Secrets Behind The Scenes Of Old Hollywood
In colorized photos from Hollywood's Golden Age, we see the stars we know as we might have encountered them in in the flesh. History doesn't have to stay in black-and-white; thanks to modern technology we glimpse the vivid tones of silk, satin, and velvet; the ruby red lipstick and glint of blue eyes staring back at us. The medium of the day, whether photographs or celluloid, was limited to blacks, whites and greys, but the spirit of the age was one of vibrant color. Take a look at these eternal stars, and brush up on some facts you didn't know, while drinking in the luxury and fantasy of the bygone Golden Age of Hollywood. You might just learn something as you feast your eyes on sights seen anew.
For instance, you may have seen the famous picture of Sophia Loren giving Jayne Mansfield the side-eye -- the setting was a party thrown by Paramount Pictures in Beverly Hills in 1957. Mansfield is all but spilling out of her dress, and -- in the most famous picture from that moment -- Loren looks none too thrilled. Loren says she felt Mansfield was about to "explode" out of her clothes, and that, out of the many pictures snapped that evening, the famous "side-eye" photo is "the one that shows how it was."
Sofia Loren And Jayne Mansfield: Sometimes You Gotta Let It All Hang Out 👀
But the other shots are interesting -- Loren looks much less perturbed by the competition with Mansfield's cleavage. She seems not to care all that much, and is smiling and even laughing. The truth is, despite what you may have heard from Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, "wardrobe malfunctions" are not accidents and have been around as long as photography. Mansfield already had a reputation as someone who'd let it all hang out for a little press, and Loren -- a European actress, remember -- had seen stuff racier than this. Playing the paparazzi is a game, and while the classic side-eye picture appears to tell a great story, it's likely both the principals knew what they were doing.
Ursula Andress' Bikini Scene Was Iconic, Though She Wore Even Less In The Novel
The first Bond Girl, Ursula Andress played Honey Rider in 1962's Dr. No, and set a high bar. The shot of her emerging from the water in her white bikini with a white British army belt remains the most iconic Bond-girl moment of all time, according to regular polls of viewers and critics. Andress designed the bikini herself, with Tessa Prendergast, the movie's costume director.
She had little choice -- after arriving in Jamaica, she reportedly couldn't find anything in shops that fit her 5'6" 36-24-36 figure. Forgoing the bikini and just wearing the belt would have been more faithful to the source material; in Ian Fleming's novel, Honeychile Rider emerges from the surf wearing only the belt, and nothing else. It would have been a bit difficult to get a scene like that into a mainstream movie in 1962, though.
The Beautiful Joi Lansing Finally Found Love, With A Woman
In the era of the Blonde Bombshell, Joi Lansing was a Monroe for the small screen. She played the girl who ensnared Superman (George Reeves) in the bonds of marital bliss, and on The Beverly Hillbillies was Gladys Flatt, the curvy coquette we were supposed to see as Lester Flatt's wife. Lansing struggled to find love in real life. She had flings with boldface men including Frank Sinatra, George Raft, and Mickey Rooney, but her first three attempts at marriage were brief. Her fourth marriage lasted over a decade, but there's reason to question its nature.
On the set of Bigfoot (1970), a low-budget horror film that would turn out to be her last, she met a woman named Alexis Hunter. “Here I am in this monkey suit for such a low-budget stinker of a film," Hunter recalled. "They were gluing hair on my face, spray-painting me and applying these fake teeth. It was just awful. And in walks in this unbelievably beautiful human being." The pair quickly fell in love. But in the ‘60s, same-sex relationships were forbidden for celebrities, so the pair came up with a ruse, pretending that Hunter was Lansing’s “sister.” The couple enjoyed three years of blissful romance before Lansing’s tragic passing from breast cancer in 1972 at the young age of 44.
Gina Lollobrigida And Sophia Loren, Battle Of The Bellissimas
What is it about a bitter rivalry that keeps us young? Is it the venom for someone that makes us want to outlive our enemies even if it’s just for one day? Rather than bonding over the fact that they’re two Italian women who’ve managed to achieve fame in their home country and abroad, Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren have found themselves embroiled in a nasty feud for their entire adult lives.
Initially they sniped at each other in the press over bust size, and Lollobrigida even accused Loren of making up the feud in order to get good press. They remained silent on the issue until Lollobrigida turned 90 when she once again opened the floodgates of tea saying, “I was not looking for any rivalry against anyone: I was the No. 1. I succeeded only thanks to myself, without any producer supporting me. I did everything alone.”
Errol Flynn Was A Train Wreck. Sorry, Jamaica
Errol Flynn rose to fame as a swashbuckling hero in films like Captain Blood and Robin Hood, but his later-in-life off-screen exploits may ultimately overshadow his movies. He moved to Jamaica full-time, upping the glamour quotient of the town of Port Antonio, but also behaving a bit like a bull in a China shop. He was, at best, an irrepressible party animal and self-destructive alcoholic. He may also have been a sex offender and aspiring human trafficker.
Flynn had his own 65-acre island off the coast of Jamaica, Navy Island, which he allegedly won in a card game (and later, allegedly, lost in a card game). He also allegedly drove his Cadillac into a swimming pool and allegedly released a live alligator into the streets of Port Antonio. He also allegedly wanted to turn the town's fancy Victorian hotel into a classic New Orleans-style brothel. Surely some of the stories surrounding Flynn in Jamaica are myth -- but with all those "allegedly"s ... you have to think something is true.
Richard Burton's 'Drinking Man's Diet' Worked For At Least One Day
Richard Burton was known to have a couple drinks. He didn't shy away from wine or spirits. He was, eh -- ok, he was a big drunk. Burton's massive intake of alcohol was legendary, and it hurt his career and relationships in various ways. It's really no laughing matter. Except...
Burton, who also struggled with his weight, saw a way to turn his drinking habit into a weight-loss regimen. There's really nothing more to say about this plan, other than to tell you how he thought this might work. From a 1969 entry in his journal:
I’ve decided to go on a mild diet, called 'The Drinking Man’s Diet,' to see if I can lose a few pounds gently. This morning in pyjamas I was 13 stone 2 pounds [184 lbs.]. I’d like to be 12 stone 7 pounds [175 lbs.].
He then describes his lunch at a Parisian restaurant with his wife, Elizabeth Taylor:
I stuck to my diet and had a whisky and soda before lunch, followed by a half dozen belons [oysters], a steak au poivre, a salad with French dressing, and a hefty lump of cheese. I drank Lafite ‘60, about two glasses, and two or three brandies after the cheese with sugarless and creamless coffee. Later that night I had a couple more whiskies and soda. Apart from water that is all I took in that day. This morning the scale showed a loss of between four and five pounds. I was very surprised.
Prince Rainier Banned Grace Kelly's Movies In Monaco
Grace Kelly was a Hollywood beauty, famed for her performances in High Noon, The Country Girl, and High Society; she was also perhaps Alfred Hitchcock's favorite muse, having acted in Dial M For Murder, Rear Window and To Catch A Thief. She crammed a lot into her six-year movie career, which ended when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco and she became Princess Grace.
Kelly gave up acting, but evidence suggests she didn't intend to. Before getting married in what was called the "wedding of the century," she indicated she would continue to act, telling a reporter that she was "reading a dozen different scripts, trying to choose among them." She explicitly said "I'm never going to stop acting." Days later, Rainier stated "I don't want my wife to work," and declared that he and his fiancee were happy with the decision. To further sever her from her previous life, Rainier had Grace Kelly's banned in Monaco.
Six years later, Alfred Hitchcock came calling, trying to lure Kelly out of retirement for the lead role in Marnie. The citizenry of Monaco was said to be outraged at the thought of their Princess playing a kleptomaniac, so she turned down the role, which went to Tippi Hedren.
Rock Hudson Was Hollywood's Most Famous 'Lavender' Groom
Rock Hudson’s sexuality was one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets. The box office star was a heartthrob leading man who had women swooning over him. In 1955, reporters at Confidential magazine threatened to publish an article exposing Hudson’s closeted behavior. His agent, in an attempt to squash the story, hastily arranged for Hudson to marry his pretty young secretary, Phyllis Gates.
Gates always insisted that it was a legitimate marriage, not a "lavender marriage," as unions arranged for gay stars were known. But most people maintained that Rock Hudson was legitimately gay, and it is unfortunate that he had to exist in a time when that wasn't okay, but that's an ugly part of history that is thankfully almost behind us.
That Was Really Elsa Lanchester's Hair In 'The Bride Of Frankenstein'
Elsa Lanchester was a successful British stage actress, but all it takes is that one iconic role to achieve immortality. She will always be remembered as the titular character from The Bride Of Frankenstein, even though she only appears on screen in her classic costume for four minutes in the film. (The actress actually had more screen time than that, because she also played the part of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.)
The makeup and particularly the hair took the horror-movie franchise in a new direction, imparting a kind of chic macabre style -- as opposed to Frankenstein's Monster, who is square-headed and boring. Though you might assume the dramatic 'do, which was inspired by a famous sculpture of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, was a wig, but you'd be wrong. The actress was given a Marcel wave -- a type of perm -- and the hair was then stretched over a wire frame to achieve the famous cone shape.
Pier Angeli Was The Love Of James Dean's Life
James Dean was an emotional, impulsive cat -- something that helped him excel at acting in his short life. He fell in love with Italian actress Pier Angeli, but it didn't last. Angeli's mother forced her daughter to break it off because Dean wasn't Catholic. Dean also knew that this one was different from the other starlets he'd romanced. "I wouldn’t marry her unless I could take care of her properly," he told a close friend. "And I don’t think I’m emotionally stable enough to do so right now."
Though their relationship was brief, it left a mark. Angeli married Vic Damone not long after she and Dean broke up, and Dean seemed to realize he'd blown his shot at the love of his life. On November 24, 1954, the day of Pier and Vic's wedding, Dean was spotted sitting on his motorcycle outside the church. When the couple emerged, he peeled away loudly -- not the classiest move, but he was James Dean after all.
Angeli's marriage to Damone lasted four years. Her career continued, but with diminishing returns, and she returned home to make movies in Europe. She died in 1971 at the age of 39 from an overdose.
Mamie Van Doren Was So Hot, Even Rock Hudson Wanted A Piece
We all know now that Rock Hudson had a big secret for most of his career -- he was gay, yet by concealing his orientation from the public he managed to stay a heartthrob and box-office draw for years. Part of the ruse involved putting Hudson into heterosexual scenes for the press, whether they were arranged dates with female stars or even a so-called "lavender" marriage. Early in her career, Mamie Van Doren was set up to go with Rock Hudson to the Golden Globes. A friend told her that Hudson wouldn't try anything: “You’ll have nothing to worry about. He’s gay.”
As Van Doren tells the story, her sex appeal was such that even a gay man couldn't resist. After the date, Rock took her home and then invited himself in for "coffee." Van Doren recalls that "We had coffee and all of a sudden I felt his arms around me." She claims that Hudson tried to go all the way with her, but he was foiled by her "very full crinoline skirt."
Eartha Kitt's Origin Story Is Incomplete
Born Eartha Mae Keith, the girl would be a Catwoman came to be on January 17, 1927, on a cotton plantation outside of North, South Carolina. Her mother, Annie Mae Keith, was a mix of Cherokee and African descent, but the identity of her father was a mystery. One thought is that her father was the son of the owner of the farm, but no one knows for sure.
Kitt's mother moved in with a black man who rejected Eartha because of her complexion. She left her mother to live with her aunt, who was abusive; when Annie Mae died, the young Eartha took off for to Harlem, New York, to live with a relative and attend Metropolitan Vocational High School.
Here's the kicker: This relative, Mamie Kitt, may have been Eartha's biological mother after all.
Howard Hughes Designed A Special Bra For Jane Russell
Despite great effort, Howard Hughes' contribution to film is mostly forgettable -- the man made better airplanes than movies. But he did discover Jane Russell, and that's something to be proud of. Russell was 19 years old, and working in a doctor's office when Hughes walked in -- she was just the kind of curvy siren he'd been seeking for his next movie, The Outlaw. He told her he could make her a star, and she signed a seven-year contract.
Hughes was famously obsessed with Russell's bust, and as the film's director he tried to feature it as often as possible. When he didn't think the camera was capturing Jane's chest vividly enough, he put on his engineer's thinking cap and designed a special bra for the actress that used curved steel rods to cantilever her breasts upward -- it was an underwire bra as designed by a captain of industry. It was also extremely uncomfortable.
“Howard decided it wouldn’t be as hard to design a bra than it would be to design an airplane,” Russell recalled. “[But] when I went into the dressing room with my wardrobe girl and tried it on, I found it uncomfortable and ridiculous. Believe me, he could design planes, but a Mr. Playtex, he wasn’t.”
Russell secretly ditched Hughes' contraption for the actual filming. She wore her own bra, stuffed with tissue for a little extra oomph.
John Wayne, Hollywood's Anti-Liberal And Commie Hunter
Amid a sea of far-left liberals, John Wayne’s conservatism was scandalous in Hollywood. When Wayne was on the board of Screen Actors Guild in the 1940s, his views were opposite of almost all the other members. Consequently, Wayne took political matters into his own hands by co-founding the Motion Picture Alliance For The Preservation Of American Ideals (MPAPAI, or MPA).
The goal of this MPAPAI, of which Clark Gable was also a member, was to fight the leftist movement in Hollywood. This was during the time of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s contributions to The Second Red Scare with his intense communist accusations. Wayne, an extreme anti-Communist as well, was a huge supporter of McCarthy and was partly responsible for the black list of suspected communists in Hollywood.
Gene Tierney Was A Beautiful But Doomed Star
Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, once called Gene Tierney "the most beautiful woman in film history." She had been a debutante in New York, and although both Fox and Warner Bros. sought her for their movies when she was just 17, her well-to-do family was suspicious of the movie industry. They worried that acting in movies might be undistinguished and low-paying.
Tierney proved to be a successful actress; she is best known for Laura; other big films include Leave Her To Heaven (which earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination), The Ghost And Mrs. Muir and Heaven Can Wait. But she was haunted by mental health issues, which first manifested as a puzzling insecurity. The lauded beauty worried that her teeth protruded, and she sometimes talked out of the side of her mouth to avoid showing them. She dieted obsessively, due to a belief that she was overweight (and she so wasn't). When she saw herself on the big screen for the first time, she was horrified by her "squeaky" voice, so she took up smoking -- a lot -- to try to lower its tone.
