Posts Tagged ‘ben-hur’

Novarro and Hurrell

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

FILM HISTORY

Ramon Novarro and Hurrell

 

   

By Allan R. Ellenberger
February 10, 2020

 

In 1928, Ramon Novarro became friends with Florence “Pancho” Barnes, a woman flier who became famous for breaking speed records in her plane, Mystery Ship. Years later she founded the Happy Bottom Ranch in the Antelope Valley, which became an oasis in the desert for aviators depicted in the film, The Right Stuff (1983).

 

Pancho was introduced to Ramon at a party, and the two became an unusual couple cavorting around Hollywood in Ramon’s sports cars. Pancho was not the glamorous type and was known for her profanity, which she used liberally.

 

Pancho was a staunch supporter of George Hurrell, a struggling photographer who had taken many photos of her. Ramon had told Pancho that he was planning to make his concert debut in Vienna and needed new portraits. She suggested Hurrell, and Ramon asked her to set up an appointment. Pancho excitedly told Hurrell about Novarro’s request, to which he replied, “I’m flattered, but why doesn’t he use MGM’s photographer?”

 

 

Ramon Novarro and Pancho Barnes (Photo: Pancho Barnes Trust Estate)

 

 

She explained that Novarro was planning an upcoming concert tour and added, “He doesn’t want MGM to know about it right now. If he asked Ruth Harriet Louise to do it, the prints would be all over the studio.”

 

That evening Hurrell prepared his tiny studio at 672 Lafayette Park Place to greet the Ben-Hur of the screen. Soon Novarro’s sports roadster arrived, and he and Pancho made their way to Hurrell’s studio, where the two were introduced. Pancho, who was breathless and giddy, excused herself, explaining she had to meet some new pilots down at Mines Field. Hurrell sensed there was a budding romance between  her and Ramon, which was precisely what Pancho wanted people to think.

 

After Pancho left, Hurrell set up his equipment while Novarro changed. Within minutes, he turned around and saw the actor, standing quietly on the landing dressed as a Spanish grandee in a huge sombrero, with silver ornaments and a mustache glued to his upper lip.

 

 

The first photo of Ramon Novarro taken by George Hurrell

 

 

Hurrell found that Novarro, whom he nicknamed Pete, had photographically perfect features and was very relaxed. The photographer played classical music, which made Novarro more responsive. “He could face my camera with a blank expression,” Hurrell recalled. “Not at all like some of the men-about-town whom I had been photographing. I had to trick them into losing their solemn expression in order to get an interesting shot, but Ramon was relaxed.”

 

Two days later when the Latin saw the proofs, he told Hurrell, “You have caught my moods exactly. You have revealed what I am inside.” Hurrell photographed Novarro many times over the next few months. When Pancho saw a photo taken on her estate in San Marino (below) of a tunic-clad Novarro standing under a tree next to a white horse, the aviatrix noted, “My God George, even the horse looks glamorous!”

 

 

 

 

One day while visiting the set of The Hollywood Revue of 1929, Norma Shearer invited Novarro into her dressing room for a visit. She complained that she was very unhappy about the recent film roles she was receiving. During the conversation, Ramon spread out a stack of portraits he just received from Hurrell. Norma looked from one to the other with obvious interest. “Why Ramon, no one has ever photographed you like this before,” she said.

 

Ramon told her about Hurrell and his tiny Lafayette Park studio. Smiling, she said, “He may come in handy. I have an idea.” She explained that the studio was preparing a script she wanted called The Divorcee (1930). Her husband and mentor, Irving Thalberg, did not think she was beguiling enough for the part. She hoped that if Hurrell could photograph her like a “sex pot,” Irving would give her the role. So Ramon set up a meeting between the actress and Hurrell. The photographs were stunning and convinced Thalberg to give his wife the part. As a result, she won the Academy Award for best actress, and Hurrell was given a contract as a portrait photographer at MGM.

 

The preceeding exerpt is from Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol (1999) by Allan R. Ellenberger.

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Carmel Myers in the 1930 Census…

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

1930 CENSUS

Carmel Myers

(1899-1980)

Film actress

Iras in Ben-Hur (1925)

 

Carmel Myers

 

Carmel Myers home 1930

 

621 Arden Drive

Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California

 

Owned, $50,000

Radio

Census taken on April 23, 1930

 

HOUSEHOLD RESIDENTS*

 

  1. Ralph Blum (head), 35 / United States / no data.
  2. Carmel Blum (wife), 25 / California / Actress / Motion pictures.
  3. Lillian Lang (servant), 24 / New York / Maid / Private family.
  4. Arthur Lang (servant), 39 / Louisianna / Butler / Private family.

.

NOTE: If biographical records are correct and Ms Myers was born in 1899, she fibbed to the government and subtracted seven years from her age. She would actually be 31 years old at this time.

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* Information includes relationship to head of household, age / place of birth (year of arrival in this country, if applicable) / occupation / industry.

  

The preceeding text is taken from my recent book, Celebrities in the 1930 Census (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008). This directory provides an extensive listing of household information collected for over 2,265 famous or notorious individuals who were alive during the 1930 United States Census. Please note: The above photographs do not appear in the book.

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Ramon Novarro Tribute…

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

TRIBUTE

Ramon Novarro

 

 

“I wonder sometimes when people congratulate me upon my performance in Ben-Hur how much that performance would have mattered had I had a fat stomach.”

 — Ramon Novarro

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of silent film actor, Ramon Novarro. In remembrance of him, the following is a brief account of how he received the role of Ben-Hur.

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

When actor George Walsh was cast to play the title role in the Goldwyn production of Ben-Hur, Ramon Novarro was devastated. He wanted to play the part so much he could taste it. But when the studios of Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer merged and Ben-Hur’s director, screenwriter, and Walsh himself were sent packing, Ramon didn’t allow himself the luxury of thinking he had a second chance.

 

That all changed one Sunday afternoon in June when MGM production chief Irving Thalberg called Novarro at his home. He told the actor he had something important to discuss with him and asked that he report to the studio immediately. Novarro drove to Culver City and went to Thalberg’s office, where the “Boy Wonder” got right to the point, asking the 25-year-old actor if he would like to play Ben-Hur.

 

Ramon was, of course, both shocked and delighted and replied that he would. But Thalberg had one request – that Novarro make a screen test. Putting his entire future on the line, Ramon refused the youthful mogul. “Why not?” Thalberg demanded.

 

Ramon reasoned that Thalberg was concerned about his physique and explained that his body was in good shape. If he had any doubts, all he had to do was screen his recent film, Where the Pavement Ends, throughout which Ramon is half-naked.

 

Thalberg smiled and agreed, respecting Ramon’s bluntness and honesty. He then instructed him to keep his casting a secret for now. He would be leaving for New York the next day, and no one must know. Novarro was on top of the world. His dream was at last coming true; the role of a lifetime belong to him.

 

The following morning a studio limo picked up Novarro at his home and whisked him to the Pasadena train station. Waiting there were MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, writers Carey Wilson and Bess Meredyth, attorney J. Robert Rubin and his wife Reba, director Fred Niblo and his wife, actress Enid Bennett, and Photoplay correspondent Herb Howe.

 

In New York, the group was greeted by Marcus Loew, head of MGM. Loew told Ramon to answer all reporter inquiries with the explanation that he was going on vacation. Just as Loew had predicted, reporters were at the dock, questioning everyone. They were naturally suspicious as to why so many MGM employees were traveling to Europe. Fred Niblo fibbed a little, saying he was going to shoot some French exteriors for his recent film with Novarro called The Red Lily and then go on to Monte Carlo to begin his next picture with Norma Talmadge.

 

The night before, director Marshall Neilan and wife, actress Blanche Sweet, sailed for France on the Olympic to make The Sporting Venus. The reporters knew the problems that the studio was having in Italy on the set of Ben-Hur, and that only fueled more rumors that either Neilan or Niblo was going to take over director’s duties from Charles Brabin.

 

As they were waiting to leave on the steamship the Leviathan, frequent Novarro costar Alice Terry arrived to see their departure. Ramon and Alice did an embrace for the cameras which rivaled anything they had done on the screen. At the last minute, Mayer, who was staying behind, gave some words of instruction to Niblo – “Be sure to have a lot of camels in the picture.”

 

After Ramon received farewell telegrams from Thalberg and actress and close friend Barbara La Marr, the ship pulled up anchor and made its way to Europe. As the ship passed the Statue of Liberty, Novarro may have stared at the beautiful lady in the harbor and pondered his future, and the events which led to this, the crossroads of his life.

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Click HERE to watch the chariot scene from Ben-Hur (1925)

 

Comments by friends and co-workers:

  

“Ramon was apparently everything I had been told, but my informants, sleuths and guides who led me to the stage where he was working, had neglected to tabulate his greatest attribute, his sense of humor.”

 Elsie Janis, vaudeville performer and friend

  

“Ramon Novarro was a real Latin heartbreaker. Everywhere he went the women trailed him like a bunch of dogs chasing a bitch in heat. Funny how much of an animal we really are and we try so damned hard to always deny and hide that relationship.”

 Florence “Pancho” Barnes, aviatrix and friend

 

“I loved Ramon; he was one of my dearest friends. Whenever he came to London, we would walk arm in arm in Regents Park, perhaps have a cup of coffee together. I am very proud to think that I made a film with him. Both Frank [her husband] and I loved Ramon. What more can I say?”

 Evelyn Laye, costar in The Night is Young

  

“Ramon aged gracefully. He never considered himself a ‘has-been’ because he had enough money to choose his roles. He worked when he wanted and enjoyed his garden the rest of the time. He enjoyed a beautiful life.”

 Leonard Shannon, agent

  

“I never heard him say an unkind word about any of his contemporaries – nor of the stars of more recent years. And through the years, that sincere boyish enthusiasm the screen knew so well was ever present in his off screen life. The loss of Ramon Novarro leaves a tremendous gap in the ranks of the show business world that can never be filled.”

 Alan Brock, agent

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Charlton Heston Obit

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and N.R.A. Leader, Dies at 83

 

By Robert Berkvist

New York Times, April 6, 2008

 

hestonc.jpg

 

Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83. READ MORE

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Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2008

Charlton Heston, 84; Oscar-winning actor played larger-than-life figures

 

Charlton Heston @ Alternative Film Guide

 

 

 

 

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