Jack Bean: “My Princess Yum Yum”
The first time I dated Mitzi Gaynor, to whom I have now been married for twenty delightful months, I thought she was a very pretty girl, a fun girl. As a bachelor, I liked the idea of being seen with such an attractive girl. I was sure she would be great to take to a concert, theatre, night club or even a hamburger stand.
We didn’t fall in love at first sight. The idea of falling in love then was as remote from my thoughts as a trip to the moon.
At the time, Mitzi was being presented on the screen as a gay, yum yum, gamin type, a merry madcap. Yum yum she certainly is, and even today my favorite nicknames for her are “Yum” and “Yummy.”
But, on my first date with this effervescent girl, how could I dream that there was another side to her? How could I dream that one day I would want to share life’s saddest moments, as well as its merriest, with her?
At the time, I was working very hard at a talent agency. (Since then I’ve gone into public relations work for industrial firms, with my partner, Bob Rose.) I wasn’t seeking any serious female entanglements in my life. Any future dates with Mitzi, I was sure, would be strictly for laughs, for both of us.
When I phoned her about a week later, she flabbergasted me by saying, “What kind of a fellow are you, anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
“You didn’t call me to say you enjoyed our date or anything. Did you dislike me? Didn’t you know I wanted to hear from you?”
Brother! I’d never heard a woman talk like that.
A reporter recently asked me if Mitzi has any eccentricities, like sleeping with the light on. Personally, I think her two greatest eccentricities are being honest and sincere. In Hollywood, these two traits are not only unusual, they’re downright odd.
I think I must have begun falling in love with Mitzi during that first telephone conversation. I got myself out of the dog-house by explaining I had been out of town for a few days. But I was fascinated. What kind of a girl was this, anyway? I asked my dazed self. Could anyone alive be this honest?
Just as that phone conversation gave me the first real clue as to what Mitzi is like, so sixty percent of what I learned about her, was learned on the phone. She was dating other fellows then, and I was working nights, so I would talk to her at midnight, when she got home from a date with some other fellow. We would have an hour of conversation, during which we discussed everything, including our respective philosophies of life.
In a way, ours was a strange courtship. I had so little time in which to date Mitzi at first. At 5 p.m. I’d make a quick dash to her home, usually exiting before 5:30 so that I just barely missed whoever her current date was.
“Wouldn’t it be possible for me to see more of you?” I asked her one day.
“I was wondering how long it would be before you would get around to asking me that,” she said, beaming. Again that honesty! What a woman!
Shortly afterwards, Mitzi had an attack of appendicitis. For our courtship, this was a perfect arrangement. She couldn’t go out.
Of course, all her beaux came to her hospital room, but a very sympathetic nurse threw everyone but me out at 9 each night. So amid the mixed fragrances of flowers and antiseptics, we got to know each other.
Being cautious, we went with each other for twenty-one months before we married. Frankly, I was afraid of the perils of being married to a glamour girl. Also, I felt that I must have a successful career of my own before I could ask Mitzi to marry me. I didn’t feel I could propose until the public relations concern of Bean and Rose was nicely established.
As a wife, Mitzi’s greatest virtue and her greatest fault continues to be the devastating honesty which first attracted me to her. And devastating it occasionally is.
Mitzi feels that a marriage relationship should be able to stand honesty. Sometimes it’s hard to take.
For example, suppose we’re with a group of friends and I’m recounting an incident. She lets me tell the whole story—for who likes to be interrupted?—then when I’m finished, she says, “Honey, it didn’t really happen in Carmel. It happened in Monterey.”
She doesn’t do it to stab me or to deflate me, she just likes accuracy. Not that Mitzi is completely accurate herself, but she tries to be.
She asks my opinion about everything, from whether a certain dress is becoming to the way a scene should be done. But she doesn’t ask just to defer to me as a husband.
She says she values and respects my opinions. But she doesn’t always follow them! She doesn’t believe that anyone can possibly be right all the time—not her director, not myself, and not herself. Since no one’s opinions are always correct, she would feel foolish following anyone’s slavishly.
Once we were going to a big gathering, at which there would be present a group of important businessmen and their wives. Twirling around in a dark purple wool dress with a matching coat, Mitzi asked me, “How do you like my outfit?”
“Fine,” I said, “but I think a lot of the women there will be wearing hats. It’s just a suggestion, but don’t you think you might wear one?”
That particular evening Mitzi didn’t feel like wearing a hat. But finally, she gave in.
When we arrived at the party, she was swept about a hundred feet away from me. There were about 200 women present, and about 198 were wearing hats. Mitzi winked at me, a wink which said, “You were right.”
