30 April 2015

Glamour photography by George Hurrell

Used as a marketing tool to promote the stars, glamour portrait photography was of vital importance to the studios during Hollywood's Golden Age. One name that will always be associated with the Hollywood glamour portrait is George Hurrell. Hurrell was probably the most famous of the Hollywood portrait photographers of the 1930s and 40s, playing a considerable role in shaping the careers of the stars. He was hired by MGM at the end of the 1920s and changed the way the stars had been photographed up till then. His use of dramatic poses, lighting and shadows gave Hollywood photography a new look. Hurrell photographed every star under contract to MGM including Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. In the early 1940s, he went to Warner Bros. where he photographed, amongst others, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland and Humphrey Bogart. He also worked for Columbia (where he worked with stars like Rita Hayworth) as well as independently.

Photography by George Hurrell-- top row from left to right: Bette Davis, Norma Shearer and Errol Flynn; bottom row: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper.
Another star George Hurrell had worked with was MGM diva Joan Crawford. Hurrell shot a total of 33 portrait sessions with her, of which he later said: "Each sitting was a new experience for both of us. She constantly altered her appearance, the color of her hair, eye makeup, eyebrows, mouth". Amongst the thousands of photos Hurrell took of Crawford he naturally had his personal favourites. In the letter for this post --written by George Hurrell to Joan Crawford in April 1976-- he talks about one of these favourites. The photo referenced in the letter is shown below.

This 1930s portrait of Joan Crawford was one of George Hurrell's personal favourites.

Transcript:

April 16, 1976

Dear Joan, 

I've always thought the soulful, tender beauty in the attached print was among our best efforts.

The depth of feeling and emotion you expressed in this pose has a dramatic quality that only a great actress could reveal.

I will be honored if you will send two or three lines about my work to go along with it.

The deadline is accute, so your early reply will be greatly appreciated.

Love and kisses.

Sincerely
(signed George)

GEORGE E. HURRELL

telephone 764-0683

George Hurrell
Joan Crawford by George Hurrell

28 April 2015

Sell Bogart romantically

During the first part of his career, Humphrey Bogart played mainly one-dimensional gangsters in supporting roles. The best roles all went to Warner Brothers' other contract players such as James Cagney, Paul Muni and George Raft. Even after the immense success of "Petrified Forest" (1936) --in which Bogie played an escaped killer, a performance which earned him much praise-- Warners had no intention of turning Bogie into a star. But this all changed in July 1940. Bogie was getting good reviews for his role in "They Drive by Night" and had also landed his first leading role with "High Sierra" (after Raft declined). Meanwhile, Paul Muni, one of Warners' greatest stars, left the studio after a contract dispute. Thus, with Muni gone and Bogie's star on the rise, Warners saw in Bogie its new leading man.

On 17 July 1940, S. Charles Einfeld, director of advertising and publicity for Warner Bros., sent a fascinating letter to publicist Martin Weiser, telling him to undo Bogie's gangster image and turn him into a romantic lead. Einfeld told Weiser to give the matter priority, calling Bogie "one of the greatest actors on the screen today". Although Bogie would still play a gangster (with a soft heart) in his next film "High Sierra" (1941), the film set in motion the undoing of his gangster screen persona. A year and several films later, Bogie would play his first real romantic (and arguably most romantic) role as nightclub owner Rick Blaine. The film, of course, was "Casablanca".


Transcript:

July 17 1940

Marty Weiser
Mr. Martin Weiser
Warner Bros. Pictures
1701 Wyandotte Street
Kansas City, Mo.

Dear Marty:

I want you to give the utmost concentration to the building of Humphrey Bogart to stardom in as quick a time as possible.

Bogart has been typed through publicity as a gangster character. We want to undo this. For Bogart is one of the greatest actors on the screen today and has demonstrated this with his parts in "Petrified Forest," "Dark Victory," "It All Came True," and "They Drive By Night." The fellow is a master of technique and can do anything. In "Dark Victory" he showed a type of sex appeal that was unusual and different from that of any other actor on the screen today.

