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Report From Europe: Why Can’t They Behave?

The British just couldn’t believe it. There was a stunned silence as Errol Flynn, grinning fatuously and foolishly, followed his wife Pat Wymore off the London Palladium stage. It was the Night Of A Hundred Stars—the “Midnight Matinee” organized by Noel Coward for a charity. Royalty was in the stalls, represented by seventeen-year-old Princess Alexandria, daughter of the Duchess of Kent.

For no reason anyone could guess, Errol Flynn, late of Hollywood, had elected to read The Kinsey Report from the stage. It was shockingly tasteless, and to make it worse, Mrs. Flynn performed a just-as-vulgar semi-striptease.

“But why was there no mention of this strange exhibition of bad manners in the press?” I asked a newspaper friend of mine a few days later.

“That’s what Flynn wanted,” he replied, “so we decided to punish him by ignoring the incident.”

Errol has always loved to shock and startle. But I was amazed on my recent trip to Europe, to discover that other movie stars who are usually cautious in their statements and conservative in their behavior, had lost popularity because of sounding off and acting up.

I was surprised, for instance, to find that Clark Gable had lost face in Paris over the Suzanne Dadolle affair. Now it’s one thing not to marry a girl. But in France you are not a gentleman if you deny you are engaged to a lady, after she has announced it. It is not gallant. Actually, poor Suzie might have grabbed Hollywood’s best bachelor if she had realized how easily film stars are frightened by ladies who announce, “We are engaged to marry.” But all the same, I’m sure that if the same thing had happened in Hollywood, Clark would have remained noncommittal and gone off shooting or something instead of flatly denying that his intentions were matrimonial. Such ungraciousness wasn’t like the King.

And Gene Tierney. No one is more sedate in Hollywood than Gene—when she’s here. Gene was born and raised in Brooklyn. She has a passion for titles, and she longs to be a princess. All this palaver about trying to decide whether she should or should not marry Prince Aly Khan is stuff and nonsense. If the old Aga Khan would give the word, it is my opinion that Gene would marry Aly faster than she could say yes. Ironically, one of the Aga’s objections to Gene as a daughter-in-law, I’m told by one of his close friends, is that Gene tries too hard to act like a princess—or rather she conducts herself as she thinks a princess does—haughty, cold and disdainful. I haven’t met many princesses, but the real article has always been warmly gracious.

And Gene’s technique with Aly was, shall we say, a little clumsy. True, she was surrounded by other guests and servants when she stayed at his houses in Paris, Ireland and Deauville, but I would have bet more on her chances of becoming a princess if she hadn’t. And that dash to join Aly in Mexico was a trifle less than discreet.

But how can movie stars be discreet? Rita Hayworth didn’t have any chance for privacy when she traveled with Prince Aly Khan half way around the globe before they were married. And when the deluded film star hoped to have their baby in Switzerland without any publicity, she was surrounded by reporters from practically every newspaper in the world.

The same or worse befell Ingrid Bergman. I want to put on record that I knew about the baby before the story broke, as Ingrid’s former press agent, Joe Steele, can testify. I had received the amazing news from a close friend of Ingrid’s in Rome. And I talked about it with Joe, who was very worried, but I assured him I would never break such a story. I felt too sorry for Ingrid, who until then had been regarded in this country as almost saintly. I’m sure she herself had no idea of what the warm Italian sun and the warmer Italian director would do to her northern personality—or I know she would have taken her daughter Pia with her. She did not mean to abandon Pia. But Ingrid was trapped by her emotions. This could never have happened here.

Naturally she loves it over there. Apparently, no one was shocked by her behavior and no one refers to it. When I saw her in Paris, surrounded by her three children and doting husband, she told me she was completely happy—and the situation with Pia was improving.

“I’ve decided not to fight any more; there have been too many fights. But I am in touch with Pia and I know that one day she will forgive me and come to see me of her own free will,” said Ingrid with calm assurance.

Ava Gardner’s big romantic escapade in Italy and Spain didn’t turn out so well. She fell with a thud that was heard all over Europe for the fascinating charms of bullfighter Luis Dominguin, and she planned to do a Shelley Winters and help him to a movie career in Hollywood. But the best laid plans of mice and movie stars sometimes go astray. The matador came to Hollywood while Ava was in Nevada to shed Frank Sinatra. He left her there after a short visit and was seen with this and that glamour puss around the night spots of Hollywood. And if there’s one thing Ava can’t take, it’s having her man make eyes at another woman.

But it was fun while it lasted. When I was in Rome, I was told that Ava had made herself inaccessible to the press, the public and her alma mater, Metro, that she would disappear for days at a stretch with the handsome bullfighter.

