Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 2 December 2016

I loved her in the movies

Another enjoyable addtion to the Christmas gift list is Robert Wagner's new book I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES, his recollections of all the great actresses he knew and worked with, decade by decade, starting with the 1930s.
Whatever one thinks of Wagner as an actor, he is fairly lightweight and agreeable (insufferable movie snob Martin will probably think he should be a shoe salesman too, like his judgement on Kerwin Matthews) and, like Dirk Bogarde in England, Wagner knew everyone (he and Natalie visited the Bogardes in the South of France on one of their European trips). Unlike his contemporaries Jeff or Tab Hunter, Wagner was a Hollywood kid, growing up there - he went to school with Norma Shearer's son, so knew Norma well in her later retired years, and he dated Gloria Swanson's daughter, and writes affectionately about Gloria, she was not like Norma Desmond at all.
We also get affectionate tributes and stories on Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Crawford, Davis (Natalie played her young daughter in THE STAR and she and Wagner were friends for a long time), Stanwyck, Loretta Young, Katharine Hepburn (whom he knew through friendship with Spencer Tracy with whom he co-starred twice), Claudette Colbert and Jean Arthur. He certainly moved in the right circles! 
There's also Lana Turner, Greer Garson, Susan Hayward (very helpful to the novice actor on WITH A SONG IN MY HEART, left), Ida Lupino, Jennifer Jones, Claire Trevor, Betty Grable, Ann Sheridan, Joan Blondell, Lucille Ball, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney, the impossible Betty Hutton, as well as characters like Thelma Ritter, Maureen Stapleton and Eve Arden. Wagner knows too how difficult it was for actresses to maintain long careers ...

The 1950s saw him pals with Doris and Debbie, the young Marilyn, Janet Leigh, June Allyson, Jean Peters, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Debra Paget. He was at Romanoffs that famous 1957 night when Jayne Mansfield usurped Sophia Loren's debut (left) - he later played Loren's husband in De Sica's THE CONDEMNED OF ALTONA in 1962 and writes very affectionately about her, and also Capucine (Cappy) from THE PINK PANTHER, There were some difficult ladies too - Shelley Winters for one! 
Joanne Woodward and Glenn Close also come in for some respectful praise, and of course there's Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews and Natalie. 
Wagner, now in his mid-80s parlayed his looks into a long career on film and television. He was good enough for Olivier for his TV CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF in '76. Its always fun seeing him as PRINCE VALIANT in that wig! His first memoir PIECES OF MY HEART is an agreeable read about it all too. 
He was a 20th Century Fox boy and Natalie was a Warner Bros girl, so he got to know Jack Warner well too - and is hilarious about the abuse Warner heaped on Judy Garland (who would have been so ideal for GYPSY in 62 with Natalie), and he also recounts Vittorio De Sica's hilariously rude comment on Raquel Welch who was driving them mad with her delays on THE BIGGEST BUNDLE OF THEM ALL .... Star gossip does not get much better. As he says: "Movies and TV go on forever - only the delivery system changes ...".

1 comment:

  1. A very nice piece; take a bow Michael, you have actually made me want to read the book!