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 Sidney Skolsky

Sidney Skolsky

Birth
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 3 May 1983 (aged 78)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Maimonides 2, Lot 9840, Space 2
Memorial ID 9034 · View Source
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Hollywood columnist. When longtime Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky died on May 3, 1983, Daily Variety ran a feature obituary on its front page -- a rare homage by that publication -- to honor the man who had been a respected entertainment reporter for over 50 years. Skolsky, who made Schwab’s Drug Store synonymous with goings on in Hollywood and who was the first person to use the name ‘Oscar’ in print (1933), was nationally known for his syndicated newspaper and magazine work. But he also produced two films, The Jolson Story (1946), an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, and The Eddie Cantor Story (1953). At various times, he had his own radio and television programs about Hollywood and the movies, and appeared as a guest on innumerable shows for other hosts such as Cecil B. DeMille on ‘Lux Radio Theatre’, Bing Crosby on ‘The Kraft Music Hall’ and Mary Pickford on ‘Parties at Pickfair’ where he had his own regular slot. He was an actor as well, often appearing as himself in such films as Hallelujah, I’m A Bum (1933), Hi, Nellie! (1934), Tom, Dick and Harry (1941), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Teacher’s Pet (1958), Don’t Make Waves (1967), and The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968). Skolsky entered the world on May 2, 1905 in New York City, the eldest of four children born to Louis and Mildred Skolsky. It was his parents’ dry-goods store which provided sheets for the ‘screens’ of the neighborhood nickelodeon where Sidney began his lifelong love affair with the movies. After studying journalism at New York University, Sidney started in show business as a press agent for Broadway denizens Sam Harris, George White and Earl Carroll. In 1929, he took over Mark Hellinger’s column for The New York Daily News, where at 23, he became Broadway’s youngest gossip columnist. (His Sunday column, ‘Tintypes’, continued to be published in various newspapers through 1981.) In 1930, a collection of his writings was published in hardcover as Times Square Tintypes. -1- -2- While continuing at The News, Skolsky transferred to Hollywood in 1933. He worked as story editor for Darryl F. Zanuck and co-wrote the original story for the Fox release, The Daring Young Men (1935). In 1937, he moved his column to The New York Daily Mirror, then to The New York Post, where his column ran six days a week. His first Los Angeles outlet was The Herald, but after a dispute with fellow Herald columnist, Louella Parsons, he switched to The Hollywood Citizen News, which carried his byline until the paper’s demise in 1970. For thirty years, he was also syndicated through United Features. His regular monthly column for Photoplay magazine was called ‘From A Stool At Schwab’s’ -- the drugstore he made world-famous in print -- where he had his ‘hangout’ and, eventually, his office. In 1954, the 5’2’ Skolsky became one of the first entertainment reporters to have his own television program, Sidney Skolsky’s Hollywood (KABC-TV), and in 1961, he wrote the critically acclaimed David L. Wolper TV documentary, Hollywood and The Movies: The Golden Years. In addition to Times Square Tintypes, Skolsky authored four more books. Three softcovers for Dell included Sidney Skolsky’s This Was Hollywood: The Romance, The Heartbreak, The Glamour Of Its Fabulous Past. (Volumes I and II), and Marilyn. Then, in 1975, Putnam published his autobiography, Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood, its title derived from the tag line with which he always closed his columns. A catchy enough quip, but it was absolutely true: Sidney Skolsky really did love Hollywood. ‘Yes, I love the movies, the people, the industry,’ he told Irving Wallace, who interviewed him for Modern Screen (November 1941). ‘I love being a part of so giant and influential a parade. And so it hurts me almost physically...to hear stars’ names maliciously gossiped about. Hollywood should and must mean more than that!’ Though he was sometimes considered one third of the Hollywood gossip columnist trio -- the others being Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons -- Skolsky was frequently lauded for being so much more than a teller of who was going out with whom. Under the umbrella of ‘Hollywood Is My Beat,’ only one column a week was dedicated to ‘gossip’ (‘The Gossipel Truth’). -#- The others featured reports from the studios (‘Watching Them Make Pictures’) and interviews (‘On The Set With’). His ‘Tintypes’ were profiles which ended with what an actor, actress or director wore to bed and if they slept with the windows open or closed. There were columns (‘The Week In Review’) covering everything from Best Bets for movie books and film music to pointing out ‘movie boners’ and the malapropisms of Sam Goldwyn and Michael Curtiz. He wrote special columns that were thoughtful essays on unique subjects, such as his sensitive assessment of what it must have been like being Charlie Chaplin’s son when Charles Junior died. ‘Sidney was never a gossip columnist, just a smart, discerning, sympatico reporter whose words sketched movie personalities in warm strokes of life and color,’ Abe Greenberg wrote of him in 1983. And Irving Wallace’s Modern Screen story revealed that it was the ‘very literate...Skolsky who first used trade words like ‘preview’ and ‘take’ and injected them into everyday lingo.’ Wallace went on to say that Skolsky ‘was also the first to name the annual Motion Picture Academy Award ‘Oscar’. Time magazine even credited him with that coinage, which would place the matter beyond dispute.’ Skolsky was the first to tell the public what went on behind the scenes in Hollywood -- literally. He educated generations of readers by disclosing that stars had stand-ins and stunt doubles; that there were no backs to movie sets; explaining exactly what a script girl did, and a gaffer, a best boy, a grip. Another Skolsky ‘first’ was his championing of newcomers. A particular favorite was Marilyn Monroe. Over the years, he became the actress’s confidante and she became one of his many ‘chauffeurs’ -- that is, Marilyn often helped the little man who never learned to drive to cover his beat by getting him to and from the studios. Checking out newsreel footage in current documentaries on Monroe, one discovers Sidney by her side in triumph (Photoplay Award) and tragedy (divorcing Joe DiMaggio). At the time of Skolsky’s death in 1983 from complications due to Parkinson’s Disease, he had been married for 54 years to Estelle Lorenz, who died in 1993. The Hancock Park couple had two daughters, Nina and Steffi, who today are full of wonderful tales of growing up in the unique world of ‘Daddy Sidney’ (Jimmy Cagney pacing the floor with Sidney the night Steffi was born; Gary Cooper giving Nina her first dog). Many stories about Skolsky have passed into Hollywood legend and most of them are absolutely true. He really did meet Greta Garbo for the first time in the third floor men’s room at M.G.M.; he really did spank Shirley Temple’s bottom; and he really did bite Louella Parsons’ arm. He handicapped the Oscars every year with uncanny accuracy and garnered uncommon respect from his colleagues. He won, for example, one of the first awards for professional excellence and personal affability given by the Hollywood Women’s Press Club. In recent years, Skolsky’s columns, photographs, and letters have been in the permanent collection of The Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (housed next to those of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons). The plethora of material on Hollywood history from 1931 through 1981 that he bequeathed has benefited students, film scholars and authors from all over the world. Wherever movies are appreciated, understood and valued, no one will ever get Sidney Skolsky wrong: He loved Hollywood.

P.S. - Skolsky always wore pajamas--tops and bottoms-- but fell asleep in his bathrobe, a reading light on, a book or magazine on his chest, and the windows closed! (By Lisa Mitchell)


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 5 Apr 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9034
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sidney Skolsky (2 May 1905–3 May 1983), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9034, citing Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .