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Norma Shearer


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I liked her as an actress, I have several of her pre-code movies on video, and also The Women on DVD. Really liked her also in the Barrets Of Wimpole Street. I never found her to be very attractive though, just not my type.

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Norma Shearer was always good. She was a natural movie actress and had great style and charisma. It's hard to realize now what a huge star she was--sort of the Meryl Streep of her time. She was terrific in all those pre-Code dramas like A Free Soul and The Divorcee and later in Marie Antoinette and Barretts of Wimpole St..... Shearer was a class act...... and yes I liked her in The Women too.

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Yes, I agree with the posts regarding Norma Shearer's talent. Even though she was married to Thalberg, MGM would not have put her in so many prominent roles if she couldn't prove her worth. The short bio that TCM has been recently running narrated by Janet Leigh has a interesting part about Joan Crawford complaining to Thalberg that Norma got all the good roles. For this, Joan was forced to do a second-rate western and never complained to Thalberg again. Joan learned an important lesson.

 

I've always been curious regarding how much she inherited upon Thalberg's death. Even after her retirement, she lived very well for the rest of her life.

 

Tony

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Tabitha, I laughed out loud about your nail salon comment. I'm sure most of those women have never heard of "The" Women. Too bad it wasn't filmed in color, so we could see that jungle red, and it would've been nice to see Norma in at least one Technicolor movie. The only time she was ever in color was during a "Romeo and Juliet" scene that she did with John Gilbert in "Hollywood Revue of 1929," but the color is primitive, and nothing like the Technicolor of 1939, used in "Oz" and "GWTW." Norma and the rest of that great female cast would've looked great in Technicolor.

 

And Tony, Norma inherited quite a bit from Thalberg when he died. While he was alive, he was given Loews and MGM stock as a sort of "raise" when he asked for more money. It was quite a chunk of stock, and when he died Mayer tried to scam Norma out of it, but she held onto it, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons she remained a millionaire for the rest of her life. It's funny though, she didn't really live lavishly, like a Hollywood legend - Norma Desmond type. She lived in a normal size house in the Hollywood Hills with her second husband, and I'm sure she enjoyed her wealth, but not to an extravagant extent.

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Hi Larry -

 

Do you have any stories about Norma? Did you ever see her at any parties, and was she active in the L.A. social scene? Did your grandmother know her at all? Just wondering, since you have so many great stories about other Hollywood legends.

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Hi Joe,

 

I did not know Norma at all. But, she was a good friend of Merle Oberon and Marion Davies, although she never attended any parties that I knew of.

I think she knew Nell but they didn't bother with each other much.

 

Once in about 1961, I passed a woman on the sidewalk on Wiltshire Blvd. and she was followed by a man carrying parcels. She was dressed in white shirt and trousers and sun glasses; and a lady came up to me and said, "Do you know who that is? It's Norma Shearer". I turned around and noticed she and the man were dressed alike really but by then I only saw the back of them.

I don't know if it was Norma or not, but I like to think so....

 

Larry

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I like Norma best in The Student Prince at Old Heidelberg, she was sweet in that role, the perfect Kathie. The Divorcee had me going for awhile until that scene where she is talking to the lady with the dark veil over her face, the wife of Conrad Nagel's character. For some reason that sets me off giggling like crazy, not what they intended, obviously.

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I have a great Norma party story, courtesy of Jack Larson. He went to a party for two up and coming stars, Audrey Hepburn and Maria Schell. Norma Shearer attended. When it was time to dance, she took off the jacket that went with her gown. As Jack put it, everyone was waiting for the flabby arms, as she was older by then. Well, she didn't have them.

 

Not only that, this is the part I love - she danced all night. Audrey Hepburn and Maria Schell sat in a corner.

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With all the Norma Shearer fans here, I wonder if anyone knows why The Trial of Mary Dugan (MGM, 1929) has never been shown on TCM? Is it a case where the rights are tied up? Apparently it was a play. There is also a 1940 version (MGM) with Laraine Day that has never been shown.

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Thanks Larry and Chandler for the info on Norma Shearer. It looks like she really enjoyed herself at that party!

 

And brwym, you make a very good point about "The Trial of Mary Dugan." I've never seen either version on the station either. And I've requested Norma's version, but I haven't seen it turn up yet.

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Until recently the only Norma Shearer film I'd seen was "The Women," which is a pretty good film. Then I read the book "Complicated Women" and decided I wanted to see every pre-Code film she did. Thankfully TCM had a Norma Shearer day during "Summer Under The Stars" last month, so I got to see a few of them! I really loved "Private Lives" and "The Divorcee." Since then I'm a big fan of Norma's and really admire her both as a woman and actress and I admire a lot of her film characters. A few days ago I got a new kitten and I named her Norma...and I did that with the highest respect for one of the best actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age! :-)

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  • 1 month later...

I have another great Norma story, which you all may have heard.

 

The studio wanted Robert Taylor for Axel in Marie Antoinette, but Norma got a look at Tyrone Power at a dinner and decided he should be her Axel. So she asked him, and of course, being young and just starting out and working with such a huge star, he was thrilled. Fox loaned him out (for the last time).

