It had not been enough for Scott to educate me. He wanted to improve me as a writer and even on radio. “You will never be successful until you have had a success,” he said, somewhat ambiguously. I was a disaster on radio, with my early British accent, and the scripts he rewrote for me did not help; they were far too literate for the average listener to Hollywood gossip. Half the time the audience didn't know what I was talking about even when I was talking about Clark Gable. But I was a writer by trade, and in this area Scott believed I could be improved.
He decided I had a good ear for dialogue, which I do not have. I could never be a John O'Hara and get down exactly the way they seem to say it. But Scott was sure I could write a successful play. “We'll do it together,” he announced one day. The topic? “It must deal with something you know.” I didn't know much besides being a movie columnist. The play, Scott decided, would be about a pretty reporter in Hollywood who was always in hot water with the stars, which in fact I was. We both liked the name Judy. He had used it for his heroine in “Winter Dreams”—Judy Jones. He was under contract to MGM at this time and trying to prove himself a screenwriter. The terms of his contract gave everything he wrote to the studio. Our project must be secret. Scott's cover—up name for the play was Institutional Humanitarianism. Realizing I would not understand Institutional Humanitarianism, we privately called our play Dame Rumor. He was too busy to do more than edit what I wrote. Scott had already written a play, The Vegetable, about a postman who dreams he is President of the United States. It had closedin Atlantic City without coming to Broadway. Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman were in the audience at Atlantic City and later they came up with a similar idea—Of Thee I Sing. “Someone starts it, then someone else comes along, adds to it, and makes money,” said Scott, quoting Picasso. As I knew nothing about playwriting, Scott bought me George Pierce Baker's Dramatic Technique and instructed me to study it before starting. “Underline what you consider difficult or important,” said my professor. The only paragraph I apparently considered worth discussing: “… he cannot write a successful play until he has studied deeply the psychology of the crowd and has thus learned to present his chosen subject so as to gain from the group which takes from the theatrical public the emotional response he desires.” A pained Fitzgerald dissociated himself from my underlining by writing on the margin “S.G.'s marking… You have marked as advisable the attitude to which you are already prone. Journalism with its accent on circulation has made you cater to ‘public taste’ in other writing. FSF.” I got the message. After a prologue and two dreary acts corrected rather hopelessly by Scott, we abandoned the play.
There was still the hope that with Scott's guidance I could succeed as a writer. My prose was stilted and conventional, but with practice he was sure I could be loosened up. I would never be as good as his editing of my stories when I gave them to him for his approval. The first, the original “Beloved Infidel', a 5000—word story written in the summer of 1939, was something quite different after Scott's pencil had cut through it. It was about our meeting and our life together. I had made him a successful painter in my story, as Zelda had in her fictionalized autobiography Save Me the Waltz. His weakness was gambling. He had a son. Scott changed the name from John O'Brien to Carter O'Brien. Benchley was disguised as Douglas Taylor. I had Douglas writing for a smart magazine. Scott changed it to “He was a child of repeal; once he had done ecclesiastical interiors—now he did modernistic bars witha homey touch of the ecclesiastical.” Carter's wife, Alicia, “was dead six years now.” Carter had been rumoured “living with a brood of native women and children in a South Sea Island.” Scott turned it into “living as a cannibal. …” My name in the story was Mara Mackenzie and I married Carter. Much of what I wrote was eliminated by my teacher of English. Words were added that made a difference. “Carter took a long time to light a cigarette.” Scott inserted “shy” after “long”. Mara, I wrote, had a “cream skin as fine as smooth notepaper', Scott gave her a skin 'like peach—coloured notepaper”. Where I had Carter say “Like hell I will', Scott made it “In a pig's eye”. It was the same as the real—life story. The meeting. The mistaken identity. The arrival of his son. The dancing. The pursuit by Mara, whose “thick yellow—brown hair tickled his chin”. Scott coloured her hair “dark gold”. In talking to Carter of her ex—fiance, George, the Earl of Mulhaven, Mara “moved her head backwards and tossed George out of her life”. Scott did it more effectively “She dropped a match over the table's edge and tossed George out of her life”. He cut such purple prose as '…passion dropped them into a delicious whirlpool”. I used a line I had said to Scott: “I'd like to walk into your eyes and close the lids behind me.” He did not cut that, but he had her say it instead of whisper it. Instead of “‘I'm going out tonight—now,’ he told her defiantly', it was “‘I'm going out,’ he said, killing the fly on the pane.” I did not omit Scott's joke about having a twin brother. In the cafe at Metro, Scott had confused the waiter by saying, “That was my twin, Irish Fitzgerald.' In the first “Beloved Infidel', the twin was Brien O'Brien. Of course Carter gave Mara books to read—'for example, Proust”. The ending, a foretaste of Scott's sudden death, can still make me weep.
After an embarrassing encounter on the studio set with Constance Bennett, Scott advised me to put the incident into a short story, which I titled “Encounter on Parnassus”. (It was during my study of Greek history.) Scott considered the title pretentious and substituted “Not in the Script”.Reading his corrections, I was grateful, but wondered when, if ever, I would write really well.
Scott could never remain uninvolved when it concerned the written word. When I agreed to undertake a lecture tour in the early autumn of 1939 to tell the people of Boston, Cleveland, Louisville, St. Louis and Kansas City about Hollywood, I typed out what I thought they would like to know—the glamorous lives led by Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, etc.; how kind they were, how happy, how charming, and all the latest gossip. I had a story about Gary Cooper; he had had a fight with Sam Goldwyn, who had threatened to sue him for $500,000 if he did not make a certain film, accusing him of throwing hundreds of people out of work. “I'll never forgive him,” Cooper said. But he did, and a year later, at the premiere of The Westerner, you'd have thought they were the best friends in the world. There was a story about Charles Boyer, then at the height of his fame and his mistrust of press agents and the public. The first time he met the press agent of his current film, he told him flatly, “We are not going to get on.” He was startled when the man replied, “No, I don't think so.” When a fan—magazine writer asked for his autograph, he replied suspiciously,'Is she going to publish it?'These stories were in my lecture, together with some anecdotes about how certain stars had landed in films. It was all very light and frothy, although I studied up on the technical side of filmmaking in case I was asked questions at the end. I knew nothing about the actual machinery, cameras, etc., for the making of films.
