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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MENTAL MONTAGE: Thanks, but No Thanks.

Give it up, guy. She ain't havin' it. Myrna Loy gives Spencer Tracy the
rebuff in Whipsaw.

In the land of Hollywood, where pretty people reign supreme, the tabloids would have us believe that sexual rendezvous among the stars is a casual, intramural sport. This only serves to feed into our imaginations, perpetuating the myth that Tinsel Town is overflowing with sensual excess. However, despite the fact that celebrities seem to live a privileged, naughtier-than-thou lifestyle, they too occasionally hear the most cutting and unbending word in the English language: "No." Here are a few examples of when a disgruntled Cupid's arrow missed the desired mark, and the target got away.

It's no secret that Spencer Tracy was one of the greatest lady chasers in Hollywood history. Despite a 43 year marriage to Louise Treadwell, he was very easily tempted by the opposite sex. Late in life, he was caught smiling while perusing an old MGM roster photograph. Observers thought he was mulling over fond memories, but then a glint of mischief started twinkling in his eye, and he started to point to various female stars: "Her... and her... and her..." Now, such things are truly no laughing matter. Unfaithfulness is not an admirable quality, but somehow, when it comes to men, people tend to excuse the behavior because, "They can't help themselves." If this is true, I suppose it is necessary that these hypothetically helpless individuals occasionally be smacked back to reality by strong females. Spence happened to come across a few in his day. While filming The Mad Game, Spence had his eye on the beautiful Claire Trevor (left), most remembered for her role as the harlot-with-a-heart-of-gold in Stagecoach. However, when Claire noticed the attention, she appreciated but was having none of it. Finally, Spence laid it all on the line and made his play. Claire respectfully retorted: "I don't go out with married men." Surprisingly, Spence's ego was not bruised. He simply smiled and said, "Stay that way." Since he knew he was a "dirty sinner," I suppose the good Catholic in him was impressed with Claire's superior moral standards. They remained friends and worked together several times more.

Myrna Loy (right) would not get away so easily. Spence and Myrna first worked together on Whipsaw. Spence, not surprisingly, thought Myrna was beautiful but was put off a bit by her distant exterior. He considered her aloof, probably because she was more concerned with doing her work than flirting. Nonetheless, this only made him want her more. She resisted his advances, but his attraction to her became an ongoing joke. When they were re-teamed on Libeled Lady, Myrna had just wed producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. As such, a jealous Spence jokingly set up a "Hate Hornblow Table," where he dined at lunch every day with any other envious man who chose to join him. Myrna got a kick out of it. As the duo had became casual friends on the set, Myrna was called upon by MGM to check in on Spence when he went on one of his benders in New York. As she happened to be in town at the time, the studio was hoping that she could locate him and calm him down. Not wanting to get in the middle of anything, her maternal instinct finally got the better of her, and she reached out to Spence who came to her at her hotel. He was blotto and started reigniting his old intentions. When Myrna resisted his advances yet again, Spence became disdainful and shouted at her, "You don't have to worry about me anymore! I've found the woman I want!"-- referring to Katharine Hepburn, with whom he had just wrapped working on their first picture, Woman of the Year. It was his affair with Kate that had instigated his latest, guilty drinking bout and thus this interchange with Myrna. Luckily, it was Kate too that saved Myrna from Spence's advances, for after this declaration, he calmed down and passed out. 


Errol Flynn was another notorious ladies' man, but despite evidence to the contrary, he was not predatory, merely... overly eager. The ensuing, unfulfilled romance between him and frequent co-star Olivia DeHavilland has become one for the ages. Their infatuation for each other had grown over the course of three films-- from Captain Blood to Charge of the Light Brigade (left), to Robin Hood-- and reached a fever pitch with the latter picture. Errol's marriage to Lili "Tigerlil" Damita was on the verge of crumbling, and Olivia's warmer, more direct demeanor seemed like safe harbor from Errol's tempestuous marriage. He told Olivia that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her, but Olivia was adamant that they not do anything unsavory until his divorce from Lili was final. Sober, Errol agreed. Drunk... it was another story. After having a few cups one night after shooting, Errol was "feeling no pain" and decided to storm the battlements, broke into Olivia's room-- still in tights no less-- and vowed that he had to have her then and there! Her eyes bulged in surprise, but she still denied him... entry, as it were. Finally, Errol had to be pulled from the premises. After this overly dramatic show, the film wrapped, Errol's marriage ended, but Olivia remained the one that got away. They would perform together in 5 more films-- 6 if you count Thank Your Lucky Stars-- but the passionate frenzy of their earlier days had simmered to a mutual friendship and respect.