As her mental state deteriorated over the years, it affected her work. She had to drop out of the 1953 adventure romance Mogambo (and her replacement, Grace Kelly, won a Golden Globe for her performance). She endured 27 shock treatments, which were thought to mitigate her severe depression, but found no comfort. In 1958, she tried to start a new life, taking a job as a saleswoman in a dress shop, but was noticed by a customer.
Claudia Cardinale Continued Acting To Cover Up An Unwanted Pregnancy
Tunisian-born Claudia Cardinale won a "Most Beautiful Italian Girl In Tunisia" contest, and the prize of a trip to the Venice Film Festival. There she was noticed by numerous producers, and her acting career seemed about to take off. Cardinale herself wasn't actually sure he wanted to be an actress, though. Then she was raped by a French airman at the age of 17, and became pregnant.
Young and soon to be a mother, Cardinale signed a contract with movie producer Franco Cristaldi as a way of managing her potentially scandalous situation. She began acting in films and worked up to the seventh month of her pregnancy, at which point Cristaldi sent Cardinale to London to have the baby, under the pretense that she was going there to learn to speak English. For the first seven years of his life, Cardinale's son was told that Claudia was his sister, and that his grandparents were his parents. When a journalist got wise to the facts, Cardinale went public, telling her story in two popular Italian weekly news magazines.
A Woman Charles Bronson Had Never Met Left Him Her Entire Fortune
It’s not out of the question for celebrities to receive strange gifts from their fans, but a lump sum of cash is rare. When Audrey Knauer passed away in 1997 she left Bronson her entire $300,000 estate in her handwritten will. She reportedly wrote: "Under no circumstances is my mother, Helen, to inherit anything from me – blood, body parts, financial assets, etc."
So Audrey Knauer didn't want her mother to get any money -- it's a bummer, but family rifts happen. But the next sentence of her will was just bizarre:
I bequeath to Charles Bronson, the talented character actor, and what he doesn’t want, he can pass thru (sic) to the Louisville Free Public Library.
Knauer’s family argued that she wasn’t in her right mind when she wrote the will, and that Bronson shouldn’t receive any of the superfan’s money. The Louisville Free Public Library hoped that they would receive the windfall from Knauer so they turned down the star’s offer of $10,000 in hopes that they’d just get the whole thing. Bad move by the library -- when Bronson and Knauer’s family settled out of court, the library got bupkes.
Yvonne De Carlo Was A Movie Star Before 'The Munsters'
When Vancouver-born Yvonne De Carlo turned 18, she and her mother made a pilgrimage to Hollywood where she took home the second place trophy in the Miss Venice beauty contest and fifth in that year's Miss California competition. Those wins were enough to inspire her to stick around and follow her dream of becoming a screen actress. She was picked up by Paramount, but she just couldn't quite get the right role -- she tested well for everything, and was known as "the test queen at Paramount." She had better luck at Universal, nabbing the title role as in Salome, Where She Danced.
Between 1945 and 1958 De Carlo worked nonstop. She's in westerns, she's in straight comedies, she's in noir films - during this era her range was fully on display and it's that prowess in front of the camera that Cecile B. Demille saw when he hired her to play Moses' wife in The Ten Commandments. If there's any role that firmly plants her as a star in the golden age of Hollywood it's Sephora. Hundreds of women read for the part, but it was De Carlo's "saintly" energy that earned her the role in this classic film.
Marlon Brando Directed One Movie, And Ruined His Career
If you're challenged to name a Marlon Brando movie from the '60s, you can blame the 1961 western One-Eyed Jacks. The film was originally to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, but Paramount fired him and Brando took over directorial duties. What followed was an exercise in indulgence, as the project ate up triple its original budget and the three month production schedule stretched to eight.
Also notable was Brando's overindulgence at the craft services table; due to his fluctuating waistline, his costume had to altered day-to-day. As a method actor, Brando was known for doing take after take to get a scene right; he was the same as a director, only moreso. When Paramount finally pried the picture away from him, the studio then had to chop his seven hours of footage down to something watchable (the movie's final running time was two hours, 20 minutes). After One-Eyed Jacks, Brando made Mutiny On The Bounty, an epic flop that he intentionally ruined, and spent the rest of the decade making unremarkable pictures for Universal. It took him basically a decade to recover, with his comeback performance in 1972's The Godfather.
Anita Ekberg Didn't Win Miss Universe, But She Won Anyway
When Anita Ekberg was 20, she won the title of Miss Sweden, and she journeyed to New York as a special guest of the Miss America pageant. The American media immediately fell in love with her; a fawning report in Life magazine remarked that Ekberg was stealing the show from the actual Miss America hopefuls. "The blue-eyed blonde boasts a sunny face and stunning figure," the text enthused, "[and] a five-word English vocabulary -- yah, no, hamboorger, El Morocco, ice cream."
Ekberg met with Eileen Ford of the Ford Model Agency, and bought several hats, then returned to Sweden "with plans to learn more English words, slim her bottom four inches to meet U.S. model agency specifications, and return for a modeling career." Universal signed her to a contract, but she didn't take it seriously and was dropped -- so she returned to modeling and built up a fan following as a leading pinup. She got another chance at screen acting, and won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer, Female in 1956, but became more famous for her figure and her personal life. Ekberg was clearly a star, even if she wasn't a great actress, and magazines thrived on tales of her love life (boyfriends included Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Yul Brynner, Rod Taylor, and Errol Flynn) and accidental-on-purpose wardrobe malfunctions.
Marlene Dietrich Was An LGBTQ Icon Back When It Was Just LG And B
Her debut role in Paramount’s Morocco allowed Marlene Dietrich the opportunity to showcase who she really was – a gender fluid performer whose androgynous image appealed to men and women. Morocco gave audiences a rare example of cross-dressing, and showed one of the first lesbian on-screen kisses in cinematic history -- which likely brought on Hollywood's censorship policies. (Although it is widely believed that Marlene Dietrich was bisexual, she could not publicly confirm this without violating the morality clause in her film contract.)
In 1931, the Motion Picture Association of America, under pressure from various ethical and moral groups, adopted the Motion Picture Production Code, which was nicknamed the Hays Code after MPAA president, Will H. Hays. Under the Hays Code, lesbian women were to be portrayed as wicked, evil people suffering from moral decay. They were to be shown as doomed, with no redemption for their immoral behavior. Marlene Dietrich’s role in Morocco did not check any of these boxes.
Robert Mitchum Was A Hollywood Bad Boy Without Even Trying
Mitchum fit the "bad boy" description before it was fashionable -- he was known to be naughty years before kids like Brando and McQueen came along. He was a fighter and a drunk who didn't seem to care who he offended. In trouble with the law from a young age, Mitchum was known for his lifelong contempt for authority figures. "The only difference between me and my fellow actors," Mitchum famously said, "is that I've spent more time in jail."
In 1948, Mitchum (who was married) was busted for marijuana with young starlet Lila Leeds, and sent to the county jail, which he described as "like Palm Springs, but without the riff-raff." He then did over a month at a prison farm, where he was photographed mopping a floor in his prison duds by Life magazine. The films that came out after his release were big hits, probably because of his bad-boy image.
Mamie Van Doren Had Plenty Of Lovers, But Wilted For Clark Gable
Van Doren got her first taste of Hollywood heavyweights when Howard Hughes came prowling her way. The notorious deviant reportedly asked Mamie three quintessentially Howard-esque questions to the then 15-year-old. First was, “How old are you?” then “Do you live with your parents?” before ending with “Are you a virgin?” The precocious Van Doren responded, “You’ll never know, Mr. Hughes.”
Van Doren made numerous classic films in the trashy, sensationalist drive-in genre -- her most famous being High School Confidential. But her love life kept her in the papers. On the other hand, she passed on Prince Axel of Denmark but simpered for Clark Gable on the set of Teacher’s Pet -- in the movie, she played a nightclub singer who loses Gable to the more socially acceptable Doris Day. Van Doren confessed to nearly fainting during her kissing scene with the legendary King of Hollywood. Reportedly, Gable ranked as a better kisser than Burt Reynolds who called himself, “The Male Mamie Van Doren.”
Eva Marie Saint Was Doomed To Grubby Movies Where She Washed The Dishes
Eva Marie Saint won an Oscar for her first movie role, in On The Waterfront. She really played the female lead, and so should have been competing in the Best Actress category, but she would have gone up against obvious frontrunners Grace Kelly and Judy Garland (Kelly won). Producer Sam Spiegel listed her as a supporting actress in hopes of getting a nomination in that category, and the tactic worked, reaping not only a nomination, but a win.
Though she is among the great screen beauties of her era, Saint was typecast after On The Waterfront as a put-upon working-class girl. Alfred Hitchcock saw her for the glamorous creature she was, and cast her as the femme fatale in North By Northwest. Both the director and her co-star Cary Grant felt they were rescuing her from a career of dingy dramas. She recalled Grant saying "See, Eva Marie, you don't have to cry in a movie to have a good time -- just kick up your heels and have fun." Hitchcock, who often tried to control his lead actresses, said "I don't want you to do a sink-to-sink movie again, ever. You've done these black-and-white movies like On the Waterfront. It's drab in that tenement house. Women go to the movies, and they've just left the sink at home. They don't want to see you at the sink."
Clark Gable, The 'King Of Hollywood,' Had Bad Breath And Was Scrawny
Gable dropped out of school at 16 and worked at a tire factory in Akron, Ohio. He saw a play and decided to be an actor, eventually ending up in Oregon, where he met theater manager Josephine Dillon. Dillon, who was 17 years older than him, became his first wife; they married in 1924 and moved to Hollywood. She trained him in posture and lowering his speaking voice. She also paid for his hair styling, and put him on a fitness regimen to bulk up his scrawny physique.
Perhaps the most notable thing Josephine Dillon did for Gable was to pay for his new teeth -- which gave him the smile we're all familiar with, but resulted in halitosis. An infection in 1933, pyorrhea, had caused him to lose nearly all of them, and he wore dentures for the rest of his life. The fake teeth gave him horrible breath. He was also quite concerned with cleanliness. He took several showers a day, refused to take baths, and his sheets were changed daily.
Elizabeth Taylor Was A Mutant (In The Eyelash Department)
Many people believe that Liz Taylor had violet eyes, but in reality, her eyes were a deep blue, and their violet appearance was caused by lighting and make-up. She was born with a genetic mutation known as lymphedema-distichiasis. In addition to causing problems with the lymphatic symptom, it gave her a double row of eyelashes.
Taylor's life was full of ups and downs -- that's how it goes when you're a diva who trades in husbands every few years. But in one of the craziest stories, she played the heroine. Mongomery Clift, a good friend, had a near-fatal car accident in 1956 after leaving a party at her house. She raced to the scene and, when she noticed Clift was choking, pulled some of his teeth out of his throat.
Occult Vamp Theda Bara Was A Fake. A Big, Sexy Fake
In the early Hollywood era, fiction wasn't limited to the screen -- actors and actresses were free to write their own back stories, aided (if not guided) by studios that wanted a roster of intriguing celebrities that would sell more tickets. Theda Bara, the dominant sex symbol of the silent-film era (she never made a talkie), was the epitome of a vamp. She was also one of the great fakes in a town that thrived on fakery.
Bara's story was a swirl of exoticism; she was said to have been born in Egypt (or simply "the Sahara"), the daughter of a French woman and either an Arab sheikh or an Italian painter. Her seeming magical powers of seduction were enhanced by a supposed interest in the occult, a hot topic of the day. She was effective at portraying supernatural seductresses and vampires because people kinda sorta thought she was one.
Theda Bara was born Theodosia Burr Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a Jewish tailor born in Poland and a Swiss-born mother. She graduated from Walnut Hills High School and attended the University of Cincinnati for a couple years before leaving her hometown to pursue acting in New York.
Veronica Lake Became An Actress To Deal With Schizophrenia
Veronica Lake was among the most glamorous stars of her day, even having a signature hairstyle. When she was filming I Wanted Wings, the movie that would make her a star, she was playing a drunk character and her arm slipped, her hair fell out of place, covering her right eye. The look not only worked for the scene, it worked for Lake's career, and she intentionally wore her hair in this "peek-a-boo" style for years.
Lake was around 30 when she left Hollywood. She had never really liked it -- acting had been her mother's idea, as a kind of therapy. Lake had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at a young age. As time went on and Lake blossomed into a beautiful woman, her mother pressured her to be a star. “She lived through me vicariously,” Lake once said of her mother. “She was Veronica Lake. I wasn’t.” As she was living out her mother's dream, Lake herself turned to alcohol to deal with her despair. She departed Tinseltown in 1952, and was discovered working as a cocktail waitress in New York City a decade later. Lake was 50 years old when she died in 1973.
Lana Turner's Daughter Stabbed Her Mom's Mobster Boyfriend To Death
The term "sweater girl" refers to actresses and models who wore tight sweaters and the latest uplifting bra technology -- Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren would be prime examples of '50s-style sweater girls. But they weren't the first, not by a long shot; the very first sweater girl was Lana Turner, who earned the designation for her first film, They Won't Forget, in which she wore a tight (by 1937 standards) sweater.
Turner had seven husbands, some of them celebrities, but her most infamous relationship was with Johnny Stompanato, an ex-Marine turned enforcer for Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen. Stompanato and Turner frequently argued, and the arguments sometimes turned violent. In 1958, during a particularly bad fight, Stompanato threatened to kill Turner and her 14-year-old daughter Cheryl Crane, who heard the whole thing from an adjacent room. Cheryl grabbed a knife and ran in to defend her mother, and ended up fatally stabbing Stompanato in the stomach.
Marilyn Monroe Greatly Boosted Ella Fitzgerald's Career
Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald were incredibly good friends throughout their life. The two met when Monroe when to see Fitzgerald perform in Los Angeles, the two were toon fast friends, with Monroe even helping Fitzgerald get a gig at the Mocambo.
While some accounts claim that the venue "didn't book" black artists, others maintain that Eartha Kittt and Herb Jeffries had played the Mocambo, and the reason the bookers were against Fitzgerald was her weight. Whatever the case, the gigs went over so well that Fitzgerald never had to play another small club again. When Monroe was asked about who her favorite singers were she said:
Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she's the greatest, and that's Ella Fitzgerald.