When Scott read my lecture, he frowned and asked me, “Do you really believe they will be interested in this?” I had to admit that I wasn't sure. And that I was extremely worried. “Then why did you write it?” he demanded. “Here, let me have it.” A few days later, he presented me with my lecture. But it wasn't mine. It was all his. He had rewritten it completely. “You can give them the gossipwhen you answer questions after the lecture. But you are an important person. You are coming to them as an authority of Hollywood. You must explain the part films play in their lives in all areas. They have a kitchen the way it is because that is how they saw it in a Norma Shearer movie; they make up and dress the way they do because this is how they see Joan Crawford on the screen. I have kept some of your ideas, such as the difficulty of finding a husband in Hollywood, but that is far less important than explaining the enormous value of the director. The stars are merely puppets who dance to his tune. Without the director, there would be neither stars nor films. Now, let's rehearse the lecture. I have written it carefully, and I want you to read it carefully. If you follow what I have written, you will have a success.” I read it, after several false starts, to the audience of three —Scott, his secretary and his maid—to encouraging laughter and applause initiated by Scott.
The lecture in full follows. Today it may seem little more than a series of faded clippings from an old magazine. However, the words are entirely Scott's and they show how closely he attempted to identify with me and my professional strivings. The careful reader will also discern between the lines and from the selection of details a good deal about Scott's own attitudes towards Hollywood and the movies as both craft and industry.
A few months ago I visited the enormous back lot of the Goldwyn studio. The picture was The Real Glory—the scene a Philippine village on the banks of a swift river. After a minute of absolute silence there was a quiet command from the man sitting under the camera. This was echoed through a loud microphone by his assistant—'All right, we're rolling” —then a wild uproar filled the air. Filipinos jumped to the walls of the village, rifles crackling; screaming Moros rushed from the jungle; men were catapulted through the air from, bent trees; David Niven died at the feet of Andrea Leeds; anddown the raging stream came Gary Cooper on a raft. 'Cut,” said director Hathaway quietly. “Print it.”
In the sudden lull I said, “It must be wonderful to be back of all this. It must give you a great sense of power.” A rueful expression came over Hathaway's face. He reached down and turned up his shoe for my inspection. The sole was worn through to its last layer. “You can have the power,” he said. “I'd like time to get a new pair of shoes.” (Pause.)
On the stage the director is merely the man who says, 'Now, Miss Cornell, you cross left at this point. You'll have an amber spot following you.”
The duties of the motion picture director are on an infinitely grander scale. From the first day of shooting until the word 'Printed” is uttered after the last take, he is the picture. He is its life, its heart and its soul.
The actors may have to do scenes which have no meaning to them. For instance, they may have to do the last scene before the first because it was more economical to build the set for the last scene first. But the director can never be in the dark. He must know at every moment and at all times just where his story is, how it feels, how it looks. He must know just how this scene will dovetail with another scene to be taken on location two weeks hence.
Often the director's work begins long before the first day of shooting. For example, director Henry Koster and producer Pasternak are crossing the Universal lot. They want a picture for a girl. Koster has read somewhere that three girls are more trouble than a sack of fleas. He says, 'Let's make a picture about three girls.”
Pasternak agrees and decides that the writer will be Adele Comandini because when Pasternak was a waiter in a studio cafe and she was a secretary, she always left him a dime tip.
The first blow is when the two are told that their leading lady is an unknown little singer named Durbin. (Pause.) All they've got now is the idea, the kid, and a budget of $260,000, which is small change in Hollywood.
It might seem that the writer now takes over, but that's not quite the case. A writer's instinct is to think in words. The director has got to work with the writer and turn the writer's words into visual images for the camera. We can do without speeches, but we've got to see, for on the screen, seeing is believing, no matter what the characters say.
It's rather interesting to watch the different methods of the different directors. You've all heard of the famous Lubitsch touch? I was introduced to it in a rather unusual way. I was on the set when Lubitsch was directing Ninotchka. (Pause.) Garbo was home that day with a cold. I said hello to Mr Lubitsch. Whereupon he kissed me on the cheek. And then, for no reason at all, we both tried to sit on the same chair at the same time. Now, he's a little man, I'm a big girl, and the chair was very rickety—so it was rather a painful experience for both of us. (Pause.) I've since wondered whether Lubitsch did the same thing with Garbo, and that's why she laughs so much in Ninotchka.
John Ford is inclined to be very sarcastic when he's making a picture. I remember going on the set when he was directing Mary of Scotland with Katharine Hepburn. The way those two insulted each other was nobody's business. I enjoyed it thoroughly until he suddenly saw me and said, 'And how is little Poison Pen this morning?” It's not all fun being a movie columnist.
When Frank Capra made Mr Deeds Goes to Town he suddenly got the idea that when Mr Deeds” train pulls out for New York and the serenading band has reached its full pitch, he'd turn his camera on the band, move in to a close—up, and there, sending himself off with a terrific trombone serenade, show Mr Deeds. (Pause.)
If you remember that, you probably think of it still with amusement. But you probably have forgotten that when the audience saw Gary sending himself off, their appreciation was not only hilarious but, from that point on, they felt that they knew Mr Deeds better than they would have from a hundred speeches.
The director must aim for such moments at all times. If at any time during the unrolling of the eight or nine reels of a feature picture the director allows one minute of relaxation to his audience, one minute when they're not emotionally held, he's almost certain that he's directed a turkey—in other words made an expensive mistake.
When you're reading a book and you come to a dull description or to some difficult technical stuff, you skip; if your husband comes to the part about how beautiful Sally looked in her new coachman's hat, he skips. But in a moving picture you and your husband have got to sit there. So, there can be nouninteresting parts, nor even any highly complicated parts. Everything has got to be simple, forthright, and compellingly interesting.
While most great pictures like Captains Courageous, Birth of a Nation, The Good Earth, and Mutiny on the Bounty have this enormous pictorial quality—we are absorbed in seeing rather than hearing—this accent on the visual need not mean we have to blow up a city or have schooners sailing the seven seas. The focus may be on something as small as the famous “kitten and boots” gag in Harold Lloyd's Grandma's Boy. You may remember that Harold Lloyd had greased his boots with a special ointment which proved unexpectedly attractive to cats, and at the crisis of his love affair, sitting on the sofa with his girl, a family of kittens kept licking at his boots. (Pause.)
Gone with the Wind had three directors in as many months. First there was George Cukor. He had directed David Copper—field and Little Women for Selznick, so he seemed a natural choice for Gone with the Wind, which was another attempt to put a long novel on the screen.
Now Cukor likes to direct women. In fact, he likes to direct women so much that he's liable to slight the male star—in this case Clark Gable. It was rather funny to hear Selznick telling one of the seventeen writers who worked on the script, “Look, don't let Scarlett romp all over Rhett Butler. George will try and throw everything to her. You and I have got to watch out for Clark.”
Shortly after this, George comes suddenly into Selznick's office. He looks worried. He says to Selznick, “Do I understand we start shooting tomorrow?” “Yes,” says David. “But we're not ready,” says Cukor, adding that he wants new scenes for Scarlett's arrival at Aunt Pitty's in Atlanta. “Then we'll just have to work all night,” Selznick replies. One of the current authors on the picture [Scott] groans and telephones his fiancee not to expect him for dinner. The conference begins.
