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Middle class movie star


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I've been wanting to start this thread ever since I read that when Mickey Rooney died, he had only $18,000 to his name.  And he was one of the legends who still kept working in his later years.

 

Then I started to think about the ones whose careers ended decades ago-- the ones still alive who did not marry into wealth, make wise investments or switch to another lucrative profession...the ones who may have used up their earnings.

 

And what about stars (like character actors or second-tier actors who usually played supporting roles) who did not really make the big bucks and lived modestly, despite their 'fame.'  

 

I am sure there must be plenty of middle class movie stars around.

 

Thoughts...?

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Aren't there several "nursing home" type facilities out there in the  Hollywood area  that have former actors who are not financially capable of meeting their current needs?  As you say not every performer ever made big bucks in their careers or got residuals for past work. Some people  lived above their means, made poor investments or got swindled out of what was rightfully theirs.  Some of these once popular performers travel about to celebrity autograph shows out of necessity, they really need an ongoing  source of income to live. Sadly I'm afraid there are some people out there who are  really destitute .

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TB, the name Lyle Talbot springs immediately to mind when you mentioned "middle class actors". Now there's a guy who as a young actor was groomed by Warner Bros to be a matinee idol/leading man but when that never materialized, he continued to work steadily in first B-movies and then early television in order to support his family.

 

Lyle_Talbot_in_Havana_Widows_trailer.jpg

 

16853-7340.jpg

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I read your post and thought, well, Mickey Rooney WAS married eight times (!) and had 9 children so this must have used up much of his money. I also figured that his peak earning years were probably in the 30's and 40's when earning $100,000 was the equivalent of $1,000,000 today. When Elizabeth Taylor was paid 1 million for "Cleopatra" - the headlines! The controversey! The floodgates for star salaries opened. (and I love her comment - "If someone's dumb enough to offer me a million dollars for a movie, I'm not too dumb to accept it").

But I digress - so I googled Rooney and interestingly one source ( prior to Rooney's death) estimated his worth at $38,000,000. Then a second story mentioned his estate was revealed after his death to be $20,000. A sidebar story related thatRooney had to sue a stepson who had "invested" badly and lost millions of his money. Sounds to me like his fortune was squandered or he was downright swindeled, which is a sad story of elderly abuse.

 

As for your general question - what about all these "middle class" actors? Well, it's the same story for them as for all working people. Those who were smart, invested or saved their money are probably ok. Those who squandered at their peak earning years were/are in trouble later. The kind of money many made in the studio years ( character actors, contract players etc) weren't necessarily making BIG movie star money - just good upper middle class money - and again those who saved, invested...etc etc

I've wondered too how some of the stars with brief careers managed the rest of their lives - random names - the Edmund Purdom, Troy Donahue, Pier Angeli, Mamie VanDoren type crowd. Just using Purdom or Donahue as examples - both were stars in a handful of movies

And then poof! That was it. How strange to be a lead star one year and then a nobody the next and then for the rest of their lives.There's no business like show buiness!

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One of the reasons I started this thread is because I think the acting profession has a lot of disparity in terms of income-- there are the obscenely rich movie stars (who are arguably overpaid and overvalued) and then there are the ones way at the bottom, who are just starting out or who were big names back in the day and have fallen on very hard times.

 

But I am also interested in the ones in the middle.  The ones who may have recognizable names and faces but actually live quite an average lifestyle, either by their own choice or because of the fact that they only appear on screen sporadically.  

 

Lyle Talbot is someone I would say was a 'working actor' who because he was always involved in some project (though most were not high paying) probably was not upper class, but upper middle.  

 

One that I find very interesting is Macdonald Carey who appeared to live rather modestly (though he really did not).  He had six children, and while he was a movie star for twenty years, then had a long-running role on TV's Days of Our Lives, lived in Beverly Hills for years (which is where he died). So he was rather prosperous, but nobody would ever think of him as a mega-rich star.  

 

I bet the reverse is true, too. There are probably stars who seem to live the high life, but are close to being broke.  And we do not know about that, until news breaks that they are in trouble with the IRS or are involved in bankruptcy proceedings.