Rita Hayworth Had Painful Electrolysis To Fix Her Hairline
Rita Hayworth was not just a bombshell, she was the bomb as well. When the United States resumed nuclear testing after the end of the Second World War, the first bomb dropped was named Gilda, after Hayworth's most famous role. She was arguably the biggest Hollywood sex symbol of the first half of the 20th century -- the pre-Monroe era.
Hayworth had red hair, as far as the fans knew, but her natural look was all Latina, thanks to the genes on her Spanish-born father's side. When Hollywood went all-in on the Brooklyn beauty who was born Margarita Carmen Cansino, she got not just a new name (Hayworth was her mother's maiden name) and hair color, she also got a new hairline. In a primitive plastic-surgery process, Hayworth was subjected to electrolysis to raise the hairline and broaden her forehead for an overall more Anglo-Saxon look. According to reports, the process took two years, and each procedure zapped one hair at a time at a cost of $10 per hair.
The Joan Crawford-Bette Davis Feud Was Real, And Joan Crawford Usually Won
The Bette Davis-Joan Crawford feud was a war that stretched over decades, simmering at times and boiling over at others. It all began with dueling press coverage in 1933: Joan Crawford's impending divorce from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. overshadowed Bette Davis' performance in Ex-Lady, which was her first starring role. The two milestones were announced the same day, and Crawford got more ink.
In the ensuing years, Crawford "stole" the man Davis wanted to marry. When Davis won the Best Actress Oscar in 1936, Crawford frowned upon the dress that Davis wore. In 1943, Crawford attempted a truce, sending Davis gifts and flowers -- which Davis returned. In 1945, when Davis turned down the title role in Mildred Pierce, Crawford signed on and won an Oscar for her performance. Seven years later, Davis actually played a version of Crawford on screen in The Star, an unflattering portrait of a washed-up actress. At this point it was clear that the two hated each other's guts -- so, naturally, they were cast to appear in their only film together, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, in which the two actresses had actual fight scenes in which they weren't exactly acting.
Bette Davis And Joan Crawford Got WWE Raw On the Set Of 'Baby Jane'
The well-known feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis reached a crescendo with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, the only film in which the two appeared together. The movie is about a brutal sibling rivalry between two sisters who are washed-up stars. In one scene, Blanche (played by Davis) assaults Jane (Crawford) -- Crawford insisted on a stunt double because she didn't trust Davis, and with good reason. During a close-up shot in which a double couldn't be used, Davis really did hit her -- hard. Davis, like a schoolyard bully, claimed she "barely touched" Crawford.
Later, when filming a scene in which Blanche must drag Jane across a room, Crawford made herself extra-heavy (with a weightlifter's belt, according to one account) and intentionally ruined several takes, forcing her rival, who had a bad back, to endure excruciating pain as she repeatedly dragged her across the floor.
Davis was nominated for an Oscar for Baby Jane and Crawford wasn't, but Crawford managed to get the better of her -- as usual -- by arranging to accept the award should it be won by an actress who didn't attend the ceremony. When Davis lost out to Anne Bancroft, she had to watch as Crawford strode to the stage, accepted the award on Bancroft's behalf, and proceeded to pose for the press as if it was hers.
Dean Martin Drank. But He Wasn't Always Drunk
Dean Martin was such a smooth cat that his voice had a melodic quality even when he wasn't singing -- though the way he strung words together also suggested the slurred speech of a drunk. So was he constantly soused, or not? His buddy Frank Sinatra took it up on the classic 1966 live album Sinatra At The Sands.
The question most asked of me is, 'Does Dean Martin really drink?' I can say he’s an absolutely, unqualified drunk. If we ever develop an Olympic drinking team, he'll be the coach.
While Martin didn't shy away from booze, Sinatra was exaggerating, for the benefit of the real team, which was the Rat Pack. They were indeed champion drinkers, but reports later emerged that Martin was often the first one to call it a night. For the public, Martin played a charming drunk -- brilliantly -- which made the Rat Pack all the more charming.
For many stars -- passionate, driven by ego, used to getting what they want -- there's the one dance partner who nearly ruins them. For Frank Sinatra, it was actress Ava Gardner. Sinatra entered into a relationship with her while still married to his first wife Nancy; after obtaining a divorce he married the screen siren. And it nearly killed him.
Sinatra's spats with Gardner were loud, and legendary, and the man we think of as one of the tough guys of showbiz was often reduced to rubble by Gardner. Obsession is a hell of a drug. During their years together (they were married from 1951-57), Sinatra actually attempted suicide three, or perhaps four times. He downed dangerous amounts of pills, he tried the old leave-the-gas-stove-on move, he slit his wrists -- and then there was the time Gardner walked into their bedroom to find her husband holding a gun to his own head.
Gardner had Sinatra's number because she didn't fall at his feet like every other woman. "She pitied him more than she loved him," Sammy Davis Jr. once observed.
'Breathless' Actress Jean Seberg Was Hounded By The FBI
In 1960 Jean Seberg flashed onto the screen in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (A Bout De Souffle). While it wasn’t her first film, it's the one that she's most famous for, and the French New Wave masterpiece brought this Iowa girl into an international spotlight. While Seberg tried to use her fame and fortune for good by giving to causes that aided Civil Rights programs, she was also an outspoken proponent of the Black Panthers, an anti-fascist, black political organization that J. Edgar Hoover described as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."
The FBI embarked on a campaign, through its controversial (and since suspended) COINTEL program, to humiliate Seberg. The agency planted a story in the press (the L.A. Times and Newsweek, specifically) that suggested the pregnant actress was carrying a baby fathered not by her husband Romain Gary, but Black Panther Raymond Hewitt. The stress of the FBI’s pressure cooker sent Seberg into a depressive spiral. She started drinking and taking pills, and she went into early labor on August 23, 1970. Two days later her child passed away and she held an open casket funeral so the world could see that her child was, in fact, not mixed race.
Did the FBI go so far as to have Seberg killed? She died in Paris in 1979, in what French authorities called a suicide. A year later, they reopened the case, citing certain oddities that implied there was someone else with her when she passed.
Former Marine Lee Marvin Was A Pacifist And A Progressive
Lee Marvin served as a Marine in World War II, and the experience left him with scars both mental and physical (he was shot in the buttocks, and the bullet severed his sciatic nerve). Though he became a plumber after the war, he soon caught the acting bug, and turned out to be pretty good at it. He tended to play tough guys, for obvious reasons, and he gained a reputation for his drinking -- he was arguably the king of the macho drunks in Hollywood, which is saying something.
Though Marvin seemed born to play hard-ass soldiers, he had a problem with war movies; having experienced the real thing, he strongly disliked movies that portrayed war as noble or glorious. One of his best-known films was The Dirty Dozen, but Marvin looked back on it as his least favorite because of its unrealistic depiction of war. Unlike many of the characters he played, Marvin turned out a pacifist with perhaps surprisingly progressive views. He shared his thoughts on homosexuality, at great length, in a 1969 interview with Playboy magazine. It was the year that gay New Yorkers were fighting for their rights in the Stonewall riots, and Marvin, an ex-marine and tough guy, told Hugh Hefner's publication that "We're all on the periphery of homosexual relationships, whether it's shooting the bull with the guys or whatever. ... Who knows where the sexual twist starts, and where it ends?"
