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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MENTAL MONTAGE: Blondes Have More Fun

Ultimate Blonde Comedienne Carol Lombard takes 
a mischievous peek in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Grace Kelly (left) is most often remembered as being refined, classy, and chic. But so too did this lady have a naughty sense of humor. When Alfred Hitchcock initially tried to get her goat with his dirty jokes, Grace quipped back something to the effect of: "I heard worse things than that when I was in convent school." When she got close to people, she really let her guard down and showed her sweet and fun-loving side. Truth be told, she loved a good prank, and she played with the best of them!

The most infamous joker she went mono e mono with was surprisingly Alec Guinness, an English actor who was also known for his regal aura. The two chummed up on the set of The Swan (right) and became good friends. When Grace learned that Alec was receiving very "forward" fan letters from a girl named Alice, she saw to it that he was continuously paged by an "Alice" at his hotel. Alec's face probably filled with fear until he saw the look on Grace's. The two also engaged in a a decades long battle of "Where's the Tomahawk?" The duel started thus: Alec was given a little tomahawk by a friend, and as a gag, he tipped the hotel concierge to slip it into Grace's bed. Grace's initial surprise led to a continuous game. The two soon began swapping the weapon back and forth. Grace would hear that Alec was in town, and she would pay the bellboy at his hotel to place the tomahawk in his bed; Alec would learn that Grace was passing through his neck of the woods, and he would have a mutual friend hide it somewhere in hers. Sometimes, years would pass before the tomahawk would strike again, but it always did. Every once in awhile one of them was greeted with the surprisingly humorous prop, and had a good laugh over it. Where it ended up, or who was the last to receive it is unknown, but it was a good way for two friends to to send a little token of remembrance, despite the years that passed between them.

Grace also tried to help out ol' friend Jackie-O back when she was Jacqueline Kennedy, (see two classy ladies left). It seems that John was a big fan of Grace's, which is no surprise knowing his penchant for blondes. When he underwent a dangerous lumbar fusion surgery in 1954, Grace wrote Jackie and asked if she might pay a visit at the hospital. Jackie thought it was just the thing to brighten the recuperating politician's spirits, but she added a twist. The scheme was to have Grace enter John's hospital room dressed as a nurse! Grace arrived completely in character and performed to a T. Perhaps a little too well, actually. In addition to the fact that John was heavily sedated, Grace was a bit too convincing in her costume. He didn't know that the kind nurse helping him was a famed movie star! Grace left. When John became a little more clearheaded, Jackie told him of the shenanigan, and he kicked himself for missing the experience of a lifetime!

Speaking of John and his blondes... Marilyn Monroe also had a funny bone, and she too wanted to pull a fast one on her husband, Joe DiMaggio  (newlywedded, right). Unfortunately, like the above gag, it didn't pan out. This time, she asked for Maureen O'Hara's help. It turns out that Joe had a school-boy crush on the flame haired vixen, so to tease him, Marilyn asked Maureen if she would take part in his birthday party. The idea was that Maureen would hide in a large box, which Marilyn would then give to Joe as a present with the following stipulation: "Now Joe, after I give this, I don't ever want to hear about Maureen O'Hara again." Maureen would then pop out of the gift, leaving Joe quite stunned. Maureen resisted the idea, but eventually the persuasive Marilyn coaxed her into it. For some reason-- scheduling perhaps-- they never went through with it. Too bad for Joe.

Maureen O'Hara: proving red-heads 
could also get a laugh.

Another blonde who liked to have a little fun was Hot Toddy, Thelma Todd (left). When she was first signed at Paramount at the young age of 19, she was put in the studio acting class with other young hopefuls, such as Buddy Rogers. Now, between lessons on speech and performance, these youngsters got a little stir crazy. Here they were, hoping to become famous movie stars, and instead it was like being in boarding school. In the midst of the talkie revolution, studio execs really wanted to make sure that their new gents and ingenues could move cinema into the next generation, and classes on diction and pronunciation were becoming tiring. Thus, to break out of the old, starched routines, the kids decided to have some laughs. Rumor has it that Toddy was always the leader when it came to their pranks.

One example involved the illustrious legend of the silent screen, Gloria Swanson, then one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and the reigning Queen of Paramount's Astoria studios. One night, Thel' and the gang decided to toy with the famed vixen. They went to the set of her latest film, Stage Struck, (in which she was playing a waitress), and tampered with the props, which they moved around and glued down-- plates, trays, chairs, doors, everything! The next day, when Gloria arrived to the set, she started going through the scene only to realize that she couldn't move anything. Doors refused to open, silverware was stuck on the counter... From the rafters, she thought she could hear the faint sound of chuckling. Instead of getting riled, the Grande Dame calmly pulled director Allan Dwan aside into a private convo, then left the set. No more work could be done until the situation was corrected anyway.

Gloria S: Don't mess with this!

Thelma was right proud of this silly victory... until Gloria got her revenge. The next day, Thelma and her class of jokesters were called to the very same set and asked to perform scenes from the script... while Gloria critiqued! Suddenly, the laughs turned to gulps. Thelma herself was given Gloria's role. Gloria simply sat smirking-- pen and paper at the ready to give her review. Revenge was sweet. In the end, no one held any grudges. It was all in fun. In fact, Gloria probably saw in Thelma a younger version of herself. Earlier, when the gushing young actress first met her idol and told her she hoped to work with her one day, Gloria cautiously advised, "Just don't let them get to you dear. Keep them at a distance and let them think you've got steal claws and sharp fangs." If only Thel' had taken the advice...