“What worries me,” says George, “is the character of Aunt Pitty.”
“What's the matter with her?” says Selznick.
“She's supposed to be quaint,” says Cukor, who is the brain behind the camera. “That's what it says in the book.”
“That's what it says in the script too,” says Selznick. Heopens the script and reads: “Aunt Pitty bustles quaintly across the room.”
“That's just what I mean,” interrupts Cukor. “How can I photograph that? How do you "bustle quaintly across the room?" It may be funny when you read about it but it won't look like anything at all.”
They argue about this question for three long hours, and the two writers try desperately to make Aunt Pitty funny and not just say she's funny. Which are two different things.
By midnight, Cukor and Selznick fire one of the writers. The other writer is sent home and immediately a telegram is dispatched saying that he too will not be needed any more [Scott]. Next day, two new writers come on. By noon George Cukor, having directed the first scene for Gone with the Wind, hands in his resignation. (Pause.)
Very much perturbed by the whole situation, Mr Selznick, who grew up with pictures and has very strong opinions of his own, turns to his father—in—law's studio—Metro—Goldwyn—Mayer—and asks for the loan of Victor Fleming, who's a man's director.
Fleming made Captains Courageous and Test Pilot. He's a huge man, six feet two, and full of immense physical vitality, like all the directors. That is one thing that they must have. Also they must be iron—nerved, they must sleep at night. Let actors get the jitters, let producers go up in the air, as Mr Goldwyn is so often accused of doing—and does. Let writers go into temperamental fits. The director must be the strong man. The organization of victory is his fight against time, against human vanities, against luck—which is the story of every big picture. (Pause.)
Victor Fleming comes, bringing with him two new writers. The two writers Selznick has engaged only that morning are hastily put out of sight—two more leaves have “Gone with the Wind”.
Victor Fleming is a producer's favourite. Because he's so softhearted and good—natured. Producers will beg him to make just this one picture, and they promise him on their word of honour that next year he can take a whole week off. When Fleming reminds them gently that's what they said last year, the producer sobs. “It isn't for me that I ask this favour. I've got plenty of money. It's for the dear old company.”
Whereupon, Victor Fleming sheds a furtive tear, sighs, realizes he's caught. He phones his wife that she might as well go on the trip to Bermuda without him. He will try to get into wireless communication with his children during the next month. And then the studio gates close behind him. (Pause.) (Confidentially.) I was once in love with a director, but I couldn't get him to marry me. He was just—too—busy. At least that's what he said. (Pause.)
In the case of Gone with the Wind, Victor Fleming was too kind for his own good. After the picture was three months in production, he broke down. The doctor told Selznick that unless Fleming got three weeks of absolute quiet, even this fine adaptable mechanism—which in the morning could direct the action of two thousand extras, and in the afternoon decide on the colour of the buttons on Clark Gable's coat and the shadows on Vivien Leigh's neck—even Fleming had fallen a victim of the great Hollywood vice, overwork.
By this time Selznick is almost immune to shock and calls on reliable Sam Wood, a veteran of twenty—six years in pictures. Sam, perhaps, takes things a little less hard than Cukor or Fleming. Sam is what they call a “trouble shooter”. He's not particularly intellectual. Directors like Lubitsch and Capra plan every move that a character is going to make long before the starting date of a picture, but Sam Wood doesn't prepare his own scripts. They can always count on him, though, for a thorough, thoughtful job—as witness his fine direction of Mr Chips. (Pause.)
He keeps Gone with the Wind going until Fleming recovers. For a while the two directors even overlap; then Fleming takes over again completely, without friction or jealousy.
After six months on the sound stages, the first draft of this problem picture is completed. A few more months of retakes—during which Clark Gable is the chief sufferer, because his hair has to grow way down his neck for Rhett Butler and it's a hot summer and he would like to cut it—well, after retakes and then more retakes, the picture is finished.
Like all pictures, it has been a community enterprise. Margaret Mitchell wrote the story; David Selznick, perhaps the most competent producer in Hollywood, dedicated himself to the four—million—dollar production; seventeen writers have figured on the payroll; the cutters, technicians, cameramen, designers, music recorders, dressmakers, tailors, all have donetheir share—but the tensile strength of this great effort had been furnished by the director.
But don't feel too sorry for the director—he has his compensations. (Pause. ) Capra, Ford, Vidor, Fleming, and the other top directors get from $50,000 to $150,000 a picture. And, in the popular mind, there is another compensation for the director. I quote from William de Mille's book Hollywood Saga:
When I first assumed my duties as director, I was surprised and just a bit startled to discover that my personal attraction seemed to have increased in an amazing fashion. Never had I realized the number of charming and ambitious young women who were willing, nay, anxious to pay the price, as they no naively expressed it. But my tottering modesty was saved, against its will perhaps, by the inner conviction that all the ladies wanted was a job.
The question I am asked the most frequently is: “How can I break into the movies?”—and I'm just the person to come to. Nine years ago, I had a screen test in London. (Pause.) I was strongly advised to become a writer. (Pause and smile.) However, I always feel that I didn't have a fair chance. (Smile.)
There is no royal road to screen success. You can be the daughter of a director and have no luck, like Katherine de Mille; you can be a great beauty and a millionairess in one, like Mrs Jock Whitney; you can be the wife of a Barrymore, or a glamour girl like Brenda Frazier, and then not click in front of a camera.
One of the best ways to get into the movies is to fall into them. David Niven had no idea of becoming a screen actor until he fell off a boat. (Pause.) He was visiting friends on a British cruiser off California. After a rather gay evening, he had retired for the night. Shortly afterwards, the captain of the boat received orders to sail to Australia. There was the problem of Mr Niven. They couldn't take him along—even if David wanted to go. For a while the captain considered throwing David to the sharks, but we English—well, that sort of thing just isn't done. So he hailed a ship a hundred yards away. “Can you take aboard a young man who can't travel under his own steam?” (Pause.)
The boat hailed was the sailing ship chartered by Metro for Mutiny on the Bounty, and the Bounty was nothing if not bountiful. The ship was to appear before the camera the nextday, but they could put up this lost young Englishman for one night. A launch came alongside. David turned at the gangplank to say “Good—bye” to his friends, made a false step, and descended hurriedly into the Pacific, whence he was dragged into the Bounty's launch, a very wide—awake young man. (Pause.) David didn't know that it was the beginning of his career. At that moment, he was only trying to survive; he was not looking ahead. (Pause.)
Producers never make mistakes about talent—this is a well—known fact. At least if anyone says differently between Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevard, they'd better start looking for a job outside the movies. Producers sense talent by a sort of second or third sight. For example, when the screen tests were run for a certain young lady in 1930, Carl Laemmle, Junior, who'd grown up in the business, immortalized himself with the remark. 'She's got no talent, she leaves me cold.”
