Big Stories From Little Rumors Grow
To this day they tell the story around Hollywood about the man who got away. His name’s Rock Hudson, and he walked away from one of Hollywood’s most beautiful and sought after starlets. Few know the reason why, and those who know Rock only slightly still shake their heads in bewilderment over the incident, although he has long since been dating Phyllis Gates.
The party had been in full swing when Rock strolled through the doorway. He’d arrived alone. However, it wasn’t long before the lovely young starlet had captured his attention and the two were deep in discussion.
Now Rock is known as one of Hollywood’s best listeners. And, for a while, he listened as the girl took charge of the conversation. At first, guests noted, he seemed charmed by her. But as the evening progressed, he began to appear embarrassed. Finally, he excused himself, murmuring something about having to go right home and study a script. He departed, alone, to the dismay of many matchmakers.
The girl was perplexed, too. In fact, she wasted no time in bemoaning the fact that never before had she competed with a movie script and lost. “You were talking a mile a minute,” offered one of her friends in an attempt to diagnose the situation. “Maybe you were on the wrong subject. A lot of actors I’ve met like all the conversation to be about themselves!”
“Well, I wasn’t talking about him,” admitted the starlet. “But then I wasn’t talking about me, either. First we talked about the movie industry, then I was telling him what I’d heard about. . . .” She named a prominent filmland couple. After that, she named another star and still another. And she never realized that as far as Rock was concerned she was naming her own poison.
“I probably should have set her straight,” a chum of Rock’s, also at the party, said later. “But Rock might not have liked it. He believes in the saying, ‘If you can’t be kind, be quiet,’ and for this doll the truth wouldn’t have been so kind!”
A girl may be beautiful. She may be charming. However, it’s Rock’s opinion that both beauty and charm evaporate with the first rush of vicious or thoughtless chatter. And at that point, Hudson is good at disappearing—politely, but forever—with no intention of returning.
“Gossiping is an easy trap to fall into,” he’ll tell you, if asked. “Talk that can seem so harmless can be so deadly. I certainly admire any girl who thinks to watch her words.”
Perhaps you heard the story only yesterday. True? False? You’re not certain. Yet it’s an item worth passing along. But is it really worth it? “Is it worth the worry you’ll be causing others?” asks Bob Wagner. “Is it worth the loss of friends’ trust? Perhaps the eventual Joss of your own self-respect?”
In the end, R. J. believes that the spreading of rumors destroys the gossip’s own good name as surely as she injures the persons she whispers about. The habit’s been known to send romance on the rocks, too. “Every man likes a girl he can trust, one in whom he can confide,” says Bob.
He speaks from his own experience, and from that of a friend who suddenly stopped paying court to a Hollywood beauty. “I thought you were crazy about her,” said the puzzled R. J. when he heard of the breakup.
“I was,” replied the friend. “But I couldn’t help getting the idea that every word I uttered was subject to publication. And if she talks about her close friends, what in the world does she say about me?”
Bob regards rumormongers as the un-kindest breed of all. He wastes no time in defending a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger who’s being torn apart by word of mouth. “Now wait a minute,” is his familiar beginning. “We don’t know both sides of the story.”
Bob’s well aware of the consequences of rumors because he’s been there, so to speak. Success, when it arrived, was bewildering to him. Still striving to learn about acting, he was both distracted and hurt when he became a popular target for gossip. Some claim that this is one reason he’s rarely seen “on the town” now that he’s become an established star.
There are other Hollywood examples. Take the case of the farm girl from East Canton, Ohio. Elizabeth Jean Peters was studying to be a school teacher when she won a trip to the cinema city and a motion-picture contract.
Back home, the Peters’ telephone was on a party line shared by eleven other parties. One day after Jean’s departure, Mrs. Peters picked up the receiver and happened to hear her daughter’s name. “How could she let that sweet little Jean go out to that terrible place?” someone ) was asking. “Of course, you know what will happen.”
“Of course,” volunteered another voice. “She’ll go Hollywood. They say even the most sensible girls do. From what I’ve heard, all movie stars get awfully sophisticated and live way beyond their means and . . .”
