Posts Tagged ‘Norma Shearer’

George Hurrell at Laguna Art Museum

Sunday, May 5th, 2013


Laguna Art Museum presents early photographs and Hollywood glamour portraits by George Hurrell from 1925–1944




Laguna Art Museum presents George Hurrell: Laguna to Hollywood, on display through May 19, in the museum’s upper level gallery. George Hurrell was a famed Hollywood glamour photographer with roots in Laguna Beach. The exhibition traces his beginnings as a photographer and his leap to photographing Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 40s. The exhibition presents a selection of over sixty works from 1925-1944 (mostly from the museum’s permanent collection), curated by Laguna Art Museum’s Curator of Early California Art, Janet Blake.


George Hurrell (1904–1992) was born in Covington, Kentucky, and studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learning to photograph his paintings spurred an interest in photography as a medium. In 1924 he was befriended by Laguna Beach artist Edgar Payne and his wife, Elsie Palmer Payne, who were spending several months in Chicago after returning from a long European sojourn. The following spring, the Paynes motored back to California accompanied by Hurrell. After a short time in Los Angeles, Hurrell moved to Laguna Beach, living for a time in the vacant cottage of silent film director Malcolm St. Clair. He became part of the art community and developed close friendships with artists William Wendt and William Griffith. He began photographing the leading artists of the Laguna Beach Art Association, including, besides Griffith and Wendt, Anna Hills, Thomas Hunt, and Frank Cuprien. Laguna Art Museum traces its roots to the Laguna Beach Art Association.


It was in Laguna Beach that Hurrell met Florence “Pancho” Barnes, who, in turn, introduced him to silent movie star Ramon Novarro. Hurrell’s photographs of Barnes and Novarro caught the attention of Hollywood, and he moved there in 1927. By 1930 he was the head of the MGM portrait gallery. He was soon dubbed the “Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait.” He established his own studio on the Sunset Strip and later worked for Warner Bros. The museum’s collection contains many Hurrell photographs, including those of the early artists and other prominent people of Laguna Beach, as well as a portfolio of ten portraits of important Hollywood stars, including John Barrymore, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn.





Laguna Art Museum is a museum of California art. Its mission is to collect, care  for, and exhibit works of art that were created by California artists or represent the life and history of the state. Through its permanent collection, its special loan exhibitions, its educational programs, and its library and archive, the museum enhances the public’s knowledge and appreciation of California art of all periods and styles, and encourages art-historical scholarship in this field.

Laguna Art Museum stands just steps from the Pacific Ocean in the beautiful city of Laguna Beach. The museum is proud to continue the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by the early California artists who had discovered the town and transformed it into a vibrant arts community. The gallery that the association built in 1929 is part of today’s Laguna Art Museum.


Laguna Art Museum

is located at

307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach,

on the corner of PCH and Cliff Drive,
next door to Las Brisas restaurant.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
Closed Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

General admission: $7.00
Students, seniors, and active military: $5.00
Children under 12: FREE
Museum members: FREE



Hollywood Stars and their Telephones

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011


Hollywood stars and their telephones




By Allan R. Ellenberger


Private telephone lines refused to remain private for very long and added to the problems of Hollywood stars who attempted to keep their home life apart from their film careers.


At one time, someone, wishing to “have some fun” at the expense of actor Lew Cody, published his private telephone number. The next day the telephone company, unable to handle the calls into the Cody home, rushed an emergency crew to his Beverly Hills house to install a new system.


Nils Asther’s private telephone number was given out by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio to a caller who posed as a friend. Before long Asther was deluged with strangers calling him at all hours of the day and night. He had to change his number.


Few screen stars had their telephones listed, but when they did it was a “blind” number that led to secretarial offices, a personal telephone always was listed confidentially or under another name and address that could not be traced.


John Gilbert had a regular house telephone, but had a private phone in his study which he answered himself. Greta Garbo’s telephone was listed to her housekeeper, who was given the names of persons she expected to call.


Ramon Novarro’s home number was under his family name of Samaniego, and Norma Shearer’s home telephone was listed as an address only.


If one happened to get Lon Chaney’s number by mistake and asked whose home it was, one would be told: “This is Oxford so-and-so. Who is this, please?” Beyond that one would gain no inkling of the subscriber’s identity.


