18 January 2018

How to write a gift note- by Bette Davis

On 6 February 1950, Bette Davis wrote this very funny note to director Bretaigne Windust, with whom she had worked on June Bride (1948) and Winter Meeting (1948). Bette, known for her wicked sense of humour, wrote the note as an accompaniment to her gift to "Windy", which was a thermos-bottle case.

There are no initials on this thermos-bottle case (which can also be used as a golf-ball carrier, footstool, paperweight for blueprints, umbrella stand, something to accidentally drop on the toes of unpleasant people during arguments, something to hide behind while searching for the names of people you are about to introduce, superb storage place for scarves, tennis socks, useful rags, rain hats, gardening gloves, all kinds of mittens, potatoes, sockies, bulbs, and marshmallows) because I wasn’t certain you wanted one of these things for yourself, or for someone else, or whether or not you admired my case simply to endear yourself to me before launching into a trying afternoon’s work. I shall perfectly understand if you return it (Bon Voyage Shop, Beverly Hills). For one thing, it is apt to stretch the area above the hand you carry it with several inches, flatten your head if you like to carry things on your head, and it will certainly make your car lean slightly to the right, wearing down the tires on that side, heaven only knows what would happen if you and the case are on the same side of the car. It is not beautifully wrapped because I was afraid that if I gave it to you in the box it came in you would think that I had given you an electric quilt, or a portable television set, both of which might have had a disastrous effect upon your ulcer. 

Bette Davis with John Hoyt, Bretaigne Windust (with glasses), Jim Davis and Janis Paige discussing Winter Meeting.

11 January 2018

Steinbeck's complaints about Lifeboat

After Ernest Hemingway had turned down Alfred Hitchcock's offer to write the story for Lifeboat (1944)Hitchcock approached another novelist, John Steinbeck. Steinbeck accepted the offer and eventually gave Hitch a novella. Hitchcock then had several writers turn Steinbeck's novella into a workable screenplay, among them MacKinlay Kantor, Ben Hecht, Jo Swerling and Hitchcock's own wife Alma Reville. In the end, Swerling was the only one credited for the screenplay, while Steinbeck was credited for having written the original story.

In January 1944, John Steinbeck saw Lifeboat in its finished form, and he didn't exactly like what he saw. He was especially appalled by the way one of his characters, the African American 'Joe' (played by Canada Lee), had been portrayed. In a letter to 20th Century-Fox, Steinbeck said that he had created a "Negro of dignity, purpose and personality" but that Hitchcock had turned him into a "stock comedy Negro". So appalled was Steinbeck that he wrote to his agent a month later to have 20th Century-Fox remove his name from "any connection with any showing of this film". Despite Steinbeck's protests, his name was not removed.

John Steinbeck (above), and Canada Lee and William Bendix in a scene from Lifeboat (below).
New York 
January 10, 1944 
Dear Sirs: 
I have just seen the film Lifeboat, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and billed as written by me. While in many ways the film is excellent there are one or two complaints I would like to make. While it is certainly true that I wrote a script for Lifeboat, it is not true that in that script as in the film there were any slurs against organized labor nor was there a stock comedy Negro. On the contrary there was an intelligent and thoughtful seaman who knew realistically what he was about. And instead of the usual colored travesty of the half comic and half pathetic Negro there was a Negro of dignity, purpose and personality. Since this film occurs over my name, it is painful to me that these strange, sly obliquities should be ascribed to me. 
John Steinbeck

A month later,  Steinbeck sent a telegram to his agent, Annie Laurie Williams:
FEBRUARY 19, 1944 

On 21 February 1944, Steinbeck wrote to his agent again, referring to his telegram sent two days earlier:
It does not seem right that knowing the effect of the picture on many people, the studio still lets it go. As for Hitchcock, I think his reasons were very simple. 1. He has been doing stories of international spies and master minds for so long that it has become a habit. And second, he is one of those incredible English middle class snobs who really and truly despise working people. As you know, there were other things that bothered me-- technical things. I know that one man can't row a boat of that size and in my story, no one touched an oar except to steer."

