“Shall We Tell Them All About Us?”
I threw three pebbles into the lake. Plink, plank, plunk! I watched the widening circles in the water, and I tried to take my mind off things by counting the ripples before they disappeared.
I wanted to keep calm and collected, but I was beginning to feel pent-up. The day was hot and sticky, and I pushed my hair away from my neck.
When I turned around, I saw Jim coming toward me. He smiled and took my hand and we walked toward the little green valley in the cool woods, where butterflies danced and sunbeams spangled the trees with gold. I was nervous inside, and I hoped it wasn’t showing.
Then we stopped and looked at each other. He held both my hands. We were standing so close together, Jim and I, I could hear his heart going thump-thump-thump. And all the leaves in the green woods around us whispered and sh-sshd.
Gee, how vividly it all comes back to me. The sun in the treetops and the happy twitter of birds. I remember I saw a pair of animal eyes looking at us through the trees.
Then Jim smiled and said my name and he took me gently in his arms. My stomach flip-flopped. I put my arms around him. He looked at me, and my heart was pounding, and I turned away for a minute. I sighed, got up my courage and looked into his eyes. They were blue and misty. They tried to tell me something.
Out of the shadows a bobolink called. Somewhere in the tall grass, a lark trilled. So softly I could barely hear him, Jim whispered, “I love you.”
I closed my eyes, and in a minute his cheek was against mine, warm and fuzzy, and before knew it I felt his lips touch mine lightly—ever so lightly. I trembled all over, and there was such stillness in the forest it scared me. I looked up and there we were, in the shadows of the big trees.
I took a breath, and suddenly I heard the choir of birds, the bobolinks and the meadowlarks, beginning to serenade us again in the middle of that lazy August afternoon.
Out of the blue a voice yelled, “Cut!” It was Herschel Daugherty, the director of our movie, “The Light in the Forest.” Jim and I had finished our love scene. Hersch’s assistant bellowed, “Wrap it up, and let’s go home.”
“But can I take her home with me?” Jim said. I blushed all over and ran off, and the social worker attending me on the set came tramping behind my footsteps like a soldier. Jim called them “those spooky social workers.” He warned me, “They’re right behind you all the time.” Then his eyes would light up and he’d laugh, “But that’s because you’re a child—and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them.”
I asked the social worker to explain “wrap it up,” and she said it meant beat it, go on home, shooting’s over for the day.
I began to itch and I slapped at the ants on my legs. Ants followed us everywhere that summer. They were in the food, in our clothes, even between the pages of our scripts.
Jim came over to me and said, “Listen, antslapper, don’t you think they deserve the right to live?” He laughed, then slapped an ant on his arm. Jim was always full of advice—he’s four years older.
And there you have it—the story behind my one (and only) “romance” with handsome Jim MacArthur. (Don’t ever call him Jimmy; he bristles.) One kissing scene for the cameras.
Jim and I met that summer in Hollywood, my first time there, and I was so green I was scared. I didn’t know anything about picture-making, and every time I goofed, I’d run into the bushes and pick up my paperback book of poems to read so I could forget about what a nitwit I was, and if Jim wasn’t on camera, he’d come over and tell me, “Coach, if they’re giving you any trouble, holler back. And if you lose your voice, give me a high sign, and I’ll give them a piece of your mind.”
I’d laugh and forget about the mess-up. Jim was a teenager, too—nineteen (now he’s twenty). I was fifteen and scared, like I say.
You know, if you’ve never been to Hollywood before, it’s hard to take it all in—the publicity people and the photographers and the dressers and all the thousands of jack-in-the-box assistants (not to forget my mom) who tag along. Business hours in Hollywood are full of tag-alongers. There are so many of them you don’t know what to do.
But after working hours, it’s a different story. Suddenly you’re all alone and you feel lonely. I don’t know where all the people go. My girlfriend, Janice Brubeck (she’s a young singer looking for a lucky break), and I used to ride up and down the elevators at the Chateau Marmont where we lived every time we could think of an excuse. We were ashamed to admit this to anyone but we were secretly looking for celebs.
We’d ask the lady at the main desk if any stars had checked in, and she’d rattle off a bunch of names that made our heads whirl. Anna Magnani. Greta Garbo. Joanne Woodward. Paul Newman. Sal Mineo. Tony Perkins. Janice and I would walk away staggering.
