Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mystery Guest, Will You Enter And Sign In Please!

Yet another installation for my gallery of feeble attempts at trying to stump you lot, who are truly unstumpable! (it's a word, look it up.  well, maybe not)

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS GAME PLEASE READ.  If you've seen this picture before, or know for sure who this is, feel free to send me an email, but for the sake of unbridled mystery and tension, let the gang have a go at it in the comments section.

I can't imaging why the sour look on this little beauty's face, with a carriage like that I'd have been completely delighted.  But I digress.  Who is this lil punkin?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Never Let The Competition Out Of Your Sight!

Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple and Judy Garland

Jane Withers and Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin

That's our Shirley's motto.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I woke up late this morning and got the shocking but not surprising news that Elizabeth Taylor was dead.  I immediately went around to all my blog buddies to see what was posted; read the reactions.  Many beautiful, sad, funny things were said, and the general consensus seems to be that she will be greatly missed. I was not inclined to do my own post at first, but it turns out there is something that I would like to say.

I will not miss Elizabeth Taylor.  Put down that dvd of "X, Y and Zee" that you've got aimed at my head for a second and let me explain.  When someone that I've known, publicly or personally,  has died I get the feeling that I will miss them generally when their potential was clipped.  When there was more that they could have expressed. But Miss Taylor lived a blockbuster, Cinemascopic, Stereophonic, balls-out, no-stone-unturned, great big fat (sometimes literally) life.

Unlike most celebrities of her era, she never went through an "item in the columns" period.  From her pre-pubescence she was headlines all the way.  She has run the gamut of appearing in lousy pictures to great ones.  She has given everything from walk through performances to shuddering, shattering clinics in the art of motion picture acting.  She somehow managed, at various times, to become the toast of Hollywood, New York, Washington DC, London and Paris.  She's been the Queen of the Nile for chrissakes!

Many years ago she became legendary for her selfishness and for her compulsive acquisition of enough fine jewelery to open a very well appointed shop.  With a stockroom in back.  In more recent years she became just as legendary for her giving, both of time and money. 

Also headlined, of course, were the zany hijinks and madcap merriment of her romantic life.  She was a gal who believed in the 'now' of love.  She understood that there is nothing remotely logical about love and to try to bring logic and appropriateness to it was a futile exercise, and she lived accordingly.

It's also important for me to remember:  She Wasn't Like The Rest Of Us.  I'll never forget a piece of a Vanity Fair article on her many years ago.  It was sometime after the forming of AMFAR.  She was probably in her early sixties at this point. She was to attend a meeting with the Board of Directors of her Foundation that was being held at the downtown Bank of America building.  Afterwords, some of them were going someplace locally for lunch.  Her driver deposited her at the elevators in the parking garage and up she went to the penthouse boardroom.  After the meeting, it was decided that since the restaurant was a few doors away, they would walk to it.  This meant leaving the building by going through the bank lobby.  All these 'suits' and Elizabeth were walking through the bank when suddenly the guys became aware that she was not in their group any more.  They looked back and there she was, standing alone in the middle of the enormous bank, a look of wonder on her face.  They rushed back to her and asked if everything was alright.  More to herself then to them she muttered, "So this is what a bank looks like"!

In more recent years, she quieted down.  No more movie product - headlines few and far between.  She became a maternal homebody in the very same house that she had lived in for many of the spectacle years.  The house that has seen it all.  I find myself thankful that she got to add quietness and mundane to her repertoire of experiences.

In the end, if there's one line of dialog from her career to sums her up it would be from 'V-Woolf':  "I am the Earth Mother".  The earth is a vast and beautiful and horrifying and kind thing.  I will remember Elizabeth Taylor.  I will celebrate her.  But I will not miss her.  She did everything she came here to do.  She was complete.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gordon's (Gin) Logic

Sheila and Gordon MacRae

"My marriage to Sheila began to end when she wouldn't accommodate my drinking and began concentrating on her own career.  I think the wife I should have had would be a stay-at-home alcoholic.  Someone like Dixie Lee, who was married to Bing Crosby. I'd have been kinder to her than Crosby was, and she'd have been more sympathetic to me." 
- Gordon MacRae

Bing and Dixie Lee Crosby

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ford Has A Judy Idea.

