Hollywood is a hard place to make it, and these actresses found that out the hard way. There’s not a whole lot they haven’t lived through: infamous affairs, multiple marriages, misdemeanors, and full-on mental breakdowns. Luxe parties, bitter comebacks—and, of course, more than their share of scandal. After all, how else do you make the front page? Here are the most infamous Old Hollywood “bad girls.”
1. Joan Crawford: The Queen of the Feud
Even in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Joan Crawford was one of the biggest stars. Her sultry beauty, bold fashion, and powerful performances won adoration from film critics and audiences alike—yet insiders also whispered about her eccentric off-screen behavior, from her long-simmering feuds to her mega-vengeful plots.
2. Poison in My Veins
After a period where she was considered one of the top stars in Hollywood, Crawford appeared in a string of commercial flops. This rough patch notoriously led to critics calling her “box office poison.”
3. Are You Team Joan or Team Bette?
Crawford was in a long-lasting and now-legendary feud with actress Bette Davis, and the two icons didn’t pull any punches. Davis once said that Crawford “slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie,” but Crawford’s comeback was even more spiteful. “Bette and I work differently,” she sniped, “Bette screams and I knit. While she screamed, I knitted a scarf that stretched clear to Malibu.”
4. Drama Queens
Despite their intense rivalry, Crawford and Davis appeared together in the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? They mostly got along during filming, but when the cameras shut off, the trouble really began. Crawford pulled out of promoting the film, apparently because she didn’t want to share the stage with Davis (or so said Davis).
5. Not-So Golden Girls
The drama around What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? continued at the Oscars. Davis received a nomination for Best Actress, while Crawford didn’t. This must have stung, because Crawford came up with an ingenious revenge plot. She contacted all the other Best Actress nominees and “graciously” offered to accept any award on their behalf in the event that they couldn’t attend the show.
Since they were all located on the East coast, they all agreed. Sure enough, Davis lost out, and Anne Bancroft won the award for her role in The Miracle Worker. Bancroft wasn’t able to attend, so Crawford waltzed onto the stage in her place and accepted the statuette in front of a very unimpressed and pissed-off Davis.
In 1968, Crawford’s daughter Christina had to drop out of her role on the soap opera The Secret Storm to deal with a ruptured ovarian tumor. This is when Crawford dealt her a cold-hearted betrayal. Ever the considerate, loving mother, Crawford contacted the producers of the show and offered to step in as a replacement. They accepted.
7. Not the Girl Next Door
Crawford was infamous for once quipping about her glamorous looks, “If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.”
8. Mommie Meanest
In 1978, Christina released a tell-all book entitled Mommie Dearest, which described her fraught relationship with her mother. Her claims are deeply unsettling. Christina alleged that she and her brother Christopher were both victims of emotional and physical abuse by Crawford. The book caused a huge sensation, and it quickly topped the bestsellers list.
9. Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness
One of the most famous claims about Crawford was that she was obsessed with cleanliness and order. Though her rivals may have made some wild accusations throughout her career, Crawford was undeniably a germaphobe. Her interior designer Carleton Varney once said, “There were more objects wrapped in plastic in Joan’s apartment than in an A&P meat counter.”
10. Mom the Miser
Crawford adopted a brood of four children, doting on each of them and lavishing them with many gifts. When she died in 1977, they were heartbroken—until the contents of her will revealed the dark truth. Though she left two of her children a small sum of money, she infamously shut out her two other children entirely from an inheritance.
As she said, “It is my intention to make no provision herein for my son, Christopher, or my daughter, Christina, for reasons which are well known to them.”
11. So Fresh and So Clean
Crawford’s obsessive cleanliness reared its pristine head even in her bedroom affairs. In his memoirs, Kirk Douglas recalled a particularly disturbing and bizarre romantic encounter when the two stars once went back to Crawford’s house. In the middle of the act, Douglas reports, Crawford leaned in and murmured into his ear—but it was far from sweet nothings.
“You’re so clean,” she said. “It’s wonderful that you shaved your armpits when you made Champion.” As Douglas put it, her passionate outburst was “a real conversation stopper.”
12. Clara Bow: It Girl
Hollywood’s first “It” girl was Clara Bow—literally. Her big break came with her role in the 1927 movie It, a silent film adaptation of an Elinor Glyn novella—not the Stephen King horror novel. The movie was a blockbuster and earned her that renowned nickname, “It Girl.” Women like Sienna Miller have Clara Bow to thank for the moniker.
13. Maternal Affliction
When Bow was 16, her mother fell out of a second-story window and suffered brain injuries that caused epilepsy and psychosis. Then things got even worse. Mrs. Bow grew to resent her daughter Clara and once put a knife to the teenager’s throat. The assault led to her mother’s commitment to a sanitorium, where she later died at the age of 43.
14. Drawn Back to Life
Cartoon character Betty Boop was partly modeled after Clara Bow. Fellow entertainer Helen Kane also inspired the character. .
15. Words Hurt
Even at the height of her success, film executives treated Bow in a horrific way. They had little respect for their biggest box office draw, and some called her a “birdbrain” and “dumbbell,” even as she worked hard to bring them money.
