Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Friday, April 30, 2010

Before There Was Dunaway...

...there was Provine!

Dorothy Provine  January 20, 1935 – April 25, 2010,  RIP

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From The Schenectady Gazette

Thursday, June 10, 1971

Palmist Makes Hit At Zsa Zsa's Party
by Vernon Scott
Hollywood (UPI) - Zsa Zsa Gabor gave a small party the other night which was different from most such intimate dinners in that a motion picture wasn't shown after dessert and brandy.

Zsa Zsa does live in Bel Air.  And the Bel Air circuit is that group of home projection rooms where Hollywood's elite see movies before critics, sneak previews or general release.  Oftentimes guests doze off during the screening.  Just as often the guests have seen one another at several parties during the same week.
The trick of the successful hostess is no longer assembling a guest list, or finding a film to keep people awake.  Conversation won't do it, because how many times can Anthony Quinn, Kirk Douglas, Steve Allen, Johnathan Winters, Jack Carter et al exchange amenities?  Parlor games and card tricks are out.  Orgies were never really in.  Viands, comestibles and potables vary only so much - though Zsa Zsa's hungarian dishes rate four stars.  Most Hollywoodians are on diets anyway.

The answer is the occult, the psychic and astrology.  Show folk are notoriously superstitious and dote on mystics, gurus, seers, fortune tellers and others of the ilk.  "Dollink," Zsa Zsa told her guests, "you must meet Sidney.  He is the best palm reader in the world."   The term "palm reader" was electrifying.  Had Zsa Zsa announced she was screening "The Last Supper" with the original cast her guests could not have reacted more favorably.  The party was an immediate success.  Palm reader Sidney Rushakoff, who claims to be part gypsy, is either one of  the most amazing palm readers or psychics in the western hemisphere or a walking research computer.  He recounted long forgotten personal secrets and facts about the guests.  He told them what vitamins they should take and what the future boded.

"He's very accurate,"  Zsa Zsa assured everyone.   Rushakoff said he received electric vibrations from Tony Quinn's powerful hands.  The big actor appeared skeptical but listened intently to the palm readers predictions. 

On of the ladies blushed at something Rushakoff noted and quickly assured him it would remain their little secret.  Doubters became believers and Zsa Zsa's party was a rousing success.  Only one thing, Zsa Zsa should have had her palm read before her guests arrived.  Perhaps Rushakoff could have warned her that the buffet table supporting the goulash would collapse, necessitating a delay while a new batch of the Hungarian specialty was prepared.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Help, Police! That Girl Just Stole My Picture!

Just about my favorite silent film is 1929's "Piccadilly".  If you've never seen it, make a point of getting your hands on a copy.  It's atmospheric, shimmering, and simmering.  If you have seen it, I have no doubt that you haven't forgotten it.  It stars Anna May Wong -- see, I just did it, and I'm not the only one.  Here's the dvd box cover:

The fact of the matter is that Anna May Wong is not the star of this film.  She's third billed.  The first billed star is Gilda Gray.

Gilda Gray was the famous "Shimmy Dance Girl" and the star of vaudeville, The Ziegfeld Follies and film hits like "Aloma Of The South Seas".  But 1929 was not a good year for her.  For one thing, the stock market crash pretty much wiped her out and then Wong as 'Shosho' walked into and off with "Piccadilly".  Gray is not bad but on the whole, she's just pretty much standard silent film fare.

Filmed in London the movie also features the very first film appearance of Charles Laughton.  His screen time is short but he wrings every drop out of it as a disgruntled restaurant customer. 

 There is also an absolutely mesmerizing performance (in the first of only two films he ever made) by King Hou Chang as 'Jim', Shosho's brother(?)/lover(?)/friend(?). 

As mysterious as the role Jim plays in Shosho's life, is the story of Chang himself.  Who was he?  Why did he only do two pictures?  Where did he go?  Research turns up nothing on him!

I digress.  The point is, the movie is terrific, and it's terrific for three reasons:  The directing, The cinematography (both of which leave one feeling alternately, hypnotized, woozy, and aroused!) and Anna May Wong.

