Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miss Sue Carol

Since it is Sue's birthday today, I figured why not just do hers now. Unfortunately, I haven't seen her films because I can't find any that are available. What I do know is that she was absolutely adorable. I have a few pictures of her and she looks like the quintessential cutesy flapper girl of the 1920s. She also had quite a cutie for a husband! I have visited her grave a couple of times and I love how her name is written in her handwriting on it. She must have been an amazing person inside and out.

Sue Carol was born Evelyn Lederer on October 30, 1906 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Samuel and Caroline were both Jewish immigrants. According to the 1910 Census, Samuel Lederer worked as a liquor dealer.

She began appearing in films in 1927 and was chosen as a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1928 alongside Lina Basquette and Lupe Velez. She appeared in films for the MGM studios.

Her family was quite well off and as a result, she got top treatment in Hollywood. It wasn't all nepotism though. Directors enjoyed working with Sue because she took direction well, worked hard, and was a good actress.

The titles of her films sound like some fun Roaring Twenties films involving flappers and drinking and fun times all around. Win That Girl (1928), Girls Gone Wild (1929), The Exalted Flapper (1929), The Big Party (1930), Dancing Sweeties (1930), She's My Weakness (1930), and Secret Sinners (1930).

In 1937, she retired from acting and opened her own talent agency...the Sue Carol Talent Agency.

Sue Carol passed away on February 4, 1982 from a heart attack in Los Angeles, California.

She was interred next to her third husband Alan Ladd at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. She is in the Freedom Mausoleum in a prime alcove (in my opinion). She is surrounded by Jeanette MacDonald, Nat King Cole, George Burns, and Clara Bow.

Sue was married three times. First to Allen Keefer, a buyer for a Chicago stock yard. They were married until 1929. The exact year of marriage is unknown, but she was pretty young when they married. Later that year, Sue married actor Nick Stuart and the couple had a daughter named Carol Lee. The couple was soon divorced around 1932. Her third and most famous husband was actor Alan Ladd in 1942. They remained married until Alan died from an overdose of alcohol and drugs in 1964. They had a son David and a daughter Alana.

Sue actually helped jump start Alan's career.

In 1933, Sue was involved in a scandal involving the "adoption" of a baby boy in Brooklyn. The boy had disappeared and the family was claiming that the baby was kidnapped by a woman who was representing Sue Carol. Sue was of course cleared of any involvement.

If anyone has or knows how to get a hold of any of Sue Carol's movies, I would greatly appreciate it. I would love to see her on screen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mr. Lon Chaney

17 followers! I dig it! Thanks you guys, it means a lot to me :)

Friday night I went to the Redford Theatre (which is so beautiful, my favorite place to see films) to see The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin. I had seen pictures of Lon in makeup, but when his mask is first pulled off and you see his face, I actually let out a "Oh wow!" Pictures really don't do the job justice. Seeing him interact with other characters and the expressions he made were incredible. I remember thinking that he really was the master and someone truly to admire. Mary Philbin on the other hand...beautiful, angelic face. But her acting was laughably over the top at some points in the film.

Buster Keaton, in my opinion, is the master of slapstick comedy. He did his own stunts and wrote his own films and directed them...etc. Lon did his own incredible, intricate makeup and really became engrossed in the characters he played. He sadly was struck down by illness when he was only 47 years old. It would have been great to see what else he could have accomplished.

Lon Chaney was born Leonidas Frank Chaney on April 1, 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His parents Frank and Emma were both deaf and mute so Lon learned early how to communicate with them through hand gestures and facial expressions. Lon joined older brother John, and they were joined later by brother George and sister Caroline.

In 1902, he began to appear on stage and travel with various theatre and vaudeville shows. He ended up in California in 1910.

He signed with Universal Studios in 1912 and stayed with them until 1917, playing bit roles. He won many of the roles by demonstrating his excellent makeup techniques. He began to gain some notoriety and so he asked for a raise. This was denied. The studio head actually told him that he "wouldn't be worth more than a hundred dollars a week." Needless to say, Lon left the studio.

In 1918, Lon really made his mark on the film industry when he appeared in the film Riddle Gawne. Within a year, he became THE character actor that all others looked up to (They still should! Actors today have nothing on the greats of old Hollywood).

His two most famous films, The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are still notable today for Lon's amazing makeup and characters. He preferred to view his roles as "extraordinary characterizations" rather than just makeup on an actor.

Lon's last film was a talkie, a remake of his 1925 film, The Unholy Three. He actually signed a sworn statement saying that the five main voices heard in the film were all his. So, not only was he an excellent actor in pantomime, but he also had a great talent for voices.

While filming his next movie in 1929, he took ill with pneumonia and eventually was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was said that the cause had been him having inhaled crushed gypsum (being used for fake snow on a film). This may not of helped his condition, but it wasn't the main cause. It eventually surfaced later on that Lon had been a heavy smoker. He underwent aggressive treatments for weeks but to no avail.

Lon Chaney passed away on August 26, 1930 in Los Angeles, California.

He was interred next to his father in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. For reasons unknown, his grave is unmarked.

Lon was married twice. First to fellow actress and singer Cleva Creighton in 1905. He was 23, she was only 16. They had one son in 1906 named Creighton. The marriage began to get rocky after the two relocated to California and in 1913, Cleva attempted suicide by ingesting mercury bichloride (the same thing that killed Olive Thomas). Not only did this attempt fail but it also ruined her singing voice for good. The scandal surrounding the attempted suicide led the couple to divorce in 1915.

Lon's second marriage was to a chorus girl named Hazel Hastings in 1915. There isn't much known about Hazel, but what is known is that hers and Lon's marriage was a good one. The couple regained custody of Creighton who had spent most of his childhood bouncing back and forth from house to house and eventually ended up in boarding school.

Creighton Chaney is better known today as Lon Chaney Jr. He appeared in a number of horror films, including The Wolf Man in 1941. His father tried to dissuade his son from entering show business and encouraged him to go to college instead. Also interesting to note that Jr. was told growing up that his mother had died, and wasn't made aware of the fact that she was still living until after his father died. He himself passed away in 1973 of heart failure.

In 1957, James Cagney starred in the bio-film Man of a Thousand Faces. As usual, the plot of the film is highly fictionalized but it helped revive the interest in Lon that had waned over the years.

Had he not died, he would have starred in Dracula rather than Bela Lugosi. That would have been pretty cool to see........however, Bela IS Dracula.

He was a very private man, and was rarely seen out on the town. But those who worked with him, including Joan Crawford and Loretta Young, he was a great man and very helpful to other actors.

Joan Crawford and Lon

While filming Hunchback at Notre Dame, he wore heavy makeup over one eye and had to go for weeks only using one eye. Because of this, he became very short sighted and had to wear glasses for the rest of his life.

Lon actually wrote the entry on makeup for an edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Supposed to be distantly related to Dick Cheney. That sucks.
Lon and Mary Philbin

"The parts I play point out a moral. They show individuals who might have been different , if they had been given a different chance." ~ Lon Chaney

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Miss Gloria Swanson

I was watching the documentary Swanson and Valentino the other day, and first off, just have to recommend it. Not only does it focus on these two superstars but the clips that it shows are amazing. For instance, the clips they showed from Valentino's funeral were incredible. You can see Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford walk into the church for the ceremony as well as the honorary pallbearers walking in front of the coffin (which included Fairbanks and Joseph Schenck). The one big surprise was the interview that the documentarians did with Gloria Swanson. I don't know about you, but when I see her, I think of her as being this larger than life diva character like Nazimova or Negri. But, when Gloria talked, she had the sweetest, kindest voice and I loved listening to her talk about her memories of her films. When you hear her talk in Sunset Blvd she speaks like that diva character, but in real life, she was a sweet lady and definitely one of the silent screen greats.

Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Swanson on March 27, 1899 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were Joseph and Adelaide Swanson. Joseph Swanson was a soldier in the US Army, so as a result, the family ended up moving around a lot during Gloria's childhood.

Unlike most of her fellow actors, Gloria did not intend on going into show business. What got that idea into her head was a chance meeting at a film studio in Chicago. She merely went by to check the Essanay studios with her mother and aunt and was asked to come back and appear in a bit part.

