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HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Masha » June 17th, 2017, 6:07 pm

I offer congratulations on creating such a wonderful book. I hope that it engenders wider interest in classic movie stars.

I am sorry to say that a question which I have is related tangentially only and I apologize if you feel it is inappropriate: Do you know if any stars made movies as a hobby? I have seen: 'home movies' by and of stars but what I mean here is in the manner of mechanics who build their own hot-rods or machinists who create metal sculptures or sailors who carve model boats.

I have often wondered if any stars of Hollywood had such interest in movies that they wrote, directed and shot their own little movies independent of the studios and/or commercial interests purely for the love of the craft.

I hope that it may be that you discovered photographs in the archives concerning actors' hobby-level moviemaking.
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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby MaryoftheMovies » June 17th, 2017, 6:14 pm

Hi, thank you all for the great questions.

My favorite images would be the cover image
p. 6 Humphrey Bogart playing chess with his scotties
p.22 Elizabeth Taylor - beautiful colors in how it was put together
p. 88 a true candid of Tyrone Power and Lana Turner caught in the middle of a laugh
p. 120 Matthew Beard in his little car, it is so sweet, particularly because not many stills were shot of African American stars
p. 166 a true posed studio still, but so artfully arranged with all the beauties with their feet on bowling balls and surrounding the bowling expert
p. 200 Charlton Heston holding a rifle almost cocked, so perfect of an illustration of his line about taking a gun out of his cold, dead hands
p. 204 cute image of William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd and Ginger Rogers clowning around on set
p. 234 Fred Astaire even graceful playing tennis

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby MaryoftheMovies » June 17th, 2017, 6:23 pm

HI Moira, thanks for your intriguing questions. Actors were looked on skeptically as the industry took off in the 1910s and 1920s, so stars and actors often formed their own clubs to feel at home as well as not to feel gawked at by the public. There was the 233 Club, the actors' own Masonic branch, the 400 club and later the Mayfair Club, exclusively clubs for actors to socialize, dance, attend lectures, and so on, the Hillcrest Country Club, formed by Jewish actors who weren't accepted at regular country clubs and the like. While if the stars were out in public or with people they didn't know they would have to maintain a persona or attitude, when with their own they could be themselves and let down their hair. I'm sure after all the posing they had to do at luncheons, dinners, balls, premieres, etc., they welcomed the opportunities to actually be themselves.

I agree with Steve that many of the stars went to places like Agua Caliente, Palm Springs, and the like for a little peace and quiet away from the public and the hubbub of Hollywood, but at the same time, by going to these places they were often supporting friends or associates in the entertainment industry. Actor Charles Farrell established and ran the Palm Springs Tennis Club, Joseph Schenck helped organize the Arrowhead Springs Hotel up at Arrowhead, Bing Crosby helped establish Hollywood Park Race Track and Del Mar Race Track, and the like. They were earning a little privacy while helping friends out at the same time.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby moira finnie » June 17th, 2017, 6:29 pm

Thanks, Steve. One game they played in old Hollywood that interested me was polo.* Did you find many images of that expensive pursuit or its less expensive & less dangerous cousin, croquet? Did rivalries in show biz sometimes carry over into the fun & games?

Was baseball played by many as a pastime? Did studios have teams and did they play against each other?

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For fun, weren't fancy dress parties popular entertainment?

[*BTW, one of our past guest authors, the delightful Martha Crawford Cantarini, was very well acquainted with the polo-playing as well the equestrian side of Hollywood. Her Questions & Answers can be seen here.]
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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby MaryoftheMovies » June 17th, 2017, 6:38 pm

Hi Masha, good question. We do have a photo of Vincent Price taking a photo of Jane Russell in the book and a photo of Cary Grant shooting a home movie as he is arriving by boat in New York. Many stars shot home movies while making films and just enjoying life which they enjoyed during down time, including Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Steve McQueen, Billie Burke, Billy Gilbert, Basil Rathbone, George Stevens, Jean Negulesco, Henry Koster, and the like. Many of these show the stars actually making the films, leaving one to wonder who was actually filming these home movies for them. That would be something intriguing to research. Actor Ken Murray shot home movies and later was able to make some television shows which aired this footage, shows which TCM runs from time to time. Most stars didn't shoot movies to practice the craft of moviemaking they were just shooting because they enjoyed it. People like Alfred Hitchcock made some funny little home movies, planning out little stories, and other actors did too, but it was more a way to have fun with family and friends, not something to show to any one else or to practice moviemaking with.

