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1952/3 is a historically controversial year in Oscar history, as The Greatest Show on Earth is widely ranked by many as one of the worst Best Picture winners. Is it as bed as its reputation, I ask?

 

In our Alternative Oscars Podcast, we discuss the Best Picture nominees of a given Oscar year, and then propose a set of different nominees (and runners up) of films eligible in the Oscar year in question. We also give shout outs to a couple of oddball films that we call curios.

 

http://tawfikzone.com/2016/04/01/podcast-alternative-oscars-1952/

 

I found this to be a particularly fun episode as I found in watching movies that there were a lot of underrated gems, some of which I've included in this list as well as some more familiar Hollywood blockbusters and International classics. 

 

I would be curious to hear what you thought of the nominees that year, whether or not you agreed with our picks, or if we overlooked some films we shouldn't have. Is there anything we can do in future podcasts that would help your listening experience?

 

Have a great weekend. I look forward to your thoughts.

 

 

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I've said the following many times before around here, TZ...

 

IF it wasn't for the Gene Kelly starring AN AMERICAN IN PARIS winning the Best Picture Oscar the year before, I'd bet what many many people pick as THE greatest musical of all time and which is also on most "top ten" lists as one of the greatest films ever made regardless of genre, namely SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, well I'd bet not ONLY wouldn't THAT 1952 release have been noticeably absent from the list of Best Picture nominations, but it MIGHT have even WON Best Picture that year.

 

(...and besides the fact that it SHOULD have...and for the very reasons I gave above...those "greatest musical of all time" and "it being placed very highly on lists regardless of genre" things I said...well, it sure is a hell of a lot better movie than that circus flick DeMille made anyway...well, except for maybe that train wreck scene...THAT was pretty good, I guess)

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My Favourite Films of 1952

 

Singin' in the Rain: not only the greatest of all musicals, but one of the funniest films ever made. This affectionate look at the transfer period from silents to talkies in Hollywood has, courtesy Jean Hagen, one of the best performances of a dumb blonde that the movies have ever seen.

 

The Quiet Man: John Ford's affectionate valentine to an Ireland that never existed, with a marvelous cast, including the Duke, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald, and, as the immortal, if exasperating, Mary Kate, Maureen O'Hara giving the performance of her career.

 

Scaramouche: The most stylish of all '50s swashbucklers, with the seven minute duel at its climax between Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer one of the classics of the screen.

 

Five Fingers: An intelligent, at times, witty, Joseph L. Mankiewicz spy drama, based on a true life WW2 incident set in neutral Turkey, with James Mason perfectly cast as the valet to the British Ambassador selling secrets to the Germans. An illustration of some of the wit to be found in the film's dialogue:

 

At one point Danielle Darrieux, playing a "countess" living by her wits used to a life of luxury however she can attain it, observes a low level German clerk looking at her longingly. "Please to do look at me," she chastises him, "as if you have a source of income other than your salary."

 

Other 1952 films of note: High Noon, Viva Zapata, The Crimson Pirate, Sudden Fear.

 

As for best picture winner Greatest Show on Earth, people love to attack this film but I suspect they wouldn't so much if it hadn't received the Oscar. Bottom line: this big circus flick is the ultimate one as far as big top films go: corny dialogue and situations but big and colourful, with a still impressive train crash.

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Five Fingers is excellent, I agree, Tom.

 

RE:  Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris.

 

 

It has always been thought that An American in Paris won because people were divided between A Place in the Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire.

 

MGM would later advertise AAIP as:

 

Sitting in the Sun Waiting for a Streetcar.

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The nominees: IVANHOE and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH don't belong in the top five, though both have their entertaining moments. Many love THE QUIET MAN, though I'm one of the dissenters who doesn't much like stage Irish charm. MOULIN ROUGE, just shown on TCM, is gorgeous to look at, with sublime color cinematography from Oswald Morris, the real star of the film. HIGH NOON is a really solid film. Could someone please scrape off about two-thirds of Dmitri Tiomkin's score so that the images, script, and performances can stand on their own?

