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Friday, August 20, 2010

BITS OF COINCIDENCE: Part Three


One of the things that made Tony Curtis such a committed film actor was the fact that he was an avid movie fan. From boyhood, he sought escape and enjoyment in the seats of the local movie theater. Everything about Hollywood seemed delicious to him: the artistry, the fame, the money, and-- of course-- the women. Imagine his incredible pleasure when years of dreaming and unshakable determination brought him to Los Angeles via the US Navy on his way to Pearl Harbor (his left pic is a later studio headshot). Setting foot in the Hollywood Canteen that night in the early 1940s must have felt like entering the Garden of Eden! (Or should I say, Allah)? Star struck and agog at his surroundings, Tony was especially taken with Gloria De Haven, the sumptuous actress generously making an appearance at the Canteen for the boys that night. 

The brief encounter would prove to be a mere preview of things to come, for it seems that Ms. De Haven could sense the star power in the handsome young officer. Even decades later, Tony can remember the intense and exciting feeling he had when he and Gloria briefly locked eyes from across the room. It was a memory that would keep him warm during the time he spent cooped up in a submarine headed for Guam. Just as the eternal dreamer was able to take his childhood aspirations for filmdom and make them fact, so too did he take this split second with Gloria and turn it into something a little more substantial. The two would be reunited on the set of So This Is Paris in 1955 after Tony had become a legitimate Hollywood actor. Oh, and they would have a heated affair too. The tryst was brief but well-remembered. Tony still recalls Gloria as one of the two co-stars he ever really fell for. (The other was Suzanne Pleshette).

Tony sure could pick 'em!


Tony wasn't the only actor to be flabbergasted in the presence of a movie starlet. Before Rudolph Valentino (looking dapper, right) became the epitome of male sexuality, he was just a struggling actor trying to get by in NYC. One day, he "got by" Mary Pickford, who was dining with her mother at a Manhattan restaurant. Rudy was stunned to see the world's most famous woman a mere stone's throw away, but instead of being tongue tied, he walked right over. He earned brownie points by introducing himself to Mary's mother Charlotte first, and then politely turned his attention to the screen's first diva. Mary was very gracious in accepting his sincere compliments for her work and then patiently gave him advice on how to advance his own career. He clearly listened, and years later Mary probably struggled to reconcile the screen's hottest heartthrob with the humble young fop from her memory. After Rudy had established himself as an actor, the two began running in the same circles. Rudy was a frequent guest at the illustrious Pickfair, although Doug Fairbanks never took too much of a liking to him. Doug liked to be the center of attention after all, and the handsome Rudy was one Hell of a scene stealer.

Little Mary


Rudy was one actor who could return the favor. Just as Mary had been friendly to him when he was a nobody, so too would Rudy always treat those around him as equals. He would emulate the kindness bestowed upon him by the mega-movie-star by lavishing it upon other hopefuls that he would meet in later life. For example, while filming The Sheik, the newly famous Rudy, riding high off the success of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, took note of the many young extras on the set. Most of them were starting out in the business, nameless and faceless, and probably completely starstruck by his presence. To make them feel at home, he allowed several young ladies to take a turn riding his horse as he led it around the set. Two of his riders? An 8 -year-old Loretta Young and her sister Polly Ann, both dressed head to toe in Arabian garb. It made their day! (The three Young sisters are pictured left: Loretta, Polly Ann, and Elizabeth-- a trio of lookers).  Years later, Loretta would remember fondly watching a jovial Rudy ambling around with his guitar and singing between takes. It was quite an experience for a smitten young girl.


Loretta, age 14, during filming of Laugh, Clown, Laugh



 Not all meetings between stars are quite so pleasant. Some are just downright awkward, such as the next case. For some time, Jean Arthur and Greta Garbo were vying or the title of "Most Elusive Lady in Hollywood." Fittingly, the two had never met. Jean (right) was sympathetic to Garbo's plight, feeling that on some level she understood her need for privacy and personal space. She even respected her for it: "Her belief that only her work is important to her public. I feel that way, too." What Garbo felt about Jean is unknown, (as is pretty much everything else that went on in Garbo's head). Feeling an unspoken camaraderie with her Swedish counterpart, Jean volunteered to deliver a package to Garbo on behalf of a mutual friend. After all, Garbo was renting a house nearby. It seemed neighborly. Jean was nervous to finally come face to face with the Great Garbo but was also honored-- and a bit excited-- at the chance of an introduction. 

In typical Jean fashion, her knees began to shake as she approached Garbo's temporary abode, but she mustered up the courage to ring the doorbell. A servant let her in, and she waiting anxiously in the front hall. She looked up to see the devastatingly beautiful Greta floating cautiously down the stairs. After sputtering out an explanation for her presence, Jean quietly handed over the package and watched as Greta turned away and opened it. Inside was a huge diamond pin! Jean's eyes were as big as saucers! After a few seconds of silence, Greta turned back around, looked at Jean and said, "Vy don't you mind your own bizness." She then turned and made her way back upstairs. Shell-shocked, Jean equally turned on her heels and ran out the door. She never had a meeting with Garbo again!

This less-than-inviting gaze is
probably similar to what Jean encountered that day!

Happy weekend! :)

3 comments:

  1. So cool! Where do you find this information? It's fascinating! I had no idea about... well, frankly, most of it... but I was fascinated to find out about Tony Curtis and Gloria de Haven. I really love Gloria de Haven. Fantastic post!

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  2. Great post again! And like Sally, I think Gloria de Haven is so captivating! I also love that Rudolph Valentino introduced himself to Mary's mother first. So classy!

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  3. Thanks ladies! I'm glad I can introduce new information. I'm always afraid I'm just regurgitating old news. Sally: I do a LOT of reading, so I just kind of keep track of these strange tid bits that peak my interest. I am actually trying to put together a little bibliography for the site right now! Emma: I concur. Rudy was always a gentleman. ;)

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