Living Legends: Remaining Stars of the Studio System
The passing of Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) and Farley Granger (1925 – 2011) along with Jane Russell (1921 – 2011) a couple months ago got me to thinking about the fabled Studio System with all its glories and abuses. And how it represented a golden age in movie making and in our movie going as well.
Studios with names like Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal, RKO Radio Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, United Artists and the Rolls Royce of them all MGM. Those names along with their famous logos were as familiar to us as Cocoa Cola or The White House.
I was a kid when that era was coming to an end but didn’t realize it although many people were talking and writing about it. I guess like countless others I didn’t believe it. Because the system with its publicity machines, star making techniques, fan magazines and glamorous premieres seemed so firmly a part of our lives and culture that like certain mountain ranges we somehow thought that it would be here forever.
Those thoughts set me to thinking about the people from that era who are still around. The ones who lived and worked in that legendary system at sometime in their careers. People whose lives and experiences along with their talent and memories could fill all the floors of several museums. Most have written biographies but that’s not enough. We need to collect and permanently house their memorabilia along with their reminisces someplace where they can be kept and preserved for us and future generations to study, investigate and peruse.
Some years ago a British producer told me that he considered Jazz music and The Hollywood Film Industry to be the United States two greatest art forms. I wholly agree. The System and the golden age it ushered in are gone. But we still have a fair number of individuals who worked and contributed to that golden time still with us. And even though their memories of that period aren’t always golden it still was a magical time that deserves to be remembered and treasured because we will never see its like again.
Some of the big names that provide us with a direct link to that bygone era include MGM stars: Mickey Rooney (91), Jane Powell (82), Debbie Reynolds (79), Vic Damone (82), Ann Blyth (82), Leslie Caron (78), Gloria DeHaven (86), Marge Champion (92), Deanna Durbin (89) and Esther Williams (89). Then there are the Academy Award winning sisters Olivia DeHavilland ((95) and Joan Fontaine (94). Exotic Turhan Bey (87), eternally sexy Joan Collins (76), seductive Louis Jourdan (90),Viking tough guy Kirk Douglas (85),the redheads Maureen O’Hara (91), Arlene Dahl (81) and Rhonda Fleming (86). Then there’s the ever youthful Tab Hunter (78), dancer Mitzi Gaynor (78), actor turned Ambassador John Gavin (79), child actor turned Ambassador the iconic Shirley Temple, actress turned nun and two time Elvis co-star Delores Hart (72). Oscar winners Cliff Robertson (87), Shirley Jones (75), Celeste Holm (90), and George Chakiris (75). Actress turned animal rescue activist Tippi Hedren (81) and a whole slew of Studio staples who were wonderful performers in their own right. They include: Martha Hyer (85), Steve Forrest (85), Angie Dickinson (78), Nancy Davis Reagan (88), Debra Paget (77), Brad Dillman (79),Coleen Gray (87),Mona Freeman (84), Nanatte Frabray (89), Robert Wagner (81),Kathryn Grant Crosby (76),Julie Adams (88), Barbara Hale (88) Stuart Whitman (83) Diane Baker (73), Dina Merrill (85), Polly Bergen (79), Ben Cooper (77) and Carol Baker (78). Then there are the ones who started young; Dean Stockwell (75), Russ Tamblyn (76),Richard Beymer (71), Claude Jarman Jr. (75) and Carleton Carpenter (83).
Others that I sometimes forget whose careers started with the studio system or worked in it from time to time are; Clint Eastwood (79),Sidney Poitier (84), James Arness (86),Pat Boone (75),Zsa Zsa Gabor (92),Ruby Dee (84),Sean Connery (79),Mike Conners (84), Harry Belafonte (83), Robert Evans (80) who later became a studio executive and dancer turned innovative director Stanley Donen (85).
I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting. For that I apologize and encourage you to please let me know about it so that I can correct the oversight.
Every profession has its heroes and heroines. For me and for the way they enriched my life with their talent, their personalities, their grace, along with their beauty and personal charm they will always be heroes from that legendary period of the Studio System.