 

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN would certainly have my vote as the best film of the year. I'm glad to see the love for FIVE FINGERS. Some others I like include:

 

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: Possibly the best-looking B&W film of the year (but see below), with outstanding direction from Vincente Minnelli. Cinematography, art direction, and costumes are all noteworthy, too. This looks really good on the big screen. Easily top five for me.

 

VIVA ZAPATA! - Excellent script by John Steinbeck, matched by Kazan's direction and Joe MacDonald's B&W cinematography. That Brando guy isn't too shabby, either.

 

ANGEL FACE - If you like noir, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons deliver it.

 

THE LUSTY MEN - Susan Hayward is somewhat miscast and Arthur Kennedy is too old for his part, but both act very well, and Robert Mitchum is terrific in the lead role. That makes two winners for Mitchum this year. One of Nicholas Ray's best films.

 

THE LONG MEMORY - Not sure if this Brit noir was eligible for the Oscars in 1952, but it's very good, with John Mills as a man released from prison for a crime he didn't commit.

 

THE BIG SKY - One of my favorite Howard Hawks bromances.

 

"The Last Leaf" from O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE - Does one-fifth of a film count? Jean Negulesco turns a story which could easily have been sentimental into a very moving short film. Jean Peters and Gregory Ratoff were never better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I certainly agree that An American in Paris was a thorn on Singin' in the Rain's side in terms of Oscar love at the time. While Singin' got commendable reviews at the time, it didn't get raves (outside of Jean Hagen). People only recognized its genius when it was re-run on TV. For sure it's my BP choice.

 

I'm glad that many of you also love Five Fingers. Also glad to see a shout out for Scaramouche which is such a great swashbuckler flick beautifully directed by George Sidney. The acting is really spirited and top notch. 

 

I have to respectfully disagree with the Viva Zapata choice. I found it to be too patchy and meandery. I don't know why Anthony Quinn won Best Supporting Actor. I thought Joseph Wiseman was the only compelling character in the film and he was consistently intense unlike Quinn who had one dramatic scene that felt out of place.

 

Kingrat, The Long Memory is eligible with 1953 releases. I'm also calling Angel Face as a 1953 movie; it's tricky as it was sort of a bubble between 1952 and 1953, but according to most sources, it was theatrically released in LA in 1953. I look forward to rewatching Angel Face.

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Angel Face was made at a horrible time in Jean Simmons and her husband Stewart Granger's lives.  It is hard not to watch it with this background of Hughes in mind and that adds to the noir theme.

 

Regarding the Best Picture choices of 1952, my favourite is definitely High Noon.  It is my favourite Gary Cooper movie. 

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Angel Face was made at a horrible time in Jean Simmons and her husband Stewart Granger's lives. 

 

were they really a legit couple? I know it's tacky to ask, but so many HOLLYWOOD marriages were arranged then...and I just don't see them together for reals.

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were they really a legit couple? I know it's tacky to ask, but so many HOLLYWOOD marriages were arranged then...and I just don't see them together for reals.

 

They were a legit couple and came over from England to make movies with Hughes.  They were already working in England and technically did not have to go to Hollywood, but that is what they wanted.Hughes wanted Jean badly and she wasn't interested.  So he would punish her on the set by making Robert Mitchum repeatedly hit her in take after take.  So finally Mitchum stopped and hit Hughes.

 

It put a big strain on the marriage though and they were divorced.

 

Simmons was unable to watch a restored screening of the movie as she started to cry and left the theatre.

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They were a legit couple and came over from England to make movies with Hughes.  They were already working in England and technically did not have to go to Hollywood, but that is what they wanted.Hughes wanted Jean badly and she wasn't interested.  So he would punish her on the set by making Robert Mitchum repeatedly hit her in take after take.  So finally Mitchum stopped and hit Hughes.

 

It put a big strain on the marriage though and they were divorced.

 

Simmons was unable to watch a restored screening of the movie as she started to cry and left the theatre.

