Brief Encounter: Short Hollywood Marriages

Hollywood marriages are often butt of jokes since they are often extremely short or numerous. While Comet Over Hollywood previously identified more than 70 lengthy and successful Hollywood marriages, there are also some that are remarkably brief. This Valentine’s Day we are focusing on those brief encounters. These classic Hollywood marriages are all under a year, from marriage to divorce or annulment. For example, Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker were married in 1919 and are credited with “the shortest Hollywood marriage” at 6 hours. However, their divorce was not finalized until 1922, so this post will not focus on their marriage. This piece also won’t look at marriages that were shortened by death. Here is a sampling of brief encounters for your Valentine’s Day:

27 Jun 1964, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine at Their Wedding --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

27 Jun 1964, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA — Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine at Their Wedding — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine (June 27, 1964 – Nov. 18, 1964)
Borgnine was the gruff working man in films and Merman was the glamorous Broadway diva. The two met in November of 1963, the same year Borgnine divorced from his wife, Mexican actress Katy Jurado.
Merman was nine years older than Borgnine. After they met, Borgnine started courting Merman.
“I’ve never been in love, really in love, before,” Merman told reporters according to Ethel Merman: A Life by Brian Kellow. “For the first time in my life I feel protected.”
After a six month courtship, the two were married.
“Everyone thinks she’s loud and brash. But she’s the opposite,” Borgnine was quoted in Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman by Caryl Flinn. “She’s soft, gentle and shy. And you know me, I’m ‘Marty.’”
The two married on June 26, 1964, and were separated 32 days later on July 28, 1964.Their divorce was finalized that November.
Merman never gave reasons for the divorce and Borgnine said in interviews it’s because more people knew him than her on their honeymoon.
“Everybody knew me, but they didn’t know Ethel overseas,” Borgnine said in an interview. “The more they recognised me, the madder she got. That’s what hurt her, so she started taking it out on me.
After the divorce, Merman referred to the marriage as “That thing.” In her autobiography, the chapter “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine” is one blank page.

George Brent and Ann Sheridan

George Brent and Ann Sheridan

Ann Sheridan and George Brent (Jan. 5, 1942 – Jan. 5, 1943)
Warner Brothers stars Ann Sheridan and George Brent began exclusively dating in July 1940 while filming “Honeymoon for Three.” The gossip columns soon began predicting marriage, according to the book George Brent: Ireland’s Gift to Hollywood and Its Leading Ladies by Scott O’Brien.
“I read that we will be husband and wife before 1941,” O’Brien quoted Sheridan in his book. “We keep saying that it’s getting mighty close now.”
The two were very different: Brent was much more proper and Sheridan was casual, rough around the edges and rubbed elbows with the hairdressers and men on set, according to O’Brien’s book.
Brent even told reporters in 1941 why he and Sheridan wouldn’t get married. But on Dec. 7, 1941, Brent and Sheridan were having lunch with screenwriter Bess Meredith when the news of the Pearl Harbor attacks came through. Meredith’s son, John Lucas, recalls that O’Brien remarked, “What incentive is there in planning for the future when they don’t know what will happen in the next week or year.”
It’s suggested that the war motivated their decision to get married, and the two were married shortly after the New Year in Palm Beach, Fla.
However, their separation was announced in September 1942.
“This is an amicable separation. It is caused by divergent interests of our separate careers,” according to a Sept. 28, Associated Press news brief “Ann Sheridan and George Brent to Go Separate Ways.”
Ann told media that they had differing likes and dislikes and also partially blamed Brent’s shyness, as she liked to go out and mingle with people.
“We simply had too many odds against us,” she said, quoted in O’Brien’s book. “A marriage cannot last if one tries to dominate the other’s life.”

Angela Lansbury and Richard Cromwell (Sept. 27, 1945 – Sept. 11, 1946)
At age 19, actress Angela Lansbury married 35 year old actor Richard Cromwell. Cromwell’s career was on the downslope and Lansbury didn’t know at the time that he was gay.
Cromwell met Lansbury when he was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard, according to a Sept. 22, 1945, news brief, “Angela Lansbury to wed Richard Cromwell.
Rumors say that she came home to find Cromwell with a man, according to Darwin Porter’s “Howard Hughes: Hell’s Angels,” but several other sources say Cromwell left Lansburg a note; apologizing and saying he couldn’t go on with their marriage.
“I didn’t know until we were separated that he was gay,” Lansbury was quoted in Porter’s book. The two remained friends until Cromwell’s 1960 death.
The Associated Press reported in September 1946, in the news brief “Miss Lansbury Sheds Richard Cromwell” that Cromwell told Lansbury to get a divorce and “she obliged.”
“I can’t share my life with anyone,” Cromwell was quoted in the Sept. 12, 1946, news brief.

Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue

Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue

Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue (Jan. 4, 1964 – Sept. 8, 1964)
Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue starred together in their first film “Rome Adventure” (1962) and then starred together in “A Distant Trumpet” (1964).
The two were together for three and a half years, from the time they started dating to their divorce, according to Dec. 5, 1964, article “Divorcee Suzanne Pleshette is the Marrying Kind.”
“Yes, we were really married, but it only lasted a few months, so it’s not really worth answering in detail,” Donahue said.
A July 1, 1964, news brief said Suzanne Pleshette sued Donahue for mental cruelty, but she did not ask for alimony. They separate on June 13.
“One item that can be broken, and broken more than once, yet keep on functioning is the human heart,” Pleshette said after their divorce.
“There was no bitterness,” Pleshette said in the Dec. 5, 1964, article. “We’re still very friendly.”

Elizabeth Taylor with first husband Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, Jr.

Elizabeth Taylor with first husband Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Jr.

Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad Hilton Jr. (May 6, 1950 – Jan. 29 1951)
Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Jr., was Elizabeth Taylor’s first husband. Hilton, 22, first saw Taylor, 17, at the Mocambo while she was with Jane Powell’s wedding party. Taylor’s fiancé, Bill Pawley, had just broken off their engagement and she was desolate.
Hilton met the approval of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and came to their home for dinner. During most of their dates, Taylor’s and Hilton’s parents were present, and Elizabeth wasn’t entirely interested in Hilton’s romantic advances because she was still pining for Pawley, according to the book Elizabeth Taylor by John B. Allan.
Taylor was 18 when she married Hilton. While some believed she married him in revolt to her mother, Taylor later said this wasn’t true. If it was, she would have married one of her other boyfriends, according to Allan’s book.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where Taylor was under contract, arranged the wedding and stars such as Ginger Rogers, Greer Garson, Esther Williams, Dick Powell and Ann Miller were part of 700 guests. At her wedding, Elizabeth had her first glasses of champagne, according to the book “Elizabeth” by J. Randy Taraborrelli, exhibiting how young and inexperienced she was at the time.
The honeymoon last five months and the marriage lasted only seven months, according to Allan’s book. During their honeymoon, Conrad drank and gambled in Monte Carlo, leaving Elizabeth alone.
In December 1950, Taylor filed for divorce.
“I am very sorry that Nick and I are unable to adjust our differences and that we have come to a final parting of ways. We both regret this decision, but after personal discussions we realize there is no possibility of reconciliation,” Taylor said.
Elizabeth didn’t ask for any for any alimony because she “didn’t need a prize for failing,” according to Taraborrelli.
Of Taylor’s eight marriages, her only other brief marriage included the second marriage to Richard Burton which lasted from Oct. 10, 1975 to July 29, 1976, when they divorced a second time.

Actor-Director Dennis Hopper with fiancee Michelle Phillips shown as they arrived for the Academy Awards. April 7, 1970, Hollywood. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Actor-Director Dennis Hopper with fiancee Michelle Phillips shown as they arrived for the Academy Awards. April 7, 1970, Hollywood. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Michelle Phillips and Dennis Hopper (Oct. 31, 1970 – Nov. 8 1970)
Actor Dennis Hopper and Michelle Phillips, model and band member of the Mamas and the Papas, were married for eight days.
This time period was a particularly wild time during Dennis Hopper’s career and the eight days he Phillips were married is no exception, according to a 2007 Vanity Fair article.
In the 2007 Vanity Fair interview, Phillips did not share much about their brief marriage, except calling Hopper’s behavior “excruciating.”
When Phillips left him, her father made her go to a divorce lawyer saying “Men like that never change…It’ll be embarrassing for a few weeks; then it will be over.”

Edmond O'Brien and Nancy Kelly in a publicity still.

Edmond O’Brien and Nancy Kelly in a publicity still.

Edmond O’Brien and Nancy Kelly (Feb. 19, 1941 – Feb. 2, 1942)
Actors Edmond O’Brien and Nancy Kelly eloped to Yuma, AZ, without telling family or friends after being engaged for two years, according to an INS news brief from Feb. 20, 1941, “Nancy Kelly Elopes with Edmond O’Brien.”
Kelly was 19 and O’Brien was 24.
“They hadn’t spoken to each other for two weeks, but that was nothing new,” Nancy Kelly’s mother, Nan, was quoted in the news brief ‘Nancy Kelly Weds, Will Be Back On Job Soon.’ “They had occasionally broken their engagement during the past three years. Edmond invited her to dinner when they agreed to let bygones be bygones, and I guess they just suddenly decided it would be better to get married right away.”
However, by June 1941, it was reported that Kelly and her husband separated, and Kelly went home to her mother.
A Feb. 3, 1942, Associated Press brief reported that Kelly said O’Brien “broke promises he had made when they became reconciled after a previous separation.”

Jean Harlow and her third and last husband, Harold Rosson.

Jean Harlow and her third and last husband, Harold Rosson.

Jean Harlow and Harold Rosson (Sept. 13 1933 – March 11, 1934)
Jean Harlow’s marriage to cinematographer Harold Rosson was her third and last marriage that lasted only 18 months.
There was no evidence that Harlow and Rosson had any feelings for each other. Due to the suspicious death of her husband Paul Bern, Harlow’s mother and the studio were searching for a husband for her, according to the book Jean Harlow: Tarnished Angel by David Bret.
Harlow proposed to Rosson to avoid the studio’s selection of a husband for her, and he accepted. An hour later, they were on a flight to get married, according to the Bret book.
They divorced eight months later.

Lana Turner with first husband Artie Shaw.

Lana Turner with first husband Artie Shaw.

Lana Turner and Artie Shaw (Feb. 13, 1940 – Sept. 12, 1940)
Lana and Artie Shaw met on the set of “Dancing Co-Ed” and the couple did not hit it off. She found him to be arrogant and too serious and he thought she was a brainless star.
However, he asked her on dates and she turned him down. Shaw happened to call one evening after Greg Bautzer stood her up, so she said yes. Shaw wooed her by driving down to Santa Monica and talking about his life philosophies. That same night, on Feb. 13, 1940, the two flew to Las Vegas and got married. According to daughter Cheryl Crane, Lana soon realized she married a stranger–she wasn’t even aware that he had been married twice before, but she tried to make the marriage work. However, Shaw tried to change Lana.
“He was only interested in trying to change me completely,” she said.
The couple fought constantly and were only married for four months and 11 days-from Feb. 1940 to Sept. 1940. He wouldn’t part with a piano Lana’s mother had given them, so she took his clarinet.
During the divorce proceedings, Lana found out she was pregnant, but Shaw said he didn’t believe it was his baby. She decided to get an abortion and Shaw didn’t stop her.

Marie Windsor and Ted Steele (April 21, 1946 – March 6, 1947)
Actress Marie Windsor married bandleader Ted Steele in her hometown of Marysville, Utah, according to a brief published April 19, 1946.
“They’ll still be living with their former roommates. They can’t find a place to live,” the brief reported.
Their marriage was annulled in 1947.

(Betty) Jane Greer and Rudy Vallee at their wedding.

(Betty) Jane Greer and Rudy Vallee at their wedding.

