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New Faces—Pat Crowley

Pat Crowley and two other young New York actresses found themselves in Hollywood facing a horrible weekend of suspense. Paramount Pictures had brought them west, put them up at the same hotel (where they met each other for the first time) and then tested each one for a lead role in a movie which was to star William Holden, Ginger Rogers and Paul Douglas. The tests were over by a Thursday morning and the girls were told they would have to wait around until Monday before finding out which was the lucky one.

By late Thursday afternoon Pat Crowley, a dark-haired Irish girl whose beauty is as vivid as her name is plain, decided something must be done and she was the one to do it. She telephoned the others.

“I don’t know about you two but I’ll never even make it to Sunday sitting around in my room,” she said. “Why wait and suffer? We all have expense accounts from the studio. The least we can do is have a good time in California while they make up their minds. Let’s have dinner together. Let’s hire a car. Let’s have a wonderful weekend instead of a terrible one!”

The girls she was talking to, Sally Hester, who is now in Europe, and Christine White, again working in the Hast, not only cheered Pat but blessed her. The three dined together that night. They rented a ear and on Friday they were sunning themselves in the emerald waters off Laguna Beach. By Saturday they were dancing in U. S. Navy officer territory at the Coronado Hotel, on San Diego Bay. Sunday afternoon they hunted souvenirs in Tijuana, Mexico, sat in briefly at the bullfight arena, and that night, their money gone but their nerves in fine shape, they drove back to Hollywood.

On Monday when the studio notified them that Pat had won, nobody fainted. Sally and Christine offered congratulations, and Pat kept repeating dazedly, “I didn’t think I had a chance! I just came out for the plane ride!”

Actually, the decision wasn’t so astounding. Even if Pat was only eighteen then she had already been in a number of plays, including two Broadway flops, and any number of TV shows, not excluding a thirty-nine week run in the lead role of A Date With Judy. But she wasn’t thinking of this. She was thinking all the way back to a small, hard-coal mining town in Pennsylvania where she was born, and finding it hard to believe that the road she took out of there could lead to such a dream-like destination.

The picture for which the girls had tested was Forever Female. Before Pat -had even finished this one her studio had her working in a Martin and Lewis starrer, Money From Home. She not only did a fine job in this production, but not once did Jerry Lewis let fire with his water pistol at her. Soon afterward she was cast in her first Technicolor musical, Red Garters, with Rosemary Clooney, Guy Mitchell, Jack Carson and Joanne Gilbert. And, it might be added, Pat, who said she came out to Hollywood just for the plane ride, got a lot more rides. The studio sent her out on personal appearance tours, one schedule binding her to visit thirty-five cities in thirty-five days.

On these trips Pat took part in radio broadcasts, telecasts, stage shows, industry dinners, cocktail parties and, of course, a whole series of civic functions. She used to have to talk so much about herself that at night she would tumble into bed hating the name of Pat Crowley. Yet she will appear this summer in the little theatre presentation of Hazel Flagg at the Dallas State Fair. Such energy and ambition have not always been characteristic of Pat.

More than a hundred newspaper men around the country, and almost as many disc jockeys, have interviewed her since she got into movies, and almost. all have pictured her as a youngster who dreamed unceasingly about making good, then schemed and fought her way to grabbing distance of the top with grim determination. It’s not what she tells them but that’s what they tell their audiences.

The way it happened renter is that Pat drifted into show business, nudged every now and then by her sister Ann, who is three years older and who had worked in Broadway shows as a singer at fourteen. “Left alone I think I’d have been a nurse,” says Pat. “It still sounds good to me.”

Nurses became, a factor in Pat’s life early because she was the kind of little girl who is always sick. Not only did the minor ailments of children befall her; colic, measles, flu, croup and a whole series of poxes, but also diseases which generally wait around for a person to grow up before trying to kill her. Double pneumonia, for instance. She had it three times before she was nine.

All this took place in Olyphant, a coal and mill town near Scranton, of less than 10,000 people. Her father, Vincent Crowley, now in the coal and oil business in New York, was then a section foreman in one of the anthracite mines. Pat loved the house they lived in and thought (and still thinks) its location was romantic. A branch line of the railroad ran right past the front door, and, she points out, “You could sit on your own steps and wave to the engineer!”

Her first boy friend, Bill Sweeney, the undertaker’s son,does not appear to have been very considerate of Pat’s frailty. When they were both about eight he introduced her to corn silk cigarettes. Pat was so ill that for a while it looked as though she would come unglued altogether. To make up to Pat for this, Bill came through with an oft-made never-before-kept promise—he sneaked Pat into his father’s establishment and showed her the corpses in the cellar. This, oddly enough, failed to upset Pat at all.

As a child, her enforced absences from her playmates were so prolonged that they used to have to re-identify her each time she showed up again—usually by her relationship to her older and much healthier sister. “Here comes Ann Crowley’s little sister Pat,” they’d say. Last winter she went back to Olyphant for the world premiére of Forever Female, and from the crowd came the old cry: “There she is—Ann Crowley’s little sister Pat! Can you imagine her a movie star?”

Once Pat got past nine, incidentally, her body seemed to do a flip-flop as far as susceptibility was concerned. Now she’s resistant to everything. It is rare for her to catch so much as a cold.

When older sister Ann was twelve she went to New York for voice training, and lived with an aunt there. Pat decided that if Ann could be a singer, she was undoubtedly a dancer. She talked her parents into letting her take ballet and “moderne.” Her teacher told her she had a very flexible body.

A year later there was word of fine promise being shown by Ann and the family decided to move to New York in two sections, Pat and her mother going first, and her father following soon afterward. A year after that Ann was singing in Oklahoma! and in subsequent years playing leads in Broadway musicals.

