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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era (and then some)

Hi everyone,

I've got some interesting trivia from one of my movie books for you today, but before I start there are two things I wanted to mention. One has got to do with Lucy (because she's always in my day, no matter what). Anyhoo, about two years ago one of my friends gave me this really wonderful framed picture of Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred in that famous shot of them in the car, driving to California and singing (at the end of "California, Here We Come!"). I have been remodeling my bedroom since, and this morning (while I was at school), Lucy and the gang joined Audrey Hepburn on my bedroom wall.

Also, I happened to catch this in IMdb yesterday - it's a new film that's coming out in November called "The Artist." It is a French film and it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival, but get this --


Isn't that just the most awesome thing ever??? I wanted to blog about it right then and there, but I had already blogged for the day so I held out. Right now I just realized that Sally of the always entertaining Flying Down to Hollywood had written about it already, and I wanted to share, too. It takes place in the 1920s, and I think it's about an actor who is having his heyday in silent films when he comes across a young fan who is actually desperate to get into pictures herself; as they make the transition into talkies, the actor's career begins to deteriorate while the fan's career begins. It sounds a little like "All About Eve", doesn't it? Perhaps the actor gets "Eved." I don't know. Here's the trailer --

It may turn out to be a hot mess or it may turn out to be really good, but either way, I can hardly wait to see it!

Also, isn't the poster gorgeous and so film noir-ish? When I saw it on the IMdb homepage, it instantly attracted me to click on the trailer.

 Count me in!

What do you all think? Think you'll see it?

So, as we all know, I am currently reading right now Lauren Bacall's autobiography, "By Myself and Then Some". You voted for it and so that's the book I've got my nose into. I'm not that far in but so far I'm enjoying myself and I hope to finish it within a week or so - then I'll get a review up for it.

However, before voting closed on the poll.... well, I know I promised I wouldn't go and get more books because my stack of books to-read is really quite large. But there's this big mall in the next state over, and it's pretty huge (it's actually two malls - one mall has all the usual chains and the more casual stuff, and the next mall over has the boutiques and the designer labels... awesome, yes!). It also happens to have this large Barnes & Noble which always carries a lot of great books with a wide selection. This mall is about an hour or so away, and though we have a lot of great malls where I live, every so once in a while I like to make a trip here with a friend. I went about two weeks ago and I could not resist going into the humongous Barnes & Noble, and I was ecstatic to find that they had a copy of TCM's "The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era".

I had wanted to get this for a while but my local bookstores didn't have a copy, so I had to buy it. I finished it last night and I must say, I enjoyed it! Though I think it would be extremely hard to pick the top 50 actresses of the Studio Era,  I think they came up with the perfect list (it is complied by TCM, my go-to-television channel) - WITH the exception that they didn't include Lucy. I understand that she had the most success in television, but she made over 100 movies and considering  all she achieved in the field of acting (forget about TV and movies and whatnot), I think she ought to have been included. That said, however, I think it was the perfect list (though I would have fought to the death for Lucy to be in it... hmm...)

The book is really polished and for the most part I didn't find that many errors in it. It has beautiful pictures and the format is really easy to read. There is about four pages devoted to each actress, front and back, with a little biography as well as the usual stats like their birth name, birthday, date of death, and all their husbands and children. On the next page there are the "five essential films" of the actress, with a little summary for each, some style notes, and some trivia in  "behind the scenes". Also, at the end of the book is an index of each actress's complete filmography.

I'm going to make a big plug for it. I know I totally bawled TCM out for their scrawny "Now Playing" earlier this month, but this book was really fantastic and I enjoyed it. So: EVERYONE GO OUT AND BUY IT.

There is a lot of great trivia in this book, which inspired me to write a post with a one nugget of trivia from each of the fifty actresses. Depending on the actress, some of it I knew before and others I didn't. Either way, I thought I'd share. The name of the actress is in bold so you can see the fifty chosen ones - and unfortunately, I can't possibly tag them all  in this post (and this is also a little reminder that I always try and tag my posts carefully, but you can also use the little search box on my sidebar, which gives great results).


(Listed in alphabetical order)

