Sylvia Syms looks back on the legendary leading ladies of Hollywood - the glamorous and often powerful stars who helped define what it was to be a woman in cinema's golden age.
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Throughout the 1940s, '50s and '60s,
film-goers were treated to performances
from some of the most popular actresses ever to work in Hollywood.
Whether glamorous, powerful or supposedly girl-next-door,
they made their mark on audiences and the box-office.
Here we're looking at some notable names interviewed over the years
by the BBC, and we're starting with one of cinema's most fascinating
and complex figures - Joan Crawford.
At one stage in her career they called her the Queen of Hollywood.
At another, she was labelled "box office poison".
She won an Oscar in 1946 for Mildred Pierce,
married four times,
adopted five children
and was accused by two of them of only doing so
to generate good publicity.
It's been said that Joan's whole life was a performance,
and there's certainly a lot of performing on display
in our two opening clips,
both from 1956, when she was in England making the film
The Story Of Esther Costello.
In this first one,
just watch how Joan interacts with her young co-star Heather Sears,
after the initial conversation with interviewer Peter Haigh.
It's a proud moment for Picture Parade
because Joan Crawford has joined us tonight to tell us
a little about herself, to talk to about her new picture
and I think I should tell you it's her first appearance
on television ever.
-Hi, Peter. How are you?
-Not frightened, are you?
-Yes, I'm scared.
Joan, there are thousands of things I want to ask you and I don't
quite know where to start but first of all, I think let's take glamour.
Now, will you tell me what, A, is your recipe for it?
-Simple as that.
Live with a lovely family,
raising children. I don't mean live gloriously
-and make every day the Fourth of July.
-I mean, just live.
-A perfectly ordinary life.
Could we talk very quickly, Joan, about Esther Costello?
-I mean, what is the story of this picture?
This is a story of a woman who goes back to Ireland.
She left at six years of age,
she goes back because she's a lonely woman
and this is a story of many, many women in the world.
It doesn't have to be England, America,
Ireland, Scotland, it doesn't matter.
And I find...
You see I'm not playing Esther Costello.
-I was going to ask you that, you're not playing it?
Who is playing the part?
Today, we chose the most lovely, beautiful child in the whole world.
-Now, who is that?
-Except my own four children.
-Who is she?
-Miss Heather Sears.
Heather Sears, meet our viewers
and congratulations on all our behalves
on getting this rather wonderful part.
-Thank you very much.
-What do you have to do in the film?
Well, I should say first of all I have to be a great pantomimist.
What exactly is that now?
You've got to use your fingers a lot to...?
Yes, I have to, erm...
I have to...
-Sort of talk...
-..with my hands.
-And you aren't allowed to talk.
-And with your eyes.
And with my eyes, but not my voice
-because Esther Costello is a blind mute.
-My goodness me.
So, you've really got a lot of work to put in between you both,
-Yes, we have.
-We do. We'll work together well.
-I hope so. I'm sure we will.
-How are you both getting on?
Before you go, how are you both getting on with, you know,
the film so far? You haven't actually started, have you?
-No, but we will.
-In a few days' time.
-Bless you both.
Thank you so much. Before you go,
I just want one little thing before you do leave.
Thank you very much indeed.
With our compliments, Joan Crawford,
-and thank you very much for joining us.
-And, Heather, likewise.
-Thank you very much.
Good luck to you both in the picture
and thank you for joining us on Picture Parade tonight.
You know you're going to be great.
A few months after that encounter,
Crawford was back at the BBC,
talking to another interviewer who seems awed by her stardom,
the writer Wolf Mankiewicz.
-Joan, since I've seen so much of you...
..in the few weeks that you've been in England.
-Esther Costello is your 74th picture.
-I'm afraid it is.
That's a terrible amount of pictures. An awful lot.
-Are you bored?
-A frightful lot of good pictures.
But it is a large number of pictures for any star to make
because it indicates to me that you've survived at least
half a century of directors, any number of co-stars,
any number of leading men.
They're all still living and working.
But perhaps not doing quite so well as they were formerly?
Oh, I don't know.
You know Rossano Brazzi was in this film and he's done 87 films.
-Did you know that?
-Yes, 80 of which we haven't seen over here.
Oh, that's not very nice.
No, my point is this, my point is this, Joan,
that here you are making your 74th international picture,
a picture that will be seen by millions of people
all over the world, many of the people that you've worked with,
talented as they have been, have not survived.
