30 November 2017

Consoling Audrey Hepburn

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

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

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

Source: Bonhams


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

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

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

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

My loving regards, to you, Mel and Sean.

(signed) George

Mrs. Mel Ferrer
La Retama
La Morelaja

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

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

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

19 November 2017

Lucille Ball's brush with the blacklist

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dear Winchell;

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

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

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

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


Transcript :

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

Dear Mr. Hoover:

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

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

Source of all documents: vault.fbi.gov

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

30 October 2017

An actress is an actress first and a trained seal secondly

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

Here are some excerpts from Sullivan's column:

"Goodness knows that I don't often rap people, or performers, but it's about time to crack down on wide-eyed Joan Crawford... For some years, I've tried sincerely to like her, but she certainly strains friendship to a point where something has to give, and it GAVE... This squawk then is justified because there is no performer who so often exclaims that the press of the country has been unfair to her and non-cooperative. 

I don't know, really, anyone who has gone so far in this business with so little talent as La Crawford. 
Broadway, which remembers her as an N.T.G. girl and a Shubert chorus girl, resents that attitude with good reason... If Joan wonders why her latest flicker, "Susan and God", was such a terrific box-office flop, it is not alone that the part was unsuited to her talents; it was also because the contract with her public has been broken. 
A better rooting section is that which acclaims George Raft... Raft has the entire country rooting for him, because the public has more than a sneaking idea that here is a nice guy... Like Crawford, Raft went from the sidewalks of New York to movie fame, but unlike her, he never forgot his old friends. 
I confess that I've lost patience with Joan Crawford... No longer will this pillar rush to her defense when other movie stars put the blast on her for her insincerity, or for her affectations."

Joan struck back several months later.

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

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

Source: Hollywood magazine, January 1941 via archive.org 

19 October 2017

Bette & Vivien

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

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

Via: divinevivienleigh.tumblr.com


Dear Vivien,

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

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

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

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

Our love

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

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

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

30 September 2017

Dressing Susan Hayward

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



DATE  March 28 1952

TO Mr. Daryl Zanuck

FROM Charles LeMaire


Dear Mr. Zanuck:

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

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

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

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

Please let me know how you feel about this.

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



DATE March 28 1952

cc: Casey Robinson
Henry King
Ray Klune



Dear Charlie:

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

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

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


Images of both letters via Pinterest here and here.

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

3 September 2017

If you think I am too silly and too stupid, divorce me but don’t hate me

In early 1941, producer David O. Selznick met young actress Phyllis Lee Isley and was immediately captivated by her. He signed her to a contract, changed her name to Jennifer Jones and began building her career. Before long, Selznick (then married to Irene Mayer, daughter of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer) and Jones (then married to actor Robert Walker) started an affair which eventually led to marriage in 1949. The marriage lasted until Selznick's death in 1965.

It's safe to say that Jennifer Jones would have had quite a different career if it hadn't been for David Selznick. Selznick controlled Jones' career, making practically every professional decision for her and selecting the roles she played. He chose good roles like the lead in the 1943 The Song of Bernadette (for which Jones won an Oscar), but he also made some bad decisions, for example by turning down Laura (1944) which would later become a noir classic.

Jones trusted Selznick and placed herself completely in his hands. She was a very insecure person, and even after Selznick had made her a star, she remained unsure of herself and emotionally fragileThroughout her life Jones had several nervous breakdowns and even attempted suicide a few times. (Truman Capote once said: "Jennifer Jones was an extremely neurotic girl, and would have twelve nervous breakdowns before rehearsals had hardly started.") 

