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It Had To Be You




They stood in a shadowy corner of Sound Stage D, the tall, lithe boy with the sweep of dark hair across his forehead and the girl with the red-checked pinafore that made her look too young for the sweet thoughtfulness of her face.

Without touching her body, the boy’s arms, planted on either side of her where she stood against the wall, held her imprisoned.

“Jeannie”—He dropped his head to search the heart-shaped face raised to his. When words finally broke through the dam of his emotions his voice was almost rough. “I can’t take it like this.”

“Like what?” Her voice was teasing, but the brown eyes were two velvet saucers.

“Seeing you every day but never touching you—unless it’s in a scene. You’re like something far away and precious. But a guy just can’t—”

Her glance flicked to the strong arms pinioning her against the wall. “I’m not far away now, Peter,” she said softly.

For a split second his eyes stalked her face hungrily for the answer. Then without moving his arms from their guard he bent swiftly and laid his mouth on hers. Presently he pulled away. “Okay?” he asked hesitantly.




“What’s okay?” she coaxed, her voice warm with his kiss.

“If I love you, goose.”

“That’s what I’ve been waiting for, darling,” she breathed.

“Jeannie!” Only then did his arms abandon their guard and wrap her close to him. And time for both of them was immeasurable.

THE stage door flew open with authority as Rosie Holmes, Jeannie’s mother, walked onto the set. It was as if the entire crew straightened their ties and their shoulders. Rosie wore a beige suit, high-heeled alligator slippers and a mink jacket flung across her shoulders. She looked much more like a film star than did Jeannie, the studio’s biggest bet in “Morning For Margie.” Rosie was treated more like one, too. She was, after all, the power behind the diminutive throne.

Even in the remote corner of the stage where Jeannie and Peter stood together telling each other of their love, Rosie’s presence could be felt. “Mother’s here,” Jeannie whispered drawing away from Peter’s embrace.

“What’s that got to do with us?” Peter asked.

The word that formed on Jeannie’s lips was “Everything!” But she did not say it aloud. “So long,” she whispered as she ran to her mother.

Rosie’s eyes had not missed the shadowy figures on the far side of the sound stage. Smiling for the benefit of the crew, she manipulated Jeannie into her portable dressing room and closed the door.

“What’s all this about you and that little whippersnapper, Peter Blake?” she demanded.

The soft patina of first love still glazed Jeannie’s eyes, but her young lips tightened under her make-up. How had her mother found out about her and Peter so soon?

“Jeannie,” Rosie went on, “if you persist in this mad infatuation you will ruin my life. I’ve sacrificed for you for years, been through untold hardships so you might have a career. And now—well, I won’t stand by, Jeannie, and watch you risk it all for a silly boy.”

Jeannie knew the hardships Rosie had suffered. She remembered the miserable vaudeville circuits they had played, the tin hotels they had slept in. For years little Jeannie had lisped out songs when she should have been in school. There were hundreds of Elks, IOOFs, Eastern Stars and Woodmen Of The World who had paid to hear her sing and see her dance at benefits. Jeannie, however, never had asked to do this work. She had done it only because she and Rosie had to have money; especially after that night so long ago in Fargo, North Dakota, when Dick Holmes, her father, had quietly disappeared.

“Mother,” Jeannie said earnestly, “I know how ambitious you are for me. But I’m in love with Peter—terribly in love with him.”

Rosie was about to give vent to what she would later call “Making Jeannie see reason” when there was a tap on the door. “We’re ready, Jeannie,” called the director.

“This is the trouble with Hollywood,” Jeannie thought. “This is why actors so often make messes of their lives. We’re always too busy with our character’s problems to work out our own. There’s never time for us and our lives. Never!”

She walked before the camera like the good trouper she was. She listened attentively as her director, Paul Daniels, explained she, as Margie, must weep because she had learned her screen father had lost his money and she couldn’t go to a fashionable girls’ school. Tears came easily. But it was not for Margie’s plight that she wept.

Peter, however, watching from the sidelines believed her tears wholly histrionic and when he was dismissed from the set for the day he waved good-by to her happily and indicated, with pantomime, that he would call her later.

