Monday 31 March 2014

Patricia Van Cleeve Lake: Her Paternity, Hearst and the Real Story - Part 2

If it is true, the real paternity of Patricia Van Cleeve Lake is one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood. It was a mystery covered-up by the richest, shrewdest businessman and media mogul, William Randolf Heart, and his girlfriend, Marion Davies. The true facts of the case have been heavily disputed over the years with Lake’s birthdate and even her deathbed confession questioned by historians. Overall, the sad reality is that history and film lovers will never fully know the entire truth of the story or the place gossip and rumour played in shaping it. 
Horace Brown and his wife Marion Davies and the Lakes
The truth was apparently revealed in October 1993 when Lake on her deathbed divulged to her son, Arthur Lake Jr., the facts surrounding her parentage. She exposed the story that Davies had first told her that she and Hearst were her biological parents when she was 11. This was followed by Hearst who acknowledged her as his daughter before her marriage to Lake. After her death, Lake Jr. attempted to have his mother’s birth certificate changed to reflect her actual parentage. She was instantly brandished a fraud and a liar. "One man called the mortuary and raised holy hell," Arthur Lake Jr. said. He continued, “She lived her life on a satin pillow. They took away her name, but they gave her everything else.”

Although, Lake and her son appeared to sincerely believe the story of Hearst’s and Davies’ cover-up there is little concrete evidence of the scandal other than Lake’s facial similarities with Hearst. Many people argue it was the death of George and Rose Van Cleeve’s first child during infancy that prompted Davies to give up her child to her sister. This theory seems disproven by the behaviour by Lake’s official parents during the kidnapping and fiery custody battle. The extreme actions of both the Van Cleeve’s to keep access to Lake demonstrates to many historians that she must have been their biological daughter. However, this is not completely irrefutable because many parents of adoptive children would probably behaviour in a similar manner.

Hearst and Davies
The issue of dates is also a problem for the diverse sides of the argument. Clearly, due to the fact Lake married her husband in 1937, she must have been born at least before 1920. This is because if she was born in 1923 as some people claim she would have been aged 13 at the time of her wedding. If indeed the date of her marriage is correct, Lake’s birth can be assumed as being somewhere around 1918 and 1920. During this period, Davies film career was booming and she was in the middle of several film and publicity commitments. According to several authors on Nitrateville, she had just completed a film, Getting Mary Married in March of 1919 and it was released that she was to begin filming The Dark Star in April. Interestingly she was reported to have suffered a bout of influenza between these films; however she was not absent from filming for enough time to carry and give birth to a child. Davies appeared in four films in 1919, two in 1918 and another two in 1920. Unless the year of Lake’s birth is outside this period and her age was greatly altered by Hearst, Davies and the media, she could not be the daughter of Davies.   

It is a near impossible task to logically discern the mystery surrounding Patricia Lake’s birth and paternity. If she was indeed the child of Hearst and Davies the cover-up undertaken by both was thorough and mostly successful. Although it is unclear if Lake was the daughter of the millionaire and his starlet mistress, it is evident that Lake had an extremely close relationship to the pair. This is shown through her long trips to San Simeon, her marriage to Arthur Lake – a personal friend and faviourite of Hearst, her inheriting half of Davies’ estate and her place of rest located in the same crypt as Davies. DNA testing is the only method of proving the truth of the Lake’s claims and, with all parties long dead, this will never be undertaken. The ‘myth’ of Hearst and Davies illegitimate daughter with forever be one of Hollywood’s unsolved mysteries, similar to the death of Marilyn Monroe or Natalie Wood.   

An image of San Simeon

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Patricia Lake: Her Paternity, Hearst and the Real Story - Part 1

The truth behind the real paternity of Patricia Van Cleeve Lake has been one of the great mysteries of Hollywood and a puzzle that – through the ambiguities and vagueness of lapses in time - will never be fully solved. At its centre is the even more secretive newspaper magnate, William Randolf Hearst, his opulent mansion - San Simeon, and his openly acknowledged mistress, Marion Davies. Allegedly, Lake communicated to her son Arthur Lake Jr on her deathbed, that she was in fact the only biological child of the illicit long term affair between Hearst and Davies. Many biographers and Hollywood figures have touted the claims as false citing difficulties proving Lake’s actual birth date and the influence of the facts on gossip and time. Officially, the daughter of George Van Cleeve and his wife Rose, the sister of Marion Davies, the actuality of Lake’s parenthood has never fully been uncovered.   

Patricia Van Cleeve Lake was born sometime between 1919 and 1923 just outside Paris, France. Publicly and privately, Lake, was never fully aware of her actual birthdate; although, many historians estimate the earlier years 1919 or 1920 to be the closest approximation. According to the public, Lake was the legitimate daughter of George and Rose Van Cleeve – the latter a sister of Marion Davies. In 1924 during a dispute between her parents, Lake was allegedly kidnapped by George Van Cleeve who was on the run with his daughter for five years. They were finally discovered after Hearst’s detectives located the pair and brought the child back to her mother, Rose. A bitter custody battle insured between the couple with George Van Cleeve gaining custody after proving Rose Van Cleeve was an alcoholic.
Marion Davies
As she grew into a young adult, Lake showed a blossoming acting talent and looked to have potential to follow in her aunt’s and mother’s shoes and become a starlet. She attended the Lawlor Professional School in Hollywood and a few other schools in New York and Boston which was reportedly all paid for by Hearst. During her adolescents she was a regular feature at Heart’s San Simeon estate even traveling with Hearst and Davies on several trips to Europe. Through her famous relatives Lake became part of Hollywood’s A-list attending parties with Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Charlie Chaplin. Aged around 17, Lake met Errol Flynn at a beach party and they began a relationship together that lasted for many years. Lake said in the months before she died, “God, I wish Errol Flynn was still alive. He was a barrel of laughs, and pretty good in the hay, too."

In 1937, Lake married actor Arthur Lake – most notable for his performance in the Blondie television, radio and movie series – who she had met at Marion Davies’ beach house. It was later reported that the scandalous affair between Lake and Flynn persisted during the engagement and early into the marriage. Apparently, Hearst lectured Lake on her illicit affair stating that, "You have got to stop this. You are a married woman." She, according to reports replied, “What about you?" referencing his affair with Davies. Nevertheless, the couple remained married until his death in January 1987 and had two children, Arthur Lake Jr and Marion Rose Lake. A few years after their wedding, Lake’s acting career began to take off.
Patricia Van Cleve and Arthur Lake's wedding 
She was named as one of the MPPA ‘Baby Stars’ of 1940, a replacement of the earlier program WAMPAS Baby Stars. She completed mostly stage work from the 1930’s to the mid-1940’s and later took over from Penny Singleton as the voice of Blondie Bumstead in the radio series Blondie, opposite her husband. Lake also worked alongside her husband in a television comedy, Meet the Family released in 1954.

In 1961, the death of Marion Davies caused Lake a great amount of pain. She had lived with Davies – and occasionally her lover Hearst – for much of her life and grieved her death. In her will Davies bequest her “niece” a large inheritance of half of her 20 million dollar fortune. It would be sign of what was to come in the public life of Patricia Van Cleeve Lake with the connection between her and Davies revealed over 30-years later. Lake died October 3, 1993. On her death bead, according to her son, Arthur Lake Jr., she spilled her long kept secret: that she was in fact the illegitimate daughter of Marion Davies and William Randolf Heart and the fact was concealed to save both parties reputation. 
Hearst and Davies
Coming soon Part 2!! In which I discuss all the theories of Patricia Van Cleve Lake’s paternity, all the Hollywood gossip and the truth.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Sunday Fashion Fix: Nautical

Sailor style seems to be a fashion trend that never goes out of popularity. The use of the colours: blue, white and red as well as strategically placed stripes and interesting cuts are both alluring and attracting on all body types. Celebrities from the early 1930’s to now have been utilising the intricate nautical influence for casual events and on screen. Fashion designers have also taken this trend over the decades as inspiration for high fashion pant suits and dresses, eye-catching hats and various accessories as well as basic striped shirts and 1950’s-style dresses. Nautical pieces can be incorporated easily and suit everybody; take a look at images of the Precode outfits, modern-day celebrity looks and designer pieces. 

Precode Looks:

Clara Bow stands out in her starring role in True to the Navy alongside Fredric March, Harry Green and, her future husband, Rex Bell.

Cute little Shirley Temple plays a sailor.

Jean Harlow often appeared in nautical inspirited outfits in fashion and publicity shoots.


Joan Blondell (top) and Ruby Keeler (bottom) both appear in nautical inspired looks
in the film Footlight Parade (1933).

A model from 1935 exhibiting a high fashion look.  
Modern Celebrity Looks:
Taylor Swift and Leighton Meester in blue, white and red sailor outfits.
Designer Looks:
Sailor-inspired jewellery and accessories:
from Ali Express

from Baby Loves Pink
from Social Vixen
High fashion pieces also include a few sailor-inspired touches:
from Harpers Bazaar

from Vogue
Nautical pieces can also be part of a casual, everyday outfit:

from Wedding Thingz

from Mom Fabulous

Friday 21 March 2014

Precode Double-take: Dancer and Gangster, George Raft

Remaining a star in the golden studio era was all about adaption. Actors and actresses would need to morph their characters and appearances along with societies changing expectations, mood and values as well as keep the essence that made them famous to begin with. Cary Grant moved from madcap screwball roles to sophisticated romantic comedies and Bette Davis and Norma Shearer developed from hardworking, ingĂ©nues to strong-willed, determined women as they aged and the public’s preferences changed. Hollywood’s matriarch, Joan Crawford, went further dramatically altering her appearance as her parts transformed in the war years and beyond by adding dark, bushy eyebrows and imposing shoulder-pads to create a lasting and unforgettable legacy.

Unfortunately, talented actor and performer, George Raft, was no exception to the rule. Intent in keeping the global appeal he enjoyed in the 1930’s and early 1940’s he refused to take unsympathetic roles, work with inexperienced directors or feature in unworthy B-pictures. As a result, he reportedly turned down a number of films that became classic and legendary movies, such as, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra. He was an overwhelming success in his characteristic roles as the gangsta, tough-guy or confidence-trickster of the 1930’s but his appeal failed as he refused to shift into the diverse war years roles. Regrettably, Raft is not as well-known and celebrated today as his talent should have afforded him. Stone Wallace’s biography, The Man Who Would Be Bogart, brought Raft’s legacy to the forefront of many people’s minds but his acting talent, sexual appeal and surprising dancing ability remain, generally, a forgotten mark on Hollywood’s history. 
Below is George Raft in a number of his stereotypical roles and shots in the Precode and Post-code eras.
Raft as a Bartender

Left Post-code: Raft as the possessive bar owner in Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Right Precode: Raft as another bar owner in Night After Night (1932) alongside the Mae West in    her first role
Raft Dancing

Left Post-code: Raft as the seductive but doomed dancer in Bolero (1934)

Right Precode: Dancing alongside Pat O’Brien in Broadway (1942)
Raft the Gangster

Left Post-code: Raft in the iconic comedy film starring Marilyn Monroe Some Like it Hot (1959)
Right Precode: In his equally iconic role as a gangster in Scarface (1932)
Raft: Down and Out

Left Post-code: Raft alongside Humphrey Bogart in They Drive By Night (1940)
Right Precode: Raft as a shifty tramp and confidence trickster in If I Had a Million (1932)
The Women
Left Post-code: With the beautiful Dolores Costello and Ida Lupino in Yours for the Asking (1936)
Right Precode: Raft as another heartless gangster with Anna May Wong and Jean Parker in Limehouse Blues (1934)
On the Right Side of the Law

Left Post-code: With Clive Brook, Raft plays an undercover agent in The Midnight Club (1933)
Right Precode: Raft with Peter Lorre as a machinery salesman in spy thriller in Background to Danger (1943)
The Torso

Left Post-code: With Humphrey Bogart in Invisible Stripes (1940)
Right Precode: Raft having a relaxing bath in Scarface (1932)
And maybe a little bit more:


Thursday 13 March 2014

Actress and Spy: Rochelle Hudson

Named as one of the hopeful starlets predicted for Hollywood stardom in the 1931 WAMPAS’s roll call, Rochelle Hudson overcame her chorus girl roles and bit parts to become a leading lady with a long and distinguished career. But her legend includes more than acting successes with stints helping one of her husbands, a naval officer, with espionage and intelligence work in Mexico and Latin America on the commencement of America’s involvement in World War II.
She was born Rochelle Elizabeth Hudson in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 6th 1916. The daughter of Ollie Lee Hudson who worked as a public servant and an ambitious film loving mother she was pushed into pursuing acting at a young age. As a first step her family moved to Hollywood and she began taking singing and dancing lessons as the famed Ernest Belcher Academy in Hollywood. Her first appearances came aged just 14 as the voice of Honey in a series of short cartoon films which chronicled the adventures of the character Bosko. This role became a staple of her career and she was featured in over 30 of these shorts until 1937. Hudson was surprisingly mature both physically and mentally but problems arose a year later – in 1931 – when she was signed to a contract with RKO Pictures. Intending to star the teenager in future pictures they were forced to add two years to her age in order to align with public opinion and allow her to play adult roles. That same year she was named alongside Joan Blondell, Marian Marsh and Karen Morley as a promising female talent in the 1931 WAMPAS promotion.   

She soon moved up to supporting parts in a number of noteworthy Precode films. These include in Hells Highway (1932), Wild Boys of the Road (1933) and as the mistreated young women in She Done Him Wrong (1932) to whom Mae West remarks, “When a girl goes wrong, men go right after her!” The next few years brought more break out performances first as Claudette Colbert’s daughter in the popular Imitation of Life (1934) then as Cosette in the critically acclaimed drama Les MisĂ©rables (1935), as Shirley Temple’s sister in Curly Top (1935) and in W.C Field’s vehicle Poppy (1936).
Hudson in Hawaii during the war (from wanderling.com) 
By the beginning of World War II in Europe, Hudson’s career began to falter. Her roles were less demanding and in smaller B pictures. Already a divorcee to after marrying a man named Charles Brust some years before, she remarried in 1939 to Harold Thompson who was working at Disney Studios as the head of the Storyline Department. This relationship began a new era in Hudson’s life including her work for the government helping to detect future attacks on US soil by the German army. By 1941 Thompson had enlisted as a naval officer stationed in Hawaii working mainly for the Naval Intelligence Office. Hudson joined her husband on many of his postings and being fluent in both Spanish and French, she proved an asset on his missions. When the couple was moved to a post in Mexico they posed as civilians innocently vacationing around the country to detect any suspicious German or Japanese activity. They were successful in a trip to Baja California in which the couple discovered a supply of aviation fuel hidden by German agents and could have been used to fuel planes for air attacks. From their information the stocks were removed preventing further missions to bomb US cities. 
Sadly, the union between Hudson and Thompson barely outlasted the war and the couple divorced in 1947. A year later she remarried again to Los Angeles Times sportswriter, Dick Irving Hyland. They would only remain together for two years when Hudson remarried for the last time to hotel executive, Robert Mindall, which lasted until 1971. Aged in her 30’s and still itching for more acting roles, Hudson made the move to television featuring in episodes of The Racket Squad (1951), I’m the Law (1953) and co-starring in comedy series That’s My Boy (1954-55) alongside Gil Stratton and Eddie Mayehoff. Another memorable appearance would come the same year in 1955 with the 39 year old Hudson playing Natalie Wood’s mother in the cult classic Rebel Without a Cause.
Hudson in Rebel Without a Cause
After this role she decided to abandon the film industry first to run a 10,000 acre ranch in Arizona and later she moved back to her native Oklahoma to work for a Tulsa petroleum refinery. She returned to the film industry only for select film and television parts, retiring completely in 1967. She then made another career move beginning a successful real estate business in Palm Desert. In 1972, Hudson was discovered dead by a business associate in her home at the Palm Desert Country Club. Aged only 55, she died of a heart attack caused by a liver ailment. Hudson managed to fit a large amount into her short life from travel, marriages, acting, singing, dancing, business ventures and not to mention a bit of spy work. She was another remarkable element of the Precode era and, more correctly, the entirety of Hollywood’s Golden Age.  

Monday 3 March 2014

Award Season: Top 5 Precode Oscar Moments

The annual Academy Awards has always been an occasion for glitz and glamour and to honour members of the film industry who have excelled over the year. Since the event began broadcasting on television, the eager public has been the given the unprecedented opportunity to have live and comprehensive coverage of the ceremony and (more importantly) the red carpet pre-show. This technology has made the yearly scandals, snubs, bad jokes and outfit shocks instant news all in vivid colour. However, the period before television and the radio broadcast – and my personal interest – the early 1930’s also included a number of cringe worthy, unbelievable and ground-breaking moments. These incidents were only recorded thanks to the now seemingly out-dated medium, the newspaper, and organisations, such as, Oscars.org. Amid this awards season I have dug out my top 5 Precode Oscar Moments:

