4.688 Girls Who Said “Yes”—George Nader
Wow! How lucky can a guy get? WhenPhotoplay asked me to write the article, “Are You the Girl I’m Looking For?”, of course I was happy for the opportunity to sound off on the subject. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine anything like the response I got. Bushel baskets of letters pouring in to me, and to Photoplay’s offices in New York and Hollywood. And 4.688 of them—that’s right, 4.688—offering to become the future Mrs. Nader!
To say this has amazed—and dazed—me is putting it mildly. With 4.688 candidates, all doubtless desirable, to choose from, what’s a guy to do?
Well, there was one immediate problem: answering all those letters. Let me say right here that it wasn’t the number of them that floored me. Every one was so thoughtful, and kind and sincere. Of course, I’d have liked to answer each one personally. But when I had to report to U-I every morning at 6:30, ready for action (or I hope you’ll call it acting) in “Appointment With a Shadow” and didn’t wend my weary way homeward until 8:00 in the evening, this was impossible. Come to think of it, even if I hadn’t been working, it would have been impossible.
“What shall I do?” I asked the folks at Photoplay when I stopped in to pick up the latest bushel basket of mail. And bless their hearts, they came to the rescue. “Why not write another article, George,” they suggested, “answering the questions most asked, and those you feel call for special attention?”
“Great!” I agreed. So, on my first free day, we got together in Photoplay’s offices—Photoplay’s efficient gal Friday, Shirlee Haut, the letters, and I.
To begin, I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with one fact and one, oh, call it “emotion” if you want, that has run through all your letters. That is, the need to talk to someone, the need to express what you feel in your innermost mind. I think I’m wise enough to know that it certainly isn’t me that you are writing to. I think it’s mostly because some of the things that I said in that article, some of the individual and learned people I quoted that touched many readers very deeply.
It made me wonder why people can’t communicate with those around them. Why do all of us in our everyday lives seemingly feel ashamed of expressing thoughts and emotions that are obviously very true and very real? What’s happening to all of us that we can’t be sincere without feeling either that we will be misunderstood or made fun of or just plain “tuned out”? Probably this question would never have entered my mind except for your letters. I wish I knew the answer, but since I don’t, I picked out some of the questions that perhaps I can answer.
Pat in Cleveland writes in part: “From what I’ve seen of this sorry old world, not too many people think the way you seem to. That’s why I’m writing this. Too bad you can’t bottle the understanding you have written; you’d make a million the first week. While I’m at it I would like to ask if that article was written by you?”
First of all, Pat, I wish I could reassure you as I have been reassured by all these letters that maybe this isn’t as “sorry an old world” as we sometimes think. Perhaps there are many, many people who feel the way we do. We have no way of knowing because most of the time they never speak up. But they do exist, Pat. And, yes, I did write the article. I must confess that some very nice people along the way were good enough to correct my spelling and punctuation, both of which leave much to be desired, but the thoughts were mine and the words were mine.
Barbara, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, says: “While I enjoyed your ideas very much and think you are very wise in what you say, don’t you think you are asking a little too much of ‘the woman’—whoever she might be?”
Well, Barbara, as I’m sure you know, the wise thoughts in the article were certainly not original with me. Most of them have been batting around for well on to two thousand years now. And as for “asking a little too much” of the girl I marry, you must realize that the article was in a good part day-dreaming out loud and I certainly wasn’t trying to set down a list of things that had to be nor was I putting myself up on a pedestal from where I could “dictate.”
In capsule form the qualities I’d look for in a wife are these: a) She’d be sweet and neat and good to look at, b) have a sense of humor toward life and everything in it, and c) be an individual, having her own ideas on a good many subjects, able to think things through and decide what, in her opinion, makes sense.
How did I come to these conclusions? Since so many other guys feel as I do and would like the girl they marry to have these qualities, I guess I’ve reached these general conclusions like most others have: by looking around me, by contrasting, by comparing.
For instance, in high school, like the rest of the adolescent male population, I was “sent” by the local blonde with the 36-24-36 bit. And, like the rest of the crowd, I dated her when she was “available”—but after a while I began to realize that she, like so many beautiful people, was only interested in herself and a very narrow portion of the life around her. The rest of the world and the people in it were of no importance to her unless they could be used to her advantage. She was cold, calculating and selfish—and heaven help the guy she finally married. Blondes certainly have improved. I compared a picture in an old yearbook of this high-school doll with what I saw while watching the “Miss America” contest a while back. Wow, have the standards been raised!
