Olympic Stars that Didn’t Soar in Hollywood

During the past two weeks, Comet Over Hollywood has looked at Olympic athletes who found Hollywood fame after exhibiting their athletic prowess. Some Olympians were scouted for Hollywood but their stars didn’t rise has high as others.

Eleanor Holm
Eleanor Holm was an Olympic swimmer who competed for the United States in 1928 summer Olympics in Amsterdam where she finished fifth in the 100-meter backstroke. At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Holm won a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke.

Eleanor Holm at the 1932 Olympics

Eleanor Holm at the 1932 Olympics

Between the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, producer Florenz Ziegfeld hired her to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies in Broadway in 1930. She left the show to train for the 1932 Olympics. After the 1932 Olympics, she was placed under contract to Warner Bros. for $500 a week, but despite studio-hired acting coaches, she declared herself a spectacular flop as an actress, according to her 2004 obituary.

Holm was to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and where she would be the first woman to compete on the United States Olympic team three times.

Holm boarded the ship to sail for Berlin for the 1936 games and when she got to Berlin, she was no longer on the team. Olympic president Avery Brundage expelled Holm for breaking curfew and drinking while traveling to Berlin.

“All I did was drink a couple of glasses of champagne,” she told People magazine in 1996. “I was married, singing in a nightclub with my husband’s band. I was not exactly a child.”

In 1938, Holm starred aside fellow Olympian Glenn Morris in “Tarzan’s Revenge.” This was the only film she was in. After this she married producer Billy Rose from 1939 to 1954. She starred in Rose’s New York World’s Fair Aquacades, swimming with fellow Olympian gold medalists Johnny Weissmuller in the 1939 show and Buster Crabbe in 1940.

Olympians Eleanor Holm and Glenn Morris in "Tarzan's Revenge" (1938)

Olympians Eleanor Holm and Glenn Morris in “Tarzan’s Revenge” (1938)

 

Glenn Morris at the 1936 Olympics

Glenn Morris at the 1936 Olympics

Glenn Morris
Glenn Morris competed on the United States team at the 1936 Berlin summer Olympics and won a gold medal for the decathlon. After the Olympics, Morris had a brief Hollywood career.

His film career started with an uncredited role in “She Married an Artist” (1937) at Columbian Pictures, and he was the fourth Olympian to play Tarzan.

Distributed through 20th Century Fox, Morris starred in a low budget Tarzan film, “Tarzan’s Revenge” (1938) which co-starred with Olympic swimmer Eleanor Holm.

After the Tarzan film, Morris acted in one more film, “Hold That Co-Ed” (1938) before leaving Hollywood.

Murray Rose
Murray Rose is an Australian swimmer who won six Olympic medals at the 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome Olympics. All three of the medals at the Melbourne Olympics were gold and he won a gold medal in Rome as well as one silver and one bronze.

Murray Rose (center) at the 1960 Olympics with his gold medal

Murray Rose (center) at the 1960 Olympics with his gold medal

After graduating from college at the University of California, Rose entered a brief Hollywood career. His first film was the beach movie “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964) with Tab Hunter, Peter Brown, Shelley Fabares and Fabian. Columbia called him “one of the best bets for stardom in a long time,” according to Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969 by Thomas Lisanti.

Murray Rose in "Ice Station Zebra" (1968)

Murray Rose in “Ice Station Zebra” (1968)

From 1964 to 2008, Rose made a total of 10 film and TV appearance including an appearance on the TV shows “Dr. Kildare” and “Patty Duke.” He also had a role in the 1968 film “Ice Station Zebra” with Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnine.

However, he was not passionate enough about acting to continue perusing it, according to his 2012 obituary.

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Olympics to Hollywood: Harold Sakata

Harold Sakata in the 1948 Olympics

Harold Sakata in the 1948 Olympics

You probably know him best as a James Bond henchman with a lethal bowler hat. But Harold Sakata’s career started as an Olympian.

Born in Hawaii, Sakata competed on the United States team in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. Sakata won a silver medal for lifting 380 pounds in the men’s weightlifting portion in the light-heavyweight division.

After the Olympics, he was a professional wrestler under the name of Tosh Togo in the 1950s and 1960s, according to the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

But despite his silver medal winning, Sakata’s athletics aren’t what he’s best known for.