She made her film debut in 1914 in The Song of Soul, but only as an extra. Two years later, in 1916, she moved to California to appear in films for Mack Sennett. Even though her film beginnings were in slapstick, it didn't mean that Gloria liked it. In fact, she hated it and tried her hardest to be uncooperative.

In the film Male and Female Gloria filmed a scene where she laid down next to a lion and it put its paw on her back. This was filmed without any stunt doubles to her urging and against the wishes of all who worked on the film.

Within about two years time, her star was rising higher and higher. She appeared with the screen's leading lover at the time (and her good friend) Rudolph Valentino in 1922's Beyond the Rocks. (This film had been declared lost for awhile, and was rediscovered in 2004. How amazing is that? It really gives you hope for the other films considered lost. The film is really good too, I definitely recommend it).

In 1927, she was asked to join the newly established film company United Artists, which had been formed by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith. She chose not to accept and stayed with Paramount. She had free reign there and wanted to keep it that way.

Gloria did make a smooth transition into talkies, but her career stalled. She instead chose to move to New York and appear on stage, start a clothing line, and have her own television show.

In 1950, Gloria had what a lot of old movie stars wish they could have...a second chance at stardom. Surprisingly, a lot of of former silent film stars (like Mae Murray, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer, and Mae West) declined the role of Norma Desmond because they didn't want to play a "has been." Or in the case of Greta Garbo, they just weren't interested at all. Gloria had to submit to a screen test (which she hated) but eventually, she got the part. She was nominated a second time for an Oscar, but lost to Judy Holliday. (Personally, I think they should have given it to Gloria. Yes, Judy did a fantastic job in Born Yesterday and is adorable, but she plays the same characters in a majority of her films. Gloria came back from a film hiatus and nailed it!)

She made a few more films after Sunset Boulevard and still remained involved in the film industry. She wrote articles for magazines and made public appearances. She also penned her autobiography.

Gloria Swanson passed away due to a heart ailment on April 4, 1983.

She was cremated and interred at the Episcopal Church of Heavenly Rest in New York City. And even though her death made headlines that called her "the greatest star of them all," her funeral was attended by family members only.

Oh, where to begin when it comes to Gloria's love life! She was married 6 times! Her first marriage was to actor Wallace Beery. They met while working together for Mack Sennett and eventually married in 1916. The marriage was not a good one, especially considering the fact that Beery got drunk on their wedding night and raped his new bride. She thought things would get better when she found out she was pregnant, but it was not to be. She woke up one morning with a bad stomach, so Beery went to the pharmacy to get her something to ease the pain. Gloria said she remembers waking up later and being told that she had lost her baby. Apparently, whatever Beery retrieved from the pharmacy was some type of poison. They divorced in 1919.

Her second marriage was to Herbert Somborn, president of Equity Pictures. They married shortly after her divorce from Beery in 1919. Apparently it too was not a great marriage from the beginning. Gloria saw Somborn as more of a father figure and companion instead of a husband. They did have a daughter named Gloria (I hate when people do that) in 1920 and later adopted a son Joseph in 1923, during divorce precedings with Somborn.

The third husband was Marquis Le Bailly de la Falaise de la Coudraye (seriously) and they married in 1925. Gloria did conceive his child at one point, but had it aborted, a decision she later regretted. The marriage didn't have any problems at first, until the affairs on both sides started. She had been having an affair with Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy clan, and Coudraye had been seeing actress Constance Bennett, who he would later marry. Gloria and the Marquis divorced in 1931.

On to husband number four! After her divorce from the Marquis was finalized in 1931, she married Michael Farmer. They had a daughter Michelle in 1932, but divorced two years later in 1934.

Husband number five was William Davey who she married in 1945. Apparently Gloria tried to help him with his increasing drinking problem, he was not having any of it, and just packed up and left. The marriage lasted 45 days.

Her sixth and final marriage was to writer William Dufty in 1976. They remained married until her death.

One of her best friends was actress Lois Wilson. She also was once close friends with actress Blanche Sweet, but a guy came between them and a fight erupted, and Gloria never forgave her.

Gloria also had a beautiful singing voice and at one point when she was younger, she considered being an opera singer.

"I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment a star." ~ Gloria Swanson