Gloria Graham was left nearly forgotten, but the new film tells of her beautiful final moments
The original Hollywood ‘bad girl’ died almost forgotten but new movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool tells the beautiful story of how she found happiness at the very end.
Gloria was a rebel. A sexy vamp who refused to play the Hollywood game, rejected the casting couch and still won an Oscar. A woman with terrible taste in husbands who found love late in life with a man half her age when she was facing death.
Her biography is called Suicide Blonde. It is full of pain and reflected a life battling a Hollywood system and a world that she never truly felt part of.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool stars Annete Bening as Gloria with Jamie Bell as her young lover Peter, based on the true-life events recounted in his book of the same name.
The film is out this week and we take a look at the shocking and sad moments of her life.
1. Early in her career, Gloria was offered the lead in the 1950 film Born Yesterday. She refused to ride unaccompanied in a limo with the then head of RKO and notorious womaniser, Howard Hughes. So she was dropped.
2. The star was bullied into having work done on her face. Insecure about her looks, she had work done on her upper lip rendering it immobile. She became known as “the girl with the novocaine lip”.
3. She made over 50 films, mainly thrillers but remains best known as the elephant girl in The Greatest Show On Earth or in the film Oklahoma! as Ado Annie, also knows as ”I’m just a girl who can’t say no.”
4. In at least two black-and-white movies she plays nightclub singers with her voice dubbed by others because she really couldn’t sing at all. Why was she cast as club chanteuse? Alhough not conventionally beautiful, she absolutely “projected sex.”
Gloria is perhaps most famous for her role in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’
Gloria starred opposite James Stewart in classic Christmas film ‘Its a Wonderful Life’
5. She often cast as the bad girl. Even in It’s A Wonderful Life, she plays sexpot Violet Bick with one of the sauciest saunters on celluloid. George Bailey (James Stewart), has a dream where he sees her arrested as a prostitute and lends her the money for a better life and saves her.
6. In real life men were often her downfall. She was drawn to controlling and abusive men and had four failed marriages.
7. Two of her husbands were father and son. Nicholas Ray directed Rebel Without A Cause and their relationship was marred by alcohol, drugs and Nick’s incessant gambling. Plus Nick found her in bed with his young son Tony.
8. Shockingly, Tony was only 13 years old at the time. Many years later, she and Tony married.
9. Grahame’s role in The Bad and the Beautiful earned her Best Supporting Actress at the 1953 Academy Awards, even though she only had about ten minutes of screen time. Her speech upon collecting the award went down in history as all she said was “thank you very much” and walked straight off – creating criticism as people speculated that she must have been drunk.
10. In order to achieve a “sexier” upper lip, Gloria would stuff cotton or tissue under her lip. This came to a surprise to some actors when they discovered it during kissing scenes.
11. When filming In a Lonely Place, Grahame settled a discussion about what her character should sleep in by answering, “I sleep in the raw, like lots of people do, so why not in the picture?”
Graham returns to the big screen this week in Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, based on the book by her lover, Peter Turner.
Gloria was known as ‘the girl with the novocaine lip’ after facial modifications
Turner recalls how they met in 1978 when her Hollywood career is ancient history. Like many once-famous American actresses she was offered work in England.
She was 55, staying in an unglamorous flat in a house in north-west London, preparing to play Sadie Thompson in Somerset Maugham’s Rain at the Palace Theatre, Watford. She was nervous about acting on stage.
Peter Turner was a struggling actor 20 years her junior, living in the same boarding house. One morning Gloria saw him hovering in the hall and asked him in to practice with her for her dance class to Staying Alive.
Gloria was known as a woman who ‘projected sex’
Peter recalled the song title was prophetic. Gloria was battling breast cancer but never told him and refused chemo because she would lose her hair.
Their affair faded out when Gloria returned to the US, but three years later she called him as she was dying and asked to spend her last days with him and his family in Liverpool.
In the end, film stars really don’t die in Liverpool, but sometime they find a last chance at love.
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is out on November 16