The Hollywood Trivia Closet: First Celebrity & Movie Star Jobs – Part 2

The Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show on YouTube:
The Hollywood Trivia Closet – First Movie Star and Celebrity Jobs Part 2-Cary Grant & more

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Hollywood Trivia Closet, featuring celebrities and movie stars and their first jobs –
Loretta Young
Gary Cooper
Marlene Dietrich
Olivia de Havilland
Cary Grant

Text, video and audio editing: Lorraine Dmitrovic


The Hollywood Trivia Closet: First Celebrity & Movie Star Jobs – Part 1

The Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show on YouTube:
The Hollywood Trivia Closet – First Celeb and Movie Star Jobs Pt 1-Lucille Ball & more

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Hollywood Trivia Closet, featuring celebrities and movie stars and their first jobs – Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason, Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier, Gloria Swanson and Lucille Ball.

(Yes, that is Greta Garbo, not Laura Hope Crews, in a photo from Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) 1931.)

Text & video editing: Lorraine Dmitrovic
Audio editing: Trevor Giampieri

The Hollywood Trivia Closet – Celebrity First Jobs! Part 2

Show 4 - Hollywood Trivia Closet-Celebrity first jobs-part2

Show 4 – The Ultimate Movies Broadcast The Hollywood Trivia Closet – Celebrity First Jobs part 2

First Jobs of Celebrities Part 2
by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Hollywood Trivia Closet, featuring celebrities and their first jobs, Part 2.

It’s well-known that Loretta Young had an uncredited role as an Arab child in Rudolph Valentino’s silent film, The Sheik, in 1921. By that time she had already appeared in 4 other silents. In her second film at the age of 4, she received billing as Gretchen Young, her birth name, in Sirens of the Sea in 1917. Sadly, many of her films up to and including 1930, have been “lost.” Signed to a contract by the husband of actress Colleen Moore in 1927 for Naughty But Nice, for John McCormack Productions, she wasn’t billed as Loretta Young until 1928, when she played the role of The Girl in The Whip Woman. It was Colleen Moore who gave Young the name Loretta, after one of Moore’s favourite dolls.

Her two sisters at very young ages also went into film. But success in this case was tinged with sadness, as perhaps no Hollywood stardust would have settled on Loretta if her parents hadn’t separated and her mother moved her and her sisters to Hollywood.

Gary Cooper, born as Frank, worked on his family’s cattle ranch and was a full-time cowboy by the time he was 17. Talk about gaining experience for a future job. But before knocking on Hollywood’s door, while in high school Coop was encouraged to get into “dramatics” by a teacher, then took a left turn in 1922 when he enrolled in college to further his art studies. During school vacation months in 1922 and 1923 he worked as a tour guide, also driving the reno-ed open-top school bus, in Yellowstone National Park. By 1924, he left college and eventually returned to Helena to sell editorial cartoons to the local newspaper, The Independent. When his father moved the family to Los Angeles, Gary found short term work as a door-to-door salesman for a photographer, and then tried his hand at selling ad space on theatre curtains. When he went knocking on Hollywood’s door, the answer was to start his acting career as an extra and stunt rider. His first confirmed role was as an uncredited crowd extra in Dick Turpin in 1925. The same year he appeared uncredited as a masked Cossack in the Rudolph Valentino silent, The Eagle. Yup, that’s right, look for the tallest Cossack. Soon working his way up in screen time, and receiving over 1,000 fan letters a week, he began playing roles in many important silent films like Lilac Time with Colleen Moore in 1928 (which actually did have synchronized music and sound effects). He made his breakthrough as a major star when his first talkie, The Virginian, was released in 1929.

As a young child Marlene Dietrich studied the violin and as a teenager became interested in theater and poetry. She once dreamed of being a concert violinist, but an injury to her wrist resigned her to a first job in 1922 as a pit orchestra fiddler, accompanying silent films in a Berlin cinema. She was fired four weeks later.

Her earliest professional Berlin stage appearances were as a chorus girl on tour with Guido Thielscher’s vaudeville-style Girl-Kabarett, and in Rudolf Nelson revues. Later In 1922 she didn’t pass an audition to become a serious actress for theatrical director and impresario Max Reinhardt’s drama academy, but was offered work in his theatres as a chorus girl and playing small roles in dramas. Hard work led to her film debut, a bit part in The Little Napoleon (1923).

She met future husband Rudolf Sieber on set of another film made that year, Tragödie der Liebe, and they married in a Berlin civil ceremony on May 17.1923. Her only child, Maria Elisabeth Sieber, was born in December, 1924.

Dietrich continued to work on stage and film in Berlin and also Vienna and by the late 1920s, she was playing more sizable parts in feature films like Café Elektric (1927).

1930 brought Marlene her breakthrough starring role in The Blue Angel. With its international success, and prompted by director Josef von Sternberg who was already established in Hollywood, she arrived in the United States securely under contract to Paramount Pictures. A star was born. The studio knew that Dietrich was the perfect Germanic answer to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s exotic Swedish star, Greta Garbo.

Olivia de Havilland  early learned to appreciate the arts. Ballet lessons at age 4, piano lessons at 5. She could read before the age of 6, and her drama-music-elocution mother also had Olivia reciting Shakespeare to perfect her diction.

While participating in school plays and the drama club, Olivia planned to be an English and speech teacher and attended Notre Dame Convent. In 1933 de Havilland made her amateur theatre debut in Alice in Wonderland. But her stepfather, unfortunately didn’t approve of her acting, and forbade her from continuing. After finding out that she would play the lead of Elizabeth in a school fund-raiser production of Pride and Prejudice, he gave her an ultimatum: to either quit acting or leave home. Olivia chose her future – leaving home forever and moving in with a friend of the family.

After high school, her life was continually full of choices. She was offered a scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to further her education to become an English teacher. The role of Puck also came up for her in the Saratoga Community Theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As fate would have it, Austrian director Max Reinhardt was in California to stage a major production of the play to premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. One of Reinhardt’s assistants happened to see Olivia performing with the Saratoga company, and he offered her the position of second understudy of the Hermia role. Olivia accepted.

Then, one week before the Reinhardt premiere, understudy Jean Rouverol and lead actress Gloria Stuart left, with only de Havilland available to play Hermia. Impressed with her performance at the premiere, Reinhardt offered her the part in the upcoming four-week autumn tour. During that run, Reinhardt was confirmed to direct the Warner Bros. film version of his stage play, and he then offered Olivia the Hermia role in the film. She hesitated, still tempted by a teaching career, but signed a five-year contract with Warner Bros. in late 1934 at $200 a week. Soon after, this Errol Flynn fellow would rise to super stardom with her in their numerous films together, the first being Captain Blood in 1935. Olivia’s most famous film role, of course, will likely always be considered to be Melanie in Gone With the Wind (1939).

Cary Grant, born with the lovable name Archibald Leach, was taught song and dance at age 4 by his mother, who also felt piano lessons were in order. He and his mother also enjoyed going to the cinema, where he discovered Chaplin and other pre-talkie film greats. But by age 6, feeling neglected by both parents, Archie found friendship and a sense of family with a group of acrobatic dancers known as the Bob Pender Stage Troupe. He learning to stilt-walk, and was also at times thrown around like a prop by the acrobats during acts in their shows.

Some sources state that in March 1911, Archie accompanied the troupe to NY, performed a few weeks there, and soon toured the US. After a few months, the show lost money and appeal, he returned to England in September. For a number of years while back in school, he attended comedy shows on Saturdays in London. In January 1914 his father took him to see Fanny Brice in the revue Hello, Ragtime at the Prince’s Theatre.

In 1918 he apparently rejoined Pender’s Troupe to now dance, perform as a juggler and be an acrobat as well, and he also acted in pantomime. In the biography Cary Grant, Dark Angel, by Geoffrey Wansell, he recalled, “I grew to appreciate the fine art of pantomime. No dialogue was used in our act and each day, on a bare stage, we learned not only dancing, tumbling and stilt-walking, but also how to convey a mood or a meaning without words.” He learned to approach comedy as art ,and that every audience was different. In another bio, Cary Grant: A Class Apart. London: Fourth Estate, by Graham McCann, he stated, “Doing stand-up comedy is extremely difficult. Your timing has to change from show to show and from town to town. We used to do matinees, supper shows and late shows… the response would change from night to night and from town to town. People in Wilkesbarre and folks in Wilmington didn’t laugh at the same things”.

Archie then worked for a time in 1922 in vaudeville, and by the summer had also formed his own group, The Walking Stanleys with several former members of the Pender Troupe. Then, after meeting the owner of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park racecourse at a party, he was hired to be colourfully outfitted and wear a sandwich board to advertise the racetracktrack. He enjoyed watching the Marx Brothers perform there, billed as the “Greatest Comedy Act in Show Business, Barring None.” Zeppo Marx became an early role model.

In 1923 The Walking Stanleys” toured the US, with another tour of the mid West in 1924 and also in Canada. By 1925 the exhausted group split up, and he returned to New York. Archie resided and performed at the National Vaudeville Artists Club on West 46th Street, juggling, doing acrobatics and comic sketches, and for a while he became a unicycle rider known as Rubber Legs. His comedic talent and timing improved, and he became aware of the importance of teamwork, skills all preparing him for Hollywood stardom. About these other aspects of timing as a performer, he once said, “I learned to time laughs. When to talk into an audience’s laughter. When not to wait for a laugh. In all sorts of theatres, of all sizes, playing to all sorts of people, timing laughs that changed at every single performance.”

A first big acting role on stage, as an Australian, came along in 1927 in Hammerstein’s musical, Golden Dawn. The show lasted 184 performances, with reviews referring to him as a “pleasant new juvenile” and “competent young newcomer”. In 1928, he joined the William Morris Agency, and after one failed play, Hammerstein’s arch-rival Florenz Ziegfeld made an attempt to buy out Archie’s contract – but Hammerstein sold him instead to the Shubert Brothers.

This is when things get really interesting. J. Shubert cast him in a small role as a Spaniard opposite Jeanette MacDonald in the French risqué comedy production of Boom-Boom at the Casino Theatre on Broadway, which premiered January 28, 1929. Co-star MacDonald later admitted that Archie was “absolutely terrible in the role”, but had the ability to charm an audience, which ultimately saved the show. Through the 72 shows in NY, Archie earned an amazing $350 a week. Boom Boom’s newfound success attracted screen tests for him and MacDonald by Paramount Publix Pictures at New York’s Astoria Studios, resulting in MacDonald starting her career in film being cast opposite Maurice Chevalier in The Love Parade (1929). Sadly, it was not yet Archie’s time. He was flat out rejected, basically because of his physical appearance – a too thick neck and bow-legs. Kind of unbelievable, isn’t it? Maybe those who had the power with the magic wand to declare someone an actor on that occasion should have blinked twice and opened their eyes to the talent and handsome appeal of star material Archie standing before them.

He continued on the stage until February 1930, when he was fired by the Shuberts after he refused to accept a paycut along with the rest of the company during the Depression.

He fortunately soon found work again as a romantic lead soldier named Cary Lockwood in post-World I France in the musical, Nikki, co-starring opposite actress Fay Wray. The production premiered in September 1931 in New York, but folded after 39 performances due to the Depression.

But all was not as it seemed or all lost. Archie had been praised in the soldier role by Ed Sullivan of The New York Daily News, who noted that the “young lad from England” would have “a big future in the movies”. It was Sullivan’s timely review that clinched a new screen test at Paramount Publix.

Archie met with Jesse Lasky and B. P. Schulberg of Paramount Pictures and a successful screen-test for him was directed by Marion Gering, whom Archie later worked with in Devil and the Deep and Madame Butterfly in 1932. He signed a five year contract, starting at $450 a week. Still known as Archie at that time, Schulberg suggested a name change to “something that sounded more all-American, like Gary Cooper”. While having dinner with Fay Wray one evening, she suggested to Archie to choose “Cary Lockwood”, the name of his character in their play, Nikki. Schulberg approved of “Cary,” giving the newly-named Cary a list of possible surnames compiled by Paramount’s publicity department. He chose “Grant”, which Schulberg liked.

And so, Archibald Leach made his official debut as Cary Grant in This is the Night (1932) as an Olympic javelin thrower opposite Thelma Todd as his wife and Lili Damita as his love interest.

Another early highlight, he played a wealthy playboy opposite Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus. He would make 11 other films from 1932 to 1933. One elevated him toward true star status – 1933’s She Done Him Wrong, for which Mae West had specifically requested Cary play the male lead. West later claimed that she had discovered him. A huge box office success, She Done Him Wrong featured Mae’s signature line, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?” Grant was quickly signed to Mae’s next film, also in 1933, I’m No Angel, and he was given a pay raise to $750 a week. The second film, even more successful than She Done Him Wrong, saved the studio from bankruptcy. For handsome, versatile Grant now, the starry sky was the limit.

Listen for more First Celebrity Jobs segments on upcoming Ultimate Movie Broadcast Shows.

Copyright © June 2016: Lorraine Dmitrovic

First Celebrity Jobs Part 1 – The Hollywood Trivia Closet


Show 3 Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show-HollywoodTriviaCloset-first celebrity jobs

Written and narrated by Lorraine Dmitrovic

To link to The Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show 3, featuring The Hollywood Trivia Closet segment highlighting Celebrity First Jobs Part 1

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Hollywood Trivia Closet, featuring celebrities and their first jobs. Some had a long road to Hollywood, others seemed to take the fast train. They all eventually arrived in Tinsel Town and found the fame and fortune they had been seeking.

Phil Silvers, well before becoming known as The King of Chutzpah and Sergeant Bilko, was influenced by comedy greats Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx. Silvers started clowning around – I mean entertaining – at age 11, taking his cue to sing in theaters when the film projector broke down, which was pretty common back then. As it worked out, he was allowed to attend some theaters free of charge, so long as he sang at future breakdowns. By age 13, he was a singer in the Gus Edwards Revue, and then worked in vaudeville and as a burlesque comic. His comedy future was sealed. As his Bilko character once said, “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

In the 1930s, Jackie Gleason got a tip from a friend for a one-week job in Reading, Pennsylvania paying $19, a huge sum during The Great Depression. The booking agent advanced him bus fare for the trip against his salary. As it turned out, that first job as a professional comedian was a success, and led him to regular work in a number of small clubs. Gleason soon worked his way up to a job at New York’s “Club 18, “ where insulting patrons was the order of business. On one memorable occasion in his loud stage voice, Gleason greeted world-famous skater Sonja Henjie by handing her an ice cube, saying, “Okay, now do something.” When Jack L. Warner first saw Gleason at the club, the studio mogul quickly signed him to a film contract for $250 a week.

