Happy 118th Birthday, Frank McHugh!

Comic relief and sidekick extraordinaire Frank McHugh was born 118 years ago today in Homestead, Pennsylvania. If you’re not sure you recall McHugh’s name, you’ll surely recognize his face if you’ve seen even a few movies from the 1930s and ’40s.

Here are our ten Frank McHugh trivia tidbits:

  • Frank McHugh’s parents ran a stock company, and as a child, he occasionally appeared in their productions. He also toured in vaudeville before making his Broadway debut in The Fall Guy in 1925, a play cowritten by George Abbott and character actor James Gleason.
  • McHugh, who signed with First National/Warner Brothers as a contract player in 1930, appeared in more than 90 pictures over the next twelve years.
  • Frank McHugh made 11 pictures with his pal James Cagney (they were both, along with Pat O’Brien and others, a part of Hollywood’s Irish Mafia).
  • McHugh also appeared in 12 pictures with fellow character actor Allen Jenkins.
  • Frank McHugh twice reprised in a remake a character he’d already played in the original version of that film: in One Way Passage (1932) and ‘Til We Meet Again (1940), he played a thief eluding Chinese authorities, and in both The Crowd Roars (1932) and Indianapolis Speedway (1939), he played a character named Spud Connors.
  • Two of McHugh’s siblings, Matt McHugh and Kitty McHugh, were also film actors. Matt had appearances in more than 220 movies, shorts and TV series to his credit, and Kitty compiled 60 appearances in film and on television.
  • Frank McHugh was an eager participant in USO tours during World War II and he was also a member of the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a troupe of 21 stars that traveled the US by train for three weeks, performing along the way to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Fund.
  • McHugh’s USO efforts earned him a citation from the army “for exceptionally meritorious service while working as a member of an entertainment unit” that was signed by Major General Raymond S. McLain.
  • Frank McHugh starred in his own radio program, Hotel for Pets, from 1954-56. Some oldtime radio references list the progam as a soap opera, but that somehow seems unlikely to us.
  • McHugh and his wife, Dorothy, were married from 1933 until his death in 1981. They had three children together and two grandchildren.

Happy birthday, Mr. McHugh, wherever you may be!

Frank McHugh

Goodbye to another glorious gal

We just learned of the passing yesterday of the wonderful Gloria Stuart. Stuart, who turned 100 on July 5 of this year, lived a nice, long life, of course, but we’re feeling blue nonetheless.

As some regular readers will recall, we were fortunate enough to interview Ms. Stuart eleven years ago on the occasion of the publication of her memoir, I Just Kept Hoping [you can read the interview here], and we found her utterly delightful. She was, at age 89, as witty and as sharp as one could hope to be at that age. She was also charming and engaging and not a little flirty, and we have harbored a little crush on her ever since.

Ms. Stuart had an impressive, if brief, Hollywood career in the 1930s, acting opposite the likes of Claude Rains, James Cagney, Nancy Carroll, Walter Pidgeon, Lee Tracy, Pat O’Brien, Melvyn Douglas, Dick Powell and many others, and she was friends with many other luminaries, Humphrey Bogart and the Marx Brothers among them. And we were pleased to learn that she had gotten a kick out of the career resurgence she experienced late in life.

Screen Play magazine once named Ms. Stuart one of the 10 most beautiful women in Hollywood, and we think that honor still holds today, even all those beautiful women later. But as By Aljean Harmetz and Robert Berkvist wrote in an obituary that appeared in The New York Times, Stuart was “more than a pretty face. She was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, an early antifascist organization.”

She also undertook a career as an artist, teaching herself to paint. Her first one-woman show was at NYC’s Hammer Galleries in 1961. Beginning in the 1980s, she began a new career at a printer, designing hand-printed artists’ books, even organizing her own imprint, Imprenta Glorias.

What a gal.

We’ll remain ever grateful for our brief encounters with Ms. Stuart, and we sincerely hope and pray that she will rest in peace.

    

In Your Hat, pt. 9

In Chapter 9 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars Renee Carroll, she offers recollections of more celebrities than we could possibly list here. Many of the names are still familiar; others all but forgotten. A few we couldn’t even track down via the internet, and heaven knows we tried.

     EVEN Fred Keating, the magician, once forgot where he put his hat check!
     But hat check girls, even red-haired ones, have memories, so sometimes when business at my window is slack, I sit and think of the million and one things that have happened between the celebrity-laden walls of Sardi’s. Incidents, names, personalities galore, and sometimes just a casual word will start my train of thought along almost forgotten tracks. Would you like to lift the lid of the Carroll cranium and see what’s going on inside?
     Here comes George Jean Nathan, world’s best critic by his own admission. I’ll never forget the day I bawled him out because he insisted on having his hat set apart from the others—and how embarrassed he was. I never suspected anyone could embarrass him . . . telling Warner Baxter that he was my favorite movie star, only to be overheard by Richard Dix to whom I had dished out the same line only two days before . . . the day Helen Menken, reddest of the red-heads, gave us a big surprise by changing to the color gentlemen are supposed to prefer . . . Incidentally, she never takes her gloves off when she eats!
     And here is Robert Garland, who pilots (or piles-it) the dramatic column in the World-Telly, and is a regular customer as a certain blind spot in the roaring Fifties (they’re roaring further uptown now). He’d been a regular patient at the drink infirmary for more than a year when one night he showed at the barred door and knocked the magic knock. A weary, unshaved faced appeared in the aperture.
     “Pliss?”
     “Hello, Tony, I wanna come in.”
     “Who are you?” the face inquired.
     Infuriated because he had spent his good shekels for so many nights and still remained a dim bulb in the big sign, he shouted back the first thing that came to his mind—a catchline from a New Yorker cartoon.
     “You must remember me,” yelled Garland, “I’m the guy who punched my wife in the nose here last night.”
     And he was ushered in with any more undue ceremony!
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Celebrating a Century of Gloria Stuart

Gloria StuartWe don’t know how we let it sneak by us, but Monday, July 5, was the 100th birthday of the wonderful Gloria Stuart, best known now for her work in James Cameron‘s Titanic, but a woman who’s led a remarkable life and was a pretty big movie star in the 1930s, to boot.

In 1999, when she was just a kid of 89, we got to interview Gloria on the occasion of the publication of her memoir, I Just Kept Hoping. The interview was conducted over the telephone, though we did get the chance to meet Ms. Stuart when she came to NYC for her book party.

We considered it quite a thrill, we don’t mind telling you, to get to interact with Ms. Stuart. After all, this is the women who starred opposite Claude Rains in James Whale‘s The Invisible Man, who appeared with Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, and Charles Laughton in The Old Dark House, who worked with greats such as Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy, Pat O’Brien, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Nancy Carroll, Frank Morgan, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold, Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, and dozens more.

So, to mark her centennial (a few days late, alas), we thought we’d share with the Cladrite Radio Clan the interview we did with her in 1999. Enjoy!

It’s been a long, eventful life for former and current movie star Gloria Stuart. She had her first go-around at stardom in the Hollywood heyday of the 1930s and ’40s; then, after taking off 30 years or so to pursue painting, travel, and political activism, she again began to act in the 1970s, eventually garnering a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Titanic. Still going strong today at the age of 89, Stuart has now added authorship to her list of achievements. Her candid memoir, I Just Kept Hoping, is peppered with anecdotes about such memorable figures as Shirley Temple, Groucho Marx, Dorothy Parker, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. I spoke to Gloria about her life, her two careers in the movies, and her secrets for living so long and so well.

An Interview with Gloria Stuart

Gloria StuartYou made three films with director James Whale: The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, and The Kiss Before the Mirror. What can you tell us about him?

I’m very happy I was in those films. You know, James is a cult figure in England. There are a lot of James Whale fan clubs. Actually, right after I had read for Jim Cameron for Titanic, I had booked a month in London. I went right away, and there were two wonderful James Whale organizations that I met with. He’s getting his due now, thanks to Gods and Monsters.

What did you think of Gods and Monsters? Was it, in your view, an accurate portrayal of Whale?

Oh, yes, it was. Ian McKellan captured James’s elegance, the beautiful manners, the beautiful tailoring, the precision, the whole thing. Of course, no one could be James, but he came awfully close.

The special effects in The Invisible Man hold up remarkably well today for a film that was made in 1933.

Yes, people who see it today—it runs every so often—they say, gee, it’s not an old hat movie at all.

I’m wondering—did the processes that went into creating those special effects slow down the pace of moviemaking at all?

It was never evident. Only James and the cameraman and I guess all the process people at Universal—the rest of us never had any inkling of what was going on. We did do a lot of shooting in front of black curtains. Now, I wasn’t on the set when the bandages came off or anything like that, so I have no idea about that. But it was very, very secret. I wasn’t on the set when they were finagling the bandages off, and so forth.

That would’ve been fun to see.

Humphrey Bogart and Mayo MethotYes, it would’ve! Claude [Rains] may have known [how it all worked] but he never said so.

You and your second husband, Arthur Sheekman, were good friends with Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot, his wife at the time. What can you tell us about Bogie that we might not know?
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