Old Hollywood was practically built on a roiling river of scandal. Forever fighting off rumors, these glamorous celebrities tried their best to conceal some of their naughtiest and most heartbreaking secrets. Unfortunately, with the gossip mill working around the clock, these private struggles eventually breached the surface—and the details are as juicy as ever.
Richard Burton was one of Hollywood’s wildest hellraisers and a formidable acting talent. But it was his tempestuous romance with Elizabeth Taylor that provided the world with the most delicious tabloid fodder: Vicious fights, passionate displays of affection, and bitter betrayal. Still, no matter how bright they burned—Liz and Dick were always doomed to a heartbreaking end.
Although Burton went on to marry two other women after Taylor, she was the one who truly owned his heart.
Three days before his sudden passing, Burton wrote Taylor a heart-wrenching love letter—the contents of which remain a mystery to this day. On August 5, 1984, Burton suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage and closed his eyes forever.
Elizabeth Taylor was heartbroken, but she was no stranger to receiving correspondence from her devoted ex-husband.
Throughout his other marriages, Burton wrote more than 40 poignant letters to Elizabeth Taylor—all of them overflowing with declarations of love: "I love you, lovely woman. If anybody hurts you, just send me a line saying something like 'Need' or 'Necessary' or just the one magic word 'Elizabeth', and I will be there somewhat faster than sound".
But none of these letters cut as deep as his final words to her.
Elizabeth Taylor received Richard Burton's last love letter after attending his memorial service. When she saw his handwriting, she fell apart. From then on, she kept the letter next to her bed, ensuring that he was always in arm's reach. Although she revealed many of his other letters, this was the one letter she kept for herself.
However, she did reveal one satisfying detail.
To her biographer's delight, Taylor finally gave some insight into Burton's final letter. She said, "In it he told [me] what he wanted. Home was where Elizabeth was, and he wanted to come home". When Taylor herself passed, it was her wish to be buried with the letter.
But while this secret had romance written all over it, this next starlet's love life was so disastrous—she hid the most disturbing part of all.
Ann Miller was notorious for being the best tap dancer in Hollywood, but behind closed doors, she suffered the most unspeakable tragedies. First of all, her first husband Reese Milner was a total nightmare.
Although this wealthy scrap iron heir had won Ann's heart with his sizable wallet, his rage eventually led to the most traumatic moment of her life and her greatest secret.
You see, Milner was the exact definition of a wolf in sheep's clothing...and poor Ann was in for the rudest awakening imaginable.
Ann was ready to cash in her chips and run away with Milner. Unfortunately, she still had one problem standing in her way. Her contract with Columbia Pictures still bound her to work for another couple of years, and before she could wed, she'd have to break her way out.
But when Ann approached Harry Cohn with her desire to leave the studio, his response was absolutely terrifying.
To her surprise, Harry Cohn told Ann that she should not marry Reese Milner. But his advice didn't end there. He was so worried about her engagement that he found some of Milner's exes and brought them in to regale Ann with their horrifying stories.
According to these girls, Milner was a brute—aggressive and dangerous.
Anne refused to believe these girls' claims, thinking that Harry Cohn had managed this whole intervention in an attempt to keep her at Columbia Studios. Sadly, it turned out that Cohn wasn’t acting out of spite…
In 1946, after Cohn begrudgingly freed Ann from her contract, she and Milner tied the knot two days after Valentine's Day.
The chapel wedding in Montecito, California went off without a hitch—but it was all downhill from there. Within two months of being married, Ann was pregnant. Sadly, as excited as Ann was to be a mother, she couldn't deny that her marriage had taken a dark turn.
Milner was a wildly jealous man and even resented Ann spending time with her mother and friends. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
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When Ann married Milner, she had no idea what she was getting into. To her dismay, she soon learned that Milner had unpredictable mood swings, ranging from aggressive to terrifyingly vicious—but there was a tragic reason behind it all. You see, years before, a horse had fallen on Milner, and the resulting head injury had made him aggressive and altered his personality forever.
Sadly, Milner turned his volatile nature toward Ann, and in the end, she paid the ultimate price.
That summer, Ann sat down to write a harrowing letter to her mother. But this wasn't just any letter. In it, she documented the horrors of her three months of marriage—her fear of her husband and his unspeakable treatment of her. And the saddest part of all?
The letter was only to be opened in the event of Ann's passing.
It was almost as though she was expecting something horrible to happen...and she was right.
When she was nine months pregnant, Ann and Milner were staying at his ranch, eagerly awaiting the birth of their baby girl, Mary.