16. Not Ready for Her Close-up
Bow had a complicated relationship to fellow actress Colleen Moore. On the set of Painted People, Bow was supposed to play Moore’s kid sister—but the burgeoning Clara had a more sinister plan in mind. Bow insulted Moore by saying, “I don’t like my part, I wanna play yours.” Moore did the mature thing and blocked the director from shooting any of Bow’s close-ups.
17. Stick Your Nose Up at This
Bow had plenty of charm, but not a lot of high-class manners. She refused to bow down to the “old” rules of Hollywood snobs and stated, “They yell at me to be dignified. But what are the dignified people like? The people who are held up as examples for me? They are snobs. Frightful snobs…I’m a curiosity in Hollywood. I’m a big freak, because I’m myself!”
18. You Have to See It to Hear It
The shift from silent films to talkies shook up Bow’s confidence. Not used to microphones, several scenes in The Wild Party had to be reshot because her eyes kept looking up at the overhead sound equipment. But that wasn’t the worst part. Riddled with nerves, she reportedly kept “rows of bottles of sedatives” at her bedside just to keep it together.
19. Taking a Break
By 1931, executives sometimes referred to Clara Bow as “Crisis-a-day-Clara.” The pressure of fame, her fading star, and a troubling lawsuit from her secretary put Bow’s mental health in a bad place. Entering a sanitorium at the age of 25, she asked to be released from her final film with Paramount. This retreat effectively ended her career.
20. It’s a Smaller World After All
Unfortunately, Bow seems to have inherited her mother’s history of mental health issues later in life. After her retirement, she became increasingly withdrawn, both refusing to interact with her husband or let him leave the house by himself. Doctors credited Bow’s “psychosis” to her mother’s assault against her with a butcher knife back in the 1920s.
21. Zsa Zsa Gabor: The Hollywood Dahling
Long before the Kardashians became famous for being famous, that honor went to Zsa Zsa Gabor. While she was a noted actress in her prime, the Hungarian-born Gabor’s more lasting fame came from her scandalous socialite activities in the most elite circles of Old Hollywood. From her petty fights to her many marriages, Gabor’s personal life far overshadowed her career.
22. Nice to Meet You, Dahling
Gabor was famous for calling everyone “darling,” which her Hungarian accent turned into the drawling, sophisticated “dah-ling.” Of course, Gabor wasn’t just keeping up her elegant socialite persona: during one of her many TV interviews, she admitted her dirty little secret. She called everyone “dah-ling” because it was much easier than actually remembering people’s names.
23. Social Butterfly
Gabor was married to a whopping nine different men over the course of her life. Seven of these marriages ended in divorce, while another was annulled. But hey, maybe Zsa Zsa was just a hopeless romantic?
24. Bedroom Eyes
Gabor very consciously modeled her persona after some of the most saucy and scandalous historical mistresses. As one writer put it, “Zsa Zsa is unique. She’s a woman from the court of Louis XV who has somehow managed to live in the 20th century…She says she wants to be all the Pompadours and Du Barrys of history rolled into one.”
25. Born Comedian
Gabor wasn’t just a pretty face. She was known for her razor-sharp wit, penchant for one-liners, and self-deprecating humor. On one occasion, when talking about her notorious love life, she quipped, “A girl must marry for love and keep on marrying until she finds it.” In a reference to her many divorces, she later joked, “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house!”
26. Honeymoon Suite
Gabor always had expensive tastes, and she liked to find expensive men to keep the cash flowing. In 1942, she thought she’d found just the ticket: Conrad Hilton, founder of the famous (and swanky) Hilton Hotel chain. But it was far from happily ever after. The couple was married a handful of years, but called it quits in 1947.
27. One-Kid Family
Gabor only had one child. Her daughter Constance Francesca Gabor Hilton was born on March 10th, 1947 to Gabor and her husband Conrad Hilton.
28. Oh No You Didn’t!
As with any self-respecting Old Hollywood bad girl, Gabor was involved in several feuds, but nothing compared to her spat with Elke Sommer. The fight began after the two actresses appeared on the annual television special Circus of the Stars. Reportedly, when Sommer watched Gabor mount a horse, she cattily muttered, “Poor horse.”
29. Keep It Classy
As time went on, the feud only got worse. Eventually, Gabor and her then-husband Frederic Prinz von Anhalt gave a shocking interview where they called out Sommer for looking like a balding, “100-year-old grandmother.” Gabor also added that the actress was so poor she “had to sell her house in Hollywood and now lives in the worst section of Los Angeles.”
30. I’ll See You in Court
Eventually, the feud—and this series of colorful comments—landed Gabor and Sommer in libel court. As it turned out, Gabor lost, and the court awarded Sommer a nice $3.3 million in damages. Upon hearing the verdict, Gabor’s response was chilling. She announced her intent to appeal and said bitterly, “I’d rather see her starve to death than give her one single dollar.”
31. Reckless Behavior
On June 14, 1989, police officer Paul Kramer pulled over the elderly Gabor while she was driving a fancy Rolls-Royce. Not only was she driving without a license, there was also an open alcohol container in the car. But then Gabor made it so much worse. Instead of admitting any guilt, she slapped Kramer in the face and drove away from the traffic stop.
32. Not Getting off With a Warning
Three months later, Gabor was convicted of slapping Kramer, as well the alcohol and license infractions. She had to pay a hefty fine and serve three days in jail for her bad behavior. That’s right, in 1990, a 72-year-old Gabor was put in the slammer.
33. Tell-All Terror
In 1991, Gabor released her autobiography One Lifetime Is Not Enough. As you might imagine, some of the claims in the book are incredibly scandalous—but no one was prepared for her most disturbing revelation. In one chapter, Gabor reveals that her only daughter Francesca Hilton was conceived through an act of non-consensual sex by Gabor’s then-husband Conrad Hilton.
34. Frances Farmer: A True Rebel
There are few celebrities with as colorful, captivating, and crushing lives as Frances Farmer. She was a rebellious spirit in a time that demanded conformity. Her stunning beauty and care-free attitude towards Hollywood, the police, and everything else has inspired countless rebels after her, but Farmer’s life was not an easy one.
35. Say Cheese
Farmer had dental surgery shortly after signing with Paramount to fix a gap in between her front teeth. This was essential for a rising star at the time, even though today it’s often considered a unique plus.
36. The Hollywood Hermit
Even as her fame began to rise, Farmer refused to conform to the usual starlet lifestyle. She declined invitations to Hollywood parties in favor of staying home with her husband at the time, Leif Erickson. Paramount had to go with it and started marketing her as the eccentric star who would not go to Hollywood. As if they really had a choice.
37. Addictive Personality
Farmer had an unfortunate addiction to many things she shouldn’t have. She was constantly smoking, but she had even darker habits. She was also frequently drunk in public, which was the root of many of her issues.
38. Fight Night
One of the most infamous Farmer stories involves her getting into a fight with a hairdresser and subsequently running down Sunset Boulevard topless. Oh, and that night she also got into a bar fight. Busy girl.
39. The Great Escape
In early 1943, authorities put Farmer into a mental hospital for her increasingly erratic behavior. After spending a short time there, the actress pulled off an incredible feat. Nine months after entering the hospital, the Hollywood beauty actually managed to escape her prison by scaling a wall. Not all heroes wear capes, people.
40. Famous Family Drama
Farmer married fellow actor Leif Erickson shortly after launching her career. The couple were married for six years, but they came to a bitter end. The very day they divorced, Erickson remarried another starlet. That’s gotta hurt. Fortunately for those rooting for Farmer, Erickson divorced his brand-new wife only a year later.
41. Throwing Shade
Many actors found it hard to work with Farmer, but continued to do so as she kept getting roles. Actor William Wyler said of working with her, “The nicest thing I can say about Frances Farmer is that she’s unbearable.” In turn, Farmer compared working with Wyler to “slavery.” Not exactly a friendship for the ages.
42. Finding Frances
For a month in 1941, Farmer was embroiled in an utter mystery. She completely vanished, and when she finally emerged, she told a reporter that she was in an isolated cabin in Washington State recuperating. That, however, was not what others claimed; some said she had suffered a breakdown. Either way, this event helped fuel the rumors that Farmer had lost her mind.
43. The Horror
While under psychiatric care, doctors diagnosed Farmer as a paranoid schizophrenic. Sadly, that was just the beginning of the nightmare. The standard treatment at the time was not only electroshock therapy, but also insulin shock therapy, where doctors injected the patient with heavy doses of insulin daily, often causing comas.
Farmer claimed to have once gone through this form of therapy for 90 days straight.
44. Worse Than It Seemed
Before she passed, Farmer was working on an autobiography titled Will There Really Be a Morning? In the book, she describes her time in the hospital in great detail, and the evidence is chilling. She claimed that doctors at the asylum abused her by half-drowning her in ice baths and even forcing her to eat her own feces.
45. Marion Davies: The Other Woman
Marion Davies is best known today for being the illicit and infamous mistress of the troubled tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Their tumultuous relationship lit up the papers in the Golden Age of Hollywood and helped inspire the classic film Citizen Kane—but from her quick wit to her heartbreaking love life, Davies was so much more than the “other woman.”
46. The Tycoon and the Ingenue
Davies and William Randolph Hearst met long before she was famous, and Hearst even founded a production company, Cosmopolitan Pictures, seemingly for the sole purpose of showcasing Davies. He then promoted her relentlessly and embarrassingly in his newspapers, never letting the public forget about her even when they wanted to.
47. Can You Keep a Secret?
Though Hearst was stuck in a loveless marriage with his wife Millicent at the time, he quickly fell head over heels in love with Davies. He even went so far as to move the whole Davies family into a lavish Manhattan townhouse to show his adoration. The passionate dalliance turned into a 30-year affair that was soon called the “worst kept secret in Hollywood.”
48. Taking Liberties
Many consider Orson Welles‘ film Citizen Kane one of the greatest movies of all time. It traces the life of a heavily fictionalized William Randolph Hearst and, many believe, his relationship with Marion Davies. Davies’ fictional counterpart Susan Alexander Kane, however, is cruelly sketched: Welles portrays Mrs. Kane as entirely talentless and more than a little vapid.
49. The Green-Eyed Monster
William Randolph Hearst was notoriously jealous, and he took his mania to extreme lengths. When Davies was still starring in high-profile vehicles, Hearst would reportedly even demand that she be cast opposite men who were either gay or middle-aged—ensuring that she didn’t accidentally fall in love with a heartthrob on set.
