Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Louella Parsons by Mamie Van Doren

Once there was a different Hollywood. High-powered producers, directors, or stars did not control it. The big studios were run by some of the most powerful men in Hollywood: Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer, and Irving Thalberg; but they all cowered before two women: Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, the two most powerful gossip columnists in history. Because of the power of their columns, Louella's in the Hearst papers; Hedda's in the Los Angeles Times, they were a force to be reckoned with whether you were a producer, director, established star, or budding starlet. If you were going to become anyone in Hollywood you would eventually have to pass muster by one of them and be favorably written about. If you were out of favor by them, you might as well get on the bus back to Podunk because you were never going to do more than wait on tables, pump gas, or become a hooker or a producer's wife.
When I started my career in Hollywood, I knew that they were there and I knew that their power meant life or death for a movie or a starlet. Unfortunately, I ran head long into Louella. My manager was her boyfriend.

 Jimmy McHugh was a successful song writer who had penned such hits as "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby," "Don't Blame Me," and "I'm in the Mood for Love." Living comfortably in Beverly Hills on his royalties, Jimmy managed a few starlets and female singers. He took an interest in my career and became my Svengali.
Jimmy was also Louella's escort to many gala Hollywood affairs. She was invited to all of them, of course. Jimmy was usually on her arm. Did they do any more than show up at parties and premiers? Did they fuck? Thinking back on Jimmy's bald head and Louella's pinched face and raptor eyes, it's a frightening thought.

