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Born in India to a mixed-race couple Merle Oberon`s life story is another one to file under `bizarre`. Her first serious boyfriend took her to France while she was still in her teens and introduced her to the Victorine film studios who were sufficiently taken by her exotic looks to hire her as an extra. Unfortunately the boyfriend dumped her when he met her mother for the first time and realised she was black , and from then on Merle went to extraordinary lengths to disguise her parentage ; when she went to Hollywood for the first time , for example , she persuaded her mother to pretend that she was the maid!

Her obvious skill at disguising her dusky appearance can be seen by her roles in some classic English films of the Thirties (Wuthering Heights , The Private Life of Henry VIII , The Scarlet Pimpernel) but her career hit the big time when she married director Alexander Korda. After a serious car crash and a disfiguring allergic reaction to prescription drugs she apparently became obsessed by facial disfigurement , even dating a WWII pilot who`d been seriously burnt when his Spitfire was shot down. In her later life she tried to eliminate all traces of her birth and upbringing , claiming that she`d been born in Tasmania - much to the public annoyance of Errol Flynn who actually WAS born there.







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The phrase "larger than life" hardly begins to sum up the legendary Ms Bankhead. Although she began her career in films she much preferred the stage and towards the end of her career she also became a star in the realms of radio and television.

A lifelong alcoholic she revelled in publicity and didn`t much care how she achieved it. There are countless stories about her , some false but most true , which underline her unique ability to shock and outrage - she was famous for performing cartwheels in public without wearing knickers ; she was fond of making an entrance at parties stark naked ; and she once infamously carried on an intimate conversation with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt whilst she dropped her drawers and relieved herself! Tallulah Bankhead never married and rumours about her sexuality (and alleged affairs with a number of Hollywood`s leading men AND ladies) were rife throughout her career. Recently released papers reveal that when she was acting on the London stage in the 1920s she was investigated by the British Secret Service for committing lewd and indecent acts with underage boys at Eton College (Tallulah was 32 at the time).

The size of her celebrity status is probably best summed up by the time she went into hospital for a minor illness and the local press reported the story under the headline "Hospital Tallulahized".










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Born in Austria , the older sister of Maximilian (The Odessa File , A Bridge Too Far) Schell. Possibly not a name that rings a bell for some but you should recognise her from appearances in films like The Brothers Karamazov and the first Superman movie.












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In her day Lili St Cyr was probably more famous than her fellow strippers Bettie Page and Gypsy Rose Lee , although this might have been due more to her chaotic private life than to her talents as an artiste. Trained as a ballet dancer she entered showbusiness as a chorusgirl but soon realised that there was much more money to be made at the front of the stage semi-naked than standing in the background fully-clothed. Through the 1940s and into the 1950s she wowed audiences in the then newly-established town of Las Vegas with a series of innovative shows (many of which involved her putting her clothes ON!!!!) before she ended her career as an adopted daughter of Montreal.

Despite many offers Lili never really embraced Hollywood and her few film roles were limited to stereotyped cameos - probably her most notable screen outing was in The Naked And The Dead in 1958 opposite Raymond Massey and Aldo Ray. In fact Lili seemed permanently dissatisfied with the world of showbusiness , seeing it as simply a necessary evil to earn money , and her private life was an endless sequence of failed marriages and suicide attempts.

After retiring from the stage she successfully ran her own lingerie company for a number of years before retiring , Garbo-like , into a secretive and hermit-like existence. She died , virtually unnoticed , in 1999 , her memory long-since eclipsed by that of Bettie Page and Gypsy Rose Lee.













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Daryl F. Zanuck reckoned that Gene Tierney was the most beautiful actress of the 20th century but she is yet another example of a star whose on-screen success hid a tragic private life. She broke into the film business with the help of a corporation set up by her father who then stole all the money once she`d become an international star. Her marriage to the fashion designer Oleg Cassini ended in divorce , mainly because Gene struggled to cope with the tragedy of the birth of her first child Daria - she contracted German measles whilst pregnant and the child was born deaf , partially blind , and severely mentally handicapped. The actress learned years later that she almost certainly caught the disease from a fan who deliberately escaped from a quarantine hospital to obtain her autograph.

Gene Tierney`s later years were punctuated by bouts of depression for which she was institutionalised on a number of occasions and given electric shock treatment against her will ; on at least one occasion she attempted suicide by jumping from the roof of her apartment. On a slightly lighter note she was one of many starlets to have an affair with JFK although she wasn`t afraid to tell him many years later that she had in fact voted for Nixon in the 1960 Presidential election!










