Posts Tagged: classic scandals

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Ecstasy of Hedy Lamarr

The first time audiences saw Hedy Lamarr, she was running naked through a field. The second time they saw her, she was in the throes of a very animated orgasm. The next time she appeared on screen—more than five years later—she’d have a new name, a new language, and a new image, but the effect was the same: just the sight of her was enough to stop Hollywood, and audiences across America, in their tracks.

But a new name wasn’t enough to distance Hedy Lamarr from her past as the “Ecstasy Girl,” the star of the so-called “art film” that scandalized all of Europe, and received special denunciation by the [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: In Like Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn was that guy — that one guy, we all know them — who was too handsome for his own good. Early on, he figured out what his looks could do for him, and he rode that wave to various destinations. He was a textbook womanizer, an astoundingly successful player — a lech, a cad, a rake, and any number of other British-sounding adjectives that describe the combination of sexual appetite and the charisma required to feed it. When I look at him, I’m simultaneously repulsed and seduced: I know exactly the kind of guy he is, the compliments he’d offer, how he’d make every girl feel unique. What [...]


The Classiest Classic Movies I Revisited This Year

… for free, or near-free, via Amazon Prime.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Gary Cooper, I forgot what an endearing dolt you are in this movie. I forgot how sheepish you look when hungover and rumpled. Jean Arthur, I forgot how snippy and delightful you could be, and how great all the Vermont jokes are. I forgot that I could actually stomach a Frank Capra film, and even like it. And full-length silk man-pajamas, sweet lord, I forgot how hot you could be.


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Gloria Swanson Saga, Part One

Gloria Swanson wasn’t here to make friends. She wasn’t “just like us.” She didn’t take out the garbage or “wear cotton” or go to the bathroom. Lady had a gold-plated bathtub. She married a Marquis. She was 4’11,” wore a 2 ½ in shoes, and had a waist approximately the size of my neck. She looked most beautiful when frowning. And for a period in the 1920s, she was the biggest star in the world. Swanson wasn’t evil, and she probably wasn’t even a bitch, but she just knew how to run that game. She was of a different set of stars — a different breed than Garbo, Dietrich, [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Robert Redford, Golden Boy

Robert Redford still does it for me. He did it for me when I first saw him in Butch Cassidy, he did it for me when he was washing Meryl Streep’s hair in Out of Africa. He did it for me in uniform in The Way We Were and with full hippie beard in Jeremiah Johnson. He’s classically handsome — the type of handsome on which you, your mom, your grandmother, and your best gay friend can all agree — with a flatness of expression that morphs sardonic when you least expect it. He has a storytime voice, the perfect level of tan, and haphazardly spaced highlights that betray [...]


Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Book (!)

Did you hear Anne Helen Petersen's "Scandals of Classic Hollywood" series is becoming a book of the same name in the summer of 2014, via Plume/Penguin, and that it'll contain all new material (but some of the same stars), and that it'll sleep with every book its covers touch until eventually it marries the book it has an out-of-wedlock pamphlet with, despite that other book's being secretly (or not-so-secretly) ____, and that after a horrific (or, to some, glorious) ____ing incident  it'll live out the rest of its days in _____? And that its jacket is made of a thousand miniature ____s, dipped in ___? I know!

In the meantime, [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Ronald Reagan Plays the President

When you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of jellybeans, Nancy’s power suits, and self-satisfaction. You think of all the contemporary Republicans who miss him and what he seemed to represent, along with a sort of composure and telegenic presence that even Clinton couldn’t replicate. You think of trickle-down economics, Iran-Contra, and a political legacy so potent that criticizing him is in many circles still considered a moderate form of blasphemy.

What you might not think of is Reagan frolicking on the beach in white swim trunks, playing matchmaker for Bette Davis, or divorcing one of Hollywood’s sweethearts. But Reagan did all of those things — and others even [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Many Faces of Barbara Stanwyck

Maybe you’ve never heard of Barbara Stanwyck. She certainly isn’t the first star that comes to mind when you think of classic Hollywood. Ask for a screwballer and I’ll say Katharine Hepburn; ask for a drama queen and I’ll give you Bette Davis. Other stars had more active love lives, more stunning faces, more Oscars, more drama. But then ask me for my favorite films, and Stanwyck’s all over the place, lilting into scenes, making me fall off my chair laughing and/or crying, riding “all the way down the line” in, let’s just be honest here, the best film noir that isn’t Sunset Boulevard. She averaged five films a [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Most Wicked Face of Theda Bara

Theodosia Goodman grew up in Cincinnati, the child of middle-class Jewish immigrants. Her father was a tailor; her mother kept house. She went to high school, she went to two years of college. She was a middling actress with middling looks, age 30, stuck in the Yiddish theater circuit, with a bit role in the occasional film. She was wholly unremarkable — one of hundreds of women working toward the same end.

And then, in 1915, totally out of nowhere, she became THE BIGGEST SEX SYMBOL IN THE WORLD. As the star of A Fool There Was, she embodied the cinematic “vamp” — the evil, predatory woman who seduces [...]


Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Gloria Swanson Saga, Part Two

When we left off, Gloria Swanson’s career was effectively over. She seemed a relic, a beautiful curio. I cannot imagine how much this must have pissed her off, but Swanson, for all of her conspicuous extravagance, was also a pragmatist — her career may have been in decline, but she still had three children and a fourth husband of dubious worth to consider.

So she did what any faded star should: She moved to New York and got in the patent business. But she did it in a roundabout sort of way, starting a company, punnily called “Multiprizes,” which, starting in 1938, made a mission of rescuing Jewish smarty-pantses [...]