With A Song In Their Hearts
There were, that night, just two people sitting in the sleek, black Cadillac convertible parked far back on the ramp at the drive-in theatre in Encino. It was cool in the Valley; the stars, aloof and diamond-hard, sparkled in a steel-blue sky. The red-haired star in the mink coat stopped munching her popcorn and drew a little closer to the tall, blond man beside her. On the distant screen a dozen skiers ı aced down the crisp snow of an Alpine slope.
“Nice skiing,” said the blond man. “Don’t you think so, honey?”
“Ummm,” said the lady with red hair. Then, “Jess?”
“Why don’t we go this year? To Europe?”
“But, Susie, what about the boys?”
“They’ll be all right. They’ll be eight soon; Mother and my brother Wally could take care of them. . .”
“We could phone home every week. . .”
“Of course. Oh, Jess, we’ve talked and talked about it now for three years; let’s just pick up and go. To Spain and Sweden, to Ireland in the spring, when it’s soft green.”
Jess Barker grinned at his red-haired wife. “Right,” he chuckled. “This time we’ll really go. But I’ll bet you nobody at the studio will believe you’re really going to go through with it.”
Susan Hayward looked sidewise at her husband out of those impish hazel eyes. “Darling,” she laughed, “are they ever going to be surprised!”
Most unbelieving of all, when Susan actually left for Europe late in February, weıe those closest to her at the studio: Emmy Eckhardt, her hairdresser; make-up man Tommy Tuttle; and even Vicki Coe, Susan’s long-time stand-in. As Susan admitted, “It was an old, old tale. No reason to believe it this time.”
Salty, outspoken Emmy, who has washed, set and combed those flaming Hayward tresses for eight years, listened and looked skeptical on the set of “White Witch Doctor” while Susan pored through a lapful of travel folders and talked endlessly about itineraries.
“You’ll never get there,” said Emmy. “It’ll be like that salmon-fishing trip you. were going to take to Alaska last year, remember? Or the trip to Mexico before that. And then there was . .
Even Susan herself confessed that Emmy’s “I’ll believe it when I see it” air was justified. “Jess and I,” laughs Susan, “had been yakking about Europe for three years. But there was always something coming up to keep us home: the studio wanted me for a new picture, or Jess had a TV deal brewing, or the twins, Timmy and Greg, were entering a new school.
“But one day I said to myself, ‘Why don’t you just go and stop talking about it?’ Anyway, I was dead tired; after ‘Snows’ I’d done ‘President’s Lady’ and then ‘White Witch Doctor’ and I was drained dry. I needed to replenish my spirits—get a fresh viewpoint. So Jess and I decided it was now or never.”
The twins, told of the forthcoming trip, naturally wanted to go along. But Susan and Jess had a sound answer ready. There was the matter of schooling, which couldn’t be neglected, because education always comes before pleasure. There was the fact that Mommy and Daddy hadn’t had a real vacation in a long time, while the boys got a three months’ vacation from school every year. And then there was the promise that in a couple of years or so, when the twins were older, they’d get a chance to go to Europe, too, and spend an entire summer. But on this first trip it was necessary for Daddy and Mommy to go alone, look over the ground and see what there was to see.
“Okay, then,” said Timmy and Greg, after this reasonable explanation, “you go and we’ll stay with Grandma and Uncle Wally. But you have to bring us back some new tin soldiers.”
“When I told my mother that we were finally going,” Susan says, “all she did was stare at me and snort, ‘Hmmmph! What do you want to go to that old Europe for?’ And then, of course, once we set the actual date, there were about ten thousand chores staring us coldly in the face.
“We’d never been abroad before, so we had to wire to Brooklyn for my birth certificate, and to South Carolina for Jess’s, else we couldn’t get our passports. There were extra things to do about plane reservations, because Jess and I fly on separate planes, to protect the boys. I had to track down a practise piano for Timmy so he could get started on his piano lessons, and Jess had to get up on the hill behind our house and fertilize all our eighteen fruit trees. The last few days I couldn’t even sleep; everything kept building up and building up to one mighty climax.”
With all the mounting clamor of the preparations, there was still Timmy’s and Greg’s eighth birthday on February 19. The Barkers naturally wouldn’t leave until after the big celebration. There had to be two big birthday cakes and two parties—one for the family and one for the neighborhood kids. There were last-minute fittings and publicity stills; typhoid and small-pox inoculations, and packing.
There were also complicated arrangements for the new car they would pick up in France, forms to fill out for the international driving permit required at border crossings. all this, while guide books, travel folders and maps blanketed the floor of the den.
“But,” says Susan, “I left with a very happy heart. There couldn’t be a better time. Right now the studio is in the midst of all the new 3-D, CinemaScope excitement; the picture business is changing and Mr. Zanuck doesn’t have an immediate script for me. So no one will be yelling for me—I hope. We’ll be terribly, terribly lonesome for the boys, but they’ll keep busy with their schoolwork and games. And, anyway, we’ll be phoning them at least once a week. All the omens are there; it just proves God is still looking after me.”
Sheer sentiment, rather than logic, guided Susan in choosing the lands she most wants to see. Spain because of its romantic vistas, Sweden because of its modernism and social progress, and Ireland . . . “well, Ireland because I had an Irish grandmother who was born in County Cork.”
That’s Susan—sentimental and emotional, with a mixture of Irish and Swedish and French-Huguenot in her. Such a gal would understandably take along, as Susan did, a unique medallion to carry on her journey—one given to her by Otto Lang, the producer of “White Witch Doctor.” There’s St. Christopher on one side, and on the other, the Star of David.
There were other countries, too, that Susan thought she ought to visit, and as the days went by she kept adding places to the list until Jess, the logical one, laughingly called a halt.
“Hold it, Susie; hold it,” Jess counseled. “If we eat in all the restaurants and go to all the ‘darling’ little places our friends have recommended, you’ll have us on a six months’ Cook’s Tour.”
“I know,” Susan pouted, conceding temporary defeat, “but there’s so much to see.” Paris, the Mediterranean, Mont St. Michel. (“They say that there they make the finest omelettes in the world,” Susan said.) Then Madrid, Nice, Rome . . .
Languages? Red-haired Susan wasn’t worried. “I can already say hasta la vista, muy bien, si, oui, muchas gracias and ‘you said it kid.’ And I can always pick up one of those little language books and point to the words. With some limber fingers and an active imagination, we’ll get along fine.”
She and Jess had two cameras: a Rolleiflex, and a new Stereo-Realist in a leather case already branded with her name burned into the leather. She did it with Timmy’s new wood-burning set which he got on his birthday.
As for real fancy eating . . . well, as Susan says, “What’s to eat is to eat.”
Nor did Susan plan any real shopping sprees. Trinkets, perhaps, or earrings, and easily-carried gifts for family and friends back home. But that’s about all. Possibly she’d order a half dozen pairs of gloves from Rome’s famed Audaria, because her secret passion is gloves. Clothes, however, were out. “There’s nothing I could buy even in Paris that I couldn’t get at home,” says forthright Susan. “Besides, I won’t have room for new clothes in my one suitcase. We’re both going very light.
“With a change in skirts and blouses,” Susan said, “I’ll manage beautifully. I’m taking only a dozen nylons and four pairs of shoes—two brown and two black, and two pair will be good, sturdy walking shoes. Some cosmetics, of course, and some rhinestone jewelry, and my make-up kit for odds and ends. Everything will be streamlined. I’m even keeping my hair long, because I won’t have too much time to spend on it. I’ll just tie it up in a chiffon scarf and let it go at that.”
Susan’s first letter home was an air-mail letter from Spain, with her report on how her dreams were coming true.
‘‘Here we are in Madrid (she wrote) and Jess and I have just had a wonderful talk, via trans-Atlantic phone, with our twins at home. We had been so homesick for them, and concerned about their health, like any absent parents. But we needn’t have worried. They’ve been fine, they told me, and both of them—Timmy and Greg—assured me ‘they’ve been doing their homework like mad!’
“The trip over by plane from New York, though tiring, was a tremendous experience. I had seen Jess off just an hour before my plane was due to leave. And Jess was waiting for me when my plane swooped in at Orly Airport an hour or so later. Jess was with a trio of suave studio representatives, all talking pure Charles Boyer. Jess was still holding the so feminine-looking Pan-American overnight bag I had asked him to carry for me. I remembered how, in New York, he had pretended to be so embarrassed, even hiding the bag under his coat as he boarded his plane! And I, of course, the cautious soul, had tried to declare everything on me at the customs inspection at New York’s Idlewild Airport; I was so fearful that they wouldn’t let me bring anything back into the country upon my return. Even the Customs Inspector had to hide a smile.
“Paris was so wonderful—far lovelier even than we had expected. About those first few hours I can remember little except the lights and the glow of the enchanted city, for we went directly to our hotel, the Lancaster, and to bed. But the next day, when we came down to a very late breakfast, we thought we were back in Hollywood—we ran into so many people we knew. Greg Peck came to see us and we talked and talked. We hadn’t seen each other since we worked together in ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’—‘Les Neiges de Kilimanjaro’ as they billed it in Paris.
“That day, while quietly strolling on the Champs-Élysées, I was overcome when a little French girl, walking with her mother, turned and cried, ‘Oh, Maman, voici Madame Jane Froman!’ There were many others, too, who seemingly recognized me from ‘With a Song in My Heart,’ and blase as I tried to be, I must confess I was just ham enough to get a big charge out of signing autographs in Paris.
Afterwards we went to the restaurant La Mediterranée, which is on the Plâce de l’Odéon, near the famous Theatre Francais Salle Luxembourg. (I hope I’m getting all my accent marks in the right place!) Anyway, La Mediterranée is a most renowned fish restaurant—so completely French in every way, yet again we ran into more celebrities: Michele Morgan and Bill Marshall among others.
“Most of the next day Jess and I were knee-deep in all the forms, regulations and complexities involved in taking possession of the lovely pale blue Jaguar car we had purchased for our tour. At last, after what seemed hours of signing our names over and over (the officials were really most kind), our car was turned over to us, and nothing would satisfy Jess except a drive through historic Bois de Boulogne and along the banks of the Seine. If you know me, you know what I did—just sat and gawked like any gal taking the two-dollar tour.
“Oh, yes, we did stop at a little shop to send off some postcards: to my mother and the twins, and one in particular to Emmy Eckhardt, who had bet me a dollar I wouldn’t write. So now Emmy owes me a buck, and will I ever collect!
“Dinner that night was at the world-famous ‘La Tour d’Argent,’ where the specialty of the house is pressed duck, first presented for your inspection in its raw state, and with much ceremony. Each one—the duck, not the diner—is numbered, with the numbers dating back several centuries. I know I said before leaving that we wouldn’t make any ritual of the dinners, but this we couldn’t miss. And, anyway, while Jess and I were waiting for the duck to be prepared, the restaurant’s proprietor, Claude Terrail, showed us through his immense wine cellars.
“This first visit to Paris had to be a short one; I didn’t even have time to go searching for the Folies Bergere dancing girl I had jokingly promised to wrap up and send back as a souvenir to a young publicity man at the studio’s New York office. As Jess said, ‘Just try getting that through the customs!’ But Madrid was beckoning, so the following afternoon we left for a leisurely trip to Spain. We drove on to Tours and the Loire Chateaux region, sightseeing among some of the most legendary chateaux, or castles, in the world: Chenonceau, Langeais, Azay-le-Rideau. I felt as though I were in a fabled fairyland.
“Limoges came next on our rambling, easy-going itinerary, and then Biarritz, where we lazed on the beach in the sun for several wonderful days, forgetful of time and schedules. And after that we crossed into Spain at Burgos (our secretary-guide made the border Crossing pleasant and easy), and then drove on to Madrid, where we are as I write this.
“Portugal, Italy and Switzerland come next, and then Paris once more for a longer stay. After that, Sweden, England and Ireland. But actually, Jess and I could be just anywhere in Europe by the time this report arrives, with our destination fun.
“Anyway, hasta la vista. You can see how my Spanish is improving!”
Before they left, Jess had said with a grin, “If I know Susie, she’ll probably pick up many a new dialect along the way. Every time we go below the Mason-Dixon line, she comes back talking pure spoon-bread and honey-chile. Imagine her doing an interview in Dublin and matching the interviewer brogue for brogue!”
But wherever Susan has gone, you can bet she has done the unexpected and the unpredictable, like standing at a crap table in the famed Casino at Monte Carlo blithely unaware of the croupiers’ droning chants’ while she snapped her fingers over a dollar bet and yelled, “Come on, seven; come to Mamma, you seven!”
There she stood, coaxing those little ivories, while Jess, amused but not surprised, stood watching the renowned Miss Susan Hayward, three-time Academy Award nominee and photoplay Gold Medal Winner, who can get such a charge out of a mere dollar bet lying on the green cloth table.
Or hanging by her slender heels from a narrow, slit-like window in ancient Blarney Castle, leaning over backwards to kiss the historic Blarney Stone, and all the while remembering, in that ultimate moment, what she told Jess before they left home:
“Even if I drop, I’ll die happy!”
That’s Susan, who can only travel with a happy heart.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1953