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Mitzi Gaynor’s Miracle

Almost all stories about Hollywood’s incredible personality changes are apocryphal. They are illustrated by tricked-up photos, a blonde or brunette hair dye and sketchy instructions on how Miss Average Girl may go and do likewise. This is something Miss Average Girl seldom does because she is blessed with more intelligence than Hollywood press agents suspect. She may not be a world-beating enchantress, but what she has is better than what she might have if she followed a lot of ridiculous blueprints offered by a publicity-hungry actress.

A single exception to a rule that has been in force ever since the first Quick Movie Diet and Fast Leap to Loveliness was invented, is provided by this girl named Mitzi Gaynor.

“I had to do something,” she recalls. “A little over a year ago, in March, 1953, to be exact, my appendix and I parted company. When my head cleared after the operation I found myself with a ravenous appetite. As soon as they’d let me I ate everything in sight. In a matter of days I’d gained fifteen pounds.

“It’s a funny thing. When you’re growing up your parents will let you take ballet lessons or acrobatic dancing. They’d even let you play right halfback on the football team if you could find one that would take girls. Both mother and dad are delighted to help fulfill your girlish ambitions.

“The only trouble is that they don’t know, and neither do you, that as you become a girl athlete you develop some pretty strong muscles that are going to become a headache unless you plan a career as a lady wrestler. Or, unless you can combine the same determination you had in the beginning with some sensible ideas on diet, clothes planning, hairdo and such, not necessarily in that order.”

The most important among the few more items mentioned by Mitzi is will power. This differs from determination. You can be determined for ten seconds and then lose your will power to carry on that determination. The nice thing about will power is that it is always inside you, but sometimes slow to wake up to its full strength. When that happens, sometimes you can borrow someone else’s will power to tide you over.

That has happened to Mitzi, most frequently at the Piccadilly, a famous spot on La Cienega Boulevard, otherwise known as restaurant row. Here, Mitzi and her fiancé Jack Bean have a favorite booth. It’s the place where they started their spooning, also their mutual dieting. They have a favorite waiter, name of Peter Chassis. Pete is familiar with Mitzi’s lusty appetite and he turned out to be a source of secondary will power.

One night Mitzi told him, “Peter, I need your help, I’ve gained fifteen pounds since my operation. And I want to lose at least twenty pounds.”

“You don’t need me,” Pete advised her. “You’d better go see your doctor.”

“I already have. All I want you to do is see that when I come in here I don’t order something I shouldn’t. Jack, do you have that diet list handy?”

Mr. Bean- fished- Mitzi’s typewritten diet out of a remote pocket and waiter Chassis agreed to become a party to Mitzi’s conspiracy against that old devil Obesity.

A few nights later, Mitzi and Jack came back to the Piccadilly. Mitzi had been working out in ballet routines for five hours. She was beat and hungry as a horse. But she stuck to her diet. A cup of bouillon, a piece of broiled liver, sliced tomatoes, celery, radishes and tea. All of an accident, another waiter chanced to pass with a hunk of pie a la mode for some customer’s dessert. Mitzi couldn’t take it. She summoned Pete.

“I’ll just have one little slice of apple pie and a sliver of ice cream.”

“No, you don’t,” Pete retorted. “You told me to keep an eye on you, and that’s what I’m doing. Just an average portion is 600 calories. Now, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

“Thanks, Peter,” Mitzi replied, chastened.

“I got to thinking afterward,” Mitzi recalls now, “that it was a silly bit to go absolutely to pieces at the sight of a piece of cake or some juicy tidbit. Jack and I worked out a sort of philosophy. (It’s much easier to win a diet battle when someone you are with constantly is doing the same thing.)