 

Howard Hughes from multiple sources seemed to be a real vindictive creep. According to Jean Simmons she was contractually forced to go to Hollywood because her studio in Britain (I think it was Rank or one of the big ones) sold her contract to Hughes without her knowledge. I'm not condoning the abuse, but Simmons beautifully transposed all the dysfunction and drama into a creepy and unsettling perf if I remember correctly. 

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Howard Hughes from multiple sources seemed to be a real vindictive creep. According to Jean Simmons she was contractually forced to go to Hollywood because her studio in Britain (I think it was Rank or one of the big ones) sold her contract to Hughes without her knowledge. I'm not condoning the abuse, but Simmons beautifully transposed all the dysfunction and drama into a creepy and unsettling perf if I remember correctly. 

Oh, yes, it is one of the bleakest noirs I have ever seen.  It did indeed help the performance.

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They were a legit couple and came over from England to make movies with Hughes.  They were already working in England and technically did not have to go to Hollywood, but that is what they wanted.Hughes wanted Jean badly and she wasn't interested.  So he would punish her on the set by making Robert Mitchum repeatedly hit her in take after take.  So finally Mitchum stopped and hit Hughes.

 

It put a big strain on the marriage though and they were divorced.

 

Simmons was unable to watch a restored screening of the movie as she started to cry and left the theatre.

 

The film was made in 1952 and released in February of 1953.      Simmons and Granger were divorced in 1960.    i.e. they remained married 7 - 8 years after she made this film.

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The film was made in 1952 and released in February of 1953.      Simmons and Granger were divorced in 1960.    i.e. they remained married 7 - 8 years after she made this film.

Yes, there was a long time between the film and the divorce.  But Granger I believe was no where near Jean during the time of filming.  I think he was on the set of a different film at the same time and therefore could not intervene himself.

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They were a legit couple and came over from England to make movies with Hughes.  They were already working in England and technically did not have to go to Hollywood, but that is what they wanted.Hughes wanted Jean badly and she wasn't interested.  So he would punish her on the set by making Robert Mitchum repeatedly hit her in take after take.  So finally Mitchum stopped and hit Hughes.

 

It put a big strain on the marriage though and they were divorced.

 

Simmons was unable to watch a restored screening of the movie as she started to cry and left the theatre.

 

zhanks for the info.

 

the main reason the Granger/Simmons pairing raises my brow is that it seems to me as if she could do a lot better. I mean, he cute and all, but he seem kinda like a tool.

 

and i dunno- again, this may seem tacky as hell and i'll shut up about it if you want, but Jean Simmons just causes a notable movement into the "Lipstick" range of my Lesbi-o-Meter- AND THAT'S OKAY, maybe I'm wrong, maybe i'm right- either way it was her business and there's no arguing she was, as one critic once wrote of Vivien Leigh "so lovely she need not be so talented, and so talented she need not be so lovely."

 

...and were I allowed to fudge the results of the history of the Academy Awards, Jean would win Best Actress in 1960 for her Sister Sharon, the heart the soul and the fire of ELMER GANTRY.

 

ps- also just recently remembered she was The Commander on STAR TREK: TNG.

pss- also looooooved her on the DARK SHADOWS revival in 1990.

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Oh yeah... this was the year that Norman McLaren's NEIGHBOURS got nominated in two categories: best live action short subject (one reel) and documentary short. Even though it wasn't a documentary (being an experimental film done with animated "pixilation" camera effects), it won in THAT category.

 

Likewise, THE HOAXTERS was nominated as documentary "feature" despite running little over a half hour. Many of Disney's True-Life Adventures had the same running time but were still considered "shorts".

 

Speaking of those... I have always liked WATER BIRDS, even though I favor other Disney True-Life Adventures better. The Academy were likely all "hot & excited" over how "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" was edited to multiple shots of feathered folk flying, diving and courting. I blame WATER BIRDS' success for the silly "tango" and square-dancing among scorpions and other arachnids in the next year's THE LIVING DESERT and the "Anvil Chorus" Bighorn sheep in THE VANISHING PRAIRIE. Once the Disney studio was "rewarded" for Mickey Mouse-ifying nature documentaries, they didn't know when to stop!

