Why Hollywood Is Sore At Eddie Fisher?
Eddie Fisher, the hottest kid in show business, flew out to Hollywood on a business trip. He was going to make a guest appearance with Eddie Cantor on the Comedy Hour and discuss signing a motion picture contract with Paramount.
Eddie Fisher spent his early working years singing in New York nightclubs. Since nightclubs feature beautiful chorus girls and chorus girls have a way of turning up in all show business centers, while Eddie was in Hollywood he did mix business with pleasure.
It turned out to be a sour concoction. As one of Eddie’s many admirers pointed out, “This is the first time since he got out of the Army last April that the kid has loused it up.”
Unwittingly, he gave the impression that he thought he was too big for Hollywood. Too big for the studios and too big for the citizens.
Paramount offered him $75,000 per picture but the twenty-five-year-old TV and recording star blithely spurned the offer because the studio wanted him to submit to a screen test.
“I’d like very much to sign with Paramount.” Eddie said, “but I’ve been advised against taking a test.”
Why should Eddie Fisher refuse a screen test? Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Nelson Eddy, practically everyone in the business has gladly submitted to a test. Not Eddie.
One Paramount executive who had talked with Eddie and his representatives said, “It sure beats me. We explained to the kid that the screen test would serve as a protection for him as well as for us. ‘After all,’ I said, ‘you wouldn’t want to be in a picture if you looked silly or your real personality didn’t come across.’ He just wouldn’t give ground.”
Fisher’s representative, on the other hand, retaliates with, “Why should he take a test? He’s on television twice a week. Anyone who’s interested in buying him can see exactly what he looks like, exactly how he projects his personality, exactly how he delivers a song. What else could be necessary?
“Besides, I think it’s pretty important that the studio offered to sign him without a test a year ago. I think that was for some picture Freddie Finklehoff had written. Now all of a sudden they want to test him. Eddie isn’t an unknown quantity. They can see what they’re getting.”
Studio executives insist that you can’t see anything until it’s on film shot at the home base in Hollywood. “There was plenty of film on Audrey Hepburn,” one of them remarked, “stuff made of her in Europe. But we wouldn’t take a chance on her for Roman Holiday until a topnotch director like Willie Wyler tested her himself.
“I know Fisher has made plenty of money. His records have sold more than five million copies. I know he doesn’t need the job. But I still can’t understand why he won’t go for a test.
“He says he doesn’t need one, but how does he know? He’s never been in pictures. He’s only a kid. We think he’s making a big mistake. His agents say that we’re making a mistake. Maybe so. Only we can’t afford to invest two million dollars in a picture and have the singing star come out a great big flop.
“I remember only a year or so ago when Metro brought out a kid, Russell Nype, who starred with Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam. He was great on the stage but on film his personality didn’t come over. He’s good on TV but on tv the problems are different.”
In all fairness to Eddie, it must be said that the young crooner finds himself in an awkward spot. He’s in the middle of an argument which he didn’t start.
He keeps saying, “I’ve got unlimited faith in my manager, Milt Blackstone. When I was really down on my luck and things looked blackest, he’s the guy who set me up. A couple of years ago when I went back to Philadelphia convinced that I’d never make a go of it in show business, it was Milt who got me back in at Grossinger’s, and it was Milt who helped me get most of the breaks.
“It would be stupid and ungrateful of me not to follow his advice.”
Fisher is also represented by MCA, the largest talent agency in the world. These men know most of the answers. Probably they want Paramount to sign Eddie first; then if his screen test should not turn out well, he’d still get a lot of money.
So Paramount is testing another tv singer, Julius LaRosa; and it may well be that if he gets the right roles, LaRosa will develop into the motion picture star that Eddie Fisher might have been.
Some think Julie doesn’t sing as well as Eddie, but he does have warmth, good looks and an electric charm.
This is not to say that Hollywood has irrevocably turned thumbs down on Eddie Fisher. The kid from Philadelphia may yet wind up on the Paramount lot. But right now the negotiations are finished, and the studio is looking elsewhere for young talent. And there’s an unkind rumor in the wind that Eddie’s success has gone to his head.
A Hollywood photographer who covers the nightclub beat, says, “He acted like a prima donna out here. One night he came into Mocambo with Mamie Van Doren and some other people. Naturally, we moved in and began to focus.
“Next thing you know, he jumped up and yelled, ‘None of that. No pictures.’ And he ran out of the room.
“We were kind of flabbergasted. He’d flown out here from the east to appear on a TV show with Eddie Cantor and Frank Sinatra. The network boys took pictures and he had no objections. We want to photograph him with this babe and he balks.
“All I can say is that if Eddie Fisher doesn’t want to be photographed with any of his dates, particularly a luscious armful like that Van Doren doll, then he shouldn’t be taking them to the Mocambo.”
Mamie Van Doren, the Universal-International starlet who dated Eddie in Hollywood, says, “Of course he’s changed. He has more confidence in himself—more assurance. It’s only to be expected.
“I first met him in New York when we were doing Million Dollar Baby, a Monte Proser show in his Cafe Theatre. I was a showgirl and I think this was Eddie’s first show. He was very sweet and I guess maybe a little scared, but he’d been around and he knew the big city. I was from South Dakota. I wasn’t in love with him—it wasn’t anything like that—but we did go around on dates.
