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If You Were In Love With Me—By Robert Wagner

You would be a livin’ doll. And I mean that more than just figuratively. You would have to be—to put up with me.

You would be both spirited and sweet. Feminine and forgiving—and this goes for more than just figuratively too. Although I haven’t had too many complaints—-yet.

If you wanted me to mellow—just start the turntable rolling with Jackie Gleason’s “Melancholy Melody.” That’s the mellowest, bar none—as are all the albums of his records I have. They’re really off-beat—sweet and swooney and the greatest. You would slip too—whenever you heard them—or you wouldn’t tell me. In fact, if you didn’t think Gleason was the greatest ever—away we’d go . . . before we even got anywhere.

You wouldn’t have to look like Ava Gardner. Although I wouldn’t mind! But you wouldn’t have to look like any movie star to be exciting and attractive to me. In your own fresh, sweet way, you could have the same kind of dynamite that makes Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford and Jean Peters so exciting to watch on the screen. The same earthy quality, the same honesty. Glamour and sincerity—that’s the greatest combination, I guess. Either on or off the screen. Give me a girl who isn’t afraid to say what she honestly thinks and in an intelligent way. That’s the way my girl would be—a girl who really belts them out. As long as I’m not too obviously on the receiving end!

If you were my girl, you’d be very aware of life and you would never be bored by it. You’d live it to the hilt—but you’d do it purposefully, because you’d be working towards accomplishing something. And working hard to get what you wanted. Whether that something was acting, sculpturing, social-service work helping other human beings or toward making a happy home for your own husband and family. You wouldn’t be a floater—who just drifts around and never really gets off the ground. Girls like that may think they’re really flying, but as far as I am concerned, they never take off. You would have a warm, enthusiastic interest in life in general. And if it figures that way, a little more than average interest in me. Because that’s the kind of thing that keeps a guy on his toes. Really keeps him digging away at what he wants for himself—and his girl.

You would call me “R.J.”—or you might even make it “Arge,” a blend a few kind friends have pinned on me. When you called me “Bob”—well, that bit would really worry me. I’d know something had fouled up somewhere.

You would be at home out-of-doors. Not that it wouldn’t be enjoyable being indoors with you too—after all, there’s nothing like a good Scrabble game. But there’s a wholesome freshness that goes with an outdoor girl a guy just can’t resist—and who would want to? You’d go for water skiing, fishing, tennis, bowling and you’d really know your way around a green—or you’d probably be a golf widow before you were a bride. I play golf as long as there’s light enough to see. I wouldn’t even mind if you could beat me—and that wouldn’t be hard to do. My golf game goes back and forth, and of late it’s been going back. We’d play at my old alma mater, the Bel Air Country Club, where I used to caddy for the stars.

We could grab a quick breakfast at Biff’s before our golf game. And you wouldn’t have to worry about me being on time—not since I’ve discovered those radio alarms that bounce you awake with no pain. I’m a cat-nap artist, one of those I’ll-just-take-ten-minutes-more boys, but when all that happy music comes on—who wants to sleep? Furthermore, who can? And furthermore, I’d love to look at you over coffee and bacon and eggs. Being less technical, I’d just love to look at you.

It wouldn’t surprise you that I’m eating all my meals out now. I used to make my own breakfast, but I panic when everything starts going at once, and what with he coffee perking and the eggs boiling and the bacon burning—it was just a lot easier to get into the car and go over to Biff’s. Dinner, I wouldn’t attempt any more. No matter what the menu started out to be, nor how meticulously I followed “A Wolf in Chef’s Clothing,” the cookbook Jeff Hunter gave me, I always wound up warming up some enchiladas with a bromide on the side. Anyway, dinner for one’s no fun. Dinner for two—that would be more like it . . . with you.

You might as well know, I’m a complete dud when it comes to keeping house. Why they call you girls the weaker sex, I’ll never quite know. But with a year’s experience “baching,” I’m doing a little better now. I used to just drop things and depend on gravity to get them all back where they respectively belonged. I’ve gotten better organized now. And a fellow named Floyd, an ex-G.I. who works for a fine cleaning establishment, comes once a week and cases the apartment like a vacuum—picking up whatever needs to be laundered or dry-cleaned. But I’m still a real nothing when it comes to the mechanics of fixing things around a house. I do well to fix the rear-view mirror of my black hard-top Mercury.

You wouldn’t be one of those girls who are forever looking into mirrors anyway. That bores me. Out on a golf course or a tennis court, you’d be concerned about your game—and not about how glamorous you looked. If you were my girl, you’d forget the shiny nose and concentrate on that fast serve.

I hope you’d go for simple clothes, but girls usually wear what they figure is the best—and in that, I’m with you. I would really love you in white. Say a white low-cut evening gown—but not too low, about a half-a-whistle’s-worth. And a white two-piece bathing suit—but not too Bikini . . . not on you.

You wouldn’t wear too much make-up, I know. None of that doe-eyed business or layers of pancake. Just a little lipstick, and I don’t care what the make-up experts advise, you wouldn’t paint your lips larger than they are. Too much makeup destroys that freshness which is so wonderful. I’ve never figured out why girls keep working to cover it.

You would have pretty hands for I usually notice a girl’s hands first. And when they’re soft and feminine and expressive—they say a lot to me. You’d wear your hair loose and a little longer than many of the girls would. Your perfume, I hope, would be Arpege. And please, no corsages. If you wear flowers—just wear them plain. One rose, I think, says infinitely more. You wouldn’t be a slinker —not even half-a-whistle’s-worth. You could be the girl next door—but nobody like you ever lived next door to me!

On a date, we wouldn’t live it up too much. And we couldn’t, even if we would. Until recently my allowance totaled $25 a week, which gives you a rough idea. When the studio gave me a raise not long ago, I thought I was really living—until my business manager assured me I was not. But you would soon learn that avoiding the plushy night clubs is my pet economy anyway. You can blow a whole week’s allowance in them in one evening—easily. And besides, nobody has ever convinced me that being seen there furthers your career. We’d go when Peggy Lee or somebody else great opened there. Otherwise, we’d have dinner together at the Gourmet or the Encore or anywhere where they have good food and a fine little combo—and where I can sign the dinner check.

On Sunday afternoons we might drive down the coast to La Jolla to have dinner with my mother and dad. You would love my whole family, and they’d be crazy about you.

We’d visit friends and talk pictures, and we’d go to all the movies that time allowed. After a show, I’d invite you to the apartment to listen to my record collection, but there’s something in the small print that says no. No girls, no cats, no dogs, and no records or television or evening radios. Lease-wise, in an apartment, you can’t even live—after 10 P.M. Which is as good an excuse as any for the fact that, even though I can’t afford it, I’d like to have a house of my own.

And it would be fun to—go house-hunting with you. Nothing too elaborate—just a comfortable two-bedroom place more mellow than modern in the furnishings. The kind of house that goes with the Viking Oak pieces my mother left behind for me. I’m crazy for browns, and I hope you would be. I like large old prints, and we would spend days browsing around for just the right one. There would be a large fireplace and a master bedroom that would take an over-sized bed. There would be king-sized closets too. My closets now are like Fibber McGee’s. Every time you open one, it’s a good gamble a fishing rod or tennis racket or golf club or saddle or roll-away bed will conk you on the head.

More than anything else, you would have a sense of humor. And let’s face it, more than anything else—that we could probably use. You could be an actress. Career girls, other things equal, are a cut above average with me. One thing sure, you’d be a real grown-up girl, and age, it seems, hasn’t too much to do with this. You’d be a girl a guy could really talk to. And listen to, as well. You’d be a girl who mixes well at parties—and I don’t mean mixing martinis. For above all, you would have consideration for others, and you would never embarrass a hostess, say, by taking one more martini than you should. Call me a square, but I’ve never liked to see any girl over-indulge. Knighthood may have flowered out (except on the screen)—but ladies . . . they’ll never go out of style.

Lady that you would be, you’d better never be too obvious in any way. You wouldn’t have to go out of your way to attract attention anyway. Nor would you talk about other guys to prove your popularity. You wouldn’t have to tell me how many hearts you’ve had. That would figure. The important thing would be that mine tallies up the score.

You would be a movie fan, along with me. And if it wouldn’t be asking too much, I hope you could be a fan of mine. A guy can’t get too much encouragement, and I could sure use your faith in me. Believe me, you can get plenty discouraged watching yourself up on that screen.

You would be my best friend and my most constructive critic. In the intuitive way girls have, maybe you could find out from a few people why they’ve said success has gone to my head and that I’ve “changed.” And while you’re finding out—what success? You might tell them when I’ve been misquoted. (I can’t go around pointing out, “Look—I didn’t say this.”) I can’t go around kicking pebbles either. The thing I can do is work real hard because I want to be as good as I can possibly be . . . up there on the screen. As for the other, a guy would be a pretty static character if he didn’t even change. The fans change too. If I stayed the same from year to year, they’d grow clear away from me.

