I hadn't known that there was something of a drama behind the scenes of Charlie Chan in Rio* until Chad Bennett had informed us almost three years ago in Rush Glick's chat room at www.charliechan.info. I am posting an email that Chad sent me in response to one that I had sent him. It had even more goodies on the relationship between Mary Beth Hughes and Cobina Wright, Jr. (with some minor editing).
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(Courtesy of The Official Mary Beth Hughes website at www.for/tributes/mbh/pix.html. The reason there is so much white below the picture is . . . that happens to be part of the picture and I don't know how to crop it out!--Virginia)
. . . I looked over your write-up on Kay Linaker, and you wrote everything perfect.
Please note though, that Kay's exact words weren't that "Cobina Wright, Jr., was a spoiled brat"--that was me paraphrasing a bit--Kay wouldn't be that harsh. That is, however, pretty much the gist of the tale.
Cobina had been a spoiled New York socialite who came to Hollywood solely on the ticket that she had generated so much publicity in the society columns.
Back in the days of the studio era, female stars were actually ranked/categorized by their hair color. This developed some friction between Hughes and Cobina--both being blonde.
As the story goes, Cobina came on the set thinking that SHE was the blonde star of the picture and that Hughes should play second-fiddle to her.
Cobina made a stink about having her name above Hughes' in the credits (I can't remember if she succeeded, or not), etc.
Naturally, this irritated Hughes, who Kay was quite fond of.
Mary Beth had worked her way up the ranks of Hollywood and her work had been hard and tedious. She was completely deserving of the status that she should have been given on the Chan picture.
[She got the better billing on CC in Rio over Wright!--Virginia]
Then in waltzes this rich, spoiled heiress from New York who knew nothing about acting; and, since she felt that SHE was the star of the film, perhaps they should have changed the name to "Cobina Wright, Jr., in Rio"????
At any rate, if it is any justice to Mary Beth, what a performance she gave in that film. . . . Just like a drunk Lana Turner!
And, seriously, when compared to Mary Beth, Cobina comes off quite stale and forced. . . . It makes watching the caracters they portray in the film even more entertaining.
When Hughes' character is harassing Cobina, I get the sense that she actually means it! . . .
(Courtesy of http://www.2neatmagazines/com/covers/1941cover/1941-Feb-17.jpg">.)
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*Rio is our Monday Night Chat Movie at Rush's website, 8:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.