  1. Jean Arthur, as sweet and as awesome as she was, once tore a wig and a suit on the set of a movie that she wasn't pleased with.
  2. While dating him, Lauren Bacall was gifted a bracelet with a gold whistle from her beau (and soon-to-be-husband), Humphrey Bogart. It was in memory of Lauren's famous, "You know how to whistle, don't you?" line in "To Have and Have Not," - they had fallen in love on set.
  3. Ingrid Bergman was discovered (in Hollywood, anyway) when an elevator boy remarked to a woman in the building he worked at that his parents (Swedes), had seen a fabulous Swedish girl in a picture they'd recently watched. The woman was a talent scout for David O. Selznick.
  4. After her mother tried to kill her in her sleep, Clara Bow became a life long insomniac.
  5. When Louise Brooks's film career began to decline, she took to the stage under an assumed name, Linda Carter. A talent scout from 20th Century Fox found her and offered her a screen test.
  6. Claudette Colbert famously bathed in milk in "The Sign of the Cross" (1932). Claudette hated it because the milk smelled, but it inspired thousands of women across America to do the same.
  7. Joan Crawford was born Lucille Le Sueur. Her name was changed by the studio when they felt her surname sounded too much like "sewer." So they held a contest in a movie magazine to rename the starlet, and "Joan Crawford" was chosen. Joan never much liked the name; she felt it like "crawfish."
  8. The playful Marion Davies once got President Coolidge drunk by feeding him wine all while assuring him it was just fruit juice!
  9. In 1941, the indestructible Bette Davis became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  10. Doris Day earned the nickname "Clara Bixby" when Billy De Wofle remarked to her on the set of "Tea for Two" that she didn't look much like a Doris Day but rather a Clara Bixby; it stuck and her good friends still call her that.
  11. A practical joke was played on Clark Gable on the set of "Gone With the Wind" with the help of Olivia de Havilland, who agreed for them to put weights in her already heavy 19th century style dresses for a scene in which Clark was to carry (a frail Melanie) up a flight of stairs.
  12. Marlene Dietrich, who always held a firm clenched jaw, can credit her taut stance to the lemons she used to suck on before going on screen.
  13. Cary Grant remembered Irene Dunne as the "sweetest smelling" actress he'd ever worked with.
  14. Greta Garbo, who never married, had an affair with fellow actor John Gilbert. He wanted to elope with her and she agreed, but in the last moment she backed out and locked herself in the laboratory to hide.
  15. Those sultry glances the beautiful Ava Gardner often struck was natural; Ava needed glasses but never wore them on screen, causing her to squint.
  16. Judy Garland was immortalized into film history with her role as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz". It is said the day she died, a tornado hit Kansas.
  17. The famously redheaded Greer Garson had her living room decorated in a beautiful emerald green so it would go well with her famous locks.
  18. Lillian Gish never once had a haircut. Her hair was below her waist all her life!
  19. Clara Bow spotted a pretty young extra named Jean Harlow on the set of one of her films and wanted her kicked out because she was "too beautiful." They eventually became great friends.
  20. Also a redhead, Susan Hayward wore a gorgeous emerald green dress in one of her last public appearances at the 1974 Oscars... she was buried in the dress a year later.
  21. Despite Ginger Rogers being his most famous dance partner, Fred Astaire chose Rita Hayworth as his favorite.
  22. Gregory Peck was dubious to play against an unknown in a 1953 Paramount film called "Roman Holiday" - but when he met the young, strikingly beautiful Audrey Hepburn he changed his mind and insisted she receive top billing.
  23. When campaigning for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, producer David O. Selznick told Katharine Hepburn: "I can't imagine Clark Gable chasing you for ten years." In which Kate icily replied, in her typical style, "I may not appeal to you, David, but there are men with different tastes!"
  24. When studio executives began giving dark skinned beauty Lena Horne stereotypical roles for African American actresses, her father called up the studio and angrily reminded them, "I can hire a maid for her; I don't need to her act as one!"
  25. Forever the blue blood, Grace Kelly's voice had a beautifully memorable elegant tone with a hint of British incision, despite being an American girl. She spent years working on her dialect to achieve this (in place of her original, nasal tone) - needless to say, she mastered it.
  26. The beautiful, British Deborah Kerr was visiting fellow English actor Rex Harrison during World War Two. They did not think much of an aircraft warning until a bomb was dropped in the actor's garden and the cottage went black. Rex announced he may need a drink; but a true Brit, Deborah insisted, "Alcohol is not good for one when they have had a shock. Can we have tea?"
  27. During the 1940s, it was Hedy Lamarr, with her gorgeously sculpted features, that women most asked plastic surgeons to replicate for them.
  28. Vivien Leigh, who suffered quite badly from manic depression (known better today as bipolar disorder), would receive shock treatment for this. Hours later she would go on stage and give a brilliant performance without missing a beat.
  29. Infamous for her swearing, Carole Lombard picked up her salty way of speaking when she realized her cussing would leave male authority figures (who otherwise tried to walk all over her) in shock, and set them straight, too. She asked her brothers to teach her all the words they knew.
  30. Sophia Loren happened to wear a tiara to an 1954 English opening night which caused a ruckus... the problem? Queen Elizabeth was also in attendance. The British press called her  "Queen Sophia." 
