Flat On Their Bank Accounts—Hollywood
Got those income tax blues? Then move over and make room for Van Johnson, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, and maybe Martin and Lewis. Or, maybe you’d rather be financially depressed along with Stewart Granger, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Mickey Rooney, Robert Mitchum, or Betty Grable?
The earning ability of these top stars is amazing. But most of them live lavishly from hand to mouth.
Rita Hayworth was so broke when she returned to Hollywood, her agents had to loan her $100,000 to make a new beginning. The Cinderella star who married the son of the richest prince in the world doesn’t even own an auto, much less a home. It may take Frank Sinatra the rest of his life to break even with is bank account. At last reports Turner still owed the Internal Reve gents $160,000. Robert Mitchum, who earns $4,500 a week, tells me he still must borrow every year to meet the March 15 deadline. Van Johnson lives from check to check. Miss Grable’s collateral is controlled by an H—for horses. And if there is anything more unpredictable than a nag, don’t tell me.
As for the new terrific million-dollar movie men, Mario Lanza and Martin and Lewis, when you get an eyeful of their mode of living, you’ll wonder, as I do, whether they possibly will be able to live on the right side of the ledger when the glory and the glamour are just a memory.
Rita Hayworth’s contract at Columbia reads like the dream her marriage to Prince Aly wasn’t. It’s a straight seven-year deal. The first two years Rita receives $4,500 weekly. Next two years $5,000 every seven days. Two more years at $6,000. The last year, it’s up to Rita to decide how much.
I first learned of Rita’s present impecunious state when she rented a lawyer’s home in Beverly Hills. He wanted to sell it. But Rita didn’t have the down payment. So she agreed to rent at $850 a month, with a vague option to buy. The swank Lincoln car she drives belongs to her studio, who change it for a new car every year, registered in their name. That’s a nice deal, but personally I’d rather own my own car, so I can raise some cash on it when and if things get tough. And they are tough for Rita.
Even the house she did own B. A. (before Aly) was sold by order of Aly through his horse trainer. The $50,000 received for the house was expressed to Lloyds in Geneva, and used, according to a good source, to pay some of Aly’s more pressing gambling debts. Aly, I’m told, is in debt to every bookmaker in England.
While Rita was still living with the supposedly billionaire Moslem Prince, she was sued by her Hollywood business. manager of many years, for unpaid salary. I hear that Rita still is in debt. The big house, with two nurses and three servants, is expensive to run. And how can Rita save for a future rainy day with an income tax bracket of ninety cents on every dollar?
Frank Sinatra makes between half and three quarters of a million every year. You and I could be very happy on that. We might even retire after a year or two or three. But Frankie daren’t stop working for more than a month. It isn’t so muck what he has to pay Nancy—one third of his salary up to $150,000 and 40 per cent on anything over that—it’s the way Frankie has become accustomed to living that cuts the bottom from his money hope chest.
His “shack” at Palm Springs cost him $160,000. When he tried to sell the place recently, $60,000 was the highest bid received for the white elephant. He decided it would be cheaper for him and Ava to live there. His courtship of Ava meant a big revenue for the airlines—and set him back plenty for transportation. Also that emerald and diamond necklace he bough Ava, didn’t grow on any tree.
If Frankie confined his generosity to his family, he might have a chance of breaking even one day. But he gives so much to so many people. One Christmas he gave away five cars as presents. I heard him tell a member of his crowded entourage—“Go down to the barber shop, find out the name of that manicurist who’s leaving on her vacation tomorrow . . . I want her to have the best rawhide luggage you can buy.” The four pieces came to $900. “That’s just what I wanted,” said Frankie. This, for a girl whose name he didn’t even know!
Only Mickey Rooney has spent so prodigiously for the ladies—and this includes his three wives. I’m told that each mating cost the Mick $100,000. The birds and the bees do it cheaper. Wife number two, Betty Jane Rase, invested her hundred grand in a string of motels managed by her mother. She’s doing fine. I’ve never asked Ava what she did with hers. I hope she socked it away. She may need it with Frankie. Martha Vickers is taking hers at the rate of $2,000 a month, with $10,000 in cash for a down payment on a house.
Mickey received $75,000 for his Bob Hope picture. He gets $100,000 for three pictures from Columbia. But to save him from his mania for spending, the studio pays him at the rate of $1,000 a week over six years. I use the word “mania” advisedly. At one time Mickey had ten cars in his garage, and a hangar housing a $35,000 airplane! There was a car for his butler and one for the nurse! His favorite piece of literature is The Racing Form. He’s trying hard to cut down on the horses. But not long ago, I saw him place a $400 bet on each of the eight races in one afternoon. That adds up to an expensive three hours. Even a millionaire would pause. And with the astronomical income taxes of today Hollywood stars are a long way from joining the millionaire fraternity.
Mario Lanza’s intake for 1951 touched the million and a half mark. For nine months of RCA recordings Mario received a check for $401,000. In addition to his income from movies and radio and concert tours, he owns a tungsten mine, a ball-bearing works and a song-publishing company. He won’t have to borrow to pay his income tax this year. But his over-all fortune easily could be stunted on the present regime of spending.
Mario, generous to a fault, recently bought his wife Betty an $18,000 silver-blue mink coat. Betty has only to open her mouth to ask for something, and it’s hers. Last week, for instance, Mario came home with two love birds—a mere $400—chicken feed. Mario also was willing to spend $250,000 for the Arthur Lyons home on Sunset Boulevard. But he was spared the $125,000 a year maintenance cost of this place when Betty spoke up and said it was silly, because Mario plans to spend six months of each year away from Hollywood, giving concert tours in this hemisphere and in Europe.
