Having watched BBC four’s tribute to one of early cinema’s biggest stars made me keen to learn more about Clara Bow. Here is what I dug up:
Clara was born in poverty in the slums of Brooklyn, her father was a drunk and her mother was in and out of mental asylums. She was extremely popular in films for a while, her most noted film was ‘It’, the it of the title referring to sex appeal. She found it hard to converge her private life with her screen roles. Her famous lovers included Gary Cooper, Victor Fleming, Gilbert Roland, and Harry Richman.
Revelations of her affairs, including an orgy with a football team, came out during a court case in 1931, when she sued her former secretary, who had embezzled and tried to blackmail her. The scandal put an end to Paramount. Her husband was cowboy turned politician Rex Bell.
In all my years of watching films and mad-for tv productions I have never witnessed quite such a wrongheaded and misguided undertaking as BBC 2’s The Girl, a supposedly accurate account of Hitchcock’s warped obsession with actress Tippi Hedren.
As Hitch buffs already know, Hedren became Hitchcock’s newest blonde muse in 1963, when Grace Kelly refused his pleas to leave her gilded palace in Monaco and come back to work with him. (Kelly had already starred in Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, all Hitchcock films).
At the beginning of the film, Hitchcock and his wife watch an advert on TV and think that the model would be perfect for his new film. So he arranges for her to attend casting and is instantly smitten, giving her the part of Melanie Daniels in his adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds. So far this goes along with reality but soon the story took a dangerous turn into unreality. All of a sudden Hitchcock forces himself onto the uinwitting star, trying to woo her byu reciting lewd limericks and leching over her at every available opportuinity, though whether any of this actually happened is anyone’s guess (Hedren has said in interviews that Hitchcock did sexually harrass her).
In the most disturbing scene, thew director terrorised Hedren, first by flying a mechancial bird on a wire into a phonebooth and shattering her with broken glass, then, in the attic scene, by having live birds swoop and fleck at her and repeating the process a dozen times until Hedren is caked in blood. Again, I doubt very mnuch if this actually took place but the film took every opportunity going to paint the legendary director as a wheezing sex maniac, looking like cross between a circus dwarf and the elephant man. At least Sienna Miller as Hedren was given the opportunity to show how beautiful she can be, although she is in reality too slim and angular to play the inreal life shorter Tippi Hedren, who was also a much worse actress. It wasn’t enough to stop the film from being an unseemly and revisionist account of the twentieth century’s most talened director, and it got it wrong to the last by claimiming that Marnie (1964) was his last masterpiece, when that honour must surely go to Frenzy (1972).
Everyone knows Cary Grant, debonair English born actor of North By Northwest and The Philadelphia Story. He started his acting career aged 16 in Vaudeville before settlling in Hollywood. His first break was opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus, He then played alongside Mae Venus in She Done Him Wrong. It was ‘The Awful Truth’ that first introduced audiences to the Cary Grant persona: a highly polished, fabulously groomed gentleman, an absolute master at flirtation. It is during this period that things get interesting for us. In the generally repressed 30s Grant shared a bachelor apartment with fellow actor Randolph Scott, an actor no less handsome and surely the masculine ideal of cinema. (see photo below)
They shared a house on Santa Monica. The photos below show just how close the two were:
Grant loved only two things more than women and films: physical fitness
Or a game of table tennis
playing a competitive game of backgammon
Enjoying an intimate dinner
Even though they totalled seven marriages together they enjoyed a glorious homosocial relationship, as these candid photos reveal. frankly, they were hardly discreet in showing their affection:
They were really very modern in the way they lived. Its good to know that they managed to live out their lives even at a time when the very dangerously oppressive and intolerant.
Connie Francis has a voice that has been described as sounding like melting honey. And she released some of the most sugary and anodyne songs in the American songbook, pop-rockers like Lipstick on Your Collar and Stupid Cupid were big hits. They were released during the strange period in music between Elvis going to war (1956) and the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Francis sang about young love and going on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n. By 1962 she had amassed enough hit songs to fill two sides of a Greatest Hits Record. Her albums continued to pour out, covers of songs written by Les Reed and Bert Bacharach. She recorded two excellent country albums, though they weren’t massive hits. Connie became more successful in European countries, recording albums in Spanish, Greek and German.
