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.
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,
Unfortuately 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.
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.
Alfred Hitchcock Tortured His Female Leads
Tippi Hedren was known as an up and coming starlet who got an offer from famous director Alfred Hitchcock. Her lead role in the film, The Birds is still to this day regarded as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces. It was rumored that Hedren was the next Joan Crawford, so what happened to her? Women who were on set as leading ladies claimed that Alfred Hitchcock made a point of terrorizing them. He would make them get into strange positions, force them to wear bondage ties until they bled, or harass them on a near-constant basis. During the filming of The Birds, Hitchcock forced her to work with live birds, leaving scratches and claw marks on Tippi’s face. Hitchcock also would demand his blonde leading ladies to be available to him sexually, and this is where Tippi refused. It’s rumored that Hitchcock ensured she’d never work in that town again…..and she never did.
Elvis Presley Also Had a Thing For Young Girls
Although Elvis seemed to have the solid “bad boy” images under his belt, the truth was he wasn’t really much of a lothario when he was alive. In fact, he was insanely insecure about his sexuality and manhood, meaning that older women with experience scared him off. Since most teen girls didn’t have much experience under their belt, Presley would ask managers to round up girls who were under the age of 16. Even creepier, he’d ask managers to select girls by how attractive their feet were, because he also happened to have a foot fetish.
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.”
Roman Polanski’s Reign
Polanski found himself in the middle of one of Hollywood’s most notorious scandals who was arrested and plead guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Then, to avoid the rape charges, he fled to Paris and continues to live in France and Poland, avoiding U.S request for extradition. Polanski had this to say about the scandal, “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But…fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!”
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.
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.
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.
The Munchkins Molested Judy Garland
The Wizard Of Oz, is one of the most famous films in history, not only for it’s story, but the scandal that surrounds it. According to Judy Garland’s ex-husband, Sid Luft, he explained that many of the little people who were hired as munchkins were “little drunks” who got extremely inebriated every night after taping. It’s also rumored that they would “make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress.” Sadly, Garland is no longer around to set the record straight, so we may never know what really happened on set.
Roscoe Arbuckle, AKA “Fatty” was one of the first mega-stars of the silent film era and was considered on par with Chaplin. However, after a house party in his San Francisco hotel room one evening, all of that came crashing down. After a large amount of alcohol was consumed at the party, a young aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe fell ill and died. A friend of Rappe’s who joined her that evening but was not in the room when her friend fell ill, accused Arbuckle of assaulting the young woman and causing her internal injuries. There were three separate manslaughter trials and he spent a few weeks in jail. Sadly, Arbuckle’s career never recovered from the incident.
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.
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.
Ingrid Bergman’s Italian Affair