Here's how Louella ascended to her position at the Hearst papers as the most powerful movie-slash-gossip columnist around. She acquired lifetime tenure with Hearst because she was on board the newspaper magnate's yacht, Oneida, when a series of mysterious events occurred. In celebration of the 43rd birthday of film director Thomas Ince, William Randolph Hearst, fifteen guests-including Hearst's live-in girl friend Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin-and a complete jazz band, embarked on a cruise from Los Angeles to San Diego. Ince, the story goes, was caught paying too much attention to Marion. Hearst got the gun he always kept on board and shot Ince in the head. Ince's body was taken off the boat in San Diego and immediately cremated. The first stories in the Hearst papers said he became ill and died at home, but too many people saw him being taken off the boat. Chaplin's secretary swore that she saw a bullet hole in Ince's head. Everyone on that cruise that day was taken care of for the rest of their lives. Louella's payoff was the permanent column.
Louella was recently widowed at the time she was going out with Jimmy McHugh. Her late husband had been a doctor with an interesting special practice. He took care of abortions and venereal disease cases for the movie studios. All very hush-hush. When I was a showgirl in New York as a teenager, one night backstage the other girls were all a-twitter with the news that "Doc Martin" was in town. When I asked who he was they said he was Louella Parson's husband. He breezed into town occasionally looking for young girls to, um, date. "He pays!" the girls squealed. (My comment at the time was something like, "You mean you can get paid for that?" I was a late bloomer.)
When Jimmy was my manager, Louella became jealous of the time and attention that he paid to me. Jimmy sent me to one of the best acting schools in Hollywood-Ben Bard's Theater-personally gave me voice lessons, and got me screen tests at the major studios. However, there was never a quid pro quo between Jimmy and me. Never once in the many times we were together at his home, at the theater, at dinner-anywhere-did he make a romantic advance to me. (By now you know that you can trust me. I'd tell you!) Besides, he was far, far from being my type, and it never entered my mind to go to bed with him. Louella, however, was unconvinced. She began a campaign of terror against my budding career.
First she pressured Ben Bard to get me out of his acting school by threatening to boycott his plays and his students who were aspiring to stardom. At the same time she twisted Jimmy's arm (or whatever appendage) by threatening that he could be replaced by someone else on her arm at the many functions to which he accompanied her. Jimmy had made his career as a songwriter in relative obscurity. Now, he was enjoying the limelight.
At about this time Jimmy got me a screen test at Paramount. The material I tested with was a scene from Clifford Odets' "The Big Knife." A couple of days before the test, I was fitted for wardrobe by the Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head. Seeing that I was big-busted, she arranged for me to wear the gown that Elizabeth Taylor had worn in "A Place in the Sun."
I pulled out all the stops on that screen test. It felt right. I drove home and waited for the answer. Two days later the phone rang and Jimmy said that Paramount loved the test and they were going to offer me a contract. I was walking on air.
It wasn't long, though, before the bubble burst. The negotiations seemed to be taking a long time. Jimmy called back to say they'd hit a snag: some of the executives at Paramount thought I looked too much like Marilyn Monroe.
My heart sank. Everything was falling apart: pushed out of Ben Bard's and now Paramount was turning sour. The next day they made their decision. They would not sign me. I was desolate.
You can't give up, a voice inside me argued, you can't quit now.
I was scheduled to start at another acting school where Jimmy had enrolled me on the sly. Harry Hayden and Leila Bliss ran the Bliss-Hayden Theater in Beverly Hills where Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Reynolds, Veronica Lake, and many other successful actresses had been showcased early in their careers. When I showed up Harry and Leila immediately offered me the ingenue role in William Inge's play "Come Back, Little Sheba"-the role of Marie that Terry Moore played (and for which she was nominated for an Oscar) in the film version. We opened in three days.
During that frantic rehearsal I found out that Paramount had not turned me down because of my superficial resemblance to Marilyn. Louella Parsons had pressured them into not signing me by making it clear that if they did she would never again give Paramount, its pictures, or its stars a line of publicity in her column.
I was furious with her and furious with Jimmy for being so craven as to knuckle under to her. Time was short, though, and I had no time to waste on anger before opening night. I took it out instead on memorizing my lines and getting in character to be Marie, and Miss Parsons and Mr. McHugh bedamned!
We played to an enthusiastic first night audience and the crowd obviously liked me. The next day Jimmy got a call from Phil Benjamin, a casting director from Universal who had been in the audience. Benjamin thought I would be right for the role of a nightclub singer in a Universal picture called "Forbidden" starring Tony Curtis and Joanne Dru.
Things began happening fast. I drove to Universal the next day and met Benjamin, veteran producer Ted Richmond, and the director Rudy Mate.
"Can you sing?" Mate quickly asked.
I responded by singing "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby."
He smiled approvingly. "You're going to have to start right away because we've got to shoot this scene, " he said. It was Friday.
My mouth dropped open. "Oh, my God!"
Benjamin said, "They'll give you the song and the movements. Go home and work on them. You'll get fitted for the costume on Monday."
"When will we shoot it?" I gulped.
"On Monday," Mate said blithely, already walking quickly across the room. "Now, here's how I want you to move..."
Things were moving so fast that my head was spinning. The song was "You Belong to Me." That weekend was blur of rehearsing the song and the movements in my parent's living room, and chewing my fingernails down to the quick.
Monday morning I woke to the day that would change my life forever.
At the studio the wardrobe people sewed me into the long white satin gown while makeup people glued on fake fingernails. I was in a fog, concentrating on my song while everyone orbited me pinning, sewing, dabbing, retouching.
Finally I was led onto the elegant nightclub set, and when Tony Curtis, Joanne Dru, and the other actors were in place, Rudy Mate shouted, "Action!"
I barely remember anything about the actual performance. I just put my heart and soul into singing "You Belong to Me." The next thing I knew, Mate shouted, "Cut! Check the gate!" There was a pause while the camera operator checked for dust or hair in the small opening ("gate") where the film passes in front of the camera lens.
"The gate's clear!"
"Print it!"
It was over in one take, but my new life was just beginning.
Ted Richmond came over and told me what a great job I'd done. "Everyone one thinks you're just dynamite, Joan. We've been talking about a contract for you here at the studio." He gestured to a group of men disappearing through the back door of the sound stage. As luck would have it, the top executives-including Milton Rachmil, head of Universal's parent company, Decca Records-had flown out the day before from New York to meet with the local studio execs.
Time really began moving fast. The next day Ted called to say that the executives had seen the rushes of my scene and were, indeed, going to offer me a contract. They began negotiating with Jimmy McHugh.
I was teetering between ecstasy and terror. Ecstatic that I was being offered a contract; terrified that Louella would swoop down on me again with a thunderbolt. But this time Fate was in my corner. Louella had left for Europe to have cosmetic surgery. While the evil bitch was getting her face lifted, her eyelids tucked, even her fat sucked, I was signed to Universal Studios. McHugh negotiated a comfortable 7-year contract with 2-year options and a handsome salary (for 1953) of $260 a week.
By the time Louella returned from her surgical sabbatical, it was too late to keep me from getting in the door, but she would try mightily to shove me back out of it. She lavished praise on my sister glamour girls while studiously ignoring me.
The final blow Louella struck, however, was the lowest blow of all. I had been a starlet for a while at Universal and had gotten used to my new name: Mamie Van Doren. One day I was called into the head office and told that there was a story about to surface in the sleaziest tabloid of the day: Hollywood Confidential. The story was that my mother and I had been prostitutes. I blanched. I assured the executives that there was not a shred of truth to the story. I left and headed straight for the office of my friend and attorney, Jerry Giesler.
Giesler was a legendary lawyer in Hollywood. He was as smooth as Perry Mason, as crafty as Johnny Cochran, and as fearless as Atticus Finch in "To Kill A Mockingbird." Jerry listened to me tell him through tears of fury what was about to happen. And then he did a strange thing: he calmly put his arm around me and said, "Don't worry about it, Joan, um, Mamie. Go home and get a good night's sleep. I'll take care of it and call you."
When he called the next day, he said, "You have nothing more to worry about from Hollywood Confidential."
"Just like that? Why?," I asked incredulously.
"I phoned the gentleman who is the editor at that fine publication and introduced myself and you. I then told him that I hoped he was very sure of his source of the story about you and your mother. Very sure. Because he would most certainly have to prove the story in a court of law, and because I was very sure that he could not, he had better get out his checkbook or you and your mother would most certainly be the new owners of Hollywood Confidential."
"And he assured me that the story would not ever, ever run."
"Did he tell you where the story came from?"
"It's better you don't know, Mamie."
"Please, Jerry. Please."
"He swore me to secrecy. It was Louella Parsons."
"Damn her. But it's over?"
"I assure you, it is."
Louella Parsons died on December 9, 1972. Almost no one noticed. By then Hollywood had changed a great deal. But when told about her death, many veterans of this industry town still breathed a sigh of relief and secretly hoped that someone had driven a wooden stake through her heart.

