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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Spooktacular

Ava Gardner stars in: Halloween 2010!

In preparation for every actor's favorite holiday, I give you a presentation in Spook-e-Vision! As all of Hollywood is haunted by the macabre tragedies of its past, and as every glittering star seeks to hide a hideous face he or she wants no one to see, Halloween seems the most fitting celebrity celebration. Accepted truths are hidden behind ghoulish masks, the dark corners of life we normally deny are openly indulged in, and all the world salivates over disturbing and heart-pounding stories of violence and terror just for kicks-- to feel alive while indulging in death. This ain't no Christmas. Therefore, amidst the rest of the black-hearted mayhem, let us summon a few more spirits from the ugly bowels of Movieland's history and bring forth the ghosts of Tinsel Town's gruesome past. (Mwah ha ha ha)! The theme of this group of tales is the curse of foresight. The supernatural, the uncanny, but mostly the unfortunate will greet you in what follows. Say your prayers for the lost souls.

-- "Romeo & Juliet," Shakespeare

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Choosing the most horrific of all La La Land's tragedies is no easy task; there is too much blood, drugs, deception, and death to sift through. However, the disturbing tale of a vulnerable beauty sacrificed by a gang of deluded psychopaths under the tutelage of (nearly) the Devil himself remains perhaps the most haunting. I refer, of course, to the sad end of Sharon Tate. Charles Manson's distorted God complex induced a killing spree via his family of lemmings in 1969. All of the victims were innocents, but the best remembered is Sharon, due to her growing celebrity, her marriage to director Roman Polanski, and the fact that she was pregnant (left). Murder was never darker. There can be no experience more petrifying than to watch your own life being violently wrenched away in the most obscene of fashions. Sharon endured even worse than this, for she saw it all coming...

A few years earlier in 1966, Sharon was staying with her friend, Jay Sebring, when she had a bone-chilling experience. The house Jay lived in was at 9820 Easton Drive and used to belong to Paul Bern and Jean Harlow (both at home, right). It was the house in which Paul supposedly committed suicide, though speculations and theories have continued to grow over the years. The more the evidence is put together, the more it looks like Paul's death in 1932 was the result of foul play, which was hastily covered up to protect his association with MGM and one of its biggest stars. It was rumored that Paul Bern was tormented by his inability to satisfy his sex-pot wife, due to his underdeveloped genitalia. The public chose to believe this extreme story and overlook evidence, which pointed in the direction of a jealous former lover of Paul's-- his common law wife, Dorothy Millette. Whatever the case, Jean was heartbroken at losing the only man who ever loved her for who she truly was. She quickly moved out of the house, unable to inhabit the same building where Paul's crumpled, bloody body was found on her bedroom floor (below). Paul, it is rumored, never left.

More than one have seen Paul's lonely ghost roaming the various rooms of his old home. During Sharon's stay there, she would come face to face with him. Lying in bed one night, all alone in the house, she woke to see Paul's dark, transparent figure looming over her. She was terrified! She ran from the room and down the stairs to the first floor. As if that shock wasn't enough, Sharon then had a premonition: she saw herself tied up at the foot of the staircase, covered in blood, with her throat slashed open. Then as quickly as the phenomenon occurred, it was over. Sharon was shaken. She stumbled upon a hidden bar in the wall, which she previously had no knowledge of but was naturally led to, and had a nice, stiff drink. She told Jay about her experience the next day, and he calmed her down, but the images she had seen continued to plague her. Three years later, in her house on Cielo Drive, which was just down the way on Benedict Canyon from the Bern home, Sharon would lose her life when some unexpected visitors came calling. Ironically, Jay was visiting her at the time and was another victim. Had Paul been trying to warn her? Did the curse of Easton Drive rub off on both Sharon and Jay, who had died trying to protect her? Even Roman caught a hint of the tragedy to come when he said goodbye to Sharon for the last time (before he left for a shoot). Feeling her pregnant belly pressed against his own, a great weight of danger fell on his shoulders. He shrugged it off, but her sad fate was not to be denied. It would be written in blood.

Sharon at the Easton Drive house in 1966.

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Sharon was not the only actress to have a premonition of danger. Kathryn Grayson (left) was a beautiful and talented singer and movie star when Howard Hughes set his sights on her. He had collected many beautiful women into his stable, and very few women were able to say "no" to the man who seemed to have it all, not to mention the power and money to give them anything they wanted. Kathryn would become one of many to be engaged to Howard. Despite his oddities and quirks, he was a good guy underneath it all. She wanted to believe that they could truly be happy together... Something inside her told her otherwise.

The date was set, and Kathryn was preparing for her long walk down the aisle. But before she could say, "I do," she panicked. She couldn't do this. Something was wrong... A warning light kept flashing in her mind. She couldn't shake her ill feelings, so she called it quits with Howard. He was not happy, and Kathryn at first chalked her misgivings up to cold feet. It all turned out for the best, since marriage to Howard Hughes would not be what any woman could refer to as a happy ending, but it turns out that Kathryn's third eye saw something coming beyond a shoddy union. At the very hour that her marriage was to have taken place, her nephew would have a fatal accident. After learning this, Kathryn realized the true source of her premonition of doom... But she never reignited her relationship with Howard.

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James Dean prepping for a race.

The celebrity intuition continues.... The slogan "Live fast; die young" was coined for James Dean, the poster boy for discontented adolescence. In his film work, Dean was always clawing his way through existence, searching for some deeper meaning or some greater truth than his parents or peers could offer. Rebellion was the name of the game, and the unhappy sorrow that naturally accompanies the unfulfilled revolutionary was his cross to bear. Off screen, his true life was not much different. Jimmy always carried that tragic air about him, which drew women (and men) to him like moths to a flame. The pain behind his eyes, the uncertainty, made him even more desirable: the typical boy everyone wanted to save because he couldn't save himself. The particulars of his life, the pains he suffered, sent him into an almost reluctant spiral of self-destruction. He showed his contempt for society and himself by tempting fate, usually behind the wheel of a car or in the seat of a motorcycle. Just how fast did one have to go until he could outrun his demons? He was determined to find out.

Dean loved racing and loved going fast. He got a kick out of the adrenaline-- the feeling of being in and out of control at once. Friends used to enjoy watching him pick the gravel out of his tousled main from his latest race. His proximity to danger only served to make him more exciting. However, not everyone was jazzed about his lifestyle. When he met Alec Guinness on September 23, 1955 outside of a restaurant, Jimmy showed him his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder, which he had dubbed "Little Bastard" (right). Alec took one look at it and said, "If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week!" A good actor's instincts are apparently never wrong, in front of the camera or not. In seven more days, on Sept. 30, James Dean would be killed when another car coming from the opposite direction came into his lane on US Route 46. He had been on his way to a race in Salinas. The other driver, Daniel Turnupseed (turn-up-speed?), was speeding and unable to see Jimmy's nearly translucent, silver car in the cascading sun of the desert. Ironically, it would be the one time Jimmy wasn't speeding. Jimmy's friend and mechanic Rolf Wutherich, was in the car with him during the accident, but was thrown clear and survived. Rolf said Jimmy's last words before impact were, "That guy's gotta stop... He'll see us."

Little Bastard in the aftermath.

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When Tony Curtis was filming The Defiant Ones, he worked with actor Carl Switzer (left) who had obtained fame as a child as Alfalfa in the Our Gang/Little Rascals series. Tony enjoyed getting to know the legendary performer and found him to be an interesting guy. They often played poker between scenes and Tony loved to hear all of Carl's stories about his adventures as a child actor. The light-hearted little boy had developed into a troubled adult. Carl's career had expectedly declined as he aged, so having his participation on the project was a positive on both sides. In the movie, Carl had a small part as a hunter who helps to track down Tony and his fellow escapee Sidney Poitier. His character had little to do, other than get into an argument with the police sergeant over his hunting dog. After the film wrapped, Tony said his goodbye to the cast and crew-- Carl included-- put the pleasant experience in his pocket, and set about looking for his next gig. He would soon hear that Carl had been shot to death-- he had barged in on a friend in a drunken rage. His friend must not have taken too kindly to the late night invasion, and after a lengthy, brutal fight, he aimed, fired, and took Carl's life. Strangely, the entire argument revolved around... a hunting dog. There's life imitating art and then there's just the inexplicably eerie. Carl was but 31-years-old.

Alfalfa, in better days...

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Carole: "flighty" in more ways than one...

Carole Lombard may have had her dizzy head in the clouds, but she also had her feet on the ground. She was a worldly dame and a realistic one. Her mother, on the other hand, was much more spiritually curious-- she was fascinated in numerology and incredibly superstitious. For this reason, "Bessie" begged her daughter not to take the flight home after a bond rally for WWII. Carole was in a hurry to get back to her hubby, Clark Gable, whom she heard was getting a little too cozy on the set of Somewhere I'll Find You with Lana Turner, but Bessie tried to persuade her to take a more lengthy train ride instead. The number three was an important one in Bessie's life, as she considered it unlucky, and her heart filled with foreboding as they prepared to take off. Threes were popping up everywhere. There were three in their party-- Carole, Otto Winkler, and herself-- they were taking TWA Flight 3, and there were 3 members on crew (along with 19 passengers). Carole too was 33 years old. The stubborn screwball refused to hear of such nonsense. She was exhausted after a long fundraising tour, and she just wanted to go home. Enough is enough, she decided! She would flip a coin, that way they could stop arguing and the decision would be fair. Carole tossed and won... and lost. The plane Bessie was desperately trying to keep them out of would crash into Mount Potosi in Nevada on January 16, 1942, 23 minutes after taking off. (All good girls should listen to their mothers). Carole's last film, To Be Or Not to Be, was in post-production when she died. Director Ernst Lubitsch immediately cut out a scene in which Carole was to say, "What can happen on a plane?"

~  ~  ~

Long reign the screwball Queen!

And so sweet friends, be careful this weekend while the ghosts are out, protect your children and loved ones, and trust your guts. There is no more loyal and trustworthy companion than one's own instinct. I hope it serves you well. Happy Halloween!!!


  1. Wow fascinating post. Kori xoxo

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  3. Thanks, Blondie! Glad you enjoyed and hope you had a great Halloween ;)

  4. Just a correction: Gable and Turner were working on "Somewhere I'll Find You" at the time of Lombard's death.

  5. Ah, thanks for the info! I wasn't sure which was correct since they appeared to be filmed back to back. Thanks for clarifying, VP :)

  6. George Vreeland HillDecember 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    You did a great job on this.
    So sad looking at some of it.

    George Vreeland Hill

    1. Thanks, George! I know. It is both fascinating and heartbreaking at once. I wish their fates had twisted in another direction. I appreciate you stopping by! Take care.