In a horrifying turn of events, Milner lost his temper during an argument and ended up throwing Ann down a flight of stairs. The fall fractured her lower back, and soon after, she went into labor. This is when the real nightmare truly began.
On November 12, 1946, Ann Miller managed to deliver her daughter while laboring through the pain of a broken back.
But her relief was short-lived. Little Mary only lived for three hours before passing. In the wake of this loss, Ann's devastation was immeasurable. And just like the rest of her troubles, nobody could know the truth. This was her traumatic secret to keep.
Instead, the media reported a completely different story.
..They claimed that Ann Miller had been in a car accident and that tragically, she had lost the baby. While Miller never got know to know her child, another huge star suffered a similar injustice, only he had his mother ripped away from him.
When Cary Grant was just nine years old, his mother disappeared out of his life. At first, Grant's father Elias said that his mom was away at a seaside resort, but after time passed, he revealed the "truth": Grant's mother had died.
This too, however, was a horrible lie—and Grant didn't discover the real story behind his mother's vanishing until he was already grown.
When Grant was 31 years old, his father Elias became terribly ill. As he lay on his deathbed, he finally told his son his darkest secret. Grant's mother Elsie wasn't dead, and she definitely wasn't at a "seaside resort". Instead, she'd been alive the whole time, locked up in a lunatic asylum.
Grant's father had placed her there so that he could pursue a new bride.
Horrified, Grant immediately traveled to England to get his mother out of the asylum.
It took a while for Grant's mother to recover from the trauma of being locked up, but afterward, she and Grant became very close.
When Grant looked back on his father's lies, he sadly said that by the time he got her out, "My name was changed and I was a full-grown man living in America". It felt cruel and unjust that Cary Grant was "known to most people of the world by sight and by name, yet not to my mother".
Cary Grant was a victim of a secret, but these next stars took their lies to a whole new level.
Loretta Young and Clark Gable met on the set of Call of the Wild, and the consequences of their meeting led to a secret child and some of the most questionable parenting imaginable. In fact, their entire relationship was a horrifying mess. According to Young, Gable forced himself on her without her consent while aboard an overnight train back to Hollywood.
A child that neither of them ever planned on having...
When Loretta Young discovered that she was pregnant with Clark Gable’s child, she was devastated. They'd only been together one time, but the damage was done. Afraid to tell her production company for fear that they'd want her to have an abortion, Young made a drastic decision. She decided to keep the pregnancy and the baby a secret.
Abortion, after all, was a mortal sin in her books, and she was determined to do the “right thing”. And so, Young set out to fool them all.
Young gave birth to her daughter and named her Judy after St. Jude—the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. According to rumors, an anonymous sender sent Clark Gable a telegram notifying him of his daughter’s birth. His reaction was chilling.
Young, on the other hand, now had a living, breathing child to consider and a difficult choice to make.
In order to ensure that nobody found out about Judy's true parentage, Loretta Young did the unthinkable.
She placed her daughter in an orphanage, and then 19 months later, went back and adopted her biological child. She craftily manipulated the system and reunited with her daughter without causing a public scandal. This was the lie that Young worked hard to conceal for the rest of her life.
However, if Young thought that Gable would eventually step up and provide for his daughter, she was sorely mistaken...
Loretta Young invited Clark Gable over to see his daughter, but she could only recall him visiting Judy once. She even opened up a bank account to allow Gable to discreetly provide for his daughter, but he never deposited a single dollar.
Despite her efforts to allow some father-daughter connection, her main goal remained the same—nobody could ever discover that Gable was Judy’s real father.
And as Judy grew older, this feat became harder and harder.
With mounting unease, Young watched as Judy grew into a spitting image of her father, with his high cheekbones, large ears, and a mischievous grin.
To hide Judy’s tell-tale ears, she made sure to always dress her in frilly bonnets. But soon, certain features became too obvious to conceal, and within Hollywood circles, dangerous rumors began to circulate.
When Judy turned seven, Young took her to a plastic surgeon to pin back her ears.
After all, they were Gable’s ears, and this procedure was a fix-all. Then, the lies became deeper and more elaborate. Years later, Young deception came around to haunt her. When Judy finally discovered the truth about her father, their relationship was never the same again.
While many of Young's secrets came out while she was alive, another notorious starlet—Ingrid Bergman—saw scandal long after she'd passed.
Five years after her passing, news of one of Ingrid Bergman's secret affairs came to light. In an interview with People, Gregory Peck made a shocking confession: On the set of 1945's Spellbound, he and Bergman had enjoyed a fleeting moment of pure passion: "All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that's where I ought to stop...I was young.
She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work".
Oh, but Peck wasn't the only one to creep out of the woodwork.
In her autobiography, Bergman spoke of all her ex-husbands with utter respect and even remained close friends with Rossellini and Schmidt to the day she died.
However, there was one man with an ax to grind—one who still held a grudge for the wife who abandoned him: Bergman's first husband, Petter Lindström. He wanted the world to know the "real" Bergman and didn't care if it threw a shadow across her legacy.
In the biography As Time Goes By, The Life of Ingrid Bergman by Laurence Leamer, Lindström went on the record and revealed some of the unfeeling things his wife had uttered. Allegedly, she'd said, "I’m only interested in two kinds of people, those who can entertain me, and those who can advance my career". But this barely scratched the surface.
Lindström didn't hold anything back and helped the biographer paint a very unappealing portrait of Ingrid Bergman. Through his eyes, she became the most selfish human imaginable. And then, to add insult to injury, there were her vices. According to the biography, she drank and smoked and slept around with all scores of men.
And it didn't end there.
Bergman's ex-husband certainly got his petty revenge, even if the actress never lived to feel his wrath. He condemned her for abandoning her children and for always prioritizing her career over her family. But in the end, was his vitriol really necessary?
After all, Bergman's own children seemed to forgive their mother on all counts.
Finally, no tell-all could erase the fact that Ingrid Bergman was a formidable acting talent—one of the all-time greats. However, Ingrid Bergman wasn't the only great actress to have her dirty laundry aired after her passing.
For twenty long years after Marilyn Monroe's demise, her ex Joe DiMaggio sent roses to her crypt three times a week. He outlived her by 36 years but in all that time, he never married again. His last words were apparently, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn”. As if this story needed to get even sadder, there's a heartbreaking reason for DiMaggio's lifelong inability to get over Marilyn.
Apparently, at the time of her demise, they had gotten back together and even planned to remarry.
And what's more? The bombshell revelations about Monroe's tragic final years didn't end with her demise.
In 1972, an actress named Veronica Hamel bought Marilyn’s old house. She claimed that when she was renovating the home, she made a shocking discovery. She uncovered an extensive system of wire-taps.
For years, people had wondered if the FBI, CIA, and/or the Mafia had bugged Monroe's home. With this discovery, it looked like at least one of them had.
But perhaps the most disturbing discovery of all was not Monroe's home, but a rather demented rumor that eventually surfaced.
Many, many, many books have been written about Marilyn Monroe. But only one penned by her old friend Charles Casillo, contains this claim. It's common knowledge that Monroe was obsessed with meeting her biological father—but few people realize just how twisted her fixation really was. Once, at a party, Monroe told Casillo that she wanted to put on a black wig, pick up her father in a bar, and make love to him.
After the deed was done, she planned to ask him, “How do you feel now that you have a daughter that you’ve made love to”? Monroe's passing sparked controversy and fresh rumors, but this next star hid some secrets that were downright heartbreaking.
Just a month before her 90th birthday, Lauren Bacall suffered a stroke and passed on at her long-time Manhattan home, the Dakota. Bacall had been a mysterious figure throughout her life, but in her final years, she had started to spill the secrets that had never come out before—and many were absolutely jaw-dropping.
When Lauren Bacall spurned Howard Hawks, the director who’d discovered her, on the set of her first film, he was furious—and he was even madder when he discovered that she’d been having an affair with Humphrey Bogart. Years later, when asked about the love triangle, his answer was so brutal that it’s impossible to forget.
“Bogie fell in love with the character she played, so she had to keep playing it the rest of her life”. Harsh.
Lauren Bacall came to Hollywood looking for fame. Instead, she found the love of her life, Humphrey Bogart. They were pretty much the most famous couple in Hollywood—but after Bogart passed on, few knew just how horrible things got for Bacall. Years later, she confessed that she was completely lost without him, and would regularly wake up screaming, tormented by nightmares about him.
During Humphrey Bogart’s funeral, when the coffin was lowered, his widow Lauren Bacall made a final, heartbreaking tribute. Bacall placed a whistle on his coffin. He’d given it to her years earlier, in reference to To Have and Have Not, the film that had brought the pair together. It included an iconic moment where Bacall’s character says to Bogart’s: “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow”.
Before giving it to Bacall, Bogart had it engraved with the words:
“If you need me, just whistle”.
Of course, after Bogart’s passing, his friend Frank Sinatra swooped in—but their relationship was utterly disastrous. Although Bacall tried to resist, she couldn’t deny the chemistry she had with Sinatra. Finally, he proposed—but within days, he coldly broke things off. The reason why was chilling.
