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vecchiolarry

Larry's Classic Star Reminiscences

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Sorry, Larry, but your take on Mary Astor and Agnes Moorehead disliking de Havilland just doesn't ring true. If so, why did Agnes Moorehead claim that Bette and Olivia deserved Oscar nominations? And in Olivia's one scene with Mary Astor, it was Olivia who quietly underplayed the few moments she had with Astor, in no way attempting to "steal" the scene from her.

 

Moorehead was in one of de Havilland's earlier films too, GOVERNMENT GIRL, as a snooty Washington hostess. I believe they got along just fine.

 

BTW, I thought Mary Astor was great in CHARLOTTE. That scene with Cecil Kellaway where she talked about "ruined finery" while toying with the lacy sleeves at her wrist was one of the really great pieces of acting in that film. The dialog for that scene sounded like something out of Tennessee Williams.

 

Neil

 

 

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Hi, Larry:

 

Sorry for misinterpreting what you said about Bette and Joan at the Oscars. I don't want to start an unfounded rumor. Why was Bette so upset? Because Joan got all of the attention?

 

About the only other costar that Joan did not seem to get along with was Mercedes McCambridge during filming of "Johnny Guitar." Rumor has it Joan went into Mercedes' dressing room and cut her wardrobe to shreds. Whether this has any basis in fact or any urban legend, I don't know.

 

However, I will agree that I never heard Joan complain against her costars the way Bette Davis did. Especially in later years, Bette was always railing against this costar or not. She especially seemed to have things against her mail costars. Bette made some unkind remarks about her many husbands (e.g., Gary Merrill). Ironically, when her daughter's book came out, Merrill came to her defense, as well as her adopted son.

 

I guess her father abandoning the family like that had a profound effect on Bette all of her her life. Bette is still one of the greatest actresses of all time. Perhaps Bette and Olivia talked about their dislike of people named Joan. As for the filming of "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte," people may say catty things about each other at times, but that doesn't mean they aren't friends.

 

Bette especially had bile against her ex-husbands. She said if she had to do it all over again, she would have just had affairs and then ended it.

 

I remember reading this "Classic Images" article on George Brent. Brent went back stage to see Bette before he died. Bette remarked, "He was balding and looked old. I thought, 'My god, to think I might have marred him. I might have to take care of him now."

 

Bette sure was a peach. I find her and Joan Crawford fascinating. Olivia has been working on her memoirs for years. I don't think I've ever really understood why she and sister Joan did not get along, except maybe for professional rivalry.

 

Take care.

 

Deborah

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Hi,

 

Stoneyburke666 -

 

There are some other pieces that I wrote on the "Ask Mongo" site at "Information, Please".....

 

Neilelmhr -

 

I agree that Mary's scene with Cecil Kellaway was great.

I disagree with your premise that Agnes and Mary really liked Olivia.

Scenes are filmed several times in a movie and Olivia was brought to task over a scene with Agnes that I mentioned. If you read the entire post it says "Olivia behaved after that".

Mary's scene with Olivia came later in the movie or should I say was filmed later on, since Mary wasn't entirely sure she was going to be in the film until it was nearly over filming.

I'm sure Agnes did think both Bette and Olivia should have been nominated as they were both very good in their roles. Agnes was a professional and could recognize and praise great work even if she didn't personally like you.

Agnes and Mary liked Bette Davis and had a grand time filming with her as they did Joan Crawford, too; but they did not care for Olivia. Sorry if you disagree...

 

Larry

 

 

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Larry, it's only that I question your source for this information, since I'm a writer myself and always have to make sure I do all the reference work before coming up with statements of fact.

 

I just wrote an article on Olivia for FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE and in all my reference work found no mention of your backstage info on CHARLOTTE. I'm not saying it's not true. Just wondering what your source was.

 

And Deborah: Thanks for mentioning the Bette Davis/George Brent backstage incident. I wrote that article for CLASSIC IMAGES on Brent and she reported it herself in the Whitney Stine book: I'D LOVE TO KISS YOU...Conversations with Bette Davis."