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Our youngest daughter was singing before she could talk and she`s never really stopped since. A couple of years ago we videoed Grease and got treated to Look At Me I`m Sandra Dee every day for what seemd like months - little did I know that the song was based on a real-life actress.

Sandra Dee was a model at the age of four , making movies at the age of 13 , and married to Sixties singing star Bobby "Dream Lover" Darin at the age of 16. As far as films go she`s best remembered for her roles in teen flicks , later attempts at taking on more serious mature roles didn`t really come off , but her marriage to Darin and occasional TV appearances kept her in the public eye well into the Seventies. Yet another actress with a chequered private life she spent years battling depression , alcoholism and anorexia before dying in February last year.


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Best known for her numerous films in partnership with Nelson Eddy , Jeanette MacDonald was a supremely talented lady who worked hard for her success but who couldn`t shake off persistent Hollywood gossip about her private life (sound familiar?).

She worked the Broadway stage for nine years - "I got $40 a week and a crick in my neck" - before getting her break in the movies where she quickly established herself as one of the leading chanteuses of the Thirties. Having such a beautiful singing voice was a double-edged sword , however , since she was very rarely given the opportunity to get her teeth into any challenging dramatic roles - on the rare occasions when she did (as in San Francisco opposite Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy) she proved herself a more than capable actress. Her partnership with Eddy made the successful transition to radio and television in the Fifties and she further enhanced her reputation by returning to the stage late in her career to tackle some of classical opera`s most famous roles.

She was married to actor Gene Raymond for 28 years but their lack of children led to persistent rumours about his sexuality which , unusually perhaps , appear to be based in fact - he was arrested at least three times for "inappropriate behaviour" in public with men. Jeanette MacDonald`s close on-screen realtionship with Nelson Eddy almost inevitably led to rumours of an off-screen romance but this is harder to verify - his marriage to actress Ann Franklin was rumoured to have been conducted whilst he was drunk and questions about his alleged bisexuality dogged him for over four decades.







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Barbara Payton`s brief life is the very definition of the word `tragic` - at one point in the Fifties she seemed to have the world at her feet only to blow it all in the most spectacular and public fashion.

Aged only 17 she married Air Force pilot John Payton in 1945 and persuaded him to honeymoon in Hollywood ; unbeknown to him she had spent the weeks prior to her wedding writing to agents and directors and he was understandably unimpressed when his new bride spent most of their honeymoon undergoing screen tests. These led nowhere , mainly due to Barbara fainting and discovering she was pregnant , but she miscarried and returned the following year. Mr Payton was even more dischuffed when Barabara discovered she was pregnant for a second time and walked out on him , convinced that having a baby would ruin her chances of breaking into the movies. However , she had obviously made an impression on the studios because , after a brief spell of modelling , she began to pick up bit parts.

Once she`d established a toe-hold in Hollywood Barbara made every conceivable effort to get herself noticed , throwing herself headfirst into the party scene and embarking on a string of high-profile affairs with Hollywood`s leading movers and shakers (most notably Bob Hope and Howard Hughes). This strategy coupled with her enthusiastic acceptance of the casting couch paid rich dividends and she was soon starring opposite legends like Lloyd Bridges and James Cagney. What goes up must come down , however , and once at the top Barbara Payton found it impossible to curb her scandalous behaviour. The tabloids revelled in tales of drink , drugs and gambling , and her promiscuous lifestyle nearly led to tragedy when she double-dated two actors (Franchot Tone , Joan Crawford`s ex-husband , and Tom Neal) continuously for a number of months , alternately becoming engaged to one and then the other. Neal finally snapped and beat Tone up so badly that he was in a coma for 18 hours. Although Barabara married Tone their union collapsed after just 53 days and she ran off with Neal ; sick of all the bad publicity and scandal , all the major studios dumped her.

Reduced to bit parts in poor quality B-movies and being openly abused by Neal Barbara Payton`s fall from grace was swift and unpleasant. Addicted to heroin , alcohol and sex she patrolled the bars of Sunset Strip picking up anyone and everyone. Pretty soon all film work dried up completely and the starlet who was once on $10,000 a week worked as a waitress , a shampooist and a gas station attendant before almost inevitably turning to prostitution. Arrests for propositioning an undercover policeman , possession of heroin , drunkenness , assault and passing bad cheques all served to keep her name in the news - but nobody came to her rescue. By 1967 she was homeless , sleeping on park benches and performing $5 tricks for booze money ; when she was discovered barely alive collapsed by a dumpster she was finally moved back into the care of her parents but it was too late and she died of liver failure at the tragically young age of 39.


