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Bad Boys Of Hollywood

For a long time people have been cluck-clucking over the Gregory Peck marriage.and wondering how it would finally work out. Right up to the moment, in fact, when Greg and Greta formally announced their separation, there had been hopeful rumors that Greg would be back to spend Christmas in Hollywood with his family. He had, you recall, stayed on in Europe after Greta dashed home with the boys.

She couldn’t stand the gossip, they say, that has linked Greg to a dozen women—all the way from Audrey Hepburn, his young and charming leading lady in “Roman Holiday,” to Hildegarde Neff, who toiled with him in “Snows of Kilimanjaro,” plus a French model called Veronica Passane, and a few other European girls, whose names I can’t pronounce, let alone spell. I kept hoping all along that Greg was just passing through a period that hits a lot of men, around and after forty, the dangerous age, especially for an actor who has to believe he’s irresistible in private life or how can he make you believe the girl will fall for him on the screen?

This could explain why a quiet, easy-going, lazy guy like Gary Cooper can suddenly go off half-coeked after twenty years of marriage, to renew his romantic confidence in the eyes—or hearts (I wasn’t there Charlie) of women about half his age. It was merely happenstance that Pat Neal fell in love with Gary. It could have been any other one of ten. Because Gary was in the mood, and when he is, he’s the most attractive man you’ll ever meet in your life—even today, when his biography lists him as fifty-two.

The Hollywood woods are full of them—men who are afraid they’ve touched the bottom of the barrel in emotional kicks, and they have to keep rummaging to see if there isn’t just one more prize package for them. Peck, Cooper, Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, Robert Taylor, Fernando Lamas, Jeff Chandler, Lex Barker, Steve Cochran, Frank Sinatra, Gene Nelson and Dick Haymes—restless, seeking to satisfy an always increasing ego. And heaven help the women who love them.

Take Kirk Douglas and Pier Angeli. This half-girl, half-woman, met Hollywood’s perennial loverboy who is almost twice her age when Metro threw them together in “Story of Three Loves.” Unfortunately for the elf-like little Italian, she lost her heart. And I was naive enough to believe that when she flew to visit Kirk in Italy, and he followed her to London where her desperate Mama had rushed the lovesick chick, that the cynical Mr. Douglas had been winged at last by the little man with the bow and arrow. But before I could put a question mark after “marriage,” Kirk was back in Italy gazing into the eyes of another Italian actress, Brigette Bardot.

I should know better. I’ve seen Kirk flex his romantic muscles often enough. The routine is the same. Only the girl is different. They want to cook for him, they even want to scrub for him. It’s homey, it’s intimate. But when they start hearing bells, wedding bells, the bridegroom-to-be does a vanishing act.

Why? What’s he afraid of? If he loves the girl—and Pier believed he loved her—what makes him take to his heels and run? This is the way I figure it. Kirk has a deep-rooted inferiority complex. That’s why he boasts and brags. It’s why he can’t take any criticism. It’s why he’s so afraid to let down the last bar in his heart. And I believe it will always be the Dangerous Age for Kirk—and for the girls who succumb to his undeniable charm—until he convinces himself that he doesn’t have to prove anything to himself.

To go back to Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck for a moment. Greta Peck just called me to say that the matter of a divorce she will leave up to Greg because, “I don’t want to do anything that will hurt him.” I’m not sure he rates this consideration. It was sad enough to leave Greta. But his three cute sons. He said he loved them so much, how could he stay away from them so long? And I wonder if he will be sorry when the present fever has run its course.

The French had a big journalistic laugh when Gary Cooper “stole” Giselle Pascal from Prince Ranier of Monaco. Reports were that Giselle had been trying for years to bring the Prince up to marriage scratch, but unlike the Duke of Windsor who abdicated for “The Woman I Love,” Ranier preferred to keep his tiny kingdom. And I repeat, it isn’t hard to fall for Coop. There was talk that Ingrid Bergman swooned for him when they made all those pictures together. But in those days, Gary didn’t feel he had to prove his irresistibility.

It was the most surprising thing in the world when word seeped through to Hollywood from Paris, that Clark Gable was secretly married to Schiaparelli model Suzanne Dadolle. But no real surprise when the rumor was proved false. Clark is fifty-two. It’ll take more than a French model to push him over the brink of matrimony again. Clark hates to spend money, and for the second time in his four marriages he had to pay up when he metaphorically tossed out the startled Lady Sylvia on her aristocratic derriere. But he had a narrow shave with Mile. Suzanne. He was in love with her, or thought he was, which is the same thing—almost. And she gave up her job—at his request, one of her close friends told me—to travel with him all over Europe.

Robert Taylor has never been the playboy type And if his little episode with the Italian publicity-seeking bit player had been kept out of the papers, he would still be married to Barbara Stanwyck. And it’s my private hunch that Barbara will never forgive herself for divorcing Bob and losing the only man she has ever loved in her whole life. In Europe, when a married man gets to be around forty, it isn’t unusual for him to have a little extra-curricular romance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning this. But most wives over there, if their marriage is otherwise happy, look the other way and pray the affair will fizzle out. But when the silly signorita quoted Robert as saying Barbara was too old for him, that was a little too much for any wife to swallow. I can’t believe Robert said any such cruel thing. If he did, then the Dangerous Age hit him harder than it usually strikes men as nice as he is. And now for the sixty-four-dollar question: is his longtime dating of Ursula Thiess just one of those foolish things? Or is he ready to be his age, to settle down, to accept the inevitable lines around his eyes and the grey in his hair?