It's interesting, I think, to try and consider why you have,
what is it you have, what is the quality that you have
for the public that makes it go on wanting to see your pictures.
Well, first of all I'm stage-struck and I think they all know that.
Secondly, I try to get a film that has audience identification.
Let me ask you something very personal.
What were the strains and the tensions and the taxation
and the impossible hours,
what makes a star like yourself?
And there is only one like yourself who's made now
a 74th international film.
What makes a star want to go on?
I mean, surely the danger of having a success
and the difficulty of following it,
the endless enmity that surrounds success in our business...
Is this worth going on with? Do you know what I mean?
Oh, yes indeed, every minute of it.
And you know, I find that when I'm not working
and I don't have to get up at that ungodly hour in the morning
at quarter to five, I get very lazy.
-I really do.
Well, no, restless.
Joan, I hear a rumour around that you're going to retire after this picture.
Are you kidding? Who, me?
True to her word, Joan Crawford kept working throughout the 1960s.
Her biggest hit of the period
being the 1962 classic psychological thriller,
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane.
She talks about that film
and her life in this interview with Philip Jenkinson.
How easily or difficult do you find the burden of being a star?
Sometimes it's easy to get there but it's very difficult to stay there.
And if you call me durable like all the English people do,
I'll leave the studio.
Do you find it sort of difficult, as it were,
maintaining the star exterior
when perhaps you're tired or you're a bit depressed or...?
No, I think my training in pictures has been so great.
And my growing up in front of a camera...
Well, when you're in your teens and you grow up with an industry
and you grow with it, which I hope I've done,
I think the discipline takes care of all that.
You see pictures have given me all the education I've ever had,
since I never went beyond the fifth grade.
No formal education whatsoever
and I used to have to read scripts
and then look up the words in the dictionary,
how to pronounce them and what they meant
before I could learn the lines
and that's good, too.
A short while ago, you gave quite a long press conference and I wondered
does sometimes facing prying or unfair questions bother you?
It's become now rather comic because everyone in England says,
"How old are you?" And, "How much money do you have?"
And, "How many times have you been married?"
So I expect it and I'm ready for it.
I know a lot of people think very few things were before my time.
I'm sure you must get very bored by the constant fiction
that you and Bette Davis are positively daggers drawn.
She'd kill you if she heard you say "Bet".
She's a fascinating actress, Bette Davis.
I've never had time to be friends with her
because we only did the one picture.
You are disgusting. After all I've done for you, you spy on me.
-When all I'm trying to do is help.
-Who are you trying to help, Blanche?
What are you planning to do with me when you've sold the house?
What do you have in mind -
some nice little place where they could look after me?
One other sequence I must ask you about,
which is the dead rat sequence in Baby Jane which, I think,
perhaps as much, if not more than Psycho,
really frightened me half to death.
How scared were you on that moment when you lifted up the terrine cover?
More frightened than you, really
because I refused to work with anything but an empty plate.
And when I knew the cameras were ready,
then I said, "You may bring it on."
And something went wrong technically with the camera
and I said, "Don't take the lid off. Leave it. Just take it away."
And I still kept the emotion ready for it
and when the technical things were fixed on the camera
and the lights, then we went in and I was still ready and away we went.
You know we've got rats in the cellar?
I think if you rehearse too much with the actual...
I almost said animal, it looked so big.
But it is a rodent, I believe, the rat.
-And, of course, the dead bird, too.
It's wonderful to do those scenes.
You want to bring the audience in with you, so close to you,
you want to put them in your lap, in the palm of your hand.
And it's very exciting when you go to the theatre
and found that you've done it in a couple of scenes.
I worked in the wheelchair and the sets on all weekends
because I had an inch on either side and with your hands there,
on the wheelchair, if they were too far out
I had very sore knuckles, the two, three days I rehearsed.
As a matter of fact, I took the wheelchair home with me at nights
to learn how to get through doors.
Although film-making might've been conveyor-belted,
although there's some truth in the charge
that artists were manufactured...
-You manufacture toys, you don't manufacture stars.
You can't turn them out.
Nowadays you see them,
they're all out of the same cookie cutter, you know.
-I still think we should go back to romantic pictures.
The world is so angry.
I'm no Cinderella, but by golly, the world is so angry
that if we could get romantic pictures back again
and no angry young men,
and have the young men have their hair cut
and the young ladies let it grow,
I think we'd get back to
a nice human relationship again throughout the world.
It seems to me now that films are made
at almost a sort of committee level. There are so many vested interests.
There's such a lot of money to be made or lost
and there are so many people who want to have their little bit,
who want to have their little say, it seems to me that this is a
sort of diluting process.
So much money to be made or lost, you just said.
So much talent to be made or lost, too.
Famously, Joan Crawford and her Baby Jane co-star Bette Davis
genuinely hated each other.
Bette once saying of Joan,
"She's slept with every male star at MGM, except Lassie."
And while Crawford was undeniably a great star,
Bette Davis was one of THE great actresses of Hollywood's Golden age.
A double-Oscar winner with a reputation for toughness,
who had no trouble doing battle with movie studio bosses.
-They even suggested changing your name, didn't they?
They wanted to call me Betina Dawes.
And to be a little vulgar in this illustrious group, I said,
"I refuse to be called 'between the drawers' all my life."
Which I would've. No question.
It's very well you joking about it now, but, of course,
-at the time for a young...
-It must've been awful.
It was absolutely heartbreak.
Yes, I remember sitting in the outer office and Mr Laemmle was talking
to somebody and he was talking about me, not knowing I was there,
and he said, "Yes, she's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville."
And you see you're so right to...
Oh, I was defeated.
And, for instance, they would say,
"Who wants to get her at the end of the picture?"
-And this does...
And this really does catastrophic things to your ego
and I didn't have a lot of ego, and never have had lots anyway,
which is a big misnomer about actors,
we have very little ego, basically, you know.
So how did you salvage what was left of your confidence?
It all changed...
At least I could hold my head high in a film of his
which was an important film and then I had five or six more years,
you know, when I came to England and fought the whole thing.
But you just had to hang on.
And Ruthie, my mother, was, you know,
so cute when all the years went by
and these awful things were said about you and she'd always say,
"It's the best fruit the birds pick at."
And I thought it was so sweet. You know, she said, "Just remember."
Because it was heartbreaking, of course it was.
You said at the time,
"I'd have given anything to look like Katie Hepburn
"and I still would."
I adore her face, adore her face.
Yes, it was so interesting.
Mine was just kind of round.
I always hated my face.
Warner Brothers must've thought you were,
although one of their top stars, a very difficult property indeed.
No, I don't think so. I was...
Warners was a marvellous workmanlike studio, as opposed to Metro.
Metro was really a beautiful, glamour place.
There was no red carpet for any actor at Warners. Absolutely not.
We were not allowed this.
And we all just worked very, very hard and I wouldn't, you know,
those 18 years were my life and they were very, very good to me.
And I regret today that the young people don't have contracts
to work under because the contract gives you a continuity,
you see, that's what I mean by longevity. Nobody could escape me.
You know, you made eight or ten pictures a year. You really did.
And then also the Warner product was the first product
sold for television.
And this is many, many years ago now. 65 films of which were mine.
So, I just sort of kept on going, you know, again longevity.
But I was fortunate there, too.
Is it true that you were called the fourth Warner Brother?
By Bob Hope, yes. Yes.
Oh, absolutely, absolutely adorable.
We had this marvellous Warner employees' party every year
and he MC'd it this particular year.
He got up and introduced Miss Bette Davis, the fourth Warner Brother.
Which I thought was lovely.
That was the film where you first worked with Olivia de Havilland,
-She and I were there together for many, many years.
-She's my great, great friend.
-She's become a great friend of yours now.
She's always been a great friend of mine.
Is it difficult for stars to be close friends?
Well, actors as a group are not my passion.
-What about one by one?
No, I always socially love writers and directors,
much more interesting.
A group of actors together can be rather tiresome.
Whose rushes were what and all this, you know.
Someone who Bette Davis apparently didn't find tiresome
was the actress Debbie Reynolds -
one of the most popular stars of the '50s, thanks to Singin' In The Rain.
In 1956, Reynolds appeared in a film called The Catered Affair,
appearing alongside - and getting some help - from Bette.
You learn from the best.
-Bette Davis taught me wonderful things...
-Oh, did she?
..when I worked with her.
We worked in a film called Catered Affair, it was a dramatic film.
And I had never known to rehearse that much just cooking in a scene.
I don't know, it looks so easy, doesn't it,
that you're making a film and you're cooking? It looks...
Well, she rehearsed this scene three days.
We cooked the fish, we mashed the potatoes,
we made the vegetables, we set the table, all to dialogue.
So that every time that you said a line, it was...
You knew exactly when you put the pot down so you matched every time.
