Claudette Colbert Answers The Letters
Dear miss Colbert:
Several years ago I fell in love with a girl and we went together steady for five years. That last year of our affair she gave birth to a little girl, but I’ve never seen the child. As I was supporting my parents, we couldn’t get married so my girl’s mother had the baby adopted out two weeks after it was born.
On the day that I was inducted into service I learned that my girl had married another fellow. I felt she had done the right thing, as I was no good for her. Though I wrote her occasionally, I didn’t hear from her for almost a year, but when I did hear, she told me that she was getting a divorce. I felt guilty and thought perhaps I had caused the trouble so I stopped writing.
While I was in camp I met a nice girl and we saw each other often. We spoke kiddingly of marriage, but when the talk grew serious I always said it was out for me because of my financial responsibilities. She didn’t accept this as she said she didn’t need my money. Suddenly, she announced our engagement. When I saw how pleased her family was I didn’t have the heart to say that it was phony. We were married and a year later we nad a little girl \vhich I have not seen because I am overseas. Although I am very fond cf my wife, I am still in love with my one and only girl. My wife doesn’t know my feeling because I am not sure of just what to do. I am in hopes of your advising me.
Sgt. Garhart E.
Dear Mr. E:
When yon married your present wife. the previous chapter of your life should have been closed forever. I frankly believe that it was a mistake for you to have continued to write to this other girl after she was married, and I agree with your expressed thought that you may hare been the basis for her trouble with her husband.
You owe your present wife and her child your loyalty and devotion. I am certain that, when you return from overseas, you will be so glad to see them that all thoughts of anyone else will vanish from your mind.
At any rate, that is the way I think it should be, because—to build any Other sort of life for yourself—would require plenty of intestinal fortitude. First you would have to divorce your second wife, explaining your past experience to her—a step that would probably break her heart. Then you would have to try to build a sucessful life with a girl whom you have deeply hurt. Between you there would always be the insoluble problem of that child given out for adoption.
All of this was a tragedy, of course, but it is one that cannot be mended now, so I would think that your only course of sensible action would be to return to your wife and make a determined effort to be a good husband.
Dear Miss Colbert:
This really gets me. This afternoon I was asked by my girl friend (who is also fifteen as I am) if I would go up to her house for awhile. Her mother works, so she is alone. I asked my mother and she said I could go if I would be home by five.
Well, I was walking up the Street within a block of the house at five, when I saw my mother waiting for me. She said she was Corning over to my friend’s to get me as she had telephoned, but received no answer.
I explained that Alice and I had been in the rumpus room playing the vic and hadn’t heard the telephone. She insinuated that there were boys and that we were making too much noise to hear it. There’s weren’t any boys there, and there have never been, but if there had, I think Alice and I are old enough to control ourselves without screaming like infants.
There is a boy in our school whom I do like, but don’t think I am going to be fool enough to bring him home to meet my mother. The lady next door is nice. She had a talk with my mother about me, but my mother said the lady was a nosy idiot.
My mother makes me pretty dresses, lets me have quite a bit of money and is sweet to me around the house. But she is so funny about letting me out of her sight; and she thinks boys are simply awful. How can I be like other girls if she acts like that?
Dear Miss V:
Your mother is simply trying to protect you. She must tremble at the extent of juvenile delinquency. When you were a little tot, she undoubtedly kept you away from the lake because you didn’t know how to swim. Now, she is trying to protect you from another type of deep water, and as soon as she feels that you are grown enough to lake care of yourself in an emergency, she will undoubtedly give you more freedom.
Whatever you do, don’t start to meet this boy on the sly. Have a talk with your mother. Tell her that you like this boy and that you will appreciate it if she will look him over and tell you whether she thinks he will be a nice escort or not. Then tell the boy that you want him to meet your mother because she is such a swell person.
If you will build your boy friend up to your mother, and build your mother up to your boy friend, you’ll find that both will like each other.
I’m strongly of the opinion that any teenster can have a wonderful time with the backing of her mother. Kitchen dancing parties, ten o’clock snacks, or evenings spent in listening to recordings can be arranged by mothers and will turn out to be twice as much fun as other types of entertainment. Try it and be convinced.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am married and have a girl two and a boy three.
Roy, my husband, was drafted into the Army seven months ago. We just didn’t see how we could take it. He has always been a homebody.
He was sent to the Coast for his training. He wrote to me every day and I answered every day. When the time came for his furlough, he asked me to send him fifty dollars, which I did at once. The next week every time the telephone rang, I jumped like a jack-in-the-box, and I met the train every morning. No Roy. Three weeks later I received another short note saying that he had to have a second money order for fifty dollars or he couldn’t come home. We didn’t have fifty dollars left in the bank, so I wrote asking him if he wanted our last dime. I have never heard from him again.
His buddy came home on furlough and told me that Roy was going around with an elderly widow. I was heartbroken, but I didn’t really know how I could suffer until I learned that Roy had deserted.
My allotment stops next month, which will leave me without support for my children. What should I do?
Mrs. Althea W.
Dear Mrs. W:
Yours is a real and frightening trouble.
Go to the Red Cross at once and tell them your story exactly as you have written it to me. I understand that provisions have been made for women in your position, so do not hesitate to take advantage of the arrangements made by our government.
Then, as soon as possible, put your children in a day nursery and get yourself a job. Even when your husband is found, he will probably be sentenced to imprisonment for a long period of time so you catı no longer expect any assistance from him.
I know that, through the Red Cross, your current subsistence problem will be solved. I wish that, in addition, I could write some words of comfort or advice that would help you through the difficult time ahead, yet all I can think of is the real truth that no one of us knows how great is our store of fortitude and latent heroism until the need arises. Another truth is that we are called upon to live only one hour at a time. That hour endured, we are bolstered for the next.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am sixteen, rather pretty, and terribly unhappy. The reason: I hate school. I don’t mind the studies: it’s the social end of it that bothers me.
Many wealthy people live in my town, but they live on one side of the town while the middle-class people live on the other. I happen to live on the wrong side. The school happens to be located on the other side of town and the wealthy kids act as though they own it. They have organized sororities and fraternities which exclude most of us. The kids in them hold all the school offices. Furthermore, a boy from the good side of town wouldn’t dream of dating a girl who wasn’t in a sorority.
I have thought about going to school in a nearby town but that would cost tuition that my family can’t pay because my father is in service. I can’t quit school because my mother would never consent; furthermore, I am in my last year so I think it would be foolish to quit now as I realize the importance of education.
I don’t know what to do in order to get over my feeling of inferiority. Can you think of a way to combat these snobs and get some happiness out of my school life?
Dear Miss A;
You have no reason at all to feel inferior. I like your thoughtfulness in not wanting to work a hardship on your family, also your sensible admission that you think it would be foolish to quit when you are in your last year. In general, I like your entire letter and feel that you are a superior person.
In five years you will look back at the days when you yearned to belong to a high-school sorority and smile. They will appear supremely trivial. However, I agree that—at the present—this thing looms large to you.
Personality has always been the dominant factor in popularity. To have an appealing personality, you will first have to overcome all visible signs of feeling inferior. Some of these are sullenness, suspicion of the motives of any person who happens to be nice to one, and unwillingness to go out of one’s way to compliment another girl, to boost her, to make an effort to be friends with her.
Bear this in mind: Ninety-eight per cent of the successful career girls, not only in Hollywood, but throughout the world, came from middle or lower-class families. By “middle or lower-class” I refer entirely to financial conditions, certainly not to mental, ethical and spiritual equipment. Go to a library and read the biographies of great men you will be impressed with the fact that most of them—at your age—would have been snubbed by the silly people in your school.
Life is too short for you to allow it to be modified by the meanness of those for whom you really should care nothing.
Dear Miss Colbert:
About two years ago, when I was nine-teen, I met a soldier eighteen years old and married him. We knew his parents would disapprove, but we were both so much in love—and still are.
The week following our marriage, he left for a camp near his home. He told his parents of our marriage, and they promptly had it annulled.
We continued to write and agreed to marry as soon as he was twenty-one and this awful war was over. When our marriage was annulled, we didn’t know that I was going to have a baby, and when I was sure, I was so mad about the whole thing that I wouldn’t tell anyone. Neither would my parents. They said I was better off without such a weakling as my husband and that they would see me through.
He was transferred to a coast camp preparatory to being shipped overseas, but just before his boat was ready, a girl that he had known after he and I had split up arrived at his home and threatened to ruin his family’s name if he didn’t marry her. So his family made him marry her.
Now he writes me that he doesn’t love this girl and never did. Even his parents have written to me, saying that they are sorry that they interfered with our marriage. My husband (I still think of him that way) wants to come back to me when the war is over. However, this other girl is going to have his baby in a few months, and legally he is married to her.
Should I return to this boy and, if so, how about his second wife? She doesn’t want to divorce him.
Dear Mrs. L:
First, before you make any plans, including this boy, let the war be over, and let him have returned to this country.
Your case is a signal example of the error a man’s parents make when they attempt to interfere with his marriage. However, what’s done is done. How it would seem to me that the decision for the future is in his hands, not yours. Having begotten a second child and married that child’s mother, he owes a definite obligation to her. If she senses this fact so strongly that she will not free him, he will have to abide by her decision.
The only thing for you to do, I’m afraid, is to write one letter to this boy, telling him that at present you feel that, were he free, you would marry him. Why don’t you point out that he is married and that you would rather have nothing further to do with him until his status is clarified. Then it is up to him.
I know this seems brutal, but someone is going to be hurt. Perhaps, since you write such a charming, sensible letter, you have the intellect and the moral courage that giving him up would require if that becomes necessary.
Dear Miss Colbert:
Two years ago I married a boy who was quite a bit older than I, but he was so handsome and so thoughtful that I didn’t care to listen when my mother said that I should wait until I knew him better before marrying.
Time went on and I had a sweet baby girl. Before she came, my husband was away a lot, but he told me that he was working to make more money for us now that we were to have a family. He also stayed away after the baby was born. Then a girl friend of mine told me that she was positive she had seen my husband out with a strange girl. I laughed and said she was seeing things.
One afternoon I left my baby with my mother and went to a bridge club. I saw a girl I hadn’t seen since I was sixteen. I asked her to come home to have dinner “with my husband, my baby and me.”
When she took off her things in the bedroom, she turned and stared at a picture of my husband. Then she flew into a rage and stormed out. At the door, she said that I had stolen him from her, and that she meant to steal him back.
My husband listened to my story with a funny smile, then admitted that he and this girl had been married before he met me. They had quarreled and had divorced, but he had been seeing her lately.
I’m simply heartbroken and I think I’m going crazy. He says that he wants to go on seeing her because she has some very wonderful traits, but he doesn’t want me to leave him because he says he loves me and the baby in a different way.
What do you think I should do to straighten out this situation?
Mrs. Arvada B.
Dear Mrs. B:
First of all I should like to say that ı you have my sincere sympathy, because yours is a very sad case, indeed.
I think that everything humanly possible should be done to avoid divorce but there are some circumstances that simply cannot be faced with dignity, and sharing one’s husband is one of them.
In addition to believing in maintaining any marriage as long as it is a good marriage, I also believe in dealing as frankly as possible with the members of one’s family. I would tell this man that—despite his statement that his first wife has some wonderful traits, you think he had best admire those traits in memory only. Ask him what he would think of your remaining married to him, but having occasional dates with the boy to whom you were engaged before you got married.
Explain that love can flourish only when nurtured by unquestioning trust.
But, if all your quiet, sincere arguments fail, and you learn after a month or longer that he is still continuing his relationship with his first wife, you may want to ask him to free you.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am the mother of two girls and two boys. Each is intelligent, well-mannered and rather good-looking. all four are very dear and precious to me, of course, but there are times when I think that I cannot endure my older daughter another day.
If I’m tired or overwrought, I find myself picking on her. I know I correct her twice as much as I do the other daughter. I’ve planned to talk to my husband about this, but he’s so busy with his business worries that I’m ashamed to bring this thing into our few private and precious moments together. Incidentally, there is no obscure mother-daughter jealousy between us, because my husband (if he were to show favoritism) would be inclined to be partial to our younger girl.
My older daughter is the most intelligent, the neatest, and has the best sense of humor of the brood. But her very carefulness about her clothing, her voice and intonations, vex me, even though I approve of her attitude. She senses the complete chasm between us and occasionally I’ve found her regarding me with a baffled, beseeching expression. Instead of melting toward her, this seems only to repel me.
I’m so ashamed that I scarcely know how to close this letter, except to say that I shall appreciate your help.
Mrs. Angus H.
Dear Mrs. H:
It is my belief that you should take comfort in the realization that you have become aware of your problem. Sometimes a situation of this sort exists, but is violently denied by the mother. As long as a person recognizes it, surely there is some hope of correcting it.
The first thing for you to do, I believe, would be for you to ask your family doctor to recommend a psychiatrist. Such a doctor is equipped by training and experience to give you the help you need. Don’t feel hesitation about Consulting a psychiatrist, and don’t feel embarrassment in dealing with him. Give him your fullest confidence entirely without reserve and he will be able to help you.
I shall be happy to hear from you later as to the outcome.
Dear Miss Colbert:
My husband is handsome, successful, a very young lieutenant colonel, serving in England at present. He has always been very popular. When, because we were going to have our first baby, I had to go home (instead of following him as I had done), he made nice friends wherever he went. Because of his physical and mental qualifications, he is in a position to grow. His horizons are constantly widened.
Take my case, however. I am living in a town in which there is one movie, one small public library, half a dozen well-meaning women’s clubs. I have the care of the little girl three and the baby boy four months old all the time. I don’t have time to read—I get my news from the radio. My horizons are narrowing like a funnel.
And so I lie in bed at night and worry about the future. My husband and I are growing apart. When he returns, I don’t see how I am going to be able to measure up to his standards. I feel I’m growing older, losing touch with the very things that bind a husband to his family: Common interests, mutual pride, charm and appeal.
Mrs. Dwight de T.
Dear Mrs. de T:
Cheer up, my dear. I think that. while you were lying in bed some night, you dreamed up a gigantic boogie man. Because my husband is in the Navy I have met dozens of Navy men during the last few years and I can assure you that there isn’t a one who doesn’t spend every available minute off duty either talking about what he is going to do “back home” the moment he is out of uniform, or thinking about the same thing.
Many of the boys from small towns are counting the days until they can return to those small towns, one movie and one Main Street. However, returning to familiar scenes is of secondary importance; first of all, they long for their wives, their parents and their children.
Don’t forget that, whereas your husband is enlarging his horizon, so are you. You have the privilege of watching your children develop, and I’ll bet a lot that your husband would gladly relinquish his bird’s-eye view of some bombing objective in favor of the sight of his young son taking his first faltering step. Although you have said that you can’t find time to read, you add that you are lying in bed at night, worrying. instead of wasting time in worry, why don’t you use those precious moments to cover ten or twenty pages in a good book?
Here is the real problem you have: Unless you are careful, you are going to fret yourself into a kind of nervous frenzy. You are going to build, by your very fear of it, a barrier between yourself and your husband. Don’t let that happen. Every time you feel old, braid your hair, pull on a sloppy-joe sweater and tune in some boogie-woogie on the radio. You can’t lose touch with the outside world as long as you have a radio.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I have made such a mess of my life and that of others that I am on the verge of suicide. I have been terribly, overwhelmingly in love with a married man for four years. However, he has a wife and child to whom he feels loyalty.
