When Stars CollideWritten by Stephen Schochet
During silent era it was thought a waste of money to make a movie with more than one star. Personalities like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton were considered potent enough box office on their own. But with dwindling attendance during great depression MGM decided to feature Hollywood's first all star ensemble cast in Grand Hotel (1932) starring mammoth egos of Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, John Barrymore and Greta Garbo. The director Edmund Goulding was unable to let Joan Crawford and Garbo have any scenes together for fear they might try to upstage each other. Although she complimented her Swedish co-star's beauty, Crawford hated Garbo's demands for top billing. Knowing that Greta hated tardiness and Marlene Dietrich, Crawford was constantly late and played Dietrich's records loudly on set.
Crawford had another classic encounter with rival Bette Davis on set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962). Betty, knowing that Joan was widow of Alfred Steele, former head of Pepsi Corporation, had a Coke dispenser brought in for cast and crew. When Joan was late Bette, an often nasty woman but a total pro, would proclaim loudly," Is Widow Steele ready yet?" Joan retaliated by lining her dress pockets with weights so in a scene when Davis had to drag Crawford's nearly dead character across floor, she almost broke her back.
Male stars don't always get along either. On location in Japan, for filming of The Teahouse Of The August Moon (1956), Glenn Ford paid a visit to his co-star Marlon Brando's dressing room. "Marlon did you eat one of chocolate chip cookies my wife sent me?". "No I didn't Glenn." "OK." Ford hesitated at door. "Marlon, all you to do was ask, you didn't have to take one." Ford left to shoot his next scene giving infuriated Brando time to go into Ford's dressing room and smash remaining cookies with a sledgehammer.
Another Ford, Harrison, had a dustup with Brad Pitt during making of The Devil's Own (1996). At first Pitt was excited to be working with older actor, but his enthusiasm waned as script focus moved away from his sympathetic young Irish killer to Ford's middle-aged, happily married policeman. Ford perhaps threatened by younger star, accused Pitt of trying to be an apologist for IRA. The film was delayed almost every day for hours as Pitt, Ford and director Alan Pakula would argue about script. The budget skyrocketed to over ninety million, became a box office failure and led to Columbia Pictures head Mark Canton, being fired. During production when two had stars had fight scenes together they took out their frustrations by landing real blows.
How We Got Movie Stars Written by Stephen Schochet
Early movies had no stories, no stars and no sound. A popular movie in 1890's was two girls getting undressed by a lake. Right before their last garments came off, a train came by to block your view. In next scene two girls were swimming in lake. The film was a hit throughout country.
One old farmer went and saw this same movie for weeks and weeks. One day theater manager came down and said," Say old timer. Every day we show same film with girls, train and lake and every day you keep coming back." "Well sonny, one of these days I'm hoping train will be late!"
Many of early film actors were quite content to stay anonymous, reasoning that new flickers were a novelty and would damage their reputation on legitimate stage. They were often expected to work all day long. Their duties included hammering nails, painting set, picking up trash, and lifting heavy equipment. There were no trailers or perks or glamour or big houses. A casting director might meet a newspaper boy on street and hire him as an lead actor for five dollars a day. Ladies of evening were often given jobs simply because they provided their own wardrobes. Not knowing their real names, movie going public would give their favorite actor's appropriate nicknames such as "the waif" or "the cowboy". The growing curiosity surrounding identities lead to birth of movie fan magazines such as Photoplay in 1909. But fearing that their players would demand huge salaries producers still refused to release their names.
One of most prominent movie theater owners was a former clothing store manager from Oshkosh, Wisconsin named Carl Laemmle, eventual founder of Universal Studios. By 1909 he was sick of buying movies from Thomas Edison and had decided to make his own. Laemmle would listen each night, as his patrons would leave his theater; many would excitedly discuss actors on screen. He decided if he was going to produce his own pictures he would sell them by creating a star.