Old Hollywood or similar terms such as Classical Hollywood cinema or the Golden Age of Hollywood is used in film criticism between the 1910s and the 1960s. And it eventually became the most powerful and pervasive style of filmmaking in the world. So Old Hollywood is well-known for its glitz and glamor, and that largely comes from its shining stars.
We all remember stars like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland had strict contracts with Big Five studios. They are examples of many stars in the Golden Age of Hollywood, who were controlled in different ways in the film industry. Indeed, they had no choice because the studio bosses often had full power over the stars. It was considered the price of their fame.
But things are different now, that situation in the movie has probably reversed a little bit. So let’s figure out what demands there were for many stars at that time and imagine many scandals would be made if they existed today!
#1 Their past and their image were made up
In old Hollywood, actors were often asked to change facts about their past so that their images were made up. The actor had to go against their nature, which they really hate.
Joan Crawford grew up in a problematic family, but thanks to MGM, she became the daughter of typical rich Americans. She had to act as if she’d gotten tired of the rich life and run away to Hollywood.
#2 Actors were loaned out
Once movie stars signed a long-term contract with a studio, they didn’t belong to themselves anymore. The studio bosses would decide what films and what role the actor or actress got. Besides, studios often borrowed actors from each other to make films. The more famous the actor was, the more expensive the “rent” was.
#3 Actors were forced to fake relationships
Star’s love lives were arranged by studios to attract viewer attention to movies. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, for instance, built up the fantasy of romance in public because the fans were interested in the “chemistry” between them.
#4 Actors were forced to use stage names
The prominent actors of old Hollywood would be forced to have stage names instead of their real names. People are familiar with the names of Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood whose names are Norma Jeane Mortenson and Natalia Nikolaevna Zackharenko. Not many people know their real names.
Another well-known actress was even less lucky when the studio boss thought that the real name of Joan Crawford sounded like “sewer”. Therefore, the company decided to choose a stage name for her. The actress certainly hated the new name for the rest of her life but she also revealed that she would feel safer if she accepted the name.
#5 The actress’s appearance was used
It was very different with actresses that were clearly very beautiful. Studio bosses attempted to attract as much attention to their body parts as possible. So, Betty Grable was well-known for her perfect legs that 20th Century Fox insured for a huge sum of money just for PR purposes. The whole world talked only about Betty’s legs.
Hedy Lamarr was also partially a hostage of her own appearance. The head of MGM was promoting her as the most gorgeous woman in the world. He had high hopes due to how attractive she was. Certainly, she only played exotic characters that wanted to seduce men.
#6 They were forced to be polite with the press
Old Hollywood stars needed to welcome journalists and got ready to pose whenever they were asked to. Still, not every actor followed this rule. Katharine Hepburn, for instance, was famous for her explosive temper and snatched a camera from the hand of a journalist who took a picture of her without permission.
#7 The personal lives of actors were controlled
Elizabeth Taylor once said that the film studio controlled all aspects of her life, and this was particularly true for her relationships. The MGM bosses arranged a meeting between 16-year-old Elizabeth and football player Glenn Davis. Later, they were engaged for one month, but the wedding never happened.
When the actress was 18, she was being intended to marry Conrad Nicholson Hilton, and MGM decided to manage the wedding to make use of it as a media event. The marriage didn’t last long, but it was a good promotion for the movie Father of the Bride, which Taylor was in.
#8 Actors’ self-esteem was lowered
Source: © Mary Evans / East News
Many studios weren’t very kind to their stars. And they likely made some actors feel insecure on purpose. The boss of MGM named Judy Garland “Little hunchback.” The young actress didn’t fit in with the glamour image of the time and was very uncomfortable with her look.
Although she turned into a stunning woman, Judy still had the “girl next door” image. She wore special rubber discs to make the share of her nose and accessories on her teeth correct. After that, a studio makeup crew helped her get rid of all of this, but her self-esteem didn’t change better.
#9 Actors were told what they should look like
Columbia Pictures was creating a contract with Marilyn Monroe, and they based her look on Rita Hayworth. A starlet that had chestnut hair evolved a platinum blonde because the studio wanted it. Moreover, she also had to undergo the procedure of hairline electrolysis to change her hairline.
Even children couldn’t avoid appearance demands. For example, MGM made 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor wear braces and got her to remove 2 baby teeth. The studio even wanted to dye her hair, adjust the shape of her eyebrows, and name her Virginia, but her parents and Elizabeth herself were firmly against that.
Weekly, de Havilland was “blacklisted” from the film industry, with Warner Bros. even going as far as to “tell other studios to not hire her.”