Friday, 24 January 2014

Hooray for Hollywood!

The Dream Factory. The thrills, the action… the glamour. From the early days of silent Chaplins through the coming of the talking Jolsons and then in glorious Technicolor we have been in thrall to the romance of Hollywood. The big bold epic dramas, the gritty war movies, the zany comedies and the ditzy musicals – something for everyone… and then some.

We wanted stars. And more than stars we wanted intrigue and delight and love stories. Enter Hollywood’s golden couples. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Bogart and Bacall, Curtis and Leigh; the list is endless. Towering above us on the screen, their perfection setting standards with which we could never compete, we swooned at their perfect figures, their perfect skin, their perfect teeth and hair and… oh my!

And off-screen too we wanted to see perfection. But we’re human, so perfection is never quite enough; we wanted a touch of scandal, too.  The Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy saga, the on-again-off-again Burton and Taylor. We wanted the car-crashes, the melt-downs and it turned out we had a near insatiable appetite for Hollywood gossip. And the lawyers got richer and richer.

But some stories were kept secret for many years and it is only now, some sixty years after the event, that we can reveal some of the transcripts of the court records in what modern newspapers would describe as the ‘infamouse’ divorce case that would have rocked Hollywood had the public known. Walt Disney himself paid a small fortune to keep Mickey & Minnie off the front pages as they fought a bitter battle for a settlement in 1954.

Back then uncontested divorces were unheard of, so a court case was always convened, but there appeared to be a problem with Mickey’s petition. Infidelity, if proved, was grounds, hence the pack of camera-ready ‘detectives’ eager to earn a sleazy buck by setting up a guy in a hotel room with a hooker. Violence or cruelty were also admissible, but none of these legitimate reasons for granting a decree had been presented. The judge looked over his spectacles and addressed Mickey Mouse directly.

“Young Mr Mouse” he said, “my wife and I have enjoyed your films immensely and you have brought great joy to millions of children the world over. I can fully understand, however, that the intensity of the industry can bring many stresses and that working so closely together all the time can bring a strain on any marriage. So, I am saddened to see you in my court, seeking a separation from your wife, Minnie. But, as much as I would like to accommodate your wishes, I cannot possibly countenance a divorce on the grounds that her teeth are not perfect.”

The way they were.

There was a silence in court, then Mickey leaned over to speak with counsel. After a moment, Mickey’s lawyer asked to approach the bench. “Your Honour” he said, “I believe you are perhaps misreading the case notes. If you care to read the papers again you will see that the reason my client wants a divorce is that his wife is fucking Goofy!”

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