Christmas films in the forties and fifties

Christmas films in the forties and fifties reflected what was happening in the world at the time much like those of today.  In the forties there was a war going on and many Hollywood films were centred around soldiers going to war, coming home, or on families waiting for news of loved ones. Spies were also a very big storyline for Hollywood writers.  Many stars were involved in selling war bonds at the time.Christmas war bonds One star, Carol Lombard, was killed in a plane crash whilst on a war bond tour. Women in suits became all the rage too as more and more women joined the work force. Slinky evening gowns worn in the evenings only. They still liked to wear fur though and those that could afford it spared no thought for all the little furry animals sacrificing their lives to make them look glamorous in winter.  In the 1950s movies changed along with women’s suits. The pencil skirt was the thing for a slim figure. They still wore fur coats though and even Doris succumbed.

Christmas movies changed too and were mostly about the changing dynamics within families. It was the age of teenage angst and ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ with Natalie Wood and James Dean. It was also the age of the consumer as the war years had deprived so many of the material necessities they craved.

DORIS DAY with mink coat
and Christmas presents gifts packages 1950’s
Photo: Stillphoto Collection / SUNSHINE

The movies reflected this.  There is a scene in ‘All That Heaven Allows’ where Jane Wyman’s teenage children wheel in a television for her for Christmas so she won’t be lonely after her divorce from their father. Of course they don’t understand that their presence over Christmas would be of far more value to her . Liz Taylor was photographed with the same tele. A ‘Must Have’ just like it is today. Films of the fifties were also fixated on marriage and divorce. The age of melodrama. As in ‘Holiday Affair’. My favourite though would have to be ‘Meet Me in St Louis’ a musical about a family about to dig up roots and move to Boston and all the problems this causes.

Then there is Doris and Gordon MacRae in the wonderful ‘By The Light Of The Silvery Moon’, also a family movie, with some wonderful songs and a turkey with nine lives who avoids being served up for Christmas dinner.
The film also deals with malicious rumour mongering and small town mentality.

A great one indeed for everyone over the Christmas period. 



Elusive Stars and Starlets of the 30s

Anita Page and William Haines 'Navy Blues'I’ve called these starlets elusive because they were not in the mainstream and,even though some were well known in their day and made some very famous films, were not widely remembered by the general public beyond their era.  Some had very short careers and went on to lead normal everyday lives, some died young and some turned to character roles becoming secondary to the leads and sometimes unrecognisable. Some even turned away from acting altogether and went into other successful careers.

Gerald Haines, was a starlet for example, due to the fact that after coming out of the closet and being told his career was finished as a result, went on to become a famous interior designer who designed furniture for the likes of Joan Crawford and Carol Lombard.

He was by all counts a wonderful actor and very handsome too but this was not enough. It had been public knowledge that he was gay. Instead of renouncing his homosexuality he renounced show biz.



Highly commendable indeed.  Instead of being washed up he retained a huge Hollywood following.

Just look at some of his designs.





Another very well known starlet , Thelma Todd, even owned her own restaurant,’The Sidewalk Cafe’. Thelma was a comedienne who shot to fame after making ‘Horse Feathers’ with The Marx Brothers.

1932: Frank Wagstaff (Zeppo Marx) sits with Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd) on a sofa as Pinky (Harpo Marx) throws a fit alongside the pair in a scene from the 1932 comedy, Horse Feathers.



Much good it did her trying to diversify. She had opened the restaurant with her lover who just happened to be a very famous producer who lived next door to the cafe with his wife. Thelma had been married to the mafia and her husband who was alway flying into jealous rages and beat her more than once.
To cut a long story short Thelma was murdered and to this day the murder has not been solved.

There were rumours that the mafia had used the cafe as a base and had gambled away the profits. It would never be on the Hollywood social calendar again.

