Thursday 20 December 2012

Tintair For Stanwyck

Last Yuletide season, we brought you a daily edition of Christmas With the Stars, thanks to old newspaper columns by Bob Thomas of the Associated Press. This season, we’ll check in with the other major wire service.

Aline Mosby of the United Press was more than a Hollywood gossip. After working the show biz beat, she covered a polar opposite—the Cold War as the wire service’s bureau chief in Moscow. One of her interview subjects there was one Lee Harvey Oswald. In the early ‘80s, she reported from what we called Peking back then.

But times were fluffier for her in 1952, when she published one of those celebrity Christmas lists that fills newspapers (and, today, web sites). She didn’t compile it herself. She had it done by Arthur Blake.

Some of Blake’s references are as dated as Blake himself. To be honest, I’d never heard of him. When I think of impressionists of the 1950s, I think of Will Jordan. But while Ed Sullivan was Will’s most famous impersonation, Mrs. Ed Sullivan might have been more Blake’s style. Sure, he could go on stage and make off like Peter Lorre and Jimmy Stewart, but he was known more for Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Mae West and Carmen Miranda.

Blake provides Ms. Mosby with not one but two Christine Jorgensen jokes. Franchot Tone divorced Barbara Payton in 1952 after learning she was still fooling around with another actor with whom he lost a very violent fight. At the time of this column, Ginger Rogers was about to marry Jacques Bergerac, who was 16 years younger. The “skinny” Sinatra jokes of the ‘40s were pretty much passé by this time. And Scott Brady may have been happy to have been noticed a couple of decades later; his star fell so far he ended up in the cult favourite Satan’s Sadists (with another big Technicolor name of the ‘50s, Russ Tamblyn).

Blake’s cattiness here seems pretty lame (certainly by today’s standards) but he annoyed some of his victims way-back-when. His nightclub act featured a deadly Louella Parsons routine which insulted her so much, she wouldn’t appear on Eddie Cantor’s radio show with him.

The Caustic Arthur Blake Turns Soft for Christmas
United Press Hollywood Correspondent

HOLLYWOOD (UP)—Mimic Arthur Blake, who tickles night club audiences with caustic imitations of movie stars, decided to soften the blow today with “Christmas presents” for them all.
These gifts, of course, never will reach Santa’s knapsack. But Blake hopes to slip each present into his night club act when the celebrities show up in person.
While examining a fingernail, Blake lists his gifts as follows:
“For Barbara Payton—A unlimited extension of her travel visa.
“Bette Davis—Ten thousand cartons of di-nicotined cigarettes.
“Gary Cooper—Pocket size digest of the art of conversation.
“Mickey Rooney—A safe and sane fourth (marriage).
“Marlon Brando—An un-torn T-shirt.
“Percy Kilbride—Scott Brady’s looks.
“Scott Brady—Percy Kilbride’s money.
“Ava Gardner— A diet for fattening up Frankie.
“Marilyn Monroe—A new lease on her 1953 calendar.
“Tallulah Bankhead— A box of soothing throat lozenges.
“Christine Jorgensen—A Christmas note beginning dear sir, or dear madam, as the case may be.
“Alan Ladd—Another expression.
“Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson—-Haircuts.
“Ritz Brothers—A trip to Denmark so they can come back the Andrews Sisters.
“Garbo — A comeback, gift wrapped.
“Barbara Stanwyck—Tintair, in the large economy size.
“Ginger Rogers—A boy friend her own age.
“Franchot Tone—Judo lessons.
“Bob Hope—Bing Crosby enterprises.
“Ingrid Bergman — An Italian cookbook.
“Marjorie Main— A date with Charles of the Ritz.
"Tyrone Power—A gold coffin for his play, ‘John Brown’s Body.’”
Blake has no fear what his celebrated customers will say at such “gifts.” “Oh, they never REALLY get mad,” he shrugged.

Tomorrow: How stars of the ‘50s decorate for Christmas.

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