Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Immortal Lauren Bacall (R.I.P.)

If the sun was shining, I wanted to be outside. If it rained, I wanted to be watching a Bette Davis film. I was a good student – not summa cum laude, mind you, but able to get through well without too much effort. What mattered was that Saturday mornings I took classes at the New York School of the Theatre. Mother agreed that I could go and that was what I got through the week for. There I had my first taste of improvisation, of memorizing scenes, playing parts of all ages. And I was continuing my dancing lessons. My last year at school I studied ballet with a great old Russian dancer, Mikhail Mordkin, who had been Pavlova’s partner on many of her tours.

One Saturday morning in 1942, Mother and Rosalie took me to the Capitol Theatre to see a movie called Casablanca. We all loved it, and Rosalie was mad about Humphrey Bogart. I thought he was good in it, but mad about him? Not at all. She thought he was sexy. I thought she was crazy. Mother liked him, though not as much as she liked Chester Morris, who she thought was really sexy – or Ricardo Cortez, her second favorite. I couldn’t understand Rosalie’s thinking at all. Bogart didn’t vaguely resemble Leslie Howard. So much for my judgment at that time.

Just after Christmas I was called to the studio by Howard Hawks and he gave me the only present I wanted from life. It was a scene from To Have and Have Not . He was going to make the movie – he had Bogart – it would start in February 1944, and he wanted me to test for it right after the first of the year. I read the scene – it was the ‘whistle’ scene. I was on cloud ten – a very high, comfortable cloud, far from reality. I walked to the door of Bogart’s room, said, ‘Anybody got a match?,’ leaned against the door, and Bogart threw me a small box of matches. I lit my cigarette, looking at him, said ‘Thanks,’ threw the matches back to him, and left. Well – we rehearsed it. My hand was shaking – my head was shaking – the cigarette was shaking. I was mortified. The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook.

I found out very quickly that day what a terrific man Bogart was. He did everything possible to put me at ease. He was on my side. I felt safe – I still shook, but I shook less. He was not even remotely a flirt. So To Have and Have Not transformed me from a nothing to a combination of Garbo, Dietrich, Mae West, Katharine Hepburn. I was the greatest discovery since… I made Bogart sit up and take notice … I was a new face to deal with on the screen … I was the answer … Hooray! So proclaimed the press. I was everything Howard Hawks had always wanted. My name would be on everyone’s lips all over the country, my words would be immortal – my God, what was I going to do about the me that was buried beneath all that, the me that I was stuck with, that was real?

A funny thing happened to my career after the first few years of being Mrs Bogart. Funny-peculiar. Everyone thought I was terrific personally, but they stopped thinking of me as an actress. I was Bogie’s wife, gave great dinners, parties, but work was passed over. It was very frustrating. I wanted my career to go on. From the beginning Bogie had made it clear that he would It became apparent to me that, overjoyed as I was to be Mrs Bogart, I had no intention of allowing Miss Bacall to slide into oblivion.-"By Myself and Then Some" (2010) by Lauren Bacall

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dolores Dorn & Franchot Tone: Letter From A Hollywood Starlet - Uncle Vanya clips

I got a call from my agents for an Off-Broadway play called “Burning Bright” by John Steinbeck directed by Matt Cimber. On the second day of rehearsal I got another call from my agents telling me that Max Arnow and Columbia Studios wanted me to fly to California, all expenses paid, to do a test for the lead in “Underworld U.S.A.” to be directed by the charismatic Sammy Fuller. The next day Columbia sent a car and driver to take me to the studio to do the test. I met Sammy Fuller who I liked immediately. He introduced me to Cliff Robertson who’d already had the leading male role and would do the test with me and the four other girls. had the part in “Underworld U.S.A.” and could I be in Hollywood the following week. I would have to sign a two picture deal with Columbia.

“Underworld U.S.A.” being one and another the studio would choose at a later date. I could live in New York and do whatever projects I wanted in between which meant I could go back to “Plays for Bleeker Street.” Another irony. I almost didn’t get there to do the test. The circle had completed itself and I had won. I was no longer the indentured little starlet. I was the star of a movie with a picture deal. Yeah!

