26 February 2015

You are indeed a dear, Audrey

The first time Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn met was at a dinner arranged by Stanley Donen, who was the director of their only film together Charade (1963). Donen described their meeting in Audrey Hepburn: A Biography (by Warren G. Harris (1994)): "I arranged a dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Paris. Audrey and I arrived first. Cary came in, and Audrey stood up and said, 'I'm so nervous.' He said, 'Why?' And she said, 'Meeting you, working with you - I'm so nervous.' And he said, 'Don't be nervous, for goodness' sake. I'm thrilled to know you. Here, sit down at the table. Put your hands on the table, palms up, put your head down and take a few deep breaths.' We all sat down, and Audrey put her hands on the table. I had ordered a bottle of red wine. When she put her head down, she hit the bottle, and the wine went all over Cary's cream-colored suit. Audrey was humiliated. People at other tables were looking, and everybody was buzzing. It was a horrendous moment. Cary was a half hour from his hotel, so he took off his coat and comfortably sat through the whole meal like that." [via]

With their unfortunate first meeting behind them, the two stars discovered they loved working together once the filming of Charade had started. In fact, they loved working with each other so much that Cary Grant reportedly said after filming: "All I want for Christmas is to make another movie with Audrey Hepburn". Grant never got his wish, unfortunately, but he and Audrey would have -what Audrey called- "an unspoken friendship" for the rest of their lives. 

On 16 May 1982, Cary Grant received The Man of the Year Award at the Friars Club in New York. Prior to the event, Audrey had sent him a letter that she was unable to come. This is the reply Grant sent her a month later.


29th June, 1982

Dear, dear Audrey
And you are indeed a dear, Audrey.

How kind of you to trouble to send me a letter explaining your inability to be in New York on May 16th. How thoughtful. How considerate; and how envious am I, who so uncleverly manage to cultivate no such qualities. I dread writing thank-you notes. I still owe letters of love and appreciation to those who, like you, unselfishly came to the Kennedy Centre last year. Excuses, excuses.

Ah, well. You were greatly missed at that gala Friars banquet. It was quite a memorable evening. A four-tiered dais on which you, star-bright you, would have shone the brightest.

Barbara and I send our fond, warm, loving and happy thoughts.

Cary (signed)

23 February 2015

Hitch's issues with Paul Newman

Alfred Hitchcock's working relationship with Paul Newman was not a happy one. To begin with, Hitch hadn't even wanted to work with Newman, but Universal insisted that Newman and Julie Andrews (whom Hitch didn't want either) were cast as the leads in the espionage thriller Torn Curtain (1966). Newman and Andrews were two of Hollywood's then biggest stars, and Universal wanted real star power since Hitch's latest films The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) with newcomer Tippi Hedren had ended up being box-office failures. 

Thus, Hitch got stuck with leads he didn't want and, on top of that, also found Newman impossible to work with. Newman belonged to a new generation of actors ('method actors') and worked in a way that was very different from what Hitch had been used to with old-school actors like Cary Grant and James Stewart. Throughout filming, Newman constantly criticised the script and questioned his character (at some point this led Hitch to remark: "His character! [...] I thought to myself: 'What does it matter about your character? It's just going to be Paul Newman anyway'"). Later Hitch would say that he found Newman's manner unprofessional and disrespectful. And Newman, in turn, said that he had meant no disrespect towards Hitch and attributed their problems to the bad script ("I think Hitch and I could have really hit it off, but the script kept getting in the way").

On the set of Torn Curtain with Hitch, Julie Andrews and 'method actor' Paul Newman. Hitchcock hated method acting and also had problems with Montgomery Clift during production of  I Confess (1953).

On 22 June 1971, Alfred Hitchcock wrote to Joan Crawford after she had sent him a letter regarding Torn Curtain. This is his note-- with a snide remark on Paul Newman.


22nd June, 1971

Miss Joan Crawford
150 East 69th Street
Apartment 22-G
New York.
New York, 10021

Dear Joan,

Thank you very much for your letter about the announcing of "TORN CURTAIN".

You asked what had happened to Paul Newman. I can only think that being a method actor he decided not to turn up for the latter part of the film.

I am sorry to say that Alma has not been well since we got to London- she suffered a slight stroke, but I am happy to say she is recovering.


Hitch (signed)

*Image letter: heritage auctions (reproduced with permission)

Another great letter from Hitch to Joan can be read here. And as I was curious to know if Hitch and Joan were friends, I did a little search on the net and found a paragraph in Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler (2008), which says they were. In the book Joan is quoted as saying: "Alfred Hitchcock wasn't an MGM director, and our professional paths never crossed, though I did ask him to keep me in mind, and I'm sure he did. We would have had a lot of giggles together because we had the same sense of humor. He was not only a wonderful director, but a wonderful friend." [source]

Alfred and Alma Hitchcock in 1960
Joan Crawford

20 February 2015

The advertising of borrowed stars

Under the studio system, it was common practice for a studio to loan out a contract star to another studio. Since actors were owned by the studios, they really didn't have a choice in the matter (to refuse a role usually meant suspension without pay). It is said that loaning out their stars was a way for the studios to discipline them and keeping them in line. For instance, when Clark Gable objected to being typecast by MGM, the studio punished him by loaning him out to Columbia --at the time considered a lesser studio-- to do It Happened one Night (1934). (This 'punishment' eventually got Gable the Best Actor Oscar). But even more than that, these loan-outs were simply very profitable as the borrowing studio had to pay the loaning studio an extra fee on top of the star's salary.

In 1936, Warners Bros. made Cain and Mabel, starring Clark Gable and Marion Davies. Davies' lover, the influential publisher William Randolph Hearst, wanted Gable to play Davies' leading man and convinced Jack Warner, an old friend of his, to hire Gable from MGM. Although the deal with MGM was a one-picture deal, in advertisements of a few Australian trade papers it was made to look as though Gable was one of Warners' contract players. The letter for this post --addressed to Harry Warner, President of Warner Bros.-- refers to this matter, saying that "such unethical advertising should be avoided in future". The letter is unsigned but presumably written by Will Hays, head of the MPPDA

Trade magazine advertisement for "Cain and Mabel"


January 2, 1937

Mr. Harry M. Warner
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
321 West 44th Street
New York, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Warner:

At a meeting of the directors of publicity and advertising of member companies, constituting our Advertising Advisory Council, at the Association offices on December 29th, it was unanimously agreed that the companies should refrain in their advertisements from giving misleading impressions regarding borrowed stars and talent.

An example was cited of advertisements in two trade papers in Australia. The advertisements of a company which had borrowed a star for a single picture were so worded that it was made to appear that the borrowed player was a regular player of the company which in fact had obtained his services for one picture only.

The meeting agreed that this type of advertising was unfair and unjust to the company which had the player under regular contract and which had merely lent the player to the other company. As a matter of policy, those present at the meeting felt that such unethical advertising should be avoided in future. While a company is perfectly justified in advertising borrowed talent, it should not attempt to convey the impression that the player is on its regular studio roster. I know that you will readily agree with the fairness of this proposal.

It was suggested at the meeting that I bring this problem to your attention with the request that you pass the matter along to foreign and sales department managers as well as to your advertising and publicity executives. 

With kindest personal regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

Harry Warner

15 February 2015

We don't want Norma Shearer, we want Scarlett

On 24 June 1938, several newspapers including The New York Times (read here) and The Dallas Morning News (see image below) announced that Norma Shearer was going to play the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). It was stated that, after a long search for the ideal Scarlett, producer David O. Selznick had decided on Shearer and that author Margaret Mitchell was pleased with his decision. The announcement caused a flood of negative reactions from people who thought Shearer was not suited for the part. Furthermore, people were outraged by the fact that she wanted to change Scarlett's character. Shearer didn't think that Scarlett was sympathetic enough --especially in the latter part of the story-- and wanted Selznick to change the script in order to make the character more likeable. In the end, due to all the negative response to her playing Scarlett, Shearer decided to give up the role (read more about it here in an article from The New York Times dated 1 August 1938).

Contrary to what the newspapers wrote in June of 1938, Norma Shearer and Clark Gable-- shown here in the 1932 "Strange Interlude"-- would not star together in "Gone with the Wind".

Below you'll find four of the many letters that were written to David Selznick in protest of the casting of Norma Shearer. The letters will be shown in transcript only and are taken from a wonderful fanmail data base regarding the making of Gone with the Wind (to be found on the website of the Harry Ransom Center). For the original images of the letters, click on the links below the transcripts.

Dear Mr. Selznick,

This is the first time I have ever taken the trouble to write about the casting of any picture, but when I read that Norma Shearer was going to play Scarlett O'Hara my blood boiled. Then when I read this morning that she wanted the story changed to suit her, I could bear it no longer. We don't want Norma Shearer, we want Scarlett. To change the woman's character is to spoil the story, and I don't think Miss Shearer at all the type, or that she possesses the beauty. I think Clark Gable ideal, and thought so when I read the book, and hope he plays Rhett Butler, but please no Norma Shearer.

Harriet Davis

P.S. I'd a thousand times rather see Carole Lombard as Scarlett than Norma Shearer


July 8, 1938

David Selznick
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
936 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, California

Dear Mr. Selznick:

Some time ago it was announced that Norma Shearer was to play Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind". That in itself was a disappointment as Norma Shearer does not possess the personality that was Scarlett's. But now comes this blow, Norma Shearer thinks herself big enough to want to change this book that has been read and enjoyed by so many people. Such arrogance, such conceit. Not satisfied with ruining a character that has been so faithfully portrayed by the author, she wants to alter the book to suit her own taste without regarding the disappointment of the readers of the book when they eventually will see the picture.

In all fairness to your company, however, Clark Gable is a superb choice for Rhett Butler, and I hope that equally good judgment will eventually be shown as regards to casting and story.

I am sure that my opinion in this matter is not solitary, as all the people I know who have read the book are up in arms about the whole thing and have resolved not to see the picture should the present plans materialize.

Sincerely yours,

G. Luptrom

Source: harry ransom center

Irvington, Calif.,
July 7, 1938

Mr. David Selznick,

Dear Mr. Selznick:

Of all the stupid choices for parts, yours of Norma Shearer for "Scarlett" takes the cake. I spend three months each year in and around Hollywood. I have seen most of the stars at some time or other.
I have read "Gone with the Wind" five times and I'll be darned if Miss Shearer fits in the picture whatsoever.

As great an admirer as I am of Norma Shearer, she certainly is going to be miscast.
How did you ever come upon this decision anyway?
I for one, will stay blocks away from the picture when it plays San Francisco under the present set-up. And from what I have heard there are hundreds of others who share my opinion.

You have four girls in Hollywood who could and would take the part very well. They are Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Sullavan, Miriam Hopkins and Paulette Goddard.

If Norma Shearer accepts the role of Scarlett, she is going to do herself more harm than good and she will be gone with the wind.

She just isn't suited to the part and no revamping on your part can alter that fact. If you are giving Norma the break because it is your means of showing your gratitude for some specific reason for God's sake show it some other way before such a fine person and lovely actress as Miss Shearer loses all it has taken years to build up.

Oliver Campos

Source: harry ransom center


My dear Mr. Selznick:

According to our movie scandal columnists, the latest reports on "Gone With The Wind" are that Rhett Butler will be played by Clark Gable and Scarlett O'Hara by Norma Shearer. Imagine Norma Shearer as Scarlett!! -- I'm actually laughing, D.O.S., and not with you, but at you. What's the matter with Eleanor Roosevelt being signed for the part? --or May Robson, Patsy Kelly-- Baby Snooks?? Just what are we to expect of this production now-- well, at least I can be assured of saving 50 c and spending one night at home when this picture is released. Anyway, thanks to Warner Bros. for "Jezebel" with a really swell cast and an actress who can portray a role with ability and not because of a name. Oh, well-- we all have to make a living.

Yours in disgust and laughter,
Roger Templeton,
San Francisco

Source: harry ransom center

13 February 2015

Clara Bow's letter to her dog

Clara Bow loved dogs. She is reported to have said once: "The more I see of men, the more I like dogs". One of the dogs she had was a cocker spaniel -Diablo- who died in 1941 at age ten. Shown below is a three-page, very sweet eulogy that Clara wrote for him. 

Source: heritage auctions/ reproduced with permission


(handwritten) Read this, sons-
The dictating is mine, but not the typewriting
Remember 'Diablo'
The black cocker spaniel

(Dedicated to Diablo)

Little Dobbie:-

Listen, I am saying this to you, as you lie asleep, one little paw crumbled under your cheek and the black curls stickily wet on your damp forehead.

I have stolen, stolen close to your crib alone. Just a few moments ago as I sat reading, a hot wave of remorse came over to me. I couldn't resist it.... guiltily I came to your basket.

These are the things I was thinking Dobbie.... I had been cross to you. I scolded you because you jumped on me with your wet and muddy little paws and ruined my favorite pyjamas.... and stained my new bedroom slippers. I spanked you for pulling off the table cloth and breaking several pieces of my coffee set.  I called out angrily when I noticed you had dragged some of my things onto the floor.

At breakfast I found fault too. You spilled your food... you gulped down your biscuits in a hurry... I lost my temper when I called to you and there you were playing with King and not paying any attention to my call and whistle.

Then it started all over again.. this afternoon as I drove in, I spied you digging holes in my favorite flower patch- and they were holes alright. If you had to dig, plant and buy those seeds you'd feel the same way I did.. and yet, why should I be so small about such petty trifles.

Do you remember later, when I was resting on the front porch watching the beautiful moon rise, how you came in softly, timidly with a sort of hurt, haunted look in your eyes? When I turned to you impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. "What do you want?" I snapped.

You just looked at me, so sadly, then turned and ran towards me, jumped right on my lap and buried your cold little nose in my hands with such affection, which, God who is kind to all living, must have set blooming in your heart, and which neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering into my room and crawled into your basket for the night.

Well, Dobbie, it was shortly afterwards, when, after reading awhile, the book slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. Suddenly I saw myself as I really was, in all my selfishness, and I felt sick at heart.

What had habit done to me?  The habit of complaining, of finding fault, of reprimanding you. All of these were my rewards to you for being a little dog. It was not that I didn't love you; it was just that I expected too much of a little puppy. And there was so much that was good and fine in your little dog character. You did not deserve my treatment of you, Dobbie. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the desert hills. All this was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me goodnight.

Nothing else matters tonight Dobbie dear. I have come to your bedside in the darkness and I have knelt there, choking with emotion and so ashamed. It is a feeble atonement. I know that you wouldn't understand these things, yet I must say what I am saying. I make a new resolve that tomorrow I will be a real pal to you- and more tolerant with you. When impatient words come I will bite my tongue and say- as if it were a ritual- "He is nothing but a little doggy!"

I'm afraid I have visioned you as a little human being. Yet as I see you now Dobbie, crumbled and weary in your little basket, I see that you are yet only a baby.

Dear little Dobbie, here on my penitent knees, I kiss your little curls- if it were not for waking you I would snatch you up in my arms and crush you to my breast.

Tears come, and heartache and remorse, and I think, a richer, deeper love, when you ran to me through the porch door and wanted to kiss me!


9 February 2015

We are tremendously eager to see you

In the early 1950s, producer David O. Selznick became fascinated by the Italian neo-realist films, especially those of Vittorio De Sica. Ready for a new challenge after a few critical flops, Selznick commissioned De Sica to make a film starring Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife. The film was Terminal Station -- about a love affair between a married American woman (Jennifer Jones) and an Italian man (Montgomery Clift) -- and was to be shot entirely on location in the central railway station of Rome. However, once shooting had started, Selznick and De Sica proved to be a very poor match. The two men were in constant disagreement with each other, and Selznick spent nights in the lounge of the train station rewriting scenes and writing elaborate memos to De Sica. But De Sica was undeterred by Selznick's meddling and continued to direct the film in his own way.

Jennifer Jones in "Terminal Station" (1953)

Apart from De Sica, Selznick also had to deal with his wife who was then emotionally fragile. Jones was still distraught over the untimely death of her first husband Robert Walker a year earlier, and she really missed her two sons (by Walker) who were at school in Switzerland; furthermore, she was reportedly smitten with co-star Montgomery Clift. Emotionally distressed and with shooting running late into the night, Jones was exhausted and tried to catch up on her sleep during the daytime. Thus, when Orson Welles, who had lived in Italy since 1947, wrote to the couple wondering if they could meet, Selznick replied with the following letter.

Source: heritage auctions/ image reproduced with permission


Grand Hotel, Rome
November 4, 1952

Dear Orson:

Jennifer and I were terribly pleased to hear from you. Except for the time on the set, she is either sleeping or trying desperately to get to sleep, and thus she has asked me to reply to your sweet note.

We are both tremendously eager to see you. The difficulty is that de Sica works all night, every night- for the entire film is being made in the station, which of course can be used only at night. This means that Sunday is a sleep day, after working all night Saturday, and that the only thing that closely approaches a day off is Monday, when Jennifer must also get some sleep in order to be prepared for an all-night session on Monday. However, if you're ever free on Monday, we would certainly love to come out, or meet you in town, as you wish.

Additionally, I would like enormously to have dinner with you any night you are free and can give me just a little prior notice. 

Do please call me at your convenience. I am almost always at the hotel in the late afternoons, and invariably between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

With affectionate regards from us both,

David (signed)

Terminal Station was released in 1953 in Italy under the title Stazione Termini. The original version ran 89 minutes but Selznick was less than pleased with the result. Back in the U.S., he re-edited De Sica's film (without De Sica's permission), cut it down to 64 minutes while also adding close-ups. Retitled Indiscretion of an American Wife, the film was released in the U.S. in May 1954. Montgomery Clift hated Selznick's slick Hollywood version and called it a "big fat failure". If you're interested, a comparison of the two different versions can be seen in this fascinating 5-minute clip. And to see both versions in full, they have been released together on DVD by The Criterion Collection. 

Orson Welles worked together with David Selznick on two films: "Duel in the Sun" (1946) -as narrator-, and "The Third Man" (1949). Welles hated Hollywood and went to Italy in 1947 where he lived for the next six years.
David Selznick and Jennifer Jones were married from 1949 until Selznick's death in 1965. They had one daughter Mary Jennifer (she committed suicide in 1976 after which her mother set up a foundation for mental health & education).

6 February 2015

I am as goofy as a fan from Nebraska

It wasn't until 1974 that John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn finally got a chance to work together. For years Hepburn had wanted to play in a western with Wayne and with Rooster Cogburn (1975) she got her wish. It was the only time the two stars --both well into their sixties-- played in a film together, and they both enjoyed it immensely. While on location in Oregon, Hepburn explained why she loved working with Wayne: "He has confidence in himself, which gives him enormous charisma. He's quick, he's sensitive. He knows all the techniques. I think he's an awfully good actor- and a terribly funny man. We laugh all day. What a goddamn fascinating personality!" And Wayne said about his co-star: "I have never in my life worked with a woman who had the smell of drama that this woman has. She is so feminine- she's a man's woman [...] Imagine, how she must have been at age 25 or 30... how lucky a man would have been to have found her." [source]

In May of 1979, Katharine Hepburn wrote John Wayne a lovely letter after he had sent her a belated Christmas present. Referring to their film Rooster Cogburn and signing the note with her character's name, this is what she said.

Image: heritage auctions/ reproduced with permission

3 February 2015

He will always be very much in my heart

I am not a fan of horror films and in fact never watch them. However, when I was in my teens I did watch the occasional horror film, and the ones that I remember best are the Dracula-films starring Christopher Lee as the bloodsucking Hungarian count (these were British horror films made by Hammer Film Productions). Christopher Lee is regarded today as one of the true icons of classic horror cinema, along with actors such as Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. Lee's favourite actor and role model was Boris Karloff, who is best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in a number of Frankenstein-films from the 1930s.

On 5 February 1969 --three days after Boris Karloff had died at age 81-- Christopher Lee (then 46 years old) wrote a letter to Karloff's widow Evelyn, offering his condolences on the death of her husband. In the letter, Lee talks about his admiration for Karloff whom he had looked up to ever since he was a little boy. He also mentions Karloff's kindness -- in contrast to his on-screen monster persona, Karloff was a very gentle and amiable man-- and the fact that he was privileged to have worked with his idol (i.e. they played together in two films, Corridors of Blood (1958) and Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)). Lee's handwritten letter to Evelyn Karloff is shown below.

Boris Karloff with wife number five, Evelyn Hope Helmore, whom he married in 1946.
Image: heritage auctions/ reproduced with permission


45 Cadogan Square

5th February

My dear Evie.

I know words + phrases are somehow rather inadequate to express my feelings.
The affection + the admiration that I felt for Boris were + always will be boundless.
From the days when I was a small boy he was always my favourite and he always remained so. I never thought that one day that I would actually meet him, let alone work with him. The fact that I did both these things will always remain a highlight of my life in every way. He was wonderfully kind to me and he will always be very much in my heart.
As the world knows, he was a superb actor- and those of us who knew him and felt for ourselves his kindness, gentleness and humour will always be greatly privileged. I pray God I can follow his example.
Please contact me if there is anything at all you need.

My love for you

On the set of "Curse of the Crimson Altar" (1968) with, on the right, Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff (seated).