Car pulls up at Frascatti’s on Sunset. Blue convertible Sunliner. Neat . . . The license checks out okay . . . Parks . . . Man steps out . . . Six foot tall. Curly sandy hair. Blue eyes . . . Built like athlete . . . Must play football or be a crack swimmer . . . Seems to play it cool . . . Goes into restaurant. Pretty dark in there . . . Almost empty . . . Couple of lovers over in the corner left over from lunch . . . Another couple at the bar having an early drink . . . Couple of men talking business. Look up sharp to see if anyone heard . . . Our man stands tall, boyish, just like on the screen . . . He sits clown alone in a round booth. Orders a sandwich. Grilled cheese.
“Doug McClure!” someone says.
He jumps up and shakes hands as if he meant it. Smiles. Looks like he likes being recognized. But he’s on guard, too, square-shouldered, rugged. No longer boyish as he stands.
He’s wearing a charcoal suit and plenty of poise. Not the kind of sleuth who’d just walk in and say, “OK. where’s the body?” Not the kind to warm up fast to questions. No use asking him. “OK, so you were married once, what happened?” No use asking about Barbara Luna. “So you’re in love, when are you going to get married?” Not yet. The handshake’s warm enough hut eyes are cool. Careful. He knows the score. He’s not about to get hurt. Not any more. Still, he likes to talk and has done a lot of thinking. About things. About himself.
Comes from a good home, no squares. Dad an accountant, mother and brother both reporters, Santa Monica Evening Outlook. Grew up in Pacific Palisades, had a pretty realistic attitude about Hollywood. No big fat dream.
“I’m going to Hawaii”
Breaks out of hometown after high school graduation. Doesn’t write home. Gets a job as a ranch hand. Folks worried. Then one night. “I came dashing home, yelling. “Hey. Mom. I’m going to Hawaii on a picture!’ She flipped. Dad and my brother flipped. ‘You’re kidding!’ they said.”
June. 1956. Bang. Hawaii. He was working. An actor. Out of this world. Telling it, his eyes begin to kindle.
Meets a beautiful Honolulu girl there . . . one-fourth Polynesian . . . from a wealthy family. Hawaiian moon is lovely. Faye Brash, that’s her name, is lovely. They fall in love. They get married. Then comes trouble. Try to work out their problems. Go to a marriage counsellor for help. Nothing works. Divorce.
Cheese sandwich on side of plate, half-eaten. He drops the subject off firmly. “It was unpleasant. It’s over. I don’t like the way the papers handled it. One story blamed the divorce on my career. It’s just not so.”
Tries to smile, hut it doesn’t work. Takes another bite of his sandwich and washes it down with a few gulps of coffee. Looks up and then he really smiles. “I took my little girl to the zoo one Sunday,” he says. “She’s not three yet hut she knows all the animals. We’d have had a ball except we got so involved with people. . . . I wanted to he involved just with my little daughter.”
His smile vanishes. Silence. Probably thinking about having to take little Tane, his daughter, back home at the end of that afternoon, to her mother’s house and leaving her there. Probably thinking about how Tane’s now in Hawaii, so far, far away. “She’ll be with me this summer,” he says, and that’s all he says about her.
Switches subject abruptly to safer ground. Tells how he got a crack at a good role on TV. Only actor around who was willing enough or crazy enough or dumb enough to sit in a bathtub and let someone throw a bucket of ice-cold water at him. Had to he ice-cold, because director Bill Bendix wanted realism. First fifteen times they tried the scene. Bendix cried “Cut!” and demanded a retake. Began to think whole thing was a gag. Ha! Ha! Funny way to get pneumonia. But director okayed the sixteenth dousing.
How he met her
Tosses his head back as if to toss hair—and water—out of his face. Didn’t work, though, ’cause he has a close-cropped crew-cut. Presses tips of his fingers together, signalling he’s going to make an important point. “Worth it—all that water,” he says, “not just because I finally registered the right reaction, but because that was the scene where Barbara walks in. Barbara Luna. Without that deluge, I’d never have met her.”
Drinks a glass of water. Obvious he’s about to change this subject, too. Probably wants to ward off questions about Barbara and Marlon Brando. Complicated. Barbara going with Marlon when Doug came along. Seems because of Barbara that France Nuyen. Marlon’s girl before Barbara, went on her desperate eating jag that cost her the lead in “The World of Suzie Wong.” Anyhow . . . Barbara liked and admired Marlon, but wasn’t in love with him. Then Doug took over. . . .
Finishes water. Sips tomato juice. Then, out of nowhere, he says, “She’s a very pretty girl.”
Another friend joins them. Doug gets up, shakes hand. Newcomer takes his cue from Doug’s last comment, which he’s overheard.
“Hope you’re talking about Barbara Luna?”
