In case you just tuned in, I’m doing a little fact-checking as I go through Scotty Bowers’ “Full Service.” This will be fairly tedious except to a research drudge.
Before we go any further, we need to take a little detour. Scotty Bowers is about to describe his first Hollywood encounter – with Walter Pidgeon – so we ought to see what Pidgeon was up to at the time.
Unfortunately, no one appears to have written a book about Pidgeon, so we’re left with doing our own pick and shovel work. This may be all for the best, because the Hollywood biography/autobiography is a notoriously unreliable genre anyway. For example, anyone digging into the life of Carole Landis will only be badly misinformed by Rex Harrison’s autobiography,
Bowers begins his story as “once upon a time at a gas station in Los Angeles” so there isn’t much to go on as a time peg, except that the year is presumably 1946.
The Times clips list 27 stories from January through June and 16 from July through December for a total of 43. Bowers describes a hot, sultry day when everybody had headed to the beach, which would indicate summer – except that Los Angeles sometimes gets unseasonably hot weather in March or April before cooling off again for what we call “May gray” and “June gloom.”
Let’s see if we can construct a timeline of Pidgeon’s life for the year that he purportedly met Bowers.
- On Jan. 3, 1946, Times movie columnist Edwin Schallert noted that Pidgeon was cast in “The Beloved Stranger,” starring Greer Garson and Robert Montgomery.
- Also on Jan. 3, Hedda Hopper noted that George Cukor was preparing to take Pidgeon, Garson and Montgomery up to Point Lobos to shoot background shots for “Beloved Stranger” but that he was unable to get permission from the national park.
- In late January and early February, Pidgeon is mentioned in several stories about a short film titled “The American Creed,” sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews devoted to “the obliteration of religious and racial prejudices.”
- On Feb. 15, The Times noted that Pidgeon was among 35 film people flying to New York for the weekend on TWA’s new nonstop service. The pilot was Howard Hughes!
- On March 28, Schallert noted that Robert Mitchum is making “A Woman of My Own” with Garson while Pidgeon, once discussed for the cast, would be shooting “The Secret Heart” with Claudette Colbert.
- On April 30, The Times noted that the Mexican government had invited Pidgeon and Ann Sheridan to Mexico City’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.
- On May 28, Schallert noted that Pidgeon had attended the Vienna Night party, given by Alex-Thurn Taxis and Lily Messinger. The party featured “a large yet select group of guests,” Schallert said.
- On June 17, The Times reported that Pidgeon was among the Screen Actors Guild delegates who would attend a five-day convention of the California State Federation of Labor in San Francisco.
- On June 18, Hopper reported that Pidgeon was hobbling after spraining his foot dancing the Big Apple with Claudette Colbert in “The Secret Heart.”
- On July 29, Schallert reported that Hal Wallis was trying to negotiate to get Pidgeon for “The House of Mist.”
- On Sept. 12, Hopper reported that Pidgeon would be playing the lead in “If Winter Comes.”
- On Sept. 23, The Times reported that Pidgeon had played an exhibition doubles tennis match with Frank Shields against Mickey Rooney and Yvon Petra.
- On Oct. 3, The Times reported on the Screen Actors Guild’s attempts to end a motion picture strike, saying that Pidgeon, Montgomery, June Allyson and Jane Wyman would be attending the American Federation of Labor’s convention in Chicago the next week.
- On Oct. 10, The Times reported that Pidgeon was among the Hollywood figures attending the AFL’s convention in Chicago.
- On Oct. 24, 1946, Hopper noted that Pidgeon had broken a small bone in his foot.
- On Oct. 28, The Times reported that Pidgeon was among the Hollywood figures endorsing Sen. William F. Knowland.
- On Oct. 29, Schallert reported that Pidgeon would be cast in “If Winter Comes” as MGM began production in Britain.
- On Oct. 30, The Times reported that Pidgeon would present the award for Miss Hat Box Girl of 1947 at the Photographers and Models Ball on Nov. 30 at the Biltmore.
- On Nov. 16, Hopper announced the engagement of Pigdeon’s daughter Edna to John Aitkens. Edna Pidgeon, 25, a daughter from a previous marriage, worked in MGM’s cartoon department, Hopper says.
- On Nov. 18, Hopper reported that Pidgeon spent three days in bed after injuring himself “while lifting a car (which had run into him) off his own jalopy’s fender.”
- On Dec. 6, “The Secret Heart,” starring Pidgeon and Colbert, opened in Los Angeles.Tedious, ain’t it? And this is only my first pass. I’ll be examining more resources in subsequent posts.