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Frances Dee Fans

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Hi, Helen:


Did you get to see the "Palm Beach Story" the other night? I saw parts of it. It's such a funny movie. I especially like the part where Joel is demanding an explanation of why he is to be called Captain McGloo. He says, "What am I supposed to be captain of, a garbage scow."


Yes, I'm sure you're right about it not being easy to the son of star like Joel McCrea, but I think there's more to it than that. In a couple of magazines articles from early 1930's, I read a couple of stories where the writer described both the Dee and McCrea families as very clannish, which is I guess another way of saying they were close.


Looking at that "This Is Your Life" special in 1972 was an especially telling moment. You could see the warmth the two boys had for their father and how proud their father was of them. Joel and his brother, John, seemed especially warm and friendly as well.


I think perhaps it was hard for Jody and his brothers to try and live up to their father's ideal. Joel McCrea was not a pushy person. In fact, most people, costars and family alike, always talked about what a gentle, gentle person he was. However, when you admire and respect someone a lot, you really want to be like that person, but someone you don't think you can come close because that other person is so special.


Every kid has insecurities when trying to find himself. Jody made his own decision to try his hand at acting. Neither of his parents forced or pushed him to do it. However, the love of ranching never left him. When Jody decided he had had enough of acting, he went back to ranching. One thing is clear: the boys definitely admired and respected both of their parents.


To illustrate to you what kind of father Joel was, Helen, I'll relate to you this little story Frances Dee told Western writer Boyd Magers back in 1998.


Around 1940, she and Joel took their boys, age six and four, to see "Wells Fargo." They usually didn't take them to see anything but the kiddie flicks, but they made an exception this time. Well, the two boys sat through the whole two-hour movie quietly. It was being shown at Paramount for children of the people who worked there.


Once the lights were turned on, the parents turned around and saw that the younger boy, David, was wiping his eyes. His father turned to him and said, "Are you alright?" Frances said, "David cried and cried. His father picked him up, clinging him, but he would not be comforted. We never knew what it was, unless our growing old in the film frightened him in some way. We generally didn't let them see our movies. We were afraid they would get confused."


I will confess, Helen, when I read this little story my eyes got a little misty. I thought it was really sweet the way Joel was comforting his son. He was indeed a gentleman in every sense of the word, a gentleman and a gentle man.


That incident obviously had made a big impression on Frances. I wonder if their son has any memories of the incident.


Take care.



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Yes, I watched. Mary Astor was an absolute hoot in that movie. I'm not used to seeing her being so wacky. And the Weiner King. Even though he only had a couple of scenes, that guy cracked me up. It was a very cute movie.

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Hi, Helen:


Yes, the movie is a total hoot, from the Weinie King, to Ale and Quail Club, the Princess and her brother, Toto, and of course, Joel and Claudette.


Preston Sturges had a whole cast of supporting players who appeared in a lot of his films, including William Demarest. Where do you have character actors like this today, where everyone is so memorable?


That scene where Joel gets poked is so hilarious as well as all of those sexy love scenes. The scene where Rudy is serenading Claudette while she and Joel are necking is especially funny.


My favorite scene is the Captain McGloo bit, though. Joel goes to Claudette, "I want to know why in the world I am to be called Captain McGloo? Of all the nicompoop names!" Claudette goes, "Wasn't that your mother's maiden name?" Joel goes, "Captain McGloo? No. Her name was McGrew, McGrew! By the way, what am I supposed to be captain of, a garbage scow?" When I originally saw this film several years ago, I had no idea what a garbage scow was.


The name Captain McGloo obviously didn't bother Mary Astor's character, who went after Joel like a bee to honey. They also appeared in "Lost Squadron" together, although she was paired romantically with Richard Dix, not Joel in that movie. Mary Astor sure was a hoot in that movie. I think she did it after "Maltese Falcoln," and you couldn't get more of a departure.


For some reason, Mary did not enjoy making "Palm Beach Story." It wasn't because of Joel. Mary didn't like Preston Sturges for some reason, or she thought Preston didn't like her. I don't know.


Maybe she thought he spent too much time with Claudette Colbert. Claudette had it in her contract that she stopped work at 5:00 p.m., and maybe Astor resented it. She never really said in the interviews she did.


Take care. Next month they are going to have on both "Palm Beach Story" and "Sullivan's Travels."




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Hi, Susan:


I thought I'd make some comments on that book by Lee O. Miller. I looked at it at the CPL. Based on what I saw, at some future date, I might try and get a copy of the book on either Ebay or Amazon.com


I would also like to comment on the Gary Cooper-Joel McCrea comparison. When Preston Sturges told Joel he wrote "Sullivan's Travels for him," Joel replied, "People don't write scripts for me. They write them for Gary, and if he doesn't do them, I do them." Preston said, "No, he wrote this with Joel in mind." He said later, "People are more aware of seeing Gary in a movie than Joel, and that is better for the movie." In other words, Joel seemed more like any everyman.


Don't get me wrong. I've always liked Cooper. In the right roles, he is amazing, roles like "Pride of the Yankees" and "Sergeant York." In the right role, Gary is amazing. However, for a guy who offscreen had a reputation of being a big loverboy, Gary sometimes would come off as wooden in love scenes, especially in early 1930's films (exception--Morrocco").


When Gary was miscast, it was very noticeable. Two instances that come to mind where Gary was miscast were sophisticated comedies, like "Design For Living," where he seemed out of place with Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins. Another movie was "Peter Ibbetson," whose dreamlike quality seemed out of place for an action and Western star like Gary."


Like you Susan, I like Joel McCrea better, not that I don't think Cooper was a good actor. The ironic thing is Joel thought Gary was the best there ever was. He really admired him. There was no animosity or jealousy on Joel's part when being called "Poor Man's Gary Cooper," which I always felt was an unfair tag. I think what I like about Joel in his movies is his performances are a lot more understated. A lot of times, Gary Cooper seemed to be playing Gary Cooper rather than a character.


Ironically, it was only after Cooper's death that people really started thinking Gary one of the greatest actors ever. In fact, at the time, Gary was considered more of a personality, in spite of his two Oscars for his two best roles, "Seargeant York" and "High Noon." He was also wonderful in "Pride of the Yankees."


Joel's acting was not stodgy, and he was not the poor man's Gary Cooper. Both men had their own unique talents. It just makes me mad that Joel's acting was so underrated, just like Frances' acting.


Frances talked about Gary Cooper in her interview with Joe Collura. She had some interesting things to say about Gary. If you like, I can look them up and print them for you.


Take care. Happy Easter.





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So sorry...I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but please know that I'm not trying to be rude or snub anybody. There a just times that I simply can't write.


Deborah, your sentiments regarding the Cooper/McCrea comparisons are mine exactly. Both were great...I just happen to like Joel better.


My movies came! I've been ill for the past few days and loved having "Meet the Stewarts" and "Headline Shooter" to watch. I've yet to view "Manslaughter" and "So Ends Our Night", but I'm looking forward to them.


Again, Deborah, your information is invaluable! Thank you so much for sharing all that you have. I loved the anecdotes about "Meet the Stewarts". I would love to read Frances comments about Gary Cooper, thank you for offering them.


That "cowboy" book by Lee O. Miller is very interesting. Frances is mentioned in both the Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott sections. Each chapter is only a few pages long, but wonderful. As you intimated, this is a nice book to own.


Happy Easter!


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Hi, Susan:


No one thinks your rude or trying to snub anyone. This isn't homework for some class. This is a place where people who love old movies can come and talk to each other. There are not a required amount of postings. Once I start working full-time again, I probably won't post as much as well. I'll have to dig out those comments Frances made on Gary Cooper. I'll also dig out those stories on how Joel and Frances met at the beach (or were introduced there.)


I'll have to look at that book again for the Randolph Scott chapter. I thought of copying the pages on Joel, but it might get to be too much of a pain. I might try to get the book at one time. It was listed behind the counter at library.


In my last post, I had intended to post some comments Ernest Borgnine made about Joel McCrea. They are really interesting. He did a made-for-television western for Hallmark Channel in 2004. Here are Bray's questions and Ernest's quotes:


Q: You and I both believe that Joel McCrea was one of the greatest actors ever.


A: Joel McCrea? Hey man, that's my man.


Q: Tell my readers why Joel McCrea was so good.


A: He was excellent. He could play everything. He played that foreign correspondent who got caught up in all that murder stuff and everything else. He was the most natural looking cowboy I've ever seen. Talk about cowboys. That's my passion. I think it's just wonderful when the studios revert back to doing westerns again.


Q: Lou Diamond Philliips does a good job in "Hope Rose." He has always had a strong Charles Bronson-like face on film, one tempered with compassion. Joel McCrea didn't corner the market on compassion, but he sure owned it for a long time.


A: McCrea was asked by Will Rogers one day what he did with all his money. Joel said, "Well, I buy land." He bought land way out there in California. If you go out to Thousand Oaks, practically all of that was all his ranch. He sold it and they built the bloody city out there. It's the most amazing place you've ever seen.


At least some of Joel's colleagues thought he was underrated, Susan. Frances was certainly underrated as well.


By the way, did I send you that picutre with Frances Dee and Francis Lederer from "Gay Deception?" I can't remember if I did or not.


I'm glad you had your movies to watch and enjoy. I love all of those films you mentioned, although I have not seen "Manslaughter."


I got my magazine finally on Saturday. This was one of these purchases I got because it was cheap, but was surprised when the magazine I bought had an article of substance. In fact, it discussed some things we have been talking about.


We've talked about wrong birth dates and "real" first names. There has been other stuff printed over the years that has been incorrect as well. I'll discuss that with you at another time. I have cleared up one mystery once and for all.


Take care, Susan. Post when you can. That article has two great pictures of Joel and Frances. If you like, I can make a copy of them.




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Hi, Susan:


I hope you are feeling better. Did you get a chance to watch "Meet the Stewarts" yet? What did you think of the film? Did you think Frances Dee seemed to old for youthful Bill Holden? Incidentally, I watched some old 1930's film the other night that had another Bill Holden in the cast. I wonder how William Holden got to use his name if there was another Bill Holden. However, maybe the difference between Bill and William was enough.


