Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

Heres my photo montage of what Hollywood had to offer during the 20's to the 40's to scare us. I hope you enjoy it and have a safe but ghoulish Halloween.

EEEEK thats scary! Oh wait its just Joan Crawford as a witch.

Why do my dates always pass out before I get through my list of pet peeves?

They could have given me the option between the bolts or this hairstyle. Any sane person would have chosen the bolts.

What do you mean by I should put the mask back on?

If I walk really stiff I don't think they will notice the bolts or the scars or the dead eyes.

Just representin Yo! Kanye who?

I was standing right here with my arms just like this when your daughters got those puncture wounds.

I love this cape and one day I want to be buried in it. Oh never mind thats just crazy talk. I need some sunlight.

This isn't Utah you know. If one more woman shows up here I'm leaving as soon as I can get my head dislodged from this gate.

EEEK! Crap thats just Joan Crawford again. Stop that Joanie.

Happy Halloween everyone and thanks for stopping by. I will be back blogging about my memorabilia tomorrow. 
Love and laughter,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Irene Dunne (1898-1990)

The American born beauty started her acting career at a very young age appearing in "A Midsummer Nights Dream" at the age of five. Following in her musician mother's footsteps she took vocal lessons at the age of thirteen and earned extra money after her fathers death by singing at her local church. After high school Irene relocated to Chicago for a short time then she found her way to New York where she traveled with a theater company for awhile. But she returned again to Chicago where she graduated from the Chicago Music College in 1926. Two years later she married Dennis Griffin a New York dentist who she remained married to until his death in 1965. They adopted one daughter together, their only child.

While performing in "Show Boat" in 1930 on the East coast she got noticed and was lured to Hollywood like a thousand young actresses before her. But Irene wasn't put in movies as an extra or given empty promises like so many wide eyed starlets before her or since. She appeared in one not so memorable movie in 1931 but her second film "Cimarron" the same year garnered her first of five Academy Award nominations and the film won Best Picture that year. Under contract at RKO she was given plum roles and starred in "No Other Woman" 1933 and in "Ann Vickers" the same year with Walter Houston and Conrad Nagel. 

Irene tried her hand at comedies and by 1936 she was nominated for her second Oscar for her role in "Theodora Goes Wild". Unfortunately she lost out to Luise Rainer for "The Great Ziegfeld". Carole Lombard was also nominated that year for her hilarious role in "My Man Godfrey" which is one of my favorite comedies. William Powell and Lombard are fantastically funny together. I've seen it probably twenty times and I still have to re-watch it every time it airs). In 1937 Irene was paired with the comedic genius Cary Grant and from there her career skyrocketed. Their first movie together was "The Awful Truth" 1937 (my favorite Dunne film) then they went on to star together in "My Favorite Wife" 1940 and "Penny Serenade" 1941.

publicity still with Cary Grant and their co-star Smith the dog for "The Awful Truth"

Her success continued throughout the late 1930's with "Love Affair" 1939 co-starring Charles Boyer and another Oscar nomination for her for Best Actress. 1939 was a tough year to be nominated though since Vivien Leigh was nominated for "Gone With The Wind" (she won) then Bette Davis was nominated for her amazing performance in "Dark Victory" not to mention Greta Garbo for "Ninotchka" and Greer Garson for "Goodbye Mr. Chips". Irene had always said "Love Affair" was her favorite film. (Warren Beauty and Annette Benning did a remake of it and both versions will bring a few tears). 

She worked continuously throughout the 1940's and received another Oscar nod for her role as the Norwegian mother in "I Remember Mama" 1948. She lost out for the fifth time to Jane Wyman "Johnny Belinda". Ingrid Bergman and Olivia de Havilland were also nominated that year. Irene made her last film in 1952 but she remained active doing charitable work and appearing in television guest spots.

with Robert Taylor

with Melvyn Douglas in "Theodora Goes Wild" 1936

In 1957 Irene was appointed the U.S delegate for the United Nations by President Eisenhower. The remainder of her life was spent on civic causes. She passed away from a heart attack in Los Angeles, CA in 1990 after a long fulfilling life. She appeared in over 60 films. She was interred in a mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA which can be viewed HERE. 
For a view of Irene's Holmby Hills mansion click HERE.

click on autograph and images for larger view

Interesting Irene Dunne Facts:

Her tombstone has the wrong birth date and reads 1901 instead of 1898.

It was always assumed that the Academy of Motion Pictures would award her with an honorary Oscar after she retired from acting after five Oscar nominations and no wins but that was never to be.