“We figured it out this way: we looked at calorie-counting as we would look at a money problem—only in reverse. The game was to keep from putting calories into our savings accounts, which was us. For instance, if Jack turned down a bottle of beer offered by a friend, he figured that he’d ‘saved’ 125 calories. One day I bumped into a friend at Schwab’s drugstore. She suggested we have a malted milk and I almost agreed until I looked up the calorie count of a malt in my little book. Wow! I very nearly put 500 in my bank. Instead, I had a glass of ginger ale, which totaled seventy-five. And now that I’ve discovered those new low-calorie drinks I can have a ball at a cocktail party. I explain in advance to the hostess and she stocks up with root beer or lime-lemon and I can have three in the space of a couple of hours at a total of only twenty-seven calories.”

Another wrinkle Mitzi and Jack figured out to make their dieting fun was the twice-a-week vegetable dinner. In a calorie-counting book they found that the average serving of most vegetables is between fifteen and twenty-five calories. So they’d go to a restaurant and order a complete vegetable dinner and stuff themselves. For instance, Mitzi’s vegetable dinner, with enough substance to make anyone feel as though he’d eaten a big steak, might add up like this:

Appetizer: Bread and butter pickles, celery, little green onions. Calories: 15

Soup: Chicken consomme. Calories: None

Entree: Cabbage, broccoli, carrots, spinach, stewed tomatoes. Calories: about 175

Dessert: Practically none

Drink: Coffee or tea. TOTAL: 190 calories

“It’s almost unbelievable how many calories you can save that way, but you probably won’t find the vegetables steam-cooked without butter too enchanting. And, if you’re going to try a vegetable dinner like this one, you must have a pretty good breakfast and lunch.”

Here’s a sample of what Mitzi had the day of her 190-calorie dinner:


1 slice honeydew melon50 calories
Thin slice white toast75 calories
2 soit-boiled eggs150 calories
1 pat butter50 calories
1 cup-milk150 calories
Total475 calories


1 sliced apple75 calories
1 baked chicken breast (6 oz.)150 calories
1 thin slice whole wheat toast & butter150 calories
Dish sliced peaches (no sugar)75 calories
Total315 calories

That’s a grand total of about 1040 calories, give or take a few. It’s probably as healthy as any average day of food intake you’d have when you eat in a hit-or-miss style, without any thought of diet.

“One thing to remember about diet,” Mitzi declares, “is that the very word usually scares off people. They want a lithe figure but it’s too much trouble to add two and two to get it. An all-vegetable dinner once or twice a week is horrifying to some people, even though vegetables are often overlooked and they are very high in essential minerals. But don’t take my word for it. Check with your family doctor first. It’s imperative that he call all the signals if you don’t want to wind up an anemic shadow of your former self.

“Your doctor will tell you the dangers of a too-prolonged or too-strict diet. He’ll probably tell you he’s very much against these published diets and he’ll be right, if he’ll take the trouble to give you one of your own. Almost every individual requires some special attention when it comes to weight reducing. The glands and other apparatus of no two people function exactly alike.

Let me give any girls reading this interview a big word of caution: a very successful diet for someone very unsuccessful results so far as your figure is concerned. That’s why expert guidance is always necessary.”

Mitzi’s warning in this respect has specific reference to girls’ figures. She may lose as much as twenty or thirty pounds and then wish she had them peas if she discovers that those pleasing bustline curves disappeared with the fat. This is where exercise comes in. Almost any physical education instructor in a high school or a professional gymnasium will be glad to give you an exercise that is effective and simple to keep your muscles firm.

While it is known that physical exercise alone is a slow reducing agent, it is also a neglected fact that a lot of attention must be paid to muscle tissue during the reducing period. Otherwise the leg, arm, neck and other muscles can become seriously flabby. In Mitzi’s case no routine exercise was necessary, because she works out in various types of dancing regularly. But she did take the precaution of going regularly to a well-known masseuse who has helped keep famous figures trim. Massage may seem costly, but if you’re dieting for a real purpose it will be money well invested.

The miraculous change in Mitzi was not intentional at first. She only stepped on the scales, was slightly horrified and began to diet. As she began to slim down quickly the thought occurred to her that if simple diet could do this much, then she had command of herself in other ways, too.

She began to think, “I’m in a rut. Almost everyone knows me as a pert and bouncy eighteen-year-old, and that’s the way I’m treated off screen and photographed on screen. But I’m twenty-one now, and that ‘pert and bouncy’ bit has got to go.”