He was right, of course—that is, so far as his own feelings were concerned. However, about a hundred million Americans thought differently and also thought that Miss Bette Davis was one of the great actresses of our time. Nevertheless, five years passed from the time of Mr Laemmle's decision before Bette got her chance in Of Human Bondage, and that was only because every other actress in Hollywood refused the part.
The handsome Errol Flynn will tell you that his career came to life when he played dead. (Pause.) This is literally true. He was first spotted for the big money when, in desperation, he accepted the role of a corpse in a picture called The Case of the Curious Bride. (Disparaging gesture.) It wasn't much of a part. He had no lines to speak of. But it was a nice quiet occupation and it didn't require any experience. (Smile for first time.)
But while he was lying dead, news came that Robert Donat was too ill to come to America and a handsome actor had to be found to take his place. So a lot of talent scouts were brought in to look at this corpse with sex appeal. And that's how Errol Flynn won the title role of Captain Blood.
Then there's always that old feminine trick of fainting in the producer's office—only this time it was used by a man, who gave it a different twist. Joel McCrea was driving a motorcycle outside the Paramount studio. A delivery truck bumpedinto him. Before he lost consciousness, Joel managed to stagger inside the studio. When he came to, he heard Cecil B. de Mille say, lie's good—looking, he ought to be in pictures.” Before he was fully awake, de Mille had him under contract, at fifty dollars a week.
Sometimes personality conquers all. When Clark Gable was tested for the screen, they dressed him in a sort of sarong, with a rose in his mouth and a wreath of flowers round his head to cover his ears. (Pause.) Even that couldn't stop Clark Gable. When you've got it, you've got it.
Again, one can change one's self in order to win friends and influence producers. Fifteen years ago, Molly O'Day (sister of Sally O'Neil) had a portion of both calves amputated, which caused somewhat of a scandal and injured her career. But there were no protests whatever when George Brent sacrificed a piece of his nose to make it a little less Roman.
Seriously, it does seem that the best way of making a reputation for Hollywood is to make it outside of Hollywood. Judy Garland lived in Hollywood nine years but couldn't make the movie grade until she sang at Lake Tahoe, where she was heard by a talent scout. And a girl like Mary Martin had to sing unnoticed for two years in Hollywood night clubs. Then she went East, made a hit on Broadway, and was immediately deluged with screen offers.
I won't depress you by dwelling on the fact that 9000 extras worked last year an average of twenty—nine days each—for an average pay cheque of $320 for the year. And that even if you do click in your first picture that's only one hurdle in a long steeplechase. For one whole year I used to gape at the exquisite Hedy Lamarr sitting neglected in a corner at the Hollywood Brown Derby. And then overnight, after the release of Algiers, she became the glamour girl of the screen. Three months later, her next picture was abandoned in the middle because of the honest conviction of all concerned that she couldn't act. But she could act in Algiers. (Pause.)
What is the answer? (Pause.) As Bernard Shaw says, “The Golden Rule is (Pause) that there are no golden rules.” There are no reliable signposts on the road to Hollywood success.
One thing I know you all want to know is “What are the stars like?” (Pause.) It's a little hard to know what they are like physically—after the Hollywood make—up experts getthrough with them. And we haven't much time now to go into it deeply, but we'll take a few of them very briefly.
There's Shirley Temple. Shirley has changed quite a bit in the four years that I've known her. We first met at the hairdresser's when we were both having our hair brightened—a little. She bought me a Coca—Cola. (Pause.) She hasn't quite gotten around to buying whiskeys and sodas—yet—but that will come—I hope.
I think Shirley is going to be a prettier girl and woman than she was a baby. She's lost a lot of weight, and she's getting fairly tall for her eleven years. Her mother has wisely decided to let Shirley's hair revert to its near—natural shade. It will soon be black, like her mother's. Shirley's amazingly intelligent. She recently discussed the European war with me, and from the way she spoke, I think she reads Life and Time. She is currently studying Greek philosophy—or rather that's what her press agent told me.
Charles Boyer—what of him? (Pause.) In real life Charles has a much higher forehead than on the screen. But, like Edgar Bergen and Fred Astaire, he has to wear a little something for the screen. But that doesn't detract from his tremendous personal charm—whether on the screen or in private life.
I understand that the French government has taken him from the Maginot Line with the view to sending him to this country to spread French propaganda among the clubwomen. (Pause.) You'd better not let him come, because when Boyer meets clubwoman, the combustion will put America right in the war on the side of France—and Mr Boyer.
Hedy Lamarr? Is she as beautiful in real life as she is on the screen? I'm afraid she is—in fact she's more beautiful. She has the most perfect complexion I've ever seen, literally as soft and white as a camellia. I could go on like this for hours about her. Luckily for the sanity of the rest of the women in Hollywood, Hedy's figure doesn't match up with her face. Which is why she wears those long skirts.
Hedy is like a bright child. She laughs like a child, and she probably cries like a child. You have a feeling that she ought to be playing with dolls. As a matter of fact, she is playing with a doll right now. Her husband, Gene Markey, recently bought her a nice, live, masculine doll—a cute little boy, with whom Hedy is now playing Mama.
Mickey Rooney is practically the same in real life as he is in the movies—except that he doesn't cry as much in real life as he does in the movies. And he's rather serious in real life, except where girls are concerned. Master Rooney appreciates the fair sex. They used to say at one time that it was slightly dangerous for any woman—even a columnist—to be left alone with Mickey. But apart from referring to me as “that dame” —and calling me “honey”—his attitude and behaviour has always been very respectful. I'm not his type, I guess.
And now for Ann Sheridan. I feel rather sorry for the 'Oomph” girl of the screen. (Pause.) Ann is one of the nicest girls out there. She'll do anything they want her to. So when they came to her about a year ago, and said they were going to glorify her via an “Oomph” label, Ann said, “Swell, go ahead.” She naturally thought that as the fame of her “Oomph' spread, her picture roles would swell in equal proportion. But they didn't. (Pause.) Recently a California gasoline company renamed its product—'Oomph' gasoline. This was the final straw for Ann, and she told her studio, that unless they withdrew the “Oomph” from her name, she'd withdraw from pictures.
I'm going to get very serious, and probably just at the moment when I should be telling a funny story. (Pause.)
You remember the Greek orator who was trying to prepare the defence of his city? He kept saying, “Fortify the Acropolis. The Persians are upon us.” But everyone yawned. Finally he paused, looked out at his audience, and said (Pause): “Once there was a man who fell in love with a frog.” Immediately everybody was listening. “That's all,” he told them, 'but now that you're with me, how about those defence plans?” (Pause. Smile.)
I feel like this when I start to talk about education in pictures. Please bear with me. (Confidential tone.)
