Having Wonderful Time—Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh
A cool breeze was blowing along the observation tower as Tony paced back and forth, one eye on the airport clock, the other on the sky, on the lookout for the twinkling red lights of Janet’s plane. Suddenly a messenger boy came running toward him. “Monsieur Curteeees?” he asked shyly. Tony nodded and smiled at the youngster. “Zee arrangements are made for you to go on zee field,” the boy told Tony. “The plane, it will be here any minute. We must hurry.” As the two of them dashed along to the gate, the bey pulled out a pad from his pocket and breathlessly asked Tony for his signature. Tony Wrote as he ran.
There had been no need for the rush. The plane still hadn’t arrived, so Tony lsat down in the lounge and took out a cigarette. Before he could reach for his lighter, a match was struck and his cigarette lit. He glanced up at. the smiling GI behind the match, and, before he knew it, was signing autographs and posing alongside of, and for, a bunch of homesick soldiers.
“Air France Flight 279 from London, now landing,” the speakerine’s voice broke through the noisy overtones of the airport lounge. A friendly arm took his, and an airport official rushed Tony through the door out to the landing strip.
What a spectrum of color the night was! The moon was a luminous red, like fire against the electric blue of the star-specked sky, as the graceful silver bird came to rest on its home grounds. Tony, standing on the side as the passengers slowly walked down the runway, played nervously with some silver coins in his hands, twisting and tossing them.
Janet’s presence on the plane was obviously known to the other travelers, as they stood waiting at the foot of the runway instead of continuing to the customs. Janet and her mother were the last two to get out of the plane. Janet was wearing a bright red dress, and a tiny hat framed her dainty face, which was wreathed in smiles as she spotted Tony at the foot of the runway. She fell into his arms, and they both disregarded the curious stares of fifty onlookers as they kissed.
“What a life,” muttered a male passenger.
But Tony and Janet were oblivious to everything and everyone, as they held each other close for several precious minutes. Then Tony extricated one arm and waived gaily at his mother-in-law, who was in the midst of recounting to a reporter her excitement of being in Paris.
Janet didn’t stop chatting for a minute, as Tony led her and Mrs. Morrison to the customs lane to pick up their bags. “Darling, can you imagine us going into the jungles? Do you really think we’ll see real wild animals in Kenya? I’ve had my shots, for every emergency under the sun, smallpox, tetanus, yellow fever, cholera, and trypanosomiasis, whatever that is. And do you know, we have to dust ourselves with DDT powder every night before going to bed . . . Yes porter, those are my bags . . . Does anyone around here speak French? Please tell them those are my bags . . . the DDT powder, that’s for the fleas, and we can’t go swimming or even take a bath unless the water has been treated chemically. That’s, now Mother, what is that against? Oh yes, bilharziasis . . .” Tony nodded and smiled affectionately at Janet, as he frantically tried to cope with passports, baggage, tickets and the language.
Finally the Curtises found themselves alone with Mrs. Morrison in the luxurious vastness of their car.
“Take it easy,” Tony admonished the chauffeur, “I’d like to show a little of Paris to my family.” But the only one who got a glimpse of the city on that drive was Mrs. Morrison. She glued her nose to the car window and stared into the dazzling light-sparked panorama of the City of Light.
He debated silently to himself if he should give her the surprise now or later, and decided to wait until they were alone.
Later that evening, after Mrs. Morrison had said good night, Tony took out of his pocket the little surprise he had planned for Janet. “Welcome to Paris,” he said as he slipped on the fourth finger of her right hand a diamond ring set in gold.
“Oh, darling, it’s beautiful,” Janet whispered. “I’ll always remember this night.”
Tony had to work the next day. It was his first official day on the “Trapeze” set. Janet insisted upon accompanying him, although he suggested she and her mother visit the art collections or do some shopping.
“Don’t be silly, darling,” she said. “I came here to see you, not the collections.”
The Cirque d’Hiver, where most of the action of “Trapeze” takes place, is a huge, animal-smelling, flea-infested circus. The dry heat of the Paris summer was intensified by the glow of the huge klieg lights which brought the temperature in the interior to almost 95°.
Tony was working out at the bars, under the instructions of his American teacher Eddie Ward, and Fay Alexander, when Janet and her mother came in. He saw her searching the arena with anxious eyes.
“Here I am, sweetie,” he yelled. Janet looked startled at Tony, swinging on those flimsy little bars! Why, that’s dangerous. She had known, of course, there was a certain amount of trapeze work to be done by Tony in this picture, but somehow, she hadn’t realized it was so dangerous.
Tony climbed down the ladder with the agility of a natural athlete and came over to her. He kissed her gently, and pecked Mrs. Morrison on the cheek.
Tony was pleased and frankly amazed that she had come so early to the circus. There’s not much to do here,” he warned her.
“That’s all right,” Janet said. “We’ll be together. That’s all that’s important.”
Tony found seats for Janet and her mother where they had a perfect view of the entire arena. There was strenuous activity everywhere. In the center, monkeys ran and chirped; in an upper balcony, dancers practiced their steps; on the side, acrobats swung back and forth on the bars.
The next day was the exciting date of the big circus parade down the Champs Elysées, when the entire “Trapeze” troupe, including Tony, Gina Lollobrigida, Burt Lancaster and Katy Jurado, dressed in their circus costumes, would ride down the great boulevards of Paris. Behind them would march the animals and chariots to be used in the film.