Sell Bogart romantically. Sell him as a great actor. Let us see if within the next two or three months we cannot have the country flooded with Bogart art, --and column breaks lauding Warner Bros. for their recognition of Bogart's talent, and predicting great success for him as a star.

This is one of the most important jobs you have before you in the next few months. I know I can count on you and please let me know how you fare.

Sincerely yours,

S. Charles Einfeld

Director of Advertising and Publicity

Humphrey Bogart in the films mentioned in Einfeld's letter --clockwise from top left: "The Petrified Forest" (1936) with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis; "Dark Victory" (1939) with Bette Davis; "They Drive by Night" (1940) with Ann Sheridan and George Raft and "It All Came True" (1940) with Ann Sheridan.

25 April 2015

Jean Arthur says cheese

Except for this little note, I could find no correspondence of Jean Arthur. She was an extremely private person and didn't leave much behind in the way of correspondence. Written in July 1974 to Victor Scherle and William Levy (authors of "The Films of Frank Capra" (1977)), this note doesn't really say much other than that Jean loved cheese, cheddar in particular. Incidentally, Jean apparently also loved chocolate fudge; her recipe can be seen on the wonderful website Silver Screen Suppers (here). 

Jean Arthur and co-star John Wayne taking a bite of a (cheese?) burger in the 1943 "A Lady Takes a Chance".
Source: ebay

Transcript:

Dear Mr. Scherle + Levy,

Thank you so much for the present. I wish I could lie- so I could have another one. It's the best cheddar I've ever tasted.

Sincerely,
Jean Arthur


22 April 2015

Keep punching and keep adoing!

Here is a correspondence between James Cagney and John Wayne from early 1979 when both men (then respectively 79 and 71 years old) were having health problems. While Cagney was suffering from a harmless but painful sciatica, Wayne had been diagnosed with stomach cancer for which he underwent surgery (in 1964 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, but had been declared cancer free since 1969). On 19 January 1979, Cagney wrote to Wayne in the hospital, saying that everybody was pulling for him and also bringing him regards from Frank McHugh, Wayne's co-star in the 1933 "The Telegraph Trail". Cagney also mentioned his own medical problems for which he was treated in hospital in late March. Hearing about his pal's condition, Wayne, in turn, sent Cagney a mailgram on 2 April which showed he had kept his sense of humour despite all the miserySadly, Wayne died a few months later -on 11 June 1979- after his cancer had spread; Cagney eventually died of a heart attack in 1986 at age 86.

James Cagney (above) and John Wayne (below) in their younger days-- the two actors never made a movie together.
Transcript:

VERNEY FARM
STANFORDVILLE, NEW YORK

January 19, 1979

Dear Duke,

The news that you had all kinds of promise in this bout came as good news to all of us.

You may be sure we were all overjoyed when you recovered so beautifully from the first rap, and then when you put the second one behind you this really set us up. It takes a great deal of fortitude to handle it as you have.

For the past few weeks I've been nursing a damnable sciatica. Miss that one if you can. The cold weather here is not helping it I can tell you. We had ten degrees below this morning. Then the weather forecasts are being consistent as they promise nothing but below freezing weather for some days to come.

Keep punching and keep adoing. We are all pulling for you and I bring you regards from Frank McHugh, with whom you worked many, many years ago. He remembers you very warmly. 

All the best to you. 

As Ever,
(signed)
Jim Cagney

Transcript:

04/02/79

BATJAC PRODUCTIONS PS

9570 WILSHIRE BLVD SUITE 400
BEVERLY HILLS CA 90212

THIS MAILGRAM IS A CONFIRMATION COPY OF THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE:

JAMES CAGNEY, CARE GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL
1212 SHATTO
LOS ANGELES CA 90017

DEAR JIMMY,

I HOPE YOU'RE [sic] SCIATIC PROBLEM IS NOT SERIOUS. IT WAS PROBABLY CAUSED BY BUMPING YOUR BUTTOCKS ALONG THE BASEMENT FLOOR IN THAT EXERCISE YOU SHOWED US YEARS AGO. GET HEALTHY AND COME SAY HELLO
SINCERELY

DUKE

PS THAT EXERCISE NEVER TOOK ANY WEIGHT OFF THE CHEEKS OF MY "RARETABOOMDEAY"

21:32  EST

Images of Cagney's letter and Wayne's mailgram courtesy of Heritage Auctions

19 April 2015

For all the good it may do you

In the early 1950s, Alfred Hitchcock met with journalist Otis L. Guernsey Jr. to discuss Guernsey's idea for a film about a salesman who is mistaken for a master spy. Guernsey's idea was based on a true story involving British secretaries in WWII who had invented a fictitious spy for fun and then watched the Nazis follow him around. Although Hitch was immediately intrigued by the idea, it would take several years before he turned it into a film. 

In 1957, Hitch was working with screenwriter Ernest Lehman on the film adaptation of the novel "The Wreck of the Mary Deare". Both men had reservations about the project and decided to do a different film instead. Hitch had been toying with the master spy idea suggested by Otis Guernsey years earlier and discussed it with Lehman who, as an admirer of Hitch's "wrong man"-films, was immediately interested. Thus, the two men abandoned "The Wreck of the Mary Deare", and Hitch bought Guernsey's 65-page treatment for $10,000. The film they eventually made was, of course, "North by Northwest" (1959).

Above: Hitch on the set of "North by Northwest" with leading man Cary Grant. Below: Hitch with screenwriter Ernest Lehman who wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures".

Below you'll find two letters from Otis Guernsey to Alfred Hitchcock in which Guernsey talks about his script idea. Being unable to develop the idea further himself, Guernsey hands it over to Hitch and says he can do with it whatever he likes. The first letter is undated but presumably written in the early 1950s, the second one was written on 14 October 1957. 


Transcript:

Dear Hitch:

This note has been long in coming, and I hope that the delay has not caused you any embarassment [sic]. I wanted to make sure of my ground before I got in touch with you again about the script idea we talked over in "21".

Kay Brown got in touch with me, and she has been very patient and helpful about the whole thing. She has stressed the need for speed in this matter, and that is why I am writing you although nothing constructive has been accomplished.

As you remember the idea was originally this: that a diplomatic controvery [sic] exists in a Near Eastern country, involving, possibly, something active like the smuggling-in of American arms collected in Europe where they were sold or abandoned and brought in to create a sub rosa rebellion; that the "Good Guys", in order to decoy the "Bad Guys" espionage, create a fictitious character of a masterspy; that a young, ingenuous American salesman, entering the country for respectable purposes is saddled by accident with this identity; that, subject to this unexpected melodrama he turns like the American worm always does and tries to clear himself; that, in the course of his searches he meets a girl who is part of the "Good Guys" plan to establish the fictional masterspy, and, finally, that he contributes to the downfall of the bad guys in a flurry of denouement and romance.

The idea of an innocent man suddenly saddled with a highly romantic and dangerous identity still sounds to me like a good one for a picture. But it does not seem to stand up under development. I have worked for a considerable time on it, covering some 65 pages with notes and detail in four different approaches. 

It still does not seem to work, instead developing faults of a) logic b) corn or c) overcomplicated devices in order to establish situations. 

I admit the possibility that the flaws only exist in the eyes of the beholder; that it does not suffer development simply because I personally am unable to develop it. After many frustrations I can only say that I'm not sure, but I am not yet convinced that it is I who am at fault.

There's no point going into detail about the plot avenues I have explored, except to say that I can think of yet one more possibility that has not at this writing shown the signs of cracking apart under the strain of development. I haven't given up, and I intend to continue working on it until I run out of ideas.

At the same time, I don't want to hold you up by pretending that I have the perfect outline just waiting to go to the typist's. Do whatever you wish with the idea-- abandon it, or cause it to be worked on. In the meantime, I will keep my nose to the grindstone and if I come up with anything I'll forward it to you via Kay Brown. 

In the meantime, best of luck to you and yours and don't fail to let me know when you pass through this metropolis.

