Friday, May 25, 2012

Come On In, the Water's Fine!

Here in the U.S. (at least in these here parts of it!), Memorial Day weekend signals the opening up of most swimming pools; cool, crystalline havens from the heat that have been closed since the prior September. I love the water and, in truth, most of the significant happy memories of my life have taken place there, so I wait with bated breath for pool season to arrive and can be found there during almost every decent day until they close the places down again after Labor Day weekend in September. Seen above is Richard Jaeckel in a splashy mood.

So, to kick off the holiday in style, I give you a variety of celebrities either taking a dip or thinking about it (maybe the water is still too cold!) Ronnie Reagan seems to be having a bit of a time getting his then-wife Jane Wyman into the drink here! This post had originally been geared towards strictly pool ladders (a publicity photo staple for eons), but I ultimately expanded it to include others facets of the locale. I hope you enjoy!

Pools and Hollywood go hand in hand. Here we have legendary movie icons Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks frolicking around in their pool at Pickfair (the estate that was named after themselves by using the first four letters of each of their last names.)

Another star of their era, John Gilbert, is having fun sunning himself by the water. Gilbert, of course, is the silent movie actor (and one-time fiance of Greta Garbo) whose screen career didn't make the transition to sound. Depending on who you believe, he either had a voice that was deemed unsuitable or (more likely) was blackballed by an antagonized Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, who disliked Gilbert considerably.

Ramon Novarro was another silent movie hero (he played Ben-Hur more than thirty years before the 1959 epic), but he was able to continue working when sound came in, just not to the same degree of success. A conflicted homosexual, he found it hard to play the Hollywood game. He eventually became a useful character actor until 1968 when he was horrifically murdered by two rent boys in search of (nonexistent) money in his house.

This next fellow is probably unknown to all but the most devout classic movie fans. Check out these period swimsuits! Grant Withers was a late-1920s and 1930s movie actor, the star of a few serials and later a busy character actor who figured into a bit of a scandal in 1930.

Twenty-six years old, he ran off to Yuma, Arizona with recent costar Loretta Young (then seventeen!) and the two eloped. He was not a Catholic, which caused her family to become apoplectic. The union was annulled by 1931. Ironically, their second movie together came out just as the marriage was being dissolved. The title of that movie? Too Young to Marry! (You see, Miss Loretta Young, long known for her devout attitude and demeanor, was really quite fast even from the start!)

Withers married at least three more times after that, but, as he aged, he developed agonizing back pain and also gained weight, which didn't help matters. Finally, in 1959 at age fifty-four, he took an overdose of barbiturates and ended his life. These two tragedies behind us, I will try to make the rest of this post less gloom and doom. We're supposed to be having fun!

Speaking of those old one-piece tank swimsuits, check out this shot of movie tough guy James Cagney; a rare shot of him in this sort of scenario.

Richard Greene, shown here, is best known for his starring role on the 1950s British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, a job he took out of financial need, but which made him a star. He was in his late thirties then, an earlier, burgeoning film career having been interrupted by WWII. Back in the day, though, he was quite a handsome devil with a strong jaw and piercing eyes.

A famous photo shoot involving two hot stars of the 1930s (who were "bach-ing" it up at the time) featured Randolph Scott and Cary Grant, shown at left.
Here we have actor-director-producer Dick Powell lounging about the pool. Powell wins the prize for having refashioned his image over time in order to stay relevant and employed. Once a singing bandleader, then a crooner in movie musicals, he later became better known as the star of many detective films. Still later, he worked more behind the camera creating many television programs (which he also often acted in) and directing movies of varying quality. He was married to (third wife) June Allyson from 1945 until his death in 1963.

Another guy who went through several career permutations was Jackie Cooper. Known to my own generation for his craggy portrayal of Daily Planet editor Perry White in several Superman films, he had first been a phenomenally successful child actor. At nine, he was the first and youngest one to ever receive an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and the youngest nominee in any category until Justin Henry (age eight) was nominated as a supporting actor for 1979's Kramer vs Kramer. Incidentally, his Oscar bid (for Skippy) was lost to none other than the great Lionel Barrymore for A Free Soul. Notoriously, his despicable parents spent almost every nickel of the fortune he made as a busy child star.  Later, Cooper became a very successful TV director, winning Emmys for The White Shadow and M*A*S*H (on which he claimed that Larry Linville and Wayne Rogers were the only actors on the show NOT a pain to work with.)

Richard Jaeckel was shown at the top of this post making waves in the water. Here he is about to project himself off the diving board. Mr. J. was 5' 7”, but tightly packed. After getting attention for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and especially Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), he enjoyed a fifty year career as a busy supporting actor (and happily married throughout to the same woman.) Sadly, though, he died of melanoma in 1997 at only age seventy; this after having had to declare bankruptcy and give up his home and most of his possessions.

Jaeckel, as demonstrated previously, had no qualms about careening into the water and floundering around.  Not so our next subject, comedian Danny Kaye.  Hopefully, he was just kidding around and not really that squeamish about getting in.

Here we have popular 1940s and '50s movie star Tyrone Power, jubilantly enjoying the sun while perched on a diving board. How fun is it that men of the 1940s were happy to wear such snug, abbreviated suits to swim in? Nowadays, too many guys are burdened down with fabric that harkens back to the cumbersome turn-of-the-century togs (and not the last century but the one before it!)

On that subject, here we have a couple more shots of Ronald Reagan at the pool. No, I'm not trying to press any political agenda here by including him so much! It's all about the men and the times and the fact that I found several pictures of him that fit today's topic.

1940s star Alan Ladd was wildly popular and in very good shape before alcohol and years of depression set in. Here, he uses the handles of the pool ladder for some calisthenics.

Buster Crabbe (the subject of a recent photo essay that showed off his youthful, hunky good looks) was a serial and western actor who had once been an Olympic swimming champion. He eventually went into business for himself selling pools and stayed fit throughout his life. I just love the (now) hilarious text on this postcard.

Few people know that before Roy Rogers was the do-right cowboy and devoted husband of Dale Evans (and even restaurant entrepreneur!), he was quite a busy and sought-after ladies' man! I still don't think I see it entirely, even in this rare shot of him in an abbreviated swimsuit (maybe I like more “calf” with my cowboys?), but sometimes the quiet and shy types can really turn on the heat when no one's looking!

One man whose sexual prowess was never in doubt was Argentine “Latin Lover” Fernando Lamas. Not only did he cause all sorts of eyebrow-raising sounds to emanate from Lana Turner's dressing room as they filmed The Merry Widow (1952), but his deliberate display of the family jewels (through impossibly snug pants) during the 1956 Broadway musical Happy Hunting sent costar Ethel Merman into fits of rage. (How dare he upstage “The Voice?!”) They were both nominated for Tonys nevertheless, but he lost to Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady while hers went to Judy Holliday for Bells Are Ringing.

Despite Lamas' endowment, he usually managed to keep things under wraps when wearing a swimsuit (the style of the day being to compress everything as much as humanly possible and by all means cover up the belly button!) At least he had fun with the fabric choices, as shown here. Lamas' fourth and last wife was Esther Williams (who'd been a firsthand witness to the sounds of his and Lana's ecstasy.) She was widowed when he died of pancreatic cancer in 1982 at age sixty-seven.  Of course, most of us are familiar with Fernando's famous offspring Lorenzo Lamas, shown below enjoying the refreshing water of a sparkling swimming pool.

Next up, Lex Barker is shown in a poolside photo-op with a curvaceous friend. His career having petered out in Hollywood (along with typecasting as Tarzan), he forged a significant one in Europe (primarily Germany) where he became quite a success.

One of my own personal favorite 1950s hunks is the eternally underrated Jeffrey Hunter. Like many of the men in this post, he's been profiled elsewhere here in more depth. The two color shots (and perhaps even the black & white one) are from the same day (and, I believe, from the same photo shoot in which he was taken by surprise from behind by Robert Wagner! That pic is shown in a previous post.)

Lots of things can happen at the pool. Take Robert Evans for example. A voice actor and marketing man for the Evan-Picone fashion house, he was lounging by the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel one day when retired actress Norma Shearer spotted him and thought he'd be right to play her deceased husband (legendary producer Irving Thalberg) in the upcoming film Man of a Thousand Faces. (Recreated here!) Never a strong actor, he later went on to be a staggeringly successful producer and studio chief (at Paramount.) Married seven times to a string of desirable women, he is eighty-one at present.

