Hot Copy-Coming Up!
I hear them say, “Oh, sure—these new kids coming up are attractive and some of them can really act.
“But where among them are the personalities with the excitement of a Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, John Gilbert, Dietrich or Garbo? None of the newcomers can hold a candle to those stars for news interest.”
Strawberries, say I! Not yet, maybe—but believe me—there are some fascinating candidates coming, up.
Nobody loves hot copy like your girl friend. I’ve been making a most pleasant living for more years than I intend to tell writing about screen stars who make news as well as movies, and who are exciting personalities to write about.
From long experience, I can sight a newsworthy personality the moment I spot one on the screen, or better still, as I interview him or her in my playroom.
In a paragraph or two I’m going to tell you about these newcomers who, in my opinion, have enormously exciting possibilities for making hot copy.
First, I want to say that not all stars are hot copy by a longshot. As popular as they are with the fans, as a reporter I cannot list Jeanne Craine, Doris Day, Peggy Dow, Nancy Davis, Kathryn Grayson and even Betty Grable as hot copy.
On the other hand, already established as hot copy personalities are Ava Gardner, Farley Granger, Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner (the latter not as hot as she used to be).
Im not implying that slightly scandalous copy makes the most interesting reading. Neither Ingrid Bergman nor Rita Hayworth are hot copy today. (Ask Ye Ed of MODERN SCREEN, Chuck Saxon, how many stories he’s buying this season on either girl.)
Then, take John Agar—who has been hitting the headlines regularly with several drunken-driving arrests and his recent almost shockingly casual elopement to Las Vegas. Barbara Peyton is another who gets in print regularly, and so does Sonny Tufts. The best that can be said for this type of copy is that it is “too hot” to handle.
The question, then, is—what is hot copy? The answer is:
It is that extra something beyond the line of talent—that electric spark which makes certain players more exciting to read about than others.
They are the actors who, by some projection of their personalities, create an almost fictional-type character off-screen that is oft-times as interesting as the heroes and heroines they play on the screen. They have the ability to create unusual curiosity about everything they do and say.
A standout among these, I believe, is Shelley Winters.
Oh, she isn’t always tractable—or even polite to the press—this erratic Miss Winters.
Frequently, she is not above “lifting” a witticism or a bon mot from Noel Coward or Shaw and revamping it in her own words for an interview. (That she is usually caught at it doesn’t stop her!)
She breaks appointments now and then.
She is frequently bad tempered on the set and moody in public.
But there is something very human and warm and down to earth about Shelley that makes us forgive her, and wait with interest news of the next “jam” she gets herself into.
Completely unpredictable, she is constantly good copy.
Not long ago, when she was in trouble with her studio (trouble?—she had managed to get herself suspended!) she long-distanced me from New York.
“I’m in Dutch,” she said with that innate honesty that is so much a part of her makeup. “I want to come back and make the picture with Frank Sinatra after all. Won’t you fix it for me with my boss, Bill Goetz?”
If that isn’t typical!
First I took a minute to tell her off about what a naughty girl I thought she was to get herself suspended in these difficult times. But, my reporter instinct came to the fore and I couldn’t scold her too much.
By being the first to know that Shelley wanted to make up with her studio, I was the first to reach Bill Goetz with the news and to get myself a “first exclusive” for the radio, and the break for my papers that this much publicized studio battle had been called off.
Looking at it less selfishly—while Shelley frequently poses as the dizziest of blondes, she has a lovable side that gets under our skins.
As flippantly as she may wisecrack about serious things, her romance with Farley Granger and marriage in general, I happen to know that she doesn’t mean half the stuff she spouts. I think that she is deeply in love with Farley and that she has a real respect for marriage.
Behind all of her antics as a zany, continually in hot water, the fans sense that there is a great deal more to this explosive girl. When you see her deep, emotionally stirring and honest performance in A Place In The Sun you will be sure of it.
But whether Shelley is popping off like a comedienne, or letting us in on her really finer side, she is a personality who is sure to hold our interest as she zooms higher and higher up the ladder of her career.
If Shelley is the hottest copy among the new corps of girls, to my way of thinking Tony Curtis holds that honor among the men.
This boy is far more than a romantic, soft-eyed young screen lover who has caught the attention of the bobby-soxers.
He has enormous personal charm. When he talks for publication there is nothing of the over-night-success “ham” about him. Surprising in a boy so young, when he talks he has something to say. Tony is delighted with the way he has zoomed to the top in a short time, but he is wise to the hazards beyond his years.