Pat kept up her dancing in New York. She auditioned for New York’s High School of Performing Arts and was accepted as a ballet student.

As Pat reached her junior miss size, she was certainly taking on attractiveness. When she walked into the office of the head of a certain model agency looking for work he took one look at her and said yes, even though his name was Harry Conover and he had hundreds of models. But there was a sour note; although she was putting all she had into her dancing she was beginning to get a feeling that body flexibility was one thing and being a good dancer was another. Maybe, whispered a little voice inside her, she should never have passed up the nursing idea!

Then Ann, with a true, sisterly double edge, pointed out something intriguing. Pat, she recalled, had been quite a little snitch as a youngster, never taking the blame herself and avoiding it with such a flow of language that no one else could get in a countercharge. Of course, Ann went on quickly, this was no longer true of Pat, but if she thought she could remember the kind of girl she was and portray such a character on the stage, she might find a summer theatre job.

Naturally, Pat first denied Ann’s accusations (and she swears she hardly ever snitches on anyone these days) but said she was willing to try out for the part anyway, just to show her good sportsmanship. Two days later the director of the Fayetteville Playhouse, just outside of Syracuse, New York, was listening to Pat read the lines which are spoken by Dinah, the brat-sister in The Philadelphia Story. When she finished he beamed with delight and said she would make the nastiest Dinah he had ever heard. Pat, whose personal nature today is really rated very much on the sunny side, gulped and signed. When the play, with Diana Barrymore starring, opened and won good notices, which included words of praise for Pat as well, she got a completely new feeling about her future. For the first time in her life she felt that she actually might get somewhere if she tried—and she thought she would try now as hard as she could.

She was still attending school, but this did not stop her from picking up any engagements that might be filled evenings and weekends. She was only thirteen when she had a walk-on bit in Carousel in which Ann played the ingénue lead. Television, for the most part, was still rough and ready, production-wise, and there was more work than reward for the actors, but Pat got started and stayed with it. She had a reputation as a girl who could register quick affability in front of the TV camera and who didn’t run out of aplomb when things went wrong, as they often did. (She still has that reputation. On a Lux radio program she twisted an endorsement so that instead of saying “I love to Lux” it came out “I Lux to love.” A laugh and a quick correction took care of the faux pas.)

Twice Pat got into new Broadway shows in her early teens only to have both productions die from the box office staggers. There were weeks and sometimes months when no one wanted Pat for anything—stage, TV, modeling, or demonstrating refrigerators. But by now she had a feeling of destiny.

A good break came in the long Date With Judy contract, but she believes her luckiest day was the one when she heard that the Westport Playhouse in Connecticut planned a summer theatre presentation of The Philadelphia Story starring Sarah Churchill and Jeffrey Lynn. She hurriedly mailed copies of her notices as Dinah in her Fayetteville engagement and asked if she could read for the role. Not until the company was well into rehearsal, and she had given up hope, did word return to her. It was a wire and it urged her to come at once.

Her career took wings then. The interest that was being shown in her work at Westport was not only academic, meaning that critics had pleasant comment, it was professional, meaning that agents foresaw her future slowly turning to gold, or U. S. legal tender for same.

Summer ended, and Pat went back to school for her last term, legally represented as an artist by the well-known Gus Schirmer. One of his first accomplishments was to win for her the Deanna Durbin role in the TV version of 3 Smart Girls. When Paramount started looking for a new girl to go into the Forever Female picture, Schirmer had no trouble arranging for her to be one of those tested. And Ann Crowley’s little sister Pat got the studio’s nod.

For her first few months in Hollywood Pat, like many newcomers, worked hard and played none. She lived alone in a small apartment, did her own cooking, took the bus to the studio. In due time she got thoroughly bored with the whole routine. She knew what was missing. It was that form of companionship defined in simple terms as “boys.” Pat now has escorts in Hollywood and loves to go out. Her dates have included Vic Damone and Tab Hunter. These are her western boys. Perhaps her heart turns tenderest when she thinks of two young men she has known for years in New York, but she won’t say which (or perhaps she can’t yet).

One of these, Dick Kallman, is a well-known show and nightclub singer. The other is Bill Sapphire, editor-in-chief for Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg, whom Pat has known from her earliest days in New York.

Like many girls in the movies, Pat is beginning to think that the man she marries will be someone in the business. The principal reason is that it is difficult to meet an outsider who can keep on being himself when he meets an actress.

“Something happens to them,” complains Pat. “You will sense that» he is a nice boy ordinarily, but now he feels he has to put on some attitude or other because you’re in show business. And the funny part of it is that he does it to demonstrate how little your being an actress matters to him. He’ll pretend indifference, sometimes he’ll take on arrogance, and worst of all is when they make show talk as if they know what it’s all about. In any case, you soon realize you’re not out with a boy, you’re out with an actor—a real ham, too!”

Of course, Pat isn’t thinking of getting married right away. There is time yet. She is moving into a new apartment. She has bought herself a new Studebaker in a pastel shade and now nobody ever gets to her place because Pat insists on going over to their places so that she can have an excuse to drive her car. Yet under all this “living” are signs of incipient domesticity. She likes to cook. Her menu for friends she invited to dinner a few weeks ago included broiled steak, a “Shrimp Louie” salad and a cherry cream pie which she baked herself. She keeps talking about Bill and Dick in New York. It is being said also that she has been buying furniture on the side, although the apartment she is renting is a furnished one. Pat denies this. She said she did buy an antique table but that she stuck it in her garage “just to get older!”





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