The Golden Age of Hollywood was filled with some of the most well-known old Hollywood stars. Big names like Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, and so many more set the foundation of what Hollywood is today. Though you may have a preconceived notion of what these stars are like based on their onscreen characters and public personas, these firsthand accounts from people who worked with them give a behind-the-scenes glimpse that may change the narrative.
Vote up the stories that give a new perspective to these Tinseltown legends.
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Judy Garland's fame rose after she starred as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Though it seemed she was just another famous actor, she never quite felt she was up to the same beauty standard as her fellow stars. These feelings led to a downhill spiral for Garland and her career, and according to director Charles Walters, this perception had a long-lasting effect on the young star:
Judy was the big moneymaker at the time - a big success, but she was the ugly duckling... I think it had a damaging effect on her for a long time. I think it lasted forever really.
Hearing that she was at a low point after a suicide attempt, Bing Crosby asked Garland to appear on his new radio show in 1950, beginning the start of her comeback. On the set of Crosby's show, writer Hal Kanter recalled:
She was standing in the wings trembling with fear... She was almost hysterical. She said, "I cannot go out there because they're all gonna be looking to see if there are scars, and it's gonna be terrible."
Bing walked out on stage and he said: "We got a friend here, she's had a little trouble recently. You probably heard about it – everything is fine now, she needs our love. She needs our support. She's here -- let's give it to her, okay? Here's Judy." And she came out, and that place went crazy. And she just blossomed.
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Director Orson Welles and actor Rita Hayworth wed on September 7, 1943, after a whirlwind romance. In 1947, towards the end of their marriage, they also worked together on the film The Lady from Shanghai, with Welles directing and starring opposite his estranged wife.
Welles and Hayworth's volatile marriage didn't last, with Welles having numerous affairs and Hayworth turning to alcohol. Theirs was one in a string of unhappy marriages for Hayworth. The shy actress famously described the distinction between herself and the femme fatale characters she often played, saying, "Men go to bed with Gilda but awaken with me."
Despite their failed romance, Welles is regarded as the great love of Hayworth's life, later in life calling her "one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived." He recalled one of their final meetings at an event for Frank Sinatra in the 1980s after Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer's:
When it was over, I came over to her table, and I saw that she was very beautiful, very reposed looking, and didn't know me at first. After about four minutes of speaking, I could see that she realized who I was, and she began to cry quietly.
According to Barbara Leaming's Rita Hayworth biography, Hayworth considered her time with Welles to be the greatest happiness of her life. This sentiment left Welles racked with guilt, saying, "If this was happiness, imagine what the rest of her life had been."
Hayworth eventually passed from complications from Alzheimer's. Her family members believe that many of the symptoms of her disease were initially misunderstood as alcoholism.
- Photo: River of No Return / 20th Century Fox32,366 VOTES
After working together on the set of River of Return in 1954, Robert Mitchum got to see a side of Marilyn Monroe that the public wasn't as familiar with. Mitchum discussed Monroe and what it was like to work with her in a PBS interview, touching on how empathetic she truly felt toward other people:
She was a very special girl and she had an enormous feeling for, well, just for people. When we came back from Canada... they were doing close-up work of the stuff we do on the raft in the white water. And there was a fellow in the tank, blasting us with a high-pressure fire hose. And she suddenly looked over at him and started almost whimpering and I said, "What is it?"
She said, "Look at him... He's freezing." She said, "He's turning blue," and I said, "Good luck to him. He keeps hitting me with that 175-pound hose." And she made them take him out. She just stopped and said, "I can't. That man is suffering." And she stopped and she wouldn't work until they replaced him with somebody who was warmer.
Gone with the Wind stars Vivien Leigh in her most famous role as the spoiled, rich Scarlett O'Hara. The film is known as a Hollywood classic, though it wasn't the easiest project for Leigh. Leigh and director Victor Fleming had a strenuous relationship. According to Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, by Kendra Bean, Fleming once told the actor to "stick that script up her royal British *ss" and then threatened to drive his car off of a cliff.
Famous for her fiery spirit similar to her character's (co-star Olivia de Havilland said she was "born to play Scarlett"), leading man Clark Gable reportedly struggled to share the spotlight with Leigh. According to a personal assistant of producer David O. Selznick,
Gable was always fighting for his life against this spirited girl. He felt that it was a woman’s picture - that it was Scarlett O’Hara’s picture. He said “I’m a big star! I don’t want to be playing second fiddle to some dame.”
De Havilland, who plays Melanie in the film, remembered Leigh as a professional above all else, though the film took its toll:
Vivien was very professional. Impeccably prepared. She always knew her lines and was always on time. She worked longer hours than anyone else in the cast... The work week was from Monday to Saturday in those days. On returning to the studio after a four-week interval, I visited the stage where the company was just finishing work and barely recognized Vivien when she passed me on the way to her dressing room, as she had lost so much weight and seemed so depleted, physically and emotionally.
Leigh's studio-appointed secretary wrote to Laurence Olivier (Leigh's boyfriend at the time):
Several times I thought she really was going mad. She warned me once that someday she would and I was beginning to believe her... Working night and day and she never complains — she’d kill herself to get through this damn picture.
- Photo: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer51,765 VOTES
Starring alongside one another in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor became more than co-stars; they were close friends.
In a clip from Turner Classic Movies, Newman discussed Taylor and her legacy, as someone who knew the woman behind the legend:
Her life has not been an easy or a private one, but a series of tribulations, serious illnesses, senseless tragedy, and lost love. In the midst of our filming Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she became a widow. Her beloved husband, showman Michael Todd, the victim of a plane crash. Yet, she persevered, and acting was therapeutic. I was overwhelmed with her professionalism. She later said that playing Maggie the Cat saved her...
...she is not afraid to take chances in front of people. I find a lot of actors who reach the top, they become very protective of themselves and self-indulgent. But not Elizabeth. I was always staggered by her ferocity and how quickly she could tap into her emotions. It was a privilege to watch her.
- Photo: To Catch a Thief / Paramount Pictures61,316 VOTES
After appearing together in To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant had nothing but good things to say about co-star Grace Kelly. Speaking about her in 1956, Grant praised Kelly for being easy to work with and having such a professional demeanor, saying:
Grace never complained about anything. We had a scene where I had to grab her arms hard while she was fighting me and push her against a wall. We went through that scene eight or nine times, but Hitchcock still wanted it again.
Grace went back alone behind the door where the scene started, and just by chance I happened to catch a glimpse of her massaging her wrists and grimacing in pain. But a moment later she came out and did the scene again – she never complained to me or to Hitch about how much her arms were hurting.
Actor James Stewart, who worked with Kelly on Rear Window, explained that she'd honed her craft to such a degree that she wasn't one to be bossed around or powerless as other female actors of the time often were:
She wasn’t found behind a counter in a drugstore or luncheonette or at a drive-in. She didn’t have to be nice to this guy or that guy to get ahead. And no producer would have thought to tell her, "I’ll make you a star, but I’ll have to pull your teeth out and put caps on them, and dye your hair, and give you a new name, and tell you where to stand and talk and how to spend your free time."