She even starred in a few films, as most singers were sometimes ill-advised to do. Where the Boys Are is worth a mentiion, if only to see how inoffensively American teenagers were depicted in films of this era. The film even tries to incorporate some of the surf mania that was becoming a feature of American culture at this time.
After the sixties Connie Francis’ life took an unexpectedly tragic turn.
While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York, on November 8, 1974, Francis was raped at the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson’s Lodge and nearly suffocated to death under the weight of a heavy mattress the culprit had thrown upon her. She subsequently sued the motel chain for failing to provide adequate security and reportedly won a $2.5 million judgment, at the time one of the largest such judgments in history, leading to a reform in hotel security. Her rapist was never found.
In 1977, Francis underwent nasal surgery and completely lost her voice. She went through several more operations and even when she got her voice back, she was forced to take vocal lessons, something she had never done before.
In 1981 her brother George Franconero was killed by mafia hitmen. Franconero was a lawyer co-operating with authoirties against organised crime figures. Further sadness followed when her father had her admitted to a psyciatric hospital in Dallas, claiming she was a danger to herself. Connie got out four days later but her father had her commited to a mental hospital in Florida. Once more Connie got herself released. Then one night in February, while at her home in Essex Falls, N.J., she decided to end her life. Alone in the master bedroom of her sprawling pink ranch house, Connie reached for a bottle of sleeping pills and swallowed a handful of tablets. The following morning a housekeeper found her lying across the bed, unconscious but alive. “I was really in bad shape until April of this year,” admits Connie. “It’s very unusual to get the kind of second chance I got. But a third chance is almost unheard of.”
In a sense her whole life has been a series of chances won or lost. There is no doubt that she owes most of her success to her father’s controlling management of her. She won a talent contest aged 4, 15 years later her woeful Who’s sorrry Now sold a million copies.
|As of 2011 Connie Francis continues to perform, bathed in white light, the words to the hit Among My Souvenirs sounding out:
There’s nothing left for me
Of days that used to be
They’re just a memory
Among my souvenirs
her memories forgotten in her fans’ rapturous applause.
The recent news story of the murder of Gregory Faull has become a frenzy of media interest due to the man involved: J0hn Mcafee, the Silicon Valley who years ago made millions from the anti- virus software that still bears his name. Ever since the body of Faull on November 11, lying dead in a pool of blood in his home, Mcafee has gone into hiding.
According to the International Herald Tribune, before he became a cyber renegade, ‘Mr Mcafee led a noisy, opulent and increasingly stressful life in Belize. He was known for the retinue of prostitutes who moved in and out of his house and for employing armed guards, some of whom stood watch on the beach abutting his house. he also kept a pack of dogs on his property who barked at and sometimes bit passers by.’
Faull had apparently been bitten by one of the dogs, and had complained to police, but nothing had been done. That appears to have been a blunder in hindsight, Mcafee has said in his blog that he had no choice to flle, fearing that the police were trying to kill him. Some Mcafee watchers have a different take, claiming Mcafee had become paranoid after months of experimenting with and consuming MDPV, a psychoactive drug, these experiments were detailed on Bluelight, a blog used by some drug hobbyists.
whatever the truth, Mcafee now lives a dissident life, the details of which have gone viral. He has a reputation for being a first class hoaxer, pranks turn up in his professional life time and time again.
He has recently surfaced in Guatemala, where he has been denied asylum. Mcafee claims he wants to return to the US but does not know when that will be possible. He is still considered a ‘person of interest in the Faull case. In a recent interview in the Financial Times he spoke abot the constraints of his wealth:
One mistake was building so many different properties around the world – at least 20. “The South Padre Island one? I spent $5million building it – I was there for one week.”
In aother words, there is a chance that he has become bored by his wealth and prefers life on the run. The final irony? He doesn’t even use Mcafee, saying,”I take it off. Its too annoying.”