CLOSE
Baron / Stringer
Baron / Stringer

Hollywood 'It Girls' and Their Tragic Downfalls

Baron / Stringer
Baron / Stringer

Heavy is the head that wears the "It Girl" tiara.

History has no dearth of young women who burst onto the scene, captivating audiences and artists alike with their vim and vigor, only to crumble just as suddenly under the pressures of their newfound fame. From extremely public and scandalous affairs to drug addiction to homelessness, It Girls through the ages have been there, done that—and few have lived to tell the tale.

The Original "It Girl"

Hulton Archive / Stringer

The "It Girl" title was born with silent film star Clara Bow. Bow, who exuded a glamorous air of barely-concealed sexual voracity, became one of film's first sex symbols after being discovered while still in her teens, growing up in Coney Island. Bow's breakout role was in a film unsurprisingly called It. Not, of course, the one about the scary clown, but a 1926 silent film based loosely on a provocative novelette by contemporary tastemaker Elinor Glyn. Just to clinch the title for their very bankable new star, Bow's studio paid Glyn $50,000 to declare publicly that Clara Bow had It.

Bow's fame grew exponentially after It, and later Bow vehicles tended to stick to a prescribed formula: Insert Bow into some plot about a poor girl trying to make her way in the world and let her take off as much clothing as censors would allow.

As Bow became the first real sex symbol of silent film, tall tales of her supposed sexual appetite outside of her films piled up. The fledgling celebrity media followed with strict attention Bow's real extracurricular activities, which included public affairs with leading men and a string of engagements. More salacious rumors churned around Bow, claiming she had a threesome with two Mexican prostitutes, bedded the entire starting lineup of the 1927 USC Trojans football team, and knew both her Great Dane and pet koala bear on extremely intimate terms. And you thought TMZ was bad...

In Hollywood, Bow came to be treated as a kind of pariah—a dirty-joke-telling, hard-drinking outsider with a thick Brooklyn accent—but to the public following her exploits in the papers, she was fascinating.

In truth, Bow's personal life, which began with a dark and difficult childhood, was unraveling quickly. She had been sexually abused as a teenager by the father who later lived off and squandered her earnings in Hollywood, and when she was a young girl, her schizophrenic and sometime prostitute mother had tried to slit her throat. Later, Bow found herself feeling betrayed by friends and family alike, from the best friend who married her father to avoid deportation to the cousin who lived with her and regularly stole money from her. Under intense strain, Bow suffered a severe nervous breakdown in 1931, causing her studio, Paramount, to fire her.

Out of the spotlight, Bow married and had two children before beginning to display signs of mental illness. She became withdrawn and developed severe depression and hypochondria. She attempted suicide in 1944 and checked into The Institute of Living, a residential psychiatric facility in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1949, where she underwent electro-shock therapy and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered," Bow wrote once, near the end of her life. She died a recluse in 1965, 32 years after her last film appearance.

The Not-So-Lucky In Love Blonde Bombshell

Hulton Archive / Stringer

Platinum blonde Jean Harlow succeeded Clara Bow as the silver screen's sexual It (and id) Girl.

Born in 1911, Harlow escaped her weird and controlling mother, known as Mother Jean, by getting hitched at age 16 and moving to Beverly Hills, only to find that Mother Jean's own lifelong ambition to become an actress had followed her. Her mother pressured her into finding work as an extra in films and, soon after, Harlow starred in the curiously named Why Is a Plumber? Not long after, Harlow was discovered by producers and consummate weirdo Howard Hughes, who cast her in his film Hell's Angels. The role catapulted Harlow into the sex symbol stratosphere.

As befitting a sex symbol, especially one barely 19 years old, Harlow stumbled through a well-publicized series of husbands, affairs, and strange tragedies. Her second husband (there were three in total), producer and director Paul Bern, was found naked and dead in the bathroom of their Hollywood home in 1932. A coroner's inquiry determined that he had shot himself in the head. At first, Harlow was widely suspected of being responsible for or at least connected to his death. But, in the hopes of sidestepping what would surely be a scandal, MGM, Harlow's studio, spread the totally unscandalous story that he had killed himself because he was impotent.

In 1937 and at only 26 years old, Harlow died from renal failure after the onset of severe kidney disease. She was buried in the negligee she'd worn in the last film she made, Saratoga.

The Ultimate Blonde Bombshell

Baron / Stringer

Before she died, Clara Bow wrote to several gossip columnists to bequeath her It Girl crown to perhaps the best-known blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson and christened Norma Jeane Baker, Monroe's childhood was first spent with her mentally ill mother. After her mother was institutionalized, Monroe grew up in foster care and state homes, before marrying out of the system at age 16.

While her young husband was off serving as a Merchant Marine in World War II, Monroe found work as a model. That led to a contract with a major studio, which led to a name change—Norma Jeane became Marilyn—and a divorce from her first husband, but no real film work. Small parts in good and bad films alike made her a recognizable face, but her real ascent into stardom came with her 1953 role in Niagara. Monroe's now-classic films followed: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven-Year Itch.