The next day, the headlines read “Sinatra to Marry Bacall”. Bacall was humiliated, and Sinatra was furious. He thought she’d been the one to tell the press, and he immediately dumped her. It was so bad that months later, they sat near each other at a party, and Sinatra wouldn’t even look her in the eye. It was only decades later that he learned that she hadn’t been behind the leak.
Bacall's relationships were exciting and fraught with misunderstanding—but they were nowhere near as bloody as this next actress's.
In 1935, Lila Lee began dating car salesman, Reid Russell—but their romance came to a heartbreaking and shockingly gruesome end. On September 25, 1936, Lee’s son Kirkwood Jr. discovered the lifeless body of Russell swinging in a hammock outside of the Morris household.
Russell had a single .32 caliber bullet wound to the head. Curiously, however, investigators never found the bullet or the shell casing.
That was just the opening chapter in the scandal that would ruin Lee’s great career.
The speculation surrounding the discovery of Russell’s body began immediately. Lee and the Morrises all confirmed to investigators, however, that there wasn’t much to see here at all. All three told the investigators—for the benefit of the tabloids—that Russell had talked incessantly about taking his own life, particularly after losing his job. But their story didn’t totally add up.
Lila Lee later divulged that Mrs.
Morris had told her about a "last" note. Lee said that Ruth Morris told her that she had discovered the note in her jewel box—of all the strange places—two or three days following the discovery of Russell’s body. Lee chose not to disclose this fact to the investigators—and then, her behavior got weirder.
Mrs. Morris did eventually tell the investigators about the note she had found in her jewel box.
But she also told them that she couldn’t produce the note itself—all for a bizarre reason. Lee claimed that she had never seen the note herself, but said that Mrs. Morris had read it to her and then burned it in an ashtray.
If that seemed suspicious, then the next hole in their story was ominous.
Even more strange than the whole note episode was Lee and the Morrises’ recollections of the events preceding the discovery of Russell’s body. While they claimed that there had been no argument or even any noise around the time of the incident, their neighbors claimed to have heard something completely different.
While Lee and the Morrises claimed not to have heard the assuredly deafening sound of a .32 caliber round going off, all of their neighbors said they’d heard it.
If you can believe it, there was yet another twist. To cast even more suspicion on the whole debacle, Russell’s mother claimed to have received phone calls from an unknown female demanding to know where Russell was. Investigators entertained the idea of a “love slaying”. Of course, Lee was Russell’s only known lover at the time.
The investigation was just starting to get interesting.
On December 12, 1936, a little over a year after Kirkwood Jr. discovered Russell’s body, District Attorney Burron Fitts closed the Russell case. Fitts claimed that there could not have been foul play at hand. However, Fitts had a history of accepting bribe money from film studios. And who worked for film studios?
Well, Lila Lee, of course.
Lee wrote about the scandal in her autobiography. She said: “They started digging around the place and they had found that our gardener had had relations with a sheep, had buried it […] The gardener had made a pass at Jimmy when he was alone in the house in the afternoon. He was gotten rid of but fast”. So, law enforcement turned up plenty about the gardener, but what was Reid Russell?
As Lee wrote, “I think he [Reid Russell] committed suicide”. But later on, she contradicted herself.
Years after the whole scandal had blown over, Lila Lee made a disturbing slip of the tongue. She was speaking to Evan Rhodes about the scandal when she might have let the truth about Russell’s untimely demise slip out. Rhodes wrote down that Lee had said in the interview, “Do you want to know about the killing? [No], not the killing—the suicide[?]”
Now, this next foray into secrecy doesn't exactly involve a horrific passing, but it does promise a near-fatal experience and a very steamy love affair...
Blonde beauty Kim Novak obeyed her studio’s every demand, that is until she fell deeply in love with a man she was not supposed to. Enter:
The multi-talented entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr. In 1957, Davis confided in Tony Curtis that he really desired an interlude with Kim Novak. Curtis told Davis exactly what he wanted to hear: “I’m going to have a party at my house. Come on by, and I’ll invite Kim”.
Luckily for Davis, he'd already caught Novak's eye, and when they met at the party, sparks began to fly instantly. Unsurprisingly rumors about their intimate tête-à-tête got out—but for Novak and Davis, there was no turning back. Caught up in this newfound desire, neither of them realized just how dangerous their love could be.
There’s a good chance that Novak saw Davis as more than just a handsome, endearing face. He was also someone willing to go off the deep end with her and defy the ever-powerful Harry Cohn. Novak had grown tired of being constantly used as a pawn in Cohn’s games and wanted to follow her heart in at least one respect—love. She’d go the distance just to keep it alive.
