A rare and charming story—Tony & Janet & Kelly Curtis
Editor’s Note: This story is about three people and an hour in their lives. It’s a little story, and we guarantee it will never go down in the annals of Hollywood history. But it’s a rare and charming story and it’s our guess you’ll enjoy seeing it and hearing it.
Our star is a nineteen-month-old package of soap-suds and smiles named Kelly Lee.
Our proud photographer is Kelly’s daddy, Tony Curtis.
Our narrator is Kelly’s mommy, Janet Leigh and this is how Janet tells it. . . .
It was a Friday, I remember. Tony and I had been working hard all week on The Perfect Furlough at U-I and I was lucky enough to get off early this day. So at four o’clock I stuck my tongue out at my husband—who’d have to stay another hour, at least—and drove home.
As usual, there was Kelly at the top of the stairs, pounding on her gate, waiting to greet me, smiling away, not the old baby-gas-smile of a few months ago anymore, but a real honest-to-goodness welcome-home smile. She always hears our car come up the driveway and comes rushing out of her room, and she makes it very clear to us that there’s to be no dilly-dallying downstairs, that we’ve got to go right up and get and give our kiss and hug.
So up I ran and we hugged and kissed and then we played a few minutes of ‘Mine!’ This is a game that had started a few weeks earlier when I’d given Kelly two pretzels—she loves ’em—and told her was for her and the other was for one her daddy. She’d promptly eaten hers, and then had started to munch on the other when Tony walked in and said, “Hey, that’s mine!” He pretended to try to take it away from Kelly, but she’d have none of this. “No,” she began to squeal and laugh and run around the room, all at the same time, “this mine . . . mine . . . mine!” This had since become a favorite game, for Kelly to take hold of anything, call it hers and go racing around the place—and on this particular night I’m telling about now she’d decided it would be a little pillow from her crib.
When, after our miniature marathon, I managed to get hold of the pillow—or, I should say, tap it—and the game breathlessly ended, I picked my daughter up and took her to her room and we proceeded to get ready for the big event of the day, Kelly’s bath.
Actually I should say ‘bawth,’ because that’s the way Kelly says it. When Tony and I were in Europe last year shooting The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Ernie Borgnine, we got an English nurse for Kelly. She was a lovely woman with a most lovely accent and the two words she said more than any others must have been ‘dahnce’ and ‘bawth.’ Because our little California-born Kelly, with a daddy from the Bronx and a mother from the heart of California, gets very uppity-sounding when it comes to dancing or bathing—sounds, in fact, like a little debutante from Mayfair as we prepare for either of these events.
Anyway, preparations got under way on this night for her say-it-how-you-will, and it all began regularly enough with Kelly undressing herself, a process in which I help by unbuttoning her dress and unlacing her shoes and pulling her little socks off halfway.
But then, after helping her put on her robe and giving her her towel and soap, and saying the time-honored phrase, “And now we go to Kelly’s bathinette and see the water”—suddenly something happened.
“No,” I heard this little voice from down below whisper up at me.
“No bath?” I asked, looking down.
Kelly smiled. “Yes—bawth,” she said. “But—with—you.”
I looked over at the bathinette and laughed. “How could I fit. . . .” I’d started to say.
But Kelly didn’t need any slide rule-talk from her mother, that’s for sure. Because she’d already let go of my hand and run to the door leading to my bathroom. She pointed to the tub. “Here,” she said, “we—take—bawth—here.”
I could see how excited she was about the prospect of us bathing together and I thought it was a fine idea—an idea, by the way, that Tony later picked up with Kelly and who, on his early days off, now rushes home so that he can be in the tub with her first and have all the fun.
So I said “All right,” turned on the water, got undressed too and in we both went.
We had a ball, my baby and me. I remember how first I turned her on her tummy and swished her back and forth for a while. For some reason she’s afraid when water splashes on her face and so, to rid her of this fear, I’d manage to get just a little sprayed on, kind of accidentally-on-purpose, and then laugh as though this were real fun and hope she’d laugh, too. Fortunately, she did.
Then I remember how we played with her rubber dolly for a while—which made for three of us in the tub now—and this with the inevitable question-and-answer period that goes something like this:
“Show Mommy where the dolly’s eyes are.”
“And her nose?”
“And her mouth?”
“And her tummy?”
“And now where’s Kelly’s tummy?”
“Here!!”—the last accompanied by much tickling and splashing and a few more unnoticed sprays of water in the face.
A good game
Then it was cup-time, Kelly asking me by pointing if I wouldn’t be so kind as to please reach for one of Tony’s empty shaving mugs on the sink nearby so we could fill it, pour, fill it, pour. I got the cup and told Kelly that we could fill it, pour, all she wanted—as long as she didn’t ever pour anything on the floor. Kelly agreed and, great as the temptation was, kept her word.
