1904 - 1986 (82 years)
Has 2 ancestors and one descendant in this family tree.
||Cary Grant |
||18 Jan 1904
||29 Nov 1986
||1 Apr 2002 |
My family name is Leach. To which, at my christening, was added Archibald Alexander, with no opportunity for me to protest. For more than half my fifty-eight years I have cautiously peered from behind the facade of a man known as Cary Grant. The protection of that facade proved both an advantage and a disadvantage. If I couldn't clearly see out, how could anyone see in?
I was born in the provincial city of Bristol, England, but have avidly frequented the brightest capitals of the world ever since, and now keep a permanent residence in the so-called, through misnamed, glamour capital of Hollywood.
I had no sisters, was separated from my mother when I was nine years old, was stammeringly shy in the presence of girls; yet have married three times and found myself making love on the screen -- in public, mind you, in front of millions of people -- to such fascinating women as Ingrid Bergman, Doris Day, Mae West, Irene Dunne, Deborah Kerr, Eva Marie Saint, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly.
I was an only child, and first saw the light of day -- or rather the dark of night -- around 1:00 a.m. on a cold January morning, in a suburban stone house which, lacking modern heating conveniences, kept only one step ahead of freezing by means of small coal fires in small bedroom fireplaces; and ever since, I've persistently arranged to spend every possible moment where the sun shines warmest. My father made no more than a modest living and we had little money. Yet today I am considered, except among the wealthy, to be wealthy. I received only a sketchy education by most scholastic standards, lacked confidence and the courage to enjoy life, but on the screen seem to have successfully epitomized an informed, capable and happy man. A series of contradictions too evident to be coincidental. Perhaps the original circumstances caused, created and provoked all the others. Perhaps they can all be reconciled into one complete life, my own, as I recall each step that led to each next step and look back on the path of my life from this older and, I trust, more mature viewpoint.
I have spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant; unsure of either, suspecting each. Only recently have I begun to unify them into one person: the man and boy in me, the hate and the love and all the degrees of each in me, and the power of God in me.
I've read many paragraphs, many articles, many books about many people in many professions, and I've read about myself. And it's seldom that I can say on reading such information, "I know that man or woman." Indeed, often, when I read about myself, it is so not about me that I'm inclined to believe it's really about the writer. Much of it is fantasy, exaggeration, drivel or further embellished retellings of past inaccuracies. For instance, hardly a week goes by that I don't read about my proficiency in yoga, my fanatical attention to diet and my regular swimming workouts. In truth I know little or nothing about yoga, and had it not been for my second wife, Barbara Hutton (whose ability to sit peaceably for hours in the lotus position gained my admiration buy, I lazily admit, not my imitation), I might never have known anything at all about even the basic yoga positions. My diet is extraordinary perhaps only from the viewpoint of my close friends, who have named me "the scavenger" because, after finishing every morsel of my own meal, I look around to purloin whatever little delicacies they've left uneaten on their plates. Being a good leaver is practically a requisite for any friend who is invited to luncheon or to dine with me, I can tell you. And about the only regular swimming I do is in my head around each April fifteenth, when I'm confronted with those astronomical income-tax figures.
Now if those sorts of exercises -- or lack of them -- keep me fit, then I've got the right system. On the other hand, if I happen to drop dead tomorrow, then I've obviously been doing it wrong.
As a younger man it puzzled me that so many people of prominence seemed so carelessly eager to reveal intimate, and what I considered to be private, matters about themselves, in public print. Why did they do it? Was it vanity? Did they crave publicity at any cost? Were they desperate to correct or revise past impressions by telling what they thought to be the truth about themselves? Did they write about themselves rather than suffer a further succession of inaccuracies written by someone else? Or did they hope that by personally telling their own personal experiences they might help their fellowman? I now recognize that it's each of those motivations, but also believe that if only one thing I write about myself can prove of aid to only one reader, then it's been worth the effort and time expended.
We all try to occupy ourselves as best we can, even if it proves to be the worst we can, from the moment we're born until the moment we die. The circumstances governing the methods of the occupation are created by our parents when we are very young; and mine, like most parents, I suppose, did the best they could to prepare me for life, according to the limits of their knowledge.
I doubt if I was a happy child because, like most people, I conveniently find it difficult to remember those early formative years. Also, I had no other child with whom to exchange notes or attempt to ascertain the degree of his or her happiness as compared with mine.
My earliest memory is of being publicly bathed in a portable enamel bathtub, in the kitchen before the fire at my grandmother's house, where my mother was, I suppose, spending the day. It was quite an old house which either had no bathroom or, more likely, was unheated and too cold for me to be there. I was just a squirming mass of protesting flesh: protesting against being dunked and washed all over in front of my grandmother. The enormity of such an offense. Now if that is my earliest memory why had I, a mere baby, such a sense of embarrassed shame? How could I have learned such overwhelming modesty at such an early age? What misteaching could have possibly been accountable?
My second memory is of being awakened late one evening by the noise of a party far below in the drawing room, and of my father's coming up and carrying me downstairs on his shoulders to be shown off to the guests and to lisp unhappily and haltingly through the first poem I ever learned. There I was wrapped in a blanket reciting Up in a Balloon So High while my father, showing both pride and strength at the same time, held me at arm's length high above his head in the air. It was a high-ceilinged room and I remember being very close to the high center chandelier. I think my father was high too.
It seemed to me that I was kept in long baby clothes much longer than any other child and perhaps, for a while, wasn't at all sure whether I was a boy or a girl. Then, later, I was kept far too long, I swear to you, in short pants. I wore curls too long, too, and like most little boys ached for the day they'd be cut off. I wonder why little boys are ashamed to be mistaken for little girls. Why do they take such pride in being little boys? Do little girls take similar pride in their sex and not wish to be mistaken for little boys?
My young father earned his first money, according to the only record obtainable, pressing suits -- coats and trousers and vests -- for a Bristol clothing manufacturer, and progressed in that firm too slowly to satisfy my mother's dreams. Yet somehow she managed to keep me warmly clothed and well fed. Which was quite an accomplishment because, although I was a skinny child, I was a voracious eater.
We could afford only a bare but presentable existence and, since my parents did not seem particularly happy together anyway, the lack of sufficient money became an excuse for regular sessions of reproach , against which my father resignedly learned the futility of trying to defend himself. This is not to say who was wrong or right. They were both probably both. From my childish viewpoint I couldn't properly assess their emotions or their reasoning. I seemed to be caught in a subtle battle which eventually took residence inside my own slowly forming character.
