by Don Ameche
20th Century-Fox Publicity
I turned the tables on the press today.
During the last year, I have been interviewed 1,566 times, more or less, and what with the considerable journalistic experience I acquired as the city editor in “love Is News”, I came to the conclusion that it was about time I did some interviewing myself.
Emboldened by such a momentous decision, I was ready for Merle Potter, the staff correspondent of the Minneapolis Journal, when he strolled on the “Love Under Fire” set at 20th Century-Fox studios.
He arrived during the filming of a sequence that might be termed, “The Great Jewel Fumble”. Loretta Young, Frances Drake, and I, as a Scotland Yard detective, were tossing a million dollars worth of jewels around as though they were paste, which they were.
Looking very erudite, Mr. Potter said a friendly, “Good Morning”, and like a coon hound, I sensed that an interview was whisking about in the woods somewhere.
I drew myself up in the same imperious manner I used in as city editor. “just for the sport of it,” I suggested, “let me interview you.”
His eyelashes flickered, and he glanced at me as though the city editor role had prayed on my mind.
I appealed to his sympathy. “I might want a job on a newspaper sometime,” I said, “and I need the experience as badly as a college cub.”
I didn’t wait for him to answer but started laying down a barrage of questions.
“Who’s the most beautiful actress you’ve met?” I asked. That’s always a ticklish question. If you answer, you only stir the wrath of a hundred jealous women, and soon you haven’t a friend in moviedom.
“That’s an easy one,” he laughed. “Loretta Young and Olivia de Havilland would wear the queen’s crowns if I were the judge. How about you?”
I warned him then and there that I was interviewing him. After all, I have to live in Hollywood and rub noses, so to speak, with everyone about everyday.
“What would be your choice for a handsome man?” I countered.
“Randolph Scott and–” I know that I reddened as he mentioned me. I coughed slightly to cover my embarrassment, at the same time convinced that he was trying to be diplomatic.
“I’ll give you some more ‘bests,’ he rushed on–and why shouldn’t he talk glibly. He’s been hearing all the answers for years. “Irene Dunne is the most lady-like. Paul Muni is the most cultured. And I find that Spencer Tracy is the actor’s actor in Hollywood.”
“But Mr. Potter, if you were a handsome leading man, whom would you choose for your leading lady?”
He paused for a second and I knew that I had him baffled at last.
“You’ve had more experience,” he said. “Why don’t you advice me in that manner.”
“Gladly. Indeed, gladly. At your age, Mr. Potter, I would suggest May Robson.”
He sputtered, and it was only then that I realized that I had committed a breach of something or other. As he started to protest, I lay a kindly on his shoulder.
“Now, now” I cooed, “don’t forget that you’re the actor and I’m interviewing you. After all, the studio wouldn’t want you to get mad at the interviewer. I can call you a rapscallion and all of your ancestors thieves, and you must smile genially.”
At that moment, Loretta, who had been listening a few steps away, injected a question of her own. It was rather disconcerting, for I thought I had been doing very with the interview.
“What is the funniest thing you’ve come across in Hollywood?” she inquired, turing to me with a half-impish smile, she said, “Don, that’s always the first stock question that’s asked.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Mr. Potter. “They run you ragged. Writing isn’t any fun when you’re on the go so much.”
“Is that what impresses you the most?”
“No,” he said slowly. “What impresses me is that the actors and actresses are absolutely dependent on the technicians for everything. The men who design the sets, the sound engineers, the wardrobe artists–and a thousand others are the unsung heroes of Hollywood.”
“That’s certainly right,” I echoed. Those same technicians were ready to start the cameras rolling again, and that called a halt to my first interview.