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Undivided Heart—Audrey Dalton

Audrey Dalton is deep in the most wonderful period of her life. Nothing this Cinderella girl has experienced up to now can compete with it—not the thrill of playing the biggest role of her screen career to date in “Drum Beat” with Alan Ladd, nor even the memory of her wonderful courtship and marriage to Jim Brown.

Day after day Audrey is watching a miracle take place before her very eyes, the miracle of life itself as her first-born—not quite ten-month-old little Tara—takes those first tentative steps into the future. The center and heart of Audrey’s world is Tara, who already is showing signs of becoming a beauty. That’s her natural heritage, from parents as comely as Audrey and Jim Brown, and from day to day Audrey finds greater joy in encircling Tara with all the love and understanding a mother can provide.

Each of her present moments is so rich and real that it’s hard for Audrey to picture herself as she was two years ago. When she looks back, there’s a special date she thinks of, one she’ll never forget: August 8th, 1952. Until then, she had been an unknown Irish girl, raised in a convent, educated at private schools in Dublin and London, and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. With head-whirling suddenness, she had just been whisked to fabulous New York, then to still more fabulous Hollywood, where she was to portray one of “The Girls of Pleasure Island.” Certainly it was a dream come true. Yet, Audrey was completely miserable.

There she was, in her pretty Hollywood apartment, with her two best friends. Playing her sisters in the movie, Joan Elan and Dorothy Bromiley were sharing her good fortune—and tripling her misery by sharing that too. Each time the three British girls got together, there was just one thing they talked about: home. “At home, remember, we used to . . .”

Neither the satisfactions of her career nor the glamour of her surroundings could make up for the terrible lack in Audrey’s life. For the first time in her eighteen years, she had nobody close to her to love, nobody in love with her. Back home, there had been her mother and father, her two brothers. her two sisters to give her a wealth of family affection (just the sort she’s striving to give Tara now). And there had been boys, so many that she could scarcely remember the names of some she’d been madly in love with—for a month or a week or a day. But they’d been there, adoring and adorable.

She was completely miserable. And then the telephone rang. Carol Lee Ladd, daughter of Alan and Sue, was on the wire. She was having a party that evening, and she wanted Audrey to come. “I have a blind date for you,” she said.

Audrey recoiled. Blind date indeed! American dating customs were still strange to her. Back in England, she would go out only with a boy known to her parents. She would be called for, most politely, and taken to a play, an opera, an art exhibit or even a tea.

“Well, you see, dear—” Audrey began, ready to give Carol Lee a tactful refusal. She stopped. Joan and Dorothy were looking at her. Fond as she was of her friends, Audrey could see herself having dinner with them in some dull tea-room-type restaurant, hardly a man in sight. And the homesick trio would be harping away on their one topic.

“I’d love to come,” Audrey told Carol Lee. “What’s his name?”

“Jim Brown. He goes to UCLA, and he’s tall and blond and just your type. See you at seven.”

On her way to the Ladds’, Audrey was thinking exactly what you’d expect of any eighteen-year-old on her way to meet a blind date. Will this be the one? She walked into the Ladds’ living room—and the man Carol Lee introduced to her was the one.

True to the description, he was tall and blond. But his features were more than merely handsome; they reflected intelligence and good humor and gentlemanly manners. (He’d arrived at the party in a Jaguar, too—so much velvet!)

She heard his voice, speaking to her. She saw his eyes, obviously liking her. Even while she listened and answered, in her mind Audrey launched into her usual dream: Suppose I were married to this man? Before, her lively imagination had always carried her through the whole story, from the wedding to the children to the blissful old age together. Now Audrey was surprised to find herself thinking of practical problems. Would her career interfere with her marriage? Was Jim Brown of her faith? If he weren’t, difficulties would come up in raising the children. This time, she realized, it was more than idle dreaming.

When Jim took her home, he asked for a date the very next evening. In mannerly fashion, Audrey suggested that the night after next would be better. She’d been wary of Hollywood men, but Jim delighted her by simply shaking hands after he’d seen her to her door. So August 8, 1952 came to an end.

August 9th? As far as Audrey was concerned, that day didn’t even exist. The next was too important. She and Jim went to the Mocambo. “He was such a gay blade then,” Audrey recalls, her eyes shining. “I guess I’ve changed him a lot—but he’s changed me, too. Now all either of us wants is to stay home nights.”

Events seemed to move fast, but actually the two spent so much time together that the foundation of little Tara Brown’s family life is very solid indeed. On September 1st, Audrey and Jim had had a date every single night for two weeks. She’d learned all about his plans, to be set in motion after he finished his drama course at UCLA. He wanted to be in the entertainment world. Producing was his final ambition, but he was willing to start at any sort of job, as long as it was in show business. Even beyond her own work (she was making “Titanic” then), Audrey shared his interests. Her father, she explained, was Samuel Goldwyn’s representative in Ireland, so she’d grown up with talk of movies all around her.

