During the golden age of Hollywood, secret stories that were happening behind the scenes were more interesting and darker than anything on the silver screen. During this time, Old Hollywood scandals seeped in moral bankruptcy were fueling the creative, administrative and financial branches of the film industry. From studios hooking impressionable kids on drugs to women forced into abortions, old Hollywood was the home of scandals that will certainly change the way you look at it. Many of these scandals were swept under the rug when they happened in an attempt to erase it from history to preserve the legacy of the persons who were involved. In other cases, the public got wind, then, not soon thereafter, simply forgot they even happened in the first place. Here are some of those scandals that the public forgot that reveal the darker side to old Hollywood and it’s stars.
Florence Henderson and Barry Williams Alleged Date
She was Carol Brady. Her oldest on-screen son was Greg Brady. And the actors who played them dated?! In his 1992 autobiography, Williams first talked about taking Mrs. Brady out on a date. Williams said that at the time, Henderson, 20 years his senior, was twice his age. Williams went into great detail, talking of how he picked Henderson up for the date, and even kissed her goodnight — “Which was like, big stuff for me,” Williams said. The revelations raised eyebrows — but Henderson has always insisted the date was “blown way out of proportion.”
Birth Of The Coogan Act
Best known today as the original Uncle Fester, Coogan was a successful child actor. However, when he turned 21, he discovered that the roughly $4 million he had earned was gone, spent by his mother and stepfather. Not only that, but his mother flat-out said that the money was theirs and Jackie would never receive a cent.Coogan took his parents to court but only received $125,000. The trial was highly publicized and led to the California Child Actor’s Bill, commonly known as the Coogan Act.
MGM’s Diet Plan For Judy Garland
Judy Garland had just turned 17 when The Wizard of Oz transformed her into a Hollywood darling. By this time, however, she already had an eating disorder and a drug habit courtesy of MGM.Garland signed with the studio when she was 13 and was promptly deemed too fat to be a star. The studio expected her to diet and work grueling schedules of up to 18 hours a day. To achieve this, Garland was given amphetamines and barbiturates to help with her energy and her hunger.
Death Of Alfalfa
The Little Rascals was a series of over 200 comedy shorts featuring over 40 child actors across its run. One of the most popular characters was Alfalfa, a freckled boy with a cowlick on the top of his head. Hardly the scene for one of the great Hollywood scandals of the time!Carl Switzer, the actor who played Alfalfa, struggled as an adult. He started drinking, his marriage fell apart, and in 1959, he was gunned down trying to collect a $50 debt. Moses Stiltz, the man who shot Switzer, pleaded self-defense and was cleared of all charges. However, in 2000, Stiltz’s stepson, Tom Corrigan, came forward claiming that Stiltz had murdered Switzer.
The Madams Of Hollywood
The public was shocked in the 1990s by the revelations of Heidi Fleiss, the “Hollywood Madam” who had some of the silver screen’s greatest stars as her clients. However, the business has been around for a long time.During the 1930s, Lee Francis ran the “most famous brothel in California,” the Hacienda Arms Apartments on the Sunset Strip. Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Errol Flynn were some of her biggest customers. Police were well-compensated to look the other way.
Joan Crawford Was In At Least One Pornographic Film
As the story goes, MGM spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to track the pornographic film Joan Crawford was in to destroy it. She was one of their biggest stars, so when the studio found out she had starred in the film entitled Velvet Lips as a teenager, probably while underage, the gloves had to come off. MGM’s “fixer”, Eddie Mannic, partnered with the mov to track down extortionists asking $100,000 for the film. The extortionists were given an ultimatum, either accept $25,000 for all the negatives or the mov would kill them and take the negatives. When Joan Crawford left MGM in 1943, she paid the studio $50,000, which was unusual. It was rumored that she was paying the studio back for destroying the negatives to Velvet Lips.
