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Glimpses of Another Time: Hollywood Stars At Play at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club


TomJH
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It's always fascinating to find images of the great stars of Hollywood at play. At least it is for me. Here are a couple of home movies taken at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club in 1935 and 1945. See how many you recognize here.

 

I've read that Gilbert Roland was regarded as Hollywood's best tennis player, with Errol Flynn not far behind.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZQDcoAe-WI

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1KixIi_V2Y

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I've read that Gilbert Roland was regarded as Hollywood's best tennis player, with Errol Flynn not far behind.

 

In one of the memoirs by Arthur Marx (Groucho's son) he mentions that Roland indeed was considered Hollywood's best player -- until a teenage sensation named Arthur Marx began making a name for himself. Marx tried to play Roland for the unofficial title but Roland kept putting him off. Finally Roland could stall no longer, and Marx beat him.

 

In a later era Dean Paul "Dino" Martin and Dabney Coleman were considered the best players.

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And then of course a certain Little Tramp back in the day was known as one of the best out there on the courts...

 

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And then I say ol' boy, here's a jolly good little British Pathe news report from those sunny climes of Tinseltown, and featuring a lively set of the game being played by a few of the notables out there at the time...

 

 

(...btw, and despite the reporter's little "backhanded compliment" of the stars at the end of this clip, I have to say little Mickey Rooney actually looks like he has some skills out there...his ground strokes look pretty well grooved, and his winning backhand volley at the net was a very nice shot)

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I hadn't heard that info about Arthur Marx besting Gilbert Roland at tennis. I wonder if Groucho was sitting in the sidelines shouting "boogie boogie" whenever Roland served, just like he had in that opera film.

 

And thanks for the 1940 clip, Dargo. You're right, Mickey does seem to have good form there. Interesting to see Sir C. Aubrey as umpire, the same Sir C. Aubrey (as if there are any others in Hollywood with that moniker) very much a part of the film colony's cricket players of stars.

 

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That's Boris Karloff behind Sir C. Aubrey.

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Going on line, it certainly is easy to find photos of a lot of Hollywood stars with a racket in their hands. I know the sport was very big within the film colony during the mid to late 1930s.

 

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This is obviously a later shot of Gilbert Roland (possibly 1950s based on his appearance). It appears that this Hollywood tennis king kept at the sport and, based on this photo, was still in enviable physical condition.

 

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Hey, just how serious is Carole about winning this game, anyway? That's not the kind of doubles partner I would want! Aside from this time out, I've read that Lombard was very big on the Hollywood tennis scene.

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I hadn't heard that info about Arthur Marx besting Gilbert Roland at tennis. I wonder if Groucho was sitting in the sidelines shouting "boogie boogie" whenever Roland served, just like he had in that opera film.

 

And thanks for the 1940 clip, Dargo. You're right, Mickey does seem to have good form there. Interesting to see Sir C. Aubrey as umpire, the same Sir C. Aubrey (as if there are any others in Hollywood with that moniker) very much a part of the film colony's cricket players of stars.

 

41f56cc0aa983d389cbe1477f0a8cd39.jpg

 

That's Boris Karloff behind Sir C. Aubrey.

 

Other players in the British Colony cricket matches were: Ronald Colman, Leslie Howard, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, who often participated, while British actresses like Gladys Cooper and Merle Oberon poured the essential tea.

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I sometimes wonder if they all spent that much time playing tennis, or if the studios had them gather there to LOOK like they're playing for publicity shots.

 

From what you read in other sources about all of their ribald and debauched  extracurricular activities, it's hard to imagine they had TIME to play tennis.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I sometimes wonder if they all spent that much time playing tennis, or if the studios had them gather there to LOOK like they're playing for publicity shots.

 

 

From what I've read, tennis was very fashionable in Hollywood in the '30s. Whether studios had some of their stars pose to look like they're into a popular sport would be a possibility (maybe probability, as well)., But stars like Roland, Flynn, Chaplin and Lombard did love the sport.

 

Seeing that photo earlier on the thread of a young, smiling David Niven with a racket in his hand makes me think that tennis would have been a great way for an ambitious young actor to network himself for better film assignments. Niven was always a great self promoter.

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From what I've read, tennis was very fashionable in Hollywood in the '30s. Whether studios had some of their stars pose to look like they're into a popular sport would be a possibility (maybe probability, as well)., But stars like Roland, Flynn, Chaplin and Lombard did love the sport.

 

Seeing that photo earlier on the thread of a young, smiling David Niven with a racket in his hand makes me think that tennis would have been a great way for an ambitious young actor to network himself for better film assignments. Niven was always a great self promoter.

 

You may have seen that interview Ben M. did with Norman Lloyd which TCM re-aired recently, right Tom?

 

In it, Lloyd talks of his love of the game and how it would actually lead to such a thing and his ultimately meeting and working with the great Chaplin.