The 1950s was truly the Golden Age of anthology television.  In 1955, the Ford Motor group entered the fray, teaming with CBS to produce the Ford Star Jubilee.  The timing of September 1955 was an ideal time to promote the new line of 1956 Fords.

The Tiffany Network and Family Of Fine Cars produced top drawer monthly entertainment.  Running 90 minutes in length, each program was presented in color and boasted a constellation of stars that included:  Bing Crosby, Orson Welles, Betty Grable, Julie Andrews, Noel Coward, Lauren Bacall, Claudette Colbert and Jack Lemmon.  Over the course of it's run, it was nominated for 8 Emmy Awards and won 3.

For it's inauguration, the show cooked up The Judy Garland Show.  This was a sure-win tie in with Capitol records, who, the day after the broadcast was releasing the album "Miss Show Business".

For her part, Garland had never appeared on television to this point and was, understandably a nervous wreck, even developing laryngitis the day before the show.  I'm pretty certain that her nervous condition was partially assuaged by the $100,000 (826k in today's money) she was receiving for the show.  The salary figure was a closely kept statistic as all the networks were afraid that other top performers would start demanding the same.  Another safeguard was that husband Sid Luft was producing a concert formatted show that was basically a condensed rehash of her record breaking Palace engagement.  And let's face it, our girl could always put over a number while darning socks! 

She probably didn't even the wire of encouragement from Bogie and Betty but, my, wasn't it nice.  The result:  she delivered.  Big time.  So did the viewing audience.  The program broke existing ratings records for a televised special. 

Photos found here

The album didn't do so bad either, staying in the Billboard top 40 for seven weeks and peaking at #5.

Now, to prove my theory that Everything Goes Back To Judy, for it's 12th and final, episode the Ford Star Jubilee abandoned it's live format to instead air the "The Wizard Of Oz".  This was a couple of firsts:  The first time that picture was ever broadcast on television.  And the first time CBS had ever broadcast any feature motion picture.

Of course what resonates the most for me is that by airing the movie, CBS set the table for what became (for kids of my generation) an annual household event.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Let's All Give Another Warm FIH Hand....

....To Miss Shirley Claire!

After her stint at MGM, Shirley finished her High Schooling at Hamilton High.  

Hamilton has it's own Hollywood past, posing as the school in many productions including Room 222 and Beverly Hills 90210.  After graduation, Shirley ran into a former classmate who was now working at the Earl Carroll Theater in Hollywood.  It was he who set up an audition for her.  She was told she had the job contingent on her losing 10 lbs.......

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

After All, You Were Warned....

You may recall two or three weeks back, I introduced you to my friend Shirley Claire.  I finished that post by saying that you haven't heard the last of Shirley.  Well I finally got around to enlisting the help of a friend (thanks T!) to start assembling some clips from our chat.

In this first one, Shirley talks about her time as an MGM stock contractee.  She was in her early teens at the time, the US had just entered WWII.  Historically speaking it gives us a fresh alternative to the usual "I was put under contract - and became a star" scenario.  Shirley never got to make one movie!  How many hundreds (thousands?) of hopefuls had this story?  Of course, Shirley being Shirley, is not bitter and has nothing but fond memories of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the magnificent Shirley Claire!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Captain DeMille's Army

The Vine Street Corps
The Lasky Home Guard was formed in Hollywood in 1917 during America's involvement in WWI.  It was made up of Famous Players-Lasky studio employees. Heading up this "regiment" was none other than Cecil B. De Mille, who was appointed their "Captain." His brother, William, and movie idol Wallace Reid were also in the Lasky Guard.  Reid held the office of "Color Sergeant".  On Wednesday evenings DeMille would drill the troops, marching in formation on the street outside the studio gate, wearing uniforms from the Costume Department and carrying rifles from the Prop Shop.

