In Hollywood, it isn’t uncommon to find friendships that pleasantly surprise you.
One of these close duos happen to be the unlikely paring of Ava Gardner and Lena Horne.
Much has been heard about these two, and we all know about that infamous “battle” for a coveted role in Showboat. But, if you were to go behind the scenes and take a deep dive into these two women, you’ll see that they were quite possible the closest pair of friends you’d ever meet.
As part of the Summer Under the Stars lineup, TCM has dedicated two separate days for both LenaHorne and AvaGardner. Airing on the 6th and 8th respectively, Gardner and Horne have much more in common that most people would be led to believe.
After movie shoots, Ava and Lena would go to each other’s apartments, drink, laugh, and tell stories of sleazy co-stars that tried to hit on them.
Ava would tell Lena how difficult it was up-holding the status of being a sex symbol and Lena would open up about the struggles of being a light skin black actress in a notoriously prejudiced Hollywood.
There were even times where Lena, being the brilliant singer that she was, would help Ava sing her way through her own recordings in order to help her prepare for the role of Julie LaVerne in Showboat.
Both of these women have incredible bodies of work and I urge you all to check out at least a couple of their films. They both persevered and fought through the crazy system that was the Hollywood golden age.
If you know anything about classic Hollywood, then you know that on set romances are as common as chain smoking.
People made up, broke up and repeated the process all over again.
In the case of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, they did all of things – and then some.
Perhaps the most infamous couple is Hollywood history (besides Brad and Angelina) Joan and Clark had a long history of lust filled glances, late night phone conversations, and on set dalliances.
It first started all the way back in 1931 with Dance, Fools, Dance. Crawford‘s star was quickly rising in Hollywood and Gable was struggling to find his footing on the silver screen. It wasn’t until Crawford specifically chose Gable to star alongside her that his career really started to kick into gear.
“it was like an electric current went through my body…my knees buckled…if he hadn’t held me by the shoulders, I’d have dropped.”
– Crawford on meeting Gable for the first time
The production of this movie went pretty swiftly, and after filming ended, Crawford wanted to work with Gable again.
The next project they worked on was 1931’s Laughing Sinners. It wasn’t a memorable film, but Gable and Crawford continued to get to know one another. I will say that it is an enjoyable film and I hope I get to watch it again someday.
For all the flirtatious looks they had on set with this movie, it doesn’t compare to the blazing fire that they sent into overdrive on their next movie, Possessed.
This is where Hollywood lore was made.
By this point, Gable‘s star was rising and he was a hot commodity. Crawford was a bonafide star, at this point she was dubbed the ‘Queen of Hollywood.’
So, what happens when you combine a handsome young actor with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars?
Well…, let’s just say that many things were exchanged between the two, in more ways than one.
Here’s a quote from Crawford on how she felt about Gable during this time:
“In the picture, we were madly in love. When the scenes ended, the emotion didn’t–we were each playing characters very close to our own.”
– Joan Crawford, from Clark Gable by Chrystopher J. Spicer
While filming Possessed their affair become public knowledge, and naturally the MGM studio higher ups weren’t too pleased with this. Gable and Joan‘s affair nearly turned Hollywood on its head
It got to the point where Louis B Mayer requested that the two stop their romance. Of course, they didn’t comply and Mayer then threatened to destroy their careers.
Eventually they did separate after enough pressing from studio heads, but they didn’t quit seeing each other.
According to some sources, they continued to fool around even while they were married to other people.
Not my cup of tea, but I digress.
In the end, the couple never stopped loving each other, and it shows when Joan talked about him after Gable‘s death.
“Lovemaking never felt with anyone like what it did with Clark.”
– Joan Crawford, from Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk & William Schoell
When I heard the news that Doris Day passed away, I initially believed it was a hoax.
The news was so baffling that I strangely thought that maybe it had been a mistake.
Unfortunately, it was very real and my heart couldn’t contain the heartache that it went through. Doris was one of the first actresses I got into when i first started watching classic films, so to hear that she finally went to be with the big guy upstairs hurt me quite a bit.
Her movies opened the door to a world of romantic comedies, and eventually this lead me to discover her music and discography. Not only was Doris extraordinarily charming on screen, she also had a lovely voice.
Most of Doris‘ movies were also horribly overlooked.
I actually remember reading on one TCM discussion board that someone didn’t bother checking out her movies cause they felt too “Saturday mornings at your grandmother’s house.”
Not only is this statement off base, I wish the user well, but that’s grossly misunderstanding the power of Day‘s movies.
