Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kibbee In Bits

One of my very favorites members of the venerable Warner Bros. stock company of players would, without a doubt be Mr. Guy Bridges Kibbee.  He could play whatever you wanted:  funny, serious, drunk, befuddled, self important, rich, poor,  or adorable sugar daddy.  He played in everything from rags to white tie, and with a range like this, I've never seen him hit a false note.

In "Gold Diggers of 1933" he does 'old Boston money' so perfectly, that it's hard to imagine he was born (1882) in El Paso, Texas.  When only 13, the bug had bitten so deeply that he left home in pursuit of a life on the stage.  While dreaming the ultimate actor dream of Broadway, he earned his chops performing on Mississippi Riverboats and Vaudeville runs.  Sometime after the turn of the century, he got himself to New York at long last, where Broadway was no longer an ephemeral dream; it  was a street

For the next 20-25 years (an entire career span for many) he was cast in Broadway shows  --  after they left Broadway.  Touring productions.  Back on the road.  Time and again over these years, he would go back at the end of a tour and hover around Broadway, hoping.  But the money would always run out and he'd have to go back out on the road.

Finally the Gods of The Great White Way, gave him the once over and he was cast in "Torch Song".  The role of Cass Wheeler was 10th down on the cast list, but it was at the 1100 seat Plymouth Theater, ON BROADWAY.  So on the night of August 27, 1930, 48 year old Guy Kibbee walked on to his first Broadway stage and made a noise that went from New York to California and back again.  Seemingly before he could get the grease paint wiped off on opening night, Hollywood started calling.  Kibbee couldn't have been less interested.  He was quickly establishing himself exactly where he had always wanted to be.  Well Hollywood doesn't recognize "no" when it wants something and the calls and offers became ever more insistent.

Kibbee had cause to reconsider when his second New York show, "Marseilles",  closed after sixteen performances.  Why not take a little air trip to California and make a picture, the money was good and it might be fun.  It would be years before he ever used that return ticket.  He came to Hollywood at the beginning of  '31 and hit the ground running.  He did pictures for Paramount, Warners and MGM, and five months later, on May 16, 1931 he signed with Warner Bros.

He couldn't possibly have time to get homesick as Warners wasted no time in getting their moneys' worth out of him.  In just 18 months, (by the end of '32)  Guy had appeared in 20 titles released by the company.  In fact IMDB lists 111 film credits for him the last being in 1948, when he moved, finally, back to New York.  Between '48 and '50 there were numerous television appearances.

But the tremors were already starting to be quite visible and the the acting work stopped.  Parkinson's was the verdict.  By the end of 1953, completely in the grip of his disease, he spent over nine months in a private sanitarium in Rye, NY.

On September 20, 1954, penniless (his only income was Social Security) he arrived at
The Percy Williams Home for Sick and Needy Actors in East Islip NY.  "I've come to the bottom of the barrel", he told the admissions officer.

Now here's what I don't understand:  according to various sites that I researched Guy was wed from 1918 to 1923 to a Helen Shea.  That marriage produced four children.  And from 1925 until his death he was wedded to Esther Reed with whom he had three more children.  Where were these people?  Where was his Hollywood community?  Jack Warner?  The ever-odious Walter Winchell had the callousness to blurb in an Oct. '54 column, "Guy Kibbee is watching the parade go by at a nursing home."

Obviously there is more to the story.  I don't know, maybe he was a horrible man or a drunkard, but it just breaks my heart to think that after bringing so much joy for so many years he would end up this way.

During his stay at the Percy Williams home he was often incoherent and had little interest in the things around him, the exception being when one of his old movies played on TV, he would alertly watch them, laughing and comment that they were "kinda funny."  He passed away on May 24, 1956.

So They Say...

Born On This Date:

"Well, television is what it is. Let's face it. I had done 25 motion pictures prior to The Partridge Family and nobody knew my name."  --  Shirley Jones

 "I'm sick and tired of people saying that we put out 11 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we've put out 12 albums that sound exactly the same."  --  Angus Young, Guitarist, AC-DC 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

So They Say...

Born On This Date:

"All creative people should be required to leave California for three months every year."  --  Gloria Swanson

Died On This Date:

"An actor entering through the door, you've got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you've got a situation."  --  Billy Wilder

Friday, March 26, 2010

Time For A Business Tip - From Harry Cohn

"Let me give you some facts of life. Every Friday, the front door of this studio opens and I spit a movie out onto Gower Street . . . If that door opens and I spit and nothing comes out, it means a lot of people are out of work--drivers, distributors, exhibitors, projectionists, ushers, and a lot of other pricks . . . I want one good picture a year, and I won't let an exhibitor have it unless he takes the bread-and-butter product, the Boston Blackies, the Blondies, the low-budget westerns and the rest of the junk we make."
 Harry Cohn, President, Columbia Pictures Corporation

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Our Club"

Excerpted from Every Week Magazine (Sunday Supplement)- July 21, 1935

By Jeannette Meehan

Back in 1923 a bunch of movie girls were whooping it up.  The occasion was the first meeting of the exclusive "Our Club", whose membership list included (and still does to this day) the outstanding feminine cinema personalities of that time.  The celebration was held at their president's mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

That was 12 years ago.  But it was really 13 years ago that it all started.  The whole thing evolved from one of the oldest friendships in Hollywood - that between Helen Ferguson, then tremendously popular on the screen, and Mildred Davis, leading lady for Harold Lloyd.

About 13 years ago these two girls were present at the Writers Club to rehearse for a play.  During a prolonged interval their conversation turned to friendships.  They decided Hollywood should have a club of "True-blue friends".  They shook hands and - well - that was that - a club it was.


Feeling that such a swank and important organization should have a very auspicious president, they began looking around.  They looked exactly five feet.  A few seats away, just as though fate had placed her there for that particular office, sat Mary Pickford.

The "club" looked at each other and made bobbing motions with their heads.  They rose from their places and approached America's Sweetheart.  Mildred did not know Mary at all.  Helen had met her once.  Nervous but determined, the two crusaders introduced themselves to the screen's greatest star.

They opened their mouths and found their tongues afflicted with that disconcerting condition ordinarily described as "paralyzed".  It was Helen who finally blurted, "Miss-Miss Pickford, we want to know if you will be president of our club?"

"Who is in your club?", inquired Miss Pickford.

The two girls looked guilty.  "Just Mildred and me,"  gulped Helen.

"Well,"  smiled Mary, "I'd be delighted."
(More handshaking)

Four days later, Mildred and Helen and Mary met for luncheon to augment their somewhat scanty membership.  Within six months they had gathered together, under a common name, a group of young women who's friendship has lasted to this day, rather a rare thing in these Hollywood pastures.

All were acquainted with the top of the ladder in the screen world.  They included, Anita Stewart, Carmel Myers, Laura La Plante, Ruth Roland, Virginia Valli, Lila Lee, Zasu Pitts, Leatrice Joy, Gloria Hope, Claire Windsor, Ruth Dwyer, Lillian Rich, Lois Wilson, Carmelita Geraghty, Virginia Fox, Billie Dove, Pauline Garon, Gertrude Olmstead, Clara Horton, May McAvoy, and Edna Murphy.

In those days these were the girls.  They set the social standards for Hollywood's younger set.  They dictated the fashions.  Fan magazines were quoting them on how to avoid, rather than how to acquire a sun-tan.  Fans the world over were copying their manners.
Yes, the girls whooped it up at an awful pace.  Do you know what they served for refreshments at those first parties? -- Eskimo Pies!

Tch, tch, such goings on -- and you haven't heard all or even half of it.  One awful night they held a Hallowe'en party at which they served cider -- but horrors, they had made a mistake and purchased the wrong kind of cider -- a bit on the hard side.  The respective mothers were so scandalized that the girls weren't allowed to hold a meeting for two months.

Now mind you, this was after all these little ladies had been out in the world making their own living and at a time when Hollywood was supposed to be the wickedest city in the world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Cranberry!

