Monday, July 10, 2017

Hollywood Stories, No. 2

By The Editors

Back by popular demand is our occasional column containing collected stories, both true and anecdotal, about Hollywood that have accumulated over the years. Many of these should be taken with a grain of salt, but they still make for fascinating reading.

Sam Goldwyn Quotes

We received so much feedback on our Sam Goldwyn quote that we have decided to present our 12 favorite Goldwynisms, in no particular order.       
  • Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.”    
  • A hospital is no place to be sick.”    
  • A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.”   
  • We're overpaying him, but he's worth it.”
  • Our comedies are not to be laughed at.”
  • I don’t think anyone should write their autobiography until after they’re dead.” 
  • Spare no expense to save money on this one.”
  • Color television! Bah, I won’t see it until it’s in black and white.”
  • Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn’t see it.”
  • The scene is dull. Tell him to put more life into his dying.”
  • I hate a man who always says ‘yes’ to me. When I say ‘no’ I like a man who also says ‘no.’”
  • Include me out.”

During the making of Lifeboat (1944), co-star Tallulah Bankhead was in the habit of what today we would refer to as “going commando,” that is, wearing no underwear. As she climbed the ladder into the tank and climbed down the exit ladder she made sure to give the crew a show, for which they always gave her an ovation. When cinematographer Glen McWilliams brought Hitchcock’s attention to the fact that her lack of underwear ruined a couple of takes, Hitchcock drew the actress aside. He mentioned the problem and added, “I don't know if this is a matter for the costume department, makeup, or hairdressing.” Other versions of the story simply have Hitchcock discussing it with the cinematographer.

While being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show in 1972, Hitchcock claimed that women were so frightened after seeing Psycho that they wouldn't shower alone in the house. He also claimed a man wrote to him saying that after watching the French film Diabolique (1955), his daughter wouldn't take a bath. After watching Psycho, she refused to take a shower. “As a result she is very unpleasant to be around. I replied, 'Dear Sir, send her to the dry cleaners.'" 

Speaking of Psycho, on the set during filming Hitchcock referred to star Anthony Perkins as “Master Bates.”

On a personal note, I remember that on the day Psycho was to be shown on New York television, it was preempted because of the real-life horror in Chicago where Richard Speck murdered eight student nurses.

Robin Hood

It seems unbelievable today, but Errol Flynn was not the first choice to play Robin in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The initial choice for the role was James Cagney, but he walked off the set in a dispute about money., which set the film back three years. Robert Donat was approached, but was too ill to take the role. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. also refused. In his case he didn’t want to follow his father, who played Robin Hood in the Silents. At 28, Errol Flynn was the youngest actor to play Robin Hood.

The palomino ridden by Olivia de Havilland in the film had the registered name of “Golden Cloud” and was owned by Hudkins Stables, a company that leased Western equipment to studios. Roy Rogers later bought the steed for $2,500. Character actor Smiley Burnette, who starred with Rogers in many of his early movies, suggested Rogers name the horse “Trigger.” Rogers first rode Trigger in his first starring Western, Under Western Stars (1938).   

The stunt players wore heavy padding underneath a steel breastplate overlaid with some balsa wood to absorb the impact of arrows. They were also given an extra $150 per day to let expert bowman Howard Hill, who also played “Elwyn the Welshman” in the archery contest, shoot arrows into them. 

Ingrid Bergman

When her friends got wind that she was falling in love with director Roberto Rossellini, several tried to talk her out of it. According to biographer Donald Spoto (Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Leo McCarey, who directed her in The Bells of St. Mary’s, took her to lunch. “Ingrid,” he said, “you’re falling for him just because he’s the opposite of (your husband). Go to Vienna and you’ll find guys with flowers and the hand-kissing bit who make Rossellini look like an amateur.” As Spoto noted, she was deaf to his advice.

Groucho and Garbo

While filming A Night at the Opera, Groucho and brother Harpo were riding the elevator in the Thalberg Building when they noticed Greta Garbo stating in front of them with a huge hat on her head. Groucho looked at Harpo. Harpo looked at Groucho and Groucho tipped Garbo’s hat over her face. She turned around ready to spit fire. “I beg your pardon,” Groucho said. “I thought you were a fellow I knew from Kansas City.” Groucho later said in interviews that’s the reason Garbo never made a picture with the Marx Brothers.


For most of his career Humphrey Bogart belittled the Oscars. Until he finally won one, that is. During a lively debate with Richard Burton he suddenly arose and walked out of his living room. A moment later he returned and thumped down the Oscar on the table. “You were saying...,” he growled.

Bogart was less than thrilled with Katharine Hepburn when they filmed The African Queen on location. “How affected can you get in the middle of Africa?” he asked. “Katharine Hepburn used to say everything was ‘divine.’ The goddamn stinking natives were ‘divine.’ ‘Oh, what a divine native,’ she would say.” He ended his bitching with “Oh, what a divine pile of manure.”

Bette Davis

According to one story, Jack Carson was at the Hollywood Canteen when he noticed a crowd of servicemen around Bette Davis. Taking one G.I. aside he asked what all the ruckus was about. “I hear she screws like a mink,” the serviceman replied. Supposedly Davis seduced scores of servicemen she picked up at the Canteen.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The film was banned by the Nazis as “anti-German.” Meanwhile, it was also banned in Poland for being too “pro-German.”

Carl Laemmle sent director Lewis Milestone a memo suggesting he inject an uplifting ending into the film, which Laemmle saw as too bleak. Milestone wrote back: “I’ve got your happy ending. We’ll let the Germans win the war.”

The star of the film, Lew Ayres, was once married to Ginger Rogers, a marriage he later noted was doomed from the start. “Ginger Rogers was married to her career,” he said, “and to that mother of hers. I often felt like an interloper.” Not many in Hollywood had a good word to say about Ginger’s mother, who was seen as domineering and pushy.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Vernon

Comic Jackie Vernon (1924-87) was having breakfast in a London restaurant when he spotted his boyhood idol, Charlie Chaplin. When he was a kid Jackie sent Chaplin admiring fan letters every week. But Chaplin never replied so Vernon gave up. Now his hero was before him in the flesh. Vernon approached the now wheelchair-bound Chaplin’s table. “Mr. Chaplin. I have always admired and wanted to meet you. My name is Jackie Vernon.”

Chaplin repeated the name thoughtfully. “Vernon...Vernon...So why did you stop writing?”

Burns and Benny

George Burns always has quite an effect on his good friend Jack Benny. Burns was always pulling jokes on the good-natured Benny. Once, at a recital by Jeanette Macdonald, both George and Jack bought their wives. Before Jeanette came out, George took Jack aside and said, “Listen Jack, I think it would be very rude if, when she began to sing, you started laughing.” That did it. When MacDonald came out and began warbling, Benny was on the floor in hysterics.

1 comment:

  1. All very interesting and some quite funny I enjoyed this type of article