Tolerating Louella Parsons
It wasn’t easy being a movie star in those bygone days. You really had to play ball, and often with people you’d traverse continents to avoid otherwise. Such was the case with Hearst columnist Louella Parsons. Did anybody like this woman? Probably not, but she sure as hell got in all the best places, and that’s largely because she knew how to put the thumbscrews to just about everyone working (or seeking to work) in that frightened little community. Then as now, the place ran on an engine called fear. Why else would Clark Gable be putting up with her? Guy was the ultimate Big Cheese. If he had to roll over for Louella, was there any stopping her, short of coming after the woman (secretly, of course) with a deer rifle? Actually, I understand that’s kinda how she got her columnist job (and kept it) with the Hearst papers. Seems Louella had been on board William Randolph Hearst’s private yacht the night silent producer Thomas Ince (he was sure silent after this!) got shot in the back of the head by a jealous Hearst (he must have borrowed one of Von’s dueling pistols). To her everlasting joy and gratitude to God, Louella saw the whole thing. Question is, why didn’t old Willy just do her too? Guess he ran out of bullets. Anyway, lucky eyewitness Parsons gets a lifetime stipend with the Hearst publishing empire, then it’s off to Hollywood, where the grazing’s good, and everybody’s got something to hide.
Now these two photos are a sort of tutorial on how to, and how not to, handle Louella. If you’re Tyrone Power, you know how. It’s a snap for Ty. He’s young, a little boyish. Needs a mommy. Louella obviously finds him cuddlesome, like all the girls. In fact, by Jupiter, she’s just going to put her arm around that handsome boy , and she doesn’t care who knows it! That’s okay with Ty too, because he’s played this game before. He’ll play the rest of his life, all the way up till they carry him off that drafty Soloman and Sheba soundstage. Would guys have envied Tyrone Power if they’d known what he had to put up with? The haircut and the svelte form suggests this pose to have been taken shortly before Ty put on the Marine uniform. Our guess is he’s just finished Crash Dive, and now Louella’s dragged him onto yet another of her radio broadcasts. Did stars get paid to appear on radio with Ms. Parsons? Not on your life! In fact, I’m told that anyone turning down one of her invitations could soon find him (or her) self doing extra work in Hoppy westerns, if that!
And now Clark Gable. I love candid stills of this guy because, well, they’re often so nakedly candid. Especially when you catch him after the war, and he’s just clearly disgusted with the whole dirty game. Look at that face! Did someone leave the door open and let a polecat in? Looks like Clark smells something, and I think it’s Louella. He’s even drawing back a little, but to what? Fourth wife Lady Sylvia Hawkes Fairbanks Ashley Gable? She wasn’t much of a retreat for the tired old warrior. We think he’d be happier in a duck blind. Maybe he’s thinking about Carole right now, and how it used to be. Or maybe last night and how he really shouldn’t have finished that last bottle. And just what is this old cow talking about anyway? The new movie he’s doing? Well, here’s a tip, Louella. It ain’t Gone With The Wind. None of them after WW2 would score like that one. Aw, what the hell. It beats working in those oil fields, and Clark always said that’s where he’d be were it not for the luck of the movies.