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Party Of The Year

June Allyson was determined. She would not let go of her silver trophy.

“But, sweetheart,” Dick Powell said. “You can’t take it with you!”

“Oh, no?” said June, practically wrapping it in the folds of her new velvet party dress. This is the second time I’ve won it, and I’m not going to let it go.”

This family squabble took place in just about the center of Ciro’s at Modern Screen’s big (not to say colossal) party for the winners of its 1951 popularity poll. June Allyson was the Queen and she was proud enough to let the whole world know it. Even Modern Screen’s editor Charles Saxon couldn’t wheedle her into putting that trophy down.

“But you’re going to dinner now,” he said. “And you don’t want to lug that along.”

“Oh, no?” Said June. “This cup not only goes with me, but for a whole week you will find it right in the middle of the living room.”

Editor Saxon was properly overcome. After all, he had just heard a tribute to Modern Screen readers all over the world. In fact, he had just heard a summing up of all Hollywood’s attitude toward the first big event of the season.

Later, Dana Andrews told a radio audience, This is one party of the year I wouldn’t miss.

We know that Modern Screen’s Annual Awards are the on-the-level-result of movie-goers’ opinions of us all.”

“Not only that,” said Van Heflin, “but in my opinion, these awards are prophetic. The winners here tonight—some of them, at least—will be taking Oscars home in the not too distant future.” And Van Heflin, who has one himself, ought to know.

But to get to the party—and almost everyone in Hollywood did—it was one of those blowouts that was just for fun. There were no hour-long speeches, not a stuffed shirt in sight. And you never saw so many celebrities in your life. The few who couldn’t come sent their love, and top-man John Wayne, who was in Acapulco, sent his voice. This might sound difficult, but it wasn’t with Louella Parsons around.

“Hand me a phone,” said Louella, and with the phone came Mexico.

“Hello, Duke,” said Louella. “I want to tell you that you’ve won Modern Screen’s popularity prize for 1951, and I’m arranging to have the award sent down to you for an official presentation.”

Not only was the award delivered 24 hours later—in person—but the person was Hedy Lamarr. She gave the silver cup to John amidst a gathering of high Mexican government officials.

By the way, you may have heard Louella’s memorable call on her Sunday ABC radio program. And Jim McCulla’s tablehopping interviews were broadcast over the Liberty network. Cameramen from both MGM and 20th Century-Fox brought the party to you via newsreel.

If you caught the newsreel you may have imagined that the party went off like a charm, but it didn’t—anyway, not at the beginning. An hour before the event, Modern Screen’s editors sat bleakly next to a window watching the torrential rains. “That noise you hear,” said Hollywood editor Carl Schroeder, ‘Ss my career going down the drain.”

But suddenly in walked Glenn Ford with our publisher, George Delacorte. “Don’t let that mist bother you,” Glenn said. “Let’s just wring out our topcoats, pull up a chair and see what happens. I had to skip lunch today, and with a little luck I can eat my way through at least half of those magnificent hors d’oeuvres.”

Glenn didn’t get a chance to see if he could make it, though. Hedda Hopper arrived, dry as toast under one of her huge hats, and then the doors literally burst open at Ciro’s.

John Wayne’s great and good friend, Grant Withers arrived, to “sit in for the Duke” as he explained it, and was promptly joined by the Forrest Tuckers, the Bill Holdens (he’s one of Modern Screen’s almost perpetual top ten, it seems), Piper Laurie, Dorothy Lamour, the Larry Parks, the Bill Bendixes and Bill Demarest.

“I didn’t come with nobody,” Bill Demarest said, “but I got a reason for coming. You see, them two boys, Duke Wayne and Alan Ladd are old buddies of mine. I talked to Alan in Palm Springs this morning, and he told me I got to get dolled up and get on over here on account of he can’t show up, what with his kids being sick. So he’s soaking them up with sunshine, and if you’ll just pass me one of those waiters, I’ll soak it up too.”

Right then and there, the party picked up to the tune of jalops and Cadillacs splashing their way to Ciro’s front door.

“That was a good idea—your framing the Award Citations right at the entrance,” Tony Curtis exclaimed. “I think I’ll stand next to mine all evening long, and Janet can stand next to hers. Makes a nice family thing of it, don’t you think?”

Photographers Bert Parry and Bob Beerman did think, so they took a half dozen pictures. Matter of fact, all together they took more than a half a hundred along with standby, Walt Davis.

No sooner had they finished with two dozen color photos of Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, who were obviously not trying to hide the glow they felt toward each other, than the Mitchums arrived.

“Mind if we shoot?” Bert asked Mrs. Bob Mitchum. “Not at all,” she exclaimed. “There are really three of us, and I may not be the perfect maternity-dressed wife of 1951, but go ahead anyway.” (The baby is due in February.)

The moment June Haver and Dan Dailey arrived a ten-second hush fell over the room while everybody looked and speculated as to whether this might not be Hollywood’s most exciting new romance.

June and Dan wouldn’t admit a thing. “Were in a picture together,” Dan explained “—and who can tell what’s going to happen?” Who can? It’s hard to say, but all of a sudden columnists stopped mentioning June and that Texas oil millionaire, and for a solid week afterwards, nobody saw Dan in public anywhere without June.

This year’s party could certainly have had hearts and flowers as the theme song. Esther Williams, who has barely missed winning the top feminine popularity award three years running now, and by a handful of votes, held hands with her husband, Ben Gage, most of the evening.

Then there was Doris Day, who not only joined the top ten but won a special award as the most popular feminine singer of songs. She was so happy, arriving in the company of her less-than-a-year-husband, Marty Melcher, that she positively outshone the spotlights.

Some of the other “long marrieds” among the younger stars included the John Lunds, the Keenan Wynns, the Larry Parks (whose table was visited by almost everyone who showed up), the Dana Andrews, Van Heflins, Mr. and Mrs. “Reconciled” Jeff Chandlers, the Marshall Thompsons, the Rand Brooks and several dozen others who have conquered “the “be a star and and stay married” problem. That die-hard bachelor, Scott Brady, brought with him an exciting new screen discovery, Suzan Ball, who’s been working with him at Universal-International. Privately they admitted to friends that they both were “playing the field.”

The best comment made about all the lovely girls came from Edgar Bergen whose wife is so beautiful she almost breaks the law. Said Edgar, “I’m glad I left Charlie McCarthy home. It isn’t that the rain would swell his joints. I just know he’d sprain his wooden neck trying to ogle all the girls at once.”

Nobody voted for the most handsome guy at the party, but you readers would have had a tough-time deciding between those newcomers, Rock Hudson (who spent most of his evening talking to Joyce Holden) and Dale Robertson, who this year won the most popular newcomer award. They created almost as much excitement as Gene Autry would have if he and Mrs. Autry had arrived aboard Champion. (Even though they didn’t, Gene, in the latest cowboy sartorial splendor, attracted a lot of attention.)

Well sure, there had to be a disappointment or two—Debbie Reynolds, our most popular girl newcomer, was out on personal appearances, and couldn’t get home in time. Liz Taylor was heart-throbbing around New York and Mario Lanza was temporarily bedded down with a virus attack. (Although he did rise up on one elbow to accept the most popular male singer award on Louella Parsons’ Sunday broadcast.)

There were so many guests we’d like to rave about. Like Ginny Simms, prettier than ever, our always favorite Joan Evans, Ken Tobey, the Pete Hansons, Yvette Dugay, Patricia Ann Harding and her lovely grandma; Joanie Taylor, the Donald O’Connors, and at least 50 others, including those wonderful dancers, Marge and Gower Champion, petite Pier Angeli, Bob Wagner, and the popular columnist, Sid Skolsky. There just isn’t space in this issue.

Perhaps Sheilah Graham said it for everyone when she looked around the star-packed room and exclaimed, “One really amazing thing is that in this complete cross-section of Hollywood I don’t see one bit of jealousy. Every actor in the world loves to be popular with the public. BUT, when it comes to Modern Screen award time, the losers are always right there, cheering the winners.”

And to that, the editors of Modern Screen can only add, “You said it!” and, “Come back next year!”




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