Jane Greer and Rudy Vallee (Dec. 2, 1943 – July 27, 1944)
Before hitting stardom and when her name was still Betty Jane Greer, Greer was crooner Rudy Vallee’s third wife.
Vallee was working as a band leader for the Coast Guard during World War II, and Greer found fame when she modeled the new WAC uniform for national magazines. Vallee saw the pictures and contacted her, saying she should come to Hollywood and was given a contract by Howard Hughes, according to the Aug. 20, 1943, brief. Greer was not in a film until 1945.
After she came to Hollywood, Vallee was Greer’s manager, according to Michael Pitts’ book “The Rise of Crooners.”
An Aug. 20, 1943, INS brief—“Rudy Vallee to Wed After War”—announced that Lt. Vallee was engaged with Betty Jane Greer and they would marry when the war was over. When they were married, Vallee said she had been his pin-up girl ever since he saw her picture on a magazine cover.
The two married in 1943, before the end of the war as Vallee had said, and Greer filed for divorce in March 1944, according to an Associated Press March 7, 1944 article, “Bettyjane Greer to Divorce Rudy Vallee.”
“There’s something about the possessiveness of marriage that hasn’t worked out with us. We were much happier when we were just going together,” Greer was quoted.
Despite their divorce, both “declared: We still love each other,” according to the March 7, 1944, article.
“We will continue to see each other a great deal, but marriage seemed unwise at this particular time,” Vallee is quoted.
Greer didn’t ask for alimony. In the divorce court, Greer testified that Vallee called her “beautiful but dumb,” according to the July 28, 1944, Associated Press article “Betty Jane Greer Wins Freedom.”
“He said I was stupid and had the mind of a child, but I loved Rudy very much and tried to make a go of our marriage, but it was no use.”
In return, Vallee said “Betty Jane is one of the finest persons I have ever known.”

Robert Walker and Barbara Ford

Robert Walker and Barbara Ford

Barbara Ford and Robert Walker (July 8, 1948 – Dec. 16, 1948)
After Robert Walker’s first wife Jennifer Jones divorced him to marry producer David O. Selznick, Walker’s life seemed to go into a downward spiral, and many feel he never got over the divorce. He was self destructive and often drunk, according to the book “Katharine (Hepburn) the Great” by Darwin Porter.
Walker only knew Barbara Ford, daughter of director John Ford, for five or six weeks before they married. Walker and Barbara met at Joanne Dru and Dick Haymes’ home, according to “John Ford: Hollywood’s Old Master” by Ronald L. Davis.
When they were courting, many say Walker seemed like a changed man; happier and willing to work, according to a January 1949 Modern Screen article.
The wedding was against John Ford’s advice, who hoped Barbara would marry Harry Carey, Jr.
However, the marriage only lasted five months.
“Walker, still trying to drown the pain of his 1945 divorce from Jennifer Jones, began physically abusing Pappy’s (Ford) daughter just five weeks after the wedding,” according to the book “Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond” by Scott Allen Nollen.
Ward Bond threatened to “beat the hell out of that goddamned sissy, son of a bitch” but John Ford convinced him not to.
They were divorced by December 1948.

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Mr. New Year’s Eve: Guy Lombardo

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

“Auld Lang Syne” was his theme song.

They called him Mr. New Year’s Eve, and he was part of America’s New Year’s tradition for nearly 50 years.

Before Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest counted down to 12 a.m., January 1, there was Guy Lombardo. Each year, his saxophones would poignantly play “Auld Land Syne” as couples danced, kissed and wished “Happy New Year.”

From the crash of the stock market in 1929 through the bicentennial in 1976, big bandleader Lombardo and his Royal Canadians were a long standing tradition for Americans.

Continue reading

Christmas on Film: “We’re No Angels” (1955)

Guardian angels can come in many forms, and in the film “We’re No Angels” (1955), help arrives from three convicts.

angels3

Early Christmas Eve, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray), Jules (Peter Ustinov) and Adolf the poisonous snake, escape from prison on French colonial Devil’s Island in 1895. Joseph embezzled money and Albert and Jules are murderers. They are able to blend in easily in the town in their prison clothes, as many paroled convicts work out in the open.

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A Gift from Comet Over Hollywood

Almost every Christmas for the past four years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

This year — as my gift to you — my mother and I re-enacted one of my favorite Christmas scenes from a classic film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved making it.

For context, here is a snippet from the trailer.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Cary Grant’s “Christmas Lullaby”

late 1940s --- Cary Grant --- Image by © CinemaPhoto/Corbis

Cary Grant in the 1940s

Cary Grant is often noted as one of the best and most attractive actors of all-time. His film resume includes some of Hollywood’s best films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946) to the comedy “His Girl Friday” (1940).

But out of all of that, Cary Grant said his best production was his daughter Jennifer.

Grant became a father for the first time at age 62 with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon. The two were married from 1965 to 1968. Grant retired from films in 1966 when Jennifer was born; a career that began in 1932 and ended with the film “Walk, Don’t Run.”

Grant doted on his daughter and this is exhibited in the only record he ever made, “A Christmas Lullaby,” which was recorded for her. The 45 was made through Columbia Records and the b-side included the song “Here’s to You.”  Continue reading

Christmas on Film: Junior Miss (1945)

junior missThe same year Peggy Ann Garner performed her award winning role in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the 13-year-old actress found herself in a coming of age comedy, “Junior Miss” (1945).

