The affable brute: Nat Pendleton

Nat Pendleton in 1935.

Nat Pendleton in 1935.

Whether he’s an affable lug or a dangerous mobster, the face of the dark-haired 6 foot character actor is one film fans recognized in the 1930s and 1940s.

Character actor Nat Pendleton acted in uncredited roles and in the supporting cast from 1926 to 1947.

But before Pendleton performed as Sandow the Great in the biographical film “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936), he was flexing his muscles for different reasons.

Pendleton’s fame originally came in the form of a silver medal in the super heavy weight freestyle wrestling division at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. That year, United States won 41 Gold, 27 Silver, and 27 Bronze medals, winning the medals by any of the 29 nations attending.

Pendleton lost only one match during the Olympics and turned pro after the games. In 1923, he was set to fight John “Tigerman” Pesek in Boston and lost, left with torn ligaments in his leg, according to “Legends of Pro Wrestling” by Tim Hornbaker.
After the loss, Pendleton turned to Hollywood.

Nat Pendleton wrestling

Nat Pendleton wrestling

Pendleton first started on Broadway in the 1920s and went to Hollywood working for nearly all of major film studios: Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Columbia and MGM.

nat penldeton sandow

Nat Pendleton in "Buck Privates" (1941) playing his stereotypical dumb character.

Nat Pendleton in “Buck Privates” (1941) playing his stereotypical dumb character.

MGM was where Pendleton’s career was most profitable, becoming a regular in film series “Dr. Kildare” and “The Thin Man.”
Due to his size, Pendleton was often cast as gangster brutes, stupid police officers and confused oafs.
Though the IQ level of Pendleton’s characters was never very high, Nat Pendleton was no idiot.
Graduating from Columbia University in 1916, Pendleton received an economics degree and spoke four languages. He was inducted into the Columbia wrestling all of fame in 2006.

Nat Pendleton as Joe the ambulance driver with Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie in "Calling Dr. Kildare" (1939)

Nat Pendleton as Joe the ambulance driver with Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie in “Calling Dr. Kildare” (1939)

His talent in Hollywood wasn’t limited to acting. He also wrote the screenplay for “Deception” (1932) where he played a wrestler in the film.

Aside from his wrestling skills on the mat, Pendleton may be a forgotten character actor, but he is one of my favorites. He is likable even as a ruthless mobster.

My favorite character of Pendleton’s is as ambulance driver Joe Wayman in the Dr. Kildare film series. Wayman is a lovable and humorous character. Of the 15 films, Pendleton’s character was replaced by Red Skelton. Though I enjoy Skelton, there was a hole left in the films without Pendleton’s character.

Another memorable role for Nat Pendleton is portraying the real-life strongman Sandow in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936).

After acting in Hollywood since 1926, his last film role was in 1947 in the Abbot and Costello film “Buck Privates Come Home.” He passed away in 1967 at the age of 72.

what a character

This is part of the What a Character Blogathon

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Leaving Hollywood for a new habit: An interview with Dolores Hart

She gave Elvis his first on-screen kiss.

Roles in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” and “The Ticklish Affair” that later went to Shirley Jones were originally offered to her.

Her career began in 1957 with the film “Loving You” along side Elvis Presley and ended in 1963 with the film “Come Fly with Me.”

But at the height of her career in 1963, Dolores Hart left Hollywood to follow a vocational calling to become a nun.

Dolores Hart in the 1960s and now as Revered Mother Dolores today (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Dolores Hart in the 1960s and now as Reverend Mother Dolores today (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

 “I am not leaving anyone or anything behind me. I am taking with me a full and grateful heart,” Hart left as a statement with her publicist.

The media frenzy that followed cited her broken engagement with her former fiancé Don Robinson. The National Enquirer headline read “Star Driven into Nunnery by her Love for Elvis.” Colleagues and friends were dumbfounded.

To Hollywood, family and friends, Hart’s decision to become a nun may have seemed rash. But her choice was a long road of exploration of her faith that was triggered by her first visit to the Abbey of Regina Laudis in 1958.

Hart published the book “The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows” in May that explores her parent’s tumultuous marriage, why she became a Catholic, her career as a film star and her life as a nun.

Her parents had the desire to become Hollywood film stars. However, her father Bert Hicks mainly played bit roles. Her parents divorced while she was still young. While attending Catholic school, she decided to convert so she could have hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls with the other children.

She is often asked if her role as Saint Claire in “Francis of Assisi” (1961) is what influenced her decision to become a nun. The role had no effect but meeting Pope John XXIII while filming left an impact on the actress.

Saturday morning, I had the privilege to meet with Dolores Hart in Charlotte, NC before she spoke at the Charlotte Eucharist Convention. “Ear of the Heart” is one of the best celebrity autobiographies I have read. Rather than full of gossip and salacious rumors, it discusses her journey through life. I couldn’t help but feel calm and soothed every time I picked it up.

We met and spoke about her book as well as her time in Hollywood and at Regina Laudis.

Though she was a little older and was dressed in a nun’s habit and robe, her smile and sparkling clear blue eyes were the same ones you see in her films such as “Where the Boys Are.”

Revered Mother Dolores was warm, personable and an overall lovely woman.

IMG_6649

Reverend Mother Dolores and myself in Charlotte, NC on Sept. 14

 Q: Tell me about the Eucharist Conference you are in town for today.

I’m actually not that familiar with it because I have been in an enclosed monastery.  I don’t remember anything like this before I entered. It’s wonderful seeing the intensity of love for the sacrament…Not love in the usual form of the word but transcending love that can hold the passion of and sadness of life.

Q: What influenced you to write the book?

I think it’s because my old friend Dick DeNeut encouraged me to do it. He told me if I didn’t write it soon, I would forget everything. We started in 2003 and it has taken a long time to put it in its present form. I’m fortunate to have someone like Dick. He knows me so well and we were very close. We have had strong communication for decades. I think the beautiful part of the preparation is that he would always be frank with me. He wouldn’t say things that made me feel good but would be frank in order to awaken and receive an honest response.

Q: Which Catholic celebrities in Hollywood supported your decision?

Dolores Hart with George Hamilton in "Where he Boys Are"

Dolores Hart with George Hamilton in “Where he Boys Are”

Hart discusses in her book being friends with other Hollywood Catholics during her stardom such as Irene Dunne and Loretta Young. She once was invited to speak at a Jesuits’ Church of the Blessed Sacrament breakfast in 1958 that was attended by Catholic celebrities.

June Haver was one of the most faithful friends I had in Hollywood, and so was Patricia Neal. Others were complimentary. June would visit several times a year and try to find ways to help us. She loved visiting our dairy farm and working with the farm animals. Once she asked how the pigs reproduce. We told her we had a semen tank, but it was actually running low. She said that was how she would help us. Well, the local newspaper in town heard about it and came out with a story saying June Haver was buying nuns a semen tank. It was hysterical. But she would come to visit us on a yearly basis.

Q: How often were you compared to June Haver, who once entered as a nun and later left?

Dolores Hart with Elvis Presley in 1957 in a still for "Loving You"

Dolores Hart with Elvis Presley in 1957 in a still for “Loving You”

When I first started considering, Mother Benedict told me to take some time to put everything in order so I wouldn’t become another statistic. I didn’t know June at the time and I wasn’t aware of her personal struggles. She once entered as a nun herself and left. When we finally met I could perceive the depth of goodness and that she had struggled a great deal. She was very honest and never claimed what wasn’t true. She was a great lesson to me.

Q: How did Hollywood help or hurt you in a cloistered community?

I didn’t understand in the beginning how I could benefit from my Hollywood experiences. I accept the time in Hollwood as part of God’s will. I appreciate the goodness of the venture. I didn’t leave to reach for something better or a higher value.

People in the industry are so open. Producer Hal Wallis saw some sort of value in me to give me a seven year contract. He was furious when I left and told me not to bother coming back to work for him. I understood that because I was breaking professional expectation of truth. That was a profound step in his reality of life. But then after 15 years, he broke down and we became friends again. His wife Martha Hyer still sends us a basket of fruit every year.

My agent Harry Bernson sent me a note and asked if I had swallowed razor blades and said I had committed suicide. But then he eventually saw it was the right thing.

Those friendships shown to me by a number of actors showed me integrity of human values in every religion.

Q: If you hadn’t left Hollywood, how do you think your career would have ended up?

If I hadn’t left Hollywood, we probably wouldn’t be talking right now. The interest in me wouldn’t be there. People are interested because I became a nun.

I don’t think my career would have petered out, but then I have seen so many people come and go and you never see them again. Depending on roles, most women in Hollywood only work until their early 40s. You can’t bank on your career being a given.

My grandfather was a movie projectionist and had seen all the films. When I got older, I confessed to him that I wanted to become an actress. He told me he had seen them all and knew I would be the best at it. For a grandfather to say that was the best possible compliment.

Q: You also left Hollywood right before things began rapidly changing. Were you aware of the changes in Hollywood with the studio system?

Because I was still a member of the Academy, I still had an interest in what was happening with the studios, but I don’t remember judging it. People say that the film industry is what led the way to society changes. I could tell changes by the way people talked and dressed. There was a deeper sense of fear that life wasn’t worth much. I noticed people were dressing sort of in a dumpy way. I couldn’t believe a woman would wear jeans and high heels in the airport. That was really campy to me.

I think the film industry really reflected what was going on in society. They were always champions in exfoliating what was going on with people.

Hart with fan mail in 1960

Hart with fan mail in 1960

Q: How much fan mail do you receive each year?

It depends on what’s going on. As I have been on tour for the book, I have received a considerable amount. I usually receive two or three letters a day. By the end of the week it turns into a mountain of mail, so it’s a continuous obligation. When the documentary “God is Bigger than Elvis” came out two years ago, the situation changed. We did the film and it was my break through back into public life. I got so much fan mail after and I had to have some of the sisters help me stamp and address letters.

 Q: One last question, do you still watch any of your movies?

I have seen them so often that they bore me. I will watch them though if someone requests to watch a movie with me. Sometimes I discover something new by a question they present. The community doesn’t want to see my movies anymore, because they are tired of them.

For more on her kiss with Elvis and acting with Montgomery Clift stay tuned to Comet Over Hollywood in the coming days for a full book review.

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Classics in the Carolinas: Tallulah goes to college

At Byrnes Auditorium at Winthrop University, actress Tallulah Bankhead performed her one of her favorite stage role in the play “Little Foxes.”

Yes, Tallulah Bankhead performed at my alma mater in 1940.

Tallulah Bankhead wasn’t your typical Southern Belle.

Tallulah Bankhead as Regina Giddens in "The Little Foxes."

Tallulah Bankhead as Regina Giddens in “The Little Foxes.”

Born in Huntsville, AL, Bankhead’s father was William B. Bankhead-a politician from Alabama and Representative from 1917 to 1940.

But despite her prominent background, Bankhead has been described as flamboyant, wild and dabbled in alcohol and drugs such as cocaine and marijuana.

She left her Southern roots at the age of 15 to travel to New York to become an actress and made her stage debut in 1918. She later was in Hollywood films starting in the 1930s.

After acting in films alongside Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery and Charles Laughton, Bankhead made her way back to her southern roots.

In 1939, Bankhead originated the stage role of Regina Giddens in the Lillian Hellman play “The Little Foxes.”

Based in the early 20th century in the South, Regina manipulates her daughter and estranged husband to work out a business deal with her unscrupulous cousins.

“All in all, Regina Giddens is the best role I ever had in the theater,” Bankhead wrote in her autobiography, Tallulah: My Autobiography. “So The Little Foxes is the best play I’ve had. Up to this time most of my roles had been on the light and larkish side.”

Later made into a 1941 film starring Bette Davis, “The Little Foxes” ran for 410 performances at the National Theatre on Broadway.

“The Little Foxes” brought Bankhead to Rock Hill, SC.

Tallulah Bankhead and actress Eugenia Rawls perform in "The Little Foxes"

Tallulah Bankhead and actress Eugenia Rawls perform in “The Little Foxes”

On March 4, 1940, she performed her role of Regina Giddens on the stage of the brand new Byrnes Auditorium of Winthrop College (now Winthrop University) which was an all-girls school until 1975.

“Her seductive southern drawl was an instant hit in South Carolina,” according to the book York and Western York County, SC: The Story of a Southern Eden by J. Edward Lee and Jerry Lee Wes. “After her performance, the audience gave her a standing ovation.”

Bankhead had ties to York County. Her great-great-grandfather George Bankhead moved to lived in Bullock’s Creek, York County South Carolina before moving to Alabama in 1830, according to Lee and Wes’s book.

“As a (local) reporter asked the Hollywood actress about her fast-paced life in California, Bankhead…reminded the journalist, ‘Dahling, I’m from Bullock’s Creek,’” Lee and Wes wrote.

Though Bankhead was not in the film adaptation of the play, her Broadway costars Dan Duryea, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, and Patricia Collinge starred with Bette Davis.

Knowing that Tallulah Bankhead once walked on a campus where I studied journalism, makes me feel just a little closer to the Golden Era of Hollywood.

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The forgotten Hollywood war hero: Wayne Morris

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

He can be seen playing alongside Bette Davis as a boxer in “Kid Galahad” (1937) or a cadet running amok at the Virginia Military Institute in “Brother Rat.”

Wayne Morris may not be a name you’re familiar with but you have most likely seen the husky, affable blond in Warner Brothers 1930s and 1940s films.

But you may not be familiar with Morris’ war time record.
We frequently hear about Hollywood actors such as James Stewart, Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney who enlisted and were decorated for their bravery during World War II.

However, Morris is rarely recognized for his service and was one of World War II’s first flying aces.

His interest in flying started in Hollywood.

While filming “Flying Angles” (1940) with Jane Wyman and Dennis Morgan, Morris learned how to fly a plane.

Morris in 1944 in his plane "Meatball." The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Morris in 1944 in his plane “Meatball.” The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Once World War II began, Morris joined the Naval Reserve and became a Naval flier in 1942 on the U.S.S. Essex. He put his career on hold to fight. The same year he was married to Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke.

“Every time they showed a picture aboard the Essex, I was scared to death it would be one of mine,” Morris said. “That’s something I could never have lived down.”

Morris flew 57 missions-while some actors only flew 20 or less- and made seven kills, which qualified him as an ace.  He also helped sink five enemy ships.

He originally was told he was too big to fly fighter planes until he went to his uncle-in-law, Cdr. David McCampbell who wrote him a letter, allowing him to fly the VF-15, according to “McCampbell’s Heroes: the Story of the U.S. Navy’s Most Celebrated Carrier Fighter of the Pacific”, Edwin P. Hoyt.

Three of his planes were so badly damaged by enemy fire that they were deemed unfit to fly and were dumped in the ocean, according to IMDB.

“As to what a fellow thinks when he’s scared, I guess it’s the same with anyone. You get fleeting glimpses in your mind of your home, your wife, the baby you want to see,” Morris said. “You see so clearly all the mistakes you made. You want another chance to correct those mistakes. You wonder how you could have attached so much importance to ridiculous, meaningless things in your life. But before you get to thinking too much, you’re off into action and everything else is forgotten.”

For his duty, Morris was honored with four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals.

When he returned to Hollywood after four year at war, his once promising career floundered and Warner Brothers did not allow him to act for a year.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Morris’s most notable post-war films include “The Voice of the Turtle,” “John Loves Mary” and “Paths of Glory.” His career ended with several B-westerns.

At the age of 45, Morris passed away in 1959 from a massive heart attack.

But his service to his country was not forgotten. Morris is buried in Arlington Cemetery and was given full military honors at his funeral.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Though I am thankful for all men and women who serve our country, I wanted to recognize Wayne Morris.

For years I saw Wayne Morris in films and knew nothing about him except that I liked him. He is one of those character actors that can make a movie special.

Morris seemed like a regular guy. Before he started out in Hollywood, he played football at Los Angeles Junior College and worked as a forest ranger.

After I researched him and discovered his war record, I wanted to honor his service and his work in films.

Thank you to Wayne Morris and men and women in the military for serving our country.

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“I didn’t care about the movies really. I was tall. I could talk. It was easy to do.” -Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

I have two huge classic Hollywood crushes, both highly underrated: Joseph Cotten and Joel McCrea.

But it is Cotten who we celebrate today at Comet, born on this day in 1905 in Virginia, making Mr. Cotten even more appealing to your southern writer.

But if his smooth voice, wavy hair and good looks aren’t enough for you, Cotten is a darn good actor.

He stars in two of my favorite films “Since You Went Away” (1944) and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) as well “Citizen Kane” (1940), which the American Film Institute has named the greatest film of all-time.

He was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles.

Some of his leading ladies include Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Loretta Young, Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Ginger Rogers, Joan Fontaine and Barbara Stanwyck.

Before films, he performed in the stage version of “Philadelphia Story” with Katharine Hepburn.

Here are a few anecdotes from Cotten’s 1987 autobiography “Vanity Will Get You Somewhere.”

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (1940)

The film was originally set to open in Radio City Music Hall in February 1941, until Hearst stepped in, said Joseph Cotten, who played Jedediah Leland in the film.

“Of course I knew we’d been treading on thin ice with the obvious similarities between Kane and William Randolph Hearst. I also knew that Mr. Hearst was a powerful man. I was to discover just how powerful,” said Cotten. “The Radio City Music Hall turned down Citizen Kane because Louella Parsons, Hearst’s right hand, had threatened the theater.”

The executive producer, George Schaefer, was offered money to destroy the picture and the negative.

“The whole motion picture industry was threatened if they showed the movie,” Cotten said. “Hearst’s newspapers would bring skeletons out of the closets, and there were many.”

Schaefer refused to be bullied and was able to get bookings for the film in a couple of independent movie houses, Cotten said.

“Although people who sneaked in to see the picture raved about it, none of our names were mentioned in the Hearst newspapers or mentioned in Louella Parson’s column,” he said. “What I found personally rather baffling, after Kane, I made several movies in which my name was above the title but Hearst’s newspapers always managed to review these pictures without mentioning my name. It was quite a feat to tell the entire story of a film and leave out the leading man.”

 Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Cotten told Hitchcock that he was nervous to play a murderer and wasn’t sure how they behaved, he wrote in his autobiography.

“Uncle Charlie (Cotten’s character) feels no guilt at all. To him, the elimination of his widows is a dedication, an important sociological contribution to civilization,” Hitchcock told him.  (67)

As Uncle Charlie in “Shadow of a Doubt”:

Her’s to Hold (1943)

While Cotten filmed “Her’s to Hold” with Deanna Durbin, a misunderstanding occurred.

Cotten was out late and had an early morning call for a radio show. He left a message with his wife Lenore that he would be staying in his dressing room (69).

Cotten and Durbin in a scene in "Her's to Hold" with Murray Alper in the background.

Cotten and Durbin in a scene in “Her’s to Hold” with Murray Alper in the background.

When he left his dressing room that morning, he found a security guard waiting outside who greeted him good morning. When Cotten met Durbin that morning in the commissary, he found out she had also stayed overnight in her bungalow.

Hedda Hopper got a hold of the story.

“The item that appeared in Hedda’s column was not the personal kind of reference that one would clip for a scrapbook, or care to preserve in any of those elaborate, leather-bound gift journals inscribed ‘Golden Memories,’” Cotten wrote (71).

After the incident, he called Hopper up and said if his name was mentioned again, he would kick her in the behind. She did and he did.

“The Kick was not a boot that would have carried a football over the crossbar, but neither was it a token tap,” he wrote. “…the contact was positive enough to disturb the flower garden on top of the outrageous hats she was renowned for.”

Since You Went Away (1944)

Cotten on the set of Since You Went Away with Jones. The two starred in four films together. He remained friends with Jones and Selznick.

Cotten on the set of Since You Went Away with Jones. The two starred in four films together. He remained friends with Jones and Selznick.

“Claudette (Colbert) was one of the most complete, humorous, hard-working and delightfully, almost shockingly, honest creatures I’ve ever worked with, Cotten said in his autobiography.

During the filming, Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones were going through a divorce and it was rumored Jones would marry David O. Selznick after the divorce was final.

“Claudette and I, each thinking that we were sitting on a powder keg, remained silent. The picture was not in any way affected by their romance.

The only person on our set who behaved in a rather furtive and giggly fashion was young Shirley Temple. Years later she told me that she had a schoolgirl crush on me.” (56)

Cotten said Temple had tried to convince the director to let her kiss him in the film. But in the movie, it was Jones’s character who had the crush on Cotten.

“The poor girl had to gaze at me adoringly non-stop,” he said.

Niagara (1953)

Cotten and Monroe on the set of Niagara

Cotten and Monroe on the set of Niagara

“I enjoyed her company. I enjoyed working with her,” Cotten said about working with Marilyn Monroe in her first starring role (110).

He said she had an appetite for laughter and was aware of her sense of humor describing her as a “pretty clown.”

Cotten recalls hearing about her death and receiving a phone call from the Associated Press for a comment.

“At first I was sure it had to be an accident. Such buoyancy of spirit, such sparkling anticipation, such a happy and comic attitude would deny support to any theory,” he wrote. “But she had such moments of fear and insecurity….As to all the other furtive theories-cover-up, murder, etc. – I have no knowledge or interest in such sordidness. I knew and acted with Marilyn Monroe. I am proud of having that privilege.”

Medina and Cotten in 1962

Medina and Cotten in 1962

Cotten was married to his first wife from 1931 to 1960 when she passed away from leukemia.

He married Patricia Medina from 1960 until his death in 1994. Cotten said she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

“If Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, Patricia’s could launch a million,” he said. “She is possibly the only truly beautiful woman ever to exist who is not disliked by one single person.”

“We are ordinary, extraordinarily lucky people,” Cotten wrote. “For that, all I can say is ‘Amen.’”

Happy birthday, Joseph Cotten, one of the best actors of classic film.

Happy birthday, Jo

Happy birthday, Jo

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Day and MacRae: A forgotten screen team

Doris Day.

The sunny blond who can brighten a day with a smile.

On her birthday, I wanted to remember one of my favorite leading men who starred in five films with her.

But I don’t mean Rock Hudson.

Day and Hudson joined in the late 1950s to create one of Hollywood’s most memorable screen teams.

The two starred in three films together: “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964).

But before Rock entered into the picture, Day was teamed five times with another tall, dark and handsome actor-but this one could sing.

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

Gordon MacRae starred in five films with Day while she was under contract at Warner Brothers. Day was under contract at Warner from 1948 to 1955 and made 17 pictures, according to her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.” (111)

“With pictures assigned to me one after the other, I found myself performing with the same Warner Brothers actors over and over again,” she wrote. “Three pictures with Jack Carson, five with Gordon MacRae, two with Ronald Reagen, four with Gene Nelson. A major studio was really a big repertory company that constantly shuffled its employees around so as to keep them busy as much of the time as possible.” (111)

"Tea for Two" (1950)

“Tea for Two” (1950)

Her first movie with MacRae was “Tea for Two” (1950).

