Glitz; Tales of Hollywood’s Golden Era

By Ravi Basnayake

It’s 2001 and at 90-years old, Mildred Shay, a former actress nicknamed “Pocket Venus” –  better known for her glamorous social life, her frankness, and her affairs among gossip columnists, is dressed in a cocktail mini-dress, jungle-red nails, make-up on. True to her reputation at the Belgravia Post Office where she is known for holding men captive with Vodka Martinis, she flirts with Austin Mutti-Mewse (at the time 28 years old), who just arrived on a research mission for the Daily Telegraph. She immediately began sharing with Austin her tales during Hollywood’s Golden Era. And this time, she came across the right person. Hollywood’s Golden Era and its black and white movies are actually what Austin and his twin brother Howard were raised with. As teenagers, they even started sending fan letters to the actors of that era. Delighted by the recognition of the two young boys, some of the celebrities did eventually reply. Then started unlikely friendships between those same stars who were then in their prime and the two boys born almost half a century later.

Mildred Shay on the set of The Women_hair style test by Sydney Guilaroff_front and back

As Austin commented: “Mildred Shay was one of 125 strong female cast who appeared in George Cukor’s 1939 comedy classic ‘The Women’. Mildred recalled life on set as tense. Mildred’s dearest friends Joan (Crawford) and Norma (Shearer), didn’t get along. Rosalind Russell didn’t like Mildred at all – with reason, Mildred had been sleeping with Rosalind’s beau Freddie Brisson”

“Oh Austin! let me tell you” said Mildred. “It was hell on set even the dogs on the picture were bitches!”

James Stewart and Mildred Shay scene still Made for Each OtherMildred Shay pictured with co-star James Stewart on the set of “Made for Each Other” 1939

From the most famous and iconic ones such as Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra who everyone had heard of to the quite forgotten ones who were confined to minor roles and sometimes not even credited, the Mutti-Mewse brothers were genuinely interested in every single one of them. Likewise, it is with pleasure that these actors shared their tales considering that their ego had become a little fragile over time. After all, fame doesn’t always last forever and not all actors end up with a comfortable lifestyle as we might think. And “I Used to be in Pictures An untold story of Hollywood” from the Mutti-Mewse brothers perfectly describes the life of the stars they befriended and the life they have experienced before and during their prime and once the cameras stopped. Loss of fame, fortune and false friends is not something unfamiliar to most of them or any kind of celebrity indeed. This beautifully illustrated book with glamourous signed portraits is sharing their stories during the golden era and opens at the same time, the door to an unseen Hollywood.

Mildred 'Made in England' Shay Calvary & Guards Club 2004 (Elena Hill 2002)   Mildred Shay, Calvary & Guards Club 2004 (Elena Hill 2002)

“Pocket Venus” on the other hand, had such an important place in Austin’s heart. His family became her family and his friends became her friends. Although her frankness and her character already made her someone special, what’s more touching, is her actual story, covered this time by Austin-himself in his latest book “Pocket Venus: The Rise, The Fall & Rise of a Hollywood Starlet”. From the tragic loss she went through at a young age to her tumultuous public life and despicable behaviours she endured among famous playboys, it is an emotional and remarkable piece from one of her closest friends, celebrating her life marred by tragedy.

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