The following correspondence between Jones and Selznick clearly shows Jones' emotional vulnerability and also gives an insight into the relationship between her and her powerful husband who was 17 years her senior. Jones' fascinating letter to Selznick was written during production of John Huston's Beat the Devil (1954). Jones had a very hard time on the set and speaks of her problems with the director, her inability to understand her character and how she couldn't remember her lines which consequently cost everybody a whole night's work. (Feeling bad about the whole thing, she told co-star Humphrey Bogart she would pay for the costs.) Jones was convinced that the cast and crew thought she was "a great bitch" and was afraid that Selznick might think her awful too ("Anyway scold me or if you think I am too silly and too stupid, divorce me but don’t hate me David"). Selznick responded by telegram, assuring Jones that he still adored her and that she was not to blame in any way, putting the blame entirely on "that four flushing phoney" (i.e. John Huston).

Incidentally, Selznick was not involved with the production of the film --it was produced by Bogart's production company Santana Productions-- but at his suggestion Truman Capote wrote the screenplay when screenwriters Anthony Veiller and Peter Viertel couldn't get the job done. And, judging by his telegram, Selznick had also invested in the film.

Jennifer Jones and Humphrey Bogart in a scene from Beat the Devil (above) and on the set discussing the script with director John Huston (below). 

It was stupid of me to make that fuss on the telephone and I’m terribly ashamed and sorry especially after all you’ve been through. It must have been dreadfully unpleasant all that business and certainly this is a poor time for Mrs. Jones to begin making demands but when I didn’t hear from you I would only think you must have suddenly discovered your nurse was divine or a new secretary or maybe that fourth at Lenore’s for canasta.  
Anyway I was wild with jealousy when I wasn’t wild with rage at John of all of the stupidities of this silly way of making a picture. Your predictions have all come true—he just keeps ahead by minutes and in my case there is no question of performance—my job is solely to remember lines and positions [and] rattle them off as quickly as possible never mind the meaning etc. etc. All the time I think it must be my fault, but really I know it isn’t. John has just decided to make it a three ring circus with an assortment of types behaving in what he hopes is an untypical way but what seems to me only a sordid and completely unrelated one to the other way. Certainly my character has no reality of any kind and whether she is comedy, tragedy, or something “bourgeois” I haven’t a notion. Anyway in the last scene, still unwritten, (as is tomorrow’s scene, of course) John said that “they” should feel sorry for her, this apropos of costume, but this is a confusing clue because unless I appear in rags and tatters there has been nothing in [the] script so far to indicate that she is anything but a silly idiot and how I am to attract audience sympathy of any sort is [a] source of great bewilderment to me. Surely they will feel as I do at this point, that she needs a great solid kick on the bottom. However lest I sound like another Norma Shearer I hasten to add my complaints are not because she is definitely an unsympathetic character but because at least to me she is completely un- understandable. I don’t know what or how to play and John has given for all practical purpose no help whatsoever. 
There was one horrible night, a nightmare of nightmares which shall remain in my memory the rest of my days. It was a scene at the dock before boarding the boat with Dannreuther. To be shot at night. I had received the scene the night before. Carefully studied it . . . in Positano where we had gone with [the] boys the day before. I arrived home in Ravello the afternoon before the night’s shooting to be greeted with an almost entirely new scene which I quickly learned—this was at three o’clock. At six o’clock we left for Salerno where the scene was to be done, as I stepped into the car another scene was handed to me, meaning changed—some of lines from [the] first version, some from the second which I had just learned and then great long additional new ones. It was dark and I couldn’t study until we got to Salerno but I thought oh well, it’s a long scene, it was quite long, there will be several angles, it will be broken up and even with accent problems I shall be all right. But when we arrived John with his fetish for one angle, one take, etc. had arranged to do it all in one. For the first time in my life, David, I couldn’t remember the lines, I blew and blew and blew until 4:30 in the morning. About 2:00 I said, John, please let’s just let this be a rehearsal tonight or break it up, John. I can’t do it, I’m exhausted, the lines are all confused, I need time to study the scene properly, please don’t humiliate me anymore in front of the crew and other actors. Gina and Morley and Peter* and all the others were kept there all night because they walked through the shot in the beginning with no lines and this was most distressing to me. His answer was, forget the strain you are under and act, remember you are paid to act. Said of course with a grim smile and what passes for Huston charm. At 4:30 completely paralyzed with shame and hating myself for being so stupid, I actually couldn’t remember the lines at all, one time one line would be right and another wrong and then another mixed up in a completely unreasonable way. Oh David it was all my bad dreams in one. Anyway he finally realized the senselessness of carrying on and we left for home. The next night of course I was all right and went right through it even though it had become a great stumbling block but Bogie made a couple of mistakes and because the end of the scene was not really good in that angle, John was forced or rather decided to break it up, which if he had done the evening before there would have been no problem. 
Anyway, I felt so badly, so ashamed and so much like an old actor who has as you say learned all the parts of which he is capable that I did a thing which you will probably hate me for and which in retrospect I rather regret except that at the time of my absolute dismay I couldn’t help it. I told Bogie that, and this was before the scene the second night when he was just barely nodding good evening to me, that he needn’t worry, I intended to pay for the last night’s work. Of course he said nonsense, don’t worry about it, but I said that was my intention and then when I told Jack Clayton the same thing, he said not to say it to anyone else as some of the Italian partners might take me up. . . . Now I realize it was stupid but actually David I did cost them a whole night’s work and in a way if we didn’t need the money so badly I would like not to lose any salary for this silly picture. Because I know I have done a bad job even though I am not entirely to blame because circumstances have made it impossible, still as John says I do not understand the character and that is my fault. I would really feel much better about it if we didn’t have to accept their money. Perhaps you don’t understand this and perhaps I can explain it more clearly when I see you, the way I feel I mean. I am prepared for you to think I am the idiot child, but believe me David, whether all this is my fault or not, I am still not sure that I’m not the one to blame, at least I know I have mismanaged myself badly throughout the film, I allowed that stupid but not unkind or ungood Bogie, only rather cheap between you and me, to get under my skin and the foul mouthed Peter and the whole ratty group. Anyway scold me or if you think I am too silly and too stupid divorce me but don’t hate me David. I have mixed up everything badly and for the first time in my life am working in a company, almost all of whom think me a great bitch I am certain. But I don’t want to ruin your life and if you think I am awful too, please know that you are free absolutely and completely.