“It was my first movie with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson, two cheerful, amusing young men,” she wrote.

Tea for Two” is based off the play “No, No Nanette.” Day, as Nanette, bets her uncle $25,000, played by S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, that she can say to no to everything for 48 hours. If she wins, she can back her boyfriend’s Broadway show.

Of course there are misunderstandings along the way and affect her romance with MacRae.

Doris Day plays a tom boy in "On Moonlight Bay" before she goes on her first date with McCrae

Doris Day plays a tom boy in “On Moonlight Bay” before she goes on her first date with McCrae

“In those Warner Brothers years, the pictures I enjoyed the most (not the scripts but the fun I had making them) were the nostalgic musicals-Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Calamity Jane,” she wrote. “I liked the old songs, and the good old times that those films captured. I guess I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart.” (117)

Of those films Day listed, Tea for Two, On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon also starred MacRae as her singing boyfriend. Other films they were in together included  “West Point Story” and “Starlift.”

Prior to his films with Day, MacRae starred in a few forgettable films and two June Haver vehicles. “Tea for Two” was his sixth film. Their last film “By the Light of the Silver Moon” (1953) was followed by “Oklahoma!” (1955)-the film he is remembered for today.
My favorite Day-MacRae films are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951) and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953).

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

The two films are a series based on the Booth Tarkington “Penrod” stories but revolve around the sister Marjorie, played by Day. Set at the early 1900s, Day is a tomboy and starts going on dates with Bill, played by MacRae. At first Bill has big, philosophical ideas, saying marriage is stupid.

The first film ends with Bill going to fight in World War I. The second movie picks up when he returns and follows the dilemma of when the two will get married.

The movies are heartwarming and include antics by Day’s little brother Wesley, played by Billy Grey, and her parents, played by Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp.

Though Day and MacRae are not remembered as a great screen team today, I feel they had great chemistry and their voices blended well in musicals.

MacRae’s personal life may have been stormy in his later years, but he had a sunny, boy next door characteristic that worked well with Day’s persona.

Happy birthday to my favorite actress since I was in eighth grade and who consistently puts a smile on my face.

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“She didn’t want to be famous, she wanted to be happy”: Remembering Jean Harlow

**Above quote said by Clark Gable.

Today, Comet is remembering Jean Harlow on her 102 birthday, one of the most beautiful women to grace Hollywood.

“In the first sitting, I fell in love with Jean Harlow,” said photographer Charles Sinclair Bull. “She had the most beautiful and seductive body I ever photographed.”

Harlow paved the way for platinum blondes of the 1950s such as Mamie Van Doren and Marilyn Monroe. She died at the age of 26 in June 1937 of uremic poisoning brought on by acute nephritis.

“She was a square shooter if there ever was one,” Spencer Tracy said.

Harlow off the movie screen

Harlow with a young fan outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1933.

Harlow with a young fan outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1933.

Watching the National Air Races of Los Angeles Municipal Airport in 1933. She raised the flag tobegin the races.

Watching the National Air Races of Los Angeles Municipal Airport in 1933. She raised the flag tobegin the races.

Celebrating the end of Prohibition, Harlow christens a truck load of beer in 1933. Pictured with Walter Huston.

Celebrating the end of Prohibition, Harlow christens a truck load of beer in 1933. Pictured with Walter Huston.

Harlow with fiance William Powell at William Randolph Hearst's birthday party in 1936

Harlow with fiance William Powell at William Randolph Hearst’s birthday party in 1936

Harlow lets out toads for a Horned Toad Derby in 1931.

Harlow lets out toads for a Horned Toad Derby in 1931.

Harlow with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937, celebrating the 55 birthday of President Roosevelt. She was also helping raise funds for infantile paralysis.

Harlow with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937, celebrating the 55 birthday of President Roosevelt. She was also helping raise funds for infantile paralysis.

 

 Harlow Fashion

Harlow was well known for slinky, white satin gowns. In April 2012, Time listed her as one of the top 100 fashion icons of all time.

Harlow

Harlow in her signature style of a slinky gown

Harlow in a suit designed by Adrian, who shares a birthday with her

Harlow in a suit designed by Adrian, who shares a birthday with her

Harlow in fur

Harlow in fur

Harlow in shorts

Harlow in shorts

Harlow in 1933. A gold and sequined gown with an Oriental influence

Harlow in 1933. A gold and sequined gown with an Oriental influence

Harlow in 1933 in riding clohes

Harlow in 1933 in riding clothes

Harlow on set of film "Personal Property" in 1937

Harlow on set of film “Personal Property” in 1937

Harlow and furry friends 

It’s said Harlow was a lover of animals. On the day Rin Tin Tin died in 1932, jut a month shy of 14, Rinty was no longer strong enough to go to his master’s side. Harlow, who lived across the street, came over and cradled his head in her lap as he died. Years before Lee Duncan had given her one of Rinty’s first puppies.

