It may seem like we live in the golden era of celebrity partying but, in thinking that, we are all so very wrong. There is no one who partied harder than the glamorous stars of Old Hollywood, not even Linsday Lohan or Paris Hilton. Ol’ Marilyn Monroe makes LiLo and Paris look like librarian nuns. Even Grace Kelly – who became an actual princess – partied harder than Lohan or Paris did.
Of course, it doesn’t seem like Old Hollywood stars were getting too wild, mostly because this partying was done during a time when The Hayes Code was in effect. The Hayes Code was a set of morality rules that all films had to follow. The Code even had a time limit on how long onscreen kissing could last, so obviously nudity was out of the question. Due to this, the movies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s may seem very prudish compared to the films today. Seeing these stars, who got down off-set, in such buttoned-up roles makes one think that they were just prudish and virtuous as their characters but, trust us, they were not.
Another factor that leads us to think that these Old Hollywood stars were not party animals is the fact that paparazzi worked much differently back then. They did not capture every low moment the way paparazzi of today does. There are no photos of Judy Garland passed out from drinking too much, but it happened, y’all. Also, without social media or the online news cycle, everyone heard about these stars’ scandals much less.
So, if you think that the stars of Old Hollywood didn’t rage, you’re so, so wrong. Below are 15 Old Hollywood stars who would drink any of our current stars under a table.
15. Judy Garland
Just about everyone knows that Judy Garland’s drug use lead to her untimely and unfortunate death. It’s one of the most tragic Hollywood stories, but that is, many times, the case with using drugs and working in Hollywood. While Garland’s drug use may not have been of the fun party girl variety, it’s still worth mentioning as her overdose was quite the Hollywood scandal.
Upon being cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, MGM demanded that Garland slim down, because you know how nice Hollywood is to women. Garland was given pills to lose weight, as well as “pep pills” for energy. Because of the pep pills, Garland then had to take sleeping pills to get any sleep. And so, she started a horrible cycle at a very young age – a cycle she would never recover from no matter how hard she tried. Garland soon become an alcoholic on top of her drug use, which is usually a very lethal mixture.
14. Peter O’Toole
Peter O’Toole, who you may remember from his most recent role as Pope Paul III on The Tudors, just passed away in 2013. In his later years, he totally had his shit together, but that was not always the case.
Since O’Toole quit drinking in 1975, most of us cannot remember a time when he was hardcore raging but, for a better part of his life, he was out of control. At a Lawrence of Arabia cast dinner, O’Toole apparently got so drunk that he was throwing bottles of champagne at the wall and grabbing everyone’s ass. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with O’Toole. Apparently, his former wife, Siân Phillips, was so used to him disappearing for days at a time while he was on a bender that she wasn’t worried when he was missing for nearly a week. O’Toole reemerged on Christmas Day with a brand new car wrapped in a red ribbon for her. Sweet, right? Well, that gift seems extremely sweet, but shortly after he wrecked the car by drunkenly driving it… into the back of a police car.
Oh, there was also the time when Peter O’Toole drunkenly took his date to see a play, only to realize, as he was sitting in the audience, that he was starring in the play and was supposed to be on stage. Guys, Peter O’Toole was so drunk that he forgot he was in a play! How does that even happen?
13. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor lived a rather large life and she is remembered as many things – a sex symbol, an Oscar-winning actress, an AIDs activist, a woman who really liked to get married, a lover of jewelry, and a perfume entrepreneur. However, girlfriend also partied. A lot.
I’ll get the obvious out of the way: Elizabeth Taylor had seven different husbands and eight different weddings, as she married, divorced then remarried Richard Burton. One of her husbands was Conrad Hilton Jr., which would have made her Paris Hilton’s great-aunt. Amazing, right? Also, Taylor infamous broke up the marriage of her friends Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher’s parents), and married Eddie Fisher for five years, which was a long marriage by Taylor’s standards.
The marriages were one thing, but Taylor also liked to get down. She supposedly did drugs with James Dean, Michael Jackson, and Motley Crue bass player, Nikki Sixx. Taylor also frequented Studio 54, the infamous New York City club in the ’70s. Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, and anyone else who was cool in the 60s and ’70s were also on Studio 54’s VIP list. There are also reports that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s two marriages were nonstop parties, during which they drank themselves sick nearly every day.
