Life imitates art imitates life...

There's nothing new about TV shows and movies basing their plots on what's been in the news lately, as any fan of the late original Law & Order franchise knows (that show covered the Central Park Jogger, the Lisa Steinberg murder, the James Byrd dragging murder, the O.J Simpson "If I Did It" book, the Chandra Levy disappearance and murder, the Bernhard Goetz subway shooting, the Michael Jackson child abuse trial, and others). But what is interesting when actors whose own lives parallel the lives of the characters.

One such situation that comes to mind is Judy Garland, who is widely accepted to be the basis for child performer turned drug-addicted superstar Neely O'Hara in Jacqueline Susann's blockbuster Valley of the Dolls. This unflattering portrayal did not stop Garland from accepting a role in the 1967 film version, not that of Neely O'Hara, for which she was too old to play, but that of of big-voiced Broadway legend Helen Lawson (a character said to be based on Ethel Merman). In the end Judy was fired because her pill habit caused her to miss one too many days on the set, and the producers got Susan Hayward to do it.

I saw two such situations this evening on Turner Classic Movies in films starring Jean Harlow, whose centennial is this month and who is the featured Star of the Month. The first, Bombshell, featured Harlow as a big movie star who had a conniving agent, a friend/assistant who embezzled her money, a sponging family, and a man who came to her rescue...for a while. This story was actually inspired by 1920's star Clara Bow, known as the It Girl, who had a conniving agent, a friend/assistant who exposed her sex diary in a series of lurid headlines and a nasty court trial, greedy relatives, eventually finding happiness in marriage that failed. But Harlow also had a family notorious for sponging off of her and trying to control her life, arranging for husbands and abortions. In a scene in the movie she screams at her family, calling them a pack of leeches. One has to wonder how she felt saying those lines.

The other movie they showed was called Reckless, which was inspired by 1920s torch singer Libby Holman, who married into the wealthy Reynolds tobacco familiy in 1931. Seven months later her young(er) husband was dead of a gunshot wound, some months before his 21st birthday and the $17 million inheritance that went with it. Orginally thought to be a suicide, the coroner eventually determined it was murder. Holman and a friend were suspected as murderer and accomplice, but not charged at the request of the scandal-fearing family. It's said that Harlow didn't want to make this movie because of her own similar experience; her second husband shot himself just a few months after their wedding.

I've got a partially worked out story that was inspired by the untimely death of Michael Jackson (and yes, I started outlining at the time of his death nearly two years ago). Have any of you writers been inspired been real-life incidents?