‘50s star Terry Moore recalls dating James Dean, befriending Marilyn Monroe and posing for Playboy

Terry Moore has done it all in Hollywood. She worked with her idol Tyrone Power, befriended Marilyn Monroe, dated James Dean and married Howard Hughes — just to name a few highlights. And at age 91, she recently was honored at the Icon Awards.

The star and her numerous accomplishments in film were celebrated at the 5th Annual Roger Neal & Maryann Lai Oscar Viewing Dinner-Icon Awards & After Party presented by the Hollywood Museum. But don’t expect the actress to sit back and polish her award. In fact, Moore is still keeping busy. She has two films in post-production and is filming two other movies. Moore is set to star in "Silent Life" opposite Isabella Rossellini, Franco Nero and Monte Markham. She will portray the legendary "woman in black" who visited silent screen star Rudolph Valentino's grave for decades.

Moore spoke to Fox News about sharing the stage with her idols, her star-studded love life and posing for Playboy.

Fox News: How does it feel to be a Hollywood icon?
Terry Moore: It feels mighty good. [I got my start in Hollywood] 80 years ago, so I think I almost earned it *laughs*.

Fox News: What do you believe has been the secret behind your lasting success?
Moore: Pretty much being myself. I don't reach far and I do the best I can within my talent.

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Terry Moore, American born film actress and Hollywood star, arrives in London from Spain, where she was starring in the 1956 film 'A Portrait Of Alison'. She is shown at a reception held at The Dorchester Hotel.

Terry Moore, American born film actress and Hollywood star, arrives in London from Spain, where she was starring in the 1956 film 'A Portrait Of Alison'. She is shown at a reception held at The Dorchester Hotel. (Keystone/Getty Images)

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Fox News: You got your big break at 11 years old. How were you discovered in Hollywood?
Moore: Well, a neighbor of ours, she wanted so badly for her daughter to be in movies, but she wasn't interested. So she put my picture into a casting magazine and they called me from 20th Century Fox. There were 500 little girls who participated in that interview. And I got it, believe it or not, because they asked if I could ride bareback. And I said, “Oh yes, I could ride bareback standing up.” … I got [my first] role because I could ride horseback standing up bareback. And I still ride all the time. I love horses.

Fox News: Many people still remember you from “Come Back, Little Sheba." What was it like working with Burt Lancaster?
Moore: Oh, he was so wonderful. He was my pal, my friend. He stood behind me always and I just loved him.

Fox News: What surprised you the most about your other co-star Shirley Temple?
Moore: Shirley, oh she's so cute. She was just as lovely behind the scenes as she was on-camera. Always a professional who came ready to work. Her phone number is still on my phone. I'll never take it out because I was such a fan of hers and I always will be.

Fox News: You were a fan of Tyrone Power and ended up working with him. How did it feel to share the screen with your idol?
Moore: Oh, it was wonderful. I still dream about it. Can you believe it? I found out not too long ago that he was a proud Marine in World War II [who] shot down Nazi planes. Not only was he gorgeous, but he was brave.

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Terry Moore in a plaid two-piece bathing suit sitting on a diving board, Los Angeles, Calif., 1950s.

Terry Moore in a plaid two-piece bathing suit sitting on a diving board, Los Angeles, Calif., 1950s. (Camerique/Getty Images)

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Fox News: Speaking of our troops, you were a favorite pin-up among them. How did that make you feel?
Moore: I was the No. 1 pinup of the Korean War. I think I cried when I found out. Entertaining the troops was more thrilling than any movie I've made. I'll never forget it. I believe entertaining our troops and giving back in any way to them has been my proudest achievement. It’s an honor I continue to treasure.

Fox News: What's the story behind your friendship with Marilyn Monroe?
Moore: I met Marilyn when she was put under contract. I was under contract to Columbia Studios at that time. We both then went to 20th Century Fox at the same time. And if you read anything about Marilyn, her acting coach was Natasha Lytess. The directors got so mad that she was always looking at Natasha while filming her scenes. Natasha was behind the cameras trying to guide her. It got so bad the directors later threw Natasha off the set.

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American actress Marilyn Monroe (right) during a lesson with German-born acting teacher Natasha Lytess (1913 - 1964), Hollywood, California, November 1948.