Harlow and her dachshund Nosey

Harlow and her dachshund Nosey

Jean Harlow hugging her Pomeranian, Oscar

Jean Harlow hugging her Pomeranian, Oscar

Harlow in 1936 with her dog

Harlow in 1936 with her dog

Jean Harlow in 1932 with a Borzoi

Jean Harlow in 1932 with a Borzoi

Harlow in her mother

When Harlow died, her mother estate was left to her mother which worth roughly $1 million.

Jean Harlow with her mother

Jean Harlow with her mother

Harlow and Jean Bello in 1935

Harlow and Jean Bello in 1935

Harlow and her mother in 1932

Harlow and her mother in 1932

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Sessue Hayakawa: Actor and Mazda

Several people in their 20′s who ride in my car ask “Who is Sessue Hayakawa?”

No, it’s not because they recently watched “The Cheat” (1915), but because that is the name of my 2008 Mazda 3.

My car, named for actor Sessue Hayakawa. It lives outside of the Tribune office for 80% of its time.

When I got my car in October, the car needed a Japanese name that was either World War II or old Hollywood related.

Names like Tokyo Rose and Kamakazi didn’t fit and Anna Mae Wong is Chinese, so the great Sessue Hayakawa, who was born on June 10, 1889, seemed like a good name for my new sedan.

Though several of movie goers mainly know Hayakawa from his most famous role in “Bridge Over the River Kwai;” Hayakawa’s roles in the late 1940s to the early 1960s marked a comeback for the actor.

Hayakawa during silent film stardom in “His Birthright” (1918)

Born in Japan to wealthy parents, Hayakawa was the first Asian-American film star in the United States; starting his acting career in 1914.

He became a celebrity after playing an Asian who has an affair with a white aristocrat woman in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Cheat” (1915). After this film Hayakawa was one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.

However, by the 1920s, Hayakawa’s career started to decline as Anti-Asian sentiments began to rise in the United States.

Hayakawa and Alec Guiness in “Bridge Over the River Kwai.” Hayakawa was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

He was in a handful of films from 1932 to 1947, but made a comeback in Hollywood after World War II. Most of his roles were as a Japanese officer in post-war World War II films such as “Three Came Home” (1950) and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” (1957).

From a pirate in “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960) to romancing the silent era’s leading actresses, Hayakawa could do it all. Though his early, prolific career may be forgotten by most, he still left his mark on contemporary film.

Though the name might be a mouthful, I hope to teach passengers in Sessue the Mazda a little bit of film history while they are along for the ride.

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A vigil for Carole

Today marks 70 years since Carole Lombard died in a plane crash in Nevada on her way home from selling war bonds.

She was one of America’s most beautiful, funny and sincere actresses.

I wanted to take a moment and pay tribute to Carole, her films and her patriotism.

If you have Twitter, I would like to try to get #VigilforCaroleLombard trending today. Thank you!

Patriotic Carole: Shortly after America entered the war, Carole Lombard was recruited by MGM’s publicity department to sell War Bonds, according to the History Channel. She was returning home from selling War Bonds in her home state of Indiana when her plane crashed outside of Las Vegas, killing 20 passengers including Carole and her mother. The following photos are from a War Bond Rally where she raised $2 million.

Carole selling war bonds (LIFE)

Singing the "Star Spangled Banner" during a war bond sale. (LIFE)

Selling war bonds (LIFE)

Carole and Clark: It’s no secret that Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are my favorite Hollywood couple. They were married in March 1939 until her death in 1942. Most people, including myself, think that the couple were soul mates.  The two still acted, but seemed to be living a simpler life on their ranch; raising chickens and Clark teaching Carole how to farm. Gable was devastated after her death and began drinking heavily. He enlisted in the Army and told friends that he didn’t care if he came back or not. Carole had a dachshund named Commissioner that followed Clark Gable around after she died.

Hands down favorite photo of Carole and husband, Clark Gable.

Carole and Clark having an intimate conversation.

Beautiful in color on their ranch in San Fernando Valley.

Clark taught Carole about farming, and she was eager to learn.

Gable bought prize winning $20,000 chickens. Unknowingly, Lombard gave these chickens to needy families. Gable joked they had an expensive chicken dinner!

Another all time favorite photo of mine-Clark and Carole quail hunting.

Carole in pigtails, quail hunting.

This is the cutest photo.

Carole and a chicken!

Carole and her dachshund Commissioner.

Carole the movie star: In my opinion, Carole is one of the most beautiful and versatile of the classic Hollywood stars: she could be sexy, hilarious and dramatic. She had flawless skin, golden hair and fabulous style. But she was also one of the guys on set, cussing like a sailor and making jokes.

Carole the glamorous film star.

Carole on the radio. I love her hat and fur. Very glamorous.

Perfect example of Carole Lombard: sexy and hilarious.

I think this is from "Lady By Choice." Feel free to correct me

The look I strive for. My role model.

 Carole Lombard: 1908 – 1942

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My second favorite Day

LIFE 1943

She lights up the screen in every film and her last name is Day. I don’t mean Doris Day, but today’s birthday girl, Laraine Day.

Today would have been Miss Day’s 91 birthday (she passed away on November 10, 2007) and since she is one of my favorite actresses, I wanted to spotlight her talents.

There are a few actresses that I get excited about when I see they are in a movie like Marsha Hunt and Vera Miles.  I always feel like though they may not have a huge role, they really add something to the film.  Laraine Day is one of those actresses.

Laraine was the leading lady to some of Hollywood’s top leading men: John Wayne in “Tycoon” (1947) and “The High and the Mighty” (1954), Cary Grant in “Mr. Lucky” (1943) and Gary Cooper in “Dr. Wassell” (1944) not to mention Robert Mitchum, Lew Ayres, Herbert Marshall and Joel McCrea- several of who were personal friends.

Laraine started out in small westerns like “Arizona Legion” (1939) and “Painted Desert” (1938) opposite silent star George O’Brien. I’ve seen these movies recently and they aren’t anything special.  Laraine is miscast as haughty young women. If I wasn’t watching the movies for her, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to her.

Laraine Day and Lew Ayres as Nurse Mary Lamont and Dr. Kildare

But in 1939, the magic year for movies and several actors, Laraine was in two of MGM’s most popular series films: Dr. Kildare and Tarzan.

Her role in “Tarzan Finds a Son” is only about five minutes long but is memorable, Day and her husband die in a plane crash in the jungle and only their baby survives. The baby is adopted by Jane and Tarzan and named ‘Boy.’

Laraine makes more of a splash with Lew Ayres in “Calling Dr. Kildare” and “The Secret of Dr. Kildare” (both filmed in 1939) as lovely but occasionally snarky Nurse Mary Lamont.  In “Calling” Nurse Lamont is new to the hospital and tries to open young Kildare’s eyes to the conniving Lana Turner.  In “Secret” romance begins to blossom between Kildare and Lamont which continues until Laraine Day wanted off the series and her character was unhappily written out of the plot in 1941.

Laraine Day in the 1940s

During and after the Dr. Kildare series, Laraine Day made several entertaining films such as “And One was Beautiful” (1940), “Keep Your Powder Dry” (1940), “Kathleen” (1941) (with Shirley Temple) and “The Locket” (1946).  All great films, but  largely forgotten today.

Though she was in several high budget films with big stars her talent and fresh faced beauty seemed to be over looked.  According to her New York Times obit, Laraine Day was once asked what was most memorable about her experiences at MGM she said, “I guess getting paid, because I never got a part that would have done anything for me.”

Day was offered the female lead in “It’s a Wonderful Life” but turned it down since she was working on “The Locket.” The role went to Donna Reed (who also had a hard time getting good parts at MGM).  I wonder how that might have helped Laraine’s career.  Day was also promised the lead in Robert Taylor’s first film back from the military, “Undercurrent” (1946), but it was given to Katherine Hepburn. After this, Day didn’t return to MGM, according to IMDB.

Leo Durocher visiting Laraine Day on the set of "Tycoon" in 1947

These days, most people remember Laraine Day more for her marriage to baseball manager Leo Durocher from 1947 to 1960. They even appeared together in a TV segment on “Screen Directors Playhouse” with Jeannette MacDonald.

She wrote a book about being a “baseball wife” and was dubbed “The First Lady of Baseball” though she once told an interviewer that she never liked baseball.

I love Laraine Day, because  she brought something special to the picture even if she wasn’t the lead actress. For example in “I Take this Woman” (1940) I wanted to pay more attention to and learn more about Laraine than Hedy Lamarr and Spencer Tracy.

Laraine was beautiful and her smile and acting seemed sincere. Others had said that she was very friendly and smart. I only wish someone would write a biography about her so I can learn more!

Happy birthday Laraine Day, one of the loveliest stars of the 1940s and 1950s!

LIFE, 1945

And also happy birthday to Robert Walker and Cornel Wilde-October 13 must be a popular day for stars to be born.

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