Mrs. Peters put down the phone. She had great faith in her daughter’s good common sense. However, when she left to ) visit Jean for the first time, she couldn’t help wondering as any mother might, “Has my daughter changed?”
Upon her arrival in California, Mrs. Peters found Jean living quietly with an aunt in a modest residential section of Los Angeles with no mink-lined swimming pool in sight. She found that Jean still made her own clothes and had, with studio friends, organized a sewing circle! She discovered that Jean, as always, preferred a neighborhood movie to night-clubbing, that her values were as high as ever. And she confessed her relief to her daughter.
“After all, Mother,” said Jean. “There’s bound to be gossip. All kinds. It’s the same here as it is in a small town. You just have to take it with a grain of salt.”
Yet how did Mrs. Peters feel when, shortly after her daughter’s marriage to Stuart Cramer III, rumors of Jean’s discontent were circulated? How does she feel today as the rumors persist about her daughter’s marriage failure? And how much of the blame can be placed upon those who began dooming it from the very beginning?
Terry Moore’s mother knows what it is to suffer the slings and arrows directed toward her daughter. At one point, she reached the stage of suggesting that the unhappy Terry give up the career for which they have both worked so hard.
The word of mouth campaign against Terry has been almost unbelievable in its viciousness, and the young star spent many a night crying herself to sleep when the attack was at its merciless heights.
These days, Terry is replying with more action than ever. She’s been appearing in winter and summer stock, doing important television shows, studying as many subjects as possible, and her cooperation with the press is, as always, a delight.
In all walks of life a man or woman, boy or girl, who has gained popularity and success is subject to careless talk. It’s unfortunate but true—particularly when the popularity and success are first attained. Alan and Sue Ladd, who have aided more prospective actors and actresses in their careers than you could count well recall Alan’s own trial under fire.
When Alan first became a star, he was mobbed by fans with boundless enthusiasm. And, one day, the story began making the rounds that whenever he parked his car in Hollywood, he removed the registration so the fans wouldn’t know it belonged to him.
Anyone even slightly acquainted with Alan would question the story. Yet it rated an editorial in a leading paper which said, in effect, that Ladd was double-crossing the public that had made him a star.
Alan was hurt by the rumor. In the entire history of Hollywood, there’s probably never been a star who has shown more consideration for his fans. “I know darned well that if it weren’t for those kids I wouldn’t be able to own a car,” he spoke up at the time. “I’m a guy who realizes full well that those kids pay my salary.”
Today, Alan could probably purchase an entire automobile factory if he had a mind to. But his thoughtfulness to the movie-going public remains unchanged. As a matter of fact, it’s one of Hollywood’s happiest legends.
Alan can also tell you how rumors grow out of all proportion. There was, for instance, the time someone approached him with the comment, “Hear you knocked out eight guys in your last picture.”
“Eight?” Alan did a double-take. It was true that he had accidentally hurt one stunt man. It had happened during a scene which called for a free-for-all fight and had involved a large crowd.
In such scenes, the participants pull their punches, stopping short of their opponents’ jaws. However, during the confusion, Alan had misjudged his distance, unintentionally clipped a stunt man and was sick over the matter for weeks.
As for the fellow with the bruised jaw, he may still be telling how Alan apologized to him for months, whenever they met.
It’s doubtful that anyone who has ever passed along a rumor has stopped to realize how enduring it may be. And how unfair, especially if it’s the result of misjudgment. Bing Crosby might tell you. But it’s most unlikely that he would.
Somewhere along the line, Bing’s easygoing manner was taken for sheer laziness and the story grew and spread. Yet inquire of the fellow who once set up a recording session with “the groaner.” “What time shall we make it?” he asked, figuring on Bing ambling in around noon.
“Let’s make it eight,” replied Bing. He meant eight a. And he was right on time.
According to the record, Bing has never denied stories that he can’t read music. However, if true, one musical director wishes to know why Crosby always asks to see the music before the lyrics? Once he went so far as to ask Bing, who characteristically replied, “Oh, I like to see The notes going up and down on the page!”