Similar to “And So They Were Married” (1936), Christmas is merely a backdrop to adolescent antics in “Junior Miss” (1945), but the holidays play larger roles in this coming of age film.  Continue reading

Musical Monday: Shower of Stars presents A Christmas Carol (1954)

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It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Shower of Stars” presents “A Christmas Carol” –Musical #537

Fredric March as Ebenezer Scrooge and Christopher Cook as Tiny Tim in a 1954 TV adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"

Fredric March as Ebenezer Scrooge and Christopher Cook as Tiny Tim in a 1954 TV adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”

Studio:
CBS Television Network

Director:
Ralph Levy

Starring:
Fredric March, Basil Rathbone, Bob Sweeney, Christopher Cook, Craig Hill, Queenie Leonard
Themselves as hosts: William Lundigan, Mary Costa

Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley

Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley

Plot:
Set in 1840 London, this is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (March) is warned by the ghost of his friend Marley (Rathbone) that he need to change his ways or he will end up chained to his sins. On Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by ghosts to show him his past, present and future life to convince him to change.  Continue reading

Baby, It’s Not a Christmas Song

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What started out as a song to get party guests to leave is now a Christmas favorite that has come under some scrutiny in recent years.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has evolved into a song never left off a Christmas album. The catch? When it was written in 1944, songwriter Frank Loesser wasn’t thinking of the holidays.

Frank Loesser and wife Lynn Garland in 1956 performing their song.

Frank Loesser and wife Lynn Garland in 1956 performing their song.

Loesser originally wrote in the song to only be performed at parties with his wife, Lynn Garland. The duet—labeling the parts wolf and mouse—involves a man trying to convince a woman that she should stay, because it’s snowing outside. She says no, until she relents at the end.  Continue reading

Christmas on Film: “And So They Were Married” (1936)

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and so they were marriedBefore twin Hayley Mills were trying to get their parents together in “The Parent Trap” (1961), Jackie Moran and Edith Fellows worked to keep their parents apart in “And So They Were Married” (1936).

In this fun, comedic romp, divorced Edith Farnham (Mary Astor) and her daughter Brenda (Fellows) are spending the Christmas holidays at a the gala opening of a ski lodge. Because of Edith’s divorce, both she and Brenda are anti-men.

Widower Stephen Blake (Melvyn Douglas) is also heading to the same lodge, and tail rides their car up the mountain. This leaves both Edith and Brenda with a sour taste and no interest in socializing with Stephen.

After they all arrive at the ski lodge, an avalanche occurs and the three are the only guests at the new hotel for a few days until the roads can be cleared. Brenda develops a cold, forcing Stephen and Edith to eventually socialize, and they begin to fall in love.

Edith (Astor) and Stephen (Douglas) eventually like each other.

Edith (Astor) and Stephen (Douglas) eventually like each other.

Once the roads open, Stephen’s son Tommy (Jackie Moran) joins him at the lodge. Brenda and Tommy instantly dislike each other and constantly fight.

When the two children realize their parents are thinking about marriage, they decide this is terrible and purposefully argue and act like they hate each other to keep them apart.

The two act like little wretches but make a truce on Christmas Eve and Day so they are still able to get their presents. However, this backfires when the two begin smashing tree ornaments over each other’s heads and eventually short out the Christmas tree lights; causing all electricity in the ski lodge to go out.

Their bad behavior ends up in a fight and the separation of Stephen and Edith. Back home, both children realize they make a mistake as they watch their miserable parents. The two run away to bring their parents back together in their “hour of need.”

Scenes from the Christmas tree fight: Jackie Moran mistakenly believes Edith Fellow hits him with an ornament, Edith fellows is in shock after their agreement, parents try to separate the fighting children

Scenes from the Christmas tree fight: Jackie Moran mistakenly believes Edith Fellow hits him with an ornament, Edith fellows is in shock after their agreement, parents try to separate the fighting children

“And So They Were Married” is a lot of fun. Alluding that Astor and Douglas’ characters end up together isn’t too much of a spoiler, since the title tips you off to what happens. Edith Fellows and Jackie Moran play perfect brats and Mary Astor and Melvyn Douglas were never bad in any of their films. Character actor Donald Meek is also delightful in the film, constantly lamenting that “These things never happened at my hotel in Palm Beach.”

In some films, children acting like brats can be annoying, but I find it funny in this film—maybe because I love both of the actors. I think my favorite gag is when Tommy’s dog—that he’s hiding in the hotel—runs downstairs in a group of people.Brenda washed the dog’s mouth out with soap for barking and guests run screaming, thinking he is rabid.

Christmas is really just a backdrop for “And So They Were Married” and isn’t often discussed. There isn’t any fuzzy, good-will-toward-men holiday sentiment. However, I consider it a Christmas film since the climax deals with a Christmas tree-even if it is two children violently destroying it.

The same year this film was released, Mary Astor was in a nasty custody battle for her daughter Marilyn, with her husband Dr. Franklyn Thorpe. Thorpe said she was an unfit mother based on torrid diary entries about her affair with George S. Kaufman. A passage was leaked to the press and it could have ruined her career, but her fans rallied around her and Astor still ended up on top—winning an Academy Award for “Great Lie” (1941), according to TCM host and film historian, Robert Osborne.

But while Astor and Douglas are the stars of this film, it’s the children that steal the show in this one.

“And So They Were Married” (1936) may not be a classic Christmas film or even a major budget comedy, but it’s an enjoyable little film that you shouldn’t miss.

Publicity photo of Mary Astor, Edith Fellows, Jackie Moran and Melvyn Douglas in "And So They Were Married."

Publicity photo of Mary Astor, Edith Fellows, Jackie Moran and Melvyn Douglas in “And So They Were Married.”

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A “Wild Christmas” with Mae West

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Mae West in a publicity photo for "Go West Young Man" (1936)

Mae West in a publicity photo for “Go West Young Man” (1936)

Mae West, known for her buxom figure, long Gibson-girl like gowns and sultry voice, slinked through 1930s films throwing around phrases like “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”

But after only 10 films from 1932 through 1940, Mae West’s film career wanned after being dubbed “Box Office Poison” in 1937–others on this list included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Katharine Hepburn.

West worked to remain relevant by acting on the stage and radio. By in the 1960s and 1970s, she found herself with a cult following aided by the sexual revolution, according to No Applause–Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous by Trav S.D.

Cover of West's first rock and roll album, "Way Out West."

Cover of West’s first rock and roll album, “Way Out West.”

To stay in the public eye with the younger crowds, West began recording rock and roll albums. In 1966 at age 72, she released “Way Out West” through Tower Records, which was part of Capitol Records. This was a cover album of contemporary hits such as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Daytripper.” Sales of “Way Out West” reached the Billboard Top 200 at #116.

Following the success of her first record, West released “Wild Christmas” in 1966, a rock and roll Christmas album for Dagonet Records. This album includes Christmas hits like “Santa Baby” and original Christmas songs like “Santa Come Up and See Me,” playing off West’s famous film quote. She also covers the Beatles’ “With Love From Me To You,” loosely connecting it to Christmas.

I guess the Beatles’ didn’t mind West’s covering their songs, since they wanted to feature her on the cover of their 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.” West initially declined saying, “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” But relented when they wrote her a personal letter.

Give It a Listen:

Cover of West's second rock and roll album, "Wild Christmas"

Cover of West’s second rock and roll album, “Wild Christmas”

While I thought “The Ventures” Christmas album was unique, there is nothing quite like “Wild Christmas.” It’s both horrifying and hilarious. At moments, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry, while I’m sure I was making awkward, alarmed faces.

However, I’m also not sure if I should feel happy or sad while on listening to this album. West was maintaining her time in the spotlight, which she wanted, but was it at the cost of being laughed at? Was this something she legitimately wanted to do or was this similar to actors making low budget horror films late in their career (See: Die, Die My Darling and Hot Rods to Hell). Unfortunately, very few sources gave her feelings about these albums and glossed over them, merely listing that they were recorded.

After “Wild Christmas,” West recorded one last rock and roll album in 1972 at age 79 called “Great Balls of Fire.” This time, she covered The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

For an added bonus, check out this humorous performance with Mae West and Rock Hudson, performing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” This song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1950, originally appearing in “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949).

What are your thoughts on Miss West’s album? Will you be incorporating this into your Christmas music playlist?

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