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I've also had those same thoughts about musicians who were big names and packed arenas back in the day, but for some years now, haven't put out any recordings and have fallen into obscurity.  Where are they now?

 

I imagine some find work in the "industry" --be it movie or recording stars, as directors( think Howard Duff) or some other line of work.  I hate to think of them flipping burgers or scrubbing floors.

 

These thoughts come to me during those PBS "Doo-W o-p" reunions, too.  I imagine there's some kid somewhere watching one of those thinking, "Gee.  Grampa WASN'T lyin' about his past!"

 

Sepiatone

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I've also had those same thoughts about musicians who were big names and packed arenas back in the day, but for some years now, haven't put out any recordings and have fallen into obscurity.  Where are they now?

 

I imagine some find work in the "industry" --be it movie or recording stars, as directors( think Howard Duff) or some other line of work.  I hate to think of them flipping burgers or scrubbing floors.

 

These thoughts come to me during those PBS "Doo-W o-p" reunions, too.  I imagine there's some kid somewhere watching one of those thinking, "Gee.  Grampa WASN'T lyin' about his past!"

 

Sepiatone

The ones I wonder about are the women who have lived into their 90s and beyond-- like Luise Rainer and Maureen O'Hara.  How do they continue to support themselves?  Rainer has only made one picture since 1943, and I don't think she did any television (unless it was in Europe).  Not everyone works regularly into advanced age like Betty White.

 

I suppose some had wealthy husbands.  Still, when you live that long, you eventually use up your money, or else come awfully close to depleting your funds.

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One actress who I have always liked a lot is Betsy Palmer. Her  film career got off to a promising start in the fifties (like being in MISTER ROBERTS)   then she got into a lot of tv work and appeared on game shows like I've Got A  Secret.  Anyway Betsy made a comeback of sorts in the slasher movie FRIDAY THE 13TH in the 80's.  I have never been much of a fan of those kind of films and I read that she didn't think highly of them either. But she took the role , needing money to buy a new car (her own words).  I see she is still with us (age 87), and I hope she is doing well, I will always be a fan.  

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I've also had those same thoughts about musicians who were big names and packed arenas back in the day, but for some years now, haven't put out any recordings and have fallen into obscurity.  Where are they now?

 

As a music fan and amateur historian, I've learned that there are actually careers associated with different musical genres.

 

For country/rockabilly musicians, it's insurance. Some left the business entirely for it, while others set up agencies and devote themselves to it when the music biz is lean (or as an investment), then go back to performing when they can.

 

For surf musicians -- indeed for much of the SoCal surf culture of the '60s -- it was real estate. The surf music craze was very short-lived, although the culture continues to thrive. I guess real estate allowed a decent living with time off for surfing.

 

Real estate also became a career for many film starlets of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, those who never managed to achieve stardom. Research the bios of the era's glamor girls and time and time again you will find they ended up in the real estate business. Perhaps it's a field where it pays to be an attractive woman who presents herself pleasantly.

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Some stars wisely invested their incomes, and made millions.

 

A few favorite examples:

 

Francis Lederer is best remembered for Confessions Of A Nazi Spy in 1939. Earlier in the decade RKO had tried to make him a romantic idol in the manner of Boyer, but that didn't take. Lederer was never any kind of major star, but he took his relatively modest salary and invested it in San Fernando Valley real estate. By the time of his death he was said to be worth $12M.

 

Like Lederer, Fess Parker put his TV salary into real estate and eventually became something of a mogul, owning hotels and vineyards. When he died his net worth was supposedly in the nine figures.

 

All my life I've heard that Stuart Whitman is very rich, but I've never been able to get details about how much he has or how he got it.

 

Sam Phillips the owner of Sun Records in Memphis and the discoverer of Elvis Presley (among many other legends), actually made relatively little money from the music business. However in the early '50s he invested in another Memphis venture, a motel chain called Holiday Inn, which would eventually make him a millionaire.

