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Marriage And Joan Evans

Miss Joan Evans was mad. Real good and mad. But she didn’t tear up the newspaper and jump up and down on it. When Joan gets mad only her eyes let you know it. Those big black eyes flash fire. That’s a cliché, I know, but there’s no getting around it—when Joan Evans is mad her eyes flash fire.

Another symptom of the Evans’ rage is silence. Joan usually talks 90 miles an hour. Ask her what she thinks about the soul of a canary or the policy of the United Nations and 5,000 words later you make a telephone call to say you’ll be late for your next appointment.

But on this day Joan said, “Listen to this column. ‘If Joan Evans will say “yes” she and Carleton Carpenter will be married soon.’ ” She folded the paper and commented quietly, “This I wasn’t prepared for.”

You see, when Joan signed her contract with Samuel Goldwyn—at the age of 14—she was prepared by her background and her own good common sense for a lot of the occupational hazards of being in the movies. She was prepared for public criticism—and she certainly got it. Her evening dresses were cut too low. Her makeup was two inches thick. (Except for lipstick and a little powder Joan doesn’t wear makeup.) How dare she call her parents by their first names! (This was her parents’ choice, not Joan’s.)

She was also prepared for the items in the local columns stating that she was seen at a restaurant to which she had never been with a boy she didn’t know. In fact, the item which announced that Joan and John Barrymore, Jr. were a big item gained such widespread circulation that hundreds of girls wrote Joan to ask what young Jack was like, and was it true that they were in love. Joan and John met for the first time a couple of weeks ago. They laughed about the item. They could laugh because both of them, brought up as they had been, knew what to expect.

Joan laughed longest when she met a young actor with whom, according to a columnist, she had been “a duo.” She saw him for the first time long after the item appeared. At the same time she met his wife and his two children.

This was all very funny and she was ready to laugh because she expected it. But she was not prepared for the marriage rumors. She didn’t think it was a bit funny when several papers announced that she would be married to Carleton Carpenter. At almost the same time a story ran saying that she would marry Lee Kirby, the handsome young advertising man. When that item came out, she lost her sense of humor for sure.

After Joan’s eyes stopped shooting off fireworks she said, “I honestly think it’s about time that I have a chance to talk about how I feel about marriage and me.”

Joan feels violently on every subject. Her feeling about marriage is deep and sincere and very important to her. Her opinions are logical and ordered.

“In the first place,” she said, “when people ask me if I’m going to say ‘yes’ to this or that boy they should stop to remember that it’s not my decision. I’m still a minor. Before I could marry anybody my mother and father would have to say ‘yes.’ But that’s beside the point. That’s just a little technicality. The big thing is that I respect marriage, and when I marry I want it to be forever.

“You see, I’ve had a fantastic example of what true marriage is in my own home. My mother and father have been married—let’s see—it will be 20 years in September. It is the only marriage for both of them. Since I’ve said how long they have been married, Katherine would kill me if I told how old she was when she and Dale faced the minister. I’ll just tell you she wasn’t 17 and let it go at that. Both of them were old enough to know what they wanted. I’ve seen that marriage work. I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. And I just couldn’t settle for less.

“As a matter of fact,” Joan continued, “I really think it was because I feel so strongly about this that Chuck Saxon, the editor of MODERN SCREEN, asked me to do a teen-age column for this magazine. I’m trying my level best to give good advice to those teen-agers. And where would I be with those kids who say they believe in me if I did anything so irresponsible as getting married now?”

But what will happen to Joan if she falls in love?

Joan has been in love. And it is this very fact that makes her afraid of marriage. If this seems ambiguous, listen to the story.

The first time Joan thought she fell in love was with a man 15 years older than she. The psychologists will tell you that this is right on the nose of normal. The Freudian pattern, in a nutshell, is that the young girl, afraid of the parry and thrust of boys her own age, transfers from the security her father has given her to what she thinks is the security of an older man.

The man thought she was a bright child—and so pretty to look at. He flattered her, and teased her, and Joan mistook this for love.

When she learned that he loved her only as a person loves a child, she was emotionally shocked. Joan, like all good actresses, is intense. She felt life was over for her. She felt her youth had betrayed her. She was convinced that she would never smile again; never be interested in anybody else for the rest of her life.

Then one day on the set she was introduced to a boy who had come for an interview with the director. He was tall and young and very charming. He liked Joan immediately. He asked her for a date. Joan found herself laughing with this boy and thinking he was—well—quite cute. For a moment she drew back for a little self analysis. “I must be pretty superficial,” she thought. “Why, I’m having fun. I’m laughing. And just a little while ago I was in the throes of an impossible love.”