Source: Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (1975), edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten

Alfred Hitchcock and his leading lady Tallulah Bankhead on the set of Lifeboat.

3 January 2018

Projects that never happened

We all know the finished projects, the films that made it to the big screen. But of course, there were also plenty of projects that, for whatever reason, never came about. Interesting collaborations that never happened. 

Here are three letters that speak of such projects.

The first letter is dated 26 February 1963 and is from director George Cukor to Bette Davis. Cukor wrote to Bette because a friend of his, screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, had plans for a film adaptation of Edith Wharton's novella My Son. Bodeen wanted Cukor to direct the film and Bette and Olivia de Havilland to star in it. The film was never made but the two actresses did eventually play together in Robert Aldrich's Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Cukor and Davis would never make a film together, although they did work together in the theatre in the 1920s. In 1926, Bette joined Cukor's stock company in Rochester, New York, and stayed with the group for only one season. Cukor later remembered: "Her talent was apparent, but she did buck at direction. She had her own ideas, and though she only did bits and ingenue roles, she didn't hesitate to express them." Bette kept insisting for years that Cukor had fired her even though Cukor kept saying that he hadn't. In the letter below, Cukor's remark about the 'Rochester Method' is an obvious reference to his theatre days with Bette. 

Via: we love bette davis (instagram)



February 26, 1963

Congratulations on your nomination- your tenth, no less*. It certainly proves that the Rochester Method pays off.

I am functioning as a Friend of Friends. One friend, DeWitt Bodeen, is a very nice man and a good screenwriter, whose last effort was "Billy Budd". He is presently negotiating for the rights of a novella by Edith Wharton called "Her Son". I must confess I'd never heard of it before. He has asked me to send it to you, which I am doing under separate cover. He thinks it would make a bangup picture for you and Olivia DeHavilland. The switch is that you would be the Good Woman and Olivia the Doxie.

I called your house yesterday and was told by your sister that you were in New York. Then I spoke to Olivia. She said that no time be wasted in getting the book to you because you were presently making Big Decisions in New York. So here the matter rests.

Every good wish and kindest regards.

signed 'George'

Note* The Oscar nomination was for Bette's role in Robert Aldrich's Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Anne Bancroft would eventually win the Oscar for her leading role in The Miracle Worker.

Written on 16 January 1957, the second letter is from Kirk Douglas to Gary Cooper. The letter shows that Douglas was quite excited about a film he was planning to make based on the television show The Silent Gun. Douglas wanted to make the film with Gary Cooper and director Charles Vidor and to produce it through his own production company Bryna Productions. Eventually, the film was never made, and Douglas and Cooper would never work together. 

Source: live auctioneers


January 16, 1957

Mr. Gary Cooper
200 Baroda Drive
Los Angeles, California

Dear Gary:

This is the television show, THE SILENT GUN, I spoke to you about on the phone. I'd like you to see it just as a basis for a discussion that we can have when I get back from New York.

We have been in touch with the Colt people, and have worked out wonderful arrangements to use all their museum pieces of guns and old machinery used in the manufacturing of guns, to make this a completely documentary background.

As I told you, Charles Vidor is awfully anxious to do it. From my point of view, I'm completely wide open. I think this film can be made on a surprisingly reasonable budget. And, by the way, I just checked the records and I don't have $30,000 in the story in rough treatment but approximately $22,000.

I think this could be a really exciting one. I hope you think so, too. I'll call you when I get back.

Best regards,
(signed 'Kirk') 
Kirk Douglas

Rare photo of Kirk Douglas and Gary Cooper together, here pictured with Patricia Neal. (Cooper and Neal had an intense love affair while Cooper was marriedDouglas had also once dated Neal.)


The third and final letter comes from Cary Grant and is addressed to 'Dick', an associate of silent comedian Harold Lloyd. Grant had just received a script, meant as a possible vehicle for him and a potential new project for Harold Lloyd's production company. After reading it, Grant was not overly enthusiastic; he couldn't picture himself in the story and besides, a similar script had been offered to him once before (which he talks about in an amusing way). 