Hedda Hopper by Mamie Van Doren

Hedda Hopper
If Louella Parsons was the Bitch Goddess of my career, Hedda Hopper was my Guardian Angel. As the other most powerful gossip columnist in Hollywood, Hedda was constantly in competition with Louella. Since Louella didn't like me, Hedda took me under her wing and became my champion.
Hedda was more flamboyant than her archrival. Hedda wore her trademark hat whenever she appeared in public. (In fact, her column in the L.A. Times was titled, "Under Hedda's Hat." The column was syndicated in more papers than Louella's.) Adorned with everything from feathers to cityscapes, Hedda's hats were as wildly outrageous and eccentric as she was.
She first wrote about me when "Yankee Pasha," starring Jeff Chandler, Rhonda Fleming, and me opened. It was my second movie and I was as happy as the Universal Publicity Department to see that Hedda was climbing on my bandwagon.
When my third movie, "Francis Joins the WACS," premiered, the Publicity Department called and told me to go meet Hedda in her office because she wanted to do a story on me. Dutifully, I went to the interview and found that Hedda and I hit it off. She wrote a wonderful article about me that ran under the title "The Wacky WAC" on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. As time went on we developed a genuine affection for each other, but I was always wary of Hedda. She could be as savage with her enemies as Louella. I never said anything to Hedda that I didn't want to read the next day on the front page of the Times.
In 1954 Hedda called me to make an appearance on the television show, "The Colgate Variety Hour." It was a live TV show to celebrate the gala grand opening of the brand new Beverly Hilton Hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy would be co-hosting the show with Hedda. These were the days before videotape when television was really live. I had done a few live shows by then and didn't particularly want to do it. I tried to make some lame excuses to talk my way out of it, but Hedda kept selling me.
"You've got to do it, Mamie," Hedda insisted.
"Why don't you give Jayne (Mansfield) a call?" I suggested, thinking quickly.
"Pah! That Jayne Mansfield!" Hedda snorted in disgust. "She'd shit out the May Company window if it would get her publicity. No, Mamie, I insist! Do this show with me. It'll be a great little appearance for you."
So I did.
I was looking for a house in 1956 right after the birth of my son, Perry. His father, bandleader Ray Anthony and I were not getting along too well, but I wanted a place where I could comfortably raise Perry. One day I got a phone call from Hedda.
"Mamie, I've found the perfect house for you. The place next door to me is for sale. It's got everything you'd need. You must come look at it."
The house was next door to the Beverly Hills Hotel-some of the best real estate on the planet. Ray and I looked it over, but he didn't like it. Not an impossible obstacle, but the living room floor was sagging from termites. Even that wouldn't have been so bad, but when I looked out the window, I saw that Hedda's windows were just a few feet from mine. This, I thought, was all I would need. Hedda Hopper ten feet away while my husband and I argued. Whenever she had a slow day in the column, all she would have to do was print the latest from Mamie's house.
Hedda is credited with appearing in 140 movies from 1916 to 1966, sometimes as Hedda Hopper and other times as Mrs. DeWolf Hopper. She had political aspirations as well. A staunchly conservative Republican, she made a bid for a city council seat but lost. When Kennedy ran against Nixon in 1959, she began to enlist all her friends against Kennedy. She hated JFK with a passion. She called and asked me to make an appearance with her and some other celebrities at a rally for Nixon. Though I was a supporter of Nixon (and really liked him-at the time), I begged off by saying that I had something to do that day. Not thinking any more about it, I went about my business.
I was driving home and made the turn off of Sunset Boulevard on to Sunset Plaza Drive when I saw Hedda with Dick Powell and some other celebrities on a flatbed truck with a jazz band. Hedda was bellowing, "Vote for Nixon!" through a bullhorn at everyone who drove by. She stopped in mid-sentence and glared at me as I wheeled past. Hedda never spoke to me again.
In early February 1966 I was in San Francisco to do the Gypsy Rose Lee television show. I was walking up the steps to the studio and was stopped by a group of reporters who asked if I had heard that Hedda had died. I hadn't, and when they asked for my reaction I hesitated. Dozens of pictures of her raced through my head-all the parties where we'd laughed, all the pieces she'd written about me, how she'd taken my side against Louella. I don't remember now what I told them. I mumbled something appropriately nostalgic, I guess. Looking back now, though, I can say that I lost more than a friend, I lost an ally.

