Norma Shearer was an A-List actress of the 1920s.
What went down:
Mae West was a force in the film industry and on Broadway as an actress, producer, and writer. These days, it seems that every actress is creating their own vehicles. In Mae’s this was unheard of; May was a trailblazer.
Mae knew how to deftly use controversy to advance her career. She also was a free creative spirit and wrote under a pen name “Jane Mast,” so that she could be as risque as she dared. One of her scripts brought her first leading role in a Broadway show. The play opened in 1926. It was called “Sex.” Critics paned it, but audiences loved it. She simultaneously began development for a drag queen play called “The Drag,” which she planned to bring to Broadway. The Broadway elite finally had enough of her controversial plays and complained to the police. In 1927 city officials raided “Sex” and threw Mae in jail. Mae was thus sentenced to ten days in prison. She took the sentencing in stride: she earned two days off for good behavior, spent most evenings dining with the warden and his wife, and upon exiting told reporters that she wore her silk panties the whole time.
The “Sex” scandal brought Mae incredible attention and launched her Hollywood career. She later said: “I believe in censorship I made a fortune out of it.”
Old Hollywood Lesson:
Note what Mae did NOT DO when she exited prison and spoke to the press:
She did not show her panties to the press,
sell them to the highest bidder,
or galavant around town wearing them -- she simply made a suggestion that she wore silk panties while in prison.
Because showing herself in that way would be cheapen her message.
And because she knew that it would piss off her detractors, which in turn would create more press.
The more press that existed about her unyielding character, the more she built her brand.
Mae used her sensuality to navigate the Broadway environment and later Hollywood, but she never, under no uncertain terms, cheapened what she had. She used her intelligence, while being comfortable and confident in what she had to offer. She wasn't the prettiest or most talented. No matter, it was her confidence and swagger that made people respect her. Mae was never out-of-control (drunk, raging mad) and she was always calculating, plotting her next move.
Mae was a voluptuous woman and a powerful force, and she cast her self in those roles in her own projects. She created her own brand this way.
And for this, Mae became a star.
And through this, we can assure ourselves that IT IS POSSIBLE to create an empowering career, life, or dating world without losing ourselves in the process. Intelligence, confidence, and classy authenticity are what you need to place yourself in the world in the most powerful way possible.
What about you?
Have you ever had a success in garnering attention and notice for your ideas? How did you do it?
What went down:
Tallulah Bankhead was one of the most notorious actresses of her generation.
Mostly because her off-screen presence was beyond imagination.
Tallulah had a penchant for debauchery, and enough sexual forthrightness to make the most macho man blush.
After becoming successful on London’s West End, Tallulah turned up in Hollywood. She didn’t have success right away, and largely found movie-making to be boring.
And Tallulah was not a woman to settle for a boring life.
So she took action....and threw a party.
Not just any soiree, but some of the wildest parties in town.
Now, Old Hollywood parties could be unruly but Tallulah made sure hers defied conventional expectations of behavior.
Sometimes, Tallulah answered the door naked and often she made it quite plain to the guest of her choice that she would go to bed with him or her that night. She often threw cat parties, all female parties, and her guests were certainly doing more than playing cards together.
For her candor she became an inspiration. The movie “The Girls About Town” was apparently inspired by these evenings.
Why didn't Tallulah just leave Hollywood? Why did she spend time in a place she considered rather dull?
Tallulah was no dope -- she knew she could make a lot of money from the films. Theater was -- as is now -- not as lucrative as the screen.
So while she bided her time for the right film project Tallulah made sure she never had a dull moment.
And because she had such a good time waiting, the right film project did come.
Old Hollywood Lesson:
There are no dull moments, only dull people.
If you are truly yourself, opportunities will present themselves which will align with your purpose. They have to -- the strength of your spirit will attract them. Lean into your authenticity -- whether you are a nerd, a party girl, or a jock --and life will unfold naturally. Be that what you are to the hilt -- to the nth degree! It sends out a spark which will only reverberate into the world and blaze the trail ahead of you.
How about you?
Have YOU ever changed a sour situation into a fun opportunity?
Makeup artist and dynamo Genavieve White will tell you about the evolution of makeup and hairstyle from the 1920s to the 1930s, as well as why we have so many darned makeup choices when we go shopping.
Gertrude Lawrence was mostly known on Broadway, but certainly made a stop over in Hollywood throughout her career. She also had a close working relationship with Noel Coward.
Her story brings to mind a question for you: How much risk are you willing to take to achieve your dreams?
What went down:
As a young girl, it was apparent that Gertrude Lawrence was naturally talented, so she was awarded a scholarship to study with Italia Conti. Noel Coward was also a student.
Gertrude's mother was vehemently against the idea of her becoming a full-time performer. It was no surprise that eventually, after Gertrude's persistent passion, her mother revealed that Gertrude's estranged father was a performer as well. Luck would have it that her estranged father just happened to have a show in town. Gertrude saw her chance. She only had minimal experience in the theater except for the Conti training and a few local plays. But at thirteen-years-old she knew what her dream was: to be an actress.
So, Getrude packed her few belongings, placed her mother and stepfather a farewell note on the kitchen table, grabbed her newly printed cards -- "Little Gertie Lawrence: Child Actress and Danseuse" -- and marched over to the theater that housed her father's show. She told the stage doorman to relay the message that Gertie was there to see Mr. Lawrence. Her father had never met her and was confused by who she was. She simply handed him the card, and told him she was there to stay.
And it worked! He decided on the spot to take her touring with him. This began her theatrical career that spanned decades and included award-winning performances. No surprise that her pluck continued to serve her throughout and became one of her most profitable assets.
Old Hollywood Lesson
Big risks lead to big rewards.
Gertrude could have written her father a letter, asked her mother for permission -- she could have done many things that would have encompassed less risk. However, Gertrude took quick, effective action. She knew who the ultimate decision maker was (her father) and what she wanted (to go on tour). By directly going to that level and making it plain what she was after she was rewarded. She saw the most direct way to force decision: showing up in person ready to leave.
How about you?
Have you ever stuck your neck out for your dreams? If so, what were you results?
About This Page:
This blog is a collection of spicy Old Hollywood tid-bits, only accessible to special people via Ms. G.'s Old Hollywood Collegiate Email List.
You can join the list by making a request at: GarboDreams@gmail.com
Published approximately every 6 weeks.