Few of those intent on careless talking stop to think of the heartbreak their words can cause and of the encouragement that a kind word can bring. Marilyn Monroe knows.
While attending a party one evening, Marilyn started into the powder room of a popular night spot. She got no further than just inside the door when she overheard two girls discussing her. “Those clothes she wears,” said one. “Someone should really teach her how to dress.”
“And I understand her manners are just as bad,” exclaimed the other.
Then Marilyn heard an interruption. “Do you know Marilyn?” someone was asking. “Have you met her?”
“Well, no,” both girls confessed.
“I believe you’ll like her when you do, and you’ll find that most of the things said about her aren’t at all true,” came the reply.
Marilyn recognized Eleanor Parker’s voice. They had met only that evening, but the Monroe felt a lifetime’s worth of gratitude.
While others sharpen their verbal claws, Marilyn is noticeably silent. “I was just a little girl when I learned to make up my own mind about right and wrong,” she’s said. “There was no one always to depend upon and I found it necessary to depend on myself. I’m convinced that principles and behavior are matters for the personal conscience. And there are at least two sides to every story.”
As of late, Marilyn’s been under fire again in her personal as well as her professional life. “I’m not completely immune to gossip even now,” she’ll tell you. “But I’ve found that gossip doesn’t alter facts. It’s more likely to expose the fears and frustrations of the name callers.”
It would be difficult to count the friendships that have been ruined by those who spread rumors. Glenn and Ellie Ford once gave a party at which they began a family argument about whether Peter, their son, was seeing too much television. They’d forgotten their disagreement by the time their guests had departed. However, one guest remembered it entirely too well. He began murmuring around about what a shame it was about the Fords. The poor unhappy Fords.
Glenn and Ellie were soon deluged by calls inquiring when the divorce suit would be filed. Eventually they learned the source of the tale and the friendship isn’t at all what it used to be.
You’d think two people in love would be left to themselves. Yet Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh have been victimized by talebearers from the very start of their romance.
Before their marriage, Tony was accused of dating Janet for publicity purposes as she was the star, he a comparative newcomer. In these stories you heard of their night-clubbing activities. You rarely heard a word about the many evenings they spent with their families, or of Tony’s tender devotion to Janet when photographers were absent from the scene.
If there was a plot, it backfired and Tony and Janet were married sooner than they had originally planned. Tony was on his first big personal appearance tour and Janet was on location in Detroit. It was in Denver that the story reached him. Janet, the word went, had met a handsome ballplayer and, as far as she was concerned, the Curtis-Leigh romance was dead.
Tony tried to call her from backstage at the theatre, but he couldn’t reach her. So he took his sinking heart back to his hotel. Maybe there was some truth to the story, he thought. It was hard to believe, but maybe.”
At 3 a.m., he was awakened by the ring of the phone. It was Janet, who had trouble getting through to him. Yes, she’d met the ballplayer. They’d appeared at the same benefit and had gone out for a bite to eat with a group of friends. She’d thought nothing about the incident until she’d heard the rumors—from the unhappy ballplayer and his fiancée, who’d heard them first.
Tony and Janet decided to be married as quickly as possible. Perhaps that would stop all the talk. But after their wedding, stories only increased. One day Tony tripped on the set and hurt his ankle. The word went around that Janet had kicked him. And Janet went around muttering, “Kicked him? I know who I’d like to kick!”
Today, they both frankly admit that their marriage has been going through a period of strain and stress, as do all marriages. However, experts are betting that they’re far too sensible to let the limelight wreck the partnership they value above all else. “We’ve been trying to live our own lives and let people say what they like, hoping that perhaps they’ll give up and go away,’ says Tony. And perhaps they will!
Today, Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl are well on their way to becoming one of America’s best-known husband and wife teams on both stage and screen. Looking back, it might be concluded that they deserve some sort of citation for the accomplishment.
A stranger in town—any town—often becomes the victim of unfair gossip. And such was the case of Fernando Lamas. Because she loved him, Arlene drew her share.
A man of great charm, there was no doubt that Fernando had a way with the ladies. And his first big Hollywood romance happened to be with his leading lady, Lana Turner. “Publicity,” shrieked the rumormongers, as if Lana weren’t one of Hollywood’s most beautiful stars, one whom any man would like to date.