Diana Rigg

Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE (born 20 July 1938) is an English actress. She is known for the role of Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers, which she appeared in from 1965 to 1968. She has also had an extensive career in the theatre, including playing the title role in Medea, both in London and New York. For this role, she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Considered a sex symbolshe was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994.
Rigg made her professional stage debut in 1957 in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959. She made her Broadway debut in the 1971 production of Abelard & Heloise. Her film roles include Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968); Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969); Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper (1981); and Arlene Marshall in Evil Under the Sun (1982). In 1989, she starred in the BBC miniseries Mother Love, for which she won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress. For her role as Mrs. Danvers in the 1997 adaptation of Rebecca, she won an Emmy Award. Since 2013, she has played Lady Olenna Tyrell in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Early life and education

Rigg was born in Doncaster, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now in South Yorkshire[3] to Louis Rigg (1903–1968) and Beryl Hilda (née Helliwell; 1908–1981); her father was a railway engineer who had been born in Yorkshire. Between the ages of two months and eight years Rigg lived in Bikaner, India, where her father was employed as a railway executive.
Hindi was her second language in those young years (and she still today enjoys using a smattering of words and phrases when ordering Indian food). She was then sent to a boarding school, the Moravian School in Fulneck, near Pudsey. She disliked her boarding school, where she felt like a fish out of water, but she believes that Yorkshire played a greater part in shaping her character than India did. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1955-57.

Theatre career

Rigg's career in film, television and the theatre has been wide-ranging, including roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1959 and 1964. Her professional debut was in the RADA production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the York Festival in 1957. Her role was Natasha Abashwilli.
A return to the stage and a nude scene with Keith Michell in the Ronald Millar play Abelard and Heloise in 1970 led to a notorious description of her as 'built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses', by the acerbic critic John Simon. (Simon's line is often rendered incorrectly, with "mausoleum" in place of "basilica."). Following its success in London, she made her Broadway debut with the play in 1971, earning the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play. She received her second nomination in 1975, for The Misanthrope. A member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1972 to 1975, Rigg took leading roles in premiere productions of two Tom Stoppard plays, Dorothy Moore in Jumpers (National Theatre, 1972) and Ruth Carson in Night and Day (Phoenix Theatre, 1978).
In 1982, she appeared in a musical called Colette, based on the life of the French writer and created by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, but it closed during an American tour en route to Broadway. In 1987 she took a leading role in the West End production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies. In the 1990s, she had triumphs with roles at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, including Medea in 1992 (which transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in 1993 and then Broadway in 1994, for which she received the Tony Award for Best Actress), Mother Courage at the National Theatre in 1995 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Almeida Theatre in 1996 (which transferred to the Aldwych Theatre in 1997).
In 2004, she appeared as Violet Venable in Sheffield Theatres' production of Tennessee Williams's play Suddenly Last Summer, which transferred to the Albery Theatre. In 2006, she appeared at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in a drama entitled Honour which had a limited but successful run. In 2007, she appeared as Huma Rojo in the Old Vic's production of All About My Mother, adapted by Samuel Adamson and based on the film of the same title directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
She appeared in 2008 in The Cherry Orchard at the Chichester Festival Theatre, returning there in 2009 to star in Noël Coward's Hay Fever. In 2011 she played Mrs Higgins in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre, opposite Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon, having played Eliza Doolittle 37 years earlier at the Albery Theatre.