 

Competing in two separate categories were the final Warner shorts sporting Gordon Hollingshead as credited producer. He died that year and was replaced by Cedric Francis as head of the studio's live action shorties and that was likely a key reason they were nominated, since he was well liked as a producer. THAR SHE BLOWS! got press attention in LIFE magazine before its release thanks to its graphic (not for animal lovers) scenes on a whaling ship. DESERT KILLER gets shown a lot on TCM, with that cute cougar getting captured by Marvin Glenn (champion kitty roper) after attacking sheep in Arizona.

 

In the animated short category, I do consider JOHANN MOUSE a worthy winner, thanks to its glossy production values if not terribly original story. Tom & Jerry also got "musical" in much better shorts, but Hans Conreid's narration is a hoot. I do like MADELINE better though, since the UPA crew matched the popular book drawings spectacularly. It is also a favorite "classic" cartoon of my four year old niece although any adult will appreciate it for its graphic style. Also like the others: PINK AND BLUE NOTES with Mr. Magoo as a bumbling baby sitter and the National Film Board title ROMANCE OF TRANSPORTATION... a more straight-forward (and UPA-influenced) animated cartoon even though fellow Canadian NEIGHBOURS is sort of an "animated" live-action short... made by a popular animator. LITTLE JOHNNY JET is "good", but hardly Tex Avery's or MGM's best. Another UPA cartoon, MAN ALIVE!, got nominated in a different category.

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zhanks for the info.

 

the main reason the Granger/Simmons pairing raises my brow is that it seems to me as if she could do a lot better. I mean, he cute and all, but he seem kinda like a tool.

 

and i dunno- again, this may seem tacky as hell and i'll shut up about it if you want, but Jean Simmons just causes a notable movement into the "Lipstick" range of my Lesbi-o-Meter- AND THAT'S OKAY, maybe I'm wrong, maybe i'm right- either way it was her business and there's no arguing she was, as one critic once wrote of Vivien Leigh "so lovely she need not be so talented, and so talented she need not be so lovely."

 

...and were I allowed to fudge the results of the history of the Academy Awards, Jean would win Best Actress in 1960 for her Sister Sharon, the heart the soul and the fire of ELMER GANTRY.

 

ps- also just recently remembered she was The Commander on STAR TREK: TNG.

pss- also looooooved her on the DARK SHADOWS revival in 1990.

 

I don't have a problem with your post.  I am not sure who would.  I am a big fan of hers.  My favourite film of hers is The Big Country where she is an excellent role model compared to silly proud Carroll Baker.

 

AS for Elmer Gantry, well, that is a fabulous film to be sure.

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Had to ponder this one for a few days. I recently saw THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH for the first time ever, as I mentioned in another thread, and found it pretty overinflated. I agree with Kingrat on a couple of points - while THE QUIET MAN has its moments, and Maureen O'Hara is great, the presentation of the Irish people is so stereotyped and over-the-top, it's a little hard to stomach. Also, there's a great movie in HIGH NOON somewhere, but you could cut the score by 50 per cent, and it wouldn't be missing anything; I'm always so annoyed with the score by the end of the film, I think it takes the whole experience down a notch or two for me. MOULIN ROUGE and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL are both strong movies that got some consideration from me. I've never seen IVANHOE all the way through - knight in shining armor movies rarely move the needle much for me.

 

So, I'm gonna roll almost entirely with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. When I first started becoming cognizant of Oscar history, I was always struck by the dearth of its nominations, given how it has in retrospect become venerated as one of if not the all-time great movie musicals. I'm inclined to agree with the prevailing theory that after having feted AN AMERICAN IN PARIS with Best PIcture the previous year, the Academy must have decided to focus their attentions elsewhere in '52. 

