Producers Joan Kramer and David Heeley documented the careers of some of Hollywood’s greatest legends, including Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart. Their portraits of these colorful acting icons brought them up close and personal to the stars. The duo’s new tell-all memoir In the Company of Legends , from Beaufort Books, captures the hilarious and moving stories about the most powerful names in Hollywood. In anticipation of the book’s release on April 16, and an April 7 TCM documentary special featuring interviews with Kramer and Heeley conducted by Robert Osborne, here are some of the most fascinating and intimate facts we learned about our favorite old Hollywood stars.
Fred Astaire was known as a perfectionist. He once insisted that production company RKO pull all prints of one of his films after he watched it in the theater and noticed something he didn’t like.
The gown that Ginger Rogers wore for the dance number “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” in the film Follow the Fleet was made of hand-sewn bugle beads that weighed close to forty pounds. The loose sleeves would hit Fred Astaire in the face and made him feel “groggy.” If you look carefully, you can see him flinching.
Initially Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn didn’t get along during the filming of On Golden Pond, but they quickly developed a close relationship. Hepburn played Fonda’s character’s mother in the film.
Peter O’Toole on meeting Hepburn: “The first time Kate walked into my dressing room, I was pissing in the sink. Of course, I then had to pretend I wasn’t. And she pretended she didn’t notice.”
Hepburn’s favorite ice cream was Sedutto’s mocha chip. She liked to eat it with lace cookies crumbled on top.
Joanne Woodward considered husband Paul Newman a “star,” but thought of herself as a “character actress.”
Woodward and Newman preferred sitting in the back row of the movie theater and often whispered during the show, much to the chagrin of fellow audience members who shushed them.
Paul Newman liked to prank call his friends.
Frank Sinatra’s bathroom was decorated with framed cartoons that depicted the singer and the mafia.
Sinatra used to sneak onto the soundstage at MGM to watch Spencer Tracy at work.
Elizabeth Taylor kept a photo of herself at her heaviest weight on her refrigerator “as a reminder.”
Taylor’s makeup artist and hairdresser each charged $1,500 per day.
Judy Garland had a close friendship with President John F. Kennedy. He would never let her end a phone call with him unless she sang a few bars of “Over the Rainbow.”
Johnny Carson was an avid tennis player.
Hepburn met Michael Jackson during the filming of On Golden Pond. During a weekend stay with the Hollywood actress, Hepburn taught Jackson how to wash his clothes at a laundromat. After seeing him in concert, she admonished him for his sexually suggestive dance moves.
Nancy Reagan had a crush on James Stewart during her teenage years.
Stewart never went anywhere without his old cowboy hat. He wore it in almost all of his westerns.
Kathryn Sermak, the personal assistant who lived with Bette Davis for seven years, addressed her as “Miss D.”
Lauren Bacall always insisted on sitting at Table Number 1 in the Russian Tea Room, because it was where the restaurant seated all the well-known stars and personalities.
Pasta, tomato juice, bananas, and chocolate were some of Audrey Hepburn’s favorite foods.