Superman George Reeves Died Mysteriously After an Affair With Hollywood “Fixer” Eddie Mannix’s Wife
In 1959, George Reeves who was the star of Adventures of Superman, was found dead from a bullet to the head. Although his death was ruled by police as a suicide, there were still rumors of foul play, especially because the death followed after his affair with Toni Mannix, the wife of infamous Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix. Years after Reeves’ death, an elderly Toni Mannix was overhead by a friend confessing to a priest that Eddie had Reeves killed.
Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland Had Studio-Pressured Abortions
The biggest belief of the studios was that a bombshell couldn’t get married or, most especially, pregnant. When Jean Harlow became pregnant during an affair with William Powell, the studio arranged for her to enter a hospital to “get some rest”. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Tallulah Bankhead, Jeanette McDonald, Lana Turner, and Dorothy Dandridge all had abortions arranged by the studios, and against their wishes. When virtuous singing sensation Jeanette McDonald found herself pregnant in 1935, MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer told Strickling to “get rid of the problem”. Soon after, McDonald checked into a hospital with an ‘ear infection’.
Jean Harlow’s Husband Committed Suicide Under Suspicious Circumstances
In 1932, Jean Harlow’s husband, producer Paul Bern, apparently died from suicide. His body had been found in their home with a gun in his hand and naked. With him, he had a note that read: “Dearest Dear,
Unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done you and to wipe out my abject humiliation, I Love you. Paul You understand that last night was only a comedy”. The police took this note to be a suicide note and they could not decipher it, given Harlow’s refusal to talk about it other than to say she was at her mother’s house the night of the suicide. MGM quickly made moves to clean up the situation. Head of production, Irving Thalberg, and studio head, Louis B. Mayer, arrived at Harlow’s home the morning the body was found. Years later, research suggests that Ben most likely did NOT commit suicide. Years earlier, while Bern was living in New York, he was romantically involved with struggling actress, Dorothy Millette, who became his common-law wife. Millette fell into a coma and doctors said she would likely never come out of it. Ten years later, Bern was with Harlow, and Millette woke up and contacted him. He set a date to meet with her at his house and he sent Harlow away for the evening. Bern supposedly died the same night he arranged to meet Millette. A few days after Bern died, Millette’s body was found in the Sacramento River. It was believed that she killed him.
Patricia Douglas’ Story
Eddie Mannix was MGM’s real life “fixer” and he often dealt with problems that could ruin the reputation of MGM studios or of the actors involved. In 1937, one of the studio’s young actresses called Patricia Douglas answered a casting call requesting that she show up on May 5th at the studio lot. When she arrived, Douglas and many other girls were given very risque cowgirl outfits. They were promised $7.50 for a day’s work, but when 300 salesmen and executives arrived, the women then realized they had been hired to provide females at a private party. Sadly, Douglass was raped and when she tried to take legal action, Mannix immediately went to take care of potential damage to the studio. The studio payed for statements from other guests saying Patricia was “uncontrollably drunk” and when the court date arrived, none of the lawyers turned up. The federal judge was eventually forced to dismiss the case.
MGM Hooked Judy Garland On Pills
Judy Garland was subjected to endless abuse during her time at MGM. She endured constant harassment from executives, including B Mayer, about losing weight. Because of this, Garland became hooked on diet pills and began starving herself. She joined the studio at the young age of 13, and the comments began shortly after. At age 14, the studio told her she looked like a “fat little pig with pigtails”. At 16, an MGM executive told Garland she was, “so fat she looked like a monster.” At age 18, Mayer pushed Garland on to a diet of black coffee, chicken soup, 80 cigarettes a day, and diet pills every four hours. Unfortunately, this led to Garland living the rest of her life with an eating disorder and drug addiction.