Many stars were also photographers off-camera, perhaps wanting to turn the gaze of cameras away from themselves and on to other things. Vincent Price, Grace Kelly, Jean Howard, Yul Brynner, David O. Selznick and others took photos, polaroids, and etc. to capture their own unique perspective on life. Some of Selznick's polariods still exist at the Harry Ransom Center, some of Jean Howard's have been made into a book, and the like. Once again, I don't think it was practice the craft for filmmaking but to show thoughtful images.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 17th, 2017, 6:39 pm

Doing research is like an endless treasure hunt for me. I think it's thrilling to find out information or discover a photo that has long been forgotten or discarded. Mary and Steve, what were some of the discoveries you made that surprised you while working on your book? And did you do any research at any studio archives?

In April of 2016, I traveled to LA to do research for Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, and I was invited to
review photo archives at Fox Studios.
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And I was lucky enough to lunch in the Fox Commissary...
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Here is a photo of my friend, Sam, on the left, and Jeffrey Thompson, the Fox Studios photo archivist. I am so happy to hear that a book about the first century of 20th Century Fox Studios is forthcoming. Please tell Jeff I said " hello." I hope you all will come visit us here at The Silver Screen Oasis to discuss your next book, Steve.

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Here I am standing in the "corner of power" at the commisssary. I love the decor and the ambience there.
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I adore the cover of Hollywood At Play! I think Annette Funicello was the perfect choice. Were there any other photos in the running for the cover? Or did you all see the photo of Annette and immediately decide that was the one?

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I also thought this image of Lucile Ball was adorable. Do you know who else appears in the photo?
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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Masha » June 17th, 2017, 6:48 pm

MaryoftheMovies wrote:People like Alfred Hitchcock made some funny little home movies, planning out little stories, and other actors did too, but it was more a way to have fun with family and friends, not something to show to any one else or to practice moviemaking with.


I thank you for your kind response. I knew of the typical 'home movies' of actors at play but I was not aware of any doing the planning and storymaking aspects.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby MaryoftheMovies » June 17th, 2017, 6:49 pm

Hi Moira, yes, many stars played polo and we have shots of people like George Brent, Spencer Tracy, and Charlie Farrell on polo ponies. It would have been harder to capture true candids of classic stars playing polo in the 1920s-1930s as cameras were slower then. Most entertainment people, be it stars or executives, were competitive and ambitious, so rivalries did carry over into sports. Some dedicated themselves to mastering games and winning tournaments in that field of endeavor, and some worked just to best others in whatever they did. Producer Darryl Zanuck was incredibly competitive and always aimed to win at whatever he played, be it polo, croquet, or tennis. Cedric Gibbons spent early mornings practicing at the LA Tennis Club until he became of the best tennis players in the entertainment field. Humphrey Bogart became an expert sailor, helped by the fact he had been a sailor while he was growing up in New York City. Constance Bennett was one of the best poker players in 1930s Hollywood. In fact, she was the only woman who played in the high stakes games that people like Joe Schenck, Sam Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Charlie Feldman, and the like played.

Stars loved baseball just like regular people and formed their own teams from the early silent days. I wrote this post three years ago about the history of baseball teams in the entertainment industry, showing that from the 1910s studios formed baseball teams to compete against each other, with some occasionally recruiting real professional baseball players to play on their teams by giving them parts in films. By the 1950s, studios were growing so large that such competitive endeavors gradually died away.
https://ladailymirror.com/2014/04/14/ma ... -baseball/

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby MaryoftheMovies » June 17th, 2017, 7:10 pm

I guess one of my answers from this morning disappeared. In the Golden age of Hollywood (1920-1950), most studios shot virtually every publicity still of stars from set stills, off-camera, portraits, candids, and special stills. They shot something of virtually every type of category (sports, fashion, cooking, travel, home) to cover virtually any section of a newspaper or magazine, sending out thousands of stills to outlets. I found a Variety article in the 1950s stating that Fox had sent out 50,000 stills promoting "the Robe" before it ever opened in theatres. As newspapers and magazines exploded in size in the mid-teens from the easier use of photography and the growth of advertising, they needed content to help fill out their pages. The studios recognized a great way to gain free publicity by providing stills to newspapers and magazines free of charge, basically a quid pro quo. Newspapers and magazines had free product to help fill out space while studios gained free advertising and publicity for stars and films by the use of said product. The studios planned out certain subjects for shooting the stars, and other candids were created on the spot wherever they could land a time to set up a session with the star.

