An Exclusive Interview With Jane Ardmore
Dick Chamberlain is like a rash with me. It started small and grew and grew until it took over everything. He is the most important relationship in my life. And if he ever feels me inadequate to his needs he will have given me so much that I can still be his friend.
“We go to the beach, we go to the theater, we go to my house and have dinner, he cooks at my house or I cook at his house. We listen to records. We’re together every weekend. If it’s possible to arrange anything during the week, that’s topping on the cake.
“Not long ago, I was taking care of my brother Carl’s children. my little niece is three. my nephew is seven, and we have a ball. They love to visit this little apartment of mine. Dick and I were going out that night, Dick phoned 111e after rehearsal and said he was on his way to pick me up. So I said, ‘I still have the kids, so why don’t we eat here?’ He came over and the four of us are sitting there having dinner and in the middle of a bite Dick drops his fork and has hysterics. ‘Wouldn’t the magazines love to have a picture of this?’ he laughed. We still kid about it. He’ll come up to the house calling, ‘How are you, Mother? Papa’s here!’
Tall, quiet and shy
“How did we meet? It was in a tiny room at the studio of my singing teacher. Caroline Trojanowski. Seven or eight of her students were rehearsing for a Christmas program. I had a solo, ‘Cantique de Noel,’ and I was giving it everything I had—but even so, I was aware of a tall, quiet boy in sneakers, Levis and a white dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves. He was quietly singing his part and I noticed he always stood in back of the others, not next to them, and I thought ‘Hmmmm.’
“The night of the Christmas program—at a woman’s club—I caught a glimpse of him backstage—so scared he was fit to he tied. There was tension around his mouth, his hands were damp—he was quietly panicking. I wondered. what kind of singer is this? I’d been singing since I was five years old. I majored in music at Glendale Junior College, I’ve sung professionally and I had no idea that some of the others weren’t professional singers. Now, sensing this boy’s tension, I walked up to him to talk a bit and put him more at ease.
“But just then something very queer happened. I was wearing this green chiffon cocktail dress and I happened to glance down—and there were all strange spots right across the middle of it! I let out a horrified scream.
“ “I wore this dress on a USO tour,’ I told Dick, ‘and we were out in the sun a lot and I guess the humidity …” I couldn’t go on, I was in tears.
“Dick said calmly, ‘It just looks kind of iridescent.’ And he gave me a smile— well!—it was the smile that has melted TV audiences all across the country, only we didn’t know it at the time. What I think happened was that I’d come up with a problem, so it made him feel a little better.
“A few minutes later we were on. We did the ensemble stuff and then he sang his solo, ‘More I Cannot Wish You.’ He just stood there with his hands quiet. and his voice—not really letting it go, but just enough so you knew how great it could be. And the second it was over, he beat it out of there as if he’d been shot from a cannon.
“It was a year before he asked for a date. This time we were rehearsing for one of Caroline’s shows, ‘Potpourri.’ We’d finish rehearsal and then three or four of the kids would go somewhere to eat. I knew Dick was up to something because he was always running—he seemed to’ve been born in fast tennis shoes. I found out he was an actor—he was testing for ‘Kildare.’ I also found out he was dating Vicki Thau. Myself, I was dating a man I’d been going with for five years—and I might’ve married him if my career hadn’t pulled me away from him.
“After the opening of ‘Potpourri’ (before an audience of about eighty interested friends), there was to be a cast party. Dick took another fellow and me in his little Fiat. As he slid in and out of traffic he asked me about an engagement I had coming up at the Statler. and when I suggested that they come down some night and catch the show, he gave me a big surprise. ‘Let’s do that.’ he said to the other guy. ‘I’ll arrange to get you a date.’ Obviously he had a date—with me. He just took it for granted.
“That double date never did come off. Just Dick came to the Statler. He was working on ‘Kildare’ by then and was caught up in a mad rush of activity—but he came to catch my show. I saw him from the side curtain before I went out to sing. Then I was out there, singing ‘An Occasional Man,’ looking down at him. He smiled that Colgate smile of his—and I just went limp. It dazzled me.
“So that’s the way it was. There are boy- girl, man-woman relationships that are right from the beginning. Ours was—and we’ve changed each other’s lives. We’ve had a profound effect on each other. Dick has lighted fires under me. He has a way of looking at me that demands action. I’ve always been a little reserved, I’ve held in. This makes Dick furious. He thinks I haven’t even begun to tap what he thinks I have. But he understands reserve because he’s been reserved. Ali his life this kid—I say ‘kid’ and I say ‘boy’ and neither is true, he’s strictly a man—it’s been the hardest thing in the world for him to kick away from his childhood. His brother Bill, six years older, was a football hero. Dick dreamed of acting but wouldn’t tell anybody for fear they’d laugh.
“Then, at Beverly Hills High. he did act, and his best friends told him he had no talent, he couldn’t put himself over—and he believed them. Yet somehow he knew he had talent for something, he just had to find out for what. He started painting, but that was lonely; he went out for track, that was lonely, too. The Chamberlains were a close family and they all loved him dearly, but he was ‘Little Dick’ and he grew up conforming—outwardly—to f everything they asked: to be nice, to be conservative, to avoid conflict. But he didn’t believe any of it, he didn’t know what to believe till he hit Pomona College and ran into some intellectual curiosity and some Creative people. And even after Pomona he was still searching for something—he wasn’t sure what.
“I guess the something was freedom—to be himself. Now he even screams when he wants to. When he boils over he’ll walk into his dressing room, slam the door and yell all the four-letters words there are. Then he’ll come out, the script in his hand, ready for action—and smiling! I will say. though, that as time’s gone on, he’s had to do that less and less. Because I was standing by. I was just there for him. Not trying—the worst way to blow a deal is to try to do something or be something, You can’t fake it. But I was there to talk to him, to understand him, to applaud him for trying to be himself. Not Dr. Kildare. Himself—Dick Chamberlain.
“A while ago we went sailing for a day out of Balboa—with a photographer on board taking candid shots, but we enjoyed ourselves any way. Later we went to the house of one of his Pomona College friends. Everyone took turns at the electric organ, and then the host took over, swinging into an Apache number. Well, I promptly grabbed a rose from a vase and stuck it between my teeth. Dick grabbed me and we did a hysterical take-off on Apache dancing. Dick played the wild Latin cat to the hilt, embracing me passionately, then throwing me clear across the room. I’d come crawling back to him with the rose between my teeth—and it would start all over again.
A new Dick
“Believe me, this was no Dick his college friends had ever seen—but it was a Dick I’ve come to know well. He’s the same boy who left a surprise for me in my car—I came out and found it literally filled with a potted plant. there was hardly room for me. He’s the boy who’s one of the craziest twisters in town. He’s the boy who called me up one evening when I had the flu and asked, ‘How would you like to do a small part on the “Kildare” show?’ I told him, laughing. ‘You’re crazy—I can’t act.’ Then he read me the part. I said, ‘Oh I couldn’t! You’re out of your mind, I’ve never acted in my life.’ But he convinced me it was nothing, I could do it.
“The closer it got to shooting, the more I was convinced it was something. I’d thought Dick was scared that night of the Christmas program, but you should have seen me on the ‘Kildare’ set. I was so terrified my voice went up five octaves. I was supposed to be cute or something. We rehearsed once and the director said, ‘Okay, we’ll try it with camera.’ The crew was wonderful, they were plugging for me, but I’d never have made it without Dick. He helped me more than anyone—he just shut up and ignored me completely. He treated me like the greatest, oldest pro in the business. But he was there. And I knew, knew, knew he was there. And then, of course, afterwards—he doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he says it he really gets to you!
“Now I’ve caught the acting bug—he’s done that. I’m not taking acting lessons yet, I’m too afraid—but I will. He’d never have told me I need them, but he’s shown me, by little suggestions. bits of technique. I never knew there was such a thing as technique!
“But acting is just one phase of it—what’s important is that Dick’s maturity has given me the confidence to mature. Sometimes we look at stills from the early ‘Kildare’ shows and Dick was a kid compared to the man he’s become. When we first met, he’d just come back from New York, where he’d stopped en route home from Puerto Rico. He’d just made his first movie there. a minor fiasco called “The Secret of the Purple Reef.” The location had been exhausting, New York was a big nothing, and he wasn’t sure how the public was going to take him.
“But now? He came home from New York this trip—and he was riding a comet’s tail! He walked into my house, checked to see if I was wearing the diamond pendant he gave me; checked on the huge potted plant; checked the little Chinese lantern that he’d put up in place of the dinette globe—then went into the kitchen to check the dinner menu.
“On his birthday I made him a cake— of solid concrete. We’d gone to dinner at the Cave des Roys, and twisted, and came home and I surprised him with the cake and a crowd of friends to eat it. Oh, I surprised him all right. I don’t know what went wrong with that cake, the recipe’s been in our family for years, my brother can even make it. It’s a big chocolate fudge deal, delicious and I didn’t worry about it. Six eggs, a pound of butter, sugar, flour—I guess I didn’t sift it. The frosting was beautiful—but when Dick went to cut the thing it was like a rock! He started to eat it anyway, I had to fight him to keep him from eating it. Luckily I had another cake, I’d bought it when I saw that this one didn’t look quite right.
“Anyway, Dick says I may not be the greatest cook, but he thinks I can be a star in show business. He’s ambitious and he wants me to be ambitious. After the ‘Kildare’ series is done with, he’d love to try Broadway and he’d love for me to try, too. But whatever I do, wherever I go, it has to be as Clara Ray—not as Dick Chamberlain’s girl friend.
“Now I feel it would be very difficult to ever marry outside the business. If two people were in it, they’d know what it was like. It’s no nine to five existence. If you’re working, you have to study, prepare. One thing Dick has taught me: consistent work is the only way to realize talent. Consistent work is the only way to make it pay off.
“But, of course, a career isn’t enough. No one thing is enough. If you hold too tightly to just one thing, you lose everything else. He’s taught me this, too—that each of us attracts what we’re ready for in this life. I believe that, will all my heart.”
Clara should believe it—because she and Dick certainly are ready for each other. Ready to help each other up the ladder. Their closeness started before Dick’s great success, and with luck it will survive that success. You can’t deny that they’ve attracted what they were ready for in this life—each other.
Dick Chamberlain stars in “Dr. Kildare” NBC-TV, Thursdays 8:30-9:30 P.M. EST.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1963