Tuesday, 6 August 2013

...and Marion never looked lovelier

Miss Hopper and Miss Parsons

From the Arcane Radio Blog:
"It's not fair to say that Louella Parsons hated everyone. She feuded with Orson Welles, Joan Crawford, Louis B. Mayer, Hedda Hopper, Frank Sinatra and even Ronald Reagan. But, like other Hollywood gossip shows she eventually wore out her welcome. Born in 1881 as Louella Rose Oettinger, she grew up in Dixon, Illinois. She attended Dixon College and then wrote for the Dixon Star newspaper. In her articles she gossiped about Dixon social circles, a harbinger of things to come. She married John Parsons in 1906, she kept the name but dropped the husband.

She ditched the small town life. She moved to Chicago, then new York. In 1914 she wrote another gossip column for the Chicago Record Herald, then one for the New York Morning Telegraph. William Hearst took note of her readership and by 1923 her name was under his masthead on the New York American newspaper. She gained increasing popularity and became a syndicated columnist for Hearst."
She went on to settle in California (for health reasons, apparently), landed a radio version of her column, and the rest, as they say, is history. Louella Parsons became the commanding force in Hollywood gossip circles - at least until the rise of her hated rival Hedda Hopper - and made herself feared, respected and loathed for her efforts to make and break careers.

Hedda Hopper (from her biography The Whole Truth and Nothing But) observed:
“With the Hearst newspaper empire behind her, Louella could wield power like Catherine of Russia. Hollywood read every word she wrote as though it was a revelation from San Simeon, if not Mount Sinai. Stars were terrified of her. If they crossed her, they were given the silent treatment; no mention of their names in her column.”
By the end, however, the proverbial chickens had come home to rest somewhat for Louella.

As Mamie Van Doren noted:
"Louella Parsons died on December 9, 1972. Almost no one noticed. By then Hollywood had changed a great deal. But when told about her death, many veterans of this industry town still breathed a sigh of relief and secretly hoped that someone had driven a wooden stake through her heart."
Here's a classic spoof of Louella's radio show - and her fawning over Hearst's mistress Marion Davies - by the late, great TC Jones [thanks NormaDesmond at "mittendrinnen" blog for this one]:

Louella Parsons (6th August 1881 – 9th December 1972)

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