No More Brides? Helen Rose is running out of brides on the Metro lot. When Helen created Liz Taylor’s first bridal gown for her elaborate church wedding to Nicky Hilton, the famous designer never dreamed she’d wind up sending Liz a second one to London for her Claxton Hall ceremony with Mike Wilding and that five short years later Miss Taylor would SOS her again to ship a hydrangea blue chiffon down to Mexico for her vows of love with Mike Todd. Jane Powell is another M-G-M youngster whom Helen twice dressed as a bride—for her marriages to Geary Steffen and to Pat Nerney. Then came the beautiful Fisher body—Debbie Reynolds—whose motto is “once a bride, always a bride, to the same groom.” And finally Her Grace, the Princess of Monaco. Since Grace’s gown was televised and photographed for the entire world, I don’t have to tell you that Helen really outdid herself with this exquisite creation, and it cost $4,000. It was a wedding gift to the bride from the studio she had left behind. Now Helen suddenly finds herself bereft of bridal prospects. “I thought I had found one in Barbara Lang, a lovely newcomer with an exquisite figure, whom Metro recently put under contract,” Helen told me. “And then I discovered she is already married.”
Sad News: The saddest news that has come out of Hollywood since the untimely death of Humphrey Bogart is the tragic bulletin that Georgia and Red Skelton’s first-born and only son, nine-year-old Richard, is fatally ill of an incurable blood disease known as leukemia. It’s tragic enough that his mother and father have to live with this inconsolable truth, but why did Dickie have to be told, too? There is no time limit to leukemia. While there is life, there is hope, and always the prayer that the never-ending research of scientists will one day effect a cure. For Dickie, with all the exuberant spirits of a growing boy, his hospital check-up held no fears. Had he been the son of an ordinary Citizen, he would have left the hospital to resume his normal routine, never knowing that his life is to be cut down before it has really begun. But because his father is a famous star, the medical report of his illness was flashed to the press—and to Dickie. He was watching TV along with ninety other young hospital patients when, with no warning, he heard the grim announcement. Ironically enough, most of the follow-up bulletins said that Dickie himself was completely unaware of the seriousness of his illness. How much kinder it would have been for all concerned if this medical report had been kept confidential as it should have been.
I know whereof I speak. I lost my twin brother to the same dread disease. On the day he died, he said to me, “I was pretty sick, wasn’t I?” The fact that he never knew what lay ahead helped to make the fearful secret we kept from him bearable to the end. And yet the fact that Dickie Skelton does know should not make him or Red and Georgia despair. That miracle cure may be just around the corner.
Bergman Ballyhoo: It was an English statesman who said, “There is nothing that succeeds so well as success.” And certainly nowhere in the world is success so worshipped as here in America. I couldn’t help but reflect about this when Ingrid Bergman returned to the United States for the first time since her self-imposed exile seven and a half years ago. She came back on a veritable tidal wave of success. The New York Film Critics had voted her “the best actress of the year” for her performance in “Anastasia.” Hollywood echoed this opinion by giving her an Academy Award sweepstakes ticket. Her Paris stage debut in “Tea and Sympathy” has added further laurels to her career. Her marriage to Roberto Rosselini, which had defied all the conventions, had also defied the prediction that it would never last. Fooling the skeptics, she is a radiantly happy wife and mother of three cherubic youngsters, for whom she took back a new jungle gym and many other American toys, though she didn’t have time to do any shopping for herself. Her ex-husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom, now remarried, and her first daughter, Pia, now named Jennie Ann, whom she had deserted for her own personal happiness, seem to have readjusted their lives. As Ingrid stepped off the plane that brought her to New York for a brief thirty-six hours, no prodigal daughter ever had a more triumphant homecoming. But suppose the “happy ending” had been different? Suppose Ingrid’s marriage had failed, and her career, which some say was ebbing abroad, hadn’t been resuscitated by the lucky offer from an American film company, 20th Century-Fox, of the role in “Anastasia.” Suppose she had come back to the States with defeat, not victory, as her traveling companion. What, I wonder, would her reception have been?
Serious Youngsters: Whether it is the Actors Studio that is responsible for the new behavior pattern of young talent today I wouldn’t be sure, but the fact remains that most of the crop of new personalities I meet now have a serious approach to their work that is a far cry from the days when an actor was content to collect a salary check every week, coast on his popularity and let the future take care of itself.
Take Tab Hunter and Don Murray for example—and that’s good work if you can get it! Tab is currently the hottest male property on the Warner lot, but in talking to him as I did over a recent luncheon you find he’s actually just beginning to hit his stride. He doesn’t want to be a glamour boy who gets into columns because his name is linked with Natalie Wood or some other doll. He wants to earn his publicity as an actor and be respected by the press, the public and his fellow players. And he isn’t just talking about it to hear himself talk. He’s working toward his goal, studying with the studio coach as well as privately in a group with five other students. He wants to play all kinds of roles, not fail into the easy rut of type-casting. When “The Spirit of St. Louis” was being cast, Tab hoped to be recognized as the ideal Charles Lindbergh. But producer Leland Hayward was afraid to entrust this important role to a newcomer, so veteran Jimmy Stewart got it. Before Tab recorded “Young Love” for Dot Records, he begged the studio bosses to let him do a musical in which he could not only sing, but ice skate—another talent in which he excels. No dice. Now he is begging to be allowed to do more TV shows like the “Jim Pearsall Story” or to be loaned to 20th for the young German soldier in “The Young Lions.” “It’s an unsympathetic part, sure,” Tab said. “But I’d rather play an interesting villain than a dull hero any time!” When I asked Tab where romance entered his scheme of things, he answered, “Of course I want to marry eventually, but I don’t want a career girl who fences me in—if you know what I mean.” I gathered from the way his face lit up when he talked about the French doll, Etchika Choureau, who plays opposite him in “Lafayette Escadrille,” that she is not the career girl type, but is the type he likes, mais oui! However, she’s back in Paris now, so here’s your chance, American gals. Line forms on the right, and don’t shove!
Don Murray didn’t even wait for a “Bus Stop” to marry the love of his life, Hope Lange. They were married in the midst of his first film production and they’re expecting their first baby any moment. Don is another young man in a hurry, professionally speaking. He has had more stage experience than Tab, with several Broadway plays and some stock under his belt, but he, too, is continuing to study. Before playing the demanding role of the doperidden husband in “A Hatful of Rain,” he prepared for the part by talking to many youngsters who had been cured of the habit and others still addicted to it. As a result, his performance is so realistic that even watching him on the set you forget his real identity and feel that he has just been given the needle. In between his picture assignments, Don has had time to write his own television script, which he is now adapting into a full-length picture, and in his other leisure (?) moments he’s reading scripts like mad, hoping to find a play to “bring him back to Broadway.”
His Fair Ladies: The sad news that Lilli Palmer and Rex Harrison had finally ended their fourteen-year-old marriage was especially upsetting to me. I have known Lilli and Rex ever since they first arrived in Hollywood twelve years ago. Our friendship has continued uninterrupted through the years, and I hope it will continue always, now that Rex is marrying his long-stemmed English beauty, Kay Kendall, and Lilli is altar-bound again with Carlos Thompson.
It was three summers ago that Rex, already unhappy in his marriage, made a film in London for the late Alexander Korda, called, of all things, “The Constant Husband.” The fair lady chosen to play opposite him in it met with his interest from the start. Her name was Kay Kendall. It was not, however, a case of love at first sight for Kay. She was carrying a torch for Sydney Chaplin at the time. But when Rex turns on his charm, there is no woman who can resist him—and it wasn’t too long before Kay and Rex, a married man, found themselves involved in a very unhappy triangle situation. Fortunately, at this psychological time Fate in the person of tali, dark and handsome Carlos Thompson entered Lilli’s life. It was Lilli who gracefully stepped aside and obtained a legal separation from Rex. During this separation of almost a year, Lilli and Rex remained very good friends. No one was prouder of his fabulous success in “My Fair Lady” than she. Their twelve-year-old son Cary was a strong bond. Sadly enough, it was Rex’s decision that it was time for him and Lilli to move back to England so that their son could go to the same exclusive boys’ school Rex had attended, where Cary had been enrolled since his birth, that precipated the recent events leading to the Mexican divorce—which cost him custody of his son.
Nice People: Nancy Kelly, whose rich portrayal of an anguished mother in “The Bad Seed” won her the top theatrical awards of the 1955-56 season and this year nominated her for an Oscar has been playing the same heartbreaking role in a real-life drama. Her first child, a baby daughter, offspring of her marriage to Warren Caro, Theatre Guild executive, was born three months prematurely and, although she’s a perfectly formed baby, she weighed only 950 grams. Doctors warned Nancy and Warren that their youngster had only a fifty per cent chance to survive. But little Kelly, having inherited her mother’s fighting Irish spirit, was apparently determined to stay with the parents who wanted her so much, for stay she has. I shared with Nancy, one of my closest friends, those anxious days and nights when Kelly’s tiny life hung by a thread, and I know that Nancy was given the strength to face this crisis not only by her own wonderful courage and her husband’s, but because of the letters that poured in from complete strangers all over the world, telling her that they, too, were the mothers of premature infants who were now healthy and exceptionally bright children.
While we’re on the subject of mail, I’d like to thank you Photoplay readers for your gratifying letters of comment about “Exclusively Yours.” I was especially pleased, too, by a long-distance call I received from a movie fan in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a minister and had read that 20th is filming Jim Bishop’s story, “The Day That Christ Died.” He felt that there was a role in it for him and wanted to know how to go about getting it. I gave him the name of 20th’s talent scout and now I’m waiting to hear whether his pulpit has temporarily lost him to Hollywood!
Love Before Fame: Although Kay Kendall has made several popular films in England, including “Genevieve” and “Docin the House,” both seen here, she will be “discovered” by Hollywood with the American release of “Les girls.” Like those other “bundles from Britain,” Audrey Hepburn, Jean Simmons and Deborah Kerr, she will then be able to write her own ticket at any studio. But since Rex Harrison will be returning to London next April to play “My Fair Lady” at the Drury Lane, I’ll wager you my new Easter bonnet that Kay will never put an ocean between Rex and herself, no matter how tempting the offer. And how smart she is to consider her personal happiness more important than a career. As somebody said, “Your name is in electric lights, the fuse blows out and where are you?” Even Joan Crawford, once the most relentlessly ambitious career girl in all of Hollywood, has announced that she won’t make another film for at least a year so that she can devote herself exclusively to her husband, Alfred Steele. And Liz Taylor seems ready to burn all her Hollywood bridges behind her to live in New York as Mrs. Michael Todd, housewife—or to work for Mike only;. Let’s hope this new trend of actresses who want to be wives is an omen of more happy marriages and fewer divorces in filmland.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1957