50. Presidential Prank
As Davies started to make it in Hollywood, she became popular for her roaring sense of adventure and her wicked sense of humor. The good-time gal even reportedly met President Calvin Coolidge and tricked him into getting drunk. How did she do it? She told the Head of State that the wine he was drinking was harmless fruit juice, then watched the fun unfold.
51. Puff Piece
Hearst employed a gossip columnist, Louella Parsons, who frequently gave Davies overblown praise in his newspapers. Her constant catchphrase—which many readers laughed at—was “Marion never looked lovelier.”
52. Kiss and Tell
Though many never understood Davies’ attraction to the possessive, controlling Hearst, she explained her reasons one night—and they were heartbreaking. “God, I’d give everything I have to marry that silly old man,” she once said, though not just because Hearst gave her wealth and stability. As she said, “He gives me the feeling I’m worth something.”
There are still a lot of dark rumors afloat about the final days of William Randolph Hearst. According to one source, Davies had very little understanding of what went on in his last moments. The house was crowded with people, noise, and chaos as everyone tried to say their last goodbye, and Davies got so upset that someone gave her a sedative.
When she woke up, the relatives had to inform her that Hearst had already died.
As the illicit “other woman,” Davies was banned from attending Hearst’s funeral.
55. A Secret Revealed
Throughout her life with William Randolph Hearst, Davies frequently spent time with her niece Patricia Lake—but Lake was hiding a dark secret. Just ten hours before she died in 1993 of lung cancer, Lake made a shocking deathbed confession. She revealed she was actually the illegitimate love child of Davies and Hearst.
She had kept the secret all through her life, even after the deaths of both her parents, and only ever told close family and friends.
56. Tender Buttons
In Citizen Kane’s famous ending, we finally see that Kane’s darling “Rosebud” is actually a childhood sled. However, the real meaning of “Rosebud” may be much more scandalous. Writer Gore Vidal, who knew Marion Davies, claimed that “Rosebud” was what Hearst lovingly called Davies’, er, private nether regions.
57. Poor Little Marilyn Monroe
Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe is one of the most tragic and notorious actresses in Hollywood history, but her hardships began even before she was born. Her mother Gladys was a schizophrenic who was completely unprepared to have a child. Monroe grew up in foster care, and this lack of steady, maternal love affected her for the rest of her life.
58. A Rose by Any Other Name…
Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe’s real name was actually Norma Jeane Mortenson. What they don’t know is that the stage name was so unfamiliar to her, the first time she signed an autograph as “Marilyn Monroe,” she had to ask how to spell it.
59. Line Please, Sugar
Monroe found it almost impossible to learn lines, and took 60 takes to deliver the simple line “It’s me, Sugar” in Some Like It Hot.
60. Cruel Curtis
Sadly, the filming of the beloved Some Like It Hot was incredibly difficult for Monroe. She had issues with her mental health, and often suffered sudden crying fits where she would lock herself in her trailer and cling to her acting coach. As a result, the cast and crew began to resent the star’s presence, and they treated her in an incredibly cruel manner.
When it was time for a kissing scene between Monroe and co-star Tony Curtis, he sniped that he’d “rather be kissing Hitler.”
61. Brains and Beauty
When she was a rising star, Monroe and the studios played upon her looks and created a “blonde bombshell” persona. Sadly, “blonde bombshell” is apparently next door to “dumb blonde,” and she began being typecast as just that, which she hated. Probably because in reality, she was actually extremely intelligent. She had an IQ of 168.
62. Weight Woes
Monroe’s weight went up and down throughout her life and closely aligned with her emotional turbulence. Her figure shifted so dramatically during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl that the costume designer, Beatrice Dawson, had to create facsimile dresses in different sizes. “I have two ulcers from this film,” Dawson once said, “and they’re both monogrammed MM.”
63. The Naked Truth
According to those close to her, Monroe had some very kinky habits. She loved to walk around naked, at least among female studio employees. She also gave interviews in the nude, and often went out wearing nothing under a black mink coat. Though sometimes these spicy tastes got her into hot water—including an infamous 1949 nude photoshoot—she wouldn’t have it any other way.
64. Sewn in
On May 19, 1962, Marilyn Monroe infamously serenaded President John F. Kennedy with a sultry, sexy rendition of “Happy Birthday.” At the time, she was his rumored lover—but whatever the truth of the matter, Monroe made sure she was unforgettable on stage. Her dress that night was so tight that it had to be sewn onto her.
65. In Solemn Memory
Monroe’s passionate but short-lived marriage to Joe DiMaggio lasted just a year, from 1945 to 1955. However, the union reverberated for the rest of her life—and beyond. For 20 years after Marilyn’s death, DiMaggio sent roses to her crypt three times a week. He outlived her by 36 years but never married again, and his last words were heartbreaking.
Apparently DiMaggio said as he died, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
66. Suspicious Circumstances
Monroe was found dead at her home on Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood on August 5, 1962. The evidence from that day is still haunting. She had a phone in one of her hands, and her body was completely nude and face down on her bed. There was no odor of drugs on her mouth, as would be consistent with suicidal pill ingestion.