With Cohn’s spies honed in on her every move, Novak had to get sneaky. In fact, she and Davis transformed their relationship into a covert operation and evaded both the press and their employers at all cost.
While on his way to Novak’s home, Davis would even hide from prying eyes, curling up beneath a rug in the back of the car. And that wasn’t all.
Tired of dodging any kind of attention, Davis pulled a power move and bought a luxurious beach house in Malibu where he could conduct his private affairs in private. But this wasn’t the only pitfall of their relationship. Both Novak and Davis had high-flying careers, and by dabbling in a forbidden romance, they risked everything. And then there was the matter of race.
At the time that Novak and Davis were busy falling head over heels for one another, America still upheld segregation.
Conducting their high-profile romance under the watchful eye of a prejudiced industry, not to mention, a prejudiced world—this couple tested the limits. After all, this was a Black man dating a white movie star.
Not only was this risky, but sadly, it was also dangerous…And they were about to get found out.
While in New York, Harry Cohn finally caught wind of his star’s scandalous affair. While at his brother’s memorial dinner, an aide leaned down, and in a hushed voice, filled Cohn in on Novak and Davis. He was absolutely enraged by this news.
And when rumors of church bells and a wedding began to swirl, his anger only deepened.
Cohn’s plan to destroy Novak and Davis was diabolical. With his shady ties to the underworld, he went to the mob and had Mickey Cohen corner Davis’s father, Sam Davis Sr., at the Hollywood Park racetrack. What the mobster had to say was absolutely chilling:
“Listen. I got some terrible news for you. I just got a call from Chicago to hurt Sammy”.
With Cohn and Cohen out for blood, Novak’s boyfriend was in immediate danger. He could have his legs broken or worse. Luckily, there was still one way out of this mess—but the solution was utterly heartbreaking. Cohen agreed to spare Sammy on one condition:
“I’ll give him 24 hours. Sammy has to get married—to a colored girl”.
Cohn had pulled the rug out from under Novak; he was a true villain in every sense of the word. Because of him, Davis had no choice but to leave Novak and marry the talented Black singer, Loray White.
He even paid her to do it. It was all a lie, but at the end of the day, Cohn’s wishes came true: He got his blonde beauty back.
There was no "happily ever after" for Novak and Davis. And when it comes to distressing endings, this next actress endured her fair share of turmoil.
Marion Davies had always been close with her nieces and nephews, but one, in particular, had been her favorite—her sister Rose’s daughter, Patricia. She’d spent extensive time with Hearst and Davies, and Davies had left her a sizable inheritance when she passed. No one questioned it—until 1993, when Patricia made a twisted deathbed confession.
It was then that she revealed to her immediate family that Davies and Hearst were, in fact, her real mother and father, not her aunt and uncle.
Soon, her family began to put together a clearer picture.
Patricia had been born in an unnamed hospital in France sometime between 1919 and 1923—right around the time that Davies and Hearst began their decades-long affair. As the story goes, Davies got pregnant, and Hearst sent her to France to give birth away from the prying eyes of the Hollywood gossip columnists.
In a strange case of timing, Davies’ sister Rose had just lost a child.
The choice was there on the table. Davies gave Rose the baby, and they fudged the paperwork. That was that—but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
In 1924, Rose’s estranged husband George kidnapped young Patricia and disappeared for five whole years. If the loss of her secret child affected Davies, she couldn’t really show it, for fear of exposing herself. Regardless, Hearst jumped into action and hired a detective to track the pair down, eventually reuniting the family.
Hearst supported Patricia financially throughout the years, and both Davies and Hearst confessed their secret and the circumstances of her birth to her at different times. She nearly took the knowledge to get her grave—but thankfully the truth finally surfaced. Of course, Hollywood had no shortage of hidden babies.
..Unfortunately, celebrated actor Michael Caine learned this the hard way...
Michael Caine's mother hid an enormous secret from his entire family—one that turned his entire life upside down. You see, he has a younger brother named Stanley and an older half-brother named David. However, it wasn’t until the passing of Caine’s mother that Caine became aware of David’s existence. Even his father hadn’t known about David.
The family's matriarch kept her lips sealed her entire life.
The only hints were the occasions when Caine’s mother visited David in the hospital, where he spent his entire life due to severe epilepsy. As harrowing as these familial revelations are, it would seem that this next actor's specialty was, undoubtedly, shameless philandering.
The public knew Bob Hope as a stand-up family man, but industry insiders knew him much differently. Surprise, surprise:
The man who hoodwinked two women into marriage wasn't so faithful. Actually, he wasn't faithful at all. As one insider wrote, whenever the superstar went to a hotel, "outside his room were three, four, five young, beautiful girls, waiting to be picked by him to come in".
Hope was flirting with disaster.
..and disaster flirted right back.
In 1949, Hope began an affair with the up-and-coming actress Barbara Payton, even setting her up with a Hollywood apartment so he could come and go from her bed at all hours of the night. But Payton, like many a starlet before her, was starved for attention and kept demanding more gifts and more favors from the veteran actor.
Cue ominous music.
Fed up with his play thing, Hope eventually broke things off with Payton, though he made sure to pay her off to keep her quiet. Her reaction was the definition of "spiteful". Unable to seal her lips, the actress signed up for a 1956 tell-all interview in Confidential magazine, spilling the beans about her affair with Hope. And that wasn't the only confession she made.
Payton was out for blood in her interview, and she painted a grim portrait of the sunny comedian. According to the starlet, Hope wasn't an American everyman, but instead "a mean-spirited individual with the ability to respond with zxxxxxxxxxxxxxxa ruthless vengeance when sufficiently provoked”. Unfortunately for Payton, Hope's response was nothing short of chilling.
Although Hope must have been beside himself when Payton's interview came out, he hadn't survived so long in Hollywood without picking up a few tricks for dealing with attention-seekers, and he knew just what to do. He ignored her. Without Hope commenting, poor Barbara's splashy confessions made barely a ripple in Tinseltown, and his secrets remained safe a while longer.
Of all Hope's affairs, the most scandalous might have been his naughty acts with a famous "good girl" screen siren: None other than the wholesome Doris Day. According to Hope, the two had a fiery affair while touring together to raise funds for charity in 1949. But before the two stars had time to catch feelings, it ended abruptly.
When Hope and Day returned to California from their charity efforts, the lovers got a nasty surprise. Dolores Reade—Hope’s wife—was waiting at the airport to give her husband a nice, big, and pointed welcome home hug. Day interpreted the gesture as a shot across the bow and backed off, squelching the dalliance.
Loving Bob Hope was a dangerous game in more ways than one. Yes, you were dealing with a serial cheater...but an eerie curse seemed to follow him around as well. Many of Hope's mistresses passed tragically sometime after their affairs ended, with Barbara Payton, Ursula Halloran, and Rosemarie Frankland all dying young from overdoses.
Hope certainly seemed like a handful, but even then, he wasn't as wild as this next starlet...
When Joan Crawford passed, her adopted brood of children seemed heartbroken—until the contents of her will revealed the dark truth. Though she left Cindy and Cathy a small sum of money, she notoriously shut out her two other children entirely from an inheritance.
As she wrote, "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". That secret soon came out.
In 1978, while Crawford was still warm in her grave, her daughter Christina got a long-awaited revenge.
The young woman released her infamous tell-all book Mommie Dearest, letting all Crawford’s secrets loose in the process. Although many contest the claims, the book alleges that Crawford emotionally and physically mistreated Christina and her brother Christopher—and the details weren’t pretty.
According to Christina, Crawford’s abuse combined with her cleanliness obsession to make one unholy mix. Most famously, Crawford hated wire hangers and any kind of mess, and she would wake her children up in the middle of the night if they hung anything up on an ordinary hanger or left a crumb on the floor or a book out of order.
One of Mommie Dearest’s most chilling accusations targets Joan Crawford’s picture-perfect image. Christina claimed that during Christmas, Crawford would lavish her children with gifts for photo ops, but then force them to choose only one while the cameras stopped rolling, giving the rest away to charity.
But when it came to infamous allegations, Christina saved the best for last.
In the aftermath of Mommie Dearest, Christina added a new sin to Joan's reputation: Murder. According to Christina, Joan’s fourth husband Alfred Steele didn’t pass from a heart attack. The family found him at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and there was apparently no autopsy.
Without explicitly calling Joan out, Christina said, “I didn’t believe it was an accident…I know what Mommie was capable of in a state of rage".
When it comes to bad parenting and a pocketful of secrets, Hollywood has its fair share of transgressors...
In 1949, after 13 miserable years and two children together, Henry Fonda approached his wife Frances Brokaw and told her he wanted a divorce. Never one for empathy, he then dug the knife in more. He admitted to her that he wanted to split because he wanted to be free to marry his mistress Susan.
His poor wife's reaction was beyond tragic.
Less than six months later, Brokaw was so distraught about the end of her marriage and her husband’s infidelity, she checked herself into the Austen Riggs Psychiatric Hospital for treatment for her depression. For months, Fonda’s wife tried to process the pain her cruel ex-husband had dealt her. Sadly, her suffering had only begun.
On April 14, 1950, just 10 days after she turned 42, Frances Ford Seymour took her own life while still receiving treatment for her mental illness. Fonda must have been devastated at the horrific news, as well as what it meant for his young family—but all the same, his response to the tragedy has lived in infamy ever since.
When Frances passed, Fonda’s children Jane and Peter were only 12 and 10 years old. Thinking he was protecting them, Fonda told them a horrific lie. Instead of admitting the true circumstances of their mother’s passing, Fonda claimed she had died from heart failure. Maybe that’s forgivable, but his next actions sure weren’t.
Fonda was a man who did nothing by halves, and he took his dishonesty about Frances to the next level.
Likely afraid of any “unnecessary” outpourings of emotion, Fonda didn’t even let his own children go to their mother’s funeral, instead putting on a hasty affair with just himself and his mother-in-law in attendance. Oh, but that wasn’t all.
Fonda’s final turn of the screw was a doozy. In order to completely hide the truth from his children, he canceled all newspaper and magazine subscriptions to their house, lest they stumble across a story about it.
Despite Fonda's efforts, he couldn't hide the truth. Young Jane found out about her own mother’s tragic end while thumbing through a magazine in a study hall.
As we'll see, however, there was still one bitter coda to Brokaw's story—contained in her final letters.
When the dust settled on Brokaw's passing, the disturbed woman still managed to haunt Fonda.
Before her passing, she had written no fewer than six goodbye letters to the loved ones in her life. But there was one bitter omission. She hadn’t written a single thing to Fonda himself. And Brokaw's therapist at the asylum thought she knew why…
Therapists are supposed to be objective, but apparently not when it comes to Henry Fonda.
Brokaw's doctor got an incredibly chilling portrait of the actor through his late wife’s final sessions. Years later, the psychiatrist confessed that in her medical opinion, Fonda was “a cold, self-absorbed person, [and] a complete narcissist”. Ouch.
However, when it came to truly profiling their actors, Hollywood had its work cut out.
You see, some of its actors were living secret double lives.
In 2000, six years after his passing, the FBI released documents shocking new documents about Burt Lancaster. Back in the 1950s, J. Edgar Hoover was keeping a close eye on Lancaster—specifically on his private life. The information pointed to Lancaster having affairs with many men, and even being a predator.
Whether we can trust this information is another story.
Hoover could have made it up to further implicate Lancaster, who he saw as a dangerous communist.
Even outside the FBI, rumors of Lancaster’s homosexuality continue to proliferate. Most of them come from Lancaster’s acute attention to staying fit and his preference for male personal secretaries over female ones. The other, maybe more telling, proof is the number of times he visited Rock Hudson’s home, where gay orgies allegedly took place frequently.
In fact, years before Lancaster's passing, whispers about these hot and heavy interludes had already begun to circulate.
In 1960, a revealing report emerged about a raid on a Hollywood mansion.
It turns out that the owner of the mansion was hosting lewd parties catered to gay men. Even though the mansion was highly secure, photographers secretly snapped shots of the partygoers having all-male orgies. The attendees allegedly included Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, an admiral, oh...and 250 Marines.
Hollywood insiders have a habit of protecting the secrets of their own, so we may never know the absolute truth.
Even though Lancaster’s alleged gay lifestyle was almost completely under wraps, some people say that he and Rock Hudson may have started something that’s still with us today: The idea of being openly gay.
Young people finding out that two famous men, like Lancaster and Hudson, were, or even could have been, “a little light in their loafers”—to use an old euphemism—maybe set the tone for future men and women to come out.
Lancaster, however, wasn't the only gay heartthrob in Hollywood to keep his secrets close.
One of Anthony Perkins' greatest secrets was his romance with Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter. They kept their affair a secret from everyone, and to their friends, they were always just good "college buddies". Behind closed doors, however, their passion for one another was red-hot. Although their clandestine love only lasted three years, it was nothing compared to Perkins' most brutal truth.
Nobody close to Perkins is willing to divulge anything regarding his fidelity or whether he had affairs with men throughout his marriage.
His friends were resolutely loyal to his privacy. However, when he was 58, a strange series of events occurred that led Perkins to a devastating discovery—one with the power to topple not only his marriage but the foundation of his entire life...
When The Enquirer—a tabloid paper—published a story claiming that Perkins had HIV, nobody took it too seriously...except maybe for Perkins himself.
Completely thrown by the media’s claim, he went for tests to find out the truth. When the results proved positive, he realized that The Enquirer must have gained access to this confidential information before he did…
When a salacious story is on the table, morals have a funny way of flying out the window.
