Claudette Colbert Answers The Letters
DEAR MISS COLBERT:
I am a sailor, twenty-three years of age and my first love affair has come up, but—unfortunately—with a married woman whose husband is in the Army serving abroad.
I met this girl at a dance two years ago and at first sight we fell in love—yes, I said love. We had much in common and we had a lot of clean fun.
My ship pulled out and I was gone for two years, but during that time this girl and I wrote letters, a lot of them. Then I was transferred to a base near her home so we saw each other again. After two years of just letters and missing each other, we were together again. Well, we were more in love than ever, but what to do? Again I must state that we had a lot of clean fun.
One evening, two hours before train time, we sat in the parlor and had a long talk. We talked this way, that someone would be hurt and it couldn’t be that man abroad, it simply had to be me. It was hard, I’ll tell you that, but I still believe that it was right. I kissed her good-by and said I wouldn’t see her again even if it killed me. We still write to each other and we’ll remember each other as well as love each other as long as we remember. Yes, we’ve had other ideas, but you’ve heard the story true and those plans had to stop.
This is sort of complicated but please, to the best of your knowledge, did I do right?
Dear Mr. McD:
Yes, I think there is no doubt in the world that you did the honorable thing.
However, I think to ease the difficulty even more, you should gradually space your letters farther apart until you are writing only once a month, then only once every two months and so on, until you have ceased to write entirely. As long as there is the slightest tie between you, one or the other, or perhaps both of you will continue to suffer. A letter is a bit of a person and in a case in which you have renounced that person, this last futile exchange only prolongs the agony.
Dear Miss Colbert:
It does seem a shame for me to take your time to tell you my small trouble, but you give such workable advice that I’m going to impose on you anyway.
This is it: About a year ago I was working at the Railway Station, serving with the Red Cross. We met troop trains and served doughnuts, cookies, fruit, candy and such things. One of the boys made friends with me and asked me to write as he was going to a camp near by. I agreed and we became pen pals. This went on for a year. Occasionally he would telephone me and once he came up on furlough and we had a pleasant visit. Nothing romantic, but just good times.
His letters were just friendly ones in which he spoke of his mother, his home, his ambitions after the war, what he believed in and things like that. He also confided in one letter that he thought he had fallen in love with a girl he had met since he had been in the Army. Well, that surprised me, but I wrote and wished him every happiness, saying that any girl would be lucky to have him in love with her. He answered at once, saying that I was the girl and that he wanted to see me before he was shipped overseas as he had something of great importance to talk over with me before going.
Now I’m pretty sure that he’s going to ask me to marry him. I don’t want to say yes, because I don’t know him well enough. But I don’t want to say no either, because after the war I might get to know him better and like him.
So that’s my problem, and I’ll bet lots of girls have the same trouble: How can I refuse to marry or be engaged to a boy now, yet keep him interested in me for later? I don’t want to hurt him, you know; but I don’t want to commit myself, either.
Thank you for some smooth suggestions.
Dear Miss L:
It seems to me that you are being extremely wise in thinking over this problem with the obvious care you have devoted to it. I agree with you that you shouldn’t marry this boy at the present time; nor should you terminate what has been a very pleasant association via letter. If he has enjoyed your letters to date, think how much more important those letters are going to seem when he is overseas!
Why don’t you be frank with him; tell him that you admire and respect him and that when he comes back from overseas you hope to see him and get to know him better: Don’t forget to mention the advantages on his side of a friendly bargain—after all, he might meet some girl in England (if he is sent in that direction) or in Australia in rest camp (if he is sent to the South Pacific), with whom he might fail sincerely in love. A great deal of hurt could be spared both of you if, under such a circumstance, it didn’t become necessary for him to write to you, breaking an engagement, but merely to let you know of the new experience in his life.
I smiled when I read your last line, thanking me in advance for some “smooth” suggestions. I hope the above answers that description.
Dear Miss Colbert:
My problem is the same as many other girls of sixteen. You see, my mother thinks that all girls and boys should be in by nine o’clock.
To begin with, I love roller skating. There is roller skating every night except Mondays and I go almost every night. After skating the kids love to go out to Barney’s, a place to eat. Skating starts at eight and closes at eleven on week nights and eleven-thirty on Fridays and Saturdays, so you see we never get in much before twelve or one, at least.
I usually go right home because if I don’t, Mom doesn’t let me go out again for a week or even a month. Do you think one o’clock is too late for a sixteen-year-old girl to get in? The rest of the gang that I run around with make fun of me when I go right home. We are young just once, you know.
My mother remarried after my father died and my stepfather doesn’t like it when I go out. I let this pass because Mom loves him and I want her to be happy. I would like to know what to do. I want to have my fun now while I’m still young and alive.