67. Probable Cause
Marilyn’s death was ruled a “probable suicide,” but toxicology tests were only carried out on her liver. When the deputy coroner tried to obtain her other organs for testing, he was told they’d been destroyed. Details like this have become part of the myriad conspiracy theories surrounding the star’s tragic, untimely death.
68. Goodbye, Cruel World
The last person to ever talk to Monroe was actor Peter Lawford. He called the starlet to convince her to come to his party, but was alarmed when she sounded sleepy and possibly not sober. Her last words to him before she drifted away were, “Say goodbye to Pat [Lawford’s wife], say goodbye to the president, and say goodbye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy.”
69. Ava Gardner: The Screen Siren
She became known as one of the most beautiful women in the world, and Ava Gardner lived a glamorous lifestyle to boot. No stranger to lavish Hollywood parties and cocktail bars, Gardner endured troubled and scandalous marriages to some of the most famous men in America, including Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra.
70. Do a Little Dance
Always the showman, Rooney certainly gave Gardner a first impression to remember. Gardner met her first husband while he was performing in drag as the Brazilian dancer Carmen Miranda. Gardner’s description of him is vivid. As she said, he was “Complete with false eyelashes, false boobs, his mouth smothered in lipstick.”
71. Femme Fatale
When Gardner married Frank Sinatra, it made headlines for all the wrong reasons. She dumped Rooney to be with him, and Sinatra had left his wife Nancy and their children. This drew harsh criticism from all corners, including the Catholic Church. The press had a field day: The rags frequently depicted Ava as a femme fatale who ruined a perfectly good marriage.
72. Tough Choices
During her marriage to Frank Sinatra, Gardner became pregnant twice. Being a mother and a Hollywood star didn’t exactly go hand in hand. In fact, MGM Studios had fairly strict rules against their stars having babies. Without any future security for her career, Gardner tragically ended up aborting both pregnancies.
73. Putting on a Show
After working up a sweat all day shooting her film Mogambo in Africa, Gardner naturally wanted to cool off. She’d bathe in a canvas tub—but this caused quite the controversy. The government felt her lack of clothing in public was immoral and judged her for the habit. So Gardner responded in her own unique way: She made sure officers were around whenever she took her clothes off.
74. A Cry for Help
Gardner’s marriage to sinatra was always a tumultuous affair, not least because of Sinatra’s erratic behavior and bouts of depression. As Gardner recalled to her ghostwriter, Peter Evans, later in life, Sinatra had a penchant for overdosing on a cocktail of drugs as a way of performing a “mock” suicide. He was constantly calling out for help, and Gardner kept on answering that call.
75. Rough Treatment
The honeymoon phase of Gardner’s marriage to Mickey Rooney came to a horrific end. Gardner had to spend several weeks in a Los Angeles hospital with appendicitis, but three weeks later she excitedly returned to their apartment—only to make a chilling discovery. He’d been having affairs the entire time she was in the hospital.
76. Josephine Baker: The Black Pearl of Paris
Often referred to as the Beyoncé of the 1920s, Josephine Baker lived a dozen lives in just her one lifetime. The African-American singer made France her home, rising to stardom in Hollywood and beyond for her sultry voice and slinky dance moves. But why doesn’t history talk more about the “Black Pearl” of Paris?
77. Going Bananas
Josephine Baker is probably most associated with her banana-skirted dance, the “Danse Sauvage.” Beyond the fashion statement, the act revolutionized how dancers thought about movement itself, and it stirred up its fair share of scandal. To quote one writer, Baker used her famous backside “as though it were an instrument.”
78. Name Dropping
In Paris, Baker rubbed elbows with the biggest names art—and caused an absolute frenzy. Writer Ernest Hemingway declared her to be “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw” and Pablo Picasso jumped at the chance to paint her beauty. The French director Jean Cocteau also got to work promoting her to stardom.
79. Room for 12 More
Beating the likes of Brangelina by decades, Baker adopted 12 foster kids of many ethnicities and nationalities. She called her family “The Rainbow Tribe.”
90. Live Together or Die Alone
Baker famously refused to perform in racially segregated venues in the US, even turning down $10,000 from a Miami club who asked her to make an exception—the club eventually bent down to her demands. The entire city of Las Vegas began to integrate its audiences at her request. Although people sent Baker death threats for her integrity, she refused to be intimidated.
91. Smash Bros
It feels like a tale of medieval chivalry, but it’s true: Two men dueled over Baker’s honor in 1928. While staying in Budapest, a Hungarian Calvary Captain ogled and accosted Baker. Baker’s manager, Count Pepito di Albertini, would not tolerate such ignoble behavior toward his Josephine, so he challenged the man to a sword duel.
Baker’s response was unforgettable. She cheered on from her seat atop a tombstone as the suitors sparred for 10 straight minutes.
92. Spot the Difference
Baker had a pet cheetah named Chiquita, who actually had a role in the singer’s act. When they weren’t in the spotlight, Baker spoiled Chiquita by letting her ride in the car and sleep in her bed. Chiquita was truly living our dream lives.
93. There Can Only Be Four
It’s said that Baker received more than 1,500 proposals from men over the course of her life. That makes it all the more impressive that she got married only four times.