Yours,
Otis (signed)

Cary Grant as advertising executive Roger Thornhill hiding on board the train in "North by Northwest" (above), and Grant with Eve Marie Saint (below).

Transcript:

Otis Guernsey
October 14, 1957

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock
c/o M-G-M
1540 Broadway
New York, New York

Dear Hitch,

A few years ago I suggested to you an idea for a movie, vaguely based on something which actually happened in the Middle East during World War II. At that time, a couple of secretaries in a British embassy invented--for the fun of it and to relieve the boredom of an inactive post--a fake masterspy. They gave him a name, and a record and planted information around to lure the Nazis onto his trail.

To their delight and astonishment, the enemy gobbled the bait and spent some valuable time and energy trying to hunt down the non-existent operative.

I suggested to you that this escapade might be built into a good movie melodrama in any one of a number of ways. The actual treatment we discussed at the time involved an ingenuous young American--probably a traveling salesman--who has the fake identity pinned on him by accident and finds that he cannot get rid of it. He is on the spot: the enemy is trying to capture and kill him, and his friends cannot help him because they cannot afford to have their ruse exposed. 

However you plan to use the idea at this time, I hereby hand it over to you, blithely and with best wishes, with all rights and privileges, etc., etc., with no purpose of evasion or mental reservations, etc., etc., for such consideration as may have been discussed between my agent and yours, for all the good it may do you which I hope will be plenty.

Cordially yours,

(signed)
Otis L. Guernsey Jr.

16 April 2015

Dear turkey foot

Marilyn Monroe and photographer Andre de Dienes met in 1945 when Marilyn, 19 years old and still known as Norma Jeane, was working as a model for Emmeline Snively's Blue Book Model Agency. After Marilyn had been suggested by the agency to De Dienes, she did her first modelling job for him, and then they later went on a road trip together so he could photograph her in natural settings. Apart from having a working relationship (until 1953), they also briefly had an affair. Today, De Dienes' photographs of Marilyn are amongst the best and most famous ever taken of her. 

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Andre De Dienes on Tobay Beach, 1949.
In its issue of April 1960, fashion magazine McCalls published a biography on Marilyn Monroe but never mentioned Andre de Dienes' name. Annoyed but not surprised by this flagrant omission, De Dienes took out his typewriter and wrote Marilyn the following letter:

Via: mostly marilyn monroe

Transcript:

March 29, 60

Dear turkey foot:

I glanced through your biography in the April issue of Mccall's and as usually, I did not find my name somewhere where it should have been mentioned- after all, I was a turning point in your life I always belived [sic], and you yourself know it very well. 

But I am not surprised you never mention me, for years now you did that same thing- got even with me. I shall never forget the incident when one Sunday we were driving along and had a short dispute about something and I told you angrily "you will never be an actress" and you got out of the car at the next corner. Well, that's what did it I know, and perhaps other things.

I have no hard feelings toward you even if you never think of me, however I think it is a little bit funny that you did not mention all the lovely photos I took of you back in 45, 46, 47, 49, and so on.
Some day, when I will have time I will write my memoires also, and will be kinder than you are and will mention you in it.

I have always been a disreet [sic] person, did not want to make a lot of hallaballoo [sic] about things- I was wrong I admit it- while you made such an enormous story about yourself -or rather- others did it for you.
Well, that's the way life goes sometimes.

Incidentally, I left a short letter to you at your hotel, a few weeks ago, wanted to photogaph [sic] you for a magazine. You have probably left already, or was bored to do it, or perhaps you thought thosose [sic] kind of lousy photos like I saw in Life Magazine a week or so ago when the strike began at the studio- will do you more good. Well, you looked pretty thin and old, and so did the other actors too in that layout. I was kind of peeved, how a great magazine like Life could send out a photographer to shoot such miserably looking photos.

Have to run now. Bless you, little mushroom- will see you some day- Am going up north this summer, through the redwoods, will think of you in the big forests. 

Regards,
(signed)

Note: De Dienes' memoirs were published after his death in 2002 (click here to read excerpts concerning his relationship with Marilyn).

Andre de Dienes

Photographs by Andre de Dienes

14 April 2015

Vincent Price: the man behind the villain

Although Vincent Price played a variety of roles in various film genres throughout his long career, he is probably best remembered for his macabre, villainous roles in horror films. His most memorable portrayals include the deranged sculptor in "House of Wax" (1953), the tormented Roderick Usher in "House of Usher" (1960) and the insane torturer's son in "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961). Price relished playing a villain and once said: "I sometimes feel that I'm impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it."

In real life Vincent Price was a far cry from the villains he portrayed on the screen. He is said to have been a sweet and funny man, who was not just an actor but also an art lover and collector who gave lectures and wrote popular books on fine art. Furthermore, he was a noted cook and the author of several cookbooks. Price's kind, charming personality made him popular with many people including his colleagues in the industry. Antony Carbone, who had played with Price in "The Pit and the Pendulum", called him ".. a marvel, just a professional, fantastic man who was always prepared, always ready, always with a sense of humor." Richard Matheson, screenwriter of "House of Usher", said that Price was "truly the nicest man I ever met in my days in Hollywood, a perfect gentleman and a most genial friend". And there were many others who had nothing but good things to say about him. In 1960, Mark Damon co-starred with Price in "House of Usher" and afterwards wrote him a letter to praise him for his off-screen behaviour. Damon's letter, which shows just how much Price was admired and respected by his fellow actors, can be seen below.

Vincent Price in a publicity still for "House of Usher" (1960).
Vincent Price and co-star Mark Damon in a scene from "House of Usher" (on the right Harry Ellerbe).
Source: heritage auctions (reproduced with permission)

Transcript:

Dear Vincent:

This is an "actor-to-actor" note before the picture has been released. My comments are therefore not on your performance, which I don't have to see on the screen to appreciate, but on your off-screen behavior, which has taught me much.

You remember, I asked you if you had learned anything working on this picture, and you told me that you had. I didn't tell you what I had learned. I learned just how gracious, cordial, and warmly human a star of your calibre could be. You set an example I hope I may follow through the rest of my acting career. Thank you for that.

Thank you, also, for your advice, your help, your unselfishness, and for all the wisdom you imparted to me. I have benefitted greatly by working with you, and I am very grateful to you. 

I hope I will have the pleasure of seeing you again very soon.

Your good friend,
Mark (signed)

February ninth
Beverly Hills


This post is my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Silver ScreeningsSpeakeasy and Shadows and Satin. Click on either link to check out all the other wonderful entries!

10 April 2015

Eulogy to James Dean

On 8 October 1955, James Dean's funeral service was held at the Back Creek Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana. It was the largest funeral in the history of Fairmount with 3000 people attending (1000 more than the town's entire population). But except for Jack Simmons --Dean's good friend and actor who played a bit part in "Rebel without a Cause"-- hardly anyone of Dean's Hollywood friends or colleagues was there (Elizabeth Taylor, who had collapsed after the tragic news, was in the hospital and had sent flowers). Dean's former high school friends were the ones who carried his coffin and brought him to his last resting place, close to the farm where he had lived with his uncle, aunt and cousins.

James Dean photographed by Sid Avery (above). Below: this may be the last photograph taken of Dean before he crashed his sports car on 30 September 1955.

The document for this post is not a letter but the original eulogy delivered at the funeral by Pastor Xen Harvey; it ends with the prophetic words: "The career of James Dean has not ended, it has just begun."

Image: heritage auctions (reproduced with permission)

Transcript:

The Life of James Dean-- A Drama in Three Acts

I shall always remember the life of James Dean as a drama in 3 acts. Act I was his boyhood and youth. Act II represents the career that gained national prominence. And Act III is the new life into which he has just entered. Here in Fairmount, it was in the very first act of this drama that we learned to love James Dean. We loved him as a small boy in and out of town; we loved him when he was fast breaking with the basketball team; we loved him in the lean, hungry years of his career; and we loved him as he stood on the mountain peak of success.

