CLAUDETTE COLBERT – IN PERSON

I’m (almost) glad I’m old enough to have seen some of the great stars of vintage Hollywood in person. Thank goodness, I (mostly ) kept notes at  the time.

image  In 1984, at the Haymarket Theatre in London, I saw Claudette Colbert in the play “Arent We All”. It felt as if Claudette had come straight off the set of one of her Paramount comedies to play the merry widow out to ensnare Rex Harrison . All eyes were on Claudette as she laughed her way through this 1920’s comedy of manners.

I waited for Claudette at the stage door and she was gracious to everyone before stepping into her limousine.

imageIn 1983, while in Hollywood staying at the fabulous Roosevelt Hotel, I attended the American Cinema Awards and managed to see Ruby Keeler,Virginia O’Brien,Penny Singleton, Shelley Winters and Robert Cummings (who imitated my accent!).

In 1990, in New York, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I had come out of a matinee of “Gypsy” starring Tyne Daly, and was walking up the street and found myself outside Sardis which had just been hosting an event for  80 year old Jessica Tandy.

As I stood there, with only a few people around me, out stepped Joan Bennett, Fay Wray,Geraldine Fitzgerald and Jessica. !! All looked well apart from Joan who looked frail. I spoke briefly to Jessica and then they were gone.

imageEven earlier, in 1973, I will never forget standing at the stage door of the Albery Theatre in London, before the start of the afternoon matinee of “The Constant Wife”, starring Ingrid Bergman. Only my friend and I were at the stage door and I grasped a photo of  Ingrid in the hope she would sign it.

Suddenly, around the opposite corner of the building, she appeared and I stood there in amazement as Ingrid Bergman walked towards me!  I’m afraid I didnt do too well in conversation but I think Ingrid understood and talked about the photo before signing it. Then, such a thrill to see her on stage.image

Another London stage door I stood at many times in the 70s was Her Majestys when Lauren Bacall was starring in the musical version of “All About Eve”, called “Applause” . One day she turned up with her son, Sam Robards who must have been about 12. Lauren was wonderful as Margo Channing.

I also saw her in another musical version of a Hollywood classic, “Woman of the Year”. and again it’s amazing what she could do with that voice of hers.image

I know I also saw, in London, James Stewart in “Harvey” and Charlton Heston in “The Caine Mutiny” but cant recall much other than the sheer excitement of seeing them in person .

One of my best memories is seeing and talking to Eleanor Powell in 1979 when she attended the annual gathering of the Jeanette MacDonald fan club in Los Angeles. Eleanor was lovely to her fans and I will never forget a small group of us in a room and Eleanor sitting on the floor while she talked to us!!

image

I feel privileged to have these memories and just wish I had written down every second.

17 responses »

  1. You were so fortunate to be able to meet (and chat) to stars of such magnitude. There just aren’t the type of Hollywood players around these days – we were truly part of the Golden Age!

  2. How wonderful to read the stories of the Hollywood greats especially Eleanor Powell and Ruby Keeler, the Hollywood dancing legends. Will look forward to reading more of your blog. X x

  3. What wonderful stories! Like you I am fortunate to have seen many of the greats, since I grew up in Southern California and my parents regularly took me to see classic films, film festivals and special screenings, and live theater. However, the only person on your wonderful list that I saw in person was Virginia O’Brien…I did meet Eleanor Powell and Glenn Ford’s son a couple years ago! 🙂 She sounds like such a lovely lady. Thanks for sharing your memories!

    You make me long for London and the West End with the names of these theaters! My favorite city!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

  4. Laura, would love to hear who you have met over the years.
    I’ve also met Ginger Rogers and Betty Garrett and I saw Celeste Holm on stage! Hope to do further posting.

  5. Hi Vienna! How wonderful you met Ginger (one of my all-time faves) and saw Celeste Holm!! Betty Garrett is also one of my big favorites — I was lucky to both meet her and see her one-woman show a couple of times.

    In the “meet” category (getting autograph, etc.), I can also put Margaret O’Brien, Tom Drake, Ann Miller, Jane Powell (and many of the 7 Brides cast including Julie Newmar and Ruta Lee), Marsha Hunt, Mel Torme (he attended a couple screenings I was at, he loved old movies!), Saul Chaplin (MGM arranger), James Garner (at length at a couple fan club gatherings — sat next to him at lunch, gulp!), Jack Kelly, Julie Adams, Margaret Hamilton, Steffi Duna, Vincente Minnelli, Marge Champion, Charles Walters (a lovely man I spent a couple hours with).

    At tribute screenings, on stage, or just bumping into them somewhere by chance, I’ve seen Olivia de Havilland, Loretta Young, Howard Keel (in SOUTH PACIFIC), Ricardo Montalban (in THE KING AND I), Sally Ann Howes, Donald O’Connor, Rudy Vallee, Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, Eve Arden, James Whitmore, Gower Champion, Julie Andrews (at a Disneyland tribute!), Dick Van Dyke, Peggy Cummins, Richard Erdman, John Huston, Ann Rutherford, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (who once answered a fan letter I sent at length, in the most beautiful penmanship I’ve ever seen — what a classy, classy gentleman), William Windom, Yul Brynner, Constance Towers, Harriet Nelson (she lived here in Orange County — I waited on her at Disneyland, and she walked by me when I was in line for a movie!), and Cary Grant (he narrated the Christmas story when I sang in the choir at Disneyland as a high schooler).

    I once received a lovely little letter from James Stewart but never got to see him in person. Similarly I saw Charlton Heston’s wife and son at a TEN COMMANDMENTS screening a couple years ago — I envy you having seen him in a play!

    Well, that’s a quick list off the top of my head! Hope I didn’t go on too long — I’d really love to hear more of your favorite experiences. Fun to compare notes!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    • How wonderful that you have met so many stars. Eve Arden! Ricardo Montalban in King And I, James Garner fan club meetings. Charles Walters!
      You are so lucky. Thanks for sharing .

  6. Many greetings from Betty MacDonald fan club.
    Thanks a lot for sharing your great experiences with these famous and beloved actors.
    Did you see Claudette Colbert as Betty MacDonald in the movie THE EGG AND i?
    She was outstanding.
    Betty MacDonald fan club got fans from 40 countries.
    http://bettymacdonaldfanclub.blogspot.com/
    We enjoy your blog very much.

    Warm regards,

    Linde Lund

  7. What was the play Aren’t we all about? I hope Rex Harrison didn’t try to kill Claudette.
    Can you remember Midnight Lace where he tried to kill poor Doris Day?
    Claudette still looks beautiful in 1984 but he looks a bit like a granddad.
    He was married with Ms Palmer. They have a son. It seems he was difficult in private life.

  8. I’m trying to remember, it’s a long time ago. ARENT WE ALL is what’s called ‘a drawing room comedy’. Not much goes on. Claudette and Rex are members of the aristocracy and she is trying to get him to propose to her. Theirs is a sub plot as the main story concerns the character played by Rex’s son. Of course everyone went to see Claudette and Rex.
    I enjoyed Midnight Lace, a good thriller.

  9. Thanks. Must be a thrill to be in New York and know you could pass a celebrity in the street. Any vintage names ?
    And there’s the title of the Bergman play I talked about on your blog.

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