Film and television career

Rigg appeared in the cult British 1960s television series The Avengers (1965–67) playing the secret agent Mrs Emma Peel in 51 episodes, replacing Elizabeth Shepherd at very short notice when Shepherd was dropped from the role after filming two episodes. Rigg auditioned for the role of Emma Peel on a whim, without ever having seen the programme. Although she was hugely successful in the series, she disliked the lack of privacy that it brought. She also did not like the way that she was treated by the Associated British Corporation (ABC). After a dozen episodes she discovered that she was being paid less than a cameraman. For her second season she held out for a pay rise from £150 a week to £450, but there was still no question of her staying for a third year. Patrick Macnee, her co-star in the series, noted that Rigg had later told him that she considered Macnee and her driver to be her only friends on the set.
On the big screen she became a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), playing Tracy Bond, James Bond's only wife. She said she took the role with the hope that she would become well known in America. Throughout the filming of the movie, there were rumours that the experience was not a happy one, owing to a personality clash with Bond actor George Lazenby. The rumours may have arisen from a reporter witnessing her say "I'm having garlic for lunch, George, I hope you are!" before a love scene between the two. However, both Rigg and Lazenby have denied the claims, and both wrote off the garlic comment as a joke.
Her other films from this period include The Assassination Bureau (1969), Julius Caesar (1970), The Hospital (1971), Theatre of Blood (1973), In This House of Brede (1975) (based on the book by Rumer Godden) and A Little Night Music (1977). She appeared as the title character in The Marquise (1980), a television adaptation of play by Noël Coward. In 1981 she appeared in a Yorkshire Television production of Hedda Gabler in the title role, and as Lady Holiday in the film The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The following year she received acclaim for her performance as Arlena Marshall in the film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, sharing barbs with her character's old rival, played by Maggie Smith.
She appeared as Regan, the king's treacherous second daughter, in a Granada Television production of King Lear (1983), which starred Laurence Olivier in the title role. She costarred with Denholm Elliot in a television version of Dickens' Bleak House (BBC, 1985), and played the Evil Queen, Snow White's evil stepmother, in the Cannon Movie Tales's film adaptation of Snow White (1987). In 1989 she played Helena Vesey in Mother Love for the BBC; her portrayal of an obsessive mother who was prepared to do anything, even murder, to keep control of her son won Rigg the 1989 BAFTA for Best Television Actress.
In the 1990s she appeared on television as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (winning an Emmy Award in the process), as well as the PBS production Moll Flanders, and as the amateur detective Mrs. Bradley in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries. In this BBC series, first aired in 2000, she played Gladys Mitchell's detective, Dame Beatrice Adela Le Strange Bradley, an eccentric old woman who worked for Scotland Yard as a pathologist. The series was not a critical success and did not return for a second season.
From 1989 until 2003, she hosted the PBS television series Mystery!, taking over from Vincent Price, her co-star from Theatre of Blood. Her TV career in America has been varied. She starred in her own sitcom Diana in 1973, but it was not successful.
She also appeared in the second series of Ricky Gervais's hit comedy Extras, alongside Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, and in the 2006 film The Painted Veil.
In 2013 she appeared in an episode of Doctor Who in a Victorian-era based story called The Crimson Horror alongside her daughter Rachael Stirling, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman. The episode had been specially written for her and her daughter by Mark Gatiss and aired as part of series 7. It was not the first time mother and daughter had appeared in the same production – that was in the 2000 NBC film In the Beginning — but the first time she had worked with her daughter and also the first time in her career her roots were accessed to find a Doncaster, Yorkshire, accent.
The same year, Rigg secured a recurring role in the third season of the HBO series Game of Thrones, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind popularly known as the Queen of Thorns, the grandmother of regular character Margaery Tyrell. Her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013. She reprised her role in season four of Game of Thrones, and in July 2014 received another Guest Actress Emmy nomination. In 2015 she again reprised the role in season five, in an expanded role from the books.

Personal life

In the mid-1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with actor/director Philip Saville, causing some degree of scandal in the tabloids when she disclaimed interest in marrying the older, already-married Saville, by saying she had no desire "to be respectable". Her marriage to Menachem Gueffen, an Israeli painter, lasted from 1973 until their divorce in 1976, at which time Saville gave her moral support by phoning every day, while telling the press "when a woman has been in your life a long time, she never really leaves it. I hope to be seeing her often, but I have no plans to marry her."
She was married to Archibald Stirling, a theatrical producer and former officer in the Scots Guards, from 25 March 1982, until they divorced in 1990. The marriage broke up when Stirling had an affair with actress Joely Richardson. With Stirling, Rigg has a daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, who was born in 1977.
Rigg has long been an outspoken critic of feminism, saying in 1969, "Women are in a much stronger position than men."
Rigg is a Patron of International Care & Relief and was for many years the public face of the charity's child sponsorship scheme. She was also Chancellor of the University of Stirling, being succeeded by James Naughtie when her ten-year term of office ended on 31 July 2008. Her position as Chancellor of Stirling was largely ceremonial, requiring Rigg to represent the university at all public events and to oversee the school's twice-a-year graduation ceremonies.
Michael Parkinson, who first interviewed Rigg in 1972, described her as the most desirable woman he ever met, who "radiated a lustrous beauty". A smoker from the age of 18, Rigg was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day in 2009 but in 2011 said she had given up smoking because she "had to".
Rigg received honorary degrees from the University of Stirling in 1988 and the University of Leeds in 1992.