How to do it? You can’t issue formal announcements that you no longer want to be looked on as an eighteen-year-old. You have to make some outward changes. The place to begin is with clothes. Mitzi sought the help of Paul Rose, head of the dress department at Nancy’s Stores. She showed him how the clothes she had been wearing—sizes twelve and fourteen—were almost big enough to turn around in. So he brought out sizes eight and ten. Mitzi was delighted to discover that the tens had to be taken in. Living in a theatrical town, Mitzi could take the plunge to extreme sophistication, stark white and stark black form-fitting gowns with low décolletage.

“It tickled me pink,” Mitzi remembers, “the first night I wore one of those real gone numbers to Mocambo with Jack. People could hardly believe this was Mitzi.”

Like her clothes, Mitzi’s new twenty-one-year-old personality fits her well. For the first time, people have stopped trying to compare her to stars who were once famous and had one of her names. People have said to her, “I’ve been going to your pictures for years,” although she’s only been in the business for four or five years. They somehow mistook her for the former child star, Jane Withers. The older moviegoer would occasionally gaze upon Mitzi with wistful expression and exclaim, “Miss Gaynor, you’ve given me some of my most beautiful moments.” These had identified her with Janet Gaynor. And others confused her with Mitzi Green.

No one makes that mistake now. From her smart new coiffure to the tips of her toes, Mitzi’s wistful qualities are submerged, and although she’s a powerhouse of energy, it doesn’t spill over.

“With my lower intake of food,” Mitzi says, “I stopped thinking that anyone who went to bed before midnight was a square. I found myself rolling in at around ten, which would have seemed an incredible hour a year before. Now, instead of looking for parties to go to, Jack and I find ourselves going to early movies. I learn a lot that way, not just for my profession, but in the business of being happy. Funny thing, I never realized just how much you can get out of a simple motion picture when it comes to developing a general philosophy and a good feeling about life in general. I used to go to movies to daydream. Now I go to live and learn. That may not be putting it across with a vast amount of intelligence, but I hope you know what I mean.”

It’s possible people do understand. Already those who have seen a lot of stars come and go are comparing Mitzi with Carole Lombard for fire and punch and with Jean Harlow for her sweetness and almost childlike heart.

In the midst of all of Hollywood’s frantic activity a gradual change has come over Mitzi Gaynor—one which seems amazingly abrupt to those who have seen her only occasionally. The actual physical change took only four months, during which she lost a little more than five pounds a month. The change to a well-balanced actress from a happy little ingénue, from a slightly scatterbrained teenager to a charming young woman, took a little longer, but less than a year.

Not only that, but shortly after you read this, Mitzi may be honeymooning in Paris as Mrs. Jack Bean. Oh, yes, Jack Bean went on the diet too, lost fifteen pounds and won the heart of just about the most enchanting of Hollywood’s bachelor girls.

As for you who read this, if you think hard enough and have enough will power, maybe something equally as delightful can happen to you.

Mitzi Gaynor’s Mystery Diet

With slight variation, this can be your menu for a week. If you do not eat breakfast, you should start tomorrow morning. Lunch may be varied by foods with equivalent numbers of calories. Dinner might be varied by roast chicken (white meat only), fruit salad and rye toast. Steak, naturally, can take the place of iver, but must always be broiled.

The mystery is: where do the pounds go so swiftly? Seriously, don’t attempt this or any other diet without the advice of a physician.



½ grapefruit (no sugar)

2 poached eggs (no salt or pepper)

Coffee or tea



½ grapefruit

1 helping plain spinach

2 soft-boiled eggs



Tomato juice

Celery & radishes

Small (6- to 8-ounce) slice broiled liver

Coffee or tea

For people who drink: a glass of soda water with juice of half a lime over ice, or one of the new non-caloric soft drinks.



(Mitzi Gaynor may be seen next in the 20th Century-Fox production Show Business, with Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor and Dan Dailey.)



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