As the year comes to an end, our Gossip Girl revisits a fascinating bit of movie star trivia
“MOVIE STARS – they’re just like us!” write the weekly tabloid magazines.
Are they really? Well, today, we’re doing something that is motion picture history — and we’ve taken it from a remarkable press agent named Bob Edison. (We have tried to find Bob to tell him we are stealing his stuff, but we can’t find him — not even when we Google.)
In the year 2000, when Hedy Lamarr died, Bob wrote me a letter that was so unusual it went into the files. It just surfaced, and tells the tale of what happened after the most beautiful star in 1940’s Hollywood had enjoyed her heyday and was, more or less, on her uppers in New York City. I hope we do Mr. Edison justice.
Here goes — (and just for background: Hedy was discovered in 1933 after she fled naked through the Austrian woods in a foreign film called “Ecstasy.” Hollywood grabbed Hedy, taught her English, after a fashion, and made her the leading lady to stars like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Charles Boyer, and Victor Mature. Her big hits were “Algiers” …“Boom Town”…”Comrade X”…” “Ziegfeld Girl” … “White Cargo” … “Sampson and Delilah.” )
EDISON KNEW Hedy in the Seventies ,when MGM was through with her. She’d had six marriages and three children. So, here is Bob’s take on a star who was really big, reduced to nothingness. He writes:
“I am amused by diverse takes on Hedy Lamarr who went to her Maker at age 85. All those reports on her being some sort of a rocket scientist who ‘invented’ a sensitive, anti-jamming device for submarines in World War II – well, the stories are hilarious. She was the greatest beauty ever seen in Hollywood. She was brainy, yes – but an inventor? She was actually delightfully scatterbrained and could barely turn on the faucet for herself. She was, however, an expert chess player and the novels personally inscribed to her came from the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. She had this knack for appreciating the ideas of others and taking credit for them.
“She was still world famous but a ‘has been’ when she was taken up by a New York doctor who placed her in a tiny maid’s basement room and trotted her out for parties upstairs. Hedy was very much her own person, funny at that, playing her role with wit and a visible show of condescension.
“Her autobiography ‘Ecstasy and Me’ was so embarrassing to her that she ultimately decided she hadn’t written it and remained humorously detached from what went on around her. She was a mistress at creating turmoil; ‘just call me Eloise. I’m really a naughty little girl who doesn’t know her way around.’
“She was tall and her once-famous ebony hair was then worn in auburn pigtails. In blue jeans, a T shirt and barefoot she’d say, ‘I was never a real brunette. Joan Bennett tried to imitate me, but she had a potato nose while mine was classic. Why do I have it? Why do people always tells me how beautiful I am?’ She would fluctuate from vixen to naïf. In her fruity Viennese accent, she’d say of co-stars ‘I loved Chudy (Judy) Garland but not Lana Turner who thought she was a queen.’ Edison reports he once took Hedy out for coffee; she ordered a Coke. But insisted the drink she got was Pepsi and she referred to the softdrink spokeswoman Joan Crawford as ‘a bitch,’ so she wouldn’t drink it.
“‘Chean (Gene) Tierney, Vivien Leigh and even Snow White were made to look like me,’ she told Edison — but when all made up as her screen persona, she’d complain. “I think I’ll just have a nap. I don’t feel very sultry today.’ Hedy called herself, privately, Mimsy Farmer, saying, ‘What kind of name is that for an actress?’
She’d go on: ‘I was self-conscious about my hands in Hollywood, but Cecile B. DeMille thought I had lovely feet and in ‘Samson and Delilah’ he said I was much braver than Victor Mature. Victor was afraid of that old lion. You know, sometimes I wish my hands were on my feet and vice versa!’
“Hedy would phone Edison when her movies were on TV saying, “That hair’s a fall, this was a wig. Spencer Tracy was mean to me. Chimmy (Jimmy) Stewart was a good friend, helped me with my lines. Greer Garson was fun. Louella and Hedda were just two peas in the cabbage patch. Clark Gable was a practical joker but a friend!
“She said that Howard Hughes bought her a house in Benedict Canyon and was possessive and always checking up on her but was self-conscious about his penis size. She claimed she went out with him, though he ‘never laid a hand on me.’
“‘I loved Rita Hayworth, she was so shy if you went to a party, she’d be in a closet with a magazine. What was so pretty about Marlene Dietrich anyway? You know, Louis B. Mayer wanted me to remake all of Garbo’s films, but I only did ‘Comrade X’ with Gable. Listen, I turned down the Bergman role in ‘Casablanca.’ I also didn’t like ‘Laura’ when they sent me the script. Maybe they should have messengered over the sheet music. I did my own singing in ‘My Favorite Spy.’ When you’re rich and beautiful, you’d be surprised at how well you can sing.’”
Thanks, Bob, for this look at a true star!