Those Irish Eyes Are Smiling
It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring—not even a Hollywood columnist.
That was just a year ago, and pretty Irish Audrey Dalton and UCLA grad, Jim Brown, were decorating the Christmas tree at his parents’ home in San Francisco. The living room was warmly mellow with the multicolored lights and the flickering flames of the fireplace. Christmas carols echoed softly in the background as Audrey and Jim affixed the last glittearing ornament to the top of the tree.
“And suddenly,” Audrey recalls dreamily,” Jim’s parents just sort of disappeared,” She didn’t know it then, but they had gone out to get a bottle of champagne so they could toast the bride-to-be.
“Quick,” she said, “let’s hurry and get the gifts we bought them, and put them under the tree.” Jim brought her the packages she’d asked for, and another—a tiny velvet box. inside it was her ring. She looked at it, her mouth opened and her eyes filled with tears.
“One look at the ring, one look at me, and she burst into tears,” Jim teases her now.
“We just stood there, both of us, crying together,” Audrey amends.
When Jim’s parents returned in a few minutes, they drank that toast. And then, “Because we wanted to start our life together right,” Audrey and Jim went off to midnight mass.
Later that week, “The four of us got dressed to the teeth,” says Audrey mistily, “and Jim and I got married.”
Even Audrey’s own family didn’t know of her marriage for a while. “They knew we were engaged,” she says, “so that eased the shock a little.” But she felt she ought to break them in gradually to the idea that she would be living happily ever after an ocean away from them. “But the longer I waited,” she says, “the harder it was to tell them. Finally I broke down and wrote—and my mother came bouncing right over. She likes Jim, of course, and we just couldn’t be happier—all of us.”
Jim’s home-town paper in Los Altos did carry an announcement of the wedding at the time. And so did the London Times, later. But they had been married five months before Hollywood discovered the happy news, and by then another happy event was on the way.
The fact that they so thoroughly scooped Hollywood with both news items, Audrey and Jim explain simply: “Nobody asked us. If anybody had wanted to know . . . we’d have loved telling them.”
They had been married a month before Paramount broke the story of their engagement. They were celebrating their five-months anniversary when the news finally broke that they were married. And Audrey was finishing her last scene in “Casanova’s Big Night” with Bob Hope, when Hollywood discovered—six months later—that she was having a baby in December.
She wonders, with a merry glint in her blue Irish eyes, “Do you suppose our baby will be in school before anybody knows he has arrived?”
But Jim and Audrey do admit that they’re still a little surprised themselves how swiftly and unexpectedly—and happily—the whole pattern of their respective lives has changed.
Certainly, Audrey Dalton, whose father is in charge of film distribution for Sam Goldwyn in London, had no thought of personally cementing American-Anglo-Irish relations when she made her plans cross the Atlantic.
“I was determined,” she said, “that I wasn’t going to be talked into marriage by any American man. I didn’t want to get married at all. I was just getting over being engaged—or going steady, as you say here. I was fancy-free, and I had every intention of staying that way. I was going make my pictures and go home.”
As for blond, handsome Jim Brown, twenty-three and free as a breeze, he was preparing to graduate from UCLA. His studies were concentrated on motion picture arts, and he had no set plans for the future—other than to stay free.
“Then there she was—right out of the blue,” he says.
“Out of the green, dear,” his Irish bride corrects merrily.
They met on a blind date arranged by Carol Lee Ladd, one of Audrey’s first new American friends, and a classmate of Jim’s UCLA. She had decided that these two should get together. It was supposed to be a double-date, but at the last minute, Carol Lee had to change her plans.
“So there I was,” says Jim, “stuck with a blind date. And I didn’t know what to do.” He called Audrey and asked if she would like to go out anyway. “She has such a trick Irish accent on the phone, I couldn’t understand what she was saying. But it seemed to add up to an affirmative.
“I saw her that night, the next night, and ve seen her every night since.”
They drove down to Jack’s-at-the-Beach for dinner that evening, and it all turned out to be pretty dreamy for them both.
“I found her not only beautiful,” says Jim, “but so intelligent.”
“He did all the talking,” says Audrey, “that’s why he had such a good time.” She doesn’t recall having the chance to expose any of the brain power that Jim was so impressed by. “But,” she adds, “I’ve found that American men like to talk—and Jim was very good at it.”
Jim says he wanted her to talk that evening, but she seemed a little shy. And when Audrey raises her lovely brows at that comment, he quickly says, “Well—I got the impression, honey, that you were a warm, lovely listener anyway.”
Audrey found herself listening a lot after that—and loving it. She was entranced by the handsome Jim with his breezy charm and his gentle kindness. “I thought he was the most thoughtful, sweetest person I had ever known,” she says.