But, we wondered, where did they all go? We looked high and low for them, but few of them were about. That’s why I say the nights are lonely in Hollywood. I guess everybody’s busy studying lines, and it’s early-to-bed because that five o’clock morning call comes mighty early. Sure, there are a few parties here and there, and some razzle-dazzle all-out nights if there’s a fancy premiere. But Hollywood, from what I saw of it, is a community of hard-working people dedicated to its work like any other town.
Oh yes, one night I ran into Johnny Saxon in a Health Food store, and the proprietor of the place introduced us and, out of bashfulness I guess, all we said was hello.
Another night Janice and I had plenty of time on our hands so we composed a telegram to Jim—a long string of corny congratulations for his birthday (it wasn’t, naturally! His birthday’s in December). We ran to the Western Union office, splurged with our allowances and signed the wire Melinda Lee and Conchita Lou. Janice and I laughed for days about it.
But Jim never mentioned it once. Probably, he figured, a couple of spooks had flipped their lids.
Not that Jim can’t handle himself in ticklish situations. All summer long girls would ask him for autographs and you should have seen him. Unbelievable! Smooth as butter and a first class operator, to boot.
But back to Hollywood. I was floored with the tight clothes everyone wears and in such knock-your-eyes-out colors. Me, I’m the baggy clothes type. This way I don’t have any letting-out or taking-in problems if I gain or lose weight. But in Hollywood, wow! The human body is revealed in bursting detail, if you know what I mean. I’d go shopping with my Mom in the supermarket, and I felt like a freak wearing my brother’s shirts and old slacks with plenty of room you know where.
(Jim’s a neat Ivy League dresser. He loves tweeds and herringbone stripes in jackets and suits, prefers striped rep ties—or knitted ones—white button-down shirts.)
Jim used to kid me and say, “Red and blue, red and blue! That’s all you wear, red and blue!” They’re my favorite colors. My unfavorite color is black. I hate it with a passion, especially on young girls. It makes me look ridiculously old.
So many people ask me if I’m not old and overly-sophisticated for my age, and it gripes me because I’ve never worn slinky dresses or spike-heeled shoes, smoked cigarettes or traveled in a fast crowd. If they meant sophisticated in terms of being wise (the word sophisticated comes from a Latin or Greek phrase meaning wisdom), I’d be flattered, but naturally everyone refers to the lah-de-dah kind of sophistication. Anyone who gets to know me realizes I’m pretty much a teenager who loves pajama parties with girlfriends and lots of talk about boys.
My grandmother in Winthrop, Massachusetts—where I was born—calls me “a nice, healthy girl,” and once when I played a neurotic murderess on an Alfred Hitchcock TV program, she had conniptions and was fit to be tied! My modeling for the fashion magazines didn’t upset her, but playing a killer—uh-oh! all that Scotch, Irish, Welsh, English, German and Maine Mohawk Indian blood in her boiled.
“But that’s the fun of acting,” I told her. It’s the thrill of having an opportunity to try to be someone other than yourself. Grandmother nodded her head and told me to clip the hedges in the front yard. She said they needed neatening-up.
One time my Mom and I had a to-do about the way I should have played a role on television. We argued for three days about it. Every time we sat down to eat, before I’d even get a bite of food into my mouth, she’d get on me about the way I was playing the role. I couldn’t stand it, so I decided one morning to do it her way. Was it ever terrible! That’s when I said, “Look, Mom, you’re the mother in the family, so, if you don’t mind, you do the mothering, and if I’m going to be the actress let me try doing the acting.” We’ve gotten along on acting like two peas in a pod ever since.
Jim told me he never had any trouble with his mother about acting—even though she’s one of the greatest! “She’s never primed me on acting,” Jim said. “She’s kind of let me develop by myself.”
Did you know television is where Jim and I got our feet wet in this acting business? “I was the most popular back on TV,” I used to boast to Jim—“although I bet you don’t even remember me. I was the young girl whose parents or uncle always plunked her down with her back directly in front of the camera and lectured her.”
TV’s more comfortable for me—probably because I’m used to it. Hollywood cameras used to frighten me. “They come up so close on you, and you can’t blink your eyes or turn your head,” I used to moan to Jim.
“You’ll get over it,” he’d tell me in his relaxed way. But I didn’t. You have to keep absolutely still and say your lines without any breathing and hope all the time that all’s going well.
It didn’t always. One day when the director told me to move a little to the left, I took a step—only one step, mind you—and I was completely out of camera range.
