Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Make Mine an Old Fashioned.

We all know that there is a multi-billion dollar industry out there these days to stalk, capture, and report on every minuscule and paltry detail of the lives of the rich and famous. To me, 99.9% of that crap is boring, trite, unbelievable, inaccurate, or just plain useless. Creating "celebrities" out of ordinary idiots who are stupid enough to put themselves out there in any and all ways possible, in order to be found "entertaining" and appealing to the masses, is ridiculous. So much of what is broadcast and published now is just trash! Am I getting old and cynical? Maybe.....

I've always been fascinated by the glamour days of Old Hollywood. The eras when stars were discovered based on talent and ability seem light years from the insanity that permeates the movie industry today.Think of William Powell and Myrna Loy; Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire; Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart; Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn; Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Vivian Leigh......the list goes on and on. Of course times and society have changed over the past 80 years, but I would still rather admire the icy appeal of Susan Hayward, or the smoldering charm of Robert Taylor.

We've all heard the old tales of the flawed escapades of Errol Flynn, the family dysfunction of Bing Crosby and almost all of the Hustons, and the tragic downward spirals of the likes of James Dean, Judy Garland, and -- of course -- Marilyn Monroe. The stories and revelations behind the old stars' true lives read today almost like part of the myth; whereas the news and gossip of current celebrities read more like an embarrassing tattle-tale of purposeful debauchery and inexcusable bad behavior. Not to say that the problems and foibles of the old regime are any more acceptable and appropriate than what goes on now, but it was just reported differently. These items were whispered in office hallways and tea room parlors, not blasted across cheaply printed glossies in the supermarket checkout aisle. Gossip is gossip, no matter how you look at it, but why do we love it and applaud it all the more now that it has become so base and common?  

In another life, I'll be the love child of Veronica Lake
and Robert Montgomery.

I've been reading (very sporadically and recreationally) a book titled The Truth and Nothing But by Hedda Hopper. It is an old garage sale find my mom picked up not long ago and it is a wonderful and juicy peek into the world of the Hollywood studio era and high society in the early-to-mid 20th Century. A lot of the information provided came from honest, legitimate star interviews......not cellphone photos snapped from city curbs or backstreet doorways. This isn't just tabloid fodder, but it's meant as a true-to-life glimpse into the world of the big screen stars, back in the day. Instead of something like: "GRACE and RAINIER RUDELY SNUB SEVERAL FAMOUS AUTHORS and WORLD PRESS CORPS at MONACO FILM PREMIER!!!!", Hedda's account reads: "At the top table, where [Grace and Rainier] sat among a gaggle of celebrities, there were three empty places. Noel Coward had come from the Riviera with Somerset Maugham, whom he'd been visiting. But Coward and Maugham found themselves consigned to sit alone at a side table, out of Her Serenity's range. Newsmen who'd been flown in for the opening fared worse than Noel. Not a one was asked into the palace for as much as a cup of tea or a handshake." Now, isn't that more compelling and civilized? 

I've really enjoyed reading this book and I have savored a lot of the narrative, the approachable style, and the fluidity of the details and reporting. Not only did they know how to live more glamorously back in Old Hollywood, but clearly they knew how to write more glamorously as well! 

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