Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Anniversary Story—Jeanne Crain & Paul Brinkman

I was dancing the rhumba with my husband, Paul, last New Year’s Eve when the lights went out.

The orchestra broke into “Auld Lang Syne” and the room broke into New Year’s din. “Come on,” said Paul. I took his hand and we slipped outside, closing the noise behind us. We wanted to be alone, because that New Year’s Eve meant more to us than just 1946 going out and 1947 coming in. It was our first wedding anniversary. The first wonderful year of our married life was over, the second just beginning.

On the terrace by ourselves, we watched the city lights twinkle, heard the whistles hoot in the distance, the faraway pops of pistols and firecrackers.

There wasn’t much moon, but moon enough, and time was standing still for us. Through the dark, I could see Paul’s white smile.

“Happy New Year,” he said.

And I said, “Let it be another wonderful year, just like the last one!”

If I sound slightly sentimental about New Year’s Eve, it’s because I’ve got sentimental reasons. It was on a New Year’s that I had my first date with Paul, and felt my heart skip beats for the first time in my life. New Year’s, two years later, my reaction was even more wobbly. In fact, a few days before that New Year’s thought I’d never last it out.

I’d been having the time of my life making Centennial Summer. We were on the very last shot, and I’ve never had a simpler scene.

I was sitting in a café set with Cornel Wilde and Bill Eythe, I remember, and Cornel was asking me to go somewhere with him. My line was easy as pie, just: “No, I can’t. I’ve got something very important to do.” But the words stuck in my throat. Heaven knows how many takes I wrecked before we finally made it, and I escaped, pretty much of a wreck, myself.

I couldn’t say those words because I did have something important to do—the most important thing in the world to me. I was going downtown with Paul to get our marriage license, only it was a secret then and I couldn’t tell a soul. And on Dec. 31, 1945, we started our honeymoon as Mr. and Mrs. Paul Brinkman. So I won’t exactly forget that New Year’s Eve.

Last year, my head was spinning as we drove home from the New Year’s party—not from the champagne; one glass was my limit—but with all the wonderful things that had come our way. They say the first year of married life is the hardest, but it didn’t add up that way for us. We’d found new friends, new interests, “brand new worlds packed with wonders that only newly married couples discover. On top of that, I had finished Margie, and it was a hit; Paul’s business was humming, too.

We still camped in an apartment so tiny we had to keep most of our clothes and all our wedding presents at our parents’ houses. Our only family was Shah, our lion cub, who got dumped furtively in the laundry basket when the landlady came around.

But last New Year’s we had definite prospects in both those departments. Our favorite Hollywood hilltop was already leveled off for our dream house, and the foundation was in. And we were going home early from that New Year’s party because of doctor’s orders. We knew before very long our baby would arrive.

All in all, back then I didn’t see how 1947 could come up with anything more wonderful or exciting than 1946 did. But it has. During our first year together we planned our dreams. This year, they came true. When I look back through 1947 and count my blessings, I feel a little guilty.

Our prize thrill of the year, of course, was our son, Paul, Junior.

Last Christmas, before he was born, we were putting his presents around our tree and tagging them “For our darling baby boy, Paul.” Somehow, I knew. I even described him to Paul. “He’ll be just like you—brown eyes, brown hair. And,” I stuck my neck out rashly, “he’ll be born on your birthday.”

He was a boy all right, but I didn’t do quite so well on that father-and-son birthday project. Paul’s birthday is April 10th, and Paul, Junior, arrived April 6th.

When Paul’s birthday arrived, four days later, I had the birth certificate, complete with footprints, and all vital statistics, done up in blue ribbon and framed for him.

There could never be another year in our lives as memorable as this one.

There were the fears, worries and responsibilities of having our own live doll to raise and protect. There were those annoying two, four and six o’clock feedings we’d heard about, which turned into the happiest minutes of the day, even though they busted a night’s sleep all to pieces. The first crawl, the first toddle from chair leg to chair leg. The first smile, and laugh. The first tooth.

And then one day I called Paul at the office. “He just said your name!”

“What?” yelled my husband. “Hold everything. I’m coming home!” Soon his car raced up our curving drive, tires screaming, and Paul bounded into the house, out of breath. We bent over the crib, tense and eager. He finally said it, “Da-dee.” Not long after came my turn, “Oh-mom”—and you can’t tell either of us yet that Paul isn’t the smartest baby ever born!

Scenes like that reel through my memory of last year like a movie—only I never saw a script that could catch my heart like a baby. I was never as proud of any job I’ve ever done in Hollywood as I was of the one measly little pair of socks I knitted for him. They were sort of cockeyed and out of shape, but I got more kick out of seeing them on his tiny feet than I would have got from a row of Oscars on my mantelpiece. That’s how you get. How we got.

When my friends showered me with four huge baby books, I thought, “Good Heavens, what will I ever do with all these?” Already the four are full and bulging. Paul and I have taken enough film of our baby to make another Gone With the Wind. We’re hopeless, proud parent types, I’m afraid. It’s a bore, I’m sure, to others, but it’s not to us. Not for a minute.

vacation for a new mother . . .

For a screen actress, I had the fantastically lucky leisure to enjoy my first months of motherhood without the distraction of a part to play. Most actresses must snatch precious moments of home life from a time-demanding career. It’s a town tradition.

At the hospital, the studio phoned anxiously every day: “How long before you think you’ll feel like working?” I was trying to rise to the occasion, but what I knew I wanted most was just days and days at home with our new baby.

Just as I thought I’d have to drag myself away, my picture, Chicken Every Sunday, was postponed indefinitely, and I had nothing but time on my hands! Only a brand new mother can appreciate what such a break meant. A few weeks later on, when Julie was scheduled, the same thing happened. (That time I was well up and around. In fact, I dashed daily down to Terry Hunt’s gymnasium and took exercises to get in shape. Julie was to be a dancing picture and there was plenty of conditioning for me to do.)

I couldn’t believe that second reprieve. It just doesn’t happen that often in Hollywood. But it did to me. I didn’t work for four months after Paul was born. By then I was dying, of course, to get back on a set. I had Paul brought over one day when Dan Dailey and I were making a scene in You Were Meant For Me. Paul paid me no attention, fell in love with my hairdresser, grabbed director Lloyd Bacon’s glasses, and gurgled right in the middle of a take—Hollywood’s unforgivable set sin!

No thrill can ever match the time I first held my baby in my arms, but next to that, this year’s Big Moment for the Brinkmans was the day we moved into our home, at last. Paul and I had had the hill, four-and-a-half acres of it, all through 1946. It was up in Outpost, overlooking Hollywood, with a gorgeous view. We knew every pebble on it personally. Paul used to pick me up at lunch hours while I made Margie and wed race through traffic and up our hill, against the clock, nibbling sandwiches while we planned.

That house was the symbol of our life When I knew I was going to have Paul, Jr., I made a resolution that he’d come home from the hospital to our house.

It was pretty rash to race the stork against a crew of builders, in times when vital materials were short, but I have a one-track mind about some things.

Well, the suspense was terrific. It seemed as if that frame would never, never rise, that the roof would never go on.

When I went to the hospital, the floors still weren’t down. It looked to most people like my pet project was impossible. Both my mother and Paul’s were pretty firm about bringing the baby to one of their homes. I just shook my head. Paul wanted our baby home as much as I did and I knew it. I checked with the hospital. “There’s no shortage of beds right now,” I told him, “and I can stay here as long as I like.”

“That’s expensive,” grinned Paul. “Maybe I’d better get busy.” I don’t know how he ever managed it. Me—I stayed in the hospital two and a half weeks and three other mothers came and left before I did!

But when Paul lifted me across the threshold of our own house, I had baby Paul with me. And the floors were all down. The walls were plastered and the heat and plumbing in, too, but there wasn’t any light, heat or hot water. There wasn’t a rug in the place, and not a stick of furniture besides the baby’s bassinette, our bed and two cots for the cook and the hospital nurse from the Abbey Rents. But there was a kitchen to cook in and running water and what more did we need? It was home sweet home to us.