And then, I remember, we were in the midst of nursery-rhyme-time—Here We Go ’Round The Mulberry Bush and Rain, Rain Go Away are her water favorites—when suddenly she heard Tony’s car pull up the driveway and the shaving mug and the dolly and the games were forgotten and, in their place, came a round of laughing shrieks for “Daddy . . . Daddy . . . Daddy!”
Daddy was upstairs in a matter of minutes, and when he saw the two of us in the tub he said, “Hey!”—just one word, “Hey!”—and he turned around and rushed out.
I knew what that “Hey!” meant and I called out, “Tony—Tony, you leave that camera where it is!”
He was back in a second, camera in hand, ready to snap.
“Tony,” I said, “what are you going to do?”
“I want a picture of the baby in the tub,” he said, winking.
“But there’s a big girl in the tub, too,” I said.
“Aw, Janny,” Tony said.
Tony won’t take no for an answer
I know what a charge Tony gets out of taking pictures of us all the time and how excited he was about this new pose. I gave one more try, though. “Tony,” I said, “my hair’s pinned up and I look. . . .” But halfway through he winked again and my words melted in my mouth and I sat Kelly up and I said, “Come on, Baby, Daddy’s going to take our picture.”
For about ten minutes Tony snapped away, playing director all the while.
“All right, Kelly-honey,” he’d say, “now give me the mean look.”
And Kelly would pucker her little lips and growl her little girl’s growl.
“Now the surprised look,” Tony would say.
And pop, the blue eyes would open.
“Now the Phil Silvers look,” Tony would say.
And now would come the big grin on her face and the attempt to say “Gladda—see—ya.”
And so this went on and on, until finally bath-time was over and Tony lifted Kelly out and dried and powdered her and put on her clean panties and pj’s while Mommy, after quickly taking care of herself, went downstairs to see if Kelly’s dinner was ready.
Dinner, as usual, was preceded by our nightly tour of the kitchen. Kelly is fascinated by the garbage disposal unit, so this is always Stop 1. Then Tony lifts her and holds her near the stove and Kelly stares in awe at the pots and seriously informs one and all that they’re “hot . . . hot.” My job next is to provide the great treat of the tour. That is, I open the refrigerator door for a moment and Kelly sticks her head in and laughingly informs us that this is “cold . . . cold.”
Then it was dinner-time—followed by play-time, an hour in which we run races in the den, sit and watch the people on the television set for a little while, and play with Merci, our tiny toy poodle. For a while, Merci was scared to death of Kelly. After all, a baby doesn’t exactly know the meaning of gentleness and I guess when Kelly tried to play with her Merci would think this is the end. But one night recently, a few nights before these pictures were taken in fact, Kelly was sitting on the rug eating one of her pretzels when a little piece fell beside her and I guess Merci figured this was for her, that Kelly was making a present of it—and ever since then she follows the baby around everywhere and they’ve been the best of friends.
How we say good-night
Then, play-time over with and the yawns beginning to take the place of smiles, we brought Kelly up to her room, sat her on her potty for a while, and then tucked her in her crib. I say “we” brought her up, but honestly I forget—because some nights Tony gets involved in something and says he’ll be up in a few minutes.
At any rate, if it was one of those nights, you can be sure that as soon as I got Kelly into her crib she pointed to the inter-com on the wall and then phoned down her usual message:
A special candle
“Daddy? Hi. I ready. Hurry. Bye-bye.”
At which point Tony came zooming up, Kelly kissed us good night and we all looked up at the ceiling and blew out the lights. Then, as a special extra, Tony lit a Christmas candle we keep on Kelly’s dresser and let her blow it out—all by herself. The candle has no special significance. We thought it would be cute to do one night and the baby got such a kick out of it that we do it all the time now. Later on, she’ll have her prayer to say.
Then, on this particular night as on all nights, it was ‘Nighty-nighty’ and ‘Sleep tight’ and we left the room.
I guess you expect this little story to end here, with the baby on her way to sleep upstairs and with both of us going back downstairs now, to sit back and read or relax with TV or something.
Well, it doesn’t.
I started down, and I’d thought Tony was behind me. But suddenly I had the strange—and, as it turned out, very accurate feeling—that I was completely alone.
I wondered for a moment.
And then I knew.
Tony was already in his dark-room, starting to develop these pictures you see of his baby and her mommy—taking their first ‘bawth’ together.
Janet and Tony will appear together in United Artists’ THE VIKINGS and U-I’s THE PERFECT FURLOUGH. Tony will be in United Artists’ KINGS GO FORTH. Janet is in U-I’s JET PILOT and TOUCH OF EVIL.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1958