The Day the Great Ones Died, Part Two
By Ruth Waterbury
[Courtesy of Vicki. Thank you.]
JOHN GARFIELD: It was at once very, very right and yet very wrong that John Garfield should have become a star overnight. Many a newcomer is given this tag for publicity, but you can count on the fingers of one hand those who really achieved it. Like Burt Lancaster in "The Killers," Jimmy Dean in "East of Eden," Marilyn Monroe in "Asphalt Jungle." And John Garfield in "Four Daughters." Only Lancaster has survived, while the other three died needlessly.
John Garfield was a natural born charmer. His real Name was Julius Garfinkel and he was born in the slums of Brooklyn, on March 4, 1913, and grew up there. He wasn't very tall nor very handsome, but his personality was just as warm as sunshine.
Julie lost his mother at seven. His father made a very meager living at tailoring and didn't have energy enough left to worry about his son. The kid fought his way up. He shined shoes. He sold papers. By the time he reached his teens, he discovered the underworld. Its projects paid easy money. Only, Julie got caught at one of them and was sent to a school of juvenile delinquents. His good luck was that the principal at that school was the great educator, Angelo Patri. Patri sensed the originality in the young punk named Garfinkel. He put him on the school debating team. Julie went for that, arguing with words instead of fists, standing up before people and sounding off after he entered and won the New York State Oratorical Contest, he knew what he wanted: He wanted to act. What’s more, as an actor, he could be a highbrow idealist like Angelo Patri. Who could foresee that the highbrow idealism would betray him, make him die, barely forty, under very peculiar circumstances?
Free of school, Julie had no trouble getting into an acting group. New York was full of them. As long as you were willing to work very hard for no wages, painting scenery, washing stages or such, the acting education came free. What you did for eating money was your own affair. Julie loved it all. He married Roberta Mann, who'd been his girl since he started at the Patri School. Bobbie's sole ambition was her husband's happiness. She bore him three lovely children within five years--though that was later when they were in Hollywood and Julie Garfinkel had become John Garfield, star.
After that first big click in "Four Daughters," Julie was rushed from picture to picture. Unfortunately none of them, until he got "Humoresque," had any "artistic importance," though he was superb in all of them. If he had had one fine film of which he could have boasted, he might not have clung so closely to the group of actors he had known in New York. That group argued that everything an actor did should have "social significance."
Alas, Julie (which everyone except the public continued to call him) fell for that line. Its first effect on him was to make him quarrel with Warner brothers to whom he was under contract. He demanded the right to go back to Broadway to do a "significant" play. Warners let him go and he gave up his very high salary to do that show at a mere ten dollars a performance.
More marked than the money loss, though, was the effect his new way of thinking was having on him. By 1946, when the possible Communist infiltration in this country caused a Congressional investigation, John Garfield was called upon to give testimony. He swore that he had never been a Communist. He said he would answer any and all question. He had just completed an independent movie, "Body and Soul," and many of the men associated with hat production were also questioned. "Body and Soul" failed at the box office and John Garfield did not work for the next eighteen months. So he moved his family from Hollywood back to New York and went into a stage revival of "Golden Boy." He was all right in it--but not much more.
Presently, he was quarreling with everyone, the people back stage, his oldest friends and even his wife. Finally, Bobbie--with the children--left him. Then on May 21st, 1952, his lifeless body was found in the apartment of Iris Whitney, a young actress. Miss Whitney said he had just happened to drop by her place the night before, that he had been feeling ill and wanted to lie down for a bit. She put him to bed, went to bed herself and woke to find him dead.
A sorry, unnecessary ending for one poor boy who had really climbed to the stars.
TYRONE POWER: Tyrone Power, like Clark Gable, died swiftly and unexpectedly whilst he was anticipating the birth of his first son. Like Gable, he had been a great lover on screen and off, but of a type different from Gable's. For Ty was always the poet, the dreamer, the artist. He was actually in the Valentino mold, dashing, romantic. So much so that he did a remake of one of the Valentino pictures, "Blood and Sand," and was superb in it. There wasn't a moment--from 1936, when he arrived in Hollywood, to 1958 when he died swiftly in Madrid--that he was not entirely in love with some beauty. And she with him. In the great lover tradition--and that goes for Gable, Flynn or any of them--he was far and away the best actor. He had three wives and two daughters by the second of them, Linda Christian. When he suddenly married Linda in Rome, he just about broke Lana Turner’s heart, for he was technically engaged to Lana when he left for Italy. He broke other hearts, too. But then he was a heartbreaker,
naturally. He didn't mean to be. He was the gentle type of love destroyer which is just about the worst kind for a girl to recover from.