 

Neil

 

 

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Hi Neil,

 

My source for the 'Olivia is obtuse' remark is Mary Astor herself. She mentioned this in passing during a lunch we had in Vancouver in the early '70's.

I had just seen Olivia in a movie where she was naked in bed with some revolutionary (Candice Bergen was in it too) - awful film - and Mary asked me "How was she?" I said she was the best thing in the picture but not to bother seeing it. Mary said she wouldn't as she didn't care for Olivia much, "She's obtuse!"...

 

About Agnes' comment - "I like your sister better!" - that was common gossip around the movie industry then and was told to Gloria Stewart, my mother and I by Betty Blythe at a memorial service for Marion Davies. When I saw Agnes Moorehead again several years later, I asked her if she had insulted poor Olivia and she told me, "She was trying her tricks in my scene and I let her know it wasn't going to work. I don't like her at all. But, it all worked out in the end."

 

My 2 cents worth -- I thought Bette Davis and Agnes Moorehead were a little more than hammy in "Charlotte" although I wouldn't have begrudged Agnes her Oscar.

Mary Astor was great as was Cecil Kellaway and Olivia was really very good. She was syruppy sweet and absolutely evil. Grand performance.

I have always been a fan of Olivia DeHavilland, but I didn't have to work with her, so can't judge her personality.

She did smile at me and say, "Hello dear" at the '63 Oscars, so I have to give her that.

 

And, truth be told, I don't know if I'd have wanted to work with Agnes Moorehead!! I just knew her but didn't have to work with her......

 

Larry

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Very interesting, Larry. Had no idea either one of those ladies would dislike Olivia enough to comment on it as they did. Sounds uncharacteristic of someone like Agnes who wasn't exactly above stealing scenes herself! The film you mentioned to Mary Astor was THE ADVENTURERS and it was, indeed, pretty awful.

 

And I agree with your comments on the performances in CHARLOTTE. In fact, many have said the same thing re the "hamminess" of Moorehead's slatternly Velma--although I have to admit I rather enjoyed her anyway.

 

Yes, Olivia ended up getting the best notices among the female stars. I quote writer David Shipman in my article, who said: "Mary Astor in a small role is excellent, but the acting honors--far and away--belong to Olivia." He too thought that Davis was a bit too overwrought in her role.

 

I'll always wonder what Joan Crawford thought of de Havilland's performance. I know about her angry reaction when she learned she'd been replaced.

 

I met Olivia only once backstage at a performance of a play she was in and she was very gracious to me.

 

Neil

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Billy Wilder originally intended SUNSET BOULEVARD to be a satire, not a documentary, but such was the impact of that great film that actresses of a certain age and era too often were written off and characterized as "Norma Desmonds." However Larry your posting of your remembrances is so illuminating, you portray these women as unique and real people, not caricatures.

 

Larry, did you know that other pair of sisters/movie stars, Joan and Constance Bennett? The reason I ask is around 1983, I attended a Carnegie Hall tribute to Myrna Loy, where during the intermission I met Joan Bennett in the cafe off to the side of the first level. I was about 19 at the time, and I approached her for an autograph, and she seemed very nice and even amused someone recognized her, and she signed my program. Once she walked away, I recall 2 or 3 men, all older then I, just pounced on me immediately and said "Who was that?" I replied, "Joan Bennett of course." And they all sort of went OHHH at the same time. So since both ladies are rarely discussed anymore, I was wondering if you knew either of them.

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Hi Larry. It took some doing to find it, but thank you for your reply back to me. Your personal "reminiscences" are usually "tastefully" offered, and actually I wasn't really looking for what others had to say about Olivia (catty remarks), although you didn't know her yourself. But, thanks for trying. ML

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Hi, Neil:

 

So, you were the one who wrote that article. I found it very interesting. What I like about "Classic Images" and "Films of the Golden Age" is the writers for the magazines (writers like you, Laura Wagner, and Eve Golden, among others) try to portray your subjects as human beings and actually do some real research on them.

 

I found that story about Brent especially amusing and touching at the same time. If I remember rightly, he did find happiness at last with his last wife and had a couple of kids.

 

Perhaps George could be relieved he didn't marry Bette as well. When I told my mother that story, she replied, "Oh, that's so touching! Couldn't she have afforded a nurse to look after him if he had to?"

