Studio and Hollywood Trivia


Every so often I’m entertained with a memory from my studio related days. Perhaps you will find them interesting also?

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                                   1919 N. Beachwood Drive

During the 10 years I was an extra in the 1950s I lived in a rooming house at the corner of Beachwood Dr and Franklin Ave.   This rooming house had 2 floors and an attic and was very distinguished.  It had been built for a famous actor in the 1930s whose name I cannot recall.  The rooms were so desired by renters that there were never vacancies for more than a day.   A swimming pool had been added to the front of the building.  

 The biggest room faced the pool and had a glass sliding door.   Early in 1957 the room was rented by a very nice elderly lady.  We all knew her as Pat.  She enjoyed having our company enticing us with coffee, soda, and snacks.   And it was convenient to traipse through her room to the pool rather than walk all the way around the building.  But she had a disturbing problem that she would start crying and blaming herself for Humphrey Bogart’s death.  

 Because I had a car every so often she would ask me to drive her to a doctor’s office in Pasadena.  One episode was so severe the doctor told me to go home as she would be in a sanitarium for a few days.  The doctor was a psychiatrist.  

 When she returned from the episode she asked me if I would drive her to visit someone.   I asked her who and she replied Lauren Bacall.  Wow… wait a minute.   This was going over the top.  But she was so disturbed and nervous I decided to go along with her.  We drove to a very expensive looking house in Holmby Hills, a very exclusive area of Los Angeles.  I parked in the driveway and we walked up to the door and I became almost as nervous as Pat in being so forward.  I decided not to worry as probably some servant would turn us away.  Pat rang the bell, the door opened,  and there was Lauren Bacall.   I was totally frozen when she asked us to come in.   Now I had worked with Lauren as an extra in Written On The Wind but this was different.   Being invited to enter her home in a social setting was overpowering.   She led us into the living room along with 3 massive dogs.   She asked me to remain there while she and Pat left for another part of the house.  I looked out through a glass view at a beautiful swimming pool.  The dogs were friendly but I was still ill at ease at this entire event.  About 20 minutes later Lauren and Pat returned and Pat and I left.  

After I had recovered from my astonishment I asked Pat how she knew Lauren Bacall.   Pat replied that Lauren was her sister in law and she was Humphrey Bogart’s sister.  That explained a lot.   Apparently she could not get over Bogart’s passing and had to have psychiatric help.   She had a bad guilt complex blaming herself for his death. He had left a trust for her that would pay all her needs for the rest of her life and she decided to live at the Beachwood Lodge.  

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I believe it was at Hollywood Park Race Track when I worked with Frank Sinatra in the race track scenes for the movie “A Hole In The Head”.   As we were rehearsing near the betting ticket sellers windows, a group of us simulated a crowd rushing to get a ticket  around Sinatra. Suddenly I saw Robert  Mitchum sneaking up behind Sinatra.  He loudly yelled ‘Hey Baldy’ (yes Sinatra had a small bald spot on the back of his head).  Sinatra was known for a hair trigger temper.  He whirled around and swung a fist straight at Mitchum’s face. Then realizing it was Mitchum he tried to stop his fist. Mitchum expected it and easily dodged the missile but lost his balance and landed on the floor.

Naturally we all erupted in loud laughter including Sinatra.  Mitchum and Sinatra were great friends and often visited each other during filming. 

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Whenever my regular stand-in show went on hiatus I was automatically booked on one of the other series in production on the Four Star lot.   

Often I would be a utility stand-in on The David Niven Show.  The episode “The Twist Of The Key” was filmed in 1959.  I was booked to stand-in for John Dehner.  I worked with John often and invariably we would end up playing chess.  Naturally the chess board came out quickly and we had a match going when we both were not being used.   

Anne Francis who was the female lead for that episode came over and watched us when she was not busy.  We had a nice 3 way conversation going while playing.   After I beat John, Anne asked me if she could play a game with me.  (are you kidding.    who in their right mind would not want to play a game with Anne Francis).   We ended up playing several games and I beat her every time.    She complemented me on my chess prowess. By then we had chatted so much we were like old chums. So I suggested I could come over to her house to give her chess lessons.  I was only half serious…. and in good spirits she gave me  the standard reply.. that would be nice but my boyfriend would not like it.  

 For the rest of the day, each time our eyes met we started laughing as if we had been buddies for years.

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1955 I worked in the movie “I Died A Thousand Times”.  Shelley Winters was known for letting her feelings errupt with a few choice words when she was irritated.   I worked in the scene where she gets on a bus.  Jack Palance was supposed to kiss her or something like that.   For some reason they could not portray the sentiment the director, Henry Levin, was looking for.  All three of them became increasingly agitated as the time began to stretch interminably.  

Finally Shelley let loose with some of her choice words at Jack.  Jack then became more and more angry and started punching the side of the bus. The director also joined in the yelling frey. Then in total frustration the director called a 3 hour  break for the entire set and commanded Jack and Shelley to follow him to a screening room to watch the original High Sierras movie on which this current movie was based.   This was not a happy set and I was glad when we wrapped for the day.

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When I was booked on the ‘Student Prince’ we worked long days most of the time leaving in the dark. Still feel a little embarrassed, during a break in the early evening I went outside the stage door for a breath of air, an elderly gentleman was sitting on a chair relaxing also.

 I had no idea who he was as he began chatting with me. When I told him I was new to the studio world, he launched into a fairly long mentoring of what I needed to do to become a star. As he finished he held out his hand and asked my name. I shook hands with him told him my name and he responded:

“Nice to meet you Ralph, my name is Louis Calhern”.


Yikes.

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More to come as I remember.

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