On the other hand, when she had a recording to make for “The Birds and the Bees,” she asked me how I thought she should record a particular number. She also asked a musician on the set the same question. Each of us gave our opinion. When we had finished, she told me, with that flawless Mitzi honesty, “I agree with the musician, darling.”
Not that Mitzi is undiplomatic. If a casual acquaintance asked her, “How do you like this tie?” she wouldn’t say, “Oh. it’s horrible,” even if she thought so.
She is never critical in the early hours of the morning. She feels that the day should always start right, with zest and fun. She believes that if you start the day on a blue note, you may go through the rest of the day feeling blue. She always wakes up, sunny side up.
I’m amazed by her because much of the time, when she’s working on a picture, she will wake up at 5 A.M.—which is a feat for anyone. Even Mitzi would rather sleep till 8, like the rest of us. But she has such verve. She looks forward to going to the movie studio. She loves a regular schedule.
The minute the alarm goes off, she shoots out of bed like a cannon—and starts singing.
Sleepily, I try to shush her. “Maybe the neighbors won’t like you singing so early.”
“If they don’t like it now, they’ll never like it,” she says cheerfully. And she goes on. Singing.
For breakfast, she has a small glass of orange juice, two eggs, either poached, scrambled or boiled, half a glass of milk. Sometimes she has bacon. It is a protein-laden meal; which she needs for energy.
Throughout the day she has boundless reserve. She gives all of herself, then collapses happily.
She loves work, thinks movie work is great fun, and the harder she works, the more fun she thinks it is.
Mitzi’s picture of life is a smiling thing, but periodically she is unhappy. She is sometimes moody within herself, but she never shows her moodiness to other people.
When her father needed a serious operation, she was worried, a little quiet, and kept to herself a bit. I said to her, “Is something I’ve done bothering you?”
“No,” she said, “it has nothing to do with you, really.”
On the set, she appeared almost as gay and effervescent as ever. She gives all of herself to her movie scenes and leaves the moody part of herself at home.
She can throw off a mood, when the need arises, as easily as other women slip off a dress. Even if Mitzi has an argument with someone before a scene—she will argue for what she believes in—she walks into the scene the next moment, completely free of any resentment or brooding.
She is very sentimental. She hates to be surprised herself, but gets fun out of continually surprising others.
She will say to me, “Your birthday’s in two days. I’m going to give a little party for you, just a couple of intimate friends.”
The day of the party, you find out that she has invited forty people. Somehow, she manages to make them all feel at home.
She will go to endless trouble to surprise and please me, or anyone she loves. Nothing is too much work for Mitzi when she wants to surprise you.
She loves to buy gifts. She has given me gifts for every occasion except Mother’s Day. I’ve received gifts from Mitzi on my birthday, Washington’s birthday, Lincoln’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, our yearly anniversary, and all the monthly anniversaries.
She spends a lot of time choosing gifts. Mitzi would never be guilty of giving a phonograph record to someone who’s tone deaf or costume jewelry to someone who wouldn’t wear it. Her gifts are carefully chosen.
One of the most appreciated (by me) and unusual gifts Mitzi has given me is a long, bone English shoehorn. She knows that when I wake up in the morning, I’m still drowsy, and I’m averse to reaching down to put on my shoes. I can barely see them, that early in the morning. Knowing all this, Mitzi figured out that the shoehorn would help a lot. Who but Mitzi would ever think of giving a shoehorn as a gift?
Delightful as Mitzi is, it took time to get accustomed to some of her quirks. And no doubt, it was tough for her to get accustomed to some of mine.
Mitzi is probably the Number I radio fan in the United States. No matter what chores she’s doing at home, she likes to have a radio on at the same time. We have radios in the kitchen, bathroom, den, living room, and in the master bedroom.
When she’s not working in films, Mitzi listens to every daytime drama on the air. Is Stella Dallas going to her daughter’s wedding? Is John’s backstage wife going to marry Larry? Mitzi wouldn’t think of missing an episode in any daytime drama.
All day long, when she’s not working at the studio, she has all five radios going, all tuned in to the same program. This is in case someone phones. If she steps into the room where the phone is, she wouldn’t want to miss the latest episode in the life of any radio heroine. Somehow, even while she’s talking on the phone, she manages to keep one ear cocked to the sounds pouring out from the radio.
This was one fact about Mitzi of which I wasn’t completely aware, when we were first married. So, shortly after our marriage, I came home one night, to be greeted by Mitzi with great exuberance.
It had been a tough day at the office, and I was delighted by the sight and sound of my bride. But not by the voice on the radio! I couldn’t hear myself think above that din.
“Yummy,” I said, “can’t you turn off the radio in the kitchen? It’s piercing my eardrums.”
She obligingly turned it off.
A second later, I noticed that the very same voice was coming from the bathroom. In fact, the voice seemed to be coming from everywhere! That was when I discovered my bride’s predilection for having five radios on at a time.
I think she still likes to have them on, all five of them, when I’m not at home. But she obligingly turns them all off when she’s expecting me.
Not that I have anything against radio. I like to listen to certain programs when we can concentrate on them. But I can listen to only one thing at a time. Mitzi can do four or five things at once, and all against this background of blaring radios.
Another problem that came up between Mitzi and me was the question of what is a messy drawer.
Mitzi is a great housekeeper. She loves cleaning closets and drawers. I have my own system of putting away things. The system may not be entirely logical, but I can always remember in which drawer I have placed something.
One morning, I couldn’t find my cologne. lt probably wasn’t put away in an orderly fashion, but I remembered where I had put it, and looked there for it. I couldn’t find it.
“Where in the world’s the cologne?” I asked.
“Just pull the drawer out,” said Mitzi. “The colognes are where your handkerchiefs used to be.”
“But why, Mitzi?”
“It’s more orderly that way.”
It probably is, but I could find what I wanted more easily under my own sloppy system. At least, that’s what I thought at first. Now, Mitzi practically has me converted to her ideas on the arrangement of drawers.
I’ve heard a lot of people try to describe my wife, but it’s difficult, since she’s at least three different people.
For instance, if she is being interviewed by a reporter, she knows she’s expected to perform, and she will give the best story she can. She won’t show any temperament, even if she is asked exasperating questions, as reporters sometimes ask, to stimulate conversation.
Then, when she’s on the set talking to a director, she’s doing business, and she’s Mitzi Gaynor, the business woman.
At home, she’s still another woman. There’s a very nice comedy writer who lives next door to us. He’s bright and witty, but a little shy. He first met Mitzi sitting in the sun near the swimming pool, being beautiful in the sun—which, of course, is no effort at all for Mitzi. They got to talking.
Several times they met at the swimming pool, and always Mitzi was her beautiful, immaculate self in a gorgeous bathing suit or sun suit.
One evening, when she met me at the door, she said, “Jack’s a nice fellow and very intelligent. Why don’t you ask him to come up?”
So I did. I didn’t tell him we were going out later that evening. Mitzi whooped open the door when he came. There wasn’t a bit of make-up on her face. It had all been washed clean, and her hair was in curlers.
Jack looked startled. “Mitzi!” he said. “What’s this? You knew your husband had invited me to drop in, didn’t you? Is it all right to come in?”
Mitzi smiled her serenest smile and said, “Of course.”
Later, Jack said that he had never been more complimented than by Mitzi’s willingness to greet him when her hair was in curlers. “This girl is really a friend of mine,” he said. “I was completely unprepared to find her so relaxed at home. I’m tired of people who are always formal, always set, always prepared.”
I know that there are writers who have hinted that there will be a domestic dirge in any family if the husband ever sees his wife with her hair in curlers. But I feel that if Mitzi couldn’t be relaxed around me, ours wouldn’t be much of a marriage. And any marriage that would break up over such a trivial cause wouldn’t be my idea of matrimony nor Mitzi’s, either.
I’m delighted that Mitzi has no inhibitions with me. Whenever we meet, after being parted for a few hours, she throws her arms around me, completely without inhibition, no matter who’s around.
When she gets home later than I, she has a special rap on the door. It’s very rhythmic, and sounds exactly like a Bay Rum commercial. Then, even though it’s been only four hours since I last saw her, she’s as effusive as if she hadn’t seen me for three weeks.
She greets everyone she likes with exuberance. She adds a diminutive and affectionate “i” or “ie” to the names of almost all her friends. She calls George Gobel “Hotsi” because that was his name in their picture, “The Birds and the Bees.” She calls Paul Jones, “Paulie,” Donald O’Connor, “Donnie,” Jeanmaire, “Zizi.”
Like most affectionate women, Mitzi loves pets. Her preference is for a real dog, not a lap dog. Until recently, she always had a dog. Now there’s no room in our apartment for one, but I’m sure that when we buy a house, she’ll get a dog immediately. She’s also had spurts of being interested in tropical fish. She doesn’t care much for birds, though she’s not afraid of them. There are very few things Mitzi really fears.
