Friday, April 3, 2009

The Many Loves of Queen Norma

Now for Norma Shearer's leading men offscreen...

Victor Fleming ~ The director and Norma Shearer had a very passionate love affair which fizzled rather quickly. He was Shearer's first great affair and it's uncertain if she was in love with him. If she was, she kept it secret. Fleming quickly moved on to Clara Bow who was also seeing Gary Cooper. (If you've read the new Fleming bio and there is any Shearer info in there let me know!)

Monta Bell ~ The director and Norma Shearer dated for a few years and were seen out in public regularly but their romance was very lukewarm. Shearer respected Bell and enjoyed his company but her feelings for him weren't as strong as his were for her. There is a great picture of them both on the set of Upstage (1926) wearing each other's clothes. I wish could find it! (Monta Bell picture from Divas: The Site)

Irving Thalberg ~ Thalberg and Shearer married in 1927. They shared mutual love, respect and admiration for one another. The Thalberg-Shearer union was a mixture of love and business. They were both shared similar work ethics and were very goal-oriented. Thalberg helped her get roles but she also had to fight him for other ones she wanted. Thalberg had a weak heart and she doted on him. She put forth great effort to be the model wife and even had a son and daughter at Thalberg's request, even though she had no natural desire to be a mother. Norma wasn't a saint but she deeply cared for Thalberg. Thalberg died of pneumonia in 1936 at the age of 37 leaving Norma a widow.

Jimmy Stewart ~ In the TCM film guide, Leading Couples, it reads Actress Norma Shearer was so impressed by James Stewart's romantic performance in The Shopworn Angel (1938) that she set her sights on him. The affair reportedly lasted six weeks. Oh Norma! That's just the sort of thing she'd do and I don't blame her, Stewart was a hunk! She paraded him proudly around Tinseltown but Stewart really wasn't into it and was still pining for Margaret Sullavan (who I like refer to as a Stinky McStinkface). So that was the end of that. They did make a very good-looking couple though, didn't they? (Picture from Google/LIFE Archive).

Mickey Rooney ~ Yes they had an affair. It was a fling and it didn't last very long. He was 19, she was 39 and Louis B. Mayer put an end to it quickly thereafter. According to one report, Rooney was a sex fiend and according to Rooney, Shearer pursued him relentlessly. Whatever you do, please do not read Rooney's account of this affair in his autobiography. Unfortunately, I did and now am scarred for life.

George Raft ~ Norma met George Raft at one of Charles Boyer's dinner parties. They were instantly smitten with each other and immediately delved into a hot and heavy affair. Norma had class and George aspired to class, so they were a match. However, George was still married to actress Grayce Mulrooney, who refused to give him a divorce without a hefty sum of money in return so he settled for a separation. After a brief but torrid romance, Norma ended it because she knew they could never make a life together. I'm sure George Raft's shady mob connections had something to do with it too. (Picture from Lady of the Night)

Martin "Marti" Arrougé~ French, first-generation American, Arrougé was a ski instructor when he met Norma Shearer. He had that Mediterannean look that Norma liked and he was almost a stronger more athletic version of Thalberg. They married in 1942 and she left her acting career behind to be his wife. She still wanted to be a Queen and couldn't let go of being Mrs. Thalberg, and Arrougé seem perfectly okay with that. She wanted to be adored and he wanted to adore her. They traveled, partied, vacationed, skiied and spent many happy years together. Arrougé was devoted to her to the bitter end. Norma really lucked out with him! (Picture from Google/Life Archive)


  1. Raquelle, Great post and great pictures too! I often think that Arrouge was a Thalberg look-alike but without the fatal flaws. Just as you have spotted. Good eyes!
    What about the young Jimmy Stewart? Doesn't he look very much like Hugh Grant? I think they can produce the same "vacant" look! :)

  2. Mickey Rooney?!?! I didn't even have to read the autobiography & I'm scarred for life! lol.

  3. I was laughing out loud when a saw your nickname for Margaret Sullavan! I totally loathe her! She just rubs me the wrong way so bad. The only one of her films I like is The Shop Around the Corner and it's saved by that amazing supporting cast.

    I'm with Kate - the news of Mickey Rooney is scarring. I actually have his unread auto-bio on my shelf right now. A small part of me is curious to see what he said, but, sanity is prevailing. :)

    Great post! These photos are marvelous.

  4. "Stinky McStinkface"? Hahaha! I'm so curious why you despise her so much! I must add that I don't have any impression at all, so colour me with one as you like! :)

    Great post, as usual! (I'm not surprised anymore, I just read and enjoy!)

  5. Wow, yes, Mickey Rooney was a bit of surprise!

    Interesting, Norma seemed to fall for power early on, then my guess is that she built her own as Mrs. Thalberg and went after whoever she wanted after he passed on.

    Thanks, Cliff

  6. I never have understood Jimmy Stewart's thing about Margaret Sullavan. She must've had a great personality, because I've never found her physically attractive. As to her acting, she seemed to play the same role over and over and over...the angsty sort of women.

    I had to chuckle about Mickey Rooney, as they seemed to be such a mismatch. About the only thing he and Norma would seem to have in common is that neither one was particularly tall. Unlike the rest of you, I can't say I am scarred, but I might be if I read his autobiography...

    I know you girls probably like Jimmy Stewart the best (I'm just guessing...he seems to have a strange power over women to this day...), but I think George Raft would be my favourite of her amours. Too bad it didn't work out!

  7. All these Norma Shearer posts were fabulous, particularly as I hardly know her at all. What an interesting person! This post of the series grabbed my attention because I love George Raft. :-D

    Thanks for a lot of great knowledge!!

  8. Mickey Rooney?! That is beyond creepy. But the picture you posted of them is absolutely made of win. Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery?! I'd like to be sitting at that table. Pass me a slice of cake, please. :P

    As for Jimmy Stewart, I'm really intrigued by this romantic performance in "The Shopworn Angel." I really want to see it! And they're showing it next week on TCM, so looks like I'm in luck. :)


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