Day 10 of Noirvember: Noir Femmes in Confidential Magazine

Of all my many (many!) collections, one of my favorites is my vintage magazine collection. And among the publications I’ve collected are several volumes of Confidential magazine. Confidential, which premiered in December 1952, was a notorious scandal magazine that touted the tagline, “Tells the Facts and Names the Names.” To obtain his never-ending stream of titillating tales, the magazine’s publisher developed a network of informants that included prostitutes, hotels employees, and living-on-the-fringe actors and actresses, along with several detective agencies. By 1955, the magazine was publishing five million copies per issue and had a larger circulation than Readers Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Most of the Confidential articles I’ve read are jaw-dropping pieces that are either rife with unfounded innuendo, or oozing with highly personal truths from behind firmly closed doors. Today’s Noirvember post centers on articles I found in my Confidential collection that focus on three icon noir femmes: Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Joan Crawford.

Ava Gardner; March 1955

The title of the article by Horton Streete was “What Makes Ava Gardner Run for Sammy Davis, Jr.,” and featured several photos of the two stars – never mentioning the fact that Gardner and Davis traveled in the same circles; Gardner was married at the time to Frank Sinatra, who was Davis’s close friend. Utilizing innuendo rather than out-and-out statements, the article not only suggested that Gardner was having an affair with Davis, but that she also had other “bronze boyfriends,” including crooner Herb Jeffries and musician Dizzy Gillespie. The author noted one date between Gardner and Davis after the singer’s performance at the Apollo theater, calling it “more sensational than anything advertised on the theater’s marquee.” He also reported that Ava Gardner joined Gillespie on the bandstand at one of his gigs, adding that “between numbers they put on a show that the ‘hepcats’ liked better than music.” (Whatever that was supposed to mean.)

Gardner’s home studio, MGM, reportedly received thousands of complaints about her relationship with Davis and after the Confidential article, many exhibitors in the South balked at showing Gardner’s films. “Even my own family criticized me,” Gardner said.

Rita Hayworth; January 1956

In this feature, Alfred Garvey tells us “Why Rita Hayworth Walked out on Dick” – Dick being the actress’s fourth husband, crooner Dick Haymes. The couple were married only a little over two years, from September 1953 to December 1955. Garvey didn’t pull any punches (if you will) – he very clearly stated that Haymes physically abused Hayworth throughout their marriage. Hayworth was “subjected to countless cruel beatings,” Garvey wrote, stating that Haymes’s “favorite form of assault was to grab Rita by her world-famed tresses and slam her head again a wall until her senses reeled.” The abuse began on the couple’s honeymoon in Greenwich, Connecticut, the article claimed, and continued throughout their union.

The article was basically one description after another of Haymes flying into rages and beating Hayworth, including references here and there about Haymes’s drinking problem: “Soon after marrying Rita, he graduated from the social type of drinking to plain boozing.”

Joan Crawford; January 1957

In “Joan Crawford and the Handsome Bartender,” writer Frank Wilson told readers all about Crawford’s “dizzy, daffy” romance with a bartender who worked at a Beverly Hills restaurant. The relationship started at a party Joan gave at her home, Wilson claims, for which she hired the never-named bartender. The author uses a series of phrases that made me laugh and cringe at the same time, telling us that the bartender “met the sun coming up as he was going out” and that he “didn’t leave Joan’s house till seven in the yawning!” (The YAWNING!) We’re also told that whenever the actress was “in the mood for a romp, she’d have her secretary call the bartender, as though she was ordering groceries.”

Incidentally, the author made no secret of Crawford’s reported fondness for alcohol. At one point, in fact, he quite frankly stated that Crawford “guzzled [vodka] like water.”

The beginning of the end.

The Fall

In early 1957, after urging from several Hollywood celebrities, California State Attorney General Edmund Brown launched an investigation of Confidential. A grand jury was empaneled, and in May, the grand jury announced indictments for conspiracy to publish criminal libel, conspiracy to publish obscene material, and conspiracy to disseminate information in violation of California’s business code.

At the ensuing trial, witnesses included actresses Maureen O’Hara and Dorothy Dandridge, a prostitute named Ronnie Qullan, and former Confidential writer Howard Rushmore. Ultimately, the magazine’s publisher Robert Harrison settled by paying a fine and promising to change the focus of the magazine. (In a noirish twist, in January 1958, Rushmore, who was broke and jobless, shot and killed his wife while the two were riding in a New York taxicab, then killed himself.)

The circulation of Confidential declined sharply after Harrison made good on his promise to alter the magazine. A few months later, he sold the publication and moved on to other ventures.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Confidential, check it out. You won’t believe your eyes.

Trust me.

And join me tomorrow for Day 11 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 11, 2017.

3 Responses to “Day 10 of Noirvember: Noir Femmes in Confidential Magazine”

  1. Yes, that mag played very dirty indeed !!!

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