In fact, the best times Paul and I have had all year are the days and nights we’ve spent working around our house. Paul’s a great gadgeteer and fixit man. I’m a wonderful kibitzer. Paul, Junior, had a lullaby of hammers and saws, concrete mixers and the Diesel tractor gouging out the swimming pool. He slept right through it all, and got fat.

I was at the building site one day when a truck rolled up the hill and in the gate, and the driver handed me a gift card. “All my love with your gift-of-the-month,” Paul had scribbled. Inside the truck was a big jacaranda tree! Our gift-of-the-month plan began when we were honeymooning, and it’s been carried on ever since.

The jacaranda tree was promptly planted, and then it was my turn. I gave Paul ten different kinds of citrus trees, and he set them out. He topped me with the brick barbecue. I gave him another one right back, an inside electric one for the kitchen, with a rotating spit. That was the only mistake of all our gifts-of-the-month, I’m afraid. Paul’s got our cook wild messing around the kitchen with it, and one night when we had dinner guests, they had to wait three hours before they could eat, because Paul insisted on cooking everything on that electric spit!

We’ve got the reputation of stay-at-homes, and we deserve it. When you’re not measuring the windows for draperies around a new house, you’re planting rose bushes, hunting chairs.

Paul and I had our first Father’s and Mother’s days this year, and Paul got a wonderful old Civil War officer’s pistol (he loves guns)—from the baby, of course. I got another book on my favorite painter, Michaelangelo, and a white purse from my newest boy friend. For next year, maybe, I’ll have the portraits I’m starting on both father and son ready for that paternal honor day. Sr., is almost finished, and he wants to hang it beside the impression I painted of myself one reckless week last year. I won’t let it inside our nice new house, so Paul keeps it out in his workshop—the “doghouse,” he calls it!

Maybe by next year I’ll have the studio with the North skylight Paul has promised to build me up by the waterfall, so I won’t be cluttering his shop with all my paints and choking his gun racks with my canvas and brushes. And maybe then my canvas and brushes. I’ll paint better pictures.

Tops, too, on our must list for 1948 is another pet to replace Shah-Shah, our cute lion cub, who grew so big that we had to find her a new home in the Zoo. We’re very animal happy, and it broke our hearts to let Shah go, but cubs do grow up and get rambunctious.

visiting an old friend . . .

We took Shah over to her Griffith Park cage and left her there with her teddybear which she loved to play with around our yard. When Paul and I went back to see her again the other day, she almost tore down the cage trying to lick our hands and when we left, she had tears in her eyes. Yes, she did. That Shah is a very special type lion and we love her still. But we have a mountain ranger friend of ours hunting for a baby fawn. We can’t wait to see Baby Paul’s eyes when he spies that deer. Paul, Junior, is busy learning to walk right now, and he’ll have a lot of plans, too, for the New Year, like growing, cutting a few more teeth, exploring the new world that widens for him every day—and bumping his curly head a few times.

But we all hope to take time off this New Year’s Eve to celebrate our Second Anniversary where Paul and I spent our honeymoon—at Furnace Creek Inn in the heart of Death Valley. There’s no lovelier place.

Not being the seventh daughter of a seventh son, I don’t know what 1948 will hold, but it will be hard to top 1947 for us three Brinkmans—especially me. When at last you have both the baby and the house of your dreams, the husband you love and you go back to the work you love, what more can you ask?

The other day on You Were Meant For Me we came to a crying scene, and I ran into trouble. It’s the hardest acting job of all for me, to break into tears on a set.

My director, Lloyd Bacon, volunteered advice. “Think of something sad,” he suggested. “Run back through the year and see if you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

I tried. I started with last New Year’s and ran through all the twelve months. It didn’t work. The only halfway sad thing I could dig up was Shah-Shah’s trip to the zoo. But even there, I knew she was better off. “It’s no use,” I sighed at last. “I’ve been through 1947, day by day—and every one of them was perfectly swell.”

He grinned. “Okay then,” he said, “cry because you’ve been so happy.”

So I did. That worked.





No Comments
Leave a Comment