Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Harry And The Lavender Blond.

For Harry Cohn it was a little embarrassing,  back in '48 he'd signed Marilyn for six months and she'd made "Ladies Of The Chorus".  Yeah, she'd bend over in his office to get the contract, but after the movie, she wouldn't spend the weekend on his yacht with him, so out she went.

Now five years later she was Miss-Big-Fuckin'-Movie-Star.  At Fox.  Oh sure he still had Rita, but you couldn't trust that broad.  She was always marrying the wrong men.  When he first found her she was married to a wrong guy.  When that ended there was that Welles schmuck.  Mister-Boy-Genius for crissake.  Now it's this big deal, Aly Kahn.  And when Hayworth is in love, movies can kiss her ass.

Well Harry didn't like not getting what he wanted, and he didn't like having Monroe egg on his face.  It was time to fix things.

The throne room at Columbia Pictures resounded with the whoosh of an outsized riding crop swung in anger. Scepter in hand, striding before two rows of Oscars at stiff attention behind his vast desk, Columbia's stubby and balding Boss Harry Cohn fumed with the king-sized wrath of the last Hollywood despot who still runs the studio he built. The year was 1953, the object of his wrath Rita Hayworth, Columbia's reigning love goddess; Rita had flounced out and left the studio with a costly stack of properties bought just for her. Before Cohn's desk, underlings watched the riding crop and awaited the great man's edict. If the studio only had another big female star, he grumbled, she could be used to bludgeon Hayworth into submission, or, if it came to that, to take over her roles in the scheduled pictures. Then Cohn announced his decree: "We will make a star."   -   Time Magazine Jul. 29, 1957

He already had her.  Marilyn Pauline Novak had already been screen tested and signed to a seven year contract.  Though she was Czech, Harry was addicted to the practice of referring to her as 'that fat Polack broad'.  She was a raw lump of clay for Harry to mold, his way.  Her biggest exposure to date had been a national tour as Miss Deep Freeze for Thor Freezers.  She needed to loose ten pounds and start wearing a bra for crissakes!  She would take acting lessons which, of course, would come out of her pocket.  And once she was renamed, plucked, groomed, dyed, made up and corseted, look out all you bastards at Fox.

Yeah, Harry was feeling much better already.  And once her star was launched and established, Harry, never one to pass credit around, said, "If you wanna bring me your wife or your aunt, we'll do the same for them."

But you know it's true, sometimes blonds do have more fun, or at least the last laugh.

 Novak at Harry Cohn's Funeral
on the Columbia lot, Mar. 2, 1958


kabuki zero said...

Happy Valentine's Day. I always wanted to be a lavender blonde. Is it a Ritz rinse colour?

FelixInHollywood said...

Same to you, my pet. If it's not, it should be!

Was Ritz rinse made by the Ritz Brothers?

jason said...

Well, heck, if he could have made me into Kim Novak, I might have bent over for him too.

TJB said...

I think I'll spend the rest of the day speaking like Kim Novak.

Oh, wait, I do that already.

Donna Lethal said...

Having worked on many a show at the old Columbia Studios (where the pneumatic tubes are still in places), I've climbed Harry's "secret staircase" that led directly to the female dressing rooms. Where I worked, for a spell, many years later. Everytime I peed, I'd look down at the original tiles and think, "Rita/Marilyn/Kim peed here!"

FelixInHollywood said...

I know isn't it cool there! I've seen those stairs.

The one that gets me is stage 5, which used to be the music scoring stage. I stood in it and thought, "Jesus, Streisand, 'Funny Girl' right here!" That's some powerful shit.

Pantheon Zeus said...

ah, Columbia at Sunset /Gower

I always think of Roz Russell dressed like a nun for The Trouble With Angels (1966) directed by Ida Lupino. Hayley Mills reportedly pissed Roz off and it was tense. June Harding (now living as an artist in Maine) was really terrific as Hayley's sidekick. Lupino campaigned hard for June to be cast. She is great.

and then of course I see stage 4 marked on exterior wall facing street and think of Liz Montgomery twitching her nose for 8 years as Samantha on Bewitched (for Columbia's Screen Gems)

FelixInHollywood said...

Yes, and let's not even get started about Capra, His Girl Friday, Gilda, Born Yesterday, The Three Stooges, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun or The Golden Girls!

Alex said...

Harry made some good films for both Rita and Kim. But Rita and Kim were at their in other studio's films. Rita in 20th Century Fox's "Blood and Sand" and "My Gal Sal" were incredible productions. And WB's "The Strawberry Blonde" wit James Cagney. This is when Rita got to work with real directors like Raoul Walsh and Rouben Mamoulian. And can anyone say, "Vertigo" ? Kim and Hitchcock! Columbia was a good studio. But Harry couldn't do for his female stars what the other studios did for theirs - so kudos to Marilyn Monroe for getting outta there and giving the world the gifts that she made at Fox.

VP81955 said...

Gotta put in a good word for my gal Carole Lombard, one of the few actresses who actually liked Harry Cohn. More on Columbia, and Carole's films there, at http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/9977.html