This is a tribute to classic actresses, silent beauties, and forgotten starlets. We have tons of rare pictures, old Hollywood gossip, and vintage memorabilia. You will see some sexy photos and read a lot of scandalous stories because these ladies were not saints - they were legends!
Charlotte Greenwood was a zany character actress whose career spanned over forty years. She started in vaudeville, appeared in dozens of films, and even had her own radio show. At six feet tall Charlotte was nicknamed "Lady Longlegs" and became known for her high kicks. After her first marriage ended she found happiness with her second husband, songwriter Martin Broones, and their union lasted until his death in 1971.Charlotte retired from acting and passed away atthe age of eighty-seven.
"Temperament is temper that is too old to spark." ~ Charlotte
"I don't think you can change anything that is going to happen to you any more than you can change anything that has happened to you." ~ Olive
Olive Thomas was born Oliveretta Elaine Duffy on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of three children and her father died when she was just nine years old. In 1911 Olive married Bernard Krug Thomas, a teenage clerk, but they divorced two years later She moved to New York City where she worked in a department store. After winning a beauty contest she started modeling and was offered a job in the Ziegfeld Follies. Olive had a romantic relationship with the Follies creator Florenz Ziegfeld, who was married to actress Billie Burke. Florenz asked Alberta Vargas to paint a nude portrait of Olive for his private collection. In 1916 she made her film debut in Beatrice Fairfax. That same year she married actor Jack Pickford, brother of Mary Pickford. They had a tumultuous marriage due to Jack's drinking and womanizing and spent a lot of time apart.
Olive was offered a lucrative contract with Selznick Pictures. She appeared in many successful films including Madcap Madge, Youthful Folly, and The Flapper. With her marriage in trouble she began an affair with producer Myron Selznick. In September 1920 she and Jack went on a trip to Europe. After an evening of partying in Paris Olive went in to her bathroom and swallowed some mercury bichloride (a drug that had been prescribed to treat Jack's syphilis). She died four days later on September 10, 1920. Olive was just twenty-five years old. Her death was ruled an accident but some believe she committed suicide. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. Her final film, Everybody's Sweetheart, was released a month after her death. Many people have claimed they have seen Olive's ghost in New Amsterdam Theatre where she began her career as a Ziegfeld girl.
"Never let them see you in public after you've turned thirty-five. You're finished if you do!" ~ Norma
Norma Shearer was born Edith Norma Shearer on August 10, 1902, in Montreal, Canada. After seeing the Dolly Sisters perform on stage she decided to become an actress. Her mother took Norma and her sister to New York when they were teenagers. Norma auditioned for the Ziegfeld Follies but was told she wasn't beautiful enough to be in the show. She was able to get work as an extra in numerous films including The Flapper. Norma began dating producer Irving Thalberg, who helped her get a contract with MGM. She appeared in many successful silent films and easily made the transition to talkies. Norma converted to Judaism and married Irving in September 1927. They had two children together but Norma was not very maternal and had a distant relationship with her children. She starred in some of MGM's most prestigious films including Smilin' Through, Romeo And Juliet, and The Barretts Of Wimpole Street. In 1931 won an Oscar for her performance in The Divorcee. She was nicknamed "Queen Norma" and earned more than six thousand dollars a week. Other actresses at the studio were jealous of her success and believed she only got the roles because she was married to Irving.
With her husband Irving
Norma's brother, Douglas Shearer, became an Oscar winning sound engineer. In 1936 Irving died from lobular pneumonia at the age of thirty-seven. She was devastated and took time off from making movies. Norma returned to the screen in the 1938 epic Marie Antoinette. Her performance earned her another Oscar nomination. She was offered the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind but turned it down. Norma was romantically linked to actors Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney, and George Raft. In 1942 she married Martin Arrouge, a ski instructor who was twenty years younger than her. By this time she had lost interest in her career and decided to retire. Her final film was the comedy Her Cardboard Lover. She spent much of her time traveling and enjoyed living life away from the spotlight. As she grew older began suffering from insomnia and underwent electric shock treatments. She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and lived at the Motion Picture Retirement Home. Norma died on June 12, 1983, from pneumonia. She is buried next to Irving at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
"I don't know what the secret to longevity as an actress is. It's more than talent and beauty. Maybe it's the audience seeing itself in you." ~ Joan
Joan Blondell was born Rose Joan Blondell on August 30, 1906, in New York, New York. Her parents were vaudeville entertainers and she began performing with them when she was a toddler. In 1926 she won fourth place in the Miss America pageant. She appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies and starred in several Broadway shows. After making a few short films she was offered a contract with Warner Brothers. Her first movie at the studio was Sinner's Holiday with James Cagney. She became one of Hollywood's busiest actresses often making eight films a year. Although she rarely played the lead role her wisecracking characters made her popular with audiences during the depression. Joan married cinematographer George Barnes in 1932 and had a son, Norman. After their divorce she married actor Dick Powell. They had a daughter, Pamela Ellen, in 1938 and Dick adopted Norman. The couple worked together in the musicals Dames and Gold Diggers of 1937. Their marriage ended in 1944 after he began an affair with actress June Allyson.
