Noirvember Day 8: Trivia Tuesday

Dive into some trivial tidbits about your favorite noir performers!

— From salutatorian to Acme Book Shop employee.

Dorothy Malone was a bit of an overachiever at school (not that there’s anything wrong with that). She was salutatorian at her eighth-grade graduation and class president for six successive years. In high school, she was parliamentarian of the student council and vice-president of the school chapter of the National Honor Society. She performed in a variety of school plays and was selected as best actress in a local competition. She was also active in swimming and showing dogs. “Those blue ribbons I won . . . were fun,” she once said. “Even grades were fun.”

Speaking of ace students, Agnes Moorehead earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio Muskingum College, a Master’s degree in English and public speaking from the University of Wisconsin, and a doctorate in literature from Bradley University.

— Robert Mitchum and his wife of 57 years.

Robert Mitchum married Dorothy Spence in March 1940 and the two remained married until the actor’s 1993 death, weathering two separations and the actor’s reported dalliances with numerous luminaries, including Ava Gardner, Shirley MacLaine, and Jean Simmons. “Whatever he does,” Mitchum’s wife once said, “he always comes back to his family.”

William Conrad was as well known for his distinctive baritone voice as he was for his on-screen performances. In addition to narrating The Adventures of Bullwinkle and Rocky and The Fugitive, he was also Marshal Matt Dillon on the popular radio series Gunsmoke, which ran from 1952 to 1961.

Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens. When she was hired for a 1926 play, The Noose, the play’s director Willard Mack was leafing through old theater programs when he found a title that caught his eye: “Jane Stanwyck in Barbara Frietchie.” He combined the two names and voila! Barbara Stanwyck.

— Lafayette Escadrille????

According to most accounts, Brian Donlevy ran away from home at the age of 14 and lied about his age so he could join Gen. John J. Pershing’s pursuit of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Some versions also claim that Donlevy served during World War I as a pilot with the famed Lafayette Escadrille, was promoted to sergeant, and was wounded on two separate occasions. It’s quite a tale.

When Claire Trevor was in high school, she was less interested in drama than in drawing and painting, and she later took art courses at Columbia University. Years later, when her acting career was behind her, she devoted much of her time renewing her love for art. “To me, acting and painting are closely related,” she said. “I don’t know how good the paintings are, nor do I care. I’m filling my hours with pleasure, and you can’t take that away. Painting is a lot cheaper than going to a psychiatrist.”

When John Garfield was 12 years old, he contracted scarlet fever, which led to the heart damage that would plague him throughout his life and contribute to his death at the age of 39.

Shelley Winters’s father, a tailor named Jonas Schrift, was convicted of the arson fire of his Long Island haberdashery and sentenced to a 10-to-20 year stretch in prison. He wound up spending a year in Sing Sing and was later cleared of all the charges, but the incident had a devastating effect on Schrift and the entire family. The actress later said she sold magazines door-to-door to help make ends meet and developed “a whole fantasy world” that became an important tool in her career.

— It’s just tobacco. Okay?

Sterling Hayden was a vocal proponent of marijuana and hashish. “Grass came into me and said ‘take it easy.’ That’s why I love it so,” Hayden once said. The actor also admitted that he’d been under the influence of drugs during his performances in such films as The Long Goodbye and The Godfather. In the latter, he said, just before he got out of the police car and struck Al Pacino, he took a “long draw on [my] hash pipe.”

Join me tomorrow for Day 9 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 8, 2022.

11 Responses to “Noirvember Day 8: Trivia Tuesday”

  1. Old Hollywood trivia is my macaroni and cheese, so I’m sending extra thanks for this post!

    Does anyone have any memoir/biography/noir-centric book recommendations?

    I’ll go first: If you’re reading this blog, you need to read both Shelly Winters’s memoirs. She lets it all hang out and it’s totally worth the price of admission!

    • Thank you for the Shelley Winters bio recommendations! I have her first one in my collection and used it as a reference for my book, but I never actually read it. I will definitely be using it for my summer 2023 classic movie book reading list.

      Some of my favorite bios are Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud (which plays fast and loose with some things, but is the most entertaining bio I’ve ever read – and I’ve read it more than once), Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Quirk and Schoell; Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild by David Stenn; Platinum Girl by Eve Golden; Norma Shearer by Gavin Lambert; and Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy.

      • Finding a good and fair bio about Joan Crawford isn’t easy. Karen, does the one you mention try at least to be balanced? I’m sure Crawford was a difficult person no doubt, but I really don’t want to read another Mommy Dearest.

      • I think our bookshelves are twins separated at birth!

        All the titles you mentioned are on my go-to list of recommendations, too. (I especially love Lambert’s biography of Shearer. The way he structured it was chef’s kiss.)
        I’d also add Joan Blondell’s CENTER DOOR FANCY to the pile. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s technically a novel, but it’s really an autobiography. Potfuls of tea!

        • I read Center Door Fancy and Joan Blondell’s biography back-to-back! It was one of the best classic movie reading experiences I’ve ever had!

          • I did the same thing, and it was fabulous!
            That scene in CENTER DOOR FANCY where she describes sexy time with Dick Powell?!

  2. Margot — I’m a Crawford fan, too, so I appreciate how hard it is to find a biography that’s neither hatchet job, nor hagiography. Like Karen, I loved THE DIVINE FEUD (and I kind of totally wish that the limited series it inspired hued closer to the text).

    I’d also suggest Roy Newquist’s CONVERSATIONS WITH JOAN CRAWFORD. I gobbled that up like warm blueberry pie! It’s not a full-scale biography, but you get an eyeful of Joan’s story told in her own words. I’ve read both of her memoirs — and liked them — but I felt she was more forthcoming in this series of conversations.

    And if you’re into podcasts, I’d also recommend the Joan-centric episodes of the SASSMOUTH DAMES podcast. Impeccable research presented with empathy and humor. So good!

  3. You given me even more reasons to adore Dorothy Malone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: