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Off With That “Lady” Label!

Can a virtuous innocent play a bad girl? Or to use a more familiar simile, can a leopard change its spots? And to get right down to cases, can professional sweet girls like Debra Paget, Jeanne Crain, Mitzi Gaynor, Pier Angeli, Piper Laurie, Janie Powell, Deborah Kerr, yes, and even Margaret O’Brien, kick over the traces and emerge as scintillating sexpots? The answer is a big passionate yes!

I thought I was seeing and hearing double yesterday in the Twentieth Century-Fox Cafe. Debra Paget was lunching with her younger sister, Lisa Gaye—and don’t be thrown by the difference in name. Everyone in Debra’s family has a different last monicker, including her parents! But now I’m concerned with the difference in Debbie. Her hair was bright brash yellow. Her lips were made up to achieve a provocative pout. And the girl who boasted barely a few months ago that she had never been kissed, was flaunting a blinding five and a half carat diamond ring on her engagement finger, and sighing sexily, “I’m so happy.”

Well, there’s nothing extraordinary in having a ring—if the guy who gave it to you intends to marry you. But Debbie, who was never mysterious before, went into a double-talking routine of “Maybe we will and maybe we won’t. And I can’t tell you his name but he’s wonderful and I’m so happy.” Now I’ve been around this neck of the woods for some considerable time and it seems to me that when a gal won’t talk, it means there is something to hide. I hope in Debra’s case she’ll have her ring and the man, too. 

I don’t know whether the chicken came before the egg, or the cart before the horse. But the crack in little Miss Paget’s nineteen-and-never-been-kissed armor was first visible when she moved with her family into a big ten-room house in the Hollywood Hills. She announced to her startled mama that from now on she would have a bedroom all to herself. (This was the first request of the eighteen-year-old Victoria just as soon as she became Queen, if you remember.) But Mater was due for more surprises! Her darling Debra decorated the walls of the inner sanctum shocking pink, with a strawberry pink velvet bedspread. Anchors away, me lads. Paget’s in the open sea.

Jeanne Crain was never mousy. Let’s just say she was conservative. She had an airy fairy quality as though her feet were never touching the ground. But Jeanne came down to earth with a determined bang when she saw what lack of inhibition and plain sex was doing for Marilyn Monroe. Before Mmmmn, it was a losing battle to get Jeanie of the long light brown hair out of peasant dirndls and eyelet-trimmed white blouses into glamour gowns befitting a star. As for trimming the untidy hair, not even director Joe Mankiewicz could manage to snip more than an inch, and to do that he gave Jeanne the choice role of Annabel Higgins in “People Will Talk” with Cary Grant.

But I actually walked past Jeanne at a party the day after she dyed her crowning glory a gory red, cut close to her head in the latest shingle. Fortunately, Paul Brinkman was there. “What happened?” I asked Mrs. Paul. Jeanne laughed and there was nothing elf-like about this woman-sized chuckle. “It was time for a change,” she said, looking me straight in the eye (those pretty orbs used to wander ’way up into the clouds). She admitted she is now spending about $12,000 a year on clothes—before it was more like $1,200. Don’t get her wrong, she still loves her husband, home and children. But now she’s going to live a little.

Maureen O’Hara was a devoted wife for ten years. There were rumors—but she always denied them. Then she made a picture in Mexico. And there were more rumors—but these were different. There was talk of a Mexican government official madly in love with the beautiful Irish movie star.

I’m not blaming Maureen. She really tried with Will Price, and she was unhappy for years before making the serious decision to separate from him. Sure she’s jumped over the traces now. But I don’t believe it will be too high—or for too long.

When they told me Deborah Kerr would play Karen Holmes in “From Here to Eternity” I screamed, just as loudly as when I heard Van Johnson was cast as Maryk in “The Caine Mutiny.” Deborah, the most ladylike of all the ladies we have imported from Britain, playing the lecherous Karen? Someone was crazy. But it seems it was me. This is what I mean about an innocent playing a bad girl. Deborah’s married and the mother of two, and she has a spiritual look on her face that has nothing to do with acting. But when you see the movie you’ll see a sexpot who is really convincing!

The European press professed to be shocked at the change in Pier Angeli. And they blamed it, of course, on Hollywood. But little Pier merely decided she was grown up and could handle her own affairs without advice from Mama, who had not only insisted on chaperoning her on all dates, but made the poor girl telephone every hour on the hour to say where she was and what she was doing! There was bound to be a rebellion when Pier saw what fun the less guarded, but just as nice, American girls were having.

And of course meeting Kirk Douglas didn’t hold the little Angeli back any. She couldn’t have picked a better playmate. When my ten-year-old daughter first saw Pier with Kirk, she asked, “Is she a girl or a woman?” After a year of being in love with Kirk, there’s no doubt—she’s a woman.

“I never was a femme fatale,” Terry Moore dead-panned to me last week. Here’s a girl who busted out, and now wants to jump back in. But she’ll never make it. Too much has passed under the bridge. To land the role in “Come Back, Little Sheba,” Terry came to the test in a sopping wet swim suit. They got the point and she got the part. She is reported to have said, “I’ve got a terrific body, why not promote it?” Every time I see her she has a different guy in tow. Al Besselink was Number One, for outdoor sports. And Laurence Harvey, the night-club and restaurant escort. She was married to Glenn Davis. Now she says when she marries again, it will probably be because she is sick of reading her name linked with every man she says “Hello” to. Of course it all depends on how you say “Hello.”

