There’s no business like show business.
Tell me about it.
My name is Grenade Curran and I’ve been in the movie, film, and television business since I was a child. In fact, that’s how I got my start and that’s how I got the chance to work with some of the greatest Hollywood screen legends of all time. When most people hear names like Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, and Walt Disney, they think of glitz, glamour, and hot spotlights. When I think of those names, I can remember having my hair tousled by Clark Gable when I was a child, working hard to impress Fred Astaire as a background dancer on Singin’ in the Rain, and giving Walt Disney my opinion on decor options for what would become Disneyland.
To me, all of those Hollywood screen legends and industry powerhouses are more than the characters they played on screen or the movies they produced – they’re people who I knew, worked with, and grew to care about. That’s why I decided to write “In Character: My Life On and Off the Movie Set in Hollywood”. I wanted to write this book so I could share stories about some of the greatest Hollywood screen legends to ever live, as told from my perspective working on set or just visiting as old family friends.
While my mother and father both worked for major Hollywood studios growing up, it was my mother who was largely responsible for helping me get my break in the movie business. My father worked as a cameraman and gained notoriety in his own right as a master with the hand-held camera and at shooting promotional pieces. He was the personal camera man for Clark Gable and Roy Rogers. He and Clark also had a photo promotion business together.
My mother, worked for a couple of years as a dancer before launching a successful career in the scenic art department of MGM. My mother’s dancing carried over into my life, and when I was very young my mother taught me dancing before enrolling me in formal dance classes where I excelled. I worked as a child actor in a few movies and as a young adult auditioned as a dancer for several movie scenes. One of those movies opportunities that I was ready for when it came knocking was when Gene Kelly cast me in a dancing part for “Singin’ in the Rain”, and I was also able to work alongside Hollywood screen legends like Fred Astaire. As I got older I transitioned into behind-camera work in production assisting and management and furthered my career.
In addition to sharing stories from my years working with and knowing the biggest Hollywood screen legends of their day, my book is also full of advice for life and living. One of the greatest things about having a career as long and successful as mine – aside from all the wonderful people I met and got to work with – is finally having a chance reflect on my experiences and to share some of my lessons learned with those who are willing to listen. When you work in any industry as long as I worked in movies, film, and television, you learn a thing or two about people and about the type of person you want to become. As a man who has and always will hold his morals near and dear to his heart, I can tell you that the movie business isn’t an easy place to keep your morals intact – but it’s possible. Want proof? Well you’ve got to read the book.
To read all about my personal experiences with Hollywood screen legends and industry titans, purchase my book, “In Character: My Life On and Off the Movie Set” at GrenadeInHollywood.com.by Marta Mac
There’s no denying the power of nostalgia. It can make us feel things and remember things that we haven’t felt or remembered in years. This is perhaps the greatest draw for the modern film buff who is still deeply in love with the Golden Age of Hollywood. Whether you were around to experience all of those wonderful movies for their original release or you’re just discovering them for the first time on the Internet, if you love the Golden Age of Hollywood and all of the names and faces that went with it, then you’re going to love my book, “In Character: My Life on the Movie Set in Old Hollywood”, based on my many decades in front and behind the camera.
Acting has always been in my blood, and it was the work of my parents that got me the foot in the door I needed to build a successful career for myself. With a professional studio dancer and set decorator for a mother and a professional cameraman for a father, my childhood memories are full of time on Hollywood sets and studio lots. Maybe it’s because the film industry runs through my veins, or because I was surrounded by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood celebrity from a very young and impressionable age, but there is no other work I ever could have imagined doing than work in movies, film, and television.
Being born at a time when the Golden Age of Hollywood was in its infancy, I find myself fortunate to have actually worked in the industry as a child actor during such an iconic time in American cinema – and to have continued working on both big screen and silver screen productions as the industry progressed beyond the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The child of a dancer, my mother taught me everything she knew about dancing when I was only a boy, and I would go on into private lessons to refine my skills. Looking back, I love the opportunities that my dancing education afforded me, and I applaud my mother for having the foresight to start my training as early as possible. It was from those lessons that I gained the skill needed to dance for films like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin’ in the Rain, and Silk Stockings.
Shifting gears as I entered adulthood, I moved away from onscreen work to focus more on production assisting and management. Some of my major motion picture credits as a member of production staff include the Professionals, Planet of the Apes, The Great Bank Robbery, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. I was also fortunate enough to have worked on a number of legendary television shows like I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, F Troop, Lost In Space, and Star Trek.
What I want to share with you are some of my favorite stories and insights from my years working during the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond. I’ve got a story for every hand I’ve ever shaken, and dear reader I’ve shaken a few. Let me tell you what I really think about Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Walt Disney, Dick Van Dyke and many more.
Learn more about my time in the movie, film, and television industry – and peek behind the curtain of the Golden Age of Hollywood – with my book “In Character: My Life On the Movie Set in Old Hollywood”.by Marta Mac
While at MGM growing up on the studio lot, on the sets, in offices, in the lunch room commissary, and backlots, basically wherever I would observe these people working, I quickly learned the term “A BIT OF BUSINESS.”
This “Bit of Business”, when the camera was rolling, was the scratch of the nose, a touch of the head or neck, pushing the hat up and forward, taking the hat off and itching the head while holding the hat, wiping the forehead with the back of the hand, taking the right hand across the body and itching your left back shoulder, rolling up your shirt sleeves, pulling and adjusting your shirt in and out of your pants, a cough or clearing your throat, adjusting your glasses and frowning, pulling your mouth to the side, biting your lip, chewing on a piece of straw, the angle and positioning of your eyebrows, the movements and glances and most important the “direction of your eyes.” That would be your understanding and knowing the positioning and movement of the camera. Sometimes, you can see vestiges of the bit of business in old Hollywood memorabilia, which we offer on this website.
That “Bit of Business” that the character actor did during the shooting of the scene could literally take that scene away and steal it from the star. I observed this many, many times to the annoyance of the lead actor. Sometimes, to the point of the actor halting the scene and demanding that the scene be done all over. Our old Hollywood memorabilia comes from some of the best films Hollywood had to offer.
At Warner Bros. studios, I watched Alan Hale Sr. purposely do a bit of business while doing a scene with Errol Flynn. Errol may not have noticed or let it be known to the crew and the director what Alan was doing because they were friends and he let him get away with it. They probably discussed it privately off the set later, however. I don’t have any direct proof of that, but I do have some old Hollywood memorabilia that may make you take a second look yourself.
I watched the same thing at Warner Bros. Studios on another film with Hume Cronyn, stealing a scene with Henry Fonda. I saw Burgess Merideth annoying and stealing a scene from Kirk Douglas. Growing up, several times I noticed Gabby Hays doing the same things in scenes with his cowboy star and pal, Roy Rogers. I surmised Andy Divine doing his bit of business with Duncan Ronaldo. “The Cisco Kid,” Leo Cario, did this with Gene Autry; and, the bad boy actor Grant Withers gave a bad time to Bill Elliot “Wild Bill Hickock”. Some of these famous actors feature prominently in our site’s old Hollywood memorabilia.
A bit of business became an essential part for actors to portray and set themselves apart and established them as a known and recognized character. As I grew up over the years in the industry, I found myself taking advantage of and doing skillfully my own bit of business in every day conversations, in my school classes, and working professionally within the film business.
We all can learn and observe a bit of business that we see in each other. Most of the time, it can be for fun. It sets your own personal character apart from the other guy. Then, you can take advantage of doing it and being successful in your own business. When you do it, you can check your own success in that performance, even keep score, which causes you to perfect your own abilities, which I have done, and seen in my own accomplishments. So you may not see any value in a character actor’s bit of business, but I have seen and observed it work very successfully. You might be surprised when you try it yourself.
Visit throughout the site to look for old Hollywood memorabilia and great, old-time Hollywood stories. I’m glad to share my memorabilia and my insights with you.by Marta Mac