 

Bette was quite a character and had definite opionions. However there were still a bunch of leading men out there who would have liked to work with Bette, but didn't get the chance.

 

One of the leading men Bette wanted to work with was Joel McCrea, but Joel never liked any of the scripts she sent him; so, it never worked out.

 

Joel discussed Bette with Patrick McGilligan during a 1974 interview. He said to McGilligan, "I would have loved to work with her. She's very professional. I just never liked any of the scripts." Even though Joel never worked with her, his wife, Frances Dee, made two films with her: "Of Human Bondage" (which they are showing on Bette's birthday and "Payment on Demand" (which has not been on in years.

 

One script Bette sent Joel (around the late 1930's/early 1940's) was one for "Ethan Frome." Joel had read the novel, but he thought the book was too downbeat for the motion picture screen. He didn't think anyone would want to pay to see such a downbeat film.

 

He told Bette, "This story is too downbeat. I don't think anyone would want to see something that downbeat." When Bette heard this, she said to Joel, "You're just a 'cowboy psychiatrist.'" Joel told McGilligan that from that day forward, Bette never called him by name; she just called him the cowboy psychiatrist. Bette was probably surprised that Joel would say no to her.

 

I remember in the early 1990's, a version of this was made with Liam Neeson in the title role. It flopped on its ears. I guess Joel was right about audiences not wanting to see something that downbeat.

 

I wonder what role Bette was going to play, the charming wife or the girlfriend. I had to read this book for school. The book is a classic and well written, but I wouldn't want to sit through a movie version of it, either.

 

Deborah

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Hi Deborah,

 

Yes, there was quite a good response to the George Brent article and the backstage incident was touching. Actually, he was only four years older than Bette.

 

Fascinating tidbits you brought up on ETHAN FROME. That was always one of my favorite books in English lit and I knew that Warner Bros. owned the screen rights but never heard mention of Joel McCrea before. Come to think of it, he would have been an excellent Ethan and I can picture Bette in the role of the bitter wife. The young woman could have been played by Olivia. Too bad nothing ever came of the project.

 

I loved that business about the cowboy psychiatrist!

 

As for the story being too downbeat for the screen, the same was said of DARK VICTORY by Jack Warner who said "Who wants to see a picture about a dying woman?" Too bad someone at the studio didn't come up with a suitable script. It might have been a gem.

 

 

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Good Morning Everyone,

 

Neil - I'm so glad that you met Olivia DeHavilland; yes, she was gracious and had a nice smile - not phony...

 

Richardny4me - No, I did not know either Constance nor Joan Bennett. I did meet Barbara Bennett once at a party; she was a very nice lady. But, can't say I know much about her either.

How great though that you got to meet Joan Bennett and that you once saw Paulette Goddard on the street.

 

Larry

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Regarding Bette Davis, in an interview I did with Kim Hunter once, I asked her what it was like to work with her on the film "Storm Center" from 1956, and Kim said Bette was a pleasure. She said she was very professional, and that they would actually have dinner together each night, since they were filming on location. She did say she was loud and talkative, but not mean at all.

 

My impression of Bette is that she ran hot and cold. There are plenty of people out there who I'm sure would say she was nice, and then of course there are those that couldn't stand her. She couldn't have been all bad, because look at how she and John Garfield started the Hollywood Canteen for the soldiers during WWII - nobody who's all bad would do something so nice. I think she was very reactionary, and probably just had a very big temper. She probably didn't always think before she shot off her mouth or acted out in some way. And I think that this volcano of a personality that she had helped her to be a great actress. As someone else said, a lot of Bette was in Margo Channing, and just look at how incredible her performance is as Margo. I can't imagine sweet Claudette Colbert playing Margo with as much fire as Bette did.

 

Isn't it funny though, that today Joan Crawford is considered an evil witch because of "Mommie Dearest," and Bette is considered this great Hollywood legend. Meanwhile, from what I've been reading about the two here, it sounds like Bette was more of a witch, and Joan was the nice one. Very ironic.

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I tend to agree that Davis was reactionary ran hot and cold, etc, and I know she could be mean, but for some reason that's part of what I like about her so much. I guess I just never trust people who are to nice or maybe I'm just weird; who knows.

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Hi, Neil:

 

In spite of the fact that "Dark Victory" was about a dying woman, it wasn't all downbeat. There was a lot of positive message, including Bette accepting her fate and bringing her best friend and husband together. Bette in her self-sacrificing mode is fantastic, like she was in "Jezebel."

 

I read "Ethan Frome" saw long ago, I don't remember all of the particulars. All in all, I don't remember many happy moments. I think he fell in love with the other woman, but didn't do anything about it, but I don't remember for sure. I do remember how the book ends, though. I do know the movie flopped big time in the 1990's. When talking to McGilligan, it sounded like Joel would have liked to work with Bette. He gave her high praise and said she was very professional. Frances Dee made two films with her and never complained about her either. However, I've never really ever heard either of them say anything really negative about any of their costars. Joel mentioned one director in particular he didn't like, but left it to his directing, not into some kind of personal attack.

 

It's funny, but that story reminds me of another film Bette wanted to do; rather, she did do the film, but wanted to do a different part. Remember the film "All This and Heaven Too," with Bette and Charles Boyer. Bette wanted to play the part of Boyer's wife, played by Barbara O'Neill (Mrs. O'Hara in GWTW). Bette somehow sensed that the part of the Countess was the more juicier of the roles, and she was right. Barbara O'Neill got her only Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actress) for this part. It shows Bette didn't feel the need to always have the lead.

 

Anyway, Bette's idea was for her to play Boyer's wife in the film. For the role she played, Bette had in mind two of her previous costars, either Olivia De Havilland or Frances Dee as the victim of the Countess' tormenting ways. However, Hal Wallis would hear none of that. He was also the producer of the film, I guess. He wanted Bette in the lead for his picture. So, Bette lost the opportunity of a lifetime to have a really juicy role. Bette was good in the film, but she was right in asserting that Barbara O'Neill had the juicier role.

 

Oh, well. Bette had a lot of chances for more juicier roles. I've often wondered if Angela Lansbury based her character in "Sweeney Todd" on Bette Davis' character of Baby Jane Hudson in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane."

 

Two other people who enjoyed working with Bette were Ernest Borgnine and Janis Paige. Both said she couldn't have been nicer to work with.

 

I guess it just depends on the time frame as to how easy or difficult Bette was to work with. I'm thinking of her and Miriam Hopkins, and their problems working together. Both had reputations, at times, for being difficulty on the set.

 

Take care.

 

Deborah

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Hi Deborah,

 

Thanks for another interesting post on the subject. I just think that if someone did do a script for ETHAN FROME it would have to have some blend of humor along with all the grim facts of the story. There would have to be lighter moments to balance the whole tale, as in DARK VICTORY. It would be a very tricky assignment to pull off. It's really too bad Bette didn't insist on getting her way this time. It would have given Max Steiner a field day! And Bette, with her New England background, would have been perfect.

 

I seem to recall Sterling Hayden being mentioned for the male lead--as well as Henry Fonda--but, alas, it was never to be.

 

All of the books I've read on Bette show that as she matured, she certainly didn't mellow. I'm sure she had her good moments where she got along fine with co-stars but she was very difficult by the time she did things like DEATH ON THE NILE, MURDER WITH MIRRORS, THE WHALES OF AUGUST.

 

She gave Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish a hard time, so the stories go. And I recall reading that Ruth Roman was terrified of her during BEYOND THE FOREST. Asked whether she would do another film with Davis, she simply said, "I'll pass on that." And her behavior during ALL ABOUT EVE toward certain co-stars is legendary for its rudeness. Just ask Celeste Holm.

 

Fascinating woman, no doubt about it. All of the stories about her make for a very interesting read.

 

Neil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I recall that Bette Davis was good to both Mary Astor and Gerald Fitzgerald in her films. Miss Fitzgerald was 'warned' about Davis' antics when she co-starred with her in "Dark Victory" however years later at the AFI salute to Davis, she said she could not have been nicer.

