Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel (The Most Interesting Star You’ve Never Heard Of )

Share

What would you do if you had to choose between becoming a famous movie star or traveling the world with the love of your life?  When she was just 20 years old, Ann Dvorak made just that choice, and it changed the course of her life.AnnDvorak

If you love classic movies — and you love cool, confident chicks – trust me, you will love you some Ann Dvorak. (Most people pronounce it wrong, like d-VOR-ak, so I do too.)  It takes beauty, brains and balls to be a successful movie actress, and Ann had all three. Unfortunately, where the smarts and the sultry all paid off, she turned out to be a little too smart and sulky for her own good.

I first became enamored of Ann after seeing the pre-code movie Three on a Match (1932).  True, she does have the juicy part of a high society wife who gets sexually enthralled by Lyle Talbot, hooked on cocaine, slapped around by Humphrey Bogart, and writes in lipstick on her nightgown. But she plays it with the kind of honesty and ferocity that makes me love good pre-code movies so much. The movie also stars dame Hall of Famers Bette Davis and Joan Blondell, but the movie is all Ann’s. (The only sour note is the cloying, randomly Southern accented voice of that annoying kid. You almost want to see him get killed. Hey, I said almost.)

Like me, writer, archivist and super cool chick in her own right, Christina Rice also fell under Ann’s spell after seeing Three on a Match. But whereas I just became a fan and made a point never to fall under anyone’s sexual spell (at least no one as douche-y as Lyle Talbot), Christina went on to become a collector and write Ann’s long-overdue bio, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. I recently caught up with Christina to help combat this whole “forgotten” thing and tell us all about why Ann was so special, what made her a rebel, and the stiff price she paid for being one.

Tell us, in a nutshell, what’s your book about?

Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is about a Golden Age film actress who seemed destined to become a legendary movie star, but instead she followed her heart, fought the powerful studio system, and paid the consequences.

How’d you first get interested in Ann?

I initially became drawn to Ann when I was in college in the mid-1990s and watched the film Three on a Match. I ended up being blindsided by Ann’s performance as a bored society woman who throws privilege away for drugs and hot sex with Lyle Talbot. Simply riveting. She was just as good in other films I came across like Scarface and G Men and I was baffled why she didn’t become a bigger star. I didn’t find much information about her at the time and after a while I figured if no one else is going to write a book about her, maybe it should be me. Of course I was in my 20s, very naïve, and had no clue that it would take 15 years to finish it!

What made doing a book on Ann so compelling? Why should people today care about getting to know Ann Dvorak?

Ann was a complex person who experienced a hell of a lot during her life, so her story can be interesting to someone who is not familiar with her films. She was born into show business by parents who were entertainers in vaudeville and early film, she was briefly a child actress and later a chorus dancer at MGM where she was mentored by Joan Crawford. She worked with some of the most prominent actors and directors of her day. In 1940, she traveled through hostile waters in order to join the British war effort as a correspondent, ambulance driver, and camp show performer, among other things. Her interests varied from bacteriology to hat-making, and she penned an 18-volume history of the world and made an audio-book of it! To top it all off, she was one hell of an actress.

 Wow, she sounds like a dame and a half! It’s a shame the book has to be subtitled the “Forgotten Rebel” Why isn’t Ann more well-known today?

During the first half of 1932, Ann was in a position to become a very well-known film star. Her first credited role was opposite Paul Muni in Scarface where she was second-billed and generated enough buzz that the press dubbed her “Hollywood’s New Cinderella.” Warner Bros. became infatuated with her and paid a princely sum to Howard Hughes for her contract and gave her strong roles in Three on a Match and The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. While filming that latter title, she fell in love with co-star Leslie Fenton and eloped a few weeks later. Fenton was a freelance actor who loved to travel, so he didn’t believe in long-term contracts. He also wasn’t bothered by the fact that Ann DID have a contract with Warner Bros. and convinced her to walk out and go on an 8-month European honeymoon. The studio put her back to work when she returned, but they seldom gave her showcase roles after that. She was never able to regain that early momentum.