In 1918, the governor of California reviewed the Lasky Guard and Mary Pickford had the opportunity to present them with their colors, a silk flag with hand-embroidered stars that she had had made herself.

It's reassuring to know that if the Kaiser's ground troops had ever stormed Vine Street, more than likely, they would have been defeated.  Or perhaps put under contract.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Somebody, Hold My Earrings!

Marilyn Monroe as Peggy Martin whoopin' some mess outta Marjorie Hoshelle as Bubbles LaRue in the 1948 Columbia offering "Ladies Of The Chorus".  It was her only picture for the studio and the option on her contract was dropped after 6 months.  Withing a couple of years Columbia Prexy Harry Cohn was kicking himself.  Forever after Monroe would be, for him, the one that got away.  And that's how we got Kim Novak.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Reviews Are In....

....And It Looks Like I'm A Hit!!!

Below are some of the reviews I've received on the tour.  They're culled from Yelp, the Goldstar Ticket Service, and emails sent to me directly.  Oh my god, I couldn't do better if I'd written them my self.

"My Family has been is the "biz" for a long time. we all love old hollywood and thought we knew so much information about how hollywood started but after taking the Felix  Hollywood Tour we realized we know only a little! The stories about how this town began are so riveting and exciting I felt like I was back in the 30's at one point!!! I have recommended this tour to all my friends. It's a lot of fun!!!"
-David Deluise
Actor, Director

"We went on this tour last weekend and had a real blast. It's a great mix of old Hollywood trivia and locations with connections to the current. You'll have a small group, so it's VERY easy to interact and ask questions. It was such a good time I'm recommending it to friends and thinking about doing the tour a second time!"
-Helen Simmins-McMillin

"NewsFlash: In Hollywood? Going there? TAKE THIS TOUR/sidestep the traps. My friend Philip will show you the real deal."
-John Wesely Shipp

"We see the buildings, new and old, the cracked sidewalks with the names of long-ago stars beneath our feet.
What lies unseen and unheard are the stories that happened in old Hollywood. That mute testimony comes to life in Philip Mershon's engaging, well-researched 90 minute walking tour of the heart of old Hollywood. He takes us from the very beginnings of Tinseltown, through its heyday in the 30's to 50's, and to its modern incarnations of skyscrapers juxtaposed with the less-than-glamorous. Highly recommended, especially for locals who want to learn some history beyond the Gray Line tours."
Los Alamitos, CA

"What a great experience! As a Native Angeleno who grew up in Hollywood I remember many of the places on the tour. What I did not know was the history behind the buildings, and the people who created "the industry." Phillip provided a real master class that was informative, interesting and (like its topic), entertaining. Great for residents and tourists alike."

"The best tour of Hollywood I've ever had!"
-Carol Arthur Deluise
Actress and wife of the late, great Dom Deluise

"Driving in this area will never be the same.  I'll now be thinking about the rich history and fascinating stories that made Hollywood the entertainment capitol of the world."
-Travis Quentin Young
Actor, Los Angeles

"This tour was great! The pace was relaxed, and Philip is very knowlegable about true Hollywood history. I learned a lot about the history of the entertainment industry, and had fun doing it!"
-Jym 'Wizard' DeNatale
Retired Stuntman

"Having attended Hollywood High school and after living and working in film and tv for the last 20 years, I thought I knew all the histories of my town.  I was wrong. Philip's tour is exciting and informative.  The route is rich with stories and Philip is the right guy to tell them.  I will never look at my home town the same again!"
-Charlie Nicholson 
Set  Decorator

As you can imagine, I'm a little bit over the moon these days and wish to thank you guys for seeing me through from the very beginning.
Happy Daylight Savings everybody. 
Ooops, almost forgot - we need a picture!  How 'bout this:

Between takes on "The Yank At Oxford" Robert Taylor is all wet.  Yes he is!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Mystery Gets Revealed!

You know, something in me said, "Don't include the torso picture."

But I didn't listen to myself, which is odd since I always talk to myself.  In any case that was my undoing.  I should have known that there was a pectoral expert among you.

Sure enough, less than 2 hours after the post hit, Jon of Dolores Delargo Towers and Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle guessed correctly when he said:

Just as correct, but a tad bit later were George W and our own Norma Desmond.

So for being the first to guess correctly, Jon is today's Smartest Boy In The Class.

If you recall Columbia's assessment of Wilde's screen test, "Good for occasional bits and spot casting - but he'll never play leads."  Well it was that very studio that signed him and in return, he brought them a nomination for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category, by enacting the role of Frederic Chopin in 1945's "A Night To Remember."

And the crowd went wild(e)!

Despite Paramount's concerns, he was quite a sensation in Technicolor, and regardless of RKO's worry about his head being too small for his body; with that body who noticed!

With wife Jean Wallace

Greatest Show On Earth, 1952

Bandit Of Sherwood Forest, 1946


Friday, March 11, 2011

Me Want. BAD!!!

I read on Ask The Cool Cookie's blog that Debbie Reynolds will begin auctioning off her store load of Hollywood memorabilia and costumes.  On the one hand this make me sad.  On the other hand, she's got some fabulous shit up for auction!

Of course I saw the item of my dreams.  It would be this:

Doesn't look like much on the hangar, I know.  But it just happens to be the Matador suit of lights that Rudolph Valentino wore in "Blood And Sand"!!! 

The site of the studio lot where this was filmed is on my tour route.  It only seems right that I should own it, right?

So if you happen to enjoy this blog, and you happen to be very well off.........

The auction is in June.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Now Who Do You Suppose They're Talking About?

Now I'll admit before going any further, this Mystery Guest isn't a name that comes marching to the front of the line in most people's minds, but....

He was a very successful actor, producer and director for over 50 years.

He was an Academy Award nominee in the Best Actor category.

His leading ladies have included:  Lauren Bacall, Ginger Rogers, Merle Oberon, Gene Tierney, Ida Lupino, Evelyn Keyes, Donna Reed, Debra Paget, Jane Russell, Maureen O'Hara and Linda Darnell.

He's been directed by some of the greats including:  Nicholas Ray, Otto Preminger, Charles Vidor, and C B DeMille.

Oh, and he was well built.

When he came to Hollywood he was under contract to a studio, after a few small parts that were all over the board (they didn't seem to know what to do with him) he talked them into ending the contract.  He then went all over down testing at every other company and here's what they said:

MGM - "Might be okay for heavies."

Columbia - "Good for occasional bits and spot casting - but he'll never play leads."

Universal - "Nice looking, but too much personality" (okay, what does that even mean?)

RKO - "His head is too small for his body" (his reply was that given some good roles, he was certain his head would swell to a size that would please them)

Paramount - "He's too dark for Technicolor."

He did have one supporter in the form of Hedda Hopper who wrote that he was the best actor to hit town since Paul Muni.

Hurry up and guess before Jane tells Bob!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Those Fabulous Stars Of Black And White - In Color! Pt. 2

Olivia de Havilland hammers out a plan with a sticky wicket.
Rita Hayworth - Red Hair purple flowers.

Maybe in deference to Rita, Lucille Ball's Technicolor Red turns Brunette!

James Stewart - looks like a 'Stewart for Congress' photo.

Little Miss Alice Faye.

A thrilling and spectacular Dorothy Dandridge.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alice White


and FANCY!

I always thought that Alice White could have been the progeny if Clara Bow and Joan Blondell had a child, with maybe a little Marion Davies as a corespondent.
If you'd like to know more about Alice's sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet story, there's a nice little tribute site here 

I did manage to find one other insane fabulous picture of her, but that one is strictly for The Hair Hall Of Fame.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy Sweet Sequestered Days

Looking at this picture of the great Jerome Kern and the irresistible Jean Harlow on the set of "Reckless", my first thought is of the Kern standard "Yesterdays".  It's words seem a perfect fit for "The Baby" in this, her centenary year.

These are the wistful Otto Harbach lyrics:

Days I knew as happy sweet
Sequestered days
Olden days
Golden days
Days of mad romance and love
Then gay youth was mine
And truth was mine
Joyous free and flaming life
Forsooth was mine
Sad am I
Glad am I
For today I'm dreaming of
Of yesterdays

The only version of this song for me is by Billie Holiday.  Lady Day herself called this her favorite song.  Enjoy

Yesterdays - Billie Holiday by felixinhollywood

Friday, March 4, 2011

Drop Whatever You're Reading!

As I believe I've mentioned before, when one lives in Hollywood, one tends to make friends and acquaintances with all matter of actors, singers, dancers, writers, directors and the like.  While this certainly lends color to ones circle, there can be a downside as well.

How often have I received an invitation to a screening (or play, or concert or reading) only to be so horrified by what is occurring before me that I miss the last half of it, preoccupied by the thought, 'what do I say when they ask me...'.

Then there is that time of sweet reward when watching (or listening or reading) I'm so dazzled by the product, and the talent behind it, that I can't wait to gush.  Openly.

I have been friends for a number of years with a gentleman (and I do not use the term loosely for he is a real gentleman) by the name of George Snyder.  Perhaps you've come across him too.  He's the author of the blog, "1904: The Year Everything Important Happened".  It's on my blog roll.  I just finished reading George's new book, "On Wings Of Affection" and I'm ready to let the unfettered gushing begin!!!

Wicked, fast and fun are the first words that come to mind.  The world that George creates and populates feels a bit like "Tales Of The City" for the over caffeinated - over stimulated - information super highway speed of post millennium West Hollywood.

Here we follow the adventures of our hero Sam.  Sam is a swirling mass of unfocused brilliance, wit, style, and believe it or not, extreme kindness - often to his own detriment.  While Sam craves a life of order, gentility, manners and another Chinese Chippendale side table, he seems to be an utter magnet for chaos, high maintenance types and drama.  With Sam we meet Didier, a ravishing, sexually irresistible, open-hearted nymph wrapped inside a free spirit and a French accent.  Didier makes friends with men and women alike quite easily.  Some pay him, some keep him for a while (in villas, on yachts), some worship him, all would do just about anything for him.  Then there is Pam (well, Agnes really, but we'll call her Pam) who becomes Sam's charge, in a paid arrangement with her Mother.  Pam is an maddening and adorable 16 year old debutante.  Much too wise and worldly for her years she is also imbued with the occasional 'psychic hit'.   

Needless to say, all manner of hilarity, murder, hijinks, destruction and devastation ensue.  The background personnel is a certain subset of a certain subset of society who have power-played, power-fucked, overdosed and tweeted themselves nearly to death.

I really had a blast with this book, it was one of those that I began to portion out the latter chapters in order to make it last longer.  If it wasn't March and so damned cold outside, I would call it the perfect beach book.  And like "Tales", rumor has it this will be a series of books, so hopefully more Sam/Didier/Pam adventures will follow.

It is available here, for the ridiculously low price of $10.95.  I don't know the prices in your particular area, but I can tell you that you can't even see a movie in L.A. for that price, and currently (don't blink) it will only get you about 2 1/2 gallons of gas.  So the book is a great entertainment value.

I really hope you will buy and read the book.  Then I hope you will buy and gift copies of the book, because when friends are talented, it's a joy to support.

The Young And The Old And The Restless.

Young Bogart
Old Lucy - maybe she thinks it's a glass of gin.
A very restless Baby Frances.