You would believe in hunches, or humor me when I do. And you would, I hope, humor me in an extravagance or two. Say like collecting records of Glenn Miller’s, Benny Goodman’s, Peggy Lee’s, Sinatra’s—and every recording Jackie Gleason’s ever made. You would get a little dreamy whenever you heard “Deep Purple,” and you’d go for the writing of Samuel Shellabarger and Ernest Hemingway. We’d have a standing date every Saturday night with Gleason on TV. You would know I take my steaks rare and my coffee black and’ strong—and you’d humor me that extravagance too.

Clothes? Well—that’s where the money goes. And I hope you’d go along with me. I like sports clothes, but some of my coats would probably fracture even you. I don’t like just plain coats and I’ve made a sporty convertible out of some of mine by having the tailor face the sleeves of a dark blue coat with red and a brown with yellow. When you turn the cuffs back, they double as sports jackets too. I can wear them either way, and it gives me more wardrobe changes. But I can’t take any credit for the idea. I got it from Gilbert Roland, who does the same thing with plaids. And you would probably flip when you saw my new topcoat with the collar and pocket flaps and the split down the back all lined in plaid.

It’s just something new, for a change. I’ve just been trying it for kicks. There are so few things a man can do to change his appearance anyway.

If you were my girl—you’d know I go too for French-style cuffs and for heavy cuff links. If I could afford them, I’d go for slacks or Mexican hand-woven flannel and custom-made shirts of silk shantung—instead of the $4.95 numbers I wear around. If I could only stick to a system and budget better, maybe I could. But systems—they’ve always bothered me.

But I wouldn’t have to be telling you my faults. You could, I’m sure, tell me. You wouldn’t be one of those girls who make like psychologists, always taking a guy apart and telling him how to run his life. You wouldn’t have to be an amateur psychologist even to tell me how I’m not running mine. Nobody would have to tell you how I procrastinate—how I keep meaning to do things but somehow I just can’t seem to stretch the time around. I’m too self-centered. But then I wouldn’t have to tell you. Any girl but you would have long since told me. Another girl might think I concentrate too much on my career—but you would understand the reasons why.

You would know, if you were my girl, why my career means so much to me. I discovered the movies, long before they ever discovered me. From the time I could talk—this was the big dream. I grew up around the biggest people in the motion-picture industry and they were the greatest, but even my family would not have bet a buck I’d stick to that dream or work toward it seriously. No one really knew how much it meant to me.

You would understand why I’ve got to be good in my job now—and be a credit to my studio and to Darryl Zanuck and to all the studio workers and stars who’ve given me every break in the book—and a few that weren’t even there. It takes so many people to make you a star, and whenever I’ve needed them, they’ve all been there.

You would agree the rest would be up to me. Look at the pictures they’ve given me: “Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef,” “Prince Valiant,” and now, “The Broken Lance” with Jean Peters, Dolores Del Rio and with Spencer Tracy—King Tracy—no less! I’ve been surrounded by some of the greatest actors in the business—like James Mason, Gilbert Roland, J. Carrol Naish and Brian Aherne. Any picture’s sold with actors like those. And any lead can be so dull if you don’t have actors around you like these. I’ve been given millions of dollars worth of advice and experience. The way I see it, if I miss, I’d have nobody to blame but me.

Still, you would know it hasn’t all been easy, for all the help I’ve had. You would sense, the way girls seem to, that being starred in such biggies—sometimes I’ve been scared. I wouldn’t have to explain to you how much it meant to get “Prince Valiant”—nor what a challenge it was to me. But all life’s a challenge, and if you don’t gamble, you don’t win. You can’t say—“I’m sorry, boys. I can’t take this, I’m afraid.” Besides, I’ve had too much faith in the people who’ve put me wherever I am.

You would know my gratefulness. And my feelings of concern are all the greater because, with all the breaks I’ve had, I’ve skipped a few of the stairs. Today’s boy can be easily tomorrow’s has-been. Sure, I’m doing okay now—but how long can a guy be a coming star? You’ve got to finally get there—and stay. And I’ll always remember what a prop man once told me, that the slivers are always rougher coming down.

With you success would mean twice as much, and I’d probably worry twice as much about a future that would include you.

But I wouldn’t want to meet you—yet. I’m not sure I’m ready for marriage now. I’d want to know myself better before I know you and before I considered asking you to take the big gamble with me. I’d want to be emotionally stable enough to do you justice too. I’d want to marry you forever. And I’d want us to have the same wonderful and rewarding life together my own parents have had.

I can’t think of any good reason why you should—but I hope you wait for me.


It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1954

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