So she jumped ship after getting a contract to go away for a whole year, and complained a lot about her salary in the press, ostensibly to get Warner Bros. to pony up more so she’d come back from her “vacation.”  Is that why you call her a rebel?

Leslie Fenton convinced her to walk out on her contract and at that time her agent convinced her that complaining about her salary and bad-mouthing the studios was a wise idea, which it wasn’t. Ann was only 20 at the time and heavily influenced by her husband, but at the end of the day Ann went along with it all and should probably shoulder most of the blame for tanking her own career.

The term “rebel” in the title mainly refers to Ann’s 1936 court case where she tried to get out of her Warner Bros. contract, claiming they unlawfully suspended her. She did not win the case, though it’s worth noting that she filed her suit prior to James Cagney and Bette Davis who were also Warner contract players who took the studio to court in 1936. Ann’s actions must have played some role in influencing them, yet their actions are frequently noted by film historians, while Ann’s efforts have been largely ignored.

 What are some of the big takeaways from Ann’s life story?

The biggest take away from Ann’s story is probably – don’t fuck with Jack Warner! Seriously though, I hope she will now receive credit for being one of the earlier contract players to take a studio to court and place her actions within the context of the suits that came after her, including Cagney, Davis, and even Olivia de Havilland in the 1940s.

I think it’s also interesting to note that the question of “Can women have it all?” isn’t a new concept and was something Ann struggled with. She wanted to be the good wife and the great actress and had trouble balancing both which is an unfortunate theme of many actresses of the time.

Tell us about Ann’s movies. What are the “essential” Dvorak films one should check out?

Ann made over 50 films, but the standouts are sadly few and far between since she compromised her career so early on. Her performances do reveal an actress with a great deal of raw talent who could absolutely shine when working with a director like Howard Hawks or George Cukor.  Her early films also reinforce a point we were already aware of – that pre-Code films are divine.

Scarface, Three on a Match, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, and Heat Lightning are some of her strongest titles, which also happen to all be pre-Codes. Post-Code, I would suggest Housewife, G-Men, and Girls of the Road, and post-War choices are Private Affairs of Bel Ami, Our Very Own, and I Was an American Spy. An honorable mention is A Life of Her Own where Ann gives an Oscar-worthy performance in what find to be a fairly unwatchable movie.

 Lastly, would you say Ann is a “dame”? If so, what makes her a dame (in life and on the screen)?

That’s an interesting question. Ann always seemed to have an underlying air of refinement, so I have never thought of her as a dame in the way someone like Jean Harlow was. For example, in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, she’s quite good in the early part of the film as a jilted girl from the wrong side of the tracks mending her broken heart. Later on however, when she’s verbally sparring with a fast talking reporter, played by Lee Tracy, I think she’s less effective rattling off those “damey” lines than an actress like Joan Blondell or Glenda Farrell would have been. Still, anyone who could shine so brightly during the pre-Code era has got to have some dame in them!

Off-screen, it at first seems like Ann was very independent and quite the renegade what with walking out on her contract and later suing her studio. In reality, she was always very heavily influenced by the men in her life, so she’s not quite the real life dame that contemporary Bette Davis was.

Christina, thank you so much for giving us your time – and for writing this amazing book! You are certainly a dame and half, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my new girl crush and we have the same bangs. (Though that certainly doesn’t hurt!)

Mary Astor and Her Dirty Diary

Share

I learned about blow jobs from Charlie Chaplin. (Yes, that Charlie Chaplin.) I was about 12 and with my babysitting earnings I bought the book Hollywood Babylon. As a passionate old movie fan, and an adolescent girl with a filthy mind and an even filthier curiosity, a book like Hollywood Babylon was a dream come true. The book dealt with various Tinsel Town scandals, and while I now know that much of the book is just blatantly untrue and much is just based on gossip, at the time it was my bible, and I don’t use that term loosely.

