HOLLYWOOD’S HUMAN SHADOWS

In a 1935 Chicago Sunday Tribune article , the people who were Stand-Ins for Hollywood performers were referred to as Hollywood’s Human Shadows, a dramatic description of the job of the stand-in.

A 1944 Life magazine  article said: “Stand-Ins have the most unrewarding job in motion pictures. They relieve the stars of practically all duties except those of acting………posing under the blaze of arc lights while the camera crew run out the tape to measure the distance from lens to nose……. and they are paid the lowest movie scale – $8 a day.”

Stand-Ins are on set for the lighting, the camera set-up, the walk through (blocking of scenes). They never appear on screen, but they must have the same height, build, skin tone and hair colour of the star.And they can be standing in the one position for hours.

Sally Sage was Bette Davis’ stand-in and said that she didn’t look like Bette but had the same build and colouring. Sally said that dresses she wore weren’t copies of what Bette would be wearing, but merely garments from the Studio’s wardrobe dept.

Sally also said that no stand -in becomes a star, and that seems to have been true. No doubt many came to Hollywood hoping for that big break and that,maybe , being a stand-in would lead to bigger things.

Sally Sage worked on over 30 of Bette’s films and the two became friends.

Sally Sage and Bette Davis. SPECIAL AGENT.

 

Sally Sage and Bette Davis

Sally’s dress is not identical to Bette’s.

 

On set, the principal actors were called ‘The First Team’, and the stand-ins were ‘The Second Team’.

For two years in the 1940s, Stand-Ins held the Elmer Awards. They honoured their own – in 1942, Sally Wood won for standing in for Marlene Dietrich and Frankie Van for Hugh Herbert.

In 1944 Randolph Scott’s stand- in in Gung Ho, Jack Parker , was the Elmer winner . And Susanna Foster’s stand-in in THIS IS THE LIFE, Sally Wood.

Considering stand -ins don’t appear on screen, I’m not sure how achievement was measured. And no one seems sure why they were called Elmers.

 

A letter from the brother  of Sally Wood who is seen with Marlene Dietrich on the set of THE SPOILERS. Mention is made of Sally winning the Elmer award as best stand-in.

 

Barbara Brown and Jean Harlow.

Barbara and Jean were friends from childhood.

 

Victor Chatten, Lew Ayres

 

Sylvia  Lamarr (no relation), Hedy Lamarr.

 

 

Jean Blair (Joan’s Stand-In), Joan BLONDELL, Iris Lancaster (Joan Crawford’s  stand-in).

 

George Raft and his stand-in Mack Grey who also made some film appearances.

 

Marie Osborne, Ginger Rogers.

 

William Hoover, Edward Arnold.

Definite look-a -like.

 

Pluma Noisom, Claudette Colbert.

 

Lookalikes, not stand-ins, Margaret Bryson (Loretta Young), Virginia Rendell (Mae West), Sylvia Lamarr(Joan Crawford), Carol Dietrich (born Hoyt) for Marlene Dietrich,  Betty Dietrich (Garbo) , Ezelle Poule (Zazu Pitts).IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD.

(Carol and  Betty Dietrich were sisters.)

 

Peter Lorre and Delmar Costello. Don Turner and Errol Flynn. (Don Turner was also a stunt man.)

 

 

Joan Crawford, Kasha Haroldi ( who was married to Joan’s brother, Hal LeSeuer). Hal and Kasha called their daughter Joan.

Amazing resemblance.

 

Mary Lou Isleib was not only Shirley’s stand-in but her bridesmaid when Shirley married John Agar.

 

Irene Dunne and Kay Stanley.

 

Mary Dee’s four minutes of fame, standing in for the late  Jean Harlow in  SARATOGA.

 

In the 1937 film, STAND-IN, Joan Blondell plays a stand-in called Lester ‘Sugar’ Plum!

 

And a book I’d love to read if it ever comes down in price on Amazon!

There’s more about the job of standing in at STANDINCENTRAL.com.

 

6 responses »

  1. Vienna, i really enjoyed your tribute to the very unheralded stand-ins. The photographs are amazing, especially of Kasha Haroldi and Joan Crawford. Also, Silvia Lamarr and Hedy Lamarr.

    This just crossed my mind. What about the story of the much maligned MY SON JOHN(1952)? Who were the stand-ins, doubles, and stunt doubles that helped finish the movie after Robert Walker died?

  2. Thanks,Walter. I haven’t seen My Son John . Reviews seem to be very mixed about its anti-communist message in 1951 at the height of the McCarthy era. It’s not clear what happened when Robert Walker died suddenly in August 1951. I’ve read that his death occurred one week after completion of filming though director Leo McCarey had to alter the film’s ending and inserted some outtakes from Strangers on a Train.

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