It Had To Be You
Three girls came to Hollywood to make their bids for all it had to give, each in her own way. There was Jeannie Holmes, who became the top young singing star of pictures, but would have traded her fame any day for the vibrant love of Peter Blake, popular young star, whose marriage plans Jeannie’s mother, Rosie, cleverly smashed.
There was Gloria Thornton, the loveliest thing in Hollywood—to look at—and the hardest. Other women’s men—not acting—were her specialty and deftly she snagged Peter into marriage during his hurt over his broken romance with Jeannie. Even now she was setting her cap for Paul Daniels, Jeannie’s ambitious director who was cashing in on Peter by getting himself engaged to Jeannie on the rebound.
Then there was Marian Morgan who would have sold her soul to the devil for her career in order to become a truly great actress. It was Jeannie’s party announcing her engagement to Paul that Marian crashed in desperation to put herself before D. P. Lawrentz, head of Jeannie’s studio. The ruse worked. Marian was in—with Jeannie’s help. And Jeannie was heartbroken after a breathless moment in the garden with Peter when he told her he had tried to get into the Marines. It didn’t even matter to Jeannie when Rosie caught Gloria kissing Paul.
Frantic with the whole setup of her life, Jeannie had a nervous crack-up at the studio and was spirited away to a private rest home by her pal in the publicity department, Dorothy Lester. The one person she begged to see was Peter. So Dorothy called, but it was Gloria who answered. “He’s gone,” she said casually. “Here’s the note he left: ‘The Army took me. I’m glad. Peter.’ ”
When Jeannie came back from v the hospital, she found Rosie in their cheerless, modern living room arranging an enormous basket of expensive hot-house flowers. Outside in the garden there was a profusion of roses and gardenias. But Rosie never used what was at hand when, she could buy something else.
“Hello, Mother,” Jeannie said.
Rosie saw that Jeannie seemed to have grown taller because she was so much thinner. She noticed the purple shadows beneath her eyes. But what she failed utterly to see was that in Jeannie’s eyes there was that certain look which proves that a young woman has been doing serious thinking.
“Darling,” Rosie said. “You’ve come back. And, somehow, with Peter gone and Paul working every night cutting the Thornton picture, I feel as if you’re my little girl again.”
Jeannie smiled. “I’m afraid I’m my own girl now.”
“What do you mean?” Rosie asked.
“I’ve just told D.P. I won’t do that script they sent me in the hospital.”
Rosie shoved the flowers aside and leaned against the edge of the table. “But you didn’t consult me, Jeannie.”
“No,” said Jeannie quietly, “I just went into a little conference with myself.”
Rosie choked down the rage that had risen in her throat. “What happened?”
“I’m on suspension,” Jeannie said.
“You’re—you’re not going to get your salary?”
For so many years Rosie Holmes had struggled to piece a living together that her mind could not encompass the gesture of turning down a weekly five-figure sum for a principle. She did not need money now. Nevertheless the idea of “going off salary” instead of making a film in which you did not believe was so incomprehensible to her that she looked at Jeannie as if she were a monster. Even the old familiar speech failed her. She could not talk of her “sacrifices” or deify her “weary bones.” She just stood there with the expensive flowers framing her horrified face. Finally she whispered, “I don’t understand you.”
Jeannie, however, was about to understand herself. During those weeks in the hospital with nothing but her own soul to examine, she had arrived at a curious kind of inner peace. She had taken stock of her mistakes and, although she could not rectify her greatest one—letting Peter down—she could, she realized, compensate by being true to herself at last.
Reading the script of “Summer Moon,” she knew, with the exaltation that is one of the compensations of a decision born of personal integrity, that she would not make this film.
Not even Rosie’s belated but unabashed hysterics shook her calm determination when, the next day, a Hollywood columnist announced, “Marian Morgan, who made such a hit doing a bit in the Broadway musical ‘Arizona,’ is going places. The original screen story ‘Summer Moon,’ first slated for Jeannie Holmes, is to be Marian’s first starring vehicle. Jeannie was a naughty girl and turned this fine story down.”
However, Jeannie had thought about more than her screen life while in the hospital. She had come to a vital decision concerning Paul Daniels.
It had been wrong of her to become engaged to him. She saw the gesture for what it was—a protest against the injustice of the Peter Blake episode—but this knowledge did not free her from a promise. She assured herself that as soon as she was released from the hospital she would be a dutiful and proper sweetheart to the man she would eventually marry.
She had been allowed no visitors while she was in the nursing home—not even Paul or her mother, mostly not her mother. She called Paul now at the studio. At last the operator located him in the projection room. He was running bits and pieces of the Thornton film.
“Paul, dear,” Jeannie said, “I’m home.”
“That’s wonderful,” Paul said and behind his words she could hear the sound track muttering, could hear Gloria’s voice from the screen, mouthing, “It will never be the same again.” And then she heard Paul saying, “No, not that one. That other take.” He was speaking, she knew, to the cutter sitting beside him. Then again he spoke into the telephone to her, but his voice had the remote, impersonal quality that a man’s voice has when he is doing man’s work and must, at the same time, give attention to a woman.
“Paul,” Jeannie said. “I want to dance. Will you pick me up here at the house about seven and take me to Mocambo?”
Again came the mumbling from the screen and Paul’s voice above it, “Can’t make it then,” and, to the cutter, “No, you idiot, that’s a rotten take.”
“All right, Paul,” Jeannie said. “Meet me at Mocambo at eight.”
“Okay,” Paul said and as Jeannie hung up the telephone she was not sure whether he had said ‘okay’ to her or to the cutter.
She was less sure that night when, in one of the few evening dresses that Rosie had ever allowed her, she arrived at Mocambo. The head waiter proudly escorted her to a conspicuous table. It was an event when a girl who was as great a star as Jeannie and who frequented night clubs as little as she, made an appearance at Mocambo.
“Don’t snap yet, boys,” Jeannie said to the lads with the cameras. “Paul’s coming presently. And two are always better than one in a picture.”
She ordered a glass of ginger ale (Jeannie had never tasted liquor) and waited. Several people came over to her table, chatted, went away again. Sitting at the conspicuous table she felt more lonely even than she had felt in the hospital when she was absolutely alone.
At half past nine she called he waiter. “Mr. Daniels must have bee detained at the studio. I’ll order dinner now—while I wait for him . . .’ She said it loud enough for the people at the other table to hear her.
At ten-thirty she had finished her dinner—or, at least, she had disfigured it with a knife and fork. Aware that everyone was watching her, she went downstairs, remained fifteen minutes and returned to her table. She said to the waiter, her voice loud, “I’ve just had a call from Mr. Daniels. He has been unavoidably detained at the studio. So please bring me my check.”
She was opening her bag to find a bill, her eyes lowered, when she heard the murmur that went around the room. Somehow she knew the whispers concerned her. Looking up, she saw Paul standing in the entrance. And standing beside him, her eyes bright, her cheeks flushed, her low-cut lame evening gown reflecting the lights, as well as every curve of her luscious body, was Gloria Thornton.
Before Jeannie had time to design a course of behavior Paul saw her and headed for her table not too steadily, for he had been drinking.
“Forgive me, Jeannie,” he said. “I don’t have any excuse, I just forgot I was to meet you, that’s all.”
“Thanks for being honest,” Jeannie said.
“BESIDES,” Paul went on, not hearing her, “this picture I’ve just made with Gloria is lousy and I know it.”
Gloria, having greeted everyone she knew even slightly, followed Paul to the table. “It is nice that you could get away, Gloria,” Jeannie said in loud clear tones. “I had hoped you could come, but wasn’t sure.” A waiter lifted a chair above his head and set it down for Gloria.
“Go on, bawl me out,” Gloria said.
“You took Peter away from me more quietly,” Jeannie answered.
“I’m not taking Paul away from you,” Gloria’s voice rose shrilly. “He’s just my director. Why should I want him when I’m married to a grand soldier?”
