Saturday, September 23, 2023

Marilyn Monroe in "The Enchanters" (2023)

Jimmy Hoffa assigns Freddy Otash to get dirt on Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, who are squeezing the Teamster head’s organized crime scene. Freddy starts his investigation. Then, Monroe is found dead. Bobby Kennedy, his brother John F. Kennedy’s attorney general at the time, wants to know what Freddy knows. So do LAPD Chief Bill Parker and his right hand and intelligence ace, a future chief by the name of Daryl Gates. Bobby the K doesn’t want evidence of his brother’s sexual promiscuity, especially among Hollywood starlets and hangers-on, to fall into the wrong hands. Parker wants to blackmail the attorney general into making him FBI chief. Then there’s the episode that kicks off the novel, in which Freddy and the Hat Squad, a real-life quartet of elite and dangerous LAPD detectives, are called in to solve the kidnapping of a B-movie actress named Gwen Perloff. They end up dropping one suspect off a freeway overpass. 

Freddy Otash: I blew off the floor and vacuumed the rugs. I filled half an evidence sheath with threads and unknown gack. I brush-dusted the touch-and-grab planes on the dresser and got useless partials, smudges, and smears. Monroe was a hoarder. My prior B and E’s taught me that. The dresser drawers deserved a toss. I might find all-new shit. It might be evidentially germane. The bedroom was hot, hot. I was dexedrined and jungle-juiced. This prowl-and-seek gig eroticized me. I penlight-flashed the bed and saw that white-blond hair on the white pillow. I opened the top drawer and viewed the contents. I inventoried nine pairs of nylon stockings and a red crocheted bikini. I photo-snapped said contents and counted off sixty seconds. I pulled the print and dropped it in my evidence kit. The room heat spiked. I broke a sweat. A strong wind rattled the windows. I reached under the bedsheets and touched Marilyn’s leg. It felt dead cold and hot-room warm all at once. Drawer #2 contained assorted slips and Chanel No. 5 sachets. Hot-room air merged with perfume residue. I counted six sachets and slips. The slips were all pale pastel. 

There’s a big sign out front. It denotes the “Loser of the Week.” Eddie Fisher begins his reign tonight. He’s the designated schmuck and all-star attraction. I’m bodyguarding Eddie. We’re perched in the greenroom. There’s a full bar and a deli-nosh spread. Note the goblets crammed with goofballs and bennies. Eddie said, “Nixon’s been Loser of the Week twice. Rock Hudson got the nod last month, but nobody knows why.” I lit a cigarette. “Sheriff’s Vice caught him blowing a quiff in the john at the Hamburger Hamlet. The nod’s to the cognoscenti. The Rock’s got a secret-life scenario going. He’s not a signature loser, like you and Nixon.” The Life pix were a worldwide sensation. 

The pictorial corkboard oozed Monroe. It featured the Polaroids from my 4/11 break-in. The dissolute bathroom and bedroom. The forty grand stashed in the lockbox. The jumbo-girl clothes. The coin stash. The lists of lovers and dope-dispensing physicians. The name-scrawled sheets of paper. Monroe’s nutty screed stuck inside Paul de River’s nutty book. The adjacent corkboard featured the week’s random notes. I unpinned them and typed them into bullet-point briefs. I started with Pat’s emphatic assertion: Jack and Marilyn coupled a half dozen times, from ’54 up to now. They were abbreviated assignations. Always conducted in neutral locations. Calvinist Bobby wouldn’t poke Marilyn with a long stick. Marilyn attended last week’s Lawford-house do. I feigned interest in the Jack/Marilyn rumors. Pat supplied the above tattle. I dissembled my way to Pat’s punch line: Marilyn and the K boys were now kaput. Pat said she encountered Marilyn at the Palisades Gelson’s. Marilyn spun a tale of recurrent break-ins at her new pad. The burglar moved around various objects and left her weirdo notes. 

The burglar besieged her with breather calls. Pat cited Marilyn’s “mystery intruder” on a prior tapped call. I’ve got Marilyn dialed. The “mystery intruder” was Monroe fantasia. I used Pat to get this information. The big reunion went down. I bullet-pointed the week’s legwork. That paper slip in Deedee Grenier’s wallet supplied a solid lead. She’d jotted pay-phone numbers for Barrington and Beverly Glen parks. I spot-surveilled the two locations, all week. Monroe failed to show. The phones never rang. Nobody called out on them. Fox kingpin Darryl Zanuck got tipped off. Some unknown woman called him. She finked Danforth and Stein and spilled one of their two girl-stash locations. Zanuck called his tight pal, Bill Parker. Chief Bill bootjacked the kidnap job. He dispatched Freddy and the Hats to a house off 6th and Dunsmuir. We grabbed Danforth and Stein. 