 

And one last word about the California real estate business. Barry Keenan was convicted of kidnapping Frank Sinatra Jr in 1963 and was sentenced to life plus 75 years in prison -- but served only four and a half years, as he was found to have been insane at the time of the crime.

 

Upon his release Keenan went into real estate and according to a 1983 magazine article, was worth $17M...

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@Richard Kimble:  Wayne Rogers from M*A*S*H*(the TV show) got out of show biz, from what I heard, due to being a wise investor( don't know what in) and didn't need the work anymore.

 

Countr/Western star ROY ACUFF partnered with FRED ROSE to form a music publishing company.

 

Other than that, I'm not sure who's doing what.

 

Sepiatone

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@Richard Kimble:  Wayne Rogers from M*A*S*H*(the TV show) got out of show biz, from what I heard, due to being a wise investor( don't know what in) and didn't need the work anymore.

 

The way I heard it, Rogers was always a shrewd investor, even in high school, and actually supported himself that way as a young acting student in New York (trivia -- at one point his roommate was Peter Falk). Apparently acting has been essentially a second career for Rogers, and he made his real money as an investment counselor to the stars.

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Oddly enough while just now researching the 1960s TV series Burke's Law with Gene Barry, I ran across this:

 

Gene Barry himself was no slouch when it came to investing. That same 1963 TV Guide article mentions Barry’s ownership of a 40-acre orange ranch, mines in Nevada, a half-share of a construction company, and prime land in Los Angeles on which he and his partners planned to put up office buildings and apartments.

 

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Aren't there several "nursing home" type facilities out there in the  Hollywood area  that have former actors who are not financially capable of meeting their current needs?  As you say not every performer ever made big bucks in their careers or got residuals for past work. Some people  lived above their means, made poor investments or got swindled out of what was rightfully theirs.  Some of these once popular performers travel about to celebrity autograph shows out of necessity, they really need an ongoing  source of income to live. Sadly I'm afraid there are some people out there who are  really destitute .

Bud Abbott. I remember reading about his death, his last home being the Nursing Home For Actors or some such place. So sad.

 

Betty Hutton, also destitute at the end, wasn't she?

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Bud Abbott. I remember reading about his death, his last home being the Nursing Home For Actors or some such place. So sad.

 

Betty Hutton, also destitute at the end, wasn't she?

K

I remember an incident probably not many years before his death where he was interviewed and the topic of his financial difficulties came up and I believe it was the interviewer who remarked something like (parphrasing) "if each of your fans sent you just one dollar, you'd have a fortune". Abbott supposedlywound up receiving many dollars in the mail. Don't know the extent of that - maybe it helped a little.

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The way I heard it, Rogers was always a shrewd investor, even in high school, and actually supported himself that way as a young acting student in New York (trivia -- at one point his roommate was Peter Falk). Apparently acting has been essentially a second career for Rogers, and he made his real money as an investment counselor to the stars.

Wayne Rogers has done some commentating on CNBC on investing.

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The ones I wonder about are the women who have lived into their 90s and beyond-- like Luise Rainer and Maureen O'Hara.  How do they continue to support themselves?  Rainer has only made one picture since 1943, and I don't think she did any television (unless it was in Europe).  Not everyone works regularly into advanced age like Betty White.

 

I suppose some had wealthy husbands.  Still, when you live that long, you eventually use up your money, or else come awfully close to depleting your funds.

Or they invested wisely when they were making money, like Garbo apparently did, buying LA real estate, works of art and so on. Not sure if Garbo was the one who did the investing or if she just had a very astute accountant/lawyer/manager.

 

(Oops, I see someone already talked abotu this. Oh well)

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I read Gary Merrill's autobiography--pretty interesting. He said he made a decent living doing voiceovers and radio after his movie glory days (such as they were) were over.  He didn;t live an expensive lifestyle and apparently had to work very little to support it.

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A number of stars invested in Los Angeles real estate back when it was very affordable to do so.

 

They could have sold the property years later at very hefty profit.

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A number of stars invested in Los Angeles real estate back when it was very affordable to do so.

 

They could have sold the property years later at very hefty profit.

 

"Gerald O'Hara: Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts."

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