I had no opportunity to observe or associate with other adults, and although my father and mother each came from a large family, and I had many aunts and uncles, few of them, as far as I could appreciate, glowed with the joy of life.
Physically, my parents appeared ideally suited to each other. I have photographs of them, taken a few years prior to my birth, constantly before me on my office desk at Universal-International Studios, where I spend many hours. My father was a handsome, tallish man with a fancy moustache, but the photograph does not show that he possessed an outwardly cheerful sense of humor and, to balance it, an inwardly sad acceptance of the dull life he had chosen. My mother was a delicate black-haired beauty, with olive skin, frail and feminine to look upon. What isn't apparent in the photograph is the extent of her strength, and her will to control -- a deep need to receive unreservedly the very affection she sought to control. I remember the grief of my father and mother the morning King Edward VII died, and saw them sharing a common bond of sympathy. A rare moment.
And, before that, I now recollect awakening in my crib during a thunderstorm and seeing them outlined against the window by a flash of lightning. Their backs were toward me and their arms around each other's waists as they looked out at the rain; and now, today, as I think of it, I recall the intense feeling of being cut out from their unfamiliar unity.
They were churchgoing people named Elias James Leach and Elsie Kingdom Leach, of Episcopalian Protestant faith, polite to strangers and observant of the laws and social mores. I was taught "to speak only when spoken to," that my father was not "made of a mint of money," and that "it dos not grow on trees." I learned to brush the mud off my shoes and onto the mat before entering the house, to hang up my school cap and coat on the allotted peg in the hall, to care for my clothes since "they are not made of iron."
A few years after my birth we moved to a bigger house; perhaps to accommodate the process of my growth. It had a long garden. In one section there was a large patch of grass surrounding a fine old apple tree near which my father lovingly sank strong, high, wooden supports for a swing. I took pride in the fact of that swing, the possession of it, but lacked the daring and abandon of a free swinger; and my father's rhythmic shoves, although gentle, seemed much too perilous. Either I have always lacked bravery or, as I prefer to regard it, never been foolhardy.
Since then I have attempted gradually to overcome my fear of heights. Even by learning, years later, to walk on stilts in a theatrical troupe specializing in pantomime and acrobatics. I've flown for years in all sorts of weather in all sorts of aircraft: in open cockpits; intrans-continental Ford trimotors; in unscheduled small airmail planes in snowstorms over the Alleghenies; and, happily many times, alongside the most able pilot of them all, Howard Hughes, in his converted bomber -- sometimes setting down on small Mexican fields into which only such a confident, experienced flier would attempt to land. Yet no cure of my acrophobia was so decisive as making two films for that remarkable director, Alfred Hitchcock: To Catch a Thief, in which I dashed over sloping rooftops of four-storied French Riviera villas with no net below, while trying either to rob Grace Kelly or to save her from being robbed; and North by Northwest, in which I heroically hung both up and down on replicas of sections of Mount Rushmore, rafter-high on the tallest stage of Hollywood. I've always felt queasily uncertain whether or not Hitchcock was pleased at seeing me survive each day's work. I can only hope it was as great a relief to him as it was a disappointment. Still, I rescued by Eva Marie Saint and Grace Kelly, and each of them went on to raising happy and beautiful children. I wish I could say the same.
At the end of our garden there were wild strawberry patches leading to fields which today are covered by suburban houses, but which at that time, since I was only four years old, were forbidden and unexplored territory for me. We often ate under the shade of our apple tree, particularly on summer Sundays, on a trestle table set up for the occasion, while my father jumped up every moment or so to inspect the progress of each item in his vegetable garden. I, on the other hand, was constantly told to sit still and "stop bobbing up and down." I could never understand the equity of a rule that didn't also work for one's parents. But those, I now appreciate, were the happiest days for the three of us.
In our garden there were fuchsias, hollyhocks, geraniums and primroses, and my father also planted daffodils and crocuses and lilies of the valley. In the adjoining fields there were daisies and buttercups and dandelions. Local toddler gossip had it that if you played with daisies you were a pansy, which was pretty confusing in itself; that if a buttercup's color reflected itself under your chin you loved butter, which wasn't too farfetched; and that if you picked dandelions you would dampen the be -- which, coincidentally, proved perfectly true. Such is the voodoo practiced by children.
I was taken to my first school when I was four and a half years old, though the accepted beginner's age was five. My mother was convinced I was brighter than most children of my age and had evidently succeeded in convincing or haranguing the schoolmaster into believing so too -- because, frightened and fearful, I began schooling that same day. There I sat in a little sailor suite sharing a little wooden desk, the front of which was joined to the seat as a unit, with a little girl. I persevered proudly in ABC's, clay modeling and crayon drawing, and miserably in arithmetic and my ability to communicate with the little girl.
Very gradually I grew accustomed to associating with other children. Or, rather, mostly with other boys. Little boys. In fact, I was, to my surprised delight invited to play goalkeeper on the football team -- a rather scrubby group who hadn't sufficient bravery to play with the girls during recreation time, and kicked a soccer ball around instead. We had no goalposts, just chalk lines marked on a jagged stone wall, at each end of the playground, to denote where they should be. Whenever the ball struck a wall between the lines, that was considered a goal. I whacked into that wall countless times, skinning bare knuckles and knees, and snagging my clothes, desperately trying to save the other side from scoring, until it dawned on my why no one was eager to be goalkeeper, and why, probably, they had invited me.
It's very cold, very damp in the English winter, and everyone else had the excitement and joy and circulative benefit of kicking the ball about except me, who stood very cold, very damp at the end of the yard waiting for someone to kick the ball in my direction. If that ball slammed past me, I alone -- no other member of the team, naturally, but I alone -- was held, to my mystification, responsible for the catastrophe. Still, on the other hand, a well-saved goal (you know, one of those fancy balletlike flying jobs) was roundly praised and made me feel prouder than possibly anything I've ever done since. Right then and there I learned the deep satisfaction derived from receiving the adulation of my fellow little man. Perhaps it began the process that resulted in my search for it ever since.
No money, no material reward is comparable to the praise, the shouts of well done and accompanying pat on the back of one's fellowman. Applause and laughter in the theater have a similar effect; and sometimes, today, I stand with Russell Downing, the manager of the finest, largest cinema in the world, the Radio City Music Hall in New York, in a quiet darkened corner, and listen to that huge audience roaring with laughter at something I've done, the tilt of my head or a facial reaction, and joy seems to burst within me.
To think that all those people, for even a moment, were able to forget their personal problems and troubles and concertedly laugh with or at me. It is, as best I can explain, an extreme magnification of the feeling one gets from successfully telling an amusing joke or story to a group of friends. Yes, there are few satisfactions as satisfactory as the approbation and goodwill of others; and only this moment does it strike me where I first learned to enjoy and to seek it: in my schoolyard.
The most intriguing toy I ever got my hands on was a pair of pinking scissors with which my mother made a neat crinkled edge on the shelving and table oilcloth. The symmetrical result fascinated me. I couldn't fathom how the scissors did it, and for practically one whole morning, while mother was out in the garden, I put pinked edges on almost everything reachable, including my own nightshirt. Also my father's favorite weekly magazine. I still have great admiration for whoever invented those magic scissors, but have fortunately controlled the impulse to own a pair.
Each Christmas my stockings were hung with a laundry peg attached to the ball-fringed mantelpiece cover in my bedroom. In those days English schoolboys wore black or gray woolen stockings turned down about two inches all around at the top to show a white woven stripe below bare chapped knees. I always thought that too much of my Yuletide stockings were filled with tangerines and nuts and dates, any of which I could have collared downstairs while passing the sideboard.
Still, there were always a few other presents, too large for the stockings, arranged on the mantelpiece or in front of the fireplace on the floor below, where I could see them upon awakening: a pair of skates; some boxes of tin soldiers, perhaps even a small fort to keep them in; and once a shiny hussar's outfit wonderfully arranged in a flat, colorful cardboard box, with shiny breastplate, gold braid, fringed epaulets, a toy sword in a gleaming tin scabbard, and a hussar's hat with insignia. I was a dashing sight, but still couldn't completely win my mother away from my father.
One year I got a magic lantern with colored comic slides. I gave my only children's party because of acquiring that magic lantern. The only children's party I remember ever attending: my own. Father rigged up a sheet at the end of a back room which was usually used as a storage room, where the din would be less likely to disturb the district. Mother had some throw carpets, chairs, cushions and the long cloth-covered trestle table put in, and I invited our local infant world to my magic-lantern show. The lantern was candle-powered, a large candle with a large reflector behind it. Lemonade and biscuits and those inevitable tangerines, nuts, muscatels and dates were served, and blancmange and cake for dessert, because this was before the days of such luxuries as ice cream. We also had paper hats and noise-makers. It was a fine party.
My father ran the show to avoid my setting fire to the house, I suppose; but I chose the order in which the slides were to be seen, and accompanied the showing of each with what I thought was appropriate comic comment. But I was so regularly drowned out by other comic commentators that I couldn't tell if I was a success or not. Perhaps that's why I eventually entered the movies: so that the audience couldn't talk back to me.
I learned to collect and swap foreign stamps. To polish my shoes, to raise my cap politely and automatically to adults of both sexes, to pick up my feet, to resist wiping a perspiring brow or a running nose on my coat sleeve, according to the seasonal necessity; to pretend delight while my father sang his party songs, I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls, in a tight-throated untrained high baritone he brought out at family parties -- he sometimes sang The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo in mimicry of whoever was the popular music-hall singer of that day. I often sat fascinated at the way my father kept his stylish moustache from drowning in the teacup as he drank. I learned to do errands for my mother without asking for an addition to my weekly allowance of sixpence (which was, probably, the equivalent of two shillings today; though I was docked twopence for each blib I made on the Sunday tablecloth -- and to run to meet my father at a certain part of the road as he came home from work each Saturday noon and, for a polite disciplined moment or two, to withhold my eagerness to raid his pockets for the small gifts he'd hidden for my scrabbling expectant hands to find.)
One or two of those men with whom he exchanged daily banter write to me occasionally. They are quite elderly now and retired, but their letters still speak affectionately of my father, who died in 1933, of what was medically recorded as extreme toxicity, but what was more probably the inevitable result of a slow-breaking heart, brought about by an inability to alter the circumstances of his life. My own life, at the time of his death, was following a similar pattern. My first wife, Virginia Cherrill, a great beauty and former leading lady of Charlie Chaplin in the unforgettable City Lights, was divorcing me and getting ready to marry the Earl of Jersey. Which was very intelligent of her.
Odd, but I don't remember my father's departure from Bristol. Perhaps I felt guilty at being secretly pleased. Or was I pleased? Now I had my mother to myself, and recent weekly school reports had earned me some sharp paternal reprimands. Curious thing about my school reports: I was either at the top of the class or at the bottom. Definite early signs of great instability. I was so palpably eager to present each good report at home that the hiding of each bad report was equally noticeable. Anyway, I don't remember my father's going, but I missed him very much despite all his and, therefore, my faults.
Soon after my father left, when I was nine, my mother and I moved to a larger, more expensive house.
We were accompanied by two young women cousins of mine who, not that they were entering the new secretarial world for young ladies, contributed, I believe, to the household expenses. They lived in a separate part of the house that I cannot remember entering.
That summer holiday I visited my father at Southampton. I found him gay and younger-seeming, and rather sporty-looking too, which wouldn't have suited my mother at all. However, he was able to remain in Southampton for only a few months. The burden of earning sufficient to sustain two separate households, even at his increased salary, became too much for him, and he returned to Bristol and his old firm, where, in exchange for not giving back the watch his fellow workers presented to him when he left, he received their endless but fond chaffing. So again we moved, to a less costly house, but still with sufficient rooms to accommodate my paying cousins.
One of them had a beau for a few weeks: a titled Italian, no less, or perhaps I just told everyone that he was; anyway, the most attractive thing about him, as far as I was concerned, was a fine motorcar in which I enjoyed my first automobile ride. It was a long, open touring job, and I remember sitting high up alone in the back seat trying to induce my cousin, and her elegant beau, to drive through a section of the town where I could see and be seen by, or wave to and be pelted at by, my schoolmates.
Motorcars were a rarity in those days. The only other one I became familiar with in our district was owned by the father of a boy who lived in the large house at the corner. A little group of us often sat in the back of that car in the semidark of the garage, a converted greenhouse, with the owner's son usually in the driver's seat, and pretended we were roaring along up and down hills and around corners. But our pleasure was soon prohibited, even before I got a turn to sit at the steering wheel, because the scuffling of our boots scratched up the enamel with which the backs of front seats were painted then. Remember, this was the year 1913. The year I first fell in love.