Gwen Perloff was stashed elsewhere. I held Danforth’s right arm. Max held his left arm. Red jammed his head down and force-fed him look-sees. Max went Where’s the girl? Red went Give it up or you fly. Harry, Eddie, and Pervdog Stein stood ten feet back from the drop. It was August-in-L.A. hot and humid. Max and Red sweated through their shirts and suit coats. Danforth wriggled and squirmed. He dug his feet in and thrashed. Dirt clods skittered off the cliff. The fucking drop loomed. I scoped Max and Red. They looked impatient. I clamped Danforth’s arm. He buckled against me. My hand went numb. My legs fluttered. Max and Red ran six-four and 240. Their legs fluttered. Red said, “You’re wearing us thin, Richie. We can’t keep this up all night. Tell us where the girl is, so we can walk away from here.” Danforth giggled and spit on Red’s shoes. He said, “I’m having fun.” I slid on my brass knucks and kidney-punched Richie. He stifled a screech and dug his feet in. I looked over the cliff. Cars zigged by—fast, with no letup. Max sighed. Red sighed. Max said, “Sink him, Freddy.” They dropped their hands. I shoved Danforth off the cliff. He treaded air for one split second, it came out garbled. I heard him hit a car roof. I heard brakes squeal. I heard wheels thump over him. Crisscrossed headlights lit him up. A mobile Caddy dragged him against a guardrail and sheared off his feet. We dumped Buzzy Stein with the DB guys at Highland Park station. Buzzy saw the drop show and finked a hostage pad in Encino. Gwen Perloff was stashed in a vacant bachelor crib off Woodman. The Fidel Castro dimwits hid her in a broom closet. Max called the lead Sheriff’s IO. He ran the command out of the West Hollywood substation. Six Sheriff ’s cars blew past us. The Ventura Freeway was all siren blare and hot lights. It vibed interagency grief. Bill Parker usurps a county job from Sheriff Pete Pitchess. 

Parker went rogue for Darryl F. Zanuck. Pitchess overplays the rescue of Gwen Perloff. The alley dead-ended at Saticoy Street. Déjà vu ditzed me. I knew I’d been here before. My brain wires fritzed. I couldn’t place the context. This summer was half booze-and-dope blur. It was San Fernando Valley hot. The torches leaked propane. The air reeked. The sky pressed down, explosive. The Hats plus Freddy O. We’re here to observe. We killed one guy and locked one guy up. LAPD came in early. The Sheriff ’s came in late. Let’s watch them save the girl. Crane shot. Motel Mike Bayless and Gwen Perloff walk out. Gwen’s unruffled and unmussed. It’s ninety-three degrees at 10:00 p.m. She’s been locked in a broom closet. There’s no sweat pools on her mint green shift. There’s no tape-gag residue. There’s no wrist-restraint chafe marks. She’s redoubtably composed.She’s an actress walking into a crowd. Some men whistle. Some hopped-up stews jump and wave. My biz phone rang. I grabbed it two rings in. A Brit-voiced man babbled at me. I made the voice. It was Peter Lawford. He was half-gassed and far-gone panicked. I heard “dinner party”/“no show”/“found the body.” I said, “Calm down and make sense.” Lawford wheezed. My phone line staticked up. I heard “late for dinner party”/“oh my God”/“Marilyn Monroe.” Gasps and garbles spelled it out. The line cleared. He went over/he saw the pill vials/there was no housekeeper extant.

"Freddy, she was cold. She was such a talent, the greatest female film star of her era..." Nembutal, Seconal, chloral hydrate. Instant dreamland. Lois twirled her ashtray. “The story’s inevitable. Jack and Marilyn. Bobby and Marilyn, when the wind drifts a certain way. People pick up glimmers or bits of stories, and they embellish like mad.” I feigned a yawn. Jack and Marilyn/Bobby and Marilyn. Nat and Lois talk. Pat confides in Bobby. It’s all extraneous yak-yak. “Let’s change the subject. You’ve got the stewardess-in-love flick, and you’re reading for this schlock guy at Fox, Maury Dexter. I heard he’s a pillhead in the Freddy O. mode. What else? Oh, yeah—he’s got a giant-rat job and a twist flick, and you’ll have to settle for scale.” Miss Lytess sipped champagne. “Marilyn overestimated her sway over people. She played her cards too quickly and desperately, in her efforts to impress and seduce them. If these people you posit were canny and properly reserved, and if she wanted to imitate their self-sufficiency and general hauteur, she would have set out to prove herself to them in most dangerous ways.” I squinted. The camera swung low. I saw legs and feet but no faces. I caught the hemline on the dress. I caught thin ankles and the black pumps Monroe wore as herself sixteen minutes back. She went somewhere. She changed clothes. Why did she do it? 

She switched identities in the middle of a roiling protest gig. She’s got the “dreamy eyes” Doc de River attributes to sex psychopaths. Schizo Marilyn. The ’48 pill vial I saw. The ’62 pill vial I saw. Marilyn crossed out “Norma Jean Baker” on the ’48 vial and wrote “Not my name anymore” beside it. Marilyn crossed out the “Marilyn Monroe” on the ’62 vial and wrote “Not my name anymore” beside it. Akin to the Weimar-era pix that Marilyn Monroe hoarded. The lights went up. Some Pali lettermen chanted, “Sex Creep! Sex Creep! Sex Creep!” Sid pointed Morty to the lectern. Morty ambled up. He said, “Here’s a preview of the next installment in my series. I’ve been in serious consultation with an eminent headshrinker here in the City of the Fallen Angels, and he told me the Creep is living through a ‘declension of fan crushes,’ which is to say that he crushed on the late Carole Landis, then went on to crush on someone like Jane Russell, then went on to the crush object of the era—the late Marilyn Monroe.” On to Marilyn. Her coded sessions file delivered. I got verbatim-transcribed Q and A here. The sessions had been tape-recorded and code-transcribed by de River himself. Marilyn consulted him from ’52 to mid-’54. De River coined the phrase “declension of fan crushes” at that time. It preceded her coupling with Timmy Berlin and her own attribution of the phrase. De River used Carole Landis as an example of a “neophyte crusher’s crush.” Marilyn said, “Oh, I knew Carole all right. There’s stories I could tell you.” De River excoriated Marilyn. 