With Lana Turner and George Murphy
Joan married producer Mike Todd but he had a gambling problem and became abusive. She once accused him of trying to push her out of window. In 1950 Joan filed for bankruptcy and divorced Mike. She received an Academy Award nomination in 1952 for her performance in the drama The Blue Veil. Now in her forties she was having trouble getting movie roles so she returned to the stage in a production of The Rope Dancers. During the 1960s she became a familiar face on television and made guest appearances on shows like The Twilight Zone and The Lucy Show. She starred in the series Here Comes The Bride and was nominated for two Emmy awards. Joan also wrote a novel called Center Door Fancy which was loosely based on her own experiences in Hollywood. One of her final roles was playing a waitress in the hit musical Grease. Joan died on December 25, 1979, from leukemia. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her son, Norman Powell, has become a successful producer.
"The one thing I missed was never having children. It just wasn't in the cards, I guess." ~ Jeanette
Jeanette Anna MacDonald was born on June 18, 1903, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of three daughters. Jeanette was a talented singer with a beautiful soprano voice. She went to New York to study music and began her career on Broadway. Jeanette made her film debut in the 1929 musical The Love Parade. It was a hit and she became one of Hollywood's hottest actresses. Her success continued with starring roles in The Lottery Bride and Love Me Tonight. Jeanette's sister, Marie Blake, also became an actress. In 1934 Jeanette signed a lucrative contract with MGM. The following year she he was paired with baritone Nelson Eddy in the musical Naughty Marietta. Jeanette and Nelson became one of Hollywood's most popular duos and were nicknamed "America's Singing Sweethearts". They made seven more movies together including Maytime and Sweethearts.
In real life Nelson and Jeanette were romantically involved for many years but kept their affair a secret. She married actor Gene Raymond in 1937. Although they appeared happy in public the couple had a troubled marriage. Jeanette was unable to have children and their were rumors that Gene was gay. By 1939 her $300,000 a year salary made her one of the highest paid actresses and she was voted "Queen Of Hollywood" in a nationwide poll. After making several unsuccessful films she decided to leave MGM in 1942. Jeanette performed live concerts and appeared in several stage productions. In 1958 Jeanette re-teamed with Nelson to record an album of duets. As she got older health problems forced her to stop working. Jeanette died on January 14, 1965 from a heart attack. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2013
Jeanette's costume from The Sun Comes Up (from my collection)
"No one wants to see or read about a dull subject. I don't consider myself a dull subject." ~ Jayne
Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jane Palmer on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. After her father died her mother remarried and moved the family to Texas. At age seventeen Jayne married Paul Mansfield and had a daughter, Jayne Marie. She convinced her husband to move to Hollywood so she could pursue an acting career. Jayne won dozens of beauty titles including "Miss Photoflash" and "Miss Fire Prevention". In 1954 she made her film debut in the drama Female Jungle. She starred on Broadway in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and was offered a contract at Fox. Her flair for publicity made her one of the most talked about actresses in Hollywood. Although she often played dumb blondes Jayne's IQ was actually 163. She divorced Paul and married former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay in 1958. They had three children together (Miklos, Zoltan, and Mariska) and lived in a pink mansion in Beverly Hills called "The Pink Palace". Jayne was constantly being compared to Marilyn Monroe and her movie career quickly fizzled.
