Marijuana was mainstream when he starred in "The Rockford Files," from 1974 to 1980. But James Garner took it up in the '40s, and by 1957, when he began his five-year run on "Maverick," he'd been a pot enthusiast for at least a decade. "I smoked marijuana for 50 years," he wrote in "The Garner Files," his 2012 memoir, which came out a couple of years before he died, at 86. "I don't know where I'd be without it."
The registered Republican who won an Oscar for playing a priest in 1945's "Going My Way" was mad about reefer—he called it gage, pot or muggles—well before it became effectively illegal in 1937. Crosby's friend Louis Armstrong introduced him to the drug, according to biographer Gary Giddins. Many years later, one of Bing's sons recalled "times when marijuana was mentioned and he'd get a smile on his face."
A late-'50s home movie that shows Monroe smoking what may or may not be a joint sold for $275,000 in 2009. It's hardly ironclad evidence, but the Hollywood icon does appear to have a case of the giggles and the anonymous person who shot the footage insisted that what looks at first glance like a cigarette was in fact marijuana—supplied by the amateur filmmaker.
The Skipper's little buddy on "Gilligan's Island" was arrested in 1998 for receiving a parcel of marijuana at his home. Denver initially said it had been sent to him by his friend (and fellow pothead) Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the '60s sitcom, but he refused to confirm that in court and ended up on probation. Few were shocked. "I've been doing it for years," said Denver, who began his career as Maynard G. Krebs—TV's first stoner—on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," which aired from 1959 to 1963.
In 1957's "Sweet Smell of Success," he had the role of a sleazy press agent who slips some joints into an innocent musician's pocket, setting him up for an arrest. In real life, the Golden Age star might have kept the ganja for himself. Curtis was busted for possession of cannabis at London's Heathrow Airport in 1970. Within a few years he switched to cocaine, which he eventually quit. In a 1980 People magazine interview, he reminisced: "I used to smoke marijuana, years ago."
The British actor and comedian had a fondness for marijuana well before he played an uptight attorney who falls for a pot-brownie-baking hippie chick in 1968's "I Love You Alice B. Toklas." Swedish actress Britt Ekland remembers him introducing her to pot on their first date, in 1964. The stuff was so strong she passed out, but Ekland woke up to a sweet note (signed "Inspector Clouseau") and they were married 10 days later.
What Dean Martin was to booze, Streisand was to weed—a star who incorporated the idea of getting high into her Vegas act. Some (though not all) of the joints she smoked on stage were merely props, but when word got around, fellow artists like Little Anthony and the Imperials "started sending me the best dope in the world," Streisand recalled in Rolling Stone. "I never ran out."
Novelist and cannabis connoisseur Paul Bowles recalled discovering "very good grass" in a humidor at the home of stage actress Libby Holman, a mentor and lover to Clift in the 1940s and '50s (both were bisexual). The doomed actor was a fixture at her frequent parties in Connecticut, where marijuana was in steady supply. Although Clift smoked it, he couldn't resist the pull of alcohol, which contributed to his death in 1966 at the age of 45.
He was Bud (far left) on "Father Knows Best" from 1954 to 1960, but Gray's acting career took a hit in 1962, when a police officer arrested him for possession of "marijuana seeds and residue" at the age of 24. Gray spent 45 days in jail but eventually bounced back. Today the 78-year-old former child star and motorcycle enthusiast co-owns BigRock Engineering, which markets products he invented, including high-tech guitar picks.
The knife-wielding badass of "The Magnificent Seven" sounded more like a flower child when he participated in a Playboy panel discussion of the "Drug Revolution" in 1970. Speaking of "the new dimension of love" that cannabis and LSD "open up," Coburn—a longtime pothead who'd taken acid and peyote before they were illegal—noted that "something new is forming. I guess it's in kind of an embryonic stage now."
Old Hollywood's most unabashed pot smoker, Mitchum was caught in a sting operation in 1948 and spent a week in county jail and 43 days on a prison farm for possession of marijuana. Taking the experience in stride—he told a reporter prison was "just like Palm Springs, but without the riffraff"—Mitchum displayed the same cool he'd exhibited onscreen a year earlier in "Out of the Past." No doubt it helped that he knew the ropes: Mitchum had done time on a chain gang when he was 14.
"I adored him. He was outrageous," she said of Robert Mitchum, who turned her on to marijuana on the set of "My Forbidden Past" in 1951. "[I]n front of reporters, he'd call to his makeup man: 'Hey, bring me some of that good shit, man.' He didn't give a fuck." Gardner asked Mitchum to marry her, though she preferred alcohol to pot. "It's OK with me, baby," he replied. "But you'll have to clear it up with Dorothy [his wife] first."
William Claxton, known for his portraits of jazz artists, began photographing McQueen early in the actor's career, and the two became friends, with a shared passion for fast cars. According to Claxton, who knew him for two decades, the King of Cool smoked dope almost daily.
Jack Nicholson turned him on to grass in Acapulco and David Crosby introduced him to acid after a concert in the '60s, when Hagman was better known as Major Nelson on "I Dream of Jeannie." A heavy drinker, he later recommended marijuana as an alternative to alcohol and, not long before his death in 2012, said it brought back his appetite while he was being treated for cancer.
The "Caddyshack" star and legendary stand-up comic smoked his first joint in 1942, at the age of 21, and remained a devoted pothead for 62 years. His 2005 memoir was titled "It's Not Easy Bein' Me," but Dangerfield wanted to call it "My Lifelong Romance With Marijuana." He said smoking dope relieved his chronic anxiety, among other things: "I tell ya, that marijuana really has an effect on you. The other day I smoked a half a joint and I got so hungry, I ate the other half."
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