Dear Miss K:
In answer t o the first direct question in your letter, “Do you think one o’clock is too late for a sixteen-year-old girl to get in?” I can answer with utmost candor that I certainly do think it is too late.
Th is problem of hours to be kept by girls in high school comes up so often that I am answering it again this month. While I am working, my curfew is nine o’clock every night except Saturday and even then I certainly try to be at home before one A.M.
So many girls write to me about having bad skins, dull and lifeless hair and a general feeling of being “out of things” that I find myself connecting late hours with each of these problems. There is no single beauty remedy ever devised that will do as much for a girl as nine hours of sleep a night. That is the first thing we in Hollywood learn when we have to face a camera all day every day.
If I ever have a daughter, I shall impose this rule: School nights she must be in her room by nine o’clock unless there is some special school function that I have given her express permission to attend; on Friday and Saturday nights, provided l know where she is and with whom, she may remain out until midnight.
I know that it is only natural to, as you put it, have fun while you are “young and alive,” but you will be young much longer and alive to a greater age if you get your sleep during your adolescent years.
Your Dutch Aunt,
Dear Miss Colbert:
Well, here is a letter from a troubled soldier. My wife and I were married in 1938. We were married just fifteen months when she left, saying she was sick of married life, and went back to her mother, taking our baby with her. Our second baby was born after we had been separated six months. Before I was inducted, I went to see her regularly, took her presents and did everything I could think of to get her to come back to me, but she said she didn’t care for me.
When I went into the Army, I saw that she got my allotment, but she never even wrote and thanked me for that. I’ve been in the Army a year and I’ve never had the scratch of a pen from her.
Well, the usual thing happened. I met a really nice girl and got to care for her. I told her all about me from the very first—no false pretenses between us—and she said it was all right with her because we would be just good friends. Which was nice except that I fell in love with her. I saw her every week end (if I could get a pass), and when I couldn’t get away she would write me two or three letters.
I made up my mind what to do. I went home on furlough and put it up to my wife that I wanted a divorce. She said she had changed her mind and was in love with me again and that when I got out of the Army we could talk about making a home again.
I don’t believe her because she could have at least dropped me a line now and then if she was in love. After what she’s done to me I can’t love her although my kids are sweet and I’m willing to support them. Is there any way I can get a divorce before I’m shipped over?
Bear Mr. B:
Your query as to whether you can get a divorce before you are shipped overseas involves legal advice, which I cannot give you. However, if you will discuss this problem with your chaplain, or if you will write to an attorney whom you knew in your home town before you went into service, he will be able to help you.
I know that if you can get a divorce and if you are very much in love with this new girl in your life, you will not be inclined to give much attention to one thing that t would like to say: Why don’t you wait until the war is over to remarry? Time and distance are two of the world’s greatest workers for change. Marrying quickly, you would probably have only a few short months with this new wife, then you would be separated for an indefinite length of time. Your reunion might reveal great personality changes to one another.
Although your present wife would seem to be a selfish, self-centered, irresponsible child, it may be that she needs time to grow up. Because there are two children involved in your decision and because you are obviously fond of them, I think it would be wise for you to take no drastic step at the present.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am just twenty and have had every advantage a girl of my age can have. I’ve attended the best schools wherever we’ve lived: China, Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii. I can ride, sail, dance, play golf. I’m now attending college after having worked for a year and a half in an aircraft factory. That should really be enough for a girl of twenty, shouldn’t it?
It isn’t though. I’m not doing well in college because I haven’t any interest in it. I flit from one thing. to another, get absorbed for a week, then I’m through.
I think my main trouble lies in the fact that I don’t seem to have the knack of acquiring boy friends. I’ve had lots of chances and I’ve dated some swell fellows—Navy, Army, Marine and civilian, but one date seems to be the limit. My grandmother once said, “You are as intelligent and poised as a woman in every respect except one: You are very young in emotional matters.” I’m completely Irish right to my toes and when I am depressed I go down to the black pit of infinity, but when I’m happy I’m like a lark.
Right now, however, I’m one big nagging torment of restlessness inside. If you can help stop it, I shall be most grateful.
Dear Miss A:
To judge from your letter—which, in your case, I would consider an exceptionally well-tooled key to your personality—you approach everything you do with too much violence.
When you are “in the black pit of infinity” I daresay that everyone within a radius of four miles knows it; and when, you are “like a lark” perhaps your singing disturbs the air for a like distance.
I don’t wish to sound pedantic or oracular, but from everything that I have observed about men, I would say that nothing in the world will frighten them away in droves as quickly as the sight of a girl holding high dramatics without benefit of footlights. Most men are casual beings and you will find that the most popular girls are those whose general attitude is calm, slightly kidding and without show offishness of any kind.
Just settle down; forget that you are Irish or anything else right to your toes; take an interest in the man instead of expecting him to be an audience for your attitudes and you will be alt right.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am a soldier somewhere overseas. When I was home on a furlough I met two of the sweetest girls in the world and for the past year I have been receiving letters from them regularly. An odd thing has happened. One girl writes like this: “Darling, I’ll be waiting for you always. Don’t let anyone else take my place.” The other girl will say, “My love, when you come home we will be together forever.”
The two girls don’t know each other so they aren’t doing it as a gag. It sounds like a joke, but it’s no joke to me.
When I answer them, I write only about scenery and weather. I’m not serious and I don’t have any intention of getting married for a long time yet, but I don’t want to be a goon and hurt anyone’s feelings.
What’s wrong with girls nowadays? What’s all this love stuff pouring out for? What should a calm, friendly guv like me do?
Pfc Aiden Y.
Dear Mr. Y:
In this case I am going to stick up for the girls. T m going to ask you what you said to the girls when you were with them. Sometimes the furlough moon inspires an ordinarily speechless man to flowery phrases. Perhaps, in your eagerness for a good-night kiss you made speeches that you didn’t really mean. If you didn’t, you are unique, judging from the stories I have heard of the behavior of military men on furlough.
However, if this situation is really annoying you, the only thing to do is to explain to both girls that you find their ardent statements a little disconcerting. If you want them to continue to write to you, tell them that—as you are deeply interested in the scenery and the weather—you would like to have those subjects discussed in their letters in preference to the State of their emotions.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I have read your column in Photoplay quite often and have enjoyed it so thoroughly that it occurred to me that you might be able to help us.
There are quite a few of us in this little town who are interested in the theater and radio. We have quite a bit of talent and ambition with no way to use it. We would like to form a little theater guild or something of that sort.
The manager of our radio station has gladly consented to give us time on the air, but the big cloud on the horizon is the fact that we have no material. Can you tell us how to go about starting such an organization and obtaining the necessary material? We’d be so grateful.
E. Marguerite M.
Dear Mrs. M:
May I say that I admire your energy in assembling a group of this kind? So many people write to me, complaining about the lack of such an organization in their communities, but you are the first to tell me of constructive steps that have been taken.
Probably the first thing for you to do would be to write to Samuel French, New York City, New York, and request a catalogue describing the published plays available for purchase. This catalogue will supply you with information about the number of scenes necessary, about the extent of the cast, the type of story and the amount of royalty required for amateur production. The Samuel French organization will also be able to give you information pertaining to the radio production of such works.
However, it would seem to me that while you are gaining experience with Standard plays, you should be developing a battery of playwrights within your own group. If there is no one enrolled with you at present who has writing ambitions, why don’t you advertise in your local paper? You might check with the local high school for talented seniors or recent graduates who are still available. If you have the acting talent sufficient for forming a stock company, I’m sure you will be able to develop the writing talent to supply it with material.
I shall be eager to hear from you as to the development of your project.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am a man of twenty-four and I have been in the Army for two years. At present I am overseas, but before I came over here I got into a couple of things that are now giving me some serious thought.
I was sent from the West Coast, where I grew up, to the south for my training and there I met a girl of seventeen and fell in love with her. Every week end, while on pass, I would go to see her. This went on for over three months, then I was transferred to another camp, but this girl and I correspond regularly. Then I received a letter from this girl stating that we shouldn’t write to one another any more, that she thought I really didn’t love her. Where she got that idea is beyond me, because I loved her dearly and still do.
After that I wrote two or three letters but received no reply. Well, to make a long story short, I was pretty disgusted during this period and one night after a few beers, I married a girl I had picked up in a park. We were only together one day before I came overseas. That day I asked for a divorce, “but she just laughed at me.
Well, when I came over here I received a letter from the first girl, asking me to forgive her and to take her back. Of course she doesn’t know that I am now married. I’ve written her quite often since then, but haven’t mentioned my marriage because I’m afraid I’ll lose her. Still, I don’t think it’s right not to tell her the truth.
Well, how can I keep her for my girl until I can get back and get straightened out?
Sergeant Grode J.
Dear Mr. J:
In reading over the many, many letters that contributors to this department send me, I experience one sensation again and again—astonishment that people will choose an involved and turbulent course in preference to a simple and direct manner of dealing with one another.
In literally hundreds of pathetic cases, if one person in the controversy had summoned the courage to be frank, endless misery and misunderstanding could have been avoided. I must say that the deception that brings on so much unhappiness is usually inspired, not by malice or cunning, but by a solicitous attempt to spare the feelings of someone.
However, I am convinced that the only possible action for you is to sit down some evening when you have several hours’ free time and write this girl a complete history of your actions. The other girl is your wife and, no matter how impulsive your marriage, must be considered. I’d keep on writing her too, telling her how you feel about the marriage. Maybe she’ll give you a divorce.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1945