Gossip . . . Pre-Code Style.

Harding lost an earring in the accident, but managed to hang on to her sunglasses.

While recently browsing through some old Motion Picture magazines, I came across a regular feature called “Your Gossip Test,” written by Marion Martone, which invited readers to ask a series of questions about the movie stars’ lives. The answers to the questions presented a variety of juicy tidbits and interesting info about the actors and actresses that I’d never known about, which inspired me to write today’s post. Some were speculations that turned out to be untrue, while others were very much factual . . .

Actress Ann Harding, actor (and Gypsy Rose Lee’s second husband) Alexander Kirkland, and Ann’s secretary met with a horrifying accident while on vacation in Havana in May 1933. During a boating excursion, a few miles off the cast of Cuba, in the shark-infested waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a sudden storm caused their boat to overturn. The skipper of the ship tried to swim for help, but either drowned or was killed by sharks. Harding and her companions clung to the capsized boat for three and a half hours before they were rescued by a passing craft.

The November 1933 edition of “Your Gossip Test” reported on the “sensational” alienation of affection lawsuit against actress Claire Windsor by Oakland, California “society woman” Marion Young Read. During the trial, love letters were read between Windsor and Read’s husband, broker Alfred C. Read. In defending herself, Windsor said that she didn’t know that Read was married and that he later told her that he was about to be divorced. Windsor was known mostly for her silent film work, but you can see her in one of her pre-Codes on YouTube, The Constant Woman. For more on the divorce scandal, click here.

Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon moved to London after a threat to kidnap their daughter, but I couldn’t find anything about a “maniac” who threatened Daniels in 1932.

The February 1932 issue reported that threats had been made on the life of Bebe Daniels by “a crazed man who escaped from an insane asylum and who was overpowered and jailed before any harm came to Bebe.” The magazine gave the name of the “maniac” as Guy Lawyer, and described him as a shell-shocked war veteran. As much as I tried, however, I couldn’t find any corroboration of this claim in any other source, although it is well-documented that Daniels and her actor-husband Ben Lyons moved to London in 1936 after a kidnap threat against their daughter, Barbara.

Although, according to Motion Picture, the previous reputation of Maurice Chevalier was “rumor-proof,” the magazine shared the rumor that the attractive star and his wife – “to whom he has been very devoted” – had quarreled! “Now it remains to be seen,” the item continued, “whether it is just one of those usual husband-and-wife tiffs that can be patched up or whether it means something more serious.” Apparently it was something more serious – Chevalier and his wife, Yvonne Vallee, divorced in January 1933, less than a year after the publication of this tidbit.

The rumor mill claimed that Talmadge and Roland were a couple both off-screen and on, but they didn’t walk down the aisle together.

Motion Picture told its readers about the rumor that Norma Talmadge might marry Gilbert Roland if she ever decided to divorce her husband, Joseph Schenck, from whom she’d been separated for more than three years. As it turned out, Talmadge did divorce Schenck, on April 4, 1934, but not to marry Roland. On April 23rd, a few weeks after her divorce, she married producer George Jessel.

In August 1931, Motion Picture reported that the divorce proceedings between actor/director Lowell Sherman and his actress wife Helene Costello had “started out with plenty of fireworks” – Sherman accused his wife (the sister of Dolores Costello, by the way) of calling him a ham actor and a fat old man. Sherman also told the court that Helene was an excessive drinker and “collected and read naughty books.”  Plenty of juicy bits about Sherman were expected from Helene, but – the magazine speculated – “orders from the movie powers-that-be put a stop to the revelations.” Lowell withdrew his suit and allowed Helene to sue and win the divorce. Sadly, just a few years later, in 1934, Sherman died of pneumonia at the age of 46.

Apparently, Charles Boyer and Frances Dee were once an item. In October 1932, Motion Picture said that Boyer wanted to marry Dee before his return to France, but “Miss Dee hesitated and said she would rather wait until he returns.” As we all know, this marriage was never to be. In October 1933, a year after this report in the magazine, Dee married actor Joel McCrea. The two were reportedly one of Hollywood’s happiest and most successful couples and remained together until McCrea’s death in 1990.

Stay tuned for more juicy gossip from the pre-Code era!!

~ by shadowsandsatin on January 21, 2019.

8 Responses to “Gossip . . . Pre-Code Style.”

  1. Haha I love this!

  2. Boyer’s marriage to Pat Paterson (Bitter Sweet, Charlie Chan in Egypt) in 1934 lasted until her passing in 1978. He took his own life shortly after she died.

    Wait! Double take! George Jessel?! Norma went from Gilbert Roland to George Jessel?!

  3. Charles Boyer and Frances Dee? Who knew!

  4. Dee and McCrea had Hollywood’s “happiest” marriage!?!
    They separated at least twice and McCrea filed for divorce in 1966 arguing “cruelty” which was usually code for extra marital affairs.
    Just because a couple remains together (like the Bob Hopes and he supported more than one mistress during his marriage) does not mean they are happy.

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