The Year was 1938 – May 26th

John Wayne in 1939
  • John Wayne was born on this day in 1907, making him 31 years old in 1938. [He toiled all of 1938 at Republic on their Three Mesquiteers series. A big year ahead for him with ‘Stagecoach’ for Walter Wanger, with John Ford directing, opening in January of 1939. Then back to Republic and the ‘B’ westerns].
  • Actress Constance Bennett was sued by portrait artist Willy Pogany, who was trying to be paid for a painting he made of her. He wants $3500, and she countered that it was only worth $500, as it was not done to her satisfaction – the shoulders were too round, and the thigh too large, and the mouth had a curlicue that she did not like. [Bennett was currently doing well in the ‘Topper’ comedies, ahead she only had one film for 1939 – ‘Tail Spin’ with Alice Faye at 20th Century Fox].
  • MGM director W S Van Dyke departed for McCall Idaho today to scout locations for Northwest Passage. Col Tim McCoy will hire 1,000 Nez Perces for work in the film. [Van Dyke is only credited for the background shots for the film].
  • George Brent and Ronald Reagan are set for the top roles at WB for ‘Wings of the Navy.’ Leading lady yet to be set. [George Brent had his lead in the film, but Reagan did not. He was replaced by John Payne. And the leading lady role was taken by Olivia DeHavilland, in this opus for 1939].
  • Director Henry King left in his private plane today for a trip east – St Louis, Miami and New York. On his return he will stop over in Kansas City MO in order to scout locations for his next film for 20th Century Fox – ‘Jesse James.’
  • Columnist Sidney Skolsky goes on about the hefty sums paid for two plays to be made into films – $200,000 for the Kaufman/Hart play “You Can’t Take it with You,” then shooting at Columbia under Frank Capra’s guidance; and $250,000 paid by RKO for “Room Service.” Both had challenges in preparing them for the screen, but probably most problematic was Morrie Ryskind’s task in converting ‘Room Service’ into a Marx Brothers’ movie, instead of a movie of the play. [Ryskind had plenty of practice, having working for the boys on ‘The Coconuts,’  ‘Animal Crackers,’ and ‘A Night at the Opera’].

Ed Sullivan’s quote on the occasion of the premiere of ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ at the Carthay Circle Theater – he calls it a smash hit – but then he hears the criticisms come out, and he adds – “…this Hollywood is a strange town, bounded on the north by Malice, on the south by Envy, on the east by Exhibitionism, and on the west by old Virginia ham.”

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The Year was 1938 – May 8th

Alice Faye in the film “In Old Chicago

Singer and actress Alice Faye turned 23 today, and though a singer, could not read a note of music. (The greats of that time – Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter held her talent in high esteem). At fourteen, she ran off to try out as a chorus girl, but was turned away as too young. She eventually got on as a dancer, and through a fluke her singing came to the attention of Rudy Vallee, and wound up on the radio. Through her connection to him she landed at Fox and continued there through the Zanuck regime. She married another singer and actor, Tony Martin, in 1937. They eloped to Yuma Arizona so it was a small wedding. But they made up for it in the film Sally, Irene and Mary, (which opened in March 1938), when their characters wed on screen. Her brother Bill Faye (who took her stage name too) acted as her business manager, before then he was an investment banker in NY. Her triumphs in two other 1938 films – “In Old Chicago” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” made her Queen of the Fox lot. Ahead in 1939, she would appear in Tail Spin, Rose of Washington Square, Hollywood Cavalcade, and Barricade.