 

My picks:

Best Picture - SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

Best Actor- Alec Guiness, THE LAVENDER HILL MOB

Best Actress - Jean Hagen, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (I'll bump her up to leading lady status)

Best Director - Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

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A great train wreck doesn't make a Best Film Winner, IMHO.  If I were doing the nominating, these would be my nominees--stars denote original nominees:

 

"The Quiet Man""**--John Fords' direction, the performances of Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne, and their screen chemistry overcome Victor McLaglen's stagy Irishness--TQM is worthy of at least a nomination.

 

"High Noon"**--Iconic western, classic score and performances.

 

"Angel Face"--I'd rather have an effective, lean, mean, classic film noir as a Best Film nominee than an overblown spectacle like Ivanhoe.

 

"Singin' In The Rain"--The best film musical of all time.  A deserved Best Film nominee, at least.

 

"Bend of the River"--The second of five westerns directed by Anthony Mann, this got lousy notices when it was released, but it captures James Stewarts' Western persona at a critical point when it was changing from "Nice guy hero" to "Hero"??.  Overlooked western gets the last slot.

 

                   Winner(s):

                

 Best Film(s):               Singin' In The Rain

                                     High Noon

 

Edit:  imdb, rotten tomatoes, & blu-ray.com have a release date of "Dec 11th, 1952 for "Angel Face"; TCM, Wikipedia list "Feb. 1953" for the release date.  I went with the 1952 date.

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@LornaHansonForbes, I'm sorry you got a 404 error link. I bet I know what happened. Shortly after I posted this on Friday, I got some malware in my Wordpress theme. I changed themes and everything is working and should be bug free. 

 

Let me know if these links work for everybody.

 

http://tawfikzone.com/?p=1214

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tawfik-zones-alternative-oscars/id1050460591?mt=2

 

PS. @LHF, I love your avatar. I think The Damned Don't Cry is a great Joan Crawford vehicle. Despite contrary opinion, it's not a Mildred Pierce knockoff. 

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PS. @LHF, I love your avatar. I think The Damned Don't Cry is a great Joan Crawford vehicle. Despite contrary opinion, it's not a Mildred Pierce knockoff. 

 

thank you, it's fun to change it up periodically, i am probably due, but green is such a soothing color.

 

in re: 1952

 

IVANHOE isn't very good, it's boring and the production design is all wrong, plus Robert Taylor really projects the charismalessness in this one. I used to think I was the only person alive who did not like HIGH NOON, but someone here linked me to an article a while back where a lot of people criticized it and, apparetly, FRED ZINNEMANN more often than not found himself "defending" it in his later years. The acting, save for LON CHANEY JR. is not very good, I don't like the ending, and I think it's not very interestingly shot. I've never seen MOULIN ROUGE. THE QUIET MAN, like olives, is an acquired taste, but I like it, it's the best of the nominated lot. GREATEST SHOW...is exceedingly effective as a horror film- as a candy-tinted nightmare-like view of a group of criminally insane people it is unparalleled; but is an utter failure on all other fronts, and DeMille's failure to deliver us a final scene where the townspeople come bearing pitchforks and torches, hell-bent on destroying Betty Hutton is inexcusable.

 

Yeah, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is the best choice, I think PAT AND MIKE, THE QUIET MAN, THE MARRYING KIND and THE LUSTY MEN would've been more sensible choices as the other nominees, in retrospect, although a couple of those stood very little chance at the time and would likely have caused a riot had they been nominated.

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thank you, it's fun to change it up periodically, i am probably due, but green is such a soothing color.

 

in re: 1952

 

IVANHOE isn't very good, it's boring and the production design is all wrong, plus Robert Taylor really projects the charismalessness in this one. I used to think I was the only person alive who did not like HIGH NOON, but someone here linked me to an article a while back where a lot of people criticized it and, apparetly, FRED ZINNEMANN more often than not found himself "defending" it in his later years. The acting, save for LON CHANEY JR. is not very good, I don't like the ending, and I think it's not very interestingly shot. I've never seen MOULIN ROUGE. THE QUIET MAN, like olives, is an acquired taste, but I like it, it's the best of the nominated lot. GREATEST SHOW...is exceedingly effective as a horror film- as a candy-tinted nightmare-like view of a group of criminally insane people it is unparalleled; but is an utter failure on all other fronts, and DeMille's failure to deliver us a final scene where the townspeople come bearing pitchforks and torches, hell-bent on destroying Betty Hutton is inexcusable.