Walking across the lot to his dressing room, his mind conjured up pictures of the future. He did not visualize Jeannie waiting at the door of a rose-covered cottage as he came home from the office. He saw, instead, the two of them leaving the studio together in make-up. And his dream house was complete with swimming pool. However, his vision of the future differed from the average boy’s only in setting. Emotionally it was the same. He and his girl would be together.

Peter had never meant to be an actor. Until he was seven years old there always had been plenty of money. He could remember the big house on the outskirts of Cleveland with its rolling lawns and the stone lions on either side of the porte-cochere. He had often straddled the right-hand lion, pretending he had just tamed it in an African jungle.

After that—when his father shot himself—he and his mother had moved into a stuffy two-room apartment. For years Peter believed that a weird Buck Rogers monster called “The Depression” had killed his father. For his mother always spoke of the depression as a highly personalized devil who had mysteriously taken his father’s life.

Peter had never meant to be an actor. Until he was seven years old there always had been plenty of money. He could remember the big house on the outskirts of Cleveland with its rolling lawns and the stone lions on either side of the porte-cochere. He had often straddled the right-hand lion, pretending he had just tamed it in an African jungle.

After that—when his father shot himself—he and his mother had moved into a stuffy two-room apartment. For years Peter believed that a weird Buck Rogers monster called “The Depression” had killed his father. For his mother always spoke of the depression as a highly personalized devil who had mysteriously taken his father’s life.

Peter had never before been in love. And he was so deeply in love that the next best thing to being near Jeannie was being alone with his thoughts about her.

As he turned the corner of the studio street, Gloria Thornton was idling by the steps which led to the men’s dressing rooms. Peter hoped she wouldn’t stop him. He didn’t feel like talking to Gloria—or anyone else just then. He wanted to go right on thinking about Jeannie.

The hard California sun turned Gloria’s flaming hair to copper and accented the sharp and beautiful lines of her face. She was gorgeous, Peter admitted. Jeannie wasn’t gorgeous. She was soft and warm and womanly. Peter was glad.

Because Peter didn’t greet Gloria gladly she was certain he was depressed. She was the kind of girl who believed whenever a man looked at her it was to admire her. There are girls like that in ever town, of course. There are more of them in Hollywood.

In her famous, soft purring tones Gloria said, “I’m terribly sorry for you, Peter.”

Peter, on top of the world, could not believe he had heard right. So he smiled and continued up the steps.

“Oh gee,” Gloria said, detaining him, “did I spill the beans?”

“What beans?” he asked.

“Well, it’s all over the lot,” Gloria said defensively. “So you might as well hear it from me. The old goose who laid the golden egg heard you were nuts for baby. She dropped the story in the Old Man’s lap and the way I heard it they both are agreed that with Jeannie playing ‘Morning For Margie’ and every kid in the country ready to shake his piggy bank to see it, it wouldn’t be a good idea to let the great child star get involved in a romance. Rosie says leave it to her, she’ll break it up.”

“It that all?” Peter asked, relieved.

“Is that all?” Gloria mimicked. “Brother, that’s enough! Believe me, if that dame wants to break it up, she’ll break it up.”

“You don’t know Jeannie,” said Peter.

“Maybe not, but I know Rosie.”

Peter waved her off and bounded up the stairs to his dressing room.

“When you find out how right I am,” she called after him, “give me a ring. We’ll dance—and forget.”

Gloria loved to make trouble. She was a strange girl. From the time she has read her first movie magazine she had known she would be a movie star. It was not that she wanted to be an actress. She did not have what a famous director once called “the inside dynamo” to drive her. All she wanted was beautiful clothes, gleaming jewels and admiration.

Her father was a shadowy character who came in and out of her life without affecting it. Her mother had sold their house in Seattle to finance Gloria in Hollywood.

Press agents made up a lot of stories about how Gloria got into pictures. They said she was “discovered” when she was a car hop at a super de luxe hamburger stand; she was a society girl “discovered” while dancing with a Naval officer at the Cocoanut Grove; she had been so eager to become an actress she had thrown herself in front of an executive’s car.

