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Larry's Classic Star Reminiscences


vecchiolarry

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Thanks Larry, it was wonderful hearing about Merle Oberon. I just want to ask, did she ever talk about Norma Shearer? I've read that they were very good friends, if not BEST friends. And I've seen many pictures of them together at parties and such. If you have anything to share about Norma, I would love to hear it. Thanks.

 

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Deborah,

 

Maybe Mayer was in love with Annie but he was always a gentleman about it.

Apparently, he also loved to squire Jeannette MacDonald, Greer Garson and as I've indicated Ginny Sims around too.

 

 

Joe,

 

Merle and Norma were good friends and she was quite concerned about Norma in the late 70's. Norma became a recluse and later was placed in the Motion Picture Hospital. Unfortunately, Merle had died of a stroke by then.

Somehow, they all end up badly. Sad really....

 

Larry

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Dear Larry:

 

I got the impression, from what Ann said, that Mayer always behaved like a gentleman.

 

I always loved Merle Oberon. "Wuthering Heights" is my all-time favorite films of hers. Second place would be "These Three," where she and Miriam got to compete for Joel McCrea's affections. You told me Merle had a crush on Joel. I believe Miriam had one as well. That must have been an interesting set to work on.

 

From what I read about Norma Shearer, it almost sounds like suffered from undiagnosed Alzheimer's Disease in later years. At the least, she suffered from some form of dementia.

 

Her son, Irving Thalberg Jr., was a professor at UOC for many years. He and his stepfather got along quite well, until Arrouge put Norma in Motion Picture Home. However, I really don't blame Arrouge too much. I know what it's like to have a family member ill like that. My grandmother had Alzheimer's for last ten years of her life.

 

Back in those days, the Motion Picture Home did not have an Alzheimer's Wing and did not accept Alzheimer's patients. However, I think Norma's case was undiagnosed, whether unofficially or whatever, since she was allowed in the place.

 

You also mentioned something about those kleig (sp) lights. I understand Norma was blind at the end of her life as well.

 

Take care.

 

Deborah

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Larry, after seeing Loretta Young referred to as "Attila the Nun," I had to pass on this story.

 

Loretta would keep a silver platter on the set of every movie she worked on, and any time she heard a curse word from anyone, they had to put a quarter in the platter. She donated the proceeds from this "sin tax" to charity, but many actors loathed this practice.

 

She even had the platter out when she was working on a CBS radio show with actor William Conrad, and he wasn't crazy about it either. So one day, Conrad came up to her and asked, "How much would it cost me to say, 'Why don't you go **** yourself, Loretta?'"

 

With that, he dropped a $50 bill in the platter, and walked out without saying another word. "Best $50 I ever spent in my life," he said later.

 

 

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Hi Dan,

 

That's always a funny story no matter who is named as having said it to her.

 

I first had heard the story as Joan Crawford dropping $10.00 into her 'sin jar' and saying, "Here's 10 bucks, Loretta, now go F--K yourself!!"..... This was in 1954 on her TV show.

 

However, Joan could have heard about William Conrad's episode on that radio show, which I believe took place several years before.

 

I have heard several versions of it over the years and it always brings a smile to my face... Thanks for sharing.

 

Larry

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Hi Larry,

I'm new here and you seem to know a lot about the stars through personal experience with them. Please, please, please share anything you can about Charles Boyer. There is only one book written about this great actor and it wasn't even accurate! I am dying to know anything from the most trivial detail, but would especially enjoy reading about his private life. He was married to the same woman for 44 years and that seems to fly in the face of his "great lover" image. Did you ever meet him?

Thank you in advance.

Teri

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Hi Teri,

 

Welcome to the message board.

 

I did not know Charles Boyer but my grandmother knew his wife, Pat.

They had a son, Michael, who killed himself by playing russian roulette in the late 60's. And, Boyer committed suicide with seconal after his wife died of cancer.

This is all so tragic.

The Boyers had a house in Beverly Hills near Pickfair.

 

Other than that, I can't tell you.

 

Larry

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Hi Larry!

Thank you for this incredibly informative & interesting thread you have begun. I look forward to checking out your thread & Mongo's each & every day!

 

How about Ruth Chattterton? Did you know her or much about her? She is a most intriguing precode actress that seemed to really stretch the limits with her precode movies. I can watch her films over & over again. Unforunately shee seems to be almost forgotten.

Thanks!

Laura

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Hello Laura,

 

Ruth Chatterton was living in New York City when I was in Los Angeles, so I never knew her.

 

However, I do have a little story about her:

In 1950/51, my grandmother and I were set to sail to Southampton, England on the Queen Mary and had arrived at the its Hudson River berth at 10:30PM ready to board for a midnight sailing, when my grandmother spotted Ruth Chatterton climbing up the gangplank and let out a screeching "Halt" to the baggagemen...

All plans to sail were halted as my grandmother (Nell) absolutely refused to sail onboard with 'that c--t'.

We returned to the Pierre Hotel and awaited a sailing (3 days) on the Ivernia, an Italian ship that took us to Rome.

 

Once in Rome, we heard that Sinclair Lewis had died there just 2 days before. "Good riddance to that a--hole", was what I heard from Nell, "I hope they throw that drunk in the Tiber!"...

 

I really had no idea who Ruth Chatterton nor Sinclair Lewis were.

 

Several years later, after Nell had died, I related this story to Mary Astor, as she was talking about "Dodsworth", which was about to air on TV.

She told me that Nell been very close to Sinclair Lewis and his wife, Grace, and had had an affair with him. This caused a messy divorce and Lewis left for London. Nell travelled after him, hoping to be married in London; but when she arrived, he had married Dorothy Thompson, another writer.

Lewis then wrote "Dodsworth" about an aging woman trying to be young, which was based on Nell. It could have been titled - "All about Nell"..... Years later, it was made into a movie starring Ruth Chatterton as Nell. Ruth had been a very good friend of Nells as were her husbands, Raloh Forbes and George Brent.

 

Nell never forgave Lewis nor Chatterton.

 

Also, William Wyler and the Laemmle's of Universal Studios (who were related to Wyler) and Samuel Goldwyn were all on Nell's 's--t list' and found difficulty obtaining funding for some (several) of their projects - Nell owned the Bank of California and The Mercantile Bank of New York.

 

Well, there you have my recollections of Ruth Chatterton et al.

 

Larry

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Larry,

 

Now, this is a GREAT story about "Dodsworth"; the 1936 classic film is on my top five list of all-time faves. I'm in awe. Sure your grandma Nell was a PERSONALITY. I understand her anger, Fran Dodsworth wasn't a "becoming portrayal" at all...it's one of the most annoying and spoiled characters ever!

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Larry, thanks for an incredible story! Boy Nell was a touchy ole' b****h wasn't she but she gave you a very interesting world to grow up in. How did you turn out so well?..lol I'll give others an opportunity to ask questions before I hit you again.

 

Thanks again, Larry!

Laura

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Hi,

 

Laura -

I haven't turned out quite as nice as you might think. I can also be very prickly when confronted by bad manners and tend to ignore those I dislike, often to the point of rudeness.

Several of my friends tell me that some people are very wary of me. So, I haven't turned out as well as you may expect.

Mostly though, I get along with everybody.

 

Feaito -

David Niven once gave an interview stating that Gladys Cooper based her portrayal in "Separate Tables" on Nell.

Check that film out. Also, I've wondered if the Rita Hayworth caracter in that film was also Nell.

Nell resembled Lana Turner and Claire Trevor, but she could have been Rita Hayworth if she'd had red hair.

 

Larry

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I've seen "Separate Tables" and Gladys Cooper played Ingrid Bergman's mother, didn't she? Now you're going to tell me that Gladys Cooper's character in "Now Voyager" was modelled after Nell! (chuckles)

 

It seems that Nell was very beautiful too.

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Hi Feaito,

 

Deborah Kerr was Gladys' daughter in "Separate Tables".

 

I've never seen "Now, Voyager" but I've heard Gladys was quite evil in it. Nell wasn't evil but she was bitchy and demanding.

Don't get me wrong, Nell did a lot of charitable and philantropic works and gave away a lot of money in her time, so she wasn't all bad. And, she had a lot of good friends, who were quite comfortable with her.

 

Larry

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Sorry about the confusion, it was indeed Deborah Kerr...somehow, I "mixed" in my mind, the character played by Kerr in this film and the "mousey" one impersonated by Bergman in "Murder in the Orient Express".

 

On the other hand, I'd say Cooper's character in "Now Voyager" was abusive, controlling, selfish and demanding, but not really "evil", like for example Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" or Margaret Leighton's in "Under Capricorn". Just my opinion.

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I'm also a HUGE fan of "Dodsworth," it's one of my all time favorites.

 

And Larry, how fascinating to hear that Fran was based on your grandmother! You never cease to amaze me with these incredible stories!

 

Please keep them coming!

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Hello again,

 

Feaito -

OK, I guess Nell could have been Gladys' character in "Now, Voyager", although she wasn't really abusive or selfish when I knew her. But, controlling and demanding - yes, very.....

 

Joe -

When Mary Astor and I watched "Dodsworth", I didn't think that Nell was as bad as the Fran character. But, Mary said she was.. I knew her 10 years after that movie portrayal and about 20 years after the book.

She had apparently 'grown up' since everyone had left her - my father, his sister (my aunt) and her last husband. Even her own family banished her and they lived in LA.

She clung onto me like gold and I was treated very well. I know I'm spoiled and still have trouble with my own parents, so I guess Nell didn't do me any favours really!

 

Larry

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Hello Everybody,

 

Mary Astor- Mary was the movie star that I knew best. I met her on the set of "Little Women", a movie she detested as saccharine and stupid. 'Smarmy Marmie' is what she called her character in that.

- her first husband, Kenneth Hawks, was a brother of Howard Hawks. He was tragically killed in an airplane accident in 1930.

- she had 2 children, Marylynn and Anthony (TonTon) and had several grandchildren and great grandchildren - all of whom visited her in the Motion Picture Home at the end of her life.

- in 1970, Mary and I planned a trip to Japan for the Osaka World Fair. When word got out about this, we became saddled with extra baggage in the form of Agnes Moorehead and my mother, both of whom insisted on accompanying us!

We stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and were visited by Prince Takamatso, who was a great fan of Mary's. He was the Emperor's brother.

We took the bullet train to Osaka and stopped at Mount Fujiama and rang a gigantic prayer bell that takes prayers to the mountain in the form of ripples on the lake in front of it... Great karma!!!!!

- in 1971, Mary and I met up secretly in Vancouver for a long weekend without telling anybody. A woman in the Hotel Vancouver restaurant thought she recognized Mary and stated that she looked a lot like Mary Astor, the old movie star, and Mary just laughed and said, "Oh Heavens, what would Mary Astor be doing here?!!"

She saved my life, when a pedestrian light turned green and I stepped out to cross the street, and a car wizzed through its red light. She pulled me back just in time. I said, "He was in the wrong!" And, she just looked at me and said, "Yes, but you could be dead right!!"..... Always loved that Mary!!

- she was greatly disappointed about losing only one role in her career - Katharine Hepburn's role in "Summertime". She was unfortunately uninsurable at that time because of her alcohol problems. Too bad but she did join AA afterwards.

- she decided to do "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" as her swan song because the character dies in the movies. "A fitting exit" she told Bette Davis.

- her father took all her movie earnings until about 1932, when she took control of her life. When her parents died in the early 40's, they had spent all of her money; there was none left - she had to bury them.

- she always paid her own way through life and was proud that she was not a charity case in the Motion Picture Home.

The day before she died in 1987, she had made out a cheque for the next months rent; sadly it was dated 1965....... Sad that she was proud but mentally unaware.

 

Larry

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Thank you so much Larry for posting this about Mary Astor, one of my many favorites. It's great that you knew so many, personally, and "we" really appreciate you sharing your remembrances with us.

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Hello Again,

 

Corinne Griffith - didn't know her as well as others. But she gave me a gold medallion in the shape of a maple leaf (I'm Canadian) for my 18th birthday.

- owned a villa on Corfu, an island off the west coast of Greece. It was used in the movie "Evil Under the Sun". I stayed there for 2 weeks in 1960.

- she was an astute business woman and used her silent movie money to buy up much of the land around San Diego and owned a cattle ranch in Kansas and a knitting & sewing factory in Alabama.

When she died, she was worth several hundred million dollars, but was a recluse much like 'Norma Desmond'... Pity, since she was a very clever and witty woman, really!

- at her divorce hearing in the early 70's, she claimed not to be Corinne Griffith but her much younger sister (20 years younger). Betty Blythe and Claire Windsor both testified that she was indeed Corinne.

She claimed to be only 41, but was really 75. When the judge informed her that if she was 20 years younger, then she would be 55, she declared, "Oh, but I can't be 55, I just can't!!!"...... Sad; Betty said to me later that that's when they all realized that she'd lost it....

She died about 7 or 8 years later, never leaving her Beverly Hills home again.

 

Larry

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Hello Richard,

 

No, I did not know Gloria Swanson at all.

Once in the 70's, I was coming out of Claridge's Hotel in London after havng dinner and someone told us that Gloria Swanson was just getting into a car outside. I went outside to see her leopard coated a--end getting into a car.

 

Larry

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Hi,

 

Laura LaPlante - she and her husband, Irving Asher (TV producer) were great friends of my grandmother, Nell, and our whole family. They were always included in most of our family gatherings.

- she is one of the nicest of the old stars and everyone loved her. She was one of my babysitters when I was younger and taught me about art and music and literature.

Most of what I know about these things, I learned from her.

- Irving produced "Elephant Walk" and when Vivien Leigh became more trouble than she was worth on the film, Laura phoned Laurence Olivier and demanded that he take her out of the picture and get her help. The Oliviers didn't want to face the problem head on, so Irving fired her and got Elizabeth Taylor to finish the film. Its failure was blamed by Laura on Viv and Larry and she never spoke to them again. She also had no use for Peter Finch, who was part of the problem.

She always maintained that Alec Guiness was the best British actor and I think she was right.

- I saw her on TV's "Night of 100 Stars" in the 80's and she had a wonderful night meeting and greeting old friends in New York that she hadn't seen in years.

- unfortunately, she ended up in the Motion Picture Home like so many of her contemporaries. She had Alzheimers disease.

 

Larry

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Larry,

 

Thanks one more time, for the great info about Mary, Corinne and Laura. You should really write a book out of your experiences or perhaps your grandma Nell's biography and all her multi-relations with the "7th Art", you could title it "Nell amidst Hollywood".

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