The date is the late 1940s. It is “as told to Gladys Hall.”
You’re the gosh-darndest traveling companion that I’ve ever been married to! You’ve got a laundress complex. On shipboard, for instance, I put on a pair of socks, wear them for fifteen minutes, take them off while I have a nap, reach for them when I wake up and doggoned if you’re not washing them.
. . .In France, our hotel suite looked less the salon of Marie Antoinette, and more like a French hand laundry strung, as it was, with clothes lines. . .
. . .In you, as in Spring, the laundress complex breaks out all over. The only concrete interest you take in running a house is that it’s clean. That you’re an ashtray-emptier to end all ashtray-emptiers, I need not say. Otherwise–for marketing, ordering, planning menus, you don’t give a darn. Guests coming and I’m a nervous wreck, making sure everything is in. . .
. . .But you make people comfortable. Especially me. You wait on me. You pick up after me. You bring me coffee in the morning. You bring me a highball in the evening.
You’re much more thoughtful than I am. About presents, for example. And generous to a fault. You spoil me. You started spoiling me ten years ago when you gave me a car. And what a car! I drove up to my house one night and there it was, a Packard Twelve Convertible looking to me, accustomed as I was to the short snout of a Ford, five miles long!
You like gifts, too. Especially gifts you don’t expect. You like me to walk in with a package under my arm. When I do, “Two diamond bracelets,” you say. But you’re kidding. You are not mercenary. In this world, people are divided into two types–the Giver and the Taker. You were the Giver. If you were mercenary, you would never have married me, fresh out of college and still wet behind the ears in pictures, as I was. . .
You are the silliest sleeper in the world. Takes you three hours to get pounding even when you put your mind to it. Which is seldom. You read until the very small hours. But once you get to sleep not even an atom bomb could wake you up. Takes you some time to wake up completely, too. Sometimes seems as though you won’t make it. But once on your feet, you can keep going for two days.
Even after our two months in Europe, you are not what I’d call a sightseer. You liked some of the little cafes we found–you liked, especially the Chateau de Madrid, midway between Nice and Monte Carlo. You loved the Tower of London and made yourself at home in all the dungeons. But as far as castles and châteaux are concerned, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
You hate to pack but when it comes to punctuality, being on the button, ready to go, you haven’t an equal. You traveled all over France with two bags. I had three.
Why did I fall in love with you that night we met? Why not? You were a cute little dish. You had red hair. Well, reddish. You had a tan. You had a figure. You haven’t changed.
You were awfully quiet and hard to get. You hadn’t been going out for some time. It was the first time in five years, you later told me, that you had been to a party and paired off with a man. (The man was me!) and you were scared to death. Well, I wasn’t any hot rock myself but you were the most non-committal, the hardest gal to get talking this side of the Sphinx. . .
You are not, fundamentally, a gregarious person. You don’t dislike many people but you don’t like many people. The way it is, you like some people and those you like, it’s all the way overboard.
I, on the other hand, am a very gregarious person. I like everybody. I have never, so help me, met anyone I didn’t like. But this difference between us is never a problem. You never go anywhere–socially, that is–without me nor I without you. But if you feel like staying home and I feel like going to a movie, or on a hunting trip, or up in the plane, “Go ahead, jerk,” you say, “I’ll stay home and read. And nothing of the self-sacrificing, martyred Little Woman about it. You mean it. You want me to go off hunting. You want me to have a gold old drinking shindig with a couple of the guys. You think it’s important. You’re swell.
I think Stella Dallas is the best picture you ever made. At least, I liked it best.
You are pretty much of a one-interest person. You are interested in your home, of course–but you’ve got one interest that dominates all other interests and that’s your work. The only time you are really happy is when you are making a picture. Between pictures–although “between pictures” is something that, of late, you know little of–you are a jumpy little character.
You are the tailored type. The suits, slacks and sweater type. But you like exotic, heavy perfumes and hunky jewelry.
You do NOT like orchids–no, no. As for corsages–one doesn’t send you corsages. All those corsages almost ruined your trip to Europe.
You never drink anything but wine. You can eat rich pates, brioche, pastries (as you did in France) and never gain an ounce. I can circle your waist with my two hands. . .
. . . Even so, you have occasional bouts dieting. Like Tallulah Bankhead, you either “stuff or starve.”
I never shop for you and you, thank Heavens, never shop for me. Or if you do, it’s like this: We’re in a shop together and you say, “I’m going to buy you some pajamas, pick ’em out!”
I like the way you dress. I do think, although I’ve never mentioned it before, that sometimes in the Spring and Summer, you should wear more gay prints, white skirts and loud sweaters. You will NOT change your hairdress. I like your hair the way it is but I’d like to see it pulled back tight now and then, or upswept or something. . . you’ve got cute little ears.
Since I sleep all night and am up at six and you read all night and are up at nine, we never eat breakfast together. But dinner together, always. Usually buffet. Have it put on the sideboard and go to work on it. . .
You like to go shopping and spend real money on your clothes. But you are not what I’d call extravagant. Not a “take that suit in six different colors” splurger. . .
You never wear hats. Not even when traveling. You must be a pain to boys like Kenneth Hopkins and the Messrs. John-Frederick. . .
You develop relatives all of a sudden. Uncles, aunts, cousins from Duluth, of whom I’ve never heard, and neither have you, spring up where no uncles, aunts or cousins were before. You get a letter from some character whose name is new to you saying he, or she, is your Great Aunt Prue’s step-child and of course you remember dear old Great Aunt Prue? You don’t, of course, but it’s touching the way, before you’re done with it, you do–and the character works out to be your second cousin, once or twice removed. . . Touching because you don’t have any relatives. That’s why you make them up. Like the lonely child with the imaginary playmate. . .
Your reaction to criticism–criticism of your pictures, I mean–depends on the way a review is written. If a review is subtle, witty, it can mow down but you get a big bang out of it. If, on the other hand, a reviewer tries to be funny and muffs it, makes fun of a picture after all the hard work that’s gone into it, you resent it. And you should, because you’re good! Take United Artists’ The Other Love and Warners’ Cry Wolf, for instance.. .
Your directness is what I like. There’s never any question of where you stand. Never any evasiveness. Never on the slant. That’s why the men you work with all like you. . .
There’s a line from something Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: “Steel-true and blade-straight, the great artificer made you my mate.”. . .*
That’s you, Brooklyn.
*So that’s where Victoria Wilson got it.