She was the local butcher's daughter, plump, pretty, and frankly flirtatious. Once while taking a message to my grandmother, my mother's mother, but going far out of my way in order to pass this siren's front garden where she played, I was looking back to see if she was looking back to see me, and smacked into the lamppost, dome first, saw great stars and staggered rubber-legged to the curb, where I sat stunned into sheepish, but only semi, recovery. The lasting of my shame kept me from going past her house from that day on, and never again did I see the provocative light of my poignant childhood's first love.
My mother made my first pair of long trousers. They were white flannel for wearing at the local annual church bazaar and open-air carnival, where I was to be allowed to take tickets on the merry-go-round. Those homemade trousers didn't seem to fit or appear as well, nor was the flannel of the same quality, as the shop-bought ready-made versions of white flannels I saw on other boys. I was crestfallen and my day at the carnival spoiled. The long hours of my mother's labor and love went unappreciated, until now as I look back upon it. How sad that we can't know what we know until we know it. I wonder if the appearance of my name on so many best-dressed lists is a consequence of the boyish shame from wearing those homemade flannel trousers.
Each Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a shrieking turbulence of assorted children clutching small bags of sweets, apples and licorice strands, I queued up to attend the local cinema where the comedians Charles Chaplin, Ford Sterling, Roscoe Arbuckle, Mack Swain and John Bunny with Flora Finch, together with Bronco Billy Anderson, the cowboy star, were our greatest favorites. Much pushing broke out, and many a toffee-covered fist waved in dispute over the relative talents of Ford Sterling, who headed the famous Keystone Kops, and Charlie Chaplin. The unrestrained wriggling and lung exercise of those Saturday matinees, free from parental supervision, was the high point of my week.
As I grew older I was occasionally taken to the cinema by my mother and father. Though separately. My mother took me to the Claire Street Cinema, the town's most elite, where one could take tea while watching the films, and where I was first introduced to a pastry fork: a perplexing combination of fork and knife; who needs it? I saw my first so-called talking pictures in that theater. Two short subjects. One was of a woman singing an opera aria while she was trying to defend her honor, I think. She was being pushed back over a table by the villain, but while engaging his interest by singing in his face she surreptitiously stole a dagger from his belt scabbard and stabbed him right on her high note. It took him quite a long time to die, but while he did it he learned that virtue triumphed. So that's why I never play villains in pictures.
The other short film showed a group of blacksmiths singing in chorus as they whacked away at their anvils. The sound, as far as I understood things then, came from a phonograph behind the screen. The forerunner of today's perfectly synchronized sound films.
Now my father, on the other hand, since he respected the value of money, because he worked hard and long hours to get it, took me to a less pretentious, less expensive, though larger, cinema called the Metropole; a drafty barnlike structure in those days with hard seats and bare floors on which we could stamp at the villain and keep our feet warm at the same time. It smelled of raincoats and galoshes, and no tea or pastry forks. Yet it was, of the two, my favorite place.
Our weekly visit followed a regular routine. My father stopped at his favorite little bacconist's shop and bought his favorite pipe tobacco, because men could smoke at the Metropole, and then, at the next shop, a few of our favorite apples, either russets or Morgan Sweets, and an occasional small bag of white round peppermints; or, if I was on my most winning behavior, even a bar of chocolate. Then on to our favorite film: a spellbinding weekly serial, entitled The Clutching Hand. Honest. It invariably would up with the hero or heroine in dire danger, in order, I guess, to tempt the customers back for the next episode. We lived and loved each adventure, and each following week I neglected a lot of school homework conjecturing how that hero and heroine could possibly get out of the extraordinary fix in which they'd been left. I wonder why movie houses of today don't show a weekly serial. Even television series are hardly in serial form; each episode has a complete plot rather than a continuous story. I like to think life continues, no matter how hazardous.
As I grew older I was permitted to stay up longer. There was no radio or television when I was a child, only a plethora of homework which didn't appeal to me at all. Indeed, I dreaded it and, though I'd begun studying for a scholarship to enter a better school, my head seemed stubbornly set against the penetration of academic knowledge.
My piano teacher, an unhandsome irascible woman, came to the house specifically, I think, to rap the knuckles of my left hand with a ruler. Curiously, although I was left-handed my interpretation of the bass notes was decidedly weak. If my bass hand were as strong as I suspect my base nature to be, I'd be a virtuoso; but my piano playing has evidently not improved over the years, because, after about one and one half minutes of bored attention, my friends either leave stealthily or resume their conversations.
I was not turning out to be a model boy. It depressed me to be good, according to what I judged was an adult's conception of good, and matters around me were not going well. The First World War was imminent and the relationship between my mother and father seemed steadily to grow unhappier. My father came home tired at the end of each day's work and went early to bed, and one weekend when I came home from school my mother wasn't there. My cousins told me, or rather on inquiry led me to believe that she had gone away to a local seaside resort. It seemed rater unusual, but I accepted it as one of those peculiarly unaccountable things that grown-ups are apt to do. However, the weeks went by and when mother did not return it gradually dawned on me that perhaps she was not coming back at all. My father seemed to be in correspondence with her and always told me she sent her love, which of course, I always asked to have returned. There was a void in my life, a sadness of spirit that affected each daily activity with which I occupied myself in order to overcome it; but there was no further explanation of mother's absence, and I gradually got accustomed to the fact that she was not home each time I came home -- nor, it transpired, was she expected to come home.
A long time later I learned that she had experienced a nervous breakdown and been taken to an institution in a nearby quiet country town to recuperate. I was not to see my mother again for more than twenty years, by which time my name was changed and I was a full-grown man living in America, thousands of miles away in California. I was known to most people of the world by sight and by name, yet not to my mother.
It was only recently that I recognized a clue to the cause of mother's retreat within herself. Some years prior to my birth my parents had another child. Their firstborn. A baby boy who, alas, died of some sort of convulsions after only a few months of life. My mother, I learned, sat beside his cot night and day, loving, caring and praying for him, until she was exhausted; and one night, after the doctor ordered her to bed for a few hours to avoid a collapse, her baby died as she slept. Perhaps such a shock, the suppression of such a memory, was the reason for her ultimate withdrawal from the world.
Today at eight-six my mother is well, very active, wiry and witty, and extremely good company. Sometimes we laugh together until tears come into our eyes. She is a small woman, and looking at her, I often puzzle how I grew to be 6'2". She shops tenaciously for small antiques and local dealers have learned either to put up the price in advance so that they can pull it down later, or, if they're lucky enough to see her coming, pull down the shutters and close the doors, to protect themselves from the impact of her charms and the honesty of her age. She does her own marketing and every bit of her own ousework -- in a house that, by provincial standards, is by no means small -- and whenever it's suggested that she get someone to help her she avers she can do it better herself, dear, that she doesn't want anyone around telling her what to do or getting in her way, dear, and that the very fact of the occupation keeps her going, you see, dear. All of which is undoubtedly true.
I first found out about the birds and the bees listening to a youthful corner slouch one summer evening under a streetlamp at the end of our street. I didn't appreciate the information, nor was I sure it was correct, and something about the young man's smirkingly patronizing manner while doling out the details made me heartily dislike him from that moment on. His information proved to be correct, as I later found out; though it was many years before I had the courage to put it to a test. It turned out to be a workable and pleasurable theory, and civilization's certainly go hold of a good thing there, but I still haven't forgiven that young man.
During the war we were issued ration books for our food, and unless one was a relative or gushingly familiar with the local grocer, there was little hope of obtaining either sugar or butter, and absolutely no chance for importations of any kind. I grew accustomed to drinking my tea without sugar, and still do not use it in either tea or coffee. However, at that time I didn't appreciate the beneficial quality or the taste of margarine. I missed butter very much. Today I eat margarine again.
At the end of the spring term, with summer in sight and the cadet corps dispersing for the coming vacation, I applied for war work wherever my services as a boy scout could best be used. In those midwar years, with everybody of every age aiding the war effort in one way or another, and even youths of sixteen being taken into the army, it was my need not only to help wherever I could but, also, to get away from Bristol for a while. I was so often alone and unsettled at home that I welcomed any occupation that promised activity. I was given work as a messenger and guide at Southampton, in the dock area where the public was forbidden and no one permitted unless wearing a uniform or carrying a special pass.
I saw thousands of young men sail away into the night toward France, packed in transport ships that were, prayerfully, fast enough to outdistance the enemy submarines that waited for them in the English Channel and if I was on gangplank duty I sadly noticed the quick moment of apprehension cross every face, the first premonition of danger as I issued every soldier a life belt and accompanied it with a few cheerful notes of instruction to hide my feelings. Hundreds of those men drowned only a few miles from their homeland before even reaching the battlefront.
Although it was not part of our duties, the scouts often delivered messages and many letters for the soldiers waiting in the sheds on their last day in England. It was a point of honor among us not to take money for our small services. So, as we had no other way of escaping their touching gratitude, we accepted mementos instead -- a military button or regimental badge -- and displayed them with the pride of collectors, attached to our belts, which were heavy with tokens. The soldiers sometimes cave us cake and tea obtained from the canteen at the end of each shed in which they were kept enclosed the day before embarkation.
All military movement into and out of the docks was made throughout the night. Soldiers poured through Southampton and rows of sheds were filled and refilled. There were no seats and the men sat or lay around the floor among their kits. Some of them had already been out to the front once and lost an arm or let, yet were returning to fight again. One officer, a Guardsman, had been to the front twice before and had lost an arm, and leg at the knee, but was still going back again to rejoin his regiment in the trenches.
Mixed with it's tragedy there was a strange atmosphere of excitement and adventure in Southampton, and when I returned home, I regularly haunted the Bristol wharves where in those days, schooners and steamships came right up the Avon River into the center of town; and on weekends, when most of my school friends were playing cricket, I sat alone for hours watching the ships come and go, sailing with them to far places on the tide of my imagination, trying to release myself from the emotional tensions which disarranged my thoughts. I once even applied for a job as cabin boy, but was turned down not only because I was too young, but because I couldn't bring permission from my parents.
Yet coincidentally at such a dispirited time, destiny was zeroing in on my future. I've often wondered whether destiny creates the course of the man or whether man creates the course of his destiny. Probably both.
My unfavorite classes at school were algebra, geometry, trigonometry and Latin; my favorites were geography, history, art and chemistry; and it was in chemistry lab around which I loitered on rainy days when I couldn't play fives (an English version of handball) that I met destiny in the form of the science professor's part-time assistant: an electrician, brought in from the outside to help with our experiments.
He was a jovial, friendly man with children of his own, and one day, in kindly response to my eagerness to learn about anything electrical, he invited me to visit the newly built Bristol Hippodrome, in which he'd installed the switchboard and lighting system. The Saturday matinee was in full swing when I arrived backstage; and there I suddenly found myself articulate self in a dazzling land of smiling, jostling people wearing and not wearing all sorts of costumes and doing all sorts of clever things.
And that's when I knew!
What other life could there be but that of an actor? They happily traveled and toured. They were classless, cheerful and carefree. They gaily laughed, lived and loved. Yet? H'm. Little did I know. But an actor's life for me. And how was I, still only thirteen years old, to join them?
I hung about that theater at every opportunity until my electrician friend, possibly to get some relief from my constant questioning, arranged an introduction to the manager of another theater in Bristol, the Empire, where I was invited to sit with and assist the men who worked the arc lamps, known as limelights, which shone from small precarious platforms, or perches, rather high up at each side of the stage.
No one seemed to pay me anything and I didn't quite know how I was supposed to assist anyone, except by getting my fingers burned while fumblingly changing some redhot carbons; but I was in the happy world of make-believe and that was all that mattered, and I dropped by the theater as often as possible. I had a place to be. And people let me be there.
At one performance while I held that splendid job I decided to wander out to the front of the theater and "assist" the man who worked the large center arc in the balcony, known as the dress circle. And, well, come to think of it, I might as well see the show at the same time.
The star attraction that week was a famed magician, The Great David Devant, the originator of many spectacular illusions which are still used by magicians today. I sat spellbound alongside the limelight man until he tapped my arm and indicated for me to hold his lamp steady a moment while he lighted a cigarette. I later learned that during certain magic tricks the balcony spotlight was supposed, according to strict instructions, to stay unwaveringly directed onto a center point of the stage; but the man didn't tell me, and I was so raptly watching to learn how the illusion was done that I unconsciously allowed the beam of light to drop downward slowly and -- holy cow -- suddenly there was a blinding flash of light reflected from under a table, where two mirrors were fixed that otherwise would have remained undetected by the audience.
The trick was ruined. Mr. Devant shot an exasperated look toward the source of the light, the operator yanked it out of my hand and, with some choice swear words ringing in my ears, I stammered an apology and slunk off appalled at my blunder.
Well, I didn't seem to be welcome at the Empire again after that, so I began to reappear backstage at the Hippodrome. I hung around anyone who'd put up with me. I couldn't stay late; only for the early part of the evening. I ran all sorts of messages and earnestly strove to learn the fascinating reasons and beliefs behind an actor's vernacular. Much more interesting than Latin.
Don't milk your bows. Pick up your cue. Never walk on the other fellow's line. Playing to the gods meant performing to the gallery, or top balcony. Six-sheeting out front referred to actors who stood around the theater lobby or stage door hoping to be recognized by the audience as they came out; a six-sheet being the term used for a life-sized theatrical poster. An actor was never out of work. He was "at liberty." Waiting for a ghost to walk meant waiting for the manager with the weekly salary. There seemed to be no left or right side of the stage; just a prompt side and an O.P side, meaning opposite of prompt.
Oh, it was a fine language, and one evening while my ears were cocked for other phrases to absorb I learned about Bob Pender's troupe of young performers -- or knockabout comedians, as they were called -- the ranks of which were being regularly depleted as soon as each boy came of military age; and before I knew it I was writing a letter to Mr. Pender purportedly from my own father. I enclosed a snapshot and, since I was tall for my age and thought I looked older, conveniently neglected to explain that I was not yet fourteen and, therefore, not legally allowed to leave school.
You wouldn't believe it, but in no time at all, although it seemed weeks to a fellow with a surreptitious eye on his father's mailbox, back came an answer from Bob Pender suggesting to my father that his promising-looking son Archibald should go to Norwich, where the troupe was performing, for an interview; what's more, he enclosed the railway fare!
Never was there such inner excitement. Of joy, disbelief, fear, confidence and indecision. In the secrecy of my room I could neither sleep or sit. I packed and unpacked; and after hours of coin spinning and head scratching found myself quietly leaving the house in the middle of the night and walking the deserted streets toward the railway station where, dizzy at my own daring, I waited for an early-morning train. To Norwich. And adventure.
I can't remember anything about the journey. I was probably trying to figure out what my father would try to figure out. He and I often awoke and left the house at different hours without seeing each other. So it might be quite some time before I would be missed. After traveling for at least four hours I arrived at about 10 a.m. and went directly to the theater where, putting his troupe through their morning limbering-up exercises, I found Bob Pender.
He was a stocky, strongly built, likable man of about forty-two who had been renowned as the great Drury Lane clown. I suspected that he suspected that Archie and Elias James Leach were the same correspondent, but he introduced me to his kind wife Margaret, a well-known dancer whom he'd met when she was ballet mistress at the Folies-Bergere in Paris, and they questioned me about my birth certificate, which I said was home. Which was true. It was. After looking me over carefully they agreed that if it was still all right with my father they would apprentice me to their troupe. They gave me a short handwritten contract stipulating that I as to receive my keep and ten shillings pocket money weekly. And hallelujah, I was an actor!
Over the years I've signed many lengthy, involved typed contracts calling for me to earn great sums of money, but no employment contract since has ever matched the thrill of that one sheet of ordinary notepaper stating that I was to have the opportunity of learning a profession that appealed to me more than any other in the world.
I was taken to live in the same digs (another actors' term: short for diggings; meaning room-and-board in a private house) with Mr. and Mrs. Pender, and two or three of the youngest members of the company who were also kept under the proprietor's parental wings; and the following morning, on the bare theater stage, I began instruction in ground tumbling and acrobatic dances along with an athletic group of ten or eleven teen-age boys from all walks of life. As the newcomer, the novice, I felt, and looked, clumsy and inept among the others, and my progress suffered from the disparity. But slowly, and too often painfully, I showed improvement and began to feel the pride and confidence of accomplishment. I was resigned to the fact that it would be some time before I was proficient enough actually to join the others in front of an audience.
I practiced making up and thickly covered my face with greasepaint that took hours to apply in imitation of what I took to be the prevailing theatrical mode. Nowadays I don't wear any at all. In truth, I find myself embarrassed in the company of most actors and actresses who do. Ah, beware of snobbery; it is the unwelcome recognition of one's own past failings.
It as inevitable, of course, that my father would find me. It took him a good ten days, though, by which time we had moved on to a town called Ipswich. One night between shows the stage-door keeper told me that a man who said he was my father was waiting to see me. And there he was all right.
Luckily, Bob Pender was just coming out of his nearby dressing room, and I managed to introduce them to each other before father and I were able to exchange too many unamusing words which we might later regret. Now my father was a high-degree Mason, whatever that meant, and so was Bob Pender. There was as lucky a stroke of fate as ever took care of matters! They wore similar insignia dangling from their watch chains, and within the space of a handshake seemed to have arrived at some special understanding. So, while I anxiously twiddled my thumbs and thoughts, they went off together for a drink at the next-door pub. In order, they said, to decide my future. How do you like that? It was decided I needed to finish my education.
So, back I was taken to Bristol without ever once performing on the stage; though I told every openmouthed classmate that I had. Still, by way of compensation, I held many an audience of small fellow Fairfieldians goggle-eyed. Some even came back for an encore and brought a friend. I demonstrated cartwheels, handsprings, nip-ups and spot rolls -- my complete theatrical repertoire up to that point. But they soon tired of me and, when I could no longer get the conversation around to my wondrous experiences in the theater and had slowly deflated to my accustomed insignificance, I grew lonely for the boys of the Pender troupe and determined to rejoin them.
Although I regret the recollection, I did my unlevel best to flunk at everything. The only class I attended with any interest and alacrity was the twice-weekly instruction in the gymnasium. I never truly enjoyed acrobatics, and wanted to keep fit, and add to my proficiency only as a means to an end.In all other ways I confess to exasperating every professor who had the misfortune to come into contact with me.
One poor man, the singing teacher, go so choleric that he threw a bunch of keys at me. With a will to annoy him, and at the same time cleverly amuse the class, I'd been wide opening my mouth and forming exaggerated words without singing a note. I think the song was Who is Sylvia, What is She? a standard semiclassic. In retrospect, I realize my foolishness probably went unappreciated by everyone and was regarded as exactly what it was. Foolishness. I didn't deserve the luck, but those keys just missed cracking me in the mouth.
Still, y'know, I've recently seen young people on television earning a livelihood by mouthing words to someone else's song. So you can see how original I'd become even that long ago.
My, how unclever of me not to have taken cheerful advantage of every opportunity to learn, to acquire skills of any kind, when I had the chance. Instead I cut class after class. One afternoon another boy of equal curiosity and I decided to sneak over to the girls' side of the school to investigate the inside of the girls' lavatories -- known to polite Americans as rest rooms. No one was around. I kept watch at the end of the corridor while he went in to see what it looked like in there. And then just as it came my turn to explore the inner sanctum, I was suddenly, out of nowhere, shrilly nabbed by a powerful female who must have been the hockey teacher at least. Anyway, that did it. My fellow culprit dashed to freedom, and in no time at all I was on the carpet in the study of Augustus "Gussie" Smith, the headmaster. I'd been a frequent visitor there and evidently that was the last straw.
The following morning when the school filed in for morning prayer in the assembly-hall my name was called and I was marched up the steps onto the dais and taken to stand next to Gussie Smith, where, with a quivering lip that I did my best to control, I hazily heard such words as "inattentive ... irresponsible and incorrigible ... discredit to the school," and so forth, and through a trance-like mixture of emotions realized I was being publicly expelled in front of the assembled school.
I couldn't see very well as I went back down the steps to go and collect my books, but remember crossing to the bicycle shed and hearing the students' footsteps marching off to their classrooms accompanied by the familiar tinny sound of the assembly-hall piano.
The morning march-out was often played by one of the students as a reward for good grades or some other accomplishments. I had proudly and loudly played it twice. That was all I could think about as I strapped the books on the back of my bicycle and pedaled away from Fairfield.
Though he must have been very disappointed in me, my father did not reproach me when he found me at home that evening. He quietly accepted the inevitability of the news and we discussed my behavior and needs and happiness and future, until he seemed reconciled to the uselessness of hindering my purpose further. I had just turned fourteen, the legal age at which a boy could work in the world, and I was the boy who was eager to work in it. Three days later I was back with the Pender troupe; and with three months we were playing that very same Empire Theater in my hometown, by which time I was actually appearing in the act. I didn't have much to do but, with my old friends all around me backstage and my father seated in the audience, I excitedly threw myself into a performance that made up in exuberance what it lacked in experience.
Father enjoyed a glad reunion and a drink as well with Bob Pender and, after the evening’s last performance, we walked home together in the quiet summer darkness of the Bristol streets. We hardly spoke, but I felt so proud of his pleasure and so much pleasure in his pride. And I happily remember that we held hands for part of that walk.
Touring the English provinces with the troupe, I grew to appreciate the fine art of pantomime. No dialogue was used in our act and each day, on a bare stage, we learned not only dancing, tumbling and stilt-walking under the expert tuition of Bob Pender, but also how to convey a mood or meaning without words. How to establish communication silently with an audience, using the minimum of movement and expression; how best immediately and precisely to effect an emotional response — a laugh or, sometimes, a tear. The greatest pantomimists of our day have been able to induce both at once. Charles Chaplin, Cantinflas, Marcel Marceau, Jacques Tati, Fernanel, and England’s Richard Herne. And in bygone years Grock, the Lupino family, Bobby Clark, and the unforgettable tramp cyclist Joe Jackson; and currently the more familiar Danny Kay, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, and even Jack Benny with his slow, calculated reactions. Surprisingly, Hitchcock is one of the most subtle pantomimists of them all; it’s such a pity he doesn’t do it professionally, so that everyone might have the joy of watching him as I have.
While playing the great Gulliver circuit of vaudeville theaters in London, most of us boys lived with Mr. and Mrs. Pender in their big suburban home in Brixton. It had a long garden walk at the front and a smaller garden at back, and was quite near (as we always brightly informed every other vaudevillian) to the house of Lady de Frece, better known as Vesta Tilley, the greatest music-hall star of that day.
We slept in dormitory-style rooms. Lights out at ten; up, washed, dressed, and downstairs for breakfast at seven-thirty; followed by an hour’s reading or recreation and later the morning’s limbering-up exercises.One day a lady in the next-door house walked to the front gate, past the trees where she could get a clearer view of a daylight air raid, and was swiftly and shockingly decapitated by a piece of shrapnel in the morning sun of her English garden.
The day that first world war ended we were playing in Preston, Lancashire. There were very few people in the theater that evening, and after the show I walked around the center of town with some of the other boys. The streets were filled with people, but there didn’t seem to be any particular gaiety. As in every other town in England, so many of Preston’s families had lost a husband or son, or someone close to them, that the finish of the war was hardly and occasion for revelry but rather for reverie. Their only consolation was that there was never, never again to be another war. No. Never. That was on November 11, 1918.
I spent the following Christmas at Colwyn Bay, a small seaside town in Wales. Playing in a theater built on, of all windy wintry places, a pier. So many young former members of the company were already being discharged from the army that Bob Pender obtained engagements for two complete troupes in the type of Christmas shows that so particularly suited our tumbling talents: the traditional English pantomimes. Which aren’t pantomimes at all, by the way, but fairy stories such as Cinderella, Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, and so on, told in part musical-comedy and part slapstick form. They’re colorfully and quite expensively presented in most English towns for usually, a packed eight-week run. The best troupe, the older troupe, played the better pantomime in Liverpool.
So that’s how I came to be in cold Colwyn Bay; walking the next-to-highest stilts in a graduated line of other stilt walkers, with my head inside a huge papier-mache mask on which sat a large, white, limp lady’s bonnet with a frill around it, and my elongated body and long long legs encased in a great calico dress that had frilled collar and cuffs to match the hat. Well, naturally! It was the most spectacular of the many acts we performed to delight children who yearly sit entranced at the magic of English pantomime.
But it was the London tours to which we all looked forward most, and I nostalgically remember scrambling for the front seat on top of open-air buses or top decks of the tramcars in order to have an unobstructed view of every journey. It was on such trips that I learned to love each district, each section of London. I still do.
At each theater I carefully watched the celebrated headline artists from the wings, and grew to respect the diligence and application and long experience it took to acquire such expert timing and unaffected confidence, the amount of effort that resulted in such effortlessness. I strove to make everything I did at least appear relaxed. Perhaps by relaxing outwardly I could eventually relax inwardly. Sometimes I even began to enjoy myself on the stage.
The troupe prospered and expanded and I got a raise to 1 pound a week pocket money (almost $5 at the rate of exchange in those days, and what’s more it bought more), and one day Bob Pender announced the longed-for news that he’d booked an engagement for himself and a company of eight boys to appear in a Charles Dillingham production at the Globe Theater in New York City!
And who do you think was one of those eight boys selected to go? I was. I. That’s who.
In July, 1920, we sailed for America on the S.S. Olympic and cloud eight.
