It was published in 1975, and for years thereafter author Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon set the standard for juicy, tell-all star guides. The book covered the scandal waterfront from the silent movie era through the 1960s, and it still makes for entertaining reading.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to note that by today’s standards, Hollywood Babylon is relatively mild stuff. Cocaine, orgies, sensational divorces, out-of-the-closet revelations, mobsters on the back lot, mental breakdowns, booze and drugs, rehab… the works. Old stuff to us now.
Still, in honor of Anger’s pioneering tome, we assembled a short Hollywood Babylon quiz in our blog of March 19 – What a Scandal! (The “Hollywood Babylon” Quiz) — linking famous names covered in the book along with their offscreen indiscretions. We challenged you in five questions to match the two.
Ok, ok, let’s end the suspense. Here are our quiz answers:
1) Question: Charlie Chaplin may have been a silent screen genius but he was certainly a busy guy in the love and lust departments, which sometimes entailed court appearances. Which of these woman was NOT involved with Chaplin? a) Oona O’Neill; b) Lillita McMurray; c) Pola Negri; d) Mildred Harris; e) Joan Crawford; or e) Joan Barry?
ANSWER: (e) As far as we know Chaplin and Crawford were not lovers, although anything was possible with these two. For more on Joan’s erotic adventures, check out our juicy blog of Nov. 18, 2011 — Was Joan Crawford a Couger?
2) Question: “Mexican spitfire” Lupe Velez committed suicide in 1944 at the age of 36 after making miserable the lives of which of the following: a) John Gilbert; b) Gary Cooper; c) Johnny Weissmuller; d) Clayton Moore; or e) Clifton Webb?
ANSWER: e) All except Clifton Webb, who by all accounts was gay. That’s Lupe pictured above with Weissmuller.
3) Question: In July of 1948, Rex Harrison walked into the Pacific Palisades home of his mistress (at the time, he was married to actress Lilli Palmer), and discovered her dead body. His lover had overdosed on sleeping pills. Who was she? a) Bette Grable; b) Frances Farmer; c) Gail Russell; or d) Carole Landis?
ANSWER: d) Carole Landis, a 20th Century Fox contract starlet in the 1940’s, plagued by a disastrous married life (involving four husbands), a sputtering career and an affair with Rex Harrison that went awry. She was 29 when she killed herself. Her suicide note asked her mother to “pray for me.”
4) Question: Part of the Robert Mitchum legend is that he was arrested and jailed after attending a summer 1948 party at the Hollywood cottage of starlet Lila Leeds. What was the charge? a) Drunken driving; b) petit larceny; c) cheating on his studio expense accounting sheets; or d) smoking marijuana.
ANSWER: d), possession of marijuana. Mitchum, although defended in court by Hollywood’s go-to lawyer at the time, Jerry Geisler, wound up serving a couple of months in jail. Despite all the publicity, Mitchum’s career was unaffected, and his contract was bought up by RKO boss Howard Hughes. The actor then proceeded to make some of his most entertaining films at the studio.
5) Question: Distinguished character actor Albert Dekker revealed an intimate part of his private life when he hung himself in his bathroom 1968. What was his secret? a) He was a cross dresser; b) he left a note confessing to a series of burglaries; c) he enjoyed using handcuffs; or d) he had had a sex change operation.
ANSWER: a) and c). Dekker was a superb character actor and an almost-leading man (The Killers with Ava Gardner in 1946; 1947’s Gentleman’s Agreement; his movie swan song was 1969’s The Wild Bunch). The 62-year-old actor hung himself in his bathroom in what Hollywood Babylon describes as “his favorite private garb, women’s silk lingerie.” A pair of handcuffs, reports Anger, were “locked on his wrists.”
Such fun, old Hollywood rumors and scandals.