Wish You Were Here—Mr. and Mrs. Tony Curtis
Well here we are—the veddy British-type Mr. and Mrs. Tony Curtis, happily ensconced in the penthouse of London’s Dorchester Hotel, drinking tea, saying “bobby” as glibly as the natives and rubbernecking our way through Trafalgar Square. In other words, we’re having a ball!
Remember that mad last day we saw you in New York? a I promised to keep a diary of our trip, and you all laughingly said I’d never do it? Well, here it is!
FRIDAY, NEW YORK.
I can’t believe we’re finally going. For weeks, Tony and I have been planning this trip to Europe—to England and points south and west to make our picture, “The Vikings.” It got so that I was counting time in terms of “Two months before we leave for England,” . . . then “three weeks” . . . then “three days.” Only when we finally got around to packing and boarding the East-bound plane for New York did I finally accept it as reality, and now that we’re in New York I think I’m gradually working myself around to the point where I can stop pinching myself.
Kelly and I took the plane for New York last Tuesday, and Tony took the train in to meet us here a few days later. We’ve been having a ball here in the Big City (I guess we always do whenever we get here). Tonight we had dinner at Danny’s, saw “New Girl In Town” and stopped in at “21” (the night club, not the TV show). I’m tired now, but I’m so excited at the prospect of sailing for England in the morning that I don’t think I’ll sleep a wink tonight.
SATURDAY, THE ILE DE FRANCE
Well, I knew it! I was up at 5:30, and knew I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and dressed, had breakfast and started doing last-minute things. Such dashing around! But I finally got the twenty-six pieces of luggage packed and tagged. We left the hotel right on time. The excitement started the minute we pulled up to the line of the Ile de France in the car. It’s a beautiful ship, and the hustle and bustle and foreign language was the beginning of the end for me. I was a goner, right from the start. When we arrived, a lot of people were already here waiting for us—newspaper people, radio press, the Norwegian consul, and lots of presents. The steward had glasses all set up and ice for the champagne, buckets and buckets of it. Everyone sure was thirsty for 10:00 o’clock in the morning! The excitement kept rising—wires, flowers, caviar, champagne—it was better than Christmas. Afterwards, we went up to say goodbye.
We watched for “the lady” in the harbor and then went below to settle Kelly. We have a lovely suite on board ship: three big rooms and three bathrooms. We’re in real class.
We spent the afternoon settling down. Tony pooped out about three and slept till dinner. The baby was a little cranky—the rolling of the ship (even though our trip has been beautifully smooth so far) is enough to make her feel unsure of standing so she kept coming to me to be held. By six I was just exhausted. I guess everything finally caught up with me. So Tony decided we would stay in and not go down to dinner. We played for a while and then Kelly took a bath. It’s only the second or third time she’d been in a tub, and oh, there was splashing and kicking. She had fun, and, needless to say, so did I.
After Kelly’s bedtime, Tony and I had a lovely dinner in the living room of our suite. What a nice day!
Poor Tony—he feels so strange with the start of a beard and the long hair that he’s had to grow for his role in “The Vikings.” He apologizes to everyone for his appearance, even though I don’t think he looks bad at all. And Kelly has taken over the boat! She stops everyone with that smile of hers. Between the two of them, we Curtises are certainly coming in for our share of attention.
After just one day on a French ship, Tony is more French than the French! He’s even teaching the language to Kelly. His “Oui, ma cherie” makes her giggle and when we all saw our first “Punch and Judy” show today in French I could swear Kelly understood it. She was fascinated and laughed at the puppets and talked to them (well you know what I mean) and jumped up and down. I wouldn’t have missed the performance (and hers) for the world. She’s such a joy to have.
Tonight was the Captain’s dinner, and everyone dressed. We met in the smoking room for cocktails and then went to the captain’s table for the most delicious and beautifully served meal ever. There were different wines with each course, a waiter for every person, and afterward Tony even asked me to dance—so you know it was a really gala affair! I’ll be sorry when the voyage is over, but we dock on Friday. Bonne nuit.
FRIDAY, EN ROUTE
Today was “D” Day (Disembarkation Day). Tony and I had expected to have a hassle with the docks and customs at Plymouth but it wasn’t so bad after all—thanks to Jack Hirshberg (who’s the publicity director on “The Vikings”) and Mr. Jones (the representative of the French line). When the immigration inspectors came on board, Jack brought all the newspapermen with him and Mr. Jones, and we went right through. (There are times it pays to be a movie star!) Then came pictures and interviews. Afterward, we awakened Kelly from her nap and boarded the launch to take us into Plymouth and then took a train from there to London. The English countryside is absolutely beautiful: buttercups, bluebells, old rock formations, green, green grass, little churches and lovely farmyards—it’s all just lovely.
We arrived in London to find we were going to be ensconsed in an elegant suite at the Dorchester Hotel. They call it a penthouse but it looked more like a hothouse when we got there, there were so many flowers waiting to welcome us. I like England. In fact, I think we’ll settle down and have a spot of tea (dig that!).
Tony says he can’t understand it. Everyone in London sounds like Cary Grant! It’s true, too.
We both had a busy day today. Tony and I reported to Berman’s in wardrobe at 10:00 o’clock for the first fittings of costumes on “The Vikings.” There will be fur boots and leather sandals and wonderful breeches for the men that I think they ought to be wearing now if they have good legs (and Tony has). And the women’s clothes are so flowery and feminine. We just loved all the changes in store for us.
When we got back to the Dorchester, Kelly and I went for a walk in the park nearby. Kelly loves the place and she’s having fun seeing the birds and ducks and rabbits. She gets out on the grass now and she’s made some little English friends. They were playing on the lawn when she suddenly stood up and took two little steps. (It won’t be long now!)
After we’d given Kelly her bath, tucked her into bed and said “nitey night,” Tony and I went to Howard Keel’s opening at the Palladium with Helen Keel, Gloria and Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Howard was magnificent. I have never seen him on a stage before and a whole new quality comes out in him.
The audience went wild. They couldn’t get enough of him and neither could we. Sammy Cahn had done some material for him that was awfully good. We fought our way out past a mob waiting and then the whole party of us went to Les Ambassadeurs. Tony and I danced every dance! Something has happened to my husband and I love it. I was in my glory because you know how I love to dance. We had such a good time! Now to bed.
Two weeks—it seems like two years already! We’ve covered so much ground in so many ways that I feel we’ve been gone for months and months. You folks back home better miss me as much as I do you or I’ll be sick that I told you. I’ll be in your power.
There are so many things we like about England. The language and a good many of the customs are the same, but a good many of the little things are different. Take the matter of roast beef versus steak, for instance. Tony and I have been “steak” people from way back, but we’re getting to like the English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and ale. And even though I’d never think of ordering tea at home, the other day we were invited to “high tea” in the middle of the afternoon, and I sat back, sipped and enjoyed it thoroughly.
And take the matter of going to the theater. We like it both here and at home—but here the difference is that you can smoke all during the performance if you want to. And between the acts you can have coffee and cakes or ice cream or lemonade or liquor. It’s relaxing, and very pleasant. When a friend of ours took Tony and me to see “Sailor Beware,” a play that’s been running in London for two-and-a-half years, we were invited down to have drinks at the intermission in the Queen’s Retiring Room. (Aren’t we getting big? Joke!)
A while later, a man we’d met on the boat invited us to a cocktail party, and there were lots of lords and ladies present. It seemed that everybody had a title, and that we and the hosts were the only just plain Mr. and Mrs. there. Tony pulled a great line when he was introduced to one of the lords. He shook hands and said, “Nice to know you, Lord.” Maybe it wasn’t etiquette, but we were very large with the social register that evening.
Gee, I’m getting to like all this!
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Tony, happy birthday to you!” I feel like the original singing telegram, but today was Tony’s birthday and we’ve been celebrating all day. The baby seemed to sense which day this was, for she woke us up real early so that we wouldn’t miss a minute of it. First came the telegram, then came the phone calls, and then the room clerk brought up the morning mail, well, it seemed like a national holiday! Around eleven, Tony had to go to the insurance doctor for a little while so he missed a few of the congratulations, but I took them for him. He was back in time to get a phone call from our friends Warren and Teme in New York though, and he enjoyed it.
After lunch, we were scheduled to drive out to the airport with Jerry Bresler, the producer of “The Vikings,” and Ernest Borgnine (you know him!) to meet Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne when they arrived. It was the first time I’d seen Ernie with the beard he’s been growing for the picture, and he looks so fierce! He looked like “Nature Boy” and I told him so. He laughed.
Tony’s been on a photography kick for quite awhile (as you probably know) and this time he took a movie camera with him to take pictures of Kirk getting off the plane, us greeting him, and so on. Tony even got a photographer’s pass to come out onto the field, so we were ready, set and waiting by the time they put the gangplank down. Tony started turning the crank the minute Kirk stepped off the plane, and you should have seen Kirk’s face when he recognized the “bearded photographer” who greeted him. I thought he’d fall off his feet! Tony was in his glory. He took over-the-shoulder shots, closeups, longshots, wide shots, narrow hots—and he had us smiling our heads off. Then he went to reload, and guess what? No film in the camera. If you’ve ever wanted to see a red face in your life you should have been there then. Tony’s was a beaut!
We had a wonderful afternoon with Kirk and Anne, discussing England and the States and the picture and each other, and then we said “goodbye” (we thought) when we raced off to change for dinner and to meet Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer to celebrate Tony’s birthday at Claridge’s in style. Didn’t I tell you? Josie and Jose got here Saturday, and we’d made a date immediately to celebrate Tony’s birthday together.
Tony and I dressed in a hurry, got to Claridge’s, and found not only Josie and Jose Ferrer smiling up at us—but Kirk Douglas and his Anne too! We toasted Tony in champagne, and then we toasted England, and then we toasted each other. The first course for dinner was a small baked potato stuffed with caviar and butter. Need I say more? It was a wonderful celebration!
I’m getting used to the way Kelly is stealing the show here. Everywhere we go, people make goo-goo eyes at her. No one says hello to me—only to Kelly. But I’m getting accustomed to it all!
We go through our routine for company. I’ll say “Go to Daddy,” and she does. And then Tony will say, “Go to Mother,” and she does. She wobbles when she does it and looks like a drunken sailor, but she’s learning fast. Only last week, it was all she could do to stand up straight and take two steps before she’d topple down again. But yesterday she walked ten full steps and then smiled up at me as though she was real proud of herself. I hugged her, and when she thought I wasn’t looking, she did the whole thing over again!
Kelly’s learned a couple of other tricks too. When I say, “Give me a love,” she kisses me—mouth open, drool and all. Then she puts her head down on the pillow. When she does it for company, it just about breaks everyone up—including me.
The other day when I got up she put her little hands around my face and kept giving me “loves,” and then followed, me around as I was getting dressed. I was ready to say, “To heck with the movie” and stay home with her but she started waving bye-bye to me, and I laughed right out loud. It seems she’s learned already that “there’s no business like show business.”
FRIDAY, DINARD, FRANCE
Just when you think things are rolling along smoothly, along comes something that proves to you that nothing’spredictable, especially when you’re on a picture. Tony and I embarked for Norway, right on schedule, and then flew over to Dinard, France, just as the itinerary called for. W2 were deep in production on the picture by this time and were congratulating ourselves that things were running so smoothly, when one of those unexpected accidents happened that throws everything out of kilter.
It happened last Friday, at about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I wasn’t in the shooting that day, so I was home with Kelly. We’d just had our lunch and were about to go out for some fresh air when the telephone rang. “Hi honey,” said Tony. “I’m coming home.”
“So soon?” I asked, being the dutiful but curious wife. “Is the shooting over?” “The shooting isn’t over,” he continued, “but I’m through for the day.” And then a premonition of danger transferred itself across the wire, cutting through as clearly as Tony’s voice requesting, “Could you have some cold compresses waiting?
“Are you hurt?” I asked, and I had to grip the telephone table to keep from trembling.
“Not badly,” he answered—and then, before I had a chance to ask any more questions, he said, “Be home in about three-quarters of an hour. See you.”
I took off the baby’s coat and leggings, put her in the play pen, and hurried to the refrigerator to take out the ice cubes and prepare some cold gauze compresses. Then, because I couldn’t help it, I phoned the studio and asked for Jerry Bresler. He told me exactly what had happened. They’d been shooting a scene depicting a Viking invasion of England, and one of the arrows had caught Tony in the eye. Nobody knew how bad it was—but everybody was concerned and frightened.
I’d hardly had a chance to hang up the phone, when Tony arrived, in the company of a doctor.
“I think we’ll save the eye,” the doctor said reassuringly. “But Tony needs care. Give him these eye drops” (he took a small vial out of his bag) “and change the compress on his eye every half hour. Use a clean gauze bandage, fold it this way. and make sure it’s very cold. Do you think you can do that?”
I assured the doctor I could—and would. Tony smiled. “Real rugged people, those Vikings,” he said with a grin. And then he grimaced, because the gesture hurt the muscles around his eye.
“Well we’re rugged too,” I replied, “and we’ll save the eye.” He didn’t say a word after that, just put his head back and let me put the cold compress on. It seemed like a century but it was only a few hours later when the doctor returned. “Looks better, much better,” he said as he studied the eye reflectively, and my relief was so acute I could just feel every nerve in my body unwind, like an alarm clock running out.
The doctor stopped by again today to give me the news I’d been waiting for all week. “He’s going to be all right. The eye will be saved.” It was the news Id been waiting for . . . the news that made the whole world seem right again.
But Tony had the final word. “Well, when are we going back to work?” he asked. “As soon as I finish writing this letter to Photoplay,” I answered, and everybody laughed.
And here it is.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1957