With her daughter Jayne Marie
She was offered the part of Ginger on the television series Gilligan's Island but turned it down. Jayne began performing in nightclubs and posed for Playboy magazine. She caused a controversy when she appeared naked in the low budget film Promises Promises. In 1964 she divorced Mickey and married Matt Cimber, a director. They had a son but the marriage didn't last. Jayne became involved in an abusive relationship with her manager Sam Brody. She also had a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. On June 29, 1967 Jayne was on her way to a nightclub appearance when she was killed in a car accident (rumors that she was decapitated are not true). She was just thirty-four years old. Jayne is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Plainfield, Pennsylvania. Her fans paid for a cenotaph to be placed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in California. Jayne's daughter, Mariska Hargitay, became a successful actress. In 2005 Mariska won a Golden Globe for her role in the TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Maria Montez came from the Domican and starred in a string of hit adventure films. Her exotic beauty made her the "Queen of technicolor". She married her second husband, French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, in 1942 and had a daughter. Maria's life came to a sudden end at age thirty-nine when she had a heart attack and drowned in her bathtub. She is buried at the Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris, France. "When I look at myself, I am so beautiful I scream with joy!" ~ Maria
With her husband Jean-Pierre Aumont
From the New York Times:
Maria Montez, screen star, died today in a bathtub of her palatial home in Suresnes, a Paris suburb. She was 31 years old. Physicians said they believed death had been caused by a heart attack while the actress - proud that her figure never topped 125 pounds - was taking her daily bath in extremely hot water mixed with reducing salts. But the possibility of an accidental drowning following a heart attack was not entirely ruled out. A hard worker in Hollywood and Continental studios who had just completed her twenty-eighth film, Miss Montez complained about her heart. "I'd better watch that because it might end up by playing me a dirty trick," she remarked half jokingly. She was found unconscious in the bath by her sister, Anita. Only her forehead was above water. Anita called a doctor and firemen. The firemen used artificial respiration for three hours in a vain effort to resuscitate the auburn-haired, brown-eyed actress.
"People who are very beautiful make their own laws." ~ Vivien
Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India. When she was six years old her parents took her to England so she could get a better education. After seeing her first play Vivien decided she wanted to become an actress. She married Herbert Leigh Holman, a London barrister, in 1932, and had a daughter named Suzanne. Vivien started her career performing on the London stage. She got small parts in movies like Things Are Looking Up and A Yank At Oxford. While making Fire Over England in 1937 Vivien fell in love with her costar Laurence Olivier and she divorced her husband to be with him. Vivien was one of dozens of actresses who auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 epic Gone With The Wind. She got the part and won an Academy Award for her performance.
Vivien finally married Laurence in 1940 but they had a tumultuous marriage and she had several miscarriages. She also suffered from manic depression. Vivien worked with Claude Rains in Caesar And Cleopatra and with Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge (which was her favorite film). She won a second Oscar in 1952 for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. During the production of Elephant Walk in 1954 she had a nervous breakdown and was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor. As she got older Vivien's behavior became erratic and she was hospitalized numerous times. Laurence divorced her in 1960 after he fell in love another woman. In 1963 Vivien starred on Broadway in the musical Tovarich and won a Tony Award. Her final film was the 1965 drama Ship Of Fools. Vivien died on July 7, 1967 from tuberculosis. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at her London home.
"No one remains forever young and no one should want to." ~ Janet
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Augusta Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When she was a child her family moved to California. After high school she enrolled in secretarial school and worked in a shoe store. Janet decided to try acting and began getting work as an extra. Her first starring role was in the 1926 drama The Johnstown Flood. Just three years later she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress for her cumulative work in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise, and Street Angel. She married Jesse Peck, an attorney, in 1929 but they divorced after four years together. Janet and Charles Farrell became a popular screen team and costarred in many hit films including Sunny Side Up and High Society Blues. By 1934 Janet was the top female box-office star in the country. She was nicknamed "The World's Sweetheart". Janet received another Oscar nomination in 1938 for her performance in A Star Is Born.
Despite all of her success she was tired of making movies and decided to retire. In 1939 she married MGM fashion designer Gilbert Adrian, who had worked on films like The Women and The Wizard Of Oz. They had a son, Robin, and moved to Brazil. Janet spent a lot of time traveling and started a second career as an artist. She acted occasionally but never resumed her career full-time. In 1959 Adrian died of a heart attack. A few years later Janet married her close friend producer Paul Gregory. She also had a romantic relationship with actress Mary Martin that lasted for many years. In 1982 Janet was seriously injured in a car accident. She never fully recovered and died on September 14, 1984 from pneumonia. Janet was cremated and her ashes were buried next to Adrian at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
"I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box." - Bette
Bette Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her parents divorced and Bette's mother encouraged her to become an actress. She studied acting and appeared in numerous Broadway shows. In 1931 she made her film debut in the drama The Bad Sister. The following year she married musician Harmon Nelson. During their marriage she had two abortions because she thought a baby would hurt her career. Bette was offered a contract with Warner Brothers and in 1935 she won an Academy Award for her performance in Dangerous. She won her second Oscar for the 1938 film Jezebel. With hit movies like Now, Voyager, The Great Lie, and Mr. Skeffington Bette became one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. In 1941 she became the first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After divorcing Harmon she was romanced by Howard Hughes and began an affair with director William Wyler. Bette said he was the great love of her life but he refused to leave his wife. She married innkeeper Arthur Farnsworth in 1942. Tragically just three years later he died after an accidental fall.
During World War 2 she sold war bonds and volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Bette married artist William Grant Sherry in 1945 and had a daughter, Barbara. While making the drama All About Eve she fell in love with her costar, Gary Merrill. She divorced her husband and married Gary in 1950. The couple adopted two children, Margo and Michael. Sadly Margo was mentally retarded and had to be institutionalized. Gary and Bette had a tumultuous marriage and they divorced after ten years together. In 1963 Bette worked with her longtime rival Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? and received her eleventh Oscar nomination. In the early 1980s Bette was diagnosed with breast cancer and suffered a stroke. Despite her illnesses she continued to work in movies and on television. She also wrote several autobiographies and became a popular talk show guest. Bette was devastated when her daughter Barbara wrote an unflattering tell-all book and she never spoke to her again. She died on October 6, 1989, from complications of breast cancer. Bette is buried with her mother and sister at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. The epitaph on her grave says "She did it the hard way".
"A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered." ~ Clara
Clara Gordon Bow was on born July 29, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York. Her nightmare childhood included an alcoholic father who sexually abused her and an insane mother who once tried to kill her. When she was sixteen Clara entered a a contest in Motion Picture magazine and won a screen test. She landed a few small roles and was chosen as a Wampas Baby Star. In 1927 she played a carefree flapper in the comedy It. The film made her a superstar and from then on she was known as "The It Girl". She appeared in many successful movies including The Plastic Age, Wings, and Mantrap. By 1929 Clara was the top female box-office star in the country and she was getting forty-five thousand fan letters a month. When the talkies started she was worried about her thick Brooklyn accent but audiences loved her voice. Although Clara earned more than five thousand dollars a week she lived in a seven-room bungalow in Beverly Hills. She hated going to Hollywood events and preferred to stay home and play poker. Clara's image as a sex symbol and her off screen romances made her the most gossiped about woman in Hollywood. Among her many lovers were Gary Cooper, Fredric March, director Victor Fleming, Gilbert Roland, and Bela Lugosi.
In 1930 Clara's secretary, Daisy DeVoe, was put on trial for stealing from her. Daisy testified that Clara was involved in orgies and bestiality. Although these stories were false her reputation was ruined. Shortly after the trial Clara suffered a nervous breakdown. She finally found happiness when she married actor Rex Bell in 1931. Tired of Hollywood she decided to stop making movies. Her final film was the 1933 drama Hoopla. Clara and Rex moved to Nevada and had two sons. They also opened a restaurant in Hollywood called "The It Cafe". Clara suffered from chronic insomnia and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1944 she attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills. As she got older Clara became reclusive and rarely left her home. She turned down a lucrative offer to write her autobiography because she didn't want to embarrass her family. After her husband Rex died from a heart attack in 1962 she moved to Culver City, California. On the evening of September 26, 1965 Clara watched the film The Virginian on television. It was directed by her former fiance Victor Fleming and starred her former lover Gary Cooper. Later that night Clara died from a heart attack. She is buried next to Rex at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Jayne Mansfield was a glamorous star but her favorite role was being a mother. Shehad five children - Jayne Marie, Miklos, Zoltan, Mariska, and Antonio. Jayne once said"You know whichtitle I like best?I like to be called mother."
With her husband Mickey Hargitay and their son Miklos in 1958
With her daughter Jayne Marie, husband Mickey Hargitay, and their son Miklos in 1958
With her son Miklos in 1958
With her daughter Jayne Marie, husband Mickey Hargitay, and their sons Miklos and Zoltan in 1960
With her sons Miklos and Zoltan, husband Mickey Hargitay, and daughter Jayne Marie in 1963
With her daughters Jayne Marie and Mariska and sons Miklos and Zoltan in 1964
With her daughter Mariska and son Antonio in 1966
With her daughters Mariska and Jayne Marie and sons Zoltan and Miklos in 1967
Jayne's youngest daughter Mariska Hargitay has also become a successful actress
"I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick." ~ Carole
Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When she was five her wealthy parents divorced and she moved to California with her mother and two brothers. A director saw her playing baseball and cast her in the 1921 film A Perfect Crime. Soon after she dropped out of high school to pursue an acting career. Carole got small parts in movies like My Best Girl and The Campus Vamp. In 1926 she was involved in a serious car accident that scarred her face. Luckily she was able to resume her career after having plastic surgery. She signed a contract with Paramount and starred in numerous screwball comedies including Nothing Sacred, Twentieth Century, and Swing High, Swing Low. Carole became one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses earning more than $100,000 a film. She married actor William Powell in 1931 but they divorced two years later. Carole started a romance with singer Russ Columbo and it was rumored they planned to marry. Tragically on September 2, 1934 Russ was killed in a shooting accident. Carole always called him the great love of her life. After Russ's death she dated actors Gary Cooper and George Raft.
With her mother
Carole's friends nicknamed her "The Profane Angel" because she loved telling dirty jokes and often shocked people with her bad language. In 1936 she costarred with ex-husband William Powell in My Man Godfrey and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. She married Clark Gable 1939 after a three year romance. They bought a big ranch that Carole decorated herself. She took time off to try to have a baby but she suffered two miscarriages. By January 1942 America was involved in World War 2 and Carole and her mother went on a trip to sell war bonds. On January 16 Carole decided to fly home early. Her mother, an astrologist, begged her not to go on flight number three because it was an unlucky number Carole insisted and the two women got on the plane. Shortly after takeoff it crashed in Las Vegas and everyone on board was killed. Carole and her mother were buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her final film, To Be Or Not To Be, was released after her death. Clark was so devastated that he enlisted in the Army. President Roosevelt awarded Carole the Medal Of Freedom for being the first woman killed in the line of duty during the war.
"I lived in Hollywood long enough to play tennis and become a star, but I never felt it was my home." ~ Paulette
Paulette Goddard was born Pauline Marion Levy on June 3, 1910, in Long Island, New York. She was a child model and joined the Ziegfeld Follies when she was just thirteen years old. In 1927 she married Edgar James, a lumber company executive, but they divorced four years later. Paulette got work as an extra in movies and was chosen by producer Samuel Goldwyn to be one of his "Goldwyn Girls". She got a lot of attention when she began dating Charlie Chaplin in 1932. He cast her in his film Modern Times and they were secretly married. Their relationship was tumultuous and Paulette had short-lived affairs with composer George Gershwin and director Anatole Litvak. She desperately wanted to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind but lost the part to Vivien Leigh when she could not prove her marriage was legal. Paulette's career really took off when she signed with Paramount pictures. She starred in a string of hits including The Cat And The Canary and Second Chorus.
Paulette divorced Charlie and married Burgess Meredith in 1944. That same year she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in So Proudly We Hail. She and Burgess formed a production company and together they made the 1946 drama The Diary Of A Chambermaid. They tried to have a baby but Paulette suffered a miscarriage. By the early 1950s her marriage to Burgess was over and she was growing tired of her career. She married author Erich Maria Remarque in 1958 and began spending most of her time in Europe. Paulette was an avid art collector and had millions of dollars worth of jewels. After her husband's death in 1970 she lived a quiet life away from the spotlight. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Paulette died on April 23, 1990 from heart failure. She is buried in a private cemetery in Ronco, Switzerland. In her will Paulette left more than twenty-million dollars to New York University.
Marie Wilson was a popular wartime pin-up who became famous playing dumb blondes. Her biggest success came when she played the title character in the movie and television series My Friend Irma. After three failed marriages she found happiness with her fourth husband producer Robert Fallon. She continued to act occasionally until her untimely death from cancer at age fifty-six. Marie is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
"Show business has been very good to me and I'm not complaining, but someday I just wish someone would offer me a different kind of role." ~ Marie
Marie's School For Scandal costume (from my collection)