She claimed that always getting enough sleep kept her looking young. Her studio contract stipulated that she arrive on set at 10 a.m. and stop filming by 6 p.m. each day.

Her only color production was "Life with Father" in 1948 with William Powell.

She Christened the Mark Twain stern-wheel riverboat at Disneyland in 1955.

Her favorite leisure activity was going down the Mississippi River on river boats.

She was up for the lead in "Of Human Bondage" but lost out to Bette Davis.

Thanks for stopping by and please return for more of my collection from old Hollywood,

Ricardo Cortez (1900-1977)

The American born actor of Austrian ancestry (His Jewish parents immigrated from Austria right before he was born)  looked more like a Latin Lover with his dark eyes and olive toned skin.  Unlike a lot of actors Ricardo didn't start out as a child star or have an interest in acting from an early age. Growing up in New York he started out as a stock broker on Wall Street and even tried boxing for a few years before his looks got him noticed by Hollywood executives. During the era when Rudolph Valentino, John Gilbert and Ramon Novarro were at the top of the box office playing Latin Lovers, he was recruited to play the part. His birth name of Jacob Krantz was changed to Ricardo Cortez and the creation of his on screen persona began in 1922.

publicity still for "The Spaniard" 1925 

Ricardo appeared in a couple of films in 1923 but it was his performance along side co-star Bebe Daniels in "Argentine Love" 1924 that got him noticed. He had top billing by 1925 and went on to star opposite the studios top stars like Greta Garbo in "Torrent" 1926 then with Bebe Daniels again in "Volcano" that same year. He co-starred with Joan Crawford in "Montana Moon" 1930 and opposite Claudette Colbert in "Torch Singer" 1933. Parts were coming his way and even though his acting wasn't at the caliber of John Gilbert or Ramon Novarro he was a box office draw often due to his good looks. (That sounds like a few attractive actors I know of today who we women go to the movies just to stare at even though their acting will never win them an Oscar).

with Mary Astor in "I Am a Thief" 1934
with Dolores Del Rio in "Wonder Bar"

Rudolph Valentino who was the studios top box office draw, died suddenly in 1926 and the studio rushed to replace him with Ricardo as their "Latin Lover". Ricardo wasn't thrilled with the idea and it made him nervous for two reasons. Rudolph's following was vast and his fans we're loyal not to mention those we're big shoes to fill. Also Ricardo wasn't actually of Spanish decent and rumors had already started to swirl regarding his actual nationality. The studio tried to squash the rumors by announcing that he was Latin but a different type of Latin from France or somewhere else in Europe other than Spain. The public wasn't buying it so the studio finally had to admit that Ricardo was actually Austrian and hoped his acting would overshadow the misrepresentation of their new star.

with Greta Garbo "Torrent" 1926

Soon after Ricardo's success in "Torrent" the talkies arrived which he transitioned to with ease. His thick New York accent made him perfect for playing a villain and con men. He went on to star in "The Maltese Falcon" 1931 playing Sam Spade. (Yes its true, Humphrey's version was a remake although the most memorable). He also played Perry Mason in "The Case Of The Black Cat" 1936. And along side Bette Davis in "The Big Shakedown" 1934. No longer cast as a Latin Lover he often played a womanizer and cad in a few B rated movies throughout the 1930's.  

with Claudette Colbert in "Torch Singer" 1933

With more desirable film roles diminishing Ricardo tried his hand at directing after 1936 but after just a few films he grew tired of Hollywood and vice versa. The relationship was over so he retired from Hollywood and returned to Wall Street where he worked for one of the top brokerage firms. This enabled him to live comfortably the rest of his life. During the 1950's he made a few cameo's in films but he would remain back East. He had appeared in over 100 films during his stay in Tinseltown. He married only once to silent screen star Alma Rubens in 1926. They remained married until her death from pneumonia in 1931 but more on that drama filled relationship later.

Click on Ricardo's autograph and photos from my collection for a closer view.

Ricardo's feature in Photoplay Magazine

Mr. Cortez passed away in New York in 1977 and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.  His burial place can be viewed HERE.

Interesting Ricardo Cortez Facts:

His wife actress Alma Ruben's who had been a successful silent screen star when they married went on a downward spiral. Shortly after their marriage she developed a nasty drug habit which affected her acting and lead to a couple of arrests during the late 1920's for disorderly conduct. After a near fatal overdose in 1929 she was placed in an asylum for a short period. Ricardo,  fed up with her ongoing troubles filed for divorce before she went back East to appear in a play at the end of 1929. Upon returning to Hollywood and out on bond, Alma was busted again but this time for morphine possession after police searched her home. While awaiting trial for her latest troubles she went into a coma and died in 1931.