To go back to Sinatra, it wouldn’t be correct to say that he behaves badly in Europe. Sinatra is himself whether he’s in London, Paris, Rome, Las Vegas or Hollywood. And himself can be pretty sweet sometimes and sometimes on the very sour side. I don’t know what happened at the fashionable Milroy Club in London, but owner John Mills canceled Frankie’s membership card. And London clubs fall over themselves to have Hollywood stars for members.

Shelley Winters is usually herself wherever she happens to be working. And I’ve seen her very temperamental in Hollywood. But when she was making Mambo in Rome, Shell really let herself go. I was told the intimate details of the fracas. It seems that Shelley was working in a scene with her husband, Vittorio Gassman, from whom she was then estranged. His girl friend, eighteen-year-old Anna Maria Ferrero, was on the set.

“Get her off,” hissed Mrs. Gassman between takes. Vittorio’s reply was to go over to the younger actress and embrace her. I find it hard to blame Shelley for losing her temper and throwing a glass of water into the pretty face of her rival.

Jane Russell was very worried about returning to England where she filmed part of Gentlemen Marry Brunettes for two reasons. The last time she was there, Janie had made the headlines as the heroine of a raucous party. Jane denied the story and it seemed very strange to me at the time because in Hollywood Jane is a quiet, easygoing, church-going girl.

The other reason for Jane’s fear of Europe is to her credit, although the actual facts were just as surprising to me. I refer to Jane’s leaving England with the little boy she later adopted. The emigration authorities over there were on her neck for taking a British subject out of the country without official sanction. And more foolish, when there are so many unwanted anonymous babies here who could use Jane’s good home, why did she take a European child whose parents knew her and might try to regain the child at any unforeseen time? In fact, I heard recently they were planning to come here to live within a few acres of Jane’s home in the valley in order to be near their son.

When Gregory Peck lived in Hollywood, he was regarded as a model husband and father. There was one short when he and Greta separated, but they both. explained it was an unimportant quarrel and didn’t mean a thing. It took a long stay in Europe to reveal the serious state of the Peck marriage. I’ve always contended that the woman has yet to be born who can break up a happy home. The Pecks came to the parting of the ways in Europe before he met Veronique Passani. I knew there was something wrong when Greta flew here suddenly with the boys, leaving Greg to carry on alone in Europe. He carried on, but not alone. And last reports had Miss Passani decorating the big house he bought near London. As of now, she is slated for the position of Mrs. Peck, number two. But there might have been only one Mrs, Peck instead of a bushel, if Greg had made his pictures here.

Gary Cooper came back to this country just in time to regain his equilibrium and his wife Rocky. Coop is an easy target for a designing female. They tell me that Gary is available for the asking, but he’s too lazy to make the first move. I believe he was really in love with Pat Neal, but the complications of getting his freedom represented too much work for this easy-going guy. But that girl in France, Giselle Pascal, had Gary spinning.

But don’t get the idea that all Hollywood stars kick up their heels and kick over the traces when they leave the four hundred or so reporters who watch over them here. Some of our top luminaries are great ambassadors for our way of life.

Victor Mature, for instance. No one appreciates a buck more than Victor, but no one can be more generous or more charming where it does the most good. Little things, but they count in a big way. Like when Vic was in Holland co-starring with Lana Turner and Clark Gable in Betrayed. His pee was a young Dutchman whose whole family had bee while he worked for the Allies in the Underground Army. Now he was setting aside some of his earnings to pay for his neglected education. Came the last day of the picture and the chauffeur looked as blue as his uniform. Then spake Mr. Mature to wife Dorothy, “Let’s not fly back to England. Let’s drive through Germany and then stay in Paris for a week. And I must have my chauffeur, of course. They say those French drivers are dangerous!”

Vic could have hired anybody in Paris. He could have driven himself through Germany. But the extra money and the trip meant so much to the Dutchman.

And Lana Turner, aided and abetted by Lex Barker, was just as kind. Some of the picture was shot in front of a Catholic Orphanage in The Hague. There were eighteen little orphan girls and Lana promised to take them to the circus. They were all dressed up and ready to go when Lana discovered there was no matinee. Could have been a tragedy, but Lana took them to her hotel, fed them ice cream, cake and soda pop and took them to a show in a park instead.

The British recently sent an appreciation plaque to Bob Hope for the money he has raised and donated to the British version of Boys Town. On one visit, Mr. Hope who is always charitable, gave his entire earnings in London to the project—some fourteen thousand pounds. And then there are the dozens of stars in Hollywood—Danny Kaye, Jack Benny and many others—who go regularly to Army bases in Europe, Asia and wherever there is a lonely G.I. These make up the real aristocracy of Filmland. And it is good that Europe can see and meet them in order to erase the bad behavior of what is still, thank goodness, a minority. 





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