The blood drained from Jeannie’s face. “I think I’ll go.”
“And admit I’ve won?” Gloria asked. Jeannie, who had started to rise from the table, sank back again. She knew she could not leave. Not with everyone watching.
When the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, previewing “Summer Moon,” acclaimed Marian Morgan a new and brilliant star, it was more than Gloria could take. Her last film, she knew, was a horrible failure. What did the new girl have that made her so sensational?
Gloria demanded that “Summer Moon” be run off for her in the projection room and as she watched it, for the first time in her life, she experienced a deep sense of frustration. Never before had she sincerely wanted to be a great actress. She had been content with her proven ability—the ability to take men, permanently or temporarily, away from other women. But as she watched “Summer Moon” she resented Marian Morgan with all the weakness of her poor little soul because she knew that Marian was good.
Marian was in her dressing room when Gloria opened the door. “Thought I’d drop by and get acquainted,” Gloria said. “I just saw your picture.”
“Did you like it?” Marian asked.
“It’s a nice little picture,” Gloria said. “Good for the first try. Congratulations.”
“You’re a funny girl,” Gloria mused. “I never see your name linked romantically with anyone. Don’t you have a sweetheart?”
“Yes,” said Marian quietly, “I have a sweetheart.”
Gloria brightened. The huntress, the woman who finds a man attractive only if he belongs to another woman, was titilated. “Who is he?” Gloria asked.
“It isn’t a he. It’s an it.”
“Now that,” Gloria said, “I don’t get.”
“I’m madly in love with my job.”
Furious, Gloria stood up, “Very funny,” she said slowly. “Very, very funny.”
As she went down the hail, her four-inch heels clicking on the cement floors, she could hear Marian’s maddening laughter.
She flung open the door of Paul’s office. “Paul,” she said, “I’ve got to make a good picture, not this tripe I’ve been turning out. Paul, I want to be an actress.” Immediately Gloria was plotting a way of taking Marian’s lover away from her.
The following week they started the new picture which Paul assured Gloria would make her a great actress. After one day’s work in it, Gloria, filled with curiosity, went over to the sound stage where Marian was filming her second picture. Marian had just stepped before the camera to do her biggest emotional scene when she saw Gloria’s scornful eyes upon her. Trembling, she went up in her lines.
“What is it, dear?” her director asked. “You never blow.”
Marian pointed at Gloria. “She’s here to spy on me.” Her voice sounded like the tinny, metallic sound a tuning fork makes. “Get her off this set. Make her leave—right now!”
Gloria shrugged her lovely broad shoulders, “Happy to go,” she said. “Wouldn’t like to be anywhere I’m not wanted.”
Seething, Marian walked over to her. “You’re here for no good. Now get out of here!” she screamed.
The next day the columns were full of the Gloria Thornton-Marian Morgan feud. Paul saw them and they reminded him stabbingly of the girl who wasn’t mentioned. So when he left the set that day he went directly to Jeannie’s: dressing room. Her suspension was over. She was working on a new picture. “Jeannie,” he said softly, “May I come in?”
Jeannie thought, “Now is the time to talk to him, to get our relationship settled.”
But before she had time to speak Paul said, “Jeannie, I’m such a jerk. How can you ever forgive me?” His face was old and tired and desperate. “You know I fell for Gloria. I don’t know what it was, just something that a man thinks is important temporarily. And now that she knows I’ve come to my senses she’s making my life unbearable. She’s ruining my picture. She thinks she’s a great actress. Instead she’s ridiculous.
“I know I haven’t any right to say this, Jeannie, but I’m mixed up and confused. I need you. You’re just a kid, but you’re wise and kind and womanly too. Will you help me, please?”
Jeannie pushed the fair hair away from his troubled forehead and kissed his cheek. It was not love she felt, only compassion for his weakness and misery. She, too, had been weak and miserable.
She couldn’t settle anything, she knew, while his need of her tied him to her.
For months the Hollywood Victory Committee had been involved in a laborious and secret job. Determined that the boys overseas should have the kind of entertainment they wanted, the committee, with the aid of public relations officers, had balloted thousands of men in service to determine the three Hollywood personalities the G.I.s would most welcome.
The task of sorting and sifting the ballots completed, the committee member in charge of the project read the report. “This will never do,” he said to his assistant. “These three girls all work for the same studio. We’ve got to spread this . . . this honor . . . around.”
His assistant stiffened. “What about the boys? Those are the stars they really want.”
“You’re right,” the committee member agreed. “It’s a funny choice though, isn’t it? I understand Gloria Thornton. And Jeannie Holmes, of course, is the homey girl who reminds them of their sisters. But Marian Morgan—why, she’s only had one picture released.”
“But, don’t forget, it was the most talked of musical of the year.”
“Okay,” said the committeeman. “Get Lance Bradshaw on the telephone. Find out when these three can be ready to go. I hope they like each other; they’ll be together for a long, long time.”
Obviously he had not read the gossip columns.
You never would have taken them for Hollywood glamour girls if you had seen the three of them in their tin helmets and long raincoats reporting to a shack known as headquarters in a deluge of Italian rain. Six months ago Gloria would have thought death preferable to being seen like this by the handsome public relations officer. But that was six months ago. That was before Africa.
Once Gloria had played in a film laid in Africa. In a long white chiffon dress she had walked across a fake desert into a fake sunset as the wind machines blew back her draperies. On that day she had complained of the wind machines and the dust they whipped into her eyes!
She had learned that the real Africa is incessant sand and burning sun and freezing nights and long miserable rides in jouncing jeeps. Sometimes she had been so weary that she had not known whether she could make them hear her opening line, “Well, boys, home was never like this.” She opened the show, paved the way for Marian and Jeannie, both of whom could sing and dance. She allowed the boys to get their whistling and cheering lover before real talent came on.
But Africa, grim as it was, had been safe. When Marian, who always seemed able to ferret out the news of their next move, told them one night, “We’re going to Italy,” Gloria’s blood chilled in her veins.
“They’re really fighting in Italy, aren’t they?”
‘Sure,” Marian answered, “and we’re going farther up front than any entertainers ever have been before.”
“But won’t that be dangerous?”
“You stupid idiot!”
It was here that Jeannie stepped in. Jeannie always stepped in when Marian and Gloria quarrelled. She had absorbed so much of those miserable African camps that she felt that never again would anything connected with her small life seem important. Her mother, Paul, her career, all were dim and shadowy. Only one thing remained clear—Peter Blake. And he was lost to her forever.
As they presented themselves at Italian headquarters she said, “Pipe down, kids. Don’t fight any more.” Then they were greeted by the special service officer.
“It is certainly good to see you,” he said, his teeth showing white in his dirty face. “I suppose everyone tells you how swell it is of you to come, but it is particularly wonderful for these boys because they’ve had no entertainment of any sort for months.”
Gloria heard the sound of distant artillery and shuddered.
“I apologize for the weather,” the officer continued, “but mainly I must apologize for your accommodations. We had hoped you could give the show in a high-class opera house where Caruso once sang. But after last night, it doesn’t exist any more.”
“What happened?” Gloria asked and, (knowing the answer, feared it all the more.
“Air raid?” Marian’s eyes were bright and eager.
The officer nodded.
“Will there . . . will there be any more?” from Gloria.
Jeannie spoke for the first time. “No,” she said. “No, she’s not afraid.”
The officer went on. “The boys have renovated the movie theater. It isn’t as large as the opera house and it smells faintly of garlic but we can guarantee you an enthusiastic audience.”
Air raid! Air raid! Gloria’s mind said. What will I do if there’s an air raid?
“Oh, by the way,” the officer was sayi ing. “We’re assigning a sergeant to look after you. He’s from Hollywood and says he knows you ladies.”
That was almost inevitable. Boys always were coming up to them with, “My sister went to school with you in your home town.” And even when the home town named was a spot they had never even visited, they smiled sweetly and said, “Give her my best when you write.” And it seemed as if every boy from California had played extra in one of their pictures.
When the Sergeant walked in Jeannie did not recognize him. She had thought of him so much, looked at his picture so often, run his films so many times that when he stood before her, husky and straight in his muddy uniform, he had no reality. It could be that she was afraid to believe what she saw, of course.
“Peter!” Gloria cried.
“You know him, then?” The officer laughed.
“Know him? He’s my husband!”
Yes, Jeannie told herself, he’s Gloria’s husband. Stand by, Jeannie, and watch him kiss her. Fill your eyes with the sight of him. But hold onto yourself. Be casual. Be easy. He has kissed her now.
He shook hands with Marian next. And last he stopped to kiss Jeannie on the cheek. It was the light kiss of an actor greeting a fellow worker. “Fancy meeting you here,” Peter laughed. “Come now, give with the Hollywood dirt.”
The four of them grouped themselves around a little table. It had been so long since they had seen anyone even remotely connected with anything they knew—and all they knew was Hollywood—that they all talked at once, telling Peter who was making what pictures, whose heart belonged to whom, what changes Hollywood had undergone.
Finally Jeannie said, “But you, Peter, what about you?”
“Nothing to tell about me,” Peter said. It was then Jeannie saw how old he looked. The boy who had loved her was a man now. And bottled up inside of him were emotions she wanted to share.
“Oh, Peter,” she cried out, “What have they done to you?”
He started forward and looked long at her. She felt he was trying to communicate with her in some intricate lover’s code. Then she decided that had been only wishful thinking. For he didn’t answer. And Gloria went on telling him how sensational she was in her last picture.
“Hey,” Marian said. “It’s stopped raining.”
Marian standing at the door of the shack was the last image Jeannie remembered until the German planes were overhead.
She remembered emotions, however. She remembered fear so sickening that she could taste it like bile in her mouth. She remembered a great deal of running around, Peter herding them to another place, and a withering, devastating noise all around, as if the world had become nothing but deafening sound.
That was the first time they came over. By the time the second wave, or maybe it was the third, arrived her brain and her eyes were functioning again and she was aware of the others.
First, she was aware of Marian’s avid eyes upon her, of Marian watching the whole shocking spectacle as if it were a film devised for her entertainment. No, not quite like that. Marian was watching as if she were a medical student observing an experienced physician perform a delicate brain operation, eager to learn, greedy for the surgeon’s skill. Yet it was more than eagerness. Marian’s eyes were so gluttonous, really. Jeannie knew she must change the look in Marian’s eyes before anyone else saw how naked they were.
During a lull in sound that was almost worse than the noise, Jeannie whispered to Marian, “Aren’t you afraid?”
“No,” said Marian. “But you are!” And then those hungry eyes devoured Jeannie’s face until Jeannie was almost more afraid of Marian than she was of the hissing, spitting, thunderous bombs.
“Don’t look at me that way,” she said.
“I’ve got to see everything,” Marian whispered, her voice husky. “I’m going to be the greatest actress in the world. I can use every moment of this.”
It was not until months later that Jeannie wondered why she had not asked, “But wouldn’t it be better to examine yourself? To test your own emotions instead of feeding on the emotions of others?” And three years later Jeannie, seeing the film that won for Marian her second Academy Award, said to herself, “Technically her performance is wonderful. But she leaves me untouched.” And then thought, “If she had watched herself instead of the others during that air raid she would give more warmth to her performance.”
But at the time all Jeannie knew was that Marian frightened her and she thought, “People think Gloria is hard and that Marian is just an eager, ambitious kid. But Marian really is the hard one. Gloria is putty compared to her.” For Marian served hard masters—art and ambition.
Fear was personified in Gloria, and her behavior under fire made Jeannie ashamed to look at her. Gloria was neither acting nor observing. As the tearing, shattering noise ripped at the Italian skies her face contorted and she writhed on the ground. Then she beat her head with her hands and tore at her clothes.
“Gloria!” Jeannie shouted, “Behave yourself!”
She rolled blood-shot eyes in Jeannie’s direction. She muttered something. She pulled at her hair. Then she stood up, weaving like a drunken person.
Peter was beside her instantly, trying to get her down, saying, “Gloria, you must not behave like this.” Gloria looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. Then she screamed. And the sound was more terrible than the sound of the bombs.
Peter, looking at her steadily, drew back his list. A second later it came into contact with Gloria’s chin. She crumpled to the ground. Mercifully now she was oblivious. Peter crawled back to Jeannie. ‘I’m sorry I had to do that. But it’s better for her. Besides, hysteria spreads. We knock them out quite a lot.”
Jeannie did not speak for at that moment a bomb fell so close that mud splashed up on her mouth.
“Are you afraid?” Peter asked.
“Yes,” Jeannie said.
“But you don’t show it.”
Then it happened. Peter drew her to him and held her in his arms. “Oh Jeannie, my darling. It’s just you. It’s always been just you.”
“Darling,” Jeannie whispered, happy for the first time in all those months.
“When this is over,” Peter whispered, his mouth close to her ear, “We’ll be together, darling.”
“No,” said Jeannie desperately. “Gloria would never give you a divorce. Particularly not now. You see, because I was engaged to him, she went for Paul. He was crazy about her, too, and then he saw her as she was and came back to me for help. Just before we left he told her he was through with her. It made her furious. No man had ever told her that before. So I know she wouldn’t take having you go, too.”
“I see,” Peter said. And then later: “And you and Paul?”
“I settled that before I left,” she told him wearily. “I couldn’t have loose ends. He understood. For Paul, weak as he is, always really knew there was nobody for me but you.”
“Then, Jeannie, it will be us.”
Sadly Jeannie shook her head, “She’ll never, never give you up now.”
That night they gave their show. And the men laughed and applauded when Gloria, the bruise on her chin carefully concealed by make-up, came out on the stage and said, “Well, boys, home was never like this.”
Gloria was the hit of the show that night. And this was unusual because usually Marian’s and Jeannie’s talent overrode Gloria’s appeal.
But somehow that night the talent did not come through. Marian’s songs were too studied and there was no life in Jeannie’s dancing. It was Gloria who really pulled the show together. And when it was over it was Gloria all the boys crowded around.
Jeannie was taking off her make-up when Peter came back-stage. He sat watching her, her hair tied back off her forehead with a towel, as her fingers dipped into the cold cream and smeared it over her little face.
At last he stood up and leaned over to kiss the back of her neck. They sprang apart guiltily as they heard the door open and looked up to see Gloria standing there.
“Relax, kids,” she said as she sat quietly and calmly at the improvised make-up table and adjusted a towel over her hair.
Peter and Jeannie waited for a storm of vituperative words. But none came. Instead Gloria cold-creamed her face and said “ouch” as her fingers touched her chin. “I guess maybe war teaches you something,” she said at last. “I don’t quite know what it is. But it has something to do with . . with . . . would you laugh if I said personal standards?”
“No,” Jeannie answered quietly, “we wouldn’t laugh.” And then she blushed realizing she had said “we” when she had no right to say it.
But Gloria, so calm now, so unafraid, picked up the very personal pronoun. “That’s just it. We. I never belonged to Peter and he never belonged to me. Talking about things like that seems funny here, but look, Jeannie, when we get back, if we do get back, I ‘want to divorce Peter because he was never really mine. And somehow after today I don’t, ever again, want anything that isn’t mine. Really mine, I mean.”
Jeannie reached out her hand and took Gloria’s greasy little paw. “Thanks,” she said.
“Oh, skip it,” Gloria said. “I’m still okay. I won’t win any Academy Awards the way Marian will. Not that I think those Awards will make Marian happy. Maybe I don’t know what spells happiness. I never could spell anyhow. But,” she looked up at Jeannie and Peter, “I feel better now—better than I’ve ever felt before in my life.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1945