I remember one more anecdote not regarding the film "Meet the Stewarts," but regarding the McCreas' friendship with actor Bill Holden.


What do you think the chances are, Susan, of running into a friend or relative at a major airport without planning it. My uncle had not seen my aunt (his sister) for ten years, but then spotted what he thought was her at Kennedy Airport. He had someone go up to her and stop her, and they had a nice visit.


Well, in the middle 1950's, Joel and Frances were returning from Europe (England, I believe), where Joel had just finished making a picture. They were at one of the Swiss Airports (Bern or Zurich, I believe), when who she they run into but William Holden, who was going on location to make a movie ("Satan Never Sleeps," I believe) with Clifton Webb.


Anyway, the three old friends had lunch together at some airport restaurant, talking about old times. Both discussed what they were doing. Bill told Joel and Frances about the movie he was making, but he seemed unenthusiastic about the project.


Joel turned to Bill and said, "It sounds like a great film. Leo McCarey is a great director, Bill" Bill turned to Joel and said, "I know. I just can't get excited about making picutures anymore."


So many people tried to help Bill Holden with his drinking problem, and he tried desparately to stop. In the end, he just couldn't control his demons. He admired Joel so much. It would have probably been better for Bill if he had never touched a drink. To bad he could have not imitated Joel in that regard.


One can only imagine what his friends went through upon hearing the news of his death. I read somewhere Glenn Ford was the first person they went to see because he had his number on the dressing room table. To think Holden lay dead for about four days, with no one knowing, is so tragic.


I do know the time they found Holden, around the middle of November, was around one of the McCrea family member's birthday. It does not do any good, really, to imagine what if, but one cannot help but do it at times.


Whatever his personal demons, Bill Holden gave a wonderful legacy to both moviegoers and animal lovers a like. That is what should be remembered, not his problems.


Take care.



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Hello, Deborah!


I am feeling better, thank you. And thank you also for not thinking me rude. I always feel so terrible when I can't talk to my friends, but sometimes, that's the way it has to be. Anyway...


What a lovely compliment Ernest Borgnine gave Joel. Were they very good friends or did Mr. Borgnine just admire him?


Oh, I love getting old magazines. They're so much more fun than anything printed today, much like the movies they promoted. Come to think of it, I haven't purchased any movie magazines in a while, just the August 1941 issue of Woman's Home Companion, which featured Joel and Frances in the "Keeping Up with Hollywood" section, and a 1942 issue of LIFE magazine which has Ginger Rogers on the cover. I may not like all the newsy stories, although they are interesting, but its so much fun to see the ads.


Yep, I did see Meet the Stewarts and loved it! My answer to your question about Frances youthfulness is rather convoluted, but here goes just the same: Frances doesn't look as she did in her teens, therefore looking to old for the part, but forgetting her own looks and thinking only of her character, I think she fits the part beautifully. Does that make any sense?


I love the scene where she's cooking, and the beginning where she had William Holden literally up a tree until he agrees to marry her.


Oh, before I forget, we had talked of the typos you found on my website. Please feel free to correct me anytime you see an error or typo or anything. I'm one who would rather be corrected than suffer the humiliation of making mistakes unrealized. Here you have a perfectionist, and one very grateful for any help you can give. Also, I do remember your sending a photo from The Gay Deception, but I was having some problems with Yahoo and lost it. Could you send it again? Thanks!


- Susan

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Hi, Susan:


It makes a lot of sense. Actually, I was quite taken aback when some people, even though they liked Frances in the movie, thought she was too old for Bill Holden. At the time, Susan, I did not realize that Frances was supposed to be a teenager. I just assumed Frances was a young woman in her mid twenties who wanted to marry Holden. Moreover, Holden looked very, very youthful in those early movies, before life and his drinking caught up with him.


Forgetting about the age thing, Frances is great in the part. I love the scene in the tree, as well as her attempt at cooking. In real life, Frances Dee taught herself to cook from books after she got married.


That tree sequence was especially charing at the beginning of the film, when Candace won't come down unless Bill marries her.


It's funny, Susan, but did you realize that Frances Dee was a little tomboy growing up. From what I've read in the fan magazines, she was the champion telephone pole climber in her section of Whitemore Avenue (in Hyde Park in Chicago). "She could climb higher, stay longer, and shout louder than any other boy on her block. Forget the girls." This is what the interviewer wrote about Frances.


The writer almost remarked that she was the same willowy, slim thing she is now. "However, what she lacked in muscle, she made up for in nerve."


As to the reason for Frances' participation in this peculiar pasttime, "It was to startle and amaze people. I wanted to be noticed." I get a real big kick imagining this slim ten-year-old girl climbing telephone poles. I'm sure her parents were thrilled to death by their daughter's favorite pasttime.


Just thought you would find this amusing, Susan. I'll send you those other pictures as soon as I get around too pasting them up. We found out my brother is coming either Friday or Saturday (he won't be able to tell us until Thursday); so, I probably won't be able to do it until after they leave. I have a lot of cleaning to do. It will also help me to get all my movie memorabilia sorted to better assist you with your website.