Noticed for his muscular build, James Bond producers hired Sakata to play Oddjob, Auric Goldfinger’s personal bodyguard in the film “Goldfinger” (1964). Oddjob wore a steel-rimmed bowler hat that he would toss at enemies.

Harold Sakata in "Goldfinger" (1964) (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Harold Sakata in “Goldfinger” (1964) (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Sakata played characters named Odd Job in two other films: 4 Schlüssel (1966) and “The Wrestler” (1974). This character was even used in 1970s Vicks cough syrup commercials.

He became so well-known for the Bond character that he even adopted “Odd Job” as his middle name.

He made a total of 30 film and TV appearances, with a recurring role on the TV series “Sarge” (1971-72). However, none of the films were as prominent as “Goldfinger.”

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Esther Williams and the Canceled Olympics

What do you do when you’re an athlete and the Olympics are canceled? Become one of Hollywood’s top stars.

At least, that’s what Esther Williams did.

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17-year-old Esther Williams (third from left) with the Los Angeles Athletic Swim Club team in 1939.

In 1939, 17-year-old Esther Williams was the United States women’s 100 meter freestyle national champion at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championship. She represented the Los Angeles Athletic Club with the winning time of 1:09, which was better than all but one of the swimmers for the next six years, according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The AAU formerly worked closely with the United States Olympic Committee.

Williams was assured a spot on the United States team for the 1940 Summer Olympics which were going to be held in Tokyo, Japan. But the games were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II.

She felt her career as a swimmer was over when the Olympics were canceled and she didn’t receive a swimming scholarship to the University of Southern California, she wrote in her autobiography “The Million Dollar Mermaid.”

She said stardom was her consolation prize.

Swimming to Stardom
She took a job at I. Magnum department store until producer Billy Rose called her at the store asking if she wanted to audition for the Aquacade- a show of music, dancing and swimming in San Francisco.

“You swim very fast,” Billy Rose said when she auditioned.

“That’s what I do, Mr. Rose,” Williams said. “I’m a sprint swimmer. The U.S. 100-meter freestyle champion.”

“I don’t want fast,” he said. “I want pretty.”

Williams was reluctant to take the job in the Aquacade because it would mean losing her amateur standing, which would keep her from ever competing in the Olympics again.

Esther Williams swimming "pretty and not fast" with former Olympian Johnny Weissmuller

Esther Williams swimming “pretty and not fast” with former Olympian Johnny Weissmuller

“Young lady, there’s a war on and there aren’t going to be any Olympic games for a long time,” Billy Rose told her. “You might as well make some money off your talent.”

Due to World War II, there wasn’t another Olympic games until 1948, when Williams was already a top star at MGM.

She swam with former Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who Williams said she had to escape from him after every performance, because he would try to get her out of her swim suit. The Aquacade was not a happy experience. Because of that she repeatedly told MGM that she wasn’t interested in a film career, she said in her autobiography.

“If my experience at the Aquacade with the dingy dressing room and the grabby hands was any indication, they could keep their stardom,” she wrote. “I had a husband, a career at I. Magnin to look forward to, a whole new life. That would be enough for me.”

But Esther Williams eventually relented to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, signed with the studio and was in her first film in 1942. Her career catapulted with the swimming musical “Bathing Beauty” (1944) and she rose to be one of MGM’s top stars.

Esther Williams in "Bathing Beauty" (1944)

Esther Williams in “Bathing Beauty” (1944)

Esther Williams in a synchronized swimming extravaganza in "Bathing Beauty"

Esther Williams in a synchronized swimming extravaganza in “Bathing Beauty”

From 1942 to 1963, Williams starred in 34 films. The swimming musicals were modeled after the novelty ice skating films Olympic ice skater Sonja Henie starred in…but just with swimming.

Williams learned to swim pretty, as Billy Rose advised, and her synchronized swimming numbers were performed in a 25-foot-deep, $250,000 swimming pool on Stage 30, complete with underwater windows, fountains and hydraulic lifts, according to Williams’ 2013 New York Times obituary.

Back at the Olympics
But everything eventually came full circle for Esther Williams and she found herself back at the Olympics.