(What does all this have to do with Mary Astor? Don’t worry, I’m getting to it. Just allow yourself to be bored by stories of celebrity blow jobs for now. Somehow try and muddle through.)THE_DIARY_of_MARY_ASTOR__35190

Hollywood Babylon was my bible because in addition to giving me all kinds of titillating secret stories about famous movie stars, it solidified a world view that had haunted little-girl-me for several years. Unfortunate and unseemly circumstances in my little-girl-life (which you can read about here, if you choose) had given me an unsettling perspective on the world, namely that all is not what it seems. I’m not talking about merely a there-is-no-Santa-Claus way; this was more in a Santa-Claus-ties-up-little-girls-at-the-North-Pole-and-lets-the-elves-do-horrible-things-to-them-with-candy-canes way. I loved my old movies and worshipped my movie stars and to read that this lovely ingénue did this, and this dapper gentleman liked to do that, well, it showed me all was not as nice, and a helluva a lot more lurid, than it seemed.

Which brings us to Mary Astor. (See, I told you.) The book had a whole chapter on Mary’s 1930s custody battle and the infamous diary entries that came to light. If you aren’t sure who Mary Astor is, she’s most famous as Bogie’s co-star in The Maltese Falcon and for roles in lots of classic films like Midnight, Dodsworth, The Palm Beach Story, The Great Lie, and Meet Me in St. Louis. She’s also famous to me for being deflowered at age 15 by John Barrymore, but then that’s because I read books like Hollywood Babylon as a child.

Mary was divorcing her second husband  (a doctor she’d met when he treated her widow willies after her first husband died in a plane crash).  In 1936 a custody battle over their young daughter ensued, and to help his case Dr. Thorpe busted out his wife’s diary to show the court (And America when he leaked it to the press) that this Mary was no saint. Hollywood Babylon’s tough investigative journalism brought to light these diary snippets:

His first initial is G, and I fell like a ton of bricks. I met him Friday. Saturday he called for me at the Ambassador and we went to the Casino for lunch and had a very gay time! Monday—we ducked out of the boring party. It was very hot so we got a cab and drove around the park a few times and the park was, well, the park, and he held my hand and said he’d like to kiss me but didn’t.

Tuesday night we had a dinner at ‘21’ and on the way to see Run Little Chillun he did kiss me—and I don’t think either of us remember much what the show was about. We played kneesies during the first two acts, my hand wasn’t in my own lap during the third. It’s been years since I’ve felt up a man in public, but I just got carried away.

The public was dying to know to what “G man” this theatre-going lap belonged. Turned out the lap was none other than George S. Kaufman’s.  If you aren’t sure who George S. Kaufman is, he’s a kick ass writer, humorist, and member of the Algonquin Round Table.  He’s most famous for writing for the Marx Brothers and such classic plays as The Man Who Came to Dinner, Dinner at Eight, Stage Door and Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can’t Take It With You. (He also wrote several screenplays including the 1954  A Star is Born and Academy Award-winning Gentleman’s Agreement.) A hilarious introverted Jewish misanthrope (gee, what are the odds?), George S. was known to be a sort of “morose and intimidating figure uncomfortable with expressions of affection between human beings.”  Still, he was pretty successful with the ladies. (My favorite random factoid: In the 40s he had a big affair with Natalie “Lovey Howell” Schafer.) This may be a clue as to why G. was such a hit:

Afterwards we had a drink someplace and then went to a little flat in 73rd Street where we could be alone, and it was all very thrilling and beautiful. Once George lays down his glasses, he is quite a different man. His powers of recuperation are amazing, and we made love all night long. It all worked perfectly, and we shared our fourth climax at dawn. I didn’t see much of anybody else the rest of the time—we saw every show in town, had grand fun together and went frequently to 73rd Street where he fucked the living daylights out of me.

MARY ASTORSixth-grade-me was more astonished that “People in the 30s cussed!’ than by Kaufman’s stamina. But it’s what didn’t astonish me that was telling. I wasn’t the least bit surprised by Mary’s randy recollections. In Mary’s performances I could always sense the wild animal seething under that cool exterior. Whether she was the prim, repressed doctor’s wife in Red Dust, the wholesome femme d’un certain âge in Dodsworth, or the composed noir shady lady with the horrible matronly ‘do in The Maltese Falcon, I felt there was always this horny hunger and super raring-to-go-ness just under the surface. (And this was at a tender age when, if asked to describe what would constitute horny hunger, I wouldn’t really have the vaguest idea what I was talking about. Maybe something along the lines of, “She really likes to kiss and make out” or “She looks like she goes to third base” – not having the slightest clue what third base was either.)