Some years ago, two little friends of mine—they were twelve years old—asked me to take them to a moving picture, to a movie I'd already seen. They won me over by saying that the picture was considered very educational. It was The Story of Louis Pasteur.
We went and enjoyed it enormously, but coming out of the theatre I looked at the faces of the two little girls and failed to recognize the tired look that usually goes with education. Iwondered how much of the picture they'd remembered.
They spent the night with me, but before they went to bed I asked one of them to look up Louis Pasteur in the encyclopedia. She put up quite a struggle—said she knew all about him, hadn't she just seen the picture? But she finally agreed. Meanwhile, the other little girl had gone to bed.
A month passed. The girls asked again to be taken to a picture. Again they mowed me down by telling me it was an educational and historical subject. Here was a chance to prove my theory. I asked the little girl who had not read about Pasteur to tell me something of his life.
She hesitated, then she said: “Well, he went around kinda —well, there was something about some sheep and a mad dog (Quickly) and Anita Louise married the young man at the end.” Then I asked the little girl—the one I'd coerced into reading up on Pasteur. She frowned and felt she was being put on the spot, but in the end she gave me a fairly good summary of Pasteur's life. The reading had reinforced the picture; the picture had made the reading vivid. (Pause—lighter expression.) But even she will always think Pasteur was lucky to look like Paul Muni. (Pause.)
But I'd found out something. Because of the extra effort she had put in, Hollywood had contributed something to her education.
My conviction is that if anyone invented a system to educate without effort—merely by giving a sugar—coated pill—that would be closer to Huxley's dream of a “Brave New World” than the present—day motion picture realities. So many sorts of pictures loosely called “educational,” are really “informative” or “propaganda” pictures. Education is a privilege that cannot be got without effort.
But let's see what the movie can do towards education in a legitimate field, the classroom. The classroom is something you approach in the morning when you're fresh. While the picture house is something we turn to in the evening when we're tired. The Rockefeller Foundation financed a study of human relations as exemplified in motion pictures. It's believed that 175 different situations confront the average adult, and that showing them in the classroom will help the student to take care of himself with the least possible harm when the time comes.
A typical thing would be to show that little bit from AStar Is Born where a popular actor is drunk in public—to show how the sympathy of the crowd withdraws from him.
Another example could be from the picture San Francisco, when Gable hits a man of God—and the ineffable reproach on Spencer Tracy's face as he sinks down before the fists of his friend. No boy who would see that bit from San Francisco —see it in the morning, detached from the flow of the film—would ever again take a delight in being a bully.
The so—called educational shorts that are shown in the theatres are really just informative. We're interested, but what we've come to the theatre for is to see the feature picture, and we're inclined to put the short out of our mind and save our memories for Clark Gable or Myrna Loy. (Pause.)
What about the newsreel in screen education? My idea is that a newsreel is neither more nor less educational than a daily paper.
You pick up a newspaper. The first column is about the war; the second, the escape of a criminal; the third, a speech by the President—and so forth. Each headline drives out what you read in the preceding column. We don't drag along the memory of what was in the first column though our reading of the second. The headline about the crime makes us forget the column about war—to a great extent. As a newspaper—woman, I admit reluctantly that my chief concern is to entertain you first—instruct you only if I can. And this is true of the newsreel.
If you go to a newsreel to look for something—for instance, what bombardment does—you'll find it. Just as you'd turn to the real—estate section of a newspaper if you want to buy a house. But in general, the voice of the newsreel commentator drives out of mind whatever has passed before our eyes a second before. (Pause.) This is as it should be. If we remembered everything we saw, our minds would be like a log jam on the Columbia river. Our machinery for forgetting is as important as our machinery for remembering.
What I'm shooting at is not a disparagement of the news—reel or the programme short. I'm merely groping for a better definition of screen education than the present one, which throws everything that doesn't say Boy Meets Girl, or Man Meets Bullet, into a huge bag labelled “Educational”.
I'll tell you a story which doesn't exactly illustrate this but has a sort of moral of its own.
Ernest Hemingway visited Hollywood a few years ago. He and two producers were walking across the lot of a certain studio. Both producers were praising his works. Hemingway was naturally pleased and asked one of them which of his books he admired most. The producer looked a little blank, so Hemingway tried to help him out.
'A Farewell to Arms}' “Yes,” said the producer so eagerly that Ernest grew a little suspicious and asked (Pause): “Do you mean the play or the book?” (Pause.)
“I mean the movie,” the producer said. (Pause.)
Hemingway was somewhat disappointed and turning to the producer on his left he asked, “Is that what you admire—the movie?”
“No,” said the producer. “I never got around to seeing the movie—but I heard the song.” (Pause.)
While I'm sure that the youth of the nation has more intellectual curiosity than these two producers, I still maintain that when you go towards education, you've got to take your book with you.
One type of picture that wavers on the border of the instructive is the propaganda film. The first propaganda films were issued by the British during the last war. They took a picture of the Battle of Loos that was so horrible it was finally put back in the files of the War Department. The first successful propaganda pictures were made by Eisenstein and other Russian directors in the middle 1920s (Pause)—among them The Cruiser Potemkin, and The Last Days of St Petersburg.
Once in Paris I saw these pictures behind closed doors—after showing my British passport to prove I wasn't a member of the French police. (Pause.) These Russian pictures certainly had an emotional sway. And this was due to the recognition that the moving picture can convey an emotion more easily than a thought. Pictures are an emotional rather than an intellectual medium.
That is the reason for the success of Merian Cooper's fine film, Grass, which showed the migration of an Asiatic tribe in quest of new pastures. Anyone who's ever felt hunger couldn't help but feel in sympathy with that picture. (Pause.)
But it's in the world of fashions and manners that movies have spread their most effective propaganda. It's a commonplace to say that Hollywood has become the style centre of the world. The up hairdo was popularized by Danielle Darrieux in her first picture here. Remembering all the untidy necks with straggling wisps of hair that followed, I'm not so sure we have anything for which to thank Miss Darrieux.
Joan Crawford was responsible for those heavy, thickly made—up lips that swept the country from coast to coast a few years ago.
Greta Garbo wore a pillbox hat in a picture several years ago. We're still wearing a version of that very same hat.
Hedy Lamarr parted her black hair in the middle and wore an off—the—face turban in Algiers. Ever since, the country has swarmed with girls who've worn off—the—face turbans, parted their black hair in the middle, and wishfully believed they looked like Hedy Lamarr.
And American films have acted as a common denominator of customs and even speech in other countries. They are largely responsible for the emancipation of the Japanese woman, who rebelled against her age—long subjection by demanding the delicious freedom enjoyed by American women—as reflected in American movies. (Pause.) And American slang, such as “Oh yeah” and “Bump off” and “Scram', is now heard in the best London drawing rooms—and I don't mean maybe. (Pause.)