5. It Happened One Awards Night
The 7th Academy Awards held February 27th, 1935, proved a spectacular year for comedies and the famous, influential director, Frank Capra. His little romantic comedy, It Happened One Night, became the first film in the awards history to take a clean sweep of all the major Oscars. These include: Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable who won the top acting gongs, Best Director for Capra, Best Screenplay for writer Robert Riskin and also, the most celebrated category, of Best Picture. It would take more than 40 years for the feat to be repeated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976. It was also an astounding win because in conjunction with the film being the first romantic comedy to receive Best Picture, the film was never destined to be a resounding success. There were many issues with the movie pre-production, mainly with casting with none of the major stars of the period willing or able to take either the male or female leads. After a struggle Capra finally settled on Gable and Colbert both who had a long line of demands before agreeing to participate. However, the films dialogue, themes and the performances of actors struck a chord with both audiences and critics making the film a major triumph.    
Claudette Colbert with her Oscar
4. The Importance of Being Frank
Conversely, the 1933 ceremony, a year before, was embarrassing experience for the innovative director, Frank Capra. The filmmaker providing an interesting and hilarious talking point for the guests and media alike days after all the Oscars were awarded. Capra was nominated for Best Director for his work on the film, Lady For a Day, alongside George Cukor for, Little Women, and Frank Lloyd for the historical epic, Cavalcade. Actor and master of ceremonies, Will Rogers, announced the nominees and called, ambiguously, “Come up and get it, Frank!” Assuming he had been awarded the prize and in the confusion, Capra rushed to the stage to collect the statue. After a few moments of bewilderment and clarification, Rogers confirmed it was actually Lloyd who had won instead of Capra. It was an Oscar blunder that thanks to the lack of technology was not instant news and has become a part of the Academy Awards legend. Thankfully, Capra’s embarrassment was overcome when he was rewarded the following year with the Best Director award.

Frank Lloyd and Will Rogers

3. Let’s Call it a Tie        
Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Conrad Nagel and Fredric March
The 5th Academy Awards celebrating the films created between August 1, 1931 and July 31, 1932 created an odd dilemma for the award’s officials. In the Best Actor category, front-runners, Fredric March nominated for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery for The Champ ended the voting with a one-point difference. The Academy rules at the time stated that the score was not a significant enough win and called the contest a tie. On the night both actors were presented separate trophies and, luckily, both appeared contented with the outcome. Although he was officially in the lead, March was happy to share his prize, with his biographer, Charles Tranberg, commenting:    

March made a very witty acceptance speech.  He and Beery had both recently adopted a child and March said something to the effect that it was ‘a little odd that we were both given awards for the best male performance of the year.’  Very funny and witty--March really did have a good sense of humour.  It brought down the house.  March had no adverse reaction to sharing the award with Beery--after all they both got their own statuette and didn’t have to share custody of one trophy.”

2. The Kids
Young stars became a feature of the Academy Awards ceremonies between 1930 and 1934 as this era in films created many opportunities for the tiny talents to exhibit their abilities. Two outstanding examples are Shirley Temple and Jackie Cooper who both caught the public and the academy’s eyes in the early thirties. Temple created history winning the first ever Juvenile Award aged six at the 7th Academy Awards which was created to acknowledge her achievements over her short career. She is still the youngest ever Oscar recipient. Similarly, Jackie Cooper entered the history books in 1931 after being nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Skippy aged only nine. His achievement was only surpassed in 1979 by Justin Henry nominated for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer. However, young Cooper didn’t have the stamina to last the entire ceremony. According to reports, Cooper fell asleep half way through the proceedings unfortunately on the shoulder of Marie Dressler who was nominated for Best Actress. When she won, Dressler had to slowly manoeuvre the sleeping Cooper onto his mother’s lap before accepting the award.   
Shirley Temple with her Academy Award

1. The Great Bette Snub  
Bette Davis with her Oscar for Dangerous in 1935
One of the most shocking ever Oscar snubs occurred in 1934. Bette Davis who had previously been given flimsy and melodramatic roles had forced the tyrannical Jack Warner to loan her out to RKO to star in the confronting Somerset Maugham story, Of Human Bondage. The role was challenging for Davis who not only had to behave outrageously flirty and cruel but appear physically hideous and die in the end of a degrading undisclosed illness. She was successful and a standout for the year with Life magazine commenting she gave, “the best performance ever recorded on the screen by an American actress.” However, astonishingly, Davis was not initially nominated for the Best Actress award. After pressure from the media, members of the public and other actors, The Academy was forced to reconsider its decision. The critics were insisting a “write-in ballot” be created. Later Academy’s president, Howard Estabrook stated, “The awards committee has decided upon a change in the rules to permit unrestricted selection of any voter, who may write on the ballot his personal choice for the winner.” This ruling allowed Davis to be officially named a nominee two weeks after the first announcement of the nominees were made. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Davis did not win losing out to Claudette Colbert. Interestingly she wrote in her autobiography that everybody on the night assumed she would be victorious.

“The air was thick with rumours. It seemed inevitable that I would receive the coveted award. The press, the public and the members of the Academy who did the voting were sure I would win! Surer than I!”
She was rewarded a year later receiving the Oscar for her role as a fallen actress in Dangerous in a well-acted performance but Davis always considered this a kind of reparation for the snub the year before.