Stars: They’re just like us—except when it comes to romance. There’s something about the combination of the fame, glamor, and lavish parties of Hollywood life that leads to absolutely disastrous relationships. From utterly toxic marriages to affairs gone horribly wrong, these are Old Hollywood’s worst romances…and they’re conclusive proof that all that glitters is definitely not gold.
1. Ava Gardner Had One Of Old Hollywood’s Worst Romances
With her drop-dead gorgeous looks, it seemed inevitable that Ava Gardner would become one of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s golden age—and she lived a glamorous lifestyle to boot. No stranger to lavish Hollywood parties, Gardner endured troubled marriages to some of the most famous men in America, including Frank Sinatra and Artie Shaw. Even though those romances were doomed, neither was quite as gut-wrenching as her first marriage…
2. He Wanted Her
On her very first day on the MGM Studio lot, Ava Gardner caught the eye of an actor named Mickey Rooney—and he wasn’t just any young star. He was only 21, but he’d been MGM’s biggest star for three years straight. When he asked her out, she demurred. After all, she was still young, new in town, and…significantly taller than him. But with that kind of fame comes a great sense of entitlement, and Rooney didn’t give up on Gardner right away.
3. He Was Persistent
Gardner was just a teenaged girl from North Carolina, with one of the biggest stars in Hollywood showering her with attention. Gardner eventually acquiesced to a date with Rooney, and then, he pushed her for marriage. She held him off, saying that she wanted to wait until she turned 19. However, her reluctance wouldn’t be the only roadblock on their way to the altar. MGM Studios nearly stopped the whole thing before it even started.
They weren’t exactly thrilled at having a married young heartthrob when he had scores of adoring female fans, but Rooney pressed the issue. The young Gardner was at the mercy of her bosses and now, her new husband—and it wouldn’t be an easy ride.
4. It Was Tumultuous From The Start
With Rooney’s cherubic face and Gardner’s striking beauty, their marriage made them a Hollywood golden couple—but their dazzling appearance hid a disturbing dark side. The pair became hard drinkers and partiers. Rooney could be a mean drunk, as Gardner recalled later in her life, but so could she. Gardner often teased the inebriated Rooney about his height whenever he became angry.
On top of that, MGM wasn’t giving her any good roles. She was stuck in a bad contract and a bad marriage. Something had to give.
5. It Was Terrible Timing
Gardner’s first marriage, to MGM superstar Mickey Rooney, was far from ideal—but the way it came crashing down was utterly brutal. They were still in their honeymoon phase when Gardner suddenly became terribly ill. She had to spend several weeks in a Los Angeles hospital to recover after an emergency appendectomy. When doctors finally released her, she was ecstatic to return home—but heartbreak was the only thing there to await her return.
6. She Was Heartbroken
Gardner excitedly returned to the Westwood apartment she shared with the diminutive comic, only to make a disturbing discovery. She found evidence that while she’d been in the hospital, he’d been sleeping with another woman…in their bed. Their short marriage had never exactly been a fairytale, yet Gardner did stick around for a little longer. Eventually, the infidelity became all too much, and Gardner filed for divorce.
7. It Was A Horrible Situation
Well, some contracts are easier to break than others, and in 1943, Ava Gardner made her choice. In the official documents, the grounds for divorce were “grievous mental suffering” and “extreme mental cruelty.” Rooney was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and she could’ve gone after him, but she settled for $25,000 and paid her own court fees. One thing was clear: she’d really wanted to get out of that marriage—and keeping the divorce quick and quiet paid off.
Soon after, MGM renewed her contract and gave her a raise. See, Gardner got out clean. The same can not be said for Lila Lee, whose bad romance destroyed her career…
8. Lila Lee’s Career Couldn’t Survive One Disturbing Scandal
Known for her on-screen wholesomeness, Lila Lee was the 1920s silent film star whose career crashed and burned because of her one personal—yet very public—scandal. It all began shortly after her second divorce. In 1935, she began dating car salesman Reid Russell. While her relationship with Russell would last longer than her second marriage, it would have a far more dramatic ending. In fact, it was downright gruesome.
9. Her Relationship Ended Gruesomely
Lee’s relationship with Russell came to a sudden and inexplicable 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 .32caliber 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.
10. She Got Her Story Straight
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 suicide, particularly after losing his job. But their story didn’t totally add up.