He has just returned to our town for the duration. The instant I met him on the Street, I could feel the old fire and from his glad greeting and the way he took my hands I knew that he was thrilled, too.
Now we are finding ways of meeting one another, if only for a few minutes’ hurried conversation.
About two years ago I married a man who has given me everything, but I simply have no love for him. I am going to have his baby in five months and the thought of it makes me sick since my old flame has come back into my life.
Should I tell my husband that I don’t love him and break away, whether I can ever belong to the other man or not, or wait in the hope that fate or luck or something will change things for me?
Cali me a fool, Miss Colbert, but just tell me what you’d do in my case.
Mrs. Doris W.
Dear Mrs. W:
Please don’t think of suicide. I am forced to agree with you when you suggest that you have brought suffering to a number of persons, but destroying yourself would only increase that hurt. Besides, how are you going to become a gay and interesting grandmother with a trunk filled with exciting memories if you reject the first step of becoming a mother!
Seriously though, aren’t you allowing your romantic emotions to unbalance you? You are married to a man who has given you everything. You are about to become a mother. Have you ever stopped to realize how many girls pray every night to find themselves comfortably married and anticipating a child?
Let us grant that you feel a strong attraction to this man. He has obviously let you know that he feels the same way, but he has no intention of changing his life for you. Apparently he has told you that he feels this “loyalty” to his wife and his child. Yet, while keeping his own permanent life happy, he is perfectly willing to destroy your entire future welfare—even your life—for the sake of his own male ego.
If a man really loves a woman, he will overcome enormous obstacles to marry her. If he merely loves himself, he will treat her to endless torture.
If I were you I would devote myself to my husband and to planning with him for your coming child. And I would refuse to see this man again.
Dear Miss Colbert:
You will please forgive me taking a few minutes of your precious time, but by reading so much of your good advice, I come to you to help me as well.
I have a very lonely life in my home trying to read or play some music but I do feel unhappy and wish to have correspondents to bring encouragement. I am single and come from a very good i family.
Thank you for letters from friends.
Miss Olga Scander,
3 Midan El Adel,
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Dear Miss Scander:
Although I am happy to print your letter, I must also admit that no girl nowadays has any real reason to be lonely, because the world is such a busy j place. In every city, everywhere, there is j need for Red Cross workers, for nurses, for teachers, for anyone—skilled or unskilled—who is able-bodied.
If you will offer your self. with a genuine eagerness for service, I’m sure you will find plenty to do and make close permanent friends in the doing.
Incidentally, may I thank you for writing from such a distance?
Dear Miss Colbert:
I have always wanted to study people, and I know there is a tremendous field in psychology. I’d like to use this knowledge to discover new talent for the theater. I have no desire to be an actress, but merely want to aid others to a career by being an agent or ten-percenter. I would like, not only to find promising beginners, but to help make them over in appearance, makeup, posture, etc. I’d like to feel a bit responsible for their future on the screen.
Where is the best place to study and receive experience such as this? I’d like to study in New York or Hollywood, as one’s eventual field would naturally be in one of these two cities. If there are schools for this şort of thing, would you mind supplying addresses for me? If not, would you suggest some method for me to follow in starting such a career?
(Don’t let the name fool you; I am a girl.)
Dear Miss G:
Preparing yourself to become an agent will take you a good many years, perhaps as many as five to ten. One who aspires to mold careers must be exceptionally well-trained, well-equipped with personality, a knowledge of the entire theatrical or motion-picture industry and capable of inspiring trust of both client and purchaser of talent.
I must warn you in advance that the field is difficult for a girl. This has been a man’s field for a number of reasons, so a woman—to break in—must be exceptionally determined, diplomatic, and confidence-producing.
Your first step will be to secure work in an agency, as this is one business that you must learn, not academically but practically. You may have to start at the switchboard—an excellent springboard, incidentally, as by handling calls you will begin to grasp the elements of the agency business. I believe that a genuine interest in people, charm of personality, enterprise and thorough knowledge of your field will assure you of success. The best of luck to you.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1945