His wife Alma once said about him "Although I didn't find out until almost a year after our marriage, Ric, instead of being a gallant Spanish caballero which I believed, was the son of a Kosher butcher from New York". (Oh Alma of all people you should have known that Hollywood is the land of make believe and nothing is what it seems).

Ricardo's tragic wife Alma Ruben's at the height of her career

He's the only actor to have ever gotten top billing in a movie over Greta Garbo. Thats quite a feat considering she was at the height of her fame at the time.

with Franchot Tone and Loretta Young

Until next time,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jean Harlow (1911-1937)

The American born blonde ran away from home at the age of 16 to marry 23 year old businessman Charlie McGrew. They ended up in Los Angeles where Jean got work as an extra in movies in 1927 even though her husband was the heir to a small fortune. Jean got bit parts in a few films between 1927 and 1929 but it was her role in the Howard Hughes film "Hells Angels" in 1930 that got her noticed after many casting calls and two years of hard work  After the success of "Hells Angels" Howard Hughes sold Jean's contract to MGM for $60,000. where the platinum blondes career thrived. Her marriage only lasted two years so by the time her big break came she was single and ready for stardom, becoming the legend that she is today.

In 1931 Jean co-starred in "Platinum Blonde" with Loretta Young earning her the nickname America's Sex Symbol. (The title was changed from its original title "Gallagher" to promote Harlow's distinctive hair color and after the movie debuted peroxide sales went through the roof). That same year she appeared in "Public Enemy" with James Cagney. The following year she paired with Clark Gable for "Red Dust", one of six films they would co-star in together.

Jean had remarried in 1932 before going away on location to film "Red Dust". (The movie took 44 days to shoot) She married MGM screenwriter, director and producer Paul Bern. But while away filming her husband committed suicide in their Beverly Hills home only a few weeks after their wedding. (Bern is most known for co-producing "Grand Hotel" 1932). There was plenty of speculation regarding his death but more on that later.  Jean went on a salary strike in 1934 from MGM and wrote the novel Today Is Tonight during her down time but it wasn't published until 1965 long after her death. You can view a postcard image of Jean's early Beverly Hills mansion HERE.

with Clark Gable, stills from "Red Dirt"

Jean picked herself up after the funeral and finished filming then went on to star in several light comedies (Three with Spencer Tracy) before filming the hit "Saratoga" 1937 with Clark Gable. She married cinematographer Harold Rosson in 1933 but it ended in divorce within 7 months then she started a two year relationship with actor William Powell that ended with her death.  

with Cary Grant in a publicity still for "Suzy" 1936.

Previously critics panned Harlow and her reviews usually mentioned her sex appeal on screen that over shadowed her great comedic talent but that all changed with her performance in "Saratoga". It was getting her serious praise and recognition for her acting and not just her sexuality. Sadly her career was cut short just when she was starting to be taken seriously as an actress and her popularity was at its peak. While on location filming "Saratoga" Jean fell ill and was eventually admitted to the hospital.

with Paul Bern at their wedding

Jean being assisted on her way to husband Paul Bern's funeral

Jean was exposed to influenza sometime in the 1930's which left her in poor health and progressed to her kidneys starting to fail. Long before dialysis and kidney transplants were the norm she could not over come it. She developed uremic poisoning which led to cerebral edema and her death at the age of 26. The original blonde bombshell appeared in over 40 movies during her short career. Harlow was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA. Her resting place can be viewed HERE.  Jean's last Beverly Hills residence can be viewed HERE.

hand signed photo click to enlarge (please contact me for view of the back stamp)

Interesting Jean Harlow Facts:

She was the godmother of Millicent Siegel the daughter of notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel.

She dated notorious mobster Abner "Longy" Zwillman who secured her a two picture deal with Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures by loaning Cohn $500,000 in cash.

She turned down the lead in "King Kong" 1933 that went to Fay Wray and the lead in the cult classic "Freaks". 

She was the very first film actress to grace the cover of Life magazine in 1937.

The only footage of her filmed in Technicolor was an eight minute segment in "Hells Angels".

She never wore any underwear and slept in the nude.

After divorcing her father Jean's mother took her to Hollywood to try to get her into pictures as a young girl without success. When Jean relocated to Hollywood later on her mother followed and hovered over her career. Her mother was finally banned from the studio's and remained in Hollywood living off of Jean until her death. 

Jean was interred in her own private room at Forest Lawn with the word  Harlow over the entrance. Her crypt and funeral were paid for by her fiancée William Powell. Jean was buried in a gown that she wore during "Libeled Lady" and with a single Gardenia in her hands and a note from William Powell that read "Good night my dearest darling". 

There has been much speculation and rumors surrounding the death of her husband Paul Bern throughout the years. It was rumored that Jean herself shot Bern which was quickly ruled out after she was interviewed by the LAPD and then again before a grand jury. There was also a rumor that Mr. Bern committed suicide after a recent mishap in their bedroom during relations. Paul was found with a note that suggested his embarrassment over a certain impotence problem. Then there was the issue of his common law wife that he was still supporting. She was found floating in the Sacramento river a day after his death. There was also a rumor that Mr. Bern was shot by an ex lover who was suffering from mental problems. Amidst on going rumors the Los Angeles District Attorney's office reopened the case in 1960. After interviewing witnesses and viewing his autopsy records the findings proved that Paul Bern indeed committed suicide. The case was then officially closed. 

Paul Bern's suicide note left for Jean read "Dearest dear, unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done you and wipe out my abject humiliation. I love you Paul. You understand last night was only a comedy".  Paul also hid a second note that read "Don't tell my son:".

She was born Harlean Carpenter but took the name Jean Harlow as her stage name. An amalgam of her mothers name. When her fans found out her name wasn't actually Jean Harlow they demanded to know her real name. She added an "i" to Carpenter to make her birth name sound exotic when she finally released it to her fans. 

The owner of the famous Hollywood canine Rin Tin Tin lived across the street from Jean and when she found out the dog was dying she rushed across the street and held his head in her lap until he passed away.

She once lived at the Château Marmont, the famous Los Angeles hotel.

Her stand-in Mary Dees replaced her in her remaining footage of her unfinished film "Saratoga". Jean was making $4,000 a week while filming "Saratoga" her highest pay during a film. And it was the highest grossing film of 1937.

At the time of her death in 1937 her estate was valued at over 1 million dollars and left entirely to her mother.

She was so ill during her attendance to the Academy Awards in 1936 that she had to be assisted by Carole Lombard to the powder room during breaks. She attended with her fiancée William Powell his ex wife Carole Lombard and Lombard's then lover Clark Gable.

Everyone in Hollywood called her "Baby" except Clark Gable who felt close enough to her to call her "Sis".

She struggled with her weight and stayed on a strict diet of fruits and vegetables.

The last photograph taken of her shows her carrying a copy of "Gone With the Wind". She was determined to read it and had it brought to the hospital for her. Sadly she died before she could finish it.

Her Personal Quote "Men like me because I don't wear a brassiere. Women like me because I don't look like a girl who would steal a husband. At least not for long".

Her funeral looked more like a Hollywood production than a funeral with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy performing Jean's favorite song. It was a media circus and mobs of fans swarmed in once it was over, stripping every flower and personal memento that could be taken. Upon seeing the madness actress Carole Lombard looked over at her husband Clark Gable and said "Paw, don't ever let them do this to me". Sadly Carole died just 5 years later in a plane crash.

Clark Gable and wife Carole Lombard attending Jean's funeral at Forest Lawn

Until next time, 

Franchot Tone (1905-1968)

The American born actor found his passion for the stage while attending Cornell University. His career path was to be pre-determined by working for his families business, an electro-chemical company. Born to an affluent family in upstate New York he attended private schools and traveled extensively before settling down to college at Cornell. But it was his joining the drama club that his career made a detour and his passion for the stage began.

Google image

After graduation Franchot joined a stock company in Buffalo making only $15 a week during the mid 1920's. After studying the stage and dedicating himself to his craft he made his Broadway debut in The Age of Innocence 1929.  He gained leading roles in the plays Green Grow The Lilacs which was later turned in to the musical "Oklahoma" and in Big Night. But it was his performance in Success Story in 1931 that got him noticed by Hollywood producers. He was offered a contract by MGM and moved to Hollywood at the end of 1932.