Frankly, I had put off meeting young Curtis and deliberately postponed several interview appointments with him. I had just had a run of interviews with some of the new screen gents, many of whom I could very well do without.
So, he had a strike or two on him when he came to my house. We hadn’t talked more than a few minutes before I realized how mistaken I had been, considering him just another good-looking boy for the teen-agers to squeal over.
He is a fascinating conversationalist about many things, and what I particularly liked about him is that he isn’t bored—just the opposite—when the subject veers from himself.
Tony is intelligent enough to know that an honest and cooperative approach to publicity will greatly aid his career and help put it on a solid basis long after the squealers may switch to someone else. This, combined with his natural charm and dignity, will keep him out in front as good copy for many years.
Not for a minute do I think that his recent marriage to Janet Leigh will diminish his popularity one whit. There’s more to this lad than his being a mere bobby-sox idol. Wait and see.
Are high on my list of hot honeys to watch is irrepressible Mitzi Gaynor—a publicity “natural” if I ever saw one. One of the best indications that she is hot copy coming up is that one has only to see her in a gathering to ask, “Who is that girl? Where’s she been hiding all that pep?”
The first off-screen glimpse I had of Mitzi (she had played a brief part in My Blue Heaven with Betty Grable) was at the private party at Romanoff’s following the Academy Awards.
The place was jumpin’ with “greats,” the most vivid personalities of the screen.
And, yet, as Mitzi danced by (and how she danced—very dreamy-eyed and yet electric in the arms of an assortment of partners using, I noticed, the same technique on all) everyone was asking, “Who’s that?”
It isn’t that she is so beautiful, either. Many people think she looks like a pretty Jane Withers. But the sparks fly when Missy Gaynor is around, whether she is acting for the cameras or just talking to reporters.
Not long ago I got a close-up of Mitzi inaction again. It was at a party given by the Darryl Zanucks for their 17-year-old daughter, Susan. Mitzi was asked to sing—an invitation she accepted with such alacrity and electricity that not only were the wolves whistling over her—all the young kids crowded around her. Later, they asked me question after question about this new star of musical comedy.
I told Darryl, “You’ve got a new star in that girl.”
The boss of 20th Century-Fox laughed. “You’re right,” he agreed, “this girl has got it.” And IT with capital letters say I.
Steve Cochran is hot copy for the reason that he deliberately makes himself thatta way. Unlike Shelley, Tony, and Mitzi, he is good to interview and to talk about not because he can’t help it—but because he works at it.
I was most conscious of this when I interviewed Steve soon after he started going around with Ginger Rogers. He extracted every whit of publicity that “romance” could stand, and some that wasn’t in the cards. He knew that Ginger’s interest in him and vice-versa gave him new importance to the press.
Steve had been knocking around Hollywood quite a while without stirring up much dust in a publicity way. He gave good performances, but so do many other actors. He didn’t seem to have that “something” to make people talk about him and wonder what he was up to after seeing him on the screen.
But Steve kept his eyes and his ears open. He began to realize that the spotlight is most frequently turned on those gentlemen who seem to have particular allure for lovely ladies.
I don’t mean to insinuate that his romance with Ginger was calculated on his part. But after the spark ignited—Steve was no bashful violet about his feelings. He talked to all and sundry, with the result that he got more publicity than has ever come his way from a good screen performance.
There are some loud whispers that Ginger became so annoyed by his ardent and oral admiration that she nipped whatever romance there might have been between them in the bud. But even this made good copy—as the columnists guessed in print almost daily whether Ginger and Steve were “hot” or “cold.”
Yes, I think Mr. Cochran, he of the virile screen roles and the fatal attraction to the femmes, will continue very much in the fore, now that he has learned that “good copy” pays off at the box office and in his career.
Jeff Chandler feels that I do not like him. He told a friend I don’t write about him in the “complimentary” way I write about other actors.
He doesn’t know how mistaken he is! I like him exceptionally well because there is much more to say about him in print than a mere colorless “compliment” or two. I think that Jeff has some of the same great potential publicity punch that first helped put Clark Gable over as a big star.
Right now, Jeff is going through an unhappy phase of his life. His home is broken up. He will soon be divorced from his wife, and he misses his children.
Clark Gable weathered this same kind of unhappy marital publicity just as he was becoming a star. I mean his unfortunate marriages to both Josephine Dillon and Rhea Gable.
But if there is anything that intrigues the ladies about a man or a movie idol—it is the hint that one of these rugged-masculine charmers is suffering secret sorrows! I think the psychiatrists call it bringing out the “maternal instinct” in feminine hearts.
Jeff should realize that all “good copy” does not have to be of the happy hearts-and-flowers-goody-goody variety to create interest.
I think Jeff will live to realize that the Sunday feature I wrote on his broken marriage rather than on his manly charms will do him more good than harm. In my book, Jeff is a he-man who will be worth writing about for many years to come.
I am greatly influenced in making my selections of hot copy by my fan mail. And I can tell you that Tony (Valentino) Dexter has just about been burning up my mail.
Of the entire brand new crop of stars, I am convinced that this boy is potentially torrid from a publicity angle. I do not for a moment think that he is a “one role” star as so many have hinted.
True, his resemblance to the late, beloved Valentino is startling. It is the main reason that this young man, whose real name is Walter Craig, was selected by Edward Small to create the popular idol.
But—and it’s a big but—to a whole world-wide group of new fans who do not remember the original Valentino, Tony packs a wallop completely his own. To the new young fans, Tony is excitement plus in himself, and is in no way an imitation of an actor idolized years ago.
Another young actor with strong possibilities to rate reams of copy is good looking Dale Robertson. Out of the blue, as it were, my attention was attracted to this six-foot good-looking character because of his sexy speaking voice. You can close your eyes and believe you are listening to Clark when Dale talks.
I have noticed that a sexy speaking voice (singing voice, too) is a very good indicator of a gentleman who will get good publicity. We lady reporters can be just as susceptible to a voice as you fans, and are prone to write up what the Voice says ing our best hot copy style.
Dale has made a number of films for 20th and before that he was at Warners. After you fans see in in Take Care of my Little Girl, I’m sure he will be on my list to interview over and over. He is just starting his popularity climb with the squealing set, but once they pick out a man as their own there is no satisfying their insatiable curiosity about him.
One of the candid camera photographers who cover the night clubs was the first to call my attention to Phyllis Kirk as hot stuff.
“Louella, she’s the only one of the new kids with something really different about her. Believe me, I know. I photograph them all.”
Not long after, one of the national magazines that specializes in Hollywood’s new hot copy gals came forth with an enchanting picture of Phyllis on the cover.
That’s quite a break for any newcomer, and from that time on I started watching Phyllis.
Her career started in 1949. That year she appeared with Ann Harding at the Westport, Connecticut, summer theater in Yes, My Darling Daughter.
Then came a series of pictures at MGM, not with star roles, but with parts colorful enough to create an interest in the Kirk cutie.
She may not exactly be hot copy now—but take my word for it—she’s coming up.
Of course, some players do not develop into the hot copy you first expect of them. Corinne Calvet is a girl who started out like a house-afire as far as copy is concerned, and lately seems to have simmered down.
When she first came to Hollywood, she furnished one human interest angle after another. She behaved like a playgirl and for not taking her career seriously, Paramount fired her. It made good copy, indeed, as Corinne wept and wept over her lost opportunity, and promised to behave herself.
The second stage in her publicity campaign was when she did a serious right-about-face and applied herself so diligently that she not only got another chance, but is now a star for Hal Wallis on the same lot that fired her.
That’s good story material. Makes for interest in a gal.
But lately it seems to me that the press does not give her quite so much attention—not because she is happily married to John Bromfield, either. Rather, I believe she can set it down to the fact that she doesn’t particularly exert herself to be colorful copy these days. (You can’t keep it up, Corinne, by merely posing in some good-looking bathing suits in front of your beach house.)
Something of the same may be said about John Derek. After starting out as very good copy from a writer’s standpoint, he got hooked on the subject of how difficult it is to be “too handsome” and harped on that one idea through almost every interview he granted. Somewhere along the line, many of the columnists decided to let him fight out that problem by himself.
I guess if you were to ask me the all time high for hot copy—the prize would have to go to Joan Crawford who has been the darling of the press (sometimes referred to as its meal ticket) for over 20 years. And Joan has never lived to egret it!
If I have forgotten or overlooked some shining new player whom you believe serves a place on my “tops” list of exciting new people to write about, I wish you would drop me a hint.
As I said before—there’s nothing I love more dearly than a good hot personality to write about, as well as to admire for pure art’s sake.
—BY LOUELLA PARSONS
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1951