Today's speaker was Manny Pacheco, he is the author of the “Forgotten Hollywood” book series. Manny worked at KRLA for many years alongside Art Labo. He has been on radio for 30 years and today he shared with us how Hollywood history reflects and ties into American history and Rotary history.
Manny has written about 37 actors that may be forgotten by our children's children and in order for their memories to be kept alive, he shares their wonderful stories.
The first story he shared with us was about the "Original Odd Couple" who appeared in nine movies together. These two actors were Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. The most famous of the movies that they appeared in were "Casablanca" and the "Maltese Falcon." About the time when these two movies were playing America was conducting the Cold War across two oceans. It was our government’s policy to try and harness and develop atomic energy. This was known as the Manhattan Project.
The best and the brightest scientists worked hard six days a week trying come up with a way to harness atomic energy. They lived on military bases with their families. To relax, on the seventh day which was Saturday, this was movie night and Hollywood being so patriotic at that time, they would donate their libraries of movies to these bases so the families of these scientist could relax and enjoy different movies.
One scientist was such a big movie fan, that when they dropped the first atomic bomb in New Mexico the scientist nicknamed it, "The Thin Man" after Dashiell Hammett's character played by William Powell. Two other bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and the other in Nagasaki. One bomb was small and slender and the other large and rotund. The first bomb that was dropped was nicknamed “Little Boy” and the second bomb was named “The Fat Man.” The names of the bombs were based on these two actors, so not only were they tied together in nine movies they were tied together in the history of World War II. Ironically these actors had no idea that they were tied with the history of these bombs which makes sense since these were top secret missions.
Another example of how movies and history tie together is the story of an actor by the name of that Van Heflin who played in a movie called “Cry of Battle.” It was a fictional movie playing in 1963 and in all the small movie theaters including one in Dallas named the Texas Theatre. This movie theater became famous because it was the place where Lee Harvey Oswald hid and got arrested. So important and historical was that day that if you were to visit that movie theater today you would see a plaque on the seat where Oswald was arrested as well as the poster for his movie still posted. Once again Hollywood and History intersect.
On a funny note, MGM’s top actor at that time who beat everybody else in top pay was Lassie! Yes that little dog was making more money for the studios than any two actors combined!
Mr. Pacheco’s last story was a connection of not only Hollywood and History but to Rotary as well. Lionel Barrymore had a lifetime contract with MGM, and as he got older he became disabled from arthritis and he eventually ended up in a wheelchair. During that time however, he had it in his lifetime contract that his disability was never to be mentioned. During the 1938 filming of “You Can’t Take it With You,” Lionel was in crutches healing from a broken hip that would never heal properly before his arthritis really took over his body thus confining him to his wheelchair. Helen Keller who was good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt was so impressed that when she heard of Mr. Barrymore (who was still shooting movies while in his wheelchair) said, "Our time has come! If an actor can perform in a wheelchair, we can fight disease and disabilities now! Talk to your husband." Well as we are aware of historically, Eleanor Roosevelt who was married to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Roosevelt contracted Polio, while the Roosevelt's were vacationing in 1921, which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. After he became President, Roosevelt helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now known as the March of Dimes. Every year on his birthday he invited Hollywood to his Birthday Party to raise all kinds of money for the March of Dimes, so successful was this March of Dimes campaign that within 10 years after his death we eradicated polio in the United States.
Twenty Five years after that, Rotary Club was then able to fight Polio on an international level with its Polio Plus Program, using the same concept and the same techniques that were started through the March of Dimes campaign. As Rotarians we should ALL be Proud of ourselves for being part of this history, and for caring enough to fight for this ongoing campaign to stamp out Polio around the World!
Manny Pacheco is shown below; to learn more about "Forgotten Hollywood", log on to his bog at http://www.forgottenhollywood.com/hollywood-history/forgotten-hollywood-holidays-friendly-to-book-series.php