His first screen appearance was in "The Wiser Sex" 1932 opposite Claudette Colbert. Then in "Today We Live" 1933 co-starring MGM star Joan Crawford. (She was recently divorced from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and I will do a post on Joan later. I'm still trying to steady my nerves in order to tackle it). Romance blossomed between the two so MGM took advantage of their on screen chemistry, pairing them in several films together during the 1930's. Franchot was loaned out to Warner Bro's in 1935 to star opposite Bette Davis in "Dangerous".  Bette fell for her leading man but was stone walled. Franchot was already engaged to her rival Joan Crawford.  (I would love to have heard some of that conversation between Bette and whoever crossed her path upon finding out). Bette was envious and ashamed of her actions and sources say this is what caused the venomous rivalry and long standing feud between the two actresses that lasted the rest of their lives.

with Joan Crawford

Joan and Franchot we're married in 1935 but their chemistry was short lived. Franchot with his blue-blood upbringing (His father was a prominent doctor and his mother with her place in New York society) did not mesh well with the uneducated Joan, and her simple Oklahoma roots. Although theres no doubt this caused issues at home rumors swirled that it was Franchot's steady career while Joan's star power and top billing continued that caused jealousy and resentment. Whenever Franchot was mentioned in the press he was referred to as "Mr. Joan Crawford". I'm sure taking second billing to the phenomenon that is Joan Crawford couldn't be easy for anyone.  

with Joan during happier times.

Franchot received great reviews for his roles in "The Lives of Bengal Lancer" and playing Ensign Byam in "Mutiny on  the Bounty" in 1935. He was nominated for Best Actor along side his co-stars Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. Out of embarrassment the Academy introduced the Best Supporting Actor category the following year. Franchot turned out a few more films throughout the 1930's but wanting a break from film and missing the stage he returned to Broadway in 1940 starring in Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column. He had divorced Joan in 1939 but was called back to Hollywood at the end of 1940 by MGM where he was still under contract.  Tone churned out a few more movies during the 1940's often loaning himself out to other studios to get back at MGM for not letting him out of his contract. He married actress and co-star Jean Wallace in 1941 and they had two sons together. They divorced in 1948.

with Joan in a publicity still for MGM

In 1951 a scandal over shadowed Franchot's acting and ruined the careers of actors Tom Neal and Barbara Peyton who Tone later married. Tone got involved with actress turned prostitute Barbara Peyton against the advice of his friends and even ex-wife Joan Crawford. It was known throughout Hollywood that Barbara slept with all of her leading men, did heroin and was known for her promiscuity over her acting. Franchot suspected Barbara was cheating on him with several men so he hired a private investigator to have her followed. Tipped off that she was meeting with actor Tom Neal for a rendezvous Franchot busted in on the couple during the act announcing that Neal was sleeping with the woman he was engaged to. All hell broke lose and ended with Tone and Neal duking it out on the front lawn. It wasn't a fair fight with Neal having a background in boxing and Tone found himself with a broken cheek bone and a broken nose that required plastic surgery and a week long hospital stay. Hollywood sided with Tone and Neal and Peyton's careers we're finished. Oddly Franchot forgave Barbara and married her anyway. But the marriage was short lived and Barbara went on to a life of prostitution with her drug abuse escalating. She died a few years later flat broke of a heart attack at the age of 36.

newspaper headline from the Los Angeles Herald Express in 1951

Franchot continued acting throughout the 1950's and found a way to juggle his Hollywood career with his love for Broadway. He received critical reviews in the Broadway play A Moon For The Misbegotten in 1957.  It was during this time that he fell in love with stage actress Dolores Dorn, they we're married in 1956 and the union lasted until 1959. Tone went on to appear in bit parts in several TV shows and a memorable guest spot on The Twilight Zone in 1959.  Franchot died from lung cancer in 1968. At the time of his death he was preparing to star in and direct a film about the life of artist  Auguste Renoir. He was cremated and his ashes we're scattered by loved ones. During his career he starred in close to 40 films over 20 plays and appeared in over 10 television shows.

Interesting Franchot Tone facts:

He is related to Theobald Wolfe Tone, a famous Irish patriot.

He graduated from Cornell University with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1927 and Rennes University in France.

He quoted about ex-wife Joan Crawford "She's like that old Philadelphia story, First prize 4 years with Joan, Second prize 8 years with her". (First prize should have been a lifetime without her but who am I to judge)

His father Dr. Jerome Tone, a pioneer in the electro-chemistry field was the President of the Carborundum Company of America. 

He divorced his wife Barbara Payton after obtaining incriminating photos of her proving she was still carrying on an affair with actor Tom Neal. 

*Unless stated otherwise all publicity stills, photos, postcards and autographs are from my personal collection.

Until next time find yourself an old classic film and take a couple of hours for yourself,