Christmas Eve was a beautiful time to become formally engaged. And spring seemed the perfect season for a wedding. But as New Year’s Eve approached, Audrey and Jim began to feel that they wanted to face the whole coming year—as well as all the future years—together. There were no obstacles. Jim was a Catholic, too, she’d discovered. Her career wouldn’t stand in the way; his own ambitions made him sympathetic to hers. In fact, the two had even faced danger together—an unusual test.

The crucial event had come after a carefree evening of dancing at the Mocambo. As the young pair went toward Jim’s car, they saw what looked like a hold-up. Two men were backing away from a parked car where a frightened: woman sat, frozen by the sight of a gun aimed at her. As soon as the men had gotten into another car and sped off, the woman screamed.

“Quick!” Jim told Audrey. “Jump in!” Without a question or a moment’s hesitation, she obeyed and his car roared after the bandits. Up into the dark hills they went. When the car ahead turned and started back toward the Strip, Jim turned and followed. Spotting a filling station that was open, Jim slowed long enough to shout an SOS for the police. At the next main intersection the police were waiting, summoned by a call from the filling station. The gunmen were arrested, while Jim and Audrey were complimented for their good citizenship.

So the two had not only spent hours in revealing talk—each had seen how the other reacts in a crisis. They wanted to start the New Year as Mr. and Mrs. James Brown. Impulsively, they hopped a plane to San Francisco and their wedding. Audrey was married wearing a pink lace dress, Jim’s favorite. He wore a dark suit. It wasn’t until the ceremony was all over that she wired her people and he telephoned his.

“I just shiver now,” Audrey says, “when I think how little Jim and I knew one another then. We were really taking chances —but we were so much in love we didn’t know enough to be scared.”

As it turned out, there was nothing to be afraid of. Early in their marriage, the young Browns began building the secure, serene sort of home life that would make a perfect setting for the children they wanted so much. Immediately after graduating from UCLA, Jim got a job with Revue Productions, a TV-film outfit, where he still works—from nine to six, six days a week. He and Audrey live in Westwood Village, miles from Republic Studios, where Revue films are produced. That, he promptly discovered, meant he had to get up at seven each working day.

“And,” Audrey adds, “that means I usually get up at six-thirty to fix special dishes for Jim’s breakfast. I love to bake, and Jim gobbles up hot breads and such things, even though he won’t let me eat them. You see, when I first came over here, after the postwar food shortages of London, I simply couldn’t get my fill of sweets. But Jim told me, the moment I was his wife, that I was too heavy. I’ve lost nearly fifteen pounds since then—and I do know that I look much better, besides feeling terrific.

“The next thing my husband did was to see that I became better groomed. He actually has much better taste in clothes than I have, and he began going with me whenever I went shopping. When he gives me a little present, it’s almost always something to wear—white gloves, extra sheer hose, tiny veils. We give each other presents all the time: On the first of every month, because that’s the day we were married; on the eighth, the day we met; on the twenty-fourth, when we became engaged; and on the twenty-second, the day our daughter was born.” Glowingly she says, “We haven’t had a single quarrel—not one.”

But they did have to do some arbitrating when it came to choosing furniture. Audrey liked period pieces; Jim loved modern. They got modern. Audrey wanted red carpeting in their little house; Jim preferred old rose. They got old rose—but not until the lack of any carpeting was responsible for little Tara’s appearance in the world almost two months ahead of schedule. Audrey had been cleaning and waxing the bare bedroom floor when she straightened up too fast and slipped and fell to the floor, bringing the baby on almost immediately.

In one way, at least, this too has been a blessing.

As soon as she found that Tara was on the way, all the girls she knew in Hollywood (and her married sisters, writing from Dublin) told her to be prepared for two or three months of boredom toward the end, when it would seem that the baby, so anxiously awaited, would just never arrive.

“That’s why,” she says, “after seven months had gone by, I was just plain glad that I was going to give birth prematurely. I know I should have been frightened, but I wasn’t. A jagged pain stabbed me when I fell in the bedroom, and I felt my baby give a big kick. I crawled over to the phone, called Jim, called my doctor. As I was waiting for them, I thought, ‘This is right for me. Now I’ll never be bored with my baby.’

“Only a few hours later, she was in my arms. I named her Tara, because that’s an Irish place name, and also it’s in your American wonder-novel ‘Gone with the Wind,’ as the name of Scarlett’s home. And now . . . I’ve never been so happy in my whole life. Jim says he’s never been so happy either.”

Every so often, Audrey suddenly pictures herself as she was only two years ago—the lonesome English girl, far from her family, starving for love in a strange country. That memory makes present moments all the sweeter by contrast. Here she is, no longer homesick, but in her own home, with a family of her own. “We want lots of children. I want Jim to be a very big success in his work. If I can have some success, too . . . well, I’ll love it, but I want my home, my husband, my babies first.”

And that is the way Audrey has kept it, even while she’s working on “Drum Beat” with Alan Ladd. Somehow there’s always enough time snatched from movie-making to allow Audrey to do the things that are really important—the cuddling and the loving and the blissful relaxation with little Tara.





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