David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Money

Money

• Goldwyn Studios used to have the policy that whenever it allowed one of its actors to appear on radio, it would receive half of that actor’s fee. David Niven once appeared on the radio program Kraft Music Hall, for which he received $2,500 and a tray of various kinds of cheeses, courtesy of the sponsor. After receiving his payment, Mr. Niven wrote a check for $1,250, then cut the tray in half and presented Samuel Goldwyn with both the check and the half-tray of cheeses.

• Chico Marx — the fake-Italian Marx Brother — was famous for his comedy. He was also famous for his gambling. He once bet movie director Leo McCarey $100 that he could throw a walnut further than him. Mr. McCarey agreed to the bet, and he picked a walnut from a bag of walnuts that Chico had and threw it. Chico then threw a walnut much further than Mr. McCarey and collected the $100. (Chico was not above cheating — he had earlier filled his walnut with lead.)

• Early in his career, Hollywood director Frank Capra wanted to work for Mack Sennett, but he was unwilling to accept the $35-a-week starting salary that Mr. Sennett offered to everybody who was just beginning to work for him. Fortunately, Mr. Capra discovered a way out of the dilemma. He agreed to accept the $35-a-week starting salary — provided that Mr. Sennett give him a $10-a-week raise on his second day of work. Mr. Sennett accepted the compromise.

• When French comic filmmaker Jacques Tati decided to entertain people in music halls, his father cut him off without a sou. No problem. Mr. Tati was able to get along well and happily without his father’s money. When he needed a meal, he was able to go to a particular cabaret and entertain the customers by pretending to be a drunk waiter. In return, the proprietors of the cabaret were happy to give him a good meal and 50 francs.

• When actor John Gilbert was high on the wheel of fortune, he lent many thousands of dollars to friends and acquaintances. When the wheel turned and he was nearly broke, he tried to call in his loans, but only Dorothy Parker repaid — promptly and in full. Mr. Gilbert sent her a basket of roses and a note reading “Thank you, Miss Finland.” (Finland was the only country to repay its Great War debt to the United States.)

• Filmmaker John Waters had little money when he started out, so he made many of his early films in coin-operated laundries and alleys. The coin-operated laundries were great sets because the lighting was wonderfully bright, and alleys had the big advantage of making it easy to run away when necessary.

• While starring in a film in Hollywood, opera singer Helen Traubel met actor Walter Pidgeon. He told her, “Miss Traubel, I have all your records. You’ve cost me a lot of money.” She replied, “So have you me. For all the movie tickets I’ve bought to see you.”

• When Marilyn Monroe started making money as an actress, she opened a charge account at a store. But whereas most people would open their first charge account at a clothing store, she opened her first one at a bookstore.

• While acting in her first film, The Importance of Being Earnest, Dorothy Tutin called for retake after retake. Finally, the producer asked if she knew how much a retake costs. After hearing the answer — £200 per minute — she stopped asking for retakes.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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