The Greatest Movie Fans
By Darwin Porter
Throughout the pandemic, many Baby Boomers, cut off from their grandchildren, binged on classic films and movie star biographies.
Fourteen of my best-selling titles disappeared from warehouses, books devoted to the lives of such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra, and a “celebutante” star who lived in an even larger sphere, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Distributors want new editions, sometimes with additions and amplifications, reprinted at once.
Surveys have shown that Baby Boomers and their parents, in the years between 1930 and 1959, created the greatest movie stars in film history. To name a few from that staggering list (each covered extensively in one or several of my biographies): Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, James Cagney, Rock Hudson, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn.
Surveys also revealed that hordes of Baby Boomer often selected films based on their association with a particular star— and not just for the picture itself.
In the past 18 months, wonderful letters have poured into Blood Moon Productions—the entity that publishes my books —from readers across the country. Some of them were critical, not because of what I’d written, but because of what I hadn’t.
Typical of the mail coming in are these comments. Names are withheld.
From Bangor, Maine, a reader wants to know, “When are you going to publish a book on Errol Flynn, that swashbuckler on the screen and in the boudoir? Was he really a Nazi spy? Did he promote the Slave Trade as a young man in New Guinea? Did he seduce underage boys and girls?”
A woman living in Lake Placid, New York, wrote in with: “I read that you’re planning a book on Rita Hayworth, who was known to my generation as ‘the Love Goddess of the World.’
Many questions have been asked about her life, and most of them remain unexplored—including the incestuous nature of her relationship with her father. Did her first husband, Edward Judson, really pimp her out to promote her career? What scandals and humiliations did she endure during her ill-fated marriage to Prince Aly Khan?”
From Toledo, Ohio, came this challenge: “Don’t you think it’s about time you relayed the complete story of Marlene Dietrich minus all those stylish but untrue fabrications published to date? Tell us of her early life growing up in the decadent Weimar Republic, where anything and everything went on. Why don’t you document her many love affairs, including those with Greta Garbo and John F. Kennedy.”
A reader from Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote me with this: “Like Dietrich, Gary Cooper in his youth had sex without preference for any particular gender. Beginning tomorrow, Mr. Porter, why don’t you sit down and document the incredible life of this great American icon, who blazed a trail across Tinseltown. For the first time ever, give us the whole story.”
“One of the greatest stars in the history of cinema was William Holden,” claims a reader from Baltimore. “Right now, there are only two slim paperbacks written about him. He deserves one of those complete biographies of the kind you write. His love affairs with just four of the many women he was involved with would fill a book: Jacqueline Kennedy, Barbara Stanwyck, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly. What about his hell-raising drunken days with Ronald Reagan after Jane Wyman divorced him? Did they really have a three-way with Marilyn Monroe in 1949?”
“Would you please write the tell-all book on Joan Crawford, as there is so much contradictory data out there?” says a reader from Omaha, Nebraska. “Also include data on her pre-Hollywood days when it’s alleged that she was repeatedly raped by her brother and his gang, and that she was once a prostitute. Let us know about that. Her long-enduring Golden Age” affair with Clark Gable would in itself merit a book.”
“Based on your previous writings, you could devote an entire volume to the secret lives of Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy,” suggests a reader from Philadelphia. “The scandals that emerged from their house in Santa Monica would make a tantalizing read, plus all the other shocking details, some involving Marilyn Monroe.”
My conclusion? These Baby Boomers are “right on” in their suggestions. Alas, all it takes is time, that most precious of gifts. As the clock ticks away, and as the need to archive these histories grows more persistent and intense, I vow to do all in my power to see that many of the untold sagas of these Hollywood legends end up on the printed page.
Darwin Porter’s latest biography is Volume One of a two-part overview of one of the most famous couples of the 20th Century: “Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—They Weren’t Lucy & Ricky Ricardo.” This 530 page book with hundreds of photos is available now from Amazon.com.
Volume Two will be available in early October. For more information about Porter’s biographies or how you can meet him at Magnolia House in New York City, go to www.BloodMoonProductions.com or contact DanforthPrince@gmail.com.