I have heard that she is terribly afraid of heights. Recently, when we were in Reno on vacation, she was chosen Snow Queen. As such, one of her duties was to take a ride on a ski lift.
We got on this thing, and suddenly we were seventy feet up in the air. I’m not supposed to be afraid of heights, but when I saw how high up we were, I turned pale.
“What’s the matter with you?” Mitzi said. She was looking over the side, waving at the people behind her, and having a wonderful time. She was just as relaxed as if she’d been standing on the ground instead of being wafted into the air.
So is my wife afraid of heights? All I can say is that Mitzi is certain things in certain situations. Up there on the ski lift, fear never entered her heart. But me—well, I was scared to death that she was going to slip off any minute!
Mitzi can be very superstitious. She never puts a hat on a bed, never walks under a ladder, never talks about a deal until it’s signed and delivered, never says who her next co-star is going to be until he’s signed. She will never start anything of great consequence when the minute hand of the clock is on the down sweep. She always starts everything on an upbeat.
If the director asks if she can be on the set at 9:25, she says it will take her about five minutes longer. She manages to appear on the set exactly at 9: 31 a.m., when the minute hand of the clock is definitely going upward.
Still, she can be flexible about some of her superstitions. Once when she broke a mirror, I said, “I think it’s ridiculous to believe you’re going to embrace seven years of hard luck because of one broken ten-cent mirror.”
She smiled up at me. “Yes, it is pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?” she admitted. Immediately, she put the superstition out of her mind. That’s what I call an accommodating superstition.
Both Mitzi and I have tempers. However, she has a thermostat she uses on my temper. When I explode, she says, “Why not relax about this?” Of course, when her thermostat doesn’t work, we have an argument.
When I’m moody or worried, she’s very thoughtful. “Can I get you anything?” she asks. “Is there anything I can help you with? Or would you like a little peace and solitude? What is best for you?”
There is a great deal of give and take in our marriage. When Mitzi has to go to work early, I wake up with the birds, too, and make her breakfast for her.
On the other hand, she delights in keeping the house spotless—with the help of a cleaning woman just once a week—and in creating exotic dishes for dinner. When we are expecting friends, she will make a big roast beef, goulash or fish dish with sauterne, and bedeck the whole thing with mushrooms.
People will ask incredulously, looking at Mitzi, who appears to have just stepped out of a bandbox, “Did you make this?” She will bask in this. She loves the sunshine of approval, and spreads it generously, whenever she can, without being dishonest.
Some people who don’t know Mitzi very well have intimated she’s a madcap. She is witty, there is plenty of sparkle about her, but I don’t see her as a madcap. I see her as a very sensitive, bright, searching person, who is curious about everything. She will take nothing for granted. She wants to know the whys and wherefores of everything.
After she saw Frank Sinatra in “The Man with the Golden Arm,” she was so impressed by his characterization of Frankie Machine that she asked everyone she met who had seen the picture, what they thought was the significance of the character.
She wanted to know, “Why was he dependent? Why did he depend so much on Kim Novak?”
She also wanted to know not only the motivation of all the characters played by the stars in the film, but how the actors produced the effects they did.
Yummy feels as if she used to pass over things, take them more or less for granted, and now she is looking into everything in a very searching way. Originally a very sensitive girl, she has become more intuitive about people than ever before, due to this searching attitude of mind.
Once when we entertained a large group at our home, I noticed she wasn’t circulating with a lot of people. I felt she should be talking to everyone, acting the part of hostess, and I told her so.
“Why do you feel that’s so important?” she asked me.
I gave her eleven fast reasons.
She listened to them all very politely, then said, “There are four people at the party who know no one. I have been trying to shepherd them around so they’ll get to know the others.”
Instinctively, Mitzi had sought out the people who needed her most. Pretty soon everyone knew everyone at the party. Her fine feminine instincts had led her to do just the right thing.
Sometimes, looking at my lovely wife, I think back to the evening I first proposed to her. I had always hoped to make that proposal under very romantic, glamorous circumstances. I had rehearsed the words I would say, with the moon gleaming overhead in a sky dotted with stars.
Then one night Mitzi and I went out for dinner.
The dinner was horrible. The service was impossible. The waiter spilled things all over the table, and even on Mitzi’s lap.
In the middle of all this confusion, I said to Mitzi, “I’d like to marry you.”
She beamed back at me. “Wonderful,” she said.
And in that one word she summed up everything. In spite of the adjustments, the problems, the five radios, our marriage has been just that—wonderful.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1956