Hollywood on Hollywood

Jimmy Cagney and Mae Clarke having a great time working together, Lady Killer, 1933.

Jimmy Cagney and Mae Clarke having a great time working together, Lady Killer, 1933.

Labor Day affords us the opportunity to reflect on work, our jobs, present and past. Good jobs, bad jobs, we’ve all had our share of both.

Work should set you free. Honest labor puts money in your pocket which allows you to spend that money as you see fit. Ideally, work infuses the individual with a sense of self-worth and dignity.

In Judaism, work is viewed as a vital adjunct to the observance and study of Torah:

Im ayn kemach, ayn Torah.

If there is no bread [work], there is no study of Torah.

—Ethics of the Fathers, (Avos 3:21)

Thus, the Torah invests labor with a deep spiritual value.

But let’s be honest, in any work environment there is gossip. And office gossip can be terribly destructive.

Hollywood has always been a hothouse for nasty personal attacks. But in the past, these vendettas were usually reserved for post-career memoirs and late night interviews—Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, David Frost, etc—that today, appear sweetly disagreeable.

But in postmodern America, where traditional values of respect and restraint are not even a dim memory, Hollywood gossip has become an industry unto itself. Unsavory gossip is now mainstream, brought to you in the form of entertainment and reality shows—which are neither entertaining nor real.

America has even elected a president who regularly slings gossip disguised as social-political wisdom. Obama’s remarks about the “stupid” Boston police, about being Trayvon Martin’s father, even his off-the-cuff remark about a Syrian red line—these are instances of politics as gossip; an indication of the deep moral and intellectual corruption of Obama & Co., and of the liberal political class who are unmoored from the basics of a civil society.

Anyhoo.

Here are a few of Seraphic Secret’s favorite, and not-so-secret snipes—touchingly tame by today’s appalling standards—brought to you some of Hollywood’s best-loved stars about other best-loved stars.

Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe, The Misfits (1961).

Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe, The Misfits (1961).

Marilyn Monroe on Montgomery Clift
He’s the only person I know that is in worse shape than I am.

Fred Astaire on John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” (1977)
He’s not a dancer. What he did in those dance scenes was very attractive but he is basically not a dancer. I was dancing like that years ago, you know. Disco is just jitterbug.

Bing Crosby on Judy Garland
There wasn’t a thing that gal couldn’t do—except look after herself.

Joan Crawford on Greta Garbo
She’s let herself go all to hell. She walks along the sidewalk and runs across the street through the cars when somebody notices her, like an animal, a furtive rodent. It’s a wonder anybody notices her—she looks like a bag lady. I heard that she’s simply stopped bathing.

Greta Garbo's passport, 1984.

Greta Garbo’s passport, 1984.

Robert Mitchum on working with Faye Dunaway
When I got here I walked in thinking I was a star and then I found I was supposed to do everything the way she says. Listen, I’m not going to take any temperamental whims from anyone, I just take a long walk and cool off. If I didn’t do that, I know I’d wind up dumping her on her derrière.

Marlene Dietrich on Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper was neither intelligent nor cultured. Just like the other actors, he was chosen for his physique, which, after all, was more important than an active brain.

Walter Matthau on Barbra Streisand
I had no disagreement with Barbra Streisand. I was merely exasperated at her tendency to be a complete megalomaniac.

Humphrey Bogart on working with Rod Steiger in “The Harder They Fall” (1956)
These Actors Studio types, they mumble their lines. I can’t hear their words. I miss the cues. This scratch-your-ass-and-mumble school of acting doesn’t please me.

Anthony Hopkins on Shirley MacLaine
The most obnoxious actress I’ve ever worked with.

W.C. Fields on Mae West
A plumber’s idea of Cleopatra.

Doris Day and Kirk Douglas, Young Man With A Horn, 1950.

Doris Day and Kirk Douglas, Young Man With A Horn, 1950.

Kirk Douglas on Doris Day
That face she shows the world—smiling, only talking good, happy, tuned into God—as far as I’m concerned, that’s just a mask. I haven’t a clue as to what’s underneath. Doris is just about the remotest person I know.

Frank Sinatra on Marlon Brando
He is the most overrated actor in the world.

Burt Lancaster on Kirk Douglas
Kirk would be the first to admit that he’s difficult to work with—and I would be the second.

Louise Brooks on Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
I like Bette Davis. I think she’s a real actor, don’t you? I never liked Joan Crawford at all. Never. I hate fakes. She was an awful fake. A washerwoman’s daughter. I’m a terrible snob, you know.

Lawrence Olivier on Marilyn Monroe
A professional amateur.

Steve McQueen's remorseful mug shot.

Steve McQueen’s remorseful mug shot. McQueen was arrested for drunk driving in Anchorage, Alaska, 1972. He posted bail and left town, but was later convicted in absentia for reckless driving.

Robert Mitchum on Steve McQueen
He sure don’t bring much brains to the party, that kid.

Marlon Brando on Lee Strasberg
An ambitious, selfish man who exploited the people who attended the Actors Studio, and he tried to project himself as an acting oracle and guru. Some people worshiped him, but I never knew why.

Anthony Quinn on Marilyn Monroe
An empty-headed blonde with a fat rear. Oh, Monroe was pretty enough to look at, but there were hundreds of better-looking actresses poking around Hollywood. Even after she hit the big time, with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), I never could see what all the fuss was about.

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Cary Grant on Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean
I have no rapport with the new idols of the screen, and that includes Marlon Brando and his style of Method acting. It certainly includes Montgomery Clift and that godawful James Dean. Some producer should cast all three of them in the same movie and let them duke it out. When they’ve finished each other off, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy and I will return and start making real movies again like we used to.

William Holden on Humphrey Bogart
I hated that bastard.

Alfred Hitchcock on All Actors
I never said all actors are cattle. What I said was: all actors should be treated like cattle.

This entry was posted in Hollywood, Hollywood Stars, Labor Day, Obama Watch, Quotes, Torah and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

18 Comments

  1. Kimosabbe
    Posted October 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Seeing the picture of Cagney and Mae Clark reminded me of their scene in “The Public Enemy”, where Cagney famously gave Clark a “citrus massage” (Cagney’s description of the moment, mentioned during his 1974 AFI speech). According to Cagney, the script originally called for an omelet to be used, instead of a grapefruit, for that infamous scene 🙂

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Michael Kennedy
    Posted September 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    When I was in high school, I was hitch hiking to school one morning when a nice looking woman about 30 picked me up and dropped me off close to school which was about ten miles from where she picked me up. She was no movie star but I wonder if any sane woman would do that now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Hoss
    Posted September 5, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Robert–
     
    Thanks for the kudos. I was reluctant to tell the story as it didn’t really fit
    the topic. I’ve never been a celebrity freak, but I’ve not forgotten my
    ride with Katherine Hepburn after over 60 years. I recall she was driving
    an early 40s Black Ford convertible with a white top. Hitchhiking was not
    a big deal at that time and the neighborhood I was in, Cheviot Hills,
    was safe. She picked me up on Club Drive, drove down Motor avenue
    to Pico Boulevard and dropped me off there. I walked home from there
    which was near Beverly Drive.  I graduated from Hamilton High in 1950.
     
    As an aside, even though I was impressed that I was riding with a popular
    star, I didn’t go nuts over it. On the other hand, I took my office manager
    to the Palm, in West Hollywood, for lunch and Dolly Parton walked in.
    I thought my office manager was going to have a panic attack…”Oh,
    it’s Dolly Parton, its Dolly Parton ” she gushed. She spent more time
    watching Dolly Parton than she did eating her lunch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Brianna
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Technically speaking, kemach (קמח) is flour.  Bread is lechem (לחם).  I suppose it doesn’t change the substance of the metaphor though.  Shanah tovah chaver (שנה טובה חבר) 🙂

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Brianna:

      Thanks so much. You are correct. My translation was not meant to be literal, but to explain the meaning of the homily.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. M.R. Smith
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    These Actors Studio types, they mumble their lines. I can’t hear their words. I miss the cues. This scratch-your-ass-and-mumble school of acting doesn’t please me.
    I think Rod Steiger is a great actor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. GW
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m not much for gossip, but I must admit, I found these anecdotes quite interesting.  You do have to wonder how much of the criticism was the result of professional jealousy.
     
    Hoss:  Great story about Katherine Hepburn.  
     
    Why does it seem to me that all of the old stars were much more three dimensional than the stars of today?  Perhaps it was that the old stars most often came out of backgrounds that were real middle class America – and indeed, many of the male stars at least also served in the military at some point.  I watch Lee Marvin in any of his “tough guy” roles and I can believe in the story he is telling.  I watch Matt Damon or Ben Affleck and I don’t quite come away with the same belief. 

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      GW:

      You are correct. Most of the classic stars actually came from very humble circumstances. Many never went to college, or even finished high school. A majority were from impoverished, broken homes. Hence, these stars appreciated their wealth and celebrity in ways that most postmodern Hollywood stars—many are children of stars—could never begin to imagine.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Larry
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    The Cary Grant quotation is great. If only….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Bill Brandt
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    BTW Robert – just to prove to you that I haven’t been falling asleep in class – I remember you saying some years ago that Cagney showed Mae Clarke how to hold her hair so it wouldn’t be painful when he pulled her
     
    And you thought I wasn’t paying attention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Bill:

      I’m giving you an A+ in my film seminar:-)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Barry
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    About Cooper, or any other successful person lacking intelligence or education: It ain’t so. That is why they are/were successful. Smarts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. DavidP
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Gary Cooper allegedly being a dummy: My memory is a bit fuzzy but I seem to recall that Gary Cooper and William Faulkner were buddies, even going hunting together, and the story goes that Cooper had never read a book, and Faulkner was not a big movie fan — and yet they got along swimmingly. Some of these comments are indeed nasty. Why, for instance, should Kirk Douglas be annoyed about Doris Day always putting on an upbeat and pleasant countenance — rather than (as Douglas would evidently prefer) letting her bad moods bubble to the surface for all to see? This says more about Douglas than it does about Doris Day.

    And, no, Hoss, you were not off topic. That wonderful and upbeat anecdote was the perfect way to end this post on Hollywood and Labor Day. Yes, there is lots of nastiness in Hollywood, and many other places, but there surely are good people too (and random acts of kindness).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Bill Brandt
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I wonder how much of this was fueled by professional jealousy.
     
    Burt Lancaster on Kirk Douglas
    “Kirk would be the first to admit that he’s difficult to work with—and I would be the second. ”
    That may be but one of the funniest movies I’ve seen was “Tough Guys” about 2 paroled ex-cons trying to adjust to modern society. Douglas and Lancaster were perfect together.
     
    My favorite scene and one that I have quoted many times – Douglas’ character is in a flop-house hotel for parolees, and the desk manager is harassing him.
     
    As Douglas’ character is walking up the stairwell, desk manager says, “You know you parolees are all the same. I hate you. By the way what were you in for?
     
    To which Douglas, glancing at a fire ax on the wall, says “Murder. Split a guy’s head open with an ax just like this. Doctor says I’m OK now.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • M.R. Smith
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      Very funny story. Maybe I’ll rent the film. I wish all the religious Jews on this website a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous New Year.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Hoss
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Kinda off topic but when I was in high school, I used to hang around
    my buddy’s house, which was near MGM, and some of the stars would
    take the street he lived on to go home from work.  One day I was
    hitch hiking home and this lady stopped to give me a ride. Turned out
    it was Katherine Hepburn. She was a class act, asking me about school
    and what I liked to do, etc. I recall there was a script on the seat but
    didn’t find out what film she was working on.  I have no idea what she was
    like to work with but she treated me, a high schooler, as an equal

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Bill Brandt
      Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Nice story Hoss

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Hoss:

      That is one of the greatest Hollywood stories I have ever heard. My parents told me never to go hitchhiking because there were so many crazy people out there. Look what i missed out on.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Friends

    Hollywood

    Politics, Bloggers & News