All these stories were afar hail from the cold facts. Gloria had gone to an agent on the Sunset Strip who had peddled her at six studios. The sixth had consented to give her a film test. It wasn’t very good but she had looked so beautiful that they had signed her to a small stock contract.

Once on the lot she had made both her beauty and her hard, defensive personality felt. And so, at the age of nineteen, she was a star; a star who furnished the news hounds with plenty of stories. Her escapades included running her pale blue coupe into an interurban streetcar just because she “wanted to see what it was like.” Once she had hired the roller coaster at Ocean Park for her friends and ridden on it exactly thirty-five times without stopping. The Boswells of Hollywood called her “good copy” but “unpredictable.”

Gloria’s outstanding weakness, as one magazine writer pointed out, was men. However, Gloria never was interested in a man unless he belonged to someone else. With her it never had been a matter of love, but competition. She had seen Peter Blake around the lot for a couple of years and thought of him only as a good-looking kid and not a very good actor. But the moment she heard that Jeannie Holmes was in love with him he became irresistible. Which is why she called after him, “Don’t forget to ring me up.”

Peter didn’t answer. He was furious that a girl like Gloria could disturb him. Jeannie, he reasoned, was honest and true. She had said she loved him. Therefore nothing could come between them.

However, the doubt Gloria had dropped into his mind lingered. He had to call Jeannie on the telephone. He had to hear her warm voice, her assurance that she loved him. The last thing in the world he was prepared to hear were the words that smote him over the wire; Jeannie’s voice, tight, drained: “I’m sorry, Peter. It was a silly mistake. A girl who wants a career can’t play at romance. Let’s pretend—you and I—that this afternoon never happened.”

With ice water running through his veins he hung up the ’phone, too hurt and bewildered to suspect that Jeannie’s speech had originated with Rosie and been delivered as Rosie stood weeping beside her.

Convinced those words had stemmed from Jeannie, he took Gloria up on her “we’ll dance—and forget” routine. They sailed out defiantly to Mocambo where Peter matched drink for drink with the more adept Gloria. As the evening wore on he grew quite tight, and so thoroughly did he “forget” that he didn’t even remember asking Gloria to marry him. But Gloria did.

Always Hollywood is undefinable. Gossip, for instance, is filled with stories about the hard-hearted studio executive who will not let the sweet young couple get married. But D. P. Lawrentz, the chief executive at the studio, was not hard-hearted, at all. He was a sweet man who had attained eminence because—truly loving children, dogs and old people—he had bought and filmed a lot of stories about children, dogs and old people. And since ninety per cent of the world’s population love children, dogs and old people he had made a fortune.

Also D. P. was wise. He knew, in his smart showman’s soul, that a romance or marriage with Peter Blake would not hurt Jeannie Holmes’ popularity one iota. Therefore, he only half listened—a trick he had mastered through the years—as Rosie, in her tense voice, said “D.P., you’ve been like a father to Jeannie . . . And now you must do something to break up this silly infatuation.”

“Does Jeannie love Peter?” D. P. asked.

“Love!” Rosie gave the most beautiful word in the English language all the contempt she felt for it. “What does a girl like Jeannie know about love!”

“She might know quite a lot about it.” “Don’t talk like a character!” Rosie was frantic, “You have everything to lose if Jeannie marries. . . .”

D. P. shook his head. “You mean you have everything to lose, don’t you Rosie?”

Had they continued their conversation things might have worked out very differently. However, at the very moment Rosie entered D. P.’s office a talent scout, Charlie Moses, three thousand miles away, put through a call to D. P. The call reached the studio switchboard just as D. P. was going to tell Rosie that so far as he was concerned Jeannie and Peter could marry with his blessing—and a bonus.

Instead he picked up the telephone to hear Charlie Moses say “Look, Mr. Lawrentz, I caught ‘Arizona’ last night. Yeah, it’s a swell musical. There’s a girl plays a bit in it—Marian Morgan—who’s terrific. I think we better sign her fast.”

New and terrific youngsters always excited D. P. Lawrentz. He nodded, smiling into the telephone. Rosie tiptoed out and paused in the outer office long enough to tell D. P.’s secretary that D. P. was opposed to Jeannie’s and Peter’s romance and determined to put a stop to it.

That’s how the story got all over the lot.

The following week end Peter and Gloria were married at Las Vegas. Peter eloped because Gloria told him he had asked her to marry him and he could not remember whether he had or not. Rosie had been on the set constantly, thus giving him no opportunity to talk to Jeannie. And he had convinced himself Jeannie had planned it this way. Gloria married Peter because eloping to Las Vegas was one of the few things she had not done.

Jeannie read of their elopement in the Examiner on Monday morning as she was breakfasting alone. Jeannie forgot it was she who had hurt Peter. She knew nothing but her own hurt. Her resentment was defensive. She did not know that what she thought was an old thought: How could he fail for anyone so cheap and common as Gloria? Well, if that’s the kind of man he is then he’s not the man I thought he was.

She had to face him on the set, of course. There was no way out. So, with all the members of the cast and crew watching she walked over to Peter, stuck out her little hand and said ‘“Congratulations, Peter. I hear she is a swell girl!”

This moment was immortalized by a picture which later appeared in a magazine bearing the caption “Jeannie Holmes congratulates Peter Blake upon his marriage to the glamorous Gloria Thornton.”

The next day Paul Daniels, Jeannie’s director, sat in the projection room watching the rushes. He soon realized that Jeannie was not a mature enough actress to dam her own emotional turmoil while she lived Margie’s childish problems. Her dramatic scenes weren’t the simple innocent shots they should have been. Her personal suffering obliterated all else.

Paul’s face darkened. Thirty-three years old and ambitious, he had come up in Hollywood the hard way; struggling with low-budget films and trying to give some validity to corny B pictures. “Morning For Margie” was his first big assignment.

He found Jeannie in her dressing room brushing the pigtail crimps out of her hair.

“I’ve just seen the rushes,” he said.

A few weeks before she would have asked, eagerly “How were they?”

Now she sat brushing out her hair.

“I was disappointed in them,” Daniels went on.

She let the brush fail to the floor. “Save it!” she told him.

“I’ve been hoping we would make a great picture together, Jeannie,” he said.

She cried tearfully, “Always the picture! I hate the picture!”

He let her emotion spend itself. Then he said, “No matter what happens to you personally, Jeannie, the show has to go on. You know that.”

“I should,” she said wearily. “I’ve had it dinned into me ever since I was three.”

He tried a new line. “Okay,” he said, “You don’t care whether the pictures lives or dies. But you can’t let your troupe down and you can’t let D. P. Lawrentz down and you can’t let me down! This picture means a lot to me, Jeannie. . . .”

She smiled, then, like the child she really was. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll try harder.”

“Good girl!” He patted her shoulder.

After the talent scout had talked to D. P., he went backstage to see Marian Morgan. “Here’s your great chance, kid,” he said. Then he repeated his conversation with the chief executive.

Marian was ecstatic. This was, indeed, her great chance. Hollywood! All the while she was making her screen test in New York under the facile direction of the talent scout she kept thinking this would show her father on the farm in Kansas that she had the stuff. This would make him eat those bitter words: “No daughter of mine shall ever go to that hell hole of sin and iniquity.” Her father, she reasoned, would sing a different tune when she was a great star.

She turned in her two weeks’ notice and at last it was time to go. The taxi that would carry her to Grand Central Station was waiting at the boarding house door when the telegram arrived. She read it over twice. “D. P. Lawrentz asks you to postpone trip indefinitely. He has seen your tests and thinks he has too many girls of your type under contract. Sorry.” It was signed by talent scout Moses.

Marian’s pause was only momentary. Gracefully she stepped into the cab, closed the door with a final click and said, “Grand Central, please, driver.” Out the window of the taxi there fluttered the torn pieces of a telegram.

“Okay, Peter,” Paul Daniels said. “You’ve done a good job.”

Peter, finished with his work in “Morning For Margie,” went to Jeannie’s dressing room. He had to see her before he left’ on a between-pictures holiday. He did not want to behave like a cad, but he had to let her know how he felt. It was vitally necessary that he tell her his marriage to Gloria was a dismal failure and that if she would give him a chance to win her back he would ask Gloria to divorce him.

He waited an hour. Then Rosie arrived. Jeannie, she said, had gone home long ago.

During the next several days Peter tried to get Jeannie on the telephone, to contact her through her hairdresser, to send her notes. But he never reached her.

At last, filled with frustration and misery, he left for Palm Springs alone. He baked in the sun. He rode horseback across the desert. And three weeks later, when he returned to the Beverly Hills Hotel where he and Gloria had taken a bungalow until, as Gloria told the press, “we find our dream house,” he felt no better.

He found Gloria wearing a bathing suit in the exact color of her skin, sitting on the edge of the Beverly Hills pool.

“Did you have a nice time?” she asked.

Peter braced himself. He was ready to tell her that he had made a mistake, that his marriage to her had been a spite marriage, that even if Jeannie was not in love with him he could not be married to anyone else. But Gloria handed him the movie gossip section of the Los Angeles Times pointing to a particular item:

Peter read: “We thought that Jeannie Holmes was going to burn her fingers carrying the torch for Peter Blake. But that flame is out, apparently. The boy who doused the glim is none other than Jeannie’s director, Paul Daniels.”

Magazines and newspapers featured pictures of Jeannie’s engagement party which followed this announcement by about ten days. One shot showed Humphrey Bogart and Jeannie laughing together. She looked very happy indeed. She wasn’t.

Jeannie had allowed herself to become engaged to Paul Daniels because he was nice enough and she was lonely and frightened and, in her perverse feminine way, convinced that Peter had done her a wrong.

It never occurred to Jeannie that it was only partly because she was attractive that Paul made love to her; that his main urge was to make her a little happier so she would give a better performance in “Morning For Margie.”

Rosie had raised no objections to this engagement. It was as if, having denied her daughter Peter’s love, she had spent her fury, proved she was capable of guiding her star’s destiny.

Rosie arranged the party. But Jeannie gave it, to show everyone how happy she was. Dorothy Lester, Jeannie’s publicity girl, bought her dress at a most famous couturier’s. Jeannie, however, gave her minute instructions as to the manner of dress it must be: Low-cut with a bare midriff—much too sophisticated for her.

The couturier, thinking Dorothy an obscure publicity woman buying the gown for herself, sold the same model to Gloria. Therefore, when the Peter Blakes arrived at the party Jeannie and Gloria realized they were gowned identically. There was nothing to do but laugh about it, of course, and, later, pose for the photographers arm in arm. Peter did not laugh, however.

As Rosie took Gloria into the house Peter maneuvered Jeannie into the pergola. “You shouldn’t have bought that dress,” he told her.

‘I suppose you think it’s a Gloria Thornton exclusive,” Jeannie said bitterly.

Peter shook his head. “It’s okay for Gloria, but you’re not the type for it.”

“The fine distinction evades me,” said Jeannie, not realizing how young she sounded.

“But you’re different,” Peter protested. “Don’t you see, Jeannie, you’re—well, you’re the simple type!”

I am indeed!” she said.

“I don’t want to quarrel with you, Jeannie,” Peter begged, “I want. to tell you something.”

“Yes?” Her voice was icy.

“The Marines turned me down.”

For seconds Jeannie could not have managed a deep breath if her life had depended upon it. Peter trying to enlist . . . Peter fighting in a jungle . . . Peter in danger . . . It was almost more than she could bear to have him belong to another girl, but at least he was safe, at least she could see him sometimes.

“Peter,” she said, “you wanted to be a Marine?”

“Well, I want to help somehow.” Then, even if he had had a hundred wives and even if she had been engaged a thousand times she could not have stopped herself from saying, “Oh, my darling!”

Without a conscious movement on the part of either, suddenly they were in each other’s arms. all the hunger of the weeks apart was in his kiss on her answering lips. At last they stood guiltily apart. “Why did it have to be you?” he asked her, desperately.

“Why did you marry Gloria?” she asked with equal desperation.

This was the moment to tell her of his mistake. But Rosie called, “Jeannie, Jeannie, darling, the photographers are here.”

The lawn and house were crowded with beautiful and exciting guests. There was wonderful food and the best liquor. Yet the party would have died on its feet had it not been for one gate crasher.

