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Scott O'Brien Q & A on Ruth Chatterton

Past chats with our guests.

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oscotto
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 27th, 2013, 7:16 pm

Fernando – thanks for the fine compliment! And you … I’ve very much appreciated some of the translation work you have so graciously offered. :wink:

In her autobiography Davis mentioned how nervous she was at the prospect of working with Chatterton. She had a great deal of admiration for her--a theatrical legend. Chatterton put Bette at ease during the filming of The Rich Are Always With Us, and afterward Davis sang her praises. In 1941, Davis tried to persuade Jack Warner to star Ruth in Mr. Skeffington. Even George Brent went to bat for Ruth. Too bad it didn’t happen. In 1951 Ruth was touring in O Mistress Mine. Bette Davis made a point to attend a performance in Ogunquit, Maine. (I'll wager it was a fun reunion) In 1959, Ruth listed Bette Davis among the people from her Hollywood years that she still considered friends. You probably know that Bette had a huge crush on George Brent while working on The Rich Are Always With Us. She had no choice but to sit back and watch him fall in love with Ruth off-screen.
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 27th, 2013, 7:24 pm

You’re welcome Christy – I sometimes think “Oh, they probably know that already.” I’m glad there is some element of surprise to what I’m sharing. :)

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 27th, 2013, 9:25 pm

Definitely!
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feaito

Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby feaito » June 28th, 2013, 8:20 am

Scott, Thanks for your answer and your kind words.

Do you know what were Ruth feelings concerning her everyday life as a Warner Brothers star in comparison with her previous status and life at Paramount? I know that she left Paramount because she obtained more money from WB, but I wonder how did her everyday life as a star/actress changed. I have the perception that Paramount was more fashionable, sophisticated and had better premises and assets in general for a pampered movie star than the more "working-class" WB.

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby moira finnie » June 28th, 2013, 8:55 am

Oh, wow! The questions and answers here have provided such interesting reading during your visit. I particularly enjoyed your insights into the research process for your biographies, Scott. Even though I pick on George Brent's performances when given the opportunity, I have become quite fond of "the human tranquilizer" over time, intrigued by the reports of his appeal off-screen and delightfully surprised by some of his less well known performances. Can't wait for his bio next!

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I was so interested in your description of Dodsworth and Ruth's diamond-hard, insightful approach to the role that while reading that portion of your book, it occurred to me that her lack of sentimentality in her characterizations, particularly as Fran Dodsworth, helps to make many of them seem fresh even today. Still, do you think that at the time, it might have contributed to the failure of AMPAS to honor her portrayal of such a repellent if disturbingly familiar human character?

Also, Ruth Chatterton always seems to have been a forward-looking person. Did she ever express any regrets about her choices or nostalgia?


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Also, I would like to ask a little about the ethereal-looking yet quite strong figure of the beautiful and talented Virginia Bruce, whose life was the subject of your last book, Virginia Bruce - Under My Skin. Bruce appears to have been an actress whose career was one of those "might have beens" if only she had a studio more interested in developing her--especially when she worked at MGM. Do you think that she lacked the drive needed to rise in that era?

Is it possible that inadvertently on her part, her timing was a little off in terms of public taste? The golden hair and distant look in her eyes seemed so evocative of a dream-like silent star, yet her clear intelligence and sensuality, especially effective in Winner Take All (1932) and The Murder Man (1935), sometimes seem to have been at odds with what the films of the period demanded. Was she frustrated by the lack of good scripts?

In your book, you quote her early remark in the press that "My chief purpose in life is to fall in love. I don't know why I want to, but I do." In some ways this seems to have been a fatal longing. Her sometimes tumultuous private life appears to have been preoccupied with her marital adventures as the young bride of John Gilbert, being happily married to director J. Walter Ruben, a life that was cut short by his early death, and her painfully loyal bond and marriages to the Turkish-born Ali Ipar, a man who comes across in your book as a suave fortune hunter. How do you think she felt about this aspect of her private life?

Also, why do you think that Bruce's children seemed to drift away from their mother? And did her grandchildren seem to know much about Virginia Bruce's career? Was Ms. Bruce's family surprised by the depth of information that you uncovered in your book?
Thanks in advance for your answers--and thank you so much for visiting with us this week. It has been a pleasure, once again!

Please come back anytime--especially when your new book is published.
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby Professional Tourist » June 28th, 2013, 10:21 am

oscotto wrote:As far as database research, the Library of Congress Media History Digital Library is truly a godsend. And, it’s free! Trade publications, film journals, movie magazines, newspapers—and an easy-to-use search engine.

I have checked the Library of Congress web site ( http://www.loc.gov/index.html ) but could not find a portal into their Media History Digital Library. Also have tried web searches but the sites matched did not appear to be related to Library of Congress. If this is available on the web, would you be able to provide the URL? Thanks in advance if you can. :)

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby Hibi » June 28th, 2013, 10:33 am

Do you have a favorite subject among the actresses you have written about so far? What would you say was the most difficult book to write and why? Thanks.

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 28th, 2013, 11:57 am

Interesting question Fernando – From what I discovered, Ruth was the most pampered star on the Warner lot. Her elaborate bungalow had a smart kitchenette, an elaborate green-carpeted dining room, two fireplaces—you get the idea. She and Brent honeymooned there after their wedding. During 1932-33, she was the Queen Bee at the studio, but was offered mostly an array of poor choices when it came to screen roles. I came across no details about Ruth’s accommodations at Paramount, but when she left, it was considered a big loss for the studio even though her final quartet of films were box-office disappointments.

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 28th, 2013, 12:39 pm

Moira – Brent, the “human tranquilizer”—hadn’t heard that one! After viewing 63 of his films (with more to go!) I will have to admit that I often catch him staring at the camera during a reaction shot and nothing registers. He can be quite wonderful depending on who his co-star is. He’s attractively animated in his work with Chatterton, Kay Francis, Bette Davis (except the god-awful The Golden Arrow), Garbo and Myrna Loy. I especially like him The Go-Getter Jezebel, and The Rains Came.

Ruth was free-lancing when Dodsworth came around. She was “richly tired” (her words) of Hollywood. The AMPAS awards catered to studio politics and stars who relished in the Hollywood spotlight. Many were outraged when Ruth was not acknowledged with a nomination for her performance.

Ruth stated that she had no regrets. She said something to the effect that her “mistakes” gave her life a patina --that she had learned from them.

Virginia Bruce took her work seriously, but her priority was having a steady, nurturing romantic relationship. She wasn’t career driven. Her marriage to John Gilbert put her at odds with Louis B. Mayer. MGM didn’t give her the opportunities she deserved. I think her “dreamy-eyed” looks and smoky voice was perfect for the talking screen. While she could play a temperamental Ziegfield girl with relish, her subdued emotional fire in something like Woman Against Woman (vs. Mary Astor) was impressive.

When I talked with her last husband, Ali Ipar, it was very clear to me what Virginia was up against. He mentioned his “beloved Virginia” and in the same breath wanted to talk about all the other Hollywood lovelies he had wooed. Virginia lost her bankroll on this guy, but it was her choice—a hopeless romantic. :( Bless her! I had the cooperation of Virginia’s nephew (Vincent-grandson of screenwriter Vincent Lawrence) when I wrote the book. I also talked with one of her grandsons (David)—who was completely unaware that his grandparents (Virginia and John Gilbert) had been movie stars until after his own mother passed away. Vincent was especially pleased with the biography – he adored Virginia.

Thanks for asking me aboard SSO Miora! And yes, when my adventure with George is complete, I’ll be back. :wink:

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 28th, 2013, 12:43 pm

For Professional – here is the URL you requested. Have fun! :lol: You’ll be on there for days.

http://archive.org/details/mediahistory

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby Professional Tourist » June 28th, 2013, 12:47 pm

oscotto wrote:For Professional – here is the URL you requested. Have fun! :lol: You’ll be on there for days.

http://archive.org/details/mediahistory

Thank you. I was familiar with that resource, but did not know it was part of the Library of Congress. :)

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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 28th, 2013, 1:11 pm

Hibi – Kay Francis is the sentimental favorite. She seemed to be hovering over me during the whole process. It was fun connecting with her closest friends, Jetti and Lou Ames. They invited me and my partner to stay with them on Nantucket. We also visited them twice in their winter home in Tucson. We felt part of the family. Kay’s personal furnishings were scattered throughout their place on Nantucket. If Kay was anything like this couple she would have easily been someone to cherish.

George Brent has been a challenge because of the mystery surrounding his youth. Fortunately, I’ve had the cooperation of an Irish filmmaker (Brian Reddin) who recently completed a documentary on the actor for Irish TV. Reddin sent me a copy of George’s birth certificate; he talked with locals in Ballinasloe, Ireland; and, guided me on the details of Brent’s participation as a dispatcher in the IRA in 1921. I came across this sheet music from 1926 (George was going by either George Nolan or George B. Nolan) at the time. Looks to me like he must have had a nose-job before Hollywood! What do you think?
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 28th, 2013, 3:47 pm

I agree, Scott! Thank you for your wonderful treasure trove of comments, information and inspiration. I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone's questions and your fascinating responses.
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby moira finnie » June 28th, 2013, 3:53 pm

And he had a GOOD nose job too! How interesting. The Irish stories about Brent should make for some great reading. Is Brian Reddin's documentary about George available to be seen anywhere outside Ireland?
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Re: Welcome To Scott O'Brien!

Postby oscotto » June 28th, 2013, 4:38 pm

Moira - When get an update from Brian on the Brent TV documentary I'll let you know. It's supposed to be broadcast later this summer in Ireland.
Here's Ruth and George ... when they still liked each other. :)
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