But back to the funny business. Errol Flynn (right) was a legendary prankster. (Granted his hair was light brown, but for the sake of this article we'll say that it was dirty blonde). The number of gags he pulled on his pals is endless. One unwitting recipient of his boyish hi-jinks was Anthony Quinn. The two were scheduled to do a radio show for the Red Cross. Before Tony arrived, Errol spoke to the fellas in charge of the broadcast and asked them to play along with his scheme: pretending to be on the air when in fact the show hadn't begun. When the fake show commenced, the boys began reading through the script when Errol suddenly let out a string of obscenities that would make a sailor duck and cover. Anthony's mouth dropped open in shock! He was used to Errol's foul mouth, but he was surprised that he cut loose on "live" radio. He was even more surprised when Errol accused him of the foul language, saying, "Why Tony! Why did you say that?" Anthony of course protested, "No, no! It wasn't me!" Errol then repeated the game, each time becoming more filthily verbose and condemning Anthony for his language. "Shame on you, Anthony" he'd say, at which poor Tony would simply shake his head vigorously in protest and look around at the tech boys for help. He prayed that they'd cut the power, but he was stuck! When the show was over, Anthony returned home, sure that his reputation was ruined. The phone started ringing off the hook: Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, and his father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille condemned him for his behavior, (all coaxed into the gag by Errol). Finally, Anthony got a final call from his mischievous friend, who simply said, "Gotca, Tony!" He could do nothing but laugh.

Anthony Quinn, laughing it up.

Olivia De Havilland constantly fell prey to Errol's pranks, (they sit together, left).  One day, while on the set of The Charge of the Light Brigade, she went into her dressing room to change. She opened a drawer in her bureau and pulled out a piece of clothing, but was startled when a long, dead snake rolled out. She let out a terrified shriek, dropped the clothes, and ran from the room! Off in the distance, watching with glee, Errol nearly fell over laughing. Olivia never did find out if the snake he'd planted was real. Errol would again pull a fast one on her when she, on a separate occasion, went to her dressing room to change. This time, when she put her feet into her shoes, she found that she was unable to walk away. Errol had nailed them to the floor. Olivia, impassioned and fiery as she was, would become livid at these unprofessional actions, but Errol's boyish good humor and charms would always win her back over. She just couldn't stay mad at the boy.

Carole Lombard: Beauty that's Bananas!

The mother of all blonde pranksters is, of course, the Queen of Screwball comedies, Carole Lombard. It seems that there was no one in Tinsel-Town untouched by her ploys. Her gags were always light-hearted and full of fun, bearing no malicious bent at all. She just loved to make people laugh, and she was enough of a ham to pull off many elaborate tricks with great pomp. Carole is responsible for getting Hitchcock to make his only official, full-fledged comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He enjoyed her bawdy, racy humor and she his, so having the chance to work together seemed perfect. However, Carole had heard the infamous quote Hitch had uttered that "All actors should be treated like cattle." Thus, when filming began, she had three cows brought to the set, one labeled for each actor: herself, Robert Montgomery, and Gene Raymond

Carole and Bob Montgomery on Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

There were no lengths Carole wouldn't go to. When she was invited to a ball that requested all invitees to show up in white, she came in an ambulance; when she hosted a dinner party, she gave it a medical theme and had the meal served in bed pans. When eating breakfast out with married co-star Bing Crosby during We're Not Dressing, she got up to leave and said, "Oh by the way, Bing, I left my nightie in your room last night. Could you please get it back to me. Thanks." She winked and walked away, leaving Bing completely stunned and embarrassed in front of the other diners, who now thought that he and Carole had had a roll in the hay! They had not, but Carole loved to set tongues wagging.

Clark and Carole: Two hams have some fruit.

She loved most to toy with husband, Clark Gable. When they first started dating, Carole learned that Clark loved collecting cars, so she sent him a present: a broken-down and deteriorating model-T covered with hearts. But this time she had met her match. Gable showed up at her front door with the car and tempted her into a joy ride in the comic vehicle. After they were married, Carole toned the jokes down a bit, but her cooky side always remained. The duo hosted occassional, absurd parties, including one in which everyone invited had to pick up an instrument and play while Carole conducted. Because few had any musical ability, the noise was atrocious, but the hilarity ensued. When Carole tragically died in her 1942 plane crash, it was her incredible joy, generosity, and sense of fun that was left behind. Thanks to her films and the tremendous and uproarious stories about her, the comedy continues.


  1. I enjoyed this post alot. Not only were these stars glamorous , they were also a blast to be around . Excellent!

  2. Some splendid anecdotes...and I'm so glad you included my all-time favorite actress, Carole Lombard, in this. There are so many fascinating stories about her penchant for practical jokes, including one involving a visit Fredric March once made to her dressing room. To learn more about it (warning: the anecdote is for mature audiences), go to

  3. Billy: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I agree, it's nice to hear the softer side of the heavyweights!

    VP: Carole is one of my favorites too! I love the link you sent me. So funny! That's teach ya, Fred! I love the boxing match in "Nothing Sacred." One of her greatest on screen moments. Thanks.