The uneven quality of Hollywood's product, the question of why some pictures were ever made at all—all this is usually blamed on the producer. It isn't quite fair. In the long run, people get the sort of entertainment they demand. But the producer has been the scapegoat for so long that perhaps he can stand one more story about himself—of which I was a first—hand witness.
One of the producers at a big studio wanted to change the tragic ending of Three Comrades—he wanted Margaret Sulla—van to live. He said the picture would make more money if Margaret Sullavan lived. (Pause.) He was reminded [by Scott, who wrote the script] that Camille had also coughed her life away and had made many fortunes doing it. He pondered this for a minute; then he said, 'Camille would have made twice as much if Garbo had lived.” (Pause.) “What about the greatest love story of all?' he was asked. “How about Romeo and Juliet—you wouldn't have wanted Juliet to live, would you?” “That just it,” said the producer. 'Romeo and Juliet didn't make a cent.” (Pause.)
“I'd like to drop the production side of the industry and takeyou, directly and intimately, into Hollywood for a few minutes.
Of course I know that women here have no difficulty in finding husbands—the right sort of husband, I mean. Or in keeping them. And it may seem a little remote to you, and I almost apologize for bringing it up at all, but out in Hollywood (Pause) we're up against it. (Pause.)
In most frontier towns, the proportion of men to women is such that almost any girl—so I'm told—is overwhelmed with golden nuggets and offers of marriage. But not in Hollywood, where two—thirds of the mining population wear skirts. (Pause.)
But if ever a woman needs a husband it's in Hollywood. It's a lonely place for the woman without her own man. And believe me, he's exclusively hers—when and if she can find him. As Lana Turner told me emotionally, “When you do find a good man—hang on to him, sister.” (Pause.)
Norma Shearer is only just beginning to adjust herself to her loneliness since the death of her husband, Irving Thalberg, in 1936. Not long ago she told me how much she envied couples like Gable and Lombard, and Taylor and Stanwyck. “They have someone they can trust,” she said very sadly. Norma still has found no one she can turn to, no one she can quite trust as she trusted Irving Thalberg.
What chance has the average film actress of finding a husband in Hollywood? In the old days she could hope to marry her leading men and directors—alternately. (Pause.) But nowadays all the leading men and directors are very much married—with the exception of a minority.
There's Jimmy Stewart, who doesn't want to marry an actress; Cary Grant, who's bespoken for Phyllis Brooks; and a few young actors—among them Richard Greene, who recently stated that he wasn't going to marry anyone for two years. Rather discouraging, isn't it? Stay East, young woman, stay East.
Take the case of Olivia de Havilland, who's twenty—four, very pretty, utterly charming, and wants to marry. Olivia is in love—or rather she was when I left Hollywood. (Pause.) She's in love with Howard Hughes. But then, so are a lot of other girls. Mr Hughes is perfectly aware of this pleasant condition. And he wants to enjoy it as long as it lasts.
The normal girl in a normal city does her work by day andsees her beaux in the evening. But the movie actress, when she's making a picture, is usually too tired in the evening to do anything except have dinner in bed and go to sleep at nine. And when she does go out she wants to go home early. That's why in Hollywood you'll see Howard Hughes and Olivia de Havilland having dinner together, but by late suppertime Howard has to find another girl. Which doesn't help Olivia to get the proposal she wants. (Pause.)
In other cities, girl meets boy at parties. We have our parties in Hollywood too, and sometimes girl meets boy there. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are supposed to have fallen in love at a big Hollywood party—but they're the exception, not the rule.
My first party in Hollywood is typical of most of them. It was at Marion Davies” modest shack on the beach. (Look up)—the cloakroom is about the size of this hall. (Pause.) It was on a Saturday night, the only night all Hollywood can stay up late. Of course, I knew I was up against pretty stiff competition. I couldn't hope to compete with the richest, most glamorous girls in the world. So, when my escort vanished immediately we were inside the door, I was disappointed but not surprised.
But I was surprised to find glamour girls like Loretta Young and Ginger Rogers without the dozens of adoring men I'd expected. Every other girl at that party was a celebrity, but there were three girls to every man, which means that there were times when even the film stars were wallflowers! At the long supper table there were usually two women, then one man, then two women. 1, being a newcomer, was placed between two women. (Smile.) My escort was up to his neck in film stars about a mile down the table. And if I wanted to talk to a man I had to do a bit of shouting. Somehow I didn't enjoy that party. (Smile.) So you see parties are not awfully helpful to the Hollywood girl who wants to marry.
Rosalind Russell has been in Hollywood five years without finding a man that would do for a husband. Rosalind's motto is “Live alone (Pause, look up)—and don't look it.”
Mind you, she'd prefer to be married—if she could find the right man. But the right man will have a hard time getting to know Rosalind. She's too particular. She earns more money than the President of the United States. She wants the best man her golden nuggets can buy.
Meanwhile, she's lonely, complains that she doesn't want to marry a producer, a director, a writer, or anyone connected with the movies. She'll probably end up by marrying an actor—to get away from it all. (Pause.) Anyhow, we can say without hesitation that if the earning capacity of movie stars suddenly vanished, they'd be infinitely less choosy. (Pause.)
Let's presume that the loneliness of the solitary life in Hollywood is finally too much even for the successful film actress, and we'll presume that she's been lucky in getting one of the few available free men. What chance has she of “living happily ever after'?
Contrary to popular belief, the number of divorces in Hollywood is not as big as the [number of] happy marriages. I could name you a hundred actors and actresses whose home—life is as satisfactory and even as blissful as anyone could ask for. Seeing Dick Powell and Joan Blondell together is even a little fatiguing—like watching a three—year honeymoon. But one must admit that Hollywood has its divorces like any other big city—they seem to be more because every Hollywood divorce is headlined.
Usually, it's the old story of career versus marriage. Bette Davis decided to put her work before her home. She has since discovered her mistake—and I'll place a bet with anyone that she remarries within the next six months.
Joan Fontaine recently insisted on an unusual clause in her contract with Selznick—that even though she's in the middle of a picture she'll accompany her husband if he leaves town, no matter for what reason. But I can't help remembering that in 1930 Joan Crawford said, “There comes into a life only one man (Pause, say solemnly) and that's Douglas Fairbanks.” (Smile.)
One cause of divorce in Hollywood is the intense spotlight in which we demand that these people live. We permit them no private life. This spotlight has made Hollywood's social life very much like that of a village. Everywhere the star turns he finds himself on Main Street.
The gossips had a field day recently when Tony Martin left town on a long personal—appearance tour. They fastened their claws on his wife, little inoffensive Alice Faye. Hardly a day passed without amateur reporters calling me up to tell me —in strictest confidence—that Alice was going to divorce Tony.
