by Sara Hamilton
Photoplay—Movie Mirror is the first to record these frank statements made by handsome bandleader Phil Harris about his wife, “the only girl who ever made me cry”
At 3 o’clock on a warm May day, Alice Faye became the wife of Phil Harris, the bandleader. The setting was Ensenada, Mexico, and no two happier people in all the world returned across the border that evening to these United States than Alice and Phil.
Theirs had been one of those love on sight, whirlwind courtships. So much in love were these two, in fact, they could not wait until Phil’s American divorce from his former wife, Marcia Ralston, became final in September.
“We’re going to be married all over again then,” Phil told us, his grin wider than usual.
Several weeks ago, we sat with Phil in his dressing room at the Paramount Theater where he had a two weeks’ engagement and talked of Alice, the girl he frankly admitted he loved. All about his dressing room were reminders of Alice, little things she’d bought for that dressing room, kidding signs painted by members of Phil’s orchestra on doors and mirrors, a huge wreath of dried vegetables outside the door, a gag present from Alice to Phil, and something else, something almost indefinable—a feeling, or aura perhaps, of the happiness and joy that radiate from those who have found love.
And Phil Harris has found it in Alice. And Alice has found it in Phil. “I know everything will work out,” this famous bandleader told us, “But you see our love is so new and it happened to us so suddenly, and with Alice away for three weeks and me on tour, we can’t seem to understand yet just what’s happened to us.”
That’s how deeply in love Phil and Alice are, with each seeming to know and recognize this is not just the usual Hollywood romance with dates and gay times. It’s more than just that. It goes deep into their hearts and a meeting ten years ago. It has its roots in an affinity of unspoken yearnings for companionship and home and simple things.
It’s exactly as if, after a long and heartbreaking journey, Alice had come home at last.
She tried to express that yearning when she bought a ranch home out in the Valley. Alice, the bright—light girl from New York, on a ranch! It seemed incredible to Hollywood. But we who understand Alice Faye knew that some unexpressed longing for peace after storms, for rest after turmoil, was sending Alice in search of a permanent haven.
Now she’s found it. Found it in a man who also came through success with all its accompanying noisy fanfare to find true happiness in the simple things of a simple life.
They met for the first time ten years ago. Phil remembers everything about that meeting. It happened on the roof garden of the Pennsylvania Hotel when Rudy V allee beckoned over the little blonde that sang with his band.
ALICE, this is Phil Harris. His band is going to follow ours here for an engagement.” They sat down at a table, Phil recalls, and talked for fifteen minutes about nothing much at all. Alice was beginning her career then and so was the new bandleader. Neither knew or dared to dream of the success that lay ahead for each of them, of the amazing events that would carry them on. Certainly they couldn’t foresee that ten years later, in a little Ventura Boulevard restaurant out in California, they’d look at each other over their midnight sandwiches and say “Hello” as if those ten years had never been.
They were neighbors in the village of Encino and yet they’d never met. Alice could look over from her garden and see Phil’s place and yet their paths had somehow never crossed since that night ten years ago. Alice had gone on to stardom and Phil’s band had become a part of Hollywood, appearing weekly on Jack Benny’s NBC radio show and playing nightly at the Wilshire Bowl.
After the Bowl had closed Phil would wander home by himself, stopping nearly every night at Charlie Foy’s on Ventura Boulevard for a sandwich. One night Alice and her secretary were sitting by themselves in a corner. Alice had worked late at the studio making added scenes for ” The Great American Broadcast.” She was tired and weary; Phil looked over, grinned his wide friendly grin and said, “Hello.”
“We’re neighbors,” Phil went on. “Strange w e haven’t run into each other before this.”
Before she left Alice had been invited to Phil’s for dinner and Alice promised, as soon as her picture was finished, she’d come.
Three weeks later he phone her. “How about dinner?”
Alice came the next night. She met Phil’s mother. Then an event of deep importance happened to Alice.
She met Tookie.
Tookie is Phil’s little boy, just six, with all the independence and self—assurance of a little boy who makes up his own mind about people. Never demonstrative, Tookie looked long and hard at Alice and Alice looked at Tookie.
He walked over and put his arms around her neck.
It’s been Tookie and Alice ever since.
“He never did that with anyone else,” Phil said. But right off he loved Alice, and, of course, Alice is out of her mind about Tookie, loading him down with gifts and presents all the time.
“He’s a swell little guy,” Phil says, and then with a father’s usual pride he tells of his boy’s accomplishments. “The smartest thing I ever did was to have a sports instructor come out to the house three times a week to teach Tookie swimming, fencing, and boxing. Why, he can dive right now into the nine—foot mark in the pool!”
Tookie, of course, will divide his time with Marcia Ralston, the former Mrs. Harris, screen actress who has recently been signed by Universal. But right now he’s with Phil.
Almost instantly Alice and Phil’s mother liked each other and now once every week Alice and Phil go to his mother’s house near her own little corner grocery at Sixth Street and Normandie.
“Couldn’t do a thing with her,” Phil grins. “Brought her out to my home and begged her to stay, but no sir, she wanted a little business of her own and darned if she didn’t buy a grocery on a corner that has chain markets on each of the other corners.
“Mother’s putting them right out of business,” he laughed, “because she thinks she’s still in a little town back east. People come in on Saturday nights to pay their bills and mother never misses that sack of candy as sort of a reward.”
“It’s those small—town, homey, simple qualities of Phil’s mother’s character that have been passed on to one of the nation’s lead orchestra leaders.
“Alice wants to do all the things I love to do—fishing and hunting. We’re going to do them, too.”
“Your marriage,” we suggested, “will be like the Gables.”
“That’s what I hope for,” he said, “sharing the same love tor things like that.”
HE means it. For years Phil has lived on his ranch, visited his neighbors, sat on fence rails at farm auctions with Gable and Andy Devine and bought farm tools and saddles. When his Wilshire Bowl stint was over Phil went home and no gay spots ever saw him. Now Alice, who spent so many years of her young life in night clubs, is eagerly following Phil in his life.
Free evenings—and they have been few—are spent visiting Phil’s close friends, the Andy Devines and the Goffs (Abner of the hum and Abner radio team).
Children, hee Devine and Goff children, have taken Alice to their hearts just as Tookie has. Dinner and card games are about the wildest diversions on these ranches. Alice Faye has never known such contentment.
Alice’s life with Tony Martin, her former husband, was a hectic, trying one. It began with ten strikes against it, with Tony and Alice constantly quarreling and making up and quarreling again.
Separation and Tony’s spectacular and sudden success tore them farther apart than Alice’s success ever could have and proved the finishing blow to their marriage. Alice’s divorce is now final.
“It’s like going back and living part of my life over,” Alice told us during the struggle for her adjustment in her marriage with Tony. “I’ve done and am finished with all the things that Tony loves—the night clubs and glitter. I want to go on from there.”
And now Alice is going on—with Phil Harris.
“Alice Faye is the only girl who ever made me cry,” Phil says quite unashamedly. “There has always been something about Alice on teh screen that has touched me and I admit quite honestly, in that scene in the cab before Carnegie Hall in ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band,’ I wept right out with Alice.”
For months, Alice had begged for a vacation from the studio. She was tired, weary, and wanted to go to New York. She wanted to stay there for three months and rest.
That was just before she met Phil. When her boat sailed through the canal, they both knew that their meeting just a week or two before meant something wonderful to each of them. Every day Phil telephoned the boat while he and his orchestra were making one—night stands throughout the West.
She stayed in New York—not three months but three weeks—and then came home to be with him.
“My Faye’t is in your hands,” “Faye as you enter,” were some of the signs of the boys of the band hung around to greet Alice when she stepped into that Paramount dressing room. Outside his door that montrous horseshoe of beets, carrots, and artichokes, all dried now, that Alice sent him on his opening day, still stands. Phil can’t bear to let it go.
THEY laugh about the same things. “We seem to have so much in common,” Phil says. “And she’s such a swell girl. From every side I meet people who tell me some story of Alice’s kindess. I never knew or met a girl who thought constantly of other people the way Alice does. She’s wonderful. I’m crazy about her.”
Undoubtedly in the hands and heart of this boy from Nashville, Tennessee, the half—frightened, submerged ego of Alice’s, that has endeared her to all of us who know her, will find a place to blossom. In the heart of that boy that still says, “Yes, ma’am,” and means it.
Phil’s story is the American way of success. While attending the Hume—Fogg military academy in Nashville, Phil and four other students organized a small orchestra and toured in the summer. In Denver, Colorado, a theatrical man heard the lads andlater sent for them to play in his theaters in Honolulu. The boys left school and stayed a year in the islands.
But now it’s Alice, his wife. And with Alice it’s Phil—her husband.
Until September, they will live in their separate and neighboring estates with all Hollywood pouring upon them their best wishes for a happy, happy marriage.