Among the fellow passengers were newlyweds Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford, the world’s most popular honeymooners and the first film stars I ever met. They were gracious and patient in face of constant harassment, by people with cameras and autograph books, whenever they appeared on deck; and once even I found myself being photographed with Mr. Fairbanks during a game of shuffleboard. As I stood beside him I tried with shy, inadequate words to tell him of my adulation. He was a splendidly trained athlete and acrobat, affable and warmed by success and well-being. A gentleman in the true sense of the word. A gentle man. Only a strong man can be gentle; and it suddenly dawns on me as this is being written that I’ve doggedly striven to keep tanned ever since, only because of a desire to emulate his healthful appearance.
Some time later, when our company played in Los Angeles, he invited us to watch him work at his United Artists Studio on the Thief of Bagdad sets; and later again, at a preview of mine, he complimented me on a performance I’d given, and my cup overflowed. I felt no urge to remind him that we’d met twice before; it didn’t seem necessary; it was enough to feel the glow of his goodwill. His son Douglas Fairbanks Jr., with whom I share a long friendship, is endowed with the same friendliness of manner and consideration for his fellowman. Each year, as his family grows, I pleasurably look forward to a Christmas card bearing their latest photograph taken at their home in London.
But I wasn’t thinking about London aboard the S.S. Olympic. London was behind me. I would soon be in New York City, and unlikely ever to meet any more film stars. I was sixteen and, therefore, knew that I knew everything. It was just that I hadn’t seen everything. And I hadn’t.
Manhattan Island. That skyline in the early-morning July sunshine. New York City. There it was; but was I there? Was I actually there at the ship’s rail, neatly scrubbed and polished, standing with a small, solitary band of Pender-troupe boys--none of whom had slept all night for fear of missing the first glimpse of America? The excitement. Those skyscrapers I had seen so many times before. Oh my, yes. In England. In Bristol. In the films.
That familiar silhouette, of which the highest edifice, the most prominent spire, in that year of 1920, was the Woolworth Building. If any happy medium, any fortune-telling gypsy, had prophesied I would marry the heiress granddaughter of its founder, no palm would have been crossed with my silver. Father always advised me to strike a happy medium, and it would have been the perfect excuse. That’s a very feeble joke, which I set up purposely, and not very well either; but it’s the kind of joke only an ex-vaudevillian such as I can’t resist. All right, don’t forgive me. I don’t care.
I used to apologize for every little thing I said or did, or hadn’t said or hadn’t done, or forgotten to say, etc.; I used to apologize for living. Now I’ve given it up — I mean, apologizing. Not living; I’ve only just started that.
Lady Elsie Mendl, a dear nonagenarian, toward whom I gravitated for amusing conversation and relaxed relief at many a dreary dinner party, often adjured that one should “never explain, never complain.”
One afternoon, when she was 91 years old, I carried her in my arms down a narrow winding back stairway in a wing of her exquisite villa in Versailles and, not being able to see, but only gingerly feel the steps beneath my feet, I was troubled for my precious cargo’s safety. Yet Elsie chattered unconcernedly and gaily about her plans for redecorating and entertaining and living. That was about a year or so before her death. Any words of philosophy from such a woman are worth consideration. So nowadays I accept the consequence, whether reward or penalty, or whatever I say, write, or do, and “never complain, never explain.”
After customs’ inspection, at which I had absolutely no treasures to declare, one of producer Charles Dillingham’s representatives herded us directly to the Globe Theater where we waited around, stealing wide-eyed glances at Broadway and Times Square, while our mentor, Bob Pender, went into grave discussion with his old friend Fred Stone, the versatile star of the musical comedy that was rehearsing there. It transpired that, because of Mr. Stone’s change of routines in his new show, our act was to be placed in Mr. Dillingham’s other production, which was about to open at the New York Hippodrome.
So off we scurried to present ourselves at the Hippodrome, then on Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets: the world’s largest theater; playing daily matinees and night performances, except Sundays, to 10,000 people a week, more than 2,000,000 people each season. It contained a revolving stage a city block wide and possibly a half block deep, on which appeared only the most renowned and spectacular acts of those days, selected from every nationality and country: “Poodles” Hanneford and The Riding Hanneford Family; Marceline the clown; The Long Tack Sam Company of Illusionists; Joe Jackson the tramp cyclist; Powers Elephants, an amazing water spectacle in which expert girl swimmers and high divers appeared and reappeared in an understage tank containing 960,000 gallons of water; a highly trained ballet corps of 80 members; a chorus of 100 singers — and us; our little petrified troupe of English music-hall knockabout comedians, pantomimists and stilt-walkers.
There were more than 1,000 people in the cast and approximately 800 nonperforming employees. It was necessary for everyone, from stars to roustabouts, to punch a time clock so that, by curtain time, each person would be accounted for or, if there were absentees, replacements speedily rearranged in the various acts and chorus formations throughout the show.
It was an astonishing assemblage. A talented, colorful family of colorful, spangled performers in a mammoth, colorful extravaganza and, from opening night to closing, our troupe was an unexpectedly big, colorful success. In the show — and in the family. That remarkable international family. We loved them all, and reflectively they loved us. What you give you get.
Because of our youth, we teen-agers lived under the jurisdictional eyes of Bob and Mrs. Pender — across the hall from them, in a sort of long Pullman apartment, in which each of us had to go through one another’s bedrooms to get to the bathroom. The fellow at the end had the comfort of being closest, but the discomfort of the traffic’s full concentration. I was the farthest away, nearest Eighth Avenue.
We had rotating duties. I learned to keep accounts for, cater for, and market for, to wash dishes for, to make the beds for, and to cook for every other occupant of that apartment, according to the daily allotted task. Well, thanks to my Boy Scout training, I knew how to cook a stew. You see, certain vegetables took longer to cook than others, and the meat went in at a different time from the potatoes. Right.
Stew was my piece de resistance when the weekly turn came around for me to cook. Perhaps I should have been a chef. There’s that stew; and I’ve done rather well with ham, too, don’t you think? I’ve always imagined it might be helpful to own a restaurant, in which one could serve healthy portions of rare opportunities, fresh viewpoints and sweet talk, buttered up, mixed emotions, dry wit, shredded ego and warm handshakes — which gives you some idea of the kind of word games we play in Hollywood between scenes in order to keep the cast happy, while we waste all those millions and millions and millions of dollars I keep reading about.
It’s well publicized that none of us in Hollywood knows what he is doing — according to all those who aren’t doing it with us. Wonder who gets all that wasted money, by the way? It’s spent. Somebody gets it. Somebody benefits somewhere in our industry. Never mind; it gives two or three vociferous journalists a fine opportunity to mind someone else’s business, while exposing their envy and lack of exact