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Cinema: Hollywood Reel

6 minute read

The New Year hit Hollywood like the last reel of a badly directed thriller. More denouements crowded into the private lives of the cinema colony than had been furnished by any seven days in a twelvemonth. There were one natural, one sudden death, an elopement, a surprise marriage, a bill of divorce, a last testament. In nearly every case the event stirred memories of old, unhappy, far-off things and litigation.

Marriage. At 47 William Powell has behind him two wives, Actress Eileen Wilson (divorced), Actress Carole Lombard (now Mrs. Gable). Dark, dapper, Thin Man Powell has also been publicized as grieving for the late and glamorous Jean Harlow. Last week William Powell’s last act before eloping with Wife No. 3 was to call up Jean Harlow’s mother, let her in on the secret. She wished him happiness.

Few Hollywooders had known the newlyweds were acquainted. He met her for the first time four months ago at a studio party for visiting politicians. He had wooed her for only three weeks. Her name was Diane Lewis, a 24-year-old rising starlet who began trouping in her parents’ vaudeville act as soon as she could walk, played a small part in Warners’ She Couldn’t Say No, bits for M.G.M. Both used her chiefly for leg art. Such adolescent Hollywood revelers as Jackie Cooper, Johnny Downs, Tommy Wonder consider small (five-foot) and vivacious Diane Lewis witty, gay, wonderful at a party.

A justice of the peace tied the knot beneath a bower of flowers, on a dude ranch, at Warm Springs, Nev. Back in Hollywood, Mrs. Powell No. 3 begins another small part in Forty Little Mothers with Eddie Cantor.

» In a second surprise marriage greater Starlet Jane Bryan, 21, espoused Justin Whitlock Dart, 32, general manager of Walgreen Drug Co., a divorced son-in-law of the late Drugman Charles Rudolph Walgreen. Formally Cinemactress Bryan’s husband announced that his wife was through with pictures. Warner Brothers expressed bewilderment, resignation, doubt that movie-struck Jane Bryan would be able to live up to such a marriage vow so soon after her first big part (in We Are Not Alone).

Bill of Divorce. One reason pert Vivien Leigh (rhymes with Robert E.) got the part of Scarlett O’Hara was because at the right time she was in Hollywood seeing darkly scowling Laurence Olivier. He looks like a swarthy Douglas Fairbanks Jr., is as British as young Douglas Fairbanks tries to be. When Olivier was acting with Katharine Cornell in No Time for Comedy, Vivien Leigh used to nag Director Fleming to speed up Gone With the Wind so she could fly to Manhattan and Laurence Olivier. When Vivien Leigh flew to Atlanta, for the premiere of Gone With the Wind, Olivier flew with her. A friend once called their love “the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

Olivier’s wife, British Actress Jill Esmond, recently filed a divorce suit in England, named no corespondent. In London Cinemactress Leigh’s husband, Barrister Herbert Leigh Holman, after vain efforts to bring her back to himself and their six-year-old daughter, last week started divorce proceedings. Grounds: misconduct. Corespondent: Laurence Olivier.

Scarlett O’Hara was, after all, no model of propriety, so there was little likelihood the suit would damage Vivien’s professional career.

Death. Some 20 years ago, Scottish-born Dorothy Mackaye was a slip of a lass with a pair of sloe-black, Oriental eyes and an intermittent lisp that made her afraid audiences would laugh at the wrong times if she played dramatic roles. So she turned to comedy, made her biggest hit as Peg in Peg o’ My Heart. She also married Musical Comedy Actor Ray Raymond.

One night in the roaring ’20s Singer Raymond charged into his Hollywood home, ordered out of it Paul Kelly, stalwart young screen juvenile. Said Kelly: “You think I’m in love with your wife — and I am.” A few months later Kelly came back. In the presence of Actress Mackaye and her daughter, Valerie Raymond, 4, Kelly threatened Raymond. But the singer, who said he had been drinking for two weeks, did not want to fight. Kelly slugged him. Ray Raymond died of the injuries he received. Contributing cause: acute alcoholism.

If Actress Mackaye’s career was not ended at that moment, it was when she served ten months in jail for withholding evidence about the killing. Kelly served 25 months for manslaughter. Freed, exActress Mackaye married Cinemactor Paul Kelly, who is still making pictures.

Driving alone to their San Fernando Valley ranch one night last week, Dorothy Mackaye hit a soft shoulder. Her car turned over, pinned her beneath the steering wheel.

Three days later, Comedienne Mackaye, having lived more drama than most actresses act, died. At her bedside were Husband Paul Kelly, Daughter Valerie Raymond, 16.

» More significant than any sensational event of Hollywood’s crowded week was the death of Flora Finch, believed to be over 70, (she would never tell her age).

Silent cinema’s first famous comedienne, British-born Flora Finch was the first cinemactress to be known by name throughout the U. S. Her death brought to a close the silent film’s pre-history as Douglas Fairbanks’ death closed a later era.

Skinny, hatchet-faced, homely and aware of it, Funnywoman Finch could move with a birdlike grace, was a perfect foil for elephantine, moon-faced Funnyman John Bunny. With him she appeared on miles of film.

After John Bunny died in 1915, Flora Finch disappeared. Thinner and older, she reappeared in 1922. At M. G. M., where Flora Finch was a stock player until she died, few of the stars knew who she was.

Testament. When Douglas Fairbanks Sr. died suddenly last Dec. 12, Hollywood’s wise men guessed his estate would be a whopper, but did not know how much, or who would be his heirs. Last week Douglas Fairbanks’ will was filed in Manhattan. It disposed of an estate of more than $2,000,000.

Principal beneficiaries:

» Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Sr., No. 3 (former British chorus girl who was Lady Sylvia Ashley before he married her)—an amount “not to exceed $1,000,000.”

» Son Douglas Fairbanks Jr.—a sum “not to exceed $600,000.”

» Brother Robert Fairbanks, Hollywood film executive—a sum “not to exceed $100,000.” —

» The Motion Picture Actors’ Relief Fund of Los Angeles—$10,000, to be known as the Douglas Fairbanks Fund.

Of his previous wives, No. 1, Mrs. Jack Whiting (Beth Sully, mother of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), and No. 2, Mrs. Buddy Rogers (Mary Pickford), the will made no mention at all. Beth Sully got $500,000 when they were divorced, Mary Pickford is a millionaire in her own name.

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