American actress Marilyn Monroe (right) during a lesson with German-born acting teacher Natasha Lytess (1913 - 1964), Hollywood, California, November 1948. (Photo by J. R. Eyerman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

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I was with her when she met Natasha. They brought her into Natasha’s acting lessons. I was the only one in the class. And so I really wanted someone to do scenes with. I was told, “This is a new contract player named Marilyn Monroe. Now you and Natasha will have someone to act with.” I was so happy to meet her. And we became close, fast friends. I would take her home to dinner with me. My parents were just crazy about her. She was one of the sweetest, loneliest girl I ever met. But she learned so quickly as an actress.

Fox News: What do you think made Marilyn feel so lonely?
Moore: Well sometimes the biggest stars are usually very shy… They're very much like John Wayne. He was so backward, very backward. He also had to learn to get out there and have self-confidence. Most actors when they start out have little confidence. Marilyn didn't have confidence. She had to have everyone in the world believe in her and love her before she had any confidence.

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Movie star James Dean and actress Terry Moore attend the Premiere of 'Sabrina' on September 22, 1954, in Los Angeles, California.

Movie star James Dean and actress Terry Moore attend the Premiere of 'Sabrina' on September 22, 1954, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

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Fox News: You also went on to date James Dean. What’s your favorite memory of him?
Moore: I adored Jimmy. And he adored Marlon Brando. He wanted to be just like him. We were at the Actors Studio one day and he was so excited because Marlon was there. Marlon Brando then came out of the studio. Jimmy was already getting on his bike and Marlon came upon his own bike. Jimmy was so excited that he shouted out “Hi Marlon!” And Marlon said, “Hey kid.” Then Marlon just wooshed off on his bike. That was enough for Jimmy Dean. That stayed with him for the rest of his life, which wasn’t very long. I just remembered how much he idolized Marlon.

Fox News: What surprised you the most about James Dean in getting to know him?
Moore: Oh, what a show-off he was! Most actors are very shy, but he wasn’t. He came to my house for dinner one night and after he ate, he undid his fly and burped. And my father said, “Put his food on the floor and let him eat like a dog.” And so I did. Jimmy got down there and licked up his plate. That was Jimmy. He loved to shock people. But he knew what he was doing.

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James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'Rebel Without A Cause' in 1955 in Los Angeles, Calif.

James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'Rebel Without A Cause' in 1955 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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Fox News: Out of all the stars you've worked with over the years, who would you say impressed you the most and why?
Moore: Oh, let's see. Well, one of them would be Shirley, who we just mentioned, and also Tyrone Power because of his war record. And he could do anything. He dueled, he was a great horseman, a rifleman, everything. Also, John Wayne. I was very close to Duke Wayne. I went out to dinner with him and his wife all the time. But I’m just amazed at all the things he went through to become this big star and the great actor that he was. He was so natural. That’s far harder to be than it is to act.

Fox News: You were also in “Peyton Place” with Lana Turner. What was she like?
Moore: Oh, she didn't let me down, I'll tell you that. She was beautiful. I was so excited about working with her. I used to love to come home at night and have Howard tell me all about Lana and Rita [Hayworth] and Ava [Gardner]. Lana was my favorite. Little did I dream that I would ever be working with her. It was so thrilling.

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Actress Terry Moore stands before a giant poster of the late billionaire Howard Hughes.

Actress Terry Moore stands before a giant poster of the late billionaire Howard Hughes. (Photo by Getty)

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Fox News: You were very close to Gloria Grahame. What were her final years like?
Moore: I was really close to her. I loved her. We made a movie just before her death called “Man on a Tight Rope.” She had to cry in the scene… but she couldn’t. Every time she would try, she just couldn’t do it. [Director] Elia Kazan talks to her and then when she tries again she sobs. Afterward, she said, “Do you know what Kazan said to me? He told me you were better in the movie than I was.” We just became friends from that moment on. Oh, I get goosebumps thinking about it. We were both nominated for best supporting actress and she got. I can totally before God say I was so happy for her. I was so happy she got it. Right after that, she died of cancer. I never knew she had it. So I was very happy she got that award before her death.

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Tyrone Power and Terry Moore embracing in a scene from the film "King Of The Khyber Rifles," 1953.

Tyrone Power and Terry Moore embracing in a scene from the film "King Of The Khyber Rifles," 1953. (20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

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Fox News: You stirred a lot of headlines over your relationship with Howard Hughes. How did you cope with the media scrutiny?
Moore: In the beginning, I had no feelings for him. But as time went on I fell madly in love with him. In fact, Howard was the love of my life. So, it was very easy to cope with somebody when you're in love.

Fox News: What drew you to Howard?
Moore: Flying. I had always wanted to fly my whole life. He wanted to teach me, which he did. He arranged for me to jump with the 82nd Airborne [Division], which I did. And I just loved that. Flying with Howard was magical, especially at night when we'd see all the stars above us and all the lights below us. I mean, it was just so thrilling and he was thrilled with it too. He said, “When you're in the air you go see which things are small and which things are big.” And people forget, Howard was a great hero too. Maybe I love heroes because he was the first man to ever fly around the world. They talk so much about [Charles] Lindbergh, but he only flew the Atlantic. Howard flew around the world.

Fox News: Is it true that Leonardo DiCaprio met with you when he was filming “The Aviator” about Howard Hughes?
Moore: Yes. He called me and I was so surprised. It was just wonderful helping him with the character. I have some recordings of Howard's voice and when he heard them, he imitated Howard perfectly. He was so wonderful. And he took my book about Howard, called “The Beauty and the Billionaire” on location. He told me he read it on the plane and it made him cry twice.

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Terry Moore on the cover of Playboy magazine.

Terry Moore on the cover of Playboy magazine. (Playboy)

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Fox News: How was it shooting for Playboy?
Moore: My husband at the time begged me to do it. I said, “No way.” He said, “Look, they will give you a choice over the pictures. They won’t show any pubic hair… If you don't like them, you can have them.” I said, “OK," thinking I wasn't going to like them and nothing would come from those pictures. But they were the best pictures I've ever had. I mean, the photography was fantastic. The makeup was beautiful. And I didn’t wear makeup. Even in my black and white movies, I never wore makeup. I think Ingrid Bergman and I were the only stars to go without makeup. So I was really pleased with them. I never dreamed of posing for Playboy. If you would have ever told me before that I would pose for Playboy, I would have said you were nuts!

Fox News: Which was was your favorite film to make and why?
Moore: “Man on a Tight Rope” because it was so great working with Fredric March and Kazan. With Kazan, I just learned more from him than anyone in the industry. I also loved doing “Return of October” with Glenn Ford. I was just 18 and he gave me my first kiss. It was wonderful. And of course “Mighty Joe Young.” The crew, the producer, the entire cast were just so gracious to work with. I never forgot about my experience working with them.

Fox News: What's life like for you today?
Moore: It’s wonderful. I'm working still. I’ve got two unreleased movies and a lot more happening, which I'm very excited about it. I remember Tyrone Power said, “I don’t care if I die tomorrow — no, that’s not true. I want to have a son before I die and I want to die on the set the way my grandfather and father did.” He had a son and he did die on the set. As for me, I think I’d like to keep working until the very end.

Fox News: What do you think is missing from today's Hollywood films?
Moore: Talent. And also, I don't think there are as many beautiful people as there were when we had the Lana's and the Ava's and the Rita Hayworths — they were so beautiful. We have lovely actresses today, but [they don’t make them like that anymore].

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Actress Terry Moore attends the 5th Annual Roger Neal and Maryanne Lai Oscar Viewing Dinner-Icon Awards and After Party at The Hollywood Museum on Feb. 9, 2020, in Hollywood, Calif.

Actress Terry Moore attends the 5th Annual Roger Neal and Maryanne Lai Oscar Viewing Dinner-Icon Awards and After Party at The Hollywood Museum on Feb. 9, 2020, in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

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Fox News: Who’s one current actor or actress today that has really impressed you?
Moore: I love Margot Robbie. And Charlize Theron who played me in “Mighty Joe Young.” I love them both. Brad Pitt, I just love. And of course Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, and Matthew McConaughey is just wonderful. I love him. We have the same coach. He is just the most down to earth, fantastic human being on the face of the earth.