Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

TINTYPE TUESDAY: Hollywood Knits!

Not long ago, while nursing an ankle I managed to break in three places during one fall down the stairs, I took up knitting. This was my first effort:

knitting-scarf-jgs

“Oh, my,” you may be thinking. “What a lovely… um, collar… thing?”

It was supposed to be a scarf. I still don’t know how it got that way. I only know that once it started wrapping itself around my thigh, I thought it wise to stop before it either cut off the circulation or had to buy me dinner. (Happy ending, though! In a rare non-judgmental moment, the cat decided he loved it.)

If only one of Hollywood’s classic stars had been there to rescue me. Because those babes knitted like fiends.

Joan Crawford was so adept she could wield her knitting needles as weapons. As George Cukor was shooting Norma Shearer’s close-ups for the dramatic dressing-room scene in The Women, Crawford was running lines with her off-camera. And clacking away on an enormous afghan throw. When Shearer asked the director to “kindly tell Miss Crawford her knitting needles are distracting,” he asked her to cut it out and apologizebut she only half-complied. Setting aside her mountains of yarn, she quipped, “I’ll send her a telegram.”

But usually it was nerves that got her needles going. In 1949, a reporter for Motion Picture magazine noted that, during his visit to her home, Crawford “knitted furiously and distractedly”: “Because she was knitting, her left foot did not jiggle—an old nervous reflex—a carry-over from the shyness with strangers she has never quite overcome. Later, when she stopped her work, it would. Her hands, also subject to small nervous mannerisms, she controls by three simple expedients: the knitting, folding them under her arms, or sitting on them.”

“I took my knitting along to the set so I could keep my hands busy,” Crawford once recalled, “because I was so nervous.”  She said while filming What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with Bette Davis, she “knitted a scarf that stretched clear to Malibu.”

Though if knitting relaxed her, it was sometimes hard to tell.

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Bette was no slouch with a needle either.

Sometimes one knitting Bette wasn’t enough: Here she is with Audrey Scott, her double on Now, Voyager.

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Davis even got to show off her needle skills in that film, as well as others like The Letter and Phone Call from a Stranger.

She and other actresses also knitted up a storm for the troops during World War II, as Mary Pickford had during the Great War.

Ingrid Bergman was another star who carried her knitting basket everywhere from her earliest days in Hollywood—and didn’t stop for primping.

Here she is using Hitchcock as a human yarn rack…

knitting-bergman-hitchcock

…and calmly purling away while working on her last film with husband Roberto Rosselliniin the midst of their divorce.

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Meanwhile, from the looks of that yarn bowl, Greer Garson enjoyed knitting two-bedroom apartments.

Those pesky costumes didn’t slow these ladies down…

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…nor did nosy leading men.

Some co-stars clacked away together between takes…

…or took a few tips from the pros.

Judy was in a class of her own, though, knitting while performing.

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Here’s to all the Hollywood ladies who wove fabulous yarns off the screen as well as on!

knitting-ohara

TINTYPE TUESDAY is a regular feature on Sister Celluloid, with fabulous classic movie pix (and often a bit of backstory!) to help you make it to Hump Day! For previous editions, just click here—and why not bookmark the page, to make sure you never miss one?

11 Comments

  1. This is great. Terrific bunch of photographs. Thanks!

    • You’re more than welcome, Ted! I had a lot of fun putting it together!!

  2. Hala

    You’re so funny! This is brilliant, I loved it. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Hala!! It’s wonderful to hear from you again!!

      • Hala

        I’m always popping by – this is one of my favourite places!
        Lots of love to you ☺❤

      • Lots of love right back at you, dear!! I was on hiatus for a while but hope to be writing much more now…

  3. This is a great collection of photos, some I’ve never seen before 🙂

  4. Joyce! Pardon me, I’m crazy about Ms. Grenfell.

    Omigosh! You made me laugh with the tale of your misfortune and adventures in Wool Land.

    The pictures and commentaries made my day. I’m not a crafty person, but you should see the socks we get from my sister at Christmas!

    • I could send you a, um, “scarf” to match the socks!! And yes, Joyce!! I love how on “Stage Fright” she’s billed as “Lovely Ducks”!! 🙂

  5. Such a fun post! It seems somehow remarkable that so many women used to be skilled knitters, when nowadays it seems to be only certain sections of people with arts-and-crafts tastes.

    I can knit, though I’m not very good at it yet; but on the other hand I’ve been crocheting since I was about eight and am pretty experienced at that. You can often catch me making that kind of needle fly on a cozy evening or in a spare moment (sometimes even when watching TV if it’s something I can keep only one eye on!).

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