Teen heartthrob Tab Hunter later wore swimsuits far more revealing (and tight) than this one, but those photos are already on his little tribute post here.

What is it with the gold medallion necklaces on these guys? We seem to associate that habit with the '70s and disco, but clearly such a thing was a trend in the '50s, too. Pat Boone could (and can) be really annoying, but there is no denying that in his prime he was a very nice looking guy. I love this color shot of him emerging from the water.

Happy li'l Stuart Whitman looks cute ascending from the pool as well.

Here's frequent Underworld personage Charlton Heston coming up for air, too. Again, all politics aside, he was the star of so many 1950s, '60s and '70s films that I love (and obviously the subject of countless photographs) that I can't help but include him when the topic fits.

Robert Stack has no desire to get out of the water and is content to enjoy a song on the radio and a soft drink.

1950s superstar Kirk Douglas is seen here cavorting with his sons. Michael (now famous in his own right) is up on his shoulders I do believe, though I can't be positive. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I've never found the (obviously in-shape) Douglas' body very appealing.

Eternally-tan John Derek is overdressed for a swim in those sweatpants so I don't know where he thinks he's going in this shot!

You know, Adam West always looked kind of meager and even a tad paunchy in his Batman suit, but here he demonstrates a perfectly fit and trim physique. I love his clingy, square-cut suit.

Few men were as captivating by the pool as French star Alain Delon. (He even made a movie called The Swimming Pool in 1969.) Plenty of publicity photos were taken of him cavorting in the water, some of which appear in his Underworld tribute.

After a hard day of canoeing, trudging through the forest and nearly getting killed by inbred homosexual rapists (in 1972's Deliverance), there's nothing more relaxing than winding up back at the location's motel for a bit of horseplay in the pool for Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight!

I'm not sure which at pool this shot of Michael Jackson was taken. It appears to date from the mid-to-late '80s.

Dynasty star Gordon Thomson plops down on the edge of his pool in this shot from the mid-'80s. (NotFelixUnger, where are you these days! This one is for you.)

The pool remains a picturesque place for stars to have their picture taken. Take Jean-Claude Van Damme dangling from the diving board during one of his early U.S. photo shoots.

Even non-stars (or wanna-bees) get in on the action, thus notorious O.J. Simpson houseguest and attempted actor Kato Kaelin was snapped emerging from the pool. Please tell me that he's at 14 minutes and 58 seconds by now...

More inviting is pretty-boy actor and action-movie star Paul Walker.

Rugged adventure movie hero Gerard Butler follows suit.

As we near the end of this parade of poolside paramours, I give you my favorite shot of the aforementioned Fernando Lamas. Note that he is holding himself above the water with his arms, not standing on the steps of the ladder! With his manly physique, gold medallion and tight suit, he ticks off all the boxes of what was best about 1950s men who were going for a dip.

Of course, if given the option, we prefer to do as Steve McQueen does here and dispense with a suit all together! However you spend your holiday weekend, even if it isn't a holiday for you, I hope it's a smashing one. I'll be back next week with more from The Underworld.


John Gray said...

fuck me that went on a bit
I loved it
greeting from a tiny welsh village
I so enjoyed finding this blog

Poseidon3 said...

Welcome! John, you will love this blog if you read it enough. I know because we have a TON in common. (But this is not one of my longest posts! LOL The ones in the early days were brief, but most of them have gotten progressively more in-depth and overlong as time has gone by! I can't help myself...)

Scooter said...

Is Esther Williams Lorenzo Lamas's mother?

Poseidon3 said...

No, Scooter, she was his step-mother (still is, I guess, techinically, since she is Fernando's widow!) His previous wife, red-haired actress, beauty expert and astrologer Arlene Dahl is Lorenzo's mom.

Rob said...

I'll have what Jon Voights having...
Just read your post on Lindsay Wagner too-kinda weird because out of the blue I was wondering where she went off to, nice to read she's still active!

Poseidon3 said...

Ha, Rob! I love that those two were able to lighten up after a strenuous day of filming and horseplay around that way. I couldn't agree more!