Bessie Love had two telephones, one for her household needs and a private line for herself. William Haines also had a private line, and Buster Keaton’s house had an elaborate extension system so he could pick up the phone wherever he happened to be.


All of the private lines had cutoff keys so that a star, leaving the house or retiring for the night, could disconnect the telephone, a no-answer signal informing friends that they were not available.


Despite all the privacy precautions, however, the number leak out to salesmen and canvassers and the average life of a private number in Hollywood was estimate at about four months.



Norma and Irving’s Wedding

Thursday, March 4th, 2010


Norma Shearer and

Irving Thalberg’s belated honeymoon


Irving Thalberg and Norma Shearer


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Actress Norma Shearer and MGM producer Irving Thalberg were married on September 29, 1927 at Thalberg’s home, 9419 Sunset Boulevard (this was previously the home of actress Pauline Frederick and at the time was 503 Sunset Blvd.).


The marriage ceremony was attended by about fifty guests. The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Edgar Magnin in the garden beneath a canopy of chrysanthemums. Norma, who was dressed in a gown of ivory velvet, was given in marriage by her brother, Douglas Shearer. Louis B. Mayer acted as best man, while the maid of honor was Sylvia Thalberg, Irving’s sister. Instead of taking an immediate honeymoon, the couple postponed their trip until the following summer.


Upon their return, Norma shared some highlights with Los Angeles Times columnist, Grace Kingsley




The Shearer-Thalberg wedding party



“It is refreshing for an American actress to go to Europe because she is thought much younger than she is. Foreign women prefer to look chic rather than young. They are sophisticated at an earlier age.


“Women in Monte Carlo do not really dress beautifully, at least not nowadays. They still have lovely jewels and their clothes are merely a background for those. But the Sporting Club at Monte Carlo lives entirely up to the movie sets.


“The Riviera is delightful, and the Cornish Drive is the nearest thing to Hollywood I saw. But I must admit it’s more beautiful.


“Speaking of comparisons, I’m afraid I’ve made a mortal enemy of a certain Paris newspaper man. He came to interview me the one day when I was hot and tired from a long trip around town. He asked me what I thought of Paris, and I said I wouldn’t take the whole of it in exchange for Hollywood or something like that. Irving came over and gave my hand a squeeze, meaning for me to be careful. So I tried to make up by saying that Pairs was nice, but – here Irving gave my hand another awful squeeze. He didn’t seem to know that I was trying to veer around slowly, so as not to be too obvious. After the man had gone Irving said, ‘Didn’t you notice me squeezing your hand?’


“I said, ‘You nearly killed me.’


“In Rome we went to the opening of one of our pictures, Tell It to the Marines. We thought we should dress up. So I put on my ermine coat and Irving wore his evening clothes. We expected to find a wonderful theater, but instead the house was down an alley and was a funny old place. We found out that in Italy it is only the middle and lower classes who go to pictures. The management presented me with some lovely roses and we were placed in a box. At the end of the first  reel the lights went up, as they do after every reel over there, and people began waving to each other, whistling and eating.


“They caught sight of me all done up in ermine, and I suppose they thought I was some one they should applaud. So they did. I got a great thrill out of it. I was awfully fussed, and whenever I get fussed before an audience, I always kiss my husband. That always is a good piece of business to cut to! Irving gave the crowd the Fascistic salute and it went great.


“In Algiers, thanks to a certain guide, we viewed some places seldom seen by tourists. We were supposed to be met by a courier and he planned to get there when we did, but we were a day ahead of time, and we had only a day and half, so we missed him. We got into a taxi and told the driver to take us somewhere. We finally discovered that he was going round and round the same square. The day was slipping by, and we were very discouraged. Finally up came a greasy, thoroughly disreputable looking fellow, who said he was a guide. Our driver had been told not to trust us to anyone. He told us the man was a thief and a villain. But Irving is not to be downed by difficulties. He said the he would take a chance. After driving up to a remote part of the town, the guide said for us to get out of the car, and he told the driver to go away and meet us later at a certain place.


“I was sure we were going to be cracked over the head, and I was terrified every minute as we walked down the streets that were streaming with filth.