 

Well, the story goes that during their first kiss, Norma held on so long that the kiss had to be edited down. Tyrone had just begun to see Annabella and more or less let Norma know he wasn't interested.

 

She didn't take it very well. So during a photo session for the film, she walks in with these ENORMOUS plumes that made up a headress. As Tyrone stood behind her, he was invisible. So the photographer gave him a box to stand on.

 

Just as the picture flashed, he fell through the box and onto the floor.

 

He did escort Norma to the premiere, but left in the middle to be with Annabella.

 

I love that story.

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NARS makes a "Jungle Red" polish, I know,because I searched everywhere till I found one,hehe. I adore Norma Shearer,she's my absolute favorite,and I pray that someday soon TCM will show "Let Us Be Gay", "Strangers May Kiss", "The Trial of Mary Dugan", and some of her silents other than "He Who Gets Slapped" and "Student Prince Of Old Heidelberg". I've read both the Norma Shearer biographies,and they were good-the Gavin Lambert seems better to me. The Quirk one seems a little more tabloid-ish.

 

I think she got lost in the shuffle for a while because for a time,society was into "deconstructing" legends and heroes,a la "Mommie Dearest"(that spiteful book,which I recently read was probably begun BEFORE Joan died,and may have been the reason she left X out of her will),and Norma didn't give them much in the way of scandal off-screen. Her pre-Codes weren't seen much,so people didn't realise what a trailblazer she was as a "new woman". It's a shame,but at least her private life post-Hollywood seems to have been happy,which is more than can be said for a lot of stars when the parade's gone by.

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I love Norma Shearer too, as an actress. She was at times ahead of her time. But let's be realistic. Talent doesn't necessarily make someone Mother of the Year. I'm disappointed to learn that she wasn't interested in being a mother. Does that make her evil? She was a human being with human failings. And times were definitely different in the early 20th century. I think all of us can learn from Norma Shearer and her successes and failures. It makes her even more endearing.

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I'd like to have a dress like the gorgeous white bias-cut silk negligee she wore in "Riptide". Designer Adrian called them "Norma's Nightgowns" because she had a different one for every movie in that time,to showcase her flat tummy and great shoulders.She kept in shape by swimming-on screen,she came across as a "boudoir girl', but she was pretty athletic in real life.Her legs weren't her best feature-as she herself said to photographer George Hurrell when he took the gorgeous pictures of her that she showed to Thalberg in order to convince him that she was glamorous enough to play the lead in 'The Divorcee"-Thalberg was her husband,and he needed convincing???!!!-but she had beautiful luminous skin and a a perfect profile. Maybe the swimming was why she still had firm arms in her later years.

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I don't know if anyone has mentioned it (and I'm too tired to read this entire thread) but Mick LaSalle's book Complictated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-code Hollywood is a must read for any Norma Shearer fan.

 

Edit: Yep I see harlow1085 mentioned it already, oh well. harlow I felt the same way you did, and it annoys me slightly that TCM has almost all of her later silent movies in their vault and they never show them (at least they haven't while I've had TCM, which has been for about the last five years).

 

Message was edited by:

Melly

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we love Norma but apparently DVD does not. Any idea why her films are not on DVD? The VHS tapes are all OOP (except I think THE WOMEN). I hoped 2006 Oscar releases would include at least THE DIVORCEE and A FREE SOUL. Does anyone think a TCM ARCHIVES release could come as was done for Keaton and Chaney. So many only know her as the lady in THE WOMEN.

 

NORMA ON DVD NOW.

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I have a commercial VHS copy of "A Free Soul" and "The Divorcee" (forget when/where I got them,but have had them for years),but would love to have DVD copies. I'm desperately seeking "Trial of Mary Dugan", "Strangers May Kiss",and "Let Us Be Gay"-also the silent where she plays a dual role(forget the title right now). I'd also love to find,or even see on TCM, "Hollywood Revue of 1929".So many great films to see-so little access!

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The title of the Silent where she plays a dual role is "Lady of the Night" (1925) and I'm almost sure it has been scheduled on TCM. "Let Us Be Gay" and "Strangers May Kiss" have also been aired and belong to the TCM Library, so you should request/suggest those movies. It works!

 

"Trial of Mary Dugan" belongs to TCM but has not aired for years, don't know why? Maybe it needs restoration or there's some Legal issue concerning its rights, 'cuz there's a remake from 1941 (MGM), with Laraine Day?, that I think hasn't been scheduled either.

 

Warners should issue a Norma Shearer Set; Better Two Sets: One with the Silentas and another with the Talkies.

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i know that norma shearer retired, but i've always found it strange that most people don't know who norma shearer is and she never got to the status of joan crawford or garbo. she was mgm's top lady durin the 20's and 30's and yet people don't recognize. it kind of saddens me.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello all, Strange that I never thought of looking on here for a discussion group about Norma. I am a huge fan and have lots of stuff relating to her. I must agree that she deserves to have her films available completely. I just got the Olive Thomas collection so I could see Norma in The Falpper as an extra. Still adorable at 20. I must say the Norma day TCM had back in Sept made my year. I was so happy to get He Who Gets Slapped and her last films as well. Anyhow, hope to chat soon. If you aren't already a member, you should join the Norma Yahoo Group. Lots of great people.

 

Later,

Rick

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