He considered her to be shallow, vain, impetuous, peremptory, whimsical, usurious, and driven by infantile exhibitionism. The only way that she could successfully revise and shape an all-new persona would be for her to go anonymous and cultivate risk in the real world. And revel in the risk of exposure and punishment. Marilyn cited her “bit actress” friend Gwen. She had accomplished just that. Gwen was Marilyn’s age. They shared a room at Hollygrove. Gwen had taken on The Life. They played girl sleuth games at the Grove. Gwen said The Life meant going native. She set up burglary scores and scored seductress film roles. She comported with burglars, armed robbers, and flimflam men. She started stealing young. She underwent group therapy under his direction. De River was starting to bore Marilyn. 

De River fixated on the bold Gwen at the expense of the grasping “dim bulb” Marilyn. Marilyn talked up Gwen. She was her alter ego, doppelgänger, and amanuensis. Gwen carried the symbolic and metaphysical weight that Marilyn could not hoist to her own frail shoulders. Why mince words? De River packed a torch for Gwen and wrote off Marilyn as “stale goods.” She emitted a stale stench of desperate fear and put her own artistic success above all moral considerations. She could not inhabit any role other than the role of herself, at the risk of grave dissociation. My nerves decohered. I popped two yellow jackets to tamp them down and quash this schizzy limbo. I dialed in, dialed out, stepped back and reframed. The dope hit me. It cocooned me, warm and safe. It resituated the shadows and magnified the candlelight.” -The Enchanters (2023) by James Ellroy

Jim DiEugenio: Mike Rothmiller's book has been destroyed piece by piece by the best guy in the field, Don McGovern. Marilyn Monroe took her own life, either willfully or by accident. And Bobby Kennedy was never in Brentwood that day or night and that is provable. Mark Shaw is another of these gaseous blowhards who preaches this rubbish. Don [McGovern] and I will have a decimating review on his public talk in Allen, Texas soon. And I am prepping a long, intricate overview of this whole morass titled, "Joyce Carol Oates, Brad Pitt and the Road to Blonde." Rothmiller claimed to have heard Lawford's confession in 1982 yet made no mention of such a confession for four decades and produced exactly zero evidence that any such confession was actually made. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but Rothmiller has produced no evidence at all. Don McGovern has read something like 120 books on that case. Plus he went through 1000 pages of documents from the  archives at CSUN from the Capell/Slatzer collection. Plus he helped Gary VItacco Robles write his 1200 page bio on MM, Icon, which is probably the best one out there. The truth is, as Vitacco Robles writes, that Lawford did not leave his house or his guests. And the guests corroborate that. And he was always plagued by guilt about it. DA Ronald Carrol wrote a 641 page report which refuted them specifically and in detail. 

The MM conspiracy nuts only mention a 27 page report. But that was  only the summary. Gary VItacco Robles petitioned the office for the full report. And he uses it in his book Icon. Which is how we know that unlike Rothmiller states, neither LAPD nor FBI, or Spindel taped her house. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Mailer's biography of Marilyn Monroe: "Since Mailer did not have the time to thoroughly research the facts surrounding her death, his speculation led to the biography's controversy. The book's final chapter theorizes that Monroe was murdered by rogue agents of the FBI and CIA who resented her supposed affair with Robert F. Kennedy. Mailer later admitted that he embellished the book with speculations about Monroe's sex life and death that he did not himself believe to ensure its commercial success." Source:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Dick Powell (Screenland magazine, 1934)

Dick PowellScared of Movie Women: Dick Powell always plans ahead. He realizes you have to invest a considerable sum to draw adequate dividend checks. Having no rich uncle, he is fated to earn his own security. Warners have contracted for his services for the coming two years, with no options attached. Such an arrangement is exceptional these days and it illustrates how optimistic his studio is about his prospects. "By 1936 I should have enough saved to marry," Dick amplifies. "I have no wish to become a Beverly Hills plutocrat or to live expensively." He only does anticipate sensible comforts. This next summer he expects to build a home, a modernized American farmhouse being his pet dream. It'll be in the Toluca Lake district, a modest section of Los Angeles. Those publicized appearances at parties and premieres with Hollywood lassies are fun for Dick. They're a perpetual temptation, he feels, these beautiful actresses. But, waxing confidential, he acknowledges that he honestly hasn't thought of marriage since he arrived in movieland. "I've been too worried about myself. After all, this is my big chance. The talkies are the peak of show business and I want to make a permanent place for myself here. Of course I've had twinges of 'puppy love.' But I've stopped short whenever I discovered I can't afford a wife yet. Anyway, I'd probably be a heck of a husband at this stage of the game. I'm too interested in amounting to something in this industry!" 

Read between the lines and you'll gather that Dick isn't the least bit selfish. He is the most considerate actor I have met and is so selfless that he condemns himself for realizing that there is a climbing period in everyone's life when concentration demands its toll. The future Mrs. Powell won't be an actress, Dick thinks. She may be when he courts her, but after the ceremony she'll go domestic. He doesn't seem to have no doubts of this. "I'm prehistoric, maybe," he elucidates, "but I think a man should be the provider. Nothing could be more appalling to me than to have my wife proclaim, 'Well,  I'm earning more than you!' Hell, I'd bust up the furniture! And then there's the professional jealousy which is bound to creep in. One or the other will be more popular and that provokes insidious trouble. All actors are exhibitionists in nature. Why, I can see that jealousy problem without getting married. You date a prominent girl and either you or she garners the most spotlight wherever you go. Naturally nothing is said between you, but the one who's received the lesser flattery is a little hurt inside. Besides, if an actress had the time to be a wife—as should be—she wouldn't have time to be much of an actress. And what could a husband talk to his actress wife about? That would be hell if both had studios hassle."