“The guide asked us if we wanted to see a Spanish dance. I don’t know what the Spaniards would think of that dance! We were taken up into a little room decorated brightly in cheap Moorish mosaic imitations and colors. Six girls were dancing. I thought Spanish dancers wore a great many clothes. I still think so. But these girls didn’t. They wore indeed very, very little and that little consisted entirely of – what do you think? – silk stockings!


“Then we went into a gambling place where the Algerian sheiks were playing for money. These sheiks weren’t at all good looking. Their faces were seamed and weather beaten.  Their eyes were wild and fierce looking. Their supposedly white clothes were dirty and bedraggled. Arab princes of the desert may be better looking.


“All the time I had been devoured by fear.


“Finally we started home, and we found our driver just where our guide had told him to be.


“What’s more we found that our villainous looking guide was really a mild family man with six children, who sold binoculars as a steady job, and who turned an honest penny occasionally by acting as guide!”



Caryl S. Fleming at Hollywood Forever

Sunday, December 13th, 2009


Caryl S. Fleming, an immortal of magic


Caryl S. Fleming

Caryl S. Fleming (above) does not find a rabbit in his hat (Photo:  IBM Ring #21)


The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion on January 2, 2010, the 47th anniversary of the organization’s opening. Today, the last in a series of articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood, is about Caryl S. Fleming, a banker and one-time film director whose true love was magic!


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Since the early days of film, Hollywood has always been the land of make-believe where tricks and sleight of hand are evident in almost every frame. Hollywood has also been a friend to the magical arts – Harold Lloyd was a lover of magic and held meetings in his expansive estate in Beverly Hills. Other Hollywood celebrities such as Chester Morris, Sterling Holloway, Ramon Novarro, Johnny Mack Brown, Gene Raymond, Max Terhune, Bert Kalmar and Edgar Bergen also had an interest in magic.


Caryl Stacy Fleming is a name which may not be as familiar to the magically-challenged, but yet he was the major reason for the well-being of conjuring in the Los Angeles area from 1933 to 1940.


Fleming was born on October 13, 1890 (although his grave marker reads 1894, official records give his actual year of birth as 1890) at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank Fleming and Grace Rosemary Stacy. As a child he moved with his family to Chicago, where his parents were divorced by the time he was 10 and his mother ran a boarding house on Michigan Avenue.


It was in Chicago that a family friend — the dean of magicians, Harry Kellar — sparked his interest in magic. He would spend time at Ed Vernello’s magic shop, learning the basics of conjuring.


Caryl S. Fleming


In 1910 he moved to New York and was educated at Columbia University. He soon found work on the legitimate stage and in early motion pictures. Around 1916 he married Constance Ethel Norton and they had a daughter, Marjorie Gladys Fleming in August 1917. That same year, he was employed by Film Craft Corporation in New York City as a motion picture director. His final film as a director was The Devil’s Partner (1923) which starred Norma Shearer. This was Shearer’s last film before being signed by Louis B. Mayer Productions (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios).


Eventually Caryl and Constance were divorced and he left for California in 1927 while Constance and Marjorie remained in New York. By all accounts it was a bitter divorce and reportedly he never saw his ex-wife or daughter again.


In California, he became involved with banking and was a director of several institutions, while still devoting himself to the organization of magicians. He was president of the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians and the associated International Alliance of Magicians and was a member of more than fifty magic clubs.


He was one of the founders and a one-time president of Los Magicos which met on Wednesday nights, sometimes at his Beverly Hills home. Caryl was the perfect host and loved to manufacture gimmicks in quantity and pass them out to his friends. He was a true friend to magicians everywhere and wanted to have the whole world share the fun he had found in magic. A lover of animals and an ardent amateur photographer, he also dabbled in chemistry and developed a rope cement and several chemicals for use in card tricks.


Fleming and ess Houdini

Caryl Fleming, 2nd row, far left with glasses. Bess Houdini in center front row. 


In October 1936, Fleming attended the tenth, and final, Houdini séance which was held atop the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. A close friend of Bess Houdini, Fleming sat in the inner circle with her and other distinguished magicians in a final attempt to contact her husband. However, no message was received from the great Houdini and it was announced that no further attempts would be made by his widow.


Many individual magicians were helped by Fleming’s counsel and directions. His advice was always constuctive, and usually in a humorous way. When he did not like some part of an act, he would say so and then do everything to help the magician change the act for the better. He was a stickler for accuracy. He credited audiences with having too much knowledge to allow a magician to get away with false claims.


On Labor Day, September 2, 1940, Fleming was entertaining at his Beverly Hills home (924 N. Beverly Drive). He was showing some card tricks to a friend, Joe Evedon when he suddenly complained of indigestion. He drank a glass of bicarbonate of soda but said that it didn’t seem to help. Then without warning, he slumped into Evedon’s  arms and died from a heart attack just a month shy of his 50th birthday.


Tributes poured in from around the country:


“Caryl S. Fleming was the true magician,” wrote Edward Saint, past-president of Los Magicos. “He recognized neither race, creed, nor color; and his magic vision drew no geographical borders. Anyone, anywhere in the world, if they had the love of magic in their heart, Fleming called them ‘brother.’ He was of the world, for the world, of magic.”


Bess Houdini wrote:


“Marble may coldly mark the name and passing of our friend Caryl, but the memory of his prodigious efforts and intense love of magic, the warmth of his handclasp, and his kindly friendliness is engraved on our hearts as one of the Immortals of Magic.”


Fleming’s funeral service was held on September 4th from Dayton’s Mortuary in Beverly Hills. Amidst an array of floral tributes, more than 250 magicians gathered to pay last homage. A Universalist minister spoke first (Fleming’s great-great-grandfather established the Universalist church). Then, Bill Larson (the father of Milt and William Larson, founders of the Magic Castle in Hollywood) spoke to those gathered:


“Caryl would have been successful in anything he wanted to undertake,” Larson said. “His achievements in the fields of the theater and motion pictures were pronounced. Retiring, he turned his genius to magic. In a few short years he built, in the West, one of the largest and most prosperous organizations of magic the world has ever seen.”


Gerald Kosky then gave the S.A.M. ritual and wand breaking rites. Later Caryl S. Fleming was interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.



Caryl S. Fleming grave



Caryl S. Fleming grave



Fleming left an estate worth almost $100,000 to his mother, Grace R. Glaser but bequeathed only one-dollar to his daughter Marjorie, who resided in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. It was understood that a property settlement, making provisions for his daughter and former wife, was effected when the Flemings were divorced several years earlier.



Caryl Fleming and mother graves

Fleming’s mother, Grace is interred below him. She remarried shortly before her death in 1948.


In 1947, Fleming’s mother, Grace, married James E. Miller. When Grace died just a few months later in February 1948, she left her considerable estate to her new husband. Grace’s secretary, cousin and Irva Ross, Fleming’s fiance at the time of his death, all were named benefieciareis under an earlier will. They contested the new will, claiming that Miller, who also had an alias, had married the wealthy widow in order to obtain control of her property. The court awarded each of the three contestants a specific amount and allowed Miller to inherit the remainder of the estate.


The Caryl S. Fleming Trophy for the most original amateur trick of the year was soon created and awarded yearly. In 1938, Fleming had helped charter the International Brotherhood of Magicians Hollywood RING 21 which, after his death, was changed to the Caryl Fleming RING 21 and is still in existence today.




A year after his death, a tribute in Genii magazine memorialized Fleming saying:


“Years will pass. But the name Caryl Fleming will remain firmly in the minds of magicians. We, along with hundreds of others of our conjuring craft, will see to that.”


I would like to thank Bill Goodwin of the Magic Castle for providing  biographical information on Caryl S. Fleming for this article.



Q&A with Mark Vieira at Alternative Film Guide

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


Irving Thalberg: Q&A with Mark Vieira


Thalberg & Shearer


Entertainment blogger, Andre Soares has a revealing question and answer session with Irving Thalberg biographer, Mark A. Vieira on his site, The Alternative Film Guide. Here is a snipet:


“Author and photographer Mark A. Vieira, who’s been a friend for a number of years, has recently written no less than two books on Irving G. Thalberg, the young MGM mogul whose high-quality productions earned him both a reputation as Hollywood’s “Boy Wonder” and a special place in Oscar history as the name attached to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ Memorial Award given to “creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” Thalberg even inspired a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the unfinished The Last Tycoon.”


To continue reading, click HERE for Andre’s introduction and the Q&A with Mark Vieira.