I got cast as the lead opposite Walter Abel in ‘Oh, Men, Oh, Women,’ a play that had recently closed on Broadway with Franchot Tone in the role Walter was to play. It was to open in Clinton, Connecticut for one week.

Uncle Vanya is a 1957 American film adaptation of the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. Filmed concurrently with an Off Broadway production, it was both co-produced and co-directed by actor Franchot Tone, who starred as Dr. Astroff. Tone's wife at the time, Dolores Dorn-Heft, co-starred as Elena Andreevna, appearing in the only role not featuring an actor from the stage version in New York, where the part was played by Signe Hasso.

I had one night to become familiar with some very long, complicated scenes. The play was “Uncle Vanya” written by Anton Chekhov. Not contemporary, but a period piece of great fame. The part was one of the leads. The audition was to be in the penthouse of the Warwick Hotel where Franchot Tone lived. David Ross would be there. I had let my agent know about the audition and he was thrilled for me. He told me that David Ross had an earlier success with another Chekhov play, “The Three Sisters.” He told me that “Uncle Vanya” was an important production particularly since a star of the caliber of Franchot Tone agreed to do it. I was getting nervous. Was I up to it?

I walked to the Warwick Hotel (Legend has it that publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst built the Warwick in 1926 for his mistress, actress Marion Davies) which was on Sixth Avenue in the fifties, announced myself at the desk and took the elevator up to the penthouse. When I got out of the elevator I saw only one door. I knocked and David Ross opened it. I walked in and in the far corner in a easy chair with a window looking over much of Manhattan sat the handsome star of stage and screen, Franchot Tone smiling at me. He got up from his chair and held out his hand for me to shake. I hoped my hand wasn’t sweating as it sometimes did when I got nervous. He motioned for me to sit down in a chair opposite him. “Well, should we get started?” he said in a cultured deep baritone voice. “Yes,” I squeaked. I’d met a lot of sophisticated, attractive men in London and Hollywood but none with the presence and savoirfaire of this man. And did I mention he was handsome with a twinkle in his eye too? I got up from my chair and sat at Mr. Tone’s feet taking his hand in mine. I surprised him but he seemed to like it. Then I took his other hand and kissed it. He looked at me a long time before he said his next line. I’d made an impression.

Down in the elevator I went with my head still up in the penthouse with him. True, he was older, but I’d never met anyone like him in my life. Now I had another reason for wanting the part. A message was waiting for me at the desk of my hotel when I got back. Could I start rehearsals tomorrow? I took a long bus ride down to East Fourth Street. David and Franchot were waiting for me. Franchot and I started working on one of our scenes. I felt confused. I didn’t know where to put myself on this strange platform stage. I felt clumsy and confused and it was obvious. I’m sure it looked like I’d never been on a stage in my life. The next day I thought I did a little better. I had lunch with the rest of the cast, Gerry Hiken, Peggy McCay, Mary Perry along with Franchot and George, they were so supportive and nice to me. After playing the role a few weeks Franchot asked me to have something to eat after the show. I didn’t hesitate. The attraction between us on stage was obvious to everyone. The attraction I felt for him offstage I could barely conceal. Before we even went out the gossip columnists had us as an “Item.” We went to a small, quiet restaurant with great French food. Franchot told me he was part French and part Irish, a relative of the Irish patriot Wolfe Tone, whose bronze statue sits somewhere in Ireland.

He told me about producing “The Man on the Eiffel Tower,” the movie, in Paris starring Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith, with Burgess also directing. These two men were his lifelong friends along with Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman. I told him about going to school at the Goodman Theater and touring the Middle West in the Toby & Suzie Tent Repertory Company playing to a group of mostly farmers in towns with a population of about two thousand. Franchot was interested in my time with the farmers in the Midwest because his father was a farm boy who’d worked himself up to being the president of the Carborundum Co. He told me that his father was not happy being with the captains of industry.

I told him about my experience as a contract player in Hollywood and he told me about his experience in the MGM stable of stars. Even though he made more money and played in grand films, he, like me, felt like an indentured servant. He told me about his dream of having his own theater and took me to a location where there was a theater that was suitable. He wanted to do plays with real issues acted by realistic actors. Not to preach but to enlighten. Attraction aside – I fell in love. Franchot and I went out almost every night after the show. For my birthday he gave me a beautiful heavy gold bracelet with two dolphins going in the opposite directions supposed to symbolize my astrological sign of Pisces from Van Cleef & Arpels.

One evening, after the show, in a restaurant, he asked me to marry him. Marry him!? I didn’t expect this. We decided on a quiet wedding in French Canada. Franchot had inherited, from his mother, what he called a summer camp. The camp was really two rustic houses nestled in the woods between two fresh water lakes. The main house had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room a living room with a large stone fireplace and a large screened in porch with a view of ‘Thirty One Mile Lake.’ The ceremony took place in the house of the mayor of Montreal, Quebec with Franchot’s friend Jean Paul Dejordins and his wife Libby in attendance. Many people in New York thought it was a secret wedding because we did not announce it to the press. Our friends all knew but my mother and father didn’t. I thought it would be better to tell them in person. They were hoping to make the trip to New York so my father could see the play. I knew they weren’t happy about the age difference and I hoped that if they saw how happy we were they might change their minds. We moved into a brownstone house on the Upper East Side that Franchot had purchased which had been separated into three apartments.

After we got settled we continued working in “Uncle Vanya” for a time. One day Franchot asked me what I thought of his producing and directing “Uncle Vanya” as a movie. He said he wanted to get all the wonderful performances on film including his own which he felt was the best he’d ever done. “Where would we do it?” I asked, very excited at the idea. “Right here in New York. I’ve inquired about a studio on Staten Island. We could do the play at night and the movie in the daytime.” And so we did the movie over a period of a month. It was not easy for any of us but it was much harder for Franchot. He had put his own money into it against his financial advisor’s advice and the expenses kept mounting up eventually to the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The film finally opened at the Baronet Theater on the Upper East Side to respectable but not rave reviews. And not good enough for him to make his money back. All the performances got good reviews but he was singled out. I was happy because he’d worked so hard and his performance was outstanding. Franchot decided to submit the movie to ‘The San Francisco International Film Festival.’ Our film didn’t get ‘Best Film’ but I hoped for Franchot to get ‘Best Actor’. He didn’t, they gave it to a German actor. I was shocked when they announced me as ‘Best Actress.’ I didn’t know what to say as I accepted the award. So all I said was “Thank you.” It seemed to me so unfair that Franchot’s performance didn’t get recognized.

The film disappeared for fifty three years until it turned up on DVD in June of 2011. Franchot’s show ‘The Moon for the Misbegotten” finished its limited run and he occupied himself with trying to get a European distributor for “Uncle Vanya.” He became more and more depressed when nothing worked out. He began to drink heavily and became more and more verbally abusive accusing me of having affairs with my acting school friend, Dick Curtis, and my high school friend, George Furth, who later wrote “Company,” a musical comedy. His drinking behavior was getting me down. I felt badly for him and badly for myself. A friend suggested a psychiatrist, Dr. Bela Mittelman. I’d heard Burgess Meredith talk about him and he was highly esteemed by people in the business. Marlon Brando, Alan J. Lerner, Elia Kazan, Kim Hunter to name a few. Franchot and I had dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Isle of Capri, and he told me how happy he was that I was auditioning for the Actor's studio.

