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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


As gorgeous as Rita Hayworth was, there was always a touch
of little girl innocence about her.

Reviewing the life of Rita Hayworth, one may be left with the feeling that this poor lady had no fun at all. That is simply not true. A little girl trapped in the body of a luscious woman, Rita had a childlike sense of humor that she did, on occasion, get the chance to exercise. She seemed to bond with every day people more than her glamorous peers of the silver screen. As such, she formed close relationships with people like her secretary, Shifra Haran, and her make-up man, Bob Schiffer.

Shifra would see Rita at her best and at her worst. She came into Rita's employment because she had started out as Orson Welles's secretary, only to be charmed by Rita, whom she looked after like a daughter. She quickly empathized with the silent beauty, whom she realized was more insecure than her looks would indicate. When Orson began wooing Rita, Shifra would often walk into a room to find Rita reading, trying to improve her mind so that Orson would think well of her. Embarrassed by her almost total lack of formal education, she would hastily hide the book so that no one would know what she was doing. Shifra knew, and these little moments of humanity were what won her over to Rita's side, even after witnessing her all out brawls with Orson. One of her most cherished memories, however, is a moment when Rita really let her hair down. The two ladies had just returned to the US from Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. Having just divorced herself from Welles and currently being sought by Prince Aly, Rita was a ball of nerves most of the time. Clearly, she needed to unleash the stress. Thus, before disembarking from the great ship, Rita challenged Shifra to a spit-ball contest. She and Shifra stuck their dainty heads through a couple of port holes and hocked loogies like nobody's business. "That's the kind of gal she was," Shifra would recall proudly. However, their immature hijinks were not appreciated by all. Suddenly, Rita pulled her head back aboard: "The man below us just stuck his head out and I think I hit him!" Indeed she had, for when Shifra peered below to investigate, she was met by an angry gaze. One can imagine the two full-grown women chuckling uncontrollably at the mishap. For all of the glitz of Rita's movie star existence, it was these small moments that made her feel truly alive.

Bob Schiffer perhaps knew this better than anyone. He would come to know the woman behind the make-up very well as her cosmetics guru (see right). They remained nothing more than friends, although Bob admitted that he had a deep and unwavering crush on her that was constantly irritated by her poor choice in men. For this reason, he perhaps took a little too much pleasure in playing elaborate jokes on her suitors. Rita was at one time being romanced by producer Charles Feldman. It just so happened that Bob was over at her place having drinks when Charles showed up at her door. Rita was panicked! She was worried that Charles would misunderstand her friendship with Bob and was uncertain of how to explain his presence. Bob offered a solution: he would pretend to be Thor Heyerdahl of Norway-- adventurer and author of the recent success, Kon-Tiki. As such, he would pretend to speak no English and utter the only Norwegian word he knew, which was, of course, an expletive. Rita agreed, and Charles entered. When he met "Thor," he became excited, for he had been wanting to meet and sign him at the studio! Bob kept a straight face and feigned incomprehension as Charles tried to communicate. As Charles made an ass of himself talking slowly to the foreigner-- who only responded with his one token swear word-- Rita had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Several times, she had to excuse herself so she could have a hilarious outburst in her room. Bob performed like a pro, occasionally deigning to converse with Rita in Spanish, which Charles too did not understand. The game tarried on as long as the two dared before Bob said his goodbyes, never breaking character. Charles must have been disappointed that he didn't land that contract.