94. The Secret Star Package
Even while she was a star on screen and stage, Baker hid a huge secret. She was a spy for the French Resistance in World War II, and often weaponized the trappings of her superstar lifestyle. For one, the large piles of “sheet music” that accompanied her person on tours were actually secretly coded intel. She even pinned confidential photographs inside her underwear.
95. Pay to Play
Why did Baker adopt so many kids? She was out to prove “children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers.” The “Rainbow Tribe,” as she called them, lived on her estate of hotels, farms, and rides. Baker would charge admission to visitors who wanted to come in and watch her children play and sing. But her son Jean-Claude Baker believed there was a darker, more cynical reason.
In his skeptical words, “she wanted a doll.” A softer take on their “quirky” upbringing comes from her Japanese son, Akio, who described Baker as “a great artist, and she was our mother. Mothers make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”
96. Elizabeth Taylor: The Hollywood Diva
Legendary and legendarily jealous actress Elizabeth Taylor was just 10 years old when she made her film debut in There’s One Born Every Minute. From then on, she developed a reputation in Hollywood for late-night antics, diva demands, and—of course—dramatic love affairs.
97. Scandal in the Presidential Suite
Perhaps because of her early start in Hollywood, Taylor was a precocious and overly mature child, with some shocking consequences. One of her biographers claims that when she was only 15 years old, the well-developed Taylor ended up in bed with a 36-year-old Ronald Reagan, who was a well-known actor at the time.
Reportedly, the teenaged Taylor went to the future President’s place and they soon began kissing on his couch before moving to the bedroom. As she later told her friend, “Reagan was treating me like a grown woman, and that thrilled me.”
98. Heartbreak Hotel
Taylor was always in love with the idea of love, but she found it difficult to hold on to it. In 1950, she married the wealthy, handsome hotel heir Conrad Hilton, Jr. The couple divorced just three months later after a lengthy European honeymoon, citing irreconcilable differences. It would be the first of eight marriages for the starlet.
99. The Other Woman
Taylor married fellow actor Eddie Fisher in 1959. Marriage was nothing new for Taylor—but it came with a price. Just hours before the wedding, Fisher was actually still married to Taylor’s good friend Debbie Reynolds. Taylor’s betrayal wasn’t worth it: Taylor and Fisher divorced bitterly in 1964, though the actress eventually patched up her friendship with Reynolds.
In 1961, Taylor began work on Cleopatra, the most expensive film ever made at the time. For her role as the Queen of the Nile, Taylor got a tidy $1 million, also the largest actress paycheck at the time. She would later comment, “If someone’s dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a picture, I’m certainly not dumb enough to turn it down.”
101. Liz and Dick
While filming Cleopatra, Taylor began an affair with her co-star Richard Burton. It was to be her most torrid and infamous tryst—which is really saying something for a woman like Elizabeth Taylor. She married Burton directly following her divorce from Fisher in 1964. By 1976, the passionate pair would be divorced, remarried, and divorced again.
102. Don’t Call It a Comeback
Taylor had planned to retire from making movies after 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but a contract dispute with MGM forced her to return to film BUtterfield 8, in which she starred as a sex worker opposite her real-life husband at the time, Eddie Fisher. Bitter and resentful, Taylor acted in the most diva way possible. She refused to speak to the director for the entire shoot.
103. What Were You Thinking?
Just because Taylor hated BUtterfield 8 doesn’t mean Hollywood agreed with her. She ended up winning her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film. For all the acclaim, Taylor remained snide about the movie. Later, when asked about the film’s success, she replied, “I still say it stinks.”
104. To the Rescue
One evening while he was driving home from a party at Taylor’s house, actor Montgomery Clift fell asleep and brutally crashed his car into a telephone pole. Hearing the commotion, Taylor ran out of her home and rushed to her friend’s side. Her next actions were nothing short of heroic. She went so far as to pluck shards of teeth from Clift’s tongue to keep him from choking.
105. The Late Elizabeth Taylor
On March 23, 2011, Elizabeth Taylor died of heart failure at the age of 79. Though it was a natural death, Taylor made sure the world would remember her: Her coffin arrived 15 minutes after her funeral was scheduled to begin. She had actually stated in her will that she wanted to be late—fashionably late, that is. Even in death, she was a legend.
106. Gloria Grahame: The Femme Fatale
Actress Gloria Grahame shot to stardom and eternal fame after appearing in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet if her name isn’t as well known today, maybe that’s because this ingénue’s life never got a happy holiday ending—far from it. From her heights as a femme fatale to her lows as a cradle robber, it was one wild ride.
107. Get Stuffed
Grahame was infamously insecure about her upper lip, and thought it was too small and thin to be beautiful. To compensate, she would stuff cotton in her mouth to give it a plump appearance—but this had disturbing consequences. Multiple co-stars got a nasty surprise when the wadding fell out of her during some particularly steamy kissing scenes.
108. A Wonderful Role
In 1946, Grahame got a featured role in Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life. She played the cheeky Violet Bick, the flirty woman who is ultimately saved from a life of shame at the end of the film.
109. Barbie Girl
The actress was an early fan of plastic surgery. She started with smaller procedures around her lips but soon moved on to larger and more obvious changes. As her niece put it, she “carved herself up, trying to make herself into an image of beauty she felt should exist but didn’t.” Apparently, “others saw her as a beautiful person, but she never did.”
110. Lip Service
By 1955, Grahame’s insecurities caught up with her. After she starred in the musical Oklahoma!, audiences complained that her femme fatale good-looks didn’t match up with the country bumpkin she was playing—but there was something even worse. By this time, her obsession with plastic surgery was so bad that a procedure had paralyzed her lip, affecting her performance.
111. A Ray of Light
Grahame’s most high-profile—and most notorious—marriage was to film director Nicholas Ray, who directed the actress in an acclaimed performance in In a Lonely Place. Never one to over-think things, Grahame married Ray just one day after finalizing her divorce from her first husband, the actor Stanley Clements.
112. Not Without My Wife
Initially, the producers of the film In a Lonely Place were looking at Lauren Bacall or Ginger Rogers to play the lead femme fatale role, but Nicholas Ray insisted that they cast his wife Grahame—despite the fact that their marriage was in very troubled waters at the time. Spoiler: This all went horrifically.
113. Sign on the Dotted Line
If Grahame and Ray’s marriage was on the rocks by the time they started In a Lonely Place, it was completely falling apart by the end. Ray was reportedly controlling with Grahame on set, and even forced her to sign a disturbing Hollywood contract. In it, she had to agree that “my husband shall be entitled to direct, control, advise, instruct and even command my actions during the hours from 9 AM to 6 PM, every day except Sunday.”
She then further acknowledged in writing that “in every conceivable situation his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine and shall prevail.” All I can say is: YIKES.
114. Stay Together for the Film
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Ray and Grahame separated while In a Lonely Place was still in production, though they tried to keep it hush-hush. Terrified that one or both of them would get the boot, Ray started sleeping in a dressing room under the guise of working on the script, while Grahame played along and acted like nothing was wrong.
115. Fatal Attraction
For all the dramatics while filming In a Lonely Place, the reason for Grahame and Ray’s final, official divorce is even darker. Though the pair briefly reconciled afterward, it all permanently unraveled when Ray made a whopping, deal-breaker of a discovery. Ray claims he came home and found Grahame in bed with his 13-year-old son, Anthony.
Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about the “deal-breaker” part.
116. Young Flame
Somehow this freaky Mrs. Robinson situation gets a whole lot weirder. In 1958, eight years after they were caught red-handed, Grahame and Anthony Ray got back in touch. Two years later, the lovebirds married in a wedding ceremony in Tijuana, Mexico—a well-known destination for highly respectable, pre-planned unions.
117. Mae West: The Firebrand
Long before the likes of Rihanna, Michelle Pfeiffer, and even Marilyn Monroe, Mae West was an iconic female sex symbol and film star in Old Hollywood. Of course, that’s where you might be tempted to leave it at that, but West proved to be far more than just a pretty bad girl with an alluring sex appeal.
118. The Moving Pictures, You Say?
Surprisingly, West didn’t get into the movies until she was nearly 40 years old. Hollywood only knocked on her door after she’d conquered the world of theater with her highly successful—and highly controversial—plays.
119. No Monkeying Around
True to her Hollywood diva roots, West owned an exotic pet: a chimpanzee named Coffee.
120. Whatever Works
Hollywood stars have some strange habits, but West’s regime was likely the most bizarre. To prepare for film roles, she often used enemas. She would reportedly take them in the morning, and she claimed that they improved her physical health. In true West fashion, she also commented that enemas resulted in her “smelling sweet at both ends.”
121. She’s Got the Beat
West’s iconic mug appears on the cover of The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Hilariously, she was initially uninterested in the gig, and the iconic band had to beg her for the cameo. In fact, when they first asked, she had a legendary response. “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” Excuse us while we find a mic to drop!
122. Cola Curves
Allegedly, West’s figure inspired the Coca-Cola bottle. Whether that’s true or not, the public certainly saw a connection. Because of the actress and bottle’s similar curves, they nicknamed Coke bottles “Mae West” bottles.
123. Bless Your Innocent Little Hearts
The 1930s’ Production Code had huge restrictions and censorships, and they challenged West’s writing at nearly every turn. So West came up with brilliant plan. Unleashing her inner troll, West would purposefully write in lines that she knew would provoke the censors. It didn’t matter if these lines didn’t make it—sticking it to the man was thanks enough for her!
124. Jayne Mansfield: The Peeler Pioneer
Fittingly for a woman nicknamed “The Cleavage Queen,” the buxom Jayne Mansfield was the first American actress to appear nude in a big American sound film. 1963’s Promises… Promises! made good on its threats and showed Mansfield in her birthday suit. Of course, it was then promptly banned in several American cities.
The canny Mansfield was the master of the “wardrobe malfunction.” Somehow, her (nip)slip-ups always happened at the perfect time for cameras to take pictures. One of the most infamous examples happened in 1955, when Mansfield attended a pool party while wearing an itsy-bitsy red bikini. When she dove into the pool, her top predictably came off.
