Classic stars recall their happiest yule
Claudette Colbert (above) poses on Vine Street next to her image emblazoned on a Christmas decoration in the heart of Hollywood. The two tall buildings on the right in the background are at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Just like anyone else, to film stars there is always just one Christmas that stands out above all others. In December 1932, several stars were asked about their most memorable Christmas.
The previous Christmas for Neil Hamilton competed with one when he was seven years old: “What with a new baby and a new house and the baby’s first Christmas tree, last year was hard to cap,” said Hamilton. “But for sheer unadulterated happiness I must remember the gorgeous Indian suit they gave me when I was seven years old. I strut when I remember it to this day. I was the reincarnation of Sitting Bull.”
James Dunn said a pool table presented to him when he was 14 still stood out as the most stylish event of his life. On that Christmas morning he invited all the boys in the neighborhood to play pool and they were still at it long past bedtime.
It was a Christmas bicycle that stood out for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He was eight years of age and had been demanding a bike from Santa since he was five. He’s almost given up hope when the family weakened. “It was a Rolls-Royce to me,” Fairbanks said.
Bette Davis claimed that no ecstasy since had surpassed the Christmas on which she acquired a huge Teddy Bear, handed to her from the very top of a big tree. “I have loved that Teddy all my life and still him,” she said.
It was a gorgeous box of paints, brushes, palettes all complete including a real artist’s smock, which made Claudette Colbert ecstatic when she was a small girl. She had always loved drawing and that Christmas saw the family’s recognition of her artistic yearnings.
Gary Cooper said the Christmas in which he and his family were snowed in on a cattle ranch in Montana stands our as his sweetest. No turkey, no shopping — a blizzard cut them off from everything. But the family decided to make their own fun and made presents by themselves out of any old odds and ends. “The least expensive and the jolliest Christmas I ever hope to enjoy,” he said.
A pair of rubber boots and a sled marked the most exciting Christmas for William Collier, Jr., who until that time, had to be content with a stocking encasing an orange, nuts and popcorn. He was nine years of age when the miracle occurred. And it was Marian Nixon’s very first watch, waiting on the breakfast table, which made one Christmas forever notable for her. In the same way a coaster-brake bike with a fancy headlight presented when he was 12 years old, marked one hilarious Christmas for John Boles.
Marie Dressler remembered a certain Christmas fifteen years earlier when, because her dearest friend was in the hospital, she took a tree, goodies and all the packages to the hospital between the matinee and the evening performance, and Christmassed at the there.
Joan Crawford, without hesitation, said, “Oh, Christmas 1925. I hadn’t seen my people in Kansas City for so long. I had just signed my contract with MGM and they paid my fare to the coast via Kansas City. So I went home in triumph — the biggest thrill of my life.”
It was 1919 that meant everything to Ramon Novarro. After a bus-boy job in New York, he was back in Los Angeles with his family and was celebrating his very first picture role. “We had an utterly perfect Mexican Christmas,” he remembered.
But to Maurice Chevalier, escaping from a German prison camp, rejoining his mother in Paris and receiving medical attention for his wounds — and the glorious award of the Croix de Guerre made Christmas 1918, the most memorable one for him.
Katherine Hepburn recalled an ecstatic Christmas when her father built her a little theater of her own in the back yard when she was about 12.