-MIMICS BETTE DAVIS:
-So she taught me that.
She'd say, "Now, Debbie, bring the pot over here."
-I'd said, "Yes."
-MIMICS BETTE DAVIS:
-"Now, mash the potatoes and put them in the pan.
"Bring me the water. Yes. No, that's wrong, dear. Do it again."
-So this went on, you know, for that.
So every time you work with a great talent, you learn a lot.
-Now, you were Sis.
What's your real name?
-IN SOUTHERN ACCENT:
-My name is Mary Frances
cos originally I'm from Texas
and if you're from Texas, everybody's called
Elizabeth, Sue, Louelle and Mary Frances, something like that.
-And so how did you get Debbie? How did Debbie come up?
I was Mary Frances.
Now, Mr Warner, Jack Warner of course, he's very strong,
he's in charge, you know, the heads of the studios were Louis B Mayer
and the Zanucks and all those famous people.
So, he didn't like Mary, he said it was too simple.
Frances was boring and Mary Frances was really awful so he said,
"You're going to be called Debbie Morgan
"because I had a dog named Debbie and Dennis Morgan is a big star."
So I said, "I don't think so.
"I'm not going to be Debbie Morgan, I don't know who that is.
"That's not me. I'm Mary Frances Reynolds."
So he said, "Well, you'll have to Debbie."
I wouldn't change it. I said,
"Did you ever change your name from your father's name?"
And, of course, he had so it didn't do me much good.
Cos Warner evidently was Warnerstein, Warnerberg
or, I don't know.
So, anyway, I had to change my name to Debbie
but I got to keep Reynolds but now I'm very used to it.
In fact, I'm the first Debbie that ever was
and there are more Debbies now named after me
so it's nice to be the oldest and maybe the first Debbie ever.
When you were MGM, you did ballet classes and all
because they had a kind of core of stars that they were bringing up,
people like Cyd Charisse and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Grace Kelly.
What extraordinary company. Were you overawed to be in that company?
Well, you see, MGM had the greatest stars. I mean, everybody was there.
You had Greer Garson and June Allyson and Ann Miller
and Jane Powell and Kathryn Grayson.
I mean, everybody was there
and in the morning we had ballet classes
so Cyd Charisse, of course, had legs this long
and Vera Ella had long legs,
Ann Miller had long legs, I was the only little short thing,
you know, in the class and even Zsa Zsa who can't dance at all...
-MIMICS ZSA ZSA GABOR:
-But anyway, she would come in the class.
-We'd all be dressed normally
except Zsa Zsa cos she had jewellery everywhere
and she'd go change her clothes, put on a leotard
and put her jewellery back on the leotard.
-MIMICS ZSA ZSA GABOR:
-And then she would be...
"Isn't this a beautiful step, darling?"
-And she'd pick her pearls up and go...
-MIMICS ZSA ZSA:
-Isn't this wonderful?
LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH
"Did you notice my new ring, darling?"
-The whole class she's talking about, you know,
the fellow she met and the jewellery that she just got.
I think she bought it all and just stuck it all over.
Now, you also met Elizabeth Taylor
who was to play such an important part in your life.
Well, we all went to school together because at MGM we were all young
and they had a schoolhouse so Roddy McDowall was still in school,
Claude Jarman Junior, Elizabeth and myself.
-How did you get on with Elizabeth then?
She hated school and I wanted to be a gym teacher
so I was good at school and she was...
She didn't like it very much so we would peek at each other's papers.
Tell you the truth.
She was better at English than I and I was better at math than she.
So, we would kind of exchange things.
Well, later on we'll talk about a little bit more...
-We exchanged husbands later...
-..but little did we know.
She got Eddie, I could've had Richard Burton. Oh, wow!
Do you feel cheated by that? Do you feel life has cheated you?
Yes, I do now that I think about. I had never thought about that.
See what you've brought up now? Now I'm really depressed.
Another rising star of the '50s was our next subject Natalie Wood.
She'd started out as a child actress
and had received three Oscar nominations by the time she was 23.
The first of these was for Natalie's performance
in that classic tale of teenage angst, Rebel Without A Cause
directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Dean.
You know when you reached your teens
-and Rebel Without A Cause came along...
..I mean, were you aware that it was going to be a turning point?
I mean, did you think, "I've got to get this one
"because it's going to be a big 'un?"
Well, I was aware for the first time when I read that script
that I identified with that part and I desperately wanted to play it
and I think up until then I had always just acted
because it was what I was told to do
and I did as I was told and I was kind of a dutiful child.
But I became sort of rebellious at that age
and I really fell in love with that part and wanted to do it very badly.
And got into a big fight with my parents
because they didn't want me to do it
because the picture was sort of against parents and all of that.
So I threatened to run away from home
and become an actual juvenile delinquent
unless I was given the chance to test for the part.
So, I finally got the part
and then the studio actually never understood the picture very well
while we were making it.
It was not a popular picture at the studio at the time.
So they didn't expect it to pay off?
They expected nothing much, they thought Nick Ray was sort of nuts
and they thought we were all nuts.
This crazy kid James Dean, East Of Eden hadn't been released yet,
you know, and they really didn't understand what we were saying
about the youngsters having those feelings of rebellion
and I think I told you the story about
on the very last day of filming,
we really had three or four more days to go,
and Jack Warner was just fed up and he said to Nick Ray,
"Look, the picture ends on Friday, that's all.
"Whatever you've got in the can, that's it.
"We'll cut it together and it'll be released.
"So do whatever you can. Friday, it's over."
So, suddenly he realised that he didn't ever have a close up
of James Dean and myself in the love scene in which I say, you know,
"Jimmy, I love you."
And we had been shooting the scene where the boy goes over
the mountain in the chickie run
so there was kind of earth on the thing and Nick Ray said,
"OK, I think we just have a chance.
"Let's get back in the positions of the love scene, you know,
"that took place in the abandoned house
"and we'll throw the thing, we'll pretend we're there." Blah, blah.
And the welfare worker came over and said, "Oh, no. Time's up.
"Natalie's... She can't work any more today."
So my mother took this fellow aside
and she had put an amount of money in an envelope and she said,
"Well, Natalie has got her schooling in, now.
-"I mean, she has, hasn't she?"
-So they could continue.
So it was by bribery that the close up got in.
I love you, Jim.
I really mean it.
I mean it.
Now, you say that East Of Eden had not been released
so the ballyhoo about James Dean
presumably hadn't began at that time?
I mean, did he get the part quite easily?
Were they quite satisfied that he was the man they wanted?
He did at that time but right before Rebel Without A Cause,
I did another television show with Jimmy
and that was kind of funny because there was an actor
that was very popular at that time named John Smith.
-Was he really named John Smith?
-Really, I swear to God.
I mean, that was really his name.
And so my agent called and said, "Look, there's this very good part",
it was in Sherwood Anderson story called I'm A Fool.
And actually, Edward Albert - Eddie Albert - was in it
and then there needed to be somebody to play him as a young man
and then somebody like me to play opposite him as the love interest,
and that was going to be the first time I was ever kissed,
you know, when I was 15 and all that and I was very excited.
And the agent said, "Look, they are trying to get John Smith,
"and we are hoping they get him, but if they can't,
"there is some kid from New York named James Dean or something,
"you know, and...well, they might have to use him."
So the next day, he called, and he said, "Bad news -
"they couldn't get John Smith, so you've got to do it
"with this kid, James Dean.
"But we hear he has done something in New York with Kazan,
-"so maybe he'll be good." And he was.
-One year later...
Yeah, they'd have given their right teeth to get him.
How many times have you now been nominated for an Academy Award?
Oh, um...three times.
Now, I think that must be quite an experience,
to go down and sit in the theatre
when they are tearing opened the envelopes
and you know your name is on the list
and everyone is watching you to see what your reactions are,
and then they read out somebody else's name.
-And even if it's a friend of yours, you wouldn't be human
if you didn't hate their guts just at that moment.
Well, there is that sort of awful, electric moment
where you suddenly think, "Oh, my God,
"is it going to be my name?"
But...once, I think the second time I was nominated
was for Splendour In The Grass
and Life magazine had decided that they thought I had a chance to win,
and they wanted to do a story
about a day in the life of a person who wins the Oscar.
So they asked if I would mind
if they assigned a photographer to me
and at the time, I was filming a movie called Gypsy.
So he met me at my house at six o'clock in the morning,
took pictures of me without make-up, driving to the studio,
in the make-up department, getting made up,
filming all during the day, having lunch,
and at the end of the day,
I remember there was a recording session
where I had to do my singing to be...you know, one of the numbers,
and there was no time to go home and change or anything,
so I changed at the studio
and in the limousine to the awards, the whole way,
he was leaning like this, taking pictures of me
and my reactions, you know, my response to the whole thing.
