Thursday, 31 March 2016

Lilyan Tashman's top 5 famous feuds

Despite being mostly forgotten today, actress Lilyan Tashman was a powerful figure in Precode era America. Her popular film and stage performances were eclipsed only by her fabulous lifestyle and reputation as the "best dressed woman in Hollywood". 
She was the reigning Queen of Glamour in the late 20s and early 30s taking over from the silent mega-star Gloria Swanson. Her marriage to actor, Edmund Lowe which lasted until her death was dubbed 'perfect' by fan magazines with their house Lilowe reaching an equal level of design perfection with opulent furnishings and architecture. 
Edmund and Lilyan during a 'private' moment
Tashman's wardrobe received even more public interest and press attention with her glamourous and stylish outfits and accessories creating envy from women all over the world. Like so many other stars on the top, Tashman's life was cut short when in 1934 aged only 37, she died of cancer. (For more information about Tashman's life and career see this great article from Shadows and Satin blog.)
However, another side of Tashman's private and public life shows the woman was not a person to start a fight with. Feuds between the actress and other Hollywood figures became fodder for fan magazines and newspapers. In these incidents, Tashman rarely came out second best. She always fought hard for her reputation and her integrity and didn't pull any punches. For five of her best feuds see below:

5) Eleanor Boardman
Like most of Tashman's public feuds, her little tiff with silent actress Eleanor Boardman was about fashion. According to reports, there had been a "coolness" between the actresses who at the time were both employed by Paramount. 
Eleanor Boardman
The magazine reported that a comment of Tashman's about Boardman's dress sense started the argument. This was continued when Tashman believed Boardman had copied the interior design of her red and white themed house by using green and white as base colours. Although, it turned out costume designer, Adrian, was responsible for the decorating, the similarity between both didn't help the tension between the women. The magazine continued that this "coolness" was resolved after a chance meeting and:
          "Lilyan dashed right up to Eleanor and said graciously,
          "Your house is lovely!"
          Eleanor smiled. "I hope you like it better than my dresses-"
          Lilyan laughed gaily. "Now, Eleanor-"
          And being two intelligent women all was forgotten and they're as chummy as before."

4) Lupe Velez
Nothing represented the public's view of the unrestrained, egotistical Hollywood elite of the late 20s and early 30s more than the feud and reported cat-fight between Tashman and passionate, voluptuous actress, Lupe Velez. 
Lupe Velez
The extent of the conflict and the events leading up to their supposed 'tussle' is unclear; however, author of Lupe Velez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's Mexican Spitfire, Michelle Vogel, believes the tension had been mounting for some time before it became public knowledge. She explained the rivalry in her book:
"One time, while Lupe was dining at the Embassy club, she spotted Lilyan Tashman from across the room. Lilyan was wearing long white gloves, so Lupe proceeded to wrap napkins around her arms and make fun of her for all to see. People snickered at Lupe's impromptu show but Lilyan wasn't laughing. On that occasion, both ladies were retrained before a physical altercation could happen. But sarcastic, bitchy remarks flew back and forth between Lupe and Lilyan for ages. Then came the culmination of years of pent-up frustration and the feisty pair came to blows on the power room floor in the Montemarte Cafe in Hollywood. They clawed, punched and kicked each other and by all accounts, Lupe won a clear decision."

3) Hedda Hopper
The public fight between Hedda Hopper and Lilyan Tashman proved that some leading figures of Precode Hollywood just didn't care bad publicity.
Hedda Hopper

