27 February 2014

Edited by Carole and Ginger

During the 1920s/ 1930s, Screen Book was a popular movie fan magazine which occasionally brought in famous movie stars to appear as guest editors. For the issue of April 1936, Carole Lombard was hired. I'm not sure if Carole did much editing, but she wrote two guest columns, "Speaking about my clothes" and "With the editor in Hollywood" (image above), and also added handwritten comments to articles (image below, for example, shows Carole's comment on an article about Katharine Hepburn: "An amusing fact story about a colorful actress we all admire. Carole Lombard").


Before Carole Lombard, there were others who had served as guest editor for Screen Book. One of Carole's predecessors was fellow actress and friend Ginger Rogers. On 22 January 1936, Ginger sent the following telegram to Carole, congratulating her and wishing her luck on her new job:


Via: carole and co

Transcript:

LOS ANGELES CALIF JAN 22 1936

CAROLE LOMBARD CARE SCREEN BOOK MAGAZINE

7046 HOLLYWOOD BLVD = HOLLYWOOD CALIF =

SO NOW THEYVE GOT YOU DOING IT STOP LOOK OUT CAROLE PRINTERS INK GETS IN THE BLOOD ALSO THE FINGERNAILS STOP I KNOW BECAUSE I USED TO BE A MAGAZINE MAN MYSELF STOP DONT FORGET YOU OWE YOUR BIG CHANCE TO ME I GOT OUT ONE EDITION AND THEN THEY GOT ME OUT STOP SERIOUSLY THOUGH YOULL GET A BIG BANG OUT OF BEING AN EDITOR AND I KNOW YOULL DO A SPLENDID JOB CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST WISHES FOR A BIGGER AND BETTER BOOK=

GINGER ROGERS.


23 February 2014

"Do you have a stammer?"

Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play "A Streetcar named Desire" (1947) ran on Broadway from 3 December 1947 through 17 December 1949. Directed by Elia Kazan, the original Broadway cast featured Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. 24-year old newcomer Marlon Brando became a star playing the role of Stanley Kowalski, a role he would reprise in Kazan's 1951 film adaptation. Jessica Tandy (mostly known for her role as Rod Taylor's overbearing mother in "The Birds" (1963) and her Oscar-winning performance in "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)) won a Tony Award for her role as Blanche Du Bois, but would be replaced with Vivien Leigh in the film version. 

During the long stage run, Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy didn't get along. Tandy, who was 15 years older than Brando, was a classically trained actress and hated Brando's unpredictable, erratic way of acting, not to mention his mumbling on stage. Furthermore, she thought Brando was irresponsible and undisciplined. 

On 30 January 1948, after the play had run for two months, Jessica Tandy wrote a long letter to Marlon Brando, mainly criticising his speech and work ethic. Below you'll find part of her fascinating letter (due to copyright reasons, I will not reproduce the whole letter):


Transcript:

I have wanted to talk to you about things that actually don't concern me at all but that I feel very strongly about. I hope you won't take offense and I would like, first of all, to let you know that the only reason I feel concerned is that I like you tremendously and would like your life and career to go as well as possible. So, please understand and let me indulge myself in meddling in your affairs.

The reason I was a little cold with you when you came to apologize was not because you had been late for rehearsal --this can happen to anyone-- but because on each occasion you hadn't assumed the responsibility for getting to rehearsal yourself: the first time you relied on Western Union; and the second time on Mr. Lewis. This kind of casualness is bound to hurt you eventually and earn you a reputation for irresponsibility which I don't think managers or directors will tolerate, despite your unusual abilities.

If I have anything of particular significance to say to you, it concerns these abilities, this talent you were born with and which can mean a great deal to you and the theatre--but only if you are prepared to enhance it, to work with it, to take the trouble to control it. If you won't learn to do these things, it will go down the drain. I believe you have it in your power to be a first-rate actor and more than that, to be a great influence in the theatre. This can never happen if you are just going to be an actor who has to wait to be given parts by managements. In ten years' time, if you wish, you should be able to decide what you want to do, set about arranging the production, engaging the actors and being responsible-- in the manner of Olivier; but how is this to be possible if you are unable to learn discipline and responsibility?

-As mentioned above, Jessica Tandy was annoyed by Brando's manner of speaking, which is illustrated by the following excerpt:

Transcript:

Do you have a stammer? Or is it just something that happens to you on stage? I wish you would try to cure it. Believe me, it matters a great deal for it will narrow the range of the characters which you can play to ones that have the same characteristics as Marlon Brando and after a few years, you will be just repeating yourself instead of enriching your experience.

Source: The Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy Papers, Library of Congress
Thanks to the Library of Congress for providing the scans.

21 February 2014

Extortion note to Clark Gable

Throughout his career, Clark Gable received several letters of extortion. In 1937, a British woman named Violet Norton claimed Gable was the father of her daughter and sent him a number of letters to extort money from him. A year earlier, a man from Philadelphia sent Gable an extortion letter demanding $5,000. He threatened to physically harm Gable, if the money was not paid. And there were several other letters, including the following one from an Iowa farmhand in  1938.

On 9 February 1938, 30-year old Gaylord Forsyth from Fonda, Iowa, sent a note to Clark Gable, demanding payment of $1,000. Signing the note, Forsyth used the name of a neighbour, Alice Schnetter, against whom he held a grudge. Forsyth was in love with the girl but she wasn't interested in him, and he later confessed to having sent the letter just to spite her. By the end of February, Forsyth was apprehended by the FBI. He was ultimately convicted on federal charges.

Source: the smoking gun

Transcript: 

CLARK GABLE.

IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FUTURE THEN SEND ME ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS RIGHT AWAY AND TELL NO ONE OR ELSE! I AM DISGUISING MY WRITEING [sic] BY PRINTING. SO NOTHING CAN BE PROVED. MY DAD IS HARD UP ON HIS FARM AND I AM GOING TO GET MONEY IF I HAVE TO STEAL IT. SAY NOTHING TO NO ONE OR ELSE!

ALICE SCHNETTER
ROUTE ONE
FONDA. IOWA.

18 February 2014

The ring is fab!

Elizabeth Taylor was known for her passion for jewelry. At the time of her death (in 2011), she had about $150 million worth of jewels, many of which were gifts from her fifth husband Richard Burton. One of the jewels Burton gave her was a ring known as the Krupp Diamond. On 16 May 1968, Burton acquired the ring at an auction at Sotheby's for $305,000. After Liz's death, the ring became known as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond and sold for $8.8 million at Christie's. The ring was said to have been Liz's favourite piece of jewelry.

In May 1968, Elizabeth Taylor was staying in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, for production of the film "Secret Ceremony" (1968). A few years earlier, Liz and Richard Burton had been in Noordwijk for Burton's film "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" (1965), and Liz had such fond memories of the place she wanted the beach scenes of "Secret Ceremony" to be shot there. It was from Noordwijk that Liz sent the following postcard (postmarked 29 May 1968) to her parents: 

Via: gold art

Transcript:

Dear Mom + Dad,

Did you read about my ring?
[drawing] -it's fab!
Love you both
Wish you were here!
Elizabeth
Richard

AIRMAIL
Mr. & Mrs. Francis TAYLOR
2318 Donella Circle
Los Angeles, California 90024
U.S.A.
AIRMAIL

Elizabeth Taylor with her father Francis and mother Sara

15 February 2014

Rock's invitation to party

Lauren Bacall was the star of the Broadway play "The Cactus Flower", which opened in December 1965 and would run for two years. Her good friend Rock Hudson, whom she had played with in "Written on the wind" (1956), wanted to throw a party in her honour on 21 October 1966, welcoming her back to Los Angeles. A week before the party, Rock Hudson sent a telegram to Agnes Moorehead (with whom he had starred in "Magnificent obsession" (1954) and "All that heaven allows" (1955)), announcing that "that Broadway Cactus Flower, Lauren Bacall, is coming to town", and inviting Agnes to the pajama party he'd be giving at his home the following week. Incidentally, Rock Hudson was known for giving great parties (in case you're interested, on YouTube there's a clip of a party Rock gave on Labour Day 1965, also with Lauren Bacall present (click here)).


Transcript:

OCT 14 66
BEVERLY HILLS CALIF
MISS AGNES MOOREHEAD
1023 NORTH ROXBURY DR BEVERLY HILLS CALIF

THAT BROADWAY CACTUS FLOWER, LAUREN BACALL, IS COMING TO TOWN, SO I HOPE THAT YOU CAN JOIN ME IN WELCOMING HER BACK FRIDAY NIGHT, OCTOBER TWENTY-FIRST, AT EIGHT P.M. SLACKS, LOUNGING PAJAMAS ARE IN ORDER. NO TIES. COME EARLY AND STAY LATE, MUSIC AND DANCING AT NINETY FOUR ZERO TWO BEVERLY CREST DRIVE. PARKING BOYS WILL TAKE YOUR CAR AT LINDA CREST (EAST OFF COLDWATER) AND BEVERLY CREST. RSVP BRADSHAW TWO FIVE SEVEN ONE ONE

ROCK HUDSON.