Now, before we leave Ms. Wong, couple more things.

I suppose I'm like, the last one to know this but while in London, she began an affair with songwriter Eric Maschwitz, who followed her back to Hollywood where she ended things.  The poor heartsick Maschwitz, wrote one of my all time favorite songs for her:

And, finally, is this a picture, or what!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Mind Is Blank Today

Meanwhile, please enjoy this short film of the original Warner Bros. lot accompanied by the golden tones of Miss Sophie Tucker:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So They Say...

Died On This Day:

"Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too."  --  Richard Nixon, Former US President

"It is fast approaching the point where I don't want to elect anyone stupid enough to want the job."  --  Erma Bombeck, US Humorist

"My grandmother wanted to live long enough to vote for a woman president. I'll be satisfied if I live to see a woman go before the Supreme Court and hear the justices acknowledge, 'Gentlemen, she's human. She deserves the protection of our laws.'"  --  Martha Wright Griffiths, US Congress

"The ultimate indignity is to be given a bedpan by a stranger who calls you by your first name."  --  Maggie Kuhn, Founder, Gray Panthers

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hollywood, Small Incestuous Town

This Man:

John Ireland

And This Man:

Tommy Noonan

Were Half Brothers!

This Man:

Peter Marshall

And This Woman:

Joanne Dru

Were Brother And Sister!


Tommy Noonan and Peter Marshall were a comedy team in the late 40s to mid 50s:

Noonan & Marshall

John Ireland and Joanne Dru were Husband & Wife from '49 to '57.

Mr. and Mrs. John Ireland

Confused yet?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum of Goodwill - 4th in a series.

Found in a thrift shop in North Hollywood (that no longer exists) about ten years ago:

It's a wood block print of two boys with a yo-yo.  I love the suggestion of one set of angel's wings surrounding them.  It's signed: Charlotte Weston and A/Proof.  Can't find out anything about her but the piece makes me very happy.  Hangs in the dining room.
Paid $10.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Great Loves in History

The year was 1954, THE GIRL was only 21 but already her marriage was in shambles.  How had it all happened so fast?  Was it really only two years ago that she had left home in Ashland, Ky and moved to Chicago.  She felt hopeless and definitely outnumbered.  She, her husband and their new baby lived in rooms at a swanky highrise hotel, but the hotel was managed by his parents who lived two flights up.  It was at least 3 against 1; her infant hadn't chosen sides yet.  Her husband was a traveling marketing rep whose territory was the Eastern US and Puerto Rico.  So no suspicions were raised when he offered to put the baby in his parents care and take her on a 'second honeymoon' trip to San Juan to 'patch things up'. 

Barely off the plane, he told her the truth and the truth was this:  She could stay in Puerto Rico, go back to Chicago or go home to Ashland for all he cared, the marriage was over.  He didn't love her, had never stopped sleeping with other girls,  and had she not gotten pregnant, would have never married her in the first place.  What's more, his parents felt that she was too young to raise a child on her own, so they would be keeping the baby!  The panic that shot through her had flipped some kind of a switch.  She appeared so calm on the outside and she couldn't believe the things that came into her head and tumbled out of her mouth.  Things like not needing to be rash, he could have as many girls as he wanted, she might have a few men too, this could all be worked out and the baby could still have a mother and a father.  "Now let's take the restrictions off, partner up and have some fun with these two weeks down here."

It was as if some older, wiser version of herself, who knew exactly how to play this, had taken over.  This 'other self'' would do and say anything to get her baby back no matter how long it took. (and it took months)  He bit the hook just like she knew he would and suggested that they go to this great nightclub run by a guy he new that night.

Meanwhile, on the other side of San Juan....

THE GUY, 38, was in the death throes of his second bad marriage.  The wife was sleeping with everything on the island but him.  But to the outside world, he was a charming guy who had the incredibly sexy job of running the hottest nightclub in town.

So that night in the club, moments before excusing himself to the table of a bleached blond Puerto Rican girl, the husband introduced THE GIRL to THE GUY.  Their chemistry was combustible and they began an affair that night!  The next couple of weeks was a whirlwind.  The husband was making his way through the island, one broad at a time.  THE GIRL and THE GUY were doing the Adam and Eve bit, with abandon.  Somewhere in there THE GUY took her to a lawyer friend to discuss the issue of Chicago.  The news was not good.  The lawyer said that if the husband and his parents were in cahoots, they could make up whatever stories they wanted about her and it would be the word of 3 against 1.  Her best bet, he said, was to go back, somehow get in the good graces of the mother-in-law, take the baby out for a walk one day, and keep walking.

When the 'San Juan Affair' concluded, the husband went back to Chicago and THE GIRL flew to Columbus, OH and moved in to a bedroom in the home of a brother and sister-in-law to mobilize the next step.  A couple of months later, in an operation that was part CIA covert operation and part Keystone Cops, THE GIRL accompanied by three of her brothers hopped in the car at four in the morning and drove to Chicago.  With one brother in the getaway car (engine running)  another posted at the elevator as a lookout (having tipped the elevator boy to hold it) THE GIRL and her third brother burst into the in-laws apartment, took the baby and made a run for it!  In a move that, to this day remains a mystery, neither the husband or his parents ever lifted a finger to try and get the baby back.

Back in Columbus, THE GIRL surrendered to the inevitable, got a job as a waitress behind the lunch counter at a five and dime, and readied herself for a life as a single mother, dependent on the kindness of her brother and sister-in-law for shelter and help raising the baby.  The affair with THE GUY was madcap and wonderful, but she knew she'd never see him again.  Until....

Three months later he called her, he was in New York, he had left his wife and he wanted to come to her!  He went to Columbus where they moved, the three of them, into a little apartment of their own.  Because it took time for their respective divorces to be finalized, they lived in sin for their first two years together.  

In addition to everything else they had in common, they discovered that, although there was a 17 year age difference between them, they had both been born on April 18th.  When they were finally legally free, they chose to be married on her 23rd and his 40th birthdays;  April 18, 1956.

THE GIRL was Dee:

THE GUY was Phil:

and they are my parents.  I came along 3 years later.
They remained married for the rest of their lives.

Living and loving in sin, Columbus Ohio.  1955


Friday, April 16, 2010

So They Say...

Born On This Day...

"I am one of those people who just can't help getting a kick out of life—even when it's a kick in the teeth." - Polly Adler, US Madam

 "Two members of the acting profession who are not needed by that profession, Mr. Ronald Regan and Mr. George Murphy, entered politics, and they've done extremely well. Since there has been no reciprocal tendency in the other direction, it suggests to me that an actor's job is still more difficult than their new ones." - Peter Ustinov

 "I wouldn't know how to handle serenity if somebody handed it to me on a plate." - Dusty Springfield

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Wizardry Of Roz

I am currently reading "Life Is A Banquet" the autobiography of Rosalind Russell (co-authored with Chris Chase).

It's a way fun ride and her writing is very direct and conversational.  And there is, of course, that wonderful Russell wit.  Chaper seven is titled, "The Night I Slept With John Wayne".  It then says, "All right, I never slept with John Wayne, but people expect a Hollywood chapter to be filled with sex and big names.  Now that that's out of the way, ....." 

The anectodes are plentiful with lots of insight into how she worked, crafting the many performances I've loved since I was a kid.  One of my favorites is the following:

After Take A Letter Darling, I went to Columbia for My Sister EileenJanet Blair, the girl who was cast as Eileen, started out trying to upstage me.  She was new and nervous, the same way I'd been when I started, so I invited her into my dressing room and delivered a short speech about the inadvisability of the course she'd embarked on.

"Look," I said, "you're not going to steal the picture from me because I've got the better part, the sympathy comes to me.  And you're not going to get anyplace with what you're doing.  I know all those old tricks.  When you upstage me, all I do is turn my back on the camera, and then they have to come around on me full-face for my close-up."

I said I'd teach her these things if she wanted to learn them.  "When I pass out on the floor, you be the first to hold my head, to say, 'Oh Ruth.'  Don't stand back, or the audience is going to hate you for being mean to me."

She gaped.  "How wonderful you are to do this!"

"I'm not doing this because I like you," I said.  "I don't know anything about you.  I'm doing it to get a good picture."

"It's just I was terrified," she said, "and I was warned you'd garb every scene-"

"That's right," I said.  "I'm here to steal those scenes as fast as I can, but I love anybody that's trying with me, and I'll lose some.  It's very hard to steal a scene from Cary Grant.  I mean I've worked like a dog to stay ahead of him, or alongside of him, or in his shadow.  So fight me for it, but don't ruin your character because of it. ....  We've got to be sisters.  Eileen is so selfish that the audience won't like her if she's not adorable."

Some dame, huh?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

There's A Brand New Baby At Our House

You've heard me wax poetic about my dear friend and neighbor Charlie.  Well, he's joined the gang by starting a blog called Hollywood High Dropout.  He will doubtless be regaling us with stories about his madcap upbringing here in the land of show.  Stop by and visit, give love and cheer him on!

Dear Charlie also arranged a new addition to my home:

A 1957 O'Keefe & Merritt double oven gas range!  Is she a beauty or what?  I think she needs a name.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another Lethal Night With Jayne

Once again the beautiful and glamorous Donna Lethal opened up the Lethal House to a happy band of misfits hungry for pizza and monstrous movie malfeasance.  I am happy to report that all and sundry were more than satisfied -- on both counts.

The feature was called, "Dog Eat Dog" starring Jayne Mansfield and Cameron Mitchell.

What, really can one say about a nymphomaniacal, jiggling, over-ripe sex bomb(ed) with dead-Barbie hair whose favorite term for exclamation is "Crackers!"?  As in, "Crackers, you're cute!" or "Well crackers, what'd you expect?"  The word is, in fact, so overused that it has, no doubt, instigated it's own drinking game on certain lower renown campuses.

There's really no point in going into the plot as this would only dignify a falsehood that there was one.  You really only need to know that:  a.)  There were 3 listed (and apparently a forth uncredited) directors.  b.) Cameron Mitchell has a few extended scenes in which he destroys the contents of entire furnished rooms as though his very life depended on it.  c.)  With so many directors, continuity isn't, well, continuous.  Scratches, bruises and black eyes appear, disappear and reappear with regularity.  d.)  There is a very lovely girl fight between Jayne's character, Darlene, and one of the other actresses.  and e.) It's so wonderfully bad that serious discussion was entered into last night on the subject of doing a staged reading of it.  (Let me be clear that I will take no part in this unless I'm awarded the role of Madame Benoit.)

What more do you need to know before ordering your own copy.

Alright I'll treat you with one of the more unforgettable bits of dialog.

Darlene (to boyfried, he of the maniacal laugh):  Right now, I'd settle for a fresh lipstick and a new pair of panties in Teaneck, New Jersey!"  (crackers!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rest In Peace

Malcolm McLaren has passed, at age 64.

Put The Blame On Jean Louis

This painting was the inspiration...

Madame X - by John Singer Sargent

...for what eventually became this dress:

Rita Hayworth is Gilda

The magical alchemy that combined actress, costume choreography and music, resulted in what many people refer to as the 'strip number' in the movie "Gilda".  What came off while Hayworth sang "Put The Blame On Mame"?  Exactly, and only, one glove.  When the song is over, the other glove and a necklace get removed and that's it!

The real question is:  with her singing and dancing and undulating, often with her arms stretched out or over her head, how the hell did a satin strapless dress stay on?!?

Well, let it's designer tell you:

"It was the most famous dress I ever made," said Louis. "Everybody wonders how that dress can stay on her while she sings and dances . . . well, inside there was a harness like you put on a horse. We put grosgrain under the bust with darts and three stays, one in the center, two on the sides. Then we molded plastic softened over a gas flame and shaped around the top of the dress. No matter how she moved, the dress did not fall down." – Jean Louis on the Gilda dress

Jean Louis

There never was a girl like Gilda.