31 March 2014

"I hope you don't hate me anymore..."

In 1954, George Cukor was going to direct the film version of the Broadway musical "Pal Joey" with Marlon Brando in the lead role. Brando was very interested in doing the project with Cukor, but their collaboration was not to be. The film would eventually be made in 1957 with Frank Sinatra in the lead and George Sidney directing. 

The following letter comes from Marlon Brando and is addressed to George Cukor. Brando apologises to Cukor for having missed their meeting to discuss "Pal Joey". Furthermore, he says he was "unpleasantly surprisedthat the apology he had sent for missing the meeting came back. The letter is undated, but according to an article by Emanuel Levy Marlon Brando and George Cukor met on 4 May 1954 to discuss the film (click here to read the article and why Cukor didn't direct "Pal Joey" after all). Brando's letter, which is full of misspellings, was possibly written around the same time. 

Source: bonhams/ image reproduced with permission

Transcript: 

Monday Marning [sic]

Dear George Cukor;

I was unpleasantly surprised to find this morning amongst a pile of,as yet unanswered correspondence, a letter which I had written to you a considerable length of time aho [sic], in which, I oppoligized [sic] at perhaps too much length for not appearing at your hotel on the day we had agreed to meet to discuss Pal Joey. Such an oversight placed on top of another leaves one with adistinct bad taste in the mouth. I am sorry for them both. In explaination [sic] of the first I have only to ofcer [sic] the fact that there was lidigemate [sic] confrsion [sic] (Imight as well go back to bed and get up again) what the two words preceeding the parenthisis [sic] are faintly hinting at is that there was a [redacted] ligitmate [sic] confusion wetween [sic] me and my agent as to time,telephones,tea and tardiness. Anyhow I hope you don't hate me anymore and that I'll be able to [ ] hold up my head whec [sic] I pass you on the street next time. I enjoyed meeting you sincerely hape [sic] that I perhaps someday will have the fun of work ing with you. In the mean time have a ball.

yours with warm regards

Marlon Brando (signed)

P.S. I f you were inconveinienced  [sic] on thay [sic] fatefull [sic] afternoon I hape [sic] you will give me a opportunity to [redacted] adjust the loss.

28 March 2014

Charity in Hollywood

The Community Chest was America's most important fund-raising organisation during the 1930s/40s. Collected funds were distributed to various causes, including movie relief organisations that offered assistance to those in need within the film industry. On 2 April 1940, a Special Committee for the Community Chest in Los Angeles (with members such as Frank Capra, Gary Cooper, Norma Shearer and Carole Lombard) wrote a solicitation letter to MGM's vice-president Eddie Mannix, asking for his help in supporting the Community Chest. Judging by the letter, apparently there had been some issues regarding the Community Chest, but the Committee nevertheless believed that the Chest was "the best means with which to handle the serious problems of those in need". In the following letter the Committee is asking Mannix for his much-needed support:


Source: bonhams/ image reproduced with permission

Transcript:

April 2, 1940

Dear Edward J. Mannix,

Those of us whose names appear in printed form here met the other night to discuss confidentially and fearlessly our relationship to the Community Chest and the problems, doubts and responsibilities arising out of the matter from an industry standpoint. Some of us came to oppose, to fight. During a four hour meeting, with no outside influence present, we learned for the first time Community Chest facts which converted us as one to the cause of this organized charitable distributing agency that makes possible 88 seperate charities within our community.

We learned that 94 cents out of every dollar goes into the hands of the needy; that only 6 cents out of each dollar is required for administrative expenses.

We learned we may designate, in giving our contribution to the Community Chest, the charity or charities of the 88 to which we wish our money to go, in full or in part.

We learned this community of which we are a part, is in need of our help and the Chest IS the best means with which to handle the serious problems of those in need.

We learned that an educational program is needed in behalf of the Community Chest so everyone else knows, as we know now, that the Chest truly deserves our support.

We want you to be with us, help us.

It is imperative for some of us to give a little more to make up our $200,000 shortage for the Community Chest.

If there are any questions you would like to ask, won't you please call anyone of us?