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Not a name that rings many bells today but a good example of `all good things come to those who wait`.

Although she gave her profession as "travelling actress" as early as 1910 Fay Bainter didn`t make her screen debut until 1934 at the age of 41. Four years later she was nominated for both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscars , winning the latter award (those of you who know more about Hollywood than me - has anyone else ever been nominated for both Oscars in the same year?). Probably her best-known performance was as Mrs Eunice Mitty in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in 1947.







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One of the most popular threads since we opened our new home - with 135 responses! Care to add more?

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One for the Rocky Horror fans amongst you - "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?"


Although she started out in Hal Roach comedies and B-westerns everybody remembers Fay Wray for her portrayal of Ann Darrow , King Kong`s love interest in the 1933 original. Apparently there were plans for her to make a cameo appearance at the end of the recent remake but sadly she died (aged 96) before this could be realised.

Two things you never knew about Fay Wray - 1) she was a Canadian and 2) she was a brunette - she wore a blonde wig for her role in King Kong.














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"Say nothing and become a legend"


Although she died penniless at the age of 35 in 1929 Jeanne Eagels was , if only fleetingly , a legend during the early days of cinema , partly due to her natural beauty and undoubted talent but more so because of her steely determination to avoid interviews and autographs , her violent hatred of directors , agents , producers and studio heads , and her seemingly insatiable appetite for alcohol and drugs.

Born Jeannine Eagles she left home at 15 to join a travelling theatre troupe and within a year she had married one of the co-owners and borne him a son. Such was her single-minded determination to advance her career that when she left for New York in 1911 she abandoned the child who never even knew who his mother was- she also changed the spelling of her surname believing that Eagels looked more impressive in lights. Starting at the bottom as a chorus line dancer on Broadway she worked her way up and starred in a number of early Hollywood productions from 1915 onwards ; her most famous role was probably as Vera Worth in Man , Woman and Sin made by MGM in 1927. In October 1929 she suddenly collapsed whilst preparing for a night on the town and subsequently died in hospital. Three separate autopsies produced three different causes of death , as large quantities of alcohol , tranquilizers and heroin were found in her bloodstream. In 1957 Kim Novak starred in an eponymous film detailing Jeanne Eagels career and tragic demise.


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Born Marilyn Joan Watts in 1930 Mara Corday was a Fifties B-movie actress , model , Playboy centrefold , and is a lifelong close friend of Clint Eastwood. Leaving home in her teens she headed for Hollywood and worked her way into films via the familiar route of a successful career as a showgirl on Sunset Boulevard. Early roles were minor but she made a name for herself in the typically daft Fifties B-movie Tarantula ; further lead roles , one in another disaster movie but increasingly more in Westerns , marked her out as a star on the rise and her stock rose further when she appeared as Playboy`s Playmate of the Month in October 1958. Without warning , however , Mara Corday suddenly announced her retirement from films at the age of 28 and settled down to raise a family with her actor husband Richard Long.

After Long`s death Clint Eastwood managed to persuade her to come out of retirment and she starred in his 1977 film The Gauntlet. She also acted alongside Eastwood in Sudden Impact and [/i]The Rookie before retiring for good. Still going strong at the age of 77.






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Arguably the greatest dancer to ever grace the silver screen and owner of probably the most stunning pair of legs.


Born Tula Ellice Finklea in Texas in 1922 she initially studied classical dance with the Russian Ballet in Monte Carlo , appearing in productions under a bewildering variety of stage names. Aged 17 she married her dance tutor Nico Charisse and eventually adopted the forename Cyd supposedly because her younger sibling couldn`t quite pronounce `sis` properly.

Hollywood choreographer Robert Alton spotted her talent and signed her to dance with Fred Astaire in Ziegfield Follies (1945) and on the strength of her performance and Astaire`s glowing admiration MGM handed her a 7-year movie deal. Charisse`s stunning figure and her unsurpassed talent as a dancer quickly established her as a regular feature in Hollywood musicals , most famously of course in Singin` In The Rain with Gene Kelly. Although this role was non-speaking directors soon realised that her talents extended beyond dancing and as her career progressed she began to appear more as an actress , although she regularly appeared in stage musicals throughout the world.

Divorced from Nico Charisse in 1947 , she married singer Tony Martin in 1948 (he had previously been married to actress Alice Faye ; see an earlier Golden Oldies post) and next year will see them celebrate SIXTY YEARS of married bliss - a Hollywood record that seems unlikely to be broken in the forseeable future.............





























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