May 2 1955:
James Dean’s tired of “mumbling and shuffling” roles — he wants to do “Romeo and Julie.” Recuping from laryngitis, Dean balked at doing makeup and wardrobe tests for “Giant” on Saturday, his one day off from “Rebel Without a Cause” … One scene of “Rebel” was so dramatic, Jim Backus quipped, “welcome to the Elia Kazan Hour” … However, director Nick Ray manages to keep his sense of humor — while George Stevens keeps a map of Texas as his emblem, and Jack Webb a cornet, Ray has a plucked, rubber chicken hanging from his dressing room (Reminder: James Dean died Sept.30, 1955 in an accident on U.S. 466 near Cholame, Calif.) … Peggy Lee’s been asked by Walt Disney to read some of her poetry in upcoming Disney kiddie shows. He’d put ’em in cartoon form. Peggy, meanwhile, hopes the public will buy her “straight” version of “He’s a Tramp,” in which she uses her own backing. “This one, “she feels, “is for people who don’t like dogs.” … Publicists’ Guild Attention: the flack in “The Big Knife” is depicted as a very servile guy … And Ilka Chase, as the gossip columnist, isn’t supposed to be anyone specific but here’s one of the lines she tosses at actor Jack Palance in the Hollywood-localed film: “I don’t think I’d ever forgive you if someone else published your divorce story before I did.” (Personal note: I heard that line offscreen several times during the halcyon years of Hollywood gossip columnists).