She could act, very well, actually. Even though most of her movies were considered to be “friendly” they were never boring.
As you may know, Grace Kelly left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier the third of Monaco. This decision was met with elation by many, but, there are also people who wonder: “what would’ve happen if Grace never left Hollywood?”
This popped into my head recently due to an assignment I had during my mass communications class at university.
We had to pick any person in history and ‘ask them’ ten questions that would provoke a breaking news headline.
Here are my 10:
What was it like on your wedding day?
Were you nervous marrying into a royal family?
Do you still keep in contact with any of your ex co-stars?
If so, who is the one you spoke with most recently?
Do you ever want to get back into acting?
Do you think about how your life may be different had you continued acting?
What would you do if Alfred Hitchcock gave you the opportunity to come out of retirement?
Would you accept his offer?
What if one of your three children wanted to go into acting?
How do feel about the shift in social attitudes since your twenties?
As you can tell, these are questions that I’m sure every classic film fan would love to hear the answers to.
I often wonder what it would’ve been like had Grace returned to the silver screen. But alas, all we have are pipe dreams and daydreams to keep us satiated.
I’ll leave with with this: a letter correspondence between Hitchcock and Grace when the former offered the role as ‘Marnie’ in the movie title of the same name.
When talking about the quintessential classic Hollywood femme fatale, I’d be remiss not to mention what is arguably the most recognizable character of the genre.
Released in 1946 and directed by Charles Vidor, Gildais with out a doubt, considered one of the best film noirs of all time.
With its shiny glamour shots and acting that would rival even the most dedicated method actors, Gilda will always have a place among the film noir greats. What makes this movie so memorable, is the dress wearing, hair flipping charm of Rita Hayworth‘s title character, Gilda.
Sultry, sexy, and dangerous are just a couple words to describe Rita in this role. A shy woman in real life, according to Rita herself, her performance as Gilda is one of the greatest of all time (don’t fight me on this, haha.)
In the film, Gilda is quite cunning, she has most men wrapped around her finger, there’s also a level of manipulation on her part as well. Her leading man in the film, played excellently by Glenn Ford, has this love hate relationship with her.
As the movie continues, we see that Johnny and Gilda had a history together and there are times where we see it get pretty volatile. Gilda openly flirts with men to get Johnny riled up, but on the inside she always loved him.
But, even at the end of the film, Johnny grows power hungry and uses his new found wealth and influence to hurt Gilda for everything she’s put him through.
Fortunately at the end, the pair reconcile, but Gilda essentially drives Johnny to go crazy – emotionally, physically and mentally. That’s the great thing about this movie. Not only does it look stunning, it also has some of the best acting of Hayworth’s career.
Gilda knew what she was doing, maybe to a fault, and perhaps that hurt her in the end.
If that isn’t a femme fatale, then I don’t know what is.
If you like to read more entries on this blogathon, click: here 🙂
Legendary actress Doris Day just recently celebrated her 97th birthday.
It’s an achievement for anybody to reach old age, it’s especially impressive when they’re 97 years young. To celebrate this, I’m going to discuss another side of Doris that, arguably, doesn’t get talked about enough.
As we all know, Ms. Day started out as a singer, eventually transitioning into acting later in her life. If you read up on the early days of Doris, it’s very apparent that her voice was quite the show stopper.
Doris began singing at an early age.
While recovering from an auto accident at a young age, Day began to sing with the radio, listening and humming along to the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. Doris quickly discovered her hidden talent and eventually it grew into something more.
Doris‘ mother, Alma, put her in singing lessons where her talent proceeded to grow. Day‘s first true singing gig was with band leader Barney Rapp, then she moved on to work with the likes of Jimmy James, Bob Crosby, and Les Brown.
When working with Brown, Day managed to score her first hit with “Sentimental Journey,” and from that point on, her singing career took off.
During the 1940s, Day would go on to have six other top ten hits on the Billboard chart with songs like, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time,” “Tain’t Me,” and “The Whole World is Singing My Song.”
Day always had a lovely singing voice, and its no wonder that even today her songs resonate well with listeners. From the classic like “Que Sera Sera” and “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” to her acting career, Ms. Day has always been a quintessential classic Hollywood figure.
I only hope that her next birthdays are as wonderful as this one was.
If you wish to read more entries in this blogathon: click here
When discussing classic Hollywood cinema, there are usually several different actors and actresses that come to mind as you murmur the words, “golden age.”
Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, James Dean, and Audrey Hepburn, are just a couple of many names on the endless list of legendary classic movie performers.
A woman that doesn’t nearly get enough recognition on these lists is Ireland’s very own ‘Queen of Technicolor’, Maureen O’Hara.
Born on August 17th, 1920 in Ranelagh, Ireland, O’Hara‘s career lasted 61 years, triumphantly ending in 1991 with the romantic-comedy Only the Lonelystarring alongside John Candy. During those six decades, she co-starred with some of the most admired actors in film history.
From Tyrone Power to John Wayne and even Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara’s film roles were just an extension of who she was as a woman.
Whether it be sword fighting with Errol Flynn, planning a summer vacation with Jimmy Stewart, or falling madly in love with John Wayne on the mountainous terrain of rural Ireland, Maureen O’Hara’s filmography is perhaps one of the most underappreciated in classic Hollywood history.
Strikingly beautiful and blessed with an aura that the camera naturally gravitated too, O’Hara was raised in the sleepy Dublin neighborhood of Ranelagh.
Born to Charlie and Marguerite (née Lilburn) FitzSimons, Maureen has said that her adolescence was “the most remarkable and eccentric that she could’ve hoped for.”
Being the second oldest of six children (and the only red-head), O’Hara lived a relatively happy and carefree childhood. She would often describe her mother in a kind light, saying that she,”inherited [her] singing voice from [her] and that when her mother would leave the house, men would “leave their houses just to catch a glimpse of her on the street.”
O’Hara has also asserted in interviews that she was a rather “blunt child”, saying that she “didn’t take discipline very well.”
As an infant, she was given the nickname, “Baby Elephant” for having a stout physique. Her tomboyish nature had her take part in a number of physically strenuous activities like fishing, riding horses, judo and even Gaelic Football.
At the age of 5, she began dancing. O’Hara didn’t take the hobby seriously until a gypsy spotted her and prophesied that she would one day become well-known for her acting skills.
She initially scoffed at the idea, but her parents coaxed her into the thought. Her hunger quickly for fame quickly grew and by age 10 she was working for the Rathmines Theater Company, where she honed her skills in amateur theater productions.
It wasn’t until the age of 17 when O’Hara grew into her stunning looks that casting agents started giving her attention.
By 1937, O’Hara was a full-time actress, working at the Abbey Theatre where she swiftly caught the attention of singer/actor Harry Richman. Richman insisted that O’Hara should travel to London to have a screen test done.
She agreed, and when Maureen and her parents landed on the island she was immediately thrust into the limelight, making her screen debut in the 1938 film Kicking the Moon Around.
Although O’Hara didn’t consider Kicking the Moon Around her screen debut, it’s still counted as the first film she’s starred in. However, the movie that she truly believed to be her screen debut was the Hitchcock thriller Jamaica Inn.
Co-starring alongside Charles Laughton, Jamaica Inn is a Hitchcock film through and through. Although it isn’t as recognizable as some of his later drama/thrillers, it holds it’s own as a standalone film.
O’Hara‘s performance received raved reviews, quickly cementing her place amongst Hollywood elite. She was then offered a seven-year contract off the back of her stand out performance.
At first, she and her family declined, citing that O’Hara was far too young to make such a momentous jump in her career. But, after a few drinks and coddling, they caved and Maureen signed a seven-year contract to Mayflower Pictures.
After that she was cast in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939. Boarding the ship liner from England to New York, then taking a train from NYC to Los Angeles, O’Hara‘s Hollywood journey truly began.
Because of her role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, O’Hara‘s star in Hollywood continued to rise, starring in a number of films like How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street and of course The Quiet Man.
She followed those up by starring in a series of John Ford films that, just maybe, cemented her legacy as “Hollywood’s toughest broad.
As O’Hara got older, she continued to act and hold her own against some of the best in the business, even acting up until the early 1990s. Stand outs from that era include, The Parent Trap, Spencer’s Mountain, and the very funny Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.
Unfortunately, after a very long life, Maureen O’ Hara would pass away on October 24th, 2015, leaving behind not only a fantastic filmography, but also and incredible legacy as a human being.
I was recently listening to a You Must Remember This episode on Linda Darnell and I felt compelled to write something about it.
Linda Darnell was, perhaps, one of the most underrated actresses of her time. With her acting ability often downplayed, she managed to prove her doubters wrong, staring in films like Unfaithfully Yours,Anna and the King of Siam, and most famously, A Letter to Three Wives.
Unfortunately, her career would be plagued with personal conflicts, bad management, and poorly time marriages, eventually culminating with her tragic death on April 10 of 1965.
So, let’s take a trip back to the early 1950s and revisit the woefully overlooked career of, Linda Darnell.
Born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Dallas, Texas on October, 16th 1923, ‘Linda’ as she would later be called by her Hollywood cohorts, she was pushed into show business at a young age.
Being thrust into the limelight by her mother, Pearl, Linda has more or less been groomed for stardom, becoming a model at 11 and a full-fledged actress at 13.
By 1937, Linda was scouted by a talent agent from 20th Century Fox. She and her family went to Hollywood to do some screen tests, but eventually, Mr. Zanuck caught wind of Darnell‘s actual age and sent her back to Texas.
Heartbroken yet determined, Linda honed her craft and continued acting locally, inevitably returning to Hollywood with a new attitude.
She appeared in several smaller films before landing her big break with 1940’s Brigham Young, co-starring alongside her frequent leading man, Tyrone Power. In the summer of that same year, Darnell worked on The Mark of Zorro where, once again, she worked with Power.
The film managed to be successful and further plunged Darnell into the spotlight. But, unfortunately after that ‘Zorro‘, the studio system didn’t allow her to go after the roles she craved, so, she was relegated to B films that typecasted her.
Luckily, she would bounce back with the wonderful Blood and Sand also starring alongside Power. According to Darnell herself, however, her career would take a sharp downturn after this.
“People got tired of seeing the sweet young things I was playing and I landed at the bottom of the roller coaster. The change and realization were very subtle. I’d had the fame and money every girl dreams about—and the romance. I’d crammed thirty years into ten, and while it was exciting and I would do it over again, I still know I missed out on my girlhood, the fun, little things that now seem important.”
Davis, Ronald L., Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream.
Several years, and subpar movies later, Darnell’s career would stall because she refused Daryl Zanuck‘s advances. Pulling herself up by her chinstraps and not letting this get to her, she focused on the war effort, raising money, and performing regularly at the Hollywood Canteen.
After that, Zanuck often overlooked her for many film roles, and her star started declining. Instead, she was cast in roles that didn’t fit her and slowly resented show business.
For the rest of her career, she starred in B-movies, forgettable blockbuster and the occasional hit, like A Letter to Three Wives and Unfaithfully Yours.
The unfortunate thing about Linda Darnell is that she never really had the chance to let her career flourish. Between her rushed childhood and her underwhelming adult career, Darnell never got the chance to settle into her acting.
It’s tragic, really.
Darnell wasn’t only absolutely gorgeous and wickedly talented, she also was quite the lady. Raised with southern charms and a witty personality, Linda Darnell will, hopefully, be remembered alongside other Hollywood greats of the era.
Usually recognized as Hollywood’s resident tough guy in the 30s and early 40s, one could argue that seeing a 50-year-old Cagney, “yucking it up” in a throwback gangster flick from his early days could get a little old. But in James Cagney‘s chase, he aged as well as a fine wine.
White Heat, directed by Raoul Walsh and considered one of the “best gangster movies of all time,” is a gritty film noir about one man and his apparent mother issues. Now, having a problem with a parent doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll turn into a vindictive, sadistic killer, but in “Cody” Jarret’s case, it was bound to happen.
The film follow “Cody” and his goal to ,well, just cause havoc.
Aided by wife, cohorts and importantly his mother, “Cody” and company botch a train robbery which sees the tyrant accidentally shoot an investigator. Knowing this madman needs to be stopped (or else,) the authorities send in an undercover plant to ‘catch Cody’s hand in the cookie jar,’ so to speak.
Luckily, and fortunately, “Cody” turns himself in for a lesser crime that sees his prison shortened.
That doesn’t leave him off the hook, though.
Throughout the rest of the film, we see “Cody” get sent to jail, punch a prison guard, and cause general havoc during his jail time. Eventually cavalierly hurting everyone around you won’t get you anywhere, and ultimately, “Cody” gets cornered.
The finale…oh boy, where does one begin?
The ending of the film is perhaps the most memorable thing (aside from Cagney‘s acting) in the entire movie.
Not only do we see Cagney at his best, but we also get to see a piece of classic Hollywood history. With all of its fire, angst, and drama, in 2003 White Heat was added to the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Meticulously crafted, and incredibly acted, the ending was inevitable.
Cody Jarret went out the same way he lived: slightly mad, crying for his mother, and surrounded by fire.