Another lovely to give Errol the passover was Veronica Lake (right). Ronni was never a  frequent guest at Errol's soirees up on Mulholland Drive-- it just wasn't her thing-- but she did finally attend one party. Her cynical way of looking at life and Errol's mischievous nature gelled well and made it easy for them to get along, even if the giggling and lash-batting of the other female guests made Veronica internally roll her eyes. Despite the many distractions, it hadn't escaped either star's notice that they were mutually, exceptionally attractive, but since Ronni was going through a divorce from first husband John Detlie and was in no mood for frivolity, things never escalated to a sexual place. But they could have... This particular night, despite Errol's charms, Ronni soon became bored with the pretentious, hangers-on company and decided to call it a night. She went for the exit, and Errol gentlemanly ushered her to the door. As he prepared to say goodbye, a moment passed between them, and their eyes locked. "I think we should go make use of a special bedroom I have, Ronni," he said. For a moment, looking into his seductive eyes, Ronni was probably tempted to accept the offer, but her brains got the better of her. She replied, "I have a special bedroom I'm going to make use of... It's my own, and I'm going to sleep in it." Errol took the shot nobly, kissed her cheek, and said "As you wish, Ms. Lake." Sure, it could have been fun, but with so many women caving in to his charms, Ronni probably did the boy some good by showing him it ain't always that easy. At future parties, he would behave more brotherly, even protecting her from other annoying Lotharios.

Marlene Dietrich was notorious for her lustful ways, and she had a slew of liaisons with the likes of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Gabin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and John Gilbert. However, there was one man that she failed to sink her teeth into. Fred MacMurray caught her eye while they were working together on The Lady is Willing (left). Needless to say, Marlene was attracted to the handsome leading man, who had proved his talents in romantic comedy roles wherein he wooed the likes of Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur. Once Marlene turned on the charm, it seemed that Fred would, like all the others, fall under her spell. Such was not the case. Fred reported to work, did his job, and went home, not succumbing to Marlene's come hither gaze, flirtations, or famous German cooking. Finally, director Mitchell Leisen stepped in to put an end to the shenanigans: "Listen, Marlene... Fred's so in love with his wife, Lilly, he couldn't care less about any other woman, so you lay off. Just make the picture." Marlene accepted defeat-- just because she indulged in an open marriage (to Rudi Sieber), didn't mean everyone else did. She could live with that.

Another woman not easily dissuaded was Susan Hayward (right), who found herself smitten by John Wayne while filming The Conqueror. The two had worked together previously on Reap the Wild Wind and The Fighting Seabees, but with a bigger role, a romantic storyline, and more screen time together, Susan found that the old crush she had been nursing had turned into an all out mission for heat. The one hiccup, of course, was that John was married to his 3rd wife Pilar at the time, who had accompanied him on location. While John shied away from Susan's off-camera flirtations, which he found at once entertaining and awkward, her desire for him only seemed to grow. One night, after imbibing a bit too much, a drunken Susan, who was in a gay and uproarious mood, charged right into the rented house where John and Pilar were staying. Man and wife started blinking in amazement at the lacquered starlet, uncertain what to make of her appearance. Susan thusly kicked off her heels and challenged Pilar to a dual for the Western hero's affections: "Take off your shoes and fight me for him!" While Susan put up her dukes for Duke, Pilar just sat bewildered. Finally, John embarrassedly escorted Susan home where she finally conked out. She held no grudges and always remembered John as her favorite leading man. (The fact that Susan's seduction failed seems to be yet another piece of evidence that The Conqueror itself was cursed. In addition to Susan's empty bed, the film was a flop, and because footage was shot in St. George, Utah, near a nuclear weapons test site, it is believed that the exposure caused the cancerous diseases many members of the cast and crew later succumbed to, including Susan and John).

Merle Oberon (left) too made a play for tough guy James Cagney. The fact that he was notoriously faithful to his wife "Willie" only made him more enticing prey for the Indian-born beauty. She found herself becoming increasingly attracted to the shy but fun-loving actor when they went on a WWII tour by train with the Hollywood Victory Caravan. Jim was no fool, and he could sense her arousal, but he laughed it off and went about his business... that is until Merle made it impossible for him to ignore her. Jim came back to his cabin one night to find Merle, stark naked, lying in his bed. Before he knew what was happening, she was all over him, and they were horizontal. Suddenly, as the heated make-out session started entering more serious territory, Merle screamed out, "Oohhh! Jimmy Cagney's f*cking me!" Her exhilarated screech howled some sense back into Jim, because he leapt up and started getting dressed before any permanent damage was done. A bit miffed, when Merle pressed him for a reason, he simply uttered, "I guess I'm not the type." The two continued to be cordial to each other and remained friends, but many of his buddies gave him Hell about giving up such a chance. He'd just shake his head-- an eternal guilty conscience wasn't worth a few moments pleasure, as enticing as Merle was. Thus, Merle remained unsatisfied, and Jim remained married.

