Archives for 2005
Lucy and Leona Helmsley (From I Loved Lucy)
As I said in a couple of posts back, I’m reading “I Loved Lucy,” by a great writer named Lee Tannen. He and his partner, Tom, knew Lucille Ball very well during the last decade of her life.
I’m at a section of the book where they were invited to her hotel suite for a game of backgammon with everyone’s favorite redhead.
Tom and Lee, through business, had had dealings with Leona Helmsley, and of course didn’t think much of her. Lucy, however, wasn’t even aware that the queen of mean shared her universe. When she did hear from her, she was less than impressed.
From the book:
” ‘All right, Lucy, you’re up,’ I said and Lucy sat down in Tom’s place. Now I was in the box, playing against Lucy and Tom. This time Lucy set up the board completely backward but Tom and I didn’t say anything, just quickly reset it when Lucy got up to answer the phone.
‘Yes,’ Lucy said in a bass octave dead-on unintentional imitation of Harvey Fierstein. ‘Thank you very much, yes, I am very glad to be back east,’ she continued, winking at us, who were conspicuously staring at her. ‘Everything is wonderful, just perfect, thank you.’ Lucy continued, impatiently wanting to get back to the game, ‘Tell me, dear, what’s your name?’ Pause. ‘Leona.’ Pause. ‘Leona what?’
I started wildly flailing in my seat. ‘Oh, Helmsley!’ Lucy deadpanned, making one of those contorted gestures with her mouth that Lucy Ricardo used to make when she was caught doing something naughty. Then Lucy saved the day by bursting out laughing and telling Leona that of course she knew it was she all the time. Lucy thanked Leona for calling and Tom and I applauded, while Lucy graciously took a bow.
‘Good God, what a bore,’ Lucy said. ‘Let’s play backgammon!’ ”
I Loved Lucy is a MUST read for all fans of Lucille Ball. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever read – filled with laughs and obvious love and respect.
Lucy and Ethel: The Legendary Candy-Making Scene
“I remembered seeing a See’s Candy factory somewhere nearby on Santa Monica Boulevard. It was on the second floor of a building. I dropped by and spoke to the manager, telling him I wanted to hire the best candy maker he had. He introduced me to this lady whose name was Amanda Milligan. She was the best as far as the swirls on top of each chocolate were concerned. A real pro. I made arrangements to get her into the Screen Extras Guild simply because no one already in the union had her particular expertise. Now, remember, all this woman did all day long was put swirls on chocolates. Eight hours a day, for years. So, it’s the second day of rehearsals and I notice her sitting by the Lucy set watching the principals rehearse the first scenes. I go up to her and say, ‘Well, what do you think about being in the movies?’ She looked at me wearily and said, ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life!” – Herb Browar
“Lucy was introduced to the woman on the stage and asked if she liked the show. The woman answered, ‘What show?’ Lucy replied, ‘I Love Lucy.’ Then the dipper asked, ‘When is it on?’ and Lucy answered, ‘Monday Night.’ ‘Oh,’ said the woman, ‘I watch wrestling that night.’ ” – Jess Oppenheimer
Priceless, I’d have given half my material possessions to have ever met Lucy and here’s someone who stood before the queen of comedy and made her take a back seat to wrestling!
Lucille Ball’s First Choice For the Mertzes
Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet performing in Granby’s Green Acres
It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the roles of Ethel and and Fred Mertz but Lucille Ball’s first choices were actually Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet.
Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet were both 44 when “I Love Lucy” was being developed. They had worked with her on the radio show, “My Favorite Husband,” portraying married neighbors, Rudolph and Iris Atterbury.
Gale and Bea were both under contract with other studios, so they couldn’t take the roles of Fred and Ethel Mertz.
Each did, however, appear on episodes of “I Love Lucy.” Gale played Ricky’s Tropicana boss, Alvin Littlefield on two episodes. Bea played a shy spinster, Miss Lewis, in a particularly hilarious episode. Miss Lewis had the hots for someone, but was too shy (and frankly too old!) to do anything about it. As much as I love, love, love Lucy – in that particular episode she had her scenes stolen right from under her heels by the amazing Bea Benaderet.
You may be more familiar with Bea as Cousin Pearl on the Beverly Hillbillies or as Kate Bradley on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. She also was the voice of Betty Rubble (and additional voices) on “The Flintstones”, and was Witch Hazel and Tweety Bird’s Granny until 1955.
