Dove Tails — Lee Lunches with Thelma Todd and Visits Jean Harlow on the Set

Lee Heidorn’s adventures in Hollywood continue. In this installment, she lunches with Thelma Todd and Madge Evans, and visits Jean Harlow on the set of Riffraff.

Lee picks up the story from here:

A few days later, I spent an afternoon at the Hal Roach Studios with beautiful Thelma Todd.

The ever-smiling Thelma Todd

We had lunch in her dressing room and were gaily getting acquainted when Mae Busch, who was once a famous star, came in. She had a featured role in the picture. She is very sweet and friendly. We chatted there for awhile and then went down on the set. Thelma was wearing a dark wig as she plays the Queen of Gypsies in The Bohemian Girl, which they were were making with Laurel and Hardy as the stars. When we got to the set, Thelma asked me if I’d like to have my picture taken with her and Laurel and Hardy, and of course I wasn’t averse, so she got the boys and the still cameraman and the picture was taken, and it certainly turned out swell. I saw Hal Roach and Tony Moreno, just as handsome as ever, sitting in a corner, and a lot of gypsy extras in gay costumes lolling around. Between scenes, both Thelma and Mae would come over and visit with me, so I had a very gay afternoon.

Lee (center) with Inez Courtney (L) and Thelma Todd


Several days later, we were to meet Thelma Todd at the Russian Eagle for lunch, but when we got there, we found they had closed prior to moving to a new location on Sunset Blvd. So we lunched at Al Levy’s instead. Just as we were ready to start eating, Thelma asked us if we had ever met Inez Courtney, and when we replied in the negative, she asked the waiter for a phone and called Inez and asked her to lunch with us. Inez had just had her tonsils out and so couldn’t eat much. She joined us just as we were having dessert. She’s a card and we had lots of laughs between her and Thelma. Leo Carrillo occupied the next booth so as he was leaving, he stopped and chatted for a few minutes. He’s very nice and we enjoyed meeting him. We stayed there chatting for awhile and then went outside and took some pictures of them and then bade them goodbye.

Thelma and Inez standing in front of Thelma's car. Less than three months later, Thelma was dead.


The next afternoon, we lunched with Madge Evans at the Brown Derby.

Madge Evans, dressed for luncheon.

Madge is one of the sweetest girls we met, and we enjoyed being with her so much.  She’s so doggone natural and friendly that it was easy to talk with her. We had lots of fun discussing mutual friends. Saw Karen Morley sitting right across from us and Jack Durant and Molly O’Day. Also, Sy Bartlett and Dick Arlen were lunching together. Alice White had bawled me out because I hadn’t spoken to him (Sy, White’s husband) before, so when I finished lunch, I went over and said hello. Naturally he introduced me to Dick Arlen, and it was really a thrill because he has been a favorite of mine for years, and he’s just as nice in person as he is on the screen. I was surprised that Sy Bartlett had remembered me. After leaving them, I joined Madge and Doris, and we walked over to I. Magnins.

Lee and Madge Evans


The next afternoon was one I had been looking forward to ever since our arrival — our visit with Jean Harlow. Most of you know that Jean and I have been dear friends for many years, so that by the time Ethel Ley (Jean’s secretary) and Millie Wist came for Doris, Ellen and me, I was in quite a dither. Ethel’s husband had gone for Ruth and Marion so we met them at the studio. Arriving there, we went directly to Jean’s lovely dressing rooms and there she was, smartly dressed in a dark blue tailored suit, a tiny blue hat trimmed in white parked on her gleaming white hair.

Jean Harlow, one of Lee's favorite movie stars

She greeted us enthusiastically and then Ethel introduced her to the rest of the girls. We talked on many subjects and when someone mentioned diets, Jean said it was time for her to get on her soapbox, for that is one subject she is enthusiastic  about–especially rational diets where you don’t have to starve yourself. Our visit ended too soon and then only because she had to sit for a natural color cover portrait for which she had to have a special makeup put on. We planned to get together again with her and her dear mother, but they were both taken down with the flu, and as soon as she was up and able to get out, she had to return to work, and worked night and day to make up the time lost. But, she’s planning a trip East soon, so it won’t be long before we see her again. When we left her, they took us over to her set where she was making Riffraff. There we glimpsed  J. Farrell McDonald, Spencer Tracy, and on the street outside the stage, we saw Frank Morgan and Freddie Bartholomew.

Another thrill was provided for us the next day, for we were the guests of Joan Blondell at the Warner Bros. First National Studios in Burbank. Maurice Leo, Joan’s swell secretary, called for us and upon arriving at the studio, we went to the Green Room, the restaurant used by the stars and writers, where we met Joan. She looked extremely lovely in a grey tailored suit. While lunching, we saw Glenda Farrell, whom we were later introduced to and who is a swell gal.

Joan Blondell

After a delicious meal, we went over to the set where Joan was making Miss Pacific Fleet, and though we  were there for three hours, Joan didn’t do anything but sit and wait. Maurice took us over to the Meet the Dutchess set, where we watched Louise Fazenda and Warren Hymer do a couple of scenes.

Returning to Joan’s set, we were watching Hugh Herbert do a scene or two when we saw Minna Gombell come on the set. I must mention here that Minna and I have been exchanging telephone calls, but without any success in contacting one another. She is a grand person and we made plans to get together when she came back from San Diego, where she goes to be with her husband whenever she is not working. Luck wasn’t with us there, however, for as soon as she returned, she began work again and we couldn’t get together, but we did have several nice telephone conversations.

Joan invited us up to her house to see her baby, but due to Joan’s mother’s illness and Joan’s trip to Palm Springs with the baby, it was an invitation that was never realized. 

To be continued ….



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