When Marilyn Monroe was a young, hopeful starlet just starting out in Hollywood, she used to make the rounds at various cocktail parties and shindigs. Sometimes, this was merely part of the job description-- being paid to smile at executives while handing out cigarettes-- and other times it was part of her ploy to meet as many important people as possible and get her name and face out there. Well, her gorgeous face did catch the eye of many men, one of whom was so taken with her that he asked her to sit down beside him on the staircase, where he was getting sloppy drunk. After introducing himself in the distinguished and sardonic voice that she recognized, Marilyn told him her name as well. He then surprisingly asked her to marry him, to which she politely answered "No." He took the rebuff admirably, responding that he understood her hesitancy to marry an actor for "An actor is not quite a human being-- but then, who is?" Then, he passed out right next to her in an abrupt snore. Ironically, Marilyn would meet George Sanders again when they performed in All About Eve together, one of her big career-boosting films. In it, they would share another scene on a staircase.
Marilyn's meeting with Bette Davis was not as hilarious as her interlude with the humorously snide Sanders. A huge fan of Bette's, Marilyn was nervous to meet her for the first time on Eve, but she tried to impart her deep appreciation for her work. Bette, being Bette, saw only a beautiful tart who, to her, was just one of a zillion pretty faces trying to make it in Hollywood. To a great actress like herself, Marilyn was a hack-- a little girl who just wanted to be famous and had no respect for the art of performance. For this reason, Bette shunned her, although that may too have had a lot to do with her own insecurity and the fact that she was being eclipsed by a younger, more beautiful woman. Throughout the shoot, Marilyn would overhear Bette taking out her wrath, most particularly during the theater lobby scene. Between takes, Bette could be heard saying (purposely loud enough for Marilyn to hear ),"That little blonde slut can't act her way out of a paper bag!" Such altercations depleted Marilyn's confidence and increased her terror of the infamous Bette. In the end, Marilyn had the last laugh, for although Bette churned out another flawless performance, Marilyn stole every scene she was in (as seen left). The camera loved Diva Davis, but it was in love with Monroe.
Ava Gardner (right) had a meeting with Bette that was not completely dissimilar. Ava was also agog at the movie queen's power. When she met her at a particular soiree, she told Bette that she was truly honored to meet her. Again, Bette raised the classic eyebrow, but perhaps sensing that Ava had a great deal more bite than the timid Marilyn, she offered only the crack: "Of course you are," and walked off. (Bette is perhaps the only woman in history who can be perfectly bitchy and still perfect).
Bette's meetings with men were different. A bit of a sexual tigress, Bette enjoyed the company of attractive leading men like Paul Henreid or George Brent. However, during her early film days, she often complained that she was cast opposite lackluster actors-- rising stars who had not yet reached their summit. She felt snubbed and craved an actor with whom she could go mono e mono. For this reason, she was ecstatic when she learned that she would be starring opposite the great Charles Boyer in All This and Heaven Too. Finally! A handsome talent that she could sink her teeth into. However, on the first day she was to perform opposite Charles, Bette was confused. She scanned the set, but didn't see him anywhere. When she saw a pudgy, balding Frenchman intruding on the sound stage, she tried to have him removed, only to discover that he was, in fact, Charles Boyer! Turns out that good ol' Chuck had to wear a toupee and a girdle for his film roles to appear more dashing, making his offscreen appearance almost unrecognizable. Shocked, Bette didn't think she could feign attraction to, well, a schlub! But, in a magical way that only the classy Boyer could do, he was able to transform into a heroic, charming, and handsome romantic as soon as the director called "action." Bette had no further complaints.
Another case of mistaken identity occurred for Grace Kelly. She and Cary Grant became great chums on the set of To Catch a Thief (left). For this reason, Cary decided to invite her to a party being thrown by Aristotle Onassis on his yacht. The two arrived together, with Cary looking his usual, elegant self, but Grace looked more like a school teacher in her casual wear and thick eyeglasses. As glamorous as she was onscreen, away from the cameras she was down-to-earth and shy, becoming somewhat of a wallflower. An unaffected person, her beauty was something she merely turned on when necessary, not something she luxuriated in. For this reason, Onassis didn't even recognize the great movie goddess! When she and Cary made their exit, Onassis pulled Cary aside and thanked him for coming. He also told him to feel free to bring his charming "secretary" along again next time. That he did, for Cary and Grace remained close pals until her untimely death.
Groucho Marx (right) also had a bit of trouble recognizing a certain actress the first time they met, but for very different reasons. While in the Thalberg building, Groucho once entered the elevator to find it inhabited by a woman with a very large hat. From what he could make out of her profile, she looked familiar. Was it? Could it be? Not one to be shy, the funny man reached over, lifted the woman's hat, and took a peek. Sure enough, it was Greta Garbo. You couldn't mistake a mug like that! Of course, being the aloof and socially awkward woman that she was, Greta offered little in the way of conversation. Thus, to neutralize the situation, Groucho simply said: "I'm terribly sorry, but I thought you were a fellow I knew from Kansas City."
Katharine Hepburn had wanted to act with Spencer Tracy for some time by the time they were both cast in Woman of the Year (right). Kate had great respect for Spencer's straight-shooter acting style, and-- though a confident lady herself-- she was surprisingly nervous the first time the two were to meet. Prior to shooting the film, Kate happened to be on the backlot when she bumped into Spencer and Joseph L. Mankiewicz on the stairs. After an initial "Hello, nice to meet you," Kate, who was in heels, found herself surprisingly tougue tied, and after referencing their upcoming film together, she spit out: "I'm sorry, with these shoes I'm afraid I'll be a bit tall for you." Spencer just mulled her over, not saying a word, trying to make out the strange but intriguing woman in front of him. Finally, Joe piped in with, "Don't worry, he'll cut you down to size." Indeed he did. The confusion and butterflies initially felt turned to love once the cameras rolled.
William Powell and Myrna Loy are remembered as one of the greatest film teams of all time, portraying most infamously the madcap couple Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man series (left). Their initial meeting was just as chaotic and hilarious as any of their crime solving buffoonary. Things were moving rapidly their first day of shooting on Manhattan Melodrama. In fact, the two didn't even have time to be properly introduced by W.S. Van Dyke before they were rushed into "take one." In the scene, Myrna's character was to rush into Powell's cab, so William sat waiting in the car for her to enter. Van Dyke called "action," but instead of saying the written lines when Myrna entered, William quipped: "Miss Loy, I presume?" Myrna burst out laughing. The two became fast friends, and the wisecracks and hijinks ensued throughout their numerous films together.
A less gentlemanly handshake occurred when legendary screen siren Joan Crawford met hot new leading man John Garfield. The two were assigned to do Humoresque (right), a film about a wealthy patroness and her kept man/musician. The lusty Joan was excited to work with John, who had become the talk of the town with his bold and earthy characterizations. When introduced their first day on the film, Joan held out her hand saying, "It's very nice to meet you." John responded by reaching out and pinching her breast. A moment of silence passed. Joan then calmly looked up, met John's gaze, and responded: "You know, I think we're going to get on just fine." That they did, performing superbly and sensuously on film and off, enjoying a brief and amicable affair. Only in Hollywood...