Sincerely,

signed by Joel McCrea, William A. Wellman, Ronald Colman, Carole Lombard, Frank Capra, Gary Cooper, Norma Shearer
Top row (from left to right): Eddie Mannix, Frank Capra, and William A. Wellman. Middle row: Charles BoyerRonald Colman and Gary Cooper. Bottom row: Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer and Joel McCrea.

23 March 2014

Pardon my French

The French word "merde" actually means "shit", but it is also used for wishing somebody good luck. The following note (undated) is from Marlene Dietrich to opera singer Maria Callas. I'm not sure what the note was for, but Dietrich was possibly wishing Callas luck with a performance.


Transcript:

Merde Merde
Merde
Merde
And my love
Marlene

This photo was taken in October 1956, when Maria Callas had her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Callas was photographed with Meneghini (her then husband) and Marlene Dietrich.

18 March 2014

Complaining about George Raft

As mentioned in my previous post, Humphrey Bogart's road to fame came with his lead roles in "High Sierra" (1941) and "The Maltese Falcon" (1941). For both films, George Raft (at the time a major star at Warner Bros.) had been first choice. Raft, however, didn't think either film was interesting enough and refused both parts, inadvertently turning Bogie into a big star. These poor decisions would ultimately lead to the decline of Raft's career.

George Raft passed up "The Maltese Falcon" for a role in Raoul Walsh's "Manpower" (1941). As Raft's co-star, Bogart was cast. However, Raft refused to work with him, and Bogart was fired just after filming began (he was replaced by Edward G. Robinson). In hindsight not a bad thing for Bogie, since he was now free to play the lead in "The Maltese Falcon" (while Raft got stuck with "Manpower", for which he got third-billing after Robinson and Marlene Dietrich).

The following telegram is another telegram from Humphrey Bogart to Hal Wallis, producer at Warner Bros.. In it, an upset Bogie complains about George Raft and his stand-in Mack Gray. The telegram is dated 6 March 1941 and was most likely written during production of the above mentioned "Manpower". Probably not long after writing it, Bogart was removed from the film.



Transcript: 

LOS ANGELES CALIF MAR 6 1941

HAL WALLIS
WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO

DEAR HAL I AM SENDING YOU THIS WIRE BECAUSE I AM EXTREMELY UPSET AND WANTED YOU TO KNOW THE TRUE FACTS AND YOU CAN TAKE MY WORD FOR IT THAT ANY STATEMENTS TO THE CONTRARY ARE UNTRUE. ANY REMARKS AND ACCUSATIONS BY MACK GRAY, GEORGE RAFTS STANDIN, WHICH WERE ATTRIBUTED TO ME ARE COMPLETELY AND ENTIRELY UNTRUE. I HAVE NEVER HAD ANYTHING BUT THE VERY FINEST FEELING OF FRIENDSHIP FOR GEORGE. I UNDERSTAND HE HAS REFUSED TO MAKE THE PICTURE IF I AM IN IT. I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT FOR SEVERAL WEEKS HES BEEN TRYING TO GET ME OUT OF THE PICTURE AND THAT HE SPOKE TO DAN KELLY AT UNIVERSAL ONLY YESTERDAY AND SAID HE WOULDNT PLAY IN THE PICTURE IF I WAS IN IT BECAUSE HE DIDNT FEEL I WAS RIGHT FOR THE PART. GEORGE ALSO TOLD MY AGENT SEVERAL WEEKS AGO THAT HE DIDNT THINK I SHOULD DO THIS PART AS IT WAS COMPLETELY WRONG FOR ME AND WOULD HURT ME. I TRIED TO GET GEORGE TO TELL ME THIS MORNING WHAT HE WAS ANGRY ABOUT AND WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE SAID BUT HE WOULDNT TELL ME. I FEEL VERY MUCH HURT BY THIS BECAUSE ITS THE SECOND TIME I HAVE BEEN KEPT OUT OF A GOOD PICTURE AND A GOOD PART BY AN ACTORS REFUSING TO WORK WITH ME. I WAS ON THE SET PREARED [sic] TO MAKE THE TEST  WHEN MACK GRAY CAUSED THE SCENE AND NOBODY MADE AN EFFORT TO STOP IT. IT SEEMS TO ME ITS A FINE STATE OF AFFAIRS WHEN AN ACTOR WHO IS PREPARING TO GO TO WORK HAS TO PUT UP WITH SUCH A SITUATION AS OCCURRED THIS MORNING ON THE SET. I COULD SEE NO WAY TO PROTECT MYSELF AGAINST THESE INSINUATIONS AND ACCUSATIONS AND I THINK ITS UP TO THE COMPANY TO PROTECT ME INASMUCH AS WE ARE ALL CONCERNED IN THE BUSINESS OF MAKING GOOD MOTION PICTURES. REGARDS=

HUMPHREY BOGART.



Bogie's big break

Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough came in 1941 with lead roles in "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon". Until then, Warner Brothers' top male stars were James Cagney, Paul Muni, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. With the lead in "High Sierra", Humphrey Bogart turned from supporting actor into Warners' new leading man. Bogie wasn't first choice for the role of Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle, though. He was cast after director Raoul Walsh failed to get George Raft or Paul Muni (rumour has it that Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney also declined). 


Hal B. Wallis was producer for Warner Bros. and responsible for such classics as "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) and "Casablanca" (1942). On 4 May 1940, Humphrey Bogart sent a telegram to Wallis, showing his interest in the lead role in "High Sierra". George Raft had already turned down the role and since there was doubt about Paul Muni doing it, Bogie was eager to grab his chance.


Transcript:

NORTHHOLLYWOOD CALIF MAY 4 1940

HAL WALLIS=
WARNER BROS STUDIO=

DEAR HAL YOU TOLD ME ONCE TO LET YOU KNOW WHEN I FOUND A PART I WANTED. A FEW WEEKS AGO I LEFT A NOTE FOR YOU CONCERNING HIGH SIERRA I NEVER RECEIVED AN ANSWER SO IM BRINGING IT UP AGAIN AS I UNDERSTAND THERE IS SOME DOUBT ABOUT MUNI DOING IT REGARDS=

HUMPHREY BOGART.

10 March 2014

Invitation for Academy Membership

A week ago, on 2 March, the 86th Academy Awards Ceremony was held in Los Angeles. The organisation behind this annual ceremony is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures. Today the Academy consists of nearly 6,000 movie professionals, mostly American, 94% white, 77% male, with an average age of 62 (according to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times in February 2012). Membership is by invitation only.

Gregory Peck was President of the Academy between 1967 and 1970. Other Presidents include Frank Capra, Charles Brackett, George Stevens and Bette Davis (she became President in 1941, but resigned after only two months). On 1 August 1968, Gregory Peck wrote a letter to Lois Nettleton (an actress whose work I'm not really familiar with) inviting her to become a member of one of the branches of the Academy, the Actors Branch.


Via: hollywood golden guy

Transcript:

August 1, 1968

Miss Lois Nettleton
340 East 57th Street
New York, New York # 10022

Dear Miss Nettleton:

It gives me great pleasure to advise you that the Board of Governors of the Academy has authorized me to extend you an invitation to become a member of the Actors Branch.

The Academy is an honorary association of artists and craftsmen employed in the film industry, and our purpose is to foster cooperation among the creative leaders of our profession. Membership in our organization is offered to those who have made significant contributions to the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

The nominal dues of $36.00 per year are tax deductible. If you wish additional information, please telephone the Academy membership office, CRestview 5-1146, Ext. 17, or Mrs. Margaret Herrick, Academy Executive Director.

An acceptance card is enclosed for your convenience.

Cordially,

(signed)
Gregory Peck

GP:mm
Encl.


8 March 2014

"I got good and mad and walked out without a tear."

From Joan Crawford's extensive correspondence comes this letter she wrote to actress Lotte Palfi. Lotte Palfi was a German actress who only played tiny parts in Hollywood films. I had never heard of her, which is not surprising since many of her roles were uncredited. (For example, she was the nameless woman in "Casablanca" (1942) who had to sell her diamonds to escape the Nazis).

The letter, dated 1 September 1943, is mainly interesting because Joan tells Lotte about her leaving MGM after eighteen years. During the 1930s, Joan was one of MGM's biggest stars, but in the early 1940s MGM wanted to promote new stars like Judy Garland and began to see Joan as a bad investment. Consequently, Joan's contract was ended (by mutual consent) on 29 June 1943. Her new employer Warner Brothers put her on the payroll two days later. At Warner Bros. Joan would establish herself as one of the studio's leading ladies (next to Bette Davis), achieving her greatest success in 1945 with the title role in "Mildred Pierce", for which she won her only Oscar. Incidentally, Joan mentions two films in her letter: "Reunion in France" (1942), which co-starred John Wayne, and "Above Suspicion" (1943), co-starring Fred MacMurray. The latter was Joan's final film at MGM. 


Transcript:

426 NORTH BRISTOL AVENUE
WEST LOS ANGELES, 24 CALIFORNIA

September 1st, 1943.

My dear Lotte Palfi:

How sweet of you to write me again. I must say I have really missed your notes. Thank you for your good wishes on my new venture at Warner Bros. and I am looking forward to our working together in the near future.

Yes, it was rather difficult to leave Metro after eighteen years but when I started to feel too depressed I suddenly remembered what lousy stories they'd given me and then I got good and mad and walked out without a tear. The people I hated leaving were my crews- the electricians, makeup, hairdressers, wardrobe. They really seemed like family to me. You were sweet to think of that because most people didn't. I guess they feel a job is a job and you can just walk in and walk out without any emotion.

"Above Suspicion" is not a very good picture I am sorry to say. However, it is far superior to that stinking "Reunion in France". But you are swell in it. I know you couldn't be anything but good in any work you attempted.

How nice that you and your husband both are working at the same studio and how sweet and generous you are to feel the way you do about losing the part to Nancy Coleman. This is a personal aside to you: She, in my estimation, could not be a better choice for any part nor can she be compared to you in any way because she is not an actress in my opinion. And youth and beauty are pushed far into the background when you compare them with a real actress.

I don't know when I will start yet. It may be a couple of months as we are having a little difficulty with scripts.

Do let me hear from you from time to time. It doesn't matter whether you feel that things are worth telling or not. I just love hearing from you.

Sincerely, Joan (signed)

Lotte Palfi,                                                          
8569 Nash St.,
Hollywood, California.


5 March 2014

Confidential telegram from Hitch


Alfred Hitchcock and Joan Fontaine made two movies together, "Rebecca" (1940) and "Suspicion" (1941). In 1942, Hitch wanted to work with Joan again on a new project called "Shadow of a Doubt", but Joan was unavailable. Eventually Hitch settled for Teresa Wright instead. "Shadow of a Doubt", which also starred Joseph Cotten, was released in 1943 and was to be Hitchcock's personal favourite.

Production on "Shadow of a Doubt" began in April 1942, with the actual shooting starting in August. On 8 June 1942, Alfred Hitchcock sent a telegram to Joan Fontaine, asking her to be part of his new film. "S", whom Hitch refers to in his telegram, is presumably Jack Skirball, the film's producer.


Via: telegrams from last century

Transcript:

VIA WESTERN UNION- STRAIGHT WIRE

June 8, 1942

JOAN FONTAINE
THE CAMPBELL HOUSE
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR JOAN DO YOU WANT TO PLAY THE LEAD IN MY NEXT CONFIDENTIALLY BECAUSE S DOES NOT KNOW [redacted] I'VE TELEGRAPHED YOU LOVE

                                                                                              HITCH

Charge to: [redacted] Jack Skirball Productions

3 March 2014

Fred's moustache

On 7 February 1941, Fred MacMurray wrote a letter to a fan (I can only presume that the addressee, Eric Moorehouse, was a fan), talking about his films and his moustache. MacMurray, normally without moustache, wore a moustache in only one picture, "True Confession" (1937) with Carole Lombard. While Hollywood had its share of leading men who looked good wearing moustaches (Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, George Brent, to name but a few), there were plenty of actors who looked considerably better without the facial hair. In the following letter MacMurray shares his sentiments on the subject:


Source: autograph gallery

Transcript: 

February 7, 1941

Eric Moorehouse
23 Culme Road, West Derby
Liverpool 12, England

Dear Eric:

Your letter stating your appreciation of my picture work is very gratifying. Since the recent release of "Virginia" I have been working on "Night in Lisbon", I trust you will enjoy both.

Under separate cover I am sending you an autographed picture 'without mustache' as per request. I wore the mustache in only the one picture. Am glad you like it not, for that is the way I feel about it.

Sincerely,

(signed)
Fred M. MacMurray 

FM/hg