We loved him so much, it is a bit difficult for us to be understanding with those who, in the emptyness [sic] of their lives, and the littleness of their spirits, have come only out of curiosity, to look and to stare. However, in contrast to this, we appreciate deeply all of you who have come because you, too, learned to love him along the way. We know you came to share our sorrow and we humbly thank you. Also, we find it hard to be charitable with publicity hungry, amateur psychologists, who have entertained themselves psychoanalyzing our boy. Because we knew him as a normal boy, who did the things normal boys do. He was part of a good solid home in the community where understanding people live. He was loved by the members of that home, and he loved them in turn. He was not brooding, or weird, or sullen, or even odd. He was fun loving and too busy living to sulk.

Though he was a normal boy, he had an extra measure of energy and talent. What energy he had! On the basketball court he didn't have the physical equipment to be a basketball star. But what he lacked in stature he made up in fighting spirit. He was one of the teams leading scorers just because of his great energy and drive.

With affection, we remember how he hustled that little English motorcycle around town in high school days. That motorcycle had a rough existence. When Jimmy was riding it, he was always in a hurry. 

When we speak of his talent, we naturally think of the theater. But his talent was not limited to acting. He was interested in all the arts. Much has been said of his interest in bull fighting, but it is only right that you know he was a serious amateur sculptor.  You know of the bongo drums, but you should know he was devoted to the best in classical music. He enjoyed also the best in fine literature and was a student of philosophy. He could discuss intelligently the great philosophers and their schools of thought, Wm. James pragmatism for example.

But for all of his interest in the other arts, the theater was his first love. James Dean was an actor. He was an actor in the noblest meaning attached to the term. He lived with the characters he portrayed. He was so sensitive he suffered when they suffered, brooded when they brooded, and rejoiced when they rejoiced. He was the master of his profession.

Like other masters of his art, he took the values of all good literature and multiplied them time upon time. To some he brought rest and relaxation and to others hope and challenge.

Just a word in regard to the worthiness of his profession. In days gone by when the church was all powerful politically, it would reach out with its long arm of censorship and ban the theater entirely. But the agency that always brought back the theater was the church. It was needed, not only to dramatize that scene that happened so long ago in Galilee, but to make vivid the lessons that the best of literature has to teach.

To those of you who were closest to James Dean, remember that this God of whom we speak, is more than trustworthy and can be trusted with your loved one. The career of James Dean has not ended, it has just begun. And remember, God himself is directing the production.


7 April 2015

You should be dancing in the streets, baby!

By 1946, Rita Hayworth was a big star with a number of successful films to her name, including "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941), "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941) and "Cover Girl" (1944). But despite her success Rita was very insecure (she was an innately shy person and suffered from an inferiority complex). So when "Gilda" --the film that was to be her signature film-- was released in February 1946 to several bad reviews, she naturally felt downheartedHearing about how the reviews had upset her, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia and Rita's boss, wanted to boost the confidence of his number-one star and wrote her the following letter:

source
Source: heritage auctions (reproduced with permission)

Transcript:

March 19th, 1946

Dear Rita:-

Virginia tells me that you were discouraged by a few of the New York reviews. In the first place, you should only be discouraged if they don't notice you- a personality can only be the subject of criticism after they have been the subject of much conversation. And a person is not a personality until they have been the subject of much conversation. In the second place, why would you weigh the opinion of a couple of probably impotent guys against the hundreds who have seen the picture and told you that you were absolutely great?

If you don't believe me on this score, here are some of the opinions of critics from some of the greatest thinkers of all times. 

"Critics! - Appalled I venture on the name, those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame." Robert Burns.

"A poet that fails in writing becomes often a morose critic. The weak and insipid white wine makes at length excellent vinegar." William Shenstone. 

"Critics in general are venomous serpents that delight in hissing." W. B. Daniel.

"Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics." S. T. Coleridge.

"Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic." P. B. Shelley.

"For critics I care the five-hundred-thousandth part of the tythe of a half-farthing." Charles Lamb.