Walt Disney Gave a Nazi Filmmaker a Tour of the Disney Lot
It’s still up to debate whether or not Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. Regardless, he was the only studio head to meet with Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl when she came to Hollywood at the end of 1938 during the wake of Kristallnacht. (During which, German citizens and the military were unleashed on Jewish institutions by the government and permitted to burn synagogues and destroy Jewish homes and businesses). Only three people met this filmmaker at the airport, despite her reputation as a filmmaker. During this time, her most notorious film, Triumph of the Will was known around the world in which it depicted a cinematic veneration of Hitler and the Nazi party. On December 3rd, Walt Disney took Riefenstahl on a three-hour tour of his lot to show her early sketches of Fantasia. He also arranged a screening of her upcoming documentary entitled, Olympia, about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Charlie Chaplin Was Exiled From America and Was Obsessed With Young Girls
Very few people forget the scandalous headlines that swirled around Chaplin later in his career. In 1952, long after the reign of the silent era, the comedian was harassed by U.S Attorney General James P. McGranery, who believed Chaplin was anti-American. Due to this, McGranery banned Chaplin from re-entering the country following the European press tour for his last film, Limelight. Charlie Chaplin eventually surrendered his permit for re-entry and refused to step foot back in the country until he received his honorary Academy Award in 1972. Chaplin also had a darker secret, that being he was obsessed with young girls. Chaplin was 29 when he was married to his first wife, who was only 16. The marriage was short-lived and proceeding that marriage, Chaplin moved onto his second marriage with another 16 year old girl. The second marriage also ended in divorce and the second wife alleged that Chaplin tried to force her to have an abortion. Regardless, he got married two more times, the third to another young woman and the fourth time, an 18 year old girl, while he was in his 50s. Looks like for Chaplin, the fourth was the charm because he stayed with her until his death.
A Girl Threw Herself From The Hollywood Sign After Only A Summer In Hollywood
Peg Entwhistle was a successful actress on Broadway as a teenager. Because of this, she decided to move to Los Angeles during the height of the Great Depression, in 1932, to pursue her dream of being a movie star. Although she booked small roles in some films and theaters, nothing much came of Entwhistle’s career in the summer after her Los Angeles theater debut. On September 18, 1932, Entwhistle hiked to the Hollywood sign, climbed a ladder on the “H”, and threw herself down it. A nearby hiker found her purse, and inside was a note saying, “I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.” The emerging tabloids gave Entwhistle the name as “The Hollywood Sign Girl.”
Many People Died Filming Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels
The production of this movie was the most troubled in the entire history of Hollywood. It took about three years to film and it cost $3,000,000 which was an INCREDIBLE sum at the time. Hughes wanted impossibly realistic aerial footage and insisted pilots try dangerous stunts and maneuvers.The work on ONE scene in the movie cost the lives of three pilots and a mechanic.
Lana Turner’s Mafioso Lover Was Stabbed By Her 14 Year-Old Daughter
Lana Turner was famed for her femme fatale roles, but in the end she ended up living a dark murder tale of her own. In 1958, her boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, a mobster, was found stabbed to death in Turner’s home. It was in fact, 14 year-old Cheryl Crane who took the butcher’s knife and committed the murder. The LA Times writes, “Cheryl Crane, whose father was restaurateur Stephen Crane, said she stabbed Stompanato to protect her mother from what she thought was Stompanato’s homicidal rage. The killing led to what was surely the most titillating in L.A.’s history of colorful coroner’s inquests.”
Thomas Ince’s Death
Although you may not recognize his name now, but back in the day Hollywood headlines were abuzz with the scandal surrounding his death. Ince was the backbone behind setting up the whole studio system and he was named, “Father of the Western.” It is said that his death was the result of a tragic accident while he was out at a party with his famous friends on the yacht owned by big media mogul, William Randolph Hearst. Also at this party, was famous silent film actor, Charlie Chaplin. The official story is that Ince became ill as the party went on and he was escorted home by a doctor, where he died the next morning. However, there are conflicting reports from guests that claim he was the victim of mistaken identity and was shot by Hearst thinking it was Chaplin making a move on Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. Although this theory isn’t confirmed, it is still a hot debate for anyone who remembers this tragedy.
Joan Bennett’s Jealous Husband
Joan Bennett found success when she was in Little Women alongside Katharine Hepburn. She went on to marry the film’s producer, Walter Wanger. After meeting with her agent one day, Jennings Lang, Wanger drove by and saw Lang leaning on the actress’s car and chatting with her. Seeing this, he flew into a jealous rage and he rushed over to them and began firing a gun. Officers immediately took Wanger into custody and he served a four month jail sentence. Bennett claims her husband was in the midst of a nervous breakdown due to financial stress.
Ingrid Bergman’s Italian Affair
You probably know Ingrid Bergman from Casablanca and although she may seem too glamorous to ever appear in the headlines of tabloids when she was at her peak, she found herself pregnant outside her marriage and managed to be one of the biggest scandals in Hollywood.Bergman met Italian director Roberto Rossellini while filming Stromboli and they began a relationship even though they were married to other people. Although she filed for divorce before the birth of their son, the U.S audience was so shocked by the entire ordeal that members of the government went on the record and began calling her “vile and unspeakable”. Luckily, she was able to rebuild her reputation and earn herself a second Academy Award for Anastasia.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Many Lovers
Elizabeth Taylor had been through eight marriages, including two to the same man, but there is more than just marriage to her love adventures. One of these adventures being in the late 1950s when her third husband, director Mike Todd, lost his life in a plane crash. Not long after this upsetting event, the actress began an affair with Todd’s close friend, Eddie Fisher. All would have been well, had Fisher not been married to actress and close friend of Taylor, Debbie Reynolds. This is known as one of the biggest Hollywood scandals IN HISTORY! Fisher then divorced Reynolds and married Taylor. However, that marriage didn’t last long either, as Taylor eventually left Fisher for Richard Burton.
Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich Probably Had An Affair
The two actresses had a lot in common. They were only four years apart in age, they both came from Europe around the same time, and both were rumored to be bisexual. Yet, for most of their careers, they denied ever having met one another. In 1925, at the age of 19, Garbo appeared in silent German film The Joyless Street, apparently alongside Dietrich who was 23 at the time. However, Dietrich consistently denied having been in the film, and since no prints of it survived, it was hard for anyone to say what was true. Dietrich was a well-known, promiscuous bisexual on the Berlin theater scene during the days of the Weimar Republic. According to author and film historian, Diana McLellan, Garbo and Dietrich had a torrid affair while filming The Joyless Street. The young Garbo fell head-over-heels for Dietrich who had no intent of creating a lasting relationship with the young woman. The affair burned bright and left both actresses embittered for life. Dietrich later confided in friend and writer Sam Taylor that Garbo was an unintelligent, “Scandinavian child” who wore dirty underwear. YIKES!
Clara Bow’s Spilled Secrets
The original Hollywood “It Girl” unfortunately made the mistake of putting her trust in secretary, Daisy Devoe as her financial assistant and confidante during her rise to fame. After she became one of the world’s most loved stars, Bow was threatened with blackmail by Devoe, who leaked false facts about the actress’s personal life. A tabloid magazine called Coast Reporter soon began printing rumors detailing Bow’s promiscuity and made big allegations such as bestiality and an unfortunate story involving the entire USC football team. Eventually, the publisher and Devoe were throw into jail, but unfortunately for Bow, she was unable to reclaim her status and quietly retired from the film industry.
Errol Flynn Went After Teenage Girls
During the 40s, Errol Flynn was at the peak of his career in Hollywood. In September that year, a party was held where Flynn met the 17-year old Betty Hansen. The girl wanted to make her way to stardom and at one point during the evening, she was seduced by Flynn. The next day, Hansen told her sister she was seduced by the actor and the case soon went to court. Flynn was arrested in October and the trial made a huge scandal. The story then saw the phrase, “In Like Flynn” enter the American vocabulary.
Clark Gable’s Secret Daughter
While starring in 1935’s The Call Of the Wild with Loretta Young,the leading man, Clark Gable, had an extramarital relationship with his co-star which resulted in a daughter. Knowing that a scandal like this would hinder both of their careers, Young attempted to conceal the baby through an elaborate plot that revolved around leaving the country “for a holiday” when she started to show. Then, she would give birth in California, take the child to an orphanage, and then “adopt” the infant. She named the baby Judith, after St. Jude, the patron saint of “hopeless, cases, and of things almost despaired of.” Despite Young’s trials, Judith’s true father was known throughout most Hollywood circles because she ended up inheriting Gable’s famous ears.