by Frank T. Farrell
HOW ONE LONELY RODENT CAUSED AN AVALANCHE OF ACCUSATIONS AND NOW ALICE FAYE TELLS WHY
FIVE HUNDRED drinking, smoking, talking men and women jammed in the Perroquet Suite of the Waldorf-Astoria. Movie critics, trade paper reporters, editors, sob sisters, magazine writers, columnists, people from the censor boards, movie executives, flunkies, phonies—they were all having a jolly time of it, working up their appetites on Darryl F. Zanuck’s free liquor.
It was one of those super-colossal Hollywood cocktail parties for which, by some weird paradox, everybody turned out, even the guests who were invited. What is more, everyone displayed strange symptoms of being anxious to meet the stellar guests of honor, a pair of compellingly popular young people named Tyrone Power and Alice Faye, whose future on the Twentieth Century-Fox lot seemed magnificent. It was three years ago.
Tyrone Power was forty-five minutes late. For a half-hour of that time Alice Faye trembled and paced the floor in a nearby room. She downed several glasses of champagne, but it gave her no courage, no warmth. The thought of marching into that army and captivating it froze her. She tore her handkerchief to shreds in emotion.
“I can’t do it. I just can’t do it,” she whispered helplessly, when a studio press representative told her to buck up, that it would be easy once she set her foot inside the suite, that merely her presence would make worshippers of them all.
Finally she squared her shoulders and did it. She met them all. They toasted to her beauty and success. Some there were who actually slapped her on the back. And before Tyrone Power arrived she had taken over her army.
Her triumph was not long in flourishing, however. A lowly little mouse upset all the major strategy, a canape-eating Waldorf mouse who joined the party and seemed mighty desirous of meeting a star. For, when Miss Faye happened to turn slightly from one of the groups of newspaper people with whom she was conversing, there on the floor a few feet from her was the rodent.
No expert would be required to predict what almost any other actress in the same circumstances would do, but Miss Faye obviously is made of different stuff. In the height of good humor she pointed to the little rascal and remarked:
“I haven’t met that one.”
Since that day New York’s press is made up of two schools of thought, according to Miss Faye, those who construed her jest to be a personal insult, and those who thought it as funny as she meant it to be. And since that day she has avoided both schools for fear of saying the wrong thing again. She has not consented to a personal interview in two years.
Call her the most misunderstood woman in Hollywood. Advise her that hordes of people consider her strange shyness to be pure, unadulterated Tenth Avenue snobbishness. Insist that she could have the world at her feet, if only she would receive its ambassadors and let them know what she is really like—and Alice Faye will shrug her pretty shoulders, sigh and sum it up:
“What’s the use? I’ve learned not to plan, not to count on things.”
She gazed out the window of the Sherry-Netherlands’ cocktail balcony. She wore a smartly cut black dress with white lace at the neck. Her little black hat and veil left just enough platinum hair and Alice Faye showing, and set off her watery blue eyes and the extravagant star sapphire pendant which her husband, Tony Martin, had given her for Christmas. Underneath the table she nervously tugged and twisted her handkerchief.
“It’s no use,” she confided in this exclusive interview with Modern Screen. “Every time I try to plan things at the studio so that I can get together somewhere with Tony for a week, things get all messed up and immediately there’s a flood of divorce rumors in the papers. And every time I head for New York, I vow that I’ll get no cold. Invariably, I wind up with something just this side of pneumonia.
“I don’t know what the New York writers have against me, but I’ll bet you if I made all sorts of plans to convince them that I am a nice person I’d probably still say the wrong thing. Either that or I’d go hysterical with this terrific inferiority complex. No, I’ve made a lot of plans in my time, but they’ve never worked out.”
She recalled the day she took it on the lam from Manhattan’s P. S. 84. She had absorbed all the arithmetic she could stand and was committing a sin known to all young spitball hurlers as “playing hookey.” The truant officer searched all the haunts of Manhattan’s roughneck West Side, but he never thought of looking for her on the stage of the Capitol Theater, which is where she had landed.
“I had it in my blood, I guess,” she says. “I wanted to be on the stage. I didn’t care how I got there or what I did after I got there, just as long as I was on it. Well, Chester Hale needed dancing girls, and there I was.
“From this simple, pointless, thirteen-year-old start Alice Faye soared to her present heights as one of Hollywood’s first ten attractions.
She didn’t climb. She didn’t plan. Things just happened—and she soared.
She worked at the Capitol for about two years; then she passed through the night club stages to become a chorine in George White’s Scandals.
“I was in Atlantic City when it opened. Let’s see, there was quite a cast; Willie and Eugene Howard, Everett Marshall, Ethel Merman, Rudy Vallee . .
