The Story That Can Have No Title
This story is true, yet you may not believe it. It is about a man who is living in agony. He has everything a man could have on this earth except the love of the woman he adores. So he has nothing. He lives in a state of never-ending anguish and longing, a misery so consuming he may not survive it.
As we said, you may not believe this story. But it is true. As true as you are. As true as he is. Brace yourself. This is the beginning.
The Actor of this story became a star several years ago. Because of his splendid performances, because of the genuineness of his talent and the keenness of his mind, the road into his future was paved with the golden bricks of fame and fortune.
Since he was intelligent, he absorbed his early success without panic. He made sensible plans to save and invest the money that was pouring in. He was cooperative on the set and did his utmost to maintain a pleasant relationship with his coworkers, from the cast and director on down to the messenger boys and the wardrobe women.
What few people know, however, was that the Actor had, for a number of years before his success, been close to an older and very wealthy woman. She had sustained him during the days of his early struggles.
She had provided for his every need. And, more important, she had saved him from despair when his depression had been so great that he’d been tempted to give up acting altogether.
“You must not give in, Darling,” the older woman would say to him. “Persevere. Find new strength in yourself. And if you cannot, my dearest I will always be here to help you.”
“You are so fine; and good to me,” the Actor would reply. “I don’t know what I would do without you. Someday, some how, I promise I will repay you.”
And he would lean gently against her, close his eyes and hope for the new strength she had promised him. Then she would purr magic soothing words into his ear and stroke his hair. In a little while he was hers in the quiet of the room.
The Actor was grateful. Without her, perhaps he would never have made it. And when he did make it, there was no hesitancy as he said, “I will never forget you. Everything I am I owe to you. I want you to know that I know it.”
The older woman smiled happily and replied, “Don’t let it concern you, Darling, all I ever wanted was for you to have what you wanted . . . what you wanted most.” And again she would stroke his hair and purr magic words into his ear.
The Actor’s success worried the older woman for a while. She was aware of the deep and almost fanatical attraction he held for women, beautiful women. Hollywood, where he was now living, swarmed with beauties.
She would caution him, in a motherly tone, not to lose his head over any of them because they were “connivers and schemers,” interested in him not for the “sweetness and goodness” that was in his soul. “They want only to shine more brightly in your light,” she would say. “They are interested only in unfairly sharing your fame and your money. They will add nothing of value to your life.”
“But,” she would add, “you will meet the right woman someday. She will be everything you desire. And she will be rare, of course. because you are rare, and I do not want just anyone for you. Don’t let yourself be beguiled by the others . . . by their bodies and their charms. The wrong woman will destroy you.”
The actor would nod his head at the wisdom of her words and lean gently against her, and the older woman would stroke his hair and talk softly to him in another of the many quiet rooms they shared.
For a time after his success the older woman was happy. For the Actor was hers. She was all the woman he had in his life. And he was hers. Not quite the way she wanted him. The difference in their ages was great. And she was not attractive, although she had been once.
But in those quiet rooms, with him, she was young again, in her body and in her mind.
And all the mirrors in her life were liars.
From time to time he would speak to her of some particular girl who enchanted him. A girl who seemed as beautiful inside as she was out.
“She really is lovely,” he would say, “and I believe she is the kind of girl you would approve.”
The older woman would smile sweetly and shake her head. “No, darling, I understand her kind. I am wiser than you in the ways of women. She wants the part of you that does not belong to her—your fame, your success. Listen to me, Darling. Your happiness is all I want for myself, When the right one comes along we’ll know her. Forget this one. She just isn’t for you.”
The actor would look at her with wide eyes that bared his heart . . . and his compulsive obedience. There were times when reluctance to obey the older woman stirred in him. There were even times when he made up his mind to choose a girl without her approval. But always, in the end, the quiet voice in the quiet room would dispel the buds of rebellion within him.
Then it happened.
The Actor met one of the most beautiful women in the world. She was also an actress. And he loved her so much that he became weak at the thought of her.
But the Actor did not tell the actress how he felt. He let the love boil in his heart. He did not tell the older woman. He knew what she would say and he did not want to hear it. Not again. Not this time.
For months he carried the secret inside him.
He would see the actress at parties, at premieres. He even dined with her on occasion. But never once did he allow his feelings to be known to anyone.
For a while the Actor managed to live with his secret. But it was difficult, it was a struggle. In the presence of the actress the need for guarding his words and glances exerted such pressure and such turmoil in the front of his mind that often he would neither hear nor see others when they spoke to him.
And there were those awful moments when his feelings, screaming for release, came so close to the surface that he would run from the room where the actress stood.
His relationship with the older woman began to change. She still dominated; he still submitted. But he gave in too easily, he agreed too quickly.
And, though she still stroked his hair and held him in the quiet rooms, she sensed something was different. The submissiveness he once conveyed so warmly and willingly had stopped. Now he simply gave in.
In her own way, she questioned him about it. Many times.
But the Actor had developed a canniness of his own. He had locked the secret in his soul, and nothing the older woman could say or do would unlock it.
As the months went by, the Actor began to change, slowly, hardly noticeably, as the minute hand travels from one hour to the next on a clock.
He was still cooperative on the set, but he turned more and more to loneliness.
He saw the beautiful actress whenever he could without making it obvious that every cell in his body shrieked to be near her.
For a time his friends suspected he was in love with her. But he would allow none of them to know him well enough to be sure.
The actress, in no way, returned his feelings. She simply regarded him as a good friend. She admired his talent, invited him to her parties, knowing nothing at all of his true feelings for her.
And the strain began to twist the Actor’s insides. Try as he would to prevent it, the sensitivities of his heart and mind began to warp. And before long he started to openly despise himself, his talent and his weakness.
He could not sleep. Relaxation was impossible. Every conscious moment was overwhelmed by his love for the actress. He would walk with his head bowed. He would not recognize his co-workers. He talked to himself and sat in corners.
But more than anything, he began to resent the influence of the older woman from whom he had once received his strength.
Despite the Actor’s great talent before the cameras he was not, in private, a strong nor determined personality. The older woman had so overprotected him for so many years, that he had become weak and indecisive. He was so dependent on her for counsel and understanding that he could no longer make his own decisions.
Yet, from some faint remnant of masculinity, the Actor realized how deeply he had become involved with the older woman.
In desperate determination, accelerated by the driving and overwhelming love he had for the actress, he decided to cut the bonds that tied him to the older woman.
He rehearsed the scene for days. Exactly what he would say. He would be kind, but firm. Understanding, but resolute. He would not even discuss his love for the actress. But, if he were ever to live a life of his own, he had to dissolve this spell the older woman held over him.
He put off the final reckoning too long.
One morning the Actor picked up the newspaper to discover that the woman he loved had chosen another man to wed.
The Actor’s mind, his heart, his resolution drained from him. He was left without hope, without strength.
He was so stunned and shocked he could neither think nor speak. For days he walked around in a trance. Finally, the older woman found him . . . alone and in the depths of a depression so great, she was afraid he might destroy himself.
Now she could handle him again. “He has no one but me now. He is helpless.”
Instead of breaking the ties, the Actor found himself even more closely bound to her. And, helpless as he was, he soon realized that his own weakness was the cause of it all. He realized, too, that he could not escape. He’d been possessed.
And suddenly he despised the older woman as much as he despised himself.
When she came on the set, as she often did, he would look at her with eyes of liquid anger and hate.
“It was almost impossible to believe,” one of his co-workers recalls. “He would show up late for work. But his performances were magnificent. He could smile, laugh and be gay, if the script called for it. But the instant the director said ‘Cut.’ his spirit would disappear. His body continued with us, but it was as though he were a completely different person.
“I remember once there was a meeting on the set in which the director wanted to explain the motivations of his part in the next scene.
“ ‘Don’t talk to me about the part,’ the Actor shouted. ‘I’m not — —. There is the real — —.’
“With that he pointed to the older woman standing in the shadows. Then he turned and quietly walked off the set. through the stage doors and into his.
“Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her pure boy a bone, but when she got there the cupboard was bare and so her pure boy was alone. Howya like that, ole buddy? The pure boy all alone. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
His laughter died suddenly as he regarded the man standing dumbfounded.
“Get out!” screamed the Actor. “Get out and leave the pure boy alone!” He threw the liquor bottle. It hit the wall, rolled on the floor and spilled.
The visitor shook his head, closed the door and left.
All through the long nights the Actor’s chanting, in a loud, cracked voice, split the Southern air. Suddenly he would stop. Then he would start again.
They finally moved the Actor to an isolated house where he “lived” for the rest of the shooting.
On the last day, he didn’t show up for work. They found him running through the woods—half-drunk and naked.
They put clothes on him. He was needed for one more scene. No dialogue was necessary, so they leaned him against a tree and begged him to remain still for five seconds. He obeyed. The director said, “Gut!” The Actor fell to the ground on his face. They carried him to the house.
Back in Hollywood, the older woman rejoined him. Under her influence the Actor remained sober for longer periods of time. But even she couldn’t keep him from the bottle entirely. By now it was too late.
Each time he didn’t report for work they found him in a drunken stupor in his dressing room. And always, somewhere near him, was a picture of the actress he loved.
Once they found him spread-eagled on the floor, and under his face was a large, photo of the actress. The center of the picture was streaked with the tears the Actor had shed before he passed out.
As they picked him up and put him on the couch he muttered, “Am I dead?”
Not long after that he was discovered drunk again, sitting on a curb of the studio street rocking back and forth.
“I thought at first he was sick,” said the man who found him. “I tried to help him.”
The Actor’s eyes were wild and vacant again. His clothes were wrinkled and dirty and he staggered drunkenly about.
“Where am I? Oh, Mother, where am I?” He stumbled and fell again.
“Where’s the set?” he screamed. “Somebody, tell me, where’s the set?”
The man tried to quiet the Actor.
The Actor started to giggle.
“I’ve lost a set!!” he shrieked. “How do you like that? I lost a whole goddamned set!” He laughed uncontrollably.
He was still laughing and screaming when he arrived on the sound stage.
A man completely without control? Most people in Hollywood probably think so. But the strangest part of the Actor’s conduct is the fact that, whenever he knows he will see the actress, he straightens out for a few days, regains his composure, foregoes his alcoholic diet and appears perfectly normal.
As far as the actress knows the Actor is perfectly all right.
Even if the actress reads this story she may not realize who it is written about. Because the Actor is still, to all appearances, rational and coherent. All she might see is that he had lost weight and looks considerably older than his years.
But the Actor’s unreliability is beginning to rule him out. Producers are unwilling to provide for the fantastic costs the uncertainty of his behavior could well bring on. In one instance his two-day absence from a movie came to $10,000.
As this is written the producer of his current movie, now on location outside the United States, is considering dropping the Actor from the picture. And if the Actor fails to fulfill his contract due to drunkenness, he’ll be through in Hollywood. His talent will no longer be enough.
But the Actor doesn’t care. He is intent only on destroying himself.
Because now he is in the grip of a disease far worse than the near-hypnotic embrace of the older woman who has long since deserted him. Far worse than the scream of love in his heart for the actress he can never have.
The Actor is now an alcoholic.
His eyes, once bright with hope, are now glazed from the limbo in which he lives.
His tall body, once a model of lean muscularity, is now wasted and pale. His clothes hang on his frame as though to conceal a skeleton.
He is dying in torment.
He is still found drunk in his dressing room.
And, as usual, somewhere near him, can be found a photo of Elizabeth Taylor.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1962