The Siren is tied up at the moment, but she remembered this tidbit from Joan Collins' Past Imperfect and decided to share. Yes, I own Joan's memoirs. In hardcover. And I love Joan. You gotta problem with that?
Anyway, we had mentioned the Diane English remake of The Women but the Siren frequently forgets that this is the second remake of the Luce/Cukor classic. The first remake was The Opposite Sex, from 1956. Joan took the part of Crystal Allen, which Crawford had played with such panache. But Collins encountered some problems that Crawford didn't report, including a horrendous skin reaction to the soap flakes used in the bubble-bath scene. The Siren hasn't seen this version, one reason being that it's supposed to stink. (Update: The Siren has it seen it now, and it's fun. Collins is a hoot.) But that doesn't stop her as much as the presence of Hollywooden actress (thanks, Mr. Wolcott) June Allyson in the old Norma Shearer part.
Collins, however, has a tale to tell regarding Allyson and why it's those "sweet" types you really need to watch out for -- not to mention anybody in a Peter Pan collar. Time came to film the big confrontation between June and Joan.
June was a tiny lady, about five foot two in heels. She was famous for her cute blond bob and her Peter Pan collars. She was petite, delicate and ladylike, so I was not concerned that she had to slap my face after the following dialogue.
June: By the way, if you're dressing for Steven, I wouldn't wear that. He doesn't like anything quite so obvious.
Crystal: When Steven doesn't like what I wear I take it off!
...And June hauled off and belted me. This little lady with her tiny hands had a punch like Muhammad Ali! I felt as if a steamroller had hit me. Something fell from my face and hit the floor with a loud clatter--my teeth? Oh, God, no. Please don't let her have knocked out my teeth? My head was ringing, as the slap had connected with my ears, and I couldn't hear a thing. Stars danced before my eyes and I staggered to a chair and collapsed.
"Cut--cut, for Christ's sake, cut!" screamed director David Miller. "What the hell's going on here?"
June burst into tears and collapsed into another chair. Makeup men and dressers rushed to the set with smelling salts and succor.
I put my hands tentatively to my mouth. Thank God, a full set of teeth still, but what flew off me? The wardrobe lady solved the mystery, retrieving the long rhinestone earrings which the force of June's slap had sent spinning. But any more shooting was out of the question. On each of my cheeks was forming the perfect imprint of a tiny hand! Branded, if not for life, for the two or three days it took for the welts to go down. June was desperately sorry, and it took longer to calm her down than it did me. Luckily, when they saw the scene on rushes it was unnecessary to reshoot the slap--it had complete authenticity!
Is it just the Siren, or does it seem that there was something else going on here? It isn't hard to cheat a slap. The Siren herself learned how to do it. Perhaps Allyson was so tiny that nobody thought it worthwhile to teach her how. Or perhaps Allyson had vast reserves of repressed anger that came roaring out at that moment.
Or, deep down inside, she wasn't sweet at all. Hmm...
As for Joan, not everyone has to be a talent for the ages, and the Siren just finds Collins enormous fun, from her taste for younger men to her pronouncements on why you should always wear foundation (that's makeup, guys) and her endearingly frank memoirs. She's a unique combination of highfalutin' and down-to-earth. Not every diva would cheerfully tell how Howard Hawks, who liked his women slender in life and on screen, rebuked her for indulging in too much food when shooting Land of the Pharaohs in Rome. Collins, who'd been up the previous night wolfing pasta and zabaglione, batted her eyelashes and claimed to have eaten only three hard-boiled eggs for two days. Hawks snapped, "Well you better cut it down to two hard-boiled eggs."