An actor by the name of David Manners was a huge star in his day.Dashing and handsome he made many films with other great stars of the day including  Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. In fact Katherine Hepburn was so in awe of David Manners that she credited him with teaching her a thing or two about acting. They were cast together in ‘A Bill Of Divorcement’ and were magic on screen. Manners, however, really shone in ‘Dracula’ with Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler. It was that film that made him a star. He made other horror films too including ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Black Cat’ with Julie Bishop.1934 BlackCat & D. Manners

‘Bill of Divorcement’

Yet he is not remembered by the general public.  Why?  He only worked in films up until the mid 1930’s and then retired. He too was gay and while this was not the reason for his early exit from the film world it was a significant  reason for his wanting to be more authentic.

Helen Chandler was also an elusive. In fact I only found out about her when I looked up ‘Dracula’  An etherial looking actress with a ,dove caught in the headlights, look about her she was perfect for the horror genre.

Patsy Kelly and Thelma phone home

Patsy Kelly starred with Thelma Todd in many short films and was a star in her own right.  A well known comedian she was not a looker and therefore was not given top billing. She was also gay which meant that she was not available for ‘romantic’ roles. She and Jack Carson, a major star of the day, worked together on radio.Patsy Kelly and Jack CarsonThis, of course, hampered her career. She eventually ended up becoming Talluhla Bankhead’s personal assistant and one said ‘Talluhla was such a gossip she’d talk about you behind your back to your face.’ There are so many more but I guess you’ll just have to wait for the next instalment to find out who they are.

© Renee Dallow: ( Hybiscus Bloom )




























Hollywood Daughters Of Vintage Stars

We’ll begin with the scandalous story of the very beautiful Loretta Young who had an affair with Clark Gable during the making of ‘Call Of The Wild’ and had to adopt her own daughter from an orphanage. Loretta and Gable in 'Call Of The Wild'Clark Gable did not want to acknowledge the child and Loretta could not for if she had she would have lost her career.  Little Judy Lewis ( After Loretta’s second husband ) didn’t find out she was Loretta’s biological daughter until she turned 31.Loretta Young and Judy Lewis She’d had her suspicions though as  Gable’s ears were a dead give-away.  Around the same era Joan Crawford famously adopted a daughter ( not biological ) who wrote a book about the experience of living with the star who was an extra fussy clean freak entitled ‘Mommy Dearest’.

Christina Crawford was by no means happy and was often made to do her mothers bidding at the oddest of hours.

Things like cleaning the floors at midnight an arranging clothes in her mothers wardrobe according to style and colour.  This was probably because she had to learn to arrange her own wardrobe accordingly in mini me mode.  Joan liked to dress her in matching outfits for photo shoots. When Christina grew up and  got an acting job on a daytime soap Joan literally stole her part.

Almost as bad was Bette Davis whose daughter B.D. ( Barbara ) also wrote a book. ‘My Mothers Keeper’. Not quite as scathing as Christina’s book on Joan but also very damaging to her mother’s reputation. B.D was in awe of her mother though and spent much time with her on the set. Bette was portrayed in the book as a drunken sloth who cared little for her daughter’s wellbeing yet felt the need to interfere with everything she did.  B.D. had been adopted by Gary Merrill who had romanced her mother on the set of ‘All About Eve’. He drank too much and was irresponsible and B.D didn’t like him at all.

This caused  trouble in the mother daughter relationship and became a wedge between them. Bette too never seemed to approve of B.D.s relatioships and was particularly rude to B.D.s husband and made every attempt to ruin the marriage.

Anyway through it all Bette was the star and B.D. the carer. A compromised relationship but not without love and respect.

The love between Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher was very obvious and Debbie would often have her daughter on stage with her
as was the case, with Judy Garland and Liza Minelli. Both had close relationships with their daughters who turned out to be equally as talented as their famous mothers.This does not mean to say the relationships were without friction entirely. Carrie Fisher once wrote that she felt felt very insecure around her mother as Debbie Reynolds was always so cute and charming while Carrie was just ‘Bovine’ and not really into laying on the charm factor. In the film made on their relationship ‘Postcards From the Edge’ their mother-daughter issues were thrown into the public arena. These were issues that many could relate to.

As for Judy and Liza the similarities are just so obvious. Both with huge stage presence and voices to match.  Even their personalities were similar. I personally adored Judy Garland due to her complete sincerity and the raw emotion she shared with the public. I had the honour of seeing Liza Minelli in concert and she had the same magic.  Different yet same.

Liz Taylor had a close loving relationship with both her daughters Maria Burton and Liza Todd. They had not a bad word to say about their mother who apparently devoted herself to them even when miles away on set in another country.  They grew up quite normal and decided not to follow in their mother’s footsteps in Hollywood although Liz would have been cool with that. Maria is a well known artist and Liza works with abandoned animals.

Jane Mansfield was a wonderful mother and her daughter Mariska Hargitay is a star in her own right. Mariska did not know her mother very long , however, as Jane died young in a car accident.

Zsa-Zsa Gabor, on the other hand, lived a very long and full life but had a rather fraught relationship with her daughter Franchesca Hilton whose billionaire father, Conrad Hilton, had denied her any of his fortune when he died. Zsa-Zsa married many times. Even more than Liz. She only had one child though and that child was never happy.
Franchesca’s final new father , Prince Von Anhalt,  also disinherited her and Franchesca died young homeless and alone.



Lana Turner’s daughter ,Cherlyl Crane, takes the cake, however, when it comes to loyalty. When her mother’s boyfriend, mafia hitman, Tony Stompanato, beat Lana senseless and tried to kill her she was saved in the nick of time by her daughter. Cheryl stabbed her mothers aggressive lover to death. Apparently Stompanato had also sexually abused Cheryl and so this also added to her motive. Her parents had remained friends and her father ,Steven Crane ,stood beside both mother and daughter fending for their honour. Cheryl Crane is a successful real estate broker and a writer. There are many more Hollywood mother-daughter stories that abound in Hollywood and these are just a few to show that no matter who we are we all have issues with our mothers.  Young or old, rich or poor, famous or infamous we all must find our own way and be proud of who we are.Unlike Yasmin Khan, we can’t all have Rita Hayworth for a mother and a prince for a father but we can all allow our special ‘Princess’ to shine from within. Hollywood eat your heart out!









Vintage Hollywood Candids

I have neglected this blog for a while mainly because I am at present working on another book.  I do have two vintage Hollywood books out at present. ‘Hollywood Dreamers And Schemers’ with Joan Crawford on the cover and ‘One Small Step-One Giant Leap’ with the lovely Gene Tierney.

Joan in a fluted black and white figure hugging gown this time in the centre of a revolving door.

Both books feature stars of the thirties and forties in scenes from their films with captions underneath. You can find them listed on ‘Amazon’ and on ‘Blurb Books’ Just google the titles.  Anyway I also have a facebook page ‘Vintage Movie Star’ which features mostly candid shots of vintage Hollywood stars at play.

I thought I would do a blog with just candids adding a little information on each for your further research just for fun. Always interesting to find out who was related, married or had an affair with who. For example Judy Garland and Micky Rooney were forever friends. Judy and Micky at MGM school learn Spanish1946-ava GardenerHe would go on to marry Ava Gardener when Judy turned him down.  Shirley struggled to make it in films as an adult where Judy thrived. Shirley laughsShirley did, however,  make some good teen movies  like ‘Honeymoon’.Shirley Temple in 'Honeymoon Shirley was to be teamed up with Garland and Rooney in three fims but the studio decided to pull her out as they were afraid that Judy and Micky would upstage her and ruin her comeback.
Ava and Micky RooneyMickey, of course, was unstoppable and would go on to star in may great films as well as marrying many more times. His films would include ‘National Velvet’ with Liz Taylor. Yep that’s Liz with the dog in the tub.
He and Ava didn’t work out and she went on to marry Frank Sinatra. Judy and Frank performed on stage together many time . Shirley also made a film with Frank Sinatra in 1963 called ‘The Victor’ It was a small world back then eh?ava and Frank