His verdict on the law and morality was that "What transpires between two adults is definitely their own business." It seems a harmless view today, but Marvin's remarks were controversial at the time.
Audrey Hepburn's Parents Were Fascists Who Admired Hitler
Audrey Hepburn is best remembered for her performance as Holly Golightly, a girl from the sticks who reinvented herself as a New York City bon vivant, in Breakfast At Tiffany's. Her Texan husband Doc (Buddy Ebsen) tracks her down, creating a disconnect between the Holly we know and this hayseed from her past. Somewhat like that character, Hepburn herself had roots she needed to conceal.
Hepburn had been born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1929; her mother was Dutch nobility while her father was an English/Austrian mix. When Audrey was a child in the 1930s, her parents were very politically engaged, and not in a good way -- they admired the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, as well as Adolf Hitler, and traveled to meet both of them in person. Audrey's father walked out on the family when she was six years old, and she had no relationship with him of over 30 years. Though Hepburn was devastated, it was probably a good thing for the Hollywood career that followed -- having Nazi-sympathizer parents in the '50s was, to say the least, not a good look.
Judy Garland Was Drugged By Studio Handlers When She Was 16
There are train wrecks in Hollywood, and there's roadkill. Judy Garland was the latter. From the moment she got the job on the career-making film The Wizard Of Oz -- when the studio couldn't get Shirly Temple -- her fate was sealed. Garland was too old for the part, or so they said, and the schedule was grueling.
To make her appear younger, the 16-year-old Garland was put on a strict diet, and we're not talking Weight Watchers or Atkins. The studio had her on chicken soup, black coffee, 80 cigarettes per day, diet pills, and whatever uppers were called back then. The pills were particularly troublesome, as they sent her down a road of addiction for the rest of her life. Her teeth were capped and makeup artists inserted horrid-sounding "nose discs" into her nostrils to change its shape. Though Garland was constantly criticized for her appearance by studio executives including Louis B. Mayer of MGM, that didn't stop Mayer from harassing and groping her. Garland's life was never the same after The Wizard Of Oz -- she was famous, but famously miserable.
Mae West Wrote Scandalous And Depraved Blockbuster Movies
Mae West was a playwright who happened to be a bombshell actress and sex symbol as well. West's art was inseparable from her life; her plays and films were banned or censored, building her reputation as the most free-spirited and transgressive woman of the day. West's plays and films were constantly creating controversy, which of course sold a lot of tickets.
The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, was enacted in 1934 to ban or censor film that were contributing to America's moral decline, and Mae West's saucy oeuvre was in the crosshairs. Her first movie under the code guidelines was going to be called "It Ain't No Sin" -- 50 parrots were trained to say its title as a publicity stunt. Censors insisted that the title be changed, so the movie was actually released as Belle Of The Nineties.
The 50 parrots, still saying "It Ain't No Sin," were released into the wild, somewhere in South America.
Cary Grant's Middle Tooth Will Freak You Out
With his mid-Atlantic accent and dashing good looks, Cary Grant was one of the great leading men of Hollywood's Golden Age. He had been born Archie Leach in Bristol, England, but wisely chose his name when he got into showbiz. Actually, he was diplomatically advised by Paramount executives that his given name didn't sound right in America. "It doesn’t sound particularly right in Britain, either," he replied.
When Grant was a kid, he chipped a tooth ice skating, and it must have been a pretty bad chip -- to fix his smile, he went to a dental college and had the tooth removed. The other teeth were then slowly pushed together, filling in the gap. The tooth was a maxillary central incisor, one of the two big ones at the very center of the upper row. If you look closely at pictures of Grant, you'll see that he only has one large incisor where most people have two.
Hedy Lamarr Helped Defeat Nazis And Co-Invented Wi-Fi Technology
Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr, who starred in Lady of the Tropics, Algiers, Boom Town, Samson and Delilah, and Comrade X, was among the most beautiful actress of her day and a highly sought-after leading lady. But when she wasn’t starring on the big screen, Lamarr was a tinkerer. She loved inventing new machines and technologies. Lamarr had an idea for a way to keep the enemy from intercepting wartime transmissions.
Called “frequency hopping”, Lamarr’s invention allowed for the broadcaster and receiver of transmissions to continuously jump around from one radio frequency to another, in unison with each other, so that a third party, or the enemy, could not intercept the communication or jam the frequency, and thus interrupting the launching of torpedoes from ships or aircraft. Lamarr received a patent for her invention in August of 1942 and promptly donated it to the United States military that used it to help defeat the Nazis.
Together with her business partner, George Antheil, a renowned composer, Lamarr created what was referred to as a “secret communication system” that would use radio signals in the airways to guide bombs and torpedoes. This technology became the basis for WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth…all of which revolutionized the way we communicate and launched the mobile age.
WWII Vet Jimmy Stewart Had PTSD. So Did George Bailey
Jimmy Stewart served in the Army Air Force in World War II, flying on many missions that took a toll on his mental health. Awareness that he'd killed civilians alongside military targets -- and on one occasion, bombed the wrong village -- left him "flak happy," the airman's equivalent of shell-shocked. Stewart once said he was haunted by "a thousand black memories" after the war.
The first film he signed on for following the war was It’s A Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra. Both Capra and Stewart had been away from Hollywood for five years and in that time their stars were eclipsed by new actors and directors, both facts meant that their Christmas movie about a suicidal man was a huge gamble. Stewart's portrayal of George Bailey draw on his own post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) -- when Bailey loses his cool and unloads on his family, that's Jimmy Stewart working through some of his post-war issues on camera.
The Rat Pack Started With Humphrey Bogart And Lauren Bacall
The Rat Pack was Frank Sinatra's crew, with Dean Martin, Sammy Davi Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford -- right? Well, the second version of it was, but in its first form the Rat Pack was a co-ed group of partiers that coalesced around Humphrey Bogart and included Sinatra, but none of the other guys. As the story goes, during one particularly loud and carousing night of drinking and partying, Bacall walked into see Bogart and friends enjoying themselves a bit too much. She stopped and said to them, "You look like a pack of rats." The name stuck.
According to Stephen Bogart, this original Rat Pack, also known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, had an official membership and several members had titles. The officers of the Rat Pack were Frank Sinatra (the "Pack Master"), Judy Garland (First Vice-President), Nicole Bassing (Den Mother), Sid Luft (Cage Master), Humphrey Bogart (Rat in Charge of Public Relations), Swifty Lazar (Recording Secretary and Treasurer), and the writer Nathaniel Benchley (Historian). Other official members included David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, and Jimmy Van Heusen.
John Wayne Figured Ann Margret Could Raise The Dead
When Ann-Margret burst on to the Hollywood scene in Bye Bye Birdie and State Fair, she became everyone's favorite sex kitten. She didn't shy away from the distinction, either -- for years the name Ann-Margret conjured up images of a singing, dancing seductress like none other. John Wayne once remarked: "When I die, I want Ann-Margret to dance on my coffin. If you don't see me in five minutes, you'll know I'm dead for sure."
Wayne actually died three weeks later; we can't say whether Ann-Margret was invited to dance on his coffin. But Ann-Margret had fond memories of The Duke, her co-star in the 1973 western The Train Robbers. She said:
I didn’t know what to expect. But when he hugged me, it’s like the world was hugging me. He was so big and wide with that booming voice. ... I was friends with him forever. He was never [pretentious]. He had so many friends and every single person loved him.
Ingrid Bergman Was 'A Powerful Influence For Evil'
Hey, celebrities have affairs. They split up and marry new people. This is not big news -- not now. But when Ingrid Bergman did it in 1950, it was a national sensation that even had the United States Senate weighing in. Bergman had signed on with director Roberto Rossellini to make Stromboli; she was a great admirer of the Italian director, and soon enough the two of them began a romantic relationship, even though both were married to other people.
Bergman got pregnant, and Bergman and Rossellini decided they'd divorce their spouses and get married. But the scandal was already set in motion. Colorado Senator Edwin Johnson, who had been a fan of Bergman, took to the Senate floor to denounce her, saying she "had perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage." She was, in his esteemed opinion, "a powerful influence for evil." Bergman let the American humorist Art Buchwald take a peek at her mail from the scandal; he later recalled "Oh, that mail was bad, ten, twelve, fourteen huge mail bags. 'Dirty whore.' 'Bitch.' 'Son of a bitch.' And they were all Christians who wrote it."
Charlie Chaplin Married Young Girls -- Habitually
Under the centuries-old traditions of patriarchy, it wasn't unusual for men to marry younger women. Still, there is a difference between a younger woman and a child bride. Charles "Charlie" Chaplin, a comedic genius of the silent film era, liked them young -- or, at least, kept marrying the young ones.
In 1918, the 29-year-old Chaplin was informed by 16-year-old actress Mildred Harris that she was pregnant with his child, so the couple got married. Harris wasn't actually pregnant at the time, but after they were wed, she became pregnant. The child was born, but did not survive. That relationship, unsurprisingly, had a bit too much baggage to succeed, and the couple were divorced in 1920. A similar situation arose in 1924, when 16-year-old actress Lita Grey announced she was carrying Chaplin's child -- the two were married in Mexico. This was no false alarm, and Grey bore Chaplin two sons. But the marriage was unhappy, and Grey left in 1926. When 43-year-old Chaplin met and fell for 21-year-old Paulette Goddard, the age difference was significant, but within the bounds of the law. Their marriage lasted six years. The 55-year-old Chaplin was fighting a paternity suit filed by Joan Barry, an actress in her early 20s, when he married Oona O'Neill, the 18-year-old daughter of American playwright Eugene O'Neill. This union lasted until the end of Chaplin's life, in 1977.
Brigitte Bardot Was A Lot Like Her Most Famous Character
When Brigitte Bardot played the sexually adventurous and insatiable Juliette in And God Created Woman, she established herself as the dominant "sex kitten" of European cinema. It was a role years in the making. Bardot, who'd grown up wanting to be a ballerina, attracted attention when she appeared on the cover of Elle in 1950 -- she was 15 at the time.
The man who took the most significant interest in the underage Bardot was Roger Vadim, a screenwriter who would become a successful director and legendary ladies' man. Vadim waited for Bardot to turn 18 before marrying her, and wrote scripts for her early films Plucking The Daisy and Naughty Girl, both released in 1956, when she was in her early 20s.
Bardot turned out to be much more like Juliette than Vadim might have wanted -- by the time And God Created Woman came out, his young wife was in the throes of an affair with her co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant. Vadim and Bardot divorced, and she lived with Trintignant. As Trintignant was frequently absent due to military service, Bardot began a relationship with musician Gilbert Becaud. C'est la vie.
Louise Brooks Was The Original Hollywood Bad Girl
Louise Brooks was a flapper idol, but the designation goes way beyond her Prince Valiant haircut, although she did singleheadedly make short hair the style of the truly hip. Brooks had joined up with a New York-based dance company while still in her teens, then graduated to the famous Ziegfeld Follies. She entranced men of the intellectual and thespian classes alike -- she was unique, beautiful, fond of brainy books and booze-fueled all-nighters.
She gained a reputation for her robust social life and fierce attitude -- she was a bit of a snake. The movie industry got more serious with the advent of talking pictures, and those participating in it had to grow up more than a little. Show up on time, learn your lines, the whole nine yards. Brooks wouldn't give up her carousing and libidinous ways, and she didn't much care for Hollywood anyway, so in 1928 she traveled to Berlin. She was 21 years old. There she made her two most famous films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, with German director G.W. Pabst. Brooks once recalled that a fellow actor had called her "a cheap, drunken tramp," and admitted that "he was right."
Marlon Brando Made Sinatra Eat It
Though they were both icons, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando were worlds apart professionally. Sinatra placed a premium on getting things done, delivering a good show that made the audience happy. Brando, who popularized method acting, was a tortured artist on a personal journey, and Frank had no time for it. Sinatra said that Brando's famous "method" was "crap," and dubbed him "Mumbles" for his tendency to, well, mumble his lines.
Brando got back at Sinatra during the filming of Guys And Dolls, the musical in which they both starred. Sinatra once said "I don’t buy this take and retake jazz" -- and that was exactly the sort of jazz Brando was going to give him. In one scene, where Sinatra must eat a slice of cheesecake while Brando speaks, Brando kept intentionally flubbing his lines. It happened nine times -- after the ninth, Sinatra threw his plate down in disgust (and/or nausea), exclaiming, "These f**king New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?"
Vivien Leigh Turned Into Blanche DuBois
In 1951, Vivien Leigh won a second Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Despite this success, the role had consequences. Leigh identified too deeply with the character, who is herself, teetering on the edge of madness. She would later claim that the role was what “tipped” her into madness.
After Streetcar, Leigh began filming Elephant Walk, but when she became paranoid and erratic and then started hallucinating, she was sent back to L.A. and the role went to Elizabeth Taylor. On the flight there, she attempted to jump out of the plane and then, while in Hollywood, she refused to come out of her dressing room, screaming lines from Blanche DuBois' dialogue. After then being sent to London, she was hospitalized and treated with electroshock therapy. Her illness led to an increased libido and several affairs, including one with Australian actor Peter Finch. Leigh's infidelity, coupled with her illness contributed to her divorce from Laurence Olivier after 20 years.
Tallulah Bankhead Had Wardrobe Malfunctions Every Day
Tallulah Bankhead was one of the mot free-spirited ne'er-do-wells Hollywood has ever seen. A noted theater actress who took her talent to the big screen, Bankhead was known for her promiscuity, her tendency to strip naked at parties, and a sharp, shocking wit. "I'm as pure as the driven slush," she once said.
Bankhead's best-known and most acclaimed screen performance came in Lifeboat, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which told the story of nine people thrown together on a lifeboat during World War II. Much of the movie was shot on an actual lifeboat in a giant tank of water. When Bankhead climbed the ladder up to the top of the tank every day, the crew would congregate below to watch her go up. See, Bankhead didn't wear underwear. Someone informed Hitchcock of the situation, and the director replied, "I don’t know if this is a matter for the costume department, makeup, or hair dressing."
Peg Entwistle Was The Hollywood Sign Girl
It's ok if you don't know the name Peg Entwistle -- she's not famous like the other celebrities in this gallery. Hollywood is a town with many more tales of failure than success, and few of the failed attempts at stardom are ever told. Welsh-born Entwistle was a promising actress who'd made a name for herself on stage in Boston and New York. She appeared in one film, Thirteen Women, before going on to eternal infamy as the "Hollywood Sign Girl."
On September 16, 1932, 24-year-old Peg Entwistle climbed to the top of the H in the Hollywoodland sign (it was later shortened to Hollywood) and jumped to her death. What had gone so wrong in her life that she felt the need to end it all? She had been dropped from her RKO contract after filming was complete on Thirteen Women -- disappointing, but a common occurrence in Hollywood. The film had not yet been released, so she was not reacting to negative reviews (as some accounts claimed). Her uncle would later say that she suffered from depression. The suicide note found in her purse, at the foot of the sign, read:
I am afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.
Virginia Rappe's Death Derailed Fatty Arbucke's Career. But Did He Do It?
The tale of Virginia Rappe's death at a party hosted by Fatty Arbuckle is one of the most famous and lurid in all of Hollywood history. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the most beloved and highest-paid comedic actors of the silent film era. He liked a good party, and when it came to Hollywood celebs during Prohibition, the parties -- which were illegal, of course -- were off the hook. On September 5, 1921, Arbuckle and some friends drove up to San Francisco for a blowout at the St. Francis Hotel. They rented three rooms, one of which was a party room, and invited numerous female guests to join them.
Virginia Rappe, a young actress who'd done mostly small parts, was in attendance. She began to feel ill; the hotel doctor examined her and found her to be intoxicated (surprise) and gave her a sleep inducer to take the edge off. Two days later, Rappe was admitted to a hospital, where a friend told the doctor that Rappe had been raped by Arbuckle, but the doctor found no evidence of rape. Then Rappe died -- from peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder.
From the evidence, it would not seem that Arbuckle had either raped or killed Rappe, but the evidence be damned -- the story promoted by the police and tabloid newspapers was that the fat guy took her by force and ruptured her bladder in the process. It was a gruesome tale, augmented by the general details of the debauched party, and the outraged public couldn't get enough of it. Arbuckle was tried in court three times for the death of Virginia Rappe -- the first two resulted in hung juries, and the third in acquittal. But Arbuckle was finished, professionally.
Debbie Reynolds Got More Work Because Liz Taylor Stole Her Husband
Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher seemed like they were made for one another. They were both Hollywood wunderkinds who looked gorgeous standing next to one another, something that made them press magnets. The media loved them, and when they married in 1955 the became the vision of the All-American family, complete with two children, Carrie and Todd. At the time, Reynolds and Fisher were great friends with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Mike Todd. When Mike Todd passed away, Fisher went to console his grieving friend and his companionship turned into a full-on romantic relationship.
Reynolds and Fisher divorced, Fisher lost his TV show, and Elizabeth Taylor lost a friend. Rather than sweep the whole thing under the rug, MGM put Fisher's actions on the front page of every magazine. In 2017, Reynolds told Vanity Fair:
[MGM] saw the situation, and they smelled the situation, and I was simply destroyed by it, but at the time, they were my publicity people. They owned me—I was under contract, so they put me into pictures right away. I did like four or five pictures right away, during the Eddie Fisher phase. They were taking a young talent that was nobody and she happened to fall into a scandal.
Studio Executives Were Underwhelmed By Fred Astaire. Very Underwhelmed
Fred Astaire got his start in a sibling act, performing vaudeville with his sister Adele. The duo debuted on Broadway with Over the Top in 1917. They continued to appear together in movies up through 1931's The Band Wagon. Then Adele left show business in 1932 to marry Lord Cavendish, thus ending a 27-year collaboration with her brother.
Fred Astaire was famous and successful, but something of an unknown quantity without Adele. After a successful pair splits up, what will you get from one half -- a Paul Simon or an Art Garfunkel? Astaire performed a screen test, but the feedback he received was quite discouraging. Executives reported that Astaire:
Can’t act, can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.
Despite this negative response, he was cast in Dancing Lady in 1933, a film which featured Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, and The Three Stooges.
Omar Sharif Ended Up Tied To A Camel, Upside Down
There were a lot of drunken hijinks on the set of Lawrence of Arabia -- with so many hard-living English actors in one place, elbow-bending is unavoidable, especially when one of those actors is Peter O'Toole. Unfortunately there were also more than a few injuries. Even though O’Toole bled from his bum while riding his camel and suffered sprains, burns, and cuts, the worst indignity was suffered by co-star Omar Sharif.
O’Toole explained that one day he and Sharif were so drunk that they hatched the idea of tying themselves to their camels, but only Sharif actually went through with it. The two of them loaded up on a cocktail of brandy and milk, then went on a camel ride to the sea. O'Toole recalled their arrival for NPR:
We made it. We got to the other end all right, right to the sea. And I stood on my camel, we stood in the water, and I looked, and to my right was Omar. And he was still tied to the camel but hanging on upside-down.
Kim Novak Wouldn't Put Up With Studio Abuse, And Left Hollywood In Her Prime
On top of being a human, Kim Novak was an actress with legitimate credits in big movies -- namely Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and the Frank Sinatra films The Man with the Golden Arm and Pal Joey. But she hated being under the thumb of Columbia Pictures honcho Harry Cohn. In a particularly gross display of power, Cohn threatened to blind Sammy Davis Jr. when he sensed that Davis and Novak might be developing a romantic relationship.
After a mudslide destroyed her Los Angeles home, Novak took drastic measures, leaving Hollywood in 1966. "So I rented this van and took what was important to me," she said. "The mudslide was telling me: 'Your time is up; take off while you can.'" After a fire burned down her coastal home, Novak lived in Big Sur and later in Oregon, enjoying a life of semi-retirement where she could pick and choose her occasional projects without taking orders from a studio.
Groucho Marx's Mustache And Eyebrows Were Fake As Hell, And Looked It
Early in his career, Groucho performed wearing a fake mustache that he carefully glued on in his dressing room before each performance. According to legend, Groucho was running late one day and arrived at the theatre for a performance of the Marx Brothers show I’ll Say She Is with little time to prepare.
He quickly drew a mustache on his face using greasepaint, which he decided he liked better than his prop mustache. Not only was it faster to apply, it was also easier to remove. His oversize, exaggerated mustache and accompanying eyebrows eventually became Groucho Marx's signature look, but later, as the host of popular quiz show You Bet Your Life, Groucho actually grew a real mustache.
Lois Maxwell's Modesty Landed Her The Role Of Miss Moneypenny
Two key actresses in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, were Lois Maxwell and Miss Gayson. Maxwell had been tapped to play Sylvia Trench, Agent 007's girlfriend, while Gayson would play Miss Moneypenny, secretary of M, who was James Bond's boss. Sounds about right, doesn't it? No, of course not. But that was an early plan.
After Maxwell accepted the role of Sylvia, she decided she didn't like the immodest ways of Bond's sexpot girlfriend, who appears in one scene putting golf balls wearing nothing but heels and Bond's shirt. Maxwell and Gayson swapped roles, leading to a sustained gig for Maxwell that continued for 14 films: six starring Sean Connery, one with George Lazenby, and the remaining seven with Roger Moore. Gayson's character of Sylvia Trench was meant to be a recurring presence -- a running gag in which Bond was always called away on business just as things were getting steamy -- but that idea was scrapped by the director of Goldfinger. It was just as well for Gayson, who'd been cast in the Broadway production of The Sound Of Music, which would have been a conflict.