If you still want it you have all my love,
[*"Gina" is Gina Lollobrigida, "Morley" is Robert Morley, and "Peter" is Peter Lorre]


Dearest darling,
Letter arrived tonight.
With great difficulty I promise to follow your wishes and disregard it but please please understand you are completely not only blameless but outrageously unforgivably victimized.
If that four flushing phoney ever again says you are PAID to act, please tell him for me that firstly, we contracted for script to be delivered last Christmas; secondly, when this [was] not forthcoming we recognized dangers and we have written proof we begged to be released; thirdly, we are not getting paid, we are gambling investors whereas he is paid fully and is without any gamble or investment whatsoeverfourthly, he is paid to deliver script on which shockingly he failed to perform because he was too busy in America publicizing hisself endowed genious [sic] and in Europe playing Casanova to a harem of frustrated women; fifthly, but for our insistent suggestion of Capote they would now be facing complete disaster since Truman is doing the geniuses work for him; sixthly, no actor in history has been asked to go through what you have on this film but you will continue to struggle and hope for best despite incredibly amateur conditions; seventhly, at their urgent request  we donated fifty thousand dollars worth of time for which we could have had a larger claim on them but which we refused when they sought favors for which they expressed verbal gratitude which we have not seen demonstrated in their behavior. 
Please under no circumstances again demean yourself and dignify these fakers by letting them get you down. You simply must tolerantly patronize them which is [the] only way to cope with such untalented pretense. I adore you and hate myself for not being there to tell them off although I am certain these gentlemen heroes are too yellow to behave that way if I were there which thank heaven I shall be soon. Keep this cable with you to show whenever necessary or even when it can spare you either slightest distress or smallest humiliation from such ignorant brutes.

