Sunday, December 4, 2016

Black and White - A Poetic Love Letter

What is it about those films of the 1930’s that makes movie fans all over the world open their hearts and willingly step into a unique place and time all its own? No matter how much time passes or how the world changes, these films continue to speak to a universal longing that spans cultures and time.

I recently asked my friends at FlickChick’s Movie Playground on Facebook to describe the allure of those magical films from that magical era in 3 words or less. With their help, I offer up a little love letter to all of those films, large and small, great and not-so great. Here we go!

Black and White
Take me away
Glamour hides hurt
Tuxes and talent
Gangsters and gold-diggers
All so elegant
Lighthearted and charming
Stories told succinctly
Stars, style, sets
Beauty and danger
You know the way
To my Heart
To my Imagination 

Escape from reality
Sparkle and wit
Nick and Nora
Groucho, Chico, Harpo.
Bette and Joan
Cagney and Kay
Kate and Coop

Artisans at work
Factory made dreams
A moment in time
Forever and unchanging
Blissfully the same
You are there
Always for me
And me alone
Alone in the dark
Black and White
Beautiful to me.

Many thanks for the following for their inspiration and participation: Tina, Antoinette, Kevin, Dee, Patricia, J.  Steve, Maggie, Rosanne, Tracey, Melanie, Darlene, Mary N, Sandra, M.A., Alicia, Mike, Christine, Susan, Ann, Stacy, Russell, Julie, Lynn, Vince, Rosemarie, Greg, Margie, Mary M., Ellen and Tracy.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sunny (1930): Bareback Rider Plays Marriage Merry-Go-Round

This is my entry in the Circus Blogathon hosted by Critica Retro and  Serendipitous Anachronisms. Click HERE for more Big Top excitement!

Sunny (1930)
Sunny in her circus costume. Wasn't she a pretty little bareback rider?

"Sunny" started out with high hopes. It was based upon a successful Broadway show, had a score by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and starred its original Broadway star, the great Marilyn Miller. Once sound films swept the nation, musicals and stage stars flooded the theaters. 

Marilyn Miller
Marilyn Miller was one of the musical theater's greatest stars and she seemed a natural for film. She was lured to Hollywood by Warner Brothers (Jack specifically, with whom she had a cozy relationship) and paid a then astronomical figure of $100,000 to film her greatest sage hit, "Sally." It was a smash and Warners quickly planned to film another of Marilyn's stage hits, "Sunny."

Marilyn Miller in her stage consume as "Sunny."
More circus and less glamour than the film version
Sadly, by the time "Sunny" was ready for release, the onslaught of musicals (specifically bad musicals) resulted in a public backlash against the genre. Too much of a bad thing set "Sunny" back and the result was a musical without hardly any music. Since the music was the whole point of the show, movie-goers were left with a "Sunny" featuring a silly and paper-thin story (British circus performer loves an engaged man, stows away on a ship to America and marries another man to gain entry and then divorces said man and gets her guy) without the music to support it. To add insult to injury, the leading man (Lawrence Gray) is a pill. Imagine if it was Fred Astaire......

Sunny waits for her Prince Charming
Still, "Sunny" has much to offer, chiefly the lovely Miss Miller. No matter how much Warners may have wanted to cut the musical numbers, it was unthinkable to put their star in a movie without several dance numbers. And this is where she shines. I offer you exhibit #1 below. When she says' "let's have some fun, you can see she really means it. 

They also could not omit the show's hit number "Who?" Marilyn wasn't a great singer, but the poor quality of the sound doesn't do her any favors. Still, her star power gets her through. Here she is with the uninspiring Mr. Gray.

Personally, I found Marilyn's performance in "Sunny" even more appealing than her performance in "Sally." She comes across as quite an adorable and cheeky woman and looked lovely once she was adorned in her non-stowaway clothes. It's a shame that there was only one more film in store for Marilyn before she headed back to Broadway. I thought she had quite a nice comic touch when not trying to play the innocent.

Another joy is the inclusion of Joe Donahue as the hapless fellow who Sunny marries and then divorces. Joe was the brother of Jack Donahue, a favorite stage dancing partner of Marilyn Miller. While his film career was pretty non-existent, he and Marilyn pair comfortably in "When We Get Our Divorce." Since I can't find a stand alone clip of their dance, I am posting the entire film and ask you to go to 58:17 to see this delightful pairing.

Sadly, much of the music was cut cut from the film before release in the US. The existing version of "Sunny" is pretty tattered and badly in need of preservation. A full musical version of this film that included the entire original score was released outside of the US (where they apparently had not yet tired of musicals). Oh, if only this version would surface!
Sunny dreaming of fleeing the circus and winning her man
After one more (non-musical) film, Marilyn Miller returned to Broadway in the aptly named "As Thousands Cheer." Sadly, she would die in 1936 at age 37. Still, the legacy of the darling little circus girl, Sunny, still lives on. If you happen to be in New York City at the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, look up. She is there surveying her kingdom of Broadway.

Interested in knowing more about Marilyn Miller? Check out "The Other Marilyn," by Warren G. Harris.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hollywood on Hollywood Blogathon: Hollywood Steps Out

This is my entry in the CMBA Hollywood on Hollywood Blogathon. Click HERE to read more about films that focus on our favorite town in the world.

Hollywood Steps Out (1941)

Before I ever saw Ann Sheridan,  George Raft and even Greta Garbo in a movie, I knew who they were because of the Warner Brothers Merrie Meoldies cartoon "Hollywood Steps Out."