Turns out I was pretty on the money. Mary was a talented, successful actress but off-set she dealt with quite a few demons. She was an abused child, and she contended with widowhood, divorce and scandal all while still in her 20s. According to her daughter, Marylyn (the little girl that launched those steamy diary snippets), Mary attempted suicide at least 3 times, and she was not only a heavy drinker, “she did her share of heavy everything.”

Some of her pain and experience she put on paper; in addition to two memoirs, Astor wrote novels with relatively lurid subject matter for the time. (For example, in A Place Called Saturday, a woman is raped, conceives a child, and refuses to have an abortion.) I prefer her memoirs, Mary Astor: My Story and A Life on Film, which are very readable and were best-sellers for a time. (The latter book has a chapter entitled, “What It’s Like to Kiss Clark Gable” – so I mean, come on.)MARY ASTOR & HAT

But instead of her drinking and her diary, I remember Mary Astor as a remarkable actress who always made every part real and believable.  Preternaturally mature-looking and sounding, she went pretty quickly from the ethereal long-haired ingénue who captured John Barrymore’s, um, heart, to soignée ladies who knew what the wanted. She was touching in Dodsworth, hilarious in The Palm Beach Story, and hit just the right note as The Maltese Falcon’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a woman with many layers and most of them phoney. I prefer to remember poor Mary as the divorcee in that last scene in Dodsworth, where she raises her arm up, up in unbridled joy. I felt that joy, and I only wish she could have, too.

Postscript: Mary claimed the diary entries leaked to the tabloids had been inaccurate. We’ll never know; in 1952 a judge ordered the infamous journal burned.

Post-postscript: Yes, thanks to Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon I learned that Charlie Chaplin’s teenage bride, Lita Ford, used her fella’s requests for fellatio as grounds for divorce.  She, and by she I mean her mother, wanted the world to know that the Little Tramp’s wife was no tramp. (No, just a pure, innocent gold-digging nymphet.)

Sippie Wallace: A Mighty Tight Woman

Share

Sippie WallaceAccording to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “there are no second acts in American lives.”  Clearly, F. didn’t know f—, and he certainly didn’t know 1920s Blues singer and writer, “Sippie” Wallace.

Like the more well-known Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace was one of the most popular ladies who sang the Blues  — in an era and genre in which women routinely outsold their male counterparts.  Her career spanned seven decades and had a significant impact on two distinct blues movements separated by half a century.  She was also unique among the ladies who sang the blues as she wrote her own lyrics, giving a voice to the female experience in more ways than one. “There isn’t anything I sing about that hasn’t happened to me,” said Sippie, the author of such songs as  “After I Was Loved My Eyes Flew Open Like an Electric Light”. Almost a century ago, Wallace sang about things that wouldn’t be discussed at American dinner tables until Monica Lewinsky hobbled on to the scene.

Most people I meet aren’t aware that things were not so prim and proper back in the day. Take just a couple of Blues songs, like Cleo Gibson’s “I’ve Got Ford Engine Movements in My Hips”; “I Let My Daddy Do THAT” by Hattie Hart; Margaret Carter’s understandable plea, “I Want Plenty Grease in My Frying Pan”; and Clara Smith’s lament, “Ain’t Got Nobody to Grind My Coffee”. (We’ve all been there.)   Hell, as a teen back in the permissive 70s I was actually shocked when I heard Al Miller’s tragic tale of woe, “I Found Your Keyhole Baby (But My Key Just Won’t Go In)”. And when it comes to dames, they don’t get much dame-er – or game-er – than Sippie.

Beulah “Sippie” Thomas was one of 13 (yikes!) children, born November 1, 1898 in Plum Bayou, Arkansas – a place no doubt whose name sounds much more pleasantly pastoral than the reality. (Coincidentally, eighty-eight years later she died on November 1st as well.) Beulah got her nickname because she had almost no teeth until she was 3 and had to sip everything she ate. When she was still a child, the Thomases moved their weary loins and big brood to Houston where Sippie sang and played piano in the church where her father was deacon.  But like many preachers’ children before them, in the evenings the children would sneak out to tent shows. By her mid-teens, Sippie and her brothers Hersal and George were playing and singing the Blues in tent shows throughout TexasSippie Wallace

Sippie got herself a solid following, and in 1915 she and George moved to New Orleans. (By the way, what’s the most dangerous thing to be? One of Sippie’s brothers!  Hersal died of food poisoning at the tender age of sixteen, while George would die after being hit by a streetcar.) Two years later the woman who penned the ditty “A Man for Every Day of the Week” got married to Matt Wallace.

 While in New Orleans Mrs. Wallace met Jazz giants like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong ,who were friends of her brother George. Before long Sippie went on the road and was in great demand as “The Texas Nightingale” on the Theater Owners Booking Association black vaudeville circuit. (Its acronym, TOBA, had performers describing it as “Tough on Black Asses.”)

In 1923 she went to Chicago’s toddlin’ town and began performing in the cafes and cabarets. In 1923 she became an overnight success when she recorded her first record, “Up the Country”, which sold more than 100,000 copies in the first three months. Sippie went on to record over forty songs between 1923 -29. In addition to her great women-centric lyrics, her records featured her pals who just happened to be the era’s best jazz musicians; in addition to King and “Satchmo”, her sidemen included people like Clarence Williams, Johnny Dodds and Sidney Bechet.

The bona fide Blues star’s most popular recordings included “Special Delivery Blues” with Louis Armstrong, “Bedroom Blues” (written by George and Hersal Thomas), “I’m So Glad I’m a Brownskin”,“Mighty Tight Woman” and arguably her most famous tune, “Women Be Wise” – a warning about keeping your mouth shut when it comes to your man’s bedroom prowess.

Adorable, right?

Adorable, right?

Successful as she was, in 1929 Sippie moved to Detroit and left show business in the early 1930s when the Blues craze died down, as did several relatives. She got religion and stopped doing secular music, concentrating on church music. But thirty-some years later Sippie had her Fitzgerald-poo-pooed second act.  She launched a comeback in 1966 with fellow Texan and longtime friend, Victoria Spivey.  She followed up an album with Spivey with Sippie Wallace Sings the Blues and Women Be Wise.

But, just as things were looking up, Sippie suffered a massive stroke in 1969. “It was six months before she could walk or talk,” recalled her manager, “but the first thing she did was to play the piano.” This Blues badass was not about to let a little thing like that stop her. “If I was in the middle of dying,” said Wallace, “and someone said, ‘Sippie, sing me a song,’ I’d stop dying to sing that song.” She was still in a wheelchair in 1972 when popular singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt heard of her idol’s recovery and urged that she be invited to perform at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival.Sippie-Wallace-Bonnie-Raitt-1979

After majoring in African studies at Radcliffe, Bonnie Raitt had become a fixture on the folk/blues scene in Cambridge coffeehouses.  In 1968, an album in a London record store featuring a photo of Sippie caught Bonnie’s eye. “I saw the rhinestone glasses and the tiger-striped vest and said to myself, ‘This woman really knows how to dress.’” (I would have fallen in love with her in that outfit, too. I get girl crushy feelings just thinking about it.) The two women met and really hit it off, culminating in the trans-generational soul sisters’ duet on Sippie’s Women Be Wise. In 1971 Bonnie recorded her own rendition of “Women Be Wise” and Wallace toured and recorded with her throughout the 1970s and 1980s, while also performing on her own. Bonnie helped Sippie score a recording deal with Atlantic Records and recorded an eponymous album that featured Raitt and was nominated for a Grammy in 1983 and won a W.C. Handy Award for “Best Blues Album” in 1984.

Bonnie really related to her friend’s twin love of music…and men. “Sippie has always seen the struggle of the sexes with a sense of humor and compassion,” explained Bonnie. “She knows that freedom is the name of the game even though women have always had to answer to men.”

Sippie died on November 1st 1986, but her legacy lives on. Thanks to Ms. Wallace, millions of women like me know not to “Advertise our man” and are far better off for it. Continue reading Sippie Wallace: A Mighty Tight Woman

Unplanned Parrothood

Butch!
Share

You never think it’ll be you.

After all, you seem sane (publicly). You think you’re pretty cool (privately).  But then, one day you wake up and somehow, it’s happened. There’s no use denying it. You‘ve become crazy parrot lady. There’s no escaping the fact I’ve become one of those women you read about, . . . → Read More: Unplanned Parrothood

The Scandalous Suicide of Hollywood's Carole Landis

Carole LandisCarole Landis is known primarily as the bosomy blonde movie star who offed herself over Rex Harrison. Of all the schmucks who’ve driven ladies to leap, the idea of killing yourself over a tool like “Sexy Rexy” seems especially senseless. But in Hollywood’s Golden Years one of filmdom’s most glamorous and popular stars did indeed end her life over that Doolittle douche.

Today not many people have heard of Carole Landis, but her story is one of Hollywood’s most fascinating tales, with more twists and turns than her enviable curves.

Carole’s story begins in Midwestern Gothic luridness with a steady stream of heartbreaking details that make you periodically have to stop reading and go, “Seriously?!”, then sigh and warily dip in for more.

She was born Frances Ridste on New Year’s Day in 1919 in the aptly named burg of Fairchild, Wisconsin, to a farmer’s daughter and a “drifting railroad mechanic” who’d already abandoned the family before little Carole came along. (The “drifting railroad mechanic” wasn’t a stable family man? Quelle surprise!) Her mother was no saint either; Charles Fenner, her second husband, and the man with whom she’d been having an adulterous affair, was most likely Landis’s biological father. The youngest of five children, two of whom died in childhood, her early years were filled with poverty and sexual abuse.

Carole was such a beautiful infant she earned the nickname “Baby Doll”. According to family sources, she was sexually molested by a relative for much of her childhood. Given young Baby Doll’s shitty start in life, it’s no surprise that Carole 1) seemed much older than her years, and 2) was interested in being in show biz. Little Carole covered her walls with photos cut from magazines of movie stars like Mary Astor and Clark Gable. At age nine, little Carole ran up on stage during a local talent show and started to sing. Using make-up tricks to hide her age, she started entering beauty pageants at the tender age of twelve!  (She won a pair of silk stockings and an electric heater. Who says beauty can’t buy you anything?)

In high school Landis often skipped class –  “boy crazy ” was the general consensus. “I always seemed so much older than the other kids my age,” said Carole, “They seemed like tots.”

 She was ahead of her classmates and ahead of her time. As a teenager she tried to form an all female football team at school, but the principal stopped her because it was “unladylike”. It’s not surprising that Carole dropped out of high school at 15 to get her whole show biz thing underway. She worked as a hula dancer in a San Francisco nightclub, she sang with a dance band, and she worked at a hamburger stand, a department store, a movie theater. She dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to “Carole Landis” after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. She eventually saved up $100 and hightailed it to Hollywood.

The Ping Girl

The Ping Girl

Her 1937 film debut was as an extra in the original film version of  A Star Is Born. Next she found herself in various horse operas and an untold number of cheesecake photos. Eventually her cheesecakery paid off big; in 1940 studio head Hal Roach cast her as a scantily-clad cave girl in the original film version of One Million B.C.. Just as it would for Raquel Welch a quarter-century later, the movie made Landis a star. Soon, just as Clara Bow had been dubbed the “It Girl” and Ann Sheridan was crowned the “Oomph Girl”, publicists gave Carole the title the “Ping Girl.”

The Ping Girl moniker was attributed to a take-off on the popular motor oil ad at the time that claimed to take the ‘ping’ out of an engine and “make it purr”.  

