May 17, 2009

Rhonda Fleming: The Big Girl That Didn’t Cry

May 17th, 2009

Rhonda Fleming
Rhonda Fleming

In Act One of JERSEY BOYS, Bob Gaudio says to us:

So now I’m a one hit wonder all over again. Only, what I wonder is, Where’s the next idea gonna come from? Crewe and I are banging our heads against the wall and nothing’s coming. And then one night, I’m watching the million-dollar movie. Some cheesy John Payne western. He hauls off and smacks Rhonda Fleming across the mouth and says, “What do you think of that?” She looks up at him, defiant, proud, eyes glistening–and she says: (and we hear the intro to “Big Girls…”)

In today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, Stephen Michael Shearer has a special feature on Rhonda Fleming. Back on May 20, 1957, the beautiful flame-haired film actress stepped out onto the stage in Las Vegas at the newly opened Tropicana, wearing a shimmering Don Loper-designed “nude” gown, columnist Jimmy Starr of the Los Angeles Herald-Express raved, “The atomic bomb didn’t explode last night, but a new and lovely nightclub star — Rhonda Fleming — blasted her way at the Tropicana and made pretty music that was strictly big time stuff.”

Fleming came from a show business family, and was born Marilyn Louis on Aug. 10, 1923, in Hollywood, named after Broadway’s Marilynn Miller. Her grandfather was John C. Graham, a prominent actor, theater owner and newspaper editor in Utah. Her mother, Effie Graham, was a blond actress/model who once starred opposite Al Jolson at New York’s Winter Garden Theater in the musical “Dancing Around,” from 1914 to 1915.

“Yeah, I guess it’s in my blood. I was more appropriate for doing that (stage musicals) than I was for motion pictures,” she said. “I never asked to be in motion pictures. It just happened with the studio system. I wanted to sing. I studied to be a trained singer, and I worked at it, and trained at it.”

As it was, Fleming was discovered by talent agent Henry Willson when she was still attending Hollywood High School. It was producer David O. Selznick who renamed her Rhonda Fleming and cast her in “Spellbound.”

So, for today’s trivia question: Name the film in which Rhonda Fleming told John Payne, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”


  1. Think we need some help from one of the historians here. Supposedly, it’s not from a western at all, but from the 1956 film “Slightly Scarlet” which stars Fleming and Payne. But I just finished watching the DVD, and I didn’t hear it in the film anywhere. Ted, Charles, David?? Anyone??

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 18, 2009 @ 2:10 am

  2. Tennessee’s Partner – 1955

    Comment by GLADYS MARLIN — May 18, 2009 @ 6:56 am

  3. Hi Gladys. About where is it in “Tennessee’s Partner”? (Or if you have the time elapsed on the DVD, that would be great.) I own that movie on DVD too, and can’t find it, but I did go through it on mostly FF.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 18, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  4. Once “Jersey Boys” opened and the source of the title was hinted at, I remember trying to figure out which movie it was. The only western that John Payne and Rhonda Fleming appeared to star in together was “Tennessee’s Partner.” I’m a big fan of Turner Classic Movies but have not had the chance to catch this film to date. When I do, I’ll look forward to the scene referred to in the show!!

    Comment by Len Gersten — May 18, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  5. Posted Jan 7, 2008:

    Comment by JK1960 — May 18, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  6. No no no, it was RHODA Morgenstern on MTM (Mary Tyler Moore), not MDM (Million Dollar Movie). Ted Baxter kept asking her out and she said – ‘when pigs fly.’ He, not getting her drift, said – ‘PIGS, GIRL, DON’T FLY.’

    (Check here ___ to vote this the worst joke of the week.)

    Comment by stubbleyou — May 18, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  7. Hey Howard – I was just guessing. It is the only “western” that I remembered. Guess I will have to get the DVD now.

    Comment by Gladys — May 18, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

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