Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh drchilledair?

INTRODUCTION to my new e-book, Vera Hruba. . .Who?, available at Scribd

Initially, "The Good Girl: Lucille Bremer and the Golden Age of MGM,” was intended to be one chapter in a volume about Hollywood movie moguls and their alleged (in some instances) mistresses that my good friend and constant traveling companion, David Ehrenstein and I were planning to write. Other chapters would have been devoted to the likes of Darryl F. Zanuck, who made a veritable cottage industry of starlet-mistresses and, perhaps, Wiliiam Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. (Although that one has probably been anthologized, analyzed and, retrospected to death enough already!)

But the linchpin of the book would have been the rather well-known affair between Herbert J. Yates, head of Republic Pictures and Consolidated Film Laboratories, and former Czech figure skater, turned actress (of sorts) Vera Hruba Ralston. It is somewhat amusing and ironic that Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, which was supposed to be a film à clef of Davies and Hearst was much closer to the saga of Yates and Ralston. For while hardly anyone ever questioned the acting abilities of Davies, in Welles' masterpiece, Kane's opera singer, “Susan Alexander” was endlessly derided, much like Ralston, for the questionable talent that they brought, respectively, to the opera stage and the movie screen. At the beginning of Yates and Ralston's affair, he was already married. Eventually, he divorced his first wife for Ralston, and the two lived happily ever after. . .or at least until his death in 1966. This, despite the fact the twenty-six mostly expensive and mostly flops the actress made for Yates played a major part in the eventual demise of Republic in 1958.

Why this whiplash inducing digression right out of the Introductory starting gate?, you might well ask. Simply because, whenever David and I, in verbal pitches to agents and editors, got to the part about Ralston, invariably the response was, “Vera Hruba. . . WHO?”

Ah, well, as the great Lenny Bruce once remarked of something or someone in one or another of his routines, “Ah, how quickly we forget!” For it seems as if it was only yesterday that V.H.R. was burning up the silver screen in her last Republic potboiler, 1958's The Notorious Mr. Monks (“A hapless hitchhiker takes a ride with a drunk driver who takes him to his house. There he meets the driver's wife [Ralston] and murder ensues. “) In other words, for purposes of David's and my book, any reference to the actress, who died in 2003, proved to be, as they say, just a skosh too hip for the house.

As far as potential editors and publishers were concerned, that also seemed to be the case with most of the other biographical personae contained herein. At one time,not so long ago, the three most famous “people” in the world were considered to Mickey Mouse, Albert Einstein, and Joe Louis (also profiled herein). But, alas, when it came to the latter, even his name drew mostly black stares from book pub types. Again. . .“Ah, how quickly we forget.” And, as for 1940s recording superstar, Spike Jones---also contained herein---fuhgedaboutit!

Regarding the other profiles contained herein, the two never-really-famous famous comedy figures, Marr and Buckley, along with the profiled quartet of behind-the-scenes producers, they were never exactly household names in the first place. So, finally, the title of this book might well have been Too Hip for the House? Or some such. But I finally settled on Vera Hruba. . . WHO? It has a nice ring about it, doncha think?

---Bill Reed

No comments: