Old news is good news

The term “yesterday’s news” is usually meant to denigrate, but for fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood, old news can often be welcome news. Following, in retrospect, the career ebbs and flows — and even the day-to-day lives — of our favorite performers, writers, and directors offers a new/old insight on these fascinating figures.

A terrific resource for such digging through the past is the very worthy blog Hollywood Heyday. Each entry revisits the Tinseltown news and gossip of a particular day in a given year, leaving the reader feeling as if she’s traveled back in time.

The sources are wire services and syndicated columnists, among them such still-familiar names as Luella Parsons and Hedda Hopper and other journalists whose names are not as well known today, including Wood Soanes and Chester B. Bahn.

These tidbits provide prose snapshots of a particular time in a movie personality’s life. For example, this snippet from Soanes about comedic character actor Charles Butterworth from April 22, 1932:

Charles Butterworth, whose movie career terminated largely because his style of humor is so distinctive that he needed a special author to provide him with material, is returning to the stage for a comedy part in the next Max Gordon revue. Before that happens, however, he’ll work with Chevalier in a picture.

Butterworth was hardly through with the movies at that point in time — he went on to make more than thirty more pictures before his premature death in an auto accident in 1946 — but it’s intriguing to learn that at one point in time, it was thought he was finished in Hollywood.

Other stories remind us that now-familiar names were not always so, as in this tidbit from Bahn on the same date, April 22, 1932:

Universal failed to pick up option of Mickey Rooney, formerly known as Mickey McGuire.

It’s intriguing to think of a time when young Mickey was a) newly dubbed “Rooney” and b) getting dropped by movie studios.

One also learns of once-highly anticipated projects that never came to fruition, as in this Parsons offering regarding Constance Bennett:

“The Sun Also Rises,” to star Constance Bennett, is more than just a mere rumor. The book has been purchased and Rowland Brown is now reading it and discussing treatment, for he will direct her. Some of the considerable angles will have to be removed but it is fundamentally a splendid story and should give Connie an excellent vehicle.

To the best of our knowledge, that’s a project that never got off the ground, but learning that it was once in the works leaves us wondering just how it might have turned out.

Some of the stories provide a laugh or two, as well, like this one (source unknown):

Bela Lugosi did a laugh-clown-laugh stunt at the Carthay Circle theater the other night. He tripped back stage, fell and broke three ribs, but went on with his performance of “Murdered Alive.” He probably felt just that way.

Admittedly, few of the reports offered by Hollywood Heyday are major news, even by Tinseltown standards — they merely offer a glimpse of the daily professional and personal ups and downs of fondly remembered (and some not-so-fondly recalled) members of the picture biz of decades past. There are those who would no doubt scratch their heads and wonder at the appeal of these snippets of yesterday’s news; I think most members of the Cladrite Radio clan, though, will, as we do, find the site fascinating — and habit-forming, to boot.

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