  31. Sticking up for her fellow actors, Myrna Loy demanded of narrow minded studio heads to know why African Americans were always given stereotypical roles as maids or butlers. "What about a black person walking up to the steps of a courthouse with a briefcase?" Myrna wanted to know.
  32. Feisty Shirley MacLaine was the inspiration for Frank Sinatra's song, "The Second Time Around." One of his accompanists wanted Shirley to leave her husband for him.
  33. Though she made famous the "dumb blond", Marilyn Monroe was actually quite intelligent. She had a IQ of 168 (significantly higher her lover, President Kennedy's 129) and enjoyed reading books.
  34. Helping her to stand out from the crowd, Columbia marketed Kim Novak as a "lavender blond" - even tinting her hair the shade.
  35. Marilyn Monroe was able to talk Irish beauty Maureen O'Hara into hiding (and then popping out of) a box for husband Joe DiMaggio's birthday, so he would "finally stop talking about Maureen O'Hara", whom he had a big crush on. The prank was canceled when Marilyn and DiMaggio broke up before his birthday.
  36. The movie screen's first close up centered on America's sweetheart, Mary Pickford, in the 1912 movie "Friends."
  37. When Debbie Reynolds won the title of Miss Burbank in 1948, talent scouts from both MGM and Warner Brothers in the audience wanted her. So they flipped a coin and Warner Brothers won. When Warner gave her up in following years, MGM snatched her and made her a star.
  38. Ginger Rogers loved the gorgeous gowns with feathers, beads, and much more that she and designer Edith Head would scheme up for her dance routines. But her other half, Fred Astaire, did not. The ornaments on the dress would slap him black and blue. 
  39. LIFE magazine had a bad habit of photographing Rosalind Russell, but then not using the photos. When, for the third time they requested to photograph the movie star, she appeared on her driveway in her slacks and told them to just take the picture because they weren't going to use it anyway. They did, and they put her on the cover. But in the end it turned out to be an embarrassment for LIFE - that was the same week Hitler invaded Poland.
  40. Norma Shearer, a true product of the Roaring 20's, used to invite author F. Scott Fitzgerald (among others) to her house over the weekends for rambunctious parties. Fitzgerald wrote one of his most celebrated works, "Crazy Sunday", based on events at Norma's house.
  41. The girl with the oomph, Ann Sheridan, had to cap her teeth to cover a big gap she had between her two front teeth!
  42. Whilst filming "Forty Guns", a stuntman refused to do a scene in which she was to be dragged by a horse, calling it "too dangerous." The real actress, the bold Barbara Stanwyck, rolled her eyes and did it herself in a few takes - albeit, with several bruises. 
  43. In 1950 (and fresh off her "Sunset Boulevard" revival) the forever fashionable Gloria Swanson debuted her own clothing line, "Gowns by Gloria." It was a hit.
  44. Violet eyed Elizabeth Taylor was the highest paid actress of the 1960's (number two happened to be Natalie Wood), and the first to request a million dollars for her salary. The job was "Cleopatra", playing the title role, of course.
  45. Gene Tierney suffered tragedy in her life. She contracted German measles from a fan who should have been quarantined while pregnant with her daughter, and her daughter was, because of this, born blind and with several development defects.
  46. Always the glamour girl, when Lana Turner's apartment building caught on fire and she only had a few moments to grab her most precious possessions, Lana grabbed lipstick, eyeliner, and her hair dryer.
  47. During World War Two, inflatable life jackets were referred to as "Mae Wests", pleasing the busty actress very much.
  48. The studio would keep America's mermaid, Esther Williams's, hair looking beautiful underwater by lathering her hair with baby oil and petroleum jelly. Esther claimed she was as "waterproof as a mallard" when she was let free from hair and makeup.
  49. Passionate and humorous Natalie Wood proved these qualities when the Harvard Lampoon named her the "Worst Actress of the Year" -- she showed up in person to accept the award.
  50. Loretta Young had strong feelings about etiquette and despised swearing (wonder how she would have gotten along with Carole Lombard! They both had a thing for Clark Gable, didn't they?). She established a swearing box on the studio lot, charging any of her peers for profanity. Robert Mitchum used to stuff several bills into the box to cover him for the day, and it is said that Joseph Mankiewicz and Barbara Stanwyck payed their dues to Loretta, as well.

I hope you enjoyed the post - it was a long one, but thanks for sticking with me. ;)


Audrey said...

I loved reading all the facts about classic actresses. Sounds like a great book.

I am hoping *The Artist* will be as good as it sounds!

I love the color you painted your room. Such a pretty blue.

Rianna said...

I'm happy you liked it. There are some interesting facts, aren't they? ;)

Yeah, me too. I can't wait to see it!!

Thank you!! It's a gorgeous shade and it's my favorite :)

StanwyckFan said...

Loved this post! :) I really want to read this book now.

Woot! Woot! Go Babs! Love the fact that she was braver than the stunt people. I love that fact about Loretta Young too. And Roz Russell - love her as well.

Rianna said...

You should really read it! It's wonderful and gives you great information without becoming tedious. ;)

I know, I was so... I don't know, proud of her for being so brave? lol! And yes, Loretta's one made me smile and Roz's made me laugh. :)

Anonymous said...

so funnyXD but i wonder that greta garbo hid herself in laboratory? i have never hear that. only said she didn't show up.

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