Chapter Six: Hollywood
(This chapter details Sullivan’s life as a Hollywood gossip columnist and filmmaker; he moved from New York to Hollywood in 1937.)
Everything seemed bright that Saturday in September as Ed, Sylvia, and six-year-old Betty left New York to begin their new life in Hollywood. Ed was going out to cover the kingdom of glamour for the paper with the largest circulation in America; it was a plum assignment and at age thirty-five he was at the top of his game. The three of them boarded the deluxe Twentieth Century Line in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, carrying only the essentials for the three-day trip. Their belongings had been sent along to the house Ed had rented in Beverly Hills. The three-bedroom Spanish-style bungalow at 621 North Alta was modest by comparison to many in the elite neighborhood, but it allowed Ed proximity to the stars he would cover, not to mention the status of a Beverly Hills address.
Ed filed columns during the trip out, wiring them back to New York from cities along the way. As closely as he scoured the passengers for a scoop, he found nothing more substantial than a tidbit about Pandro Berman, a young RKO film producer in the next compartment who had just delivered the first print of Katherine Hepburn’s Stage Door to New York.
By the second day of the trip the inactivity was weighing on Ed, who was used to a non-stop schedule. He sat in the dining car and chatted with the chef, J.A. Day, whose trout and turkey dishes Ed raved about, but the banter didn’t stem the brooding: “As I devoured them, I recalled the time in 1918 when I ran away to Chicago to join the Marines and worked in Thompson’s Cafeteria in the daytime and the Illinois Central freight yards at night…Pass me another trout, please, Mr. Day, I’m feeling morbid.”
As Ed’s beat on Broadway had been the nightclubs and theaters of the Main Stem, on the coast he would haunt the movie sets and celebrity nightspots of the film colony. The studios, of course, were eager to give him access, knowing his column anecdotes would stimulate interest in upcoming pictures.
On his first few days on the job he received a whirlwind tour of the movie lots. On the Twentieth Century Fox lot, he met nine-year-old Shirley Temple, then in her second of three years as the country’s top box office draw, having charmed audiences with 1935’s The Littlest Rebel and 1936’s Poor Little Rich Girl. Ed reported that the “curly-haired youngster” took breaks from filming Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to satisfy the California state law requiring four hours of school a day. He said hello to composer Irving Berlin, having lunch in the Fox commissary while working on Alexander’s Ragtime Band, and on the MGM lot he watched a Christmas scene being filmed for Navy Blue and Gold, starring Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore.