Hank & Jim by Scott Eyman is…… Sleek & Slim*


Hank & Jim is an enthralling double biography by Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life and Legend, and co-author with actor Robert Wagner on three books, the latest which is I Loved Her In The Movies. Eyman has crafted an entertaining history of unlikely friends who were brought together by the theatre and who further cemented their camaraderie while exploring their expertise as film actors. While Stewart was laid back in his approach to acting and life, Fonda fought to avoid being laid bare and revealing his innermost emotions.


Agent turned producer Leland Hayward, Life photographer John Swope (husband of Fonda protégé Dorothy McGuire), and director Josh Logan all became close friends of Hank & Jim during their salad days in the University Players, “a bunch of stagestruck kids from the Ivy League and Seven Sisters.” Stewart’s and Fonda’s eventual gravitation to Hollywood led them to careers they never envisioned and their existences before World War II in California, like their pre-war films, had galvanized an established profession for both of them. When Stewart and Fonda returned home after the war, each had been deeply affected personally and professionally. Eyman successfully chronicles their twin journeys through the vagaries of Hollywood and the studio system, their personal lives, and professional successes and failures with an even-handed approach to fleshing out the demons and delights of both actor’s experiences.


Exploring the details of such a high profile closeness of two popular figures while meshing details and interviews reveals the author’s adept planning and execution of such an in-depth study. Eyman’s outline for his double biography might have taken a page from the latest October Psychology Today article entitled, “7 Traits of True Friendship” as he explores all aspects of successful friendship and applies the strictures to Fonda and Stewart. Empathy, selflessness, trustworthiness, interest-sharing, differing perspectives, humorousness, and being a team player illuminate all aspects of Hank &  Jim. They worked on hobbies together, they both loved gardening and talking about gardening, they socialized together, and they both had penchants for elaborate practical jokes. Even though Stewart was a Republican, and Fonda a liberal Democrat, the two loners both agreed to disagree and not explore politics in polite or formal conversation.

Actress Margaret Sullavan…

One of the most interesting aspects of Hank &  Jim is the specter of actress Margaret Sullavan who married Fonda, then Hayward, but also captured the hearts of Stewart and Swope. Her allure seems to light up passages of the book like her spirit must have engaged the men who adored her.


The Thursday Night Beer Club…

With comments from Kelly Stewart Harcourt, Jane Fonda, Brooke Hayward, Peter Fonda, Mark Swope, Burgess Meredith and other insiders, the lively times and loving bond between Hank & Jim make it worth a couple of lazy afternoons. Enjoying a lovely sunset after reading the last page of any good book would be something Hank and Jim would relish.

*Hank & Jim: Sleek & Slim- The writing is smooth and inviting, but the stories are so fascinating, readers will just want more…..

Resources for more reading…

The Retro Set-
More about the Fonda/Stewart buddyship : http://theretroset.com/5-ways-the-jimmy-stewart-henry-fonda-bromance-will-ruin-your-life/

Psychology Today-7 Traits of True Friendship: http://theretroset.com/5-ways-the-jimmy-stewart-henry-fonda-bromance-will-ruin-your-life/

“Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda’s friendship”: A valuable lesson for a divided nation:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/01/jimmy-stewart-and-henry-fondas-friendship-valuable-lesson-for-divided-nation.html

Leonard Maltin reviews Hank & Jim: http://leonardmaltin.com/close-up-on-henry-fonda-and-james-stewart/

Where to purchase this book: https://www.amazon.com/Hank-Jim-Fifty-Year-Friendship-Stewart/dp/1501102176

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THAT DARN SMACK!

(A DUELING DIVAS BLOGATHON ENTRY!)

Joan Collins was never one to veil the truth as she perceives it, especially in her autobiography entitled Past Imperfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed her frankness during her TCM “Word of Mouth” segment when she describes the whack that June Allyson awarded her during the filming of their encounter backstage at the “Footlights Home Benefit” during the second act of The Opposite Sex (1956), a partially musical “remake” of Clare Booth Luce’s The Women.

The only version for purists is the original, The Women (1939), with Joan Crawford as Crystal and Norma Shearer as Mary Haines…

Now The Opposite Sex certainly has its detractors, but I am not one of them, and The Opposite Sex doesn’t seem to be as vilely regarded as the remake in 2008 starring Meg Ryan and Annette Benning, but I guess in some circles it could be. No other version, however, has the fabulous Helen Rose gowns as in 1956!

Dolores Gray (in a fabulous rose pink “mermaid” gown designed by Helen Rose), June Allyson, and Joan Collins imperfecting her past…

Joan Collins, Dolores Gray, Ann Sheridan, Ann Miller, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, and Jeff Richards
(Hmm…..Joan Blondell is in this photo, but June Allyson isn’t.)

Link to the trailer for The Opposite Sex (1956):http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/16618/Opposite-Sex-The-Original-Trailer-.html

According to Collins, the slap delivered by June Allyson as “Kay Hilliard” thwacked Collins so soundly that her head jerked back and little “Junie Bug” (as husband Dick Powell nicknamed Allyson) sends Crystal’s earrings flying. Collins’ face was so red that she couldn’t prance in front of the cameras for at least 24 hours.

BEFORE ALEXIS COLBY, THERE WAS….CRYSTAL!

Here’s a publicity still of the staged slap while June Allyson and Joan Collins are wearing their gowns for the final scene, not the scene during the “Footlights Home Benefit Show when the smack actually occurs…

No one wants to miss what really happens next when Crystal tells Kay “If Steven doesn’t like what I’m wearing, I take it off!” so follow the link to see the real slap in real time: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yeCIjd2J32c

Personal animosity wasn’t involved, just an overzealous June. At least she didn’t knock Joan Collins out cold like Jane Fonda did in 1977’s Julia when Fonda punched poor John Glover as “Sammy.” Glover rolled backward in his chair and didn’t move when he landed on the floor of the bar. There wasn’t any animosity involved between Fonda and Glover either, but these are probably two of the toughest injuries ever inflicted by actresses in the course of their “responsibilities to their craft.”

Don’t miss Diva Dolores Gray as Sylvia Fowler when she does her best Joan Collins/Crystal Allen imitation: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yeCIjd2J32c

Other dueling divas on the set of The Opposite Sex were certainly apparent in front of the camera. Ann Miller as “Gloria” and Dolores Gray as “Sylvia” clang around the cupboards and cha-cha-cha around the cabinets before they roll around on the kitchen floor pulling hair and ripping shoulder pads that even Joan Crawford would be proud to sport. Meanwhile, Agnes Moorehead and June Allyson tackle damage control as pots, pans, fruit, and eggs are much worse for wear before the fur finally settles, and I’ve always felt that Texan Ann Miller relished her part in the fracas a lee-tle bitty-bit more than Dolores Gray.

But the cold, icy river running through it all wasn’t even part of the Fay Kanin script of the Luce play that Kanin wasn’t particularly proud of. There were two women on the set who both had very intimate knowledge of the same man, and this time Joan Collins wouldn’t be a culprit, either on or off screen.

When Joan Blondell made six films with James Cagney at Warner Brothers in the 1930s , she appeared onscreen with him more than any other actress. Later, Cagney would claim that the only other woman he ever loved other than his wife was Joan Blondell, but Blondell was never married to Cagney.


Blondell did claim, however, that she loved all three of her husbands and that George Barnes, her first husband, provided Blondell with her first real home.

Dick Powell, her second husband and king of the noirs, provided her with security, and Michael Todd, who lived lavishly and spent all her savings before he married Elizabeth Taylor, was the man Blondell claimed as her “passion,” even though Powell had adopted her son Norman from her first marriage to Barnes. During Blondell’s divorce from Powell in 1944, she claimed cruelty as there were always visitors coming and going in their home, and when she complained of this to Powell he told her “if you don’t like it, you can get the hell out!” Blondell’s novel, Center Door Fancy, a thinly disguised account of some of her experiences, was published in 1972. In the latter part of her career, Blondell appeared in the briefly popular television program Here Comes The Brides from 1968-1970, and made periodic appearances on various television programs until 1981.

Blondell revealed in her memoirs that she had been raped in 1927 by a police officer as she was closing the library where she worked, but through all of her life she maintained a good sense of humor and a belief in herself and her talent.

She had one daughter with Powell, Ellen, and June Allyson became Ellen’s stepmother in 1945.


June Allyson, born Eleanor Geisman in 1917 in New York, was eleven years younger than Blondell, and had taught herself to dance by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the movies. She got her first big break when Betty Hutton was ill with the measles and took over Hutton’s part in a Broadway play, Panama Hattie, and was awarded a studio contract with MGM shortly thereafter. Dick Powell was Allyson’s first husband, and they adopted a girl because it was thought that Allyson couldn’t conceive due to a childhood accident when a tree crushed her while she was riding a bicycle, but two years later in 1950, Allyson became pregnant with their son, Dick Powell, Jr.

Unfortunately, June and Dick didn’t seem much happiier than Joan and Dick because Allyson also separated from Powell and had a very public affair with Alan Ladd in 1955.

Joan Blondell had a wonderful sense of humor, and enjoyed teasing her friend Bette Davis about her husbands. Since they were all Gentiles, Blondell called them “The Four Skins.” But things were not as jovial around June Allyson, especially on the set of The Opposite Sex. It seems Blondell and Allyson did not socialize on the set at all because of some of the issues surrounding Blondell’s divorce from Powell and June’s reluctance to involve herself socially with her husband’s ex-wife, as well as issues arousing from the care of Ellen, Blondell’s daughter with Powell. Allyson also had to fight her own mother for custody of her children after Powell’s death, so there were some obvious parenting issues that Allyson continued to deal with which may or may not have been due to her admitted alcoholism.

June and Joan are not sitting very closely to each other, and it just may be that the girls are reclined in order of their importance in the script, but they are still far apart…

Their only scene as two of the principle characters…

In 1956 on the MGM lot, there were a few more “Dueling Divas” than the ones appearing in front of the camera, and somehow all those costume fittings, the on-set antics, actresses’ accusatory looks that shoot daggers might have been staged, but contract commitments still had to be honored no matter what an actor or actress may felt about a fellow player.


Dolores Gray, Alice Pearce, and Ann Sheridan at Sydney’s “Groomopolis”

…and one of the most lambasted musical numbers ever, “Yellow Gold,” a song sung by a man praising the joys of being a “Bananyonaire” are all possible subjects for those who must sharpen their more critical senses on a simple film from the 1950s.

June Allyson, Joan Blondel, and Joan Collins all wrote about their experiences in novels and autobiographies which detail some of their The Opposite Sex experiences. But for me, I will write about how much this film is still a guilty pleasure, and I still find something to enjoy when I revisit the film, even if it is just former baseball-player-turned-actor Jeff Richards as Buck Winston…”Mayummmmm………….”

MANY THANKS TO LARA GABRIELLE AND BACKLOTS FOR ORGANIZING THE DUELING DIVAS BLOGATHON!

READ ALL THE ENTRIES FOR THE DUELING DIVAS BLOGATHON HERE: http://backlots.net/2013/12/20/dont-forget-dueling-divas-this-weekend/
Read more about some of these divas:
Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy
Center Door Fancy by Joan Blondell
June Allyson by June Allyson
Past Imperfect by Joan Collins
Passion For Life by Joan Collins

An Interview with Ray Hagen on the Remembering Ann Sheridan Blog: http://www.ann-sheridan.com/Ann_Sheridan_Interviews/Ray_Hagen_Interview.html

Both Ann Miller and Ann Miller are Texas gals!

Joan Collins introduced this guilty pleasure of mine, The Opposite Sex, onthe Turner Classic Movie Channel with late host Robert Osborne in October of 2015. They look lovely, don’t they?

Shirley Jones and Joan Collins might not be speaking since Collins won her lawsuit against Jones! Follow the link to read more about it: http://tinyurl.com/mtqg65w.

©2018