12. William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst’s parties were so spectacular that people actually died at them. No, seriously, people died at Hearst’s huge parties. I ain’t joking.
William Randolph Hearst wasn’t necessarily a filmmaker per se. He made his fortune by founding Hearst Communications, the mega media company that still owns several newspapers as well as magazines like Cosmopolitan, Town and Country, and Esquire. So, Hearst was rich AF when he fell for the young actress Marion Davies – tale as old as time, right? Hearst was married to Millicent Willson, but that didn’t stop him from having an affair with Marion Davies from 1918 until his death in 1951. I mean, is that not the longest affair ever? That wasn’t the worst set up for Davies, as Hearst would financially back her films then force the critics at his newspapers to give her stellar reviews. Seems like a win-win.
Hearst also wooed Davies by throwing the parties to end all parties at the Hearst Castle, an estate that’s over 90,000 square feet – yes, you read that correctly – 90,000 square feet. To put that into perspective, the White House is 54,900 square feet. Basically everyone in Hollywood came to these parties, where there was enough booze to end the world. Okay, so here’s the part where someone died. In 1924, Hearst had a party on a boat, which Thomas Ince, who was a filmmaker, attended. Ince supposedly left the boat due to indigestion, but died of a heart attack days later. Weird, right? Word on the street was that Ince had been dead the minute he got off the boat and the doctors who declared his cause of death were paid off. The unofficial story about what happened is that Hearst caught Davies hooking up with Charlie Chaplin and shot Chaplin, only the stray bullet hit Ince instead. Whatever the case, William Randolph Hearst threw such huge parties that people died. That’s pretty baller.
11. James Dean
The phrase “live fast, die young” usually brings James Dean to one’s mind, mostly because he really did live fast and die young. After having taken Hollywood by storm, Dean passed away at just 24 years old. He truly was the live fast, die young type.
James Dean made several television appearances before blasting into superstardom with his first film role in East of Eden, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. He went on to star in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, leaving behind a legacy of just three film roles. Despite his short list of film credits, James Dean has endured as one of the most famous legends of Old Hollywood.
In his short time in Hollywood, Dean also partied with the best. Long after Dean’s death, Elizabeth Taylor claimed that she would “snort it” with the brooding actor. There have also been rumors that James Dean and Marlon Brando were in a twisted S&M relationship, in which Dean was the servant and Brando the master. Of course, they are both long gone so there’s no concrete way of knowing if these rumors are true or false.
Besides the drug use and sexual escapades, auto racing was another hobby of James Dean’s and it would eventually lead to his death. (Why don’t people take up safer hobbies, like knitting or petting puppies?) In 1955, Dean crashed his car in a fatal and infamous accident. In his short time on top of Hollywood, though, he engaged in some wild extracurriculars.
10. Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s most critically acclaimed work was his novel In Cold Blood, which many consider the very first nonfiction novel. However, his novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s is perhaps what he is best remembered for today. The novella saw much commercial success and the film adaptation, which starred Audrey Hepburn, would also be a huge commercial success, living on to be one of the most beloved and fashionable films of all time. The fact that Truman Capote was a literary legend was cool and all, but what we want to talk about is his infamous party – the Black and White Ball. This was a party so legendary that it now has its own Wikipedia page. That’s huge.
In November 1966, Truman Capote threw a party to honor Katharine Graham, who led her family’s newspaper, The Washington Post, for quite some time. In fact, she would later be the one to have the go ahead to investigate Nixon, thus leading to the breaking of Watergate. So, Graham was a big deal, but the party was a bigger deal. Capote invited all of his elite, rich, and famous friends. The beautiful people of Hollywood, the intelligent people of the literary world and the powerful people of business all attended. There were, like, so many Kennedys there. All the Kennedys, you guys. For the lavish party, Capote rented out the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza, because duh. Dinner was served a midnight and 450 bottle of champagne were laid out. Capote reportedly spent $16,000 on the event, which would be, like, $100,000 or something today with inflation.
9. Grace Kelly
Because Grace Kelly became the Princess of Monaco – like, actual royalty – a lot of her scandals got buried. But, girlfriend got around.
Grace Kelly was one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced (pun intended) the silver screen. While stories differ, many believe that Grace Kelly lost her virginity, while she was a teenager, to either a friend’s father or a friend’s husband. I personally like to believe it was the friend’s father, since Grace Kelly suffered from some pretty severe daddy issues, as her father – an Olympian – withheld love and approval from her while very obviously favoring her more athletic siblings.
Kelly then went on to sleep with basically all of her costars, starting with High Noon’s Gary Cooper, who was nearly 30 years her senior. She also had an affair with Mogambo’s Clark Gable, again nearly 30 years her senior. She then had an affair with Dial M For Murder’s Ray Milland, only 25 years her senior this time – but, still daddy issues. This affair with Milland was the one that nearly derailed her career, as Milland’s wife threw him out of the house. Grace Kelly was written up as a homewrecker and a nymphomaniac in the gossip columns.
8. Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks was an It Girl before being an It Girl was even a thing. The popular silent film star is even credited with starting the bob haircut craze, which is now heavily associated with the flapper look. Brooks is also considered as one of the most iconic flappers of the time.
Being that Brooks was a silent film star, many of her roles came about before the Hayes Code was in effect, meaning she played blatantly sexual characters. (Seriously, check out silent films, they were pretty scandalous compared to the films of the ‘30s and ‘40s.) When Brooks became a huge silent film star, she also became a staple guest at the parties of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies – y’know, the parties that killed people. But, after achieving this fame, Brooks decided she hated the Hollywood scene and fled to Germany to make films with G. W. Pabst, one of which was Pandora’s Box, in which Brooks plays a highly-sexualized woman and even portrayed one of the first lesbian scenes.
As Hollywood moved towards the Hayes Code, Brooks became an outcast for her sexualized persona. While she still partied with the rich and famous, she was no longer being cast in films. Since she still needed an income, she became a call girl. I mean, she was super hot and has access to a bunch of rich dudes, so why not? One of her lovers was a young William S. Paley, the founder of CBS, who would send Brooks checks every single week until her death.
Brooks also engaged in lesbian relationships, supposedly having a one-night stand with screen legend Greta Garbo. This was all during a time when bisexuality, homosexuality, and promiscuity were not accepted as a norm in society.
7. John Barrymore
Drew Barrymore may be a Hollywood party legend for going to rehab when she was like 14 years old, but her grandfather knew how to party too. John Barrymore was a classically trained actor, who was considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. He started his career by starring in theatrical productions of Shakespeare productions. When films started being made with sound, his stage voice was considered an asset and he made a transition to film.
Much like Drew, it’s been said that John Barrymore was an alcoholic by the time he was 14 years old. (What is up with this family drinking at such a young age?) By the year 1936, Barrymore was drinking so much that he needed cue cards to remember all of his lines. Hollywood started only casting Barrymore in roles of has-been alcoholic, which, tragically, is what he had become.
6. Mae West
Mae West is remembered as both an actress and a sex symbol. She was basically Marilyn Monroe before Marilyn Monroe existed. The fact that she was most popular during a time when Hollywood was very buttoned-up makes her popularity all the most impressive. To get around the Hayes Code, West often delivered highly sexual dialogue in the form of a double entendres.
Mae West caused controversy by being openly sexual and stating that she didn’t necessarily believe in marriage, though she had been secretly married at the age of 17. West kept Paul Novak as her lover until her death. Novak claimed that he felt he was put on earth to take care of Mae West, which says a lot about her sexual charms.
The reason Mae West made this list is because of the stellar quotes she’s said. My favorites are below: “When I’m good, I’m very good. When I’m bad, I’m better.” “Between two evils, I generally like to pick the one I never tried before.” “I’ve been in more laps than a napkin.” “There are no good girls gone wrong – just bad girls found out.” “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”
5. Bettie Page
Since we’re talking about sex symbols, it seems like a good time to bring up the notorious Bettie Page. Bettie Page is remembered as a pinup queen. In fact, she may be the most recognizable and enduring pinup star. While she may not have said as many hilarious and fun quotes as Mae West, Bettie Page was just as sexually charming. I mean, she charmed the whole world though her pinup photos.
Shooting to fame, Bettie Page appeared in Playboy as Playmate of the Month in 1955. That same year she was named Miss Pinup Girl of the World. When it came to pinup stars, she was it. While her more popular images are that of the traditional pinup, Page also starred in films and photos that were more S&M than pinup – think whips and chains. After looking at Page’s bondage photos, a 17-year-old boy apparently killed himself. This prompted the FBI to investigate Bettie Page and the pornographic photography industry. When a judge eventually ordered the photographer to burn the negatives of the sultry Bettie Page photoshoot, Page infamously replied, “I’m not indecent, I will not plead guilty to it! You’ll have to charge me with disturbing the peace, too!”
Bettie Page also posed in very public nude photoshoots that took place in parks. Like, imagine just walking your dog and seeing naked Bettie Page. The alcohol use and drug use Page dabbled in during her life may have been, unfortunately, linked to the paranoid schizophrenia she was diagnosed with later in life. Still, Bettie Page was so sexy that she caused an FBI investigation. Who in Hollywood can say that today?
4. Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn was a film star of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but he had been more well known for his off-screen activities, which included womanizing, chain smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Flynn was also a frequent guest of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies’ parties, but he was once asked to leave a party because he was too intoxicated. Yes, Flynn was too drunk for even Hearst’s murder parties. Flynn also partied with Fidel Castro, hosting parties on his yacht that were often fueled by alcohol, cocaine, and sex.
Flynn had such a way with women that the popular term “in like Flynn” was coined to describe getting lucky, because the guy would be in like Flynn. Flynn even once bet the film crew $500 that he could bed the leading lady, Olivia de Havilland. No word on if he won the bet, though.
3. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is probably the biggest sexual icon that the modern world will ever see. Between her highly publicized marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, her legendary affair with JFK, and that moment in time when she wore a white dress and stood over a street grate, her sexuality is mythological at this point. There will simply never be another woman whose onscreen and off-screen sexuality draws such public interest.
While Marilyn Monroe’s life came to a tragic end because of a drug overdone, her real love was champagne. Monroe loved drinking champagne. If she was tired in the afternoon, she didn’t turn to coffee, but rather champagne to perk her up. It’s even be reported that, at least once, Monroe took a champagne bath, requiring 350 bottles to fill the tub. Monroe was supposedly toasted off champagne when she sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK, so basically champagne is to thank for one of the sexiest moments in history. Cheers to champagne.
2. F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, is remembered as one of the greatest novelists in recent history. Fitzgerald also spent a lot of time working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, even punching up the Gone With the Wind screenplay. Aside from writing, Fitzgerald’s favorite thing to do seemed to be drinking.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are the most iconic couple of the ‘20s. Young, indulgent, and rebellious, they were the roaring ‘20s in a nutshell. When they were kicked out of the Biltmore Hotel for being too loud, they celebrated by wildly spinning through the hotel’s revolving doors for a half hour. The pair was also known for jumping in fountains whenever the occasion struck. Zelda’s drinking and smoking in public, as well as her risqué jokes, were considered controversial at the time, but it was what made her into an iconic figure of the ’20s. Oh, and of course Fitzgerald and Zelda were invited to Hearst’s parties. All of this behavior made Fitzgerald the toast of the literary world – well, that and the fact that he was an amazing writer.
Unfortunately, their hard and fast lifestyle caught up to the both of them. Fitzgerald died at the age of 44 from complications linked to his alcoholism, while Zelda spent the latter part of her years in a mental institution before passing away as well.
1. Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart is remembered for his many roles in which he played a hard-boiled cynic, most notably in the film Casablanca, which is considered by many to be the best film ever made. Bogart’s onscreen personas were generally chain-smokers who enjoyed a stiff drink and Bogart was pretty much the same off-screen.
While Bogart’s smoking and drinking habits probably contributed to the esophageal cancer that took his life in 1957, Bogart’s drinking actually helped him out occasionally. While filming The African Queen, Bogart was the only person who didn’t get dysentery. Why, you ask? Well, because Bogart didn’t drink the water while on location. He just drank scotch. No water, just scotch. He survived off drinking straight scotch all day, every day.
In 1950, Bogart had this to say about drinking, “The whole world is three drinks behind. If everyone in the world would take three drinks, we would have no trouble. If Stalin, Truman, and everybody else in the world had three drinks right now, we’d all loosen up and we wouldn’t need the United Nations.”
I think I’ll just leave it there with Bogart’s quote because he might be on to something. Maybe we’re just three drinks away from world peace.