Grant's letter was written in January 1943, at a time when Harold Lloyd's Hollywood career was practically over. Lloyd would star in only one more film, in Preston Sturges' The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947), which became a big flop. As a producer, Lloyd had made two films for RKO in the early 1940s, i.e. A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and My Favorite Spy (1942), which had proven unsuccessful too. A deal with Columbia to produce another film was signed in February 1943 but that film was never made. In the end, Lloyd would never produce again and a collaboration between him and Cary Grant never happened.

(Incidentally, while I have tried to find more information on 'Dick', unfortunately I could find nothing.)

Source: leading lights autographs


Jan. 16, 1943
1515 N. Amalfi Dr.
Pacific Palisades

Dear Dick:

Many thanks for letting me read this---- I had a most enjoyable evening. It is undoubtedly a very funny and different idea, but with the script in it's [sic] present rough form I find it difficult to visualize completely it's [sic] possibilities as a vehicle for me. Incidentally, if Harold and yourself are keen to put this type of story into production, I think I should tell you that there is a synopsis lying around town, and which was submitted to me some time ago, embodying a similar idea-- though in that story the dog was the supposed reincarnation of the first husband who came back to worry the second husband and his former spouse--- it made for fun in a bed-room on a wedding night for two people and a dog-- you get the idea. I thought you both should know of it's [sic] existence although I have forgotten whether it is owned by a studio.

Hope to see you soon, Dick, and perhaps then we can discuss this story more fully, but in any case I'd be grateful if you would let me know what happens to it and the manner in which it is to be finally developed. Too, if we cannot get together on this one, I do hope I shall have the pleasure and the good fortune to work with you in the near future. Best personal wishes, and regards to Harold.

signed 'Cary'

While Cary Grant and Harold Lloyd never worked together, Grant's comedic performance in Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby (1938) was influenced by Lloyd. When Grant didn't know how to play his character (the nerdy paleontologist David Huxley) Hawks suggested Grant look at the films of Harold Lloyd. Grant did, and in Bringing Up Baby he imitates Lloyd's acting style and even wears his trademark black horn-rimmed glasses and ill-fitting suit.

30 November 2017

Consoling Audrey Hepburn

When Audrey Hepburn failed to receive an Oscar nomination for her leading role in George Cukor's My Fair Lady (1964), she was quite devastated. The fact that she had not done her own singing is regarded as one of the main reasons for the Oscar snub. While Audrey had been allowed to do her own singing on Funny Face (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), her vocal range was too limited for the more demanding songs of My Fair Lady. Despite her hard work on the songs with a vocal coach, halfway through production Audrey was told by Cukor that her singing wasn't good enough. (Unlike Audrey, Julie Andrews who had successfully played the role of Eliza Doolittle on the stage was an experienced soprano; she was, however, passed over for the film adaptation because she had no film experience whereas Audrey was already a star.)

Above and below: Audrey Hepburn and director George Cukor on the set of My Fair Lady.
Marni Nixon had previously dubbed Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961) and was hired to also dub Audrey's singing voice. When word got out about Nixon's singing and just how little Audrey herself had sung --Audrey can be heard half-talking half-singing in a couple of songs-- it led to negative reactions in the gossip columnsInfluential columnist Hedda Hopper, for example, wrote: "With Marni Nixon doing the singing, Audrey gives only half a performance". The bad publicity very likely prevented Audrey from getting her Oscar nomination. 

In an attempt to cheer up Audrey for not being nominated, director and good friend George Cukor wrote her a brief letter on 26 February 1965. In it, Cukor gives Audrey an encouraging message from a fellow actress and a dear friend of his, i.e. "the other actress of the Clan Hepburn" who had been through "this kind of thing" herself.  Katharine Hepburn's words to Audrey are quite sweet and must have given Audrey's self-confidence at least a little boost. (Incidentally, Cukor and Katharine had been close friends ever since they started working together in the 1930s; Cukor and Audrey became close during the filming of My Fair Lady and remained friends until Cukor's death in 1983.)


Source: Bonhams


Enclosed you will find a letter written by the other actress of the Clan Hepburn. She asked me to read it. I was to decide whether to send it to you or not. Here it is.

It's bound to tickle you. (Lest her handwriting drive you up the wall, Irene has deciphered it.) Here is the Voice of Experience. She's been through this kind of thing. It touched me because it's shot through with such warmth of feeling for you, and such high regard.

Dearest, dearest Audrey, you're lovely, talented, intelligent, distinguished, capable only of beautiful behaviour. You're possessed of all the graces and virtues including the rarest of all- simple kindness and plain goodness.

I hope all this praise doesn't make you become insufferable.

My loving regards, to you, Mel and Sean.

(signed) George

Mrs. Mel Ferrer
La Retama
La Morelaja

Friends for life: Katharine Hepburn and George Cukor on the set of The Philadelphia Story (1940).

My Fair Lady was thé winner at the 37th Academy Awards (held on 5 April 1965) with 8 Oscars, including awards for Jack Warner (Best Picture), George Cukor (Best Director) and Rex Harrison (Best Actor); the three men are pictured above with Audrey Hepburn. At the Oscar Ceremony, Audrey was gracious enough to present the Best Actor award to Rex Harrison, even though it must have been difficult for her. If you click here, you can watch Audrey present the Oscar and see how clearly emotional she was.

Audrey Hepburn with Julie Andrews at the Academy Awards. Julie won the Best Actress award for Mary Poppins which was her first feature film after having been passed over by Jack Warner for My Fair Lady.  There was no personal animosity between Audrey and Julieon the contrary, the two actresses became good friends.

19 November 2017

Lucille Ball's brush with the blacklist

In the early 1950's, Lucille Ball was under investigation by the HUAC, the notorious committee that investigated Communism in Hollywood. The evidence against her consisted, among others, of a 1936 affidavit of registration saying she would vote for the Communist Party, an affidavit revealing she had been a delegate of the State Committee of the Communist Party, her membership of the Committee for the First Amendment and the fact that a communist meeting was held at her home in 1937 (although Ball herself had not been present). With all the evidence against her, Ball was questioned by the HUAC during secret meetings in April 1952 and September 1953. Regarding the 1936 affidavit, Ball said that she had only registered to please her grandfather Fred Hunt, a life-long socialist. The other accusations she denied too, firmly stating that she was no communist and had no ties with the Communist Party.

A few days after Ball's second HUAC interview, well-known radio commentator Walter Winchell made the accusations against Ball public. At the time, Ball's television show I Love Lucy (launched in 1951) was extremely popular, with very high ratings and sponsor Philip Morris having invested $8 million in the show. Despite the considerable evidence against Ball, fans stood by her as did her sponsor, and even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (a big fan of the show) supported her.

It is generally believed that the show's huge popularity played a decisive role in determining Ball's fate. While a lot of Ball's fellow actors, screenwriters etc. got blacklisted, Ball herself was cleared of the charges. The HUAC accepted her story about her grandfather as well as her explanation regarding the other accusations. In the end, the HUAC investigation had done nothing to dent Ball's popularity. On the contrary-- Ball was more popular than ever, about 50 million people tuned in each week to watch her show. Ball would later acknowledge that she had been very lucky. If the HUAC affair had happened several years earlier, it might have very well ruined her career.

Sept. 1953, Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz give a press conference at their home following the HUAC hearing. Arnaz jokingly said: "The only thing Red about Lucy is her hair. And that's not real either!"


While Lucille Ball enjoyed the support from the majority of the American public, there were also those who didn't believe her explanations. The letters below, written by two angry US citizens to resp. radio commentator Walter Winchell and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, show just that. The first letter was written in September 1953 and the second letter in December 1955, long after Ball had already been cleared. 

Apart from the letters, also seen below is a FBI document regarding Ball's 1953 testimony before the HUAC. The document shows what Ball had to say in her defense against the accusations. (For the full text of Ball's testimony, click here.)


Dear Winchell;

What are these bums trying to prove? Lucille Ball defended the UNFRIENDLY TEN as late as 1948 and Granpop was not around to guide her at that time.

Clyne of the Blow Agency knew this dame was on the Pinko side when he signed her for Morris Cigarettes. Now Metro and the Morris people are trying to save what they can out off the mess by pushing aside Winchell and others who had the guts to PORVE [sic] THAT THIS DAME SIGNED WITH THE COMMY PARTY.

Ball is 42 now. In 1936 she was 29-- well over the 21 year old mark and should have had all of her marbles regarding political parties. FIVE YEARS AGO 1948, she STILL SHOULD HAVE HAD ENOUGH BRAINS TO KNOW THAT THE UNFRIENDLY TEN OF HOLLYWOOD WERE STILL COMMY BUMS..... But no she went along with them.

If Walter Winchell had bothered to call Dizzy [Desi Arnaz] he would have handed Winchell the same lies he handed the Herald Express the other day---- namely she never registered as a member of the Communist Party.... WHEN THE HERALD HAD THE SIGNED PROOF RUNNING IN THE PAPER AS DEZIE DENIED IT. I still think the show should be called I LOATHE LUCY and every real American feels that way too. 


Transcript :

Mr. J. Edgar Hoover
Washington 25, D.C.

Dear Mr. Hoover:

I read your interview with Vincent X. Flaherty published in the Los Angeles Examiner, October 22 and 23, (copies enclosed) and I am wondering if there is not a mistake or misquote of some kind since it lists Lucy and Desi among your favorite entertainers who you think set a good example for the youth of America.

Lucille Ball voted for the Communist Party and was appointed as a member of the Central Committee for the Communist Party. She insisted that she did this because her poor old grandfather was ill and that she had no dealings with communists on her own. Yet, ten years later-- with no contact of any kind-- grandpa had passed on-- when a communist speaker who is to make a radio broadcast falls ill-- the communist know exactly where to reach her and that she would be their willing stooge and she takes off from her job to broadcast for them. Again, she says, "I certainly was never in sympathy with the ' Dmytrks', I can't remember any of the other names." Well, in the library there was a book by one of the Hollywood ten-- and it has forewords of sympathy and support by movie stars-- and there is Lucille Ball with her words of sympathy and support.

She has never said she was sorry nor ashamed of these actions.

Since I'm one of the 98% of Americans who think Mr. J. Edgar Hoover is the greatest-- would you mind clarifying this for me.




DIRECTOR, FBI  (100-400465)
SAC, LOS ANGELES (100-41702)


ReBulet dated 1/18/52 captioned "C.P, U.S.A., DISTRICT 13, Los Angeles Division, IS-C"  and remy-Air-Tel to Bureau 9/11/53 captioned "HOUSE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES".

The subject furnished an executive statement to WILLIAM A. WHEELER, West Coast Representative, House Committee on Un-American Activities, on September 4, 1953, at Hollywood, California. BALL stated that in 1936 she registered to vote as a Communist or intended to vote the Communist Party ticket because her grandfather, FRED HUNT, now deceased, wanted her to register as such.  She stated that FRED HUNT had been a Socialist all his life and she had registered as a Communist to make him happy and to do him a favor. She stated she at no time intended to vote as a Communist.

BALL stated she has never been a member of the Communist Party to "her knowledge"; had never been asked to become a Communist Party member; did not ever attend any meetings which she later discovered were Communist Party meetings;  did not know whether or not any meetings were ever held at her home at 1344 North Ogden Drive;  stated she did not know EMIL FREED and if he had appointed her as a delegate to the State Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1936 it was done without her knowledge or consent; did not recall signing the document sponsoring EMIL FREED for the Communist Party nomination to the office of member of the assembly of the 57th District; and has never heard of the California Conference for Repeal of the Criminal Syndicalism Act, the Southern California Council for Constitutional Rights, or the Committee for the 1st Amendment.

A review of the subject's file reflects no activity that would warrant her inclusion on the Security Index. The subject's file is being maintained in a closed status. On October 30, 1953, the Washington Field Office furnished the Los Angeles Office with a copy of the subject's executive statement which is located in Los Angeles file 100-41702-lal.


Source of all documents: vault.fbi.gov

This post is my contribution to CMBA's Fall Blogathon Banned and Blacklisted. For a list of all the other entries, please click here.

30 October 2017

An actress is an actress first and a trained seal secondly

In the October 1940 issue of the fan magazine "Hollywood", columnist Ed Sullivan had a lot of negative things to say about Joan Crawford, then 36 years old. 

Here are some excerpts from Sullivan's column:
"Goodness knows that I don't often rap people, or performers, but it's about time to crack down on wide-eyed Joan Crawford... For some years, I've tried sincerely to like her, but she certainly strains friendship to a point where something has to give, and it GAVE... This squawk then is justified because there is no performer who so often exclaims that the press of the country has been unfair to her and non-cooperative. 
I don't know, really, anyone who has gone so far in this business with so little talent as La Crawford. 
Broadway, which remembers her as an N.T.G. girl and a Shubert chorus girl, resents that attitude with good reason... If Joan wonders why her latest flicker, "Susan and God", was such a terrific box-office flop, it is not alone that the part was unsuited to her talents; it was also because the contract with her public has been broken. 
A better rooting section is that which acclaims George Raft... Raft has the entire country rooting for him, because the public has more than a sneaking idea that here is a nice guy... Like Crawford, Raft went from the sidewalks of New York to movie fame, but unlike her, he never forgot his old friends. 
I confess that I've lost patience with Joan Crawford... No longer will this pillar rush to her defense when other movie stars put the blast on her for her insincerity, or for her affectations."

Joan struck back several months later.

In the January 1941 issue, "Hollywood"-magazine gave Joan plenty of space to defend herself.

