Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Wake Up, Kids!—Walter Pidgeon

Every so often I hear the younger players here in Hollywood comment on the habits of some of their teen-age acquaintances, and in no uncertain terms they let it be known that they’ve had enough of those particular characters. These are hard words, especially if you happen to be the teen-ager who’s the unhappy target for these most uncomplimentary observations. But if you are, take stock of, yourself. What’s the real reason for your troubles? Why do your chums polish you off that way?

Obviously, there must be some basis for their decision about you. Ask yourself why, and if you’re honest, you’ll probably find a number of unpleasant facts which practically stare you right in the face!



I’ve discovered one highly important thing in my years of living, and I think it’s worth passing on. It’s a lot easier to have people dislike you than it is to develop true friends, and keep them as your friends. All you have to do is behave without consideration for others, and you’re sunk. I believe the best way for young people to get along with one another is to be sincere, unaffected, helpful to others, and live and let live. Keep these standards always in mind.

I’m not trying to tell you how to change yourself overnight, or give you any easy lessons on how to be the life of the party. I’m talking straight from the shoulder to the cliff-dweller as well as country lass and lad, and I offer them with the hope that you may find some clues to a successful way of facing each day’s problems as they come. Ape believe me, the reward is very satisfactory!



Nearly everyone has gone through the personal phenomenon of trying to do something, such as deliver a speech, sing, act, or make a good impression. You did your very best because you were in earnest. and then slowly you realized you were failing. Almost immediately you lost hope, and crept back into your shell. All right. you thought. I don’t care any more. I’ll just relax and not try so hard. Maybe I can have some fun out of this, after all, since I can’t be a bigger flop than I already am. With your new I-Don’t-Care attitude. you came out of that shell and gave it another try. The moment you began to feel this way, your nerves lost that taut rubberband tension, a real smile lit your face because it was something that represented the reckless feeling you had inside, and from that point on success was yours.






This very thing happened to me when I first started out in show business I had been signed to sing with Elsie Janis a famous vocalist of a few years ago, and when I first opened my mouth on the stage, the sounds that came out were horrible. I tried too hard to knock that audience dead, and instead I flopped miserably. I had to go out again during the second half of the show because I couldn’t get out of it, but by then I didn’t care if I was good or not, and consequently things went along much better. In fact. I was called back for three encores!

That experience has taught me two things. First, in whatever you do, don’t think of yourself, but rather lose yourself in what you’re doing. And second, nothing is of real importance if it is vital only to one individual. The only worthwhile things are those which affect everyone about you.



I’ve never forgotten those lessons I learned that night on the stage with Miss Janis. If I were to try to think collectively of all the lines, business, and other items required of me in one day, I’d be sure to have a nervous collapse. Instead, I learn my roles, then relax and think of something else until it’s time for the cameras to begin rolling.

This rule of relaxing and setting your mind at ease can apply to so many things in our daily lives. It’s useful in our jobs. the development of our personalities, the way we dress, and the outlook we have For instance, have you ever tried to pretend that you were sincere? Have you forced yourself to say things you didn’t mean? Have you driven your attention to something in which you weren’t especially interested? It may be done, but it rarely works. What you’re doing is trying to stimulate an emotion that isn’t there, and it’s bound to show I don’t like the word “phony,” but I think it explains fairly well the impression that such a person gives out. Unfortunately, honesty is not one of the human qualities that can be faked for any length of time.






It’s not difficult to be basically sincere I think simplicity in thought and motion is a primary solution. Too many people behave according to standards which are actually alien to them; they do and say things which they don’t feel but which they think they ought to do and say under given circumstances.

Take the example of the feminine costume. I can think of a good instance of over-trying in achieving a desired effect. Once, on a set where I was working, I noticed a very pretty extra. It was apparent from her dress that she was attempting to be glamorous, according to her concept of what a movie star should look like. It would be too much to try to describe what she was wearing, because it seemed at first glance that she had everything on. She was a riot of color, frills, and glittering ornamental jewelry pieces. You looked at her because she was pretty, but you soon lost interest because of her bad taste.



Then a truly lovely top-ranking star walked on the set. Was she wearing the extra’s conception of what constitutes good grooming? Not on your tintype! She was a beautiful picture in a black dress of soft material, with touches of white here and there. You looked twice because you scarcely realized at first glance that it was the simplicity of her costume that made her appear so unaffectedly charming.

I think this lesson scored with the extra girl, because about two months later she was a different-looking girl. In fact, she had developed for herself a certain honest, quiet glamor. Someone must have pointed out to her that she was trying too hard, but anyway, I’m glad to report that now she’s doing all right in the motion picture business.



Overdressing doesn’t apply only to girls in the acting business, because I’ve seen bedecked and bejeweled career girls who should know better! I should think it would drive a businessman to distraction to have around him a secretary or stenographers who look as though they’re gowned for a cocktail party rather than’ an energetic day at the office.

Don’t get the idea that I advocate severity. What’s more attractive than a carefully tailored suit, a little touch of appropriate jewelry, and a clever hair-do? The whole effect is simple, and it’s based on an understanding that there’s a time and place for each ensemble that a woman wears. Consciously contrived costumes, makeup, and hair-dos, it seems to me, can’t hold a candle to those which appear casual and natural. The wearer of the former may think them artistic, but that leaves room for argument. Suppose the nose does shine a bit? More often than not, men find it intriguing. As a rule, they don’t care for that perfect, untouchable look.






You’ve often heard it said that someone dresses “like a Christmas tree.” What could be a worse indictment of a lady’s taste? Rather than attract the opposite sex, she is more apt to repel. If this same lady would leave off half the flashes of color and gadgets she’s sporting, she’d be better off.

I’ve noticed, too, that young girls in the courting stage often make mistakes along this line. They want to impress their prospective husbands, and they figure that the best way is to doll up in such a manner that they’ll hit the guys right between the eyes with their dazzling over-all pictures.

They couldn’t be more in error. Men inherently like a fresh, naturally achieved simplicity in their women. These men remind themselves that if they do marry, they’ll have to live a long time with the girl of their choice, and they aren’t apt to be particularly interested in a girl who might look good at a party because of her artificial finery, but who’s certain to be a horror over the breakfast table.



It’s my observation that too many people take themselves too seriously, trying to be someone other than themselves. I, for instance, am really the laziest guy in the world, and I don’t hesitate to admit it. I’m not beset with a burning, driving ambition. I have no soul-searing desire to play Hamlet, or Cyrano, and I’m not on a constant search for a “different” role. I don’t know what “type” I am, and what my “style” of acting is, and I don’t care. I’m happy just as long as I feel at home in whatever I’m doing.

In this scheme of having fun out of life, I think it’s an excellent idea to give your inhibitions a fling once in a while. It’s good for you, and as long as your giving-in doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, you’ll have some real fun.

If you find yourself frustrated in something, look for a way of getting around that bloc. I like crepes suzette, and as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to eat all I want. In restaurants they wheel up those elegant little carts, and make a big thing out of serving them. They rarely serve me enough, and I’ve never had the nerve to ask for more.



Did I fret about this apparent injustice to my gastronomical desires? I decided that there was an easy way around it—I’d just go home and make all I wanted! And, with that thought firmly planted in my mind, it wasn’t too long before I was turning out dozens of crepes suzette that were just as good as any I’ve eaten at Romanoff’s.

To sum up these personal views of mine, it’s my opinion that a goodly amount of humor is something you can hardly get along without. It’s the best tonic in the world for what may ail you, and take all you can. It helps you build a generous philosophy of life.

I like to think that I’ve developed a philosophy that keeps me on an even keel through all sorts of times. I’ve discovered that few things are ever as bad as they seem at first glance, and that there’s very little that can’t be helped with a direct, and perhaps even comical treatment.



If you can’t tell a joke, or take a joke at your own expense, or enjoy being kidded, you need to get yourself off to a corner and have a good talk with yourself. Happy, gay, and cheerful people are like sunshine—they’re welcome anywhere.

Look what happened to me! I think I’m a fairly good tennis player, so one day Van Johnson and I thought we’d put on a tennis match for the benefit of a worthy charity. We approached the board chairman of the organization, and he seemed delighted with the whole idea.

“We’ll be happy to arrange it, Mr. Pidgeon,” he beamed. Then he paused for a long moment. “There’s only one thing,” he finally went on. “You’ll have to guarantee that Mr. Van Johnson will be there!”

Well, can you beat that one?

THE END

BY WALTER PIDGEON AS TOLD TO PAUL MARSH

 

It is a quote. SCREENLAND MAGAZINE JULY 1948



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