Here’s what happened: When Perkins visited the hospital for treatment regarding a facial palsy, someone with access to his blood samples tested it for HIV and leaked the positive results to the paper. Already a seasoned pro in the secrets domain, Perkins was ready to hide his newest, most ruinous secret of all.
As a devoted wife and mother, Berry Berenson was no doubt heartbroken by the news of her husband’s diagnosis. But she was also terrified for herself and her children.
Over the next two years, she went for testing multiple times and, thankfully, received negative results every time. With sad confusion and bafflement, she said, ”I don’t understand any of this. I don’t understand this disease at all”.
As we know, anything that could hurt Perkins’s career remained concealed beneath the surface. This applied to his many boyfriends—and now—his debilitating diagnosis. He chose to suffer through AIDs with only his wife and family as close confidantes.
Even visits to the hospital were incognito…
Perkins visited the hospital three times during his illness and every time, he and his wife used aliases. The pretending was especially difficult for Berenson—watching her husband slip into another role for the sake of saving face: "You think that this man has spent his entire life giving people so much pleasure in show business, and this is his reward. He can't even be himself at the end".
During his final days, Perkins illuminated the reason for his silence.
He spoke directly to his sons about his decision to keep his illness a secret: "...because to misquote Casablanca, I'm not much at being noble, but it doesn't take too much to see that the problems of an old actor don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy old world".
Now, while a private man like Perkins tried to keep his life under wraps, this next actress had a knack for letting everything show.
Joan Collins' scandalous career hid a number of naughty secrets, but the most heartbreaking one of all revolves around one notorious Hollywood player. One night, while dining at a Hollywood restaurant, Joan Collins couldn't help but notice a handsome younger man looking her way.
The man was very confident, brazen even.
After seeing Collins that night, Beatty—determined to take her out on a date—managed to get a hold of her number. Collins was 26 and Beatty was just 22, but once they started dating, their passion was unrivaled.
In fact, it didn’t take long for Beatty to move into Collins’ apartment. The two played like they were a married couple and Collins enjoyed how compatible they were. But soon, Collins found out something very odd about her younger boyfriend.
Despite the age difference, Collins and Beatty got on like a house on fire.
But there was one area that they didn’t see eye to eye on: the bedroom. It seemed that Beatty wanted to spend a lot of time there—in fact, he wanted it several times a day. Collins’ pal Joanne Woodward showed her no pity. Her not-so-woke advice?
If he’s 22 and "libidinous", let him do what he wants, as often as he wants.
In spite of Collins’ exhaustion from keeping Beatty happy in the bedroom, in 1960, she agreed to marry the young heartthrob. But unfortunately, their careers kept pulling them apart, not to mention Beatty's wandering eye and womanizing ways.
In the short time they'd been together, he'd catapulted to fame and now had attention from every corner. Soon, Collins caught wind of some disturbing rumors.
When whispers of Beatty's infidelity began to circulate, Collins didn't want to believe it. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
At home, they regularly engaged in vicious fights—sometimes about rent and sometimes about their house guests. It was a total mess. When Collins got the opportunity to film on location in Hong Kong, she jumped at the chance.
She just wanted to get away from him.
Their time together had run its course. But even after they were through, she held on to a huge secret.
Years down the road, Joan Collins published a memoir that spilled the tea on her and Beatty's tumultuous relationship. In it, a particular secret came out: she had once been pregnant with Beatty's child.
Fearing scandal and a ruined career, Collins opted for an abortion and never started a family with Beatty. When they called it quits, she walked away and never looked back.
Collins' unabashed memoir left every secret dangling out in the open. Similarly, Esther Williams also wrote a tell-all—and it was filled with sordid details.
Esther Williams was the undisputed queen bee of one of the most baffling Hollywood sub-genres: the Aqua Musicals of the 40s and 50s.
No one rose out of the pool depths—with a smile, no less—quite like Williams. But behind her glittering facade, Williams was no stranger to torrid affairs and naughty indulgences. However, much of her personal life was kept under wraps until her scandalous tell-all was published, exposing one of her lover's greatest secrets.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation of Williams' memoir was her relationship with Jeff Chandler. She'd met the striking actor during a rough patch: MGM had just dumped and her marriage was definitely on the rocks. Teetering on the edge, Williams didn't think twice about diving straight into a passionate affair, and before long, it became incredibly serious.
She and Chandler were on the verge of tying the knot—until Chandler gave her the surprise of her life.
Williams tells the story of walking into her bedroom, and seeing Chandler in a way she’d never seen him before: dressed in a gown, wig, and high heels.
Chandler had a reputation for being very manly: all six foot five inches of him. Williams ended the relationship immediately and told no one for years. It was only later, when her memoir was published, that the secret spilled out.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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