Sometimes they'd vary the story by saying that Alice wasgoing around with other men or that Tony had fallen in love with a rich Easterner. For additional seasoning, they threw in the erroneous guess that Alice was going to have a baby and wasn't it terrible that the poor child had to be brought into the world under such circumstances!
They almost had me believing them. But time and experience have made me cautious, and I thought it better to wait for something more concrete. (Pause. ) Alice and Tony are still living together happily in spite of this pyramid of malicious rumour. But it was a narrow squeak. If they hadn't had such faith in each other it would have been another Hollywood divorce. But in this case, they have the last laugh.
I won't say that gossip alone ruined Dorothy Lamour's marriage—but it didn't help. Enforced separation from her husband, who worked in Chicago, had as much, perhaps a little more, to do with it. But the continual items in the newspapers and magazines that Dorothy was out with this man one night and another the next couldn't have been peaceful reading for her husband. Mind you, he'd given her carte blanche to go out with whom she wanted to, but there's quite a difference in saying, “Darling, I want you to have an amusing time when I'm not there,” to reading that his “darling” was having an amusing time when he wasn't there. (Pause.)
Randolph Scott's marriage is another that went on the rocks via separation and gossip. His wife preferred horses and Delaware to films and Hollywood. So she lived in Delaware and Mr Scott lived in Hollywood. Mrs Scott told Mr Scott that it was all right with her if he went out with other women when she wasn't there. And Randy, no less generously, told Mrs Scott she could go out with other men when he wasn't there.
Mrs Scott did more. She wired Randy that a girl she knew was visiting Hollywood and would he show her around. Randy, being an obedient husband, took his wife's friend to dinner at the Trocadero. (Pause.) Within the next few days, every reporter in Hollywood—and there are nearly four hundred —was informed that Randolph Scott was going places with a pretty woman and that it signified the end of his marriage.
Randy told me that his wife was furious. He reminded her that it was she who'd asked him to be nice to the girl. “Yes,” she wired back, “but I didn't expect you to be that nice to her.” “But I wasn't,” Randy wired back. They made it up that time, but things were never quite the same. (Pause.)
Of course, the happy marriages aren't written up in the papers. It's hardly a news story to say that the Paul Munis are never apart—she's even on the set when he's working; or that the Warner Baxters have been married twenty—one years; (Pause.) Even such career women as Myrna Loy have made a pretty good thing of marriage. (Pause.)
Only we must consider this—that if a woman star has made a mistake in the man she's married, she's not forced by lack of money and lack of opportunity to make the best of it.
(Pause. ) A lot can happen in a Hollywood day. I'm not trying to say that as much couldn't happen right here in this city, but in Hollywood all the big names, that we know as intimately as the names of our brothers and sisters, give a kind of glow to things. At least they did four years ago, when I first went out there.
I remember a special morning when Robert Taylor called me up and asked me to play tennis. And, believe it or not, though we play the same brand of tennis, I turned him down. That same day William Powell had asked me to dinner at his house. I turned that down too, because a wire had just come from my syndicate asking for an interview with Cecil B. de Mille. This was to take place at his country home—Paradise Ranch, somewhere up in the hills. I was furious. Here I was with an invitation to play tennis with Taylor and dine with Powell. Moreover I'd planned to fly to Catalina that afternoon and learn something of Leslie Howard's new plans.
To be honest, I wasn't absolutely sorry to forgo the Howard engagement because the interview would have to be conducted on Tay Garnett's yacht and I'm one of those seasick girls. I'd had another interview before with Leslie under the same conditions and we caught some fish and talked vaguely about life and love. But I'd rather interview Dracula on good dry land. (Pause.)
Anyhow, I started out to Mr de Mille's, who'd been kind enough to invite me for the week—end. I didn't know what to expect. One of my illusions before I went to Hollywood was that the stars lived in fantastic houses and on enormous estates. Usually it isn't so. Even in such Beverly Hills houses as Joan Crawford's, your immediate impression is that any personal taste that might exist has been subordinated to the taste of an interior decorator.
But the de Mille ranch promised to be the exception. DeMille is an individualist. I was going to interview the man who re—created the American bathroom. Abraham Lincoln, in the White House, had the first bathtub with running water in the country, but Mr de Mille had made the bathroom an exquisite sanctum and if he could do that much with a mere bathroom, what was his ranch going to be like? I still regretted that dinner date with William Powell, but I was game.
A secretary met me at the door. In a few seconds, she had told me the rules:
I broke loose from the secretary at this point, went outside to where the first meal of the day was being served in the middle of a tennis court. I presented myself to Mr de Mille.
“Why?” I asked. “Why are you serving steak and soup on the tennis court?” De Mille explained that the tennis court used to be a patio and he liked the view from there, and they used to eat on the patio, and he was dashed if he'd eat anywhere else just because he'd inserted a tennis court. I was getting that Alice in Wonderland feeling.
I listened to De Mille outline the afternoon routine to his guests. “Some of you people have got to clean out the swimming pool. The rest will come with me on a mountain hike. (Pause.) We may meet a mountain lion.”
“You mean we ought to go armed?” asked a timid guest.
“No,” said de Mille complacently. I have a revolver. You'll find some canes in the hall.” The guest looked a little green as he turned back to his steak and soup.
“Don't worry,” De Mille assured him. “Your sticks will come in useful if we meet rattlesnakes.” I don't remember the name of that guest, but something tells me he chose to stay and clean out the pool.
This was my introduction to Paradise Ranch. I asked where the telephone was and called up William Powell. “I think I'll be free for a late dinner,” I said.
Now I have to confess to a complete hiatus in my memoryof that afternoon—except that I didn't go mountain climbing and I didn't clean the pool. I'd been up till three the night before, covering the Academy Dinner. So after lunch I tottered to the room assigned me and fell into a deep sleep. (Pause.) Perhaps I had a confused dream of playing tennis with Robert Taylor in the middle of a patio. (Pause.) Perhaps the peacocks screaming on the terrace made me believe that guests were murdered in their sleep. (Pause.) Perhaps in my dreams I heard the field mice on the bureau eating away at my purse, for there were really field mice, and it was—or had been—a real purse. (Pause.) But my dream couldn't have been as weird as the reality to which I presently woke up. I looked out the window. It was about seven o'clock.
Men in Russian blouses were hurrying across the patio. Had the Revolution come? I pulled myself together. I must be on the spot to report it. I fixed myself up quickly at the mirror and dashed downstairs just in time to see a strange ritual. . Cecil B. de Mille was mixing a cocktail. He wore white gloves, like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Upon the cocktail shaker, as if the ice inside wasn't enough, there were bells which with every motion of his elbow played “My Country, “Tis of Thee”.