Cranberry was William Haines' nickname for his lifelong friend Joan Crawford, and today is Joan's special day.  (I'm goin' with 105)

They can say what they want.  That bitter, money grubbing adopted orphan of  hers can write whatever she wants (I don't care how many anniversary editions she puts out), I ain't buyin' it.  Sure Joan was tough and at times could be prickly, and it's true that in later years she was a tad liquor addled, but over all, she was a swell dame and a damn fine actress.

This is my all time favorite picture of her.  Here I see a young woman who is beautiful, rich, talented and absolutely in love with her experience.

Raise your glasses people, it's Joan Crawfords Birthday!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Little Blond Butterfly

By age 10, she was starring in a Booth Tarkington based series of films.  At only 13 she was handling adult roles.  And 7 months before she turned 16, she was dead.

Lucille Rickson was born in Chicago in 1909.  Nothing is known about her father but she had an older brother Marshall, and a mother named Ingeborg.  Most likely out of family financial need, she became a model and did some film work for the Essenay Studios while still in Chicago.

In 1920, she and Ingeborg headed west to Hollywood at the request of Sam Goldwyn where, over the next two years she performed in the 12 series installments of “The Adventures of Edgar Pomeroy.”

Under the direction of Marshall Neilan she played her first adult character in "The Strangers Banquet", a critical and commercial success.  Another standout was 1923's "Human Wreckage"  the drug prevention drama produced by Dorothy Davenport who had become an anti-drug activist since the death of her husband, movie star, Wallace Reid.

Between '20 and '24 Lucille performed with the biggest stars of the day.  These names included:  Conrad Nagel, Jack Pickford, Louise Fazenda, Laura La Plante, Anna Q. Nilsson, Blanche Sweet, Bessie Love and Billy Haines.  When only 14, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star the same year as Clara Bow.

Then, while filming "The Galloping Fish" with Sidney Chaplin, Lucille became ill.  She managed to get herself through one more film before becoming bedridden.  Ingeborg maintained a day and night vigil at her daughter's bed side.  In a truly melodramatic turn, due to stress, exhaustion and grief, the mother suffered a heart attack and fell dead across her dying child!  Within two weeks Little Lucille succumbed.  Her death was attributed to tuberculosis, but rumor has always said she died of infection from a botched abortion.

Her final film, released shortly after her death, was "The Denial" with William Haines.

The Treasurer's Report

Title made with apologies to Robert Benchley.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the backyard sale went off without a hitch on Saturday!  The weather was sunny with a light breeze and the temperature topped out at 78 degrees.  Perfect.  All four participants were organized, merchandised and helpful to one another.  Music was provided by my Itunes on shuffle.  The shuffle feature never ceases to delight me with it's intelligence and humor.  Example:  at one point we were given, in rapid succession, Maria Callas, Nina Hagen, Lulu and Phoebe Snow!

The surprise guests were appearances were:

*The delicious George of the superior blog 1904-The Year Everything Important Happened
*The one, the only, Donna Lethal
*And the gorgeous Super Nana, daughter of Savannah

As long as I refrain from tallying the hours spent (prep, actual sale and wrap) to come up with an hourly wage, I am satisfied with what I made.  Considering I didn't have any 'big ticket' items, $200 isn't bad.

Besides it was fun, do you hear me, fun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Please Forgive The Interruption

This Saturday a few neighbors and myself are having a large group yard sale.  Until this festive event is over, I will be busy gathering, tidying, sprucing, pricing, tagging and selling.  I wish you could all come, I know I'm selling some fabulous things and I'm told the others are too.

If you are in the Hollywood area and want to come by Sat. the 20th 9am - 3pm, send me an email and I'll give you the address.

Meanwhile have a relaxing weekend everyone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Things That Make You Go HAHAHAHAHA

I know the news has been out for a while, but everytime I think about it, I giggle like a little girl in the throes of glee.

There is to be a biopic made about:

And  she will be played by:

The real life lover of Miss TwinkleFingers, Scott Thorson:

Will be played by:

Could you just die!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Breaking News.

Alright check this out.  Here is the publication (notice the date)

And here is the blurb.  (And it's explained more clearly than I've ever heard it.)