Fan, women's, and home magazines sometimes shot special shoots with stars, but it wasn't really until the 1950s that this type of thing took off. In the 1920s, Edward Steichen made glorious portraits of stars exclusively for Vanity Fair. Starting in the 1930s and on, photographers like Margaret Bourke White and others shot special stories for the like of Life magazine and so on. In the 1940s-1050s, Maynard Parker of LA shot images of stars and their homes for the like of Architectural digest, Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset, and the like. As the studio system started fading away, stars started planning their own special shoots with photographers just as the stars had in the 1910s and 1920s. Grace Kelly went on a shoot for a magazine with the photographer Howell Conant and fell in love with the photos he took of her. she began exclusively asking for him after she became a star and he remained her personal photographer until her death.

There was sometimes a quid pro quo in where photo sessions were set up I believe, because many were entertainment industry owned venues. While the stars might have been taking some time off, it's interesting that they would pose at places that were owned by colleagues or friends and therefore could help their business. I have found stills of stars posing at the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, Palm Springs Tennis Club, hotels and clubs around Palm Springs, various race tracks, Los Angeles Tennis Club, and the like. They all knew how to work an angle!

Many sessions are obviously posed ones, where the stars don't exactly seem like experts in the field (Carole Lombard wearing heels at the bowling alley, Marilyn Monroe with a driver in a sand trap, etc), while others show actual hobbies enjoyed by the stars (Heston and guns, Bing Crosby and golf, Fred Astaire and tennis), and the like. I have seen personal snapshots of Clark Gable out hunting, so any of him out in the wild doing that are not ones posed for the camera, but actually part of his real nature. The shots are about half and half showing the stars as they really were and others as how they might like to be (Cary Grant and Randolph Scott at the fights).

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 17th, 2017, 7:38 pm

Fascinating responses to those earlier questions, Mary. Thank you!
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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Stephen X. Sylvester » June 17th, 2017, 8:43 pm

Moira-

I have heard stories that Clifton Webb hosted Sunday croquet parties at his home for his friends.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Stephen X. Sylvester » June 17th, 2017, 8:46 pm

That's Gertie Green with Lucille Ball.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Stephen X. Sylvester » June 17th, 2017, 8:52 pm

Sue Sue-

One of the most fascinating discoveries for me was learning the connection to the March of Dimes, FDR and the US dime.

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to help combat a U.S. epidemic of the Poliomyelitis (polio) virus. The contagious virus is known to cause temporary and permanent paralyses by a weakling of muscle tissue.

Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 at the age of 39, leaving his legs paralyzed. It is believed Roosevelt contracted the virus from contaminated water during a visit to Bear Mountain State Park while serving as chairman of the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The extent of his condition was kept a secret to most of the American public by the White House staff, the Secret Service and a cooperative media.

Singing and Comedy star Eddie Cantor is given credit for coining the phrase "March of Dimes" During the week before President Roosevelt's birthday on January 30, 1938 Cantor lead a nationwide radio fundraising campaign. The American people responded by sending thousands of dimes inside letters and cards to the White House. All told, Cantor's efforts raised more than $85,000. Roosevelt was overwhelmed by the public response.

After his death in 1945, the U.S. Mint redesigned the dime with Roosevelt’s likeness to honor him as the founder of the March of Dimes and released it on what would have been his 64th birthday, January 30, 1946.

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Stephen X. Sylvester » June 17th, 2017, 8:58 pm

The cover of the book was decided by the publisher.

I like it but would have preferred a composite cover with several of the subjects in the book juxtaposed together.

I wonder if some potential buyers of the book think it is just about the beach movies from the early 1960s.

Oh well............

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Re: HOLLYWOOD AT PLAY Authors Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester Visit June 17 & 18!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 17th, 2017, 11:17 pm

Steve, that is such a wonderful story about the Roosevelt dime, and I hadn't realized that Eddie Cantor had been credited with the term "March of Dimes."

A composite cover would have been nice, too, because you've had so many images to choose from, but Annette lends a frolicsome kind of wholesomeness that illustrates the overarching theme of playfulness, so I can see why the publishers might have chosen that photo.

Do you have any comments about the differences between the way studios promote films now juxtaposed with previous decades?
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