Don't forget to refer to my Contents page for a more convenient reference to past articles.

For More L.A. La Land, visit my writing/art/film appreciation site on Facebook at Quoth the Maven and follow me on Twitter @ Blahlaland. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Mary prepares for the Holidays...

This year's batch of devilish dollops to whet your seasonal appetite fall into the category of "Psychic Stress." More than one illustrious celebrity has rubbed elbows with a preternatural force, tangled with a daunting premonition, or had a profound supernatural revelation that left him or her a little worse for the wear. These moments of human and spiritual meeting do not consistently end in profound terror, but a brush with the dark side of existence is never easy to shake off. Curiosity may not always kill the cat, but it definitely leaves a scratch or two. Here are a few members of the Hollywood Haunted:

Mary Pickford left a lasting impression on Hollywood. In fact, so strong was her presence, that more than one witness claims that she continued to hang around her former abode-- Pickfair-- after her death. The fact that she had lengthy conversations with her deceased ex-husband, Douglas Fairbanks, while she was bedridden late in her own life makes one wonder whether she was simply losing her mind or talking to the actual ghost of her beloved. She was definitely a woman who had trouble letting go. Interested in the supernatural realm during her own life, Mary would have more than one spooky encounter with the other side. One would give her the chills. Another... had a different effect.

As a woman who always liked being "in the know," Mary (left) liked to have a plan. She always had her bases covered. Unfortunately, not all in life is spelled out for the living. You have to make it up as you go. A type-A kind of gal like Mary had problems with this. Patience was one thing; being ignorant of the unknown was far too daunting and left her vulnerable. As such, she decided to confer with fortune tellers from time to time, just to keep her abreast of what was to come, not to mention quell her loneliness. She often had her tea-leaves read. This way, she knew when something "wicked" was coming along, and she was also able to take peace in the fact that something joyous was approaching. One particular day-- June 11, 1939 to be exact-- Mary's Irish maid was asked by her miniature employer to  scrutinize the remnants of her tea cup. The maid complied and made the following revelation from the dilapidated leaves: "I see someone stretched out lifeless... He is close to you, and he is not close to you. He is either dying or dead, but I don't see you crying." The next day, the body of Owen Moore, Mary's first and ex-husband, was found lying dead as a doornail on his kitchen floor. He had been there undiscovered for two days. (Pause for Mary's gulp).

Mary may not have been too upset over Owen's demise, as the two had long since parted-- and not on glowing terms-- but she was deeply grieved by the death of her good friend Marshall Neilan (right) when he passed away in 1958 due to throat cancer. (Coincidentally, he had been staying at the Motion Picture Country House, an establishment for former stars that Mary had helped establish-- one of her many charities). Losing her long-time friends in droves, Mary seemed to be outlasting everyone. The world she had once known was quickly disappearing, and the life she currently had seemed empty without her once trusted companions to reminisce with. That's why it meant so much to her when Mickey popped up from beyond the grave to give her a reassuring "wink" of sorts. She was part of a very small pack who had been invited to attend Mickey's wake at the Knickerbocker Hotel, where an open beer waited at the end of the bar bearing the tag: "Reserved for Mickey Neilan." He was a humorist to the end... and after. See, Mary was deeply grieved and found this last wise-crack in poor taste, so she opted not to attend the wake. But, when she tried to leave the funeral and head for the cemetery instead, her car died. Mary had the sneaking suspicion that Mickey was playing one last prank and begging her to have one last drink with him. She smiled to herself, caught a cab, and hit the Knickerbocker at his request.

Bebe Daniels (left) was another silent film beauty who was directly responsible for the advancement of cinema as a reliable art form. Co-starring with such luminaries as Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson, Bebe's reputation as a professional actress and generous woman made her universally adored. To fans, she was like a gift from the heavens: a star. Bebe too would receive a "gift," and it would leave her simultaneously shaken and grateful. See, Bebe had a bit of what is known as a "lead foot." In fact, she once had to serve a jail term when she was caught speeding (yet again) in Orange County. A spirited girl, somewhat reckless, it was clear that despite her jovial, good-natured demeanor, she was headed for trouble if she didn't start paying attention. Aside from her automobile inclinations, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with the girl, who was able to make everyone from Harold Lloyd to Jack Dempsey fall for her. She didn't stress; she didn't fret. Until... she had a dream. Adela Rogers St. Johns would recall the story: Bebe confided that one night, she had a strange but peaceful dream about a deceased couple that she had known. She came upon them at an unfamiliar white house, and they invited her inside. It was a good dream-- like seeing old friends. An eternal optimist, Bebe probably felt her good pals were just popping in to say "hello" from the other side. They had a different agenda. A few days later, she was racing around in her roadster, yet again, when her scarf blew into her face before a nasty curve and blocked her vision. She nearly crashed! Thankfully, she was as sharp as she was speedy, and she was able to avoid the collision. However, when she looked up, she saw the same white house that had been in her dream. Her mouth most probably hit the floor. She got the message. As she told Adela, that was the last day she sped. She spent the rest of her life focusing on more important, less dangerous things (save for her involvement in WWII, in which she became one of the most decorated women in history for her heroic efforts overseas).

Linda Darnell (right) and Natalie Wood probably never met. Their careers in Hollywood did overlap, but Linda's 15 year seniority meant that they would never have run in the same social circles. Linda too worked primarily at Fox; Natalie was less exclusive, but did a large majority of her early and most successful work at Warner Brothers. The two women had a lot in common, however. Both were incredibly young when they began their acting careers: Linda 15, Natalie 5. Both were dark-featured beauties with angelic faces, yet they were equally capable of giving meaty and gutsy performances. Both were family breadwinners even in their tender years, and both had tempestuous relationships with their mothers. More eerily, both had an astonishing sixth sense about their own deaths. Linda had held a deep fear of fire since her early youth, and had a nervous presentiment about burning to death. This did not make her scene in Anna and the King of Siam, in which she was burned at the stake, all that pleasant. She too had a close call during the big fire sequence of Forever Amber, in which she actually was physically burned, albeit not badly. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy stated that she barely escaped death when the set's roof caved in, all aflame. The fear never left her. In 1965, she would be severely burned all over her body at the home of her friend Jeanne Curtis when it caught fire and she failed to get out in time. She passed away less than 2 days later.

For her part, Natalie (left) had a pathological fear of drowning. In fact, her sister Lana once stated that Natalie's mother, Maria, had foretold her daughter that she would die in dark water. The root of Natalie's supposed phobia is often traced back to the experience she had while filming The Green Promise. During one particular sequence, she was to rush across a bridge to rescue her pet lambs. Unfortunately, she was knocked off the bridge by the raging water and nearly swept under, had she not been able to grab a hold of the collapsing bridge. To make matters worse, the director William D. Russell, urged the crew to keep filming, while Natalie clung for dear life and her mother tried to quell her own desperate hysterics. Aside from being nearly drowned, Natalie also suffered a broken wrist. The terrified look on the 10-year-old's face in the final cut is no act. Her fear continued into her adult life where she would avoid her own swimming pool for fear of being eternally submerged. Her on-again-off again husband, Robert Wagner, managed to coax her into a trip aboard his boat with pal Christopher Walken in 1981, despite her fears. Natalie would never return to shore. It is claimed that she drunkenly fell overboard while trying to reach the yacht's dinghy (after a lover's spat). To this day, mystery clouds her death, for many assert that she was far too terrified of water to ever make such a brazen attempt as rowing herself ashore alone. Foul play or cruel fate? It appears death by fire and water were in the cards for these two tragic ladies.

Montgomery Clift (right) has been known to do a little creeping around. His trumpet continues to put on a concert at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where his restless spirit eternally continues to pace the hallway in preparation for his role as "Pvt. Prewitt" in From Here to Eternity. Craig Chester, a modern actor and writer who authored Why the Long Face?: The Adventures of a Truly Independent Actor about his battle with a congenital disorder, had a lengthy and otherworldly connection to Monty, whose ghost seemed to maintain close contact with him in order to foster his own acting career and acceptance of his homosexuality. Craig's painful ordeal and metamorphosis from a child suffering from Long Face Syndrome to a surgically salvaged, handsome man, when contrasted with Monty's converse demise from a man of beauty to facial mutilation, also seems to strengthen the bond between them. Monty was always a fascinated and fascinating man in his life, but if he had any interest in the supernatural he kept it to himself. However, the "forces that be" seemed to have a deep need to communicate with him while he walked this earthly plane. In fact, he received an early warning that his years would be abruptly cut short. When stopping at a bar at the Camden Airport with his one time secretary Arlene Cunningham and friend Ned Smith, the trio encountered a handwriting expert, who must have recognized the movie star and offered his services. Monty scrawled out a little something or other, perhaps his autograph, and the graphologist diagnosed it: "You're the most disturbed man I've ever met-- you'll die young." True to form, Monty passed away at 45 years of age.

Mae West (left) is perhaps the last person that anyone would connect to the occult. However, Mae was a much more curious and open-minded person than many realize. By 1941, she had already made her major Hollywood films, including My Little Chickadee and She Done Him Wrong, which had made her a sexual icon, early feminist, and all-around business dynamo. After all the hustle and bustle of Tinsel Town, Mae was tired and looking forward to more time spent on the stage. First and foremost, she wanted a vacation. Always close with her mother, Mae was devastated when "Tillie" passed away over a decade earlier. Sitting on top of the world, Mae couldn't help but wonder if there were more "out there" to be reckoned with and more for her to learn. Always an eager student, Mae decided to dip her toe into the tepid pool of the afterlife. Wanting to be as legit as possible (she was as skeptical as she was curious), Mae sought the guidance of Rev. Thomas Jack Kelly, a psychic who was so well-trusted that he was often used as a consultant by the police during investigations. He became a spiritual coach to Mae, teaching her how to meditate, to block out the noise and light, make her mind a blank canvas, and commune with the other side. For days, weeks, Mae tried and tried, but a busy dame like herself had trouble sitting still and opening her mind. She finally decided to give up.

Then, one morning, she was awakened by a little girl's voice. "Good morning, dear," it said. Mae was a little surprised of course, but she was not easily rattled. The voice was pleasant, and Mae wondered if perhaps it came from some sort of guardian angel. She and the Reverend referred to it from then on as Juliet. Soon, more voices came... and presences. Apparently, Mae had "the gift," and her boudoir was often crowded with noisy visitors: spirits who seemed to just want a place to come together and gab. Not to Mae, mind you. In fact, she found it quite rude that these presences were only speaking to each other and not noticing her at all. Then, things turned dark. She woke one morning to find herself surrounded by dark, cloaked figures chanting in a foreign tongue. She tried to speak to them, but they ignored her. This was too much. Mae sat up and told them "Scram!!!" She would recall a look of sadness on the faces of some of the ghosts who were told to finally leave, as if they were hurt that they could no longer share in her earthly aura, but enough was enough. It wasn't that she was scared, mind you. She was irritated! It was one thing to ignore her; it was another to make a lot of gosh-darned noise and wake her up at the break of dawn! That's just bad manners. She never saw any of the entities again, though she had often though that she would revisit the spiritual realm eventually. At the end of the day, the experience made her feel better. She knew her Mama was out there somewhere... She just wasn't going to lose her mind trying to find her! (Mae defies intimidation, right).

When recollecting the masculine idols of the Golden Studio Era, it is easy to forget the short-stacked Mickey Rooney (left). However, when you weigh the evidence, Mickey is one of the most successful actors who ever lived, boasting a career that has spanned nearly 90 years. Over 90-years-old himself, the man is still working, most lately having a cameo in The Muppets. He won America over at a young age, using his unstoppable energy to propel himself up the cinematic ladder: from "Puck" in A Midsummer Night's Dream, to Love Finds Andy Hardy, to National Velvet. He was a bona fide box-office sensation who wed and bed some of the most beautiful women of the silver screen. There's no telling what a little fortitude and charisma can do for you, and Mickey never let his short stature short-change him out of any of life's blessings. However, when his career hit the skids after his notoriety as the energetic boy-next-door wore off, Mickey found himself lost in a sea of self-doubt. He would recall this harrowing time on an episode of "Celebrity Ghost Stories": He had always been close with his mother, Nellie, particularly after his actor father, Joseph, abandoned them. Mickey had, in essence, become the family breadwinner when he and Nellie hit Hollywood. Growing up without a father is rough, and during his later bout with depression, one can only imagine the conflicted thoughts going through Mickey's head. Never having a good man stand in as a father figure, Mickey had no idea what a good man was, or if he was even close to being one. He felt like a failure-- as if the best years of his life were over...

And then, lying in bed one night, Mickey woke to the feeling of someone tugging on his toes. Half asleep, he ignored the sensation at first, but as the peskiness continued, and his consciousness became more alert, Mickey suddenly realised that something weird was going on. He opened his eyes, and there, standing at the foot of his bed, was his father. "Keep going," Joe said. "Don't stop." A series of similar phrases followed, Joe smiled, and then his image disappeared into thin air. Mickey couldn't totally wrap mind around what had happened, and he tried in vain to rationalize what had occurred. Perhaps it had all been an illusion, "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese..." A dream!?!? Mickey pinched himself. He new that what he had just witnessed had been real. His father had come to him, finally, from beyond the grave, to do the best thing that he ever could for his son: offer the encouragement he had not given in life. MIckey did indeed pull himself together and 'go on.' He's still going. He hasn't seen his Pops again, but then, one visit was enough! (Mickey is back up to snuff, right).

Shirley ain't scared 'a no ghost.

That being said, don't let the boogey-man get you down this All Hallow's Eve. Enjoy the merriment and mirth, stick to the road, and try your best not to go down a dark hall alone! Happy Halloween!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment