Meeting the Hollywood Greats
This month’s blog is taking you on a nostalgic trip back to Hollywood in the 1940’s and 50’s. But before we do this we must go further back to 1928, there’s this thirteen year old girl who for the past few years has been making a name for herself in regional and national diving competitions.
In 1928 the United States selection committee have chosen her to represent the country in the summer Olympics, which are to be held in Amsterdam. Remarkably against some very experienced and well known athlete’s in the games she won a Silver medal in the 3 metre springboard competition.
Four years later in Los Angeles and favourite for the 10 metre platform event she duly won Gold, this propelled her to stardom in the sports world and she became an American sweetheart.
By the time the 1936 Berlin games came around there were doubts that she would even make the American team. One tabloid columnist wrote a piece stating that she wouldn’t.
The passages below are a few excerpts after she made the team.
"Some weeks ago we said the Dorothy Poynton (Hill) would not make the 1936 American Olympic team. If spirit and fight will cause athletes to rise to great heights and perform unusual things then we must take some credit for Dorothy's success”.
"THE DAY AFTER we said Miss Poynton would not make the team, Miss Poynton called up on the phone and proceeded to blow a fuse. 'Hell hath no fury --' and while we sparred in an effort to get a word in we found the monologue was air tight and it wasn't till the very end that we managed to convey the idea that we hoped she would qualify even though we didn't think so and if she did we wanted to be the first to apologize”.
Dorothy proceeded to prove her critics wrong by winning gold in the 10 metre platform competition and bronze in the 3 metre event.
After retiring from diving Dorothy had plans to open up a swimming club in Los Angeles to teach mainly children (and some adults) how to swim. These plans came to fruition in the 1940s when she opened up the Dorothy Poynton Aquatic Club.
The swimming club soon rose in popularity (who wouldn’t of wanted to be taught to swim by ‘America’s sweetheart’) and soon she was teaching Hollywood’s elite and their children. Can you imagine one day Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall bringing in their children to swim! Because this is what happened, Dorothy was meeting and personally talking to all of the greatest stars of the period.
It would be fantastic to find an actual register of when these stars attended, maybe there is one out there somewhere (if you have any ideas please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
I know for sure that the below list attended Dorothy’s aquatic club as she would get the stars to sign an autograph to herself but mainly to her daughter Betty or obtain a photo of them.
Here is the known list of people who visited the Aquatic club and possibly even learnt to swim there themselves.
Derrick De Marney
Olivia De Havilland
Edward G Robinson
And seven more that I have yet to identify even though they have their signature on.
Most if not all film fans from that era would do anything to have been able to meet all these stars. Dorothy did, and looking back I am positive that some of these stars would have been just as honoured to meet the American sweetheart Dorothy Poyntin-Hill.
Here is some further information on the autographs and photos.
The list above is a who’s who of Hollywood’s greats. Many of the film photos and autographs out there have no provenance whatsoever. This collection came from Betty Poynton’s family. Betty was Dorothy’s daughter (two of the autographs are actually signed to Betty). It is almost certain that Dorothy obtained these from the stars themselves and not like many other photos that are sent to the fan by the stars secretary or P.A.
This is possibly the best chance you will get of having that photo of your idol which has major provenance.