These two press staples didn't hold back when a feud started over who was a better authority on the current fashion. It all began when Hopper wrote a piece on Tashman's wardrobe commenting that she "wears the theatre on her back" and that her over-the-top outfits were both excessive and gaudy. These statements didn't go down well with Tashman who fired back at Hopper's clothing and even making remarks about the columnist and former actresses age. It was followed by a heavily reported incident when both Lilyan and Hopper were invited to judge an Easter fashion show at the Agua Caliente Casino. Both refused taking the opportunity to continue to attack each other's fashion knowledge in a very passive and hilarious way. But don't just take it from me, it's best to read conflict in the words of both ladies:
Lilyan said:
“If she were an authority on clothes, I would pay some attention to her criticism. But, of course, it’s really too absurd. One is either smart – or one simply isn’t smart. One is chic – or one is not chic. Unfortunately, Miss Hopper is not noted for her chic. I am very fond of Hedda and I think she looks quite nice in her things. One would place her as a very respectable aunt from the Middle West. But chic? No. She simply does not have an affinity for clothes. And, of course, I would be foolish to pay the slightest attention to her remarks on a subject which she is so ignorant.”
Hedda said:
“Understand, any remarks that I make about Lilyan’s clothes are not a reflection on her personally. I like Lil. I adore her. .  .  . She wears very beautiful clothes. She dresses in the latest style – often far ahead of it, in fact! I wish I could afford clothes like hers. I wish I could have as many clothes as she has – but if I did, I certainly would not try to wear them all at the same time!
"Lil has a flair for the spectacular. She pays simply appalling prices for very simple little tailored suits that are the last word in chic - and then spoils the effect with jewellery. I wish, my dear, that you could have seen Lil as she arrived from one of her New York trips. She wore a tailored suit and four diamond clips on the lapel of her jacket. Four clips, mind you. Imagine that, if you can! I have always been taught that it is - well - not the best taste.”
Lilyan said:
"At least, my diamond clips are set with real diamonds!"
Hedda said:
"I'm really astonished that Lil should be hurt or angry at what I've said. In criticising her dress, I certainly would not have her think I am criticising her personally. She is very witty and so amusing! The fact that she overdresses is really not of terrific importance. What if she does wear such charming little suits and then drapes her neck with six or seven strands of pearls…?"
Lilyan said:
"I really do not care to discuss Miss Hopper. I consider that I have been very kind and given her all the publicity that even she could want. Knowing how badly she needs publicity. I have been very tolerant but of course there is a limit."
Like all Tashman's feuds, the fire cooled but both women never returned to a cordial relationship before the actress’s early death.
2) Constance Bennett
Although, I suspect most of what is written in the public forum is at the least exaggerated, it is not difficult to see where this feud between Constance Bennett and Tashman started. 
Constance Bennett
In the early 30's both women were in the running for the coveted title of 'best dressed woman in Hollywood'. A 1931 Photoplay identified this as the key to the contempt between the women with Tashman fearing the arrival of the glamorous Bennett in Hollywood would take over her position:
"And then Connie Bennett slithered upon the scene of action. Connie with her fine European ways, her fascinating background, her last-word clothes, threw everybody into a dither. Connie got talked about. Connie got quoted. And Lilyan didn't like that. Lilyan didn't like that and a lot of other things that we can't go into here."
The article continues with a 'passive argument' between the pair at the Embassy Club where, when seeing Tashman enter, Bennett and her friends blatantly left, one-by-one in disgust. A February 1933 Picture Play article supported the claims, saying:
"Constance Bennett does not like Lilyan Tashman and Lil holds for Constance about the same affection. They almost came to blows a year or so ago, according to the grapevine telegraph from Malibu. They will not appear together in a picture."
Even more shocking and - what I consider to be - a completely fabricated, over-the-top account is one from biographer Darwin Porter in his book 'The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart'. He describes a scene at a party hosted by Basil Rathbone and his wife Ouida Bergere in (I believe) August 1929. As it was a dress-up affair Tashman was dressed as Lady Diana Mayo from The Shiek and Bennett as Maid Marian from Robin Hood. The book argues that Bergère deliberately instigated a conflict by placing both simultaneously in front of press cameras.

Despite wild rumours and strange, outlandish accounts from some authors, it is clear Tashman and Bennett did not get on. Whether they actually came to blows will never truly be known.

1) Alona Marlowe
The only one of Tashman's conflicts to reach the courts was her notorious alleged 'cat fight' between herself and Alona Marlowe (sister of actress, June Marlowe). 
Alona Marlowe
Marlowe brought forward battery charges on May 9, 1931 after an incident which supposedly occurred at the studio offices of Tashman's husband, Edmund Lowe. She alleges that she called in to Lowe's office and that, "Miss Tashman found her there and struck and scratched her. Lowe was not present." Lowe and Tashman both denied ever knowing Marlowe. Lowe was even reported as commenting that, "it is a most fantastic tale". Two days later newspapers announced the case had been dropped but the affair still remained in the minds of film-lovers and the pages of fan magazines.

Marlowe later said that the case was dropped - not because it lacked truth - but because the parties had made an out-of-court settlement. Her attorney said the agreement was made before the court date and that Marlowe, "had received a fair amount of damages for injuries she suffered". The opposing attorney came out against this remark saying, "only a nominal amount was paid. Such a trifling amount as to be insignificant". The settlement signalled the end of the conflict. Despite this the story has continued through history with the usual factual problems and exaggerations. One major problem that even made its way into reputable newspapers was that it was June not Alona who was involved in the incident.