"How many business men fret over their better halves' bridge club squabbles when they come home at night? I don't know any who does." Dick contends that part of the appeal of Hollywood women is mainly due to the success they have attained. "Take the same girl and the same clothes and remove her fame and so what? She would be no more stunning than many non-professionals." "I'm still a movie fan at heart, though," he confesses. "Somehow the screen magically enhances and builds up charm." Recently he was asked to be Mary Pickford's escort at a dinner and theatre party and he frankly admits he was adither with excitement. There are other famous women he'd like to meet—Myrna Loy, for example. Ann Harding is another secret favorite. He saw her once at a big party and regrets that he wasn't introduced. 

When Dick Powell speaks of love and marriage it is not with the bland assurance of a greenhorn. At twenty-eight he looks forward and weighs values through experienced eyes because he can glance back at his initial joust with Cupid. Few recall it, but he impetuously married when he landed his first job. "I was twenty-two and making $70 a week, singing daily with a hotel orchestra in Louisville." He is too well-bred to rehash a personal matter which affects another. His wife was a non-professional, from a modest family. One day Dick commented to me, "My marriage was the only really influential event in my life." Despite his zeal for a career, you'll perceive, he seeks the perfect love just as everyone does. Behind his laughing face there are memories too painful to discuss. I have been told that his wife could not understand the whirlwind existence his rapid rise necessitated. She disliked the stage and opposed his show business career. But personalities such as Dick's could hardly be hidden in a commonplace, humdrum life. "You've heard how I started. I came from an average American family and began singing in the church choir in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

The fact that folks liked my singing turned me towards the footlights. I studied voice and got that job in Louisville. I stayed there for ten months, delivering light opera melodies. Gradually it dawned on me that popular music was more profitable. I got myself a banjo and jazzed my tunes. That boosted me. I became a master of ceremonies when I'd learned to tell jokes." His remarkably cheery manner and his ability to delight audiences with his splendid voice soon led him to Pittsburgh. There he quickly wowed one and all. When a crooner with personality plus was required for "Blessed Event," Warners sent for him. In his first picture Dick spoke only one line of regular dialogue, but the songs he rendered immediately made us all aware of him. Since then he has evolved into our leading screen vocalizer. Crazy about music, he hopes eventually to follow in the footsteps of his idols, Lawrence Tibbett and Richard Crooks. To this end he faithfully continues his singing lessons. Now he has become anxious to click as an actor. 

In "Convention City" he came through with a straight juvenile performance that demonstrated he doesn't have to rely on singing. "What a kick I got at the pre-view when they laughed at my comedy scenes!" he remarked to me enthusiastically. "You know I've only done ten pictures and I've an awful lot to catch on to. It seems to me I'm still a little too 'broad.' On the stage you over-emphasize, but close-ups the size of a wall demand subtlety." He figures he benefited more from the small role he played in Arliss's "The King's Vacation" than from any other part. His stepping out is astonishingly unsystematic. He may not date for two entire months, and then he's calling on our local ladies two and three times weekly. Here's a tip to them: you have to encourage him! He's not the flip, fresh sort who'll request a date after one meeting. Rather he waits until he has encountered you five or six times and is certain you relish his company. If he is absent-minded, don't conclude he's giving you the big good-bye. "I learned the hard way that no woman wants to be taken for granted," he bawls himself out.

He's on the skip-and-jump continuously. But he's used to the high-pressure gait, for he did four shows a day during the three years he headlined in Pittsburgh just prior to his Hollywood break. Dick Powell's vacation this year is arranged for April, May, and June, and he intends to travel through Europe. No stage appearances as in '33. Don't imagine he's hunting a riotous romance when he voyages away from Hollywood's million dollar queens. He came to us aware of the errors one can make in marrying precipitously, and he's determined to shun the slips of the past. And if you suppose this Dick Powell can't cool himself off at the psychological moments, listen to this: he actually found an actress here whom he could adore—and she would have given up her public in order to be his missus.  —Interview by Dickson Morley for Screenland magazine (April 1934)

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Dick Powell & June Allyson in Sun Valley

Usually “vacation” is a magic word, suggesting freedom from responsibility and worry, release from ordinary routine and surroundings. It has been lent sparkle by travel posters and resort folders showing glamorous people swimming, dancing, surfing, skiing, and playing various games. For two people in love, “vacation” means a second, fourth, seventh or tenth honeymoon—which automatically brings us to June Allyson and Dick Powell. Let’s peel back the calendar to August 1945, when June and Dick were applying for their marriage license. As the documents were signed, June studied her fiance’s signature and chortled “Richard E-wing Powell! What an odd middle name that one is, E-wing!” “I’ll have a bit of respect from you for a fine old Welsh name,” grinned Dick. “And for your information it is pronounced Youing, not E-wing.” “E-wing,” mused the bride-to-be. 

Check off an elapse of four years and the Powells are found enjoying a fourth honeymoon at Sun Valley where both are on the ski slopes from sunup until sundown. For a blissful month they lived, Dick and June, for each other and the fun of sliding the slopes, riding in sleighs, dipping into the glass-enclosed pool, and dancing at night. Back at the film foundries they were able to console themselves with staring at the snow-covered San Bernardino Mountains glittering above Los Angeles until they read of a three-foot fall of snow in Idaho, whereupon they hooked to Sun Valley for a third stanza of skiing in the same winter. “You were named E-wing," explained June to Dick, “because you like the sensation of flying somewhere, on a sailboat, on a plane, or on a pair of skis.” Not until the pre-spring of 1955 were the Powells able to find time for the trip to Idaho. They made their plans excitedly and bought new equipment. In addition, they set about packing such trappings as stocking caps, dark glasses, belts, long handled lingerie, wool socks, after-ski shoes, various changes of trousers and sweaters. 

