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Thursday, February 24, 2011


In the larger-than-life land of La La, one would expect every interaction between celebrities to be as dramatic and cataclysmic as on the big screen. Sometimes, they are, but mostly they are just downright comical. Here are a few of the most infamous and entertaining tales of movie star meetings:

Young ingenue, Marilyn Monroe.

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 and George Sanders relive the old days
in a scene from All About Eve.

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).

Bad, bad Bette.

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.

Ironically, Bette was to play the more matronly character
in All This and Heaven Too opposite an elegant Boyer.

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."

Greta ponders Groucho's quip.

Some of the most interesting cases of star meetings occur on the set. When paired up for the first-- and sometimes only-- time, the nature of an introduction says a lot about the relationship two actors are to have with each other. When Clark Gable finally and begrudgingly took on the role of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, the punctual pro was irritated that his leading lady was late to their first publicity photo shoot. Pacing back and forth, he muttered to the photographer something to the effect of, "Where the Hell is this lady? If this is the way she works, I'll walk off right now!" Suddenly, ringing out behind him as clear as bell, came a sweet, English voice saying, "I quite agree, Mr. Gable...  I'd tell that Vivien Leigh to go straight back to England and f*ck herself!" Clark turned around to see his stunningly beautiful co-star, Vivien, and offered her a big grin. All anger was forgotten, and after taking her hand, he led her to their place in front of the camera and started the romance to crush all movie romances (left). Their relationship remained contentious: one minute they were locking horns about a scene and the next they were playing Battleship together.

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...


  1. I remember reading something about Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr during the filming of Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. Mitchum was uncertain if he would get along with the genteel Kerr. Then he heard Kerr swear at director John Huston. Mitchum, who was in the water, almost drowned from laughing. The two remained friends until Mitchum's death.

  2. That George Sanders/Marilyn Monroe story made my day. I'd often wondered how those two got on, and that the first thing he did was propose then pass out after a litany that was "maudlin and full of self-pity" is, well, "magnificent". Great stuff!

  3. Definitely an entertaining moment. Glad you enjoyed! :)

  4. Prove ONE of your lame so called attributed "quotes" ever happened...

    1. Whew! "Lame?" Harsh sister. Obviously, as I did not enter the world into 1983, i can't prove anything. I can only pass on the information that I have picked up through my studies. The one I heard from the horse's mouth was that between Kate and Spence, which she confirmed in an interview/documentary late in her life. Groucho's annecdote came from the man himself as dictated to biographer Charlotte Chandler, whose entire body of biographical work is comprised of quotations. As for the rest, I trust sources that are well-researched, so the quote Viv shot at Gable I took from her biographer Alexander Walker; the one incident between Marilyn and Bette I pulled from various sources including those by Donald H. Wolfe and Barbara Leaming-- portraying both sides of that party. As for the rest... Well, if you can't trust Robert Osborne with this stuff than who can you?

      Naturally, I-- and I think all readers to this website-- are aware that this is all the stuff of magic and that mythology of the golden age that we have all fallen so in love with. Even direct quotations and stories over time are embellished and exaggerated by the storyteller. Whose to say Groucho didn't make that quip up? How would I know? Still, it continues to feed that fascination and create a portrait of the interactions these strange figures had with each other in that ancient place known as the movies. I offer all articles from this blog from an honest place of appreciation with the hope of both doing service to these performers as well as portraying them as the equally flawed and even more beautiful human beings that they truly were. I'm always open to suggestion or correction if I have erred or someone has something to contribute. I am not the final authority on anyone but myself.

      So, no, Ms. Nora. I have no proof. I have only the collection of stories as passed down to me by those who came closer to some of these figures than I ever had the luxury to. I'm sorry you find me lame. I tend to think of myself as nothing more than a film lover and happy heart always up for a good story. Well, you can't win them all... Take care of yourself. MG holds no grudges. ;)

    2. PS, never mind the typos. It is nearly 2am here, and I have been staring at words for many hours. Whose--> who's!