13 February 2014

James Dean's lonesome cry

"East of Eden" (1955), James Dean's first major film, was shot on location in California. On 8 April 1954, Dean left his home town New York City and went to Los Angeles to prepare for the film. A couple of weeks after his departure from New York, a homesick Dean wrote a letter to his then girlfriend Barbara Glenn, telling her how much he hated California and how lonely and "fucked up" he was. Noteworthy is the fact that Dean signed his letter with "Jim {Brando Clift} Dean", clearly conveying his great admiration for fellow actors Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift.

James Dean with  Barbara Glenn, whom he dated for two years



Via: james dean daily

Transcript: 

4.26.54

FAMOUS ARTISTS CORPORATION
Agency
California Bank Building
Beverly Hills, California

Dearest Barbara

I don't like it here. I don't like people here. I like it home (N.Y.) and I like you and I want to see you. Must I always be miserable? I try so hard to make people reject me. Why? I don't want to write this letter. It would be better to remain silent. "Wow! am I fucked up"

Got here on a Thurs. went to the desert on Sat., weeks latter [sic] to San Francisco. I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM. Rented a car for 2 weeks it cost me $138.00. I WANT TO DIE. I have told [Redacted] and 5 others like her to kiss my ass and what stench, spineless, stupid prostitutes they were. I HAVEN'T BEEN TO BED WITH NO BODY. And won't untill [sic] after the picture and I am home safe in N.Y.C. (snuggly little town that it is) sounds unbelievable but it's the truth I swear. So hold everything, stop breathing, stop the town all of N.Y.C. untill [sic] (should have trumpets here) James Dean returns.

Wow! Am I fucked up. I got no motorcycle I got no girl. HONEY, shit writting [sic] in capitals doesn't seem to help either. Haven't found a place to live yet, still living with my father-- HONEY. Kazan sent me out here to get a tan. Haven't seen the sun yet. (fog & smog) Wanted me healthy looking. I look like a prune. Don't run away from home at too early an age or you'll half [sic] to take vitamins for the rest of your life. Wish you cooked. I'll be home soon. Write me please. I'm sad most of the time. Awful lonely too isn't it. (I hope youre dying) BECAUSE I AM.

Love.

Jim {Brando Clift} Dean

My address is {fathers that is) is
1667 So. Bundy Drive
L.A. 25, Calif.

9 February 2014

"I have never wavered from my original determination..."

In September 1939, one week after the start of WWII, Charlie Chaplin began filming "The Great Dictator" (1940), his satire on Adolf Hitler. The project was daring and controversial, evoking strong protests from various parties. (The British government, for one, announced it would prohibit the film's screening, in accordance with its appeasement policy regarding Nazi Germany.) But also before filming started, there were protests and even false reports in the press that Chaplin had given up his project. 

Thus, on 18 March 1939, Chaplin issued the following statement to the press, saying he would not back down but continue with his film. Years later, however, he would state in his autobiography (1964) that if he'd known then of the atrocities of the concentration camps, he could never have made the film.

Source: bonhams/ image reproduced with permission

Transcript: 

CHARLES CHAPLIN FILM CORPORATION
1416 North La Brea Avenue
Hollywood, California

Owing to erroneous reports in the press that I have abandoned my production concerning dictators, I wish to state that I have never wavered from my original determination to produce this picture. Any report, past, present or future, to the effect that I have given up the idea, is deliberately false. I am not worried about intimidation, censorship or anything else. I am making a comedy picture on the lives of dictators which I hope will create much healthy laughter throughout the world.

(Signed) Charles Chaplin
March 18, 1939


5 February 2014

Gregory's proposal to Ava

Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner starred together in three films: "The Great Sinner" (1949), "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (1952) and "On the Beach" (1959).  On 13 April 1956, after having done two pictures together, Gregory Peck wrote a letter to Ava Gardner with a proposal for a new film. Earlier that year, Gregory had founded Melville Productions with screenwriter/producer Sy Bartlett, and he wanted Ava (who was a good friend of his) to be part of their first project. 

Ava Gardner fell in love with Spain during filming of "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954); a year after the film's completion she moved to La Moraleja, the Spanish version of Beverly Hills in northern Madrid. In the letter Ava is wooed by Gregory in suggesting the film will be shot in her beloved Madrid and not Paris. In the end, however, the film was never made. The 1959 "On the Beach" would be Gregory and Ava's next and final film together.


Transcript:

1426 Summitridge Drive 
Beverly Hills, California

Dear Ava:

Enclosed you will find a script called "The Blind Mirror" by Liam O'Brien. Sy Bartlett and I are about to purchase it for our Independent company, Melville Productions, which will be producing one picture a year for a United Artists release starting next year.

