This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, in which I share excerpts from my collection of old magazines.
In 1961, several stars saw their Hollywood careers or lives rebound from periods of struggle. Modern Screen acknowledged these comebacks with a special eight-page feature in the annual Hollywood Yearbook, published in 1962.
June Allyson and Dick Powell
The first two stars to appear on the list reportedly had a personal rebound rather than a career rebound: June Allyson and Dick Powell “just couldn’t say goodbye” and were having an “unofficially official” reconciliation after their near-divorce in 1961. The mag was right: Allyson and Powell never finalized their divorce, opting to remain married. They stayed together until Powell’s unfortunate death from lung cancer in 1963.
Eleanor Powell was named “Comeback of the Year” by the mag. Nearing the age of 50, after taking time away from her career to raise her son, she re-dedicated herself to her craft. After many ten-hour rehearsal days and a strict diet/workout regimen, she returned to the stage. Though she never took on another major film role, she continued to work on the stage and made some television appearances.
Payne is not an actor I’ve ever read much about, so I was surprised to learn from this feature that his “rebound” of the early ’60s was a comeback after being hit by a car! “I almost don’t recall being struck,” Modern Screen quotes Payne as saying. “It was a nightmare – the kind that makes you wake up cold and clammy, then pinch yourself to make sure it’s a dream. But this was no dream. One minute I was walking, exhilarated by the frozen vapor they call winter here. The next minute, I opened my eyes and I was lying in the gutter.” Facing the long and painful recovery process after the accident, Payne didn’t give up, instead making plans for films he would take on after he was rehabilitated. He didn’t return to the screen in 1961, but the mag applauds him for persevering through a very difficult time.
Like Payne, Kathy Nolan faced physical tragedy. She was injured after being thrown from a horse on the set of The Real McCoys. She spent months in the hospital, but is quoted as saying “I believe I’ll come through all right, and be stronger than ever.” She did revive her career after the accident, continuing to work in television. Her most recent credit is from 2008.
A few years prior to the publication of this feature, Judy Garland’s career was going through a rough patch. The mag reports that her performance quality had decreased, and that all of Hollywood was talking behind her back. After taking some time away, by 1960 she was back to the stage and the screen, performing numerous concerts and appearing in Judgment at Nuremberg. Her career was, once again, “flying high over the rainbow,” Modern Screen reports.
“You can’t keep a good man down,” Modern Screen writes of Red Skelton. His “clowning,” the mag reports, had taken a toll on his health, landing him in the hospital. After a few weeks in the hospital and a doctor-ordered period of rest, Skelton jumped right back into performing. “Maybe it proves that laughter is best medicine in the world – for comedians, too!,” the feature asserts.