Did he want a more traditional marriage? It was beginning to look like that from the call and some subtle and not so subtle messages he’d been giving me. Could I do that? I loved him, yes, but could I do that? I found out I was pregnant. He told me he didn’t want any more children. He already had two sons. What was I to do? That question was answered when a week or so later I miscarried. Franchot had to leave to do a T.V. show in California but when he came back he was helpful while I recuperated. I was grateful but I had enough of this marriage and I think he did too... I started divorce proceedings. I would miss Franchot. Shortly after the divorce was final he asked to come over to see my new apartment. He brought his teenage son. It was Valentine’s Day and he also brought me a perfect two karat diamond cut into the shape of a heart on a platinum chain from Van Cleef & Arpels. One day Franchot asked me to meet him at Jim Downey’s Bar and Grill. There, at a booth sat Franchot and a young couple. The young man had recently directed Franchot in a T.V. movie of the week. He had seen the scene from “Days of Wine and Roses” and complimented me on my work. No one else had so I was pleased to hear it. After a pleasant short visit the couple left. Franchot told me that meeting the director might be helpful to my career. True, my personal life was horrible but then this was the 1950’s and women were supposed to stay home and have children. And the men I had relationships with went along with that whether it was conscious or unconscious. -"Letter From A Hollywood Starlet" (2013) by Dolores Dorn

Saturday, August 09, 2014

"The Girl From Missouri" (1934) and "Suzy" (1936) with Jean Harlow & Franchot Tone

"The Girl From Missouri" (1934), starring Franchot Tone, Jean Harlow and Lionel Barrymore.

"The Girl From Missouri" marked the second time Harlow worked with director Jack Conway, who also called the shots on 1932's Red-Headed Woman. He would go on to direct Harlow again in the 1936 romantic comedy Libeled Lady and her final film Saratoga (1937). Accomplished writer and Harlow friend Anita Loos penned the sharp screenplay, sharing credit (as she often did) with husband John Emerson. Known also for writing the novel and screenplay for the similarly themed Marilyn Monroe vehicle Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Loos also wrote two other Harlow flicks, Red-Headed Woman and Saratoga. Harlow's biggest connection to the crew of this picture was undoubtedly with cinematographer Harold (Hal) Rosson, to whom she was married at the time. Unfortunately for the couple, their brief marriage broke up before The Girl From Missouri was completed. Rosson, who had already shot most of the picture, was replaced by Ray June and went uncredited in the final print. Rosson was her third and last husband, though she did go on to a famous love affair with actor William Powell before her death in 1937. Source:

With a script written from the acclaimed Anita Loos, The Girl from Missouri could have played like Baby Face, with a character merely scheming and sleeping her way to the top. Instead you like Eadie because she wants to marry a wealthy man to make something of herself, give her future children financial security, and prove she’s not a floozy.

I think that’s what I ultimately find so refreshing about Harlow and her films. As much as I adore Marilyn Monroe, her characters were never strong-willed. Sure Monroe had a few role where she acknowledged her ditziness, but she never transcended it. Or if she did play a strong character there were male troubles that dominated the story more. Here, Harlow isn’t an idiot.

 Eadie gives a big speech to Paige, Jr. after he tries to seduce her by locking her in a room with him (someone call up Benson and Stabler) that she knows what people think about her, that she’s a floozy, but does that means she’s not entitled to respect? Her character understands that how she dresses and looks makes people judge her, but why does that mean they have to treat her like a piece of meat? That’s where I think Harlow becomes a stronger and more enduring star than Monroe (although most people forget that Monroe herself is an off-shoot of Harlow and Mae West). Throughout the film men try to make Eadie sleep with them by giving her gifts. Source:

Jean Harlow plays a chorus girl, named Eadie, on the make for a millionaire. She chases an old rich guy (Lionel Barrymore) to Palm Beach. Once there, she meets and falls in love with his son, Tom. The old man wants his son to stay away from her. He assumes she is nothing more than a gold digging slut. The dialogue is classic. Early in the movie Harlow and a friend (Patsy Kelly) are at a party full of rich older men. Harlow tells her friend to act like a lady. Her friend responds, 'If they wanted ladies they'd go home to their wives.' This movie also contains some dark subjects. Early in the movie a man kills himself by gunshot (played by Andy Hardy's dad Lewis Stone).

In one scene Harlow loses a job because - as she explains it - she 'wasn't friendly enough to the boss.' In another scene Harlow tells a friend that she just got engaged to a man she just met. Her friend asks, 'Did someone have you sniff a little white powder.' In another scene, Harlow gets thrown in a shower fully dressed. When she emerges you can clearly see some nipple action through her soaked dress. Franchot Tone is actually very good as Tom. He was certainly handsome enough and he has an easy charm about him that is quite appealing. He could also deliver a comic line with style. In the scene aboard the yacht where Eadie first discovers Tom is T.R.'s son, she jumps overboard and right before Tom goes in after her his father tells him to watch out for her. Tom (who had overheard Eadie and Kitty plotting together in the previous scene) replies incredulously to his father, “You're warning me?!” Source:

American showgirl Suzy (Jean Harlow) is in London in 1914. She loves Irish inventor Terry (Franchot Tone) who works for an engineering firm owned by a German woman. After their marriage Terry is murdered and Suzy flees to Paris where she meets flyer Andre (Cary Grant) as war is breaking out.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer describes its romantic masterpiece "Suzy" (1936) as being based on the novel by Herbert S. German. Based seems too strong a word; one suspects that the studio simply tore out a few chapters, distributed them among Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Horace Jackson, Lenore Coffee and a few George Spelvins on its writing staff, and suggested they proceed from there. The final script indicates they retreated instead. Miss Harlow has been returned to her unsophisticated "Hell's Angels" days; Franchot Tone is some one out of "The Key"; Cary Grant was revisited with "The Eagle and the Hawk"; they found a place by the fireside for Lewis Stone. Miss Harlow's performance may be numbered among her least, and we still insist she would be wiser not to stray beyond the green pastures of comedy. Mr. Tone can be thanked for the few honest moments of drama that the film possesses. His young Irishman is about the only convincing and natural character in the piece. Source:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Susan Hayward: "Brooklyn's Scarlett"

"This I was born with: an imagination and a natural talent for lying. The perfect ingredients for an actor." -Susan Hayward

Edythe Marrener (Susan Hayward) was born on the 30th of June 1917 Saturday — ‘Saturday’s child has to work for a living.’ She was a tiny baby with bright hazel eyes, long brown lashes, with a tilt to her nose and her father’s flame colored hair.

The temperament that would so ably portray the courage of Jane Froman (herself crippled by a plane crash) in the screenplay 'With A Song In My Heart' may have begun to take shape on that sultry day in Brooklyn, when a little girl, against all medical advice and odds, struggled to walk again. “After she was back from the hospital,” Wally [Susan's brother] remembered, “the ladies from the church brought over a big bag of toys and she was allowed to open one each day that she was laid up in bed. She got a big kick out of that. It added a little surprise.” The reward for the pain and the suffering was her first taste of fame — and she liked it.

“The only way I knew how to protect myself,” Hayward later explained, “was to try to scare people before they scared me.” At Girls Commercial HS, she spent a great deal of time in the library, letting herself get caught up in the shining web of words that Thomas Wolfe spun for her. It was also in that library, she read for the first time, George Bernard Shaw’s play about Eliza the flower girl who becomes a great lady. When she read Pygmalion, she might have wished for some Professor Henry Higgins to come into her life and turn it around. She would be her own Professor Higgins and make herself into someone the whole world would know and admire. One of the women in the Dramatics Department was named Eleanor O’Grady. After she heard Edythe read for the first time, she called her into her office. “I believe you have real talent,” she told the girl.“Have you ever thought about making performing your career?” Had she ever thought —!

Susan Hayward: "If I were starting out in this day and age, I don’t think I would choose an acting career. The motion picture has all changed so tremendously. I think I’d be much more attracted to a career in something like archaeology or geology. Acting, no."

Acting upon the advice of a friend, she enrolled in the Feagan School of Dramatic Arts in Rockefeller Center, New York City. She went after the much talked about ‘experience.’ Lack of money resulted in her looking for work as a model.

At this time, there was a big boom in color photography and a natural redhead would be in. Edythe checked the yellow pages of the Manhattan phone book tearing off the listings for model agencies. On a hunch, she picked out what she thought were the best by their addresses. Acting impulsively on that same hunch she walked into the Walter Thornton Agency and asked for a job. One of Edythe’s girl friends from Astoria, Long Island, Margaret Lane reminisced about those days back in 1938. “We had to break into modeling the hard way then. Armed with a folio of our pictures and a scrapbook, we’d call on photographers, artists and fashion directors — and there were about 500 of them on the list. She became artist Jon Whitcomb’s most beguiling cover girl when he began to draw her wistful, saucy loveliness, and that was the start of her climb as a model.”

Agents from the Warner Brothers New York office offered her a $50 a week contract. On September 20, 1937 at $50 a week at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, she began working as an extra on her six month contract. In her very first film, 'Hollywood Hotel' Louella Parsons, the powerful Hearst columnist would play herself in a movie based on her radio show. Next at Warners, she did a small bit as a telephone operator in the Bette Davis — Erroll Flynn potboiler The Sisters. The unbilled Susan Hayward in the film would be billed over the formidable Miss Davis the next time they were in another picture together: "Where Love Has Gone?" (1964)

At a starting salary of $250 a week, she made her first appearance in 'Beau Geste,' with Gary Cooper and Ray Milland. She received fifth billing but no mention in the reviews. From there, she went up to second place for 'Our Leading Citizen,' a minor effort, and dropped to fourth place in another poor film $1,000 'A Touchdown.' She began a new year and a new picture- 'Among The Living.' This part, as a small town vamp, seemed to portend the role of a vixen, which she was to portray so well throughout her career.

“All my life I’ve been terribly frightened of people. At the studio, it was the casting director, the cameramen, reporters and publicists who asked endless questions. I thought everyone was so brilliant and I felt so inadequate. At this party, those famous stars seemed so poised, so sure of themselves. Or so I thought. That’s when I got the idea that I should try to be like them.” People at the studio advised her to change because her attitude was wrong. She stopped being herself and tried to copy everyone else. She got so mixed up and became more confused than ever. Susan’s elocution lessons were laying on a finishing school accent over her pure Brooklynese. She joined the dozen promising players at Paramount — The Golden Circle. One of that group Richard Webb has not forgotten their first meeting; "I met up with her around 1940. She was a beautiful gal with a husky voice that turned me on. Susan was highly intelligent, very alert, and had a tremendous character."

Henry Hathaway, among others, agreed with that comment; “She never slept around, not at all, she wasn’t a flirt.” Susan handled men on their own terms, as she said,“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve always been liberated, but circumstances differ with each woman. I think that if a woman does the same job as a man, she should get the same respect but I personally don’t want to be in competition with a man. I would rather have him lead the way, with slight encouragement from me, of course. And some nudging to make sure he leads me in the right direction. But I have no desire to go out and run some man’s garbage truck.”

The Hollywood grapevine gossip was out. Hayward was good. One of the people who studied her work in Gregory Ratoff's "Adam Had Four Sons" was producer Walter Wanger. It was Wanger’s opinion that Susan darned near stole the picture from a darned good actress, Ingrid Bergman. Why did Paramount treat the whole matter as it were a freak of fortune and wasted her proven ability for another five years? This is one of the mysteries of the film business. Anyone can be ignored in Hollywood. More experienced actresses, noticing her fiery competence, felt threatened and pleaded with their directors not to be cast opposite her. People seemed to be always angry with her, a condition of life that she not only tolerated but actually appeared to thrive on. Her world, inside and out, was one of ire.

Susan Hayward: "I got my early training with some very good directors, William Wellman (Beau Geste) Gregory Ratoff (Adam Had Four Sons) De Mille (Reap The Wild Wind) — and they weren’t about to sit around and wait for me or anyone to get in the mood. I didn’t spend time between scenes joking with the crew or playing poker with the wardrobe women. I saved my energy so that when they said,‘Action!’ I was ready. I learned it because it was part of my trade. And by the same token, I learned to turn the emotions off just as quickly.”