By contrast, I still remember another girl, perhaps not as glamorized and flashy, but with a warmth and an interest and a liking for people that made you feel good just to be around her. No, she wasn’t as “popular” then (in a certain specialized sense) as the other girl was—but, let’s face it, at that time most of us had what you might call sort of one-track minds. We were mainly interested in girls who were obvious and attractive and available; we didn’t have any long-range ideas on the subject at all. Well, fine. It’s a stage most people go through when they’re starting to grow up—but where the rub comes in is that if at that stage the condition is made permanent by something as binding as marriage . . . Well, look at the divorce rate these days.
Patricia in New York sends a real stopper: “I have read so much about men who are looking for ‘the girl.’ Well, how about we girls who are looking for ‘the man’? Now both are looking. How do they meet?”
Anyone who has the answer in a couple of sentences to as old a problem as that really has it made. The only thing I can say is that too often people seem to settle for second or third best and this, of course, does not make for happiness.
Betty in Massachusetts has a very serious question: “Suppose you met a girl, and something inside told you that she might just be the right one for you, but she told you that she had been previously married and had, let’s say, two children. Knowing this, would it make a difference in the way you might feel about the girl?”
Since I’m being completely honest in answering these questions, Betty, all I can say is that from my own point of view, when I meet the right girl, it’s not going to make any difference to me who she is or what she is or what has happened in the past. Don’t you think too many of us dwell on the past and give it too much importance?
Shirley in Michigan is a little upset with me: “Just because a handful of people try to imitate the Joneses, that doesn’t mean that everyone in this consarned nation does. There are plenty of individuals in these United States. You just haven’t come across any of them. Look around you, Mr. Nader!”
Then Shirley goes on for three more sizzling pages and ends with the PS.: “Don’t forget what I said about mingling with us common folks. It will do you a lot of good.”
Shirley, I’m glad at least that you signed “your friend and fan,” because you really sound angry and I can’t quite honestly understand why. I wasn’t trying in my article to point the finger at everybody in our nation. I was and hope I always will be irritated at people who are either too lazy or too weak to assert themselves as individuals and thinking human beings.
Every player I know gets letters asking for advice on problems of many kinds. I think offering advice on personal and intimate problems is one of the most foolish and meddlesome things most people can do. The only suggestion I would have is to say that in matters such as these one should seek the intelligent and wise advice of a family physician, priest, pastor or rabbi, depending upon your religious convictions, or some other older and wiser counselor. Above all, you should not expect to receive competent advice from actors in motion pictures. Many of them have trouble enough memorizing their lines.
Ann asks a very reasonable question: “Is this a publicity stunt, gimmick, or real?”
Ann, it’s of course impossible for you to really know me completely as a person and, therefore, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t realize certain things about the way I am put together. As an actor there are many things that I do as part of my profession that I certainly wouldn’t do as a private individual. But writing an article and having it published merely as a “publicity stunt or gimmick” is something that I would not do. I don’t think I could face the mirror in the morning thinking that I had dishonestly played upon the emotions of even one other human being. That’s why you will find, if you keep track, that there are many types of magazines that I don’t appear in and many types of articles I won’t write because I don’t believe in them.
A girl in Petaluma, California, writes: “I am not by any stretch of the imagination your type of girl. However your article was very good and at least it shows you have a thinking mind, which is rare these days.” (Ouch!) . . . . “Just being signed to a studio is like being in a deadlock. Besides, it’s ruinous to good talent. It seems to build actors and actress into mere shadows of what they could be. I resent being ambushed by messy-looking Indians via the wide screen, getting eyestrain from CinemaScope, shot at by Stereophonic sound and bored to the teeth with super sets, poor acting, feeble scripts and an utter disregard for the intelligence of the viewer. It would be wonderful to see a picture full of everything that is masterful, beautiful, directed with a powerful and astute hand. I have always thought that, to any artist of value, money is the thing least thought of, or is it? Now you may think differently. Money may be very important to you. If it is, then you are not an actor. Acting is like being a painter I think, we both paint pictures for others to enjoy and think about.”
Well, while there aren’t actually a lot of questions in the parts of the letter I have quoted, the writer certainly makes me want to do a lot of answering. While I agree with her about her attitude toward some of our present-day screen products, people still are trying in this industry to create something to be proud of and are occasionally succeeding. And I think there are many pictures in the past made by Hollywood that fulfill her requirements of “everything that is masterful, beautiful, directed with a powerful and astute hand.” I can’t agree with her when she says “acting is like being a painter—we both paint pictures for others to enjoy and think about.” In the first place, a painter is an individual with full control over the finished product. An actor is merely one part of the many talents that it takes to make up the complex product known as a motion picture. And I don’t quite understand that if money is important to a person, then it must follow that they’re not an artist. Money in many cases is power and power can be extremely important in an artistic venture as costly as movie-making.
Here’s a letter from Patricia in Hollywood, Florida, who, as you will see, has very definite opinions of her own. She says: “I just read your article in the July issue of Photoplay and are you asking for it! You’re going to get a lot of phonies running around in frilly aprons trying to build fires, cook and learn to clean up a messy bedroom. Why, as far as that goes, I could fill the bill if I really wanted to, but I wouldn’t change for anyone, even you!”
Patricia goes on to list quite a few most interesting qualifications she has. Then she says: “You won’t get somebody with all the qualities you want. The best way to make marriage work is to think before saying something you will regret. You can’t change habits overnight which have been forming for some twenty-odd years in your marriage partner. So quit advertising for what you want and don’t make the mistake of advertising what you have after you’ve gotten it. I’m not in love with you by all means, but I would hate to see you be miserable from a wrong choice.”
Now look, Patricia, while I appreciate your wanting to help, I’d like to point something out. First of all, I can spot phonies by this time whether they’re “running around in frilly aprons and trying to build fires” or not. And in the second place, I didn’t write the article as an advertisement for anything. Not for myself or for the girl I’m going to marry or for a brand of toothpaste or for your local used car dealer. I just wrote it because it contained a lot of things that I wanted to say!
From Strasbourg, France, came a very kind letter from a girl named Marilyn: “I honestly believe I have never read a more beautiful (and honest, may I hope) declaration of what one would want and expect out of a life with a woman of one’s choice . . . it seems very strange to have such remarks said by an American man.”
My thanks for your thoughtful letter, Marilyn, but I must say I’m a little sorry you feel such remarks as I made to be “strange” when said by an American man. I certainly don’t think that I’m above average or exceptional in my feelings. I know many men who feel as I do toward love and marriage in relationship with life. That they don’t have the opportunity to speak up as I did is no reflection on them.
Susan from San Francisco says: “You left out the other dark side of being in love which is: Assuming it’s not a high moral relationship (just physical), it brings out those qualities in a person which may be pretty foreign and degrading. This may happen in a case of ‘opposites attracting. The burden of shouldering an unstable, unethical person can become too much for the stronger to bear, causing a decadence in him or her until neither one has pride or respect.”
Here I think, Susan, you’ve fallen into a trap that many of us fall into, that of thinking the ability to be able to love is the same as “being in love.” “Being in love” is a term like “falling in love with” or “falling for” and can easily be used to talk about or explain what’s only quite simply the sex drive. “Loving” or “being able to love” refers more to giving and sharing and understanding and helping. I don’t think the “other dark side” you mention could exist under those conditions.
One other point Susan makes: “Nobody likes to be different or ridiculed. A stigma may be attached to someone who did what he thought best but which wasn’t in harmony with the majority. That stigma may cause mental deterioration. We want to be liked and well thought of by all. This enables us to think well of ourselves—a necessity for self-preservation.”
I’m sorry, Susan, but I think you’re absolutely wrong. Sure, nobody likes to be ridiculed, but if somebody does what he thinks best and if that action doesn’t hurt any of his fellow human beings, then I see no reason for giving a moment’s thought to what other people may say or think. You seem to feel that other people’s impressions of us are what enable us to think well of ourselves. This is a basic error. We must first believe in our- selves as worthwhile human beings and approve of ourselves because we are conscious that we are deserving of love and approval. And most important, we must love ourselves first. If you misinterpret that I suppose you will think that love of self is the same as selfishness or self-indulgence. This, of course, is not true. One must love one’s self and know one’s self to be a worthwhile human being before one can truly love the world or the people in the world. Love comes from within and radiates outward. Love does not come from outside and work its way in.
Penny in New York writes: “Recently I had occasion to purchase Photoplay for a course in ‘Adolescent Psychology’ at the teachers’ college where I am a junior. We were discussing the effects of film and love magazines on children—a standard for every darn education course we have here.” She goes on to say she read the article we are talking about, noted I answer my own mail and brings up quite a few points. First of all, she asks, are my comments sincere?
Yes, Penny, of course they are.
Then she says: “I realize how difficult it is to present the same people in different lights so that the reader will be entertained and therefore retain his interest. Yet don’t you feel these magazines really reach around for their topics?”
Well, Penny, it’s a little difficult to know exactly what you mean by “reach around for their topics,” but I think the basic difficulty you are going to have is trying to lump together many different publications under a catch-all phrase like “film and love magazines.” If you are this far along in your education you should certainly know that you can’t approach the problem of analyzing anything if you make such vague generalizations. For instance, Photoplay can be compared with or contrasted to other publications, but you can’t say it’s the same as any other publication. It’s unique and distinct and has, if you will, a personality and a life of its own. And, going back to your question about “reaching around for their topics,” I think Photoplay has for some time been doing an excellent job of presenting players in an interesting and absorbing, yet very truthful, light. This, of course, can’t be said for all publications hat are concerned with motion pictures.
