Day 6 of Noirvember: Confidentially, Confidential

For each of the last two years, during my Noirvember celebration, I’ve included an article that focused on Confidential magazine. And here I go again. This popular scandal magazine, which promised to “tell the facts and name the names,” was first published in 1952 and featured all manner of tantalizing stories about a wide variety of celebrities, from Willie Mays and Walter Chrysler, to Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Specializing in exposes about marital infidelity, homosexuality, and miscegenation, Confidential’s circulation reached a high of five million copies by 1956.

This year, while thumbing through the pages of the July 1955 issue, I hit the jackpot, coming across articles on no fewer than three noir veterans: Sterling Hayden, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Taylor. In today’s Noirvember post, I invite you to come along as I dive inside the juicy articles penned about these gents.

What Sterling Hayden Wouldn’t Tell

The first story concerns the divorce of Sterling Hayden – star of such noirs as The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing, and Crime Wave – from his second (third, and fourth) wife, Betty Ann, after seven years of marriage and four children. According to the article, the petite Betty Ann was a maneater who’d “all but driven Hayden off his rocker because she won’t leave the boys alone. Rich and poor ones, young or old, handsome or homely, they’re all Betty’s dish.”

Hayden and Betty Ann.

The article further states that Hayden, a sea-lover who frequently took weekend sailing trips, had discovered that his wife had been stepping out with other men during his absences. When he learned of her infidelities, Hayden decided to do a little digging, and was shocked to learn of a series of scandalous behaviors that had characterized Betty Ann’s marriage to her first husband, one Walter William Gerlach. Using as its source the divorce papers from the Noon-Gerlach union, the article gleefully rakes Betty Ann over the coals, revealing that Gerlach once arrived home to find Betty Ann with an Army officer, and that she had an abortion (which she paid for with her engagement ring) after a fling with a Navy ensign. The article also tosses in, for good measure, a few perfidies experienced by Hayden himself.

The entire article is really quite shocking – it’s hard to believe that Confidential got away with printing this stuff. (My astonishment didn’t stop me from reading it, though.)

Robert Mitchum: The Nude Who Came to Dinner

My reading experience was lightened considerably with my next article; this one features Robert Mitchum, who starred in such noirs as Out of the Past, His Kind of Woman, and Angel Face. As the story goes, Mitchum had recently finished filming his 1955 film Night of the Hunter, and a masquerade party was thrown for the cast by the picture’s director Charles Laughton and producer Paul Gregory. (Incidentally, although it had absolutely nothing to do with this story, the author couldn’t help but mention Mitchum’s 1949 conviction for marijuana possession – or, as the article states, his “charges of flying too high with Marijuana Airlines.”) (heh.)

As the story goes, Mitchum did a bit of “pre-gaming” (as my 24-year-old daughter would say) – before arriving at the party, he consumed a bottle of Scotch, showing up with his date just in time for dinner. Instead of sitting down for a nosh, Mitchum proceeded to remove every stitch of his clothes, grab a bottle of ketchup and douse himself all over with the condiment. He then turned to the gathered company and announced: “This is a masquerade party, isn’t it?” he asked. “Well, I’m a hamburger.”

And if that weren’t enough, Mitchum then began to dance about the room, decorating the walls and nearby party-goers with ketchup before his date managed to corral him and get him to put his clothes back on. (Let’s hope that he washed off the ketchup first.)

Robert Taylor was definitely not with Barbara Stanwyck on the night in question.

What Robert Taylor Didn’t Know About That Redhead

In the final Confidential article, Robert Taylor – star of Johnny Eager, High Wall, and Rogue Cop, and separated at this time from wife Barbara Stanwyck – is depicted as rather naïve and “downright timid when it comes to the cuties.” In fact, his retiring personality, according to the article, almost made him the victim of a classic shakedown. This was the set-up: While in New York to do a radio show appearance, Taylor and his personal pilot went out to dine at the swanky Little Club (believed to be the first restaurant to serve Caesar’s Salad), where they chanced to sit next to a married couple, one half of which was a red-headed bombshell. The four wound up chatting for the rest of the evening, and the next day, the redhead found out that Taylor was staying at the Waldorf Hotel and called him up. Before you could say “Bob’s your uncle,” the two had made a date for the redhead to meet Taylor in his room the next night for dinner.

What Taylor didn’t know – until he read it in Confidential, according to the article – was that the redhead was planning more than just a run-of-the-mill rendezvous. While the redhead visited with Taylor, her “husband” would be waiting in the hotel lobby. When the redhead had stripped down to her skivvies, she would make a phone call to her “Aunt Martha,” also known as her fake hubby, who would come up to the room, catch the two together, and then blackmail the actor. Lucky for Taylor, the hotel house detective kicked the loitering hubby out of the lobby, which meant he wasn’t there when the redhead called. She wound up spending the night with the clueless Taylor.

The article claimed that Taylor returned to Hollywood, “completely unaware – until this moment – of how close he’d come to paying the piper through the nose.” The article also offered that when Taylor returned to New York three months later, he and the redhead got together again. “And this time,” we’re told, “she’d didn’t call Aunt Martha.”

The more I read Confidential, the more fascinating this magazine is to me. On one hand, the publication printed slanderous, character-assassinating articles like the one about Sterling Hayden’s wife, while on the other, it offered up fun little romps like the pieces on Roberts Mitchum and Taylor. It’s no wonder it was so popular with the public. (Not so much with the stars, though.)

Join me tomorrow for Day 7 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 6, 2019.

2 Responses to “Day 6 of Noirvember: Confidentially, Confidential”

  1. I totally enjoyed this scandalous read 🙂

  2. Just imagine, Erle Stanley Gardner had Perry involved with the tabloids in The Case of the Velvet Claws in 1933. The more things change, the more they stay the same. All I want to do today is read trash and eat Caesar salad!

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