Shocking Rules Old Hollywood Stars Had To Follow

Jun 15, 2020
04:32 P.M.
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Old Hollywood was the epitome of glitz and glamour. It brought us some of the most talented and beautiful stars.


However, celebrities during the Golden Age of Hollywood were actually bound by some shocking rules. Here are some of the rules stars were forced to abide by in order to live the life of the rich and famous.

1. Long-Term Contracts

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Getty Images

In modern Hollywood actors and actresses are tied to a studio for the duration of a single film or series. However, in the Golden Age for film studios, stars were expected to sign contracts that tied them to the studio for four to seven years.


Even more shocking was that they were banned from working with any other studio while contracted. However, the studio could loan actors to other studios. Elizabeth Taylor was known for instigating loans to land work on more complex films, like "Giant" and "A Place in the Sun."

2. No Was Not An Option

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Getty Images

During the studio system, actors rejecting a role was unheard of. Stars were expected to take on every role even if the studio knew the movie would flop.


Rejecting a role resulted in severe consequences. Bette Davis was even suspended by Warner Brothers after refusing a role.

3. Name & Image Change

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Getty Images

Another shocking rule stars were expected to abide by without question was that the studio could change their names and images as the studio saw fit. This affected many beloved Old Hollywood stars including Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Judy Garland.


MGM even held a contest to create a new name for Lucille LeSueur. She was later named Joan Crawford and reportedly hated it. Other stars were forced to dye their hair and even get plastic surgery to create the perfect image.

4. Dress Code for Women

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Getty Images

Women were expected to fit one of two typecast; an all-American girl next door or sexy bombshell. Studios went out of their way to craft the perfect image for their actresses and even created fake backstories to fit their narrative.


Part of maintaining the image was a strict dress code which often banned them from wearing pants. Katharine Hepburn famously broke her studio's rule and walked around set in her underwear after someone in the costume department at RKO Radio Pictures took her pants away.

5. Arranged Relationships

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Getty Images

Many stars were forced into arranged couples or sham dates, as they were called back then. These were used to created publicity for upcoming films. One of the most famous incidences was Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland pretending to date to promote "Babes in Arms."


Studios even went as far as forcing LGBTQ actors into heterosexual marriages. Rock Hudson was forced to marry his agent's secretary, Phyllis Gates, and only revealed he was homosexual when he publicly announced his AIDS diagnosis.

Other times, studios forbid their stars from marrying. Jean Harlow's studio felt her marriage would change her sex appeal and thus denied her the right to marry William Powell.

6. Children Came With Penalties

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Getty Images


Studio rules made it very clear that falling pregnant was strictly forbidden. Actresses, like Ava Gardner, went to extreme measures to avoid penalties and even had abortions.

"MGM had all sorts of penalty clauses about their stars having babies,"

said Gardner in her autobiography, Ava: My Story.

However, Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Taylor found a loophole in their contracts. They eventually adopted children, as it allowed them to continue working. Loretta Young kept her pregnancy and birth a secret from the public. In later years, she adopted her biological daughter, Judy Lewis.

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