Penny asks: “How many young impressionable fans will be measuring their own strengths and weaknesses or developing themselves as individuals when you set up an idealistic Utopia to fill?”
Look, honey, I think you had better read that article again, because if you think I was setting up an “idealistic Utopia,” you’re all wet. I was talking about things which I think are of great value; I was quoting people whose knowledge and intelligence I respect; I was saying things which I believe to be worthwhile. None of this fits into the definitions I remember of Utopia.
Then, Penny, you really pull a boner because you ask: “Do you think the type of girl who reads these magazines is an avid Wylie reader? Perhaps these girls are average nothing readers! I think you’ll find your Wylie and Vance Packard readers in or graduated from college and universities. These girls don’t read fan magazines.”
Penny, I’m sorry, but you’re completely confused. I can send you at least one hundred letters from girls in or graduated from colleges and universities who found the article not only interesting, but provocative. Maybe these girls don’t read “fan magazines,” but I have proof they read Photoplay. And finally you ask the question: “I am not a prudish teacher, but do these stories build character, or do they create a glittering storyland of Sherman Oaks, or any other residence mentioned in the other stories?”
Well, Penny, your term “prudish teacher” has little or no meaning to me, so I don’t know whether you’re that or not. I do know that you’re not only confused, but so far behind in your thinking and understanding of what Photoplay is trying to do that, honey, you’re just plain old-fashioned. I’m certainly not trying to make this sound like an ad for Photoplay or any other magazine dealing with motion pictures and the personalities in them, so I’ll just close by saying, Penny, you’d better wake up and live a little. Oh yes, before we leave Penny, I think I should tell her that, if she likes, I can furnish her with the address of a very charming lady in Hutchinson, Kansas, who, being a little wiser and a little older, might be able to help her. She writes to tell me that she is thirty years old, with two children, has a degree from a university, is widowed now and, because she has had to make her own way and provide a living for herself and her children for some time, knows and understands the values I was talking about.
Among other things this lady says: “Most of us seem to spend our lives avoiding being our own unique individual selves—in fact escaping, running, joining, marrying—anything to overcome the unbearable isolation we feel. But when we stop and realize what all the racing is for, then perhaps we have a real chance to grow toward maturity, to be a loving person and part of the whole wonderful world and each human in it.”
Then she says three very kind things: “First, it’s always wonderful to find someone who cares enough to think things through and decide for himself. Second, it’s nice to know that in your profession there are individuals who are truly at last on the way to being ‘complete’ people. Third, so many teenagers read movie magazines and if you in your position have inspired even one to read, learn and think before they leap, then will you please rewrite your article again in about twelve years when my children will be teenagers?!”
Don’t you think it might help Penny if she talked a little with this lady?
Well, I think you can see from the letters above, from this small sampling of the mail that has come in, what a rewarding experience this has been for me. And by that I mean as an individual. Because almost without exception the letters have said they weren’t writing to a “movie star,” but rather to a person. And I’m sure you can understand what a wonderful feeling it is to know that so many others share your views and ideals.
Above all, in a world where our daily newspapers tell us that everything and everyone is negative and downbeat and wrong, it’s a very heartwarming experience to realize that this is completely untrue—that the world actually is full of worthwhile and wonderful people who are only now getting a chance to be heard.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, for in- stance, Stan Delaplane gave his daughter, age fourteen, a chance to be heard—in his McNaught Syndicate column. She’d read the story in Photoplay and Stan reports the following conversation:
“Imagine,” she said. “Imagine having a date with George Nader!”
“What would you do, my dear?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to do anything fancy. Just something very simple. Like maybe a picnic. With peanut butter sandwiches. That’s why I think we would get along so perfectly. Because he likes peanut butter sandwiches. And so do I.”
“What kind of peanut butter sandwiches? Crunchy or smooth?”
“I would make a variety,” she said. “He could have whichever ones he wanted. I like crunchy.”
“With lettuce? And mayonnaise?”
“Just mayonnaise. No lettuce.”
“I suppose that is the way George likes them. Is that what Photoplay says?”
“They do not say exactly. But I would make them any way he liked. Or else,” she said, “if we didn’t have a picnic, we could go to a movie. And take peanut butter sandwiches along to eat.”
Well, I like the crunchy kind of peanut butter, too—with mayonnaise, no lettuce. Do you think I should call Miss Delaplane and tell her?
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1958