All the time I worked in “The Light in the Forest” I was so unsure of myself. I was afraid even to see the final print. Believe it or not, when I did (after my third invitation) I absolutely cringed all the way through it.
I was so embarrassed. My face looked fat and awful, and I hated the way I walked.
“You walk like you walk,” Jim teased me.
“Oh,” I wailed. “Don’t say that!”
Working the way I have since I was ten and a half—when I started modeling—I haven’t had time to date as much as other girls my age. Once in a while I wonder about it, but it doesn’t really bother me—although I’ll be honest and say I’m looking forward to all the good times ahead.
Not that I haven’t had a few dates! You could count them on your fingers—which is maybe why I’m still kind of inexperienced and some of them have been duds. Once when I was on a date some people came over to me for autographs. We were in Central Park having ice cream and looking at all the summer people bicycling, rowing boats, playing baseball. After I signed some autographs, the boy froze and didn’t say a word to me for the rest of the afternoon, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I like boys who take the lead about what to do and where to go, the way a fellow should. Some boys can do this at thirteen, others can be thirty and not know how to handle themselves. I guess maybe this is the same with girls—it’s a little true of me.
I love to go to the movies on a date. But then I love the movies! When I used to model I’d run to a movie between assignments. Usually I only got to see about an hour of the film. I had to rush off to my next job.
I’d go to any movie starring Marilyn Monroe. She’s—to quote a phrase—the most beautiful symbol of womanhood I know.
I adore Carroll Baker. Lots of people who stop me on the Street for my autograph walk away disappointed when they find out I’m not Carroll. I don’t blame them. I’d be disappointed, too. Sometimes I’m mistaken for Grace Kelly’s younger sister or Eva Marie Saint. Sometimes in New York when people stare I feel I have leprosy or something. But in small towns like Winthrop people are courteous and friendly. They let you go your own way.
Other actresses I like are Audrey Hepburn and Dame Sybil Thorndike. Dame Sybil came to Broadway for “The Potting Shed” last year. It was my first Broadway show, and I had a tiny role, but I loved it. My dressing room was five flights up since I was low man on the totem pole, but every night when I went to the theatre I could hardly wait to climb them.
Jim and I violently disagree on some movie stars. His favorite actors are Paul Muni, Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave. Jim’s comment on them is, “They have that great ability to lose themselves in the part. I like Marlon Brando but he’s only a personality. I never forget he’s Marlon.”
In my book Marlon rates four stars. So do Don Murray and Paul Newman.
Jim’s actress favorites are Deborah Kerr, Bette Davis and Joanne Woodward.
This year I played in another Broadway play, “Blue Denim.” I was a teenager who got into terrifying sex trouble because of a lack of understanding between parents and kids. Joshua Logan was our director. Did I learn from him!
I learn by watching older people. I listen to everything, then try things out, experiment until I come up with what I think’s best.
Jim’s coming to Broadway this fall in a play with a tricky title, “Faraway the Train Birds Cry.” Jim just finished a mountain-climbing movie in Switzerland, “The Third Man on the Mountain.” He had a ball. Jim’s seen most of the world (I haven’t left the U.S.).
But Jim and I are very much alike when it comes to friends. We both believe a few friends, but good ones, are better. My best girl friend is Gail O’Leary who lives in Winthrop. Jim says people today don’t have time for too many close friends. To get to know a few people well takes a lot of time and understanding. And it does.
In fact, it takes a lot of time to understand yourself and your weaknesses. My biggest weakness? Food! I eat if I’m happy, I eat if I’m blue, I eat if I’m dreaming about outer space. And always one day I wake up to find I’ve eaten too much, and it’s diet, diet, diet like crazy. Dieting’s the story of my life. Carol The Calorie Counter—that’s me. You could put me in a sideshow and call out all the different foods and I’d yell back the calories. One baked potato—100 calories! A slice of white bread—60 calories! A slice of ham—250 calories! See what I mean?
I love baking hermits, cakes and butter cookies, but I suffer if I eat them. Pounds, pounds, pounds. Sometimes all I have to do is look at them and I gain weight, honestly.
Starchy foods? I’m nuts about them. Give me spaghetti and French fried potatoes and slabs of buttered bread and I’m in Seventh Heaven. If I had one wish in this world I’d like to go to a land where there are lemonade waterfalls and sugar flowers and eat to my heart’s delight.
Jim used to bend over me every time I got my teeth stuck in a chocolate bar and he’d kid, “Look out, Carol, those camera angles are going to be rough on you.”