However, once the talk began there was no stopping it. Fernando was blamed for breaking Lana’s heart. Dubbed a Latin Lover type, he was credited to being well on the way to breaking Arlene’s heart. “He’ll never marry her,” the stories insisted. “He’s just using her to keep his name in print and get jobs.”
Fernando was understandably upset by the attacks. “I will not rush into marriage. I did that when I was very young and I lived to regret it. Probably Arlene and I will get married, but in due time.”
In due time they did marry and there’s no happier couple in Hollywood. Despite the talk, they waited to make certain that their love would last.
If rumors reached Stewart Granger on the “Bhowani Junction” location in India of Jean Simmons stepping out with Frank Sinatra, he knew better than to think in terms of more than friendship between two stars of “Guys and Dolls,” for he knows the ways of Hollywood gossip.
When Jean and Stewart were first married, a telephone call interrupted one of their quiet evenings at home. “Hear you and Jean are going to get a divorce,” said the columnist at the other end of the line.
“What in the world are you talking about?” asked the baffled Granger.
“Do you deny it?”
“Of course, I deny it,” replied Granger.
The following day there came another call. “What’s this about a divorce?” Stewart was asked.
“What divorce?” he bellowed.
“Well, after all, you did make a denial. There must have been something to it,” came the reply. |
“Where in the blazes did you get such a story?” asked Granger.
“From the paper. Says so right here,” said his friend. “ ‘Stewart Granger Denies Divorce Rumors!’ ”
The danger in believing rumors is unlimited and many a victim has fallen under their spell. Take Montgomery Clift. You’d think he’d spent his entire life ignoring gossip. Yet, at one time, he listened and gave in.
Living in a modest apartment after his success in motion pictures, Monty was represented as a near-tenement dweller, not to mention miser, and the stories began to bother him.
Was it really a star’s duty, as they said, to live in a manner expected by the public? Did fans actually resent a star’s attempt to lead his own life in his own way?
Clift moved into a more expensive apartment and threw cocktail parties for the “right people.” But it didn’t last. He’s long since gotten back to normal. And why? “I lost all my friends,” he explained when he returned to modest living quarters. “They thought I was going high-hat. And I almost went broke paying the bills.”
Victor Mature will listen to a gossip, for a time. Then he’ll make a suggestion. “Let’s go over and see the guy and you can tell him what you’ve told me. To his face.”
Mature wasn’t immune to rumors even while in the Coast Guard during the war. As a Bo’sun’s Mate, one of his jobs was to be lowered into the water to rescue service men whose ships had been sunk.
The water was incredibly icy and it happened that the shipboard authorities were providing a shot of brandy for the rescuers after each dip into the ocean. Upon one particular day, Victor had some eleven rescues to his credit—more than any of the others. “The story reached the States and when I finally got back, I heard that the only reason I kept going down was so I could have more brandy when I came up again,” grins Mature, who has one of Hollywood’s finest service records.
James and Pamela Mason took legal action to halt the rumors that swarmed about them. They sued for libel, declaring the stories “malicious persecution.”
Pam went on. “As long as we’re alive, it’s safe to say that we’ll be married. The rest of the talk is tommyrot.”
Marlon Brando reacts to gossip in various ways. He’s taken it with sense of humor, grain of salt, great annoyance, though not necessarily in that order.
Whoever, whatever, still memorable is the story of the time he attended a party and was cornered by a lady who loved to talk. And did. She engaged him in a lengthy conversation—one-sided to be sure—and recited all of the tales she had ever heard about him. At long last, she concluded with an impressed, “But Mr. Brando, no matter what they say, you’re just like everyone else. And I’m certainly going to spread the news around!”
Marlon gave her a long, sad look. Then, without a word, he walked over to the nearest corner of the room and stood on his head.
Perhaps Uncle Sam had the right idea when he put up the very effective World War II posters, “A slip of the lip may sink a ship.” Perhaps they should be displayed again with “How many people have you sunk lately?” penciled in!
—BY BEVERLY OTT
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1955