“I’ve never told anyone how I first shifted from dancing to singing. It was all by accident. Rudy Vallee’s lawyer, Hymie Bushel, gave a party for the cast when we came to New York. He had just bought one of those home-recording machines, and he made records of every girl at the party singing a song. When he played the records back Rudy was listening. One of them interested him above all the others. It was mine.
“So I took voice lessons and joined the Vallee band at the Hollywood Restaurant and sang on the air. After that Rudy took me to Hollywood with the band to make a picture of the Scandals. It was Rudy who arranged for me to sing ‘Nasty Man.’ Then I was offered a movie contract by Mr. Zanuck, and I don’t know any man who would have done what Rudy did. He tore up my contract with him so that I could sign one with Twentieth Century-Fox and he wished me all the luck in the world.”
It is ironic and it sort of illustrates Miss Faye’s no-plan philosophy, that while Rudy Vallee strove and spent fortunes trying to be a movie actor, the little songstress in his band slid into the industry’s top brackets.
At first Hollywood cast her almost solely in singing roles, but Miss Faye has come a long way since then. Her films provide plenty of evidence of her acting worth and of the long hours she has spent under the kliegs. And if you don’t think Mr. Zanuck got his money back on his investment, then the poll for the biggest box-office money-making stars of 1939 is wasted paper, because it places Miss Faye seventh.
Though an Academy “Oscar” seems nowhere within Miss Faye’s reach at the moment, she blandly admits that she would like to win one some time, if it were only to prove to her own quiet satisfaction that she can act and that the happenings of the last few years are not a dream.
All this reads like such a rapid, easy and early success. Dispel the impression. Think of a cute little Tenth Avenue kid with a lot of talent. All Tenth Avenue kids with talent seem to have a lot of relatives, particularly when they are making money, and Alice Faye is no exception. It would take a comptometer to figure out the “pals” who climbed aboard her starwagon for a free ride when Miss Faye started toward success. And it took a lot of work to feed them.
“I want to be successful,” she declares. “Perhaps it’s because I want to submerge this shyness. Or maybe it’s because I like to work. But I never mind it greatly when my vacation plans are killed, as they always are. When Mr. Zanuck calls me for a picture I am all on edge and bubbling over with gratitude. I feel that the only way I can thank him is to plunge into the part and work like a ditch-digger to make good.”
She has made good, and apparently taken care of all her “pals” because, to date, blackmail seems to be the one misery Alice Faye has been spared. She has been hit by swinging booms and falling lamps in the making of pictures. She has had ptomaine poisoning, la grippe, nervous indigestion, influenza, and falls down staircases, and has taken her banging around on the lot with patient resignation.
“You see, there isn’t much that anybody can do to me that will really matter, so much has happened already,” Miss Faye reminds, though she will admit without any reluctance that a certain New York movie critic can get her as “mad as all hell.”
“I don’t know what he has against me —unless he was there the day I spotted the mouse. Anyway, I’d like to meet him some time.”
She says she ducked the parties at the studio this year in order to be with her husband, who was working in New York. It was the longest stretch they had had together since their marriage in 1937, and the way they made eyes at one another on their few prowls in the night clubs ought to cancel divorce rumors for some time to come.
“It was a swell trip this time, except that I got the usual cold. But it served as a good excuse to stay home and rest. We don’t have much of a married life, I guess, the way things on both of our schedules get jammed up, but every now and then we have a real time of it together.
Despite her isolation both in New York and in Hollywood, it is considered selfimposed and unimportant at the studio. Other stars love to pass the time of day with her, and among the minor characters at the studio she is nothing short of a goddess.
She was pleased with the prospect of getting back to work the day she left New York. The weather was bad here, but on top of that there is always the friendly nonsense around the studio, at which she is rather adept. She still has a score to settle with Don Ameche. It started a few months back with his perfuming her dressing room with garlic-split and rubbed on the walls and furniture.
“Then, too, there is always the refreshing thought of getting up at five again every morning. “Ah,” she sighs in mock delight. “Ah, and getting my hair done every morning before nine. And then rushing into the arms of some leading man for a terrific love scene at nine in the morning. Ah nuts. There are times when I’ve sat back and wondered what life might have been if I had finished school and taken up typing. How simple everything would have been.”
“No reporters, no getting fitted for corsets for Lillian Russell until you choke and your eyes pop out, no autograph hunters. . . . Ooogod!”
Something occurred to Miss Faye quite suddenly. She remembered that her maid had sat up at the window the night before when Nancy Kelly, who also stops at the Sherry-Netherlands, was coming home. It was freezing, but Miss Kelly obliged about fifty autograph collectors.
“I guess I’d better get my little pencil and go out on the corner and do my bit for Twentieth Century-Fox,” was her parting shot.
by Alice Faye
Fox Publicity Department
July 13, 1939
Ever since I started in the theatre back in New York as a dancer in the chorus, I had heard of glamour.
“Without glamor [sic], my dear,” I was told, “you will never get very far in the theatrical world.”
It didn’t bother me much then as my chances in the theatre seemed slimmer every day. I had just talked to Buddy DeSylva about dancing in the chorus of his show, but he gave me a fatherly talk and advised me to go home and learn to operate a typewriter so I could become a secretary.
“The theatre,” he said, “is no place for you.”
Since I came to Hollywood, however, DeSylva has been a very good friend and adviser. Not long ago I made a picture for him.
“You should have glamor [sic],” DeSylva told me when I first came to Hollywood.
It was easy enough for people to tell me to get glamor [sic], but no one could tell me exactly what this strange and desirable quality was until I met Director Irving Cummings on the “Hollywood Cavalcade” set.
“You have glamour [sic],” Director Cummings said simply. I was flattered, but I still didn’t know what the word meant.
“What,” I asked, “does glamour [sic] mean?”
“That,” he explained very directly, “is a state of mind, not in you but in theatre audiences throughout the world.”
I suspected all this and well I might, as I later learned.
“Few have glamor [sic] in this glamorous of all cities,” Director Cummings said, warming up to the subject, “but you have that quality that makes men and woman throughout the world shell out their coin at the box office to see you act on the screen.”
“I’m telling you all this so you can see what led me into doing what I must do in this Technicolor role on the screen in “Hollywood Cavalcade”.
There never has been a woman who doesn’t like flattery, and I can’t pose as the exception. Naturally what Director Cummings said convinced me right off that he is the most charming, wonderful, intelligent, and grandest person in all of Hollywood.
“Now”, Director Cummings continued, a little too glibly, I recall now, “glamor [sic] depends upon the surroundings in which a player is cast, not necessarily upon the action in front of the camera.”
“It all sounded a trifle high flown, but I nodded assent.
“In this picture,” he expalined [sic] “there is a comedy sequence in which Buster Keaton picks up a custard pie and throws it at George Givot. It depicts the old Keystone Comedy days, only one phase of this historical drama which highlights all the years in Hollywood from 1913 to 1927. That’s what I mean by ‘glamour’ [sic]. If you’re in a glamorous setting of a glamorous day, you, too, take on that glamor [sic].”
You couldn’t beat that kind of logic and, of course, I nodded assent again. Who wouldn’t want to be in a glamorous setting?
“As Keaton tosses the pie,” Director Cummings suavely continued, “Givot bends over suddenly to tie his shoe instead of the custard hitting him it sails right by and hits the beautiful star of the picture right in the face”
“That” I said, “should be very funny indeed. I wonder how the actress will like that.”
“That’s something I’m not sure about,” Director Cummings slyly said, “but those were glamorous days and you certainly are a lucky one to be in that role.”
“Me?” I fairly screamed. “Get smacked with a pie?”
But who can out-talk Director Cummings? Before he finished I thought of the prospects of getting smashed in the face with a custard pie and with not exactly relish, but at least with fewer misgivings.
When the day came for the pie-tossing episode, I had been given such a buildup by Director Cummings and others in the company that I really looked forward to the scene. But just before the sequence I discovered that the studio chef had cooked 16 pies. I had thought of only one.
But Buster Keaton’s aim was good and one take finished the scene and the day for me. My face was smeared with the colored whipped cream from chin to brow. All my Technicolor make[-up] had to come off.
It wasn’t bad. I couldn’t in truth say it was wonderful. But it was glamorous. I have Director Cummings word for it.
July 8, 1935
Fox Publicity Department
It is hardly fair to ask me to look back into my past because it makes me sound terribly old. I have not been in motion pictures very long but considering my age I guess I have done a lot.
My early life in New York City, where I was born, was not unlike that of other New York girls. In the summer we went swimming, in the winter we went skating and sleigh-riding. We had our fun at Coney Island and at Central Park.
I enjoyed my school in the Bronx. History appealed to me mostly and while the teacher was relating incidents of the past I would vision myself as one of the characters of bygone days. It was fun to dream and ponder on a famous personage of another age. I played a game of “remembering.” I would jot down all of the things I would have done if I were Cleopatra, or Salome or Catherine the Great, and then I would compare the history of that time with my notes. Often the guess on my part would be accurate. Most of the time I gave the woman of history too sweet a part.
Dancing was my chief interest outside of school. My mother permitted me to attend a dancing school and I can truthfully say that I danced at least five hours a day.
A storm on a lake almost ended my dancing career. I happened in upper New York State one summer.
My Uncle’s house was on a bluff. Below was the beach and the lake. About 30 families from New York City, all friends or my family. In the summer it was beautiful. The hottest day was always followed by cool nights. The streams running into the lake were filled with trout and game was plentiful in that section. It was ideal.
I was in a row boat with my brother Bill. We were going to row to the opposite side of the lake to pick blackberries. We were about a half a mile off shore when the whitecaps began to show and the wind grew stronger. The spray flew all over the side and I became very frightened. I told my brother we had better had for the beach.
So he turned the boat around and rowed frantically for the shore. The wind was so strong that we fairly flew along even though we had no sail.
We rode the waves and shot down into the hollows between the breaking white foaming swirls. I hung to the seat of the tossing boat waiting for the next wave to turn us over.
We hit a rock about 200 feet off shore and the boat overturned. Bill dragged me to the bottom of the upturned boat and there we hung on for dear life. My brother held me with one hand as the waves washed over both of us.
Friends on shore saw our plight and launched a boat with some difficulty and succeeded in reaching us just as my strength gave out. In a few minutes all would have been over but when Bill said that a boat was coming it helped to keep my courage.
The boat reached us and when we were dragged aboard I was too weak to stand or to talk. It was too thrilling an experience to have more than once in a life time. Most people would be afraid of the water after such an experience but I love all water sports.
So, looking backward that experience will remain with me for a long time.
The summer after the boat mishap found me playing each week in club plays, school shows, at picnics and every place where they had an audience for me. It was this training that gave me a start for my work on the stage and screen. Later I worked in a Chester Hale stage unit and saw, what I thought, was the rest of the world outside of New York City when we played the New England states.
My dancing and singing led to singing parts at various night spots on Broadway and later with George White in the “Scandals.” George gave me a chance to dance and then Rudy Vallee, who had a feature spot in the “Scandals” allowed me to sing from the stage with his band.
Thanks to Mr. White I was given a featured spot in the first Fox Film version of the “Scandals” and other pictures followed that one.
I think that my love for dancing when I was quite young gave mea start in the motion picture business and I still think that luck had a great deal to do with what little success I have had on the screen.
It is my hope to be able to make enough money to travel all over the world. My mother loves to travel and I think that we will just take a boat some day and start out with no particular destination in view. Maybe for a year, maybe two, but I have set my mind on it and blondes are funny that way when they set out to do something.
by Alice Faye
Fox Publicity Department
Back in New York all Tin Pan Alley is beating its brains out under the prodding of Oscar Hammerstein II, trying to find a war song.
How about a love song?
What’s the matter with love, and since when hasn’t the best fighting song to come out of a war been a love song? Oscar Hammerstein, who’s written the lyrics to some of the best songs we’ve ever had—“Show Boat” for instance—ought to have a great new one under his belt, himself. For every “Over There” there’s 20 songs about the girl back home, all-time greats like “K-K-Katy,” “Smile a While,” and all right—even “Mademoiselle from Armentieres.”
* * *
I guess I know a smattering about love songs. I’ve gotten 2000 very special letters. These special letters all had the same thing to say: some song I’d sung had brought a couple together, or made a marriage or held one together. Of course, it wasn’t MY love song. The men who write the words and music were really the ones who should have gotten the letters. Anybody can sing a love song. It takes a Leo Robin and Harry Warren to give a singer the kindof hitslike “No Love, No Nothing, ‘Til My Baby Comes Home,”—one of six of their hits in “The Gang’s All Here,” which happens to be my last picture for 20th Century Fox until after a certain blessed event.
I wouldn’t trade all the corny drum beaters in the world for the chances of just one love song to go down in history as the song of World War II.
* * *
I’ve always been a pushover for sentimental songs. So has almost anyone I know. These are tough, martial times, all right, but “You’ll Never Know” which I had the luck to introduce in ”Hello Frisco, Hello,” is still topping the Hit Parade for soldiers, sailors, marines and fighting John and Joan Civilian. That happened to be by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, both of whom ought to be dashing off a few lines to Oscar Hammerstein, come to think of it.
* * *
As long as there’s someone left on the planet to sing, they’re going to favor love songs three to one—war, peace, depression or slaunchwise [?].
Martha Raye and Carole Landis, who did five months overseas entertaining the boys in foxholes and Army camps, told me they never got one single request for martial music. All the boys wanted to hear was a love song and they didn’t care how old the song was or how new or how sad or how happy. What they wanted was a song to fight with—it could be any kind of song just so it was about love.
* * *
They want to sing “don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with anyone Else But Me,” and “In My Arms” and songs as great as “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” was, and songs like that have their place and a big place too, it’s the love songs, that the boys are hungry fro [sic] and that’s the song they’ve got to have.
Maybe the great love song of this war will come out of one of those Warren and Robin hits in “The Gang’s All Here.” Maybe it’ll come out of Paramount or Metro, or Warners or one of the others.
But wherever it comes from, Please Mr. Hammerstein and please, Tin Pan Alley, put away the tommy guns and pass the ammunition to Cupid.
Stop looking for war songs.
Give us a love song.
And watch our smoke.