Being from England, where the same tune is used for 'God Save the King', I stood stiffly to attention until I was rudely brought back to mobility by the whispered advice—this time from a de Mille yes—man—that until eight o'clock the women had to be subservient to the men.
“If this seems difficult,” he said, “remember you'll each get a present from that tree.”
I looked at the tree. It was a sort of Christmas tree loaded with all kinds of presents from imitation jewellery to huge bottles of Chanel Number 5. But meanwhile, the process of women being subservient to men had begun. The women were helping the men be seated at table very much as a mother puts a child in a high chair. It was all right, I was assured; in another half—hour when de Mille gave the word at eight o'clock, the world was going to be all for women again. But I can't report upon that because this was the exact moment when William Powell's car came for me. By this time, I was honestly sorry to leave. Some day I'm going back—just after eight.
That was three years ago, and I still feel a little like Alicein Wonderland. (Pause.) In talking to you, I've tried to be very practical and very serious. (Pause.) I've tried to tell you something about the director as the great vitalizing force in pictures. (Pause.) I've tried to tell you how people break into movies. (Pause.) Also I've discussed impartially the question of if, when, and how motion pictures are educational. And I've tried to tell you a little about the personalities of Hollywood and their problems.
But it's impossible to crowd into an hour all that I know or think or guess about Hollywood. After four years out there, I'd be silly not to admit that I'm a little person circulating about a great medium. It's too big for me—too big for any of us, too big for most of the people who direct its destinies.
Once in a while a great figure has appeared on the horizon and led it through a mighty exodus. Griffith was one, Thalberg was another. There is no such person now in Hollywood—no single person whom we, of the movie industry, believe capable of controlling this vast art in all its many manifestations. But there's some boy growing up in America now who by some combination of genius and luck will answer Hollywood's great problem.
Now that we have every device of nature itself—nature's colour, nature's sound. And technicians have made experiments in nature's three dimensions so that figures on the film will seem to have the corporeal reality of life itself. Now that we have all this—what are we going to do with it? Now that we've a way of saying in pictures almost everything that used to be said in books, how far do you want us to go? And what do you want us to say?
I regret to state that I was a dismal flop as a lecturer in Boston, the first stop. I was so intimidated by the Boston clubwomen that I was afraid to raise my eyes from the written page. I grew more confident going west, and by the time I hit Kansas City, I had them rolling almost literally in the aisles. A cocktail party had preceded the lecture, which I could now give from memory with only a casual glance at the papers. I felt I had done extremely well and Scott was delighted when I telephoned him with the good news, before flying back the same night to Hollywood.
When I called him the next morning, I was in tears and read him the scathing attack on my lecture by the Kansas City stringer for The Hollywood Reporter. This was when Scott asked John O'Hara to be his second for the duel he threatened with the editor of the Reporter. When John O'Hara declined, Scott mumbled something about being a coward and he would get Eddie Mayer, who was warned by O'Hara and spent the morning composing excuses. Luckily the call never came. I vowed no more lectures in a letter to Johnny, after I told him, 'It took me a long time to get over my short lecture trip. I lost too much weight and my nerves got jangled. I think I'm too high strung for that sort of work.”
Among the several short short stories I wrote under Scott's tutelage was one called “Ostrich”. Remembering how the Duchess de Guermantes had hastened to a party in advance of the time when she expected word that a relative had died, for then she would be unable to go, I wrote on similar lines, about a debutante whose grandmother was expected to die and who rushed to an important party before receiving the dreaded telegram.
I planned a plot for a story, “Janey”, a thinly disguised version of Scottie and her father. He was amused when I showed it to him; it was so exactly what was happening at that time in their lives. The notes for the story were in my 'Scott” folder.
Description of Janey
[This of course was almost a life—size description of Scottie.]
Weight 110 pounds
5 feet 4 1/2 inches
golden hair with a flame behind it. Wide apart blue eyes, the blue of a summer day with a hint of thunder, flecks of yellow around the pupil like a bright sun in the sky.
A little mouth that when she is cross looks like a short “u” upside down …
A forehead that is a combination of the best in Priscilla Lane and Ginger Rogers.
Complexion—a soft piece of finely woven creamsilk—dipped in a pink—gold dye.
She is vivacious and so busy—can't sit still—always getting things up—and leaving them for others to finish. A terrific prevaricator (except on fundamental things).
Her athletic accomplishments—a superb diver.
She is trilingual—German, French, Italian—her father having lived in Europe until she was 14 (this is why she is still 'Janey”—thinks she is still the ideal American girl).
Story of a girl, 17, daughter of a middle—aged professor, a man who in early 20's was the literary mouthpiece of flaming youth.
His daughter has read all the stories—and loved them—she is surprised that he has such knowledge and understanding of the hot, sweet, exciting problems of youth—can hardly believe he wrote them because he now seems such a timid old soul. He can't believe he wrote them either—and wishes he never had. He now dislikes so much the type of wild heroine he used to write about so prolifically.
The story that makes him writhe most is “Janey”—(his Josephine series)—about a girl just the age of his daughter and her complete counterpart in looks—no wonder—'Janey” was her mother (she died when the girl was 8) who breaks every rule—and just manages to get away with it without paying.
The daughter read “Janey” when she was 13—and has never forgotten it. She is now, at the age of 17—'Janey” to the life, but this type of girl is no longer fashionable.
The story deals with the father's determination to kill the “Janey” in his daughter—without her being aware of it—and the daughter's determination to be “Janey”—onlymore so. Both the father and the daughter win—in their own fashion.
The story could open at a debutante dance with the girl having a hot necking session with a Yale boy—a la Janey. She is a fascinating little minx with the looks and line of Scottie.(Her father doesn't know she is at the deb dance—thinks she is at Bryn Mawr College), but you'd never guess this from the girl's conversation. To hear her talk, you'd think she could twist papa around her little finger (like Janey does).
After the dance, a swift heady drive back to college with the daughter, a little intoxicated, driving. (At one bend they skid right round three times.) She goes back to the college to find her father waiting for her. (He had come up unexpectedly to see her, finds she has gone to the dance—and is VERY ANGRY.) She is furious because he bawls her out in front of the boy (with whom she is madly in love). The boy is secretly on the father's side. He is a quiet, serious, ambitious youth who drinks—but just a little—is in love with the girl, is fascinated by the Janey side of her, but also irritated by it.
“You told me to write about what I know,” I reminded Scott.
He laughed somewhat ruefully. He had recently tried to reach Scottie by telephone at Vassar on a Saturday afternoon and learned that instead of studying—she was behind in her grades—she had taken off somewhere to see a football game. After telephoning all over the Eastern Seaboard, he had tracked her down at the home of her close friend “Peaches” Finney in Baltimore. He was very angry with Scottie, bawled her out for ten minutes without repeating himself, and slammed down the receiver after predicting she would come to a bad end.