Dear Ed Sullivan: 
Goodness knows I do often rap people and I'm honest enough to admit it, although I'm not proud of myself for doing so. Naturally, when I read your blast in the paper, my first emotion was to wish you boiled in oil. Then I thought: "No, it's over and done with. Let it pass. Forget it." 
But this view I concluded in time was wrong. It implied submissiveness. Hence this letter, meant not so much to slap back at you as to take a definite stand on this business of "cooperation", to inquire, perhaps, what it means and to set you right on a point or two. 
You say that for some years you have tried to like me. Ed, how? By seeing me? By talking to me - as friends? No indeed. I haven't seen you since I separated from Franchot. And before that I talked to you exactly twice, once when I was in New York as a visiting fireman - when I asked to see you. You had printed something perfectly silly and I thought it could be straightened out if we talked it over like civilized people. Besides, I thought it high time we met. I remember that you were kind enough to invite Franchot and me to dine with you and your very attractive wife. 
Those were the only times I've ever seen you. And for the life of me I cannot remember any great effort you made to know and like me.
I have never "exclaimed that the press of the country has been unfair" to me. I have said, however, that a columnist - any columnist - is unfair to attack anyone who has no means of reply. (This does not include legitimate criticism of commercial entertainment or art by properly qualified critics.)
Certainly I have complained about that. Not for myself alone but for my craft and everyone so attacked. I consider it cheap, tawdry, and gangster journalism. I have never ceased to marvel at the paradox of otherwise respectable newspapers that are serving their community constructively and who, at the same time, permit journalistic lice to stink up their pages. If you so desire, I will tell you that at 42nd Street and Broadway through a loudspeaker.
"While she has been in the East, Miss Crawford was asked by two newspapers to cooperate with them in stunts which would have placed her in a favorable light," you say. 
Ed, publicized acts of mine are not premeditated, nor for the purpose of placing me in a favorable light with newspapers or the public.
Goodness knows, certainly I do, that a motion picture actress without a public would be a thing of beauty, perhaps, and a cipher forever. That much is true. But how in the name of heaven does she acquire that public? Because she fell out of a tree into the arms of a movie scout? Or because Darryl Zanuck happened to see a picture of her in a cigarette advertisement? Or because she did some occasional hoofing for the Shuberts?
What this last might explain is merely how she gets into pictures - not how she acquires a public. This public she acquires, if she does, by hard work. But the press, you shriek! Yes, indeed, the papers helped. And the magazines, too. And she is properly grateful. And how does she show it? By doing everything from lolling around in pajamas to jumping through a hoop, for benefit of photographer. 
For years she does all that. Comes an occasion when she does not leap through the hoop. Then annihilation! But - supposing we turn to your column: 
"On both occasions she delegated the task of breaking the bad news, her refusal, to MGM publicity men. In other words, Joan didn't have the nerve or the courtesy to call the newspapermen or their offices to say no," you lash out.
Since the invitation to appear at the Daily News Harvest Moon Ball came from MGM publicity men it is perfectly natural that the refusal went to them. I even explained that I was in the country with my infant child who was ill with a cold. And whether you like it or not, Ed, I would not have left her for any favorable publicity.
The other affront to a paper, if I must go into weary detail, was perpetrated with even greater innocence on my part. Too late for any possible cancellation of plans, I received a vague and belated request to cooperate in a fashion show to be staged by the Chicago Tribune, for which paper I have nothing but respect. The show would have been under way and over by the time I managed to straighten out my affairs and fly down to Chicago.
Your comment on the box-office results of "Susan and God" places you in the position of having information not available to me. However, if you are interested in accuracy you can probably get the correct information from MGM - and according to Mr. Mayer last week "Susan" was doing all right. 
Here's another little gem of yours: 
"I don't know really anyone who has gone so far in this business with so little talent as La Crawford."
Aw, Ed, how could you? As long as I was getting away with murder why turn stool pigeon and snitch on me? When one is blessed with such magnificent talents as you are, Ed, you must try to be more patient with the less-fortunate, non-talented Crawfords.
Your petulant "I confess that I've lost patience with Joan Crawford" is Age II stuff. Please, Mr. Dictator, don't banish me because I have lost favor with you.
"No longer will this pillar rush to her defense when other movie stars put the blast on her for her insincerity or her affectations," you write.
Any time you "rush to my defense" it has been because of your own free will. I have never asked you to do so. The times I have seen you and had occasion to talk to you it has been as a friend to whom I desired to give my side of a story in detail. To hell with whether you retracted anything or not. It was you as a person that I wanted to be fair.
My batting average with respect to requests from your paper, The Daily News, has been pretty good. Last April I accepted an invitation and attended a cocktail party given by the News during the publishers' convention. I considered it an honor and a friendly act to be invited. By the same token I considered the invitation to the Harvest Moon Ball as an honor and a friendly act. It was simply impossible for me to attend.
And as for not answering the telephone (as Tyrone Power and Annabella presumably do) what with a "secretary" guarding me from callers, please be informed that the only time I don't happen to pick up a telephone is when my maid - I don't even have a secretary - beats me to it.
From here on your column trails off into a welter of abuse, bearing little or no connection with the subject at hand. You take time off to compare me with George Raft, "a nice guy," who makes the night clubs and does the right thing. I, too, regard George Raft as "a nice guy," just as free to attend night clubs and opening nights at the bistros as I feel free to pass them up, possibly because I don't seem to enjoy these affairs quite so much as Mr. Raft does. Then, too, I don't happen to be financially interested in night clubs as is Mr. Raft.
What I have been trying to say is that what columning needs, apparently, is not only the "divine dispassion" supposedly the very soul of a good reporter, not only the sense of fair play, not only a disposition to remain always selfless and to make a religion of facts, but, above all, a recollection that an actress, even one who makes bad pictures, is an actress, first, and a trained seal secondly.
So that possibly she may be forgiven when she stumbles. 
Okay, Ed? 
Joan Crawford 
Source: Hollywood magazine, January 1941 via archive.org 

19 October 2017

Bette & Vivien

In 1964, when Joan Crawford needed to be replaced in Robert Aldrich's Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, several actresses were considered to play the part opposite Bette Davis, including Vivien Leigh. Vivien declined the role and reportedly said: "I could almost stand to look at Joan Crawford's face at 6am, but not Bette Davis." I don't know what had made Vivien say that (or if indeed she had) but at any rate, a decade earlier Vivien and then-husband Laurence Olivier had been hosts at their home Notley Abbey to a party of people that included Bette and then-husband Gary Merrill. Following the visit, Vivien received flowers from Bette accompanied by a lovely letter as seen below. Bette seemed quite sincere in her admiration for the Oliviers and how she enjoyed her visit with them. While I have tried to find information on how Vivien felt about Bette, apart from the above-mentioned quote, alas I could find nothing.

Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh and Kitty Carlisle visiting Danny Kaye backstage in London.

Via: divinevivienleigh.tumblr.com


Dear Vivien,

It is seldom one sees talent combined with gracious living and gracious people.

Yesterday was magic for us- I was so stimulated by it all I had to take a sleeping pill! ☺-
Gary is writing later from the boat - to Larry.

In the meantime- please accept these flowers as our only possible token, at the moment, of our thanks.

One day maybe we can spend a day by the sea in Maine- with the hope you will enjoy it one quarter as much as we enjoyed yesterday.

Our love

P.S. I hope these will prove suitable for the benefit tonight.

P.P.S. Tell Danny to try and keep in step with you!☺[see photo below]

The benefit mentioned in the post-script of Bette's letter was probably the Sid Field tribute, held on 25 June 1951, where Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and Danny Kaye were doing the Triplets act.

30 September 2017

Dressing Susan Hayward

Here is an interesting correspondence between Darryl F. Zanuck, producer/studio head of Twentieth Century-Fox, and Charles LeMaire, costume designer. Zanuck was known for being a very "hands-on" studio boss, involving himself in all aspects of filmmaking. Below he and LeMaire are discussing the wardrobe of Susan Hayward in The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), i.e. Hayward's outfit for the Crillon Hotel scene with co-star Gregory Peck. Having seen the film a long time ago, I can't remember which clothes Hayward eventually got to wear in the scene or if the scene ended up in the film at all.



DATE  March 28 1952

TO Mr. Daryl Zanuck

FROM Charles LeMaire


Dear Mr. Zanuck:

I have read several times the re-write of the scene between Helen and Harry in the Crillon Hotel room. I know you have expressed a desire to have Susan play this scene dressed in lounging pajamas, but I am afraid the thing we want will be lost with covering her legs with pants and covering her top with the kind of jacket this woman would wear.

In reviewing the wardrobe Helen wears in the picture I find that she is in pants and divided skirts or a terry cloth robe most of the time. There is a short sequence where she wears a suit and only a head and shoulders when she wears a dress. 

Do you remember the green dress with the lingere [sic] lace front which I had tested for her to wear in the Crillon Hotel scene? It was under the fur coat which I had expected her to drop from her shoulders when she dismissed the waiter. This is a soft dress, the color is wonderful for her hair and skin and was designed for the interior of this room. 

I can believe this woman entering his room with a handbag and book under her arm, wearing a dress, but I can't imagine the kind of lounging pajamas she would wear into a comparatively strange man's hotel room in the morning, unless his room was part of the suite which she occupied. 

Please let me know how you feel about this.

Charles LeMaire
Left photo: Daryl F. Zanuck; right: Charles LeMaire, who won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for All About Eve (1950), The Robe (1953) and Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955).
Susan Hayward's wardrobe test for the bedroom scene at the Crillon Hotel in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. This is probably the green dress as mentioned in LeMaire's letter to Zanuck.



DATE March 28 1952

cc: Casey Robinson
Henry King
Ray Klune



Dear Charlie:

In connection with your note on the costume for the new hotel sequence at the Crillon, I think the scene will be harmed if Susan is "dressed up". We want to definitely give the impression that she lives next door or down the hall or in the adjoining suite. We also want to give the impression that it is morning and when she got up and had her breakfast she took care of ordering his.

I would like to get her in some nice clothes but one of the things that harmed the other scene was that she looked like she was visiting him from another hotel. The whole point of the scene is that when she finds him drunk she "brings him home" or at least to the hotel. 

Can't you find an interesting negligee that is rather revealing or some sort of a housecoat of the period? This will help us get over the idea that at first Harry thinks she is just a high-class tart who has picked him up.


Images of both letters via Pinterest here and here.

Susan Hayward and Gregory Peck in a scene from Henry King's The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952). I like her casual outfit here