According to Wikipedia, this 1941 $50 meal would run
approximately $804 today
On a "typical" night at Ciro's, more stars than there were in heaven graced that famous watering hole. When I asked my mother "who's that?" she identified the star and their reputation as lampooned in the cartoon.

Ann Sheridan? She was known as "The Oomph Girl" because she had lots of sex appeal.

The "Oomph Girl" and Edward G. Robinson

Greta Garbo? She was a Swedish star known for her big feet. Cary Grant? He used to say "Judy, Judy, Judy."
Garbo uses her large shoes to light a match for Cary Grant.
In real life, Garbo only wore a size 8 shoes.
Speaking of Garbo, I love her reaction when Harpo gives her a hot foot:

Bing Crosby? He was a singer who liked to go to the racetrack. He is the guy who hosts "The Hollywood Palace."
Crosby and his favorite pastime
George Raft? He was a tough guy actor who became famous flipping a coin.
Tough guys Cagney, Bogart and Raft share a moment
Favorites like Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Buster Keaton appear.
Mickey and Judy at their "Andy Hardy" best
Buster Keaton, Arthur Treacher and Boris Karloff
looking as happy as possible.
Dorothy Lamour was famous for wearing a sarong and James Stewart played the shy types.

And a night at Ciro's would not be complete without these guys. I did not need my mother to identify them!
No party is complete without the Stooges
Naturally, a wolf (namely Clark Gable) is on the prowl, but his prey is not exactly who he thought "she" was!
Gable's back and Groucho's got him!
There are many more stars and even an appearance "gee"man, J. Edgar Hoover!

William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Gilbert Roland, Errol Flynn,
Wallace Beery and C. Aubrey Smith admire the ladies.

Head "G" Man J. Edgar Hoover
Henry Fonda

In a way, this little cartoon was my introduction to a whole host of Hollywood stars and the mystique of Tinsel Town. It was all done with affection and admiration. 

Please, sit back and enjoy this little gem. I just love it!

Voices were provided by this talented trio:

Kent Rogers (Cary Grant, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Ned Sparks, Bing Crosby, James Stewart, Clark Gable, Kay Kyser, J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Fonda and Groucho Marx)

Mel Blanc (Jerry Colona, Peter Lorre)

Sara Berner (Greta Garbo, Ann Sheridan, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour and Henry Fonda's mother)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Great Dictator: Beware of Buffoons

This is my entry in the Dual Roles Blogathon hosted by the great bloggers at Christina Wehner: Classic Movies, Musicals, Old Books and the Great American Songbook and Silver Screenings. Check both sites for more fabulous cinematic doubles.


In one of history's greatest ironies, the world's most evil man shared a distinctive mustache with a cinematic symbol of compassion, humor and humanity. Most movie stars would have shied away from the comparison, but Chaplin pursued it and, in "The Great Dictator," created one of the most courageous cinematic statements against fascism and its accompanying terror.

In the Ghetto...

While the Jewish Barber is not the Little Tramp, they share some similarities. Aside from a physical likeness, they are kindly citizens and tender of heart.

A WWI hero, the barber returns home to Tomainia with amnesia. His country is changing. He is philosophical, this gentle soul and tries to make the best of the bad situation. The country he fought for would never harm him, would it?

The barber even manages to find love in the ghetto. His scenes with Paulette Goddard are quite charming. The Tramp was no stranger to romance, and the barber is his soul mate in this respect.

Chaplin adds a barber-ballet with old Keystone buddy, Chester Conklin, and it's a nostalgic delight -no words necessary.


A mirror image in life and a negative image of the soul, Adenoid Hynkle, dictator of Tomainia, is at work on his plan to take over the world. 

Adenoid Hynkle is a bigot, a bully, a braggart and a danger to civilization. When audiences see Hynkle, they know it is Hitler.

Bullies need friends, and just as Hitler  needed Mussolini, Hynkle joins forces with the dictator of Bacteria, Benzino Napaloni. Napaloni, the buffoon, is played to perfection by Jack Oakie, and his scenes with Chaplin are some of the film's funniest. 

The switch

And yes, the doubles are switched. Not to give to much away, but Hynkle, out of uniform and shooting ducks, is mistaken for the barber and shot. The barber is enlisted to take his place. Good replaces evil and hope is restored.

The Great Dictator, made at a time when the United States was not officially at war with Germany and before the public was fully aware of the horrors of the concentration camps, was an exercise in great courage. Hitler and Mussolini might well have been viewed as buffoons, worthy of ridicule and a chuckle. Chaplin truly put his beliefs on full display. The comedy is unforgettable, but the message is important and timeless, even more so in these perilous times:                       

The Great Dictator was Chaplin's first full sound film and he chose to use his voice in the most powerful way possible -  with humor and deep conviction. He remained true to himself and spoke the truth and provided the world with a great film and a tale still too relevant in these times.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sunset Boulevard: But What about the Monkey?

No, I don't think he committed suicide.....
I can’t help it. I want to know more about Norma Desmond’s monkey.

Monkey, we hardly knew you.....
Oh sure, we know he’s dead, and that he serves as the plot device to get Joe Gillis into Norma’s cage, but, really, who was he? Was he, as Joe guesses, a distant relative of Cheetah? What was his name? Was he a movie star? Was he rescued from a circus? How did he and Norma meet? Was he even a “he”? After all, she did want to line the coffin in pink.

Yeah, yeah, he’s the crystal ball into which Joe can see his future – becoming Norma’s new monkey (remember that dream he has about the organ grinder and the monkey?). But, I’d really like to know more about him. Did he like bananas for breakfast? Was he a clever and urbane conversationalist? Was he able to mix Norma’s favorite cocktail? Did he and Max get along? Did he have a smoking jacket?
Could Monkey hold his liquor?
Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the monkey moves the plot along. But unlike those serviceable characters that are expendable, the monkey is missed. 
Did Monkey help Norma with Salome?
Imagine if he had lived! He could have advised Joe NOT to get the vicuna. And, he might have helped Joe keep his clandestine meetings with a little more discrete. Even better, he might have helped Joe escape (after helping him punch up Norma’s Salome).

The New Year's Eve before the end,,,,,,,
I imagine that chimp being quite extraordinary in all ways. Norma was a great star who had great demands (3 husbands!) And yet, she mourned that monkey. His death left a hole in the happy little threesome that we never got to see.
Monkey had refined table manners,
which I'm sure Norma and Max appreciated

Billy Wilder reportedly kept telling Gloria Swanson that Norma was doing the monkey, but I’m not buying it. I picture the monkey as more of an Oscar Wilde type – witty, charming and possibly gay. Written in the margins of Sunset Boulevard’s main story is the story of an unnamed monkey who died in luxury but whose life remains a mystery.
Norma in her monkey fur coat. Could this have been a relative?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cafe Society: Woody Allen Channels Billy Wilder

Warning! Spoilers ahead.

There I was, blissfully enjoying “Café Society,” Woody Allen’s latest film, on its own merits. The setting of Hollywood in the golden 1930s was a home run for me and the characters and plot were pure Woody – whose work I always enjoy. So, imagine the extra  jolt of pleasure when I started seeing similarities to one of my favorite films, Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment.”

Buddy Boy and Bobby - 2 up and comers

Allen’s hero Bobby (played by Jesse Eisenberg, an acceptable Woody-stand-in) is a young man of ambition, wanting to leave the hum-drum fate that would surely be his by following his father’s footsteps in Brooklyn, to the glamour of Hollywood. Lucky for him, his uncle Phil (Steve Carell, who just seems too nice) is a big shot agent. Like C.C. Baxter, he is a young man who is eager to succeed.

Uncle Phil and Mr. Sheldrake - bosses with benefits

After some false starts, Bobby finds a place in his Uncle’s office,  but the place he would like to be most comfortable is in the arms of his Uncle’s lovely assistant, Vonnie. Vonnie clearly likes Bobby and the 2 become good friends. Bobby wants more and Vonnie holds back. She has a boyfriend. And so, like CC Baxter waiting outside the Music Man for Fran Kubelik, Bobby waits for a romantic dinner with Vonnie. But both ladies had other plans.

I was riding along on a single track with Woody when the breath was knocked out of me a bit as Vonnie met in a darkened restaurant with her lover, who just happens to be Bobby’s Uncle Phil – Vonnie’s boss and Bobby’s, too. It was the same breathless reaction I had when Miss Kubelik meets Mr. Sheldrake for the first time. A little shocked, a little sad.

Kristen Stewart as Vonnie steals the show. Like Shirley Maclaine, but not at all like Shirley Maclaine, she is different from the other girls, She is genuine and unique in a world of bland prettiness.

As Vonnie keeps her double life secret, both Bobby and Phil pursue her. Unlike the cad Sheldrake, Phil actually does leave his wife, but not before he does much soul searching (Woody is never as cynical as Billy Wilder).  In both films, an important item sets our clueless heroes straight. For CC Baxter, a broken compact reveals the heartbreaking truth that the girl of his dreams in having an affair with her married boss. 

For Bobby, a framed letter love letter from Rudolph Valentino to an unnamed amour that sits on Uncle Phil’s desk provides the same shattering realization. In the end, Vonnie chooses Phil and Bobby’s hopes are crushed. What if Sheldrake had left his wife for Fran? “Café Society” presents an alternate view of “The Apartment’s” triangle, a photograph in negative.

Vonnie embraces her choice; Fran dodges a bullet

The break-up only reinforces Bobby's need to return to New York where, working with his gangster brother, he helps run a fashionable night club. His rough edges get polished, his confidence grows and he even marries a beautiful shiksa goddess (whose name is also Veronica – go figure - and played by an impossibly nice Blake Lively). All is well (well, except that the brother is executed) when, years later, Phil and Vonnie visit the café and old memories, never far from the surface, are again stirred. It all culminates at a New Year’s Eve party, just like in “The Apartment,” but instead of a happy ending for the lovers, both are left with the melancholy longing for the road not traveled.

The choices made by the characters in both films determine the outcome. Phil chooses to change his life for Vonnie and his decision made her chose him. Sheldrake, tossed out by his wife, chooses Fran by default, but she chooses CC Baxter. Fran remains true to her self, while Vonnie changes (as most people do). While Woody is more romantic than Wilder, he is also a sadder and wiser realist operating in a sadder and wiser world. In 1960, perhaps there was hope that CC and Fran would make a go of it and stay the same sweet kids who leave us playing gin. In 2016, we know it is most likely that Vonnie and Bobby would not risk all for love without a gilt-edged guarantee.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Hollywood Mystery: The Whole Story

A Hollywood Mystery
This story of murder, intrigue, mystery and Hollywood glamour is the result of a fun-filled weekly collaboration of many blogging and Facebook friends. Each contributed a chapter until the mystery was solved. One thing they all have in common - they love classic films and a good mystery! Many thanks to all the writers. It was great fun!

