Sunday, February 5, 2012
SPEAKING VERY CANDIDLY
By Chester B. Bahn
May 8, 1932
Hollywood can do everything except “take it.”
How else is one to interpret the film colony's reaction to a bit of clowning by Will Rogers and Wally Beery at the Hollywood premier of “Grand Hotel.”
It was announced that the event would be graced by the presence of the elusive Greta Garbo, the Swedish star, taking a bow or two on the stage after the film's presentation.
When La Garbo was announced by Mr. Rogers, Mr. Beery, who played Swedish servant gals in good old slapstick days, waltzed on in comedy attire and told the assemblage, “Ay tank Ay go home.”
Normal persons, of course, would laugh at such a sally, but Hollywood's elite accepted it as something between pure sacrilege and lese majesty, and silently filed out of the theater.
Why? Well, in the first place, egotistical Hollywood lacks a sense of humor, and in the second, it is painfully thin-skinned.
The feverish thought, “We must stop this sort of thing lest we be the next targets,” eveindently was highly contagious at the premier.
“The Trial of Vivienne Ware,” is the talkie in which Director William K. Howard, striving for a record, completed in 17 days of the alloted 24 shooting days and then discovered it was two reels, or 1800 feet short of the required length for release.
The spirit of unrest manifested by the “revolts” of James Cagney, Marlene Dietrich, Josef Von Sternberg, Nancy Carroll, among others, seems to be spreading in dear old Hollywood.
That affable and eminently amusing comedian Charlie Ruggles, is another who, if you will believe what you are told, has had quite enough and is ready to reopen that comfortable residence at Setauket, L. I.
Charlie's contract is shortly to expire and he has indicated that he does not care for a renewal... especially a renewal at a lower figure. So in his case, anyway, Richard Barthelmess' example is a futile beau geste.
Mr. Ruggles, I gather, contemplates a return to his better-loved stage.
His opinion of the cinema is refreshingly frank:
“Motion pictures, from the actor's standpoint, are entirely a monetary business. They have no heart, no romance, no traditions, as has the stage.
“Most people are in the business in Hollywood to make a lot of money and get out. Some of them get out. Some keep on collecting money.”
Are cinema directors and players creative artists, or “hired help”?
There, in a single sentence, you have the issue in the case of Paramount versus Josef Von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich.
It is not exactly a new question, of course; Jetta Goudal, erstwhile “cocktail of temperament,” raised it when she sued for, and was awarded, damages in her now historic clash with Cecil B. DeMille. The court held that termperament was an integral part of the artist, if I recall correctly.
The Von Sternberg-Dietrich “strike” runs parallel, in a fashion. It is, or must be, their contention that they were ordered to do that which their artistic knowledge – genius, if you prefer – told them would be disastrous.
Whether it would be, of course, is something else again.
Those supposedly authentic announcements that Charles Bickford, “the Bolshevist of Hollywood,” had recanted and signed a Universal contract were without foundation in fact, it develops.
Not even the promise that he would be starred in Jim Tully's “Laughter in Hell,” grim drama of the Southern chain gangs, was enough to induce Mr. Bickford to sign on the dotted line with Uncle Carl Laemmle's organization.
The delineator of red-blooded he-man roles has been free-lancing since his unsatisfactory (well, to him, at least) experience as a contract player at M-G-M.
The agreement proposed by Universal would have netted three Bickford starring dramas this year, and four next. Further, the star was to have the right to pass upson stories and directors, I understand.
The chances favor Mr. Bickford's appearance in several Universal productions on a picture-by-picture basis; such is information reaching me from the studio.
The week's best Hollywood tip-off was supplied by Dan Thomas who, writing of the West Coast premier of “Grand Hotel”, observed: “Seldom have I seen so many men with their own wives.”
HOLLYWOOD SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
By Robin Coons
Hollywood - May 8
An unpretentious little theater at Hedgerow, near Philadelphia, saw Ann Harding's bow to the footlights in Susan Glaspell's “Inheritors.”
Hedgerow is unpretentious in physical trappings, distinguished in artistic honesty. There fine things are done, strong things.
Miss Harding, since she and Harry Bannister informed the press they would seek a divorce, has denied herself to interviewers, feeling that the letters in which they set forth the reasons for the step need no elaboration.
Bannister already has established residence in Reno, while his wife remains to work out her contract for films.
This contract expires within a year. Hollywood is asking, “Then what?”
One good conjecture on that score is as good as another, and mine is that once this contract is fulfilled Ann Harding will lose no time in getting away from Hollywood, and her destination will be – Hedgerow.
She may or may not receive an offer of a new film contract. That will depend, of course, on public reaction to her next few pictures. But it will make no difference in her decision to leave. She will go to Hedgerow, and there will be a revival, coincidentally, of Ann Harding.
“Inheritors” is a story of ideals, of conflict, of lofty courage. “To be the most we can be that others may be the better because we were” – that’s the principal of the play. Once during an interview she read from it, an unusual treat for any interviewer.
It was in the evening, after a hard day at the studio, and she was tired. But as she read, beautifully, the tiredness seemed to leave her. It was inspiring, and she was inspired.
She told me: “This is my Bible,” I think in the same sense, that Hedgerow is her “church.”
Miss Harding’s intimates knew, even before those startling letters from her and Bannister were delivered, that she took little joy from the wealth and fame Hollywood was giving her, that she felt she had gone astray and sacrificed much when she signed the contract that is keeping her in Hollywood.
That’s why there is ample reason to believe that she will return to Hedgerow, as to church, to be “shriven of Hollywood” and start anew. And a truer and finer artist should emerge.