When Joan Collins wrote an article bemoaning the demise of the macho leading man in Hollywood, she let slip a fascinating story about being spanked by Robert Mitchum in The Big Sleep. It’s a scene which didn’t make it into the final movie (she doesn’t explain why or even mention its’ absence) so no one knew about it…until now.
In fact Bring back the brawn reads like a Who’s Who of some of the most notorious spankers in cinema history. It’s as if she’s calling for the return of actors who have no qualms about putting troublesome temptresses across their knee.
So I’ve posted some extracts from her article below and added a few notes and pictures to make the subtext more obvious. My notes are in italics and the Robert Mitchum story is highlighted in bold.
I’ve provided links for the scenes mentioned where possible, but there are quite a few that I couldn’t track down.
One of the delicious advantages of living in Los Angeles is the plethora of wonderful classic movies that are constantly aired on all the cable channels. Most of the really old ones from the Thirties to the Fifties are put on in the afternoons or very early mornings, so our trusty machine has to work overtime to record them. What strikes me again and again about these movies is how hunky and masculine the majority of the male stars were.
Boom Town was on recently, with the extremely macho co-stars Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Although Gable was by far the better looking and taller (he kept referring to Tracy as ‘Shorty’ in the film) Spencer Tracy was his equal in the he-man department.
Spencer Tracey achieved the notable feat of taking Elizabeth Taylor across his knee in a publicity still for Father of The Bride.
In Forsaking All Others Clark Gable took on the redoutable Joan Crawford
When Chross posted the scene one comment could almost have been left by Joan (Collins) herself:
“Excellent scene. It also shows something more. Just look at the confidence in Clark Gable as he picks her up to spank. He shows a true manly approach. It is very different now. It you look at men trying to do say a birthday spanking they look completely unsure and nervous.”
In Across the Wide Missouri, Dr Gable prescribed a sore situpon for a sassy squaw who was suffering from a severe case of respect deficiency disorder.
The same goes for most of the male movie stars from the golden era of Hollywood: Anthony Quinn dancing the tango with Rita Hayworth in Blood And Sand oozed masculine sex appeal, as did his co-star Tyrone Power.
In “The Long Gray Line” (1955) Tyrone Power gives Maureen O’Hara a smack on the bottom.
There are so many examples of great-looking guys from that era who were entirely superior to the heartthrobs of today in the testosterone stakes. To me, many of these modern actors look a bit wimpy.
Scientists, it seems, have come to an unusual conclusion about the phenomenon of today’s ‘pretty-boy’ actors compared with the he-men of yesteryear. It seems that as the nation’s health improves, women’s tastes in the men they fancy softens.
When health is poor, women go for rugged, tough-looking men, who they expect will give them strong babies. Hence, I suppose, in the Thirties and Forties, during the Depression and the war, they flocked to see Douglas Fairbanks, Victor Mature, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and, of course, Mr Uber-Macho, John Wayne .
It’s most surprising that Douglas Fairbanks never dished out a spanking or two as far as I know.
In the period swashbuckling romp, The Flame and the Arrow (1950), Robin-Hood-style bandit Burt Lancaster threatens upper-class brat Virginia Mayo with a spanking.
John Wayne’s spanking exploits are too numerous to mention here, but I’ve dug out a picture of Mr Uber-Macho himself in full flow that would no doubt please Joan.
But when a nation’s health improves, and life expectancy rises, women become attracted to more feminine-looking men, who appear to have gentler natures to match their little-boy faces.
It’s an odd theory, but universities have done their research with more than 5,000 women, and it seems that Zac Efron beats Sean Connery by a long shot: modern women prefer more cutesy-looking movie stars such as Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, stars of those Twilight vampire movies.
These boys cause squeals of delight from young girls and are mobbed whenever they appear in public. However, as a young girl, that wasn’t the kind of man I went for at all, and I’d say it was the same for most of the women of my generation. I wrote off asking for autographed pictures to many of the post-war British ‘Idols of the Odeons’, most of whom were tall, dark and broodingly handsome.
When these photographs came back, they were proudly stuck under my school desk lid – I had James Mason, Stewart Granger and Maxwell Reed . In fact, so taken was I by the latter that I foolishly married him when I was 18.
Sean Connery gave Daniela Bianchi a fine one smacker in From Russia With Love (1963).
James Mason threatened Julie Newmar with a spanking in The Marriage-Go-Round (1960). And as I posted last week Stewart Granger paddled the beautiful Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche (1952)
Soon afterwards, I was lucky enough to appear in a series of films with the most attractive and masculine-looking male stars: Gregory Peck in The Bravados was not only extremely handsome and a great actor, but he was also one of the most elegant and gentlemanly of all, without ever losing his masculine appeal or his tough side.
In Beloved Infidel (1959) Gregory Peck took Deborah Kerr over his knee and applied a single spank.
When I worked with the fabulous Robert Mitchum in Michael Winner’s remake of The Big Sleep, I was quite nervous because of his tough-guy reputation, and I expected to be black and blue from the fight scene we were supposed to do.
I’d just finished a film with another hard man – Jack Palance – who’d roughed me up severely in our fight scene. He was a bit of a bully and pushed me around savagely, no doubt to prove how butch he was.
But Mitchum, who epitomised the strong, silent type, was as gentle with me as if he was playing with a kitten. He had to wrestle me to the floor, fling me across the room, grab my hair, twist my neck and then, the grand finale, throw me across his knee and spank me.
Robert Mitchum and Joan Collins in The Big Sleep
Well, I didn’t feel a thing throughout it, and when I asked him how he had managed to make the fight so realistic without leaving the tiniest mark on me, he replied in his laconic manner: ‘Honey, I’ve been doin’ this for about a hundred years – I’m an actor who knows how to play rough, and I’m not about to hurt an actress just for a goddamn scene.’
Another actor who fancied himself as a real Neanderthal was Richard Burton. I played opposite the pockmarked Welshman in Sea Wife, and he immediately made no secret of the fact that he was not only the ultimate seducer, but the leader of the pack as far as hellraisers were concerned.
He admitted to me that he would ‘f*** a snake if it was wearing a skirt!’ He also told me that if I did not succumb to his charms, I would ruin his record of sleeping with all his leading ladies.
I realised that Burton was one of that rare breed – a true macho movie star. But in no way was I tempted, although I saw other women fall like ninepins at his feet.
There was no spanking in the Burton/Taylor version of The Taming of the Shrew in spite of the poster suggesting otherwise.
Another huge, manly star graced Dynasty for one episode. When Charlton Heston walked onto the set, everyone kow-towed in deference. One of the handful of great leading men of the Fifties and Sixties, he received the respect he deserved.
Many of these actors had an aura of ‘don’t mess with me, kiddo’. I met Humphrey Bogart at a party soon after my arrival in Hollywood and he scared me to death. However, when I got to know him better he was a charming family man.
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any evidence that Charlton Heston or Humphrey Bogart ever spanked a woman on screen or even made a threat.
There’s a big difference between the male stars of bygone years and today’s slightly metrosexual-looking actors. Johnny Depp, Leonardo Di Caprio and Sean Penn are all wonderful actors, but they are chameleon-like when it comes to their place on the masculinity meter.
(And none of these modern stars have so far got past zero on the spank-o-meter.)
So who is the sexiest, most masculine male star of all time? I think it has to be Marlon Brando. In a series of spectacular performances, he put his indelible mark on what defines masculinity. Unforgettable in a dirty white T-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire, wearing a beat-up old jacket in On The Waterfront and clad in leather motorcycle gear in The Wild Ones, his will always be the most iconic and desired of images.
And what of today’s stars? Who will top the list in decades to come? Well, there’s Jeff Bridges, who well deserved his recent Oscar. There’s George Clooney, and then there’s George Clooney and, oh yes, don’t forget George Clooney.
But I’m afraid, boys, that’s about it.
C’mon then George, you’ve impressed Joan, now show us what you’re really made of and give your next leading lady a taste of something truly masterful!