Marian Morgan, ignoring the talent scout’s telegram, had presented herself at the studio just as “if she had a contract. But studio gatemen are wise to bluff and she had gotten exactly nowhere. To crash Jeannie’s party she had spent her last money for an enchanting Adrian dress.

It was when the party was at its lowest ebb that Marian, the only unimportant person there, corralled an impressive group into the living room and, picking out a musician at random, manipulated him to the piano. Then, elevating herself to the top of the piano, she said, “My name’s Morgan. If I didn’t sit on a piano it would ruin a grand tradition.”

She sang all the hit tunes from “Arizona” and many nostalgic numbers. She was very pretty. Her hair was blonde and piled on top of her head and her face had a freshly-washed Kansas look. But it was her talent that held her famous audience spellbound.

A lot of people asked “Who is she?” The most important person who asked it was D. P. Lawrentz. Her pianist answered, “She tells me Charlie Moses wanted you to sign her but you thought you had too many girls her type.”

D. P. laughed. “Don’t tell anybody,” he said, “but I’m slipping.”

Upstairs in Jeannie’s bedroom, Marian confessed to Jeannie that she had crashed the party. “I’m glad you did,” Jeannie laughed. “You are wonderful. You can be a big star if you want to be.”

If I want to be!” Marian gave the line all her intensity.

“Why?” Jeannie asked.

“Because . . . well, it’s something I feel inside of me.” She smiled, “Why did you want to be?”

“I didn’t,” Jeannie said.

At the same time Paul Daniels and Gloria Thornton were in the pergola discussing Paul’s next picture in which Gloria was to appear. “I’m going to get a performance from you if I have to beat it out of you,” Paul told her.

She laughed. “Save the whips! For you I’ll give the performance free!”

They were still talking as the party broke up. Rose hurried up to Jeannie, bidding her guests good-by, and whispered, “Paul and Gloria are in the pergola. Paul’s kissing her!”

“Good-by,” Jeannie was saying to Anne Sheridan. “It was so nice to see you.”

“Aren’t you going to stop them?” Rosie demanded.

“Good-by,” Jeannie said to the Jimmy Cagneys, “You were sweet to come.”

Rosie went off, defeated. For the first time in her life she wondered what her child really felt or thought. In the hallway she met D. P. Lawrentz. He asked her to tell Marian Morgan he would like to see her in his office the next morning.

At ten sharp Marian sat opposite D. P. in that strangely tentative way in which so many other girls had sat before him.

“I heard you sing at Jeannie’s party,” he began.

“I know,” she smiled, “I was singing for you.”

D. P. grinned. Other girls had talked like this. He was not impressed with Marian’s line. But he was impressed with her talent. He leaned back in his big chair. “Jeannie Holmes was the best little actress on this lot until she fell in love,” he said. “I’ll never know why she allowed the boy to marry someone else or why she’s now engaged to someone else. However, in the process of all this she has lost something on the screen. So . . . I’m going to put you in a picture I planned for her. Maybe this will bring her to her senses. Happy?”

Marian stood up. A muscle in her cheek twitched. Her hands shook. “I won’t be anybody’s threat,” she said, her voice tight. “I won’t be a second Jeannie Holmes or a second anybody else. I have what it takes. I’ll do it on my own or not at all.”

D. P. let her leave the office. Then, laughing, he pulled down the key on the inter-office communication. “You have Marian Morgan’s address?”

“Yes, Mr. Lawrentz,” said his secretary.

Marian, in the ladies’ room of the executive building, was being violently ill.

over in the make-up department Hazel was brushing Jeannie’s long chestnut hair. Walter was painting a mouth over her lips. Watching all this was Dorothy Lester, the publicity girl.

“Make her glamorous, kids,” she said. “Now that she’s a grown-up engaged girl her new portraits have to be glamorous.” She spoke of Jeannie in that curious way publicity people have of speaking of stars—as if they were very rich, very powerful, very valuable imbeciles.

Hazel handed Jeannie a mirror. “Look, ducky, what Hazel dreamed up for you!”

There was a whirring noise inside Jeannie’s head and the room suddenly grew dark. “I can’t look,” she said, although she had not meant to speak at all.