Rigg was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1988 and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1994.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jackie Collins passed away age 77

The best-selling author and sister of actress Joan Collins passed away after a secret six year battle with breast cancer, the Collins family has confirmed.
"It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the death of our beautiful, dynamic and one of a kind mother, Jackie Collins, who died of breast cancer today," they said in an emotional statement to People magazine.
"She lived a wonderfully full life and was adored by her family, friends and the millions of readers who she has been entertaining for over 4 decades.

"She was a true inspiration, a trail blazer for women in fiction and a creative force. She will live on through her characters but we already miss her beyond words."
The sister to legendary actress Joan Collins gave what would be her final interview to the magazine earlier this week, where she said she had no regrets about her life.

"I've written five books since the diagnosis, I've lived my life, I've travelled all over the world, I have not turned down book tours and no one has ever known until now when I feel as though I should come out with it.
"Now I want to save other people's lives."
Collins revealed she was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer six and a half years ago in her final interview with the magazine.
The family requests that any donations in lieu of flowers be made out to the Penny Brohn Cancer Care charity in the UK and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organisation in the United States.

Collins' first book, The World is Full of Married men, was published in 1968 and became her first best-seller.
She is reported to have sold more than 500 million novels over her career wither her 32 novels being translated into 40 languages.
Born in London, like her elder sister, Jackie began as an actress, appearing in several movies and television shows before turning to writing full time.
She is survived by her three daughters, Tracy, 54, Tiffany, 48, and Rory, 46 as well as her sister Joan.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lady Sings the Blues

Lady Sings the Blues is a 1972 American biographical drama film directed by Sidney J. Furie about jazz singer Billie Holiday loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday's most popular songs. It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures. Diana Ross portrayed Holiday, alongside a cast including Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, and Scatman Crothers.

In 1936, New York City, Billie Holiday is arrested on a drugs charge.
In a flashback to 1928, Billie is working as a housekeeper in a brothel where she is raped. She runs away to her mother, who sets up a job cleaning for another brothel in the Harlem section of New York. The brothel is run by an arrogant, selfish owner who pays Billie very little money.
Eventually, Billie tires of scrubbing floors and becomes a prostitute but later quits and returns to a nightclub to unsuccessfully audition to become a showgirl. After "Piano Man" (Richard Pryor) accompanies Billie "All of Me", Jerry, the club owner, books her as a singer in the show.
Billie's debut begins unsuccessfully until Louis McKay (Billy Dee Williams), arrives and gives her a fifty dollar tip. Billie takes the money and sings "Them There Eyes". Billie takes a liking to Louis and begins a relationship with him. Eventually she is discovered by two men: Harry and Reg Hanley, who sign her as a soloist for their southern tour in hopes of landing a radio network gig. During the tour, Billie witnesses the aftermath of the lynching of an African-American man, which presses her to record the controversial song "Strange Fruit". The harsh experiences on the tour result in Billie taking drugs which Harry supplies. One night when Billie is performing, Louis comes to see Billie. He knows that she is doing drugs and tells her she is going home with him. Billie promises to stay off the drugs if Louis stays with her.
In New York, Reg and Louis arrange Billie's radio debut, but the station does not call her to sing; the radio sponsors, a soap company, object to her race. The group heads to Cafe Manhattan to drown their sorrows. Billie has too much to drink and asks Harry for drugs, saying that she does not want her family to know that the radio show upset her. He refuses and she throws her drink in his face. She is ready to leave, but Louis has arranged for her to sing at the Cafe, a club where she once aspired to sing. She obliges with one song but refuses an encore, leaving the club in urgent need of a fix. Louis, suspicious that Billie has broken her promise, takes her back to his home but refuses to allow her access to the bathroom or her kit. She fights Louis for it, pulling a razor on him. Louis leaves her to shoot up, telling her he does not want her there when he returns.
Billie returns to the Harlem nightclub, where her drug use intensifies until she hears of the death of her mother. Billie checks herself into a drug clinic, but because she cannot afford her treatment the hospital secretly calls Louis, who comes to see her and agrees to pay her bills without her knowledge. Impressed with the initiative she has taken to straighten herself out, Louis proposes to her at the hospital. Just as things are looking up, Billie is arrested for possession of narcotics and removed from the clinic.
In prison, Billie goes through crippling withdrawal. Louis brings the doctor from the hospital to treat her, but she is incoherent. He puts a ring on her finger to remind her of his promise to marry her. When she finishes her prison sentence, Billie returns home and tells her friends that she does not want to sing anymore. Billie marries Louis and pledges not to continue her career, but the lure of performing is too strong and she returns to singing with Louis as her manager. Unfortunately, her felony conviction has stripped her of her Cabaret Card, which would allow her to sing in NYC nightclubs. To restore public confidence and regain her license, Billie agrees to a cross-country tour. Billie's career takes off on the nightclub circuit.
Louis leaves for New York to arrange a comeback performance for Billie at Carnegie Hall. Despondent at Louis' absence and the never-ending stream of venues, Billie asks Piano Man to pawn the ring Louis gave her in exchange for drugs. While they are high that evening, Piano Man's drug connections arrive; he neither pawned the ring nor paid for the drugs. Piano Man is killed by the dealers. Within the hour, Louis and her promoter call Billie with news that they got Carnegie Hall. Louis returns to find a very fragile Billie who is traumatized and has fallen back into drugs. Louis takes her back to New York.
Billie plays to a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Her encore, "God Bless the Child", is overlaid with newspaper clippings highlighting subsequent events: the concert fails to sway the Commission to restore her license; subsequent appeals are denied; she is later re-arrested on drug charges and finally dies when she is 44. Nevertheless, the Carnegie triumph is frozen in time.

Very Rare- Diana Ross Interviewed On Lady Sings The Blues. 


The Full Film Lady Sings The Blues 1972 Starring Diana Ross

Dearest Faye – Dunaway and Crawford

“Why can’t you give me the respect that I’m entitled to?” —Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford
For over 30 years, Mommie Dearest has been the high-camp champ of motion pictures. There have been a number of worthy contenders, like Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls, but gay movie fans have a special reverence for both Joan Crawford and Faye Dunaway, who took on the movie idol and lived to regret it. The film’s famous lines (almost any line in the film!) “No more wire hangers,” “Tina, bring me the axe,” etc., have entered camp nirvana. So why at this late date do we still need to talk about Mommie Dearest, and what more can be said? For starters, Faye Dunaway should be given the respect that she’s entitled to.

For the past three decades, Faye Dunaway has squirmed at the very mention of Mommie Dearest. She blames the movie for ruining her career (not true), and she goes out of her way to avoid the subject at all costs. But the simple fact remains—Faye Dunaway gives the greatest performance of her life in Mommie Dearest. Dunaway was nominated for an Academy Award three times in her career, for Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Chinatown (1974) and Network (1976). She won for Network, and her driven TV executive Diana is just a warm-up for her take-no-prisoners performance as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Faye Dunaway has no one to blame but herself for the state of her post-Oscar career. In the years between Network and Mommie Dearest, she made only a few films, Eyes of Laura Mars, Voyage of The Damned, The Champ and The First Deadly Sin. Why Dunaway picked these films is a mystery. She wasn’t even the star of the last two but a supporting performer to Jon Voight and Frank Sinatra. When Faye Dunaway made Mommie Dearest, she was at a low ebb in her career and she was 40 years old—the kiss of death in 1980s Hollywood.

In her 1995 autobiography Looking For Gatsby, Dunaway writes:
“‘No more wire hangers!’ Those words remain, even now, an ugly wound on my psyche.” She continues: “I’ll go all the way with something, because that’s how I work. … But if you do that, fling yourself into it, you need a director shaping the performance. You’re in the middle of it and you have to trust that someone will keep the entire film in sight, that someone will keep the proportion of it in line.” Dunaway’s empathy for Joan Crawford is also revealed: “I certainly had a sense of the price of her stardom, though I had missed the contract studio era, which seemed even more brutal than the Hollywood I had to deal with.” She sums up her Mommie Dearest experience with: “Without question, Mommie Dearest was a turning point in my career. … After Mommie Dearest, my own personality and the memory of all my other roles got lost along the way in the mind of the public and in the mind of many in Hollywood. It was a performance. That’s all that it was. For better or worse, the roles we play become a part of our persona. People thought of me as being like her. And that was the unfortunate reality for me about this project.”
Faye Dunaway threw herself into the role of Joan Crawford with a vengeance seldom seen on stage or screen. Interestingly, Crawford herself had written earlier in My Way of Life, “Of all the actresses, to me, only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star.” Faye Dunaway was the perfect choice to play Joan Crawford. Both women came out of nowhere and clawed their way to the top. Both women were tough and both were survivors.

Christina Crawford’s 1978 scabrous memoir of her adoptive mother Joan Crawford sold over 4 million copies. Hollywood was horrified by the hideous revelations of child abuse, alcoholism and other seedy secrets. Paramount bought the film rights, and Anne Bancroft was the initial choice to play Crawford. Bancroft bailed on the project when none of the scripts submitted to her were acceptable. Faye Dunaway finally accepted the role despite the advice of many who warned her to stay clear of such notorious material. Frank Perry, who had directed Tuesday Weld to a great performance in Play It As It Lays, was chosen to guide Dunaway through the emotional minefields inherent in Christina’s book. When Mommie Dearest opened in 1981, the reviews were abysmal and the studio even turned on the film when it became apparent that people were coming to the film just to laugh. The newspaper ads went right for the camp angle with “No more wire hangers … ever” in large print followed by a drawing of a coat hanger and the line, “The Biggest Mother of them All.” The film’s producer threatened to sue Paramount, but the damage had been done. Mommie Dearest and Faye Dunaway had been thrown to the wolves. To add further insult, Christina Crawford blasted the film, stating ironically that her book had been “turned into a Joan Crawford movie.”
Looking back, it is amazing that Faye Dunaway received some of the greatest personal reviews of her career. Legendary critic Pauline Kael raved, “Faye Dunaway gives a startling, ferocious performance in Mommie Dearest. It’s deeper than an impersonation; she turns herself into Joan Crawford … she digs into herself and gets inside ‘Joan Crawford’ in a way that only another torn, driven actress could. Dunaway lets loose with a fury that she may not have known was in her. She goes over the top, discovers higher peaks and shoots over them, too. Has any movie queen ever gone this far?” Even those critics who attacked the film could not fault Dunaway’s performance. Vincent Canby in the New York Times: “Mommie Dearest doesn’t work very well, but the ferocious intensity of Faye Dunaway’s impersonation does.” At year’s end, Faye Dunaway’s incredible transformation into Joan Crawford was the runner up for Best Actress by both the New York Film Critics and The National Society of Film Critics.

Watching Mommie Dearest 30 years later you certainly see all the faults. The movie is lumpy, there are composite characters (to avoid lawsuits), some of the dialogue would floor Meryl Streep, the time elements and career references are garbled and most of the supporting performers are weak. Mara Hobel as the young Christina is pretty amazing, but the grownup Tina is played by Diana Scarwid as if she were chloroformed. Plus Scarwid slips into a Southern accent occasionally and she is so passive that Faye Dunaway has no really strong adversary to play against. Rutana Alda is fun as the long-suffering Carol Ann, but no one in the cast can stand up to Joan Crawford or Faye Dunaway. The only gold in all this dross is Faye Dunaway. As Pauline Kael astutely wrote, “The best that can be said about the movie itself is that it doesn’t seem to get in the way of its star.” Faye Dunaway captures every facet (imagined and real) of Joan Crawford. Dunaway is sexy, grotesque, moving, funny, maudlin—sometimes all in the same scene. She gives a gigantic performance. It’s like grand opera without the music.

Faye Dunaway’s post-Mommie Dearest career had a lot of low points and a few highs. Her Evita Peron in a TV miniseries was first-rate, as was her Golden Globe-winning supporting role in Gia—and she was excellent in a few indie films like Barfly. And Mommie Dearest was the turning point in her career. Faye Dunaway pours a scalding galvanic fury into her performance. It’s part Kabuki, part opera and full of bile. Mommie Dearest is a flawed masterpiece. Campy? Of course. Over the top? Yes. But Faye Dunaway gives one of the truly great performances in movie history. Take a look at Mommie Dearest again. Forget why you first saw it and just concentrate on Dunaway. Movie acting doesn’t get much better than this. Pauline Kael was prophetic in the last line of her Mommie Dearest review: “It could be hair-raising if Faye Dunaway were to have trouble shaking off the gorgon Joan.”

Raquel Welch, 74, looks youthful as she takes a brisk stroll around Hollywood

She's known for aging gracefully.
And on Wednesday, Raquel Welch gave onlookers a glimpse at how, at 74-years-old, she still maintains her fit physique.
The sixties movie icon - who starred in such classics as One Million Years BC and Bedazzled - was up bright and early to rev up her metabolism with a brisk walk around the Hollywood Hills.

Her most famous role yet: Welch starred in One Million Years BC in 1966