Jones and Selznick had one daughter, Mary Jennifer. She committed suicide in 1976 at age 21. In 1980, Jones founded the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation for Mental Health and Education in order to help people suffering from mental health problems.

Jones' letter and Selznick's telegram via Vanity Fair
Original source: West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein (Random House, 2016)

15 August 2017

Hedda Hopper & James Dean

When gossip columnist Hedda Hopper saw James Dean for the first time, she was appalled by his unkempt appearance and his bad manners. Such was her disgust with Dean that she wrote in her column the next day"They've brought out from New York another dirty-shirttail actor. If this is the kind of talent they're importing, they can send it right back so far as I'm concerned." (Quote from Hopper's 1962 autobiography The Whole Truth and Nothing But.)

A while later, Hopper received an invitation to attend the preview of East of Eden (1955). Given her bad first impression of Dean, Hopper refused to go. The day after the preview, however, Clifton Webb (who was quite excited about Dean's performance and whose judgment Hopper respected) told her to go see the film, so Hopper arranged a private screening and was immediately enthralled by Dean. She invited Dean to her house for an interview and he soon had her eating out of the palm of his hand. From then on, Hopper was Dean's biggest fan. When he suddenly died in September 1955 after crashing his car, she lobbied hard for a James Dean memorial ánd a posthumous Academy Award. Despite all her efforts, Hopper achieved neither.

Shown below are Hopper's radio statement about James Dean from 5 October 1955 (five days after his death) and a letter written by Hopper to Jimmy Madden (a fan) on 3 January 1956. Madden had contributed $1 for Dean's memorial, but since there would be no memorial (due to the lack of interest in Hollywood) Hopper saw fit to return Madden's money. Also, Hopper writes that she was working on a special Oscar for Dean but, as mentioned, the Oscar never happened. (Incidentally, it wasn't until much later (in 1977) that Dean did get a memorial; read more here.)

Hedda Hopper visits James Dean in his dressing room during the filming of Giant (1956), which was released after his death.


"I'm still reeling from the sudden death of Jimmy Dean, one of the greatest acting talents I've ever known. He was a tragic figure. So few understood him. He was reaching out for love and understanding, but got so little. His greatest ambition was to play "Hamlet" on Broadway. Said he, "It should be done only by a young man." The thing he loved most was the thing that killed him-- his racing car. He carried with him in his death the St. Christopher medal Pier Angeli gave him while he was making "East of Eden." He was like quicksilver. He had a sure instinct for drama. He was like the parched earth longing for the rain. Only a few days ago a friend of mine met him in a pet hospital. He had brought a kitten for an innoculation, and the loving care he was giving it was beautiful to look upon. It will be a long time before we see his like again. I loved the boy and always will." 

Source: oscars.org

Source: Hake's Americana & Collectibles


Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
702 Guaranty Building
Hollywood 28, California 

January 3, 1956

Dear Jimmy Madden:

I can't tell you how touched I was by your letter, and how much I appreciated your contribution for a memorial for Jimmy Dean.

It's taken me so long to thank you and to return the money because I have investigated thoroughlu [sic] the Hollywood end of figuring out some suitable memorial for Jimmy. I ran up against a blank wall. There's a great deal of interest here among his friends and much more from his fans. But the people who would have to put up the bulk of the money aren't willing to do so.

I'm still working for a special Oscar to be imbedded in a granite block to be put on his grave. But I won't know whether my plan will be carried out until the night of the Academy Awards. 

I feel as you do about Jimmy. Had he lived he'd have been one of our greatest. I feel he's still with us; I know he is in spirit. He would have been so pleased that so many people from all over the nation have wanted to create a memorial in his name.

My blessings upon you.

Hedda Hopper

Mr. Jimmy Madden
2500 University Ave.
Bronx, 68, N.Y.

Enclosure $1