Bob had some definite scrapes with Orson Welles after Rita married him (together, left). When filming The Lady from Shanghai, Bob was serving once again as Rita's make-up man. This was all well and good, but Orson proved to be a bit of an overbearing dictator. Tyrannical and demanding, he sometimes seemed to invent reasons to belittle or snap at Bob. Granted, he was probably under severe stress, serving as both an actor and as the director, but he too was perhaps jealous of Rita's friendship with Bob and used his position to enact a little revenge. Things would come to a head one day, with Orson blowing his top and ordering Bob to hurry up with re-touches. The more he yelled, the slower the angered Bob would move. Finally, Orson screamed, "You're fired!" Rita was not pleased, but to keep the peace, Bob continued doing her make-up in secret and sent one of his assistants to "pretend" to do his work on the set. This ploy worked well, until the entire production had to switch to location shooting in Mexico. Rita had to smuggle Bob onto the departing plane without Orson noticing. Bob, understandably upset over the whole thing, got a little schnockered at the bar before take off, where-- in a stupor-- he divulged the time and location of the flight to several lurking reporters. He got to the plane early and took a spot in the cock-pit with the pilot, an old war buddy, and passed out. Rita and Orson arrived to much fanfare, uncertain how the press had discovered their rendezvous point. To make matters worse, there was much turbulence on the flight, which frightened Rita and angered Orson. At his wit's end, Orson stormed the cock pit to talk to the pilot, who coincidentally had just stepped out, leaving the plane on auto-pilot. Thus, Orson was greeted only by the sight of a slovenly Bob Schiffer at the helm. His eyes bulged, and he raced back to Rita. "That jealous friend of yours is trying to kill us," he screamed in terror! Not so, but at least Bob won a few points back by frightening the unstirrable Orson Welles, even if accidentally. He may never have won Rita's heart, but he could always make her smile

When Carroll Baker (right, as Luz Benedict II) began taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg, she found herself in very handsome company. Struggling actors like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were friends, and Eva Marie Saint was a constant companion. At many a get-together, Carroll would see another boy, whom she felt strangely drawn to and mystified by. He was an odd duck, with a small frame, tousled blonde hair, and a tiny face. Always separate from the group and lost in his own thoughts, he spent most of his time playing his bongos before disappearing to God knows where. Every now and then, he would see Carroll looking at him, trying to read his thoughts, and he would smile. But they exchanged few words. Yet, for some reason, James Dean always held a place in her heart. When Carroll was called West for a screen test for George Stevens's Giant in the spring of 1955, she was escorted to Warner Brothers by one of Jack Warner's lackeys. When they arrived at the gate, they were greeted by the security guard, who was hunched over, his face hidden by his hat. Suddenly, issuing beneath the brim, Carroll heard a muffled, "Carroll. Car-roll. CAR-ROLL!" She jumped out the car and swiped the hat off the head of Jimmy Dean, who burst into laughter. Carroll never did figure out how he knew when she was going to arrive-- she was too surprised to ask. He grabbed her, set her atop his motorcycle, and drove her (rapidly) out to his favorite place on the lot: a white house with a picket fence. Since they had never really been friends before, Carroll was shocked by Jimmy's sudden attentiveness. He seemed to have grown taller and more confident. They still talked little, but had an instant sort of rapport and camaraderie. He then drove her to the commissary where she ate lunch while staring at the likes of Elizabeth Taylor.

Carroll landed the role of Luz in Giant without a real audition. George met her and was sold. Carroll returned to New York and her husband, Jack Garfein, but before she knew it, she was back at Warner's for the big shoot... And back at that security gate! The same thing happened. The guard started in with "Carroll. Car-roll. CAR-ROLL!" This time, Carrol hopped out of the car and tore the cap from the guard's head only to be met with shock. She stood staring at a small boy with dark, sad eyes. He grinned at her shyly. Undeterred she called, "Come out, Jimmy! I know you're here!" Jimmy hopped out of the booth, cracking up yet again. "Oh boy, did I fool you!" He introduced her to Sal Mineo, his accomplice, with whom he had just wrapped on Rebel Without a Cause, then drove her back to the same white house as before. However, this time, they were met by an intruder, and one that Jimmy was not too happy to see: Dennis Hopper. Seeing that their privacy had been compromised, Jimmy grew irritated. Carroll never did figure out why he grew so cold at the sight of Dennis at "his house," but she assumed it was out of annoyance-- it was pretty clear to her that Dennis was trying to mimic all of Jimmy's mannerisms and attitudes. In any case, this little white house remained special to her, because it held such pleasant memories between James and herself. This had been the first place in Hollywood where she had felt at home. After Jimmy died, it was here that she went to grieve and say good bye. (Jimmy lassos Liz Taylor in Giant, left).