Williams attended the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics not as an athlete but as a commentator. Synchronized swimming was introduced as an Olympic sport at the 1984 games. Due to Williams popularizing synchronized swimming in her films, NBC Sports asked Williams to join their team as a color commentator. Williams was co-commentator to Donna de Varona, swimmer and 1964 Olympic gold medalist.

Esther Williams co-anchoring with former swimmer Donna de Varona

Esther Williams co-anchoring with former swimmer Donna de Varona

“I was dazzled by the skill of all the athletes and by the underwater technology of NBC’s coverage,” Williams said of the 1984 games. “Some of those girls were underwater for more than half of their five-minute programs and you could see every balletic move.”

Leading up to this, Williams had researched how synchronized swimming could be recognized as an Olympic sport. She also would answer questions and create informational packets for community swimming groups around the country interested in starting a team, she wrote in her autobiography.

In 1956, a synchronized swimming demonstration was held at the Melbourne summer Olympics. But former International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage—who served from 1952 to 1972—complained that they were “all just clones of Esther Williams. That’s not a sport!”

“Despite Avery Brundage’s sexist notions, synchronized swimmers are superb athletes,” Williams wrote in her autobiography. “They have to lean ballet and first do their routines on dry land as exercises. They have to hold their breath for long periods of strenuous activity.”

Swimmers Tracie Ruiz-Conforto and Candy Costie took home gold medals that year.

“I was touched to realize how these girls had seen those movies and gotten together in their groups and wanted to swim pretty and not fast,” Williams wrote. “I was proud to be there when it came into the Olympics. I was proud to be an inspiration, a godmother to a sport. It was a very emotional moment for me. Tears came to my eyes on camera, and I thought, I love every one of those girls in the water.”

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Olympics to Hollywood: Bruce Bennett/Herman Brix

Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix? He went by either name

You may know him as actor Bruce Bennett who played Joan Crawford’s ex-husband in Mildred Pierce (1945) or perhaps as yet another actor who played Tarzan. Others know him by his birth name Herman Brix, which he was using when he won an Olympic silver medalist.

Before the Olympics and Hollywood, Bennett played football for the University of Washington when they competed in 1926 Rose Bowl Game against the University of Alabama. In that game he played against future actor Johnny Mack Brown, who was half back for Alabama. Alabama won the game 20-19.

In 1928, Herman Brix competed on the United States team in the Summer Olympic games in Amsterdam—also attended by Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe—and won a silver medal for men’s shot put in the track and field portion of the games. Brix threw the shot put 15.75 meters, breaking the world shot put record with his toss. But  then his teammate John Kuck followed with a throw that set a new world record. Kuck won the gold.

Herman Brix competing in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

Herman Brix competing in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

1928 Olympic Track and Field Ceremony: USA's John Kuck with the gold, German's Emil Hirschfeld with the bronze and USA's Herman Brix with the silver.

1928 Olympic Track and Field Ceremony: USA’s John Kuck with the gold, German’s Emil Hirschfeld with the bronze and USA’s Herman Brix with the silver.

Bennett started his film career in 1931, putting his football skills to use as a football extra in “Touchdown!” (1931). He broke his shoulder during the filming which kept him from making the United States team for the 1932 Los Angeles games. It also caused him to lose the role of “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932) to another Olympian: Johnny Weissmuller.

Bennett later had the opportunity to play Tarzan in “The New Adventures of Tarzan” (1935) and “Tarzan and the Green Goddess” (1938), billed as Herman Brix.

Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t pleased with Johnny Weissmuller’s inarticulate, “crude” representation and preferred Bennett for the role, according to Bennett’s 2007 New York Times obituary.

Playing Tarzan and billed as Herman Brix

Playing Tarzan and billed as Herman Brix

“So when Mr. Brix’s Tarzan is discovered by explorers in the 1935 movie “The New Adventures of Tarzan,” he intones: “Why, yes, I’m Tarzan, also known as Lord Greystoke. How may I help you?,” his obituary said.

He acted under the name Herman Brix—the name that originally made him famous—from 1931 to 1939. He then changed it to Bruce Bennett and acted in nearly 100 films.

“I realized the name Herman Brix was associated with Tarzan, so I made up a list of seven or eight names and asked people which they liked best. Bruce Bennett was the name I came up with,” Bennett told his 2001 biographer, Mike Chapman.