Click on article to enlarge

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum Of Goodwill - 3rd in a series

About a dozen years ago, I was browsing through a thrift shop that no longer exists.  It had high 16ft. ceilings that were hung with pictures in rows that went all the up to the top.  My attentions were squarely on a rack of shirts that I was rifling through when I glance over and up.  Oh that's kinda cool, I thought looking at a piece waaay high up on the wall.  Kinda looks like a Calder.  Standing under it I looked up and, sure enough it was a Calder.  Then I saw that the signature was in pencil, as in hand signed!

"Um, excuse me, could I see that one please?", I said as casually as I could.  "Yeah, sure," the store attendant grumbled as he grabbed his ladder and started what felt like a 20 minute shuffle across the store.

He hoisted it down and, once it was in my hands, I really started to shake.  I really did love it, and sure enough in the lower right hand corner "Calder" in pencil!  In the lower left corner, "E.A."   E.A. and A.P. are interchangeable terms for 'artist proof''; a much smaller (usually 20) edition of prints intended for the artist's personal use.

"How much for this?" I asked with total disinterest."  "20", he said from his perch atop the ladder.  "20?!", my shocked indignation was perfectly metered.  "Ok, I'll do 19."  I was starting to worry that he would be able to see my quivering over the thought of getting a signed Calder for $19, but strange things happen to one once the haggling begins and I just couldn't resist a final,  "Ok, but 19 flat; no tax."  (the cheek!)  Before he could fully consider the suggestion, let alone descend the ladder, I had peeled off 19 bucks, left it on a shelf next to a broken rubiks cube that sat on top of a copy of  "Call Me Anna".  I then sprinted back to my car.

It hangs over the fireplace.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Pleasant Valley Monday!

About noon yesterday, my darling pal Charlie and I took off to wander the wilds of the San Fernando Valley!

One of the  things I love about the Valley is that, unlike LA proper, there are large pockets that are frozen in their respective time periods.  And you can see streets that still look like they did in the 40s, or the 50s, or the 60s, etc. 
So, me being me, and Charlie obliging, we first wandered through a couple of thrift shops, you know, just to work up an appetite.  The first one offered up no gifts.  The second wasn't much more generous, BUT-- I did manage to find this cunning little device called a 'Nab-A-Nap'! Unused and in it's original box.  It will be going in the Etsy shop:

I've also been needing a basic cheap wall clock for the kitchen and happened on this:

By now, we were good and hungry and so it was off to:
Imagine my delight when Charlie announced that since I was kind enough to do all the driving, he was buying lunch!  Said lunch was a pork barbecue sandwich with both macaroni salad and potato salad (I felt my starch count was a little low) and a refreshing Arnold Palmer to wash it down with.

The next stop was the highlight of the day. (Cool Cookie, MJ, TJB and Kabuki Zero are gonna plotz!) We paid a visit to "Daddy Caddy":
Between the lot and the showroom, Frank has so many of 'em jammed in there that's why these pictures are all in closeup; there's no room to get a complete car in the frame!

After this ocular orgasm, we were so wiped out it was time to head home.  And we were attempting to do so when suddenly I saw a sign and screeched to a halt.  I grabbed my biggest recycled shopping bag from the back seat intending to do some serious consuming, but it was a case of false advertising:

They sell motorcycle parts! No johnsons and no wood!  Somebody oughta call the Better Business Bureau.

Back on our side of the hill, we had one last thing to attend to:
This gave a wonderful day a very happy ending.

The Chic Of Sheik.

Italian immigrant Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi hit town in the late teens with anything but a bang. But by 1921 the world fell under the Rudolph Valentino spell with his starring appearance in "The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse". That same year he was elevated to the class of Living Immortal in "The Sheik".

In the history of the cinematic arts it's hard to come up with another marriage of actor and role that was such an utter game changer. Suddenly, Sheik was chic. And it was every where:

Sexy young men were now called 'Sheiks' their girlfriends were 'Shebas'.

Those smart young men carried and used the protection of Sheik Condoms.

The hit song of the day was "The Sheik Of Araby" my favorite version of which (below) is by The Beatles!

And to this day even teenagers here know about Valentino and "The Sheik", at least if they go to Hollywood High!

It's time we end this examination with a little gratuitous yum-yum: