Doctor’s Wife—Ann Blyth McNulty
Nothing in a doctor’s private life can be planned with certainty except taxes. When she accepted the name of Mrs. James V. McNulty, Ann Blyth accepted that fact. It was one of the things Jim warned her about before their marriage.
“I want you to know,” he said, “that my time isn’t my own, that I’ll be called out at the most outlandish hours, and that many nights you’ll be alone and waiting.”
In the nine months that she’s been a doctor’s wife, Ann has learned to accept all of this.
Only a few months ago, she expected Jim home for dinner in fifteen minutes when the hospital called to say that Dr. McNulty was delayed in obstetrics. Thirty minutes lengthened into an hour. One hour became two. At nine o’clock Ann strode into the kitchen.
“Barbara,” she told the housekeeper. “No point in your waiting up. I’ll serve the doctor when he comes in.” Then she walked back into the dimly-lit den, her beautiful head tilted in a listening position. She wasn’t particularly hungry. She had passed that point. Nor was she sleepy. Just disappointed.
This was their six months’ anniversary. She had prepared a special dinner—cake, candles, even champagne. And now Jim was late because the stork had been off-schedule with one of his patients.
Suddenly the whir of Jim’s car turning into the driveway threw Ann out of her disappointment into a dither of preparation.
She gave the logs in the fireplace a hasty poke. She ran to the refrigerator, took the split of champagne and placed it on a tray beside two glasses. She just made it into Jim’s arms as he stepped through the Dutch door from the patio.
“Happy semi-anniversary,” she managed to mutter.
Jim kissed his wife’s hair. Then he reached down into his coat pocket and pulled out a brown paper bag. He dropped the gift into her hands.
“For you,” he said.
Excitedly Ann sat down on the couch and shook the contents of the bag into-her lap. Eight of the most delicate, exquisite, hand-painted porcelain knobs. “See,” said Dr. McNulty, “I’m a very practical guy.”
Ann smiled. “You’re priceless, darling. These will put the finishing touches to the bathroom. I’ll use one on each cosmetic drawer and one on the medicine cabinet, and one on—”
“You’re sure you’re not disappointed now?” the doctor suggested. “They’re just drawer-pulls.”
“Of course not,” Ann said. “Most husbands do the obvious thing on anniversary dates. They bring flowers or candy. But this is the kind of unexpected gesture writers are always trying to dream up for ‘young love’ scripts. And you do it naturally.”
“The best way to write about young lovers,” Jim said, “is to draw them from life.”
Certainly this is true of Ann and Jim McNulty. Their romance and marriage has been compared to a dream, a fairy tale and a movie script. But these are pallid compared to the true version. For this marriage has so much love and warmth and tenderness that it must get better and better.
The early chapters in Ann Blyth’s true love story have been thoroughly reported. Her first dates with Dennis Day’s brother, their courtship, the announcement by her aunt Cissy and Uncle Jim, the charming way Jim proposed while they were trimming the Christmas tree, their common religion and Irish heritage and of course, every detail of the impressive wedding from the Papal blessing down to the size of the marriage ring.
Once the wedding was over, a news blackout was lowered. Months passed. No more Ann Blyth features were published. Movie-goers waited avidly for stories of Ann Blyth, novice housewife. No stories came. They looked for pictures of Ann and Jim at home. No news, no pictures.
Ann says now, “In the last six months I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I just haven’t had time to collect myself.
“Right after our honeymoon at Lake Tahoe I had to report to MGM for rehearsals of Rose Marie. Then I went into the picture. As soon as that was finished, rehearsals started for The Student Prince, then the actual shooting.
“In between I learned that I was going to have a baby. Also I had to organize my household and furnish a new home. So I haven’t had much time for interviews.”
As soon as Ann finished The Student Prince, the blackout was lifted and she invited MODERN SCREEN into her home.
“I never realized how many decisions a wife has to make. Not necessarily big decisions but little ones like which newspapers to order and which milkman to use and how many telephone extensions we need and where can we possibly store all the wedding presents.”
Ann confessed, “I’ve had a minor crisis or two. I guess you heard about the firewood. That one really taught me an important lesson.”
The firewood incident started because Jim and Ann love to sit in front of an open fireplace. They take an awful ribbing from their friends because they consider this more fun than going to Ciro’s or Mocambo or even attending a premiere.
In spite of a summertime marriage, the McNultys used more than a cord of firewood in their first two months together.
“As soon as I noticed our supply was getting low,” Ann explains, “I felt it was part of my job to replenish it just as I buy the other household goods.
“Only with firewood I didn’t know where. I should have asked Jim’s advice but I preferred to do it the hard way.
“I looked in the classified section of the phone book and got the names of several fuel companies. Then I called. When the salesman asked what kind of wood I wanted and what lengths I hung up to do some more research.
“Sort of casually I asked a few friends what kind of logs burned best, and Joe Lilley simplified the problem by offering to give me all the logs I wanted. He’d just finished thinning out some of his trees.
“This seemed like a wonderfully generous gift because I’d found out that wood costs from $50 to $60 a cord out here. So naturally I accepted Joe’s offer for free.”
“But you’ll have to send someone out to pick it up,” Joe had added.
This started Ann on a new tangent.
She called truckers and asked how much they charge to haul a cord of wood. Some of them misunderstood her and gave outlandish quotations for hauling commercial logs.
Finally Jim discovered her problem. Gallantly, he took charge of the matter.
“And he did it so easily,” Ann recalls. “He got Uncle Pat to help him and they rented a half-ton trailer and after Mass one Sunday they drove out to Joe’s and loaded the trailer and drove back. Really, they made my feeling of failure complete.
“But it did teach me a lesson: it’s a good idea to let your husband share some of the household problems. I learned that there is no sharp line of demarcation between the wife’s department and the husband’s.
“That’s why people get married—to help each other.”
Ann and Jim are living by this principle: share all the decisions.
“Although we bought our house before we were married,” Ann says, “it really didn’t seem to belong to us until we started living in it. But we both agreed that this was the house we wanted.”
The McNultys chose an eleven-room Connecticut-style farmhouse.
They liked it because it was located on a quiet, dead-end street. It’s surrounded by full-grown walnut and sycamore trees, and it has plenty of room for an expanding family. The second floor is still unfurnished. Ann commented that the colonial staircase in the front hall leads to “nothing except the future.”
Because Ann and Jim intend to live a lifetime in their farmhouse, they’ve decided to furnish it slowly and carefully. After almost a year the house is still far from complete, a fact that bothers no one.
“When we moved in, we had nothing but our bedroom furniture and four marvelous kitchen appliances.”
She and Jim literally started housekeeping from bedroom to kitchen and back again. All the other rooms were empty.
For her bright, cheery kitchen, Ann chose the newest and best equipment: an electric stove, an eight-cubic-foot Bendix refrigerator, an eighteen-cubic-foot Bendix freezer. And for her laundry, a Bendix Duomatic, a marvelous piece of machinery that washes and dries the clothes in one continuous operation.
“When you’re working an eleven-hour day at the studio,” Ann says, “you need all the mechanical aid you can buy.”
Ann and Jim could handle the ordering of the kitchen equipment easily. For the rest of the house they decided to use the services of Mitchell Numier, a decorator.
Numier is known in California for his custom-made provincial furniture. Ann has liked his designs for years but she made sure that Jim saw and approved several Numier-furnished homes.
Once Jim gave the go-ahead, Ann commissioned the designer to make diningroom furniture, the marble-topped livingroom tables and all the well-cushioned and carefully quilted chairs and couches.
The day the silvery bleached walnut dining table was delivered with its six grey velvet chairs, Ann declared a holiday.
She unpacked the fine Irish linen table cloth her aunts Molly and Mag had sent from Dublin. She fixed Jim’s favorite menu of roast beef, salad with cheese dressing, and snowballs for dessert (snowballs in the McNulty household consist of vanilla ice cream, frozen strawberries and shredded coconut) and then invited Aunt Cissy and Uncle Pat to share in the festivities.
Now the arrival of each new lamp or ashtray is an excuse for a celebration.
Dennis Day and his wife came over the night the pink wing chairs were placed in the den. Jeanne Crain and Paul Brinkman were dinner guests when the Hawaiian printed draperies and twin couches made their livingroom debut.
Ann and Jim had nothing to do with what is probably the most arresting feature of the McNulty house. Some years ago in Chicago Ann was introduced to a Mr. and Mrs. Dalton just before she sang on a Sacred Heart charity program.
Over the years they became extremely fond of her and whenever Ann was in Chicago she made it a point to see them.
At the time of her wedding she naturally expected some word from her old friends, but she didn’t hear from them. Last Thanksgiving, however, she received by air express a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother intended for an outdoor grotto. It was the Daltons’ wedding gift.
Uncle Pat met the plane on which it arrived. He supervised its mounting on a concrete base, and it was he who prepared the grotto at the far end of the McNulty garden. He planted the primroses and the jasmine and laid the flagstone walk.
This lovely shrine, half-hidden by roses and bougainvilla, is where Ann Blyth retreats for a few peaceful hours of thought and meditation. It is here, far from the tension of life in the studio, that she prays.
It is here that she and her handsome husband give thanks for all their many blessings now and forever after.
—BY MARVA PETERSON
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1954