Gossip . . . Pre-Code Style.

•January 21, 2019 • 8 Comments

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 answer 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!!

Happy Noir Year!

•December 31, 2018 • 12 Comments

December 2018 was a crazy-busy month for me, but I couldn’t let 2018 go by without wishing you all a Happy New Year!

May 2019 bring you peace, prosperity and joy that will make you dance like the gal in The Asphalt Jungle!

See you next year!

Day Thirty of Noirvember: Parting Gifs

•November 30, 2018 • 11 Comments

They say that all good things must come to an end.

Sadly, that also goes for Noirvember 2018.

It’s been a great ride, though, and I thank each and every one of you who came along with me, and commented on, liked, or read any of my daily posts. You make my blog life worthwhile!

For my final Noirvember post, I’m going out the way I started — with some of my favorite noir gifs. Enjoy!

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

The Dark Corner (1946)

Criss Cross (1949)

Out of the Past (1947)

Day Twenty-Nine of Noirvember: My Five Noir Dinner Guests

•November 29, 2018 • 12 Comments

Mmm, pie.

Years ago, in an early edition of my film noir newsletter, The Dark Pages (shameless plug), one of our readers posed a question: “What five film noir characters would you like to have for dinner?” It turned out to be a fun exercise for several of our contributors and subscribers, but I never came up with my own selections. Today’s Noirvember post remedies that oversight.

Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) from Mildred Pierce (1945)

She always seemed like a cool chick, industrious and ambitious, creative and smart, even if she did bend over backwards a bit too often for that snooty daughter of hers. She had a kind of wry sense of humor – and you could definitely knock back a couple of shots with her. Best of all, she might make one of her famous pies for dessert!

All the gals dig Sammy Masterson.

Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

Sam was a rugged kind of guy, who’d probably seen all kinds of things during his travels. I’m pretty sure he made his living as a gambler or something; he used to do this neat trick with a coin. Anyway, I bet he’d contribute lots of interesting stories to the dinnertime conversation. He also was loyal and trustworthy – the kind of guy you’d want in your corner when the chips were down. And he was good looking – that’s always a plus at the dinner table.

There’s no denying that Norma was a little odd. But that was part of her charm!

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) from Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A real, live silent movie star! How awesome would that be? Of course, rumor has it that Norma’s gotten rather…shall we say eccentric…in recent years, but who cares? We’d all be enthralled by her stories of Rudolph Valentino and her other movie pals, and the tales of the way Hollywood used to be. And maybe she’ll bring that hunky writer-boyfriend of hers – I hear they’re living together.

Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) from Laura (1944)

Talk about snarky! Waldo was a walking snark machine – he could rip you to shreds with just a few choice words. I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side, but I can’t deny that he would keep the group in stitches with his expert shade-throwing capabilities.

Just one song, and I’ll be satisfied. I’ll even supply the guitar!

Gilda (Rita Hayworth) from Gilda (1946)

Not only was she drop-dead gorgeous, but there was always a kind of reckless excitement surrounding Gilda – like an aura of constant anticipation of what might happen next. And on a good night, she might be persuaded to serve up a little entertainment after dessert and coffee. Certainly not the strip tease I’ve heard about, but maybe just a nice little tune on the guitar.

Bon appetit!

Who would your five noir dinner guests be? Let us know!

And join me tomorrow for the final day (sob!) of Noirvember 2018!

Day Twenty-Eight of Noirvember: List o’ the Week — Top 20 Noirs on YouTube

•November 28, 2018 • 8 Comments

Cornel Wilde and Helene Stanton (Dr. Drew Pinsky’s mom!) in The Big Combo.

YouTube is great for a lot of things, but I love it best for the film noir movies I can find on it. Today’s Noirvember post serves up my top 20 film noir features on YouTube. It’s a veritable treasure trove, y’all!

Drive a Crooked Road (1954)

The Big Combo (1955)

The Crooked Way (1949)

Shield for Murder (1954)

Sudden Fear (1952)

Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Don’t miss Erich Von Stroheim and Mary Beth Hughes in The Great Flamarion. (Dan Duryea’s in it, too! Score!)

The Great Flamarion (1945)

The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)

City That Never Sleeps (1953)

Scarlet Street (1945)

Impact (1949)

Quicksand (1950)

Human Desire (1954)

Johnny O’Clock (1947)

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Pushover (1954)

Pickup on South Street features Thelma Ritter. What more do you want?

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Fourteen Hours (1951)

Detour (1945)

Plunder Road (1957)

And as a bonus, here’re three that I’ve never heard of before, but they looked interesting while I was looking for recommendations for my top 20:

Man in the Dark (1953): Edmond O’Brien and Audrey Totter

Fingerman (1955): Frank Lovejoy and Peggie Castle

Shed No Tears (1948) Wallace Ford and June Vincent

Do you have any You Tube noir recommendations? Share them with the group!

And join me tomorrow for Day 29 of Noirvember!

