Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Clyde Cook Versus The Missus

Clyde Cook as a photographer in Suspicion (1941).
Comedian Clyde Cook suffered a fair share of marital woes in his films.  Sufficient evidence of his grief with the opposite sex can be found in Should Sailors Marry? (1925) and What's the World Coming To? (1926).  The wife in Should Sailors Marry? is so vicious that she is prominently represented in advertisements by a shark with a rolling pin.

A rolling pin turns up again in an ad for another Cook film, Wife Tamers (1926).

But Cook had a far worse time as a husband off screen.  In 1938, the actor was at the center of a widely and wildly publicized divorce.  His efforts to end his marriage to Alice Cook (former Ziegfeld Follies dancer Alice Draper) was plagued by acrimony, accusation and scandal. 

The Bakersfield Californian (December 10, 1937)

The Los Angeles Times (April 16, 1938)

Mrs. Cook emphasized, above her many accusations, that her husband had been unfaithful.  Associated Press reported:
Cook testified his wife, Alice, accused him of his-conduct with another woman.  "She said I had better keep away from that blonde – and Mrs. Cook knows very well there was no reason to suspect a thing," he said.
 The Los Angeles Times (May 10, 1938)

Cook brought in witnesses to testify on his behalf.  The Los Angeles Times reported:
Jimmy Finlayson, Scotch comedian, testified that the ex-Follies star hit him in the face in London five years ago, when he and her husband were greeted by the actress at the door of Cook's apartment.  Finlayson also told of seeing Mrs. Cook when she was "with liquor."
A hit in the face is, I suppose, better than a conk with a rolling pin.

Cook, Myrna Loy and Louise Fazenda in Pay as You Enter (1928)

Tensions in the courtroom peaked while Cook was being questioned by his wife's attorney, Joseph J. Cummins.  The Los Angeles Times reported that the two men "glared at each other."  At one point, Cummins asked Cook if he ever told his wife that he had deserted from the Australian army.  Cook muttered under his breath.  Cummins later claimed that he heard Cook call him a shocking pejorative ("son of a bitch," maybe?).  The San Francisco Examiner reported:
[Cummins] was pouring water from a pitcher into a paper cup when Cook stepped down from the stand and passed by him as he stood at the counsel table.  As the actor passed by him, Cummings, according to spectators, suddenly whirled around and walloped Cook on the right jaw with his fist.

Seeking to stop the fracas, Benjamin W. Shipman, attorney for Cook, and R. E. Parkin, clerk of the court, rushed at Cummins.  As they did so, Cummins, according to witnesses, swung at Parkin and knocked him down.  Attorney Shipman grabbed attorney Cummins by the arm to stop the fight and as he did so comedian Cook assertively let a haymaker fly at attorney Cummins and connected on the lawyer's nose, which began bleeding.
"Of course I struck him when he had his glasses on," Cummins said. "A man would even hit a person in a wheelchair if he called him what he just called me."

The newspapers were not going to ignore the incident.

The San Francisco Examiner (April 20, 1938)

Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) (April 20, 1938)

 The Miami News (April 20, 1938)

The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) (April 20, 1938)

The divorce was granted shortly after on May 18, 1938.

Despite the bad press, Cook continued to do well in Hollywood.  

Another Dawn (1937)

Suspicion (1941)

Ladies in Retirement (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

Counter Espionage (1942)

The Gay Nineties (1942)

Cook's acting career is examined in my book "Eighteen Comedians of Silent Film," which is now available in a revised Kindle edition

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