Later, as movie magazine columnists would say, “He (Jess Barker) found his heart at the Hollywood Canteen — in Susan Hayward.” Another version is that Gregory Ratoff who had just completed 'Adam Had Four Sons' with Susan was on a trip to New York and caught Jess in a stage show. Seeing him, he thought that Barker would be the ideal leading man to play opposite Susan in real life. But whatever fates brought her and Jess Barker together in 1943, soon there was no turning back. She became pregnant by Barker that same year. While Susan was attracted by the up and coming actor, she didn’t consider him stable husband material and for a time toyed with the idea of having his child out of wedlock. When she finally went to the studio heads and told them of her condition, they informed her that if she didn’t marry Barker her contract would be terminated.

Jess hardly knew the emotional hurricane he was marrying, and little suspected the furies that would engulf him over the next ten years of his life. The marital storms between the Barkers began almost immediately. After three months, they broke up, only to have the studio decree that they reconcile for the sake of appearance. On February 19, 1945 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica Susan gave birth to non-identical twins, Timothy and Gregory. Susan’s forced marriage to Barker was just an opening to the shattering circus of publicity that would later sweep over the couple.

In "Deadline At Dawn" (produced by Howard Hughes’studio RKO) she would play a dance hall girl who helps clear a naïve sailor of a murder charge. Director Harold Clurman spoke enthusiastically: "The whole experience is very vivid. Susan Hayward was very nice, but she was not in the best state there, because for some reason they (Paramount) had lost interest in her." Bill Williams, her co-star, who played the sailor in the movie couldn’t forget something that had happened; “She was a heck of an actress and a lovely human being. The last shot in the picture was when I was sitting in the bus with her; remember she was going to go with me. We had to kiss and it wasn’t right. Either I was holding her too tight or was a little too innocent about it. It went on about 3-4 hours. I said, “Gee Susie, it’s been a long time kissing you hasn’t it?” “Bill,” she said, “I gotta tell you something, you didn’t do anything for me, either.”

But it was her next Walter Wanger picture that was the turning point for Susan. Wanger bought a property, tailored made for her untapped talents: "Smash Up: The Story of a Woman". In it, she would portray the neglected wife of a crooner. It was said it was based on the life of Dixie Lee, the wife of crooner Bing Crosby.

Marsha Hunt, an excellent actress, co-starring as well in the picture recalled: “Sadly she had absolutely nothing to do with me. I never understood why. I finally realized it wasn’t personal, I couldn’t have offended her. This was a person so private and so closely involved with her job at hand that all relationships with others were nonexistent. Susan commented to the press; “Women should not drink. Women are not constituted like men; they’re too emotional and can’t take a lot of liquor. A woman spends hours making herself beautiful and then after two drinks her face falls.”

After the picture was in release, Miss Hunt met Susan in a department store in Beverly Hills. “She was dressed as for a garden party. I don’t mean she was badly dressed; she was extremely feminine, in a floating chiffon gown, wide picture hat, and little white gloves. She was gorgeous, a beautiful woman, and so gowned that your eye was fastened on her. She was standing in front of can openers, strainers, utensils, and kitchen supplies. When I glanced up from the counter where I was shopping, there she was facing me, without a sign of recognition.”

Someone who knew Susan well said, “She was painfully shy, a trait which takes the form of brutal frankness. She is almost sullen with strangers, making no effort to please them. She goes out of her way to make an unfavorable impression. She used to say, ‘you have to accept me at my worst or not at all.’ She didn’t want to wear glasses, and half the time she couldn’t make her way without them. That’s why she didn’t recognize people — she couldn’t see them.”

Her coldness, mingled with her usually superior work in front of the cameras, inspired a fearful awe. “She was a bitch!” said director Hathaway. “Anybody who is a bitch to work with has got to be a bitch to live with. That’s an inherent thing, a part of your make-up, to be an obstruction to everything. She was a little twisted, she was twisted in her walk, she always walked a little sideways, stood a little sideways, it’s a thing that was in her nature. It was in her head, her look, her walk, in the way she stood, that girl was twisted.”

In preparing for her role of Lillian Roth in "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1955) directed by Daniel Mann, Susan had studied the mannerisms of seriously ill alcoholics and visited the cells of unfortunates in the Los Angeles County Jail. Through the bars of their cells, she has studied women with the “shakes.” In one scene, Susan had to play Lillian Roth at her absolute rockbottom, lost in her alcoholic obsession as she sat in the bar with the winos, it would be very important now not only to photograph Susan’s emotional involvement in that atmosphere but literally to photograph the reflection of the place as registered in her face.

The scene in the barroom is where Lillian, now a chronic alcoholic, is living in almost complete forgetfulness. She makes drunks laugh by reciting a childhood job seeking speech — ‘I’m Lillian Roth, I’m eight years old, I do imitations and dramatic parts’ — and the winos finally discover that this is the lady they remembered. They laugh at her while Susan sits there laughing too; and as she’s laughing big tears, like drops of blood, are pouring out of her eyes. It became one of the most unforgettable moments in the picture. Susan changed a lot during this period, very much aided by the story of Lillian Roth’s torment, and often went into long trances and became at times quite unreachable. “It was one of the great moments in my whole career,” Mann said about the barroom scene not simply because it was a classic moment of laughter and tears, but that she had the freedom and capacity to involve herself in a very personalized moment. Only an actress of great courage, talent and magic could have done it. It could have looked phony to be laughing and crying at the same time, big thing about Susan’s talent is that none of this was representative. What Susan did is what she experienced — that’s why the audience experienced it.”

In Susan’s tragic life, there was a deep understanding of irony and pain. A week later Susan Hayward tried to kill herself. She was alone in the living room of her house in Sherman Oaks on that Monday night, April 25, 1955. At some point, she took a large handful of sleeping pills, washed down with her usual bourbon, and decided at the last moment to call her mother. She always threw herself almost violently into her parts. She was an honest actress. -"Brooklyn's Scarlett: Susan Hayward: Fire in the Wind" (2010) by Gene Arceri

"When you’re dead, you’re dead. No one is going to remember me when I’m dead. Oh, maybe a few friends will remember me affectionately. Being remembered isn’t the most important thing, anyhow. It’s what you do when you are here that’s important." — Susan Hayward

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Love is a Headache (trailer, on TCM)

Love Is A Headache trailer (1938) directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Franchot Tone, Gladys George, Mickey Rooney, etc.
A Broadway star and a columnist vie with each other over her career and the adoption of two orphans in this madcap comedy: After a flop show Carlotta Lee (Gladys George) argues with her press agent Jimmy Slattery (Ted Healy). Columnist Peter Lawrence (Franchot Tone) goes dancing with Carlotta and warns her not to take a part with Sam Ellinger. Mike O'Toole (Mickey Rooney) jumps into the ocean to save Jake O'Toole (Virginia Wiedler), and they raise money from the crowd. Carlotta gets the part from Ellinger but has her picture taken with Mike and Jake getting into the car Odell gave her. Peter sees the news photo and calls Carlotta. She calls Odell, and he asks her to marry. They find Peter at the Juvenile Welfare office, and Odell writes a check for $10,000 and calls her his fiancé. While Peter thinks, Joe picks up Mike and Jake. Carlotta calls the police, who question Peter. He says it was a publicity stunt, and papers report a hoax. Joe shows Peter the kids, and Peter sends them out the back as Carlotta, Odell and the police arrive. Peter consoles Carlotta but sees Jake's hat. Peter tries to hide it and asks Carlotta to marry. Peter tells Carlotta she must marry to adopt, and she insists he marry her. The sheriff with a pistol forces Peter to wed Carlotta, and in the final scene Mike and Jake leave them alone. This nifty comedy plays on the sexual tension between two career people, who oddly are pulled together by two orphans not wanting to be separated. Source:
You can watch LOVE IS A HEADACHE (1938) on TCM, SUNDAY 4:15 AM 24th August. A freak accident gives a fading actress a huge publicity push. Director: Richard Thorpe Cast: Gladys George, Franchot Tone, Ted Healy. BW-73 mins, CC