Day Twenty-Seven of Noirvember: Unlikely Film Noir Folks — Fred Clark

•November 27, 2018 • 7 Comments

The other day I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of Fred Clark that described him as “the immortal film noir actor.” One member of the group responded that “he was never noir,” and a quite a little brouhaha ensued – to which, I admit, I briefly contributed. In thinking about it later, though, I had to concede Clark is almost certainly remembered more for his comedy, including films like The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), as well as a featured role on TV’s The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.

But for my money, Clark deserves just as much credit for his noir appearances – he was seen in five features from the era in a three-year span, from 1947 to 1950: The Unsuspected (1947), in which he played a crafty homicide bureau chief; Ride the Pink Horse (1947), portraying a hard-boiled mobster with a hearing impediment; Cry of the City (1948), playing another homicide detective; White Heat (1949), where he was what one critic called a “powerfully sinister” fence for stolen bills; and Sunset Boulevard (1950), in which he was seen in a small but memorable part as the studio exec who shoots down William Holden’s idea for a screenplay.

In Cry of the City.

Born Frederic Leonard Clark in 1917 in Lincoln, California, this versatile performer initially planned to pursue a medical career and enrolled as a psychology student at Sanford University. All that changed in his senior year, though, when Clark appeared in a school production of Yellow Jack and, after his graduation, landed a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After several years playing roles in a number of Broadway plays, stock productions, and repertory theater, Clark caught the attention of famed director Michael Curtiz, who signed him to a personal contract. Clark’s first feature for Curtiz was both his first feature film and his film noir debut, The Unsuspected.

Over the next couple of decades, Clark stayed busy, eventually dividing his time between film and television work. On the small screen, in addition to his Burns and Allen gig, Clark was seen in such series as The Twilight Zone, in which he played a crook who finds a camera that predicts the future (remember that one?), and The Beverly Hillbillies, where he had a recurring role as Dr. Roy Clyburn.

Sadly, Clark left us all too soon in December 1968, after entering the hospital for treatment of a back spasm. While there, he developed a liver ailment and died three weeks later. He was just 54 years old. But he left us with a delightfully versatile body of work – whether he was portraying a cantankerous funny man or a ruthless villain, Fred Clark showed us that he had the stuff.

Do yourself a favor, and check out one of his movies!

And join me tomorrow for Day 28 of Noirvember!

Day Twenty-Six of Noirvember: Happy Birthday, Adele Jergens!

•November 26, 2018 • 4 Comments

When they nicknamed Adele Jergens “The Eyeful,” they weren’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

Born on November 17, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York, Adele Louisa Jurgens didn’t start out with her sights set on the big screen. The tomboyish Adele was the youngest of four children and the only girl, and was focused on being a newspaper reporter – but her parents had other ideas.

“They wanted me to become a dancer and actress,” Jergens said. “It didn’t take me long to find out that my parents were right.”

After years of working as a model and a showgirl, Jergens got her big break in the early 1940s while understudying Gypsy Rose Lee in Star and Garter on Broadway. When Lee missed a show and Jergens stepped in, her performance attracted the attention of a Columbia Studios talent scout and before long, she was under contract to the studio. All told, her screen career spanned less than 15 years, but during that time, she made her mark in the realm of film noir, with featured roles in four first-rate features.

The Dark Past (1948)

Here, Jergens played one of several vacationers at a lakeside cabin who are held hostage by a psychologically damaged prison escapee, portrayed by William Holden. Jergens’s character, Laura Stevens, is a cheating wife whose disdain for her spouse turns to admiration when he stands up to their captors.

Side Street (1950)

Jergens was in only two scenes in this film, but she played the pivotal role as a hard-boiled dame who blackmails her much-married former lover, only to be murdered by her current attorney boyfriend (Edmon Ryan). The blackmail money is later stolen from the attorney’s office by a young mail carrier, portrayed by Farley Granger, who’s desperate for an income boost in order to care for his pregnant wife.

Armored Car Robbery (1950)

In this feature, Jergens was a standout as showgirl Yvonne LeDoux, who’s married to a small-time hood (Douglas Fowley) while carrying on an affair with bigger-time hood (William Talman). Playing a character described as “a lot of woman,” Jergens sashayed off with every scene she was in.

Try and Get Me (1950)

This grim tale of mob violence stars Lloyd Bridges and Frank Lovejoy as Jerry Slocum and Howard Tyler, two luckless criminals who get in way over their heads when they decide to kidnap a wealthy member of the local community. Jergens played Velma, Jerry’s money-loving girlfriend who wanted more out of life than what she could afford on her hairdresser salary – and didn’t care how she got it.

In her personal life, Jergens was linked with such stars as Franchot Tone, Victor Mature, and Al Jolson, but her “Mr. Right” was her co-star in 1949’s Treasure of Monte Cristo, Glenn Langan, who appeared in such featuers as Dragonwcyk (1946) and The Snake Pit (1948), and is perhaps best known for playing the title role in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). After a whirlwind courtship, Jergens and Langan were married in October 1949, had a son, Tracy, and remained married until Langan’s death in 1991.

When you get a chance, keep an eye out for “The Eyeful” – she’ll give you something to look at.

And join me tomorrow for Day 27 (sniff!) of Noirvember!