11. She Kept A Secret From Investigators
Lila Lee later divulged that Mrs. Morris had told her about a suicide 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.
12. She Burned After Reading
Mrs. Morris did eventually tell the investigators about the suicide 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.
13. She Had Selective Deafness
Even more strange than the whole suicide 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.
14. She Would Have Slayed For Love
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.
15. She May Have Had The Investigation Shutdown
On December 12, 1936, a little over a year after Kirkwood Jr. discovered Russell’s body, District Attorney Burron Fitts closed the Russell case as a suicide. Fitts claimed that there could not have been foul play at hand. However, Fitts had a history of accepting kickbacks from film studios. And who worked for film studios if not Lila Lee?
16. She Wrote A Confession
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.
17. She Had A Slip Of The Tongue
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[?]” Whatever the facts of the Russell scandal, one thing is for sure. Lila Lee was old news in Hollywood.
The Russell scandal effectively ruined her career and she appeared in her last film in 1937. Lee would never reach her former level of fame again. Lee wasn’t the only one to let a failed romance kneecap her career. Years earlier, John Gilbert had made a similar mistake, and it all centered around one explosive moment.
18. John Gilbert Nursed A Terrible Broken Heart
John Gilbert’s scandalous affairs with famous femmes fatales gave him the nickname “The Great Lover,” but his deplorable treatment at the hands of Hollywood’s power brokers left him with another: “Hollywood’s Unhappiest Man.” Gilbert’s meteoric soar to superstardom included beautiful bombshells, bad bosses, and booze. He was so damaged, that it’s no wonder his relationship with Greta Garbo turned out so bad.
19. He Fell In Love At First Sight
When Gilbert was working on The Flesh and the Devil in 1926 alongside Greta Garbo, he first met the superstar at the studio’s train station set. Sparks flew immediately, and it was lust at first sight for both actors. However, that train station was an apt meeting place: Gilbert should have seen the inevitable train wreck that his life with Garbo would be.
20. He Was In A Famous Romance
The producers at Gilbert’s studio were ecstatic about the burgeoning romance between him and Garbo. After all, they couldn’t pay money for that kind of publicity. Audiences turned out in droves to see the real-life romance of their Hollywood idols played out on the silver screen…but they might not have known what was really going on behind the scenes.
21. He Had Unrequited Love
According to Hollywood lore, Gilbert was crazy for Garbo, but the elusive and reclusive starlet was always a little shy about diving into the deep end for Gilbert. Reportedly, the actor proposed to Garbo on many occasions, but she always hemmed and hawed. One day, however, Gilbert actually managed to set a date. It ended in disaster.
22. He Had A Runway Bride
On the morning of his wedding, Gilbert woke up feeling lighter than air, having convinced the Sphinx of cinema to marry him at last. He went to bed that night in utter shambles. Tragically, although Gilbert stood at the altar waiting for Garbo, the starlet stood him up and never showed. Gilbert’s response was heartbreaking.
23. He Suffered A Breakdown
Gilbert might have been famous as a Lothario, but he had no qualms about breaking down into sobs the moment he realized that Garbo wasn’t going to show up. He spent the latter part of the would-be ceremony having a breakdown in the bathroom. It was like something out of one of his dramatic movies, and it was about to go up a notch.
24. He Heard A Cruel Insult
The infamous MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer was in attendance at the failed nuptials, and he had zero time for his leading man’s hysterics. According to a witness, Mayer walked into the bathroom, saw Gilbert curled up in the fetal position, and sneered at him, “Sleep with her. Don’t marry her.” Gilbert’s next move was one for the ages.
25. He Got Into A Fight At His Own Wedding
In a split second, Gilbert went from jilted lover to action movie star. Insulted for both himself and his love Garbo, Gilbert punched the MGM head honcho right in the face, knocking him over. Then it went from tense to chilling. Mayer looked up from the floor and allegedly said these immortal words: “I will destroy you.”
From many men, this threat would be empty, but not from the great Louis B. Mayer. Gilbert was a marked man, and Mayer did everything in his power to make sure that John Gilbert never saw the light of stardom again. Punching someone is bad, but at least he didn’t try to stab anyone, like Lupe Vélez did…
26. Lupe Vélez’s Romance With Gary Cooper Ended Violently
You may not have heard of Lupe Vélez, but trust us when we say that her story is unforgettable. A feisty gal-about-town, insatiable flirt, and talented performer, Vélez was the life of the party—but as we’ll see, her vivacious exterior hid a chilling dark side, especially when it came to her notoriously toxic romances.
27. She Was A Little Too Passionate
Everyone in Hollywood knew that Vélez was quite the flirt, and one of her lovers was none other than actor Gary Cooper. Their three-and-a-half-year-long love affair was volatile, to say the least—and sometimes downright terrifying. Vélez allegedly attacked Cooper with a knife on more than one occasion. After one of these terrifying episodes, Cooper received such a serious gash that he needed stitches…but still, he stuck with her.
28. She Was Wildly Jealous
Vélez was quick to resent her competition in Hollywood, disliking Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn. Out of spite, Vélez loved to give insulting impersonations of these actresses, which only drove more of a wedge between them and herself. When Marlene Dietrich shot a movie with Vélez’s boyfriend Gary Cooper, Vélez took things even further.
She made sure to sit in Cooper’s lap to make sure that Dietrich couldn’t seduce him. Cooper’s patience for her antics began to wear—and it was all leading up to an explosive ending.
29. She Took A Parting Shot
In 1931, Gary Cooper couldn’t take it anymore. For almost four years, he’d been in a serious relationship with Lupe Vélez and he was ready to get out. By that point, he’d lost 45 pounds. The star was being urged by his mother and even the heads at Paramount Pictures to leave Vélez and take time off to recover himself. Her reaction was so disturbing, it’s unforgettable.
Allegedly, when Vélez heard that Cooper wanted to leave her, she met him at the train station and shot at him with a pistol. Luckily, she missed—but the nightmare wasn’t over yet.
30. She Took Her Own Life
After an evening of dining with her friends, Vélez consumed 70 Seconal pills and washed them down with brandy. Her body was discovered by her secretary that morning. Vélez was 36 years old at the time of her death. This was in December of 1944, long after Cooper had dumped her—but there were rumors that they might have reconciled before her untimely end…and that’s not all.
31. She Might Have Been Hiding Something
There’s another tragic twist in Vélez’s story: she was actually pregnant at the time. Most believed that the child belonged to her last paramour, Harald Ramond. However, Robert Slatzer claimed that shortly before Vélez’s body was found, he spoke to both Vélez and Gary Cooper. According to Slatzer, both actors confirmed that Cooper could very well have been the father of Vélez’s unborn child.
Some have speculated that Cooper’s rejection of Vélez and their possible child could have been the catalyst to Vélez’s suicide. No matter what happened, it’s a heartbreaking story—which puts it into stark contrast with Gloria Grahame’s story, which is just plain disturbing.
32. Gloria Grahame Kept It In The Family
Gloria Grahame shot to stardom 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 never got a happy holiday ending—far from it.
33. She Went On The Rebound
Just one day after officially divorcing her first husband, actor Stanley Clements, Grahame gave him a brutal insult. She picked up and married her new paramour, the notoriously difficult auteur director Nicholas Ray, who would later go on to direct 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. She was already a few months pregnant at the time. Scandalous, right? Well, that was nothing compared to what came later…
34. She Mixed Business With Pleasure
Like Grahame, Nicholas Ray had been married once before, and actually had a pre-pubescent son named Anthony with his first wife. Still, the new couple was hoping the second time would be the charm for both of them, so much so that they even took a risky step and tried to work together on a film, the 1950s noir In a Lonely Place. Yeah, big mistake.
35. She Didn’t Take Direction Well
Even before filming began on In a Lonely Place, Grahame’s marriage started to unravel in the worst way. She and Ray were at each other’s throats constantly at that point, and everybody involved in the project knew the director and his lead starlet-slash-wife with were on the outs.
36. She Had To Sign A Horrific Contract
Apparently seeking out new ways to control his wife, Ray forced Grahame to sign a disturbing contract with him. 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. But…it honestly got creepier.
37. She Displayed Feminine Wiles
As a part of her indentured servitude to Ray on set, Grahame also had to promise not use her feminine wiles to needle Ray in any way, no matter what her problem was. Or, as Creepy Hollywood Stipulation #500 stated, she couldn’t “nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him.” Then it came to a hugely tense climax.
38. She Kept A Secret On Set
After weeks of this display of utter dysfunction, Ray and Grahame separated even while In a Lonely Place was still in production. Nonetheless, they tried to keep it hush-hush—and this got awkward. Terrified that one or both of them would get the boot from the movie if the truth got out, 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. They divorced soon after.
Thing is, as we’ll see, this wasn’t quite the end of the story. In fact, it wasn’t even the only boy problems Grahame was having at the time.
39. Her Marriage Unraveled
Grahame had an utterly scandalous life, but her most infamous moment was truly jaw-dropping. Although she went through a vicious divorce with her second husband Nicholas Ray, most people don’t know the real, awful reason behind their split. The actress and her husband-director didn’t get along on the set of In a Lonely Place, sure, but it really all unraveled when Ray made a whopping, deal-breaker of a discovery. You’re going to want to sit down for this.
40. She Slept With Her Teenage Stepson
Until the end of his life, Nicholas Ray claimed that one day, he came home and found his wife Gloria Grahame in bed with his 13-year-old son, Anthony. Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about the “deal-breaker” part—Grahame got with her teenage stepson. And if you think that’s the end of that, read on. Somehow, this freaky Mrs. Robinson situation gets a whole lot weirder.
41. She Had A Twisted Romeo And Juliet Story
Today, Grahame’s biographer claims she never slept with the young Anthony Ray, and that Nicholas Ray just made up the accusation to…make himself look good, I guess? But then more damning evidence emerged. In 1958, eight years after Nicholas supposedly caught them red-handed, Grahame and Anthony got back in, er, “touch” and started up a full-blown adult relationship. Double ew. How could this get worse? Um…
42. She Married Her Stepson
Two years after reconnecting, the dubious lovebirds made it official, tying the knot in a wedding ceremony in Tijuana, Mexico—a well-known destination for highly respectable, pre-planned unions. By this point, even Gloria and Anthony knew they were doing something risky, and they actually kept the ceremony a secret for years. Until, that is, the bottom dropped out.
43. Her Secret Got Out
Grahame and Anthony kept their forbidden love under wraps for as long as they possibly could, but the secret leaked in 1962. The revelation (obviously) ignited a blaze of tabloid speculation and scandal-mongering, with widespread denouncements of the union. Regardless, it remained her longest marriage. They were together for 13 years. Still, the damage was done—and when the scandal broke, Grahame’s fading Hollywood star turned into total box office poison.
Just as Nicholas Ray’s son got mixed up in his father’s marriage, Lana Turner’s daughter got mixed up in hers—but instead of an affair, it culminated in a murder.
44. Lana Turner’s Boyfriend Met A Dark Fate
Sure, a lot of these romances led to absolutely horrible splits, but how many led to murder? Lana Turner was an irresistible screen siren—but her romantic history had more missteps than a blind dance studio. In the late 50s, after four failed marriages to three different men, Turner was alone again. That’s when she started getting phone calls and flowers from a mysterious gentleman.
He went by the name “John Steele,” and Turner didn’t even know how he got her phone number. Nonetheless, he pursued her relentlessly and showered her with gifts, and she eventually gave in and started dating him.
45. He Was Lying To Her
Sadly, it seemed that every time Lana Turner reached a high in her life, a crushing low was just around the corner. Soon after becoming involved with this mysterious “John Steele,” Turner found out from a friend who he really was: the dangerous gangster Johnny Stompanato. Though she tried to break off the affair after the discovery, it was just the beginning of a violent and tumultuous relationship.
46. It Was An Impulsive Act Of Self-Defense
With Turner’s life fraying at the edges, it was only a short time before it all unraveled. On April 4, 1958, the most infamous scandal of her career took place. Stompanato came over to Turner’s Beverly Hills home and started an argument where he threatened to kill her, her mother, and her 14-year-old daughter Cheryl. It would be the last threat he ever made.
Cheryl had been listening to the fight from the next room and, terrified that he would make good on his word, got a kitchen knife and violently stabbed him in the stomach. The abusive monster died on Turner’s bedroom floor.
47. Many Thought She Was Behind It
After Stompanato’s shocking end, Turner and Cheryl were instantly embroiled in a media frenzy. The press turned the ensuing court case into a chaotic three-ring circus, with over 100 reporters showing up to the inquest. But, at last, it had something of a happy ending. After just 25 minutes of deliberation, the jury determined it was “justifiable homicide” and Cheryl was let go.