“He didn’t have much money and someone, I think it was a girl in the line, told me Eddie was crazy about a little Irish girl named Joan Wynne, who was working at the Copa. But I didn’t mind.
“Eddie has always been a nice guy. His career has always come first with him. I knew that right away. Girls were just incidental to him.
“We used to take walks near Central Park and down Broadway at midnight. And with all those neon signs and the crowds milling around and the restaurants open, it was very glamorous, very big-time, and it was wonderful being with Eddie.
“I’ll tell you this about Eddie. He’s got a very warm personality and he’s very lucky because he’s always known what he wanted in life. He wanted to sing and to entertain, and that’s what he’s doing.
“After he went into the Army I came out to Hollywood. One day he called. He was in uniform and I can’t remember if he was on his way to Korea or coming back from there. Anyway, he said he was down at the Beverly Hills Hotel and wouldn’t I go out with him. And of course I did. He looked fine.
“And then this last time a few weeks ago. He was here for the Eddie Cantor show and after it was over he called me again and asked, ‘How about dinner?’
“I’m always glad to hear from Eddie and I said, ‘Sure.’ First we went to Romanofi’s. After that we drove with another couple to the Mocambo to hear Eartha Kitt. Eddie was absolutely a perfect gentleman. He always is. The captain seated us, and then in a little while the photographers came over and began to take pictures of us. All of a sudden Eddie jumped up as if someone had lit a fire under him. He pushed the table away and ran out in the lobby, and there I was, sitting by myself and wondering what was wrong with the guy.
“Afterward he was sore at himself and felt kind of silly for behaving that way. He tried to make up for it. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘I promised Guy Mitchell we’d go over to Ciro’s and catch his act.’ But by then I’d had enough. ‘Just take me home,’ I said. ‘This isn’t our night.’
“He apologized again and took me home, and he was just as sweet as he could be.
“Do I think he’s changed? Of course he’s changed. He’s got more money for one thing. He can take a girl to Romanoff’s for dinner. When I met him, Romanoff’s was just a place he read about in a movie magazine. And naturally money has done things for his ego, his security. But it hasn’t given him a big head or anything like that. He’s always had both feet on the ground. He never puts on airs and I don’t think he ever will.
“Kiddie is loaded with common sense. I hope we’ll always be friends. The thing to remember is that he’s under a lot of pressure. And when a guy is under pressure he’s bound to flip his lid once in a while.
“I’m sure Eddie would never do anything to harm anyone. He’ll do anything to be cooperative and running away from those photographers—well, it was just one of those things.”
Another of Fisher’s friends interprets the Mocambo incident differently. “This kid,” he says, “is blessed with a lot of professional wisdom. There he is in the Mocambo with one of the sexiest starlets in the business. He is sponsored on radio and tv by Coca-Cola. He realizes that his following consists mostly of teen-agers. How are these teen-agers going to react to a picture of him in their newspapers with a sexy blonde at his left, a scotch and soda at his right? (Fisher doesn’t drink.) How will his sponsor react? He can’t take chances on a question like that.
“He did the right thing. He got out before the photographers loused him up. No one is going to look after Eddie unless he looks after himself. This boy lives a clean life. The only thing he’s interested in is his career. Anything you hear that conveys a different impression is 100% wrong.
“For some reason everyone seems anxious to marry him off. He’s young. He’s got plenty of time for marriage.”
Eddie himself says, “I think thirty might be a good age for marriage. But who knows? Id like to find a girl who was right for me. Just what she’ll be like or where I’ll find her I don’t know. I certainly don’t expect to remain a bachelor or to rule out marriage because my career takes so much of my time.”
Eddie Fisher has been fabulously lucky in that he came on the show business scene at a time when the younger set was ready for a new singer. Most of his popular recordings were originally scheduled to be sung by Mario Lanza, one of RCA Victor’s top money-makers.
For the last two years Lanza has been unable to do any sustained work. He has recorded only four sides.
In that same two years Eddie Fisher has been busy. He not only took over Lanza’s number-one recording berth at RCA, but he replaced Mario on the Coca-Cola radio show and inherited his tremendous teenage following.
Should Lanza ever return to the recording wars, should he start making motion pictures again or go out on personal appearance tours, possibly Eddie Fisher would lose some of his amazing popularity. Although Eddie is a competent baritone, his voice has not developed classical range yet. Music lovers don’t make the concentrated rush for Eddie’s discs that they once made for Lanza’s.
Eddie hopes to come to Hollywood and to make motion pictures. He is sorry for his behavior at the Mocambo. In the future he will be more circumspect. But right now he is riding the crest of his popularity. The whole world seems good, golden, and glorious. Teen-age girls outside the stage entrance of New York’s Paramount Theatre are still writing on the walls in red crayon, “Eddie Fisher is the most.”
Under these circumstances it probably doesn’t seem too important to Eddie that he has ruffled Hollywood’s sensitive feathers. Next time he will straighten out everything. And there undoubtedly will be a next time. Hollywood doesn’t give up easily on money makers.
—BY ALIEL FINLETTER
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE APRIL 1954