Because Dick is a shutterbug, June also packed “equipment enough to have filmed a Miss America contest,” and all the paraphernalia necessary for painting the Great American Landscape of Sun Valley. For some months Dick has been trying to interest June in a hobby so engrossing that she will devote her hours to it with the result that she will want to make only one film, at most two, per year. So into the luggage went a palette, the chromatic scale of color tubes, a set of pastel crayons, and a copy of Van Gogh’s biography, “Lust for Life.” 

June also took along a few afternoon dresses and a glamour number or two in case, in this most rococo of resorts, joy reigned well refined. Dick let out a cry of anguish when he realized that the heap in the entry hall was not a new grand piano in its crate but merely luggage to be loaded into their drawing room on the train. Twenty-four hours later, shins bruised from running into suitcases and fingernails broken from moving six cases to get the one needed, the Powells checked into the Sun Valley Lodge, had dinner followed by a pair of hot showers and tumbled into bed. “I’ll unpack in the morning,” were June’s last words. Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear. Scanning the scene from the windows, Dick could almost hear the snow melt. “We’d better have breakfast and go onto the slopes right away,” he said. “God skiing isn’t going to last long at this rate." June said that of course she couldn’t ski that day. She had to unpack. Every sweater. Every roll film. 

Her husband has encouraged such tidiness. Even if she is to remain in a hot room only overnight, June turns the impersonal quarters into the Allyson palace. Apparently it's a compulsion of some kind. So, after breakfast, Dick made his way through the lobby, carefully avoiding ex-skiers on crutches, in casts and in sling and assaulted the slopes. Sky blue, bright, snow dazzling—and treacherous. There had been enough melting during each day for nearly a week, followed enough freezing at night to form patch of ice in random pattern all over the hill. Ice is a hazard of skiing just as kelp is hazard of coastal swimming and the adolescent male is a hazard in highway traffic. One learns to use evasive tactics in coping with such things: sometimes adding to the zest of the sport. Over the luncheon table, Dick asked his wife how she was coming along with her unpacking. She awarded him a glassy stare combined with a question: “How long were we planning to stay here?” 

“It isn’t that bad, is it?” parried Dick. “I guess not,” sighed his wife. “We didn’t bring along a 1956 calendar.” Dick spent most of the afternoon out at the slopes and returned to the hotel ruddy cheeked and replete with the joy of living. He found June filling the closets with his wardrobe and camera equipment. She had crammed to chests of drawers with her lord’s sweater shirts and all the rest of the oddment which a man—the casual gender—own and use in order to be fit to be seen. Her ingenuity had been taxed to the limit and her nerves were frazzled. By Friday night all was well in Home Suite Home, and June—tuckered but—told Dick, “Tomorrow I’m going skiing with you. In the afternoon. You check the slopes in the morning and find but where I’m least likely to break something valuable.” A dutiful husband, Dick kissed his wife goodbye after Saturday’s breakfast, saying that he would telephone her the news as to which of two cafes would prove most convenient for luncheon followed by an afternoon of Swiss hopscotch. 

June said she hadn't noticed much change in her health during the two hours they had been apart, how was he? He'd had an accident. June cried out, hung up the receiver and set out to locate her wounded man. Streaking to the elevator she gasped, “Take me down.” Down she went. On the main floor she curried through one corridor after another, seeking that ominous sign “Hospital.” She knew she had seen it the first may they arrived, but it must have been moved. Perhaps to the roof to take advantage of sun and breeze. Returning to the elevator, she asked to be taken up. The top floor yielded no more information than the main floor had. June decided to ask the elevator operator where casualties could be found. Same floor on which the Powell suite was located, said the operator. When June was admitted to the treatment room, Dick was lying under the X-ray machine. His color was poor, perspiration profuse and unsteady. June rushed to him, took his free hand and blinked away tears. “Oh, E-wing!” she said. 
X rays indicated that Dick had broken his left arm in two places just below the shoulder joint, involving the complex ball and Socket mechanism. This is what had happened: Dick had been careening down one of the more precipitous slopes when, in the middle of a turn, his left ski struck a patch of ice and flipped him in a fall that Dick described—in the skiing vernacular—as an eggbeater. Dick’s doctor was vehement in his denunciation of a man over twenty-two years old who, not having been on skis for six years, would undertake to recapture his fine frenzy with Alpine stocks. “What did you expect?” queried the M.D. acidly. “You could have fractured your skull. You could have broken your back and spent the rest of your days as a helpless invalid. Time you used some common sense, my boy.” There was more, none of it sugared. When the doctor was called from the treatment room, the nurse told Dick, “Don’t take him too seriously. Last week he was able to remove the brace he has worn since he broke his ankle early this winter. Skiing. Second time he did it in two years.” 

Because there is little point in remaining at a ski resort when circumstances prevent skiing, the Powells packed, and returned to Los Angeles, then drove to Palm Springs. Add a cast, bandages and an arm sling, and you have a picture of dependence. And, if there is anything that Miss June Allyson loves, it is to be needed. She is a frustrated nurse, and she could win gold medals for extending aid and comfort to the distressed. Suddenly, after years of thinking of Dick as the Rock of Gibraltar, impervious, irresistible, immovable, she discovered that a fracture had appeared in the granite. Joyously she went to work to repair the damage. Dick’s diet had to be supervised: plenty of calcium “to heal that arm.” His rest had to be undisturbed. June shaved her husband (electric razor), she toweled him after his reluctant tub baths (he prefers a shower), she dressed him, selecting and tying his ties, buckling his belt and lacing his shoes.