Still, to this day, people speculate that Turner was actually the one who took Stompanato’s life—and covered it up by letting her innocent daughter do the time. Ouch. Still, when it comes to betrayals, it’s hard to beat what Orson Welles did to Maila Nurmi…
48. Maila Nurmi Had Her Heart Stomped On
Many actors spend decades building impressive careers, but all Maila Nurmi needed was one night to create a legend. Most famous as the woman behind Vampira, television’s first horror host, Nurmi’s life was like one long Halloween party—in the best and worst ways. Anything you saw on screen, however, was nothing compared to the heartbreaking horror of her relationship with Orson Welles…
49. She Had An Affair With A Famous Actor
In the 1940s, Nurmi had a messy affair with actor and director Orson Welles, for whom Nurmi fell head over heels. She would travel to different cities to meet with Welles, something she claims she never did for any other man. Eventually, she even became pregnant with Welles’ child. It should have been her dream come true. There was a massive problem though—turns out, her dream was more like a nightmare.
50. Her Lover Abandoned Her
Nurmi’s massive problem? Orson Welles was already married—to legendary actress Rita Hayworth no less! Though their marriage only lasted four years (Welles’s affairs probably had something to do with that), she still held onto him for longer than Nurmi. After she became pregnant, Welles dumped her and left her heartbroken.
Devastated, Nurmi still had her unborn child to think of—and she had to make a terrible decision.
51. She Gave Up Her Child
After giving birth to her child with Welles, Nurmi decided to give the baby up for adoption. Years later, Nurmi’s mother met Welles by chance and told him about the child. His reaction was chilling. Welles apparently gave her $200 and told her to go away. Well, Nurmi got her revenge. Later, she revealed that his “abilities” in the sack were lacking. Nurmi once said, “Orson was not a gentle lover and was possessed of an urgency to complete the act.” Drag him, Queen.
Getting involved with a married man was a sad mistake for Nurmi—but what about getting forced into an unwanted marriage like Sammy Davis Jr.? Yeah, that’s not gonna end well, as we’ll see…
52. Sammy Davis Jr. Had To Marry A Woman He Didn’t Love
In 1957, Sammy Davis Jr. became involved with blonde bombshell Kim Novak. The pair had an absolutely steamy romance—but this isn’t a list about star-crossed lovers, no. It’s about terrible relationships, and that’s what Davis ended up in as a result of his dalliance with Novak. See, she was under contract with Columbia Pictures, and the president of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, wanted to avoid the negative publicity of having a white woman date a Black man.
What he did to end the relationship was downright cruel.
53. His Love Provoked A President
Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn had mob associations and wasn’t afraid to use them to intimidate Davis. Cohn allegedly had Davis kidnapped in order to convince him to stop seeing Novak. That’s one story of how things went down—the other is even more bizarre. Another story has Cohn hiring a gang member to threaten to break Davis’ legs or even remove his one good eye.
But what was outrageous was what he had to do to avoid this punishment: He had to marry a Black woman—and he only had two days to do it. Luckily, Davis had someone waiting in the wings.
54. He Married White
Davis took the threats from the mob seriously, and turned to an ex-girlfriend to help him out. Loray White was 23 years old, divorced, and had a six-year-old child. Davis offered her a lump sum payment to marry him. Another condition of the marriage was that they would agree to dissolve it before the year ended. Obviously, this was no fairy tale wedding—but for White, it was even worse than she ever could have imagined.
55. He Attacked His Wife
While it’s not unusual for a groom to have a few too many at the reception, Davis definitely went way over the edge. He pounded them back and became completely inebriated, likely because he was marrying a woman he didn’t love. That doesn’t forgive what he did, though. Davis was walking his lovely bride to the honeymoon suite and on the way down the hall, he tried to choke her.
Luckily White managed to get free and flee, but Davis’s horrible night wasn’t over yet. It was about to get even worse.
56. He Just Wanted To Live His Life
Later that same night, Davis’ personal assistant went to check up on him. What he found in Davis’ hotel room stopped him cold: Davis had a revolver pointed at his head. Davis looked at his assistant and made a heartbreaking plea. He cried: “Why won’t they let me live my life?” Luckily the assistant was able to diffuse the situation, and Davis divorced White the next year.
It turns out that Davis wasn’t the only Rat Pack member to make one heck of a bad partner—in fact, Frank Sinatra totally outdid him in that category.
57. Lauren Bacall Was At Her Most Vulnerable
The romance between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart was the stuff of Hollywood legend. It definitely started controversially—not only was he 44 to her 19, he was also married to actress Mayo Methot at the time. But Bogey and Bacall quickly proved the naysayers wrong. Everyone who knew them attested that they were not only husband and wife, but also best friends.
Sadly, their union was doomed to a heartbreaking end.
58. They Went Through A Horrible Ordeal
In early 1956, doctors diagnosed Bogart with esophageal cancer. Bacall stayed by his side throughout the nightmare, but sadly, a year later, he passed on at the age of 57, leaving Bacall a widow after 12 years of marriage. But this list isn’t about tragic romances, it’s about Hollywood’s worst relationships—and sadly, that’s what was lurking around the corner for Bacall.
She was lost without Bogart and at her most vulnerable. Someone spotted that vulnerability, and took advantage.
59. He Swooped In
For Bacall, it seemed like the world had stopped, but outside, everything kept spinning, leaving her in a daze. In this state of fragility, someone saw an opportunity and leapt for it—none other than Bogart’s old friend, Frank Sinatra. He stepped in, inviting her to dinners and parties filled with her old group of friends. Bacall, afraid to stop for a second and ponder her loss, reluctantly accepted.
60. She Fell For Him
Over time, this sort-of friendship turned into something more. Lauren Bacall later revealed that even though she knew she was going through the motions, that she couldn’t deny the chemistry between herself and Frank Sinatra. Finally, he proposed—but within days, he coldly broke things off. The reason why was chilling.
61. He Turned On Her
Sinatra and Bacall wanted to keep things quiet, but Bacall had told just one friend about the engagement…who then turned around and told notorious gossip columnist Louella Parsons. 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. Your loss, Ol’ Blue Eyes! If these two megastars couldn’t make it work, who could? Well, certainly not Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio…
62. One Lover Haunted Marilyn Monroe Beyond The Grave
Everyone knows the story of Marilyn Monroe. The beautiful bombshell suffered greatly before her untimely end at the age of 36—and the string of heartbreaking marriages and affairs that preceded it certainly didn’t help her already-fragile mental state. However, one of her relationships was so much more toxic than others.
Monroe’s second husband Joe DiMaggio remained fixated on her long after she was gone—but this was no case of grief and romantic regret. No, it was much darker than that.
63. He Gave Her A Heartbreaking Gift
For 20 long years after Marilyn’s passing, 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. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye when you consider just how he treated her during and even after their relationship…
64. She Got Divorced
After spending just nine months married to Joe DiMaggio, Monroe called time on their relationship. When she filed for divorce, she cited a chilling reason for the split: “mental cruelty.” When Monroe made the announcement to her adoring public, she was clearly distraught and began to cry in front of the crowd that had gathered to hear her speak.
65. Her Ex Stalked Her
Joe DiMaggio didn’t want to end his marriage to Marilyn. He still loved her but he sure had a funny way of showing it. After they divorced, DiMaggio began to stalk Monroe. He’d wear disguises and wait in hotel lobbies, hoping to keep an eye on his ex. Then he went even further. He had Monroe’s phones tapped and would show up to her house at random intervals, just to see if she was with other men. Not cool.
66. He Made A Huge Mistake
In 1954, DiMaggio took his obsession with Monroe to the next level. He got in touch with a private investigator and tried to raid Monroe’s apartment, thinking he’d catch her with another man. However, DiMaggio’s PI wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He and DiMaggio accidentally raided the wrong place and invaded the home of a 50-year old secretary named Florence Kotz. Nailed it, gents.
DiMaggio spent years mourning the woman he was obsessed with—the same cannot be said for Ingrid Bergman’s first husband, who absolutely unleashed his fury after her passing.
67. Ingrid Bergman’s Scandalous Affair Got Her Exiled
Ingrid Bergman was Hollywood’s saintly good girl—but nothing could be further from the truth. Her explosive affair with Roberto Rossellini turned an entire nation against her, and it quickly became the Hollywood controversy. But that was only the beginning. Rossellini wasn’t Bergman’s only scandalous conquest. She kept an affair with a superstar secret her whole life—but after her death, all those secrets came tumbling out.
68. Her Ex-Lover Broke His Silence
Five years after her death, news of one of 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.”
This was when she was married to her first husband, Petter Lindström—and unlike her other exes, he didn’t have anything nice to say about her. In fact, he absolutely unleashed his fury after her passing.
69. Her Ex Sought Revenge
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.
70. He Slandered Her
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. 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. Well, when it comes to spilling the beans in a book, one woman had Lindström beat: Hollywood mermaid Esther Williams.
71. This Hollywood Mermaid Almost Drowned In Scandal
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. After two disastrous marriages and an even more scandalous affair, she found herself enamored by actor Jeff Chandler.
Chandler was on contract with competing studio Universal Pictures and was one of their most bankable stars. Things moved quickly, and Williams and Chandler were on the verge of tying the knot—until he gave her the surprise of a lifetime.
72. She Had A Shock
Esther 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—well, that is, until her autobiography came out.
When it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with cross-dressing. It’s a no harm, no foul situation—unlike the situation between Peter Sellers and any of his paramours. His behavior toward each got increasingly worse—and it didn’t stop when he married his fourth and final wife.
73. Peter Sellers Was Hollywood’s Worst Husband
Peter Sellers always claimed that underneath his colorful roles and funny voices, there was nobody—that he “did not exist” as a person. The truth, however, was so much darker. Sellers was manipulative and cruel to every woman he ever got involved with—but perhaps no one had it as bad as Lynn Frederick.
74. He Was A Champion Fighter
As Sellers got older, his women stayed the same age. In 1977, he married the 23-year-old actress Lynne Frederick in a ceremony practically no one wanted to happen. In short order, they had fallen into the same old cycle of passion, control, and outbursts. The only difference? Frederick’s biddable personality was even less equipped to deal with Sellers than any of his other wives; one friend compared it to a boxing match between “a heavyweight and a featherweight.”
75. He Had A Secret
Still, Frederick tried to make it work with the toxic Sellers. Then, tragedy struck. Sellers suffered a heart attack while visiting London and didn’t survive. Frederick was heartbroken—but there was something she didn’t know. Just before he died, Sellers was hiding an enormous secret. As he always did, he was growing tired of his marriage to Lynne Frederick, and there is some evidence that even in the weeks leading up to his death, Sellers was trying to cut Frederick entirely out of his will.
To his children’s dismay, he didn’t complete the paperwork, and Frederick got the vast majority of the estate anyway. Sure, Sellers was a bad husband—but I think Henry Fonda might have been worse, actually.
76. Henry Fonda Destroyed His Wife’s Life
As a titan of the silver screen, Henry Fonda seemed to have it all. Nicknamed “One-Take Fonda” for his natural talents and charm in front of the camera, his life behind the lens was equally glamorous, with a new woman on his arm nearly every week. Sadly, however, the truth about this Hollywood golden boy is much darker than his “perfect” life seemed—and it all came out in his toxic romance with his second wife, Frances Seymour Brokaw.
77. He Had A Type
In 1936, after a disastrous two-month marriage to starlet Margaret Sullavan, Henry Fonda jumped right back into the dating pool, now with the glamorous but fragile socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw. This was…not the best idea. Brokaw was a recent widow and was still reeling from the loss of her husband. Once more, the emotionally unavailable Ford had hitched himself to a woman boiling over with anger and pain…and this time he wouldn’t get off so easy.
78. His Children Were Famous
Despite this fundamental mismatch, Fonda was determined to become an honest family man, at least at first. He and Brokaw tied the knot and had two children together, the future actors Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda, and Henry even interrupted his shooting schedule on his acclaimed film Jezebel to be at Jane’s birth in 1937. He tried his best in other ways, too, but as we’ll see, things didn’t go according to plan.
79. He Betrayed His Wife
Fonda was deeply unhappy in his marriage with Frances Brokaw, who, it became clear, was suffering from bipolar disorder. It pushed him into the ultimate betrayal. Fonda was unfaithful, carrying on a long-term affair with society girl Susan Blanchard, a hot young thing who was two decades younger than him. And still, that wasn’t good enough for him…
80. He Committed A Cruel Act
In 1949, after 13 miserable years and two children together, Fonda approached 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. Ouch, Henry. His poor wife’s reaction was beyond tragic.
81. He Drove His Wife To An Asylum
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.
82. The Mother Of His Children Met A Tragic End
On April 14, 1950, just 10 days after she turned 42, Frances Ford Seymour perished by suicide 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.
83. He Lied To His Family
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.
84. He Controlled His Children
Fonda’s final turn of the screw was a doozy. In order to completely hide the truth from his children, he cancelled 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.
85. His Wife Gave Him One Final Insult
When the dust settled on Brokaw’s passing, the disturbed woman still managed to haunt Fonda. Before her suicide, 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…
86. He Was “A Complete Narcissist”
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.
As famous narcissists with scandalous rap sheets go, we couldn’t forget the king of Hollywood playboys, Warren Beatty…
87. Joan Collins Was Warren Beatty’s First Victim
Joan Collins is best known for the scandals: Five husbands, a racy tell-all memoir, a 12-page spread in Playboy at age 50. There’s also, of course, her iconic role on Dynasty as Alexis Carrington, but her career goes much further back than that—back to when she was just a burgeoning starlet.
88. She Met A Pretty Rising Star
One night, while dining at a Hollywood restaurant, Joan couldn’t help but notice a handsome younger man looking her way. The man was very confident, brazen even. Collins became intrigued and asked her companion who the young man was. Her friend told her that it was Shirley MacLaine’s brother, who was just getting started as an actor. His name? Warren Beatty.
89. She Played House
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.
90. She Tried To Keep Him Satisfied
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.
91. She Dated A Heartthrob
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.
92. She Couldn’t Wait To Get Away
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.
93. She Confessed It All
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.
Before Warren Beatty was the Hollywood playboy of note, there was, of course, the King of Hollywood: Clark Gable—and what happened when he met and wooed Carole Lombard has become the stuff of Hollywood legend.
94. The King Of Hollywood Left A Trail Of Broken Hearts
Clark Gable could appear opposite a grapefruit on screen and manage to manufacture some chemistry out of it—and far too often, that chemistry percolated off-screen as well, even when he was, ahem, wearing a ring on his finger. However, he left one co-star in particular alone—at least at first. When Gable appeared with Carole Lombard in No Man of Her Own, he didn’t make a pass at her. Knowing his reputation, this surprised her.
As Lombard said: “We did all kinds of hot love scenes, and I never got any kind of tremble out of him at all.” Was he really that cool…or was he hiding something?
95. He Met His Match
Years later, Gable and Lombard crossed paths at a ball. This time, despite the fact that he was married to Maria Langham, he didn’t hide how he felt. In fact, he came right out with it and asked Lombard back to his hotel room. The starlet’s response was utterly legendary. Lombard asked him, “Who do you think you are, Clark Gable?” She may have had a witty comeback, but from that moment, the pair were rarely apart.
96. He Moved Quickly
Langham tried to make it difficult for Gable by filing for divorce in California, which would mean that he’d need to wait before marrying Lombard. Eventually, she relented, and the courts granted Gable and Langham a divorce. During a production break from Gone With the Wind, Gable finally wed Lombard—just 13 days after his divorce. The man didn’t waste any time!
97. They Helped Out
By 1941, many US stars had been galvanized to join the effort for WWII, and Lombard was among them. In fact, she was so enthusiastic that she sent a letter to the President volunteering her husband for active duty. He replied and told the celebrity couple that their efforts could be better used at home. Lombard tirelessly began organizing and appearing at bond drives.
Travel took up most of her time—but sadly, catastrophe was lurking around the corner.
98. He Lost Her
In January 1942, Lombard had traveled to her home state of Indiana to appear at a bond drive. She was returning home to Los Angeles with her mother and her press agent when a tragedy of the most devastating kind struck. Lombard’s plane crashed, taking the lives of everyone on board. When Gable found out, he rushed to the mountain in Nevada where it had happened.
His reaction was truly heartbreaking.
99. He Was Grief-Stricken
Friends had to restrain Gable from scaling the mountain where the crash had occurred. When the search team finally located her body, he proclaimed through sobs: “Oh, God! I don’t want to go back to an empty house.” He proceeded to reside at the Encino home they had shared for the rest of his life. Few people knew it, but there may have been a tinge of guilt to his horrible grief…
100. She Was Rushing Home For A Sad Reason
When Carole Lombard perished in a horrific plane crash, Clark Gable was devastated—but few know that he may have played a dark role in her passing. At the time, Gable was filming a series of movies with starlet Lana Turner, and soon, the gossip columnists began to spread rumors that the two were having an affair. Fearing the worst, Lombard immediately made plans to fly home to Los Angeles, and Gable—but she never made it.
101. He Put Himself In Harm’s Way
After losing Lombard, Gable was utterly heartbroken, and since Lombard had been traveling to see him, he blamed himself. When the tormented actor enlisted to fight in WWII, many saw his eagerness to put himself in dangerous situations as a self-inflicted form of penance for his role in Lombard’s untimely death.