|Sitting Pretty (1948)|
|Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Becall and Clifton Webb|
The handwritten guest list is interesting, reflecting the fact that Webb knew everybody. Filling nine full pages, these worksheets were presumably made by Webb's secretary who also lived in his 11-room adobe house on Rexford Drive. In fact, there are two lists. The first is a preliminary roll call marked with notations, indicating the whereabouts and availability of the invitees. The second is the final tally, showing who would be stopping by only for cocktails, and those who could stay for dinner. Organized in alphabetical order, the first page begins with A-B-C celebrities like Fred Astaire (his movie Easter Parade was released the day before this party), Humphrey Bogart, and Gary Cooper. (The list is easier to read if you click to enlarge.)
The second page includes famous actors, such as Bette Davis (a strongly scrawled “no” by her name), Betty Grable, Clark Gable, and Cary Grant. Movie mogul Sam Goldwyn can also be found among the G’s.
The luminaries listed below include gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Harold Lloyd, the silent film actor known for his daredevil comedy stunts. Also on page three is London-born actress Ida Lupino who married producer Collier Young (page five) in 1948, the same year she became an American citizen.
The fourth page reflects a particularly wide range of talents, such as actor Gregory Peck, dancer Ginger Rogers, composer Cole Porter, producer David O. Selznick, and Otto Preminger who directed the 1944 film noir classic Laura for which both he and Webb received Oscar nominations.
Also shown above is the name of Mike Romanoff, a restaurateur who claimed to be “Prince Michael Dimitri Alexandrovich Obolensky-Romanoff,” the younger brother of Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Around 1940, this genial conman opened Romanoff’s, a restaurant on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, less than two miles from Webb’s home. Romanoff wrote a Hollywood gossip column for the Bell Newspaper Syndicate that he reprinted on the inside of his daily menus, such as the one below from 1949, showing Romanoff standing in front of his restaurant.
On page five, the survey of potential guests ends with studio executive Darryl Zanuck, the hundred and eleventh entry. His name is followed by some last-minute additions. Beginning on the sixth page, the guest list is recast, showing a definitive rundown of those who were coming.
Although “Bogey” was sailing and could not attend, his wife of three years, actress Lauren Bacall, was able to join the party. Curiously, she is referred to as “Mrs. Humphrey Bogart” on this informal list, while actress Greta Garbo is simply called “Garbo.” Not surprisingly, Garbo came alone.
Naturally, this list does not include all of the prominent actors of the era. One such person is Fred MacMurray who became well known for his role in the 1944 film Double Indemnity. (When I once asked Kate MacMurray why her father was not invited to this party, she told me that he used all of his spare time in those years working at the vineyard he had recently purchased in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.) However, from a historical perspective, the most important name missing from the list is that of Ronald Reagan. In several ways, 1948 was a pivotal period for Reagan whose movie career was in decline. In June, he was divorced by his first wife, actress Jane Wyman. Then a liberal Democrat, Reagan spent much of that year campaigning for President Harry Truman and senatorial candidate Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.