Well, whether you accepted last week’s challenge or not, it’s time to lay down a few little riffs on how this film brilliantly–and in at least one case, unintentionally– mirrors Hollywood history:
1. Norman Maine’s descent has been described as what happened to Johns Barrymore and Gilbert (below left and right), neither of whom were exactly amateurs at bending their elbows.
But I choose to believe another story that’s been mooted; that the inspiration for this was the Frank Fay/Barbara Stanwyck marriage (below right). Fay was a huge star on Broadway and came to Hollywood with fanfare and a fat contract. His thin-skinned orphan of a wife accompanied him, and got little work–until Fay talked Capra into auditioning her, and one of the great collaborations of 30s film began with Ladies of Leisure in 1930. Capra fell in love with Stanwyck’s naturalness and her ease, and filmed the young actress so her skin glows like wet paint, lush in its tactility. She became one of the greatest actresses of the era, and was the highest paid woman in America by 1944. Fay meanwhile, leaned hard on the bottle, lost work, began to knock his wife around and basically bought himself a one-way ticket out of town.
2. The sanitarium scene is said to be based on the a visit George Cukor (a frequent Selznick collaborator) made to a facility where Barrymore had been sent to dry up. Cukor was there to talk about a potential role in “Camille”, and was touched by Barrymore’s gentle awkwardness on this rare sober occasion.
3. The scene where Vicky’s veil is snatched off is modeled on Continue reading