Joan Collins: “Nothing Matters When You’re In Love”
A new white convertible stopped in front of the entrance to an elegant apartment building on Shoreham Drive in Hollywood. It was after midnight, and the street lamp shone softly on the brown-haired girl behind the wheel. She parked the car, stepped out, locked it and walked into the building alone. She hunted for her key and, finding it, unlocked the door and turned on the lights in the apartment. Everything was so still.
In the quiet of her bedroom, Joan Collins looked at herself in the mirror above her dresser. “You even look unhappy,” she finally said out loud. And she wished, more than anything, that she could cry. She wished she could fling herself across the bed and sob. But she couldn’t. Something held her back. Instead, she loosened the clasp to her pearls and started to remove them slowly—very slowly.
She’d just returned from an- other evening of watching television with friends. “You’re . . . you’re unhappy,” something inside of her seemed to insist, “because you’ve made a mess of your personal life. You made a mess of one marriage, and you’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. . . . And all you’ve managed to prove is that you’re getting nowhere fast. You run to parties and good times, dating millionaire actors and handsome princes—but have they made you happy?”
She took a warm bath to relax and, later, as she turned off the light, she stretched back and prayed that sometime this year some change would come, some change for the better. And as she prayed, she thought back over her life and what it was she really wanted.
Did she want marriage? She was afraid, worried that she might marry on the run the way she did when she was seventeen, only to have it end in misery. But years had passed since then. Hadn’t she grown up? Hadn’t she developed a sense of responsibility about life? Then what sort of man was for her? She pondered these questions over and over, tossing restlessly, wishing she could fall into a deep sleep.
One August night, soon after, she accepted an invitation of her friends, Herb and Barbara Viner, who had asked her to join them for dinner at an intimate restaurant in Hollywood. Joan, arriving a little early at the restaurant, waited in the lobby. While standing there, she suddenly sensed she was being stared at by someone. She looked around and finally her eyes settled on a young man, sitting with a lovely tall and suntanned girl opposite him.
Was she imagining things—or was he looking at her?
He definitely was, she decided, a few minutes later.
Embarrassed, she went to wait for Herb and Barb at the doorway. When they arrived she told them about the man. “I have had the queerest feeling,” Joan said, “of being stared at. Don’t look now but I think it’s that young man over there. Isn’t that awful? A man flirting with another girl when he’s out with a date?”
Barb, looking over Joan’s shoulder, interrupted her. “That’s Warren Beatty,” she whispered. “You couldn’t mean him. He’s Shirley MacLaine’s brother.”
They walked on toward their table, and Joan forgot about him, not knowing, at the time, that he was the man she would some day want to marry.
She was to see him again just a few days later. That Saturday, Joan’s good friend, John Foreman, called, and suggested they go to a party that evening at Debbie Power Loew’s.
“But I don’t feel like dressing,” Joan complained.
“Come on,” John coaxed. “It’ll do you good. You don’t go out much any more, and it’ll be fun. There’ll be lots of people there and they’ll pick up your spirits.”
No sooner did she arrive at the crowded party than she spotted Warren—with another date. He didn’t say hello to her.
Dressed in a dark flannel suit, Warren was sitting at the grand piano in the living room, playing free and easy jazz that blended softly with the babble of voices. His date stood close by him.
All evening he and Joan didn’t acknowledge each other. She waited for him to nod, or smile, but he didn’t. And she realized she felt hurt. Finally, as the party began to break up, Joan invited a few of the guests to her apartment for coffee. Then someone suggested, “Why don’t you ask Warren Beatty and his date? He seems lonely. Just got into town a couple of weeks ago.”
Joan, startled, yet trying to maintain er composure, replied, “I really don’t know Warren very well. But if youwant to ask him—and his girl—that’s fine with me.
“She’s not his girl,” the fellow explained. “Only a blind date.”
He went over to the piano, spoke to Warren and handed him a piece of paper with Joan’s address and telephone number.
Back at Joan’s apartment, the crowd played records, danced, ate and drank coffee. By two o’clock when everyone had left, Joan was alone again. She had hoped Warren would come.
But he never did.
The next morning she got up early and drove to the beach at Santa Monica. Returning home, late that afternoon, she dialed her telephone-answering service to—if there were any messages left for her.
Warren Beatty had called six times!
No sooner did she put down the receiver than the telephone rang.
“Hello,” Joan said.
“Joan?” A slow, drawling voice at the other end of the line spoke. “This is . . . Warren. Warren Beatty.”
“Hi,” Joan said. “I just got home from the beach and found your messages.”
“Are you busy for dinner?”
She paused. She just didn’t know what to say. He’d acted so strangely—right from the first time in the restaurant.
Suddenly, she found herself agreeing to meet him in fifteen minutes. Was it curiosity?
She dressed more quickly than she’d ever dressed in her life: a pastel rose blouse, a burgundy skirt, a gold bracelet and small gold hoop earrings.
He arrived and suggested they dine at a little Mexican restaurant. She liked the authority with which he suggested the place, not waiting for her to dilly-dally.
At first, it seemed difficult to talk. She found herself staring into his blue eyes that were mysterious and deep.
“Do you like Hollywood?” she ventured.
She saw him swallow. “Uh-huh,” he replied, non-committally, reaching over to light her cigarette.
Finally, unable to hold back the question any longer, she put down her fork, looked into his eyes and asked him directly, “Warren, may I ask . . . why did you call me today but didn’t speak to me on Saturday?”
After a pause, longer than an eternity, he explained, “I was very depressed on Saturday and when they asked me to come over to your apartment I didn’t want you to see me in such a blue mood.”
She closed her eyes; somehow she believed what he said, although she couldn’t understand why. Maybe it was the way he looked straight at her when he spoke. He didn’t seem like the same man who’d stared at her in the restaurant.
He continued. “I . . . I was so happy tonight when you said yes, that you’d meet me for dinner, that I went out and childishly had an ice cream cone to celebrate! I’d been wanting to meet you since I first came to Hollywood.”
Looking into his blue eyes, she suddenly wanted to cry. But why?
Their conversation flowed on. They found they had so much to talk about, that they couldn’t stop. They discussed books they liked, their favorite films, California. It was hard to believe the two of them could be sitting in this small, inconsequential restaurant, enjoying each other’s company so much. Many of the men Joan had dated demanded constant attention and flattery. And to them it was imperative they be seen in the “right places” with her, while she was expected to wear French gowns and pose like a movie queen for newspaper photographers. Now, all of a sudden, she realized the deep happiness of sitting across the table from someone who seemed to like her just for being herself.
She told him a great deal about herself: her childhood days in England, the student years at the Royal Academy in London. Her dad, a vaudeville booking agent, had begged her not to go into show business, but she loved it because she grew up with it. How did she get her first break? Warren wanted to know.
“Through my modeling,” she confessed. “Some agents saw a photo of me and I tested for the lead in ‘Lady Godiva Rides Again,’ and was turned down. But I did get a bit part.”
She listened intently to what Warren told her about himself; his childhood in Virginia where his dad was a college professor. Warren laughed over how he and his sister, Shirley, hassled over who would have the car on weekends. He was crazy about sports, won letters in football, basketball, track and baseball. Northwestern U offered him a football scholarship, and he accepted it for a year. Then he decided to go on his own to New York to study acting.
Sipping icewater and tea, they sat at the table for hours. On the way home, he asked her for a date for the following night. And the night after that, he asked for another date. And they began dating every night, dining or taking cool rides, or just sitting at her home talking.
“You know what?” Joan confided one evening, “I’ve changed since I’ve met you. I used to always go into large, well-known restaurants. Now, I don’t care about such things. Just so long as I’m with you. It’s being with someone that brings happiness—not being somewhere. And you make me feel like a lady wherever we are.”
True, he was gentlemanly, his family had given him a love for manners. He always lit her cigarettes, held a door open for her, stood up the moment she came into a room.
Then, one day, Warren was cast in the Broadway play, “A Loss of Roses,” and they found themselves separated. After just a few days, Joan, unable to bear being away from him, flew to New York. While he rehearsed, they never went out. They stayed home in his apartment while she helped him memorize his lines, meeting during the day just for quick meals together. She wanted him to be a success, and she wanted to help him in the study of his role.
In such a short time, it was hard to believe what had happened to her. She felt as though she were another person; or was it just that she never before had allowed her natural self to emerge? Had she kept her real self hidden from the world, afraid everyone might taunt and poke fun at her for not being a runabout—what was expected of a movie star?
Now, she was hardly making any demands. Instead, she was learning the pleasure of giving, helping him to prove to himself that he was a good actor, and she waited patiently with him through all the difficult weeks of rehearsal and then waited to see what the critics would say.
The critics raved. She was happy. And a week later, after Warren’s show opened on Broadway, she refused to go to London for the filming of “Sons and Lovers.” Newspapers implied she wouldn’t go because she didn’t want to leave Warren. Was it true?
That evening, as the newspapers carried the story, she prepared to meet Warren after the show. As she walked to the theater, she alone knew why she had turned down the role, and it was not for the reason they had suggested. Much as she loved Warren, much as she hated to be away from him, she didn’t turn it down because of that. She had turned down the role because of a new confidence in herself. A confidence Warren’s love had given her. A confidence to only take roles she really wanted. And live a life which she herself really wished. Not one just filled with outer glamor which now seemed empty.
“Warren has given me strength,” Joan said later. “But then all lovers give each other strength, don’t they? And the more we get to know each other, the greater our strength becomes. Our plans? Marriage, yes. But I don’t think we should rush into it. If we take time now and get to know each other well, then I think we can face the ups and downs of marriage. Already, for instance, there are people who are casting little barbs at us. But I don’t pay any attention to them. They say Warren’s younger than I. He’s only a year younger. Certainly, he’s trying to get ahead, to find some security. He doesn’t take me to smart places. He can’t afford them. But all these things don’t matter, somehow. Nothing matters when you’re in love—except your deep-rooted belief in each other. That is what’s enriching.
“We’re not officially engaged yet. But that doesn’t matter either. I trust our love.
“Like every woman, I needed love to bring me back to life. Do you know that line by the poet, Rilke? It sums up my feelings about love and life.
“Love consists in this: two solitudes that protect and touch, and greet each other. That’s what I believe.”
DON’T MISS JOAN IN 20TH’S “SEVEN THIEVES.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1960