If you read between the lines, that is.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, thinking as we so often do about classic Hollywood of the Thirties through the Fifties.
The Great Fan Magazines, Photoplay, Modern Screen, Screenland, Silver Screen, Motion Picture, are a thing of the past. Today gossip and adulation is handled by television and the internet and mabybe the guy who clips your hair.
Most of the articles were puff, but occasionally the magazines would actually take on a subject that everyone knew about, but no one talked about. Such was the case in 1939 when Photoplay ran an article by Kirtley Basquette titled “Hollywood’s Unmarried Husbands and Wives.”
The article highlighted what everyone in town knew. There were several high profile couples living together. Remember–this was the late 1930s, and such things just weren’t DONE.
The studios all had what were called “morals clauses” in their contracts, and stars were expected to conduct themselves accordingly. Yet here were some top stars living in sin.
Although the article concentrated on George Raft and his lover, Virginia Pine. (George would indeed had loved to marry her but was already wed and couldn’t get a divorce), it also skewered Clark Gable and Carole Lombard (also in the same boat, Gable was still married).
Two other couples mentioned in the piece COULD marry if they wanted to, but were just OBVIOUSLY flaunting conventions.
Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor had been together for several years, as had Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard. But wait, maybe Chaplin and Goddard were married. No one knew for sure.
(By the way, Stanwyck years later was the first serious romance of a young, untested actor by the name of Robert Wagner.)
The point is that the established press couldn’t or wouldn’t expose the private lives of these stars, but the fan magazines could, and did.
And this particular article had it’s impact. While nothing altered in George Raft’s relationship with Virginia Pine, the real targets of the article felt an effect. Gable got his divorce from Ria Langham and married Lombard. Stanwyck and Taylor soon married.
Chaplin remained above the fray. He and Paulette still would not acknowledge whether or not they were wed. It was several years later before they announced they were getting a divorce, the only hint that they were ever married in the first place. To this day there has never been a public record of their marriage.
Even the fan magazines — between the lines, of course — couldn’t say for sure.