DON'T CALL ME GLAMOUR BOY!--DECEMBER 1941--By Gladys Hall
He hates it, they told me.
He becomes violent when he's called "Glamour Boy," they warned me. He's volcanic when reminded that he's been blurbed as: "Beautiful Hunk of Man," "A Voice That Goes Through You Like A Shot Of Cocaine," "Matinee Idol--the First Since John Barrymore," "A Face That Would Melt In Your Mouth," "Oh, He's Heaven!"--and the likes of such gush.
He doesn't hate it at all. He's much too smart a business man to hate anything that advertises him.
He knows you have to attract attention by the use of eye-catching labels before you can get the customers to sample what is in the package. In due course of time the customers, I submit, are going to be mightily surprised at the contents of the package labeled "Glamour Boy."
He told me: "I don't mind being called Glamour Boy so long as that check comes in on Friday. I won't say I like it. Because of the moronic opinion people seem to have of Glamour Boys. But that's a demonstrable error. So it's all right with me. As I say, if properly compensated, I can stomach anything."
Right then and there my own preconceived idea of Beautiful Hunk of Man went into sharp reverse. The old Clown-With-the-Breaking-Heart, Villain-With-the-Heart-of-Gold paradox again. This time, Beautiful-Hunk-of-Man-With-Business-Sense-and-Brain.
And don't think he hasn't. There's a head on that 6-foot 2 1/2-inch frame--204 pounds of physical proportions and perfections. There's more to that head than the wild mane of black hair, brown orbs, white teeth and skin like--I'm sorry, Vic--bronze velvet. There's something in it. No one seems to have thought of that.
He's a smart boy--a business man. He's shrewd. He's got a weather eye out (and what an eye!) for the Main Chance. He's got a deal of his father in him. His father is in the commercial refrigeration business in Louisville, Ky., and wanted his son to follow in his cold, commercial footsteps. Even a father should have known better. You couldn't expect Mature, with his face and physique, to be in refrigeration, of all things! He'd de-frost the things while installing them! But he's a salesman nevertheless. And if the sales-talk must head off with the "Glamour Boy" and "Oh, He's Heaven" bannerlines, he'll go for that, too--for a time.
He's been compared to Robert Taylor, Nils Asther and Gargantua. And is said to possess the best qualities of all three. My opinion, he's more the type of Clark Gable, lusty, sane, debunking, honest.
My first glimpse of Vic--you call him Vic right off--he was in bed. In elegant, green and white striped silk pajamas. On the set of Hot Spot in which, with ex-dates Betty Grable and Carole Landis, he will again up the blood-pressure of the movie-going Miss Americas.
The scene shot, Vic did a lightning change, put on trousers and a tweed jacket over the pajama-top and we drove to the Assistance League for lunch.
He was saying, "I don't hate being called Glamour Boy. I just woke up one morning and found myself a G. B., then a Matinee Idol, then a Beautiful Hunk of Man. It grew and grew ... it's none of my doing but it's okay, it's harmless. It's also ridiculous, you know. The whole thing is ridiculous. I am revolting to look at, actually. Revolting. I'm about as glamorous as Wally Beery. But if these are the labels that must launch the sales campaign, what to do?"
"Sure, it's a little annoying. If you're a man, let's face it, it's sort of this-and-er-that. The only serious drawback is, however, when people say 'A Glamour Boy--what can he do?' and the answer is--'Nothing.'"
"'Nothing' is what I did, by the way, in my first pictures, all three of them. They were bad, very bad. But they were very, very virile. Also, I ran around in leopard skins. 'Cave Man' they might have kidded me, or 'Br'er Bludgeon'--why Glamour Boy I don't know. But let's forget them. Let's pretend I'm beginning, right now, with Hot Spot..."
After his first picture, The Housekeeper's Daughter, in which he had just five minutes on the screen, 20,000 letters addressed to Victor Mature swamped the Hal Roach publicity department. Hal rushed him into One Million B.C. and into a contract.
Now, three studios own "one-half each" of Mature. You have to be a hunk of man to have three halves! In fact, it can't be done. Not even Einstein could do it. But it is done. Hal Roach, RKO-Radio and 20th Century-Fox each own, I repeat, one-half of Mature. Oh, well, let them fight it out. That's what they're doing anyway.
"I've even heard it said," Vic was saying, "that I can neither read nor write! If I can't, the parochial schools of Kentucky had better be called on the carpet. Including St. Paul's, St. Joseph's College and the Kentucky Military Institute from which I took off when, at sixteen, I knew what I wanted to be and where I wanted to go--Hollywood."
"I've written a play, The Incorrigible One. Some day I'm going to direct that play. When I was a kid, in my early teens, I used to write a lot. But not well enough. If I could have found myself in writing that's what I would have been, a writer. I didn't find myself in my ink-well. But by the time I was sixteen I knew I wanted to be an actor. That's the greatest break any fellow can have to find out, early on, what he wants to be. I'm not the studious type," added Vic, "but I do the average amount of reading. Anywhere from two to six books a month.
"I am the most hated man on the lot. This may be said to be the other serious drawback to the Glamour Boy publicity since I can only suppose it's due to the ballyhoo. Or maybe there is something I do to create this animosity. I don't know what it is. But I had been back in Hollywood, after my New York run, only eleven days. Hadn't said a damn thing to anyone, and they detested me. The crew and the props are okay. I'm okay with them. In New York I got along swell with Kauffman and Moss Hart, Berlin, Ira Gershwin, men like that--but outside of that--I've been trying to find out why, what it is I do, or don't do."
"The other night I was one of a group which included Bob Hope. I noticed the way Bob listens to what others say, how he pitches in there and builds it up. Maybe that's what's wrong with me, I thought, maybe I don't listen well enough."
"Then I thought, maybe it's my eyes. Maybe when I sit around and relax I have a bored look. As a matter of fact, when my face is in repose, it's a sad face. It's a misleading mask because I am anything but a sad fellow. I'm crazy about life, find it tremendously exciting, love every minute of it. But it's my mother's face. I can't help it. And I do, I am sure, appear to be bored. I've been thinking about wearing dark glasses to hide my eyes! There's no sense in saying you don't care that people hate you. You do care."
"Or again, maybe it's not so much the Glamour Boy stuff as it is the tripe that was printed about Martha and me at the time of our marriage. First there was the tangled tale that we were to be married on such and such a date. When we were not married on that date we were said to have 'disappointed' them. And there were other implications. Truth was, when they asked us at the license bureau what date we had set we could only give them an approximate date because we didn't know. They put the date out and confusion was the result."
"Then I came to Hollywood--called here to make this picture--and found Martha and myself on the Front Page. There's a war going on, you know... I was supposed to have said 'We are happier apart.' I was supposed to have said that on our second-week wedding anniversary!"
"I can only say that when a New York reporter called me, just before I left for the Coast, to ask whether I had said 'We are happier apart' I was standing by the phone holding Martha's hand. When television comes in, some of these reportorial fantasies may be replaced by facts."
I said, "Can you also prove that you are not--well, not actually glamorous?"
"I should think the life I've led would prove that for me. The way I get it, Glamour Boys are supposed to be out every night of every week doing all the swank night-spots with the most sensational beauties available. They always sleep until noon. They dress like Beau Brummels, eat truffles--and loll."
"Well," Vic laughed, "they've got me on one count. When I was in New York playing in Lady in the Dark with Gertrude Lawrence, I did go to all the swank night-spots ever dreamed up by the Billingsleys and Peronas. I did date every night, but every night--until I met my permanent date. Once I'd met Martha I never dated anyone else again."
"But that night-spotting was not congenital preference with me. It was because you get all keyed-up after the show, you know. You don't feel like going home. You also want something to eat and you don't like to eat alone. I definitely don't like to be alone anyway, or anywhere. And the lovelier they are," he grinned, "the more I like to have them with me! But to prove that it's company I'm after, when I was living in my tent back of the Pasadena Community Playhouse I got a pup from the local pound to keep me company!"
"I loll a bit. I'm allergic to exercise. With the exception of swimming, I want no part of it. But I never slept until noon in my life. Rarely miss a sunrise."
"I'm not a fashion-plate. I like the baggy tweed sort of things--things that I can shrug into. I hate anything form-fitting. I have a kind of claustrophobia. I never sit on the inside of a booth with anyone next to me. I even like my pajamas large. I wear only the tops and buy them big enough for Laird Cregar!"
"I like food but have peculiar eating habits. I eat what I feel like eating and when I feel like eating it. As I said, I never do anything to keep myself fit. I smoke like a stove, take a drink when I feel like it."
"What have I got to be big-headed about? I haven't done a thing yet. If I stopped here, I'd be ashamed of myself. I'd consider myself a flop. I'm neither modest nor egotistic about my appearance. Why should I be? I didn't assemble the parts."
"Head turned by attention from women? God, no! You can sense the ones that are sincere. They are needles in haystacks, let's face it and, what's more, most of them are kids between the ages of ten and eleven!"
"I can't stand flattery of any kind. It embarrasses me. Only compliment I relish is when a director tells me: 'That's good.'"
"It's well I feel this way. Because I know this: If your feet are not on the ground in this business, you can wreck yourself completely. I do not propose," said "Oh, He's Heaven" who is very much on earth, "to be human wreckage. As I said, I should think the life I lived out here for five years would tell my story for me--whether I am, at heart, a Glamour Boy or," he laughed, "Robinson Crusoe in Hollywood!"
Five years in a tent should, indeed, dispel any notion that Mature's stamina matches his "Face That Would Melt In Your Mouth." Beautiful Hunks of Men usually find ways and means of living on the Luxury Standard, if you follow me, before they can properly be said to have earned it. Filthy Rich Females of ripe years go plushily philanthropic when voices like shots of cocaine, wild manes of black hair and muscles with a three-inch flex need helping hands. But when Vic lives on the Luxury Standard (which he devoutly hopes God will forbid!) he will have earned it.
He not only lived in a tent in the backyard of the Pasadena Community Playhouse for five solid years, but after he'd signed his contract with Roach, after he became a star, he continued to live in a tent. "But then," he said, "it was a Luxury Tent--it had a wooden floor."
He lived in a tent the first five years because, while he was able to earn enough to eat, he never seemed to have that room-rent handy. His later tent-dwelling proves that he likes to live in tents.
In fact, when he went to New York and appeared in Lady in the Dark, he had a roof over his head (the roof of the Essex House) for the first time since he left his father's comfortable home in Louisville. And after he came back from New York, after his success there and after his marriage to Martha Stephenson Kemp, he lived in a maid's room over a garage! It was a friend's house in San Fernando Valley.
His bride, packing up and preparing to join him in Hollywood, wired, "Honey, I don't have to move into that garage, do I?" It's as well she wired--as she probably knew. Because Vic thought the place was okay. But he took an apartment, doesn't like it and says that, eventually, they will build or buy a ranch in the Valley--far off and way out. He likes his horizons very far. He really enjoys the simplicities of living, and Spartan ones, too.
In which he is, again the true son of his father. Vic tells a very amusing story about the elder Mature. An emigre from Innsbruck, Austria (I'd been told that Mature is Italian. Nothing of the sort, he's Austrian), Vic's father worked himself up in the world by the approved and strenuous route of hard work, application, the American Way. He did NOT want his son to be an actor. If his son persisted in being an actor he would pay for "the funny business" himself, every cent of it. When Vic, after being a candy-butcher in Louisville, salesman for a small novelty house, etc., scraped enough together to take off in his Chevy for Hollywood, he took off without the parental blessing.
Arrived in Hollywood he had a few tired, old candy bars, a few flimsy novelties to sell. He peddled them at distinctly cut-rate prices and found himself with eleven cents as profit and entire capital. He wired his dad:
"Am in Hollywood, have eleven cents, what can I do?"
Back came a wire. It read: "When I arrived in this country I had six cents in my pocket and I couldn't speak English. Good luck."
Vic didn't exactly believe in luck. He won't light three on a match, he does knock wood and he hasn't had his Miraculous Medal off in four years. But luck is a lady and, being feminine, has to be wooed.
Vic took a room in a partially-burned-down house for which charred lodging he paid seven dollars every couple of months. He tried the rounds of the studios. But the grim cops at the gates scared the tar out of the big fellow. He finally borrowed enough money to put gas in his car and went to Pasadena, did public readings and, before he was many months older, was playing leads in the Playhouse plays.
When Hal Roach saw him he was doing the lead in Ben Hecht's To Quito and Back . And the Playhouse broke all precedent by billing him Victor Mature in To Quito and Back--the first time they ever gave a name precedence over a title.
So Hunk of Man came into his own and into our lives...
And something more: In spite of his dates (with 80 small blondes in one season, one commentator had it) with so many and various Glamour Girls, certainly, that to name Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Carole Landis, Phyllis Brooks, Gene Tierney is merely to skim the cream--in spite of the fact that Grable was said to be his real love--and possibly she was, pre-matrimonially--he knew the girl with whom he wanted to settle down when he saw her, mind that. Which further proves that the Mature head had never been turned dizzy nor the Mature eyes blinded by star-dust, mirages and things.
"I met Martha at a British War Relief Benefit," he told me, "at the home of Mrs. Cornelius (Brigadier General) Vanderbilt. I was auctioning off brassieres, Lily Dache hats, Carnegie models. Wonder I didn't upset her stomach instead of her heart."
"Yes, I knew right away. I don't say that I knew I knew at that first meeting. But I must have because, after that, I never dated another girl. What made me fall in love with her? After the apprenticeship I'd put in, you may well ask! She is a very definite individual, that's why. She is very easy to get along with. Without losing any of her mystery, you know where you stand with her at all times. The most unattractive thing about any woman, to me, is a woman who is 'difficult,' coy and cagey. It isn't worth it."
I said, "--but Martha is the brunette type, isn't she? And you always seemed to go for blondes... Alice Faye, Betty, Carole ..."
"I was attracted to them, I liked them. Love," said Mature, briefly, "is different."
And so is Mature, girls. So is Mature "different." Don't let the labels fool you. Beautiful Hunk of Man has a hunk of brain--and can use it.
This fact has been greatly overlooked.