Piper calls the tune and Len Goldstein dances. This demure little redhead has a whim of unmeltable iron, as far as her career’s concerned. And the gossipists predicted that bonnie Piper Laurie would forget Goldstein, whom she calls Pop, when he left her Universal-International studio. But even if she is ambitious, Piper is also a nice girl; the two qualities are compatible. And she continued to date Len.But when Yvonne DeCarlo took off for Europe and Carlos Thompson came to call, Piper seemed ready to forget Pop. And Pop didn’t appear to be too much on her mind when she was being seen with Brad Jackson.

Piper in pursuit of a man would have been just as shock-making as Jane Powell in her sudden decision to end her marriage to Geary Steffen after dancing and romancing Gene Nelson in Warners’ “Three Sailors and a Girl.” It wasn’t in the cards. Piper went to Korea, returned with bad case of pneumonia and the flight from Pop was over. Wouldn’t it surprise everyone if they took off one da ay and got married?

Donna Reed is such an out-and-out lady, it has actually hurt her career. Producers just don’t see her generating whatever it is that draws the customers to see Lana Turner. But she may be kicking over the traces if Tony Owen remains too long in Africa with “Duel in the Jungle,” which he is co-producing with Tony Bartley who, as you know, is married to Deborah Kerr. Donna is well behaved and very sane, but enough’s enough—even for a lady.

Mitzi Gaynor was always the home- sweet-home girl—nice but on the dull side. Until she starred on the stage in “Jollyana.” Then all of a sudden, she’s sexy as all get out, sprinkles gold dust in her hair, wears sophisticated clothes, spit curls, and gives the impression of a warmed-over Ann Miller. Of course, it was a man, but I don’t care who it was, I like her now!

Mona Freeman of the flower-like face, is steel inside. Has been since she was six- teen. And when she busted over the traces of her marriage with Pat Nerney and dated Bing Crosby, several people here accused her of using Bing as a peg for publicity But I’ve news for them, her and you—no one uses Mr Crosby unless he wants to be used. But no one ever calls Mona a child these days—not since her dates with Bing and a well-known comedian who shal] be anonymous, because he has since returned to his wife.

Margaret O’Brien will be seventeen in January. And I predict we ain’t seen nuttin’ yet. This colt is getting ready to break out of the corral. For the past year, Maggie has been wearing a girdle that pushes up her bust and pinches her waist to the same number of inches as her age. You can almost hear the beat, beat of her eager heart, ready to run in the rat race we sometimes call life. But someone—and it’s going to be me, has to tell Maggie about the facts of make-up. Chalk white powder on a pretty young face is not attractive. And too much eyeshadow and mascara create a wrong impression. And an overpainted mouth is too startling. Stay as sweet as you are, Maggie. And as young. You’ll be an adult for a long, long time.

Gene Tierney was always a lady no matter how rough the going with her marriage or career. So I was kind of surprised when a friend wrote from Paris with the news that Gene was being seen everywhere, all the time with Prince Aly Khan. She must be pretty sure she is going to succeed Rita as Princess Aly, or I know she would be more discreet.

When girls from the frozen north start to thaw they melt so fast they’re in danger of drowning. Two unfrozen female examples: Ingrid Bergman and, more recently, Arlene Dahl. “I’m madly in love with Fernando,” Arlene called to tell me, almost weeping when I intimated the Lamas-Dahl romance could be to publicize their pictures. “I have never been in love before,” she continued. When I pressed for the date of their marriage the beautiful redhead replied, “I’m superstitious. So is Fernando. If I give a date, something might go wrong.” I hope nothing does, for Arlene’s sake more than Fernando’s. This Latin has been in love before. And Arlene never was, not even with Lex.

When Anne Baxter dyes again for her art, you’ll know she’s had enough of the sex build-up hoopla. When other girls with fairer hair and bigger bust measurements landed roles she could have done better, Annie decided to revamp her personality. From the quiet ultra-dignified type, Annie, with one swift smack at the conventions, took to cigars (but only for publicity—she can’t stand the things!), blondined her brown locks, expressed a loud opinion on everything and acted like Betty Hutton at a jam session. But I think she’s had enough. Now I think she’s ready to be the old young Miss Baxter and stand or fall on her acting ability—which is considerable.

To revert to Janie Powell for a brief paragraph. I wonder whether she will stop sowing these wild oats when and if she becomes Mrs. Gene Nelson? Sometimes you can’t stop when you start running. Especially downhill. Her hair is getting more and more bleached and the face is changing. I just hope Mr. Nelson really loves her.

Diana Lynn is a dolly who took her name from the Goddess of the chase. And I guess she wishes she’d never heard of the lady! She reckons the divorce from John Lindsay cost her $50,000 in community property. Diana has been on a male merry-go-round ever since. But with Lynn, as with Baxter, love can’t hold a candle to ambition. But I once said this about Ingrid Bergman, too, and everybody knows how that guess worked out.

What it seems to boil down to, is that the really smart gals can put aside that “lady” label whenever they feel like it—so long as they keep it within fingertip reach, just in case the time comes when it’s wise to tack it back in place again.




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