Doug looks like he’s getting into deep water. Throws his head back. Then, “I am. She’s pretty and talented. I admire her. She’s for real and she has a sense of humor. You have to have that, you have to . . .”
Newcomer rushes in where others fear to tread. “You thinking of marrying again. Doug?”
No time to throw his head back. Caught. “Yes, I . . . hope so.”
“Can you make a go of it? There are some pretty unhappy actors—personally, I mean—in this town.”
“That’s because in your personal life you can’t make believe,” he says. “You have to face yourself squarely. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve learned from them. Two people have to have understanding. The great thing’s communication. . .”
Enter . . . leading lady
His face changes. Totally. Warm. Vital. Why? The reason comes across the room and over to him . . . A tiny doll of a girl . . . Oriental . . . knitted lavender sweater and pants . . . dancer’s figure . . . no makeup . . . long oval nails tinted coral on her lovely hands . . . Barbara Luna.
McClure’s on his feet. She comes up quickly. Senses his indecision . . . up on tiptoe . . . reaches his head . . . brings it down . . . gives him a lovely kiss. He blushes . . . flushes . . . all defense down. His face alive now, all alive, pink and happy and real. They sit very close, holding hands. Never take eyes off each other.
Dialogue gets fast, furious and very serious . . . questions tossed . . . answers thoughtful.
FIRST FRIEND: We’re talking about marriage.
BARBARA: (laughs easily) Fascinating subject.
DOUG: (keeping her hand in his, at ease, relaxing for the first time, letting the shoulders down) If two people can really talk straight to each other, you can’t stop ’em. They’ll never stop growing. They’ll grow together. I’ve learned this about marriage—you can have the same interests, hut that’s not as important as respect for each other. You have to have that.
SECOND FRIEND: (the pushy one) Would you marry an actress?
DOUG: If I meet a girl (he looks at Barbara) . . . and I have . . . you can’t pass up marriage because of her profession.
BARBARA: I also have been married before. It’s better, I think, for both to he involved in show business.
DOUG: The only had thing is the possibility of being kept apart while you work, but if you’re on guard, you can avoid that.
Barbara orders. Tea and cheese cake.
DOUG: It doesn’t matter what you eat, does it? You always stay like this.
Barbara looks wonderful. Her skin is marvelous, smooth, olive.
DOUG: I like people to look natural. I can’t stand girls who wear a kind of mask.
BARBARA: You mean—“I’d say hello but I can’t see you”?
She dives into tea and cheese cake. When she’s finished, they both start talking like mad. About what they like. Instead of night life, the beach. They love the beach. She stays on the sand. He takes to water like a fish. They like theater. Read. Watch TV.
BARBARA: Oh we argue, too. Only we never argue over the same thing twice. We argue and finish it. Once and for all.
SECOND FRIEND: (the pushy one) Who cooks when you eat at each other’s place? Both of you?
BARBARA: (giggles) I make the dinner. He picks up his fork!
DOUG: She won’t let me cook.
BARBARA: (flatly) Men don’t belong in the kitchen. Women don’t belong in a tool shed. I tried to put up a nail for a towel rack. You should see . . . he had to do it for me.
DOUG: (laughs. Really laughs) I’m not much of a handy man either. Once in a while, I get on a kick . . . when I still had the house I had this brilliant idea . . . I’d change doorknobs.
BARBARA: The whole door came down, but the doorknob stayed tight.
DOUG: I had to get a carpenter finally.
They have each other
They talk about what date was the most. Christmas. Christmas Eve at Mike Landon’s. Christmas Day at the McClures’. How long have they been steady dating? Eight months. Barbara counts them off on long coral-tipped fingers. Now she puts up her free hand to caress his face. She’s mature. Twenty-two but mature. They’re in luck to have each other. They know’ it.
“Mr. Clean.” she calls him. She touches his face again, his close-cropped hair. “Isn’t he? Even the girls at the beauty shop call him that.”
“I’m always in a shower or a bathtub on TV.” he grins.
Not the reason. Mr. Clean. Character as she sees it.
“The biggest kick’s giving, not getting. Alone I’m nothing,” he says.
He has her close beside him. Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Same exact look.
The brash friend suddenly says. “Hey, Doug, I just realized—you’re a shy guy!”
Sure enough, he looks like a small hoy caught raiding the cookie jar. “Yeah. Shucks.” His face flushes, no longer resembling cool, calm Jed Sills of “Checkmate.”
Boy and girl walk out of the restaurant, arms around each other . . . down the steps to the parking lot. Name’s McClure, first name, Doug. Beside her, he looks six feet ten . . . curly blond hair . . . guy in love . . . very warm. Tough—tender. . . . With her no defense . . . needs none. Not anymore.
Be sure to see Doug in “Checkmate” on CBS-TV every Saturday at 8:30 P.M. EST.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1961