When Mike Connolly Gossiped…

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Connolly
Mike Connolly, 1952. Photographer: Seawall. Image reproduced with permission of the Wilkerson Archives.

HAILED IN 1954 by Newsweek magazine as “probably the most influential columnist inside the [Hollywood] movie colony,” Mike Connolly today is all but forgotten. He is someone who deserves to be remembered, however, and on several counts. As gossip columnist for the Hollywood Reporter from October 1951 to his death from a kidney malfunction following open-heart surgery in November 1966, he was a witness to and participant in over a decade of sometimes tumultuous Hollywood history. He was privy to most of Hollywood’s secrets during those years, and as Tinseltown’s premier gossip columnist was often the first to divulge them in writing publicly through his “Rambling Reporter” column. Virulently anticommunist, he used his column to harass and hound those with known leftist connections or sympathies. He was also gay and, despite living in an era of tight censorship regarding anything gay in Hollywood’s movies and of legal and social sanctions against overt gay activity in real life, he delighted in subtly dishing the gay Hollywood scene for readers in the know and those able to read between the lines of his carefully crafted sentences.

    In his anti-Communist zeal, Connolly was willing to take on even the biggest names in Hollywood. Here is a sample of his writing:

March 25, 1960: A “fink,” in the parlance of Frank Sinatra and of Albert Maltz’s pet propagandists, Pravda & The Daily Worker, is a “capitalistic parasite.” … In other words, a strikebreaker. … Sinatra, who has always professed to despise finks, has switched his affections by signing the biggest fink in town, Albert Maltz, to script The Execution of Private Slovik. … Communist Maltz, y’see, is no longer a member of the striking Screen Writers Guild; nevertheless, he IS a scripter. … And since Sinatra hasn’t signed a Writers Guild of America contract, it makes Maltz a sneaky, switchhitting, strikebreaking FINK. … And not Sinatra nor any commie apologist can wish this sick man Maltz out of his stinking kettle of fish.

    Author Val Holley has brought Mike Connolly to life again in his recent biography, Mike Connolly and the Manly Art of Hollywood Gossip (McFarland, 2003). In the following interview, Holley comments on Connolly’s complex, problematical legacy as a gay gossip columnist in whose life sexual orientation, Hollywood glamour, and politics intersected in an often disturbing mix.

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