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STARS IN TROUBLE : Notorious

January 04, 1987

'The trouble with the movie industry, screenwriter Elinor Glyn said in the 1920s, was that "so many young people in it get rich suddenly. They are not taught control and it is hard for them to resist temptation." Romantic dalliances are one thing, but sometimes the stars have gotten themselves into serious trouble. In the beginning, studio bosses, employing hard cash and considerable pressure on the local police, more often than not were able to protect their major moneymakers from scandal. Equally effective in later years were publicity chiefs such as MGM's Howard Strickling, who usually was at the scene--as in the suicide of Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern--before the police. Until the 1940s, stars were also protected by the industry's most influential fan magazine, Photoplay, which did its best to look the other way. When it couldn't, it usually took on a circumspect or supportive tone. But by the end of the decade, a demand for more dirt produced Confidential, the most scandalous magazine in Hollywood's history. Dedicated to dishing out the vilest gossip, the first issue sold a quarter of a million copies. For years, studio bosses and stars alike quaked in fear of the information dug up by the magazine's highly paid spies. A series of damaging libel suits--by Dorothy Dandridge, Maureen O'Hara and others--finally forced Confidential to fold at the end of the '50s.

"Glamour girls are suckers!"--or so glamour girl Carole Landis wrote in a 1941 article for Photoplay. "So you might rightly hail me, 'Hi Sucker!' because, as the nicks on a gun indicate how many men a killer has got, nicks on the heart of a glamour girl indicate how many men she didn't get!

"There is very little I can do about it, either. Being a glamour girl doesn't help any. I can only do what other girls do, cry my eyes out at night, hope and pray, pretend I don't care, do the best acting job of my career for the benefit of friends and family, for the sake of my own pride."

The star of "One Million B.C." wanted "love, marriage, home, children" more than anything, but in 1948, when Rex Harrison refused to leave wife Lilli Palmer for her, Landis took a bottle of sleeping pills before a scheduled lunch date with Harrison. She may have intended just to scare him, but Harrison found her dead, her head resting atop her jewelry box.

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