They laughed in that forced way studio workers laugh when they think a star has made a joke but aren’t quite sure.

“Come along, lambkin,” Dorothy said. “We mustn’t keep Cupperman waiting.”

“I’m not going to be photographed today,” Jeannie said.

“Don’t you like your hair, Miss Holmes?” Hazel asked anxiously.

“Something wrong with the make-up?” This from Walter.

“Are you ill, dear?” Dorothy asked.

Jeannie shook her head, “No, but I just can’t be photographed.”

Dorothy’s professional good nature was wearing thin. “Honey,” she said, “you look glamorous but you mustn’t act it. You’re Jeannie Holmes, Dorothy’s old stand-by.”

Tears welled up in Jeannie’s eyes. “Don’t do that!” Walter shouted dabbing at her make-up with a tissue.

Jeannie had hysterics. Tears streaked her make-up. Words came out of her mouth that she had not meant to utter. Her mind was a pit of darkness.

The dictionary defines “nervous breakdown” as “a condition of mental depression and unusual ineffectiveness.” A famous psychiatrist once said, “It is a manifestation of the will to escape from circumstances too great to be borne. A minor death wish.”

Dorothy Lester dashed for the studio doctor who gave Jeannie a hypo. She notified Jeannie’s producer. She called the head of publicity, Lance Bradshaw, who got in touch with a little nursing home that had guarded stellar secrets before. She called a lot more important people whose lives and incomes would be enormously affected if Jeannie wasn’t pulled together somehow. They all milled around and shouted and conferred as Jeannie went right on having hysterics.

It did not, however, occur to Dorothy to call Jeannie’s fiance, Paul Daniels. Not that she could have reached him anyway. He was in his office rehearsing Gloria for the big scene of^their next picture. And he had told his secretary that under no circumstances was he to be disturbed.

“This will be a very emotional scene,” be told Gloria. “I know you have emotion. I can tell—just by being around you.”

Gloria smiled, “We’re going to town on this picture, you and I.”

By the time Dorothy Lester got Jeannie to the nursing home the girl’s hysteria had spent itself. “I’m sorry,” she said lying back in the clean bed. “I don’t know what possessed me to act like that.”

“It’s okay, honey,” Dorothy said. Her professional manner was gone. In her heart now she had only pity for a bewildered girl who had somehow lost her way.

“Isn’t it funny,” Jeannie asked, “all the fuss they make over me because my name is Jeannie Holmes? If I were just any girl with hysterics my mother would have slapped my face and told me to behave.”

“Oh Lord,” Dorothy moaned, “I forgot to call Rosie.”

The wild expression came back to Jeannie’s eyes. “Don’t, Dorothy, please.”

Her terror was so real that Dorothy glimpsed the truth. Somehow, she thought, Rosie is responsible for this.

“Dorothy. . . .”

“Yes, honey?”

“Would it be bad if Peter came here?” Dorothy knew suddenly that Peter Blake could make Jeannie well. Yet she hesitated. Lance Bradshaw, her chief, would not approve of Peter’s coming to the nursing home. It was a safe enough place, away from the prying eyes of the press and all that. But suppose somebody talked and it got out that Gloria’s husband had rushed to Jeannie’s bedside.

Dorothy engaged in a small war with herself. Then, bending swiftly over the pale girl in the white bed, she said “I’ll get Peter here. I promise.”

She did not, however, call Peter from the nursing home. At the corner drugstore she changed a quarter into nickels and called the Beverly Hills Hotel Gloria’s voice came on the wire. Dorothy spoke fast. “This is Dorothy Lester in publicity,” she said. “We want Peter for some special art tomorrow. Do you know where he is?”

“Yes,” said Gloria “I know where he is.”

“Could I speak to him?” Dorothy asked.

Gloria laughed. “Not very well. The Marines may have turned him down. But the Army took him . . .”

Dorothy sucked in her breath.

“He left a note,” Gloria went on “just like in the movies. Want to hear it?”

Dorothy said, “Yes.”

“Dear Gloria: The Army took me. I’m glad. Peter.”

How can they untangle their mixed-up lives. You’ll see—next month.


Click for PART II





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