I know that you get a lot of scripts along with a lot of promises and a lot of something else which I hear the French call merde thrown your way. So I will keep it simple and hope that this script will interest you without any sales talk from me.

There are just a couple of things that should be said. One is that we are going to make the picture in Madrid. The main reason being that we feel the Paris background has been used a great deal lately and does not provide the right kind of atmosphere and character for this particular story. As you will see, it is a melodrama and a love story. The obvious comparisons would be "Casa Blanca" and "The Maltese Falcon". We hope to make as good a picture as either one of those and feel strongly that for our purposes modern Madrid will provide a fresher, tougher and more intriguing background than Paris. One samll [sic] example of this would be the use of an authentic Madrid night spot, perhaps a Flamenco place instead of the Paris night club described in the script. We will use Spanish players in a number of the roles and focus a great deal of interest throughout on the faces and character of modern Madrid. The painting which is stolen will be one of the great Spanish masterpieces, a Goya or a Velasquez instead of a Van Gogh.

I won't say more about this as I feel sure that if the script interests you at all you will share our feeling that this story can be told to much greater advantage in Madrid.

Now comes the part where I say the the [sic] script needs more work. It does indeed, but that is always the case with any good story at this stage of its development. It has too much plot now and the chase is too frantic. We are going to settle it down and concentrate more on Ginette and Dagan and get them so that they are exactly right. We are going to go through the whole script so that it is to our liking and yours, if you are as taken by its possibilities as we are.

I won't toss any directors names around as we have not yet come to that point, but we will try for the best and he would, of course, have to be acceptable to you. 

We would like to make it next winter, say in December, or if that is not possible, then the following Spring. I really think it is a good thing or I would not be promoting you in this way.

Would you drop me a line or send a telegram when you have given it a read. Meanwhile, be a good little girl......

Miss Ava Gardner
La Moraleja
Al Cobendos
Madrid, Spain


2 February 2014

"You are an unjust man and a cruel one."

Production of Billy Wilder's "Some Like it Hot" (1959) started in August 1958. With a cast led by Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, the film would become Marilyn's biggest success. During filming, however, Marilyn was a disaster to work with. Wilder had already experienced problems with Marilyn while filming "The Seven Year Itch" (1955), but things were even worse during "Some Like it Hot". Production was held up for days, due to Marilyn's tardiness, absences, her inability to remember the simplest of lines (the line "Where is that bourbon?" needed forty takes), and fights between Wilder and Marilyn over creative issues. During this period, Marilyn's health had already begun to deteriorate, and she was also pregnant. In December 1958, Marilyn would suffer her second miscarriage.


Playwright Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe were married from 1956 to 1961. On 11 February 1959, Arthur Miller sent the following telegram to Billy Wilder. In it, Miller expresses his anger over Wilder's public attack on Marilyn after production of "Some Like it Hot". 

Photo: Billy Wilder and Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Some like it hot".

Transcript:

BILLY WILDER
10372 WILSHIRE BLVD LOSA=

DEAR BILLIE I CANNOT LET YOUR VICIOUS ATTACK ON MARILYN GO UNCHALLENGED. YOU WERE OFFICIALLY INFORMED BY MARILYN'S PHYSICIAN THAT DUE TO HER PREGNANCY SHE WAS NOT ABLE TO WORK A FULL DAY. YOU CHOOSE TO IGNORE THIS FACT DURING THE MAKING OF THE PICTURE AND WORSE YET, ASSIDUOUSLY AVOIDED MENTIONING IT IN YOUR ATTACK ON HER. FACT IS, SHE WENT ON WITH THE PICTURE OUT OF A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY NOT ONLY TO HERSELF BUT TO YOU AND THE CAST AND PRODUCER. 12 HOURS AFTER THE LAST SHOOTING DAY HER MISCARRIAGE BEGAN. NOW THAT THE HIT FOR WHICH SHE IS SO LARGELY RESPONSIBLE IS IN YOUR HANDS AND ITS INCOME TO YOU ASSURED, THIS ATTACK UPON HER IN [sic] CONTEMPTIBLE. I WILL ADD ONLY THAT SHE BEGAN THIS PICTURE WITH A THROAT INFECTION SO SERIOUS THAT A SPECIALIST FORBADE HER TO WORK AT ALL UNTIL IT WAS CURED. SHE WENT ON NEVERTHELESS. YOUR JOKES, BILLIE, ARE NOT QUOTE HILARIOUS ENOUGH TO CONCEAL THE FACT. YOU ARE AN UNJUST MAN AND A CRUEL ONE. MY ONLY SOLACE IS THAT DESPITE YOU HER BEAUTY AND HER HUMANITY SHINE THROUGH AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE=

ARTHUR MILLER=