Along with “Mildred Pierce” (1945), Bennett’s other notable films include “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) with Humphrey Bogart, “A Stolen Life” (1946) with Bette Davis and “Nora Prentiss” (1947) with Ann Sheridan.

While Hollywood and acting was a large part of his life—from 1931 to 1973— so were athletics. When Bennett passed away, he requested memorial donations to the Olympic Committee.

Billed as Bruce Bennett with Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce" (1945)

Billed as Bruce Bennett with Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce” (1945)

But he was most proud of his marriage to his wife Jeannette for 67 years, who passed away in 2000, he told the University of Washington Alumni Magazine in 2002.

It’s a little confusing about which name to call him. He rose to fame as an athlete with the name Herman Brix and his Hollywood career was most profitable with the name Bruce Bennett. His son Christopher Brix told the Los Angeles Times in 2007 that he answered to either name.

“He’d answer to either name,” Christopher Brix said. “I think he was proud of both.”

He went by either Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix. Pictured in 1993 with his shot put and a photo of himself from the Olympics.

He went by either Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix. Pictured in 1993 with his shot put and a photo of himself from the Olympics.

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Olympics to Hollywood: Buster Crabbe

Johnny Weissmuller wasn’t the only swimming Olympian to play Tarzan. There was also Clarence “Buster” Crabbe.

Crabbe and Weissmuller knew each other before their Hollywood days and were competitive.

Crabbe developed his swimming (and surfing) prowess while growing up on a pineapple plantation in Hawaii. His athleticism didn’t stop there. He was even the light-heavyweight boxing champion at the University of Hawaii, according to his Los Angeles Times 1983 obituary.

Buster Crabbe at the 1932 Olympics

Buster Crabbe at the 1932 Olympics

Crabbed competed on the United States Olympic team with Weissmuller at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.  Crabbe won a bronze medal for the men’s 1500 meter freestyle.

But in 1932 Crabbe’s luck changed. He competed again at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and this time won a gold medal for the men’s 400 meter freestyle.

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Olympics to Hollywood: Johnny Weissmuller

Today, most Olympic fans in the United States are proud of Michael Phelps, who has broken records for both swimming and amount of gold medals won in one Olympic game.

But in the 1920s, the same pride and idolization was for another swimmer: Johnny Weissmuller, one of the first international swimming superstars.

Johnny Weissmuller in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Johnny Weissmuller in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Weissmuller is best known now for swinging through trees with his signature yodeling yell and speaking in broken English in the film role of Tarzan the Ape man. But his fame began as an Olympic swimmer.

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Why Bernard Herrmann left the Academy

Actress Mary Astor presents Bernard Herrmann with the Academy Award for Best Score for "All That Money Can Buy."

Actress Mary Astor presents Bernard Herrmann with the Academy Award for Best Score for “All That Money Can Buy.”

Bernard Herrmann is a name most avid film lovers know.

Even someone with little film knowledge is aware of his Psycho (1960) score.

You might hear film historian Robert Osborne mention his scores in an introduction to a film on Turner Classic Movies, or read an article where a musician discusses Herrmann’s influence on their album. But for someone highly revered today, Herrmann didn’t feel well respected by his contemporaries during a radio and film music career that spanned from 1934 to 1975.

Bernard Herrmann came to Hollywood in 1940 with a bang. In a time when the flowery and lilting film scores of composers like Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold were king, Herrmann provided something different.

His first two films—Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) and William Dieterle’s All That Money Can Buy/The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)—yielded Academy Award nominations for Best Score. Herrmann won his first and only Oscar for All That Money Can Buy.

Some of Herrmann’s film scores included Jane Eyre (1943), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), his personal favorite; and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) but they also were overlooked by the Academy.

His third Academy Award nomination was for the 1946 film Anna and the King of Siam. For this film, Herrmann did extensive research on Siamese scales and melodic phrases to capture the geographic tone of the film, according to “A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann.”

Bernard Herrmann with director William Dieterle looking over the Academy Award winning "All That Money Can Buy" score.

Bernard Herrmann with director William Dieterle looking over the Academy Award winning “All That Money Can Buy” score.

But the Academy Award for Best Score that year went to Hugo Friedhofer score for the post-World War II drama Best Years of Our Lives. It was 29 years before Herrmann was nominated again for an Academy Award, and then it would be posthumously.