 

Yeah, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is the best choice, I think PAT AND MIKE, THE QUIET MAN, THE MARRYING KIND and THE LUSTY MEN would've been more sensible choices as the other nominees, in retrospect, although a couple of those stood very little chance at the time and would likely have caused a riot had they been nominated.

 

I'm a neutral on High Noon, but by no means a fan. I found the allegory overpowering and gratuitous. I couldn't stand The Quiet Man myself, so to borrow your olive analogy, I guess it's like a kalamata olive, not my taste. I liked The Marrying Kind, a more interesting and innovative film than Born Yesterday; it just missed the cut in my Alternative Oscars. I didn't include The Lusty Men, only because I wasn't able to access a copy of it in the time I had to do this podcast. I'll definitely check it out since it's gotten a lot of love here.

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the main reason the Granger/Simmons pairing raises my brow is that it seems to me as if she could do a lot better. I mean, he cute and all, but he seem kinda like a tool.

 

and i dunno- again, this may seem tacky as hell and i'll shut up about it if you want, but Jean Simmons just causes a notable movement into the "Lipstick" range of my Lesbi-o-Meter- AND THAT'S OKAY, maybe I'm wrong, maybe i'm right- either way it was her business and there's no arguing she was, as one critic once wrote of Vivien Leigh "so lovely she need not be so talented, and so talented she need not be so lovely."

 

Lorna, because inquiring minds want to know: check out William J. Mann's bio of Elizabeth Taylor. Hedda Hopper, a good friend of Elizabeth Taylor's mother, was upset at the idea of Elizabeth marrying Michael Wilding because he was reportedly having an affair with Stewart Granger. To Hedda, the notion of Wilding and Granger both marrying significantly younger women seemed like looking for spouses too naive to realize what was going on. When she got around to writing her memoirs, Hedda mentioned this. Michael Wilding sued her for libel. Hedda expected the gay guys who had given her the lowdown about Wilding's down low to testify for her. They did not. She lost the case, and Wilding got most of the money she had anticipated from the book. Nothing about Jean Simmons, however, except as the young bride of yet another "snails and oysters" guy.

 

Back to 1952: I am glad to see the mention of THE MARRYING KIND, another worthy film. I also completely agree with filmlover than John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara are the best part of THE QUIET MAN and with TZ that Joseph Wiseman is great in VIVA ZAPATA.

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Lorna, because inquiring minds want to know: check out William J. Mann's bio of Elizabeth Taylor. Hedda Hopper, a good friend of Elizabeth Taylor's mother, was upset at the idea of Elizabeth marrying Michael Wilding because he was reportedly having an affair with Stewart Granger. To Hedda, the notion of Wilding and Granger both marrying significantly younger women seemed like looking for spouses too naive to realize what was going on. When she got around to writing her memoirs, Hedda mentioned this. Michael Wilding sued her for libel. Hedda expected the gay guys who had given her the lowdown about Wilding's down low to testify for her. They did not. She lost the case, and Wilding got most of the money she had anticipated from the book. Nothing about Jean Simmons, however, except as the young bride of yet another "snails and oysters" guy.

 

Back to 1952: I am glad to see the mention of THE MARRYING KIND, another worthy film. I also completely agree with filmlover than John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara are the best part of THE QUIET MAN and with TZ that Joseph Wiseman is great in VIVA ZAPATA.

 

Thanks for this fun bit of gossip. It's especially great to hear a story where Hedda Hopper loses. Out of all the gossip columnists, she seemed to be the worst, I suppose because she was bitter about being a failed actress. As I have been doing these podcasts of 1950s movies, she has come up quite a few times being a chief antagonist in the HUAC witch hunt debacle. 

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