Mario’s a good son and a good friend. With his first bonus, he bought a $25,000 house for his parents. He gave ex-Marine Dale Goodman $20,000 to start a chicken farm in Oregon. His trainer, Terry Robinson, was gifted with a Chevrolet convertible.
For himself, 29-year-old Mario likes expensive clothes, rare gold watches—he has one $1,500 watch intricately inserted inside a $20 gold piece. And cuff-links of precious stones. He loves people and likes to entertain. The house in Beverly Hills is crowded from morning until night. Mario has a good business manager, and I assume the latter is socking away a dollar for every dollar Mario spends with such joyful fortissimo.
No one knows for sure how much Martin and Lewis are making. But the young comics, unknown a few years ago, chalked up something in the neighborhood of one million smackeroos for the fiscal year ending this March. It’s fun to spend money when you’re young. And Dean and Jerry are having fun; Jerry more than Dean, who is slightly handicapped with alimony payments of $36,000 a year to his former wife. A payment of $36,000 requires an earning intake of nearly half a million dollars. That’s what Dean has to make before he starts paying for his second family.
Jerry paid cash for his $125,000 home. He owns two Cadillacs as does Dean. He supports his own and his wife’s parents. He took up golf a month ago, and promptly bought thirty sets of clubs for his friends. He gives watches to all of his acquaintances. When Dean sees anyone with an unusual watch, he says, “That must be a friend of Jerry’s.” And young Mr. Lewis has the most expensive hobby in town. He makes full-length movies for private viewing. A conservative estimate of Jerry’s camera equipment is $30,000. The film alone for his last, “The Re-Enforcer,” cost $2,000. Add a dozen lawsuits since Jerry and Dean hit the fame jackpot and you’ll see why income tax day could be a problem.
Lana Turner was in debt when she married reputed millionaire Bob Topping. And, like Rita Hayworth, she came out of her marriage poorer than when she went in. I’m told it’s her money in the Turner-Topping honeymoon mansion in Bel-Air—$95,000 worth. She is disposing of the pretty show place for something more in keeping with her pocket.
Lana spends her salary the way stars used to in days of no income tax. I hope she has signed her new Metro contract by the time you read this story. It’s supposed to take care of the fortune she owes Uncle Sam.
Van Johnson, like Stewart Granger, borrowed a big hunk of dollars to pay for a lovely home after his marriage to Evie. Van’s place cost $125,000. Granger’s, with all the additions, cost nearer $150,000. When you figure these people are lucky if—with a quarter million dollars a year salary—taxes leave them with $30,000 a year, you realize how tough it can be for them to pay back a loan of $100,000.
When Van, with Evie’s two boys and a daughter of his own, outgrew the first home, he moved into another more practical but just as expensive place in Beverly Hills—without waiting to sell the first. And Van was the boy who was so scared of getting into debt, he lived in one bedroom—before his marriage, of course.
The Grangers have come down to earth too—with quite a bang-bang. Stewart wanted only the best for his young bride, Jean Simmons. But the little lady gasped—in dismay, when her handsome husband carried her over the threshold of a small palace after she married him fifteen months ago. Now they’re looking for a nest to call their own, and hoping desperately for a buyer to take the big house, and take them out of the red.
There was a story that when Betty Grable changed agents, the new ten per centers loaned her $40,000 to tide over a financial difficulty. Betty denied the story at the time, but the agents who were jilted told me the story was true. It’s a common practice. Stars who need ready cash are tempted to switch to agents who will make money advances. There is no risk involved and the agent always collects. If Betty is hard up—and she lost eight months of salary at $8,000 a week last year, on suspension—you could put it down to the horses again. Unless you win consistently, the sport of kings is very expensive. Like owning a yacht.
Which brings us to Errol Flynn. Errol wants to sell the famous “Zaca.” He earns $200,000 for every picture he makes at Warners. But his yacht costs $1,000 a month to maintain. Add to this $12,000 a year expense there’s $30,000 it costs him to support his first wife, the gal he calls Tiger Lili (Damita). There’s also the $550 a month he pays for his two children, with Nora Haymes. All of which, plus his non-stop lawsuits, doesn’t leave much over for the future. Errol hopes to get away from it all one day and settle on his ranch in Jamaica. I hope he can swing it.
If Robert Mitchum stays out of trouble, he should break even in the financial department by 1953. He has paid back half of the $50,000 he borrowed from boss Howard Hughes to finance his home and swimming pool. He lives quietly with Dorothy and the boys, with no lavish parties, so that faithfully every week he can diminish his debts. He still has to make up the money he lost’ when a former business manager bilked him of something like $70,000. A business manager took Linda Darnell for the same amount. Me, if I ever make a lot of dollars, I’ll manage it myself.
Dan Dailey is playing it safe. “I get $75 a week for spending money and food,” he told me recently. “The rest goes into stocks and bonds and annuities.” Dan waited to buy a swank make car, until he could put every dollar on the line. No deferred payments in Dailey’s life.
They say the man with all the money in town is Bob Hope. I’ll match him with Fred MacMurray and Joel McCrea, both of whom parlayed their movie earnings into big fortunes. And when you can do that, in these high taxable days, you are a genius.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1952