His first wife, Annabella, was nine years his senior and she was hurt when she lost him. His second wife, of course, was Linda--the one who hurt him. But that didn't cure him of falling gin love again. He had been a very good Catholic all his life but he ex-communicated himself to marry his third wife, the divorced Deborah Minardos. It was Debbie who was carrying his son when he died so suddenly. The had been married only seven months.
He was starring in "Solomon and Sheba" for his own production company on the day of November 15, 1958, when he was stricken. He was forty-five years old and he had been acting since he was seven. His father, Tyrone Power the second, had been a very distinguished actor and he, too, had died in 1931, while he was making a movie. His great grandfather was the first Ty Power, a handsome, dashing Irishman, who came over and completely enthralled American audiences at the time of the Civil War.
Ty, III (whomever called himself that), loved his profession but somewhere after his original big hits in the late Thirties and early forties, his career seemed to go a little wrong. Perhaps it was his absence from the screen, when he was a Marine flier during World War II. Like Gable, he never was quite so important after 1945 as he had been before. Of course, he always worked; Broadway and the road were delighted to have him. But he had virtually deserted Hollywood by 1958, and that was one reason he was making "Solomon and Sheba" in Madrid.
On the day of his death he was doing a dueling scene with George Sanders as his adversary. It was very cold in Madrid that day. Ty had a bad cold which he probably caught three days before when he played a long scene in which he had to be drenched with water. He had suffered a very debilitating attack of dysentery. The fine actor in him made him disguise his tiredness as he went into the dueling sequence. They had taken it twice and were about to do it a third time when Ty said suddenly, "I've got to stop. I don't feel well." He dropped his sword and started walking toward his dressing room. His makeup man, Ray Sebastian, sprang toward him. Ty was the sort that everyone in any company liked tremendously. Ted Richmond, the producer and Ty's old friend, paused just long enough to get the company nurse and to call a doctor and a hospital before he rushed t Ty’s dressing room. Gina Lollobrigida began to cry and between her sobs said her car was just outside the stage, they were to use it to take Ty to the hospital.
But already Ty was unconscious. All the doctor could do on arrival ten minutes later was to certify the death.
They brought his body back to Hollywood, and his funeral was an outrage Three thousand fans turned up at the cemetery, screaming and yelling, stripping flowers from the grave, Linda Christian had declared that she and her daughters would attend. Debbie Power the widow, begged to be spared that. Yul Brynner, who had been announced to replace Ty in "Solomon and Sheba" came to the services and was wildly applauded by the crowds. Workmen at the grave were so bothered by the mobs that they had trouble getting the casket in the ground. Finally, the cemetery people gave up and covered the open grave with boards and artificial grass, which they replaced later when the frantic folk had gone.
It was good that Ty Power could know any of that. He was such an idealist. But it is sad that he couldn't know that it was a son he had. Named, Tyrone, of course. Tyrone Power, IV. He'd be pleased.
ERROL FLYNN: Errol collapsed on the afternoon of October 14, 1959, with frightening suddenness. Only a second before he had had a drink in his hand, a quip on his lips and a teenage girl beside him. Then the heart attack struck. The blood drained from his once beautiful face. Errol was in Vancouver, Canada, a city new to him, as the house guest of Mr. and Mrs. George Caldough whom he had only just met. He--who at the time of "Captain Blood" and some fifty subsequent pictures--had the countenance and the body of a Greek god, was in Vancouver, trying to sell the Caldoughs his yacht. He was desperate for cash, even though he had made several millions.
The past July he had celebrated is fiftieth birthday but that October day he looked seventy. His once vivid career was finished. He had squandered it on wine too many women, alimony and trials for double statutory rape. He had four children by three different wives.
The girl with him that afternoon was his last, seventeen-year-old Beverly Aadland. He'd met her when she was fifteen. Just before his death he grumbled that she was getting too old for him.
George Caldough rushed to Errol's side as he fell, and for half an hour gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mrs. Caldough called the fire department rescue squad and then a distinguished Vancouver physician, Dr. Grant Gould. The firemen worked an hour before they revived Flynn sufficiently to take him to Dr. Gould's office.
There in the presence of Beverly, the doctor and the Caldoughs, the actor in Errol showed. He managed to walk jauntily through Dr. Gould's reception room toward an inner sanctum, "I think I'll lie down for a moment," he said. He paused to burlesque General MacArthur's famous line, "I shall return."
Dr. Gould let his famous patient close the door. Then he told the Caldoughs what he felt to be true, "This man is dying." Beverly burst into tears.
The diagnosis was accurate. In that inner room Errol had already relapsed into unconsciousness. He died in the ambulance before it got him to the hospital.
It was a sorry ending for a man who had begun life in far off Tasmania, who originally possessed a quick, witty mind, and who had known fame and fortune for nearly thirty years. The post-mortem showed that he had died, not only of coronary thrombosis, but also from hardening of the arteries, degeneration of the liver and an infection of the lower intestine.
His body was shipped back to Hollywood and his tragedy was that for a man who had loved headlines so, his funeral was very shabby--virtually no "names" came to mourn him. His first wife, Lily Damita, to whom he had paid more than a million in alimony, did not attend. Neither did his second, Nora Eddington, the ex-cigarette counter girl, whom he had audaciously courted in the Los Angeles court while he was on trial there on rape charges. However, Patrice Wymore, his third wife, who always loved him and never did divorce him, attended, bringing with her Sean, his son by Lily Damita. His baby daughter by Patrice was too young, but his two young daughters by Nora came by themselves, was almost empty and Beverly Aadland was conspicuous by her absence.
A few weeks following, to make matters drabber, Beverly let her mother sell Errol's love letters to her to the newspapers. Next, she sued his estate for five million dollars charging she had been led into a "frenzied life of wild parties, subject to immoral debauchery and sex orgies, taught to lead a lewd, wanton and wayward way of life." She didn't win.
Errol's autobiography on which had been working for some time was published soon after that. It was like him, honest, frankly polygamous. In a way it was his epitaph. He wrote, "I am sour on women but cannot do without them. Women do not let me stay single and I do not let myself stay married." Then he concluded sadly, "You can love every instant of living and still want to be dead."
JEAN HARLOW: In January 1937, tow very important Washington people thought Jean Harlow was the most charming star in Hollywood. Their names were Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The President enjoyed Jean's movies so much that he had them run again and again at the White House. That great lady, Mrs. Roosevelt, saw the real lady behind Jean's gittering looks. To have her attend the March of dimes balls, given yearly in the Capitol, was not only a pleasure to the Roosevelt’s, but a guaranteer of important donations.
That Jean charmed the Roosevelts didn't surprise Hollywood. It was literally true that to know her was to lover her. From producers to prop men she didn't have an enemy. Enemies came just recently when her name became a much disputed book and two equally false movies.
She was born Harlean Carpenter, the only child of a Kansas City dentist and his ambitious wife, Jean. She was a beautiful baby, a more beautiful child. By fourteen, her face and figure made men stop in the streets to stare at her.
She was in a Hollywood private school then, where her mother had enrolled her. Her father brought her back East, put her in the exclusive Ferry School in Lake Forest, Illinois. Probably he thought he was protecting her from men.
You can't conceal beauty like Jean's. The richest boy in Lake Forest spotted her. She was barely sixteen. Handsome twenty-year-old Charles McGraw not only talked her into eloping with him, but talked the marrying judge at Waukegan, Illinois, into believing Jean was nineteen. For their honeymoon, Charles chose a trip through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles. There he quickly bought a house in Beverly Hills and went into real estate.
Mrs. McGraw loved the idea of being a housewife. She might have been good at it if men hadn't tagged after her if she so much as went to market. Some of those men were talent scouts. The idea of being a movie star did charm her. Presently she asked Charlie about it.
Charlie was too infatuated to say no to her. She did bits, then went into "Hell's Angels." That did it. They named her Jean Harlow. MGM, the mightiest of studios, signed her. Eventually, nobody asked what became of Mr. McGraw.
Jean really skyrocketed, opposite Gable, opposite Taylor, opposite Tracy. What's more, she really lighted the sky when the third most important executive at MGM, Paul Bern, married her. Two months later, he shot himself.
Jean emerged a bigger star than ever. She kept on skyrocketing, lived lavishly, married again, divorced again (that time from a cameraman who faded from the picture when asked to) and then truly fell in love with William Powell, another super star. And he with her.
She was wearing is multi-carated engagement ring when she flew to all nineteen March of dimes balls making speeches, making jokes, charming everyone. It was long after dawn when she got to bed. She had a cold. Nonetheless, she flew back to Hollywood the next day, a tiring trip of fourteen hours. Her cold was flue by then, which downed her for several weeks.
Barely recovered, she was hospitalized to have some impacted wisdom teeth out. That exhausted her, so that she went to Bill Powell's Palm Springs home to recover. One day she fell asleep out in the hot desert sun. She got such a bad sunburn she had to be hospitalized again.
"Saratoga" was waiting for her. She didn't feel up to doing it, but she did. She collapsed on the set at the end of the first week's shooting. The date was May 29th, 1937. The diagnosis was uremic poisoning. They hospitalized her, putting her into an oxygen tent, since that disease makes it almost impossible for the patient to breathe.
Jean did stop breathing Monday morning June 7, just after eleven. At her bedside were her mother and her aunt, her devoted maid and William Powell. She was 26 years old. Two hundred and fifty guests attended her funeral, and fifteen thousand fans wept outside.
She was a beautiful girl who had had a fabulous life. This is not the way the book about her or the two movies told of her life's ending. But this is the truth.
RUDOLPH VALENTINO: Of all the great ones of Hollywood who have died, not star, before or since, shook the entire country as did Rudolph Valentino. He belonged to the roaring Twenties, the era of flappers and the speakeasies, of nightclubs and the Charleston. Up until 1921 when "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse" was released, few Americans had ever seen an upper-class Italian. There were many Italian emigrants in America then, but they were mostly laborers. Rudy was just as poor as they, but he had been born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaelle Pietro Filiberto Guglielmi de Valentino d'Antongnella in Castellaneta, Italy, of an aristocratic family.
But he was completely broke in America until he went into a dance contest and won not only the prize but the attention of Bonnie Glass, one of the most popular ballroom dancers of that day, who immediately hired him as her partner.
That launched him. Ballroom dancing was sweeping the country. Women saw him, threw their jewelry at his feet, offered him fortunes to dance with them. He never took a dime for dancing, but soon dreams of Hollywood danced in his head.
So he went West, got work only as an extra until another very clever woman, June Mathis, spotted him. She had written the script for "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Its big scene then, was a tango during which the dashing hero would make love to the leading lady.
Rudy was such an instant vogue that overnight, all over the country, little boys began to dress like him. Dancing schools sprang up everywhere to teach the tango. Women went ape. In fact, until Elvis came along, there was never anything like him.
Rudy was very briefly married to and divorced from an actress named Jean Acker, and he was rushed from picture to picture--all of which were smashes. Then he married and exotic creature called Natacha Rambova, whose real name was Winifred Hudnut, the adopted daughter of Richard Hudnut of cosmetic fortune.
Miss Acker promptly sued him for bigamy, her divorce not yet being final. That was the beginning of his misfortunes, thought he didn't know it. He had been living in Whitley Heights, a swank part of Los angles, which has now been goggled up b the Freeway. Natacha wanted to move out into the very new Beverly Hills, where such stars as Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, the Barrymores and John Gilbert lived. So Rudy complied, bought a magnificent estate of nine acres.
However, he had a quarrel with Natacha just before the house was ready to be moved into. She flew to Paris and never did spend one night in it.
Rudy was so depressed at her leaving him that he gladly went on a personal appearance tour starting in New Yo0rk, which Paramount planned for "the Son of the Sheik." It was to be his last film.
The in spot in New York then was Texas Guinan's and Rudy really lived it up there for three weeks. Then one evening, returning to his hotel, he looked so ill the manager asked him if he shouldn't call for a doctor. Rudy scoffed, but the next morning he was rushed by ambulance to the Polyclinic Hospital. He had both a perforated gastric ulcer and acute appendicitis. He was critically ill.
When the news got out, the Polyclinic switchboard was flooded with calls. Newspapers put a death watch on his room. A week passed and he rallied. Then two days later pleurisy set in.
Rudolph Valentino died August 23, 1926. The public was allowed to view his body at four in the afternoon at a Broadway funeral parlor. Before noon the whole way funeral parlor. Before noon the whole street was mobbed; all traffic stopped. The crowd pushed through the plate glass windows of the funeral home.
It began to rain. One hundred more patrolmen thundered up. Riots began. Mounted police then arrived and women went down under the horses' hooves. The doors of the funeral home crashed under the weight of the mobs and the out-numbered cops stood hurling back rain-soaked girls, hitting rain-soaked men with their sticks. When order was restored, for nine solid hours the people, one hundred fifty to the hour, streamed by Rudy’s casket.
It went on like that for two more days until his body was entrained for Hollywood. Chicago's LaSalle street station was jammed with seventy-five thousand people when the casket was there transferred to the Santa Fe train. Masses stood along the tracks for thousands of miles to watch the train pass. When the body reached California, the authorities stopped the train fifteen miles outside of Los Angeles to prevent duplication of the New York riot. The funeral was on September 7th at the Beverly Hills Church of the Good shepherd and five hundred people were admitted by card to the requiem high mass. It was a very dignified funeral. All day the city's flags flew at half mast. Norman Kerry, one of Valentino's best friends, led Rudy's favorite Arabian mount, with empty riding boots in the stirrups. The cortege, going to the cemetery, was three miles long and planes overhead dropped roses as Valentino's body was consigned to its eternal rest.
To this day, there are still women everywhere who say prayers for him.
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