Some of Herrmann’s most famous scores include those he created when he teamed with director Alfred Hitchcock for Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest. This proved to be Herrmann’s greatest artistic collaboration. However, none of those were every recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Hitchcock himself was nominated five times, but never received an Academy Award for Best Director. The only Academy Award Hitchcock received was the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968.

While he worked as a film music composer, Herrmann perceived himself as a failure, because he never felt he reached his full potential by being a world-class symphony conductor. Film music was low-brow to Herrmann. However, he did see the value in film music.

“Movies need the cement of music: I’ve never seen a movie better without it,” he said. “Music is as important as photography.”

As his career advanced into the 1960s, Herrmann started to distance himself from Hollywood. Herrmann and Hitchcock had a disagreement and parted ways, never to work together again. More films were calling for pop standard-like film scores to sell records, and Herrmann wasn’t willing to lower his artistic standards to make a buck.

“If I were starting my career now, I’d have no career in films,” Herrmann said. “I don’t like the new look in film scores. They have nothing to do with the movie.”

Composer Bernard Herrmann with director Alfred Hitchcock, one of his top artistic collaborators who he later had a falling out with.

Composer Bernard Herrmann with director Alfred Hitchcock, one of his top artistic collaborators who he later had a falling out with.

All of these changes moved Herrmann to resign from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967, because he “did not approve of music being listed as a technical credit,” according to Smith’s book.

“There’s no point to belonging to an organization in which one is judged by one’s inferiors—not one’s peers,” Herrmann was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. “It was Tolstoy who said ‘Eagles fly alone and sparrows fly in flocks.’ But I’m afraid we eagles of the world are being pushed into sanctuaries.”

Herrmann experienced a career resurgence in the 1970s, when new directors like Brain De Palma and Martin Scorsese sought him out. He passed away on Christmas Eve in 1975 after completing recording for Taxi Driver.

In 1977, Bernard Herrmann was posthumously nominated for Academy Award for Best Score for the films Taxi Driver and Obsession. Jerry Goldsmith won the award for The Omen.

“I remember Charles Ives (composer and Bernard Herrmann’s friend) saying ‘Prizes are for boys, and I’m a grown-up,” said Bernard Herrmann’s daughter, Dorothy in Smith’s book. “I believe Daddy had that same attitude.”

Dorothy said many years later when her father came across his Academy Award, he looked surprised “as if he had forgotten he had even won it.”

Listing of Herrmann’s Academy Award nominations: 

Year Award Film
1942 Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture Citizen Kane (1941)
1942 Won for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture All That Money Can Buy (1941)
1947 Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
1977 Nominated for Best Music, Original Score Taxi Driver (1976)
1977 Nominated for Best Music, Original Score Obsession (1976)

To learn more about Bernard Herrmann, follow the upcoming documentary Lives of Bernard Herrmann on Twitter and Facebook

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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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Hollywood Capers: Stolen Academy Awards

In the film industry, the Academy Award is the symbol of the most outstanding and top-notch artists in the film industry, from cinematographers to sound to acting. So it’s no surprise these gold Cedric Gibbons-designed statues are auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But some prefer to take a different route of obtaining an Academy Award for their memorabilia collection: theft.

A few classic stars were relieved of their Oscars–Some a prank, some were returned and others still are surrounded with mystery.

Alice Brady: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for “In Old Chicago” (1937)
Character actress Alice Brady won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the 1937 film “In Old Chicago.” The ceremonies were held on March 10, 1938, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Brady had recently broken her ankle on the set of “Goodbye Broadway” (1938) and was not able to attend the ceremony, according to Actress of a Certain Character by Axel Nissen. Her Oscar was accepted by a man who said he was acting on her behalf, who disappeared with the Academy Award plaque and the award was never found.

Alice Brady receives her Best Actress in a Supporting Role replacement award from Charles Winniger.

Alice Brady receives her Best Actress in a Supporting Role replacement award from Charles Winniger.

The Academy issued a replacement award for Brady later that month, which was presented to her by actor Charles Winninger in an informal ceremony, according to the United Press news brief, “Alice Brady Given Academy Award,” published on March 23, 1938.

Brady’s replacement was later sold in 1993 in an auction, according to according to an Oct. 2, 1992, article by Bruce Chadwick in the New York Daily News “More Academy Awards are finding their way to the auction block.”

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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.

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