Forever Amber was being touted as a Twentieth-Century Fox sensation! Adapted from the scintillating novel by Kathleen Winsor about a young woman who sleeps her way up the English social totem, Linda Darnell was cast in the star-making role of Amber St. Clair (right) and Cornel Wilde was cast as one of her many suitors, Bruce Carlton. Unfortunately, all the hype and expense did not end as profitably as the studio had hoped. Though far from a failure, the film did not reap a success of Gone with the Wind-like proportions. Of course, there were signs all along that the movie was doomed. Linda herself, at a mere 23 years of age, was forced to carry the entire picture on her young shoulders. With a grueling shooting schedule, forty costume changes, and a strict diet weakening her system, it came as no surprise when the formerly brunette and now blonde actress collapsed on the set. She was sent home with Mastoiditis, though many would believe her true illness bore another name: Otto Preminger. Linda didn't take too well to the director. Few did. He was tyrannical, abrasive, and almost sadistic in his methods. While he produced mesmerizing films, few of the actors that suffered under his demands believed that the pain was worth the pleasure.

Cornel (left) had worked with Otto previously on Leave Her to Heaven and Centennial Summer, and was in no way, shape, or form looking forward to a reunion. He almost envied Linda for being home recuperating while he was left to suffer on the set. Linda did turn out to be lucky. One day, a dueling scene was to be shot, and Otto insisted on a special effect to simulate an early morning fog. They tried dry ice, but it dissipated too quickly. Then, some genius suggested using Nujol. The oil mixture was sprayed into the lights and created a beautiful illusion of mist. It was just what Otto wanted. There was, however, an unfortunate side effect. See, Nujol also acts as a laxative. After inhaling the chemical for hours on end, as Cornel recalled, the entire company got diarrhea. Linda was grateful to miss this episode. The worst she was to suffer was her initial illness and a minor burn from the great burning of London sequence-- during which many local residents called the fire dept. upon seeing the sky engulfed in smoke and flames. Yet, the worst scar Linda carried with her was that of Otto. She detested him, and this in effect had broken her trust with many future directors. When she started filming on A Letter to Three Wives, Joseph L. Mankiewicz decided to use this to his advantage. During the scene in which Linda's Lora May is to look with antipathy at a photo of character Addie Ross, he supplied a picture of Otto. The effect was perfect.

On the silver screen, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton got into all kinds of madcap shenanigans. Off screen... Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton got into all kinds of madcap shenanigans. The anatomical opposites were a perfect match in the world of silent comedy and the best of friends in reality. Their physical dexterity mixed with their mental proclivities for mischief is perhaps what helped them gel so well. Their pranks became infamous and were so well planned and thoroughly calculated that mayhem seemed to be their religion. Soon enough, the duo were referring to their naughty gags as "Special Operations." They would find a mark, formulate their ploy, and execute with no mercy. One member of their countless prey was actress Pauline Frederick. As wealth was accumulated in Hollywood, some of the hoity-toity movie stars began taking on their new roles as rich aristocracy a little too seriously. For her part, Pauline had decided to spend her seemingly endless dough on authentic English grass, which she had specially imported and placed in the lawn of her new Beverly Hills mansion. Fatty and Buster couldn't resist. Enlisting the help of Al St. John, the threesome disguised themselves as Water Company Workers, complete with a rented truck. They told Pauline's staff that they were looking for a leak. In order to locate it, they would have to disturb her lawn. Thus, they rolled up her entire yard and carted it off. When Pauline woke in the morning and stuck her head out the window, she was greeted with nothing but dirt. Those dirty scoundrels! (Right in The Bell Boy).

Another favorite prank of Fatty and Buster occurred when they took one of their many trips to San Francisco-- ironically a place that would hold little laughter for Fatty later. They rented a room in a hotel and decided to have a some fun at the staff's expense. Buster took off his shoes and scraped them along the edge of the windowsill, getting them good and dirty. Then, Fatty balanced him with his hands, and Buster-- acrobat that he was-- proceeded to walk up the wall, then did a handstand off Fatty in order to walk across the ceiling and back down again. Thus, it appeared that a man had literally walked all over the room. When the cleaning crew came in the next day, there is no telling what they made of the strange trail of footprints. It must have driven them crazy trying to clean it, but overall, I would say that they were just confused... (Fatty, Luke the Dog, and Buster left in The Cook).


  1. Love this so much! Especially the Rita stories. How wonderful it would've been if she'd hooked up with her loyal makeup artist!

    1. Yay! I know! She probably would have been much happier. Glad you enjoyed.