Cora Sue Collins was a child star in Hollywood’s golden era, appearing in over 30 films in the 1930s–40s. Surprising many, with a bright future before her, Collins abruptly quit acting in 1943. Only in recent years did the now 95-year-old actress break her silence regarding her decision to walk away from Tinseltown.
As a child star, Cora Sue enjoyed great success — rivaling young actresses of the time, such as Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. Her abrupt departure was unexpected. She did not disclose her reason for leaving or her forwarding address when she left Hollywood.
In 2020, the Turner Classic Movies book “This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars and Stories” noted that Collins was a victim of unwanted sexual advances from a prominent Hollywood screenwriter.
The book was written by Carla Valderrama, who reports that Collins told her that as a young teenager in Hollywood, she experienced a #MeToo moment that prompted her abrupt exit.
Valderrama notes that Collins recounted working with screenwriter Harry Ruskin when she was 15 years old. (Ruskin was 50 at the time.) Ruskin allegedly told Collins she could star in a new project he had written if she slept with him.
Shocked and horrified, Collins reported the incident to MGM’s co-founder Louis B. Mayer, who discounted the unwanted advance saying, “Darling, you’ll get used to it.”
Mayer then reportedly threatened Collins, saying that if she reported the incident, she would never work again.
Soon after, Collins left Hollywood and led a quiet life, reporting that leaving Hollywood “was the single best decision of my life.”
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Collins shared about working in Hollywood in the ’30s-’40s with great actors such as Jean Harlow and Darrell Rooney.
Speaking of Ruskin and the trust she had in him, Collins recalled:
“I loved Harry. I had no father figure and no one to mentor me. He would share his philosophy with me. He had a group of friends who were all of these famous, funny people, and I was lucky enough to be part of this group. One afternoon, he called me and ask if I was coming for lunch next Tuesday. I told him I didn’t know. He called the next day and asked the same thing. I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Then he called the next day! I finally said yes.”
Collins continued: “I went to his office and he was the only one there. I thought it was odd. He would bring food from some good restaurant in Culver City, and we would all stand around in his office, eating off of bookshelves, sitting on the floor, and so forth. But this time, I was the only one there.”
Then he said, ‘I wrote a synopsis for you, and I wanted you to read it alone.’ I read it and I loved it,” said Collins, recalling: “He knew me so well. I would’ve given my right arm for that job. It was written just for me. But then he said, ‘The part is yours, but you have to sleep with me.'”
Fox News reported that according to Valderrama’s book, “Ruskin was allegedly furious when Collins refused,” threatening, ‘There are dozens of girls in this town who would love to play that part.'”
Collins recalled thinking at the time: “What have I said to mislead him? Was I dressed inappropriately? What have I done to cause this?’ I was just so startled I left the office.”
The shocked teen reportedly then found a cleaning closet, entered the dark room, “locked the door, and had a good cry.”
Recalling her meeting with MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, Collins said:
“I then put myself together and headed to Mr. Mayer’s office,” she continued. “I didn’t have an appointment, but I told his secretary, ‘I can wait.’ I sat down and I waited. Mr. Mayer was a short little man and his desk was raised, so he would be taller than everybody… [I remembered] he lunged across his desk with his short little fat finger, waggled it under my nose, and said, ‘You’ll never work again on this soundstage as long as you live.’ I told him, ‘Mr. Mayer, that’s my heartfelt desire.'”
Regarding her decision to leave Hollywood, Collins said: “It was the single best decision of my life. It’s a rotten business. It was then, it is now. And it’s not going to change.”
Of the unwanted sexual advances, which were also reportedly experienced by Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, Collins said:
“I hardly told anyone what happened to me,” said Collins. “I was so ashamed, embarrassed, thinking I had caused it… Whenever someone wanted to interview me about the #MeToo movement, my response was, ‘no.’… [One writer] told me, ‘It’s important for you to tell your story because you stood up to Louis B. Mayer.’ I still refused… But I finally did. And I’m glad. I finally understand it wasn’t my fault.”
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