Dick Haymes is only thirty-seven, and I never thought this mild, myopic, almost mousey blond singer could ever be called a menace to anyone. But only time will tell whether his mad passion for Rita Hayworth will hurt him more than it hurts her. Dick’s career was skipping very badly when Rita first hove intimately across his short-sighted horizon. His marriage with Nora Flynn, which started in a glow of tenderness, was on the rocks with nonstop bickering over money problems. And Rita was having her problems with Prince Aly Khan. All the same, how stupid can a guy be to traipse all over the country, from New York to Hollywood and Las Vegas with a girl as well-known as Rita Hayworth, while he is trying to get a wife to give him a divorce? I guess it’s a plus for his honesty, if not his acumen. But Rita bores easily. So does Dick. How long will they stay together before their ego has to be renewed through someone else’s admiration? I’ll be surprised, but happy for their restless sakes, if this lasts any longer than any one of their combined marriage tries.

And there’s the same kind of skepticism for the Lex Barkers. Lana Turner is Lex’s third bride. He’s her fourth groom. When the marriage talk was first printed I had a long chat with sexy Lex’s ex, Arlene Dahl, and she said, “Lex can be very persuasive. As I told you at the time, I didn’t want to marry him—even right up to the day of our wedding. But when he wants something, he just has to get it.”

I’ve known Lex ever since Rosalind Russell gave him his first acting break in “The Velvet Touch.” He’s very easy to like. And he’s very easy-going. Which is sometimes another adjective for “weak.” People who saw him with Lana just a few days before they married said there was nothing of the happy bride and groom about them, that Lana said she was already bored with Lex. Then why did she marry him? Or he her? Let’s face it. Even the real Tarzan in the jungle prefers a willing mate. I can only explain it as a desire to stay in the headlines. You marry, then you divorce, then you marry again. You’re always on top of a climax. You’re always living dangerously, emotionally speaking. It’s an adolescent craving for thrills. It’s the same kind of nervous restlessness that makes unbalanced teenagers take dope.

Maybe it’s that nervous restlessness that accounts for the actions of some of the rest of the Bad Boys of Hollywood, too. Recent news stories about Steve Cochran and his tantrums have been a big surprise to those who knew him when he was first breaking into pictures.

And no one, a few years ago, could have pictured the quiet-seeming Gene Nelson in the role of marriage interloper. In fairness to Gene it must be admitted that friends have said his marriage, as well as that of Jane Powell, was finished before they started to work together on “Three Sailors and a Girl.” But Gene is approaching that Dangerous Age, and the restlessness may have caught up with him already. Whether or not it has will be answered by what happens to his romance with Jane.

Frank Sinatra has long been a stormy figure, not only in Hollywood, but all over the world—his altercations with members of the press and with photographers have been international in scope. His latest misunderstanding with Ava is but one more chapter in a turbulent story, and it’s unfortunate that it comes at a time when “From Here to Eternity” has pushed his career to new heights.

Jeff Chandler has grey hair, but he’s younger than he looks. And he acted even younger than his age, when he decided to have an apartment of his own while he was still married to Marjorie. He explained the apartment as a place where he could drop his clothes, but it definitely was not a place he could keep a wife. Now he is a target for every unattached star— and starlet—in town. “Danger” signs. Watch it, Jeff!

As of going to press, one of the more titillating questions in Hollywood is, will Fernando Lamas come clean and marry Arlene Dahl? Fernando has been accused of an old trick—using women to further his career. His critics point a harsh finger at his so-called romance with Lana Turner. Lana announced they would marry. But when she rushed to Las Vegas to lose Bob Topping via a quick divorce, Lamas lagged on the lover front and left her embarrassingly in the lurch. Her big thing with Barker was definitely on the rebound. But will Fernando treat the ex-Mrs. Lex in the same cruel fashion? I could be wrong; I don’t think so. But this is for sure. Latins may not allbe lousy lovers, but they’ll always be dangerous.

This story on the dangerous age for men in Hollywood wouldn’t be complete without Mario Lanza. Age has nothing to do with Mario’s behavior. But what he is doing is very dangerous for his career and physical well-being.

It’s lucky he has that golden voice, because even if he does nothing else, Mario can make money for his family with records. But I’m afraid that one day he will go too far. Like the time he reportedly smashed the windows of a producer he didn’t like. How childish can you be? Like a strong-willed child, Mario goes to extremes with everything he does. When he dieted, he went on and on and on. And when he started to eat again, there was no moderation and he gained back all the pounds he lost, and a few more. He’s always buying new Cadillacs, he changes his telephone number every few days. He moves his family into different homes until they’re almost as dizzy as he is. Mario would have been in his glory in the Roaring Twenties. Today, his antics are dangerous—and silly.

And that, I’m afraid, goes for more than one of the Bad Boys of Hollywood.




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