“You’re worse than I am,” I’d tell him, but he did the trick. He made me lose my appetite.
Count Jim in as a food fiend, too. He loves starchy foods, too (I wonder—is there anybody who doesn’t?), and he flips for Italian dishes: veal parmigiana and pizza pie.
Give Jim a slice of pizza with an Elvis rock record and he’s happy. He digs rock music, but at the same time can enjoy a Beethoven violin concerto.
Me, I’m not so hot for rock and roll. It gives me a headache after a while. But then opera does, too. I saw Mario Lanza in a picture about Rome recently and he sang so many operatic selections I had to run home and take two aspirins. My favorite music is soft ballad music, the Frank Sinatra-Doris Day kind. Or give me the Hi-Los singing anything. My favorite album? “Threepenny Opera.” Dancing? I love it, ballroom style, a simple two step. I’ve never waltzed and I can’t tell a rhumba from a cha-cha-cha.
I like to listen to the radio. At night if I want to read and listen to music and my fourteen-year-old brother, Danny, has a date and wants the living room all to himself, we run head-on into a problem. When you live in a small apartment the way we do, you have to figure out something. So I take my dachshund, Frankie, and lock us in the bathroom where I stretch out in the bathtub with all my clothes on (no water, of course) and read all my magazines.
Getting back to the bathroom, isn’t it the best place for a hideaway? I love to take showers, wash my hair for hours. That’s when I do my best thinking, with my eyes closed, while I’m scrubbing my hair. I get lost in a world all my own. And if something soothing—like my favorite song, “Mac the Knife,” is playing on the radio, I’m on cloud nine.
My religion is very important to me. I’m a Catholic. My mother is, too. She’s a much better Catholic than I am. I don’t go to church as often as I’d like. I go often, but not often enough to suit me. But then I don’t believe a person should go unless he needs it inside. Most of all, I hate church hypocrites. These are the people who are busy sinning all week long and expect the church to absolve them completely after they’ve attended a Sunday mass. One should try to be good all the time.
Jim and I discussed religion. It’s important when you’re growing up. Jim’s a Protestant, though his mother’s a Catholic convert. You know, I think Jim’s favorite conversational topic is religion. And school.
I’ll graduate from the School for Young Professionals next January (I love all my men teachers, the women teachers are all so fussy), and brother, will I be happy! School’s a necessary evil in my book—but I plan to take college courses at night and study on my own afterward.
Jim went to Harvard, quit in the middle of last year to see the world and explore it on his own. He couldn’t concentrate on his studies.
“Why should I take up a seat and not let somebody else get into college?” was Jim’s comment. “I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I was having trouble passing some of my courses, so I decided to get out for a while.” But, Jim says, he left school with the door open because he plans to return.
We both read like crazy. Jim goes for the heavier stuff, the classics, and his favorite writer is Nobel prize winner Albert Camus.
Thomas Wolfe’s for me. This year I read his first novel, “Look Homeward, Angel,” and I walked around in a daze for days. Tony Perkins starred in the Broadway adaptation of it, and he walked away with all the drama critics reviews. “Look Homeward, Angel” is so rich, so full of real people it makes you want to cry and laugh all at once.
One thing I learned about Jim when we’d talk about books. He doesn’t like you to agree with him for the sake of agreeing. He likes you to have your own ideas. There was an interviewer on the set once who was going to write a story about Jim, and he kept agreeing with everything Jim was saying, and afterward Jim said, “What a dodo! Doesn’t have a mind of his own.”
By now I guess you’ve learned Jim and I are friends, good ones. There’s not a smidge of romance between us, and by the time you read this, Jim and Joyce Bulifant, his schoolgirl sweetheart from Solebury School may be Mr. and Mrs. They’re both twenty and seriously considering knotting the tie that binds.
What else is there to tell? I don’t know. What’s ahead? Who can tell? I hope a boy —! Don’t you love them?
Marriage is something I’m beginning to wonder about. Like the Old Lady who lived in the shoe, I want to have a flock of children—so many I won’t know what to do. I want to live in an old, old house—they’re so much more dignified!—with lots of early American furniture: maple rockers and four poster beds and a spinning wheel in the front parlor.
Till then, I figure there’s plenty of time ahead for daydreaming, eating sweets and mooning over men.
What do you think?
—BY CAROL LYNLEY
AS TOLD TO GEORGE CHRISTY
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1958