And then, very early on, that was the same year
that West Side Story was winning everything,
and so this photographer was seated in front of me
and every time West Side Story won something,
he'd turn round like this and take pictures of me,
and I was smiling and happy.
And finally, way towards the end of the ceremony -
because I think the Best Actress is right towards the end -
they read off the names and he is clicking away like mad,
and I'm sitting there, trying not to look crazed.
And then they said, "And the winner is...Sophia Loren."
And he went like this...
Ripped the film out of the camera, furious,
never said another word, end of his story.
Perhaps the biggest impression made by a teenager in Hollywood
was that of one of the greatest screen beauties - Lauren Bacall.
She was just 19 when she made her movie debut
in 1944's To Have And Have Not,
which starred her future husband Humphrey Bogart
and had entranced critics,
crediting her with something they described as "The Look."
Anybody got a match?
Was that contrived, The Look, or was it accidental?
Well, it was a result of my nerves
which, if you look very closely, you might see again.
I used to shake so much,
that my head used to shake, and you know, in a film,
when a director says, "Action",
there is dead silence on a set, so all eyes are on you.
Everything depends upon you.
And I was such a nervous wreck
that I discovered finally that one way to hold my head still
was to hold down, and then the back of my neck got so stiff
that nothing would move,
and look up.
And that became The Look.
But it was that combined with Howard Hawks' terrific eye
and knowing that, if the camera were in a certain position,
then there were shadows in the right place -
which I could do with right now, as a matter of fact - um...
I mean, it was the combination of what he saw and my panic.
But how much of what came over, that sultry, sexy, worldly look,
was the real you at that time?
-None of it.
-No - you were in fact 18.
I mean, what can you be when you're 18 years old
and you know nothing
and you have no...very limited acting experience, almost none,
and very little life experience?
-I mean, how sophisticated can you be, for heaven's sake?
But if you have a deep voice and Howard Hawks' writes your dialogue
and directs you and lights you correctly and...
Well, you can be anything.
Did you think that you had
the proper physical attributes at time,
when you were 16, 17, to become a film star?
Uh, Michael, you know I didn't - I was flat-chested
and large of foot and very gawky...
No, I didn't, and I mean, I always was shy about smiling
because my teeth were crooked and...
God, I don't know, I was a mess.
I don't know how any of this ever happened.
And of course, you had the looks -
you can't have been as bad-looking as all that,
because you became a famous model in America,
which is how you got into...
Yes, but that was luck, and that was...
I mean, also, if you're photographed by the right person
at the right time in the right way, you look OK.
I don't say I was ugly, but I was sure as...
No raving beauty, I'll tell you.
In 1950, Lauren Bacall would appear in Young Man With A Horn
alongside Kirk Douglas and a woman who would go on
to become the biggest female box office star ever -
Unlike Bacall, Doris wasn't an unattainable beauty,
but in films like Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson
and Move Over, Darling with James Garner,
she was down-to-earth and funny,
and that, she felt, was the secret to her success.
Maybe I can't act and maybe I can't sing,
but I want to find it out for myself, Mr Dennis Morgan,
and if you don't mind, I'll buy my own ticket to the Hollywood Ball.
'I wasn't the typical glamour girl.'
And the ladies looked at me on the screen and thought,
"Ah, if she can make it, so can I."
You win, kid. Even if you don't get to be a big star, Hollywood's
going to know it's been in a fight.
And I'm going to do my best to see you get a break.
Oh, Mr Morgan...
You've made me the happiest girl in the whole world!
'I also was called "The girl next door". '
And that, of course, erm, supports what I've just said,
that the ladies and the girls thought,
"She's like the person living next door.
"I could do this."
'And they probably could.'
# Gonna take a sentimental... #
You were baptised Doris Kappelhoff. How did you turn into Doris Day?
I was starting to sing, and I was doing a radio show
in Cincinnati - not paid for it. And a song that I sang
was Day After Day. And a band leader in Cincinnati, Barney Rapp...
..hired me on the strength of that song.
And when he heard that my real name was Doris Kappelhoff,
that shocked him a bit.
He said, "Well...
"that takes up too much space on the marquee, can't have Kappelhoff."
And I said, "Well, I don't like it much. And it doesn't sound right."
So he said, "I like that song you sang yesterday,
"I really like that song Day After Day." Doris Day.
-So how did you react to your new name?
-Oh, I hated it.
I thought that it sounded really cheap.
And I said, "It sounds like I'm starring at the Gaiety Theatre."
Which was a burlesque house in Cincinnati.
A lot of people you've worked with invented other names for you...
..as if they also had reservations about that.
Yes, the guys on the set used to call me Nora Neat.
And Dorothy Detail.
With Calamity Jane - a movie came along that...
Where everything seems to be right, you had a good choreographer...
It had a good atmosphere about it, everything seemed to click.
You gave an extraordinarily energetic performance in that.
-Oh, I loved it. I think Calamity Jane is the real me.
-I've always said that!
'That was a wild movie, you know. And she was just noisy.
'And rough house and wanted to be heard above everybody.'
And you lowered your voice for it, you have a different...
-Yes, I did.
-..voice for singing and acting.
-Yes, I did.
-Well... I talk like that.
"Oh, come on, Bill." You know, down there. It's easy.
MUSIC: Just Flew In From The Windy City
# I just flew in from the Windy City
# The Windy City is mighty pretty
# But it ain't got what we got
# I'm telling you, boys
# I ain't a-swapping half of Deadwood
# For the whole of Illinois. #
At this time you managed, almost uniquely I think amongst Hollywood
actresses, to sustain two entirely independent careers, really.
One as a recording artist and one as a film star.
And they weren't dependent on each other, they had
-an independent existence.
-Yes, they did.
And both were extremely successful. Were the worlds very different?
Not for me, not really. Of course, in films you pre-record,
and then you sing to playback.
And I had never done that...as a recording star.
But that came very easy to me, and...
..they used to always call me... They used to say,
-"She'll do it in one take." Lip-synching.
And I usually did. I'm not bragging. But I usually did,
because it was easy for me.
And when you record you don't have to do that,
so I didn't know anything about that.
But... And recording in the studios, you know, they take so much time.
And I just never felt...that I wanted to take all that time.
I didn't want to take three or four hours to do one song.
And... Oh, have to tell you a funny one. Maybe you know this...
On Secret Love...Ray Heindorf said, "Is one o'clock in the afternoon
"all right for you, Dodo?" And I said, "Sure, it's fine."
And I rehearsed a little bit in the morning.
And went on a voice rest for a while.
And about a quarter of one, I got out the bicycle and rode over,
cos I lived right near Warner's. And came into the recording studio.
And he said, "Well, we're all rehearsed.
"We've been here for a couple of hours and the orchestra's rehearsed.
"And how do you feel?" And I said, "Great, let's go!"
And he had scheduled, I believe, one to four for the recording session.
I went to the booth and I said, "Ray, why don't we...
"Why don't we do a take?"
And he said, "Well, you haven't rehearsed it with us."
And I said, "What's the difference? Let's do a take."
We did a take and it was it. It was in one take.
We did it in three minutes and I went home.
MUSIC: Secret Love
# And why I'm so in love with you. #
That was the one! I swear. My right hand.
Jack Lemmon once said that you were a method actress who
-never went near the Actors Studio.
-What a nice thing to say!
I wanted to go to the Actors Studio!
Tony, help me!
'I can cry right now...if you'd like me to.'
I don't fake it, but I have a lot of things that I can think about.
And I can cry like that.
In the late '50s, you were offered quite a lot of parts that
you felt were too permissive. Instead, you chose Teacher's Pet
as a major project. Now, what attracted you to that?
The, erm, teacher-student relationship is, uh...
-a very complex one...
You, um, have to be...friendly and yet keep your distance
-at the same time.
how would you ever, um...
-Um, maintain discipline?
-Oh, you need to be deft...
The film, I think, points the way to the romantic comedies...
-It did in a way, didn't it?
-Cos it's the story of a career woman
who loves what she's doing, and who has to come to terms with a rather
-devious, aggressive man.
-'A macho male.'
And, Christopher, I would like to talk a little about Clark,
if I could. He was anything but macho.
He was the gentlest, dearest man.
And very humble. It was wonderful to see...
After a take...he was like a little boy and he would say to
George Seaton, our director,
"George...are you sure that I gave you what you wanted?
"Are you sure?" And George would say, "Oh, Clark, it was very good.
"It was just right on." "I'm happy to do it again, George.
"Just say the word. I want you to be happy...
"..with what I'm doing."
MUSIC: Possess Me
# Hold me tight and kiss me right
# I'm yours tonight
# My darling possess me... #
With Pillow Talk in 1959, began the third, and by far the most popular,
phase in Doris Day's career, as she became the number-one
box office star for five successive years.
Co-produced by her husband, Marty Melcher, and the occasion of her
one and only Oscar nomination, Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson
is the Doris Day movie most people remember.
Part Broadway-style romance, part bedroom comedy,
it gave her the chance to play
a sexy, sophisticated New Yorker for once.
Was this a bit risky at the time?
It seemed risque. But isn't it funny when you think what they're showing now?
Ah! I was crazy about that script.
And I loved the clothes
and I loved working with Rock the first time.
He was the one who was worried.
Look, I don't know what's bothering you,
but don't take your bedroom problems out on me.
I have no bedroom problems!
There's nothing in my bedroom that bothers me.
Oh, that's too bad(!)
'He had never played comedy,'
and he wasn't sure that he could. And we all...
assured him that he would be wonderful in it, and he was.
We had a great time.
There's a sequence in Pillow Talk where Rock Hudson sweeps
you off your feet, walks down the steps into the street -
you're wearing pyjamas at the time. I gather that sequence
-caused some problems.
-Well, he had a bad back...
And he said... I said, "Well now, look, I don't weigh that much."
And it wasn't that. He couldn't, you know, support me
without having some help. So they made a seat -
you didn't know about that. See, we hid that with the blanket.'
Harry...would you be so kind as to call the police?
It had straps that went over his shoulders, under his jacket...
which supported him, and supported me, really.
And so it worked very well. And I said, "Oh, great! All the women
"in the audience are going to think, 'Isn't he a he-man!'
"I'm going to tell 'em all."
I'm sorry I made you drive so far out to such a lonely
stretch of beach.
It's all right. Really, you shouldn't be embarrassed to
-have people see you like that.
-No, you look wonderful without your clothes.
-So do you...
-Oh... I meant...
-So did I.
The screen partnership with Rock Hudson's one of the
aspects of your career that everybody remembers.
It's the real high point of your movie career.
What was the chemistry there? Did you get on very well as people?
Yes, we did.
Oh...we were very good friends. And yet I didn't see Rock often...
socially. He had his own friends and, erm...
And we were, you know, usually socialising with married couples
and, um... But that didn't make any difference,
he and I were very good friends. We loved working together,
we respected each other. And I think that came across.
There's one rather uncomfortable thing, watching them,
there's quite a lot of gags about gay men in the films.
About, you know, the number-one male star...
-In Pillow Talk there was...
-In Pillow Talk, exactly.
Was that tense for Rock Hudson to do?
I don't think so. I didn't...see it as such.
Nothing was ever talked about as far as his private life.
And I must tell you that many, many people would ask me...
You know, "Is Rock Hudson really gay?"
And I said, "It's something that I...
"..will not discuss. I mean, first of all,
"I know nothing about his private life.
"And if I did, I wouldn't discuss it.
"So, I can't tell you one thing about him,
"except that he is a nice man."
A lot of commentators have said that Pillow Talk
and the films that immediately followed
are about a perpetual virgin protecting her honour.
-Actually, I don't see them like that at all...
They're like a sort of adult woman protecting her space.
-You know, protecting her integrity.
And I don't know why people landed that label on them at the time.
It gives them something to talk about and it gives it a label
and that's what they like.
And they hope that the audiences will go for it
and accept it. And I think it's silly.
The histories of film tend to say about you -
"She was everyone's idea of the girl next door."
And she was "As American as Miss Apple Pie."
What would you like the histories of film to say about you?
Oh, I don't really care that much about apple pie,
I like peach. So many people write to me...
I'm going by what they say...
And they say that...when they're depressed or feeling really low...
..they'll go to see one of my films...and they feel better.
Now... I don't know what that means, except that...
..if what I do brings a joy...
..to, to the people...
..that... I would love that.
-MUSIC: Shaking The Blues Away
-# Do like the voodoos do... #
A Doris Day film does still bring joy.
And the power of a Joan Crawford or Bette Davis performance,
Bacall's beauty, and the youth and energy of Debbie Reynolds
and Natalie Wood -
all are as real today as they were back
when these leading ladies were figures that audiences would
connect with, be inspired by, and sometimes just marvel at.
Sylvia Syms looks back on the legendary leading ladies of Hollywood - the glamorous and often powerful stars who helped define what it was to be a woman in cinema's golden age. Featuring Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day, the programme uses rarely seen archive and interviews to examine the relationships these great stars had with audiences, studio bosses - and sometimes with each other.