When Dick said rebelliously one day, “As far as I’m concerned, vacation is a doubtful word,” she had an answer. "I think it’s one of the loveliest words on earth. Don’t you?” When two people in love and married have been through an ordeal, they need few words to transmit meanings to one another. A glance, a smile, the swift touching of hands speak a language eloquent and untrammeled. A vacation can never be judged by the events that appear to have taken place but only by the secret conclusions left in a human heart. That fact makes it possible to say of the Powells' adventures in Sun Valley and Palm Springs were the “best thing that ever happened to them.” They went away, two tired, nervous, confused individuals; they came back as a partnership. —Photoplay magazine (July 1955)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Mary Martin, Hedda Hopper, Dick Powell

In her memoir, Mary Martin would cite only two books that she'd read as a youth, specifically when she was eleven years old—The Well of Loneliness, and The Life of Isadora Duncan (a noted bisexual). Written by British author Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness would come to be considered a classic lesbian novel of the twentieth century. Shortly after its arrival in 1928, the controversial work was “attacked in several courtrooms” for its suggestion that “inverts” should be tolerated. So Martin’s taking the trouble to name The Well of Loneliness—without even bothering to bury it in a much longer list of books—might be viewed as an intended message that she grew up with a definite and unequivocal lesbian influence. “I wanted to be Peter Pan the first time I saw him—before I ever thought of being an actress,” Martin would tell a reporter in 1954, when her musical version of Peter Pan was about to open on Broadway. Thanks to the live TV version that followed and became a perennial favorite, Peter Pan would become the role most identified with Martin, both during her lifetime and beyond.

Martin admitted sex was secundary for her: “When I decided to try and be an actress, there was a lot of pushing from mother—she really wanted me to be an actress. She gave me a lecture about how important it was for me to sublimate my sexual drive and put it into my work. She said if you want to be in the theater, you have to give all of your energy to the audience. You have to save that for the public.” At some point in 1931, given her severe depression, Mary Martin followed the doctor’s orders and spent two weeks at the Yeagers’ home in Mineral Springs, away from her husband, her parents, and her son. But it was Mary’s sister, Geraldine, who provided the real cure when she suggested that Mary become a dance instructor. There was at least one Hollywood insider, however, who recognized Martin’s potential: Hedda Hopper. Beginning life with the birthname of Elda Furry, Hopper had been a chorus girl and silent movie actress before becoming an NBC radio personality in 1936, around the time she met and instantly seemed like a “second mother” to Martin, who was twenty-two years Hopper’s junior. Forever vying with Louella Parsons for recognition as the top Hollywood gossip columnist, Hopper had influence that would benefit Martin’s career in both obvious and hidden ways. 

Hedda Hopper, who had by then become a close friend, would see South Pacific five times. Hopper wrote: "Like Peter Pan, Mary Martin flies untouched over the negative things in life." A week into rehearsals, Martin’s biggest fan, Hedda Hopper, gave an all-star dinner for her favorite performer. As reported in Hopper’s column on June 23, 1953, the other “billion dollars’ worth of talent,” or guests, included Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Liz Taylor, Jennifer Jones, Jean Simmons, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Ethel Merman and Cole Porter. “At evening’s end, Mary said, ‘This is the first party I’ve been to in years when nobodoy asked me to sing a single number.’” Martin was planning a large New York wedding for her daughter Heller’s upcoming marriage to Anthony Weir, an advertising man, on January 20, 1962. Martin gave a lengthy account of the whole affair to Hedda Hopper, who devoted her entire column to the story on February 13.

In Rhythm on the River (1940), Martin’s relatively puny salary continued to demonstrate her lower-rung status at the studio: Martin was paid a paltry $20,416 in comparison with Bing Crosby’s $150,000. Helpfully, though, in addition to guaranteeing Martin $2,500 a week, her contract with Paramount stipulated that she could leave the studio every Thursday at twelve thirty to attend rehearsals and broadcasts of Dick Powell’s Good News radio program, for which she was earning nearly half as much as her film studio guarantee—that is, $1,000 per show. Powell and Martin seemed to share certain animosity towards Crosby, who had co-starred with Powell's wife Joan Blondell in East Side of Heaven in 1939. There had been rumors of Blondell having had an affair with Crosby (a well known lothario) on the set. 

Probably Hopper was protecting Dick Powell indirectly (and Martin directly) while she ignored all the obvious signs of their dalliance. Also it's possible that from Martin putting in a good word for Powell sprang Hopper's efforts in trying to hide a tryst between Dean Martin and Powell's wife June Allyson. When Louella and Hedda made a temporary truce, they probably compared notes. Hedda had been friends with Marion Davies, who had toyed with the idea of maintaining a clandestine relationship with Powell. Hedda had agreed with Marion that Blondell wasn't suited to Powell's more serious character, but the journalist seemed somehow indifferent to Blondell. Some insiders, like Jane Wilkie, speculated that Hopper never ingratiated to Allyson because Allyson (not Davies or Martin) was Powell's true love. And the proof is how hard he fought to keep his marriage to Allyson afloat. Probably Powell didn't follow Hopper's advice and didn't break Dean Martin's nose. Yet it's intriguing to imagine what transpired between the scenes. —Sources: "Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin" (2016) by David Kaufman  and "Glamour, Glitz, & Gossip at Historic Magnolia House: From the Silver Screens of Hollywood to the Lights of Broadway" (2019) by Danforth Prince

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Dick Powell/Philip Marlowe, The Perky Effect

Raymond Chandler seldom painted word portraits of his heroes, perhaps because of the falter in his first story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot.” We know what the Chandler hero Philip Marlowe looks like; tall, dark, masculine, attractive to all society types, but if you read closely you will notice that complete as he is, Marlowe's face has no a precise depiction of his features. That wasn’t a problem for Chandler, but it would become one in Hollywood when they took notice of Chandler’s work: What did Philip Marlowe look like? Even Chandler struggled with that, veering from Cary Grant to Dick Powell—Chandler’s favorite, from Fred MacMurray to Humphrey Bogart, but not when he described Marlowe in a letter that made him sound suspiciously like Fred MacMurray and Dick Powell, with a bit side of Robert Mitchum.

