Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is a story that I have never heard before....I am not passing judgment on anyone nor am I condemning anyone's sexual orientation. I just think the facts are somewhat bizarre and humorous... and interesting.

CONFIDENTIAL MAGAZINE seemed to treat Van Johnson's sexuality more delicate that others of a similar nature. (They wanted to OUT Rock Hudson but Universal-International sold Rory Calhoun down the river and they published the story of Rory's juvenile crime history and dumped the Hudson story.)

When Johnson signed up with MGM in 1942 Benny Thau, MGM"s personnel chief, asked Johnson's agent, "Do we have a situation here?" There was something about Johnson that had spurred questions about his sexuality from the very beginning of his career. "Later there had been rumors that Johnson was carrying on an affair with actor Keenan Wynn, his best friend. Johnson, an awkward introvert, spent much of his time with Wynn and Wynn's wife, Eve. .....Questions later circulated about the nature of this menage a trois and many Hollywood insiders assumed or became convinced that Van's relationship with Keenan had a sexual component." (I find it hilarious that Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn might have been lovers.)

Keenan's father, comic Ed Wynn, reflected on the confusion. "I can't keep them straight," he said in a 1946 interview. "Evie loves Keenan. Keenan loves Evie. Van loves Evie. Evie loves Van. Van loves Keenan. Keenan loves Van."

CONFIDENTIAL reported that Johnson had revealed his homosexual tendencies when he was called before the draft board in 1941. (Later the army did an investigation to determine whether Johnson was faking his homosexuality to evade the draft.) Van told the FBI that he was making an effort to return to normal living and was continuing his "desperate" effort to rid himself of his abnormality.

But it took a a tragedy in Van Johnson's life to make him "succeed." The tragedy was an automobile accident which left Johnson with a fractured skull and "miracle of miracles" occurred. Johnson not only recovered his health but his heterosexuality and eloped to Juarez, Mexico in January 1947 with Eve Wynn, his best friend's wife.

In 1999 Eve finally explained the circumstances..."They (MGM) needed their big star to be married to quell rumors about his sexual preference and unfortunately I was the only woman he would marry. Mayer (Louie, head of MGM) decide that unless I married Van, he wouldn't renew Keenan's contract. I was young and stupid enough to let Mayer manipulate me. I divorced Keenan, married Van."

Eve Wynn separated from, reconciled with, and in 1962 finally divorced Johnson. Her son, Ned Wynn, claimed the final act was precipitated by Van's affair with a boy in the cast of THE MUSIC MAN, in which Johnson was performing.

Well into his eighties, Johnson, was still somewhat in denial about his sexual orientation and would kid himself, intimate friends stated, that he was never a homosexual. " Van would rather ignore an aspect of his life that might cause controversy or damage his image."

I must admit that Johnson was pretty darn good, and I enjoyed his performance, as Holley in "BATTLEGROUND." And, who can forget Keenan Wynn as Colonel 'Bat" Guano in "DR. STRANGELOVE?"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Friends I've been neglecting my blog for some time now. Had to return and share my thoughts on "THE GLORY GUYS" written by the great Sam Peckinpah

Found THE GLORY GUYS on TH!S the other day and tivo'd it. Finally watched it....remembering that I saw it when I was in college....probably the last time. Disappointing and not very good as the leads could have been much better. Tom Tryon is okay …he was a fan favorite as Disney’s Texas John Slaughter….but Harve Presnell is totally out of his element and totally lost in the saddle as an Army scout that looks like he needs a back brace to sit up straight….and that wig? Nuf said. At any moment I expected ol’ Harve to try and sit tall in the saddle and start singing THEY CALL THE WIND MARIA(H) (Found it spelled both ways.)

Saving grace is Slim Pickens as good as ever and maybe even better. Just love that guy…..even when he side-kicked B-Western and the last of the singing cowboys, Rex Allen. James Caan had a supporting role but played an Irishman with an irritating accent. What almost caught me by surprise was that it was written by Sam Peckinpah....but then I remembered he was supposed to have directed it and was replaced by Arthur Laven of "Levy, Gardner, Laven" fame. (Apparently Sam wrote the script early on from the novel THE DICE OF GOD which was a fictional version of Custer at The Little Bighorn, while still doing scripts for Gunmoke and before he started "working" for LGL and then later sold in to them.)

Between 1965 and into 1966 Sam's money situation became so bad that he actually sold his rights to THE WESTERNER to Dick Powell's FOUR STAR ENTERPRISES for a measly $10,000. AND, according to Garner Simmons in his excellent book on Sam, "PECKINPAH A Portrait in Montage," the only project to be produced during this time with Sam's name on it was a cavalry western THE GLORY GUYS which was owned by LGL." Sam hated the movie as directed by Laven (for many reasons) but mainly because he felt the final film shifts the focus away from the Indian-whites conflict promulgated by a Custer-like General (Andrew Duggan) and concentrates on a love triangle involving a captain (Tryon), a scout (Presnell) and a fallen woman (Senta Berger). Simmons sums it up thusly..."It remains at best another example of the lack of communication between Peckinpah and Levy, Gardner, Laven" I agree 100 percent with Sam on this one....the love triangle totally, and I do mean totally, messes up a great western script that had a lot of potential going in.

One thing I did not remember is that Riz Ortolani did the score, and sadly to say it is very disappointing. Even though Riz wrote the music between scoring several spaghetti westerns his music here is pedestrian and sounds like any typical 50’s to 60’s Hollywood western score. Nothing to write home about, or to go off humming. If Ortolani had done a spaghetti score or at least aluded to one it would have made the movie at least some-what more tolerable. Thanks goodness when a movie is tivo’d you can fast forward through a lot of the drek.