Around 1922, Clark Gable toured with stock companies in stage plays, at the same time working as a logger and an oil field horse manager. Later in Portland he found work as a necktie salesman at the Meier & Frank department store. While there he met stage and film actress Laura Hope Crews, who encouraged him to go back into acting and join a theater company. Many years later, Crews and Gable would together as Aunt Pittypat and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939). So, returning to the stage, Gable soon married his acting coach, Josephine Dillon, who groomed him physically as well as for future acting stardom. Now we all know why he looked so good in those ties and ascots and bowties in the Southern saga. What’s that saying? Once a necktie salesman, always a necktie salesman? Maybe Gable could do a fancy tie knot in his sleep.

As a young lad, Laurence Olivier attended All Saints School in London. His older brother was already a pupil. Laurence felt himself to be an outsider, and didn’t like the church’s Anglo-Catholic ritual and incense. The theatricality of the services, however, did appeal to him, and the vicar encouraged students to appreciate secular as well as religious drama. In a school production of Julius Caesar in 1917, ten-year-old Olivier’s performance as Brutus impressed an audience that included Lady Tree, the young Sybil Thorndike, and the legendary stage actress Ellen Terry, who later who wrote in her diary, “The small boy who played Brutus is already a great actor.”

At age 15, having never thought about going into acting, one of Gloria Swanson’s aunts took her to visit the small Essanay Studios in Chicago. She must have made quite an impression because Gloria was asked to come back to work as an extra. After a few months as an extra working with stars like Charlie Chaplin, and making $13.50 a week, Swanson left school to work full-time at the studio.

After her parents separation, and she and her mother moved to California in 1916 so she could appear in Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies. In 1919, Gloria signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with Cecil B. DeMille. In the still popular Male and Female (1919), she posed as “the Lion’s Bride” with a real lion, and she went on to make many other silent classics. By 1922 she was a star, and people went to the theatres not only to watch her movies but to see what Gloria would be wearing, as she was as famous for her trendsetting fashions as her acting.

Coming full circle in 1950, Gloria was re-united with DeMille, and another of her directors, Erich Von Stroheim in scenes from Billy Wilder’s, Sunset Boulevard.

Mother DeDe tried to end an early romantic relationship of Lucille Ball by turning her attention to her daughter’s desire to be in show business. Despite meager finances, Dede arranged for Lucille to go to the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City, where Bette Davis was a fellow student. Ball later said about that time in her life, “All I learned in drama school was how to be frightened.”

Ball was determined to prove her teachers wrong and returned to New York City in 1928. Among her other jobs, she landed work as a fashion model for Hattie Carnegie.Her career was thriving when she became ill, either with rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, or an unknown illness, and she was unable to work for two years.She moved back to New York City in 1932 to resume her pursuit of a career as an actress and supported herself by again working for Carnegie and as the Chesterfield cigarette girl.

Using the name Diane (sometimes spelled Dianne) Belmont, she started getting some chorus work on Broadway but the work was not lasting. Ball was hired– but then quickly fired– by theatre impresario Earl Carroll from his “Vanities,” and then by Florenz Ziegfeld, from a touring company of “Rio Rita.”

She soon started to have bit parts in films and became an RKO contract player in the 1930s. In the 1940s she signed with MGM, but then found she was more often than not being cast in “B” films.

In 1948 she was starring on a radio show My Favorite Husband, a radio program for CBS Radio. When an offer came to re-create the role and show for TV in a comedy series.

Lucy wanted real-life husband Desi as the husband for the TV show and after a so-so pilot they produced as their company Desilu, Lucy and Desi toured the concept until they found the right comedy rhythm that would work for television. They succeeded, and show known as I Love Lucy was picked up by CBS, and it has flourished internationally and turned “Lucy and Ricky” into comedy icons.

Once she had “made it,” later in her career she gave acting classes. Ball was quoted as saying, “You cannot teach someone comedy; either they have it or they don’t.

And coming from one of the the grand dams of comedy, Lucy, I believe her 100 percent. Many other stars in front of and behind the camera who also made their marks in Hollywood, earned their paychecks another way before that. We’ll have a look at their stories, too. See you then, next month, with another installment of First Celebrity Jobs on the Hollywood Trivia Closet.

Copyright © April 2016: Lorraine Dmitrovic