Dick Powell is much as we imagine Philip Marlowe, a very bright, very attractive man, a bit shop worn, a bit defensive, and too human for his own good. To that Powell brings a post-war cynicism common to many ex-G.I.s, an ironic voice tinged by sarcasm, and a leery eye toward the idea he is so devastating that women like Claire Trevor will just throw themselves at him, at least without a distinct curve on the act. Brash, ironic, and surprisingly gentle, Powell seemed to find every niche of Marlowe’s character, and would even play Marlowe again of television in an adaptation of The Long Goodbye. Source:

Burden of Proof: Hollywood has always been at odds with the truth. Studios love capitalizing on the public’s interest in real-life stories by adapting them for the big screen, but as we all know, real life is too complicated to fit a three-act structure. Concessions are made, whether it be in the form of an imagined character or a shuffling of historical events to reach a more dramatic conclusion. As long as the reshaped story bears a resemblance to what actually happened, and the fictionalized elements are entertaining, studios assume that audiences will be satisfied. Satisfaction becomes elusive, however, when the real-life story has no conclusion. There have been numerous attempts to make films about unsolved crimes, but the thing that makes these cases appealing in theory is the very thing that makes them difficult to adapt. They invalidate the three-act structure. They provide a tantalizing premise without any of the payoff. These films—let’s call them “cold case adaptations”—have been especially prevalent in recent times. 

Of these cold case adaptations, The Black Dahlia (2006) has the most complicated relationship with the truth. The film is based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name, which in turn is based on the grisly murder of Elizabeth Short. The investigation that follows takes a lot of creative liberties, most notably finding a culprit for that infamous crime in January 1947. The real Elizabeth Short was a regular girl with aspirations to domesticity who was living around Hollywood Boulevard. The fictional Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) is at the fulcrum of Hollywood decadence, making stag films and fraternizing with old money when she isn’t performing clumsy screen tests. The Black Dahlia makes no bones about which version is more scintillating, both for the viewer and the fictional detectives assigned to the case. -Noir City magazine (September 2023)

A recent study has proved that seeing and imagining seeing involve similar processes in the brain. This leads to a conundrum: ‘If the brain is treating imagination so similar to how it treats reality, why are we not confusing the two all the time?’ says Nadine Dijkstra, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. In a modern-day exploration of what’s become known as the ‘Perky Effect’, published recently in Nature Communications, Dijkstra and her colleagues asked more than 6000 people to look at a static-filled screen, to imagine diagonal lines on the screen. As the experiment went on, similar to Perky’s study, the researchers secretly introduced real diagonal lines, to test how it affected what people thought they saw. Dijkstra says their findings imply that people check what’s real and what’s imagined against a ‘reality threshold’, in a process called 'perceptual reality monitoring.' Dijkstra found further evidence of this principle by re-analysing one of her earlier brain-imaging experiments: when study participants imagined seeing something, their brains showed similar patterns of activation in the visual cortex as when they were looking at that same thing, but the activation was generally weaker. This means that people who have very vivid mental imagery could find distinguishing between reality and imagination more difficult; there has been some association between having vivid imagery and an increased likelihood of experiencing hallucinations. Source:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

June Allyson's advice to young girls

The reason I dare to cry out, “Stop kidding yourself, girls” to every teenager is that I know what I’m talking about. When I was in my teens, I had to learn the hard way how to get on speaking terms with personal happiness. The teens can be such a miserable experience. Mine often were. I know from the letters that so many of them write me that they are a having bad time. So let me tell you, that doesn’t have to be. If you will just get wise to what is your own personal self, you’ll be able to have the world on a string. You can be happy as Christmas 365 days a year if you will just get your thinking in the right channel. And remember that nobody—but nobody—makes you a droop but you. It’s all a matter of not kidding yourself. It’s all you. As the song says, you are the one. I used to kid myself, just as much as you probably do, when I was in my teens. I used to dream. I seldom “did anything.” 

I used to have elaborate daydreams about the rich, handsome man I’d marry, the big house I’d live in, the comforts I’d have. Fantastically enough, I achieved all that. For instance, the other evening, my husband Richard came home and gave me a present. It was a diamond in a most unusual setting. A shadowbox of gold had been put around the stone to make it glitter even more brilliantly than it would have naturally. Now it wasn’t our anniversary or anything. Richard and I try to make every day a cause for celebration. So whenever I open a box and saw the lovely presents, my thoughts wandered back to my teens. At that time I would have wanted the ring for the ring itself. Now I was happy with it because of the love it expressed. My husband had completely surprised me with it because since I’ve been married my plain gold band was all I wanted. If Richard had brought me a rose, I would have been just as pleased. And this, I think, proves a point: when we don’t keep wanting “things” but learn to appreciate the values we have, the good things are added unto us when we least expect them. You think that you have to be beautiful to be happy? That’s crazy! Just remember that a middle-aged plain woman with a mole on the side of her face, took Edward VIII off the throne of England—and they lived happier ever after! 