126. Teen Mom
Jayne was no stranger to scandal, even from a young age. When she was just 17 years old, she married Paul Mansfield on May 6, 1950. But as she stood at the altar, she was hiding a dark secret. The teen girl was about three months pregnant, and she and Paul had a little daughter six months later in November of 1950. Sadly, the union didn’t last: They divorced in 1958.
127. Round Two
In 1956, while Mansfield was still embroiled in her first divorce, she met bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay at a nightclub. Now, Hargitay wasn’t just any bodybuilder: He’d actually just won Mr. Universe the year before, and he was performing in Mae West‘s chorus line when Mansfield spotted him. Apparently, the moment they locked eyes, Mansfield went gaga.
128. A Clash of Titans
One person was certainly no fan of Mansfield’s crush on Hargitay: Mae West. The Hollywood starlet was enraged and jealous at Mansfield’s advances on her Adonis-like employee—and a legendary cat fight ensued. That same night, the two blondes quarrelled, and the fight ended with fellow chorus member Mr. California beating Hargitay up and getting himself arrested.
Well, that’s one way to do a meet-cute.
129. Your Cheating Heart
Mansfield and Hargitay married in 1958, just after Mansfield’s divorce went through. But it was far from happily ever after. Though the couple had a popular entertainment career together, Mansfield engaged in several very high-profile affairs while married to Hargitay, including with successful producer Enrico Bomba.
130. Let’s Not Be Friends
Mansfield’s second try at love ended in bitter, dramatic divorce. In fact, when she and Hargitay went down to Juarez, Mexico to push through a quickie split, Mansfield cruelly brought along her new lover, the crooner Nelson Sardelli. Except that wasn’t even the worst part. In a ploy to get more money, Mansfield also accused Hargitay of kidnapping one of her kids.
131. Me Tarzan, You Jayne
When Mansfield and Hargitay toured together as a celebrity couple, they became famous for their iconic, matching leopard print bathing suits and their Tarzan and Jane act. The press called Mansfield “the girl in the leopard-print bikini.” Ever the show-woman, she often took shopping trips, went to parties, and even strolled down Hollywood Boulevard in the barely-there getup.
132. Third Time Ain’t the Charm
In 1964, Mansfield married Italian director Matt Cimber—but it was her most tragic union of all. Cimber steered her into trashier and trashier films, and Mansfield began abusing alcohol and engaging in a spate of desperate affairs. It didn’t help when she confessed that she had only ever been happy with former flame Nelson Sardelli.
133. The Original Side-Eye
One of the most notorious pictures of Mansfield features a young Sophia Loren giving the actress some serious side-eye while Mansfield grins and poses for a picture in a (naturally) very low cut dress. People have wondered about the true meaning behind Loren’s look for years, and the Italian actress finally revealed the whole story.
Delightfully, it’s exactly what you think. The party that evening was supposed to be Loren’s official welcoming into Hollywood, but Mansfield apparently sauntered in late, sat down beside her, and tried to steal the spotlight with her, er, assets. As Loren explains it, “[In the photo] I’m so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow—BOOM!—and spill all over the table.”
134. Think Pink
A true girl’s girl, Mansfield was obsessed with the color pink. She dyed her poodle pink, drove around in a pink Cadillac, and she often drank pink champagne. But not everything is as it seems: Mansfield had chosen her “signature color” as a branding act. In fact, she’d initially chosen purple—before realizing it was too close to actress Kim Novak’s trademark lavender.
135. It Takes Two
Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass figures almost single-handedly started the “breast fetish” in America; tastes before them leant toward slimmer and straighter women. In fact, Mansfield’s chest was so popular in the public conscious, talk show host Jack Parr once introduced her onto The Tonight Show by saying, “Here they are, Jayne Mansfield.”
136. This Is the End
In the early morning hours of June 29, 1967, the last tragedy of Mansfield’s short life occurred. She was on her way to New Orleans with her driver, her attorney, and her children Miklos, Zoltan, and Mariska. At 2:25 am, their Buick slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, killing the three adults instantly. Mansfield was only 34 years old.
137. Gory Details
When news broke of Mansfield’s tragic, violent death, wild rumors started flying. Legend had it that the actress was decapitated in the crash, with many pointing out that photos of the wreck showed her signature blonde hair pressed into the windshield. However, Mansfield actually died from typical head trauma—the blonde object was her wig.
138. Crossing Boundaries
One of the most shocking acts in Mae West’s career was also her first starring role on Broadway. In 1926, West wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a play titled Sex. As if the title wasn’t shocking enough for the 1920s, the content also led to conservative critics denouncing the piece and religious groups voicing complaints.
139. Just Try Me
Despite the wild success of West’s play, Sex’s run came to an abrupt halt when New York City police officers launched a raid and arrested West, among others. Police charged West with obscenity and “corrupting the morals of youth” and sentenced her to either pay a fine or serve 10 days in prison. West’s reply shocked everyone.
Ever the one to buck the trend, West proudly declared that she would go to prison for her art.
140. Jailed and Fabulous
West’s decision to go to prison wasn’t just about standing for her art. She was also fully aware of the publicity that would come with this decision. Her efforts were duly rewarded, and she had a ball playing it up. During her time in prison, West alleged, she wore her silk panties rather than the standard prison clothes.
Amazingly, she got out two days early for “good behavior.”
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