Monday, November 16, 2015

LIZ SMITH: When Hollywood Was Still a Small Town

Tyrone Power and Linda Christian engagement ring shopping at Bulgari in Rome.
 
by Liz Smith

Back When Hollywood Was Still a Small Town, A LOT of Sex Still Happened! ... Nunnally Johnson and Marilyn. (No, it's not that kind of story!) 

"REMEMBER, sex is like a Chinese dinner. It ain't over until you both get the cookie!" said Alec Baldwin.
WE received a fascinating response to our item here about Maureen O' Hara outing director John Ford in her autobiography; she found him kissing an unnamed handsome male actor. Later she confirmed her tale to writer Gregory Speck and named the actor — "It was Tyrone Power!"

I received a letter from a show-biz insider who had even more to offer: 

"It was always well known in Hollywood about director John Ford. The fact that he more than dabbled in gay life was no secret even then. This knowledge was about as pedestrian as Ford's garb, which was like watching someone who forgot to put on his socks — and not as a fashion statement.  He chewed on anything — a rag, a towel, a piece of clothing. He was a horrendous pass-out drunk, with all the rage only the Irish can fully bring to life and he was married to a long-suffering Irish wife. Everybody in the elite, where they ran, knew about them. And everybody liked them; they were very popular. Hollywood was a small town then.
John Ford and Tyrone Power on the set of "The Grapes of Wrath."
"Tyrone Power's bisexuality was no secret. Cesar Romero once told a tale about an expensive wristwatch that Tyrone gave him during their love affair. They took a trip around the world together. When they got back, Tyrone was swarmed by ladies and one of them, named Linda Christian, got him.  And before that, he was with Lana Turner. He shocked her by dropping her for Linda.  This gives you an idea of his intense activity. Someone once told me he just couldn't say no to anyone."
Tyrone Power and Cesar Romero.
"Later, Ty was wed to his last wife Deborah Ann Minardos and died in the middle of filming "Solomon and Sheba."  Yul Brynner replaced him and this was in 1958 ... when Debbie gave birth 3 months after Ty died, it was a son she named Tyrone Power, Jr."

Power's great beauty can still be seen in movies such as "Blood and Sand" ... "Johnny Apollo" ... "Jesse James" ... "The Razor's Edge" ... "The Black Rose" ... "Captain from Castile" ... "A Yank in the R.A.F" and, but of course, "Marie Antoinette" as the doomed Queen's fervent lover, Count Axel Von Fersen.
Power as Count Axel von Fersen in "Marie Antoinette."
MY note continues: "At the time of all this, the French actress Annabella — who was briefly married to Tyrone Power for about eight years — was thought to be a girlfriend of Minnie Cushing Astor Fosburgh. But if I had had all the lovers people say I've had — and who they were — I'd have a book."
Tyrone and Annabella Power.
"Once, I was dining with the designer Luis Estevez and Rock Hudson and his longtime partner, Tom Clark.  Rock could put away the vodka and he was so handsome to me, a teenage boy, that I couldn't get over it.

Luis' wife Betty Estevez and their friend Rock Hudson on the Lido in Venice, 1955.
"We were leaving the restaurant and Luis came up to me and asked, 'Would you like to go home with Rock?'  I said, No, though it was a real thrill and it still makes me laugh. I said, 'Thank you, all things considered, I'd like to but I can't ...' Luis exclaimed, 'Shit! Now I have to ...'  He didn't finish.

"So, remember what Dorothy Hirshon said, 'Nobody knows anything about anyone else's sex life!' She was right, because he told me I knew Luis Estevez had once slept with Linda Christian and told me she was very good in bed.  I asked him, 'what do you mean by that exactly?' He replied, 'Besides sex, there is a feeling of loving.'

"I am an old man now but I feel people are having so much sex today with so many varieties of others that it no longer means anything."
MORE MAIL: Reader David Cuthbert offers the following on Marilyn Monroe from a little-known 1965 bio on the star — Edwin P. Hoyt's "The Tragic Venus."

Biographer Hoyt wrote that he had never seen a Marilyn movie prior to starting his own book. "My interest was kindled by the manner of her death and the obvious shock to so many different types of people who cared so much about this strange girl."

Nunnally Johnson with MM.
Marilyn — never lovelier than on the set of "Something's Got To Give."
A story from this book concerns the writer Nunnally Johnson, who penned one of the numerous screenplays for MM's last, unfinished film, "Something's Got To Give."

Marilyn met Johnson in the Polo Lounge and her first words to him were, "Have you been trapped into this too?" (Johnson had worked with Marilyn ten years previously, on "How To Marry a Millionaire" and had come away less than impressed.) Monroe, at 35, with two flop films behind her, was nervous about facing a man who hadn't liked her at her peak!

They drank champagne and discussed the script. Mr. Johnson, a real pro, but wary of the "temperamental" Marilyn, was shocked to find she had real humor and perception and was able to probe weak points in the story line. But Johnson's impression was that Marilyn had no faith in her own judgment. She became excited when Dean Martin read the first 50 pages of the script and told her it was good.

According to Hoyt, she and Johnson got so chummy that she offered to drive him to the airport when he left Hollywood. He said he was leaving his hotel about 7:30 a.m. "I'll pick you up at 7:45," Marilyn said. Johnson knew his movie actresses, so he said, "Goodbye and good luck."

At 7:45 the next morning, Marilyn called Johnson from the lobby. She said they wouldn't let her come up.

"Tell them you're a call girl and I sent for you," said Johnson. She was dressed casually in slacks, her blonde hair covered with a scarf.

Marilyn giggled and told the clerk just that. The words "call girl" changed everything and she was allowed to ascend. (Johnson would recall that she looked surprisingly fresh and more attractive without her movie-star paint.) Hoyt writes that Johnson was stunned when he heard about her death several months later.
THE P.S. to this is that Marilyn approved Johnson's script, but still cautioned her studio, "It needs more jokes." (The first scriptwriter, Arnold Schulman, had quit, because he felt 20th Century-Fox was "out to get Marilyn, they had no respect for her. I kept telling her, 'talk to your agent, talk to your lawyer!'")

Once MM appeared on set, she was horrified to learn that George Cukor didn't like Nunnally Johnson's script, and began re-writing it. Ill with sinusitis and now more insecure than ever, Monroe avoided the Fox lot.
MM and George Cukor on set.
Her absences eventually led to the star being fired. But shortly before her death, Fox quietly re-hired Monroe, having been impressed with the personal publicity campaign she had mounted to defend herself and her image. Cukor was let go, the original script re-instated and Monroe even scored a salary raise.
Deprived of a suitable script, MM reverts to nature — and garners international headlines.
Would "Something's Got To Give" have been the hit she needed so badly? The amazing surviving footage from the incomplete movie — recovered from the Fox movie vaults thanks to this column's persistence — reveals MM exquisite and performing with charm and agility, despite a very abrasive Cukor. Where was the wicked, willful diva of legend, in all the candid out takes? She couldn't be more cooperative. But, we'll never know how it might have played out. All her hopes and dreams and fears ended on a hot summer night on August 4th, 1962. Something had to give.

It was Marilyn.
Hey, guys! All I want is a good script! Is that too much to ask for?
 
Contact Liz Smith here.