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Larry's Classic Star Reminiscences


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Hello Everyone,


As suggested by some members, I am starting my own thread, so as not to interfere with any other subjects.


Feaito -


Pola Negri - Currently, I am assisting in a documentary on Pola by a Pole for the Polish government that may be shown next year in Cannes. The Wiensteins and Frank Capra, Jr. are producing and distributing it. I have been asked to contribute personal information on her for it and will film that in NYC in June.


Here's some advance on that:


- met her in 1946 at Marion Davies beach home, Ocean House, in Santa Monica (now demolished; how stupid) and she was wearing a ruby ring that I admired. She said it was a gift from the Prince, "I paid for it, so he was happy to give it to me!! The Prince turned out to be a pauper!!"... That was her typical sense of humour.. I have this ring now,; she gave it to me in 1986 when I visited her in San Antonio. She died the next year.

- Pola was the movie star that I knew best along with Mary Astor. Ironically, they both died within a month of each other.

- Pola was very intelligent and knew lots about art, music and literature. She had impeccable manners and treated everyone gracefully. She was not the "tempermental hell cat" as publicized.

- she was a friend of Lady Bird Johnson, whom she greatly admire. She willed her art collection to a gallery in San Antonio run by Lady Bird (board of governors) and her films and money were given to St. Mary's University there.

- she served on several civic affairs committees and on the board of the SA Symphony.

- Pola was a devout Catholic and she and her mother, Eleanora Chalupec(sp?) built a Polish church in downtown LA on West Adams Blvd.

- she loved circuses and often thought life was a big circus. Her favourite expression, when she read or heard about the latest news was "What a circus!".. or "What act of the circus are we in now??".....

- in 1986, she was suffering from a brain tumour and pretty much blind. At a dinner party, she got confused and started mixing up her reminiscences (she was sad about Ramon Novarro just dying and he had died in 1968). When I sorted some of this out for her guests, she said, Oh yes, you know all my stories better than I do now"...


I will continue with a second installment next as I'm afraid this board may have a time limit for typing and I'm notoriously slow - hunt and peck chicken scratching method.


Best regards,


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Great! Thanks Larry! I'd love more, more & more! Mary Astor is one of my favorites actresses too! She was in one of my fave-all time movies, the great "Dodsworth"... and she was not only talented but beautiful and classy too!


Anything on Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Loretta Young??


By the way, you can write your stuff on a Word document, for example, and then copy-paste on to this thread. Just an idea.


Great Work!





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Hi again,


Pola Negri (2) -


- she knew Gloria Swanson even before she came to Hollywood (Gloria and Chaplin visited Berlin in 1921) and they were friendly acquaintances really, not great friends. Both Swanson and Negri were very good friends of Marion Davies. Paramount advised them both to play along with their 'feud' for publicity. Gloria sent her a congratulatory telegram after "The Moonspinners" premiered.

- in 1963, when she did "The Moonspinners", I met her at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Walt Disney told his crew to give her 'carte blanche' and treat her like a movie queen (this is very unusual for Disney) but she only asked - not demanded - 2 things -- a) for her gown to be lined in satin, so it would flow and move better for the camera; and b) that the cat cat should be replaced by a cheetah to go along with the eccentric role of her character.

- she gave a press conference at the Dorchester where she entered in full 'Pola Negri' gear, giving the press what they wanted. Black turban, long satin gloves and emeralds and that cheetah on a long brass chain. When the cheetah started getting antzy (it loved ankles!) and the press nervous, she merely spouted out, "Stay calm, my darlings, when I BARK, the cat sits!!!".... The English press ate it up and she was front page.. And, around the world, too......

- Hayley Mills and Eli Wallach loved her and still have great things to say about her. They have both been interviewed for the upcoming documentary and Wallach may narrate it. I hope so. Hayley couldn't get over how Pola did 'the twist' on the set to limber up and often with the crew, who all loved her, too..

- she was often falsely publicized as having walked a tiger or a panther down Hollywood Blvd. in the 20's. But, this is untrue as she told me that both tigers and panthers are quite dangerous and she would never have endangered the public of a major city. "Do they think I was so stupid??". Cheetahs are more calm, domesticated and trainable apparently - that's why she insisted on a cheetah for "The Moonspinners".. Once when the cheetah got figgetty on the set and nobody knew what to do about it, she declared in her deep Polish accent, "Gif it zum VATER!!"......

- when I asked her what kind of flowers I should bring her in San Antonio, she said she had developed a fondness for yellow roses. I laughed at her and said, "Oh my Gawd!!, you are the yellow rose of Texas!!!".....

We screamed in laughter together and she said she had never had such a great belly laugh in years. "Oh, you are a tonic!"...


That's how I remember her best - laughing


Feaito -

I will continue with Joan Crawford and Loretta Young for you tomorrow.


All the best,


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immensely these reminiscences about Pola Negri.


I found her appearance in "The Moonspinners" to be enchanting and she looked marvelous and really was much better maintained than Gloria Swanson, who also touted her health regimens on tv in those days.


What did Pola Negri ever say about the Woman in Black who would visit Valentino's crypt with the rose?


I'm just curious....


Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

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Thanks a million Larry. I enjoyed it a lot. I cannot believe that something as a "domesticated" cheetah exists! I would not dare to be near one of those unless it had no claws and no teeth!!


BTW, is Vecchiola one of your family's surnames? Just wondering, because here there is a Vecchiola family, of italian origins.



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Pola Negri (3) -


- I had to take apart a picture of Pola in her "Moonspinners" costume that she gave me to see what her name was in that movie. She had it scribbled on the back. It was Madame Habib. I haven't seen that film in decades.

Don't the Disney people play it on their channel anymore?

She certainly ends the picture on a high note...

- after the premier, Disney asked her what she wanted as a thank you present. She said, "The yacht, darling!!"..

He, and his cronies turned white and nearly ****; and then she started to laugh and so did Mrs. Disney. She knew a joke when she heard it.....

- Pola never discussed Valentino. His name never came up. Sorry. Also, Chaplin was never discussed either.

- she did mention Prince Mdivani occaisionally but never in a flattering light -- he was a 'mooch' (I think she meant moocher).

- she did have a miscarriage in 1931/32(?) and my father always thought that I was her surrogate son.

- I have a small yellow enamelled Faberge frame with tiny pink diamonds and peridots that she gave her mother. It holds a picture of Pola from 1915, when she was in the Polish theatre. It's a right profile of her looking down and she is very young and innocent looking. Not the glamourized Pola Negri of Hollywood. Pola gave it to me in 1986, just before she died.

- she also gave me her "Moonspinners" picture in a gold frame and a small gold pill box her mother owned that has a golden lion reclining on top.


Well, folks that's about all I can remember about Pola Negri for now.



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Hello Everbody,


Feaito -


No, my name is not Vecchiola. Vecchio is Italian for 'old', so my internet monicker means "Old Larry" since I'm now 63. My last name is Russell.


I don't know much more about Norma Shearer than what I wrote on the "Norma Shearer" site in "Your Favourites" for Bkrudy last week. She was someone I never knew nor saw.


But off the top of my head, I heard from time to time that she was spotted out and about in Beverly Hills with her husband, Martin Arrouge (sp?) but after 1975 or so she simply disappeared.

After Joan Crawford died in 1977, Ann Sothern asked Merle Oberon about Norma. Merle simply said Norma wasn't good and she sees no one...

Virginia Bruce and Norma ended up on the same ward in the Motion Picture Hospital. Two old MGM movie queens - they died within a year of each other, I think. Sad, isn't it??



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BTW, where in the world is Nibiru & Urantia?? I've never heard of them and I've travelled extensively around Europe, Asia and Africa.