When Katharine Hepburn was filming her first picture, A Bill of Divorcement, it was her great privilege to be performing opposite another acclaimed thespian, John Barrymore (right). John had actually seen Kate's screen test for the role and had been impressed. He even offered her eye drops when he thought she was suffering from a hangover, not realizing that she had three, tiny pieces of steel rail caught in her eye and had done her performance half blind-- hence, the pink eye. A trip to the doctor and an eye patch would solve that problem, but Jack would be another. As a man, as an actor, Kate liked him. He was electric, passionate, gifted, funny... and supremely sexual. It was as if he couldn't help it-- he came onto nearly everything that moved, though Kate recalled that he didn't seem the least bit insulted when he was rebuffed. She would learn this first hand. He invited her to his dressing room one day, and she went, assuming he wanted to run lines, chit-chat, etc. She knocked, he called her in, and she entered to find a nude Jack in a bundle of disarrayed blankets. Since Kate was known for her articulation, the sound of her stuttering at this apparition must have been something to hear. She mumbled an apology and high-tailed it outta there. Jack didn't take offense to the refusal, and was-- as Kate herself would say-- an "angel" thereafter. He was especially helpful in teaching her to act for the camera and getting her to give good face.


Ava Gardner was one of the most beautiful women to ever come to Hollywood. She was one of the most beautiful women period. So, for a man, any man, to resist her seems unfathomable. Yet, it did happen... for good reason. She and Robert Mitchum engaged in a brief but heated affair when they filmed together on My Forbidden Past (left), oh irony or ironies. However, the emotional entanglements of the fling were a bit much for Robert's style. Ava's passion in the bedroom extended to a fairly fiery temper in her private life, and unlike Ava's favorite sparring partner, Frank Sinatra, Robert didn't take to the drama. Thus, they parted ways. Certainly, Bob never forgot the better parts of their fling, but while he thought well of Ava, he was not inclined to reignite their amor. Years later,  Ava's friend, Betty Sicre, bumped into Bob in a hotel lobby in Madrid. They exchanged pleasantries, but when Betty mentioned that she was waiting for Ava, Bob became atypically nervous and fidgety. He hustled out of there as quickly as he could. He seemed... scared! "Ava Gardner! No, no-- don't tell her I'm here! If I get together with Ava, I'm done for..." Perhaps he was simply nervous about seeing his old lover, or perhaps he was terrified of being caught once more in her web. What was clear was that he was in no mood for another ride on her chaotic merry-go-round. He took refuge behind a palm tree, and Ava was never the wiser.

Another Robert-- Stack (right)-- would too get an invitation for a play date with Ava. However, while the young up-and-comer was understandably excited about the opportunity to rub up against one of Hollywood's sexiest women, fortune was not on his side. Bob met the luscious Ava at the Naples Restaurant in Hollywood. She overheard him from another booth as he discussed his latest picture, The Bullfighter and the Lady. As a lover of all things matador, Ava made her way into the conversation, where she realized that the orator wasn't just interesting, but kinda cute. No shy violet, Ava invited the young actor back to her house for drinks, which he, of course, accepted: My God! I'm going to Ava Gardner's! It was a dream come true for any man. As Bob mixed martinis, Ava disappeared to-- in cliched fashion-- slip into something more comfortable. The two continued talking, but as the conversation became more sexual, Bob got a sick feeling in his gut. Literally. Either he was suffering from food poisoning, or he was coming down with the flu. Then again, maybe he was intimidated by Ava's assertive sensuality: "How does it feel to face an animal that wants to kill you?" She was referring to the bull, of course, but she may as well have been talking about herself. In any case, Bob was in no shape to make love to one of the leading love goddesses of film. Feeling queasy, he made a hasty exit, leaving Ava flabbergasted. For years, he would kick himself for missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, but with Bob Mitchum's story, it seems fate may have done him a favor. Yet, he always wondered, "Is this the reason I wasn't cast in The Sun Also Rises?"


  1. I've read that Ava said that Paul Newman was her least favorite costar because he had no interest in having an affair with her. I guess she thought that every man in the world should want to have sex with her and considered it a personality flaw in Newman that he would be perfectly happy with his gorgeous wife, Joanne Woodward, and not feel the need to trod where so (SO) many other men had trod.

    1. So sorry it took me forever to respond! It has been hectic here in La la land, hahaha. I am not surprised at all about your story. I had heard that she and Newman didn't hit it off well during filming. If you have prime rib at home, you don't go out for burgers, right?? Haha, thanks! :)