Oh, by the way, I wanted to explain to you how I know that the maker of those cigarette cards was not only wrong about Frances' birth year, but also about her height. I, myself, am only 5'1"; my sister-in-law is around 5'3". I compare Frances Dee to my sister-in-law, and she seems at least two or three inches shorter. Then comparing her next to Kate Hepburn in "Little Women" during outdoor scenes as well.


One of the big jokes in "Sullvan's Travels" was the juxtaposition of Joel McCrea's height to Veronica Lake's height. She was supposedly 5-2, but she barely even makes his chest.


Frances looks relatively small next to her husband, but she is at least up to his neck (with or without high heels). I also recall some interviewer remarking about how Frances' two older boys had surpassed their mother's height of 5'5". It could have even been 5'6".


I don't know why the studios lied about that stuff. Either the actresses were all 5'2" or all 5'5" or whatever. They seemed to frown on admitting when actresses were tall (a la someone like Jeanette MacDonald). Of course, today 5'5" would be considered short, but not back in 1933.


Sorry for getting off on a tangent. By the way, would you like those two pictures from the new magazine I got. As I said, it was quite illuminating on a lot of things. It also answered some questions I had for good and all, questions we have talked about before.


Oh, by the way, did you get a chance to watch "Sullivan's Travels" tonight? Take care.




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Hi, Susan:


Hope you're doing well. I seem to be completely over my cold. I got an email about a possible job opening downtown; so, I will have to wait and see if she calls me back. She knows I don't have three years commercial law experience by my resume; so, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Perhaps I will send her an email as well.


By the way, did you ever get a chance to watch "So Ends Our Night," "Manslaughter," or "Headline Shooter?" I found the funny picture I had from the set of that movie. I'll email it to you sometime this weekend after I paste it up.


I might have to make another copy of the recipe article because it has started to fade. That's what you get with microfilm. I could also just type up the article part of it and just email the you the picture as an attachment. You can see Frances' secret for making "Dee" waffles. These baking articles are so hilarious. I mean, working on three films at one time, when did any of these stars have any time to cook. I guess after she got married, Frances Dee did teach herself to cook through books, although they still had a cook and housekeeper living on the ranch all of the time.


Frances Dee doesn't have a large role in "So Ends Our Night," it is very memorable. In fact, it's Frances' role that I remember most about the picture. It is also one of Glenn Ford's first films. Of course, Glenn was Bill Holden's best friends. Since Joel and Bill were good friends, I'm sure the McCreas knew Glenn as well. Both have sons named Peter.


Oh, and by the way, a bunch of Frances' early films are up for bid. I'm going to bid on one of them. I'll let you know if I get it or not. Take care.





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Hi, Susan:


I'm still looking for those remarks Frances made about working with Gary Cooper. In that new magazine I recently got, Joel talked about the last time he saw Cooper. I'll look that up, too, and post them together.


Unfortunately, that Frances movie I told you I had a chance on bidding on, it didn't work out. For some reason, it was taken off the bid chart before I could bid on it. There must have been a reason for it. It just wasn't meant to be at this time. Perhaps they will be released commercially.


On another note, a long search of mine has come to an end. As I told you, I've been collecting movie magazines for quite awhile. I had this one article on Joel about his early years, starting with college and his early career. It was in the March issue of this one magazine. However, it was just part two. For years and years, I have been looking for part one and finally found it. It is part one of this article, talking about Joel's boyhood. Not only that, but it has tons of photos from Joel as a child, including one with Joel and his two older siblings. I'm so excited Susan, I cannot believe it. I'm going crazy with joy. I've been looking for this article forever, as well as pictures of Joel as a boy.


Now, if I could only find a picture of Frances as a child. I came close once. Unfortunately, the person who sold me the magazine was mistaken. It wasn't a picture of Frances as a child; it was a picture of an adult Frances dressed up as a child. She was imitating another famous Frances of the day.


Have you ever seen the movie "Funny Girl," starring Barbra Streisand? It is based on the life story of Fanny (Frances) Brice. Fanny Brice did a lot of characters, and one of them was a character called Baby Snooks, a little girl with this giant bow in your head. I'll send you the article with the picture and you'll see what I mean.


If I get any pictures of Frances as a child, I will show them to you. Take care.



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Hi, Feaito, Susan, Helen, and Everyone:


I promised I would post on the "This Is Your Life" episode saluting Joel McCrea in 1972. I was talking about the movie, "Safe In Hell" with Fernando. Dorothy Mackail was also on that show. She and Joel made two movies together, and they dated one. Dorothy came on just before Frances did. I'm going to relate about what both of them said.


I guess Dorothy and Joel had remained friends all those years, even after they stopped dating. They had not seen each other for twelve years at the time the show was taped. They would call each other Softy when they were making those movies.


Dorothy basically talked about working with Joel and how they met. Here is the gist of what Dorothy said:


"He would always call me Softy. He also gave me advice on how to invest my money. He told me I should invest my money and buy a ranch." Ralph Edwards asked Dorothy, "Did you buy that ranch?" Dorothy looked at Ralph Edwards and said, "No. What would I do with a ranch?" At this remark, Joel cracked up. Dorothy then said, "So, I invested my money on Rodeo Drive on Hollywood Boulevard. Edwards goes, "I guess your ship came in as well."


Then Frances came in. When Ralph made the announcement, Joel goes, "Well, I know who that is." Of course, that person was Frances Dee. Here is the gist of what Frances said.


Ralph Edwards goes to Frances: "Was it love at first sight." Frances goes, "No, not really. I was concerned about my career, although I was interested. Then Joel asked me out to dinner after the film was over. There were several dates, and then I became serious."


Then Frances goes, "Do you know what happens when a woman makes up her mind?" At this remark, Joel started cracking up again. Frances: "So, we were married a few months later." Ralph Edwards: "Breaking the hearts of the legions of Joel's female fans across the country."


Then Ralph says to Frances, "Now, you got quite a bit of mail about marrying this young fellow, didn't you." Frances said, "Yes, I got quite a bit of mail. How dare I marry the movie idol, you know."


Ralph Edwards then says to Frances, "Well, a lot of us fellows were really undone when we lost you to Joel. Isn't that right fellows?" All the fellows in the audience applaud, while Joel smiles. Ralph Edwards: "You bet that rights."


Then Edwards went on talking about how Joel dreamed of the day when he could devote his full time to ranching. They must have had a commercial break in there during the show when it originally aired. Then Wild Bill Wellmann came on.


Both Frances and Dorothy were wonderful comedians. Too bad the studios executives did not put them in more comedies. Take care, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the little anecdote.



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Just a note to thank you, Deborah, for everything you've sent recently and for all this writing you've done! Your post on the "This is Your Life" episode is marvelous. I really appreciate it. My Celiac's has had me in a tizzy for quite while now, but I think I'm getting better again. It's just a matter of time and figuring out all the details of what I'm allergic to. Thank you also for your thoughts and prayers, and especially for you understanding of my late responses.


Oh, yes, I would love to read that magazine article you've been so excited about. It sounds so interesting.


My copy of "Caught" arrived Saturday! There's not much to the film, but it's awfully fun. If you've got any questions about it, I'll do my best to answer them.


Must run for now, but I hope to come again soon! Take care, everyone!




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Hi, Feaito:


Have you ever seen any of Dorothy's silent films. A lot of people tout the "Barker," which I have never seen, although it could be a lost picture. So many of those silent films are lost forever.


The only Dorothy Mackail films I've seen are "Kept Husbands," with Joel McCrea, "No Man of Her Own," with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and that precode gem, "Safe in Hell." Like I said, they should put these "Survivor" nitwits on an island like Dorothy Mackail gets stuck on.


So, these "reality shows" are popular in South America as well! It doesn't surprise me. Of course, the reality is all faked, since putting these so-called adventurers in real danger would subject television producers to tons and tons of lawsuits. I loved the aftermath of that one show they had in states, don't know if it was shown in South America. It was called "How to Marry a Multimillionaire," and at the end of the show, the guy picks a bride and they are supposed to get married right away. Of course, the winner got a free trip out of it, which was all she wanted. Then she filed for divorce, saying she didn't know the guy when she married him! Yeah, right. Words flew back and forth until the divorce. How phony!


Incidentally, Dorothy husband was a college friend of Joel's, whose father was quite wealthy. His name was Neil (don't remember last name). He was a singer and was famous for singing Hawaiian ballads. Joel remained friend with both of them, even after they married. Of course, the press, as usual had fun with it, saying Joel's best friend stole his girlfriend, that all his girlfriends ran off and married someone else, or other rot like that. Of course, what the columnists failed to mention was the fact that Joel did not want to marry any of these ladies, either. He married the gal he wanted to marry: Frances Dee.


I read somewhere that none of his girlfriends ever came to see him at the house (prior to Frances). One time Connie Bennett came to the house to check on him when he had the flu. One can only wonder what Joel's parents, whom he described as "pretty conventional," would think of someone like Constance Bennett, whom I think Helen referred to as a serial marriage-type person. There is a new book out on Bennett family right now, but I'm waiting to see if I can win a copy or look at it at library first before purchasing. I wonder when Frances' book is coming out.


Oh, Fernando, those wicked gossip columnists like Louella, always stirring up trouble. Of course, there were a lot of cases of mistaken identity over the years. For instance, there was the time Louella got Frances Dee and Dorothy Lee mixed up, but that's another story.


Of course, the all-time Louella blunder was back in December 1934 and involved the filming of "Becky Sharpe." Our intrepid reporter just went too far and almost lost her job, in the early days of her career. Just think what the whole word might have missed then.


Take care.



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Hi Debbie,


As I posted in the "Safe in Hell" Thread, I've only seen her in "Kept Husbands" and "No Man of Her Own". I'd love to watch her in another one, especially a Silent.


I agree that Reality Shows are pure fake.


I have always intensely disliked "Gossip" columnists, whether it's Louella, Sheilah, Hedda or Walter Winchell.


Take Care,



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Fernando--the thing I don't like about the gossip columnists you names is that they had way to much power over people's careers, for good or bad. People like DeNiro or Cruise, who you don't see doing a lot of press, would never have had a career (although in Cruise's case, would that be so bad?) We were such a repressed society that Louella, Hedda et al, could blackmail anyone or destroy anyone. We still have the rags at the store today but I think the public is a little more savvy these days.

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Absolutely right bracken, no-one has the right to rule over anybody's career, less life...less to blackmail anyone. Theirs was a "dirty" job...to earn money that way and many times, over people's "unhappiness"...is it called there in the States "yellow" journalism as well? Do not like it.

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Hi, Feaito:


There are two gossip columnists, Dan Thomas and Jimmy Fiddler, who are not as bad as some of the ones you've mentioned. Winchell was especially known to be a no good so and so. In doing some of my genalogy research on Hollywood stars, I ran across their columns in historical newspapers. Their columns seem mild in comparison to the others, and a lot of times they debunk what the other say. Moreover, both Fiddler and Thomas seemed to have nice news as well as scandalous news in their columns, like the story of the ice cream cone.


I believe it was Winchell who Burt Lancaster was portraying in "Sweet Smell of Success." In that Frances Dee movie, "Love Is a Racket," the character Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is playing is supposedly based on Winchell, albeit a lot nicer version of Winchell. His costar, Lee Tracy, also played Winchell. This is one of my favorite Frances Dee film's, and there is one hilarious verbal cat fight between Frances and Ann Dvorak.


The problem with these gossip columnists is that a lot of times they did not even bother to check out their facts before printing things. A lot of times, stuff got blown out of proportion to what it really was. Not only were they responsible for ruining careers and marriages, a lot of times it was founded on inuendo and nothing more.


There was also selective reporting going on, as far as what they reported and didn't. It all depended on who they liked and disliked. For instance, I ran across this list of Hedda Hopper's top-ten husbands in Hollywood. Joel McCrea, of course, was on the list, but he was only nine, ahead of Joe E. Brown, another straight arrow guy. Hedda said, "I can imagine these two (Joel and Frances) dancing together at their fiftieth wedding anniversary."


Well, Hedda was right about that. However, some of the people she had in front of Joel. Two of them in the top five were Cecil B. Demille and Gary Cooper, two of the most notorious womanizers in Hollywood. You cannot tell me that Hedda wasn't aware of what was going on, especially where skirt-chaser Gary was concerned. I mean, everyone in Hollywood knew about his many affairs. However, Hedda hated Cooper's wife, Rocky; so, I guess she figured that Rocky got better than she deserved with Gary. Who can figure them out.


Hedda was also in total denial of the romance between Joel and Connie back in 1931. Everyone else was aware of it. It was featured in the columns. However, Hedda could not stand Connie, but liked Joel, who had taught her son to swim.


Because of this, she could not bear to think of Joel actually liking and dating Connie; so, she convinced herself that Joel did not like Connie. I copied the two pages of "From Under My Hat" where Hedda talked about Joel, Connnie, and Frances to find the exact statements she made.


The funny thing is, a lot of people actually believed as gospel truth what these women said. Like Helen said, they had the power to destory careers.



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Hi, Helen:


I agree with you about the public being a little more savy these days when it comes to the rag papers. A lot of people just buy them to get a good laugh However, there are still suckers out there who take what the rag papers say as gospel truth. Then, you got things like "Weekly World News," making outrageous claims, like having a picture of tragic Titanic baby floating in the Atlantic 80 years later, not grown up, but still alive. I know certain relatives of mine, if a certain celebrity said something, no matter what it was, they would believe it.


It is disgusting that these people could have so much power in their hands to destory people. Why would they want to do it? Perhaps they did not like the person. Perhaps they felt the person snubbed them. I really don't know. There are rumors about how Louella really got to be so powerful regarding the death of film producer Thomas Ince, but there has never been any proof that what was alleged actually happened.


However, there was one time that even Louella Parsons went to far with her gossip. The result was she almost lost her radio show, "Hollywood Hotel," as well as her column from the Hearst Papers. She got another chance, which was more than some of her victims had.


I don't know if you've ever seen the film "Becky Sharp," starring Miriam Hopkins and Frances Dee? The filming of this movie started the first week in December 1934. The original director on the film was actor/director Lowell Sherman. I have a picture I'm going to send to Susan of the two actresses and their director relaxing on the set.


This film had so many problems that it's a wonder it got made at all. "Becky Sharp" was the first three-strip Technicolor film. This was the first film Frances Dee made after the birth of her son Jody. The filming started almost a month to the day after her father, Frank, passed on as well. So, it was a tough time for the McCrea and Dee families to begin with.


Then, three weeks into production, director Lowell Sherman became ill. He wound up suffering a heart attack and dying a couple of days prior to Christmas 1934.


If any of you have ever heard any of Louella Parsons' radio broadcasts, she had this kind of whiny, singsongy, nauseating voice. She called herself Love's Undertaker, a moniker I find quite charming. Dear old Louella gets up and says, in that "breezy" voice of hers, "My friends, I've got to tell you that Lowell Sherman just died."


Well Helen and Feaito, dear charming Louella sounded a bit too happy when she announced Mr. Sherman's untimely death. The radio station got an influx of call after call from offended listeners, who felt Mrs. Parsons had not shown proper respect to Mr. Sherman. In other words, Louella was too gleeful. It sounded like she was happy that Lowell Sherman had bit the dust, so to speak.


Well, all of her bosses gave Louella a severe talking to as well as a warning. In other words, if she did not show a teeny bit more restraint in the future, she would be gone. I guess Louella took their advice, because she was tormenting people up until about five years before her death, when she was in Motion Picture Home.


No one was immune from her pen and gossip, even Joel and Frances. However, Joel and Frances had the good sense to ignore her. It probably annoyed Louella she couldn't play Love's Undertaker to them as well.


Take care.



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I saw Louella and Hedda being portrayed in "Malice in Wonderland" by Liz Taylor and Jane Alexander...but I think they "softened" them a little bit, 'cos, from what I've read, I know that they could be "really" a lot "meaner".


I've read that Louella was called "Lolly" and that John Barrymore referred to her as "that old udder", which made me laugh for days...witty John.


I also read that Louella? threatened to destroy Gene Tierney's career for not giving her "the exclusive" of her first or second pregnancy, while married to Oleg Cassini...Why on earth had the lovely Gene to "trade" her pregnancy like if it were a stock being sold in a market to the highest bidder? Such a disrespect to human nature, I cannot tolerate.


I also read that Louella hated Orson Welles, being Hearst her employer and that for a while, Hedda praised her work.


The same with Chaplin, think that Hedda loathed him and Louella praised him, for a time.


Those old gals "ran" Hollywood for a time.

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Hi, Feaito:


I saw "Malice In Wonderland" years ago. It was based on the book "Hedda and Louella." Elizabeth had her revenge on Louella. My mother said she got her voice down perfectly. Jane Alexander also did a credible job as Hedda, which I think was a lot harder to do, being Hedda was not quite as flamboyant as Louella was. Louella always referred to her husband, Dr. Harry Martin, as docky-wocky. Dr. Martin knew he was a two-bit urologist, but he was kind to Louella's daughter Harriett. He sure adored Louella, whom he thought was the most beautiful woman in the world. I guess love is blind.


So, that was suppsoed to be Gene Tierney in "Malice In Wonderland," whose career was supposedly ruined because she didn't give her pregnancy exclusively to either of them. I agree that is disgusting. Gene had enough tragedy, without that idiot service woman breaking a German Measles Quarantine to see Tierney, which in all likelihood, caused first daughter to be born profoundly ****. That incident was, in part, the basis for the Agatha Christie book, "The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side."


Even Joel and Frances were not safe from the poison pen of Louella. Frank Dee thought Hollywood was an idiotic business. One can only imagine what he thought of people like Louella Parsons! Hedda adored Joel and Frances. She thought they were an ideal Hollywood couple. In that book I was talking about she said, "I wish Hollywood harbored more such couples. But, if it did, us gossip columnists would be writing fiction, not fact." As it is, Fernando, I think plenty of fiction was involved with Hedda as well.


There were two incidents where Louella plum made up a story involving the McCreas. In the other case, it was an instance, supposedly, of so-called mistaken identity.


Fernando, have you heard of an actress named Dorothy Lee? She is best known today for being part of the Wheeler and Woolsey comedy team. She also was married several times, including to the columnist I mentioned beforehand, Jimmy Fiddler. Well, back in 1935, she was in Reno, Nevada, getting a divorce from whomever her then husband was. Either Louella or someone who worked for Louella got the story mixed up (allegedly), and the story came out that Frances Dee was divorcing Joel McCrea.


This other columnist, Mitzi Mayfair, who was a good friend of the couple, called them up and asked Frances and Joel about the story. Frances told her, "No, were not getting a divorce, but if we were, you'd be the first to know. Moreover, I've never been to Reno, Nevada in my life." Of course, since she and Joel were talking to this lady from their ranch in California, it was obvious she was not in Reno.


Later on, Louella Parsons apologized, telling the McCreas that it was an honest mistake. She had gotten Frances Dee and Dorothy Lee mixed up. Louella said that it was an honest mistake, considering how much Frances and Dorothy resembled each other. Well, anyone who has ever seen a picture of Dorothy Lee (a really tiny lady, barely 5', if that) and willowy Frances, knows that the women don't look like each other in the slightest.


Then there was the incident with "Palm Beach Story." Louella came on the set during the filming of some of the sexy love scenes, put two and two together, and got ten. Claudette always left the set promptly at 5:00 p.m. to begin with. She was happily married, as was Joel. In fact, Claudette's husband happened to be named Joel as well. I can picture Claudette telling Louella she's going out to dinner with Joel (meaning her husband), and Louella thinking she meant Joel McCrea (probably more like hoping it was Joel McCrea).


It seems Louella could not stand to see anyone in Hollywood happily married. The McCreas and the Pressmans (Claudette's husband) did the sensible thing and ignored the whole thing.


Incidentally, Feaito, I know you like Maurice Chevalier. If you get Fox Movie Channel by you, they have "Follies Bergere" on tomorrow afternoon. Also, I found an interesting story of how Frances Dee got that small role of the receptionist in "Monte Carlo." If you are interested, I will print it for you.


Take care. Those two ladies did hold Hollywood in check for many, many years with their unlimited power. The other two columnists I mentioned were mostly in the newspapers and never had the power the two (three ladies, if you include Sheilah Graham) had for years.


Adela Rogers St. John was another famous colmnist, but I don't think she was as nasty as those three were. I read her autobiography several years ago, and it was quite interesting.





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As always thanks for all the info. BTW, I read somewhere that Louella had threatened Gene because of the pregnancy "exclusive", I did not remember that part of "Malice in Wonderland" and we all know she did not "kill" her career.


I saw the film "The Mirror Crack'd", based upon the novel you mention, some 25 years ago...when it premiered at a local Cinema.


Sadly, where I live there is no Fox Movie Channel...my Cable company carries only the regular Fox Channel, and no classic movies there.


I had heard of Dorothy Lee and yes, mainly 'cos of her roles in Wheeler and Woolsey films; certainly she does not look like Frances Dee.


I'm interested in reading what you have to tell us concerning Ms. Dee's small role in "Monte Carlo". BTW, currently I'm in the middle of "The Love Parade", great film, so see you



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Dear Feaito:


I'll have to dig that up about Frances' role in Monte Carlo. It is one of those magazines I have where she was interviewed. It was quite amusing. The thing that impressed me most about her was that she gave credit where credit was due and thanked everyone who helped her along the way. Ditto for Joel.


This incident from "Malice In Wonderland" involves an actress who gave her "pregnancy" exclusive to both ladies at the same time, incurring both their wrath and ruining her career in the process. They did not mention Gene Tierney's name. In fact, the actress might have been a composite of several actresses. The actress is question might have been based in part on Tierney, just like that character in Agatha Christie novel was. I think Liz Taylor played the part of the actress (Tierney character) in the movie based on the novel.


Fernando, I don't believe how Louella could have honestly believed that anyone would have bought her story of getting the two women mixed up when they don't look anything at all alike. All you have to do is look at Dorothy and Frances to know that. Frances was relatively tall, while Dorothy was very short, barely five feet tall.


I think I read in a couple of gossip columns how the studios had Joel escort Dorothy to a couple of events here and there; so, he was also well aware that Dorothy did not resemble his wife in the slightest.


This ridiculuos story actually surfaced years later in some stupid book or article I read somewhere, although I don't recall offhand. About the only place I think it could have come from was this "fabrication" of a story from the 1930's.


Those wicked ladies and their stories. Add Dorothy Manners, who worked for Louella and did most of her legwork in 1960's to that list of so-called wicked columnists. They seemed to thrive on misery for the most part.


As you said, Louella did not destroy Gene's career. The many tragedies in her life and mental illness helped put her career on hold for awhile. She is one of my favorites.



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Hi, Feaito:


I would love to see all of those Chevalier films. I just love Chevalier's early films. I saw something in another group where they were talking about NBC buying Universal and creating a Universal movie channel which would include Paramount films. Wouldn't that be neat. We would be able to see more of Frances Dee's and Maurice Chevalier's films.


This blurb comes from an article, "I Give Thanks," by Frances Dee, which appeared in "Detroit Free Press" in 1937. Here is the gist of what it said.


As a prelude to this, Frances talks after working at Fox, going over to Paramount and having several bit roles. Frances then talks about happening to walk into the casting office at just the right moment.


It was obviously a case of being in right place at right time. Here, Fernando, is the gist of what Frances said:


"Ernst Lubitsch was making 'Monte Carlo' and had just written a new part into it. A small part, but an important one. He needed another actress right away. An experienced actress. The assisting casting director was frantic. He knew me only by name and thought I wasn't an extra, but an actress. And, I was just the type he needed."


"He grabbed me. 'Get made up in a hurry,' he directed. Get yourself fitted in an evening gown in the wardrobe department and go over to the Lubitsch set on Stage 4. Hurry up. He's raving."


"I still thought I was reporting as an extra when I arrived on the set. But, I found out differently. Mr. Lubitsch gave me some lines to learn. Slightly breathlesss, I went into the part, did it, and actually was congratulated by Mr. Lubitsch."


"Talked about thrilled. When I left that set, I was walking on air."


"But when the casting director discovered what had happened, he was in a dither. He expected a kickback from the director. He got none. And later he told me, laughing, that Lubitsch thought he had an experienced actress and still didn't know the difference."


"That decided me. I would take no more extra work. Parts or nothing. And, just a little while later I was given a Paramount contract. It was just a stock contract at first, but a short time later, I got another break."


Of course, we all know what that break was, Fernando: costarring with Maurice Chevalier in "Playboy of Paris."


There is also another funny story in this article about how Frances actually got started in pictures. It was another accident, so to speak.


I also got a couple of interesting stories from the "This Is Your Life" episode involving the film "If I Were King" and an interesting story Joel's older brother, John, told that day in 1972.


Take care.





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