“My, but you’re handsome,” Janet whispered as she straightened the satin cape Tony had carelessly thrown over his shoulders. Tony’s long black curls had been cut to a butch cut for this picture, and in his circus tights he looked like a high school undergraduate dressed for the annual school costume party.
Janet and her mother followed the parade in the studio car. The streets were lined with pushing, eager spectators, most of them American tourists who photographed the stars with zeal and unconcealed relish.
As the parade neared the Place de la Concorde, Tony leaned back on his float and called to Janet, “Come on, darling, get aboard.”
Those within earshot echoed Tony’s request and began to cry, “Yes, Janet, let’s see you on the float with Tony.”
So Janet climbed out of the car, and Tony helped her onto the float. For the rest of the parade, as it wended its way through the streets of Paris back to the circus grounds, Janet was at Tony’s side, waving to the crowds and throwing kisses right and left.
Janet’s second time at the circus impressed on her more and more the danger of Tony’s part in the picture. In the week since he had seen her, Tony had graduated to flying solo without a safety belt, a progress which astonished experienced trapeze artists. He had been promoted by his tutors to the rank of “yugo.” A “yugo” is an apprentice flyer who stands on the platform catching the bars and waiting for the professional to cry to him, “Now, next time, ‘you go.’ ”
A few times Tony missed the bar and fell into the safety net. Each time that happened Janet would jump up from her seat, paralyzed with fear.
Tony managed to convince her that there was really no great danger as long as that net was there, and it was certainly to everyone’s interest that the net be there. Janet was a little reassured.
Janet’s notebook on the places she wanted to visit in Paris had one spot underlined, and that was Les Halles, the great central market. In the small hours of the morning, mountains of produce come rolling in from all parts of France to this center distribution point. It is the place to go for the traditional onion soup after a night on the town.
Admirers of the late great French novelist Colette, they walked back to their apartment by passing Colette’s house at the Palais Royal, filled with memories of this extraordinary woman.
The next day was a memorable one for them both. Since the Monday was a French holiday, Tony didn’t have to work, so he decided to go back to London with Janet. But there was no time to take the train, so for the very first time in his life he took a plane. To Janet this was indisputable proof of how much those few hours gained meant to him.
Tony spent the day visiting Janet on the set of her picture, “Safari,” filming at Elstree studios, leased by Columbia. In-between scenes they would snatch a few moments and relax on a haystack adjoining the studios’ grounds.
The following weekend Janet and Tony went to their first Paris social affair as guests of Gina Lollobrigida and her husband at a formal dinner in Paris’ smart Laurent Restaurant. Set in the park, the brushery and woods shielding it from the noise of the neighboring Champs Elysées, its orchestra playing ever so softly, Laurent’s was a setting made for romance. As the rest of the guests talked movies and plays, Janet and Tony danced—in the quiet woods, lit by a bright moon. The heady night air smelled of jasmine and roses as Tony and Janet danced. While the others ate salmon and chicken and wild strawberries, they danced. The others yawned and prepared to leave; they smiled up at the stars, hand in hand, and danced.
Tony and Janet’s last two weekends in Paris before Janet’s departure for Kenya were spent in quiet simplicity and solitude.
One of their purchases had been a tiny motor scooter, big enough for two, and they used it for their excursions. Janet wore a pair of Bermuda shorts and an old raincoat of Tony’s, while he donned his blue jeans and a striped jersey.
Then off they went to explore the magnificent park of St. Cloud, and the hilltop forest of Meudon and the rustic villages immortalized by the painters of France. They avoided the inns and country restaurants and took picnic lunches which Janet had made.
Another Sunday they explored the city on foot. Strolling aimlessly along the banks of the Seine, past the fine bridges, watching the quiet waters, their silver sheen breaking into an occasional ripple with the passage of a boat, Janet and Tony could have been any young couple in love.
There were some subjects they avoided with care . . . Janet’s trip to Kenya, for example. But Janet couldn’t stop thinking. “What is he going to do here all alone?” And Tony echoed her thoughts, also to himself.
They had taken a practical step to minimize as much as possible Tony’s loneliness during her absence. At Janet’s suggestion, they had taken the penthouse apartment in the Georges-V Hotel. Thus Tony could always wander down to the bar or any of the public rooms to gab with the crew members from the “Trapeze” unit.
Janet had promised she would phone whenever her unit came to a civilized spot, as he could not phone her. There would be letters of course, and cables, but it was all so unsatisfactory.
Luckily there was the Dream, of the day when Kenya would be a past adventure, only a topic for dinner-table conversation, and they would be reunited—in Paris.
Janet and Tony have ridden the waves of cruel gossip which hinted at separation; they have laughed at the insinuatio2n that their great love has ended; they have fought a silent battle against those intangible influences which are trying to part them.
They have protested in vain to those who will not understand that theirs is the good old-fashioned type of love, punctuated by occasional quarrels and misunderstandings of course, but based on a solid foundation of trust and comprehension.
Here in Paris they have found an atmosphere which answers their mood of intimacy and warmth, a city which revolves around and lives for Love.
Yes, in this city where Love is the keynote to the national fugue, Tony and Janet are right in tune.
—BY MARY WORTHINGTON JONES
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1955