It’s Oscars week in Hollywood as the film industry is in a full frenzy in anticipation for Sunday’s Academy Awards
One character from the tennis world that is among the most associated with old-school Hollywood is 1931 Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood.
In his posthumously published memoir THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS… AND OTHER TENNIS TALES FROM A BYGONE ERA ($15.95, New Chapter Press, available here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wimbledon-Final-That-Never/dp/0942257847/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361372335&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wimbledon+final+that+never+was ) Wood relays numerous stories from old school Hollywood, including having his hand prints “temporarily” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and anecdotes of some of old school legends from Hollywood including Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Charlie Chaplin, “Gone with the Wind” producer Dave Selznick and Grace Kelly among others.
The following a story from the chapter called “Groucho Gets Bagged” about comedian Groucho Marx.
In this case, Groucho Marx, the world’s greatest dish-it-outer, showed he could take it. I had arrived at Fred Perry’s and Ellsworth Vines’ newly acquired Beverly Hills Tennis Club from my Inyo County sulphur property to play an exhibition, along with Frank Shields, to open the club, which Fred was to head up. Groucho and Charlie Chaplin, two tennis dedicatees, were also going to put on a show of doubles with us (those days it was all for fun and friendship.)
I thought it would make an interesting entrance to bring Groucho onto the court in my sleeping bag which I kept in my gear for mining trips. So we put him in the bag, closed the zipper, and Frank slung him over his shoulder and carried him out. I had neglected to tell Groucho that the bag was laden with our refinery’s sulphur dust which, while not harmful, would cause me to gush a tear or two before going to sleep.
While the umpire was making the announcement, there were stirrings and muffled sounds emanating from the bag, but I motioned to Frank to ignore them until the umpire was finished. When Groucho was finally released, tears were streaming down his cheeks, and he thought I had gassed him for life. He grabbed a racquet and chased me around the court as the crowd howled in laughter.
Another tale from Wood includes beating King Kong’s girlfriend Fay Wray in ping pong using a slipper as a racquet, as excerpted below.
I once ran across King Kong’s main girlfriend Fay Wray leaving the General Motors Building in New York City, radiant in an ankle length sable. I grabbed her arm and we waltzed across to The Plaza for a cup of tea, babbling away about happy Hollywood memories. Fay said, “When I’m in New York I look at the Empire State Building as though it belongs to me or is it vice-versa?”
In her autobiography On the Other Hand she discusses not only her role as the heroine in Merian Cooper’s classic production of King Kong, but also tells the tale of the ping pong party she hosted at which I beat her using a bedroom slipper for a paddle!