Thursday, December 30, 2010

You Ought to be in Pictures

The Hollywood Glamour Years of the Roaring Twenties

Picture Play movie magazine from July 1922, featuring the young actress, Alice Terry (1899-1987). This was the silent movie era, and the romanticism of the big screen is readily apparent flipping through these pages. There are pages and pages of beautiful publicity shots of the stars of the day, male and female. There are articles on their lovely homes, their adventurous public lives in the Roaring Twenties. It would have been considered an honor to appear in the pages of Picture Play, with publicity items and photographs furnished by the movie studios. No running from the paparazzi in those days.

Articles include:
  • What about Pola Negri?
  • Heroes I Have Known
  • If You Were Mary Pickford?
  • Some Bumps on the Road to Stardom
  • A Fan's Adventures in Hollywood
  • The Indiscretions of a Star
  • Little Shining Lights (Hollywood child stars)
  • Saying it With Frocks (fashion tips)
For more information on Alice Terry, click here. I was intrigued to read that she apparently was friends with several gay male actors, notably Ramón Novarro. She helped him disguise his sexuality by appearing with him out and about. It's reported she even accompanied him to speakeasies and parties known for their gay clientele in order to help him stay in the closet as we say today. Alice Terry sounds like she was quite a cool woman for the time, a good friend to her gay pals, and I'm really happy to have her on the cover of my vintage movie magazine!

Those were the days when leading men couldn't possibly be known as gay and work in Hollywood. Interestingly, Richard Chamberlain JUST THIS WEEK was quoted as saying the exact same thing. He warned any young, gay Hollywood "leading men" to stay in the closet if they wanted to work. I'd like to think this is a generational thing. Chamberlain is perhaps still seeing the world the way it was for him in the 1960s as a young leading actor in Dr. Kildare. On the other sequined hand, it might not be only in the minds of our senior citizens. Recently, there was this horrendous article by Ramin Setoodeh, who is barely thirty years old, which appeared in Newsweek online. In it he rips Sean Hayes as being too gay to play a macho straight character in a play. Then there's the unfortunate rise of the backwards-thinking conservative right-wing in this country, so perhaps, sadly, Chamberlain is correct. We've come how far in eighty years? 
  • For a different sort of trip down Memory Lane, here's the YouTube video of the theme from Dr. Kildare, Three Stars Will Shine Tonight. Chamberlain recorded it in 1962 and it reached #10 on the Billboard charts, helping to propel the young actor to hearthrob status. Even though I was only four-years old when the series began in 1961, the young handsome doctor was one of my earliest crushes! I guess my gaydar was working even at the early age, lol. 
The caption on this page reads: A permanent record of Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino in a scene from "Beyond the Rocks" which the cruel censors will limit to little more than a flash on the screen.

I wanted to scan several interior pages of this magazine, but the brittle eighty-eight year old paper and binding won't let me without tearing it. The magazine is in almost perfect condition, and by scanning the page above, a few small rips appeared on the spine so I couldn't scan any more.

When I lived in West Hollywood for a time in 1979-80, one of my favorite things to do was walk around Hollywood with my friend Andy, and find the addresses and homes of old movie stars, as well as famous places like the Roosevelt Hotel, the Hollywood Brown Derby, Schwab's Pharmacy etc. This vintage movie magazine is one of my favorites in my collection. I know I say that about a lot of my stuff, lol, but it's true!

Hollywood's Not-so-Glamorous Rags of the Fabulous Fifties

In stark contrast with the 1922 magazine at the top of this post is 1956's Confidential Magazine (Tells the Facts, Names the Names). This is a true "scandal sheet" filled with lies, innuendo and barely half-truths. Photos are taken totally out of context, "stars" are cut up and placed next to each other in such a crude manner, I consider it art now, lol. Pages and pages and pages and pages of totally made up fiction was probably quite entertaining to read in Smalltown, USA, but no doubt caused quite a few entertainers to question their choice of careers. The headline writers used up a year's worth of exclamation points in every issue!!! Check these out:
  • "Have Tux will Travel"... and that's what Bob Hope did with that Blonde!
  • Nicky Hilton—He prefers Scotch on the rocks to a honey on the divan! First the starlet threw herself at Nicky—Then over the cliff!
  • Yvonne De Carlo's RED HOT MAMA! The stripper was in the middle of her act when Yvonne's 50-year old mom let out a yell, "I can do it better!"... And she did!
  • Hubby Mike Wilding Didn't Knock... That's how he caught Elizabeth Taylor with Victor Mature!
  • The Quail who had Walter Pidgeon flying from the cops! "Pidge" just couldn't say "No" when two bobby-soxers told him they wanted to come up and see him some time.
  • The Hubby—The Boyfriend—and their Share Marie Wilson Plan! Marie's not so dizzy. She handled a brand new hubby and an old flame at the same time. And both guys knew what was cooking!
  • Why Tommy Dorsey went on the wagon! Sober, Tommy was as sweet as his music. The sour notes came when he'd uncork the bottle.
The subhead to this story, on the next page, was this: It was the old story of boy meets girl, but with Mrs. George Vanderbilt's gay son Peter, it turned out to the fairy tale of the social season... While Peter held hands with Zina—he had his eye on Liam.

Apparently, the young jet-setter with an international reputation as a playboy, Peter Howard, sneaked into a hotel room to be with, gasp, another man, and found a woman! The story goes on and on, lol, and probably has as much truth to it as the millions of dollars I have stashed in Switzerland, wink, wink. I have no doubt that perhaps the poor guy was gay, but the details that have been written into this three page story reads more like a Hollywood script than actual reporting. 

The disturbing part is the ease in which anti-gay ephithets are thrown into the headlines and stories, the "lavender" hi-jinks, the "fairy tale" of the season and numerous others worked into the text, You just know that in those dreary smoke-filled midtown Manhattan offices where these stories were concocted, the snorts and guffaws of those hack writers filled the air as they "cleverly" worked their homophobic slurs into the story. Of course, statistics prove that a few of them probably called their wives at home and told them they'd be working late as they headed downtown to the Village for a nightcap with the boys...




  2. Some things never change -- the supermarket tabloids still invent stories of people dating etc., accompanied by fake pictures.

    As to Richard Chamberlain, I'm sure you remember the episode where he was surfing with Yvette Mimieux (sp?). I believe the episode was called Tyger, Tyger and every gay boy alive in the 60s was entranced! I think he sounds like he's still bitter about his experience in contrast with Tab Hunter who wrote a very revealing and honest book about his life before he left Hollywood. Tab just made a new life for himself and seems quite content with it.

    Tehre are a lot of stories about these rags from the 50s and what they did to people's lives and careers. Like the studio giving up George Nader to the tabloids to protect Rock Hudson and making Rock marry Phyllis Gates, the secretary of "Mother" Willson, who discovered and promoted a lot of the secretly gay stars of the 50s.

    And then there was MGM making Keenan Wynn divorce his wife Evie so that she could marry Van Johnson to dispell rumors that were beginning to circulate about him. The fact that the three of them lived together both before and after the divorce/marriage makes one wonder exactly who was doing what to whom!

    Paul, NYC

  3. Thanks, Granny. I think that's a good thing, right? : )

    the sordid stories from Old Time Hollywood are as fascinating as they are sad and deranged! I have an old copy of Hollywood Babylon around here somewhere. I think I'll re-read it soon.

  4. Well put, Paul. I think the studios were really worried about their almighty dollar, they way they would manipulate relationships and make up couples they thought would appeal to their audiences.

    Even slipping stars quietly in and out of rehab when need be. The studios ran the whole show including the private lives of their stars. Today the hold is not so strong and might extend to a star's having to give up a passion for sky diving or race car driving or motorcycles until the filming is over.

    Some of today's stars could probably use a firmer control over their lives and I am sure there is lots of backroom scuttling going on when a star goes berserk.

    As far as gay actors go... with me a good looking guy, gay or straight is a pleasure to behold. And I don't even want to get started on those scenes with two women making

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