She apparently did a LOT of the female voices on the early cartoons.
Gale Gordon, of course, went on to co-star with Lucille Ball on Here’s Lucy.
Rita Hayworth: A Few Fast Facts
A few fast facts about one of my favorite actresses, the talented and beautiful Rita Hayworth:
Hair Color: Naturally, Dark Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Weight: Between 114 and 129 lbs
Religion: Roman Catholic
Father: Eduardo Cansino (dancer)
Mother: Volga Hayworth (Ziegfeld Follies showgirl)
Brother: Vernon (younger)
Brother: Eduardo, Jr. (younger)
Edward C. Judson (married – May 29, 1937, divorced – May 22,1942)
Orson Welles (married – Sept. 7, 1943, divorced – Dec. 1, 1948) *
Prince Aly Khan (married – May 27, 1949, divorced – Jan. 27, 1953)
Dick Haymes (married – Sept. 24, 1953, divorced – Dec. 23, 1955)
James Hill (married Feb. 2, 1958, divorced – Sept. 1961)
Rebecca Welles (December 17, 1944)
Yasmin Khan (December 28, 1949
* Although they fought more often than not, Rita would, later in life, refer to Orson Welles as “the great love of my life.”
Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess Was Actually Pretty Shy
Margarita Carmen Cansino was born on October 17, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother was of Irish descent, her father, Spanish. She would later shorten her first name to Rita and use her mother’s maiden name, Hayworth as her own.
As a child (and later as an adult) Rita was extremely shy. The only time she really came out of her shell was when she was dancing (or, later, acting).
Along with her dad, she danced as part of “The Cansinos” – and was apparently unusually talented, even as a pint-sized beauty. I have read so many varied accounts about the relationship between Rita and her dad: Some say he was overly-domineering, basically “pushing” her into entertainment. Others say she called her own shots and he was a kindly man who allowed her to make her own mind up. Me? I think it was closer to the first than the second. I believe it was his presence that accounted for her shyness and insecurities – she never seemed to think she was good enough for him.
It was while performing with Eduardo at The Caliente Club that she caught the eye of a vice-president at Fox Film Corporation. He invited Rita to join him and his dinner companion, columnist Louella Parsons. Louella would later refer to Rita as a “Painfully shy” girl who “couldn’t look strangers in the eye” and whose voice was so low it could hardly be heard. Sheehan (which is why he was the vp instead of Parsons!) saw the remarkable beauty and potential star quality in Rita and set her up with a screen test.
After several such tests, she was signed to a contract and began taking acting and diction lessons. The rest is, of course, film history.
Tragedy: James Dean’s Death
“The trouble with me is that I’m just dog tired. Everybody hates me and thinks I’m a heel. They say I’ve gone to Hollywood, but honestly I’m just the same as when I didn’t have a dime. I’m tired. I went into “Giant” immediately after a long hard schedule in “Rebel”. Maybe I’d better just go away.” – James Dean
As soon as Giant was wrapped up, James Dean was anxious to get back to one of his greatest loves, racing. His “Giant” contract kept him from race tracks – so the minute he was free and clear, he set off for the race track in Salinas.
He gave “Marcus” (a cat who was a gift from Elizabeth Taylor) to an ex-girlfriend to watch for him until he returned.
Tragically, he never did.
“You know what a crazy life I lead. I just figured, you never know….I might never come home. Then what would happen to Marcus?” – James Dean
On September 30, 1955, James and Rolf Wutherich (a friend and mechanic), took off for Salinas in Dean’s 170 mph Porsche, while Sandy Roth and another friend came along behind in Jimmy’s station wagon.
Near Bakersfield, he was given a speeding ticket. The officer claims to have told him to slow down or he’d never reach Salinas alive.
Toward sunset, James Dean’s car collided at an intersection with a 23 year old college student’s. No one knows exactly whose fault the accident was – but most agree that Dean was probably driving too fast. The other driver, due to the failing light of sunset as well as Dean’s speed apparently never saw the Porsche until it was too late.
Rolf Wutherich was thrown clear, the other driver suffered no injuries, but James Dean, who’s neck had been broken, was dead within minutes.
“That guy’s GOT to see us.” – James Dean’s last words
“Giant” Frictions With the Cast and Director
“I don’t want to burn myself out….I’ve made three pictures in the last two years.” – James Dean
When he made Giant (1956) received equal billing with heavyweights Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Liz, who was very fond of Dean, gave him a kitten (“Marcus”) as a gift. However, the director, George Stevens, and James didn’t see eye to eye. (Elizabeth Taylor apparently wasn’t fond of Stevens either.) To even further complicate matters, Rock and James never really hit it off!
“Stevens has been horrible. I sat there for three days, made up and ready to work at 9:00 every morning. By 6:00 I hadn’t had a scene or a rehearsal. I sat there like a bump on a log watching that hog lumpy Rock Hudson making love to Liz Taylor. I’m not going to take it any more.” – James Dean
“(James Dean) was sulky and had no manners.” – Rock Hudson
Around this time, James began a hot and heavy affair with Ursula Andress. The two seemed to fight almost constantly, prompting one paper to report that Dean was learning German so he and Andress could carry on their quarrels in two languages.
“What the hell would she have in common with a poor farm boy? If it weren’t that I was up there on the screen, her and people like her wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
“We fight like cats and dogs – no, on second thought, like two monsters. But then we make up and it’s fun. Ursula doesn’t take any baloney from me and I don’t take any baloney from her. I guess it’s because we are both egotistical.” – James Dean
James Dean: Hello, Hollywood!
“Those chairs (in agent’s offices) are made scientifically so that in exactly 11 minutes your backside begins to hurt. But I beat the average. First I sit on one half of my fanny, then on the other. They don’t get rid of me until my 22 minutes are up. But I’m beginning to take the shape of those chairs. Maybe that’s the shape of my destiny. ” – James Dean
James Dean didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood, due to his need to “test” people by behaving just as badly as possible around them. Director Elia Kazan, however became something of a father figure to him. He wasn’t blind to Jimmy’s faults, however, and even nicknamed him “Creep”.
In “East of Eden”, Dean’s first film, he played a rebellious character named Cal. The similarities between James and Cal amazed Kazan, who was the film’s director.
“I can’t divert into being a social human being when I’m working on a hero like Cal, who’s essentially demonic.” – James Dean
His co-stars were Julie Harris, and Raymond Massey. Julie, an actress who was known for her sweet nature, knew (better than most) how to deal with the difficult young actor. Raymond Massey (who played James’ father), however hadn’t a clue what to make of him.
“You never know what he’s going to do!” – Raymond Massey (about Dean)
Even though the majority of the cast and crew shared Massey’s sentiments rather than those of Julie Harris or Elia Kazan, the time spent filming East of Eden was probably the happiest of James Dean’s life. He must have felt, for the first time, that he was part of a large family.
After filming was finished, Julie Harris went to his dressing room to say good-bye. She found him on the floor crying and saying, “It’s all over. It’s all over.”
Ironically, when the film opened in New York, with Marilyn Monroe, no less, handing out programs, he stayed away.
“I don’t even want to be just the best. I want to grow so tall that nobody can reach me.” – James Dean
When James Dean died at the unbelievably young age of 24, only one of his films had ever been seen by the public (East of Eden). His second film, Rebel Without a Cause, was released within days of his death.
James Dean: “Hoosier Boy”
James Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana. His father, who he was not close to, was a dental technician. His mother, with whom he was extremely close died when James was only 9 years old. It’s believed that this tragedy left a scar on the boy that never healed.
“I used to sneak out of my uncle’s house at night and go to her grave and I used to cry on her grave – ‘Mother, why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? I need you’.'” – James Dean
In high school, he was successful in sports as well as in drama. In 1949 he won a local “dramatic-speaking” contest with a monologue from “Pickwick Papers”. Nationally, he placed sixth, which he was less than thrilled with. He laid all the blame at the feet of his drama teacher.
In addition to sports and drama, young James Dean loved speed. He was given his first motorcycle at the age of 18.
“I’ve been riding (a motorcycle) since I was sixteen…I used to ride to school…I used to go out for the cows on the motorcycle. Scared the hell out of them. They’d get to running and their udders would start swinging and they’d lose a quart of milk.” -James Dean
After graduating High School, he left for California, to study at Santa Monica College. The following year he transferred to UCLA to study theater. He was known by those around him for his extreme mood swings as much as for his talent. Not only did he not make friends easily, he tended to PUSH people away.
“I try so hard to make people reject me. Why?” – James Dean
In early 1951, he dropped out of college and started attending an acting workshop which was home to “Method” acting. By March he had a small part in a TV play and a group of Los Angeles girls founded the first James Dean fan club.