Looking at Hollywood with Hedda Hopper
Chicago Sunday Tribune
November 9, 1950
June Allyson says her husband, Dick Powell, can talk people out of anything. Having seen the gent in action, I’m inclined to agree. But in one instance he failed notably. He couldn’t talk Metro into lending him his wife to play his wife in “Mrs. Mike.” The studio, it seemed, didn’t think that co-starring a married couple would be good box office.
But Dick’s argument to the contrary must have left an impression, even if it did work in reverse. Metro talked him into coming to the lot and co-starring in two pictures with his wife. The first, “The Reformer and the Redhead,” was well received by the public.
Metro then dished out “Right Cross” to the couple. It’s one of the best Metro films of this year, presenting a new and refreshing facet to minority group problems. In the film, Dick is in the peculiar situation of having June turn him down for Ricardo Montalban. But in exchange Powell got a wonderful part. He plays a witty, hard-drinking Irish sports writer, whose patience is exhausted in trying to convince a Latin pugilist that non-Latins are not against him.
“How did you like playing opposite June?” I asked.
“She’s simply the best actress I know,” said he. “But she’s the most unactressy actress you’ll ever find in Hollywood. I honestly think that a lot of mornings she wouldn’t even go to work if I didn’t urge her.”
“I’m not a career woman,” June said. “I don’t like to fight. I’d just as soon stay home and raise babies. I’ve never been so happy as since the time I learned the stork was headed my way. For the first time in my life I feel important. I’d like to have five babies. But Richard (that’s what she calls him) feels he’s a little old to be starting such a big family.”
“You can have babies and work, too,” said I. “Esther Williams, Jeanne Crain, Lana Turner, to name a few, do it.”
“I still don’t like to fight,” she said. “That’s Richard’s department. Tell Hedda how you broke strings that kept you tied to musicals.”
“Maybe she can tell me how to get back into musicals.” said Dick. “It’s the old story. When I was under contract to Warner Brothers, I used to go to the studio head and say, ‘Please, may I get out of musicals?’ It did no good. I even went to far as to get two straight stories; the the studio gave them to other actors.
“The same thing happened at Paraount. I finally rebelled against making any more musicals. When I walked out on ‘Bring On the Girls,’ the studio suspended me. But I met Y. Frank Freeman at a party and talked him out of the suspension.
“I went over to RKO and told my troubles to Charlie Koerner. He tossed a script at me and said, ‘Is this what you want?’ I sat down and read it. The script was for ‘Murder My Sweet.’ As you know, that picture opened up a brand new career for me.
“But I missed out on ‘Double Indemnity.’ That and ‘Vengence Valley,’ were the only two pictures I wanted and didn’t get.
“Now the cycle has taken a full swing. I want to do a musical, but nobody will give me the opportunity. I think my voice is better than ever. I sing all the time. But the town now has the impression I’m an actor, not a singer. However, I’m going to make a musical even if I have to produce it myself. I have a story, ‘Breakaway,’ for which I’ll likely have some songs written as a starter.”
“How about your new picture, ‘Cry Danger’?” I asked.
“We think it’s good,” said he. “And I don’t think there’s a dishonest line of dialog or situation in it.”
We were sitting in the den of Dick and June’s beautiful Bel Air home. The telephone rang every five minutes.
Several times June answered the phone. Once Johnny Greene, Metro musical director, was on the line. June sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Another time she seemed quite concerened and Dick asked what was wrong.
“Seems I’m on television and the studio doesn’t like it,” she said.
“Were you on television?” asked Dick.
“Darling,” she said, “I was at a luncheon; and some cameras were trained on us. I dont’ know whether they were for television or not. You know how little I know about cameras.”
Dick shook his head. Studio are very finicky about their stars being seen on television screens, whatever the excuse. Dick, being a free-lancer, doesn’t have to worry about that matter. He thinks his radio show, “Richard Diamond,” would lend itself well to TV.
When June left the room for a minute, I asked, “How did she land in show business?”
Dick looked a bit puzzled “I’ll be darned if I know,” said he. “Why don’t you ask her?”
I did. “On a dare,” said June. “I told some school chums I could dance as good as Fred Astaire. And they asked me, if I was that great, why didn’t I get into a show? I said I would, so I got myself a job in a show and here I am.”
Dick began as a choir singer in Little Rock, Ark. He sang in churches of various denominations and held down a job with a telephone company simultaneously. When pals began to suggest that he shouldn’t be limiting his talents to Little Rock, he thought they had a point. He tried Louisville, Ky. “I was strictly a lassical singer,” said he, “but I found that people weren’t breaking down any doors to hear that kind of msuic, so I learned popular songs.”
On the stage he became famous as a master of ceremonies. Warners brought him to Hollywood, and “42d Street” [sic] made a star of him. Since then he’s had his ups and downs, but he’s been a fighter from the word go When his movie career began to fade, chiefly, I believe, because he made too many bad musicals, he took the road on a personal appearance tour. Audience reaction showed Hollywood that Dick still had what it takes.
During one period he didn’t work for more than a yar rather than do what he considered bad pictures. His attitude paid off. He’s back on top again. And as for talking, he talked one of the loveliest and most talented girls in Hollywood into marrying him.