A Few Birthdays
Very much a creature of the loud and brassy forties, Betty Hutton (2-26) is also a notable survivor of that era, and what a surprise Robert Osborne served up on TCM when he presented Betty, unseen for decades, as an interview subject on his Private Screenings series. When last we’d heard, she’d been on her knees scrubbing floors in a nunnery somewhere in New England, following a well-publicized crack-up, and forced retirement from the screen. Actually, she’d done a little television work here and there into the sixties (and even a Baretta in the seventies), but by and large, Betty Hutton had indeed become an enigma wrapped inside the cloistered confines of a protective convent, never to sing and dance at the top of her lungs again. This may have been the sort of escape Judy Garland needed, for Betty’s outlived Judy for over thirty-five years so far, and based on that interview, seems to be fit for a good many more. Her movie persona has admittedly not worn well. Hard-sell personalities of her type seldom do, and Betty is nothing if not "on" --- all the time --- non-stop --- which is part of the reason I’ve never been able to finish Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek, though her Annie Get Your Gun works OK if you’re of a charitable mindset. This subdued Betty portrait demonstrates that she could look very pretty when the occasion called for it.
There’s nothing quite like Jennifer Jones (3-2) in Duel In The Sun. I think she should have gotten the Academy Award just for that scene where she and the horse drank out of the mudhole together, but that’s just me, I guess. Anyway, the story goes that about eight or so years ago, some group was showing it in L.A., and Greg Peck begged her to show up for a live appearance. All day, he pleaded, and she refused, till at last he went over and picked her up in his car. Her hesitation was for the usual reason --- she wanted them to remember her "as she was". The story of Jen’s first break was interesting --- seems her dad, a high-powered Midwest exhibitor named Phil Isley, called in some favors with Herb Yates of Republic Pictures fame, and induced him to cast daughter Phyliss (as she was then known) in a few of his serials and "B" oaters. A few years later, after Selznick got the big campaign underway to "introduce" Jennifer Jones, she tearfully confessed her past as leading lady for Dick Tracy and The Three Mesquiteers. Dave saw red alright, but the thing was smoothed over quickly enough, much to the chagrin of soon-to-be-discarded first husband Robert Walker (Bruno!). We could say lots more about Jen, as she’s one of our very favorite femme stars. Suffice to say, she’ll be back in the near future as a Monday Glamour Starter.
Here’s the demure and lovely Mayo Methot (3-3) with husband Humphrey Bogart. He’s getting ready to enjoy a drink better suited to Glenn Langan in The Amazing Colossal Man. The whole set-up looks to be just this side of another of their legendary drunken brawls, the kind that on at least one occasion ended with a knife between Bogey’s shoulder blades, courtesy the wife. She’d been a modest hit in a few Broadway shows, done a few movies, but that success of his really got under Mayo’s skin and the violent fits of jealousy were no help either. Along came nineteen-year-old Betty Bacall in 1944, and it was Greetings Gate for Bogart. Poor Mayo descended into a black pit of alcohol abuse, and died there in 1951 at the age of 47. "Too bad", Bogart said, "such a waste". He always thought she had talent and threw it away. Now she’s a more or less comical footnote in the bios of her famous husband. "The Battling Bogarts", they always begin. You can see her in Counselor At Law, Case Of The Curious Bride, and Marked Woman, among others. She’s pretty good in a hard-bitten, down-and-out sort of way. Life had prepared her to be fairly convincing in such roles, I guess.