"He who would write and can't write can surely review." J. R. Lowell.

"Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left." C. W. Holmes.

"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all." Mark Twain.

"Insects sting, not in malice, but because they want to live. It is the same with critics: They desire our blood, not our pain." Nietzsche.

"Criticism is easy and art is difficult." Destouches.

"The pleasure of criticism deprives us of that of being deeply moved by beautiful things." Jean de la Bruyere.

"Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense." Samuel Johnson.

"They who write ill and they who ne'er dare write, turn critics out of mere revenge and spite." John Dryden. 


"Critics are like brushers of noblemen's clothes." Henry Wotten.

"Critics are like eunuchs; they can tell you what to do, but they can't do it themselves!" Harry Cohn. 


I am very excited by your performance in GILDA. Pretty soon everyone in the country is going to be. You should be dancing in the streets, baby. I am,

Harry (signed)

Rita Hayworth with Columbia boss Harry Cohn who ran the studio like a dictator, making him one of the most unpopular men in Hollywood. In a 1968 interview, Rita said about him: "I was under exclusive contract, like they owned me... I think he had my dressing room bugged... He was very possessive of me as a person, he didn't want me to go out with anybody, have any friends. No one can live that way. So I fought him...  You want to know what I think of Harry Cohn? He was a monster." [via]

5 April 2015

Longing to do "Giant"

On 7 March 1955, Grace Kelly was put on suspension by MGM after she had refused to play in "Jeremy Rodock" opposite Spencer TracyGrace didn't like the film's script, and besides she was anxious to play the female lead in "Giant" for Warner Brothers. Her wish to do "Giant", however, would not be granted; the role eventually went to Elizabeth Taylor after Rock Hudson had chosen her over Grace. Meanwhile, MGM wanted Grace for another project, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", a remake of MGM's own 1934 version. But again Grace refused, feeling she was too young to play the role of forty-something Elizabeth Barrett (unlike many fellow actors, Grace could afford to be without salary while on suspension).

Grace's suspension was finally lifted on 23 March 1955. A month earlier, she had been nominated for an Oscar for her leading role in "Country Girl", and as the Oscar ceremony was approaching (to be held on 30 March) MGM decided to lift the suspension to save embarrassment in case she won. Grace eventually did win, beating the favourite Judy Garland who was nominated for "A Star is Born".

The letter for this post was written in March of 1955 by Grace Kelly to Richard Gully, Hollywood insider and friend to the stars. In it, Grace touches upon the subjects mentioned above-- "Giant", her Oscar nomination, her suspension and "The Barretts of Wimpole Street". Especially noteworthy are her horoscope remarks concerning "Giant". Grace was a firm believer in astrology, which was also noted by biographer Sarah Bradford: "She was a very superstitious woman [..], with a deep belief in her destiny as predicted by astrology and in the personal characteristics of her sign Scorpio. Astrologers had told her that she would obtain extreme good fortune through hard work, and that belief sustained her. She retained her interest in astrology to the end of her life [..]" [via].

Source: legendary auctions

Transcript:

Wednesday

Dear Richard-

Enjoyed seeing the cuttings- thank you for sending them to me-

Rushed out to get horoscope and was very disappointed because it really said nothing- was hoping it might have said that it was written in the stars for me to do Giant - But what is is best I guess- But I was longing to play it-
Am arriving about the twenty-eight for two weeks-  the suspense of the awards will have me a nervous wreck by the 30th-
Have no idea what Metro means to do about my suspension- except that they mention "Barretts of Wimpole St" to the newspapers occasionally- But I was talking to Katherine Cornell about it last night and she said that Elizabeth Barrett was forty-three years old - and that is the poignancy of the story- while I'm still young enough for certain parts why age myself unnecessarily- It will happen soon enough--

All my best
Grace (Patricia)

*Note: Katharine Cornell was an actress who played Elizabeth Barrett in the original play by Rudolph Besier.

Grace Kelly and Rock Hudson: their collaboration on "Giant" was not to be.