Part 1

It was a busy Saturday night at the Brown Derby. Hedda held court in one booth, Louella in another (a respectable distance apart, of course). Current King of Hollywood Clark Gable and new bride Carole Lombard had their heads together like the lovebirds they were. Clark had just finished shooting the highly anticipated “Gone with the Wind” and was looking forward to spending some much needed alone-time with his wife before going off to the Atlanta premier. Clark’s co-star Vivien Leigh and her companion, Laurence Olivier, were deep in conversation in a dark corner and a bored Paulette Goddard toyed with her luscious diamond and emerald bracelet while husband Charlie Chaplin and best pal, and past King of Hollywood, Douglas Fairbanks reminisced about the old days. Doug was with new wife, Sylvia, who Charlie only tolerated. Paulette liked her just fine, but was hoping Doug’s ex, Mary Pickford, would stroll in with her pretty hubby, Buddy Rogers, just to add some spice to the evening. Money men, producers and directors chatted about their next projects and everyone eyed everyone else to make sure they missed nothing.

Sitting below the caricatures of himself and Groucho Marx were Cary Grant and his usual date, Phyllis Brooks. Miss Brooks was a pretty blonde and a good, undemanding companion – just what Cary needed after a busy year of filming “Gunga Din,” “Only Angels have Wings,” and “In Name Only.” They were enjoying their dinner of Spaghetti and veal cutlets when suddenly a waiter ran from the kitchen out onto the restaurant floor. His jacket was covered in blood and, before he could utter a word, he collapsed, dead, right at Louella Parson’s feet. All in attendance here horrified, Hedda was steamed, and it became quite clear that there would be no desert served that night.

Management and wait staff attempted to escort everyone out of the restaurant.  Startled stars wandered out onto North Vine Street, while Louella and Hedda had to be forcibly removed before the police came. Cary and Phyllis were among the amazed crowd that lingered in front of the restaurant. Cary thought it best to go home and leave things to the police, but Phyllis wanted to stay. “Why, Phyllis?” he asked. “What can we do except get in the way?” Phyllis started to speak, but her speech was muffled by the sobs she had been suppressing.  “We can’t leave”, she managed, “not just yet. That waiter - I know him.”

To be continued…….
Submitted by Marsha Collock

Part 2

Phyllis looked up at Cary, her teary eyes held his gaze. "You see...I know him from...."
Just then a long black limousine stopped in front of them. A handsome chauffeur got out of the driver side and came around to open the passenger door. Another handsome man in a tuxedo came out and assisted Mae West out of the car. Her long satin gown was the color of moonlight in evening. "Hey Cary, what's going on? This place looks deader than a temperance meeting on St. Patrick's Day."

"A waiter was killed here tonight Mae, we were just leaving," he said, taking Phyllis's hand in his.
"Oh, I missed all the drama. Let's go to the Coconut Grove then," Mae said looking up at her date.

Out of the shadows a lone figure walked up to the two couples. He smelled of alcohol and was hiding something in his pocket. He stopped and swayed a little on his feet. 

"Any a youse got a quarter for some coffee?" He slurred. Mae took a quarter out of her beaded hand bag and gave it to him. "Thanks lady." He handed her a folded note and said, "You'll want to read that, it's important" as he walked back into the shadows.
To be continued…….

Submitted by Tracey Witt

Part 3

And, earlier that day….

Charlie Chaplin steered his Pierce-Arrow south on Vine and turned left onto Sunset Boulevard.  He swerved around the corner to view scores of hopeful actors lined up outside of Chaplin Studios.  They were all there for the same purpose -- to audition for a handful of small parts in Chaplin’s new controversial film, The Great Dictator.  The crowd of actors moved away from the studio gate and allowed the pale blue convertible to pass -- the aspirants all stretching to catch a glimpse of the great Chaplin.

Once inside, Carl Voss waited patiently as other actor’s names were called before his. “Another cattle call.  It never ends,” said Carl to a familiar looking mug in the next seat.  There were so many actors, and so few roles.  Chaplin, forever the perfectionist, took his time, hand selecting his choices for even the smallest of parts.  The hours passed and still Carl waited.  He knew he would soon have to leave if he was to be on time for work or he would pay the consequences. 

Like other actors, Carl had to support himself between gigs.  After all, he hadn’t had a paying part since his bit role in Little Miss Broadway, and that was months ago.  The sweet Shirley Temple film had helped to launch Phyllis’ career to the next level.  So much so, that she had moved on to a better social circle and left poor Carl flat -- brokenhearted and struggling.  Phyllis really thought she was the cat’s meow since she caught Cary Grant’s eye.  She was all dolled up and rubbing elbows with the right crowd now.  Grant not only had the looks; he had deep pockets.  Carl felt double crossed, but he still carried a torch for Phyllis and he wouldn’t give up.  Carl felt sure that this new film would bring him a perfect opportunity and his life would take a new direction.  If Chaplin only knew about his past he would know that Carl was made for this picture. So much was riding on his success.  Carl just needed one good break so he would no longer have to wait tables at… The Brown Derby.  Sure, it helped pay the bills, and it allowed him to network with some of Hollywood’s highest royalty, but Johnny, the abusive head waiter, seemed to have some kind of beef with Carl.  It started over a waitress named Betty.  Johnny had eyes for the little brunette tomato who liked to flirt with Carl even though she wasn’t Carl’s type.  Carl had to get out of there.  He wasn’t going to take it anymore.  Just one lucky break was all he needed to steal the show.  Then Phyllis would come back.  He knew it.

The clock ticked.  It was now 4:27.  Carl would have to leave soon if he were to race the 2 blocks to The Derby and still sign in before 5:00.  He desperately wanted a part in Chaplin’s new film.  Carl opened his portfolio and removed a small piece of stationery.  He carefully crafted his note and then made his way to the receptionist’s desk.  “Hello, my name is Carl Voss.  Miss West asked Mr. Chaplin to see me today,” he said to the efficient looking woman behind the desk.   She looked back at him with an expression of disinterest.  “Mr. Chaplin is currently engaged in the last audition of the day.  You’ll have to come back tomorrow,” she said.  “Please,” Carl urged, “I wonder if you would be so kind as to give Mr. Chaplin this note.  Please!”

Carl ran out the door and hurried up Sunset Boulevard toward Vine.  Then – a lucky break.  A jalopy slowed and blasted the horn.  “Hey, Hotshot! You headed to work? Hop in.  I’ll give you a ride!”  It was Carl’s old pal Alan – another aspiring actor/waiter.  “Aw go chase yourself!” Carl called back laughing.  Carl and Al were chums from way back.  Phyllis had introduced them at an audition and they ended up sharing a bungalow for a while.  Al was a swell guy even if he had done some time in the big house – something about getting even with a guy for not paying some gambling debts.  Carl didn’t want anything to do with it.  But hey, sometimes it’s good to have a pal who’s packing heat.  Carl vaulted into the car and they sped toward the Derby making it to work with time to spare.

To be continued…..
Submitted by Elaine Mosher


Mae was not in the least bit surprised by the inebriated stranger who had staggered over to her as she stood outside The Brown Derby with her date, Roy, Cary Grant and his starlet of the month Phyllis Brooks.  She was accustomed to having strangers approach her for an autograph, a hand out, even asking for a small part in one of her movies.  She took the note with her gloved hand and stuffed it in her beaded purse which had just enough room in it for some lipstick and a gold compact. The purse had been a gift from W.C. Fields. He had it sent to Mae after the movie, "My Little Chickadee" had finished filming its last scene.  It was that horrid man's attempt at an apology for the way she had been treated by Universal. The nerve of those big shots they had the gall to give both Mae and Fields equal screen writing credit for the movie. Everyone in Hollywood knew that Mae had written the original screenplay.  Now after waiting for an hour in her limousine for traffic to clear and start moving all she wanted to do was go home...she had a note to read. 

"Phyllis darling," "Calm yourself" said Cary with concern in his voice. "What did you mean when you said,"  "I know that waiter from"... after what seemed like an eternity they had finally arrived at her modest apartment in Burbank. Phyll, as Cary liked to call her, nervously paced the living room floor while smoking a cigarette. "He is, I mean, he used to be my husband." she sobbed.  

Instead of going straight to The Brown Derby from the auditions, Al had made a stop to talk to an "acquaintance" of his. Carl, was impatiently waiting in the car for Al to finish talking to the beefy guy in the pin stripe suit. The guy’s name was Mick De La Rosa.  Carl had seen him hanging around the back entrance of The Brown Derby. Waiters had set up a couple of tables and chairs outside and would take their breaks in the smelly alley.  Al was a swell guy but the crowd he hung out with made Carl’s skin crawl.  After waiting for 30 minutes Carl jumped out of the car and hurriedly made his way to The Brown Derby...

To be continued……
 Submitted by Tina Cosio

Part 5

Solitude.  Sometimes all a girl wants is some alone time.  Mae West had sent her insistent beau of the evening off to his own devices.  Having slipped into a comfortable, yet showy kimono Mae surveyed her luxurious art deco living room with satisfaction.  She had worked long and hard for her success, and she enjoyed it.  The bear rug, three paneled mirror and meticulously cared for porcelain knick-knacks were signs that she had made it.  The small beaded bag she had taken with her for the evening's entertainment lay on the silken upholstered divan.  Inside was the start of something big.  She could sense it.  She was never wrong.  Slowly she poured herself a glass of perrie in a Waterford cut glass and circled the bag as if circling an admiring swain.  Anticipation was often the greatest part of pleasure.

Barely an hour had passed since the scene out front of the Brown Derby.  The well-dressed coterie Hollywood's elite shell-shocked and wondering how to react in front of the press and the police with no script to follow and no director to provide motivation.  If only she could have gotten inside to see the body.  Surely the radio would have the story by now.  The top-of-the-line Crosley model 639M had a console to match Mae's luxurious taste and worked at the push of a button with no muss or fuss.

"It appears that the murdered man was not an employee of the restaurant after all, despite his attire.  According to police sources no identification was found on the body.  Witnesses are being unco-operative at the present time.  Sources close to the scene have disclosed a possible gangland connection to the incident.  We will update you with further news should it become available."

Mae turned the radio off and stretched out her full 5' frame on the antique lounge.  Another sip from the chilled glass and now to see what Henry  had to say for himself.  She was the only one of the group, too spellbound by the trouble to recognize dear old H.B. Warner on one of his toots.  Mae shook her head.  Warner was getting lots of work these days, why would he risk it in such a way?

The note was slightly crumpled from having been quickly tossed into the crowded bag.  The writing, however, showed an educated and practiced hand.  It read ...

"When is a marriage not really a marriage."

More hastily scrawled at the bottom, as if an afterthought:

"Someone likes to gamble."

Mae smiled softly and hummed a little tune.  A phony marriage?  Gamblers?  Wouldn't the police like to know?  Well maybe she'd tell them, but maybe first she'd do the Torchy Blane act and bring the cops the solution to this crime on a silver platter.  There wasn't anyone in this town she didn't know and nothing Mae West couldn't do.  Plus, she had just the outfit for a lady detective!

To be continued……
Submitted by Patricia Nolan-Hall

Part 6

Cary cradled Phyll in his arms. "Is there more that you want to tell me?" Cary gently asked her. 
Phyllis wanted to forget everything she had ever Phyllis wanted to forget everything she had ever known about her ex-husband. The memory of the days of being in love with him and living the good life had been erased by the events preceding the end of their marriage.  He had become involved with unsavory characters who were a threat to her career as well as her life. She did not want to reveal his real identity, but she did feel some obligation to tell Cary more. After all, they had just seen him murdered. And, Phyllis had as many questions as answers.

"I'm not sure what to tell you," she began. "You see, my own life is in danger if I tell all that I know. Bill, my ex, was known by the elite of the Hollywood community early in his career; he was much older than I and knew some of the most elite stars in Hollywood. I don't know much about his life before me. But his star had faded, and many of his so-called friends had forgotten him. He was devastated that he could no longer get work in Hollywood and began to drink heavily and gamble. His drinking led to...well, let's just say, I divorced him so that I could go on with my life. I suppose I should have kept in touch with him, but I didn't, and now ... well, now I may not ever know what really happened to him...or who he was involved with. Oh, Cary, what should I do?"

To be continued...
Submitted by Linda Thacker

Part 7: 

Cary was reeling. In the space of just under an hour he had witnessed a man dying, learned that the dead waiter was a former movie star and that Phyllis was once married to him. And, to make matters worse, she felt her life was in danger. He wanted to help, really he did, but he was not thinking clearly because earlier that night….
Cary had arranged to meet Phyllis at the Brown Derby at 7. Normally he would have done the gentlemanly thing and called for her, but both of them were meeting directly after a long day before the cameras and meeting at the Derby for dinner seemed easier. Cary arrived at about 6:30. Minutes later an assembled crowd of notable guests entered into the Brown Derby. Among these were John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore. John, needing a pre-dinner alcoholic pick-me-up, saw Cary and asked him to join him at the bar. Cary was thrilled – he admired John Barrymore so much, and soon found himself engaged in a vodka-fueled conversation. John was only getting started, but after 2 drinks, Cary was feeling a bit buzzed. While he and John dished the Hollywood dirt, Cary noticed that many of the restaurants patrons were tying one on. In particular, he noticed Mae West’s old pal, H.B. Warner getting ready to go on one of his famous toots.
Back in the main lounge at the Brown Derby, Ethel and Lionel became concerned over John’s disappearance to the bar. They thought he might have forgotten where their table was in the large restaurant, but after a half hour of waiting, John was nowhere to be found. Ethel began to worry about her little brother. "Oh no, I hope he's alright" she said, but Lionel knew brother Jack was either drunk or flirting with some starlet or both. Forty minutes had passed and John still had not returned. Ethel spied Phyllis Brooks sitting by herself, patiently waiting for her date. "I must go and see where John is" said a worried Ethel. “Stay here, “said Lionel, “I’ll get him – as usual.” Lionel scanned every section of the Brown Derby for John and Cary, but they were nowhere to be found. Lionel was now starting to worry. Just as he was about to head back to his table, he heard the sound of laughter coming from an alley behind the building. Making his way back there he found John, Cary and assorted waiters and other types engaged in a game of dice. Upon Lionel’s appearance, John quickly hid the open bottle of vodka behind him. Cary suddenly remembered Phyllis and dashed past the growling Lionel, feeling mighty unsteady on his feet. But he was sure steadier than John Barrymore, who after standing up and bowing to his brother, promptly passed out on the pavement.
Phyllis was annoyed at having been kept waiting, but soon all of that was forgotten when Carl Voss a.k.a. Bill Cassidy dropped dead before the appetizers were ordered.

 To be continued….
Submitted by Crystal Kalyana Pacey and Marsha Collock

Part 8:

The Scene
There's a method to a homicide investigation.
Police arrive and enter through the least likely route, in this case via a back alley. They check the victim and note their time of arrival. The victim is photographed and all physical evidence is removed from the victim. The scene is roped off and all witnesses are identified and statements are taken and duly recorded.
Attempts are made to establish the victim's movements prior to the crime. This involves the identification of the victim, and all background information, i.e. relatives, friends, employment, criminal record, finances, romantic involvement(s), narcotics, gang involvement etc.

On this night, for this case, Detective Archer conducts the investigation. All steps having been followed, Det. Archer sets about the process of questioning witnesses and those present at the Brown Derby at the time of the occurrence.

Hopper, Parsons, Gable, Lombard, Leigh, Olivier, Goddard, Chaplin, Fairbanks. The detective's notes read like the credits of one of Ken Murray's home movies. Their testimony is entered in Archer's notepad and before dismissing them he announces that they are free to leave but cautions them to refrain from travel outside the State until clearance is authorized by the LAPD.

As the A-List cast strolls out of the Derby, a lone figure waits behind. A waiter, sans his uniform jacket, approaches Archer and asks the detective if he may speak to him privately. Once he is certain that all the stars and starlets have gone, he begins to address the detective.

“Well, what is it, young man?" Archer asked.
" Sir, I think you should know that there are a couple of witnesses that departed the restaurant before you arrived.”

" A couple?" Archer asked. "Is that so?”
The waiter replied " Yes, and I believe they may know more, much more, than you may have already ascertained from this group "
Archer, intrigued asked " Do you know their names ?"
" Oh sure I do. Everyone in this town, in this state, in this country, in fact knows the name Cary Grant". be continued..... 
Submitted by Jerry Oddo

Part 9

Even hardboiled Detective Archer, usually underwhelmed by the so-called “stars” of Hollywood, felt a wave of excitement over the prospect of questioning the debonair Cary Grant. He had just seen him in “Gunga Din,” and had to admit that pretty boy could act. But first, before confronting Mr. Grant, Archer had 2 orders of business to attend to.

One was to find that out-of-uniform waiter. Citizens are rarely so helpful unless they have something to hide. Good Samaritans in Hollywood were like virgins in a cat-house – non-existent.

Archer watched as Carl Voss’ body was removed. He remembered watching him in westerns as a kid when he was known as Billy Cassidy. Poor Billy didn’t make the cut in talkies and had been reduced to bit parts and waiting tables. But, just 10 years ago he was riding high.

After Voss/Cassidy was shipped off to the morgue and the crime scene was cleared, Archer began methodically interviewing the Derby employees, who were told to remain on hand for questioning. Not surprisingly, none seemed to know who the mystery informant was. Finally, Frankie, a dishwasher who looked as though he needed a good scrubbing, thought he knew the man in question. He was a fill-in guy named Alan. Like everyone else in Hollywood he was an aspiring actor and worked occasionally as a waiter or busboy, but mostly he was interested in the gambling that took place in the alley behind the restaurant. Alan was a master at knowing when some poor slob got paid and then separating that slob from his paycheck. If anyone asked, Alan claimed to be an actor, but the reality was that he but found cards and the occasional blackmail an easier way to make a living.

Archer knew Alan was too smart to come back to the Derby any time soon. So, he figured he’d do the next thing on his list: question Mr. Grant. Questioning a big star without studio interference could be tricky, but Archer had an ace up his sleeve. Once home, he’d call his good friend and sometime girlfriend, Mae West, and ask her to arrange a meeting. Mae gave Cary one of his first big breaks in Hollywood, and Cary remained forever grateful to her. Archer was sure Mae could convince Cary to meet with her. The detective was eager for any excuse to see Mae. Besides being fun and sexy, Mae not only had a natural nose for trouble, but she loved a good mystery.
Little did he know Mae was holding a few cards of her own. 
To be continued...

-   Submitted by Marsha Collock

Part 10

Mae West had called her friend Cary and told him that Archer wanted to interview him and Phyllis about Billy Cassidy’s murder. Cary confided to Mae that he was worried about Phyllis. She always seemed to be short of money, even though she was working steadily. Just what was she doing with her money? Mae knew Cary was – for a better word – thrifty, and while he might not mind picking up the check for dinner, he would never volunteer to pay for a girl’s new pair of shoes. Cary also told Mae that Phyllis confessed she had once been married to the former cowboy star, but that she has refused to talk about it since the night of his death.

So, Mae thought, the little blonde cutie finally came clean. Mae and Billy went way back, way before he came to Hollywood. She knew him as one half of the vaudeville act Voss and Ross, the other partner being one Alan Ross. Voss was the straight man/singer and Ross was the comedian/dancer. A male impersonator by the name of Anabel Rose traveled with Voss and Ross. She was pretty darn good, as Mae remembered, if a bit on the short side. Mae soon set her sights on Broadway and then Hollywood, while Carl Voss headed for Hollywood, changed his name to Billy Cassidy, and became a cowboy star. While sitting in a jail cell in Manhattan in 1927 for corrupting the morals of theater-goers with her play, Sex, Mae read in the papers that Cassidy had acquired a wife, the former vamp star known as Anastasia Petrova. Mae never met Anastasia, since her star had flamed out by the time she had married Billy, but Mae knew 3 things:  1. Anastasia was once Anabel Rose, sister of Alan Rosenberg, aka Alan Ross, 2. Anastasia and Billy were never legally divorced, and 3. the marriage to Phyllis Brooks was a sham. Mae also suspected one other thing: It was Anastasia, aka Anabel Rose in drag, who slipped her that note the night of the murder.

Now Mae had only one dilemma: should she tell Archer all she knew before the meeting with Cary and Phyllis or after?

To be continued....
-  Submitted by Marsha Collock

Part 11

Cary was having second thoughts about meeting with Archer. He had worked too hard to get where he was, to get dragged into a scandal… especially a murder. The more he thought about it, the more he knew he didn’t want to get involved.

He called his agent, Frank Vincent. Frank had recently helped Cary become a “free-agent” (of sorts) with an unprecedented dual studio contract with RKO and Columbia Pictures. Frank would know what to do!
The doorbell rang. It wasn’t Archer, at all. There stood Old Mae, herself.

She looked behind her to see if she’d been followed, then hurried in and slammed the door. Not the glamour girl her fans had come to love, here instead stood an out of breath woman in a trench coat and galoshes. She was surprised to see that Phyllis was still in tow.

“Cary, you’ve gotta help me. Phyllis, you might as well hear this, too. You’re gonna find out soon enough, I think we’re BOTH involved up to our elbows in this murder…”

Just then, lawyers from both studios arrived at Cary’s bungalow. They were none too happy to see that, now, Mae West was also involved. “Don’t say ANYTHING”, was their advice. A play-it-safe plan, to be sure.

But what about Phyllis…? Frank was assigned the task of driving the B-actress home. “Mae you’d better hop in, too. I don’t know what you’re doing here… maybe you can fill me in on the way.”

As the threesome left, Mae muttered under her breath, “… that damn Voss!”

Ten minutes later, Archer was bangin’ on the door.

To be continued….
Submitted by Missy Kendrick

Part 12

Her laugh filled The Brown Derby. "You wake up when the copper's banging on the door? That wouldn’t sell a ticket to anyone’s grandmother, honey." She shook her head as she perused the room. All was back to normal in the Hollywood establishment, " Imagine me involved in a murder," she continued, "and worse - panicked!  Panic inhibits and you know that’s not my style.”  Cary Grant all but rolled his eyes as Mae West did her best…well, Mae West.  Walter Huston, who occupied the next booth with his wife shook his head in amusement.  “We came that close to a scandal, Mae” Grant said annoyed and gesturing with his fingers, "and I’m glad that entire episode is over.”  Mae sighed, “Oh lighten up.  Who doesn’t need a scandal now and again?  To quote our dear Hedda,” Mae said with a sneer, “Nobody’s interested in sweetness and light.”  Mae, who didn’t miss a beat, turned to talk with Jack Benny who’d just finished saying hello to the Hustons.  Cary’s mind turned to Phyllis Brooks.  Poor Phyllis he thought.  She’d made it through the entire Carl Voss affair, but not without a few scars.
“Where are you?” Mae asked turning her attention back to Cary and noticing his blank expression.  “Don’t tell me.  How is your Phyllis?”  Cary didn’t bother to answer deciding to leave well enough alone.  Any mention of Phyllis will surely bring up her last movie, which you couldn’t pay people to see.  Mae would have a field day with that.  
“Her latest movie…what is it?” Mae asked as if she could hear his thoughts.  “Slightly Honorable,” Grant replied.  Mae lifted a brow, “Please, it’s not even slightly good.  Decent cast.  Shitty movie.  But we’ll change the subject.  Let’s talk about a real tragedy,” Mae said, “Poor Carl had real talent and he threw it all away.  Screwed himself up so bad not even my name could open doors for him.  He tried for the Chaplin picture, you know, the day he got murdered.  He gambled and lost.  And all for your Phyllis.”  Grant just stared as the entire Carl Voss affair replayed in his mind.  It’d been a few months since Detective Archer had questioned him, if that’s what you call it.
Despite the seriousness of the policeman’s demeanor he hadn't been beyond name-dropping.  “I’m here at Mae’s request.  She said you prefer a private meeting.” “Come in” Grant said reluctantly to Archer who stood in the doorway, “although I’m sure I have nothing to offer your investigation.”  The Detective stepped in, “I think you know more than you let on.  Although,” the cop continued as he took stock of the vast living room, “I already know how things went down.  Just tidying up loose ends.”  People he cared about were involved and Grant couldn’t quite hide his nervousness.   Still, he did his best to sound disinterested, “You won’t find any of those loose ends here, Archer.”  
The story Archer relayed was straight out of a B picture.  As it turns out Anastasia Petrova aka Anabel Rose had been the mastermind of a Hollywood blackmail scheme in conjunction with Al Ross since arriving in Hollywood two decades earlier.  She’d tried to get money out of the likes of Jack Warner and later Harry Cohn, but both men simply replied they’d squash her like a bug if she tried anything.  No skin off her back though.  Using Carl’s connections Anastasia turned her focus to smaller fish, primarily starlets and up-and-comers with no studio behind them to bury their sordid pasts.  Al was the information guy gathering intel as he got people good and plastered at which time they were all too eager to spill the beans.  It was only a matter of time before Anastasia focused in on Phyllis Brooks.  And she had plenty to milk for.  The fact that Phyllis had not been legally married to Carl, but instead lived with a married man would yield a steady income on its own.  It was up to Carl to make sure she got paid or the career of his beloved Phyllis was over.  Carl told Phyllis it was a loan, monthly payments he’d return as soon as he got a shot in a picture.  And he tried.  Over and over again, but people talk and everyone knew Carl was on the skids - to put it mildly.
Sick and tired of Anastasia and hurt knowing Phyllis was stepping out with Cary Grant, a bonafide Hollywood player whose career was on the rise, Carl refused to pay Anastasia any longer.  He was determined to make it and approached Mae West for help.  A last resort.  Unfortunately, he did so too late.  His luck ran out when his oldest friend Al pushed a knife into him just as he was reaching for a Cobb Salad in the kitchen of The Brown Derby.
Cary shook his head to clear it and noticed Mae was no longer in the booth.  Suddenly he looked up just as Mae sauntered over.  “Are we leaving?” she asked before reaching the table.  “No.  Sit down,” he replied.  “Oooh, forceful,” she said, but her expression sobered when she noticed Cary’s concern, “I know you want all this behind you,” he said, “to put 1939 behind you, but it just occurred to me that Archer never mentioned your name.  You’re involved in this thing somehow.  I know you are.”  With a straight face, but never missing a beat she retorted, “He never mentioned me?  What a disappointed.  Archer and I have cards together for years.”  She cleared her throat when Cary’s gaze remained perfectly still.  “Look, kid, I have skeletons in my closet," Mae said, "big, hairy skeletons and Archer knows them all.  One of those is gambling, which is what Anastasia tried to unsettle me with when she handed me the note the night Carl was murdered.  “Someone has a gambling problem” referred to me.  I’m the someone in her note.  I’m guessing it was a warning that I was her next target.  But I’m a big fish, never batted an eye and told Archer the entire story as soon as I could. Still, even if I hadn't, there’s no way Anastasia could’ve pressed me for anything.  I know a lot of people and a lot of people owe me favors.  That’s it.  There’s nothing more to tell.”  Cary looked down at his drink satisfied that he could trust Mae and then she interrupted, “Why you insist on dwelling on this ugliness is beyond me.  Let’s talk about the Hawks picture, the remake of THE FRONT PAGE that has the entire room buzzing. When do you leave for New York?”  “Next week,” he said with a faint smile.  “Good,” Mae said, “New York will cleanse your palate.  And that Roz Russell’s a gem. Let me tell you something,” she said suddenly and seriously as she took his hand, “Cary Grant's gonna be bigger than Gable.  Men are going to want be him.  Women will want to be with him and," he squirmed a bit in his seat, "AND, you know I'm never wrong. Now let’s get out of here.  I want to go to the Coconut Grove.”

(submitted by Aurora Desmond)