The other day I heard Doris Day saying: "Dick Powell is one of the most intelligent, nicest and richest men in Hollywood. Did a tall, beautiful, madly-dressed doll get him? No, Dick belongs to a wonderful gal with a sense of humor and a big heart, June Allyson." Doris is such a sweetheart, we are very good friends. The trouble is when we are growing up, we fool ourselves. We say to ourselves, “I’d be more popular if I were prettier.” George Bernard Shaw, who conceded his first official interview in America to Louella Parsons, said it originally. “Youth,” he said, “is so wonderful that it shouldn’t be wasted on the young.” I can’t top that, but as one woman to another I want to say—why waste your youth? 
Get wise to the great special gift that life has given you. Part of the reason I am sounding off at this particular time is those terrifying headlines in the papers, telling about high school kids taking drugs. Shocking as these headlines are, overwhelming as the figures on addiction prove to be, you and I have the blessed assurance that in terms of the teen-age population of this country, they are still small. But the very fact that the drug habits have spread to such extent—is a ghastly symptom of the unhappiness too many teenagers are experiencing. Such a habit is the ultimate end in self-deception. It is the absolute summing up of wrong values. It not only drags its victims down into a living hell, but often their families and friends too. The pathos of these addicted girls and boys is that they aren’t “bad.” The touching thing is that they, and their families, have to pay such a killing price just because they have their values all wrong. These unwise kids want a momentary thrill, a purely physical thrill, which, when it wears off, will leave them in such agony as to be almost unendurable. 

But a girl who says, “If I used my brains more, I would be more popular,” you can count on the thumbs of one hand. When I was fifteen and “in love” for the very first—and I was sure the absolute last—time, I thought my life was unendurable because my mother wouldn’t permit me to see that boy morning, noon and night. My mother said, “I absolutely will not you go steady with any boy until you are at least eighteen.” I thought then that she was cruel. I know now that she was right. Memorize this truth: The thing that you want to do secretly, or any act or deed you want to do surreptitiously, isn’t probably the best thing for you. In contrast, think of those wonderful words in the marriage ceremony “in the face of God and this company.” The right things you will always want to do that way. That’s how you know they are right. When those nearest and dearest to you are looking on, you begin on a sure foundation. When we are growing up, we fool ourselves. We tell ourselves, as an alibi, “I’d be more popular if I were prettier” or “better dressed.” Or “had a nicer home.” It took me ages before I realized that to go out every night was idiotic.

Now I know that my happiest evenings are spent at home with my family. It’s just a case of growing up. Once I sang a love song in a night club with the tears running down my face. I thought I had lost a love that was important to me. It was a cold, winter night in New York. I felt so sorry for myself. I told myself I had given “everything” to that love. I would, I told myself, “never love again.” The thing you have to learn about love is that it is inexhaustible. The more love you give, the more love you still have. When you aren’t yet sixteen, you haven’t the experience to distinguish between quantity and quality. You haven’t, I mean, unless you are a lot smarter than I was at that age. Your aim is to be a popular girl. I don’t blame you for that. But what do you mean by popular? Are you getting quality or quantity? Stop kidding yourself. Find your real values. When I see beautiful girls like Hedy Lamarr or Ursula Thiess, I’m amazed I’m on the screen. When I see an actress like Shirley Booth, I ask, “And I get by with acting?” Think of it this way: Do you know everything about any one subject in the world? Or do you know one thing about every subject? Of course you don’t. Nobody does. But every single thing you learn puts you that much ahead. And every kindness you do puts you that much ahead, too. —June Allyson for Photoplay Magazine, August 1953

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

"The Enchanters" (featuring Marilyn Monroe): James Ellroy's new noir novel

James Ellroy's new novel The Enchanters goes straight to the tragic heart of 1962 Hollywood with a wild riff on the Marilyn Monroe death myth. Los Angeles, August 4, 1962. The city broils through a midsummer heat wave. Marilyn Monroe ODs. The overhyped LAPD overreacts. Chief Bill Parker’s looking for some getback. He calls in Freddy Otash. The freewheeling Freddy O: tainted ex-cop, defrocked private eye, and freelance extortionist. A man who lives by the maxim “Opportunity is love.” Freddy gets to work. We are with him as he falters, and grasps for love beyond opportunity. We are with him as he tracks Marilyn Monroe’s horrific last charade through a nightmarish L.A.— and as he confronts his own raging madness. The Enchanters is a transcendent work of American popular fiction. It is James Ellroy at his most crazed, brilliant, provocative, profanely hilarious, and stop-your-heart tender. Source:

Fred Otash was a disgraced former cop turned private eye and freelance menace who worked with the notorious Hollywood tabloid Confidential; he claimed to have hot-wired every bathhouse in L.A., to have spied on Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, and to have eavesdropped on Marilyn Monroe as she died. Ellroy knew the man (Otash) a little and loathed him a lot. “You don’t go out and wreck lives en masse the way he did with Confidential and retain your humanity,” Ellroy once told an interviewer. In The Enchanters we expect and find redheads and racists, shock and schlock, pearl-gray suits and straw fedoras, weak men and strong women—noir stock types. 

Marilyn is the bait girl nonpareil; no one can touch her. About seven hundred Marilyn Monroe biographies have been published in English alone. There have been biographies by her friends, her foes, her siblings, her household staff, two of her husbands, and two of her stalkers. Norman Mailer didn’t hesitate to publish a glossy art-book appreciation of the actress. In “The Enchanters” she is depicted as a pill-popping, ditzy dilettante, deluded and drunk and self-centered and into some very shady stuff. Here, however, he’s messing with an icon (not to mention two popular political figures, the Kennedy brothers, who met tragic deaths), so the transgressions feel more severe. We get disquisitions on how uninteresting the characters find one another. Freddy on Marilyn: “She worked people. She used people. She possessed three modes of address. She was bossy, she was demure, she was effusive. I didn’t like her. I didn’t get her. Her acting chops and alleged va-va-voom hit me flat.” Monroe, who could have been the book’s making, is instead its undoing—which is, consoling thought, an odd sort of triumph on her part. Source: