films shown in that country at that time. After visiting the Soviet Union he denied the existence of the Holodomor and the Great Purge. On the death of Stalin in March 1953, Robeson penned an article praising the man. It was entitled: ‘To You Beloved Comrade’ and caused immense controversy, especially when he praised the Soviet Union as an anti-colonial force when it occupied Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, beginning with its invasion of Poland and Finland in 1939. Robeson also blamed the UK and France for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Although he regularly condemned the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, he refused to condemn the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, even after De-Stalinization peaked in 1961.
Petula Clark touches Harry Belafonte’s arm
In 1968, Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte were singing a duet on her TV show when she touched his arm. A representative for the show’s sponsor, Chrysler Corporation, saw it and ordered the director have them re-tape the duet and not to have Petula touch his arm, the rationale being that viewers in the American South would be outraged to see a white woman touching a black man. The South was a big market for Chrysler cars. Clark redid the scene, but when she found out the reason why, she and her husband (the show’s producer) stormed into the control booth, ordered the director to destroy the second take and keep the original one. As expected, when the show was aired a few weeks later many stations in the South would not show it. Chrysler received numerous letters from outraged Southerners saying they would never buy a Chrysler product again because of the company’s sponsorship of the show.
When Perry Como was briefly under contract to make movies for MGM in the 1940s, he essentially sabotaged his own movie career. At the annual studio celebration of studio mogul Louis B. Mayer’s birthday, Como was forced to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the egomaniacal studio head. To express his resentment at being made to perform against his wishes, Perry changed the lyrics to –‘Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, you big, fat S.O.B!’ Needless to say, Mayer was offended and used his enormous influence to ensure Como would never become a movie star. This forced Perry into the fledgling television industry, where he became one of the most popular weekly hosts on 1950s TV.
Singer/ actor Pat Boone admits ‘there’s something about me that makes a lot of people want to throw up…In most cases, I think that it’s a reaction to my lifestyle and the things that I stand for.’ And he may well be right. In 2006, he penned an article, in which he argued that Democrats and others who are against the Iraq War cannot, under any circumstances, be considered patriotic. On Fox News he later expressed outrage against critics of President George W. Bush (especially the Dixie Chicks), stating that their criticisms showed they did not ‘respect their elders’! Mel Gibson is a member of an extremely conservative Catholic denomination, who was recorded unleashing a vicious anti-Semitic tirade while he was being arrested for drunk driving, yet Boone wrote another article defending him! Then, in 2007, Boone wrote two articles claiming that the scientific theory of evolution is ‘absurd,’ ‘nonsensical’ and a ‘bankrupt false religion’. Little wonder people doubt his opinions.
It has been speculated that either Kris Kristofferson, Warren Beatty, Cat Stevens or Mick Jagger ‘inspired’ the famous Cary Simon song ‘You’re So Vain’. Kristofferson was asked by an interviewer about it. ‘It couldn’t have been me’, he said, ‘because I have never flown in a Lear jet like that guy in the song’.
Lena Horne refused to appear before racially segregated US Army audiences in World War Two Italy. Since the army was officially segregated, the policy was to have one show solely for white troops and another show solely for black troops. Horne insisted on performing for mixed audiences, and since army leadership refused to allow integrated audiences, she wound up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black American soldiers and white German POWs.
Lena moved into cabaret performances, partly because her name had appeared in ‘Red Channels’, a publication that circulated in the entertainment industry during the McCarthy ‘Red Scare’ era that listed names of performers it considered ‘subversives’. That person’s name, incidentally, could also be taken off the list for a ‘fee’. Her activities in the civil rights movement, plus her long-time friendship with black former Communist actor/singer Paul Robeson were used against her. This was despite her working with Eleanor Roosevelt on anti-lynching laws. Later, during the John F. Kennedy administration, she was a frequent guest at the White House.
American comedian Phi Silvers (of Sgt. Bilko fame) wrote the lyrics to the Jimmy Van Heusen song titled ‘Nancy with the Laughing Face for Nancy Sinatra in honor of her fourth birthday. One of Nancy’s elementary school classmates was future actress Jill St. John, who later had a long romance with her father Frank Sinatra.