Are they in South America or Australia? - I've never been there...

Are these real places in the world or some fictional place that I'm not aware of?

Sorry for being so stupid...



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Larry -


Thank you again for these wonderful stories! Did you know Ann Sothern and Merle Oberon as well? If you have the time, I would love to hear about these two ladies.


It's all very interesting, and I'm really looking forward to the Pola Negri documentary. I have a copy of her autobiography, "Memoirs of a Star" (very aptly titled) and it was a great read. Did she write it all herself, or did she have a ghostwriter? It's so personal though, that I can just picture her sitting at the typewriter, composing the entire book herself. Have you ever read it?



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Thanks for the feedback Larry.


Nibiru is a "ghost" planet, of which I've read about on the books of Zecharia Sitchin and Alan Alford. Supposedly it's the planet from were the ancient Sumerian Gods (aliens of flesh and blood) came to Earth. Urantia is the name of the Earth according to Urantia's Book. I love books about aliens, esoteric themes and ancient civilizations.


In short, I wrote down those names for fun!

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Feaito - OK, thanks for telling me that. It adds to my education which is nil really about sci-fi. My knowledge extends to Buck Rogers and the Emperor Ming!!

Pretty lame and tame, eh??


Moviejoe79 - Yes, I knew Merle Oberon fairly well and Ann Sothern simply in passing. I'll write some things about them in the days to come.


A lot of this is so far away in time and place that it sometimes takes more than a little to trigger my memory.

Something like seeing Pola Negri's picture as Madame Habib triggered my memories of "The Moonspinners" - something I'd not thought about in decades.


Take care,




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Moviejoe79 -


Yes, I've read her autobiography and have an autographed copy of it here.

She dictated it to a seretary (Pola Negri couldn't type to save her soul) and then sent it to a ghostwriter, who chopped a lot of it out.

She then spent two years trying to put some of it back and finally released a compromised version. Lots of her German film history before and after Hollywood was left out.

When it came out, the critics thought she had cleaned up all the German era and she was pretty mad at the publishers, but just gave up.

She remarked to her priest, "I am my publicity; I cannot win with the truth, lies are more sensational and stylish".....


Therealfuster -


Actually, I never heard about the 'woman in black' until after Pola died, so I don't know what she thought of that or even if she knew about it either. She would have thought it was pretty silly, I think.





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Hello again,


Joan Crawford - She is the movie star that I knew least of all of them.

- I met her through Mae Murray and Loretta Young around 1960.

- in 1962, I went to Warner Bros. to the set of "Baby Jane" (then in rehearsals) with 8 x 10 glossies of Joan and Bette Davis for autographs. Each sat at the opposite ends of that vast studio and I went to Joan for signature; she couldn't have been nicer, greeting me like a long lost prince. She autographed my picture of her and then she looked at Bette's. "That's a very nice picture of her, she'll be pleased!"..

But, Bette wasn't pleased and since I didn't know her, she just brushed me aside, no autograph.

I returned to Joan and then together, we marched back to Bette. Joan said, "Oh come on Bette, it's the fans who made us and without them we'd be nowhere"... Bette sighed, then signed. It's a very nice picture of you", I ventured! "YES!!, isn't it" said Bette and stomped off. "Thank you very much, Miss Davis", said I in my best ****-kissing voice. "No problem, dear!" said she.

- at the 1963 Oscars, I went with Martha Raye and Joan and Cesar Romero were just ahead of us on the red carpet. We caught up with them as Joan was kneeling down, signing autographs for 6 old women who were in the trenchs; she had trouble getting up and Cesar and I had to help her to her feet. That crystal beaded gown weighed a ton and she had extra sparkle with a large part of a diamond mine on. 7 bracelets, a large ring and an emmense chocker.

As I had no seat in the audience, she had me come backstage to her dressing room and act as her bartender. We served many, many stars that night.

Bette Davis was nominated for "Baby Jane", but Joanie had arranged to pick up the award for all the other nominees should they be absent.

When we were all awaiting backstage for the Best Actress name to be announced, we were all behind Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland and Frank Sinatra. The name came forth - Anne Bancroft --- Joan tapped Bette on the shoulder and said sweetly, "Excuse me, dear!" and went onstage. The audience rose as Joan and her gown & diamonds hit the spotlights in a blaze of glory.

As we all applauded, Bette turned around and looked straight at me. I smiled at her (I thought it was friendly) and she spit out, "****" in the most demon face & voice I've ever heard.


That was the last I ever saw of Joan Crawford.

In 1975, Dolores Gray and I attempted to phone her in NYC, but she wouldn't take our call. She died about a year and a half later.



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Hi, Larry:


I've enjoyed reading your posts on Pola, although I've never actually seen one of her films. What I remember her most is from that "Life Magazine" article (February 1980) entitled "Nine to Remember." Mary Astor was on the cover. It eventually became the book "Return Engagement."


Such beautiful then and now pictures of all the women. I loved the picture of Pola. She seemed as glamorous as ever. Among the ladies included, other than Astor and Pola, were Loretta Young, Ina Claire, Frances Dee, Vera Hruba Ralston, and Louise Brooks. I cannot remember offhand who the other two were in original article. I do know that Frances Dee was the last of the original nine to pass on.


From the little blurb I read of her, Pola sounded like a very interesting person. I've never read her autobiography. Is Pola her real name? That doesn't surprise me at all about the publishers cutting out stuff as they choose. I might try and see if I can find it at library.


You're mentioning the "Moonspinners" brings back memories. That is the only film of Pola I've ever seen. I saw it when I was a child in the movie theaters. I just adored Hayley Mills as a child. From what I remember, it was some kind of mystery. I love that story you mentioned about Disney and the yacht. Pola sounds like she was a hilarious person.


I remember seeing that biography of Valentino in the 1970's (which wasn't very good) and how they claimed Pola and Rudolph were engaged. I think Michelle Phillips played Natacha Ramboza. I guess whether they were or weren't, Pola never mentioned it.


As for the woman in black, I used to think that this story was made up. Of course, maybe the "Woman In Black" did this simply to get attention. Maybe she thought someone would discover her and put her in the movies. I never cared much for Valentino until recent years, when I saw him in some of his early films.


Speaking of silent screen stars, I was recently trying to play back a tape of Silent Screen star Corrine Griffith, called "Garden of Eden." However, the emergency broadcast came on in middle of tape and ruined the movie for me. I saw her story, "Papa's Delicate Condition" on TCM and became interested in her. She was from Texas. Did you ever meet Ms. Griffith, Larry?



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Larry - Once again, absolutely fascinating. I know Bette Davis could be mean, but damn, she sounds like she was intolerable. Maybe she acted that way because Crawford was around the two times you saw her. And I can't blame her for getting totally **** at the Oscars that year. Boy, did Joan play her cards well. Bette is pushed aside and Joan walks out to the spotlight, I'm sure Bette was fuming! Great stories Larry, please keep them coming!

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Dear MovieJoe79:


Bette Davis used to complain about how Miriam Hopkins behaved on the set, but Bette could have her little temper tantrums as well. However, I think Joan also knew how to push Bette's buttons. Since Joan was going to pick up the Oscar for anyone other than Bette who won it, Joan probably figured she would have a good chance of going out there. The fact she stood backstage in back of Bette maybe means she intended to push her aside.


The funny thing about the two is with their fathers dumping on their respective families, you would have thought the two ladies would have bee in sympatico with each other. Oh, well.


I hear Davis really misbehaved on her last film, "Whales of August." She was really rude, especially to costar Lillian Gish. However, Lillian Gish, ever the lady unto the end, remained professional until the end. It must have driven Bette nuts when Lillian ignored her.


Actually, of the two actresses, I prefer Bette. I don't know. I just think she had more of a range than Joan did, although Joan was excellent in "Mildred Pierce," her best movie.


Except for "Baby Jane," I did not care for most of her 1950 and beyond movies. Some of the last ones seemed quite campy. Don't get me wrong. I think Joan was a good actress. I loved her and Clark Gable together.


Take care.



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Hi Deborah and Moviejoe79,


Yes, I knew Corinne Griffith and will write about her and Merle Oberon later.


Joan did not push Bette out of the way, she simply tapped her on the shoulder and went between her and Olivia.

After that Oscar show, Joan ran around the Governors' Ball with that Oscar and showed it to everyone, while Bette sat and glowered. Bette did congratulate Patty Duke though and I've seen a picture of them together at that party.

I think Joan had her moments of glory then in '63, because apparently when she won for "MIldred Pierce", she stayed home sick(??).. So this was delayed triumph in a way.

Joan was never mean and never gave out vicious tirades about anyone, but Bette did. And, it lessened her, I think.

Joan Crawford was kind and not at all "Mommie Dearest" and although I like Bette Davis movies too, I don't think much of her as a person.


I am having brunch with my mother tomorrow, so will see if I can tap her brain about 'my old ladies'.



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Larry, with the mentioning that Bette and Olivia were standing together when Joan tapped Bette on the shoulder and politely asked to step between them, I'm reminded that Bette and Olivia had a very close, warm, and long-lasting friendship. I've always found this somewhat "odd" considering the vastly differing temperments of these two actresses...but maybe they weren't as "differing" as I've always imagined. Was Olivia more like Bette than most people ever knew?


Thanks for the clarification about Joan not pushing Bette aside that evening. By the end of the week we would have had poor Bette being knocked to the ground and Joan stepping on her face to get across her! ;)ML

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While I've always enjoyed certain performances of both Bette and Joan, I must admit that after reading all these posts it only reinforces what I've always thought about Davis--that in real life, she was quite a b****.


The stories of her rudeness to female co-stars are legend (Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, Faye Dunaway, Susan Hayward, Celeste Holm). The only actress she seemed to get along with was Olivia de Havilland and that was only during their third film together--IN THIS OUR LIFE. She intimidated Olivia during the first two, refusing to even say good morning to her during ELIZ. AND ESSEX.


She had her spats with male stars too.


While five of the cast members of ALL ABOUT EVE won Oscar nominations, only George Sanders took home the award. Years later, Sanders talked about all the jealousy and tension that went into the making of EVE. He said that after the awards, he met Bette Davis at a party. "She turned her back on me without a word. I couldn't resist the temptation to purr over her shoulder, 'Sour grapes, Bette?' And do you know what she did? She turned around and spit at me!'"


There was a lot of Margo in Bette Davis. That's another reason I always thought Anne Baxter had the more difficult role as Eve.





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Dear Hillspan & Classicsfan1119,


Sorry I can't enlighten you much on Olivia as I never knew her nor her sister.

She was a friend of Bette's and both were stars together at Warners but I don't think Olivia was a threat to Bette. And, Joan was; she was brought in to Warners to keep Bette in line. At least that's what I've been told.

In 1943/44, Olivia wasn't in the same league as Bette and Joan yet. It wasn't until after she won her court case against Warners and won her Oscar that she became their equal. I have heard, however, that she can be hard as nails.

And, I know that Agnes Moorehead didn't like her nor did Mary Astor. Once when Olivia was trying to steal a scene from Agnes in "Sweet Charlotte", Agnes told her, "What a performance; you're such a cat, I bet milk would curdle in your mouth! -- (pause) -- (and the zinger) -- I always liked your sister better"... And, Mary pronounced her 'obtuse'. Olivia behaved after that. They both got along better with Joan.


I'll write about Merle and her opium bed later...




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