Of couse Mary Astor had the jucier role in "The Great Lie", which Davis encouraged, and Astor went on to win a best supporting actress Oscar for her part.

 

Davis may have been a b*tch at times but she was one hellava actress.

 

Mongo

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To Larry, I am obviously coming in a bit late here.

Although, it is as most already said fascinating stuff-(were you involved in the motion picture industry? I've not read all of your stuff, so I am just asking here.)

 

I know a grand-lady of whom moved back to Modesto, CA.-(lucky!!!) Anyway, her long-deceased husband used to be what was called "A Punch-up the script writer." When it had holes in-it. & I've always asked her why he didn't get a screen credit for such work & she has always said he really was not that interested in the work & was just playing around at it for extra doe. However, they knew-(& she had personal photos to back it up as well. 1 of Sabu-(1924-63) in his military uniform, apparently for WW11. However, she loved Barbara Stanwyck-(they knew her during period she was married to Robert Taylor)

She never met him though. The same was not true of Constance Bennett-(1905-65)-(not to be confused of course with sis Joan B. of whom all liked very-much)

These stars are not in same league as folks you cited-(except of course Stanwyck)

 

Unfortunately, this wonderful lady is as expected way up there in age-(83) & cannot work a computer anymore.

 

Anyhow, please do let us, or me ayway-(I may have missed that part?) as to how you were ever so-lucky to meet these Golden Age Giants!?

 

(P.S. the 1962 item on *Davis & *Crawford at the OSCARS is almost legendary. I've read many a time that during the kicking sequence in "Baby Jane" *Bette virtually broke a rib or 2.)

 

On that note, whom else has seen the terrificly melancholy 1987 "Whales of August" (***1/2-out of 4)

L. Gish, *Davis, V. Price, Harry Carey, Jr. & Anne Sothern was only 1 that the AMPAS remembered & she earned her sole nod. for-it)

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To Larry, you are by no means "Vecchio!" Think of it this way *Eastwood is 75 & just won 2 more OSCARS-(total is 4 to date) & has an epic WW11 drama up next!

 

I know of many a "Golden Age Fan"-(of course including these fans, thee "Mt. Summit," of 'em all!)

 

But, many, many, others that would love to hear any of these tremendous stories Please drop me a line at: spencer64@ij.net

 

How is Canda by the way? I know a couple guys from a newsletter I also write for, that live in Toronto area. & most seem very proud of being a canadaian

 

Thank You

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Thanks, Larry, finally found the post on your connection to show business. I am so envious!

 

By any chance, do you know Lizabeth Scott? Can you get a message to her? I tried via her fan site, but no acknowledgement.

 

As one of the few remaining stars of My Golden Era, I just want her to know that she was wonderful.

 

I am enjoying your writings very much. I may have missed this in your posts, but have you or are you writing a book on your experiences?

 

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Hi Stoneyburke666,

 

Sorry, didn't know Lizabeth Scott and I'm not writing a book.

Scott was never really out & about in the Hollywood social scene. I think she attended premiers of her pictures only. She was a friend of Hal Wallis, the producer, and his wife, Louise Fazenda and since I knew Louise pretty well, I can say that Lizabeth never attended one of the Wallis' parties and they had plenty.

 

Except for a few 'fans' of the old & classic stars, like you and the other posters here, there is no market for books about any of them.

I helped out Charles Tranberg with a book on Agnes Moorehead that's coming out this month and I'm going to help on a Pola Negri documentary in June that comes out next year; but that's it.....

I'm really wondering how these projects will do.

 

Today, if you're not Brittany Spears or Ben Affleck, nobody knows you!!! Pity.......

 

Larry

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Pity? No, Larry, it's a crime.

 

Is Louise gone? If she is, I guess all I can do is profess my gratitude here for Lizabeth Scott and the contribution she made to Film Noir and my life. Thank you, Lizabeth.

 

If Louise is still with us, are you in contact with her? I don't mean to be a noodge, but I keep thinking about Bud Abbott and the fact that he apparently died in the Actor's Old Home and perhaps never knew how much people loved him. I want Lizabeth Scott to know how much people appreciate her contribution to My Golden Era (which, by the way, is my personal title for the years 1930-1950, I adore all films made during those two decades), and how there will never ever again be films like that produced. If you can get word to Louise who can get word to Lizabeth, wherever she is, well wouldn't that be wonderful?

 

And you should write a book. There is a sub-human poster on this board who has supposedly found a publisher for his tripe, so someone with YOUR knowledge should write about it.

 

I for one hope your projects do very well. My cynicism for the commodities that are Spears and Affleck know no bounds. When you consider that I have no love for most movies made after 1950, you can just imagine what I think of today's no talent bums.

 

dolores

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Hello Stoneyburke666,

 

May I call you Dolores? I see that's your name from your signature.

 

No, Louise Fazenda has died in the early 60's. She was a great hostess in LA and a tireless philantropist and was very well loved by all who knew her.

After she died, Hal Wallis married Martha Hyer, another nice lady. I did not know Hal very well and never met Martha.

 

The last I heard about Lizabeth Scott, she was retired in Palm Springs, but that was in the 80's. So, I don't know where she is currently. But if she is ill or infirmed, she certainly is eligible to go to the Motion Picture Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Many stars and movie crew end up there.

 

Larry

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Of course, Larry, please call me dolores.

 

Yes, I imagine many of the greats may end up in that Home, if they haven't planned well. After realizing she was still alive, I sent an email to the webmaster of her fan site, but never received an acknowledgement.

 

Ah well, perhaps someone somewhere who knows her is reading these boards and will let her know how much her work is appreciated.

 

Funny, I can not think of one other star of my beloved Film Noirs who is still alive. Can anyone else?

 

Thanks, Larry.

 

dolores

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Hi, Larry! Many thanks for sharing your Hollywood memories with us. I've really enjoyed reading them thus far. Thanks again for being so generous with your time and experiences. It's a pleasure to sit at your feet.

 

On my end, I'd like to hear more about Louise Fazenda. I love her screen work, and think she was one of the most underrated actresses ever. She got her start in the silent days with Mack Sennett, and I've heard the story that whenever Mabel Normand got temperamental, Sennett would tut-tut her by saying "I'll call in Fazenda." Louise could do anything -- comic roles, light romantic leads, even character parts, and she was not above taking a pratfall. A truly amazing lady.

 

Earlier, you also mentioned Laura LaPlante, one of the busiest actresses of the late '20s. What do you remember about her?

 

Also, did you ever meet Theda Bara? I've heard she was one of the most gracious Hollywood hostesses of her day after she left the movies -- almost up till the day she died in the mid-1950s. Her marriage to director Charles Brabin was one of the film colony's most enduring unions, lasting 33 years.

 

Again, thanks for starting such a chatty, informative thread. You were so lucky to get so close to the stars we love so much.

 

 

 

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Dolores,

 

That is rather ignorant of the webmaster of Lizabeth Scott's fansite not to reply. What do they think a fansite is for? Surely, they could pass on a message to her, unless they're not sanctioned by her.

Some so-called sites on other stars just repeat all the trash that's been told for ages.

Scott did work for Paramount Pictures, so maybe you can write to them. But, good luck, most studios know less about their former stars than you do!!!!!!

 

 

Coffeedan1927,

 

I will gladly do a bit on Louise Fazenda and Laura LaPlante; but, first I need to get caught up on Loretta Young, Mary Astor, Corinne Griffith, and Merle Oberon requested by some others.

I have been busy socially lately. Sorry everyone.

 

I have seen Theda Bara and been introduced to her and Charles Brabin. But, I can't say that I know her at all. She was a hostess of renown in LA and supported the Cedar-Sinai Hospital charities. She didn't really socialize much with the other old stars and had her own group. She looked very attractive and was very well dressed, not at all like a 'Vamp'!!!!

There were several society hostesses in LA in the 30's to the 60's and one had to step lightly as to whom you went with. I was with the Edie Goetz and Marion Davies crowd mostly, which didn't interfere with Louise Fazenda; but certainly had nothing to do with Irene Selznick and some others. The only people who poo-pooed all this and went to everything were Paulette Goddard and Betty Blythe. They were party girls!!!!

 

Larry

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