Throughout, Monroe's personal life mirrored Bow's: She was often taken advantage of by those close to her, developed a series of high profile romances (Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller), and developed a dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs. In addition, Monroe was rumored to be involved with the mafia as well as the Kennedy family. By 1960, Monroe was also no longer entirely bankable as an actress—her last two completed films, Let's Make Love and The Misfits, were failures, and she was dropped from what would have been her final film, Something's Gotta Give, in 1962 after missing too many days of filming.

Not long after that, at the age of 36, Monroe died at home in her Los Angeles bungalow, an empty bottle of sleeping pills found next to her body. While rumors circulated—and continue to circulate—that she was murdered, the official ruling was of an overdose.

The Factory Girl

edie.jpgEdie Sedgwick was an erstwhile actress and socialite who found her 15 minutes of fame in the originator himself, Andy Warhol, after he discovered her at a party in 1964. For nearly a year and a half, the two were practically inseparable—Sedgwick, 21, tall, slim, and provocative, even tinted her short hair silver to match Warhol's wigs. As part of his gang and in her own right, Sedgwick was all over the Page Sixes of the day and, in August 1965, Vogue dubbed her, along with other such trendsetters as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, as a leader of the "Youthquaker" movement.

As Warhol's muse du jour, Sedgwick also appeared in a number of his films, including Restaurant, Kitchen, and Poor Little Rich Girl. The latter seemed to be an avant garde interpretation of Sedgwick's own life—in it, a sometimes out-of-focus Sedgwick wanders around her apartment and talks about how she spent her inheritance. Sedgwick was an actual heiress—she came from good Northeastern stock (her great-grandfather was the Rev. Endicott Peabody, founder of the Groton School), was raised in California, and grew up attending private schools. At the age of 21, she had moved to New York to become an actress and a model.

But her success didn't last long. Warhol, who had a habit of making "superstars" out of attractive young women and then replacing them after a little while, soon dropped Sedgwick. By that time, her life was unraveling at the edges—drugs, eating disorders, and self-destructive relationships propelled her through stays in psychiatric wards and hospitals and to her eventual death. Sedgwick died of an overdose—"acute barbitual intoxication," the Santa Barbara Coroner's Office declared—at 28 years of age.

Interestingly, Edie Sedgwick's cousin is Kyra Sedgwick, who is married to Kevin Bacon, thereby proving that the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is indeed gospel.

The Rolling Stones' Muse

Stephan C Archetti / Stringer

Marianne Faithfull was still in school—a convent, actually—when she met the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham at a party in 1964. Faithfull was an aspiring singer-songwriter with real talent, and with Oldham's help, as well as a little from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, her first hit, "As Tears Go By," made a respectable showing on both the American and British charts. Of course, at the time, Oldham, Jagger and possibly even Richards seemed a bit more interested in Faithfull's 17-year-old breasts than her music—according to one story, Jagger actually poured a glass of champagne between them to get the girl's attention.

But while her career seemed to have a promising trajectory, tales of sex and drugs began to eclipse those of rock 'n' roll. Though she married in 1965 and had a child about six months after that, she quickly returned to the London rock, folk, and drug scene, dropping her son off with her mother in a bit of very extended daycare. By 1966, she was divorced and Jagger's fulltime lady—meaning that virtually everything she did ended up in the papers. She made headlines in 1967, for example, when Richards' London home was raided by the cops during a night of partying. Faithfull was found stark naked under a fur, which she conveniently let fall as soon as the cops burst in. Both Jagger and Richards were arrested, but the verdict was later overturned, reinforcing the gang's sense of invincibility.

Time passed, more drugs were consumed, and Faithfull became pregnant with Jagger's child. When she had a miscarriage—one day before Yoko Ono, carrying John Lennon's baby, also miscarried—both she and Jagger were destroyed. She began using drugs with a vengeance. Before, it had been recreational, but now it was personal. The summer of 1969, Faithfull swallowed a bottle full of barbiturates in a suicide attempt that left her in a coma for six days.

Their relationship staggered on for another year or so, and Faithfull did too, drinking, throwing herself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of a stupefying drug addiction: From passing out face-first into bowls of soup at the homes of English gentry to arrests for drunken and disorderly conduct at Indian restaurants, Faithfull was in rough shape. Bouts of homelessness and hospitalization ruled the better part of the '70s for her, until her transcendent 1979 punk-inspired album, Broken English, seemed to put her back on the map.

Still, it took the better part of another decade before Faithfull could kick her drug habit for good. Faithfull has actually managed to recover from the swinging sixties (and seventies and eighties, really), although her career hasn't exactly hit the same heights of notoriety as it did when she was party-hopping with Mick Jagger. As the surviving matriarch of the '60s rock-drug-folk scene, Faithfull continues to make genre-pushing music as well as act, in films like Marie Antoinette and Gus Van Sant's Paris, I love you.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Educational Facts About Old School
DreamWorks
DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Pictures
arrow
entertainment
15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios