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Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Marlene Dietrich was well aware of the effect her sexual wiles had
 on men, and she fully took advantage... especially
when the world was in danger.

One of Marlene Dietrich's more public romances was the one she had with the handsome Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (left). The two would have a lengthy affair following the death of Marlene's previous lover, John Gilbert. If Doug wasn't intimidated enough by Marlene's continuing devotion to this lost love, he would too have to combat the existence of her still living husband, Rudi Sieber, whom she nonchalantly introduced to him at dinner one night. His attraction and affection for Marlene made him stick around, despite her antics, which were not in keeping with typical feminine standards nor accepted gender roles. In truth, he loved her "modern" ways as much as her warmth. Anyway, he had to get used to her methods fast since she took the reigns at their first meeting. Doug recalled being completely spellbound by Marlene's beauty and lack of vanity, becoming determined to possess her. After escorting her home and trying to figure a suave way to make his move, he came to realize that he was the one being seduced: he thanked her for the nightcap, and she escorted him to her bedroom. Their affair was not always so simple. In order to keep the press hounds at bay, Doug often had to find creative ways to escape from his lover's room without raising suspicion. While both were in London, Marlene was staying at Claridge's. After one particular night of passion, Doug decided-- in order to avoid detection and to protect his lover's honor-- that he should shimmy down the fire escape instead of using the door. In doing so, he tied his coat tails behind his back and slid down... landing right in front of a young "bobby" officer. Luckily, being famous has its advantages. The officer gave Doug a knowing smile and asked, "Rehearsing for your next film, Mr. Fairbanks?" Doug replied with a befuddled affirmative and hailed a cab. Luckily, he was able to get Marlene a room below his own bungalow soon after to avoid such intricate escapes... and embarrassments.

While Doug was intoxicated by Marlene as a lover, he was also smitten with her strength and gumption. She left him astounded on separate occasions when she announced her plans to, in one way or another, prevent world disaster by using her abilities of sexual seduction. When she learned that Edward VIII of England was about to abdicate his throne for Wallis Simpson, she became deeply grieved. She was determined to stop her royal friend from making such an error. She told Doug that she was going straight to the Palace to seduce Edward in order to show him that there were better women to be had than the "homely" girl he had set his sights on. She felt sure that this act of diplomacy would be better for everyone-- England needed him! Not knowing what to do, Doug watched as his lover prepared herself for a night of sexual warfare. Unfortunately, her primping took too long, and by the time she arrived at the palace, Edward was not at home. He married Wallis, and the rest is history. Marlene was not deterred in her international shenanigans (see determined pose, right). With the Nazis rising in power, and war creeping closer, she became increasingly agitated at the United States' refusal to act. So, she let Doug in on another plan. Before Marlene gained American citizenship and publicly declared her disdain for the current German political tide, Hitler wanted her back in her native land making movies for their agenda. Marlene wanted to play the secret agent and agree to come home-- with the stipulation that she be able to meet with Hitler "in private." The context of the meeting was understood. She then planned to assassinate the maniacal leader herself! Fearful for his beloved when he realized her seriousness, Doug pointed out the danger of such an attempt, but Marlene said she wasn't afraid to die. He then pointed out that she would be searched, and any weapons she had on her person would be removed before she could see the dictator. She then declared that she would enter naked if she had to. He finally pointed out that even if she succeeded, it would put the lives of her mother Josefine and sister Liesel in jeopardy, as they still lived in Nazi occupied Germany. This finally changed her mind. But, imagine how different history could have been if she had followed through...

Rudolph Valentino was equally renowned for his effect upon the opposite sex. His mere presence instigated women of all ages to go into a frenzy. He had longed in his youth for fame and prosperity, but as he aged, he came to realize that such privileges also came with a price: like privacy... or the ability to exit a building without being mobbed. Fan attention seemed to reach a fever pitch when he and wife Natacha Rambova started taking their dancing tour across the country (left). On a hiatus of sorts from film while he battled the studios for better roles, better pay, and creative freedom, he and Natacha decided to tango their way through the United States. Needless to say, there was mayhem. Tickets were in high demand for their shows, and in addition, throngs of fans methodically cased whatever ballroom or hotel Rudy was performing or staying in. While coming or going to events, Rudy and Natacha were often stampeded and occasionally had to find special exit routes on rooftops to avoid annihilation. From Arizona to Kentucky, they were woman-handled, and their ears were defiled with the cries of screaming females. He underwent one surprising event after another, including the time one ravenous fan tore her way through his dressing tent to catch a glimpse of his perfect form. Rudy may have been frightened at certain times, but he was always as gracious as possible to his fans. Mostly, he was concerned for every one's safety. While performing in Vancouver, BC, one particular female fan become so overcome by the sight of Rudy, that she fainted. The building manager moved her out of the way so she wasn't trampled and deposited her in Rudy's dressing room where Natacha tried to revive her. After finishing a routine, Rudy entered in all his dashing, costumed glory to check the status of the patient. At that moment, the stunned girl opened her eyes, finding herself face to face with her idol, the Rudolph Valentino. Her eyes bulged, she sighed, and with that she fainted dead away. Again. No news on whether she ever recovered.

Yes, movie acting can be treacherous. But just as hazardous as the public trappings of fame is the danger of human absence... at least in one case. In 1913, Lon Chaney was just carving out a career for himself in the movies. After several months in Los Angeles in extra roles, prop jobs, and bit parts, he struck up enough of a reputation with Allan Dwan to start getting regular gigs in the director's films. He was far from famous, but his face was becoming more familiar, and he was definitely bulking up his resume. So it was that Lon joined the rest of Allan's usual troupe (including Pauline Bush and Murdock MacQuarrie) when they traipsed off to Mt. Lowe to begin filming Bloodhounds of the North. Things were rocky from the beginning, with bad weather and torrential rains that kept the cast and crew isolated and indoors. Allan solved the problem by having the cast and crew rehearse not only for Bloodhounds but for his other upcoming features. Once the mud finally dried, Lon-- who had always loved the mountains-- ventured out with fellow actor Arthur Rosson to breathe a deep sigh of relief in the fresh air. Unfortunately, as familiar as he was with the Colorado peaks, Lon was unfamiliar with Californian terrain, and he and Arthur got good and lost. As day turned to night, and the air grew chilly, the two men must have wondered if they would ever find their way out of the canyons. Thankfully, a search party had been sent to find the adventurous twosome. The sight of approaching friends and rescuers must have been a sight for sore eyes after hours of desolation. After all they mayhem, and with his cast in tact, Allan managed to churn out not only Bloodhounds but also Richelieu and Honor of the Mounted in five days. Lon had a part in all of them and kept much closer company with his comrades for the remainder of filming. (Lon plays the aggressor in another wild landscape with William S. Hart in Riddle Gawne, right. This film in 1919, after years of struggle, would help tip Lon over the edge in popularity before The Miracle Man solidified his fame).

James Cagney: actor, dancer... poet??? Yes, indeed. A tough guy on screen, James had a much more artistic bent in his private life. In addition to enjoying the relaxation that painting brought him, he too was a veritable wordsmith. Years spent with his nose buried in books had equipped him with quite the vocabulary and an ability for melodic recitations. He carried a notebook with him that he often scribbled in, doing the random couplet, limerick, or verse. His areas of lyrical expertise ranged from agricultural appreciation, social preponderance, and aesthetic enjoyment-- Joan Blondell was flattered to hear an original Cagney penned in honor of what he described as her perfect caboose. Occasionally, the poems were comical. Jim had a sudden burst of inspiration when riding in the car one day with his wife, Willie. The two came to a red light, and Jim noticed friend and constant co-star Humphrey Bogart sitting in his own car coming from the opposite direction... picking his nose. Bogie picking a boogey? It was too much for Jim to resist. The next day when Bogie came to work, he found the following verse on his dressing table: "In this silly town of ours,/ one sees odd primps and poses,/ but movie stars in fancy cars/ shouldn't pick their famous noses." Jim received no reply. Not every artist is appreciated in his time. (The duo stand left in The Roaring Twenties).

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