A dark-haired, gray-eyed girl in a Vienna finishing school seemed completely absorbed in her history book, but a smile stole over her lips on that spring day twelve years ago. Suddenly she laughed aloud. The teacher snatched the book and found to her horror that the girl had cut the eyes from the full-page portraits of all the famous kings of history, had substituted others she had drawn and that by wiggling them she could make the crusty monarchs roll their eyes in zany fashion.
That school girl was I.
I never outgrew my delight in clowning. I still possess it, but only my closest friends and family realize it, for it is confined to my own home. In public I give quite the opposite impression.
There is a reason.
I like people, but by instinct I find I am on the defensive with them, until I know them well. I am cautious in meeting new people, because I have been misjudged so often in the past. Women, on first meeting me, manage subtly to convey the impression that they expect me to pose to get attention, and to make an attempt to flirt with their husbands. If only they knew that I am hopelessly embarrassed by being stared at—and I have my own husband! As a result, I am quite retiring in large groups of people I do not know well.
Because people are apt to judge personality quickly, and I have unconsciously built this defensive barrier, I have been labeled as anything but a gay person. I regret it. I’m sorry I am so cautious. It is really a form of shyness. Only when I finally know people well and find them sincere do I lose this inherent shyness.
In fact, it is because of this same shyness that I do not find it easy to do this story. Perhaps if I talk about my husband and me it will be easier.
I am married to one of the most understanding and companionable men in the world. He is both stimulating and soothing. John Loder and I are very unlike in our temperaments, for which I am grateful. We balance each other’s personalities perfectly.
John’s reaction to people is quite the opposite of mine. He trusts everyone, makes friends immediately, while I, as I said, am cautious and reserved in my judgment.
John is tolerant, easy-going. I have a quick temper. I flare up rapidly, and quiet down just as fast. There have been occasions when I’ve rushed to the phone, wanting to call someone who has hurt me. John has held me back. “Wait until tomorrow,” he has told me. He knows that by the following day I might call the person a perfect dear, the same one I wanted to denounce over the phone a few hours before. My husband is teaching me tolerance.
If we are unlike in our temperaments, we’re alike in our tastes. We both love books and music. We dislike crowds and enjoy each other’s company. I prefer staying home and having John read to me to going to a party. We like the same people, motion pictures, radio programs—even the same food.
Of course we don’t agree on everything. Now and then, like all couples, we have a little difference of opinion. It may be about some current event, an article we’ve both read. Life would be very dull if we held identical views on everything.
John likes to clown at home as much as I do. Neither of us is dignified in our own home. When we start laughing, there’s no stopping us. The slightest gesture, the very suggestion of a funny remark by either of us will send us both into gales of laughter. John tells me I’ll never grow up. Neither will he.
The fact that we both are in the same profession is an additional bond between us. We understand each other’s problems. In the evenings we often rehearse our scenes for the next day, cueing each other. We occasionally visit on each other’s sets at our studios.
As you may suspect by now, we are both homebodies, and our home life is very precious to us. John is the head of our household and makes the decisions, but I run the home, as a wife should, and my husband says I run our home very efficiently—a compliment that delights me.
I fancy myself as a cook, and John agrees. I’m especially proud of my two specialties, crepes suzettes and roast beef, but now they certainly are not practical dishes and we seldom have them. Beef costs just as many points in Hollywood as it does in Hoboken—and how many times a year does one have crepes suzettes?
We’re lucky to have a maid but if tomorrow we didn’t have a servant, it would not bother me. As a young girl I was taught cleanliness and order, as well as cooking. I’m teaching my son Jamesie that he, too, must be orderly.
We have no budget. I do my own shopping in the big California markets. And have a wonderful time shopping at tencent Stores. My sales resistance is nonexistent, and John say s people can sell me anything.
But I feel, nevertheless, that I’m a good business woman. At least, I’m methodic. I might be a successful director or producer if I had more patience. I should like to direct or produce pictures, sometime, but I suppose that’s rather a futile hope.
I’ve never been satisfied with any of my screen roles. One can always find a chance for a possible improvement after a role is finished. If not, one would stagnate as an actor. My favorite part was the paisano girl in “Tortilla Fiat,” but I also cherish a letter from John P. Marquand, the author of “H. M. Pulham, Esquire,” in which he complimented me on my role in the screen version. I like comedy, and enjoyed making “The Heavenly Body.” I liked making “Experiment Perilous” too.
Every Friday night John and I go to the Hollywood Canteen, where he works as a dishwasher while I wait at the snack bar. To be honest, I have little time for anything but writing autographs, which is flattering, but I’d rather be able to serve sandwiches and coffee to the boys.
John and I seldom go to night clubs. Our intimate friends are few, but those few are very close friends, including George Antheil, the brilliant modern composer, and his wife. My own dearest friend is Lilly Veidt, the widow of Conrad Veidt.
I am far from athletic, but I enjoy long walks, which I frequently take with John in the hills around our Benedict Canyon home. The mountains hold a particular fascination for us, and we hope, after the war, to own a mountain cabin.
On our honeymoon we rented a cabin at Big Bear, where John built the fire and helped with the dishes, and I did all the other work. The cabin we plan to have will be small enough so we can do all our own housework and cooking. Rustic, with a large fireplace in the living room. We know just what our dream house will be like, but it must wait for the duration.
I have no illusions of “glamour.” Frankly, that word annoys me, because I can’t decide what “glamorous” means. Beautiful, chic, elegant are words I understand, but not “glamour.”
What is much more important than “glamour” in my life is the little one John and I expect in the spring. We both hope so for a girl since we already have Jamesie. But I’m playing safe—I’m going to have the nursery done in yellow. Then it will be appropriate either way. After work is completed on “Her Highness And The Bellboy,” John and I are going house-hunting for a larger place for the baby.
If it is a boy we will name him John for his father. But a girl—that is more difficult. I want something easy. I know what it is to have a name that is generally mispronounced. Gretchen is nice, but it sounds so hard in English. Gretl, perhaps.
But maybe it is too early to worry about that. I think I am too happy to worry about anything!
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MARCH 1945