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You may have seen that interview Ben M. did with Norman Lloyd which TCM re-aired recently, right Tom?

 

In it, Lloyd talks of his love of the game and how it would actually lead to such a thing and his ultimately meeting and working with the great Chaplin.

 

Right, that Hollywood networking thing once again through tennis. If that's where a lot of the big shots go there's where you try to be seen, as well. If you love the game, so much the better. If memory serves me correctly, Chaplin was impressed by young Lloyd's game, which lead to professional opportunities with CC that might not have been there otherwise for the young stage actor.

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Right, that Hollywood networking thing once again through tennis. If that's where a lot of the big shots go there's where you try to be seen, as well. If you love the game, so much the better. If memory serves me correctly, Chaplin was impressed by young Lloyd's game, which lead to professional opportunities with CC that might not have been there otherwise for the young stage actor.

Tennis is not "in" anymore with the Hollywood crowd................What games have replaced it? Dodge Ball? Wiffle Ball?

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Here's Norma Shearer (although I think this photo was staged!)

 

 

 

I'll say that shot was staged! The only thing natural about that pose is an actress seeking attention. "Look, everybody, it's me, Norma Shearer, Movie Star Playing Tennis!"

 

It's pretty funny at that, though. (Thanks, Eugenia, for the laugh).

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Btw Tom, after watching that clip of Arthur Marx's recollection of that match between his father and Chaplin, I find myself possibly having to agree with his assessments of not only his father's game but also of Chaplin's, and when he said Chaplin "thought he was a better player than he actually was". Although admittedly, this was only seeing just a very limited number of Chaplin's ground strokes in that clip.

 

Ya see, just from those few strokes I saw there, I'd say Chaplin appears to a "3.5" rated player at best, and which would make him about slightly better than your average "social" 3.0 rated player.

 

And here as I said earlier in your thread, I had always heard he was by far one of the better players in those days.

 

(...sure would like to see a longer video of him playing in order to see if I might have underrated his game here)

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Seeing that photo earlier on the thread of a young, smiling David Niven with a racket in his hand makes me think that tennis would have been a great way for an ambitious young actor to network himself for better film assignments. Niven was always a great self promoter.

 

With Wendy Barrie:

 

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(...sure would like to see a longer video of him playing in order to see if I might have underrated his game here)

 

Yes, it's a little frustrating that any clips that seem to exist these days are mere seconds long. It's difficult to make any kind of real assessment of the stars' abilities on the court. A ground stroke or two is all that we get from these home movies.

 

I would particularly like to see lengthy clips of Gilbert Roland and Errol Flynn in tennis action since they were supposedly Hollywood's elite in this sport when it came to natural ability. It must have been a real treat for the Hollywood crowds whenever those two faced one another across the net, assuming that that happened.

 

Speaking of which . . .

 

What Famous Actor Almost Played in the US Open?

 

http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/6374

 

It's interesting that the tennis player author of this article references that famous actor initially hoping to use tennis for networking purposes before he found that fame.

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Btw Tom, after watching that clip of Arthur Marx's recollection of that match between his father and Chaplin, I find myself possibly having to agree with his assessments of not only his father's game but also of Chaplin's, and when he said Chaplin "thought he was a better player than he actually was". Although admittedly, this was only seeing just a very limited number of Chaplin's ground strokes in that clip.

 

Ya see, just from those few strokes I saw there, I'd say Chaplin appears to a "3.5" rated player at best, and which would make him about slightly better than your average "social" 3.0 rated player.

 

And here as I said earlier in your thread, I had always heard he was by far one of the better players in those days.

 

(...sure would like to see a longer video of him playing in order to see if I might have underrated his game here)

Who was considered the best tennis player among the Hollywood crowd in the '30s and '40s?

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Flynn's training program would not have been likely to keep him at the top.

 

Flynn gradually destroyed his health. We all know that. But click on that link I posted about the famous actor who, in 1940, almost made it into the U.S. Nationals in doubles play.

 

From the article:

 

For the record, Flynn and yours truly knocked off some pretty high-level teams to reach the final and actually qualify for the U.S. Nationals, the modern-day US Open. Errol played amazingly well under fire. Thinking back, his was an extraordinary performance for one whose experience was limited to club practice play.

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What Famous Actor Almost Played in the US Open?

 

http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/6374

 

It's interesting that the tennis player author of this article references that famous actor initially hoping to use tennis for networking purposes before he found that fame.

 

From that article:

 

Apart from Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, he was also the movie colony’s only first-rate athlete.

 

This is inaccurate. Apart from fellow Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe there was Bruce Bennett aka Herman Brix (Olympic shot put silver medalist) and Alabama football star Johnny Mack Brown. That's off the top of my head; I'm sure there were others.

 

Re Flynn: he claimed to have qualified for the 1928 Australian Olymig boxing team as a light heavyweight, but I don't believe this has ever been confirmed. 

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