Jim, who loves to reminisce on the subject, says, “I was amazed from the first at how much we had in common.” They found, for instance, that they were both “intoxicated” by the same kind of music, Dixieland. “We’d drive through all the heavy traffic to downtown Los Angeles to hear Kid Ory’s band—real Creole jazz. But it was the same with so many things. We were born an ocean apart. We had lived an ocean apart. But we might have been next-door neighbors, for all the ideas we shared.”
“Even,” twinkles Audrey, “to eating lamb with garlic—now.” At first, their food tastes did differ. Audrey seasoned every-think she cooked only very lightly. And Jim—like most American men—seemed to want everything seasoned with garlic.
But while she was picking up some of his American tastes, he was finding her Irish “catching” too. “Audrey says ‘banawna’ for ‘banana,’ ” he laughs. “One night, we were having dinner at Chasen’s, and I heard myself saying, “I’ll have ‘banawna cream pie.’ I floored myself!
Just about this time, he wrote a letter home, in which he said that something was “smashing!” “What’s this ‘smashing’ thing?” his parents wrote back.
As it developed, it was love—the garlic, the banawnas, the whole smashing thing!
And so, one sunny morning during the Christmas holidays, they were married in the Parish Church in Los Altos. The bride wore filmy pale pink and a veil of tears in her sparkling blue eyes.
Five months later, her happiness was really complete when she discovered she was going to have a baby.
To be a bride incognito in a town inhabited by newsmen and gossips is something. But to be a mother-to-be—that’s sensational! By all the rules, impending motherhood is self-revealing. But Audrey was in her sixth month and had been working almost every day on the set of “Casanova’s Big Night” when the “news” finally broke. “It was the strangest thing,” Audrey puts it. “I finished the picture—and suddenly, I bloomed!”
When Paramount announced that Audrey would go into the picture, she had just returned from Korea, and the doctor had just confirmed hers and Jim’s fondest hopes. She had yearned so for the chance to play a featured role in a movie with her idol, Bob Hope. And, with the baby Corning, she was afraid she’d have to turn down the chance.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I wanted to make the picture so badly.” She took a chance on the camouflage possibilities offered by the fact that it was a costume film—and went ahead.
Going to and from the studio, she wore blue jeans and a flopping shirt with the tails hanging loose. “And that,” she says, “didn’t make me conspicuous. So many girls wear them that way here.”
Every once in a while, during filming, the wardrobe girl would comment when she was fitting her, “You seem to be putting on a little weight.” And Audrey would reply, “I guess I had a potato too many today.” Now, she says, “I used to to feel a little guilty about that.”
Even if she hadn’t wanted to be in a picture with Bob Hope so badly, Audrey says she would have wanted to keep the baby a secret as long as possible. “When people know, they keep asking all the time—how you are—when the date is—and it seems the time will never pass. But now, everybody’s surprised. And it hasn’t seemed long at all.”
In fact, looking back on the speed with which the time seems to have passed, Audrey feels ever so slightly cheated out of the excitement of the maternal adventure. “Except for a little period when I was wild for ice cream and ham sandwiches, I haven’t had any of it at all.”
The instant the picture was finished, she rushed right out and bought maternity clothes—garments which she was sure she should have been wearing months before. In fact, when she was sent out on a personal-appearance tour immediately after the doctor confirmed her pregnancy, she was positive everybody in her group would know the secret before she got back home.
One night she talked to Jim long distance and wailed, “Honey, I’m getting so large.” So Jim was mighty surprised when he met her at the plane on her return home and found her hollow-eyed, pale-faced and eight pounds thinner than when she had left.
Their yellow and gray nursery is the only completely furnished room in their apartment and they keep wandering in and admiring it. “You can tell who’ll be the boss in this house,” says Audrey.
If it’s a boy, they plan to name him James Emmet. If a girl, they lean toward Tara. “With Brown,” says Jim. “We figure you have to do something.”
Though Jim’s parents are wealthy, the young Browns want to be completely on their own. The studios have shown some interest in Jim as a movie possibility, but he says, “One in this family is enough,”
He will certainly do something relating to the entertainment business, in films or in TV production, the latter of which he’s already worked in for NBC. “I started at the bottom,” he says, “so there’s no place to go but up.” To which Audrey adds that he has already gone up—to revue productions—at double his starting salary.
“We live just like any other young couple just getting started,” they say. “We have a budget—and we stick to it.”
But come the eighth of every month they tell the bank book to go hang, and return to Jack’s-at-the-Beach for dinner and a dreamy celebration of the anniversary of their first meeting.
One of the things they dream of is a lot of children—“I think six,” says Audrey. But whether she has them or not, Hollywood is betting on her to succeed.
When this pert Irish beauty, blooming with motherhood, followed other winners who had performed at Photoplay’s “Choose Your Stars” party with, “I can’t sing and I can’t dance—but I hope I can do something,” she brought down the house. To columnists whom she’d scooped, this was the understatement of the year. And to everybody else, it was a cheerful prophecy.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1954