by Ruth Waterbury
The heartwarming story of two men and a woman who have found the secret of Hollywood friendship
ONE friendship started out of tragedy and the other out of comedy, but added together, they created the riotous Three Musketeers of Hollywood, Power and Faye and Ameche.
There’s always talk about there being no friendships in Hollywood, and of how jealous stars are of one another. That’s true enough of the time to make this explosive combination the exception that proves the rule.
But Ty, Alice and Don work on the same lot. They play in one another’s pictures. They continually sing one another’s praises and they go in for horseplay and practical joking between themselves that gets so rough at times it nearly wrecks the whole Twentieth Century-Fox plant.
Men frequently get together in friendship, but this setup is unique in having a girl mixed up in it. And the fact that two handsome young men think enough of a slim blonde girl to spend hours thinking up new ways to tease her, spells out in letters a mile high what a swell number the Faye is.
This three-cornered friendship (and make no mistake, it is friendship and never was romance) started off on a noble fine note. Tyrone Power, very unknown, definitely unsung, was kicked out of Alice Faye’s picture, “Sing, Baby, Sing.” Maybe you’ve heard this before, but it has to be repeated for you to get this unusual relationship going in its proper sequence.
It was Ty’s first picture and thus the event was discouraging. At that moment if Alice had acted according to the guide to stardom she would never have spoken to Ty, not because he had done anything wrong, but because it looked as though he were to be that Hollywood thing worse than death, a failure.
Alice, however, barged over at this crucial moment of artistic disgrace and asked Ty to take her to dinner. She didn’t know him then, or he her, but they spent the evening together. They got solemn as owls about everything. Alice gave Ty a great pep talk, and Ty said she was his inspiration. Alice said he was her Friend. They told each other that each understood. They promised to be friends forever and ever. On such a high, moral, sweetness-and-light plane the Faye-Power friendship rested until Dominic Felix Ameche came along.
Now there is no guy who has been made to seem such a plaster saint in his publicity as Don, and who is, in actual fact, such an impudent devil. Don does go to church every Sunday and he does adore his wife and sons, but those things and those only, are what he is serious about. Everything else is a laugh to Don, and if you don’t laugh with him, he’ll soon find a way to make you.
His way of achieving that is dead-pan kidding, right in the middle of any production’s most portentous scenes. It’s a little difficult to convey to you the nerve tension, the solemnity that ordinarily reigns on sets, I suppose it is unavoidable. Millions are at stake, moods are the equation on which the whole hinges and the star to keep her moods happy must be pampered. Any star can walk from a scene on any set and without even turning her head, have a chair appear instantly back of her. Hairdressers spring forward wordlessly to run their combs through already perfect locks. Make-up men solicitiously pat cheeks and nose with unnecessary powder. Publicity men flutter and the yes-boys go into their gurglings. The star is either very gracious about it, or pretends she doesn’t notice all this fuss, depending upon which type of person she is. Either attitude kills Ameche, and he kills the attitude.
Don and Ty were old friends from their starving Chicago days, and after the “Sing, Baby, Sing” episode Ty had communicated to Don what a regular person Alice was. Don had never met her however until they were cast together in “You Can’t Have Everything.”
“You Can’t Have Everything” was a very important picture to Alice and she was prepared to treat her role with due respect, but the first day Don reported on the set he came equipped with combs, flowers, folding chairs, powder puffs and the firm determination to reduce her to laughter. He was polite as all get out at the introduction but once on the set, every time Alice moved, he popped up to serve her, a mocking gleam in his eyes. He raved over her beauty. He was speechless with adoration when she put over some big scene. The little Faye hadn’t grown up on New York’s Tenth Avenue and fought her way up through the song-plugging game to movie stardom without knowing a ribbing when she saw it. She knew Don was kidding the socks off her and it made her mad as a snapping turtle. She wasn’t actually too happy in those days. She didn’t like Hollywood or Hollywood men. She wanted to go back to New York—either that or be a great dramatic actress—and here was this clown, making her want to giggle all the time. She resolved she wouldn’t and the more fiercely she resolved that, the more determined Don grew that she would.
THE spoofing feud went on for two whole weeks of production or up until Don enlisted Ty’s aid in it. That brought results on the evening of the day Alice had been presented with a new dressing room.
The rooms the boys were dressing in at that time weren’t exactly hovels but still there was nothing about them to do them proud. Alice’s new dressing room, however, was a Class A, super deluxe special and she didn’t hesitate to let them know about it. In fact, she invited them to call and observe her splendor and that was what led to her downfall. For those two pranksters looked at the room’s miles of white satin, covering chairs and dressing table and hangings. They saw exquisite Victorian lamps with their big pink shades. They saw the neat closets for Alice’s gowns, closets concealed behind mirrors that reached from floor to ceiling. They observed all that and they just waited for Alice to be called away.
The call to return to the set finally came and away tripped innocent Alice. When she returned she saw what their loving hands had done. They’d wrecked the joint, that’s all. The lamps were overturned. The bows were off the satin. Her gowns lay in limp attitudes over everything. Her mirrors were scrawled with grease paint. One whole mirror just said “Hello, dear.” Alice surveyed that desolation and if those two boys had been anywhere around she would probably have wrung their necks. But they carefully weren’t around and then the more Alice looked, the more she realized how big she had taken all this luxury, and how silly that was, and when she thought of that, she began to laugh. Laugh and think about revenge. A simple call to the decoration department in the studio would do away with most of the damage, but she had to do the revenging herself.
She rushed over to Don’s dressing room but it was discreetly locked. But Ty, the most temperamental of the three of them, hadn’t thought that far ahead. Alice crept into his diggings. There before her she saw Ty’s first pair of imported English shoes. She knew them on sight because Ty had already proudly displayed them to her and even boasted that he had gone berserk and paid thirty-five dollars for them. Another telephone call and Miss Faye had a hammer and nails in hand. Five or six neat blows and Mr. Powers’ beautiful dog-coverings were fastened tight to the floor. They didn’t show it. They sat there slyly waiting for the moment when Tyrone, the 3rd, would put his feet in them and attempt to walk away. For that moment Alice also left a note on Ty’s mirror. It merely said, “Thanks, kids.”
After that, there was no stopping them. There was always two against one, though in different setups — sometimes Don and Alice against Ty or Ty and Alice against Don, or Alice against the two of them—and the fun never ceased. It raged during the making of “In Old Chicago” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” It was all childish but that very factor delighted them. Alice planted garlic in Ty’s dressing room but he, getting a whiff of it as he was walking that way with her, pushed Alice in the room first, locked her in and left her to nearly smother.
Another occasion was the day that Don was to die in “In Old Chicago.” Alice and Ty sent him dead flowers all day long, to get him in the mood. He returned that compliment by sending Alice a necklace made of empty gin bottles when she had to do her hysterical lost-in-the-fire scene. When Ty had to do his big regeneration scene, they prepared him for it by planting a pail of garbage in his car. (You may have gathered the idea that they’d discovered Mr. Power doesn’t care for unpleasant odors.) In case you think all this is pretty juvenile, remember that despite their always inventing telephones, or writing Stephen Foster’s songs, or building the Suez Canal or trying to stop on screen the French Revolution, Ty and Alice are still in their twenties, and Don not long out of them, and if your work forces you to take everything seriously all the while, you’ve got to relax somewhere.
Not that they always goofed around. They waited to see one another mornings with their eyes sparkling with mischief. But if they had to they could see deeper into one another’s feelings. There was the day when Alice was playing in “Sally, Irene and Mary” and Don was making “Happy Landing.” Don walked on her set, just to call. Alice was feeling miserable. She is a truly nervous girl and she drives herself too hard, but this day she was too pale. Don said, “Alice, you’re sick,”
“Oh, no, I’m not,” retorted Alice. “I’ve just got a lousy cold and I’m tired. Don’t worry about me.”
Don did, however, and Don is always a man of action. He went to the telephone and told his doctor to come out and check up on Alice. The doctor took one look and ordered her to bed. She was straight on the edge of pneumonia and without such prompt action she might well have died.
Underneath all this clambake, however, they are serious about their work, so the one thing they do seriously together is discuss roles and how to play them. Tyrone, the most talented, knits his handsome brows and suggests they play such and such a scene this way. Don and Alice listen respectfully. Alice, the magical song plugger, tells Don she’d sell the tune in such a manner and he gives it a try. Then they go into the scene and all three try to steal it.
Love had its effect on them, too. Don was the old rock in that department, of course, but the other two were always bringing him the sad news about each romantic upset they would go through. The Ameche, as a matter of fact, is a rabid matchmaker, so he was forever trying to push the two of them into marriages that he was persuaded would be as happy as his own. Thus he was very much among those present, beaming like a sunset, when Alice and Tony Martin did finally, after their many quarrels, unite, and he was the joyous best man at the Power-Annabella nuptials.
But what Hollywood is waiting for is the day when the first Power or the first Faye-Martin heir arrives. For just as much as Don slaved to get his pals married, just so much double he wants them to know parenthood.
When that day comes, Twentieth Century-Fox, if it’s smart, will padlock the whole studio. If they don’t, Don will probably burn up the executive building for the sheer joy of it, and Alice and Ty will wreck the rest of the joint just to get even.