So she had a couple of dates with this boy. He was a young actor and they had a great deal in common. They liked the same movies or they didn’t like the same movies. It didn’t matter. They could argue about them either way. The older man was forgotten, and Joan found herself with a real crush on the boy.

But, because she believes that a girl who ties herself to one boy until she has known several and has some basis for comparison is foolish, they didn’t go steady. So, time, youth, and nature took their course. Nothing climactic, nor dramatic happened. Just eventually she was not in love with the boy any more, although she managed to keep him as a friend.

It was then that Joan began to think. She was sunbathing in the charming patio of her parents’ home when she told me about it. “I began to think, then, about marriage and me,” she said. “And I thought well, for heaven’s sake, if I can fall in and out of love so fast, I’d better wait until I’m sure. I began to wonder what would have happened if I had been able to marry someone I had a crush on—and then didn’t have the crush any more. Why, I would be married! What if I fell out of love after I was married! Then where would I find all my plans for making my marriage stick? And that’s when I knew that marriage is a grownup business and that you have to be pretty adult to accept all the responsibilities that go with it.”

As she was talking I had forgotten that Joan had her 17th birthday in July. For she was very serious and making very good sense. She sat up straight on the chaise. “There are exceptions, of course,” she said. “But look at a lot of Hollywood teen-age marriages. Well, for that matter, look at a lot of teen-age marriages anywhere. How can a teen-ager promise her adult life to a boy or a man until she is adult? Honestly, marriage is the most serious thing in the world. And, believe me, I’m not going into it, even if my parents would let me, until I’m sure it’s real and not just a crush. And when you’ve had a lot of crushes how can you be sure?”

There was, of course, the inevitable romantic gossip about Joan and Farley Granger. Never has there been any romance between them. She has gone out with Farley no more than five times. When Joan and Farley met she was a frightened, confused kid. Picture the scene. She was 14 years old, wanting desperately to play the leading role in Roseanna McCoy. Farley was already an established star. He wasn’t worried about getting his part.

While Joan was making a test for Roseanna, suddenly Farley kissed her. She was the most surprised girl in the world. It was part of the scene they were playing, but Joan didn’t know until later that the director had told Farley to surprise her.

Well, Farley was charming to Joan all during the filming of Roseanna McCoy. Not only did they have a good basis for friendship, but they found they could laugh together at so many things.

But they have never for a moment been in love. Don’t ask Joan why. He is a handsome, exciting young man. Joan is a beautiful girl. But their relationship has been one of friendship only. That’s how it is and it could never be any other way.

Same way with Carleton Carpenter—or Carp, as he is known to his friends. Joan said, “I know it’s an old gag to say a boy is ‘like a brother to me’ but I honestly feel as if Carp were my brother.” For one thing Carp is very close to Joan’s family. When they first met at a square dance Joan said, “You have to meet my mother and father. You’ll love them.”

He met Joan’s parents and, sure enough, he did. He’s a real show business kid and likes to gossip about Broadway. Besides, he plays a good game of bridge. One of Joan’s complaints is that whenever she brings a new beau home the first question Katherine and Dale ask is, “Do you play bridge?” If the beau says, “Yes,” then Joan says, “There goes my evening.”

Not only do Carp and Joan have a lot of fun together, they also share confidences. The year before last Carp took Joan to the Academy Awards presentation and they made a date right then for the following year. But a week before the big shindig, Carp said to Joan, “Look, honey, it’s been a year since we made this date. If you’d rather go with somebody else, I’ll understand.”

Joan said, later, “Well, of course, I would rather have gone with Carp than anybody. We had such fun! But honestly did you ever hear of roiling so sweet—his letting me off the hook if I wanted to get off it? Now that was a real brotherly thing to do.”

One of Joan’s favorite phrases is, “I just love So-and-So.” But she knows the difference between “loving” and “being in love.” “Or do I?” she mused. “Maybe I’ve never been in love. I don’t know.”

Whatever it is, at the moment the Number One boy is Lee Kirby. She met Lee when she worked with her dramatic coach, Bob Paris. Lee, although an advertising man, is very much interested in acting and has done little theater work. Joan says, “he’s one of the nicest persons I’ve ever known.” Joan and Lee have many things in common. They like to ride horseback and they both crave the beach, and are excellent swimmers.

“But when people ask me if I’m going to marry Lee I have to laugh. Even if we wanted to, how could we? Wouldn’t it be foolish if we did? No sir, I’m not getting married until I’m sure.

“And here’s something else that you can count on. My statement about marriage is for real. ’m not going to get married until I positively know how I feel and—more important although maybe not so romantic—until I’m sure it’s practical.”

And that’s Joan Evans, sticking her neck out as usual. This time, as always, she’s on the level.



(Joan Evans will soon be seen in On The Loose.—Ed.)



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