Some claimed it was a mash-up of PIN-up Girl. Some say it alludes to Carole’s erection-generating abilities, as in “I saw her and –ping!”  Miss Hard-On of 1940 may have very well been aware of this etymology; once in an interview Landis said ‘ping’ was a term in Hollywood slang, but neglected to mention for what.

Most interesting to me about the whole “Ping Girl” thing was how brilliantly Carole (or possibly her PR folks) leveraged being against the sobriquet:

“I want a fair chance to prove myself something more than a curvaceous cutie. I want to get out of bathing suits and into something more substantial. Unfortunately the publicity department of my studio does not agree. They have conceived the brilliant idea of selling me to the public as ‘the Ping Girl’. This flash of genius is to be illustrated with a series of pictures out of their files, suggestive of anything but acting talent.”

Still, Landis was well aware that being pin-uppity had been her ticket to the big time:

“Leg art did the trick — naughty leg art, if you happen to look at it in that light. When the boys needed someone to pose in a skin-tight white bathing suit, go sleigh riding in shorts, or climb a ladder in a skirt, they’d yell, ‘Get Landis!’ That made everybody happy except, maybe, the goody-goods and the bluenoses, and I suspect they took a second peek now and then.”

Like a lot of women, Carole had a lot of ambivalence about using her assets to get ahead.  She posed for cheesecake photos by the thousands, but then resented all the attention they garnered.

 “Heaven knows I want people to think I have sex appeal. But I also want to think I have something besides sex appeal.”

God knows Carole was a smart cookie in every sense of the word. She loved to read, and was a fan of Ernest Hemingway, Noel Coward, and W. Somerset Maugham. (Hemingway gifted her with a set of personally autographed books.) But it was Landis’s more physical charms that got her places, both on and off-screen. She scored a contract with Twentieth-Century Fox, and was involved with studio head Darryl Zanuck, though it’s not entirely clear to me which came first, the chicken or the egg. She was in a series of successful films, playing second fiddle to Betty Grable in I Wake Up Screaming and Moon Over Miami. But she lost a pivotal role that ended up thrusting Rita Hayworth into stardom in the soapy bullfighter pic, Blood and Sand — very likely because she ended her affair with Zanuck. In fact, her ditching Darryl got her relegated to B pictures at the studio from then on. Continue reading The Scandalous Suicide of Hollywood’s Carole Landis

Share

Great Sites For and About Great Dames

Share

Angela Lansbury looking all damey and shit

Of course, The Lost Art of Being a Dame is not really lost at all. It is alive and well at these wonderful sites where you can find great content that is entertaining, informative, and dame-rific as all get out. I recommend you bookmark:

PRE-CODE.COM

I . . . → Read More: Great Sites For and About Great Dames

Down There: Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow and Me

Woody Allen & Dylan and Mia Farrow
Share

The public debate surrounding Dylan Farrow-Woody Allen has kept me up nights. I’ve been immobilized by sadness, anger, and shame.

For 40 years I’ve been terrified to write about this, and 40 years is a long time to be terrified.  But now, maybe it’s been long enough. Both my parents are dead now.  And . . . → Read More: Down There: Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow and Me

STILL Hot For Teacher

Share

My first love is dead.

Like millions of girls (and undoubtedly quite a few boys) growing up in the 60s, my first crush was on Russell Johnson, who played Roy Hinkley, known to generations of TV viewers simply as The Professor.

The One-Track Minded Professor

I imagined being held in his arms, smelling . . . → Read More: STILL Hot For Teacher

Remembering Bob-Daddy

Share

My dad and me.

Toward the end of his life, one of my heroes, George Bernard Shaw, was asked what person in history he would most like to have been. His response was that he would most like to have been the George Bernard Shaw he might have been, and never became.

Like . . . → Read More: Remembering Bob-Daddy

Christmas Classic Movies You May Not Know (But Should!)

Classic Christmas movies you NEED to know
Share

Two of my all-time favorite things in the world are old movies and Christmas. So when the two intersect, my heart squeals and jumps up and gives my brain a great big kiss!

It’s time to stop watching those Hallmark Channel movies and gather the family ’round the big screen hearth and settle in . . . → Read More: Christmas Classic Movies You May Not Know (But Should!)